Archive for October, 2009

Danielle Trottier, Thief

Posted: October 28, 2009 in Uncategorized
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I first got Dog Town as a steal on RPG Now…literally a steal. It was free. I got fascinated with Dog Town in the same way I get interested in driving past the remnants of big accidents. It was like I was seeing the remains of something that once made sense to someone, but now is just a mess. Dog Town is a lot like that.

Dog Town is a game of criminals and their crimes, set in the 70’s, but really you’re not locked into the 70’s if you don’t want to be. It’s a bit of a tribute to movies like The Godfather, Scarface, Carlito’s Way, and the real life exploits of high flying 70’s gangs and mobsters.

The game is extremely detailed and has a ton (or tonne if you’re metric) of things you need to track, record and make sense of throughout a game. Unfortunately, none of it is very well described in the core rulebook. I mean this game is crunchy. Crunchy with a capital K. We’re talking deep fried, breaded crunch with a crunchy centre. There are rolls and stats for everything.

Undeterred, I was absorbed and immediately began putting together a gang. My gang was, strangely enough, based on the people I worked with. There was Paulie, the boss, who was the man I worked for; Big Mac, his boss; Sylvie the psycho, the real life secretary, who in game terms was Big Mac’s mistress/girlfriend…the list just went on.

I decided this time I’d make a female thief (wait, is this D&D?) named Danielle Trottier. I want her to be experienced, but not a “one man army” as described in the rules, so I select the “Gangster” level of development. The Gangster falls between the starting level “Punk”, and the high level “Anti-Hero”. As such the Gangster is built with 30 development points for Attributes, 10 points for Special Talents and 75 Skill points.

Attributes are: Bulk – sheer size
Power – strength and physical presence
Toughness – resistance, balls and machismo
Reflexes – dexterity in any other RPG
Sense – sixth sense, ability to “read” the scene
Brains – intelligence in any other RPG
Control – self control, I like this as an attribute, and the concept of having characters who can’t control themselves
Style – grace, glamour, “look” – more useful than charisma
Experience – how many times you’ve been around the block and what you got from going there
Luck – pure blind dumb luck

Attributes range from -2 to +5 and are purchased on a straight point for point method.

My friend Danielle, whom I’m modeling the character after, is a wafer thin girl, so we go with a Bulk of -2, “catwalk model” 80-90 Lbs. Power can’t be more than two above bulk, so we’ll buy a 0 power for the descriptor of “Not bad. Not good.” She’s tough and can take a beating for a toughness of 2, and has “pretty nimble” reflexes, which is 1. Sense is where she excels, with a 3 or “paranoid or very perceptive”, and she’s smart as a good thief should be, with brains of 2 “you can plan jobs”. Control is a 1, meaning that she has some vices but nothing too bad, and a style of 1, low key as a thief should be. Experience reflects the character vision of an experienced thief, so we’ll go with 3 “Respected killer, thief or hustler.” Which leaves us able to buy luck at a -1 or “usually gets the raw deal or bad break”, not good for a thief, but makes for far more interesting role play.

Now at this point I need to work out the derived attributes, even though they’ll change later, but that’s what the rules say, so away we go.

Trauma resistance, the ability to resist getting injured from hits. 0
Hurt modifier, the ability to do more damage in hand to hand. -2
Injury points, hit points. 4 (this isn’t a thief, it’s a magic user), oh wait, I add that to the base value of 40 for a total of 44 points. We divide those into five equalish bands, of 4 at 9 and one at 8.

Moves, this is kinda the ability to do movement and running, jumping, that sorta stuff. But this one isn’t as simple as just adding stats together, oh no. This is an accountant’s nightmare of target values and modifiers to an ‘ideal’ total. So going through this mind numbing twister we get…straight speed: 3, climbing: 3 (same stats as speed, so why is it different?), maneuvering: 4, and balancing: 4.

