'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 Alien. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alien. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Space Truckers? How about Space Telephone Repair? More Thoughts on the Alien RPG by Free League

The Idea.

While I was writing an article on FTL communications in the ALIEN universe I added a line about broken nodes as a plausible way to make communications take longer. When I wrote that line it occurred to me that it might be an interesting plot thread for a campaign. Surely these nodes do go down from time to time and surely these nodes need to be repaired.

The Job.

The players are in control of the crew aboard a Weyland-Yutani vessel tasked with repairs on the Network. The priority of node repair and thus the remuneration of it's repair boils down to two factors. How important it is to the Network's functionality, and perhaps more importantly how much priority the Company places on the node.

Campaign mode wise this is going to fit closest to a "Space Trucker" theme. Generally blue-collar workers out among the stars trying to make their living repairing Company assets.

At first impressions you might imagine repairing and maintaining the Network would be a high priority for the Company, but due to redundancy in the nodes, this is generally not the case. The Company likes to keep things repaired to maintain that redundancy of course, but the repair of a single node is not a high priority job. Because of this the crews out doing the repairs are often under equipped. Crews relying on older ships and tools to get the job done.

The Missions.

I wanted to build a set of tables to help you as the Game Mother come up with repair ideas, much like we see in the core book under campaign play. We can use the standard job generator on page 341, but we need to set up some new tables to give us some repair missions vs. cargo missions.

Node Level

Node Repair Crew
D66Node ImportanceDescription
11-26Tertiary NodeLow Priority Repair. No loss of Network functionality
31-46Secondary NodeMedium Priority Repair. Network slowdown in this area of space
51-56Primary NodeHigh Priority Repair. Minor loss in Network functionality
66Series of Primary NodesVery High Priority. Loss of Network connection to this area of space.
1d6 node types require repair.

Company Interest

Node Repair Crew
D66Node ImportanceDescriptionExtra remuneration
(thousands of US dollars)
11-33Highly InterestThe node serves an area of space of extreme interest to the Company. Perhaps a central communication point, or something darker?None
34-53Medium InterestThe company sees the node as important, but of no particular interest. Simply a colony node perhaps.1d6
54-66Low InterestThe node is far from Company interests. Is the crew bribed by a rival company to repair it ahead of other Weyland-Yutani interests?3d6

Node Type

Node Repair Crew
D66Node TypeDescription
11-13Planetary NodeIn orbit around a world of interest providing a link to a system node.
14-16Deep Space NodeA deep space relay node.
21-46System NodeA node within a star system providing extra-system communication.
51-53Station NodeA node based on or around a space station.
54-56Diagnostic NodeNode functions as a aggregation of nearby nodes diagnostic information.
61-66Black NodeThe function of these nodes is classified within the company, they are generally very high priority to be fixed.
Node Type is always Primary.
Add $10,000 USD to reward.


Repair

Node Repair Crew
D66Repair TypeDescription
11-13Node downThe node is completely unresponsive. Investigate and repair.
14-16Part SwapParts are sometimes rare, occasionally you need to salvage what you can from one place to put it in another.
21-46MaintenanceRoutine maintenance to keep the Network operational.
51-53New NodeDeploy a new node.
54-56Node VanishedNode is no longer responding, upon arrival the node is gone. Was it stolen?
61-66Node DestroyedUpon arrival all that remains is a debris field. Why was it destroyed?

Complications

Node Repair Crew
D66ComplicationDescription
11-13SabotageSabotage is obvious!The node is fixable, but was it abandoned or it is a trap?
14-16BeaconA beacon is detected within range of the node, perhaps on a nearby planetoid? Who sent it? Is it an SOS?
21-46MaintenanceA critical part of the ship is close to failure, it will require immediate attention or result in some catastophic failure on the ship.
51-53AsteroidsThe ship drops out of hyperspace in the middle of an asteroid field. Can the crew navigate the field? Are there pirates hiding in it?
54-56IntermissionThe ship's computer brings the ship out of hyperspace and then wakes the crew. What's the story?
61-66DerelictA derelict ship is detected in the space around the node, it is lifeless and cold...or is it?

Rewards

Node Repair Crew
Node Crews will be rewarded based on the node repair type plus....
D66Reward
11-13First refusal on next Primary Node repair.
14-16New contact within the a company, perhaps not Weyland-Yutani?.
21-46Extra monetary reward offered.
51-53Leaked information of value.
54-56Debt cancellation.(or credit granted)
61-66Ship or equipment upgrade.

