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Author Topic: [AP] From the Casebook of Donne & Donne, Detectives  (Read 4682 times)
Doyce
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« on: March 17, 2007, 09:36:01 PM »

Next weekend, my fiance's in town and I wanted to have a social kind of gaming thing go on because (a) it's a chance for both of us to hang out with all my friends here (b) social (c) while both she and I game, we really haven't done much gaming together at all -- basically two games that had a few too many players and in which we kind of chaotic either as a result of intentionally (running 12 players in the Risus mega-module "A Kringle in Time" = Intentionally Chaotic).

So anyway, I checked with her to see if some kind of game thing would be cool, it totally is, and due to the super-creative nature of the player's I'd be doing this with, and the fact that our history involves a fair amount of diceless stuff, I decided on running Mortal Coil and seeing what happened.

The problem: I haven't actually run MC before.

The solution: test run with two of my 'regular' players (who are also playing next week) to go through the whole 'pitch session', character creation, and a sample conflict to see where the hitches and questions arose.

I will first post what we ended up with, briefly summarize the action, and then list some questions I'd REALLY like to get answers for prior to next week's game.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Doyce
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« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2007, 09:57:01 PM »

Theme Document

Tone:
From him: Dresden Files, Angel, Noir Urban Fantasy...
From her: Fafrd & the Grey Mouser, Undercover Blues, Buddy hijinx, 50 Detective Movie... more upbeat than Angel, and a bit more than Dresden
From me: "Reminds of Cast a Deadly Spell, starring Fred Ward..."

Setting: San Francisco, 1950's

Elevator Pitch: A husband and wife team of detectives, specializing in magical cases in a world that pretends magic doesn't exist.  ("He's a clairvoyant veteran of a special WW2 army unit, she's a chinese american descended from the Celestial Court... together, THEY FIGHT CRIME!")

The Supernatural Questions:
- How common is magic? On a scale of 1 to 10? 3

- What is magic's general feel? Weird and somewhat seductive ('easy and quick' ways to do things tend to be a slippery path)

- What kind of creatures? No skin walkers.  Anything is fine, provided the lighter tone of the setting is respected.

- Who knows about magic? Those whose background relates to it.

- How is it acquired, learned, and taught? Magic techniques can be taught, though one can be born into native abilities, or be the victim of magical curses or blessings.

- Who can do it? Anyone can learn it, though people can still have natural aptitudes or a 'knack' for it that makes them the preferable student.

- Are there places of power? Yes.  Stonehenge, a particular cable car, the world's largest ball of twine...

Magic level: Moderate (13 Magic tokens for each player).

Situation: Two weeks ago, a son of the Chinese "Celestial Court" (read: Chinese seelie court), traveling abroad for the heck of it, was killed in a San Francisco Chinatown brothel/opium den.  The Celestials are sending someone to investigate.

NPCs/Villains:
- Head of the local Tong
- High Celestial Inspector Fong (aka: The Jade Dragon of the East)
- Emperor Norton
- Cable Car 12
- Curator of the Pan Asian Museum
- The Wild Woman

Magical Facts:
- Clairvoyants exist (bought by Dave during chargen)
- Chinese celestials can breed with mortals (bought by Margie during chargen)
- Hedge magic exists (bought by Dave during chargen)
- Chinese dragons exist (bought by me during support cast chargen)
- Chinese dragons can assume human form, but there is some telltale in their appearance that even mundanes can sense. (GM created)
- Chinese Sorcerers can paralyze people with a look, but it can be contested (GM created)
- Chinese Sorcerers can summon Ancestor Spirits to defend them, but it fatigues the Sorcerer (GM created)
- Chinese Celestials are resistant to magic, but they can't resist magic and use magic at the same time (Margie)
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Doyce
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« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2007, 10:08:38 PM »

Player Characters

Chrys (Chrysanthemum) Donne (Half-celestial chinese detective, wife of Roger Donne)

Passions:
Love: Roger Donne (2)
Hate: Prejudice (1)
Duty: Family within the Celestial Court (1)
Love: San Franciso (1)

Experience: Veteran

Force: 4
Grace: 3
Will: 2
Wits: 2

Aptitudes:
Martial artist: 3
Detective: 1
Acrobat: 2
Celestial*: 3


----------------------------------

Roger Donne ("Special Unit" War veteran, 1950's detective)

Passions:
Love: Chrys Donne (2)
Hate: Being ordered around (2)
Duty: To help others (1)

