Mechanika Inwazja Note 160101 Mission Gen 160103

The purpose of this post is to show you how we can create a role-playing session using a combination of random generation with the most recent tools at our disposal (resources, archetypes, motives) combined with older tools (Phases, Dark Future, Player-Driven Mission Agenda) and ultimately the human brain. What I am going to do is to write my stream of thoughts from the very beginning to the very end. That way you will see in which moments we are using the tools and how we’re using the tools and in which moments human brain comes into the equation. This may not be the most fascinating article, but in the end there exists a role-playing session which has been logically composed from the archetypes and motives and resources.

The setting: urban fantasy, year 2016, magic is powerful but not very common and supernatural stuff is generally hidden from human public. Player characters arrive to the location either by their own will or being hired by someone, they can solve the situation however they want and game master is not going to push his own agenda on them. The situation needs to be semi-stable and needs to go towards unstable. And we expect more thinking, less fighting.

So let us generate a role-playing session under those circumstances. I want to have two driving archetypes and two important motives. Let us select those first:
At this moment we have 32 archetypes. Random generator gave me the following archetypes:
- Proactive Opportunist
- Estate Holder

This combination is very interesting; seems we’ve got some kind of estate and an opportunist who tries to gain something out of it. So there exists a conflict in those two archetypes which is innate to those archetypes themselves. Now, let’s see the motives:
We have 18 motives; out of those most will not be possible to actually be used here – they simply do not fit. Let’s try to generate one motive:

- Trap

Now that is unexpected. So – a trap. Of course, this particular motive has not been filed (read: there are no moves); let’s try another one, anything with moves, really:

- Dedicated weapon

Okay, it could have went worse. So we have a proactive opportunist in conflict with estate holder and a particular motive to consider here is dedicated weapon. Seriously.

Let us now try to create a map of the resources. Let’s try to see everyone having two resources in abundance and one resource in grave need:

- Proactive Opportunist:
o Abundance (Earth/Physical, Air/Knowledge)
o Need (Void/Supernatural)
- Estate Holder:
o Abundance (Air/Knowledge, Fire/Craft),
o Need (Earth/Physical)

Now this is something I would have never expected to see. We have an opportunist here who craves something magical, some kind of magical power and can provide Earth resource – exactly the resource which estate holder needs. And both the opportunist and the estate holder have knowledge in abundance; so they exactly know what is there to be known.

I thought the opportunist would try to exploit the estate holder here trying to exploit some situation; however the resources show a different story – the opportunist can provide the resource estate holder needs and this resource is defensive in nature. So the estate holder is not able to secure something defensive which endangers his estate and an opportunist can provide it. So now the focus is on the dedicated weapon – it seems the weapon can be dedicated against this estate. So we either have some kind of automatic weapon (for example, an old rusty dam threatening to break and flood the estate) or we have an active actor who is setting up the weapon. This can be the opportunist, but it also can be a new actor. Let a story with the idea of a new actor; let’s generate another archetype:

- Engineer

Oh now, this gets interesting. Let’s generate the resources:

- An engineer
o Abundance (Water/People)
o Need (Air/Knowledge)

So we have an engineer type of archetype (“to improve”, “to solve a problem”) which has the support of the people nearby or who uses people as the primary source of actions and who needs knowledge or academic, immaterial information. We have an opportunist (“to seek profit ignoring morals”, “to create opportunity to profit”, “to change sides and adapt to highest bidder”) who can provide protection and knowledge in the same time craving magical power. And we have an estate holder (“to improve the estate / life quality”, “to protect the estate / position”) who desperately needs protection and can provide knowledge and tools.

And what looms in the distance is the dedicated weapon (“to destroy an invincible <foe>”, “to get advantage over <foe>”) which is the main motive of the mission from the point of view of those three archetypes.

Let us take and make random moves from all four entities in this mission. Let us assume that every entity is able to act only once in the phase. Let us assume that fifth phase is the Dark Future.

