My current solo gaming has stalled a bit mostly due to problems of my own making. I believe at some point in everyone’s solo roleplay gaming journey you will have acquired just enough experience with roleplaying games (ditto: so-called narrative skirmish miniatures gaming”) that you fancy yourself a game designer. You write a few house rules and eventually these notes snowball and turn themselves into full-fledged systems. Some folks will just publish these raw notes as a game outright (nothing wrong with that!) Myself I prefer playtesting because of my background in technical product design which is heavily rooted in user experience concepts such as iteration, testing, determining viability of an idea… this is just how my brain works.

Lately I’ve been noodling on a two different angles but both have reached unfulfilling conclusions. Sometimes a set of rules looks good on paper, the math even checks out”, but once you get it to the table” something feels off. The dice mechanic feels at odds with the tone of the game or the systems have interlinked tracking that feel more like bookkeeping than a engaging resource management.

Usually when a product design feels off” I start to reduce the problem down to something smaller where I can pinpoint what success should look like. Likewise here on my gaming ideas I think I will pause my Privateer game and my 5150 Mythic RPG conversion so I can reset a bit. The Privateer concept was going great until I tried to mash it up with a game system concept I wanted to playtest in parallel. That playtest ran into some issue and I lost the initiative to push the story forward. The 5150 Mythic experiment hit a dead end when I could not work how combat should flow such that it felt like a Two Hour Wargames dynamic combat scene - two sides trading initiative, returning fire, ducking back for cover, and so on.

Having re-read my notes over the last few days one thing I’d like to explore is the Mythic RPG again. This time I’m going to try to work on exploiting just one part of that system: managing the stakes. Every roll in Mythic could result in one of five outcomes:

Understanding this framework I’d like to think about how to best apply this as a template to actions in the type of solitaire science fiction space-faring roleplaying game I enjoy.

The other thing I intend to do is sit down and read Floor Games & Little Wars by H.G. Wells. Both deal with whimsical” imaginary wargames played by children. A delightful topic for reflection as I move my gaming hobby habits forward.

May 1, 2022 · WIP · thinking out loud · Observation Deck

Privateer, Episode 3: Improvisation

For the next several episodes I’ll be running some improvised rules for my sessions. I like Traveller’s 2d6+modifier mechanics but I’m also a big of fan dice pools. One RPG/skirmish rule system I love is called the GoalSystem, from Four Color Studios. It has been used in a few titles I’ve played - most notably for me the cyberpunk solitaire procedural police thriller The Department (of Fabricant Management) and the pulpy space opera Farthest Star: Sci-Fi Skirmish Role-Play For One Or More Players.”

Both games feature solitare play that is built around miniatures skirmish scenarios but also include small sections on Roleplaying Game Modes.” What I want to do is create my own open-ended scenario resolution system that is similar to Zozer’s The Plan” but feels like it fits right into a GoalSystem game. The benefits are that I can run stories when and where I like using mechanics I find fun and when I have the energy (and space) I can drop down to the tabletop and play an engaging solitarie skirmish game as well.

Farthest Star has a number of neat little tools - including one I was already using Crew Wealth Score” which acts an abstract measure of supplies and money earned. I also start using the Farthest Star stats, traits, and gear definitions as appropriate.

Jump Point, CM-N1054 System, Humboldt Quadrant, Gemini Sector 2669.004

As the Plucky Weasel popped out of jump space, Kell turn around in his pilot chair and activated the scanners.

Encounter Roll, Encounter on 2+: 1d6: 2 yes!
Page 66, Farthest Star - Solo Encounter Balance Table: 1d6: [4] = Even strength battle. Ship type - 1-3: Talon, 4-5: Gladius, 6: Demon 1d6: [3] Talon

Okay, there’s a single Talon out here - Talons are frequently flown by the local militia, pirates or the Church of Man. Militia is right out but how about the other two?

Pirates 3-, Church of Man 4+ 1d6: [6] = Church of Man

Retros, fudge.” thought Kell as he redirected power to his ship’s engines. Kell knew the trick with a Talon was to not let get in behind your ship where it can launch its missiles. He pushed his ship’s acceleration to the max in hopes of closing the encounter distance and getting the jump on the Talon.

I need some quick Farthest Star stats for a Talon just to be able to narratively compare the two ships. The Talon is a fast light fighter, faster than a Tarsus so (using the vehicles rules on on page 156) we will say Attack 4, Defense 1, Sensors 2. Our Tarsus will be Attack 2, Defense 3, Sensors 3.

Since we also have to factor in pilot skill we’ll consider the Talon to be piloted by a minor NPC: Fitness 3, Intellect 3, Will 5 (higher than a normal minor NPC because of how dedicated the Retros are) Health 3

Kell will be a major character with Fitness 5, Intellect 5, Will 5, Health 7. There’s more to character creation in Farthest Star than this but we’ll call it good enough.

Now we could run this like a traditional RPG encounter - a series of opposed rolls and tracking damage untill one ship is disabled. But as you’ve seen I prefer to keep things a bit more abstract. Kell will make what I call an Open Goal Roll”, he’ll pick a stat and see how many successes (“Goals”) he can score. Then he’ll carry those over as a bonus to what Farthest Star calls a Unopposed Roll” vs how risky Kell’s approach is as he tries to resolve this scene. Finally there’s a Chance Roll (Tries to score 2+ successes on 2D with no bonuses) to see if there was a good or bad consequence.

Open Goal Roll 5D[3]: [5,4,5,6,6] 7 successes - +3D to the next roll!

Scene Unopposed Goal Roll 5D: [2,4,6,1,6] 5 successes vs TN4 (risky position): success!

Consequence Chance Roll: [5,2] 1 successes vs TN2: bad consequence:

The Plucky Weasel shakes as Kell hits the afterburners to move to engagement range. The aggressiveness catches the Talon pilot off-guard and Kell rips a few shots into the Talon. It starts smoking but then something even more brazen than Kell’s approach; the Talon’s pilot puts everything into their ship’s engines and move to ram Kell’s ship. Kell barely has time to redirect energy into the shields before the collision happens. The Talon explodes and the Weasel rocks. The force of the impact jostles the repair toolbox stowed above Kell’s head and it falls down.

