[Solar System] Playing tomorrow, with a few questions....

edited October 2008 in Play Advice
Dear Story Games Brain

Tomorrow I am running the Solar System for the Clapham crew. We look like we have settled on something cyberpunk, space infused, and potentially world-spanning.

One thing I wonder about is conflicts where characters find it difficult to directly affect one another.

For example, if word spreads that Tutenkhamen's tomb has been discovered, and the villainous bermudan millionare and heroic East Coast archeologist both race to be first at the dig, is this a kosher conflict? I can see it working in the first instance, rolling some kind of Resourcefulness Ability and pulling in Secret of Greasing Palm or aiding with a Geography roll. Does it break down at the Extended Conflict level though? It seems potentially trickier to come up with Opposed actions when they are not in direct opposition, just pursuing the same goal independently.

I'm also trying to pin down a few keys. I'd like a key of the True Believer, and a key of the Cynic. I've tried:

True Believer
1 xp Share your belief in Aliens with another
2xp Pursue a lead about aliens
5xp Get evidence for Aliens
However, I want to have the scope for alien encounters in the game, and if "Renouncing the Belief" is the buy-off, then things get fiddly or broke.

I want to have it generic enough that an astronaut and an anarchist conspiracist could both pick this, so I can't specify the key around government cover-ups (with a Buy-off of "stop blaming the government [and move on]). I don't think.

1 xp Share your disbelief in aliens
2 xp Ridicule another for belief in aliens
5 xp rationalise away belief in aliens
Buy-off: Accept that aliens exist

I don't know, maybe this one is somewhat weak? Especially if aliens show up in the game - that buy-off issue again.

Think for me, mighty brain.


  • Re: extended conflict and your example, I wouldn't worry about it. Nobody will enter an extended conflict unless they care deeply about the result - that's the benchmark for entering extended conflict. More likely they'll accept the outcome of the initial opposed roll. If they care deeply, they will be invested enough to drive it toward a satisfying conclusion in extended conflict without your help. Pay attention to their intents and make sure they aren't, in fact, parallel (parallel conflicts go by much faster because they are so brutal). Make sure you encourage them to give up before they are broken.
  • Your Key of the True Believer is really:

    Key of Faith
    Your character has a strong belief that guides her.
    Gain 1 XP every time she defends her belief to others.
    Gain 2 XP whenever this character converts someone to her way of thinking.
    Gain 5 XP whenever this character defends her belief even though it brings her great harm.
    Buyoff: Your character renounces her beliefs.

    And the Cynic is the same Key.
  • Yeah, and as for the buyoffs, it'll be your job to make them work. To me, if you have players with those Keys, any evidence brought into play about aliens needs to be controversial, easily covered up, or otherwise remain in question. If the existence of aliens is ever finally proven, then, of course, the Cynic will probably buy off the Key. But you can tease them by making sure that all those people who have the evidence are people the Cynic would never trust, and otherwise give him or her room to choose whether to keep the Key or buy it off.
  • Thanks guys. It's tricky, because the whole set-up is about humanity on the verge of contact by aliens. I'd like to formalise opposing views on the issue, as I think it would be fun story meat, but I don't want to limit the vectors of the players just to protect the operation of the keys. If they are wholly invested from the off in getting access to the prototype jump-ship and blasting toward the coded coordinates of the alien civilisation, then fuck it, they're meeting aliens that session.

    Reflecting a bit, though, maybe the Key of Faith is the answer - if each character's KoF is specific enough, e.g., The Govt is hiding the truth about aliens, or Aliens will be our salvation, then the key can weather any broad plot reveal. I.e., tailor keys to individual psychologies rather than blanket facts.

    Sound workable?
  • Paul has it, as far as the Keys are concerned: if the Key is about being sceptical about the existence of aliens, and aliens are proved in the game, why would you want to keep the Key, anyway? The game is all about change, the purpose of buyoff conditions is certainly not to always stay unfulfilled!

    A Key might well be bought off in the very first session if the character goes through something that changes him that much. And if the character is a guy who's worked for the government for 15 years, proving again and again that there are no aliens... and then he finds incontrovertible evidence in the first session? That's not a problem, that's an opportunity for Key buyoff and character development! A player shouldn't go into the game with the attitude that this particular Key is such an incontrovertible part of the character that buying it off will ruin him. Or if he will, then it's up to the player to pick a Key that allows him to stick by it without feeling stupid. Heck, I could imagine playing the alien cynic who at first gets self-doubts when the mothership comes down, but further on convinces himself that it's all in his head. Yeah, he's insane, but at least he's coping somehow.

