You were the best. Underground, cyberpunk street samurai, burglars and breakers, agents of a mysterious spymaster with half a name, zero history, and a plan. He made the missions and you carried them out. You were the go-to crew for high-stakes break-in, dangerous ops, and impossible escapes. You fought the megacorps, the tyrants, the killers—all for the sake of making a better future, of beating the Technocrats at their own game of shaping tomorrow. You always won, never quit, lived in the now.
Until, eleven years ago, he disappeared…
Now he's back—back in trouble—and it's up to you to save him and maybe, along the way, change the world.
Always/Never/Now is a storytelling game adventure that began as a gift to some of my favorite players—friends I'd gone to school with back when. It's an evolution of the home-made cyberpunk-action RPG we played back at the end of the 20th century, a series of adventures that were somewhere between James Bond and William Gibson in their action and intrigue. We devised a constellation of antiheroes for those games and a few of them really stuck with me, from the street samurai with the metal legs and the one-time-professional bodyguard with the metal arms to the the cat burglar with the reckless guile, in over his head. Always/Never/Now translates these characters into ready-to-play action heroes on a mission that stands to change their dystopian future forever.
In the end, I wrote so much for Always/Never/Now and devised so many little rules tweaks and alterations to Lady Blackbird that I wanted to share it all with the world. The trouble is, I only wrote much of it in the form of rough sketches and notes to myself. To turn this all into something ready for outside eyes requires time.
I'm a professional writer and game developer and I can't spare much writing time for free projects. So I thought I'd put it to you all: if Always/Never/Now gets funded, I'll have the money to finish all the remaining writing and layout the text. Then I'll release the adventure for free, under a Creative Commons license, so everyone can share and play.
Without funding, the adventure may never get finished or released.
What Is It?
Always/Never/Now is a story-game adventure made up of linked scenes, most of which are action-packed missions that the players choose for their characters to undertake in a varying sequence. As they complete missions, they push the story forward, unlocking new missions to choose from. Missions combine Action, Intrigue, and Stealth markers in different ways to create exciting and challenging roleplaying and storytelling situations—many of which include unique dice mechanics for modeling distinctive fight scenes, chases, and escapes.
The game is inspired by the channeled freedom of games like Lady Blackbird and the Uncharted series. Scene by scene, the players choose from relevant courses of action that drive the story on and ensure focus on the most compelling and dramatic moments of play. If you're an experienced roleplaying or story gamer, think of this as a series of small sandboxes linked together by branching rollercoasters.
The final PDF edition of Always/Never/Now should be about 30,000 words—or more, depending on funding—which would earn me about a nickel per word and put some money toward fonts and design elements for the finished adventure. The final project will take the form of two or three related PDFs containing materials for players and a GM. That includes 10 mission scenes, background details, specific storytelling advice and techniques, guidelines on using the game's soundtrack in play, complete game rules, and more. (I'd say more about the missions, but I don't want to spoil them for you yet!)
Here's a peek at the players' synopsis for the Mumbai mission:
I created game statistics for three player characters for my original run through the story but I'll add a fourth—the artist and fixer, Emily Syndrome—for publication. Here's a peek at the current draft of Utseo Tao:
(The final PDF won't have those gray backgrounds all over the place—that's just for the web look.)
If funding reaches $2,000, I'll add a fifth character. [Done! The new character is "Tank" Nguyen, loyal bruiser.]
(Additional funding milestones have been revealed in updates to the project. Click on "Updates," near the top of this page.)
If funded, the project gets finished, assembled, and released online for anyone to download—including all scenes and player characters unlocked for public release.
One additional scene gets withheld as a bonus for everyone who backs the project at the $22 level and above. That scene gets given out under a Creative Commons license, too, though, so those backers are free to share it if they like. If you can't be a $22-level-or-higher backer yourself, maybe someone you know can?
You've made it this far, so thank you. Even if you can't back this project, please do tell your friends about it. I hope you get a chance to read or play Always/Never/Now one day soon!
Original music: "Unlawful Furniture (Edit)" by Quantazelle.
Some video clips and photography by Will Hindmarch and Sara Hindmarch. Additional photography, used under Creative Commons license without artist endorsement, includes:
- "Maze In City of Night" by Flickr user Toshihiro Oimatsu
- "The City Lights" by Flickr user Fe Ilya
- "City Lights 3" by Flickr user Angelo Juan Ramos
- "Tokyo-Night" by Flickr user Janne Moren
- "Untitled" (Blue Driving POV) by Flickr user Viernest
- "Trier City At Night Panorama" by Flickr user 55Laney69
- "Light Blocks" by Flickr user Toshihiro Oimatsu
(Thanks to all these artists for sharing their work. Thanks, also, to GoMedia for their arsenal.)
Not really. Always/Never/Now doesn't contain character-creation rules, for example. It's more like an RPG adventure with built-in rules. If you're familiar with Lady Blackbird, it's sort of like that, except it features a structured, ongoing storyline with a bunch of different situations built-in. Each mission scene is like a new situation with its own objectives and obstacles. Complete it to select a new scene or, if you prefer, take the characters out of the built-in structure and wander the game world in a more freeform fashion.
No. There is one bonus scene that all the Elite Operatives get with their copy of the finished project—a scene that won't go out in the public release of the project. I won't tease that scene here, because I want to leave that task up to Elite Operatives to do once they get it, but I'll say that I think it adds dimension to the adventure if you decide to play the scene.
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