Danger Patrol (and especially Pocket Danger Patrol)

I’d like to poll the public here!

There’s a lovely and lightweight game called “Pocket Danger Patrol” (based on Danger Patrol), and it sounds like a lot of fun. It kind of get left behind in the wake of PbtA design, but was well-loved for a time.

If you’ve played it, share your experiences and tips!

What genres did you use?

What made things work well, what got you in trouble?

How many Threats did you use, and how did you get the most “juice” out of them?

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New to me so will be interested to hear what people have to say about it.

Thanks, Alun!

Danger Patrol was a game under development by John Harper about 10 years ago.

There is a website, and the game is free!

http://www.dangerpatrol.com/

Then, at some point, John made a two-page version - the Pocket Danger Patrol, a well-loved game that has none of the complexity of the full game, but, for some, all the charm.

It’s a wild pulp adventure kind of thing, zany and slightly boardgame-like, and purportedly tons of fun to play (especially for a one-shot with no prep). Uses mixed dice types in a clever way to distinguish character ability from dangerous circumstances.

There are lots of supplements and hacks out there, if you dig around - much like World of Dungeons.

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Well, I have played a fair bit of Pocket Danger Patrol, and thought about the game a lot. The RAW make for quite a fun game. The rules are short, and it’s easy to learn. It’s in my top three favorite games.

I use the number of threats that the basic pocket rules determine, but I add the threat type variation rules, and legend dice from Mike Olsen’s Dangerquest hack, AND the rewards rules, and rescue rules from John Aegard’s Gamma Patrol. I also sometimes use John Aegard’s threat layout. Using the rewards means that you can play more than one session building it into a mini-campaign.

I’ve played three mini-campaigns of it with my advanced English students: a fairy tale fantasy campaign, an Agents of Shields campaign, and a Gods and Demons (神魔) style campaign. They were all just light hacks of the rules. They were all quite a bit of fun; the students enjoyed them.

I have also seen playsets for Supernatural World War Two action adventure, a la Hell Boy, and super hero action adventure.

There was a guy named Seth Mc??? on the old Story-games board who even had rules for making it GMless. Sorry, I can’t remember his name.

I also posted my own hack on Story-games for playing Mission Impossible/Borne Identity type stories. But it never got any comments or any traction, so I don’t think anybody ever played it.

The only challenging thing about the rules is that you have to absolutely know the genre you’re trying to play (because of the threat tables, for one thing) But I never found that to be much of a problem for myself. Most players know the tropes and conventions of the genre they want to play. And if they do the game really sings.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them.

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Thanks! Lovely.

I did review almost all of the Story Games threads on the game, which was very helpful.

My main questions are:

  1. Do you have [players]+3 threats in EVERY scene? Or total, within an adventure? How do you decide this, or use it to pace the game?

  2. What if you can’t think of that many threats, what do you do? Or is it always better to keep brainstorming until you can come up with that many? It sounds like a LOT, at least on paper.

Is the Threat/Danger countdown for each scene, or a larger counter that runs across scenes?

  1. Is there any dice rolling outside of these setpiece combat scenes (a la the Danger Patrol “suspense scenes”), and, if so, how does it work?

If you’re willing to throw up a quick example for each, that would be amazing!

  1. I never saw your Mission Impossible hack! Can you share it, or link to it?

EDIT: Found it!

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Let me see if I understand these:

Threat type variation rules are from Danger Patrol, as well as from DangerQuest (which I’ve found); they allow us to personalize and differentiate threats in interesting ways (like giving one a countdown, making another dependent on overcoming other, existing threats, etc).

Legend dice are d12s, earned as rewards after overcoming certain threats.

Rescue rules are placing a kidnapped hero on the map as a threat (presumably, the hero is dead for good once the threat countdown is completed?).

I’m not sure I understand John Aegard’s threat layout. Is it the way he presents the threats around the village in Gamma Patrol? If so, I’m not sure how that makes gameplay any different.

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Hi Paul,

  1. total, used to pace the game.
  2. Because I use the different threat types, usually some threats go together naturally to make a scene. As for the number of threats, it only took a little bit of brainstorming to get enough. One thing I didn’t mention above, not all the threats have to be sentient agents, but at least some of them do and they need motivations.

The countdown clock or danger meter is for the whole game, but if it reaches zero, the heroes fail, and then there’s more scenes to play as things go from bad to worse.

  1. There’s no real scene types like in the full beta, but you could use them if you want. Once the game starts, the GM doesn’t role any dice, iirc.

Hi Paul
From your second post, yes, you understand everything correctly.

John’s layout adds the final threat/village card " Get us out of this place."

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If you want me to post an example, it might have to wait for a couple of days. But if you have other questions, I can try to answer them in between my work tasks.

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How lovely! Thank you so much. I’m quite excited to actually try this game, once I fully wrap my head around it.

By the way, here’s Seth Magdich’s procedure for running the game as a pick-up one-shot:

I start by dealing out cards with Mike Wight’s Ultra-Threat-o-Matic items printed on them, then everyone places their favorite two or three Styles on the left side of the table and 2-3 Roles on the right. Before we choose from among them, I mention a few things for everyone to keep in mind about coherence and connections and it seems to work OK. This bit from that AP is fairly representative:

“Let’s line up the adjectives and the nouns like this, in a couple of columns more or less, and let’s eliminate all but five on each side. We’ll pair them up to make the five Threats that the Danger Patrol is dealing with in this final episode. We’ll be determining the scope and the nature of these final scenes based on what kind of Threats we decide are most entertaining. Let’s start by brainstorming some possible pairings. So, as you feel it, just go ahead and promote or demote some of these cards by moving them up or down the column here. Let’s consider which will fit together to form a coherent story, and make sure that we have Threats that are the result of other Threats, and they’re all related to each other.”

