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Author Topic: Hiding in the Mosque: a micro RPG experiment  (Read 1589 times)
randomeric
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Posts: 4


« on: August 10, 2011, 07:11:01 PM »

I have just uploaded on drivethrurpg a free to download espionage mini game/mission.  This is a work in progress so please excuse the imperfections.

I am hoping for some feedback and stories of what your group did with it.

The link to the download is below:

Deniable Asset: Hiding in the Mosque

Hope you enjoy and I am looking forward to sharing in the discussion!

Random Eric.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2011, 11:36:52 AM »

Hi Eric,

I'm extremely interested, but I'm having a little trouble with the download. Can you make it available any other way? Reply here, or contact me by private message if you'd prefer.

Best, Ron
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randomeric
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Posts: 4


« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2011, 08:28:09 PM »

I sent it to you via e-mail.

it is just under 20mb so hopefully your service will allow that.  I know hotmail's limit is 10mb.

If you have any questions after you receive it, feel free to discuss them here  (or start a thread in the appropriate place on the forums).

If you start a new thread, send me an e-mail.

I have been keeping an eye but that would make sure I don't miss it!

Random Eric.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2011, 08:57:27 AM »

Hi Eric,

At last, I'm getting to this, and I apologize for the late posting. I should explain as well that I'm currently quite focused on anything to do with modern Islam and/or politics concerning Arab nations and communities, so the title is a grab for me. But regardless of my own priorities, I'll give feedback that's aimed at your goals for the game as far as I can perceive them from the work.

My sole text criticism
There is, I think, a disproportionate amount of text dedicated to the possibility that the players will simply reject the basic expectation of play: to carry out their mission. I'm basing this judgment on the observation that the only means to deal with the possibility is to hit the characters hard with punishing, final consequences. That says to me that going on the mission is in fact what the players should be willing to do, or not play. I mean, the essential point of your design is that it's fun, and we've sat down together to have fun, so presenting the option to say "no" at that moment becomes, in practice, a mixed message about your own game. My recommendation is to remove this entire issue by (1) saying up-front in the text that going on the mission is what the whole game is about, so do it; and (2) not having any "what do you do" step between the initial wake-up and the briefing.

I do understand that trying to escape from the Bureau itself may turn out to be a feature of play for later, but I really think it has no place in the initial, pre-mission stage of play.

Politics
Although the initial presentation and some of the mechanical details seem mainly to be about Hollywood Jihadists as straight-up foes, I found that once I looked over the entire design, it revealed a more interesting ambiguity. The characters are definitely thrown into a truly unfathomable situation, and therefore will make choices based on internal narratives rather then external evidence. I think you might consider whether you want that to be brought forward or not. Some of my points about the mechanics will depend on that decision.

The game
So, I think it's a given that the game is very, very staged, almost in fact written for the GM and players except for key decision moments. The question is whether the lack of available information simply makes the crucial decision a toss-up with no content, like a context-free left-right turn decision in a dungeon. And I do mean that it's a question I have, as a reader, not a fixed judgment. I see two ways to go.

1. Bring forward forward the "Rorschach test" aspects of the decision, i.e., it has to be based on the players' inherent willingness to trust the Bureau or lack thereof, and on the players' inherent judgment about whether a jihadist cell is flatly evil or not.

2. Or instead, bring out the investigative or search-for-morality aspects of the decision by including some means of discovering crucial decision-tipping information.

I was only able to figure out that the players can learn there are two different mosques corresponding to the two possibilities through reading the later material. I recommend making this possibility clearer in the initial explanation of the situation.

I'm not sure why you've left it up to the GM to decide whether the Bureau wants the team to protect the mosque from the military attack or to get it to surrender prior to that attack. That seems to me to be presenting two different games in one, for no particular reason. Why not simply state (for GM's eyes only) which is the Bureau-desired mission?

I hope this was a useful or at least interesting set of feedback. Let me know.

