A Fantastic Journey to Mars is a role-playing scenario with a built-in rules system based on Risus. You can play this game in an evening, or stretch it into several sessions. It can also be played with or without a GM.
The players control a group of Victorian-era adventurers in a Jules Verne-style story of planetary romance. They begin in the marvelous Steel Sphere, en route to Mars. What happens next is up to them.
The game is played with six-sided dice. Each character sheet includes an explanation of the rules, so you can just hand each player one sheet of paper and they have everything they need to play.
This makes A Fantastic Journey to Mars an ideal convention game.
A Fantastic Journey to Mars was released to Brent's Patreon supporters on 4 December 2013. It should become available as a pay-what-you-want PDF on DriveThruRPG in February 2014 (later than expected; other games got a lot more attention). This page will update as soon as it's available.
Jim: Okay, so I'm playing Professor Julius Stratum, inventor of the Steel Sphere.
Bob: And I'm playing Sir Barnabas Steelhart, the fearless explorer.
Octavia: I'm playing Miss Ophelia Stargazer, the reporter.
Jean: And I'm playing Joan Worthington-Smythe III, the millionaire industrialist.
Jim: Okay! So I know I organized this game, but it doesn't require a Game Master, so we can just play. The game's laid out in a series of scenes. Octavia, you want to read out the first one?
Octavia: Okay. "Scene 1: Introductions All Around." Um, it says to choose your characters; we've done all that. We're gathering at the construction site for the Steel Sphere. It says "Feel free to describe the setting as your characters see it."
Jim: It took a lot of work, so there are a bunch of buildings, plus a metal dais that the Steel Sphere is on.
Octavia: Does it need a launch platform?
Jim: No, because it uses the Amazing Power of Gravity!
Octavia: Ha! Okay. I'm scribbling down lots of details about the buildings and the Sphere. There've got to be lots of workers around.
Jean: As the industrialist who financed this, I've already sent most of them packing, because the Sphere's complete. Don't want too many wagging tongues.
Bob: I'm just ready to explore.
Octavia: Okay, so next the game says, "a large meal is provided before the Sphere launches. Describe your characters' conversations. This is a great opportunity to reveal a bit about your character and decide on a few things about him or her."
Bob: That's good, because these characters are pretty basic.
Jim: Yeah, apparently you're supposed to flesh them out as you play them.
(The players have a spirited conversation about the Steel Sphere.)
Jim: Okay, what's next?
Octavia: "At the end of this scene, the characters enter the Steel Sphere. With a touch of a panel, Professor Stratum lanches the Steel Sphere upwards.
Jim: To Mars, and the history books!
Octavia: Nice. All right. "Scene 2: The Trip Through the Void. The group has now spent a few hours in the Steel Sphere. They're closing in on Mars. They're all nervous. Suddenly, the Sphere enters a meteor storm! How do the characters react?"
Jim: I suddenly look nervous. My hands fly to the controls. My brows furrow.
Jean: (as Worthington-Smythe) What's the matter, Professor?
Jim: (as Stratum) The vibro-sensors indicate an obstruction of some sort ahead of us.
Bob: (as Steelhart) Excellent! Time for a little adventure, eh?
Octavia: (as Stargazer) What sort of obstruction, Professor?
Jim: (as Stratum) It appears to be a shower of meteors! If I do not navigate around them, they may damage the Sphere.
Bob: (as Steelhart) Then do it, man!
Jim: Okay, how do I do that?
Octavia: Oh! So look at your character sheet. At the bottom, it says....
Jim: Ah-ha! I choose a catchphrase, and roll as many dice as the number next to the catchphrase.
Bob: And we're using six-sided dice, right?
Jim: Right. So I have two catchphrases, "For SCIENCE!" and "I really don't understand other people." That first one makes sense, and I have 3 dice in that. So let me roll three six-siders....
Bob: First roll of the night! Woohoo!
Jim: So that's a 2, a 4, and a 5. Totaling 11. That's 7 or more, so I get to narrate what happens. Good!
Bob: So just to be clear: if you rolled a total of 6 or less, we'd all describe how that went badly for you instead, right?
Octavia: Right, plus you lose one die in that catchphrase. On the other hand, if you roll a 6 on all your dice, you get wild success.
Jean: What if you only have 1 die?
Octavia: Then you basically can't get a normal success, but if you roll a 6, you get a wild success.
Bob: Cool. So what happens?
Jim: Oh, so I narrate what happens. I twist knobs with authority, and we spin away from the meteor shower.
Bob: As the Sphere spins around, I catch the reporter in my arms.
Octavia: I'll run with that. (as Stargazer) Why...thank you, sir. You have such...strong arms.
Bob: (as Steelhart) I once boxed a yeti! (as himself) Hey, wait, that's actually a catchphrase. Can I use that to try to romance the reporter?
Octavia: Fine by me!
Bob: Okay, I only have two dice in that. I roll...and I get a 2 and a 3. That's only 5, which is less than the magic number of 7. Blast it.
Octavia: (as Stargazer) You may have boxed a yeti, sir, but you also have the grace of one!
Jim: Oooooh, burn! So you lose one die in that.
Bob: Okay, so I'm down to one die in "I once boxed a yeti." What next?
Octavia: Now we move on to scene 3. We're about to arrive on Mars, everyone!
Thanks to Constance Chamberlain and Sophie Lagace for their design advice.
Thanks to my Patreon patrons Matthew Bannock, Ryven Cedrylle, Tony Dowler, Seth Drebitko, Joe England, Pete Figtree, Andrew Hauge, and Dave LeCompte for their financial support of this product.
Dungeon Delvers is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license (CC BY-SA 3.0).