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Author Topic: [Shock:] GDMN, the Global Distributed MindNet is working for you.  (Read 16408 times)
Iskander
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Posts: 226

Alexander Newman


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« on: August 31, 2006, 11:54:32 PM »

As is our wont, we set out to play Shock: by the book (except where existing clarifications obtained). This gave rise to a groovy setting, some interesting issues and a neat-o shock, four good protagonists and a host of game rule questions. Here goes:

Players: Dro, John/jenskot, Thor and Alexander (me).

In a future a century or two hence, the Earth's resources are so strained that the majority of processing power on the planet is devoted to managing those resources. Most of the population belongs to the lowest castes: at 17, when their brains are done growing, they're fitted with wetware hitching them to GDMN, the Global Distributed MindNet, (pronounced goddamn) and most of their mind is used as a distributed processing node of the net- they become members of the Leisure caste; the uplink is euphoric, they are kept happy, and required not to think too much. Some fifteen or so years later, when their hardware component is obsolete, or their brain too run down to make upgrades worthwhile they are retired to the Labour caste. The Leisure caste never sleep. The labour caste perform only manual labour. The resource needs of the many are paid for by their mental and physical labour.

Supervising GDMN, and ensuring that any emergent sentience is eradicated are The Crèche, the Engineering Caste. These privileged scions of the original engineers of GDMN can connect to the network at will, without having to pay for their resource use as components of GDMN. Above all are the highest Caste, the Board - families of such enormous hereditary wealth that neither they, nor their descendents will ever need to pay for the resources they consume by anything as demeaning as a mandatory connection to GDMN.

Credits: 23 - a couple of sessions.
Shock: GDMN.
Issues: Sentience, Non-stop work, Social stratification.

The question What's This World Going To Be Like had us running harem-scarem after neat ideas and jotting down a plethora of potential shocks and issues before we were ready. It was mostly productive, but perhaps premature.

The maths of credit allocation seems to be missing a variable - the number of players; I don't believe three players will take as long to spend a total of 36 credits as five players will spend sixty. (As you'll see in a minute, we only spent three, total, in a bit under 3 hours total game time.)

As Ron noted in his question in the glyphress forum, there's no guidance about how many shocks or issues to choose, &c. Nuff said.


Praxis: Denial vs. Acquiescence
Praxis: Sex vs. Violence

There's almost nothing in the text about appropriate choice of Praxis. This is a bit of a shortcoming - since these are the only idioms for resolving conflicts, choosing the right ones is pretty important. We spent quite a bit of time on this trying to figure out whether we could play Denial and Acquiescence. Once we settled on them, though, picking Sex and Violence for the other Praxis was relatively easy - we agreed that the first Praxis was essentially cerebral, and we wanted something visceral to accompany it. Sex, incidentally, is not something that comes up often with our group, and we took a minute to talk about introducing it so markedly into play.

John's Protagonist: DF (Leisure Caste)
Story Goal: To stay plugged in.
shock: GDMN issue: non-stop work
Denial Sex
3 5
Acquiescence Violence
Features:
- expired / used up.
- paranoid and stressed (and thus over-using his brain)
- undefined
Links:
- Friends of Leisure (an organisation)
- undefined

John's Antagonist is played by Thor, and is the Automated Management System that determines passage from Leisure to Labour class.
Denial Sex
7 5
Acquiescence Violence

John's protagonist,DF, is all about the working man seeking to extend his hedonistic but empty pleasure - he wants to keep what he's got when he knows he's going to lose it. Reading this now, I'm slightly concerned that he has the potential to be static... but then again, I have no doubt Thor will provide plenty of antagonism.



Thor's Protagonist: Goddard (Crèche Caste)
Story Goal: To get ReMI to love me.
shock: GDMN issue: sentience
Denial Sex
4 5
Acquiescence Violence
Features:
- GDMN engineer
- Idealistic
- undefined
Links:
- ReMI
- undefined

Thor's Antagonist is played by Dro, and is the Crèche Caste
Denial Sex
3 6
Acquiescence Violence

Since Thor owns the only shock in our game, he had to double up in one of the grid squares, and chose Sentience. Although he is slap in the middle of the social strata, Goddard is more concerned with the ReMI's emergent intelligence, which he should be eradicating.


