[Remember Tomorrow] Mitsubishi and a smashed tank of fish

Started by Gregor Hutton, August 19, 2011, 08:10:34 AM

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Gregor Hutton

Hey, I got in a game of Remember Tomorrow at GenCon Games on Demand this year. We had 4 players (including me, Time Jensen and Mike Holmes) and we actually got a complete Episode done in about 3-4 hours (about 24 or 28 scenes I think). It was quite colourful with Yakuza, the US Government, Yakuza, Doll Yakuza and ranged from Japan to (mostly) Washington, DC.

Three PCs got Exits (including the first time I've ever got Fliss Drake "out" with a Goal completed in play) and the Episode ended there. Some Factions got up to 7 Influence, but they were all dragged back down by the time we got the PCs out. We had a little debrief afterwards and some interesting discussion came up with Mike Holmes about the "consistency" of the fiction. I hope we can talk about that here.

We talked a bit about Fiasco too, which we thought has seen similar glitches/leaps in fictional "sense" in play (when you get too many coincidences for the taste of some players). I'm paraphrasing Mike here, and feel free to correct me, but he was looking for some mechanical way to reward being consistent in the fiction (or stop non sequiturs). Jason and I thought that it was a table/social issue.

I'll put the characters and Factions up here over the weekend, but feel free to chime in!

Oh, the thread title comes from the Mitsubishi Faction in play and my character Fliss's "out" when she kicked the shit out of Tim's PC's fish tank (and apartment). We tied on the roll and so Fliss made him Destitute, while he made Fliss Trapped in a Hospital (along with Mike's Operative) and Fliss also got her final Goal tick -- killing her brother's murderer when he came to kill Fliss in hospital. She Exited with a saline drip plugged into her arm, resting on her street samurai sword. Can't wait to play her again!

Ron Edwards

Hi Gregor,

The following has ranty features, but I hope it actually ties into the issue you raised, about consistency in the fiction. It's also springboarding off my recent reading of the game, which as you know, I finally acquired at the latest GenCon.

I'll start with the depth charge: I am so done with cyberpunk. And one of the reasons is, it was done, as in over, practically before it began. Coincidentally, I was talking about this (not in regard to your game) at GenCon with the guys from the Burning Wheel booth, and someone I don't remember suggested that part of the problem may have been nailing something perfectly too early, specifically with the movie Blade Runner. For my part, I talked about K. W. Jeter, Gibon's initial short stories, and a couple of other early authors, and how after only a few works, Gibson as well as everyone else authors merely re-hashed the same old tropes and plot-outcomes, such that according with cyberpunk-as-established became sufficient and in fact, obligatory, for writing it. The plots were nothing more than standard action-semi-drama Hollywood, even if as in Neuromancer, it was well done. By 1989 and the appearance of dedicated cyberpunk in RPGs, it was already so played-out in terms of provocative content, I found that my enjoyment of (e.g.) Cyberpunk first edition was nothing more than a nostalgia exercise. 

Oh, there were a few good titles past the first couple of years, yes. I do like Hardwired, the only major-length novel I've ever read which actually sustained present-tense throughout without becoming ridiculous. But as provocative fiction, cyberpunk fell apart. Politically, it was a mess - how can you be "punk" yet obsessed with expensive fashion? How come all these so-called outlaws cleaved unswervingly toward social justice as conceived by the 1980s New Left? How come hippies were absolutely uncool unless they were black and preferably Rastafarian? I felt trapped in a world of suburban American writers fantasizing they were the protagonist of Quadrophenia, even as they were befuddled by the contradiction most illustrated by the Jedi - natural mystics eschewing technology but with these bad-ass fucking light-sabres, man! And as far as any substantial critique of corporatism, technology-as-culture, future shock, haves-vs.-have-nots, and similar, one need go no further than Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination to find all the really powerful content of cyberpunk, already spelled out in 1956.

Okay, I got that out onto the page. Now for the relevance to Remember Tomorrow. I like a ton of things about the game, and in anticipation, I'm looking foward to the way Goals can evolve and change, to the trade-off between beefing up your own character and providing adversity to others' characters, and some other things.

But I find myself stalled out on the Color. My problem is a perfect inversion of the Underpants Gnomes' plan: (i) ???, (ii) cybertech!!, (iii) ???

As far as (i) is concerned, I'm not compelled by how our lives today might be dramatized by cybertech. The relevant context, against Reagan and Thatcher, was lost by 1981, as none might know better than a Scotsman. And as far as (iii) goes, once we "have cybertech," so what? The only thing that remains for me is its rendering, i.e., should there ever be a Neuromancer movie, how well is Molly portrayed, or how cool her claws are done with CGI, et cetera. And for me, rendering is very small potatoes.

All of this would be nothing more than a personal screed of interest only over a couple of pints between us, except that I'm drawn to what Mike said, as you reported: without a genuine social-political charge at the table, science fiction role-playing has nothing to do except toss in the kitchen-sink of genre tropes for a given subset of itself.

Perhaps what I'm looking for is the content of cyberpunk, as you experience it still from the references in the game (all of which I know and enjoyed, in my case very much past tense). Sort of an articulation of cyberpunk by way of shock:, in order to restore a sense of relevance for me.

Best, Ron

Gregor Hutton

Sorry about the delay in posting to this thread. It's been a busy week with the Festival on here. I've got the sheets from GenCon but this thread is more interesting that just that.

