SR 16 was kind enough to reach out and send a review pdf of their soon (4/29/21) to be released RPG, Space Street. It’s a dystopian sci-fi film noir, which is like putting a bunch of genres I love into a blender, so I knew I had to check it out.
Space Street is played like a film with a Guide controlling the plot. A little different than most TTRPGs. Normally I see a GM as a referee, in Space Street, they create the setting, scenes, and major plot points. I’m usually a very open ended plot kind of guy, but in a smaller focused story, asking the Guide to take a more heavy handed role can be super valuable. It certainly stands out that the Guide is expected to plot out most of what could occur before the game. I see this sort of elevated GM role house ruled into a lot of streamed games, so it makes sense to just build the game with that in mind.
The investigators take the role of the protagonists in a sort of choose your own adventure style story. Usually some form of law enforcement investigating a crime. Echoing the 20’s film noir inspiration, the examples given are of bounty hunters, shady spies, PIs, detectives or police. You tell me I’m RPing as law enforcement and I’m out, but the implication I was picking up here is a lot more Serpico than Blue Bloods. Sure you’re a detective, but something stinks.
Mechanically, the system is fairly straightforward. An investigator has 3 stats. Brawn, finesse, and Investigation. You assign them a +2, 0 or -1 and you’re done. You roll a D6 and add your modifier. Easy needs a 2, Normal a 3, and Challenging a 5. Success or fail and done. Fast play. Investigation goes a little deeper, and checks result in the player asking the Guide questions about clues they have found. I like the questions and clues system, and it’s a neat way to handle mysteries. It also helps drive the plot forward when players might be stuck, or lets the Guide give broader responses when things might be too easy. Essentially, the Guide can tailor their response to fit the pacing they need for the plot.
Injuries happen when the guide says they do. If a character has four of them they die at the end of that day. There’s no recovery mechanic. I would assume that you get to recover when the mystery is over and you hang up your space fedora. It’s a neat way to have your PI get a bullet to the gut, and still hang out to sputter some important last words, or hold it together long enough to finish this one last job. I would still like to see some sort of “no you can’t do anything else today” built in beyond just the Guide declaring that the day ends.
Setting wise, the lore is fairly light. A simple sentence summary of the inspirations Guides should use to craft their stories following a three act structure. I do appreciate them taking the time to spell out how to build a 3 act noir and giving estimates for how the story should be crafted. This sort of thing is lost a lot, and I can see pulling some of this directly for other games just in concept.
Act 1 is The Search. The investigators will find their goal for the game, investigate clues leading to act 2, roleplay with one another. Then it spells out that this is where the bulk of the investigation rolls take place, and clues should be gathered. Act 2, The Hunt, clarifies that it’s going to involve confrontation with minor antagonists, and pick which clues to follow up in. It recommends prepping a few Act 2s, to allow for your players to chase different clues, but everything should reconverge back in Act 3. Act 3, The Climax, includes an energetic action scene, and plot wrap up. Memorable location, lots of action, and a big finale. Ultimately, I could see each session of a game being an Act, with character gen occuring during the same session as Act 1.
Overall, I don’t see Space Street taking the place of your multi-year D&D game, or even being a go to game for your group. I can see it being a great between games palate cleanser though. Its rules light, fast to play, fast to prep, and short. It’s mechanically different enough from most other games, folks aren’t going to burn out doing the same thing again, but easy enough to pick up that they won’t complain about learning a new game. The directed plots also help with pacing, and you can ensure it comes to an end or lasts as long as you need it to.