This isn’t a pop-culture blog. I don’t do movie reviews, and I’m not going to start now.
However, I just got back from a screening of Everything Everywhere All at Once, the new movie by Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert, and I wanted to discuss it a bit, at least in RPG terms.
I don’t want to spoil it. A lot of things happen – technically, everything happens. Go see it. It’s a simple premise, extrapolating into something amazing; a kind of 21st century Groundhog Day.
Michelle Yeoh plays Evelyn Wang, a sad-sack laundromat proprietor, who learns to access the memories and skills of alternate versions of herself across the multiverse. Each time she wants to gain a skill (martial arts, acrobatics, etc.), she needs to perform a weird, statistically unlikely action so she can connect to the mind of an alternate Evelyn, and temporarily have that skill.
How could we simulate Evelyn’s ability into a RPG? Here’s some initial ideas. Note: I haven’t play-tested any of this.
For this to work, I think you’d need to use a skill-based system.
In this example I’m going to use the Cepheus Engine (Traveller), because that’s what I’m into these days, but the basic concepts should work in any system.
First, you’d need to make sure the character has the ability to access the multiverse. Give them a skill called Multiversal Awareness. Not everyone is going to have this ability.
What skill do you need?
The player can choose what ever skill they wish, that they think might help them in their current situation.
Encourage the player to describe what the alternate version of the character is like, and how they got that skill. Perhaps give them a bonus to the roll for particularly creative scenarios.
Alternately, to steal an idea from Risus, if the player chooses a seemingly inappropriate skill, but can justify how it would help in this situation in a fun way, give them a bonus (+1 perhaps) to their roll.
What improbable act you need to do to activate the skill?
This could be anything, but it should be weird and possibly upsetting to any onlookers.
If you need inspiration, try selecting from, or rolling on this table:
- Say something you’d never say – and mean it
- Eat something gross.
- Place an inanimate object in your body.
- Taste something non-edible
- Wear inappropriate clothing in inappropriate ways
- Contort your body in an unpleasant or embarrassing fashion
How do you know if it worked or not?
For Cepheus, the basic mechanic is 2d6 + Multiversal Awareness skill. If the roll is an 8 or above, you succeed, and you now have that skill.
Critical Failure: If you roll a snake-eyes (two ones), you’ve traveled too far across the network of realities, and accessed something too alien or silly to be useful. Roll or select something from this table:
- You’re temporarily stuck in the alternative universe.
- You can longer speak your usual language. You can only communicate in the weird language of the alternate universe (Mayan-Latin Patois, Modern Tocharian, Imperial Manx, etc.)
- Anti-Skill: The universe you connected to is so alien, you’re even worse at the skill than if you’d done nothing at all. All rolls for that skill at an extra -3 penalty for the rest of the day.
- You’ve accessed a universe where humanity’s evolution was wildly different, and you’re having difficulty working your current human body (I’d give a penalty of -2 for any physical rolls)
- You’re not in control, your alternate is. Your PC is temporarily a NPC, under GM control.
- You have a completely inappropriate skill. Choose whatever is funniest.
How much of the ability did you get?
You get 1 point of the skill for succeeding at the roll. For every 2 points of effect , you get to add one point of the requested skill.
Example: Evelyn is in a aircraft that’s plummeting to the ground. She rolls an 11 to access an alternate Evelyn that that became a bush pilot in Alaska. She gets 1 point for succeeding and since she got 3 over the target of 8, she’ll get an extra point. Evelyn now has a Pilot skill of 2.
How long does it last?
I’d make it 1d6 rounds.