Posts Tagged ‘FictioVal’

Fictioval: For the safety of the state

11. September, 2012:

The five men in the room sit silently, unsure how to approach what they have just seen on the television. Finally, one of them – the leader – assumes his role of leadership. Luckily, that allows him to also use the leaders prerogative of delegation:

“So, gentlemen. Your analysis of the situation, if you please.”

The other look at each other. Then one of them clears his throat.

“Well, sir. I would say that the People’s Republic of Denmark has fallen to the pressure of its capitalist foes.”

“Ah. Indeed. And how does this affect our situation?”

“Well, the People have not always been supportive of our mission to protect the glorious People’s Republic. Without the benevolent guidance of the Party, they might decide to take action against us.”

As one, their eyes flew to the door to the next room. Over it was a sign.


In the fall of  2012, as the communist rule of the People’s Republic of Denmark falls, five men sit in the centre of the Ministry of State Security. As the protesters amass outside the Ministry, they try to rid themselves of the evidence of five decades of cruelty, committed  in pursuit of a “greater cause.” But none of them have survived their service of the country without scars on their souls. And as they start tearing apart the archives, they once more face the memories of what they have done for the safety of the state-

This idea originated as a scenario about agents in the Stasi of the GDR in the last hours before they were stormed by an angry mob who wanted to see the archives of the oppressive secretive police. But first of all, I feel like Stasi has been treated quite thoroughly – secondly, I doubt many players could actually imagine life in East Germany before the fall of the Wall. Instead, I figured this would work quite well as an alternate history story, where Denmark became part of an East Bloc that fell far later than it did. This would mean that the players would be reimagining their own childhoods as it would have been under a communist rule, like the one in GDR.

I imagine the scenario as falling in five parts, corresponding to the stages of the Kübler-Ross model of coping with the realization of your own death:

  • Denial: The agents try to belittle the importance of the revolution, arguing that they can cull the rebellion, or that there will still be a need for them in a new regime. Flashbacks will be to scenes of successful missions the team has undertaken.
  • Anger: The agents try to find someone to blame – the Party, the Politicians, the Damned Capitalist, but in the end, mostly each other. Flashbacks are to scenes of cowardly or traitorous activity they have engaged in.
  • Bargaining: The agents start to realise the seriousness of the situation, and start trying to come up with ways of getting out of the mess they’re in. They start destroying records. Flashbacks to missions that they did not feel comfortable with, and missions where they tried to show mercy.
  • Depression: Everything seems hopeless. The archives are massive, and every file condemns them as much as the next. A mob of revolutionaries has assembled outside. Flashbacks to scenes of failures, and scenes that show the futility of their whole project.
  • Acceptance: The Agents realise that they have lost. Some flee, some stay to welcome the masses who flow in and start going through the files. A final flashback to the proud day the five were first assembled as a team.

That’s the outline for the scenario. Characters should be presented as personnel files/ surveillance reports on the persons with grades from universities and reports on the dealings of their families. This might be a bit big, but I like the idea of leafing through a file on your character, trying to build an idea of who he is. The idea is also to not have a definitive answer to who each person is, but to allow the player to assemble his own version. I dislike long characters, but what I dislike most is a long character that you need to memorize – a long character where you are supposed to leaf through, just skimming each page is far more acceptable.

I actually like this idea. For one thing, I have a very clear idea of what goes in here. It is also a very different story than Antihero – rather than a comedy, this is a tragedy, which is something I wasn’t sure whether I could do.

The flashback scenes could be left to the players to decide, but I kinda like the idea of making it be casefiles as well, presenting them with a short summary of the scene, and then opening it up to reveal more about that scene.


Fictioval: The Great Old Ones must DIE!

What is the main problem with H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction? All of his protagonists are such weaklings! Only pasty academic nancy boys flee at the sight of great, ugly critters like Cthulhu or Yog-Sothoth. Real heroes FIGHT! Real heroes KILL! Real heroes kick those nasty critters so hard, they won’t WANT to come back for untold eons, for fear that the heroes are still around to kick them some more.

Eat cultists for breakfast. Kill all thousand young, and then go deal with mummy goat. Make a R’lyeh special seafood pizza – the one with anchovies, extra cheese and Cthulhu! Call Hastur names – then go give Azathoth a rude awakening.
In this scenario we fix what has been wrong with all Cthulhu roleplaying ever: we get rid of all the boring investigation. Instead, you get to kill countless puny minions, then have an EPIC boss fight against some of the most badass enemies you could possibly imagine. We stock up on big guns and other powerful weaponry, find some great rides and then we go blow up stuff. Why is Cthulhu stories always about madness? Let’s talk more about GORE!

