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Jasper the Wasp

The Prisoner - our first Genesys playthrough

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Apologies for the rambling post - this is a reflection of my new-found enthusiasm for the system!

My group - with me as GM - finished our first scenario using Genesys last night which was based in the setting of the 1960s British TV series The Prisoner.

We played it over 3 sessions and by the final session were all converted enthusiasts as to the possibilities that Genesys brings to play. We're a group that have mostly played (and not all together as a group) in the 1980s and 1990s, coming back to roleplaying essentially after a break of decades. We've dipped out toe in with a little Pathfinder, Paranoia (1st edition) and even Advanced Fighting Fantasy (that being a pure nostalgia trip for Brits introduced to roleplaying via the series of gamebooks). Inevitably, Genesys is the system that has opened our eyes to the possibilities of narrative systems and this is a system we will be coming back to again and again. 

I'm drawn to generic systems primarily because of the opportunities they create to engage with licensed properties - particularly those that don't have existing systems built for them or else making one-shots and short scenarios using a familiar system without expecting players to invest in learning a new setting-specific system.

I've been a fan of The Prisoner since seeing it first on re-runs in the late 1980s, having come to it first through the DC Comics sequel Shattered Visage. I don't think the comic stands up well to the TV series but I liked the idea of the Village in ruins and wanted to use the setting in a restricted way as my initial intention was to demo Genesys rather than run a whole storyline and also present the Village as incomplete somehow so as to preserve a living breathing model of the environment at a later time when we were familiar with the system and I could do it justice.

My conceit was that the PCs had been kidnapped and taken to the Village in its unfinished form with the dual purpose of testing some of the Village's security systems and potentially recruiting them as numbers to work in the Village. My plan was to run a session to demonstrate how simple it would be to roll-up characters with a convincing range of attributes and personality traits, and throw them up against some simple combat, the social encounter system and general use of skills.

Within 40 minutes we had 3 PCs who fitted comfortably into the demo setting and had sufficiently compromising details in their background to hint at why they might be kidnapped by somebody then I dropped them into facsimiles of their own homes which turned out to be simulacra built within a holding compound in the Village.

Having been summoned to the Green Dome via the Village tannoy system they made their way cautiously, suspicious of each other's motives (here's where having GMed Paranoia was a boon!) towards an incomplete Green Dome where they were met with a peculiar form of congenial hospitality which made the East End gangster suspicious enough to run off and challenge the first person he could find - with his fists. This took us into our first combat encounter and we paused at the point where the Village worker (essentially a security guard undertaking construction work) was knocked out and a Rover was launched to apprehend the PC.

We had so much fun with this that the players requested that we continue and so the brief improvised demo became a full scenario played over three weeks. The ease with which it was possible to do this using Genesys has impressed me greatly and I am fully persuaded that this is the system I've been wanting in order to develop this and other settings I have in mind.

In session 2 I introduced a number 2 - on this case a relatively inexperienced administrator who clearly lacked the charisma and confidence of his TV counterparts so that we could road-test the social interaction mechanics. Although I subsequently think that I could have developed the character more fully in preparation, what I really loved about the narrative dice was how we were compelled to come up with minor observations that later took on a greater significance which added a lot to the atmosphere.

We had a spectacular encounter between Rover and the PC which resulted in the PC diving spectacularly into a shop front window, almost up to the limit with strain and wounds but ultimately getting away. Again, Genesys really shone here in making it easy to develop an adversary who was almost but not entirely unbeatable, who could inflict terrible damage without being deadly and against whom there would always be a possibility of spectacular escape if if it couldn't be destroyed. These properties are ideal for running a licensed property in which you don't want the PCs or adversaries to be destroyed too easily but in which the conflict will create spectacular set pieces.

Having winged it thus far I worried that the scenario sagged a little in the middle but the gangster's injuries gave me the opportunity to railroad the PCs into the hospital from where I could initiate a dramatic finale, with a large scale security alert and seeming opportunity for the PCs to escape. Against any of my expectations, the gangster managed to punch his way through a group of burly hospital orderlies whilst another PC pinned number 2 to the ground. For me this is when I started to fully appreciate the narrative dice approach - when the players are making suggestions as to how to interpret threat and failure in ways that are not to their advantage but which add to the excitement of the story.

