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Author Topic: [Mars Colony] The corporations will be our doom  (Read 2172 times)
Bloomfield
Member

Posts: 22


« on: November 10, 2010, 06:02:06 AM »

I had a chance to play Mars Colony tonight. I took pretty careful notes, and here is a report of how it went, followed by some thoughts about the game and the experience. Sorry about the length. Players were M = Governor (Bloomfield) and IM = Kelly Perkins aka KP.

Stage 1: Fear cards
We each generated three fear cards, and randomly revealed two:
1. The Republicans anger me when they polarize political discourse (M; revealed at start, didn't come into play)
2. The government only works for corporate interests (IM; revealed at start, lots of play)
3. The powerful churches undermine the separation of church and state, legislating morality (M; revealed later, but never came into play)
4. The fiat money system (no gold standard) only makes the banks and corporations rich and erodes everyone's savings (IM; revealed later, barely came into play)
5. The officials can always make promises and plans without having to execute because terms are so short (IM)
6. Rendition and torture are an example of government denying freedom (M)

Stage 2. Political Parties
Free Mars Party (Red, minority) stands for independence, secession of MC from Earth
Mars Party (Blue, dominant) like Democrats - "Mars needs more government"
Liberty Party (Yellow, fringe) like libertarians: free enterprise, local infrastructure ownership

Stage 3. Politicians - I'll discuss these as they came up in play. We also made up additional NPC that weren't on the sheet, like Joe Riddle (KP advisor), or Josephine Fayes (a frenemy of the movement).

Stage 4-6
IM played KP. KP was affiliated with the dominant Mars Party, but hinted at a secret secessionist agenda. IM rolled for the Sympathy and came up with Parent/Outcast: Jonas Perkins, KP's father, had to relocated to Mars years ago, when his highly controversial experiments with terraforming technology were scene as threatening. MC started not quite as a penal colony but a place that undesirable elements were encouraged to move to rather than face repercussions on Earth. Jonas continues his experiments in an R&D lab in a remote mining outpost on Mars; has lost contact with with his son.

Stage 7: Health Markers
1. Labor: working conditions on MC are unsafe, workers are overworked and underpayed, struggle to make ends meet. There is labor unrest. These problems originated in the early days of MC, when many workers were "convinced" to relocate to Mars.
2. Radiation: As children are born on Mars, many are suffering from birth defects which many believe are caused by harmful space radiation; the issue is hushed up, but it exacerbates the plight of the workers.
3. Corruption: politicians are in the pocket of corporate interests. We envisioned MC to be constructed of five main domes, connected in the center by a large transportation hub. The domes were the Nestle Dome, the Microsoft Dome, the Monsanto Dome, the Goldman Sachs Dome, and the Exxon Dome. There are remote mining outposts.

Play:

0. Vignette: KP grew up in one of the mega cities of the NWEUFMU (Northwest European United Federation and Monetary Union), privileged and with a brilliant scientist father, who had radical leanings. After a model early career including military service, KP entered first local than national politics but without major office. KPs career and politics led to alienation from his father. Before coming to MC, KP cleaned up a crisis in the Franco-Iberian Province by instituting tough monetary politics, harsh penalties for work evasion, and increasing police presence. These harsh, successful and highly unpopular policies gave him a reputation as a fixer but no chance for elected office; so he angled for the appointment to MC and got it.

1. PERSONAL (Governor): After welcome receptions and cheering crowds, KP is guest to Pres Fletcher (Mars Party) at his house, who tells him that the political system on MC is really a veneer for the true lifeblood of the colony: the corporations whose continued investment is vital. KP responds that he has met with the corporations already; stability of the colony will be incentive for continued funding; it is his plan not just to consult but to execute to turn things around.

2. Progress 1 (KP). KP speaks at a Transport Union gathering after meeting with employers. "We are all in this together, we are all new to Mars but this is our home now; the Colony must thrive, we will put differences aside." Roll: 4/3 - progress! Sydney Fane (beat reporter, Libertarian Party, has anonymous blog) speaks up to ask what KP will do stop the decline in real wages and deterioration of the condition of the workers. KP, emotional, responds that he has always dreamed of making a difference, vows to work for the everyman, will work with corporation---the real movers in MC. Roll 6/1 - failure! Council Member Hadar (Free Mars Party), who is on the podium with KP grabs the mic from him and says that KP can be forgiven the rash expression: of course he will work through the political system, the Council and Mayor's office. KP is publicly embarrassed, and moves a token to contempt; records no HP.

3. Opposition (G). Mayor Elaine Yang brings KP news of a strike among the transportation and sanitation workers. If the strike continues the quarterly budget will not be met.

4. Progress (KP). KP meets with labor union leaders behind closed doors, including the Council liaison to labor, Tanya. Promises to reduce working hours by having the corporate office workers pitch in, if strikes will stop for 90 days. Roll 3/1 - argh. Tanya supports KP, who moves a token to deception and records 4 Lies against the Labor marker. Improvements are 90 days are an empty promise.

5. Opposition (G). Serena Panin, Network Chief (Mars Party) has lunch with KP and tells him that Fane will publish a story about increasing birth defects caused by radiation and how Monsanto has been paying affected families to hush up the issue. She can only delay publication, but not stop it, and urges KP to send a positive signal now---to mitigate the political fallout from the article. A lot of advertising dollars for Network ride on the relationship with Monsanto.

6. Personal (KP). Strategy session with Joe Riddle, KP's advisor (Free Mars Party). KP wants to turn things around. Should Fane disappear? No, that is not how KP wants to operate, wants real, honest progress and ultimately independence for MC. Joe and KP decide that KP will announce new research to fight the radiation issue. [This was an important scene because it took us a while to see a plan, but it felt like it could have gone straight into a progress scene.]

