Unknown Armies 2:5 The Other Team

This chapter of the GM’s book looks at the character the GM controls, pressing home the idea that this is a game about people and relationships, , not about things. That idea is apparent even in the later section on organisations. None of them a faceless behemoths with anonymous black-clad agents (actually, I guess they might have some anonymous black clad agents), rather they are all organisations of people. They have founders and leaders, and everyone involved in them has their own motivations and obsessions.

This is one of the most extensive GMC advice chapters I have ever seen in a Role Playing Game. Said advice even includes a long column on how to keep GMC records, for example advising notecards over computer files. (My own advice on such matters is use the system that works best for you – I know that I, for example, would scatter notecards around my study, forget to bring them to the session or leave them somewhere. Stuff I put in OneNote is replicated everywhere.) Find a photo for each GMC, Stolze says, to help players tell them apart, and write down a “personality” anchor for yourself so you have an idea how they would react – such anchors can be real people or characters, in a few few sentences we mentions your Uncle Bob, Buffy and Clint Eastwood.

Minor characters, he says, only need that anchor, a name and a purpose.

Something like: “Brian Deen, chicken drive-thru employee, Simpsons fast food kid”

If necessary you can add a shock gauge to that description with, he suggest no more than four hard notches in any meter. If the PC’s hot them, they have a wound threshold of 50.

More significant characters include all those that have a relationship with the PCs. Their shock gauge might include some failed notches too. They might have a main identity around 60%, and perhaps a second one around 50% for colour.

Ben the Lousy Mook becomes on kind of person with Lifestyle Alchoholic 50%, but someone very different with Birdwatcher 50% instead.

Stolze argues that your campaign might not need any major GMCs, but sometimes a character does need to be as complete to the GM as PCs are to their players. As a guideline, he suggests anyone with connections to two PCs should be a major character. Such characters need detailed histories, because your players will ask about them. He points out that GMCs don’t need to be created following the same rules as PCs, and wisely points out that if let the players fight a major GMC “they will find a way to kill it.” There is a section on why adepts make such good GMCs, which boils down to: they are mysterious, powerful weirdos.

Then there is a large section on groups, which says Stolze work as: Big Bads with ticking time-bombs; mysteries to solve; unreliable allies; or, sandbags. There are a number of example groups, but also guidance on making them from scratch, with a useful classification of purpose and methods – each can be either mundane or occult. So an organisation of magick cops for example, might have a mundane purpose (keep the peace) but use occult methodologies. A street gang might be entirely mundane – their purpose is to sell drugs, and their methods involve contacts, exchange, hidden stashes and occasional violence. Stolze argues that most churches have an occult purpose (connect with the divine) but for all their ritual their misunderstanding of how magick works means their methods are mundane (coffee mornings, bring and buy sales). Groups with an occult purpose and occult methods are “the deep crazy, magick means, magick goals, magick philosphies, all stacked together like pancakes slathered in synchronicity and buttered with paranoia until you can’t hardly tell where one ends and the other begins.”

I won’t share too much about the example groups, for fear of spoilers. I’ll only list each one with a short summary of its ostensible reason for existence (which may not actually be true – these groups have histories and their goals may change). Each one has a little bit on the history of the organisation, which is written in such a way that I think it might refer to things that were covered in previous editions of Unknown Armies or supplements, and explains what happened in the intervening years. Much of each history names movers and shakers in that history, but not everyone is given stats (though three from the Sect of the Naked Goddess get full write-ups). There’s normally a bit on how the organisation operates currently, and the resources it might have. Occasionally the organisation is a school of magick, and there are details of charging and spells. The last section of each write-up is “The future(s) of…” which is a few suggestions for how the organisation might fit into your campaign.

Flex Echo is a department of the NSA using occult methods to process data.

Ordo Corpulentis is society dedicated to spreading both US culture and the blessings of Jesus Christ (yeah, sure).

The Sect of the Naked Godess are followers of the archetype The Naked Goddess, whose ascension to the the Invisible Clergy was recorded on tape.

The Sleepers are a magickal police force determines to keep the occult secret for lest the mundane world rise up against adepts.

The New Inquisition is an attempt to monopolise the control of magick.

Mak Attax try to make the world a better place though sharing magick with non-adepts, almost the antithesis of The New Inquistion.

The Milk turn children into Avatars in the hope to replacing the Invisible Clergy.

The Immortal Secretaries plan to take over the world but being the power behind every throne.

Finally at the end of the chapter, there’s one of those bits which you feel doesn’t quite fit in, but Atlas games couldn’t work out a better place to put it. One imagines that Stolze it the sort of writer that churns stuff out, and its hard fro any editor to keep up. This particular section is about riots, which I guess is a loose (VERY loose) organisation of people.

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