Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Big Exit

There are times when you get to a place with a character that you've had for a while where you want something different. Maybe playing the same person for a long period gets dull. Or maybe the character has issue that depress YOU. (I've had this. It was weird.) Perhaps, you gotten into a place where you feel like you've accomplished all your story goals, or resolved the central mystery around which your character was built.

Maybe you're just bored or you feel as if this particular well has run dry.

There are at least three plotlines that you could engage in that will enable you to step off the stage in a big way. And really, that's what you do in that situation. There's nothing wrong with death or destruction. The only thing that sucks is dying cheap or feeling like you were cheated. If you feel like you want to end a particular character's story, you should talk to an ST about pursuing one of these paths.

Over the High Side
Nearly every single WOD game i've ever participated in has mechanics for characters going crazy or completely losing control of themselves in some way. In CoC or Delta Green larps this sort of personal storyline is doubly heinous and horrific. Vampires going crazy and falling to the beast are one of the most galvanizing events in a vampire larp. Mainly because not only are such vampires a threat to the players but to the masquerade as well.
When you first crack like a pinata and spill your candy on the ground, you have to decide how it's going to play out. Will you go completely psycho-mental and run through the setting like some kind of mad force of nature. Or will you keep your madness well hidden until it's awful exposure and tragic denoument. Take a look at a maniac like John Doe in the movie "Se7en". Here's a guy who kept his grand guignol insanity hidden for YEARS while he set about his task. Not only that but he was able to completely document his awful slide into the abyss and still manage the money necessary to make his plans come to fruition.
Each choice has their possibilities. With the "wassail" option, you now have an opportunity to attack anybody in the larp and force the entire community to rise against you and destroy you (or at least capture and then put you where you can no longer harm anyone.) It's rare for this option to stretch past the game session it's enacted in. Although i have seen at least one vampire fallen to the beast be a thorn in the side of an entire community of vampires for at least 4 game sessions. and even then, he was brought in, and nominally "Cured".
If you go the other way, you might want to sit down with your ST and come up with the most insane and horrifying plan you can enact. You may drop little clues. You may even have most of the other players convinced,but unable to prove, that you're insane. But when it comes right down to it, you don't want them to KNOW or be able to stop you before you've unveiled your masterpiece of BIG CRAZY. You might even have a plan in mind that requires your death in order to complete or set in motion. (Like Captain Holtz, in the series Angel.) Add in the possibility of a massive hole in the Masquerade as a possible consequence, and not only will YOU have plenty to do, but so will every one else in the larp once you're gone.
And let me tell you, they'll start scrutinizing others carefully for signs of madness after you're gone. They'll talk about you in whispered tones thereafter like some bogeyman, or some demon, easily summoned. Not truly gone...

If that doesn't put a sick smile on your face, then i can teach you nothing. You lack the necessary sadism for this kind of work.

The Fall
Speaking of demons. There is, in nearly every larp, some dark agency lurking, working the corners, playing the angles. Hoping to turn one or more people to their dark purpose. Some trick. Some seduce. Some give gifts. Others offer services.
To join these dark forces is to sign your death warrant. Even in a city of depraved magi, enraged Pure Uratha, and Vampires (who are bad enough from the jump) Once you join with the "Other", you make yourself a target. Even the cruelest Invictus and a pushy Carthian will slap back to back when the Belial's Brood come riding over the horizon. Even an atheist can feel good siding with a religious crusader to stomp satanists flat.
Sooner or later though, if you're some kind of fifth column for the forces of darkness. Someone's going to twig. You may have to work fast or silence a few people before enough people know that you are in "that" camp and come round to wax you good and proper. Best case, they'll put you on trial first.
This particular storyline can take a few different forms. You might be co-opted into some dark cult or secret society by some one you trust. You might go in search of such dark powers in hopes that they can grant you your wildest fantasies. Perhaps they can help you satisfy your hunger for power, but they always want something in return. and therein lies the rub, because demons always play dirty.
Other times, the dark forces want something specific, like their freedom or something equally troubling, and are willing to make the approach to anyone they think might be willing to help. Dreams might lead a player to the right book. a chance meeting with a mysterious gentleman might open up a world of dark possibilities.
This actual plot is so open ended it might need a crank of its own some time down the road. In the mean time, there is only one rule that you must scrupulously follow if your are game mastering. The dark forces must be strictly limited in their power and limited in their ability to actual affect the world.
If they aren't they overshadow the game, and why would they need the players help in the first place?
If you are playing the demon follow these simple rules:
1) Say as little as possible. Let their imagination do the work for you.
2) Offer to do something you would have done anyway.
3) Make dire predictions. You don't really have to base them on anything, but it's always a bonus if you can.
4) Show them little. Do as much of your work offstage as possible. Let them wonder what your actual powers are.
5) Manifest indirectly in ways that demonstrate your ubiquity. (Make your players terrified of post-it notes.)

