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GM looking for help with non-traditional roleplay narrative

InvictusInvictus Registered User regular
edited July 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
My gaming group runs several different campaigns at once, cycling every couple of months between who is the GM. It's soon to cycle back around to my turn, and we'll be picking up where we left off in the Rogue Trader game I am running. Rogue Trader is a game where the PCs are powerful interstellar merchants in a dark SF setting. They've just obtained a very nice ship, a light cruiser, that they are attempting to repair and retrofit to use as their flagship. In particular, they've tied together this ship, which was damaged and abandoned for decades, with duct tape and baling wire and are now taking it through the warp (dark demon-ridden hyperspace) in order to get it someplace they can repair it properly.

One of the bits of fallout from this plan is that it will take them quite some time shipboard to get to the planet where they'll be repairing, and a long time spent in warp is extremely bad juju. I definitely want to impress upon them that duct tape and baling wire don't make a ship warp-proof, and one of the sacrifices they have to make in order to get this ship operational is to see through the perils of the warp. However, they've casually expressed some dismay about having to roleplay out the whole trip; they were hoping, I think, to just have us say "time passes," and get to do the cooler things they'll get to do once they're on planet. Moreover, it's only three of us; I'm GMing, and they are the Rogue Trader and a techpriest.

So that's setup; here's what I'd like. I'm interested in trying something really nontraditional with the storytelling structure about their way home. All kinds of weird shit happen in the warp, and the rolls to see generally what kind of things happen to them turned out very badly; multiple instances of 'reality molds and flows like liquid aboard ship.' In particular, the last thing that happened was they saw a soldier of theirs, on the bridge of the ship, go insane and shoot himself in the head, and anyone who was touched by his blood also went aggressively crazy. So I have all kinds of in-universe explanations for really weird stuff happening.

The kinds of things I'm thinking about would be doing it flashback-style, where we pick up once they've arrived at the planet, but as things come up, flash back to play through precisely what happened on the ship, or having them both wake up with no memory and have to figure out both that they need to regain their memories and control of the ship and how to do that. These are just the best kinds of ideas I've come up with. I've tossed around these kinds of things with my players, and they are both entirely up for these kinds of things. So I'm interested if people have any ideas for nontraditional storytelling structures that might work in a role-playing game, or specific ideas for my context, or experience with these kinds of things in games they've played in or GMed.

Thanks!

Generalísimo de Fuerzas Armadas de la República Argentina
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Posts

  • ChrysisChrysis Registered User regular
    edited July 2012
    I'd say if they don't want to RP out the whole trip don't make them. Have them RP some highlights (A Daemon incursion, maybe an Astropath gets possessed) and fill in the rest with "And other bad shit happens, have some insanity points."

    Alternatively, something like an Exploration challenge could work. You give an outline (maybe, after the daemon is defeated the crew starts to get mutinous) , and choose a number of degrees of success to pass the challenge. They choose skills and roll them trying to accumulate the required degrees. For the example before, maybe the Trader rolls his command skill to give a rallying speech while the Tech-Priest does Tech-Use to try and fix up the air filtration systems and improve morale. Rinse and Repeat until they run out of ideas for skills, and if they manage between them, they defuse the situation. Otherwise, they take some penalty (maybe crew loss or some corruption points) and the situation is resolved/they try again.

    I wouldn't try flashbacks myself, as they'd likely be a jarring disconnect and you have the problem of character advancement having changed what their characters are capable of between the time this is supposed to have occurred and where they are now.

    Chrysis on
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  • Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    edited July 2012
    I reckon you do it System Shock/Dead Space style. Give the impression you're breezing through it, get em to make a few simple checks for minor issues. Then BAM. They wake up in pitch dark, the power is out and they can't hear the engines. Now they must adventure through the locked down ship facing various fucked up warp phenomena and mad crew to get to the bridge/engine room/whatever and face the possessed crewman who has caused all the issues.

    But that's just me.