Oww!” Kell rubs his head and glances at his radar. The Talon is gone. Looking over at the hull readout he sees his ship has sustained some mild damage and based on the throbbing pain he can tell his head has been cut. Still he’s alive. This lone Talon could have been a recon patrol… perhaps there is a Retro operation out here after all.

Lacking any type of advanced scanners or cloaking Kell wonders how to scope out the asteroids without attracting more attention. Even if he did find the Retro’s operation, what was he going to do? Go in guns blazing against … 10, 20… even more foes? No, what Kell needed was a diversion and, as always, a bit of luck.

Kell plans to remove the transponder from his ship, rig it to something that will float out in space, and try to lure one or more Retros out. When the transponder is picked up it’ll broadcast a message to the Retros telling them to give up Georgia Collins if they wish to avoid any more trouble. He’ll have his own ship go dark and gently nudge in close to an asteroid to avoid detection. If nothing else maybe it’ll make Collins nervous and she’ll relocate herself to another system.

Kell can bring his Intellect 5, +2D Toolkit to this check:
Kell’s hacking Open Goal Roll 7D: [4,4,6,3,4,5,6] 8 successes, +3D

I reason Kell’s in a controlled position here - there’s little risk to him or his ship if this fails and he readily succeeded on his hacking roll so the beacon must be fairly convincing.

Scene Unopposed Goal Roll 5D: [5,6,2,1,3] 3 successes vs TN3 (controlled position): (a bare) success!

Consequence Chance Roll 2D: [2,2] 0 successes vs TN2: bad consequence

We’ve got a montage of Kell taking apart spare parts on his ship, soldering metals together, and launching the decoy. Kell slides his ship deftly out of the picture and waits for the Retros to take the bait. (1d3: [3]) Three Retros show up and initially are bit confused but stumble across the decoy. Message received Kell hopes.

How do the Retros react? 4- Georgia is tipped off and runs, 5+ they’ll seek to hand-over Georgia 1d6: [4] = we’ve got a runner!

Hours later a beat-up Drayman class merchant ship heads out to the jump point. Kell waits a bit then powers up his ship and follows them back to the Pyrenees system.

GM Notes

Well, you’ll have to pardon my dust as I experiment with some different dice mechanics. The GoalSystem is fun and I’m enjoying the game design aspects but I also can’t help but feel I’m not taking full advantage of the system’s mechanics.

Kell will have his work cut out for him still. It is unlikely the merchant ship is headed to New Iberia but perhaps to the refinery on Basque for refueling before making their next jump. Also at what point does this goose chase become a money pit for Kell? Spending more on fuel and repairs for the hunt than the reward is a pretty clear line I’d think for our struggling freelancer.

March 24, 2022 · Episodes · Campaigns · Privateer

Privateer, Episode 2: Wanted, Alive

Hector, Troy System, Humboldt Quadrant, Gemini Sector 2669.002

Now you don’t want to go flashing this around and you didn’t get it from us.”

Kell nodded as the mining guild rep slid a wrapped up disruptor pistol across the table.

Any work on this system for a privateer?”

1-4 Yes, 5-6 No - 1d6: [6]

There’s plenty of work, sure, but the only folks getting a job on this rock are guild members.”

Kell nodded and thanked the rep for his time then headed up to the bar.

Got any Ol’Janx Spirit?”

The bartender came back with a small whiskey glass.

What’s the news around here?” asked Kell.

How are things around Hector?” 1d6: [2] Bad”

Miners are still searching for their next president after Vyra Cobb left.”

Cobb? Should I know that name?”

Hell kid, she’s the Hero of Hector.” All this was under the control of Xemaais Unified until she led the Miner’s uprising.”

Xemaais, the starship weapons manufacturer. What’s so wrong about them?”

Xemaais was reckless with the lives of their employees. Worked them to death. Ms. Cobb organized the Miners, led them on a strike. Xemaais sent in some mercs to reestablish order and it went sideways. Cobb rallied the Miners and got them to fight back. Miners took control of the station and it has been independently operated since.”

Fascinating story, not going to help me find work though.”

Perhaps. Lots of folks coming and going right now with all the leadership meetings. Some might be looking for escort given the pirate activity.”

Kell finished his drink and headed down to the hanger bay’s mission computer. While finding work by word-of-mouth was the best way to build up Kell’s contacts the mission computer almost always has work.

A boxy computer interface with a screen, buttons, and hand print reader.

Here’s where we can break out of the video game box. Privateer had a fairly limited set of open-world missions: attack, bounty hunting, defend base, patrol, and scout. All of them involved hopping back into your ship, flying to some point in space, and doing some space combat (though the scout missions typically involved just scanning something.)

Many space-themed RPGs and supplements have their own job generators. There’s pros & cons to each of them and I won’t provide an extensive review in the middle of gameplay. Classic Traveller’s had Patrons which didn’t give the referee a whole to work with but others have built up a bit more around the concept. Zozer’s SOLO comes with a perfectly adequate patron mission generator. I also like the job generator in Wizards of the Coast’s 2008 Star Wars Saga Edition supplement: Scum and Villainy. There’s also some useful tables in Modiphius’ Five Parsecs from Home 3rd Edition that can be repurposed. With that in mind, I’ve come up with my hodgepodge job generator I’ll use built around a few of these tables. I’ll roll a d6+2 to determine how many jobs are available and then generate that many options for Kell to look through.

How many jobs? 1d6+2: [2]+2 = 4

Kell placed his hand on the mission computer and 4 entries appeared:




Kell eyed the two jobs in the Pyreness system, both on the agricultural world of New Iberia. The cargo job was straightforward but hunting down a police officer was not really in Kell’s wheel-house. Kell didn’t need to pull out his personal computer to check his finances, he knew 6 cred would make a big difference. He tapped both jobs and pressed his hand to the mission computer once again. The information was transferred to his personal computer. New Iberia had purchased a piece of mining equipment from the Hector mining operation and wanted it delivered. The bounty job was more curious, Victoria (an agricultural world in the Junction system) had posted the bounty in several systems. One Georgia Collins, Police Officer” wanted alive for the wrongful termination of a Victorian citizen. Last seen on New Iberia. Well hopefully they were still there because a wild goose chase could quickly turn unprofitable.

