Actual Play – Dead End Alley (1/31/2011)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Travis, Fattig, Chris, Omar and Alec
System: Dresden Files

Travis keeps saying that the 42nd precinct is insane. We let a baseball star parade around in riot gear. We arrest people that look like Elvis and when we should be chasing crooks at least one of us is eating Dim Sum. You know, he’s right, and I’m okay with that.

Here is my theory: if I go for self-aware wonky then the game will go gonzo and cap out way beyond where I want to see the game. If I try to keep the game really serious, that will keep breaking as the players do nutty things and the game won’t make any sense. So, here’s my tempo, wacky things will happen and they will be more or less ignored by everyone. It will just be seen as something that happens every day and nobody really bats an eye or assumes the behavior is out of the ordinary. I think this will work well when supernatural events start cropping up, most people will just shrug and let it pass without ever really acknowledging if they really notice it or not.

Opening scenes

I had three in mind, but one got lost due to the “guide my hand” power. Which was hilarious.

The first was a back at the station, with VC alone getting reports on the proprietor of Chopsticks, a man with several priors and a couple open assault charges named Chang. I wanted to create some instant suspicion but in truth Sahad did it for me…

In the second scene, the moment Sahad walked in he found Chang and told him that Rose was going to arrest him for murder… and the chase was on. Rose chasing him down and Sahad and Raoul eating dim sum and hitting on the waitress.

The Heat is on

The chase was very fun. Instead of trying to use some hokey chase mechanic (they all infuriate me) I just made it a physical conflict but allowed “athletic” attacks, “endurance” defenses and lots of other options. Rose made a scholarship roll to declare there was a Chinese New Year parade clogging up the streets. Change made a maneuver with burglary to know a back alley to run down. Rose did some intimidation along the way and eventually caught Chang, a big guy, trying to slip between two brick buildings and getting stuck half way down. She called in the station “I’m going to need some backup… and a tub of grease”.

From there an investigation ensued where we found out that nobody but Sahad knows how to investigate worth a damn, something I’ll have to bring up, probably many times. A body was found, blood, and refrigeration. Stone asserted his alpha dog status mostly by waving his gun around, which was many kinds of awesome.

Back at the prescient VC and Rose went to town on Chang and got him to break. He didn’t know how the body got there, he just cleaned it up. But he did know that Olvido’s girlfriend D’walla had sold him the watch a few days prior for $500. When she found out how much it was worth, and that Olvido was going to get it back, she said she would kill to get her hands on it again. Chang is probably off the hook but they’ve got another lead. But he didn’t go down without a fight, VC lost his temper and got throw off the case (moderate consequence)

After the interrogation, Rose’s father showed up at the station, with a man in his employ to share some information about the case, information he hoped Rose would keep under wraps… but Rose disappointed him again (Trouble: Daddy’s little disappointment) and hid in the CSI lab. Mr. Itsuaki and his employee, who was notably affected by red court addictive saliva, had to give the report to the only officer responsible enough to take it, VC.

Ending scene (which was going to be the opening) was Raoul leaving the station and getting picked up in a Limousine, where Armand, the man who blackmailed Mr. Itsuaki’s employee told Raoul that he wanted the watch. He also told him that the Accords protected Raoul from aggression from the Red Court. The car stopped, he got out of the limo and reminded Raoul that he wanted the watch, and that the two good on either side him were just mortals, not part of the Accords at all…

What rocked

Man, the character drama was on fire. I loved all the disputes between the cops (and not cops). I’m going to have to keep stirring the pot to give them things to disagree about, because that stuff is awesome.

We had two conflicts, both of which ran really well. Rose’s chase after Chang and then Chang’s interrogation. I was very happy with our flexible use of skills, cool maneuvers and great consequences.

My players all walked right into several compels and really made them awesome. Raoul got into a Limo with a vampire, no questions asked. Stone totally earned himself a dressing down by the Ltd, and VC was front and center when the Red Court got involved. Just great all around.

I had a lot of underlying structure, probably too much (see below), but it was enough to hang all the scenes on, enough t keep adding grist to the mill.

The characters are all turning out to be believable, if a little nutty, but totally believable people, which I love. I love how human they all are. I think some of this was because I specifically asked them to make very human characters with very human troubles (as in their trouble aspect).

What could have improved

I focused just on one crime, the murder of officer Olvido, when I meant to mingle in details about the other, and possibly even add a third to keep the feeling of things moving. Eh, only so much time.

While I am glad I had a good understanding of the crime, I think I built in too many twists and turns. I wanted to keep it always looking obvious, without ever being obvious until the end (like House, like Castle, like Lie to Me). Doing that however made the whole thing a little convoluted in my head and I think it came out convoluted as well.

Related, by having specific bits I wanted to get out, I ended up with kind of a monologue scene with Mr. Itsuaki and VC where I was clearly doing an information dump, which I don’t like doing. Less is more.

VC was at the station, where I imagined Stone would be as well during the first scene. I thought the two of them would have something to talk about while the action happened. As it turned out he was along and didn’t get much screen time at all. I cut back to the station a few times, but he really deserved something more, perhaps something personal.

6 thoughts on “Actual Play – Dead End Alley (1/31/2011)”

  1. I love that, from your description, it looks like all Sahad did was have Dim Sum. 🙂

    I’m experimenting with the idea of the minor character that propels all the others into action and is memorable but not in a bullet point way. (My Dragon kid in the Little Fears/L5R mashup and my Scorpion in the L5R playtest were the same way) It seems to be working very well: Cool character interactions, providing scenery for other players to work with, and letting me enjoy my character and their quirks without messing up the central storyline too much,

    1. Lol, sorry about that. Mostly I just hit the big conflicts, which meant Rose and VC got a lot of the attention. Considering that Sahad is the only one doing any actual detective work and investigation, he should get more love than that.

      I just realized I totally left out the chicken bone magic. How could I miss that?!?

      1. What I loved about your character was that my character went into scene with the impression that Sahad was an untrustworthy loose cannon, and Stone (the actual loose cannon) was trustworthy and reliable. And then you totally validated my inaccurate perception of you, which lead to me being gone for when Stone did something insane and inappropriate, thus reinforcing my inaccurate perception of Stone.

        Also, it’s worth noting I’m feeling very comfortable for having no investigation in a cop game. There are still plenty of investigation rolls, but I can usually rely on other folks to handle the investigation (ironically, I mostly rely on Sahad for this). I’ve got my space to do my own thing, which is mostly talk people up.

  2. Have you read through the Mutant City Blues book? I found there were sections that gave an excellent perspective on structural elements of a police-focused game. Lots of good info on police procedures and crime scenes and such. If you don’t have a copy you can borrow mine if you’d like. Most of it won’t be useful for a Dresden game but much of the “setting” info is very useful.

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