Actual Play – Yesterday’s Tomorrow Playtest One (2/10/15)

Yesterday's TomorrowMC: Dylan Nix
Players: Lindsay Nix, Noam Rosen, Karen Twelves, and Sean Nittner
System: Yesterday’s Tomorrow

Dylan has started up a playtest group to help playtest a multitude of games in development:

I’m excited about some of those as well as supporting local developers so I got on the list! (Note: If you’re interested in playtesting these games in the future, shoot me a like and I’ll put you in touch with Dylan).

Welcome to the World of Tomorrow

“The Future is Now,” eh? Several millennia ago, they were claiming the future had come. They had no idea what was in store for them. Now we’ve got it all — a “post-scarcity” society. No more hungry, no more poor, no more homeless. Everyone has a seat at the table.
Everyone, that is, except you. Unceremoniously unfrozen from your cryogenic state, you found yourself outside the glorious system. You’re not even human, are you? Maybe you were back in your home time, when we still lived on that blue marble we cracked and crushed to dust. But now? Evolution has rendered you uncategorized, obsolete, outdated, and unrecognizable.
What do you do when the whole universe fails to acknowledge your humanity, when your humanity is all you have left?

Welcome to Yesterday’s Tomorrow. We’ll walk you through the process of setting up your take on the game and character creation.

Thoughts on the Game

What really worked

Framing character creation to make us all feel marginalized. Linsay’s character went from being part of the mainstream to suddenly being outside of it, and her reaction of angry depicted someone having that shocked moment of realization “this is how bad it really is? this isn’t right!”.  My character was a medical test subject, had presumably saved hundreds or even thousands of lives, but was now irrelevant to society and given only a perfunctory thanks before being cast on out on her own.

Making us fight among the scraps. The game is designed that at start we only have one of the following: health, food, shelter, or transportation. Those are not immutable however. We could lose what we have, it is challenging to get more. Quickly we started ranking these attributes. Sharon’s stolen subway pass was not, in general, as prized as Lucy’s utility closet that she was allows to stay in by the hotel management.

Initial steps of character creation. Selecting why we were frozen, what our reaction to waking up in this alien world is like, and what we miss from the old world was great. The questions were all very easy to answer and helped form my understanding of our characters quickly.

What can be improved

Setting establishment. Our future was vaguely defined during character creation. We knew there was constant daylight and that people wore masks outside to shield them from it. But it was so far in the future (I think we figure out like 5000 years) that we kept not knowing what to expect. Our future ended up looking a little like Blade Runner, Demolition Man, and Minority Report mashed together. Not a bad setting, but hard to imagine in my minds eye. I think the setting needs some more touchstones (what does it have/what doesn’t it have) and a few dials to turn (tone, technology, society).

Mechanical aspects of character creation. The mechanical choices we had weren’t obvious either in how they flowed from our character choices or in what they would allow us to do in the game. We talked about this a fair bit during the playtest itself and pitched a few ideas for how to make this process more intuitive.

Disparity. The setting we depicted was a bleak, joyless world. Our characters certainly felt low on the totem pole, but we didn’t really see other people as particularly high. Privilege (and lack there of) is a central tenant of the game and it needs to be reflected strongly in play. Like an Apocalypse World front, I want to see privilege as the primary scarcity in the setting.  This was also discussed at length at the end of the session.