A Sample.

Now we can use the tables above to generate a few mission ideas for our node repair crew.
  1. Routine. Within System. $39,000. Tertiary node. Of high interest to the Company. Black node (Node becomes Primary). Node Down.
  2. Normal. Nearby system. $38,000. Primary node. Low interest. Station node. Node destroyed. Derelict ship detected. First refusal on the next primary node repair.
  3. Difficult. Within System. $75,000. Primary node. Low interest to the Company. System node. Maintenance. Ship maintenance & Sabotage. New contact within company (Rival?)
There are three ideas generated quickly from the tables above plus the tables on 341 for the core book. I am sure will help to get your brain thinking and imagining any number of ideas and adventures your players might end up in as they roam the galaxy keeping the Network operational, truly a thankless job.

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You can check out other articles I have written about the Alien RPG as well!

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Episode 90: An Intro to Combat in the Alien RPG by Free League.

I have uploaded a new video to youtube, this time going over a quick combat example for the new ALIEN game by Free League. I hope everyone enjoys it and finds it interesting. 

** NOTE ** ARMOUR IS DONE INCORRECTLY.  ARMOUR SUCCESS CANCELS DAMAGE NOT ATTACKS.




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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Interstellar Communications in the ALIEN RPG by Free League

The question of FTL communications was asked on Alien RPG forum I participate in, and I thought it would make a fun article. I intend to extrapolate how fast communications might take place in the ALIEN universe using data presented in the RPG book and the movies. It is not meant to be an exact measurement of transmission speed, but rather a short fun exercise to give a plausible foundation for your ALIEN RPG game.

FTL Communications?


Communications on the Frontier, Page 162
Interstellar space is vast. Transmissions are not instantaneous, sometimes taking weeks or months to reach the recipient. Fortunately Weyland-Yutani has built a sophisticated communications satellite grid surrounding most inhabited sectors of space. Known as the Network, all signals are routed through it, sometimes bouncing off of thousands of comm arrays before reaching their destination.

Core Components: Communications Array, Page 170
Spaceships are fitted with a range of antennae and relays, some for interstellar FTL communications and others for intrasystem communication.

Now that we have definitively established that Faster than Light Communication is a thing in the Alien universe we need a few baselines to figure out some numbers.

The Calculations.


We are going to need a few things to determine the speed of FTL communications.
  1. The first thing we are going to need is how long a message takes to travel from one point in space to the other. In the deleted opening to ALIENS depicting the final days of Hadley's Hope on LV-426 we are shown the colony manager being told that a mom and pop survey team has found something at a place the company has told them to investigate. The survey team wants to make sure they have a claim before exploring and reporting. In this scene we get the following line from the Colony Manager, "christ, some honch in a cushy office on earth says go look at a grid reference, we look, they don't say why and I don't ask. I don't ask because it takes two weeks to get an answer out here and the answer is always, don't ask".

    So now we have a time frame for communications from Earth to LV-426, at least on average. I am also going to make the assumption that the 2 weeks is a round trip, that is time for the message to leave LV-426, reach Earth and to get a response, making the time it takes for a message to travel from LV-426 to Earth to be about 1 week.

  2. The second is a distance. Now we just need to determine how far LV-426 is from Earth. Fortunately, the Alien RPG by Free League includes a map. Assuming no significant deviation from the galactic disk in the Z direction we can use a simple ratio based on how many inches a parsec is and how many inches Sol is from Zeta 2 Reticuli.



So that puts the Zeta 2 Reticuli system 11.33 parsecs from Sol. Now we have both a timespan and a distance. With some simple math, we can determine how far a transmission travels in a day. If a message travels ~11.33 parsecs in 7 days we can determine that it travels about 1.162 parsecs in a day.

11.33 parsecs / 7 days = 1.61 parsecs/day


The game defines the FTL rating of a ship to be how many days a ship takes to travel 1 parsec. A ship with an FTL rating of 2, like a Conestoga frigate, would take about 22 days to transit to LV-426 from Earth. If we reverse our calculation we can determine how many days/parsec a transmission takes.

