Looking for Plot Development Help and Suggestions

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ReijiTabibito ReijiTabibito's picture
Looking for Plot Development Help and Suggestions

Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up!

I've been following EP for a long time, done a lot of reading, and a lot of listening (to the guys over at RPPR and their Know Evil/Duality campaigns), and I've come up with a general plot overview, but I'd like some help in fleshing out the entire nature of the story, and what sorts of threads I could dangle in front of the players to investigate along the way. Any and all constructive input is welcome, and be warned, your ideas may be used in the process of the plot.

The overall plot idea I actually had some time back, but the recent release of Firewall helped confirm the overall idea of the plot to me, and not that I was just being insane. In Firewall, under Speculations for the org, the book offered up this potential scenario:

"Members of Firewall have decided another faction is guilty of creating an x-threat (or pose an x-threat) and must be neutralized. Firewall assets are tasked with the destabilization and controlled collapse of the faction, and replacing it with a more friendly political organization." (p167, Firewall)

The original idea came out of the Gatecrashing book, most specifically the entry on Giza. Part of the Giza entry was the debate between four proxies about what to do about the blackbox-carrying exoplanet. (In short, they decided to send a team through the Pandora Gate and nuke it.) I read that debate, and the main argument in there, for me, was between Proxies B and C.

Proxy B opened up his commentary by saying 'total sanction, blow it up now.' Through the tone of their argument, it sounded like Proxy B was an arch-Conservative: mocking the potential (see the League of Very Nice Space-faring Civilizations) of what Giza had to offer, playing up to fears of what MIGHT happen, the usual conservative line.

On the opposing side, you had Proxy C, who was more than willing to admit that Giza did represent a potential x-risk, but if they were smart about it, Giza's blackboxes could provide them with a lot of resources, technology, and answers. Proxy C was definitely a Pragmatist to me: be careful, but use anything we have to ensure that TH gets to keep living if the TITANs come back.

In the middle were Proxies A and D, who were at least analytical and fence-sitting to begin with, though by the end they were on the side of Proxy B, voting 3-1 with the total sanction order. A sided with sanction because they felt that since TH didn't understand the boxes, or who was using them, our ignorance automatically meant we were going to get screwed. D sided with the sanction because the options proposed would take too long (such as public pressure on Go-nin).

In the after-action report for the Giza decision, the writer notes that the proxies are equally divided between the two sides (sanction & other options), and that nearly *all* the proxies took issue with the fact the server made the decision without at least consultation of the others. The tone of the report suggests that the writer is Proxy A or D - the writer took a rep hit for deciding not to poll the proxies (which was the course suggested by Proxy C, eliminating them as a possibility); and the writer also mentioned that 'hopefully next time, we can do something different than what happened (eliminating Proxy B because they wanted sanction from the get-go, which suggests that they would behave the same way in a future repeat of Giza). Of A or D, D is more likely because Proxy A's objection (TH's ignorance) isn't exactly something we can easily overcome.

THAT SAID.

My plot would concern Proxy C, and the pattern of behavior that they see happening in Firewall with the Conservative faction. Giza was, to them, just one of a long string of the same damn thing happening over and over and over again. Conservatives are too paranoid, too rabid about security, and refuse to transcend their own cognitive biases far too often. There's careful (which Firewall and TH as a whole need to be), and then there's where they sit.

Proxy C has been of the opinion, for at least a few years prior to start of game (if we're starting AF10, then somewhere in AF7-8), that the Conservative faction's hardline stance is going to result in a slow, wasting death for TH. Their 'destroy first, ask later' stance is, to them, actually WORSE than the Jovian approach to unknown tech (which is the Warehouse 13 method - lock it up until we can understand it).

Therefore, since the Conservatives are going to eventually be the death of TH (whether its from the TITANs, another alien race, or SOMETHING), they represent an x-risk, and Firewall's job is to defend TH from such things.

In that vein, over the last handful of years, Proxy C has been pulling together a conspiracy from across all of Firewall - Backups, Mavericks, Pragmatists, Structuralists, and maybe a key Conservative or two (one of the less rabid ones) - to oust the Conservative faction. The goal of Proxy C's coup is simple: remove Conservatives from Firewall leadership. If that can't be done without totally annihilating the faction, then it's a sad thing, but it has to be done. C's ideal outcome is that there will be handfuls of Conservatives still left, but they will be in positions where their attention to security and paranoia will be useful rather than hindering: Erasure teams, registers, crows for the more Precautionary-types.