Then there’s endurance, which is a similar sort of accounting nightmare but different. Fast Aerobic endurance: 10, Long Hard Slog: 10, staying awake: 6. So She does well in endurance activities, far better than sprints and climbing.

Reaction roll next. This plays into the character’s initiative and that sort of thing. Danielle has a reaction roll of 8. The Suss roll follows. This is a kind of “inspiration” roll, or an “Idea” roll from Call of Cthulhu. Her Suss roll is a 10. Then we have the discipline roll, which seems to be the control ability bumped up, and also the “assabilty” of the crook…the ability to sit on your ass and do work, as my old math teacher used to say. Her discipline is 6. After this is the Know Streets ability which is the knowledge of the area that the criminal is operating in. Despite being French, Danielle’s Know Streets is 8. Next up is the “balls” ability. This is pure machismo, and how gutsy the character is. Hers is 10. Pretty ballsy for her I think. Then there’s the coping roll, which is more of a long term stress measure, and how well the character deals with it. Danielle’s is 6. Finally there’s the hostility roll. This is how cool the character can keep it, or how likely they are to blow and go all Scarface on somebody. Because her toughness is higher than her control, Danielle gets a hostility rating of 1, which means that she’s got a couple of enemies, but nothing excessive. The rules say that at a rating of 5 the character’s basically a dead man walking.

So now we get her “criminal type”. There are several to choose from, asshole, thug, pimp. For Danielle, we choose Thief. Dog Town lets you buy things from the criminal type, like skills, abilities and in the vein of good role playing, even vices. For Danielle I want to buy “Sense +1” and “Reflexes +2”. This then means recalculating all of those derived abilities, of course. The purchase of this costs me 10 of the freebie 20 points given for these purchases. With the last ten points, I’m going to pick up two talents: No Nerves, and Intuitive; and also two skills which then start at a +1 level, rather than the base -3. The skills are Break and Enter, and Shop (electronics). This means I’ve made a choice on what kind of Thief this character is. The game differentiates between B&E, which means casing a place, knowing how to get in, all that, and Stealing, which is more of a shoplifting or pickpocket type event. Both steal, but in very different ways.

Now I get to shop for special talents with the regular 10 points the character gets to buy them with. I’ll take “Supple Muscles” for 2 points, which means that she can do the Catherine Zeta Jones thing from Entrapment with ease; Total Recall, which means she has an eidetic memory; Focus, so she gets a bonus in studying targets; and finally Light Fingered, which gives her a bonus on picking locks and that sort of thing.

Next step is to see if she has any “flaws”. There’s a 50/50 chance for a flaw. Danielle rolls above 50 so no, no flaws. But we have to check vices. Danielle’s control of 1 means she has two vices, and may smoke also. Let’s check that first, 5+ on a d20, and yes, she does. Then her two vices: Greed and Spender, well don’t those two go hand in hand like salt and pepper?

After this I then allocate all of her skill points and go through the tedious but necessary step of figuring out all of her ability values. Each skill has a level, which is purchased upon a default. After that you take up to four base abilities, add them together, half that, add on skill level and bonuses and that’s the actual “ability level” for the skill. But each skill has two ability areas attached and they suggest you could have even more and each of these areas has a different calculation. For example, the Break and Enter skill there are two types of use for B&E: Plan and Execute. Planning is based on brains and sense. Execution of that plan is based on sense, brains and reflexes. The base untrained level for B&E is -3. With Danielle’s skill purchase of 10 points for a level 7 B&E, she has a planning ability of 12 and an execution ability of 16. She’s not a bad planner but man can she do her stuff when it comes to making the actual haul, as befits her ability as a master thief.