7 days / 11.33 parsecs = 0.62 days/parsec

So given all of the above information, we can assume communications have an FTL rating somewhere around 0.62. But that's making a bunch of assumptions and it isn't a great number. If we give communications an FTL rating of 0.5 it would take something like 5.7 days to get a transmission from LV-426 to Earth, giving us a roundtrip time of 11.4 days. This leaves about 3 days on Earth for the bureaucrats to decide what to do and respond.

Of course, communication should travel at the speed the game needs it to travel at. I think that is going to generally be longer than intended, leaving the players and their characters isolated for longer. If your players need a believable reason, simply knock out a few of the nodes in the Network and have the message have to route across a few more parsecs of space.


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Monday, November 11, 2019

Making a Character in the Alien RPG by Free League.

In my first article about the Alien RPG I talked a little about the steps required to make a character. I thought it would be a fun and useful article to go through those 10 steps and actually build the character.

The first thing we need to know as a player is the type of campaign we are going to run. Is this going to be like Alien or do we want something more action packed liked Aliens? For this example I think we will create a character for a "Space Trucker" type campaign.

Building the Character

Step 1: Choose a career.

Who doesn't like Brett from Alien? Right.
We will choose the career: Roughneck.
These guys are the manual labor out on the frontier. Hard working, physical laborers.

Step 2: Spend points on attributes.

We get 14 points to spend between our 4 stats: Strength, Agility, Wits & Empathy. Health starts equal to your strength score.
The minimum value we can have is 2 in each stat, meaning we have spent 8 of those 14 points before we even start. We have 6 points to distribute freeling, but we can't have an attribute higher than 4.
  • Strength: 5
  • Agility: 3
  • Wits: 3
  • Empathy: 3

  • Health: 5 - Starts equal to strength score
  • Encumbrance: 10 - Starts as double your strength score
*Strength is listed as a KEY career skill, so we can assign 5 points into it.

Step 3: Spend points on skills.

We get 10 skill points we can spend up to 3 points on each of our career skills, and may assign a single point each to any remaining skill you choose.
  • Heavy Machinery: 3
  • Stamina: 2
  • Close Combat: 3
  • Ranged Combat: 1
  • Comtech: 1

Step 4: Choose a career talent.

We get to choose a single talent for our career from a list of 3. We will choose The Long Haul. We can ignore all stress rolls from a single roll once per game sessions in the campaign.

Step 5: Choose a name.

They give you a list if suggested names for your career, so we will just pick one of those.
Sassy Diaz.
Riiight.

Step 6: Decide on your appearance.

Again, your career gives you some options to go with. For Sassy Diaz, I think I want a shorter, wiry type with short-dark cropped hair and some tattoos on her arms.

Step 7: Decide on your Personal Agenda.

This is the part of your character that drives your action, your career will give you options, but you don't have to stick to those. Sassy is out on the rim to make a buck, and willing to take risks to do it. If she can increase her share, she will.

Step 8: Choose your Buddy and your Rival.

Since we are not creating an entire group, we will skip this step, but be aware this allows you to define your interpersonal relationships with your fellow players.

Step 9: Pick your gear and signature item.

It should not surprise you, but your career determines your starting equipment. We can choose two items from a list of 8 things, however, they are listed as "Liquor OR compression suit" so we couldn't pick both of those. Sassy is going to start with items that will help her with her goal of making some cold hard cash on the frontier.
  1. Hi-beam flashlight
  2. DV-303 Bolt gun
We also need to pick a small item of significance to the character. Again there are a few suggestions with your career.
We will give Sassy a small silver locket she always wears that stands in stark contrast to her otherwise roughneck appearance.



Step 10: Roll for cash.

And finally, we roll for some cash. Roughnecks get $d6x100. I rolled a 4, giving Sassy $400.

The Character Sheet

Then we just need to fill out the character sheet and we are done!

Creation Summary

Now that I have walked through the process I can say it is a pretty easy creation process that will not take up that much table time, but be aware if you are trying to do it at the beginning of your session each player is going to need the career and talent section, which could easily slow things down quite a bit.

Having a fairly simple character system for campaign play might be a good idea since death out on the frontier is a very very real thing.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Alien RPG by Free League

I am excited to finally get my hands on the new Alien RPG by Free League. I received the PDF on Tuesday morning, and while I had looked over the quickstart I was looking forward to seeing the whole book. The quickstart did nothing but make me want more.

Initial Impressions

The book is beautiful, the art is on point and the overall feeling managed to be dark without taking away legibility. I found the layout to be thematic and easy to navigate and read with important text broken into small easy to find bite-sized chunks.

