[Remember Tomorrow] Not-so-Lucky Lou

edited August 2010 in Actual Play
Yesterday I played a two-player game of Remember Tomorrow with my wife. It was her first time trying a Storygame or RPG and my first time with a GM-less game. Overall, I think it went very well.

Prep took longer than I expected, I think largely due to our unfamiliarity with the rules. I think on a second or third game it would go much more quickly. We made partial use of the random tables – they’re a great idea for a game like Remember Tomorrow where you need to come up with ideas very quickly. We started with a brief discussion on the setting, and settled on a strong Bladerunner and Strange Days influence, with flying cars, a Gibson-esque Orbital resort community and artificial ‘replicants’. We decided on a few setting keywords: Well used, Suddenly violent and Rebellion which were used to varying degree throughout the game.

Held characters were:

Bancroft Taylor (held by my wife), a fixer for a drug-dealing gang forced into the job by the gang’s leader ‘Lucky Lou’. His girlfriend and he had fallen foul of Lou years ago, he forcing Bancroft to work for him (‘Coerced’ NCon) and taking his girlfriend as his own. She eventually ended up dying of a drug overdose after a sordid and short life, giving Bancroft the Goal of killing Lou and taking over leadership of the gang. Motivation was Revenge, and his PCon was ‘Connected’ to Eddie the Hat, an underworld arms dealer. High Ready and Willing, lowish Able (2).

Leon Kovac (held by me) an elderly technician with an artificial Datsun heart, now failing (NCon ‘Dying’). He had worked for an AI producing replicants as a designer and technician. His Goal (Motivattion: Survival) was to blackmail Ozark 360 (the AI) into giving him a new artificial heart, something very expensive and otherwise unobtainable. He had ‘Prepared’ as a PCon, representing dirt held on Ozark in the form of a chip inserted into Leon’s skull. An old man, he was fairly Ready, very Willing and not at all Able. He has a Pan Am ticket to Guatemala as an escape route.

(Cross posted at rpg.net)

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  • Scenes:

    Intro: Kovac getting out of a flying taxi in Croydon, now a modern travel hub, and going into a run down coffin hotel. He opened a locker and retrieved a carefully-prepared stash, ending up more Able (from an injection reviving his ailing body) and ‘Financed’ with untraceable small-denomination credit chips.

    Intro: Bancroft overhearing a heated conversation at the Cutter’s HQ between Lucky Lou and some unknown backers. He uses his boosted hearing to overhear that they want the money Lou owes them in 24 hours, or there will be trouble. Bancroft ends up more Ready, ‘Prepared’ and more Able.

    Then we rolled up Factions:
    The Cutters: a drug-dealing gang motivated by Greed seeking to break into the upscale-drugs market. Lucky Lou is an NPC. They are Hunted (NCon) by the authorities and are Armed (PCon) with Pontiac chainsaws their signature weapon. We later established they dressed like retro Teddy Boys with big hair.

    Ozark 360: An AI based in a luxury orbital resort, motivated by Respect and trying to insert replicants into positions of influence across the globe as part of a grand plan. Ozark is Convinced (PCon) that it is the right, logical thing to do, but is frequently Confused (NCon) by humanity.

    Intro: Zoom into space, flash past a rotating orbital satellite filled with the uber rich cavorting in a green paradise of shopping, swimming and all the rest. At one end Ozark exists in Hal-like inscrutability, serviced by an army of technicians. Ozark sends a message to Raul Shickend, an NPC replicant and asks how negotiations with the UN Ambassador to the Orbitals are progressing. Raul is positive, and the UN Ambassador is paid off. Ozark gains the PCon ‘Connected’ to the UN Ambassador.

    Intro:
    The Cutters are moving into a less-than impressive London industrial park located in Dulwich. Lou and the rest of the gang are really excited though, gaining the PCon Enthused as morale rises. Lou explains that this is the first step to getting legit and accessing a better class of clientele for the gang.

    Since we were playing a 2-player game, we each generated a second PC to be pooled now. I generated Reza Tycho, a vice cop seeking Power through a big case that will boost his rep in the force. He is very Able, with dermal armour, but only moderately Ready and Willing. He is Armed (PCon) with a Gloster revolver and has an undercover Orange Micro saloon aircar. He is Humiliated (NCon) by a string of incompetent cases and is the butt of jokes in the force.

    Chantelle Dubois
    is Reza’s wife and her Goal (Respect) is to escape her abusive relationship with him (rolled on the handy Complications table). She’s doing this by taking a new office job in Dulwich, Convinced (PCon) this is the route to escape but nevertheless Impaired (NCon) with low self-esteem. Her new boss Lou seems very nice, although his friends are rowdy...

