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Tetsuyama

Thinking about GMing X Files/Conspiracy X/Black Ops type game..

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Back at last...

 

Anyways, I've been thinking about running some sort of X-Filesish type game for some players (probably 4-5), and I was wondering what your experiences have been trying that with FREd? Were there any resources that you found were invaluable when coming up with ideas? Where did you place it geographically? What kind of resources did you give the PCs?

 

I've been rooting through some GURPS books (Conspiracy X, Black Ops, and Illuminati), as well as Bureau 13 (an old Tri Tac game). There seems to be lots of good source material in those, as well as some decent stuff in the old Champions supplements (Super Agents, mostly, but I've been looking through the old Dark Champions book and its supplements). Does anyone have any suggestions for other good source?

 

What kind of techniques did you use to make GMing these easier? How much of the various conspiracies did you think out ahead of time vs. what was on the fly? I've been trying to come up with some fake newspaper clippings and some sort of "Rolodex of Secrets and clues" that I can shuffle and use to come up with adventure hooks and ideas.

 

 

Tetsuyama

Back from the grave! Er, I mean, working too hard!

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Concerning techniques and such...

 

I've used clippings from the real newspaper. Essentially, clipped three "seemingly" unrelated articles from Sunday's paper, had the PCs' handler say something like: "The boys in statistics say there's some connection -- find out what it is." and let the players go to town. If they're a lively bunch, they'll hypothesize some connection (or two, or three, or a billion... haha).

 

I also recommend winging it at least to a certain extent. 4 players, sitting around a table and discussing possibilities amongst themselves, come up with much weirder stuff than me by my lonesome. Whatever the case, I recommend at least being prepared to run with the stuff the players believe and/or suspect.

 

I'm stealing that Rolodex idea... that's brilliant.

 

Wasn't sure if you were looking for source material outside of gaming, but if so, these are a couple I find essential:

 

The Big Book of Conspiracies and The Big Book of the Unexplained

Both are by Doug Moench and various illustrators, put out by one of DC Comics' imprints, available in comic shops as well as Borders and such (with the comics). I don't think they're out-of-print. They make excellent "cheat sheets" and, for me at least, are more palatable than most writing done by conspiracy theorists.

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Archer: Awesome! I like the tarot idea -- INWO is a hella fun game.

 

Allen: Feel free to steal the rolodex idea. Unfortunately, I can't claim credit. I'm not the world's best GM, but it's not from lack of trying or rooting around the net looking for helpful hints on how other people do it. That particular one is from "Worldbuilding" out of Dragon. I'll have to stop by Border's some time in the next couple of days to check out the Big Books.

 

Hopefully I'll manage to wrangle one or two people into helping me come up with ideas. I've often thought it'd be nice if there were some GM boards to bounce ideas off of other GMs and see what they thought. Of course, the trick is to keep your players from reading them. ;)

 

I've also done a little bit of thinking about a conspiracy campaign sheet -- i.e. something that helps you solidify your ideas on some kind of basic stuff.

 

Do the PCs work for the government or not?

Are the PCs trying to protect the conspiracy or uncover it?

How many large conspiracies are there?

 

What kind of resources do the PCs have access to?

Fake IDs?

Police powers?

*REALLY* big guns?

 

I was thinking about that because the different source material I've been looking at so far tackles it from several different angles. Most of them have the PCs working for one conspiracy or another, but there's almost always more than one conspiracy (unless you count as "conspiracies" aliens with no human assistance, werewolves, vampires, and other assorted nightmare critters).

 

I suppose it'd be kind of interesting to go through some of the agency generation stuff for a variety of different conspiracies, maybe something like writeups from Super Agents or something like the point system/checklist from Ninjas & Superspies.

 

Do you run your game in a real city or a fictional one? It's pretty easy to see arguments for both -- authenticity for the real city, flexibility for the fictional. I'm just wondering if anyone's gotten hit with a real downside (or upside) of one or the other.

 

Thanks!

Tetsuyama

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Re: Thinking about GMing X Files/Conspiracy X/Black Ops type game..

 

Originally posted by Tetsuyama

I've been rooting through some GURPS books (Conspiracy X, Black Ops, and Illuminati), as well as Bureau 13 (an old Tri Tac game). There seems to be lots of good source material in those, as well as some decent stuff in the old Champions supplements (Super Agents, mostly, but I've been looking through the old Dark Champions book and its supplements). Does anyone have any suggestions for other good source?

The three GURPS books you mention and Bureau 13 are all good. I'd also recommend S. John Ross's GURPS Warehouse 23, and maybe Ken Hite's GURPS Cabal. (The latter is more horror-ish, but it has a conspiratorial slant.)

 

Ken Hite's Suppressed Transmission books are indispensible. SJG publishes them, and they're just absolutely crammed with Gameable Weirdness. Just browse through 'em and you'll see what I mean.

 

Ken Hite also did a supplement called Secret Societies for Chaosium's Nephilim game. That's another great source if you can find it.

 

The Sub Rosa book from the Conspiracy X line (the original... not the GURPS version) is a good resource aimed specifically at how to design cool conspiracies.

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Have run games like this...

