Open the Pod Bay Door


While investigating a distant star system, the cryogenic, terraforming, colony starship Appleseed became infected by a computer worm. A planetary scouting team was caught outside on the unarmed, short-range pod, the Snow Day. The ship’s infected robot killed everyone awake on the Appleseed and locked the team out. The pod’s air supplies are almost gone…

a story game for 2 to 5 people

Find the latest version here: Open the Pod Bay Door Story Game

DownloadOpen the Pod Bay Door – Game Chef Version

WordOpen the Pod Bay Door – Game Chef Version

Extra Turn Tracking SheetWorksheet

Open the Pod Bay Door Supplements

free rpg

SupplementB.I.L Homicidal Robot – Game Chef Version


SupplementLockheed Vortex Short-Range Pod


1) You can play the Open the Pod Bay Door rpg with the original rules or use the following revision for resolving actions. The revision is recommended. In the revision, you don’t find out if your action worked until after it’s completed. It adds tension, but eliminates the feeling of impending doom that comes with knowing that failure is certain at the end of the long wait. A minor change makes actions related to a character’s job succeed faster.

If you try both versions, I’d like to hear your opinion about which works better for you and your friends. And why.

Resolving Actions

When a character wishes to do something, roll a d6 (six-sided die). The result determines the time taken. If the action relates to her job, it takes 1 (1-3­), 2 (4-5­), or 3 (­6) turns.

If the character attempts something not related to her job, it takes 2 (1), 4 (2), 6(3), 8 (4), 10 (5) or 12 (6) turns.

At the end of the required turns, roll a d6 to determine success. If the action was related to her job, it succeeds on 1-4, otherwise it succeeds on 1-3.

Track the number of turns that pass on the Turn Tracking Workshop. The character cannot be brought into a new scene until the number of turns pass that were required for the action. If all characters are tied up at the end of a round, all actions fail and Something Desperate happens.

2) In the Game Chef version, death came easy and brutally. In the first playtest, all the characters died due to a piloting error in one turn. This rule change to Failure gives the characters better odds of surviving a disaster.


When an action fails, pick a player to tell us what has gone wrong. If there was potential of death, roll a die. On a roll of 4-6, the character dies. Tell us how. If others were also in danger because of the action, they also roll.

3) B.I.L is deadly and there wasn’t enough time to counteract its actions, so that’s been revised to address the problem.

Resolving Robot Actions

A reaction to stop harm succeeds on a 1-4. This turns any one character’s action into a possible deadly failure. A complication succeeds on a 1-5, and will harm the crew or a member of the crew in 3 (1-2) or 4(3-5) turns or 5(6).

13 Replies to “Open the Pod Bay Door”

  1. Hi,
    I am one of your game chef reviewers.

    What is awesome: I love the concept, and the way each action ties a character up is great. I can just imagine how tense things will get. Your use of the ingredients and theme are good, too. I am looking forward to playing it!

    What needs work: First, I think you should only roll for whether an action succeeded at the end – knowing an attempt will succeed or fail right at the beginning will take a lot of pressure away. I also think there should be a list of further things to go wrong (or alternatively a GM) to avoid the problem of generating your own opposition. Being forced to pick from a list of bad things is probably enough, and you can also use that to provide escalating badness. (I note that your AI supplement is already doing that to some degree).

    More minor things: the way you put die results into the text is hard to read, and takes more mental processing than a small table would require. For the crew list, “Navy Seal” seems rather present-day-USA specific. Something like “space marine” or “security officer” seems more space-appropriate. The intern also seems out of place, maybe “ensign”, “apprentice”, or “colonist” would work?

    Overall, I really like “Open the Pod Bay Doors” and I am looking forward to seeing what you do with it.

    1. I like moving the roll for success to the end — that makes lots of sense to me.

      I’m not sure that generating your own opposition is a problem and a list of bad things doesn’t seem like it could cover all potential situations, but it could serve as good examples for guidance on what to pick. My thought here was that the distributed GM duties would be good enough for players who are engaged with the game. I can see adding a supplement for this though because a GM would work fine in the game.

      The unpaid intern is a nod to Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. :)

      Thanks for the review.

  2. You’re right, switching around who comes up with problems may well be enough separation to work. But even if there’s just a list of suggestions, I think that will help a lot.

    I am ashamed to have missed the Zissou reference!

  3. Howdy! Game Chef reviewer chiming in. For context, this is my first Game Chef.

    Your cover made me want to play the game on the spot. So cool! I love sci-fi in general, 2001, and stories where people might be screwed. Open the Pod Bay Door works for me on a lot of levels.

