Space Aces: The New Guidebook (Early Access) Review
Steven D’s tabletop roleplaying game Space Aces has come a long way from the initial version which was a single page “business card” game. It is now a 25 page book with bright and punchy artwork, dozens of random tables, and a number of plug’n’play game systems that allow one to play in a universe of “campy sci-if” fun. The game was successfully funded on Kickstarter in January 2021 (pledges are still open!) and while Steven is still putting the final touches on the book he was kind enough to provide me with an advance copy for review (erm, play.) This means that some things may change between my experience with it and yours.
I’m going to be primarily looking at this game with an eye towards how it works for GM-less play (co-op or solo.) In additional I like to review a game through a mix of reviewing the materials and actual play.
A number of concepts are introduced before character creation but I’m going to discuss these as they come up in play. I did want to highlight a few things that stood out from the opening section.
The tone of the art hits my sweet spot: lots of detail, great color palette, and it strikes an optimistic tone. I’ve been complaining for a while that the GM-less/solo RPG space has been flooded with “grim-dark” and horror-themed products. Given the year I had in 2020, games where you might “die alone on a spaceship” do not stir up any level of enthusiasm in my heart. Space Aces on the other hand looks delightfully fun. A glance throughout the tables do reveal a mix of “monsters” and “menacing” and you can certainly tilt the tables towards a more sinister end if you like.
There’s a section right upfront on safety tools - that’s a good sign. Hopefully this means those concepts were put into place and they carry throughout the book’s content as well. In the solo space one could shrug off safety tools as meaningless but that’s entirely missing the point. It is important for us to take care of ourselves and also to remember that we don’t have to play out encounters or scenes that we are not interested in (whether that’s coming from a source of trauma or just lack of interest - you are in control of your game experience in solo play.)
Dice & Other Materials
We’re told up front that a d20 and d6 are rolled every time an action is taken. The d20 is the action die and to achieve a success you need to roll over a sliding difficulty number. The extra d6 die is used to determine if there is a complication or critical failure/success on an action. It is a simple system that should keep the story moving, particularly for GM-less games.
There’s no other required materials noted in the intro section.
Characters have five stats and you are given a stat array of +3, +2, +1, 0, and -1 to assign to them:
Nitpicking: I think I’d prefer something like Bold, Clever, & Swift for the first three stats as it still hits the tone but would be more accessible language for me. Friends might be better themed as Connections in some settings. Smugglers might not have many “Friends” but they always “know someone” who might help out in a pinch (and be willing to backstab our intrepid smuggler the first chance they can get.)
I don’t mind stat arrays but I do wish there was a method to randomly set them as well. I find I like using random character creation for creating the “grunts” of an adventuring crew without getting lost in over-thinking things like “party balance.”
The book is a bit ambiguous about the character creation process - there is no step-by-step walkthrough or checklist. You’ll need to refer to the character sheet and the initial few pages to put it all together.
There’s a lot of tables in this book but no name generator. Not to bother, I have my own lengthy table of “space opera” names, rolling up a pair I get:
I’m not entirely sure who Caalgen is yet, so I’m going to flip through the book and pick out a few tables to help me. You don’t have to do this, you might already have your character envisioned and assigning the stat array takes only a minute or two. For me I don’t know my who my character is yet. “Friends & Frenemies” (on Page 17 of the PDF version) has a few NPC related tables. There’s some good stuff here and I honestly wish these were closer to the character creation section because I think they set the tone for the expectations of your typical adventurer in this universe.
I’m going to give my character a Notable Quirk, Helpful Forte, Demeanor, Exploitable Flaw, Desire, and Secret. All of these can be flavored with an “Intensity” as well.
Notable Quirk (w/ Intensity):
2d6: [2, 6] Yells, 1d6:  Extremely
Helpful Forte (w/ Intensity):
2d6: [4, 1] Connected, 1d6:  Somewhat
Demeanor (w/ Intensity):
2d6: [6, 6] Menacing, 1d6:  Slightly
Exploitable Flaw (w/ Intensity):
2d6: [4, 1] Unstable, 1d6:  Slightly
2d6: [5, 2] Save/Escape Power/Justice - I like “Escape Justice” here
1d6:  Information
Finally, I don’t really know what “gender” they are so I’ll just roll a d6: (1-2 Male, 3-4 Female, 5-6 Non-Binary/Fluid/Whatever)
1d6:  Male
With all that, we can now say…
“Caalgen Nyhin, known for his frequent outbursts, is a slightly menacing looking human. Their slightly unstable nature has left them wanted in several systems. They are currently on the run and in position of a data-chit containing secret information.”
… and we can stat out Caalgen like so:
Caalgen Nyhin, Moxie +3, Smarts +0, Wiggles +1, Pockets +2, Friends -1. Gumption 6. Grit 0. Heat 1. Skill: Pilot
Gumption, an HP-like pacing stat, starts at 6. Grit, a stat that can be spent to turn a failure into a success, starts at 0 (you earn +1 Grit on a failure.) Heat starts at 1. Skill is a fill-in the blank field and allows you to roll with an advantage when relevant. There’s no guidance currently given about scoping a skill - is it a traditional skill like “ranged combat” or could it be a profession “Ace Pilot.” That’s probably up to you for now.
Mission Generator: Initial Adventure Seed
By using the “Friends & Frenemies” tables I’ve already gotten my character into some trouble but let’s detail out a bit more to get us going. The “Mission Generator” (Page 7 of the PDF) has several tables we can use to flavor our adventures with.
From whom did Caalgen steal the information from? (“Faction”)
1d6:  Explor-A-Corp
What is the information about? (“The Objective”)
1d6:  Massive Monster
Where is this “Massive Monster”?
1d6:  Nebula
How did Caalgen acquiring this information? (“The Opposition” table)
1d6:  Friend
What does the “friend” want Caalgen to do with the info? (“Their Agenda”)
1d6:  Sow Chaos
Where does Caalgen need to deliver the information to? (“The Location”)
1d6:  Space
Caalgen knows he’s in position of secret information of a massive alien “monster” that has been sprung from a nebula which Explor-A-Corp was studying. The threat is great and Explor-A-Corp has been covering it up in hopes of containing the fallout from their activities. A friend working within the project, maybe a subcontractor, realizes that Explor-A-Corp has unleashed something bigger than they can handle. They smuggle the information to Caalgen in hopes he can get into the hands of some local pirates who have a hidden base within an asteroid field. As the goal is chaos, I don’t think there’s much of a plan. Caalgen and the “friend on the inside” are just looking to gain some reputation with these pirates and probably get paid to some extent.
The Game Framework
Spaces Aces does not establish significant guidance on a suggested “game loop” but it is sorta there in the form of the provided tables and the Crafting An Episode guidance on page 6: Create characters then generate a mission. Figure out the 3 step plan to pull it off then generate an episode event. The rest of the content in the book is there to add flavor to these core game concepts (characters, missions, episodes).
Let’s say we open “In Media Res” - Caalgen is escaping the Explor-A-Corp after acquiring the information, a space chase. If Caalgen can do this then the next steps would be making contact with the pirates and delivering/selling the info.
We’ll use the Episode Event tables on Page 8 to flavor our opening space chase.
