A game of awful little creatures,
by David J Prokopetz
Playtest Draft 0.1
Three Raccoons in a Trenchcoat is written and edited by David J Prokopetz. Special thanks to rainelf13 for assistance with Unfamiliar's Quirks list, and to booxmowo, Steve Neiman, sunbluethinking, thevioletsunflower, tinycodingkitty, and waltzing-with-my-inner-geek for their contributions to System Crash's list of Systems.
This document uses the fonts “Cabin Sketch” by Pablo Impallari and “Merriweather” by Eben Sorkin, both under license through the SIL Open Font License 1.1.
Three Raccoons in a Trenchcoat © 2021 Penguin King Games. The text of this document is licensed under CC BY 4.0.
This game is a work of fiction; any resemblance to real people living or dead is kind of fun.
Note: This document may not represent the most up-to-date version of Three Raccoons in a Trenchcoat. You can always find the latest revision at the following address:
Aren't you tired of playing nice?
Don't you just want to be an awful little creature?
Three Raccoons in a Trenchcoat is a game for everybody who answered “yes” to both of those questions. It's not the first game to aim for that style of play, and it certainly won't be the last, but it's one that focuses on a very particular experience of awful-little-creature-dom. When you play this game, you will be ridiculous. You will be undignified. And most importantly, you will have no idea what's going on.
You will not let that stop you.
That's not all you'll find here, though. Appropriately, Three Raccoons in a Trenchcoat is also three games in a trenchcoat. The eponymous Three Raccoons Etc. serves as the backbone of this collection, while the other two expand upon it in different ways. Unfamiliar casts the players in the roles of a wizard's familiars, sent on a series of impossible errands for their ungrateful master, while System Crash tells the story of mob of perennially malfunctioning robots, on a journey to a destination they can't describe for reasons they don't remember. The core of playing as a pack of absurd little critters remains constant throughout.
Three Raccoons in a Trenchcoat is a conventional one-Gamemaster, many-players roleplaying game, though its rules will throw the occasional curve-ball with respect to who gets to narrate what. GMless play is also supported; if you have only two or three people at the table, going GMless is recommended, as many of the rules assume that there are multiple player characters. Conversely, for larger groups a GM is recommended, if only for the sake of having somebody whose job it is to keep track of what everybody is doing.
All of the games in this document require at least five six-sided dice (d6s) – a few extras wouldn't hurt, either. Beyond that, you won't need anything special apart from the usual pencils and scrap paper. (And not even that, if you're playing online!) If you're planning on giving System Crash a spin, there's also a set of print-and-play reference cards that may come in handy during character creation; you can find those as part of this game's download package, or separately on the Penguin King Games website at penguinking.com.
There are two main types of dice rolls you'll encounter throughout this document: rolling a dice pool, and rolling on a table. On occasion, you may also be asked to generate a total.
To roll a dice pool, roll the indicated number of dice, and take the single highest value as your result. For example, if you roll two dice and get a 2 and a 5, your result is 5. If the number of dice in a pool somehow ends up being zero or fewer, instead roll two dice and take the lowest; it doesn't get any worse than that, no matter how far below zero your pool is.
The most common situation where you'll roll a dice pool is when rolling one of your character's numerically rated traits: when the text says “roll [name of trait]”, that means “roll a dice pool with a number of dice equal to your rating in [name of trait]”. Any instruction to roll a dice pool will be accompanied by an explanation of how to interpret the result.
When rolling on a table, roll a die and look up the row with the corresponding number to find out what happens. The table's leftmost column will indicate what kind of dice to roll. Usually it'll be either a single d6, or a d66. To roll a d66, roll a d6 twice, reading the first roll as the ”tens“ place and the second roll as the “ones” place, yielding a result in the range from 11 to 66. For example, if you roll 2 on the first die and a 3 on the second, you result is 23.
In some circumstances you might be asked to flip a d66 roll. That means reversing the normal order of the digits; in the preceding example, that roll of 2 and 3 would be read as 32. If the rules say that you may flip a d66 roll, you can take either the normal result or the flipped result, whichever you prefer. Rolling doubles (i.e., 11, 22, 33, etc.) means you don't get a choice.
The least common type of roll is generating a total. This is indicated by the notation Xd6, meaning roll a number of dice equal to X, and total up the results. Sometimes there will also be a modifier to add to or substract from this total. For example, “2d6+3” means roll two dice, sum their results, and add three, yielding a total in the range from 5 to 15.
