5150 No Limits - Month 1
As a reminder, the Crew of the Tiny Dancer (Pirate: Thrust 3, Firepower 3, Hull 3)
- “Captain” Reza Trenor 654* Smuggler. Crack Shot & Quick Reflexes. 400 SBA / BAP-2.
- “Security Officer” Emma Kyrkos 434 Private Investigator. Stealthy. 200 SBA / SG-3.
- “Co-Pilot” K-2DK (Medium Developed Humanoid Two-legged) 323 Spaceship Crew (Pilot). Logical. 000 AR 1 / P-1.
Month 1 Encounters
5150 No Limits provides a preset sequence of encounters you can run through that serves as both a tutorial and adventure module. I’m not going to use those and instead will use the tools the game provides to generate scenarios procedurally. 5150 No Limits breaks down game time by increments of a month. You will have at least an “Involuntary” and “Voluntary” encounter every month. Otherwise, I think you are free to do as you please within the month but you should probably think about how that might impact the Reputation “currency” in the game. As always with a THW, “your game, your way.”
To begin a month, we need an “Involuntary Encounter.” This is a simple die roll against a table based on where you start - on planet, in space, or moving between locations. Let’s assume we begin “on planet” as that seems most logical:
Involuntary Encounter, 1d6:  - Questioning and Arrest
The scene setup for a Questioning and Arrest Encounter goes:
“The Police have an interest in you and want to bring you in for Questioning. If you’re “clean” there’s nothing to worry about… I think. You’re in the precinct and it’s time to talk”
But I’ll note that THW encourages you to think out-of-the-box… you could just easily use this encounter for being swooped up by the local Crime Lord who wants to know who has been messing around on their turf.
Our objective in this scene is to “answer any questions and avoid any penalties — fines or jail time” so this will play out as a series of social encounters.
Of note, the rules are vague here but I’ve always felt that this line:
“You will be alone if you choose to go with the Police.”
…implies that you can totally choose to treat this encounter as a Confrontation encounter instead, with the objective to get into combat and flee the scene.
Ok, I need to generate the “Rep” of the Officer questioning me:
1d3+2: 3+2 = 5
Name generator: Romasko
It is odd that we are not given a table to generate the reasons for questioning - usually these are more obvious when the story is further along but it would be nice to have in this case. No matter, I can use a table of “Crimes” from an older 5150 game called “Working Grave” which was all about being a police officer in the future.
1d12: 2 “Brandishing a weapon”
Where are we? I’ll use one my custom Planet generator for 5150 which is a mixed of 5150 rules, West End Games Star Wars, and my own tables:
Random Planet: Siliguri is a Populated Class 2 Icy world in Ring 2 with a limited services spaceport. The planet’s primary function is Luxury Goods. It is supported by a Dying star. The law level is 1.
Random Place Name: Yaroslavl City
Reza finds themselves seated at a table inside a drab interrogation room and it is freezing. On the other side of the table is Officer Romasko of the Yaroslavl police.
The officer slides Reza’s ID card into the data slab and after a moment they ask “Mr…Trenor? Reza Trenor?”
Reza flashes a giant but sarcastic smile “That’s me. Look can I ask what this is about? Someone just shoved me into the hovercar… and see here, they bumped my head” Reza obnoxiously leans over and makes a show of pointing to their scalp.
“Someone matching your description was seen at the fish market threatening another individual with a class-B blaster…” Romasko holds up a labeled bag with Reza’s blaster.
(Cut to a flashback sequence of Reza holding out their blaster and chasing someone through a busy open-air market)
“I mean there are many blasters like that.”
“The aftermarket scope on this one is… unique?”
“I use it for sightseeing mostly.” Reza pretends to use a telescope.
Ok, enough “witty” banter how does this scene play out? It is a typical opposed challenge - each side rolls 2d6 equal to or under their Rep. The side passing more succeeds (ties are usually rerolled.)
Reza’s (Rep 5) Interaction test: 2d6<=5: [2, 2] = 2
Romasko’s (Rep 5) Interaction test: 2d6<=5: [6, 3*] = 1
Reza passed more and is allowed to leave
After about 30 minutes of questioning and introspection:
“Sure, sure… no more waving blasters around in public spaces - got it.”
Officer Romasko pats Reza on the shoulders “Good, good. Repeat offenders are not given the benefit of the doubt around here.”
Reza is led out to the lobby where he collects his belongings.
An uneventful encounter but we can add Officer Romasko to our list of known contacts for this world. While you can travel to 1000s of planets in this game and never repeat if you like it makes more sense to keep hitting a few of the same worlds in my experience. We don’t gain any Increasing Rep for this type of Interaction (normally you do) so there’s no bookkeeping to update. Now we need to find some work to pay for the ship & crew. How does Upkeep work? Well the ship’s upkeep (based on the hull size) is 3 Decreasing Rep per month. In addition the Star pays each Grunt crew member one Increasing Rep from their total at the end of each month. If the Star can’t pay, the Grunt leaves, and the Star gets one DRD in bad press. It seems a little fiddly but it is quick enough in practice and it encourages you to keep taking risks (and earning Rep.)
For our voluntary encounter we can pick from a list:
- Contact in Space
- Hauling Cargo
- Hauling Passenger
- Job Offer
Hauling Passenger is fairly lucrative so I think that’s our best bet to cover cost for the month.
Reza’s (Rep 5) Hauling Passengers test: 2d6<=5: [1, 2] = 2 - We may pick up 1d3: 3 passengers and they are headed 1d6:  (Ring 1)
A straight up passenger job with no “contraband” complications. It’ll pay 7 Increasing Rep (2 base pay, 1 per passenger, 1 per ring travelled (including current ring).) Every Hauling Passengers has 1 PEF per ring - a PEF in THW terms is a “Possible Enemy Force” (showing its war-game roots.) These are handled as “Contact in Space” encounters - meaning these will be other starships we encounter who may or may not be friendly.
Just for fun, let’s generate who these passengers are? There’s not really a table for this in 5150 No Limits but we can borrow the “random profession tables” from another 5150 title: Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money. If I want a little more atmosphere to imagine the scene as these folks board the ship I can also throw in the “looks” table from Shaun Tomkin’s Starforged (not yet released but in playtesting:)
- Cyim, Laborer (Joe - Labor) (Imposing and Plain)
- Süle Yüksel, Wait Staff (Joe - Service) (Tattooed and Attractive)
- Minika Ekim, Spaceship Crew (Joe - Labor) (Slight and Wiry)
Finally, I know we are headed to Ring 1 but what planet?
Kammel is a Populated Class 1 Desert world in Ring 1 with a standard spaceport. The planet’s primary function is Administrative/Government. It is supported by a Dying star. The law level is 2.
The interesting thing about a “seat of power” (Admin/Government) in Ring 1 with a “Dying star” suggests to me that people are generally trying to leave this place, not go to it. This is a good time to also establish a “truth” about this galaxy. I don’t really want the usual huge Empire vs. Rebels setup or the “lumbering and massive bureaucracy” trope. I think instead I’ll lean on a cyberpunk trope which is that corporations are the dominant factions in this galaxy. So I’ll turn to my custom corporation name generator to figure out who the big player on Kammel is:
Random corporation: Compass Companionship Global
What happens when you let an escort service become a powerful company that owns and operates a planet? We’ll find out I guess. What happens on Kammel, stays on Kammel… but probably not since it is “dying.”
In Space: Moving from Siliguri in Ring 2 to Kammel in Ring 1
We have 2 PEFs to resolve.
Unlike newer Star Wars movies, I’m going to imagine that hyperspace jumps require putting some distance between yourself and a planet. As such there is some time before you can jump into hyperspace and this is where you might run into a possible enemy when leaving your current Ring.
Leaving Ring 2
(1 ship) - Twilight Treasure, Pirate T3, F3, H3. Captain Emine Koç (Rep 5)
Pirates will generally attack traders. We can also use the “Friend or Foe” check to determine their reaction to us. That procedure has us making opposing dice rolls of 1d6 with a modifier equal to their party sizes. If one number is twice the other than a fight breaks out.
Tiny Dancer - 1d6+1: 2+1 = 3
Pirates - 1d6+1: +1 = 6
Man the guns because we are going to have a dogfight. This is cool because the Fire Table was recently modified and I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.
(Alarms blaring) “Which one of our passengers has a death wish?” yells Reza as they flick on the ship’s shields and targeting systems. “There’s a better than 50% chance the target us, Captain.” says K-2DK. A blast rocks the ship and Reza pulls the controls up to try and get into position to return fire.
Reza’s initiative roll: 1d6+5: 1+5 = 6
Pirate’s initiative roll: 1d6+5: 2+5 = 7
The Twilight Treasure has the advantage going into the Dogfight table. Rather than testing against Rep we will be rolling equal to or under our “Thrust” now. The Tiny Dancer has a Thrust of 3 but Reza’s “quick reflexes” adds one to that. The pirates will add a +1 bonus to their for their initiative bonus.
Reza’s dogfight roll 2d6<=4: [4*, 6] = 1
Pirate’s dogfight roll 2d6<=4: [5, 2*] = 1
Neither ship has gained control so we move to the “Continue On” table. This is like a morale test if you are familiar with the concept. It is taken against the captain’s Rep.
Reza 2d6<=5: [4, 5] = 2
Pirates 2d6<=5: [4, 5] = 2
We cycle back into the dogfight table now, but looking for advantage. (By the way, if this starts feel like a lot of cycling around tables - it is and there is a subsystem in one of the newer 5150 books for resolving a space battle in a single roll.)
Reza’s initiative: 1d6+5: +5 = 9
Pirate’s initiative: 1d6+5: 2+5 = 7
Now Reza has the upper hand and their “quick reflexes” attribute might make the difference here:
Reza’s dogfight roll 2d6<=5: [4, 1] = 2: Pirate’s dogfight roll 2d6<=3: [4, 5] = 0:
The Tiny Dancer twirls and pulls up and back around now clearly on the Twilight Treasure’s tail. Reza fires several blast from the ship’s cannons (Reza is also a “crack shot” so they get a bonus here as well:)
Reza’s (Firepower+bonus) roll: 2d6<=4: [3, 4] = 2
Passed 2 D6 so now we the quality of the damage: 2d6: [6, 4]
Both damage rolls are +3 - so they cause hull damage to the Twilight Treasure who’s hull is now reduced to 1 point. This serves as negative modifier to the Pirate’s Rep on the morale test:
Reza 2d6<=5: [2*, 6] = 1
Pirates 2d6<=3: [4, 4] = 0
Passing 0 means the Pirates will try to make a “run for it.”
