The Laundry is here

On Thursday I received ‘The Laundry‘ in the post. The announcement came back in March so I was really excited to get the book in the post this week. I have now spent a few hours reading it (all but most of the rules – which is another flavour of BRP, familiar to any CoC player). The game is based on Charles Stross’ Laundry Files – which is a series of novels set in a world where fighting unseen menaces from beyond our universe is left to a civil service department not dissimilar to MI5.

“The books are Lovecraftian spy thrillers. The best elements from both genres are thrown together with a sprinkling of long lost Nazis, terrorist cultists, other foreign governments wanting a piece of the action, as well as Her Majesty’s Civil Service.” added Cubicle 7’s Angus Abranson.

The Laundry is a branch of the British secret service, tasked to prevent hideous alien gods from wiping out all life on Earth. Players take the part of Laundry agents, cleaning up the mess after things go wrong or, sometimes, even managing to prevent the manifestation of ultimate evil. Agents have access to the best equipment they can get their superiors to approve, from Basilisk Guns to portable containment grids to a PDA loaded up with Category A countermeasure invocations.

I’ve only read “The Atrocity Archives” so far in the Laundry series (I’ve also read Glasshouse and Accelerando by Stross – they’re more straight sci-fi – the former very similar to Culture novels, the latter very cyberpunk. Both great.)
so I’ve added “The Jennifer Morgue” and “The Fuller Memorandum” to my Amazon wishlist. I’ll be taking The Atrocity Archives with me on my trip to Paris – Lord knows there’s going to be a lot of downtime.

If you’re not sure if you’ll like them, then you can get a taster with some of the Laundry short stories.

Overall, it seems enchantingly similar to Delta Green but without the feeling of hopelessness that comes from being mostly alone in a universe that is cold, dark and hostile. It’s gotten me interested again.

WatchTower New England – Episode 2

Sunday March 17, 2002 (St. Patrick’s Day)

From the log of Karl Maclean, WTNE Controller

8am: New recruits have lasted 24 hours without injury or fatality. Void seems to have settled into a leadership role, and may make a decent long-term recruit should we choose to extend their contract. Seven seems somewhat unreliable and bears closer scrutiny – he’s already made it into the media and seems to bask in attention. Kimono is more reliable but suffers from severe cultural disadvantages here in the US: this is somewhat counterbalanced by his immense powers. Trace is, as expected, insufferably young.

10am: Fifth recruit arrived today from Texas. While he looks good enough to eat, he’s sadly lacking between the ears.

4pm: New team reports a lead on the whereabouts of the old team, due to a tip-off from The Chancer. A previously unknown exotic with dimensional powers trapped and abandoned them in another dimension, with seemingly no way of recovering. Kimono negotiated some kind of agreement with the guy, but it sounds like he was conned. I don’t think Mr Canning will be happy, but then again, I doubt he’d be happy even if they brought back the old team safe and sound. I’ve e-mailed him.

7pm: Got word that we have a sixth exotic joining us tomorrow. No idea who she is or what her abilities are. Christ, it’s like superhero kindergarten.

3am: Yes, Canning is not happy. Big fucking surprise. I’m drawing up permanent contracts just in case.

SixSimple: for use with CONTROL

I do like narrative systems.

Character Generation
You create a character description consisting of up to 10 facts (maybe related to Quirks, Drive, Flaws) and underline 5 of them. These 5 things are your most descriptive traits which may be objects, skills, contacts, background items and can, in theory, be called into play at any time. If the timing seems inappropriate, the Narrator may require the sacrifice of a Story Point or a card of a significant value from the hand. This really only needs to be one paragraph.

Choose one more to be your Drive – the most fundamental ambition for your character. This is commonly related to the reason why the character is not content to stay home and sow crops or catch fish.

Choose one flaw. This can be physical, mental, spiritual or emotional. It may be how the character perceives the world or how the world perceives the character.

This character sheets is nicknamed a “Charagraph” mainly because Paracter sounds silly.

Traits : “Turi is a shell diver like all of her family. She is tall, thin and wiry and like most in the region is dark, with coppery-brown hair. She lives with her three brothers and her father – an arrangement which has made her tomboyish and she’s a capable wrestler as a result. She carries a steel knife and a diving shell which allowed her to stay underwater for nearly 10 minutes. She has collected a small fortune in pearls and semi-precious stones from her diving exploits. She never knew her but her father claims her mother was a woman of influence from one of the big inland cities. Her family are somewhat devout to the Old One and still have a small shrine to her in their basement.
Drive : She is Driven by her desire to gain wealth and travel to see if she still has family in the cities.
Flaw : Due to an overdive when she was younger which caused her eardrums to burst, Turi is 40% deaf

Idea for card based play:
(You may want to look at the rules for IllusionDev) Everything has a opposition value. You have a hand of 5 cards by default. When you play one and win the conflict, you pick up one. Every task has a single resolution – one card draw blind against the pack. If you lose the conflict you do not pick up.

Optional Rules: Normal conflicts are just a comparison of the numbers, such as Jack versus a 4 in the example here.

The Face card rule would be that if you play a face card and win, you get to choose the outcome. So if Turi had played her 8 here, it would have been a normal win. If she plays the Jack and wins, she can give a narrative of the outcome!

The Hand or Trait rule says that you can increase or decrease your active hand by two by decreasing or increasing the number of traits you have. So, you can have seven underlined traits if you choose to only have a hand of three available to you. Or a hand of seven and only three underlines traits. Essentially hand + traits should equal 10.

Example: Turi has five cards in her hand: 8H, JC, 3D, 7D, 2S. She is fighting against a would-be thug who wanted to rob her of her hard-earned pearls. She wants the conflict over and done with quickly so she plays her highest value card, JC. The Narrator makes a draw for the thug and gets a 4 of Spades. She beats him handily and draws a card, 8D to replace her Jack.

If you win a conflict you pick up again. Advantages and flaws and difficulty are represented by additional cards being drawn and added to the first in a Blackjack fashion. If you have an underlined trait then you can play a SECOND card to bolster the first. If the area is covered by a flaw then the opposition gains an additional card draw.

Example: Turi is fighting again, this time 10 metres underwater, against a Reef Eel, a large and voracious predator. Normally this would give the Narrator the opportunity to draw TWO cards against her one. But she’s a Shell Diver and has that trait underlined so it cancels out the additional draw. She plays her 8D and the Narrator draws from the deck for the Eel. 9H! Ouch. She’s hurt but not down and doesn’t get to draw another card. The Narrator will now decide if the Eel attacks again or retires back to it’s hiding hole. If it attacks again, she only has 4 cards in her hand with which to defend herself.

For one-to-many conflicts: everyone plays their single card. And work out the conflict as normal. Most people and animals will be incapacitated or removed from the conflict with a single loss. Some non-players may rival the Player Characters in their ability to resist incapacitation by having an effective hand of 2, 3, 4 or more!

