Static - beyond [Lacuna]

edited July 2011 in Story Games
I've played a couple sessions of Lacuna, but only as an agent, not Control. I think the Static mechanic sounds like fun and can be used in different and exciting ways. But! This is me using my imagination and riffing off hearsay. Can you help me out?

Here's what I want to know:
  • How Static actually works in Lacuna.
  • Notable experiences you've had with the mechanic in play, good or bad.
  • Ideas you've had for using something similar in another game.
  • Whatever else, you know. Let's brainstorm!


  • edited July 2011
    I have this half-completed Cop drama based on The Wire which uses the new Conspiracy of Shadows Rules mixed with Lacuna's Static.

    You play the cops and the Conspiracy is of course a group peddling drugs. The CoS rules would be hot shit for dtermining who's winning the war on the streets.

    So Static, yeah that's command and politics and all the bullshit as seen in the Wire where they don't want you pursuing the top of the chain and instead just want dope on the table for PR.

    I envisoned chain of command sending down orders you didn't want to hear and the players resisting. Stuff like raiding the stash house before all the evidence has been gathered to pin it on the top dog. If players resisted command, pissed them off, went against their orders they gained static.

    As static increased shit would happen like it does in Lacuna. Maybe after enough points they pull some resources from your team, order you to bring someone in too early, maybe threaten your career.

    It's called Murder Police.
  • I've found that there's kind of a balancing act going on between heart rate and static in a Lacuna session. If you have a few players, you will tend to burn through HR and the static stays low. On the other hand, a larger team will generate a lot more static without getting all wound up.

    Because I want static to be a issue in the game, I'll use a shorter scale for small teams. That way they can trigger the events that help to give Blue City that 'off/odd' feel that I want. For me, static is a tool for the setting and perhaps 'scripted' events/wandering monsters.

    Other games will have a tilt, Lacuna has a slide in to Chaos and you can do this easily with static.

    I write up a separate static chart for each session. Since I run a pretty open ended sand box version of Blue City, this gives me another tool to integrate mission related elements when the players decide to take a tangent.
  • Charles, I haven't seen the Wire, so I'm only half getting you. What kind of stuff would you have come in as a result of increased "static"?

    Todd, that makes a lot of sense to me. Static is likely to build faster with more players, right? So Static builds too fast for their Heart Rate's to keep up. How much do you usually integrate the Mission objectives with the Static sheets? I was under the impression that they were supposed to be mostly separate.
  • Mostly separate, but I like them as part of a theme based on the patient, the crime, and the Hostile Personality involved. So, I do like to see them kicked off on a regular basis. Too small a team and they're not used, too large a team and they roll out too fast and you end up playing spiderman tag and not dealing with the HP.
  • Posted By: MarhaultCharles, I haven't seen the Wire, so I'm only half getting you. What kind of stuff would you have come in as a result of increased "static"?
    One of the main themes of The Wire is beauracracy and politics fucks shit up and causes more harm than good. The system is as corrupt as the bad guys and the bad guys don't suffer from red tape.

    Your special unit would be following a drug-ring lead by some gangster. A murder or two should happen at the very beginning (1st scene) and your unit's objective is to bring down the top guy for the murders. So Static would look like this:

    3 - Commanding Officer gives the unit a call, he's agitated and wants results ASAP.
    5 - CO pulls a useful man from the squad (NPC) or some other resource (vehicles, technology, whatever)
    8 - Command calls in the group for a special meeting where they want the evidence laid out and threaten to shut the team down
    9 - Orders come down to bring in the thug who committed the murders (the drug-ring doesn't know you're watching them but they will now)
    12 - More bodies fall and the Commissioner has had it. He wants a department-wide act of aggression to let the criminals know this won't be tolerated. You're being ordered to move on the stash houses you've identified.
    15 - Your unit's being dismantled due to lack of results and funding. Continuing the case will have to happen on your own time or you'll have to take risks while working your normal case.
    17 - One or more PC's are stripped of rank and or transferred. Either the campaign ends or we skip ahead maybe a year to where a new unit is formed, maybe some old characters return.

    So yeah, you don't want to be aggressive and show your hand until you have the right evidence to arrest the top criminal. Making busts and arrests early lets the criminals know they're being monitored and they circle the wagons. They also go quiet.

