What’s it like being a professional punk? It ain’t easy. Today, we sit down with four of our beta testers, to get some advice from the first and the best. Amy (who created the “Field Boss” archetype featured in the manual) Rasmus, (“The Illustrator”), Reuben (“the Big Guy”); and Cesare (“Herr Doktor”).
Q: So, you guys tested some very early incarnations of Toonpunk–some of you over three years before the product’s ultimate launch. Before we begin in earnest, is there anything you’d like to tell our readers about yourselves?
RASMUS: I got into playing P&P games relatively late, so have only been at it for about five-six years now, but it’s become something bordering to an addiction for me. I started out with D&D 3.5, but have been branching out to try a wide variety of different systems since then. When going into a game, I tend to default towards a ‘spellcasting’ class. In modern settings with no real spellcasting, this usually translates to a support class.
AMY: Hello. My name is Amy. I have been roleplaying five or six years now. I don’t have a “traditional” background in that I never did play a whole lot of tabletop games up until relatively recently but it is a hobby I have grown to enjoy a great deal. I am also one of the few who has had the pleasure of testing the Toonpunk system in its very earliest incarnation. I naturally tend to gravitate towards the “Face” niche in these games. I handle negotiations, deals, threats, lies and all manner of pleasant things and in straight combat? Typically a supporting role.
REUBEN: Well, I was not a verteran RPG player before I started playing toonpunk. I had a grand total of three or four DnD sessions under by belt, so I was going in a little bit blind? My hobbies beforehand included roleplays, writing, and reading. I enjoyed more fantasy based series. Warhammer 40K, the Game of Thrones Universe, things like that.
In RPG-type games I usually played bruisers and tanks. I find comfort in them and enjoy their playstyle over things like rogues, mages, and rangers. The ability to don a full suit of armor and wade into a melee while swinging a massive sword about has always just been fun to me.
CESARE: I’ve been running, and playing, PNP games for over two decades and the vast majority of my life. I’ve played or run every edition of D&D along with several variants thereof, ran a few games of Pathfinder, a few games of WoD, one of Shadowrun, several variants of those of my own design or that of others, and I’ve collected over the years a very extensive library of reference materials and other PnP media that stretches back to 1984. As you might say, I’m an… Old hand at this.
Q: So you guys have basically had run of the system for a good long while now, and I know some of you really like to futz around with it. What’s your favorite part to play in Toonpunk, and why?
REUBEN: My favorite part in Toonpunk was honestly the universe the DM created. It was fairly open and the possibilities for a character were near limitless. He put effort into creating stories and arcs for the characters that played into the overlaying plotlines of the entire campaign. At times some things felt unbalanaced. Things like magic and EMPs felt near godly at times, like when a single EMP caused several elite task force members to explode, but they were balanced and counters were available. There was also a constant sense that it didn’t take itself as seriously as some table tops might. There were serious moments, but there was also plenty of breaks to keep the overall feel lighthearted and fun. Toonish, if you will.
RASMUS: As stated before, I almost always default to the magic user, and this was no exception to the case. Especially since the game at the time of my joining had basically no one else playing that role. It was slightly different from what I am used to, since the amount of damage spells are very low, and they are arguably very niche in viability, so I had the support role most of the time. But it was a nice change of pace, as unlike D&D’s Clerics, I wasn’t a near untouchable tank, so I still had to play cautiously. Other than that, I do enjoy the ‘face’ aspect that Toonpunk puts in, but I don’t do all too well with thinking on the spot. Or rather, I tend to end up overthinking and then taking too long. Combined with the fact that many players simply performed the task better than myself, and I tended to avoid it - despite technically having the stats for it. Was fun enough when it was put to use, though.
AMY: My favorite parts largely involved myself working closely with others to accomplish impressive things. Playing the “Face” and to an extent “Team leader” roles were especially rewarding when things went right. They did not always go right of course but that just made it all the better when we did manage to pull something off. The game is designed in such a way where you can be good at what you do and play a distinct and talented(or not so talented) individual yet the need for and the rewards for teamwork are still immense and satisfying. I mostly did support work when the chips fell and talking through the issue no longer became an option. Being able to at least in someway coordinate these many different roles and talents and see them work together was satisfying to me. Even if it didn’t always go the way we intended. I was not always good with crunching the numbers or with thinking on the fly, which is my greatest weakness, but having other people do that for you and excel at it even is an extraordinarily delicious feeling.
Q: Very much the managerial type, you are. So, let’s talk about something that the players might get a little more use out of–do you have any general strategic pointers for your audience? Just, broad strokes, regardless of what specific strategy they use or items they have, what would you say are some golden rules to follow?
REUBEN: Tanks do not exist in Toonpunk. If you attempt to tank, you will find yourself rolling a new character. There are tanky items, but the best tank items are cover and a sharp mind. Use the enviroment to your advantage, and if you have to go into an uncovered area, make sure your team has your back. Learn who counters your team, and always check your corners. Remember to keep your squishies protected, and your close range fighters healthy. Healers are a must have if you plan to have an ‘in your face’ character.
