• Actual Play Report – Maschine Zeit

    by  • October 29, 2012 • Reviews • 3 Comments

    One of the coolest things about the Google+ gaming community is hearing about all sorts of games I had no idea existed – and then getting to interact with their creators. Not too long ago I, along with the Fandible crew, got to have such an experience playing Maschine Zeit (brought to you in part by fellow-GaW contributor Filamena!). The full game has been posted on Fandible, but here’s a text-only preview!

    Our GM had apparently been sitting on this idea for months and was looking for the right system to use for it, so first I do have to say that while we used the Maschine Zeit system, it was an original setting. 300 years in the future humanity has begun colonizing other planets. Most colonists at this point either have skills essential to the colonization process, or are the representatives of massive corporations seeking to gain a foothold in a new market. Ships travel via technology similar to (new) Battlestar Galactica’s FTL drives, making the jumps between star systems practically instantaneous.

    So our group of characters consisted of a representative from Astra Corp’s HR department, seeking to check up on investments on the planet New Hope as well as being a prying eye on the starship; a Jai-Alai athlete who was in with some deep gambling debts and was going to New Hope to get sponsorship dollars; the ship’s claustrophobic doctor; and me, playing a former air force pilot who had suffered catastrophic injuries to her lower legs that had resulted in them being replaced with cybernetics. She’s now the first officer of the Astra Heart. (I based her personality off of Susan Ivonova from Babylon 5 because it was announced no one could play the captain of the ship and Billy suggested I could be the first officer like Ivanova. I couldn’t resist!)

    So the story starts as we’re about to make the jump out of Earth’s solar system and hop over to New Hope’s. Final preparations go smoothly, hit the jump button and…pop into some cloudy blue space. Whaaaaaaaaaat? Turns out some researchers on the ship had decided to run experiments trying to increase by an infinitesimal amount the time spent in the jump, since they theorized the jump technology was taking the ship essentially into a parallel universe. They wanted to study that, but the current jumps were too fast. Well, of course, because this is a space horror game, something had to go wrong with that experiment. And now we were stuck in whatever universe we used to seamlessly pass through.

    As the days went on, people on the ship started acting strangely. Dazed, confused, signs of megalomania. And then they started getting skin irritations – upon further investigations, these “irritations” were actually where the objects they had been touching started to meld with their skin. Eugh. So, not just space horror; now we got to have a body horror game on top of it. The GM did a fantastic job describing some of these things – as he said in the comments to my original G+ thread on this game, “the look of disgust and horror on my players faces just gave me a warm feeling where I am fairly sure I am suppose to have a soul. ” (Seriously, can anyone not squirm when body horror shows up?)


    I can’t give a full review of the game, in part because it was quite a departure from the source setting, but I think I really liked the Maschine Zeit system, even though I know I barely scratched the surface of what it is capable of. I didn’t have time to read the book at all before we started, and apparently there was a page of about 15 things we could do with the conditions we got for each degree of success. I never used them for anything other than getting rid of the pushes against my universal traits. So we brought up at the end that it was really easy to just keep relying on the same skills over and over again, and there was no penalty to trying to twist the justifications of any given roll to use your best skills. However, I think if we’d been more aware of what other things we could use the conditions for, we would have been using them to clear out the pushes less, and that might have changed the balance of things. I know I’m not the only one that was saying that I wanted a cheat sheet for “next time” we played this, because we all found the system intriguing enough that we want to use it again, either continuing this story, or with a new one. Things felt a little bit clunky at times for some of the players, but I think that was just us trying to get used to the freedom of the system. The system has a really interesting way of addressing the usual “attribute+skill” equation, where all skills are essentially created by the players for each character – you won’t necessarily play with the same skills twice. Not only did I like creating those, but I really liked coming up with what descriptors and associations were helping me, though each of us doing that each time probably did slow things down a bit. Since we didn’t have any long, drawn out battles though (if these things touched you, you went bye-bye), it never felt too slow from where I was sitting.



