Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Saturday 2 December 2023

Community & Consequences

Deep in the water-logged, sodden neighbourhood of Mire End comes word of a crime so bad that it transcends the criminality rife throughout its streets and alleys. A crime that has the potential to arise the ire of the community which is indebted to and reliant on the ‘services’ provided by the Hohler Gang and its affiliates, which both runs crime throughout the neighbourhood and taxes everyone by collecting protection money. Mire End is notoriously poor, damp, and forgotten, left to rot by The City and the neighbouring Three Canals Metropolitan Authority, the latter possessing relative wealth and the drainage system that Mire End lacks. The crime is child slavery. Granny Nicely is rumoured to be abducting children and putting them to work, if not necessarily with the tacit support of the Hohler Gang, then at least with its leaders looking in the other direction whilst taking her protection money. If the Hohler Gang will nothing, then it falls to the Troublemakers, the community activists who want to make the streets, alleys, and homes of Mire End better for its inhabitants. This is the set-up for Nicely, Done, a short scenario for A|State, Second Edition, published by Handiwork Games.

A|State, Second Edition is a roleplaying game of community and conflict, set in The City, a metropolis of baroque, dystopian Dickensian contrasts, between rich and poor, high and low technology, law and order and crime, and so on. The Troublemakers—the Player Characters—are members of a community who banded together to form an Alliance, staking out a Corner and working to protect and improve the Corner and its surrounding community that they call home. In the process, they will travel across The City, further than any other members of their community, discover secrets, and more importantly, in returning to the Corner, bring usually unwanted attention upon themselves and their community, and accrue trouble. The Corner itself is not predefined, but created collectively during the roleplaying game’s set-up process and through play, the players and their Troublemakers can expand and upgrade its features in ways which grant them further benefits whilst also having to protect the newly added Claims.

Nicely, Done is, in fact, a very short scenario or mission for A|State, Second Edition. It is designed to be played in an hour or two and in the process, both showcase the roleplaying game’s mechanics and how the roleplaying game is played. It comes with four pre-generated Troubleshooters who make up an Alliance in Mire End. These are an Activist, a Ghostfighter, a Lostfinder, and a Sneakthief, the Ghostfighter and the Lostfinder being signature Player Character types in A|State, Second Edition. They are also paired so that the four Troubleshooters and their players can take advantage of the roleplaying game’s Trust benefits. Nicely, Done is designed to be played in three stages. In the first, the Troubleshooters will roleplay and roll to gather information, and then in the second, decide what their plan is, either assault, deception, stealth, or social. The third stage consists of playing out the mission itself. Full details of Granny Nicely’s tenement workshop and its occupants are given, including the details for her, her thugs, the leader and members of a Hohler-affiliated gang, and the Mob, with illustrations of each. There is also a really nicely done map of Granny Nicely’s tenement workshop. However, it is the Mob that is important here. This represents the reaction of the wider community to the news that Granny Nicely is abducting children and forcing them to work for her, and its anger and response is measured by a clock. Tick off all six segments of the clock and the Mob will attempt to do what the Troublemakers have failed to do, which is to rescue the children and deal with Granny Nicely, though with rotten consequences. The clock for the Mob is both a timing and a narrative mechanism, but it is not the only clock in Nicely, Done. There are two or three others which can come into play depending upon the actions of the Troublemakers.

Besides the Mission and engagement of the Troublemakers and their players, Nicely, Done suggests possible consequences and ways in which the scenario can be expanded. Here is where Nicely, Done disappoints. The conclusion consists of a single paragraph and the three possible consequences run to a line or two each. Even in a scenario as short as Nicely, Done, both conclusion and possible expansions are very short. It leaves the Game Master with a lot to do. The other issue with Nicely, Done is that it does not include the community building aspect of A|State, Second Edition, the staking of Claims to expand the Troubleshooters’ community out from their initial Claim for their Corner. However, there are new rules for involving guns and the consequences of doing so, and for Trust, Care, and Noise and Attention and their consequences.

Physically, Nicely, Done is very well presented. The artwork is excellent, the writing decent, and the map nicely done. In particular, the artwork is given space to breath, the first ten or so pages of Nicely, Done being dedicated to showcasing the artwork and introduce The City. That said, none of it is new artwork, all of it has come from the core rulebook for A|State, Second Edition.

Nicely, Done is bit of an odd product. It is too short to be a full scenario and it does not have an explanation of the Trouble Engine used in A|State, Second Edition for Nicely, Done to be considered a quick-start. It is more of a demonstration scenario for the Game Master who already knows the rules to A|State, Second Edition to run the game or a scenario which the Game Master can add to her own campaign. Ultimately, Nicely, Done is a decent little scenario, but it does leave you wanting more.

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