Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Daybreak as an RPG

My wife and I recently Netflixed a TV show called Daybreak. It's sort of like if Groundhog Day were a serious Detective show. The lead character is living the same day over and over again, and it's a heck of a day, with murders and conspiracy aplenty.

The show could inspire a really awesome RPG campaign, especially for a single-player campaign. You'd set up two or three mysteries, all happening on the same day, all with serious consequences for the PC if they were left unattended. In the background, you probably set up an additional mystery of a more sci-fi variety, that explains why the character is stuck in time.

The PC experiences each day over and over again, with things happening on a particular course if they do nothing. They need to solve all the mysteries, and then figure out how to resolve them all positively on the same day that they undo the time loop. You'd have a campaign with a definite end-goal in sight from the start.

There'd be a big burden on the GM, and I'd say you'd want to run it with a laptop at the ready, so you could have instant access to a lengthy timeline of where every NPC is at every minute of the day.

I'd run GUMSHOE for it. Both because I really like Gumshoe, but also because it has really easy mechanics to repeat actions again and again. When something comes up that goes poorly, you can spend a point to make it work out better next time. If you get a version you're happy with, a simple point spend ensures repeat performance when you try it again the next day. Very little dice karma to complicate things.

I'd have the PCs point pools refresh at the start of every day, so they had a limited supply of points to juggle for overcoming the obstacles. Experience would be tricky - as the cyclical nature suggests you'd never get to level up. However, if you watch the show, he does find ways to change things over time, and that might result in bonus dedicated pool points in GUMSHOE.

And I'd definitely use Daybreak's precedent for damage. Your whole body is doing the time loop, so if you're shot, you wake up with a bullet hole the next morning. Health and Stability would NOT refresh daily, so getting medical and psychiatric care may prove important if things go badly early on. That helps keeps the tension, and prevents certain Bill Murray style antics.

A tiny bit more about the show:
Daybreak ran for less than a season. One season's worth of episodes were made though, and the last episode was clearly crafted knowing that they weren't gonna get picked up for a season two. It wraps up the plot neat-and-tidy, including several things that would have made a killer second season. It's really sad it got canceled, 'cause it's 5-star material, IMHO. Great acting, intelligent scripts, and plenty of unexpected twists. It's 58% mystery / detective, 40% action / adventure, with 1% humor and 1% sci-fi. If you've got netflix, it's well worth the rental.


Philo Pharynx said...

If you want to buy the DVD set, I found it for $9.99. I agree that this is a great series, thogh I warn people to give it time. The first few episodes do seem a bit repetetive. I'm not so sure how well it would convert into an RPG. It would depend on knowing your players, as I know many that would be frustrated with this.

r_b_bergstrom said...

Yeah, you'd need to know your players, and they'd need to go into it with their eyes open. You wouldn't want to just spring it on them a couple sessions in to a game without them knowing before hand that something like this was going to be going on.

Hunty said...

OK, this is now at the top of my Netflix queue. Sounds like lots of fun, and perhaps better fodder for a video game than a tabletop game; but maybe that's just a difference of approach. :)

r_b_bergstrom said...

It would be great for a video game.

But seeing as how my skills at GMing are rather more advanced than my skills at programming, I know which one I'm capable of. For me it's tabletop.