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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Dystopia and Giant Robots: The Living City



So, we have the players for my group, their characters...once everything came into place, it was time to begin play. Mecha uses an interesting framework, in terms of story. It tells the GM to frame the action in terms of scenes, just like in a mecha anime. The consequence of this? Most of the players' action ended up being a lot more to-the-point than what I'd observed, running or playing in more traditional games. Each player got a scene, which let them set up their character; after that, we would start to bring the character threads together.


Janice: to Steal a Canvas
Almost done. Janice withdrew her brush from the stitched together canvas with a curved grin, examining her work with searching eyes. It was a convoluted scene, with figures clashing against one another, and yet another glance would say they were embracing. It was all done in a vivid red.

Art supplies are highly restricted in the Living City; they're gladly provided (by the Living City essentially generating them and spitting them out) for god-approved products. Janice, though, has been amassing collections of unauthorized artwork for herself. Obviously, she needs to figure out how to get ahold of some canvas for her work.

After discussing with Turniphead, I assigned the action as a "Field Ops" scene: a scene where characters are trying to accomplish a mission, usually by sneaking around and doing something. At the end of the scene, they roll dice equal to the appropriate attribute, and then check each one against their Field Ops skill. Succeeding will grant them a "Tactical Point", which can be used during setup before a big battle.

It went pretty smoothly. It was a straightforward scene: the artist displays her psychotic personality tics, sneaks to a nearby artist's place, and raids his trashcan (he tossed leftover canvas into it). She takes the climactic scene roll, succeeds, gets the canvas, and sneaks back towards her house in somewhat demented glee.

During the scene, I also took the opportunity to toss in a little plot detail: a radio announcement by the gods, warning the people of something called The Cancer--a mutated growth that corrupts the Living City.

I cut the scene, and then we moved over to the next player...

Katsuo: Mech'd and Nerdy
He almost smiled; it was like a file cabinet had opened in his head, as in the back of his mind he recalled practically everything about this mecha. However, he snapped out of his stupor, shaking his head.

"Yeah, was working over time..." he replied, still looking up.


Katsuo is a mech nerd, which is also forbidden in this city. Mechs are restricted things, used only by the police, and even a mech engineer like Katsuo is prohibited from knowing more than he has to in order to do his job. As luck would have it, he got stopped by a member of the Protectors: the Living City's police force.

This let us roll into a Social Scene, because we figured that some variety would help. So, Katsuo eventually gets to the point where he's trying to persuade the Protector that he has a legitimate reason to be out and about, that he really does work on mechs. He starts spouting information. That's where I call for the critical Social roll.

Well...it fails. At this point, I decided to go with the Mouse Guard style of play, and this is what unfolded. Yes, Katsuo impressed the Protector with his knowledge. Unfortunately, he impressed him with a little too much knowledge. The Protector let him go home, and informed him that some of the police force would be at his house in about...half an hour.

For me, it gave perfect justification to set up a fight after the buildup scenes. All that was left was to do a character tie-in: apparently, Katsuo and Janice are next-door neighbors. Only in fiction. The whole scene came off very well, what with the awkward tech nerd getting in trouble with the Protectors, and bringing down trouble on everyone.

Paige: Love is in the Air
"I know, but..." she took a deep breath and stopped to look up at him. "Nathan, do you love me?"

"Not so loud," he said, ducking back inside the buildidng. "Do you realize what you're saying?"

Paige shook her red ponytail defiantly. "I know exactly what I'm saying."

Nathan took a deep breath, and set down his cello. "And...what if...what if I said that I did, and they struck us down, right here? Would it be worth it?"


Lastly came Kureaa's scene. Like I said, we'd arranged a "romantic interest" subplot for her character, heavily complicated by the facts of the Living City. The gods have a very specific agenda in mind when arranging marriage, and though they'll generally abide by people refusing the arrangements, they have little tolerance for individuals making their own marriage arrangements.

As the scene played out, it became very clear that the best way for it to come to a climax (and thus require a Social roll) was for Nathan (the guy she liked, who also liked Paige) to be nervous about the entire plan, and for good reason. But a successful Social roll won out, and things went Paige's way. Cue the sweet romance scene. Which...it being the first romance scene I've GM'd, didn't go off too bad. They kissed, he walked her home, they said goodbye--very carefully aware of anyone watching, of course.

And all through the entire thing, the gods seemed not to notice, or to care.

Katsuo and Janice: Enter the Robots, literally
Janice's grin faded. "Cast... down." Suddenly contemplative, she looked up. "Cast down." She giggled, "Cast down, cast DOWN! YES! DOWN! Down here! Oh oh oh! That means we can go UP! YES!"

Katsuo kept tearing through stacks of books littered about his room, "How? How are you supposed to cast down a god?!"

Janice continued ranting. "Up from this place! And they won't poke and prod on my business! No more hiding! No more proving that my life is mine!"


And here is the major turn of the story, the premise, so to speak. Kureaa had to leave for a bit, so the scene only involved Panda's character Katsuo and Turniphead's character Janice. Long story short, the Cancer pops up, outside of their houses, and starts talking to them.

It tells them that they are something called "Godblind", invisible to the gods, and that it is the "Free City". It wants them to rebel against the gods, and so it gives them mechs. Thus begins the meat of the story... (Paige got a similar scene, later on.)

With the setup ready, we were prepared to plunge into...our first fight.

Next up: near-disaster and a nasty bruiser.

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