Tonight I ran a trial of Gregor Hutton's Remember Tomorrow for some folks here at the Ogre. RT is a cyberpunk game, but it's certainly not Cyberpunk 2020 or Cyberspace or Shadowrun... See, I'm kinda a crunch guy. I'm the guy that loves Shadowrun 1e and 2e. I love MERP/Rolemaster. Runequest. I even like running Palladium Fantasy and AD&D 1e. One of the first comments I got from one of my long-term players was "Would you really run THAT?", referring to my love of rolling dice, math and subsystems. So, after trying and loving 3:16 I started looking at some more if these so-called Indy Games.
RT is cyberpunk in design, but don't expect pages of nifty gear. In fact, there's a direct shot at both Cyberpunk and Shadowrun in the text, poking a bit of fun at the traditional way most folks play these games. First of all, the name of the game in RT is concept. You choose to have a Cyberpunk archetype, but there's no mechanical value in it. In fact, we had someone who conceptualized as a hacker, but ended up more of a razorguy ('torpedo' is the term used in RT). Was this a problem? No. Character gen boils down to a concept and name, choosing an archetype which is really more of a way to solidify the concept in your head, choosing a motivation, and dividing points between Ready, Willing and Able.
That's right, sports fans. Like 3:16 with its Fighting Ability and Non-Fighting Ability, this game has three stats. No STR, INT, etc. to be seen. These stats range from 1-9, with 4 being average. They can and will change, sometimes dramatically, during the course of the game. The die mechanic is a simple roll-under, but the twist is that you toss 3 (sometimes 4) d10s, and assign them to RWA to make successess. Successes then allow you to either succeed or fail a scene, and sometimes allow you to raise attributes, buy positive traits, get rid of negative traits, or tick goals- which is, well, your goal.
See, this is where my players brains started to break. It got worse when I told them we would be taking turns GMing. Heresy! But bear with me... they did. The trick to this game is that players take turns being the Controller (GM). Here's a very basic overview of how this game works. Each player has a "Held PC", which is what we'd recognize as a normal PC. Each player also creates a faction, which can be a person, a group of people, a corporation, and army... pretty much anything. What's neat is that as play goes on, a player may use their turn to introduce a new PC or another faction. It's an exercise in communal world-building, and it became a lot of fun for us as we tried this out. Each faction adds depth and detail to the game world.
The first thing that happens in the game is that each player sets a introduction scene for their character. They toss the dice and use the outcome to help guide that scene, which may result in an improvement of situation for that PC. After each player has tried this, another round is made as all the factions are introduced in the same fashion. At this point, we had information on our characters, and details on the world were starting to come out.
Our first PC was Cortez, a former merc from South-Am who drove a Datsun 960Z to the bad part of town, where he encountered some toughs who wanted his ride. He killed one, and chased the others off. This scene established that there was a bad part of town, brazen gangs, lots of rain, and a semi-recent South American conflict. Also established a bar, which we called the Forlorn Hope in homage to CP2020.
Our next player introduced Suzanne, her Private Investigator, who was at a high-class social event following an unfaithful husband. This established the Walker Hotel and the presence of the well-to-dos in the still unnamed city. Unfortunately, the dice rolled poorly for Suzanne, and she lost her target in the crowd.
Arizona was next, rolling across the wastes in search of... what? He's a fixer of some sort, and says he's making a delivery. He checks out some deserted locations, an abandoned delivery van and a gas station. He's attacked by wild animals (Zebras, he says), and fends them off, heading on toward the city. This tells us that the spaces between the cities can be deserted, or some kind of wasteland...
309 is next. His scene begins atop the tallest skyscraper in the city, where eleven humans are suspended in some kind of medical equipment. They apparently form a living computer network that is plotting... something. 309 is part of them, their servant. His cybermods allow him limited antigrav, and he leaps from the building to do the bidding of his master-things. Now, I have to stop here and say the player for 309 surprised us all with his creativity, but moreso with the gonzo nature of his declarations. It's perfectly all right in RT to tell a player his ideas are a little too crazy for the game, but we rolled with it just to see where he'd go. See the "bullshit" rule for more on this.