How many ships are perusing Caalgen? (Scuffle):
1d6: : 1d3:  “Goons”
Out of curiosity I wonder how “intense” they are so I use the Intensity table from earlier:
1d6:  Slightly
Goons to me implies what Space Aces deems as “Small baddies”. They will deal 1 Harm on a standard attack. The base difficulty for dealing with them will be “Easy (5)” There is no guidance for determining Gumption for NPCs in the “Scuffles” section but flipping through the book and thinking about the base character Gumption, Goons seem like they’d have 3 Gumption. I envision these goons are really more like AI-Drones than piloted vehicles given their weak intensity.
What are the Goons goals in attacking Caalgen?
1d6:  Destroy
I ignore a few other tables that don’t seem to apply but adding some flavor to the location seems good:
2d6: [4, 2] Volatile
Of course, we’re coming out of an alien-infused nebula - all sorts of navigational and sensory things are broken.
It is worth noting that this pages includes an “Ask The AI” tool that is the typical Yes/No “Ask the GM/Oracle” one would find in a game that bills itself as solo-friendly.
How about what kind of ship Caalgen is flying? Well the Starship Shenanigans tables on Page 11 can tell us that. I’m not sure if it is the small or medium variant so we’ll do a high/low 1d6 roll:
1d6:  Medium
Medium ships have Shields 4, Reactor 2, Damage 2, Speed Average.
From here I realize that the goon drones could be better though of as “small” craft so I’ll revise my starts for them: Shields 2, Reactor 1, Damage 1, Speed Fast. (There are 2 of them)
What’s a quirk about Caalgen’s ship?
2d6: [6, 1] “Uniforms Ride Up”
This seems to apply to Caalgen’s gear more than his ship and I find the result a bit disappointing. Looking over the list I like the option of “No Seatbelts” - there’s no restraining gear or it is broken. Given the “Volatile” nature of the location it could mean Caalgen loses his ability to reach the controls in the heat of combat.
What’s a perk of Caalgen’s ship?
2d6: [1, 4] Smuggler’s hold
Of course, that’s where the secret information data-chit has been secured.
How did Caalgen acquire the ship?
1d6:  Fair-n-Square
Actual Play: Starship Scuffle
Spaces Aces suggest that smaller ships move first. You can take that as-is or use it to influence the difficulty of a check or likelihood of an “ask the ai” question. I’ll just let them shoot first.
I’m not sure where the drones are and there’s not a table here for that. I don’t like “20 questions” with a Yes/No oracle for this stuff so I’ll use a table I have from a Star Wars game to determine their position:
Fore and Above
The drones are coming head on at Caalgen’s ship - where we likely open on a camera shot of Caalgen staring down the two fighters. He can see the nozzle on their laster blaster warm up to fire and he hopes dodge the initial attack. From earlier we know the starting difficulty is “Easy (5)”. The game notes that a player manning multiple stations makes tasks harder but in this case Caalgen is merely dodging (“Helm” in Space Aces language) so I’m not sure there’s reason to up the difficulty. Dodging two vehicles does seem harder though, so let’s up the difficulty there to “Tricky (10).” Caalgen would then roll 2d20 (advantage for his Piloting skill) and add his “Wiggles” and hope to best a 10.
2d20: [3, 6] - 6+1 = 7
1d6:  Benefit
I’m not entirely sure what the Benefit would be and I don’t see a table that would help. I’ll use the Mythic Gamemaster Emulator’s Action Meaning tables:
Caalgen slams the controls to the right but the AI Drones have been learning from Caalgen’s behavior throughout the combat we have not seen previously - they guessed this manuever. They open fire on Caalgen’s ship and the Shields (4) suffer 2 damage. Caalgen’s sensors though have recently been upgraded, he paid for the best model available, and on his HUD the sensors indicate the drone that can be most easily targeted by his weapon’s systems. This is the first time Caalgen his gotten into a position to fire so we see him flip the lid to open on the firing controls and he punches a few short busts into the buttons. I think that’s probably a normal action roll plus Caalgen’s Moxie against an Easy (5) difficulty:
1d20+3: +3 = 12
1d6:  None
It is a hit! The threat panel in front of Caalgen registers the damage immediately and Caalgen can see that the shields are down on one of the craft. The other ship has used this moment though to pair off and make an attack run. A stream of laser fire comes towards Caalgen’s ship and he again makes evasive maneuvers.
2d20: [2, 11] 11+1 = 12
1d6:  Benefit
This time Caalgen is feeling confident, having just ripped into the other ship, and his evasive action is successful. He’s pulled around and again can choose his target - he wants to finish off that drone from earlier.
1d20+3: +3 = 7
1d6:  None
1d6:  Engines
The twin lasers tear into the engines of the AI Drone and it is dead in the water. There’s not a “morale check” in the game but it is the sorta thing I’m used to. We’ll use “Ask the AI”: Does the AI leave combat? “Possibly” likelihood (10+)
1d20:  = 20 (Yes)
1d6:  -
The AI runs the numbers, it is outgunned in this situation and choose to report back to base. Caalgen pushes the hyperdrive lever all the way forward and we see the stars accelerated around his cockpit.
From here we’d play out the adventure as outline: make contact with the pirates.
This is a fun sci-fi supplement for a campy/fun/action-filled setting with a wealth of tables. There’s a lot of flavor tables that could be used regardless of your game system. There’s a basic game system here that you can play “as-is” and start to tweak to your liking. It is not 100% built out and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you wanted a crunchy, fully-fledged game system though you will be disappointed. I personally don’t find such systems are conducive to solo play but YMMV.
There are a lot more mini-games I did not engage with: diving into a ruin, generating a subsector, exploring a planet, building a monster, space encounters, building gadgets, and so on.
The layout of the book is clean, the many pages of tables are easy to read and interpret, and logically laid out. Several sections can easily be printed as 1 page front/back cheat-sheets to recall when needed.
I do think the game could use a more detailed character creation section and I would like to have seen a thematic “meaning” general purpose oracle such as the those found in Ironsworn’s Action+Theme oracle or Mythic’s Descriptor/Action Meaning table. A little bit more guidance on NPC creation (Gumption for example) would be helpful. Overall it is a worthy addition to anyone’s tabletop RPG space play and is particularly useful for the “unprepared” GM, a sandbox game, and solo/co-op GM-less play.
Exploring the Known Space of Traveller
While the setting of the “Original Traveller Universe” has never quite caught my eye, the beautiful map of “Known Space” at https://travellermap.com has. With this series I intend to give a recently mustered out navy captain, “Aron Xavier”, a 150-ton Jump-1 ship and have them explore them map. I will use this as an oppurtunity to learn more about a setting I only know the broad stokes of.
Captain Aron Xavier 7CBCB9
Gun-Combat-2, Jack o'Trades-1, Leadership-3, Piloting-3, Repair-1, Survival-1, Tactics-1, Zero-G-1
Aron starts on Rabanitas in the Zydar Subsector, located in a sector known as “The Beyond”. Rabanitas is part of the Comsentient Alliance and I imagine that Aron served as a member of the local planetary navy. Aron served from the ages of 18 to 38 and had a successful run of promotions that allowed him to leave with the title of Captain. For character and ship creation I’m using the rules from Cepheus Light rather than my 1981 edition Traveller books because I find them easier to look at (but also beacuse I loathe “cascade skills”.)
Light Cargo Merchant 150-ton, 6, M2, J1, 1 double turret (2x Beam Lasers 1D)
Aron’s ship has an armor rating of 6, Thurst-2, Jump-1, and has a pair of turreted Beam Lasers. It has enough fuel to make two jumps before refueling and carries it is own fuel scoop and processor for refining fuel from gas giants. There’s space in the bridge for another crew member. There are two staterooms and a common room. The remaining 45 tons have been allocated to the cargo bay.
