Welcome back, dice fondlers! While I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, it’s been nothing but frigid ice and snow here in Michigan. So this week, let’s get the heck off planet and leave the cold weather behind us with the compact RPG, Planet Crashers.
Planet Crashers is a 48-hour RPG made in 2014 by Patrick Lapienis, who was inspired by the over-the-top outer space action in anime like Gurren Lagann and Space Dandy. So, let’s trade out the January deep freeze outside for the vastness of space and go hunt down galactic criminals with Planet Crashers!
A Standard Card Playing Deck
Unlike many of the RPGs out on the market, Planet Crashers is a card-based RPG. In fact, all you really need to play Planet Crashers are pencils, paper, and a standard deck of playing cards with the Jokers removed. Things do go a bit easier if you have poker chips and are using copies of the player sheet at the back of the Planet Crashers PDF. The poker chips are used to represent Energon, which in this game, is the characters’ health, the GM’s pool for creating obstacles, and the item gambled during conflict resolution.
Characters & Card Suits
Characters in Planet Crashers are composed of a Card Suit, a Character Trope, a Species, and three Abilities. By default, Planet Crashers has you choose your Card Suit first.
Choosing a card suit has a large impact on your character’s play style by granting that suit of cards special abilities when you discard them. Diamonds allow characters to increase their hand size (or someone else’s hand size), Hearts are for healing, Spades allow players to trade cards, and Clubs allows for trickery in the middle of resolving obstacles, switching played cards between Player and GM before they’re revealed.
Playing with Character Tropes
Next, you choose a Trope for your character. These range from Witty Side-Kick to Wizened Mentor and every nutball in between. Tropes provide you a single power that can be applied whenever your character’s actions fall in line with those of the Trope. For example, if the Witty Side-Kick tells a joke, pun, or other witty comment about the current obstacle, the GM is forced to gamble one extra point of Energon, potentially solving the obstacle sooner. If the other players at the table actually find the Witty Side-Kick’s joke funny, then the GM has to gamble THREE extra points of Energon, instead of one. Meanwhile, other Tropes like the Dandy allow characters to recover a point of Energon when their fussing over their appearance causes trouble for the team.
Species & Abilities
When it comes to Species and our characters’ three Abilities, we can actually handle them all at the same time, as both have the same mechanical impact.
When dealing with an obstacle, a player can choose to use either Species, or any Ability that applies in order to up their Energon wager by one— and the GM must raise their own wager by two. In fact, a player can apply as many Abilities (and their Species) as are appropriate to push the Energon wager higher and higher. The only catch is that each trait can only be used once per obstacle.
The game book has a list of Abilities for players to choose from, and some sample species. Understand that these aren’t necessarily species like “Klingon,” “Krogan,” or “Skrull.” These are more like “Mass of Tentacles,” “Bucket of Bolts,” or “Puny Earthling.”
GM VS Player Energon
On the topic of Energon, each player character starts with a
stash of ten Energon, while the GM starts with a stash of variable size, based
on how many players are participating and how difficult they want the game to
be. For example, on an Easy game, the GM only has ten Energon per player in
their pool, whereas Hard games give the GM seventeen Energon per player.
Further, when players challenge an obstacle and lose, the GM absorbs their
wager. From this pool of Energon, the GM also takes portions of it to build out
the Outlaw the characters are hunting. Outlaw creation follows the same rules
as character creation; only certain aspects like Abilities cost the GM Energon
to add to their targeted Outlaw.
Conflicts are resolved through a player and the GM each
drawing a single card from their hand and raising their wagers through
Abilities and Tropes. Once the wager is set, both sides reveal their card and
the highest card wins. The wagered Energon returns to the pool of the winner.
Energon lost by the GM is lost completely, while Energon lost by the player, as
mentioned above, is added to the GM’s pool to create more obstacles. When the
GM’s pool for creating obstacles has run out, it’s time for the showdown with
their Outlaw. Should all the players run out of Energon, each of their characters
are written out of the story, never to be heard from again.
That’s the short and dirty on the vastly enjoyable Planet
Crashers. I hope you enjoy as much as I have hunting down the crazed criminals
of the Galactic Frontier. Next week, we’ll roll the dice and see what system we
have next on the list, but until then, remember to…