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  • FANTOMASFANTOMAS Flan ArgentavisRegistered User regular
    I would give them a free pass, after all, the game would become intersting when they can run their ship properly, maybe have them whitness the dangers from an outside perspective, they find an abandoned or half destroyed ship with a scary "black box", or captains logs, so they are aware of what perils await, without the actual chance of getting them in too deep shit, since that would slow down the game, so it would be a compromise between "time passes", and you trying to showcase the dangers of travelling.

    Yes, with a quick verbal "boom." You take a man's peko, you deny him his dab, all that is left is to rise up and tear down the walls of Jericho with a ".....not!" -TexiKen
  • KiasKias Registered User regular
    I reckon you do it System Shock/Dead Space style. Give the impression your breezing through it, get em to make a few simple checks for minor issues. Then BAM. They wake up in pitch dark, the power is out and they can't hear the engines. Now they must adventure through the locked down ship facing various fucked up warp phenomena and mad crew to get to the bridge/engine room/whatever and face the possessed crewman who has caused all the issues.

    But that's just me.
    This sounds like a great idea!

    But it sort of depends on your players. If I had to guess, I would say their concern is that playing out the trip would get boring. The real question is, can you make it just as entertaining as what they would do on the planet? I feel like the above option is one way to do just that!

    You can use the random event generator for motivation, but honestly I would plan it out roughly like any other game session. While role playing is a big part of the overall session, make sure there is mechanical objectives for them to be working towards (i.e. fixing the ship, fighting insane soldiers/daemons, overcoming insanity). I find the best role playing occurs while players accomplish mechanical objectives (i.e. if it were just a board game, would these game goals be fun and challenging).

    Given the setting, you can even abstract insanity in to a sort of separate setting/encounter. I don't know the mechanics of rogue trader well enough, but for example you can have them wake up in their cabin with a call from the bridge, and as they step out in to the hall, they fall in to a violent ocean with no land in sight and must fight not to drown. As soon as they succeed in their swimming/agility check, whatever it may be, a big wave crashes over them and they find themselves in the hallways of their ship, but everything is different. The turns are wrong, and entering any door just leads them back to another section of the hallway. This can be a mix of player solved puzzle (i.e. entering through the same door twice gets them somewhere) or some form of smarts/perception rolling to move them to the next phase of insanity and so on.

    If your players are thick skinned enough, wrap it up with a believable combat against some greater daemon that will very likely decimate them, and even be semi apologetic to give the impression that you are accidentally causing a TPK. Then, as it holds up their limp corpses it can whisper in their ear, "see you next trip" and they can wake up at their destination undamaged but thoroughly mind-fucked (however that plays out in this setting). You wouldn't want it obvious that the daemon was an illusion, which could lead to your players being frustrated at being beaten in combat, as I know some players just hate losing, so really just tailor things to what would keep the session fun for everyone.

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  • Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    edited July 2012
    Kias wrote: »
    I reckon you do it System Shock/Dead Space style. Give the impression your breezing through it, get em to make a few simple checks for minor issues. Then BAM. They wake up in pitch dark, the power is out and they can't hear the engines. Now they must adventure through the locked down ship facing various fucked up warp phenomena and mad crew to get to the bridge/engine room/whatever and face the possessed crewman who has caused all the issues.

    But that's just me.
    If your players are thick skinned enough, wrap it up with a believable combat against some greater daemon that will very likely decimate them, and even be semi apologetic to give the impression that you are accidentally causing a TPK. Then, as it holds up their limp corpses it can whisper in their ear, "see you next trip" and they can wake up at their destination undamaged but thoroughly mind-fucked (however that plays out in this setting).

    It would take some balls to pull off and the right group to apreciate it, but this may be the best idea have ever heard.

    Also you quoted me making a your/you're error. I may have to go commit seppuku now.

