[Nerdinburgh '08] Shock: Frozen

Started by TomTitTot, January 21, 2008, 02:47:07 AM

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Shock: Frozen

(The name that seemed to fit. Better ideas are welcome.)

Nerdinburgh '08 was great fun, held at the home of and organized by our gracious host Per Fischer. We were split into two groups for the first four hours, half of us playing The Dragon vs. The Gun and the others playing Sorcerer & Sword. We then broke for dinner and separated into our new groups, playing Shock: and Spione.

Obviously this is about our Shock: game, and the players were Myself, Per, David, and Calum. David, Calum and I had never played the game before, and I gather that Per's previous game was less-than-stellar, though whether that was a question of group dynamics or the more difficult v1 ruleset I have no idea. I was organizing the game, with help from Per. We briefly reviewed the concept behind the game, chatted for a bit, then started on the Grid.

There is a strong consensus that the Grid is a stroke of pure genius, almost instantly. We suggested the Issues - Privacy (David) Immigration (Me) Economic Depression (Calum) and Old Age (Per) and we all owned our own issues (although in play we all threw ideas in, and it rarely seemed the remit of one person.) Then we wrote the Shocks – Sleeves (disposable bodies, from Per) Personal Monitoring (David) Abolition of Pain (Pooka) and Cryonics (Calum). We eventually decided to have Cryonics as our Shock. Calum's Protagonist lived at the intersection of Privacy and Cryonics. David ended up at Immigration and Cryonics. Per was at Economic Depression and Cryonics. I ended up at Old Age and Cryonics, and almost didn't want to play it – I was worried that it was too much like the real issue of Old Age. This is funny, because in many ways I feel I got the character with the most "story meat" and I'm SO glad that I didn't change my issue, because my Protag was an absolute joy to play.

We then drew up a bunch of minutiae, some relative to the Shock and some to our Issues: Cryonic Prisons, where people are frozen instead of serving jail terms, and they run rehabilitative programs fed into your dreams; that while frozen, your dreams can be influenced and even controlled, but that it requires expensive and delicate equipment that only governments and the super-rich can afford; that if you are deeply desperate you can "lease" your organs and be put in suspension until they are returned to you and you are then paid; that there are a range of freezing methods, from the high-end CryoSoft machines that freeze almost instantly and have no negative side effects, to the very low-end models that take a few hours to freeze and cause disorientation, chills, and sometimes nerve damage; that the elderly, when close to death, are frozen and kept on suspension, only being thawed out for special occasions and holidays; that poor workers sell themselves into "suspension work" where they are unfrozen to labour, then frozen again until their next shit, only being freed after a certain amount of accrued "time" is earned.

We then started by each of us framing a small scene, in turn, where we show what the protagonist's daily routine is like.

David talked about his character, Joe Public 587 (Immigration/Cryonics), a suspension worker. Suspension workers are referred to by their "model" name, determined by a combination of body type, gender, and skill set. "Joe" sold himself into suspension work in order to earn money to move his family to a nicer country than his home country, which is poor and supposedly dangerous. Joe began his day by being unfrozen and deposited in the decanting room, where he is given his assignment for the day, then transported to the assembly line where he works. After his shift, Joe is re-frozen. During his shift he spends his entire time unsuccessfully trying to think of a way out of his servitude. (David's Story Goal for Joe is "Buy my way out of servitude".)

I framed a scene with my character next. Betty Jones (Old Age/Cryonics) is an aged grandmother who is kept suspended by her daughter Rebecca. She has been on ice for 25-odd years, having lived only around two months in that entire time, thawed out for her grandson's birthdays, Christmas, and weddings. She is thawed out for Jimmy's 32nd Birthday, ushered to the table where, still addled by the cheap suspension, she drools slightly and stares vacantly. By the time she is mostly aware, her questions and concerns are turned aside and ignored by Rebecca, who helps her back to the cryonic chamber, freezing her until the next "special occasion". (Story Goal: "To be unfrozen and die a natural death.")

