'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

Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Expanse RPG: First impressions (more or less)

The e-mail came and I immediately downloaded the PDF from Green Ronin. I was anxious to see the Expanse RPG in all its glory. I had seen the quick start and Modern Age rules, both of which I liked. This was the full book though and I was excited.

The RPG is broken out into 3 basic sections: Players section, A Guide to the Expanse, and the Gamemaster's Sections The RPG opens with the new novella by James SA Corey and then rolls right into the rules and character creation, tech, ships and eventually a section on the world of the Expanse, detailing Mars, Earth and the Belt.

Some of the art I love, some of it I am luke warm too, but overall the book looks good and I was anxious to find some time to dig deeper into it.

It's hard for me to have a strong first impression of a .pdf file, as much as I see them as a useful way to get content to us, for me they are still not that physical book. So initially? It is what I expected after seeing Modern Age and the Expanse quick start. I can not wait to have a physical copy.

Intro & Rules

I did spent a little time with it to get a better idea of what exactly this book looked like. Many RPGs have flavor text and may even open with a small blurb about the world. The Expanse starts with a short story written by James SA Corey for the RPG. So we are already starting off plenty strong with a full piece of prose from the authors of this beloved series.

Once we get past the story we are whisked into the basic rules of how things work. How characters make skill tests, what a stunt die is and does. It is not a complicated system and it might be a good middle ground between something overly simple and something overly crunchy. I haven't had time to play yet though, so time will tell.

Character Creation

After the basic rules we are introduced to character creation which is laid out in a nice 10 step process. I find that creating characters can sometimes be a little convoluted for a new player. As a new character playing Pathfinder for the first time, I didn't find it super easy. As a new player to Conan 2d20, I would level the same criticism of it. In comparison John Carter was a simple character building system and I suspect this will be similar, as the builds in Modern Age were not difficult.

After the basics of character creation have been talking about our next chapter is the list of talents and traits players can take to customize their characters beyond their basic stats.

Tech and Equipment

And then we are onto Tech and Equipment. What sci-fi game is complete without advanced technology? Generally anything we see in the Expanse is probably going to be something we recognize in our modern world, from hand terminals to space ships. They provide a fairly comprehensive list of traits and ideas to build most any tech you might want. Here we have weapons lists and armor lists including the impressive Martian power armor.

The section includes dealing with income and lifestyle. We get a section on how this system deals with a characters basic upkeep based on their income level from character creation.

I would have liked to have seen more rules on cybernetics and similar. I know this isn't a cyberpunk game, but we see basic implants in the books, perhaps we will see this in a later expansion, as I do not think we see them until later in the books. The same can be said about drugs, specifically combat drugs, but again, perhaps we will see something more specific later.

Encounters

The next section talks about different types of encounters and breaks them into 2 chief areas: Action, Exploration and Social. Each of these sections includes rules and stunt lists that you have access to if you manage to roll stunt points.

Action encounters include melee combat, chases and vehicles. It lists various forms of stunts such as grappling stunts and gun stunts, and continues to list various special things you can do for vehicles and chases.

Exploration encounters has stunts for general exploration and infiltration. It contains ideas and stunts for general exploration and investigations as well as detailing how to use hazards with the scenarios.

Social encounters lists ideas about how NPCs may react to characters through "Attitude", and as always continues into a list of things you may get to spend stunt points on. An example of a social stunt might all a player to read the room and get a general feel for who has what attitude toward the players.

Finally the section ends with interludes, small pieces of narrative downtime where the players can accomplish goals. These can be between adventures or during ship transits. Any time there is an extended period where there is no action.

Starships & Space Travel

The final part of this section centers around spaceships and spaceflight. It opens with a basic lesson on real orbits and transits between bodies, but if you really want to get a good handle on how all this works you should go grab a copy of "Kerbal Space Program."

Once we get through our primer we talk about ships and their attributes and qualities. They do not provide a cost for a ship based on the understanding that even the smallest of these are not things a normal person just owns.

Finally we round out the section with ship encounters, combat and how to spend Stunt Points. I wrote an article on starship combat during the quickstarter. I can't tell you nothing has changed, but it looks similar enough that it is worth checking out if you are interested in how it runs.