7. Personal (G). KP meets with Fane at a remote mining outpost and offers Fane a deal. Fane agrees to tone down the damaging article, not for the politicians sent by the corporation to screw over the colonists one more time, but for the families who are suffering. [This actually felt like progress, but no dice rolled.]

8. Progress (KP). Closed door meeting with Council to get funding for the radiation research. Roll 5/2 - Progress! The Council sees reason and is willing to support KP by funding research. Roll 4/1 - wrgs! Council member wants to fund research through a public-private partnership with Monsanto. KP refuses. In the end KP makes the announcement before the article hits, and sends for researchers and doctors from Earth (who will take months to arrive), without Council backing for funding. Token to Deception, 12 Lies against Radiation marker.

9. Opposition (G). Joe Riddle gets tipped off that Council Member Tanya is taking money from the corporations to stall strikes, and brings KP proof of secret payments into Tanya's numbered account at a bank in the Semi-Independent Pan-Alpine Republic.

10. Personal (KP). KP, with no immediate crisis at hand, meets his father at remote terraforming research lab. The reunion is humbling for KP who is beginning to come around to his father's radical views of The Man. KP asks for advice on the radiation issue, and Jonas tells him that part of his terraforming efforts have shown that a certain inert gas might shield harmful radiation. The research isn't complete because there has been no funding (and no public acknowledgement of the radiation/birth defect risk).

11. Personal (G). In a one-on-one meeting, KP discovers that rumors about Council Member Tanya's corruption are leaking out. [Or should this have been an opposition scene?]

12. Progress (KP). KP needs money to fund research into the anti-radiation gas. He meets with Coalition President Fletcher and threatens to reveal corruption in the Council... basically blackmail. Roll 6/6 - progress!!! [We did not play with the doubling rule.] Fletcher buckles and promises support but only the Council controls the budget. Roll 2/2 - progress. Fletcher agrees to provide funding from customs/tax revenue to research. 16 HP against radiation marker. [This was the only progress scene which didn't end with a 1 being rolled...]

13. Opposition (G). KP wakes to TV reports of a Transportation Workers' strike; the union foreman accuses the Council of corruption during an interview with anchor Jase Williams, but doesn't name Council Member Tanya.

14. Progress (KP). Joe Riddle arranges meeting with Josephina Fayes, who has been driving a bus in Dome 4 for 40 years and was just kicked out of her apartment. Fane attends. Roll 5/6 - progress! Fane agrees to leak the corruption story. KP makes speech condemning corruption and supporting Fayes election to the Council "a real working woman - one of us!" Roll 1/3 - OMG. Fayes is elected to replace disgraced Member Tanya, but KP learns that Fayes is taking money from Monsanto to "listen to their side of the issue" before Council meetings. Token to Deception. 15 Lies against Corruption. There are now 3 markers in Deception, 1 in Contempt, 5 in Admiration.

15. Opposition (G). [At this point I was struggling to come up with oppositions that made sense and brought in the different markers.] A cave-in in Dome 3 is reported, 20 workers severely injured; some will not make it. The appallingly poor safety standards are revealed and laborers have fled Dome 3, causing overcrowding in the transportation hub and other Domes.

16. Progress (KP): KP meets with Fane again, wearing a wire. Also there are the Mayor, Council Members and Coalition President. Roll 3/2 - progress! KP reveals the payments to Fayes on the Council and gets a commitment to immediate relief for the workers, including addressing the housing problems. Roll 6/2 - progress!! KP talks Coalition President Fletcher into leaning on the corporations to donate mining equipment that will be used for repairs on Dome 3 and munch needed construction of housing. Roll 5/1 - OMFG. Pushing for wage increases for the workers, KP runs into a wall. No go. KP promises wage increases to workers, knowing he cannot keep the promise. Token to Deception (now at 4). 19 Lies against labor marker.

17. Personal (G): KP's father appears drunk at KP's apartment and accuses KP of selling out, not keeping his promises, being The Man. KP is at his wit's end, things are even worse then before - there has to be a way through this!?! Father and son get drunk together and dream of finally bringing around the Revolution. What if security chief Lloyd were gone? KP could fill the power vacuum, seize control of the security forces, topple the Council...

18. Progress (KP). Using slush funds to find a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who doesn't mind dirty work, KP arranges for Security Chief Lloyd to be shot in the head during a riot sparked by a strike. Roll 1/4 - SCANDAL (there are 4 deception tokens). Failure. Disgrace. Tilt. Move one token to Contempt, as well as the 4 tokens from Deception: there are six tokens in Contempt. KP is removed.

Endgame: (G) Fane has no stomach for political assassination and informs on KP who is arrested in public for Lloyd's murder. Dome 3 collapses during the riots. Food shortage ensues. 2 of the 5 sponsor corporations declare the MC experiment a failure and discontinue funding. The future of the colony is in serious doubt.

Endgame: (KP) KP is disgraced and convicted during a public trial and imprisoned in a make-shift prison in the collapsed tunnel between the hub and collapsed Dome 3. During trial KP, defends himself and screams and rails: "Somebody has to carry on the fight!" and rambles about MC independence. KP's father is banished to an outpost in the asteroid belt.

Logged
Bloomfield
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2010, 06:06:26 AM »

Some observation.