Reza’s thrust test: 1d6+3: 2+3 = 5
Pirate’s thrust test: 1d6+3: 1+3 = 4
The pirates lose this test and move to surrender:
Pirate’s will test against Reza’s Rep: 2d6<=5: [6, 6] = 0
A result of 0 on this table implies that we can seize their cargo.
“Sir, Captain Emine Koç of the Twilight Treasure is hailing us.” notes K-2DK.
“Put them on…” says Reza as he leans back in his flight chair.
(Static crackles as an aged voice is heard) “Well done, the battle is yours. I offer a deal - you can take our cargo (1d3: 2 units) if we may keep our ship.”
“Deal. Jettison your cargo and hold while we inspect.” says Reza.
A pair of crates appear on the Tiny Dancer’s targeting screen and the tractor beam pulls them in.
“Emma, are the crates secured… what do we got?” asks Reza over the comms system.
“Looks like we got some basic textiles and some common unrefined ores here. Nothing fancy but easily sold at our next stop.” notes Emma.
“Sir, it is possible they have not jettisoned their entire cargo hold.” reminds K-2DK.
“Yeah sure, but do you want to go over there and get messy? Let’s call this a win.” notes Reza. Punching the ship-to-ship comms button Reza announces “Captain Koç we’ve got the cargo. We’re call it even as we agreed. Do you require any medical assistance?”
“No and we should be able to limp back for repairs. Your restraint is appreciated.”
“Happy hunting Twilight” says Reza as he closes the ship-to-ship comms and opens the general announcement channel “Ahh… folks this is your captain speaking. We’ve had a minor dust-up but all is clear you may unstrap yourself and freely move about the galley.” Reza turns to K-2DK “Calculate our hyperspace jump to Kammel and let’s get on our way.”
Arriving Ring 1
Fortunate Promise, Pirate T3, F3, H3. Captain Ismail Mansoor (Rep 4).
Friend or Foe test:
Reza - 1d6+1: 2+1 = 3
Pirates - 1d6+1: 3+1 = 4
“Friends” or at least “not hungry.” Maybe the Tiny Dancer’s exploits in Ring 2 have proceeded them.
And that’s that. We’ll deliver the cargo & passengers to Kammel and trigger an Involuntary Encounter (using the “moving to another area” rules.)
Involuntary Encounter: Robbery
Probably the crew of Twlight has put out a notice that we have their cargo and there’s a reward out for retrieving it. So much for honor amongst thieves.
Day part: 1d6: 2 Daytime (this is important as it determines “cover” conditions)
Let’s generate the assailants:
- Aiguo Huang 554 Thief (Criminal Element), SBA / P-1
- Henry Turner 434 Thief (Criminal Element), SBA / P-1
Ok, so we now to do what’s effectively a “morale” test for each member of the PC’s party vs. Aiguo Huang’s (the Robbery Leader) own Rep test. I envision that only Reza and Emma are delivering the cargo, with K-2 back at the ship.
Aiguo Huang - 2d6<=5: [5, 5] = 2
Reza - 2d6<=5: [1, 2] = 2
Emma - 2d6<=4: [4, 4] = 2
Everyone passed two which means, that since Reza & Emma are Armed they will resist - the Robbers have an advantage as we enter combat. Now the two leaders will resolve an Action test to determine which side will activate first:
Aiguo Huang action test 2d6<=5: [6, 6] = 0
Reza’s action test 2d6<=5: [6, 4*] = 1
Reza’s side can activate first, having passed more d6. Reza and Emma are both “shoot first, punch later” types so they’ll elect to target Huang who is probably out front. Since we’re are doing this during the day - the “figures” do not necessarily start “in cover” as they would at night. That said, Huang’s side has Advantage and will start in cover.
Reza’s “crack shot” attribute will come into play here. Reza can fire twice with his BAP-2 and Emma gets “3” shots against the same target.
Reza’s shooting test: 3d6<=5: [2, 1, 4*] = 3
Being a “crack shot” Reza shoots first and succeeds. Huang is wearing “soft body armor” which counts as a penalty in this game (the shooting damage is weighted more towards armored soldiers from the original 5150 games like “Star Army”)
Shot 1 damage: 1d6+1: 3+1 = 4
Shot 2 damage: 1d6+1: 1+1 = 2
As both of these are lower than Huang’s rep - they do not deal damage but they cause Huang to “duck back” - Huang is cover but also must spend a turn to “pop up into sight” and then waiting for another round of activation before shooting (can still “return fire” though.)
Emma’s shooting test: 2d6<=4: [4, 3] = 2
Emma also succeeds and will roll 3 damage tests:
Shot 1: 1d6+1: +1 = 6
We can stop here because Huang is now “Obviously Dead.”
Now before we switch sides, we do the “will to fight” test - again another form of a morale check:
Henry Turner: 2d6<=4: [1, 4] = 2
Reza 2d6<=5: [2, 4] = 2
Both sides passed 2 but Henry’s side has “50%” of the side “out of the fight” or “obviously dead” - so instead this counts as passing just 1 die. Henry will run.
“Yeah, that’s right! You get.” and Reza turns to Emma and gives an affirming nod “Nice shooting.”
We earn +1 Increasing Rep here for the murder of Huang. Dark.
Having delivered the stolen cargo (+2), the passengers (+7) and done some killin’ (+1) we earn 10 Increasing Rep. Now to cover expenses.
- Reza pays 3 Increasing Rep for the ship (based on our Hull rating.)
- Reza pays Emma 1 Increasing Rep for her service. The robot earns diddly.
Reza can roll 4 (from the jobs) of these to try and improve and Emma gets 2 (from the Robbery and wages.) So now we roll these dice to see if anyone improves. For Reza any die of 6 would allow him to improve, Emma only needs one 5.
Reza 4d6>=6: [1, 6*, 1, 3] = 1
Emma: 2d6>=6: [3, 1] = 0
Reza’s Rep goes up to 6 - this doesn’t change much as good it sounds. A lot of test don’t allow 6s to pass. It does help with recruiting and maintain the current crew (if a crew member obtains a higher rep - they leave the crew presumably to start their own operation.)
So that’s how a few encounters play out in 5150. From here on out, I won’t be explaining and detailing all these rules. It takes too long! All of this stuff (character creation and the first month’s turn) could’ve been played out in about 30 minutes but it has taken a couple hours to write up all the details. Hope you are enjoying it.
5150 No Limits - Creating the crew of the Tiny Dancer
A recent thread on BoardGameGeek reminded me that I haven’t played 5150 No Limits in a while so I decided to start up a game. While sold under a “wargames” title, these are really roleplaying games with a well developed lightweight man-to-man skirmish game along for the ride.
While 5150 No Limits is filled with an abundant set of tools for running a solo “space trucking” game, I’m going to lean on my usual suite of solo tools from Word Mill Games: Mythic Gamemaster Emulator, Adventure Crafter, and the Location Crafter to fill in gaps. I’m not sure what else might be useful but I’ll try to keep track of the built-in/outside provenance of the tools.
A couple of things about “my 5150 universe”:
- I don’t really care for the default species, so I’m going to ignore them and make mine up as we go.
- I do like the general idea of the “9 rings” that organize the galaxy into 9 parts with ring 1 being the center of the galaxy and ring 9 being the outer ring.
- The default assumptions about the tech levels and professions are good. It is a blend of space opera and cyberpunk that works for me.
- To limit the amount of typing, I’m going to borrow Traveller’s “UPP” format. A character’s 5150PP will have something like:
[Name] [_Rep#_][_People#_][_Savy#_][star status] [profession]. [Attributes]. L[Lifetime Rep] (I[Increasing Rep] D[Decreasing]). [Armor] / [Weapon].
Crew of the Tiny Dancer
I’ve already decided on the name and type of ship, which will be a “Pirate” class vessel.
Ok, first up let’s generate the “Star.” You are either a Star or Grunt in a THW game. Stars in 5150 get all sorts of “plot armor” to stay alive. I want a sorta young Han Solo type character. I pull a random name from my personal collection of human name generators:
Name generator: Reza Trenor
Now to assign our character’s Rep. In THW games, you have one main stat - Rep and the higher the better. It is a number typically set between 3-5 at character creation. Reza, will start at Rep 5 which means they can have one skill of either People or Savvy at the same rating as their Rep (with the odd-skill out relegating to one step lower.) Reza’s probably better with People than being Savvy. Reza is going to take advantage of the “Jack of All Trades” rule for Stars - where being either an Exotic or Criminal Element allows him some latitude in being proficient with all of the various roles. Reza will take the profession of Smuggler from the Criminal Element category.
Now we just need to assign Attributes. Attributes are like “Feats” or “Edges” - they break the default game rules under certain circumstances. Stars receive two Attributes, one randomly rolled and one chosen. To randomally roll an attribute you roll 2d6 and cross reference against the Attribute tables.
2d6: [6, 2] - Crack Shot
For the other attribute I’m going to give Reza “Quick Reflexes” as I see him being the ship’s pilot.
Finally for a weapon we’ll give Reza the “BAP-2” (Big A$$ Pistol, 2 shots.) This weapon does not appears in the Character Creation’s Weapons table but later in the book. It is a rather infamous 5150 weapon and typically found in the hands of a Star. I like to think of it as Han Solo’s Heavy Blaster.
- Reza Trenor 554* Smuggler. Crack Shot & Quick Reflexes. SBA / BAP-2.
Now, let’s figure out who Reza’s primary partner is. I know that they will be a Grunt rather than a Star. They’ll start at Rep 4. I’m envisioning a crew of three - one other human and a robot. To figure out the background of my partner I’m going to use the Adventure Crafter’s Character Descriptor & Identity tables (and my own random name generators:)
Name generator: Emma Kyrkos
I like the idea of Reza’s partner being someone who identifies as female, so I’m going just to run with that.
Fate Check: Was Emma Law Enforcement (yes) or a Private Investigator (no)?
Fate Check (CF 4, 50/50) 8: Exceptional No
Emma has a background as a PI… possibly still active? I interpret the “Exceptional No” as Emma having a serious distrust with the official arm of the Law. Maybe some background event drove her away from the Law and into her own practice. I also imagine this makes them more Savvy than People oriented.
Emma can have one attribute, randomly assigned.
2d6: [2, 6] - Stealthy
Stealthy is an interesting one as it seems to drive towards a particularly story setup: It only triggers when the character is alone.
For a weapon, I think she wields an Shotgun (SG-3.) (Again this is a weapon not in this book, but I pulled it from another THW game “Larger than Life” which is their “Pulp Adventures” line.)
- Emma Kyrkos 434 Private Investigator. Stealthy. SBA / SG-3.
Finally we have our robot. While No Limits has no “robot rules” exactly, the author (Ed Teixeira) was kinda enough to prepare the supplement 5150 Robots for me based on other THW titles when I asked about this subject awhile ago.