"Cyberpunk" is such a loaded term, isn't it? The good stuff was arguably over when they put together Mirrorshades! To most gamers I know, the word means geared-up military squads of PCs essentially dungeonbashing corporate HQs for gold on credsticks. Probably with Manga overtones and giant robots. I personally couldn't care less about that. There is also a distinct fetishism to cyberwear (and I think steampunk is built on little else than that, it's just a different flavour to the cyberpunk fetishism of 15 years before, but that's another topic entirely). Molly has razor fingers and mirror eyes (but they weren't gear to me, they were colour). I see the brand naming and the near-future tech in Gibson as consumerist colour that I like. And I don't think it brings any dramatization to a character at all. It's all window dressing. So I didn't give bonuses or stats for guns, gear, optics or any of that stuff. I think that causes some headscratching for people to be honest.

At its heart I wanted the game to reach for what I liked in literary cyberpunk stories (underneath the fetishism and the retconned lie that somehow "cyberpunkers" were out to help the world at large). They were disparate (and desperate) characters, definitely not in a "party", with individual goals, situations and issues weighing upon them, and with some leverage that they could bring to bear. And they were crashing into each other -- sometimes helping each other out and sometimes crushing each other. At the end of the day they come and go in a world that is bigger than the little snapshots of them that we get to see.

The 80s thing that I saw was that you get what you want by stomping on someone else (whether you mean to or not). And at what point can you overcome that? I think that is the only ethical thing baked into the game.

I also adored how Gibson gave snapshots of Molly's life in Johnny Mnemonic, Neuromancer and Mona Lisa Overdrive. Then no more.

Of more modern near future stuff I do like Vurt by Jeff Noon, and Fairyland, etc. by Paul J. Mcauley (where the dolls are from). And one of my favourite original authors was John Shirley -- but its unrecognizable as "cyberpunk" to most gamers brought up on Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Cyberspace, etc. I liked Hardwired too though that seems to be a book that is dogged by people who are "real" cyberpunk fans (whatever that means).


Hmmm.  I guess what I see as the distinguishing and redeeming quality of cyberpunk is the extent to which it embodies Gibson's sentiment: The future is already here; it's just unevenly distributed.

(And, of course, there's nothing particularly novel about that -- Cortez meeting the Aztecs is a wonderful example, among others offered by history.)

Does Remember Tomorrow in general offer support for exploring that?  Did your game in particular explore it?



I can go with that, and indeed a circle of friends is prone to remarking on how many of the predictions cyberpunk made are now present.  Only the other day I saw a story about a guy who volunteered to have his paralysed hand amputated and replaced with a mechanical prosthetic.

As for social charge... I'm inclined to think of it as being sort of studies of what happens if the Libertarian nightmare comes true.  Bereft of a cogent critique of capitalism, all it can do is explore the consequences of the trends we already experience extended to their logical endpoint.  I also don't think the characters were particularly engaged with social justice as such, or if so only as a reaction against the logic of the world they experienced.  All Case wanted, after all, was a new liver so he could get high again.  Our new conservative PM talks about fixing "Broken Britain", and I think that CP mostly produced "case studies" of broken societies rather than expressing some sort of programmatic ambition.  In that light, the recent riots in London, which started just down the road from me, bear that out: half-brick consumerism, as they have been described.  Rather than playing along with the system to get all that expensive fashion, playing against it.

At the far end it tends to merge into ideas of posthumanism etc.  I always though that the end of Neuromancer, where Wintermute remarks that he has found a similer entity at Alpha Centauri, was more of a bombshell than everything that had gone before.  This is a world potentially teetering on the edge of a Terminator scenario.  Also, most cyberpunk settings seem to have elements of post apocalypse stuff in them.  At the very least, the old certainties of Eastern and Western blocs are gone, and that serves as another true-ish prediction of the world we now live in.  But many also have significant environmental degredation and the disintegration of states if not some additional trauma.  So these are semi-apocalypses, in which normal life has sort of staggered on rather than being completely wiped out.  For my money, the GURPS CP setting was IMO much better than those in Shadowrun or Cyberpunk 2020, becuase it made more play with those elements.

So I agree that the gear element isn't really that important.  It's one contributing factor that extends the end of life-as-we-know-it (or, now, have known it) idea to the physically personal and biological.  It's not a stable system, it's an interregnum between systems, a sort of high-tech Dark Age, but what comes after it is beyond its own topical scope.

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Gregor Hutton

Sorry for the delay in getting back to this: I've been in Germany over weekend, head to Oxford for work tomorrow and Wednesday, then go to Gnoccocon (Reggio Emilia in Italy) from Friday to Monday. (Yes, the future where protagonists travel across Old Europe trivially is already here.)

I will get back to this!

My gut reaction (and, shh, don't tell anyone, between us, right?) is that it's not what most people would see as a "cyberpunk" game. But then why style it that way? People seem to dig it because of its appearance as a "cyberpunk"-promising thing? Well, I like the colour/appearance/hook of "cyberpunk" (but I never found the mercenary/team approach appealing in play).

But I need to think about this! And I'm happily reading the posts here.

Gregor Hutton

Oh, one thing that struck me looking back on the play notes I made was about dealing with Factions. One PC cut a deal with a Faction (the US Government) and got a little bit out of it. The US Government got their Influence increased as a result. A round of scenes later we had the (now-boosted) US Government Faction making life more difficult for that PC, for two scenes in succession. But each time it was a different controller using the Faction (one to Deal, two others to have a Face Off).