Thursday, August 30, 2012

LACUNA PART I: the creation of the mystery and the girl from BLUE CITY (an rpg)

this past july i was at DEXCON in NJ. we were selling our miniature terrain and otherwise doing our thing when i discovered a booth in the back selling indie roleplaying games (the booth was MODERN MYTHS - a pretty kickass store).  i wound up buying a copy of 3:16- CARNAGE AMONGST THE STARS...and two games by a guy named jared sorenson...LACUNA and INSPECTRES.  you may know him as the guy who created ACTION CASTLE and the other PARSELY games.

both games have interesting concepts and they're both short - which is what attracted me to them. that, and the owner of MODERN MYTHS talking them both up.  i like both games a lot - with LACUNA slightly edging out INSPECTRES as my favorite. plus, i had the chance to run my friends through a LACUNA scenario - so i feel like i can speak on that game a little better than INSPECTRES.

ok, to summarize the concept of the game: it's the near future and mankind has basically wiped out crime (more on how in a minute).  we've also figured out a way to enter an alternate dimension - which also happens to be the place our minds go when we dream.  this is accomplished by placing someone under the influence of various drugs, which then allows their conscious mind to materialize in this alternate dimension. while under the influence of these drugs, people are able to control their "dream bodies" as well as bend the "rules" to manipulate the environment. this dimension/dream state manifests itself to us as an old city, so we've come to call it BLUE CITY.  there are other denizens there that aren't dreaming - they're native to the place, and they may not want us there.

THE COMPANY has discovered a way to remove the violent aspects of one's personality...and they've harnessed this power into something called a LACUNA DEVICE. it looks like a pin with a question mark on it.  these devices are given to Agents that work for the Company. that's you.

your job is helping to keep crime in the real world under control.  in this future, whenever someone commits a violent offense they are investigated by the police and FBI - just like they would be in "our world".  after their arrest and conviction they are brought to the Company - who put them under with those drugs and send their personalities into Blue City.  since they're going in unwillingly, once they're put under the Company loses track of exactly WHERE in the Blue City they are.  so, it's your job to enter the dream state/alternate dimension/Blue City, locate the hostile personality and use your LACUNA DEVICE to permanently remove their violent ways.  this is done by sticking them with the device and turning it to the left.  of course, once in Blue City both you and the hostile personalities have some crazy powers, with hostile personalities often manifesting themselves in horrific, monstrous ways.  completing your mission won't be easy - there are some residents of Blue City whose goals and motivations remain unknown to the Company. there are also other Agents on different well as rogue agents.  if your mission is successful, the violent offender will awaken in the real world changed permanently. they'll no longer be violent and they can be assimilated back into society as productive individuals.

think of the game as a cross between INCEPTION, the MATRIX and MANHUNT.

it's important to remember that your Agents are not physically in the Blue City during a game session. their physical bodies are lying on "the Slab", hooked up to drug dispensers and medical equipment.  their conscious minds are in Blue City.

while you're in Blue City you're in contact with Control (the GM) and you can request aid or equipment to help you with your mission.  as you interact with the city two things begin to happen: 1) the heart rate in your physical body increases and 2) your connection with Control begins to degrade...and Blue City begins to react to your presence.  this is represented by Static. let's say some Agents begin to argue with each other or they disobey the Lead Agent - well, this triggers Static.  maybe the Agents fail a check or start a firefight - more Static.  as Static builds events are triggered that the Agents must deal with.

Agents have 3 stats - Force, Instinct and Access. these characteristics are what you use to interact with Blue City.  want to punch someone in the face? jump off a building? run up a wall or fire a gun? make a Force check.  want to get a Personality to give you information? make an Instinct check.  you want Control to help you? need a machine gun? need to eject from Blue City before you have a heart attack? make an Access check.  the lowest a stat can be is a 2 and the highest is a 4.

these numbers represent the amount of d6's you roll when you need to make a check. if you have a Force of 2 you would roll 2d6.  you need to get an 11 or higher.  if you fail a check in a risky situation (like combat) you lose a die off your score.  so, a Force of 2 would become a 1.  when either Force or Instinct hits zero your Agent is in trouble - you'll need to make an Access check to eject your consciousness from the Blue City - if you fail you either have a heart attack and die or go insane.

now, this is where the system really shines: whenever you make a check, you total the dice together and add the number to your HEART RATE score.  most characters start with a heart rate around 70 or so.  heart rate values differ depending on the Agent's age. once you get your heart rate up into your TARGET HEART RATE, you can reroll failed checks until you pass.  however, each roll adds to your heart rate, with risky checks removing a die if you fail.  eventually you'll hit your MAXIMUM HEART RATE, which means ANY check is risky (failure means losing a die) and you lose the ability to reroll checks.

there's also some cool character building tools during Agent creation - you have to determine your age, determine your Mentor (who will teach you certain Techniques), choose a Talent and determine your name (all Agents are given random names).

i've purposely left out a lot of setting-specific stuff, as the book assumes that only Control (the GM) will have all the information that the book presents. so, if you want to know about the Nasrudin Institute, the Spidermen, the Conflict, the Lacuna Rift or the Girl you're going to have to grab the book.  don't worry - the setting is very open to your interpretation.  in fact, the whole game is vague and open-ended intentionally - you basically fill in the gaps based on your play style.

one thing that piqued my curiosity that i WILL mention: where the heck is Agent Miner?  Agents generate specific Mentors during chargen - you get a little background on them and all of them are either alive or dead...except Miner.  he's listed as MIA - missing in action.  how the hell can that be? Agents are physically present on Company premises for missions - and they're unconscious! how did he vanish DURING a dive into Blue City? 

you can actually run into Miner as your Static builds during a mission.  now, if his body is no longer in Company hands then he's obviously set up shop somewhere else - AND has access to drugs, medical equipment, and monitors - what the heck is he up to? or, perhaps the Company still has his body and they can't eject him from the City? if that's teh case, why haven't they just killed him?  this is a good example of the open-ended nature of the game - what do you want Miner to be up to? make a choice and roll with it.

overall, the game is very interesting and fun. it's rules-light and moves fast - with cool gameplay mechanics that are new and interesting.  i'd highly recommend it - a print copy is only 15 bucks - so go buy one.

in the next few days i'll post a write-up of our game ruled.    

1 comment:

Jared Sorensen said...

Where is Miner? Good question!