Trinity: Planning and running the game ~ Part 2

In this installment, I’d like to go over how the characters were developed, and how they in turn were used to further develop the setting and themes of the Series. A little bit of time will be spent on how those design choices were used to prepare outlines for potential plots and appropriate scenarios to explore.

At this point in the design process, we had already been talking about details and preferences for about three weeks. The parametres for the scope and feel of the game appeared to have been established and both players seemed keen to give it a try. This illusion was shattered once character creation began. I think any experienced GM is used to that, and so you will understand that I felt it was easier to start mental rewrites of the setting and coming sequence of potential events as the characters began to take shape, than to exert further force into the creation process. As the character creation process came to its conclusion, I was very glad that I didn’t meddle as both players concocted character ideas and gave them shape in their stats with a greater degree of creativity and sensitivity than we had seen in a while. When I saw the initial versions of the characters, I began to get quite excited about getting to run this series. What had begun in proposals as a near space opera, likely to have the feel of Star Wars – had suddenly taken on a whole new dimension. The series was to have depth.

As mentioned in the previous installment, the characters had been intended to be fighter pilots in the employ of the Aeon Trinity. The expected antagonists for the series were to be the pawns of the Colony, issues of piracy in the Asteroid Belt, finished off with a secondary plotline of uprisings of various types (Civil War, labour unrest)  on Mars and the Moon respectively. While the backdrop of events was to be huge, the focus was to be solely on the role these two characters played, and the impact they made on the lives of the people being swept along with them in the same streams of fate and history. As Aeon Operatives, they would have the chance to interact with a greater variety of locales and people than other allegiances might offer, and could be put through tests of their loyalty and independence based more in personal choice. The themes were to be those of the game line itself: hope, sacrifice, and unity. Each of these themes was stressed in character creation, and I feel that it is because of those themes, and the experience of the players, that such great characters were crafted.

As we had set as one of our goals that characters would begin as pre starting characters and explore life as normal humans prior to the onset of the series itself, the decision was made to run an extensive prelude for the characters. This was to accomplish several things. The first was to set a clear baseline of how the vanilla rules of Trinity function, to demonstrate how to apply them without changing them or trying to replace them while not running into the normal issues of success/failure that plague the system, and to help the players find their footing in this large and interesting setting in a more controlled environment. The result was a series of four episodes around the concept of their initial Aeon training: boot camp (physical training and use of will), milk run (occupational skill use, and social interaction), psion! (activation as psions, and elevation in rank), and storming the heavens (the first mission after graduation).  

Prior to character generation, I had each of the four preludes plotted in terms of necessary NPCs, locations, and the sorts of encounters which would be required to test the system and character aspects which needed to be explored. As soon as character generation was complete, I had to rework the concepts for the second and third episodes, and simply scrap the fourth.

The reason? One of the characters was a pacifist. As this concept was brought forward, the other player offered suggestions which led the two to decide that rather than developing and playing characters destined to be VARG pilots, they would instead play EMTs. We would still be able to do flight school and other high tension flight and vehicle related scenes, but we would strip away the dogfights and frontline combat – replacing it with more humanitarian pursuits. While I was disappointed to have wasted a week of time creating dogfight rules, I was equally excited to note that this new direction heightened all three themes: hope, sacrifice, unity. The game had gotten better before the first in-character action was taken.

The two characters were as different as can be imagined, and other than their interest in working with Aeon, it seemed that we would have our work cut out for us getting them assigned to be a team without a healthy dose of GM fiat. One was a Turk, interested in pacifism, ecstatic dancing, and debate. The other was an Australian bush pilot raised by generations of Australian bush pilots. Both enjoyed physical pursuits, and both were in the shadow of capable and domineering fathers. As we prepared for the first session, I felt that there was a lot with which to work, and was fairly sure that by creating some appropriate NPCs, the characters could believably end up paired in team exercises within the training structure, and meet the established starting point of them working together as Operatives.

The Series title is Three Pillars, and refers to the tripart slogan of the Aeon Trinity. I have some hope that we will tell three solid stories for this series, one for each of the themes, but history tells me there will never be enough time. C’est la vie. 

The setting for the Preludes was called ‘The Resort’ and was set to be a place of interest other than just their boot camp. I laid this initial plot thread, once it became clear that they would be working as medics and support crew:

·     Aeon Trinity assumes command of a military post which was scheduled to be decommissioned by the Legions in favour of a more forward position. Aeon will provide billeting and resupply logistics for Legion Patrols.

