Learn about Checkpoint Midnight—a game about supernatural espionage in Cold War Vienna—from the game's creator. Discover the inspiration behind a game in which players dance between the competing powers of the West and the Soviet Union while magical creatures prowl the streets.
Publish Date: Feb 03, 2021
and the game I want to discuss a little more today is gonna be Checkpoint Midnight, a game of mind that's in development and being play tested in various settings, including the gauntlet. I know we've talked about it like in passing before, but give us the full rundown, and I know you had a chance to play it more since since the last time we talked. That's right. So Checkpoint Midnight The basic concept is it's a game of supernatural espionage. Powered by the apocalypse. The players are supernatural operatives, running missions and juggling loyalties in the shadows of Cold War Vienna. So I'm currently play testing it online, uh, exclusively. But I hope to play tested more in person once that becomes possible. Again, I ran a one shot of it at Gauntlet Community Open Gaming. I ran a Siris on the gauntlet on I'm running a kind of Siri's with a rotating cast of local players. Right? What would have been a face to face group if not for the circumstances we all live under? Does it feel pretty good? Is a one shot versus ah long shot spy games or tradition? A little little tough for that unless they like really narrowly mystery centered. How are you feeling about that? Yeah, I mean, that's going to be something we come back to during this podcast. I think it doesn't. It doesn't always fire on all cylinders as a one shot, right? And I'm thinking what could be done to get the best one shot out of it, right. But like a lot of games, it's shines Mawr in a longer Siris are gonna campaign. Yeah, So what's working for me as I've been running this game? Things I've really enjoyed as Faras getting to bring Checkpoint Midnight folks is that people seem to be very excited by the overall concept of checkpoint. Midnight Players dove right into the intrigue and the setting kind of drawing on the geopolitical tensions and the artistic treasures that make Cold War Vienna such a, you know, particularly cool place to set a game of supernatural spycraft. One of the other things that's working for me with Checkpoint Midnight is getting the chance to make the play very mission based like blades in the dark and in fact stealing a little bit of tech from blades in the dark. The set up involves characters taking on and attempting to complete, you know, missions for and against the different factions in the city. And I found that that could work really well with a sort of open table or rotating cast set up where I let players decide out of character what missions they're most interested in, including just using a Google form to sign up for missions. That's what I'm doing with my local group with rotating cast so people can pick. Are they most excited about the mission where they're trying to solve murders in the Soviet sector of the city? Are they most excited about a mission that involves infiltrating a fancy gala and stealing a fabled Sonata? Once they've picked out, those missions were ableto drop right in and kind of used the engagement role to start the characters often medias. Res is the frame that are all the players part of the same organization or different organization. How does that shape and affect the play? Great question. The characters begin as freelancers. Eso you are operatives who are willing to work for a number of sides. Your own loyalties are something you're playing close to the chest right. Presumably you're still working out where you fit into this, uh, spotter scheme and then is the As your characters advance in the game, you also get more and more entangled. So you're kind of choosing as you take advancements. What entanglements with the Western or Soviet powers you're also taking on with? Well, the endgame being you either able to play the powers against each other and retire to safety, or you end up becoming a fully on mission asset of the Soviets or of the West. One other thing that's definitely working for me with Checkpoint Midnight is I am glad that I decided to focus on weirder supernatural creatures for this because there are other vampire spy games out there, some of them quite good. But in Checkpoint Midnight, I've gotten to see players define their takes on a Gorgon racketeer or a Frankenstein Captain America. People have just been really great about leaning into the weirdness and uniqueness of thes kind of different monsters. I've pulled from Eastern European folklore and other sources in orderto populate the shadows of Vienna. And is this Is this a world where this is all like urban shadows happening in the backdrop, and and there's a cloak on this on the real world. Yeah, there's there's a masquerade in effect, and, you know, one of the basic moves is about maintaining your cover. And that applies both for when you're doing spy stuff and when you're doing supernatural stuff that you don't want some mundane person to see. Seems like it's going pretty well. And this last time you ran it, what was it was more the one shot or more of the couple shots to it. Yeah, I got to run like, four sessions on the gauntlet, and there was a bit of a rotating cast because it's an open table, as usual. But we had several players stick through the whole time, and we got to see their characters develop and