How stable is the Pyrenees system? 1d6: [5] good”

The Plan: Fly to the Pyrenees jump point, then sublight travel to New Iberia to deliver the cargo & look for the police officer while trying to out-run any pirates encounters in the Troy system once again.

Contributing PCs:

It is a risky” plan throw:

A near miss on the plan throw but a successful skill throw to avoid the pirate encounters.

What failed? 1-2 Cargo, 3-4 Police Officer, 5-6 Both 1d6: [3]

This makes sense - given our bonus good consequence. The cargo run wasn’t particularly interesting and if the pirate encounters were avoided there’s little trouble there. The Police Officer has moved on but Kell picks up their trail.

New Iberia, Pyrenees System, Humboldt Quadrant, Gemini Sector 2669.002

This is New Iberia control, you are cleared for an automatic landing on Bay 02.”

Stations with guided landings were always appreciated because you could at least charge any foulups to them. After clearing starport customs, Kell dropped off the large crate of equipment in the import zone and gathered his 2c payment. Pulling up the other job he flipped through the information to look for the key details.

Officer Collins last seen eating breakfast at The Starlight, a local diner.” Kell noted this and boarded his ship. A night’s rest would do him good.

New Iberia, Pyrenees System, Humboldt Quadrant, Gemini Sector 2669.003

Once again, we can take advantage of the format and step beyond the confines of the video game world. In Privateer planetary/orbital locations are mostly generic. They’ve got the hanger, the various guild offices, a bar, a ship dealer, and the cargo area. A few have some special locations related to the video game’s story. So we’ll step out of the starport and into the major urban area on New Iberia. Since there’s no existing setting material for this I’ll just use this handy chart from Two Hour Wargames’ Future Tales:

A point-to-point map of a generic sci-fi urban environment.

We’re at #2 Starport” and need to traverse to #5” Entertainment” to find our target. Of course we know they aren’t there but Kell will go looking and at least instead pick up the trail. There’s a number of ways we could handle random encounters” (the dungeon equivalent of roaming monsters”) including using the system this map comes from. In Future Tales moving from one area” to another involves rolling 1d6 and on a 1 you have a confrontation of some sort.

Three area movement checks: 3d6: [5, 6, 1]

Interesting! The last check triggers a confrontation - in the same area where the target is. Maybe Kell does find them after all…

Kell stepped off the busy morning rush hover tram and discretely looked at his disruptor pistol.

Huh, no stun setting. Should’ve thought of asking about that.” thought Kell.

Stowing the pistol back into his jacket, Kell walked a block to the diner. The words Starlight” glimmered in huge silver & blue letters on the outside. Stepping inside Kell recognized it was patterned after a Terran North American 1950s diner, a popular aesthetic throw back in many sectors Terrans had expanded into. Blue and white checkered tiles dominated the walls with highly polished curved steel counters and bar seats. The tables were white with single wheeled serving robots taking orders. Kell grabbed at the seat at the counter.

Cup of coffee and some hyrdacakes, thanks.” Kell tapped his personal computer against the serving robot’s hand to transfer the money.

He looked around for anyone human, an employee, maybe someone who looked like a regular because robots were unlikely to provide interesting answers to his questions.

Are there human employees? 1-2 No, 3-6 Yes 1d6: 1 No

Like many eating establishments, this place had gone fully automated. Probably why the cop chose it - no humans to necessarily interact with.

Are there any regulars? 1-3 No, 4-6 Yes 1d6: [6] Yes!

The sound of the sliding door caught Kell’s attention.

Who?

The person presented male, sharply dressed, and took a seat next to Kell. After they ordered Kell pulled out his personal computer and accessed the portrait image of Georgia Collins.

I’m here to meet someone, they look like this - have you seen them?”

Sure, she’s always here on the weekdays.” the man said as he looked around. Don’t see her but I’m sure she’ll be in.”

’Cakes and coffee.” a robot interrupted and slid them in front of Kell.

The exterior door slid open once more and a person presenting female stepped inside. The sharply dressed man tapped Kell and said a bit too loudly Hey’s there’s your friend.”

The woman briefly looked at the pair and quickly turned to head back out. Kell shoved a pancake-like piece of food into his mouth and ran out the front door.

Georgia Collins, stop! I’m authorized to bring you in” he yelled out.

How does Collins get away?

Collins instinctively knew how to manipulate the situation. They ran up to a nearby police officer That man, there — he’s been following me all morning! Please officer, help!”

The local officer turned and moved to confront Kell. Georgia Collins took off in another direction.

Sir stop!” The officer raised his stun baton and held it in an attack position facing Kell.

Kell stopped his pursuit… maybe it was the army training that made him heed to the officer. Other than carrying a highly illegal disruptor pistol, Kell had done nothing wrong anyways.

That person is my asset, I have a license to acquire them from the Victorian planetary government.”

Kell pulled out his personal computer to show the warrant details.

Does the officer want to bring Kell in for questioning? 1-3 Yes, 4-6 No - 1d6: [3] Yes

We’ll need to check these details out down at the station.”

Kell hung his head. Collins had been right there and his sloppy questioning at the diner had cost him the opportunity to bring them in.

New Iberia Police Station, Pyrenees System, Humboldt Quadrant, Gemini Sector 2669.003

This will satisfy our confrontation encounter - a police questioning.

The Plan: Falsify a disruptor pistol license on his personal computer and convince the police that Collins is wanted by police in another sector - hopefully playing on their sense of justice that bad cops ruin the reputation of all cops. I’m not aware that Kell is a hacker so I’m going to call that a formidable check. Otherwise Kell’s plan is not particularly risky - he’s telling the truth.

Contributing PCs:

It is a controlled” plan throw:

Well, well. Doubles & a success on the hacking throw - maybe Kell is more adept with Computers than I thought. The benefit of taking less time initially gave me pause … but then I thought that combined with the getting a lead bonus from earlier I think it makes sense. They buy into Kell’s play and quickly work to pass on information they find. Collins is headed for 1-2 Freyja, 3-4 Troy, 5-6 CM-N1054 1d6: [6] = 6

Ok, Mr. Barban. Your records check out.” the officer slides the disruptor pistol and personal computer back over to Kell. I can also provide you with these; we pulled up facial recognition records from our starport cameras. The subject was observed leaving aboard a ship headed for CM-N1054.”