Per's character Eben Rollo (Economic Depression/Cryonics) is destitute, on the street, with only the clothes on his back and an idea in his head. He was once the managing director (or CEO?) of a leading cryonics corporation, but was ousted during a hostile takeover by the current leading cryonics corp, CryoSoft. Sadly, his wife is in suspension, and CryoSoft took over the contract, which is due to run out any day now. He might be down, but he's not out of the game yet – he has a seed idea for lunchtime cryo, booths around the city that allow someone to be frozen at any time they wish. He goes from person to person, on the street, trying to get investors for his idea among the homeless and criminal of the city, to no avail. (Story Goal: "Get back into the cryo business.")

Calum is playing Randolph Harris (Privacy/Cryonics) a "Controller" at the Department of Cryo Correction, monitoring the dreams of convicted criminals and making sure they are fed the correct rehabilitation programs while they are suspended. I can't do the first scene justice, as it invoked excellent visual imagery, Randolph walking through the darkened facility, rows of faintly glowing cryo-pods to either side of the hallway, until he reaches the monitoring room, where the walls are covered with a multitude of screens, showing the dreams of the inmates. He pulls his chair up to the screen that shows the dreams of the prisoner in cell A8129C – the girl he is falling in love with. (Story Goal: Meet the girl in cell A8129C.)

I can't say often enough how well these first scenes flowed for me. They play out like an amazing opening montage from a film, since they involved no dialogue, just visual images of the lives of our Protagonists. Music plays over the scenes in my head, while the credits roll.

We stop to eat cakes, and return to the game some time later.

(We had the Antagonists frame most of the scenes for the Protagonists. I don't know if this is meant to happen, but it worked extremely well for us.)
Joe Public 587 awakens in the decanting room, but something has changed. The room is full of other suspension workers, all different models. They are all dressed is fine suits. Instead of the usual secretary informing them of their duty, a strange man in a cheap suit, loud tie, and a nasty facial scar (Lawrence) is barking orders at the workers. He forces them to line up against the wall, and informs them that three of the seven will be chosen for a special assignment, at which they will earn Triple Time. Joe is suddenly desperate – he wants this job. The workers are taken one-by-one from the room, until Joe is left alone with a big, burly man. They talk briefly – the man is a Joe Bloggs model – and then the man is taken away. Joe sits alone for a moment, and is then escorted from the room by the man. He is escorted into a room with a large mirror and chairs bolted to the floor. The mansits opposite Joe, and says something like "You know, I just don't think that you're cut out for this position. You're going to have to impress me." With unveiled contempt in his voice. Conflict: Joe/David – "I get the job!" Pooka/Lawrence – "I make you feel less than human!" David succeeds and I land on the fulcrum, escalating to "Do I beat him bloody?" Yes, I do! Perturbed at Joe's seeming inability to feel belittled, Lawrence knocks him to the floor and kneels on his chest, punching him brutally in the face until people in lab coats rush in and drag him off. A woman helps Joe up, apologizes, and assures him that the position is his. Joe is overjoyed.

Betty Jones comes to in an unfamiliar place – she's moving. She's in a car, and her daughter is driving in the seat next to her. She asks what is going on, where they are going – she's scared, shaken, and disturbed by the changed world she sees outside the car windows. Rebecca assures her that everything is fine, and that Betty is just coming home to stay with her for a while. Betty is pleased but suspicious, and she asks why this is happening now. Rebecca says that she has just been busy, and things have been very hard for her, and Betty seizes on this chance to tell her "I don't want to go back into cryo." Conflict: Pooka/Betty – "I get to stay unfrozen!" Per/Rebecca – "I get your consent to take your kidney!" We roll, and I fail, but so does Per. Until, that is Calum plays the minutiae "Power Of Attorney" – apparently this is just a formality, and she can do whatever she likes to Betty – when your elderly parent is frozen, their autonomy (and anatomy) is forfeit. Rebecca gets Betty's kidney, and Betty is thrown back into cryo.

