Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tabula Rasa : nWOD

08/09/2011 to 02/19/2012

The story began with three people being hired by a company called Tabula Rasa.  The company offered them a tremendously huge compensation package, which came with passports to travel practically anywhere in the world, as well as the license to use firearms.   For the former Office Custodian Jake McCalister, the Linguistic Student of MIT Natalie Straffon, and Sound Engineer Marcus Helvig, it seemed like an impossibly fun and generous job offer.   Little did they know, it would be the catalyst to a life exploring the mysteries of the Cult of the Machine God, the Clockwork Choir, secret societies such as The Foundation and Odessa, and the frightening secret life of Amon Göth and the truth behind the Numbers.

As the story progressed, the three protagonists began to forge new friendships with other people who were also Numbers, a term that had been used to refer to individuals through-out history who had incredibly amazing abilities.  Some, like Emiko Lee and  Harumi Ishii, seemed burdened by the undeniable truths their powers have forced them to perceive.  Emiko was a cibopath, who could devour anything organic and draw information from it.  Harumi, daughter of the late General Shiro Ishii of Unit 731, was cursed with the ability to see all truths.  Her unfiltered gaze of her father's atrocities quickly condemned her into madness.  Others however were more like Manuel JoBenitez who used his powers of phasing through solid objects as a tool to further his own personal wants.  The group eventually uncover evidence of the Numbers, referred to by others as Neumen, long existed in history - and some began to realize a number of them were the very founders of the Tabula Rasa.  And the infamous cult leader of the Cult of the Machine God, the number five named Donovan, is the very same person who helped form the company they work in.  When the fourth character who completed their group, Ari Williams "the FBI agent who always gets his man" joins the group, the four begin to realize that their meeting each other was in many ways preordained, and their choices can decide the very fate of the world.

And we haven't even gotten to the angels.  And how the Numbers ultimately are Creation's emergency system.  And how the angels need the Neumen to give them permission to reboot the world.

The game drew inspiration from many sources.  Among the strongest influences were:
Alan Moore's The Courtyard, which is a wonderfully sneaky treasure trove of Meta concepts for storytelling.  This I adapted in the game when one of the players attempted to contact the Angels.  I began describing the Angels as a presence beyond the world, one which saw each of their characters as mere concepts, shared imaginings of a collective mind.  These beings observed and dictated events with the casual care one would have a game.  They saw future, past and present when they desired, and threw many major events to mere chance.   The player was freaked out when he realized his character was seeing the players and the storyteller!

Warren Ellis' Planetary was a second huge influence, with both Jenny Sparks and Elijah Snow sneaking into the game as older Neumen who were aware that the numbers served a purpose.   It was what kind of purpose that they were divided in answering.   Elijah Snow's role in the game was to direct the players eventually to the search for  Amon Göth , who served as the final antagonist in the story.

The movie Schilder's List was clearly an influence given Ralph Fiennes' role in the movie as the infamous Amon Goeth gave me the visual I wanted to throw into the game.  In this story, he had the ability to infect others and take over their bodies, like a living virus.  In many ways, his role in the Nazi concentration camps was one he maintained by infecting those around him.  And on the day of his hanging for his crimes against humanity, he passed on his DNA to his daughter, Monica Göth and used her as a safe vessel to further spread his influence.  He had hoped to take over the world, remaking it to what he deemed was a perfect society by infecting every living being, then culling the undesirables.  Elijah Snow, who cared for Amon and deemed him a friend during their younger years, had still hoped to help save his friend.  He believed the man could be redeemed, and that in many ways was his biggest mistake.

Lastly, the game was first conceived after seeing episodes of the show Fringe.  A game which explored the possibilities of super science, strange secret histories of the world, and the private battle between massively visible corporations was the foundation of the game's premise.


I would like to thank Paolo, Kristine, Baki and Miko for being in this game.  Special thanks also to my partner Rocky for vividly portraying the no-nonsense stoic self-assured smug bastard Elijah Snow.    Admittedly, his portrayal blew me away given how I only got him into gaming when we met barely three years ago.    And thank you to Zooey Deschanel for inspiring the NPC named Zooey who was an anomaly theory expert, who sprouted out the wildest, zaniest, funniest and at times frighteningly accurate declarations of why things were happening when they happened.   I have to admit, I loved seeing so many players cringe in that final sequence when she was shot thrice in a bid to make them surrender.
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