One last thing to put together is the impact of her “know streets” ability. This gives her some background in the area and helps tie the character to the place. Now, I’ve made Danielle as a French national who’s been brought in for a job, so I could as the “Director” (GM) say her contacts in the place are nonexistent. But it’s also totally reasonable that she’s been here before and knows people and places here. So I’ll go with what’s default for the game. Her Know Streets of 12 means that she has 3 good connections, knows 32 to 36 assorted punks and 4 gangsters and she’s aware of 8 to 12 others. She has knowledge of 20 to 24 hangouts. She has 1 quite powerful ally and 1 small material edge like stashed cash $500, or handgun. I think I may opt for the handgun, given that I suspect she’ll need protection on the mean streets of Dog Town. She’s also aware of 1 boss. I’ll guess this is “Big Mac”, the man who’s brought her in from Paris for a special job…

Next I think I’ll try some actual play to figure out how the combat system works.

It’s taken a week of spare time to figure out one character, but now with all that done, here’s the final character:

Danielle Trottier

Offender type: Thief
Nationality: French

Bulk -2  Power 0  Toughness 2  Reflexes 3  Brains 2
Sense 4  Control 1  Style 1  Experience 3  Luck -1

Derived Attributes
Trauma resistance 0
Hurt modifier -2
Injury points 40
Move – straight speed: 3, climbing: 3, maneuvering: 4, balancing: 4
Endurance – Fast Aerobic endurance: 10, Long Hard Slog: 10, staying awake: 6
Reaction 14
Suss 12
Discipline 9
Know streets 12
Balls 10
Coping 6
Hostility 1

No Nerves
Supple muscles
Total Recall
Light Fingers


Assault 3 (Violence 5  Protection 5)
Awareness     3 (Active 16  Passive 13)
Auto Repair    -1 (Fix     6    Design     4)
Batting     0 (Violence     2    Protection     2)
Blade     5 (Violence     7    Protection     7)
Break & Enter     7 (Execute    16    Plan    12)
Cheat     -3 (Devise     1    Play     0)
Coax    -2 (Mooch     2    Befriend     1)
Conceal     -3 (Hide     3    Find     3)
Creep     4 (Sneak     10    Follow     10)
Deal     4 (Evaluate     9    Negotiate     7)
Drive     2 (Pursuit     8    Safety     9)
Drugs     -3 (Identify     3    Manufacture     2)
Escape     4 (Plan     9    Restraints     16)
Explosives     -3 (Rig     5    Diffuse     7)
Gambling    -3 (Bet     -2    Fix Odds     1)
Handgun     1 (Violence     7    Protection     10)
Heavy Weapons     -3 (Violence     4    Protection     6)
Impress    -3 (Hype     -1    Lie     3)
Investigation     4 (Inspect     13    Interrogation     10)
Language (English) 4 (Speak     7    Write     7)
Lifting     -1 (Carry     1    Lift     0)
Patch Up     -2 (Examine     4    Treat     2)
Perform     -2 (Act/Sing     7    Appraise     3)
Rifle     -2 (Violence     4    Protection     7)
School     4 (Comprehend     12    Knowledge     11)
Shop (electrical)    1 (Make     9    Design     6)
S.M.G.     -3 (Violence     3    Protection     6)
Stealing     5 (Boost     12    Pick Pocket     14)
Swimming     -3 (Sprint     -2    Distance    -1)
Threat     -3 (Menace     -1    Boss     0)
Throw    -2 (Violence     1    Protection     8)


Killer Mythic tools (part 1)

Posted: October 15, 2009 in RPG, Tools
Tags: , ,

I was inspired to put this here after E started up her game and was looking for some sources, so here are some darned useful links for Mythic games (and other games as well, but especially so with the random nature of Mythic).

Generators – random part of speech including frequency – good for verb/noun combinations – random wiktionary – Brewer’s Phrase and Fable

Names and such


The online mythic play page

Saint Ivan’s School

Posted: October 11, 2009 in Horror, Modern, RPG
Tags: , ,

for Reformation and Redemption

St. Ivan’s is a setting I devised for In Nomine, the english version of a French RPG about Angels and Demons.  I don’t think the original is in print any more, but I know it’s available as a GURPS or D20 setting.

