Well last night was going to be our Headspace one-shot. But events conspired such that I ended up going to urgent care with my kiddo after she took a header directly into a door jamb. She’s fine, huge goose egg on the noggin, but no playing happened.
That said, I’ve got some very initial impressions I thought were worth sharing!
* Character creation is as long as I remembered it, but the question load (at three players) seemed reasonable and provided some interesting context. We didn’t have time to let that context play out but we for sure got some really fun double-crosses and unresolved beefs going. I think we’re gonna reset and try again in a couple weeks with one more player, and see how 12 questions compares to 9.
* I feel like the programmed opening act — your cell has just had a job go bad and you’re trying to recover or escape — is very clever for its urgency, way way over-complex to set up (especially given it’s a job already half-finished when the game starts), and kind of under-explained. That’s three things so let me pull it apart a little.
The first part is great: the various stress tracks that the Headspace cell share start out right on the cusp of triggering. Great, let’s see the system do its thing. I love it. And I have no idea how else to do that other than to start it as Mark suggests.
That ties into the second bit, which is how you set up a Project. Okay so basically the structure of the game is that the cell’s efforts are directed at foiling Projects being pursued by the megacorps. It’s a very tight focus, and I don’t have much sense yet whether there’s much life for the Operators to live outside this job. Anyway! To set up a Project, you need to work out three sub-jobs representing the time, cost and quality of the work being done on the project. I can’t really suss out from the examples what makes a good “time” clock or a good “quality” clock or whatever. They just looked like three things that logically have to take place before a Project can be completed.
I was coming up blank and kind of hoping that cutting my table loose on brainstorming would turn up good ideas. We didn’t get that far. It may still. But right now, just little old me, I’m coming up blank. Probably overthinking it.
* The breakdown of cultures and their looks seems weird. You know how in your typical PbtA game you’ll have checklists of face, body, dress, style, whatever? Easy picks, circle some stuff, and you’re good? Well so in Headspace there are five lists of lists. Seems wildly overwrought. But! If you’re using that stuff to flesh out the personal lives of the Operators, well…sure, I guess it’s good to have that stuff. Since I can’t tell if or how their personal lives will come into play — there’s nothing structurally in place to make that happen, and the urgency of the Job/Project structure seems like it’d interfere.
* The setting! Mark provides two sample settings to play in. One is a flooded, plague-riddled apocalyptic Vancouver (as an American I love the not-exoticism of reading about places like “apocalyptic Vancouver”). That’s the one he used at Dreamation this year, so I went with the other: dystopic Israel, which tbh seems redundant but in 2076 it’ll be even more dystopic. I love the politics, but other than one mention of Jewish, Christian and Muslim factors at play in the writeup it’s not really brought up again. He doesn’t write his setting stuff richly packed with easy hooks, but gosh it’s a really interesting choice. I’m glad Neo-Tokyo or Metro City or San Andreas wasn’t in there, although I think they’d be pretty easy to put together.
Our plan is to hit it again, from scratch, in a couple weeks and one more Operator. Three was small and left a lot of Ghosts to be worked out as NPCs, which I kind of like because that’d mean more Improvised rolls but I also kind of don’t like because it seems like you won’t crank the stress tracks as fast. Dunno.