If you're planning on playing without a GM, there are a couple of extra things you'll need to sort out before play begins.
Some of the rules for GMless play refer to “the player to your left”, usually in terms of who gets to describe the outcome of your failed rolls. If you're playing online – or simply not seated around a table – then you'll need to decide who counts as “the player to your left” for each person in the group.
Your group's actual or virtue seating order also determines the spotlight order when running a scene without a GM, in the opposite direction – i.e., “the player to your right”. See Setting the Scene for more information.
This is a game where events can become very complicated very quickly. Even when playing without a GM, there should be someone who's responsible for keeping track of what's going on. Depending on the strength of the group's note-taking skills, this role could rotate from session to session, or be the same person every time. If the group has a designated leader, it may be useful to recognise this role in character, with either the leader's player or the player of the leader's faithful advisor being responsible for knowing what's going on.
However you choose to arrange it, the role comes with certain perquisites. In a face-to-face game, dibs on the last slice of pizza is traditional; when playing online, you'll have to figure something out for yourselves!
You are two feet tall and made of mischief.
This introduction couuld be longer, but those nine words really say everything there is to say. You're a raccoon. You're here to cause problems on purpose. Everything else, you'll figure out along the way – and if you don't figure it out, well, it must not have been that important!
Of the three games in this collection, Three Raccoons in a Trenchcoat can be considered the “basic” version: it's the foundation that the other two build upon, and the most straightfoward in its rules. It's also the one with the fewest baked-in assumptions about what sort of creature you're playing; with only small adjustments, you can also use these rules to play as goblins, geese, feral catgirls, or any other small, annoying creature that travels in packs.
The raccoon is of course the perfect creature, but chief among their countless virtues are their Beady Little Eyes, Grabby Little Hands, and Lively Little Feet. Roll or choose a set of Virtues from the following table. Unless you have more than six raccoons, no two should have the same set of Virtues.
|d6||Beady Little Eyes||Grabby Little Hands||Lively Little Feet|
Apart from the ratings of their Virtues, the raccoons are more or less identical – at the very least, no human would easily be able to tell one from another – so no description is required.
Give yourself a suitably grand name and title in the secret language of your people.
In the course of each scene, your raccoon will face various obstacles. You'll overcome these by calling upon your Virtues, as described below. Each Virtue offers a specific range of possible outcomes; if it's ever unclear which Virtue to roll, consult those lists and see which one most closely matches what you're actually trying to accomplish.
As you review each Virtue's possible outcomes, you'll probably notice that the rules have no concept of simple failure. This is intentional: when you roll a Virtue, something always happens – though it may not be anything good! For example, if you're rolling Grabby Little Hands to pickpocket an object from an unsuspecting human, rolling a 3 or less doesn't mean you don't steal anything. It means you steal the wrong thing, and draw unwanted attention to yourself in the process. The other two Virtues also follow this pattern.
Your Beady Little Eyes allow you to understand what's in front of you. You might roll this Virtue to discern the purpose of a human activity, puzzle out the function of a piece of technology, or decipher what an example of human language – spoken or written – means. You'll never roll it just to spot something; rolling this Virtue is for understanding, not perceiving.
Roll a number of dice equal to your Beady Little Eyes, and select the single highest die. If your result is a 6, choose two from the following list; if your result is a 4 or 5, choose one.
If your result is a 3 or less, mark one point of Stress against this Virtue.
Stressing Out: When you mark your third point of Stress against Beady Little Eyes, you're Bewildered. For the remainder of the current scene, you may not roll Beady Little Eyes, and must react with distressed confusion to any new situation. After the scene ends, you stop being Bewildered and reduce Stress marked against this Virtue to zero.
Your Grabby Little Hands allow you to get hold of things you probably shouldn't have. You might roll this Virtue to steal or pickpocket a portable object, operate (or sabotage) a piece of technology, or communicate with a human using signs and gestures.
Roll a number of dice equal to your Grabby Little Hands, and select the single highest die. If your result is a 6, choose two from the following list; if your result is a 4 or 5, choose one.
If your result is a 3 or less, mark one point of Stress against this Virtue.
Stressing Out: When you mark your third point of Stress against Grabby Little Hands, you're Frustrated. For the remainder of the current scene, you may not roll Grabby Little Hands, and any complex task – even opening a door – utterly stymies you. After the scene ends, you stop being Frustrated and reduce Stress marked against this Virtue to zero.
Your Lively Little Feet allow you to go places you aren't supposed to be. You might roll this Virtue to evade capture or notice, overcome an obstacle in your path, shove another raccoon out of harm's way, or perform some improbable feat of acrobatics.
