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Saturday 11 November 2023

Quick-Start Saturday: Dreams And Machines

Quick-starts are means of trying out a roleplaying game before you buy. Each should provide a Game Master with sufficient background to introduce and explain the setting to her players, the rules to run the scenario included, and a set of ready-to-play, pre-generated characters that the players can pick up and understand almost as soon as they have sat down to play. The scenario itself should provide an introduction to the setting for the players as well as to the type of adventures that their characters will have and just an idea of some of the things their characters will be doing on said adventures. All of which should be packaged up in an easy-to-understand booklet whose contents, with a minimum of preparation upon the part of the Game Master, can be brought to the table and run for her gaming group in a single evening’s session—or perhaps too. And at the end of it, Game Master and players alike should ideally know whether they want to play the game again, perhaps purchasing another adventure or even the full rules for the roleplaying game.

Alternatively, if the Game Master already has the full rules for the roleplaying game for the quick-start is for, then what it provides is a sample scenario that she still run as an introduction or even as part of her campaign for the roleplaying game. The ideal quick-start should entice and intrigue a playing group, but above all effectively introduce and teach the roleplaying game, as well as showcase both rules and setting.


What is it?
The Dreams And Machines: Quickstart Guide is the quick-start for Dreams And Machines, the post-apocalypse Sciece Fiction roleplaying game set on another world in the far future, where the ruins of the world that was—including giant mecha—lie all around. It includes a basic explanation of the setting, rules for action and combat, setting rules, the adventure, ‘Shelter’, and six ready-to-play, Player Characters.

It is a thirty-page, 45.76 MB full colour PDF.

The quick-start is lightly illustrated, but the artwork is is decent. The rules are clearly explained and are a less mechanically detailed version of the 2d20 System.

How long will it take to play?
The Dreams And Machines: Quickstart Guide and its adventure, ‘Shelter’, is designed to be played through in one session, two at most.

What else do you need to play?
The Dreams And Machines: Quickstart Guide requires at least two twenty-sided dice per player and two sets of different coloured tokens, one to represent Momentum, one to represent Threat.

Who do you play?
The six Player Characters in the Dreams And Machines: Quickstart Guide consist of a warrior Guardian, a Tech, a supportive Guardian, a stealthy and haggling Grabber, a Mediator, and a Gatherer.

How is a Player Character defined?
A Player Character in the Dreams And Machines: Quickstart Guide—and thus Dreams And Machines—will look familiar to anyone who has played a 2d20 System roleplaying game. A Player Character has four attributes: Might, Quickness, Insight, and Resolve. These range in value between six and sixteen. He has seven skills, Move, Fight, Sneak, Talk, Operate, Study, and Survive, all quite broad, and ranging in value between one and six. A Player Character’s Tech Level is measure of their familiarity with science and technology, whilst Talents are special abilities and Bonds are a Player Character’s connections to his fellow adventurers. Either through support or rivalries with his Bonds, a Player Character can gain Spirit. Supply points represent salvage and parts that the Player Character can use make temporary, but useful items. Lastly, every Player Character has two Truths. When these facts are brought into play, they can raise or lower the difficulty of a test, or even make it possible.

How do the mechanics work?
Mechanically, the Dreams And Machines: Quickstart Guide—and thus Dreams And Machines—uses the 2d20 System seen in many of the roleplaying games published by Modiphius Entertainment, such as Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 or Dune – Adventures in the Imperium. To undertake an action in the 2d20 System in Dreams And Machines, a character’s player rolls two twenty-sided dice, aiming to have both roll under the total of an Attribute and a Skill. Each roll under this total counts as a success, an average task requiring two successes, the aim being to generate a number of successes equal to, or greater, than the Difficulty value. Rolls under the value of the Skill also count as two successes. A roll of twenty adds a complication to the situation. Dealing with higher Tech levels increases the Difficulty value and adds Threat. Successes generated beyond the Difficulty value generate Momentum.

Momentum is a shared resource. It can be used to gain a ‘Second Wind’ and increase a Player Character’s Spirit, ‘Create Truth’, ‘Ask a Question’ of the Game Master, increase ‘Damage’ against a target, ‘Reduce Time’ for an action, and gain a second action with ‘Follow-Up’. The Player Characters have a maximum Momentum of six.

If a Player Character has access to no Momentum, he can instead give the Game Master Threat. It is the equivalent of Momentum, but for NPCs. It is primarily used in the same fashion, but for NPCs.

In addition to access to Momentum, a Player Character has his own resource to fall back on. This is Spirit, his inner reserves of concentration and stamina. It can be spent to add an extra twenty-sided die to a test or to re-roll one. It can also be spent to avoid an injury. It can be recovered by resting, spending Momentum (as per ‘Second Wind’), gaining an ‘Adrenalin Rush’ in return for increasing the Game Master’s pool of Threat, and through a Player Character’s Bonds. If a Player Character loses all of his Spirit, he becomes exhausted, which means he can be weary, breathless, confused, and so on. This will mean he will automatically fail tests related to the type of exhaustion and suffer a penalty on all others, until he rests.

How does combat work?
Combat in the Dreams And Machines: Quickstart Guide is kept simple. A Player Character has five options: ‘Attack’, ‘Counterattack’, ‘Avoid Danger’, ‘Confront Problem’, and ‘Define Truth’. Actual attacks are contested rolls, so the attacker has to roll more successes than the defender. ‘Counterattack’ allows an attack back after a successful defence, whilst ‘Confront Problem’, and ‘Define Truth’ are in general more appropriate for situations where there is danger and confrontation, but not necessarily a fight. If a Player Character or NPC suffers an Injury, then they are defeated, although some NPCs can suffer multiple Injuries. Spirit can be spent to avoid an Injury, whilst armour will reduce the amount of Spirit necessary to avoid the Injury.

What do you play?
‘Shelter’ is set in and around the settlement of New Mossgrove, a trade town standing within the shadow of one of the largest mechs anyone had ever seen. The six pre-generated Player Characters are bored teenagers who decide to explore the wilderness. Taking shelter from a sudden storm, they discover the entrance to some tunnels containing rail tracks. These lead to long abandoned industrial and other facilities, where unfortunately, the Player Characters will awaken an overly protective program and in attempting to escape both it and back to the surface, a more immediate threat.

The scenario is a short mix of exploration and combat and only focuses on what may be found underground rather than on the planet’s surface. It includes full stats for the threats that the Player Characters will face and some nice guidelines on what they use their Supply points on to create makeshift weapons and on how to use the environment.

Is there anything missing?
The scenario could have included several questions that the overprotective program will ask the Player Characters rather than rely upon the Game Master to create her own.

Is it easy to prepare?
The core rules presented in the Dreams And Machines: Quickstart Guide are relatively easy to prepare. A Game Master who already run a 2d20 System roleplaying game will have no problem with this.

Is it worth it?
Not entirely. The Dreams And Machines: Quickstart Guide only presents a snapshot of its setting and the scenario is more serviceable than spectacular. However, the rules are both well explained and implemented in the scenario.

Where can you get it?
The Dreams And Machines: Quickstart Guide is available to download here.

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