    Jam Warrior on
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  • SammyFSammyF Registered User regular
    Kias wrote: »
    Given the setting, you can even abstract insanity in to a sort of separate setting/encounter. I don't know the mechanics of rogue trader well enough, but for example you can have them wake up in their cabin with a call from the bridge, and as they step out in to the hall, they fall in to a violent ocean with no land in sight and must fight not to drown. As soon as they succeed in their swimming/agility check, whatever it may be, a big wave crashes over them and they find themselves in the hallways of their ship, but everything is different. The turns are wrong, and entering any door just leads them back to another section of the hallway. This can be a mix of player solved puzzle (i.e. entering through the same door twice gets them somewhere) or some form of smarts/perception rolling to move them to the next phase of insanity and so on.

    This is sort of what I was going to suggest. If they have a preconceived notion of the layout of the ship, turn that notion on its head and make them struggle to figure out how the hell they're going to get to where they need to be to solve the encounter.

    Alternatively! So they wake up in separate quarters on the ship and have to get to the bridge to bring the ship out of warp before they're irrevocably cast upon the shores of madness or something, right? So after a bunch of shit like the halls not leading where they're supposed to, inexplicable dunks in the ocean like what Kias just mentioned, and generally stuff like this:

    TNGCaption73a.jpg

    The finally stumble through the haze of insanity to arrive simultaneously at the bridge, where they have to fight a demon. But they're still struggling with their madness; the demon seems to morph into a variety of forms, the dimensions of the room keep shifting, and they can't understand what anyone is saying so they can't coordinate. Every time a player does damage to the demon, the demon immediately just hammers away at the other player, and the more damage the player does, the more brutal the demon becomes in his assaults.

    The fun (at least for you as the GM) is to watch how long it takes your two players to figure out that there is no demon, and in their madness, they're actually murdering each other.

  • azith28azith28 Registered User regular
    I like the system shock initial idea.

    Say you pick a time when all your characters are together in a room or bridge. Then suddenly they awaken from stasis. The room they were all in had a hull/air breech and they all passed out, and only vaguely recall noticing something was wrong too late, and help didnt arrive until they suffered enough to need to be put into an artificial coma or stasis to heal.

    The hull breech itself could have been a micro asteroid punching a hole in the hull, which later turns out to be an alien or something which now has had the time to hide on the ship and is stealthy killing crewmembers so you need to find it.

    An alternative would be to use the same situation but make it due to a crew mutiny (Someone tried to kill you all by opening a vaccuum seal or something), some of the crew was still on your side so they saved you and have been protecting you while you recovered, so you have to take down the bad members.

    If you want to focus more on the engines, you could make the above happen due to an explosion, then steal (which most people would probably notice) the idea from Firefly "Out of Gas" where they have a time limit to take a shuttle, find a replacement part and return before the ship runs out of air.

    I kinda like the idea of giving them their 'safe' trip where you mostly just say 'nothing happen' then have it come back and bite them on the ass. Maybe throw in a traitor aspect. Say once during hyper something abnormal happens over at the science station (wierd readings, a strange bump thats easily treated like it was a minor collision with something small) then have it be a creature that latched on, got inside, something like a changling that can devour a crew member and take on its form. Then you can have it as a complete surprise when it attacks a single PC when hes by himself...you take that single person aside and have him try to fight it without the rest of the group knowing whats going on. If he fails, the creature kills and mimics the PC. Now the PC's job is to devour the rest of the PC's, playing the 'bad' guy.

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  • KiasKias Registered User regular
    Oh, as an alternative if you don't want to beat up your players, have them show up to an empty bridge with a demon waiting who tries to kill them. Play up the demon's defense as his ability to dodge and make it a point that, while abstracted for combat (once again, not sure how this plays out in Rogue trader), the demon is moving all around the bridge. If you play on a battle mat, just have the demon run/teleport around or some such, but don't over do the description.

    When it's all over, the mortally wounded demon lurches forward, says "Sir... please..." and takes on the the form of a crew member before collapsing. Players snap back to reality and a room full of dead ship personnel. The "See you next trip" can be written in blood on whatever apparatus acts as the primary view/navigation.

    You still get the mind fuck, and assuming crew members are an important resource, the players should feel the sting of warp travel. Any attacks from the demon can be the stats crew members would roll for firing their weapons, just to hit home that the entire conflict was the players slaughtering their crew.

