I was contacted by As If Productions to put their game system, Day Trippers, onto the Games On Board store. Tod Foley and I have had a bit of a to and fro discussion back and forth since then and he asked for me to give my opinion of his game. I had been reading it slowly in the background but with this request I decided to up the ante and build a review for the systems core rules. I have a long way to go yet as there is a GM guide that dwarfs the players guide being at least double the size, not to mention two adventures as well.
The premise of this game is set in Science Fiction. Sort of, it is more a near future styled game where a mad scientist makes an amazing discovery that changes the worlds view of reality beyond all expectations. The mad scientist basically creates a ship that can hop dimensions, in many different ways. It can time travel, it can go to alternate worlds, it can go to weird dream dimensions and areas of total chaos and unreal vistas. They each have a different styled term for the type of “Slip” that you are making but in essence his discovery reveals that our world is at a nexus of other dimensions that stream off in different directions and streams.
That may seem a little wordy and you may feel that this is a hard concept to deal with in game, but I would say it is little different to the idea of a game of Rifts, the old TV show Sliders and the like. The game also takes a slight humorous twist with everything. The writing at the very start of the book is filled with jokes and humour that is “hidden” to a degree. They are not hard work to find but you do need to keep your mind and eyes open to find them. Pay attention to things like acronym’s and certain word plays and you will find out what I mean. Not to mention the obvious humour like how the mad scientist has a following online that are hobbyist electricians that are making their own slip ships along with him only to find out that it works and this group of hobbyists are in prime position to risk the danger of “slip” streaming.
You have everything in this book to run a game, the Gamemaster guide appears to be a helping book as opposed to a necessary one. There is no requirement to buy both as planning and details of how to run a game are all here. The structure of the game is narrative based with a crunchy but simple back end of rules. Many of the dice rolls allow the PC to take over the narrative “as if you are the GM for a turn” and there is a discussion about how everyone should be involved in the building of the story. In fact, in the game design section the players are actively involved in coming up with the building blocks of their next jump, which is a really cool idea.
The mechanic is an interesting one where they use a d6 system. Your character rolls their statistic value number of dice and if they have a skill that would affect the roll this is added to the final result of the highest die rolled. Let me elaborate. If I had a Grace statistic of 3 and a Piloting skill of +1 and I was seeking to arrive on an alternate Earth (a Difficulty Level of 3) whilst piloting my “Slip Ship” I roll 3d6 getting 2, 3 and 6. I take the highest roll of 6 and add my skill to it getting 7 total but as I do not have the Slip Dynamics skill I lose two (a modifier) to get 5 total meaning I exceed the DL by two so get a Yes (I make it where I was hoping to) And result (gaining 1 XP for being awesome). It is a simple mechanic and the numbers of dice being rolled at any one time tend never to be higher than 6 so you do not end up having to buy new dice (Shadowrun) just to be able to roll one test.
This game has had criticism leveled at it for being too intellectual. I can see where the criticism comes from but I do not necessarily agree with it. The science in the game is described in the way most of the rules are, succinctly. That means you can suddenly feel like you have been hit with a physics text book, but in reality the science is secondary to the narrative. For example, my head was a little bit swimming after this;
Slip Coordinates are more complex than 3space coordinates, obviously. Since a 3D grid can’t capture all the required complexity, DayTrips are measured by “Slippage” along one or more “Vectors” of reality.
We consider our own familiar “Cartesian Space” (also known as “3space”) as the universe of “Home-Earth”. According to this new way of picturing existence, the three dimensions of our own Cartesian Space are actually Slip Vectors, commonly called 3x, 3y and 3z. In 3space, “0/0/0” represents the Coordinates of our own galactic center.
In reality though, this is set dressing and you can completely gloss over it if you want to. I like it and would probably use it but I do not have to.
The detail that I find most concerning about the game is the amount of brevity the rules are described in. There is little cushioning of the crunchiness of the rules and after reading the history of the game this is a stark difference. I struggle to read games that present their rules in the way Day Trippers does as it just lays out the rules in a very logical manner one after the other. Bam, bam, bam – rules are like the staccato call of an AK-47 in a battle. The rules are clever and obviously well considered but I would like to see them coaxed in a style that reminds me of the humour in the first part of the book. Even if it means I have to read a further 20 pages because of a more conversational style in the text, I think it would be worth it.
What this game does have is a unique premise and a stylised humour that I liked in the first half. I certainly feel that this tone is what is expected to be continued into the game. A game which can offer complete mind blowing travel in stories that have never been thought of yet. And they are generated in combination of the GM and players which should guarantee a rich experience. It feels old school to me but the introduction of some of the rules and the narrative drive makes it a strange hybrid that would not sit well with many OSR enthusiasts but it also does not stand up with FATE and make itself almost completely narrative. It is a game that straddles the two divides and promises an interesting experience for those that play it.
Day Trippers is available from Games On Board for $5.00 USD, which I think is a bargain. If you sign up for an account and buy it then you will get it for the VIP price of $4.50 until 100 total customers are signed on. The two modules and the Gamemaster Guide is also available on site and I will be reading these in the future to see what they offer to the base experience of this game. I really would love to play a game of this and the weirdness that it promises. Keep rolling!