To the Moon, At Any Cost

I was going to translate this game to English before publishing, but I honestly don't have the motivation for it. Sorry for that. It's not important for this post, however.

Short Background

The year is 1873, and we're in Paris. Six inventors have joined a contest to be the first to travel to travel to the moon. The only rule is this: the first team to set a (living) foot on the moon wins.

The rules are simple: you roll a d6 and you always succeed. Too low leads to complications, however. If you're doing something within your field of expertise you get to roll a d10 instead. We role play the days as usual, but each night each character can perform one action that we only roll for and I summarise the outcome. In reality that nightly action often turned into a shorter exchange/role play as well.

Our inventors

No doubt all of these methods are valid ways to get there!

Pacing: Starting Slow

The first thing the players have to do is to agree on which inventor to seek employment with and whether to do something to increase their chances of recruitment. Right off the bat I let them know that there are other prospects for the positions, and they find out something about them.

Recruitment begins the morning after, and there's usually some sort of conflict or tension here. But in some creative way all the groups have plausibly increased their odds and of course been recruited. And all feels well. They are led to their inventor's workshop. There's absolutely nothing there. The first thing they do is, with their boss' help, list things they need. Then they go about trying to get the things.

Here's where the first problems start. No matter what they want some other inventor wants it too, or the group that competed for their employment might be out for revenge and get some stuff before them. Or maybe they can get one important component, but it costs them so much that they can't reasonably buy the rest later. Or all of the above.

At this point the players tend to think that the first day was sort of wasted, but there's more time and they just need to regroup. Maybe they one or more of them go out during the night to find other alternatives, spy on the competition, or even steal some item. Maybe.

Pacing Step Two: Setting the Stakes

The day after will set a routine that becomes important for them: their inventor comes to the workshop with the morning newspaper. And the front page is plastered with information about how fast the other inventors are working. For me all the groups chose Ada Lovelace, and most of them had pretty much nothing to show after the first day and night. I had already decided that a major disadvantage for Ada was a lack of funds. So this is the time I flaunted the wealth of other inventors. Barbicane had ordered a shipment of hundreds of old cannons that would arrive soon and she had just secured a contract with a forge that could melt them for her for the big cannon. Tesla had received a large hand blown glass cylinder that was instrumental to her machine. Fogg had hired dozens of carpenters to build his ramp and they were making quick progress.

Watch the stress set in. The players thought they had a few weeks, but now the window has closed to just a few days. Their plans need quick revisions ("No, we can't wait for the weaving mill to make the balloon fabric! It'll take them a week! We don't have a week!").

This day is going to be significantly more stressful, and usually completely focused on getting parts. If they haven't already resorted to sabotage and theft they probably will during the night. Maybe steal parts from factories or stores in the city, maybe from competitors.

Day Three: Step Up the Pressure

This morning's newspaper will declare that one of the other inventors (I've gone with Tesla all the time here, for maximum effect) will be demonstrating their method in the town square where recruitment took place. There'll be some fine tuning left, they say, but the method can be shown.

Since my groups had chosen Lovelace I found that a couple of the characters had very similar expertise as her. Once they had acquired parts this would pose a problem as they wouldn't have much to do. The solution was simple: Lovelace comes in to the workshop with the paper as per usual, but she's not feeling well and is getting worse by the hour.

The players will send one character to watch the demonstration, probably while the others either get missing parts, scout locations for them, or if they've already got all parts start to assemble them.

And here's the kicker: the demonstration is a success. If the player characters has a long way to go yet I've included some obvious faults in the method. Things that the competitor will have a bit of a hard time addressing. But if they already have everything... Just let it be a shining success.

The following night will be dedicated to theft and sabotage. It's guaranteed. Not only will the player characters do it, but the other inventors will do it to each other. And if our group has been too successful in sourcing materials and constructing their ascent vehicle and all leave the workshop during the night, they will find themselves victims of sabotage too.

Day Four: Temporary Respite and Revenge

The news today proclaim that there has been multiple events during the night and many of the inventors are out of the competition. Let the group get some clue as to where their stuff went if something was stolen from them, or who may have sabotaged their work. Give them an out; someway to fix it in less than 24 hours.

They're going to be angry, but also relieved that the worst competitors are gone.

Until later in the afternoon when they find out that pretty much all inventors that should be out of the game have rejoined by teaming up with someone who's still in. And it looks like their combined talents will be exactly what's needed to solve any remaining problems in short order.


For the last night and day of the competition the players will do anything to stop or slow the other inventors. It's marvellous. More theft and sabotage, and libel, and pretty much anything else they can think of.

Remember how I decided that Ada was sick? To make matters worse she's so incapacitated that if the jury were to find out she would be disqualified. And the player characters can't compete without an inventor.

Solutions and The Race

I saw so many wonderful actions from my three different groups at the convention at this point in the adventure. A non-exhaustive list of examples:

One group managed to carry out totally destructive sabotage against the remaining three other teams during the night! Their only stress before take off the next morning was that they had to do it before being arrested. It was close, of course.

My last group had been very kind compared to the other groups. They hadn't sabotaged anything, and had barely even stolen stuff from the others. The result was that they had Barbicane and Lidenbrock to compete with, both of which had way faster methods of travel.

I pressed them for ideas and let them roll. Remember that they always succeed! The players knew this, but they were very tense either way. A bad success against one inventor could be crippling when dealing with the next.

They ended up actually using Lidenbrock's steam geyser as an accelerator; the poor man couldn't exactly shoot it off when they were above it, but he couldn't hold the high pressure indefinitely and they hovered there. They also ingeniously used their balloon to steer Barbicane's capsule a bit off course (something something jet stream effect high altitude something something), and the gas saved for the home journey as extra propellant.


Even though the players knew that every single action they took would succeed, and I gave them chance upon chance upon chance to fix the problems that had accrued, they were still too stressed because of the avalanche of setbacks and barely successful rolls to notice that the odds were ever in their favour.

The last group, which had been given so many chances in the last scene that it was almost ridiculous, asked me if the other groups had won the race as well.


The game, in Swedish.

My last post, about pacing in general.

UPDATE: 2021-11-17.

I just realised that I had posted about this adventure when it was just an idea.

-- CC0 Björn Wärmedal