Trinity: Planning and running the game~ pt 5

It is time to take a look at how the Trinity game I am running got where it has gotten, and why certain decisions were made to either prevent that result, or allow it to continue. To recap for a moment, the series itself was set from the beginning to be one of heroic action, against a backdrop of humanity’s struggle to reach a brighter future in the face of a remorseless, irredeemable, and seemingly unstoppable enemy. The Preludes, designed to enable the players to get up to speed with the mechanics, distinguish the life of a normal human from that of a psion, and to build strong bonds between the two PCs, ended up accomplishing the first two goals well-enough, but did essentially the opposite of the last goal. As you may remember, the character development guidelines were quite clear about what characteristics were appropriate for the proposed setting and what ones weren’t. Why did I let things mutate away from the initial proposal once things had been set in motion?

Good question.

If there is a single answer it is rooted primarily  in the quality of initial game play and the depth of character which appeared. It seemed that these emergent character arcs would provide greater latitude for a growth toward heroism than was initially conceived, and I took that as a tremendous and unexpected gift.

As an example, take a look at this encounter, designed as a test of combat piloting skills in an immersive VR simulator. The player character  name for P1 is Gavin,  and P2’s is Arto. OOC comments are posted in square brackets:

ST:  That afternoon, you feel normal and are sent off to classes to study navigation and other pilot-related skills, Gavin is a teachers assistant for this course as he is already a civilian pilot.   Tomorrow, the first sim will be taking place.

P1:  Nice

ST:  At the end of the month, a flight mission to the asteroid belt

P1:  whoo whoo

ST:  No time wasted. The learning machines really work, and are true wonders of science

P2:  [they can’t come too soon; what a difference such tech will really make!]

ST:  You have learned from the Strike Team that they use them too, but as Psions they have access to more exotic functions, especially Taylor the clear, who can use it to record his own dreams

P1:  Gavin will keep a print of the croc photo on his person and keep the tooth in his locker

ST:  You are also getting a sense about how much effort, and how many resources the Trinity is willing to invest in people, and how much it values personal development and philanthropy…  Even the brute squad branch you are in: Proteus

P2:  [Brute squad?] 

P1:  [in-your-face marines]

ST:  [Film: ‘The Princess Bride’ reference]  Yeah, tough guys: special operatives 

P1:  [been years]

ST:  Tomorrow comes. No one dies in the night

P1:  that is encouraging

ST:  You get a video message from Malone.  His eye surgery is tomorrow and he is scared but hopeful, He misses everyone, and wants you all to know that the food sucks in Basel. He hasn’t heard anything about Ingram, and as he can’t see, can’t wander about to find him. He is lonely.

P1: Gavin will send appropriate words of encouragement and relate the tale of the croc-beastie to keep Malone amused. I will tell him we are eating Croc steak, wish him the best and all that. Suitably embellished to get a laugh.

P2:  I will send him the most confident-sounding message I can muster up: “You will see again. The doctors in Basel are the best there are. From all accounts they will reset the cells in your eyes to re-grow fully and completely. You are about to experience what in any other age would be called a miracle.”

ST:  Others respond as well, and the mood is light. The newcomers ask for details again about the attack and normal conversation ensues. Team spirit is still divided, but the courses and mentor programs are working to erase that sense of duality in the group.

ST: Your mentors from the pilot group fill you in on drill one,  and let you know it is an ambush scenario in an LB-Mel. Rebel fighters from the New Ottoman Empire attack out of the sun with sensor scramblers.

P1:  Right, get them talking about what happens and how they handled it

ST:  “Haha – we died”

ST:  …the first 7 times

P1:  laugh with the group good-naturedly

P2:  They are an ultraconservative old-guard faction in the government; nobody likes them, but they have control of the courts and the military; *shoulder shrug*

ST:  “Everyone gets smoked the first time”

P1:  “Everybody? Wanna wager on that, mate?” Gavin grins

ST:  Wide, wide grins meet his

ST: No one wants to get political so they accept Arto’s comment without negative reply. Everyone wants to get along.

ST:  “Sure… how much will you wager?”

P1:  “If I die… I buy drinks for the night for all of you… if I don’t each of you owes me a night out.”

ST:  “A-ha ha! Done!”

ST:  The simulators are deep underground and are true VR machines.  The entire interior of an LB-MEL is accurate and functional, and the view ports and screens all look real.

P1:  nice

ST:  Gravity and sensation are all almost accurate except for speed.

