Archive for the ‘Surreal’ Category

A new character for Don’t Rest Your Head

My Name Is . . .Francesca Shockley (Frankie Shock)

And I Am . . .a radio DJ for KROQ

What’s been keeping you awake?
My mother.  She’s nuts…No I mean really nuts.  Locked up nuts.  How am I going to take care of her?  How can I afford all this?  I mean someone’s got to get her care, get her looked after.  My kid sister’s useless.  Sure she’s a hot shot lawyer down in Pensicola (Annabella Kingsman, look her up) but like she’d ever haul her butt back here to help out and take care of our mom.  So there’s me.  Just me.

What’s on the surface?
Hippie dippy DJ girl.  I look like a stoned out rock groupie or something.  Yeah, I guess these tattoo sleeves don’t help but hey, they’re cool right?  And even though I’m a girl it makes me look like I could stomp your nuts into oblivion if you look at me sideways.  I like that.

What lies beneath?
I am the biggest softie ever.  I mean ever!  I’d give you the shirt off my back even if I didn’t have a shirt.  Nobody gets that.

What’s your path?
I want my mom back.  I want a family.  I want to feel like I did when I was seven, and safe, and protected…

What just happened to you?
Finished another 10 to 2am slot at the station, stopped by Tom’s on the way to my crapbox apartment and shot down too much whiskey while smoking too many smokes.  While walking back to my place (can’t afford a car), I saw this little girl…I swear she was wearing what was my uniform when I was seven, this short and t-shirt set with sneakers…anyway, she was talking to this tall dude.  Scary looking guy, musta been seven feet tall!  And he had like a beak or something!  She handed him a glass thing, like a snow globe, and asked “is this what you wanted?”

He made this evil snicker sound and took it.  I shouted to leave her alone, give it back, but he just snickered more and walked away.  I followed him, not really wanting to catch up but wanting to see where he went.  We went into the park as the fog started rolling in, and I lost him.  All I could hear was his umbrella tapping.  And now I’m in this graveyard, that I’m certain I never even knew was in my neighbourhood.

So now what?

Discipline 3
Madness 0
Exhaustion 0
Fight 2 Flight 1

Exhaustion Talent: Communication – I can speak with and understand any language (even though I only know english, and my high school teacher said I didn’t even know that very well)

Madness Talent: The power of words – Whatever I say happens.  Not like the Paper Boys, but like that old D&D spell “power word – kill”.  I say a word or two of command, and it happens, no matter what it is I say.

Building a character for DRYH is that easy.  Rules lite?  Yeah, kinda.  For characters anyway.  Dicing for stuff?  That’s another matter entirely…


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…