[Lacuna Part I The Mystery and the Girl from Blue City] CONTROL

Started by Jacob Arntson, January 28, 2011, 03:05:08 PM

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Jacob Arntson

Spoilers - Please do not read if you don't want any of Lacuna spoiled. 

Lacuna Part I:  The Creation of the Mystery adn the Girl from the Blue City

I bought the book a week ago and read it on Monday.  I became obsessed.  There is so much packed into it and so much material to throw into a game.

I started by reading all of the Actual Play accounts on the Internet and found there was a detail I missed the first time I read the rules.  Page 39 - I'll leave it a mystery to people still wanting to get the most out of the game.

The players -

Two of the players have been playing in my six month Rifts campaign and played in my InSpectres game.  They are solid dudes totally into playing their characters.

One of the players had played in a third edition D&D dungeon crawl I ran.  One of the players was completely new to roleplaying games. 

From here on out I will intersperse my notes with the actual play account.

I started with some flavor text that I wrote:

"We have chosen an easy assignment for your first dive into the Blue City. Please keep track of any Personalities you meet in the city, especially if they are reoccurring. The subject's name is Harry Cal Bowman and a member of the notorious biker gang from San Francisco called the 'Gypsy Jokers'.  The subject is a criminal who acted violently and killed his neighbor with a baseball bat. His suspected that his neighbor had been having indecent relations with his wife. The preliminary interviews with the subject reveal that the Hostile Personality may be at a location associated with gambling or organized crime."

The subject on the slab is a big man. His arms are muscular and he has several tattoos visible. One American flag and one skull and crossbones. He is naked and covered with a white sheet. There is an IV hooked up to him and he appears to be in a sedated state. Support Agents are staring at you in front of advanced computer screens showing a health monitor and a scene from Blue City. One Support Agent in a white lab coat is holding a defibrillator and a bag of blood for transfusion in case anything bad happens. Page 40 read the paragraph starting with, "A few people lying down ... "

The players intstantly tried to find each other (successfully) and got used to rolling with the system.  They all got together and started to try and find the Hostile Personality.  This led them to the Race Track and the Crater.  I knew that one of the players was very interested in the history of the Cold War so I decided to emphasise a possible connection to the American and Russian conflict.

When the players entered the Race Track they met my first NPC that I had planned.  Instead of writing stats for the NPCs I wrote their name and some sample dialog that they might say to the players.  Here is what I had for the race track:

Phil "Sledge Hammer" Kennith ex-boxer now a gangster - "I only bet on a sure thing.  When you lose, just knock the fucker's teeth out.  He won't be whining about his money when his lips are all cut open hanging out all over the place!"

The players talked with him and discovered a trap door under their table.  It led to a Deep-Blue zone and they decided to get the proper equipment from Control and go down into the basement.  They met an Vetran from the Conflict -

Thomas Calfield War hero from 'The Conflict'.  "It was hell over there.  The foreign land was pure hell.  The shit they made me do would break a normal man."

and they also met some Spidermen.  They immediately went back to the Blue Zone deeming it too dangerous.

Upon reacing the Race Track again they discovered a fire had broken out.  They left the track and met   the next major NPC that I stole right from the book, :

Boss - Sells items out of a cart (from the book page 44), Calls himself 'The Boss".  Big African American guy who is really pushy and tries to sell them cigarettes.  "What's wrong with you guys?  Why the sleepy faces.  Plenty of time to sleep when you're dead!  Look like you could use some smokes and a newspaper.  How 'bout it?"

The players ALL BOUGHT CIGARETTES!  I couldn't believe it.  But... they soon moved on and started investigating The Crater.

They all were very interested in The Crater.  There they saw a shadowy figure who tried to run away.  He knew the Hostile Personality by name and they immediately grabbed him.  They all eventually found the Hostile Personality's place and persued him.

They eventually finished their mission (YES.  I'm omitting huge sections here to avoid spoilers.  The game is so good I don't want to ruin any details!!)

After the players all leveled up and I got a chance to unwind and ask them how they felt about the game.  I'll summarize the impressions that I got.

One player that played in my Rifts and InSpecters game - LOVED it.  He said it was his favorite so far and wants to continue the game.  He really liked the world and the mystery and the game system.

One player that played in my Rifts and InSpecters game - Liked it.  He's really into Burning Wheel and wants to play that next time.  He was into how much weight was placed on every roll.  Every roll had a purpose and an outcome.

The play who played once before in my third edition dungeon crawl loved the Kafka-esque action involved.  He commented that the mechanics were a bit complicated and would be open to play it again.

The player who had never roleplayed before seemed kind of apathetic to the whole thing, but made intricit sketches of domes on his Character Sheet. 

Some extra notes about the game - we all decided to drink way too much.  We were drinking before, during and after the game.  I think it helped more than hindered the game experience.

I decided to track static by throwing dice into a big empty plastic containter - but never elude to it being a system of the game.  I would wait until a failure then dramatically throw the dice into the bowl.  Thisseemed to work really well.  There was a big mystery - WHAT DOES IT MEAN?? WHY IS THE GM DOING THAT??

I have to say ... but Lacuna is now my favorite RPG.  It does everything I want.  It has a complete universe outside of reality to expand on.  The book was exciting to read, and even more fun to play.  I will definitely run a second session and hopefully make a campaign out of it.  The players all seem excited to explore their characters.  I fed them their possible violent pasts through 60s comic books that they found in the deeper layers of the city.

