Zap! Cryptonesia!

In which I discuss my disappointment at not becoming a 200WordRPG 2018 finalist and how I appear to have lifted the whole idea anyway

So, here's the final draft of my entry into the challenge, Zap! Atomic Ray Gun!:

You're out of this world in a cosmos peopled with silver aliens, questionably dressed humanoids, and subterranean monsters.

JUMP! DODGE! THINK!  . . .  2d6

Atomic rays are the most advanced discovery in the known galaxies. Ray guns come in many colours and flavours, most have just two settings: stun and kill. 

ZAP! . . . . . . . . . . .  3d4

Spaceships with atmosphere and gravity, flashing lights and crackling intercoms, buzz between planets. Airlocks need opening, robots programming, engines repairing, rockets piloting.

BEEP BOOP! . . . . . . . .  d12

Planets, moons, asteroids are breathable, sprout vegetation, have sentience. Their surfaces solid or shattered, their atmosphere hostile or amenable.

WOOSH! . . . . . . . . . .  d8+d4

Pit yourself against the universe:

- A ray gun fires (3d4), you attempt to dodge (2d6)
- Lunar mushrooms explode in clouds of poisonous spores (d8+d4), you wrestle on your helmet (d12)

Fail your action, dock ONE related quirk point.

Succeed automatically by docking TWO quirk points.

Ties are rerolled.

Quirk points run out? You're nothing but stardust.

     *  *  *  *  *

Starting quirk points (roll and note down):

- Tendency to not die . . . 4d4 
- Preparedness  . . . . . . 1d12
- Social standing . . . . . 1d8
- Blind luck  . . . . . . . 1d6
- Add your own  . . . . . . 1d4

Choose your species, name, spaceship.

The universe needs discovering, go explore.


And the notes I added:

A whimsical hack n' zap created to evoke feelings of 1950s pulp sci-fi movies and early 20th century science fantasy when you could build your own spacecraft in your shed and hot air balloons were a legitimate means of travelling to the moon.

Now I thought I had a solid, well-written game on my hands that was fun to play and evocative of the genre. I thought I had come up with it all by myself in the space of an afternoon and refined it over a weekend. I definitely play-tested it with friends and improved the layout and mechanics before entering it.

What I didn't realise until a few days ago, 22 June, was that I had stolen the title and theme from an already existing game, Zap! (a free download on DriveThruRPG) which is annoying as much as anything else since I went through a few different names that I could call it, none of which I can recall now.

In fact, according to my accusatory emails, I purchased the aforementioned product on 6 March 2018 but, and this is important, at least inasmuch as I can save some small amount of face, I didn't actually download the file till the other day and I've still only scroll briefly through the pages with a slight sinking feeling. That still doesn't get round the fact that I have blatantly managed to steal the title and genre.

Cryptonesia is the name given to when you see something, forget about it, then your brain tricks you into thinking you came up with the idea all by yourself. YouTube served up that delight as one of my video recommendations on this very thing a few weeks ago. The algorithm must know something.

At least the mechanics are all mine own. Well, yes... I came up with them exactly as the previous article was written but knew I'd come across the spending points to push your luck before. What I hadn't realised was that a character trait of 'Preparedness' can also be found in the Gumshoe system, specifically in Nights Black Agents which I found out as I drove into work this morning while listening to the excellent Grognard Files podcast.

Finally, just before I left UK Games Expo at the start of June, rummaging through the Bring & Buy turned Cosmic Patrol which was written in 2011. Again, similar genre and concept and also used a d12 base. Oh well. At least I definitely had not come across this prior to writing up my entry.

Which has all left me slightly at odds with myself. I know I wrote my entry in good faith without trying to rip off someone else's product but at the same time, I obviously had been thinking about scientifiction RPGs and ended up taking the name of an existing product and reused existing mechanics.

My thievery was unintentional but is incontrovertible so please accept this as my apology.

However all this goes some way to make me somewhat glad that I didn't make the finalists after all and can only assume the readers noted the lack of originality and very fairly judged accordingly.

So it goes.

Still, I hope the winner this year will be this little doozy which has been a proverbial ear worm ever since reading it: A Tiny Person.

I'm exactly sure it qualifies as an RPG but is a lovely and upsetting idea.