    This is not to say that making the Keys more specific won't be a good idea. Then again, it could be worse, too, as it all depends on the nuances of what you're happy with or not. If it was me, I'd make the faith Keys all a bit standardized in such a way that each character wouldn't just have his own, idiosyncratic little faith. Much more fun to make the faith Keys something generic enough for several characters to share the same beliefs, for cults or churches to spring up around the ideas, for people to write or read books about them... that sort of thing. But individualized belief systems are fine, too, for certain sorts of campaigns.
  • Hey, thanks, Eero. I think I was getting hung up on how quickly keys should/could be bought off, and whether it was out of line for events to push buy-off. As long as the players are pushing toward it, and I'm not just hosing them, it looks like it should be fine!

    Now I've just got to figure out some Secrets of Cyberware.... which should be straightforward I think, using Equipment.
  • For cyberware, lay out the various ways Secrets can be built (there aren't many) and let them design their own. Design a few for your villains at the same time and lead by example.
  • Good call, thanks Jason.

    A final thought before the session tonight: has anyone built or used a Key of Calm? For those inperturable characters that act as if they have seen it all. Key of ennui, key of burnout, something along those lines could be what I'm looking for...
  • Key Of Tedium, perhaps? I can see myself using that.

  • How'd it go?

    I think Keys ought to reward decision and action. Passive Keys encourage players to do nothing, which seems like a bad idea, generally. You could model these on Key of the Orphan, where the implicit action is meta-commentary that complicates the character's life.
  • Hey thanks. It hasn't gone anywhere yet, as we aren't quite that many hours ahead...just over 6 hours til the game glory starts, Simon cries 'Awesome!' and Graham's head explodes.

    As you all well know, I don't do metaphors.
  • Posted By: Graham WKey Of Tedium, perhaps? I can see myself using that.

    You only get 1 xp for walking out on the session., but you get 5 xp for sulking in a corner.
  • Oh! With cyberware (and with any special items), am I right to think that if you get hold of some without paying out xp you would go into advance debt?
  • I guess so. Or it could just be color until it is bought. If you are rocking a standard advance economy it won't be much of an issue.
  • Or if it is intended to be a temporary fix (I futz the echolocationware onto my ear...now let's find a way out of this govt labyrinth!) just let a character use a relevant ability to create it as an effect?

    I'm getting more and more a sense of the system, it's flex and give. Can't wait for the rubber to hit the road.
  • edited October 2008
    If somebody yanked an ultracochlear implant out of a dead enemy and installed it in their head (giving them the Secret of Precision Hearing), I'd either ask them to pony up 5 XP (or whatever the going rate is for Secrets) and define its effect or use it as color until they could afford it - nothing wrong with invoking it as a cool thing they have, but the increased effectiveness is tied to the Secret, which they don't get until they pay for it. You may do it differently and it won't break anything to just put them in XP debt, but it strikes me as limiting and inelegant.

    Secrets are not temporary. If you want a temporary McGuffin to show up, just say "there's this supercochlear implant laying there; it does +2 Harm in any acute-hearing-related challenge" or "This megacochlear implant gives you a bonus die for finding your way out this particular government labyrinth" or whatever seems appropriate. Or just throw them a bonus die from your stash. That last one is best, but the system is very flexible. I'd avoid getting bogged down in gear.
  • Or yes, just create an Effect. I could see a character using some sort of Surgeon (I) Ability on the field to butcher his dead enemies and install some of their cybershit into a friend of his for some bonus dice. Grim, but doable.
  • Oh, right, capital-E Effect. Sorry about that, I'm an old TSOY hand but actually a Solar System n00b.
  • Cool. Thanks for your continued attention! Looks like we're good to go. The one thing I'm dithering about is pools but I think I'll bring that to the table (I get the idea that pools can profoundly shape the game) before dickering around.
  • The default pools work fine and are intuitive, so I'd focus on other stuff for your first go 'round. You've got plenty to think about!
  • We played, nobody died, and fun was had. I have some thought and stuff but won't be able to post til weekend. Suffice to say we had sassy Nobel winners, space surfers, rastafari communing with starmen, an anticapitalist parkour pro, and a scandal-breaker who turns up in the unlikeliest places...
  • Please do write more about it when you get a moment, that sounds like you created some good stuff.
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