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Friday, July 14, 2017

Solo RPG: Last Ride / First Ride

Last Ride / First Ride (LRFR)  is a solo RPG by Jason Morningstar. I played it a month ago, had a lot of fun and would like to share some thoughts I had around it. Below you can find my Actual Play report. 




What is Last Ride / First Ride?

LRFR is an innovative format in the way that it combines the spirit of Choose Your Own Adventure textbooks with immersive roleplaying usually located in typical RPGs. The game text is split into texts each describing opening scenes and then the prompts input by the player by an open ended question. After their input, the player has to make a choice between three actions deciding how the scene ends. They note a phrase depending on their choice. At the end of the game these decisions inform the player about what person they played leading to the epilogue. 

Cards which make the game
LRFR is a tribute to Fast & Furious like stories. Beside all the car love and racing action the theme of these movies actually is the value of friendship and family. So we play Dan, a car racing fanatico who left racing (and his gang) and now has a family. It doesn't stay that stable as you can imagine. 

You can play the game within 1 hour but I recommend that you take some time to write the story down and think about Dan between the scenes. I needed 3-4 hours with breaks. You can split the play time however you want (welcome to the wonderful world of solo RPGs).

My perception

LRFR is actually the second Solo RPG I played. The first was The Beast by Aleksandra Sontowska. In The Beast you write a diary from the perspective of an imaginary version of yourself which is having a secret sex affair with a monster in your basement. You are supposed to write on a daily basis for 21 days and draw randomly from a deck of cards for questions as story prompts. 
The Beast RPG

LRFR and The Beast play differently in the sense that the intro texts in LRFR give a much stronger drive on the story to be told. I liked the mechanic of the three options at the end of each scene a lot. I could even imagine further extending that element into something which finally results in a typical RPG character creation process.

The resemblance to Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books is something which makes me think if I couldn't play a standard CYOA with the same personal story approach as offered in LRFR. LRFR isn't offering though such an immersive (and deeply meditative) roleplaying experience. The pre-designed story inputs rather make it a collaborative storytelling experience with the author - at least the way it felt to me.

I will definitely continue looking into Solo RPGs. The next game I'm very interested in is Banana Chan's They're Onto Me in which you produce a video diary of your own conspiracy theory how lizard men control the world. I'm also reading the material Sophia Brandt has put together to play more traditional RPGs as solos. 

Actual Play

Disclaimer: 
The text in normal letters is by Jason Morningstar with some editing by me to suite it to my story and my language. Text in italics and bold is by me. Text in italics is the part in which a blank spot in the story is filled by the player. The bold text is the decision to be taken to define the character as described above. 

Big thanks to Jason Morningstar who offered me his trust in publishing the text in this form.  

My private version of the write-up contains actual pictures of the cars mentioned in the text. It's a lot of fun for somebody like me who has not the slightest clue about cars to see what the characters actually talk about. I'm happy to send that version to you privately but can't publish since I used pictures I found on the web without asking for publication permission.

The Last Ride 

1 THE MINIVAN

Time passes slowly. I sit in a wicker chair and watch a sunbeam crawl over the bullet scar on my thigh. Alicia comes home with Little Dan in one arm and a bag of groceries in the other. A Dodge brochure sticks out of the bag. “Hi,” I say.
She leans in for a perfunctory kiss, and Little Dan drops a toy car (A Buick Riviera Gran Sport, I observe, maybe a 1971, in non-factory standard blue flake) into my lap.

“We need to haul stuff now, Dan. I know it’s not your style but we really need a minivan. Use some of that bandit money of yours and go get us one.”  Alicia slaps the brochure on the counter. “Maybe, I dunno, a 2015 Grand Caravan in deep cherry red crystal pearl or something.”

“Deep cherry red crystal pearl.”  She smiles, and I fall in love all over again. “Or something.”

The last time I drove a genuinely shitty car was long before I became a racing driver. I was delivering pizza and had to go with the company’s car. It was a VW something, I don’t even want to tell the real model name. There was an advertisement installed on the roof. Oh my gosh, I looked so ridiculous. But I learnt to drive “properly” in that car. Which in the end cost me the job.

I’m willing to buy a minivan and drive it around like a boss. I love my family more than my dignity.


2 HAVING FUN

Alicia has business in the city and leaves me and Little Dan alone for the day. It’s beautiful driving weather. Sets of rolling breakers add ambiance to the perfect stretch of beach that is my backyard. Little Dan is crawling now, and his monkey hands get into everything. The whole world is amazing to him, and he’s amazing to me. That Alicia and I could have crafted such a thing still astonishes and terrifies me. I don’t feel worthy or, frankly, qualified. Car engines are more my speed - I can fix those. I can’t really fix a tiny person.