    As a game, it’s clear and looks like fun. Meanwhile/therefore/but is brilliant. It feels like just the right amount of information/direction to pass to the next player.

    The time system and the brevity of the play time overall look like they’d encourage the high-pressure feel you’re going for. I wonder if two turns might be too few, though.

    I love that when a character dies the associated player tells the others how she feels about facing the void. That seems like it could be a surprisingly powerful moment in play.

    Game Chef-wise, it’s clear to me how you incorporated the theme and ingredients. I thought at first you might be copping out using Appleseed and Snow Day, but you weren’t! It’s all in there.

    You could use another proofreading pass, and with words to spare an example of play (extended, for preference) would be lovely. That said, you did a hell of a lot with less than a thousand words. I’d play this, and I suspect I’d enjoy it. I’d love to see it polished up, playtested, and turned into something I could buy.

    Nice work!

    1. Thanks for the review, Martin. Yep on the proofreading, but it is Game Chef and that’s how it goes. I’ve never sold my games, but maybe one day.

  4. I’m one of your reviewers, sir!

    Compelling and Awesome:
    Your concept is reminiscent of Fiasco, and it’s pretty good. You seem to drive a more story-based idea instead of throwing dice on the table. While it’s not my preferred method of gaming, it’s interesting.

    The mention of dice. You don’t say if it’s a six-sider or what – just dice, then the numeric mentions show what dice you should use. Also, you only provide one scenario to play. It doesn’t leave itself to be more than it is.

    1. Thanks for the review, Daniel. I’ll add a mention that it’s a d6. The game is based on one scenario and I think that’s enough for this game. I kind of like one offs.

  5. I like the setting and situation that’s established. There’s a clear problem that needs to be solved and lives are on the line. Most of all, I really like the “Meanwhile, Therefore, But” mechanic. (If you lifted that, it’s a game I don’t know and if you invented it, it’s pretty sweet new tech!) I also like your use of the icons/ingredients and how things seem to have emerged from that.

    I’m not sure about taking all the time to accomplish things — it’s a neat idea and the tension is welcome, but I worry that it’s too easy to use everyone up and get stuck. But I haven’t actually played…

    In several ways, it feel incomplete. There are sentences that need editing (e.g. where you tell how many rounds are played based on player count, etc), it isn’t clear to me how precisely to implement turn-tracking even with the Example Turn Tracking Worksheet (though, I think I could muddle through in play; but like why is there that second page when there won’t ever be more than ten turns in the game? Observations like that make me wonder if I’m missing something.), the First Scene text indicates that Lancer and Ruhan should be involved but Janya occurs on the crew list between them (which isn’t in any way ‘wrong’ or ‘broken’ but kind of weird and unpolished — and yeah, I realize this was written in a few days, I’m just saying…).

    There’s a weird artifact in the resolution mechanic. If I set someone to performing a non-job-related task, it’s relatively simple to get a duration that will tie that character up beyond the time when the air runs out (and this is possible on a one in six on even the very first turn of the game in even the longest-running (five player) game). Is that a flaw or a feature; I’m not sure, but it feels strange.

    Why does having all characters busy trigger Something Desperate? What’s the in-story explanation for that that I’m not getting?

    1. Thanks for the review Christopher.

      The “Meanwhile, Therefore, But” comes in part from the writers of South Park, they use the “Therefore, But” parts to come up with the next scene. I added a “Meanwhile” because it worked for this game and one other game that I wrote but didn’t finish about zombies.

      With the tieing up the characters, I guess my point with the game is I wanted to use sci-fi tropes with the action resolution. On sci-fi shows, the characters are usually only good at one thing and suck at everything else. Example: On Star Trek TNG, Data is good at being an android, but sucks at being a human. Even though he tries and tries and tries, he never succeeds (until the movies and sort of not even there). Geordi La Forge is a good engineer, but you never see him piloting the Enterprise, etc… So, in this game, I wanted to make sure that the characters were used within their one trope, and because all the players are making up the situations and playing all the same characters, it’s probably easy to never have a character need to make a roll that isn’t part of her specialty. So, the Something Desperate is a meta rule designed to penalize trying to play the characters outside of their specialities too often. The in-story explanation comes from the players, so it can make as much or as little sense as they desire. Because this is a Game Chef draft, I forgot to write “Tell us how and what happens that is so desperate that all the characters die.” So, thanks for catching that.

