Saturday, July 09, 2005

City X or City 2.0

Recently I have thinking about getting back in the business of Larp and/or running a tabletop game of some sort.
but I must admit that running games in and around the city of Lexington KY, have lost a lot of luster for me. To be frank, Lexington is kind of dull. Maybe it's just that I've exhausted it's dramatic potential. Or that I'm so familiar with it's ins and outs, that I've lost its mystery.

I think that if I pursue a new creative project, I will steal a page from the comic books. Perhaps the new city will be named Riverside (Coast City and Star City are too much of a dead giveaway, Gotham and Metropolis have too much freight built into them.) While building it will be real work, it will also be real fun.

When making a choice like this for yourself its important to sort out the potentials and see what would actually be good for you. You might be surprised to discover that the best use of your time is the least obvious choice. So let's take a look at the possibilities

City 2.0: (Or, "This City, only COOLER!")

1) Comes with it's own Flavor:
Each city has a specific feel. a taste, a texture, a patois, an energy running through it. People who live in that city know these things instinctively. Therefore when you lean into those things, the players know them for what they are. Unique local color. Of course, you can also use these things in an adverse way. When you work against the flavor of a particular city it can cause cognitive dissonance in the players. You can also use the expectations of the players against them in interesting ways. You might even get creative and start folding,spindling and mutilating the basic flavor of the city, mutating it for the needs of the story you want to tell.
In any event, the shared assumptions that the group have can be a tool or an obstacle but for the most part, you and your players are going to generally be on the same page.

2) Requires less Work:
You don't have to build your city from the ground up. Other folks have been so kind as to do that sort of work for you. Granted this may occasionally cause problems when somebody knows a little something more about your town than you do. But when push comes to shove, It's a great deal easier learn a little something about the place you live in rather than build a a whole fictional city of your own.

3) Plot ripped bleeding from the Headlines:
Now you actually have an excuse to read the papers and watch the local news. You can actually get plot ideas from things going on in your little community. This is especially useful for larps, where you normally have to deal with a broader canvas than in a typical tabletop game. It's also really good for when you get stuck for good plots. Look at your local news and make notes and you will always have enough nuts to get through the winter.

City X: (Or, a place where they keep big buildings, that is not this place in any way, shape, or form.")

1) Creative freedom:
Once you have laid your basic ideas about the city, you have a great deal of creative freedom and can build nearly anything into that city that you want. Granted you have a lot of building to do. But some of this can be done ahead of time and some of it can be done on the fly. You also have a bit of freedom in terms of shaping the evolution of your town as a backdrop for plots of various types.

2) Nobody knows more about City X than you:
Neatly prevents players from saying "Nuh UH!" when you make some assertion about your city. City 2.0 can be a hassle insofar as there will be players who know thing that you don't. Simply saying "No, I don't think so." when confronted with gaps in your knowledge makes you look autocratic, sloppy, and worse, ill-informed. This doesn't happen with City X. If you don't happen to know something about City X, you can make it up on the fly or allow yourself to be influenced one way or the other. For those who value greater flexibility. This can be very key to a GM having a good time.

3) Building a city can be Fun:
It's a lot of work to be sure, (And if you're doing it for a larp you might want to have some people help you out.) But there is nothing quite so heady as playing God on the city. Cities are about not only buildings and natural features. They are also about people and making a city is basically the work of creating characters. Creating cool characters for the players to bounce off of is, in my opinion, one of the best things. Making a city also requires a certain amount of knowledge of how actual cities are organized and arranged.

If I were going to do something along this line, The project would be to create something like a WIKI that was a fictional modern city. Make a map or something, Maybe add in a HTML chat or Java Chat of some sort so that players can go into "Town" on their own schedules and find things out on occasion. Take the WIKI side of things and make certain elements editable and make other elements password protected. "You spend influence to find out about councilman Gresham? Okay, go to his page and type in the word 'Croatan' and that should give you every thing you can find with a casual investigation."

The question would be would it worth it to put it all on a disk and maybe sell it or make it something subscriber driven with occasional updates and edits. The Key would be to create an epic city wide style of soap opera with no supernatural elements whatsoever. The user would be assumed to be adding those in himself, peppering and salting to taste.

That settles it. I need a staff.
Sono Finito


At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Acid Reign said...

.....There's a lot to be said for running a game based in your own hometown. I played in Birmingham by Night game years ago, and it was refreshing not to have to sit through a lot of set descriptions. The ST could simply say "This scene takes place at Sloss Furnace," and everyone at the game could picture the setting... The players were able to direct car chases to their favorite curvy roads, hang out at their favorite clubs, etc. and run from Alabama's creepy serial killer, Jack Traywick, who was a high-ranking Malkavian archon in that game...

.....The inclusion of a city everyone knew very well really spiced the game up, and added all sorts of unexpected interests. And when the powerful Sabbat pack from Miami ("The Parliament...") came to town to cause trouble, we all got a very practical look at how "home turf" can work for the Camarilla! If you've never played Lexington as a set before, it may have a few surprises.

.....My wife attended Versailles High School years ago, and she loved her time in Lexington!


At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Everett said...

Something I like about about using an existing contemporary city is the Internet. With a little time you can find almost anything about your city - an apartment to live in, a place to work, even an IRL butcher who sells cow blood. Museums and universities have virtual tours (as do houses and apartments for rent), local flavor restaurants have pictures of the premises and menues, you can even find maps of where police and fire stations are located. I once found an interactive map of a major city (I think it was Denver) that pinpointed all the major crimes by type (murder, rape, assault, theft, etc.).

Extend that by the golden rule that the Storyteller can change whatever he doesn't like, and you have what I consider the perfect city.

Another option is used by the WoD online chat-based RPG. There the action takes place in a city named New Bremen, which is really Atlanta. Wherever the ST's hadn't written something specific, you assumed New Bremen was Atlanta. Where's the Wal-Mart in New Bremen? Check Atlanta. Where does the Prince live? Check with the ST.

At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Acid Reign said...

.....The new Google Earth app is another great tool for gaming in an existing city! Type a physical address into the bar, and let the thing zoom in! It can be a quite impressive beginning to a description of a setting...



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