Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New Campaign Prep: Ocean City Interface

Game Crunch Month
I'm getting ready for the launch of a couple campaigns: one as a final chapter, one as a reboot after a hiatus, and a third completely new. The new one, Ocean City Interface, is the most challenging. I hope make it easier by building on player input. There concept itself has been used twice locally; once by the GM who came up with it- Rob- and another time by me for a three year game. Here's what I've shared with them so far. 

What is OCI?
In Ocean City Interface you take the role of a character living in City of Ocean aka Ocean City. Through strange circumstances you find yourself travelling to other worlds. There you take on other roles and personas. You must discover the challenges facing these worlds and solve problems facing your personas. Through these travels you find yourself allied with a group of fellow travelers and conflicting with others from these worlds and your own who have other agendas. These journeys hold secrets. Through interactions in the real “Alpha” world and in these other “Portal” worlds, you will piece together the puzzle.

What is Ocean City?
Ocean City lies in central California. In the near future it has become a major hub on many levels. It is a modest metropolis at the crossroads linking Northern (San Francisco) and Southern California (LA, San Diego) via high-speed rail. The modern airport and docks offer additional connections.

City of Ocean is truly a city of tomorrow. Three decades ago city planners embarked on an ambitious plan to completely rewire and reconnect the city- with internet access, automated systems, and advanced power management. They coupled this to a complete rethinking of public transport- combining light rail, subways, buses, walkways, and even boats on the river running through the city. A high-tech wonder that rivals even the most wired cities of South Korea and Dubai, Ocean City has turned around its fortunes.

That’s what the publicity campaigns tell people. But there’s still a darkness to this place and a history of shadows that no amount of looking forward can ignore.

What do the Terms Mean?
Alpha refers to both the ‘real world’ and your character who lives there. Portals are the different worlds your character travels to. Personas are the roles you take on within a portal. The Unfettered are those, including your character, who can travel to these portal worlds. The Panopticon is the strange in-between realm the Unfettered use to access the portals; it has another name in the game. Your Avatar is how you appear to other Unfettered in the Panopticon. 

What Kinds of Characters Should We Think About?
We’ll talk about the formal specifics of characters eventually. What’s important right now is a concept. The Alpha setting is slightly in the future, with more high-tech and some sci-fi devices at hand. But it is also a weird world. I’ll leave it to you guys to decide how weird you want to make it.

Your character is competent- skilled at what they do. That can be as mundane as a sanitation engineer or as fantastic as a wall-crawling break in artist. If you like they may also have something strange about them: a small superpower, a psychic talent, a unique item of power, the ability to do little spells. We can talk about what that involves. It shouldn’t be too potent- more a strange or useful odd thing.

Of course all of your characters will have to work together as a group, so you want to take that into consideration. Their personality and profession should allow them to get along with other people. So a hit man for the mob might be a problem. My usual advice about not taking lone wolf, stubborn, or psychotic character traits or disadvantages applies here.

There is one detail I need you to take into consideration: you are an orphan. Perhaps you were adopted as an infant or a young child; perhaps you went through the foster system; perhaps the story is more complicated than that. In any case, you may have parents but don’t know your biological ones.

What System Will We Use?
We will use Action Cards for all parts of the game. While you will have different characters for the different portals, some elements will carry over- in particular a portion of your play deck. I’ll have the full details on the system mechanics a little bit later. I’ll be aiming for a streamlined version of Action Cards. We will use dice for damage, since everyone loves rolling dice for damage.

How Will We Choose the Portals?
I will put forward a set of options, for a set of 4-6 portals per player. As a group you can choose which ones you’d like to play. I recommend some discussion on this. You might want to pick a variety of different types or make them all the same. I’ll leave final choices to each player individually however. Ideally you should pick something you want to play in and you think others would enjoy. We will cycle between portals over the course of the campaign, finishing stories in one before moving on.

What Are We Going to Do the First Session on 1/18?
Talk about characters and sketch out some details, including aspects. Figure out some more of the world background. Discuss and pick the portals for everyone. Perhaps even play out a scene or two. 