Setting Information

Leaving the rules behind for a little while we enter into the section called, "Guide to the Expanse". This section details the current state of the system with sections describing Earth, Mars, the Belt and the Outer Planets. It looks to be a comprehensive guide on not only the planets, but on the people as well.

The guide covers cultures and the language of the Belt, Belter Creole, as well as physiological changes humanity has, or is experiencing, as we evolve to match our new environments.

The guide details important stations, moons and holdings of each of the factions and I suspect upon reading it should give a great deal of insight into the overall world of the Expanse, and as well plant some wonderful story ideas.

This section also includes stats for the protagonists from the Expanse. They are sprinkled throughout the section based on what planet they call home. James and Amos being listed with Earth for example.

Running the Expanse

After the history and general Expanse fluff information we move into the meat of the book for the GM. This next section talks about GMing the game, and compromised about 30% of the book starting on page 180. It starts as all games should, assuming you know nothing. We get an overview of what a GM does and then we move on to more specifics, how to make adventures, rolling or not and being inclusive at the table.

There is a lengthy section on threats for environmental and adversaries, including a section on social adversaries. This section includes a small listing of sample opponents such as gangs and security forces as well as the creations of the proto-molecule. This section also goes over the basics of creating your NPCs as well, and gives us some guidelines on using them.

We then have a section on how we might reward PCs, both monetarily and beyond. These might include relationships, memberships in organizations or reputation.

The second section of the book rounds out with a chapter on writing a series or a campaign for your Expanse characters. It talks about how you might want to structure it and gives you some ideas to explore.

Adventure and Information Sheets

Finally we have an adventure to run to get you up and playing as quickly as possible. I haven't done anything more than quickly glance through it, as I don't generally run pre-written adventures. I will of course take a deeper look at this one and the quick start adventure to get a feel, and some ideas, before getting ready to run my first Expanse game.

The book rounds out with the typical things we would find: An index, character sheets and other tracking sheets, such as the Churn. Not much more to say here, everything we expect to see is available.

Final Thoughts

At first pass it looks like a good book that is well laid out. It is hard to tell for sure without having played it, or done much more than give it a quick read over. Right now I can tell you that this RPG will give you ~260 pages of Expanse goodness courtesy of Green Ronin and James SA Corey. If you are a fan of RPGs and the Expanse, I highly recommend you grab a copy of this in the near future when it becomes available!

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Monday, February 25, 2019

Conan 2d20: Playing the Investigation

Most of my articles have been about how to GM certain aspect of Conan 2d20 RPG, or at most overviews of how the basic mechanics work. I haven't played as a player, but my group has run for a couple of years, playing once a month or so, and I have noticed a few things.

As I have mentioned numerous times, I really like the idea of succeeding by a measure of success vs a simply black & white success metric of many RPGs, especially d20 based systems. Unfortunately I think this idea gets forgotten outside of combat by players as there is no real chart of spends to use your momentum on when you succeed in an amazing way. As you may have guessed from the title we are going to look at how players can get the most out of an investigation.

Generally, as I have outlined in my investigation post players should be able to simply say, "I search the area" or something similar to gain the most basic clue about where they should go next.

GM: Your party enters the room to find the dead body of your contact sprawled on the floor. Furniture and belongings are strewn about as though there was a struggle.
GM: What do you do?

As the player you decide you want to search the body.

Player: I would like to search the body
GM: Ok. This will be a D1 Observation test?
Player: I roll 2d20 and gain 2 successes!
GM: Alright, you gain a point of momentum.
GM: As you search the body you find, clutched in his hand, the emblem of the royal guard, apparently torn from his attacker during the struggle.

As a player from a more traditional system with a pass/fail mechanic you will be tempted to think that is that and try and find who the emblem was torn from, but this is Conan2d20 and it contains a measure of success, you as the player rolled 2 successes, you received a point of momentum. Not only did you succeed, but you succeeded well. You could certainly drop the momentum into the group pool for the next player to use, or you could spend it right away.

Page 103-104 of the core rulebook discusses basic types of momentum spends, some of these are broken out into a series of momentum spends. For example: Improve Quality of Success is described as a an often repeatable spend that may cause extra damage, and Increase Scope of Success is described as being able to affect more targets, or increase areas of effects. Both of these we see as combat spends as well, but we shouldn't limit these to the arena of combat.

