Since last summer, I have run over 35 playtest sessions of The Between alpha, and have been revising the rules in preparation for the public beta. The public beta is nearly ready, and I’d like to use this post to discuss a few things folks can look forward to.
What is unchanged from the alpha?
I’m happy to report that the core of my game is more or less intact from the alpha. The novel aspects of my game, including the Janus Mask, the Overscene, and the overall flow of conflict resolution, are working well. Each of those areas is getting nips and tucks, but they will function more or less the same as before.
And now for some of the big changes from the alpha…
Talking about the past
The cardinal rule in The Between has always been that you can’t talk about your character’s past——either in character or out of character. In the beta, that restriction is loosened somewhat. Now, you are only forbidden from speaking about elements of your past that are related to the Janus Mask. Any other element of your past can be discussed, though it is discouraged. The cardinal rule is lifted entirely with the Intimate Move (formerly the Colleague Move) selection “You may ask the other player a question about their character which they must answer truthfully and completely.” We have already playtested these changes, and everyone agreed they felt much better.
The triggers for the Day Move and Night Move (the moves used for basic conflict resolution) now say “When you do something risky or face something you fear…” This changes fixes a problem we kept running into, which is there was nothing like an Act Under Pressure or Keep Your Cool. Adding the “face something you fear” language solves this problem neatly.
As mentioned above, the Colleague Move is now the Intimate Move. It has been sufficiently streamlined while also injecting a greater degree of flexibility in the outcomes.
The ability modifiers are now a little less forgiving, leading to more mixed and miss results. They are also pre-selected, a la Monsterhearts 2.
Extra end of session questions have been added for variety’s sake.
Elements that were previously Assets have been re-contextualized to be moves.
The Factotum has been majorly re-worked to account for some of the bigger rules changes and to just make the playbook sexier in general.
The Mother’s main move , The Child, has been re-worked to be more evocative.
The Undeniable has also been significantly re-worked to account for rules changes, as well as to make them somewhat more sympathetic (they were just plainly evil before).
Before I wrap the playbooks section, I want to go ahead and reveal all the playbooks that will be available for the public beta:
- The American
- The Explorer
- The Factotum
- The Girl
- The Martian
- The Mother
- The Undeniable
- The Vessel
- The Volatile
The Orphan will eventually be added to the public beta but will not make the initial release.
Other major rules changes
Harm & Healing is no longer a concept in the game. Now, your character simply has physical and emotional conditions.
Conditions have been re-worked to be more immediately problematic for players.
Assets of Hargrave House are strictly NPCs now (previously they were objects and collections of items). The rules for how Assets work have been significantly streamlined.
Major additions to the beta
The most significant addition to the beta is Personal Quarters. In the alpha, the Personal Quarters section of the playbook was there just for color——players were encouraged to write things down, but there were otherwise no particular mechanics associated with this part of the game. In the beta, Personal Quarters is a major feature of the game. Items that get added to Personal Quarters (through character introductions, various moves, and as instructed by the DI) can be used for fictional positioning, and they can be marked to give a die roll advantage. We have had a chance to playtest this part of the game and I am LOVING IT. It adds wonderful color to the proceedings, ties the characters more intimately to Hargrave House, and is a counterbalance to the new, more vicious die rolls and conditions.
The other major addition to the beta is the structure of the game. I’m going to talk more about structure in a future post, but for now know that I have added new phases called Dusk and Dawn. These new phases are to do housekeeping for the Day and Night phase, and to further add color to Hargrave House and the characters’ relationships with one another.
Finally, what was previously called Dramatic Conflicts are now called Tensions. They work more or less as before, but the rules for how to explore them have been expanded and clarified.
The DI materials
I have never shared any of the DI materials for this game (the DI is what the GM is called in The Between). The reason for that is I was still very much trying to figure out what they looked like. The Between depends very heavily on its structure——it’s not enough to give the DI some agendas and principles, and then just turn them loose——and so I want to make sure I have everything just right so the beta playtest DIs have everything they need to run the game successfully. I’m happy to report I have recently had a breakthrough in this process. This is basically the main thing that has been holding up the public beta, but now that I have had this flash of insight, I should finally be able to finish it all up and get the beta out into the world.
I’m not going to say too much more about the DI stuff, except to say that it is foundational to the game. The player materials are only one-half of the story here. My hope is to do nothing less than marry two schools of thought when it comes to GM-ing: the school that likes to do plenty of prep beforehand, and the school that likes to wing it. The Between operates in a middle space that I think a lot of people are going to really love, and that is going to open up peoples’ eyes to a new way of running games. It’s an engine designed to make you into a strong, dynamic, supremely engaging GM, which is something I have spent years advocating for in my work with The Gauntlet, and I am hype as fuck about it.
Closing, play materials, and media
Overall, the beta is a much sleeker, much more feral version of The Between. And the above only represents the major changes from the alpha. There are dozens of smaller changes——language, numbers, and so forth——that are not mentioned here.
I will be kicking the tires on the beta through April, with the hopes of having the public beta written up and ready for you all by June. I have already conducted one playtest session of the beta, the video of which is embedded below. I am also making those play materials from that playtest available below. Note: this is not the beta by any stretch; many of the documents are just enough info for me to run this playtest. Still, you should be able to get a good sense of where things are headed by reading them.