DayTrippers: Core Rules Review

Disclosure: I know Tod Foley from G+, we've talked a bunch, Melissa and I both provided feedback on this and the GM's Guide, and Tod has provided feedback on some of our products. We received digital copies of this for our help, not for review purposes.

DayTrippers is a standalone role-playing game, with the tagline "A Surreal Science Fiction Reality-Hopping RPG". It is written and designed by Tod Foley of As If Productions. This is going to be a two-parter review, starting with the Core Rules (part two will be the GameMaster's Guide).

The pdf weighs in at just over 40 pages. Layout-wise it makes good use of horizontal rules and shaded boxes, both things I find oddly missing in indie products given how simple they are to implement. The art is sparse, black and white, and generally of decent quality (it's Creative Commons, so I wasn't expecting much anyway).

The writing is where the game really shines. All of it is exceptionally well-written, especially the Introduction, which you can read in full, for free, on the DriveThru product page using the preview links (you can actually read up to page 12 with the Full Preview, which will see you all the way through character generation). I both encourage and would not be surprised if Tod started writing fiction.

Hell, take a page from Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, and write collections of stories centered around the exploits of various DayTripper teams (you could even put them on DriveThruFiction).

The world isn't anything you haven't seen in a near-future setting dominated by megacorps and advertising. Skimming the book made me think of Blade Runner, Dredd, and Shadowrun, just with time/space/dimensional travel, and a paragraph on page 7 specifically mentions that it's somewhere between 2001 and Idiocracy", both of which are entertaining "research" materials.

Mind you this isn't a bad thing. Given that the characters will be hopping over to other planets, alternate timelines, dreamworlds, and so on, I actually prefer the "home base" backdrop to be something everyone can easily imagine: it's not like you won't have plenty of opportunities to flex your creative muscles.

Characters & Premise
Characters in DayTrippers are themselves called DayTrippers. DayTrippers use vehicles called SlipShips to VectorSlip (or just "slip") through time and/or space in order to travel to other planets, dream worlds, alternate timelines, and the Multiversal Chao, a "whirling pandimensional maelstrom comprised of every type of energy from all universes, some collapsed into physicality, some in various phases of morphogenesis or demorphication".

Reasons for doing so include exploring a newly discovered set of spacetime coordinates, escorting tourists, or even rescuing another DayTripper team. Pages 37-38 has examples for the Mission, Node (ie, location), and opposition types, as well as perks, rewards, and complications. There's even a way you can have the players make rolls to add, remove, or change the mission parameters.

Each character is built using a number of Character Points, which is spent on your stats, skills, gear (which can include a SlipShip), and starting rank and fame. You can also use CP to hire additional NPC crewmembers. In a "normal" game you start with 100 CP, but the GM can increase or reduce this amount. If for whatever reason you want more CP, you can opt to go into debt to gain more (just be sure to pay off your debts in a timely manner).

If you want to get the dice rolling quickly, there's a "Short Form Characters" sidebar on page 9 that gives you six sets of quick-stats, page 17 has six generic characters, and pages 35 and 36 has premade SlipShips.

In addition to stats and skills, LifeShaping events also, well, shape your character. They can be introduced before the game starts, during play, or during downtime. There are eight types of LifeShaping events, like Belief, Concept, Duty, and History, and you can have up to twelve of them. The benefit of a LifeShaper is that, if its deemed applicable to your situation, you get to add another die.

The core mechanic of the game is that you roll one or more six-siders, add a bonus, and try to beat a target number.

To break it down, you have stats like Brains, Charm, Grace, Health, and so on, each rated from 1 (all stats start here) to 6. You also have skills and gear, which are in turn rated from 0 to 6. When you wanna do something, you roll a number of dice equal to your stat, choose the highest result, and then add any applicable skill and gear modifiers.

Difficulties are rated from 1 (no-brainer) to 10 (insane). So, the best a character with a stat of 1 can hope for is to beat a 5 (hard), and that's assuming they rolled a 6. Failure and success isn't so black and white, however: if you fail by more than 1 point, you flat out fail and something bad happens, but if you fail by just 1 point, you still fail, though something positive also happens.

In this way it reminds me a bit of Dungeons & Dragons mixed with some Dungeon World, but with the glut of Powered by the Apocalypse games coming out nowadays I'm really pleased to see someone trying something different. If you want to port the game to another system (including Powered by the Apocalypse and d20 games), there's conversion notes in the back.

The Conclusion
I don't play very many science fiction games. The Mass Effect and Half-Life series springs to mind, as does Portal and Portal 2, and I had a brief stint with Civilization: Beyond Earth. I very rarely watch sci-fi shows. I think the last one was Doctor Who, and before that Melissa and I binged Fringe. The only science fiction I've read was maybe part of an Isaac Asimov story, and it was so long ago I forget what it was called.

It it helps at all, it had robots.

What I'm getting at is that this isn't really a game for me, but if you like sci-fi roleplaying games I think this could easily be a game for you. It's well written and designed, and caters to a variety of playstyles: you could run something like Firefly, where the DayTrippers do odd jobs, get paid, and try to keep their SlipShip going, or maybe something more inline with Shadowrun, where the DayTrippers are hired to obtain Node coordinates, assassinate DayTripper teams, and/or steal artifacts recovered from a Node.

Personally if I were GMing this game, I'd probably do something like Alien, and have the DayTripper team get picked off one by one by a terrible monster they inadvertently picked up while exploring a Node. I could also see Half-Life, where aliens from another dimension "slip" into Earth. Maybe do something akin to Doom, or just throw some Lovecraftian shit in there.

In terms of product support, in addition to the GM Guide there's also a pair of adventures that you can pick up for a buck-fifty each (though you can also snag them at a slightly reduced price as part of a Starter Set bundle).

After only a couple hours of design and writing, The Swordmage is good to go. If you want a solid fighter/wizard hybrid with twenty-five advanced moves to choose from (in addition to some other extras), pick it up.

Grave Goods is the latest magic item compilation in our 10+ Treasures line. If you want nearly 30 undead-themed magic items, some monsters, and advice on how to make your own, pick it up!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out!

Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance!

Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

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