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.