I’ve got a light blue 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona with a 440 cubic inch V8 in the garage, and a factory-original nose piece just arrived. I’d love to put that on, and maybe tune the clutch. With Alicia gone, there’s nobody to stop me. Little Dan wouldn’t really care. On the other hand, he’d have so much fun in the surf. I could just spend the day messing around with my son and get no work done. Hardly a wasted day either way...

Being in the bench seat of the Charger holding my son evokes long forgotten memories. Here, Alicia and I kissed first. It was after a race. Late after midnight. We drove up to the mountain view. There is a well-hidden track from a farmer long gone. Getting rid of a warning signal that this is no trespass and we could go down directly to the cliffs with this wonderful view over the city and its lights. 

We kissed and I think we both expected to have sex afterwards as both she and I had done so casually at these times. But we didn’t. We kissed, stayed silence and watched the city under us. It felt important. It felt different. And now I’m playing here with my son.

I put my own toys down and take my son to the beach. I’m sunburned.


3 DRIFT KING

Another lazy Saturday afternoon. The phone rings; Alicia waves at me from the hammock and I pick it up. “We really need you at Drift King,” Maceo says. I can hear Drift King in the background behind him-purring engines, trash talk, somebody shouting in what might be Laotian over what might be krunk.

“I’m out,” I say. “Retired.”

Maceo sighs. “I know, chief, I know. But Sally’s ‘69 Ford Torino Talladega GPT Special, man...”

...In beautiful champagne gold. “She took it up over nine thousand RPM, didn’t she?”

“Girl has no restraint. She was powershifting and over-revved. We need you on the line, Chief. With Sally DQ’d we got no cars and no drivers. I’m begging you. Just this once. Two hours, ten grand. Don’t make me ... wait I just did, didn’t I?”

The year I won the quarter mile at Drift King I was still with Sally. She was a great partner. Everything I loved, she loved. Everything she loved, I started loving as well. She had this weird passion for getting perfumed powder on her wheels. Nobody was thinking about ever doing this shit from Japan. But she insisted that it’s the new big thing. 

And thanks to her it became it – against all bets. We were together at that time and I took some shit because of being “the perfume boy” – but it did so with pride because it was Sally. My depression though made that time tough. Sally was always on speed and /or coke and so was I. It didn’t do any good for me. She was all fine. But I couldn’t go on like this or I would have died. So I quit. It was nearly as tough as stopping the drugs. Sally was my addiction.

I grab the keys to the Charger and head out of the door. I’m a good friend.

4 THE SPIDER

The whole crew shows up unannounced, with a cooler full of Corona and meat to grill and a matte black McLaren Spider MP4 I’ve never seen before. A quarter million dollar car. My wife Alicia shakes her head ruefully, but with a smile. They’re her crew, too, and my home is their home.

“What’s with the McLaren?” I ask. Sally just cocks an eyebrow and throws me the keys.

“Don’t ask, retiree. But put it in the garage next to your Charger, OK? We need to, uh, let it sit for a while. In the meantime let’s pour one out for Rackham, huh? He was family, Dan.”

I wince at the inference. Rackham died because I weren’t there, ambushed by our crew’s arch-nemesis, a monster named Vrag.

I remember the day Rackham died very well. I already made the first move of moving out of the crew. Alicia and I knew our time had come to settle. But Rackham’s death had nothing to do with that fact. Not on a rational level at least. Still, I feel guilty. 

He died in the abandoned parking house north of town. “Up and out” was the name of the race you could go there for. Going up from ground floor to level 5 on the circular slope was the easy part. But the one where you could gain enough extra time to carefully do the second part. That was about going on thin metal boards brought there by someone back down the levels. The little walls of the levels were hammered away for that. It was dark, the boards were steep, debris everywhere in this building.

Rackham went for a ride there against another crew. We got a call that Vrag was behind it and would appear. She was famous for announcing “death races”, i.e. that the loser would die some time later. The others, especially Sally, wanted to go and warn Rackham. But I convinced the others that Rackham could take for himself and possibly Vrag wouldn’t be there anyway. But she came. 

And Rackham died in the park house. His car flew out of the 4th level. Vrag claimed she won against him before and that his death “was is own fault”. But that’s what Vrag would always claim.

I don’t want a stolen car in my garage. But I can’t let my crew go alone. I’m in for finding a safe place for the car but try to be back for dinner. I half-ass things.

5 VRAG RETURNS

“She’s back,” Adeeb says. I know exactly who he’s talking about. Vrag. “Burke passed along intel that Vrag came through the San Ysidro port of entry this morning, driving a Honda NSX-R GT.”

