Thursday, February 21, 2019

Can one page capture all the Lasers and Feelings of Star Trek?

It’s been a while since I’ve looked at RPGs, let alone played one. However, I recently took a third and longer look at Lasers and Feelings, a one-page game named after a Double Clicks song (We’ve actually heard them in concert) and blatantly inspired by the original Star Trek. In fact, the mechanics are entirely based around choosing to either play a Spock or a Kirk.

Okay. Here’s the core mechanic. The thing fits on one page so you know only one mechanic can fit in. Other than some descriptors to justify situational bonuses, your character is defined by a number from two to five. There are two kinds of actions in the game. Laser actions, where are all logic and left brain and reason, where you want to roll under your number. Feelings actions, which are all squishy and passion, you want to roll over. So, pick a high number if you want to be Spock and a low number if you want to play Kirk.

The clever bit, because there always has to be a clever bit, is if you hit your number exactly, you get laser feelings and get to ask the GM a question. And you can then redo your action based on that new knowledge.

The first thing that went through my mind when I was reassessing Lasers and Feelings was ‘Did I just read a one-page Trollbabe back?’ The answer was clearly no, since Lasers and Feelings doesn’t break the narrative structure the way Trollbabe does. However, the one number stat and how it’s used definitely reminded me of Trollbabe.

Okay. I’m pretty sure that the mechanics would hold up under play. Lord knows, I’ve played with games with even less structure and focus. But that doesn’t answer the bigger question: would it be any fun?

One of the big questions I ask when I look at an RPG is what kind of stories is it going to let me tell? If all I get is some tables and a conflict resolution system, I’m not interested. 

Lasers and Feelings gives you a paragraph of background and some tables to pregenerate a sentence to describe an adventure for the GM. Which is still more than some systems I’ve seen and what do you expect from one page?

But here’s where I wonder. The game is pretty obviously inspired by Star Trek, the original series in particular. So you go in with a setting and a style of stories already in mind. Is that enough to invest you in the game and make the stories work?

I don’t know and I am pretty curious about that. Since Kirk and Spock never die (except in the movies), there lack of a death mechanic seems appropriate. But they do sometimes fail. Could the shift to more drama focus actually make this game really feel like Star Trek?

I also learned that Lasers and Feelings inspired what seems to be a hundred hacks, exploring different themes. I will definitely have to take a look at those.

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