Sunday, August 30, 2020

GM Diary: Justice Wanted

It was a strange thing to realize that while most players (to my experience) choose to play characters who considers themselves to be righteous they had one hell of a problem adjusting to being officially recognized as such. On more than one occasion clandestine options where being discussed before everyone realized they could just demand or acquire access/resources or whatever it was that they needed through public channels.


What I wanted to explore in this campaign was the life of upstanding citizens of the Union and how society seemed from their perspective. To add quite a bit of contrast I wanted to explore this both from a dystopian and an utopian perspective, as Union cities vary greatly in both prosperity and reputation. For the dystopian perspective Merm City was the obvious choice; for the utopian one I picked the city of Gothmor. 

In most Age of Information adventures the players have in someway strived to work against the system. Here the situation was to be the exact opposite and for that reason all characters where to be Union arbitrators; law enforcement officers something akin to Judge Dredd. 

As a final challenge I decided to test the players' flexibility by having a plot involving an arbitrator commander as the bad guy. I imagined that the characters couldn't really get to him without working slightly outside the very system they were set to uphold; he would simply be too good at covering up his own tracks and using his position against them.


The characters started out in Merm City where they faced crowd control challenges and criminal gangs and where introduced to a very cynical frame of mind. It was a (fun) challenge for most to suddenly be the ones with the law on their side, but still having to wrestle with moral choices due to societal segmentation. This was then sharply contrasted as the characters were transferred to the city of Gothmor to investigate a series of murders with suspected links to Merm City. Very different from Merm City, Gothmor was a pristine place with no slums, little apparent poverty and a rooted respect for law enforcement among most citizens. 

The players had to adapt both to the new perspective and the shifting setting and unfortunately I think I brought this on a bit too rapidly to give room for the roleplaying to catch on. But nevertheless the characters progressed in their investigation of the murders, but never really seemed comfortable enough to step outside of the established procedures. 

In retrospect I have mixed feelings about this campaign. Mostly I think this is because how it all ended. I had prepared an ending scene in which the characters could choose to side with one of two arbitrator commanders, one bending the rules for good, the other (the villain behind the murders) for his own gain - though they couldn't know for sure this was the case. In the end the characters choose to walk a middle ground; refusing to bend the rules for unclear reasons and thus ended up without allies against an overwhelming foe. To their credit they survived, but for the players it was a big anti-climax to find themselves without much closure beyond my explanations off game. 

On the plus side, I don't think I've played a single Age of Information campaign since when a reference to this campaign haven't been brought up. Having an understanding for the arbitrator perspective both for me as a GM and for the players have been very valuable for deepening our understanding of the world we're playing in. Thus Justice Wanted was a wonderful reference and I would love to return to the setting again with players now familiar to the challenges ahead.

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