My game takes place in a universe that’s inspired by Firefly, Star Trek, and Studio Ghibli. Heat as a mechanic doesn’t make sense for it.
What other kinds of mechanics would you introduce aside from heat? Threat might make sense in a game where there’s a BBEG or shadowy cabal trailing you, but what about a game that is a group of freelancers getting hired to do random jobs for their community or organizations in the city?
This is more specific to my game, but I’d love to hear what other mechanics others have thought of in games that heat doesn’t make sense to use in as well.
In Blades Against Darkness, which has a similar vibe of taking jobs, I replaced heat with Ire. It’s tracks how messy your jobs were and how that manifests as Entanglements and ultimately corruption in the world as you distrub the sleeping evils of the land.
As I see it, Heat’s purpose is to track how much the forces-that-be in your world react to the players’ actions and how they respond.
So, who are the Forces-That-Be in your world? How do the characters catch their notice? How do they respond, on a scale of 1-10?
Once you’ve answered those questions, how you track Heat or it’s equivalent is gravy.
Thanks! Generally the forces that be are in the form of guilds and various Municipalities in the city, which you’d gain reputation for helping to solve problems. I guess I had it too much in my mind as being a negative thing like how Blades handles it. When I can just treat it as a neutral reputation for getting a job done well and without complications.
Oh goodness I just realized with me calling them freelancers I can call it Exposure
In my volleyball ball hack of Girl by Moonlight, Constellations on the Court, I have resentment instead of heat. Resentment focuses on the friction generated by your team when you interact with one another. Entanglements can range from teammates making a promise to one another to having an outburst.
That fits well thematically too. Generates drama, gives the GM hooks to work with.
Also for some reason it makes me think of movies like Bring It On
Lacking heat, I would be inclined to put more emphasis on status with the various factions. Your actions as freelancers can affect them positively or negatively, and while that might be limited to a specific area (a town, a planet, a solar system) thus not affecting other factions, it’s still going to be a balancing act for the group.
I use Threat in Deathwish. The game is all about taking down specific groups of antagonists, so each one has a separate Threat meter that builds up when players run Scores. The GM can spend down those meters to introduce complications into scores. If the meter gets to full (8) then right when the players get home from a score, the enemy launches a surprise raid on their base that the players have to repel while only partially recovered.
Heat is there to remind you that there are bigger, structural consequences for your actions, as opposed to immediate or personal consequences. In a game based on Star Trek (as well as others), what would be the bigger consequence of blowing up an enemy ship instead of negotiating with them? Who would be upset?
If you don’t want a larger structural pressure on the party, I added the concept of Slights and Grudges, which describe interpersonal consequences. The setting of Asphalt and Trouble is very spread out, so I added the mechanic to bring the focus back into a smaller, tight-knit group, but it could work for your purpose as well.
In a nutshell, when someone in the crew does something that would upset an NPC, that NPC is Slighted. If the character or crew does not make amends with that NPC by the end of the next downtime, the NPC has a Grudge, which requires a very significant effort to remove. That NPC will now go out of their way to interfere with the crew, acting as a new roadblock and challenge.
If you want, rather than counting abstract Heat, you could have the GM review the NPCs affected by each score at the end of the score, and issue Slights based on the same kind of triggers that would normally drive Heat. Entaglements could include options to bring NPCs with Grudges in, or become harder the more Grudges you have.
In my hack (Adrenaline), I am using Heat differently than how it was done in Blades. Heat is another consequence to use during the action – and can be resisted. At the end of the operation, the crew rolls does a retribution roll based on that heat clock & the faction status to see what / if any blowback occurs. Entanglements works differently – it is based off of a fortune roll and faction status.
I’m working on a more heroic fantasy hack, so Heat is now Disrepute, tracking whether or not anyone actually trusts the heroes anymore.
For the FitD Star Trek hack I worked on, it was Violations (as in, “of the Prime Directive”).
For Fall of the Red Planet, fascist-punching superheroes on a colonized mars, i decided to go with Infamy as the heat-replacement, which leads to greater Chaos in the city, rather than the crew itself being more personally affected. In addition, for every particular faction we track favours and ire, which are a bit like fate points or FFG star wars’s lightside/darkside points: any player, including the GM, can spend the points to have good/bad things happen, mechanizing both getting help from factions, and factions specifically coming after you.