I did generate a few other perspective crew members, they’ll be introduced when appropriate. As usual, I’ll be using Zozer Game’s SOLO to assist in running the game but I also have a number of “house systems” I use to run a solo Traveller game. Finally, I’ll not be interweaving the mechanics into the summary of events. You are welcome to reach out and ask how certain results came about though. Logging the mechanics, their meaning, and crafting a readable summary of those things together is incredibly time consuming.
1105, Week 1, Rabanitas 0122, Zydar Subsector, The Beyond
- Leaving Port:
- Small Craft (Industrial/Science) - Require assistance with violent passenger/crewman.
Aron Xavier, former navy Captain, arrives at a “retirement” party in his honor. After the open bar closed, Aron dropped another Cr600 on spirits & food for the party goers. At the party, Aron meets local system Councilor Sophie Rose who is looking for passage to Farhaven. The two find themselves talking all night like old friends and Aron offers her passage on his ship, The Lucky Hand.
Councilor (Colonist) Sophie Rose, 677D86
Admin-1, Carousing-1, Computer-2, Jack o' Trades-3, Liaison-1, Repair-2, Survival-1
Before leaving port, Aron purchases 20t of “Basic Consumable Goods” for Cr10000. The cargo is inspected closely by Starport Security. Security is higher than normal due to a recent facility explosion that authorities are still investigating the causes of.
With Sophie on board, Aron request departure clearance and the pair are away. With Aron’s older Jump-1 engine, it is a three-jump trip. First they’ll head to Station Two and make a fuel scooping run. Once refueled, they’l make two more jumps to Farhaven. In-between is a bit of empty space and thought of being stranded there certainly has Aron nervous.
While trying to put some distance between Rabanitas’ gravitational field and The Lucky Hand, Aron receives a hail from a small craft.
“This is the research vessel Indigo Goose. Require assistance with subduing a crew member.”
Aron pauses to consider the situation. He’s certainly armed and trained for such matters. Feeling a sense of duty, as Aron has not fully split his mind from his former career, he radios back.
“This is Captain Aron Xavier, I can assist. I’m bringing my vessel alongside for docking. I’d like someone to brief me on the conditions upon my arrival.”
“Of course, Captain. Our first science officer, Marius Kala can bring you up to speed.”
The docking maneuver goes smoothly and Aron is relieved to find that the airlocks are compatible; traversing the plastic tube walkway is always a bit disconcerting.
Aron walks Sophie through using the comms systems on The Lucky Hand. “I’ll hopefully just be a few moments Miss Rose but should anything go wrong you will at least know how to ask for help.”
“I’m a quick study when it comes to computers, Captain.” notes Sophie who has already moved on to inspecting other components of The Lucky Hand’s digital systems.
Removing his Zero-G helmet Aron notices the recycled air smells pristine. A young man in armor that seems ill-fitted to their body meets Aron on the other side of the airlock.
“Marius, Sir. We’ve got a crewmember who is having a reaction to some samples we picked up on Demimonde. We managed to trap them in the engineering section but… we ran out of tranq darts before we could bring them down.”
“Ran out?” Aron raises an eyebrow.
“Uhh… tracking and hitting a moving target is not really our area of expertise?”
Aron nodes and returns a comforting smile. “That’s fine, son. Why don’t we collect what darts we can reuse and I’ll want to see the deck plans for this bucket.”
“What’s this panel here, Captain Abassi?” Aron points to a spot on the deck plans.
“…that would, yes that would get you in there.” says a unkempt and weathered looking person.
Aron crawls through the insides of the ship until he comes to panel, 86B. Using a multi-tool he quietly removes the panel’s securing bolts. He slides the panel off to the side, just enough to climb through. Readying the tranq gun, he aims it at a person frantically interacting with the controls of the engineering room.
“Mr. Ghassaan, your friends are worried about you.”
Ghassaan turns and before he can open his mouth, Aron shoots him in the chest with the dart.
“And Captain Abassi gave you this contact?” asks Sophie.
“‘Bernadine Thisam, a government official on Farhaven’ is what he said.”
“Well, I’ve never heard of her.”
“You’ve met and interacted with every member of the Farhaven government?”
“Of course not.”
“I don’t have many contacts in the universe and I’ll take this Captain’s word over my empty datapad.”
Previously on our Starforged playtest we created our:
Last time we left Hapi they were about to head back home and try to make sense of the starship’s “black box”. Seems like a Set A Course move can tell us a bit about our journey back home.
Set a Course +supply: 9 vs. 9, 5: weak hit
- You face a complication or danger at your destination. Envision what you find (Ask the Oracle if unsure).
Ask the Oracle: Is it the Radas? 85: (Likely) yes
- What’s the rank of the threat? Unlikely that it is “epic”, so let’s roll 1d4:  “formidable”
To setup our position, I think Hapi must “Secure an Advantage” to see if they spot this danger early or run right into it:
Secure an Advantage +wits: 3 vs. 6, 7: miss
- On a miss, you fail or your assumptions betray you. Pay the Price.
- Pay The Price: The environment or terrain introduces a new hazard.
DAG, DIRTSIDE, OVERLAND
Hapi’s hands are sweaty but they firmly grip the throttle of their hoverbike. It is bright and sunny but in fact it is the evening. Dag’s perpetual daylight tends to throw off visitors not use to the unnerving lack of noticeable daylight rhythms. As Hapi crests over a dune, the reflecting daylight temporarily blinds them. The noise of gunfire snaps Hapi to attention.
Enter the Fray: 7 vs. 6, 6: strong hit
- match: something interesting, new opportunity
- Action & Theme: Preserve Freedom
- +2 momentum (now at max…)
Hapi skids their hoverbike to a halt and takes cover behind it. Scanning the area Hapi realizes they are outnumbered and there’s one way out of this mess: getting aboard the Long Odds and keeping on the move. The ship, parked nearby, glistens in the sun.
Hapi takes aim at part of the structure near his hut hoping to knock the canopy down over some of the gang members.
Strike: 4 vs. 3, 7: weak hit Burn momentum: (10): strong hit
- Radas gang [*][*]
The canopy structure collapses and takes out a gang member in the process. During the chaos Hapi takes the opportunity to remount the hoverbike and speed towards the Long Odds.
Gain Ground: 6 vs. 5, 3: strong hit
- Radas gang [*][*][*]
- +2 momentum
With the ship providing additional cover now, Hapi takes a moment to get the drop on another gang member but takes a few shots at their position.
Strike: 7 vs. 1, 5: strong hit
- Radas gang [*][*][*][*][*]
Screams of agony ring across the dunes as another Radas gang member falls to the ground.
Hapi wonders if they should press their luck, and try to make it inside the Long Odds now. Still outnumbered though and if Hapi could eliminate the gang maybe it would buy more time for Hapi to get off-world. There was still the matter of keeping their word to Tarrgh looming in Hapi’s mind.
Need some inspiration for what set pieces might be available:
- Descriptor Focus: Toxic/People
The whole situation stunk thought Hapi and then it hit them like a brick. Firing two carefully placed shots at the septic waste container near the property Hapi hopes to unleash an explosion.
Strike: 6 vs. 5, 3: strong hit
- Radas gang [*][*][*][*][*][*][*]
The ground shakes as the tank explodes. Now or never thinks Hapi, as they make for the Long Odds loading dock. Punching the button the ramp lowers, Hapi fires a few more covering shots, and makes for the hoverbike hoping to ride it up the docking ramp.
