Sunday, 10 February 2013

The Complex Episode 0: Pathways

I've been persuaded to run a Smallville game online, using Google Hangouts! Over the last couple of weeks we've been using a private Community on Google+ to discuss character concepts and the basic structure of the game, and yesterday we ran through Pathways!

This was my first time participating in a Hangout with more than one other person, and it turned out my tablet was not up to the challenge. I ended up having to use Hangout on my Mac, but without a webcam I was limited to audio only. It worked out OK in the end, but I'll definitely be investing in a webcam and a proper headset before Episode 1.

The setting is modern day. On Australia's Gold Coast, there is an apartment complex which is gathering people with strange powers... or perhaps, the building is a catalyst causing these powers to manifest. It does appear that The Complex itself is an entity of some sort, with its own agenda. The game will run fortnightly for about four sessions, and then we'll see whether we want to continue or wrap it up.

We ended up with four Leads:
  • Sarah plays Zoe Elliott, a former researcher for Odyssey Tech in Britain, who fled the company after discovering they were performing strange occult rituals. She's hiding from them while investigating their Australian operations.
  • +Lloyd plays Aki Enoki, a graduate student of Biological Anthropology from Japan. She decided to take a gap year after spending her whole life living up to other people's expectations, and a friend suggested she visit Australia.
  • +Steve plays Takeshi Kitano, an ageing, retired hitman with a heart of gold who used to do freelance work for the Yakuza and others. He's trying to lie low, but his big heart may drag him back into the fray as he finds people worthy of his protection.
  • +David plays Tony Pearson, the maintenance man at The Complex, who shares an almost symbiotic relationship with it. He's a former hacker from California, who's hiding out Down Under with an assumed identity.
With one former Pathway session under my belt, things went relatively smoothly (once my technical issues were sorted). We used a shared folder on Google Drive, using spreadsheets as Pathways worksheets and character sheets, a drawing for the Pathways Map, and documents for character concepts, rules and expectations, and a summary of the connections from the Pathway Map.

Unfortunately, there's a lot going on during Pathways, and I failed to realise that Zoe's Extras and Locations were more like antagonists for her than resources to call upon - her former boss from Odyssey Tech who wants her found, an outback facility she doesn't have official access to, and a mysterious glowing entity she's scared of. They're all great story elements, but they don't fill the role of Resources. Normally you'd end up with these sorts of antagonistic connections if one of the other Leads was employed by the company and made these things as their Resources, and you decide that their company is at odds with your Lead.

I've suggested that Sarah reposition Zoe slightly; maybe she's still employed by Odyssey, but has started to realise that things are not quite right. That way she can call on company resources while investigating them from within. Perhaps the glowing entity has been forced upon her as a sort of guardian, so even if she doesn't want it or understand it, it might turn up and help her sometimes.

Episode 1 will be in a couple of weeks, so I have a while to sort out final details with the players and wait for some plot possibilities to percolate through my brain. Running Pathways again was a blast, if somewhat draining, and I have a great group who all showed up on time and demonstrated enthusiasm and engagement with the game. Thanks guys!

I'm not one to act as a corporate shill, but from conception to recruitment, discussion, actual play, and even blogging about it, this entire game has utilised Google's amazing suite of free web products. While it would have been possible to organise otherwise, using all of Google's interconnected products certainly made it much simpler and more convenient!

>>> Preparing Episode 1

>>> Episode 1


  1. Seems like Zoe's Extras would have been a good source to upgrade to Features; did none of the other Leads connect to them at all?

    That being said, it would still be possible to use "negative" resources, depending on the specialties assigned to them being more along the lines of "resentment", "resolve", "fear", or "determination" given from the history with the various people and places.

  2. Nope; a few people connected them TO Leads, but nobody connected themselves to those Extras. We only had one Lead turn into a Feature, and that was The Complex itself. By and large, there ended up being a lot more Locations than Extras on the map.

    Of course, now they're in play, I can mess around with them myself. It's certainly possible that someone like Zoe's ex-boss will turn into a Feature during play, at least for an episode.

    I see where you're coming from with "negative inspiration" Resources. I haven't heard from Sarah yet, so I'll suggest that as a possibility. Thanks for your comments!

  3. If people like, I could have Tony have dated Zoe's ex-boss if the boss is a woman.

  4. Zoe's ex-boss is Martin Houndsly, so I'm pretty sure he's male. Not that that precludes Tony having dated him... It wasn't established or even implied during Pathways, so I'd be happier if stuff like that develops in play rather than shoehorning more things into the Pathway Map. There are some Distinctions that allow you to "know a guy", and that guy may be someone else's Extra. In addition, I'm sure there will be several GM-made Features turning up with Odyssey tech connections. :)

  5. I really like the idea of the location being an entity of some sort. Kind of a Kingdom Hospital or 666 Park Avenue kind of concept. Very cool.