The Inspector Speaks! Part 3

7. Spirit Uprising

Caught up in the Boxer uprising in China, 1900 the trio of time travellers discover the involvement of the Vardian, who are giving the Boxers supernatural powers. They must escape the seige and prevent the alien prisoners from escaping.

Inspector: Another adventure where the GMs love of historical research shines through. To the point where an ambassador is killed before us despite having made the necessary rolls. The character had been reported killed in the original history so he died in our story. It just felt gratuitous.

I have begun to feel that using established events is all very well but they don’t have to follow the exact pattern of events at the resolution as long as you put in trapdoors to enable characters and situations to fit back into a similar pattern where it won’t really change what was reported.

GM: While it is true that the players made their rolls the ambassador didn’t. His destiny was to die there but the important thing is that he did so in order to give the player characters a chance to escape the city.

The Inspector certainly makes an interesting point about including trapdoors in historical games. Rather than having events taking place in the cracks they can deviate slightly on the understanding that over time the original version of events will be reported, leaving history intact.

Of course this story didn’t follow what happened exactly. In our version of history the Boxers were certainly not given supernatural powers by Vardians.

8. Big Smoke

On the human colony of Chist the Inspector and Phillipa find the out of control pollution is due to the Macra. They must expose the horrible truth before the colonists are consumed.

Inspector: I liked this story. It enabled me to use the Sylvester McCoy school of Doctor Interruptus. Although the GM mocks us sticking to our story I still feel our actions accelerated events giving us the opportunity to shut down the Macra operations on the colony. Both Phillippa and I felt that we participated well within the story and arrived at the solution in the proper fashion. This was a good story GM. More please.

GM: It was comical how the Inspector kept insisting he was the planetary inspector (and then the secret planetary inspector) in the face of mounting evidence that he wasn’t.

This was caused by the players not paying attention when I described the actual planetary inspector arriving to much media coverage. This could be used to make the case that important details shouldn’t be placed at the beginning of the game when players haven’t focused.

Their actions certainly did accelerate events but in the same way that a bull charging through a china shop is quicker than someone trying avoid breaking everything. Which is better really comes down to player style and whether they are willing to live with the consequences.

9. Croatoan

1588, Virginia. The time travellers find that the colony of Roanoke went missing because they travelled into a pocket dimension ruled by the demonic Croatoan. Their attempts to imprison him for all eternity would have far reaching consequences.

Inspector: To be honest this story was a let down. Not because of the lack of research but because there was nothing for Phillippa and The Inspector to do. Nothing we did had any impact on events. This was simply part one of a two part story. All we really did within the story was discover what was going on. There was nothing else there for us.

GM: Again this shows how radically different the perspective of the player and the GM can be. Firstly this was never intended to be part one of a story or even the beginning of the epic series of events that followed.

So knowing all the options that were available to them I know that what the players did really did matter. So much so that I had to change all my subsequent plans. The only part which was set in stone was the colonists opening the portal to Croatoan’s pocket dimension.

This does raise the issue of making the players realise they are making decisions? I think this could actually be the opposite of an adventure being ‘unfocused’. In this case the Inspector couldn’t see the choices. Instead he just did what he thought was the only thing he could do.

This is a problem that it is harder to solve without making the player again feel like he is paralysed by choice. In this particular problem the players either disregarded or forgot about the colonists and those already following Croatoan.

I’d intended them to realise that the only reason these people were serving him was because they thought he was a god. If the player characters revealed the truth they could have formed an alliance and helped over throw  him, giving them time to use the technology of the Dark Tower against him.

Instead of using the resources to hand the players again resorted to solving everything with the TARDIS. This was when I decided to make a point again about how using their time machine in such a manner can have dire consequences and led to Croatoan almost conquering all of space and time.

10. House of Mirrors

1988 and the colonists who escaped the pocket dimension have set up a colony on the alien world of Arcadia. The Inspector, Phillipa and Fred discover that mirrors hold dark secrets, leading to a meeting with several Inspectors from alternative realities.

Inspector: Part Two however was far far better. There was a purpose to us being there and it even allowed the GM to put in place the long term story arcs within the game. It also felt like what we did mattered although going to visit a mad wizard in his tower does still seem to be a little clichéd.

What came from this second part still resonates within the game at the moment. Everything we did here led to everything else. That’s good storytelling even if part one was pants in the grand scheme of things.

GM: In the grand scheme of things the stakes in this adventure were much lower yet the Inspector felt that his actions were more important. It could be that the scale of the adventure can affect how the players interpret their impact. The smaller the scale the more impact they feel they have.

I’d always intended to do this adventure and simply changed some details to connect to the events of the last game. I think this was the game that encouraged me to keep building on things, as the Inspector says, introducing story arcs.

I’m not sure about the cliché of visiting a mad wizard in a tower. Graven wasn’t a wizard (his father was the inventor of the mirrors and Graven was more like a vampire) and it was a house on a hill not a tower.

I was evoking more a feel of gothic horror than fantasy. Which does again show how people can perceive the same events differently.

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