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

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Alien RPG: Colony & Station Layouts.


The Basic Framework

The Core book states that Alien is generally played out on a map of a space station, a colony or similar structure or location, but where do we get these? There are certainly a few around on the internet and many get posted to the Facebook group "Alien RPG by Free League". Despite these excellent resources the time will come when you run out, or simply want something original. This article aims to give us an easy way to quickly whip up a colony or station. Colonies and Stations are fairly similar in their internal components: Power, housing, control, repair, engineering, food etc, however their physical construction will be considerably different. Let's start with the basics...

The map is divided into zones. A zone is typically a room, a corridor, or an area of ground. How big a zone is varies—from a few steps across up to about 25 meters. A zone is generally smaller in a cramped environment than in open terrain.
-Alien RPG Core, Page82

Another consideration is how fast characters and opponents move in the game.

In one Turn, you can move two zones on the map and explore them, scanning for enemies and getting a superficial description of these two zones from the GM.
-Alien RPG Core, Page85

We should also note that the Xenomorph moves twice that fast, so a map with 12 zones in it isn't going to provide a very long cat and mouse chase.

With these two basic factors in mind, we can give our map some thought.

The Components

For game purposed a station and a colony are not all that different, one is ground based and one is floating in space. certainly the structure between the two will change, such as foorprint vs height and the ability for ships to dock.

Looking through the internal modules on page 171 and the Novgorod station on Page 360 we can start to put together a list of areas in our new map.

Colony/Station Modules
Cargo storage
Corporate suite
Emergency escape vehicle
Landing pad/Docking bay or Docking Clamps
Mess hall
Hangar
Med Lab
Science Lab
Garage
Machine Shop
Recycling
Hydroponics
Housing
Central Control
Power Supply
Defense Armaments
Security & Jail
Exercise
Exterior Access
Maintenance Corridor

The final question I would ask would be what is this thing for? Is is a mining colony or a repair station? This can help flesh out some final ideas.
Main Use
Ore
Atmosphere
Cargo
Repairs
Medical
Science
Prison
Black Ops

The Layout

So now we have some idea of areas within our structure and maybe an idea of what it is for. We can finally start laying out our ship or colony, this is where we really need to know what we are building. Here we may see some design differences between a colony and a space station. Colonies are generally going to be flatter and wider, while stations are going to be more compact and taller.

Stations

We can look at Novgorod station in the RPG as an example of what they call the "Tapering Spire" design, and we see similar in Isolation with Sevastapol station. Gateway station provides another look at a potential design, and although I am unsure to the scale, it is best described as a grid of office towers in space.

Colonies

Colony wise we don't have a large subset, but we can tell from Hadley's Hope that they are probably not going to be the highest end of facilities, especially in the beginning and they will be built largely from modular components. As we get our first looks at Hadley's Hope we see a set of low structures that could be a frontier town anywhere, complete with a neon sign advertising "bar". The colony is, of course, mapped out in detail within the Core RPG as it provides the setting for the adventure included with the rules.

Building the Colony/Station

You can choose from the lists or roll d66 to determine your outcome.

Step 1: Select the structure type

RollStructure Type
1-36Colony
41-66Structure


Step 2: Determine the structure's size

This will tell us the basic size of the complex and it's initial components as well as how many rooms or zones are present in each of these components.
ie a small colony has the following modules: Central Command, Power Supply and Exterior Access. Each of these are 1 zone large. In addition the structure will need to house and feed its crew.

RollBasic Structure
SizeBase modules & Layout MarkersBase Zone SizeAdditional Modules
1-26SmallCentral Command (CC), Power supply (PS), Exterior Access x2 (EA)12
31-46MediumCentral Command (CC), Power supply (PS), Exterior Access x2 (EA), Med Lab (ML), Landing Pad (LP)26
51-66LargeCentral Command (CC), Power supply (PS), Exterior Access x2 (EA), Med Lab (ML), Landing Pad (LP)312


Step 2a: Determine the structure's population and housing needs.