So you have searched the body but gained momentum in doing so. Why don't we use that to "Increase the Quality of Success"

Player: With my point of momentum I would like to see if there is anything else interesting about the body
GM: As your search is especially thorough, you move the body slightly and discover, scrawled in blood, the name, "Cromlach". The name was previously hidden by the way the body was laying suggesting your contact was left for dead.

Now you have even more to go on, which can be nothing but beneficial. Keep this in mind as you choose how many d20s to roll. It may well be beneficial to roll 5d20 as well as assistance dice from your party to search that body and generate as much momentum as possible so you can be sure to find every last detail you can about it.

This can also be helpful if you don't actually know what you are looking for yet. This past weekend my players did a cursory search of a room and succeeded. They found a shipping manifest for supplies that came out of a nearby city. They didn't know it was relevant and so it was glossed over and largely ignored for several hours as they tried to workout their next move.

As a player use everything in your power to let the GM help you along to the next point in the investigation or story and remember they are not at odds to you, they want you to learn what is next, they want you to continue and be successful, but they also don't want to simply hand it to you on a silver platter or railroad you down a given path.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Conan 2d20: Magic in the Hyborian Age

I will start this by saying that I haven't played D&D in many years, but as it is probably the most played game out there I will be bringing it up as a comparison to how magic works in most RPGs vs how magic works in Conan 2d20.

In D&D you get a long list of spells you can choose from and from that list you can choose what you want to cast for a given day. For an example we have a first level wizard with an INT of 17 (+3). The wizard has 6 spells in her spell book. At level one, she will be able to create a spell list for the day that contains 4 spells from her book. She may then cast any of those 4 spells twice, since a level 1 wizard only has two level one spell slots.

The spells you get to cast have any number of effects: Lightning bolts, fireballs, magic missiles, shields, summoning monsters, etc. They are the stuff of high fantasy, flashy displays of mystical energy.

The magic in Conan is much more subdued and although there is certainly spells that can be used offensively, we aren't going to be throwing magical fireballs at each other. Where D&D gives you a large number of spells to choose from, Conan gives you a smaller number of spells, probably a single spell when you start. I tend to think of these as spell blocks though because although they have a single name, they each have ways to build on the effects. In D&D terms you might not have magic missile and lightning bolt as two spells, they might simply be called, "Magic Bolt". D&D would need a way to channel more energy into the spell, maybe expending 2 spell slots to increase the effect of the bolt from a mere zap to a full fledged lightning bolt.

In the movies we see magic akin to what we might find in the Hyborian Age in the first Conan The Barbarian movie as well as the magic wielded by Merlin in the similarly aged "Excalibur". The magic in these films is very real, and yet often quite subtle. You again aren't seeming glowing hands and the like.

One of the other major differences is the loss of resolve, ie mental hit points, from spell casting in Conan. You could cause yourself to go insane if you cast too many spells without any rest. It lends a much darker and more sinister air to the forces you try and wield in the Hyborian Age.

With all that I am simply trying to set out the ground work for magic in 2d20 for those who are new to it. It is different. That doesn't make it bad. Today we are going to cover the basic ideas behind how casting works mechanically and how it can work for the narrative. There are a few other concerns around a character with knowledge in Sorcery, but that is for another time.

Call Your Dragon to Weave a Mist.....

The simplest form of spell casting in 2d20 looks like this and is known as Casting for Effect.
  1. Resolve - Check and make sure you have enough resolve to cast the spell.
  2. Minor action - Focus action (skipping this causes complications on a 19 or 20).
  3. Standard action - Skill test against sorcery.
  4. Complications - Any failed rolls result in a complication. Rolling a complication causes 2 complications.
  5. Momentum - On a successful test send and additional momentum you have on stronger effects.
  6. Resolve - Reduce your resolve
The second form of casting is known as Testing for Consequences or sometimes called Casting for Consequence. This is not at alternate rule, but it is up to the GM to allow it on a case by case basis. Basically the idea is that the spell always goes off and you are just testing to check for it's negative effects, think of it as Casting to Determine Complications.
  1. Resolve - Check and make sure you have enough resolve to cast the spell.
  2. Difficulty - Determine the difficulty of the spell. Most start with a base of D1, and each momentum spend you add, adds a level of difficulty.
  3. Minor action - Focus action (skipping this causes complications on a 19 or 20).
  4. Standard action - Skill text against your spells difficulty.
  5. Complications - Each difference between the number of successes you roll vs the difficulty of the spell causes a complication. ie if you roll 3 successes on a D5 spell, you gain 2 complications.
  6. Complications - It is POSSIBLE that a failed skill test here still causes a complication as well. There is nothing specifically that says it doesn't.
  7. Complications - Rolling a 20 causes a complication.
  8. Momentum - Spend momentum as normal.
  9. Resolve - Reduce your resolve.