I put down my Corona. “That’s an incredibly rare car,” I mutter.

Adeeb nods ruefully. “One of only five in the world. It’s a message, Dan.”
“Yeah,” I growl, “She’s coming for us. Like she came for Rackham.”
“Forget about Rackham, Dan. He’s gone. You need to protect yourself. Protect your family.”

“Two ways to do that,” I say, finishing your beer.

It feels weird. Vrag’s return is a disaster for the life I’m living. She is threatening my life. And I have a son and a wife who would miss me. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to leave them alone. I love them. But somehow what scares me most is the fact, that Vrag’s return excites me. She has always been the ultimate challenge. I missed out on it. I was always rational enough not to tap into her traps. But it felt wrong. When I left the crew, having missed an opportunity for payback day with Vrag, is what made me sad. Everybody is pretending to play serious games in racing. But only Vrag does.

I’m not running away. I grab my Charger and go. I’m a fool.

6 THE ANVIL

Things didn’t work out the way I planned. The fire department call was fake. I rushed home and into a trap. Favolo and Nok, Vrag’s badass lieutenants, were laying in wait. They bracketed me at the rear quarterpanel, Favolo in a remarkably nice twotoned orange and white Audi R8 Spyder 4.2 FSI quattro and Nox in a 2001 Mustang Saleen S281. The one with the 4.6 liter supercharged V8 pushing 375 angry American horses. The one he won from Maceo, way back when.

But they aren’t here to kill me. They are here to herd me.

And there, up ahead, is the shepherd - Vrag herself in her tuned-up little NSX, modified in ways I can’t even imagine. She gooses it and the little Honda roars -come at me, it says. Come race me.

Favolo and Nox pull back ever so slightly, waiting for me to make my move. If I race Vrag, maybe I can kill Vrag. The odds are low and she’s already stacked the deck in her favour, but man do I miss racing, and man does this trash need to get bagged.

I want peace. I’m happy with my family. I love my wife. My son being happy is everything I want in life. What does freedom even mean? From what? What for? Did I have freedom when racing? What did it do for me? Now I’m back in my Charger. Yes, it does feel good. But there comes the moment I need to get out again. And what then? What kind of freedom do I enjoy, and oh yes, I do enjoy it, if I’m actually trapped in a piece of metal to have it?

If I can’t have peace and freedom, if Vrag is taking it all away. Then I’m ready to go. Forever.

There is no way to escape Vrag. She will always be after me and my family. It’s me she is after at. She won’t let my crew alone, my wife’s and my friends, where we got to know each other. She will go for Sally, who I still love to the depths of my bones. Vrag has to go. And I can let go my time as a racing kid. I’m a murderer.

7 CONCLUSION

I’m a loser. Somebody who pretends to be there for others. But for real I’m a cheater. I’m a cheater on myself, on my crew, my family. I promoted freedom when it was all about the crew, I promoted family, when Alicia got pregnant. But what is it I want, what do I stand for? What do I want? I’m the type who will never admit. I will never admit that what I really want is crawling back into my mother’s womb.

The First Ride

1 PINK

Maceo pulls up in a brand new 2001 Mustang Saleen S281, grinning like a fool. “Where’d you…” “Let’s just say I have a friend in Holmby Hills whose dad is out of town,” he says, revving the engine. It’s a V8, supercharged.
“That’s a fast car, Maceo.”

“It’s a moneymaker. Gonna earn me some poor sucker’s riceburner that I can turn around for cash before I put the ‘stang back in the garage. You’ll be set.”
“You? Who is ‘you’, Maceo?”

“I know your pop’s hurting, Dan.”

Maceo wants to race for pinks. He’s going to bet a car he doesn’t own and probably lose it. For me. My old man. My family.

Maceo is my best friend. But I’m even more for him. Two years ago, before we even considered racing, Maceo and I got to know each other in jail. We didn’t know each other before. We both got in for the same wrong reason. Getting to drunk and starting a fight. In jail, we had time to talk. Both getting sober, we told each other the story of our life. 

Maceo’s story is a really sad one while mine is, well, boring one could say. His mother killed herself when he was ten. He was around. His father was and still is depressed. Everybody thought he would kill himself first. But Maceo’s mother kept it better together – to the outside world. Maceo moved to his aunts’ home. A new neighbourhood, rich people, but he didn’t fit in. Nobody liked him there and Maceo was proud of that fact. He didn’t want to be loved by these posh snobs around him. 

I help Maceo to prepare for the race. He is going to lose, I know. But it’s what he is going to do anyway and that I’m loyal to him is all he has.

