Actual Play – Nightsegur (7/9/2016)

NightsegurFacilitator: John Aegard
Players: Victoria Garcia, Sean Nittner, James Lawton, Adrienne Mueller
System: Nightsegur (mash up of Night Witches and Montsegur 1244)

Wow, this game looked great, and it delivered on that promise! Here’s John’s pitch from the forum:

This is a GMless tabletop freeform game with rules based on the game “Montsegur.” It tells the story of the “Night Witches” — heroic young Soviet airwomen caught between the terrors of the Nazi war machine, the paranoid Soviet secret police, and the institutional sexism of their own military.

The game covers four years of history, from the dark days of 1942 through the ultimate triumph of 1945. It deliberately de-emphasizes the military action. We know the war only through the very sudden absence of its casualties, some of whom we will be forbidden to mourn.

This setting is loaded with awful stuff — brutal violence, paranoid and bullying military cops, sexism, queerphobia. For safety’s sake, we will be playing with an x-card

As with Montsegur, all characters are premade and preloaded into a relationship map. Each player will play an airwoman and a member of the ground crew.

From talking to John, we shared this in common. We love Night Witches but the game is best done over a campaign. Multiple missions, multiple waystations. He wanted a game that not only played through the whole war, but also focused on the lives of the airwomen and the ground crew almost exclusively. The extent of the missions played out “in game” was that each turn you selected a scene (from a list of three available) and if the scene card you replaced it with had a skull on it your air woman didn’t make it back after that night’s mission. Simple and brutal.

The Story by Adrienne Mueller

Adrienne did an amazing write up on the GPNW forums, which I’m going to copy in full (with permission) here. Her write up is on the GPNW forum here.

– Rada is a young idealist who promulgates the democracy of the people whenever she gets the chance. She earns many medals and eventually leads the regiment. She ends the war as a hero and continues to tow the party line for many years thereafter.
– Valya barely had a chance to fly before she was run over by one of our own aircraft – flown by Rada, no less. The loss of Roman had hit Valya hard and whether her blundering onto the runway was intentional or caused by drink, we’ll never know.
– Yana likes her vodka and likes Zoryana too. She advocates for stealing from the men and for burying the bomb. She avoids Zoryana for a while after Valya’s death, but eventually they kiss and make up. But then Yana also kisses Agafonika and their relationship never recovers.
– Polya staunchly insists that Rita is too near-sighted to fly; but she is persuaded that Nina should be given a plane again and leads a ‘salvage’ mission to get the parts. She also lays in to the useless poet Konstantin – to everyone’s amusement except Sonya at the NKVD. Eventually, after the slaughter of several POWs before they can be interrogated, the NKVD takes her out.
– Färidä is pushing to get her sister back on flight-duty from the get go. Once Polya is out of the picture and Färidä is granted the finest medal Russia has to offer, she succeeds. Her plane goes missing after Rita fails her, but she makes it back alive. One of her darkest moments is when she needs to shoot one of the prisoners she’s trying to loot – and then watches them all get slaughtered by Arkady.
– Rita pushes to rat out Roman and helps Nina pick up NKVD documents from the mud. Eventually her sister gets her her chance to fly again, but she’s so tired from still also being a mechanic that she fucks up. Also, turns out she was too near-sighted to be let in the air and she doesn’t make it back.
– In the beginning, Taline urged the other members of the ground crew to protect Roman and then urged Spartak to get us more uniforms, or at least some soap. By the time we got to the Balkan she was delivering lackluster pre-written sermons on cleanliness. She tried very hard to stop the runway workers from requisitioning our food, but had to cave.
– Zoryana was obliged to clean the bloody uniform of Valya. Much later, she and Yana rekindled their passion, but that was cut short when Yana betrayed her. Zoryana was also sent to the NKVD, but she made it pack only a little worse for wear.
– Nina had no problem giving info to the NKVD – she knew what happened to people who didn’t comply. She worked her butt off for them. Her reward came when Färidä persuaded Polya to help rig up a plane for her. She even got a spiffy looking replacement-leg. She was a source of inspiration to the troops. But the NKVD got her in the end. Maybe it was the coverup from the unexploded bomb. Maybe it was her pointing fingers at a dead woman. Who can say?- Spartak helped Zoryana wash out Valya’s blood and then helped Nina pick-up papers. She was disgusted by inefficiency and by people lacking the right information and used her power to make things better for the women.
– Konstantin was a young, rich, poet who got brutal lessons first when Polya dressed him down, then when she sent him up in a plane, then when she forced him to clean a frozen, overflowing latrine.
– Arkady went crazy when he was confronted with some German prisoners. He was never seen again.
– Agafonika had some fun with Yana and then tried to cover-up the affairs in the regiment. Eventually she had to throw Zoryana under the bus, though.Game:
Nightsegur is a hybrid of Night Witches by Jason Morningstar and Montsegur 1244 by Frederik Jensen. It takes the theme of Night Witches and applies it to the one-shot delivery system of Montsegur. Players each play two characters: a pilot and a groundperson. We follow them over four successive acts which span the period of World War II. There is attrition as time passes; either from the Germans or from sentencing by the Soviet NKVD for crimes against the motherland. Each player uses a scene-card, with a bit of evocative description on it, to help set a scene that would take place against the backdrop of a given act. Characters have the opportunity to rat out their fellows at the end of every act. In the end, epilogues are delivered for whoever has survived.

EDITED – Decided I wanted to strip out some of the more play-testy feedback so that could go straight to Johnzo.
– Loved how the NKVD took out more of us than the Germans.
– Unlike Montsegur, the story-arc goes kind of goes from negative to positive instead of positive to negative. We’re winning the war. So really things could be more hopeful at the end; but I’m so used to narrative one-shots like this ending in tragedy, it’s hard for me to do.
– Love the NKVD incrimination and draws.
– Sorry I made Roman into such a jerk. It’s the way I chose to interpret the question on my card, but I think he was maybe supposed to be more of a clown character.
– We usually used our turn to set scenes for other people’s characters and left our own characters out. This was great because we had a lot of latitude for what scenes to do. It was less good, for me, because I also wanted to talk about things my characters were feeling/thinking and I wanted them to interact with other characters in particular ways. But – I wanted to hear about other characters that I hadn’t seen in a while more. Later in the game we use our stored ‘scene cards’ to add in more scenes that could help flesh things out, but by then precious setup/characterization time had been lost. Don’t think this was an issue for other players and doubt this would happen in most games.
– Loved the map and flavor.
– We didn’t narrate around the deaths so much, though I think we were supposed to. In hindsight was kind of missing that.
– Someone please make a tiny plane figure as the map token – that perhaps can lose wheels and propellers and wing-pieces as the war progresses.
– Wished Rita had had a scene with her sister! To at least thank her for getting her back in the cockpit.