CM-N1054… there’s nothing out there.”

It was registered as a scouting vessel.”

Three area movement checks: 3d6: [4, 5, 5] No encounters.

Kell grabbed the infochit and his belongings. Leaving the police station he took the public transit back to his ship. He’d refuel, take his chances, and jump out CM-N1054.

GM Notes

Again The Plan” has served me well. In game, IIRC, there’s really not much in the CM-N1054 system but I do remember heading there for a few missions and encountering the Retros.” Retros are a radical offshoot of an in-game religious institution that want to return mankind to a purely agrarian existence with minimal technology. Maybe Collins has a connection to the Retros… or has joined them?

Kell’s hack of his personal computer was a surprise, I fully expected to lose the disruptor pistol right then and there. Maybe his specialty in the army was some kind of field communication operations. On the other Kell’s poor detective skills are less surprising - he’s not trained in anything relevant as far as I know.

March 18, 2022 · Episodes · Campaigns · Privateer

Privateer, Episode 1: Luxury Food

Helen, Troy System, Humboldt Quadrant, Gemini Sector 2669.001

Anytime we break story to discuss the game”, whether that’s mechanics or explaining the GMs” decision making, we’ll use these block quotes so you can choose to skip them or live inside my head. Not all games will have the following lengthy introductory material but I felt it was helpful to explain what you are about to read over the coming months.

True to the spirit of this game I did not create a character initially. I selected the setting and then re-read a bit of the game’s manual which I have from my Good Old Games purchase to familiarize myself with the video game’s own initial setup. I decided to follow a similar path: we’ll have our main character begin with an inherited old scout ship that’s not well suited to the job of being a profitable independent merchant. I picked a few random tables to use to help with determining situations. I have 1000s of tables but I really wanted to start small and so I went with the four core oracle tables from Starforged: Action, Theme, Descriptor, & Focus. I made my own custom table for available cargo built around data easily found online. I have a feeling this table will require the most tinkering to get right. I’m not super interested in a detailed bean counting” game but part of the allure of Privateer is upgrading your ship. To start I’ve simplified pricing using a model similar to Four Color Studio’s Farthest Stars Crew Wealth Score.”

I didn’t want to choose a ruleset yet, in fact I’d rather play out a few turns” to get an idea for what seems to matter in determining contested or risky actions. Still you need something to help decide outcomes. The Mythic Gamemaster Emulator would be a natural choice but I wasn’t sure that Mythic’s scene-engine would be a good fit for this style of game yet. Instead I’ve turned to Zozer’s SOLO and its The Plan” scene engine modified slightly with some updated rules the same author put out in a free supplement title Playing Solo Classic Traveller. We’ll also make use of the simplest dice mechanic that GMs have used since the earliest days: roll a d6, low is bad, high is good. Likewise making quick on-the-fly 1d6 random tables will probably be a mainstay for a while.

How are things in the Troy system, bartender?” asks a man wearing a brown flight jacket.

A portrait of a human male with fair skin blue eyes, brown hair, and a brown flight jacket

I won’t always go into so much detail explaining how I come to various in-game decisions but for this first episode I wanted to try to show how I run a game on-the-fly like this.

How are things in the Troy system?”

What’s so bad?”

Rough for a privateer like you. Pirate raids are as high as they’ve ever been and there’s not nearly enough of a Confed presence out here to deter them.” answers the bartender.

Privateer? How’d you know?” said the man.

You’ve got the look, the hunger to turn a quick profit. In fact there’s a woman over at that table looking for a merchant runner like yourself.”

Well, thanks for the tip… I didn’t catch your name, bartender?”

Folks call me Berat.”

Berat, alright. I’m Barban, sir. Kell Barban. I’m the pilot of the Plucky Weasel.” the man said.

That’s uh… that’s a memorable name.” Berat said.

Ehh, it is a stupid name that my grandmother gave her scout ship.” said Kell.

Fair enough. Talk to Meili over there, she’ll fix you up with a job.”

Thanks, friend.”

We’ll assume it is a cargo running job for now - keep things simple.

Kell looked over at the woman at the table.

Who is Meili?”

The woman had fair skin, straight black hair, and a firm expression. She held a lager in her hands. Her outfit didn’t give away anything particular about her affiliations but perhaps she worked for one of the guilds.

Meili? I hear you’ve got work for a privateer? Berat sent me over. Name’s Kell”

It is your lucky day, newbie. I work for the Mining Guild and we need to ship over a few creates of luxury foods to Hector for an important meeting. Should be a milk run but some of the regulars out here are spooked by all the pirate activity right now.” said Meili.

What’s the pay?”

2c and we’ll cover your refueling cost at Hector.”

Sounds good. I’ve got my ship over at bay 5. Will you need passage as well?”

Only the crates.”

Kell and Meili exchanged info on their personal computers before Kell headed back to his ship.

In route to Hector, Troy System, Humboldt Quadrant, Gemini Sector 2669.001

Here’s where we’ll turn to The Plan.” It is like an abstract scene simulator where you punch in a few details and get a resolved scene in return. You roll the dice and then reverse engineer what happened from the dice result. It uses 2d6 and two small tables for adding some detail about good” or bad” things that might have happened. I’m modifying The Plan” slightly - the original system let’s you add a +1 for a PC with a relevant skill and +1 for a PC with an important piece of gear. This is fine enough but a more recent version of The Plan” instead said that you could have up to three PCs make individual skill checks. If those skill checks succeed then you can add a +1 for each successful check. If all three checks fail, then you add a -2 DM. Each check can result in their own consequences on a failure so there’s some risk involved in trying to obtain these bonuses. I like this because it let you expand upon what happens within the scene without resorting to dozens of rolls still.

The other change is to how we frame The Plan. By the book it is a difficulty rating but I think that three positions” from Blades in The Dark make more sense: desperate, risky, or controlled.

I need to quickly stat Kell for this scene and because The Plan is built around Traveller concepts, we’ll just say he has Space-1 - using the abbreviated skill set from Stellagamma’s Quantum Starfarer.

