[Lacuna] Actual Play (sort of), Ideas, Mission Notes, etc (potential SPOILERS)

Rich H

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Hi All,

I thought I'd create a thread to post and share my ideas and notes for the Lacuna game (ref: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/95893/Lacuna-Part-I-second-attempt) I've been running with my regular gaming buddies on Discord.

Sinister secret agents with shadowy employers and mysterious pasts. A bizarre landscape built from six- billion human minds. Arachnid-headed beings that guard a war-torn borderzone. And all the worst that Mankind has to offer, stalking the alleys and crumbling buildings of a place called Blue City.

Is it a dream? Is it a nightmare? Or is it just a game? And are you already playing?

We're usually a face-to-face group and this was pretty much the first time (for at least 4 out of the 5 of us) were going to be gaming online. I went with Lacuna for a number of reasons; I'd run it once before for a couple of sessions and it was lots of fun, I wanted a very rules light game to test out online play, and thought the setting would appeal to the players. I quickly also realised that the limitations of not being able to play face-to-face would actually lend itself to the secrecy, strangeness and paranoia of the game itself and allow for me to create (if I wanted) some groovy handouts/props to enhance the atmosphere and fun of the game. When I started I didn't appreciate just how well this would end up working and I reckon this has actually made the game more fun.

So, here's how I set up the game on Discord, the pic shows the current game so you can see there are a number of missions and a number of channels which I deliberately set out so I could post information that all characters would have but also be able to keep things secret if necessary:



I set up some bots to run as well, mainly a couple of dice ones (Side Kick and Dice Maiden) so we had backup if one went down and a music one (Groovy) so could play background appropriate music to enhance the experience.

Summary of Channels

Went with separating out into various main channels as follows:
  • General - for shared information not relating to the current mission specifically. This was divided into the following message threads; a mix of in-game and outside threads:
    • General - just a general chat channel
    • Company Announcements - used to send out shared comms from the company and senior officials with regard to policy, memos etc. My idea being that this would provide the players with a feel for their working life between missions and may add to the general feeling of disquiet I had when reading the rulebook beyond just the weirdness experienced within a mission
    • Blue Level Security and Deep Blue Security - used as channels to share information applicable to specific security clearances
    • Dice Tray - thread for players to roll dice using the dice bots
  • Characters - this is the channel for the PCs, each player having a thread for their character sheet and then another for private messages. Probably a little bit overkill for having the two but it does make management easier as the character sheet is easy to find in its own thread rather than being the first post in a thread full of further messages
  • The Cast - this was divided into the following categories. I went with asking my players to select actors/actresses for their characters and did the same for NPCs. I'll post the content of these in other entries:
    • PC Agent Bios
    • Agents and Support Staff
    • Blue City Characters
  • Missions - this channel includes a new thread for each mission. As you can see from the screenshot above, we're now currently on our 6th mission.
  • GM Notes - here's where I thought it'd be useful to post information just for my eyes, however I can just keep such things on my computer so really I just use this for preparing potential comms and messages to sprecific agents or the group, hence just the one thread:
    • Comms Ready to be Sent
Hmmm... I think I've posted all this in case someone wants to do the same - that can be the only reason! It has been really useful though and actually had me thinking about how I could use the advantages of the technology and playing remotely rather than face-to-face so by adding these channels it really got me to think about the style of the game and my presentation of it. Which I'll make the subject of the next post here.*

Feel free to ask any questions, etc!

* Assuming people are interested; always difficult to gauge that! :hmmm:
 

Rich H

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Introducing the Game
I pretty much didn't! My players are pretty trusting of me picking games that I think they'll like. I therefore introduced it as just "what we're going to play on Friday over Discord" instead of The One Ring (which we were playing face-to-face). All I said to the players were that it would be a bit weird and they'd be playing agents of some kind and that I'd like them to send me a picture of an actor of what they'd like their character to look like.

Starting the Game
We had a prompt start on the first Friday, 8pm, and I dived straight into character generation but played it out like they (the players? characters? I didn't make that clear) were on a training or induction course. Beforehand, I'd renamed their profiles to Trainee Agent #n and once we started play I introduced myself as Senior Instructor Snyder and also updated my profile name on Discord to that as well.

Character Creation
This was done like it was a training course for the players (or was that their characters?) so was dry and bland for the most part, deliberately so - I'd already decided to make much of the situations outside of missions to be grey and mostly dull affairs. Alterations on Discord (ie, changing their names to their agent monickers, adding their picture to their profile, etc) were also done as part of the training course with the player (or character?) being commended for quick updates and noting who was the best performer. We all got into the spririt of things and enjoyed ourselves playing up to the situation and already the merging of player and character actions was making some of the players wonder what kind of game they were getting into before I even started on explaining their function at The Company.