Eben Rollo is trolling the streets, looking desperately for a way out of his predicament. Eventually one of the people he talks to about his idea actually seems to take notice – not only that, but he's a young professional who looks like he has money. He gives Eben his card – Darren Walker, a Manager at CryoSoft, the company that brought Eben low in the first place. Conflict: Per/Eben – "You get me a meeting with the R&D department!" Calum/Darren – "I steal your idea and CryoSoft gets the copyright!" Per wins, and Calum lands on the fulcrum, escalating to "I steal your idea and keep the copyright to myself!" which happens at the end of the meeting. He wins his new intent, and Eben is back out on the street.

Randolph Harris is watching his monitors calmly, as usual watching the girl in cell A8129C. He checks the rehabilitation discs, checks vitals, and is surprised to see a man walking calmly down the corridor towards him. (Minutiae – the Department of Suspension Monitoring, AKA "Ice Men") the man, in a deep black suit and mirrorshades, introduces himself as Agent Hart and informs Randolph that there have been automated irregularities flagged up in the monitoring systems, and they are there to investigate. Techies arrive with devices to check the systems, as Randolph starts to sweat. Conflict: Calum/Randolph – "They don't find out what I've been doing!" David/Hart – "We find the source of the irregularities!" Calum fails, and David wins. Calum risks a link and fails again, losing his Link to the Department of Cryo Correction, and gaining a link to a "sympathetic controller", another employee at the department. Agent Hart informs Randolph that they have to take him into custody and suspend him for the interim, until a tribunal can be convened to review the evidence.

Joe is herded into the back of a truck, hurriedly, along with a number of other workers. They are bundled in, the door is closed and the truck starts to drive away. Joe has the longest time to think about his situation since he became a suspension worker, and starts to feel uneasy about the situation. Why aren't they being frozen for transport? After some time the truck backs up, stops, and the doors open onto a massive killing floor in an old slaughterhouse. Technicians in lab coats with clipboards start to come up and take workers away, and one of the workers flees. He is not pursued, and the technicians are not obviously perturbed by his escape. One of the workers comes to take Joe away. Conflict: Joe/David – "I run away and escape these people!" Technician/Pooka – "I install illegal software into your brain!" We roll, and both win. After having the software installed, Joe's sedative wears off too quickly, and he rips the armrest from the rusty dentist chair he was tied to, bludgeoning the technician with it, then escaping.

Betty is dreaming. She is a young child again, playing with her puppets in the tall grass. Suddenly an bigger, imposing child comes along and says "Give me your puppets." Betty is shocked and refuses "No, these are MY puppets." "But you don't need them if you're dead" says the girl. "I'm not dead yet" says Betty. "Will you give them to me if you die?" "Yes, you can have them if I die." "Sign here." Betty refuses, and a voice intrudes into her dream, a voice saying "It's not working, doctor." Betty says "Just take them when I die, I won't mind." The girl says "Do you want me to be a THIEF?!" "...you already ARE a thief!" Conflict: Per/Rebecca – "I want the rest of your organs, to pay my debts!" Pooka/Betty – "I wake myself up from cryo, to stammer "I love you, darling! Please..."" we both hit the fulcrum, thanks to an audience minutiae pointing back at Power of Attorney – this is just a formality, to ease Rebecca's conscience. We escalate: Per/Rebecca – "I shut your tube down, forcing you back into cryo indefinitely!" Pooka/Betty – "I get up from my pod, and shout "You are MY daughter and you'll do as I say!"" I win. Per wins. Betty gets up, yells, and ten as she approaches Rebecca she falls back into cryo, possibly forever.

(We started to be more aware of our time restriction at this point, and scenes moved progressively quicker.)

