Mad Science Boys

A roleplaying game of Genius, Social Awkwardness and SCIENCE!

An entry for game-fu 1 by Aesir Raven
Elements used:
A game mechanic that is specifically tied to the setting.
Events revolving around the Secret War and/or its aftermath.
Unrest.
Cloning.
Author's Description:

This game is about Mad Science Boys. They're like the flipside of Magical Girls. They share a lot in common with Magical Girls -- yearnings for romance, amazing powers, secret identities. But when you turn "magic" upside down, you get "science" (in this case mad science), and the opposite of girls are, of course, boys.

That does not mean that every word here has to be taken as male-exclusive. Not in the slightest!
Anybody can play Mad Science Boys. You can just as easily play a Mad Science Girl, too, and some Mad Science Boys might just have a boy of their dreams instead of a girl. You could even go all-out and play a Mad Science Girl who prefers her own sex. It's all in what you feel like playing. The game just lays out one basic way of doing things; you can change whatever you want. Wherever the text says "Boy" or "he", just read "your character".

This game is meant for fun and action, not deep, meaningful pathos. Mad Science Boys can get emotional, but it's always played for effect, and not a serious explanation of the human psyche. (Unless you really want to do it that way, of course!)

The game is written in a way that assumes you have played a tabletop roleplaying game before and don't need to be told what RPGs are and do.

King Turnip's review:

Summary

Mad Science Boys seems inspired by Jimmy Neutron and his ilk. Supergenius Nerds wage secret battles against an alien invasion replacing authorities-- like the Gym Teacher-- with (more) evil replicants. The Boys try to win the affections of the girl of their dreams, while trying to pretend to be interested in school, failing to interact with other human lifeforms and making thier parents feel good by trying to maintain a fascade of being something that approaches lim x->aleph(null) {Normal(x)}.

Mechanically, the game uses dice for one thing and one thing only: Doing that glorious mad science thing. Everything else is already decided: Your brain succeeds, your body fails, and your wit and savior faire aren't looking too hot.

When the dice do come out, players must roll under their attributes on a d12, with higher successful rolls being more potent.

One interesting point, attributes tend to be pretty high, so a Boy is going to be successful more often than not. The only thing that they do not succeed in on a regular basis are the things that they simply don't get a chance to roll for. Of course, these would be the things that the Boy wants more desperately than anything: winning the adulation of his peers and the girl of his dreams. Damn, it's like being a nerd in high school.

As an aside, your breakdown of school levels isn't one I've seen. Where are you writing from?

Charcter Options

Characters have enough points that they can make variations on the general theme. Unfortunately, the theme is fairly narrow. Varying goals, and the possibility of those goals being at odds may make for some interesting stories.

Justin gives it a 12/20.

Mechanics

The dice are simple and unobtrusive. I really like the diceless elements, though. I really think that the simple "you fail" part of the rules enforces the impotence of childhood and the angst of being a Nerd.

Justin gives it a 16/20.

Setting

My creation

Okay, in "Raise the Horns!" I mentioned that I've got a soft spot for post-apocalyptic settings. I also have a soft spot for geek empowerment. For the record, I'm smart, unattractive, and unathletic. I can relate here.

I'm also cruel, so I would like to mention that both aliens and mad science were given short shrift for being such core elements of the game.

Justin gives it a 14/20

Integration

Everything came together nicely, and I would also like to add that the writing was entertaining. It didn't read like a rough draft (secret: even Steven King's rough drafts suck, and he's had more than a little practice.) Nice, but not inspired.

Justin gives it a 13/20

Ingredients

The setting element is well designed and integrated, and further, it is the only mechanical (moving-part) element in the game. The Secret War is definately included, but as I mentioned before, I would like to have seen more. Short deadlines will do that to a game. Cloning is mentioned as one option among many the aliens have to usurp us Earth-Beings. Unrest is included both in the civil disobedience sense and the pun sense (un-rest, they don't get enough sleep) but only as brief additions to the flavor.

Justin gives it a (5+4+3+2) 14/20

My overall impression of this game is one that could use some fleshing out.

Oh, and before I forget, I will offer the obligatory advice: Hire an editor if you plan to publish in any capacity. Really, editors are that important.

Total score: 69 (no snickering please)
Codex Arcanum's review:

Andrew "AesirRaven" takes Dexter out of the lab and into the world of stuttering at pretty girls and fighting the plots of evil aliens.

Character Options - 5

I'm faced with another game having a very strong central premise but little scope for characters outside of it. If you play this game, you will play a science! enhanced kid who secretly longs for his love while being the target of bullies and evil aliens. Still, there are many good options within that framework: a nice selection of stats and resources, an alignment, and of course the ability to build and refine super science inventions. Pretty sweet! I also liked that you made mention of playing with different gender assumptions.

Suggestions: Without going outside the scope of the game, it would be hard to suggest anything further (thus the perfect score). I still think a little more personalization could be in order, but it's an option at this point, not an essential.

Mechanics - 4

Hard to find fault here. The game has a very clear and straight forward dice mechanic, and I like how the stats specifically deny what many would assume to be common usage for them. It really drives in the point that Mad Science Boys do not relate to the world like "normal" people. I do feel like the item creation rules might be a little harsh and exploitable. Making a big invention is going to take many days and be a big risk.
Obviously, the reward might be worth it, but due to the multiple rolls involved, having a high stat becomes exponentially better the more potent the invention is. Just something to keep in mind. I also feel like the joint-stat rolls are overly complex: roll against one stat, then another, add the two results, then compare onto a third target number. That's a fair bit of math and rolling to get a result, and aside from item creation, the time of when to make such a roll is not made really clear. Seems like this is done whenever a boy wants to bring in some Assets, but make that clearer in the text. And probably just let it pass if the boy gets the two needed successes, the "add and then compare to another target" seems needless, but maybe you can tell me I'm wrong here and just not seeing the point.