Lacuna - Part I - I want to make Part 2 - ... !

edited to fix a misspelling at the author's request - RE

Jacob Arntson

I can't edit my posts.  Seems in my drunken haze I've completely misspelled the TOPIC of the post.  How do I fix this?  Please help.

Lacuna... ROCKS.

edited for same - RE

Ron Edwards

Spelling fixed!

I'm a big fan of the game too, and yes, page 39 is pretty damned important.

How far did you get with Static? Did you use the guidelines for playing confusion and disorientation?

Also, as long as it was referenced, I'd figured I'd add the links to Forge discussions of the game to date:

First Attempt
[Lacuna Part 1] "Nine gram medal"
[Lacuna Part 1] Player Investment
[Lacuna Part 1, 2nd Attempt] Orientation

Second Attempt
[Lacuna] OK so I tried it... [SPOILER ALERT]
[Lacuna] Getting a handle on the pace of the game

Best, Ron

Jacob Arntson

Thank you very much for fixing my awful spelling.  I was really excited about the game and wrote out the actual play very quickly.  When I woke up today (with an awful splitting headache) I realized that I wrote about ten emails while completely plastered and an actual play report!  I usually don't drink very much when I game, but it felt right with Lacuna. 

Quote from: Ron Edwards on January 29, 2011, 03:15:33 AM
How far did you get with Static? Did you use the guidelines for playing confusion and disorientation?

We got up to 15 static.  I found that introducing the Spidermen was a great way for the GM to increase the static.  I purposely kept our group below the highest levels of static.  I didn't want to explore the inner-workings of the Agency or the problems within the Agency.

For the guidelines on confusion and disorientation are you referring to the Static Chart on page 30?  Every time Static was increased it triggered an event.  I found increasing the static was a very clever way for the GM to control the game by having the players NOT allude to the Personalities that this is Blue City and not actually real.  The players had to conform to the fake reality and embrace it.

I loved your actual play report of the game and stole some things from it and some others.  I really wanted the players to find out about their past so I changed the movie studio with the agent's memories to 60s comic books featuring real crimes and had the characters murdering innocent people.

For the first dive into Blue City everyone was very focused on the mission and eradicating the Hostile Personality.  At the end of the session everyone seemed keen to play the game again.  I think for the next game I will definitely lean on them to go outside the lines a bit more and have the Agency actually try to hurt them.

I ran a play test with just one player last Wednesday to get used to the rules.  The player I had took great offense to the Agency's hostile attitude.  When he came out of the dive he immediately went into a psychotic rage and started choking the Lead Agent!  That's where we ended that game.

Ron Edwards

Ah, drinking and typing. Not a good plan. Reminds me of conversations with friends: "Hey Ron, should I send this?" (reads) "Fuck no, you moron, what are you thinking?" "Oh. Um, I already did." Still, you didn't do too badly at it.

It seems to me that you've hit upon the two primary sources of content in play: the agents' own pasts, and the agency's toxic brew of bureaucracy, ideological certainty, and confusion. Static is a good pacing mechanism for all of them, as far as I can tell, having played only the First Attempt myself.

One part of your post confused me a little: referring to the GM control over the game, and then it looks like what you mean is, the players having their characters deal directly with Blue City as if it were real. Is "control" really what you meant? Control over what?

I've been updated with a couple I missed. Both are Second Attempt (as is my third link under "First Attempt" in the previous post): [Lacuna] Decoy Team, [Lacuna] Minimal prep, maximal impact.

Best, Ron

Jacob Arntson

Quote from: Ron Edwards on January 30, 2011, 04:35:56 PMOne part of your post confused me a little: referring to the GM control over the game, and then it looks like what you mean is, the players having their characters deal directly with Blue City as if it were real. Is "control" really what you meant? Control over what?

The first phrase I was going to use was "railroad the players", but that didn't feel right.  What I meant is that having the world react to the players, with static increasing and strange things happening when they mentioned the world outside of Blue City to its residents, the GM can keep the players on track.  By adhering to the Static Rules in the book, it encouraged the players to role-play their characters as if they were really in Blue City.  Hmmm.. the more I read what I wrote the less sense it makes.

With my game I had a few players that weren't really doing any actions so that they could keep their heart rates down.  I thought a possible solution would be an ambush.  A sniper from across the street takes a pop at them and then they must make a force roll - at that point I would try to get as much action and player intent in one roll.  It might be a cool way to get the heart beats up and spur an action scene if things get dull.

And if the static is low, like I mentioned before, every Spiderman that ambushes adds more and more Static so there seems like there are a lot of mechanics in the game that the GM can use to increase the pacing.

The next time I run the game I will explore what happens when the group runs into other Agents in Blue City.


Excellent stuff Jacob, I too am a big fan of Lacuna. I checked out page 39 to find something enlightening, but having read the book so many times there was nothing new that I hadn't noticed before.

You may want to send your players the link to my, Jared endorsed, Lacuna content at:

The page requires the visitor to supply a name, and type in "yes" in reply to the prompt about being on a secure line. If you'd rather skip the intro, just send them here directly:

I hope to play the game again soon myself, and look forward to hearing of your future sessions.

Jared A. Sorensen

jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com