The Plan: Fly to Hector, deliver the cargo, and try to out-run any pirates encounters.

Contributing PCs:

It is a risky” plan throw:

What’s the kit?”

The overall plot to the original video game is oddly enough over a Contested Device” but instead I think I’m going to make this something more pedestrian for now. Kell’s ship doesn’t have a tractor beam yet or finding some cargo in space would’ve been an obvious direction.

So - In summary, Kell’s skill throw fails but the overall plan succeeds.

About 30 minutes into the journey Kell’s radar lit up with (1d3: 2) two small craft. His older model Tarsus ship was equipped with an ancient Mk 1 Iris scanner. The blips showed up in gray with no other information available. Kell desperately wanted to upgrade to the Hunter AW 6i which had Friend-or-Foe color code capabilities.

The ships’ radio blistered with static and then a husky voice Prepared to be boarded, smuggler.”

Kell nervously flipped on his subspace radio mic. Hi. Um, Hey. How’s it going? Not looking for trouble.”

Prepared to be boarded.”

Ok, so that’s not happening because I’ve got bills to pay. Nice talking though.”

Kell flipped the mic off and gripped the controls. He made a visual scan of his surroundings and noticed an asteroid field in the distance. Toggling several switches he diverted power to the rear shields and was tossed back in his seat as he hit the afterburners.

Two new blips appeared on his radar, moving fast. Missles, fun.” thought Kell. He rolled the ship around and tried to dodge the ship as closely as he could around an asteroid. Blam! The ship rocked. Scanning the radar Kell could see the missiles still active but flying past him. Damn, I hit the asteroid.” The hull indicator panel noted 75% integrity. Ducking and weaving through a few more asteroids Kell was relieved to see that his pursuers were dropping back. Kell & Plucky Weasel emerged from the asteroid field, alone.

Hector, Troy System, Humboldt Quadrant, Gemini Sector 2669.001

A spaceship on approach towards a mining base built into an asteroid

You are cleared for landing on Bay 04.”

Kell maneuvered the banged up Tarsus into the landing bay. Meeting his Mining Guild contact they transfered the payment for the crates and covered his fuel expenses.

What’s so special about this food?” asked Kell.

We’re trying to cut a deal with the refinery in Pollux and their boss loves squid.” said the guild rep.

Any chance you can help me out with repairs?” asked Kell.

Kell’s Social-0 moderate throw (TN 7+): [4,2] = 6 (Effect: -1) failed!

Not a chance. Too many of our own ships are banged up after tussling with the local pirates.” said the guild rep.

Fair enough.”

That said, I can cut you on a deal. Yesterday we managed to take one of the pirates down and picked up their stolen cargo. One of the crates was full of weaponry. Illegal weaponry. I can get you a disruptor pistol for just 1c. We’d like to move this stuff before the Confeds get wind of it.”

Kell thought about the offer. Disruptor pistols were a nasty business, he had seen the after effects of a few during his brief time in the Army. They are also illegal just about everywhere the Gemini Sector.

Army? How’d I determine Kell was a former grunt without character creation? Well I was curious as to his background so I rolled on the Adventure Crafter’s character tables earlier and got Weak Killer.” The first thing that popped into my head was that he washed out of the Army… maybe he froze up on the field too many times or maybe something else happened that has made him too weak” for the Army life. Not too sure yet. I figure the death of his grandmother and inheriting her ship has pulled him into the merchant life though.

Ok, I could use a sidearm out here. I had a couple of pirates interested in boarding my ship on the way over.”

Right? Even a pirate boarding party would take a disruptor pointing back at them seriously. Meet me at the bar this evening, we can settle the deal then.”

Kell shook hands with the man and the two traded contact info on their personal computers.

It cost another Kell another 1c to have his ship’s hull repaired.

Well I’m broke again but I’ve got fueled up ship and, hopefully, a blaster.” though Kell.

After transferring the repair fee he headed up to bar on Hector hoping to not only acquire the blaster but another patron. It was going to take a lot more jobs, bigger jobs, if he wanted to keep flying in the Gemini Sector.

GM Notes

Even without a fixed rule set we can get pretty far with a few word pairing tables and a dice mechanic (2d6+modifier vs. target number) that I understand very well. I didn’t really need too much in the way of character or ship stats for this because of how The Plan” abstracts the finer details. Not everyone will like that approach but it works for me because my gaming time is pretty limited. I had to think up Kell’s stats on-the-fly a couple of times and decided he had a basic professional skillset as a pilot (Space-1) but was not particularly gifted in matters of charisma (Social-0.) Going forward I’ll just continue to work out these details as necessary. I’m not certain my abstract cargo/wealth approach is going to work but so far, so good.

March 17, 2022 · Episodes · Campaigns · Privateer

Privateer, Season 1: Hunk of Junk

I recently picked up and read Deborah Malmud’s Solo Game Master’s Guide (you may know her best from her YouTube Channel Geek Gamers.) It is an excellent look at our unique hobby and even if you watched every Geek Gamers video you’ll still learn something new (or at least understand it in a deeper way.)

One of the things it recommends when beginning a new solo game is not starting with a rule set or character creation but instead starting with generative” (random tables, source books, etc) resources you might use. Then think about the environment and atmosphere (mood) your game will start with. (Another good look at this subject is Mythic Magazine Volume 12 or this two part series from Andrei Baltakmens: Play all the Books Part 1 & Part 2.)

I’ve never tried this approach but the reasonings provided make a lot of sense. The jist is that while having the rules for character creation can provide an easy on-ramp to getting started they often leave you at a loss for where to go next with your character. (My only counter to this rule would be lifepath” style character creation, like Traveller, where I feel like if you really immerse yourself in the process you end up with a very vivid portrait of your character and what drives them to adventure.)

So as I sit here not-so-patiently waiting for my printed copy of 5150 New Beginnings to arrive, I thought perhaps I could kick off a game using this idea. In fact I know just the environment I would drop this character into: Wing Commander Privateer’s Gemini Sector:

A star chart navigational map of the Gemini Sector

Wing Commander Privateer was a video game published in 1993. It immediately appealed to me because it came out in an era of railroaded” spaceship-themed video games. Privateer had a single story line that you could follow but you could also fly around doing independent missions and exploring the game world at your own pace. Likewise it satisfied the Han Solo simulator” that Lucasarts never tackled in their Star Wars themed games of that era.

