'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

Corrupt Cliffs

Corrupt Cliffs
Get your FREE Narrative Terrain Deck today!
Showing posts with label Expanse RPG. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Expanse RPG. 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.


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!

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!

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or Instagram!

Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today!

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!

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

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
Goods, Cost Modifier
Number of goods
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
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
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
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
Relief Effort
Stationed at Outpost
Sent to Investigate
Escort to or From Outpost
Evacuation of Outpost
Rescue Mission

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

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!

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or Instagram!

Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today!

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!

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

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Expanse RPG: VTT Assets!

We are hoping to see a full copy of the Expanse RPG this month (January 2019) as per Update 28. Understandably I am excited to see the final products. Not surprisingly my posts are moving towards the Expanse right now as my excitement builds!

My last post brought us a new Extension for use with Fantasy Grounds and the MoreCore ruleset. Today's post will be a list of VTT assets you can grab for a few bucks to use within Fantasy Grounds to help fuel your Belter, MCRN or UN adventures!



Objects and Props

I found that, although there was a fair number of battlemaps available for sci-fi settings, there was a relatively small amount of tokens for sci-fi. Even less if you want more generic harder sci-fi looking tokens. For your personal games you might be better off combing the Internet for images you can use and the passing them through one of the tools below to generate a token.

These tools will allow you to take basic images and make decent looking tokens for your VTT needs.

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!

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or Instagram!

Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today!

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!

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Expanse RPG

Just a quick note that I have been working on an MoreCore extension for The Expanse RPG coming out from Green Ronin. If you are interested in the RPG check out their quick start rules.

I won't call it 100% yet, but I can happily call it a version 1.

It features updated graphics to hopefully match the theme of the series as well as a custom character sheet. I have left the MoreCore functionality intact as well. It also includes a module to allow you to have a Churn tracking graphic, an idea I took from the Jolly GMs Conan extension.

I am including a screenshot, and you can of course grab the extension and churn module here and MoreCore here.

If you find anything really weird or totally broken, let me know!

**NOTE: I apparently built this on an old version of the MORECORE system, so if you downloaded this BEFORE this was here, I advice RE-DOWNLOADING it, as it will fix a few issues.

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!

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or Instagram!

Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today!

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!

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

Monday, December 10, 2018

NPCs: A Codified Approach to the Man on the Street.

In a general session of play, you as GM may have a series of NPCs that you are aware of. A cast of characters you expect your players to interact with. You have an idea about them and how the interaction will go. You have at least some idea of how the social encounter will work. This article is generally not about those cases, although it may act as a guide to flesh those characters out if you generally haven't and have trouble figuring out how you want to role play them.

This is an approach to NPCs that will hopefully help you have better social interactions between your players and the cast of characters that populate your world. Not just the few have prepared in advance but everyone the PCs encounter. They are, after all, representing people with their own lives and aspirations, even if the PCs only encounter them during a single session. I am going to present a basic framework to help you give your NPCs more life, more direction, which in turn will allow you as the GM to role play them better.

It's easy to want to boil these encounters down to a single roll of the die or an opposed test and go from there, and I won't tell you this doesn't have it's place. Instead this framework will allow you to use these rolls and give these NPCs desires to resist, or be difficult. Should the random guy on the street be as willing to help as someone the PCs have known, will bribing them be a way to get more information? I believe that simply boiling the encounter to a simple set of dice rolls is short changing a potentially rich encounter that may lead down different paths. Maybe that dancer they just tried to get information from is actually in cahoots with the villian and is laying a trap for the PCs? The possibilities!

The Framework

I see us needing to have a few known things to really flesh out the NPCs: What do they want? What is their disposition towards the players and what motivates the them? Certainly you can answer more questions about them, but I think knowing these three simple things will allow you to really add some realism to these people.

The Disposition of the NPC

If we accept the NPCs disposition is separate from their personality or charisma, then we must define it. Mechanically I see a scale, in the middle I see someone who is neutral, who just doesn't care. They might help. They might not. For this I think a simple social test at a basic difficulty is a fine way to determine if the NPC will be somewhat helpful or disinterested. I don't see this as an outward showing by the NPC towards the players, simply a concept of how easily they can be swayed.

As we move away from the middle of the scale we get the two basic dispositions you might encounter: positive and negative. One end of the scale is an NPC who thinks of the PCs as good friends and is willing to help them, go out of the way for them, maybe even endanger themselves. On the other end is an NPC who is openly hostile or rude to the PCs. Someone who hates them and who might become something more to them in an antagonistic way in the future.

I would probably leave the far ends of the scales alone for random NPCs unless the PCs have had numerous positive or negative dealings with the NPC.

What does the NPC want?

