[Lacuna] You Don't Have Clearance To Access That Information

Started by Ethan K., October 11, 2011, 03:58:58 AM

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Ethan K.

Hey all! The following is an actual play report for Lacuna, Part 1 that contains spoilers. Players, be warned! This was my first time running the system, and it occurred over 3.5hrs at Big Bad Con on Oct 9, 2011. It is also posted on Story Games (http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=15201).

I would also like to note that I'm indebted to Thomas D (http://www.story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=1817) for his excellent ideas about running Lacuna at a con (I used a couple of his handouts) and an AP where the Agents were administered a questionnaire by Control while in Blue City (I was inspired by this to build the bubble-sheet questionnaire given at the interlude) - I'm having trouble finding the exact post right now. There are questions at the end - I would love your feedback!



"Did you say Miner? He was my mentor."

"Oh, fuck! Agent, I need you to eject immediately."

"No." And then he pinned the Lacuna device to his superior officer, turned it to the right, and counted, "One, two, three."

--- Synopsis:

Over the course of two missions, the recruits went from efficient and loyal agents to paranoid and insubordinate fuckers. In the first mission, they hunted down Matt Smith, a high school star ball player that had murder his girlfriend while under the influence (the exact substance was redacted). I threw lead after lead at them, and they concluded: He was a drug dealer that had gone off the deep end. After beating up his provider and interrogating his best friend at the school, they burst into a party at the suburbs and found the sucker. Before he could react, Agent Butler smacked him across the face with a pipe, and a 12-foot tall grotesque basset hound burst from his body. The agents subdued it handily.

We then took a break; the agents filled out mission reports and were given post-mission evaluation forms (bubble sheets). They were asked to what extent they agreed with statements such as "I am amiable and well-liked." and "I have never been a member of the Communist Party." We did advancement and took a brief bathroom break.

The next mission was fucked from the get-go. Agent Graves was incorrectly inserted into the Financial District, where he promptly received a call from Control insisting that he meet up with Agents Wood, Carver, and Roper to flush out the subject (he'd never heard these names before). After deceiving a businessman coming into the office, Graves disregarded the call and proceed to meet up with the other agents to pursue their mission.

They were to be on the tail of a Marxist terrorist, the last of her team to be taken in by the Nasrudin Institute. She had bombed a bank, and was the head of a dangerous dissident organization. A bomb went off in the Capital District. Control was high as fuck. They beat up some thugs, and found a potential lead. Agent Fuller received a strange note, from 'Jones to Alejandra' - questioning revealed that Jones had been snagged by the police about a week ago. The team ended up at the Library in the Capital District, as she was rumored to hang around there and Graves was (after being called again) ordered to meet Agent Roper there to regroup. The other two agents were dead.

Just as Agent Roper seized control of their squad, they saw their quarry; three burst off running. Agent Fuller took her down, and as she looked up at him she said, "Jones? How did you get here?" Graves approached, asked what she was doing her, and waited for a Hostile Personality to manifest. It didn't. He pinned her anyways. The rest followed from there: Conflicting demands from Roper and Control, the reveal that they were hunting Agent Miner, and Graves' severe insubordination.

--- Static, Heart Rate, and Pacing:

At this point Agent Fuller was in his target heart rate; the others were still below. Static was about 15; Graves' insubordination and the rampant use of techniques (documents, writer, caller) pushed it way up. I ended early, and would have preferred to stretch out the second mission, push for more rolls. While they were paranoid and scared by the end, it lacked the punch and danger I was hoping for (which would have come if any had maxed out).

The jump between missions was way too severe. They went from a straightforward mission to one with a bad monitor, a paperwork fuck-up, a potentially innocent victim (the HP never showed), the origin of a Mystery Agent,and Miner. I was eager to throw them into the bureaucratic mess, and rather than having it increase over time it was generally present from the start of the second mission. The Agent with caller (free pings to Control) realized that Control wasn't going to be helpful after a requested surveillance van showed up as a gypsy cab full of S&M gear, and just stopped from there; static was too obvious and pervasive from the start.

---- On the session itself:

I was immensely impressed with the focus of my players. They were expressive and inventive in narration, had no side conversations, and were evidently immersed. I credit this to a formality I took and the power of the character creation process. I dressed up formally: black pants, collared white shirt, tie, good shoes. I led them through the process, assigned codenames and mentors, and had clear control of the situation.

