Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Game Prep: Unwritten

I'm running Unwritten tonight. This was something I was running to review (I run games written/produced other other IGDN members and then review them), and normally that's just a one-shot, but we kinda ran out of time after chargen and I didn't want to rush. So!

If you're playing tonight, of course, don't read this.

Right, so. The main conflict here is obviously the mafia angle. Four of the five characters are wrapped up in it; the mafia don is Saron's biological father, Terra's adopted father, Eleni's nemesis, and Principessa's intended father (kind of, since she wants to buy her way into the family). Since we've only got a one-shot to deal with, and since I'd like to showcase something about Unwritten other than the drama we've created, I need to delve into puzzles and ages and stuff.

Well, let's look at people's Skills and stunts. High Skills are Intrusion, Athletics, Research, Notice, and Survival. So obviously we're good at puzzling through challenging both physical and mental. And the central weirdness was the unexplored area of the city where the weather is upside down, and that the mafia is interested in. Hmm, hmm, hmm.

OK, I like starting things off with a bang. So let's say this all starts with a high wind whipping through the caverns, scattering what people are doing, generally causing chaos but not damage or injury. The wind comes from the unexplored area, and there are explorers (like Nick) who want to find out what's happening, but the mafia has some tough folks turning people away with the threat of violence. The PCs are in a unique position to get let in, and if that happens severally, so be it, they can explore on their own for a while. The wind comes from Vilette, which Saron could probably identify if she takes a sample of the residue the wind leaves.

Underneath the unexplored section is a massive sub-cavern where gravity inverts (meaning the PCs will be walking on the ceiling once they enter). The bottom of this cavern (well, top, depending on how you look at it) contains and intricate glowing pattern. If the characters get down there, they can see that these glowing panels are Linking Books, inset into the stone floor and immobile (unless they were to chisel a book out, which I guess is possible). Animals avoid this cave (it screws with their sense of equilibrium), but mushrooms grow from the ceiling and sometimes brush a panel. When that happens, larger panels on the sides of the room activate, bringing through the dominant weather systems from the Age in question for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes.

I'll leave who set up the Link Garden to a deduction action, I think, but I do want to address the weather panels with a puzzle, 'cause I think it'd be fun. So: The cavern is mostly circular. The characters can enter from two tunnels on either side. Once they enter the cavern, the gravity inversion take hold and they flip upside down, but from their perspective approach the cavern, it would look like the ground just drops away into a deep pit with glowing dots at the bottom. Once in the cavern, they'd have to look up to see the glowing.

The walls contain the panels that bring the weather out, but the mechanism extends back into the stone (which is why the "upside down weather" persists throughout this area). If the characters get down to the bottom of the pit (up to the ceiling, in other words), they'll see the Link Garden, but also five doors leading out of the central chamber. These doors lead to tunnels, at the end of which are levers. The levers are presently all in the "up" position, which might lead the characters to think this is what is controlling the gravity, but that isn't really the case. Levers A, C, and E control the gravity, and if they're all flipped down at the same time, the gravity inversion shuts off and everything inside the chamber falls (which could potentially cause injury). If only one or two levels are flipped down, the gravity inversion fights against itself, which ruins the machinery in a minute or two (and therefore has the same effect, but it then needs to be replaced before any of it works). If levels B and D are flipped down, different sets of Books rise and fall. This allows for four different settings:

1) Both levers flipped down (no Books visible, no Linking)
2) Lever B down, Lever D up (Water Orientation, links to Ages that can bring in fresh water, which, if the irrigation system were completed and working, could be supplied to D'ni)
3) Lever B up, Level D down (Warmth Orientation, links to Ages with high ambient temperatures, which heats up the section of the city; the safeguards that would flip this lever back were never finished, meaning that left uncheck this would cook the inhabitants given time)
4) Both levers flipped up (all Books visible, this has random effects as mushrooms grow on the "ceiling")

Touching the Books, of course, can Link them to various Ages, including the ones we made up, but then they need to get back, and I think I can wing that.

Now, this needs to lead back to the mafia somehow, and I kind of like that influence from the Pearlescent Aeon is to blame, here. So we'll say that one book is missing (Linking to the Pearlescent Age); there are other Books that go there, but they Link to rivers and springs and so forth. The missing Book Links to a reservoir that once held water, but is now holding pearls. The mafia planned to use that Book and bring in the pearls, but the Book is missing. That can be a cliffhanger or it can be the back half of the session, depending on how quickly we burn through the first half. I personally think that Gaius might have it in some other Age.