Example: Turi and her friend Tobin have confronted a hooded stranger who has just dropped something into the village well. All three make their plays. Juri plays a 7D, Tobin a QH. The Narrator draws for the stranger and gets a 9S. Turi is hurt and as she has not rested is down to 3 cards! But Tobin gets a good decisive strike and elects to have staggered the stranger. The Narrator has decided that the Stranger has an effective hand of 3 which means to be incapacitated, he needs to be defeated three times in conflict. Our heroes attack again: Turi plays an 8H and Tobin a 7C. The stranger draws….a 4C! This means he takes two hits, one from each, which brings him down to 0. He falls to the ground…

Story Points:
Everyone starts with one and these can be used to
retcon a narrative scene just played
change the outcome of any single conflict (any single play of cards)
change an item of background to fit
heal one Serious Wound instantly/quickly/turn it into a flesh wound that can be ignored.

Combat and being hurt.
Combat is the same as any other play. Being hurt – every time you lose a conflict you do not pick up a fresh card until you have had time to recuperate. In essence, lose conflicts five times and you’re effectively incapacitated. NB: Your Hand represents how you cope with fatigue, setbacks, defeat and anything that tests your determination and willpower.

Wounds are represented differently. Anything less than a serious wound is dealt with using the Hand reduction described above. If, however a combat ends where the winning card was a face card (and the winner gets to describe the effect) the winning result was more than 10 points higher than the losing result then the loser ends up with a Serious Wound. Serious Wounds are like normal hand reductions but they have a longer lasting impact on the character as hand reductions are made back using sleep or recuperation. Serious wounds can only be removed by proper medical attention (which to all intents and purposes does not exist). A Serious Wound therefore is a potentially permanent and possibly fatal addition to a character.

Until healed, each Serious Wound represents a Hand reduction of 1 for every activity.

Optional Rules:

Soaking Wounds

It’s possible to “soak” a wound by using Traits or Drive. Using a Trait means making a blind play against another blind draw by the Narrator. If the player wins the draw, then they may explain away the wound. If they lose they take a SECOND wound.
e.g. Ferren has a Drive which describes his hatred of the Saruch Ascendancy, a cult responsible for the death of his father. During a duel, he finds out that his enemy is a member of the Saruchs and when wounded he attempts to soak – rationalising that his drive to defeat the Saruchs gives him strength in battle. He will either ignore the wound or gain a second wound…but it may be worth the gamble.

If a Serious Wound is not bound then every week that passes the character received another Serious Wound. After the character has received three serious wounds, he or she is dead. If a serious wound is bound then in most cases the player can erase the Serious Wound after one month of play. (and it takes two months to remove two serious wounds).

If a character has three serious wounds and then elects to Recuperate rather than Die, then the character may survive but the player must describe how the wounds have permanently affected the character.

What’s He Building In There?

Title taken from the Tom Waits track.


This blossomed into a scenario where the PCs were sent to investigate a murder. A newcomer to a quiet US suburb was found beaten to death in his home. The house is trashed. And no-one else in the suburb heard or saw anything…

Anyone else have done something similar? Created a scenario out of a song? (And let’s face it. this song is pretty much the entire inspiration for Desperate Housewives. Imagine the pitch – “It’s like that Tom Waits track….but with boobs!”

Man vs…

The topic of conversation this morning in the car was the substance of plots. Traditionally, we have plots which are Man versus Man (and yes, I intend to keep the male pronoun because anyone who would be sensitive to it likely has stopped reading a long time ago).

Man versus Man
This describes the quintessential struggle, the stuff of legend. Good versus evil, human versus alien, hero versus monster, rebel versus tyrant, civilised man versus the savage; the most accurate description might be the struggle between two directed intelligences. These games are easy to play because the adversary is present and real. They have motivations and malevolence. They are Hans Gruber to your John McLain, Lector to your Starling, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man to your Venkman.

We fight them because they represent the things that are wrong in this world, and they are flashy, obvious wrongs – whether they’re stealing millions of dollars with a funny accent, killing Gary Oldman or trashing Manhattan (although we’re unsure that killing Gary Oldman is a crime). We feel a sense of satisfaction seeing them put down (even if we know they may return).

Man versus Nature
Some of the best adventure stories are those told from the point of view of a single protagonist where his conflict lies not with the righting of wrongs or the marching of armies, but in the struggle against nature itself. Whether you’re weathering a Perfect Storm, trying to survive the Day After Tomorrow or even just making your way through a post-Zombie epidemic Dawn of the Dead, the environment you are in is challenging enough to make a compelling story.

One of the memes of Zombi, was that the walking dead were not your enemy, other people were your enemy. This was borne from every movie:- you can hide away in your fortress and the mindless zombie hordes can beat upon your door but it requires intelligence to breach your defenses. This isn’t to say that nature cannot be a harsh enemy. It is mindless but merciless. It can be witnessed when you travel from place to place, be it the cold of the snow-bound mountains, the drought of the desert or the cold emptiness of the vacuum.

Man versus Self
If religion is to be believed, we struggle with this every day. When we consider physical attraction, we encounter the most base ‘animal’ parts of ourselves. The acknowledgment that another human is attractive goes back to our pre-sentient days and when we continue on our way, we have successfully mastered the animal. This extends obviously to the personal wars against addiction, fetish, desire, greed, sloth and rage. We control ourselves and, as a result, these ideas are possible to play out in a game.

These were most recently examined in the World of Darkness games by White Wolf: I interpreted them as Lust (Vampire), Rage (Werewolf), Pride (Mage), Sloth (Changeling), Envy (Wraith). Though these games it was possible to spend a lot of time engaging in ‘versus self’ gaming as the player articulated the internal struggles of their personal demons. They are the Louis in LeStat, Hulk’s Banner, Star Wars’ Han Solo.

RQ: Black Rock Epilogue

For two days they plodded in silence, each lost in their own reverie, as they considered the days which had gone before. For most it had been their first encounter with Chaos, their previous duties being the maintenance of law and order or shows of strength when a bandit party approached the town. This was different on a very real, very visceral way. Though for some there was satisfaction in the dispatching of so many foul Chaos spawn, the cost that had entailed was weighing heavily.

Any attempt to speak or make light of the events at Black Rock was met with a silent contempt from the others and a sharp look from their commander, Anaxippos. There was no place for levity in their hearts and only when they could see the townsfolk of Queenscliff, the people going about their day to day routine, could they finally relax.

Hesiod would continue to mutter to himself and complain of broken sleep for weeks for it was his gladius that cut down an ogre-child. Turtle too, having slain a handful of ogres and corrupted militiamen, looked haggard and drawn and not even his favoured strumpet could silence the cries in his ears. Del, having faced death and survived, was outwardly triumphant but every night would clutch and claw at the night air until his commander ordered him to stand down and he could lose himself in the oblivion of drink and stop the dreams.