2 SALLY

The first time I see Sally she’s half underneath a 1999 Camaro SS. I see a pair of skinny brown legs ending in Daisy Dukes and crouch down for a better look. “Enjoying the view?” she says, muscling an oil filter. “I love and respect the LS-3 engine block, what can I say.”

“Uh huh”, she mutters, laughing, gliding out and wiping off her hands. She’s stunning. “I did all the work myself-Tremec six-speed, lifter trays and a trunnion kit, intake manifold, BTR cams, throwouts.”

“That car’s like a year old.”

“I did some bad things to it. I get excited. What do you drive?”

I nod toward my lime green 1994 Accord, and Sally’s rakish grin melts into a patronizing smile. “It’s a freak under the hood. I pulled a B20Z block off a Honda CRV and paired it with a GSR header. So it’s basically a VTEC B20, but I dropped that in with a B16 transmission.”

“Shorter gears on a B16, fast but can’t last”, she says.

This girl slays you. “We’ll see.”

Sally is cool as fuck. She is hot, she knows everything about cars. And she has a drive, an ambition, she knows what she wants. I feel embarrassed in her presence about my aimlessness. And because I don’t want to embarrass myself, I’m able to pull myself together and be ambitious. As my old man always wanted. 

He was ambitious like she was. And he looked down on me for not knowing where to go. I got out of his home as soon as I could to get out of this aura. Now, being around Sally, I feel the same pressure and I ask myself why I don’t escape again. I know why. It’s different with Sally. We understand each other. We love the same things. We are related souls. And she complements me.

I offer to race her. I see my father looking through her eyes. I don’t want to disappoint him. I will not disappoint her. I will get her, chase her, until she is mine. I’m a dirty dog.

3 THE SLEEPER

When the insurance turned down my old man, it was a death sentence. The treatment he needs costs ten grand, and that’s just for the chance to roll the dice. Maybe the chemo doesn’t work and he still dies. The car is a beat up 1995 Toyota Supra Mark IV with a battered racing body kit to match. Bumper cover and extensions held on with duct tape. It doesn’t look like much. Neither does the redneck driving it.

“It’s a sleeper,” Adeeb says, shaking his head. I grab his shoulders. “No, Adeeb,” I say, looking him in the eye, “It’s an Apple Valley hayseed with delusions of grandeur.”

My oldest, closest friend shrugs me off. “Who puts a racing trim kit on a shitty car like that, Dan? It’s a set up. He’s got some big-ass motor under the hood for smoking rubes who see easy pickings.”

“Are you calling me a rube?”

Adeeb sighs.  “Yeah”, he says. “I mean, you need the money, I get that. But this isn’t the way, bro. We gotta be scientific about this. Use our heads.”

My mother passed away two years after I had moved out. I wasn’t racing yet. I was delivering pizza. I heard from my dad that it’s going to get worse in the next couple of hours. My dad expected me to come and stay with them. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t get to them. I couldn’t stand anymore seeing them together. 

The hate they had for each other filled my whole youth. Since she became sick he behaved so differently. They both came over their arguments, their mutual disgust for each other. I should have been happy. But I wasn’t. I hated the fact that it took them this disease to change. They weren’t willing to do that for me when I needed them. So I didn’t come to my mother’s last hours. I delivered pizza. And I was fast doing so.

I’m ok with racing. But Adeeb’s warning is right. Better to run only for pocket change. My father wouldn’t be helped if I lose the rest of my cash. I half-ass things.

4 THE OLD MAN

“These cars are junkboxes,” my old man growls, hitching off into a coughing fit. He’s sitting in the passenger seat of a 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse in original Kalapana black and silver. “Quarter mile in 13.3, Dad,” I say. “Zero to sixty in five even.” He grunts dismissively. His eyes are bloodshot from coughing and he’s pale, way too pale. He looks as sick as he is.

I just drive along and keep talking. “I tricked it out with an Injen cold air intake, Greddy electronics, Exedy clutch and aluminum Fidanza flywheel, front and rear strut tower bars, Fluidyne aluminum radiator. VIS racing carbon fiber hood. Lowered on springs with Tokico struts. Straight piped exhaust.”

“I’m dying, Dan,” he says, softly. I keep my eyes on the road. Signal, change lanes. Left turn. There’s the oncology parking lot.

I suddenly remember him sitting next to me when I drove my first round after getting my driver license. He didn’t know that I just barely passed the theoretical test. I was embarrassed because of that because that was exactly what he promised would happen. He didn’t mind asking. He knew already since I was not telling him about the result. 

