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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Making the Right Choice for the Wrong Reason

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

One of the things about real-life that can carry on into a live action role playing game is that you can make a categorically correct decision based on categorically false data.

During the "Terrorwerks" scenario I was confronted by a "civilian" inside the compound. My immediate reaction was "someone else to protect", i.e., add her to the pack of company execs and convicts my security detail was trying to shepherd to safety. Not having been well briefed on the "technology level" the exercise was supposedly operating under, the idea that she was a hologram that could only travel inside the compound simply did not enter into my thoughts. I was utterly unaware of this until SVC mentioned it (something he had learned from an earlier playing) well after the exercise was concluded. To an extent, the right choice (at least in SVC's eyes) was to leave her behind.

Why did I leave her behind?

Well, I did not know she was a hologram, but in the fast running computer of my own mind the available data that I "knew" from observation had eventually (literally in a matter of seconds) clicked to "threat".

She was a "survivor", but appeared in deep shock and non-responsive. The room she was in was not barricaded in any way. She was sitting in a chair in the middle of the room. There were no signs that she had been attacked, yet there were signs of "massacre" in the area of the compound we were in. There was no solid evidence of what had happened here, but something (I cannot really call them zombies) was attacking my people.

The possibilities were that she was bait, that included in the group she would "suddenly become active" and begin attacking my party from the inside, and at its most vulnerable point (the unarmed and untrained civilians mostly densely bunched in the formation when we moved). But she might simply attack some of my guards at a critical point where we trying to fend off an attack. The apparent state of shock could have been just a prelude to her "transforming". I could not take the risk of having a threat within my party as well as the threats I was trying to keep outside of my moving defensive perimeter.

So I left her, and issued a verbal command to that effect to the rest of the party.

Why did SVC think she should be left? From what I gather, she would have "slowed" the movement of the party, provided cryptic data, some of which might have been useful, some of what would have been distraction and nonsense. From the stand point of the company exec types, she might have provided clues to make them try to force the party to go in other directions to gather things "the company" wanted, thus disrupting the "command and security structure" I was seeking to maintain. (SVC avoided telling me anything about the particular exercise even though he knew from his previous trip through, so he gave me no clue about this individual.)

Was the decision right? From my standpoint, unquestionably. We were too small a group to launch an assault on the facility, and my goal (not the one that was assigned, since I was utterly unaware that the character had an assigned goal, although it pretty much turned out it was the character's goal as well) was simply to get the people with me out, and then report the problem, perhaps, once outside the compound, try to keep it contained while the report was made, but get the people out and call higher was my only operating objective.

When the "rescue team" showed up, I was again in a quandry. The problem was that I had been taught (while I was in the service) that in a situation like that (well . . . not with zombies but in the case of taking charge of a mixed bag of prisoners and guards after a period of "confusion") to make everyone lay down their arms. The real "guards" might be "dead", and the guards I think are on my side might be some of the prisoners waiting to make a break, which might include killing us. So you make everyone put their weapons down until you verify who they are.

So when the "rescue team" gunned down the last group of zombies that had been attacking us, and then came over and demanded that the mixed bag of "security guards, executives, and convicts" lay down their arms, my actual training directed me to comply.

I did not because I noticed something about the "rescue team" that, when I mentioned it after the fact, others had not noticed. Like the Zombies, the "rescue team" members all had short spade shaped tails. That triggered suspicion which caused me to hold onto my weapon, although I kept it down and more or less covered. Finally, the computer in my head said, in essence, "they are not here to rescue us", and I asked "what's the password". I knew there was no password, but I hoped the asking would throw them off center, create a momentary confusion, maybe alert some of those with me that something was wrong. While the "rescue team" was trying to figure out what my question meant, I was already coming up, their confusion ended with a command to "kill them all", but I was already shooting (and so fortunately was SVC) so that every member of the "rescue team" went down before they could trigger their own weapons into the crowd of people I was trying to save, and they tried.

The call for a "password" was perhaps the most ingenious thing I did, as it probably in terms of the game bought me the few precious seconds of confusion I needed (with SVC's help) to save my party. A literal warning to my charges would probably have simply seen the gunmen open fire, and movement on part would have focused them on me and made me a quick casualty in an initial exchange. I needed a moment of confusion on their part, so I asked for a password, and while they were trying to sort that through their own minds, time for them ran out.