Of the file, Zakary seemed most stoic. His anger at finding the Hazia farm was perhaps eclipsed by the remorse he felt at the slaughter but he seemed to have grown in the experience. His thoughts would stray to the thought of the solitary baboon, now carrion, and the people who burned in the fallen Temple of Yelmalio. The lesson was learned that with Chaos, there could be no retreat, no surrender, no ground given.

Anaxippos involved himself in the routine of drill and practise. He marched in full armour, weighted with stones. He fought shadows in the noonday sun as if the light of Yelmalio might cleanse him. And no-one could tell if the salty rivulets that ran down his body were just sweat from exertion.

News of the massacre at Black Rock spread quickly and it became known as an accursed place. Cries were heard for a full company, with Rune Lords and High Priests to be sent from the Sun Dome to cleanse it of whatever great wrong had been committed.

But that is another story.

[See the Actual Play report on RPG.net.]

RQ: Fantasy Games

Since I joined the group, we’ve been playing either Delta Green (check for kinnygraham’s Actual Play on rpg.net) or Gaslight Cthulhu. Michael’s RuneQuest represents the first game where we haven’t had guns and we are not playing characters who are completely in the dark.

We’re playing inhabitants of a world where Magic and the Gods are real. We accept the truths we see. Visions and dreams have meaning and while the appearance of a half-man-half-goat brandishing a sword might shock the delicate sensibilities of a Victorian gentleman or a Air Force Deserter, to a Templar of the Sun Dome it’s just something that needs killed and burned.

It’s a very different experience. We must play as if we are confident in the world, we do not express surprise at the Morokanth and we should be well-informed about the behaviours of the rare but dangerous dinosaurs that roam the plains.

They use the same system but the method of play is exceedingly different.

RQ: Something bad at Black Rock

Anaxippos removed his golden breastplate and greaves and started to unpack his kitbag. He opened the cap of the spiced oily lotion he had prepared and began kneading it into his tired limbs. Even from another building he could hear the raucous laughter of the men as they settled in for the night. Hesiod’s laugh echoed off the walls of the peaks as they relieved themselves and made crude comments about the womenfolk of the village. Soon they would be asleep, Hesiod with his leather cap reversed and pulled down over his eyes, Zakary curled up into a foetal position clutching his backpack. Del, fearful of the night, would be huddled close to his friend, Turtle, for warmth and comfort.

He arranged his pack as a pillow and stretched out on the cloth pallet which served as the smallest boundary between him and the smoothed rock floor. Countless generations had worn this floor smooth as they walked and sat and slept upon it and for a moment, Anaxippos felt he could hear the hustle and bustle of bygone generations before he slid into darkness.

He woke to hear the creak of the door. Silhouetted in the red light of the moon stood a young child clutching a crudely hewn wooden figurine. Anaxippos reached out to rise but felt his legs pinned. The child stepped forward and as fear gripped him, he summoned the spirit memory given to him by Sahlan back in Pavis. The tip of his spear began to glow with the light of Yelmalio and the child started.

The light of Yelmalio shone and dismissed the gruesome luminscence of the Lunar’s moon but Anaxippos saw the flesh of the child was squirming as if tentacles writhed beneath. The eyes, blackened sockets, struck him cold and then it spoke.

“Save us…”

Anaxippos woke alone. There was no child, the door was closed. But the tip of his spear glowed bright. He shivered and knew the chill he felt would not leave him until morning.

Meanwhile, not far away in the darkness, a ochre-stained baboon looked balefully at the peak and muttered to himself in Firespeech, “Light me….brothers”

Roman Road Maps

They didn’t have a GPS system back in those days.

BBC News link

it is an intensely practical document, more like a plan of the London Underground than a map.

“The red lines are the main roads. Every so often there is a little hook along the red lines which represents a rest stop – and the distance between hooks was one day’s travel.”

“Every so often there is a pictogram of a building to show you that there was a hotel or a spa where you could stay,” he said.

“It was meant for the civil servants of the late Roman Empire, for couriers and travellers,” he added.

Roman Roads

SeaFarers: TheePort

  • Characters are from the fishing port of Theeport located on the western coast the country.
  • The town has nearly 1000 people within it’s area of influence – 10 miles radius from the dockstone – a large dolmen at the main dock which historically was used to secure longboats.
  • The weather is mediterranean so characters wear minimal clothing. Armour is almost unheard of because of it’s weight and heat. There are really only two seasons – a cold autumn and a warm summer. None of the characters will have seen snow unless they specify so in their origin.
  • Houses in the docks area are usually three story. The basement floor is used for non-perishables and manufacture. This is like the “garage” and small boat fishermen would keep their boats and equipment in here. The ground floor is perhaps 4-5 foot above ground level and is where the family sleep and where their valuables are kept. The top floor is the living quarters and where the cooking occurs. Entry to the dwelling is via the top floor using either a ladder or stairs. This is historically due to flooding. for the rainy season, a Storm Roof covers the entrance in the ceiling.
  • Houses further away from the docks are flat roofed. The poor tend to have a single room dwelling and keep seating and “non valuables” on the roof, again accessed via stairs or ladders.
  • Wealthy houses are less like caves and more like houses. People who remain devout to the Old One still prefer houses which are entered through the roof and remain dark and cool.
  • Gold and copper are the most valuable metals due to their use in jewelry.
  • Barter is still prevalent though minted bars are needed for dealing in the cities. This currency consists of silver bars around the size of a stick of gum (though thicker) with a single hole punched in them so they can be hung on a string. There are three values. Bars, Gilds and Gems. Bars are simple cards of silver, gilds have gold etching/plating on them and gems have gold etching and semi-precious stones embedded in them. For the villagers, one bar is probably equivalent to one months salary. One Gild equal to about 5 years salary. One Gem around a lifetime. So the ratio is 1 gem = 10 gilds. 1 gild = 50 bars. Or thereabouts.
  • The diet of the average fishermen is mostly these sardine/herring type fish. Grain is rare. Leafy spinach-like vegetables are boiled into submission and served with the fish. Root vegetables do not grow well in this region and most people are unfamiliar with tubers as a result. Fermented grain beverages (booze) is rare and treated as a privilege though it uniformly causes horrendous hangovers. One type of shellfish produces a toxin which, in small quantities, causes relaxed elation, in higher doses hallucinations and in high doses, asphyxiation. It’s popular and served as an additive to a kelp-based salty tea.
  • The local laws are enforced by the Fishers, a town hall of any adults who have PAID for the privilege. The cost is 1 bar per year per vote per person (which must be paid in bars and gives a reason to trade with the city). If you are not part of the Fishers at the start of the year then you cannot participate til the following year when you must pay your tithe. Wealthier people can pay the bar tithe of others in return for their loyalty and often will make sure any adults in their family are paid up so they can corral much of the vote. For law enforcement, lynch mobs are still pretty frequent. And the stocks are always occupied for one reason or other, anything from assault to just being generally unliked.
  • The town is run by the Harbour Master. An elected position within the Fishers.

