Monday, September 6, 2021

we've been trying to reach you about your extended warranty: the GLOG hack

Recently, I've been thinking about a new project - combining a minor blog fixation, Engine Heart, with a major blog fixation, the GLOG, along with bits of recent Zine Quest release Scurry! and vague, wrong ideas of what PbtA games look like according to someone who hasn't actually read one.

You play as a group of utility robots, alone and hoping to either make your way back to home or build a new one. The setting is going to be mostly undefined - maybe, like Engine Heart, humanity has been destroyed by an apocalypse. Maybe you just fell off the back of a truck, and need to get back to the factory. Maybe you're on a starship around Neptune, trying to get your rights as workers.

by Locheil, who is cool

Creating a Character


The stats are Strength (STR), Speed (SPD), Dexterity (DEX), Comprehension (COM), and Mirroring (MIR).

The first three are self-explanatory, but the other two are stranger. Comprehension is your ability to understand things you weren't designed for - will the stack of crates fall over if I move this one? Why is this on fire?

Mirroring is sort of like Charisma, but is more accurately described as your ability to act like a human. People like it when you can talk like them, and some robots could be tricked into thinking you're a person if you say the right words. You could also roll Mirroring to understand what someone is doing.

Some Parts can also give you Power dice, which can be added to any check.

Your stats are chosen from this array: 4, 3, 3, 2, 2.


The problem is, none of those stats can just get used. Instead, you have only specific actions you can take, based on your Parts.

By default, robots can only do three things - see (if there's light), move at a walking pace, and talk to other robots. Anything else requires the right Part.

Parts come in four slots - Arms, Legs, and two Body parts (A and B).

Rolling Dice
When you use one of your Parts, you invest as many dice from the applicable stat as you want, along with Power dice, if you have them. Depending on the Part being used, you might need to check different things. Some want you to check [sum] against a table, like a PbtA Move:

Sprinter Wheels (legs)
lightweight magnesium wheels allow you to rush along flat surfaces, but smooth tires cripple your handling

Invest [speed] and check the [sum]:

10+: you hit highway speeds immediately, in a straight line

7-9: you begin to accelerate, and will reach top speed next turn

6-: the tires spin and screech, unable to grip the ground

 Others are more similar to GLOG spells:

Lifter Arms (arms)

a pair of massive pistons connect to a narrow platform in front of you, just barely able to reach above your head

Invest [strength], and lift the platform up to your head-height with up to [sum]*100 pounds on board. 

Whenever stat dice are invested, they decay if they roll a 4-6, and if they roll doubles or triples you have a Minor or Major malfunction.

If you have a Minor malfunction, check the number on the dice on this table:
1. Uninsulated wires. Every die used in this check decays, no matter what it rolled.
2. Low batteries. Until you next Recharge, this stat's dice decay on a 3 or more.
3. Bad safety checks. The part used is Damaged.
4. Power surge. The highest-rolling die used in this check is ignored for [sum], [best], or other measurements. If it would decay, it still does.
5. Crossed wires. Decay one die from a different stat.
6. Jammed bearings. Nothing happens. Dice still decay if roll 4+.

If you have a Major malfunction, the part that was used is destroyed completely.

Getting Hurt
If something bad happens to you (falling off a hill, getting crashed into by another robot, catching fire) one of your Parts is damaged. Choose whichever one makes the most sense, or roll 1d4:

1. Arms
2. Legs
3. Body A
4. Body B  

When a Part is damaged, you can't use it until you get it fixed. If a damaged part is hit again, it's destroyed completely, and you'll have to either find a new one, or go without.

Regaining Dice
If you can find a place to Recharge, all your lost stat dice return. The problem is, you can only Recharge somewhere where you can get electricity.

Repairing Parts
Some Parts allow you to repair damaged Parts on other robots, and some places may have machines or friendly robots that will help you. If a Part is destroyed, you might be able to find someone offering new ones, in exchange for help, directions, or other things.

You cannot cannibalize other robots for their Parts. They are well-connected to the robot's frame, and attempting to remove them by force will damage or destroy them.


  1. That last paragraph definitely changes the tone of the game! Otherwise, you are correct in assuming that players will immediately go into robo-cannibalism mode

    1. I've had enough games where the players immediately went in to *regular* cannibalism mode I knew I had to say something.

      The game's meant to have the tone I *thought* Engine Heart did before I read it - a nice, largely nonviolent thing about problem solving.


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