Finishing up what I started with my first look at Farflung, I wanted to look at the game’s two-dozen (!) playbooks. I only got through the half in my first follow-up post so here we go with the second half!
I thought this might be a slime monster dripping with radiation (potential new playbook?) but this is sort of the opposite. Hazmats are soldiers with exoskeleton suits to protect their squishy bits as they delve into dangerous areas that would kill others. They are mostly damage sponges with moves to restore their indicia points, moves that grow stronger as your situation gets more dire. The Cybernetics move, however, is a set of various useful abilities that you can use by risking future points: things like scanning an area for toxins, perform feats of strength, or engaging suspended animation. Bear in mind, though, that Future points also fuel your Self-Repair move so if you’re doing a lot of cybernetic stuff you won’t be able to absorb as much punishment.
Hero of the Universe
Guess what this guy does! The Hero has two moves: Rescue, to neutralize a challenge that your friend is facing, and Rally, which let’s others roll extra dice. Both of these build up a Heroics pool, though, which lets you do things like boost rolls to get rid of damage, boost your friends’ actions of daring, and boosting rolls to convince others. There are two uses that seem pretty awesome, though, and deserve some specific mentions. First of all, if you are incapacitated your friends can all use your Heroics pool on rolls to help you which is pretty cool and thematic. Also, the GM can apply your Heroics pool as a penalty when being a Big Damn Hero makes things harder instead of easier.
This is the playbook for characters, that for whatever, just can’t die. If you’re picturing an creature of glowing or a galactic force of nature, there are other playbooks for that. This is seriously just someone who keeps on living and has done a lot of it already. The moves have bland-sounding names like Reminiscence and Eternal and this put me off at first but there are some interesting roleplaying options here. There are two paths of action for this character: helping others and bouncing back from damage.
The Reminiscence move actually lets you build connections with other characters on the fly, something which they can use in their own rolls in the future. This ties up your points, though, so you don’t want to tie all of them up, and confusingly it involves Future points instead of History points. Also, you need to roll again to see if they can use it. Also, I don’t know how you get those back. So… some aspects to figure out still. The bouncing back stuff is very straightforward by comparison: roll and if you do well avoid harm. This also builds up your eternal pool, which makes it easier to make future avoid-harm rules and also lets you give your damage to other people.
Harsh but fair.
Last of Their Kind
Another self-explanatory one, this one goes well with the Immortal above: instead of an unkillable team player you are an undetectable team player. The Last’s moves involve finding information and useful items to help out your fellow players and providing points from your Counsel pool to help them. The Covert move represents your low profile in the wake of your people’s destruction and helps you with sneaking around, subduing targets quietly, and generally being a Solid Snake badass.
Lord of Ashes
Possibly the reason that the Last of Their Kind has their sweet title, this is your classic galactic warlord with a penchant for masochistic authority. The Lord has social moves, if you can call them that, called Decree and Command. The first boosts other PCs (as long as you “give a rousing speech, worthy of a sovereign such as yourself” which sounds awesome) and the second lets you use NPC followers effectively. The last move is a combat one, destroying weak or strong targets with your Valor.
This robotic playbook incorporates the fun of playing an android and the challenge of playing something quirky and broken without pissing off the rest of the table. This Lost Toy has a Robotics move which lets you do things that squishy organics can only dream of but increases your Battered pool if you do. It also has a Selflessness (the First Law of Robotics?) that lets you leap in the way of an attack and also increase your Battered pool. This pool builds up and pins down your points so that you can’t use them but it also helps you avoid taking further harm. To reduce it, you need another player (explicitly not you) to fix your stuff up which is a pretty cool interaction mechanic.
Another battered-and-broken playbook, this straightforward character has Strategy (boost other people’s rolls), Warfare (adjustable benefits depending on the situation), and the Proficiency move (an attack move that depends on your weapon). This is not a playbook that is going to confuse you with a bunch of random, complex mechanics so it’s great for people who want straightforward character moves. On the other hand, it’s not a dull, simple choice since the fluff of the playbook is great with a lot of exciting possibilities. Your a fighter but a war-weary one with a lot of baggage that makes for some great storytelling and multiple plot directions.
