Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Order of Play

The Opening Scene

The opening scene is always the introduction of the team. The Company introduces the Null to the team that will function as protection and aids during the mission. This is a chance for the players to describe their characters and roleplay the introductions. Don't forget to be suspicious!

"I'm Ann. I'll handle any legal trouble we find. And don't ask about the tattoo, it shouldn't be a problem."

Combined with the introductions or taking place shortly after, the characters each describe what sort of opposition led to the downfall of the last courier team they were assigned to. This is how the players tell the GM what sort of story they'd like to see in the upcoming mission. Gorgeous femme fatales are a very different kind of opposition than high tech security grids, producing a very different kind of story. Any expected opposition should be described through roleplaying.

"I'm packing some major firepower this time. Those mutant freaks won't know what hit 'em!"

During this first scene, the GM takes furious notes regarding any suspicious activity from the players and the opposition they expect to face. These notes will be used throughout the story to tie the plot together and tailor it to the player's interests.

Notice that the GM never describes the mission itself. This is because the details of the mission haven't been established yet. Dead Running is designed to be a no-prep game, so all mission details are revealed through play!

Plot Scenes

Missions have a set structure that serves everyone as a creative guide. This is the general path that the mission will take, but all the individual details are up to the group:
  1. First Sign of Trouble
  2. The True Threat
  3. The Chase
  4. The Countdown
  5. The Twist
After the opening scene, the first player with a good idea for Scene 1 (First Sign of Trouble) sets up the beginning of an appropriate scene and the GM takes over from there. The player only opens the scene, presenting a location and situation for the GM to run with, it's the GM's job to take over and add additional details, obstacles, etc from there.

These scene starters can be as simple as...

"We're on the highway, when Max looks back and says 'I think we're being followed.'"

Or as detailed as...

"It's raining at the dock and our courier team is restless. The ferry was supposed to be here 30
minutes ago.
A dark figure approaches and everyone tenses, preparing for the worst. The old man
introduces himself as
'Benny', our contact. Ann raises a suspicious eyebrow, 'Benny, huh? I thought
you'd be younger...'"

The only requirement is that the player give the GM both the location and the starting situation for the scene. Plot scenes can (and probably will!) evolve organically beyond the starting situation and sometimes even beyond the location. This is entirely up to the GM and should be done when it feels natural for the story. After giving the GM a location and a situation for the plot scene, the player's job is done.

Once all the obstacles and opponents in a scene are dealt with, the GM will end the scene and call for another player to set up the next one. Players set up subsequents plot scenes the same way Scene 1 was set up, by providing the GM with a starting location and situation. The game continues this way until all plot scenes have been set up (by different players if possible) and played through.

End Game

After Scene 5 (The Twist) wraps up, the GM takes as many loose ends, plot lines, surviving opponents, and story threads as seem appropriate and brings them all together for the End Game scene. The GM's goal is to bring all that built up suspicion to a boil and then work with the players to guide the scene to a entertaining and logical (or not!) conclusion.

Besides the climax, the End Game scene brings one major rule change.
Player vs. Player conflict is now possible.
Everything from arguments to gunfights can now be resolved with a die roll, but these tests are always considered harmful (with no need for the GM to spend harm!).

The initiating player rolls normally, against a resistance of half the trait used by the opposing player to defend. Narration goes to the 'winner' of the die roll as normal, while the 'loser' lowers an applicable trait. Either player can spend suspicion to force a re-roll and stealing narration works normally.

Turn Order: If multiple players are involved in one conflict, a basic turn order (clockwise) may be needed.

The End Game scene will probably escalate quickly and that's a good thing. This is the exciting conclusion everyone has been building towards. On its own, the scene will naturally evolve, twist, and, eventually, come to a close. Once there is no further conflict to resolve in the scene, the End Game phase is over.


If the group wishes, each player can take a turn to narrate a quick epilogue scene involving their character. This is a chance to see the hero riding into the sunset or an escaped villain getting an unexpected surprise.

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