Phase 1:

Opportunist. betray / backstab <someone>
Estate Holder. run out of money / get a loan from <someone>
Engineer. defy / subvert an order (inefficient / wrong from their point of view)
Dedicated Weapon. sabotage the <weapon> so it fails / does <something else>

Phase 2:

Opportunist. retreat to the lair because of <reason>
Estate Holder. hire new <someone> to help in existing/new activity
Engineer. study an unknown device
Dedicated Weapon. acquire the component of the <weapon>

Phase 3:

Opportunist. sell <something> dangerous, illegal or immoral
Estate Holder. quarrel with the neighbors
Engineer. completely misunderstand interpersonal stuff
Dedicated Weapon. defend the <weapon> until it fires / attack the <weapon> before it fires

Phase 4:

Opportunist. seek for a profitable opportunity because of <reason>
Estate Holder. exploit the estate for burst riches / resources having form of <something>
Engineer. technobabble an audience / make a statement on technology
Dedicated Weapon. sabotage the <weapon> so it fails / does <something else>

Phase 5:

Opportunist. steal / acquire useful knowledge about <something / someone>
Estate Holder. run out of money / get a loan from <someone>
Engineer. gather the parts / resources to build <something>
Dedicated Weapon. adapt the <weapon> to new / unforeseen circumstances

Now what is important is to look at phase 1 and phase 5. Phase 1 tells us the initial state of the system, the initial situation which led to the stabilization and the dark future.

Phase 1 shows a grim story: we see an opportunist betray someone, estate holder running out of cash, engineer who subverts the orders and the dedicated weapon being sabotaged. Estate holder runs out of cash trying to defend against something. Engineer defied the orders seeking knowledge. Opportunist betrayed someone hoping to get some magic – or something related to supernatural things.

Phase 5 shows how it ends: opportunist steals something or gets even more knowledge. As knowledge is an abundant resource it seems that opportunist will manage to steal something valuable. Another part of the dark future is the fact that estate holder is going to bankrupt. Like, for real. Earth is an element associated both with wealth and defenses – it is pretty possible, that the estate will not be defensible from something. The weapon will get adapted to unforeseen circumstances; as this is the dark future it seems that the weapon will be unstoppable. This positions the weapon as something for player characters to stop. And an engineer will gather the parts and resources to actually build something – so the act of creation is part of a dark future. And this act of building will get the engineer the valuable knowledge he tries to achieve.

Seeing the above it would be very simple to connect an engineer with the dedicated weapon, but it seems to be slightly too easy. Anyway, what we see above is the dark future – the worst possible case assuming players will not appear. Phases 1-4 show how we got there.

That doesn’t try to classify those characters as protagonists and antagonists. An easy way is to look who gains in phase 5 and sets them as antagonists; those who lose as protagonists.

Opportunist – gains – antagonist
Engineer – unknown – unknown
Estate Holder – loses – protagonist
Weapon – gains – antagonist

This trick always works. You don’t need this, but it helps to frame the characters in opposition to players characters.

Now we need to look at it from a new perspective; why does the fact that opportunist stole something magical mean that this is a dark future? Why is the loss of defensibility of the estate a part of a dark future? Why making the weapon adapt to new and unforeseen circumstances is a very bad thing? Why does an action of an engineer – creation of a device – while he has support from the community around – mean that we have lost?

This is something the generator will not answer. Here, human brain must come into play.

Opportunist: his motives may be good (or bad; but I prefer stories where there are no “evil for fun” people), his methods are wrong, if he gets what he wants something bad happens. Backstab, retreat, sell, open opportunity, steal. This person seems to be a coherent driver of this mission. Aims for magic. Has knowledge, protection.
Engineer: people around want him to succeed, but if he does build what they want then everyone has lost. Defy order, study device, misunderstand social interaction, technobabble, gather stuff to build machine. Aims for knowledge. Has people.
Estate holder: he is going to run his estate into the ground to get proper defenses only to run out of money and defenses in the end. He has the knowledge and the tools, it seems that locals do not like him. Run out of money, hire someone, quarrel with neighbors, exploit burst riches, run out of money again. Aims for protection. Has knowledge, devices.
Dedicated weapon: an entity which cannot be completed during this mission; however, dark future sees it adapted to the new circumstances, which means that this is a main danger of the mission. It is sabotaged, then the part is acquired, then defended before use, sabotaged again, finally adapted itself. For fun: threatens the resource of Fire/Craft. So it makes human tools pointless.