Of 7 progress scenes, only one did not produce a 1 (IM swears he will bring his own dice next time). Truly a game about failure. The game was tense and the sense of impotence and futility grew steadily. Our Savior started with great credentials and even high (if hidden) ideals and descended rapidly into cynicism. A turning point was the scene when KP exposed corruption in the Council and got a worker elected to replace the corrupt member only find that the worker was already in the corporations' pocket. Corruption continued and all KP could do was lie to the public. It was an exciting game.

The game seemed to transport our agenda through the game, even without our clearly articulating. And even though there is no mechanical connection between the narration in progress scenes and the progress that is made, it feels like there is in the game. KP's player was wringing his hands and really feeling the pressure. "What can I do? Is there anything I can do?"

We felt there were some minor mechanical issues. It was hard for us to really meaningfully distinguish personal from opposition scenes and we felt that if we made scenes interactive so that we both participated, Governor scenes bled into progress scenes. Sometimes we struggled to narrate failure that made sense. In the second half it became more difficult to come up with opposition scenes that felt organic. Despite the structure of switching narrative control, the best scenes were the ones we brainstormed together. The most fun was taking our ideas, pretty much unfiltered and running with them. There were several points were we diverged from the background in the game, most notably when it came to the role of the corporations and the structure of the MC, but we felt comfortable doing so. One particular issue was that the back-and-forth structure meant that either there only one scene or three between progress scenes so that at one point we went progress-opposition-personal-personal-progress. It would have felt more natural to go straight from the first personal into the progress scene but that would have meant 2 consecutive scenes for the Savior. Apart from the scene with the drunk father, personal scenes were hard to tell from opposition scenes, several of which were one-on-one or small meetings.

Fear cards didn't do much for us. Only one of them became really relevant, the others were things we cared about but they never came up. At one point we turned over two fear cards in a row but they didn't help decide on the next scene. Perhaps it was just our fear cards - but I think we could have done well enough without them. In future games, I think I will loosen the scene structure a bit. It broke the spell at times to think about what type of scene do I need now, etc.

Those are niggles though - the game was very powerful in more than one respect. First it was fun to see the fiction emerge jointly and relatively effortlessly. But second, IM and I just connected over the internets when I posted about the game---we had never met before we sat down at a bookstore together to play the game, and neither of us had played the game. Yet the experience was meaningful and enjoyable. That is a powerful social thing because it showed that the games' success did not depend on existing rapport between the players.

Tim - thanks for a great game design!
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iluxan
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2010, 08:19:58 PM »

Quote
1. PERSONAL (Governor): After welcome receptions and cheering crowds, Kelly Perkins is guest to Pres Fletcher (Mars Party) at his house, who tells him that the political system on Mars Colony is really a veneer for the true lifeblood of the colony: the corporations whose continued investment is vital. Kelly Perkins responds that he has met with the corporations already; stability of the colony will be incentive for continued funding; it is his plan not just to consult but to execute to turn things around.

Kelly is naively and arrogantly planning to subvert the colony's leadership to his will.  Delusions of grandure abound.

[I didn't have much idea yet of what's going on, but I was basically planning to take over the government.  The question of money hasn't yet occured to me.  Ha!]

Quote
2. Progress 1 (Kelly Perkins). Kelly Perkins speaks at a Transport Union gathering after meeting with employers. "We are all in this together, we are all new to Mars but this is our home now; the Colony must thrive, we will put differences aside." Roll: 4/3 - progress! Sydney Fane (beat reporter, Libertarian Party, has anonymous blog) speaks up to ask what Kelly Perkins will do stop the decline in real wages and deterioration of the condition of the workers. Kelly Perkins, emotional, responds that he has always dreamed of making a difference, vows to work for the everyman, will work with corporation---the real movers in Mars Colony. Roll 6/1 - failure! Council Member Hadar (Free Mars Party), who is on the podium with Kelly Perkins grabs the mic from him and says that Kelly Perkins can be forgiven the rash expression: of course he will work through the political system, the Council and Mayor's office. Kelly Perkins is publicly embarrassed, and moves a token to contempt; records no HP.

Kelly makes a serious blunder of mentioning the corporations as the real movers. Both the populace and the Council are incensed! Great start.

[I have to say, I really started to feel something here.  Bloomfield put me right on the spot, as I had to give a speech before a huge gathering of workers with not much to say.  The beat reporter, played brilliantly by Bloomfield, really put me on the spot with a question I could not answer.  I was kind of amazed that I found myself in the middle of a trite "we're all in this together" speech though I knew I had no right to say it right as I was saying it.

It's only scene 2, and the game was already working.  I even found myself clasping my hands together nervously as if I was on a real podium.]

Quote
3. Opposition (Governor). Mayor Elaine Yang brings Kelly Perkins news of a strike among the transportation and sanitation workers. If the strike continues the quarterly budget will not be met.

She came, at the break of dawn, to talk to Kelly alone?  The woman in charge of the colony had no-one to turn to at this dark hour?  Does it get lonely at the top?

[Oh, I wish I'd caught this at the time.  The Governor threw me a bone, and I'd missed it totally.  This could've been a great subplot - both business and pleasure.]

Quote
4. Progress (Kelly Perkins). Kelly Perkins meets with labor union leaders behind closed doors, including the Council liaison to labor, Tanya. Promises to reduce working hours by having the corporate office workers pitch in, if strikes will stop for 90 days. Roll 3/1 - argh. Tanya supports Kelly Perkins, who moves a token to deception and records 4 Lies against the Labor marker. Improvements are 90 days are an empty promise.

Kelly was up against a wall.  He really wants to resolve the crisis - not for his personal glory but for the people. 
But the only way I could come up with doing it is to make promises now, in the hope that I can catch up and make them true later.  Promises that would be broken.