Favourite Bits:
– When Sonya reminded us that we had just been lectured about cleanliness, after the latrine overflowed.
– The gentle touch on the wrist from Agafonika. (Took me by surprise and I loved it!)
– The suspense of who would be drawn from the envelope.
– The deeply disturbing swimming hole scene. Not because I relished the content, but because I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such a strong feeling of foreboding in a game.
– Zolyana telling Yana we should live in the moment because it’s all we have.
– Färidä advocating so hard for Rita!
– Spartak telling NKVD to draw a grid. So smart. So commanding.
– Polya tearing into the poet about how useless he is and how he should get himself a gun, or get in a plane, or get to shoveling shit.
– Nadia’s plane-leg! What a cool touch and how wonderful that she was overcoming her disability in this shitty place in this shitty war.
– That Rada was able to be persuaded by Färidä’s argument to let Rita fly! Stuck to her morals!

This was a great experience, people! Check it out:!
Thanks so much for making it and facilitating it for us, Johnzo!

What Rocked

Back to Sean’s voice to add in a few favorites of my own (thought Adrienne covered most of those as well):
The horrors of war felt so real. People just died and you moved on. Between the missions and the NKVD killing us, it was really clear that this wasn’t a story of some plucky heroes, it was a story of loss and of looking for beauty among wreckage.
We played through the whole war, which was amazing. I loved watching our characters struggle and flourish and die. Having two characters per player is really smart.
The denouncement system is amazing. Denounce another air woman and they may be arrested, don’t and you might be!
In one scene when we had a number of Germans captive, Färidä shot one of the captives for fear of them breaking out (and because he had just done something extremely rude). When they brought Captain Arkady to the captives to see if he could put them to use in his labor force one of the Germans, who was an SS agent started yelling at him. Adrienne began speaking in German saying something over and over, which sounded like “she shot him” (and think that was pretty close to it). Having that language barrier be real at the table was some kind of magic!
Nina was very fun to play. In the beginning, relegated to a typist she was very cowardly. She would turn anyone in for fear of getting in trouble herself. Later, when she was back in the air though she was re-emboldened, had no fear… and then was arrested, shot and dumped in an unmarked grave by the NKVD. Tragic and beautiful.
I had a blast playing NKVD office Sonya Petrovich and tearing into Polya for the disgusting latrines that they knew they were required to keep clean. Then having Konstantin accidentally blow the entire thing up trying to help clean it. Priceless.
There was a scene which was going to a place that I felt really uncomfortable with. An escape for the dirt and grime when all the women found a pool and got to bathe and really get clean for the first time the entire war. The scene was one of joy until several trucks full of male soldiers appeared and then it suddenly took on a very dark tone. It seemed like there was this moment of uncertainty at the table and then I tapped the X-card, and we cut right past that scene, describing no more. I was so appreciative of everyone at the table for just rolling that along without further description or detail. Thank you all!

What could have improved

This game is really strong. The few improvements I can think of which we talked to John about were:

  • It’s entirely possible for a player to lose both characters (I did). In that event, I think someone with two characters left should just give them one. I doubt it would detract from immersion at all.
  • The denouncements were initially one per characters but that quickly seemed overwhelming and John switched it to one per player, which I think is much more manageable.

Actual Play – Weasels at the Border (7/9/2016)

Mouse Guard CoverGM: Harry Lee
Players: Fred Lott, Joe England, and Sean Nittner
System: Mouse Guard 2nd Edition

Sienna, Bastian, and Delvin, a patrol of Guard mice were sent from Sprucetuck to lay the scene border along the edges of the territory.

On their way, they ran into Elmis, a fellow Guard mouse and learned that his patrol had been ambushed by weasels. Burdened with great responsibility the patrol had to decide if they would continue on with their very important mission of laying the scent barrier, or pause to help the injured Elmis recover his lost companions.

While Bastian tended to his wounds Sienna, the patrol leader but also youngest of the mice consulted with Delvin on what they should do. After some deliberation they agreed that mice in immediate peril was more pressing, and that they would help Elmis and find his patrol.

What followed was a brutal battle with weasels [fight with animals conflict leaving us all injured], laying the scene border [players turn], tracking the weasels to their den (a rabbit burrow that they took over), discovering their plan to attack Sprucetuck, shouting our defiance, and then fleeing out of the warren to safety [chase conflict].

2016-07-09 14.20.34What Rocked

really enjoyed the difficult discussions we had about duty. Sienna and Delvin had different beliefs but they both respected each other. It was fantastic to get that by in from the players to respect that neither decision was an easy one to make.

Second edition has done some great work. The traits are notably way better balanced (level 2 used to be unbelievably powerful) and the starting adventure is a great one (the sample adventure in first edition felt like it was trying to reproduce Fall 1152 too closely, this was so much more open for the Mice to direct).

Harry limiting the game to three players was really smart. It meant that in our TWO conflicts, we all got to be active participants in every round. Speaking of which, two GM turns, each with a conflict, and one player turn. Hellz yeah, we were some awesome mice!

Speaking of conflicts, ours were intense! We first fought off weasels with axes and a bow, and then had to flee out of their warren. We could have just crept out silently but it was so worth it to yell “The Guard knows! The Guard will be prepared!” before hauling ass out of there. My particular memento was leaving my cloak behind at the base of a warren to show that the guard was here.

There was a really cool scene with Devlin and Elmis where we needed them to buck up and move along without us. Devlin put his sword in the weakened Guard Mouse’s paw as Sienna told him, he could do this, it was his duty to do this. LOVED IT! Harry’s depiction of Emlis was also wonderful. Ashamed and scared but dedicated as well. So good.

What could have improved

Oh gosh, hard to say. This game was so good.

2016-07-09 17.01.22

Actual Play – Go Devil Hunters, Go! (7/9/2016)

ghost_titleGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Jeremy Tidwell, Andi Carrison, Gary Montgomary, and Johnstone Metzger
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickset Rules v.6 (Academia Playset)
Score: Charterhall University

Despite the advice I gave three weeks ago during my games at Origins, I decided to write up a score sheet for Go Play instead of riffing off the characters created. Why? because I wanted to see if I could turn my Academia setting into some good solid criming!

