Insomniacs: 186 Herculis

I haven’t written up an Insomniacs session in a while, but our online group has been playing through the last of my prepped exoplanet scenarios and is heading into the strange and wondrous void of random tables.

This post is less of a recap and more of a state of the game/highlight reel.

Establish Camaraderie

I like this move. The crew came back from 186 Herculis having suffered a great deal of psychological trauma. One of the PCs in particular was hanging at 5 out of 6 on his trauma track (more on that later) and the other 2 PCs were about halfway. In Insomniacs, recovering from trauma works a little differently than healing injuries. To recover from physical damage, you just need to spend time in medbay, marking time and ticking down this Life Support track. To recover psychologically, you still mark time (and through that, Life Support), but you need a scene with other characters where you bond or vent or reconcile.

Gameplay-wise, what does that do? First, it slows the game’s pace down a little bit and forces the table to make time for the feels if they want the heals. It can be a time to check in and a time to see what parts of the session stood out. Second, because you need to involve other characters, it opens up the move to them too so you can handle the bookkeeping part all at once.

The Frayed Ends of Sanity

The session before this, the previously mentioned PC had an opportunity to establish some of that sweet, sweet camaraderie and chose not to. It made sense for his character, it was fine, but it left him with 3/6 on his track and the next game bumped him up two more points. Sitting that close to a full trauma track, I realized that I did not yet have a satisfying result should a PC’s mental trauma track fill up. If your injury track fills, you die – that’s easy. This wasn’t, though.

I’m still okay with a full trauma track leading to character loss, but I don’t like the idea of losing control of your PC as soon as it happens. I want the heavy burden of safeguarding humanity and experiencing these wondrous and logic-defying events to have a mechanical toll, however.

If I’d had satisfying answers to these questions, I would have gone ahead and pinged that PC another dot on his track when he encountered his grandson who couldn’t have been born yet, but instead I softballed it and let things play out. We were all rewarded with this character, a cold, calculating astrophysicist, finally losing his temper and berating this multidimensional spacetime entity like Picard scolding Q. I’m super happy with how it went, but it went that way despite the rules, and that means I’ve got some blanks to fill in still.

Star Trekkin’

I feel like Insomniacs would make a good base for a rules light star trek game

My friend and playtester Ben

This wasn’t my intention going into Insomniacs’ design, but yeah, in a way this game is my take on Star Trek. It’s filmed on a very different set, but the thing is it wouldn’t _need_ to be. Once we’re in a session, nobody has time to look up the actual science behind anything, so there does tend to be some technobabble and dubious theories floating around. There are away missions and a sort of downtime aboard the Somnambulist. I abstract away a lot of material needs with advanced 3d printers. I don’t really have a way for ships to fight, since in Insomniacs there is literally just the one ship, but if I wanted to do an actual Star Trek game I think I would adapt Insomniacs.

Insomniacs might be rooted in the horror genre, but the most satisfying parts of our play have been exploring and reacting to the weird and wondrous. It’s struck the right balance for me so far.

Giving Me Life? Is That What They Call It?

Recently I’ve played some video games that inspire me for Insomniacs:

The Outer Wilds

The Outer Wilds is a space exploration sandbox game caught in a time loop. Visually, it doesn’t line up with my other touchstones, but the sense of wonder and curiosity it engenders is absolutely what I want out of Insomniacs.


I touch on Observation in my post about geometry and fear. It takes place in a cramped space station where some ineffable shenanigans are ramping up. Visually, it’s spot on, and the mounting creepiness and morbid curiosity is like the flipside of The Outer Wilds. NOAH is cut from the same dubiously helpful AI cloth as SAM.

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