I offered The Sprawl and Dungeon World in the Games on Demand room at Gen Con. Players chose The Sprawl in seven of those sessions and I ran a private game for a backer. That added up to 31 seats (30 unique players—uncluding some of you!) over eight runs of my 2-hour con scenario, The Downtown Datatheft.
I adapted The Sprawl in a few ways to run in a two hour slot:
- pre-generated Corporations (the five example corps from the book: Solar Investments, HelixTec, Existence Entertainment, Ecuadine Petrochem, and Shanghai Securities).
- six background Mission Briefs (much like love letters in Apocalypse World) which included a prewritten a corporate background (answering the second cyberware question: hunted/owned/independant) and legwork and mission complications.
- abbreviating the Links step down to two questions on each Mission Brief.
- describing the job rather than playing out a scene with their employer.
- abbreviating the Legwork phase to one roll with 7-9 options customised to the Mission Brief.
- putting a stopwatch on the players while they made their plan.
- pregenerated individualised complications during the mission.
When I described the job, I asked the players which sprawl the game took place in. The eight games spanned the globe:
- Marakesh, gateway between Europe and the Ecuadine space elevator in Mauritania.
- ChiNdy, the Chicago-Indianapolis Sprawl.
- Dubai, bubbled jewel of the United States Arab Emirates.
- Manilla-Luzon, where underwater arcologies look down on bioengineered coral reefs.
- London, hypertube-connected tenements sprawling from Bristol to Dover.
- Bangkok, the Venice of South-East Asia, flood-waters rising, monsoons falling.
- Detroit, the city of Robocop.
- The Upper Midwest Megalopolis, draining the resources of the western US and sending back pacification forces.
The 31 characters were quite diverse in Mission Brief and Playbook selection. The Mission Briefs were quite evenly selected: all were chosen five times except for Owned by Ecuadine (4 players) and Independant Operative (7 players). The most popular Playbook was the Infiltrator (6 players), which matches with last time I looked at playtest numbers. Next most popular were the Hunter and the Hacker (4 players each), although it wasn’t until the fourth game that someone chose a Hacker. Next was Reporter, Pusher, Tech and Soldier (3 each) then Killer and Fixer (2 each). Only one person chose a Driver, and while their plan and the mission setup allowed for some badass driving, they didn’t really do any as it turned out.
My biggest takeaway from these games was to put players on a timer more often. We weren’t really tracking experience, but I did make a set of Mission Directives, the second of which was “If you complete your plan within five minutes, mark experience”. I didn’t realise how much this would throw down a guantlet to the players until the first session. Planning a mission is 2m15.87s seemed very quick, but it turned out to be right in the middle of the recorded times. In the end, the quickest plan was 00m58.28s (the only group with three players) and the quickest time for a four player group was 1m22.64s. Congratulations to the Bangkok and Detroit crews respectively!
The remarkable thing about these times for me was that both the Detroit group (1m22.64s) and the Upper Midwest Group (1m25.44s) both went through at least two revisions of the plan in those times. All eight plans were perfectly workable and all succeeded (the highest the Action Clock ever got was 2200), although characters died in two games (a Hacker in London fried by Black ICE and a Fixer in Bangkok whose base jump went wrong). The Sprawl gives you plenty of help to keep going with the mission once the plan goes wrong, so there’s absolutely no reason to waste time second guessing your cool plan.