Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lacuna, The Birth of Additional Mysteries

Having been running Lacuna for a few sessions, I thought it would be nice to share some of the ideas that I've added to the game to make things more interesting.  For players who have not tried the awesome mystery thriller game, I highly recommend you do not read this article.    You would not want to spoil the game for yourself.

Lacuna, The Birth of Additional Mysteries
by Tobie Abad

Mystery Number One : Do not let the players read ANYTHING
Tell them the game is really fun and exciting and not to try to read up about it before the game.  Ask them to trust you.  The game is a one-shot unless they really like it.    And lastly, which I found to be the most exciting thing for the players, is to tell them that they should not even think of a character concept.  Their lack of knowing anything is part of their character.  And the character creation process itself is part of them learning about the roles they will play.  Their not knowing anything is perfect.  It is exactly what the character is going through.

Mystery Number Two : Approach the start of the game as a recruitment interview
Guide them through the process as the Recruiter.  Inform them gently that memory-loss is typical for all recruits, and for simplicity sake, they can refer to themselves as Recruit/Candidate A, B, etc...  And add immediately a request to set aside all electronic devices and items that are not appropriate for the recruitment process.  This includes cellular phones, tablets, other game books, and the like.  Some groups even remove drinks and snacks from the table.  I simply tell them to enjoy the food during recruitment but to know once the Mission begins, access to such will require requisitions from Control.  As they go through the Character Creation process, guide them to make the rolls as necessary, and to keep any inquiries as curt and quaint as possible.  Players are expected to stay in character from this point on.  At any time they start talking to each other using their real names, or discuss out-of-game things, start placing some tokens in what you've designated as the Static counter area.     If any of them EVER ask what that is about, or ask about anything which is beyond character creation, just calmly reply, "I'm sorry.  That is beyond your clearance level."

Once they are done with the character creation process, ask if they are all ready to begin the "Insertion into the Blue City."  Once they say yes, quietly stand up and prepare for the next step.

Mystery Number Three:  Change the Environment
Make any scenes in Recruitment differ from scenes while in the Blue City.  In my games, during Recruitment I leave track five of this soundtrack running, with the lights on and drinks and food freely being served.  Once they enter the Blue City, I shut the lights, and switch on a small lamp, forcing all players to lean closer to read their dice.   I hand them flashlights to scan the area if they need to.  I use flashlights and aim them at the player if the character is going through the same thing.

When they dove deeper into Deep-Blue level, I switched off the lamp, and surrounded the game table area with these christmas lights that slowly pulsed.  It made the mood of each level tremendously different.

Mystery Number Four:  Spiders
Suggest spider imagery or concepts to build a subconscious sense of tension that eventually erupts into panic as the spiders make their appearance.  Have characters brush their faces against spider webs in the initial parts of the mission.  Or mention black beady eyes.  Or hint at things moving in the darkness.  Or skittering feet.

Hint at them.  Suggest them.  If you want to be particularly evil, have a length of black thread.  With the lights dimmed, run it across a player or two but do not admit or state anything suggesting you did so.  Their slight moment of panic feeling something "crawl" past them should get them freaked.

THEN have the Spiders appear.

Mystery Number Five:  The Slab
Mention the Slab.  Talk about the Slab, but never explain the Slab.  When any of them ask about the Slab, cut away to another player, continue the scene, then jump back and suggest the discussion was earlier and the player can't seem to clearly recall what it was about.

Then, when they Eject from missions, have some of them wake up early enough to see hints of the slab.  Tubes.  Wires.  Bodies naked on metal gurneys.  Doctors.  Lights.  Beeping machines.

But never explain the Slab.  At least not until they start to figure it out on their own.

Mystery Number Six:  The Senior Agents
Given how most are MIA or KIA, have them appear in the game.  Leave the players to wonder if they were them.  Or they were some Personality pretending to be them.  In my games, Special Agent Miner has been pretty useful in this regard, especially given the Techniques he gives access to.

Mystery Number Seven:  When are you Awake?
Throw this in for a loop if you want to really make the players wonder.   Suggest that it will never be certain if they are truly "awake" or still on the Slab.  Are they only inserted in the Blue City?  Or are all the scenes in Recruitment and the like are still them in their inserted state, and is Recruitment just the Green Level of the Blue City?

Mystery Number Eight:  Who are We Really?
Is the Blue City a single person's mind, and you're all diving in to help him?  Or is the Blue City the collective unconscious of all the minds in the world?  A direction I like:  All the players are facets of a singular personality, that's dying to wake up.

Which of these is the real answer?  That's up to you!

Mystery Number Nine:  Hostile Personalities = Mystery Agents 
Given Techniques such as Cover, Documents, Safe House and the like, it is very possible that all Hostile Personalities are Mystery Agents who have chosen NOT to Eject.  Or could not.

Make this an angle to consider if you want to make your players freak.

Mystery Number Ten:  Meta
In one session, I had a player defeat a Spider and steal the files the Spider kept in his bag.  The files were documents that had the name of the player himself, his hobbies, his passions, etc.  The player stared at me, horrified, and asked, "Am I actually just playing myself?"

Yeah, keep them guessing.

Mystery Number Eleven:  A Bonus One for Experienced Players
All players, even when they play new characters, are still the same person.
Agent Names are all individual people.
The Agent Currier you met today.  The Agent Currier you killed next week?
They're all the same person.

In the Blue City, time is as fluid as reality.
█ █ █.
Warning.  This is Clearance Level Wne.  You do not have Clearance for ths levl.
Eject. █.


  1. MAN, I can't wait to get an opportunity to run Lacuna! I'm going to use so many of these, thank you so much. :)

    1. And an additional mystery off the top of my head: Along the lines of number two, if possible, show up to the session in the standard mystery agent uniform (black suit, black tie, white shirt), with all the relevant documents/dice/charsheets in a briefcase.

    2. Hey you're very much welcome.

      As to coming up dressed as that, that's always a plus. I'm still working on having Lacuna pins made. As of now, we use these: http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/83346/heart-rate-monitordial-for-lacuna which allows me to have moments where they literally "throw" it away or hand it to me in scenes where I demand they surrender the Lacuna device, etc.

      I've been hinting that a more compact version, the size of a pin, is being produced. So yeah, its all nicely meta.

    3. This is great advice. Thanks. I just love how Lacuna forces GMs to come up with their own stuff. Make sure to check out the unofficial Lacuna page on Google+ : https://plus.google.com/b/114524419467890916992/114524419467890916992/

      and its archive : tinyurl.com/ejectnowjeject

    4. Thanks for the kind words, Glass. I'll try checking those links out soon. Do feel free to share my link there too :-)


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