Friday, 22 July 2011

Unknown Armies - What Can You Do?

So, while I raved about how awesome a system UA is, I think I missed out something pretty important - in this world of crazy wizards and powerful, man-made Gods, what exactly do you do?

Well, the game is split into three "tiers" of play - Street, Global and Cosmic levels.

At Street level, you're ordinary folk who get a taste of the Occult Underground, whether through a bad experience, weird goings-on, or actually hunting it out. It's probably the most flexible level - you could run it without any supernatural elements, and the system would still shine. Here, you could be bank robbers in a job gone wrong, friends at a bar when a barfight turns ugly and someone sees the old drunk in the corner levitate a table into the fray, or the crew of a TV show out to debunk the supernatural when it comes calling. Best for starting players (and GMs), and can be adapted to suit almost anything.

Global, you're members of the Occult Underground - whether directly, or on the fringe (so, Adpets, Avatars, or just people "in the know"). Here, the main focus is usually on gaining more knowledge about the occult - Dukes are, to a man, selfish pricks with God complexes. You might be a Cabal out to gain a certain artifact - JFK's coffee cup is a classic, and mentioned in the Core Rules as an example of a Dipsomancer's (Booze Mage) wet dream, for giving Significant charges just by drinking from it. You might be just a bunch of kids, messing around with things way above your station, when you are attacked by a Vatican-sponsored Hit Squad. Maybe there's a rival cabal operating out of your area, trying to push everyone else out - and you need to stop them. Or just take their stuff, you know, and make yourselves more powerful. Or you could start getting involved with some of the big conspiracies within the setting (like The Sleepers, a group dedicated to stomping out public displays of the Occult). The weirdness is now a major part of the game, and your characters - it makes it a bit harder for new players to get into, due to the amount of "lore" you need to learn to play Adepts and Avatars.

At Cosmic, you are the Occult Underground. You're the big movers and shakers - your choices can affect the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people - hell, find a way to pop a Major charge and you could be affecting the world. Here, you don't just want power - you want answers. About life, magick, everything - and you have the ability to find them,. if you know where (and how) to look. You could be a world-spanning cabal, Avatars nearing Godwalker status (and another step closer to ascension to your Archetype, possibly redefining it in the process), or you could be the Vatican Kill-Team previously mentioned, out to wipe out the Occult, and armed to the teeth to do so. Hardest of the Levels to just "drop" into, it makes for a great game for experienced players, or as a continuation of a Global-level game, adding new threats and new layers of lore to get to grips with.

Of course, in a long enough campaign, you can go through all three, from poor, weird wannabes to full-blown crazy world-shakers, but UA's experience system makes for slow progress - playing once a week, you could be years before "finishing" the game.

Not that that's all that terrible.


  1. Good post. I had been wondering about the answer to this question muyself.

  2. "(like The New Inquisition, a group dedicated to stomping out public displays of the Occult)"

    Eeeexcept that's the Sleepers, not the The New Inquisition. TNI are mostly interested in stomping heads out on general principal than to keep magic secret.