Can You Summon Demons, Wizard?

Let us take a little bit of a deeper look at the ideas presented in the book. Specifically we will start with the following passage:

From the depths of dusty tomes and the tutelage of patrons human and otherwise, the sorcerer collects incantations and recipes for spells, magical creations whose effects are immensely powerful, their histories older than the cities of men. These spells are broad strokes, guidelines by which unnatural forces can impose their will upon the natural world. The combination of spell effects and sorcerous talents comingle to form more complex results and more powerful intrusions of the Outer Dark into the world of humankind. The nature of magic in the Hyborian Age is not strictly codified, and requires the gamemaster to adjudicate on a narrative as well as mechanical basis.
-Conan 2d20, Core Book Page 173

It is fairly easy to look at the spells and mechanically cast based on what is listed. That is always an easy thing, but in my books it is a less fun way to play. These games are all about the narrative. Have a player simply cast and then pick from a list leaves a lot on the floor. Instead think of these spell blocks as a toolkit. I strongly encourage you and your players to at least have an idea of the desired effect of the spell, even if it isn't fully realized on the actual skill test. I have a couple of examples below of sorcery in use. Our examples will center around Adara, a Cimmerian shaman.

Adara looks out across the blood soaked sward, the smoking ruins of the fort and dead from both sides litter the ground around her. Her people did not start this war, the constant incursion of the southern kingdoms north to take more land, and finally in an attempt to subjugate her people started this. Finally her tribe had enough, and so her and her people drew steel and assaulted their positions.

GM: You see a large warrior cutting down your people left and right, clearly a Knight and a fearsome opponent, what do you do.
Player: Adara casts Form of a Beast. Uhhh, I roll 4 successes so that lets me succeed and spend 3 momentum. I choose Nature's Brawn, Animal Resilience and Roughen this beasts hide and I transform into a bear.
GM: Ok, Adara takes the form of her totem animal, the bear.
VS.
GM: You see a large warrior cutting down your people left and right, clearly a Knight and a fearsome opponent, what do you do.
Player: Adara summons the energies of the forest creatures, feeling the power of her totem animal flow into her she attempts to take on not just the form of the beast, but also it's strength and savagery! I roll 2 successes, and assume the form of my totem animal. Unfortunately this only gives me one point of momentum so I use that to assume the strength of the bear! GM: Ok, Adara takes the form of her totem animal, the bear.

Mechanically similar, but in my books the second one is more fun and more interesting, even though she was less successful with that test. Certainly the rules say you cast and then can use that momentum however you want, and I am not saying you should pick exactly what you want to have happen from the menu and try and cast it, but instead have an idea of the kinds of things you COULD have happen or WANT to have happen and weave that into the description of what your character is doing.

Even if you go the first route and don't have a clear idea what you are trying to accomplish with the spell, once you have chosen those effects I would strongly encourage you to work those effects into the description of what your character is doing. The spells are a GOLD MINE for narrative ideas and cool effects.

I can't encourage your enough to use these spell blocks as a toolkit to build excellent narrative effects around the magic we find in the Hyborian Age!

Finally some of the core book can be confusing, and should you need it we do have a Sorcery FAQ put together from the days of the Google+ group.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Adventure Wednesday: The d6 Outpost

On the far reaches of the kingdom sits a small fort. Its only purpose is to guard the border and warn of approaching threats from the west. The land is desolate and the soldiers stationed here rely on supplies from the nearest city, some two days hard ride away. This place is isolated and those unlucky enough to be here spend day after day looking out at nothing......

Welcome to Adventure Wednesday! Last week we started Story Seed Tuesday. I decided I should move this to Wednesdays so I could have my efforts to create weekly content more spread out across the week. This is our first Wednesday installment and I already though I would do something a little different. If you like this idea, I will see about including some roll tables with future adventure ideas. As we go forward the blog will end up with a good store house of adventure roll tables to go along with the monsters of Friday's Forgotten Fiends!

