[Remember Tomorrow] How does it play, anything to watch out for?

edited August 2010 in Story Games
I picked up Remember Tomorrow recently, after reading the actual play reports Gregor posted. I love the idea, the game reads well, it all seems slick, and I'll get the opportunity to run it (with luck) when I meet up with some gaming mates I haven't seen in at least a year.

However, it'll be my first time with a GM-less game, and I think for the other players also. Reading through the rules, it seems like there could be a pretty steep learning curve imparting all the rules necessary for each player to successfully act as Controller when it's their turn.

So, for those who've had the opportunity to try it out:

- Any tips for a first time game? Pitfalls to watch out for?
- Any transition in thinking needed to move from traditional RPG structure to GM less?
- Does it deliver in the first session or (like In a Wicked Age or 3:16) does it need a few sessions to really shine?
- Is it very immersive, or is the GM-less feel more gamey (if that makes sense)?
- How do you keep the potential jarring elements under control when it's a revolving GM role?

And most importantly, any cool stories from your games?


  • Check this thread out, for sure - http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=12209&page=1#Item_41

    Not too much transition in thinking, due to the fact that everyone gets their "own" PC from scene to scene. If you don't want that PC anymore, you can ditch him or her and grab another one. Plus, there's shared scene framing, etc. So you just take turns being the GM. Easy to get rid of the GM.

    It delivers in the first session, absolutely.

    Can you give me a better idea about what you're looking at when you say "potential jarring elements"?
  • Hey, it would be cool if people other than me could jump in and share some stuff for Adrian, so I'll restrict myself to this post. A handful of people played it at GenCon and they can feedback what didn't work for them, and how they got around that.

    I think there is a learning curve and a shift in perception needed. I hope sincerely that people find it in play and that reading the book again after playing a session is helpful in getting you there. I personally don't feel that everyone will get it on the first time out. I think it's very "top down" when playing. You're kind of authoring your characters and Factions and there are some choices and options that come up in play once you start turning the gears. So, what do I see are the things to watch out for?

    (1) Keep you narration short to begin with. Err on the side of being short in your description rather than hitting the rest of the table with long monologues. On Introductions really don't do much more than the examples of play when you're finding your feet. So, frame them into some short fiction and roll the dice. Pick some outcomes and put that into the fiction.

    (2) Have a mixture of Deals, Face-Offs using Factions and Face-Offs using PCs on the first turn. Just to see what these scenes are like (and how they are different). Deliberately try them out at first.

    (3) On Deals promise to do something for a Faction that works against another PC. It might be direct (maybe that's best at first) or maybe indirect (promise to fuck with something to do with their Goal).

    (4) On Face-Offs have an idea in your head of what you want to give the target PC as your Scene Goal. Think of it as a little hammer that you want to bash the PC on the head with. If you aren't reaching it quickly just call it a Colour Scene. If it seems open to dropping the hammer then don't fuck about. Drop the hammer and call for a roll.

    (5) Look around the table at the other stories. On your turn as Controller think of it as your turn to shine the spotlight on someone else rather than "your turn to play". Everyone else's turn as Controller is potentially your turn to play your PC.

    (6) Do what makes sense in the fiction and follow the rules.

    And general first play advice holds true too. Be open and honest about what your preferences are, speak up if something isn't working for you. Hold ideas lightly and don't put a lot of pressure on yourself. Just play.

    From a very short game of it at the Embassy Suites on Sunday at GenCon I'd say that a few players "got it" really quickly. Maybe one of them could drop in?
  • I facilitated a game at Gen Con (I didn't play, but I instructed the players on the rules and looked stuff up). What I took away from that:

    - The book is really procedurally clear. Reading and playing straight through character creation and how to do introduction scenes works well.
    - What you did as Controller in Face-Off scenes was a little opaque to me from the text, but this is what a player who'd played once already said, and it made total sense to me: When you're Controller and you want a Face-Off scene, first choose which character you are aiming at (other than your own, of course), and then choose the character/faction that you want to aim at that character (which could be your held character. This got me out of the "what-do-I-do-with-my-guy" mindset real quick.
    - There is a learning curve, but it's not too steep. It could very well be a game where you play through a couple rounds of different kinds of scenes in order to get a feel for the game, then say "hey guys, let's re-start with new characters now that we got it."
    - It's a little more on the "zoomed-out" narrate-about-your-guy end than the deep character immersion end, I think. It benefits from really quick, choppy, to-the-point scenes.

    Other than that, all I can say is that it's way slick and I can't wait to play it again!
  • I've played it both with story gamers and with trad gamers interested in trying something new. It starts delivering as soon as the players grasp how it works and engage with it.

