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  • PazuzuAxelf
    started a topic Help a new ST with a Technocracy Chronicle

    Help a new ST with a Technocracy Chronicle

    Hi guys, I'm preparing for a M20 Chronicle that I'll be running in a month or two. It's a game where the player characters are members of the Technocratic Union who are in a special division that attempts to save mankind from the horrors of the supernatural. Theme and mood is a cross between various media like The X-Files, Stranger Things, Men In Black, Ghostbusters, Fringe, Warehouse 13, and Torchwood. The idea is to capture the feel of covert government-type agents dispatched to solve mysterious and often horrific events occurring all over the country. Each story will highlight a different city or town that is experiencing its own supernatural phenomena. The player characters will be from all over the county, and occasional scenes will take place in their homes and show a bit of their life outside the Union. Each story arc will begin with a debriefing in headquarters, followed by the James Bond-esq equipment scene, and then deployment. From there the players will choose their own path to unraveling mysteries and advancing the plot. Meta-plot and other game lines are mostly ignored. The Avatar Storm/Dimensional Anomaly occurred and has faded away by this point, though I'm not sure if I should stick with that for reasons I'll mention below. The Technocracy has gone through some changes due to losing contact with their leadership, and more moderate-to-less-extreme leaders have taken charge in their place. Other supernaturals exist, but for the purposes of this chronicle the Mage cosmology is assumed to be the correct one and any such characters that show up will either be enemies or short term NPCs. Each story is self contained, though they are all connected in a way. The players will take on various supernatural threats across the country which are all seemingly unconnected. I was considering using Threat Null as the main cross-story antagonist through this chronicle. Perhaps I should use the plot arc that the Dimensional Anomaly is being maintained by the Void Engineers to keep them at bay? What thoughts does the forum have?

  • Saikou
    replied
    Originally posted by PazuzuAxelf View Post

    First session will be a group character building session. They only have concepts right now. I want them to know they're part of the Union and have a little bit more experience with dealing with the Supernatural than standard starting characters. I'm going to give them Enlightenment 3 to begin and a few extra freebie points to represent this. I'm going to focus on small supernatural occurrences to begin with, and only one thing at a time. Several players have expressed interest in playing Void Engineers and using Dimensional Science so my first story involves dealing with EDEs crossing the gauntlet and causing problems. Maybe I'll have a follow up story that's similar in another location (they're going to travel the country dealing with issues like this) and have some kind of linking factor they discover later on. The transhumanism theme will also be explored, as another of the players is interested in playing an Iteration X cyborg type character. My gf is interested in exploring Pharmaceutical applications of Enlightened Science as she's got some real life experience working as a pharmacy tech lead. I'm not sure yet what types of things to do with that yet but I'm sure I'll come up with something.
    Sounds like she's going to be a Progenitor. Those guys are really interesting in the political landscape of the technocracy as they are the only real sense of middle ground. While NWO and Syndicate act to undermine each other's control, with Iteration X tending to side with NWO and the Void Engineers hating NWO enough to prefer colluding with the Syndicate, the Progenitors keep up good relations with all the other factions. Everyone loves a good doctor after all.

    The progenitors do this for a number of reasons, but mainly because they view the Union as a living creature which is currently struck with a serious illness. Parts of the union are cancerous, the Technocrats who have started to deviate away from the technocratic ideal and are more focuses on self-serving enterprises or leading the Union towards a more extremist edge. Other parts are infected with a virus, a nephandic infestation which must be sourced and amputated before it spreads too far. Yet others still are just plain failing. Either they aren't getting enough sustenence via funding, or there are problems within the very make up of the procedures, either way they must be sorted before they continue to do more harm.

    Because the progenitors hold the keys to some of the Union's most prized rewards, namely age reduction, eradication of ailments, and the ever popular "genius pill", as a convention they hold a huge amount of negotiation power over many other areas in the union.

    That being said, NWO is quite aware of much of this, and will not delay to remind them just who is meant to be in charge here. And no one negotiates better than the syndicate, funding can come and go so very easily in this line of work.

    Leave a comment:


  • PazuzuAxelf
    replied
    Originally posted by Saikou View Post
    What have you decided so far?
    First session will be a group character building session. They only have concepts right now. I want them to know they're part of the Union and have a little bit more experience with dealing with the Supernatural than standard starting characters. I'm going to give them Enlightenment 3 to begin and a few extra freebie points to represent this. I'm going to focus on small supernatural occurrences to begin with, and only one thing at a time. Several players have expressed interest in playing Void Engineers and using Dimensional Science so my first story involves dealing with EDEs crossing the gauntlet and causing problems. Maybe I'll have a follow up story that's similar in another location (they're going to travel the country dealing with issues like this) and have some kind of linking factor they discover later on. The transhumanism theme will also be explored, as another of the players is interested in playing an Iteration X cyborg type character. My gf is interested in exploring Pharmaceutical applications of Enlightened Science as she's got some real life experience working as a pharmacy tech lead. I'm not sure yet what types of things to do with that yet but I'm sure I'll come up with something.