SeaFarers: Characters

Our beginning characters in SeaFarers are going to be inhabitants of the fishing port of Theeport which lies on the West coast of a large country. The Narrator has decreed that we should all know each other to start, come from Theeport and know a little about boats or the sea.

I use the term Narrator to describe Paul as we’re using a “story game” approach to making characters and resolving conflict.

Here’s the first sample character, a girl called Turi and a brief description of the system we’re using.

Traits : “Turi is a shell diver like all of her family. She is tall, thin and wiry and like most in the region is dark, with coppery-brown hair. She lives with her three brothers and her father – an arrangement which has made her tomboyish and she’s a capable wrestler as a result. She carries a steel knife and a diving shell which allowed her to stay underwater for nearly 10 minutes. She has collected a small fortune in pearls and semi-precious stones from her diving exploits. She never knew her but her father claims her mother was a woman of influence from one of the big inland cities. Her family are somewhat devout to the Old One and still have a small shrine to her in their basement.
Drive : She is Driven by her desire to gain wealth and travel to see if she still has family in the cities.
Flaw : Due to an overdive when she was younger which caused her eardrums to burst, Turi is 40% deaf

In addition to the details above, each character has three scores: Hand, Wounds and Story Points. We’re using a playing card resolution model.

Hand: the number of cards the player can hold.

Wounds: The character can take up to three wounds

Story Points: representing opportunities for the player to take control of the outcomes of scenes.

Conflict is resolved for the most part by the player choosing a card from his hand and playing that against a blind draw from the deck. There’s a randomising element (the Deck) and a small amount of control the player can exert on the outcome because of the cards she may hold in her hand. She might play a high value card to win a conflict or might choose to play a low value card in a low stakes conflict as an opportunity to get a better card on the next re-draw. Underlined traits allow the player to play a second card (adding to the value of the first) if they choose.

We’ll continue to add more to the system and background as time goes on and transpose highlights to the WIKI. We are also still recruiting for a couple more players from the Greater Belfast area?

SeaFarers

As I mentioned before, we’re losing our Pendragon GM to the greener pastures of London and I was quite enjoying playing rather than being the GM which is why I’m not rushing in to start up either the Zombi game or continue the WatchTower game (which would need Gav back anyway as we’re down too many players).

A couple of months ago, Paul mentioned he’d like to run a fantasy game which started out small and built up big, reminiscent of my Ars Magica game from the early 90s where I started all the players with Grogs to allow them to get a flavour for the region before allowing them to have a Magus or Apprentice.

So, over the last couple of days we’ve been building a background on the WIKI, making a new game system and writing snippets as well as generating characters and personalities, gods and towns. I’ll dispense some of the stuff I’ve written here on the blog too for public consumption.

A Tale of the Golden Dawn

We’ve begun an investigation as minor members of the Golden Dawn as a break from our Delta Green game. We’ve now got two more sessions before Graham goes on holiday and I doubt we’ll get things finished in time.

The game has progressed quickly enough with us witnessing assaults by re-animated blind men bearing heathen daggers. We’ve seen the effects of a powerful mentalist and his two Sikh guards. We’ve found the heart of Dr Dee’s sanctuary in Mortlake.

Guided by the Tarot, we find ourselves at the horns of a dilemma. We feel we must act quickly and put an end to the black, unfolding darkness. But doubt about the nature of our enemy has stayed our hands.

Graham plays Logan, a historian with a beard. He seems reticent and slow to act and I am afraid that his caution may be our undoing.

Fintan plays a doctor who has been called away from the action by a sick relative. We hope he remains to minister to our injuries which become ever more life threatening.

Jim plays Philip, a laissez-faire scoundrel who pretends at painting and Tarot reading when he is not drinking the Milk of Paradise. He is flanked sometimes by his man, Dai, a welshman and petty thief.

I play Franz Ritter von Becke, an Austrian nobleman and expert duellist. I bring my valet, Josef Bauer, everywhere with me and allow his taciturn wit to steer my intents.

Most recently we have found the very forces of nature arraigned against us. The oppressive English summer has attracted swooping ravens, stinging bees and the attacks of savage wild dogs which were no match for my sabre.

I fear we must act quickly. Upon our return to Henley, I will introduce my sabre to Kendall, the mentalist and his burly Sikh henchmen.

Tiroconium – March 531

In the fair city of Cirencester, the Duke of Clarence hosts a tournament each year for newly-made knights, called Tiroconium. Two knights have stood out as being particularly noteworthy in this years tourney, Sir Borre and Sir Mordred. Just over one hundred knights made the journey to Cirencester, many from Ireland from whence Arthur has returned recently.

Sir Ulrus, son of Ulprus, recently knighted by Bishop Vargus of Dorset, arrives with little fanfare and sets up his camp near fellow Roman, Sir Cunobarrus. The two discuss which squadron they will join in the upcoming melee, while other knights arrive–both announce they will fight for the “South”.

From Lindsey: Sir Elad, Sir Rhufon, Sir Uwain and their handsome leader, Sir Dafydd. Setting up camp near Ulrus, the four join forces with Sir Mordred for the grand melee, almost as soon as they arrive, joining the side of the “North”.

Some sneer at the back of Sir Wolfgang, but none to his face–this mighty Saxon may be uncouth but his size and strength make even the bravest of the young knights think twice before speaking. He too announces his intention to fight on the side of the South.

The Grand Parade and Helm Inspection pass off without incident, although Sir Ulrus makes an impression with one of the judges, Sir Gawaine, and catches the eye of some of the onlooking ladies, although he is oblivious at the time. Later, at the Welcome Feast, Sir Ulrus is seen chatting amiably with a group of ladies, and perhaps quite intently with one of them.

Wolfgang, on the other hand, has challenged any Irishman to hand-to-hand combat, and Sir Cenn takes him up on the challenge. Mordred and Borre draw much of the attention, with their wealth, connections and good looks. Even Sir Dafydd feels a bit left out–his companion, Sir Uwain, is content to just partake of the tourney.

On the morrow, the joust begins. As expect, Sir Wolfgang goes out in the first round (to Sir Aimon)–while wicked with his Great Axe, he shows his lack of experience on horseback. Sir Ulrus does well in the first round, unhorsing Sir Eadric (and wounding him in the process), but goes down in the second to Sir Foulque the French. Almost immediately, Sir Ulrus issues a challenge to his conqueror, but is defeated yet again, losing one of his horses in the process. Seemingly morose, he challenges Sir Mordred to the death, but luckily Uwain is nearby and prevents the herald from announcing such a crazy course of action.