[The pressure was on.  I was starting to feel desperate, and really didn't know what to do here.  I had no real way to solve the issue, but I had to come up with something.  This is where I started feeling like a sleazy politician.]

Quote
5. Opposition (Governor). Serena Panin, Network Chief (Mars Party) has lunch with Kelly Perkins and tells him that Fane will publish a story about increasing birth defects caused by radiation and how Monsanto has been paying affected families to hush up the issue. She can only delay publication, but not stop it, and urges Kelly Perkins to send a positive signal now---to mitigate the political fallout from the article. A lot of advertising dollars for Network ride on the relationship with Monsanto.

Quote
6. Personal (Kelly Perkins). Strategy session with Joe Riddle, Kelly Perkins's advisor (Free Mars Party). Kelly Perkins wants to turn things around. Should Fane disappear? No, that is not how Kelly Perkins wants to operate, wants real, honest progress and ultimately independence for Mars Colony. Joe and Kelly Perkins decide that Kelly Perkins will announce new research to fight the radiation issue.

[Didn't really know what to do, again, so used a personal scene to work with my trusty aid, Joe Riddle.  The character didn't get super fleshed-out, but I really liked having a grizzled veteran of many a backroom deal along with me really made me feel better.  And bouncing ideas off him when I was stuck really helped. Bloomfield did a great job playing him and helping me out to come up with a plan.]

Quote
7. Personal (Governor). Kelly Perkins meets with Fane at a remote mining outpost and offers Fane a deal. Fane agrees to tone down the damaging article, not for the politicians sent by the corporation to screw over the colonists one more time, but for the families who are suffering.

Kelly really means to do the right thing here, but he is over his head.

Quote
8. Progress (Kelly Perkins). Closed door meeting with Council to get funding for the radiation research. Roll 5/2 - Progress! The Council sees reason and is willing to support Kelly Perkins by funding research. Roll 4/1 - wrgs! Council member wants to fund research through a public-private partnership with Monsanto. Kelly Perkins refuses. In the end Kelly Perkins makes the announcement before the article hits, and sends for researchers and doctors from Earth (who will take months to arrive), without Council backing for funding. Token to Deception, 12 Lies against Radiation marker.

Kelly realy wanted to help, and really thought that getting the scientists in and starting the research center and announcing publically will make some real true progress.  But with the council resistance it turned into a lie anyway.  (The scientists are coming, but no funding for the center.)

Quote
9. Opposition (Governor). Joe Riddle gets tipped off that Council Member Tanya is taking money from the corporations to stall strikes, and brings Kelly Perkins proof of secret payments into Tanya's numbered account at a bank in the Semi-Independent Pan-Alpine Republic.

Quote
10. Personal (Kelly Perkins). Kelly Perkins, with no immediate crisis at hand, meets his father at remote terraforming research lab. The reunion is humbling for Kelly Perkins who is beginning to come around to his father's radical views of The Man. Kelly Perkins asks for advice on the radiation issue, and Jonas tells him that part of his terraforming efforts have shown that a certain inert gas might shield harmful radiation. The research isn't complete because there has been no funding (and no public acknowledgement of the radiation/birth defect risk).

[This was carried great by Bloomfield.  I basically threw the questions at him and let him come up the solutions.  But I think collaboration worked really well here, though I didn't manage to make this thread fit very well into later scenes.]

Quote
12. Progress (Kelly Perkins). Kelly Perkins needs money to fund research into the anti-radiation gas. He meets with Coalition President Fletcher and threatens to reveal corruption in the Council... basically blackmail. Roll 6/6 - progress!!! [We did not play with the doubling rule.] Fletcher buckles and promises support but only the Council controls the budget. Roll 2/2 - progress. Fletcher agrees to provide funding from customs/tax revenue to research. 16 HP against radiation marker. [This was the only progress scene which didn't end with a 1 being rolled...]

[This is where I finally have no choice but to start strong-arming the whole corrupt government by blackmail.  I, as Kelly, really do feel desperate and against the wall.  I got to Mars hoping I can fix things up and then start the independence movement in earnest.  But to get anything done I end up having to be part of the same corruption which caused the mess in the first place.  Kelly starts to get more desperate and unhinged here.]

Quote
14. Progress (Kelly Perkins). Joe Riddle arranges meeting with Josephina Fayes, who has been driving a bus in Dome 4 for 40 years and was just kicked out of her apartment. Fane attends. Roll 5/6 - progress! Fane agrees to leak the corruption story. Kelly Perkins makes speech condemning corruption and supporting Fayes election to the Council "a real working woman - one of us!" Roll 1/3 - OMG. Fayes is elected to replace disgraced Member Tanya, but Kelly Perkins learns that Fayes is taking money from Monsanto to "listen to their side of the issue" before Council meetings. Token to Deception. 15 Lies against Corruption. There are now 3 markers in Deception, 1 in Contempt, 5 in Admiration.

Kelly, increasingly desperate to make progress, throws caution to the wind and makes a desperate gamble.  Throws himself with the everywoman and the underground blogger against the Man.  And it pays off - Tanya is off the Council and Josephina is elected.  But it's all for naught.

[I have to say, inventing Josephina was fun.  Though she didn't end up a huge character, we had a great time creating her together.  Also, wit hso many failed rolls, at this point I didn't expect my tenure to end in anything but disaster.  But at the same time, I felt strangely compelled to keep using Deceptions to make progress, because I genuinely wanted to make some progressin improving the Colony, and if all I got were failures, I wanted at least something to happen.]

