Justice Playthrough #167: Heart and Lightning

There are some interesting ideas here, but for real, was this actually playtested?

I do not think this was playtested.

Page 27, Game 25: Heart and Lightning by Swords and Flowers (Note: Dead link. I guess the author took this down?)

I mean, I’m sure it was played; I’m sure the author sat down at a table with his friends and played this, and everybody had a lovely time. But did the author hand-off this ruleset to somebody who played it blind with no prior exposure to the game? I’m thinking “No.”

Anyway. You and your fellow players are all Daughters of Lightning, children of a deity of the tempest, like Thor, or the Stormfather! (The author indicates that the mythos here is heavily based on Leigong, God of Thunder from Chinese folklore, which is pretty cool. A lot of the in-text references are to Thor, but I assume that’s because the big Norse bastard is having his day in the sun right now. Let’s face it, Ragnarok was fukkin’ AWESOME.)

So, you’re basically goddesses. Also, you’re teenagers. Rebellious teenagers, who just got chucked out of your home. Why? Who knows. Maybe you were playing your god-music too loud, maybe you were getting a little too familiar with those hotties pounding mead in Valhalla, maybe you formed a nahel bond with a brave mortal sadboy. That’s on you to figure out.

Regardless, you’re out in the world now, looking to have some fun aid raise some hell.

With ya so far, game.

There’s a bit of a disconnect between the stated theme and the game’s mechanics, though. The fluff text claims you’ve been stripped of your powers, but the mechanics of the game make it clear you’re pretty fukkin’ badass. You’re basically unkillable. Not, like, Deadpool unkillable, but still, death is really just an inconvenience. I’m totally on board with it, but it does muddy what tone I feel like the game is trying to establish. Are you a homeless, lost soul trying to make your way in a confusing world? Or are you an unstoppable god here to party amongst mortals who can barely contain your awesomeness? I’m seeing both, so I guess it very much depends on where you and the rest of your table land.

The core resolution mechanic has heavy Apocalypse World vibes, but it’s not listed among the game’s influences, so I guess it’s at least a generation removed from that. Basically, you roll 2d6 and add some stuff, and see if you got a fail, a partial success, or a total success.

All well and good. Except I lied; you only roll 2d6 if you’re a punk. There are plenty of ways to coax one or more additional d6’s into that roll, the easiest of which is simply having a friend help you.

This is why I’m deeply skeptical that this game has seen a single round of playtesting.

The 2d6 mechanic works very well, but only when it’s tight. In Apocalypse World, you’re adding a +3 at your most bad-ass. You need 7 for a partial success, 10 for an unambiguous one; failure is always a possibility, and a big success is never guaranteed. It adds a lot of tension to every die roll, particularly when circumstances force you out of your optimized roll.

I have not actually played this game. But just reading the rules, I would expect adding more d6’s to blow that balance completely to hell.

Hitting 7+ on 2d6+1 is likely, but hardly a guarantee. Hitting it on 4d6+1 is piss-easy. Failure is still technically possible, but would be shocking.

So, you’re playing teenagers, but all but the most hair-brained of actions are virtually guaranteed at least some degree of success, with “Totally Crushed It” actually your most likely outcome most of the time. I feel like the author and I had very different experiences with being a teenager.

The only way I can make sense of these rules is to say that no matter how many dice you roll, you still only take the two best. It still feels overpowered, but that at least seems more manageable to me. Unfortunately, I see no indication that’s how the rules are written. Best I can figure, when the author says to add additional dice to the roll, that’s what the author means.

It makes me feel like the right way to approach this ruleset is not as a completed product, but as something in an intermediate stage where you’re going to have to hammer-out the details of the rules as you go. Honestly, I don’t like that. It leaves a funky taste in my mouth.

Maybe the author agrees, and that’s why he took it down.

If playing a rebellious teenage goddess sounds fun, I’m sure you can find copies of the rules if you Google around a bit. Just be warned, running a game of Heart and Lightning means you’re basically consenting to co-design it. Or accepting that your players will be able to do whatever they goddamn well want at all times with only a minimal amount of rules manipulation.

Will this next game have mechanics for my daddy issues?

Page 54, Game 9: INDECT by WorstConcept Games

“‘For the Insecurity of Citizens’ | a WIP dystopian cyberpunk platformer”

Ah, more Big Brother issues. I’m down.