 

What I usually like to do in modern day settings with conspiracies is to have the players create characters that are 'normal people' - this can include such things as police agents, intelligent scientists and even someone who 'dabbles' in the occult. Then have the PCs, for one reason or another, be in the same, general area at the same time - if all else fails, just have them all at the supermarket at the same time. Then something involving a conspiracy happens (a demon comes through a portal). Since they are PC's, they will almost always act in some 'heroic' way of note - even if it is just directing people out of the place. If a PC decides just to turn tail and run, I have the conspiracy item (the demon) focus on them. In the end, agents come in and dispatch the demon. They then 'round up' the PC's, thank them for their help and 'reveal' the trouble that is in the world, why it needs to remain a secret and as they already know about it AND seem that they can handle themselves, would they like to help?

 

The Agent then sets them up with a small 'base' (perhaps just an office), a moderate bank account and a number they can call 'if they get in trouble'. From there on out, they are sent missions everyso often, follow up on suspicious leads and so on.

 

This has the selling points of allowing the players to play people who don't know the 'agency' inside and out like an actual character from the agency would. They can 'learn' about it through their dealings as a 'splinter cell'. Also, by being a splinter cell, they can be given just enough information to keep them happy without revealing everything. That will allow other groups to try and 'convert' them, revealing what their agency is REALLY hiding. By not being full agents, that will give them the flexibility to investigate their own agency. Meanwhile they will have some resources at hand but you won't have to keep dealing with "Why can't I ALWAYS have the BFG-3000?".

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amazed no one has mentioned it yet...

 

If your are interested in doing some sort of conspiracy-type game, you absolutely owe it to yourself to peruse/own Delta Green from Pagan Publishing. This is an amazing modern-day setting for Call of Cthulhu, made to order for "x-files" gaming.

 

Get it! Get it! Get it!

 

http://www.delta-green.com

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Originally posted by Tetsuyama

I've also done a little bit of thinking about a conspiracy campaign sheet -- i.e. something that helps you solidify your ideas on some kind of basic stuff.

 

Do the PCs work for the government or not?

Are the PCs trying to protect the conspiracy or uncover it?

How many large conspiracies are there?

 

What kind of resources do the PCs have access to?

Fake IDs?

Police powers?

*REALLY* big guns?

 

I think there are definite advantages to having the PCs as kind of, sort of insiders. Like Mulder and Scully right... FBI agents who are very, very low on the totem pole, but still a part of the over-all hierarchy. That way they're kind of protected from hostile elements within their own government. With PCs as average joes there seems to come that point in the campaign where I have to ask myself: who's going to miss the PCs, and if no one important and if the conspiracy is so wide-spread and powerful, why don't the hostiles just make them disappear? (On the other hand, this question can also make for good story elements, background stuff, and plot seeds.)

 

Some other thoughts...

 

If they're are a part of the conspiracy -- however unwitting -- it makes it that much easier to manipulate the PCs, which can lead to some good stories and "startling revelations" down the road.

 

Police powers and the like are kind of important to uncovering information. And you want the PCs to have access to information that's not a matter of public record.

 

The players have a role-playing excuse/motivation to investigate built into the campaign, which I think is useful.

 

Do you run your game in a real city or a fictional one? It's pretty easy to see arguments for both -- authenticity for the real city, flexibility for the fictional. I'm just wondering if anyone's gotten hit with a real downside (or upside) of one or the other.

 

I prefer to run any modern game in the city I live in or near. I think it helps get you and the players on the same page concerning their environment. I also find it more interesting to research where I currently live, than to make up a fictional location. And I find it helps me learn the layout of the city and stuff like that. Off the top of my head, two issues though:

 

1. This may seem stupid, but arguments... err, I mean heated discussions sometimes occur about silly things, like the fastest way to drive from downtown to the northside during rush-hour, or whether the store in the local mall was closed down two months ago, or... here's a good one... if it's faster to take the Red Line to Belmont and walk to Clark and Diversey, or wait for the transfer to the Brown Line at Fullerton and then walk, or just take the 36/22 bus and get off at Clark and Diversey. I don't know... maybe it doesn't happen to other people... and I guess it does provide a level of realism to the game...

 

2. If I were running a game with people I didn't know very well, I'd be a little bit worried about offending someone... like turning a prominent Republican into an important member of the Trilateral Commission, and annoying every Republican at the gaming table.

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Looks like I'll be using some of my leftover giftcards from Christmas. Let's see, we've got Warehouse 23, Delta Green, Suppressed Transmission, and Sub Rosa on the list. Good thing I've been too busy at work to spend 'em so far! :)

 

It does seem like one constant of the genre is that the PCs kind of get treated like mushrooms (fed fertilizer, and kept in the dark). Maybe that's part of what keeps it interesting (and humanly possible for the GM)? It does seem like ultimately the PCs have to work for one conspiracy or another, probably not unwittingly. As has been pointed out, it has two huge advantages: no plot hole from the characters not getting the black panel van treatment since they're tracked assets, and it gives the GM an easy "nudge" to point them in almost any direction (like using the nifty trick with the three apparently unrelated articles). Are there any major disadvantages to having the PCs work for a conspiracy? Has anyone found a way in which that doesn't work well?

 

Interesting about using a real city. I live near Seattle, but unfortunately I don't know the city all that well. From that standpoint, it'd be easier to just throw my PCs into a new city from whole cloth since I'd know it better than they do. But of course, I can get street maps of Seattle and such. And the players can argue over the fastest way to get from the Eastside to Downtown endlessly, giving me extra time to come up with the next scene. Muhahaha.. :D

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Take Two Tabloids and Call Your Players in the Morning

 

Get subscriptions to the tabloids. You know, those weird things at the supermarket checkout that look kind of like newspapers.

 

Mine them for ideas.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

Enquiring palindromedaries want to know

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