And what’s more, I wanted to see what Blades looks like when the score isn’t to get one over on someone else (or at least not just that) but to pull your own asses out of the fire. Introducing the score: Charterhall University.

The Score

Before they made characters, I had the players read the score sheet and pick options. And the most amazing thing happened. I think it was Johnstone who read this line:

The Noble Order of Crows, or the NOC, is an institution which claims it’s origins date back to the Emperor’s gift of Deathseaker Crows to Bellweather Crematorium in year 492. They are a benefit society pledged to elevate the status of their members and of the Doskvol devil hunters.

The only difference was that when he read “devil hunters” he read it as “Devil Hunters” and asked “What’s that? Our sports team?”

Yes. Yes it is!

2016-07-09 11.16.44[Note: devil is a generic term for anything supernatural. Demons, ghosts, etc. The term devil hunter was used loosely for anyone who fought these creatures after the cataclysm. The members eventually codified themselves into an order and became the Spirit Wardens, but the term still carries its original connotation (which is what I had been intending). However that same connotation also makes it the perfect name for a sports team!]

So the Noble Order of Crows is a booster club for the Devil Hunters! Setarra’s ichor-stained blessing, it doesn’t get better than this!

Once we knew this we also knew many other things such as:

  • The crew would be closely tied to the team, namely their captain, manager, accountant, and physician.
  • The Devil Hunter’s greatest rivals had to be from Whitecrow Academy… a team whose name both reflected the great leviathan steamships that graduates might one day captain and a chimeric image that showed humanities arrogant belief that they could form the world around them: The Hippokrakens!
  • The collegiate sport of of Doskvol is street rugby played all throughout the city and varying wildly based on whether it was played in the cramped alleys of Crow’s Foot or the wide open and smoothly paved streets of Brightstone.

The other choices really fell in line after that:

What foul deeds have you been accused of? What incident just caused horrible exposure? How are you connected? Doping their team with rage essence. Which of course was true, but that wasn’t the real crime. The real crime was that they won a championship game against the Hippokrakens when they the match was fixed for them to lose. A lot of people lost money on that match. The wrong people! The Noble Order was implicated because they were the ones who supplied the drugs to both teams, not that any word of Whitecrown students taking performances enhancements had been mentioned.

Who has brought charges against you? 
Lady Drake, a magistrate the the payroll of criminals, who was burned bad by this deal. She had made the arrangements for them to throw the match but rather than bind herself by ghost contract with Moon, merely shook on it with Vondrian the Snake. What deal did you previously have with Drake? How was it broken? What does she really want? As established, they had arranged to fix the games. All above board by Doksvol standards. What wasn’t so obvious though was that Lady Drake’s reasons for getting her hands dirty with academic affairs was that she that she had hit her own glass ceiling in life. She found that no matter what deals she brokered, she would never be allowed into the Whitecrown elite. However, if she negotiated just right, she stood a chance of getting her son enrolled in Whitecrown Academy aid if he could get into the circles of nobility…that would be good enough.

Crisis breeds change. What new opportunity has arisen? Blackmail. If they were going down, they were going to take Wester Strangford, captain of the Hippokrakens and son of Lord Strangford down with them! Who could you implicate in your crimes? What do you have on them? Wester, in addition to using the NOC for their teams medicinals and arranging matches with them, was also once in a personal bind. A summer fling that he thought nothing of turned out to be a social predator who attempted to leverage their dalliance into a springboard to the next echelon of society. Panicking and uncertain he hired of his father’s assassins to remove Lenia Dunville, a personal threat and then used the NOC to cover it up as an accident. Wester and Moon were bound by a ghost contract that neither of them would ever speak of the matter. An oath the now desperate crew was considering breaking if they needed to!

Velens Vedat
Velens Vedat

Our Scoundrels

Vondrian, the Snake [Slide]. A professor in the Morland Hall of Unnatural Philosophy as well as the Devil Hunter’s accountant, Vondrian dressed in all black, closeted himself away in musty halls, waxed his moustache, and shook on many deals he had no intention of keeping. He balanced the books and ensured the team always had the resources they needed.

Moon [Spider]. The official fixer for the team, Moon was connected with the various betting circles ruled by powerful gangs such as the Hive and the Unseen. Known for being a man of his word, Moon’s arcane bonds [Ghost Contracts] terrified many into either keeping their word as well or going around Moon and negotiating with Vondrian, as Lady Drake had done.

Rowan Bird “Peep”, the team captain [Lurk]. Peep was known for their speed and affability. A good captain who watched over their team and [thanks to Ghost Veil] was impossible to catch!

Velens Vedat [Leech]. Doctor Vedat? Associate Professor Vedat? Sure, something like that. Faculty Sponsor and Bloodletter Vedat. Yep, those things for sure! Velens was both the one who patched up the injured members of the team and they were the ones to administer the proper dosage of pharmaceuticals! Also, the biggest fan of the team there was.

How it Went Down

We opened on Peep and Velens walking to the Cat and Candle, the night after the game. The Devil Hutners had celebrated with great vigor the night before and were not likely to all be found sleeping it off at the Cat. Peep expected to join their fellow teammates enjoying a strong cup of Esme’s Severosi coffee. Instead they came around the corner to see Bluecoats throwing their teammates in chains and hauling them off. On in particular, Syra, was putting up a fight, and getting clobbered for her efforts by officer Larose.

Velens, realizing that if Peep was seen they would probably get hauled off too, urged Peep to stay behind while they found out what was happening. They rushed ahead and harried officer Larose so that he would stop twisting Syra’s arm even further!

Inside Moon had been working in the private library when the bluecoats stormed in. He cracked open the door to listen in on the Bluecoats as they made the arrest. He overheard them saying in hushed tones that Lady Drake wanted this bust quiet and quick. And that she was mad, very mad. They spoke much louder as the roughed up the Devil Hunters. “You’ve charged with the felonious act of using and distributing forbidden narcotics. You Devil loving finks!”

Hatching a plan

Together, Moon, Velens, and Peep arrived at Vondrian’s desk in Strathmill Hall and rang in chorus “we’ve got a problem!” Though Vondrian deferred that this was just part of business (and in doing so revealed that he went around Mood’s back), they agreed something had to be done.

The would use their leverage on Wester to make him take care of Lady Drake. As Moon set up the meeting, Vondrian met with Velens and asked him to investigate a way to make the consequences for breaking Moon’s ghost contract less deadly and more deadly as well. Velen’s toiled away in his laboratory but found that when he began burning a lock of Moon’s hair to distill from it the spectral humors and bonds he had made, all of the spirit essences, shaved off bits of ghost’s rotten souls, suddenly became very intent. Bottles rattled and faces appeared within them. He had never felt so vulnerable in his own workspace! [Desperate action to try and tinker with the contract. He rolled as six, but I had the threats ready if needed!]