Game Note: Rather than call the characters Mystery Agents I went with Sandmen (or Agents) instead. I felt it was a more appropriate term for what the characters were and their function and added extra flavour.

We ended up with the following agents...

Agent Shepherd
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Agent Bowman
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Agent Dyer
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Agent Draper
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Was quite interesting to see the actors that the players picked, that usually hold more supporting roles rather than the main one - was this psychological on their behalf? Deliberate or subconscious? Not sure! I found a younger picture for Agent Bowman to fit the age of his character than the one he gave for the others I left them as-is as older actors often play younger roles.
 
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Rich H

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Character sheets/info for agents in Lacuna are dead straightforward. For the purposes of playing this online I just went with something really basic for each...

Agent Shepherd
Agent Shepherd's player went with a nice flat spread. It didn't surprise me; the player can be quite prudent and cautious and not knowing the full details of the game this is pretty much what I'd have done if I was a player!

Personal Information
Agent ID: Agent Shepherd
Age: 32
Gender: M
Security Clearance: Blue
Mentor: Special Agent Miner
No. of Completed Missions: 0
Commendation Points: 0

Heart Rates
Resting: 60
Target: 95-142
Maximum: 188

Attributes
Force: 3
Aggression
Athletics
Strategy

Instinct: 3
Investigation X
Communication
Intuition

Access: 3
Logistics
Intelligence
Navigation

Techniques
Standard Tree [do not require the spending of CP to activate]
Training
Subtract 10bpm from resting heart rate (70 to 60).

Agent Bowman
The player went for a focus on the more investigative based approach...

Personal Information
Agent ID: Bowman
Age: 35
Gender: M
Security Clearance: Blue
Mentor: Senior Instructor Snyder
No. of Completed Missions: 0
Commendation Points (CP): 0

Heart Rates
Resting: 70
Target: 88-138
Maximum: 185

Attributes
Force: 2
Aggression
Athletics
Strategy

Instinct: 4
Investigation
Communication X
Intuition

Access: 3
Logistics
Intelligence
Navigation

Techniques
Standard Tree [do not require the spending of CP to activate]
Endurance
You may extend your target heart rate by 5bpm at the lower or upper limit (from 93 to 88).

Agent Dyer
We now had a nice focus with one player going down the Force attribute route. The players weren't discussing this (Senior Instructor Snyder had stopped them from doing so; exam conditions and all that!) so unless the players were being particularly devious and DMing each other so I couldn't see/hear then they were weirdly going with characters that had their own niche withing the game...

Personal Information
Agent ID: Dyer
Age: 44
Gender: M
Security Clearance: Blue
Mentor: Agent Duke
No. of Completed Missions: 0
Commendation Points: 0

Heart Rates
Resting: 70
Target: 90-135
Maximum: 176

Attributes
Force: 4
Aggression
Athletics
Strategy

Instinct: 2
Investigation
Communication
Intuition X

Access: 3
Logistics
Intelligence
Navigation

Techniques
Skills Tree [Requires Agent spends a CP to action]
Doctor
Can restore one lost Attribute die to self or other.

Agent Draper
Haha, so not quite the clean spread of attribute focus!

Personal Information
Agent ID: Draper
Age: 28
Gender: F
Security Clearance: Blue
Mentor: Senior Agent Baxter
No. of Completed Missions: 0
Commendation Points: 0

Heart Rates
Resting: 75
Target: 98-146
Maximum: 192

Attributes
Force: 2
Aggression
Athletics
Strategy X

Instinct: 4
Investigation
Communication
Intuition

Access: 3
Logistics
Intelligence
Navigation

Techniques
Cover Tree
Safe-House
You have access to a safe, secret location setup by your mentor.

.
.
.

The first session would end with some training montages, interactions with their mentors and support staff but compressed into summaries/etc with little vignettes of RPing (there was a deliberate reason for this which I'll discuss in a later post). Finally we'd end with a training mission - ie, an insertion into Blue City with Senior Instructor Snyder but I'll put that in a separate post so it follows the format of later missions.
 

Rich H

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Before I post the training mission, here's an entry for the NPCs that the players' characters had been introduced to so far. I went with B&W photos for the NPCs - maybe I should have made that consistent for the PCs too. Hmmm.

Senior Instructor Snyder
Agent Status: ACTIVE
Clearance: DEEP BLUE/WHITE
1592990343378.png

Senior Agent Baxter
Agent Status: ACTIVE
Clearance: DEEP BLUE
1592990409535.png

Agent Duke
Agent Status: ACTIVE
Clearance: GREEN (previously BLUE)
1592990511689.png

Special Agent Miner
Agent Status: ACTIVE
Clearance: DEEP BLUE
1592990584734.png

So, basically the characters' mentors, plus...

