Actual Play: a|state (part 3 of 9)

This is part 3 of 9. I’ll post another every few days so you have time to catch up.

If you’ve just run into this one somehow, this is an edited version of my actual play reports of a|state I wrote for our Slack while I was working on my deep dive of the game. Terrific campaign, learned a lot about not only a|state itself but FitD games and long-form play as well. The series started here.

Mission 3: Dingins Come Online

Last night’s allegedly “short” game was good enough that the otherwise-responsible dad who was playing with us stuck around an extra 30 minutes to see the mission through. I told them up front that we had a short night, we can take time and breathe a bit, not every mission needs to be at combat tempo. This was important to drive home because two of our three troublemakers started the mission damn near maxed out on Stress before it even began, the result of an unfortunate intrusion (unplanned and unasked-for mission) during their downtime.

I do like that you can recover a bit of stress during a mission in a|state, and that’s a thing I think I will import into other FitD games without any trouble at all. You only get 1 Stress! And there’s a good chance bad things will bubble up as a result: not bad bad, more like a tick on a clock or a little extra heat/noise or something. It was a good way to start the mission, in fact. Our stress-free sneakthief, having come back from a couple weeks of recovery from being fucking shot, was rested, hydrated and in his lane as he went off to scout approaches to their enemy’s headquarters. With a low-risk Engagement roll, sure, howzabout the folks who aren’t needed for the scouting enjoy a spot of tea brewed from the leaves of a weird solitary tree that’s worshiped by the local animist cult? That was the first tick on the Dingins clock.

I dig the dingins! In a|state they’re basically a stand-in for “technology that scares you.” They come in big, small, and invisible sizes and have no specific purpose or limitations. They’re just…computing gizmos. They’re whatever you need them to be. I rolled them out during their first downtime, when the local constabulary had grabbed the troublemakers (all of whom were reeling from their first Trauma): the first thing that happened at the “jail” was they were sat down in front of a big dingin with an implacable glowing lens aimed at them. And just sat there while the lens glowed red for a bit. And then that was that! Back on the street, lads, and stay out of trouble. The dingin will know!

As this mission started (goal: take their enemy faction off the board once and for all and end the war they’re entangled with!), our sneakthief tailed some NPCs back to their semi-secret headquarters. En route, he sees General Machinery technicians installing dingins high up on the walls of buildings throughout their corner. Another tick on the dingin clock! The dingin clock became their low-risk bleed-off for consequences as the mission built up. Need some Grief (devil’s bargain)? Have a tick on the dingin clock! Need a consequence you don’t need to spend stress to resist? Dingin clock! The smiley faces made it fun and funny. Everyone laughed and laughed.

Eventually their plan came to fruition. Their talker guy, a Lostfinder, played distraction to pull the faction boss’s guards away long enough for the Ghostfighter to slip in and cut his throat. But oh no, just got a 5 and not a 6! How about that last tick on the dingin clock? How bad could it be?

As the Ghostfighter stood triumphant over the corpse of their sworn enemy, the bright red glow of a dingin’s implacable lens flared to life inside the headquarters. And on the street. And every-fucking-where they want to go. Watching. Judging. Evaluating threat and likelihood of crime being committed in their presence by the thinking machines somewhere in the bowels of the city.

Followup thoughts, mostly for my own brain to percolate on:

  • The corner started with the reputation of “canny” but now that they’ve straight up murdered their enemies, they’ve changed the rep to “violent.” It’s worth a corner XP! I think they felt suitably uneasy about that new reputation. Meanwhile the Trouble Engine is about to run and I’m pretty sure the “angry” Trouble is about to escalate. It’ll be fun to tie those things together.
  • The players’ string of successes — mostly 6es and just a few 4-5s, no 1-3s at all — could not have come at a better time. It is wild to watch them practically weep with relief, very few complications coming along. No new traumas!
  • Our newest player has predominantly been a Pathfinder player in the past, and it’s real interesting to debrief with him about the differences he sees. The storyline of course is moving a zillion times faster. But also it’s neat that he sees other players do principled character-driven things at the table that look like they should be awful derails. And they would be at a PF-style table. But there are so many ways to bounce back from setbacks in FitD. I think he’s starting to chew on how to chase XPs through the triggers, rather than passively receiving them via desperate rolls.
  • The dingin thing was so unsettling that they blew their Corner upgrades on a dinginsmith Expert! Which is great, because they need someone like her to start unraveling the core problem driving the game’s Danger Clock (it’s not the dingins themselves but they’re the canary in the coal mine).

<– Part 2 | Part 4 –>

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