2016-07-09 12.10.48
Noble Order of Crows

Good old Fashioned Blackmail

Wester, three of his fellow street rugby players, and one hooded figure who looked like he just stepped out of a filming of Assassin’s Creed, arrived in a gondola to the sunken opera house (Setarra, I use that place a lot!) to meet the Noble Order of Crows. Wester and his teammates stepped out but the shadow figure remained, still and silent in the back of the gondola.

Captain to captain Peep and Wester talked. It was a combination of familiarity, feigned professional rivalry, and real personal resentment for getting him involved and implying that they would rat him out. Peep, however was super cheerful. They spelled out two possible futures. One where Lady Drake brought them all in and eventually Wester’s secrets were found out. The other, where Wester “took care” of Lady Drake and they all lived happily ever after. Which one did he want?

Wester looked to the robed figure in his gondola and said “my father pays him a fortune, might as well put him to use”.

What rocked

The more we got into the game, the more staged everything felt. The NOC wasn’t just working with the Wester and the Hippokrakens, they were conspiring with them. They fixed games together, they metered out drugs together, they even did crime together. The only real animosity between them came from the school spirit and pride that fans evoked, their class disparity, and the adrenaline that was build up during an actual game. Other than that, they could have been bar mates!

Oh it was so delicious playing Wester. We all knew he was a pretentious ass but he was also a good team captain, a shrewd negotiator, and someone they had a mutual bond of self destruction with. In another story he would be the villain, in Blades, he was just another scoundrel playing his own angle.

Our original crime that Wester and the NOC were complicit in was kind of terrible “woman as object that can be disposed of when they are a problem” scenario. If felt very one sided. I was really happy that as a group we revised that and made Lenia a social climber, one that was playing Wester until he panicked and overreacted. I was really happy we gave her some agency and personal drive.

What could be improved

I’m wondering if I should explicitly state that the NOC support a sports team or just leave it to the group? For us that instantly brought the game into focus, but I could see another group not wanting to have a score that was about college sports. More to ponder.

The Irons in the Fire sections is a bit weak. Blackmail and Expose the Corruption are pretty much the same option. One last job also has the inherent problem that it shifts the focus away the the threat at hand and ask the crew to come up with a whole new score. Great if that can be derived from the answers to previous questions, but a lot of work if the group wants to think of something new.

The name the Noble Order of Crows sounded all great to me…until I realized we already have a crew call the Crows. Not good. So I need to think of a new name that is befitting of a benefit society and of Doskvol. Sources of inspirations that I was working from included The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Freemasons, Knights of Columbus, The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, etc. I really liked tying it to the Emperor gifting the Deathseeker Crows to the city. What do you call the people who tend to crows? Corvid Caretakers?

Actual Play – Sync (7/8/2016)

syncGM: Ross Cowman
Players: Steve Nix, Colin Cummins, Johnstone Metzger, and Sean Nittner
System: Sync

I really wanted to play Sync at Origins but ended up running in the same slot that Kira was. I thought I had lost out and wouldn’t see it again until who knows when. And then I noticed a G+ post where Ross asked if he could run it and then woot, it was on the Go Play games list forums. Yay!

What is Cyberpunk

After introductions at the table, our first activity was to define what cyberpunk meant to us. I didn’t catch them all, but here were the themes I jotted down:

  • Style
  • Transhumanism
  • Corporate Power
  • Individuals as commodities

Some pretty cool stuff there and none of it, except maybe style, felt all that different from today. Creepy.

Sync_character_tentsWho are we

Angel, the Apex physician who was broken when their company required him to extract the organ of a living person in order to allow testing of synthetic organs and because one of the top chrome wanted a new organ for themselves. After that, Angel, who had already viewed the body as the most feeble part of a being, snapped, and did all they could to divorce themself from the biological weaknesses most morals must endure.

J-Rom, a well paid and well protected citizen of the Pacific Autonomous Shipping Territory specialized in carrying product housed in his body. Sometimes data stored deep in encrypted memory banks, but also and far more frequently recently, biological organisms. Preserving and growing living tissue in your own body takes a toll, so J-Rom is often sent with a rigorous regimen of medications and treatments to perform.

Fox is an analyst that has been ground down by one job after another. She’s found that Big X doesn’t want to get the truth, even a subjective truth, out of data, they just want their corporate slogans sung across the waves of digital noise. She used to do sex work in the Violet Room, but that’s behind her. The only memory of it was her now bedridden father, kept alive by machines.

Zona is an angry punk. They just had a fight and broke up with their girlfriend at the bike collective, where Zona previously worked. Zona was now out of a job and out of place to live, and they slept in the tent city under the expressway trying to figure out what the hell to do next and how to stop the twin powers of Razorteeth and the MegaMart who are seeking to turn The Dockside District into a gentrified adventure zone full of fully radical extreme sports and energy drinks.

Our Neighborhoods

The places we lived

The Play is the Thing

Our establishing scenes showed that:

  • Zona needed to find a play to live…her tent got washed away in the rain. Maybe Fox could put her up for a while.
  • Fox was terrified by her boss and was sure he was going to ask her to do something she didn’t want to do…and that she’d probably do it. Maybe J-Rom, who she was in trouble for covering for could help her out?
  • J-Rom had something inside him and the medication he was taking was really messing him up. He needed either to get it out of him, or to get a fix that would stave off these side effects. Maybe Angel could brew him up something.
  • Angel was obsessed with finding the woman whose liver they removed. She had dropped off the grid. Was she still alive? She was connected with Zona somehow, maybe they would know where to find her?

All in all, some pretty good connections!

Play proceeded as we dug deeper into each others’s business and discovered our fears were worst than we expected

  • Zona couldn’t stay with Fox. Her father’s obsession with porn and caustic nature drove her out of the apparement. She also was going to have a real hard time making up with her ex after said ex realized that she knew J-Rom, who epitomized the everything she hated.
  • Fox was indeed caught for her subterfuge and not only asked to remain complicit with the human cloning and organ farming Apex was  part of, she was also asked to round up a large group of homeless people to forcibly do experiments on. Rather, they had already rounded them up, she just needed to verify their genetic makup was compatible with the progress, and 75% of them needed to qualify.
  • J-Rom found out he had a human fetus growing at an accelerated rate inside him. Taking the drugs might kill him. Not taking the drugs would be worst. Removing the fetus early wold be a breach of contract.
  • Angel probably fared the best of us. They learned about the woman, realized she could be contacted throgh J-Rom or if not him through Zona. They never met up with the woman, but maybe they felt a little better appearing like Jesus in a crown of thorns in front of Fox and giving her some ammunition to use against her Apex boss Bullet!

