It worked! Wow! After the first round of scenes, I had serious doubts about the story being satisfying, which I expressed to the other players. It felt like we were all over the place and that there was no way that we would actually be able to harmonize our divergent tales. I also expressed the opinion that the issues that we really wanted to address werenâ€™t actually on the Grid. In particular, I pointed out the large number of Minutiae that had to do with procreation. (I didnâ€™t list those off.)
In retrospect, Iâ€™m not sure if these concerns were accurate or not. I am glad that I raised them, though. I think that we all worked a little harder to make sure that our stories knit together. And, to my surprise, everything wrapped up in a satisfying way. I was happy with the end of the story.
We also noticed the different character arcs in relationship to the larger society. Martin started off outside the â€œsystemâ€ and was personally conquered by the system, while still overthrowing it for others. In contrast, Kanjo started off locked into the â€œsystemâ€, and, while she couldnâ€™t make any lasting social change, she was able to get free herself.
Mirrim was the odd duck in all this. Her story was much more personal, largely due to the fact that her Antagonist was an individual and not a large social force. It felt like she illustrated the â€œcommon manâ€ playing out her life against the backdrop of the larger social destruction being caused by the other characters.
Crystal really liked the graphic design of the various sheets. By the way, Joshua, in case you donâ€™t know this, the downloadable Antagonist sheet is apparently missing a Credit box. I donâ€™t remember when I downloaded this, so you may have already fixed this.
I had read about the â€œlargeâ€ scenes in Shock:, but I was surprised to experience them myself. 2-4 Scenes doesnâ€™t feel like a lot, but thereâ€™s actually a lot of content that can be packed into those scenes, especially if you riff off the other playersâ€™ scenes. Crystal commented that sheâ€™d like the ability to play longer, so maybe we will try another game with the intent of stepping through several iterations of the game cycle, treating each Story Goal as a Chapter Goal or somesuch thing.
I really enjoyed the orthogonal goals. That meant that each dice roll could potentially have four outcomes, without escalation or rerolls from Links. That structure enables the â€œlargeâ€ scenes that I discussed earlier. I also enjoyed the need to allocate dice between â€œgaining my goalâ€ and â€œinterfering with hisâ€. Very cool.
Musing on Shock:
After the game, I raised a question. Does Shock: front-load too much? As I looked at the story that we had developed, it seemed to me that the game was good for allowing us to make statements about the various Issues that we had placed on the Grid. However, I wondered if it would be as good for exploring questions about those Issues. Setup for Shock: feels a bit like building a maze, winding up some characters, and seeing where they come out.
Iâ€™ve found that the strongest post-game reflection that Iâ€™ve had was the result of emergent issues rising from the game, not the result of front-loaded issues established prior to play. It doesnâ€™t feel like Shock: can easily transcend its front-loaded issues to encourage the emergence of new issues.
Or, to put the question another way, is gameplay in Shock: trapped by the Grid?
I do have a counterpoint. My fellow players and I areâ€¦opinionated, let us say. So, weâ€™re unlikely to have an Issue where we donâ€™t already have an opinion. This could be the reason for my feeling of being able to express, not explore. If we were to consciously choose Issues where we had questions, perhaps we would have found ourselves doing more exploring.
Iâ€™d be interested in hearing from other Shock: players about this issue.
I donâ€™t want the previous section to sound like Iâ€™m griping. We really enjoyed Shock:. It felt properly SF, like we were given the right tools to make this sort of story. The story felt like a Brave New World of our very own, a story which provoked thought about the Issues that were the underpinnings of the very setting. There werenâ€™t any â€œI didnâ€™t see that coming!â€ moments, but there were a lot of â€œHuh. Yeah, that makes total senseâ€ moments. In the end, I think that Iâ€™d say that Shock: is a contemplative game, and thatâ€™s a rarity on the market these days.