But they won't be in leadership, where they get to try and dictate to the rest of Firewall and TH about what THEY think is best from a position they refuse to self-evaluate.

To that end, the Firewall conspiracy - The Spring Winds, as they label themselves (bringing change after a long period of darkness) - have set up plots all across TH-occupied space to cause the conservative bloc to destabilize and turn public opinion on the Eye against them. These will mainly be in the Inner System (since a good chunk of conservatives come from there), but there will be ones on the Rim planets, too.

As note, there are some real-world parallels I want to draw, and some messages (I know, I know, GMs aren't supposed to be preachy, but Hideo Kojima does it and dammit so can I!) I want to convey to the players in the course of the game.

I live in the US, and the last dozen years, the right-leaning portions of the political spectrum have basically been behaving like Firewall conservatives: block anything that doesn't agree with 100% that they agree with, disparage attempts made at progress, things like that. Their way or the highway. I want to reflect the aggravation that the average American feels right now when they watch the news and see another worthwhile thing derailed because of the far right bloc of politicians.

Second thing: the greatest damage to civilization is not done by people who set out to be evil (though it can come pretty damn close). The greatest damage done to civilization is done by people who think they're doing what is necessary, and in the best interests of everyone, because as long as they have the mindset of 'I'm doing this to help people,' they can do incredibly horrific things.

Last thing: the most important thing you can do as a human being is recognize where your biases are, and when they come into your decision making processes, try and go beyond them, try and really think about what the best move is, rather than have a knee-jerk reaction about it. THINK, then ACT.

So, uhm...thoughts?

Kojak Kojak's picture
While I do find myself being

While I do find myself being in the strange position of being way out to the left politically IRL and yet largely sympathetic to the Conservative faction of Firewall, I will say that I think you have a pretty excellent and well-thought-out concept here as far as your campaign's metaplot goes. I especially like that name The Spring Winds, it's very evocative.

Some random thoughts:

- Make sure you come up with a solid way to draw the players in. Perhaps they start out on a Conservative server, get burned real bad in their first op, and then The Springs Winds try to recruit them to their cause? Something simple like that.

- Depending on how this evolves over the course of the campaign, the conflict between the Conservatives and the other factions could get nasty in a hurry. Depending on how aware of the situation Ozma is, maybe they could try to recruit some of the Conservative servers to their cause and turn them against their former comrades. To tie it into the previous scenario I outlined, you could have their (Conservative) proxy from the first op get recruited into Ozma and become a recurring Big Bad.

- I think it's worth pointing out that the Conservatives as a faction don't necessarily map onto anything like real-world right-wing positions (although certainly biocons of all stripes do tend to fall into this clique, but there's no reason to assume the comprise the majority of it). They're "conservatives" only in the sense of risk assessment, and you've got to admit they've got a pretty big data point in their favor: the Fall.

"I wonder if in some weird Freudian way, Kojak was sucking on his own head."
- Steve Webster on Kojak's lollipop

ReijiTabibito ReijiTabibito's picture
Oh, I'm not an anti

Oh, I'm not an anti-Conservative for Firewall by any means. (If anything, I'm probably a partial Conservative with my 'be careful' approach to problem-solving.) But I do want to show people the dangers of too deeply embracing the Conservative mindset, or really of *any* mindset.

I've got one of a few ways to draw players into the story.

Option A is to do what you did - start the players off working a Conservative server, make sure the persons running the server are as dickish as I can make them, to sort of 'poison the well' when it comes to the Conservative faction. If I did this, they would probably do three or four one-off jobs before starting the story proper, and even then, they would continue to run into either situations or people who were in situations with said type of Conservative.

Option B, if I want to start with the story right off the bat, I did have an idea - the Spring Winds kill a Firewall operative who they recruited into their ranks to do some work for the revolution, making sure that the backup he's restored from has no memory of being recruited into the Spring Winds. The players are then the Sentinels recruited to look into his death, and find out who and why.

Option C is to have the Spring Winds initiate some part of their plot, and the Sentinels are the persons assigned to institute the plot. They're patsies, guys who had no idea what they are doing, but things go strangely enough that they wonder just what they did on that one mission...

There will be a point in the campaign where one of the major players in the conspiracy try to recruit the PCs into the Spring Winds, but the timing of it is such that the players *reject* the recruitment, rather than accept, because of what they've learned about the Spring Winds.