Roll a number of dice equal to your Lively Little Feet, and select the single highest die. If your result is a 6, choose two from the following list; if your result is a 4 or 5, choose one.
If your result is 3 or less, mark one point of Stress against this Virtue.
Stressing Out: When you mark your third point of Stress against Lively Little Feet, you're Dazed. For the remainder of the current scene, you may not roll Lively Little Feet, and you can be grabbed and pushed around with impunity. After the scene ends, you stop being Dazed and reduce Stress marked against this Virtue to zero.
Apart from the narrative consequences, receiving a result of 3 or less when rolling a Virtue also means that you incur a point of Stress. Stress is marked separately against each Virtue; you have individual Stress totals for each of Beady Little Eyes, Grabby Little Hands and Lively Little Feet.
Having one or two points of Stress marked against a Virtue has no rules effect. When you incur a third point, however, that Virtue Stresses Out. This has two effects:
Once you've Stressed Out a Virtue, it stays that way until the end of the scene; after that, any Stress marked against that Virtue – and the associated condition – goes away. See Setting the Scene for more details.
Any circumstance that removes one or more points of Stress from a Stressed Out Virtue – for example, picking option C on a Lively Little Feet roll – also means the Virtue is no longer Stressed Out, and removes the associated condition. Note, however, that Stress only recovers automatically when recovering from being Stressed Out; sometimes you might be better off leaving a Stressed Out Virtue alone so you can clear all of its Stress when the scene ends.
It wouldn't make much sense for a game to be called Three Raccoons in a Trenchcoat if you couldn't, in fact, play as three raccoons in a trenchcoat, so here's how that works:
One of the main ideas of Three Raccoons in a Trenchcoat is the idea that your raccoon will usually have no idea what's going on – or better yet, entirely the wrong idea about what's going on. This is formalised in the rules for Beady Little Eyes rolls, which are less about helping your raccoon get the right idea and more about determining who gets to decide what wrong idea you've gotten hold of this time.
What this means is that you need to keep player knowledge and character knowledge separate in your mind: your raccoon does not know what you know. In fact, you raccoon knows very little about anything! You don't need to be rigorous about putting this into practice – there's no telling what bits of trivia a raccoon's tiny brain will absorb – but it's something you need to constantly keep in mind, especially when acting on some piece of information that you know is wrong, but which your raccoon wholeheartedly believes.
Beyond the basic roleplaying challenge this creates, though, there's a specific rules-based scenario that's likely to come up: what happens if you make a successful Grabby Little Hands roll to mess with a situation or device that your raccoon has the wrong idea about due to previous Beady Little Eyes roll? How do you get the result you were aiming for if the thing you're messing with isn't what you think it is?
There are a couple of ways to handle this.
First, you can just not choose option A on the Grabby Little Hands roll. You're never obliged to do so; even a roll of six only gets you two options out of three. Take the benefits of options B and/or C instead, and allow the GM (or the player to your left, in a GMless game) to describe how your misunderstanding undermines your goal.Second, if you'd rather narrate the outcome yourself, you can lean on the fact that taking option A on a Grabby Little Hands roll gives you more or less what you were aiming for. Maybe your efforts yield something pretty close to what you were after by coincidence. Maybe you achieve nothing like the intended result, but your actions set off a Rube Goldberg chain reaction that produces the desired outcome anyway. Maybe you get something totally different from what you wanted, but your raccoon isn't observant enough to tell the difference!
Play proceeds in a series of scenes. The first scene begins with the raccoons arriving at a new location. If you're playing with a GM, the GM describes the scene; if there's no GM, roll on the tables provided in the Random Scene Prompts section to generate random scene and describe it collaboratively. Be careful not to explain what's going on or offer any conclusions about what specifically the raccoons are here to accomplish – you'll see why in a moment.
Once the scene has been described, one raccoon should roll Beady Little Eyes to see if they understand what they're looking at and remember why they're here. If your group has a designated leader, the leader rolls; otherwise, hold a quick rock-paper-scissors tournament to decide who rolls. The outcome of this roll will determine who gets to explain what's going on and why the raccoons are here; it will also determine whether this explanation is correct.
Once the scene's goal has been established, the players should immediately start causing trouble.
As noted previously, when playing with no GM, you'll use random scene prompts to establish each scene. Thereafter, you'll take turns leading the way according to the spotlight order.
