I had an opportunity to DM Ø2\\'3|| the other day, first session of a two-session gig (favor for a friend, nice people to game with). Other than having the pleasure to get some more gaming going (aside from play-testing THE RISE OF ROBO-HITLER), it was the first time I was able to use the printed book for the game, which was all kinds of interesting in itself. Since that first session went (imo) exceptionally well, I thought it might be a good idea write a play-report and give you guys an idea what Ø is like at the table and why ... I'll write this up as it emerges for the players, general description of the setting aside (which you can read here, if interested).
Using the District Generator the game comes with, I created the basic hex where the characters reside and the six neighboring districts. 3 hexes (including the main one) stick out to be some sort of play ground for a game I ended up calling "The Vales of Evardonn". Main hex is a poor area that is used to initiate new citizens ("NuPees") into their citizenship under the United States of Europe (USE, for short). I decide to make this the District Grünau in the greater Berlin-Leipzig city cluster. Here NuPees will train to join the "Halls of Heroes" in the District Friedensaue located just NW of Grünau, which would allow them access to the vales in the NE.
Basically, the characters believe that they are part of a huge, real life MMORPG, which is nothing more than the state and big corp gamifying work through all-encompassing augmentation. Since citizens are already indoctrinated in the artificial womb they are raised in (think Matrix meets Teletubbies), they actually believe that what they see is reality. They might believe they are hunting down goblins for xp, while in reality they are slaughtering, for instance, some illegals or commit other atrocious acts without even realizing, since it's all nicely augmented. Rainbows included.
So while the characters live an extended Anime experience on a sugar rush, training to be "heroes", reality is a dirty and improvised mass living complex under the totalitarian regime of The Family, looking a bit like this:
|This will be available as a poster, eventually ...
Character creation begins with the characters realizing tat they are being lied to and how they react to that (blue pill/red pill moment). The players describe how they'd been playing when a terrorist attack took away the veil. They saw reality for the first time, didn't like it and decided to take care that somethng like that won't happen to them again. They told the officials the same, hoping to be recruited as terrorist hunters or something like that.
Since they didn't opt for a higher social status (which would have been costly), they remained being small fish, but seemed content with playing the game and supporting the family (making life miserable for others if opportunity arose, for sure).
And that's the set-up. After that the players described how they imagined their characters to be. We ended up with:
PAULINE - Augmented, she looks like a nice little girl in a white dress, behind that veil, the dress is less glorious (more like ripped, bloody and dirty) and half her face as well as one arm are replaced with cyberwear.
GRUBS & POOPSIE - Augmented Grubs looks like a little cherub, wingy and all. In reality it's a fat little kid carried around by huge, spidery legs implanted in his back. Too lazy to walk, in his hands always something sweet and an energy drink. Poopsie is the electric cat he carries around in a duffle bag.
They assign their potentials and roll for Anger (9, 11 and 14, not Falling Down, but still quite angry ... good). With that, the character creation is done. The basic idea is that they can be whatever they want in the scenario as long as all agree and they are willing to make the DM stronger when they describe powerful character features (which they did ... I ended up with 14 Pennies to start). I also gave a short introduction to the rules and after that we were ready to roll.
Season 1, Episode 1: Deadly Electric Pussy-Cat Fart
DISCLAIMER: What follows is the mash-up of the established setting with the characters in it, the Narrative Encounter Generator (NEG, based on this, but specified to emulate dystopian fiction with an Anime bent) and a SF-Fluff table the game offers. The NEG offers a direction, but the characters are free to act as they please. It is a sandbox with narrative impulses ... It is also SATIRE. You have been warned.
We start on a September evening. The characters are enjoying their free time hanging out at their apartment when an explosion shocks the building and the augmentation starts stutering, interwoven with the message, that their existance is a LIE and that they need to WAKE UP ... Of course, it's those damn domestic terrorists again. Normaly The Family would just activate the population to act as D/escalation Troops (the chip every citizen has implanted in their brain would activate to change them into mindless drones), but the explosion seems to interfere with that as well and the characters see their opportunity to finally shine!
Mr. Smith tries his hands on finding out where exactly the explosion has occured, but the roll fails and nothing he could come up with would change that (which makes him slightly more angry: Anger is raised by 1). They decide to just follow the destruction. Mr. Smith wants to go armed, so he grabs the one weapon in his possession. His roll comes up with a gadget that has two usages left before being useless ... a boom stick! That'd be his second Slot. They head for the door.
Outside the apartment they see some smoke and some scared neighbors (flickering between weird cartoon zoo and chubby-dirty freaks, as the state augmentation keeps switching on and off). They follow the trail of smoke to find a huge pile of rubble and a whole in the ceiling, several stories above. Had been a long time for them to see the blue sky. The whole district is one big building, basically, with no real infrastructure but the one big corp installed throughout the district, which no one living here is able to use due to the low social status citizens living here have.
In the middle of the free space the bomb created, they see a digital graffiti that says YOU ARE ALL SLAVES OF THE SYSTEM. No other signs of the terrorists, but Mr. Smith wants to try his hacking skill on the signature, with the hope that it might lead to the terrorist cell responsible for the bomb and interferrence.
The roll's a close call, so Pauline decides to offer a Relief Die for support. She connects herself to Mr. Robot, rolls the dice and it's a Double 10! That adds 20 against the difficulty, more than enough to know EXACTLY where the terrorists hide (somewhere on the roof, in a secret hideout between giant air conditioning vents). Pauline also gains an Achievement for the Double: it'll be easier for her to track down those terrorists from now on.