    Leave a comment:


  • Spacecat
    replied
    Can't add much more to the excellent advice given. I wish i could join. I'd play a Statistician Investigator type with Entropy, Mind, & Time

    Leave a comment:


  • GogariGlenRoss
    replied
    I just started my Technocracy campaign and my advice is don't try to do too much too soon. X-Files was what it was because it built up the tension over time. Simple monster-of-the-week works fine for the first few sessions. This creates expectations that you can mess with later. Be patient.
    Also, if the players make a ridiculous decision, go along for the ride and see where it takes you. Try to think ahead of time of ways that player failure can cause the story to move forward. I learned this from DM who ran live D&D games as improv comedy. He called it "Failure is Fun."

    Leave a comment:


  • Saikou
    replied
    What have you decided so far?

    Leave a comment:


  • PazuzuAxelf
    replied
    This chronicle will be starting next week. I'm still open to tips and advice.

    Leave a comment:


  • Bluecho
    replied
    Originally posted by Faradn View Post
    Definitely include some situations that include moral ambiguity, like:

    Sleeper cultists to some mad Reality Deviant--they're innocent victims of brainwashing, but will do anything to stop you from hurting their great leader and many of them might need to be killed to get at him.

    After investigating the spread a nasty supernatural drug that throws one's senses and reflexes into overdrive, but causes rapid aging and brain damage--only to discover it's being put out as a "field test" by Syndicate members and produced by Progenitors--and it's part of a project that goes all the way to the top.

    As you're eradicating some species of Bygones on strict orders from your superiors, it becomes clear that they are intelligent, relatively harmless, and the last of their kind.
    Absolutely. While the Union means well, the player characters should never be under the impression that they are the inarguable "good guys". The Technocracy has its flaws, and first among them is a mentality that sees the means justified by the ends. Sometimes the PCs will be required to do their duties, but those duties are things they, as (hopefully) rational and moral actors, would do anyway. Other times, however, the PCs should be trapped between what they think is right, and what their duty as Technocrats demands of them. That they need to decide if their commitment to the Union is worth the sins they would commit in its name. (The anime series Psycho Pass is, I'm told, excellent for this.)

    Maybe the amalgam discovers Tradition mages making rounds among soldiers or law enforcement, teaching them elementary Sorcery. The Path of Fortune to give them a bit of good luck, Shadowcasting to enhance their stealth, and Enchantment for creating useful baubles (like, for instance, a flask that stops a bullet). Nothing too grand, but magic nonetheless. While service men and women and police officers aren't any more superstitious than the average person, they generally have greater need for any edge they can get. They can't always afford to pass up a potential edge, if it means letting them come home alive. The PCs investigating this and trying to contain the magical instruction - which are otherwise being slowly passed from person to person - should be reminded that to do so would be to deprive innocent folk of the tools they need to survive and do their jobs. The PCs should see the effects of war or the fight against crime, and how quickly death can come to people who just want to make the world a better place.

    That these soldiers and police are basically like the Technocrat agents, but are apparently not allowed to use the Enlightened edges that Union personnel enjoy, should be an irony not lost on the PCs.


    Switching to the matter of Bygones, I'm partial to Borrowers-style little people, who live in the walls and unused spaces. They don't need to be the last of their kind - it's questionable how you could possibly know it if they were - because there's a good reason why they would be sympathetic: they are, for all intents and purposes, Human. Just, you know, "fun-sized".

    I recommend finding a way to shrink the PCs down to the level of these little folk. An Umbrood curse or spell by a Traditionalist master, or some kind of Enlightened tech accident or Paradox backlash. All that really matters is that the characters get shrunk, and have to survive long enough to reverse the process. (You may also want to prevent them from just using a phone or radio to contact their superiors, as it would cause the problem to too easily be countered). Make the world around them huge and hostile; house cats and hungry mice and vacuum cleaners. Just being stepped on should be a mortal peril, and the agents dare not attract the attention of sleepers, for fear of the effect on the Consensus.