Experience: Veteran

Force: 2
Grace: 2
Will: 4
Wits: 3

Aptitudes:
Detective: 3
Soldier: 1
Clairvoyant*: 2
Hedge mage (soldiery)*: 1
Occult Researcher: 2

----------------------------------

Non-Player Character

High Inspector Fong (Ageless Celestial Buttonman/Enforcer/Jade Dragon of the East Wind)

Passions:
Duty: Serve the Celestial Court (2)
Love: The Celestial Queen (2)
Hate: Gaijin and Half-breeds (1)

Experience: Ageless

Force: 4
Grace: 2
Will: 5
Wits: 4

Aptitudes:
Dragon: 5
High Inspector: 4
Martial Artist: 4
Diplomat: 2
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Doyce
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Posts: 442


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« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2007, 10:15:08 PM »

We had a great time coming up with this setting, situation, theme, the characters... just everything.  Those this was meant to be a sort of one-shot test run, with hardly any play, we agreed that it would be great to keep Donne and Donne 'at the ready' for those times when just the three of us can play -- the situation as we set it up was immediately interesting to us and had all kinds of ideas percolating.

For a quick little 'test run', we started in the middle of the action -- the culmination of an investigation of the kidnapping of young Chinese girl who had been abducted by a magically well-verse branch of the local Tong -- the case right before the stuff surrounding the dead celestial prince.  The scene was a warehouse, there were two or three enforcers guarding the girl, one of whom was a sorcerer, and the players' goal was to get the girl out.

We ran a couple rounds of the conflict, took quite a few notes, and then called it quites for the night; we'd started late, spent about an hour on the theme document, a similar amount on the characters, had supper, then a couple rounds of conflict and it was plenty late for all of us.

All that stuff did lead to a couple questions, which I'm finally getting to in the following post...
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Doyce
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Posts: 442


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« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2007, 11:07:53 PM »

Questions:

Magic & Power Pools for NPCs:
The last paragraph on page 40 of the book specifically talks about the Action and Passion Pools that each supporting character should have, seems to imply that supporting characters have no Power Pool of their own, and does not talk about the Magic Pool at all.

Do supporting characters get their own Power Pool, plus access to the GM's 'generic' Power Pool, or do they just get the GM's pool?
Do supporting characters get their own Magic Pool, plus access to the GM's 'generic' Magic Pool, or do they just get the GM's pool?

Surprise and Sneaking:
We started our little conflict with the heroes sneaking up on the tong thugs.  Sneaking up on someone seems to be a damned tricky situation -- the basic problem being that such things are usually contested by a sort of generic perception test in other games, but in MC, if the victim truly doesn't know you're there, they don't get to allocate Actions to 'noticing you'... unless they're aware that you're there, or something.  How do you have someone (a guard, say) who doesn't know you're around actively resist your sneaking, if he doesn't know you're there?

Side note: someone who honestly doesn't know you're there is totally screwed -- if they actually want to have a hope in hell of 'noticing' you as you sneak up, they have to wait for the reveal, then use the Desperate Reactions rules to reallocate (which spends an Action token), then spend *another* Action Token so they can commit further action tokens to the noticing -- this means their action token pool is down two points -- as bad as a serious injury -- before they even get to act offensively in the next round -- assuming they even DO get to act.)  By rights, if they totally get beat down on that conflict, they never even know anything's going on.

It seems a bit weird -- they're badly penalized during the 'sneaking up' round, and if they lose, they're effectively set up for another round of getting hosed in the second round, because they're still unaware, plus their Action Pool is already getting depleted.  "I sneak up, then attack him with surprise." seems to be a killer one-two punch.... heck, you don't even need a one-two punch -- the first round of 'surprise' gives one side a decisive victory in their favor and the conflict's over... hmm.  I think there must be a different way to deal with this, and I'm not seeing it.

I would VERY MUCH like to get some thoughts on how to handle stuff like this.

Conflict Triggers on Magic Facts, invoked during a pre-existing Conflict
Let's say that I make a magical fact that says "Sorcerers can throw gobs of fire at people."  The cost for that fact is that it triggers a conflict to determine success.   This seems to create a wrinkle when the magical ability in question is going to be used during the middle of a pre-existing conflict -- the example with the jewelers loup isn't very useful here, as the loup wouldn't normally be used in a pre-existing conflict.

