When we left off, I was explaining that the role of the Architect in the Inception game module can go both ways. Either the GM can create the world and guide the PC’s through the layers of dreamscape as per the standard mode of play in a game OR they can let the PC’s run the session and simply enact ground rules keeping the scenario on (justifiable) rails, thus keeping true to the source material in the film. I explained that the Architect is the most vital and influential character to the Inception module, but they are simply the creator of the world. If the GM decides to have the Players fulfill the role of Architect, it will most likely be a collaborative effort. Additionally it is up to the other characters to delve into the dream and accomplish the goals of the scenario, so it is unlikely one of your Players is going to say “Well, I designed it. I guess my work is done here.” If they do, you need to find some new players. More likely is that all the PC’s will delve into the dream and will need to fill a role in order for the team to succeed. Now we’ll look at those remaining roles to be acted.
The Extractor and The Pointman
The role of the Extractor can be performed by any player and any character type. What is simply needed is the proper set-up to help that character shine. Understandable, the Extractor serve’s as the team leader, and will likely end the scenario having accomplished the most important task of either extracting or implanting information. This character will need to be persuasive, capable and cunning. As far as Player’s go, your groups strongest role-player has the best chance of selling the interactions to the rest of the group and to the most important person at the table of all, the GM.
The Pointman serves the primary support role in the Extraction/Inception module. While this character may not receive the laurels for a mission successfully completed, their actions undoubtedly serve as the key to success. This is particularly important with multiple layers of the dream. As the team delves deeper and deeper into alternating subconscious’, someone needs to stay behind and make sure all goes according to plan. Like the Extractor, this role can be fulfilled by any character, but I would suggest that the most well-rounded character assume it. There is no telling what may happen in the dream, especially if your GM feels like being a particularly conniving psychopath. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ve seen the great special effects in the “Hotel” sequence and understand how “interesting” things can get.
The Forger and The Tourist
The Forger is perhaps the most unique character type to be involved in the module. This character is vital if the Mark the PC’s are looking to dupe is a particularly tough nut to crack. As is seen in the film, the Forger is responsible for assuming various identities within the dreamscape to help deepen the believability of the manufactured dream. Depending on which roles are assigned to each Player at the table and the way the team plans out their deception, strong role-playing and (for d20 games) either a high bluff modifier or a high Charisma score are a must. Additionally, this role could be the most fun to play if you really like to assume the role of several characters in a session, or if you happen to be a little schizophrenic.
The Tourist can be, for all intents and purposes, unnecessary and can become a potential hindrance to the team in the module, as seen in the film. However, given the complexity of the dream, or the number of layers that are to be delved, one extra person can mean the difference between success and failure. Essentially, any character NOT fulfilling the role of Extractor, Pointman or Forger becomes a Tourist and is responsible for adding additional support to the group. If the GM wants to be an even BIGGER jerk than normal, they can plant an NPC in the role of Tourist (this is exactly what Saito would be, an NPC) and ever so subtly send the PC’s to Hell in a handbasket….
The Shade is an NPC and should serve as the main antagonist for the team during the module. This is where the GM can really have a field day. In the film, the Shade is Mal, a projection of Dom’s deceased wife. Her vindictive nature is a by-product of Dom’s own guilt. Because all the PC’s subconscious’ are sharing the same head space as one another due to the nature of the module, there really are no limits to what the GM can do in creating the Shade. Character back-stories can be filled with personal tragedy, unfinished business or emotionally scarring traumatic events. Any bit of information a Player gives you can be twisted and warped to creating a psychologically devastating enemy. Additionally, not all dreams are about the mundane or typical. Think of how much chaos a recurring nightmare could wreak on a fragile dream state, three levels deep!
I had mentioned in the Part 1 post that additional genres could be utilized in creating the dreamscape. The film portrays every dream level in a consistent real-world manner. Each location, though fabricated by Ariadne, is essentially a believable, true to life setting. This does not mean, however, that this has to be the rule the GM abides by. While most of our dreams are undoubtedly grounded in what our senses provide on a daily basis, the subconscious is still the imagination’s playground. If the regular game has a modern setting, whose to say the Mark doesn’t dream of historical events, fantasy realms or outer-space exploration? The intricacy of the module is solely at the discretion of the GM (or Player’s), but the key is making the experience believable, not only for the NPC Mark, but for the Player’s at the table as well. Just like a dream within a dream, the deeper you go (or the more complicated you make it), the more unstable (and possible less rewarding) the module can become. Happy Extracting!!!
“Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?” – Alfred Lord Tennyson