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Max Caine
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I’m very aware that Derelict Ship expansion isn’t going to be released (for retail people such as me, anyway) until next year. That doesn’t stop ideas crowding my head when I want to be working on other things (like my Stalker!) It was after replaying some System Shock 2 that the thought of Ship’s Logs came to mind. “Wouldn’t it be cool”, I thought,” if there was a thematic way to incorporate audio logs into Derelict Ship! It’s set up perfectly for it!”

The Ship’s Log/Audio logs would make a great thematic mechanic – the Posse could listen to logs and gather things like access codes, locations of secret stashes, cries for help, frantic communications, etc. Etc. However, in terms of mechanics this would be yet another something good, something bad, something meh, all random deck of cards and there are plenty of those already! What I wanted to do was introduce a degree of player agency to the deck so it wasn’t entirely random. This is where I came up with the idea of both individual and team effects.

Each card is divided into 2 sections, Team and Individual. The section marked Team affects the whole Posse. The section marked Individual will only affect the Posse member who drew the card. The Posse member who drew the card reads the whole of the card. They may then choose to either play the Individual effect or the Team effect. If the Posse member chooses the individual effect he applies the effect as listed on the card but may not reveal it to the other players unless the card specifies he may do so. If the Posse member chooses the Team effect, he reveals the card for others to see. The Posse member who drew the card must make this choice on his/her own without discussing the card to anyone.

Now you have a degree of agency. The card drawn is random but the player who drew the card can decide what kind of effect he wants to apply. For example, if a player drew a card which indicates where a secret stash is held he could hang onto that card and cash it in for a greater personal reward than if he let on to the Posse about the stash and would have to share. Or if a card is particularly negative, he could opt to take the hit himself.

However, this mechanic introduces knots in the narrative theme. Audio logs are more likely to be heard by all the Posse (especially as none of the Posse are up to date with sci-fi high tech). It requires more work to explain why an individual would every time be the first to listen to an audio log and why audio logs would be available everywhere. But the theme can always be changed... to psychic flashbacks!

The Youtube preview of Derelict Ship indicated that there was going to be a thematic psychic element to this expansion (mostly through things like the B.E.A.C.O.N drones and the way Necronauts project Terror). Well, in a similar way to how you experienced psychic flashbacks in games like System Shock 2, Necronauts and B.E.A.C.O.N. drones carry a psychic imprint of a memory they were fixated on – it might be the memory of a lover they said goodbye to, the secret stash they obsessed about, or the terror they experienced they had to seal a bulkhead on a ravening demon. On their death, one of these imprints transmits itself and it can either be communicated to just one Hero or the whole Posse. The benefit of the flashback is it achieves the same narrative effect, but the Posse doesn’t have to know how to read audio logs, or for logs to conveniently turn up or any other narrative knot. It just happens. Furthermore, it also permits a little twist.

Trauma Damage

Experiencing the raw, unfiltered emotions and memories of someone else is a terrifying experience. Even happy memories are freighted with expression and context which is alien to someone who hasn’t lived that person’s life, so many Flashback cards cause a special kind of Sanity damage called Trauma damage. Trauma damage represents a psychological assault so raw and intimate it bypasses normal defenses and deeply affects the mind. It is treated as Sanity Damage, but it cannot be prevented by Willpower, armor or any other kind of special rule or item. It also cannot be healed until the card is resolved. You keep the Flashback card, and play the card when you meet the conditions for resolution. Once the card is played, any Trauma damage which had been caused by it can be healed in the usual manner.

So why Trauma damage? Isn’t Sanity Damage enough? Trauma Damage is a thematic mechanic designed to tie into the idea of the significance of risk and make damage more meaningful. With regards to meaningful damage, Trauma damage cannot be healed until the card is resolved - until the player does something tied to the memory the card evokes, so you're doing more than just healing Sanity damage, you're putting a memory to rest. With regards to player agency, in general, the experience felt by an individual is more intense than by a group, so it does more Trauma damage, but at the same time any rewards are more significant so the player who draws the card has to weigh up the risks of taking the burden of the flashback by themself.

Anyway! I made some sample cards!. I'll tweak them every so often, and revisit them properly with Derelict Ship comes out. But take a look anyway, tell me what you think!
 
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ScottL
United States
Weare
New Hampshire
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Really good, well thought out ideas here. I too have to buy retail and derelict ship is one Im really eager for.

Reading the flavor text of your cards gives the derelict ships former crew a nice touch of personality and emotional connection.

With the single/team mechanic, also try to include an option for solo play.
 
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Madd Kossack
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New York
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Although I personally feel the Derelict Ship has more in common with Event Horizon than System Shock (i.e. the ship being warped by supernatural cosmic horror instead of an AI gone nuts), these "flashbacks" do fit the "psychic terror" theme of the Necronauts and BEACON Drones, with the flavor text especially giving brief but meaningful glimpses to the crew of the Vostros before they all met their ends. The rules of the cards are a bit iffy, but that's probably because we can't see if the rules can be incorporated with the expansion just yet.

Perhaps a way to incorporate the Flashback deck is for heroes to pass a Lore, Spirit or Cunning test to understand the visions (through knowing enough language and terminology to understand the contents of the memory, making a psychic bond with the memory to cross the translation/cultural barrier, or being a quick thinker to realize this memory holds some extra importance in spite of not knowing the language), and then draw a card from the Flashback deck? It'd introduce a risk/reward mechanic, where you may find cards with extra artifacts or other benefits, but risk unblockable Trauma damage with the unfiltered memories going to your brain, not to mention bleeding off to your other posse members.
 
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