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  • Plot Advice

    Abstract: I've written us onto a plateau in a Groundhog's Day style GMC scenario set in the Chicago mob. Not sure where to go next to keep the desperation dialed up.

    Story:

    Loop Invariant

    Two underworld couriers are out on a job in the mid autumn of 2010. They have a history of doing good work and keep their noses out of anyone's business, so they're the guys to go to when family isn't the answer but you still need discretion. It starts with picking up a package from a guy downtown. Knock on the door, say the words, get the package, drop it on time and without so much as memorizing how heavy it is. Business as usual. Except the guy goes off script. Hands over a package and says "Tell Maria that I hope her mother gets better soon." It's the beginning of a weird night.

    It's 4:12 PM as of now. Drop is at 6:00 sharp at a fancy restaurant. Another script, a free meal, and it'll be delivered. Mentioning anything about Maria's mother wasn't in the cards, but our professionals go along with it. The lady at the drop is wearing a wild pattern on her summer dress. Dinner is nice. Box moves to her side of the table over the course of the meal. Courier learns that her name is Maria and tells her that their mutual associates hope her mother gets better soon. Maria's pretty features go stone dead. The next thing our courier knows, he's been shot in the gut and left for dead. The driver comes in to help his friend and gets it, too. They struggle and fight their failing bodies, but it's all a painful blur. 8:12 hits and suddenly that box explodes. The couriers taste oblivion for a moment and then... "Tell Maria I hope her mother get's better soon." It's the beginning of another weird night.

    We have three human protagonists. The face of the courier duo, Wylie (alias); does the talking, dealing, and drops. The driver, Terry; handy, watchful, and plans contingencies. The third joined a session later after the first two had been through a couple loops, an ex-mafioso by name of Don; tired, brutal, connected.

