When you walk into your FLGS (friendly local gaming store) and ask about RPG industry giants like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, or any of the Star Wars systems, you’ll be pointed towards a large shelf with hundreds of books, dozens of different editions, and have the sudden, overwhelming feeling that your bank account isn’t deep enough to enjoy all that is out there. While I enjoy 5th Edition D&D and Star Wars Edge of the Empire, the amount of prep work and depth of the rules can be too overwhelming for a pick-up game or one-shot. Even in a standard session, where PCs can do all sorts of strange, wonkie things, I don’t like digging through hundreds of pages for some obscure rule that only comes up once in a campaign. Luckily, there are indy RPG designers who have strived to correct that. Here is my Preview of Lasers & Feelings.
Game: Lasers & Feelings
Designer: John Harper
Time: 1-2 hours
Lasers & Feelings is an Indy RPG written by John Harper set in a Star Trek-like universe with players taking on the role of Star Trek-like characters in a Star Trek-like ship (without actually being in the Star Trek universe). Like most traditional RPGs, one player takes on the role of Game Master to help guide the story and adjudicate rules. The entirety of the rulebook for the game is on one page.
Seriously. That’s all. Right there.
No, I’m not hiding anything from you.
The game is available on John Harper’s website at http://onesevendesign.com/lasers_and_feelings_rpg.pdf for FREE (although if you want to donate to him, he would greatly appreciate it).
Contained in the rules are player creation, skill checks, and an entire section devoted to helping the GM create an entire episodic session on the fly. In fact, all of these steps are so simplified that you can go from sitting at the table to playing in under 15 minutes with no preparation needed. Let’s take a look at each of the sections in the rules:
Creating a character within Lasers & Feelings is as simple as can be. First, characters select their style from the list provided or make it up. If they choose Alien or Android, encourage them to describe their alien race or android however they choose. Next, they choose their occupation aboard the ship. Third, they choose a number between 2-5 for their character (which will be explained more below). Lastly, they make up a cool retro-scifi name for their character (the rules offer the suggestion of Sparks McGee to get your ideas flowing). To spice up the character a bit, the player can choose a personal goal and customize their ship in terms of its strengths and weaknesses.
As a reminder, the setting and feeling of the game is supposed to be loose and light. This isn’t D&D 3.5 where everything is strictly regimented and serious. Have fun with your character, name, goal, etc.!
All skill checks within Lasers & Feelings are done using d6s and an individualized “number” that you decide. There are only two types of checks: Lasers rolls and Feelings rolls (sound familiar?). Lasers are used to perform technical or logical tasks, while Feelings are used for interpersonal and emotional tasks. As a GM, I would even allow a PC to justify their use of one or the other based on how they roleplay their character in certain situations.
For the rolls themselves, the players gather up to four dice for a check: one as a base, one if they are an expert in the task, one if they are prepared, and one if someone is helping them (and that person is successful in their own skill check). The dice are rolled and the results are compared to the player’s number. For a Lasers roll to succeed, they must roll BELOW their number, while Feelings rolls require results ABOVE their number. So if you want your Commander Spock to be good at Lasers tasks, choose a higher number (like 5). Conversely, if you want to be Captain Kirk and swoon every green alien woman you encounter, choose a lower number (like 2).
Any successful die is counted as a success. The net number of successes determines what degree the player is successful (with 1 being successful with threat, and 3 being a critical success). Now, if a player rolls their number exactly, then they score a Laser Feelings roll. This means that you get to ask the GM any one question, and they must answer truthfully. You then get the opportunity to alter your plan and reroll if you would like. (The rules aren’t clear if you reroll all dice or just the Laser Feelings die. I’ve seen it both ways, so do as you choose).
Game Master Tools:
There are two paragraphs of text to provided the GM guidance on running the game. Mostly, it’s good advice on keeping the game light and moving forward. The more important part of the GM section are the roll tables. At the beginning of the session, the GM can roll four d6s and have their entire session planned out for them. The tables include a threat, their goal, and the results of obtaining that goal. With all of these options, what more can a GM need to set up a session?
Examples of play:
This is only a preview, not a review, because I personally haven’t gotten the chance to play the game. However, I did listen to both of the OneShot Podcast’s play throughs of the game and really enjoyed what I heard. They can be found at http://www.oneshotpodcast.com/one-shot/lasers-and-feelings-with-improvised-star-trek/. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to actually play with the rules and can give a proper review then.