Maschine Zeit – A Review

So, I just finished reading this game. It took me all of two days. Most of the book is setting information, which is very cool. The setting, as presented, is full of detail and past events that color the game world of now. That being said, it would be so easy to scrap it all and plug your own setting into this game.

I’m a Science Fiction nut, and I really enjoy Horror. These two go hand in hand a lot, but I’ve not really ever seen it done like this before. This is, Let’s Explore a Haunted House! A house that’s orbiting the planet! Yeah! It evokes very well the feelings of the listed inspirations from the beginning of the book.

So, let me start digging into the cool of the game! First of all, there are no Degrees of Difficulty. The GM has very little say in how hard a given action will be for your character. Your character is defined by traits listed at a percentage, maximum of 25%. So, when you want to accomplish something, you choose the traits that assist you in that action. Total up the percentages, and that is your percent chance to succeed. So, if I took my characters Knowledge of 25%, then added in his Engineering skill of 25%, I have a 50% chance of succeeding. There are other things to add in, and, in some cases, you can get a 100% chance of succeeding. I really dig that it all depends on the player, not the Director, in deciding how easy a feat will be. To see if your character does succeed in the end, you roll percentile dice against your chance, trying to tie, or roll under it.

This doesn’t mean that you have the same percent chance of succeeding on every similar test. Oh, no! You see, your Universal Elements have a Push limit. You expend a Push every time you tap a Universal Element to add to your chance of success. Since you have a limited number of these Pushes you must decide when it’s important for you to have that Universal Element added into your chance of success. I really like the gambling aspect this adds in. “I can use this now… but will I need it later?”

Conditions are another aspect of the game that I really dig. I’ll admit that, the first time I read the text, I didn’t understand what was going on. When rolling, you set your initial Condition of Success, usually, “Did I do it, or not?”. For every 10 points you beat your chance of success, you gain another Condition. The way I understand it now, Conditions can be used to remove a used Push, to increase damage done and add to the narrative, among other things. I love the freedom that these additional Conditions give the player. You can even use it to benefit another character to put that player in debt to you.
There’s a lot of good in this game, and very little bad. Mainly, the percentile system. I look at the numbers, and think that a d20 would do all the same work, with much smaller numbers. There’s even a hack in the back of the book to use a d20. Other than that, nothing really struck me as “bad”. More may come out after I get a chance to play the game. I’m really curious about the Injury system, as the Core and Conditional Injury split intrigues me.

All in all, I really recommend this game. It seems to be very narratively rich and rules-light enough to be very flexible for great stories. I can’t wait to give it a go!

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