There are many ways to lose a character in RETROCITY.
In most roleplaying games, only death can take a character away from the player. Madness sometimes. In those cases, characters simply die or become NPCs in the hands of the Gamemaster who decides of their fate.
RETROCITY is a cop game. It tells the stories of police officers leading their career within a specific squad in the police forces. When a character is being removed from the police, whether they are guilty of acts justifying their removal, or wether they have been too wounded to fully recover and be able to serve in the police ever again, it is time for the player to create a new police officer!
That is unless you really want to play a wasted ex cop telling sad stories to his own glass of whisky, sitting at the sticky counter of a bar while other players are trying to progress through the game’s episode!
Death in Retrocity
This one is pretty self explanatory. Your character dies? Well, you can not play it anymore. But the death of a character should not be taken lightly. More than often, we are talking about someone’s alter ego, with a story. That character goes away with memories and experiences from all the games played, and it can be a difficult moment for a player when comes the time to say goodbye.
For the sake of the story, as well as a sign of respect for the players, especially the one grieving the lost character, the Gamemaster should make the best of the death scene.
Avoid the too systematic “Your character takes 7 damages, ouch he is dead”, and instead build things up! Describe the impact, the wound’s consequences, the taste of blood in the mouth. Let the player understand that they took a very bad bullet and wonder for a moment if they are going to make it or not. Or take the opposite road and describe the scene to the other players. Tell them about the violence of the impact and the way they remain helpless, watching their friend being killed in one shot. Describe the fall of their partner in all its brutality. And give them a chance to react with the full measure of “what would they realistically do in such a moment”.
Be brutal, be direct, or take the time to describe. Chose how you want to handle this, as if you were directing a movie. Maybe other players will even have the chance to come say goodbye at the hospital. And don’t forget the funeral: have the other players say a word during the ceremony.
Playing the drama is absolutely not a way to insist on the gory aspect of death in a gunfight, but instead a way to build the narrative intensity. This is a way to involve the players in a strong scene, while respecting the player who is losing a character by giving this moment the intensity it deserves.
The end of a career
A character might survive her wounds. She may be able to fully recover and get back on the street with the squad. Or maybe the wounds were so bad that she will never be able to pass the physical examination again, never be able to resume her work within the police force. This means that the player will have to let go of this character and create a new one. It is always difficult to “retire” a character we like, but at least in this case the honor is safe. A cop retiring early with a wound coming from a heroic act is what cops usually refer to as the “Golden Path”.
And if there is such a thing as “golden path”, there are also many more shitty ways to go. Cops make mistakes. Some of them are excusable, some of them are not and can impact lives of others in the most tragic ways. Accidents in duty, abuse of power, corruption, etc, all these will be taken to court and judged. Don’t forget that patrol cops in Retrocity are equipped with drones recording their actions and words. The flaws of the officers’ actions will have consequences for others and against themselves. When an officer appears to court, the gravity of his actions will decide of the verdict. Maybe he will get out of the room with a simple warning. Maybe he will have to give up his badge and his gun. Maybe he will be heading straight to prison.
Whether it is because of a bad wound or because his badge has been taken away, the end of a career as a police officer means the end of a character. Or at least the character is not playable anymore. But he can remain as a NPC. There is something appealing in the idea of a player interacting with an old character played by the GM. This old character may have some informations on a case the new character is working on. Or maybe he turned into a criminal! All those are gameplay opportunities and story triggers!
Madness and diseases in Retrocity
There are many reasons for one to lose his mind for good in Retrocity, especially when his daily routine keeps him in direct contact with all the dark side of mankind. The mental health services within the Retrocity Police Department tend to minimize the impact of the job on one individual. Many cops are put back in the streets to work when they should be suspended and put on paid leave. This is poorly managed mental health and is in itself a valid reason for a character to be removed from the game. But Retrocity has another layer of psychological (and physical) violence: the Perdition process.
Perdition is a finality. Perdition is when the person is lost for good. The City slowly grinds the mental sanity of the people living within her, by corrupting the core of who they are in order to make them hers. For a character to reach the last and irrevocable Rank of Perdition, she must have accumulated Corruption points. (See Perdition rules page XXX).
The advanced ranks of Perdition show symptoms of three very specific Afflictions, diseases that are deciding what will remain of the human once fully absorbed by the City. Those three Afflictions are the Retroprocessus, Ghosting and Hollowing.
The Retroprocessus is the process leading a person to infuse with an object that he or she has a special attachment to. It can be a lamp that a man uses everyday to read and that has become his one and only source of interest. It can me a sign at the corner of the street where a couple said their last goodbye. Any object emotionally charged can become the focus of someone’s Retroprocessus. Slowly that person and the object will fusion, until they are one. The human becomes a thinking object, part of the City. In the hallways of the Nest, some cops will tell the story of Officer Clarence who became one with his service revolver and is still carried today by his ex partner, May Alexa. It is told that May is often seen “talking to herself” when she thinks she is alone.
Ghosting is when the City takes the body of the individual away, making it slowly disappear and keeping only the spirit, trapped in her walls. When an individual reaches the final stages of Ghosting, they will barely be visible, if at all, and will become pure spirit, tortured and mad. They have ways to communicate with the living, through thoughts and dreams. They can whisper to the hears of the ones who listen carefully. They become what we commonly refer as “ghosts”. They haunt the streets and the living.
Hollowing is the opposite of Ghosting. The mind is gone and the body remains. Hollowing individuals have symptoms starting with simple memory loss, followed by feeling of absence and difficulty to mentally connect with the “here” and the “now”. At a more advanced stage, the individual can barely formulate words and has no idea of who he used to be. Citizens of Retrocity are familiar with Hollowed people: they stand here, looking into the void, or walking with no goal or purpose. Some of them perform actions, repetitive acts, as if their body remains only to serve a specific function for the City.
These three Afflictions all have their own subtleties and many cases have differences and variations of symptoms. They are what happens when the City takes someone. These are ways to access to some kind of eternity. Forever being one with Retrocity. It is totally possible to keep playing a character who displays early signs of one of these Afflictions. But when they reach the final rank of Perdition, the symptoms of the Afflictions are so extreme that it is time for the player to let the character go and create a new one!