We had the 6th session of Gaslamp Romance last weekend and I finally got a chance to test the inventing rules as they were meant to be used. With the goal of capturing how inventing works in the book I wanted it to be both reliable and frantic. That is to say that if a spark gets a long stretch of uninterrupted time they can likely do what they wanted to do, but the universe will not allow them that time.
Short form is that Sparks have to define what they want to build and the GM will set a number of successes based on how hard that is on a pretty generic table. That also determines how big it is and how much time it will take. Target successes can be modified by having better or worse equipment, having something to modify rather than starting from scratch, having notes to work from, and so on. Success over what you need translates to reduced time or smaller devices.
If the invention takes longer than the GM wants to give you (which it likely will) complications will arise, forcing you to create sub inventions, race to replace faulty parts, sacrifice some of your gear or accept flaws in the original design to follow through on your original timetable. If you’ve ever read some of the Girl Genius comic you see how often these distractions happen so I wanted to catch it here.
In the latest session our heroines have to engage in some rapid inventing to save the lives of a race of constructs whose creator recently vanished (I’d say dead, but hey, that’s never a done deal in Girl Genius). Bella started working on her own and failed – there are rules for how long it takes you to figure out that you’re on the wrong track and she realized after several hours that she wasn’t going to get it right. So she pulled Elena in and the pair tried again. This got them the bare minimum successes for the project, finding a solution inside the dawn timeline.
At which point I had a piece of their equipment break. The Sparks had to hold things together while Nadia snuck through the city to steal the parts they needed. This is specifically designed to give the non-sparks something to do during the inventing, and by everyone’s accounts it worked well. They got the parts in place but Nadia had taken so long that I ruled they now needed another success if they wanted to hit deadline, describing how they now needed to boost the temperature past what the rig was designed for unless they came up with another plan.
The players tossed back and forth whether they wanted to risk another inventing roll (an advantage is that story wise success or failure are equally interesting) and Elena instead opted to double down and accept a drawback on the invention. This meant that the rig exploded just after they got enough of what they needed, coating Elena with a film of mutagenic goo that WILL DOUBTLESS HAVE NO RELEVANCE WHATSOEVER LATER. Really.
Hooray, our heroines saved the construct race! Who immediately became very creepy, so our heroines fled the scene with all speed, which WILL DOUBTLESS HAVE NO RELEVANCE WHATSOEVER LATER. But more importantly the rules seemed to have met with player approval.