      My other point of the game is it probably takes a long time to fix problems in space — look how long it took to fix Apollo 13 in the movies and how long it takes Bishop to remotely pilot a dropship from the Sulaco in Aliens. That’s what I want to capture in the game. So, the “weird artifacts” that you see are actual choices that attempt to target my design goals to hit the story tropes I want to hit and the feeling that I’m going after. If one character gets tied up for 12 turns, SOL. Use another and figure out how to get around the problem. For example, if Kirima gets tied up for 12 turns because he tried to pilot the Snow Day out of a sticky situation, maybe the exobiologist can save them from the piloting error by projecting some kind of scan that causes some type of alien life to expand and stop them. Then for 12 turns, the players probably won’t introduce an engineering problem or if they do, they know that it could put someone else out of action, i.e. they amp up the tension even more if they want it. It’s their choice. Whether I effectively hit those design goals, I don’t know.

      As far as sentences editing, well, yes, it’s Game Chef, eh.

      Questions for ya:

      I guess I don’t understand what the problem is with having Janya on the crew list between the other two. Can you explain why that is “weird and unpolished?” Maybe bullet points would be less so for you?

      Also, why do you think there will only ever be 10 turns in the game? Here’s a quote from the game,

      The oxygen onboard Snow Day runs out in the two rounds (3 to 5 players), three rounds (2 players). If the crew hasn’t solved this issue somehow, they die.

      Do I really need to write, “If they somehow figure out how to get or make oxygen, then they live?” I want to keep this game under 900 words, so I think most people can infer that they can solve the problem, so I assume you saw that, too. What else makes you think that?

      For the turn tracking can you be more specific? It makes sense to me because I wrote it, so I’m having a hard time seeing it.


  6. So, for that first thing — the order of the characters, maybe it’s just me. The way the rules tell you to use three specific characters in the first scene and those three are among the first four makes me think they should just appear as the first three on the list. It’s funny; you ask why it feels weird and unpolished and it was obvious to me how it’s like that but if it’s so obviously true, I ought to be able to explain it. And I’m not coming up with anything great. It just feels like a misordering or something.

    As to the second, maybe I was being exceptionally dense or having a brain-fart or whatever. I can see what you’re saying now — that _obviously_ the characters can solve the O2 problem and then go on, but that’s not what I was seeing when I was reading it the first time.

    I think turn-tracking isn’t really a problem. I read your game through once, pretty quickly and was confused about some stuff but got the basic idea. Then I read it again with more thought about the bits that confused me. It seemed more solid that second time. I think that when I was done with that, by continuing disconnect with turn-tracking was based on the above-noted mistake in my reading the length of the game. Like having a character used up for 12 turns right out of the gate doesn’t matter so much if the game will go on toward 30 turns, the turn-tracking makes more sense to me now.

    1. Got it. Thanks. I’ll try to think of another way to list characters and maybe just switch the two names around. I want to avoid confusion by making sure that the players don’t think they need to play the crew in order, so I’ll have to think on that one a bit.

      Thanks for the clarifications on the later two. I wonder if somehow I can clarify the rules so they’ll make more sense on a quick read. I suspect having someone other than myself edit it will help.

      Thanks again for the review. I hope you’re having a good Game Chef.

  7. A review from Jonathan:

    14. Open the Pod Bay Door by Bryan

    Twitter Pitch: A high-pressure, sci-fi story game that asks, can the terraformers retake their colony ship from a malfunctioning, homicidal robot.

    The Good: The turn tracker blew my mind away, it’s like an initiative order or a timer clock on a lot of freemium games turned to use in a pen and paper RPG … AND CONTRIBUTES TO THE GAME TENSION! I’ve already been thinking on how I could use this somewhere else, it’s just so very good.

    The Bad: I would have liked a little more direction in regards to what the characters can do, or what was available on the Pod for me to do. I don’t think it needs it, but it certainly feels like there’s just a little bit more that I’d want. The space is there.

    The Other: It feels a little deadly? Maybe a little too deadly? I don’t know without having played it but the “doing something you aren’t trained for” seems awfully, awfully harsh.

    Would I play it? Orders Commander? We need to act now!

  8. REVISION: Resolving Actions

    When a character wishes to do something, roll one die (d6). The result determines the time taken. If the action is something to do with her job, it takes 1 (1-3­), 2 (4-5­), or 3 (­6) turns.

    If the character attempts something not related to her job, it takes 2 (1), 4 (2), 6(3), 8 (4), 10 (5) or 12 (6) turns.

    At the end of the required turns, roll a d6 to determine success. If the action was related to her job, it succeeds on 1-4, otherwise it succeeds on 1-3.

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