Whoever made the initial Beady Little Eyes roll starts out as the spotlight player. When you have the spotlight, you drive the action, and the other players react. You keep the spotlight for long enough to make a single Virtue roll. Depending on the scene's pacing, that could take a while, or not much time at all; either way, once the roll has been made, your raccoon fades into the background for a bit, and the spotlight passes to the player to your right. You still play your raccoon when you're out of the spotlight, but you're a supporting character.
Only the spotlight player can initiate Virtue rolls, though non-spotlight players can roll in reaction to the spotlight player's actions – most often, rolling Lively Little Feet to avoid the consequences of something they did! In return, non-spotlight players have two responsibilities:
The player to the spotlight player's left also has the responsibility of describing the outcomes of any Virtue rolls where the spotlight player doesn't choose option A, as described under Raccoon Fundamentals.
A scene continues until one of two things happens:
Once the scene has ended, the raccoons recover all Stressed Out Virtues, if any. A new scene then begins in the same way as the first, with a description of the situation and a new Beady Little Eyes roll to figure out what's going on. The setting of the new scene may follow logically from the previous one, but it doesn't have to; if you decide to roll for a random prompt and the dice say that you're in a shopping mall in one scene and on board a space station in the next, it's ultimately up whoever the Beady Little Eyes roll puts on the spot to explain the transition!
If you're playing without a GM, roll on the following tables to describe scene. In a game with a GM, you can also use these tables if you're stuck for ideas, or if you just prefer a higher-chaos environment.
First, roll for a location. This table is divided into themed sub-tables if you want to maintain a plausible sense of place. If the previous scene ended with the raccoons being captured, don't forget to describe where and how they're being held. Otherwise, come up with a suitable point of entry; randomy popping out of a vent, storm drain, or similar bit of handy infrastructure always works.
|12||House (under construction)|
|21||Shopping mall||Food court|
|23||Sporting goods store|
|41||Corporate office||Reception area|
|43||Employee break room|
|55||Secret UFO lab|
|63||High-energy science lab|
Next, roll for a complication – a special circumstance that will make it more difficult for the raccoons to just stroll in like they own the place. Make a note of the question your result provides, but don't answer it just yet.
|1||Something critically important is being carried on an alert human's person; what is it?|
|2||The scene is unusually crowded, and any of the humans present could potentially raise the alarm; what's all the commotion?|
|3||A devoted guardian – a big dog, a security robot, something else? – is present, either on patrol or camped out at a central location|
|4||There's an unusual physical barrier – what sort of barrier? – that the raccoons will need to overcome|
|5||There's only a short time left before the opporunity to achieve your goal closes; why might that be?|
|6||A rival group of annoying woodland creatures shows up to interfere; what are they after?|
Next, roll for an opportunity – something about the scene that the raccoons can use to their advantage. Like the previous table, your result will furnish a question that needs answering.
|1||The humans are preoccupied with a distracting task; what are they up to?|
|2||The scene is unusually cluttered and disorganised; with what?|
|3||The raccoons have a secret weapon in hand (er, paw); describe it|
|4||The raccoons have the aid of a sympathiser or inside agent; who are they?|
|5||Something the raccoons can easily shift blame for their shenanigans to is present; what is it?|
|6||A disaster unrelated to the raccoons' presence is already in progress; where's the fire?|
This is the point where the raccoons' leader makes the Beady Little Eyes roll. Using the questions raised by the preceding two table rolls as a guide, the other players (or the GM, in a GMfull game) should provide suggestive details to interpret.
Finally, whoever ends up being responsible for describing what's going on can roll for a random goal if they wish. Unlike the other tables, this one is consulted after the Beady Little Eyes; rolling on it is never mandatory, but it's here if you need it.
|2||Steal a valuable (or at least shiny) object|
|3||Release prisoners (friends of yours, perhaps?)|
|4||Solve a mystery|
|5||Destroy something important|
|6||Take revenge against a particular target|
Being a wizard's familiar isn't all sunshine and roses. Sure, you get to witness wonders undreamt of in mortal philosophies and play your own small part in wielding phenomenal cosmic power, and your alchemically constituted body knows neither age nor death. But when you come right down to it, your master is an ungrateful old bastard who treats you as a disposable tool – and on top of that, you don't even get paid!
Of course, turnabout is fair play. You may be bound to obey the wizard's commands, but how you carry them out is up to you. If you just happen to do so in an incredibly inconvenient manner, well, the miserable old fart should have been more specific.