    This plot is best played in an isolated locale, like a small town (which would have the benefit of poor signal reception and Wifi). An old house where the little people live is ideal, as it makes the agents dependent on the very Bygones they would fight against for their very survival. They are ushered into the hidden places of the building, where the little folk make their community. They see how they live their lives - simple, but as homey as any human town. They see mothers with their children, fathers teaching their sons, or even parents quarreling with stifled teenagers. See the politics in the community, and the debates over whether these "strange newcomers" can be trusted (assuming the PCs haven't spent enough time in the house for the little people to identify them for what they are). See them scrounge for food, or make pilgrimage to the disused Node in the woods behind the house, in search of badly-needed Tass to preserve the community. Pilgrimage that takes a couple days at least, and puts the foraging party in danger.

    Make the PCs try to convince their hosts to help them return to normal size (by whatever method they see fit). It may require retrieving a cursed artifact from the next house over, or get to the sheriff's station across town to retrieve their belongings (because if the owners of the house suddenly find discarded clothes and tools on the floor, without their occupants anywhere, what else are they to do but inform the sheriff of their disappearance?). It could be a journey unto itself, trying to reach their salvation, when they are ankle high and determined not to attract attention to themselves. All the while, they come to know the little people, and understand their world.

    And once the amalgam manages to regain their true height, what will they do? Will they have the heart to act against the wee people they've come to know? Can they live with themselves if they condemn sapient beings - humans in everything but size - to death?

    Leave a comment:


  • Saikou
    replied
    Here's a theme that could be an interesting one to explore after the group has gotten used to playing technocrats. Transhumanism.

    You can start things off simple, perhaps a few biomods or cybernetic upgrades as a reward. Let's the ones who take the enhancements really feel like they've been improved. Then allow for further modifications for a small favour, then a higher price. The promise of more enhancements should be everpresent until the players are practically kicking the door down for them. But there is a darker side to this. Make sure the ones with the fewest improvements get more respect from certain high ranking NPCs. Makes sure these enhancements come at a proportional cost to their humanity. Make them feel less human for their troubles. Make people uncomfortable around them, make their colleagues unsure how to react to them, and make the players themselves ask if it was really worth it.

    Leave a comment:


  • Faradn
    replied
    Definitely include some situations that include moral ambiguity, like:

    Sleeper cultists to some mad Reality Deviant--they're innocent victims of brainwashing, but will do anything to stop you from hurting their great leader and many of them might need to be killed to get at him.

    After investigating the spread a nasty supernatural drug that throws one's senses and reflexes into overdrive, but causes rapid aging and brain damage--only to discover it's being put out as a "field test" by Syndicate members and produced by Progenitors--and it's part of a project that goes all the way to the top.

    As you're eradicating some species of Bygones on strict orders from your superiors, it becomes clear that they are intelligent, relatively harmless, and the last of their kind.

    Leave a comment:


  • PazuzuAxelf
    replied
    Originally posted by Bluecho View Post
    Next, you...
    I really like this idea. I might just take it and use it pretty much as is.

    Leave a comment:


  • Bluecho
    replied
    Next, you need to think about how the act of investigating a case will blend together with the locale where the case happens. Paranormal phenomenon are, catagorically, impossible to examine in a vacuum, as there needs to be a "normal" against which the "para-normal" is compared. The Ascension War is fought against the backdrop of the mundane world, and so that world makes a difference in how the weird goes on and how the amalgam investigates it.

    Consider the TV show Twin Peaks. The murder of a prom queen in that show provides the inciting incident for why the FBI character comes to the town of Twin Peaks. But the investigation of that murder is only a small part of the show's structure. Much of the narrative is built around how the death of one high schooler ripples out into the community; how the residents of Twin Peaks react to the shift in status quo. When the Technocrat amalgam walks into town where Weird Shit (TM) is going down, they don't just find said Weird Shit and try to solve it. The best mysteries aren't out in the open like that; the agents will need to gather information, make connections with locals, and learn the nature of the problem through inference (by how the problem affects the people living there).


    Let's say, for instance, that the agents are looking into apparent attacks and other Weird Shit, as allegedly perpetrated by a local urban legend turned viral meme. First, the characters need to figure out where the Weird Shit allegedly took place; attack sites, witness vantage points, etc. With that, they also learn what the locals think happened, and why they it (which will be useful as the agents will want to work to divest the locals of their superstitionist notions, for the good of the Consensus). As they go through, they may figure out that the sightings of the urban legend were staged by people within the town. Kids up to no good or folks with something to hide, or whatever. They would need to either figure this out from analysis of "crime scenes", or else deduce it from their interactions with the townsfolk. From there, it may be a matter of making sure the relevant evidence falls into the hands of mortal authorities (which may involve moral decisions on the part of the agents, depending on why the urban legend sightings were staged in the first place). The amalgam may return to their hotel rooms, thinking they will go home with a job well done.

