Tuesday, July 18, 2006

911rpg: the 45 minute rpg

Below is 45 minutes of spontaneous, unedited typing before bedtime. Is a viable rpg format suggested here?

11:44 pm Tues. 911rpg

To play, read each point(*) aloud and execute it before proceeding.

*Each player will play a character in Manhattan on 9/11/01.

An immigrant, tourist, broker, schoolchild, hipster, cop,
dancer, tour bus guide, nerd, activist, retiree, whatever.

Keep in mind, this isn't the 'Die Hard' rpg.

On the other hand, there are some remarkable people in NY.
Jackie Chan was in town that day, as was Bruce Willis.
But the characters they depict don't-really exist.
Dexter the one-legged bike messenger does exist, as
mind-boggling as that fact is.

Go around the group and declare your characters, BRIEFLY.

*Decide where your character was -supposed- to be before the 1st plane hit.
Declare it.

Were any other PCs nearby? The game doesn't end until they cross paths.

*Tell us when she first became aware of the plane or planes crashing.
Right away? Did she sleep thru the impacts?

*In order of who became aware, tell us what your character first thought
the disturbance was:
an accident? an attack? incomprehensible? a silly rumor?

*The disaster was such a wild intrusion on a sunny day.
What expectations for the day carried over, against all reason,
even after the attack? Did your character think he was still
gonna be able to bid on that eBay item later?

*What did he do then? Many witnesses in Chinatown felt they had to
keep doing their shitty jobs.

*Declare whose safety, if anyone, your character was particularly
concerned-for, at first?

*What did they attempt, in response to those concerns? Was it
possible to get a telephone connection? What to do about
unaccounted-for loved ones?

*What CONFLICTING urges presented themselves? To take pictures/
run away/ watch a TV/ tell grim jokes to strangers/ eat/ shower/
go back to bed/ keep reading 'My Pet Goat'?
Write a list-- including urges which will obviously be ignored.

*How did the variety of urges make your character feel?
Cross out the urges which will be dismissed, but declare them.

*Number the urges which will be considered or pursued, in order
of priority to execute. Compare notes, see if any characters
will be crossing paths soon.

*Flip a coin to determine whether their 1st priority succeeded.
Tell us how, or what prevented it. What was your character's
reaction? Add any new urges to the list.

*The human body can only take so much shock before attentiveness
alternates with numbness. Everytime it's your turn to declare,
flip a penny. Heads means your character is off in his own head.
Tails means he's engaged with the buildings-- the new events.
Narrate the unfolding of priorities accordingly. Steer events
toward encounters between PCs.

*If PCs are in conflict with each-other, flip
coins until the winner gets tails and loser gets heads.
Narrate the outcome. IMPORTANT: tails doesn't mean the player
succeeds at a task. Tails means the PC engaged with
the outside reality. Heads means you retreated into self...
listening to inner mind chatter. Failing at a task,
even dying, is heroic if engaged with the situation. Succeeding
at a task while engaged is preferable. Succeeding at a task
while driven by inner chatter is no victory. Failing at a
task while driven by inner chatter is petty.

*Your character saw or experienced something that will be
forever frozen in their memory. What was it? A tiny detail?
Broad and gruesome? touching?

*Flip 2 pennies. The 1st one is whether you're lost in your
own head again. The 2nd one indicates whether the better
or worse side of your character is predominent just-now.
Declare something your character will =want= badly for
the next few hours. Describe their actions in pursuit of that.

Use the IMPORTANT mechanic above to determine moral victory/failure.
Narrate actions taken which led to the moral victory or failure.

*Summarize the last 2 steps in the form of: THIS leads to THAT.
With "THIS" being the better or worse thing in or outside your
head just-now. And "THAT" being the thematic result of the actions
attempted. Thematic result = moral of the story of the attempt.

*Describe what conclusions are dawning on your character, half a
day after learning of the impacts. Lag-time to full understanding
is unavoidable. Firemen at Ground Zero were dazed, too.

And so on...

12:30 AM.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Note: The Dogs In The Vineyard town of Hard River Crossing is based on my actual experiences in Glenn's Ferry, Idaho (pop. 1000-- largely LDS).

Remember, it's more important to keep directing your players into conflict and choices, than it is to 'make sure' they encounter what's here as-written. Long as it is, this is still just a starting point...

The Dogs are sent Northeast from Bridal Falls City, with instructions to turn West when they reach the Oregon Trail; and cleanse the towns along it. On the trail they find remains of years of tragedy: broken wagon wheels, abandoned belongings, rudimentary graves with markers telling of run-ins with Mountain People.

It's nearly Summer Solstice, so the land is dry. The Dogs and their horses are thirsty. The Dog's map shows the Snake River just-ahead and a big X beside the words 'Hard River Crossing' .

