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Author Topic: Prepping For Dust Devils/Deathwish: How much is too much?  (Read 1938 times)
jburneko
Member

Posts: 1351


« on: December 20, 2002, 01:56:17 PM »

Hello,

I'd like a word of advice from those of you who have played Dust Devils concerning how much pre-play prep to do.  I've played low director stance games like Sorcerer with LOTS of prep and I've played high director stance games like InSpectres with ZERO prep.  However, Dust Devils feels like it falls right in the middle.  If feels like it needs MORE prep than InSpectres as a baseline, but too much prep and it begins to get harder and harder to abandon certain preconcieved ideas when the player's throw you a wrench.

In any event, I was VERY inspired by Matt's Dust Devils varrient Deathwish.  Finally, a spy game I can sink my teeth into.  So, I started scribling a lot of notes.  I noticed that I seemed to be borrowing a lot from Tom Stoppard's exclent play Hapgood (If you've never had a chance to see a Stoppard play, I suggested you treat yourself and go buy an anthology of his work.  This man is a GENIUS), mainly because it starts out exactly the same way the example hook/kicker in Deathwish sets things up: A bunch of agents chasing a briefcase.  So, I decided to go ahead and reread that play to refresh my memory.

I'd forgotten how much there was too that play.  It turns out that there's a pretty dense R-Map and a very complex backstory at the heart of the story.  Here it is in brief:

Hapgood is a high ranking british intelligence office who happened to have an affair with one her defector Russian scientists, Kenzer.  This affair bore a son Joe.  Joe does not know who his father is.

Kenzer, is a Russian double agent and brilliant physicist.  He has been trading fake British energy and weapon scientific information to keep his cover up and to obtain information on KGB activity.  Recently, the KGB found out about Kenzer's son and have been threating to kidnap him if Kenzer doesn't start handing over more reliable and more important information.  Kenzer has agreed to this.  Hapgood is unaware of this threat.

Ridley is Hapgood's primary partner.  He has a thing for Hapgood but deeply resents her strength and intelligence.  He is a traitor who has been aiding foriegn agencies with things as underhanded as assassinating fellow agents and informants.  So far he has been free of suspicion because he has been using his twin brother to establish alibies for all these "blown missions."

There are three other agents in the story (Blair who has a deep respect and cares for Hapgood but seems to be all business before pleasure.  Wates, a CIA agent sent in to find out why british intelligence is so leaky, and Merryweather who is used mainly for comic relief.  The only other character in the play is Maggs, Hapgood secretary).  All of these characters may or may not be replaced with PCs depending on circumstances.

So here are some of my concerns:

1) The R-Map hangs on the source material's actual protagonist who is usually removed when using this technique.  In this case the R-map is interesting BECAUSE of this connection.  I don't want this character to be a blackhole of focus.  I thought about fixing this by playing Hapgood not as strong as she is presented in the play but rather as an undecided foil clearly torn between her loyalties and her family.  What side she REALLY ends up on depends on PC decisions and interactions.

2) This is a LOT of stuff that is "set in stone" for such a high director stance game like Dust Devils.  Obviously, I'd be prepared to abandon any and all of it in favor of what the PCs come up with but I'm wary about the line between solid foundation and too much upfront.

What I REALLY like about this setup, however, is it's a little nuclear reactor of potential conflict.  The play it comes from is a pretty talky psycho-thriller but there's absolutely no reason this couldn't explode into an action-adventure spythriller.  Kenzer, Hapgood and Ridley all have the potential to grow into full fledged villains or formidable allies.  And it's a boon that there is no pre-established villain or impending doomsday plot.

I'm thinking about telling the player's upfront that the starting location of the game will be London England.  The timeperiod is mid-eighties with the Cold War still giong on.  The player's can be CIA, MI-6 or KGB.  The CIA agents are sent in to find out why Britain is so leaky.  MI-6 agents are assigned to find the mole and the KGB agents are there to find out where Kenzer's loyalties really lie.  That's it.  From there just GO!

So what are your thoughts on this set-up?  Too little?  Too much?  Needs more spice?  What do you think?

Jesse
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Matt Snyder
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Posts: 1380


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« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2002, 09:31:56 AM »

Quote from: jburneko
I'm thinking about telling the player's upfront that the starting location of the game will be London England.  The timeperiod is mid-eighties with the Cold War still giong on.  The player's can be CIA, MI-6 or KGB.  The CIA agents are sent in to find out why Britain is so leaky.  MI-6 agents are assigned to find the mole and the KGB agents are there to find out where Kenzer's loyalties really lie.  That's it.  From there just GO!


Jesse --

I think you’re right -- that Dust Devils may require some “medium” level (relatively speaking) of preparation. However, with ambitious players your backstory preparation may not even be needed. When running The Hanged Man at GenCon, I don’t think we ever got Clara and the Mayor involved. It was all about the PCs (and, granted, it was in short sessions).

So, in other words, that paragraph I just quoted above is probably enough to go on for a game or two. That you have a complicated web of intrigue into which they might delve is probably a great thing. Just be prepared to shift it according to player narrations and decisions. It WILL change. That said, the intrigue you’ve worked out will be a great game for the players to dive into. Make sure you know and understand all the relations well, especially so you can alter aspects of them.

Oh yeah, and this seriously kicks ass. It DEFINITELY fits the Deathwish concept -- high action is not a necessary element. “High” conflict is. Also, since this is a little more “realistic,” the gadgets can be “real-world” stuff like parabolic mikes, bugs, and even simply silenced pistols. They need not be Bond-like gadgets (but it’s so fun!).

Enjoy it!
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Matt Snyder
www.chimera.info

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra
jburneko
Member

Posts: 1351


« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2003, 09:29:40 AM »

Hello Matt,

Sorry for the delay in reply, but I've been out of town for two weeks.  I appreciate the feedback and it lines up with my suspicions.  The bit about having two characters from your demo scenario never come into play confirmed my inkling that such stuff MUST happen in a game like Dust Devils.

Thanks again for the input.

Jesse
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