Tuesday, February 14, 2012

gm style flowchart/eulogy for a PC

Yes, this chart has some age to it. but you don't come here to read new ideas, do you? haha
The full image doesn't fit in this space, but the format in that link there is pretty good.

[below is x-posted at Story Games also]
So! Different topic: last night's AW session. One of our protagonists died.
Keep in mind that this PC was nicknamed the Ronin, took potshots at Mudflat villagers kind of "just because", and never fully backed down from a fight, not once.

Let's explore this a little more. His name was Rue Wakeman, a Gunlugger. He had bad, bad scars from when his boss, Diamond the Chopper, beat him up and left him in the desert, where his wounds went bad and exposure did its thing, and made him really hard to look at.

He lived in a drainage tunnel that fed a semi-toxic river outside of Adobe-town; hallucinogenic mold grew inside the tunnel, which Rue ate to open his brain to the Maelstrom. Doing so got him in trouble a couple times, like the time the Mudflatters finally arrested him for deadly assault and he ended up thinking his captors were dog-headed monsters serenading him, so he shot one and ran away.
The guard lived, but only just. Thanks to Boo the Angel on that one, I think.

Anyway. So Rue forged his nemesis when he was walking past the Mudflatter work-camp in town (across the river from the Mudflatter village of Northside) and a couple of guys stopped him to ask if he'd be up for making a little money.
Rue: Sure, what's the job?
Roy (Mudflatter): There is a ... forgive me, but a child we wish for you to assassinate [the playgroup started telling John, Rue's player, that this must be a reference to Dr. Last, a semi-immortal warlord from down south whose current form is that of a 6yo boy.]
Rue: A child, huh?
Roy: Regrettably, sir. Will you take the job?
Rue: *shoots Roy* No.

Roy's friend runs away. When Rue is eating, later that night, Roy and two buddies jump him. Rue manages to kill two of them and send Roy packing again, but this time the Mudflatter camp all saw what happened and formed a big old gang to hang him and put an end to this.

Ol' Rue got away that time, but after Diamond's boss, Havok, ate it in a gunfight down south (Boo got him), and things started to settle down a bit, Rue made the error of robbing some Mudflatters playing dice in an alley. Well, Rue had been sleeping in the desert for a bit, ever since the first near-lynching incident. Now that he was back, and they sure knew his face, about fifty Mudflatters got together to stop him for good.

They chased him out of town, throwing rocks. The elder of Northside sees what's going on, sees Rue's defensive counter-fire, and sighs. He was in the middle of a visit with Diamond and Vega (the Operator, old boss of Adobe-town), and apologized before giving the order for the village guards to shoot Rue on sight.

Diamond: Honestly, I helped him get out of town last time a mob came after him. I'm done.
Vega: He'll probably be okay.
Elder: ...

So the gunmen from the village go charging out into the desert, and soon enough they intercept the mob and a tiring Rue. He turns to lay a little cover fire before taking off down a nearby dune, and flubs the roll. So he doesn't get away, and they get him with small arms fire (2-harm; Rue has 2-armor), and he rolls a natural 11 on the +harm move.
I tell him he's incapacitated.

Right before Rue dies, A. (playing Vega) turns to me and says, "Is Rue gonna die? That's harsh."
Me: "I mean, it's what the fiction demands. I have mixed feelings about it, but I can't not do it."
A brief discussion of "be a fan of the PCs" vs. "look through cross-hairs" ensues.

This is when I get a little nervous. I've hardly killed any PCs in my time, so I feel kind of bad. I describe Li, one of the Mudflatters, a guard who's got a thing for Vega, coming up and delivering the fatal back-of-the-head shot himself. He then goes to throw up.

Later, we're packing up to go, and John (ex-Rue) says, "Maybe I'll play a Faceless next. I really want to do something that's noticeably different from Rue, though." Clearly I got worked up over nothing. I did have to sit with it for a couple of hours (I have anxiety; what can I say?) but I got over it, and Lord knows, John got over it in about sixty seconds. Next week, onward and upward!


  1. Good account!

    It's funny - I don't buy "I mean, it's what the fiction demands. I have mixed feelings about it, but I can't not do it.", yet bang, I'd shoot him.

    Yeah, you can not do it. The fiction can't demand anything from you.

    But fiction can build up an inertia, a leaning towards an event. If someone else thinks it can't, or they think it's leaning towards some other event or not leaning toward anything at all, there's a disjunct in the shared imaginative space. Ie, it's not really shared anymore.

    I think A. just thinks about how his character can get through. He wasn't thinking about when basically the fiction has a big inertia towards his character being killed (which with better dice rolls, maybe he'd have slipped away from)

    I don't think it's functional for a player to only think about how their character will survive. They need to think about that but on the other side of the scales also think about how much the fiction seems slanted towards the PC's death.

    Maybe even mention it? You need to think about both things, not just one.

    Geez...be a fan of the PC's...*grinds teeth*...wait, did I just think that or did I type it...?

  2. I should clarify that A. is not Rue's player. A. is playing an Operator who is (well, was) friends with Rue, and this is also A.'s first RPG ever ever, so she was just curious, I think.

    Honestly, if Rue had rolled a lot better on that +harm move, he could have survived. But it was my judgment as MC that, if he didn't handle getting shot up so well, he was gonna be overrun. And he was, and this really was a lynch mob, which had been pretty well established.
    I'm not defending myself, even though it sure sounds like it. I'm just trying to give a little more context as to why I made the decision that I did, which I guess counts as defending my case. ^___^
    Lastly, I think the "harshness" A. referred to was that the situation was crappy for Rue, rather than that I was being unfair or anything. She would have brought it up again later or whatever if she felt like that was really the case, I think.

  3. As I say, I think it's not about trying to give explanation afterward - the player should be atleast partially in tune with the idea the fiction is starting to want him dead. Or at the very least, I can see it that way from reading it and would if I were playing, there are plenty of cues there.

    Really if it's Rue's players first time with an RPG then its as important a time as any to deliver the game honestly. You can always say other systems (like seven seas, IIRC) have systems where you can't die, if she wishes to pursue those at another point.