Suggestions: Dump the third target number from combined rolls and take a good hard look at the probabilities for comleting inventions. Maybe reconsider the values of each category as well. Power is good, but control requries the power-equivilent of a nuclear reactor to make an invention that won't randomly blow up on you (then again, that IS true to the source material) and endurance seems overly hard to get as well. I predict many soft, uncontrolled bicycles in this game's future, and very few laser guns and mecha.

Setting - 5

I feel like MSB works in a good setting varaiation on a modern day game. The game really brings out the mood of kids shows like "Dexter's Lab" and "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" and probably a lot of books that I haven't read. The alien conspiracy gives a good evil menace to unite a party around and the Girl of Your Dreams is a nice bit of built-in kryptonite while also being an ultimate goal for everyone.

Suggestions: Again, more hooks and story bits to latch onto. More stat blocks too! What's the target number to expose and blast an alien? If nothing else, some "story blocks" for different types of adults and kids you might encounter. If you haven't read "Monsters and Other Childish Things," take a look. It's a game with a similar set-up to yours, and the sections that discuss what kinds of other people the kids might encounter and how they'll react is really good.

Integration - 5

The integration element here is top notch. Really, no complaints. The use of player selected goals to gain XP is something I really like, though it is a bit exploitable without some GM oversight.

Suggestions: I think some examples of good goals for each value would be nice. Even better would be a "goal builder" that helps out. Perhaps something like, "Goal involves danger of bodily harm: 1 pt. Goals involves the Girl of Your Dreams possibly seeing you screw up: 1pt" and so on.

Ingrediants - 4

Very good use of ingrediants, though a few follies I think. Ingrediants were: Setting-Tied Mechanic, Secret War, Unrest, and Cloning. Mechanics and Secret War were both used well. Secret War kind of works on two fronts, as there is both the alien war and the rivalry between Boys that must be kept secret. Unrest... I'll take it, I can see how that applies to the restless life of a boy. I really wish the contestants had made it more clear what areas of their design were aimed to hit these ingrediants. All RPGs should have conflict, and thus "unrest" by default but there needs to be a clear point where the reader can go "Aha! The Unrest of the character is evident and central here." Cloning is there as a high-technology and the aliens use "pod people" in their invasion. I give it a passing grade, but again this is not an exceptional integration of the term.

Suggestion: For future improvments, I can't suggest anything. I don't think any addition of more ingrediant elements would help the game design. It's quite good enough already!

Final Thoughts and Suggestions

Mad Science Boys is a really good effort. Probably, it is the best true RPG in the contest this time around. I think Andrew really used the ingrediants to get inspired to a fun concept that I haven't seen really executed before in a game. I'm not really sure where I would go with this from here. Actually, if you're not averse to changing the mechanics, you should talk to Shane Ivey about making this into a supplament for "Monsters." Replace the monster with super-science and I think the two games have a lot in common at heart. That would also be a faster track if you want to see publication than trying to go it alone.

Other than that, this is a really good game hiding under a layer of "contest dust." Polish it off, playtest the hell out of it and I think you have something realy good here! Nice work Andrew.

Best of Show, awarded for the highest scoring game.
Best Character Options.
Final Score - 90
Gav Ken's review:

This is a game of Mad Science Boys and their inventions who are combating an alien menace whilst avoiding the bullies, trying to make that special girl notice you and still getting home in time for bed.

Character Options (9/20)

Although there is some variance to personality and the alternative alias of the Mad Science boy the game is quite prescriptive about what you are playing. As a result I donít feel there are lots of potential character options in the game. There is potential for a younger or older boy and also for a good, neutral or evil boy but this isnít a wide variety. The character set-up mechanics are simple and I believe straightforward seem to flesh the character out well enough.

Mechanics (14/20)

The mechanics for allies, assets, inventions and labs all seem to work out very nicely. The task resolution system I like a lot with the dice roll that has a blackjack aspect in terms of success (the higher the success the quicker and better you do something), and the combined rolls are a very neat way of resolving issues with mixed traits. The area that the game cops out a bit is in combat. Whilst I understand that the Mad Science Boys try not to get involved what happens when they do and what are the rules for it? The lack of this section looks more like the fact that there wasnít time to complete it than anything else as all the remaining rules are well thought out and make the game very focussed.

Setting (10/20)

The background of an alien conspiracy with the aliens replacing people is not stunningly new games like Conspiracy X being a prime example of this type of background. The innovation here is for the aliens being combated by geeky science boys. Not much information on the aliens themselves or what they want is given in the background and it could do with a little fleshing out.

Integration (18/20)

The mechanics and setting are definitely tied together throughout the game and are fully integrated throughout the game. The game mechanics are intrinsically tied to the Mad Science Boys setting with pretty well everything in the game something to do with this. This is a very tight nit design.

Ingredients (15/20)

The game mostly succeeds in tying in the ingredients. The Game Mechanic tied to the setting is obviously the inventions mechanic that I feel is really good mechanic that is definitely tied to the setting. I couldnít really find where unrest was used in the game and this may be a generic reference to the secret war. The cloning of powerful adults is definitely tied into the secret war that is defined in the setting with the aliens.

66/100