2016-07-09 00.10.15What Rocked

Angel’s depiction of hacking everyone else’s augmented reality to make their avatar appear like an angel to any onlooker was pretty awesome.

The basic moves served us really, really well. Well enough that I never actually used a playbook move and I got everything I wanted out of them. I don’t have the move sheet to remember what they were called but I just remember feeling like “hell yeah, that’s what I want to do!”

During our establishing scenes Ross asked Johnstone what J-Rom does to settle in when he’s in a hotel room. Every hotel, no matter how nice he goes to, has crappy sheets. So when he first arrives he stripps the bed completely, then pulls out these vacuum sealed plastic bags filled with compressed silk sheets and down (or microfibers that are actually softer and bouncier than down) duvets, rips them open and makes his own bed. Every time. He just leaves the sheets behind when he’s done.

Ross did a great job of gently nudging us towards each other. Cyberpunk as a genre has something of a pitfall that is similar to fantasy. Everyone wants to look like the baddest ass there is. So many players spend a lot of time preening (read gearing up) and peacocking (read describing their character being cool and awesome) rather than paying attention to each other. In fact, I think John made a game that is just about doing that. Ross kept asking those leading questions that forced us to pull ourselves out of our augmented reality, our own mirror shades, and our own wells of depravity to look at one another for answers and for validation.

2016-07-08 23.57.43Wow, I felt for Zona. They were is a fix and there weren’t a lot of good ways out of it. We didn’t really play of Razorteeth or the MegaMart, but knowing their home was being gobbled up and seeing that as they fought for it they lost those closest to them was pretty rough.

The Group Moves! We didn’t get a chance to use them but I love how they moved past all the “we pull a heist” business and frame that as “yep, spend those resources together and you all did it!”. The things about the world that you can change are awesome!

What could be improved

There is a lot of character and campaign building steps that are currently distinct, but which I think could be integrated into play. Here’s the steps I was tracking:

  • Define Cyberpunk
  • Make Characters
  • Form bonds with other other PCs
  • Describe How the system has failed you personally
  • Draw a map of your neighborhood along with notable features
  • Lists of threats/adversaries (Apex, PAST, Razorteeth, MegaMart, etc).

As I’ve been running Blades, I’ve noticed the same kind of steps. Build a character, pick their heritage and background, choose an ally and an enemy, create a crew, decide who they have positive and negative faction status with, etc. All of these steps are fantastic for a campaign game where you want a larger sandbox, but for a one shot they have two deleterious side effects:

  1. They take a lot of time. We spent about two hours on character and campaign creation and while I that time is play, I wanted to find out more about what we would do rather than who we are.
  2. They give players fodder to splinter off into different parts of the world which can either result in the GM doing a lot of corralling to get the PCs all involved in the same thing or in lots of separate adventures. In this case Ross did some good work keeping us focused around a few individuals (yay for PC-NPC-PC-NPC-PC-NPC-PC heptagons) but even so we had several loose threads .

I think we had some confusion about character knowledge. Mostly about whether Angel knew that Zona’s ex was in fact the patient that they obsessed over and why Angel would wonder if they were dead, when J-Rom knew they were alive. It didn’t break the game but I noticed a few moments of “what, who is that – what now?”.

Our characters had some pretty different levels of humanity and empathy. Angel on one end, who viewed the organic as weak and fallible, sought to dissociate them self completely. Zona on the other end just needed a place to sleep and wanted to reconnect with their ex. They were strong but vulnerable. This vast palette of humanity all fits withing the Cyberpunk genre, but I don’t know if all fit within our game. Had we another hour, I think could have put that disparity under the microscope and seen how those two creatures could exist in the same world and in the same story.

The girl who is hard up and has an abusive parent that pimped her out as a child but who she now cares for is a tired trope and I wish I had some something to flip that with Fox. In fact the woman acting as caregiver for the man in general wasn’t something I was really happy about once I introduced it. Tropes, per se, aren’t a problem, but those tropes aren’t ones I want to reinforce.

Actual Play – Fuck it, you’re the MC (6/28/2015)

Apocalypse WorldPlayers: Dale Horstman, Matt Klein, Brad Tuel, Sean Nittner, Eric Fattig
System: Apocalypse World
Setting: Fury Road

Who Killed The World? Who is the MC? What the Fuck Are We Still Doing Awake?

It was late on Sunday. We shouldn’t have even been away. But fuck it, we played Apocalypse World anyway. Who was going to MC? We were all too tired. So we just said fuck it, whoever wants to run the scene will do it. Call as scene out if you want it.

What happens when Immortan Joe doesn’t return, but instead an Imperator (Battlebabe) does and tries to take control? What happens when the curator of the gardens realizes the gardens themselves have a plan and a purpose.

Fuck, if I know, I was too tired to remember. But I do remember we had a great time and realized playing without an MC worked just fine.

Good times.

Actual Play – Garden on the Edge (6/28/2015)

AWOG CoverGM: Karen Twelves
Players: Jackson Tegu. Jeremy Tidwell, Eric Fattig, Max Hervieux, Sean Nittner
System: Apocalypse World
Scenario: The Garden

The Garden is so awesome. This is the second time I’m played in it, in fact it was the second time for Jeremy and Eric as well, so most of us had already done it. That just made it better.

Chunky, Icicle Nic, Amiette, Madame Tranh, and Duke made this little oasis at the literal edge or a collapsed fault line, their home. The Home Depot was crumbled and in ruins. The Shell had a Caffino coffee stand on top to serve as a lookout tower, but otherwise was gutted, but the Garden, it still stood, and still served unlimited breadsticks.

Our situation was that a powerful biker gang was coming for their annual summit (Motor Khan) to eat at the garden. The were traveling through, collecting tribute, and we knew they would stop, eat, and the leader Garble Khan would meet with our manager Madame Tranh. If all went well they would eat our food, take what they wanted, and leave. If not, they’d take more.

The problem was that they took up most of the tables, there were only two free for others, and demand for the Garden never ceases. Duke had to hold off the families outside and keep them from breaking down the door. Of five families that had been waiting over a day for a table, we knew we could only take two. That would not due.