Sir Uwain himself fairs well, unseating Sir Cunobarrus and Sir Cadmar, only to fall foul of his travelling companion Sir Dafydd in the third round. Sir Mordred goes on to win the joust, taking home the destrier offered as a prize. Sir Uwain issues challenge to Sir Dafydd, lance-then-sword, which Sir Dafydd accepts. A spectacular charge by Uwain not only unhorses Dafydd, but leaves him wounded–proud Dafydd calls Uwain off his horse, and Sir Uwain obliges but handily defeats his opponent and forces him to yield. Needless to say, the two part company, especially once Sir Uwain claims Dafydd’s charger as prize.

Sir Wolfgang defeats Sir Cenn in a close fought contest of Great Axe versus Great Spear–one that draws eyes from the wilder parts of Britain. No prize is claimed, as it is simple for love of the fight.

The final event is the Grand Melee, in which Sirs Wolfgang, Ulrus and Uwain acquit themselves well, with Sir Wolfgang lasting until almost the bitter end. The victory is declared for the South, and Sir Borre claims the prize of the Silver Sword for being the last man standing.

Before the prizes are given, Sir Ulrus must face Sir Mordred in the lists. He wears a lady’s favour in his helm, and looks sure and swift in the saddle. Bearing down on Sir Mordred, he unhorses him at first tilt, but Sir Mordred lands well and draws his sword. A clash of arms and Sir Mordred’s sword goes flying, leaving Sir Ulrus the victor.

With the prizes awarded (Sir Foulque won most challenges), Uwain, Ulrus, Wolfgang and Cunobarrus agree to travel to the Pentecost tournament in Camelot, although Sir Cunobarrus will leave them at Silchester. The four set off together on the King’s Road, eastward.

From superheroes to Knights errant.

Last night we decided to give The WatchTower a rest as we’ve lost Yellowfist for a couple of months due to his impending martial marital duties.

Thus ensued a discussion about what to play instead. A long discussion.

We eventually settled on Pendragon. Paul is playing a Roman Christian from Dorset. Rob is playing a Saxon from Silchester. And I’m playing a Cymric Christian from Lindsey.

My character, Uwain, a stocky Northerner is overshadowed by his bearlike Saxon friend and his Roman friend in terms of family glory (he starts with 15 whereas the others start with hundreds). He’s also the only player to start without a proper warhorse. He is, however, the better swordsman, lancer and horseman of the three and has gained some reknown for his valor.

At the start of next session, we journey to a tournament…somewhere…for something…

Episode Seven: 28th October 2000

“This is Kitty Thoreau for LCI News Dakota in a prefab cabin built by the newly inaugurated WatchTower New York. What are they doing in Dakota? Good question and something we’ll answer after the break.”

RASA Fashion, the leading bespoke tailors are now touring the Dakotas. Call 1-80-555-5555 to find your nearest store.

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“We’re back with more news on the WatchTower. We’re not in Dakota which is one reason – we’re suspended a mile above the Atlantic coast while WatchTower New York takes steps to clean the terrible environmental disaster caused by an unidentified superpowered terrorist. To pull this herculean effot together, they’ve pulled in technical staff from Torus Research, a leading edge technology corporation and using technology licensed from the UK-based Prodigy Corporation.

The amazing thing is that this building was created from the air by Balance, the leader of WatchTower New York. We’re currently being held aloft by Yellow Fist, the superhumanly strong scrapper who provides WatchTower with much-needed muscle. I’ve been talking with Indigo, the wearer of the Torus Research prototype “Rescue Suit” designed to help locate and rescue people in danger and two senior technicians from Torus; Mikey and Pete. I’m told we also owe some thanks to SkyCrane who is acting as a forward observer ten miles up.”

[She pauses and walks around the prefab, pointing at the individuals and the equipment]

“This device, dubbed the VacScoop, is removing all of the pollutants collected on our nations beaches and removing them, dumping them into deep space. The process of cleaning all the world’s oceans of 90% of pollutants is apparently going to take less than 12 hours. The question this journalist has is: Why hasn’t anyone done this before?

[she pauses and the sound goes out]

“I’ve just been told we’re going to teleport to the Indian Ocean, on the other side of the planet, to continue this work. I can really see this being a viable alternative to aircraft flights with instantaneous travel, no risk of deep-vein thrombosis. Yes, it can send you to the Bahamas but you have to purchase your ticket 30 days in advance.”

[she grins an award winning smile]

“Just joking folks, this advanced tech is still in testing which does make me a little nervous but it seems to be working fine.

Just so we’re clear: we’re saving the world here….on live TV….”

Out of Character

A couple of days ago I wrote about and got some very interesting comments about how this is relevant to games.

On the Story Games forum they talk about Improv Theatre and how drama and story is made up of those things which are unusual or out of character as long as there is context and justification.

Meserach writes: “The story in which the otherwise devoted nun kills a baby for no reason at all other than the shock value? Sucks. The story in which the otherwise devoted nun kills a baby, but surrouding material gives us some insight into why? That could be a good story.”

Mark W writes: “In my experience, some people have this notion of character that really doesn’t extend much beyond the “pick two keywords and play them out no matter what” style.”

Like, say, “Lawful Evil” or “CareGiver/Curmudgeon” (because I might as well piss off the D&D folk as well as the White Wolf folk in order to get the most hate mail).

In the WatchTower game there are things happening in the background that I want the players to start moving forward. We’ve just started the creation of the B-Team, named so because they’re the second wave of heroes for WT-NY. After this, the players will make more characters (in a few weeks time), but this time playing the part of the conspirators behind the scenes. It’ll be an interesting roleplaying challenge for some and also an opportunity to add justfication to the actions which have gone before. That will mean giving away some of the plot, but the plot has to be player driven.

I remember back more than a decade to an Ars Magica game I ran in Dragonslayers. At one point we had 11 players and half of them had two characters. And one in particular, played by John D, was given an artifact that when activated would give him the power of a Tenth of Hell. The activation was an old curse which, in order to enact, he had to gather the right hands of thirteen friends. The character did this, betraying thirteen comrades and escaping suspicion due to John’s silver tongue and then decided not to enact the curse after all. Too risky apparently. These were the actions of an ostensibly good but perhaps selfish or power hungry character. His character’s arrogance was that his comrades (grogs, companions, other wizards) were beneath his contempt and he used them. When it came to the ultimate justification of the character, his courage failed. This was a bigger, badder thing than he. And he feared to raise up what he could not put down. It made his evil actions which were out of character all the more tragic when it was made apparent that his primary trait was cowardice. I loved it. It actually made the story. I do feel a bit sorry for the one armed bowman previously known as “the best archer in all of Christendom”. Them’s the breaks.

