Discovering the mysteries and policing the Jungian mass subconscious, mystery agents exist in a world that is a mix of the Matrix, Men in Black, World War II Europe and Naked Lunch.
Lacuna Part 1 – The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl From Blue City is an amazingly surreal RPG written by Jared Sorensen and published through his Momento Mori Theatrics company. I’ve raved about the game several times on this blog –
- Top 25 RPGs of All Time (where I rate it among the best games I’ve ever played)
- Top 5 Surreal RPGs that have me hooked (where it is the king of the pack)
- There is no Static on the Line (where I analyze the results of five games on the psyches of the characters and the players)
So I finally got myself a copy of the game in question and it’s about time I pull it out and run through the Mystery Agent creation rules.
Before I go into the actual chargen, a few pieces of glossary for those who haven’t worked with the Company before – drawn directly from my There Is No Static on the Line post. We are Mystery Agents. We enter go to sleep to invade the Jungian mass subconscious which takes the shape of a city we call the Blue City. We are connected to the Company while on one of these “drops” via Control – an agent who is in a special hypnotic state where he can deal with the real world and try to remain in contact with 3 to 5 agents who are trying to exist in a dream. As things go pear-shaped, static builds up. As static builds up, Control has less and less contact with us, and what contact he has is often distorted, mangled or outright misunderstood.
Character creation starts with everyone being sat down somewhere clinical and uncomfortable, issued a Company Approved #2 Pencil, a Company Approved eraser, and four Company Approved Polyhedral Dice (2d6 and 2d10). As long as you have a Green security clearance, you cannot use your own dice or pencils. Each player is then issued one Company Approved Personnel Record Form (in a scantron format). Agents will be granted Blue level clearance upon completion of this process.
By this point, character creation hasn’t even started and it feels like we are in a mix of the Paranoia RPG and the original Men in Black movie. Did I mention I was already completely sucked into the game by this point? Hook, line and sinker, as they say.
Your mystery agent’s pseudonym is the first thing generated (I thought I was leaving behind everything but my name when I joined up. Turns out I was wrong about that too…) This really drives home the feel that you know nothing about your character. In most games that would be a negative, but in Lacuna Part 1, it seems to help the feel, making you grasp at straws as they present themselves. This is rolled using a percentile roll. My roll of 72 has me assigned the pseudonym of Agent Shepherd.
Then we select attributes. Each character has 9 points to spend on the three attributes in the game with a minimum of 2 points in any one attribute (humans can go as low as 1, but you have been selected to be a Mystery Agent because you exhibit exceptional abilities and are the best of the best of the best sir, with honours!) The attributes are Force (used for physical interaction with the mass subconscious), Instinct (used for non-physical interaction), and Access (used as a combination of Charisma and clarity of thought when trying to communicate with and get stuff and information from Control).
With the name Shepherd, I see this guy shaping up to be the guy people go to when they need help. A good Access score sounds right. But putting 4 points into Access means that I have to put only 2 points into one of the other attributes. I decide on 2 points in Force.
Now it turns out the real reason I’m being looked at for promotion to Blue clearance is that I have a particular talent that makes me stand out. There are three talents under each attribute, and I get one extra die when exercising this talent. The obvious first choice is to take an Access talent so I am the king of Logistics or Intelligence or something, but instead I’ll take a specialty in Strategy under Force, so I’m good at takedowns, helping to make up for my otherwise mediocre force stat.
Now we determine Agent Shepherd’s mentor. While he was in training for his Green clearance and for the first while working in Green, he had to work with someone in the upper echelons of the Company. And of course, to determine who I was working with requires a die roll (2d10). My result of 7 puts me as having been mentored to Special Agent Miner. Special Agent Miner is an… interesting case. Seems he’s gone missing, and is still wandering around the Subconscious out there without orders and without permission from the Company. Further, anyone who worked with Miner in the past is under a cloud of suspicion because of this. In my previous drops, some of Miner’s trainees proved to be of questionable loyalty to the company (but the same can be said of some Agents trained by other mentors).
As one of Miner’s trainees, I’m taught the Endurance technique which will change my optimal heart rate up or down 5 BPM (my choice – we’ll get to that when we get to the heart section of the character). I also get one Cover technique – some deep cover special ability of mine that I can use while in Blue City (the mass subconscious). I go with Documents – I always carry official-looking documents that I can use to travel, get through checkpoints and so on.
Now we arrive at Agent Shepherd’s medical history. The “heart” of the game mechanics is a BPM heartrate mechanic that at first rewards you for rolling dice (by bringing you into your optimal BPM range), and then starts to punish you (by bringing you to your maximum BPM).
Two sets of 2d10 rolls are used to determine an Agent’s age. The first roll (18) determines what the second roll will be (in this case 34 + 2d10). My second roll of 8 makes Agent Shepherd 42 years old. This gives him a maximum BPM before he’s in serious trouble of 178, and an optimal range of 90 to 135. With the Endurance technique he can either change that to 85-135 or 90-140. I’ll go with 90-140. As a male character, his resting BPM is 70.
And we’re done. With that last piece of information recorded, Shepherd is upgraded to Blue clearance and ready for his first drop.
Security Clearance: Blue
Force: 2 dice
– Strategy (+1 die to incapacitate, capture or process)
Instinct: 3 dice
Access: 4 dice
Mentor: Special Agent Miner (MIA)
Max BPM: 178
Optimal BPM: 90-140
Rest BPM: 70