Hell yeah, I finally got to play Tech Noir. Mark is clearly a big time fan and contributor (play-tester and avid promoter of the game). He introduced us to the game and gave us a little background into the setting and mechanics. We picked playbooks and of course, being at Gencon, we picked Indianapolis!
Marked rolled up some conspiracies, we picked characters, and the game began. I took Zaide Mantel, handle RISC, whose candy blue cyberarm matched her mohawk. Hmm, what is it with me and bad ass chicks with cyberware? The other players picked characters Sleight, Gemini, and Roman and then we picked our relationship adjectives to knit our characters together.
Because several of us (myself included) had a relationship with Val Torrino (the old mob lawyer) we started the game getting a lead from him, in the place that was the highlight of the game, Stake and Shake. Vampire themed dance club on the seedy side of town.
We started with some pretty vivid descriptions of our characters, and dove into the old chestnut “you all meet in a tavern.” Only we didn’t all meet, Sleight, was watching us from a distance, presumably to join up later. We got a lead from Val, to investigate a high end break in where something, presumably valuable, was stolen.
Expanding the conspiracy
So we set off to find it. Roman did the tech thing that drives me nuts in many future/cyber-reality setting games. He was able to essentially get all his information while sitting in a booth at the Stake and Shake. In a story this can sound cool but in game it pulls the character out of any interaction with the other PCs and the essentially enter a mini-game that is just with the GM.
Gemini and Zaide set out on foot, or really on her bike, to go see what information they could dig up in the physical world.
Sleight watched us from afar. Which continued to me to just seem odd. Odd because it was a 2nd character having no interactions with the PCs.
When we had made contact with several people, and hacked several systems, we got the idea of where this package might be, and Zaide, being the gun lugger of the group, opted to put herself in it’s place as “bait”. That introduced our only “fight” conflict. When the car she was in arrived at it’s auto-piloted destination and the door opened, some giant robot reached it’s slicer blade arm in to vivisect the “package”. Luckily the package was ready with an under-arm shotgun. Her’s how it went down:
1. I spent one of my push dice in the attack and blew off the critters arm.
2. It spent two push dice and with it’ other arm cut off my arm. Mark gave me the choice of which arm and elected to keep my cyberarm as I thought it would be necessary to survive.
3. I counter attacked, pushing two more dice and destroying the critter, but yeah, with only one arm left.
Meanwhile the other character found where the other endpoint of the drop off was and, having hacked all the drone security, dispatched the one guard, and made off with the loot.
— Sean Nittner (@SeanNittner) August 17, 2013
After two hours of game, which is understandably a pretty short game, we did a brief epilogue wrap up, and Sleight described his character pretending to be Val Torrino and stealing the loot from us. Hmmm.
Thoughts on this game
I really dug the gritty noir elements of the future. And the conspiracy map unfolding was great. I didn’t pay too much attention to the back end mechanics of the conspiracy unfolding but it felt very organic to me.
Having one character be completely absent from the game, and one character spending the entire game hacking remote systems really took away from the game for me. It meant that only Zaide and Gemini had any meaningful interactions.
The damage system in the game strikes me as insanely brutal. If the adversary pushes two dice, you take permanent damage, which can only be repaired by cyberware. Don’t get me wrong, I like characters changing, but I got the distinct impression that it wouldn’t take long before there was nothing of “you” left. I’d had to play more to really know for sure.