Once again, I’ll use Adventure Crafter’s Character Descriptor & Identity tables to narrow down the profession of our robot and my own robot random name generators:
Trained and Intimidating Driver/Pilot
Robot name: K-2DK
K-2DK is a robot trained in astronavigation & piloting making them “Spaceship Crew” from the Joe’s Labor category. This is fine, every famous tramp freighter needs a co-pilot. They are a Grunt as well and I’m going to start them off at Rep 3, with Savvy being their strong skill. The Robot supplement has some super flavorful tables for generating the description of our robot, so I’m going to use them.
Size, 1d6:  - Medium (AR 1)
Shape and Mobility, 2d6: [2, 2] - Humanoid, Two-legged
Interaction Skills, 1d6: 4 - Developed
The Medium sized droid comes with “Armor (AR) 1”. With a humanoid body form I imagine they can manage a basic Pistol (P-1) just fine. The “Developed” Interaction skill means that they are able to communicate like any other character in the game - no advantage or disadvantage at doing so. Rather than roll for an attribute I think it makes the most sense to just give them the “Logical” Attribute and move on.
- K-2DK (Medium Developed Humanoid Two-legged) 323 Spaceship Crew (Pilot). Logical. AR 1 / P-1.
So, that’s that. 5150 No Limits Character Creation. Takes about 15 minutes if you know what you are doing and maybe 30 minutes the first time through (just to carefully read the various entries on the tables.)
The Crew of the Tiny Dancer (Pirate: Thrust 3, Firepower 3, Hull 3)
- “Captain” Reza Trenor 554* Smuggler. Crack Shot & Quick Reflexes. SBA / BAP-2.
- “Security Officer” Emma Kyrkos 434 Private Investigator. Stealthy. SBA / SG-3.
- “Co-Pilot” K-2DK (Medium Developed Humanoid Two-legged) 323 Spaceship Crew (Pilot). Logical. AR 1 / P-1.
This is all the information you need to run the game (plus tracking “increasing/decreasing rep” which is effectively the in-game credit & XP system bundled together.)
For people new to solo roleplaying, I have been advocating an approach that I have not particularly formalized - that the best way to start is with the smallest possible framework and a clear idea of your character(s) and setting. After that you should build your ruleset up organically through play. It is an approach proposed in Word Mill Games’ Mythic Dynamic Roleplaying book but it obscured behind the example system that is presented alongside.
Recently Brad Murray of VSCA Games put out his own version of this concept, called Scaffold, in the form of game, a thinkpiece? statement? whatever it is… on VSCA’s itch.io page. Scaffold pitches a couple core questions at you and gives you a single dice mechanic to hit when you need to challenge those concepts. At first glance, if you are not in the right mindset, it might seem like a joke (or a “shitpost” as the kids like to say these days) but it is honestly asking you to think long & hard about what your game is doing before you start layering in mechanisms to interact with. In effect Scaffold wants you to first explain why you are using stats, skills, or hit points in the first place - what purpose do they serve and why are we dealing with them in this way? You should not only “play to find out” what happens in your game world but also what mechanics/systems you need.
One roleplaying game book I happen to love is the Fudge 10th Anniversary Edition because it is a masterclass in explaining game design decisions. It is also an incredibly dense book with multiple methods of modeling different game concepts presented side-by-side and the reader is left to determine which one might serve them best. I thought it might be interesting to just start a solo “scaffolding” game with four questions and a variant of the Fudge Ladder. My questions are a little different than Brad’s but are inspiried by his original text:
- Who are you?
Tell the game about your character. If you aren’t sure what format to use, you can do it tidily in just three words: Adjective, Species, Class/Profession/Role.
Ex. “Daring Human Smuggler”
- What are you good at?
You’ve already broadly sketched some ideas around this topic but maybe list one to three things you excel at.
Ex. “Being charming, fixing technical things, and piloting spaceships.”
- Why are you here?
Ok, we know your outline and a few highlights but why are you in this particular setting… why is the camera following you?
Ex. “I’m in debt up to my ears and people are trying to collect on it by capturing me dead or alive.”
- How do you stay alive?
This questions is a new one, I have created it just now through character creation and is not one addressed in Brad’s game because it is one of those “it is only relevant in certain settings” questions. If my character is in debt and people are after them… how will I know if they are still alive at the end of a scene if a conflict becomes violent? I want some way of tracking this but I’m not sure what the answer is yet. This is an open question I’d like to answer through play.
How do we do things in this game?
We’ll roll four Fudge dice - these are funky six-sided dice, two sides has + (plus) symbols, two sides are blank, and two sides have - (minus) symbols. Numerically a + is worth +1, a blank 0, and - -1 point. Thus a roll of
++-- is worth 0 while a roll of
+ -+ is worth +1. Now this roll produces a range of results from -4 to +4 but how can we determine a plain-English result of a roll? In Fudge the idea is that you compare your result to a “ladder.” Mine will look like this:
- +4 Legendary
- +3 Superb
- +2 Great
- +1 Good
- 0 Fair
- -1 Mediocre
- -2 Poor
- -3 Terrible
- -4 Abysmal
Typically in Fudge, your best “trait” (an attribute, skill, word/phrase that represents some part of your character) is given the rating of “Superb” while things that maybe everyone could some of the time are ranked at “Fair.” When you roll the dice, you start at your level, Superb perhaps, and read the result of your roll. If your roll’s numerical result was a “-2” then you move down the “ladder” - your Superb effort became just a “Good” effort. The result gives us a level of effort so we get more than just success or failure, we get a gradual range of an action’s impact on the game world. This is how you resolve your actions in the world.
Now Fudge has all kinds of bells and whistles for defining your character and taking actions but we don’t need any of those to just start playing. We can look at who our character is, what they are exceptionally good at, and why they are motivated to act and resolve actions by setting a rank and making a roll of the dice when necessary. There is no need to worry about “balancing different character types” at this stage because I don’t even know if it is an interesting question yet.
To answer my 4th questions, “are we even alive still?” I think we can simply set our character’s “alive” status to a rank on the ladder - Superb seems like a good place to start. If, through the result of play, this rank drops below Fair then our character has been taken out of the scene in some fashion. Maybe death, maybe captured. Who knows.
This is more than enough to start play.
Space Aces: The New Guidebook (Early Access) Review
Steven D’s tabletop roleplaying game Space Aces has come a long way from the initial version which was a single page “business card” game. It is now a 25 page book with bright and punchy artwork, dozens of random tables, and a number of plug’n’play game systems that allow one to play in a universe of “campy sci-if” fun. The game was successfully funded on Kickstarter in January 2021 (pledges are still open!) and while Steven is still putting the final touches on the book he was kind enough to provide me with an advance copy for review (erm, play.) This means that some things may change between my experience with it and yours.
I’m going to be primarily looking at this game with an eye towards how it works for GM-less play (co-op or solo.) In additional I like to review a game through a mix of reviewing the materials and actual play.
A number of concepts are introduced before character creation but I’m going to discuss these as they come up in play. I did want to highlight a few things that stood out from the opening section.
The tone of the art hits my sweet spot: lots of detail, great color palette, and it strikes an optimistic tone. I’ve been complaining for a while that the GM-less/solo RPG space has been flooded with “grim-dark” and horror-themed products. Given the year I had in 2020, games where you might “die alone on a spaceship” do not stir up any level of enthusiasm in my heart. Space Aces on the other hand looks delightfully fun. A glance throughout the tables do reveal a mix of “monsters” and “menacing” and you can certainly tilt the tables towards a more sinister end if you like.
There’s a section right upfront on safety tools - that’s a good sign. Hopefully this means those concepts were put into place and they carry throughout the book’s content as well. In the solo space one could shrug off safety tools as meaningless but that’s entirely missing the point. It is important for us to take care of ourselves and also to remember that we don’t have to play out encounters or scenes that we are not interested in (whether that’s coming from a source of trauma or just lack of interest - you are in control of your game experience in solo play.)
Dice & Other Materials
We’re told up front that a d20 and d6 are rolled every time an action is taken. The d20 is the action die and to achieve a success you need to roll over a sliding difficulty number. The extra d6 die is used to determine if there is a complication or critical failure/success on an action. It is a simple system that should keep the story moving, particularly for GM-less games.
There’s no other required materials noted in the intro section.
Characters have five stats and you are given a stat array of +3, +2, +1, 0, and -1 to assign to them:
Nitpicking: I think I’d prefer something like Bold, Clever, & Swift for the first three stats as it still hits the tone but would be more accessible language for me. Friends might be better themed as Connections in some settings. Smugglers might not have many “Friends” but they always “know someone” who might help out in a pinch (and be willing to backstab our intrepid smuggler the first chance they can get.)
I don’t mind stat arrays but I do wish there was a method to randomly set them as well. I find I like using random character creation for creating the “grunts” of an adventuring crew without getting lost in over-thinking things like “party balance.”
The book is a bit ambiguous about the character creation process - there is no step-by-step walkthrough or checklist. You’ll need to refer to the character sheet and the initial few pages to put it all together.
There’s a lot of tables in this book but no name generator. Not to bother, I have my own lengthy table of “space opera” names, rolling up a pair I get:
I’m not entirely sure who Caalgen is yet, so I’m going to flip through the book and pick out a few tables to help me. You don’t have to do this, you might already have your character envisioned and assigning the stat array takes only a minute or two. For me I don’t know my who my character is yet. “Friends & Frenemies” (on Page 17 of the PDF version) has a few NPC related tables. There’s some good stuff here and I honestly wish these were closer to the character creation section because I think they set the tone for the expectations of your typical adventurer in this universe.
I’m going to give my character a Notable Quirk, Helpful Forte, Demeanor, Exploitable Flaw, Desire, and Secret. All of these can be flavored with an “Intensity” as well.
Notable Quirk (w/ Intensity):
2d6: [2, 6] Yells, 1d6:  Extremely
Helpful Forte (w/ Intensity):
2d6: [4, 1] Connected, 1d6:  Somewhat
Demeanor (w/ Intensity):
2d6: [6, 6] Menacing, 1d6:  Slightly
Exploitable Flaw (w/ Intensity):
2d6: [4, 1] Unstable, 1d6:  Slightly
2d6: [5, 2] Save/Escape Power/Justice - I like “Escape Justice” here
1d6:  Information
Finally, I don’t really know what “gender” they are so I’ll just roll a d6: (1-2 Male, 3-4 Female, 5-6 Non-Binary/Fluid/Whatever)
1d6:  Male
With all that, we can now say…
“Caalgen Nyhin, known for his frequent outbursts, is a slightly menacing looking human. Their slightly unstable nature has left them wanted in several systems. They are currently on the run and in position of a data-chit containing secret information.”