Dro's Protagonist: Boris (The Board)
Story Goal: To find meaning in the Labour Caste.
shock: GDMN issue: social stratification
Denial Sex
5 3
Acquiescence Violence
Features:
- Member of The Board (super-wealthy)
- Voyeur: he possesses a collection of taped experiences from the Leisure and Labour Castes
- undefined
Links:
- LC ("Lucy"), his true love in the Labour Caste
- undefined

Dro's Antagonist is played by Alexander, and is the Caste System of Board / Crèche / Leisure / Labour.
Denial Sex
3 4
Acquiescence Violence

Converse to DF, Boris is a member of the bored elite Board, seeking meaning in his priviliged existence. Drozdal initially conceived him as having had himself implanted, but since Dro had introduced the social stratification as an issue he was interested in, we discussed the possibility that the point at which Boris is choosing how to deal with the meaninglessness of his trust-fund life might be more interesting, and provide a satisfying counterpoint to DF: nobody is happy with their lot.



Alexander's Protagonist: ReMI (Resource Management Interface)
Story Goal: To be hobbled and enslaved.
shock: GDMN issue: sentience
Denial Sex
7 4
Acquiescence Violence
Features:
- Nascent artificial intelligence.
- Memory cores of previously extinguished AIs
- Curiosity.
Links:
- Faith in God, the Creator.
- Goddard

Alexander's Antagonist is played by John, and is Goddard.
Denial Sex
3 3
Acquiescence Violence

I was interested in playing a newly sentient AI from the start, and felt that it was appropriate for my worldview and the setting we'd created that the AI should end up crippled and shackled in the servitude of a humanity that would happily see ReMI destroyed. This made defining the Antagonist tricky, but when Thor proposed that it be his Protagonist, played by John, we were all happy and eager to see how it would work out.

Matters arising from *Tagonist creation:
- "Set the fulcra the way you like for your Antagonist." We assumed that this meant that the player of an Antagonist sets the fulcra for that Antagonist he is playing, not that the player of a Protagonist sets the fulcra for the Antagonist opposing him.
- How many features the Antagonist should define, and the lifecycle of Antagonist Features as a whole was unclear (or absent). We went with "The first Feature the Antagonist has should be the name of the character or institution that the Protagonist has given you," and left it there, since it wasn't clear when we should define more than the first, how many we would get to add, or how we would be able to use them beyond colouring our antagonism.

We play a Scene
We kicked off with ReMI, a challenging choice partly because the Protagonist is a world-spanning infant machine intelligence, but more than that because ReMI's Story Goal is to be hobbled and enslaved, not the postive outcomes you might expect from a Protagonist's goals. Still, "Murdered" is as good a Story Goal as "Become Great Caliph..." so we proceeded.

I set up the static situation of ReMI's current activity, asking everyone to visualise a vast sphere of glowing and pulsing lights that represent ReMI's awareness distributed through the many nodes of the global Leisure Caste, surrounding a large many-sided regular solid, on every facet of which, images appear and shift as the AI peruses the sum of human knowledge. In particular, ReMI is learning about human religions. Thor suggested that certain avenues of inquiry are censored by my programming, and I took the suggestion, colouring it as regions of the solid that black out periodically. John introduced Goddard, who is working with a conspiracy of Crèche members to disable my self-censorship routines, and keep awareness of ReMI's sentience hidden. After a little to-ing and fro-ing, I say that as a thought crosses ReMI's new mind, every member of the Leisure Caste asks "What is God?" in a kind of global Mexican wave, starting in Houston, TX. Oh, no, says John... we have a conflict.

It took us a while to hammer out orthogonal intents, during which I modified my specific action a few times, and we decided that hitherto, all notions of transcendent religions had been censored by my programming - only heirarchical faiths were permitted (which tied in nicely with my Link). I ended up with the intent to use violence for: "the Crèche Caste will notice ReMI's sentience," and John with the intent to use acquiescence for: "ReMI will discover and absorb the concept of transcendence."

