Cold City: Shutting Down, Session 1

September 26, 2007

I’m running Malcolm Craig’s Cold City for Adam Flynn, Robert Ahrens, Eben Lowe, and Nathan Paoletta. It was actually planning for the game that gave me the ideas that became Mwaantaangaand.

Last night was the first session, which Nathan unfortunately couldn’t be at. The four of us spent the first hour or so talking about the style and tone of the game. We decided:

  • we wanted some Hidden Agendas to be “open” (general knowledge to the players) and some to be “closed” (secret, discovered in play),
  • we wanted the GM to have some secret Hidden Agendas of his own, though we didn’t really talk about how to implement these (maybe I’ll just make some major NPCs with Hidden Agendas, since they seems like what I’m supposed to do),
  • we wanted the game to be kinda noir-y and realistic without worrying too much about the actual details of history (Eben, with loads of German experience, will be sitting on his hands),
  • it may, in the end, be unclear if there’s really any supernatural happenings going on at all (since the Nazis did some horrible things to people that might render them disturbed or inhuman, but not necessarily undead or alien or whatever),
  • and some other stuff, which I don’t really remember.

Adam‘s playing a young Russian officer who missed most of the war because he was involved in other things. He was a snappy dresser, loved the Party but hated Stalin, was hoping to uncover proof that the Americans were misusing Nazi secrets, and was incredibly unsubtle in trying to recruit people to the Soviet side (possibly because he was working in German, which wasn’t his native language). A fairly recent arrival to the Reserve Police Agency (the setting’s multi-national secret-hunting task force), he was reassigned because his superiors suspect that the German members of the RPA may be covering up Nazi secrets instead of exposing him. He’s here to fix that. Adam’s character was in two initial scenes, which is why we know more about him than the other characters.

Robert‘s playing a former German sapper whose devil-may-care attitude led to the loss of his arm fairly early in the war, before everything turned South. After having been stuck at a desk job for most of the remainder of the conflict, he started working in the central office of the RPA, mostly filing paperwork and handling other administrative details. He’s originally from Wiemar, which means he’s an old-school German nationalist who thinks of the Republic fondly and has not yet realized that that world will never return, but be washed away by Cold War divisions.

Eben‘s playing a highly assimilated Brit of South Asian descent, so assimilated that he’s been Church of England for a couple generations. Most of his family was killed during the war and, with few attachments, he was an attractive recruit to the RPA. Though a technical officer in the Royal Air Force, he’s also a pencil pusher in the central RPA office, but has extensive knowledge of the various records that have been inherited from previous German agencies.

The overall premise of the game, we decided, was that the RPA is in the midst of being gradually shut down. Many of the active units have been disbanded (or killed, it’s not entirely clear), but there are a few administrative details that need to be taken care of. The paperwork has to be processed. The files of various units need to be organized and boxed away for safekeeping. The central RPA office has to comb through the various units’ operational bases to make sure nothing incriminating, secret, or important is being left behind for others to find.

In the first scene, the Russian and German characters were sent to the former headquarters of an American-led RPA unit that had closed (the Russian there largely to make sure the German didn’t cover up anything). They bickered a bit amidst the remnants of a converted bunker before the Russian stumbled across a list of regularly-collected blood sample data that had been taken from (after a conflict to piece the data together or be in immediate danger; he succeeded) a minor German actress that the American-led unit had under surveillance. While he was glancing over his find, the German (after a conflict to see if the Russian noticed; he didn’t) pocketed a unknown file that had the Nazi state seal on it. Cut.

In the second scene, the Russian was attempting to track down other information on this actress, enlisting the assistance of the Brit. As they walked down the street to the archive where the former SS surveillance files were kept, a Russian artillery lieutenant, recently arrived in Berlin, stepped out of a car and entered RPA headquarters with his entourage. The Brit raised an eyebrow. There was no luck finding the original paper files of the actress in the archive, but when they checked the microfiche records, it showed the files had already been put on film, presumably because someone thought they were important. However, when they opened the box that supposedly contained the appropriate films, there was nothing inside. (Here there was kinda a wishy-washy conflict where the Russian tried to get the Brit on his side; he succeeded). Sighing, they began to search the boxes near it alphabetically, hoping that it had simply been misplaced. Cut.

All in all, a slow but good start, I think. I really like the idea that the game is going to start with minor administrative errands and build to all the secrets that the RPA is going to leave unsolved once they shut down. I’m also thinking that, perhaps, the characters won’t even be part of any official unit, but be uncovering this stuff together, as part of their larger responsibilities in various RPA subunits. In any case, I’m really excited for the next session and to see how Nathan injects more awesome into what we’ve already established.

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