What the NPC wants can have a direct impact on their disposition. If they want to steal or cause harm to the PCs they are more likely to have a negative disposition towards the PCs. Is the NPC someone who wants something from the players? Is he a merchant looking to sell, or perhaps someone who needs something recovered? Or do they just want to be left alone to go about their business, that is probably the case of the neutrally disposed NPC.

Knowing what the NPC wants is something we should determine first and from there we can use this to determine a more accurate disposition for the NPC.

The Motivation of the NPC

The thing that motivates the NPC is something a player can use to change her disposition in their favor making social encounters easier? Is it money? Money is probably a motivator for a lot of people and is the easiest one for the players to figure out. Bribing someone with cash can be the easiest way to change there disposition towards a character. Of course there is probably a few people out there that will see an attempted bribe as an insult and may move disposition away from the players.

Maybe something else motivates them though, which could make things more interesting: family, friends, trinkets, food, jewels. You can use these to help flesh out the NPC. If the NPC is motivated by jewels, perhaps she is adorned in several of them, or mentions them in conversation. Likewise someone motivated by fine wine, might be overweight, or have a winejug with them. These small details might be picked up by the players making observation tests to determine more information about the NPC.

The NPCs motivation might not be something useful at all. The motivation of someone not motivated by money, who will do anything for their family, might not be useful to the players, unless they can determine that and are willing to do something....unsavory.

Quick Random NPC Tables

Now that we have a framework to build NPCs from, sometimes when the players encounter someone, or force and encounter with someone you will need to determine something about that NPC beyond basic stats. A few quick tables and a roll of a few D6 can generate this quickly and easily.

You can of course simply pick how you want the NPC to act, or build their framework however you want, but we all like rolling dice.

What do they want?
1 - Left alone (+)
2 - Left alone (-)
3 - Help finding something (+)
4 - Help finding someone (+)
5 - Rob the PCs (-)
6 - Lure the PCs into a trap(--)
1 - Negative
2 - Negative
3 - Neutral
4 - Neutral
5 - Positive
6 - Positive
Motivated by Money?
1 - No
2 - Yes
3 - Yes
4 - Yes, but expensive
5 - Yes, but expensive
6 - Expensive and insulted by low offers
Other Motivation
1 - None
2 - None
3 - Delicacies
4 - Jewels
5 - Trinkets
6 - Family

So we roll 4d6 and consult the tables to describe the social aspects of the NPC. You will not that under the column, "What do they want?" each entry has a (+) or a (-) on it. Each + or minus will shift the disposition one direction, one step. So a (+) would move a hostile disposition to neutral and likewise a (--) would move a positive disposition to a negative one.

Lets see this idea in action

Your players are on a mission to rescue the king's beautiful daughter, the Princess of Zamora. They haven't simply ridden out to the evil Wizard's mountain as you expected, instead they have decided to hit the local tavern and see if they can glean any information from the tavern goers.

You are not really prepared for this, but as a good GM you have a set of generic human stats just in case, but of course these are not all generic people. The party warrior approaches someone at the bar and engages them in conversation........You as the GM, quickly roll 4d6.....and roll: 4,4,5,6. Suddenly the random generic tavern goer is someone in need of help, perhaps his own kin has been taken by the wizard, or maybe a more mundane kidnapping, either way as the PCs approach he sees warriors and maybe hope in finding his lost friend or family. He will react positively to the PCs, at least initially, although he *IS* motivated by money, he is expensive, but can also be swayed by family.

Now we have more than just a block of stats, now we have a somewhat fleshed out NPC that we put together at the drop of a hat with a few rolls on a very basic set of tables. How many options these tables get is limited only by you imagination and the world the NPC lives in.

Until Next Time. Keep it Weird!

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Expanse RPG: Ship Combat!

Today in an Expanse Extra Kickstarter update we got our first flavors of what ship to ship combat will look like in the rpg. The RPG is a literary license and not a TV license, so although we have seen some cool ship combat realized on the screen, I don't expect it to be what drives the RPG ship combat.

The ship combat in the books is good and as with the other outer space stuff it tries to be as realistic as possible. To realize this we need ship momentum, range and 3d space, all of which can be tricky in a wargame scenario where the ships are the *WHOLE* game. Let's take a look at the sample we got today to see how well it stacks up. Is it a good mix of realism vs excitement and playability?

Upon first glance it appears a ship combat phase has a few segments. Please don't forget these are just my first impressions from the example and I could be totally out to lunch on how the rules will actually look.
  • Orders.
  • Maneuvers.
  • Electronic Warfare.
  • Weapons Fire.
  • Defensive Action.
  • Weapons Damage.
  • Damage Control.

From the example I will try and break down what is going on in each phase.


The Captain makes a Communication(Leadership) roll to see if the orders are successful, gaining stunt points which can be used later. Failure here doesn't cripple the ship, but the crew has no stunt points from the Captain to help them out of a tough situation.