IMG_4776Also, there as a foot in the walk in freezer. Just a foot in a shoe. Nobody knew whose.

We learned that Chunky, our janitor who got around in a rascal, was wise and worth listening too. That there would be another Chunky and they would be wise too. Also, don’t go in his shop, it’s trapped like you wouldn’t believe.

Nic, who used to be Icicle before Madam Tranh cut her face open, learned to just do the fucking job that was in front of her. Don’t worry about being loved or special or secure. Just do the fucking job Nic.

Amiette. She was crazy. “The bullets go this way, the bullets go that way” was a lullaby she sang when daydreaming. She brought another, a girl offered up for a table, into the family.

We never did learn much about Madame Tranh. She kept the peace, until of course the families who we did let in, pulled out guns and opened fire, but even then she never lost her head. Tranh spoke in signs. A single breadstick with a bite taken out of it put on in your breast pocket. A slice of cheese left on the counter. These were her signs and none of us understood them, but neither did we cross her.

Duke, poor Duke. He tried to keep the peace, but this place wasn’t for him. We had a patio in the back that sloped slightly downwards to the yawning ravine that swallowed anything that fell into it. Our hardcore “we’re tough” patrons liked to sit there. Sometimes people sat there if there weren’t any other tables. Sometimes people also came to the Garden expecting an mecca and found… it was just this. That there was no escape, and what we had to offer was lacking. Sometimes when people saw that, the wanted to be seated out there, we gave them the office chair with wheels, that was attached by a chain to the building. We pulled the chair up as needed. Duke, he wanted that chair, and was just trying to hold on.

IMG_4775What Rocked

C’mon, did you just read that. Our characters, that’s what rocked. Nic’s insecurity. Tranh’s obscurity. Amilette’s sincerity. Chunky’s sagacity. Duke just wanted to fucking die.

The whole premise is just fun. We run an Olive Garden after the apocalypse. How does that work? I enjoyed finding out.

Chunky with his rascal was awesome. Whenever he’d talked to someone Jeremy would roll his chair over to them. Brilliant. Also the Savvyhead move to give advice. Totally worked. So good.

Nic kept getting thwarted. Like at every turn. And for a moment that bled over to me and I started getting frustrated and anxious too. Then I remembered I was with friends who all love me and that hardships were good. I channeled that back into Nic and felt good watching her flounder in the wind. It was okay for Nic to be off kilter, unsure, and let someone else (Chunky) set her straight.

Karen brought breadsticks from the cafeteria. Yay!

What could have improved

I wanted more time. More time just to hang with Jackson and Jeremy and Eric. More time for our characters to build things and break them down. I wanted to know what happened when I made the Mai Thai for Garble Khan (we elided past all of that). I wanted more weird brainer shit and more touch choices for the hardholder/manager.  It was all good and I wanted more of it.


Actual Play – Corpse Killers (6/28/2015)

ghost_titleGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Mark Levad, Tony Dowler, Joe England, Soren Ludwig
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickstart 3 Rules
Score: Gaddoc Rail Station

Gaddoc, session 3!

First off there is something very satisfying about running the same adventure over and over. The details of the world come into greater focus. Sure, ever wall is made of crumbling brick, and every ally is dark and slick. But knowing that Rigney hides rogues in his back office in exchange for services, and that Larose is a black lotus puffing bluecoat, and that the Argonaut is so long her caboose hangs out of the end of the station, well, that stuff makes Duskwall come alive.

Thought all of the characters had their own connections as usual, Tony’s character Aldo “Dog” Lomond really cemented them in the fiction. The Lomond family has worked for generations in Coalridge ostensibly as miners, but actually running protection rackets. Recently Ulf Ironborn has begun eating up Lomond territory and the two families have become bitter rivals.

IMG_4773So… when it was a question of what other game was involved? Of course it was the Ironborn. When we had meaning “hey, you know me, and I know you” interactions, of course they were with other coal miners who might fucking hate each others guts when it came to turf disputes, but both knew one another’s families, and didn’t have any intention of siding with a fucking demon vessel just come alive!

Oh yeah, the “score” in this game was a mummified bodied with pre-cataclysmic runes inscribed all over it. The body could house a demon inside it and was undetectable as such. The demon, normally trapped, had of course broken out and now used the corpse as it’s own….to rend the flesh of humans looking for enough power to break free of it’s bonds. Funsies.

What Rocked

The aforementioned family rivalry was great. Personal connections between the PCs and the NPCs is awesome.

Drav “Key” Penderyn being a security specialist working in academia opened up a whole new world of Duskwall, and new questions. So what does personal security look like? How do universities protect themselves from Blades? What are the politic of Duskwall academia like? How do you get on the outs? Good stuff.

IMG_4772Dobo’s relationship with Satarra was messed up. He hadn’t always been Dobo. Maybe someone else could be Dobo for him instead? I kept wondering if he would try to put Satarra in the corpse, as a way to contain her. To bad we didn’t have enough time.

The fight with the corpse demon was brutal. I’ve never seen so many desperate rolls. Raven and Dog tried to intimidate the crowd with the corpse of that had <redacted so as to not offend reader’s sensibility> but when it came alive and groped for them with inhuman strength, it was our blades who were terrified. Inside the car it was Dobo’s job to contain the demon, but he could not complete the ritual and it overpowered him. The academic Key had to leap in, way outside of anything he even remotely knew, and wrap the spirit bane necklace around the corpses neck before it tore open Dobo’s chest. Damn, that was a rough fight (thanks to clocks, btw).

On the note of clocks, advancing a clock as a complication is a great way to show “you did it, but the world is alive and others are in motion too”.

First crew to be named in play!

I totally stole “a demon wreaking havok on the train” idea from John Harper, who ran the scenario the day before with a chain demon that had himself a little massacre on the train as well. That an my players saying there was an ancient corpse that held a demon. Why do people ship all this crazy shit into Duskwall!!?!?!!

What could have improved

IMG_4774As much as I loved the Lomond v. Ironborn fued, I think focusing on that meant leaving out a lot of other stuff. We didn’t see much of Satarra, or of Key’s connection to Rosiland, or Raven’s rivalry and love affair with Casta. There is a lot more I’d like to have explored with these rogues.

Actual Play – The door (6/27/2015)

ghost_titleGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Christoph Sapinsky, Lisa Sapinsky, William Lee, Dave Weinstein
System: Blades in the Dark, Quickstart 3 Rules
Score: Gaddoc Rail Station

Game two of Gaddoc Rail! I cleaned up the rules a bit (added some explicit questions for the GM, and cleaned up the Score questions). It worked well, very well.

