Archive for April, 2011

Air Patrol

Part of the slump I was in had me staying away from the Forge for a bit. I just wasn’t into reading much. On going back I saw a couple of threads on running investigations in games. This bears directly on my problems with the Air Patrol design. I couldn’t figure out how to take a game that is in large part about investigation and make it something more dramatic and less ‘here are some clues, do something with them.’ A couple of posts at the end of the second investigation thread have me thinking, though. In particular, the idea of decision-making scenes and high-stakes confrontation scenes.

I tossed the idea around a bit with my roommate, since he was around, and I think it’s workable. It’ll be a bit different from what we’re used to playing. Instead of the players just having their characters chase down clues while I throw stuff at them when it fits my plan, there will, I think, be two alternating phases. First will the the decision-making phase. Probably short, the players decide what they want their characters to do, but thinking of it/phrasing it in terms of scenes. The whole idea I have for Air Patrol is less about conducting the investigation than it is roleplaying cool scenes. The players think of scenes that they think it would be fun to roleplay at this stage of the investigation/session. The scene may contain the whole group, only some of the group, or only one PC.

Next comes the second stage, the drama phase. During this phase, the GM, in whatever order they feel works best, runs the scenes the players had decided on. The GM may inject scenes themselves before or after any of these, to help tie the scenes together or to set up events that the players wouldn’t know about and therefore could not set up a scene for. The GM may also cut between scenes if they are affecting each other. At the start of each drama scene, the GM chooses the player of one of the involved characters to be the leader of the scene. They have the spotlight. Each player should have a turn in the spotlight. The leader of a scene gets some sort of dramatic bonus or something. I haven’t quite figured out what, yet, but something that helps them be the cool character the player knows them to be.

After the GM picks the scene’s leader, the GM and the leader set the stakes for the scene. The stakes are, well, what is at stake in the scene. The PCs’ stakes should be roughly as good as the GM’s stakes. Consider the stakes the ‘prize’ for ‘winning’ the scene. Not ideal imagery for what I’m thinking, but it’ll have to do. For example, take a scene where a PC, Tony, is interrogating a known criminal, looking for information on the whereabouts of the criminal’s boss. Tony’s player sets his stakes as ‘gets information leading to the boss’ hideout.’ The GM sets his or her stakes as ‘the crook gets under Tony’s skin; next time they meet the criminal gets a free success against Tony, whatever is going on.’ They both agree that the stakes are roughly equal and the scene begins. If Tony’s player wins, the crook gives up the information. If the crook wins, the information may or may not get leaked, but the crook manages to disrupt Tony’s cool and the next time they meet, this gives the crook confidence agains Tony (in the form of a free success).

I think it could be interesting. I still have to work out what it has to do with the denouement concept, or if the denouement gets dropped from the game mechanics. I’m thinking the stakes could be used to set up bonuses or something for the confrontation with the boss.

Still mulling the idea over, but it feels interesting.



I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately. I’ve wanted to run something, but nothing seems right. Either it’s something I don’t think one or more of my players would be interested in or I’m unsure of how good I would be at running that sort of game. Smallville, for instance, is a really cool game that I’d like to play, but I think it’s approach of focussing on TV-style dramatic scenes would be hard for me to run. Also I don’t think it would fit the way my players like to play games, which is more along the lines of ‘I approach the game from my character’s point of view, not that of an overall director trying to create cool scenes.’

In an attempt to get out of the slump, I have started an experiment. I sat down with my players over a couple of gaming nights and got them to help me create a game world to run. The system I’m using for it is one I came up with recently and still needs some work, but I’m hoping working on the game together will get them interested in the game world and hopefully come up with something they each will enjoy.

We started character creation, but ran out of time partway through. Looking at things at that point I realized a change I made to the system to make things simpler actually broke the system if a player tried to roll something their character was less than masterful at. I’ve hashed out a change that I believe will fix it. I’ll put up a copy of it here once I finish that rewrite and come up with a name for it.