A New York Mob Story – GenCon 2004 Demo

For this demo we established that the story would be a conspiracy involving the mayor of New York, the New York Mob, Sicilians, Indonesian Gangsters, and a prominent New York family.

The first scene opens at a wedding reception.  Christina Wheatley has just married Joseph Radford.  Both the Wheatleys and the Radfords are important players in New York politics and the Mayor is there to woo their support for his upcoming campaign.  This campaign looks to be hotly contested as the mayor’s primary opponent has been questioning his track record on crime.  Those questions are hitting a little too close to home as the mayor has long been in bed with the NY mob.

Now both the mayor and the mob are feeling the pressure.  A new syndicate of Indonesian gangsters are pushing into the city using violence and killing sprees to carve themselves out a territory.  This is not good either for mayor’s election or the NY families.  Of course, the mayor is well aware that many of his opponent’s campaign contributions can be traced back to Indonesian sources.  Not coincidentally, the mayor is introduced to a Sicilian gentleman, a guest of the Radford’s.  The mayor knows him to be connected.  He gets the impression the Radfords know it too.

At the reception the mayor is attempting to win the campaign support of matriarch Julia Wheatley with charm, flattery, and expensive wedding gifts; but Julia is too distracted to notice.  She seems nervous, even anxious, and not the sort of nervousness normally associated with the mother of a bride.

The groom, Joseph Radford, seems similarly distracted, although he is not apparently aware of his new mother-in-law’s anxiety.  He has eyes only for Christina who seems to go out of her way to avoid any contact or intimacy with Joseph.
The second scene opens the next morning in the mayor’s office.  We see him pacing impatiently in front of his desk talking animatedly on the phone with a man named Tony; who we gather from the conversation must be mobster.  We hear the Mayor explain that the bride and groom never made it to their hotel following the reception last night.  He suspects they’ve been kidnapped by the Indonesian gang in order to pressure the Wheatleys and Radfords to withdraw their support from him.  Tony knows that the organized crime business his family runs in New York has benefited greatly from having a friend in the mayor’s office and knows that the mayor’s opponent’s tough stance on crime will just be an excuse to break the New York families down enough to let his foreign backers take over.  They agree that Tony has to find the socialites and get them back.

The scene shifts to a seedy pub which Tony knows has connections to the Indonesians.  He and his muscle are all set to pressure the owner but they don’t need to.  The owner hands them a letter with instructions and a photograph of Christina holding today’s Times.  Unnoticed by Tony at the time, but caught by the camera, we can see a crumpled towel in the corner of the picture.  The towel has the monogram of the Ritz Carlton hotel.

The scene shifts again to a hotel room at the Ritz Carlton.  We see Christina there.  She runs into the embrace of a young Indonesian man.  We hear her confessing her love to him as sunlight glints off of Joseph Radford’s enormous engagement ring.
Featured Effect, Guiding Tenets:
It generally takes some time for players to grasp the nuances of Universalis play.  Early on Tenets tend to be very broad genre or flavor statements like “High Fantasy” or “the Occult”.  This provides a lot of flexibility and a quick and easy springboard to get started with play, but it also typically results in a fairly eclectic mix of characters and events and locations mixing together in the game.

As players get more experienced I’ve noticed they tend to use Tenets differently, not just to establish broad parameters but also to provide solid elements of plot direction.  This tends to provide a more tightly fitting narrative.  It was interesting for me to notice the players in this game grasp that idea almost immediately.

The first Tenets included some pretty broad features like “Modern Day”, and “Involves a Conspiracy”.  But later Tenets added some much more focused story elements like “The Indonesian Gangsters are backing the mayor’s campaign opponent” and “The story will feature a wealthy NY family whose support is vital to either candidate in order to win the election.

Tenets like this serve as a great set of marching orders for player’s to spin off of.  There is still plenty of room for twists and turns (like Christina’s Indonesian love interest) but the player’s are much more able to stay on track with the added guidance.

—Ralph Mazza

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