Best, Ron
« Last Edit: September 02, 2011, 08:59:21 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Callan S.
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« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2011, 03:24:11 PM »

Quote
That says to me that going on the mission is in fact what the players should be willing to do, or not play. I mean, the essential point of your design is that it's fun
I think with a cardgame or boardgame, one can simply go in taking the other persons assertion of it being fun or good somehow, and that works out.

I think a game where the fictional context is important, you can't - you either like the fiction already, or you don't - you can't just humour liking fiction. At the very least, you wont work with the fiction if you don't genuinely like it to some degree. I think potential players need to be able to read the set up in advance of play and the procedure is that at that point they figure if they both like the premise of the game and could think of a character who would go the mission, then they are set to play. If they can't, then they are lacking the component needed to play and can't. That's the procedure I'd suggest writing in, as dirctions to a GM on recruiting players. Where as just trying to sit people down with no prior knowledge then bundle them through the fiction - well, if you get lucky they all will be the type excited by the fiction. But it seems pot luck to me and far more likely to fall dead flat or crash and burn. Which isn't fair, when there are probably a large number of people out there who'd be excited to play this fiction - and those are the ones who should be taking up the seats at sessions of this game.

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2011, 03:47:47 PM »

Double-yes, what Callan said.

Best, Ron
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randomeric
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Posts: 4


« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2011, 08:14:04 PM »

Great feedback, thank you very much!

I will post here shortly a bit on why I took the direction I did and how the larger product is intended to be different.  I hadn't thought of the "fiction" part in that way.  Good insight.

Thanks!

Eric.
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Fred Brackin
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« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2011, 04:13:50 PM »

Okay, this is an after play report from Eric's personal playtest group where I hope to address some comments made previously.

The possibility that the players might go awol on the mission turned out to be a needed subject in our first play session. Our group ended up trying to take hostages during our initial briefing.

Our GM did not resort to harsh measures but instead just talked and played through the situation and eventually got things back on track after some diversions involving butter knives, electric cords, a chair or two and a tobacco shop.

This is not to say that we agreed that the situation was ideal and it was suggested afterward that not combining the PC's awakening as amnesiac super-spies and their first mission briefing might be advisable.

Anyway, this ended up being far more like a wilderness expedition than any sort of railroad train.

For example, we discovered that there were two mosques and two terrorists groups fairly directly. When confronted with the two "contacts" one of our group members did a lot of fast-talking and we split the group and half went with each of them.

When the two halves ended up at different mosques this actually constituted progress of a sort.

The politically sensitive will be glad to learn that while we eventually decided that terrorists were bad, fights in mosques were also bad and fights between Westerners and terrorists and possibly the Uzbek military in mosques were double-plus bad.

So we lured the terrorists out of both mosques and to a mostly abandoned Soviet-era apartment block and then notified the Bureau where they were. We didn't even try to dispose of them ourselves. The Power of 12 narrative system would not necessarily have been unusually bloody (or difficult) when conducting close quarters combat with AK-47s and RPGs but just as a roleplaying thing avoiding such a thing seemed so sensible.

So, after actual play, I would mostly recommend no more than a tweaking of the opening to address specific concerns.

As a general matter of this particular implementation I might suggest some change in the concept of Modus Operandi. While I understand that these were supposed to be stylistic choices of how to play the character (do you want to do it like Bond or the Martin Landau character from the original Mission:Impossible TV series?), I seemed to notice all the players treating their MO ratings as defining their skill sets instead of their play style.

Still, there's no doubt that this was a very successful pair of game sessions and fun was had by all..
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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2011, 04:47:47 PM »

The possibility that the players might go awol on the mission turned out to be a needed subject in our first play session. Our group ended up trying to take hostages during our initial briefing.
I think I need to know more before that moment. How was the game set up? Just hooked people in saying "Hey, here's a game!? Sit down and get your dice out!"