I’m not entirely sure where the idea came from, but I really liked the idea of this decrepit and crumbling old Catholic school being ground zero for the war between Heaven and Hell.  Thinking about it though, it would probably also make a pretty good location to set a Vampire game or even Blood!.   It’s Schlocktoberfest from Postmortem Studios, and Blood is only $6 so I think I may just pick it up, but that’s another point entirely.

I ran E through a few adventures at St I.  She was a teacher there rather than a student, and she ran into more than a few other immortals.  It was fun, and so, in the spirit of sharing, this is my first big noun…the setting of St. Ivan’s School (for reform and redemption).

The School


Saint Ivan’s is a Catholic School for Reform and Redemption, what used to be known as a “reform school”. The kids and teachers both are at St. Ivan’s for a reason.

Founded in 1872 as a convent school, St. Ivan’s ran into trouble almost immediately, when the priest in charge went berserk, attacking and killing both nuns and students. The school went downhill from there, until the point where the local archdiocese decided to give in to the true nature of the place and converted it to a reform school in the late 1930’s.


St. Ivan’s is both thriving and a shadow of it’s former self. Thriving in the sense that it is filled with underacheaving kids and apathetic teachers; a shadow in that the school itself is underfunded and slowly crumbling into dust.

The school is on a large campus, covering several acres and comprised of several buildings of varying size, age and repair. Also, underneath the campus, the buildings are all connected by passages and steam tunnels, most of great age and poor maintainence. School buildings include: male and female dormitories, general classrooms, cafeteria and student recreation, chapel, medical and nursing, library, science, computing and math, boys and girl’s gym with swimming pool, staff building, and physical plant. There is also a central sports field set up for soccer, football, field hockey and baseball.

Creely Hall, Girl’s Dormitory
The oldest building on campus is the girl’s dormitory, which was originally built in 1870 as a barracks for the local militia. Two years later the building was purchased by the local diocese to be included as part of the new school. The building is three stories and is built in a Victorian Gothic/Tower of London style which leads to it being known to many of the students as “creepy hall” rather than by its proper name of “Creely Hall”. There are two large dorms on each floor, one in either wing, seperated by a central assemby area and main staircase. The girls sleep in bunks, military-style, with individual lockers by their bunks. There are two three stall bathrooms per dorm and there is a single large gym-style shower room on the third floor. The attic of the building is unfinished wood beams beneath the dark green tin roof. Sister Corpus sleeps on the ground floor in a tidy cell.

Bradobak Hall, Boy’s Dormitory
If Creely Hall is Creepy Hall, Bradobak Hall is worse. The boy’s dormitory on the St. Ivan campus is a modern building, constructed in 1975, using plans which had been rejected by a prison as being too harsh. The four stories of Bradobak Hall are simply large open areas filled with bunk beds, with wall lockers similar to those in the Creely Hall. Washrooms on each floor have mass urinals, two stalls and a small group shower area. On the main floor the dorm space is smaller than the other floors, allowing for an office and cell for the resident boy’s warden, Father Justin, and an assembly/lobby area just inside the front doors. Each floor of the building is painted a different institutional color. The main floor is beige; the second floor, blue; the third, green; and the fourth, grey. Inadequate windows provide little light and almost no view.

Note: Creely Hall and Bradobak Hall are across campus from each other for reasons of student safety and security.

Reitman Library
The campus centre of books and learning, the Reitman library building was constructed in the late 1960’s and it shows. The building is a four story cement pillbox with not nearly enough long, narrow windows. Outside it looks like it houses Nazis, inside it’s like being in an institutional submarine. On the top floor, a “divine” skylight looks heavenward from the centre of the flat roof.

As the old urban myth goes, they built the library and forgot about the weight of the shelves. Well not here. No, here they forgot the weight of the books. All four floors of the library are filled with shelves, half of which are empty. It is not at all uncommon to discover a long shelf with only a single book placed on it. The shelves were also built by the lowest bidder, with the end result that they run for a distance and then abruptly turn 90°, making the stacks into a twisty, winding maze.

