I'm giving Shock: Social Science Fiction my first whirl next week. I think I've got a good handle on the system and the type of game it's designed to create, and I'm very excited, but there's one element I'm not sure I've fully grokked.

The choice of Praxis scales. I really like the idea - you get to define character choice in conflict in terms uniquely tailored for the setting you've created. But, coming to the choice for the first time, I could use some advice as to what we should be considering when we're choosing.

Any insights into this choice? What works well and what doesn't? Examples from games you've run (that worked, or failed to), or giving examples from popular games and media ("In Buffy, a great praxis scale would've been (X)... but (Y) wouldn't have worked well at all") would be very welcome.


2 Answers 2


I just finished listening to an interview episode of The Jank Cast with Rob Bohl (Misspent Youth) and Joshua A.C. Newman (Shock). The whole interview is excellent, but the parts you might be most interested in are when Joshua describes Blade Runner as an example in Shock.

  • Deckard and the Audience (52:00-57:00)
  • Example Praxes (1:03:50)
    • Compassionate vs. Violent
    • Compassionate vs. Truthful
    • Sex vs. Commerce
  • Blade Runner (1:05:05-1:15:00)
    • Shooting vs. Caresses
    • Responsibility vs. Decadence
  • \$\begingroup\$ That sounds like the type of answer I'm looking for! ...and as if I wasn't embarrassed enough by not having seen Blade Runner yet... \$\endgroup\$
    – Standback
    Jul 11, 2011 at 4:34
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ So here's the thing: he says "here are praxis you can use," but not why those, or what difference they make. What I'm interested in is insights into choosing good and/or appropriate praxis, and how that affects the game - and equally, what to avoid. \$\endgroup\$
    – Standback
    Jul 27, 2011 at 9:15

I played a game of Shock: today, and observing the discussion on Praxes, I come to the following conclusions. For context, the Shock was about a really restrictive news monopoly, delivering ‘facts’ directly to your brain. (Issues: Freedom pf choice, Belief, Power.)

  • A good praxis describes a way to solve a problem. We were first toying with things like “trusting vs. sceptical” as the first scale, but the way praxes are used, they must help the *tagonists achieve their goals, and therefore be actionable. “trusting” is not actionable.

  • After we had found “official” and “subversive” as our first scale, we were wondering about the second scale. We tried to tie it into the shock and issues, coming back to “sceptical” and “connections” and similar things. The important observation was that the two scales need to be orthogonal. An important lithmus test is: Can you imagine characters with main strategies in all four combinations of praxes? Some candidates failed this for us, so we dropped them.

  • In the end, we settled on “force” vs. “agreement”. This may not have been the most interesting orthogonal axis given our Shock and Issues, but it did fit the other two tests and no one argued against it. It became like this (instead of involving violence) because it tied in with “Freedom of choice” and “Power”, and none of our other Issues were about violence. It did work out in practice – we used the official/subversive scale more often, but the force/agreement axis was used several times. This shows that a variant of a relatively generic pair of Praxes can be a good fallback if there is nothing else you are enthusiastic about.


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