… and we can stat out Caalgen like so:
Caalgen Nyhin, Moxie +3, Smarts +0, Wiggles +1, Pockets +2, Friends -1. Gumption 6. Grit 0. Heat 1. Skill: Pilot
Gumption, an HP-like pacing stat, starts at 6. Grit, a stat that can be spent to turn a failure into a success, starts at 0 (you earn +1 Grit on a failure.) Heat starts at 1. Skill is a fill-in the blank field and allows you to roll with an advantage when relevant. There’s no guidance currently given about scoping a skill - is it a traditional skill like “ranged combat” or could it be a profession “Ace Pilot.” That’s probably up to you for now.
Mission Generator: Initial Adventure Seed
By using the “Friends & Frenemies” tables I’ve already gotten my character into some trouble but let’s detail out a bit more to get us going. The “Mission Generator” (Page 7 of the PDF) has several tables we can use to flavor our adventures with.
From whom did Caalgen steal the information from? (“Faction”)
1d6:  Explor-A-Corp
What is the information about? (“The Objective”)
1d6:  Massive Monster
Where is this “Massive Monster”?
1d6:  Nebula
How did Caalgen acquiring this information? (“The Opposition” table)
1d6:  Friend
What does the “friend” want Caalgen to do with the info? (“Their Agenda”)
1d6:  Sow Chaos
Where does Caalgen need to deliver the information to? (“The Location”)
1d6:  Space
Caalgen knows he’s in position of secret information of a massive alien “monster” that has been sprung from a nebula which Explor-A-Corp was studying. The threat is great and Explor-A-Corp has been covering it up in hopes of containing the fallout from their activities. A friend working within the project, maybe a subcontractor, realizes that Explor-A-Corp has unleashed something bigger than they can handle. They smuggle the information to Caalgen in hopes he can get into the hands of some local pirates who have a hidden base within an asteroid field. As the goal is chaos, I don’t think there’s much of a plan. Caalgen and the “friend on the inside” are just looking to gain some reputation with these pirates and probably get paid to some extent.
The Game Framework
Spaces Aces does not establish significant guidance on a suggested “game loop” but it is sorta there in the form of the provided tables and the Crafting An Episode guidance on page 6: Create characters then generate a mission. Figure out the 3 step plan to pull it off then generate an episode event. The rest of the content in the book is there to add flavor to these core game concepts (characters, missions, episodes).
Let’s say we open “In Media Res” - Caalgen is escaping the Explor-A-Corp after acquiring the information, a space chase. If Caalgen can do this then the next steps would be making contact with the pirates and delivering/selling the info.
We’ll use the Episode Event tables on Page 8 to flavor our opening space chase.
How many ships are perusing Caalgen? (Scuffle):
1d6: : 1d3:  “Goons”
Out of curiosity I wonder how “intense” they are so I use the Intensity table from earlier:
1d6:  Slightly
Goons to me implies what Space Aces deems as “Small baddies”. They will deal 1 Harm on a standard attack. The base difficulty for dealing with them will be “Easy (5)” There is no guidance for determining Gumption for NPCs in the “Scuffles” section but flipping through the book and thinking about the base character Gumption, Goons seem like they’d have 3 Gumption. I envision these goons are really more like AI-Drones than piloted vehicles given their weak intensity.
What are the Goons goals in attacking Caalgen?
1d6:  Destroy
I ignore a few other tables that don’t seem to apply but adding some flavor to the location seems good:
2d6: [4, 2] Volatile
Of course, we’re coming out of an alien-infused nebula - all sorts of navigational and sensory things are broken.
It is worth noting that this pages includes an “Ask The AI” tool that is the typical Yes/No “Ask the GM/Oracle” one would find in a game that bills itself as solo-friendly.
How about what kind of ship Caalgen is flying? Well the Starship Shenanigans tables on Page 11 can tell us that. I’m not sure if it is the small or medium variant so we’ll do a high/low 1d6 roll:
1d6:  Medium
Medium ships have Shields 4, Reactor 2, Damage 2, Speed Average.
From here I realize that the goon drones could be better though of as “small” craft so I’ll revise my starts for them: Shields 2, Reactor 1, Damage 1, Speed Fast. (There are 2 of them)
What’s a quirk about Caalgen’s ship?
2d6: [6, 1] “Uniforms Ride Up”
This seems to apply to Caalgen’s gear more than his ship and I find the result a bit disappointing. Looking over the list I like the option of “No Seatbelts” - there’s no restraining gear or it is broken. Given the “Volatile” nature of the location it could mean Caalgen loses his ability to reach the controls in the heat of combat.
What’s a perk of Caalgen’s ship?
2d6: [1, 4] Smuggler’s hold
Of course, that’s where the secret information data-chit has been secured.
How did Caalgen acquire the ship?
1d6:  Fair-n-Square
Actual Play: Starship Scuffle
Spaces Aces suggest that smaller ships move first. You can take that as-is or use it to influence the difficulty of a check or likelihood of an “ask the ai” question. I’ll just let them shoot first.
I’m not sure where the drones are and there’s not a table here for that. I don’t like “20 questions” with a Yes/No oracle for this stuff so I’ll use a table I have from a Star Wars game to determine their position:
Fore and Above
The drones are coming head on at Caalgen’s ship - where we likely open on a camera shot of Caalgen staring down the two fighters. He can see the nozzle on their laster blaster warm up to fire and he hopes dodge the initial attack. From earlier we know the starting difficulty is “Easy (5)”. The game notes that a player manning multiple stations makes tasks harder but in this case Caalgen is merely dodging (“Helm” in Space Aces language) so I’m not sure there’s reason to up the difficulty. Dodging two vehicles does seem harder though, so let’s up the difficulty there to “Tricky (10).” Caalgen would then roll 2d20 (advantage for his Piloting skill) and add his “Wiggles” and hope to best a 10.
2d20: [3, 6] - 6+1 = 7
1d6:  Benefit
I’m not entirely sure what the Benefit would be and I don’t see a table that would help. I’ll use the Mythic Gamemaster Emulator’s Action Meaning tables:
Caalgen slams the controls to the right but the AI Drones have been learning from Caalgen’s behavior throughout the combat we have not seen previously - they guessed this manuever. They open fire on Caalgen’s ship and the Shields (4) suffer 2 damage. Caalgen’s sensors though have recently been upgraded, he paid for the best model available, and on his HUD the sensors indicate the drone that can be most easily targeted by his weapon’s systems. This is the first time Caalgen his gotten into a position to fire so we see him flip the lid to open on the firing controls and he punches a few short busts into the buttons. I think that’s probably a normal action roll plus Caalgen’s Moxie against an Easy (5) difficulty:
1d20+3: +3 = 12
1d6:  None
It is a hit! The threat panel in front of Caalgen registers the damage immediately and Caalgen can see that the shields are down on one of the craft. The other ship has used this moment though to pair off and make an attack run. A stream of laser fire comes towards Caalgen’s ship and he again makes evasive maneuvers.
2d20: [2, 11] 11+1 = 12
1d6:  Benefit
This time Caalgen is feeling confident, having just ripped into the other ship, and his evasive action is successful. He’s pulled around and again can choose his target - he wants to finish off that drone from earlier.
1d20+3: +3 = 7
1d6:  None
1d6:  Engines
The twin lasers tear into the engines of the AI Drone and it is dead in the water. There’s not a “morale check” in the game but it is the sorta thing I’m used to. We’ll use “Ask the AI”: Does the AI leave combat? “Possibly” likelihood (10+)
1d20:  = 20 (Yes)
1d6:  -
The AI runs the numbers, it is outgunned in this situation and choose to report back to base. Caalgen pushes the hyperdrive lever all the way forward and we see the stars accelerated around his cockpit.
From here we’d play out the adventure as outline: make contact with the pirates.
This is a fun sci-fi supplement for a campy/fun/action-filled setting with a wealth of tables. There’s a lot of flavor tables that could be used regardless of your game system. There’s a basic game system here that you can play “as-is” and start to tweak to your liking. It is not 100% built out and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you wanted a crunchy, fully-fledged game system though you will be disappointed. I personally don’t find such systems are conducive to solo play but YMMV.
There are a lot more mini-games I did not engage with: diving into a ruin, generating a subsector, exploring a planet, building a monster, space encounters, building gadgets, and so on.
The layout of the book is clean, the many pages of tables are easy to read and interpret, and logically laid out. Several sections can easily be printed as 1 page front/back cheat-sheets to recall when needed.
I do think the game could use a more detailed character creation section and I would like to have seen a thematic “meaning” general purpose oracle such as the those found in Ironsworn’s Action+Theme oracle or Mythic’s Descriptor/Action Meaning table. A little bit more guidance on NPC creation (Gumption for example) would be helpful. Overall it is a worthy addition to anyone’s tabletop RPG space play and is particularly useful for the “unprepared” GM, a sandbox game, and solo/co-op GM-less play.
Exploring the Known Space of Traveller
While the setting of the “Original Traveller Universe” has never quite caught my eye, the beautiful map of “Known Space” at https://travellermap.com has. With this series I intend to give a recently mustered out navy captain, “Aron Xavier”, a 150-ton Jump-1 ship and have them explore them map. I will use this as an oppurtunity to learn more about a setting I only know the broad stokes of.
Captain Aron Xavier 7CBCB9
Gun-Combat-2, Jack o'Trades-1, Leadership-3, Piloting-3, Repair-1, Survival-1, Tactics-1, Zero-G-1
Aron starts on Rabanitas in the Zydar Subsector, located in a sector known as “The Beyond”. Rabanitas is part of the Comsentient Alliance and I imagine that Aron served as a member of the local planetary navy. Aron served from the ages of 18 to 38 and had a successful run of promotions that allowed him to leave with the title of Captain. For character and ship creation I’m using the rules from Cepheus Light rather than my 1981 edition Traveller books because I find them easier to look at (but also beacuse I loathe “cascade skills”.)
Light Cargo Merchant 150-ton, 6, M2, J1, 1 double turret (2x Beam Lasers 1D)
Aron’s ship has an armor rating of 6, Thurst-2, Jump-1, and has a pair of turreted Beam Lasers. It has enough fuel to make two jumps before refueling and carries it is own fuel scoop and processor for refining fuel from gas giants. There’s space in the bridge for another crew member. There are two staterooms and a common room. The remaining 45 tons have been allocated to the cargo bay.
I did generate a few other perspective crew members, they’ll be introduced when appropriate. As usual, I’ll be using Zozer Game’s SOLO to assist in running the game but I also have a number of “house systems” I use to run a solo Traveller game. Finally, I’ll not be interweaving the mechanics into the summary of events. You are welcome to reach out and ask how certain results came about though. Logging the mechanics, their meaning, and crafting a readable summary of those things together is incredibly time consuming.
