Actual Play - [Remember Tomorrow] Somewhere

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: May 31st 2010

Gregor Hutton's 'Remember Tomorrow' is a game that takes the fondly recalled cyberpunk genre and makes it into an engaging, interesting game. Not the cyberpunk of games such as Cyberpunk 2020, Cyberspace, and Shadowrun, but the literary cyberpunk of Gibson, Rucker, and Swanwick.

Gregor, Per Fischer, and myself, sat down to play last week. Gregor and I had playtested the game together, while Per was totally new to it. Play-wise, the game seemed to start off quite slowly, but as Gregor pointed out, he was reading from the text as if it was the first time the group was sitting down to play.

In the game people/insititutions that you play fall into two categories: Player Characters and Factions. Player characters are, as you might expect, individual characters around the whom the evolving story will coalesce. Or maybe not, perhaps they simply have a walk-on part and are then forgotten. Factions are the adversarial groups, nemeses, and oppositional agents.

Our initial player characters came out as follows (the game, rather cooly, allows you to create new PCs and Factions during play, perhaps swapping out the character you have been playing for someone new):
ZATUMO RYU-YEN, Operative**

Ready: 4 (was 2 to start)
Willing: 5
Able: 5

Positive Conditions
Angry (at bodyguard)
Armed (with Nagant revolver)

Negative Conditions
Humiliated (by Fliss' brother)
Lost (short-term memory gone)

Motivation: Greed
Goal: Get rich beyond his wildest dreams (W ticked)
Notes: Zeiss Artificial Optics; Bodyguard (now dead); AIWA Personality Chip (boosts his Willing)

ALEX BRABHAM, PhotoJournalist, Insider (works for Press Agency)
Ready: 5 (was 4 to start)
Willing: 5
Able: 5 (was 3 to start)

Positive Conditions
Financed (by Archibald Leach Press Agency)
(was Convinced: Allied Carbide up to something, but has used it up)

Negative Conditions
Coerced (by Allied Carbide
(was Burned Out: by the job, but has removed that Condition)

Motivation: Knowledge
Goal: Why the village by the Allied Carbide factory in Chiapas, Mexico, died in the night

Notes: Leica camera and lenses; House in Liverpool; Telefunken Tablet

REIF JONZ, Insider

Ready: 5
Willing: 4
Able: 3

Positive Conditions
Connected (lawyer)
Financed (raise)

Negative Conditions
(was Trapped: by the job, but has removed that Condition)

Motivation: Freedom
Goal: Become a board member of Orange Micro ('Able' ticked)

Notes: Pontiac Keypad Uplink; Heinkel Taser; Pan Am Doll
Separated from his wife, but still pays the mortgage. Works in Berlin.

As noted, you can create new PCs during play and as a result of Gregor's introduction scene with Zatumo, I brought in the father of the bodyguard whom he had murdered:


Ready: 3
Willing: 4
Able: 5

Positive Conditions
Dangerous (military training)

Negative Conditions
Desperate (with grief)

Motivation: Revenge
Goal: Find his son's killer

Notes: Former Major in the Finnish Air Force

All of the introductory scenes for the characters seemed to consciously draw upon literary and cultural cyberpunk influences: anonymous hotels; high-speed trains flashing through urban sprawls; corporate drudgery and the failure of relationships.

Our factions turned out to be a mix of genre tropes and cultural references from the past thirty years. Although, I should add, this didn't seem deliberately knowing or forced. It just seemed appropriate to the game. The factions turned out like this:

Influence: 6

Motivation: Greed

Positive Conditions
Prepared (to make it disappear)
(was Financed: by investors, but have used this)
(was Hardened: to the press, but have used this)

Negative Conditions
(was Desperate: developing crisis, but have removed this)

Dr Reza Taylor, Insider. Moved from Fairbanks, AL to Chiapas, Mexico to deal with situation.

Influence: 4

Motivation: Power

Positive Conditions
Connected (by the satellite network)

Negative Conditions
(was Impaired: no holdings on Earth, but have removed this)

MF Janssen, a Suit.