There was an exciting mini-moke car chase to apprehend a fleeing number 2 whilst a siren rang through the Village and an ominous purple cloud billowed out from the Town Hall to envelop the Village.

Two of the PCs managed to enter the supply tunnel behind number 2 but were unable to steer away as a set of explosive charges brought the tunnel down on top of them. The players were familiar enough with the Village to know that escape was virtually impossible and that their PCs would likely not survive this scenario. Another PC did not make it into the tunnel and (true to the setting) had come to accept that he was effectively imprisoned in the Village and that he shortly came across an associate from his former life now sporting the number 2 badge.

Where Genesys brings so much excitement to the big plot points is that as a GM it is possible to build huge dice pools that stack the odds so far against the players that if they do succeed it will be in spectacular fashion and the dice demand a suitably spectacular interpretation to make the outcome plausible - which will then helpfully inform the narrative for a GM who might not have prepared for such an unlikely outcome. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Some sort of gm guide for this would be awesome if you could put one together- even a brief one, hadn't thought of running a Prisoner campaign but it makes sense- the strangeness and mystery of it's perfect for RPG, especially Genesys, anything with mysterious realities would be good. Am now thinking Shutter Island could be good to play around with, especially as gm's or campaign creators could have free reign to twist its (un)reality even further. Could be very dark though- it's a brilliantly unnerving film.

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On 11/12/2018 at 8:43 PM, Watercolour Dragon said:

Some sort of gm guide for this would be awesome if you could put one together- even a brief one, hadn't thought of running a Prisoner campaign but it makes sense- the strangeness and mystery of it's perfect for RPG, especially Genesys, anything with mysterious realities would be good. Am now thinking Shutter Island could be good to play around with, especially as gm's or campaign creators could have free reign to twist its (un)reality even further. Could be very dark though- it's a brilliantly unnerving film.

Agree!

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On 11/13/2018 at 1:43 AM, Watercolour Dragon said:

Some sort of gm guide for this would be awesome if you could put one together- even a brief one, hadn't thought of running a Prisoner campaign but it makes sense- the strangeness and mystery of it's perfect for RPG, especially Genesys, anything with mysterious realities would be good. Am now thinking Shutter Island could be good to play around with, especially as gm's or campaign creators could have free reign to twist its (un)reality even further. Could be very dark though- it's a brilliantly unnerving film.

I had no idea I'd been away for so long! Drawn into to many other games to give this a lot more thought but I did start a GM guide a while back. I was working my way through all of the episodes to think about the core location and possible storylines. There might be a brief guide sometime in 2019 depending on what else we play. My groups been playing a bit of Star Wars recently so this system is very much on my mind and I have another one-off in mind which moves the story on a little from our first foray. There was an interesting post on r/ThePrisoner recently speculating that number 6 had been sent to the Village specifically to break it (presumably without his knowledge) - that's similar to the ideas I've been playing around with in my proto-Village.

Shutter Island? Amazing idea! That would be a fantastic setting to play in. I do love an Ontological Mystery (as TV Tropes would have it) but I can see that my players might feel like I should be reaching for something different for once... no chance!

 

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I like puzzles and mysteries, although they can be notoriously difficult to make work in games of the type I like trying to bring them into, but that won't stop me trying as the pay off can be epic- as with the conclusion of 'The Prisoner' (and alternative options for an RPG) and the 'still not sure' end of 'Shutter Island' (I'm still not sure anyway, keep looking for a tell to confirm it either way but they've sneakily put in tells for both possible realities, so for me I'm not sure if we're meant to know for sure or still be scratching our heads in the dark. Will have to watch it really closely sometime! Could be really obvious and I've missed the Agatha Christie moment- one of the difficulties with something with a puzzle of what is/isn't real- how much is the audience meant to decode this or still not know, which can get lost in the bluffs and tells, does the audience get it or not get it as much as they were intended to)

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