This is a regular column where I share the experiences of my sci-fi RPG campaign.
I like the idea of telling parallel stories, and playing around with perspective. To do this in Planetfall I gave the players an opportunity to take on the role of Counsel members, making decisions that would affect the colony and their characters. At the end of our first “proper” session we finished play and I told the players they now had to imagine themselves in the role of colony Counsel members – they had to leave the concerns of their own characters aside, and think about things from the perspective of politicians, doctors, welfare agents or military officials. I then presented them with an issue the Counsel had to resolve:
There is evidence that some of the cryogenic sleeping chambers are failing. It will be necessary to awake more colonists very soon, but the colony does not yet have enough accommodation, food or other resources to fully support more personnel. The Counsel must decide whether to (a) make the current colonists work harder to prepare for the arrival of new colonists, or (b) wake up the colonists to increase the workforce, but reduce everyone’s rations.
What I intended to be a quick aside turned into a very deep free-form roleplaying experience that took close to an hour. Everyone immediately got into the idea, took up agendas or preferred outcomes, and argued their cases. A couple of times different people tried to introduce new ideas or options. Some of these were complete tangents, so I took the role of Chairman and informed them “This meeting is to resolve the specific issue of whether to wake up more colonists, or make the current colonists work harder.” Other ideas were not necessarily on the agenda, but good concepts and I allowed the discussion to continue. One specific suggestion was to wake more Alphas instead of colonists, so the colony could exploit them, work them into the ground and then dispose of them. This lead to an interesting debate on the ethics of such a plan. In the end a vote was taken and a decision was made to wake up more colonists and put everyone on rations.
This Counsel meeting worked fantastically, and everyone was pretty much buzzing afterward. Now that I know it works, it will become a regular feature of the game, and I cannot wait to introduce agendas that will be in direct conflict with what the player characters are doing! With it becoming a regular feature, I am considering structuring it a little more, too. I think it is a good idea for players to take on the roles of specific characters (Counsel members), though I have not decided if I should let them create their own, or give them brief outlines for specific Counsel members that have agendas or personailty traits highlighted on them. If I create the Counsellors I can ensure a certain degree of conflict / opposed agendas, and I could also swap the characters around from meeting to meeting so different people get to play them. Whatever I choose to do, I will keep you posted!