    Faceoff: Bancroft is in the Tube at midnight (randomly rolled location), waiting to meet one of his dealers down the chain. A homeless man is nearby. Leo the Limp (has a dodgy cybernetic leg) clanks round the corner, says he needs Bancroft to meet a guy to discuss a really big sale. Bancroft agrees, Leo dodgily limps off, then starts running up the escalator. The homeless man starts staggering over looking for change, then is revealed as Tycho and tries to handcuff Bancroft. Bancroft barely escapes, getting an Able tick towards his Goal. Tycho swears the net is closing on the Cutters and that Lucky Lou’s time is short. Bancroft passes an apprehended Leo the limp outside, arrested even though he had been wearing a wire for the cops.

    Faceoff:
    The Cutters corner Kovac in Croydon, seeing him as an easy mark. They threaten him for money and we end up with joint winners – Kovac is left Destitute, but the Cutters believe him when he says he knows a better place where they can get some Euros (since clearly, the UK uses the euro in the future). Kovac ends up Supported and the Cutters Financed by Kovac’s credit chips. We also rolled a Cross for the Cutters, so they’re involved in the next scene.

    Intro:
    for the Marcia Stanton Talent Agency, a front company that supplies replicants to media types for all sorts of savoury, and not so savoury, uses. At the same time, the replicants, supplied by Ozark 360, record everything they see, hear and experience. The Knowledge-seeking Agency uses the info to blackmail or otherwise spread its influence throughout London society. The cost is that they are now all Burned Out (NCon) from the sordid life and Connected (PCon) to a host of wealthy clients.

    The scene starts at the Agency where NPC Danston Milner is putting the squeeze on a middle-aged client who keeps hiring specially built replicas of her husband so she can murder them in a variety of ways (smacking him in the head with a frying pan in the example Milner plays for the ‘clent’. Milner presents her with an extortionate bill which she has no choice but to pay, getting the Faction ‘Financed’. Outside, a ruckus develops and CCTV shows the Cutters and Kovac outside, tussling with security and being rowdy in the VIP section of the Agency.

    Face Off: Kovac and the Marcia Stanton Agency. He demands to speak to Marcia, and is eventually shown to see Danston Milner as the teddy boy like Cutters run rampant through the Agency. He offers to call them off if Danston hears him out. Kovac downloads recordings proving Ozark is using info collected by the Agency for his own purposes and that the AI, their replicant supplier, is filling the Talent Agency with his/its spies. He says he’ll give info to identify the spies in exchange for them contacting Ozark and cancelling future orders in his name – showing Ozark that Kovac is to be taken seriously (Scene Goal is to tick a Goal box) and has information to hurt the AI. Marcia Stanton’s Goal was to land a Hunted NCon onto Kovacs as Ozark just decides Kovac is better killed rather than negotiated with. Kovac wins, gets a Goal tick and loses his Destitute NCon (the Controller removed it to reduce my margin of success by one) as he secures some money from the Agency in exchange for the deal.

    Face Off:
    Bancroft gets a vidphone call from Raoul, a heavily-drugged up and over the moon Cutter. He tells Bancroft he should meet them as they’ve come into some euro – but don’t tell Lou, or he’ll take too much of a cut. Bancroft says he’ll meet, then walks into Lou’s office and tries to seed doubt about the rest of the gang’s loyalty to him. We roll, with scene goals being Lou wants Bancroft to take an SMG and sort out the problem with Raoul, proving his loyalty and getting Lou all the money – which he desperately needs to pay off the unknown backers. Bancroft wants to avoid Lou’s coercion but drive a wedge between Lou and the rest of the Cutters. Bancroft succeeds, getting a Goal tick and the Armed PCon as Lou hands him an ERMA submachinegun to sort Raoul out.

    Deal:
    Bancroft meets Raoul and the partying Cutters, spotting Kovac in the background. He makes a deal with Raoul and the others that they’d be stronger without Lou as leader, explaining Lou’s gone crazy and ordered Bancroft to kill Lou. Bancroft gets the Supported PCon and the Cutters increase their Influence, agreeing to take Lou out.

    Face Off: Reza Tycho pulls up alongside Bancroft intent on removing a Goal tick, as he’s now 2 out of 3. He points his revolver at Bancroft and tells him to get into the aircar. Bancroft complies and Tycho explains if he doesn’t want to go downtown now under arrest with a planted drug bust, he’d better defuse the gang civil war brewing in the Cutters. It’s making Tycho look bad, since this is his patch, tuning into news footage of rioting Cutters outside their new offices in Dulwich. Bancroft counters, saying it’d be a coup for Tycho to let Lou go as Bancroft would owe him. We go to the dice and Bancroft wins again, getting another Goal tick as Tycho agrees to pull the police out of the area to isolate Lucky Lou and let the Cutters take him out.