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  • InvictusInvictus Registered User regular
    I reckon you do it System Shock/Dead Space style. Give the impression you're breezing through it, get em to make a few simple checks for minor issues. Then BAM. They wake up in pitch dark, the power is out and they can't hear the engines. Now they must adventure through the locked down ship facing various fucked up warp phenomena and mad crew to get to the bridge/engine room/whatever and face the possessed crewman who has caused all the issues.

    But that's just me.

    I think this is a fine idea, but part of the problem is that this is pretty much what they had to do in order to gain control of the haunted ship in the first place. The ship was full of mummified bodies, and when they went to the bridge, there was a possessed corpse there that raised the dead as zombies, and the players had to carefully navigate the ship, fleeing zombies and figuring out what to do to weaken and kill the demon that had raised them (this was an only slightly modified version of the Emperor's Bounty module for Rogue Trader, if anybody knows it). So part of my motivation is to figure out a way to run another shipboard horror-ish adventure without making it seem too much like what they just did, and I'm interested in nontraditional narrative structures anyway, so my idea was try to add some kind of narrative twist in order to keep it a little less repetitive.

    Thanks for the feedback so far; one of the big issues with doing an adventure where the central conceit is that their senses deceive them is that my players are pretty clever and genre-savvy, and I think they'd sniff out that kind of thing from a mile away. It isn't that I don't want them succeeding, it's that I'd be concerned that they would just quickly identify it as 'oh, this is what's happening' and it might not hold their attention as much.

    Generalísimo de Fuerzas Armadas de la República Argentina
  • Great ScottGreat Scott King of Wishful Thinking Paragon City, RIRegistered User regular
    edited July 2012
    I think that the best plan I can come up with for this is to combine the ideas above, but with a twist. "Time Passes" and they made it to their destination fine without incident. Except that time didn't pass and they are still in the warp. EDIT: This avoids the players from figuring out what's going on, especially if things are normal at first and they start the repairs, etc.

    You can, at the "destination", make permanent character changes without having to retcon or otherwise work backwards in time because, unbeknownst to the players, they are still in the warp. You can undo anything too horrific to make permanent as part of recovering from the hallucinations. This should give you leeway to use any and all ideas you come up with simultaneously; there's no reason they can't "arrive" multiple times.

    You can keep them in hellish limbo for as long as required to get a good reaction out of them. I'm thinking that the events can even be real, as far as that goes - I'm assuming that real time travel could also happen in the Warp...

    Great Scott on
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  • KiasKias Registered User regular
    edited July 2012
    Invictus wrote: »
    I reckon you do it System Shock/Dead Space style. Give the impression you're breezing through it, get em to make a few simple checks for minor issues. Then BAM. They wake up in pitch dark, the power is out and they can't hear the engines. Now they must adventure through the locked down ship facing various fucked up warp phenomena and mad crew to get to the bridge/engine room/whatever and face the possessed crewman who has caused all the issues.

    But that's just me.

    I think this is a fine idea, but part of the problem is that this is pretty much what they had to do in order to gain control of the haunted ship in the first place. The ship was full of mummified bodies, and when they went to the bridge, there was a possessed corpse there that raised the dead as zombies, and the players had to carefully navigate the ship, fleeing zombies and figuring out what to do to weaken and kill the demon that had raised them (this was an only slightly modified version of the Emperor's Bounty module for Rogue Trader, if anybody knows it). So part of my motivation is to figure out a way to run another shipboard horror-ish adventure without making it seem too much like what they just did, and I'm interested in nontraditional narrative structures anyway, so my idea was try to add some kind of narrative twist in order to keep it a little less repetitive.

    Thanks for the feedback so far; one of the big issues with doing an adventure where the central conceit is that their senses deceive them is that my players are pretty clever and genre-savvy, and I think they'd sniff out that kind of thing from a mile away. It isn't that I don't want them succeeding, it's that I'd be concerned that they would just quickly identify it as 'oh, this is what's happening' and it might not hold their attention as much.