It sounds like the premise wasn't described (or was missinterpreted) and the "Either focus on the premise or, it's cool, you don't have to play (subtext: You don't get to play)" choice wasn't presented? I'm not trying to say that with a wagging finger or anything - it's not a moral issue I'm refering to with consent/denial of play, but a practical one in focusing the group.

How would you describe what happened prior to play begining?
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Fred Brackin
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« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2011, 04:58:03 PM »

The possibility that the players might go awol on the mission turned out to be a needed subject in our first play session. Our group ended up trying to take hostages during our initial briefing.
I think I need to know more before that moment. How was the game set up? Just hooked people in saying "Hey, here's a game!? Sit down and get your dice out!"


We're Eric's regular gaming group. In the past he's been a player more than a GM but when he asked if we'd help him test his new stuff we said "sure!".

We did read the player parts of the download before we played.
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randomeric
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2011, 10:03:29 AM »

I posted the first session on my blog, http://powerof12.wordpress.com/

I'll re-post here so you have a good idea (at least from my perspective) what was presented and how it went.

The players chose as characters: Edward, Hans, Conrad, Dimitri, and Imelda.

I ran each character through scene one in the hotel room. Everyone but Conrad got dressed and headed downstairs to the Restaurant. No one did so without suspicion. Conrad went to the 5th floor (on the fly I decided the top floor was floor 5) and checked the emergency exits. He went downstairs after that. Scene two is where the fun started.

The characters all sat down and waited for breakfast. The Cell Coordinator, Lusya, came in as described and sat down. Before anything much could be said, Imelda took matters into her own hands and, using a knife off of the table, got behind Lusya and held her “hostage”, knife to the throat, demanding what was going on. Edward smashed the waiter with his chair. Hans made no move whatsoever, not trusting anyone, and not wanting to end his tenure in the “Bureau” in less than a day. Conrad, on the other hand, headed for the kitchen. The maitre d’ tried to stop him, but was pushed aside. Dimitri did not commit to aggression.

The struggle between Lusya and Imelda was part psychological and part physical.

Five men with pistols entered the restaurant on the second turn. Lusya was unable to loose herself from Imelda’s grip and, at Imelda’s insistence, motioned the guards to lower their weapons. Dimitri urged caution and patience, surmising that his only real source of useful information was Lusya. Dimitri had yet to discover his own name!

Lusya was able to explain that the characters now work for the Bureau, they did so of their own volition, and that memory loss is part of the “program” along with their new skills.

Lusya explains that the characters first mission starts at an apartment on the outskirts of Tashkent. They were all driven to the metro where they would catch a train to their destination.

What about Conrad? He discovered the cook was armed with a pistol. He pushed his way through some kitchen clutter and disarmed the cook. In the process, the cook escapes out an exit door. Conrad follows him through the streets of Tashkent, picking up some more appropriate clothing along the way. Conrad starts to realize he has skills not only with a gun, but for tailing as well as slight of hand. He begins to realize, like it or not, he is a trained agent. Even if he still doesn’t know his own name.
 
Conrad follows the “cook” (do you still think he is just a cook?) to a tobacco shop (the player running Imelda thought that one up). He spies the cook in side and enters. The man behind the counter has his hand on “something”, but does not reveal it at the cook’s nod. Conrad asks for a cigarette and a light. He discovers that he is most definitely not a smoker. Following the cook to the back he has a more pleasant discussion and learns his name and the nature of what he is “in for”. The cook takes him in a yugo (everyone is underpaid, it’s not just us!) to the metro station where he meets up with the rest of the team.

wrap up: Scene 1 and 2 could have easily taken 15 minutes. I like what the players did. They role-played not knowing who they were and not trusting anyone. There would be nothing wrong with just going along with what was being presented. Either way is fine. I wanted the players to enjoy being agents in that situation and doing what they felt was “right” for them. It is all about the fun. The cook? after he left the kitchen, totally made up on the fly. Fun times.
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