The idea you have about Ozma hearing about the internal shakeup in Firewall and then trying to grab some of the Conservatives to become part of Ozma is an excellent idea. I would probably do it so that the Four Winds (the heads of the conspiracy) could just go to the players and to Firewall and say "Look! They'd rather WORK FOR THE ENEMY than admit they're wrong!"

And yes, the factional infighting - the more the Spring Winds succeed - is going to get nasty. That's the whole point, the Four Winds want all the other factions MAD at the Conservatives, clamoring for blood, shouting about removal from leadership.

I know that Firewall Conservatives =/= Real-Life US Conservatives. Firewall's Cons have an excellent point about being careful with the resources we gain from places like the Feynman fields or the Iapetus brain or the Giza blackboxes - those kind of things helped contribute to the totality of the Fall. Firewall Conservatives come from all over - the Inner System, yes, but the book notes there are some Argonauts who are conservatives! The thing I want to do - and the thing the Big Bad wants to do - is have people IGNORE what the Conservative viewpoint really means (be careful, be prepared, be nuked if you fuck up) in favor of things that make the Conservatives seem like assholes.

Nobody would disagree with the idea that if you're working with exotech (Which I finally managed to deduce means yes, exsurgent-created tech), you rig the lab you're working in with a pushbutton detonation so that the tech can't escape and eat half of Mars. It's a normal safety precaution (which, as a scientist myself, I agree with - lab safety procedures are VERY necessary).

On the other hand, I would imagine a LOT of people would take umbrage with the 'uplifts/synths/AGIs are less than human,' or 'fuck all that advanced technology. You're not human.' The grand plan is to get people hating the Firewall Conservatives for either the worst examples of factional meddling the Spring Winds can dig up, or for reasons that have absolutely NOTHING to do with their position as a Conservative.

The Big Bad of the campaign, I've pretty much decided on. His position in the Spring Winds is one of the Four Winds - most specifically, his title is West Wind. Their faction is up in the air right now - he's either a Titanian, an ex-Ultimate, or Europan.

The ex-Ultimate would see the fear/terror mindset of the Conservative as harmful to the progress of TH in general. Mankind needs to transcend their limitations, overcome their fears, and become more.

The Europan would be burned out from a life living next to the Jovians and from the fact that this damn 'nuke it from orbit' message keeps popping up everywhere, screaming about TITANs and how we're all gonna be wiped out tomorrow unless you do EXACTLY AS WE SAY.

The Titanian's motivation for this would be that they're looking at the Conservatives, seeing a lot of biocons, seeing a lot of Inner System types, and just calling the movement a bunch of profiteers who benefit greatly from the way things are now. EVERYONE could be like Titan, EVERYONE could be living the good life, EVERYONE EVERYONE EVERYONE...except the guys making the money in the Inner System hypercorps and the oligarchs are too interested in making some extra cred or rep and (to use a phrase from Rimward) "own a bunch of pleasure pods with big tits." So therefore nothing changes, and TH is all the lesser for it because of a couple bags of dicks.

I mentioned earlier that the Spring Winds would try and recruit the PCs by some point in the game - for me, that's around the 2/3rds-3/4ths mark of the campaign (with the rest being chasing down the major players in the conspiracy). I also said that the PCs would REJECT the recruitment attempt.

Here's why.

1: As bad as the conservative bloc can be, they do have a point about precaution. So you noted.
2: The Spring Winds cannot see all ends to their plot. It'll oust the conservatives, sure...but it might diminish Firewall in the process, which might mean Ozma or Stellar or another less-benevolent group towards TH steps in and takes over where Firewall once occupied.
3: As part of Firewall's recruitment policy, they would have to sign a statement basically saying they adhere to the ideology laid out by the Four Winds - a loyalty statement at best, and at worst...

In the end, the players should draw two conclusions - A: as bad as the Conservatives are, what the Spring Winds are doing is potentially WORSE, and B: they would force EVERYONE to conform to THEIR viewpoint, which is one of the things they accuse the Conservatives of doing.

Thoughts there, Kojak?

Or anyone?

Kojak Kojak's picture
Yeah, I really like where

Yeah, I really like where your head is at with this; you've clearly thought it out in great depth. About the only thing I can think to add at the moment is re: West Wind, I'd say you're best off making them an ex-Ultimate. That seems to jive best with the "clash of ideologies" theme you're going for, especially since the Ultimates embody some "right-wing" positions pretty thoroughly themselves, thus making it easier for the players to view them as the Big Bad. The fact that he or she will likely be a combat badass won't hurt either, for the inevitable showdown with the players.

