Spot-Checking the Lie, Part 2

June 4, 2009

Continuing from my post last night.

Dev’s captain, Raven, and her first mate, Karma, had just walked their way into an upscale opium den and asked for a private room in the back. While being led there, I described the two ladies passing by the doorway of another private room, outside of which stood several thugs who eyed them suspiciously. Inside they could hear the judge talking quietly and a woman giggling.

Dev suggested that Karma go cause a distraction in the hallway while Raven burst through the thin wall dividing the two private rooms and grabbed the judge. Karma ran over to the hallway screaming that the judge was her husband and had to come home immediately. Dev rolled for the second obstacle “Avoid the judge’s bodyguards.” As the GM, I threatened Karma, which made sense, since she was the one putting herself in danger by drawing attention.

Dev ended up overcoming the objective but having to place a minus (-) in Karma, removing her from the mission. Sweet. I decided that some of the men had carried her off, struggling, but were sufficiently distracted that Raven burst in on the judge and grabbed him. He looked up at her. “Why, hello, Raven,” I had him say.

Dev then rolled for the next objective, “Kidnap the judge,” succeeding and narrating dragging him out of the opium den, throwing him into a carriage that happened to be waiting outside, elbowing the driver down into the street, and whipping the horses into gear, tearing off through the streets of London. The judge’s bodyguards were, of course, hot on their heels, firing pistols at Raven (the damage she took from these being partially responsible for her increasing Terror and Trauma).

For the fourth objective, “Deliver the judge to the angelic underground,” I pulled out the new shot-framing guidelines that I’m suggesting players use for fights, chase scenes, heists, and other complex objectives that you might want to describe step-by-step rather than stuff happening all at once. The way this originally worked is: the rolling player (Dev) places all their dice in categories (one for each relationship/trait being drawn on, one for “exposure,” one for mission, plus dice for any threatened categories resulting from Trauma) and then these dice are read in order as individual “shots” in a piece of moviemaking, pluses (+) described by the rolling player, as badassery by their character or other crew members; blanks (   ) described by the other players, as either good or bad things; and minuses (-) described by the GM as obstacles, setbacks, and failure. When shot-framing in this manner, each shot does not necessarily need to be associated with the category its die is placed on, but there’s a reason that “exposure” and mission come last, as they sum up the sequence and present appropriate results based on the roll.

This was a bit awkward in playtesting wth Dev, partially because it was just the two of us (there were no “other players” to describe shots for blanks) and also simply because Dev would also have to describe a bunch of shots in a row (since players obviously want to place pluses if they can), leading to that Wushu-thing where you have to describe badassery on top of badassery, which can become silly, tiring, and/or repetitive after a while. So I’m rethinking the way the shot-framing works. (I’m now thinking that the GM always leads off every shot with a description of opposition — someone’s shooting at you, you encounter a problem, etc. — and then the appropriate player describes how this opposition is overcome or not, based on the die, with the GM describing both the opposition and your failure to overcome it on a minus. In any case, something like that where there’s more guidelines for what the players are describing in shot-framing).

So, in the playtest, we had a semi-awkward chase scene through the slums of London, ending up with Raven beating the shit out of her pursuers, throwing them into the machinery of an underground millworking factory. Then she delivered the judge into the hands of the angel, a very disturbing individual who had a cover as a groundskeeper at a local church, holding court in the belltower.

After that scene, we decided that the action was over and that it was silly to make Dev roll again to get out. So we had some discussion about whether the “Get in” / “Get Out” objectives were always there or if they were added at the whim of the GM, depending on what was happening in the mission. (Currently leaning towards the latter).

If we had run a second mission, it could have clearly been about the trouble that Karma was now in, having been accosted by some of the judge’s bodyguards and maybe not have been able to get out like her captain did.

Next post is about post-game discussions with Dev.

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