Take Decisive Action: 7 vs. 6, 5: strong hit
The remaining Radas are disoriented and caught off guard by Hapi’s willingness to destroy their home. Of course the Long Odds is home now. Banging on the ramp door button the platform begins to rise back up, sealing Hapi off from the remaining gang members. Running to the cockpit Hapi fires up the engines, the blast knocking over a Rada gang member who had regained their footing. Angling the ship around to face them, Hapi fires off a few blasts towards them eliminating the remaining fires.
Hapi places a kiss in their hand and slaps on the “To infinity and beyond” sticker on the console as the ship slowly climbs into the air.
I like the rewritten combat moves, thing read more clearly and simply than they used to - or at least that’s what my brains says. Obviously, the dice were heavily in our favor today which is unusual in my experience. Not complaining, certainly made a cinematic scene. I’m enjoying Starforged overall though not having made a sector map, I’m not entirely sure where Hapi would go from here. Also, I think our next scene needs to deal with Hapi keeping their word to return the jewels to Tarrgh — it seems out of character for them not to.
Previously on our Starforged playtest we created our:
Kicking off play, I have a few Oracle rolls to make and the Swear an Iron Vow move:
What planet are we on when the story starts?
- Type: Desert World
- Name: Dag
- Atmosphere: Breathable
- Observed: Perpetual daylight
- Closer: Scarred battlefields, Exposed mineral deposits
- Settlements: Settlements in conflict
- Life: Simple
Where are we on Dag (or off) when the story starts?
- Descriptor Focus: Expansive Battleground
Finally, we need to “Swear an Iron Vow” to tackle the quest to clear Hapi’s name
Swear an Iron Vow +heart (4): 10 vs. 2, 7 - strong hit
- +2 momentum
- “you are emboldened and it is clear what you must do next” (if unsure “Ask the Oracle”)
Ok, in order for Hapi to clear their name they must return to the scavenger site and pull the ship’s logs. Hapi believes this will demonstrate that the ship was a wayward vessel and doesn’t belong to the clan that is claiming ownership.
Oh, I need a clan name so I turn to one of my name generators: “Rada”
Dag, Dirtside, Southern Dunes
Hapi wondered how’d he gotten himself into such a miserable situation. The dumbest part was that Hapi had returned to the scene of the supposed crime.
“I don’t even know why the Radas want this stuff; this wreck has been here forever.”
Hapi begins their search for the ship’s “black box”.
Gather Information +wits: 5 vs. 3, 9: weak hit
- +1 momentum
- complication/danger: pulling it out requires a specific tool
“Ahh, these old T-15 cubes are a chore to pull. Now, where’s that extraction tool…”
Let’s play with all of the toys as they say:
Check your Gear +supply: 10 vs. 4, 3: strong hit
Hapi pulls out the tool and starts to pull the box out.
Ultimately having this box is an narrative “advantage”, so I think we have to use the Secure an Advantage move rather than Face Danger. My Ironsworn muscles might be a little rusty.
Secure an Advantage +wits: 7 vs. 10, 3: weak hit
We’re on a nice run here momentum wise and have the resource in our hands. I think Hapi has made progress on this sub-quest/vow to “Figure out origins of scavenged ship”.
Reach a Milestone: Secure a Resource (“black box”)
Hapi secures the “black box” and stows it away. Hapi gathers their tools and makes their way back to the exit.
Ask The Oracle:
“Hapi, didn’t expect to see you here. I heard you already went over this wreck.”
“Tarrgh, never a pleasure to see you.”
“Why don’t you set your pack down” says Tarrgh as he waves a gun at Hapi.
“Sure, let’s be reasonable here.” Hapi sets down the bag and nods at it. “I don’t have anything of value to you in there and most of that ship is ripe for the picking. We can go our separate ways here and no one has to get hurt.”
Compel +heart: 9 vs. 5, 7: strong hit
Tarrgh bends down, holding the gun firmly pointed at Hapi, and inspects the bag. Pulling out the box he eyes it suspiciously but places it back in the bag. Tarrgh thrusts the gun into Hapi’s back and marches him into the ship to take a look around. Seeing most of the wreck still in salvageable condition he looks back at Hapi.
“You are not lying, there is plenty to be had here. What do you need that for?” he points the gun outside, presumably at the bag.
“Ship’s log. Radas say they hold the scavenge rights to this ship but I don’t think it is theirs. Thought I’d see if I could pull out the identifier or anything else useful.”
“Nonsense, this should be a holy site!”
“Well, you can take that up with the Radas. I’m just trying to save my own hide.”
“I want this salvage for my people, Hapi. I’ll cut you a deal. I’ll let you walk out here with your life if you will share the information about the origins of the ship with me.”
“Deal. You know how to find me. It’ll take a few days to make sense of that box but I’ll share what I know.”
Tarrgh thinks on this. “Ok. Why are the Radas after you anyway, doesn’t even look like you’ve done much on this wreck?”
“Someone must have saw me entering it after the sandstorm uncovered it?”
Well, Hapi is flat out lying here
Compel +shadow: 3 vs. 1, 3: weak hit
- +1 momentum
“Sure, why not just tell them you didn’t take anything? Leave well enough alone. Nah, you found something here didn’t you?”
“There was a skeleton of a human or humanoid. I buried them a few paces, that way.” Hapi points out to the south a bit. “They had some old simple robes, a bit of jewelry that must have been on their face; you know, like yours. I can give you the jewelry.”
Probably another Compel? Now, Hapi isn’t lying here … he’s omitting info but aiming to barter … so…
Compel +heart: 10 vs. 1, 1: strong hit
- +1 momentum
- Action+Theme: Inspect Superstition
“Jewels? Really? Those face beads are sacred objects, you must return to them. I’ll give you
(1d4: ) two days, Hapi. I want the jewels and whatever else you can tell about this wreck.”
Hapi, nods and walks outside. Grabbing their pack Hapi climbs on their hoverbike and rides off.
Playing Ironsworn is like riding a biycle: it gets easier the more you exercise the relevant muscles. I’m not 100% sure I played this out in the most ideal Ironsworn way but I think it is in the ballpark.
I liked the Check your Gear move - it is a subtle tweak on previous Ironsworn moves that feels natural for this genre. And so far the Oracle results all feel natural or at least easy to work with given my setting Truths.
Next time, we’ll catch up with Hapi and figure out what they unearthed from the “black box.” Fair warning: I don’t intended to play out every scene of this game in a step-by-step order. I’ll skip over some bits, montage, or flashback as needed. I don’t have the patience or freetime to exhaustively simulate Hapi’s life.
Having created our setting’s Truths and a main character we are almost ready to start playtesting Starforged’s moves and oracles through gameplay. In order to kick things off we need to develop our story starter.
Currently there’s no playtest guidance here so we will fall back to Ironsworn where you create a “Background Vow” and an “Inciting Incident” to kick things off. Other games might refer to this concept as starting “In Medias Res” though they don’t often frame it with the backdrop of the “Background Vow.” If you have never played Ironsworn before then a Background Vow is a primary motivation or ultimate goal for your character. Sometimes these are obvious like “become the future king of this land” but in Hapi’s case “don’t die in The Forge” is the truest of statements but not quite enough of a story hook that will push the narrative forward.
Taking a step back and considering what appears to be our initial Quest (“Refute the false criminal charges against Hapi.”) then the background vow might be “Take down the clan that has falsely accused Hapi.” As a reminder, the false criminal charges were generated in the Truths exercise and I don’t have much detail about the specifics. I’m not 100% sure Hapi’s character is the “out for revenge” type but I’m going to go with it out of laziness and a desire to play.
