Ok, now that the playtest report for Torchbearer is out of the way, I’m going to be taking some time to write my impressions about The 101, a game under development here in the Lisbon gaming community by friend and fellow role-player Rui Anselmo.
Before I do that, however, I want to post a little bit of what the game is about, for those of you who don’t know Rui. First off, for the linguistically capable among you, here’s the post that started it all.
A brief translation of the designer’s goals follows. A word of warning: this was written in mid-April. Since then, the game concept has evolved, the state of the game development has evolved, and the game author’s own understanding of the concepts involved has evolved. So, this is given for little more than historical reasons.
1) I want a simple RPG
- This is the most important aspect of the whole project: it must be immediately understandable, so that, when taken up for the the first time, it is immediately playable. The rules must be simple so as to be easy to understand and they cannot stand in the way of what I care most about with this project, Immersionism; in fact, the rules should give incentive to this type of game play.
- It will be played with D6 dice: everyone has them at home, or they can be easily swiped from games like Monopoly. I still don’t have the mechanics well defined, but this is one thing I want (the fact that always have 3D6 with me on the computer helps as well)
2) I want an Immersionist RPG
- I want an RPG that lives as much off its participants’ imagination, as off their will to exert that imagination, but I also want both Players and GMs at ease in this mode. While this type of game play will be encouraged, it will never be enforced at sword point.
- Although I’ll be basing my work on definitions of pre-existing models, I’ll try to imprint my personal style on the game.
3) I want a Simulationist RPG
- As far as possible, “rules” and “realities” will exist, which will hold for practically all aspects of the game, obviously excepting situations where the game ceases to be Simulationist and becomes Narrativist; a good understanding of these two definitions is essential.
- Here as well, I’ll be looking through the bases for existing models, and I’ll try to divert from them as little as possible.
4) I want an RPG that can become Narrativist
- I want the Players to feel more than that, to be able to use their creativity and imagination for more than to simply describe how they beat up a mook, and the game will have mechanics for that: if, on a given moment, the righ conditions hold, the Player will be able to interrupt the GM and describe what happens next, not only regarding his own character but also other characters and the events themselves and surrounding environment, within the bounds imposed by the game’s theme – this sounds worse written than it does in my head, believe me
- There are no two ways about this: the Narrative model is in fact very simple, so I will not divert from it
5) I want Ken Hite meets John Woo meets Warren Ellis
- I’m a big fan of these three gentlemen, and just from looking at their names I think you can begin to guess at the game’s theme…
- …which will be Big Fights with Big Conspiracies with Big Powers – big powers? Well, maybe just more than the Average Joe’s 😉
From this introductory text, I gleaned the following answers to the Big Three, with which Rui has subsequently agreed:
1) What’s your game about?
A: I want Ken Hite meets John Woo meets Warren Ellis. I’m a big fan of these three gentlemen, and just from looking at their names I think you can begin to guess at the game’s theme.
2) What do the players do?
A: I want an Immersionist RPG. I want an RPG that lives as much off its participants’ imagination, as off their will to exert that imagination, but I also want both Players and GMs at ease in this mode. While this type of game play will be encouraged, it will never be enforced at sword point.
3) What do the characters do?
A: Big Fights with Big Conspiracies with Big Powers – big powers? Well, maybe just more than the Average Joe’s 😉
Now that that’s out of the way, it strikes me that that’s hardly enough for you to know what the game is about, so here’s a summary:
The 101 is a secret government agency. So secret, in fact, that the agency’s very existence is a secret. Its aim is not security. Its aim is not supremacy. Its aim is not wealth or riches or power. Its aim is thoroughly simpler than that. Its aim is to maintain humanity’s status quo.
Everything that Joe Q. Public knows about how the world works is “true”. For Joe. But, it’s true only insofar as The 101 does its job, which is to keep those things that aren’t “true” away from Joe’s eyes. So, whenever something happens that threatens Mr. Public’s understanding of the world, a group of agents known as Chios contacts a number of 101 agents (of which there exist exactly a hundred and one, by the way), so that they can deploy, figure out what’s going on, put a stop it, then conceal it and erase all trace of it from Mr. Public’s eye. If it sounds simple, that’s because it is.
Players in The 101 play agents of this organization, while the GM plays Chios, Opponents, extras, mooks and the world at large, much like in a traditional RPG.
Agents and Opponents are special in the world. Think hackers and agents in The Matrix. These are the people capable of extraordinary feats, and all because they are Cool. In fact, the Cool Factor is the only stat in the game, and it functions not only as a stat but as a resource as well, in that it can be gained and lost in the game, and it can be spent for achievement of, well, cool things. People without cool factor? Well, that’s everyone else. “Lieutenant, your men are already dead.”
Each session of The 101 is a mission. It begins with a briefing, delivered by Chios and follows with the Agents’ investigation of the goings on. Usually, the mission itself climaxes with the final confrontation between the Agents and their Opponents. The mission itself, but not the session. After the mission winds down, it is the GM’s job to present the Agents with a Question, an opportunity for them to betray the tenets of The 101 and disclose some fundamental truth to the public. Each Agent is free to address the question at will, thus choosing between Truth or Status Quo. In Big Model terms, that’s the Narrativist cherry on top of the Simulacionist cake.
Welp, that’s it. By now, you should know enough about the game that my next post should make sense to you.
Up next: a description of some basic game mechanics, how they changed and why, and what I learned about the game, and about Rui’s own goals for the project.