[nWoD] Post-Apocalyptic Participationism in Salt Lake City

Started by Frank Tarcikowski, November 02, 2010, 09:58:50 AM

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Frank Tarcikowski

I wanted to talk a little about this session which was a major inspiration for me to start designing my new RPG. It was last year on another one of those German forum meet-ups. I had been playing rather intense, grim, emotionally exhausting games all Friday and had another one scheduled for Saturday, something along the lines of "The Unforgiven", a family reunion Western story where everyone hated each others' guts and mostly, everyone hated mine. It was a great composition of players but after breakfast on Saturday morning I resolved that I just didn't have the stomach for it. I proposed to the others to play without me, but they suggested we just change plans and play something more light-hearted. After some brief discussion, we came up with a comic-style post-apocalypse thing that was loud and bright-coloured and charged up for fast-paced action and witty in-character lines.

The hook was we were a racing team, something of The Juggers meets Car Wars, just having qualified for the race of races in no other place than Salt Lake City. (Of course we had to set our post-apocalypse in America, where else?) I was playing "Rhino" Rodriguez, team manager and ex-pilot who had ruined his leg in a mean accident some years back. The other player characters included the young, over-confident pilot, two mercenaries/gunners who were constantly bantering, with one of them being French and the other, um, German? I forget. The last team member was the mechanic who was one hell of a womanizer (think Kaylee's predecessor in Firefly, only he actually knows his screwdrivers... um). So the tone was set as light-hearted, fast-paced, none-too-serious action adventure.

Ralf, the GM, chose to use the "new World of Darkness" core rules because they were what he had at hand. He also stated that he would mostly just be winging it. We made up our characters' stats which fortunately did not take too long. Most of the stats we would not need but we did eventually do a lot of dice rolling in the race of races. Ralf made up a bit of a sub-system for the race which turned out to be a little too slow but what do you want, he had to improvise. People jumped armoured cars at 250 kph while being shot at and no-one was ever in any real danger, though NPCs died like flies and one of our gunners actually died, too, because the player had to drive back home in the evening and he wanted to make a big exit.

We started play with our trek to Salt Lake City and Ralf mostly just reacted to us and our ideas, but he also had managed to come up with a neat plot in the half-hour of prep time he had had, which included fanatic Mormon preachers, a mutant plague, and the mad mayor of Salt Lake City turning the transmission tower into one huge bio-bomb in order to turn everyone into mutants and start the new world order. Ralf snuck little hints in here and there, introducing the mutants, the Mormons, the mayor... there were several racing days with qualifiers and the main race and in between, mechanics started disappearing (they were spirited away because the mechanics preparing the explosives in the transmission tower had been exposed to the plague too long). It was my character who finally discovered the truth, while the others were racing for their lives in the final race.

There was a little bit of a hick-up because Ralf had "the grand solution" in mind but we did not see it. Probably it would have been easier if he'd drawn an actual map of the race track and also if it hadn't been way past midnight. So, a little awkwardly, he had me make an intelligence check or some such and just told me what to do. Then we used explosives to knock the transmission tower over and sink that giant bio-bomb into the Salt Lake (which had become a deadly toxic swamp in the post-apocalyptic world). In order to get away from angry Mormon fanatics I rode my motorcycle on the race track as we all had known I would, with the sexy girl I had rescued riding behind me, and Ralf had the presence of mind to describe how I was shown on the huge screens all along the race track with the display reading, "Rhino Rodriguez—unretired", just as the explosion shook the transmission tower and it fell, like a huge tree, the globe at the top breaking open and revealing all the wires and containers with the biohazard mark before it was sucked in by the salt swamp. The race was left unfinished but we were of course in the lead. The story concluded with us making for Mexico, where rumour had it an even bigger race was going on.

We had a whole lot of fun in that game and it was entirely unsupported by the nWoD rules. It reminded me of my old Star Wars d6 games and this Liquid game. It made me want to design a game system that would support this kind of light-hearted, fast-paced, non-too-serious collaborative action adventure storytelling much better. That would be absolutely transparent on system-at-work, meaningful player contributions and content authority and allow for fun, exciting combats and chases with some dice rolling but without slowing down.

The game is well into play-testing and looking good so far. I'll post some more about it some time. Any questions and comments are welcome.

- Frank
BARBAREN! - The Ultimate Macho Role Playing Game - finally available in English