Knowing the a zone consists of a single room we can assume a barracks style might house anywhere from 4-6 people in bunk beds, or 2-4 people per zone in a more colonial/family setting. Once we have a total population we can divide the population by the style of housing to get a total number of zones required for housing.

SizeBase PopulationAdditional Population
Small25+d33
Medium100+d66
Large200+2d66


RollBunk StylePop/zone
1-36Military6
41-56Dorm4
61-66Normal2


Step 2b: Mess Hall

Assign 1/4 of the housing total to mess hall zones for the structure, ie if we have 9 housing zones, we need 2 mess hall zones. These are probably in one large area adjacent to housing but could be spread across the structure in smaller sizes. When it comes to station layout, simply use MH as the initials.

Step 3: Determine the structure's makeup

All stations or colonies must contain the following to function: Central Control, Power Supply, Mess Hall, Housing and Exterior Access Everything else is optional.

Make a number of rolls on this table based on the Colony size determined in Step 2. You should re-roll duplicates.

RollModuleLayout Marker
11-12Cargo Storage
C
13Corporate Suite
CS
14-16Landing Pad
LP
21-22Hangar
H
23-25Garage
G
26-31Science Lab
SL
32-34Med Lab
ML
35-36Machine Shop
MS
41-42Recycling
R
43-44Hydroponics
H
45-46Defense
D
51-52Security
S
53-55Exercise
E
56-61Recreation
R
62-64Armoury
A
65-66Emergency Escape Vehicles
EV


Step 4: Determine the zones in each Module

Simply roll 1d6 for each module rolled above and add the following modifier to it.

SizeModifier
Small+1
Medium+3
Large+5


Step 5: Colony/Station Shape

Colonies and Stations will look considerably different from each other, so this step is divided into two sub-steps, one for colonies and one for stations.

The concept here is the same, roll or pick from the chart to get the number of divisions present. Divide your total zones by this number to get an idea of how big each section will be.

ie If we are building a massive sprawling colony that has 60 zones, within an L shaped layout, simply divide the zones by the divisions, 60/5=12, to get a total of 12 zones per section. If you were building the same station with 60 zones and rolled a single spire we would divide the 60 by the 3 zones per spire level to get 20 levels. Generally speaking a station spire isn't going to have any more than 10 levels per spire. Divide the total levels together to get the number of spires on the station, in our example this would be 2.

If you don't have an even division, which is common, simply take the remaining zones and hold them in reserve and add them onto the layout as needed.

Step 5a: Colony Shape

Roll on the table below to get the basic layout for the colony.

RollLayoutDivisions
1-36Square
9
41-46Plus
5
51-53C-Shapes
7
54-61H-Shaped
7
62-66L-Shaped
5


Step 5b: Station Shape

As in all things the exact layout of a section, or an entire level is left to your discretion this is simply to give a quick basis to allow the generation of a station.

RollBasic ShapeDivisions/level
11-24Tiny Spire
1
25-36Small Spire
2
41-53Medium Spire
3
54-66Large Spire
4


Mapping the Colony/Station

Step 6: Division Layout

The easiest way to approach this is going to require a pen and a piece of paper.....OR Google Slides. As we continue through this section we will assume we are building a small square colony with standard dorm housing (4 people per zone).

  1. We will start by drawing out the number of zones in a division in as close to a square as possible. Once you have an idea of the size and shape of the area, you can draw the remaining divisions.


  2. Next, go through the zones and start populating each zone with its layout marker, based on the rolls in step 3. If you want to have a multi-zone mess hall, simply place the MH marker in adjacent zones. Add the extra zones onto the layout as makes the most sense.



    If you find you have a zone module that doesn't make sense, move it to a place that does. This article is a guideline on building a system, not a totally random chart based generator.

  3. Now take your zones and combine the ones you want to to make larger rooms as well as adding some shape character to the rooms to aid in narrative descriptions.



