A while back I purchased a game called Remember Tomorrow by Gregor Hutton of Box Ninja. It's an attractive, if unimposing little book of 48 pages, with an equally attractive and unimposing price of $10. The book is a bright, attention-getting orange, with a pattern of motion-blurred lights on the cover, suggesting a sort of exotic, big-city mystique while not over-presenting the setting. But despite the small size and small price, the game offers quite a lot.
Now, the game is billed as a near-future "cyberpunk" game, but if you're expecting squad-level tactics and a heist movie, you're going to be surprised. Remember Tomorrow aims for something more like Blade Runner or Neuromancer. It fosters stories about people. Sure, people in a world with cybernetics and realistic android sex-dolls (and any other "cyberpunk" stuff your group might imagine), but mostly just people fighting hard for their goals.
Remember Tomorrow takes place in a setting called Somewhere, which might be any major city of today, just a little bit more "future-y". The book does a nice job of establishing the "mood" of Somewhere — hyper-styled, passionately impersonal, and uncomfortably cosmopolitan, like being with a bunch of well-dressed, attractive strangers, partying under the fluorescent lights in an airport. That, however, and a few business names (many culled from now defunct tech and manufacturing companies) is all there really is of the setting. I don't consider that a drawback. I can pull the best parts out of Blade Runner, Shadowrun, and Ghost in the Shell if I need setting inspiration.
Again, the game is about people who struggle to be Ready, Willing and Able to reach their goals. Those three things, Ready, Willing and Able, are actual stats in the game. You roll d10s against them and also mark them ("tick" them) to show progress toward your goal. While everybody starts out introducing just one character, you can bring in more characters later when you feel it's needed, and you can switch between which characters is "yours", or you can stick with the same one the whole way through. These are all "player characters", but unless you're currently claiming one as your "held" character, the rest are available in a pool for everyone to use.
Players also come up with "Factions". These are the powerful movers and shakers of the setting. They're often the obligatory evil corporation, but they might also be gangs, cults, tribes, government agencies, civic organizations or even just really bad-ass individuals. Within these factions, there will probably be several "non-player characters". These minions don't have stats, and might not even have names. As an extension of their Faction, they don't have Ready, Willing or Able. They fall under the umbrella of the Faction's "Influence".
Here's where it gets weird (if it hasn't already). There's no "game master". Or, to be more correct, EVERYBODY is a game master on his or her turn. When your turn comes around, you get to decide where characters are and what's going on, just like a GM, and you get to decide what kind of "scene" this is. There are three kinds of scenes: Introductions, Deals, and Face-Offs. An Introduction scene is just that, where you describe a character and say a little bit what he or she is doing in a way that highlights what the character is about. A deal has your character trying to bargain for something from one of the Factions, though while it helps you, it helps the Faction more. Probably the bulk of scenes are Face-Offs, in which you pit a Faction or one of the available Player Characters against somebody else's active Player Character.
How does this play out? Mostly the same as you'd expect. People say what their guy says or does and others respond, back and forth the way roleplayers do, until the scene reaches its climax. Then the dice are rolled. Depending on the results, maybe a character gets a negative condition (like "Injured") or a positive condition (like "Supported") or maybe one of the Ready, Willing and Able stats increase or decrease or become "ticked" or "unticked" as the character gains or loses ground toward the goal. And then you play it the rest of the way out, narrating and roleplaying why and how your guy is more Ready or less Willing or is now "Angry" or "Destitute".
And skipping over a few fiddly bits, that's the game until a player character is killed or has a stat drop to 0 or ticks Ready, Willing and Able to achieve his goal, or a Faction goes to Influence 0 or 9. Then that character or faction is written out of the current story, successful or defeated, with play continuing until it happens two more times. That ends the episode. The next time you play, you can bring in new characters and Factions, or you can re-create existing characters and Factions with a boost to reflect their progress last time.
It seemed to work really well in a forum format and it probably works even better live. You can check out the short forum game that I played with MariachiDevil HERE.
What we ended up with wasn't so much like your typical "mission", and it wasn't a "challenge" to be conquered (though it was competitive and creatively challenging). It did have combat and arguments and chases and hacking and infiltration, but those weren't the focus. It was more like a cool, gritty, science fiction story with some interesting characters and intimidating opposition. One story got told this time, but several more wait to be explored. Is the AI destroyed? Will it be recaptured? Can it find freedom? Will the conspiracy theorist find the "truth"? Will it be what he thought it was? Will it earn him the respect of his peers, or just get him killed?
So, I’m giving this game a big thumbs up. It was fun to play and totally more than worth the small price.
Feel free to comment or ask questions in the forums HERE.