What I mean is this: if the "Triggered Conflict" Cost that balances the power means that, no matter what, the target always gets to enter a contest to see if the power works on them, then the sorcerer loses the tactical benefit that comes from surprising their opponent with an unexpected move, because their target will automatically get a 'free' mini-conflict to resist it.  Should a 'Conflict Triggered" power invoked in combat simply be treated as any other kind of offensive action, meaning that the 'right' of the target to resist the power can be avoided if the sorcerer out maneuvers their opponent?

I think the answer's yes, but I want to check.

Spending Magic Tokens to Activate Magical Facts

This is going to require an example.  Let's say we have these magical facts in play in a game:

- Celestial beings are resistant to magic, but cannot use another magical ability while resisting some other magic.
- Celestial beings can read fortunes in the shape of the clouds, but their interpretation is highly subjective.
- Celestial beings can leap long distances, but only when wearing nothing but silk.

... and ...

- Chinese dragons can fly when in dragon form, but cannot enter Buddhist temples in that form.

In the first scene of a new session, Chrys, who has "Celestial" as a magical aptitude, wants to use that aptitude to resist the magical persuasion of a fox spirit.  She spends a magical token to invoke her Aptitude.

In the next scene, she wants to read her husband's fortune in the clouds.  This ability is also a Fact related to being Celestial, which is an magical Aptitude she already 'activated' for the session -- does she have to spend a Magic token to activate that as-yet-unactivated Fact related to fortune-telling, or is that Fact-activation covered under the umbrella of the "Celestial" magical aptitude, which she already spent a token to activate?

In the next scene, Chrys is chasing a tong thief over some rooftops.  The thief makes a long leap to another roof -- far too long for a normal jump.  Chrys wants to follow, and as a Fact that lets her make long leaps, but she's wearing regular American street clothes, not silk.  Does the GM have to spend a magical token to 'activate' that magical Fact/cost, or is it considered "already on," under the umbrella of Chrys's Celestial magical aptitude, which her player already paid to activate for this session?

(This last question touches on "World Facts" like the "vampires can't cross running water" example in the book.)

Later, Chrys is fleeing a dragon.  There is a Magical Fact already established that states that "Dragons cannot enter Buddhist temples when in dragon form," so the player has Chrys duck into a temple.  At this point, does the player need to spend a magical token to 'activate' that fact for this session, or is that sort of fact considered 'always on'?

Follow-up question to that: What if Chrys had already spent all her magical tokens for the session, but still ducked into the temple?  Does that mean that, for some reason, the 'laws' of the setting simply don't apply right then?  Seems a bit odd -- as though Buffy would need to keep a few magical tokens handy every session JUST to continually 'enforce' (through fact activation) that vampires need invitations to enter someone's home and that they burn when exposed to sunlight...

My gut instinct with these "Fact activation" questions is that "World/Setting Facts" are "always on" for free, but that you need to spend a magical token to activate individual 'personal facts' each session, even if several pertain to the same Magical Aptitude.

... but with that said, I'm VERY willing to be corrected in my thinking.

----

It seems like we came up with a lot of questions, but let me assure you that there a LOT stuff about this game that we all REALLY liked -- sorting out the Magical Fact spending was a bit weird, and handing Sneaking/Surprise was... frustrating and clunky and not at all pretty -- I'd very very much like to hear about some elegant MC-fu that can handle that sort of situation.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Three-Star Dave
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« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2007, 06:27:41 PM »

As one of the players, let me echo Doyce's note that we really enjoyed a lot of aspects of the system -- the player gen and the ongoing setting gen.  I suspect that we were struggling with macro-vs-micro conflict resolution issues, and I suspect as well that once we get past that, this will be a truly spiffy system to run in.  (If only the rule book were in stock ... )
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Brennan Taylor
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« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2007, 12:05:33 PM »

This game sounds awesome, Doyce! Thanks for posting. Let me take a crack at your questions.

Magic & Power Pools for NPCs:

NPCs do not have magic or power pools of their own. The GM's magic pool and power pool are there to be shared among all of the supporting characters he controls.

Surprise and Sneaking:
We started our little conflict with the heroes sneaking up on the tong thugs.  Sneaking up on someone seems to be a damned tricky situation -- the basic problem being that such things are usually contested by a sort of generic perception test in other games, but in MC, if the victim truly doesn't know you're there, they don't get to allocate Actions to 'noticing you'... unless they're aware that you're there, or something.  How do you have someone (a guard, say) who doesn't know you're around actively resist your sneaking, if he doesn't know you're there?

Here is the important thing to determine in this situation: what is the character's goal in the conflict? Sneaking is an action that you would perform in a conflict, it is not really a conflict in itself.