What was the score? This question interests me because the players get a chance to do some world building. The get to decide what’s so illegal and valuable and dangerous that they would risk time in Ironhook (or worse to get it). So what was it? A door. A port really, that allowed anything to step through it and pass through electroplasmic lightning. Holy crap!

Owning such a thing could allow a mass scale invasion of any city by ghosts. It could also allow entry into buildings thought secured by lightning towers. For a small time criminal like Baszo Baz it would mean riches, for a Skovlander looking to be free of the Imperium it would mean a revolution!

IMG_4770A Slide…finally

So far every game I’ve run has had a cutter and a whisper. Then a hound or a lurk or another cutter. This is the first time I’ve seen a Slide though. It surprises me they aren’t more popular given that you’d think the Slide wold be…popular.

Christoph fought a bit of an uphill battle trying to be super sly with a whole crew that was more about breaking and entering and more breaking, but he got to do it. And in doing so actually kept a lot of people from getting hurt unnecessarily, which I thought was pretty awesome.

The got in, they got out, and “Darling” covered their tracks, but left a few heartstrings behind himself.

What Rocked

Lady Axe, spirit bane wrapped around her blade, scattered a half dozen ghosts, thought one of them made it’s way into her. First possession in one of my games!

The aforementioned suaveness of Darling, which created the necessary distraction and bought the necessary time for them to find the “Door”.

The two Skovlanders, one a patriot, the other a turncoat, both being on the outs with the consulate, and then making matters worse by giving the score to the Lampblacks and later getting drunk and yelling outside the doors of the embassy that they had done it!

This no-nothing two-bit henchman named Potch inadvertently became their despised nemesis. We had a flashback scene where our lurk was lurking about to overhear some information. The controlled situation went poorly and escalated to a interaction with Potch, the lieutenant who had the information they needed but was holding out to get something for himself. That controlled situation also went poorly and escalated to Lady Axe joining the flashback to get up in his grill. We ended the adventure with him being the drop and the Blades refusing to hand it over to him, demanding they hand it directly to Baz themselves. That night Lady Axe woke just in time to hear some Bluecoats stomping up her stairs from an anonymous tip. She was out the window just in time!

IMG_4771A lot of heat was generated from this job, and that heat meant the entanglement roll was rough. The woman Darling seduced, the conductor of the Argonaut was brought in and interrogated. Dropping a hefty three coin, they paid for her escape. The could have let her rot, but feelings. Also, maybe should finger them. Maybe.

The Hooded Fox was their lair, they had a room always reserved for them, because they took care of the tavern owner, Rigney.

What could have improved

I was super disappointed with “Possessed” as harm. The way the harm rules work, it is very easy for someone to heal three ticks (which is the most deadly harm there is) in downtime. In fact, if you’re willing to throw coin at it, it’s pretty much impossible to fail. This took the “Oh, now Lady Axe has someone riding shotgun in her noggin, I wonder how that’s going to work” question out of the equation. Smoke the whisper banished it.

In retrospect I’d slow way down and say “how?” As in “you want to get the ghost out, how will you do it?” And then once it’s out, what then? Prepared for elecroplasmic incineration? Also, I think instead of treating it as Harm, I’d just say it’s something that is now true. No dice penalties, but there is someone else pushing buttons up there. Instead of handling removing it as healing, I’d handle it as a long term project. That at least would buy a bit of time for it to be played out.

Actual Play – Into the Odd (6/27/2015)

into the oddGM: Harry Lee
Players: Joe England, Kurt Ellison, Nate Marcel, and Sean Nittner
System: Into the Odd

Into the Odd is a quirky OSR game by Chris McDowell. The intro line for the game:

You seek Arcana, strange devices hosting unnatural powers beyond technology. They range from the smallest ring to vast machines, with powers from petty to godlike. Beside these unnatural items that they may acquire, your characters remain grounded as mortals in constant danger.

Our game

Henry had run ITO once before and it was clear that Joe was a big fan of the system. We played a pretty casual game of professional dungeons crawlers in a sewer that collapsed and exposed even older tunnels below.

The “odd” that Harry created was good fun. Apes with translucent skin, blind crows, maniac old divers, other lost adventurers, and some machine artifice that transformed the apes into metal plated killing machines. All the while being explored by a 3rd Grade Custodian and fellow treasure seekers.


What Rocked

Harry’s Odd world was unsettling without being horrific, full of wonder and surprise.  Having other human interaction (the crazy old man, the lost adventurer) was great, and his monsters, and some kind of mad arcane lab were eerie and exciting.

Mechanics wise removing the roll to attack (all attacks hit) had a very interesting effect. It meant that fighting went on as expected (each side doing damage to the other) and that the standard d20 roll could be co-opted to serve other purposes. It became the all purpose “can you do or resist a thing” without being conflated with the ever present “can you hit a thing”.

This matters because in games with hit points it’s often a hard call for a GM when players try something outside of core mechanics to figure out a place for the effect. Example: Lets say the Orc has 10 hit points and your sword does 1d6. It’s going to take a couple hits to kill him. If a clever player however says “I know Orcs are sensitive to light, I cast a light spell right in his face and send him running.” In some games the GM may decide this impairs the orc but doesn’t defeat him, simply because the GM want’s to make sure that Orc was 10 hit points worth of challenge (i.e. it’s going to get a few whacks at you as well).

In a game where damage is automatic, that means anyone trying anything but attacking, is inherently taking a risk, and therefor the reward for unconventional ideas can justifiably be higher.

Also Nate’s character tent. Nate’s art is awesome!

What could have improved

I’ve seen this happen before. I don’t like it but I’m not sure how to prevent it. I like to play with status. Start low, go high for a bit, come back down. When you can shift around, status is great. When you get stuck in a rut, it’s not so much fun.

I started a character and established that she was a custodian, which, given that we were in the sewers endowed her with some authority and expertise. I got really in to naming things. My pistol was a Mark 4 Tunnel Duster, my cloak was standard issue custodial protective gear, etc. It as fun, but after a bit I decided to put a crack in her confident shell and have my character say she was out of her league. These things we were encountering weren’t in the Custodian’s Guide. What happened then was a permanent shift from a state of respect to one of mockery. And yes, the concept of a custodian with military precision and decorum was silly to begin with, but hey, who likes being teased.

I accepted the derision with cheer for a bit – I mean the intent had been to show myself fallible – but the pendulum didn’t swing back, and I felt like my credibility was shot for the rest of the game. Nobody was cruel, I could just tell I was no longer being taken seriously. Eventually we encountered an NPC that I opted to talk to, which had a certain reset effect in that I was interacting with the GM instead of the fellow players, and because the NPC had useful information, I was able to rejoin the conversation.

