After our Technical Difficulties in the prior episodes, we opted to go for system difficulties in these two. A rule set within Red Markets allows for the players to make up their own mission, called a Score. They talked about what to do and came up with the concept of raiding a maker space, a place where people can work on projects, whether electronic, artistic, mechanical, etc. The challenge in this from my end was to give them enough incentive to complete the mission while making it difficult.
Wracking my mind to come up with a solution, I actually asked Caleb for further elaboration about one of the cults made for the game, the Archivists. With religious conviction, the Archivists are assuring themselves that the zombie apocalypse will eventually completely destroy humanity. Thus, it’s their job to preserve as much of human knowledge as possible for whatever come next. As a concept for either an NPC or player character, it means playing them as fatalists with a purpose; they aren’t concerned with human life because it’s all going to end soon one way or another, but they have a mission that at least can give them a reason to keep living just a little bit longer.
With this in mind, I made up ‘antagonists’ for the Reformers to run into. The two heavily armed Archivists aren’t evil, just defending their base. They didn’t even care so much for the non-media contents, just that they were being invaded. After allowing the players to navigate the building undisturbed, I initiated the sequence where they came back. I was fully expecting a fire fight. What I wasn’t expecting was them to try to talk it out with the Archivists.
In retrospect, it’s one thing I should have. We are all fans of Role Playing Public Radio, and one of their hallmarks is trying to negotiate with and / or befriend antagonists who aren’t necessarily out to kill them. The rules don’t really have a means of talking things out with people on the field. What they did have, however, were rules for negotiation for jobs. On the fly, I thought to use the negotiation mechanics in this setting, and we engaged in what we had nicknamed ‘Combat Negotiation’.
If they players dip too far into the bad end of the negotiation table once the rounds are over, the opponents will not be pacified and will initiate combat. The low end of the positive side and they’ll want you to do something for them, the high end they’ll acquiesce. Our heroes succeeded, but I didn’t feel enough to just let them take what they wanted after entering the maker space uninvited, so I made up a mission on the fly for them to help raid a library for the Archivists.
The lessons I learned at the beginning of the campaign were showing their usefulness. Without my experience with Anton, a session where I had to blend player expectations with the job they made and the necessary changes to make a challenging scenario could have caused me to freeze up. Instead, as the heroes stood in a Mexican Standoff, I was able to do backseat game design and allow us to have an exciting game session.