ST:  You are paired off, G and A are being paired off more and more frequently, and given an assignment to take off “from” a stormy spaceport “in Central Africa” for a rendezvous for cargo on “Luna” then return.

P1:  “Strap in, mate…”

ST:  G is the co-pilot on this run

P2:  [I have no piloting experience]

ST: This is training in a simulator, near the end of flight school.

P1:  “Damn… I think I’ll be buying drinks then…” he says and slaps Arto on the back… “Keep the pointy end facing forward…”

ST:  A is the co-pilot on the way “back”

ST:  The take off is of course tough and choppy due to the simulated storm, but the training works

ST:  The views from the cockpit are 100% believable

P1:  Right… and I’ll bet those Ottoman bastards will get us when loaded with cargo

ST:  The wind is raging and it is hard to stay on course

P2:  Probably…when we’re heavy and as agile as a pregnant cow.

P1:  Gavin mimes puking a few times to keep Arto’s spirits up during the rocky take-off but is generally enjoying himself

ST:  Pitch, yaw, and vibration are all real.

P1:  G offers suggestions as necessary

ST:  There is a warning light on the control panel, one engine out

P1:  Make that, “helpful suggestions”

P1:  Gavin investigates the problem as best he can from the co-pilots readouts

ST:  The craft pulls mightily off to one side and crosses over into French airspace

ST:  Int + Piloting, or Engineering, or Computer rolls, for both men 

*rolls were called for, to clarify to what these skills might apply as the players were  reacquainting themselves with the system.

P1:  Int + Pilot: 8 8 8 9

P1:  🙂

ST:  haha

ST:  Arto?

P2:  8

P2:  7, 8  [- both from Int]

ST:  k

P2:  [No piloting, no engineering, no computer]

P1:  [yikes!]

ST:  [It is still very good to have 2 successes]

ST:  You mean, no ratings *yet*

ST:  Ok, so both know the engine can be restarted, both know it is not necessary to do so, but that corrections need to be made if it isn’t

P1:  Gavin suggests the re-start

ST:  G: knows that the engine coolant is the problem and needs to be replaced. It can be done in-flight from the tech station mid-ships.

ST:  Once.

P1:  He passes this on and investigates the cause, if possible

P1:  head to the tech station

ST:  The ship crosses into “Shatter” airspace… No man’s “air”

P1:  “Keep eyes sharp, Arto… this is where it is gonna get hairy. Let me check on that engine” 

ST:  (The collapsed Eastern Europe is called ‘The Shatter’)

ST:  Gavin: Wits + Engineering

P1:  If it looks like the re-start and repair will not be a wasted effort, Gavin will effect repairs

P1:  Wits+ Eng: 5 8 

P1:  He wants to learn more engineering certainly… but only knows how these things work from the pilot’s chair

ST:  ok: it is a struggle and will take time using the onboard help manual

P1:  “Holler if any baddies show up while I work on this…” he says.  “Keep your eye sunward…”

P2:  Clear so far

ST:  You come out of the storm and into the clear upper atmosphere, no blips on radar, but a sinking feeling in your guts.  You begin the preparation for leaving atmosphere.

ST:  You are scanning everywhere; the engine is being recharged with coolant 

ST: The shaking begins to lessen as the atmosphere thins

ST:  The air gets cooler and the heaters come on

P2:  Things are looking up, then, aren’t they, Gavin?

ST:  Thanks to the warning, Arto spots the glint of sun on metal coming at them from a ridiculously steep attack vector

P1:  “That’s right mate… keep lookin’ up… they will be on us at any moment”

P2:  Out of the sun, as expected.

ST: The pilots must be plastered to their seats like ticks on a fat dog

P2:  Shit.

P1:  Gavin will head back to the co-pilot’s seat ASAP

ST:  No warning on the lidar, but the proximity warning goes off suddenly

P2:  Well, I’m new at this. Any pointers? (Calm voice…no need to panic as of yet)

ST:  Dex + Ath for G, dif +1

ST:  The range is long for missiles, but closing fast

ST:  There are two gun systems (on this Trinity LB-MEL), fixed and turret. The pilot can control the fixed ones, the co-pilot can control the turret mounted ones.

P1:  Dex (4) = Ath( 0 ): 2 3 4 9 

ST:  Gavin is fighting gravity and will take another turn (and roll)

P1:  How many are there?

