stdesjardins: (Steven)
[personal profile] stdesjardins
This was the first session of Indie Games on Demand that I played at this year. The way it works is that maybe 8-12 GM's each list two games they're prepared to run, and then the people who want to play get in line to pick the games they want to play in. When it's your turn, if nobody's signed up for a particular GM yet, you can pick one of the games and the staff will cross the other one off, or you can add yourself to a game that somebody's already chosen. Once a game fills up, the staff pulls the card.

I picked Magic, Inc., a scenario using Lowell Francis's home-brew playing card Fate variant, because I've played with Lowell before and he has a talent for light comedy RPGing. The premise is that you're playing low-level workers in an obscure corner of a large, magic-oriented bureaucracy, and your goal is to do as little work as possible. This session went a little oddly because one of the players, the last one to sign up, thought he'd signed up for the ninja game that was Lowell's other option, and he waited twenty minutes to say anything. At that point, it was too late to switch to another game, so he made the best of it, but it obviously wasn't a style of game he was comfortable with, and Lowell felt that it threw him off as a GM. (I personally thought it wasn't as bad as Lowell thought, as a player I felt like the players who were really into it gave me plenty to interact with, and looking back I thought it was one of the highlights of my con.)

The character creation process basically involved making choices from the handouts we were given—for instance, combining an adjective from one list with a noun from a second list, in my case, making my character Bob the "accidental goblin". I decided that my back story was that I had been a star college athlete, I came to Magic, Inc. to do a summer marketing internship, and I woke up as a goblin with a ten-day gap in my memories. As part of the settlement with Magic, Inc., I basically had a lifetime-employment guarantee, and I'd ended up working in Accounts Unreceivable as a photocopier repairman. There was very little work to be done in Accounts Unreceivable: basically, when one of Magic, Inc.'s clients erased themselves from existence or otherwise made a claim unpayable, we would file it in the Filing Cabinet of Holding. We also had a receptionist who was not on her original body, a mindwiped cat who thought he was our Finance Officer, and, umm, I don't remember Came In Late Guy's premise, other than that he fixed stuff. The department also had a boss, but he hardly ever came in, and generally used a blow-up doll to make it look like there was someone in his office.

As the game opened, we had two problems. First, an auditor had made an unannounced visit to our office a couple of weeks ago, and blew his stack at what he saw, particularly our do-nothing boss. We'd received word that in the new budget which was about to be announced, our office was going to be zeroed out. Our rivals next door, in Accounts Prereceivable, were already putting up party banners and planning to expand into our offices.

Second, everyone in the office had been putting off their online training for years. If we did nothing else, it would take a week to get through all the old tests, and we had less than a week to complete them before there would be Consequences. Could we manage both crises simultaneously? Without getting fired?

We quickly decided that our best plan was to frame Accounts Prereceivable for the problems in our department. Also, since the online tests were so stupid a gerbil could do them, we needed to find some gerbils. Accordingly, while attending the Accounts Prereceivable party, our receptionist very openly and sincerely congratulated them, while swiping one of their rubber stamps, which she used to forge a bunch of vouchers showing wasteful spending (including a large amount of department funds spent on party supplies), which she slipped in the middle of a stack of papers waiting for the department head's signature. She also flirted with the person responsible for compiling and submitting the final budget, and by slipping some gossip she'd heard about a "mistake" succeeded in delaying the submission, buying us some more time. I succeeded in requisitioning some gerbils—in fact, due to an amazing success, some super-fast gerbils—which the office manager, showing a surprising talent for intimidating rodents, managed to whip into shape. (Surprising, because why would a perfectly ordinary human finance officer have any talent for intimidating rodents?) Someone also talked to the department in the floor above Accounts Prereceivable, which IIRC held saints in cryogenic stasis, and determined that they would love to expand down into Prereceivable's space. Don't remember exactly what sort of deal we came up with, I wasn't involved in those scenes except as a spectator, but we sorta-kinda-maybe got them on our side.

Finally, that evening, I carried out the final part of our plan. I had prepared a ransom note incriminating Accounts Prereceivable (with some suspiciously goblin-ish fingermarks on it, not my best card draw), claiming that our boss had been kidnapped and demanding that we turn over our Filing Cabinet of Holding in exchange for his return, and I sneaked into Accounts Prereceivable in the middle of the night through the air ducts. Once there, I found their scrying device (in the form of a rotating Möbius crystal ball) and rigged up a modification with a magic mirror to allow me to travel through time. Which I did. I carefully tied a rope around my waist and attached it to something, so I didn't run the risk of being trapped forever in the past, then used the scryer to find the moment the auditor entered the boss's office, scryed back five minutes, and stepped through the mirror.

(A side note. I tend to prefer either GM-less games, or rules-light games like Fate or Apocalypse Engine games which share considerable narrative authority with the players, and this is an example of how that style of play works. A D&D-style GM could have refused to let us build a time machine, or had strict rules about how it would work. In this game, we suggested the time machine, the GM said okay, and as a player I pretty much defined how it would work. And in exchange, I gave him an obvious hook in how I used it to screw with me: after all, I could just as easily have gone back an hour further, or a day. This style of play basically doesn't work unless everyone involved cares more about having a good story than about "winning", or making their character the star.)

Incidentally, I had a table-tent name tag made up of a folded index card, so it stands up on its own, with "Bob the Accidental Goblin/Photocopier Repairman" written on it. Standard thing, so the other players easily remember who I am. Before stepping through the mirror, I wrote BOB in backwards letters on back of the name tag, and flipped it around as I arrived in the past. "Bob senses something a little off, but he can't quite figure out what it is." At this point, the GM informed me that the time machine had deposited me in the correct time, but the wrong place—I was still in the room with the scrying crystal ball. I tied off my return rope, then I had to draw cards using my Sports characteristic to make it through the air ducts in time. I drew a card, and got a catastrophic failure. My sports characteristic was high enough for one redraw—also a catastrophic failure. I spent a Fate point for one more redraw, the absolute last redraw allowed, and got the highest possible success. Whew. I sprinted through the air ducts, dropped down into Accounts Unreceivable, shouted "The auditor's about to show up, nobody touch the note in the office!", dropped off the (now reversed) ransom note in the office, and scurried away through the air ducts. The receptionist, naturally, walked into the office to see what other-Bob had been doing, while everyone else stared at original-Bob and basically asked, what was that?

The auditor showed up, and found the ransom note. Everyone except Came In Late Guy did a good job of remembering that these were past-selves and they weren't privy to future-selves' plan. The auditor also questioned us about exactly what we did, and we answered with varying degrees of effectiveness. ("Do you even have a photocopier here?" "Uh ... yeah, I think there's one here somewhere." Turns up photocopier, pushes button, toast comes out. "... Interesting.")

Back in the future, everyone has sort of fuzzy memories of the last two weeks, but the Accounts Prereceivable offices are empty, and we have some sort of a vague notion of some scandal involving ... I dunno, some sort of a ransom? ... anyway, they're gone, and when the Accounts Unreceivable budget comes out the cuts are manageable. The last super-fast gerbil expires just as he completes the final online test. His sacrifice will be remembered, or at least filed away. A fun comic adventure, and, as I said, while I can see why Lowell was disappointed in the session, it was a lot of fun and one of the high points of the con for me.
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