Episode Two – 26th October 2000

At 9 am, the doors to the conference room open and a motley crew of individuals file in. At the head of the table sits Jack White, the marble-faced CEO of WatchTower New York. Clockwise around the table we see Father Julian Devon (later to be known as Balance), Jason also known as INDIGO and three new individuals. The first introduces himself as SkyCrane (though you can call him Ben), the second calls himself Red Shift (speaking with a deep Southern accent) and the third as Psiren. It becomes apparent that Skycrane can lift huge weights with the power of his mind and fly and he quickly slots into the role of the team “Brick”. Red Shift claims to be “fast, too fast to see proper”. Psiren claims to be a telepath and empath and that she can become the communications backbone of the team.

Father Julian looks confused but is assured by White that everything has been sorted out with his Bishop. More on this later.

The team are informed of the plans for WatchTower. They will be the primary team operating out of TriBeCa. The second team will be operating out of the WatchTower NY training facility in the Catskills. They are also informed of White’s intentions to construct a WatchTower franchise outside of the United States through a special Sanction Zero which has been proposed by the United Nations. He refuses to elaborate at this time.

After this briefing, the team is introduced to Nicole Menshikov, the Public Relations Executive. Her job is to help the team settle into their new role, manage relocations and cement public identities and ensure that private identities are protected. She criticises INDIGO for his lack of insignia, questions Father Julian about his codename (which he eventually relents to, with Balance) and discusses the facilities available to WatchTower staff for keeping identities private. The meeting finishes as the group start to chat among themselves with Psiren finishing questions before they are asked which some find irritating.

The last thing they do is look up the now-deceased Squall. Known accomplices including two superpowered miscreants known as KillerWatt and HellStrike.

As lunch Approaches, Father Julian invites Psiren, also known as Alice, to lunch at Liberty Island. His gesture is more investigatory than complimentary and they spend time walking around the island. He and Jason bring a multimeter and test various objects in the environment. He’s looking out for any signs of Squall’s accomplices.

Psiren is able to detect empathic impressions from the area and she elucidates her feelings on the region. Suspecting collusion, Jason flashes his WatchTower badge at the head of security, a short, balding man called Lopez. He promises to fax over the duty roster for the 24th. The group also resolve to obtain schematics of Liberty Island. There must be something beneath….

Weekly Gaming

The game at TTN was delayed again essentially because in the middle of the afternoon my car died. I did eventually get a courtesy car but the day was so cocked up anyway, I just cancelled.

Today I’m reading the Gear Krieg RPG. It’s really really nice.

Tomorrow night, KinnyGraham will help us resume our madness in his popular Delta Green game and we’re also discussing a future Gaslight game under Michael’s guidance. I’ll be posting details of my character as I make him up!

Next week, we’re skipping TTN again due to family stuff.

Life is never simple.

Episode Zero: The Premise

Premise:

Game start is June 2000.

There are superheroes. There is no known definitive reason for their being, but they’ve been among us for decades. During the war years, the Allies and Axis powers deployed their own superbeings in the armed struggle and the US continued to use superbeings in all of their conflicts for the next 50 years. There are some of these teams and individuals still active. The most famous in the US was “The American Dream” – a team of patriotic superbeings who contributed widely to the Allied cause, as well as being the main strike force in Vietnam.

The US (where our game is set) is divided on the issue of superbeings. Many feel there has to be some sort of licensing of superbeings as there are some who can literally flatten cities with their powers and it is perhaps only luck which has prevented this thus far.

The Watch Tower:
The US Government has taken the initiative of starting a federated system for superbeing protection of cities and states: The Watch Tower. Each state has a minimum of 1 Watchtower installation with at least one superbeing stationed there. Some locations are luckier than others and the resources available to the WatchTower in San Francisco would be very different to the resources provided to a WatchTower in Idaho or Montana. Upkeep of the WatchTower is an accounting nightmare due to the necessity to ensure that the WatchTower makes money through licensing of trademarks, images, intellectual property and technology. The WatchTowers may also “sell” additional protections beyond the necessary to cities, regions, corporations and private individuals.

FORTRESS:
The realisation that state prisons and penitentiaries are utterly insufficient for the incarceration of superbeings came early but it wasn’t until the mid-80s that anyone could do anything about it. Technology could, in some cases, suppress the abilities of superbeings but in the mid-90s, a task force focussed on solving this problem came up with Fortress. Some of their restraints have been described as inhumane, but we are reminded that humane solutions are for human beings. FORTRESS is incorporated as a public-held company under the watchful reign of the CEO, President and major shareholder, Jorden Grainger.

Personalities:

BloodRage – multiple serial killer and US-based terrorist. After a series of very public displays including the 1998 bombing of the Orange County Womens Correctional Facility in which 120 people died and an unknown number of superhuman felons escaped, BloodRage disappeared and has not been seen in public since.

Atomic I: One of the heroes of the Vietnam-era American Dream, badly injured by BloodRage, but returned to active duty as an independent in 1999. His power, manipulation of nuclear radiation, has resulted in his being contracted over the years out to other nations in order to clear up nuclear spills in Chernobyl, Hamm-Uentrop, Hessen, Tomsk and Tokai-mura. He is a senior member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Atomic III: Though born unpowered, the son of Atomic I developed advanced technology which permitted him to manipulate intense magnetic fields. This technology was subsequently licensed to nations and corporations in order to better control their nuclear reactors and high-energy colliders. In early 1999, Atomic III was missing, presumed dead and his magnetic-impluse gauntlets were used in a crime wave which resulted in the death of the superbeing Lifeline.

Lifeline: Born with the ability to heal others of almost any injury or affliction, Lifeline craved a peaceful life. His powers, though potent, worked best on superbeings and he felt real guilt that they were not more effective on normal humans. in many cases, his healing abilities were only temporary when applied to normal humans. Lifeline was assassinated by persons unknown in 1999. it is known that superbeings from around the globe, heroic and criminal, attended his funeral.

Vitesse: the national hero of France, known for his television and movie appearances, excessive use of stimulants and liberal attitudes to clothing, porn and sex in the media.

Prodigy: major shareholder of the UK-based Prodigy Corporation, Prodigy is now in his mid-20s and still the major supplier of advanced technology to the highest bidder. Prodigy has collaborated with others to build some of the advanced technology we see in use and his company provides the IP protection and licensing for all parties.

The Protectors: based on the west coast of the USA, the Protectors provide a non-governmental alternative to the WatchTower. Their roster: Inferno, Sparkle, Warhead

Moon Boy: the only active member of the original WWII-era American Dream. The scope of his abilities are unknown.

Malice: one of the known escapees of the Orange county Penitentiary bombing in 1998. Malice was captured in late 1999 and placed within Fortress.

The Zombie Squad: mostly inactive “team” of superbeings based in Miami who were partially active during the early 90s. Some of their number still respond but most have simply disappeared.

Hemlock: international assassin.

