Saturday Morning Gaming: Crash Pandas II
We played Crash Pandas last week (seriously: download the PDF… it’s only one page and it’s free). I went into the game thinking “okay, this game is going to be a pleasant trifle… a nice diversion… forgotten by the time you drive home.”
As it turns out, it was a delightful community storytelling experience with a lot of belly laughs and a surprisingly interesting set of mechanics (no pun intended).
Here’s the basic conceit: you’re a raccoon with a backstory. You’re getting involved in the dangerous world of illegal LA street racing. You’re part of a team and your goal is to make it to the finish line first.
So, first, I had to look up a backstory. I figured that I would steal one. I thought “why not a raccoon based on the protagonist of Neon Genesis Evangelion?” So I sent my DM an email that said “My raccoon’s name is Shenji. I was recruited by my father to the shadowy organization Nerv to pilot a vehicle called a “car” into races with alien beings called “Humans”. After a falling out with fellow raccoons Rei and Asuka, I have concluded that I need others to thrive. Thus my membership in the team.”
So we get to game night. The DM starts writing down notes for all of our various names and backstories. None of us spoke with each other before the session. We paid attention to where it said I stole my backstory from Neon Genesis. Mine is the least interesting backstory at the table.
My friend Dman has a raccoon who goes by the name “Hey You!”. He is resentful of how everybody in the world seems to know his name. “Hey you!”, they yell. “Get out of my garbage!”
“HOW DO YOU KNOW MY NAME?!?”, he chitters as he runs away. His nemesis is his old partner: “Beautiful”. Nobody ever called Beautiful by HIS name.
My friend Fish has a character called Ertz. He was in the cage next to Rocket Raccoon but never actually got any modifications. He just glued some cyber-looking stuff to his fur and learned how to imitate Rocket. He was part of a secret DoD program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where they tested military-grade cosmetics on animals. His nemesis was Stan Kroenke, the grad student who led the program.
My friend Richard had a character called Jaybird Alpha. He was a Cyborg Raccoon. Half robot. Half Raccoon. His nemesis is Doctor Dman Fish, a crotchety old inventor who wants to capture Jaybird Alpha and experiment upon him.
My DM slaps a map of Colorado Springs on the table and says “I don’t know anything about LA Street Racing. If Street Racing was happening in Colorado Springs, where would it take place?” and we confer with each other and conclude that it’d take place on Marksheffel Road, up north.
So this is no longer a game about raccoons involved in the dangerous world of illegal LA street racing. It’s about raccoons involved in the dangerous world of illegal Colorado Springs street racing.
It’s Friday Night. The first question was “so… who is most local?” We hammer out that Shenji is from Japan, Jaybird Alpha is from wherever Rocket Raccoon is from, and Ertz is from Nebraska… so Hey You is from here. We hammer out what part of town has the best trash. The answer is that the best dumpster in Colorado Springs is the dumpster that is used by the Hooters in the Citadel Mall.
So that is where our story starts. The DM announces that Day 1 is titled “Dude. Where’s my car?” We hammer out that Hey You is digging around in the trash when Jaybird Alpha crashes his pod near the dumpster. Soon thereafter, both Shenji and Ertz investigate the crash and we hammer out that we all are compelled to start racing. We consider repairing the pod but notice that the Hooters at the Citadel Mall has a LOT of vehicles in the parking lot.
Our DM places 8 different matchbox vehicles on the table. One of them looks like the Henleys Locksmith truck. I yell out “The Henleys Guy is going to Hooters!” and the DM says “indeed he is. What do you do?”
Our team hammers out that we want to break into the Henleys Truck to see if we can find parts to fix up the pod so we can race. We successfully break in (by rolling more 4-6es than 1-3s on our dice) and find 3 Items. We can name them. We find a Lockpick. We find an 8-Ball Gear Shift Knob. We find a spare tire. Beautiful, nemesis of Hey You, drives up in a nice little speedster vehicle. He asks “Hey You, are you going to be in the race on Sunday? Grand Prize is $100!” Hey You answers “YOU BET WE WILL BE!” and it is set in stone.
We figure that we can use these to break into the other vehicles on the lot and find parts. We break into a truck and roll more 1s than anything else and the army guys in Hooters whose truck this is come out and challenge us. We get in a fight. The lockpick ends up in the eye of the guy whose truck this is. Already I’m thinking “Dang. This game is a lot darker than I thought it was going to be.”
We use the gaming rules to steal the army guy’s truck and drive across Platte into the industrial zone that has all kinds of vehicle modification shoppes (legal and otherwise) and find ourselves on the other side of Day One.
