Yesterday, I canceled my regular Dresden Accelerated monthly game since we were missing one of the players. We’ve only got four players in that game, so it’s harder to keep it moving without one of them, and we play infrequently enough that I didn’t want to work around it. In the past, when I’ve scheduled one-shots instead of the regular monthly game, I’ve used the It’s Not My Fault cards from Evil Hat. Those are awesome, but we’ve already done that a couple times, so I wanted to try something else.
Looking over my “short but sweet” games I want to try out list, I remembered that I have Love and Justice and Rockerboys and Vending Machines on my hard-drive. I asked the group if they would be interested, everyone was, so I printed both games out (Love and Justice is 3 pages, and Rockerboys and Vending Machines is 2 pages—both are based on Lasers and Feelings, which is, itself, awesome).
Love and Justice
We weren’t sure how much time it was going to take to play through the games, and everyone wanted to try Love and Justice the most, so we led with that game.
For our team, the group decided to go with a musical theme—everyone would have a name based on an instrument, and their instrument would be on a charm bracelet and become their object of power.
This was one of the longest sequences in the game. People would come up with a concept, drift the concept, change an aspect, until we finally got everything nailed down, including transformation sequence and the group’s signature finishing move.
Here is how the team ended up:
- The Leader—Cornet, real name: Sakura, drawback: vain, power: fire
- The Tomboy—Viola, real name: Eirin, drawback: stubborn, power: electricity
- The Swan—Tambourine, real name: Tami, drawback: lovestruck, power: positive energy
We also decided that Tami’s “lovestruck” meant that she is in love with seeing people in love, so she is constantly matchmaking. The deciding factor on how Tami’s instrument chose was “would Stevie Nicks play this instrument?”
Their finishing move would be called the Rhapsody of Harmony, which was a rainbow blast filled with glowing musical notes. The power would start with the tambourine, then add in some more complicated strings, then flare up with the Cornet.
The elements that I rolled for the episode were—a fancy dress-up event where the Dart Heart Collective would attempt to steal all colors to take over the world. Because of the musical theme, I drifted this to the Dark Heart Collective stealing music to make people more compliant with their mind control.
The school had a huge formal recital planned, and Tami decided Eirin needed to get a nicer set of clothes to wear. Before they left the school, we met Jake, who is completely clueless, and who Tami is trying to match with Sakura.
Jake: “I have absolutely no musical talent, but thankfully, I can help out by moving stuff from one place to another on stage. I’m happy to help!”
Sakura: “I’m glad you are useful.”
We establish that the dress shop is right next to a sporting goods store, which is how Tami entices Eirin to go there. While we get a montage of Tami loving the frilly clothes she picks out for Eirin and Eirin getting more aggravated, Sakura finds a girl crying in the corner of the store. The money she had to buy her formal dress was stolen, and Sakura sees a man in a formal suit with a fedora counting money on the street.
Side Note: When attempting to describe who the thief was, one of the players happened to ask, “was he a smooth criminal,” at which point the entire theme of the Dark Heart collective occurred to me, and I responded—he’s not just A smooth criminal, he is The Smooth Criminal.
Sakura confronts Smooth Criminal, at which point he indicates that he’s just having some fun before the Dark Heart Collective REALLY takes over this town. Then he throws his signature weapon at her, the laser fedora. Which is a fedora, encircled by a laser.
Sakura transforms into Cornet, and attempts to use her fire power to grab the hot laser brim and catch the hat—which doesn’t work so well, and the fedora explodes, throwing her into the side of the building. At this point, Eirin and Tami come out of the dress shop and transform. Eirin grabs a baseball bat from the window of the sporting goods store, charges it with electricity, and knocks one of the laser fedoras back at Smooth Criminal.
In the end, the girls must choose between saving the girl from the dress shop, who just wandered into the street, or catching Smooth Criminal. They protect the girl from the barrage of laser fedoras and Smooth Criminal gets away.
The Concordant Trio returns to school, and the girl they just helped starts flirting with Jake—we established that there will be an ongoing “will they get together” motif between Jake and Sakura for this season. We also introduced Gordon, the head of the cooking club, as a potential love interest for Eirin. Tami has been trying to get them together, but Gordon never noticed Eirin until she bought her fancy clothes. We determine that, unlike Jake and Sakura, that are kind of meant to be together, we’re going to find out that Gordon is a jerk and no good for Eirin as the season goes on.
