XP: Shock: Social Science Fiction

21 Mar

IMAG0320Shock: Social Science Fiction is probably my go-to scienfe fiction story game. It is almost infinately flexible, it allows the players to focus on the things that matter most to them, and it guides the story to a climax very effectively.

Now that I am more well played than the last time I visted Shock: SSF, I can see the Primetime Adventures bloodline shining through. Through the set up and in conflict the players often take a kind of director perspective to the fiction. Out feeling was that we were not resolving conflicts between the characters in the fiction as much as we were storyboarding the rest of the scene between the players. Though this is not a complaint of any kind, this does affect what kind of experience the player has and how one engages the game through play. This was a foreign mode of play for one of our players.

One side effect of this director perspective (and that of the resolution mechanics too), is that some heat is taken off of the personal conflicts between characters. However, the cerebral and abstract threads of the fiction are much more approachable than in some other games. Like always, know what you are looking for and what you are getting.

My only criticizim of Shock is that the resolution mechanics interrupt gameplay, bringing us out of the fiction for several minutes. The diceplay is tightly woven and deceptively involved. It looks like it should be very simple but once the dice hit the table you find out that there is way more to it than you thought. At least one player will need to be very familiar with the text for this not to be a frustrating experience.

On the otherhand, the dice and numbers do capture the aesthetic of the game in a very beautiful way.

A one-shot is not the natural environment for Shock. There just isn’t enough time to get more than a taste of what the game does. Though I determined the shock ahead of time, should I find myself running a one-shot again, I’d pick the issues too and get right to *tagonist creation. But, the issues and the world would need to be fairly familiar for the other players to buy into quickly and fully. Consider a near-future game. Then, play tight scenes that open at the threshold of the conflits and strike for the juiciest bits of each scene right away.

I am very excited to try Shock: Human Contact in a long format now that I have revisted Shock: Social Science Fiction. This summer, perhaps.

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