Still going! This is part 6 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.
Personal Business, redux
I’m square in the middle of a multi-day migraine cycle (ama) but I timed my meds out so we could run our next downtime/personal business phase of our a|state game last night. (Been weighing the pros and cons of all-lower-case, which is I think how they refer to the game themselves, feels a bit precious!) ((My meds are gonna make me write weird shit, just roll with it.))
A couple interesting things jumped out at me. I’m still tearing down the fundamentals of “downtime” in the FitD meta-structure, and I still very much enjoy treating it as “personal business” in a|state.
Pre-game I was having a conversation with one of my players, in which I explained my new take on downtime as “personal time.” He cocked his eyebrow at this, did the expected “huh?,” and went on to say that wasn’t possible, no, it’s all abstract, there’s hardly any roleplaying happening at all, couldn’t imagine actually rolling dice and doing just-roleplaying-things during downtime. Then I laid out, roll by roll and scene by scene, all the just-roleplaying-things he himself had done during our last downtime! It was really interesting and strange to face down this…dunno, version of reality he had of the game in his head, versus the actual experience he himself had gone through. Not sure what to do with that. But he’s sold. And last night, sure enough, plenty of scenes and rolling (mostly fortune, not action, rolls I’ll grant), but of course it’s mostly structured around narrating into, through, and out of their downtime action choices.
Clocks, Redux redux
Second thing, related: as a practical matter, my biggest hands-on breakthrough with this new understanding is embracing that all clocks follow clock rules. Doesn’t matter if they’re a personal project clock, or a faction clock, or whatever other clock (there are many many clocks in a|state!), they all respond to the fiction the same way. This is huge. Huge!
Last personal time phase, someone started a “community project” (it’s an a|state option, identical to a personal project in every way except it has to benefit the community and anyone can contribute rolls to it) to decipher what’s up with these mysterious new dingins getting installed all over the neighborhood. It was an 8-clock, sort of “owned” by a Dinginsmith specialist they brought on board as their corner upgrade last session. But it’s a clock! So during our last mission phase (corner business!), in the course of normal business, they also stole one of those dingins. Well hell, that’s worth a tick on her clock, yeah? Just having the darned thing. That came up over and over again, and it’s a very good update to how I run these games as campaigns. I’m sure this is old news to most committed FitD fans, whatever, it’s still good advice.
If there was a downside at all to assertively reframing downtime as “personal business,” it’s that it takes a little more judgment on my part to point out when they’re headed into a mission, or allowing that the downtime actions exist largely to abstract away stuff if you need/want. Mostly it’s a reminder to me that I can choose to zoom in or out more freely when it comes to downtime actions. That’s a good thing.
Thinking back to my conversation with my skeptical player, I think he’s also objecting to being tricked into more collaborative playing again, just like Fellowship! “Damn you, I’m rolling dice and asserting my system mastery, none of this softboi emoting for me!” Mmhmm, I’m gonna have you weeping at City of Winter in no time.
One more neat new thing happened during our downtime: someone overshot their Vice. So we’re gonna let him play a different character for a bit while the over-Viced character recovers from her debauchery (not so very debauched, her vice is throwing herself into gardening in the farm). Reminds me of the “create a second character” advancement option in AW, but instead of a reward it’s…not a punishment exactly! Same outcome but a different path to get there.
Our Ghostfighter is gonna take a break and the player is going to play the Dinginsmith they hired with their Corner upgrade. Which strikes me as both a brilliant solution (and I’ve been playing her with a really clear bit of characterization) but also kind of ripping themselves off. They paid for her!