Wednesday 3 June 2020

VOIDHEIST - Implementation

Last time I spoke about the two systems that inspired VOIDHEIST. Now I wanted to dig deeper into the actual mechanics that I've included in the game, some pulling from those sources and some of my own.

This isn't a full system rundown (you can see the game as it stands here), just the bits I think are interesting to examine closer. 


These are a pretty direct pull from Blades, which uses Clocks to count down to success/failure in a particular area. I use dice that count up from 1 to 6 mainly because I prefer the feel of dice counting up rather than scribbling clocks on paper. All gauges use d6, so there's no deciding whether this is a d4 challenge of a d8 challenge. I'll always do my bit to rid any game of Variable Target Numbers. 

Various events cause you to Tick these Gauges upwards. You suffer Consequences when a gauge reaches 4, and Critical Consequences when it reaches 6, mirroring the target numbers of the core dice mechanic.

For example, you have a Heat Gauge showing how much attention you've drawn to yourself during your operation. You might tick 1 Heat for leaving a loose end, 2 for drawing attention to yourself, or 3 for causing an actual commotion. When that gauge reaches 4 it means the location is now on alert. They know somebody is here, but they don't know exactly what your plan is. When the gauge hits 6 then it's Critical Consequence time. In this case they're onto you, they know your plan, and your options are either to go loud or just cut your losses and run.

You can empty out a Gauge by taking the appropriate action. So for our Heat example you could tie up a loose end, lay low for a while, or frame somebody else for the mess you made. 


I went into how characters work in both Blades and Mothership last time, but in summary I wanted something that combined:
  • From Mothership
    • Flavourful sci-fi skills
    • Archetypal classes that interact with each other in interesting ways
  • From Blades
    • Characters with a clear purpose and rule-breaking Abilities
    • Good competence in a speciality skill or two, plus some side-skills
So in place of Blades' Actions we have Skills. The distinction might seem petty, but I find that when you put a verb on the players' sheets they end up saying it a lot. "I try to Survey my environment". As written, the GM would then say "okay so how do you do that?" but I'd rather cut out the middle-man and keep the skills a little more abstract. 

You also get to inject a little bit of setting flavour in there. With a small list I can't quite do what Mothership did, but I think they do a decent job of filling the requires areas while putting you in the mood of Voidheist's space setting.

Maybe I'm giving myself too much credit but I think having Empathy and Authority as your two main social skills tells you something about the world. Same for having "Weaponry" rather than "Shooting". You can read into that and take something with you.

Most importantly, I wanted them to be broad enough that you could use them on any heist if you're smart about it. At one point Science was split into tighter fields like Biology and Chemistry, but they felt a little too much at risk of gathering dust on your character sheet. If you have three points in a Skill, I want you to be able to use it at least once.


The name related directly to a mechanic in Blades, but the similarity really ends there. It's one of the two Gauges your character has for themselves, alongside Hurt, and covers any sort of mental strain.

It actually draws more from Mothership, as you can see from the Consequences that occur when your Stress Gauge starts to fill up.

4-5: Panic - Nearby allies that do not share your Origin or Occupation  take 1 Stress. This can cause chain-reactions.
6: Your Instinct takes over, this varies based on your Origin.
RECOVER Stress when you indulge in normality or excess. 

So at 4-5 you get a little taste of those lovely Mothership situations where the Scientist starts to realise the true horror of their situation, stressing everybody else out in the process. 

Then at 6 things get much more serious. Bringing us onto...


I absolutely love the four classes of Mothership. I can't give them enough praise. I like that the small number means it's relatively common to have two of the same type in a group, something that is much less common in other games. I like that they interact with each other in such interesting ways, and I like that they're so specific in their strengths and weaknesses.

So that was my challenge to myself. Can I create a broader selection of characters that still feel tight and integrated like Mothership's classes? Maybe. Let me talk through it.

Your Origin is where you come from, and handily gives you six major factions of the setting.
  • Corporate characters were tied to a capitalist corporation on or near Earth.
  • Colonial characters toughed it out in a more communal society out in deep space.
  • Naval characters have a military background with all of the baggage you'd expect.
  • Union characters were the mediators toothlessly trying to stop the others from killing each other.
  • Androids are intelligent mechanical beings build for a purpose.
  • GENOs are Genetically ENgineered Organisms of questionable legality and ethicality.
Note the lack of proper nouns (if you forgive GENO). I wanted to keep it super archetypal so that players would grasp the faction's general deal as quickly as possible.

Your Occupation is more straightforward, telling you what your general speciality is, such as Soldier, Engineer, or Pioneer. The combination of Origin and Occupation gives you some nifty gear that doubles up as your rule-breaking ability. For example, the Union Researcher gets a Precog Node (Tick Stress to Declare that your last action was just a simulation, rewinding back to before you declared it) and 
Chrono-Chip (perfect sense of time). 

But in the Stress section I said that things get worse when your Stress Gauge hits 6. This all depends on your Occupation, which lists an Instinct that triggers once the Stress Gauge is full. 

So if you're a Naval character your Instinct is:
HOSTILITY: All Danger Rolls other than attacks are Skill 0

Or if you're an Android:
OBSESSION: The GM puts a question in your head. Until resolved, rolls unrelated to finding the answer are Skill 0

There's no "your character freaks out and you lose control of them" here, but something in their mind is tugging you in a certain direction, and you'll find things much harder if you fight it. If you're the Naval Soldier, armed to the teeth, and you hit that Hostility instinct then it's going to be all the more tempting to just gun your way out of trouble, but the GM will never force you to do it. 


I mentioned how torn I was on the Blades in the Dark Flashback mechanic, where you can retroactively have your character do some preparation for the mission at the cost of some resources. 

My twist on there here is Printing. Your ship has a Gauge representing matter in their 3D Printer. Here you can basically make anything you need, at a cost, but anything you print is made as disposable, only being good for the current mission before you throw them back into the printer for recycling. 

As the printer is on your ship you can decide to run back there mid-mission to print when you need when you know more about the task at hand, as a sort of nod to the Flashback mechanic, but there's still a speed advantage to committing to all your printing ahead of the mission. 


Despite some of the high-tech tricks that certain characters can pull, it's a pretty gritty take on Space out here. I like to get this across by focusing on how even our most basic needs aren't really satisfied out here.

LIGHT is usually unnatural. Give it a colour and characteristic. Fuzzy blue, flickering grey, pulsing red. 

ATMOSPHERE is maintained on most ships but it always has a taste and the quality is never quite right. 

GRAVITY is simulated only on larger vessels and isn’t entirely stable. 

TRAVEL and COMMS are slow unless the means are experimental.

FOOD AND DRINK is either cultivated in trays, sealed in pouches, or printed from code. Whatever the method it’s always off in a very specific way.

What's Next?

I want to actually run this a few more times, but I think it's in a generally playable form right now if you want to try it out. Let me know if you get it to the table!


  1. Empathy and Authority being your two main social skills seems INCREDIBLY solid, wow. but what's the Secrecy skill supposed to be used for? I'm not sure I see how that will work...

  2. Following this with great interest. Are you dead-set on the game being about heists? I am thinking about all the different contract possibilities (in the far future there is only precarity) like shipbreaking, void archaeology assistance, even hotzone cargo hauling ...

  3. Love the Printing idea. In HL; Alyx the printer resin is even an in-game resource you can gather; add some quick mods to your weapons or save up for something more substantial down the line ...