Quote
15. Opposition (Governor). A cave-in in Dome 3 is reported, 20 workers severely injured; some will not make it. The appallingly poor safety standards are revealed and laborers have fled Dome 3, causing overcrowding in the transportation hub and other Domes.

Quote
16. Progress (Kelly Perkins): Kelly Perkins meets with Fane again, wearing a wire. Also there are the Mayor, Council Members and Coalition President. Roll 3/2 - progress! Kelly Perkins reveals the payments to Fayes on the Council and gets a commitment to immediate relief for the workers, including addressing the housing problems. Roll 6/2 - progress!! Kelly Perkins talks Coalition President Fletcher into leaning on the corporations to donate mining equipment that will be used for repairs on Dome 3 and munch needed construction of housing. Roll 5/1 - OMFG. Pushing for wage increases for the workers, Kelly Perkins runs into a wall. No go. Kelly Perkins promises wage increases to workers, knowing he cannot keep the promise. Token to Deception (now at 4). 19 Lies against labor marker.

Kelly throws caution to the wind.  With nothing to lose, Kelly goes for a full blackmail of the whole council, prepared to have Fane liveblog the revelation as it happens.  Unfortunately even that backfires as somehow even that threat doesn't get the corps to back down.  Kelly has to lie again in order to keep some of the progress he's already reached.

Quote
17. Personal (Governor): Kelly Perkins's father appears drunk at Kelly Perkins's apartment and accuses Kelly Perkins of selling out, not keeping his promises, being The Man. Kelly Perkins is at his wit's end, things are even worse then before - there has to be a way through this!?! Father and son get drunk together and dream of finally bringing around the Revolution. What if security chief Lloyd were gone? Kelly Perkins could fill the power vacuum, seize control of the security forces, topple the Council...

[One of my favorite scenes.  Completely desperate, with no way to catch up or fix all the things that happened, I started rambling, and Bloomfield played along great.  At this point both I, and Kelly, are basically incoherent and raving mad.  This is what Mars does to you, people.]

Quote
18. Progress (Kelly Perkins). Using slush funds to find a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who doesn't mind dirty work, Kelly Perkins arranges for Security Chief Lloyd to be shot in the head during a riot sparked by a strike. Roll 1/4 - SCANDAL (there are 4 deception tokens). Failure. Disgrace. Tilt. Move one token to Contempt, as well as the 4 tokens from Deception: there are six tokens in Contempt. Kelly Perkins is removed.

Quote
Endgame: (Governor) Fane has no stomach for political assassination and informs on Kelly Perkins who is arrested in public for Lloyd's murder. Dome 3 collapses during the riots. Food shortage ensues. 2 of the 5 sponsor corporations declare the Mars Colony experiment a failure and discontinue funding. The future of the colony is in serious doubt.

Endgame: (Kelly Perkins) Kelly Perkins is disgraced and convicted during a public trial and imprisoned in a make-shift prison in the collapsed tunnel between the hub and collapsed Dome 3. During trial Kelly Perkins, defends himself and screams and rails: "Somebody has to carry on the fight!" and rambles about Mars Colony independence. Kelly Perkins's father is banished to an outpost in the asteroid belt.

Kelly really wanted to change Mars.  The lies, deceptions, blackmail and attempted assassination - they are not what they look like.  He really wanted to help the people and do the right thing.  It just didn't work out that way.
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iluxan
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2010, 08:42:17 PM »

Some of my thoughts about the structure.

At first I was apprehensive about the length of the rules ahead of time, but it turned out to be really natural once we got into it.  (Minor nitpic, but perhaps some typography improvements on the rules can be made - make the "required rules" stuff stand out more, and break out all the more descriptive things visually into optional boxes.)

There were two things.

One - the order of the scenes, Bloomfield already covered.  The restriction on strictly alternating Governor-Savior scenes got in the way a couple of times.  We resolved it by changing the rules - most of our Personal scenes were really Progress scenes in disguise (or brainstorm/preparation for progress scenes).

The other one, for me as Kelly, I really found the all-or-nothing Failure mechanic was a little weird at times.  Don't get me wrong, I think the "push your luck" idea is awesome!  It definitely adds lots of pressure, realism and desperation.

However, what happened is I actually wanted to make progress and fix the issues (not just improve my reputation).  So to avoid no progress being made at all, I have to choose Deception, because I felt like at least something was being done, though it wasn't all true.

But the game models by putting all the progress under "Lies", even if some real progress was made.

So when the inevitable Scandal comes, I would have liked at least some of the progress would stay rather than being totally wiped away.  This would have preserved at least some of my legacy, even despite the mistakes.

Though I guess that's just part of the design, and part of the reality of being a politician.  Perhaps it is even correct - any mis-step you make as a politician wipes out 10 times as much progress you might have made before.



The things that worked great?  We managed to work together to create a lot of the scenes and co-narrate some of them to great effect.  At times I was at a loss for what to do, and really desperate, and we used some of the NPCs to bounce ideas off each-other and come up with the next steps.

The thing that amazed me was the feeling of actual responsibility that the game produced.  Conditions deteriorated rapidly and people confronted me with real problems that I could not solve.  I made promises hoping to make good on them, while getting increasingly desperate and feeling like a lying scumbag.

It was really fun.  Thanks - Tim for a great design and Bloomfield for a great session.

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iluxan
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2010, 08:51:13 PM »

Final comment.  Tim, in your notes on the site, I saw that you moved the "Fear Card" stage to be first.  Though most of the cards didn't apply to our game, the one that did apply (corporate interests and corruption) really carried the game in a way.  So I think it was a great decision to move it to the beginning of the setup - it worked for us.