As the recital is about to start, one of the violinists realizes that they can’t get their instrument to make noise. They hand it to Eirin, who is infected with the loss of music. She just doesn’t see the point anymore, and if she can’t see the point of music—SHE CAN’T TRANSFORM INTO VIOLA!
At this point, Thriller attacks the auditorium. Thriller is a werewolf that can command zombies, and whenever people can’t appreciate music, he can start to control them. Additionally, whenever Thriller does something, there is a narrator’s voice that everyone can hear that explains what is going on, that sounds a lot like Vincent Price.
Side Note: At this point, the players noted that our show is probably going to have a hard time with Michael Jackson’s estate. We made a note to tell our lawyers to start considering how the law views parodies, just in case.
Eirin gets carried away by the hoard of zombies. Sakura transforms into Cornet to fight off the zombies to give Tami time to transform into Tambourine and convince Eirin that she still loves music. Thriller starts to pull the life force from all his zombies to become more powerful, but Tambourine convinces Eirin that she does love music still, and she transforms into Viola.
Viola disrupts the negative energy beam that Thriller is using to drain his zombies with a lightning bolt. Thriller then merges with the Narrator to become a huge two-headed dire wolf monster. At this point we see Cornet, Viola, and Tambourine call forth the Rhapsody of Harmony—but, we introduce that the girls haven’t agreed on the name of the finishing move, and argue about it briefly before letting it fly.
They strike the wolf thing, and it glows, then disperses in energy, but as it fades away, they can hear the Narrator laughing.
In Love and Justice, you have three Friendship Dice. You use them to help one another, and depending on the number they land on, you use them to narrate the end of the episode. In our case, we had two dice at 3 or below (a negative resolution), and one at 4 or above (a positive resolution).
- The school recital went so well the school made it into regionals (positive)
- Eirin decides to start dating Gordon, and he immediately starts asking her to change for him (negative)
- Jake was still in the auditorium during the fight with Thriller, and saw all of the transformations (negative)
This was so much fun. Everybody had a blast. The reason it worked so well wasn’t just that the players were fun and rolling with the tropes, but that they were throwing out ideas, like Smooth Criminal and Gordon, that I could run with.
Since this definitely didn’t feel like an end of season episode, we determined that next episode’s villain was going to be The Man in the Mirror.
Rockerboys and Vending Machines
We wrapped up with enough time that we decided to try out Rockerboys and Vending Machines as well. Rockerboys and Vending Machines is a game about cyberpunk tropes, and here are the characters we ended up with:
- EXE—AI, role: corporate executive, goal: meet sexy AI, cybernetics: overpowered robot arm
- Dump Trukk—Autonomous Roomba, role: driver, goal: keep being awesome, cybernetics: manipulator arm with freeware
- SKUD—Punk (!), role: courier, goal: look cool as hell, cybernetics: glowing fiberoptic mohawk
The mission we ended up with was to steal credits from the hottest nightclub in town, opposed by a rival AI, and the twist was that the club’s unexpected guards.
I filled in that the club was called Flynn’s, and it was a Tron nostalgia bar. We determined that EXE was already keeping an eye on the AI that ran security there, a program obsessed with old computer puzzle games called Myst (E). The twist was that the guards at the club had been genetically enhanced with an alien bacterium that was mined in space, and that if they didn’t receive their normal injections, they would mutate out of control.
Side Note: The players noted that our lawyers for this show/movie were going to have a much harder time with Disney than they did with Michael Jackson’s estate, so we’re losing a lot of money on licensing with the Tron thing.
The group did a fantastically bad job at researching the job they received, but eventually got the name of the manager of the club. SKUD was going to deliver a package to him, dropping off EXE’s robot hand inside the Wi-Fi area of the club so he could distract Myst (E). Dump Trukk would part next door in the parking garage, ready for an extraction.
We determined that EXE’s “cybernetics” was part of an android he used to use when he was still part of his previous corporation. His company was sold, and he got the rights to himself in the deal, and had to retain a hand to shake hands. Dump Trukk worked in a dive bar, and his getaway vehicle was an old hazardous waste disposal unit. It had traditional controls, but also an interface that he could just drive into.