Operator Stonerman
1592990690632.png

As with the PC pics these were all loaded into the appropriate channels on Discord.

What do you think of the casting so far? :grin: ... And feel free to ask any questions; can get a little weird doing these kinds of threads - ie, just me posting shit, talking to myself, etc!
 
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Rich H

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I was always curious about this game. Thanks for this. :thumbsup:
You're welcome and thank you for being the first person to reply! :smile:

I was put off buying it for some time as people over on "The Big Purple" were sort of celebrating it as an 'incomplete game' and that it was such a cool thing that the author, Jared Sorensen, had done; publishing an incomplete experiment or something to that affect. Some people talked about the game like it couldn't be run for those reasons and they were somehow part of the 'in crowd' to realise that. Eventually though I bought it on a bit of a whim but as with most of my RPGs, they can sit on my shelf for years! What I did find when reading it though that this is an absolutely complete game and I really don't understand why some folks said otherwise. It actually feels old school/traditional in a lot of ways as it doesn't spoon feed the GM and leaves a lot of creative work for him to do with regard to fleshing out the ideas in the game (ie, what's real, who are the antagonists, who are the real antagonists, etc) and that reminds me of the games I loved and that really capture(d) my enthusiasm and imagination.

The setting is so very engaging but the Heart Rate mechanic is just a work of genius. So very simple, very clever and great at driving the pace of the game, etc. I can talk about that a little more in a post if people are interested?
 
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Wormturn

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I must admit the Heart Rate section of each character's write-up was what grabbed my attention while I was reading your posts, so hearing about it would be cool.
 

Rich H

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I must admit the Heart Rate section of each character's write-up was what grabbed my attention while I was reading your posts, so hearing about it would be cool.
Sure, no problem...

Agents (PCs) all have a Starting Heart Rate (SHR), a range that is the Target Heart Rate (THR) and finally a Maximum Heart Rate (MHR). A PCs Current Heart Rate (CHR) starts at their SHR and increases from there adding the results of Attribute Tests.

The base mechanic of the game is to roll a number of d6 equal to the applicable Attribute. The usual Target Number (TN) for tests is 11 and whatever you get on your roll to pass a test adds to your CHR. When you get into you THR you can add any number of extra d6s to the usual number that you would roll to produce incredible feats (or just effectively guarantee success) but obvously these increase your CHR at a faster rate and when you exceed the THR you can no longer do that. Reaching you MHR means that all tests are considered stressful and failing such tests then means a loss of 1 point in the applicable attribute.

There's other extra stuff on top of this (not much though, it is pretty simple) and I've made a couple of tiny tweaks (which I'll document in a later post) but I'm sure you can already appreciate the cleverness of the mechanic - in how things escalate, how the players want to get into their THR at the right time during a mission, and how slipping beyond it can be bad.

Its an incredibly elegant, cool and very simple mechanic that works brilliantly in play as players manage their interactions and the progression of their Heart Rates can really drive their approach within a mission and at differing times during it.
 
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AsenRG

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You're welcome and thank you for being the first person to reply! :smile:

I was put off buying it for some time as people over on "The Big Purple" were sort of celebrating it as an 'incomplete game' and that it was such a cool thing that the author, Jared Sorensen, had done; publishing an incomplete experiment or something to that affect. Some people talked about the game like it couldn't be run for those reasons and they were somehow part of the 'in crowd' to realise that. Eventually though I bought it on a bit of a whim but as with most of my RPGs, they can sit on my shelf for years! What I did find when reading it though that this is an absolutely complete game and I really don't understand why some folks said otherwise. It actually feels old school/traditional in a lot of ways as it doesn't spoon feed the GM and leaves a lot of creative work for him to do with regard to fleshing out the ideas in the game (ie, what's real, who are the antagonists, who are the real antagonists, etc) and that reminds me of the games I loved and that really capture(d) my enthusiasm and imagination.

The setting is so very engaging but the Heart Rate mechanic is just a work of genius. So very simple, very clever and great at driving the pace of the game, etc. I can talk about that a little more in a post if people are interested?
Some people really have a different definition of "complete". One that is close to the "unwrap, read the rules and start playing" expectation of boardgames, IMO:thumbsup:.
Telling, isn't it?

And for some reason, those people seem to flock to The Big Purple:devil:.

I must admit, the idea of tracking heart rate is a funny one. But I wonder how well it would work in play.
 

