Good news, everyone! Today we’re going to be taking a look at the Brainstorming mechanics in Atomic Robo. AS implied by the game’s focus on Action Science, Brainstorming is an important aspect in any action-science yarn, and the rpg has special mechanics for implementing this activity in the game.
A Brainstorm is a series of scientific observations put together to form a hypthesis with regards to the phenomena under observation. This is rarely as boring or sedate as it sounds in Atomic Robo, as this is often accompanied by punching, or explosions.
So how does it work?
First off, it has to be triggered in-game by asking a relevant question. “What’s going on here?” “How do we stop it?” are all good for starting a brainstorm.
At this point everyone who wants to participate in the Brainstorm does so cites a reason why they’d join by compelling one of their aspects. This means that those who join get a fate point.
Next, it’s time to establish the facts. All participants roll simultaneously to create and advantage using a relevant skill against a difficulty of Good (+3). The player who succeeds with the highest result is the “winner” and gets to record a “victory” and introduce a fact.
This fact has to be related to the skill used, and relates to the situation at hand. It has to be stated as an objective fact, even if it wasn’t established beforehand. This is one of those instances when the Player characters have narrative control over an aspect of the game.
Next, the second fact has to be established, and is resolved in a similar manner, except for the difficulty, which is now the score of the previous fact’s winner. Again, a new fact arises on a successful roll.
The following step is to repeat for a third time, to come up with a total of 3 facts.
Finally, a Hypothesis is made, wherein all the players roll against each other in order to roll the highest. The winner of this roll gets to come up with a hypothesis that dictates what is going on. Again, this is a moment when the player gets to dictate the game through Narrative Control.
I find that the Brainstorm rules are quite brilliant and fits in the category of rules that further the mood and tone of a given fiction without being needlessly complicated. It’s a lovely exercise of giving narrative control to the players, but does so in a fashion that has a strong structure to guide them, and with an eye towards coming up with a fun game.
Next week we’ll pick up with the second half of the Science chapter, dealing with everyone’s favorite child of Necessity: Invention!