The librarian, Sister Charity, has been known to close students’ hands in books in place of a fine for being overdue.

The Chapel of Saint Ivan
The first building erected on campus after the purchase of Creely Hall, the Chapel of St. Ivan has been sadly neglected over the ages. Built in 1872, the chapel was once a showplace of worship and artful religious fervor. Unfortunately, after the troubles which the school experienced in the early days, the chapel was nigh-abandoned and hasn’t seen an upgrade or coat of paint since 1910. Wired for electricity using the old knob and tube system, there is only a single bulb in the main chapel, over the naive, with the area of the pews being lit by candle-light. There are very few evening services at the St. Ivan Chapel.

In back, where the Priest’s office is, there is another light or two, and a telephone, but that doesn’t work very well most of the time. Also, off of the office, there is a small kitchen with a wood stove. The church is heated by coal stoves in the entryway, and another in the office. The chapel is very cold in winter. The stained glass windows throughout the church don’t open, making the chapel very warm in summer. The latest school leadership has taken more of an interest in cleaning things up at the Chapel of St. Ivan, so improvements may come about. However the local historical society is opposed to any large changes which would “ruin the history” of the building.

The Undertunnels
Running beneath the St. Ivan’s campus, the undertunnels connect most buildings to each other. The first tunnels were built a long time ago, rumor has it that they were here before Creely hall, made by local a indian tribe. For what purpose, is not known. The white settlers expanded and added to the tunnels and after the establishment of St. Ivan’s the buildings began to be connected in. Initially the students used the tunnels to move from building to building, but after a time events began occurring, students disappeared beteween classes, bodies showed up in the tunnels. Eventually in 1911 the school administration closed the tunnels down to student access. The tunnels continued to expand with steam tunnels being added starting in the 1920s. And of course the students continued to use them, just ilicitly now. Events dropped off with the lower traffic, but still continued just the same.

The Undertunnels are a warren and an eclectic mix of styles and sizes. The newer the building, the newer the tunnel, usually, though not always. Some are modern, well lit and wide, others are small, dark and damp, occasional ones are earthen, supported by wood beams. No one knows anymore exactly what all the tunnels are or where they all lead and it’s very easy to get lost down there. There are many numerous hiding spots and dark dark corners.

Students caught in the tunnels now are subject to detention. Teachers and staff are allowed to travel the tunnels without restriction, though the smarter teachers avoid them whenever possible.

Fr. John T. Pearks Adminsitration Center
This entryway to St Ivan’s is decorated in designer institutional. Sure the floor’s marble, but it’s beige marble.  A registrar’s office, in the height of 60’s decor, stands distantly off to the left on entering the building.  Classrooms stretch to the right.  Everyone regularly misses the reigstrar’s office and disrupts classes going on trying to find out where to go.

Play quietly by yourself in the corner

Posted: October 5, 2009 in RPG, Rules
Tags: , ,

I realized after the last post that it’s an actual play example, but I was playing alone at the time.  I figured that I ought to explain a bit how I was doing it, and also highlight a really awesome game product.

I was using “Mythic” by Tom Pigeon, available from Word Mill Games which is both a generic rule set of its own, and a means of playing without a GM!  The game uses two key components that allow this to work.  The first is called the “Fate Chart”, which gives yes and no answers on questions along the lines of “did this happen” or “is Bob here”.  The chart operates with modifiers based on the level of story action going on, and also with odds or similar power stats to help set likelihood.

The other key component are the event charts which together give focus, direction and word combinations for interpretation of events beyond the yes and no focus of the fate chart.  The importance of this bit has become more and more clear over the last few weeks though discussions on the Mythic discussion forum on Yahoo Groups.  It’s wonderfully useful for all sorts of interpretation where ever it’s needed.