NOTES: Wants to control the board of Orange Micro; Now owns Cottesmore-Scampton-Biggin & Partners, retained lawyers

Influence: 4

Motivation: Respect

Positive Conditions:
Angry (at Zatumo)
Financed (rentacop training)
(was Armed: by investors, but has been used up)
(was Supported: by Menwith-Fylingdale, but has been used up)

Negative Conditions
Confused (stretched resources)

NPCs: Lots of rentacops

SUE KOVAC, Detective
Influence: 6

Motivation: Respect

Positive Conditions
Armed (with truth)
Hardened (don't let it be personal)
Prepared (has done her homework)

Negative Conditions

The discrete scenes that we had all worked very well together. The mechanic whereby a simple double on the dice means that something from one scene must cross into the next scene gave some interesting connections between what could have been disparate parts of the expanding story. Here are brief notes on the scenes:

1 (G) Intro: Zatumo. Zatumo kills bodyguard
2 (M) Intro: Brabham on train, looking at glossy, high-end magazine containing some of his photgraphy (it s established that print magazines like this are rare and expensive, a symbol of status when most people simply look at magazines on their tablets)
3 (P) Intro: Reif calls Yasmin, with whom he has been having an affair

4 Intro: Allied Carbide flies Dr Taylor into Chiapas in order to try and spin the situation to their advantage.
5 Intro: Menwith-Fylingdale buys Laywer firm and thus establishes some kind of presence on Earth.
6 Intro: Templar Sec investigates murder of bodyguard

7 Face/Off: Menwith vs Raif over merger/redundancy (Cross into next scene)
8 Intro/PC: Jari (with a Cross of Riif's promotion)
9 Intro/Faction: Sue Kova? (3 successes!)

10 Face/Off: Allied Carbide vs Brabham (joint winners, Gregor gets Edge Die)
11 Face/Off: Templar Sec vs Zatumo (Cross into next scene, joint winners, Malcolm gets Edge Die)
12 Face/Off: Sue Kova? vs Zatumo (colour scene)

Oh, and Edge dice? if you're the person setting the scene and you play a PC or Faction that isn't the one you're currently holding on to, you get an Edge Die to spend at any point.

This is kind of a big info dump, but in the end, my feeling was that the game went very well. It felt like the first act of an engaging story, with a number of plot threads hat could potentially intertwine in the style of Count Zero or Mona Lisa Overdrive. RT feels simple, but generates cool moments of play and interesting stories. Pretty much, it's the kind of game I wish I had played all those years ago instead of interminable games of Cyberpunk 2020 where everyone was a walking tank carrying weapons larger than the Guns of Navarone.

Hopefully Gregor and Per will also have the time to comment with their thoughts.


Posted by: Matt On: May 31st 2010

Nice. What I get from this is a real appreciation of the source material. I wonder how much of this is from you guys' experience with the genre and how much comes from setup?

How do conditions and the stats work? Can somebody break down a scene and how the interactions work?

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: May 31st 2010

Matt: Yes, you're totally right. The game does work best when everyone round the table has a knowledge of, and appreciation for, the source fiction. That appreciation feeds into the setup and really colours what is brought out.

As far as the workings of the game go, you roll three 10 sided dice (as a PC) and match dice which are below your Ready, Willing, and Able. For example:

Reif has:

Ready: 5
Willing: 4
Able: 3

In a scene Per rolls his D10s and gets: 4, 4, 7.

That means two successes; 4 is equal to Willing, and the other 4 is less than Ready.

Factions only have influence, but still roll three D10. Let's say Reif was facing off against Menwith Fylingdale with an Influence of 4. MF roll and get: 1, 5, 6. That's one success. Therefore, Reif wins with a Margin of success of 1.

At the start of a conflict, each side must state what they want out of it. So, Per might say that Reif wants to increase Willing to 5. If I'm playing M-F, I might say that I want to gain the positive condition 'Armed'. The winner always gets what they wanted, and the additional successes are spent on either further positive outcomes for the winner, or negative outcomes for the loser. In this example, Per has one additional success to spend.

You can also burn Positive Conditions to aid your situation, and Negative Conditions can be used against you. It's all very simple, but works really well. There's a whole bunch of other stuff, but that's really the core of the resolution system.


