A few weeks ago I played in a Double Cross 3 session, and wrote up a few reports on it. This post constitutes the final report on that session, in which I describe my experience of the Lois and Titus rules and how they affect gameplay.
Lois and Titus
When you roll up a character in Double Cross 3, you are also required to generate a set of Lois‘s. Lois’s are people you know, connected to you through your life path, who help to keep you connected to the real world of ordinary human life. They can be colleagues, school-friends, family members, or people who helped you in your earlier life. When you develop these relationships you have to roll up a negative and positive trait for them, which will be things like “envy” and “charity” or “rivarly” and “love,” and you then choose one of these traits to define your relationship to the Lois when you start the game. Lois’s don’t have to be present in your life during play – they can be memories, distant figures, or the legacy of dead people.
Ideally, as you adventure in a rich world of secrets and superheroes, you gain more Lois’s. Your Lois’s have three direct effects on the game-play:
- They give you allies and contacts you can call upon. These people aren’t henchmen, but people tied intimately to your lives who will aid you when you need help
- They give the GM (and the players) adventure hooks. Just as they will come to you when you need their help, so they also will come to you when they need your help, which gives the GM a lot of opportunities to start or interfere with adventures
- They save you from corruption. As you adventure, your use of your virus-related powers increases your level of corruption, which draws you ever closer to losing your humanity and becoming a germ. At the end of every session you get to roll 1d10 for every Lois you have, and subtract this from your corruption total. The lower your corruption the weaker your powers, but the higher your corruption the greater the risk of permanently sliding into darkness and ruin
This type of relationship could actually be introduced to Warhammer, come to think of it…
But there is another aspect to the Lois’s which makes them particularly potent. Their kindness (or their memory) can be abused, at which point they become Titus, so-named after the Shakespearean character of that name. A Titus is a lover spurned, a friend whose kindness was abused one time too many, a family member with a grudge… they pursue you to the end, wrathful as only someone once-loved can be. A Lois can become a Titus through your own stupidity, or through the game-mechanics device of sublimating a Lois.
When you sublimate a Lois you get rid of them from your life altogether, passing them from Titus through to gone. In the process of doing this you gain one of a series of in game benefits – adding 10 dice to a single roll, or healing a certain number of hit points, and so on. The in-game benefits that derive from this are quite significant in some cases – 10 dice is a phenomenal bonus – and well worth tossing your grandmother in front of a bus for. I think you can also do this with Lois’s who have become Tituses through the story (rather than a deliberate choice by the player). I’m not sure what the downside of burning a Titus is, besides that you have lost a story hook – this seems to be a way to get a vengeful ex-lover out of your life, which is only a good thing, right?
I haven’t read the section in the rulebook about this yet (I’ve been very busy) and we didn’t get around to seeing the benefits or disadvantages of a Titus in the game I played. So I’m not sure why one would allow the process of deLoisification to stop at merely producing a Titus, but I’m sure there’s a good reason.
The big downside of burning a Lois, of course, is that you then lose the ability to call on them for corruption amelioration, which will make your adventuring life a lot shorter than it would otherwise be (not that your Titus will care).
In my game, I sublimated my mother and the memory of an old, long-dead client of the Robot-driving business he worked for. I sublimated both of these Lois’s in order to regain 1d10 Hps each time (hey! what can I say? I sell my loyalties cheaply). My relationship with my mother was characterised by hostility, due to anger at her tolerating my Father’s secret membership of the False Hearts; my relationship with the memory of my dead ex-client was ishi, the will of the dead, some long-carried-over request or obligation to his memory.
So how did I burn these Lois’s to get a healing surge? The first was my Mother, whose memory I discarded like an oily rag after the minions of the False Hearts struck me down in an alley. I imagined this as my character realising he had been ambushed and outdone by the False Hearts, and as he struggled to retain his consciousness, recognising that all his life he had been thwarted and ruined by that hateful organisation first manipulated and preyed upon by his father in pursuit of a secret goal, then pursued through the dangerous underworld of Tokyo when he worked in the mecha business – perhaps even to the death of his client – and now to be hounded to death? All this was too much! And then I imagined that his mother called him on his cellphone, just as his last breaths were ebbing away, and that call (of course it has a special ringtone) penetrated the fog of impending unconsciousness – here was all his anger at the False Hearts crystallized in the form of the woman who he had always felt had betrayed him and who would not relent from constantly trying to get him to forgive her. Why should he forgive anyone for the harms done to him? I imagined him surging back to life, anger at his mother charging through him in the form of his viral payload, generating a healing surge at the same time as it destroyed his cellphone in a vicious series of sparks and lightning bolts. Just as every anime character has to surge to wakefulness with a scream at least once , so Kintaro regained consciousness surrounded by clouds of electric rage, blasting his phone and symbolically eliminating his mother from his life.
The next was his client. This time Kintaro had been knocked down by the False Hearts leader, his life’s blood ebbing away in some shitty Tokyo Snack. Again, as he felt his defeat looming, he remembered all the failures and defeats thrust upon him by this sinister organisation and raged against them. This time I imagined Kintaro had given up on his hopes of a normal life, and realised he had to fully embrace the powers he had inherited, rather than pretending he could continue to live like a normal person. He would have to cast aside his past life and devote himself to destroying the organisation that had so plagued him. So thinking, he cast aside his last contact with the ordinary world – his last Lois from outside of UGN – and all the long-overdue obligations it had shackled him with. Surging back from that fading state, again imbued with electrical power, he screamed his rage at the world that had wronged him, and reentered the fight…
Lois’s offer excellent game hooks, dramatic opportunities and mechanical advantages. They also offer an excellent narrative technique for justifying (and stunting) healing surges, recovery from corruption, and other phenomena that might otherwise just seem like in-game fixes. I think they could be repackaged in some way as an excellent addition to Warhammer as a mechanism for helping draw PCs back from insanity or corruption. They are another example of the differences between Japanese RPGs and Western RPGs, and an interesting example of incorporation of a dramatic element into the game through the rule system.
fn1: I’m reminded of when only one company distributed anime in Australia – was it madman entertainment? – and their adverts always involved a screaming guy, and someone else yelling “what’s going on in here?!!!”