13 September, 2016

Breathe

This idea was posted on Facebook.

From Joe MacNamara...

Game idea: it's a one-off freeform. It's bleak-as-fk sci-fi; the PCs are asteroid miners, and they need a constant personal supply of oxygen, represented by poker chips or something like that. Every 30 minutes, a GM comes around and collects a poker chip from each PC; any PC who can't produce a chip dies in 30 seconds. The chips represent bottles that can be screwed into your gear and are therefore tradeable; some PCs have far more than they need, some of them won't last the 3 hours. If I did this, I'd do it worth hard player elimination; no replacement PCs, if you die that's it. What are people's thoughts?

Frakkin' brilliant!

I rewatched Danny Boyle's Sunshine last week, so this idea instantly sent my mind racing. It's got built in tension, where there might be enough oxygen for everyone to survive, but might not...and if anyone exerts themselves (such as combat), they'd find they eat their way through their oxygen even quicker. It's got inherent game mechanisms that tie directly into the narrative fiction, in the form of those oxygen bottles that might be crucial to survival. It prompts player interaction and trade. You can tune the darkness of the scenario up or down by changing the amount of oxygen available.

(Strangely, as I write this, I'm reminded of my Familiar game... but instead of oxygen canisters, the characters require mystical energy to remain in the mundane world, and the more they exert themselves, the more mystical energy they use up. Hmm... food for thought.)

As a core mechanism, it's clever. But I always want to add a bit more to things.

We could easily port the concept across to a 'Starfleet' type of premise. Give each of the characters specific roles, where each of them will have the chance to use the abilities associated with their roles to gain additional oxygen for the economy, or modify the play environment in some way...

Engineer: capable of turning on (or off) power in various parts of the facility, or may fix broken things.
Bio-technician: capable of restoring the oxygen rejuvenating plant-beds, as long as other conditions are met. Also capable of healing minor injuries.
Security: trained combatant, may either instantly win physical conflicts, or may avoid using excess oxygen while fighting.
Medic: capable of healing major injuries, and access to a range of drugs and poisons which have various modifying effects.
Communications: capable of sending messages and distress calls. Also able to decode cryptic codes that might be found through the scenario.
Senior Officer: capable of giving orders to other crew that are expected to be followed. Able to modify the pay rates of crew (which will be paid out to any survivors at the end of the scenario).
(Optional Xeno-archeologist: capable of providing information about the alien artifact at the centre of all the problems, as long as other conditions are met)

There are all sorts of ways that we could play with this.

If we work off the idea that all characters have a name, a goal, a set of abilities that might be used to achieve a goal (preferably their abilities achieve someone else's goal), and an obstacle preventing their own goal's achievement (which can be overcome through someone else's abilities).., then that's all we need for the dynamics of a dramatic narrative to unfold.

The core goal for everyone is surviving the scenario.

Secondary goals might include:
   earning a certain amount of money to pay for a loved one's medical treatment back home,
   making sure someone specific doesn't survive the scenario,  but making sure the death looks like an accident,
   erasing compromising data from the server,
   identifying the massive file on the server that seems to have been compromising several of the systems,
   etc.

More to think about, but that will do for this post.


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