The nice about utilizing Privateer is that you get a complete setting: worlds, hyperspace lanes, factions, cargo, equipment, starships, etc. It is also manageable, the four quadrants are expansive enough to provide the illusion of limitless opportunities without being overwhelming (like trying to use the entirety of Traveller’s Third Imperium.)

So we’ll start off much like the game: On the agricultural planet of Helen in the Troy System. We’ll have a hunk of junk” Tarsus scout ship which we’ve recently inherited from a family member. It is badly in need of repairs and upgrades to be viable and our character wants to make a living for themselves as an independent operator.

For now I will start off by just using The Plan” from Zozer’s SOLO as a means to resolve scenes and move the story along until I decide what rules I want to use for the game (contenders are Stellagamma’s Quantum Starfarer with various bits of Traveller thrown in, 5150 New Beginnings whenever that arrives, the Mythic RPG, Cezar Capacle’s delightful solo-rpg-in-a-deckbox mole.mole, Four-Color Studios’ Farthest Star, or some homebrewed variant of West End Games Star Wars D6.)

March 17, 2022 · Campaigns · Privateer

Playing 5150 with the Mythic RPG: Task Resolution

Last time we walked through the 5150 character creation process using the tools within Mythic RPG. That provided us a character the looks like this:

Reza Trenor, Exotic Transporter

Now to figure out how to use this character with the Mythic RPG resisted question” system.

Taken vs. REP”

5150, and really any Two Hour Wargames (THW) system, uses a core resolution mechanic:

TAKEN VERSUS REP: Roll 2d6 and compare each score versus the Reputation of the figure. If the d6 score is equal or less than the Rep, the d6 has been passed. You can pass 2d6, 1d6, or 0d6. Sometimes you may be asked to roll against something else like Law Level. Process is still the same.

There are some other die systems in play scattered throughout the books but this is general mechanic used. What generally changes from situation to situation is what passed” means. Frequently these are given to you in a table format. THW rules almost always include a Challenge” table. Most of the mechanics in THW provide a concise table” format to help you resolve things. First it will say how many dice to roll, what you are rolling against, usually remind you that sixes are failures, have a list of attributes & circumstances that might modify a part of the die roll, and then finally a list of what the passed” results mean. The Challenge table is a catch-all” or fallback mechanic for when no other system in the book applies. It is a good one for us to start with because one of my goals with this project is to try to stick to one general purpose mechanic as much as possible. While THWs rules are simple” there’s a lot of nuance spread throughout the system, sometimes things are a +/- 1 to your REP or the challenger’s REP. Sometimes it is +/- a die to the dice pool. Sometimes it is treat a result of passed 1d6 as 0d6.” Flipping through and finding all of these is a bit taxing for my old brain.

tl;dr - 5150 has a Challenge mechanic that is similar to any other RPGs task resolution system.

THW Challenges

What’s a Challenge” look like in THW and how would we replicate that in Mythic?

A Challenge takes 2 six-sided dice, you roll them and compare the two dice results to your Rep” - any result that is equal or lesser than your Rep passes. Any result of six is automatically a failure. My Rep is 5 and I roll a 6 and 2, I pass 1d6” in THW terms.

Further a Challenge can take several modifiers. Attributes push your Rep up and down. Circumstances can make the challenge harder or easier, but also apply to your rep.

Finally, a Challenge tells us what happens based on your result:

Personally I wish Passed 1d6” was Success with complication” - you do it but at a cost. I’m not a fan of re-rolls in solo games because I’m already rolling a bucket-load dice as it is.

Mythic RPG Challenges

Now, let’s take this and apply to the Mythic RPG. In the Mythic RPG we have a single resolution mechanic - resisted questions.” In order to customize this mechanic to your liking the Mythic RPG gives you a process called Resolution Tables” that help you design your own RPG. They work remarkably similar to THWs approach. They have a few inputs:

These’s also 4 outputs, or results:

What’s the question?

When you want to do something physical or mental out of the ordinary and not covered by an existing rule, take a Resisted Challenge.”

Notes

Acting Rank

The character’s Rep. We defined Rep earlier as a ranked attribute:

Also a reminder that depending on the Challenge the character’s People or Savvy ranked attribute might be more relevant here than their Rep.

Difficulty Rank

Are there any external factors that make the Challenge Easy or Difficult? Time pressures, environmental challenges, etc. I think we’ll just keep the same scale as our Rep engine here but reframe it like so:

Modifiers

Results

THW does not really have a notion of Criticals” like other RPGs might (“Natural 20!”.) But because we are playing solitaire, these are helpful because they are a chance to have the emulated GM kick into gear. The GM is looking at our dice roll and saying - you didn’t just pass that Challenge, you passed it with style!” (or the opposite.) I would advise using your noodle to add a dramatic flourish to the challenge if you succeed or fail. The smuggler doesn’t just snuff at the fake cargo, they do so in a way that gives them am advantage - the person selling it doesn’t realize the smuggler is on to them or the cargo is so blatantly counter-fitted that the smuggler can turn it against them (“wow, I should report this to local starport officials.” If necessary you can treat these narrative benefits as mechanical bonuses - carry a +1 Rank Shift forward to your next Challenge in this scene. If you need inspiration for these consider eyeballing the positive and negative results on the Random Event table:

Pick one of these and roll on Mythic’s Action Meaning table if you need some guidance on how to push the story forward further.

As a note, I would personally use the Chaos Factor from Mythic when making asking these Resisted Challenge questions because I like the possibility that it will introduce Random Events from Mythic. Random Events add depth and twists to your story.

Next time we will look at 5150 Combat resolution using Mythic.