The beauty of Mythic is that it also has mechanics to introduce randomness at almost any point in the game.  There is also a companion piece called “Mythic Variations” which has some genre specific tables for things like horror, mystery and even drama stories.  The shocks and surprises it can bring are amazing, but it always seems like it comes together in the end.  There is also a new product published called the “Creature Crafter” that allows for random generation of monsters and other beasties for any game system, but works exceptionally well with Mythic.

I will say that it takes some practice and interpretation to figure out how to play it, but after you wrap your head around it, it’s a fantastic tool to enable play even when you’re all alone.  Some groups us it as game master, with three or four players playing and no human GM running things.

So, in the Lacuna example, I was using Mythic to play out the story, asking questions after the initial “Tiller is following a female HP”.  It answered as to whether the street was busy, if I could get ahead of her, and it even introduced the randomness of the girl appearing out of nowhere when Tiller went to grab the HP.

It’s an easy system to learn and easy to use as an adjunct to your favorite rule set.  It’s easy to play on the go as well, I often use it in the car on the way to work, using license plate number for my “rolls”, which is especially easy since it’s percentile based.  I’ve heard of other people using the hundredths cycle on their watch, or even using the barcode digits on packages.

Mythic is an awesome tool, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Whenever I get a new game I always like to test it out. I find it really helps me get a feel for the game, how it works and how it plays. Most importantly it also helps me learn how I can break it and where I might want to stick in some house rules to pre-fix stuff that I know my players will end up doing (or stuff that I’d do if I were playing it).

Back in the old days when Kev and I set up the Northern Guard, whenever we wanted to test out a new character we’d put them into what we called the Room, patterned off the X-men’s Danger Room, but not so physical. It was just kind of a white space void that had no real dimensions or physicality to it. That let us bounce around all we wanted without having to worry about hitting walls or falling off cliffs and stuff. But it really let us test out how the characters combated, and in supers games, combat is king.

For Lacuna, however, I knew that the whole Whitespace thing wasn’t going to work. I don’t think it’s a particularly combat heavy game, but it is bizarre, which to me meant an actual play type example. So I dropped in on Agent Tiller mid-stride, gave him a setting in the city and went with it from there. To use the heartrate mechanic properly, I decided to just add 10d6 to his resting rate, to simulate the fact that normally there’d have been a game going on for a while already.

Current bpm: 106, Tiller’s in the zone for his target rate, but he’ll have to be careful only forty more until he passes out the top end.
Agent Tiller is in Blue City, tailing what he suspects is the target HP. It’s a very busy street, and though the target knows Tiller is there, she doesn’t try to escape, seems she knows safety is in numbers. He tries to close the distance between them, but can’t, she seems to know his every move and counters it. Time to try something different.

He ducks down a side alley and tries Matrix-like to leap up to the roof of the next building, intending to get in front of the HP to cut her off. He needs to roll on his athletics, and as he’s in the zone he can roll as many dice as he feels like. I’ll opt for 4 and see what I get, I need an 11. 17 puts me well over what I needed, and pushes my heartrate up to 123. Hmm, mid-zone, at this rate I’ll need to meditate soon to get it back down again. But if I can get the HP, then I can eject and it’ll be no worry.

Tiller takes off across the roof looking to gain on the HP. Unfortunately he comes to the end of this roof and needs to leap to the next one to continue ahead. We’ll go three dice this time. 17 again, including two sixes so that’s two commendation points. Makes it easily but BPM now 140, almost out the top end of target. But now he’s ahead of her and can hopefully take her by surprise. He leaps down the other side, back to ground level now, we’ll go three dice again. Oooo rolled an 8! That makes it 148, and because it’s a fail he looses one from either force or instinct and the rules don’t specify which. I’ll go with instinct since I’m expecting I’ll need force very soon. The only bright spot is that it was a six and two ones, and since he was still in the zone when I rolled, he gains another commendation point. Though since it’s a fail on a first roll, that gains me a point of static too.