    Then, even though the original perpetrators were caught, more attacks start happening. This time, seemingly for real. You may want one of the characters to be the target of the Weird Shit, to give them a chance to see with their own Enlightened senses that this is no ordinary urban legend.

    Further investigation - or a check to social media - may reveal that what started as a local urban legend has ballooned into a viral sensation. Maybe a reporter from out of town - a character the agents may have met and talked with previously - could have fed a story back to their editors, sparking inexplicable national interest in the story. Maybe an amateur filmmaker with a smart phone camera and a YouTube channel came in and made a faux documentary, that became popular on creepypasta circles, cryptid forums, and/or conspiracy theory blogs. Maybe residents of the town just started posting pictures, tweets, and videos about the "freaky" stuff happening in town, and it all went viral. Maybe it's all three at once, each building off of and feeding into one another.

    The end result being that a large number of folks around the world suddenly thinking about the folkloric figure at the center of this case. And, Reality(TM) being the bitch that it is in Mage, it results in the creation of a spirit that looks and acts just like that urban legend. Before the Technocrats got there, the mystery was totally mundane. But after they think they've solved everything, they encounter new, hidden threats that are very much in their wheelhouse.

    Not that they should figure this out at first. Once the attacks start happening again, it should set off a new wave of investigation, as they try to make sense of the rapidly changing situation.

    Leave a comment:


  • loomer
    replied
    Give the game The Black Watchmen a look in. Not so much for story ideas - though you could harvest it - for puzzle ideas to put your people to and the kind of intelligence gathering they might get up to when they roll their Investigate/Research/etc checks.

    Leave a comment:


  • Bluecho
    replied
    If you're going to run a Technocrat game like The X-Files (etc.), you might want to read the Book of Madness, as it has material on how the Union handles phenomenon outside of its wheelhouse (as in, things the Union party line denies exist). To put it simply, it has to run it as a conspiracy within a conspiracy (which is why watching X-Files can be informative). Agents who encounter ghosts or demons (and presumably also the Fey) tend to be assigned to the same sort of cases. This serves the double purpose of putting the most knowledgeable personnel on the job (for the purposes of maximizing chances of success), and to contain that very knowledge on a need-to-know basis (so that "normal" agents can remain blissfully ignorant of verboten topics). This has the effect of leaving such agents alienated from their fellow Technocrats, in the same way that FBI agents assigned to the X-Files were ridiculed or pitied (depending on how much they seemed to believe in the paranormal phenomena they investigate).

    So first and foremost, your amalgam is going to be on poor terms with other amalgams, who might be derisive of those stuck on cases that are weird even for Enlightened folks. The post may be punishment assignment within the Union, with few chances for advancing out of it (partly because the Union wants to keep those who deal with such things isolated). Try to have at least one of the player characters be just such an unfortunate agent, who failed, was framed, pissed off a higher up, or simply got in the way of someone's plans, and got transferred to the amalgam.

    For that matter, the same lack of respect among the amalgam's peers may very easily exist among their superiors, including the ones holding the purse strings. When budget meetings come up, the amalgam handling "special cases" should be lower on the list of priorities, especially when every Convention demands more funding for their projects. Lack of resources should be a problem for the group, until or unless they can either make their superiors take them more seriously, or find a way to supplement their budget through other methods.

    This not only deals with raw cash, but the kinds of materials - mundane or otherwise - that cash could supply. While you can let characters take backgrounds like Backup and Requisitions, you may want to limit them to a certain number of dots for the entire amalgam. They simply don't have the pull in the Union to expect squads of armed dudes or special equipment. The amalgam's superiors will also be wary of granting either, unless there's a demonstrateable justification for it. Asking for some more dudes is reasonable if the amalgam is raiding a large compound or trying to search a huge area. Less so if they just want to curbstomp a minor threat that the amalgam could take out themselves. Same with frivalous requests for tanks or laser rifles or HIT Marks. The Union's resources are stretched thin everywhere, and the player amalgam simply is not important enough to be making demands.

    Treat this as a challenge for the players. They can't expect to use their backgrounds to overpower their opposition or solve their problems. Instead, they need to use their wits and what resources they can leverage for themselves. It fosters creativity, and promotes the players really getting involved in the locations they visit and the characters they meet.

    Leave a comment:


  • PazuzuAxelf
    replied
    Lots of great material here you guys! I will definitely be referring back to this thread when writing for the game in the future.

    Originally posted by ChristopherZacher View Post
    Sounds awesome!
    Thanks!
    Last edited by PazuzuAxelf; 01-28-2017, 09:44 PM.

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