Friday, January 10, 2014

Interesting Contrasts!

I recently underwent the same process of setup for two different groups, both over IRC. On Sunday, my group - consisting of four players - set up an Association to play Blood Games II, while on Wednesday, my other group - consisting of three players - set up an association to play Lowell Was Right!. The experiences of both were very different, and show two valid ways to approach the same phase of setup.

Associations, or Player Character Companies, were a tool I first used in In Harm's Way: Wild Blue back in 2007-2008. An Association is a company or grouping that the Player Characters belong to. The game purpose is threefold - to bind the PCs together in a shared history; to enable the PCs to draw upon resources beyond their means; and to allow the players an opportunity to tell the GM what they are interested in doing by what resources they choose to purchase with a limited "bank" of points.

The process is thus: A pool of points are allocated to the Association to represent raw resources, this can be done by rolling randomly or by choosing directly. The more points you have available to spend, the larger the Association can be. Then the group determines the source of their funding, and the nature of their company - the stated purpose for its existence, and how that existence is maintained. After those are determined, the Association allocates points to purchase various assets, such as security, espionage, knowledge bases/libraries, vehicles, and the like. By seeing the pattern of assets purchased, the GM can craft adventures in which the players can best use these assets. In other words, purchasing assets sets player "flags" for their collective interests in-game. A group that purchases many espionage assets will be interested in adventures focusing on spying, for example.

The Sunday group decided up front that it was interested in playing members of a Consulting Detective Agency set in Victorian London, and concentrating in the Occult. Blood Games II was not written with a section on creating Associations, but the other games in this series, On Her Majesty's Arcane Service and Outremer, were. Since BG II was written primarily for Modern American settings, we decided to use the Association rules from OHMAS - basically Blood Games set in Elizabethan England - suitably updated to Victorian times, with equipment from Sweet Chariot, which was set on  a steam tech world.

The group decided on a 256 point pool as being suitable for the aims of the group. As the Association's HQ, a house was selected in a respectable part of London, just south of Victoria Station. As one of the group was playing a Savant, extra-dimensional rooms were added, to make the HQ larger on the inside than on the outside, at the cost of some points. Further points were spent on espionage based assets - Informers, friends in Scotland Yard, and the like - and on creating an Arcane Library, with many books, charts, and strange maps on various Arcane subjects purchased. Throughout, discussion was lively, but it moved fast, the group having a clear idea of what they wanted to be and do. The group had already created characters for the game, and this added to their certainty of what would be required.

The Wednesday group, in contrast, came into the session with nothing decided, other than the general conditions of the world, set up in the previous session. The group knew they wanted to travel throughout the solar system, but not why. Lowell Was Right! - not yet published, but in Beta Play-test - does contain a proper Association-building section, and that was used. Funding was rolled for rather than agreed upon, with a result of 128 points, half that decided on by the other group. Then much of the session was occupied by throwing various ideas around for the Association's purpose and funding source. it was finally agreed upon that the group would be hired by other groups to perform one of three tasks: to legally inspect an area to be purchased for possibly exploitable resources; to illegally do the same thing, without benefit of permits and such, for a higher price; or to illegally despoil a area another group was planning on purchasing or had already purchased. The Association would maintain two fronts, one operating legally and above board, the other working illegally and sub-rosa, while sharing the same assets otherwise. The rest of the session was spent in constructing the major asset, the Association's space ship. A small balance of points was left over for possible small purchases, but the session was running long.

The contrast in approaches and methods intrigued me, coming as they did within the same week. I hope this post is as illuminating to you as it was for me! :D

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