I’m guessing that since he was leaping off the building and failed, that means he’s on the ground, but “injured” (or as injured as one can get in the dream world of the Blue City). So he doesn’t need to roll again to see if he’s on the ground. But I do need to have the static show itself somehow. The rules say that it can be something surreal happening as a result of static. Okay, let’s say that the street starts emptying, like someone’s thrown a switch, everyone starts bailing off the street, almost as if under command. But the HP keeps going.

Waiting in ambush, Tiller watches as the target HP gets closer. She’s checking all around trying to see where the Mystery Agent has disappeared to. Since she’s distracted it’s easy for him to reach out and grab her to pull her into the alley with him. Force again, has to be 3 dice this time too. 14 this time. BPM now 162, but he’s got her. As he drags her back into the darkened alley with him, she kicks and fights, and suddenly Tiller realizes they’re not alone.

Still holding the girl, he spins. Standing there, staring at him is the identical twin to the girl in his arms. The he’s holding draws breath sharply. “It’s me,” she blurts.

“Looking for someone?” the other girl says to Tiller, while flashing him a dangerous grin.

One Lacuna device; two girls.

Welcome to Blue City, Mystery Agent.

On the whole, I’m impressed by the system and the way it plays. It’s fun, even in this small, solo test. I have to say I’m darned curious as to what Tiller’s going to do next. As it is, I’m very tempted to continue and see what happens. More updates on this, if and when I do. Play seems fairly fast, and the heartbeat mechanic seems like it could turn dangerous very quickly. Maybe I shouldn’t have rolled three times for the “leaping tall buildings in a single bound” thing. Used just one roll to get up and over, but that seems like it’s shortchanging the event. Another option would be to work in a house rule for reducing heart rate automatically over time when not in action. But then that seems to go against the “point” of Lacuna. Hmmm, definitely more playtesting called for I think…

I’ve been anxious to get my copy of Lacuna Part 1 (Second Attempt) The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City  from Memento Mori. I’d read some play examples and reviews that all said there was very little there to hold onto in terms of character, that players would often clutch at anything they got hold of simply because there was so little there. So this, of course, raised my antenna and got me curious about what that really meant.

Mystery Agent with Lacuna Device

Mystery Agent with Lacuna Device


Well it showed up today and and they’re right. Despite all the “experimental” nature of it, and the “unfinished setting”, as settings go, it’s extremely narrow. There is very little room for the GM to interject their own twists on the setting writ large. The Company is the Company. Mystery Agents are Mystery Agents. Heck you can’t even go Deep Blue until you get some depth of experience with a goodly number of games in. There’s lots of room to play inside those boundaries, but it’d be tough to jiggle with the framework and still say you’re playing Lacuna.

In terms of character, there’s three stats which expand to nine, maybe a talent or two, a heart rate, a rolled name and age and that’s about it. No extensive skill lists, no weapons lists at all, no modifiers, nothing. So how, I found myself wondering, do you put hooks on that? How do you make a real character out of that? Then I realized, the same way you do with any character: by who they are, not what they know.

Defining a character by skills and a sheet isn’t making a character, and gives no hooks at all to the GM to work with. In Lacuna in particular, they try and do it with their mentors and the hints of things that are wrong with them and the company, but that’s too large for me. That’s X-Files conspiracy large.  And it’s pretty much the same impact on every character in the game.  I like my characters to have something closer to home, something that defines and drives the character. So I came up with some “personal” hooks.

I started with “what if the character is related to one of the mentors, unbeknown to the Company”? Then I went a step further with it. What if the character is related to another Agent, but they don’t know who? This mystery agent was able to track his missing sister to the Company. He knows she joined, but has no idea who she is, since you take a generic ‘agent name’ and must by Company rules use only that name. His goal, now that he’s an agent, is to find his sister for some reason. Something family related maybe. Will he run into her in one of the unisex bathrooms? Meet her on a mission? Maybe she’s made it to the Black levels already. Will she end up being a Hostile Personality he’ll need to Lacuna on a mission sometime? It’s now up to the GM (Control) to weave that aspect into this and any future games with this agent.  Drop hints, give clues, and it’d be a great way to start generating static!  And I had all this within an hour of opening the envelope the game came in. I’m looking forward to getting a bit more time to think on it even further.

