Monday, 3 April 2017

The Week in Stories: Strange Attractors - March 25

Last night, we finished our first mission as members of TimeWatch, played using Cortex Plus rules. It was a great deal of fun, and then afterwards, Rob reminded us to regard what we'd just played as a pilot episode, complete with the freedom to alter things about our characters before the next session. He then asked a lot of very good questions aimed at both uncovering the things our characters can't walk away from, (AKA buttons to push for drama) and to develop connections between the PCs.

This is going to be a mission-based game, but with still trying to incorporate some of the character interaction and drama so dearly beloved by our group. Without, hopefully, overloading two new players (to the hobby as well as the table.)

All Strange Attractors Recaps

The Mission, Part Two

Our characters relocated to the NY Public Library in 1937, trying to find the earliest divergence that had led to this grubbier, more fascist U.S. with Charles Lindbergh as president. The most obvious divergence was the assassination of FDR in 1932 or 1933, although we also found about six total assassinations/faked suicides, including Winston Churchill and Alan Turing.

However, given that TimeWatch protocol is to find the earliest divergence and address that, we were led to the marriage of Amelia Otis to Gunter Frank in 1893, and the birth of, not Amelia Earhart, but Greta Frank in 1897. Followed by the disappearance of father and daughter in 1912.

A visit to the 1937 Amelia Otis Frank led to at least one hint of paradox, as she seemed to remember Peter and Millie (my character). But we found out enough that, with the research done by Gerald and Walter, we could come up with more than one plan to interfere in Gunter Frank going to Kansas, setting himself up as an inventor (of the mousetrap and zipper, among others), and marrying Amelia Otis.

We went back a year before he was supposed to arrive and interjected ourselves into the lives of the small town in various ways - Walter, with his CIA music background, got himself hired as a piano teacher to the town's young women, injecting a little Philip Glass into their lives. Gerald tried to ingratiate himself with Judge Otis, Amelia's father, but failed miserably at it, getting tossed out on the street and using that to great effect later. Millie started volunteering at the same orphanage as Amelia, while Peter made friend with Sam Earhart, encouraging him in his courtship.

When Gunter Frank showed up, all the plans went off at once, more or less. Peter, Walter, and Gerald intercepted him on the way to mess with Sam Earhart, getting him drunk and taking him wagon racing, then sending him to church in front of Amelia and her father. At the church, Frank seemed to become aware something was wrong and called in the time coordinates for a hit in blue energy that Peter only narrowly dodged when Millie tackled him to the ground, then restrained Frank. Gerald showed up and told Frank the jig was up, get in the carriage, thus further ruining him in the eyes of Judge Otis.

Gerald caught a glimpse of the time assassin, and we're pretty sure it's Greta, the Nazi version of Amelia Earhart.

After Frank was remanded to TimeWatch custody, the rest of the timeline seemed to sort itself out, and we recruited Amelia Earhart, partly with the promise that she'd get to fly rocket planes. (Frank Noonan was recruited as well.)

Character Thoughts

It is often only in retrospect that I notice that I'm playing a streak of characters with something in common - often the characters are all dramatically different from each other, but there will be a theme or trait that keeps coming up. I haven't had a ton of gaming recently, but just from the characters I played at the convention a couple of weeks ago, I think Millie is a more complete examination of one of the themes that two of my one-shot characters fell into.

That is to say, I think I'm in the middle of a streak of characters who are faking it. Not characters who are fakes, but characters who, for one reason or another, are having to fake it - in at least one case, so well that she herself believes it. (That would be Millie.) At the con, I played a character in The Veil who was part of a religious faith that believed in serenely intervening in dangerous situations, but was never serene about it. She was always terrified, so she put on a show of serenity and bravery in order to do what she truly believed needed to be done.

Then, in The Watch, I was playing a new officer with nowhere near enough training to be in charge of anyone - but in desperate times, sometimes there isn't anyone with the experience. She made major mistakes, partly trying to hide her inexperience and uncertainty.

Now there's Millie, and it's a little different - it's not that she's faking who she is, it's that she is working so hard to be okay with her own actions that it's led to her faking it to an extreme degree. She helped terminate her own timeline, losing all the people who were important to her, because she truly believed it was the right thing to do. Or, at least, that's what she's trying to tell herself. As a result, she comes off as the ultimate True Believer, and would even agree with that if you used it to describe her. The doubts, the faking it to get through the day are buried pretty far down, but they're there.

On the mechanical level, it's part of why it was important to me to have history as the lowest stat for Millie. Part of why it was possible to convince her is that, although she's very good at many things (punching Nazis being high on the list), she doesn't and didn't know enough about the timeline to really able to evaluate what she was told about why her timeline was doomed. It's very possible that the reasons for destroying her timeline were not what she was told.

(I was asked that by another player, if the TimeWatch operative had been lying to me, and replied that that was entirely up to Rob. Coming up with backstory and ideas for a character arc are important, but holding them lightly are part of sharing authorial control and approaching this as a collaboration.)

All in all, I'm looking forward to more missions and to getting to start integrating personal character issues into what happens. I'm a little worried that my character is a little off, tonally, from the rest - I've certainly gone whole hog for the angst, even though in daily life, Millie comes across as cheery and lost in a different timeline in a humourous way. We'll find a middle ground, I have confidence.

The other part of this is figuring out what she wants from the other characters that might be difficult to obtain, and to develop relationships that will lead to good play with them. I have some preliminary ideas, but I think all of them will change as we go on. Because Millie is from such a dramatically different place and time, she's a bit of an outsider character, but she's also gregarious and lonely.

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