Friday, May 25, 2012

Homicide: Life on the Blog

As promised, back to the tabletop for some RPG goodness. I've been toying with the Mythic GM Emulator off and on for several years as a tool for solo play, a mechanic for throwing curve balls at players during play, and as a creative aid for world-building. I've decided to run a solo game here both to demonstrate how Mythic works, and to scratch an itch to play a solo game. This is the setup post.

Since I usually set too large a scope for my games, I'm going to narrow this down to a very specific event, a single homicide investigation in a modern setting. I'll be using my Mythic GM Engine to resolve all Mythic-related stuff. For game mechanics I'm going to use a quick and dirty Fate hack. I like the feel of Fudge dice for this sort of thing, but prefer Fate's larger ladder. All die rolls will be made using Dice Sessions.


All characters have three main attributes. Attributes default to Average and main characters have five points to spend on improving individual attributes. each point increases an attribute one rank on the ladder.
  • Brawn - Physical ability, be it driving a car, running after a suspect, or shooting a gun.
  • Mind - Reason, logic, observation, and smarts. 
  • Charm - Intimidation, questioning, reading faces and body language, and social skills.
Characters also have skills, focused areas of knowledge that are based on attributes. Skills have a default value of the underlying attribute. Characters also have five points to spend on skills, one point per rank. Characters can retain skill points until they decide they need a skill. A little cheaty, but it's a solo game and I don't mind.

All the additional character stuff is at the whim of the player or the Mythic system. I'll either declare aspects of character that I care about or use Mythic's Q&A to discover an aspect I'm not invested in.

Mythic GM

A bit about Mythic GM, since it it may not be a familiar name. The Mythic GM Emulator is a rather clever system for playing RPGs without a GM. The basic mechanic revolves around asking yes / no questions. The answers to these questions are resolved based on a roll vs. a chart with two axes. The first axis is the chaos number, a measure of how crazy or wild things are at present in the game. The second axis is the player's determination of how likely something is. Using a D100 roll, the table returns a yes or no answer, potentially modified to extreme yes, or extreme no. The table can also generate an event based on the die result and chaos number. A roll of doubles (11, 33, etc.) with a single digit value less than or equal to the chaos number generates an event.

Events are where things get interesting. The basic event has a focus and a meaning, each determined by the current game status (more on that in a bit), and a couple random rolls against additional tables. The focus table gives a basic feel for what the event is about. It's determined by a straight D100 roll, and produces answers like PC negative, introduce a new NPC, or close a thread (more on threads to follow). The event meaning is based on two more D100 rolls, an action and a subject. These words create a mini-sentence that the players interpret to figure out what the event actually is.

The game context is a maintained with a pair of lists, and the previously mentioned chaos number. The two lists are characters and threads. Characters includes every character that's been mentioned in the game, and threads lists all open plots and stories. These lists are used to tie events to ongoing threads and characters in a meaningful way.

The last component of Mythic is the scene. As you would expect a scene is a single segment of action, generally fixed to a specific locale. Scenes are declared by the players, but depending on how they're resolved, they can be altered or interrupted depending on the current chaos number and a D10 roll. A roll of chaos or less means the scene is modified, either altered (odd roll) or interrupted (even roll). An altered scene takes place as expected, but with an extra twist. An interrupt scene uses an event to interject an entirely new scene into play. Scenes are resolved using Mythic Q&A and/or game mechanics as needed. When a scene is complete, the game context is updated, and it's on to the next scene!

Let's Play

Enough about how, let's do it. Introducing Evan Stacy, homicide detective. To make things easy I'm going to use my own locale, West Lafayette / Lafayette, as a base of operations. No reality involved here though, it's just a place to use. I see Evan as a fairly normal guy, a local, and a bit more a thinker than a fighter, with a pretty good feel for people. He's been with the WLPD for a while, rising steadily through the ranks to detective. He's a good shot due to regular practice and occasional hunting trips, and has a knack for technology. Here's the basics:

Evan Stacy
Attributes (5/5)

  • Brawn: Fair
  • Mind: Good
  • Charm: Good
Skills (2/5)

  • Guns: Good
  • Technology: Great

Time for some extras. Let's ask some questions and see how things play out. I'm starting things out as chaos five, the usual default value.

  • Q1: Does Evan work with a partner? (very likely)
  • Answer: Yes.
Let's find out more about Evan's partner using a random event to determine his/her nature. The result comes back as:  Focus: NPC action. Meaning: Postpone prison. Hmm. Sounds a bit dicey for a cop, but we'll run with it. Let's go with a partner that has a family member facing prison time for something. This makes me think Evan's partner is a bit more rough and tumble, so after a quick 50/50 odds roll determines he is a he, we'll define Jeff Long:

Jeff Long
Attributes (5/5)
  • Brawn: Great
  • Mind: Fair
  • Charm: Fair
Skills (2/5)
  • Fight: Superb
  • Guns: Superb
Jeff's the tough guy. Ex-football player and boxer, joined the Marines, then the police. He and his family are from Indianapolis, which puts some distance between his troubled relative and the WLPD.

