After the first game of Galaxy Quest rules I was pushed and inspired by the players to come up with other scenarios. And then circumstances led me to be a guest ST for a friend in Croatia. Between these two things I felt the game needed a new game that was more evocative and less specific. So it now has a name: Mandatory Failure.
The main innovation is that I needed to sell the game concept to a group of players who barely knew me and weren't particularly familiar with player-led games.
Your group of friends is travelling to a cheap campsite, the only holiday you can afford. Then you swerve to avoid another van and crash it. When you recover, your vehicle has died and the other van can barely limp to the secluded hotel up the road.
Mandatory failure is a game about less than ordinary people being put in a situation that they have no competence for. There are two main rules:
a) If you ask “is there..?”, you should assume the answer is Yes.
b) If you ask “can I..?”, you should assume the answer is No, describe how you fail at this.
Anything else depends on how many problems it causes or how many people are laughing.
Because it's fun.
It's fun to be incompetent.
It's fun to cause chaos for yourself, for the NPCs and for your friends.
Because this allows you to replicate all the themes that you enjoyed in Galaxy Quest.
The system rewards you for failing and for helping find "interesting" ways for bad things to happen to everyone. And, if you feel like it, you can spend some of those rewards to take the story to a suitable climax. Or you can just keep trolling yourselves and each other to the end.
Yourself and your full imagination
Some ideas of what kind of loser you want to play.
An internet connection.
There isn't any bad news about the session: everyone enjoyed themselves, everyone ended up where they wanted to be and there was really good feedback. The problem of last time, the ending, is still an issue but the players did largely agree their own ending. I think I can summarise the feedback as:
- The game was a lot less structured than they expected. Not much I can say to that other than Yes.
- There were times when the game was grinding to a halt and one or more players responded by taking the game up a notch. I noted that in this particular game I actually held my tongue quite a lot because the players were doing this work but, yes, the ST needed to have some options. It was also noted that this is an issue for any game.
- The game benefits from strong characters. Feeding on from the last point, when the game slowed they would think "What would my character do at this point?" and that would drive the game forward. (They weren't saying a lot of character creation was needed, but a little was.)
- They remained sceptical that the game would work for wallflowers who felt uncomfortable putting themselves forward. I remain open-minded, because it's untested, but I do agree that certain types of player would find the game concept not to their taste. Equally, I think the game might be more accessible to other kinds of roleplayer (i.e. those who find rules a bore).
 As before, I really only made notes on the opening scenes. All the NPCs that appeared were tailored to what the PCs were doing or saying, and the PCs brought in their own. By the end of the game, NPCs were largely acting according to what the players suggested rather than my own ideas.
Based on the game, we thought a political scenario could work for the game (but would require more work to skip the boring bits). And probably a murder mystery.
I may have a go at turning this into a proper, publishable game.