January 31, 2022 · 5150

Playing in the 5150 Universe with the Mythic RPG

I’ve been curious for a while what a game of 5150 Fringe Space / No Limits / New Beginnings/”, the SciFi solitaire RPG line from Two Hour Wargames’, would look like if you played it” with Mythic instead. Playing with Mythic means not just using the Mythic Gamemaster Emulator (“blue book”) but using concepts from the Mythic Dynamic Role Playing red book” such as ranks, rank shifts, resisted checks, etc. Several Mythic Magazine articles have further pushed this idea into the front of my brain: Mythic Magazine Volume 6 talks about using Mythic to learn a new RPG, Mythic Magazine Volume 12 discusses getting the most of sourcebooks, and Mythic Magazine Volume 13 shows us how to bring resisted checks” forward into the newest Mythic tools such as the Fate Check from Mythic Variations II and the Mythic Gamemaster Emulator Deck.

While I have experience with several roleplaying and skirmish game systems, Mythic is the system that I truly know inside and out. I never had to pull a Mythic book off the shelf and flip through pages looking for mechanics but it is all in my head already. With that mind as I was thumbing through the newest 5150 New Beginnings material and feeling slightly overwhelmed at the page count I figured this might be a good time to run an experiment.

Building a 5150 character in Mythic

5150 Characters are not particularly complex and building one in Mythic should be straight-forward. Let’s rebuild a character from my last 5150 adventure, Reza Trenor using the tools available to us in Mythic.

5150 lays out the steps for building a character as such:

Is it a Star or a Grunt?

These are effectively classes in RPG terms, being a Star grants your character some bonus feats that keep them shiny. Mythic doesn’t really have classes but the beauty of the Mythic RPG is that you could add them and break absolutely nothing. Classes are so lightly detailed in 5150 as it is it will hardly add much on our end. Easy enough then, Reza is a Star.

What is its Race?

5150 has a number of species and like any Class and Race RPG system your species choice will grant you a feat or two. In this case Reza is considered a Basic” - a plain old human. Basics have a single benefit, they get a random attribute. We will deal with that in a few steps. (Other species might get a specific attribute” or two. As you will see later attributes” are closer to feats” or stunts” than they are attributes” in an RPG sense.)

What is its Gender?

I find this to be a tired and boring question for a lot of RPGs because it doesn’t matter. Regardless, Reza identifies as male. Gender or Sex could become relevant in the fiction but there’s no mechanical things to deal with here.

What is its Profession?

Professions are what they sound like. They don’t come with feats or specific mechanical bonuses rather they influence outcomes, difficulties, etc. For certain tests having a relevant Profession might give you a +1 bump to your Reputation stat. In some tests Professions will grant certain advantages and disadvantages, for example when Wealthy and powerful” Movers interact with ordinary” Joes. In Mythic terms we will say that having a Profession will provide a +/- 1 Rank Shift on a given test when relevant. We’ll look to the 5150 rules to give us an idea how to be scope what relevant” means.

Reza is considered to have an Exotic” Profession and the sub-type of Transporter (a”legitimate” merchant who may or may not smuggle from time-to-time.)

Does it have any Attributes?

Stars receive two Attributes, which again are unique feats, edges, stunts, etc. As a Basic, Reza will roll for on random attribute and choose a second one.

Rolling a random attribute for Reza, I get Born Leader”:

Rolls 3d6 counting the lowest 2d6 results on the Will to Fight Table.

These feat is intended to give the character an advantage when dealing with Morale checks during combat. Mythic does not have the notion of roll 3 and keep the highest 2” though we could certainly add something like that. Instead I think we will go the guidance on rank shifts” in the Mythic RPG book: a +2 Rank Shift is a significant modifier”. So when making a Will to Fight Resisted Check, Reza will apply a +2 Rank Shift in his favor.

For the second attribute, I think I will choose Smooth”:

Can re-roll any 1d6 when Interacting

Mythic’s RPG does not have a re-roll mechanic though we could add one without any issues. Here I think I’d like to reimagine things working like this:

Can treat an outcome of a Resisted Check as one level higher. An Exceptional No” becomes a No”, a No” becomes a Yes”, etc.

I’m choosing this route because my personal preference is not to re-roll dice, it is not a mechanic I enjoy.

What is its Reputation?

Characters in 5150 do not have the classic 6 D&D stats or even the somewhat traditional Body”, Mind”, and Soul” tri-stat combo. No instead they have Reputation or Rep.”

Reputation, or Rep, represents a combination of experience, morale, and motivation. Rep is an expression of a Character’s overall quality.”

In RPG terms it is closer to the SKILL stat in Fighting Fantasy. Typically the stat is rated somewhere between a 3 and a 5:

Given this description it seems logical then to apply Mythic’s rank system to this stat like so:

Stars are typically Rep 5, so Reza gains the Reputation rank of High”.

What are its Skills?

5150 does not have skill system, but it does add two additional stats” known as People” and Savvy.” The People skill can be used in place of your Rep when Interacting with folks and the Savvy skill comes up with doing things like Hacking, working with Robots, etc. The following advice is given:

When you create your Star, you can choose one of the Skills to be equal to your Rep. The other will be 1 point lower.”

Simple - Reza can take one at the same rank as his reputation and the other will be one rank lower.

What kind of Items can it have?

Mythic does not have extensive gear, item, or weapon rules. There is a suggested system for applying rank shifts when doing damage. 5150 imposes some minor rules about the number of Items you can carry, when you can select them, etc:

Nothing here is relevant to how Mythic works, though you could easily see how certain PC Negative” events might impact your items.

5150 also imposes some Law Level Restrictions” to what items can be carried out of the Starport and on-planet. We will just follow their guidance and follow suit. That said, Law Levels are in a range between 1 and 5. Again we can apply the rank system here:

Law Level is also used to determine if the Police are Called” when shooting starts taking place, etc. Having it ranked will allowed to use it as a Resisted Check rank or factoring in the difference of ranks when determine the difficulty.

What kind of Weapon & Armor does it have?

Weapons in 5150 don’t do +1s or anything like that. Instead they tell you how many shots you can take in ranged combat, whether they do stun or lethal damage, beam or bullet damage, etc. There are some fictional things that happen such as Beam weapons drawing more attention from the cops or being more effective in a vacuum (a world with little to no atmosphere.) We will keep all of that in mind and apply rank shifts as necessary.

Armor in 5150 does provide some +1 like benefits and we can handle these as rank shifts when determining damage.

Is it Enhanced or a Psy?