Stories about an isolated outpost or ship are common place and work equally well for sci-fi and fantasy. Players can either be stationed there when things start to go wrong, or they could be responding to word of something bad, perhaps the last supply train never returned?

Today I am going to provide a few roll tables that will allow you as the GM to generate a quick plot you can use to build an adventure around. The tables are setting agnostic and should work as well for D&D 5e as they do for The upcoming Expanse RPG by Green Ronin Games.

Step 1: Roll for the outpost type.
1d6 Roll
Result
Goods, Cost Modifier
Number of goods
1
2
3
4
5
6
Guardpost
Gateway
Place of Study
Isolated Community
Trade Outpost
Religious Order
-2, +20%, 3
0, +10%, 2
+2, +10%, 2
0, +20%, 1
0, +10%, 4
0, +20%, 2

Step 2: Make a number of rolls equal to the "Number of Goods" rolled in Step 1. Modify these rolls by the "Goods Modifier".
1d6 Roll +
Goods Modifier
Result
1
2
3
4
5
6
Weapons
Armor
Food
Lodging
Basic Goods
Lore about the Area

Step 3: Determine the environment the outpost exists in. Make sure to note if this is a fantasy or a sci-fi outpost.
1d6 Roll
Location
1
2
3
4
5
6
Edge of Kingdom/Deep Space
Rocky Area/Asteroids
Coast Line/Gas Giant
Forests/Rocky Moon
Deserts/Lagrange Station
Mountains/Class M Planet

Step 4: Determine a basic plot
1d6 Roll
Location
1
2
3
4
5
6
Attacked by Enemy Faction (Military, pirates, etc)
Attacked by Natural Enemy (Wild animals, alien organisms)
Natural Catastrophic Event (Earthquakes, asteroid strikes)
Plague (Disease outbreak, Zombies, Mutations)
Betrayal (Higher up at outpost has sold it out)
Outpost has been taken over in secret (Enemies unknown to the players now control the outpost)

Step 5: How are the players involved?
1d6 Roll
Location
1
2
3
4
5
6
Relief Effort
Stationed at Outpost
Sent to Investigate
Escort to or From Outpost
Evacuation of Outpost
Rescue Mission
Infiltration


Now that we have a few fun tables to roll on, let's generate a few story ideas!
Setting
Type
Goods
Location
What is happening?
How are the characters involved?
Fantasy
Trade Outpost
+20% cost
Weapons, Armor, Lodging, Basic Goods
Edge of the Kingdom
Natural catastrophic event.
Sent to Investigate the cause of the event
Sci-Fi
Religious Order
+0% cost
Basic Goods, Lore about the Area
Asteroid Base
Attacked by a natural enemy
Evacuation
Fantasy
Religious Order
+0% cost
Weapons, Food
Mountains
Attacked by an enemy faction
Members of the order, or hire as guards
Sci-fi
Gateway
+10% cost
Lodging, Lore about Area
Lagrange station
Attacked by an enemy faction
Rescue Mission

There you have it. Four super quick story idea seeds and a set of table to generate a lot more all revolving around an isolated outpost.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

The Weird West of Robert E. Howard: Old Garfield's Heart.

Continuing my look at the Weird West of Robert E. Howard I thought I would look at a few of the stories in depth. The first I have chosen is probably one of my favorites as well as being my introduction to Howard's work in this genre.

Old Garfield's Heart was first published in Weird Tales in December of 1933 and is generally labelled as a "Horror Story". I am not sure if I agree with that assessment, but I understand why it receives it. Either way it takes place shortly after the end of the Wild West, but for me falls squarely into the "Weird West" genre. The story is about an frontiersman, Old Garfield, that has lived as long as anyone can remember. The story is told through the eyes of an unnamed narrator who believe's the tales told by Old Garfield are nothing more than whims of fancy or tall tales. As I mentioned, the story takes place in a time that post-dates the Wild West by a few years, but it's central themes are from the 1870s.

As the story opens the narrator is waiting for the doctor so he can accompany him to check up on Old Garfield, and engaged in conversation with his grandfather. Despite Old Garfield's injuries, the grandfather doesn't believe he will die. We learn that the Grandfather and Old Garfield had been in a few fights together including fights with the Comanche. During one of these Old Garfield is grievously wounded and a medicine man mysteriously shows up and saves him.