    Goal scene
    : we ended after this, with Bancroft strolling through the wrecked offices to stand over the confused , bleeding and dying Lou and tell him why he’s ended up there. Bancroft tells Lou he’s ‘not so lucky anymore’ and puts a bullet through his head before walking away to take charge of the Cutters.
  • Thoughts on the game

    Quite a lot here, be warned I rattle on a bit.

    We only encountered one moment where what made sense to us wasn’t explicitly supported by the rules. When the Cutters cornered Kovac and demanded money from him, the rules state that as a scene goal they can only give him an NCon or remove a goal tick. They wanted to add the NCon ‘Destitute’ since he’d be robbed of all his cash – but he currently had the PCon ‘Financed’, which was pretty counter-intuitive to leave him both ‘Destitute’ but still ‘Financed’ after being robbed (we’d established that the ‘Finance’ was carried on him in person in the form of non-traceable credit chips).

    We ended up saying that if the Cutters won they’d remove ‘Financed’, unless that was already gone, in which case they’d make Kovac ‘Destitute’. They ended up winning, but not until Kovac had offered them his money and used his ‘Financed’ PCon for a free success. The result was Kovac ‘Destitute’ as they took his offered money and shook more out of him forcibly, which worked okay and made sense in the fiction.

    The creative strain of the game is quite high, especially when there’s only two players. Surprisingly, I think the time out you will get as a player in a three or four person game would be welcome, as it gives you a chance to collect an idea together for when you’re in the Controller seat. We fumbled the scenes a bit, but more due to unfamiliarity with the game than anything else.

    Most of these were pretty strongly flagged in the text, especially the shift between thinking as a player to a Controller – I think that Deal scenes involve the Controller’s held PC make the role of Controllers in Face Offs (i.e. antagonistic to another’s held PC but not (principally) advancing the goals of their own held PC) a little murkier conceptually.

    We ended up agreeing that if my wife ran a Scene where my held PC Faced Off against a Faction, I’d do the same for her next round, which seemed a little... convenient or something, like we were bending the rules to get what we wanted. However, I think this is really down to the two player dynamic – such cosy agreements won’t wash if a third or fourth player is left out.

    We found making the setting feel cyberpunk not that easy – surface dressing like flying cars, dermal armour, artificial people and so on didn’t really feel futuristic the way it came across. When I next play I’d like to introduce some techniques to reinforce the colour.

    In a Wicked Age has a rule that everything described must include something colouring the setting (e.g. ‘a woman dressed as a man’ becomes ‘a woman scandalously dressed as a man’, implying a cultural or moral value in the setting), which could help. Another idea might be to get players to come up with a setting location at the same time they’re creating PCs, or maybe just expanding the random scene location table to include more exotic locations (e.g. an orbital resort for the filthy rich).

    For a real hand-holding experience, I reckon I could dust of the board from Android and use that as the setting – when choosing a scene, the Controller picks a location from the board, and the characters in Android are a nice inspiration for how people look. Could be cool when a Cross is rolled too, and give a tangible sense of where every PC is at any one time, Faction HQs, etc.

    Random tables were cool! We made a lot of use of the brand names, character names, complications, etc. tables throughout. If you plan to play a lot of games, maybe drawing up an expanded table of brand names would be cool – in one session we used a fair number of these, and I guess they could get stale. Of course, players are free to invent their own on the fly.

    My wife suggested printing the tables on index cards – a really good idea, since this would speed up flicking through the rules to find the scene location table, or motivation table or whatever. The summary table at the end is cool, but doesn’t have everything in it.

    All in all, a really fun game. I found it interesting compared to the usual, more traditionally-structured RPGs I usually play, and although it generally feels more authorial than actorly, within scenes there’s lots of scope for in-character dialogue and back and forth.