Posted by: Brian Ashford On: Jun 1st 2010

Sounds very cool. I particularly like the way the sessions was structured and the way characters can be added and swapped.

The Ready, Willing & Able/3D10 dice system seems very interesting At first glance it seems that it would benefit specialists over generalists (ie a character with stats 7/5/3 is more likely to succeed well than someone with 5/5/5) but I guess in keeping with the genre.

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jun 2nd 2010

Hey thanks for posting this Malc. I think it's clearest if I pick up on a couple of our scenes and break down how they worked.

Scene 10 was interesting I think. I was the Controller and I chose a Face-Off Scene. This means that I will confront a "held" PC (one in the hand of another player) either deliberately or inadvertantly using either a Faction, a "pooled" PC or my own "held" PC (in this case Zatumo).

I chose to Face-Off with Malcolm's character Alex Brabham, a photojournalist who has been poking his nose into a strange incident near the Allied Carbide factory in Chiapas, Mexico. I chose to do so using Allied Carbide, which is one of the Factions.

I set the scene. Alex is in his daily life when he gets a phone call. It's a client interested in buying the rights to his images of the incident in Chiapas. I frame Dr Taylor as being on the other end of the phone, thumbing through a copy of the magazine featuring Alex's work. (For background: Dr Taylor has been brought in by Allied Carbide to stop the story becoming bigger and for him to manage the media and situation. We met him before in Scene 4 when he arrived from Fairbanks, AL on a plane.) Taylor is coyly playing an interested client, looking to but the rights of the images. Malcolm role-plays out Brabham agreeing that the mysterious client can buy a licence for their use. I offer him $500 an image for exclusive rights. Malcolm berates Dr Taylor for not knowing the worth of his work. I retort: "OK, you tell me your price. Everyone has a price." Alex is now very wary of the man on the phone, and we call it a pivotal moment and go to the dice.

Formally I must choose a Scene Goal that does one of two things. It either gives the target a Negative Condition (which limits their success when they succeed, or can be removed to further lower their Parameters) or I can try to remove a tick the target has made towards a Goal. Brabham hasn't any ticks, so the choice for me is easy: pick an NCon. I look at the list. Ha! I want to give him "Coerced".

COERCED: You are put in the hard position of doing something you don’t want to do for someone else. What?

Malcolm can pick either of those things or from a list of further options. I think Malcolm picked that he wanted to be more Ready? (So he'll get +1 Ready if he's a Winner.)

So now we get to the Resolution. Does anyone want to use a Positive Condition for an automatic success before we roll? This time, no.

We both roll and we both get 1 success. Joint winners, but Malcolm decides to use a Positive Condition to re-roll all his dice. You narrate how this happens -- I'm sure he used up Convinced, and pushes his theory that this is not an innocent client after all. On the re-roll he still gets 1 success.

So, we're joint winners, choose our outcomes and narrate each other's success. (Well, anyone can chip in but we have the stamp on our opponent's fiction -- it's normally the loser who has the stamp, but in the case of no losers you don't narrate on your own success.)

Malcolm grabs +1 Ready as his Scene Goal and I think might have grabbed +1 Able with his 1 Margin of Success (we both got 1 more than the nearest loser, 0 successes). I gave Brabham the Negative Conditon "Coerced" as my Scene Goal and then spent my 1 Margin on +1 INF, raising Allied Carbide's Influence to a lofty 6.

So the Outcome is Alex Brabham is now tied legally into a deal with Allied Carbide not to make the photos of the disaster available (well, they can't actually stop him but there will be consequences if he does!). On the other hand, the money he gets makes him more Ready and Able to find out what happened at Chiapas. And for their part Allied Carbide now wield more Influence because of the astute move by Dr Taylor.

Does that make sense?

Blank character sheets.

I'll look at Scenes 11 and 12 next, they were interesting too.

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jun 2nd 2010

Oh, I forgot. I got an Edge die for Winning with someone who's not my "held" PC. I can add it to a roll whenever I like (then it's used up).

So, we get to Malcolm scene straight after mine. For Scene 10 Malcolm chooses a Face-Off using Templar Sec (a privatised Interpol that Per created as a Faction and had them Introduced investigating the death of Zatumo's Bodyguard -- it was Zatumo that did it in his Intro scene!). He chooses to Face-Off with Zatumo.

