Notes from yesterday’s playtest by @AdamUltraberg of AdamUltraberg.com:
Today I went to a special playtest-gameday a few towns over, and it was a wonderful, completely worth-it trip.
I helped playtest H Cameron’s Sprawl (An Apocolypse World hack).
It started with world creation (everyone named a corporation and what it did), character creation, then “heist creation.” The only rule was we had to include a reporter.
My group featured Global News Network’s Social Media Superstar ‘Grant Access’, an 18 year old hacker named Nezumi, and a geneticist named Angel-17.
Oh, and my character, Oakley Djinn. Oakley was a Lifeworks TV celebrity, “a cybernetically enhanced mouseketeer.” With a friendly face, subdermal six-pack-abs and white hair, he was the ultimate party starter. Originally introduced as a Cousin Oliver character, he’d failed to catch on outside the teen girl demo despite endless repackagings.
He was also a killer, but memory erasure made him forget it. He was happy go lucky and started play with a katana the size of a boogieboard.
Here’s how backstory was generated: Everyone around the table had at least one mission that they’d gone on already, and it had to involve the person next to them, but could feature everyone. If you were involved, you got a +1 bond, but that corporation was pissed at you for some reason.
Grant covered Wipe (a data-erasure company) putting backdoor info on all Lifeworks cyberware. Nezumi helped expose this, which effected Oakley; Angel leaked relevant day.
Nezumi, when she was 15, used mining explosives to write Oakley’s name on the moon.
Oakley saved the president of Lifeworks life from the vat-grown assassins Angel made. No harm, no foul.
So, we kind of collaborated on creating our mission: Xeno Corp offworld mining had irregularities with its travel schedule. Everyone who went on vacation would return either early or late, and have exactly the same experiences. The Yelp reviews were basically identical.
While Grant and Nezumi caught on to this, we had to find out how Oakley got into trouble. Well, he complained in Rolling Stone that he wasn’t allowed to travel into space. Unaware that it was due to his memory erasure, he started #SendOakleyToMars.
Our mission begins in media res. We’re in a helicopter, headed to an Arcology near Catalina Island. A VP of Xeno Corp has a hard drive with all of the relevant data.
How did we requisition this helicopter?
FLASHBACK: Grant Access is arguing with his editor. (He rolled a 4, aiming for a 7). His editor gives him shit:
“You have a lead…is this a lead for a story you owe me from LAST WEEK?
Grant accidentally pitched the story as follows: “Is YOUR apartment building as safe as you think? We’ll show you LIVE as we break into the most secure suites in the world!” The editor sends him out.
In the chopper, Oakley monologues to the cameras. “OK, sorry, complete sentences. When we were riding on the helicopter, I felt…”
Nez freaks out over the recording. She gets out her deck and reprograms them; they’re now looping, replacing her face with a mouse (her hacker symbol), and cutting in random footage of Oakie’s movies.
The building calls our chopper and asks us what the hell we’re doing. Oakley announces that we’re the PARTY PATROL, and that there’s a very special birthday girl in the arcology!
This bafflegab continues; of COURSE nobody’s heard of the party, it’s a secret. And it makes a weird sense; if Justin Beiber showed up to give the boss’s daughter a surprise party, you’d go out of your way so he didn’t leave.
Angel smashes a sedative patch onto the butler before he can call upstairs. Oakley yells PARTY PATCHES! and applies one from his own supply to himself, getting a little tipsy.
As Nez goes through the security system, Oakley leads the group upstairs. Grant starts Fox-Newsing the security guards (“Who are you working for? Do your parents know this? Aren’t you ashamed? You are ON TELEVISION!”), getting us into the security room.
The head of security FINALLY gets in our face, and Oakley yells “Bro. BRO. Dude. DUDE, BRO, DUDE.” When that doesn’t work, Oak backhands the guy against the wall, knocking him out instantly. We’re left with the Media Manager.
Oakley apologized, kinda, and, as I had to leave the session, revealed the second part of his plan.
He’d live-tweeted the group’s exploits and was now throwing a FLASH MOB PARTY! He had to party with the people (part of the move’s cost), so I took my leave; I had to go.
Adam’s report can also be found on the Something Awful forums.
My summary of the rest of the session continues:
When Oakley left to party with his flash mob, the Media Manager tried to escape. Angel tranqed her but she had a reaction to the drugs and Angel couldn’t help her before her medic-alert bracelet called a emergency response team. In order to keep the response team away from the condo, Angel dumped the Media Manager in an elevator and sent her down to a lower floor, but was spotted by security as she did so.
Back in the security office, Grant Access and Nezumi loaded all the hard drives into a bag and headed for the helipad.
Angel managed to lose security in the crowd of partygoers around Oakley and met Grant and Nezumi on the roof. As the chopper came down, a squad of Xeno security guards burst onto the roof to arrest everyone, but Grant Access went live on the air to seal their escape. Down in the condo, Oakley partied on…
Nezumi contracted a courier to deliver the required hard drive to her fixer (Jack of Spades) and the agreed-upon fee was deposited into the team’s accounts. Nezumi sifted the remaining drives for paydata but didn’t turn up anything notable.
This was the first outing for the Reporter and Tech playbooks and for the new Matrix rules. The changes to last didn’t come into play at all, but the playbooks worked well. I have a few tweaks to make to both, as well as some good ideas for Monsterhearts-style “Playing the X” sections.
That gives a good overview of how these things play out story-wise; are you tracking how moves are used, and how story outcomes are structured? What’s the mechanical underlay to this story?
I’m not tracking move use on an individual basis, but I am paying attention to the overall flow of the game. Once I get the amount of paperwork under control and organise the back up a little better, I’ll have a bit more time during a game to track such things.
What exactly do you mean by “how story outcomes are structured”? Could you unpack that a bit?
The mechanical underlay (aside from agend/principles/MC moves) are a number of countdown clocks, the most important of which are the Legwork and Mission Clocks which track how much noise the team makes as they plan (Legwork) then execute (Mission) the mission. This team did very little legwork; they googled the site, found a floor plan, sourced a helicopter, then cut to the infiltration: The Legwork Clock advanced twice, to 1800 (1/3 of the way).
Because of the way they acquired the helicopter (on the condition that Grant Access broadcast the infiltration live) and from a few hiccups during the infiltration, the Mission Clock advanced to 2300. If Nezumi had not chosen to keep the final exchange under the radar, there would have been trouble with payment. Most likely explosive trouble, similar to Bobby’s mother’s apartment in Count Zero.
Because there was a Reporter with an active Story in this mission, there was also a Story Clock tracking how close he was to having enough evidence to break the story, and a Noise Clock tracking how close Xeno United were to shutting down the story. That’s a story arc that would probably take 3-6 sessions to resolve.
There are also Corporate Clocks which track how annoying the team is to each corporation. Those advance even more slowly. Corporate, mission and Legwork Clocks are all described in the current document. The Reporter’s clocks are in the version I’m working on now.