Product Review: DayTrippers GameMasters Guide

DayTrippers GameMasters Guide
Author: Tod Foley
Publisher: As If Productions
Publisher’s Product Site 
Page Count: 120
Available Formats: PDF and Print
Cost: PDF – $12, Print – $19.99, Print/PDF Combo – $21.99

The Gamemasters Guide is a toolkit for every DayTrippers gamemasters to help them create more memorable surrealistic sci-fi adventures in weird and strange places. The book is packed with GM advice, fiction management, tables, charts and much more!

I am currently in possession of both, the PDF and physical book. 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. The physical book has a very solid binding and moderately thick covers. It seems to me that it would stand up pretty well to continued and repeated use.

Unlike my other reviews, this review will have a different layout and style. I want to really highlight the different parts of the book to give you, the reader, a sense of what it is you’re buying. I will also include my thoughts along the way.

Introduction (p2-3) – The introduction to the Gamemasters Guide really lays out what surrealism is and how it plays an integral part as a design element in the DayTrippers RPG. Tod goes in depth with his explanations and it takes on almost an academic approach. Don’t let that dissuade or fool you, it’s a very easy and compelling to read.

Running DayTrippers (p4-11) – This section of the book, albeit relatively short, is a place where Tod again goes in-depth with explaining certain elements that make for running a more memorable game. To give you a sense of what you’ll find in this chapter, please consider the following quote from page 4.

Let’s get this straight right away: You’re doing your Art here, with a capital “A”. Your Art involves fusing with a mechanical system in order to produce a storylike experience for humans. Your Art has a Technique: the rules of the
system itself. Your Art also has a Method: the creation of Meaning. You increase the power and value of the emerging story by…

(1) Seeding it with images and situations which invite

(2) Encouraging and nurturing projections as they arise,

(3) Reincorporating the Meaning found in these projections
back into the ongoing fiction.

As you can see, he takes the role of the GM very seriously and this chapter is dedicated to connecting with your players on a primal gaming level that will resonate with them at a deeper level. There is also coverage of how to work through a session, scene by scene and so much more.

Action Resolution (p12-14) – This chapter expands the action resolution chapter in the Core Rulebook. There are some elements that are duplicated in both books, but this chapter expands the topic by digger deeper into some of the resolution elements. I found the Success Distribution Tables to be very interesting if you’re into that sort of math thing. The section on running combat is more than very helpful. The Core Rulebook covers this topic, but very superficially; the Gamemasters Guide gives it more attention and does much to expand a GMs understanding of combat. Aside from the fiction, action resolution, where it’s combat or non-combat is an integral part of all games!

Fiction Management (p15-21) – Tod says it best “It may be fiction, but even fictional reality demands a degree of verisimilitude and consequences that unfold over time. The following sections will help give your DayTrippers campaign that real-world smell.” This chapter is dedicated to bringing many mundane and DayTrippers specific aspects to life in a vibrant way. For example, how best to manage the downtime between SlipStream missions; things happen in our normal lives between special events, why not in our roleplaying games too! There are loads of ideas and suggestions (tables too) on how to manage this time to propel the fiction forward. This chapter also covers topics like NPCs, overarching campaigns and much more. There is a lot here for, not only DayTrippers GMs but also, GMs of other systems that might like to use the DayTrippers premise. Much of the information is system agnostic.

 The World of DayTrippers (p22-32) – Unlike the Core Rulebook that only superficially skimmed over this topic for brevity reasons, this chapter really gives depth and definition to the world of DayTrippers.  Did you want to learn more about Church of OMG or about some of the large institutions and megacorps that rule the world? This is the chapter for you. SlipStreaming is covered in depth with coverage of key topics such as the dangers involved with SlipSpace travel. More importantly, there is much written about where you can travel to and from and how these places should be perceived while SlipStreaming. In my opinion, the section on SlipSpace travel is very important for every GM during the planning phase of a game. Since the game revolves around traveling, you had better have an understanding of where players can go and what hazards await them.

Generators (p33-89) – Part of Tod’s introduction to this chapter really resonated with me. “Generators are Tools, not Rules. They’re designed to provide prompts for the bizarre and original, giving you many thought-provoking ideas to project on… no matter what your preferred style. Use them any way you like, I’m not here to judge anyone.” He’s right, generators are tools and I happen to like them. I don’t use them exclusively, but there is a lot of value in well-designed and thematically appropriate generator tables. Tod nails it on both accounts. the generators are not only thematically appropriate, but they are well thought out and well executed. The generator tables fall into twelve different categories. Each category is made up of at least three and up to thirteen different generator tables for you to use at your leisure. There were two categories I found to be useful to me and I hope they will give you a sense of what you will find throughout this chapter.

First, I found the Society Generator category particularly useful. The six tables that make up this category will help you create an alien society, but more importantly, it will help you define other important elements that you might not have thought of yet or you needed some inspiration to define. For example, societal value, societal problems, the level of technology and how the technology is being used. Rolling on these tables will produce a very surrealistic look and overarching definition of a society in which to introduce to your players. The second, the drama category, I found very interesting. While not expressly tables, they are more like thematic ideas from which to further build a game or campaign around. These frameworks can be further refined and defined by using other generators contained in the book or the GMs own creative spark.

Creating Daytrips (p90-110) – This chapter is dedicated to adventure design itself; in DayTrippers parlance, DayTrips. Creating a truly memorable DayTrip and gaming experience for your players takes planning and thinking about very particular elements that are integral to a good story. DayTrips can be arranged using the four-act method and if framed this way, they become easier to design and ensure that you cover the important things you built into your story. This chapter also covers topics such as narrative structure, narrative object and vertical control in addition to the four-act structure and methods for increasing the tension. GMs do not need to be short story writers, but understanding some of the design elements that make for great short stories will help you in creating awesome adventures your players will remember. The previously mentioned topics are not the only topics covered in this chapter and there is much more here for any gamemaster to sink his or her teeth into.

Everything Else (p111-120) – In these last pages, Tod gives his list of inspiration media. Of which, there are some pretty cool suggestions to help a GM get into the right frame of mind before beginning work on an adventure or campaign. The usual credits and blank worksheets are included as well, but there is one area I fell in love with. Who would have thought in the closing pages, there would be something so awesome! Tod, had the foresight to include a conversion table. This conversion table takes the DayTrippers stat system, skill system and difficulty levels  and converts them into several other popular systems. You can convert to Powered by the Apocalypse, D20, a 1-20 system or a 1-100 percentile system. This is not revolutionary, but still it’s a very thoughtful addition!

Well, I hope you have seen that there is immense value in this book! Even though the book is written for the DayTrippers game, the information, ideas, and methodologies can be used as system agnostic tools for any game system of any genre. It’s more useful as a system-agnostic resource if you are working with a system that is sci-fi in nature. This is a book I would recommend to any GM that wants to cultivate great ideas and find useful suggestions on how to further develop their GM skills.

As a tool for DayTrippers, this book is great! Tod, really went all out to include lots of things that are often times glossed over or assumed to already be part of the GM’s toolkit. This book paired with the Core Rulebook is a match made in heaven!

~ Modoc

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