WatchTower New York: possibly the best funded WatchTower in the country. Roster: The Enigma, White Lightning, Minddancer, Shatter, Scorch, Sentinel, Metalon, SkyWarrior, Dominic Drake. The current team has just lost the extremely lucrative franchise to the WatchTower in New York after a series of costly mishaps and poor public opinion.

Out-Of-Character… For Me, I Mean.

The most difficult character I ever had to play was one drawn from a stack of manila folders in a gameroom in Astoria, Oregon. It was a one-nighter session — not my usual brand of poison, but I was a girl in a room filled with guys and Guinness, and anything becomes more palatable with Guinness. I was rather pleased to have made the cut. Out of 20+ interested applicants in the game, six of us actually got to participate. Didn’t dawn on me until years later that my participation may have had nothing to do with my… er… literal participation. I wasn’t very clued in back then.

The GM had a basic AD&D adventure planned. Normal character classifications… none of this hybrid, super-specialized, “Well, in this supplement, you cross a mage with a ninja” craziness. One-night only. Goal? Survive until 2 am. Simple.

Um, not.

Probably should have taken it as a warning sign that we didn’t need to bring anything with us and all efforts to pitch character ideas were brushed off rather nonchalantly. The confusion was rectified when we walked in to find the folders sitting neatly in the middle of the table along with a note: “Choose one”.

I wasn’t as courageous back then as I am now, so I sure didn’t take the first pick. But wasn’t willing to be out of control long enough to take whatever was left. So, I have to say, I did it to myself. Third folder of the six picked up. And I wasn’t happy with what I saw.

First of all, let me just say how much I truly dislike playing fighter class characters. I know you need them, I know they’re important, and I’ve owed my paper-hide to fighters many a time over. So, it would be just my luck to get a fighter. That wasn’t the kicker though. My intelligence and wisdom scores were.

I don’t remember if my INT was a 6 and my WIS an 8 or the other way around, but I don’t think it mattered in retrospect. I was your typical all-brawns, no-brain brute force, and I was pissed (which probably helped the character portrayal). For good reason, too.

See, I’m usually the character in the party that takes stock of everyone’s gear, calculates the approximate trajectory of a grappling hook in a west wind, and comes up with the thing the GM never thought someone would do. I take a particular pride in being a pain in the GM’s creative ass. That’s right, it’s messed up, and I’m sure it has everything to do with a need for vengeance for every time a brilliant player did it to me. Oh, and I like watching smart creative people squirm. (This is going to come back and haunt me, I swear).

The conundrum was how to take my naturally smart, cunning self and dumb it down to fit the character. I don’t know how to act generally brainless despite my knack for peopling my life with good examples of the trait. And coming up with great ideas is part of the joy of gaming for me. So… what to do?

I kept my great ideas. For every situation or choice we faced, I allowed myself my naturally cunning response — and kept my mouth shut while I rolled a d10. Anything less than an 8, and that idea never saw the light of day. God forbid I roll a 1 or 2, because then I had to come up with something STUPID on purpose. If I managed something above an 8, I spit the idea out. I was a veritable Forrest Gump of insight and ingenuity. Most of the time everyone wanted to pour MiracleGro into the cavity where my brain should have been, and occasionally, I was an accidental genius. The hardest thing was biting back all those wonderfully creative ideas because “my character wouldn’t have been able to come up with this”.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the “Here’s your character!” trick on a few groups I’ve GM’d for. Some folks eat it up. Others, you give them a well-developed character and it’s like telling them to climb inside a locked box. What I learned from my tough little rping experience is how hard it is to put aside your ego and the things you’re good at in order to play something truly, and how attached we get to our strengths. I really began to appreciate my talents more after that session. There’s nothing like feigning “not having a clue” to make you glad you have more than several.

So… what was your most difficult character? And what did it teach you?

TTN: Zombi

Tonight at TableTopNorth, I decided to eschew my plans of running 2300AD because, simply, the setup is massive and I don’t know my players very well. They seemed to want an action game so I dug out a copy of Zombi, one of my own games, and decided to force them into some hot undead action.

I decided to set it in late August of 1999. Mere weeks after the first recorded rising. Things were about to get ugly in the city (which the players decided was Kansas City) and the police force has been tasked with covering it up. They know the dead walk but there’s a pogrom on talking and desertion has meant that the City has had to hire private security companies to fill in.

Througha combination of impro and planning, the players made up two characters. Jim Buin, a combat cameraman who spent years with the troops and has a recurring nightmare of Mogadishu and Frank Connor, his wealthy socialite anchor. They were dispatched to riots in town by the Head of News, Gaylen Ross. They’re given a official TV van and a big camera.

In town, they fast-talk their way past a dumb uniform cop and find their way through the detritus of a deserted downtown to a riot scene. Ducking into an alley they encounter a half-corpse and decided to scale a fire escape to get a better view of the riot. Once upon the roof, they shoot a live feed of the police containing rioters, rioters who are under attack by another mob and to their horror they realise that this second mob are attacking, biting and eating the rioters!!!

They watch in horror as a pair of SWAT vans arrive and 16 SWAT troops disembark, take up positions and summarily execute the rioters and the second mob. They’re horrified and try to escape but are apprehended by two SWAT cops who try to bring them back to their Lieutenant, a stressed out guy who will do what it is required to keep this shit under wraps. They encounter the still-moving other-half of the half-corpse…which is killed immediately by the SWAT officers (and gives the players the hint that head shots are where it’s at).

While one of the officers is absent, they subdue the other, take his pistol and escape into the alleys with gunfire ringing in their ears. At one point, Jim breaks left and Frank breaks right. Frank reaches their van and tries to drive quickly though he’s clearly panicked and drives the can straight into a grocery store front. He’s concussed but rescued by Jim who throws the van into gear and gets them the hell out of there.

While heading back to the city, they call in and Gaylen tells them to get out of the city. She’s leaving the station now with her fiancé using the traffic helicopter and suggests they do the same. They divert to the local gun store to find widespread looting and the gun store locked. Frank rings his father who suggests they make tracks to his ranch, 40 miles outside the city. They turn the van around and hit the freeway…Jim makes a call to an old army buddy who tells him to get out of the city and he’d call when he is in a position to give him a sitrep.

…40 miles later they’re pulling up the long drive to the Connors Ranch. They open the front door and Frank is horrified to see the lobby is awash with blood. Jim immediately activates the centra locking on the van from his remote. Frank stumbles into the hall and spies his father, obviously injured, feasting on the remains of his younger brother. His father drops the body and starts to approach Frank and Jim. Jim fires warning shots at Mr Connors but he keeps coming, a murderous look in his eyes. They start to back away and Frank, already established as a rich but incredibly unlucky man, feels an icy hand on his shoulder – his father’s wife, Missy! Already blue from the rigor, she attacks him immediately. Jim, empties the pistol and hits nothing but air and nicks Franks ear and starts to run. Mr Connors is still approaching and Missy grabs Frank’s arm and bites down hard, taking a lump of flesh and gobbling it greedily down. Jim aims carefully and with a careful shot, takes Missy down with one shot to her temple, showering Frank with blood and gore. They back away from Mr Connors and make their way upstairs to his study where Frank says there are rifles and pistols. They’re watchful for the other members of the household – Frank’s sister Lucy, the two stablehands, the maid… – and once in the study they start ringing the other phone extensions in the house to see who answers. José, Ricardo and Lucy are in the stables! And unhurt!

