Sunday, January 24, 2016

Velour Whenevers: El Capitan, Part Three

So there I was, still dissatisfied about how the captain rules in Velour and Go-Go Boots worked.  I decided to put it on the back burner and let it simmer for a while, in the hopes that maybe, someday, I would have an idea that would fix everything that displeased me.

I began to focus on other parts of the rules and realized that there were some other portions of the game that could be better realized.  I distinctly remember noticing these issues when I was working on them the first time, but the little voice in the back of my head said, "keep writing and we'll figure this out later.  Also, I will release some serotonin!" At this urging, I steamrolled onward, ever onward.

Perhaps, now that I had taken a break from the captain rules, it was time to address these other, smaller issues.  They couldn't be that difficult to resolve, could they?


Here they are, in no particular order:


For the first draft of Velour and Go-Go Boots, I borrowed the Initiative rule from Critical!: Go Westerly, a funny fantasy game that I had the pleasure of co-writing with my friend Jonathan Lavallee.  Initiative in Critical is pretty straightforward:  The adventurers go first.  After they go, the monsters take their turns, ascending in order by toughness.

What this means is that the goblin crunchies act first, followed by their orc lieutenants, followed by those creepy skeletal warriors in the flowing black cloaks, followed (at last) by the Dark Lord.  This also means that the monsters always sort themselves in initiative order (crunchies in the front, Dark Lord in the back), so that they can be optimally arrayed in order to field the most epic of battles.

While this is a fun and appropriate mechanic for Critical, it didn't really work quite so well in Velour and Go-Go Boots.  Fights don't play out in quite the same way in a game in which you are trekking through the stars (at least, in my mind they don't), and I always felt like I needed something that was a better fit.  But what?


In the current version of the rules, all the players vote on the captaincy.  Whoever gets the most votes becomes captain, and those who are first runner up (and so on) become commanders (and so on).  This is an awful lot of work for something that's largely cosmetic--your rank doesn't really give you anything except for a flashy title and, even though the rules allow you to increase your rank with Promotion Points, there's no mechanical reason for you to do so.  What to do?

Drama Points

You earn Drama Points over the course of a game in a variety of different ways (getting into philosophical debates with other characters, failing, being awesome, and so on).  You can spend Drama Points during the game to improve your rolls or alter reality in your favor.

In every version of the game, you will start episodes with no Drama Points, slowly earning them as the game goes on.  While this is fine and dandy (and even thematically appropriate), episodes that start off with a fight or a lot of drama will leave you with very few options to improve your rolls.  That doesn't seem fun at all.  How can I fix this?

Here's How!

I realized that all of the above issues could mitigated if I cleverly combined them with the rules for the captain.  After a lot of writing, re-writing, and leaping back and forth between sections of the rule book, I have crafted the newest version of the captain's rules.  This version will hopefully provide a more streamlined and more fun game experience. 

The New Captain Rules

Captain is an occupation again.  There can be only one captain per ship (unless something really weird is going on).  They automatically gain the rank of captain (see below) and gain a second occupation (representing their previous duties in Space Patrol).  The captain can give Drama Points to crew members, gaining Promotion Points every time they do so.  They may also call a conference during times of duress, allowing anyone participating to gain Drama Points.

The captain is no longer a position that the players vote on, as this was an awful lot of bookkeeping with not much in the way of reward.  If none of the players want to be the captain, the captain is an NPC controlled by the GM.  Easy peasy (lemon squeezy).

The New Rank System

Since voting is no longer a thing, characters have to determine their rank using a different method.  Here is that method:

NPC crewmembers are Enlisted, unless otherwise noted.  Players cannot be of the Enlisted rank.

All players start at the Lieutenant Junior Grade rank, but may use their starting Trait Points to increase it (at a rate of one Trait Point per rank).  They may choose to bust themselves down to the rank of Ensign, if they wish, to receive an extra Trait Point.

Starting at Ensign, each rank receives an increased bonus to Initiative.  Starting at Lieutenant Junior Grade, each rank receives a number of free Drama Points at the start of each episode.  The captain (who defaults to the rank of Captain), gets the highest bonuses, a +6 to initiative and +5 Drama Points at the start of each episode.

The New Initiative System

At the start of each combat round, you roll 1d6 and add your rank bonus to determine your Initiative.  If you have a trait that might help you with mental or physical quickness, you get an additional +1 bonus.  Everyone acts in order of Initiatve, highest to lowest.

The Effects on the Game

  • Most players will start as low-ranking bridge officers.
  • Players will want to spend their Promotion Points to increase their rank.
  • Players will be able to influence rolls at the start of an episode.
  • Initiative rolls will make combats more dramatic.
  • Captains will tend to go first, which allows them to issue orders and spend Drama Points more effectively.
  • Captains will also have a lot of free Drama Points to loan out to players, which is the big benefit of their Occupation.
  • A player who chooses to play the captain will be able to pick traits that will help them lead, if they so choose.
  • Less bureaucracy is a good thing.
  • A more dynamic game overall.

It's my hope that these will be the last major changes to this portion of the rules.  Now onto the next major revision:  Tweaking how ships work.