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Co-Op Mothership - Part 3 - Staying Alive
Bonding with your characters while keeping things dangerous
This article is about my ongoing co-operative Mothership game; however, this article is broadly applicable to anyone developing an ongoing Mothership campaign.
When we started playing our co-op campaign, we had the explicit focus of building an open, never-ending campaign, something that could last for years. At first, this seems to create issues with the lethality built into Mothership (especially in the 1e WIP). We knew that we wanted to keep encounters dangerous, we wanted to keep our characters alive without turning them into 5e superheroes, and we didn’t want to handicap the creatures.
Jobs Aligned With Characters
Our party consists of two very smart characters with skills and limited combat abilities. We tailor our universe and the types of jobs our characters take around these character skills. We completed Dead Planet as indentured servant insurance investigators. When we escaped from that situation by screwing everyone over, we took on the employ of a drug kingpin, so we are now exploring the galaxy to find rare drugs and how to synthesize them for him. We’ve since played through Bloom and Desert Moon of Karth, specifically searching for drugs. We do the least amount possible to get involved in factions and local politics unless it will help us with these tasks. We are independent agents of chaos and our focus is not on combat. Our long-term goal is paying off our current debt, so we can take on debt to buy our own ship to become truly independent contractors. Our campaign is basically about finding suckers to bankroll a slacker, hedonistic lifestyle.
Armor and Contractors
Rather than giving our characters extra wounds of health, we always have our characters have armor and have contractors on hand. Further down, I will explain how we go about armor. It’s a rarity when we are only playing our single player character, each of us is usually controlling at least one extra contractor or party member (see below as well). We think of contractors as meat shields, and we use them accordingly. We also make sure that when we add contractors that they use a load out that his helpful. Our characters are squishy, so we do what we can to avoid damage even if means sacrificing some contractors. We take this philosophy from 1e D&D that highly encouraged the use of hirelings.
We also try to keep some permanent crew members on board who are skilled and not just contractors. Our current crew are the two androids from The Screaming on the Alexis. One of them (our pilot) has piloting, hyperspace, and archaeology skills while the other (our medical android) has biology, field medicine, pathology, psychology, surgery, and xenobiology skills. We created them as skilled characters when we converted them from contractors, not as new characters, so we didn’t pay attention to skill points, just what would make sense for the characters and would be useful for our characters. We made sure to have folx onboard with archaeology and xenobiology skills, so we have an in-fiction reason for us to know all of the information contained in modules as players. Having this information is probably our biggest buff to our characters even though it is not any sort of stat boost. We problem-solve by looking at encounters and our inventories and building solutions accordingly because we know stats and weaknesses, and still have to figure out how to execute without dying.
A newer addition to our survivability challenge is that we have added the house rule for exhaustible skills where once per session you can pass a check or save that would have a skill bonus without rolling. This is another decision we have to make that helps us with our large amount of information as we plan for encounters.
Resting on Ship
We wanted to be able to take risks and go big during encounters, so we wanted a way to not make recovery between encounters a slog where we have to play super conservatively or spend a lot of money traveling and going on extra shore leave. To meet these ends, we use our player characters and crew members skills to their fullest within our on ship rest rules. We are able to heal, get surgery, or get psychological assistance for relaxing from our Medical Android (conditions can only be removed on Shore Leave). We can also synthesize and refill our drug supply, and we can take drugs at any time for health or stress relief (we don’t care about addiction). We’re also able to have my partner repair our armor with their Mechanical Repair skills, we prefer this to ablative wounds because we still have to make decisions as to what we do during rest since we only get two actions each. We also have hooks into our character progression system with skill/project development as well. I’ll discuss the progression system variant we use in my next essay where I’ll be taking a look at our long-term character progression while examine the political implications of Mothership through a lens of trans and queer theory.
Contains house rules for surgery and rest on ship
In a co-operative game, planning and house rules are part of the game for both of us as players, not just as a warden. Discussing and building our strategies for survivability and progression are an integral part of the gameplay for us. We are not cruising through on easy mode. Instead, calibrating everything and making smart choices in these ways, we are roleplaying as our high intellect characters who would think through everything in detail even if they appear to be drug-addled losers. Coming back to tailoring our universe and types of jobs to our characters, we also do so with our house rules. We tell the story of our characters through gameplay decisions. In this way, we our very focused on harmony between gameplay and character even though it may not appear in a familiar, narrative fashion. This is much like the rules and universe of Mothership itself, the fiction is found around the edges and is hinted at by every other gameplay decision.
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