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Author Topic: Miskatonic High: InSpectres variant w/ help from Dust Devils  (Read 3278 times)
Rob MacDougall

Posts: 160

« on: January 16, 2003, 07:36:04 PM »

Hi, folks. Been lurking for a while, but this is my first post to The Forge, and since I found this place via Jared’s very groovy games, it seemed appropriate to start by dancing with the game that brought me in here.

I’m thinking of using InSpectres to run a Buffy the Vampire Slayer - style “photogenic teens versus supernatural horrors TV-show game” tentatively called “Miskatonic High School.” I know the idea of using InSpectres for a Buffy type game is far from new. But I’ve been thinking about how that genre differs from the Ghostbusters / Startup world that InSpectres evokes so well, and wanted to come up with some mechanics to match.

My main goal is to keep the free-styling narrative flow of InSpectres, but replace the financial / startup / business franchise concerns of the game with something closer to the concerns of the supernatural teen soap genre: the interplay between the mundane trials of high school life and fighting the forces of darkness. Put flippantly, the premise could be: “What’s worse: a shoggoth or a zit?”

Here’s what I’m imagining. The PCs are all high school students who band together to fight the Great Old Ones, vampires, pirate mummies, whatever. Each has the standard 4 InSpectre stats (maybe renamed for high school flavor), plus an “Issue” (as in, “that girl’s got issues”) or Subplot.

The Issue/Subplot is, I guess, a cross between a Kicker and the Devil mechanic from Dust Devils. That is, it’s a player-chosen problem or situation that is driving the PC (“I’m obsessed with my weight.” “I’m trying to hide the fact that my family is poor.” “I’m madly in love with an unattainable guy/girl.”), and it’s given a numeric rating (starting from, say 1-3) that is added to the PC’s dice pool in situations where it might aid their actions and subtracted in situations where it might detract. (So the kid with the crush gets a penalty when trying to talk to the object of his, but gets a bonus if, say, he ever has to rescue her from zombies.)

And there’s a strict rule about Issues/Subplots: they must be mundane problems that a normal teenager might have to deal with. No vampire issues, cultist issues, mummy pirate issues, etc. here. Those show up in the main storyline (the Plot), but the subplots are always normal problems of adolescence.

The general mechanics of InSpectres (skill rolls, stress rolls, and narration) remain the same. But we dispense with Bank Dice, the Library Card, Gym Membership, etc. And we rename Franchise Dice to Plot Dice (since they no longer measure money, only how far along we are in the plot) and add something called Subplot Dice.

Each time a player should by InSpectres rules receive a “Franchise Die” (as a result of a successful roll), they have the choice of making that into a Plot Die (and thus getting the entire team of PCs closer to figuring out and ultimately defeating the supernatural bad guy of the week) or making that an individual Subplot Die and adding it to their existing subplot rating (thus intensifying their focus on their individual concerns). Since the Subplot rating can be both a penalty or a bonus, this makes the PC more erratic as the "episode" goes on. But, if the player can bend the story around so that defeating the baddie of the week is somehow connected to resolving their own individual problem, they will receive a potentially large bonus of dice towards doing so.

My hope is, then, that in actual play, the players will, while building the story and creating this week’s supernatural menace, keep trying to warp it around to some reflection of their individual PC’s issues, nicely reflecting the way characters on these shows (and perhaps adolescents in general?) interpret everything, even sanity-blasting supernatural threats, through the lens of their own specific, mundane problems.

Does this make sense? I know the kind of effect I want to create, but I’m not quite there with the mechanics.  I want the players to be constantly choosing between prioritizing their individual (mundane) subplot and the group (supernatural) plot. I want the characters to get more and more overwrought as the episode goes on, until they are finally able to channel all that teen angst (represented by the accumulating subplot dice) into simultaneously resolving both plot and subplot at once.

Now here’s what I’m wondering about:

1. Should the mechanic for distributing Plot Dice and Subplot Dice be different? Anyone have any different ideas as to how to dole these out? Could Subplot Dice be a side effect of Stress rolls rather than skill rolls? Do I need to put in more incentives to accumulate Subplot Dice over Plot Dice? Why, with the rules as written, would anyone choose to take a Subplot Die over a Plot Die?

2. Will removing the Bank, Library, Gym dice, etc. take too much out of the game? I understand that they’re a big part of InSpectres, especially for extended “campaign” play, but I think overlaying the financial issues they represent onto the teen soap opera issues I’m trying to recreate would muddle the focus of things.

3. Any other thoughts, or games I should look at? Anyone done this already?

Thanks in advance. (And let me say how thrilled I've been to find this site. It's great.)



Posts: 259

« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2003, 08:07:41 PM »

Here is a url for a setting idea for a comedic version of the Idea you floated.  Its call 'School Colors from Outer Space' and is made for the R Talsorian game Teenagers from Outer Space.


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Rob MacDougall

Posts: 160

« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2003, 12:29:13 PM »

Well, this thread never caught fire (that's fine, I didn't expect it to), but I thought I would just report that we played the InSpectres variant essentially as I described above, and it went (imho) GREAT. InSpectres itself is terrific anyway, of course, but the subplot/Devil mechanic worked almost effortlessly to create the sort of "supernatural plot echoes the mundane soap subplot" dynamic basic to those Buffy / Smallville type of shows.

Not much else to say. Just wanted to thank Jared and pat myself on the back a little too.


Jared A. Sorensen

Posts: 1463


« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2003, 01:02:47 PM »

Sounds awesome, Rob. Sorry I didn't respond to the thread -- I think I missed it first time around...

jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
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