One Shot: Doctor Val

Character: Val, M.D.
Game: Life on Mars
Episodes: 1
Theme Song: Don't Fear the Reaper by Denmark + Winter
Keywords: Concerned, withdrawn, calculating

Tonight we played Life on Mars, a game by Ross Cowman that was pretty clearly a precursor to the amazing Fall of Magic. The game is about a trip to Mars, where you then set up a base of sorts, and then eventually decide whether you want to return or not. We didn't get all the way to the end, but we got far enough along I saw some dramatic changes in the character I made.

I chose a name, Val, and a position on the team. I was the last to choose and so I got Doctor. I made Val, a female doctor in her late 40's, who was also the psych on board because someone had to keep an eye on the sanity of the team. She mostly focused her practice on emergency medicine, and while she kept up with the records necessary to be the psych, she found little interest in the actual subject of the human mind.

In play, you're asked introspective questions, much like in Fall of Magic. Through the game, I found out that Val had a 12 year old son at home, named Tam, who was living with his artistic, author father. I knew Val didn't talk to her estranged husband, and she knew that her son didn't like her. It was a quiet mourning for what could have been, but she had accepted that he was beyond her reach. Instead, she focused on the journey and finding purpose in something else.

Val was about getting through the mission. In play, she was in charge of the social media of the Martian Mission, and found small ways to make it home for the crew. She was pretty constantly posting human moments for the crew to make sure people knew they were people, mostly she did this to see her crew at their most human, but also she did it to forge a connection with people on earth for them. People on earth would want to watch their victory, and they would want to bring them back, which was a safety net in a way.

According to the engineer, Val was brilliant, mostly in the way she handled social media. I still haven't figured out why she got social media, but she did. There was a slow release of control from Val as she lived with the crew, and a deep dislike of the Commander grew as their journey continued. There was a level of compulsion and control to the Commander that Val saw as a dangerous and short sighted and self serving. To her, the mission was about getting Mars ready for the first settlers, to get it set it up as a potential colony while earth behind them suffered.

Val was an interesting character to play. I really enjoyed watching her soften to the crew as she got to know them. There was a wall of psych evals she kept in her office along with a copy of Oh The Places You'll Go which each crew member was allowed to scribble in and write in. It became a kind of token self help and beauty thing that she loved. It would be theirs when the mission was done.

I would enjoy playing her again, as I wanted to see her challenge the Commander to make him be present and aware of what he was doing. She worried for him but figured he should know better. I also want to see her feel the strain of the travel, as she hadn't quite yet. Her spirits were still up and she was enduring well. Next time we'll see how she handles it, if I see her again.


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