Review: Trigger Happy

Feeling a little Trigger Happy? Bad people doing bad things to other bad people, and you're there to not only enjoy it but make sure it all comes together.

Todd Crapper, author of the well-renowned Killshot (a game about bad people doing bad things to worse people — usually) turned me on to a new game of bad people doing bad things to probably-bad other people via sharing someone else’s Google+ post, a game called Trigger Happy (and if that title alone doesn’t set the scene for your perked ears and curiosity, I’m not sure I can help you).

Trigger Happy Cover. That’s right, guns, explosions, and the downward-facing dog, only upwards.

As he quotes from Geek Native’s review:

Trigger Happy is about playing the sort of people who don't like anyone very much, because they're misanthropic b*st*rds with guns and they're on a mission.

And, frankly, how could anyone not be fascinated with the potential given that kind of hook-up?

Geek Native provides an excellent review which does us the proper duty of not only discussing the environment and the mechanics in a way that is useful to folks who've got an excellent but eclectic collection of games already but who are always in the market for something new to add to the pile if it brings something exciting to the table. I’m down for that.

The most interesting thing to me, as a long-time connoisseur of RPG designs, and no dab hand myself, was this outstanding part of the review with a laser-fine focus as to what I wanted to know most:

Limit boils down a very complex idea intrinsic in all great (and violent) action movies into a single number. It simultaneously represents your well-being, your drive to succeed, and your talent for hamstringing the opposition.
In the first form, Limit shows the amount of Danger you can absorb before things go terribly wrong. Wrong might mean dead, but it could equally mean something far worse — and specifically more embarrassing. Danger accumulates from damage, humiliation, loss of hope, remorseless interrogation — anything that might ultimately put the character out of the picture in the end. The muscle, the hacker and the Face Man in the group might all deal with quite different situations and opponents, but if they zero their Limit on Danger, then they’ll all go down.
In the second form, a character can ramp up the effort and push through the pain barrier to Take It To The Limit. Before a roll, a player can spend Limit to add a positive modifying, or after a roll bridge the gap to achieve a minimal success. Both options have a ceiling — and both obviously eat into your Limit reserves. If you fail by a long way, you can Push The Envelope and spend enough to succeed, whatever the cost — but that spend not only depletes your Limit, but also adds to a pool the SR can draw in to make it harder to handle the enemy, increasing the difficulty of tasks.
The final form of Limit takes the form of Circumstances, which allows you (or the enemy) to spend Limit to create short term disadvantages. Whether you throw dirt in their eye, dump a Trojan on their laptop, or point the IRS in the direction of their bank account, a Circumstance distracts and penalises associated skill rolls — unless they give up on their current action and resolve it, or spend some of their own dwindling resources to set it straight.

This is where the interesting story gaming part of what could be a purely die rolling exercise steps in, and where my ears perk up, I sit a little straighter, and my eyes get really big, because this is where something unusual is happening in a game design. The ideas of Danger and Limit being first-class objects, ideas which can be mechanically manipulated in this RPG speaks to a knowledge of the joy of the source material and speaks to a love of action theater. And that leaves aside the opportunity to make a “Take It to the Limit, One More Time” joke — and I don’t do that lightly.

3:16, a game for people who don’t mind travelling far from home, meeting new people, and killing the absolute Hell out of them.

While the overall game design puts me in the same mental space as Crapper’s own Killshot, Brad Murray’s Hollowpoint, or even Elizabeth Sampat’s Blowback, this part of the game mechanics makes me think of another of my favorite, and surprisingly oft-played games, Gregor Hutton’s 3:16 — Carnage Amongst the Stars. A resource which is usable by the GM/post/facilitator in order to fuel actions against the players and which they have some degree of control over provides a very interesting dynamic for what could be just another GM-full/traditionally styled RPG.

And that last point is particularly important when targeting a game toward me and people like me (assuming they exist), people who may have become tired of or never liked the traditional RPG set up of antagonistic GM versus narrowly authorial players. I never liked it, and never enjoyed it, and a good part of that is probably because I always ended up being the GM. If game design like this were to have come along a little bit earlier in the lifecycle of RPG design, I would probably be less opposed to such traditional structures in my gameplay today.

Trigger Happy looks like it is a game which is firmly targeting a demographic I’m part of. High action. Low prep. Much violence. So aggressive. Wow!

Right now, Trigger Happy is going for $10 as a PDF on RPGNow, and if you’re one of those crazy people who still prefers print, you can get it in soft cover in color for $20. If you go ahead and buy the softcover, you get the PDF for free. I think I’m going to pick up a copy of this, for myself, right after this posting.

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