1105, Week 1, Rabanitas 0122, Zydar Subsector, The Beyond
- Leaving Port:
- Small Craft (Industrial/Science) - Require assistance with violent passenger/crewman.
Aron Xavier, former navy Captain, arrives at a “retirement” party in his honor. After the open bar closed, Aron dropped another Cr600 on spirits & food for the party goers. At the party, Aron meets local system Councilor Sophie Rose who is looking for passage to Farhaven. The two find themselves talking all night like old friends and Aron offers her passage on his ship, The Lucky Hand.
Councilor (Colonist) Sophie Rose, 677D86
Admin-1, Carousing-1, Computer-2, Jack o' Trades-3, Liaison-1, Repair-2, Survival-1
Before leaving port, Aron purchases 20t of “Basic Consumable Goods” for Cr10000. The cargo is inspected closely by Starport Security. Security is higher than normal due to a recent facility explosion that authorities are still investigating the causes of.
With Sophie on board, Aron request departure clearance and the pair are away. With Aron’s older Jump-1 engine, it is a three-jump trip. First they’ll head to Station Two and make a fuel scooping run. Once refueled, they’l make two more jumps to Farhaven. In-between is a bit of empty space and thought of being stranded there certainly has Aron nervous.
While trying to put some distance between Rabanitas’ gravitational field and The Lucky Hand, Aron receives a hail from a small craft.
“This is the research vessel Indigo Goose. Require assistance with subduing a crew member.”
Aron pauses to consider the situation. He’s certainly armed and trained for such matters. Feeling a sense of duty, as Aron has not fully split his mind from his former career, he radios back.
“This is Captain Aron Xavier, I can assist. I’m bringing my vessel alongside for docking. I’d like someone to brief me on the conditions upon my arrival.”
“Of course, Captain. Our first science officer, Marius Kala can bring you up to speed.”
The docking maneuver goes smoothly and Aron is relieved to find that the airlocks are compatible; traversing the plastic tube walkway is always a bit disconcerting.
Aron walks Sophie through using the comms systems on The Lucky Hand. “I’ll hopefully just be a few moments Miss Rose but should anything go wrong you will at least know how to ask for help.”
“I’m a quick study when it comes to computers, Captain.” notes Sophie who has already moved on to inspecting other components of The Lucky Hand’s digital systems.
Removing his Zero-G helmet Aron notices the recycled air smells pristine. A young man in armor that seems ill-fitted to their body meets Aron on the other side of the airlock.
“Marius, Sir. We’ve got a crewmember who is having a reaction to some samples we picked up on Demimonde. We managed to trap them in the engineering section but… we ran out of tranq darts before we could bring them down.”
“Ran out?” Aron raises an eyebrow.
“Uhh… tracking and hitting a moving target is not really our area of expertise?”
Aron nodes and returns a comforting smile. “That’s fine, son. Why don’t we collect what darts we can reuse and I’ll want to see the deck plans for this bucket.”
“What’s this panel here, Captain Abassi?” Aron points to a spot on the deck plans.
“…that would, yes that would get you in there.” says a unkempt and weathered looking person.
Aron crawls through the insides of the ship until he comes to panel, 86B. Using a multi-tool he quietly removes the panel’s securing bolts. He slides the panel off to the side, just enough to climb through. Readying the tranq gun, he aims it at a person frantically interacting with the controls of the engineering room.
“Mr. Ghassaan, your friends are worried about you.”
Ghassaan turns and before he can open his mouth, Aron shoots him in the chest with the dart.
“And Captain Abassi gave you this contact?” asks Sophie.
“‘Bernadine Thisam, a government official on Farhaven’ is what he said.”
“Well, I’ve never heard of her.”
“You’ve met and interacted with every member of the Farhaven government?”
“Of course not.”
“I don’t have many contacts in the universe and I’ll take this Captain’s word over my empty datapad.”
Previously on our Starforged playtest we created our:
Last time we left Hapi they were about to head back home and try to make sense of the starship’s “black box”. Seems like a Set A Course move can tell us a bit about our journey back home.
Set a Course +supply: 9 vs. 9, 5: weak hit
- You face a complication or danger at your destination. Envision what you find (Ask the Oracle if unsure).
Ask the Oracle: Is it the Radas? 85: (Likely) yes
- What’s the rank of the threat? Unlikely that it is “epic”, so let’s roll 1d4:  “formidable”
To setup our position, I think Hapi must “Secure an Advantage” to see if they spot this danger early or run right into it:
Secure an Advantage +wits: 3 vs. 6, 7: miss
- On a miss, you fail or your assumptions betray you. Pay the Price.
- Pay The Price: The environment or terrain introduces a new hazard.
DAG, DIRTSIDE, OVERLAND
Hapi’s hands are sweaty but they firmly grip the throttle of their hoverbike. It is bright and sunny but in fact it is the evening. Dag’s perpetual daylight tends to throw off visitors not use to the unnerving lack of noticeable daylight rhythms. As Hapi crests over a dune, the reflecting daylight temporarily blinds them. The noise of gunfire snaps Hapi to attention.
Enter the Fray: 7 vs. 6, 6: strong hit
- match: something interesting, new opportunity
- Action & Theme: Preserve Freedom
- +2 momentum (now at max…)
Hapi skids their hoverbike to a halt and takes cover behind it. Scanning the area Hapi realizes they are outnumbered and there’s one way out of this mess: getting aboard the Long Odds and keeping on the move. The ship, parked nearby, glistens in the sun.
Hapi takes aim at part of the structure near his hut hoping to knock the canopy down over some of the gang members.
Strike: 4 vs. 3, 7: weak hit Burn momentum: (10): strong hit
- Radas gang [*][*]
The canopy structure collapses and takes out a gang member in the process. During the chaos Hapi takes the opportunity to remount the hoverbike and speed towards the Long Odds.
Gain Ground: 6 vs. 5, 3: strong hit
- Radas gang [*][*][*]
- +2 momentum
With the ship providing additional cover now, Hapi takes a moment to get the drop on another gang member but takes a few shots at their position.
Strike: 7 vs. 1, 5: strong hit
- Radas gang [*][*][*][*][*]
Screams of agony ring across the dunes as another Radas gang member falls to the ground.
Hapi wonders if they should press their luck, and try to make it inside the Long Odds now. Still outnumbered though and if Hapi could eliminate the gang maybe it would buy more time for Hapi to get off-world. There was still the matter of keeping their word to Tarrgh looming in Hapi’s mind.
Need some inspiration for what set pieces might be available:
- Descriptor Focus: Toxic/People
The whole situation stunk thought Hapi and then it hit them like a brick. Firing two carefully placed shots at the septic waste container near the property Hapi hopes to unleash an explosion.
Strike: 6 vs. 5, 3: strong hit
- Radas gang [*][*][*][*][*][*][*]
The ground shakes as the tank explodes. Now or never thinks Hapi, as they make for the Long Odds loading dock. Punching the button the ramp lowers, Hapi fires a few more covering shots, and makes for the hoverbike hoping to ride it up the docking ramp.
Take Decisive Action: 7 vs. 6, 5: strong hit
The remaining Radas are disoriented and caught off guard by Hapi’s willingness to destroy their home. Of course the Long Odds is home now. Banging on the ramp door button the platform begins to rise back up, sealing Hapi off from the remaining gang members. Running to the cockpit Hapi fires up the engines, the blast knocking over a Rada gang member who had regained their footing. Angling the ship around to face them, Hapi fires off a few blasts towards them eliminating the remaining fires.
Hapi places a kiss in their hand and slaps on the “To infinity and beyond” sticker on the console as the ship slowly climbs into the air.
I like the rewritten combat moves, thing read more clearly and simply than they used to - or at least that’s what my brains says. Obviously, the dice were heavily in our favor today which is unusual in my experience. Not complaining, certainly made a cinematic scene. I’m enjoying Starforged overall though not having made a sector map, I’m not entirely sure where Hapi would go from here. Also, I think our next scene needs to deal with Hapi keeping their word to return the jewels to Tarrgh — it seems out of character for them not to.
Previously on our Starforged playtest we created our:
Kicking off play, I have a few Oracle rolls to make and the Swear an Iron Vow move:
What planet are we on when the story starts?
- Type: Desert World
- Name: Dag
- Atmosphere: Breathable
- Observed: Perpetual daylight
- Closer: Scarred battlefields, Exposed mineral deposits
- Settlements: Settlements in conflict
- Life: Simple
Where are we on Dag (or off) when the story starts?
- Descriptor Focus: Expansive Battleground
Finally, we need to “Swear an Iron Vow” to tackle the quest to clear Hapi’s name
Swear an Iron Vow +heart (4): 10 vs. 2, 7 - strong hit
- +2 momentum
- “you are emboldened and it is clear what you must do next” (if unsure “Ask the Oracle”)
Ok, in order for Hapi to clear their name they must return to the scavenger site and pull the ship’s logs. Hapi believes this will demonstrate that the ship was a wayward vessel and doesn’t belong to the clan that is claiming ownership.
Oh, I need a clan name so I turn to one of my name generators: “Rada”
Dag, Dirtside, Southern Dunes
Hapi wondered how’d he gotten himself into such a miserable situation. The dumbest part was that Hapi had returned to the scene of the supposed crime.
“I don’t even know why the Radas want this stuff; this wreck has been here forever.”
Hapi begins their search for the ship’s “black box”.
Gather Information +wits: 5 vs. 3, 9: weak hit
- +1 momentum
- complication/danger: pulling it out requires a specific tool
“Ahh, these old T-15 cubes are a chore to pull. Now, where’s that extraction tool…”
Let’s play with all of the toys as they say:
Check your Gear +supply: 10 vs. 4, 3: strong hit
Hapi pulls out the tool and starts to pull the box out.
Ultimately having this box is an narrative “advantage”, so I think we have to use the Secure an Advantage move rather than Face Danger. My Ironsworn muscles might be a little rusty.
Secure an Advantage +wits: 7 vs. 10, 3: weak hit
We’re on a nice run here momentum wise and have the resource in our hands. I think Hapi has made progress on this sub-quest/vow to “Figure out origins of scavenged ship”.
Reach a Milestone: Secure a Resource (“black box”)
Hapi secures the “black box” and stows it away. Hapi gathers their tools and makes their way back to the exit.
Ask The Oracle:
“Hapi, didn’t expect to see you here. I heard you already went over this wreck.”
“Tarrgh, never a pleasure to see you.”
“Why don’t you set your pack down” says Tarrgh as he waves a gun at Hapi.
