Mars Colony 12 Principles of Play — No. 11

Human motivations make for human villains. The motivations of those opposing Kelly can often veer into caricature. It can be a challenge, with everything else happening in the game, to construct realistic and yet sinister reasons for opposing the so-called savior of Mars Colony. You may find yourself asking why anyone would want to see the Colony fail, and that’s a fair question. Of course the answer is that no one actually wants to see the colony fail. Instead, they want to enact their own vision of what the colony should become. In my experience, people don’t generally see themselves as working to take down a system so much as they want to replace it with something “better.” If your human villains are to be believable, and therefore meaningful, you need to spend some time thinking about what their vision for the future looks like. It will obviously be different from Kelly’s, but it’s a vision for the future nonetheless. This isn’t a game about nihilism. It’s a game about competing wills — and an indifferent planet.

Practically, this means you need to put yourself into the shoes of the opposition. Consider what Kelly wants for Mars, and then consider another way of living. What sort of policies would support one vision over the other? What sort of things would you be willing to sacrifice? How urgent is it to make change happen now rather than later? What advantage can you gain from the large scale events racking the colony? Once you inhabit the mind of another person, you’ll be able to adapt that vision to upcoming scenes. Now it’s not just a labor strike that Kelly has to deal with. It’s a labor strike that’s the first step towards a decentralized government. Or maybe it’s a labor strike that represents the viability of a new, rising political party. Whatever the motivation, keep the larger vision in mind even as you make small, individual decisions about what happens next. It’s the small-scale decisions that matter, but knowing the larger vision will help you to make those smaller decisions with consistency, vision, and a political willpower that should translate to a more powerful storytelling experience.