    Ahh, this makes a big difference then. Yeah, didn't realize they had already spent so much time with the ship in creepy/horror mode.

    Ok then, as an alternative, think of a few problems to give them on the trip and really leave it up to them to what lengths they would like to go to solve them. For example: A demon informs the crew that a single member has been possessed and will sabotage the ship. The players not only need to figure out who it is, but must also deal with the fallout and paranoia among the crew as people start a witch hunt and bodies begin turning up.

    You can wrap it up with an actual possessed crew member or the laughter of a demon as the PC and crew realizes that no one was possessed and the demon could only breach the ship's defenses enough to whisper that single message. Either way, you can judge how far you want to take by how into it the players get.

    I honestly don't know what else would happen in warp space or if the system has mechanics for a "repair" based encounter that goes beyond a quick couple rolls to determine success, so its hard for me to come up with any other encounters. Either way, I do know warp space is bad business, so it would be nice to put something together to make them fear going back in to it unprepared.

    Kias on
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  • Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    Crash them into a warp stranded Space Hulk. Tempt them with treasures. Kill them with Genestealers. Reveal it was all a warp dream! Then have the hulk appear on the radar in real life.

    MhCw7nZ.gif
  • KiasKias Registered User regular
    Crash them into a warp stranded Space Hulk. Tempt them with treasures. Kill them with Genestealers. Reveal it was all a warp dream! Then have the hulk appear on the radar in real life.

    :^:

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  • Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    Ooh, or rather than player death which they might see through, have the warp dream be some terrible accident utterly destroying their prized new ship.

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  • DetharinDetharin Registered User regular
    I once ran a shadowrun game where the players were going into the upper levels of the Renraku archology. The entire thing was controlled by slowly burning out killer robots, and the ghosts of long since murdered and mutilated dead. At various points I handed each played a note, with instructions meant purely for them as they became possessed by the ghosts of the long dead trying to right various wrongs. The mage was the only one immune as she could both see and communicate with the ghosts and ended up being the one responsible for sorting the entire mess out while the rest of the team was running around reliving the lives of the long dead trying to succeed where they failed.

    For instance pass each of them a note with some random instructions. Such as one person sees the ship completely repaired at all times, one person sees chunks removed and has to constantly guard his vision not to stare into the abyss. For a third have his note explain he is the demon Xuyuyx and he needs to convince the party that the Macguffin is broken and needs "repaired" as it is preventing the full manifestation of his power.

    Be a real dick though and in the future whenever any player "dies" take him out of the room and spin some tale of him waking up on the ship still adrift in the warp with his body horribly ravaged by warp exposure leaving him a twisted mutated husk experiencing a few brief moments of lucidity after their "deaths" allowed their brain to break loose from the warp fueled dreams.

  • InvictusInvictus Registered User regular
    Thanks for the feedback, all. The session was two days ago, and ended up going very well. I decided to try something that took aspects from a lot of the suggestions here, as well as some stuff I was thinking about. I reminded them what had happened in the last moments of the previous session (they had watched some kind of blood madness cause one of their guards on the bridge commit suicide, and anyone touched by his blood became homicidal) and then told them that they wake up on a dusty steppe on some kind of planet, with no memory of the intervening time.

    This was of course a psychic fugue state a demon had put them in, and they had to figure out a couple of puzzles in this dream world that corresponded to problems they were facing in the real world (e.g., there was a set of werewolves menacing a village that corresponded to the crewmembers infected by the blood madness) and after they fought and destroyed the demon, I told them they found themselves back on the ship, killing the mutant that had been possessed by the demon, with full memories of the last three weeks and the ways they had handled various obstacles. I told stories about how they had handled those obstacles based on how they had handled the analogues in the dreamworld.

    Everyone seemed really happy with how the session turned out. Thanks for the help, everyone!

    (Mods can close)

    Generalísimo de Fuerzas Armadas de la República Argentina
  • DeadfallDeadfall I don't think you realize just how rich he is. In fact, I should put on a monocle.Registered User regular
    Man, I've never played it but Rogue Trader sounds awesome.

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