“Sure, let’s be reasonable here.” Hapi sets down the bag and nods at it. “I don’t have anything of value to you in there and most of that ship is ripe for the picking. We can go our separate ways here and no one has to get hurt.”
Compel +heart: 9 vs. 5, 7: strong hit
Tarrgh bends down, holding the gun firmly pointed at Hapi, and inspects the bag. Pulling out the box he eyes it suspiciously but places it back in the bag. Tarrgh thrusts the gun into Hapi’s back and marches him into the ship to take a look around. Seeing most of the wreck still in salvageable condition he looks back at Hapi.
“You are not lying, there is plenty to be had here. What do you need that for?” he points the gun outside, presumably at the bag.
“Ship’s log. Radas say they hold the scavenge rights to this ship but I don’t think it is theirs. Thought I’d see if I could pull out the identifier or anything else useful.”
“Nonsense, this should be a holy site!”
“Well, you can take that up with the Radas. I’m just trying to save my own hide.”
“I want this salvage for my people, Hapi. I’ll cut you a deal. I’ll let you walk out here with your life if you will share the information about the origins of the ship with me.”
“Deal. You know how to find me. It’ll take a few days to make sense of that box but I’ll share what I know.”
Tarrgh thinks on this. “Ok. Why are the Radas after you anyway, doesn’t even look like you’ve done much on this wreck?”
“Someone must have saw me entering it after the sandstorm uncovered it?”
Well, Hapi is flat out lying here
Compel +shadow: 3 vs. 1, 3: weak hit
- +1 momentum
“Sure, why not just tell them you didn’t take anything? Leave well enough alone. Nah, you found something here didn’t you?”
“There was a skeleton of a human or humanoid. I buried them a few paces, that way.” Hapi points out to the south a bit. “They had some old simple robes, a bit of jewelry that must have been on their face; you know, like yours. I can give you the jewelry.”
Probably another Compel? Now, Hapi isn’t lying here … he’s omitting info but aiming to barter … so…
Compel +heart: 10 vs. 1, 1: strong hit
- +1 momentum
- Action+Theme: Inspect Superstition
“Jewels? Really? Those face beads are sacred objects, you must return to them. I’ll give you
(1d4: ) two days, Hapi. I want the jewels and whatever else you can tell about this wreck.”
Hapi, nods and walks outside. Grabbing their pack Hapi climbs on their hoverbike and rides off.
Playing Ironsworn is like riding a biycle: it gets easier the more you exercise the relevant muscles. I’m not 100% sure I played this out in the most ideal Ironsworn way but I think it is in the ballpark.
I liked the Check your Gear move - it is a subtle tweak on previous Ironsworn moves that feels natural for this genre. And so far the Oracle results all feel natural or at least easy to work with given my setting Truths.
Next time, we’ll catch up with Hapi and figure out what they unearthed from the “black box.” Fair warning: I don’t intended to play out every scene of this game in a step-by-step order. I’ll skip over some bits, montage, or flashback as needed. I don’t have the patience or freetime to exhaustively simulate Hapi’s life.
Having created our setting’s Truths and a main character we are almost ready to start playtesting Starforged’s moves and oracles through gameplay. In order to kick things off we need to develop our story starter.
Currently there’s no playtest guidance here so we will fall back to Ironsworn where you create a “Background Vow” and an “Inciting Incident” to kick things off. Other games might refer to this concept as starting “In Medias Res” though they don’t often frame it with the backdrop of the “Background Vow.” If you have never played Ironsworn before then a Background Vow is a primary motivation or ultimate goal for your character. Sometimes these are obvious like “become the future king of this land” but in Hapi’s case “don’t die in The Forge” is the truest of statements but not quite enough of a story hook that will push the narrative forward.
Taking a step back and considering what appears to be our initial Quest (“Refute the false criminal charges against Hapi.”) then the background vow might be “Take down the clan that has falsely accused Hapi.” As a reminder, the false criminal charges were generated in the Truths exercise and I don’t have much detail about the specifics. I’m not 100% sure Hapi’s character is the “out for revenge” type but I’m going to go with it out of laziness and a desire to play.
So, with the background vow of “Take down the clan that has falsely accused Hapi”, Hapi will embark on their first quest to “refute the false criminal charges.” Hapi has been a hard working scavenger scraping by pulling spare parts for salvage to survive in their day-to-day life. Now though they’ve be falsely accused of a crime. Most likely they salvaged a part they should not have (or where they should not have.) The crime might be something as simple as a trumped up charge about salvage rights from the ruling clan on this planet. The clan has lined the pockets of the local authorities (and may very well be the local authorities) so it is easy to take action against people who get in their way.
What has Hapi salvaged though that was so valuable? Asking the Oracles for a Descriptor/Focus, I get “Powerful/Force.” Being the extremely lazy Star Wars fan I am, I think Hapi has unearthed a “Way Blade” from a ship wreck. I did establish in the Truths that there was a mystical energy force present in The Forge and that certain rare individuals were able to harness it.
While Hapi has a “Weathered” look, in my mind they are young but a life of scavenging takes a toll on you. Hapi’s parents likely died when Hapi was a child and Hapi has been forced to make a life out of what was available to them. I think it is likely that if they were one of the “rare” individuals empowered by “The Way” it is unlikely they would know it. Strange dreams? sure. Maybe a handful of times something happened that seemed unnatural but working on your own on a desolate planet probably makes you dismiss lots of things as a mirage.
Now, did they find this “Way Blade” by accident or… was it calling to them? “Play to find out” is what I say and that’s what we will start doing next time.
Today, we’re going to continue to build up our Starforged playtesting scenario. We have our Truths that define the broad stokes of the setting and now we need a main character.
I prefer to play SciFi roleplaying games (particularly solo ones) with a “crew” in whatever form this takes. I’m a huge fan of Zozer’s SOLO and one aspect that game taught to me appreciate is the interpersonal relationships of the crew and how those can ground the fantastic nature of SciFi stories to something more personal. In the past I’ve found that solo Ironsworn works best if you “run” a single character and allow other members of the party to be either an Irosnworn Asset or just flavorful NPCs that enable the fiction. Given all that I will create a single characer for now whom will often be the main focus of the fiction but there will be other crew members who will help carry the story forward. I’ll get to those later.
To help me get started I’m going to work off the Character Primer worksheet that is part of the playtest materials:
Board your ship: We are to take the “Starship Vehicle” Command Vehicle Asset and give it a name. The starship name oracles are not ready yet for the playtest so I will use another random table of names I have laying around which gives me the name “Long Odds.” Possibly the most fitting name for a vehicle asset in an Ironsworn game you could imagine. I set the health status tracker for this assset to +5. The first ability on the asset has been chosen for us:
“Your armed, multipurpose starship is suited for interstellar and atmospheric flight. It can comfortably transport several people, has space for cargo, and can carry and launch support vehicles. When you Advance, you may spend experience to equip this vehicle with module assets.”
There’s a lot of fictional positioning established here already and it feels immediately useful without any upgrades which is nice.
- Choose three assets: I feel like I need to resolve some bits from the Truths experience first. The Truths document hinted that I might want to take the FUGITIVE and SCAVENGER assets. Well FUGITIVE doesn’t exist right now but SCAVENGER does so I’ll grab that. GEARHEAD looks appealing, particularly with someone who likes scavenging. I contemplated quite a few assets for my last one but I think HOVERBIKE makes the most sense for the type of work the character is doing.
- Create a connection:
- Name: Endus Olen
- Role: Supplier (Resupply)
- Looks: Ill-equipped, Tattooed, and Aged
- Disposition: Friendly
- Goals: Claim a resource
- Aspects: Critical, Addicted, and Suspicious
- Location: I assume they are located on the planet I have historically operated out of but have been very recently exilted from.
- Set your stats: Edge 3, Heart 4, Iron 3, Shadow 2, Wits 2
- Ok, here’s where I’m going to differ from rules-as-written. I’ve been using the “challenging” stat array from the Ironsworn Lodestar for a long time and I just prefer the flavor of it.
- Set your status trackers: No surprises here.
- Envision your character:
- Name: Hapi
- Looks: Unkempt and Weathered
- Goals: Refute a falsehood and Secure a resource
- Aspects: Technical, Resourceful, Cautious
I imagine that Hapi’s character will evolve as we get to know them (and they get to know themselves and their place in the story) better. I have a simplistic understanding of where they are coming from but almost no idea where they are going to. I gave them two goals to start, clearing their name of a crime they’ve been accused of (from the Truths exercise) and securing resources for their livelihood. This feels straightforward and I think I’m ready to begin play next.
There’s a playtest edition out of Ironsworn’s science fiction sister game “Starforged”. As someone who previously twisted Ironsworn to play SciFi I thought I should give the proper version a spin. As with Ironsworn, you are encouraged to use a “World Trurths” exercise to define your game.
Note: I had originally provided my answers here to the first 20 question Truths exercise but I have removed those as Starforged’s author Shawn Tomkin released another update of the Truths exercise and encourage folks to use this version if they had not started their playtest yet. Seeing as I haven’t even made it to character building I figured I’d throw away my first run through the 20-question version and go with this.
In light of some discussion on the playtest discord I’m going to push myself to stay within the confines of the exercise because I’d like to reduce the amount of friction I have with the oracles in play. If you aren’t familiar with Ironsworn then you need to understand that many of the game’s rules interact with the various “oracles” (random tables) the game provides and while it is easy to reskin these oracles to better suit your theme I’m not inclined to do so for a playtest.
So with all that in mind, let’s do some Truths “once more with feeling!” style: (I’m going to take a few more notes this time as I go)
- Cataclysm: Everything fell apart in an age of chaos. A crisis was sparked by the rise of a fascist power.
- I choose this one initially and I still like it.
- “Do you possess a keepsake or artifact of pre-cataclysm society?” I noted yesterday that I felt like the cataclysm was a thing from a distant time and most inhabitants of The Forge (the in-game galaxy) don’t really think much about it. My idea is that there is a massive innactive jumpgate near “terminus” (the populous part of The Forge.) The stories that are passed down are that we fled our home galaxy eons ago through this gate and disabled it so we could not be followed. I think there’s room for this story being hogwash though, perhaps we are a “prison galaxy” - we were exiled here by our former civilization and they don’t want us coming back. I’ll let play determine how much stock people put into the origin story. Anyway, my character does not have a pre-cataclysm trinket other than the giant jumpgate that looms over The Forge.
- Exodus: Mysterious alien gates provided instantaneous one-way passage to the Forge.
- As noted above, here’s where I’m bending the Truth statement a bit. I don’t see much harm in doing so.