Further, the .PDF is well built and XODO had no issues displaying a fully functional table of contents making things easy to find.

Player Section

The player section accounts for nearly half the book and provides pretty much everything a player might need to build a character and use that character including outlines and examples of skill success, skill failure and skill stunts.

Basic Mechanic

The games basic mechanic is a d6 dice pool where rolling a 6 is a success and rolling multiple 6s grants you stunts, ways to make the success better. In other words, this game allows you to succeed with measure, a feature I love.

The second part of this mechanic is stress. As your character gains stress they begin to roll more dice which also grants your success on a 6, but on these dice, a 1 may trigger your character to panic. It will also indicate you have run out of ammo.

The Setting

The game is set in the early 2180s after Alien 3. Not much more to say here, it's Alien. It is set in the era of Aliens more or less.

The year is 2183—little more than three years since the destruction of the Hadley’s Hope colony on LV-426, the disappearance of the USS Sulaco, and the closing of the prison and lead works on Fiorina 161. The loss of the Sulaco’s Colonial Marine unit along with these Weyland-Yutani sponsored outposts, and the implications of corporate foul play stemming from these incidents, have created an air of distrust between the company and the United Americas.

To add fuel to the fire, conflicts between the rival sectors of space have increased exponentially in the past five years. While unconfirmed, many believe that Hadley’s Hope was a test site for one of Weyland-Yutani’s bioweapons and that an enemy state sent a warship to nuke it from orbit. Others believe that the Company is working with a rogue nation to assume control of the colonies on the Frontier.

The 2180s are a dangerous time to be alive.
-- https://www.alien-rpg.com/

Game Modes

  • Cinematic - Designed to be played as one-shots with pre-generated characters.
  • Campaign - For those longer games when the characters will span multiple missions. These are generally broken into 3 types of games: Colonists, Marines, and Space Truckers.

Character Creation

The game splits creation into a simple 10 step process.
  1. Choose career
  2. Buy attributes
  3. Buy skills
  4. Choose career talent
  5. Choose name
  6. Choose appearance
  7. Choose personal agenda
  8. Choose buddy or rial
  9. Choose gear & signature item
  10. Roll for cash
Many of these choices will be guided by the career you pick. Each of them has suggestions for signature items, agendas, names and appearance. They will also give you a list of career talents to choose from.

The game uses a simple character creation process making character generation easy, which is a pro but on the other side of the coin it doesn't provide much in the way of guidance for a backstory, which is a bit of a con for me, especially for players who are new to the system.



Combat

Combat is a deadly affair in Alien. Like many games having a map layout to determine combat is handy, and Alien is no different. Many of you may be familiar with measuring distances or counting squares, but Alien uses zones. These are spaces in the game where action can take place. Conan 2d20 is a user of zones and I have come to believe they are a superior style of laying out the world. They hit a sweet spot between the tactics of counting spaces and the strict theatre of the mind approach. I have written a few articles on zones and you can check out my latest one here.

In addition to zones and maps this section details player actions, damage, recovery, critical injuries and finally panic. As you can see it is a fairly in-depth section of the book.

Although in general combat is pretty straight forward, you start with health and damage reduces it, I feel the "Signature Attack" that the Xenomorphs have is worth a special mention. Basically during an attack, the GM rolls a D6 and consults the charts....
An Example of this is the face hugger. A roll of 1 and the hugger simply causes stress as the little Alien horror skitters towards the character, but a roll of 6 can come close to immediately jumping on the player and reducing them to near-death instantly. These signature attacks make the Xenos horrifying and if they haven't figured that out yet, your players will soon enough.

“Seventeen days? Hey man, I don't wanna rain on your parade but we're not gonna last seventeen hours! Those things are gonna come in here just like they did before! And they're gonna come in here and they're gonna come in here — AND THEY'RE GONNA KILL US!”
-Hudson

Gear

The game has an extensive arsenal of weapons and equipment, showcasing a little of everything, ie we have 4 pistol types and 6 rifle types. We are also given images for each of those fire-arm types. There is, of course, more weapons than that, including melee and heavy weapons.

I am sure some people will want more equipment, weapons, and armor, but realistically there is a lot here, including some of the iconic vehicles from Aliens.

Hard Life

The final part of the players' section is a setting primer detailing life amongst the stars. It gives us some basic ideas of what living in space might be like. Mainly it is information, but it would be critical for a player unfamiliar with the setting, but still useful and in-depth enough for those of us who have had the Xenomorphs as part of our lives for pretty much as long as you can remember.

