Actual Play – Remember Tomorrow? (2/13/2011)

Participants: Rich Rogers, Arnold Cassell, Sean Nittner
System: Remember Tomorrow

This is an odd duck of a game. Rich asked if I wanted to play in a Skype game with him and I’m always up for trying new things (especially if they are one-shot games) so after a little schedule-fu we found a time to play. The game is set 20 minutes in the future, or at least that is the tag line. Actually it set in a very Blade Runner future, perhaps with a bit of Strange Days mixed in. That sort of set me off right from the beginning. I like a game to be very honest about what it is about, instead I get the feeling it is trying to be too cool for school and hoping the readers (and players) will adopt the same attitude.

The play however, really impressed me. Since I’ve never played with Rich or Arnold I can’t say whether that came from the players or the game (or a mix) but my hunch is that that it was the players.

We had a total of 12 scenes in which we introduced our three protagonists (held PCs), their goals, three factions and their goals, and then most interestingly to me (and what tickled my simulationist buttions) some of the surrounding characters. I’m genuinely interested in some of the NPCs (or non-help PCs) and I’m glad that the game encourages (or just allows) the players to pick them up and spin with them.

We also brokered some deals and saw a few throw downs, thus trying out all three scene types in the game. I’ve got to say some unexpected things went down, especially with the involvement of a gang that Arnold created which at first seemed so out of their league compared to the other factions but because of their accessibility to the protagonists ended up playing a major role in the store.

The protagonists introduced were all compelling to me for different reasons.

Arnold started off with a giant cybernetic bear with laser claws. It was his inner six year old voltron power ranger fettish coming alive. He was called the Ursinator-5000 or just U5 for short. I liked U5 because he immediately relaxed the tension of the game. I really don’t care if I get things “right” in a world with a cybernetic bear. I mean, how can you break genre or mood when that has been introduced? Plus U5 gave me some immediate leads for my own introductory scenes, both for my protagonist (Case) and for the faction I created (NAZCorp).

I followed up with Case, actually a character I took out of the book, a hacker, who in very Pi style, was on the verge of figuring out the “system”. Of course doing so meant severe self-imposed neurochemical modifications that were killing him. He was the scientist filled with his own hubris and dying because of it but still not willing to stop. Case is in a wheelchair and his body is falling apart by the minute. This is a fun archetype for me to play because they are both very driven (thus constantly making their scenes actionable) and also very vulnerable (thus constantly having rooms for complications and twists). So far he actually has been coming out of top (due to some lucky die rolls) but I don’t think that will last for long.

Rich has a sweetheart of a character, Apple Pollock, a dealer on the street who is out of money and can’t afford to pay for any more time with the Doll (AI pleasure bot) Jade Snowflinch. She’s in love with Jade and wants to get her out but is broke and has troubles of her own. Rich introduced a “cyber” scene of their fairly amorphous intimacy that was quite powerful. Apple, however fell on tough times, apparently she owed the Spiders money and they came to brand her as one of theirs for not paying up.

Here is the character map, a google doc that we used throughout the game, adding characters and factions as we went, and most importantly using to reincorporate the existing characters into new scenes.

Probably impossible to read, for a better look, go here

What rocked

First and foremost Rich, Arnold and I all get pretty excited about pretty similar stuff. We spent probably the first thirty minutes of the game just talking with each other about various nerd topics. In game I would have called this tangenting (or worse) but as a first time interaction (and over Skype no less) this was an important time for us to start learning about what makes each other tick.

Reincorporation was huge in this game, which I really like. We were all constantly finding ways to bring the existing elements together and tie them up in each other’s business or complicate them. There were several aids to this. First was looking at the google doc (above) the whole time. We were staring at the faces of the characters and so naturally compelled to bring them back into the story over and over again. Second there was a mechanical impetus to use existing matter because it meant that a) you didn’t have to make up new stats, goals, etc) and that b) you were validating the creations of another player. All very rewarding.

We had some great twists. Apple loves Jade, but Jade has a dream to find her own identity. Will that have a place for Apple or will she just feel like Apple was another John that paid for services. U5 has upset everyone in his wake, including the Spiders and now Case has made a deal to chase him down. What will happen when the man who can communicate with machines with his mind meets a cybernetic entity?
We chewed up twelve scenes in a couple of hours and saw lots of advancement in the story, things were happening.

What happens next was always easy to figure out. It’s just a matter of picking up a couple pieces of the story and figuring out how you want to play with them. -> Lego pieces (characters, factions, scene types, etc)

What could have improved

The resolution system seemed very tame. Like who won and who got to narrate what and how things happened in the fiction all seemed to be a matter of consensus between the players. I’m not saying there weren’t mechanics for this, but the mechanics felt very bare and open and required a lot of player adjudication.

I’m glad we only had three players in the game, because otherwise there would have been an extreme amount of downtime. The game is played in a very round robin style, which I enjoyed because we each liked each other’s stories and we each tried to contribute in ways we could, but I definitely got the sense that at times we were waiting for our scenes to come up and that would only be exacerbated with more players.

Plans for next game:

  • Case is coming down hard on U5
  • Jade is going to continue pursuit of her own identity.
  • Lo Fang is getting a story of his own. He’s not just the thug we think he is.

9 thoughts on “Actual Play – Remember Tomorrow? (2/13/2011)”

  1. Nice work!

    Great write-up, Sean. I really enjoyed playing with you.

    Kinda telling how you have no future plans for Apple. ;(

    I need to make her more compelling, which is cool.

