School Daze by Tracy Barnett
From the inside cover text:
It’s 7:15am. The first bell rings in about 15 minutes. Where are you and what are you doing?
The Lead Up
At Games on Demand at GenCon, I had the privilege of recruiting players for Tracy and his School Daze sessions. I would wager many in line at Games on Demand had no idea what School Daze, though there were a few who eagerly jumped into the game.
And neither did I&hellpi;though I assumed School Daze was a successfully Kickstarted Role Playing Game (RPG).
Tracy gave me the initial pitch line of “It’s Saved by the Bell the RPG” and after one of the sessions modified the pitch to “It’s an NC 17 version of a John Hugh’s movie.” Interesting.
After one of the sessions, I talked briefly with Tracy. I explained that I was interested in reviewing his game. Lauding the virtues of technology, he sent me a Portable Document Format (PDF 🔍) on the spot. Tracy also said “It’s released under Creative Commons so I’ll need to seed the torrent soon.”
That alone had me sold on wanting to do a review. He was eager to put his work out there.
The PDF is 66 pages [106MB] of full color glory. Brian Patterson, of D20 Monkey fame, provided the art. Daniel Solis, of “everyone wishes they had as many games rattling around in their head as Daniel Solis does” fame provided the layout. Elizabeth Bauman, of the IllumineNerdy and I believe regular host of #RPGChat on Twitter, provided the editing.
The art and layout compliment each other, invoking a sense of playfulness. I particularly like that section headers background images are abstract notebook doodles. I wish I would’ve asked to see a physical copy of the book, as I’m sure it is a work of beauty.
School Daze is a rules lite system. Characters attributes are comprised of a Favorite Subject (i.e. Science, History), three Ranks (i.e. Skank, Wank, Flank, etc), a Motivation, and three Relationships.
Resolve conflict, or doing something risky, via a single d6. If the Administrator – the Game Master (GM 🔍) – asks you to roll.
If the conflict is related to your Favorite Subject or one of your Ranks would help you, add to your die roll. If you have a Rank that works against you or you have a consequence, subtract from your die roll. You can also spend a Gold Star – earned much like Fate points – to add to your roll.
If you succeed on the roll, then you narrate the outcome. Otherwise, the Administrator narrates the outcome – and you might pick up a Consequence for the remainder of the day.
For more on the mechanics, take a look at the School Daze homepage – it’s all there.
The advice for a session is to establish a “Group Project” – other systems might call this the adventure. The Group Project requires choosing a theme, Non-Player Characters (NPCs 🔍), and setting a time frame. Then start the ball rolling.
School Daze devotes the majority of its pages to NPCs and settings. There are write-ups of the principal, math teacher, ag teacher, etc. It really is an impressive collection of teachers and administrators with some immediately actionable motivations for each of them.
There are several example characters that can easily be dropped in as NPCs – each with a brief two paragraph description. So ample fodder for the halls during passing period.
There are 4 brief two page write-ups for alternate campaign settings each with a handful of unique hooks for game play as well as any requisite suggested changes:
- Saved by the Hellmouth – Buffy the Vampire Slayer and X-Files
- From Whom the Bell Trolls – Harry Potter
- How the West was Fun – Wild West school days&hellpi;with guns
- 2101 A School Odyssey – Ender’s Game or Dune
I believe the rules are the absolute most bare bones rules required for emulating high school drama – quick resolution and the consequences of failure are really quite terrible for a given day; But those crippling consequences fade in time for the next day.
School Daze is not a game that I am itching to run or even itching to play. But this is a game that I will seek out in convention game play – the subject matter is “boring” and “petty” – or in other words the perfect ingredients for a Fiasco-style story.
I am also very much excited that Tracy is releasing the game under the Creative Commons license.