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Episode 1940: Steered Science

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Sometimes a group of heroes will be very reluctant to actually use a piece of equipment that you've given to them as part of the adventure. As if that handy ring of invisibility you gave them is going to corrupt their minds and turn them into servants of evil and allow an ancient necromancer to run roughshod over the civilised world or something. As we all know, that sort of stuff never happens...

So how can you encourage your players to use useful items rather than either—(a) assume they're too dangerous (artefacts and strange one-off items), or (b) save them for a rainy day (healing potions, spell scrolls)—then stuff them in a sack, and forget about them?

You need to provide tailored incentives to use such items. For simple items, this isn't too difficult. If they're hoarding healing potions, obviously you have to hurt them faster than they can heal by other means.

For weird artefacts that might very well kill them, you need to provide a stronger incentive. Here's how to do it scientifically: Determine the probability that the players think using the item will cause something calamitous, and then raise the stakes. For example, if they think using the MacGuffin of Doom 75% likely to cause a Total Party Kill, you then need to provide a situation which is 80% likely to kill them if they don't use it. Easy!

N.B. This may or may not be the thinking used by CERN scientists who decided using the Large Hadron Collider was worth the risk of destroying the universe. How many of them do you think are gamers??

Commentary by memnarch (who has not seen the movie)

Pete either has inside information that he's not conveying in an interesting way, or he's somehow convinced that the GM's just rolling for the look of it. I think I'm inclined to go with the former, simply because the GM makes it really obvious that the roll didn't need to happen, and we've seen the GM become exasperated with the way the rolls end up even when it's an extremely unlikely outcome. The only problem I've got with inside info is that Pete should be smart enough to not frame it in the sense of railroading to guess at what's really going on. And it's not like Pete's encountered unlikely events before; he should know with his pre-rolled dice.

But! I think there's a different reason why this is guaranteed to work. Experimental equipment is generally a prototype for a reason. I'm thinking that the Empire didn't have the necessary skills in place to make this hyperdrive modulator work, or had too many engineers/scientists involved to be able to quickly work out all the bugs when things began to go wrong. Here on the Falcon, we've got only three individuals total and one of them doesn't seem to have any ship related skills.

Going back to my previous commentary of not being in two places at once, I could see Rey needing to fly the ship (as Finn isn't a pilot) while BB-8 makes stabilization repairs to keep the modulator from tearing itself or the ship to pieces while it's in use. And even if that's completely wrong, PCs are generally more skilled than NPCs, so the group will have much better odds of pulling this off successfully anyway.

Sidenote, I wonder how many times the hyperdrive modulator has been replaced in the Falcon before? It was a really old ship when Greedo first stole it, and it's been decades since. Why wouldn't replacing that, or at least checking on it, be a part of the every-other-decade maintenance?

Commentary by Keybounce (who has not seen the movie)

I love this description. "Like time itself has gnawed at it". Ok, so this time, it's just a part that needed to be replaced long ago.

Which, of course, brings up the question: How was it able to function at all before?

No spares? Seriously, there are no tow trucks in space. If your drive fails in space, you have to be able to fix it - so having spares for the critical components that are needed to get you to a real repair shop are really a must-have.

Rey is not quite right. The odds of it going wrong with this much railroading? You do have a choice. The GM even told you that you had allies on-planet, and 17 pages of notes, that you skipped. Clearly, the GM is railroading you back to the important stuff that you skipped. Maybe they're tired of you running off to an unmapped planet. Maybe they're tired of you turning a speck into a city. Maybe they're tired of you... actually, were those the only two times?

Transcript

Finn: How bad is it?
GM: <roll> The hyperdrive modulator is pitted and corroded, like time itself has gnawed at it. Way overdue for replacement.
BB-8: Hyperdrive modulator? I don’t suppose there’s a spare on board?
GM: That would be too easy.
Rey: Looks like we have to try the one I found.
BB-8: An experimental hyperdrive modulator salvaged from a ship that crashed for mysterious reasons?
Finn: Maybe we should go back to Tatooine.
Rey: No. It’s our only option to escape the First Order. We have to take it.
BB-8: Seems like a big risk.
Rey: The odds of it going wrong twice in a row, with this much railroading, are astronomically tiny.


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Published: Tuesday, 05 January, 2021; 01:11:04 PST.
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