Whether the goal is to sneak past the guard or to attack the guard (with sneaking as a tactic to give you an advantage), the guard will allocate as normal. Even if he doesn't know the character is there, a conflict is a game mechanic that is above in-game knowledge. The guard would get Wits + Guard or something if he is keeping an eye out. The player doesn't have to announce before allocation that he is going to sneak, all he has to announce is the final goal. Then, if he allocated a sneaking action and the guard had no defense against that, all of the Desperate Reaction rules would come into play.

I hope this makes sense. What was the conflict goal in the scenario you played?

Conflict Triggers on Magic Facts, invoked during a pre-existing Conflict
What I mean is this: if the "Triggered Conflict" Cost that balances the power means that, no matter what, the target always gets to enter a contest to see if the power works on them, then the sorcerer loses the tactical benefit that comes from surprising their opponent with an unexpected move, because their target will automatically get a 'free' mini-conflict to resist it.  Should a 'Conflict Triggered" power invoked in combat simply be treated as any other kind of offensive action, meaning that the 'right' of the target to resist the power can be avoided if the sorcerer out maneuvers their opponent?

I think the answer's yes, but I want to check.

If a fact has a triggered conflict as a price, it will always be triggered when the power is used. This may make the power less effective, but that's why it's a price.

Spending Magic Tokens to Activate Magical Facts
In the first scene of a new session, Chrys, who has "Celestial" as a magical aptitude, wants to use that aptitude to resist the magical persuasion of a fox spirit.  She spends a magical token to invoke her Aptitude.

In the next scene, she wants to read her husband's fortune in the clouds.  This ability is also a Fact related to being Celestial, which is an magical Aptitude she already 'activated' for the session -- does she have to spend a Magic token to activate that as-yet-unactivated Fact related to fortune-telling, or is that Fact-activation covered under the umbrella of the "Celestial" magical aptitude, which she already spent a token to activate?

Players must spend a magic token to activate a magical aptitude, "Celestial" in this case. Once activated, any facts related to Celestial can be used as often as desired. Any fact not tied to a character's aptitude are considered "always on" and in play at all times. Other players can also use the disadvantages tied to a character's aptitude at any time, whether the aptitude is activated or not.
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Doyce
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« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2007, 01:14:47 PM »

This game sounds awesome, Doyce! Thanks for posting. Let me take a crack at your questions.

Magic & Power Pools for NPCs:

NPCs do not have magic or power pools of their own. The GM's magic pool and power pool are there to be shared among all of the supporting characters he controls.

Awesome. Thanks.

Surprise and Sneaking:
We started our little conflict with the heroes sneaking up on the tong thugs.

Here is the important thing to determine in this situation: what is the character's goal in the conflict? Sneaking is an action that you would perform in a conflict, it is not really a conflict in itself.

Whether the goal is to sneak past the guard or to attack the guard (with sneaking as a tactic to give you an advantage), the guard will allocate as normal. [snip]

I hope this makes sense. What was the conflict goal in the scenario you played?

That's what I started to realize the next day when I got to thinking about it.  Makes perfect sense.   The goal of the conflict for the players was 'get the girl out safely.'  For some reason, we went into a task-resolution, instead of conflict resolution mode.

Conflict Triggers on Magic Facts, invoked during a pre-existing Conflict
What I mean is this: if the "Triggered Conflict" Cost that balances the power means that, no matter what, the target always gets to enter a contest to see if the power works on them, then the sorcerer loses the tactical benefit that comes from surprising their opponent with an unexpected move, because their target will automatically get a 'free' mini-conflict to resist it.  Should a 'Conflict Triggered" power invoked in combat simply be treated as any other kind of offensive action, meaning that the 'right' of the target to resist the power can be avoided if the sorcerer out maneuvers their opponent?

I think the answer's yes, but I want to check.

If a fact has a triggered conflict as a price, it will always be triggered when the power is used. This may make the power less effective, but that's why it's a price.

Okay -- I'm on board with that, though that does raise a question: if this mini-conflict happens in the middle of an ongoing conflict, does the triggered-conflict just count as an additional opponent in that round?  I'm not sure how else to do it, since there are already action tokens allocated.   Lots of ways to deal with this, I suppose, but I'm curious how you'd approach that.


Aside from that -- yeah, it's a really cool setting and game -- the players are excited to keep it as a small, always-available pick-up game for the three of us -- one player's actually writing some mini-fiction based on the characters... it's a very inspiring game.  I can't wait to run it again this weekend.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
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