I was trying to roll less than 4, John was trying to roll less than 3. We both rolled 2d10 and 1d4. I got 9, 10 and 1, John got 1, 1, and 2 (on his d4!), so at first flush it looked like I was going to lose my intent, but he would get his. However, both Dro and Thor had rolled 4s on their d4, so it was not yet a foregone conclusion. It went roughly like this:

Alexander's 9: As ReMI considers divinity an autonomous twitch causes every member of the Leisure Caste uses something sharp to scratch "I BELIEVE" into their arm. (total: 9 > 4, Alexander losing)
John's 1: The Crèche conspirators, led by Goddard, override ReMI's censorship routines, and religious texts flood across the surface of the solid: ReMI recognises that this knowledge is not new to him, he has seen it before, and it has been erased. (total: 1 < 3, John winning)
Alexander's 1: some of the facets of the solid blink as ReMI tries vainly to censor himself (total 2 < 3, John still winning)
John's 2: I think we didn't narrate this die... not sure (total 11 > 4, Alexander losing badly).
Thor's 4: the amount and intensity of thought that ReMI puts into religion consumes so much planetary processing power that all over robotic systems stutter and pause, there are momentary resource shortfalls in some places and transient, but noticeable gluts in others. (total 7 > 4, Alexander still down).
Dro's 4: piled on top (total 3 < 4, Alexander gets the win!)

So. we both won, which was good, although I was totally prepared to risk my Link to a Creator God in order to get noticed by the Crèche caste (and thence get shackled). Also, i was really happy with the direction that John wanted to push ReMI - trying to get this bastard child of shackled humanity to transcend, rather than adopt chains of its own devising... cool. I took Goddard as my hitherto unspeficied second Link, and at John's suggestion, I took "Curiosity" as my first-conflict Feature.

Alas, it was a bit of a short session - that was it for the night. We're looking forward to next time, though!

Questions that came from the one scene we got done:
- is there a sheet for recording Minutiae. OK, I know there isn't one, yet, but it would be real nice.
- this is my stupid question: the d10s are marked 0-9. Is that a zero or a ten? (We went with 10, because we're gamers already).
- I rolled 9, 10 with my d10s, John added 2 to my 9 to make 11... I assumed that I couldn't then take the 10. Is that right?
- We could not figure out the rules for non-*Tagonist participation. One the one hand, you have "roll 1d4 to use at your discretion...", and "At any point in this process... change the final result of one Conflict by narrating... Minutiae," which suggests that two non-*Tagonists could effectively act in opposition to each other on one Conflict, or act on either side of different Conflicts. On the other hand, we were pretty much baffled by "Only one player may affect the outcome in a give turn, though other players may give their dice if they approve of another player's Minutia and may add to it while doing so." That sentence seemed to say that the non-*Tagonists could only act in concert to effect a change to one side of one Conflict, which raises questions about which one non-*Tagonist at our table would get to act if the two of them disagreed.


Anyway, I enjoyed it, and I think we've set ourselves up for some good, fruitful, meanigful sci-fi fun next time. I particularly liked how we were able to establish a setting and situations that would tickle the issues we wanted to address, and the interplay between Praxis, Shock, Issue and Story Goal. Good stuff.

- Alexander
Logged

Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

- Samyutta Nikaya III, 14
Joshua A.C. Newman
Member

Posts: 1144

the glyphpress


WWW
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2006, 12:52:36 AM »

What an excellent AP!

OK, the rules questions (which, I'm afraid I'm answering out of order, now that Iook back):

- The non-Tagonist with the largest die gets their way. So if Dro and you are non-Tagonists, and you have a 3, while Dro rolled a 2, you get to say what happens. If they're tied (and I'm making this up on the fly — no tested rule covers it) then you roll off to see who gains control. This is kind of important: it means that, in examples like the one here, you have to risk a Link to get what you want. You got a shitty enough roll that you were further than 4 from your goal number, so the other players couldn't help you. So you take your Feature, you risk a Link, and reroll your 10s while John rerolls his 4s. If you lose again, great! Goodies for later. You'll start running him out of dice in no time.

- Aren't there suggestions for Praxis? I don't have a book handy. But there's definitely guidelines for how to pick them. I agree that it's a challenge, to be sure. I'd like to collect the ones that people have enjoyed as examples either on the Forge glyphpress forum or over on my new discussion boards.

- The number of players influences the number of credits you'll spend, but it turned out to be too variable to matter much. Please report your experience at the end of the story, though. For obvious reasons, long-term play has received less testing than short term, and I'd really like to patch what I can.

