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[Space Rat] Cruisin' Along

Started by Peril Planet, April 21, 2008, 11:56:37 PM

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Peril Planet

I ran another game of Space Rat at the end of last week, attempting to explore some of the things that didn't get a great work-out in the last game, in particular the new way of generating attention stars.  I also altered character generation;

In previous rules versions you would determine a Femme Babe's stats and then pick skills, specialties and create your gear.  This all worked very well but I found that;
     (a)   players continually asked "does this skill cover this" or "do I add this skill";
     (b)   I found myself making comments like "make a Mind check with a bonus for Awareness if you have it", or "make a Spunk (formerly Presence) check and add Communication".
     (c)   Players were more interested in their gear than in their femme babes!

This seemed to happen no-matter who I played with or how many times we played.  While part of this is no-doubt down to the way I was running the game, I just wasn't happy with the cumbersome instructions or back-and-forth required to get a simple stat check.  My solution was to dump skills, specialties and the gear system.  Instead, right up front before stats are defined, players must write a brief description of their character, making three statements about her appearance, abilities and / or hobbies.  These three statements become attributes and work exactly like skills, improving a characters chance of success.  Gear is now done in exactly the same way, with two statements about what it can do or what it is used for.  There is no provision in this change for "specialties" so characters can now spend Luck to roll 3d6 instead of 2d6 for a feat check.  This relates to the other big change;

Characters were too good.  With even a "typical" stat, a skill and a bit of gear players were feeling very confident and resisting the use of Lucky stars (curse them!).  The answer was to increase the target number – they now go up by twos (7+, 9+, 11+ etc).  The difficulty chart now goes higher than 12 – very hard to succeed on 2d6!  If characters attempt a task that is two or more descriptors higher than their stat they will need to invoke one of their attributes or spend luck to roll 3d6. 

These were the things I wanted to road test - and this is how it went;

CHARACTERS:  I ran this as a "first session" with Rob, Brad, Nathan and a new player, Brett.  Brett was the only player who had not played Space Rat before, though he is an experienced role player.  Character generation went well and the regular players were very positive about the changes.  The first thing I noticed was the incredibly imaginative characters and descriptions / attributes the characters came up with, and the gear was really cool.  One femme babe (Maria, the professional tennis player) had a sportsbag filled with any kind of sport equipment, another wore a living organism that could look like any kind of clothing, and yet another  was armed with a ping-pong racket (there was a sport theme) that could be used as a weapon or to swish away attacks.  Interestingly, it was possible to create all of these items of equipment with the old rules, but players had been too caught up on the "effect" descriptors to really let their imaginations run wild.

THE GAME:  The characters were all on a luxury space cruiser (for various reasons) when they find out that Jack Cosmos is also on board.  There was a great scene in the dining room when they all try to rush for the only spare seat at his table – attributes were used to great effect.  Jack doesn't show up for dinner and one femme babe finds out which cabin is his.  The other femme babes follow (at a distance) before they combine forces to break into his room.  One thing leads to another, a large window is broken and most of the babes are sucked out into space (Brad was unable to succeed at a test of luck the entire game!) before being dragged, via tractor beam, into a Gamma Man pirate ship that had attached itself to the hull of the cruiser.  The really cool thing was that the tractor beam idea came from Brett who was describing what happened to Brad after a failed test of luck - I probably never would have got them to the ship this way and it was a totally cool piece of description from the player - exactly what I was trying to encourage.  All the femme babes eventually made it onto the pirate ship where they encounter a Gamma Man doing his best impersonation of Marlon Brando from Apocalypse Now before finding Jack in the arms of the beautiful alien pirate captain.  The game ended with Ling the Contortionist swallowing the pirate captain whole (!) while the other femme babes attempted to save a case of Jack's cognac before the ship self-destructed.  Brett, the new player, and his femme babe Ling won with 5 attention stars.

LESSONS:  Let me begin by saying this was a great game.  Everyone had fun and it moved at a really good pace.

Character generation worked very well and the players showed a lot more imagination than they had previously.  The attributes and gear were great.  The use of these also freed up the game, as players would make statements like "I use my ability as a contortionist to fit the pirate captain into my mouth!" rather than falling into the old "Does my skill cover this?"

The increased difficulty of actions was very rewarding – the players felt there was more tension when they attempted actions, as they weren't such a walkover.  It was also interesting that when players attempted actions that required a 13+ they could make the choice to fail the action by not spending luck.  I was concerned that this use of luck would overshadow the other uses it had, but there was no need to worry.  Players still used it to heal, add details to a scene and use their attributes in unusual ways (like swallowing people).

I was also hoping to see players put their characters in difficult situations based on their description in order to earn additional attention stars.  Once again this did not happen, which surprised me as there were a couple of opportunities.  I am beginning to think that this isn't a necessary addition, though I could leave it there as an option for enterprising players.

I also learnt something else, at the end of the game when the winner had a mere 5 attention stars.  I have been too stingy!  I think what has happened is that as we play more and more games my expectations of the players have increased, so it becomes much harder for them to do the stand-out actions that would grab Jack Cosmos' attention.  Many of the things that occurred in this adventure would have earned attention in our early games, but got the players nothing this time!  I must be more aware of this in the future.

Man, I had sooo much fun running this session.  Once again as much about my own abilities as a GM as I did about the game itself.

- Nathan
Writer; Gamer; Lunatic.  Not necessarily in that order.