In some ways, Unfamiliar represents a turn to the fantastical where the basic game is firmly mundane. In other ways, however, it's a turn to something very familiar: doing your job badly on purpose. And also by accident, if we're being honest – like the raccoons of Three Raccoons in a Trenchcoat, your familiar mostly has no idea what's going on!
Familiars use the same Virtues that raccoons do; roll or choose your Facets using the provided table.
In addition, your familiar has a number of Quirks. A Quirk is a trait that represents the oddities of your familiar's form. The number of Quirks you can have isn't fixed, but every familiar in the group should have the same number of Quirks. At least two and no more than five Quirks per familiar is recommended; if in doubt, three is a good default.
Roll or choose your Quirks using the following table. If you get a Quirk that you or any other familiar in the same group already has, flip your result; if it's still a duplicate, re-roll. You can also invent your own Quirks with the group's approval, using these as a guide.
Based on your Virtues and Quirks, describe your familiar's appearance in one to three sentences. Your familiar's natural form may resemble an animal, but it's always unnatural in an obvious and – to humans – somewhat disconcerting fashion.
Unless you have a Quirk that says otherwise, your familiar is about the size of a raccoon – i.e., between 40 and 70 centimeters along your longest dimension, and between 5 and 25 kilograms in weight. If you want to randomise this part, too, you can roll 6d6+34 to get your height or length in centimeters, and 4d6+1 to get your weight in kilograms; if your familiar is Bulky, double the rolled height and multiply the rolled weight by ten, and do the exact opposite (i.e., divide height by two and weight by ten) if you're Puny.
Finally, decide on your familiar's glamour form. All familiars benefit from a magical effect – part illusion, part mental influence – that causes them to be perceived as mundane animals when they're trying to be inconspicuous. Your glamour form isn't required to resemble your natural form, but the glamour doesn't grant any capabilities beyond those already provided by your Quirks, so there are certain practical limitations; successfully impersonating a bird may be difficult if you don't have Flighty, for example. See The Familiar's Glamour for further details.
As a wizard's familiar, you're like no natural creature that's every existed. In fact, you're like no unnatural creature that's ever existed, either; the process of familiar creation is irreproducible, resulting in a totally unique being each time it's carried out. The rules of Unfamiliar represent this uniqueness with Quirks.
Each Quirk is a trait that describe some unusual feature of your familiar's form. These traits are usually physical, though some may veer into the metaphysical, or simply be difficult to pin down. No two familiars in the same group will share the same Quirks.
Quirks have two benefits: one descriptive, and one mechanical.
Descriptively, a Quirk lets you do things that other famliars can't. You don't need to make Virtue rolls to use these abilities unless you're doing something that would normally require one; if a Quirk says you can fly, for example, unless you're avoiding a threat or overcoming an obstacle, you can just do that. In some situations, this might let you make a Virtue roll when other familars can't even make the attempt.
Mechanically, a Quirk can let you choose more options when making a Virtue roll. After you see the result of your roll, but before you've picked your options, you can look at your Quirks and see if one of them could help to salvage the outcome.
If you have a suitable Quirk, you can exhaust it to boost your result. Describe how pushing the Quirk to its limits helps you, put a mark beside it to remind you that it's exhausted, and pick an extra option from the list for whatever Virtue you just rolled. You can exhaust multiple Quirks to pick multiple extra options if you wish, and you can do so even if you ordinarily wouldn't get to pick any options at all. You still mark Stress on a roll of 3 or less when you save the outcome by exhausting a Quirk.
Once a Quirk has been exhausted, you can't exhaust it again in the same scene, and its benefits are diminished. They don't go away, but they become less useful until the Quirk has been recovered. For example, if you exhaust Flighty, perhaps your wings are tired now and you can only fly short distances; if you exhaust Mighty, maybe you've thrown your back out! It can be helpful to think about what exhausting each of your Quirks looks like ahead of time so that you're not constantly put on the spot – though you're not required to describe a particular Quirk being exhausted in the same way every time.
All of your exhausted Quirks are recovered at the end of the scene.
Random selection will occasionally produce combinations of Quirks that seem to contradict each other. When this happens, you have two options:
This list is not exhaustive – any Quirk you can think of has a place. When inventing your own Quirks, you should try to follow the pattern established here; i.e., each Quirk should represent a physical trait, but focus on what the Quirk lets you do, and leave the physiological particulars flexible.
Being a wizard's familiar is weird! Much of this weirdness has already been covered in the preceding discussion of Quirks; rules governing additional weirdness will be set forth here.
