Here’s the first part of the event flow which, as I see it, is pretty much the game. I’m seeing the system as a cross between the Sampats’ Mist-Robed Gate (for flashy ass-kicking abilities with similar game functions), Rob Bohl’s Misspent Youth (for the set scene structure and resisting authority shtick) and Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World (for the clearly laid-out set of guidelines for hard choices).
[Hi folks! I’m the playtester in brackets. Playtesting, playtesting – 1, 2, 3…]
What You Need:
The Character Roster Sheet (or some graph paper made to look like one)
The Event Matrix Sheet (or some graph paper made to look like one)
13 action figures/dolls you feel attached to
Bag with some mixed 20 red/white poker chips in it (optional)
Computer with table- or spreadsheet-making program (optional)
Digital camera or laptop camera (optional)
Digital audio recording device (optional)
[The Roster Sheets and Event Matrices will be posted later in the week, when all the optional items will be discussed as well. For now, let’s hit the gameflow.]
- The Pre-Game
- The March Ritual
- The Past
- Resisting the Adversary
- Ruling Badly
- Intrigue and Wariness
- The March Ritual, Redux
- Battling and Flashbacks
- The Final Battle
You play the Manipulator, the person whose hands skillfully maneuver the figures and who meddles judiciously in the plot. The Manipulator is the sole decider and the main audience, so it only seems appropriate that they also get to determine the Outcome of things. To play the game as the Manipulator, you need only perform the steps in the order described:
• Array all the materials listed above in a comfortable space that won’t be disturbed for several hours.
[I have chosen an under-used office in my parents’ house in Iowa.]
• Put on some dramatic music if it gets you in the mood. Preferably Wagner, but the possibilities are plentiful.
[I chose Adorno, actually. ‘Cause I don’t have any Wagner. Curious, indeed!]
• Select two action figures to which you feel strongly attached. These are the Protagonist figures.
[I have selected Mantor from Sectaurs (renamed as Dirk de Silver — a dashing name!) and Fugitoid from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (renamed as Botkin — has a bit of a robot-y sound and the -kin suffix recalls familial signifiers). Both are relatively obscure but prominent in my imagination.]
• Abandon in your mind everything you know about the figure. The only thing you know about them is based on the physical appearance of the figure itself. Digitally photograph them for your own records. You know nothing about them now, but soon you will know more.
The March Ritual:
We cannot go on without dramatically establishing the stakes of what’s going on. Besides – most of the best modern stories start somewhere in the middle before going to the beginning.
• Place the selected protagonist figures on either side of the Character Roster in front of you. Imagine that they are staring across a vast battlefield at each other, draped in dramatic military finery and looking grim but determined. There armies are arrayed before them, but we cannot quite see who makes up its membership. Yet.
[Okay, so I’m liking the contrast between a silver-clad warrior and a gold robot. It’s a cheap shot, but I’m picturing Dirk with a flowing purple robe to match his purple eyes standing on a precipice overlooking a battered mechanical palace. Botkin meanwhile looks calmly from the balcony of the palace up at Dirk. I have an idea that Dirk’s forces will come pouring down into the canyon on horseback, whereas Botkin’s will be robotic and swarm out of the palace.]
• Stare into one of the figure’s eyes, bringing it closer to your face. This indicates to you to flashback to the Past.
[Given that his eyes at least have pupils, I do this to Botkin. See reenactment below.]
Now it’s time to think about the life of the two Protagonists before the Manipulator’s decisions inevitably forced them against each other. Back in the days when they had a common enemy; when there was… the Adversary.
• Answer the following three questions for each protagonist and jot it down as shorthand notes under their names: where and what is their Base of Operations? Why do their peers respect them? What would they kill to protect?
[Alright: character generation time! Dirk’s got long legs (though is without mount), so I decide to make him a kind of dashing free-booting cavalryman from some old aristocracy. His Base is the Galloping Palace, a scarcely understood bio-magical contraption that’s effectively a mansion with legs. Running with this line of thinking, I put down under Respect “He’s a superb rider, spokesman and strategist.”
For Kill to Protect, I put “His family lineage.” A proper supernatural insect noble, right? Okay: onto Botkin. I can already sense the tension between the magic and the robot technology angles of this choice, so I’m going to put Botkin in the Adversary’s Mechanical Palace… as one of its robot servants. Under Respect, I put “Downloaded Skills,” kind of like in The Matrix, and for Kill to Protect I put “His tender connection with the other robots.” So both Dirk and Botkin are in many ways both fiercely familial. Sounds like a Romeo and Juliet story already!]
• Create an Adversary by choosing another action figure from your available supplies, preferably one whom you find intimidating or creepy. This will become the Adversary. Give it a name.
[Hmmm… so many creepy looking figures in my collection! I select the Blue Ghostling from the Super Naturals, because I really like the cloak/hologram fashion combo; reminds me of a perfectly Deleuzian body without organs. I name him The Vanished King, because he has no distinct shape under his cloak.]
• Answer the following two questions: how does the Adversary keep others in line? What dark plan is he/she ready to unleash?
[The Vanished King calls forth lots of ideas for prospective abilities. I decide that he has Possession as a means of Keeping Others in Line — he can inhabit the bodies of others and subsequently may be always watching within the boundaries of his empire. For his Dark Plan, I chose that he wants to plant copies of himself in the minds of many of his subjects, and has developed technology to help him accomplish this, since magic cannot.]
• And now select three additional figures from the initial pile. These will be the Adversary’s minions, and can embody either legions of similar-looking figures or just a single, fearsome foe. Each figure can be treated like an Ally, except they don’t automatically get a Resist stat. That means each minion has a Weapon and a MegaMove, which you can decide on the spot or wait until a good idea comes along. You have the option of selecting an action figure to represent a standard goon for the Adversary. These have no stats, and are mere fodder for the main characters to work through.
[Here’s a fun part: choosing Flunkies! I grab Spikor from Masters of the Universe and rename him Spinox, the Enforcer (Weapon: Stunning Prod, Mega Move: Pointed Embrace)]. I assume he’s the muscle of the Vanished King’s dystopian kingdom, breaking in doors and striking terror on the populace. The other two are Sinuet, the Mind-Controller (Weapon: Hypnotic Eye, MegaMove: Psychic Evisceration — Bug-Eye from the Real Ghostbusters), and Botcruel, the Technologist (Weapon: Crushing Grip, MegaMove: Vaporpulse — Cruel from Robo Force). Sinuet produces auto-consent and a waiting supply of informers, whereas Botcruel is the chief overseer of the mechanisms in the Vanished King’s palace (including Botkin). Finally, I want the goons to be this faceless Grizzlor from She-Ra, ’cause he looks insane without a face.]
Stay tuned! To Be Continued…