'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Expanse RPG. Let's Get Advanced!

Continuing my look at the quickstart rules for the Expanse RPG, I wanted to circle back and look at skill tests. Like many games the skill test is the core of the game, anything a character wants to do, of consequence, is generally resolved with a skill test roll by the player.

In many games that boils down to non-combat characters doing their shining moment in a roll or two, leaving combat characters rolling a lot and being more engaged in that way within the game engine. Although conflict is a very important part of RPGs and narratives it can leave some characters out in the cold so to speak.

When RuneHammer Games released ICRPG he included an effort system. You could assign 10 effort points to a task, say translating runes, your party member with the ability to translate could now be a more active part. Now it wasn't a roll with a pass/fail, now it was a matter of time before the runes could be deciphered. Adding in combat with this added even more tension. It is a cool mechanic and it was the first time I had personally encountered it's use.

Wait? Why are we talking about RuneHammer? I thought this was about "The Expanse RPG"? The Expanse has a similar system called "Advanced Tests". These are generally described as more advanced test. In this case the GM is going to assign a TN as well a success threshold. When a player rolls for their character and succeeds the drama die is added to a running total, and once that total meets or exceeds that success threshold the test is successful. Of course each attempt at the test consumes time and perhaps resources depending on the test.

ok. Lets take a look at this in action!


Intelligence: 2
Focus: Technology

Deep in Ceres station Noelle and her crew are attempting to hack into a computer system. The right information can make you wealthy.

Things haven't gone well for our heroes though and they are pinned down at the access node by Star Helix operatives. Reinforcements are most certainly on the way. As it turns out Noelle is a bit of a whiz with computers and they decide to attempt the hack despite the presence of the security officers and their guns.

The GM has set this encounter to allow the Players to escape if they desire. For every round they stay an additional D4 guards take up position firing on the players, to a max of 5 operatives. We will assume Star Helix has enough man power to essentially keep throwing low level operatives at them.

The GM sets the computer system hack as an Advanced test with a Threshold of 10, and a TN of 13.

Round 1:
Noelle gets to work attempting to bypass the security system while her crew and Star Helix exchange fire. Her players rolls 1,4,(4) = 9 + 2 Int + 2 focus = 13 = SUCCESS! 4 is added to the running total.
The remainder of the round is her crew and Star Helix rolling and attempting to kill each other. Some of her crew take damage, and one or two SH operatives are dropped.

Round 2:
The crew calls back as the desperately hold off SH, "HOW MUCH LONGER!!??"
Noelle, while working as fast as she can yells back, "I'm in! Almost there!!". Her players makes another roll to work on the system. This time her roll is 3,6,(1) = 10 + 2 Int + 2 focus = 14 = SUCCESS! 1 is added to the running total.
Noelle curses under her breath as ICE work to stop her attempts at access in the main database. Star Helix continues their onslaught as more guards turn up to help capture the renegades.

Round 3:
A Star Helix officer gets a bead on Noelle and fires at her, the bullet glances off the bulk head just to the right of her head, her fortune holds as she continues to work against the computer. This time her roll is 2,1,(6) = 9 + 2 Int + 2 Focus = 13 = SUCCESS! 6 is added to the running total, brining it to 10. Noelle lets out a whoop as she successfully breaks into the system. The gun battle continues, Star Helix continues shooting, their bullets finally finding their marks as the luck of Noelle's crew begins to run out.

Hopefully, if you haven't used a system like this, you can see how it can engage a non-combat character more thoroughly into the game beyond the simple roll to pass/fail their key skill. I think the concept can make the game a lot more fun for everyone and allow a cooler and more interesting skill test interaction.

Be sure to check out my other articles on the Expanse RPG!

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