<rant>
Just thinking of how to help people come up with Fear Cards that are more relevant.  Our cards were poignant for our US government, but monetary policy and religion didn't seem to fit that strongly with the Mars fiction.

One thing that might help maybe is to encourage the fear cards to be a little more based around the game's world?  Perhaps one fear card for each branch of government (of which we have 4 in the US - execute, legislative, judicial and mass-informational)?

Maybe just encourage more discussion during the Fear Card stage?  Some way how the fears apply to the Colony and some of the major problems that are happening there?  I guess that's already covered the Health Marker stage.
</rant>
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Tim C Koppang
Member

Posts: 393


WWW
« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2010, 09:21:12 PM »

Kelly got removed!  This is the first I've heard of a forced removal in the wild. And what an utterly grim story. I've gotten great satisfaction in comparing your session to Gregor's recent game in which Kelly couldn't roll anything but successes.  Yours and Gregor's games are two completely opposite experiences, and both seemed to work.  I'm happy that the the game can handle the extremes, but, just to be clear, this was pretty extreme.

I have a few rules clarifications and comments to make, specifically with the way you handled personal and opposition scenes.  I'll be putting together a longer post tomorrow, but, for now, I'm off to bed.
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Bloomfield
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2010, 05:34:06 AM »


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14. Progress (Kelly Perkins). Joe Riddle arranges meeting with Josephina Fayes, who has been driving a bus in Dome 4 for 40 years and was just kicked out of her apartment. Fane attends. Roll 5/6 - progress! Fane agrees to leak the corruption story. Kelly Perkins makes speech condemning corruption and supporting Fayes election to the Council "a real working woman - one of us!" Roll 1/3 - OMG. Fayes is elected to replace disgraced Member Tanya, but Kelly Perkins learns that Fayes is taking money from Monsanto to "listen to their side of the issue" before Council meetings. Token to Deception. 15 Lies against Corruption. There are now 3 markers in Deception, 1 in Contempt, 5 in Admiration.

Kelly, increasingly desperate to make progress, throws caution to the wind and makes a desperate gamble.  Throws himself with the everywoman and the underground blogger against the Man.  And it pays off - Tanya is off the Council and Josephina is elected.  But it's all for naught.

[I have to say, inventing Josephina was fun.  Though she didn't end up a huge character, we had a great time creating her together.  Also, wit hso many failed rolls, at this point I didn't expect my tenure to end in anything but disaster.  But at the same time, I felt strangely compelled to keep using Deceptions to make progress, because I genuinely wanted to make some progressin improving the Colony, and if all I got were failures, I wanted at least something to happen.]

This was an amazing moment, because we got to represent the awesome futility of Perkins's work on Mars. He wants to make a difference, limit corruption but all he manages to do is to swap out one corrupt politician with another, and then deceive the public about fighting corruption. He is playing the corporations' game, and knows it, and can't do anything about it.

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17. Personal (Governor): Kelly Perkins's father appears drunk at Kelly Perkins's apartment and accuses Kelly Perkins of selling out, not keeping his promises, being The Man. Kelly Perkins is at his wit's end, things are even worse then before - there has to be a way through this!?! Father and son get drunk together and dream of finally bringing around the Revolution. What if security chief Lloyd were gone? Kelly Perkins could fill the power vacuum, seize control of the security forces, topple the Council...

[One of my favorite scenes.  Completely desperate, with no way to catch up or fix all the things that happened, I started rambling, and Bloomfield played along great.  At this point both I, and Kelly, are basically incoherent and raving mad.  This is what Mars does to you, people.]

One of my favorite scenes, too. It had gotten really tense by now. Those words are a direct quote from the game: "I am at my wits' end, things are even worse than before - there has to be a way through this!" Iluxan was wringing his hands at the table. Iluxan was great to play with, he really put his heart into it and we both got very intense. I found myself hoping that things would at least improve, which made piling opposition scenes on after a string of failures harder. Also, the issues of labor, corruption, and radiation became so tangled that at times we had to pause and figure out toward what marker Perkins had just made "progress."

Before the game, Iluxan sent me link to a post by Stross about the inconsistency of a libertarian/wild-west agenda and the physically hostile environment of a place like Mars. We both wanted to explore that a bit and it wove like an invisible thread through the game. It didn't come up explicitly, but was behind the strong complicity between the Colony's elected officials (Mayor, Council, and of course Earth Coalition). In the end keeping control over the Colony was more important to the corporations than the Colony's success. We didn't get to this in the end, but to my mind the willingness to let both Perkins fail and conditions deteriorate, along with the announcement of two corporations to pull out of the Colony are gambits in a long term strategy to gain complete control over the colony and to be able to run it fully for profit with now meaningful political oversight at all. Or is Mars Colony indeed the sandbox libertarian thinkers have been longing for but that ultimately will prove their theories wrong?

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Tim C Koppang
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« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2010, 03:10:10 PM »

Bloomfield & iluxan:

I thought I’d start with a few rules clarifications.

First, and I almost hate to tell you this, but things probably should have been a bit worse than they actually were.  When you roll a 1, you do not count that roll towards any Lie Points if you choose to create a Deception (see page 34).  Only the good rolls generate points for you.  This means that in Scene 4, for example, you should have generated 0 points.  In Scene 8, you should have generated only 7 points.  All things considered, I don’t think this would have made a difference in your game because failure came up so often.  But in a more “average” game, the extra points do make a difference.

If the prospect of generating 0 points annoys you, I suggest using the “Best Intentions” variations detailed on the website.  That would mean you ignore any failure (except double 1s) on the first roll of a progress scene.  It can soften the blow a bit.