indeed get more entangled and eventually try to untangle themselves from some of the greater powers of the city. We saw someone take on a handler that he despised and then tried to kill his handler by the end of the Siri's awesome, having played Delta Green quite a bit. Yes, I know where that comes from. Yes, so that sounds good, but you have some things you may be a little less certain about right now at this stage. Indeed. Well, it's a game in play testing, so I'm still working through it. I could get into the weeds of where I'm fiddling with the phrasing of move triggers. But a couple of the larger things that I definitely want to tinker with as I go forward is character creation is pretty slow, which reduces playtime for one shot. So in my guest segment, I'll talk a little bit about some of the thoughts I'm having, kind of more generally about how to do speedy character creation and jump right in, especially for one shots and then another thing, which is almost a nem C note for me on this game. But something that probably would come up for other M. C. S is that when someone rolls a miss on the engagement roll right, when the operatives air setting off and the dice tell you that the mission is going badly for them, I need to be harder about hard framing those mist rolls. Twice. People had bad roles on that, and I kind of chickened out and give them something that was more like a middling success than a hard miss. But wonderfully Jim Crocker has run Checkpoint Midnight for me once. And you know, in that one shot we indeed messed up that mission role. And so we were in the middle of a firefight when we dropped in. And so I think I need some kind of guidance in the game that, like, pushes M. C s to really, um, pull out all the stops when that happens. Because it's it's more fun when the stakes are allowed to be that high. Yeah, he's in the dark. And certainly I have felt that not wanting to pull the trigger when the engagement gold role goes terribly there, Yeah, so I get that makes me think there should be some kind of text saying, If no one's firing a gun when the operatives role a miss on an engagement role, you know, you're you're not thinking hard enough here on. And then I want to figure out what exactly should happen when you kill your handler. This should obviously come up Mawr if I keep testing this game and people keep getting entangled and trying to disentangle themselves, but I need some more guidance for the M. C. That was kind of the culmination of the Siri's. I ran on the gauntlet, but for a longer campaign, I need to think through how that goes, because it's not that easy to get un entangled. Clearly, you're still going to be mixed up with these powers. Just there should be some benefit in some consequence for choosing that route. Yeah, it does seem like a really great opportunity to put some interesting and really hard choices in front of the player. Yeah, that's the thought. So my take away is I'm going to keep developing this game because I'm having lots of fun with it, and players seem to dig it. I got people asking me, you know, when I'm gonna be running it next, all the time. And if folks want to learn more about it, you can sign up at bit dot L y slash checkpoint midnight list. That's a capital C, A capital M and a capital l Awesome. Well, I'm glad to have you back. It seems like you're feeling like it's more complete now. And I'm really glad to hear that. Absolutely. Leah, this is the first time I've got to talk with you. I know Sherry's had a chance to play with you and really enjoyed it. So this is very exciting. Well, thank you. I'm a big fan of the gauntlet and excited to have all three of us on. Since I assume some of Beatrice is noises will sneak past the editing. So tell us about your April, All right, So I had a medium April with a couple of games. I ultimately did drop based on baby mood swings, but everything I got to at least start playing was playing masks with my family and that rotating GM game. I got to play part of a Siris of dungeon World on the gauntlet. I got to play good society during Gauntlet Community Open gaming, which I've been wanting to try for some time and test driving apocalypse keys on what I believe was the first play test, and it's apocalypse keys. I really want to get to focus on. Oh, good, good. I really curious about this. Well, I had a blast plane. It's a Hellboy inspired game where you've got a team of magical misfits doing supernatural mop up. It's the kind of thing where when you show up, you're not the heroes you're The people were like, Well, given our problem, I guess it's good that you're here, So there's a lot of fun. The characters are really Tauron between their desire to do good, which will cut against their nature or their destiny, because all of them have their powers rooted in darker, untrustworthy sources. And the basic mechanic is that you're constantly acquiring and shedding darkness tokens where too many of them tips you over into dangerous or predestined behavior. But you're also relying on these two kind of charge of your powers. So is this Ah, belonging outside, belonging, game or something else? Well, I know one of the sources Jimmy was drawing from is actually Brindle would bay because, you know you're solving supernatural mysteries. Though you're not a group of lovable old biddies. You are rather, you know, perhaps a storm in human form, the rightful heir of ah Fairy Kingdom, etcetera. But other than that, like