So, with the background vow of “Take down the clan that has falsely accused Hapi”, Hapi will embark on their first quest to “refute the false criminal charges.” Hapi has been a hard working scavenger scraping by pulling spare parts for salvage to survive in their day-to-day life. Now though they’ve be falsely accused of a crime. Most likely they salvaged a part they should not have (or where they should not have.) The crime might be something as simple as a trumped up charge about salvage rights from the ruling clan on this planet. The clan has lined the pockets of the local authorities (and may very well be the local authorities) so it is easy to take action against people who get in their way.
What has Hapi salvaged though that was so valuable? Asking the Oracles for a Descriptor/Focus, I get “Powerful/Force.” Being the extremely lazy Star Wars fan I am, I think Hapi has unearthed a “Way Blade” from a ship wreck. I did establish in the Truths that there was a mystical energy force present in The Forge and that certain rare individuals were able to harness it.
While Hapi has a “Weathered” look, in my mind they are young but a life of scavenging takes a toll on you. Hapi’s parents likely died when Hapi was a child and Hapi has been forced to make a life out of what was available to them. I think it is likely that if they were one of the “rare” individuals empowered by “The Way” it is unlikely they would know it. Strange dreams? sure. Maybe a handful of times something happened that seemed unnatural but working on your own on a desolate planet probably makes you dismiss lots of things as a mirage.
Now, did they find this “Way Blade” by accident or… was it calling to them? “Play to find out” is what I say and that’s what we will start doing next time.
Today, we’re going to continue to build up our Starforged playtesting scenario. We have our Truths that define the broad stokes of the setting and now we need a main character.
I prefer to play SciFi roleplaying games (particularly solo ones) with a “crew” in whatever form this takes. I’m a huge fan of Zozer’s SOLO and one aspect that game taught to me appreciate is the interpersonal relationships of the crew and how those can ground the fantastic nature of SciFi stories to something more personal. In the past I’ve found that solo Ironsworn works best if you “run” a single character and allow other members of the party to be either an Irosnworn Asset or just flavorful NPCs that enable the fiction. Given all that I will create a single characer for now whom will often be the main focus of the fiction but there will be other crew members who will help carry the story forward. I’ll get to those later.
To help me get started I’m going to work off the Character Primer worksheet that is part of the playtest materials:
Board your ship: We are to take the “Starship Vehicle” Command Vehicle Asset and give it a name. The starship name oracles are not ready yet for the playtest so I will use another random table of names I have laying around which gives me the name “Long Odds.” Possibly the most fitting name for a vehicle asset in an Ironsworn game you could imagine. I set the health status tracker for this assset to +5. The first ability on the asset has been chosen for us:
“Your armed, multipurpose starship is suited for interstellar and atmospheric flight. It can comfortably transport several people, has space for cargo, and can carry and launch support vehicles. When you Advance, you may spend experience to equip this vehicle with module assets.”
There’s a lot of fictional positioning established here already and it feels immediately useful without any upgrades which is nice.
- Choose three assets: I feel like I need to resolve some bits from the Truths experience first. The Truths document hinted that I might want to take the FUGITIVE and SCAVENGER assets. Well FUGITIVE doesn’t exist right now but SCAVENGER does so I’ll grab that. GEARHEAD looks appealing, particularly with someone who likes scavenging. I contemplated quite a few assets for my last one but I think HOVERBIKE makes the most sense for the type of work the character is doing.
- Create a connection:
- Name: Endus Olen
- Role: Supplier (Resupply)
- Looks: Ill-equipped, Tattooed, and Aged
- Disposition: Friendly
- Goals: Claim a resource
- Aspects: Critical, Addicted, and Suspicious
- Location: I assume they are located on the planet I have historically operated out of but have been very recently exilted from.
- Set your stats: Edge 3, Heart 4, Iron 3, Shadow 2, Wits 2
- Ok, here’s where I’m going to differ from rules-as-written. I’ve been using the “challenging” stat array from the Ironsworn Lodestar for a long time and I just prefer the flavor of it.
- Set your status trackers: No surprises here.
- Envision your character:
- Name: Hapi
- Looks: Unkempt and Weathered
- Goals: Refute a falsehood and Secure a resource
- Aspects: Technical, Resourceful, Cautious
I imagine that Hapi’s character will evolve as we get to know them (and they get to know themselves and their place in the story) better. I have a simplistic understanding of where they are coming from but almost no idea where they are going to. I gave them two goals to start, clearing their name of a crime they’ve been accused of (from the Truths exercise) and securing resources for their livelihood. This feels straightforward and I think I’m ready to begin play next.
There’s a playtest edition out of Ironsworn’s science fiction sister game “Starforged”. As someone who previously twisted Ironsworn to play SciFi I thought I should give the proper version a spin. As with Ironsworn, you are encouraged to use a “World Trurths” exercise to define your game.
Note: I had originally provided my answers here to the first 20 question Truths exercise but I have removed those as Starforged’s author Shawn Tomkin released another update of the Truths exercise and encourage folks to use this version if they had not started their playtest yet. Seeing as I haven’t even made it to character building I figured I’d throw away my first run through the 20-question version and go with this.
In light of some discussion on the playtest discord I’m going to push myself to stay within the confines of the exercise because I’d like to reduce the amount of friction I have with the oracles in play. If you aren’t familiar with Ironsworn then you need to understand that many of the game’s rules interact with the various “oracles” (random tables) the game provides and while it is easy to reskin these oracles to better suit your theme I’m not inclined to do so for a playtest.
So with all that in mind, let’s do some Truths “once more with feeling!” style: (I’m going to take a few more notes this time as I go)
- Cataclysm: Everything fell apart in an age of chaos. A crisis was sparked by the rise of a fascist power.
- I choose this one initially and I still like it.
- “Do you possess a keepsake or artifact of pre-cataclysm society?” I noted yesterday that I felt like the cataclysm was a thing from a distant time and most inhabitants of The Forge (the in-game galaxy) don’t really think much about it. My idea is that there is a massive innactive jumpgate near “terminus” (the populous part of The Forge.) The stories that are passed down are that we fled our home galaxy eons ago through this gate and disabled it so we could not be followed. I think there’s room for this story being hogwash though, perhaps we are a “prison galaxy” - we were exiled here by our former civilization and they don’t want us coming back. I’ll let play determine how much stock people put into the origin story. Anyway, my character does not have a pre-cataclysm trinket other than the giant jumpgate that looms over The Forge.
- Exodus: Mysterious alien gates provided instantaneous one-way passage to the Forge.
- As noted above, here’s where I’m bending the Truth statement a bit. I don’t see much harm in doing so.
- “Does your family or cultural history offer any stories of the Exodus?” As above, there’s some origin story that is thrown around but we are so far removed from it that people don’t talk about it much anymore.
- Iron: We swear vows upon the iron remnants of ships that carried our people to the Forge.
- “What do you swear vows upon?” I think most folks wear some sorta of iron shard as part of a necklace, perhaps some as a body piercing, etc. Many of these items may not be as authentic as people claim. I think some folks have some equivalent of a military-style “dogtag”: the real ones are from the original families and peoples who came through the gate before it was disabled. Did they make these to keep track of people? Does the military thing mean they were rebels fighting the fascist government? I don’t know yet.
- Communities: Dangers remain, but we have made our mark in this galaxy.