More generally speaking I think when there aren’t any other social structures to adhere to, a common behavior that emerges is teasing each other. It’s kind of reverse pecking order. The first person that get’s teased is knocked down a peg and from there shit just keeps sliding downhill, with folks sniping at each other. Like kids roughhousing in a pool the pattern becomes “I raise myself up by pushing you down.”

The rule of thumb I take from this is to play games with a social construct already in place. Something for people to play off of instead of playing off each other. “You’re all office workers who have been forced by your miserable boss to plan a social event” or “You’re all X-wing fighter pilots sent on a mission to find a missing droid.” In lieu of a starting situation, the play to find out games where the goal isn’t about accomplishing a thing, but instead is about following the characters around, do a great job of showing that everyone contributions are important. Of course you’re not going to laugh at Brace for missing that shot, because now the entire biker gang is coming after you and you’ve got to do something fast or your finger bones will be handlebar ornaments!

This can be pretty challenging to do in a dungeon delve, but there are games that do give focus. Torchbearer with goals. Dungeon World with bonds, etc.

Actual Play – Free Spacer (6/27/2015)

Free Spacer LogoGM: Christoph Sapinsky
Players: Morgan Ellis, Soren Ludwig, Kurt Ellison, Zac Bond, and Sean Nittner
System: Free Spacer (playtest)

Christoph got in touch with me before the con and asked if I was interested in checking out Free Spacer. I’m generally fond of playtesting new games and anything Sci-Fi perks my interest because I’ve found so few that I enjoy. The genre almost always requires ridiculous amounts of knowledge about the setting before you can really appreciate it. I love Star Trek, in part because I’ve watched hundreds of episodes.

Free Spacer endeavors to be hard sci-fi at it’s core, with room for the fantastic around it’s periphery. Really more Farscape or Firefly than Star Trek, but it could probably tackle most of the genre. The setting is vast. It is filled with eight dominant species, and many others on the periphery. There are multitudinous faction, enterprises, and interests. The technological advances like FTL travel and software imprinted matter feel both familiar (we’ve seen this before in other mediums) and distinct (they have a particular place in the world and have been created for a reason, or as a result of something in the setting’s history).

The action of the game felt like a slightly less seedy version of Shadowrun. You play independent operators, which might mean mercenaries or it might mean freelancers, depending on the group. You go on jobs, which are defined through a fairly in-depth negotiation mechanic, gain resources, build up your gear and ship, and presumably repeat. I don’t recall if the system has a faction status mechanic, but even if not it’s clear that you’ll be making friends and enemies along the way.

Our game was a bit slow starting, but we still accomplished one job, and set ourselves up to start a small enterprise of our own.


What Rocked

Player investment in playtests is sometimes hard to come by. Nobody is really sure how developed the game is, and if the game designer or GM is unknown to them, they may not participate fully. What I saw at GPNW was five players all giving it their all to engage with the setting and the mechanics. I think it is fantastic to get that quality of player in a game.

As a GM Christoph is quite liberal about handing out either advantage dice (for leverage we muster in the fiction) and threat dice (to represent additional challenge). I think that’s an important skill running any game, as it gives the players a sense of consequence for their actions. Build up a lot to make a payoff -> Get an advantage. Try something really challenging -> Face greater threat. Not all rolls are made equally.

The core mechanic of rolling d10 based on your skill level and d6s based on the threat (with the d10’s providing success, and the d6’s taking them away) gave room for a large flux. Like the d6-d6 mechanic of Feng Shui, this allowed the outcomes to have a predictable average, but still potentially vary widely. The dice “feel” was solid.

Christoph clearly has a love of hard sci-fi and went to a lot of work to think out the ramifications of technology and society. It came through a lot in his telling of the game and in the rules themselves.

The robust negotiation mechanic is novel and interesting. It reminds me of Wilderness of Mirrors, but with an in-fiction rationalization. The payers are essentially building their own adventure, but additional risks or challenges they add result in additional income. Additional perks or rewards they get take from that. In play our negotiation took a while, but I think with refinement that will be one of the definitively novel components of the game.

What could be improved

Complex settings are always a challenge to convey and Free Spacer is certainly a victim of this. Christoph blamed himself for not having the pitch down, but even when he’s got it refined (which I think he’s doing), it’s still a lot of setting to deliver in one go. My suggestion is to limit each pre-game pitch to conveying three major elements that are easy for people to grasp. Example: 1. We’ve got FTL travel, but only orbital communication. 2. Free Spacers pull jobs for various competing factions and organizations, often of dubious ethical nature. 3.  The relevant sophont (species) in this adventure are the Atoli, traditionally matriarchal, and the armadillo species (name is slipping my mind right now), who previously were in control of this mining area, but have recently been deposed by two Atoli who call themselves “The Princes”.

Related, I think focus is better than options when selling your game. Typically when I hear “this system can do anything” I turn away. I know, I know, the irony of working for Evil Hat who’s best selling game is Fate Core is not missed on me. Just the same, I’d like to see more focus as I feel like Free Spacer is currently trying to cover all walks of the Sci Fi genre. I’d like to see a solid setting pitch like: “In the wake of the Exploration Wars, the CMA has taken control of the Orion quadrant, but it’s grip is tenuous at best. You’ve, the Free Spacers have, have been hired to tackle the jobs the CMA can’t on it’s own, often resolving disputes with local provinces that remember a time when then bent knee to no one.”  That’s probably not the right pitch, but the point is to focus quickly on the role of the PCs and the actions they will be taking in the game, as well as paint a broad stroke over the threats that loom.

Mechanically there are some oddities that I might not have understood correctly, but seemed like they needed some revision or clearer presentation. For example some skills are your specialty skill (marked with an *), on those you get an advantage die. I couldn’t tell any distinction between an advantage die and an normal die, so the ratings of 3* and 4. They both meant you rolled four dice. Similarly their was a trouble skill that you got one less die on. I couldn’t see any reason not to just lower the rating by one.  The method of building dice pools, as displayed on the sheet, felt arbitrary. For some rolls you just just rolled your skill, for others you added in dice from traits, social connections, or technology. In some cases points from technology had to first be spent for certain effects, and then any left over could be used for dice. This all feels like it can be worked out with a combination of streamlining and presentation.

I wish Christoph the best in continuing to develop this game. It’s very clear a lot of love has gone into it.