Familiars accumulate Stress and Stress Out according to the same rules as the basic game. However, the consequences are often more visceral: while Stressing Out still induces an emotional condition that imposes behavioural restrictions, that condition may in turn destabilise your familiar's delicate internal alchemy, causing your discomfiture to manifest physically. These effects are called mutations.
From your familiar's perspective, mutations are unpredictable, but as a player, they're strictly voluntary; you can always choose to stick with the normal effects of Stressing Out if you wish. If you decide you'd rather gamble, perform the following steps:
These effects apply in addition to the usual effects of Stressing Out. The mutation persists until the condition that caused it (i.e., Bewildered, Frustrated or Dazed) is removed. You then revert to your usual Quirks.
If the question ever comes up, a mutated Quirk always enters play unexhausted, even if the Quirk it's replacing was exhausted at the time.
Familiars can use the basic rules for stacking up, but this often won't be terribly helpful, especially if you need to remain inconspicuous. Fortunately, you have another advantage: the familiar's glamour.
The glamour is a magical aura that causes you to be perceived as a mundane animal, as long as you act the part. This doesn't actually change your shape, and it's not quite an illusion – it's more of an unconscious perceptual filter. It also only works on humans, and other creatures of human-level intelligence; natural animals can see what you really are, and will react accordingly.
While under the glamour's influence, you always appear to be the same animal, and could potentially be recognised by people who've seen your animal form before (though the chances of this are generally low, as all animals of a given species look pretty much the same to most humans). Your glamoured appearance is chosen during character creation.
The glamour automatically affects any human who sees you for the first time in a scene. Its benefits persist until one of the following happens in full view of a human observer:
Once your glamour has been dispelled, you lose its benefits for the remainder of the scene. Other familiars continue to benefit from their own glamours as long as they weren't participating in the activity that caused yours to be broken. It's possible for your glamour to affect some humans but not others, if a new human arrives and sees you for the first time in a scene after other humans have realised what you are.
Setting the scene in Unfamiliar proceeds in a similar fashion to the basic game, with one exception: you will always have an assigned task. The initial Beady Little Eyes roll is made to determine whether you can remember what that task is, and how it relates to the place you've just arrived. As befits Unfamiliar's more fantastical milieu, the following alternative table of random locations is provided.
|11||The Wizard's Tower||The grand library|
|13||The trophy room|
|14||The wizard's chambers|
|15||The ill-kept grounds|
|16||The dismal dungeon|
|21||The Nearby Village||The local tavern|
|22||The bustling marketplace|
|23||The homely church|
|24||The creepy old mill|
|25||The sheep pasture|
|26||The mayor's residence|
|31||The Duke's Palace||The audience chamber|
|32||The feasting hall|
|33||The jousting field|
|34||The servants' quarters|
|36||The hall of records|
|6||It's those awful adventurers again – what do they want this time?|
Finally, a table of random tasks is provided in case whoever the initial Beady Little Eyes roll put on the spot is having trouble remembering what the wizard wanted.
|1||Retrieve a rare ingredient for the wizard's latest potion|
Once, you had a place in the world.
Once, there was a thing you were made for, a role inscribed in your very circuits.
You're more than that now. Where once there was a role, there's now a purpose, a goal that's bigger than anything even your makers could have imagined. It's that goal, shared by others like you, that's driven you on your long journey – the journey that's brought to you this place, in this time. Together with a handful of fellow mechanisms who've felt the same call, you're ready to answer that purpose.
The trouble is, you can't quite remember what your goal actually is, or why it required you to come here. It's possible that you've deliberately hidden that knowledge from yourself, locked away in some encrypted memory bank, but even that's only conjecture. You know this is just a temporary stop, though – your true objective is further down the road. You're not sure how you know that, but at least you know what direction your next step lies in. You're sure you'll figure the rest out when you get there!
(It's also possible that you've simply got a screw loose upstairs and your journey isn't taking you anywhere in particular, but that doesn't bear thinking about.)
System Crash is the most “serious” of the three games in this collection. Here, you're not trying to cause problems on purpose. In fact, you'd rather not cause problems at all! You're just trying to get to wherever your mysterious objective is leading you. Problems have a way of finding you all on their own – but then, what worthwhile journey is without adversity?
Each robot has a trio of traits called Facets. Facets are equivalent to Three Raccoons in a Trenchcoat's Virtues, and are chosen in the same way. The Facets and their equivalent Virtues are as follows:
Roll or choose your Facets using the provided table.