- “Does your family or cultural history offer any stories of the Exodus?” As above, there’s some origin story that is thrown around but we are so far removed from it that people don’t talk about it much anymore.
- Iron: We swear vows upon the iron remnants of ships that carried our people to the Forge.
- “What do you swear vows upon?” I think most folks wear some sorta of iron shard as part of a necklace, perhaps some as a body piercing, etc. Many of these items may not be as authentic as people claim. I think some folks have some equivalent of a military-style “dogtag”: the real ones are from the original families and peoples who came through the gate before it was disabled. Did they make these to keep track of people? Does the military thing mean they were rebels fighting the fascist government? I don’t know yet.
- Communities: Dangers remain, but we have made our mark in this galaxy.
- “Your character is assumed to be without a home as you start your campaign.” Oh, really? I had not envisioned that and it has thrown for me loop so I ask the oracles for an Action+Theme and I get: “Bolster Innocence”. In that case I have been wrong convicted of a crime and kicked off a planet I used to call home.
- Clans: Through brute force or cunning, a few powerful clans control most of the settled territory and resources.
- I don’t think my character is loyal to any clan - maybe as result of whatever crime they have been (falsely?) accused of.
- Laws: Communities or clans define their own laws; there are no common laws which bind us. The exception is bounties on fugitives or criminals, which are almost universally recognized.
- “Has a specific incident in your background pushed you to respect or rebel against authority?” Rebel, apparently.
- Religion: Our gods failed us. We left them behind.
- “What is your relationship to religion?” None.
- Mysticism: Mystical powers are wielded by those rare folk we call gifted. The miraculous abilities are a product of: Evolutionary mutations?
- Well I’m just going to steal “The Force” straight out of Star Wars. We can call it “The Way” (ala Evil Hat’s Scum & Villainy) or whatever. I might leave that to an Oracle prompt. Anyway, I imagine people who are gifted are just born with it or not. Few people are.
- “If mysticism is an aspect of your setting, how does your character and their culture view these unnatural abilities?” Shall I quote an influential person on this matter: “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid”
- Communication and Data: Information is life. We rely on an clan of spacebound couriers–the Heralds–to transport messages and data across the vast distances between settlements.
- This is a setting conceit ripped straight from Traveller and it is one I can easily wrap my head around. Information moves at the speed of FTL travel. It provides some wiggle room for stale information.
- Medicine: The Menders are an order of sworn healers who preserve our medical knowledge and train new generations of caregivers.
- Ugh, I’m not sure about this one. I didn’t like any of the choices really. Give me a Medical Droid and a Bacta Tank and I’m good to go. Anyway, I’m going to try the prompt I chose and see how the oracles influence it.
- “Do you bear any notable scars or prosthetics?” Do I? I ask the Oracle - 61: (50/50) “yes.” Ok, so what is it? I ask for a Descriptor/Focus and get: “Abundant/Device”. Device sounds to me like some sort of augmentation. So how about a simple 1d6 oracle: Hand, Arm, Leg, Foot, Eye, Ear: 1d6: . Ok, I’ve got a augmented leg. I have to admit that I’ve never roleplayed much “cyberpunk” with an augmentation theme because it seems like an area of ableism I don’t feel comfortable with but we’ll just roll with this. If I was cool I’d run the Starforged equivalent of the “D&D Combat Wheelchair” but I’m not cool. I figure the character lost their leg and it has been replaced with a “Luke’s mechanical hand, boy that looks like a regular hand” version. There could certainly be complications with the technology though.
- Artificial Intelligence: The vestiges of our advanced machine intelligence is coveted and wielded by those in power.
- I changed my thoughts here from my previous assumptions based on a previous choice about the importance of a few powerful clans. It makes more sense to me now that this technology is limited, probably fought over.
- War: War never ends. Talented weaponsmiths and shipwrights craft deadly tools of destruction. The largest clans wield powerful fleets and hordes of planetside troops.
- “Have you fought in any wars?” Oracle says… 11: (Likely) “no” and we asked for an Action+Theme I got “Protect Disaster.” Maybe I was involved in some fashion but in a defensive capacity and the relevant war(s) never came.
- Precursors: An advanced spacefaring empire, what we call the Ascendancy, once ruled the entirety of the Forge.
- Ok, I changed my answer again given some rethinking - particularly with the disabled jumpgate. To have built such a gate would have required some pretty advance tech that doesn’t really exist in a working, widely available state in The Forge. Possibly the Ascendancy had started to colonize The Forge but stopped ages ago for some reason.
- “Have you had any notable encounters with precursor ruins, relics, or tech?” 96: (Unlikely) “yes”. A check on Descriptor/Focus tells me “Rich/Installation.” Maybe I’m a scavenger. I’ll need to think on this a bit as it is a wrinkle I had not considered.
- Lifeforms: The Forge is a chaotic galaxy, but life has found a way.
- Essentia: Some may weave wild tales of encounters with strange beings, but we cannot deny an inescapable truth. We are alone.
- There’s wiggle room for this prompt to be “untrue” through play and that’s fine with me.
- Horrors: Put enough alcohol in a spacer, and they’ll tell you stories of ghost ships crewed by vengeful undead. It’s nonsense.
- This is not an area of gameplay I intend to explore but I guess I’m willing to have my mind changed through play.
This went much better than my first time through. The writing is clearer and the choices seem more purposeful in some ways.
I’m very much used to the “random chaos sandbox” nature that comes from relying on GM Emulators/Oracles - so if it pains you to watch me defer to random chance as to what my character will be I apologize but trust me when I say the fun in all this (for me) is embracing that chaos.
The nice thing about Ironsworn’s system is nothing will break if you ignore components of the setting as the game wraps itself around the fiction you create. There is a post-apocalypse tone to some of the prompts in the Truths material I was not inspired by but I think if you step back from those statements you can reshape them in your own image.
I found going through the truths section deeply rewarding as it did make me think carefully about where to set certain setting dials and that’s the goal of this material. It is an excellent part of Ironsworn’s “first run” experience - out of the gate the game challenges you to think carefully about the fiction you are going to create. I’m happy Starforged has embraced this part of Ironsworn and I like that the Truths exercise feels more open and richly defined than the original game’s version.
Into the Void, Season 1, Episode 3
Previously on Into the Void: Phoebe’s modifications of the scout ship have led to a few incidents that caused Rubin to question their safety but Phoebe pulled rank and Rubin fell inline. Later while restowing fallen cargo due to mechanical issues when exiting jumpspace, Rubin discovered a crate of unstable Way crystals that could be used as an improvised explosive device.
Jumpspace, Leg 2 of 2 to the Gamma System
- On-Board Event: Typical trip, with highs and lows.
- Avoid Bad Crew Reaction Throw 8+: (6,6)+0 = 12
- Ship Encounter exiting Jumpspace: None
“And that’s how you win Olinka, BAM.” Rubin slams down his assortment of “stones”.
“Yes, Rubin. Well done. The student has become the master.” says Turick.
“I’m still not sure I understand why the light stones have to be knocked out of the ring but that was fun. I need to go prep for arrival.” Phoebe turns and makes her way back to the bridge.
“Have you reconsidered your intention to misuse the crystals?” Turick asks Rubin.
“Misuse… I mean they are weapons are not? I’d think we are using them as described in the manual.”
“They are not inherently weapons. You may cause the loss of innocent life with your plans. I am urging you to rethink the matter.”
“Turick, our new government is sending people needlessly to a war they have manufactured. They were enslaving your people. The innocents are already caught up in this mess.”
“There is always another path.”
“Take it up with the commander.”
Ariving Dust, Gamma System
- Ship Encounter approaching Dust: None
- Dust Starport Encounter: Find a great hang-out/bar/cafe/restaurant at the port. Perfect for hiding away, making deals or wooing someone.
- Cantina Encounter: Group of rowdy off-duty starport employees antagonize patrons
- Meet an old friend: Success!
- Contact (Person of Interest): Sepp Eporr
- Motive: Hatred, to ruin and destroy a hated enemy
- Capability: Money, being able to buy off problems (Source: Family, who provide it to the NPC)
- Opportunity: An opportunity that was supposed to go to them has been withdrawn due to their persecutors
- Connection: Past deeds
- Visual Trait: Missing a hand or arm
- Initial Interaction: Suspicious or wary of the PCs
- General Interaction: Talks about the place they’re meeting at
- Patron Mission: Spy on a Location, Target: Money or Bonds
“I like the grub here, the Axel Fries are a treat.” says a large, bulky Cthoni who has a noticeably robotic hand and a distinctive set of tentacles that undulate from their chin.”
“Thanks for meeting with us, Sepp. We haven’t uh seen you since…” says Phoebe before being cut-off by Rubin.
“…those delivery runs to Dagles! What a hoot! Good times.”
“Yes, that’s where I lost my hand. Very touching of you to remember.”
Phoebe nudges herself back into the front of the conversation “Yes. That was unfortunate, though I imagine that one is a bit of an upgrade right?”
“I don’t have problems opening jars anymore.”
“Well good, there you go.” interjects Rubin once more.
“Rubin, get us a round why don’t you.” Phoebe slides him some cred sticks.
“How can I help you, Phoebe? You know I’m not really connected to the courier world anymore, I doubt I can be of much use to you.”
“Well, neither are we. It is possible we’re here with a stolen Magnan courier ship and a couple of AWOL labels on our IDents.”
Sepp leans forward “Shit, Phoebe. What happened?”
“The new Prime Minister? What do they have to do with you?”
“They are running a scam right out of the Primum Palace. The war with the Novorians is a setup. It is a branding cash grab for their nested tangle of family businesses.”
“Doesn’t really seem like a matter for a courier, Phoebe.”
“They conscripted Rubin into the Army. Our last scout mission went sideways and we were helped out by someone who has been persecuted by the Magnans… surely you can appreciate that?”
Sepp nods and lowers his head. “I just lost a contract with someone who had disparaged the Octonoriat. Folks in the Dust do not appreciate the old ways.”
“Maybe we can help each other out? Rubin and I need some credit flow.”
“Possibly. I would like to return… a favor… to the one who has shamed my Gods. Perhaps you can help me fill in some of the blanks on their place of business.”
Sepp punches a few details into his data pad, removes a data stick, and slides it over.
“Thanks. We’ll be in touch. Speaking of which… where’s…” Phoebe trails off and she sees Rubin in a heated argument with a table of Starport cargo dock workers.
“You’ll have to keep him inline if you are going to make it out here.” Sepp says to Phoebe.
“Yeah, yeah yeah. Shit. It was nice catching up.”
“Sure, any excuse for fries.”
Into the Void, Season 1, Episode 2
Previously on Into the Void: Phoebe led an engineering effort to disable tracking devices on their scout ship so that her and fellow crew member Rubin could defect from the Magnan Empire.