    I would definitely warn first-timers that the first session might be a bit bumpy as people find their way through the rules, get used to the scene types and options and so on. Especially in terms of building up a stock of characters, factions and setting elements, I think the game would really reward repeat, multi-episode play.
  • Hey thanks for the AP Adrian.
    Posted By: Adrian PWe only encountered one moment where what made sense to us wasn’t explicitly supported by the rules. When the Cutters cornered Kovac and demanded money from him, the rules state that as a scene goal they can only give him an NCon or remove a goal tick. They wanted to add the NCon ‘Destitute’ since he’d be robbed of all his cash – but he currently had the PCon ‘Financed’, which was pretty counter-intuitive to leave him both ‘Destitute’ but still ‘Financed’ after being robbed (we’d established that the ‘Finance’ was carried on him in person in the form of non-traceable credit chips).
    Ha! That's actually what happens to Ben Hope in the example in the book. Ben gets Financed from a Lottery Ticket before the Crocus Brood smash in his apartment and leave him Destitute. That works for me as I don't see Destitute as directly opposed to Financed -- they are closely related but not opposite. Like Ben's out of a home, short of cash RIGHT NOW, but he still has access to some money through his "Financed" (though he has to go get it). Maybe he would use up his Financed on a future scene to get a new apartment or pay for revenge on the Brood.

    Maybe what the Cutters were really trying to do in your fiction is to make him un-Financed and maybe it was worth drifting to say "sure, your Scene Goal is to remove Financed". But the reason I made Scene Goals only able to give an NCon or remove a Goal tick, and not take away PCons is so that in 0 Outcome victories (where an NCon of your own has whittled down your Margin to 0) you'd just get your Scene Goal. And I wanted that narrow Victory to be more about thwarting a Goal or heaping on an NCon than taking away a previously established PCon. To remove a PCon I wanted it to be from a clear Margin of victory, y'know? (And you also you don't end up with Scene Goals of removing PCons that the target player has subsequently burned off anyway for 1 success pre-roll.)

    Though, having said all that it made sense in your fiction when Kovac burned his Financed in an attempt to buy them off, and then ended up getting made Destitute on top of it.

    I definitely think that the first session of RT will be much bumpier than (say) 3:16. But I hope that after giving it a run through and re-reading the book players will see opportunities for more subtle play (like giving Losers PCons in complicated conflicts and throwing PCs into the pool rather than hold on to them as a way of _protecting_ them).

    Oh, and I get a real kick out of the names you used since they resonate with the ones we used in a game here in Edinburgh a while ago.
  • Posted By: Gregor HuttonMaybe what the Cutters were really trying to do in your fiction is to make him un-Financed and maybe it was worth drifting to say "sure, your Scene Goal is to remove Financed". But the reason I made Scene Goals only able to give an NCon or remove a Goal tick, and not take away PCons is so that in 0 Outcome victories (where an NCon of your own has whittled down your Margin to 0) you'd just get your Scene Goal. And I wanted that narrow Victory to be more about thwarting a Goal or heaping on an NCon than taking away a previously established PCon. To remove a PCon I wanted it to be from a clear Margin of victory, y'know? (And you also you don't end up with Scene Goals of removing PCons that the target player has subsequently burned off anyway for 1 success pre-roll.)

    Though, having said all that it made sense in your fiction when Kovac burned his Financed in an attempt to buy them off, and then ended up getting made Destitute on top of it.
    Yeah, that does make sense - and in fact, having the specific requirement to pick only a NCon or removing a Goal tick worked really well most of the time, as there was a tendency to try and progress a Faction or PC's own goal rather than stymie the target PC's. This was really a fringe case, where we'd already established in the fiction Kovac was walking around with a lot of cash-equivalent credit chips, so it all seemed pretty intuitive.

    Even spending the PCon during the conflict wasn't a no-brainer, as I could have gambled on the Cutters losing the conflict and kept the Financed, so it all hung together well.
    I definitely think that the first session of RT will be much bumpier than (say) 3:16. But I hope that after giving it a run through and re-reading the book players will see opportunities for more subtle play (like giving Losers PCons in complicated conflicts and throwing PCs into the pool rather than hold on to them as a way of _protecting_ them).

    Oh, and I get a real kick out of the names you used since they resonate with the ones we used in a game here in Edinburgh a while ago.
    Yeah, a lot of the more subtle conflict outcomes were touched upon, as was swapping out our held PCs, but we were both pretty happy focussing on our initial characters this time through. What I found especially cool was my wife went for some pretty dark choices with Bancroft's backstory involving Lou and his girlfriend. I was soft-peddling things a bit, especially around the illicit world of replicants, but it was pretty clear I didn't need to.

    It was pretty strongly Bancroft's story, but I'm happy Kovac made some progress towards his goal. I think if we'd wanted to we could have had a more intertwined game just by picking motivations and goals for our held PCs that were more closely overlapping or mutually opposed, but it worked fine as-is.

    The naming is pretty funny - my wife is currently reading The Long Firm and I can see the influence in the character names (espcially Eddie the Hat) and the teddy boy looks of the Cutters. It fitted though, in a retro future vibe similar to Bladerunner's look.

    It's a cool game, thanks for writing it!
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