Product Review: DayTrippers Core Rulebook

DayTrippers Core Rulebook
Author: Tod Foley
Publisher: As If Productions
Publisher’s Product Site 
Page Count: 44
Available Formats: PDF and Print
Cost: PDF – $5, Print – $9.99, Print/PDF Combo – $11.99

PREMISE
Scarcely more than a century in our future, man can travel inter-dimensionally through what is known as the inter and outer realities of SlipSpace. Technology has progressed, but not necessarily perfected in all cases that allow the travel through the SlipSpace. Become one these inter-dimensional hoppers as you move through time and space.

PRODUCT QUALITY
I am currently in possession of the PDF book and awaiting the arrival of a physical copy. So, my comments might be slightly biased. The overall quality of the book is rock solid in terms of layout. The book is easy to read! The fonts and pitch used are appropriate and easy on the eyes. However, on my read through, I did note a few grammatical errors that really stood out to me. The casual reader may not even notice them. The art is minimalistic in quantity, but thematically appropriate throughout.

MECHANICAL OVERVIEW
The mechanics of DayTrippers are unique unto themselves; though no PhD. is required to understand and internalize them. That’s a good thing!

Character generation adapts a traditional point buy system with lots of choices in how you want to spend those points. Character points (CP) can be spent on a wide array of elements such as stats (Brains, Charm, Grace, Health, Might & Psyche), Skills, Gear (convert CPs into money), Crew (think henchmen), Rank, and Fame. CPs will not cover everything you might want to purchase so, there will be some decidedly hard choices you will have to make. CPs are spent to buy rankings, a numeric value from 1 to 6, or to buy other thinks like gear, once converted into money, or rank and fame which is also derived from a numeric value from 1 to 6.

DayTrippers also offers an alternative character generation system called Progressive Character Generation (PCG). PCG is used to establish basics stats or other more traditional DayTrippers character elements at the start, but you leave some CP unspent to be used later. From here you basically test drive your character and as you flesh out the character you will be permitted to spend some of your retained CP to facilitate they new character discoveries at appropriate times during play.

Another important element of the DayTrippers’ characters is the LifeShaping events. LifeShaping events represent those things that motivate you like no other or something fundamentally important to you. You are permitted to have up to 12 of these, but no more than three of any given type and there are twelve types to choose from. For example, Duty, duty represents what your character is obligate to do. Equally as important is the Character Developmental Scenes that will inevitably frame these LifeShaping events. Once per session, players may call for a Character Developmental Scene. It is these scenes where the player gets to explain or really define either the LifeShaping event (record it on your sheet) or implement some element of the Progressive Character Generation rules referenced above.

DayTrippers utilized to very familiar resolution mechanics, difficulty rolls versus a target number and narrative control, fully intertwined as you will see. The system uses a dice pool of d6s based on the value of a given stat or possibly a LifeShaping that add a number dice to the pool corresponding to their value. The highest die is keep, this is your action die. To this, pertinent skill levels, bonuses and applicable modifiers are added. The final result is compared to the difficultly level. brainer type of task and a value of 10 would be insanely challenging.

As in other systems, there are opposed and unopposed checks. In unopposed checks, the GM set the difficulty level that must be met or exceeded. Whereas in opposed checks, “the defensive roll sets the difficulty level of the task, and the active roll tries to be that number.” Following either type of check, the measure of success or failure will determine the final outcome of the check. It this measure of success or failure which is key to working the result into the overall fiction.

The final die result (after all modifiers are added) will be compared to the difficulty level to the find the margin of difference and you’ll determine which of the following is true.

Action Result Table
All check and combat results use the above table to determine the fictional result and it is this result that either the GM (for all NPC and negative results) or the players (all positive results) get to take narrative control of the story momentarily to describe hot the results fit into the fiction.

The core rulebook also has streamlined rules for vehicle (SlipShips) actions to include traveling, combat and structural damage resolution. Traveling from one node to another is called vector slipping and is integral to the fiction. Without “slipping” there is no DayTrippers. Slipping can be challenging to hit the correct node on the far side, but a simple unopposed check will yield a die result and a corresponding fictional result.

The last mechanical piece I want to highlight are experience points. Unlike traditional games where you advance levels and gain new abilities due to these level advancements, DayTrippers takes a more developmental approach. Players are likely to earn between 10 and 20 experience points during a typical mission. These experience points can then be spent on character developments themselves. Stats, skills, rank and fame can all increase over time. Your fortune can grow as well which will allow you to afford better toys! While it does take time to get enough experience  points which are then converted in CP. The CPs are spent (per the character generation rules) to increase character elements.

None of the mechanical elements of DayTrippers are overly complex, but it should be mentioned that they will take some getting used to.

PROS
The background fiction included and scattered throughout the text really helps to encapsulate the feel of the genre and where the underlying fiction wants to take you. The rules themselves, are short and sweet and not overly complex. The focus on the narrative fiction was something that really resonated with me from page 1 onward. Thematically the game drips and oozes sci-fi and that leaves lots of room for creative storytelling and character development.

CONS
While the rules are not overly complex, some readers may find it difficult to wrap their head around some of the rules pertaining to opposed checks. Determining the margin of success or failure is simple enough, but seeing how that margin converts and into a narrative control element may be a little hurdle for those players that are not keen on being but in the spotlight.

My only other issue with the system is, by default, I am not a sci-fi gamer so some of the fiction and genre fluff is lost on me. For what’s it worth, this game is steeped in sci-fi, but I can see potential in switch gears to incorporate a slightly more sci-fantasy aspect to the fiction.

PARTING SHOTS
If you like sci-fi and want a game system that has very few narrative boundaries, this is a game for you. Approach the rules with an open mind and you might be surprised at how the mechanics appear to come together. If you’re looking for a game that requires little time investment on the part of the GM, the this games is not for you. As a GM, you will have to invest some time in terms of preparations to ensure your players have an enjoyable experience. I have hopes this game will be the one to finally convert me or at least open my eyes wider to the sci-fi genre!

The designer is running me and few other folks through a one-shot scenario on December 12th. Following the game, I will report back with my post-game thoughts on the mechanics, design theory and how everything works in practice, not just in theory.

Future DayTrippers articles include:

~ Modoc

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