Saturday, September 2, 2017

Memoriam: ReMemorex 'The Clearfield Cycle'

I know it's been a while since I've posted. I have an article about Character vs Character combat in the pipes and going through some edits, but July and August were rough months between Conventions and life. I promise to have it out to you this month. But first, I wanted to share this.

At the beginning of summer I had written about the game ReMemorex, which was just entering it's Kickstarter campaign. It succeeded. A game about 1980's horror and the powers of manipulating the game like old VHS has an appeal. 

In that post, I had also written about being a player in the playtest, about the level of detail that Sean Jaffe had put in to this town.  He knew where people lived according to street crosswalks. He had populated a town that only he could see and from him the rest of us could glean. A lot of campaigns have NPCs and sometimes only populate them with enough people as needed. Sean gave these characters a sense of life, that they weren't just there for the players. It made the situation seem more real. 

Last night was the finale of the game. Where the town of Clearfield, DE was threatened by numerous forces: by the megalomaniacal doctor with delusions of maintaining purity and american dignity against commie threat, by an Eldritch Force looking to free itself of neverending iterations of the same drama, and by at least one oncoming nuclear warhead meant to wipe all problems out of existence. 

As the teens and preteens of Clearfield, it was us as the players to stop it. 

One of the key things to understand about ReMemorex, and really the playstyle of the group, is that there is a lot of information and all of it is subject to misinterpretation and conjecture. It's very easy for players to take information for granted. This is a freer game, where the data is never complete because even the sources of information don't have all the data clearly lined up. While I appreciate and love this style of play, it also means that I as a player don't have all the details or context to talk about what was going on, especially since I came in at a later point than most. But I'll try to explain. 

We began the game by the original ritual: Sean would play the old HBO presentation video and followed by Gold Earring's Twilight Zone. But midway through we got...something different. With the Emerfency Broadcast blaring, we realized that a nuke had been launched to town to clean up any evidence of the Eldritch Forces and their influence on the town. This had been done before in the 50's by drowning one of the local towns, turning it into a lake, and wiping its existence from the records. A nuke was a little extreme, but needs must when psychopaths drive. 

I was part of a team that included myself as Tommy Johnson, resident precocious hacker, Shoshana as Cricket the town ingenue, Gia as Julie the chainsmoking school reporter, and Sean as Steven the high school horror film director. We headed to confront the above mentioned megalomaniacal doctor. He had already consumed one Eldritch Force, a benevolent one by the name of PALADIN, which had upgraded several of the teens and children with powers (Tommy being one of them, able to turn himself or others invisible). 

In a previous game, Tommy, Cricket and Julie had agreed to unleash Indrid Cold, the malevolent opposite of PALADIN, to fight the doctor who. Unfortunately, Cold had also been consumed. As the doctor began to monologue, with Julie and Steven arguing against its entirely convoluted and psychotic notions of letting the world burn while Clearfield remained 'pure' in his image. Cricket, who had been linked to Cold, and I who had been upgraded by Paladin, took advantage of Steven and Julie catching the doctor in his rant to activate both forces. Their power's transferred to someone else (it involved a hospital blowing up) and left the doctor mortal again. He died of shock. Okay, he died of a a gaping shotgun wound in his chest, and a bullet above his eye. The shock was just the part we all enjoyed.

The rest of the game was spent with the other players and their arcs. If it sounds like I'm glossing over their contributions, it's because there was 15 players at this game. For space reasons many of us were playing in shifts, going downstairs or outside to get some air and quiet, and then coming back as our scenes were up. In many ways it felt like a play, and waiting for your cues to come back on or off stage.  

We came back on for the finale, the lining up of all the plots. With minutes until the nuke was the hit the town, we caught a look at the town and its residents. These were NPCs who we had all engaged with. Again, this shows that these were more than just NPCs. These were the residents of Clearfield, these were people who had their own lives and desires and fears. They all prepared for the perceived end.

And then we went to work. Tommy was sat down to work on the signals of the nuke while coordinating with the others. Steven and company had taken over a intercept signal while the pre-teens, powered by the same force that Created Paladin and Cold, flew a spaceship(!) to intercept the missiles while taking down Indrid Cold once and for all. All the while, Sean played We Don't Need Another Hero on the speakers. 

At that point, it was implied that we wouldn't make it out. This was an Eldritch Horror game. At best we could save everyone. But through combined efforts, we not only managed to defeat the forces looking to subdue the town, but also saved the town from the nuke. There had been casualties, there had been deaths and trauma, but we won. What comes next is being left up to a last Epilogue game

Part of the charm of ReMemorex is that, even when you're not in the scene, you still have the chance to affect the scene through the use of Tracking Errors. We didn't see a lot of them, because by the end we were transfixed on what would be the final performances of these characters. As I said before, it was like watching the series finale of a tv series, or reading the final installment of a book. All of the payoffs come off. I'm not a fan of the Campaign Unending. Eventually, things must end, because then you get resolutions and payoffs like what I saw last night.

For my part, again, I didn't get a payoff as such as the others. I had joined late in the game and spent most of it chasing the plot. For me, this was my character's origin story, and what happens next for him would be something to explore later on. He already took on a comsic horror and played WarGames (while saying SHALL WE PLAY A GAME while playing Rush's Tom Sawyer, no less) god knows what he'll do when he's old enough to smoke and drive. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this game, both as a player and as someone who got to watch the performances of others. I look forward to what happens next, now that ReMemorex is coming out to the public. There will be a thousand different Clearfields with their own horrors. I also look forward to what Nerdy City has coming up.

But for now, all the children sing.


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