Malcolm has Zatumo chased through a Victorian Arcade in Somewhere. The Rentacops try to arrest him and bring him in for questioning. We quickly reach a pivotal moment. (Up till then Malcolm is like the GM and can say "yes" or "no" to what happens in the fiction, but when we reach a Pivotal Moment that stops and we go to the dice.)

Scene Goals? I wanted Zatumo to be more Ready (+1). Templar Sec wanted to make him Lost by removing his short-term memory (which is fine, you could probably also have called that as Impaired, Injured or Trapped depending on how you look at the outcome).

Anyway, to Resolution. Any PCons for success? Yes! I think I burnt off my Armed and waved me Nagant Revolver around. Malcolm burnt off Armed too and had them use Tasers on me I think.

1 Success and then we rolled the dice. We ended up with 2 Successes each and took it as Joint Winners. Malc got an Edge die for Winning as Tempar-Sec.

Zatumo got his +1 Ready as his Goal and then picked "Supported" (by a lawyer who saw me arrested, I lied that I was innocent to him!) and ticked his Willing Goal Box. He's now Willing to do whatever it takes to get rich beyond his wildest dreams (but not yet Ready or Able for it to happen). I could do this because I rolled a success on Willing. Zatumo also got his "Lost" as Malcolm's Scene Goal comes true.

I think Templar-Sec got Financed and Angry at Zatumo with their 2 Margin of Success.

And... a double was rolled by me, which meant there was a Cross into the next scene about Zatumo.

Scene 11 was the scene for Per and he had to include a Cross. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. He framed a Face-Off between Sue Kovac (a Faction Per created; she is a Ronin/freelance law enforcement op subcontracting for Templar-Sec) and Zatumo. We went at it with the role-playing and I don't know what loose Scene Goal Per had in mind. In the end, we didn't hit a Pivotal Moment for Per. I was begging for a deal as Zatumo to get me out of jail and Sue was happy to let me stew in the cells. So Per called it a Colour Scene and we got one Outcome each. Per gave +1 INF to Kovac (putting her up to 6 too: fearsome!) and I maybe picked +1 Ready for Zatumo taking him up to R|W|A or 4|5|5, which is pretty rad.

We ended there, but I was eyeing up my next scene: Zatumo makes a Deal with Templar-Sec. They get +1 INF and I get an unopposed roll for improvements (better that than dealing with Kovac! She's get INF 7 and be a real pain in the ass!).


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jun 2nd 2010

Huh, I just realised looking at what I'd written that Kovac and Allied Carbide shouldn't have INF 6. You specifically can't jack their INF up on an Intro scene, and so the best they could hope for was +1 on a following scene.

Posted by: Joe Prince On: Jun 2nd 2010

Factions seem to be the biggest change, making proceedings decidedly more cyberpunky.

How d'ya feel the factions are working out compared to the NPCs/PCs we had in our previous game?

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jun 8th 2010

Yes, Factions!

What clarified it for me in our playtest is that my old NPCs were a muddled hybrid of pooled PCs and some sort of antagonistic grouping -- which I've fixed into Factions.

It means that some of the old NPCs are now properly placed as pooled PCs (and so open for any of us deciding what they are like, but they can be held and nailed down to one player, and they do aim for a Goal).

Whereas other old NPCs are now these anatagonsts (and occasional apparently helpful, at a price, forces). Factions don't shoot for Goals, can get a real win spiral going on and triumph out of play causing a lot of havoc in the process, and are entirely open for contradictory behaviour and can't be controlled, described and defined by just one player.

They're "colder" and more adverserial. But they also can cut a deal, at the expense of later danger to the group as a whole and to some specific PCs depending on the Deal the Held PC makes.

In other related stuff, this totally jives with Allied Carbide in our game: Bhopal trial: Eight convicted over India gas disaster

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jun 8th 2010

I'm certainly keen for you, me, and Per to play RT again in the near future. I'd like to see how the stories of the characters and factions develop as play goes on. As a commented when we played, it felt like the first act of a drama, with lots more to come.


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