If you don’t want a straightforward playbook, you could do a lot worse than the shapeshifting Polymorph. It’s fun and quirky (you form connections by asking other players what they think your true form looks like) and some pretty interesting and well-written moves. Mimicry lets you turn into a doppelganger of someone else, which operates mechanically as a Mimic pool that acts as Connections with people that they know. Rather than have some complex way of fooling other people with mechanics for them spotting the deception, you just get a bonus to all moves associated with people who might see through the disguise. Neat and streamlined.
The other thing you’ll be doing a lot with the Polymorph playbook is Shapeshift, which is sort of the opposite of Mimic. You turn into some amorphous natural state with which you can ooze through cracks and assault a group of enemies. Both Shapeshift and Mimic have advantageous option of allowing you to shift points from your mimic or shapeshift pools to reduce harm. In both cases, you move the points to History which isn’t useful since both moves are powered by Future so you’ll want to spend time inspiring other people so that you can move History points back to your Future pool for more polymorphing fun.
This is a really awesome idea for players who don’t mind being important only some of the time. But oh how important you’ll be… You are literally the ship, the AI or biological mind that controls the vessel everyone else lives on. Your main move is Conn which allows you to redirect points between your cargo, speed, firepower, sensors, and shield pools. Each of these does various things to help people but most of them are only good in space so when the crew is on a station or planet you’ll be just orbiting and waiting for them to return. Except the game encourages you to have a ship avatar (a la Iain M. Banks) so you still get to go along with them. Most of your pools aren’t usable by your avatar but your attributes are and if you use sensors after someone’s roll there’s nothing in the rules that require this to be in space so I’d allow it!
The image of a human, specifically a holographic AI, the Simulacrum combines some interesting moves that can lead to a few different directions for this playbook. Computations allows you to hack and dominate threatening computer systems while Façade lets you blend in to places as you look like any other appliance in the area. Both of these combine to make the Simulacrum a great stealth-hacker, ghosting ahead of the rest of the party to shut down security systems. Treatment is a surprisingly… biological move for the Simulacrum but it is a useful healing ability that also makes them a versatile part of the team if you want to go the helpful-AI route. Lastly, Databanks is a support move that lets you boost any roll for your allies due to your massive information stores.
This is a somewhat scattered playbook if you just play it blindly, being good at a few different things but easily getting into situations where you can’t do that other thing you wanted because now your committed to the first thing. For instance, ghosting up in front of the party is all well and good but if they are counting on your Treatment to keep them on their feet then being well ahead isn’t actually a good tactic. This doesn’t make it a bad playbook, of course, in fact I think it’s one of the best in Farflung. It just takes someone who enjoys thinking a few moves ahead to really make use of it so other people interested in robotic characters without so many fiddly bits might want to check out the Lost Toy instead (see above).
There are many different types of mechanical characters and this one is the type that creates superweapons out of anything. They rely on Augment to create a pool for boosting normal gear Invent to make things out of thin air. Overload pumps things up past the safety limits but there’s a serious risk of blowing it up instead. Many of these moves build up a scraps pool as things are used up by the Techie’s many moves. While this ties up your points so that you’ll want to clear it out periodically, it also gives you a bag of stuff to pull from when you need it.
Truly this is the TV Tropes playbook but it is certainly spot-on for the archetype.
For those of you who aren’t Eclipse Phase fans, an uplift is an animal species that has been artificially augmented to human-level intelligence. While the portrait in Farflung isn’t terribly complementary, the playbook is a solid one with just two moves.
Firstly, they have Atavism which lets them do all sorts of animal things. They can charge in with bestial fury, tear down and weaken powerful enemies, scent the area, or “do something else that a cybernetic, gene-enhanced, animal/machine hybrid could do.” On t
he other hand (you may have guessed) is Cognition which lets build up a pool to do tech things like dominate computers, solve math problems, or support allies in technical rolls.
This is a great rendition of the cyborg-animal archetype but it tries to cover a few bases at once and takes some imagination and world-building to work. Those are both strengths of Powered by the Apocalypse games, of course, so I don’t see it being a problem. If your particular Farflung universe has a lot of uplifted animals, though, I recommend you have a few different playbooks for a few different uplift types. Crack open up Dungeon World or Monsterhearts for some savage inspiration.