Rich H

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I must admit, the idea of tracking heart rate is a funny one. But I wonder how well it would work in play.
It works great in play! It's really just like tracking any resource/condition track but its the clever way that your actions as Agents affect it and you want to hit your target range just at the right time and how once in that zone you can pretty much achieve anything because of the ability to boost tests. So there's a great dynamic at play and an impetus to focus on the mission objectives (or at least your own priorities if they differ - more on that later) rather than fanny about. It therefore makes the pacing of the game pretty awesome.
 
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Rob Necronomicon

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It's one of my all time favorite games. Haaving it incomplete is kind of anadvantage in one way because you can alter the setting to your groups liking. Plus, he leaves you with some tantalizing info. Well worth it imo!
 

Rich H

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It's one of my all time favorite games. Haaving it incomplete is kind of anadvantage in one way because you can alter the setting to your groups liking. Plus, he leaves you with some tantalizing info. Well worth it imo!
Good to see another fan! I don't see it as incomplete, why do you think it is? Is it because the GM, if they want to, needs to work out what some things are, agendas, etc? For me that's just what a normal RPG is rather than everything "tied up in a bow" in a book; sort of like what AsenRG said a few posts up. I quite like the open-ended elements that allow me to add my own ideas but based on the information within the book and the type of game I want to run. Does that make sense?
 

Rob Necronomicon

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Yeah I agree. Sorry, that's what I kinda' ment by being unfinished also. That it gives the GM plenty of 'wriggle room' to put his or her own stamp on the game. When I GM'd it, I was able to put my own agenda for the Spider Men in. We had a lot of fun! :smile:
 

Rich H

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Yeah I agree. Sorry, that's what I kinda' ment by being unfinished also. That it gives the GM plenty of 'wriggle room' to put his or her own stamp on the game.
Quite agree!

When I GM'd it, I was able to put my own agenda for the Spider Men in. We had a lot of fun! :smile:
If you could share that by PM I'd love to know what you went with. I'm still deciding what the Spidermen are in my game and have a couple of options - I'm obviously running out of time though as they get more involved and become a recurring theme. Would be interested as to what you did with them!
 

Rich H

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Mission #0: Milk Run
I ran this pretty much as part of training/character generation including explaining the role of Sandmen (read: Mystery Agents) within the game and what their purpose was - ie, excising Hostile Personalities and therefore curing the world of its monsters.

Senior Instructor Snyder, headed up the insertion (aka Dive) into Blue City and took the rookie agents through a number of tasks:
  • Making calls to Control and other agents - how a phone can make it easier (ie, TN of 8 instead of 11), almost like its a focus
  • Procuring equipment from Control and discussions around acquiring things within Blue City - a couple of the agents acquired firearms as part of this exercise
  • Interacting with Blue City personalities
  • Tracking HPs and how the agents will sometimes need to expose them - it's like their personality is a cover/disguise and the HP is their 'true self' that surfaces when put under stress
  • The agents also carried out a number of activities, including a high speed race in the city's park, demonstrating the effects of being within their Target Heart Rate
As the agents concluded their race, Control contacts Senior Instructor Snyder, informing him that all Agents must extract immediately. All Blue City environs have been upgraded to #deep_blue_level_security until further notice. The agents therefore had to make extraction rolls without the use of a phone and under stress, giving them an idea of the complications they could face if caught unawares, etc.

Upon extraction, Senior Instructor Snyder informed them that there'd been a series of events resulting in the death of an agent (Agent Gardiner) and the disappearance of another (Special Agent Miner). GM Note: these are listed in the rulebook as Mentors, of which Miner was the mentor of Agent Shepherd, so rather have their status be apparent before the game started I decided to use it in-game to raise suspicions, demonstrate not everything is functioning well, etc.

Announcements
I made the following announcements between the first session and the next one. Primarily, I wanted to keep up interest but also wanted to present the gaps between game sessions like gaps between missions - fluid and variable but there nonetheless and something to be used, if they wanted, by the players to potentially ask questions etc.

I've lifted these straight out of our #company_announcements channel on Discord:

1593628144859.png

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1593628303688.png

I then went a bit tongue-in-cheek using what was happening in the real world...

1593628440876.png

1593628486835.png

1593628519140.png

I missed a trick not posting these messages on the corresponding days in real time but work got in the way - even in lockdown!

Finally, I posted the following in the #blue_level_security channel:

1593628762032.png

Note: the attachment is a copy/paste of rulebook content so I'm afraid I can't really share that.
 

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Rich H

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I'll put down some little rules tweaks and considerations I had for the game in the next post I make about it.

Is this interesting for people? Hope it is! :smile:
 

Rich H

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Yup. What's your static sheet look like?
It varies for each mission. I'll post one up as part of each mission write-up I do. I then have a 'float sheet' of static events that I can draw from when I get ideas etc so I can add surreal elements to the mission-based ones.
 
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