Friday, December 23, 2005

From Point A to Point B

Today, I went out into the world to deliver a wedding cake. A simple mission. A friend knew i worked in a bakery, and had requested that i deliver the cake to his wedding. The disassembled cake went into the boot of my car and away i sped.

Of course, it wasn't as simple as all that.

My friend had chosen to have his wedding at a hotel on the day before Christmas Eve. This lovely hotel was on the backside of a shopping center which is infamous for being hard to get into and out of during holiday shopping. a quick little errand took me a total of 2 hours to complete and an additional hour and a half to get back home.

Fortunately, i had my Ipod, and i did not have a loaded weapon. It could have been grim.

But this, coupled with the coverage of the New York TWU strike, has gotten me thinking about the simple act of travel and how fragile it truly is.

Think about the last time you went out on a simple errand and the weather turned less than clement. Think about the time all you wanted to do was get home and you were stymied by downtown traffic because of some concert or sports event. Even a simple wreck, in the right spot, can fuck up traffic for miles in every direction.

Now, imagine you are in a situation that would be easily handled in ten minutes drive, that has now become an epic fucking quest by dint of this disruption in traffic patterns. Other people become Angels or Demons along your path to salvation depending on whether they help or hinder you.

There are more than couple of movies based on this simple premise. "The Ice Harvest" being the most recent.

This basic idea has two simple use: The first one is to help you stall for time. On occasion, as i have pointed out in very early Crank reports, you will have a situation that your players will solve FAR ahead of schedule. Maybe you underestimated them. Maybe they just went entirely lateral to your thinking on how to solve the thing. Still. If you just have them show up at the bad guys place loaded for bear, it will be a short night. You can make the race for time a real nail biter if you introduce a massive traffic snarl.

The other possible use of this trick is to pull out for a "No Plot Night". Say your players have some small problem to attend to, why not make a simple task into a near impossible one with this gambit? Have somebody send them on a mission and complicate it with a serious ice storm. Might be a bit interesting if you need blood or need to get under cover before the sun comes up. AAA ain't coming to help you. Will the players stop to help other along the way who are having worse problems?
Will the players end up freezing solid?

I can tell you there have been times when driving has become an adventure all by itself. There's no reason why we can't use this.


At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Acid Reign said...

.....I've had the "you should sell your house and move to a bigger house in the new subdivision" speech delivered to me more times than I can count. And I won't. Where I live now, I'm 4.7 miles from work (no gridlocked interstates to traverse), and there are two grocery stores and a mall within walking distance. Life is too short to spend several hours a day driving!

.....In game, I'd think that in all but the worst conditions, a bicycle and a few points of Potence would make for pretty swift travel, snarl or not! You'd just have to be careful pedalling, and not snap the chain or the pedals off! Think about it. Bike speed is going to be mainly a strength + athletics roll, more successes = more speed. Yeah, I know, wind resistance is going to kick in at some point, but... And Potence is on all the time.

.....Of course, the 70 MPH bicyclist is probably a Masquerade violation, but if you keep it down to 30 or 40, your just a Lance Armstrong wanna-be. And those maneuver rolls are less difficult!

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Everett said...

Well, yes ... and no.

Where exactly is your vampire going to find a bicycle at 3am? If he's going to steal it, that sounds (system) similar to a hunting roll, and those take an hour to complete. If they plan to role-play it, where do they plan to find one? Although I had a bike as a child, no one here at work (6 ppl) has one either, except for one who keeps it in his basement and isn't sure if it works. (We just did an impromptu survey - not scientific, I know.) Add in dogs, alarms, dads with insomnia and a baseball bat; while you don't have any insurmountable obstacles, you may have a humanity roll for the players to deal with.

Then there's the matter of what your character is wearing. A Ventrue's suit is going to look almost as silly as the Brujah's leathers going down Route-1 at 35mph on a child's BMX. (what, you didn't think there was going to be a ten-speed in that garage, did you?) I suppose if you're heading to the rack to grab a snack a few grease stains aren't going to matter, but if you're late for an appointment with the Primogen, the stain on your pant leg is going to look silly - loss of status for your Tremere.

And if the traffic was created by the weather, a bicycle isn't going to help. Rather than risk hydroplaning out in front of a tractor-trailer, you probably want to just use your Potence to run all the way, nevermind a road that's three feet deep in snow.

The point of the origional post was to talk about ways to slow down gameplay, in this example, using traffic. Any good player is going to be able to defeat a mundane obstacle presented by the ST with a super-powered character, just as the ST can spawn an infinite supply of Sabbat to throw at the characters; but it's the how of doing that which makes for a good story.

Remember, one of the goals of Storytelling is to create a powerful force of antagonism, not an unbeatable antagonist. Personally, (from a Storyteller's POV) I rather like the idea of one of my character's stealing a bike, and (after running them through the gauntlet) I'd probably well reward the player who thought it up under the "Quick-thinking" XP category, and the entire coterie for "Role-playing" assuming they deal appropriately with things like how their male character feels about riding a female bike.

Of course, by that point I've burned all the time I needed to.

On a different note, I drive about three miles to work myself. Used to live in D.C. Never again.

At 9:14 AM, Anonymous Acid Reign said...

.....The bicycle thing was off-the-cuff. Admittedly, it's not a perfect solution. It would be one of those "plan-ahead" situations. The traffic snarls around here are often predictable: certain routes during rush hour, massive strip-malls with popular stores and only one way in or out, college football games in town, etc. Vampires can dial up the weather channel, too! There are riding jumpsuits that you can wear nice clothes under. I know, I saw it on Alias! Must be real...

.....I didn't consider snow. Our last measurable snow was New Year's Eve, 2000. We've had 6 inches or more 3 times in the last 43 years. I honestly don't know whether riding a bike in snow is practical or not. If it's dry snow, maybe. Most snow I've seen is mixed with ice or freezing rain. The kind that makes foot-long icicles on the power lines and you have to get out the kerosine heaters.

.....Every once in a while, a nigh-unbeatable opponent shows up, often due to player foolishness! It's the basic player-intellignce test. The ones that NEVER run away from anything fail. And, of course, there is the occasional player who can't seem to stop himself from trying to draw down on the Prince or Justicar...


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