Mars Crisis: The secret sauce

In this post I reveal the secret sauce that will optimise your chance of saving the colony!

This post is the last of three posts where I explain the story engine in Mars Crisis. The first post in the series is Mars Crisis: The story engine and the second post is Mars Crisis: Moves. Mars Crisis is a one man project. It’s based on Twine 2 using the Harlowe 3.2.2 story format. The latest version of the game is available here.

In the previous post we built three moves for Kelly to use when influencing someone: Explain, Tell, Sell. Each move triggers a roll of two dice, added together with a modifier to produce the outcomes Hit, Partial Hit and Miss to drive the story forward (and change the game state of Kelly and the colony).

We found out that modifiers should be between -2 and +4. Let’s make use of that range such that players can make smart decisions and influence Kelly’s chance of success. We will let three elements influence the modifier: Kelly’s leadership style, the factions of Kelly and the person she influences, and finally, situational secret sauce.

Leadership style

Firstly, let’s have the player choose a leadership style for Kelly. Is your Kelly clever, competent or charming? Each choice will make your Kelly strong at one move (+2), average at another move (+1), and weak at a third move (+0). For example, Clever Kelly gets Explain +2, Tell +1, Sell +0. Or as the flavour text describe it, Clever Kelly is strong at building logical arguments that shows how proposed changes will benefit the group of people you are addressing. Sometimes she fails to inspire or entice people to action though.

If you skip the intro, you will get Balanced Kelly with +1 for all three.

The implementation of setting Kelly's leadership style in the editor.


Next, let’s put factions into the mix.

Say, Conservatives likes traditional command and control type of leadership, so let’s give Tell a +1 when the other is a Conservative. Liberals think they are very clever and likes when you explain things to them. Socialists likes to feel appreciated and important so let’s give them a bonus when you try sell ideas to them. Populists like simple solutions and don’t like when you explain things to them.

Also, when you belong to the same faction, people tend to give you a little bit more slack, so let’s make that a bonus too when explaining things.

The secret sauce

Finally, the secret sauce. Years ago I learned of a change management model that split people’s resistance to change into three resistance levels: 

  • I don’t get it: I don’t understand what you want me to do.
  • I don’t like it: I understand what you want me to do, but I don’t want to do.
  • I don’t like YOU!… and I don’t want to do whatever you want me to do.

The key insight is that if you try to explain your great initiative to someone who have decided that they don’t like you, you are not very likely to succeed. Also, if you tell people to do something and they don’t understand, results will suffer. Finally, if they understand but just don’t like it, long explanations are less likely to win them over.

To model if people likes Kelly, let’s introduce opponents: Opponents don’t like you and as long as they don’t like you, they are not very likely to support you. However, you can always try to win them over, so the default approach should be selling. So a -1 modifier to Explain and Tell when influencing an opponent.

As the opposite to opponents, let’s introduce allies: Allies trust you and are more likely to accept your ideas even if they don’t understand them. So telling allies what to do gets a +1 modifier.

Finally, let’s give Kelly situational modifiers reflecting whether the other don’t understand what Kelly want them to do or if they just don’t like it.

Don’t get itDon’t like it

The formulas

Expressed in formulas, the above boils down to the following.


Roll + Explain + isSameFaction + isLiberal - dontLikeIt - isOpponent

So liberal and Clever Kelly will get +4 when explaining an idea to a liberal, and not-so-smart Kelly will get -2 when explaining an idea to an opponent that don’t like the idea.


Roll + Tell + isConservative + isAlly - dontGetIt - isOpponent

So Competent Kelly will get +4 when telling a conservative ally what to do and not-so-competent Kelly will get -2 to telling an opponent what to do when they simply don’t understand what Kelly wants them to do.


Roll + Sell + isSocialist - dontGetIt

So Charming Kelly will get +3 when selling an unpopular idea to a socialist while not-so-charming Kelly will get -1 to selling an idea to a liberal or conservative that don’t understand what Kelly wants them to do.

The implementation of the Tell move as seen in the editor.

Try it out!

Now you know how to optimise Kelly’s chances of influencing someone in Mars Crisis. However, even the best of strategies still depend on the luck of the dice. Try it out now! Good luck!