Headspace, Interrupted

Headspace, Interrupted

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.

0 thoughts on “Headspace, Interrupted”

  1. I once had to stop a session for an emergency room visit after Abby fell out bed and split her eyebrow open so I feel everyone’s pain here.

    Hope the kiddo feels ok.

  2. I ran the game in play test most commonly with 5 or 3. I personally think the game works best with 4 or 5 given the pressure cooker nature of the game. I think a 3 player game would be better for a more social type of game. I will note I tried it at 6 once…it should be avoided, it was just a mess with too many moving parts and its hard to keep 6 in a similar time sync.

    There are 7 other settings in the first expansion book, the draft text is in this backer only update if you didn’t back it let me know and I’ll flip the content your way.
    kickstarter.com – Update 29: SETTING BOOK DRAFT & SHIPPING NEWS · Headspace RPG

  3. So, you’re right about the Project Milestones basically just being three things that gotta happen. Beyond that, they’re answering the cliche set-up “Good, quick, cheap: pick two.” (Only in this case “quick” is “on-time” and might mean preempting something or sweeping in on the tail end of things)

    In one of my 1st sessions, my crew went up against Pacific Security in Vancouver and their Objective was to replace the police force (exactly as it says in their description). So I thought about what it would cost them to take the job, when they would do it, and what a success would look like. For cost?

    Well, I figure they need to be less-expensive alternative to local police, yeah? Or make the city council an offer they can’t refuse? Bam, Pacific Security has kidnapped the child of an influential council member to make them champion bringing PacSec into the city full time.

    They need to replace the police at juuuuuuust the right time, yeah? They can’t just swoop in, they need a reason to swoop in. So, bam, they orchestrate a fake ration shortage, stash the surplus in some evacuated police lockups, and let the word slip to the media. Once the city goes berserk about police “corruption,” that’s when PacSec will make their move.

    And quality-wise, what does the end result look like? It looks like PacSec are the big damn heroes Vancouver needs in trying times! Like they’re the most competent folks to ever wear the badge! So, they need a chance to play hero. That’s my last milestone: they let some rioters from the restricted zones into the reclaimed zones and let them run roughshod, just so they can sweep in and clean up their own mess.

    So, I had three things they were doing to get their way. Then, just like the rules say, I asked the players which of those legs they were cutting out from under PacSec, and what their three-stage op looked like.

  4. I suspect I could get away with picking pretty much any three projects, and the good/fast/cheap column is how you color the corp/cell outcome at the end. Relate the final outcome of, say, torching the local police station and murdering all the cops inside to uh…how much cheaper it’ll be to deploy relentless Robocops rather than having to keep all those corrupt assholes well-bribed.

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