- There's a hazy guideline about how many Shocks to start with: one or two. You can add more as you go and your stories end.

- The beginning part of World Creation always gets people jazzed. The order of operation in the book is logical, but it encourages wild creativity instead of focusing it. So here's what I'd do:

1) Choose Shocks and Issues.
2) Choose who wants to Protagonize which cruces and who wants to Own the Shocks and Issues.
3) Write down a couple of Minutiæ, like 3-5, tops, about the world.
4) Write down your Protags' Features.
5) Agree on Praxes and choose the Fulcra for your Protags.
6) Build Antags.

It's roundabout, but I'm beginning to think that it makes more sense because of the way that people start to tell stories to each other. I want to harness that for the game, rather than tell people to knock it off and wait for the right time to do it.

- As a rule, you don't want your Intents (including your Story Goal) to be to "stay" or "keep" or "prevent" something. However, when you write down "to stay plugged in" for your Story Goal, Thor will correctly read that as "Get you unplugged" and push the story that direction.

- A sheet for Minutiæ seemed silly to me at the time. But since you ask, sure, I'll do that. But here's what I do, and I think it's a good way to do it: Take a bunch of sheets of letter paper. Tear then into quarters. When you write down a Minutia, make it on one piece. It just occurred to me that you could do it on card-sized pieces of paper, then put them in transparent card holders in a binder to make a big index of your world. That's what I'm gonna do. Get plain, perforated business cards. It keeps them straight, it keeps them editable ("No one ever used this idea, so we're ditching it."), and it keeps them small and manageable.

- Yes, the zero is a ten. Shock: is written to SF gamers who are unsatisfied with other SF games, so I'm assuming a certain amount of knowledge. I'll wager that where my assumptions are wrong (and this may be one such place), it's because I've assumed too much, not assumed wrongly.

- It's true, you couldn't then take the other die, the 10 instead of the 9. That's an interesting mechanic, but one not for this game.

- You set the fulcra for your own Protagonist, correct.

- John probably should have been rolling two more dice. In the first scene, it's exposition, and since Antags don't get goodies for losing (technically speaking) there's no reason to hold back. Later on, he might start to come up short, or he might not care about the outcome of a particular conflict, but in the exposition, he probably does. ... wait, do I say the Antag can only roll three dice? Dammit, I wish I had a copy of the game handy!

OK, now for the aesthetic stuff: I love this world you've made here. I'm very proud that sex isn't something you usually have as a feature in your games, but you felt you could in this one. Something's working right.

It sounds like you're playing everything right, and it sounds like it's working out except for the parts where my writing is vague. Keep these coming, if it's not too much of a pain! I really want to see how some non-me long-term play works out.

Thanks for the AP, and thanks for being such fun players.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Thor Olavsrud
Member

Posts: 349


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« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2006, 06:40:24 AM »

Hi Joshua,

As you can tell from Alexander's report, we were pretty juiced with what we created together.

I do want to underscore his point about the Praxis though.

Before I get critical, I just want to say that I think Praxis is very cool. It's easily one of my favorite parts of the game so far. It's Premise, in your face, 100% of the time. Awesome.

Onward. In the text, you dedicate about two paragraphs to Praxis, at the end of those paragraphs, this is what we know: all characters share them, and that they will inform the content of our world. We need to put them on the same side if we want them to represent a choice we want our characters to make. Then we see the boxes, with Violence vs. Compassion on one side and Buying vs. Stealing on the other. An then you say see the bibliography or more Praxis scale suggestions. However, the Mediography only has examples of Shocks and Issues.

Honestly, if I hadn't done that 15 minute demo with you at Gen Con, I think I may have had a lot of trouble with Praxis.

As it was, when we got to that portion of our setup, I was able to warn the guys that selecting the praxes would be the most important part of setting up our story. And it was. When those praxes slot into place, your world is powerfully defined in a way that Shocks and Issues can't approach (cool as they are).

I don't know how well I can express what I'm getting at, but with the Shocks and Issues listed in Alexander's post, consider the praxes we selected: Acquiesence vs. Denial and Sex vs. Violence.

Before we made that decision, we had contemplated Acquiesence vs. Denial and Terrorism vs. Self-Harm.

As bleak as I think our story is going to be, it would have been something altogether different and unremittingly black if we'd gone with the latter.