There is a very real and very ugly tendency in human being to try to pull people down who are trying to better themselves. How many times have you heard someone offer a person their vice of choice immediately after they try to quit. A husband might offer his wife a piece of cake, knowing she's on a diet. A person might press a pack of smoke onto a person trying to quit, simply because they are being aggravating.
This is why being a Boddhisatva kinda sucks. Not only are you delaying stepping into Nirvanna so that others may see your example and follow the path themselves, But you will also have people trying to drag you back down to their level. They'll see you a smug and will try to wreck you or destroy you. Maybe they'll succeed. Maybe they won't. in any event, eventually you will have to step off the stage of the world

To attack this point with prose a bit less purple, To seek Golconda or mystickal Transcendence or true union with the spirit world is a death sentence. Either in the literal sense, or in the sense that it will require a sort of "Ego death".
Let's take the example of Vampire. There comes a time when a vampire becomes interested in the concept of Golconda. Such a vaunted spiritual state requires certain things to attain. For most vampires, it means a willingness to separate themselves from vampire society almost completely. The cut and thrust world of vampire politics is nearly impossible for a serious seeker of spiritual truth to endure. It is filled with lies and nightly violence.
But let's say that you persevere. You build your humanity up as best you can (Often at the expense of purchasing new powers or whatever.) and you try to be a good person, You work hard to avoid the pitfalls of vampire society. You even try to be something of an example to your fellow vampires. Perhaps even cultivate a student or two along the path.
Unfortunately, the odds favor the house. They always do. Other vampires may look upon you as weak, heretical,naive or perhaps they see themselves in you and are afflicted with burning jealousy.
So there are couple of ways that this can play out:
1) You manage to grab the brass ring and gain what you desire. To many this may represent a cure from the vampiric condition. or perhaps a sort of vampiric sainthood. Such things can be lost of course and that's a story for another time perhaps. But once a person follows such a path, they should be allowed to step off the stage with grace and perhaps gain a bit in terms of their own personal legend before reappearing again...If ever.
2) You are forced to defend yourself or sacrifice yourself in some way. Of course, if this happens, it is a poor ST indeed who doesn't allow you a little Ben Kenobi action post mortem. And why not really. Vampires don't die slow, and so they rarely get a good death scene. Why not get an opportunity to say goodbye to the people who really matter. Friends and enemies alike.
3) You miss the mark. Maybe it's all just some bullshit legend and it never existed in the first place. Maybe you've done the work and you walked the walk, but when the chips were down, you didn't make the right choice. Once this happens, you still may not be long for this world. Because it occurs to me that if you made the effort and didn't get the brass ring, but instead, fell off and got dragged under the carousel for your trouble. Well, Odds are good that you go crazy or throw in your support to the dark side. (Spiritual sour grapes and all that.)

In all of these things, you should talk to your ST and see what you can do to map out a plan and pre-script some of the events and how they'll play out. At this point, you aren't really playing the game anymore, especially if you find yourself on these paths with the express understanding that your character will be out of the game because of the culmination of the storyline. As a result, you should attack these storylines with more of an idea of being an active performer for the other players. In other words. script as much as you comfortably can, and stay clear of as many plots that don't involve you directly.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A world of Overused Plots (An Iron Larper Challenge)

So. I started a thread over on in their Larp forum, but it didn't really take off. So i'm going to repost some of that here and see what it generates:

The Challenge:
1) Name a plot device that is done to death.
2) Figure out a way to turn that plot device on it's ear.
3) Profit!
4) Additionally, you may offer new twists to other over done plots too.