I drove his car and he carefully observed me. I was afraid of doing a mistake. That was pure nonsense. I was driving vehicles already since I was 14. I loved driving. I was good at it. It gave me a certain feeling of freedom I couldn’t get elsewhere. But now I was sitting next to him driving legally. And it was his car. 

Then I realised what really made me feel uncomfortable. That sense of freedom I got from being on the road was missing. His presence took it away. I promised myself I would never ever drive with him again.

So here I was. Driving him again. 

I stop talking. The reality of losing him hits me for real. I take a deep breath when I shut the engine on the parking lot. “Dad, what can I do for you?” I say. I’m depressed.

5 NOX

“Why do they call you Nox?” I ask. He laughs. “Because nobody can pronounce Chanthavisouk,” he says, glancing meaningfully at the NOS injection lever under the dash. “And because I really like nitrous oxide.” His ride-A Kelmark GT kit on a VW frame designed to look like a Ferrari Dino-is as exotic as they come. Literally anything could be under that hood. Next to your ‘94 Accord, it looks like a spaceship next to a covered wagon.

“Let’s race,” I say. Nox shrugs.

“Your car’s too heavy, I’ll smoke you straight up. But tell you what - let’s set up lengths. I’ll give you three, sound fair? That’ll make it interesting.”
“What’ll make it interesting is ten grand.”

Nox considers, and his expression darkens. “Tell you what - no lengths, and if you win I give you ten grand. But if I win you stay the hell away from my sister.” It takes me a moment before everything falls into place.

Chanthavisouk “Nox” Phommaseng. Soudavanh “Sally” Phommaseng.

That hit me hard. Sally was his sister. I had only been together with Sally for a couple of weeks. We still wouldn’t even have it called a relationship. But it was. And it felt so good – I wanted more from it. I wanted to make it serious. She was great. She had a fantastic taste in cars, she spent day and night in the garage and what she got out of her car was incredible. Ah yes, she was also hot as hell. But more importantly, she touched something inside of me. I could feel vulnerable with her.

She was a racing bride. And for a racing bride’s heart you had to race, don’t you? If I turned her brother’s call down, I would lose her as likely as if I got in. But wouldn’t I lose what made it special between her and me if I treat her like a trophy under hers brother’s will? Now, in the car waiting for the starting signal, I’m so afraid. Anyway, I will win.

Now it was too late. I had agreed to Nox deal. Sally is a racing bride. I’m her racing groom. I will win. If not, I will honour the deal. I’m heartless.

6 DRIFT KING

It’s the most important race of my young life, and my ‘94 Accord is shaking lose all around me. To my left, pulling ahead, is a ‘97 Jaguar XK8 in a lurid banana yellow paint job, looking for all the world like something a hippie threw up all over. Some tool named Favolo is driving it like he wants to destroy it.

Ahead of you is a ‘99 Camaro SS in arctic white with my girlfriend behind the wheel.

I’m flat out, and one of us is going to go home with stupid amounts of cash as the winner of the Drift King quarter mile. Right now that person is Sally. It is not a friendly race.

The Jag, all tight springs and low-pressure tires, cuts in front of me. Favolo is angling to bump-and-run, using his momentum to force Sally to over-correct after losing traction. At these speeds it is murderously dangerous - too hard a hard hit and her Camaro is sideways and rolling. And it’s going to be a hard hit, no question. Will it be too hard? We are about to find out.

Favolo is a beast. The way he drives is disrespectful to everything our crew stands for. It’s my duty to take care that he is not winning. That would be the end of our crew, my crew, what we stand for here in the city. The way he is attacking Sally gives me all the opportunity to make the race. But I know how much she is under risk right now and willing to take more. 

She might even die. I love her. I will DQ myself to get her out of that situation. Even if that means I lose both. Honour and her, my love. She was teaching me to aim higher than the usual. To be willing to give up. Now it’s time to prove that. Not to her, to me. And to my father who died yesterday.

I position myself opposite the bump to serve as cushion. My car gets wrecked as does hers. Favolo wins the race. I’m in love.

7 CONCLUSION

I lost Sally that day. It hurt like hell. It hurt her. I didn’t understand yet what it meant for the crew. Somehow we grew together. Even Sally and I. But it was different. I was different. I realised something important about myself that day. I’m an egoistic asshole. That wasn’t actually that new to me. But it was new with the fact that I’m capable of feeling sorry for myself. And that I’m quite good at it. It just doesn’t happen too often.

Whatever I do with my future, I need to train that capacity. I need an environment which allows the fuck I am to feel himself. I can love others, but only if I start loving myself.



Pictures by nakedfemalegiant and Bully Pulpit
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