This didn't end up stifling the game, however. Instead, it created a sort of situation where I defined the outlines of the story we would tell, and they filled in the details. At the start of the first mission I dropped them in a hotel, and asked them what they did. The players paused. It took them a moment, and then they stepped into action. The player in charge of Agent Graves took to the power of his rolls most quickly. He decided there would be cheerleaders on the field, and asked them some questions that revealed the subject had been missing school, gave them some leads.

I created a briefing for each mission, with a summary of the subjects' crimes, their history, and warnings about the challenges they might face. Sentences were redacted. I didn't read them aloud or force the investigation to follow leads there, but the players seized them. I knew that the first subject was intoxicated with something (maybe an experimental substance?) when he committed murder. They took this and made it clear that he was a regular user and drug dealer, that he'd have a big party that night at his house. It was great, and things flowed really well.

One player said that the bubble sheet really helped him to think about his character. Where the official sheet has little to do with the temperament or background of the character itself (brillianty, I think), this forced the players to consider: "Am I sexually desireable? Do people like me? Do I trust my fellow agents?" Agent Butler, the one that smacked the kid across the face with they pipe, strongly disagreed with the statement "I am amiable and well-liked."

---- If I did it again:

I would have definitely scaled down the twist and mystery of the second mission, and pushed for action with a hint of disillusionment/paranoia (especially if I were running this long-form). I would have made Lacuna devices for each of the players to wear (I really love the imagery of them pinning it on monsters, and want them to have something to physically play with). There would have been burnt black coffee at the interlude. I also wanted to use Thomas D's "Control is Eating a Sandwich" static condition, but Control was already high as fuck and I was really hungry, so I ended up just devouring the thing anyways, instead of waiting to take a bite each time they dialed Control.


How do you amp up action and push for rolls in the course of the mission? It seemed that each one would proceed similarly: Agents hunt for leads, find the HP, and then pin it; most of the need for rolls seemed to come at the end, and I wasn't sure how to make moves against them.

How have you handled narrative authority in Lacuna? I ruled that, if they won they roll, they would get to narrate the success of their goal, whether it be leaping on cars, catch up with a giant oozing basset hound, or convincing a high school punk to tell the agent where he gets his dope. If they failed, I would narrate and usually make things more difficult for them. If they succeed on Access, they get what they want; otherwise I get to play. The one place I struggled with this was with Navigation rolls. If they fail, they don't end up where they wanted to go? How does this make the story more interesting or drive narrative? I had them end up in the wrong part of town and get held up, but it felt diversionary and the only insincere moment of the game.

How much have you twisted the naive idea that the Institute is benevolent, well-run, and hires trained professionals as Mystery Agents? Did you ease into it, and what were the first elements you included? I'd love to hear how it turned out.

Ron Edwards


I guess it wouldn't hurt to check out some previous Forge discussions about playing the game. In my case (the first thread listed), I think there are some valuable points about introducing adversity during ordinary play. Most of these accounts are about the first version (First Attempt), so certain details aren't going to be relevant.

[Lacuna Part 1] "Nine gram medal"
[Lacuna Part 1] Player Investment
[Lacuna] OK so I tried it... [SPOILER ALERT]
[Lacuna] Getting a handle on the pace of the game
[Lacuna Part I The Mystery and the Girl from Blue City] CONTROL

As mere feedback, I can only say that I think you really nailed the game, and I love the name "Nasrudin Institute," brilliant. My only question concerns whether you brought in any material concerning the actual origin of the Mystery Agents, which in my reading of the text is canonical and explicit, at least to the GM at the outset.

Best, Ron

Ethan K.


I'll go back and look over some of the older materials. I read them quite thoroughly as I was preparing to run the game, and I found them incredibly helpful.

I brought in the origin of the Mystery Agents quite explicitly (in my mind) in the second mission. Agent fuller received the letter from Alejandra to Jones asking for help in his pocket, and some thugs beaten up later in the mission said that Jones had been hauled away by the police about a week ago in a raid on their base in the Abattoir district. I don't know how clearly the players saw it, but Fuller and his player was completely stunned when Alejandra addressed him as Jones. He didn't stop Graves from sending her to the Lacuna (I was really hoping for some player v player adversity), but I think the realization paralyzed him.

One question I do have about your original post, Ron, refers to the use of crosses. Do you have any examples? Where and how did you introduce conflicting information about the characters whilst they were separated?