·     Aeon Trinity will operate a near-theatre boot camp for Operatives at this location

·     Aeon Trinity will base its mobile library and re-education teams at this location

·     Biotech and other hard sciences will be at the core of educational programs

·     Inspirational 3D holoshows will be sent to various points of interest to remind the populace of the former glories of their shattered townships

·     Simple maintenance guides in multiple languages with pictorial instructions detailing the operation and repair of food processors and other simple machines will be freely distributed under the Aeon Logo

·     Operatives will be given simple devices to give to children and young adults in order to provide a beneficial, and inspiring impression 

·     Operatives will be equipped to deal with threats, social and ‘military’ to assist in local populations deposing warlords and other brute leaders

·     Operatives will be equipped to assist local populations in reestablishing ordered societies

I felt this would be one avenue of assignments from which the characters might choose to draw, and decided to prepare a similar mission statement for each of the locations that they encountered. I established that they would have to serve 1 year at the Resort after completing their training. If the players were not keen on this environment, we’d fast forward to choosing their first assignment, and if they were, we would explore France in detail. During training, the plight and circumstances of the blasted nation of France would be made clear, and there would be some interaction with that setting during the Preludes, so the players could make an informed choice between the three settings set to be used in the Preludes: France, a Mars orbital station, and Luna.

In the Boot Camp Prelude, the focus was on spirit-breaking physical challenges, a look at how Aeon has specialized in a variety of educational techniques, and technologies, and establishing that the aberrants in the game are well and truly irredeemable. They are evil. There is no misunderstanding. This latter point was required and generated in response to the pacifist underpinnings of the Turkish character – Arto.

As we had also determined that we would have the other trainees serve as a pool of potential replacement characters, we took a more co-operative approach than the norm for handling their personalities and names. I typed up a cast list, with very short annotations where needed. At the start of the Prelude the others were all Unamed 1, etc. As play ensued, traits and names were assigned. After the end of the first session the cast list looked like this:

Trinity Series: Three Pillars

Cast of Characters

Aeon Trinity Operative Training Specialists

  • Sergeant-Major Karl Dade Nichols  (Chief Trainer/Drill Sergeant)
  • Sergeant Cassius Clay Dempsey
  • Sergeant Abe Hancock
  • Sergeant Rondell Boulette

 

Aeon Trinity Operative Trainees – Proteus Division – Aerospace Specialists

  • Arto Tekbilek (Tur)
  • Gavin Hughes (Aus)
  • Marna LeMieux (FSA)
  • Ingram Dundee (UK)                      Medical Leave
  • Jeth Fitzsimmons (EU)                   Psychiatric Leave
  • Vernon Malone (FSA)                    Medical Leave
  •  Unnamed 1
  •  Unnamed 2
  •  Unnamed 3                                       Medical Leave
  •  Unnamed 4
  •  New Unnamed 5
  •  New Unnamed 6
  •  New Unnamed 7
  •  New Unnamed 8                             Psychiatric Leave
  •  New Unnamed 9
  •  New Unnamed 10
  • New Unnamed 11                           Psychiatric Leave
  • New Unnamed 12
  • New Unnamed 13                           Psychiatric Leave
  • New Unnamed 14

 

Aeon Trinity, Proteus Division – Strike Team Theta: Counter-Terrorism/Xeno-relations   

  • Senior Operative Karen Highers (Team Leader, PK + CS)
  • Operative Louis Pinchot (EK)
  • Operative John Taylor (CS)
  • Operative Gil Quinn (PK)
  • Operative Ayden Abrams (VK + PK)
  • Operative Cullen Jie-Hu (杰虎) McCormack (TP + VK)
  • Operative Regina Waters (EK)

 In the Milk Run Prelude, the cast shrank, as training was mostly over and the focus was on developing their specialities and being assigned to join in on real assignments where possible. The setting for this set of episodes was ostensibly Mars but most of the play took place en route to and returning from two points in the asteroid belt.

This set of episodes was pretty much like a bottle show on TV. With a limited cast and with the characters confined to a small, easily managed location (the ship) we could explore the group dynamic and bring out the personality quirks that are essential to long-term player enjoyment of characters.

What we got from this, however, was a surprising turn of events. So surprising was it in fact, that it shall be an entire installment to itself.

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