Here's a brief AP from PAX!
Finally played Fingers on the Firmament
yesterday after ten years of build up. I'd promised Elizabeth that we could play it, so I hacked together something that's halfway between Apocalypse World
and World of Dungeons
in terms of complexity. As with my previous AW-derived hacks (Planarch Codex, The Afterborn), the core moves -- and everything else -- definitely need some serious work after the first playtest, but enough worked to prove that the project is starting to come together.
There are about 3 killer apps right now, with the rest needing reworking (here's the draft we used
The first killer app is group travel
is a fantasy game about people living in deep space without spaceships or spacesuits, traveling by reaching out and grabbing the stars, pulling themselves towards them. This is pretty dangerous to do solo because, if you blow your travel roll, you end up lost by yourself and have to hope you find someone or someone finds you. Given that space is massive, the odds aren't in your favor.
In group travel, each player first places their "hold." Players have either 1 or 2 hold, based on having two hands. You place your hold by putting your hand flat against the table in the direction of another player, simulating grabbing onto them. Having a tightly bound group is better, but at least one player needs a free hand to roll the dice for traveling (roll+wayfinding). Plus, if you have extra hands free, a different player can roll to attempt to recover if the first player blows their roll or if the group breaks apart in transit.
Breaking apart happens because, once the first wayfinder has made or failed their roll, the GM rolls+0 to test each hold. On a 10+, you hold fast. On a 7-9, you drop a few fingers. On a 6-, the hold breaks. This part is unbelievably compelling and stressful, since it is inevitably fraught and the consequences are potentially massive, but placing your holds semi-strategically dramatically increases the chances of having everyone arrive safely.
The first time we rolled group travel, Elizabeth and James made it safely, based on Elizabeth's roll, but the group split, with Dev hanging onto Jackson by just a few fingers. Then Jackson nailed his recovery roll (since he had left a hand free) and we all sighed with relief. We were about to move on, when I remembered: "Oh, we forgot to test Dev's hold on the recovery." Sure enough, I rolled a 7-9 result and Dev had to drop his last few fingers, spinning away into the darkness. Luckily, they were on a well-known and well-marked route, so Dev rejoined the group quickly, but it was an excellent taste of the danger present in the game.
The last thing we did in the playtest, right after Elizabeth had to go catch a flight, was have the group try to carry an enormous hunk of raw crystal (previously used as a beacon) back to their "home" star. I totally hadn't considered something like this, but Dev immediately was like: "Clearly we have to leave a few hands to hang onto the crystal as we carry it." Crap! Sure enough, losing Elizabeth and having to spend extra hold on the crystal placed serious strain on the group, in addition to them trying to jump straight back to known territory (blazing a new route) rather than working their way back star-by-star. We closed with Dev spinning off into the darkness again, this time with no real idea where he was, but clutching the crystal. Had we continued, the next part of the session would have involved playing out the "recovery protocols" in order to find him and his treasure again, before they were lost forever.
The two other killer apps, carrying the fire
(terminology stolen from Cormac McCarthy) and sharing things with stars
(and other players, as a form of "Hx" at the beginning) were also great, but more uneven and need some revision. All in all, though, pretty exciting and something I hope to work on and play again soon.