ST:  The Aeon Trinity MEL has one fixed heavy coil-gun and one turret mounted heavy coil-gun. Normal LB-MELs have only the turret mounted weapon.

There are two fighters. Small, single-seaters probably… judging solely by their attack vector.

P1:  “Turn into them and when in range, let fly with the fixed coilgun… I’m heading up there…” Gavin says as he tries to approach…

ST:  So here is the scene: You are essentially going “straight up”

  There is cloud cover below, and space above

  Much, much, much farther below that is mountainous terrain

P1:  They are coming at us “horizontally” from the sun?

ST:  Yes. They are coming in from an orbital arc and one is just behind and to the left of the other

ST:  The grav plating makes you feel like you are on a steep incline

P2:  (Do Gavin’s tactics jive with what I’ve read and encountered in the learning chair?)

ST:  Although your eyes tell you they are coming right at you from the front

P1:  Then Gavin’s instructions are sound. “If we keep going on, they will fall in behind us and we are ripe for the picking”

ST:  Yes,

P2:  I will do it then.

ST:  and it will make the approach faster and harder for missile lock

ST:  ok

P2:  As best as I can half-ineptly/half-eptly do

ST:  [hah!]

ST:  The piloting part is simple, will you fire?

P2:  Chaff systems at all?

ST:  Nope

P2:  I will try to fire, sure.

ST:  Ok – on which, lead or wing?

P2:  But before I try to fire, I will broadcast, in Turkish, that we are a civilian craft and not military, so pose no threat; please reply.

P1:  Interesting… 🙂

P1:  The pilot can only fire the fixed weapon correct?

ST:  They reply: request identification civilian craft, and blow past at supersonic speeds

ST:  Yes, correct

P1:  Ready for second attempt to regain co-pilot chair

ST:  Roll it

P1:  3 5 10 10 

ST:  Done nicely!

P2:  (what is our ID on this run?)

ST:  A periscope-like viewer can be brought in place to control the turret

P2:  (What is the scenario?)

ST:  AT-ooo1

P1:  Gavin will prep the turrent incase they don’t buy the bait

ST:  Go to the moon, get crap, come back

P2:  I’ll try to convince them of our legitimate nature, then, within the boundaries of the scenario (private company, etc., or whatever it is).

ST:  The Trinity –  a legit cargo run for the Aeon Trinity

P1:  “Or just lie your ass off” grins Gavin

ST:  They communicate for a short time about IDs and airspace

P2:  As long as I’m not under pressure trying to evade a missile, I’ll try to talk with them.

P1:  Without making a full alarm-inducing lock, Gavin will track the lead ship.

ST:  roll 4 dice please Arto  (Man+Rapport)

P2:  4 8 2 and…

ST:  [Suspense]

P2:  7

ST:  haha

P2: [ only have 3d10 handy]

ST:  Proceed AT-0001

ST:  They peel off, and leave the area

P1:  Gavin cheers and powers down the turret, but keeps a wary eye on them

P2:  *Can you believe that* look is shot at Gavin.

P1:  on radar or whatever its equivalent is here

ST:  radar for atmosphere, lidar for space

P1:  “We be drinkin’ tonight Artie!”

P2:  I’ll follow protocol and log the event with “simulation HQ” and suchlike.

P1:  “That was some fair Turk-speak! What did you say to them anyway?”

P2:  “I identified our vessel and stated we’re non-military. That’s it.”

P1:  “That’s it? Good thing they bought it…” grins and slaps you on the back

P2:  “There are protocols to follow and now I’m wondering about what the other cadets did…”

P2:  “Maybe it’s just that I’m a Turkish citizen…?”

P1:  “I think it is a fair cop they don’t speak the language…”

P2:  “Whatever the reason, I’m glad it didn’t come to shooting. After all, they’re soldiers doing a job, just like us.”

P1:  “Free drinks for weeks…” Gavin grins     holy crap

ST:  A message arrives back from HQ: New call letters assigned to craft: New designation AT-Kobayashi-Maru

P1:  hahaha

P2:  Is that normal? For the flight designation to change like that?

P2:  Or is it a harbinger of something else?

ST:  It is a reward for your adroit handling of the situation

ST:  Arto does not get the reference

P1:  “Oi… didn’t you ever watch Star Trek on the 2D vids late on Sunday nights?”

P2:  “What? Start Rek?

P1:  “Too busy readin’ I’ll bet.”

