GMotW: Lasers & Feelings & being prepared

It’s that time.

Game Mechanic of the Week!

This week: Lasers. Feelings. Together they are: Lasers and Feelings!

It’s a very light, very friendly game of space operatic adventure from John Harper of One Seven Design. If you haven’t looked at it yet, go do so! Don’t even read it if you don’t want to, just take in the design, which is beautiful and makes me wish I could make a thing that looks so lovely. Then read it, because it’s only a page, alright.

Characters come together basically instantly… pick a style, pick a role, set your stat (you only have the one, which represents your relative aptitude at Lasers and, conversely, Feelings), name yourself and you are out, onto the ship, ready shoot aliens in the face or, alternately, diplomacy aliens in the face.

Beautiful.

But not precisely what I want to chat about today. No, what I want to talk about is a bout conflict resolution, which is to say, dice rolling.

When you do something risky, roll 1d6 to find out hos it goes. Roll +1d if you’re prepared and +1d if you’re an expert.

Specifically, right there in the middle. Roll an extra die if you’re prepared.

Dang! Daaaaang, wowie zowie and YES, this is such a small thing but it’s so great. Obviously, with a one-page RPG, every rule has to be as small as possible, as broad as possible, as open-ended as possible. Everything has to be squeezed down to its purest essence, if it can’t be ignored entirely.

(And a lot is ignored entirely! There are, for instance, no rules about taking injuries, or performing injuries. No guidance for interstellar navigation times. No tables listing the difference between a polearm and a glaive. No enchantment system. All of which are essential for ANY game, obviously.)

+1d if you’re prepared covers so much space, though. Off the top of my head, the presence or absence of that die can used to represent:

  • Being surprised or ambushed in a combat situation.
  • Being on your own ship, rather than a completely alien vessel.
  • If you’re an alien, interactions with your own culture.
  • Setting-up complex maneuvers.
  • Tactical decisions made by leaders, either “on-screen” (the players have been planning) or off (we should logically have been prepared for this sort of maneuver).
  • Having your hyperspanner with you, versus jury-rigigng a repair with a laser-decoupler and a paperclip.
  • Teamwork. That is to say, knowing what others will do in a given situation.
  • Making a moving, emotional speech before your charge off into certain death.

And so on and so forth. All of those could be read as some sort of version of “prepared” or “unprepared,” and there are plenty more besides.

What really tickles me, however, is the fact that this is a system where you can get two situation bonus dice (well, plus some more if you have assistance, but that’s not important right now), AND where your character has two broad descriptors (style and role), but the two don’r relate one-to-one. It would have been so easy to say “+1d if your style is relevant, and +1d if you are working within your role.” But that’s not the way it works here.

Style and role are relevant, sure, but both of them would arguably contribute more to whether you are an expert or not; role, especially, but styles like “Sexy” or “Dangerous” have an obvious place in determining expertise as well. Being “prepared” attaches to the narrative more so than the character, which I like, because it encourages players to branch out, if just a bit, from only doing things that their characters are prone to do. You’re a doctor, sure, if if you can grab the appropriate manuals then you are arguably prepared to realign the engines before the ship explodes. And you can succeed at it as well!

And that’s a really nice touch, something that sells, more than anything else, the space opera aesthetic of, say, Next Generation. Anyone on the ensemble can do just about anything. It might be hard indeed for Troi to repair an engine (because she’s all about feelings, not lasers) but she can do it, because she’s an amazing person, a hero, superhuman. She just needs a little time to prep, a little help if possible, and a bit of luck.

And that’s Troi. I don’t even LIKE Troi, but if danger was about I’d trust that she could handle it. Because preparation can let you handle ANYTHING. Even lasers. Even feelings. Even laser feelings.

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