[Shock:] AP Report: Private Individuals in a Public Age

edited September 2010 in Actual Play
Yesterday afternoon I played my first game of Shock: with a few friends. This is a broad AP; I'll show you our Shock: Grid, our Praxis scales, the characters, and give a brief recap of what happened and follow it all up with my thoughts on the game.

World Creation

Shock: Ubiquitous Information
Issues: Privacy, Gambling, Revolution

Praxis Scales: Mainstream over Subversion, Force over Face

Some Minutiae: Recently Ubiquitous, Nothing Physical in Casinos, Pitbosses are Drugged-up Surgically Modified Maniacs, We Are Anon (No Information Age IDs amongst the Revolution), The Pyramid Casino, Officer Watkins, The Agency (Semi-private police/detective force), Information Vigilantes ("I am the night."), Combination of External (mobile phones, PDAs, etc) and Internal (implanted RFID chips, audio/video interfaces in contacts/cornea, etc), Social Profiling/Networking.

The Protagonists

Jack Bennett, played by Joey (me)
Issue: Privacy
Shock: Ubiquitous Information
Praxis Fulcra: 6 and 8
Features (5): I'm old, dammit. Private Eye in a Public Age. Determined. (Frustrated). (Astute).
Links: My son, Karl. The Agency.
Story Goals: Prove that the old ways still have a place.

Jim Barker, played by Sam
Issue: Revolution
Shock: Ubiquitous Information
Praxis Fulcra: 6 and 8
Features (3):
Story Goals: Find a place outside of the system.

Felix Batista, played by Oliver
Issue: Gambling
Shock: Ubiquitous Information
Praxis Fulcra: ? and ?, will fill in later
Features (3):
Story Goals: Beat the system.

The Antagonists

The Agency, for Jack Bennett
Minutiae: The Agency, Social Profiling/Crime Prediction, Small Physical Presence

Jenny Watkins, for Jim Barker
Minutiae: Backing of the Agency, Persistence and Dedicated,

The Pyramid Casino, for Felix Batista
Minutiae:

Recap

The story was set in Las Vegas sometime in the near-future. 2030 sounds about right.

We started out with Detective Jack Bennett investigating the murder of a man in a low-rent apartment complex. The Agency had closed the case shortly after analyzing it and failing to come up with compelling evidence for foul play, and he was determined to figure out what actually happened. The man he was hunting was a ghost, and his apartment was clearly a front. He was held up by a mysterious figure in his car, and left a folder full of information on one Jim Barker, to be found at the Pyramid Casino...

Next was Felix Batista, an ex-spec ops agent who was well into a bottle of Captain Morgan when he checked into the Pyramid Casino under the name of... Morgan. He was here to beat the system, and his first task was to identify the weakest dealer. He located the man, but noticed that the ever-wakeful eye of the Pitboss was upon him, and decided to play it safe to avoid detection. He received an invite to a private gathering later on in the evening, from an unknown party...

Finally we had Jim Barker, who was here on an anonymous job from the system he usually used to get wetwork jobs from the Revolution. This time he was asked to watch one Felix Batista, for reasons that were never revealed. Instead he ended up plotting with Batista to cheat the casinos out of a ridiculous amount of money and disappear into the depths of the system.

Detective Bennett found out that Jim Barker was the one who killed his man, and the Agency, using the Revolution's anonymity as a tool to eliminate key leaders of the Revolution, was trying to cover up the crime. Officer Watkins, who turned out to be Felix's ex-wife, was working with Jim and trying to use the Agency to spy on Batista, was caught in the act by Detective Bennet. Batista's plot to cheat the casino worked, and when the security systems went dark and credited a physical credit stick with the funds, a gunshot was heard. The Agency's forces, tipped off by the Casino, had surrounded the area and were about to arrest Batista and eliminate Jim in the process, thus forever closing the door that Detective Bennett was trying to open.