The above is my take on a grindnight scenario preview. The idea is to take three or so of the meanest baddies from the collective works of the Cthulhu mythos, glue them together with a trail of weak minions for the heroes to eradicate, and power it all with a system that emphasizes cinematic action over realism. I’m thinking that it should be set in a futuristic kind of setting with loads of high-tech weaponry and gizmos, allowing people to fire tiny nukes into Cthulhu’s gob, and other crazy things. All in all, this seems to swing well with grindnight’s theme of gore, badassery and slight political incorrectness (or less slight, as the case might be). It is not my favorite FictioVal preview, but I could definitely see the scenario work. It does, however, need a proper system to order the fighting so it is at the same time epic and neither too lethal nor too easy. The system should further the narration of the battle more than the tactical play – though some tactics might be nice in order to make the boss fights seem more awesome.

Wanted: Partner in crime

Fastaval now less than a week away. I am chief of the Info this year which means I have plenty to do answering emails, organizing and packing my own stuff (I’m leaving Monday to go set up for the con). With all this on my mind, there is one more thing I can’t help thinking about: whether I should write a scenario for Fastaval next year.

On one hand, I would really like to. I am thoroughly engrained in the organising side of Fastaval’s twin crews of the organisers and the creatives. But I feel that I should belong as much to the creative side of things, something my experience writing both my contribution to the Empire 40k and Antihero has underlined. On the other hand, I don’t think the way Antihero was created is the best way. Antihero was written in a sense of: “Oh, shoot – deadline’s around the corner!” Writing it was also in many ways a lonely process, as I am not currently in an environment where I often run into other role players, let alone people with an interest in scenario writing. That will, hopefully, change before the next scenario writing season comes around in earnest, but it has still helped me come to one important conclusion:

I want a co-writer.

I want to write my next scenario with somebody. Both as a measure to help the writing process along – I find it easier to do that kind of thing if I’m obligated to someone other than myself – and as a way to help me develop my understanding and style of roleplaying. In other words, I want someone who knows something about roleplaying and scenarios. Not neccesarily a veteran (though it could be), but someone with a perspective that complements my own – alike enough that we can agree on a vision, different enough that we will bring something different to the process. I want someone who wants me to challenge them as much as I want to be challenged by them.

So, what do I want to write? Good question. I guess I would like to write something different than both Under My Hive and Antihero. I might want to write a more classic kind of scenario. Both UMH and Antihero have been indie-like storytelling games with the GM in a very pulled-back, mediating kind of role. While that is the kind of game I often like to play, I also like many other kinds of game – like the more classic scenario with a strong GM and a story for the players to go through. I might like to try something along those lines. Maybe a scenario with very loose constraints and a lot of player interactivitiy. It might also be a GM-less thing. I haven’t played a lot of GM-less stuff, but both UMH and Antihero have had very weak GMs, and for Antihero, I considered whether the GM was actually necessary (there is actually a version provided in the scenario in which the GM plays a main character). So why not try to take the plunge, and do without a GM?

Another kind of scenario could be the retro scenario. It seems that dungeon revival is the hot retro fashion these days at Fastaval, with scenarios like Dungeon, Lydia’s Funeral and Kristian Bach Petersen’s Reservoir Elves, Magician: Impossible and Apocalypse Drow in the lead. Maybe it’s time to be avant-garde retro and make a bloodsucker revival that can show today’s kids that you don’t have to glimmer to sparkle. White Wolf just came out with the Vampire: the Masquerade 20th anniversary edition, and this year’s “Whole Con” is Dancing with the Clans, a game of Camarilla Disco. How about “Fear and Loathing in Lasombra” or some similar ironic nostalgia about the hottest games of the late ’90ies? I have a feeling that there is a Vampire/chick-flick crossover just waiting to happen – “Legally Brujah”?

I have also been doing a few “Fictioval” scenario previews that might be turned into actual scenarios. Like Kthulhu Kindergarden (kiddie investigators in an Arkham daycare facility). Or how about Love in the time of Chess, a sad game of chess prodigies using chess as a mechanic?