The narrator travels with the doctor to check up on the mysterious Old Garfield. They find him injured, as we have been told, but he is delirious and tells us the story of how "Ghost Man" saved him and made him immortal.

After this the narrator ends up crossing paths with a local bully, Jack Kirby, over an argument about a cow that was bought. The narrator ends up nearly killing Jack, and ends up on an assault charge. The charge isn't nearly good enough for Jack. Once he has recovered he sets out to kill the narrator.

The narrator and Jack have their showdown at Old Garfield's place and we finally learn the truth.

Old Garfield's Heart is a fairly short story at about 3500 words, but in that we get action, adventure, mystery and a sprinkling of magic. The world Howard creates, through descriptions and dialogue, is almost tangible. In my opinion the amount of depth and flavor he achieved is amazing, especially given the amount of time he has to create it.

Robert E. Howard wrote a lot of fantastic stories set both in the modern world, the medieval world and worlds time has forgotten. These are all places of his imagination, perhaps well researched, but still not places he knew first hand. Stories like this are a little different, this world he has near first hand experience with. The setting is his own. The stories and tall tales from the old timers he loved to listen to. The narrator in this story could be Howard, a younger man talking to an old timer about the old days of the frontier.

If you are a fan of Howard's other characters, or if you are new to Howard in general, and are looking to try something new this is a great intro to some of his other works.

The story can be found on Gutenberg Australia at Old Garfield's Heart. I encourage you to take 10 minutes, give it a read and let me know what you think!

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles. First Look

I finally got my copy of Battlestar Galactica: Starship battles! You can check out my box opening here, BSG Box Opening, but don't worry it's quite short. This blog article is about my first impressions after opening the box and looking at the components. I am not looking to do a direct comparison with X-wing when I talk about this game, but it's hard to not bring it up play wise and component wise, simply because X-wing has been around awhile and I suspect most people reading this will be somewhat aware of it.

First Impressions

I had of course seen pictures of the box online, but this was my first time seeing it and holding it. It's outward basic form is that of most of the games of this type: Sails of Glory, Wings of Glory or X-wing. The little plastic window showed me their cool models, which did not disappoint. I also really liked the inside of the box having the phrase, "SO SAY WE ALL", across the box, one word on each side. Very cool.

Upon opening the box the first thing that made me chuckle was the books having their page edges cut off, just like all the paper we see in the TV show. It was a nice little touch. The insides of the box are nicely laid out with plenty of room for everything. I'll make a note that the cards all fit great when in plastic, but once open they are prone to no longer staying where they belong. This could be an issue with the maneuver decks, as you don't want them getting mixed up.

Models

Excellent. These models are beautiful. I expected that from Ares, as I had played Wings of Glory at a New Years Eve gathering some years ago. They are a little bigger than what we see in X-wing, but I am ok with that. Still I am happy to see them do justice to the Colonial Viper, down to call signs and markings. Very cool. The Cylon raiders are likewise excellent, and I am looking forward to the release of new ships, especially raiders from the original series.

This set comes with two Vipers and two Raiders, just as the windows shows. There isn't any other models in this box, but for $50, I wouldn't expect there to be.


Plastic components

In addition to plotting maneuvers in BSG:SSB, you have a plastic control panel allowing you to plan headings and speeds, as well as a few other things. This control panel is pretty cool and a nice way to track these parts of the game. Unfortunately these are a little stiff. (I'll note that they seem to have loosened up a little over time).

The game also comes, unsurprisingly, with plastic flight stands. These stands are different from what we see in X-wing and I found them to be a little more robust. They also have the ability to select heading, allowing ships to have a heading different than the direction of travel.

Cards

Like most games you get a selection of cards. Like X-wing these include ships and pilots. They also have a selection of cards to personalize your pilots with talents and flaws. Each ship also gets a maneuver deck which is used to plot movements and is the movement template itself, similar to the X-wing maneuver dial. All of the cards are nice, although apart from the ship cards, they are pretty small. The size is in line with the size of the ship add-on cards in X-wing. Downside I see here is the maneuver deck is a set of hexagonal cards. Sleeving them will be difficult.

