Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Complex: Episode 2

We only had two Leads for yesterday's Episode, making for a very focussed and intimate - and at times intense - game. +David was attending a games convention this weekend. His Lead, Tony, was busy fixing up the building's plumbing this time around, with Rashida's reluctant help.

We had a little paperwork to clear up from the last session - both attending Leads had to pick new Extras. Takeshi gained Aomo, and Aki gained Brett Leeding. As both players consented in both cases, these two Extras immediately became Features.

I tried to do a bit less prep-work for this Session, but we still ended up going overtime.

Episode 2: A Japanese Story

Starring (in alphabetical order):
  • +Lloyd Gyan as Aki Enoki, graduate student of biological anthropology on a gap year.
  • +Steve Moore as Takeshi Sekiguchi, a retired hit-man trying to keep a low profile.
Produced and Directed by Craig Judd

Takeshi meets Brett Leeding in a private room of the Shogun Karaoke Restaurant. Brett tells him that, while investigating Odyssey Tech for various clients, he's discovered that the've also put in an offer on the apartment building Takeshi lives in and wants to buy himself.

The next morning in the lobby of a fancy hotel, Aomo introduces Aki to Blake Thompson, an Odyssey Tech representative whom Aomo's already done a little freelance work for. Blake is charming, and Aki's thrilled to be recruited by a major company to help them with their archaeological research. They have an interest in the apartment building, as it was built on the site of a colonial-era prison.

Takeshi gets a call from Alan Moss, to let him know the apartment building is going up for auction in a couple of days. Near the end of the call, Rashida wanders past and Takeshi's mobile reception is disrupted.

Aki's working at Coffee Cigarettes & Cake when Takeshi comes in to buy cigarettes and a cappuccino. She freezes up because her opinion of him has completely changed - he's not just "the nice old man upstairs" any more. Takeshi tries to talk to her about the building sale, but she just wants him to leave. He asks what's wrong, but she just wants him to go - to the point of using her force field to push him back, also knocking some stuff off the counter and making a mess. In the end, Takeshi eventually just turns and leaves.

This was a massive Contest, over five or six rounds, each one escalating until we reached a total of 24. Takeshi failed a roll and got Stressed Out of the scene. It was pretty much just repeated "Tell me what's wrong so I can help!" "No, just go away!" but the escalating dice mechanic really raised the tension.

Aki visits Brett Leeding to get some information, and discovers that Odyssey plans to buy the apartment building. She's worried about what this will mean for the residents if they decide to do a full archaeological dig, and whether they will still need her services if they acquire the building.

Aomo's tending the Penthouse garden when Takeshi wanders out and asks if he can think of any reason Aki would be upset. 
In a flashback, we see Aki telling Aomo about Takeshi's gun, and Aomo telling her he's already found Takeshi's secret gun cupboard, which he thinks is really cool.
Aomo says he can't think of anything, but Takeshi detects a certain nervousness and pressures him further. Aomo breaks down and confesses stealing a whalebone statue from the Penthouse garden and giving it to Blake Thompson. Takeshi questions him, and says that he'd better figure out how to get it back. After Aomo leaves, Takeshi calls Brett Leeding to get some information on Blake.

Aki calls Blake to get some assurance that, if Odyssey buys the apartment building, they won't knock it down or evict all the residents. He assures her he'll do everything in his power to keep the apartment running as it is, and that even if they manage to buy the building they'll still want Aki to do some work for them.

Aki meets Aomo in the stairway when she's heading up to apologise to Takeshi. He's obviously upset, so she calms him down and he tells her how he betrayed Takeshi's trust and stole the whalebone statue for Blake. Aki calls Blake and organises another meeting at his hotel.  She goes upstairs to apologise to Takeshi, but he's just left in his private elevator. They get out the front just in time to see him drive off.

Takeshi bursts into Blake's hotel room and threatens him at gunpoint, requesting he return the statue. Blake knows him by reputation and plays it cool, saying he might be able to get the statue back in a couple of days. Takeshi threatens to kill him if Odyssey doesn't withdraw from the auction, but Blake tells him he's past his prime and doesn't have it in him. He should leave things to those younger and more capable. Blake's assessment cuts a bit too close to home, and Takeshi leaves in great frustration.

Aki meets Takeshi in the hallway. She apologises for her earlier behaviour, but suggests it would be best for everyone if they agree to stay away from each other. 

Aki and Aomo go on to visit Blake, and she also demands the return of the statue. In return, Blake asks her to interfere with Takeshi's attempt to buy the apartment. Aki refuses; if Odyssey buys the apatment they'll have full access anyway, and if they lose the auction she'll get some other artefact to swap for the statue.