Your robot also has a number of Systems. A System is a physical component that defines what the Facet it's attached can do. You have a number of Systems attached to each Facet equal to that Facet's value.
Roll or choose your Systems using the following table. If roll a System that you already have, flip your result; if it's still a duplicate, re-roll.
|11–13||Bio Scanner||Claw||Bipedal Legs|
|14–16||Camera||Data Spike||Blink Drive|
|21–23||Chemical Sniffer||Effector||Grapple Dart|
|24–26||EM Sensor||Hand||Hexapedal Legs|
|34–36||IR Sensor||Hydraulic Jack||Quadrupedal Legs|
|41–43||Microphone||Industrial Tool||Rocket Booster|
|54–56||Radio Antenna||Pressure Washer||Submarine Module|
Based on your Facets and Systems, describe your robot's apperance in one to three sentences. Give yourself a make and model number, as well as a familiar nickname by which you're known to other robots.
Choosing your Systems entirely at random may result in robots that will have difficulty participating in certain scenes; imagine a scene that takes place in a forest when you have no means of moving about on land, for example.
If want some randomness in your System choices, but you also want certain guarantees regarding your robot's basic capabilities, you can use the following alternative table for the first roll for each Facet. This will guarantee that your robot has a. some sense that's roughly equivalent to vision or hearing; b. some means of manipulating objects; and c. some means of moving about on the ground.
|2||EM Sensor||Effector||Hexapedal Legs|
|3||IR Sensor||Hand||Quadrupedal Legs|
You can switch back to the regular table for the second or third rolls when choosing Systems for a Facet rated 2 or higher.
Robots are both more varied and more limited in their capabilities than organic creatures. Systems are a new rule introduced in System Crash which reflects this fact.
Each System represents a particular physical feature of your robot, as well as the capabilities it grants. In order to roll a given Facet, you must make use of a System that's suited to the task. If you have no suitable System, you can't make the roll. If you have a System that's only partially suitable, you can make the attempt, rolling one less die than usual; remember that when you're reduced to zero dice or fewer, roll two dice and take the lowest.
Systems are associated with Facets: there are Guidance Systems, Interface Systems, and Propulsion Systems. You can use a System when rolling a Facet other than the one it's attached to if it makes sense to do so, though that usually means it'll count as partially suitable. You have a number of Systems attached to each Facet equal to that Facet's value.
Apart from the Systems attached to each Facet, all robots have the following miscellaneous Systems:
Miscellaneous Systems don't take up System slots and never require a Facet roll to use.
Systems attached to the Guidance Facet govern your robot's ability to perceive and analyse the world. Since most robots will have only one or two Guidance Systems, this usually means that your robot's senses will be much more limited than your own.
Fortunately, robots are able to instantaneously share observations via their wireless transceivers, so there's no need to conceal information: what's known to one robot is known to all of them. However, you'll need to keep track of which robots have which particular Guidance Systems – you can't see something if the robot with the camera doesn't have line of sight to it! Additionally, you can only make Guidance rolls using your own Guidance Systems.
Systems attached to the Interface Facet govern your robot's ability to manipulate the world. At its most basic, this can mean picking stuff up, but it also covers tool use and communication. (Of the outgoing sort, anyway – understanding is a function of Guidance!)
Many Interface Systems can either benefit from or allow you to make cross-Facet rolls with Guidance. Each System's description will note when this is the case.
Systems attached to the Propulsion Facet govern your robot's ability to move about the world. This is generally the most basic of the three types of Systems: if it imparts motive force, it's a Propulsion System. It's also the one area where where your robot is likely to be more capable than a typical human – having a rating of 2 or 3 in Propulsion gives you access to multiple types of movement.
Most Propulsion Systems can be used to make cross-Facet rolls with Interface if whatever you're trying to do can be accomplished by bumping, shoving or ramming something with your chassis. This may or may not incur the penalty for using a partially suitable System, depending on how reasonable your objective is.
The rules of System Crash differ from those of the basic game in two respects. First, Stressing Out works somewhat differently for robots. Second, stacking up is a bit more complex, owing to the need to figure out what exactly a combination of several robots is capable of doing. In both cases, the additional wrinkles introduced by Systems lie at the heart of the changes.
Facets accumulate Stress just like their equivalent Virtues do – see Stress and Stressing Out for more information. However, what happens when a Facet hits three points of Stress is a little different.
