Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Complex: Episode 4

It's been a month between sessions, because we didn't want to have yet another game with only two players showing up. So, for the first time since Episode 1, we had the whole group together! Due to Daylight Savings starting in the Northern hemisphere while ending in the Southern, the session started two hours earlier than previously for me; I had to get up pretty early, but at least the game didn't run through my lunch time!

My schedule helped us to once more finish the session on time. It's basically just a list with "real world" times listed down the side, and cues to make sure certain meta-game events happen by certain times - when I expect to start the Opening Scenes, when we'll get to the Middle Bit, when to start heading towards a Climax and resolution, and when to call a halt so we have enough time to complete Tag Scenes before finishing on time.

Episode 4: Crime and Punishment

Starring (in alphabetical order):
  • +Lloyd Gyan as Aki Enoki, graduate student of biological anthropology on a gap year.
  • +David Miessler-Kubanek as Tony Pearson, the apartment's maintenance man, and an ex-hacker from California.
  • +Steve Moore as Takeshi Sekiguchi, a retired hit-man trying to keep a low profile.
Produced and Directed by Craig Judd

Takeshi returns from his business trip. He has just enough time to get inside, take off his shoes and loosen his tie, and start pouring a glass of scotch, when Aki knocks on his door. She's come to return the stolen whalebone statue, and tries to leave straight away, but he invites her in to see if they can clear the air between them. She resists, but in the end consents.

In a lower-floor hallway, Tony walks past Zoe on his way to a repair job. He tries to ignore her, but she apologises for the other night and asks if she could buy him a drink tonight at Casey's Pub. He agrees to meet her there at nine.

Just as they are about to part ways, the elevator door opens in front of them, and a man carrying several cases gets out and introduces himself as Brett, a new resident. Zoe departs as Tony helps Brett to his apartment. Brett subtly questions Tony about his origins. Tony becomes flustered as some inquiries cut a bit too close to home, and accidentally confirms that he's from California. He leaves in a hurry before he incriminates himself any further.

Sitting at opposite ends of his couch, Takeshi questions Aki about her obvious discomfort. She's reluctant to address the issue directly, but eventually admits it's because he carries guns. He claims that way of life is behind him, but she points out the hidden gun cabinet that Aomo told her about. However, she also tells him about Tony keeping people in the old prison, and that she thinks he's crazy-dangerous, and that she probably distrusts Tony more than she dislikes Takeshi. Takeshi agrees to talk to Tony about the situation, and Aki leaves.

While repairing a window, Tony hears the sound of spray-painting outside. He looks out, to see a guy in an olive raincoat "crouched" sideways on the sheer wall, spray-painting a Lizard tag. He ducks his head back inside, ignoring the call of "Warden!" from the guy. Instead, he heads up to Aki's balcony, where he manages to reach out and grab the guy's arm. The Lizard tells him that he'll stop painting if Tony lets him leave this place, but Tony tries to drag him inside. They struggle, and the Lizard drops his paint can and backpack to the concrete below.

Aki turns up to see Tony teetering on the edge of her balcony. She rushes over, and helps him drag the Lizard to "safety." Tony then pulls a wrench off his belt and attempts to knock the Lizard out, but the Lizard's tough skin and Aki's force-field prevent him from being hurt. In the struggle though, Tony is pushed back against the concrete wall and bangs his head.

Guided by a premonition that Aki's in danger, Takeshi makes an appearance too! He tries to nonviolently subdue the Lizard with Tony's assistance, but Aki's still using her force field to try and free the Lizard and stop the fighting. Takeshi uses his precognition to great effect, predicting his opponent's moves. Aki becomes worn out from prolonged use of her force field powers, and she passes out from the strain. The other two finally get the Lizard under control.

According to my episode outline, the Lizard was supposed to taunt a couple of people before returning at the end as a climactic chase and capture, followed by everyone arguing about what to do with him. However, we ended up having that climactic struggle in the middle of the episode! I should have made sure he was too far away from Tony to be grabbed, but I went with "be a fan of the PCs, make them look cool." Once he was embroiled in a Contest, there was no easy way for him to escape without Stressing Tony out, but his dice weren't good enough for that. It worked out OK in the end, though, and getting the fight out of the way earlier on left more time for dealing with moral quandaries.