Afterwards, I put a blank Danger Meter card on the table “to represent the thing we’re protecting. The Threats will attack it each turn and if it’s hit too many times then we lose. Let’s decide what it means if we lose, what will be lost? What’s being threatened?” It’s usually Earth or The City or Reality. In that last game, it was Freedom. When a Threat hits the Danger Meter at the end of a round, I ask the Threat’s owner to describe how the Threat just brought us that much closer to the end.

And I just thought of another house rule that I sometimes use: if everyone agrees that a Threat is still too conceptually isolated after the opening flashback round, I’ll ask the table to come up with a new Complication that’s somehow associated with both that isolated Threat and another better developed Threat, then put that Complication card in between those Threat cards to draw more attention to them and their connection.

I’m not sure what’s causing the balance issue you mentioned, that must be frustrating. I’m actually not sure if the RAW is balanced, I only played it a couple of times before twisting it into a shorter GM-less shape with (players+1) Threats instead of (p+3), a 6-8 box Danger Meter and slightly lower Ability scores. Wins far outweigh losses, which players seem to enjoy. Sometimes I even bump a couple of Threats up to 8 or 10 hits but we still usually win with a heroic sacrifice or two at the end. For a while, I was ruling that the final game-ending Danger Meter hit could be cancelled by a hero Taking themselves Out to stop it. Maybe something like that would help?

As for the details, perhaps before I bother you further, I can look over this gem of a transcript I found:

https://web.archive.org/web/20191221091220/http://www.goplaynw.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=546

As well as this one:

https://web.archive.org/web/20191221105915/http://www.goplaynw.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=440

Here is his procedure in more detail:

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One more thing about scenes and things like that, the players really have to be active, and if they’re not, you really have to push them with the threats advancing

Ok, very interesting! I read the transcripts, and that showed me how different the game is in actual play from what I was expecting.

Tell me how your “campaign play” worked. Was each session a “new one-shot” which followed the previous one’s story, like sequels to a movie, or was the action more continuous?

More like episodes in a TV series or sequels of a move (although I never framed the game as a television series or movie franchise).

I mentioned before that I used the reward rules from gamma patrol. This helped give everybody a sense of development (since there’s no leveling in this game.) At the end of each adventure, at least a few characters had some buttons and badges and dodads that they would use in the next adventure. So by the end of the campaign, the players had more than four bonus dice and/or higher than 2d10 stats. Some had allies, some had magic items, et cetera.

I never used Seth’s flashback scenes, but if I was going to play another campaign of this, I would definitely do that.

In fact, during my play, I didn’t really use flashback scenes at all. I think that that’s one way in which I kind of failed the table. I wish that I had used flashback scenes more.

There’s one other thing about playing this game generally. As you probably noticed from Seth’s APs, the players don’t have to stay together as a group. They can face the threats as a whole group, in teams, or individually. And you can cut back and forth between the different scenes to heighten the tension. Also because the players are adding the dangers, too, it usually keeps them paying attention even when they’re not in the scene.

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Nice, thanks!

In his games, he has the group brainstorm all the Threats together (since he’s playing GMful/GMless).

Did you ever play the game in a more “traditional” style, with a GM preparing a scenario, set of challenges, or storyline? (So that, in theory, you could even present your combination of threats as a “module” of sorts, I suppose.)

Hi Paul,
I often played it in a traditional way with prep. But I never prepared a storyline or anything. I just created the threats as factions with agendas.

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Paul, you’ve kind of gotten me excited about playing Pocket Danger Patrol again. I might get it out and see if I can find some local people who want to play. Actually think it’s a better game than Lasers and Feelings.

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If it’s online, invite me! I’d love to see it in action.

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And I would add one of the threats to the flashback scene.

Yeah, I like how Seth did this in his APs - the first scene would be, narratively, a flashback, but mechanically it still worked as a regular threat roll.

I had a game session planned this evening, and one of the players didn’t show up.

What to do?

Naturally, I suggested that… I had something in my pocket which could do the job!

We were talking about Star Wars, so I said, “Hey, let’s play Pocket Danger Patrol in the Star Wars universe. I’ll explain as we go!”

Everyone was on board.

We did setup, character creation, and one round in about two hours (maybe a little less), and we had a blast! I improvised some Abilities, which weren’t quite perfect, but worked well. (The list was very good, I think; however, categorizing them into two columns wasn’t really working out. We mixed and matched, which represented the fiction well: for instance, closing your eyes and trusting in the Force while operating the reactor could be Tech and The Force, even though they probably would both have been Role abilities.)

It was a lot of fun! Four contrasting heroes, and some wild hijinks.

Fortunately/unfortunately, we had amazing dice luck. On the first turn (we used Seth’s trick of making the first action a flashback), we eliminated three threats, including an Epic-level threat (8 hits to take out, regenerates one per turn) and one linked threat, while suffering almost no setbacks. (On my first roll, I rolled eight dice and managed ten successes!) It was exciting but also almost disappointing - I think we were all looking forward to seeing these in action.

We got two fantastic d12 outcomes, as well:

The Imperial asset, Asajj Ventress, is desperately in love with one of the heroes, and will probably show up to help later, at an opportune time.

My character now has the wonderful line - “The heart of the black hole lives within me - d12”.

I’m still curious about finding ways to make the game more organic. So far I’m following the lead of Seth’s writeups, and they’re quite mechanically driven.

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