Monday, April 28, 2014

IX. Developing Scenarios

Solo play testing from last Thursday to feel out if the scenario would work, and actually visualize how it will play. This is an approximation of the board sections for 'Get Kellerman'. The black rectangle would be a giant fan, the grey rectangle is a freight elevator, and a couple of those tunnels will end in rubble/active mining area.
In my mind, scenarios are what keep a game varied and interesting. Games like Necromunda and Zombicide, though very different games, got a lot of their personality from an ever changing play environment defined by the scenarios themselves. With that in mind, I knew that linking the scenarios to create an ongoing narrative would be one of the defining characteristics of Broken Contract, but that would only be of value if the scenarios themselves were varied, interesting, and thematic.

Thus far, I've play tested a half dozen different scenarios drawing off of the general narrative and the constraints of how I envision the mines. The initial scenario I brainstormed, 'Its Time', was penned based on a piece of background narrative I had written to introduce a section of the rule book, and its about seizing an opportunity to turn on your masters. I played it a bunch of times by myself, tweaking it, and the board it was played on, before I had others play it. I went on to start toying with 2 more, but the initial results felt bland. 'Its Time' had an alarm, a closing hydraulic door, a key card to try and steal off of a guard. Long story short, it has options that give the players a degree of "free will", and now that I've watched it played by others a bunch of times, I've seen that the reason I like this mission so much. It can be handled a bunch of different ways by the players, giving it depth and also making it re-playable. The other couple of scenarios I had tried were strictly dependent on getting the Breakers from point A to point B while fighting their way through Security Officers. In the end, those missions were fun but not unique or interesting. Reflecting on them, they were like Pac-Man. You run through different mazes avoiding your enemies while they try to capture you. Now a certain element of that is going to pervade all of the scenarios. There is an element of The Fugitive to this story line that means the Breakers are always going to be on the run and the Security Officer's are going to be coming after them, but it's very clear that including additional objectives that are optional to complete are the way to keep the experiences fun and engaging.

Last night I tried out a scenario tentatively titled 'Get Kellerman' that has Security Officers pursuing you, a miner Technician named Kellerman that you can choose to get to and then convince to join your break attempt along with you (through Dealing checks - a negotiating related skill), and a door to get through that you can't without a key card or Kellerman,  I played it out and it felt like it had a story to it - and choices. It was also challenging enough that I dropped something else that was supposed to be part of the mission, deciding to save it for a different one. All told, I'm really excited about it.
I feel like this sketch would make a good Kellerman. Add a tool box on the ground and change the baton to a wrench. Or leave it as is? It could be a baton made from an old shovel handle that she keeps in her tool box.
Now, it not only needs to be play tested to death, but it needs to directly follow 'Its Time' because the starting characters in campaign play are dependent on who escapes the initial work area. Ah, variables. But on the initial play though I found it very enjoyable so I'm looking forward to trying it a bunch more times to see if it is a suitable second act to the pilot episode box set. Which if you can envision the game like a pilot episode to a TV show, it should have an introduction to set up the story, and then 3 distinctive acts to follow, left open for future story lines. It should be able to be played out in its entirety over several hours if someone wants to invest the time, or it can be spread out over several sessions.

Currently Deep Underground follows the story line of introducing the mining crew leader, Kollis, along with the Gen-Mod, Trest, at the moment their friend, Callea, works herself to death. Kollis wants to get Callea to the infirmary and loads her body into an ore cart,but the Security Officers, led by Overseer Billins, refuse to let him stop working. Billins knows that the daily quota will not be made if there is work stoppage, so he demands that Kollis get back to work. Kollis tries to force his way through the guards and takes a sound beating. This is represented in the game by a short scenario to introduce the rules for Movement and Combat. Kollis is sent to "the box" as punishment and his thoughts turn to insurrection as he lies contorted in his 3'x3' concrete and iron cell. 'Its Time' takes place a couple of weeks later, when fueled by rage, Kollis tries to make a break attempt with Trest and a number of others. Their success or failure colors the events of the next encounter, but 'Get Kellerman' gives them the opportunity to introduce another mining character, a Progen Technician named Kellerman. As a person descended from an original colonist, they are afforded slightly better wages and quarters so she will require some convincing.What happens next? Well that's yet to be determined. Don't fret though, I have plenty of ideas.

Thanks for reading.
-Nck  

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