I think it's time to give my GM thoughts on this game.
First off, body hopping has never been used to this degree, so I was entering uncharted territory in terms of mechanics. There were a lot of things I expected to happen, like strong spirits booting out normal spirits, that never actually happened. Meanwhile, interactions I didn't even realize existed, like the fact that the murderer of a person receives their phone, and thereby all their PMs, decided the game.
First, I was a bit disappointed in the number of people who actually body hopped. I very specifically designed the game so that everything you needed to win was outside of the initial bodies, other than a student in each team in order to start each team off with a backpack, to utilize as they saw fit. Team 4 definitely made the most detailed analysis and plans during day one, and that benefited them a lot during the game, as they were the ones utilizing their hops, they found a police officer and a pickpocket fairly early on, as well as both students I hadn't started off in a team. If they had utilized these backpacks better to not leave all their items in one bag, it is likely they would have won. If I were to run this again, I would probably change the activity rules to you have to submit an action, and not make voting an activity thing. Too many people would vote, and not take actions. That really hurt their teams.
On the one hand, the fact that Sart managed to bring his team to a win in two turns seems a bit unfair, but at the same time, he managed to pick the EXACT right people to kill. There was no way I would have predicted such an accurate outcome. Sometimes powerful roles just manage to get used in the exact right way. I think having 2 police officers and 2 pickpockets was fair, even though one of the pickpockets got lynched (providing everyone who lynched them with absolutely no items. lol)
I was a bit worried that I had to keep stream-lining the body hopping mechanic, but honestly there was no way I could have known to make those rule clarifications until I had started the game. Some things just need to be played to see how they work.
Another thing I might change if I were to run this again is the phone mechanic. The phone mechanic is a really interesting one, especially in conjunction with the body hopping mechanic. It is very high maintenance though, and in a quick fix, it might have been a better idea to leave documents open, even if the phone mechanic is a bit more true to the story it sources from.
If you didn't realize, I also had a dud account in there. Scarlet Octopus was an account that no one could hop into, with the identity of having a "strong will." Several people tried to hop into them, but no one bothered to kill them to learn why they couldn't hop into them. I even gave a special PM text when you failed to hop into Scarlet Octopus. It was things like that, and all the funny items and their hilarious descriptions, that I was hoping would make a suitable reward for hopping bodies. And indeed, those who did hop had the best chances of winning. Sart won because he hopped. GreenRover's hopping was the only reason that Team 1 ended up with 9 items, despite Melon Dingo being killed. And Alvron was the most dangerous person in the game because of his hopping. I designed it to work like that, so I'm not surprised that teams with lower hopping rates didn't do as well.
So, would I recommend this mechanic again? The great thing about this body hopping mechanic is that it can fit into many different formats. You could probably run a vanilla SE game, just with the body hopping as the base mechanic. I thought about making a "capture the flag" set of rules, before I settled on a scavenger hunt through the given bodies as the rule set I wanted to use. Faction games, serial killers, all sorts of things could be enhanced and made a bit more interesting through the body hopping mechanic. To any future GMs who attempt to use a mass body hopping mechanic like I did, I give several tips:
1. Keep the game small and limited in terms of players, unless you have good reason for it to be otherwise. I specifically needed 16 players for 4 teams. You could probably run a smaller game than that. The more players you have, the less you can rely on activity, and the less available bodies there are to hop into.
2. Keep the game simple, unless you know what you're getting into. I don't think this game was overly complicated, but still it involved a lot of work. I made the "send actions in real account PMs" rule on my own, in order to help organize things between bodies and players. Body hopping takes any other mechanic, and makes it tenfold harder to keep track of. Which is where tip 3 comes in.
3. Keep good track of everything. Seriously, the spreadsheet was my only hope for keeping track of everything. As I mentioned before, Droughtbringer really helped me out with that. If you try and keep track of things in your head, like I tried to do with the phones, you will make mistakes.
4. Make sure there are good incentives to body hop. I had lots of incentives, but most of them were hidden in all the empty bodies, meaning people who didn't hop never saw them. But those who did hop, usually would find a good reason to hop again, or find a great body and just hang out there.
5. Define exactly how much information you want there to be on the account when the next player comes in. I decided I wanted to leave as little information as possible, and therefore only said "this account has been updated" when items were added or taken from an account, or something like that. I also said no sending actions in on your anonymous account. For a different game, you might want there to be more information on an anonymous account; but just make sure you know exactly what you want from it.
6. Make sure hopping doesn't make everything insanely difficult, but also create limitations. For example, I set the limit of hops to 3, meaning a player could see a maximum of 4 bodies in the game. With the goal of acquiring 17 out of 40 total items, this seemed pretty reasonable. The backpacks were another way of achieving this. Most people started off with a single item, which in a single turn they could pass and then hop. People who ended up with more than one item could fight over backpacks in order to be able to transfer their loot for a single action, while those without backpacks would have to take the multiple actions required to pass all their items. If you could pass all your items for a single action, there would have been no limitation on anything, and it would have broken the game, taking all risk out of it. No backpacks would have made the game last forever. So keep that in mind, that actions become more complicated with the hopping mechanic, and that the rules need to make sure that while still challenging, the game doesn't make it impossible to take the actions needed to win.
7. Finally, make the game tie into the body hopping somehow. This is kind of like 4, but on a more rule based level, rather than just an incentive. If you create a vanilla SE game with body hopping, add just a bit of flavor to make the body hopping integral to the game. Perhaps you could just make it so that if a body is lynched, the player in the body is lynched as well, rather than what I did. Or maybe you could create a hydra situation, where another player could hijack an account, so that 2 people would be in it- and be affected by what happened to that body- at the same time. Or make it so a single player would have to manage multiple accounts at once. I'm kind of just brainstorming here, but make it so that the body hopping enhances the game, rather than just being there. You could also have more limited body hopping roles, rather than having a mass body hopping frenzy like in this game. One idea that just came to my head is a Singer based game, with Fused elims hopping into accounts and taking over. Could be interesting.
I quite enjoyed running this game, particularly in the last couple of cycles when everything started going a bit nuts, despite the significant amount of work it took to keep running. The phone mechanic might be cool to try in a non-body hopping game, as it is a really interesting way of PM spying and communication. It does have its limitations; once you remove an account from a PM, you can't add it back in, and the GM needs to make the PM so that they can kick people out and invite people at will. Thankfully that never caused any problems during the game, but if you're trying that, be aware of that. I hope everyone also enjoyed the game, and the various jokes I had in the items and writeups, including referencing Droughtbringer in NYC (if you didn't know, he's leaving in a month to serve a mission there), and a pro-squid protest sign that I know someone ended up with. The game was naturally balanced, so that was nice, other than Team 4 getting most of the experienced and active players based on RNG. I hope to see this mechanic used again in different ways in the future. And I think that's all I have to say.
I'll probably end up running a Spren game in the near future, so keep an eye out for SE's first foray into the cities of Shadesmar. After that, I have a vague idea of running what will probably be an MR based on Skyward, although I'll have some work to do on that, all before I leave on my mission in June. Gotta make these last few months of SE count.