Our final character was Paul Yamamoto, an activist trying to shine the light of truth on the decrepit and corrupt Dome Pollution Service. This established that the city was under a dome- which made us all fanwank a bit to explain how all the rain that showed up in the previous scenes happened... but OK, dome it is.
Now we've finished introductions of the PCs, we go around the table again and introduce factions.
The Xanatos Corporation (which is exactly what it sounds like) introduces is to Corwin Xanatos, who is hoping to discredit the governor of the city and run against him in the next election.
The Walker Hotel becomes its own entity as a faction, as it survives a local earthquake and shows that there is more to this pre-dome building than meets the eye.
We are then introduced to Bablo, a client of Arizona's, who allows him entry to the city once he's been paid off with "this week's shipment". We find out here that entry to the city is restricted, and the city is defended by walls and other passive defenses.
The Council of 11 is fleshed out, and we find out they are seeking to control the subterranean powerplants that run the city. This establishes the underworld beneath the streets.
Last, we meet Vladimir Green, CEO of the Dome Pollution Service and bitter rival of Corwin Xanatos. Green, too, wants to live in the Governor's mansion.
So, we've each had two turns at this point, and we've now got a pretty good handle on the place we're playing in. Somewhere along the line, one of the player started sketching a rough city map, and the city acquired a name - Santo Cuchillo - and a location - the California coast. The current coast, you know, the new one sice a lot of Western Cali dropped into the Pacific.
Here's where I think the game stumbled a bit for us. It was very difficult to break the players of the habit of trying to play their PCs, all the time. When it is your turn as controller, you can set up scenes involving any faction or PC. The tendency here was to involve one's own PC and either another PC or a faction. I don't think this is the wrong way to play, but the rulebook does seem to infer that you should involve others, and play your Held PC when another Controller involves you.
As we went around the table again, we had the Xanatos Corp hire Suzanne to find the organizer of the anti-DPS rally that helped to discredit the Governor and the DPS. This was a "Deal" scene. Next, we had a "Face Off" scene involving Suzanne versus Paul Yamato, with her trying to find him, and him trying to remain hidden. He stays hidden, but she tags his "Humiliated" negative trait to reduce his margin of success. In the next scene, Arizona does some wheeling and dealing, achieving his first goal. This is followed by 309 showing us the zombies living beneath the surface of the city.
Wait... zombies? Yeah, this is where we *could* have called bullshit. But we didn't. We wanted to see where this goes. It is important for me to mention that there is a certain amount of veto power the whole group has. If we wanted to stick to non-supernatural Cyberpunk... we could have. But, what the hell, right? It's a test-run. Now I will admit that at this point things started to get wierd when 309's player started to add some more Shadowrunny-elements that may not be to the taste of everyone at the table.
We went around the table twice more, and were surprised to see Paul Yamato achieve his first goal, and get written out for the game. See, when you achieve your goal for the episode, your character is written out until the next episode. Other players, when acting as Controller, can challenge you with setbacks and other fun situations. It's just that, being unfamiliar with the game, nobody did. At that point we decided to stop and debrief about the game.
The consensus was that the team-based world-building was FUN! So was sharing the GM duties. The light, almost transparent system was a lot of fun and never got in the way. We never had looooong shopping trips or had to worry about how many nuyen we had in the account. All in all, it was a BLAST and well worth the price of the PDF. I've gotta say this surprised me just as much as 3:16 did. It was a story-game, light on system and heavy on roleplay. Now, my wife disagrees with me here. Not that she didn't have a good time, but she does draw the line between storytelling and role-playing. It seems that because we spent a lot of our time narrarating scenes with our own PCs in them, it felt more like storytelling than traditional RP. I get the feeling that this would morph into more familiar RP once we all got the hang of being a controller without playing our own PCs while controlling.
We're going to try this again with a different group mix and see if it's just as much fun next time. I really recommend giving this game a whirl if you've got any players at all that use the phrase "...but it's good for the story..."