Players: Jess, Sev, Nick
Issues: Diminishing Resources, Sentience, Family
Shock: On the generation ship Bounty, the process of uploading human consciousness (which was once reserved for those with wealth and pull, at the end of their lives) is now being inflicted on people against their will so as to conserve diminishing resources.
Praxes: Coercion/Persuasion, and Individual/Collective
Daman (Jess), a Bountarian (think Unitarian, but inspired by the circumstances of being on the Bounty) minister uploaded nonconsensually, who hopes to win back his corporeal partner Meena. His antagonist is Remy Amang, Automation Maintenance Manager.
Lindee Marks (Sev), the anti-uploading rabble-rouser, whose goal is to destroy the uploading system. Her antagonist is the Data Storage service, an administrative-turned-anti-terrorist bureau, personified by Director Singh and Agent Westin.
Robert Laurel (Nick), a VR-junkie son of privilege, who may not know that his goal is to regain custody of his (clone) children. His antagonists are his family, mainly his uploaded grandmother Irene.
As one of the uploaded, Daman must spend a certain amount of time each day lending his brain to the computer system. He’s been sneaking processes from systems here and there, because damn is being part of a distributed system boring, and he wants to indulge his hobbies. Unfortunately, he gets caught by Automation Maintenance. Both ‘tagonists fail their rolls, so Remy fails to get management to take this problem seriously (Daman isn’t the only uploaded person who’s been doing this), but neither does Daman get any leverage over Remy. However, it’s clear that Remy is toothless, so Daman feels free to step up his activities.
Lindee belongs to the Church of Humanity, a devout anti-uploading sect. She is mainly political, but goes through the motions of worship so that she can win people over to her more radical cause. At a church event, she convinces a young zealot that more direct action is needed, and they go back to her squat for a bomb-making session. The bomb fizzles (protagonist failure), but Agent Westin succeeds in planting an audio-visual bug on her.
Robert logs in to his favourite MMO, “Elysium”, but before he can get anywhere his grandmother appears as her virtual self in game, to harangue him about losing his kids, and generally trying to shape him into the grandson she thinks the Laurel line deserves. He decides for himself to cut back on his VR time (protagonist success), and grandma convinces him to file the paperwork to get his kids back (antagonist success). Things are looking up for Robert.
Daman tries to impress Meena by taking her on a date to virtual Paris. Everything is lovingly crafted, and pixel-perfect. It’s taking up way too much CPU power, so it draws the attention of Automation Maintenance. They physically rewire the system to cut most of the power to Daman’s creation (antagonist success), but it’s his reaction when he realises he might lose this chance that convinces Meena that he is still himself (protagonist success).
Lindee is casing the uploading facilities, when she sees a chance to take out some critical systems and slow uploading services down for a while. She manages to pull off a spectacular explosion (protagonist success), but is captured by Data Services (antagonist success).
It’s the first court date in Robert’s efforts to get his kids back. Junior and Junior Junior are being looked after by his second cousins, of a branch of the family who broke with the rest when they joined the Church of Humanity. The whole family is watching as he decides now is the moment to push for visitation rights. The second cousins have brainwashed the kids in the Church of Humanity (antagonist success), and Robert makes a complete fool of himself. He gets pushed onto his fulcrum AND risks his link to Elysium, so when he spectacularly fails to convince the court, he plunges further into the game than ever—but he deleted his account when he cut back, so he has to start over again with no gear and no status.
Daman’s branching out, using his natural friendliness to network (see what I did there?) with other uploaded people. He invites Meena to the forum, basically a bar where the uploaded meet to socialize, and—lately—plan how to get more resources and rights. Someone switches the feed to the Automation Maintenance union negotiations, where they are bargaining to have limits put on the resources that uploaded people can access (antagonist success). Daman pleads with Meena to join him as his full partner, both in the romantic sense, and in his cause, and succeeds! She has the skills to set up the system so that everyone can get what they want. The project might take years, but they’re in this together. (Awww!) Story goal achievement: unlocked!
This is Lindee’s last chance to make her grand final gesture. She can’t physically destroy the uploading system any more, but she can destroy its reputation. She’s uses her trial as a platform to win public opinion over to her point of view that uploading is dangerous, and ethically unjustifiable. Unfortunately, she isn’t all that convincing (protagonist failure), and uploading carries on. What’s more, Data Storage have dug up an old statute that allows the death penalty. Normally, criminals are just uploaded so as not to waste resources, but Lindee is spaced. Out the airlock. Dead, the old-fashioned way. (Antagonist success.)
After getting sucked back into his addiction, Robert checked out of corporeal life altogether. He’s in the hospital on life support, with not long to live. This prompts something of a shift in his priorities, and suddenly it becomes urgent that he convince the board that he warrants some of the limited uploading capacity since the bombing, so that he can have some kind of relationship with his kids. He reaches out them in VR and takes over mobile units such as teddy bears to talk to them. He pulls out all the stops, risking everything. Mechanically, this was an awesome nailbiting finale to the game: Nick was pushed onto his fulcrum twice, and risked the link to his kids. If he failed, he was going to lose his case and die for reals, and his kids were going to get sucked into VR addiction just like him, only in a game that was the antithesis of his taste. However, he succeeded! So he got to go “full time” in the virtual world with as meaningful a relationship with Junior and Junior Junior as he could manage. Also, because Sev is a softie who didn’t want to see Robert’s kids resent him, the antagonist lost, and we got a pretty happy ending.
One thing is clear from this game of Shock: the dice are on the side of the virtual people and of family reunions. Sorry this was so long! Apparently when I do write-ups for this game, they have to be novels.