Sunday 25 November 2018

Dreamscapes & Deletions - a potential project

Idea 1: could I make a game that is entirely contained in 1-page handouts (apocalypse world style playbooks & cheat sheets) with no central rulebook.
Idea 2: Could I hack together an OSR version of Lacuna.
Fuck it lets do both.
So some background. Lacuna, by Jared Sorensen, is a weird indie game about MK-Ultra inspired agents exploring a psychadelic film noir dreamscape. It's fucking brilliant, you should all get it and play it. Here it is,and here it is in Spanish. Seriously. Play Lacuna.
The rulebook is short and has large gaps for the GM to fill in, but one of the best campaigns I've ever played (lasting 3 years and getting fucking trippy by the end) was run in Lacuna. I'm a huge fan of it, it deserves more attention.

Of particular interest is the Heart Rate mechanic. When you roll dice, you add the total to your Heart Rate. An elevated heart-rate makes you more efficient at what you're doing. Go too high, though, and you risk cardiac arrest. So I'm going to take that and bolt it onto an OSR framework.

Here's how I'm gonna make it work.
You roll your Age on 3d6+18 (for a range between 21 and 36).
Heart Rate is a number you track similarly to XP and HP.
Your resting Heart Rate is 60 beats/minute for women, 70 b/m for men. This is what you start at.
Your Optimum Heart Rate starts at (Age + 60) b/m and caps out at (Age tripled + 60) b/m. In this bracket, you're more efficient.
Your maximum Heart Rate is (200 - Age) b/m.

So older agents take longer to reach their optimum heart rate and hit cardiac arrest sooner. However, they spend much longer in 'peak' performance. Younger agents hit peak performance quickly and take longer to max out and have a heart attack, but they also spend less time at peak performance.

Whenever a player rolls dice for any reason, they add the result to their Heart Rate. Dice rolls in the system are:
To Hit. Used in combat. Roll X or more on a d20. So, to succeed you want to roll high, resulting in elevated heart-rate. Enemies have Defence rather than AC, which negates all rolls of Y or greater.
(IE you might need 11+ to hit, but an enemy negates all hit-rolls of 18+). Combat is stressful, but if you go overboard your less likely to succeed.
Damage rolls. Roll a dice if you hit, the victim loses that many HP.
Saves. Roll X or more on d20, like the saving throws you're familiar with. Danger is scary, the near-misses of a successful save are scary. High rolls mean you pass but also add more to your heart rate. Save catagories are Normal Hazards, Psychological Trauma, Glitches, Hacking & Malfunction.
Attribute Rolls. Roll under a relevant attribute to do a thing outside combat. You want low rolls to succeed (failure is frustrating). Uses the six base stats (str/dex/con/int/wis/cha) however since you're not in your body str/dex/con are irrelevant, you don't even bother rolling them in cgen. Wisdom is replaced with Willpower. You use intelligence rolls for attempts to make sense of or investigate the dreamscape, Willpower to alter the dreamscape, and Charisma to interact with the residents.

Rolls can be Careful or Reckless depending on what you're doing. This works like 5E's advantage/disadvantage. Roll twice, take the lower/higher result. Of course, the Heart Rate mechanic (and some rolls being roll under/roll over) means that sometimes you want high rolls and sometimes you want low.

In your Optimum Heart Rate, if you don't like the result of a roll you can ignore it and roll again, since you're on top form. Of course, you still add the old roll to your heart-rate. So when you're in your optimum zone, you can just refuse to accept failure and power through any obstacle, but doing so brings you closer to maxing out your b/m and having a heart attack.

So, those are the mechanics. You can fit them on one side of A4. A character sheet that takes you through CGen and a short brief on the setting fits on the other.
I'm working on four sheets:
Security Agents (basically fighters. Best to-hit rolls & defence, lots of HP, good saves vs Hazards & Trauma, can follow through in combat to get additional attacks when they drop a foe).
Logistics Agents (basically wizards. Poor to-hit rolls, defence and HP. Good saves vs Hacking and Malfunctions. Can contact Control to request aid in the mission.)
Support Agents (basically clerics. Poor to-hit rolls, but decent defence and HP. Good saves vs Trauma and Malfunctions. Can interact with the programming of the mission to restore HP and similar).
Surveillance Agents (basically thieves. Decent to-hit rolls but poor defence and HP. Good saves vs Hazards & Glitches. have always-on abilities such as the ability to walk through walls).
Then additional briefing handouts you can give the party detailing the setting as and when relevant, and stuff for the GM.


  1. Make it for OSR. I am a huge fan of your OSR material, Emmy, and am moving almost exclusively in the OSR direction for my table play. So my vote, as such, is for OSR content. That way I can use it (like I use Gardens of Ynn, Stygian Library, and Esoteric Enterprises) with all my other OSR stuff. Cheers! And thank goodness for your prolific mind and pen!

  2. I kinda like this better than the Astral ruleset post you made. These rules seem simpler, weirder, and make age in a meaningful manner.

    In terms of D&D/Elf games, do you view the Astral, Ethereal, and "Dreamlands" as different places?

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  4. Very cool mechanic. Quick question, I assume if you rest you roll a d20 to lower your heart rate?