Mock Logic Games

Don’t Panic: A Hitchhiker’s Game of the Galaxy

don__t_panic_by_vigilantmeadowIn honor of Towel Day, how about a quickly thrown together Fate game of gonzo slapstick science fiction, for when you want to play around in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy stories?

Before we get any farther, I have to point out that I have no official rights or permission to do this. It’s a quick work love for a book/radio/etc series that I feel very attached to.  Please don’t sue me.

I’d also like to thank the participants of this Google+ thread for helping come up with this concept, particularly Fábio Emilio Costa and Kenneth Holbert.

Game Basics

The base for this game is Fate Accelerated, which is lightweight enough to handle the spontaneous wackiness of a HHG2tG universe.  That means 6 approaches, one stress track of 3 boxes, an easy system for GMs making things up as they go.

Character Creation

Making characters for Don’t Panic is only a little different than standard Fate Accelerated. Like Fate Core, plan on taking a character creation session where players will interact with each other to generate their characters with interconnected back stories.

Start by making a High Concept aspect, such as “Two Headed Fugitive Galactic President” using the standard advice for making a High Concept Character Aspect.  Proceed as normal except for these two changes to picking aspects:

Absurdity Character Aspect

This aspect replaces the Trouble Aspect, and serves a similar purpose, except the trouble characters get into this setting is a lot less normal than the average being.  For example: “The President of The Galaxy is by definition the least qualified person for the job” is a good Absurdity Aspect for Zaphod.

The Phase Trio

Using the rules from Fate Core, develop the remaining three Character Aspects by interweaving the backstories from the various characters.  For example: Arthur is Ford’s friend, Ford is Zaphod’s Cousin, Zaphod picked up Trillian at a Party, and Arthur failed to pick Trillian up at a party.

(Don’t) Panic!

Scenarios of Don’t Panic are built around absurd but highly problematic problems which are called a “Panic.”  The thing about a Panic, is that they dynamically created by the game instead of being planned in advance.  This encourages them to be sufficiently wacky.  This system based somewhat on Atomic Robo’s Brainstorm mechanics are the central piece of a Don’t Panic game.

The GM sets a scene and may even come up with some strange things going on, but it will be the players that determine what preposterous Panic they face. But first, the situation has to hit sufficient weirdness.

Weirdness Aspects

During a game, characters often enter a situation with their own fairly reasonable goals, such as getting a nice cup of tea or trying to survive.  Under normal conditions, a very basic scene or two could play out where those objectives are resolved.  In Don’t Panic, things are never this normal.  In order to advance the scenario, each player must put forward a single Weird Aspect connected to their Character.  These aspects could be generated through Compels including Self Compels, Create Advantage, or even Invocation for Effect. They could even be Consequences your character as taken.

When a player offers up a Weird Aspect, the rest of the table gets to decide if it’s sufficiently strange and absurd enough.  For example, “We need a drink” isn’t a strange enough aspect, but “We NEED a drink because our life depends on it” is.  Weirdness is often relative.  “Aliens are coming!” isn’t very weird in Milliway’s Restaurant at the End of the Universe, but it’s very weird for a Sleep English Village.

When a player’s Weirdness aspect is determined, they get a Fate Point.  The Weird Aspect isn’t locked in, should a crazier one come up, but no more fate points are issued.

A scenario has reached sufficient weirdness when there is one Weirdness Aspect for each player.

Panic Aspect

At this point, a situation should be a little strange. Good.  It’s time to figure out what’s going wrong that links all this strangeness so we can move the story along dealing with it.

Each player rolls an Approach that best matches their weirdness aspect.  Whoever rolls the highest gets to make a new Panic Aspect for the scenario that ties all the weirdness aspect together.  This new Panic Aspect becomes the Current Problem the players must overcome to complete the Scenario.

For example: Arthur and Ford are in a Sleepy English Village and it quickly got weird:  Arthur got in a conflict with a demolition crew that arrived unexpectedly to rip down his house to make a new highway bypass while Ford’s Alien Alarm is going off.  Arthur’s Weird Aspect is “They’ve come to destroy my home!”  Ford’s aspect is “An Alien Fleet Is Coming!”  Arthur’s player rolls Forceful, as it corresponds to the bulldozer aimed at his front door. Ford’s player rolls Quick, as it corresponds to the sudden arrival of an alien fleet in the solar system. Ford’s player rolls higher, so he gets to make a new aspect to tie the two weird aspect together into the Panic Aspect for this Scenario.  The player decides to combine the two by declaring the alien fleet to be here to demolish the Arthur’s home world: “A Vogon Constructor Fleet Is Here Demolish The Earth!” Even though the scenario started with a Quiet Thursday in an English Villiage the rest of the scenario becomes about trying to survive in the face of imminent planetary destruction. Remember: Don’t Panic!

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