Friday, November 30, 2012

Recruitment #01 : Lacuna Part I

Recruitment #01
Lacuna Part I. The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City

I heard about this game mid November and I will admit, I was anxious to actually learn more.  The reviews I read spoke much about the game being ground-breaking and after discovering how much more fun games by John Wick were, I realized I should open myself to other game systems, especially by independent creators.

Jared Soreson, the creator of Lacuna, first caught my attention when I heard about the parsely rpgs, which were games in the homage of old text-based role-playing games like Zork.  I was looking for a new easy to learn role-playing game to toss a friend of mine who wanted a solo game session.  The name Lacuna was often mentioned in so many forum posts and as I read more reviews, I realized I just had to try this.  Finally, I grabbed the pdf copy of Lacuna Part I (second attempt) at Drivethrurpg and started reading.  Within the same day, I was hungry to run the game.  The system was simple enough that I could focus more on mood development and tension building.  I didn't think I'd have a chance to run the game yet, but fate would have a different plan for me.  Half of the players of the Houses of the Blooded troupe that used to play every Saturday was suddenly not free, and so I asked the two others if they were interested in playing something completely different.  They agreed, and even opted to drag their brother with them (they claimed he's been wanting to play under me for quite some time) and so here I am finally happily running Lacuna Part I.  For those wanting a teaser on what this game is about, feel free to go here.  However, I truly feel it would be best to experience, and learn everything in-game and thankfully my players trusted me enough to jump into the game without reading ANYTHING about the game.

The players arrived and I opted to leave them in the room with some "elevator music" playing.   I headed downstairs to buy some soda, and accompany Rocky out (he had to head to work), but the moment I returned to the unit, I greeted the three players as if it were some business meeting, and welcomed them and asked if we were to start the recruitment process.  I immediately identified each one as Candidate A, Candidate B and Candidate C, and went through the character creation process.  As they gained their pseudonyms, rolled their age, noted their Heart rates and finalized their Skills and Techniques, I congratulated them for passing the recruitment process, reminded them that food, drinks and electronic devices were not allowed during the session, and that they only had three hours to accomplish their mission.  (The players quickly decided I looked like Jeri Ryan.  I wonder if somehow my diction made them image her as well.)  When the players all declared they were ready, I stood up, slowly turned off the lights one by one, until only the bathroom light that cast into the room, and the orange glow of Christmas lights by the window was left on.  I sat back down, faded the music out completely, and began describing how each of them had opened their eyes to find themselves in the Blue City.  "Memories are fuzzy at this point in time, post Insertion.  Please reconvene with your Team Leader," was what the Mystery Agents remembered.

The weirdness of the Blue City assaulted the players quickly.  The Team Leader, Agent Stringer found himself arguing with a bartender in an establishment called The Bar, about having not paid his bills for drinks he did not recall ever ordering.  He tried to ignore the pair of guys who had only their right eye (the left eye socket looked like it had healed over and closed up) and were throwing knives at the wall the way guys play with darts.  Quickly calling Control with the land line at the wall, the Team Leader requisitioned for cash and received  the exact amount to pay for the bill.

The second one, Agent Currier, awoke to find herself in front of a massive door.  The sign above the door came into focus and read, "The Bar."  Agent Currier opened the door and stepped inside and saw Agent Stringer arguing with the bartender.  He pulls out a dozen weirdly-shaped and colored bills, and watches as the bartender begins counting.  Agent Currier asks Agent Stringer if this was the mission, and the bartender then hands them a suitcase and tells them, "That's what you left with me when you first arrived."
"How long was he here drinking," Agent Currier asked, but the bartender merely ignored the question.

The third one, Agent Granger, found himself at a roof top.  As he posed by the roof edge, he could hear giggles coming from a nearby window.  (The two other players were giggling, but rather than break the mood and ask them to stop, I used the sound they made to add to the scene.)  Making his way down, Granger finds the nearest land line, calls Control, and asks for Intel.  Control reminds him to find the Team Leader, then from there, locate the Mission Papers which were with the bartender.  As he looks for the Bar, walking away from a man who coughs wet orgami cranes, and the dead great white shark on the ground, he reaches the front of The Bar to find an Extremely Seductive Woman in Red who pretends to smoke an invisible cigarette.  She asks for a light, and Granger admits to not recognizing her. "I remember you, Granger.  From Dnalop..."  He seems confused, and she continues, "Ride with me.  Leave with me.  Take me with you."  But when Granger turns the offer down, the Extremely Seductive Woman in Red guns the engine and drives away.  Agent Granger enters the Bar to see the two others at a table, discussing things.