And now we can design a mission.

First iteration:

We have a small estate. It used to be one of the richer estates, and it has a very good toolbox. That is, something like a Batcave (lots of knowledge, lots of equipment). So we have a Batcave – an estate which took care of everything around and (screw it let’s go with Batcave) kept everything around safe and profitable.

In the same time there used to be opponents. They knew of the Batcave existence, but they didn’t really know where it is actually located. The have managed to find a way to destroy it – as they knew the Batcave is under water level, the have managed to build an elaborate set of tunnels leading to the lake and in the vicinity of a Batcave. However, they did not manage to actually fire the weapon (they did not connect the tunnels to the lake, neither they found a location of a Batcave). With time they were caught, put to jail, whatever. They are not an element of the equation.

Enter the engineer. The nearby community wanted to go into fracking – extraction of natural gas using some kind of water pushing into the earth… stuff. He is trying to get information, whether the fracking is even sensible here (this is ‘aims for knowledge’ part). First cut has proven that it is quite possible, and he was actually hired by the owner of the Batcave who was running out of money to finance the crime-fighting, but after first experiments the owner of the Batcave learned about the tunnels so he told the engineer to stop. But the community have tried to crowdfound to bring some riches; an engineer decided to stay and help.

During the equipping of the Batcave and getting different things to fight the crime and collecting stuff which should not be here, because it simply is too dangerous to leave in the hands of the evildoers, the Batcave has acquired an artifact – a magical item which will eventually activate and cause harm. Or something which gives ambient radiation causing some anomalies in the reality. Seeing those anomalies, a mage was dispatched (or a mage came to this place) to eliminate the artifacts and preserve normal human life. But the mage is unable to simply storm into the estate – the defense systems, although not as good as they used to be, overpower him. So he has to reduce the defenses. For example, by destroying the Batcave.

The opportunist mage only wants to protect the people and get the artifact. He doesn’t care what happens next. The estate holder only wants to uphold the legacy of Batman (he might have inherited the estate from one) and wants to protect all the people around; he is frustrated, because he can’t really explain why he needs to halt the fracking because Batcave is a secret. The engineer has been educated thanks to an estate holder’s predecessor and he wants to give back to the community – he was helped and now he wants to help as well. The dedicated weapon is dedicated against the Batcave, and it is a time bomb, really. The Batcave is doomed as long as it is in the same location. Activation of the dedicated weapon will destroy the Batcave but also bring riches to the community. Moving the Batcave, however, will make the Batcave revealed to everyone. Not only will the legend of Batman be revealed (oh it was that old guy who lived here), but also the knowledge and equipment will be ripe for taking by the evildoers’ descendants and inheritors.
And the mage (opportunist) is the only one (unless player characters’ have appropriate magical powers, really) who is able to defuse the “bomb”. But he doesn’t want to.

Second iteration is not really needed here; we can expand on it, fine-tune, but you see how it is done. The first iteration is good enough from the point of view of this example. If you want to perform fine-tuning: do you need more Moves? Maybe different Moves? Maybe there is a Resource which doesn’t make sense – or which you forgot about? Maybe something is lacking (like, why Batman was here at all? Is there any reason why the Dedicated Weapon is what it is / correlaction with Engineer?). This is your mission, not mine. As said, from my point of view, first iteration is enough – and the players will fill the rest.

So yeah, this seems to be a dynamic mission with no single person being evil because they are evil, everyone having some rights to do things and with story being realized in a sequence. We know exactly what will happen if player characters will not come here and we know exactly how those parts will converge and combine looking at the sequence of dark future.


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