    A breakdown on where they went and what they learned:
    • The drop is at 6 PM with Maria. The bomb explodes at 8:12 PM, exactly 4 hours after receiving it.
      • Attempting to tamper with the bomb sets it off.
      • The loop ends when the bomb goes off.
      • If they aren't killed by the explosion, they are subjected to a horrific, wrenching scream and see the world buckle and fold impossibly; and lose a dot of Integrity with no roll.
      • They roll losing Integrity for dying down to 4 and then become callous to it.
      • Normal death suspends their awareness in a thrumming darkness. They lose sense of time and eventually emerge back into a new loop.
    • They are tailed after leaving with the package by two cars. The first is on the street and has two men and the other is in the alley and has three.
      • They get the timing down to kill these guys without much fuss after a few loops.
    • The whole deal was set up by the son of the current boss to impress his dad and prove he was ready for more responsibility in the family.
      • The son didn't send the order to alter the script.
      • The family deals with Maria on a semi-regular basis. She's a global stage figure passing through and doing business while she's here.
    • Marv, the guy who gave them the package, was told to say the "Tell Maria..." bit when he got the package from the mafia postman (Ricky) who set up the move.
      • Ricky received orders indirectly through one of his drop boxes to change the payload and script from an unknown source. The source was authenticated with the right codes and phrases to make these changes.
      • The original payload was an antique computing peripheral.
      • The new payload was a strange sculpture made out of some greasy metal when he put it in the box.
      • No tampering seems to have occured between him prepping the box and giving it to Marv with the script.
      • The drop box where this payload came in is a bank. The PCs break into the bank on a few loops to get the security tapes and see who came in to drop the orders and the statue. It's the daughter of the boss' son, name of Carol.
    • Maria's is not aware of the loops and reacts the same every time.
      • Attempting to demand answers or explain what's going on leads to her killing them.
      • Her dress pattern changes with every loop.
      • Maria is a Demon (though the PCs have no insight into that and just know she's a monster). She was receiving the antique computing device with enciphered data on it which reports the status of the local Infrastructure.
      • Maria has a penthouse in town, its address was discovered in the computing peripheral's onboard memory. The PCs locate a hidden room in the penthouse with bizarre information tracked in it (an orgy of evidence for weirdness, as really Demons probably would be able to just memorize all the relevant info)
      • Maria, sensing her Cover going to tatters, retreats to the penthouse to discover the steel-lined front door has been torched open. She assumes Demonic form and kills the PCs almost quizzically.
    • Carol is an Angel.
      • The moment they see her on the recording, they gain a human variant of the Hunted condition. Carol is always aware of their position and moves on foot to intercept them. This persists through loops.
      • She will kill most any other person with impunity, but she uses Awe and Implant Mission to get the PCs to go to the basement (usually phased out of existence) of the building where they received the package.
      • Don was visiting old associates at Carol's seventeenth birthday party, unaware of the loops. Once the PCs drew her attention, she starts every new loop vanishing from the party, causing a panic to locate the boss' granddaughter.
      • Don is able to remember the loops after being killed in the crossfire between the courier PCs and Carol.
      • The PCs organize blowing up a gas station and a mounted machine gun to try and kill Carol, but are unsuccessful.
    The following is OOC knowledge which only really factors in academically, since the PCs have no context to understand these forces.
    • This version of Chicago is a shard frozen in 2010.
      • It was originally synchronized with the real world and laced with Infrastructure affecting its inhabitants. Demons crippled and re-purposed the shard into creating potent Covers they could integrate into the main timeline. The downside of this process is that it is now frozen at 2010.
      • The PCs are 3 of 12 special humans within this shard that can be tailored through months of slow work into millions of possible configurations, though their souls (ie Integrity) must be worn down for the final phase.
      • The thrumming void is an artificial underworld for the shard.
      • The bomb was generated through an occult matrix and causes the shard to reset time. The actual explosive of the power is not very significant, but is ultimately secondary to the reset.
      • At some point, three Angels infiltrated the shard and created a time loop to trap the Demon while they iterated small adjustments to bring it back online. Through both the tails set after the couriers as well as the bomb, they hope to create a loop that inevitably kills Maria and then move into the final phase of adjustment.
      • They have already reduced the loop length to the point where Maria can't go through the process of exiting the shard.
      • The loop length is also too short for her to be able to re-cripple the Infrastructure changes that the Angels have made.
      • Once Maria receives the real package (the old computer peripheral) she can examine its data to see that parts of the Infrastructure are online and behaving in ways they should not, and thus the PCs gain her trust.
      • Maria is able to defuse the bomb up until 7 PM, giving the PCs a slightly longer window. She informs them that other mechanisms are active that will reset time anyway.
    Problem: After all the stress and excitement of picking apart the chain of who knows about the bomb and the reveal of an enemy that can track them across the safety of a loop reset, gaining Maria's trust means having an ally that trivializes most of what they know and can do. Thankfully, we ended the session on gaining Maria's trust, so I have some time to think over how to keep the flavor of the game going. Simply enough, I need a way to reasonably reward them for picking apart the puzzle to get Maria not to simply murder them at first sign of something strange, but without keeping Maria around as an ally. I'm thinking of setting a bigger time loop for them (ergo the defusing the bomb part) and keeping Maria busy, but I'm concerned that they'll take any major challenges and just kite them into Maria's path from here on. Worse, Maria can tell them about things and give them context, taking away some of that desperate struggle against the unknown.

    Any advice on how to place her in the plot such that the PCs get a release of tension to reward figuring out the first time loop puzzle but still keep all the questions and pressure to proceed on them?

    Schrodinger's Boxes that I haven't opened are:
    • The other two Angels.
    • The other 9 "dolls" other than the protagonists are all in the basement. Could be used for something.
    • How long the new loop is after Maria defuses the bomb.
    • Carol's Ban and Bane
      • I have it written down in my notes as
      • Ban: Must repair faulty dolls.
      • Bane: Father's handgun in his nightstand.
    • Why the dolls are remembering loops.
    Last edited by Tilting Clock; 01-25-2017, 02:17 AM.

  • #2
    What about some Plot Reasonstm that have Maria take on a different Cover to counter the Angels? The PCs can't drop things in Maria's lap when Maria is "checked out" and they probably don't know the new Cover to contact "Maria". If this occurs shortly after contact and trust, Maria doesn't have enough time to explain everything. But you can't probably have "her" use dead drop notes to convey any necessary information you deem critical.

    Dolls are probably remembering the loops due to the conflict between Angel vs Demon hacking. Something was bound to go wrong in an unforeseen manner, and that could be part of it.


    Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
    Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

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    • #3
      That's perfect! Gets her completely off the board so they can't run back to her with problems in the future and adds a new level of tension.

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