- “Your character is assumed to be without a home as you start your campaign.” Oh, really? I had not envisioned that and it has thrown for me loop so I ask the oracles for an Action+Theme and I get: “Bolster Innocence”. In that case I have been wrong convicted of a crime and kicked off a planet I used to call home.
- Clans: Through brute force or cunning, a few powerful clans control most of the settled territory and resources.
- I don’t think my character is loyal to any clan - maybe as result of whatever crime they have been (falsely?) accused of.
- Laws: Communities or clans define their own laws; there are no common laws which bind us. The exception is bounties on fugitives or criminals, which are almost universally recognized.
- “Has a specific incident in your background pushed you to respect or rebel against authority?” Rebel, apparently.
- Religion: Our gods failed us. We left them behind.
- “What is your relationship to religion?” None.
- Mysticism: Mystical powers are wielded by those rare folk we call gifted. The miraculous abilities are a product of: Evolutionary mutations?
- Well I’m just going to steal “The Force” straight out of Star Wars. We can call it “The Way” (ala Evil Hat’s Scum & Villainy) or whatever. I might leave that to an Oracle prompt. Anyway, I imagine people who are gifted are just born with it or not. Few people are.
- “If mysticism is an aspect of your setting, how does your character and their culture view these unnatural abilities?” Shall I quote an influential person on this matter: “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid”
- Communication and Data: Information is life. We rely on an clan of spacebound couriers–the Heralds–to transport messages and data across the vast distances between settlements.
- This is a setting conceit ripped straight from Traveller and it is one I can easily wrap my head around. Information moves at the speed of FTL travel. It provides some wiggle room for stale information.
- Medicine: The Menders are an order of sworn healers who preserve our medical knowledge and train new generations of caregivers.
- Ugh, I’m not sure about this one. I didn’t like any of the choices really. Give me a Medical Droid and a Bacta Tank and I’m good to go. Anyway, I’m going to try the prompt I chose and see how the oracles influence it.
- “Do you bear any notable scars or prosthetics?” Do I? I ask the Oracle - 61: (50/50) “yes.” Ok, so what is it? I ask for a Descriptor/Focus and get: “Abundant/Device”. Device sounds to me like some sort of augmentation. So how about a simple 1d6 oracle: Hand, Arm, Leg, Foot, Eye, Ear: 1d6: . Ok, I’ve got a augmented leg. I have to admit that I’ve never roleplayed much “cyberpunk” with an augmentation theme because it seems like an area of ableism I don’t feel comfortable with but we’ll just roll with this. If I was cool I’d run the Starforged equivalent of the “D&D Combat Wheelchair” but I’m not cool. I figure the character lost their leg and it has been replaced with a “Luke’s mechanical hand, boy that looks like a regular hand” version. There could certainly be complications with the technology though.
- Artificial Intelligence: The vestiges of our advanced machine intelligence is coveted and wielded by those in power.
- I changed my thoughts here from my previous assumptions based on a previous choice about the importance of a few powerful clans. It makes more sense to me now that this technology is limited, probably fought over.
- War: War never ends. Talented weaponsmiths and shipwrights craft deadly tools of destruction. The largest clans wield powerful fleets and hordes of planetside troops.
- “Have you fought in any wars?” Oracle says… 11: (Likely) “no” and we asked for an Action+Theme I got “Protect Disaster.” Maybe I was involved in some fashion but in a defensive capacity and the relevant war(s) never came.
- Precursors: An advanced spacefaring empire, what we call the Ascendancy, once ruled the entirety of the Forge.
- Ok, I changed my answer again given some rethinking - particularly with the disabled jumpgate. To have built such a gate would have required some pretty advance tech that doesn’t really exist in a working, widely available state in The Forge. Possibly the Ascendancy had started to colonize The Forge but stopped ages ago for some reason.
- “Have you had any notable encounters with precursor ruins, relics, or tech?” 96: (Unlikely) “yes”. A check on Descriptor/Focus tells me “Rich/Installation.” Maybe I’m a scavenger. I’ll need to think on this a bit as it is a wrinkle I had not considered.
- Lifeforms: The Forge is a chaotic galaxy, but life has found a way.
- Essentia: Some may weave wild tales of encounters with strange beings, but we cannot deny an inescapable truth. We are alone.
- There’s wiggle room for this prompt to be “untrue” through play and that’s fine with me.
- Horrors: Put enough alcohol in a spacer, and they’ll tell you stories of ghost ships crewed by vengeful undead. It’s nonsense.
- This is not an area of gameplay I intend to explore but I guess I’m willing to have my mind changed through play.
This went much better than my first time through. The writing is clearer and the choices seem more purposeful in some ways.
I’m very much used to the “random chaos sandbox” nature that comes from relying on GM Emulators/Oracles - so if it pains you to watch me defer to random chance as to what my character will be I apologize but trust me when I say the fun in all this (for me) is embracing that chaos.
The nice thing about Ironsworn’s system is nothing will break if you ignore components of the setting as the game wraps itself around the fiction you create. There is a post-apocalypse tone to some of the prompts in the Truths material I was not inspired by but I think if you step back from those statements you can reshape them in your own image.
I found going through the truths section deeply rewarding as it did make me think carefully about where to set certain setting dials and that’s the goal of this material. It is an excellent part of Ironsworn’s “first run” experience - out of the gate the game challenges you to think carefully about the fiction you are going to create. I’m happy Starforged has embraced this part of Ironsworn and I like that the Truths exercise feels more open and richly defined than the original game’s version.
Into the Void, Season 1, Episode 3
Previously on Into the Void: Phoebe’s modifications of the scout ship have led to a few incidents that caused Rubin to question their safety but Phoebe pulled rank and Rubin fell inline. Later while restowing fallen cargo due to mechanical issues when exiting jumpspace, Rubin discovered a crate of unstable Way crystals that could be used as an improvised explosive device.
Jumpspace, Leg 2 of 2 to the Gamma System
- On-Board Event: Typical trip, with highs and lows.
- Avoid Bad Crew Reaction Throw 8+: (6,6)+0 = 12
- Ship Encounter exiting Jumpspace: None
“And that’s how you win Olinka, BAM.” Rubin slams down his assortment of “stones”.
“Yes, Rubin. Well done. The student has become the master.” says Turick.
“I’m still not sure I understand why the light stones have to be knocked out of the ring but that was fun. I need to go prep for arrival.” Phoebe turns and makes her way back to the bridge.
“Have you reconsidered your intention to misuse the crystals?” Turick asks Rubin.
“Misuse… I mean they are weapons are not? I’d think we are using them as described in the manual.”
“They are not inherently weapons. You may cause the loss of innocent life with your plans. I am urging you to rethink the matter.”
“Turick, our new government is sending people needlessly to a war they have manufactured. They were enslaving your people. The innocents are already caught up in this mess.”
“There is always another path.”
“Take it up with the commander.”
Ariving Dust, Gamma System
- Ship Encounter approaching Dust: None
- Dust Starport Encounter: Find a great hang-out/bar/cafe/restaurant at the port. Perfect for hiding away, making deals or wooing someone.
- Cantina Encounter: Group of rowdy off-duty starport employees antagonize patrons
- Meet an old friend: Success!