They open the folder and learn the Mission was to "Locate the Woman in Red.  Retrieve the Folders in her hands.  Eject."  Upon overhearing Granger talk about seeing such a woman, Agent Currier and the team leader hurry outside to find where she had gone.  Agent Granger tries joking around with the bartender, but his words seemingly bother her, drawing her to pull out her shotgun and fire into his shoulder.  Agent Granger drops to the ground in pain (-1 Force) and Agent Stringer hurries inside to drag him out.  As the three slam the door behind them, they easily see the area further downtown slides into a slope overlooking the city, as if "downtown" was 90 to 120 degrees at an angle.   Agent Currier breaks into a run, hoping to catch up with the Extremely Seductive Woman in Red  who had turned the car to park in this great park in the distance.  Agent Granger pulls to the side to try and heal the wound, but does not have the Commendation Points to activate the healing.  Agent Stringer reminds him time is running, and the two opt to find a car they can use.  The cars seem organic.  Alive.  And Agent Granger learns to steer one by sliding this tube-like umbilical cord from the card's dashboard into his own left eye (He remembered the Bar).  The car roared into life and the two quickly made to follow where Agent Currier had gone.

Up at downtown, Agent Currier makes contact with Extremely Seductive Woman in Red, who admits to not recognizing her.  She invites Agent Currier into The Garden, but Agent Currier instead chooses to wait for the others.  When the three finally regroup, they go inside and find the garden is filled with trees where real animals have been tied to the trees.  Workers tirelessly paint the animals green, to match the trees until they look like trees that have been hedged into beasts.  Extremely Seductive Woman in Red taps the marble table beside her, and a folder begins to emerge.  "This is what you came for, Agents?"

A phone rings in the distance.  Agent Currier opts to check it out, while the two others make a deal with Extremely Seductive Woman in Red.  Currier learns on the phone was Control, who warns her to tell the others not to negotiate with the Extremely Seductive Woman in Red.  Agent Currier drops the phone to hurry back, but her return is intercepted by a man in what looked like an outdated Eastern Bloc uniform.  As she moved towards him more, he pulls out a pistol and fires, clipping her in the left shoulder! (-1 Force)

Agent Stringer and Agent Granger try to convince Extremely Seductive Woman in Red  to just agree to a deal.  But she insists that the two must agree to one single term, and she will hand them the folder:  Granger demands to know what she wants and she leans to whisper to him, "I want you to promise to take me with you."

Hearing the gun shots, the two curried outside to help Agent Currier.  The Extremely Seductive Woman in Red made her exit, vanishing without further words.  But both arrived too late and Agent Currier is forced to Eject before she is killed for real.  They open fire, but the "Spider-man" seems harder to bring down than they thought.  They pull out and Eject.


Back at Control, the woman kindly talks to each of them to debrief them of the mission.  Only Agent Granger, however, shares how they all had to Eject as the "Spider-"

"Do not mention that name.  That word.  It is outside your Clearance," Control interrupts him.

Agent Granger then finds himself escorted by two bruiser fellows to leave the room, and before anything else happens, a shot is heard somewhere not too far.  The door opens, and a new recruit steps in.  "Welcome to the recruitment," Control speaks. The new recruit breezes through character creation, and just before that ends, Control informs Agent Currier and Agent Stringer that the new recruit does not look like anyone they've seen before.  (Clarifying new characters are new characters, not just different names.)

The three discuss promising to work together to make things work   Control tells them to relax, and inform Control once they are ready for another Dive.  Agent Stringer maintains his Team Leader position.  And Agent Harper, the new Mystery Agent, wonders how things will turn out.


The game was a fun brooding experience from the get go.  Some of the things I added to the game included actually adjusting the lighting of the room to be different when they were talking to Control face-to-face and while they were inside the Blue City.  Since I usually used ambient music in my games, to make the initial session unnerving, I did not use music while in the Blue City, until they started to make better sense of the world around them.  Basically I let the game feel more "familiar" once they started to act more confident.

Special thanks go out to Travis Carr who made a Lacuna Heart Rate Dial.   Instead of the lapel pin, however, I liked the idea that the Lacuna device was clunkier and something the players actually held.  So the Heart Dial became the Lacuna Device, and the players would be holding it the whole time whenever they wanted to do risks and whenever they were tempted to Eject.

While the game system supposedly does not have the GM rolling dice, I still kinda liked using dice to bring tension.  So in sequences where I wanted to throw some tension without "forcing players to gain heart beats per minute," I would hold a d6 and ask the players to either call it "Odds or Evens" (if I wanted a 50-50%) or to call out a specific number which if I rolled meant bad stuff would happen.

Finally, I kept static for the initial session as an auditory thing.  While they were talking to Control, I would streak my words into static at times, forcing them to try to fill in the gaps.

Whenever the players needed a time-out, I would shift the music back to the "elevator music", then switch back all the lights on, and as Control, talk to them about things as if it were a debriefing.  Then invite them to grab some refreshments or use the bathroom while we were chatting.   It gave the feeling that even breaks were "in-game" which made things even feel more meta and cool.

The game was going so well for us, we opted to go straight to a second session immediately.

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