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:  = Even strength battle. Ship type - 1-3: Talon, 4-5: Gladius, 6: Demon 1d6:  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:  = 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: [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:
- Bad consequence table (+1 because the scene was a success) 1d6: 2+1 = 3: “A crew member suffers a light injury” -1 Kell’s Health (and, rules-as-written, there’s also a movement penalty but we’ll just handle that narratively if necessary)
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
- Bad consequence table (+1 success): 1d6+1: +1 = 7: “The crew gains a rival NPC” - Perhaps Kell was a bit sloppy with transponder hacking after all - I think the Retros can trace this back to Kell and they’ll put 2+2 together and assume he also is responsible for the loss of their recon pilot. He’s a known entity to the Retros now.
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: ) 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:  = 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.
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.