ST:  much as G had never heard of Dune

P2:  *Sheepish look*

P1:  “That’s what readin’ will get for ya!’

ST:  Much was lost during the war. The Aeon Trinity is trying to bring as much art and culture back as possible, but… Much was lost

P1:  As much as he can, Gavin will explain the reference

P2:  “But we didn’t cheat….did we?”

P1:  “Well not like Kirk, but…”

P2:  “I don’t want that to show on my record, if it was cheating! I didn’t mean to do *that*.”

P1:  “Oi, lighten up… survival is survival and it’s not like we re-programmed it… ”

P1:  He claps Artie on the back, “Using your wits to survive is what it’s all about”

P2:  “Hmm…”

P1:  “And believe me mate, you DO want that on your record!”

ST:  The rest of the run is uneventful, simulated cargo is loaded in the hold, and you have to actually secure it in place, then G has to fly back and land.  Your simulation ends 30 hours later. 12 hour flight time one way, plus loading and whatnot.

ST:  You discuss and worry and speculate for much of the way home

ST:  When you exit the simulator, Sergeant-Major Nichols and all the other cadets, whose runs must have ended much, much earlier, are waiting. The cadets all applaud, and N steps forward

P1:  Gavin makes sure that Artie is in front.

ST:  N: “There are three ways out of that scenario, boots. One: in a body bag.  Two: as a candidate for Top Gun, or Three: by acting like a real human being, with a real job and a commitment to protecting the human race.

P1:  “Oi! Three cheers for me mate, Arto the Otto!”

ST:  the cadets cheer, and N nods his head. 

ST:  “I present you with the trophy for option 3, Boot…(no pause)

P1:  Gavin will ponder N’s words later… seeing as he would have simply opened fire on the bastards…

P2:  *that’s a lot of attention being paid to a young fellow out of his home culture, so the head is down and eye contact is furtive, at best*

ST:  …and hands over a lovely and intricate ship in a bottle, the ship is called the Kobayahsi Maru. The painted ocean on which it sails seems to be turbulent and perilous, but she flies her flag and sails proudly.

P2:  “Thank you, sir,” is all that comes out, the rest is done with eye contact and body language.

ST:  “Now get to the Gulch all of you and show me some better performance before I stick this boot all the way up your pathetic asses!” Nichols screams, moment over.

P1:  “Let’s get fuckin’ doing it!” Gavin yells… and belatedly adds, “Sergeant Major!”

P2:  I’ll join in the screamings of “Yes, sir!” and go, only pausing to make sure the bottle is put somewhere safely close at hand, for later retrieval.

An encounter which demonstrated the turbulent relationship between the emergent NOE and other Euopean nations, which placed the characters in a win/lose situation requiring team work to resolve, and which maintained the established tone that these Preludes were to be reinforcing would have been fine.

I feel what was obtained here was siginificantly better.

That said… it planted seeds for further deviation from our stated intent, and influenced how later scenes would play out, leading ultimately to situations which threaten to separate the characters completely.

This will bring us to the next installment of this record, wherein we will discuss weighty issues like why can’t we all just get along, and all for one and one for all.

2 Responses to “Trinity: Planning and running the game~ pt 5”
  1. Kyrei says:

    That was clearly one of the highlights of the entire game so far for me. When Arto started speaking Turkish to them I thought it was a bone/carrot you were dangling in front of him for this scenario, but (as I recall) you were as surprised as me when it happened. As mentioned, Gavin was hoping to fly/shoot his way to fame and fortune (and drunkenness) on pure balls alone.

    The transcript read-through does clearly hint at what was to come later on in the game in the divergence of our characters: the hotshot flyboy and introspective pacifist. A conflict was/is inevitable.

    (P.S. Thanks for just putting in “effect” and removing the grammatical silliness that preceded it. I can own up when I am wrong.)

    • Runeslinger says:

      When he gave the character a Turkish background, I did start to mentally reshuffle ideas I’d had to give the New Ottoman Empire more of a role in non-aberrant encounters, and provide some spice in the issues facing the characters in the ongoing Aeon projects in France, however, I did not expect either of you to even try a non-violent approach to the simulation, nor once it began did I expect it to be based on the premise the player used. Like the attackers themselves, it pretty much had come out of the blue as Arto had already set a pattern of extreme action in response to a perceived threat. I liked how he shifted the encounter away from his weak area, and into an area of strength.

      Winging the reaction of the cadets and trainers to the solution was very satisfying for me.

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