Portal Teasers
Kenny asked for a preview of the Portal choices for OCI. Below I’ve presented a title, a ‘pitch line,’ and a set of tags. I have a more detailed description of each, but I’ll hold off on that until Saturday. This should give you a taste and get you thinking. The tags offer a rough sense of what I think the portal will be about and what the players will do. Just because a portal doesn’t have a tag doesn’t mean it won’t have any of something. For example I’ve listed “Fighting” on a couple of the portals below. That just means that there’s likely heavy emphasis on combat in that setting.

You will each have the opportunity to pick one portal. You’ll also get to put forward a couple of phrases or aspects to help shape that portal. For example you might want something to be lighter or darker in tone. We’ll talk about that at the table. Don’t worry too much about that. The important thing is that you’ll have some say in what the portal’s like. In some cases below I’ve listed a game as “Open”. That means we’ll use some form of Microscope to set up the world.

Again, this is just a teaser. Feel free to hit me with any questions.

Arclight Revelation Tianmar
…Neon Genesis Evangelion meets War of the Worlds
Tags: Sci-fi, Mecha, School

Assassins of the Golden Age
Assassin’s Creed meets The Golden Compass
Tags: Fantasy, Mission, Investigation

Blood & Rust
Dark City meets Steampunk
Tags: Victoriana, Cyberpunk, Fantasy, Mission, Monsters

By Axe, Hammer, and Sword
…think Vikings versus Saruman
Tags: Fantasy, Community, Fighting

Codici Malefactus
…think Rats of NIMH meets Harry Potter
Tags: Fantasy, Community, Investigation

Colony 9
Microscope-Built Sci-fi Survival
Tags: Sci-fi, Community, Exploration

Colossal Game Hunters
…Monster Hunter meets Order of the Stick
Tags: Fantasy/Sci-fi, Mission

Death of the Archmage
…Game of Thrones meets Revolution
Tags: Fantasy, Community

Destroy All Monsters!
…Iron Kingdoms meets Pacific Rim
Tags: Fantasy, Steampunk, Mecha, Fighting, Exploration

Equalizers 2.0
…Cyberpunk meets Leverage
Tags: Sci-fi, Mission, Investigation, Caper

Godkillers
…God of War meets Dragonslayer
Tags: Fantasy, Mission

Icons World
Microscope-Built Open Fantasy Great Forces
Tags: Fantasy, Open

Journey to the Black Keep
…The Amazing Race meets Princess Mononoke
Tags: Fantasy, Race

Masks of the Empire
…Deadwood meets Lord of the Rings
Tags: Fantasy, Investigation, Community, Exploration

Microscope Fantasy
Microscope-Built Open Fantasy
Tags: Fantasy, Open

Neo-Shinobi Vendetta
…Ninja Scroll meets Appleseed
Tags: Sci-fi, Fighting, Mission

Raiders of the Aftermath
D&D meets Fallout
Tags: Post-Apocalypse, Exploration, Fighting

The Scrye
…The Wire meets Pathfinder
Tags: Fantasy, Community, Investigation

Sellsword Company
Microscope-Built Fantasy Mercenaries
Tags: Open, Fighting, Community

Shadows in the City of Tomorrow
…Batman meets Doc Savage
Tags: Superhero, Swashbuckling, Mission

Shadows of Rome
…Hellboy meets Gladiator
Tags: Fantasy, Monsters, Investigation, Fighting, Supers

Sky Pirates of the Caribbean
…Pirates of the Caribbean meets Last Fleet
Tags: Fantasy, Swashbuckling

Sky Racers Unlimited
…Crimson Skies meets Around the World in 80 Days
Tags: Race, Sci-fi

Starship Outlaw
…Firefly in our Solar System
Tags: Sci-fi, Investigation, Caper

Strange Breakers
…Ghosts of Albion meets Conspiracy X
Tags: Victoriana, Steampunk, Monsters, Missions

Swashbuckler Academy
…Three Musketeers meets Libri Vidicos
Tags: Fantasy, Steampunk, School, Swashbucking

Tower of the Magi
…Ars Magica without the history
Tags: Fantasy, Community, Magic

The Uncanny Gentlemen
…X-Men meets Pride & Prejudice
Tags: Victoriana, Fantasy/Sci-fi, Mission, Community, Supers