_The Exemplary Couple_
It's near sunset. At the river's Old Crossing Point, the Dogs come-across a westbound wagon bearing an exemplary young married couple-- settlers ADAM & BEE. It's getting too dark for a wagon to cross; but the Dogs could attempt to cross on horseback tonight.

Do the Dogs stray from their narrow job description; to concern themselves with these Faithful non-sinners?
Even if: Ahead is indeed a hard river crossing, where many wagons have been lost?

The couple WANTS ceremonial blessing from the Dogs, for the crossing ahead. They are stoic about whether they want physical help crossing tomorrow, but will accept such help.

Helping couple cross = Physical risk to Dogs. Possible delay or distraction from The Dog's main role.

Not helping couple cross = Great risk to couple. Possible resentment from couple & those they tell-- that the Dog's didn't help. Especially if the couple fails to cross alone without tragedy.

_Weak-Spirited Seance Group_
If either Adam or Bee dies crossing the river; the survivor will later be invited in town to join a secret group of THE WEAK AND BROKEN-SPIRITED who conduct full moon SEANCES at the Old Crossing Point; led by BROTHER DICK EASTER, a widower.

Dick & The Weak WANT to distract the Dogs away from finding out about the seances. And they WANT to perform a seance when the full moon & solstice coincide.

Dick & The Weak are engaged in PRIDE & INJUSTICE as they conduct & cover-up their activities, SIN of APOSTASY, FALSE DOCTRINE("It's ok if we only sin by the river in secret"), FALSE PRIESTHOOD, SORCERY, DEMONS.

IF THE DOGS DO NOTHING, the Weak's frantic, clumsy attempts to cover-up and contain their actions-- will lead to HATE & MURDER.

_The Ferryman_
Unbeknownst to Adam & Bee or The Dogs; there's a spanking-new FERRY built to cross the river: around the very-next bend beyond the Old Crossing Point (and Seance location). One might wonder why the ferry isn't simply located at the old crossing. And why there's no marking at the old crossing, announcing that the ferry exists nearby.

If The Dogs cross ahead of Adam & Bee (the first evening); they'll find the ferry before Adam & Bee try to cross (the next morning). If the Dogs cross with Adam & Bee, they'll find the ferry afterward.

JIMI SANE is the Faithful ferryman, reminiscent of McMurphy in 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'. Jimi's the 7th son of a 7th son & thus folklore says his breath has HEALING POWERS. Jimi's brother is SHANE SANE, the town Steward. Jimi's damn-expensive DOLLAR TOLL to cross is more than Adam & Bee can afford; unless the Dogs intervene.

If Jimi's ever away from the ferry, one of his chosen WEAK BOY ASSISTANTS will be at the ferry. They hang-around when he's on duty, too. They all lost fathers crossing the river.

Jimi WANTS to boast that he's conquered the perilous river. He respects anyone who succeeds crossing the hard way, and scoffs at anyone who uses his ferry without ever having crossed by getting wet. He claims he intentionally put his ferry in a spot where first-time crossers won't find it! (True, but he's also avoiding the Seance location.) He claims he charges an exorbitent rate to discourage weaklings from taking the ferry for granted.

But Jimi's biggest WANT concerns river-crossers who suffered major loss-- and thus unexpectedly settled in town. He has seen how these people's Spirit is broken & he knows about the Seances. He seeks to restore their Spirit (confidence), by living example. If there's an audience, he'll provoke situations where he can demonstrate that one should Never Cower, even before The Dogs. He'd rather-not tell The Dogs about the seances; hoping the weak find Spirit to save Themselves/ rather than rely on Dogs to end the abhorrent Seances.

Jimi's boasting dabbles in PRIDE, his high ferry-toll in INJUSTICE, and his response to the seance problem dabbles in the SIN of HUBRIS: by exceeding his authority. However, all these are motivated by his pure intention to end the Seances by showing The Weak how to be strong. Whether Jimi's rumored healing-breath is demonic or a faithful miracle-- is an open question and subject of gossip around town.

_The Town per se_
Beyond the river crossing there's indeed a town-- called HARD RIVER CROSSING (pop. 400)-- settled largely by people who didn't make it across intact & thus halted their Westward travel prematurely. Some lost family members, some all their possessions.
Many had intended to cross right thru Faithful Country, and hadn't been members of the Faith; until they lost much in the river & became reliant on Faithful charity to begin-again. So they converted.

The SANE FAMILY were the first settlers in the area & settled there voluntarily; rather than by misfortune. They've generously shared their wealth with the river's refugees.

The Sane family name is well-known and controversial back in Bridal Falls City & throughout Faithful Country-- for the grape juice they bottle for holy ceremonies. The Faith's usual, more-recent ceremonial practice is to use only WATER, and certainly not WINE. So 'SANE UNFERMENTED Brand' is now denounced by many Faithful as too-close to wine for comfort. But Official Doctrine does not explicitly condemn its use. The Dogs must form their own opinion.

