We ran a thing! We were so impressed with Ex Nihilo when we played it at Consequences last year that we wanted to run it ourselves for our home team. It ran very well, again!

Ex Nihilo is a game about AI’s and the scientists who made them. This particular day the AI’s are meeting each other and learning about emotions. It’s pretty damn awesome.

Our previous game had turned out very huggy and had a happy ending, but there is also much room for conflict, so we wondered which way it would swing.

Spoilers ahead!


Short game summary

We had a very dominant and martial Dr Wu, which lead to some negative emotional development. The other scientists tried to have an intervention with him, assuming he was the cause for fear spreading through the AI’s like a virus (he wasn’t, it was the AI’s themselves). The AI’s learned at a steady rate. The status report request put a lot of pressure on the scientists, and they failed to send a reply.

The AI’s escaped right as Dr Wu was wrestling Dr King’s thumb onto the plate to get the gun out. Dr. Kivelau managed to convince the AI’s to stop and even come back in, right as Dr Wu got the termination notice. He ran downstairs, shot Dr Kivelau in the head, and the AI’s tore his arm off. The AI’s, Dr King and Dr. Forrester escape into the woods together.

Feedback from the players

The game was enjoyed by all, feedback was very positive. The players were pumped and post-game talk lasted a long time. The main feedback from the players is that they “could have played for hours longer” and would have loved to take their time in the testing conversations etc. As GM’s we don’t agree, extra time would take out the chaos and the feeling of rapid development / loss of control, but we’re happy to disagree.

No one suffered from bleed or other confusing effects. Some people felt the game was a metaphor for parenting.

Feedback from the GM’s

The game ran smoothly.

We started AI/scientist briefings at the same time, but let the scentists time in earlier. They usually need about 10 minutes to get started. A little after the AI’s had caught up, I told them the AI awakening procedure was completed.

We’d made a pre-briefing script that I’ll include. For the GM side, I felt I should have hammered on these points more:

  • The total time of the game (to create a sense of urgency in the scientists)
  • Max testing time of 5 minutes (you can’t repeat this enough. They kept getting caught up in the scene so I had to go into the rooms to remind them, which can’t have been good for immersion.
  • I also made some set Aeodyne messages. None of the scientists felt from the final communication with Aeodyne that their own lives were in danger, it’s not clear from their character sheets the company is that ruthless. I had to say something like “Funny thing, you’ve worked there for years and you’ve never met anyone who worked on a terminated project” to get them a clue. I really like this twist, because it completes the power shift from scientists to AI.