Eben Rollo is worming his way into CryoSoft, from the bottom up. Having obtained a job as a janitor, he is slowly gathering information to use against Darren, who stole his idea. He eventually talks to some of the IT staff one evening (I cannot remember all of the dialogue, but I remember that it was funny and excellent.) convincing them to help play a "prank" on Darren – making him without money for 24 hours. Conflict: Per/Eben – "I make him moneyless for 24 hours, locking him out of CryoSoft." Calum – "You are discovered and apprehended by the authorities." Per wins, Calum loses.

Randolph is strapped to a gurney in the prepping room, being put under in anticipation of his tribunal. Overseeing his prepping is his colleague and "sympathetic controller". His colleague talks to him briefly, and eventually suggests that he has some "new software" that would allow him to put Randolph in contact with The Girl after his suspension – if he agrees to take the rap. This, we realize, may be the real reason the Ice Men arrived in the facility. Conflict: Calum/Randolph – "I want to knock him out and escape!" David/Controller – "I want him to take the blame for the illegal software!" Calum fails. David Fails. Calum risks his Link "sympathetic controller" (not so sympathetic, after all!) and rolls. He fails. He risks his Link to "the girl in cell A8129C". (At this point, if I remember correctly, Per and I were on the edges of our seats, gripping our dice and hoping desperately that he would win.) He succeeds. Everyone cheered.

Joe has managed to get picked up by the Ice Men (including agent Hart), and they offer him a deal – if they can download the illegal software from his mind, he will be placed in witness protection and his family will be transported to this country to be with him, and they will all be granted citizenship. The Ice Men have been after CryoSoft for ages, and need this info to convict. This will resolve Joe's Story Goal. Conflict: David/Joe – "To accept the deal and buy my way out of servitude." Pooka – "To have Lawrence's thugs break in and kill the government agents." David wins. I win. As the Ice Men link up and download the information, Lawrence's thugs break in and kill the agents, but a few escape, Hart among them. Joe is back in the hands of CryoSoft, and they drag him away, to an unknown fate, but his family will be cared for.

Betty is eventually brought back out of suspension, although it's a strain on her, and she won't be able to come out of it again. She's called to the witness stand in Rebecca's defence, as a character witness. It seems Rebecca's debts have got the better of her, and like many of the seriously poor in the world, they're going to suspend her indefinitely. Conflict: Pooka/Betty – "I want to be there for Rebecca, while making her out to be guilty." (I can't remember the exact intent here, but Betty's death was in here somewhere) Per/Rebecca – "I want Betty to do my time and be frozen in my place." I win. Per loses. Betty sits in a chair next to her daughter's gurney as Rebecca is being suspended. Rebecca is scared, and Betty holds her hand, saying "Don't worry dear, it's not much like dying" with her final breath.

Eben is in a position to take Darren's job at CryoSoft. We go straight to conflict, as time is VERY short now. Conflict: Per/Eben – "I want to take Darren's job at CryoSoft." Calum – "Your wife comes out of suspension at CryoSoft and finds out about your girlfriend. She leaves you." Per wins. Calum wins. Eben is a higher-up in CryoSoft now, but without his wife.

Randolph dashes down corridors, running from the Ice Men, to get to cell A8129C. Agent Hart is there. Conflict: Calum/Randolph – "I want to help The Girl escape" David/Hart – "I want you to take her place in the cell." Calum wins. David loses. Randolph and The Girl are let go by Hart, who watches them run off into an unknown future.


And that, as they say, was that.

My apologies for any inaccuracies, omissions, or downright lies in this AP. It took me fucking ages to type this up – no wonder I prefer to record play sessions!

I will allow the other players to fact check me for accuracy here before I prattle on about my feelings on the session. It was really wonderful and enjoyable, if difficult and heart-rending at times. Brilliant game, brilliant group. Thanks for the opportunity at Nerdinburgh, Per!