A) Kill the Prince!

The gaff: Some dude in charge needs to be croaked. Damn the man! Fight the power!

The twist: Set it up so that when they go to gank him. a couple of things could happen.
1) They kill the prince disturbingly easily. Only to go to court and find him there and smiling. He seems to have no interest in discussing things nor is he interested in killing the characters. That'll bake their noodes good and proper as they try to figure out what the fuck is going on.
2) They kill the prince only to have the city completely fall apart because of the way the prince put the place together. City infrastructure flies to pieces and each week therafter some vampire or other flips out in some pre-programmed fashion.
3) They get there only to dscover that he's already been destroyed (Possibly faked) and that the local vampire law enforcement shows up just in time to catch the Would-Be Perps. A masterful frame job.

Plot: The Bad guys are coming

The gaff: It's almost ten thirty and the Sabbat/Brood/Seven/Sancitified Zealots come riding over the hill passing out some hot buttered Holocaust. Grab your ankles.

This kind of game can be played only one of a few ways.
1) Steamroller Style (I.E. all of the city's and elysiums elaborate defense catastrophically fail at once and the bad guys walk right in and throw down without even a witty speech. Kiss me at least if you're going to fuck me.)
2) Battleship Style (The bad guys are out there doing bad things and they gotta be stopped, but nobody knows where they are or how to catch them and trying to locate them is like playing a game of battleship...Except the bad guys always seem more prepared and have a better idea of where YOU are. You never seem to bump into them flat footed.
3) Dorothy's Shoes style (Yes, that's right. the bad guys were here all along. and have picked now to attack at the cities moment of greatest weekness. Of course, unless you are deaf as a post, you already know who all the bad guys are OOC. but somehow it's still supposed to be a surprise. Doesn't matter how it unfolds really, it seems anti-climactic most of the time.

Hey 10 O'clock monster happens, but there may be ways to handle the problem and the predictability.

The Twists:
1) Fuck 10 O'clock! Monsters NOW!
Occasionally, it's a good idea to change up the rythyms of things. Have the monster/invasion happen at the tip top of the game and then you have the whole rest of the session to deal with and expand on the aftermath of such a thing. It certainly crabs that whole problem of things taking the first hour and a half of play to get rolling.

2) "Hey that was easy!"
It should have been. It was a feint. It was a test of defenses. Or perhaps a diversion while something far more heinous goes on. They certainly didn't send their "A" players.

3) Who's side is it anyway!
The bad guys show up in force. Only to have the players discover that maybe they don't really understand what's going on at all. Perhaps the bad guys are here to settle the hash of some other threat that the players don't even know is about to go nuclear in their own back yard. Perhaps the Bad guys are on the run from something worse and are looking for a truce in order to get help stopping it/him/her/them.
Maybe, the bad guys are on a completely unrelated errand and if left unmolested will withdraw without making trouble. Of course, nobody believes that. Heh.

More overdone plots as i come up with them.

I think i may have cracked it!

So. I keep wanting to have a way to hand new players some plot. and/or to give some plot to older players that may be getting bored with the way their characters are playing out.

Finally, i think i've got a way to do it.
I thought about how some of our plot is the kind of stuff that i go to a certain player and ask them to volunteer for it.

It occured to me that it might not be bad thing to create a file of volunteer plots. My instinct is to make it a random draw sort of thing. Such plot would be short term and discrete insofar as they could be dropped into ANY game session. Things like a getting jumped by a group of vampire hunters and managing to get away. Maybe some kind of feeding disaster. Perhaps a bit of short term spying (And in the case of a vampire game, spying which the player may not be aware of doing)

My only problem is that tried something like this one before with feeding tests and had to listen to too many people crabbing about a bad draw. I have to wonder whether it might be okay to create separate categories of volunteer plots, so that you can choose at least the direction of your self-directed character screwing.

Still Tinkering but i'm on the right track.

In other news, Attendance of the Larp is up and we may be able to move back onto campus finally. Things are looking up.