Second, you guys played it a bit fast and loose with the Personal Scenes.  For the most part, this is just a classification issue.  No big deal.  But for example, your very first scene after the vignette was really an Opposition Scene.  Same goes for everything except maybe Scene 10 and Scene 17 (what a great scene by the way).  Remember that Personal Scenes do not directly involve colony politics or any opposition for Kelly (see page 21).  They are really a chance to see Kelly in a non-professional setting, interacting with people just as people.  Again, from reading your account, you didn’t do anything wrong.  You just called a few Opposition Scenes Personal Scenes.  On the other hand, maybe a better handle on this distinction would have helped you to frame more natural Opposition Scenes?

Otherwise, it looks like you have all the rules down.

I also wanted to respond briefly to the following:

Quote from:  iluxan
At first I was apprehensive about the length of the rules ahead of time, but it turned out to be really natural once we got into it.  (Minor nitpic, but perhaps some typography improvements on the rules can be made - make the "required rules" stuff stand out more, and break out all the more descriptive things visually into optional boxes.)

I love this critique.  Believe it or not, Mars Colony is on the short side when it comes to many roleplaying games!  Brevity was one of my goals for the book because I believe that a short, clear, and procedural presentation will help bring new players into the game better than lots of detailed explanation.  The fact that you found the rules too long nonetheless is oddly pleasing.  Still, I’m confused.  Can you give me an example of what you’d consider a “required rule” versus what you’ve called, “the more descriptive things.”  I could guess, but I’d rather have your input.

Thanks to you both for posting this.  I still have some more thoughts specifically responding to some of your comments.  Lots to get through.
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iluxan
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« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2010, 07:50:16 PM »

I know this is a story game, so the story is the main thing.  So all the text in the rulebook that deals with the setting and story is just as important, if not more important, than the so-called "rules".

However, you there are always times when you need to find a specific rule quickly right before/during a game.  (Even though  I read the rules cover-to-cover ahead of time, obviously.)  I also realize after re-reading more just now that you were going for a conversational flow rather than a power-point presentation with bullets for each rule.


I only have two places where I noticed some of the actual rules were a bit hard to find, and could benefit from a bit of separation from the rest of the text.

* Stage 3 - Would help to separate descriptions from the rule.  If nothing else I'd highlight the words "chooses one character from each of the four major Organizations".  (I almost got that wrong, I thought ALL characters had to have a party at the beginning, which would've been really overwhelming.)
* Part E (Failure) - "If there are ever five tokens in Contempt".  This is the other place I actually had to hunt down a rule during play that was harder than it should be.  (All it needs is to highlight the word "five" or otherwise highlight that sentence from the rest.)


One more thing I found (slightly) confusing:
* The word "Guide" for political parties.  I guess you suggest that to mean "name of similar political party".  For us we chose actual names for the parties ("Free Mars", "Mars Party", etc).  So the "Guide" could be better called "description" or "characteristics" or something.  Again, minor choice-of-word thing.  (And I'd personally add a "Name" field and encourage players to get creative with them.  Clever silly party names are always easier to remember than "Yellow" and "Green".  The colors should stay too, though.)

Finally the Deception rule that we got wrong - that you only add the sum of the rolls before the 1 role.  As far as I can see that particular rule is only in the "Example" in the Deception section.  (Well, it does say "if he hadn’t rolled a 1", but I guess I didn't interpret it quite right.  Maybe better "if he stopped before rolling a 1"?)

All of these are very minor quibbles.  But you did ask.  :)

It was a fun game!  Now I'm looking for something simple and inspiring (and non-fantasy) to try with my mostly-non-gamer friends - http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=13332

And looking wistfully at S/Lay w/Me as a tripping and alluring thing I could maybe one day play with my wife, though I think I've got a long way to go.
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iluxan
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« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2010, 09:02:57 PM »

Second, you guys played it a bit fast and loose with the Personal Scenes.  For the most part, this is just a classification issue.  No big deal.  But for example, your very first scene after the vignette was really an Opposition Scene.  Same goes for everything except maybe Scene 10 and Scene 17 (what a great scene by the way).  Remember that Personal Scenes do not directly involve colony politics or any opposition for Kelly (see page 21).  They are really a chance to see Kelly in a non-professional setting, interacting with people just as people.  Again, from reading your account, you didn’t do anything wrong.  You just called a few Opposition Scenes Personal Scenes.  On the other hand, maybe a better handle on this distinction would have helped you to frame more natural Opposition Scenes?

I see what you're saying.  Several things could've contributed.

* We're two obviously workaholic guys who are kind of obsessive and geeky.  So dealing with the problems and trying to solve them comes much easier (to me at least) than getting in touch with more personal feelings and finding ways to express them.
* This was my first time roleplaying, so I focused on the problems at hand and how to solve them.
* Finally, I think there were in-character reasons for this.  When I first arrived I was not eager to go seeking out my estranged father with whom I have a tumultuous past and from whom I have been estranged for many years.  And after the shit started hitting the fan, I really didn't feel right galavanting around the far-flung mining outposts to work on my Oedipal complex while things were breaking down one after another.

Finally, I think maybe we (at least I) assumed that an "Opposition" scene is where something is about to or going wrong.  Some of the scenes (dinners and meetings) did not directly cause any problems, but were either establishing character relations or were building up towards Progress scenes.  But now that you took the time to explain, I'm starting to see how some of them fall more under Opposition and some may fall under Progress.  (In retrospect some of our scenes could be combined into one scene that takes place in multiple locations).