Besides talking about living in space, the law, entertainment and religion this section also has a detailed section on the spacecraft of the game including a few basic ships and detailing space combat in the Alien Universe. I admit I was a little surprised to see this section, as Alien has never been about ship to ship combat to me. I haven't looked into these rules yet but they should prove interesting.

Game Mother

The GM's section of the book is broken down into 4 major areas: being the GM, the gazeteer, the Aliens and running a campaign.

In keeping with the theme, the typical GM is named after the MU/TH/R computer system first brought to life as the Nostromo's AI. Instead of the basic Game Master, the game leader is known as the Game Mother.

Running the Game

This first section isn't rules oriented, but more a section of advice to the GM. Ideas and themes to use, how to use horror etc. Sections like this often get skipped or glossed over as GMs read the rules and the fluff material and skip over this essential advice. My first pass shows this section to be full of good ideas and advice to elevate your Alien game. Read it.

It also has sections specifically on Cinematic, Campaign play and NPCs.

The Gazeteer

This section contains a couple of chapters within the book, the first deals with governments and corporations and gives us a solid breakdown of each of them. These are the overarching nebulous entities that control the world and probably cause more bad than good in the character's lives.

The second section is about 34 pages in length and deals with planets and systems. Again we are given an impressive amount of background information on each sector of space followed by the systems of interest and finally the planets within the system. We are given stats on worlds like Location, Affiliation, Terrain, Mean Temperature, Colonies etc. as well as a short description of the world.

That's the thing. You were out there for fifty-seven years. What happened was, you had drifted right through the core systems, and it's really just blind luck that a deep salvage team found you when they did. It's one in a thousand, really. I think you're damn lucky to be alive, kiddo. You could be floating out there forever.
-Burke

The Alien

Arguably the stars of the show this section will attract people too it quickly, curious to see what an Alien looks like, stat wise, in this world.

We start with the Engineers, where we get a breakdown of who they are and the tech that they posses, including a run down on their starships. We do not however get any stats to use them in the game.

Next up we come to the Xenomorphs. We are given a list of each of the stats used by the Aliens and then we are on to the various special attacks and specification for each Alien species. This section might be my biggest layout beef with the book. Because of the signature attacks there are a lot of tables in this section, which are easy enough to read, but the Alien spec blocks are also in the same format making it harder to quickly pick out the Alien stat blocks from the signature attacks. It might have been nice to have another table style layout for these, more like what we see for the NPCs.

This chapter ends off with a section on other alien species out there, things that are not the bugs. These are not intelligent species spread across the stars, rather they are local fauna characters might run into on other worlds. It would have been nice to have seen a few more of these but their inclusion at all is welcome.

Campaign Play

The final section here is on campaign play and gives us a variety of tools and tables to generate everything from star systems and worlds to adventure seeds to job types based around the campaign type. This section is largely roll tables and ideas to help you build a campaign. Beyond that it contains a list of archetypal human NPCs: pilots, mining experts, ICC inspectors, etc.

The section finished with "Novogrod Station", a fairly fleshed out space station on the edge of space to provide a template you can use to produce your own station, or to be used as is.

Hope's Last Day

Although technically part of the GM section, I thought this could get it's own section since. It's not rules after all.

We are given a quick jump into the action adventure that the players should recognize and get on board with right away. They should be able to conjure clear images of the location they are being thrust.

HADLEY'S HOPE


Yes, that Hadley's Hope. The adventure is about the last days of the colony on LV-426. We all know how it turns out. We all know no one makes it out alive. Welcome to a cinematic adventure. Overall the adventure looks to be pretty short, but for a quick one off intro scenario? it looks pretty good.

Final Thoughts

Overall I really like this book, it's layout is easy to read and yet remains thematic and dark. The text is generally broken down into small easy to digest bites, and this is especially true in the rules section. I have liked the system since I read it, even if I haven't had time to play it, and regret not running a game of the quick-start rules at a convention this year. Because really playing it is necessary to see how it really runs.

If you are a fan of the series. If you are a fan of the Alien. If you like RPGs and you didn't pre-order, you need to pick this up when it is released.

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If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog! Finally the Amazon links included in this posts are affiliate links and give me a small kick back, which helps out the blog. Thank you!

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!