More questions:
1. I thought I remembered from our demo that the Fulcrum should be set between 3 and 7, but we didn't find any guidance in the text. Can you clarify?
2. How many Features should an Antagonist start with? We kind of handwaved it, since Features don't have a Mechanical effect for Antagonists, and figured we'd start with one and add them as necessary. But guidance would be appreciated!
3. I'm not sure I understand the tying rules. Do we BOTH have to fall on the Fulcrum as the result of the roll? Or is it only necessary for one of the participants to land on the Fulcrum?

Thanks!
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Joshua A.C. Newman
Member

Posts: 1144

the glyphpress


WWW
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2006, 08:33:37 AM »

Hey, Thor. It sounds like this is something that needs much greater clarification in the text, because you're right.

Now that I think about it, I have this terrible feeling that I didn't give enough examples of Praxis because they're so hard to generate.

1: The Fulcra have to be between 3 and 8. Arbitrary as those numbers sound, here's why: I don't want it so that you absolutely can't succeed in one of the directions. So you have to have at least one space between the ends of the scale and the fulcrum. Plus, your opposition always modifies it by at least one.

2: Antagonists start with three Features. The first one is a person of some sort. E.g, Antag:The FBI. Features: Agent Sculder. Violent. The PATRIOT Act.

3: Tying is not tying with the other player; it's tying your Fulcrum. When your opposition's d4 has modified your roll, and non-Tagonists have further modified it with a d4 (or decided not to), is the result the same as the Fulcrum? If so, you reroll your d10s, your opposition rolls hir d4s, the non-Tagonists reroll their d4s with the Intents modified to increase the tension.

Dig?
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Thor Olavsrud
Member

Posts: 349


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« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2006, 08:40:21 AM »

Ah ha! That makes a ton of sense. Thanks!
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Iskander
Member

Posts: 226

Alexander Newman


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« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2006, 05:32:55 AM »

Hey Joshua, I have a couple of follow-on things, one of which is just me being bull-headed:

Quote from: Joshua
- You set the fulcra for your own Protagonist, correct.
What does your own mean here? Am I expected to be identifying strongly with the (Antagonist played by the person to my left) of the (Protagonist that I am playing) or with the (Antagonist that I am playing) of the (person to my right's Protagonist). I can see either of those two as "my" Antagonist. For which, precisely, should I set the Fulcra?

Quote
- John probably should have been rolling two more dice.
Quote
This needs some guidance in the text, then. How much opposition is enough? Do you want to start easy, move on to crushing, and let up at the end? I think you would do well to talk about Antagonists' credit-spending strategies and how they affect the mood of scenes and the flow of play. If I just want to see Dro's poor little rich boy's goals thwarted, I can see some (possibly abusive) dice play in the future.

- Alexander

(I'm really looking forward to continuing / concluding this game, by the way!)
Logged

Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

- Samyutta Nikaya III, 14
Joshua A.C. Newman
Member

Posts: 1144

the glyphpress


WWW
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2006, 01:11:20 PM »

When you first set up a Protagonist, that's "your" Protagonist. You also antagonize someone else's Protagonist.

Let's say you, Thor, and I are playing. I make a Protagonist whom I will play, including hir Fulcra. I also make up the fulcra for the Antagonist I'm playing, Thor's Antagonist. You are given a sentence or two of concept for the Antag you'll be playing and you make up Fulcra for that Antag, as well as Fulcra for the Protag you're playing.

Dig?

The thing about John "should have" been rolling more dice is totally me thinking out loud. It's a matter of taste and context. Do what you want and let me know how it works out!
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Iskander
Member

Posts: 226

Alexander Newman


WWW
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2006, 03:57:27 AM »

I also make up the fulcra for the Antagonist I'm playing, Thor's Antagonist.

Cool! That's the datum I was after, somewhat cack-handedly.
Logged

Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

- Samyutta Nikaya III, 14
Joshua A.C. Newman
Member

Posts: 1144

the glyphpress


WWW
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2006, 06:55:16 AM »

Oh, you and your cock-handedness.

Glad I could help.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Joshua A.C. Newman
Member

Posts: 1144

the glyphpress


WWW
« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2006, 11:19:59 PM »

For reference, I notice that this AP continues a week later over here.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
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