Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

Chat about Paranormal Containment

So, here’s a slightly-cleaned-up chat log with Daniel Solis about my ideas for Paranormal Containment:

Me: Paranormal Containment – an RPG about being an unwilling agent in the Paranormal Containment Agency, a secret government agency set up to keep magic on the down-low, if not utterly eradicated.
Me: Unwilling, because it turns out you’re a magus.  And they have a “shoot or recruit” policy.
Daniel: Ha!
Me: Damage is tracked not as how hurt you are, but how suspicious your family is of you and how much of a liability you are in the Agency.

Daniel: Wow, when did this game come out?

Me: It hasn’t.  I’m writing it now.
Me: It uses many of my mechanical ideas from Damned Anonymous.

Daniel: Very, very cool.
Daniel: Be careful of a problem that plagued late-90s Mage, though. “Here’s a bunch of awesome powers, but don’t use any of them or else the boogiemen will getcha!”

Me: Oh, yeah.
Me: Actually, what I want is to make that idea *work*
Me: White Wolf never made that work.
Me: I think Vampire when I think about it, but yeah.

Daniel: It sounds like they’ve got a cool idea in Scion and I thought they had a good idea in the new werewolf until I found out it was my misunderstanding and the real excuse wasn’t nearly as cool.

Me: In fact, “Damage” isn’t “Damage,” it’s “Exposure”

Daniel: Yes.
Daniel: Or perhaps “Compromise?

Me: It’s mission oriented — you go on missions, you debrief, then you deal with the home life.
ME: Possibly.  I tend to think about the other meaning when I see that word, but being compromised is a big deal.
Me: I think I may get around the issue by saying “this game isn’t about cool powers, it’s about the double-life and the unseen guns pointed at your friends, family, everyone around you.”
Me: So, I won’t give cool powers.  You tell me what you do, knowing that doesn’t matter as much.  You know what I mean?
Me: Are you familiar with Prisoner’s Dilemma?

Daniel: I think the double-life is the right focus. That way you can make it apply to any number of stories. Makes it quite marketable, too.
Daniel: Remind me about the Dilemma? Something about “do I help my friends escape or break out on my own?”

Me: There’s a lengthy wikipedia entry, but it’s two prisoners captured.  If neither talks, they get two years in prison.
Me: If one talks, they go free and they other gets 5 or twn years.
Me: IF they both talk, neither goes free, they get full time (five or ten)
Me: They decide this in secret.
Me: So, what do you decide, knowing the other guy has the same choice.

Daniel: Yeah, that’s it.
Daniel: So is this partly what keeps people in the service of the agency?

Me: There may be some of that in Paranormal Containment, in debrief scenes or the like, if I can make it work with more than two simultaneously.
Me: The agency will execute your family and friends.
Me: Period.
Me: It’s a shadowy, horrible agency.

Daniel: That’s very cool.

Me: If they become too suspicious, they’ll be offed one by one, and you have to deal with that during homelife scenes.  Or, you can always go rogue, retire your character as a PC, and make that choice.
Me: There’s something else you can do instead, though.
Me: You can choose to have a family member grow suspicious as you become exposed, or mechanically “bleed” off the exposure by being exposed to innocent witnesses.
Me: Who are summarily killed.  So pick: does you mom think that maybe you have a drug problem, or does someone else’s mom see you throw a lightning bolt and is “silenced” for it?
Me: It’s that kind of game.
Me: To prevent meaningless deaths, the agency frowns on a high Body Count.  That makes you more of a liability.
Me: That’s the core of that idea, the “which one” idea.
Me: The PD comes in where as agents in a scene, you decide “suspicion” or “witness”, and if anyone picks witness, you all get your Body Count upped by one.  *and* if you pick Suspicion, that counts too.

Daniel: I could definitely see an adaptation of Hero’s Banner’s tripartite breakdown between “Public,” “Family,” and “Agency” If you choose to strengthen one, the other two suffer.

Me: There will also have to be mechanics for choosing to off another agent, as they’re starting to be a personal liability.
Me: Since you might want to choose “My best friend” over “That guy who keeps exposing us”
Me: I think one current design goal is to see if I can make trust/betrayal an emergent play element rather than a mechanical element.

Daniel: Yes, that’s an excellent goal. The dilemma is a great way to do that.

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August 24, 2007 - Posted by | Paranormal Containment

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