When I play again I definitely plan to set aside time for real personal scenes, and flesh out the relationship with the Sympathy, and possibly other non-political characters.
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Tim C Koppang
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« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2010, 09:18:37 PM »

iluxan,

I see now what you mean about the rules, and using them as a reference during play.  You're right, the rules were written in more conversational style (rather than a reference style). But point well taken.  Thank you.

One more thing I found (slightly) confusing:
* The word "Guide" for political parties.  I guess you suggest that to mean "name of similar political party".  For us we chose actual names for the parties ("Free Mars", "Mars Party", etc).  So the "Guide" could be better called "description" or "characteristics" or something.  Again, minor choice-of-word thing.  (And I'd personally add a "Name" field and encourage players to get creative with them.  Clever silly party names are always easier to remember than "Yellow" and "Green".  The colors should stay too, though.)

The Guide is the name of a real-life political party (Democrat, Republican, Green, Labor, etc.).  You generate these during Preparation Stage 2.  The name "Guide" is supposed to imply that the real-life party should serve as the inspirational basis for the fictional party on Mars.

In one of the early drafts of the game, I had the players come up with fictional names for the parties as well.  It was fun.  I switched to colors to keep things a bit more abstract and to cut down an the preparation time.  But I have no objection to making up fictional names in play.  I like the ones you came up with.

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Finally the Deception rule that we got wrong - that you only add the sum of the rolls before the 1 role.  As far as I can see that particular rule is only in the "Example" in the Deception section.  (Well, it does say "if he hadn’t rolled a 1", but I guess I didn't interpret it quite right.  Maybe better "if he stopped before rolling a 1"?)

I don't want to beat a dead horse, but just for the sake of anyone else reading along, I was referring to the sentence that reads, "The Savior gains no points from the roll that actually included the 1."  Perhaps that could be a bit clearer though.

Anyway, I'm glad that you are so excited, and that MC could help you along.  I'll check out the thread on Story Games to see what everyone else is suggesting.
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iluxan
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« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2010, 10:34:53 PM »

I don't want to beat a dead horse, but just for the sake of anyone else reading along, I was referring to the sentence that reads, "The Savior gains no points from the roll that actually included the 1."  Perhaps that could be a bit clearer though.

Yeah, ok.  I just misread, is all :)  Horse is now good and dead.


Out of curiosity, are you planning on potentially revising/augmenting Mars Colony?  Actively working on any other projects currently?
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Bloomfield
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« Reply #12 on: November 11, 2010, 10:51:30 PM »

So I completely missed the "or" in this sentence about Opposition Scenes: "An Opposition Scene must involve Colony politics or the lead-up to a direct threat against Colony stability." I thought every opposition scene had to directly lead to a threat against Colony stability by setting up a progress scene. (The rules do say that every opposition scene is followed by a Progress scene, as soon as Kelly starts to take action during an Opposition scene.) That was my only struggle with Opposition scenes during Kelly's spectacularly bad run of luck: I thought I had to keep pouring it on setting up a new direct threat in each opposition scene (but the only one that felt a bit forced was the collapse of Dome 3, although that proved very thematic and fruitful for Kelly's descent into mad failure. I might have just stuck with Colony policy and deepened existing threats. Question: can the Savior go into a Progress scene after a Personal scene, or may Progress scenes only follow Opposition scenes?

Thanks for the clarification - although we didn't let it get in our way and the misunderstandings didn't detract from the game.

I like the suggestion to highlight certain key rules (like I originally missed when additional fear cards get revealed). And I really appreciated the brevity of the rules. Still, I think brief examples of scenes would be great.

Another variant to consider for the "this game is too damn hard" document: Use d8 instead of d6, leave everything else the same. :)

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Tim C Koppang
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« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2010, 07:17:30 AM »

(The rules do say that every opposition scene is followed by a Progress scene, as soon as Kelly starts to take action during an Opposition scene.) That was my only struggle with Opposition scenes during Kelly's spectacularly bad run of luck: I thought I had to keep pouring it on setting up a new direct threat in each opposition scene...

Ah, I see where the confusion is now.  Opposition scenes do not have to always lead into a Progress Scenes.  Likewise, Progress Scenes do not need to be preceded by an Opposition Scene.  I think the rule that is causing this confusion is this one:

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Opposition Scenes only set the stage for Kelly to take action. As soon as the Savior begins to narrate what Kelly is doing to solve a Colony problem, the Opposition Scene should end and a Progress Scene should begin.

Upon re-reading, I can see how you might interpret that as meaning Opposition Scenes are always followed by a Progress Scene.  On page 21, I say that "[scenes] may occur in any order during play." Nonetheless, the rule in question should still probably read: "If the Savior begins to narrate what Kelly is doing to solve a Colony problem, the Opposition Scene should end and a Progress Scene should begin."

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Question: can the Savior go into a Progress scene after a Personal scene, or may Progress scenes only follow Opposition scenes?

Scenes can follow in any order. The only restriction is that the Governor is the only one allowed to frame an Opposition Scene, and the Savior is the only one allowed to frame a Progress Scene.
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Tim C Koppang
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« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2010, 07:35:58 AM »

Out of curiosity, are you planning on potentially revising/augmenting Mars Colony?  Actively working on any other projects currently?

At most, I'll include some clarifications if and when I order a re-print of Mars Colony books.  I want to give the game some time in open release before committing to any changes.  Discussions like this one are most helpful.  I'm confident that the game is solid as is, but there is always a better way to explain the trickier concepts.

As for other projects, I have ideas... and that's all I'll say.
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