While Aki's passed out, Tony and Takeshi discuss what to do with the Lizard. Takeshi wants to call the police, but Tony tells him about the prison. The Lizard has obvious "powers," and a green scaly skin, marking him as an escaped convict. Takeshi agrees to let Tony take the Lizard down to the sub-basement while he makes sure Aki is OK. 

Down in the prison, Tony throws the Lizard into his cell. He notices the word "Lizard" etched into the old stonework. As the guy tumbles into the cell, it looks as though a blur of light spills out of him and dissipates into the cell with a frustrated sigh. Afterwards, the guy in the raincoat loses his scaly appearance. Tony locks him in with a newly repaired latch, and considers using his 3D printer to make a replacement for the missing cell number tag. It's also about time for him to get ready for his meeting with Zoe.

Takeshi considers calling an ambulance for Aki, but she wakes up as he applies a damp cloth to her forehead. He tells her that Tony has run off to chase down the Lizard. Aki wants to show Takeshi the prison while Tony's out, but Takeshi does his best to distract and redirect her. They go downstairs and check out the dropped backpack and paint cans, not finding anything particularly interesting. Aki insists that now is the best time to show Takeshi the prison, but Takeshi resists; it's late, he's tired, it's been a long day, he has responsibilities as the building's owner not to violate people's privacy...

The two are at an impasse when Brett Leeding shows up and lets them both know he's moved in because everything seems to be happening around this building. Since he's Takeshi's friend and Aki's investigator, he tells the both of them that Zoe Elliott is a current Odyssey Tech employee, so you know... he thought they should know that. He then heads off to the pub, and Takeshi says he'll catch up with him later.

At Casey's Pub, Tony nonchalantly says hi to Bob and cruises over to Zoe's table, because it's totally not a date. Again. She apologises for running out on their dinner, but that things are so complicated... Tony says something touching and reassuring, and she smiles and touches his hand with hers. Tony calls a toast, but Zoe's hand begins to tremble and she drops her glass, pressing her hand to her head and crying out, "No! Not now!" Tony senses a spiritual presence growing, similar to Sheila but filled with dread and malevolence. He scoops Zoe up and begins to carry her out of the bar, but a glowing ball of miasma emerges from the wall and attacks him! With a burst of hatred and spiritual energy, it knocks him down. Just as he blacks out, he sees Zoe trying to hold the thing back...

Tag Scenes

Aki leads Takeshi down through Tony's "Dungeon" and into the prison. On the way, they reassess their opinions of each other. They arrive in front of the Lizard's cell, finding the guy still comatose on the floor, and Takeshi begins to realise the truth about Tony.

Lloyd changed Aki's Duty to "DUTY to those who have earned my respect," her Justice to "Show them that JUSTICE prevails," and her Relationship with Takeshi to "I should reconsider how I feel about TAKESHI, he's not such a bad guy after all."

Steve changed Takeshi's Justice to "I am the dispenser of JUSTICE," his Truth to "TRUTH is a valuable commodity to be dispensed sparingly," and his Relationship with Aki to "Aki needs protection from the horrors of the world."

Meanwhile, Tony regained consciousness, his eyes opening to bright sunshine. He struggled to his feet, red rock all around. The camera pans back, to show him on the very top of Ayers Rock, right in the heart of central Australia...

David didn't Challenge any of Tony's Values or Relationships, so he only had one Growth dice from Stress.



Firelight plays across the red-rock walls of an ancient cave. Paintings of animals, people, and spirits cover the walls. The air is filled with the thrum of didgeridoo and the clack of rhythm-sticks. A circle of men sit around the fire, their dark skin streaked with white ochre. At the head of the circle sits a white-bearded elder, deep in meditation.

His blind white eyes snap open as the music stops, and he speaks.

"Two have come. We must hurry."

Since the players frame their own tag scenes, Tony's finale was all on David! I just asked him where he wanted to wake up. It's a great plot development, and it's already sparking off ideas for next time. It looks like it will be "filmed" in two separate locations though, with not much chance for Tony to interact with the other two Leads. Time will tell whether he gets back to the Complex quickly, or just in time for the end of the episode.

>>> Episode 5