Review: Lacuna Part 1. The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City

Review: Lacuna Part 1. The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City

Paul Carboni, Play Unplugged

Jared Sorensen’s Lacuna Part 1: The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City is strange. Many games will detail a rules system and let the GM (and maybe the players) put together the story. Lacuna comes with its own story, and the game’s system is entwined in that story. Both are integral to the game, making it somewhat difficult to talk about either component on its own. This point alone should give you the idea that Lacuna is not beginner-friendly. Complicating matters further, the game places importance on the divide between player knowledge and GM knowledge as out of the six sections, only two are supposed to be read by the players. If for any reason you don’t want to risk spoiling yourself for this game dear reader, I strongly suggest you skip down to the product breakdown, acquire the game and experience it for yourself. At fifty-three pages, it’s not a daunting read. If you don’t mind possibly getting a little more information than you should have for play, read on.

Lacuna Part 1.

We’ll begin with the world. Lacuna is set in the not-too-distant future after a team of researchers discover and learn how to access a vast collective unconscious. The unconscious is called Blue City and appears to visitors as a sprawling metropolis that resembles our world, but has more than a few anomalies about it. What’s more, it has been discovered that criminals in the real world can be cured by hunting down and dispatching a hostile personality in Blue City. Enter the Mystery Agents. They  access Blue City through an apprehended criminal’s mind to hunt down these hostile personalities.

Players assume the roles of Mystery Agents working for an organization known simply as The Company. Agent ability is defined through three attributes: Force (an Agent’s physical ability), Instinct (an Agent’s mental ability), and Access (an Agent’s ability to acquire information and equipment from The Company). Each attribute receives a score of two, three, or four. When resolving conflict, Agents roll a number of D6 equal to their attribute hoping to get at least an eleven.

Agents also have a small number of techniques available to augment their abilities. As Agents advance they can learn new techniques, and eventually get promoted to higher clearance levels. Moreover, while on missions an Agent’s heart rate is carefully monitored. When the Agent is within their target range they are at the peak of their ability and may roll any number of dice for any task, but when the Agent passes their maximum heart rate everything they do threatens to injure them mentally or physically. Finally, an Agent’s heart rate increases every time they roll dice by the total result of the roll.

The play experience begins by reading the book itself. Aside from the introductory page and a few sporadic notes throughout, the book reads at times like the transcript of an interview with one (or more) Agents and at others like an information dossier on how The Company works (what it does, and what is known about the various aspects of Blue City). Each chapter contains information that is progressively more classified. Character creation itself takes about three minutes and feels a lot like filling out an application. The game even refers to the character creation process as an agent’s application to The Company. Play sessions revolve around Agent missions within Blue City. The game’s driving force becomes the Agent’s desire to solve the mysteries surrounding Blue City.

Spiders... wonderful

Lacuna is an “incomplete” game. It gives you a narrative, but the narrative is incomplete. For instance, the eponymous Girl from Blue City is directly discussed in only four lines, and only to say that no information is available. She is alluded to in different places in the book, and she is in the title, but the details of who she is, what she wants, and what she can do are all up to the GM to figure out. It is up to the GM to answer these questions and craft Agent missions with those answers in mind. Moreover, GM’s will have to make decisions that one would normally expect the designer to make, such as how much, if any information players should get from sections they are not allowed to read. For context, if you only allow players to operate on the information from the allowed sections, they won’t even know what it takes to succeed on a roll, or what Blue City is. Sorensen has (quite purposefully) left many holes to fill in his game.

The Breakdown

Positives
+ Intricate, experiment of a game for people looking for something new
+ Strong story emphasis
+ “Rules light” system

Negatives
- GM’s will have to take the reins and decide how the game should be played in some ways
- Not granular enough for some players
- If you don’t like the story behind the game, you’d have a hard time hacking the rules

Lacuna raises a lot of questions and only answers a few of them. This game was not made with beginners in mind, and many veterans might be turned off by the intentional holes Sorensen has left. Players who enjoy hacking games, and story based gameplay will enjoy this one. Lacuna is as much an experiment as it is a game, and there is much more to it than what I have covered here. It is an interesting game and well worth a try. If your sense of adventure is strong, I suggest you head on over to Sorensen’s store at Memento Mori, to order the soft cover 62 page book for $15. Pefer PDF? Head over to Drive Thru RPG for the $10 pdf. Did this review leave you wanting more? Welcome to Lacuna.

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