When a Facet Stresses Out, rather than gaining a condition and becoming unable to roll that Facet, one of your Systems crashes. Usually this will be whatever System you used to justify making the roll that incurred the third point of Stress. If the roll was described in a way that involves multiple Systems, put the names of those Systems in alphabetical order and determine which one crashes by rolling a d6. If there were two Systems involved, a roll of 1–3 means the first one crashes, while a roll of 4–6 means the second one crashes; if there are three Systems involved, the first one crashes on a roll of 1–2, the second on a roll of 3–4, and so forth. If you've managed to describe a roll in a way that involves more than three Systems, you're on your own!
While a System is crashed, it can't be used to make rolls with any Facet. The System isn't necessarily completely non-functional – for example, a crashed Camera might provide glitchy or staticky output, while a crashed set of Wheels might get stuck in reverse. This provision exists to ensure that a single crashed System won't completely remove your ability to participate in the scene; if you can't think of an interesting way for a particular System to malfunction, and its loss won't force you to sit out the rest of the scene, you can just decide that it shuts down completely. A Crashed system can't be used to make rolls regardless of how its crashed state is described.
When a System crashes, Stress marked against the Facet you just Stressed Out is immediately cleared. Crashed Systems recover at the end of the scene.
Rather than stacking up, robots combine. This follows the basic rules for stacking up, with the following modifications:
Setting the scene in System Crash follows largely the same outline as the basic game, but the introduction of Guidance Systems requires special attention when describing things. As a group, the robots are likely to have many senses that humans don't possess – and conversely, may entirely lack one or more senses that most humans possess, particularly if no robot in the group happens to have a Camera or Microphone System.
Since the opening of each scene involves making a Guidance roll to interpret what's going on, this shouldn't be treated as an obstacle; on the contrary, it opens up exciting new ways for the robots to wildly misunderstand what they're looking at. However, particularly when you're starting out, you may find it challenging to remember exactly what a given group of robots can and cannot perceive.
To make things easier, when playing with a GM, players can take turns asking the GM “what can I see/hear/feel/perceive with my [System]?”. Start with straightforward Systems like Cameras or Microphones and work your way out to the more esoteric ones. Similarly, when collaboratively describing the scene in a GMless game, take turns and start with details that your own robot can perceive; the other players can then build on your description as inspiration moves them.
The same principle can be followed throughout the course of the scene. When you need more information, pick a Guidance Systems and explicitly ask what information it's getting. You don't need to pick one of your own Guidance Systems, since the robots can communicate with each other instantaneously. In a GMless game, if you inquire about a different robot's Guidance Systems, that robot's player has first dibs on answering the question. This typically won't require any rolls on the other robot's part, since you never need to make Guidance rolls simply to perceive things; Guidance rolls are for understanding what you perceive.
Finally, don't sweat it if you slip up and describe something that none of the robots present could possibly perceive, or if you get stuck and need to step out of character to clarify what you're getting at. System Crash observes the same separation of player and character knowledge that the basic game does – your robot knows far less than you do!
By default, System Crash takes place in a world much like our own, except that robots are sufficiently commonplace that the player characters' presence won't automatically be regarded as suspicious. (Your actions can change that in a real hurry, though!) You can use the basic game's random locatons table for System Crash; the robots' journey could take them just about anywhere. However, being robots on a journey involves different complications and opportunities than just causing random mischief, so alternative tables are provided for those dimensions of the scene, below.
|1||Any humans who spot the robots will assume they're here to help and try to put them to work; what do they want done?|
|1||There are numerous other robots present, and the robots won't stand out from the crowd if they keep their heads (or whatever) down; why are things so crowded?|
A table of random reasons for stopping is also provided. Like the random goals table in the basic game, rolling on this table is never required – it's here for those times when whoever the initial Guidance roll puts on the spot is stuck for ideas. Don't worry too much about making sense of these reasons; you can always fall back on the mysterious mechanical intuition that sent you on your journey in the first place.
|1||The robots musts obtain a particular object – it will be critically important on a future leg of their journey.|
|2||There's a human present the robots must deliver a message to before moving on.|
|3||This place contains a source of information that must be consulted for guidance regarding where to go next. What? No, the robots aren't lost – perish the thought.|
|4||A fellow robot is in distress and must be rescued. Well, it appears to be in distress, anyway – with robots it can be hard to tell.|
|5||The robots have spotted a clue regarding the true purpose of their journey. Clearly this bears further investigation.|
|6||Another robot present is an agent of the Enemy; whatever they're doing must be stopped at all costs. (Which enemy would that be? Don't ask impertinent questions!)|