- Ship Encounter: None
- Crew Reaction Throw 8+: (6,6)+0 = 12
- On-Board Event: Power failure — several tripped fuses, shuts down power in parts of engineering
“Would it help if I got out and pushed?” quips Rubin.
“Shut-up.” says an annoyed Phoebe.
“Is it possible that when you re-routed around the quantum core you crippled the jump drive?”
“I may… have overcharged the particles. Look, why don’t you go play a game with Turick.”
“Yeah, why not. As luck would have it, we are so far into the void of nothingness there’s very little traffic out here.”
“Turick, buddy. You know how to play Burst? Oh, well from the face you are shooting me that’s a no. Do you know any card games?” Rubin wonders if Turick has ever had a moment of fun in his life.
“I can teach you how to play Olinka. Are there perhaps something like stones onboard?”
Rubin fetches a few things that pass as stones, mostly assorted replacement bearings. The two play a game that resembles something like “marbles.”
“This is cool, is the main jam on Lavene?” asks Rubin.
“It is a story about our history. Lavene was not always where it is now, it has moved across the galaxy.”
“I’m going to stop you there and teach you how planets orbit their suns.”
“I understand that concept but the legends say Lavene was not always orbiting the same suns.”
“Right. Well that’s kookydooks but it is a good to have a legend.”
Jumpspace, Leg 1 of 2 to the Gamma System
- Crew Reaction Throw 8+: (4,3)+0 = 7
- Stubborn. A choice has been made and the PC does not like it. They refuse to co-operate unless things are changed. This may not be the result of a large ego, but a passionate belief, a sense of safety or moral duty. It all depends on the current situation.
- On-Board Event: Cargo containers have shifted due to grav compensator malfunction. Need re-setting.
- Plan: Phoebe’s Jack-of-all-Trades-3 skill allows her to be suitable to just about any plan if not particularly skilled. She’s going to pull rank and let Rubin know that under no uncertain terms will they be reversing the work done to disable the Magnan tracking systems. It is a “solid” plan and not dangerous. No other modifiers are appropriate.
- The Plan succeed (2d6: [6, 3] = 9) and there was a good consequence. Suggested consequence: Find a useful or valuable piece of kit
As the scout ship exits jumpspace there is a large shudder and all manner of items fall from their overhead storage berths.
“Phoebe, I think we need to consider … undoing your handywork with the quantum core? It seems to be causing problems and one of these jumps we’ll just end up somewhere unpleasant, or dead. Do you want to die, is that it?”
“Rubin we are not undoing the work. We’ll keep figuring out how to make it work but if unless you want to follow another commander’s orders you’ll follow mine. Stow that loose cargo and prepare for our next jump.”
Rubin sighs and nods. It is much less than the expected salute in such a situation but Phoebe chooses not to press the issue.
“Uh, Pheebs?” yells Rubin “Why are we carrying this massive box of energized crystals? And why are they vibrating?”
Phoebe walks back to the cargo hold and Turick joins the two as the conversation has piqued his curiosity.
“Where did you find those?” asks Turrick.
“Do you know what they are? Do you finally know the answer to something I don’t?” says Rubin.
“Those crystals are infused with Way energy. Something has positively charged them and they are excited.” Turrick responds.
“Excited? Like, what they are dancing for joy?”
“Rubin, we must have picked those up on Tiverete. That spooky ass volcano world. We were delivering personal packages to the excavation crew and that box was supposed to contain their letters for their families back home.” Phoebe interjects.
“Interesting. If left to the wrong hands they can be highly destructive.” notes Turick.
“Like, what they explode?” asks Rubin.
“Yes, if you were to hit them with a plasma blast in this raw excited state they’ll cause a explosion that would level anything for miles.” Turrick says as he kneels down and waves his hand over the crystals. They begin to settle down.
“That changes things.” Phoebe says as she walks back to the bridge.
Into the Void, Season 1, Episode 1
- Phoebe Emtia, Magnan Scout Pilot
- Rubin Alpha, Magnan Scout Courier
- Turick Chi, Lavevean Wilder
A solo roleplaying campaign using SOLO, published by Zozer Games and written by Paul Elliott. The setting is based on Somnium Void, published by Trollish Delver Games and written by Scott Malthouse. Additional solo roleplaying tools from Tana Pigeon of Word Mill Games.
Dirtside on Laveve in the Isedmale System
- We start “In Medias Res” as SOLO recommends. A botched courier job due to local complications means the crew has to get off-planet and fast. Local gang members are looking for their ship after it was used to rescue a crew member. Complicating matters, one of the crew members, Rubin, has been ordered to return home to Magna and enlist in the army by the newly appointed Prime Minister. But the crew has learned information that puts the new Magnan government in a bad light and Rubin does not want to join their expanding war effort. Instead, the crew plans to defect and find some way to remove the new leadership from power.
- Plan: Before our crew takes off, they want to override the electronics on their courier scout vessel, so they can avoid being tracked and controlled by the Magnan Empire whom they are defecting from.
- Phoebe and Rubin are both experienced with electronics and this has been “their” ship for sometime I figure. They are not under attack but they are under threat of being found by the local gang. So their plan is “shaky” and dangerous. They bring “significant skill” to the table but not any particularly useful piece of kit.
- The Plan succeed (2d6+1: [4, 5]+1 = 10) and there was a good consequence.
- Suggested consequence: Make a Contact or friend
Two figures are working on the innards of spaceships. Tools hit the metal floor with a clank, occasionally an electrical spark flares out from the ship’s panels, and the two figures are having a lively argument.
“Phoebe, no… no… we need to reverse the auxiliary comm-spool first.”
“Rubin, I know this ship. She’s my baby. I’m going to isolate the quantum core first otherwise we’ll blow the comms systems’ capacitors.”
More sparks but this time the lights go out.
“Ahh, you were right! This is better because when they board us they’ll trip over something and knock themselves out.” quips Rubin.
“If you’d like to stay on world and hide, I’ll happily let you off the ship. Now I’ve confined the quantum core and if I just…” The lights flicker back on.
“Well, then we should get this grease off of us. Wanna shower?” says a half-joking Rubin.
“Gross. I’m good, thanks. I’m going to calibrate the quantum cells and then patch the sensor back in.”
- Onboard Event: Injury, Who? 1d3:  Rubin
- Tell me more (Situation): “We’re good.”
- Avoid Bad Crew Reaction Throw 8+: (4,4) = 8
“Feeling better, Rubin?” says Phoebe who looks up from a computer screen.
Rubin, is wearing an orange courier jacket and blue pants with a grey stripe running down the side.
“Yeah… fine.” Rubin rubs his hands over his face and feels the spot where he cut himself shaving. He stares out one of the ship’s windows and takes in the barren desert landscape that surrounds them.
“I think I found us a route back to the Gamma System that should avoid any Sketh patrols.”
“Yeah, we might find some allies there. It is worth trying, don’t you think?”
“Ok. That’s not a bad idea.”
Rubin paces around the bridge. “Where’s Turick? Meditating? Counting beads?”
“I think he’s in his room.”
Phoebe moves to take over the ship’s steering controls. Rubin wanders back to the crew quarters and looks in on Turick.
“Ever been to Dust?” asks Rubin.
“A planet? I am not familiar with it.” Turick says softly.
“It is like here, only wilder. You said you never met a Sketh, huh?” wonders Rubin.
“No, I would remember meeting a alien like the one you described.”
“Well, they run the Gamma System but they’ve turned a blind eye to Dust. There’s a few Sketh there… crime bosses and the like.”
“You have friends on Dust? Friends, that can help?”
“A few between me and Pheebs. We can buy some time there until we figure out what we are dealing with.”
The ship rumbles slightly as it takes off. Outside the ship, as the dust clears away, it is notable that the hull has no official markings on it.
Log Entry for 65-18440-1400 by Isolde Tolla
The war has brought such chaos to the daily routine that it is hard to put my thoughts down.
Communication freight service is almost non-existent at this point. I do wonder if they’ll force us to evacuate our station in the near future.
We had a Scout ship dock who were about to head out to map a moon for a new military installation. There was a researcher in their party that I fancied but he didn’t seem interested in me.
Log Entry for 65-18286-6000 by Isolde Tolla
It is not easy to write up what happened today. Passenger belongings, bodies, and containers drifted close enough to the station today that it was visible from the viewing areas. Commander Vinzenz tells me the wreckage of a large 600 ton passenger was located in sector. The military has begun constructing their own orbital base of operations as they were stretching our capabilities. Some of my crew have not experienced being on the front-lines of a conflict such as this. The piracy has increased to such a level though that it is clear they must have access to the resources of much more powerful ally than their own efforts could generate.
Log Entry for 65-18280-5520 by Isolde Tolla
The military presence continues to increase and tensions amongst the local denizens are rising. I hear tales of captains being intensely questioned about where they’ve been and where they are going. The last military ship that docked had a squad in the brig for insubordination - rumor has it they didn’t want to seize food & medicine cargo from a freetrader. At least amongst our own crew, tempers have stabilized and work is getting done.
Log Entry for 65-18262-6300 by Isolde Tolla
A rare lull in berthings lately. Perhaps the increased piracy and the hostage situation the other day is taking a toll on business. The downtime is impacting us in odd ways. Bernie and I had a quite fight over the equipment budget. It was implied that I cared more about the bottom line than safety. Jarmil intervened and at least saved us from embarrassing ourselves any further in front of the crew.
Log Entry for 65-18208-1740 by Isolde Tolla
A passenger took hostages aboard a starliner. We tried to assist with deescalating the situation but utimately the local planetary navy had to come in to neutralize the hostage taker. I passed Viola who was shaken up over the body of a hostage she found on board while performing triage. Commander Vinzenz was very professional in the matter. We had a good open line of communication and the Commander encouraged me to work with him directly if we need future assistance.
Log Entry for 65-18210-6040 by Isolde Tolla
Still not 100% myself and the additional rest I require means I’m failing behind on keeping up with the goings-on. An express courier’s computer core failed in route to Amate. On board were “confidential files” destined for local authorities. It was a delicate negotiation convincing them to allow our crews to assist in repairs.
Log Entry for 65-18203-7580 by Isolde Tolla
I woke up last night feeling very ill and admittedly went into a panic. Jarmil was able to stabilize me but I’ve spent the day in the infirmary anxiously trying to keep up with the goings on around the station. Viola, a medical technician here, has been very attentive to my needs. She’s a warm soul and we’ve enjoyed a few chats over a cup of tea.
Bernie’s crew had to help make repairs on a passenger liner. The summary makes the effort look like a walk in the park but I’m sure there were complications no one is telling me about.
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