So I start the Lacuna character creation process. I start by rolling a name. I get “Tiller”. Then I need to assign his abilities. I decide that he’ll be a fairly even character, not exceptional in any one area except where his talent lies, so it’s threes across the board. For his talent I’ll take “Investigation”, since this is all driven by his desire to find his younger sister, and obviously if he was able to track her this far so he knows what he’s doing. I roll for his mentor, and get Agent Baxter, the former Deep Blue agent who got caught in scandal. From her he gets Meditation and access to the Cover tree.

Then we roll for age, select sex based on the player, and that gives us his heartrates. And that’s it, as far as the sheet’s concerned, we’re done.  Here’s the character sheet:

Agent Tiller
Security: Blue Clearance

Force 3d
Instinct 3d – talent for investigation
Access 3d


Medical Data
Sex: Male
Age: 28
Resting BPM: 70
Target BPM: 98-146
Max BPM: 192

But really, that’s only a part of the character.  Now I write up a separate sheet with all the character details I’ve come up with, and that really fills in the character.

Agent Tiller is really Robert Jackson, a country boy who left reluctantly to go find his little sister Laura after a family tragedy necessitated it. Laura had left years earlier under a cloud, barely out of her teens and the family lost all track of her.  Jackson was able to track her to the Nasrudin Institute (“the Company”) where the trail went cold. Eventually he learned that she’d become a Mystery Agent, the pseudo-official operatives of the Company who use their talents in the dreamlands of Blue City. Intregued and determined more than ever to find her, Jackson joined the institude as well, and has graduated to be a Mystery Agent himself. There’s still no sign of his sister, and he’s cautious about asking too many questions, for fear of being dumped before he even begins. In Blue City, however, many more things are possible…

The Nouns of RPGing

Posted: October 2, 2009 in RPG
Tags: , , ,

People, places and things.

If schoolhouse rock taught me anything, it’s that this is the definition of a noun.  But when you think about it, really, that the foundations for any and every roleplaying game too.  People (characters, and NPCs), places (from the deepest dungeon to crawl to the fastest space transport in the stars) and things (is that a +8 sword of singing and decapitation or are you just glad to see me?)

For pretty much as long as I’ve been playing, I’ve loved this part of the game.  <old man voice> I started playing back in the winter of ’78 and I ain’t stopped yet </old man voice> and I remember even then filling notebooks with environments, character ideas, magic treasures that characters could find.  And when I wasn’t playing, I was having very vivid games in my head, living out the lives of my own characters and their interactions with NPCs and then then NPC’s lives.  I know, pathetic isn’t it?

It’s continued through high school, university and well into my adult life (well, my driver’s license tells me I’m an adult anyway, and my sons call me dad so that’s gotta count for something I guess, but I digress).  Even now, though I’m actually without a regular role playing group I still continue to purchase rulesets and then produce campaign settings for them, even though the chances are presently quite slim that I’ll ever actually play them!  I’m a bit of a rules junkie and whenever my imagination gets captured by a rule concept or I see a particularly irrisistable deal, I have to pick them up.  And then when I get through them, I start tinkering and developing and letting my mind run wild.

And now I have a place to deposit it all.  I may not be able to play with them but I’m hoping you might.  That’s why I’ve started this blog: to share my thoughts and feelings on games and gaming, and also to put the stuff I’ve worked on out for others to see.  No I don’t think I’m some genius who should be listened to, but I know how much I enjoy reading stuff others have created, and how I can use that to fuel my own imagination and creations.  I’m hoping that I can do the same, and give a spark, an idea, a concept or even just another viewpoint, to take and do with whatever they see fit.

I’ll try and post fairly regularly.  No guarantees what it’ll be though, other than the nouns of RPGs: people, places and things, and occasionally thoughts on games in general.