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posted by Dareon Original SA post

A Penny for My Thoughts


Two women and a man, all dressed in white jumpsuits, sit around a table with a bowl of pennies in its center. Each of them has a small stack of pennies and a printed form. In front of the older woman sits a scrap of paper with the words “a taffy stretching machine” written on it.
“…and my father looked down at me and said, ‘If you don’t want to ride the roller coaster, you don’t have to. You can wait here in the candy shop while your brother and I go,’ ” says the older woman. “I was scared.” As she speaks, the remembered terror creeps into her voice.
Her expression suddenly goes blank. She turns to the man. “ What did I do or say then? ” she asks, offering him the single penny in front of her.
The man considers for a moment, his brow furrowed. Staring at her, he replies, “You said, ‘No, I want to come with you.’”
She turns to the younger woman. “ Or was it ” she begins, offering the same penny.
“You stayed there in the candy shop, chewing your taffy,” the other woman says.
She pauses before speaking again. “ Yes, I remember now. I said, ‘No, I want to come with you.’” She hands her penny to the man. “And I had a fantastic time. It was so thrilling, so wonderful. That’s when I knew what I wanted to do with my life. And that is what I remember.
She smiles as she writes on her sheet of paper, “When I think of taffy stretching machines, I remember how I discovered what I wanted to do with my life. I’d never felt such a sense of purpose before.” After she finishes, she takes a penny from the bowl.
A penny for my thoughts ,” she says.

Here we have another game that is not terrible. It's not entirely an RPG in itself, more of a tool that can be used to create characters to then be built in the tabletop system of your choice. It was developed by a team calling themselves The Orphic Institute For Advanced Studies and published by Evil Hat Productions. If you have the Dresden Files RPG, you may have seen an ad for A Penny For My Thoughts (Henceforth referred to as Penny or PFMT) in the back.

Penny began as an entry in the Game Chef 2007 competition, based off the author's like of movies like Memento, The Bourne Identity, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Other inspirations are improv theater, Don't Rest Your Head, and The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

The gameplay is a collaborative storytelling exercise where you develop a scene based on a memory trigger. You first draw a memory trigger from a hat, then the other players ask you yes-or-no questions about it. The catch is that you must answer yes to the questions. Using that trigger and the questions and answers, you form the beginning of a scene. The other players then fill in what you did or said. This is multiple-choice, and when finished nets you one complete memory.

The fluff is where this gets interesting. All players of this game have profound retrograde amnesia- total loss of memory. They are being treated at the Orphic Institute with an experimental drug called Mnemosyne. This drug induces low-level telepathy, breaking down the boundaries between people's minds. While the patient cannot recall their own memories, the others may look in and see them as the patient reacts to a trigger.

The whole thing is very structured, set up in many respects like an actual group therapy procedure. The penny in the title is literal, as pennies change hands throughout the session in order to fuel each memory. The style of play can be adjusted based on what kind of character you're building. The default style generates a normal modern-day person, and sheets are supplied in the back of the book for a Cthulhu Mythos investigator and a Bourne-esque secret agent.

There are a few drawbacks, of course. The system relies heavily on everyone being on the same page. In early playtests, the author relates how one person introduced psychic vampires in time zeppelins, which, while awesome, was not part of the intended universe. Even when everyone is on the same page, you can get disparities in power or prestige level, such as one play session where one player was 8 years old and another was an international bank robber.

I'm planning on running a session or two of PFMT in IRC for this thread, to provide examples.