Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Veronica Monsterhearts - We don't need no stinkin' MC

I've ditched the previously generated tag because that should be for stuff that's already created that I'm doing things for. Modules, adventure hooks, ideas, whatever. This is starting to become a thing so it's probably going to get it's own label and header because why not. It's something that's on my mind.

I commented earlier today that I'm wondering why does AW need an MC? Not to say that it shouldn't, or couldn't since that's what is has, but does any sort of *World game need one. I've had some thoughts about this game, and that it might not need an MC because the players are going to give themselves hard moves for fun, profit, clues and experience.

This all ties into the idea of the mystery, and not necessarily knowing the full details of the mystery when you play. Just the what happened to cause the mystery. Now usually the MC is the one who knows all the details of what happened and lays out the mystery, but do you even need that? Can you build towards a mystery without having some outside force guide it?

I'm thinking about that when I was reading the Gumshoe SRD:
Assuming that they look in the right place and apply appropriate abilities to the task, GUMSHOE ensures that the heroes get the basic clues they need to move through the story. The question it asks is:
What will the heroes do with the information once they’ve got it?
If you think about it, this is how the source materials we base our mystery scenarios on handle clues. You don’t see the forensic techies on CSI failing to successfully use their lab equipment, or Sherlock Holmes stymied and unable to move forward because he blew his Zoology roll.
You don’t see this because, in a story failure to gain information is rarely more interesting than getting it. New information opens up new narrative possibilities, new choices and actions for the characters. Failure to get information is a null result that takes you nowhere.
In a fictional procedural, whether it’s a mystery novel or an episode of a cop show, the emphasis isn’t on finding the clues in the first place. When it really matters, you may get a paragraph telling you how difficult the search was, or a montage of a CSI team tossing an apartment. But the action really starts after the clues are gathered.
That's why I wanted to talk about clues. The idea is that I don't think we want to limit clues at all, we want to make sure that they're plentiful enough that there's sense at the end that the players have uncovered the mystery. The trick is that no one knows exactly what the mystery is until you've finished it.  You've seen clues showing up in moves, and I think that they need to be worked at a little bit more to make it more cohesive as an idea, but with clues you actually get to point the action toward a certain goal.

What are those goals? Well, if we look at the structure of Veronica Mars, one of the things that I enjoyed was that there was the episode mystery and then there was the season mystery. You had the mystery of who killed Lilly Kane that took place over the entire Season, there were personal mysteries and then the mystery due jour which was the focus of the episode. I think that's the kind of feeling we'll need to have in order to have the game go right.

How do we do that? Well, each file (because let's be thematic and call playbooks files) should have it's own Season Long Mystery, let's call them personal mysteries. The idea really comes from the Milestones in Marvel: Heroic Roleplaying, but instead of choosing what direction you want the character to go you're going to talk about your personal mystery, the thing that drives you. There's also going to be a Season mystery and the episode mysteries but those are things that you're going to build as a group.

To use Veronica Mars as an example you have the Season mystery that affected a large group of people, which was who killed Lilly Kane. Then you had the personal mysteries, Veronica and her mother ... Logan and her mother ... Mac and her family ... there were a lot of family mysteries in Veronica Mars but they were all to the individual and carried over for a bunch of episodes. Then there was the mystery of the day which depended on the episode.

The idea is that there needs to be a way to figure out those various mysteries and "clue tokens" are the path to it, at least right now. This may change depending on the casefiles (changing the name again from file to casefile because that's even better) and how they interact with each other and the clues. The hope is that you can piece together what happened and what the resolution of the case is by letting the players use the tokens to create the connections that will make up the mystery (kind of like the plot map in Technoir, but really only in basic idea).


Thoughts about anything before or what's going on now? Again this is all vague, but it's what's percolating in my head at the moment.

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