    The really big attitude shift that can make or break the game? When it's your turn, you are not playing your character. You are acting as GM for another player. If you want a scene for your character, there are two ways to get it: one, make your character interesting; two, ask for a scene explicitly. Players who aren't accustomed to GMless gaming seem to almost automatically think, "my turn, my character," and that's not how RT works.

    Also, the held characters are the protagonists. Every scene must involve one of them. If one of your players is a traditional GM, you are likely to get some amazing worldbuilding as he or she ties all the factions together -- but none of it will matter unless it engages one of the held characters. Encourage that. Also, encourage them to go for the heart.

    (AP example: at a local trad con, I offered a game of RT. Four players who'd never seen it, most of them from a trad background, possibly with a little story game experience. I rolled "lust" as my motivation, and inspiration hit: a revival of Bishop, the character I played at GPNW, a minimally corrupt cop. Only this time, his goal was not to become a kept man and quit the police force, but to get a divorce. One of the other players was obviously an experienced trad GM, because he was amazing at worldbuilding, but he was not so good at framing a scene or driving to a conflict. So on one turn, he started spinning this tale about how a VP for a particular corporation was tied to the mob, and so they killed him, and he was Bishop's soon-to-be-ex-wife's boyfriend -- and he had spun a pretty impressive relationship map, but it was all NPCs, and while it was good, it had no shape to it. So I started nudging, and I said, "So which player character are you targeting?" And he thought for a minute, and said, "Bishop." And I said, "Okay, what's happening to Bishop?" And he thought for a while, and said, "His wife knocks on his door. She's been shaken up by the death of her boyfriend, and she wants Bishop to take her back." And it was amazing -- suddenly all the worldbuilding seemed like the Death Star laser firing up, and here it was focused on Tattoine Bishop.)

    As far as the potential jarring elements - I've never seen anything that jarring. At the GPNW game, it was interesting, because it seemed pretty clear that two of the protagonists were in something darkly bureaucratic and dysfunctional, like a Neal Stephenson book, and two of the protagonists were in something glittering and violent, more like Gibson or Sterling. But it worked well -- I think mainly because the protagonists don't have pressure to interact with each other, so having four intertwined but basically separate stories can work really well. And if that happens, you can always say that the jarring difference between MegaCorp as it interacts with Bishop and MegaCorp as it interacts with Case are just different perceptions (subjectively) or different departments (objectively).

    There are two pitfalls I'd warn against.

    The first is that if you start out as the book describes -- each create a protagonist, and then have an introduction scene, and then think about possible factions to oppose them -- well, if your players are anything like the ones at games I've facilitated, the initial characters can quite easily lead to 25 or 30 good ideas for factions. There's a huge temptation to create all of them as factions, and run introduction scenes for them. This doesn't work well for a one-shot: it's too diluted mechanically and too complicated fictionally. The sweet spot for one-shots seems to be between two and three factions per held character.

    Also, I recommend taking turns in strict order. At JiffyCon, some of the players thought faster than others, and I didn't see a problem with taking turns out of order. That turns out to have been a mistake: what I should have done is say, "Follow your gut instinct, and poke a character you think is interesting with some conflict." There was also one player who tried to be a protagonist on her turn rather than an antagonist, and that combination was difficult. (I didn't put my finger on the "GM on your turn" advice until after that con, as a result of that game.) One of the advantages of RT is that you're *guaranteed* screen time on your turn - it just isn't as your character, but as a faction. I *think* I managed to say "You haven't had a scene as Controller in a while - you want one?" often enough, but I should have just said, "No, we should go in turns, it makes the game run more smoothly."
  • I've only played it twice now with two different groups (I'm hoping for a second session on the first group this weekend though). I like the game and while it works and is fun the first session, I can see this glimmer of "it will get really cool" over the horizon.

    I agree with what the others here have said and my experiences have been similar. One pitfall I encountered was one my players was a traditional GM who hadn't played much Story Games (just one run of Zombie Cinema). He had a tendency to do a lot of narrating and skimp on the interacting with the rest of us. I don't know if that just fit his style for what he wanted to do in the game or if he was holding onto the reigns too tight during his turns. Either way, it was kind of disjointed to all interact on the other players' turns and then he'd mostly go into narrator/boxed text mode on his.

    Not sure what the way around or out of that is other than to talk to him about it directly, which I didn't have a chance to do. Mostly I chalked it up to play style and play choices, but I'm not sure. It definitely seems a valid approach to most scene types in Remember Tomorrow, so maybe I'm just biased towards a style of assigning NPCs to your friends and seeing where it all goes. I actually would like to keep playing with him in this style to see how it plays out, but I don't think we're going to have a chance to get that group back together.
  • scottdunphy: The narrator/boxed text can be really cool, but it has to engage the other characters somehow. I think if he's starting the scene with a conflict in mind, or at least with a targeted character and a faction in mind, and is just being prolix about it, that's in the spirit of the rules; if play stops while he tells you about a story about three factions and how they relate to each other while meandering towards a possible conflict when someone speaks up, it's probably a valid approach to the game, but it's not really in the spirit of the rules, and more importantly it's likely to be not terribly interesting to anyone at the table but him (especially if it doesn't engage any characters) and it's likely to suck the energy out of the game while the other players wait for the great lump of exposition to be over.