    Lifelong geek and feminist, my geeky passions include YA books, movies, and role playing. I've been playing table top games on and off for almost ten years with a wide variety of games under my belt in that time. Born and raised in Michigan, I've fulfilled a life-long dream and now live in New York City with my spouse and three cats. My gaming exploits are recorded at http://www.fandible.com

    3 Responses to Actual Play Report – Maschine Zeit

    1. avatar
      October 29, 2012 at 15:38

      Your GM’s idea sounds a lot like Event Horizon meets Dark Heresy (for the muattions and the malicious parallel universe). Much more subdued than Warhammer’s 80s Power Metal screaming chainsaw brand of horror though (well, it’s how I’d do a warp incursion, but people keep telling me I’m a GM made for horror plots).

      Writing up skills is a nice thing, though it requires a degree of maturity not found in every group. But since I love games which allow the player as much freedom in statting and generating characters as possible (my baseline being classless Shadowrun, so 95% of all other games feel raher oppressive to me), this sounds like worth checking out for the time when my group finally managed to agree with me that Dark Heresy is just better with a new rules set.

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      • avatar
        Angela Craft
        October 30, 2012 at 16:25

        Event Horizon was definitely one of the inspirations, and I’m sure some Warhammer leaked in as well, since one of our long-term campaigns in Rogue Trader, and we’ve also played Dark Heresy and a short Deathwatch campaign as well (which I wrote about for GaW here).

        Best of luck adapting Dark Heresy! I have Issues with Warhammer’s very class-heavy character building system (though a commenter on our podcast informed us there are rules built in to go outside your class for skills, we just haven’t gone back to the game since then to dig those up). Some of the setting elements are great, especially in Dark Heresy (I like relatively low-powered games, and Dark Heresy is WH40K’s answer to that).

        • avatar
          October 30, 2012 at 17:15

          Yeah, the class system is my major gripe, too. Major, major gripe. Even moreso since it is terribly unjust and penalises some archetypes in favor of otzhers. I am by now convinced the people who write Dark Heresy play Witch Hunter armies and have lost far too many games against Guard. Because Guard are treated just unfair. And I don’t even like them much.

          But even in general, it’s a terrible advancement system. I grew up on Shadowrun, so to speak, and I deeply dislike the way class in WH40K-RPG games restricts you. Even if it is in line with the world being a horribly authoritarian place (and they DID change for a freer character development system for their Chaos game, to their credit, so this may actually be intentional), it just rubs me the wrong way. Almost as bad as rolling my stats. Rolling my stats is how I learned to loathe D&D 2. Nothing like having a GM tell me I couldn’t play any class that interested me because my rolls were insufficient. And do not even get me started on the highly frustrating nature of a d100 system.

          I’d prefer a Shadowrun-like system – maybe Eclipse Phase, maybe even SR 4 – but so far, my groups are very content to use the crappy, crappy FFG rules that get worse with every book published because FFG believes in gear creep so much they put more and more powerful stuff in every new book. Arbites who beat Space Marines in arm wrestling? have one! Tech Priest Assassin Vindicares with rifles that do damage like a battle tank? Sure! Argh. I wonder what bizarre superpowers Adepts will develop, since they’re the only ones with no dedicated book so far.

          My personal campaigns right now are Deathwatch (with two women playing – male – space marines, and two guys, and me GMing Rising Tempest), Dark Heresy with just two guys and a new girl who had a bad entry (this is the most off-table drama heavy group I have ever been in; also, I play there), and two games of Shadowrun 4, one which I play in, one which I GM. While I love the WH40K universe, this dark and horrible space opera that comes with enough gloom, doom and decay that I can actually like it, I just see every time I pick up my virtual D6 how much smoother even Shadowrun 4 works. SIGH.

          Also, I’ll post a probably longish comment on women gamers, Deathwatch, Space Marines and gender in the linked article, which is very interesting. Pity I needed to be pointed towards it!

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