  4. Now we have a basic layout but we need to link them together in a sensible fashion.
    • People should be able to get from housing to the other areas without going through other housing areas.
    • Do we want people to have to go through Central Command to get to the rest of the base, or should it be off on its own for security?


  5. Now that we have a basic map we need to place some doors. As a rough guidline place a door at the junction between two modules or a module and a corridor. Finally split the larger rooms into their component zones. It is a good time to denote any doors with extra security levels on the map as well. I used red for high security, orange for special security and green for general access. This gives us a fairly complete colony or station. Only one step remains....


Step 7: The Underbelly

What Alien scenario would be complete without having a network of vents and sub basements?

Roll
Underbelly
1-36Air Vents
41-56Sub-basement
61-66Air Vents & Sub-basement


Step 7a: The Air Vents

No matter the roll, the structure is going to have some system to allow air to move to the various places in the station. This roll represents air vents large enough for a human to enter in a crouched way, think of them about the same size as we see in ALIEN. Except in extreme cases these vents are going to require characters to follow the crawling rules.

We now have a map which we can use to figure out how the vents look using a few simple guidelines.
  1. Place a marker representing a vent entry in any room you think makes sense.
    • I generally place one per room/module excluding airlocks.
    • Larger rooms might have multiple vents.
  2. Connect your vent entry points with the actual air vents.
    • Redundancy is good.
    • Follow hallways where possible.
  3. Make any marks on the map that denote secure hatch entries at vent junctions, or entries that require some kind of key access.
    • It is helpful to use the same color key as we used for the door in the previous step.

Step 7b: The Sub-basement

Ok, technically a sub-basement is a basement below a basement, but frankly it just sounds cooler than basement, so we are going to go with it. If you like, it will allow you to include a basement level should the plot suddenly require it.

I am viewing these areas as maintenance and possibly storage for the facility, and as such I picture them generally to be below the main base structures, but probably not below housing.
  1. The first thing I do is mark out the areas and shape I would like the sub-basement to be. Here I had drawn sub-basements below the main power generator, the garage and the storage area.

  2. Once we have the basic layout we can add corridors and doors onto the map, after all we don't want our sub-basement to be completely open.

  3. Now make note of the security levels you would like on the doors. I used the same color key as I have been using. You also may want to keep in mind how your main level security works and mirror that below. Although it might be an idea to use high security on the upper levels to force players into the sub-basement for some reason....

  4. Finally make note of the access hatches that lead into the sub-basement. I color coded these as green, just to note there wasn't additional security on these hatches.

Step 8: Additional Areas?

Like Hadley's Hope, these structures could have additional areas separate from the main colony or station. On a world, this might be represented by a refinery or atmosphere processor. Is there a direct corridor from the main colony to this structure or is it simply reached by crawlers and tractors? Perhaps it is part of the maintenance level?

On a station, there might be another spire that hasn't been defined yet or perhaps another smaller, separate orbital facility reachable only by shuttle. What is it for? Is it a dry dock, or perhaps just mineral storage.

Either way, referring back to those original questions we asked will help to flesh out this area of the structure which you may or may not decide to map out depending on how important it is to the story.

Step 9: The Completed Map

And now that we have walked through the set-up we have a complete map for a small colony or station complete with main level, air vents and a sub-basement.

Final Thoughts

As always these articles are meant to help you as the GM of your game produce ideas and stories for your table. They are not meant to be an end-all method of playing or creating. Please use these ideas and build on them or even think to yourself, "Wow that is dumb.", and go about it in another way. The basic layouts and lists of modules are ideas, add your own, take some off, whatever works for you.

If you have some time and need a colony or station this system can help you produce something that makes some amount of sense, but leaves you in the driver seat to build the structure that works for your game.

AND as always please leave me a comment and let me know what you think. Share the page with your groups and social media if you find it useful. This is a hobby for me, a way to give back, but I enjoy my hobby more when I have more people access the content here and on YouTube.

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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.

If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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