It’s Day Two. The DM asks us what we should call Day Two. I suggest “Something About Pimping” and we all agree that this is a fine title for Day Two.
We sleep during the day and, come nightfall, it is Saturday Night. We visit various vehicle shoppes in the Platte Avenue Frontage Shoppe area and find a couple of stores that specialize in Vehicle Mods. We figure: We’re Raccoons. We can break in. We can modify our vehicles. Then we can win the race.
The first store we bust into has superchargers. We roll a bunch of dice and add a bunch of superchargers to the stolen truck. We rip out the console, the seats, and pretty much everything extraneous to Illegal Street Racing. We even rip off the Rear View Mirror. Our motto? “No Lookin Back!” As such, rear view mirrors are things we just don’t need. Halfway through, we get interrupted by Rei and Asuka who want superchargers added to their vehicle too. They’re racing in The Big Race tomorrow, you see. We sabotage their engine.
After installing superchargers all over the engine (one for each tire), we move over to another shoppe of some sort. One of those aesthetic places that makes your car go faster. Spoilers and whatnot. As we are adding the paint that will make our truck go faster, we encounter both Stan Kroenke and Dman Fish at the new shoppe. They’re both there to enhance their vehicles for the upcoming Big Race on Sunday. We try to sabotage their vehicles but fail. In any case, we put the Fast Paint on our truck that we stole from the army guys at Hooters. Day Two ends.
Day Three Begins. The name of this day is “Every Day I’m Sheffelin”. The DM tells us that we can reroll our items. Any that we’ve used we can reroll, any that we want to keep we can keep on our person. I have an Iron Bar and a Helium Balloon. It’s the day of the race. We look down the line of cars and see an empty space in the middle. We drive past some of our nemeses… but as we prepare to pull into the empty space… the DM starts making noises. “Brrrrrooom Brum brum brum BROOOOOOOOOM!” and a MONSTER TRUCK PULLS INTO OUR SPACE! And it’s driven by the Army Guy we stole the truck from in the Hooters parking lot! And his friends that we beat up! We pull into the far space and the race begins.
We then use the various mechanics of the race. The faster the car goes, the more dice we roll. Bad stuff only happens on a 1 but good stuff happens on 4-6 so we want to roll more dice so we want to go faster, faster, faster. (Also, it’s a race so going faster is a plus.)
The race begins. The car of Rei and Asuka, having been sabotaged, is left sputtering at the start line. This leaves four nemeses. Stan Kroenke. Beautiful. Dman Fish. The Army Guys From Hooters. Dman Fish is driving a shark car. You’ve seen the cars that look like a shark and have a mouth that opens and closes, destroying any car that gets into its jaws? Yeah, he’s driving that. As the game goes on, we’re trying to ram other cars off the road and we manage to get Beautiful’s car chomped. So Beautiful is out of the race. As the shark car come up to us to chomp us, I use the iron bar to force the shark car’s mouth to stay open. We throw a spare tire onto the fin of the shark thus removing its ability to steer. Along the way, we tie my balloon to the hood ornament of the Monster Truck to create a visual obstacle for the Army Guys From Hooters. We manage to ram Stan Kroenke’s car into the path of the monster truck. So Stan is out of the race. Now it’s just us and the monster truck. Through a handful of wacky things, we end up with our vehicle on top of the monster truck and the raccoons inside the cab of the monster truck and we throw the Army guys out. So Team Raccoon is driving to the finish line when, what do you know, Rei and Asuka show up in a mech. I realize, again, that I need my friends and so I go out on the hood to grab the balloon from the hood ornament and offer it as a gift to Rei and Asuka in the mech. They accept the balloon and we pass the finish line and win the $100.
An awesome game. I didn’t get into the crazy Mission Impossible stuff that happened when we were throwing grappling hooks around and stealing tires.
If YOU play it with your group, you should do similar. You need to make the race happen in YOUR town. Discuss where the best dumpsters are. Get a bunch of hot wheels from somewhere (maybe someone in the group has kids? Maybe someone in the group has hot wheels?) and put those all over the table. Get the stories told by the various raccoons to be big and bold and say “sure, that’ll work” for anything sufficiently crazy. If you’ve got a bunch of hardcore gamers who would have problems with how a team of raccoons would know how to apply car mods to a truck, this might not be the game for you. If you can handle goofy, though, know that this game gave me and my group one of the best one-shot nights we’ve had in a long, long time.
So… what are you playing?
(Featured image is “Raccoon Invasion!” by Penh. Used under a creative commons license.)