RASMUS: Stay. In. Cover. This counts for all classes, but doubly for casters. If you can operate without the enemy even having sight to you, all the better. But cover, cover, cover. I failed on that one on my first mission and quickly learned the lesson. And don’t get stuck behind enemy lines. You will generally have no armour, so even a weak enemy can often one-shot you. Let your team be your protection.
But almost more importantly than anything else: be prepared. Do everything you can to know what you are going in for, and plan ways to deal with as much as possible. Don’t go do a bank heist and forget to bring a hacker to deal with the vault door. Don’t engage a stealth mission and realise you left your lockpicks in the other trousers. Don’t go on a capture mission with only lethal weapons. You will never be able to predict everything, but the more effort you put into the planning and preparation phase, the better you will do. 9/10 times.
AMY: Face work is in many ways one of the most complex roles you can assign yourself. It goes far beyond a mere stat line and a good lie or compelling argument can push you far above a bad role. On the flip side having a terrible argument or a needlessly complex lie full of holes will drag you down regardless of how well you roll the dice. Not that the dice does not matter, because it most certainly does. I could speak at length about the many things you need to do and keep in mind to be successful but if I was to try and abridge some of it for others, it would be…keep your stories as simple as they can be. The less lying you have to do the more successful you are likely to be. Tangled webs won’t serve you well. Be sure to have an understanding of what you are doing and what you are trying to accomplish, and make sure you understand who it is you are talking to in the first place. There is a worlds difference between trying to negotiate with, say, a rent-a-cop who really just wants to go home and a hard boiled police officer or a morally flexible executive. If things look bad and attention is starting to be drawn to you, don’t be afraid to fold either and back out while you can. The more you know and the more you understand of the situation, the better off you will be. In this and all other things.
If there is something you don’t know don’t be afraid to ask questions! Also don’t be afraid to take notes. In fact take notes while you can so you don’t need to potentially look like a moron later. It really helps to keep track of what is happening.
CESARE: I’m going to mostly echo what others have said. If you play smartly, you can easily get ahead. Cover, cover cover. It’s really that important. Also, having a medic on your team. You always want one, and it’s the most important role you can play if you ever end up getting into a shootout; simply because your team is limited in number, while the enemy is not. There are always more of them than there are of you, so it’s vital to keep your numbers up.
Q: Alright. If you don’t mind, I’m gonna go a tiny bit outside the material in the book here, and ask you guys a peculiar question. You guys were around long enough that basically all of you saw the many things we tried out but cut for various reasons–that’s the drug dealing, that’s the gang wars, the car chases, the this that and the other. If you could pick a single one of the cut features that you think would do well in the book now, which one would it be?
REUBEN: Hmm. The throne room fight was cool, but perhaps a bit complex to use in the book. Chases were nice. Car because it meant you had to think about a trained driver, running because the deck was interesting…again though, kinda hard to apply the cards. I think Day Jobs were my favorite thing. It made your character feel more…fleshed out? Like they do something besides crime.
AMY: I think in the right hands the gang wars can be a very compelling mechanic depending on the type of game the DM wants to play. It can help create a conflict that feels alive and that rewards careful strategy and can easily satisfy the itch to be an armchair general so many of us have. Depending on the type of game being played of course. And like what was mentioned car chases were also a good bit of fun. A personal favorite actually. They managed to be just tense enough to get you into it but fun and easy to play and it helped gave rise to some of my favorite character moments. Like when my bomb man and second in command jumped out the window holding a live mine…and survived. Or the time I drove my team off what was basically a cliff and onto a patch of irradiated wasteland below.
RASMUS: Day jobs certainly was nice, and may also be what gets my vote, if only because I happen to know that Pursuits will be added later. Alternatively, hideouts, while entirely underused, also was a nice little thing. I think I would have to add hideouts to my list as well now that I am reminded of it. They can flesh out your character a bit, make you feel like you own something a bit more, and most of all though they came with benefits that could help you and those who worked with you. Would not mind seeing those make a comeback.
CESARE: The thing I would most like to see come back eventually to the manual is the base building. I have a soft love for that sort of managerial, build-a-mafia sort of thing, because it’s really the end game, in my opinion. Crime stories should, if the criminals aren’t stupid idiots, always end up with the main players looking out from a high-rise penthouse sipping wine from the skull of an enemy. It never quite got the fleshing out in the testing phase but I’d sure love to see it done up properly.
Q: Alright then. We’re hitting the end of our time here, so do you have any closing words for us?
REUBEN: Sickles rule, okay? Nah, but always remember. The main objective for all is to have fun. Don’t take things too seriously. This isn’t 40K, you can leave the grimdark at the door.
RASMUS: Don’t be an idiot. You are playing chaotic characters, sure, but that doesn’t mean you have to also be a retarded asshole. At least not towards your teammates. If you fuck up, not only you will pay, but very often your entire team as well. Make sure it is an honest mistake and you learn.
AMY: The game itself is very simple to play. The stats are easy to understand and there is a depth of options for you to consider. Once you get the hang of it though you will discover it can be challenging to master. But that is part of the fun. Remember that! Don’t be afraid to have a little fun and go a little wild sometimes.
CESARE: <Cesare’s statement was redacted from the record because it was such an enthusiastic recommendation of the game that there is basically no way a reasonably skeptical could person would read it and not think he had been paid for it. Sorry, Ces.>