Actual Play – Always/Never/Now (8/15/2013)

always-never-nowGM: Will Hindmarch
Players: Sean Nittner, Kevin, Aaron, and Jason
System: Always/Never/Now

YUP! My first game at GenCon was A/N/N with it’s creator and all around awesome dude Will Hindmarch!

The gaming group were all new to me and thanks to Games on Demand awesome organization, all came ready to try out something new. Kevin had never role-played before but hopped right into gear. Jason and Aaron came together but were totally game to interact with everyone at the table (as I found out early on).

I really like playing in games that people have run multiple times before. I’m finding this as I run the Torchbearer scenario “Under the House of the Three Squires” over and over, that the more I know it, the smoother my descriptions are and the more confident I feel as the players throw out awesome ideas and I respond in kind. Will is definitely a zen GM of this game. His opening description through to his closing finish were all off the cuff, natural, and engaging.

I played Tank, because I love chicks with technical toys. One of my Keys (behavior that grants XP in the game) was that of camaraderie, and so I had to pick another player at the table that I had a strong relationship with. I took a bit of a gamble and chose Henri, played by Aaron. He was sitting across the table from me I know from experience that one-sided relationships like “hey, my character feels XYZ about your character” are not always reciprocated in con games with people that don’t know you, who are sitting across the table next to their friend. Aaron was awesome though.

We had this great opening scene of attaching a cyber leg to this malnourished kid in Ethiopia. A place we operated illegally out of , but Henri was still trying to do good with his life and Tank had his back. The scene where we air lifted off and the were waved away by the family and the kid, now standing on his cyber-leg, was great.

700The play is the thing

I don’t want to talk too much about the adventure since, even more so than Lady Blackbird, A/N/N really has a story line associated with it. As the description of the game says:

You were the best. Underground, cyberpunk street samurai, burglars and breakers, agents of a mysterious spymaster with half a name, zero history, and a plan. He made the missions and you carried them out. You were the go-to crew for high-stakes break-ins, dangerous ops, and impossible escapes. You fought the megacorps, the tyrants, the killers—all for the sake of making a better future, of beating the Technocrats at their own game of shaping tomorrow. You always won, never quit, lived in the now. 

Until, eleven years ago, he disappeared…

Now he’s back—back in trouble—and it’s up to you to save him and maybe, along the way, change the world.

What I particularly enjoyed about the game was that it set you up with the right expectations. Your first lead doesn’t take you to your old spymaster, but you do learn something about him. Your second doesn’t either, but you’re not expecting it too. I think managing expectations in spy/investigation games is critical. Too often players want to figure out a clever solution to short circuit the investigation and get stymied when they can’t find the answer right now. I think part of this is because many investigations present themselves as simple questions (like “who done it?”) and hyper-competent player characters are legitimately frustrated when their amazing skills only lead them to the next bread crumb in a seemingly endless trail.

A/N/N presents the protagonists as hyper-competent professionals, who never-the-less, are confronted with challenges that have the financial and tactical resources to give them a legitimate challenge. This is conveyed in the fiction clearly, so it’s satisfying when it’s represented in the mechanics.

Thoughts on this game

Alex, played by Jason, was hysterical. His character was so comical that when we rose up and was about to do something super bad ass, I drove off god damn cliff to make that bad ass thing happen!

Four arms are better than two. Especially when two of them are cyber-arms.

Henri’s code of non-violence was broken is the most bad ass way!

Games on Demand was loud for sure, but not so much so that we couldn’t all hear the awesome at our table. Great times!