    At more traditional cons, I've found that it helps a great deal to take the authority that The Guy Running The Slot has and to use it to make the game better: because I'm in the role traditionally occupied by The GM, even though the system is GMless (or GMfull), it seems to go over acceptably well if I say things like "So what character are you targeting?" or "What's the conflict you're aiming at?"
  • I talked to Gregor (yo!) above, and was getting some ideas about play, the background of the game, etc.

    One of the cool lessons from the game, one that S-G folks might have to be wary of:

    If the conflict isn't there, then it's a color/exposition scene. Stuff can happen, the world and characters become a little more real, the setting that much more interesting.

    If you go into our cutthroat one-shot PTA mode and chase a conflict into every scene "STOP! Where's the conflict here? (then re-edit the scene awkwardly to inject one)", then the game won't work as well.

    It needs time to cook in play, and that simmering is "color/exposition scenes".

    I bought three copies: Originally a friend asked for one, but when I started reading it I realized that I needed a copy, and picked up a copy for another friend because I knew it would be his bag. We'll see about playing within the next month or so.

  • Thanks, this stuff is perfect. I may put together a facilitator tip sheet I can use in play, just to avoid any snags first time out. While the guys I intend to play this with are all open minded about new games, if something doesn't go well first time it can be really hard to get them to try it again with any enthusiasm, so a functional first game with some expectation management at the outset is my goal.

    On narrator/boxed text comments, I'd figured that the Controller is encouraged to get the other players to play the NPCs in Intro and Deal scenes to keep things interactive. The Controller retains sign off on what occurs, but otherwise it's all roleplayed out in most cases - I'm guessing this is largely a matter of taste, but I find one-player monologues need to be real short if the other players are to pay attention for any length of time.

    Also, I can see the first couple of rounds feeling like each player playing by themselves if there's no one else speaking in the intial faction/PC intro rounds.

    @skinnyghost: By jarring elements I mean the situation where one set off players turns up expecting William Gibson and another knows little about the genre and start narrating in all kinds off stuff that ends up a kind of kitchen-sink setting that jars with those expecting Gibson from the game. Sounds like this hasn't been much of an issue in people's games though.
  • Quick tip: Use the reference sheet at the back of the book. Combined with the character/faction sheets (which explain a lot about character/faction creation), the reference sheet is a great one-page procedural breakdown of how the game works. You can always flip back to a specific section if you need more detail.
  • I’ve been thinking a bit more, always a dangerous time.

    One area which still isn’t clear to me is how rigid are the rules on scene types? There’s a few situations that I’m not sure how best to handle using the three scene options of Introductions, Deal and Face Off Scenes.

    Deal scenes:
    1) Can a deal be brokered between two PCs using a Deal scene? Or is it considered that only Factions are powerful enough to offer deals worth making?

    2) If not allowed, if two PCs want to ally, how does this get established in the fiction? Perhaps as a by-product of a Face Off? A Colour scene?

    3) Can more than one Faction or PCs (as well as the held PC) participate in a Deal scene? E.g. two Factions willing to make a combined deal with the PC (or PCs) against a third ‘big bad’ Faction?

    4) Can other PCs be present in the scene even though the deal doesn’t involve them? If so, do they have any mechanical influence on the outcome, or is it just that all their actions/narration are basically colour and subject to the Controller’s veto?

    Face Off scenes:
    1) I understand a Faction can go up against more than one PC in a scene, but can more than one Faction be involved in the Face Off as long as the target remains a held PC or PCs?

    For example, the Crocus Brood wants to intimidate a held PC, but along the way their method is to ride around Taff Town smashing up the place, demonstrating to the PC that he’s not safe there – does this mean the Taff Town faction is also in the Face Off?

    And a more general Scene question: say some players decide it would be cool if a held PC and another PC get together romantically. If their Goals are opposed I see this working fine as a Face Off scene, where the target PC risks losing a ticked ‘Willing’ box or gets the NCon ‘Confused’ to represent the complications arising from the encounter.

    But what if their Goals aren’t really opposed? I guess this is a variation of my question about PC to PC Deal scenes. Or is the whole thing best handled as a Colour scene from the outset?

    Anyone have any situations arise where what they wanted to happen in the fiction was difficult to slot into one of the three (four including Colour scenes) scene options?
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