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Chariot of the Gods

Posted: Tue 04 Jun 2019, 10:52
by decanox
Hi to all...

I don't know if this forum the right place to this post (if not, feel free to move to another place).

Question is that I have read the "Chariot of the Gods" scenario thoroughly. I have not played yet, but I hope we can begin with it soon. But as I have said before, since I have read it, I can see several hints:

1.- The good point is that I love agendas and hidden roles. For example, I love board games like "Galactica" in which players cannot trust each other creating a "crescendo" paranoia atmosphere. It's great that a tabletop roleplaying game could create the same situations, and "Alien" is a perfect universe for this.

2.- But my worry (or bad point) is related to the first. What about pace? (because it is not the same playing a fast board game than a rpg) You know, if we play a scenario with secret agendas, players would want to do some actions in separate groups or even alone and, in any case, secretly.
Usually like othe rpgs, to solve this, the GM exit the playing room with players who have chosen to follow a separate way, so they can roleplay their decisions. The other players await around the table. So, you know, this is a very realistic way to solve this kind of situations but it has a drawback: sooner or later, people tend to get bored (or tired of waiting the GM to come back from another room with the rest of players again and again). The players disconnect, exit the story and tension goes off.
Here, in "Chariot of the Gods", I see Agendas that incite players to act alone and secretly.

Have you seen the same problem? How can this be solved?

Anyway, as I have said before, I want to play this scenario soon. I would post here any feedback.


Re: Chariot of the Gods

Posted: Tue 04 Jun 2019, 11:27
by Deep_Impact
These extented off-table meetings are very 80ies. I wouldn't do this. The player could hand you over a piece of paper, if they want to do something in secret.

Reading the agendas there isn't too much need of splitting the party, which could be deadly anyway. I would talk to "You-Know-Who" before the game starts, to arrange some things or hidden signs maybe.

Between the acts a little break would be fine to collect the old agendas and give out new ones. A good possibility to talk about things that could happen.

Another way would be to trust on the separation of PC and player knowledge, which seldom functions well and isn't good for the immersion.

Re: Chariot of the Gods

Posted: Tue 04 Jun 2019, 12:50
by Jonas Ferry
We used to leave the room back in the 90s, or we would have players close their eyes, cover their ears and sing a song when the GM was telling someone a secret. Nowadays we're much too lazy for all that. We use the occasional written note, or just nod and give thumbs up to signal agreement between player and GM.

It's not just laziness, it's actually a lot of fun for the players to know more than the characters. Consider a suspenseful movie scene. If we know less than the character, we try to understand what's going on and frantically try to make sense of what's going on. If we know exactly what the character knows, it can be immersive. If we know more than the character, it's suspenseful. If the character enters a room and we know there's a killer hiding behind the door, it's more suspenseful than if we are as surprised as the character when the killer emerges.

I know that some players put immersion as the single highest goal of any RPG session, but I don't. I much prefer to be a simultaneous participant in and audience of the story.

(Obvious spoilers for the scenario now.)

In Chariots, I was the GM with three players experienced in other games. The hidden android player didn't get any extra instructions, I just told him "yes, you have the correct agenda" because the name on top was different. After each act, I collected the agendas and just told the players one by one without disclosing the agenda: "You get a story point... *turns to next player* hmm, you don't", and so on.

They were a bit suspicious of each other, but in act 1, the agendas are not in conflict, so they got along well. In act 2, the Weyland-Yutani rep PC was killed, and the player decided to take over the Weyland-Yutani rep NPC. They had already found the lab with the vials of black liquid and had assembled in the cockpit of the Cronus. As soon as he read his new agenda, the player asked "No one's paying any attention to me, right? I leave for the med bay and take on of the black liquid vials!" The other players basically cheered, because it was such a cinematic thing, especially as she was ambushed by a neomorph in the same scene and killed in one round. It was like taken from a movie: she betrayed the group and was immediately punished for it.

The other real betrayal was when Lucas the android revealed himself. He walked off with the doctor NPC (now played by the Weyland-Yutani player mentioned before) and the android Ava and shot them both with a shotgun. Since this was PvP I should have taken control of his character after the scene, but I'm so used to games where players can have their separate stories that I forgot. He continued to find the other PC and shot him too. He then steered the ship towards human space, leaving the two NPCs doing a spacewalk to repair the ship stranded on the outside!

My point is that this was all in the open, at least after things had been revealed. The Lucas player said afterwards that he had some questions during the session on what he could or could not do to sabotage the mission, but he just kept playing to the best of his ability and it all turned out great. If the players *really* had wanted to be secretive, I would have made them pass me a written note, and if possible, I would have answered "Yes" or "No".

I think your suspicion that leaving the room will slow the pace and remove tension is entirely correct, but I think it's possible to avoid by note passing or doing things in the open. Players can usually hide any initial maneuverings from each other, but after a while it just turns annoying and I'd much rather have it in the open.

Re: Chariot of the Gods

Posted: Tue 04 Jun 2019, 12:57
by decanox
Yes! That way was really 80's  :D but that is the way we played when we were school students and we have all the time to play. But now, yes, it is really difficult... people do not have the same patience nor time to play so they want faster sessions (it is normal, I understand).

I am going to play following your advice: pieces of paper to tell the actions secretly.

Anyway, I still see problems with some Agendas:


Lucas' Agenda looks for avoiding any xenomorph material could be sent to Earth. I have thought that there are two ways to do this: 1) kill everybody in Weyland Yutani side and maybe some innocent bystanders who do not understand anything 2) Move to the reactor and self-destruct the ship. Maybe 2) it is the easy and fast way. Problem? He/She could find the neomorph or the abomination in his/her way. So it could be solved through pieces of paper but if a combat starts down there could be a problem.