Partner in hand, let's set up a couple more people for Evan. It's nice to have characters at the start so events that tie to people have something to connect to. A typical meme of the police procedural is the Rabbi, a higher ranking officer who takes the main character under their wing. Let's find out more.
  • Q2: Does Evan have a Rabbi? (near sure thing)
  • Answer: Yes
We'll leave it at that for now. We've said Evan is a local boy, let's see about family and relationships. It seems very likely a local boy will have local family, but sticking with our genre, cops are usually not good at relationships, so we'll pick 50/50 for that.
  • Q3: Does Evan have family in the area? (very likely)
  • Answer: Extreme yes
  • Q4: Is Evan in a relationship? (50/50)
  • Answer: Yes
  • Q5: Is he married? (50/50)
  • Answer: Yes (Event: Focus: PC negative. Meaning: Change dreams)
  • Q6: Does he have kids? (50/50)
  • Answer: Extreme no
The extreme yes suggests Evan has a lot of family in the area, and/or he places a lot of importance on them. I'm going to go with both. Evan is also married, but we hit our first event here. That reads to me like an impending divorce for sure. No kids, with an extreme no answer sounds like the divorce revolves around kids or lack thereof. Now we're getting the proper police drama vibe!

Let's establish one more character in the context before we get started with actual play. I think we need either a professional contact (coroner, judge, or lawyer), or a street contact. Given Evan is a more bookish sort, let's lean toward a professional contact.
  • Q7: Is Evan's contact a professional? (likely)
  • Answer: Yes
So, we have a professional, but no need to expand for now. Let's see where we stand so far as context.

Chaos: 5
  • Jeff Long, Evan's partner on the force.
  • Evan's Rabbi on the force.
  • Evan's family.
  • Evan's wife.
  • Evan's professional contact.
  • Jeff has a relative in trouble.
  • Evan is on the road to divorce.
That's enough to get started. Let's head for our first scene. Cue dramatic intro music, and let's start with the obvious, the call to the crime scene. A couple random die rolls give me a basic setup to work with. Jeff and Evan are called to a home to investigate a potential homicide. It's daytime, and both are at the station when the call comes in. Let's see what happens:
  • The scene proceeds normally (roll 9).
Fair enough, our investigators arrive at the house. Using a random table the destination is a garden apartment on the edge of town. It smells like there's a body in there. Since this is a college town, I decide it's mid-summer and these apartments are usually used by students, so there are quite a few vacancies. That explains why no one has noticed the smell. It also means the body has been here a while, and implies there's actually a body present. Let's determine more. Even odds for things we don't know, and a body that's been here a while makes it hard to determine cause of death so...
  • Q8: Is there ID on the body? (50/50)
  • Answer: No
  • Q9: Did a resident find the body? (50/50)
  • Answer: No
  • Q10: Is there an obvious cause of death? (unlikely)
  • Answer: Yes
As you can see, we don't always get answers we expect! Let's find out more, with odds determined by general logic...
  • Q11: Did property staff find the body? (likely)
  • Answer: Extreme no
  • Q12: Can the property office provide rental records? (a sure thing)
  • Answer: No
  • Q13: Was the victim shot? (likely)
  • Answer: Yes
  • Q14: Was the victim an adult male? (50/50)
  • Answer: Yes
Well that's an interesting twist. We know the adult male victim was shot, but we don't know who found him yet. Also the rental office doesn't know who rented the apartment? That sounds fishy to me! More questions occur:
  • Q15: Do we know who reported the body? (50/50)
  • Answer: Extreme no
  • Q16: Are the apartments occupied at all? (likely)
  • Answer: Yes
  • Q17: Does the rental office have any records for the building? (very unlikely)
  • Answer: Extreme no
OK, so we know a little more. An anonymous tip lead police to the scene. The apartments are in use, but there are no records of rentals. That sounds like a new thread to me, with two extreme no results, something fishy is definitely going on there. Let's check for more evidence.
  • Q18: Any sign of the gun or clues as to how the shooting happened? (50/50)
  • Answer: No
  • Q19: Any signs of a struggle? (50/50)
  • Answer: No
  • Q20: Is there anything in the apartment other than the body? (50/50)
  • Answer: Extreme no
OK given that, Evan evaluates the scene and gets a Great result. "Obviously this is a dump job, and a homicide. No gun and no sign that the shooting took place here."

And no, I didn't plan on asking exactly 20 questions.

With little more to be gleaned from the scene, the detectives leave the forensics team to do their job and head out to expand the net. That ends the first scene, so it's time to update the context. We add the characters and threads, and update the chaos. A murder is a somewhat chaotic scene, and there are quite a few loose ends, so +1 chaos.

Chaos: 6
  • Jeff Long, Evan's partner on the force
  • Evan's Rabbi on the force
  • Evan's family
  • Evan's wife
  • Evan's professional contact
  • The victim, an adult male
  • The anonymous tipster
  • The forensics team
  • The shooter
  • Jeff has a relative in trouble
  • Evan is on the road to divorce
  • Rental records for the murder scene are missing
And, that's probably enough for a first post. Hope you enjoyed reading along. If you want to check out the non-Mythic dice rolls I'm doing, you can see them right here.

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