not a beautiful or unique snowflake (nothings) wrote,
not a beautiful or unique snowflake

On Monday I played in "Uncle Mickey's Secret Service", an RPG run by my friend Mahk. I haven't RPGed in over ten years, and I had a general recollection that I'm not very good at it, but the premise was interesting and Mahk was applying a fair amount of pressure, so I went ahead and participated.


It's the near future. The threat of terrorism has gotten behind us, and the world is back to business as usual. BIG business.

The Walt Disney Corporation has moved offshore, becoming it's own sovereign nation on a caribbean archipelago. Freed from the yoke of government regulation, it's tourism and media enterprises flourish like never before.

You are a citizen of the Magic Kingdom, and a recent recruit into its elite Secret Service. You're a troubleshooter, dealing with a whole range of Uncle Mickey's problems, from theme park safety hazards to corporate espionage.
We spent a goodly part of our background-briefing period peppering Mahk with questions about the setting, a third of which he could rattle off answers to, a third of which he worked out on the spot, and a third of which we discussed ideas and implications and basically helped write the backstory. For example, the Magic Kingdom has second-generation citizens just reaching into their late twenties, and one of the players, Eric (or is it Erik?) had a lot of knowledge about first-generation immigrant attitudes and second-generation reactions that he used to answer some of the questions we raised.

Some quick jargon and facts: citizens are called "staff", tourists "guests". All businesses in the MK, even those not targeting guests, are subsidiaries of the Disney Corporation. Uncle Mickey (that is, Disney Corporation) gives you your paycheck regardless. Five islands are available to guests; two islands are staff-only. The former are "onstage", the latter "offstage". Staff who work onstage are "cast members". Guests who find themselves unable to pay for their activities become "temps" and work off their debt. It's not actually called "Uncle Mickey's Secret Service", but rather "Secret Service of the Magic Kingdom" ("SSMK").

The Disney Corporation Human Resources Department has a division called "Ethics, something, and Discipline", or something like that (this was something Mahk rattled off). There are people who are staff who live in not-very-comfortable housing and whose job it is to make license plates, said job assignment also making it not possible for them to leave their housing at this time, even when they are not actively making license plates. The aforementioned division is responsible for assigning this sort of houssing-and-job combination to people.

There are rumors of a secret group who want a real government, not a corporate government. How they can overthrow the government, and what they will replace it with, is unknown. They call themselves "The Mouseketeers".

The system we're using is one of Mahk's own divising. Most noteworth is the skill system. We each chose a job title, which was either our SSMK title or the title we had before we joined the SSMK. That job title implies a set of job skills that we'd have had; we all had to come up with the list of such skills and write them down. (There is no overall skill list.) We get all such skills for free. The skill level of these skills is based on one of six stats, as decided by the GM, but in a fairly obvious way. (The six stats include several classics, but also the curious 'Work Ethic' and 'Hospitality', which are actually just funny names for reasonable stats.) Points are spent buying up stats, raising skills beyond their base, and buying skills from outside our job title. Obviously, this is severely abusable, although hey, we're just all trying to have fun. Even so, it's a little unfair; it's not clear that our characters are at all balanced. No big deal, though, since the GM can just skew the missions away from the abilities of the powerful characters.

Our lineup:
  • Zack Strange - acrobat
  • Gunther Schnell - downsizing expediter / translator
  • Indiana Joan - wilderness guide
  • Michael some-Thai-last-name - hospitality specialist (or something like that)
  • Phillip Eisner - Magic Ride Imagineer
Zack Strange is an immigrant who came to the MK because it was the place to be; as our boss in the SS put it when we first met, "he ran away to leave the circus". Gunther Schnell, apparently in his sixties, was a German ambassador's translator, but apparently not a very good one, though he had other... abilities. He apparently managed to apply those abilities to certain MK staff members, but rather than receiving retribution, he was acquired by the SSMK. Indiana Joan first came to the MK as a guest and participated in "Desert Island", the long-running Disney reality survival television show (part of Mahk's fiction). After a promising start that gave her a particuarly noteworthy role, she took ill suddenly and had to leave the island. She chose to parlay her small fame into a job onstage as a wildenerness guide and survival trainer. Michael whatever-his-name-is is a second-generation staff member who worked his way up through customer-support/relations sorts of jobs to being a business mediator/negotiator, and has now turned to the SSMK in the hopes of boosting his status and eventually finding his way into management. Phillip Eisner (no relation to Michael Eisner) is a second-generation worked for some time in ride R&D, but all of his designs were deemed too unsafe to be able to be put into production, so he's joined the SSMK in the hopes they'll actually make use of him.

In playing, I rediscovered that my problem is I am lousy at improvisation--to the extent I can come up with clever and smart stuff, it is by having lots of time and not being under pressure. I'm also not a very good actor. I decided on a non-people-friendly character for the latter reason--if my character doesn't talk winningly then the pressure is off a little bit. The particular adventure we did didn't really give my character a chance to use any of his skills, and it felt like we were mostly just reacting in the obvious way, but hey, it was a training mission. I think my presence is a net win--if nothing else, it gives others one more person to perform in front of--so I'll keep playing.
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