Hackers & Homework
or, “You can take down the corrupt corporate hegemony after you finish cleaning your room!”
I tried out some rules tweaks for Follow at our Story Games Seattle playtest meetup Monday. We agreed on a Heist but decided to make it a cyberpunk-hacky thing. Pretty normal so far, right? Except half the characters turned out to be an adorable suburban family whose kids secretly had l33t skillz online. Meet the Smiths! Bob and Janice, and their two spunky kids: Brandon (aka “8oo85_mastah”), an obnoxious 15 year-old, and his older sister Kim, who was totally too mature to have a dumb hacker name.
The other half of the team? Totally straight stereotypes: a burned ex-exec, a personality construct of a dead hacker who just wanted to be erased, the unreliable money man, etc.
The mix of corporate espionage and homey family drama (“Kim, we have to get Brandon out of detention so he can hack the mainframe!”) was… kind of completely awesome. More than I would have expected. Funny and adorkable but also very serious at times, because we really didn’t want anything bad to happen to them. When things went kablooey after the first challenge and we were trying to cover our tracks, all the pros are whipping out false identities and going to ground as you do. But suddenly we’re like “oh hell, how can the Smiths get away???” We were genuinely worried we couldn’t explain how they could avoid being swept up in the corporate dragnet and things would get very, very dark.
Cue the RV backing out of the garage for a looooong vacation in the wastelands of future America. Family road trip to the rescue!
“Kel, how long have I been offline?”
I think this may be the first game of Follow I played where every player vote was completely unanimous. Either we all thought we succeeded or we all thought we failed, every time. The characters..? Not so unanimous, which is even better.
But what about the rules changes, you ask. Ah yes. It’s all in character creation. Good setup => good action. Bonds, as I was doing them, weren’t pulling their weight, so I went back to the drawing board on that. The rest of the game hasn’t changed, so far.
I’m still fine-tuning but so far I’m happy with the new method. A single good or bad session doesn’t necessarily prove something works or doesn’t, but since I was at the table I could see how the new setup choices were driving action throughout the game. And that’s a very good sign.
I’m going to take it for another spin and then fire off the new, improved version to playtesters, anon.