APAGear II Archives Volume 4, Number 7 September, 2002


Two Sides of the Same Coin

Janne Kemppi

Role playing games usually pit group of players running characters against wits of Game master. GM sets up a campaign background or scenario situation and everything is played out with players doing their best to fit into roles of their characters. GM is usually fairly neutral (and at times supportive) of player group's efforts in order to create a good game. Everyone will have fun time, which is the whole point.

However, things get considerably trickier when a live opponent takes opposition to player characters. This opponent will surely do her damnedest to ensure that she'll win. This means that her reactions to actions of player characters could vary from utter incompetence to virtual death traps. The opponent works with her logic that depends on limited information she has received. This will frequently lead to very unexpected results.

Two-sided games are generally organized as following: There are two character teams pitted against each other with a GM (or GM team) set to run things. Player characters from one team with a live opponent in another team. If there are a large number of players, two player character teams could be built with several players on both teams.

GMs job with two-sided games is same as with a one-sided game. GM will supply scenario and setting and run NPCs (and other teams player characters if necessary). Player groups job is also same as in "normal" role playing game session. They essentially try to do their work and get to their goals and have fun.

Intrepid GM could run both teams separately via email (if you have players divided on large area) or run separate groups in separate sessions (this is perhaps best method if you are in a role playing club) until running the final confrontation simultaneously. The final game should have both sides in separate rooms with GM (and perhaps assistant GM) running back and fourth explaining how situation unfolds. GM could then explain to everyone on what really did happen at the end of the scenario. This is important as it gives everyone a chance to start endless speculation of what-ifs and yes-buts and generally wind down and relax.

Starting GM could set up two-sided games with following example premises.

The Big Heist

Two groups of criminals are entering a lone skyscraper in the night for different reasons to hit a bank. Timetable is tight and there is only one chance to go in and get their prize. Skyscraper is by no means empty in night so any number of late working employees, civilians and security guards could be encountered. Naturally all hell would break loose when alarm is raised and police sends their special unit to arrest the criminals.

Ideally this game should include running two RPG groups separately for few weeks (of game time) letting those teams to scout their target and plan it carefully. There should be information gathering, scouting, planning, fetching equipment etc.

Player Group A: A group of professionals with a job to do. Their goal is to steal a box of documents stored in bank vault for a high paying -and anonymous- client any way they can. The time table sets the box inside vault for only one night so there is no margin for error or to stop before any object...

Player Group B: Criminal gang looking for easy cash. Their goal is a bank has a big shipment of cash waiting to be distributed to a number of large supermarkets. Tonight is the only and very last chance to pick up the loot...

(Optional) Player Group C: Police special unit will be called in to scene if alarm is triggered from one reason or another. Their goal is to apprehend the criminals and uphold law and order. Civilian lives must be protected too and possible hostage situations defused...

The Lone Homestead

A group of people have holed up in a lone homestead in badlands when connections with nearby homesteads and cities go dead (perhaps a sabotage?). Weather is worsening all the time more and more travellers of various backgrounds start coming in asking for a shelter. However, there are rover bands moving nearby and isolated homestead could become a target too.

Player Group A: Homestead inhabitants and possible travellers. Their goal is to avert or repulse a Rover attack that could happen anytime during the bad weather. Help is not coming and possibility of rovers butchering everyone in case of attack is all too real possibility. And what about possible sabotage?

Player Group B: A rover group hungry of supplies facing a possible mutiny in their ranks. Their goal is to take over some quarry in order to survive. Loot wouldn't hurt either. However, large number of casualties could trigger mutiny in ranks too...

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APAGear II Archives Volume 4, Number 7 September, 2002