Like many SciFi settings, Psionic powers are present but frowned upon and heavily regulated by the various governments in charge. Reza doesn’t have any Psy abilities but if he did they would enable him to have certain Mental or Physical powers. In 5150 these are all tied to a player’s Rep but do occasionally provide what would amount to rank shifts in certain cases. A Psy that is using Premonition could get a bonus when Interacting with another character. Again, nothing we can’t handle in Mythic.

Reza Trenor, Exotic Transporter

That’s it, that’s our Mythic RPG 5150 character. There’s more to do still. We have to work out some of the task rules and advancement rules but we are well on our way to playing a game. Having this character built out will allow us to take the next steps and build what Mythic calls Resolution Tables” which are customized Resisted Checks (in any other game these would be your task checks or saving throws.)

January 12, 2022 · 5150

5150 No Limits - Month 1

Crew

As a reminder, the Crew of the Tiny Dancer (Pirate: Thrust 3, Firepower 3, Hull 3)


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: [6] - 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:

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: [4] (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:)

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: [5]+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: [4]+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 Treasures 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 Dancers 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 Dancers 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:

Ok, so we now to do what’s effectively a morale” test for each member of the PCs 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: [5]+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.


Bookkeeping

Having delivered the stolen cargo (+2), the passengers (+7) and done some killin’ (+1) we earn 10 Increasing Rep. Now to cover expenses.

  1. Reza pays 3 Increasing Rep for the ship (based on our Hull rating.)
  2. 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.

February 25, 2021 · 5150

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”:

  1. I don’t really care for the default species, so I’m going to ignore them and make mine up as we go.
  2. 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.
  3. The default assumptions about the tech levels and professions are good. It is a blend of space opera and cyberpunk that works for me.
  4. 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.

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:)

Dirty Investigator
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.)

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: [5] - 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.

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.)

Final Builds:

The Crew of the Tiny Dancer (Pirate: Thrust 3, Firepower 3, Hull 3)

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.)

February 24, 2021 · 5150

Solo Scaffolding

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 VSCAs 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:

  1. 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”

  1. 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.”

  1. 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.”

  1. 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:

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.

February 23, 2021 · Scaffolding

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.

Opening Thoughts

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.

Art

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.

Safety Tools

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.

Character Creation

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:

Caalgen Nyhin

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: [5] Extremely

Helpful Forte (w/ Intensity):

2d6: [4, 1] Connected, 1d6: [4] Somewhat

Demeanor (w/ Intensity):

2d6: [6, 6] Menacing, 1d6: [1] Slightly

Exploitable Flaw (w/ Intensity):

2d6: [4, 1] Unstable, 1d6: [2] Slightly

Desire:

2d6: [5, 2] Save/Escape Power/Justice - I like Escape Justice” here

Secret:

1d6: [3] 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: [1] 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: [5] Explor-A-Corp

What is the information about? (“The Objective”)

1d6: [4] Massive Monster

Where is this Massive Monster”?

1d6: [5] Nebula

How did Caalgen acquiring this information? (“The Opposition” table)

1d6: [4] Friend

What does the friend” want Caalgen to do with the info? (“Their Agenda”)

1d6: [1] Sow Chaos

Where does Caalgen need to deliver the information to? (“The Location”)

1d6: [3] 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: [5]: 1d3: [2] Goons”

Out of curiosity I wonder how intense” they are so I use the Intensity table from earlier:

1d6: [1] 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: [1] 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: [4] 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: [6] 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: [5] 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:

Extravagance Success

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: [9]+3 = 12
1d6: [3] 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: [5] 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: [4]+3 = 7
1d6: [4] None
1d6: [3] 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] = 20 (Yes)
1d6: [3] -

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

January 15, 2021 · Let's Play · Space Aces · reviews · actual play · Observation Deck

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

https://travellermap.com/?p=-139.598!18.207!8.12&options=58359

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 Hands 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.”

November 13, 2020 · Traveller · Zozer SOLO · Aron

Previously on our Starforged playtest we created our:

Session Setup

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

Ask the Oracle: Is it the Radas? 85: (Likely) yes

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

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

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

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

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

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:

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

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.

GM Notes

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.

October 12, 2020 · Ironsworn · Starforged · playtesting · Observation Deck

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?

Where are we on Dag (or off) when the story starts?

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

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

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

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

Jewels? Really? Those face beads are sacred objects, you must return to them. I’ll give you (1d4: [2]) 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.

Game Notes

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.

September 23, 2020 · Ironsworn · Starforged · playtesting · Observation Deck

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.

September 18, 2020 · Ironsworn · Starforged · playtesting · Observation Deck

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.
  3. Create a connection:
  1. Set your stats: Edge 3, Heart 4, Iron 3, Shadow 2, Wits 2
  1. Set your status trackers: No surprises here.
  2. Envision your character:

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.

September 17, 2020 · Ironsworn · Starforged · playtesting · Observation Deck

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)

  1. Cataclysm: Everything fell apart in an age of chaos. A crisis was sparked by the rise of a fascist power.
  1. Exodus: Mysterious alien gates provided instantaneous one-way passage to the Forge.
  1. Iron: We swear vows upon the iron remnants of ships that carried our people to the Forge.
  1. Communities: Dangers remain, but we have made our mark in this galaxy.
  1. Clans: Through brute force or cunning, a few powerful clans control most of the settled territory and resources.
  1. 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.
  1. Religion: Our gods failed us. We left them behind.
  1. Mysticism: Mystical powers are wielded by those rare folk we call gifted. The miraculous abilities are a product of: Evolutionary mutations?
  1. 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.
  1. Medicine: The Menders are an order of sworn healers who preserve our medical knowledge and train new generations of caregivers.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Lifeforms: The Forge is a chaotic galaxy, but life has found a way.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

September 16, 2020 · Ironsworn · Starforged · playtesting · Observation Deck

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

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

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?”

Janne Zuzka.”

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.”

September 10, 2020 · Campaigns · Into the Void · Episodes

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.

Leaving Lavene

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

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.

September 9, 2020 · Campaigns · Into the Void · Episodes

Into the Void, Season 1, Episode 1

Cast:

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

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.”


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.”

Dust?”

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.

September 8, 2020 · Campaigns · Into the Void · Episodes

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