BE Infection in MG

MadDrB sent me a visitor message asking me if I’d tried out my rules for Infection in MG. My reply was too long for a visitor message, so I’m posting it here:

We did about six sessions with it - most of a phase, judging by the reamining dispositions, and although it was interesting, I wouldn’t do it again. We’re finishing our campaign using my MG/BW hybrid.

The first issue I came across was player buy-in. Infection is complicated, and subtle. Unlike the MG turn structure, which is very GM-led, the players have to be creative in terms of what they’re trying to accomplish in each maneuver so they can come up with interesting, big picture intents. Unless your have a player or two that buys into making it work, it creates friction and confusion.

Infection, more than any other mechanic I’ve tried, is like trying to adopt another gaming group’s culture. Going into it with, “Hey, try this, this is guaranteed fun,” seems the wrong starting foot, it’s more like, “Let’s try together to make this work.”

The second issue is that the turn structure really works best with certain kinds of characters and stories. It’s no accident that BE character-generation advice is to make powerful, socially connected characters. (Instead of a pilot, play a captain. Instead of a solider, play a general.)

This is because they need to have some independence - having the group move around as ‘a party’ seems to put a lot of narrative obstacles in the way, as does making travel dangerous and important. It’s hard for the mayor of Barkstone to engage you in an interstitial scene if you’re in Lockhaven! This is particularly complicating when you’re supposed to be challenging your PCs’ beliefs using your pool of three or four main NPCs (who might be weeks of travel away).

It’s also important because of character power. Having those resources to command makes it easy to take the story in all sorts of different directions - order a hit, start a factory, purge the ranks of dissenters, etc.

As a group, we didn’t aim high enough - we unconsciously slipped into the ‘adventurer’ mindset. One guy is the minster of foreign affairs, which is good, but one is a young journalist, while the third is an accomplished occultist, but socially isolated.

When this happens, it makes connecting the actions of players to the ‘big picture’ much harder, since the players aren’t really working at the big picture level.

So… my gut feel is it’s highly unsuited to an existing set of MG characters.

What could work is if the PCs were mayors, generals, Gwendolyn, etc., and each maneuver represents a season. Going up to this time scale allows the players to ignore the dangers of travel, so it’s easy to gloss over a few weeks of travelling. The threat might be insurrection, or Weasels and their bought-off proxies playing the role of Vaylen. But you’d need to make a new character generation system for that!

MG has its own macromechanic in the form of Seasons. So I’m not surprised this didn’t work!

My group is craving something a bit more epic in level after running a variety of missions throughout the Territories, particularly interested in politics, labor disputes, etc. Thanks, Fuseboy, for the analysis of your incorporation of the Infection mechanic in your MG campaign. I was thinking of introducing the Infection mechanic to simulate the spread of a chestnut blight throughout the forest which threatens the food supply of the Territories, but I’m not sure how well this would work when the infection is actually a disease & not a sentient alien species.

But I think the Infection mechanic could work well for a labor strike action with the PCs organizing labor unions against the “fat cat” industrialists. But that’s a different game absolutely.