Last Aeon game, +Christopher R. Rice asked me, as The Commander, to show up ready with a plan. And to share that plan with him in advance, so as GM he could plan for the plan.
I did that, and detailed what that would look like in my prior post. The long and the short of it was that we needed to separate a wife-abuser’s spouse from him. He is highly trained, highly vindictive, and in S2E6 we’d built up, through the method of crashing a party he was at, a notion of his psychological profile. We knew we needed to get her into Witness Protection, and that she’d need to disappear without his ever knowing it until it was too late. But with his resources, we’d need to be very, very clever. My job was to provide the clever.
To explain . . . no, that would take too long. To sum up:
I planned on us doing a bunch of prep work before, and the key bits of the plan were to give the bad guy a reason to first see his spouse, then send her away. Then provide enough distraction to make him not think about someone who he loves to treat as forgettable. Simultaneously, we needed to try and separate him from his resource base somehow, and blackmail seemed the best concept. Not a great concept, but the best I could think of at the time. From there, the wheels of justice could turn, and he could be brought up on domestic assault charges, which is what Eamon had promised his friend (and been bound to magically by the Pusher, who at best is Chaotic Neutral, if you hold with such things).
So, that was the plan.
I started laying it out, and my team – clever folks all – started improving things. We frequently go off in all directions, but with the skeleton of an idea in place, everyone was highly focused on making it better.
This is a classic management strategy, and it worked as well in this team as it’s worked in real life.
The plan got better and better, and more aimed at success. And when it came time to roll dice, we spent karma like it was going out of style. I’m not sure we made rolls by less than 5, and often more like 15.
In short, we were able to make and execute a perfect plan, which went off perfectly. We had contingencies for things that didn’t happen, and there were very few surprises.
I ran a game like this once, and my players told me it was boring.
The plan behind the plan
Now, this game was an experiment to see if The Cavalry could be held to a plan at all, since we were warned that our tendency to go off like Leroy Jenkins was going to get us all killed Real Soon Now. To that degree, the experiment was a success. Strategically, Christopher had to let us make a plan, execute a plan, and not knock us down if he wanted us to ever plan again (which he does).
And in fairness, the plan really was that good.
And there were some interesting moments. Especially when we wound up with a treasure trove of data implicating and proving that the Evil Private Military Corporation (Blue Skies) was, in fact, as nasty as we thought.
We could have screwed everything up, I think, as we started to make highly convoluted plans to leverage the data against our bad guy in various ways.
But we quickly ran into implausibility problems, mostly because we couldn’t agree on good answers to the six questions that will determine a plausible plot. More on that tomorrow!
Internal Conflict is Conflict Too
OK, so our plan went well. The team had great (so says me) roleplay, and the reality of the plan was even better than the theory of the plan’s outline that I put together. This was not a usual situation for us (see “Leeroy Jenkins”) so this successful internal team interaction – which last really came together in the season 1 finale – actually represented a Big Deal moment. Having it all work as planned was the reward for teamwork.
However, we really got into it on the what to do with the data question. My argument was that we had successfully accomplished our mission and nothing that we were planning needed to be done right at this instant. Trying to push too far, too fast, with too little forethought might not only ruin the vast treasure trove of data we’d recovered, but might ruin the plan we’d just successfully executed as well.
Eventually, I ran ’em through the six questions, and we came up with all sorts of great ways that – at a later date – we could bring down Blue Skies.
Not that instant, and some of the information we turfed up about internal politics in that organization turned out to be gold from an internal destabilization perspective. We never would have found that out if we went off half-cocked.
But I don’t think it did. The key goal for Monday night was to create, embellish, and execute a plan and show that such a method was superior to Leroy Jenkins’ typical approach. Christopher wants to reward this – and the trove of data means that, for a change, the superheroes have a chance of driving the plot proactively, rather than reactively, which – as long as we communicate our intentions to the GM – means that the campaign is automatically a success. Because the players are immersed, involved, proactive, and engaged, and is “all” Christopher has to do as GM is provide the right tension between success and resistance.
That’s a lot of benefit, at the “cost” of letting us run rampant all over an imaginary wife-beater and dirty politician for four hours of game time.
I call that a win.
They can’t all be that easy. But positive reinforcement is a good thing. One thing that will likely change in the future is that we got a lot of unopposed rolls with large margins (made it by 15! Woo hoo!). The Basic Abstract Difficulty of the situation we’ll be facing in the future will likely be higher; success by 5, 10, or even 15 might be required to overcome the active resistance of a group of highly trained, well motivated spec ops, many of whom are metahumans themselves.