The Auction

The morning of the auction arrives! An excited crowd gathers on the patio, both to bid and to watch. Blake isn't present, but there's a fairly obvious businessman on a mobile phone passing on bids on Odyssey's behalf. Takeshi has arranged for his bid to be handled by a representative of a historical preservation trust he happens to own. Aki is watching from her balcony, but doesn't see any reason to help or interfere - whoever ends up owning the building, it will benefit her one way or another.

It was a bit of a shame that Lloyd ended up in this situation; with 7 Plot Points going begging, he figured that the best way to affect the situation was to do nothing, so he unfortunately spent the climactic auction scene as a spectator.

Seeing Rashida in the crowd, Takeshi persuaded her to go stand next to the guy calling in the phone bids for Odyssey, to interfere with his reception.

Takeshi started on the back foot as the full might of Odyssey's financial weight was brought to bear right out of the gate. He felt his anger rising as Blake obviously hadn't withdrawn from the bidding, and it looked like Odyssey might win.

However, Takeshi's resources stayed the course, while Odyssey's began to falter. In the second half of the bidding, Odyssey hit their limit and were forced to drop out. By a narrow margin, Takeshi's team won the auction and bought the apartment complex!

Tag Scenes

Blake returned to his hotel room late one night to discover the lights weren't working. He opened the curtains, the moonlight revealing Takeshi sitting on the couch with a pistol on his lap. Having demonstrated his ability to get to Blake no matter the situation, Takeshi tells him that next time he won't be so lucky, and leaves. Blake simply smirks to himself.

Takeshi changed his Justice to "JUSTICE can be achieved by peaceful means," and his Truth to "Some TRUTHS need to be shared."

Aki sits on her balcony and fills in another blog entry. Now that Takeshi indirectly owns the building, she has some freelance research work to do for Odyssey...

Aki changed her Duty to "To be useful in DUTY means to be useful to those that deserve it," and her Relationship with Takeshi to "Me and TAKESHI have an agreement, he stays away, and so do I."



The camera pans low across a carpeted floor as we hear a woman talking on the phone. "Yes, sir, it is unfortunate... No, everything else is still in place..." White curtains waft in the breeze. "Yes, I'm confident that our plans will come to fruition. Just leave it to me..."

The camera slowly pulls up, and we see the back of a woman's legs in stockings and a business skirt, standing on a balcony. The camera glides past her, and looks over the edge at the Complex's patio and pool area...

This time I only prepped one and a half plot elements (the auction, and Aomo's work for Odyssey), and we only had two players, but the game still went for an hour longer than it was meant to! At least I didn't over-prepare this time, and now I know I only have to come up with one really good idea for each Lead and they'll take care of the rest themselves. I just need to keep a more mindful eye on the clock.

My idea to exacerbate the conflict between Takeshi and Aki by putting them on opposite sides of a big issue worked pretty well, although Lloyd's starting to feel like Aki's working for the bad guys now, and he feels kind of bad for acting in direct opposition to another player's character. He's happy with having arguments between friends, and with confronting characters face-to-face, but doesn't feel good about outmanoeuvring other characters behind their backs.

We talked about it a bit after the session, and Steve was fine with everything Lloyd had done. I think even if Aki does end up working for the "bad guys" I need to make sure they're relatable and have justifiable reasons for their approach. Since David wasn't here this time, we decided to hold off on the Modus Operandi Pathways step until next Episode, so that will be a good theme as people figure out how they are most comfortable dealing with each other.

 I've noticed a couple of things when Extras become Features. Firstly, it makes Aid dice slightly harder to come by. You can't just say "I'm using this Extra as inspiration, or for assistance, or something I set up with them earlier" - you actually have to persuade the Feature to Aid you if you want to get a bonus die from them. In hindsight, I probably should have had Brett Leeding's investigation into Odyssey allow him to Aid Takeshi in the auction, rather than just giving Takeshi an excuse to buy a d6 Useful Detail to represent that information. Of course, I hadn't had time to write up a Feature sheet for Brett either...

Secondly, a lack of Extras tends to sideline the Trouble pool. Two Extras who were going to be involved in the Episode turned into Features right at the start, and even though there were a couple of minor GM Extras, none of them ended up in opposition to a Lead. I didn't make a single Trouble Pool roll for the whole Episode, although it did build up a nice collection of d6 and d8!

>>> Episode 3


  1. Is "The Complex" an adventure module publicly available, e.g. in print or online pdf? If so, where? Thanks!

  2. No, it's just a collaborative setting put together mostly by the players, and driven by the now out-of-print Smallville RPG.

    You get together at the start to make characters and define the parts of the world that are important to them, and then the GM builds situations that push the players' characters into conflict with each other. Every Smallville campaign starts with the creation of a unique situation, so it's not really the sort of thing you can publish in a module. It's also highly tailored to what's going on from session to session.