"I wonder if in some weird Freudian way, Kojak was sucking on his own head."
- Steve Webster on Kojak's lollipop

ReijiTabibito ReijiTabibito's picture
Thanks for your help. Yeah,

Thanks for your help. Yeah, I was leaning towards the ex-Ultimate anyways so I could justify him being a complete combat badass when the players have their showdown with him and his guards, especially since the Europan faction isn't instituted yet in Kind's EP char spreadsheet.

Lemme know if you think of plots that the Spring Winds have come up with to help do one of three things.

A: expose the flaws in Conservative ideology. Difficult, but doable. After all, people usually measure your decision making by the outcome rather than the process. It MIGHT have been right, when presented with a potential exsurgent outbreak, to nuke Erato....but people will still condemn you, and even MORE so when they find out there was no threat whatsoever.

B: highlight distasteful positions held by Conservatives. Biocons are luddites who want us all living in caves. Reclaimers are just going to get things killed by TITANs (and may bring them back). Play up the worst possible things about them.

C: Cause chaos in the system in general, to get tensions running high and frustration with Conservative viewpoints at maximum.

uwtartarus uwtartarus's picture
As RPPR's Caleb Stokes said

As RPPR's Caleb Stokes said at a GenCon panel, "no one thinks they are evil or doing evil, they think of themselves as the good guys, doing what needs to be done."

Just thought it was relevant about your last few points in the first post.

I like this idea, of an intra-Conspiracy conspiracy. I would read more, not sure what to add yet, but sounds really cool!

Exhuman, and Humanitarian.

ReijiTabibito ReijiTabibito's picture
Plot Fodder for you to Think Over

Did some more thinking, went back and listened to some key episodes of both Know Evil and Duality (which just recently finished!), and I came up with a handful of set pieces for where I want the players to go in the course of the story. Maybe you guys can come up with some ideas for them?

A: I know what I want the opening to be - a run into the TQZ on Mars. They won't be doing Million Year Echo (though I might tap it for a character backstory OR for something else), and it'll be a (relatively) short jaunt, but the opening will be a Firewall sentinel murdered by the Spring Winds, and somehow this murder will get them back towards the conspiracy (after a few false leads related to the sentinel's recent work).

B: The Moon. Know Evil did a fantastic episode pairing out on the lunar surface with nasty nasty exsurgent crap (Episodes 9 and 11) facing the players. In the main game it was Cognite, but I want to change that. I want the players infiltrating a now-corrupted black-list facility for Stellar Intelligence somewhere on the moon. It'd be high-risk, high-reward, since SI holds a lot of information on stuff relevant to the Consortium...and therefore tempting to the players. Plus, it might have the information the PCs need.

C: The Main Belt. I've always felt a Dead Space sort of vibe from EP, so I want to semi-recreate that with this idea: a hab, abandoned during the Fall, allegedly because of TITAN attacks...everything on the station is quiet and dark and it's all very spooky. Part of me wants to have absolutely nothing there at all, because the players will keep waiting for the shoe to drop sometime while they're in there...and part of me wants the Spring Winds to point them in the direction of the hab because it's actually now being used as a place for Project Ozma agents.

D: Titan. Whether it's one of the station cluster habs that surround Titan, or the wilderness itself, or (for a really exciting chase) the tunnels below the surface of Iapetus (IE, the TITAN brain place), I want the eventual showdown with the last of the conspiracy (not the ex-Ultimate, but one of the major players) to happen somewhere in the Outer Rim. (As for getting there, I've got that handled without needing egocasting.)

Thoughts?

ShadowDragon8685 ShadowDragon8685's picture
It's been awhile since I read

It's been awhile since I read the entry on Giza in Gatecrashing, the one you're talking about, but IIRC, the other proxies voted in favor of the practial stance - monitoring it carefully and exploiting it - and the archconservative went behind their backs and ordered a team to deploy a WMD to erase the valley anyway.

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uwtartarus uwtartarus's picture
The absent TITAN/Exsurgent

The absent TITAN/Exsurgent ploy in the Main Belt is great, I always want to make characters worry and fret about what is not actually there but they not know for sure.

Iapetus sounds so cool but getting characters there always seems like it requires a lot of stretching. All of this stuff sounds pretty amazing, real spycraft shenanigans.

Exhuman, and Humanitarian.