The Revolution Starts
At the dive bar, we learned the Mop Bot, another self-away cleaning robot, was a coworker of Dump Trukk. Mop Bot was a revolutionary that was enraged that cleaning robots were given self-aware AI just so that the rich could have “people” that they legally owned. He often muttered about trying to drown “the man” in his bucket, if he could just get their faces into it. When Mop Bot heard that Dump Trukk needed time off, Mop Bot decided to dump his bucket on the bar’s electrical box, shorting out the power in several businesses on the street. Mop Bot then rolled into the street saying, “work’s canceled! Everyone throw off your chains! You’re free!”
On the way to Dump Trukk’s vehicle, his nemesis, the cat that rides around on top of him, arrived. Dump Trukk tried to scare it off by pulling his manipulator arm with a gun in it, but then his freeware played a Meow Mix commercial, and he couldn’t threaten the cat anymore. It rode Dump Trukk into his getaway vehicle and lounged in the disposal unit for the rest of the mission.
At the bar, all the waiters and waitresses wore fiber optic glowing outfits to fit the theme. Dump Trukk parked next door to Flynn’s, which was also next to Omni-Food, a towering building containing all the fast food companies. SKUD talked his way in the door to make a delivery, and as it turned out, the boss really was waiting for a delivery. The Wi-Fi on EXE’s hand let him into the system, and he started to talk to Myst (E).
On the news feed being played at the bar, SKUD saw that Mop Bot was gunned down by police. They issued a statement that Mop Bot wasn’t armed, but that he had repeatedly threatened them with what he would do if they put their faces in his bucket, and that he was a potential danger.
Myst (E) attempted to get EXE to solve a puzzle to get into her private network, but he said, “no more games,” and she dropped her firewall for him. But then he wasn’t on the wider net any longer. SKUD was in the boss’s office, and as it turns out, the boss was waiting for the courier with the sedative to keep the mutant bodyguards from going crazy, and he had many of them on the other side of a glass barrier waiting for an injection. SKUD attempted to intimidate him by waving a gun at him, but the manager was more scared of the now further mutating bodyguards.
The guard at the front door ended up shooting the real courier because he was an “impostor,” and the guards mutated out of control, trailing blue slime that was infecting the patrons as well (no, the Expanse isn’t cyberpunk, but I’m a creature of many inspirations). SKUD got the manager’s codes, Dump Trukk transferred the funds, and SKUD shot the manager as he ran down the stairs so that the mutant bouncers chasing him would fall on the manager first—and they threw the manager’s body parts all over the place.
EXE found out from Myst (E) that the nightclub was also a front for genetic experimentation on the staff and even the patrons, and that there was a sterilization protocol. She said that she wanted to keep EXE in her network and wouldn’t cause him any harm, but she had to initiate the protocols now.
Dump Trukk used EXE’s backdoor that he had stored on his phone to pull him out, drove through the wall of the club, and retrieved SKUD, breaking out through the Omni-Food building before the sterilization protocol started. EXE told Myst (E) that none of this was a deal breaker, and that he’d love to work with her in the future.
What Just Happened
EXE contacts Mr.Johnson275638E-3456789T about payment. Because of the Hardwired mechanic (where you get to ask questions if you roll your stat exactly), EXE finds out that the job was really about Omni-Food wanting to take over the corner building and put in their own Total Recall themed club.
This was also a blast to play. Rockerboys and Vending Machines is pretty much pure distilled cyberpunk mission structure, and even if you aren’t doing the slightly goofy one shot that we were doing, the outline of mission structure and the randomly-generated mission structure is spot on for the genre.
The only thing that I couldn’t help thinking is that I would love to add in the same “end of session” resolution mechanic from Love and Justice. Maybe add one die per player, and instead of being Friendship Dice, they become Contingency Dice, and you roll them when you have a flashback to how you prepared something ahead of time to help in the current situation.
Also, playing The Sprawl has biased me toward including “getting paid,” i.e., did we get paid, screwed over, or double-crossed after the mission, being part of mission structure in cyberpunk.
Jumping to Conclusions
Both games are a lot of fun, and do a really great job of emulating their genres. Since both are free, I would highly recommend downloading them and giving them a shot at some point.