[Unknown Armies] Tell me what your fun was like

riprock

not as cool as some folks
I assume that a relatively large percentage of the folks who have run in an Unknown Armies game have had fun.


Please tell me what was fun.

I've been looking at Unknown Armies and I can't see any sort of character who would be involved with the main conflicts of the game and who would also be fun.

Apparently a theme is "actions have consequences." That's fine. Does this tend to lead to any particular kind of story?

Vampire, e.g., lends itself to melancholy tragedies about essentially kind, loving folks who get embraced, who realize that they are killers, and who spiral downward into a private hell of cruelty before getting fried in the sunlight by a Hunter. These can be very touching stories.

AD&D lent itself to stories about groups of friends who became rich and powerful and built walled cities just to have convenient places to store their loot. These can be very entertaining stories.

Star Frontiers lent itself to stories about groups of friends who operated mining robots, struck it rich, and bought massive starships with zero-gravity hot-tubs. These stories are so cool they are undergoing a revival.

So ... what kind of fun stories does Unknown Armies produce? All I can imagine are stories about Avatars who survive until they rack up 35 "hardened" points, thus losing their powers and becoming easy prey for whatever supernatural monster chooses to hop out of the woodwork.

Another weird thing... normally whenever I look at a game book, my mind fills with ideas for characters. I looked at Unknown Armies. Avatars seemed easy but boring. They could probably survive, but why would I want to play out that process? Adepts seemed mostly self-destructive and dysfunctional, except for the money adept (Plutomancer?) which seemed extremely powerful but likewise a natural target for both conventional and magical attacks.

So the only story I could envision would be a lone Plutomancer Adept and a few Avatar bodyguards, trying to survive while they raked in huge amounts of cash. And all the while, Cthulhoid monstrosies would be squishing closer.

The whole set-up seemed fairly vulnerable to plot-induced character crippling. Suppose, for example, that you're thrilled with the stock market. So you prepare a character to be a super-cool trader and the GM hits you by having you hunted by Dracula. Your supernatural resources go to fighting Dracula and meanwhile Renfield is setting up lawsuits and fake evidence to get you in trouble with the law. Your realistic chances of steering the story toward stock-broker glory are gone. Presumably part of the social contract of the game is to avoid concepts that don't fit. I just can't see which concepts *do* fit.

Okay ... that could be a story. But if I'm going to play a story about accumulating wealth, I'll probably break out "Cities and Knights of Catan." Or "Birthright."

Am I missing the vision here?
 

Professor Phobos

Sweeper of Arcane Lore
Validated User
No, you aren't. Unknown Armies has no built-in story framework. It's more a lens to view other frameworks.

So if you wanted to do a melancholy tragedy about kind, loving folks who become killers, you'd spin that UA-style and get a game from it.

It's kind of like, Transhuman Space, where you have to bring your story and then THS-alize it.

If you don't grok the "UA Vibe" you won't be able to UAify things, and the game will not work for you in the slightest.
 

Alik

not a thief
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I really like the street level games that spring to mind with UA. Like, regular people who find something weird and it goes from there... I guess it's kind of like the World of Darkness but less.. uh.. dark.

Look at the Unknown Armies web page. There's a lot of gold just waiting there. The Intuition Pager I thought was particularly neat.

Also you can make up your own schools of magic and avatars, if you don't like the ones in the books.
 

Professor Phobos

Sweeper of Arcane Lore
Validated User
Also, remember that Avatars and Adepts are not monopolies on character types- most UA characters, IME, are just regular folks without either supernatural power. (The Taboo system basically balances the two out in play; a Plutomancer might be able to make you hurt yourself, but he can't buy a damn car.)
 

The Unshaven

Registered User
Validated User
The single best place to start down this path are links found on this very site. Exploring them persuaded me to buy the entire gameline.

You have been warned.

First, the Trigger Event thread.

The Books and Movies that look like Ascension Wars thread.

A general thread about tying it together, which involves a conversation about Gotham City by Future Villain Band that helped me grok Avatars.

A thread about what people have done with the game.


And a thread about how to get started.


Those should help you along, or at least provide a braindump of previous conversational glory.

- The Unshaven.
 

Professor Phobos

Sweeper of Arcane Lore
Validated User
Also, you should read the UA short story: "Ghosts, the Straight Dope" which gives a great deal of insight into a key part of the setting.
 

Ubermonkey

Certainly a human
RPGnet Member
To me, any Unknown Armies game I run will be Quentin Tarantino directs a movie about occult weirdness, or maybe David Fincher.

My favourite description, stolen from someone else is: Unknown Armies is Pulp Fiction where you assume it's Marcellus Wallace's soul in the briefcase.
 

Professor Phobos

Sweeper of Arcane Lore
Validated User
To me, any Unknown Armies game I run will be Quentin Tarantino directs a movie about occult weirdness, or maybe David Fincher.

My favourite description, stolen from someone else is: Unknown Armies is Pulp Fiction where you assume it's Marcellus Wallace's soul in the briefcase.
John Woo directs The Exorcist.

James Ellroy and Tim Powers write a book together.

"Donnie Darko" crossed with "John Dies at the End", and so on.
 

rex monday

Registered User
Validated User
To me, any Unknown Armies game I run will be Quentin Tarantino directs a movie about occult weirdness, or maybe David Fincher.

My favourite description, stolen from someone else is: Unknown Armies is Pulp Fiction where you assume it's Marcellus Wallace's soul in the briefcase.
My favorite variation on this is, "It's Pulp Fiction, but the video tape from The Ring is in the briefcase."
 
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