Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Space Time?

While the GOZR Kickstarter is still going, of course I'm working on entirely other stuff. Namely, my space game.

Working title is ZSF, Zoa Space Fantasy. This is the setting from Supercalla and Cozmic Metal Heads, but instead of going with Troika! (much love) I'm going to make it another original game system. I'm having fun making original games, might as well ride that high.

This time I don't plan to hand letter the thing. It'll probably be a more traditionally laid out book. But the visual inspirations are 70s era art albums and art books... so the plan is for every page to be art. Lots of full page pieces, lots of small pieces. Not so much density of text per page. Something like 50/50 art book/RPG guide.

This cartoon world has lived in my head and in a couple of RPG books for years. It'll be fun to put it into yet another form, one that I can claim entirely as my own. I've been noodling and doodling this for the last week or so. Kind of excited about it. Kind of the same sort of feeling I had when I started working on GOZR.

Of course this could all change. I am a slave to my whims, after all. I might drift away from this. Hell, I really do need to get back to my OSR book and FINISH IT. But we'll see.

Let's talk about mechanics.

How do you decide what kind of mechanics a game needs? I don't know. But I have an idea about how to start.

First, what is the game about? In this case it's space opera with a strong 70s heavy metal aesthetic. What might characters in such a game be doing? Flying in space ships, fighting weird monsters, dealing with space wizards, making deals with demons, and contending with strange robots. In fact, the words "weird", "strange", and "cosmic" seem to pop up a lot when I think about this thing.

So I am starting with a list of actions. PCs in ZSF will:

Shoot (load, aim, fire, reload, and duck)
Talk (charisma, persuasion, negotiation, etc.)
Operate (machines, robots, computers, etc.)
Fight (punch, kick, tackle, bash, etc.)
Explore (perception, instinct, toughness, etc.)
Drive (ships, cars, bikes, etc.)

I think that covers the important bases. I wanted it to spell out something badass. "STOFED" is as close as I came.

What I like about this is that it strongly implies the game theme. It's a game "about" flying through space and doing action shit.

The primary mechanic (I really dislike the term "core mechanic" for some reason) is, for now, to roll d20 and add your modifiers vs. the GM's* roll. High roll wins.

So the whole hit point thing...

I have wrestled with this. I actually like hit points and damage as a mechanic (I used it in GOZR). But since I'm making an original game system, I might as well think about trying something different.

Right now I'm messing around with a mechanic from the least likely place of all... my stupid little game Lizards vs. Wizards. In that game, when you get hurt you simply roll a d100 vs. your survival trait. If you fail, you are a dead lizard. No hit point tracking at all. So I thinks to myself... why not? This is a space game, which means it is also, in some ways, a western. That is, when you get shot by a laser pistol you should probably almost certainly DIE.

Of course I don't want ZSF to be as slapstick and cartoonish as LvW. There's a trick to it. Yes, it is going to be a game where you can get shot and die with one die roll. But a Luck mechanic is also in place. Not luck points, as I usually like to do. More of a limitless luck roll. The trade off is that failing the luck roll causes instant bad luck for all the PCs.

Anyway... more on all that later.

*Ok, I'm actually planning to call the GM "Spacelord". Because fuck why not? It's a SPACE GAME. And nobody cares anyway.


  1. Replies
    1. And there's that Monster Magnet song.

    2. Yes! Monster Magnet! So underrated, and a great name for a spaceship.

  2. Interesting mechanic. Also, Black Sabbath's "Into the Void" was playing in my head the whole time I was reading this post.

    1. As it should.

      I'm not sure if you were talking about the opposed d20 or the idea of a survival roll instead of HP.

      I'm on the fence about the HP thing. Currently as the draft is being written I'm still using HP. HP has a LOT going for it. It's granular, so it scales and can be tweaked. It's familiar, so people take to it instantly. But the downside is that you have to keep track of it. And that's fine but one of my design goals for this game is to reduce the amount of tracking to as close to zero as possible. So for that, a single survival roll is kind of a sexy idea.

      Of course I know it goes against convention and might even seem like a bad idea. But there is the mitigating Luck mechanic to consider. And other stuff I'm working on.