    1. Rich, Apple is great. I just know two things:

      1. Here recent interaction with the Spiders and U5 coming down on her will put her in a pickle for sure, and

      2. By making jade more complex, I’m going to make Apple and Jade’s relationship more complex.

      Both of these mean I need to do very little for Apple to be awesome 🙂


  2. True, Apple will follow Jade. I am pretty psyched to see how Jade’s choices impact Apple. I honestly don’t know how she will react. I also wonder which way Arnold would take Jade vs. how you would, Sean.

    I find the story we’re cooking up pretty dern compelling. We need to continue this.


  3. Another great summary…

    The resolution system seemed very tame.

    Saints preserve us, why do indie designers keep doing this?

    It isn’t hard to design a fun, workable system with plenty of opportunity for elaboration. Dogs in the Vineyard, WordPlay, Trial of Cthulhu, Grey Ranks etc all manage quite adequately.

    It’s a shame when a good game is produced and then one ends up saying “meh” to the system detail, or lack thereof.

    It reminds me of Alex Jones on David Icke;

    So what does David Icke do? He talks about the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, these Global Elitists, these power structures—all real, all true, all demonstrated by bills and executive orders and prime ministers, and premiers, and presidents. All real, meat and potatoes, something you can bite into. Something that is easily demonstrable. And then you’ve got David Icke and at the end of all this, he says, “By the way, they’re blood-drinking lizards. ” Al Gore needs blood to drink, so does Prince Philip, I mean it’s asinine. It’s being picked up by people, and it discredits all the reality we’re talking about, and that’s the problem with David Icke. He’s got a good line to a point, and then he discredits it all. It’s like a turd in the punchbowl.”

    (David Icke is coming to Melbourne, so I have him on the brain at the moment..)

  4. I for one welcome all the “crosses” and layering the framework provides. After all, you’re only options are to Introduce something new, make a Deal to act against another Held PC, or throw something into a Face-Off with another Held PC.

    This means that, unless something radically new gets introduced, U5’s origins, for instance, will have to be discovered through what’s already on the table. This Vasilly Rose, target of the assassination plot? Will probably never see table time, and doesn’t have to. Once the R, W, and A boxes get checked off, no matter which Face-Offs cause them, Vasilly is dead.

    Eww, you got your touchy-feely exploration of the nature of love versus affection between a human and an android, coupled with your scientist dying to innovate who is literally killing himself for science all over my action movie assassination plot! Well, let me get my action movie assassination plot all over your touchy-feely stuff and your essay to valuing progress over life.

    The same crowd who likes games like Annalise, Universalis, Shab-Al-Hiri Roach, Ganakagok, etc. will like this one. Let’s get some creative people together, give them broad powers to create anything they want, and let them mash into one another. Gently, respectfully at times, but sharply and angrily at others. And hopefully, if they listen to each other, they can work towards filling those mechanical and rigidly defined interactions with some meaningful moments, exchanges of insight into each others’ fiction.

    In all likelihood, the audience will find out why U5 exists through interaction with what’s already on the table. We won’t ever meet Vassily Rose, the target U5 is pursuing, or the brother Case has let fall by the way-side, convinced his problems are meaningless compared to Case’s research, or even Apple’s estranged husband, the man who never knows where she runs off to for weeks at a time, but who lovingly accepts her when she returns, desperate for just those moments with her to validate his empty and alienating life in this bleak, sanitized landscape.

    No, likely as not, we will crash and smash into one another until someone achieves their goal. And then we will move on to the next episode, and begin again. Maybe some of these people will return, with their own Introduction Scenes as well, highlighting what they are after now, in this new landscape. Maybe some new forces will come to the fore-front, even though we’re sure they’ve been there the whole time.

    It’s state-less roleplaying, it’s driven only by the interest at the table, and churned through a small network of unsympathetically simple rules.

    In response to some of the comments on the system itself:

    I wouldn’t have it any other way. Right now we’re being polite and asking for input, but we needn’t be. It’s razor fine who gets to say what, and when everyone gets in tune with the rules, it becomes it’s own communication medium. Plenty of games do this and I for one really enjoy it.

    But it exposes, and thrives on, the dynamic of interaction that already exists. There aren’t a whole list of abstract rules and procedures to hide your feelings and intent behind. If you want something done, you have to do it, straight-forward.

    Dogs in the Vineyard is clever, yes, because you have to “do something they can’t ignore” when you put your dice forward. That gives the opposition something meaningful to Dodge, Take, or Reverse.

    Same goes here. Deals specifically state they have to be “against another Held PC.” Face-Off scenes target Held PCs to weaken them, take them down. Make the meaning behind those interactions to strengthen your own position. Play cut-throat; the game’s begging for it.

    Don’t blame a “light” system for not providing depth. If the people at the table are not inspired to provide depth on their own, I’d rather not hide behind a cumbersome mechanic to cloud the fact that this is a vanilla game with disinterested players.

    1. I think we had an awesome session, no doubt, but it was really hard for me to see that the system was providing that.

      Where you do have me, however, in retrospect is the scene framing. By limiting scenes to intro, deal and face-off it forces the players to reincorporate (unless they provide infinite intro scenes, which is I think the moving slacker, but that’s a tangent). And that re-incorporation was awesome.

      Call me a skeptic but state-less role-playing seems like a product of like minded individuals having fun playing make believe. Which is awesome until people run out of ideas for lack of stimulation. Maybe the system does create enough to fuel that fire (it sure stayed stayed exciting during our session) and it just does it so well that it was invisible to me. That is possible, and if so, I will have to take a good hard look at how much support structure I want in a game.

      I think the only way I’ll discern this to my satisfaction is through continued play, which just so happens to be what I wanted to do anyway 🙂

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