// The September Revision//

After a slew of new playtests in the wild and a host of thoughtful notes from players and GMs, Always/Never/Now has a newly revised Player File at DriveThruRPG!

The game is also now a Pay What You Want title, so if you’ve been dying to give me a few bucks, please do. I’m losing a little bit of money, in the end, producing this thing (and shipping out physical rewards to Kickstarter backers), so every little bit helps. Almost 3,000 of you have downloaded A/N/N to date. A buck apiece would be a big deal to me.

Here’s what’s changed in the new Player File (v9-13-13):

  • Corrected a few typos.
  • Each character has undergone modest Tag revisions to make them a little more evenly powered.
  • New page layouts for the Background and Game Rules make it easier to print just the sections you want. 
  • The two-sided character sheets now pair dossier with statistics. (Printing multiple copies of the rules summary is still easy enough, I figure.)
  • Stunt dice are further explained, including a suggestion for how many go in the pot.
  • Optional mechanics for Traits and Tags, plus the “Always/Never/Now” mechanism, are now included in the file. (When I put it that way, it’s weird to think it ever came out of the file. I’m dumb sometimes.)

This will be the last serious revision to the file for a bit, I think. Future notes and changes will be addressed here and in the Always/Never/Now G+ community, as needed.

Thank you.

// A Soundtrack to Actual Play//

Back when the Kickstarter was on, I talked a bit about the music I assembled as a soundtrack to the A/N/N playtest sessions. This is about that. (The music I listened to while I wrote was a mix of movie soundtracks and stuff — a whole other post, if you want.)

The first time I ran A/N/N — when I played it with the players who originally conceived Yoshi, Utseo, and Alex — I opened the session by describing a camera shot zooming in on a spinning Earth, past a web of satellites, through the clouds, past skyscrapers, to Yoshi’s cell on his dashboard, just as the text message from Josine came in.

The first song played as I described that. The second song was what Yoshi had on the car radio. The third song was for the montage of Yoshi getting the crew back together.

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Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Meditations.

// The Orbit//

Not everything I had to say about running Always/Never/Now went into Always/Never/Now. Lots of little things that I do as a GM didn’t get included. The text is long enough as it is.

Sometimes I mixed up techniques and mashed up styles. As a GM, I blend reaction with action, the inputs of the table with my own goals, making something distinct with each play-through. I keep an eye on the path and an eye on the landscape, as best I can.

We could talk a lot about the different approaches to different beats, different scenes, different acts, different versions of A/N/N. I hope having it as a common example helps facilitate some conversations. The adventure can accommodate multiple ways to play.

So I’ve saved some talk, some actual-play advice, some of my experience for posts meant to orbit the project — to get (re)written and shared in response to specific questions and posts as they occur. A lot of those posts come from G+, lately, and they help me identify the order in which I’ll address certain topics. So, if you’re posting about A/N/N on G+, maybe tag me so I can know that your topic is something I should write more about. Otherwise I’ll just be posting trivia and advice in the order that it amuses me, and that might not be the best order. Plus, talking about this helps me know what details to focus on and when.

Thanks again to all of you who have downloaded and given some time to A/N/N. I’m really glad you took the time.

// Believing Always and Never and Now//

Here’s something I thought about including in A/N/N and then didn’t: an homage to Burning Wheel in the form of character declarations mapping to “always,” “never,” and “now” statements.

I skipped it because it seemed like a gimmick that would narrow down these characters when I wanted them to be broader in their initial presentation. I don’t want to write these statements for you — I want you to discover them or write them during play.

Here’s how it works. Describe a belief or action for your character for each of the three states: always, never, and now.

Go ahead and let the relationship between the words inform how the beliefs or actions are read. For example, “Always” and “Never” might be read to mean “used to be strict about” while “Now” implies the contrasting present. 

For example:

Dr. Henri Qamar +always+ believed he was helping more than he was hurting and +never+ doubted the power he had to shape individual futures by healing and defending people… but +now+ he thinks that individual futures aren’t enough to make up real, lasting change.

This sketches out some details about Dr. Qamar that you can use to depict how he’s changed in the past ten years and how he might change during the adventure, too.

If you find it helpful to think this way about the character you’re playing in A/N/N, have at it. I’d love to hear about the belief statements you write for your version of the adventure.

In cities, the past and the present and the future can all be totally adjacent.
William Gibson (The Paris Review)

// Always/Never/Now Debuts//

At last, Always/Never/Now is available at Drive Thru RPG for the fairly remarkable price of free. A little over 100 pages of RPG adventures, for free. Have at it.

This site is for behind-the-scenes info, frequently asked questions, future thoughts on running the adventure, and other sorts of low-impact support for the project. Note the buttons in the sidebar if you want to ask a question, browse through previous posts, or peruse the list of web-credit level backers from the project’s Kickstarter campaign.

If you dig the project, I invite you spread the word. Point people at the Drive Thru RPG page for the adventure. Tweet. Blog. Link. Tag me on G+ with your reviews or actual play accounts. Let us know how your adventure unfolds.

Some aspects of the adventure might be news to other players. Please be respectful of the experience others might be looking forward to. I’ll hide spoilers behind cuts, here at the site.

A few typos still lurk in this edition. I’m planning another corrected edition for May 22nd, so when you find them, let’s hear it.

Finally, if you enjoy the project but didn’t get the chance to back it during the Kickstarter, you can donate a few bucks to keeping me fed over on my site.

Ready? Go play.

For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream in the same simple way as I dream about the black dots representing towns and villages on a map.
Vincent van Gogh, in a letter to his brother Theo, as quoted in Windows of the Soul : Experiencing God in New Ways‎ (1996) by Ken Gire, p. 91.
Cities As Very Slow Time Machines

In which Warren Ellis lists some functions of the city as a machine.

I would not creep along the coast but steer
Out in mid-sea, by guidance of the stars.
George EliotMiddlemarch (1871), epigram to Ch. 44.
A near-future
action RPG adventure
by Will Hindmarch.