Card Stock Components

You also get a series of card stock components with the game, basic tokens and range rulers. Nothing fancy here. Everything looks good and inline with the aesthetic of the game. The only standout is the asteroid fields, but it's because it's printed on thin card stock, more like a construction paper weight. They will work, but they aren't as nice as what was in X-wing. Of course I will suggest the game will be prettier with a series of asteroid models....



Dice

Although I appreciate people liking fancy dice, afterall it's more COOL DICE!, I am not generally as much of a fan. I like the concept of the dice in X-wing, as I like counting successes and fails rather than adding dice. However I dislike having to buy a certain die pack to get more. So depending on where you fall on this side of things you will either love or hate that BSG:SSB uses a simple set of 2d6.



Overall

It is a nice set. Fully worth the $52cad I picked it up for. Four excellent models, 4 plastic control panels and a plethora of cards and punch outs. My initial impressions of the components is easily......
4 out of 5 Skulls of my Enemies!

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Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Expanse Rpg. Miniatures?

The quick start presents the rules from a "Theatre of the Mind" perspective. They do mention miniatures and how to convert speed onto a grid scale, but this isn't Savage Worlds. However if you are like me you like miniatures and an excuse to buy more is a good thing!

At present there are no official Expanse miniatures. There are of course various sci-fi and near sci-fi collections out there. I made an attempt to go out and find a few of those and categorize them into areas they might fit into the universe of The Expanse.

This is far from a definitive list and most links will take you to whole collections of similar figures. I also realize these might not be the most ideal miniatures for your vision.

If you have some others you think would make awesome Expanse figures drop me a comment!


The Executives and Politicians


These make up the higher end of government and business. Characters like Chrisjen Avasarala, Sadavir Errinwright and Jules-Pierre Mao.

Men in Black
Copplestone Castings
Francis
Hasslefree Miniatures


Star Helix and Other Security Firms


The private security of the belt and inner planets. Guys and gals with guns, also investigators like Miller

Cops and Paramilitary
Em4/Moonraker
Suits
em4/Moonraker
Gov't Types
Heresy Miniatures


MCRN/UN


The Military. Naval officers, Marines, etc. Bobbie Draper of the MCRN Marines is an example.

Nova Corp
Reaper Bones
Troopers
Em4/Moonraker
Inspectors
Heresy Miniatures
Admiral Edwards
Hasslefree Miniatures


OPA


Militia types representing the loose knit organization of freedom fighters and terrorists

Citizen Militia 1
Copplestone Castings
Scavengers
Copplestone Castings
Scavenger Heros
Copplestone Castings


Civilians

General people living and working on Mars or Earth

Newsteam
Copplestone Castings
Modern Civilians
Old Glory Miniatures


Player Characters

The Holdens, Nagatas, Burtons and Kamals of the universe

Anti-heros
Heresy Miniatures
Laran Jax
Hasslefree Miniatures
Danica
Hasslefree Miniatures


Company list

A list of the companies used in picking a few miniatures I felt might fir into the Expanse. I am sure there are others with these manufacturers as well as others. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Expanse RPG. The Churn.

Kenzo: It must be nice, having everything figured out like that.
Amos: Ain’t nothing to do with me: we’re just caught in the Churn, that’s all.
Kenzo: I have no idea what you just said.
Amos: This boss I used to work for in Baltimore, he called it the Churn. When the rules of the game change.
Kenzo: What game?
Amos: The only game. Survival. When the jungle tears itself down and builds itself into something new. Guys like you and me, we end up dead. Doesn’t really mean anything. Or, if we happen to live through it, well that doesn’t mean anything either.

We got another Expanse Extra yesterday. That is a new mechanic from the RPG that isn't in the quick start. This time the Churn is detailed. This is a mechanic to simulate things going from bad to worse. It will add tension and consequence to the adventure. For me it is similar but different to the role Doom plays in Conan 2d20.

In 2d20, doom stands as a pile that gets added to when various things occur. The GM can then spend that to make bad guys more powerful, introduce more bad guys or just in general make things hard on the players. It is a mechanic designed to simulate the flow of Robert E Howard's epic tales of Conan.

The Churn, although implemented differently, is essentially a mechanic with the same goal in terms of the flow of the story. Things are going well for the players, they have this in the bag. Suddenly the rules change on them and what was easy now becomes difficult.