    There would have to be a way to lower Static in this system, but it would be much slower than it going up. The point is for the game to culminate with a high static level and the criminal being busted, or not.
  • Oh and a huge part of the game is having a large bulletin board where you tack pictures to it as new contacts and criminals are observed (this happens in the show). It's basically an in-character relationship map.

    If I could tie some mechanics to the bulletin board even better. I haven't worked on this game in like 2 years though. You're sparking my enthusiasm again.
  • Yeah, I've been thinking of static as the direct impact of the interference of the Lacuna project in Blue City. So the specific crime and Hostile Personality and even the experiences of the players have a large effect on the flavor of static for a particular session.
  • Static is beautiful. It does story pacing for you. The more Static there is, the more dreamlike and weird everything becomes. This creates a story structure like Alice in Wonderland, in which everything ends in a blaze of danger and weirdness.

    The only difficulty is: if the Investigators play it really safe, Static stays low and the story doesn't progress.

    I could use it for a Cthulhu game, in which Sanity decreases and weirdness increases. I could almost add it directly into Cthulhu Dark. In fact, I'll get on that.
  • You can also include some fourth-wall static conditions, such as side conversations or use of electronic devices. This causes the situation to ramp up in response to listlessness at the game table, and bring focus back on the weird shite going on. The static then kicks in when things are going _too_ slowly.

    I really like that the points at which the strangeness occur are more or less random. As a story-teller, I wouldn't necessarily choose _this_ particular moment to have the rain start falling up, but it ends up nicely foreshadowing a later encounter...
  • I also realized yesterday that there's really not any conditions under which Control needs to roll dice. This is appropriate, since it's Control...
  • When I use static, I make sure to include fourth-wall breaking static conditions (such as "having an unrelated side conversation" or "trying to metagame") and I make something happen every single time static increases. It gets pretty crazy when you do it that way, which is exactly how I like it.
  • Posted By: whiteknifeWhen I use static, I make sure to include fourth-wall breaking static conditions (such as "having an unrelated side conversation" or "trying to metagame") and I make something happen every single time static increases. It gets pretty crazy when you do it that way, which is exactly how I like it.
    Yes, my favorite is giving the players regular old pencils (non-mechanical), and then having Static increase when they go to sharpen them.
  • Tom, fourth wall stuff! Nice. Good idea!

    Graham, my impression has always been that the Static track occurred sort of... parallel to the mission to avoid just this sort of thing. Like, Static controls "wandering monster" sort of things, or at most subplots. Am I wrong about that? It seems kind of brutal for a source of primary adversity. Either stall or death march.
  • IIRC static is "secretly tracked" in the RAW, but we always always tracked it out in the open, for various obvious psych reasons.
  • Posted By: Paul BIIRC static is "secretly tracked" in the RAW, but we alwaysalwaystracked it out in the open, for various obvious psych reasons.
    The players talk about Static: +1 static.
  • I LIKE IT! :-)
  • The fourth-wall static sources in the game I've been running are:
    - Any use of electronic devices. (Interference!)
    - Referring to other players by the player name, rather than the Agent pseudonym.
    - Side conversations.

    The first game I ran had story events explicitly linked to Static, but I threw that out precisely because of pacing issues. Now the static relates to the theme of the given story (often accentuating the nature of the HP or an important location) rather than directly driving the story. Though I have been using a couple of low-static events to trigger clues about where to find the HP. (For one game the Static 2 event was finding a rosary, which, in turn, led the characters to the Church of the Logicians, in Central.)

    In the game we played last night, two Agents started fighting with each other _after_ taking out the HP. This led to a crazy spiral of static accumulation, in which it seemed the very world was falling apart around the Agents involved (the other two managed to eject before the shit really hit the fan). I've been thinking of Static as pollution caused by the intrusion of the Agents into Blue City; it can certainly wreak havoc on the local ecosystem...
  • I use fourth wall static triggers. My first few games "Player leaves the table for any reason" was one.

    And completely agree on tracking static in the open.

    I have specific events tied to static, at low levels they tend to be atmosphereic/ambient kind of stuff. "The building across the street bursts into flames, no one else seems to notice." "The storefront suddenly shimmers and is no longer a bakery. It is now a women's boutique"

    At higher levels it is tied into the mission.

    One static trigger I regularly use is "Agent speaks with a personality."

    @kaibutsu, the GM not rolling dice is one of my favorite things about Lacuna and has influence my own game designs projects.
  • Tracking static in the open isn't suggested for a reason. Don't let the players know when events are being triggered by static or how unreliable Control is.
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