Continuing on the retro from before, it seems that half the blogging community has fond memories of Planescape. Maybe it would be an idea to bring Sigil to Fastaval. Giving the setting an indie motor and sending the players off to some corner of the Planes.

What to do?

So, if you might be interested in a partnership for next Fastaval, don’t be a stranger! Write me an email, or approach me at Fastaval, and let’s see if we can come up with an idea we can both agree on. It could be some of what I’ve mentioned above, some of what I have mentioned earlier on this blog, one of your ideas – or something we come up with together!

Love in the time of Chess

The clock. Allan doesn’t look at the clock. He doesn’t dare to, doesn’t need to. He knows how much time he has left. Three minutes, or something in that vicinity. Allan doesn’t look at Michael, either. He can’t bear to look at that face, proud of his victory, yet with pity for Allan’s distress. The pity is the worst. If only he KNEW.

Pawn to C4. Queen to C4.



The clock. Allan doesn’t look at the clock. He doesn’t dare to, doesn’t need to. He knows how much time is left. Three hours, or something in that vicinity. Allan doesn’t look at his mother, either. He can’t bare to look at that face, proud of her son, yet with pity for Allan’s loss. The pride is the worst. If only she could KNOW. Know about Allan’s soul….

“Tell me, Allan, how come a handsome, bright boy like you hasn’t found a girl yet?”
Love in the time of Chess is a scenario about three young chess ingenues. Famous and admired among their colleagues in the chess circuit, they each have their demons to battle. For each, their personal lives have turned into chess matches far more challenging than any they have any played against each other.
The game uses an inventive chess mechanic to tell stories of fear, humiliation, deceit and lives on the brink of ruin. Three of you will take on the role of the three chess players, while the remaining two will take on the role of the two powers that battle for the lives of the three young men, threatening to rend them to pieces in the process.
Another scenario played at FictioVal, a series of fictional scenarios started with a story of a kindergarten where something insidious is going on. I guess this game started out with the soccer fan scenario from last year’s Fastaval: how do you tell a story of the same sort based around chess? Of course this isn’t about the fans of chess, but instead about young people moving into the international echelons of the game. The idea of course had a lot in common with the musical, Chess, though I tried to avoid getting too close to that story. Instead, I see this scenario as drawing upon the mechanic used in Evenstars by Mikkel Bækgaard and others of having two players play opposing forces pulling in the other players from opposing sides. I guess I figure these two powers are conformity and rebellion, the former being synonymous with strangulation, the latter with (self)destruction. As such, both forces lead only to the ruin, either mental, social or physical, of the character.

Antihero, FictioVal and Brast Issinn

Yesterday, I sent the text for Antihero to the scenario team at Fastaval. Hoorah! That’s that bad conscience off my chest – now I can concentrate on all the others.

Like this blog. I’ve not written enough on here recently. Partially, this has had to do with me having a busy life, partially it has to do with me not really having much to say – not least because I haven’t had a lot of chances to play a lot of roleplaying games.
The first is a matter of priority, the second is a matter of making sure I’m challenged. For this reason, I’ve invented a form for myself: FictioVal, a fictional, non existent, con, for which I’ll be writing previews for scenarios that don’t exist. Of course, some might come into existence if I like them enough (or you can either ask me to write your favorite, or ask for permission to write it yourself). Some are going to be serious, some will be tongue in cheek or satirical. Quite a few are likely to be somewhere in between.
The first such preview is already written; the second is right here:
Brast íssinn

Ragnhildar looked up from the pot. The smoke in her face had made her eyes water. Or was it something else? Hálfdan wasn’t sure. He looked down. He heard the hut creak under the strain of the wind. He’d go out and feel the wind on his face, but he knew the wind carried rain, and that even a small gust would sting and freeze his skin. He looked up, and Ragnhildar caught his eye. Her mouth was tense. She narrowed her eyes. He stood up and went out.

Olav took another step. He liked being on the ice. The ice was nice. Smooth and hard.
He took another step. Suddenly, the ice creaked loudly. Olav let out a little cry. He felt the ice move underneath.

Life in the village is good in summer. The food is plenty, the men go raiding and the children play outside. In winter, the food is scarce, and both men and children stay at home, shielding from the cold and the wind. Children grow bored, men grow restless, women grow irritable. And until the melting ice announces spring, everyone in the village must tread lightly or risk shattering the fragile peace.

Brast Ísinn is a jeepform scenario about little irritations accumulating during the long winter. A scenario about keeping your cool. About treading carefully.