Jonathan Hicks, author of Those Dark Places: Industrial Science Fiction Roleplaying, is back on the blog to tell us about pressure in his upcoming game. You can find more from Jonathan on his blog.
You can also join Jonathan and the team at Garblag Games for a playthrough of Those Dark Places on Sunday 27th September at 15:00 BST!
In this blog I'd like to talk about the effects of Pressure on the characters, groups and the game overall.
Pressure is a game mechanic that tries to emulate the effects of mental stress and emotional hardships that the PCs may have to face. Depending on your stat choices some characters are more susceptible to the rigours of space exloration than others, but it's not the immediate effects that may cause problems...
Characters have a Pressure Bonus which is added to a roll, and the higher the better. Failed rolls result in your Pressure Level going up and this can lead to Episodes; you may be tremendously shocked or terrified and that will negatively affect your rolls, or you'll be rooted to the spot, or you'll go into a violent frenzy as you try to get away from the horror. However, this Pressure Level goes up and it might not trigger an Episode right away, so the higher it goes the more chance you'll have of triggering a response and the worse it'll be. It's like you've been bottling up your fear and at some pont the pressure will be so great you'll explode in a far worse way than if you'd reacted to it sooner. This can not only affect the individual player it can create problems for the group as they have to deal with a weakened colleague, a catatonic crewmember or a terrified violent friend.
However, it doesn't end there. These Episodes can have ongoing effects. Once the player has had an Episode they write down what triggered it, and if they are ever in a situation similar then the memories of the initial shock can come flooding back and have a negative effect on their rolls. In Those Dark Places, players don’t just make the rolls and suffer the consequences; they're encouraged to role-play it! If the situation means your character has to face their fear, then make sure it becomes part of the story you’re telling.
If characters do face their fears they can slowly overcome them, and successful rolls means reduced negative modifiers. The memory of the shock will never go away, but they will learn to perhaps accept it and with support from their colleagues they can get through it. This means that incidents such as these are not limited to a single session or adventure; perhaps a few weeks of play down the line the situation arises again. In every case the players are encouraged to roleplay it out and not just state that they have modifiers that may affect their performance.
About to be sent into a narrow air duct? “No way, man! You ain’t getting me in there!”
Being told to get into a leaky spacesuit and go outside the ship? “You’re kidding, right? I don’t care that I’m the only one here that can fix it, get someone else!”
Have to dive underwater? “Do you not remember what happened at the refinery? I’ll wait here, thank you very much!”
Pressure Levels can be reduced between adventures with R&R and time in a LongSleep chamber, but during the game the players will have to suffer the possible effects of Episodes and the repercussions of pushing too hard and too far against the terrors in the darkness.
Excited to head into deep space? Preorder your copy of Those Dark Places today!