Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Rule Number One: Building the First Killshot Job

I am the Warden!!

With Monday as a write-off - the problem with going through rehabilitation and assessments - I was really starting to feel the pressure. Two weeks ago, Killshot was supposed to be ready for playtesting. The boys were raring to go and simply needed the text and time. But something was missing.

Killshot: An Assassin's Journal RPG will contain three adventures, or "jobs," for players to try out in the competitive world of murder-for-hire. What hit me early on in the design process was that I've yet to write down a formal presentation for an Optional System adventure... and now was time to put up or shut up.

Setting Parameters
I'm a minimalist when it comes to adventure planning. Give me the gist - major characters, generic information on locations, and a few random action points - and I'm good to go. Which makes writing an adventure for publication a bitch of a chore. All my published adventures were playtested raw with simple rough notes before having the confidence to jot it down and fill in the details. Hell, I won't write anything for an ending until players have told me how they want to end it. It's worked in the past and has lead to dramatically improved ending than what had considered.

Unfortunately, I tried to roleplay in December. What a fool I was. No one's ever available during the holidays! I had to make a decision and put words on the screen.

For me, Killshot is a very open-ended game with strict consequences. I want to encourage players to stretch their minds and think outside the box, so keeping each job's word count low was going to be crucial. Provide only the essentials and let the players tell the Director how it's going to go down.
Each job is divided into objectives, a reasonable step-by-step guide to getting the mark in a body bag within the parameters set by the buyer. A good half of each job requires planning - THIS is what instills creativity in players! There's no end to the possibilities players can devise in the plan. All Killshot does is provide the core details, the facts, and leaves it to the players to figure out how to learn them.

Evidence Points
The Director hasn't been forgotten. Your role is more than just countering dice rolls and stroking egos; the Director holds players accountable to all the bad dice rolls and poor decisions. You're breaking the law, people. It's a gritty game and that means cops itching to lock your murderous ass in jail.

Players secretly collect Evidence Points over the course of a job, helping the Director with added difficulties and secondary storylines for any Killshot campaign or individual job. As players make fateful decisions - leave a witness alive, fire a gun in a public place, or accidentally leave trace evidence at the scene - the Director can incorporate optional threats to each job. These Points can accumulate directly from bad decisions or randomly from really bad dice rolls, such as rolling a natural 1 on base dice during a failed roll. Too many Evidence Points? Your mom has a pair of homicide cops at her door asking when she's last seen you.

Building Difficulty
The original first job was a hit against a corrupt investment banker. Who likes those guys, right? It worked as a demo, but lacked a sense of story and development. It did the trick as a one-shot, yet I wanted something Directors could build upon to develop a burgeoning campaign should they want to. Part of that, in my opinion, requires playing with the morality line.

To do that, Killshot's first three jobs compose a continuous storyline called "The Dead Can't Testify." A grieving father craves justice for his family's blood, hiring on the players' services to eliminate a drug dealer, another hitman, and... a judge? As the bullets fly, the risks increase and can quickly get the players in way over their head or notoriously rich.

So We Get To See A Copy Soon, Right?
Wrong. After strong consideration, I'm going to add another character component. I think you'll like them. Just think cheats, legal cheats. More to come.