Actual Play Report; Tech Challenge Play Test

I apologize for missing two Friday posts, it was vacation time and we were away for a while. Yesterday we got back and were all cleaned up so we had some time so I ran a game with the kids. If you want to start at the beginning you can find the first game here. Otherwise this game was intended to fix my mess up last time.

This time the kids would face the same challenge with their character’s skill instead of their own. To do this, I used a new tool that I originally called the Technobabble Monster but is renamed and refined for 3rd edition as Tech Challenges. With these rules, players get to test and see if a skill their character has will help solve the challenge that they could not solve themselves. It was intended to model unknowable problems like a stardrive needing repair but in this case we were going to use it for something a little different. This was a logic puzzle that the players were unable to solve. I thought, what’s the difference between an unknowable task and one the players are unable to solve? So for it’s maiden voyage, Tech Challenges was applied to a task it was never intended for.

The first task was to explain that we were rebooting the last challenge the character’s faced. They weren’t super happy about that but I explained that this time it would at least be different. They would not be trying to solve the logic puzzle, their characters would be. Each time they wanted to try a skill, they could describe how they would use that skill to come to a solution for the puzzle. If they couldn’t describe how it would be used they can still try it anyway but it made it less likely that the skill would apply. They roll to test the skill, this is called a skill probe, it does nothing if you fail, it’s a safe roll, most of the time. This was important to the kid’s enjoyment of the process because they had a way of reducing any risks. What this is simulating is the character thinking about what they know, how it applies to the problem and formulating a plan.

Then they would roll for that skill to see if they pass it. If they pass, there are a series of more benign effects that can happen called successful story transforms where each fix alters the nature of the problem. This was the first thing that happened, Enedger used his computer programming skill to try and hack the robots they were facing and have them tell which one was the truthful robot and would let them pass. He made his skill roll which reduced the number of Story Points the problem had and gave a transform that said the problem appeared to be fixed but had only moved. Really all the players need to do at this point is to keep rolling for skills. We could leave play that way and it would work, but that’s just dice rolling and not very interesting so the idea is to describe the results of the rolls.

I described that the Kerdi both agreed the one on the left was the one that would let them pass because of the program he had written. Because of the transform, the problem moved, I secretly decided that the Kerdi switch roles when they have revealed which one will let you pass. Because they recognize that they were forced to give an answer, they switched immediately the Kerdi that would let them pass was now the one on the right.

Kagami decided to try Surveillance to watch the Kerdi. She probed the skill and was told it would work. There is a one in ten chance that a skill can be a red herring and actually sets the character’s back. I decided to give them a bunch of observations that basically lead them no where and then explained the red herring. This added 3 SP to the challenge. I may change that to 2 as it greatly increased the length of the game.

Enedger then tried programming again. This time he failed the roll and got a failure transform which said that something important is destroyed. I described this as his Comm/Comp getting erased by the Kerdi. This is not something Kerdi normally do, hacking a Kerdi is also not usually so easy according to regular rules, so I was stretching things all over here.

This basically describes how the process worked. At certain points, skills no longer become effective and this became a problem for the characters because the system was designed to be used by technical characters like scientists and engineers with a number of tech skills.

All in all, the system worked reasonably well. I have a tweak that I want to make, but I’m actually thinking about making vehicle and equipment repair follow these rules. I’m even thinking of making these rules apply to hacking. I’m not sure about that yet though. There’s a lot of detail in how hacking is done that I like, but this might just be easier and therefore better.


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