- Contact (Person of Interest): Sepp Eporr
- Motive: Hatred, to ruin and destroy a hated enemy
- Capability: Money, being able to buy off problems (Source: Family, who provide it to the NPC)
- Opportunity: An opportunity that was supposed to go to them has been withdrawn due to their persecutors
- Connection: Past deeds
- Visual Trait: Missing a hand or arm
- Initial Interaction: Suspicious or wary of the PCs
- General Interaction: Talks about the place they’re meeting at
- Patron Mission: Spy on a Location, Target: Money or Bonds
“I like the grub here, the Axel Fries are a treat.” says a large, bulky Cthoni who has a noticeably robotic hand and a distinctive set of tentacles that undulate from their chin.”
“Thanks for meeting with us, Sepp. We haven’t uh seen you since…” says Phoebe before being cut-off by Rubin.
“…those delivery runs to Dagles! What a hoot! Good times.”
“Yes, that’s where I lost my hand. Very touching of you to remember.”
Phoebe nudges herself back into the front of the conversation “Yes. That was unfortunate, though I imagine that one is a bit of an upgrade right?”
“I don’t have problems opening jars anymore.”
“Well good, there you go.” interjects Rubin once more.
“Rubin, get us a round why don’t you.” Phoebe slides him some cred sticks.
“How can I help you, Phoebe? You know I’m not really connected to the courier world anymore, I doubt I can be of much use to you.”
“Well, neither are we. It is possible we’re here with a stolen Magnan courier ship and a couple of AWOL labels on our IDents.”
Sepp leans forward “Shit, Phoebe. What happened?”
“The new Prime Minister? What do they have to do with you?”
“They are running a scam right out of the Primum Palace. The war with the Novorians is a setup. It is a branding cash grab for their nested tangle of family businesses.”
“Doesn’t really seem like a matter for a courier, Phoebe.”
“They conscripted Rubin into the Army. Our last scout mission went sideways and we were helped out by someone who has been persecuted by the Magnans… surely you can appreciate that?”
Sepp nods and lowers his head. “I just lost a contract with someone who had disparaged the Octonoriat. Folks in the Dust do not appreciate the old ways.”
“Maybe we can help each other out? Rubin and I need some credit flow.”
“Possibly. I would like to return… a favor… to the one who has shamed my Gods. Perhaps you can help me fill in some of the blanks on their place of business.”
Sepp punches a few details into his data pad, removes a data stick, and slides it over.
“Thanks. We’ll be in touch. Speaking of which… where’s…” Phoebe trails off and she sees Rubin in a heated argument with a table of Starport cargo dock workers.
“You’ll have to keep him inline if you are going to make it out here.” Sepp says to Phoebe.
“Yeah, yeah yeah. Shit. It was nice catching up.”
“Sure, any excuse for fries.”
Into the Void, Season 1, Episode 2
Previously on Into the Void: Phoebe led an engineering effort to disable tracking devices on their scout ship so that her and fellow crew member Rubin could defect from the Magnan Empire.
- Ship Encounter: None
- Crew Reaction Throw 8+: (6,6)+0 = 12
- On-Board Event: Power failure — several tripped fuses, shuts down power in parts of engineering
“Would it help if I got out and pushed?” quips Rubin.
“Shut-up.” says an annoyed Phoebe.
“Is it possible that when you re-routed around the quantum core you crippled the jump drive?”
“I may… have overcharged the particles. Look, why don’t you go play a game with Turick.”
“Yeah, why not. As luck would have it, we are so far into the void of nothingness there’s very little traffic out here.”
“Turick, buddy. You know how to play Burst? Oh, well from the face you are shooting me that’s a no. Do you know any card games?” Rubin wonders if Turick has ever had a moment of fun in his life.
“I can teach you how to play Olinka. Are there perhaps something like stones onboard?”
Rubin fetches a few things that pass as stones, mostly assorted replacement bearings. The two play a game that resembles something like “marbles.”
“This is cool, is the main jam on Lavene?” asks Rubin.
“It is a story about our history. Lavene was not always where it is now, it has moved across the galaxy.”
“I’m going to stop you there and teach you how planets orbit their suns.”
“I understand that concept but the legends say Lavene was not always orbiting the same suns.”
“Right. Well that’s kookydooks but it is a good to have a legend.”
Jumpspace, Leg 1 of 2 to the Gamma System
- Crew Reaction Throw 8+: (4,3)+0 = 7
- Stubborn. A choice has been made and the PC does not like it. They refuse to co-operate unless things are changed. This may not be the result of a large ego, but a passionate belief, a sense of safety or moral duty. It all depends on the current situation.
- On-Board Event: Cargo containers have shifted due to grav compensator malfunction. Need re-setting.
- Plan: Phoebe’s Jack-of-all-Trades-3 skill allows her to be suitable to just about any plan if not particularly skilled. She’s going to pull rank and let Rubin know that under no uncertain terms will they be reversing the work done to disable the Magnan tracking systems. It is a “solid” plan and not dangerous. No other modifiers are appropriate.
- The Plan succeed (2d6: [6, 3] = 9) and there was a good consequence. Suggested consequence: Find a useful or valuable piece of kit
As the scout ship exits jumpspace there is a large shudder and all manner of items fall from their overhead storage berths.
“Phoebe, I think we need to consider … undoing your handywork with the quantum core? It seems to be causing problems and one of these jumps we’ll just end up somewhere unpleasant, or dead. Do you want to die, is that it?”
“Rubin we are not undoing the work. We’ll keep figuring out how to make it work but if unless you want to follow another commander’s orders you’ll follow mine. Stow that loose cargo and prepare for our next jump.”
Rubin sighs and nods. It is much less than the expected salute in such a situation but Phoebe chooses not to press the issue.
“Uh, Pheebs?” yells Rubin “Why are we carrying this massive box of energized crystals? And why are they vibrating?”
Phoebe walks back to the cargo hold and Turick joins the two as the conversation has piqued his curiosity.
“Where did you find those?” asks Turrick.
“Do you know what they are? Do you finally know the answer to something I don’t?” says Rubin.
“Those crystals are infused with Way energy. Something has positively charged them and they are excited.” Turrick responds.
“Excited? Like, what they are dancing for joy?”
“Rubin, we must have picked those up on Tiverete. That spooky ass volcano world. We were delivering personal packages to the excavation crew and that box was supposed to contain their letters for their families back home.” Phoebe interjects.
“Interesting. If left to the wrong hands they can be highly destructive.” notes Turick.
“Like, what they explode?” asks Rubin.
“Yes, if you were to hit them with a plasma blast in this raw excited state they’ll cause a explosion that would level anything for miles.” Turrick says as he kneels down and waves his hand over the crystals. They begin to settle down.
“That changes things.” Phoebe says as she walks back to the bridge.
Into the Void, Season 1, Episode 1
- Phoebe Emtia, Magnan Scout Pilot
- Rubin Alpha, Magnan Scout Courier
- Turick Chi, Lavevean Wilder
A solo roleplaying campaign using SOLO, published by Zozer Games and written by Paul Elliott. The setting is based on Somnium Void, published by Trollish Delver Games and written by Scott Malthouse. Additional solo roleplaying tools from Tana Pigeon of Word Mill Games.
Dirtside on Laveve in the Isedmale System
- We start “In Medias Res” as SOLO recommends. A botched courier job due to local complications means the crew has to get off-planet and fast. Local gang members are looking for their ship after it was used to rescue a crew member. Complicating matters, one of the crew members, Rubin, has been ordered to return home to Magna and enlist in the army by the newly appointed Prime Minister. But the crew has learned information that puts the new Magnan government in a bad light and Rubin does not want to join their expanding war effort. Instead, the crew plans to defect and find some way to remove the new leadership from power.
