Last night I ran a game of Lacuna (part one: the creation of the mystery and the girl from Blue City) for three friends. Planned for five, but with two unavoidable cancellations. It went well. None of the players had played Lacuna before, but one had been very keen to ever since I’d showed them the book.
I had plastic baggies with a bunch of same-coloured d6 for each player, because everyone likes choosing a colour. I couldn’t explain why I felt that plastic baggies of d6 feel appropriate for Lacuna, but they did. As I was expecting a large group with no experience of the game, I put together a player handout
for them to refer back to.
First impressions were good. The Agent Sheet did an amazing job setting the initial tone, as did rolling for pseudonyms (“I don’t even get to pick my name?
”). When describing the work of Agents and The Institute, the biggest “aha!” moment was when I told them that they were like the agents from The Matrix, so I’ll definitely go right there when the other two players join.
The players came out with some surprisingly awkward questions - “Do we work for the institute, or are we volunteers?
” “What do I do outside of work?
” “What do agents look like?
” This caught me a bit off balance. It’s hard to stay vague when confronted with direct good-faith questions. So I gave informative non-answers - “Agents are drawn from the original Nasrudin Institute experiments. Agents are discouraged from bringing their personal lives into the field” and then took my control hat off to explain that certain details are left unstated and that they could decide some personal details for themselves during play.
We began play with the mission briefing. There is a man on the slab. It’s too late for his victims, but we can still save him. We are currently in the rare position of being overstaffed and so, as new agents, this is an ideal opportunity for you. Tomorrow morning a team will dive into Blue City and eliminate the hostile personality responsible. Tonight your team will dive in and carry out preparations for the second team. You will not be required to confront a hostile personality.
Rendezvous with your contact at the steam factory
Retrieve the package and deliver as instructed
Return to the insertion point for retrieval
Do not enter the museum
Requests for clarification were met with repetition of the four-point briefing, or a vaguely threatening “Agents are expected to exercise a certain amount of initiative in the field. Do you require further training?
” And after counting down to insertion, I started a numbers station compilation
for a “soundtrack”.
My planning for the mission was a couple of encounters, some obstacles between each, and trying to imagine how the agents might react to those obstacles. I also had a short list of static triggers, events to trigger on certain static levels, a list of random names, buildings and visual motifs.Main plans:
A group of drunken bravos in official uniforms would confront the agents for no good reason.
The contact would demand that the agents get her out of the city before she gave them the package - “Have you seen the blockades? They know I’m here. Get me out of here. Take me with you!
The package’s delivery instructions were a note saying “Destination: Museum. Spider wing.
Once static was high enough, the fibreglass exhibit in the museum’s main hall - “as if a shark was a dinosaur
” - would move when it wasn’t being watched, weeping-angel style.
Due to Apollo protocols, any distressing visuals in Blue City would be replaced with sunflowers in the agents’ perceptions. The players did not know this.
At 11 static Control would give one of the agents a regulation handgun without prompting and with no further instructions.
Things went mostly according to plan. The players were initially reluctant to take any action without talking it over a lot. So whenever they suggested something sensible I took to just narrating as if they’d done it (with an opportunity for them to backtrack).
The Agents were taken aback by the request from Tatyana (their contact). “Is that even possible?
” “No it is not. What do you do?
”. They decided to fob her off with promises and a +3 wallet of cash (from taking the bravos drinking) so Tatyana could buy her way to safety in the meantime.
They were utterly, utterly paralysed by the delivery instructions contradicting their mission objectives. After the game they told me that it had felt like a puzzle to be solved.
They argued among themselves (generating static). They examined the delivery instructions closely (forcing me to come up with something on the fly – that the instructions were written in thick ink over a biro note to Tatyana from Apollo Chelicera warning her that “they know
They called control multiple times for clarifications. I was trying hard not to screw them out of a successful roll, so I repeated their mission objectives to them, but made sure to specify that they were in order of priority. So delivering the package was more important that not going into the museum.
Eventually they ended up round the back of the museum with the grounds-keeper's ladder, trying to get the suitcase into the (first floor) spider wing without actually going inside. This was when I had Tatyana charge back onto the scene, swearing at them for being liars. Followed closely by the military police. This railroaded them into a quick hustle up the ladder and into the next set-piece: the spider wing was a wooden desk with a single drawer in infinite field of sunflowers under a blue sky. Behind them, instead of the window there was a staircase down.
After depositing the suitcase into the drawer, they went downstairs into the museum’s main hall. I’d expected them to go through the main entrance, and then find themselves in the sunflower field after taking the stairs. This actually worked much better because, as they immediately pointed out “We didn’t go into the museum, we’re only leaving it
”. Well played agents, well played.
The rest of the session was just an action/chase sequence. BPM limits were pushed. Static rose higher. Control was uncooperative about equipment requests, generally giving them something useful, but not what they requested. A request for wire cutters was met with a crate of thermite with no detonators. Which worked out since I’d established that the cars ran on large aerosol-looking batteries that were recharged at the steam factory. The exhibit monster caught up with them, had its leg blown off, slithered into the canal when they weren’t looking. When they had to cross the bridge, it attacked them from below where they couldn’t watch it. Rolls were failed, last second rescues occurred, but static hit 21 and a spiderman rounded the corner behind the retrieval as they were legging it to the insertion point. They ejected just as it started to draw something from its coat.
Debriefing demanded that they justify why they approached the spiderman despite policy. They tried to explain that they were running to the insertion point, not to the spiderman. They insisted that no, they did not talk to the spiderman at all, nor had they had any prior contact. It was made clear that in future they are to avoid contact with spidermen at ALL costs.
“Did control just tell us they’d rather we died than met the spidermen?”