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Alternative Poison'd Starting Situations

Started by agony, April 21, 2009, 07:06:57 PM

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So I'm working on a Poison'd hack and I'm wondering if anyone has put any thought into alternative starting situations for Poison'd?

The default situation is just so perfect I'm hesitant to change it, especially considering I can't see a clear way to get away from the fact that the Captain was just killed.  Watching the PC's try and step up to become Captain is just so integral to kick-starting backstabbing, bargains, and vendettas.

Of course, they also must find themselves under pressure initially and I'm struggling with alternatives to a ship pursuing them as well.

I'm beginning to think putting in the effort to develop an inferior alternate starting situation is just a waste of time and I should simply maintain the status quo.
You can call me Charles

Eero Tuovinen

Eh, why not? It's just a scenario, although I agree that it's a pretty good one. Having the captain gone is a plus, as that removes the need to have an authoritative NPC mess about with the characters. Just be careful, and you should be able to create an equally engaging scenario if you want one.

Personally, I might try something where the players first create their characters and in the ship design phase determine something about their ship that then assigns the captaincy to one of the characters. Something like choosing the (main) nationality of the ship's crew and if it's Spanish, then the character with the highest Devil score gets to be the captain. If the ship is a privateer, then the highest Soul gets to be the captain. Whatever. If two characters tie or more than one condition is fulfilled (Spanish privateers or something of the sort), then the characters get to roll for the captaincy. And if none of the conditions is fulfilled, then the captain is a NPC who is either bedridden or dead by coincidence.

After making sure in some manner that there is no NPC captain messing with the players, you just need a situation that is an immediate cause of pressure. I'm fond of some in-medias-res thing with a chest of gold myself. Preferably somebody else's chest of gold, to make it a fine heist story. Whatever it is, it'll be resolved in some manner after an hour of play anyway, after which play gets to continue in the normal manner.
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Some good stuff there Eero.  Assigning the Captaincy based on a stat is reminiscent of 3:16 - which is good I think.  My hack is a Sci-Fi one specifically, but I'll have to put some more thought into this.
You can call me Charles


What about starting on the brink of mutiny? Then there is effectively no captain.

Players could start as sailors who've had enough of the harsh treatment aboard a commercial, navy or ship of the line. Or perhaps something more like Treasure Island, where the pirates are pretending to be good spirited sailors and the time has come to drop the disguise.

It could even start with some players not mutinous, probably because they're too close to the captain, so they won't mutiny, or because they're too lowly, and so unaware of the plot.

Quote from: agony on April 22, 2009, 12:23:20 AMMy hack is a Sci-Fi one specifically, but I'll have to put some more thought into this.
Space pirates!

Myself, I've always been partial to the idea of hacking Poison'd to play clowns. Nasty, nasty clowns. Maybe where everything is set within the circus ring. It might appear make believe to the audience, but the clowns believe it is all too real, Or maybe just a gang of clowns, like in one of the Batman movies, that rob banks and drive about in fire trucks and other government vehicles.

Graham W

I like starting on the brink of mutiny. Or start them as British Navy deserters who've just commandeered a ship. I think the lack of Captaincy is crucial (and that assigning based on a stat is a bad idea).

I wrote a game called Bleakworlds, which started as a science-fiction hack of Poison'd. The starting situation in that was: you're criminals on board a cryogenic prisoner transport shop. You've unexpectedly thawed out and now you've got the guard's blasters and they're at your mercy. What do you do?

So it's a similar combination of potential for brutality and need for direction.



Mutiny is brilliant, I love it.  Just have to make sure the Captain doesn't maintain his position.  Perhaps the mutiny is being caused because a member of the crew and beloved friend of the Captain ratted the group out to the Enemy Navy, and the Captain is going to spare him his life.

That ties pursuit and threat to Captaincy together perfectly.

Graham, I've read up on your story-games posts on Bleakworlds and find it quite interesting.  I wanted to initially design my own rules but couldn't come up with anything that Poison'd didn't do better - the embedded themes are just too perfect.

You can call me Charles

Marshall Burns

Poison'd hacks are hot. I've been trying to get one together in a Victorian London slum, inspired by Sweeney Todd and The Threepenny Opera, but I haven't been able to get enough players together at once.

Here's the important thing about the starting sitch. First off, remember that the game is centrally about characters who are A) desperate, B) capable of brutality, C) sworn to each other, and D) pursuing goals that are divergent at best and mutually exclusive at worst. (Thanks, Vincent, for that breakdown, by the way).
So, if you stick to that (which you will do automatically if you use the chargen rules), you've got latent conflicts as soon as you're done with chargen. What you want out of a starting sitch is something that makes those latent conflicts impossible to ignore without a cost. And typically the best costs here are A) an escalation of desperation, B) using your capability for brutality and/or being the victim of someone else's, C) failing to fulfill a bargain (willfully or otherwise), and D) losing a chance at your goals, if not the possibility of attaining them altogether.