We have completed play for our Khaotic game! Including sessions 9 and 10, continuing from the material presented at What could go wrong? and Psychic social science fiction hits the “drama” button. We plan to finalize things about the immediate aftermath with some discussion next week, which may possibly include some dice-rolling, but I don’t anticipate more in-character play.
This has been an extremely strong game experience, for its fictional content, for its character play and development, and for its unusual concept-and-system features. I think I’ve mentioned already that the game itself is very definitely of a piece with a number of other games from this period and indeed of this exact year (1994), which are incredibly strong but received little or even no recogntion or further life in play. They also show a distinct struggle against pre-planned story but lack the vocabulary to nail down how to do things otherwise. Other titles in this mix include Morpheus, The Whispering Vault, Shattered Dreams, Amazing Engine, Maelstrom, Epiphany, Extreme Vengeance, and Zero. There are about twelve such titles, depending on how wide a range of years I’m talking about.
I’ve put most of my notions about it into the little reflections videos scattered through the playlist, especially my twists or takes on the textual setting, as well as thoughts on managing the swiftly-changing and multi-location overall situation. Here, though, I want to focus on the player-characters’ creation, discovery through play, development, and overall status as edgy protagonists, perfectly suited to the kind of science fiction the game presents – or better, offers for purposes of our experience and presentation.
- The characters were created mainly through randomized tables, with the option for choice here and there, but rarely taken in our case. Therefore to a great extent each player was “handed” someone to play, with only a little bit of personal shaping. How to act and what they want was largely the player’s job to derive or create given this fairly extensive – and often alienated or even messed-up – profile.
- The characters are thrown very hard into a social crisis concerning mysterious monster-attacks across the planet and into a tightly-focused crisis as an ops team – who do not know one another – sent into enemy territory for intelligence and other operations as circumstances warrant.
- The players have to adapt their thinking into the many conditions and details of the game’s fictional 2030, which is highly specific concerning international, political, and social features which directly impact their own character concepts.
- During the missions to Xenos, the characters – and very much the players too – are bound into a single host body’s mind and operate according to fascinating divisions of perception, use of abilities, and newly-discovered psychic powers. This includes the potential for considerable conflict. They are also discovering information at a lightning pace concerning the attacks on Earth.
- During those missions, events proceed on Earth which is rife with many difficulties and policy conflicts; and during time spent on Earth, events proceed on Xenos. Since the “time spent” in either case often depends on the player-characters’ actions and decisions, the GM has to be rather quick and centered in order to know what sort of situation they drop in on, in either direction.
- Once on a mission, no one can tell the player-characters what to do. Even if they were given strict instructions, nothing makes them obey. Contact with people and creatures there is wide open for many, many possible interactions and perhaps changes of goals and plans. Furthermore, on Earth, the player-characters are subject to many people’s and groups’ demands and expectations of them … but on the other hand, they are very valuable assets who may discover they have more to say about what to do than their initial status would have indicated.
It all adds up to who we play + how we play (literally, per moment in the moment) + what happens + how we change how we play + how the characters change and decide to do the next things they so. Yes, any role-playing is capable of such things but this game is startling in how explicit and distinct the processes are. The whole thing becomes an “experience, man,” regarding our individual selves as real people, our collective self as a role-playing group, the characters as individuals in sketch form and then “real” enough to change, and the fictional group as a unique mini-society in a complex and violent fictional society. This may all sound too lofty and philosophical, or at least hippified, but I think we have managed to touch upon it rather well, with much to consider for each angle of perspective and for future play.