The Alexandrian

Technoir: The Untouched Core

January 18th, 2012

Technoir - Jeremy KellerHad an interesting experience with a plot map in Technoir last night and wanted to share it: I generated a mission seed, figured out what was going on, and then hooked the PCs.

But during the actual session, the PCs never got anywhere near the core of the plot map (the heart of the conspiracy defined by the original mission seed). Instead, they became completely wrapped up in a complex periphery of events that were being influenced or instigated by the conspiracy without actually being a part of it.

I’m now referring to this as the “untouched core”. Let me give a hypothetical example of what I’m talking about:

I generate a conspiracy focusing around a complex alliance of interests working to rig the presidential election in Ohio. The first impulse is that the PCs will work their contacts, shake a few trees, and eventually find a way to unmask (or at least de-fang) the conspiracy (presumably preventing the election from being rigged). But when the campaign takes the form of the “untouched core”, that’s not what happens: Instead, the PCs get tangled up in the street warfare of a small gang that murdered a campaign worker. Or end up investigating the illegal medical testing of one of the companies involved in the election rigging. Or wrangle a contract to protect one of the down-ticket candidates.

The point is that you end up with his sort of “cloud of activity” surrounding the conspiracy at the center of your plot map, and it’s fully possible for the PCs to get completely (and compellingly) tangled up in this cloud without ever worming their way into the heart of the matter.

This isn’t necessarily something that I could force to happen. (And I wouldn’t want to.) But it’s something I’m going to make a point of leaving myself open to and being all right with if it happens in the future.

By contrast, I think I inadvertently mucked up the first Technoir adventure I ran by pushing too hard for the revelation of the central conspiracy. I think I would have been better off simply letting the PCs resolve the local squabble they were tangled up in and letting the deeper conspiracy either pass them by or come back for a second pass in a different form further down the road.

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