In the end, Batista was shot and killed after cheating the casino (but not fully enough to put it out of business, like he ultimately wanted), Jim made it out into the wild with a huge amount of U.S. currency (and no one ever found out who he really was), and Detective Bennett proved that the Agency's data-analysis algorithms could never work 100% of the time due to the unpredictable nature of human emotions and motives.

In the epilogue, Jim was out somewhere in the world enjoying his life and toasting Batista, and Detective Bennett had started his own private detective agency, dedicated to using human intuition and ingenuity to solve the crimes that the Agency's methods couldn't handle.

Thoughts

This game is fun! The book is a bit hard to read, although it is very pretty. We had some trouble with the rules and had to flip back and forth a bit to find key information (scene framing and when a scene ends were hard to find). Other than that, it's a great game! Even those quibbles are minor; if you take the time to really read the book and take it all in, you shouldn't have any problem running the game.

It's funny that we all independently made characters who were older and had reasons to resist Information Age technology. We all had high scored in Subversion, except Felix who I think was pretty middle-of-the-road on the Mainstream over Subversion Praxis Scale.

We did a few things wrong, probably. We didn't use the Minutiae as well as we could have as Audience members -- as far as I can recall, no one invented characters or used the characters in the Minutiae when throwing their d4s. A lot of the time the Audience member wouldn't be able to affect the roll of either *Tagonist and we would just gloss over the Audience member's participation. Should we do that? Should they narrate an attempt to alter conflict, even if they can't?

Also, Jack Bennett was the only character to ever lose a conflict and gain Features. I did this on purpose -- the first two conflicts he was in were him attempting to use the Agency's system (Mainstream) to solve his case, but it didn't work out. The other players had wicked good rolls or always landed on the Fulcrum and picked up the spare in the escalated reroll.

Also: when you land on the Fulcrum during a conflict and reroll the conflict, do both sides escalate? Or is it just the opposition player (d4s) who narrates a worse outcome if the rerolling player (d10s) fails?

Oh, and finally: is there any other way to bring a Protagonist into a scene other than an Audience member introducing him as a modifier (d4) to the Conflict? Can the Protagonist ever fully enter another Protagonist's scene? Can the Antagonist player bring his Protagonist character in as opposition if it's appropriate to the story? Can the Antagonist player get permission from another Protagonist player to bring their Protagonist into a scene?

Comments

  • A lot of the time the Audience member wouldn't be able to affect the roll of either *Tagonist and we would just gloss over the Audience member's participation. Should we do that? Should they narrate an attempt to alter conflict, even if they can't?

    Oh, yeah, Audience don't always have an impact, and there often aren't relevant Minutiæ. In these cases, the Audience is really just listening, or maybe giving ideas. In any event don't forget about the Owners.

    Also, Jack Bennett was the only character to ever lose a conflict and gain Features. I did this on purpose -- the first two conflicts he was in were him attempting to use the Agency's system (Mainstream) to solve his case, but it didn't work out. The other players had wicked good rolls or always landed on the Fulcrum and picked up the spare in the escalated reroll.

    It sounds like Antags might have been softpedaling on dice or their counter-Intents. Or the dice, as always, were fickle!

    Oh, and finally: is there any other way to bring a Protagonist into a scene other than an Audience member introducing him as a modifier (d4) to the Conflict? Can the Protagonist ever fully enter another Protagonist's scene?

    Sure! Just have them around. They don't necessarily have any impact on anything, though. The d4 is to determine if they do anything that matters.

    Can the Antagonist player bring his Protagonist character in as opposition if it's appropriate to the story? Can the Antagonist player get permission from another Protagonist player to bring their Protagonist into a scene?

    Yes, but play a couple of times so you get a feel for the game. It's a little complicated, and you need to know how all the parts work.

  • Follow-up to the question about bringing in other Protagonists: if another Protagonist is brought into a scene, and the two Protagonists start a Conflict, does the Antagonist have to be involved in the Conflict? If not, can that throw off the pacing, since it's the Antagonist's burning of credits for die roles that will probably bring that storyline to a close?
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