Today marks the 500th post on Blue Ink Alchemy. I thought it might be fun to take a peek at the last few round-number milestones, just to see how far we’ve come. Oddly, two of the four hundred-level posts have to do with Maschine Zeit. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.
As far as I’m concerned, the stations are, have been and always will be so many tons of next-generation bullshit at the end of really, really long tethers. It’s the only reason they haven’t stinking up the planet.
Not everything will go as planned, of course, but when thing are at their darkest and most terrifying, there’s a chance, built into the game’s narrative structure itself, that a player in that situation will seize control of it by saving a fellow player or destroying the monster-thing with an ingenious trap or uncovering some forbidden truth or getting that bit of magical metal to do exactly what they need it to do. Arriving at those moments, taking the reigns of the narrative and watching the dice fall into place as fate agrees to allow that moment happen, is the very essence of Maschine Zeit.
Epilogues are interesting creatures. On the one hand, they allow a “where are they now” recap of the stories of your characters, the opportunity to tie up loose ends. On the other, they take place after the principle action of the narrative, perhaps in an arbitrary or artificial fashion.
As always, thank you for reading. Your interest and eyeballs make this possible.
Welcome to post #300. THIS! IS! ALCHEMY! *boots Edward Cullen into a bottomless pit*
I’ve writtenpreviously about a little game called Maschine Zeit. It’s about time I did up an official review of it, in the spirit of promoting it, and if I were to sum it up it one word, it’d be “atmospheric.”
In any form of horror-based narrative, any situation where we’re to be put on edge if not scared out of our minds, there needs to be the element of the unknown. We fear what we don’t understand, and we can’t understand what we don’t know, or can’t predict. Basically, effective horror uses the unexpected and springs it on us, whether it creeps across the floor inexorably with stringy hair across its eyes or latches onto us for a mouthful of brain as we round a corner. If we see it coming, it’s not scary.
Maschine Zeit gets that. Boy, does this game ever get that.
The year is 2110. The Machine Age has begun. Humanity is, for all intents and purposes, on its way out. A series of events have put the bulk of the population back on their heels, trying to get their bearings. A population control method, moving people to giant space platforms tethered to the Earth, has not worked as planned. Among the other disasters, gamma radiation bathed the stations and killed most of the people there. This ray burst had two other side effects now coming to the attention of the curious, the adventurous and the insane on the planet below. One, the radiation has changed some of the metal on the stations and given it almost supernatural properties. And two, rumors abound that the radiation has caused the stations to be haunted with strange bio-mechanical beings that were once human. This is the story of Maschine Zeit, the game of ghost stories on space stations.
A lot of tabletop games have one person laying down the tracks of the plot, while the players decide how quickly and with what sort of engine they’ll proceed down those tracks. It’s an effective method for telling collaborative stories, be that one person called a Dungeon Master or a Storyteller or what have you. In Maschine Zeit, the Director might have some plot ideas, but they are not in control of the story. More accurately, they have just as much control over the story as you would as a player. Its system supports ensemble work, a true collaboration of creative minds. No one character is more important than another, and the Director does not impose their ideas on the group.
The way the game is designed, every character has a goal, and achieving that goal leads to a moment in the spotlight. Instead of the timing and circumstances of those moments being entirely up to the Director, the players take steps along the way in their journey through still, decaying sci-fi environments inspired by Pandorum or Dead Space. Not everything will go as planned, of course, but when thing are at their darkest and most terrifying, there’s a chance, built into the game’s narrative structure itself, that a player in that situation will seize control of it by saving a fellow player or destroying the monster-thing with an ingenious trap or uncovering some forbidden truth or getting that bit of magical metal to do exactly what they need it to do. Arriving at those moments, taking the reigns of the narrative and watching the dice fall into place as fate agrees to allow that moment happen, is the very essence of Maschine Zeit.
It’s not a game for everyone. It requires thinking on the spot and its subject matter and atmosphere are not for the faint of heart. But if you find yourself interested in this vision of our future, drawn to the mystery of the stations or just curious about how exactly the aforementioned moments work, check out Maschine Zeit. It’s available today (6/22) on DriveThruStuff.com, bundled with an introductory adventure for a bargain price. You can do a hell of a lot worse if you want an experience that blends horror, science fiction, and tabletop gaming in a way that you will not soon forget.
There’s quite a bit going on over at Machine Age Productions you might want to know about. They have a shiny new website and, if you like unique and fun tabletop games with original concepts, you can get in on the ground floor of Maschine Zeit.
They’ve begun a kickstarter, a cool little way to make sure the game gets a print run. Any contribution you can make will help them get real, tangible copies into the hands of potential players and Directors, not to mention ensuring the game’s mastermind, David A Hill, show up at a convention in a cocktail dress. It’s just as awesome as it sounds.
If you’re still not sold on the idea, or are as yet unsure as to the game’s premise, look no further than this little promotional poster I put together:
The stations were meant to save us. Millions of us went there.
Millions of us died there.
Now the stations hold secrets; both miraculous and terrible. Intrepid explorers from all over the world are going up there to look for answers, or profit, or loved ones.
What they are finding, some say, are that dead men do, in fact, tell tales.
It’s time to tell yours.
A role-playing game of ghost stories on space stations.
Coming in May 2010 from Machine Age Productions