- Plan: Before our crew takes off, they want to override the electronics on their courier scout vessel, so they can avoid being tracked and controlled by the Magnan Empire whom they are defecting from.
- Phoebe and Rubin are both experienced with electronics and this has been “their” ship for sometime I figure. They are not under attack but they are under threat of being found by the local gang. So their plan is “shaky” and dangerous. They bring “significant skill” to the table but not any particularly useful piece of kit.
- The Plan succeed (2d6+1: [4, 5]+1 = 10) and there was a good consequence.
- Suggested consequence: Make a Contact or friend
Two figures are working on the innards of spaceships. Tools hit the metal floor with a clank, occasionally an electrical spark flares out from the ship’s panels, and the two figures are having a lively argument.
“Phoebe, no… no… we need to reverse the auxiliary comm-spool first.”
“Rubin, I know this ship. She’s my baby. I’m going to isolate the quantum core first otherwise we’ll blow the comms systems’ capacitors.”
More sparks but this time the lights go out.
“Ahh, you were right! This is better because when they board us they’ll trip over something and knock themselves out.” quips Rubin.
“If you’d like to stay on world and hide, I’ll happily let you off the ship. Now I’ve confined the quantum core and if I just…” The lights flicker back on.
“Well, then we should get this grease off of us. Wanna shower?” says a half-joking Rubin.
“Gross. I’m good, thanks. I’m going to calibrate the quantum cells and then patch the sensor back in.”
- Onboard Event: Injury, Who? 1d3:  Rubin
- Tell me more (Situation): “We’re good.”
- Avoid Bad Crew Reaction Throw 8+: (4,4) = 8
“Feeling better, Rubin?” says Phoebe who looks up from a computer screen.
Rubin, is wearing an orange courier jacket and blue pants with a grey stripe running down the side.
“Yeah… fine.” Rubin rubs his hands over his face and feels the spot where he cut himself shaving. He stares out one of the ship’s windows and takes in the barren desert landscape that surrounds them.
“I think I found us a route back to the Gamma System that should avoid any Sketh patrols.”
“Yeah, we might find some allies there. It is worth trying, don’t you think?”
“Ok. That’s not a bad idea.”
Rubin paces around the bridge. “Where’s Turick? Meditating? Counting beads?”
“I think he’s in his room.”
Phoebe moves to take over the ship’s steering controls. Rubin wanders back to the crew quarters and looks in on Turick.
“Ever been to Dust?” asks Rubin.
“A planet? I am not familiar with it.” Turick says softly.
“It is like here, only wilder. You said you never met a Sketh, huh?” wonders Rubin.
“No, I would remember meeting a alien like the one you described.”
“Well, they run the Gamma System but they’ve turned a blind eye to Dust. There’s a few Sketh there… crime bosses and the like.”
“You have friends on Dust? Friends, that can help?”
“A few between me and Pheebs. We can buy some time there until we figure out what we are dealing with.”
The ship rumbles slightly as it takes off. Outside the ship, as the dust clears away, it is notable that the hull has no official markings on it.
Log Entry for 65-18440-1400 by Isolde Tolla
The war has brought such chaos to the daily routine that it is hard to put my thoughts down.
Communication freight service is almost non-existent at this point. I do wonder if they’ll force us to evacuate our station in the near future.
We had a Scout ship dock who were about to head out to map a moon for a new military installation. There was a researcher in their party that I fancied but he didn’t seem interested in me.
Log Entry for 65-18286-6000 by Isolde Tolla
It is not easy to write up what happened today. Passenger belongings, bodies, and containers drifted close enough to the station today that it was visible from the viewing areas. Commander Vinzenz tells me the wreckage of a large 600 ton passenger was located in sector. The military has begun constructing their own orbital base of operations as they were stretching our capabilities. Some of my crew have not experienced being on the front-lines of a conflict such as this. The piracy has increased to such a level though that it is clear they must have access to the resources of much more powerful ally than their own efforts could generate.
Log Entry for 65-18280-5520 by Isolde Tolla
The military presence continues to increase and tensions amongst the local denizens are rising. I hear tales of captains being intensely questioned about where they’ve been and where they are going. The last military ship that docked had a squad in the brig for insubordination - rumor has it they didn’t want to seize food & medicine cargo from a freetrader. At least amongst our own crew, tempers have stabilized and work is getting done.
Log Entry for 65-18262-6300 by Isolde Tolla
A rare lull in berthings lately. Perhaps the increased piracy and the hostage situation the other day is taking a toll on business. The downtime is impacting us in odd ways. Bernie and I had a quite fight over the equipment budget. It was implied that I cared more about the bottom line than safety. Jarmil intervened and at least saved us from embarrassing ourselves any further in front of the crew.
Log Entry for 65-18208-1740 by Isolde Tolla
A passenger took hostages aboard a starliner. We tried to assist with deescalating the situation but utimately the local planetary navy had to come in to neutralize the hostage taker. I passed Viola who was shaken up over the body of a hostage she found on board while performing triage. Commander Vinzenz was very professional in the matter. We had a good open line of communication and the Commander encouraged me to work with him directly if we need future assistance.
Log Entry for 65-18210-6040 by Isolde Tolla
Still not 100% myself and the additional rest I require means I’m failing behind on keeping up with the goings-on. An express courier’s computer core failed in route to Amate. On board were “confidential files” destined for local authorities. It was a delicate negotiation convincing them to allow our crews to assist in repairs.
Log Entry for 65-18203-7580 by Isolde Tolla
I woke up last night feeling very ill and admittedly went into a panic. Jarmil was able to stabilize me but I’ve spent the day in the infirmary anxiously trying to keep up with the goings on around the station. Viola, a medical technician here, has been very attentive to my needs. She’s a warm soul and we’ve enjoyed a few chats over a cup of tea.
Bernie’s crew had to help make repairs on a passenger liner. The summary makes the effort look like a walk in the park but I’m sure there were complications no one is telling me about.
Log Entry for 65-18187-6120 by Isolde Tolla
I had to pull Pauline off duty for a bit. She lost her mother recently and found solace in the bottle. I’ve been counciling her as best I can but it has taken time to gain her trust in this matter. Initially she treated me like everyone else - she blew me off. Perhaps she thought I was just another person trying to offer their condolences but not really there to listen.
The Lucky Serpent was back in port today and I’m beginning to think the ship carries a curse. This time her doctor was ill, as were several other crew members. Jarmil, our head of medicine, was successful in stablizing their doctor but was unable to keep one of their crew from succumbing to the fever.
Log Entry for 65-18183-2920 by Isolde Tolla
I was grabbing a drink at the Voyager when I overhead the crew of the Seven Stars trying to negotiate a deal for their ivory haul. It is digusting that the ivory trade is still allowed in this sector. I might have stuck my nose in their business but with the heavy military patrols it is not worth the trouble I’ll stir up with Wu-Ketai’s name on the line. There’s been an increased pirate presence of late and the United Authority responded by adding a number of patrol craft to our system. The upside is that the berthings are up and the usuals are still making their runs - even if the increased checks are slowing down trade somewhat.
Log Entry for 65-18148-4800 by Isolde Tolla
Quite the dust up today with the Lucky Serpent, a large cargo transport that was hiding a bunch of refugees in their hold. One of the refugees stole something from another and a ruckus broke out. Word got back to me and I knew we had some excess food bars for the month - content stomachs make everyone happier. The offer of food calmed the hostilities and we were able to convince them to process for official asylum on Amate. I’ve pulled some stings to ensure they are given a fair shake but now I owe a few favors.
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