Wilson's and Clayton's Agendas could be similar to the previous case. They have to escape to Earth with the xenomorph materials. Obviously nobody on board the ship would do that, so the most possible way is to escape through the pod. They have to leave behind the rest of the crew and in a similar way, they can find the neomorph or the abomination in their way starting a combat.

In other cases, could be solved peacefully. It is the case of Leah (looking for pills) or Rye (looking for money).

Another solution to that: that Lucas / Wilson could be NPCs



Re: Chariot of the Gods

Posted: Tue 04 Jun 2019, 13:07
by decanox
And I answer to myself:

Another solution: Let the players trying to escape to start the combat and then the others could join the combat (if they want, of course) two or three rounds after (in a similar way to the "Alien" scene: Parker and Lambert "fighting" against the alien, and Ripley hearing their screams through the intercom... she realized soon that she could do nothing to help her crewmates). 

Re: Chariot of the Gods

Posted: Tue 04 Jun 2019, 13:08
by Deep_Impact
Whatever you are planning, it won't survive the players ideas. :lol:

Re: Chariot of the Gods

Posted: Tue 04 Jun 2019, 16:15
by Jonas Ferry
I can only answer how I handled it, and it's not the only way.

I didn't even need notes during my session, but if I had used it, it would only be for the players to ask for information and clarifications. If they wanted to perform some action, even as minor as sneaking something down into their pocket, they would have to state it out loud. All the players would know, but the characters wouldn't. It creates a nice piece of tension for the players to know that one of them carry around the black liquid without the other PCs knowing. 

If a player would have started using that knowledge like "OK, let's empty our pockets!" I would just say "come on, now" and ignore it. On the other hand, if they manage to figure out a plausible way of turning their out-of-character knowledge into in-character knowledge, that puts some nice pressure on the PC with the liquid in their pocket.

This would definitely be the case if they wander off on their own and start fighting monsters: this would be handled in the open in front of all players. This is like a movie where you get to follow different characters around, and I would cut between the two groups. My players actually split up with one group searching the med bay in the Cronus and the other finding the hypersleep chambers. I cut between the two groups back and forth, revealing a little more about each room, which made their discoveries really cinematic. If I had split the players up and only played with parts of them, this would have been completely lost. Sure, they would have their in-character knowledge unsullied, but on the player level they would have missed out on a lot of tension.

As Deep_Impact says, it's more than enough to just give the players their agendas and then let them figure out how they want to pursue them. You just need to describe the world and throw in the different situations from the scenario. If they don't pursue their agendas, they'll miss out on story points, but the scenario will move forward anyway.

On the other hand, from an NPC perspective it's good to know what their agendas are. If they trigger PvP and you're handed a PC to play, it's good if you have an idea of what their endgame is. It's good if you push their agenda hard if you take over a PC, because they've suddenly turned into the big nemesis. As I said, I forgot about that, but it turned out really well anyway and the players handled the differing agendas well. I can see how having your PC killed by another player can be a bummer, but in our case, they just thought it was fun and fitting for the story.

I had one problem when I played, and that was that both Wilson and Clayton died in act 2 (controlled by the same player, but it wasn't his fault)! Most of the situations in act 3 are written with the assumption that they are both around and can act as the main antagonist. Luckily the Lucas player did his part and turned act 3 into his own little success story, so we still had a lot of content and a lot of fun.

Re: Chariot of the Gods

Posted: Tue 04 Jun 2019, 17:41
by Tomas

Good points here. From a design perspective, this is our idea on how to handle it:
  • Agendas in Act 1 and 2 are written so that they should not really require any secret solo action on the player's part.
  • In Act 3, Agendas are much more confrontative. Then, when it becomes clear to everyone that a PC acts in a way that is clearly opposed to the interests of the other PCs, the GM calls PvP. That means the scene (often a conflict) is played to its conclusion. Then, if the PC survives, it becomes and NPC.
The is explained in more detailed in the scenario itself. The system is designed to avoid PvP going off the rails too early in a scenario, and to avoid lots of secret notes and sending players out from the room. I used to do that alot back in the 80s as well but we really want to avoid it these days. :)

Re: Chariot of the Gods

Posted: Wed 05 Jun 2019, 04:15
by AlexanderMars
As to managing secret agendas around the table, I simply send texts to players, or if I’m the player I’ll just send a text to the GM. This can be done quite subtly as well, and other players don’t always notice, unlike passing a note or leaving the room.

Another example I like to keep “secret” is when a player when a uses an ability or skill like “identify magical item” or something similar. I prefer to hand a note to the player using the ability with a description of the item rather than announce it to the entire group. It’s not a secret exactly, but the other players around the table wont have the same information. It’s the same with translating ancient hieroglyphics, if only one player knows the language it’s up to them to tell the rest of the party.

Re: Chariot of the Gods

Posted: Wed 05 Jun 2019, 10:40
by hugolefou
Really interesting contributions here with valuable feedback, so thank you everyone!


I will run Chariot of the Gods next week, and since there'll be only 3 PCs I was initially thinking about not using the android character (or at least have him be one of the NPCs). However, I wasn't considering the possibility of both Weyland-Yutani agents dying before act III (thanks for pointing that out!), so I guess I should still include him. The only question now is whether as PC or NPC... I think I will see what characters the players choose - if noone picks Wilson, I'll make one of them play as the android.