We don't get much information on maneuvers, but from the example it looks like they are a way for the ships to primarily control range against each other, meaning all the specifics of 3d space may simply be left to the GMs description. I don't hate that idea. We also see that pulling high G maneuvers will have possible negative effects on the crew represented, at least in this example, by Constitution(Stamina) checks

Electronic Warfare

This looks like a simple Intelligence(Technology) roll giving the players a bonus to their defensive maneuvers, or the opportunity to use the stunt points. We see a ship rendered unable to attack by spending 3 SPs in the example.

Weapons Fire

The example makes this out to be a simple declaration of fire.

Defensive Maneuvers

This portion is where the hits and misses are determined. Generally rolling piloting vs the attacking ships sensor suite +10. ie A sensor score of 10 means your evasion roll is against 14. This is where we can use those EW points.

Weapons Damage

If a hit is scored simply roll damage and subtract the hull rating of the ship, which appears to be a rolled number. Remaining damage is handled through losses, which read much like how we deal with player damage. Each loss, I suspect, reduces remaining damage by 1d6. It is possible a ship can only handle a certain number of losses in a turn, as we see a ship removed from play as, even after 2 losses, a single damage point remains. The largest question I have here is if ships have hull points like characters have fortune points. We see these losses cause all kinds of havoc from the reduction in Piloting to collateral damage amongst the crew, meaning they behave like a condition applied to a character. It will be interesting to see how this all comes together in the rules.

Damage Control

This looks to be a simple Intelligence (Engineering Test) allowing a player to fix the ship, ie remove penalties. We also see these describes as advanced tests, so the players might be working hard to fix a problem and end up with another before they are finished.

I suspect we will see a list of stunts for spaceship combat, possible for most of the areas, with the command stunts able to help out the remaining crew members as needed.

Overall it looks like it has potential to be a cool system, and the use of those stunt points and EW points is going to make every member of the crew important in the game universe. If however you were hoping for some kind of wargames system to allow Expanse style miniature combat, this is not that.

What are your thoughts on this combat system? Drop me a comment below and lets get some discussion going!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Expanse RPG: The Zone, Part 1: The Basics.

I first encountered this idea in Conan 2d20, which isn't surprising since it was the RPG that brought me back to this hobby. I've seen it used a spatial idea in other games since then, which isn't to say Conan was the first, just the first to me.

When not playing theatre of the mind, games like Pathfinder use a grid or a measurement to move miniatures around and determine if they can attack. ie Thogar, my warrior can move 20' in a turn and a square is typically 5 feet, allowing my character to move 4 spaces in a turn.

Zones allow us to understand our spatial relationships but remove the idea of moving 4 squares or 5 squares. It gives up some granularity and some level of tactics, but gives us a fairly nice bridge between the boardgame/wargame feel of a grid/measurement based system and a theatre of the mind.

If you are unfamiliar with a zone, you can think of it as a spatial area where some action might take place. It's size isn't *THAT* important but should probably make some sense given the encounter. If we take a generic tavern we might have 4 or 5 zones.
  • The Bar.
  • The Front Entrance.
  • The Tables.
  • The Fireplace.
  • The Dark Corner.
Instead of measuring your 4 or 5 spaces a character can generally use their standard action/move to simply move from one zone into another. Moving around inside a zone is generally a simple/minor/half-move action depending on the game you are playing. Yes it removes the ability to do tactically think about where a character is moving and if they will trigger attacks of opportunity or similar. Yes it removes the ability of some players to be a little faster than others. What it does give you is a fairly simply way to spatially show about where players and their antagonists are located in an environment.

You can also fairly easily define areas that are slower to move through by simply making those zones a little smaller. Consider the following graphic showing a road flanked on either side by dense forests. Without specifically counting squares we can see that the road is a faster way to travel and in this case, twice as fast.

You can further make the environments interesting by adding skill tests or increased difficulties to the zones. In Conan 2d20 perhaps the forests add +1D to all skill tests including combat unless they are at home in the forest. In something like ICRPG where you set a TN for the room, you could now set it for each zone instead. Perhaps the zone is on a cliff edge and requires a dexterity test to not slip and another once slipped to not fall off the edge? As you can see it has the ability to add a lot of environmental factors in pretty easily.

You can define these zones with terrain as normal, although this is often the most challenging way to do it as terrain will often bleed together and where a zone is exactly can be difficult for a player to see, especially if they are used to a grid or measure based system. Another way to define a zone is with a set of simple index cards, and I would be remiss without mentioning Runehammer's collections of index cards that make excellent zone markers. Currently he is up to four collections of these cards, with volume 3 being sci-fi oriented.

