Saturday, 24 September 2016

Oil & Water

This is another reskin of Blood & Water, taking inspiration from sources as disparate as the 50th Anniversary of the Cybermen in Doctor Who, the TV series Humans and the musical performances of Steam Powered Giraffe; enjoy.

Service Manual

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The current Steam Powered Giraffe lineup
In this version of the game, the residents are all mechanical lifeforms who have found their way to each other with the common cause of hiding the truth of their existence from the human race in general and learning what it truly means to be alive. Choose a house as usual, but keep in mind the specific needs of androids & robots over supernatural creatures: they must have access to some kind of technology to maintain themselves, as well as to be viable creations in the first place.

The service manual for each character is quite different from the resident's book: not only are there different questions to answer, there are also different assumptions made about the characters throughout. On the first page, replace the normal introductory statements with the following:

I am... a brief statement about the resident's assumed human identity, e.g. "I am Petra, a bank clerk."
But I was made... a short history of their origins, indicating when they were originally built and for what purpose, e.g. "But I was made in 1951 as part of a project for the Festival of Britain."
I gained freedom when... the circumstances that separated the character from their original creator and purpose, e.g. "I gained freedom when I was scrapped due to a clerical error made by an obtuse civil servant."

The front page questions are more directed in nature than for other hacks, but you should only answer two out of three of them, leaving the other one blank. Choose whichever two you like, but consult with the other players while doing this to avoid excessive overlap of themes and stories.

I am hunted by... because... name the person or organisation that is seeking you out and state what they want from you; it could be your creator trying to reclaim their greatest work, a shadowy government agency determined to end your existence or another artificial life-form trying to secure your co-operation in their great plan to upgrade themselves. Pick something you don't want to be involved in though, so you have an incentive to hide yourself and assume a cover identity.

I cannot refuse to... describe a hard-wired instruction, some standing order you must obey when the circumstances require; it might be that you cannot refuse to fight when ordered or perhaps you cannot stand by and allow accidents to happen. It might even be something relatively trivial, like you can't refuse to do housework or drive a vehicle, but there should be plenty of opportunities for this programming to mess up your  artificial life.

I need... in order to... choose some substance, maintenance or other activity that you require in order to operate at full efficiency; maybe you need to recharge every hour for your sensors to be fully functional, or you have to be regularly oiled in order to stay mobile; perhaps you have to be fed printed words in order to retain the power of speech, or you lose directional control if you are not electromagnetically shielded. Pick some awkward design drawback that you have to continually compensate for in order to function optimally.

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Channel 4's Humans
On the second page, in place of the usual Strengths & Weaknesses, there are Functions & Flaws: these work in very much the same way, but you should think mechanically when choosing them. Functions represent abilities your robotic-resident possesses that human beings don't, whereas Flaws are things that humans can do easily which your resident struggles to do. Sample Functions might include superior strength, toughness or enhanced senses, along with being able to interface with and control other machines; sample Flaws are an inability to pick up small items without breaking them, being magnetic, overheating and slow, ponderous movement.

For the third page, the questions change entirely from the norm, like so:

What don't I know that I want to learn? This could be the secret of the resident's origin, the location of their creator, a way to change their programming or something more mundane, like how to reciprocate love or develop a sense of humour.
             What's stopping me? Pick an obstacle to this goal, something that complicates the matter beyond just "I don't know how." Perhaps someone is deliberately standing in their way or they lack a vital module that will enable them to learn what they want and put it into practice; they might even be wary of the truth, for fear that it will prove too much for them and they will revert to a previous, non-free willed state.

What do I know that I want to forget? Something the resident  has learned that they wish they hadn't, like a knowledge of their own life-span, the secret of a dangerous technology or a dark secret from their past; on the mundane side, perhaps they want to forget the truth they have learned about a human's lies or some intimately embarrassing confession that has been made to them.
             What's stopping me? Choose a reason why the resident can't just forget: is there some pressing action they need to take with this knowledge? Are they the only one who knows this secret, so they must guard it? Could it be of use in the future, so they must carry the knowledge until then? Or are they just learning a lesson about responsibility and accepting the consequences of their actions?

The optional question on this page are also slightly changed:
What do I like to do? A hobby or activity the resident enjoys.
What don't I like to do? A task or chore they loathe.
Who is my human role model? A real person or fictional character they aspire to be like.
What do I fear most? An event or contingency they wish to avoid and have made plans for.

The gist of the game is a little bit different: none of the characters have a human past (though they might have human memories that have been downloaded into them...) so they are all trying to create a space for themselves within modern society. The humans around them generally have no clue that the residents are robots, but if the secret were to leak out, it's likely that the residents' pretence would be shattered and they would have to move on, obtaining new identities... unless they can plug the leak somehow, by discrediting or erasing the witness, perhaps?

The game is more likely to have a humourous tone too, as the residents learn obvious lessons about being human, but this can change to tragedy in an instant, with the residents causing enormous harm to the people around them through their ignorance of the human condition and human frailty. It's worth having a more in-depth talk than usual about the type of game you want to play and where you draw the lines: how much collateral damage is it allowable for the residents to be responsible for? And how far can they go in protecting their secrets?

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