Breathless Jam Games - Part 1

If you missed my last blog post, I discussed my entry for the Breathless Jam, Lagash 3. Well, it would not be fair for me to only discuss my own games, so I will start going through the many other games that were released as part of the Breathless Jam in no particular order!

Before we start that, though, I encourage you to watch this video talking about the basics of Breathless and the SRD that is derived from it. A lot of what I will be talking about with these games is how they differ from the original game, so understanding the base experience will be very useful.

Video on the Breathless SRD


Operator, I Need an Exit

Strongly inspired by the Matrix series and other forms of simulation-based action horror that have come since then, "Operator I Need an Exit" is a multiplayer game by Petri Leinonen that builds on the basics of Breathless's Checks, Resting, and Loot mechanics by including a frantic cat-and-mouse hunt through the Sim.


The basic idea is identical to that iconic set of scenes in the first Matrix movie where Neo and the rest of the Nebuchadnezzar crew desperately seek to find a way to escape Agent Smith and his Machine compatriots. Your crew needs to get out of the Sim, but the link is too weak so you need to find a new way out.


This is helped by modifying the Loot mechanics to represent your Operator getting you help by hacking the Sim from the outside and, sometimes, finding a Link strong enough to stabilize your character (healing like the standard Breathless Med-pack). The Architect (GM) is also given a set of rolling tables to help figure out the next possible exit and the difficulty to get to it, allowing for a quickly improvised chase.


Both the Opposition and the Player Characters are themed for the setting. Most of your opposition will come from in-simulation Law Enforcement and The Operatives (this game's Agents). However, there are also suggestions on ancient Programs similar to the Merovingian or his Exiles that could be allies of convenience or unpredictable enemies.


As for the members of your team, they have two different class options, Regular Humans and Rogue Programs. Regular Humans operate like your typical Breathless characters and are aware of the reality of the Sim. The Rogue Programs are like the Oracle, Seraph, or the KeyMaker and have special rules. Their skills are more generalized, reflected by them never rolling d4s, but also never rolling d12s. They also start the game with two d8 items instead of one d10 and are unable to heal cracks (damage) that they take in the Sim.


All in all, Operator, I Need an Exit is a great game for those of you who want that feeling the Matrix chase scene gave in a compact package while also providing a template that could be easily adaptable to "spy hunt" styles of play or a "Sword Art Online" experience if you want a temporary break from the Sim.

 

The Stars' Lightbringer

Set in a universe where the mass violence of the 20th century never happened and Humanity reached for the stars in the 1930s, The Stars' Lightbringer is a one-page multiplayer game by Loreshaper Games set on a ship called the Lightbringer. Its crew is unique, developing unusual powers after a close encounter with a black hole.


The setting and art provided reminds me strongly of Star Trek as if it were written in the era of H.G Wells, Verne, or the early pulp Scifi magazines. The Lightbringer was built by humans, but is staffed by beings from all over the Known Civilizations (the Federation). It performs missions of diplomacy, exploration, and relief. The Translocator, besides removing a character to withdraw from the action, allows a character to heal and reset their skill dice and therefore serves as this game's Med-pack.


Another interesting way that this game diverges from the usual Breathless model is in the powers that the characters have. Each one allows the character to do special things like create an energy barrier, telepathy, fly, disappear with a chameleon-like ability, or utilize elemental powers. This acts as a d12 skill that degrades as normal. Therefore, this acts in some ways like a combination of a Kit (like in Renegades and Lagash 3) and the Stunt mechanic present in many Breathless titles.

The Stars' Lightbringer is a great platform for either exploring the themes of Star Trek in a retro-futurism setting or enjoying a pulpy exploration romp with a diverse cast avoiding the problematic elements common in early 20th century science fiction and space opera like racism, speciesism, and imperialistic-driven colonialism.


 

Sleepless

Our first solo Breathless game, Sleepless by Kaiser Omnik is about an ancient deity awoken again in our modern world. While still trapped in the Afterlife, you may be able to breach the Veil into reality with assistance from mortal beings.


In this game, the ultimate goal is to try and complete the Ritual that you would need to breach the Veil and come back into our World. As your followers complete the steps outlined in poorly recalled whispers and degraded papyri scrolls, you will improve your ranking in a special Ritual skill. You may only attempt the Ritual once, so you must balance improving you ranking, along with your chances of success, against the risk of your cult falling prey to your opposition. Additionally, tending to your flock (healing) will set back this ritual.


To fit this style of play, many things have been adjusted to fit the setting, but the base mechanics still exist under new names. Skills have become Memories of your past you use to invoke things in your followers. Items have become beings with powerful souls acting as vessels at your direction. Med-packs are Pieces of Aether that you can use to heal yourself without harming your Ritual ranking or preventing consequences should you need to Gather your Strength (catch your breath.).


Sleepless provides an interesting possibility for play rather unique among Breathless games. This could be played like you are an eldritch horror, a vengeful deity, or a powerful almost god-like being from the past like Imhotep in The Mummy. The game also provides several tables for Complications, Locations, Supernatural Creatures, or types of Mortal Worshipers, all to help stimulate engaging action whenever you get stuck. Finally, it is also important to note that this is the first one we have looked at so far with a multilingual release, with the game available in French under the title Au bout du sommeil.



 

Fight for Rights

Fight for Rights is a unique multiplayer game by the Dungeon Rogues. Designed to promote discussion and education, the player characters are a group of political actors and advocates. At the beginning of play, the players choose an Agenda they are seeing to promote and then try to get some legislation passed intended to address the topic of the Agenda.


One unique element that exist in Fight for Rights is that when the group is Strategizing (catching your breath), members of the group are actually encouraged to investigate current news related to the Agenda and strategize as if they were an advocacy group in DC (or your capital of choice) investigating an alternative tack or doing opposition research. Also as part of Strategizing, the players are encouraged to regularly Check-in with one another to ensure everyone is still comfortable with the direction of play, something every important for a game that focuses heavily on the realm of real-life politics.


The culmination of play occurs in The Vote. During the course of regular play, the GM has been keeping track of the players' successes and failures in their activities to create a modifier. When the time for the Vote comes, the GM adds this modifier to a d20 roll. The Agenda then either Fails (1-5), Stalls (6-10), Succeeds with Concessions (11-15) or Succeeds without Concessions (16-20). Obviously the results can be quite emotional, so the group is recommended to decompress and share their thoughts on what they have learned after the Vote.


At a time when politics in the US and other countries is becoming increasingly frustrating due to backsliding in many key areas of human rights and seeming increases in Corporatism and Authoritarianism, things like Fight for Rights are not just a game, but a good training tool and a reminder to people of the hard work and effort that goes into each act of advocacy and social disruption for each and every little inch of progress made on the Road toward Equity and Justice.


 

I believe this is a good place to stop now, but more games from the Breathless Jam will be coming in the near future. After all, this has not even covered a tenth of the games released to date! Watch this space!

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