Okay, I’ve been through the text of The Sprawl a couple more times. A few things jumped out at me that I wanted to share, mostly because when I type things they stick in my own head better. Also there are questions and maybe the hardened old vets in the audience can help me out.
* +owned doesn’t seem to actually mean anything specific, and is a fictional positioning tag like +hunted. True? How are folks using +owned? What implications and consequences are there for ignoring your owners? I was kinda sorta thinking defying either of those tags might have clock implications (legwork, action, threat or corporate) and I suppose prescriptively/descriptively they can and should. Anyway, looking for advice here.
* Turns out there are some attempts at pulling in non-job content in a more formal/procedural way. The stuff Jason Morningstar was talking about — the cross-talk, the using tech and scene design — is also nicely covered in the text itself. But also that happens, formally, when you cash in your Links for an XP. There is a downtime phase but it’s never called out as such in the list of phases.
* On that note, there are a few things that are mentioned only once. The text requires a pretty close reading to get it all! The big one for me is staking your own Cred on a mission when you take it. It’s mentioned in Assets (and oh I do love it, especially the “if you stake 3 you also advance your Legwork clock” rule), but lordy it really ought to have been brought up whenever the Get the Job move is mentioned.
* There are a lot more clocks in motion than I first realized. Wow. Threats look like they crop up pretty organically as well, both as reasonable and interesting wrinkles during your first-session setup stuff, and as a result of various moves. That’s great! But I confess I’m feeling intimidated about doodling up prescriptive/descriptive details for every clock at every tick. That’s dozens and dozens of fictional triggers. I suspect, Blades in the Dark style, they’ll end up being all-or-nothing tickers: oh hey, the yakuza’s clock hit midnight, okay game on. Which means giving up on the descriptive upticks.
* I feel iffy about Conduct an Operation. Is that just a one-and-done thing for side gigs where everyone agrees you could just kind of offscreen it? The way it’s listed in with the Mission Packages chapter is a little confusing: I thought those were session frameworks! But they’re probably more flexible than that, yeah? I do love camera-control rules like this so it’ll probably prove to be super-useful, right now it just feels vague.
* Really liking Hamish Cameron’s take on the Blades thing where you abstract out most of the mission planning. The [intel] and [gear] economy is really sharp. Top marks. My players ground up against abstracted mission planning in Blades because they didn’t understand flashbacks, and once they did understand flashbacks the sessions got weighed down by consequence failures in the flashbacks, ugh. This looks much slicker. Looking forward to playing with it.
* I am a tiny bit dismayed that nearly all the Get Paid outcomes strongly imply that clients want to screw their contractors. Thematically and genre-loyalty-wise I totally get it. That’s what Gibson does a lot. But that also kind of grinds up, in my mind, against a couple things. One, it makes being +owned a universally bad thing. Nobody wants to be +owned, whereas in The Real World there are many, many people who deeply crave loyalty and stability. I think it would be an interesting ethical choice, you know? Like, maybe you really do want to be +owned and you’re okay with it (and as a result, you get +1 forward on Get Paid if you’re the mission lead negotiating that). It probably says a lot about the sheer volume of criminal operators if they’re so disposable that you can assume you’ll be disposed of.
For another, it raises very old questions that have always lurked at the back of my mind about one of my favorite genres: where’s the punk in cyberpunk? Maybe that emerges organically from the Personal Directives? The fact that everyone’s scraping up Cred to (probably) retire in peace strikes me as just un-punk, maybe even anti-punk, as the rest of the genre. This isn’t the game where that gets answered, but it sure is the game where it gets asked again.
I suppose we should take “corporate employers” as very broad, and that dogmatically organized groups of any kind can and would hire criminal specialists to do things. Maybe not anarchists, they can’t get their shit together. But well organized leftists, radical environmentalists, whatevs, I guess they can be employers too. I’ll need to prompt that a little, I think, during first-session setup talk, otherwise we’ll end up with five Evil Corporations.
Anyway! Super looking forward to our three session run. Fingers crossed.