Unknown Armies 2:2 Objectives


Again, I’m somewhat puzzled over the allocation of chapters between books one and two. The content of this chapter, for example, seems mostly aimed at players rather than the GM, and yet it finds itself in the GM’s volume. A player might ask, “why do I even need a mechanic for objectives?” Indeed, in many games, it’s the GM who sets the objective – destroy the evil artefact, find the murderer, or whatever, while the players may have, supplementary objectives such as get as rich as possible, or have loads of fights in bars. Sometimes, the GM-set and the players’ objectives mesh, sometimes they clash. Greg Stolze’s stated aim with this third edition is to combine sandbox and horror – if a true sandbox allows player characters to run away from horror, then its useful for the GM know what they want to run towards, so that s/he can put horror in their way. 

So, this chapter helps players create objectives in a GM friendly way, giving them a sense of scale – is it local, weighty or cosmic; and an enabling mechanic that allows GM and players to measure the impact of their actions on achieving the objective. The scale stuff is really useful for the GM, offering examples of just how crazy the PCs need to get to achieve what they want. The success measure thing feels like it might be an unnecessary addition to the narrative but I’ll play it through and see what it adds to the game. I can see that it could make a story about, for example, putting together a magickal ritual more free-form and give the players a modicum for control, while retaining a sense of beginning, middle and end. 

Let me try and give an example: An objective requires (on average) five intense milestones to complete. Which might mean roughly five sessions of gaming. What exactly “intense” means depends on the scale of the objective.  An intense milestone for a Local objective might mean bugging or hacking into some target’s home, but a intense milestone for a Cosmic objective would mean assassinating the most important politician in Europe. (Some would argue that working out who the most important politician in Europe actually is is a challenge of cosmic proportion in itself.) But that doesn’t mean that the GM should think up five adventures – they might have ideas to share, but it’s up to the players, really to explain what they plan to do, and then the GM can work out if it’s a pretty or intense milestone and reward the the players with a appropriate amount of progress towards completing their objective. Play might reveal new unplanned opportunities, but it doesn’t matter – just work out if it’s petty or intense then play though it. It will always be worth something towards the objective. 

If they want to go for the objecting without having completed the milestones they can, and the progress they’ve made so far becomes the chance of success. Players might even decide that there’s a better objective to go for. No problem, depending on the scale of the new objective, and a die roll, some or all of their progress can count towards the new objective. 

I’m not entirely convinced the mechanics are worth the admittedly minimal hassle, but I’ll give them a go.

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