It’s time to start playtesting the basic ideas behind Shock:2. I have several specifications that I want to meet, most having to do with conflict resolution. Because Shock:Social Science Fiction is a 13 year old game and, while it’s had a surprising number of descendants, no one has taken from it what it does best. I want to give designers the opportunity to steal those ideas instead of just the obvious ones.
Shock:2 is made possible by my xenophiliac patrons. They get all this stuff first, including access to the xenophiliac Discord!
The heart of Shock: is not, as seems obvious, the Grid’s explicit layout of social issues under the magnifying glass of the game’s Shock. Nor is it that you lay out mutually exclusive, yet non-dualistic, frames in which you can take action. Yes, of course those parts are important. But, as I’m fond of saying, games have built in ethical stances. The questions you put into Shock: when you establish your Issues and Praxis in Shock: don’t change the built-in ethical stance of Shock: The fundamental moment of social movement is not decisive individual action, but compromise. Perhaps unhappy compromise. Perhaps cruel compromise or one in which the apparent winner is revealed to be a paper tiger.
The game’s core emotional position is not catharsis, but irony.
It is not a game about good winning over evil, nor is it the adolescent “flip it around” position of “everything is awful including you.” It is a game about living in a whole (if tiny, for the sake of the experiment) universe where it’s unclear what good or evil are, but you do your best anyway. You are not obligated to complete the labor of healing or perfecting the world, nor are you free to desist from it.
The 1.x version of the game does this. It gives you the “everyone gets what they want, now how you like that?” result a lot. But it’s hard to do. It hasn’t been copied because it’s hard to understand. Not just because we live in a Christian culture whereas this kind of compromise is built deep into Judaism, but because the dice are hard to read.
That’s a terrible reason! So let’s fix them dice!
Gaffer Tape for Shock:2.0.1
The following assumes you are familiar with Shock:Social Science Fiction v.1.x. I won’t describe the entire game here; that’s what the book is for, but you can get it on PDF from the glyphpress library by subscribing to my Patreon (that’s where the playtests will be, too!) or by ordering it from my store.
- Use d6s or, even better, an app to roll dice. Reading dice isn’t the exciting part. They just need to obey the basic principles of compromise.
- Be fast to read. No adding or subtracting values.
- Integrate Audience Minutiæ smoothly.
- Make Minutiæ mechanically effective.
- Maintain the four Praxes, but design them so they induce color and description for the abstract outcomes.
To use a Shock or Minutia ask the owner or audience to describe how it works and describe yourself doing what they require, e.g.:
P1: How can I use my cybernetics to deter the drones following me?
P2: They know where you are because they’re looking through your eyes. You’d have to show them something else.
P1: Oh, sweet! I’m going to pull up the 3D model of the city and match my movements to it while casting it onto my eyes, which I’m closing. Then I’m navigating with sonar.
The Audience member who describes it gives you their die to add to yours this scene.
Each Praxis is paired with another, e.g. Parliamentary Action vs. Terrorism or Sexy intimacy vs. Space Battles. Of each pair, choose one in which you gain an additional die. You’re more likely to get what you want when you roll on that side, more likely to wind up in trouble by trying its counterpart.There’s a list that you can match up and a chapter with instructions and advice for making your own. They have three levels of success, the number of Strikes you roll on your dice. Strikes are normally 5 or 6.
All dice are d6 in two colors: Pro and Anti. You start with three(?), one for each Feature. Roll at least one Pro die for your own action and allocate the rest how you see fit. Every Audience member has a die in the third color and can pledge it to either the Protagonist or Antagonist when the the *tagonist accepts how the Audience’s description affects the *tagonist’s actions. When both *tagonists allocated their dice, before they roll, they say if the Minutiæ are Pro or Anti. The Audience rolls their die and tells the *tagonist to whom their die is pledged if it was a strike.
Every strike on an Anti die eliminates one strike on your opponent’s Pro dice.
The Antagonist gets 13 dice over the course of the game. It would be good to make the decision of how many to roll for the player, since the resource expenditure doesn’t, itself, generate fiction. For the sake of the experiment, we can suggest that in the first scene the Antag rolls 5 dice, second rolls 3, and third rolls five.
Die results, per number of strikes:
0-: You don’t achieve your stakes. Audience (openly conferring with your Antagonist) sets your next scene according to the events that just transpired wherein you are at a disadvantage. Protag gains a Feature that tells everyone something new about the character: how they look, their place in society, then something specific to this setting.
1: You don’t achieve your stakes. Ask the Audience what Link, if any, is at stake. If one is, roll again with all 4+ results counting as Strikes. Either way, ask the Audience how the Link is transformed.
2: Ask the Audience what you have to do to achieve your stakes. Each Praxis here colored here, eg “Ask the Audience who I must pay and what I must give them to accomplish these stakes.” “Ask the Audience who takes the blow for me and how they are maimed or killed.” If you do it, you accomplish your stakes.
3+: You accomplish your stakes. Ask the Audience what the immediate effects are before going to the next scene. The description for this Praxis includes questions to answer, like “Who else pays an unexpected price?” Or “What new ally does the *tag find themselves with?”
I think the questions can be skipped for the Antagonist, or perhaps they need to be simplified and tuned to their situation as Antagonist in such a way as to reflect the outcomes back onto the Protagonist.