Saturday, July 25, 2020

Star Smuggler - A Not So Random Encounter

Star Smuggler is an old game, from 1982. I have studied the book and aside from minor typos, there are almost no significant mistakes. If you click that link, you can download lovingly crafted PDFs of the original game which have been vetted several times for typos. It is beautiful. 

One of the "features" of an obvious mistake is the ability to use a flaw to add more material. Say for instance, one choice leads you to a missing entry. With 300+ entries, you'd think that might have happened. It did not. I poured through the PDF and the original booklets to find such a mistake and could not. 

As an alternative, you could rewrite a dead end entry with new content. However, the structure of dead end entries usually results in a game ending condition. These make poor places to tack on more material by replacement because they are invariably hard to reach. They will not come up as often as you would think. The would also need an exit to return back to the rest of the game, which is actually easy. 

A second method would be to rewrite an event whole clothe. In cases where additional information is  thematically relevant it is hardly noticeable. There is a good chance that you cannot match the original author's style and this will be jarring. For example, I rewrote e036 to allow for different ships. It really wasn't a great rewrite. It was more like a mangling. 

In the back of the rule booklet are r300 to r327 which account for some special scenarios. If the event you wrote to plug-in to this area was a very common event, this is the place for that. Obviously, it greatly changes the tone of the work. Keep in mind that your new event can't be too different otherwise it will jar the player (you, but still...). 

I charted every event in the
2 booklets. 
Another subsection which is subject to these simple rewrites are e400 to e431. These are more infrequently referenced passing events, but do have thematic styling and reference lower numbered events. You would need to make sure that those are left untouched as you could eliminate those story arcs by accident. 

This game is dogged by the idea that some of the endings are unsatisfying. These could be rewritten to exit in a different way. A couple of "endings" result in a die roll which ends the game right in that very event or perhaps one other event. What is unsatisfying about those endings in the player will read "the end" and back up to a different option if they are enjoying themselves. Then the next time they are in that situation, they'll know the punchline and will cheat again. 

The other day, I came across a new way of doing this. I call it a "wedge" because it occurs in a single event storyline and does not disrupt the structure of the book. In event e005, there are two events that appear twice in a set of six outcomes. When you roll dice, the options are 1-e117, 2-e017, 3-e059, 4-e117, 5-e017 and 6 is no effect. This is in both the original paper book and the PDF. It doesn't look like a typo. 

Now, if there was a mistake in the book I would have expected to find that there were at least two entries which didn't seem to connect from any other place else in the book. I did not find that, and I charted every connection between events. 

I believe the author really meant for there to be a 2 in six chance of getting to e117 or e017. The first event is a communication breakdown and the second is an encounter with the police. The police encounter occurs from several other events while the communication breakdown (and solution) is fairly rare outside of a single system where it happens on a 1 in six chance. Since there are multiple paths in to these events, you could redirect these two duplicates. 

This is the only time that this occurs in the book under the same event or rule. It's odd. Due to the structure of the book, I suspect that these would have lead to two other "story arcs" which were eliminated due to space. For practical reasons, books often have page counts which are divisible by 4. Usually, the last two pages are left blank. 

Judging by the paper book I have, these two planned arcs would have been larger than the space available on page 46 and would have extended on to page 47 and maybe even page 48. Stylistically, ending a book in the middle of the last or second last page looks rough, sloppy. These theoretical paths probably didn't add to the story enough to justify adding more pages or answering questions about them. 

However, in the digital age, you can use this so called "wedge" to put in more events. You would have to be careful to exit to another event or situation so play can continue. 

I am brainstorming a few idea which could be plugged into these duplicate paths. 

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