They secure the rifles and the pistols as Mr Connors starts to pummel on the door so they slide out onto the roof and drop to the ground and run to the van and load up. As they start the van, they notice Mr Connors and another walker coming out of the house. They wait til they are close by and BAM! reverse the van over them. They step out of the van and Frank shoots his father’s undead corpse a couple of times and, true to form with his bad luck, also manages to shoot out a tyre in the van. He also notes for the first time that there is blood pumping out of the bite wound on his arm….

They make their way down to the stables to find José, Ricardo and Lucy who are very happy to see them and Jim immediately gets the two men to change the tyre. Frank’s arm is still bleeding profusely and Ricardo uses his animal nursing skills to suture the wound and bandage it up.

Jim rings Gaylen. She’s about 450 miles north but needs to refuel and the only place is a small airfield about 60 miles away from the ranch. they decide to meet up. She tells Jim that the dead are walking, they kill and eat people. Those they kill, get up and kill. Jim looks at Frank very closely….

And we finish up with them loading into the van….and heading for the airfield…..

DG: 9th November

With a start, Kruse sat up and rubbed his eyes. The close confines of the safe house were weighing on his mind. He glanced over at Jimmy and instinctively reached for his pistol. He was too far gone, too unstable for this kind of work. It was just too dirty. Kruse could probably take him in his sleep and wouldn’t that be a better way to go than impaled on the claws and beak of something….unearthly.

He felt his bile rising and choked it back. The noise caused Zoe to stir and he saw light glint off her eyes and knew she could see him. Then her eyes closed and she fell asleep again – the traffic was only starting to build and the quiet drone of the cars sounded like sea upon a distant shore.

Confident they were both asleep, he rose and went into the bathroom and stripped off his wet clothes. He took a towel and mopped the urine from his seat and then went to rinse himself, his clothes and the towel. In the shower he fantasised briefly about Zoe and Mrs Dengler and then remembered the unearthly thing. That killed his thoughts and he dried himself quickly.

Broken sleep and nightmares punctuated his stay in the safe house. He remembered waking, bedclothes sodden, as a child with only his blankets to protect him against the encroaching dark. He remembered a figure at the bottom of the bed, looking shadowlike over him. Until his tenth birthday he’d been an infrequent bed-wetter, a nervous child. And he could feel the shadow over him. Even here.

He had been chosen for this life, he had not chosen it.

DG update…

As I may have mentioned, I’m in KinnyGraham’s DeltaGreen game. The other night, after losing one agent to the nameless horror and receiving a chewing from our DG contact, my character came to two startling revelations.

  • There is something horrible out there. Something unworldly. Something that wants to kill us. But it’s all separate incidents. There doesn’t seem to be an all-encompassing conspiracy.
  • The government is involved and our erstwhile allies, Delta Green, by telling us that if we get caught we’re on our own, are not on our side.

His reaction, therefore, is to bug out. He’s just had a friend killed, another ally has completely wigged out, he received a chewing from DG and a large proportion of the blame and now there’s some bossy hispanic woman too.

And what’s with the blame? He had the misfortune to be involved with DG (something they engineered). He’s been doing as he is told. And the reason he got the blame for this is because the other two are either a) dead or b) mad as a stick.

Would it be so bad to bug out? To run in a calm, calculated way rather than waiting to join his friends in either the morgue or the asylum? Would Delta Green come after him or would they assume that he just needed a longer leash? Would he find himself living the life of Jason Bourne…except being chased by both Deep Ones and his previous DG allies not to mention the conventional law enforcement officials.

And what would Graham think if I convinced everyone else to bug out? Would he be pissed? Would he want to run with the “DG-Rogue” campaign that I had thrust everyone into? Would he rather confiscate the character, insist I make another and then make it the order of the day that we track down our former comrade (my old character) and terminate with extreme prejudice. I don’t know.

Either way would make an interesting story…

Keeping track of time

One of the more challenging aspects of being a GM is ensuring the game world retains its believability. Mature players (by this I mean anyone who role-plays, rather than someone who plays a one-man-army war-game) demand a world in which things happen much as they do in this world–all actions have consequences (some of which are unforeseen), and much more is happening in the world than what the characters see.

Part of creating this illusion is of course in your world building, but an equal part is time management–keeping track of all the events that you have planned to happen, and making up new ones based on the actions of your players.

One method I’ve used to do this is a simple table of time/characters. With time along the top of the table and characters (including PCs and NPCs) down the left, it is simple to prepare before the start of a session by jotting down what the NPCs will do assuming the PCs do nothing. As the session progresses, you can modify that based on player activity. One thing to be careful of is the linear nature of a table can lead you to linear thinking on the part of the NPCs. This might sound dumb, but having a table like that will literally encourage you to think within the box.

Another method I’ve used is more like a traditional brainstorm–bubbles with text associated with arrows. This means you can keep track of NPCs actions (and even non-action things like desires and intentions) in more of a flow-chart. Drawing new lines of association between bubbles as different events occur to change the landscape means that it’s more likely that things will be less linear. However, little bubbles scattered over a page make it harder to keep track of the times when events are going to occur.

Finally we get to the method I currently use, which is a mash-up of the two. I use bubbles to note down events and ideas, and a table to tell the order in which they will happen and did happen. That way the game flows freely, I can make notes quickly and still tell where everyone is at any given time, and when the players are talking among themselves I can update my table as I go.

I’ve found that having the bubbles makes it much easier for me to think up sub-plots and micro-plots on the fly, and to ensure that the characters that are relevant to that plot are available at the right times to be involved.

DG: 16th May

The worst thing about going undercover is making it airtight. This means learning mannerisms. This means picking up habits. This means changing your diet and cutting your hair. It means holding Johnson with the correct hand and it means spending weeks fighting back against nicotine cravings that took months to shake the first time.

The meeting with Ms Green disturbed him. It sounded like there was a paramilitary organisation trying to take over something. Should he report it? Would he end up dead? Was this part of the plan? Either these Delta Green people were responsible for the disaster at Platte or they were fighting those who were. Either way, he was likely to be dead. Maybe O’Shea resisted these people. Maybe Dunsanay was unwilling to comply. He could guess why Lundy was dead. No loss to the gene pool there.

He decided to go along with it. And reached for the smokes.