In it's essence "The Churn" is a running total, when characters do certain things a point is added to that total. When it reaches 10 there is a chance a Minor Stage 1 Churn event happens. If it doesn't happen, the total will increase. When it reaches 20 a Major Stage 2 Churn event may occur. If no event is triggered it continues to increase until it reaches 30, here we have a chance of an Epic Stage 3 Churn event. As you can see each time we get to 10, we check for an event, the level of event increases as the multiple of 10 increases. If you get to 10 points in stage 3, an Epic Stage 3 event occurs. No matter when the pool is triggered it resets to 0.

My first impression is that the Stage 1 events are a little weak IMHO, more choice here would be great. However since I haven't played I don't actually know how fast these things will get generated and it might happen several times in an encounter, and if that is the case it is probably fine.

Either way I am a fan of this style of mechanic. The fact that accumulating The Churn means something bad is going to happen may add enough tension all on it's own to make players a little squirrely.

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

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!

Noelle


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!

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Expanse RPG. Fortune favors the bold!

In my last installment I had the beginning of a small combat. It involved Noelle firing her pistol at Frank, she was successful and in fact bought a vicious blow and did an extra 1d6 damage. Still at the end, our narration concluded with her only grazing his shoulder.

Lets talk about why. All systems I have played have some method of mitigating damage, or recording how much punishment a character can take. The most basic idea of this is hit points. Conan 2d20 uses Stress and Harm in tandem to track the same thing. The Expanse is no different.

In the Expanse RPG each character has "Fortune". This is a measure of how fortunate they are, how much luck they have etc. Fortune can be spent to reduce damage taken or it can be spent to modify the dice. Pressing the luck and fortune of the character to succeed now for a possibly nefarious outcome later.

The pre-gens in the quick start have fortune scores of 15 or 20. In between adventures characters will be able to re-generate some fortune after an encounter (1d6 + Con + Level).

Ok, but how does fortune equate to damage received or punishment taken?
Once a hit is scored a player subtracts their toughness and armor from the total, the quick start rules have pre-gens with toughness from 0 - 2. Once we have the total damage done the remaining damage can mitigated through the spending of fortune on a 1-1 basis. If there is remaining damage then the players can take a wounded or injured condition. This removes another 1d6 damage per condition. If after this reduction, damage remains then the character is removed from the encounter and another condition is applied in line with the type of attack, generally dying or unconscious.

As we mentioned a player can spend fortune to modify a die roll. On the regular die a player can spend the value they want to make the die that number. ie you roll a 1, if you want the number 4, you spend 4 fortune points. If you are spending them on the drama die that value is doubled. So that same 4 now costs 8, but gives you more stunt points, so it is a trade off. Of course spending points here reduces how lucky you might be when staring down the barrel of a large caliber pistol.

Humans in this are actually pretty susceptible to damage. They can be lucky, sure, but in the end when that luck runs out it's not going to go well for them.

Lets take another look at Noelle and Frank.

Noelle


Accuracy: 1
Focus: Pistols
Defense: 10+Dex
Toughness: 1
Fortune: 20
Weapon: Pistol, 2d6+1

Frank


Dexterity: 1
Focus: Knife Fighting
Defense: 10+Dex
Toughness: 2
Fortune: 15
Weapon: Dagger, 1d6+3

Noelle draws her pistol and fires it down the dark corridor at her enemy!

Noelle has a TN of 11, Frank's dexterity + 10. She rolls 3d6 and scores 5,5,(2) for a total of 12 on the dice. +1 for her accuracy attribute and +2 for her focus in pistols bring her total score to 15!
Noelle ALSO rolled doubles. This indicates a STUNT! Noelle can now spent 2 stunt points, the number rolled on the drama die. These have to be used right away. Noelle opts to make this a vicious blow causing an additional 1d6 damage. She rolls (2d6+1) 8+1,(+1d6) 3 for a total of 12 damage.
Frank is not wearing any armor, but is pretty tough, so that damage is reduced by 2, becoming 10. Frank spends 10 fortune points, reducing his total fortune to 5.

Noelle's pistol echoes with a sharp retort! The round easily catches Frank and only by sheer fortune does he manage to avoid most of the damage, the bullet barely grazing past, leaving a bloody trail along his shoulder.......

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