Our next installment is going to look at how I am thinking of implanting this with Expanse given the full set of Modern Age rules. Things may change but it will give us a good starting place on how to implement this awesome and simple system in our games.

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
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
Gov't Types
Heresy Miniatures


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

Nova Corp
Reaper Bones
Heresy Miniatures
Admiral Edwards
Hasslefree Miniatures


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

Citizen Militia 1
Copplestone Castings
Copplestone Castings
Scavenger Heros
Copplestone Castings


General people living and working on Mars or Earth

Copplestone Castings
Modern Civilians
Old Glory Miniatures

Player Characters

The Holdens, Nagatas, Burtons and Kamals of the universe

Heresy Miniatures
Laran Jax
Hasslefree Miniatures
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!


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.


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


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!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Expanse RPG. A Measure of Success.

If you have followed my online RPG presence, you may be aware that one of the things I enjoy about Conan2d20 is the ability to not only succeed at a test, but to succeed by measure. That is there is more to it than just a pass/fail concept.

I believe this idea lends itself to the potential for awesome levels of creative story telling. In standard d20 when I attempt to jump a gap the GM assigns a target number, I roll my d20 and I pass or fail. In a system like 2d20 the GM assigns a difficulty, if I succeed greatly my character can use that success to fuel further actions, such as attacking an enemy right away on the other side of the gap.

Ok enough about 2d20, what does this have to do with the Expanse RPG? As I mentioned in my previous post your basic skill check is a 3d6 roll with a "drama" die. And we will start here.

Before we go on I am going to lay a caveat on this post. All I have is the quickstart rules. I haven't looked at "Modern AGE" at all, although expect it to function similarly.

The drama die, although not a direct measure of success, gives the GM and players a method to see how well or poorly they succeeded at their task. Did they barely fail or almost make it? Did their disguise fully convince those looking, or simply move them beyond notice?

If your players are trying to hack into a computer system to gain intel on the proto-molecule and roll a success, but roll a 1 on the drama dice, you as the GM might decide they have succeeded but managed to set off an alarm that will bring MCRN operatives down on them in a few turns.

The system also has another aspect that I find interesting. Stunts. These are broken out into Combat, Exploration and social depending on what task you are looking at doing. Lets take a look at the idea within a fight between two ruffians.

Accuracy: 1
Focus: Pistols
Weapon: Pistol, 2d6+1
Dexterity: 1
Focus: Knife Fighting
Defense: 10+Dex
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.

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!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Expanse RPG

Remember The Cant.

Sometimes things sneak along under my radar.  I am on a lot of forums and groups relating to RPGs and STILL, despite that, I miss things I am interested in.

Yesterday on Facebook a Kickstarter came across my feed that I vaguely knew would happen.  I didn't know much about it in terms of who, what, when, where, why and how.  Either way I was happy to see it. 

I was fairly late to the Expanse as a "thing". I hadn't picked up the first book until well after the TV show had started. Which I did not initially watch. Still I was aware of the series, and as a sci-fi fan, how could I not have been.

I downloaded the audio book and planned on listening to it on a flight to visit the Czech Republic a few years back. I didn't get much into it at the time, there was just too much going on.  That was the late summer.  I started again that winter and consumed the audio at a break neck speed.

I started watching the TV show.  I loved it. I still do.  I've watched most of the first and second seasons twice and just finished the third season.  Audio book wise I am caught up and anxiously await Tiamat's Wrath.

I am a fan.

Seeing an RPG being released?  I was in.  $70USD got me all the print stuff on Kickstarter.  Once I had backed it I grabbed a copy of the free quickstart rules to see what it was all about.

The game is being written by Green Ronin, whom I am not hugely familiar with.  They have an RPG system called AGE (Adventure Game Engine) and produce a few games based on it such as Fantasy AGE and Modern AGE.

My quick look at the rules showed me it's a roll over TN system much like d20, only we are using 3d6 to determine our roll, more on that in a moment.  Your roll is those 3d6+relevant attribute+2 if you have a focus.  Ie if your character has an intelligence of 2, and a focus on Computers, you might roll 3d6+3+2 when trying to work with computers.  Pretty basic system in regards to that. 

It also employs a "drama die" in that basic roll.  One of your 3d6 is a different color and can be used by the GM to determine the "drama" level around your success and failure.  Succeed with a 1 on the drama die?  Maybe you aren't as successful as you thought?  It's an interesting mechanic that will allow some interesting story telling opportunities for the clever GM.

The Kickstarter is going well, making it's goal in an hour and breaking all of it's planned stretch goals in a day. 

As I was writing this an update showed up in my mailbox saying we will see new stretch goals today. Stay tuned.

Don't forget to check out my TeePublic shop! I just had a look through and added some cool Expanse designs to the shop!

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