They decide to climb the rubble up to the roof, creating new Slots along the way: Pauline can shot her cyborg hand as a grappling hook and the spiderlegs coming out of Grubs' back are quite capable of climbiung almost every surface (to keep the illusion up that Grubs is a flying cherub, of course). They see military transport helicopters crossing the hole in the roof as they make their way up.
Mr. Smith resorts to just climbing, but as soon as they arrive on the roof, he's left behind fast by the other two speeding towards the hideout and what sounds like gun-fire and explosions. He hacks himself a ticket for a flying taxi to catch up with Pauline and Grubs at what seems to be the border of a prohibited area the military set up digitally as they engaged with the terrorists.
They approach the hideout and only find signs of battle. The prohibited area seems to have moved with the battle. Grubs sends Poopsie to scout. The cat does cat things while going through the rooms and ends its scouting at a huge hole in one room that leads outside again. In the distance the cat sees a dog fight (ha! sorry ...) between military and terrorists in front of a massive shopping mall that displays an insane shoppingspree-lightshow on its outside.
The group assumes that there's still a chance to help, so they move on towards the battle. Shortly after that, the whole block goes into Lockdown as the battle seems to shift down into an urban canyon (I had to spend 10 Pennies due to a high Oppression Die result, they had to go somewhere ...).
With the circumstances changed like that, they need to find a Safe Space or an excuse really fast, as drones are already swarming the area and they see D/escalation Troops appear on the roofs as well as a Bias Judge crawling towards the scene of the skirmish. They decide to go for an excuse. After all, they still want a chance to get those terrorists!
So it turns out Grubs is still in good contact with the Family beaurocrat that debriefed them after they had experienced that first terrorist attack (he created a Contact Slot for that). Isabel, that's how she identifies, likes the chubby little cherub and would love to help, but giving military authority is no easy task and she plays coy about it. Grubs decides to put some preassure unto her, burning the contact for that Season, but giving his roll a whopping +18.
It'll take a while and some nice cherub pics to get her back in the friend zone, but the test is made and the authority to hunt for the terrorists is given. Just in time, as they are already approached by some D/escalation type. Now the frowning smily on the mask turns into a smile and the meat-drone turns away, looking for other dissidents and trouble makers.
Bad luck for them that Pauline had rolled that Double ...
It doesn't take the group long to come up with a scheme that does not involve direct assault. They hack into the video feed and see those criminals in the main club room, waiting it out, laying on the fake meadow that is the floor while lazily waving away some nanite flies (it's an all-in "authentic" alp-feel club house). The hacker seems busy keeping the fuzz away.
It all lines up beautifully for the characters, it seems. The plan is to send Poopsie inside, as part of the scenery (fittingly so, it appears). Grubs also explains that he had that cat "weaponized" with a fart canon of sorts (creating a Gadget Slot for that), which turns out to be quite weak (just Stage 1, not even enough to make damage). However, if they succesfully hack the cat, they could actually do some damage, weakening the opposition in the process. Not a problem, is what Mr. Smith says. The others are on stand-by to support the roll with Relief Dice, if need be.
Alas, Mr. Smith comes up with a Triple 8! That's not only 24 as a result, it's also a Season Highlight (which creates a DM Slot and counts as absolute success)! Mr. Smith added another 14 Anger Points to the result (he had gained three more Anger points in a failed test before, so he had 4 remaining) and using the cat gave another 6. It resulted in enough damage to take the room out (and was quite satisfying to get all that anger out of the system). That cat was weaponized with a fart from hell.
I think we took ten minutes to describe how it all went down because we laughed so hard: the cat would enter the room and do cat things, like sweeping some legs and looking for attention. When in the middle of the terrorists, the gas would be released, and one would imagine that they first looked around who might be the culprit ... then the dying would start :D
It was glorious, and pretty much where we ended it. They called the authorities and Mr. Grubs took care to make a "cat video" of the incident and put it online (to some effect, it raised his Social Status a bit as people seemed to like what they saw), and that was that. The DM received two Pennies since the other two players forgot about their Social Media presence (if you aren't posting regularly, the state gets suspicious, too).
It turned out to be sufficiently "cyberpunk". The players ability to come up with skills, gadgets and contacts as they need them allow for a wide range of wild results, all with individual touches.
The district generator already gave me lots to work with, the NEG and Fluff results added to that. They gave me the opportunity for the characters in the beginning, the signs of the gun battle, the dog fight in the distance in front of a huge building going crazy with advertisement, the struggle in the end, the nanite flies ... all those little bits and pieces I could use to build on and make it a rich experience with relativeley little preparation (and completely flexible ... I had no idea where this all would go).
Pretty much what I'm writing about here.
I had to put more work into getting my brain around the system again as I thought I would (I'm balls-deep into be67 right now and this was rather short notice), but once it clicked again, I found a new rhythm quite fast. The game seems complex in the beginning, but as soon as you see it all realized at the table, I'd wager it'll all fall into place quite easily.
The tools provided in the book did their job, which was great. However, I already saw some room for improvement. I think one of the future supplements should be a DMs Guide, or something like that. The DM part in the book is already extensive and full of examples and all that, but I found there is still more to say, and maybe room to discuss some tricks and traps (and, maybe, an errata of sorts, if I find any really bad hickups).
All in all, it ended up being satire again, which is also nice to see. The setting is so dark that people seem to gravitate towards humor to lighten the mood. Just as intended. That critical fart was just plain random luck, though. You couldn't come up with that :D
I'm looking forward to the next Episode. I'll send this to the players as well, and maybe they'll add their thoughts and impressions in the comments :)
If you need more convincing, maybe this post might get you there. If you already checked it out, please know that I
appreciate you :) It'll certainly help to keep the lights on here ...