'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

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Showing posts with label Sci-fi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sci-fi. 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
Med Lab
Science Lab
Machine Shop
Central Control
Power Supply
Defense Armaments
Security & Jail
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
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.


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.


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

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

RollBunk StylePop/zone

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
13Corporate Suite
14-16Landing Pad
26-31Science Lab
32-34Med Lab
35-36Machine Shop
65-66Emergency Escape Vehicles

Step 4: Determine the zones in each Module

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


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.


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
25-36Small Spire
41-53Medium Spire
54-66Large Spire

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?

1-36Air Vents
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.


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?


Node Repair Crew
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?


Node Repair Crew
Node Crews will be rewarded based on the node repair type plus....
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. 


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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.

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!

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

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.

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.

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!

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

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 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!”


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.

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.


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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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Barbaric Future. A Role Playing Setting.

There are a few things in my mind that make Conan, Conan. These things need to be there or we are simply going to get barbarians with laser swords, and that is not the aim of this project.

There are two things that I believe absolutely need to be involved in this setting.

  • Barbarism vs Civilization
  • Rise and fall, cyclical nature of the rise and fall of society and civilization

Cyclical Nature and the Hyborian Essay

Robert E Howard wrote a short essay titled, "The Hyborian Age". In it, he outlines his world. The rise and fall of civilizations, cataclysms, the migration of the people and the evolution and devolution of mankind. It ends with Howard telling us that the people that populate the world today can trace their origins far older than they know, back to the Hyborian Age.

The ancient Sumerians had no connection with the western race. They were a mixed people, of Hyrkanian and Shemitish bloods, who were not taken with the conquerors in their retreat. Many tribes of Shem escaped that captivity, and from pure-blooded Shemites, or Shemites mixed with Hyborian or Nordic blood, were descended the Arabs, Israelites, and other straighter-featured Semites. The Canaanites, or Alpine Semites, traced their descent from Shemitish ancestors mixed with the Kushites settled among them by their Hyrkanian masters; the Elamites were a typical race of this type. The short, thick-limbed Etruscans, base of the Roman race, were descendants of a people of mixed Stygian, Hyrkanian and Pictish strains, and originally lived in the ancient kingdom of Koth. The Hyrkanians, retreating to the eastern shores of the continent, evolved into the tribes later known as Tatars, Huns, Mongols and Turks.

The origins of other races of the modern world may be similarly traced; in almost every case, older far than they realize, their history stretches back into the mists of the forgotten Hyborian age...

The Hyborian Age
-Robert E. Howard

Barbarism vs Civilization

It is well known that Howard had no love for modern civilization. He saw it as broken and corrupt and felt a kinship to those who came before. He had a special affinity for the medieval Irish, and so it is no surprise that Conan was his ultimate hero in many ways. Several of his writings talk about the evils of boomtowns. How the rise of civilization and money where he lived bred corruption and evil deeds.

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

Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.
-Robert E. Howard

Tower of the Elephant

Barbaric Future

So with these two basic tenants in mind, I present the initial stages of the world I imagine...

Thousands of years into the future the initiative of humanity has continued to carry the species forward. Technology has continued to progress, new ideas in genetics, energy, materials, and computing have formed new weapons, new armor and in some cases new people. Despite the massive abilities and technological advances of mankind, we largely remain confined to our world. We have lifted ourselves into orbit and explored much of our solar system through drones and a few manned missions, but Earth remains our home and efficient space travel still eludes us.

War remains a reality and several massive conflicts have been engaged in between then and now. Some conventional, some small scale nuclear.

Our world has seen the rise of capitalism and the formation of great corporations. It has also seen the governments of nations fall and these new centers of power rise to fill the void. Now the world is dotted by the Corporate States, rife with corruption and greed. Each maintains a stranglehold on their populations through information censorship and military power. They lie in the temperate zones of the Earth, places less likely to be touched by disaster or rising sea levels. Places untouched by radiation and devastation of ancient nuclear conflict.

In the places abandoned by the Corporate States live tribes of humans. These people live a more primitive and savage life, sometimes using the discarded junk from the Corporate States, sometimes living in the skeletons of long-abandoned cities, using older technology and still others existing alongside nature.

In the wildest places, the far frozen places, the places rife with disease, the irradiated places, live others who have reverted to a more bestial state, over uncounted generations, they have devolved into a beast that is more ape than man, still clever and cunning and still able to use primitive weapons.

Corporate States

With a basic idea we can go forward and flesh out our three zones of humanity with a few key points about each area.

  • Very high tech. AI, Robots etc.
  • Clean.
  • State controlled.
  • Isolated.
  • Crime & Corruption.
  • Cybernetics.
  • Genetic enhancement.
  • Fusion power.
  • Projectile & Beam weapons are outlawed.

Tribes of the Free

  • Generally lower technology.
  • Almost post apocalyptic in some places.
  • Savages, Barbarians and Canibals.
  • Primitive religions.
  • Knowledge of the old worlds. Libraries of books, paper and digital.
  • Solar, wind, hydro power.
  • Ruins.

Savage Wastes

  • Potential high radiation.
  • Mutant humans.
  • Mutant beasts.
  • Ruins.
  • Lost technologies.

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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Conan 2099: The FUTURE!: An Initial idea.

Yesterday as I hopped around the internet this came across my feed...

Apparently, Marvel is looking to add a few characters to their 2099 universe in celebration of 80 years. Conan has been chosen along with a few other characters, such as The Punisher and the Fantastic Four to be full-fledged 2099 one-shots. We will then see the universe show up among regular titles as well. However, we are here to talk about the Cimmerian.

Upon seeing it I chuckled and thought of all the people who would lose their minds as Marvel completed a whole new twist on the character. That is not what this blog post is about. It is about my second thought, "I want to play this!", this would be a super fun setting for an RPG game! First I have no clue about Marvel 2099, so we will just drop that as the rosetta stone of the setting. Instead, we will use our own ideas and inspirations from my own head as well as ideas liberally inspired by other settings.

I thought it might be fun to do a series of blog posts on building this setting and the reasons for choices I might make. To start the series I figured it would be good to introduce the idea in this post and outline some questions and ideas I will fill in as I continue with the series, eventually arriving at a rule system and any other material I might need to play the system, such as setting descriptions, main antagonists, gear and equipment, etc.

Let's start with a list of ideas from the covers of the book.
  • High tech
  • Not post apocalyptic
  • Laser sword
  • flying cars
  • high tech armor or cybernetics?

Some other ideas we need to incorporate.
  • Barbarism vs Civilization
  • Magic/sorcery
  • Short tales
  • Earth
  • Why swords? Do we still use guns?

Finally where can we take some ideas from, I have brainstormed these settings and ideas myself or from online input from others.
  • Thundarr
  • He-man
  • John Carter
  • Bladerunner
  • Shadowrun
  • Starwars
  • 2099

As I go forward with this I realize I need a system to enact this idea.
  • Genesys
  • Modern Age
  • Savage Worlds

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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!

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