ARRIVING IN TOWN, The Dogs will be greeted warmly (with fresh peaches and grapes) & asked to perform their mundane functions. They will be offered bottles that resemble forbidden wine! The bottles contain harmless grape juice, except ONE UNLABELED BOTTLE-- containing wine. The Dogs don't know who gave that particular bottle. (But it was Brother Dick Easter. Dick WANTS to turn The Dogs' suspicion toward the SANE FAMILY, and away from Dick's Seances. Dick Easter will also be quick to condemn Jimi's high ferry price & denounce Steward Shane for giving brother Jimi a pass on ferry-toll INJUSTICE.)

STEWARD SHANE SANE is the small town's religious & political leader. Shane possess the LIFE TREE, a document listing the FULL NAMES & geneology of everyone in town. Shane's the brother of Jimi Sane; and son of elderly Father Wootan Sane-- prosperous economic leader.

Steward Shane WANTS the Dogs to let Jimi conduct himself and his business as he sees fit: high tolls, mocking attitude, whatever.
Shane doesn't know about the seances, or why his brother Jimi acts as he does. But he trusts Jimi's judgment.

However, if Shane knew about the Seances, he'd forbid them directly & endorse confrontational Dog action/ rather than following Jimi's method of addressing the town's underlying broken Spirit.

Steward Shane also WANTS Sane Unfermented Brand to remain accepted as a valid product; and is wrathful against whoever he believes gave The Dogs actual fermented wine.

_The Demonic Baby_
After The Dogs begin to interfere in the Seance business; A WEAK OWNER will bring a pig or an ass to one of The Dogs to be blessed. He will reveal that he has named the offensive animal after the Watchdog giving the blessing.

Then, if the Seances aren't fully ended yet; during the simultaneous FULL MOON and SUMMER SOLSTICE; a BABY is then born to WEAK WIDOW CYNTHEA-- a seance-participant woman whose husband was lost crossing the Snake River, 8 1/2 months earlier.

Cynthea WANTS to name her child something offensive: such as after a seance participant the Dogs have killed; or something woefully un-Faithful such as 'Moonwine'. (Shane Sane won't want to add such a name to his Life Tree records.) If her request is denied, the activities at the river will not be contained there any longer; and the newborn will immediately become possessed; as evidenced by a bright JAUNDICE. And the Weak will go apeshit when they learn of this Sign. We're talking a confused MOB OF TORCHES AND PITCHFORKS IN THE STREET; GRUMBLING & IMPATIENT FOR SOMEBODY TO CONVINCE THEM WHAT TO DO. No longer contained or secret.

Members of the Sane Family will WANT the Dogs to use Sane Unfermented Brand grape juice in any ceremonies conducted against the Seance and Demonic Baby-- to prove their product is legitimately Faithful.


Comments welcome.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Do The Important Part First

These are instructions for a preliminary step-- before starting an rpg game...

Take a blank page & write some phrases on it, describing Issues which might affect individuals or groups. Things like "Bored", "On the run", "Naive", "Desperate because they owe money", "Can't admit when he's wrong", "In love, but not loved back". Underline anything you're sure you'd like to see played. Cross out anything you just blurted-out, but are sure you don't want to play. Don't worry yet, about forming coherent characters. You're just players brainstorming stray, unassigned issues.

Draw lines on the page-- connecting issues which might be related somehow. As cause & effect or as opposites, for example. Discuss the connections-- and play-off each other's suggestions-- to flesh-out how they relate. But still don't assign anything to particular characters.

Next, the players do pick issues for their (otherwise undefined) individual characters. Jot your choices down on seperate pages. Not only is it ok for more than one player to choose some of the same issues, it's actually beneficial. Shared issues will suggest Relationships between the still-undefined characters. Two characters with identical issues might be sibling rivals, or strangers who recognise each other as facing the same bind. Or acquaintences who are painfully-oblivious to their similar circumstances.

In order for the game to percolate with exciting Conflict, be specific about differences in how characters stand in relation to the same issues. A happily gay character and a homophobic one-- take opposite sides of the issue. Whereas two alcoholic characters might differ between 'fighting it' and 'giving-in'. If multiple characters have identical takes on an issue, that suggests they'll be allies on that front. Until something intrudes to make them choose otherwise. Write down who-else is facing the same stuff, and how.

Consider and make note-of whether each issue is something that was dealt-with in each character's distant or recent past/ or whether the issue front-and-center right now/ or whether it's looming in the future. Past liabilities--already overcome-- may currently manifest themselves as positive traits: "older & wiser". Issues tend to be negative-sounding. But characters also have positive aspects-- such as skills-- which may have emerged in facing background issues.

Only now, as the interplay between characters' past, present, and future issues begin to take shape; is it time to pick a setting for the game-- and setting-related aspects of character roles; such as everybody's occupation & status in society.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Better Start My Own Blog To Say This

Deleted it.

I sounded like an ass.

Thanks for the insights, but my reply was too half-baked
for public consumption.