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Solitaire Gaming
From the Future


Tales From the Forgotten Moon, Season 1: Sector Building with Stellar Adventures

I recently printed out and spiral bound a copy of Stellar Adventures, the Science Fiction RPG toolkit based on Advanced Fighting Fantasy from Arion Games. The back of this book, starting on pg 112, has a method of building a galactic sector” and each of the star systems within primarily using die-drop a method.

First, I started with procedure for generating the sector. You start by rolling 2d6 to determine the number of stars in the sector, my result was an 8. I then rolled 8 six siders (using a digital dice roller) and got this result:

An image of 8 different six sided dice spread out over a rectangular area. The dice face have results of 6, 5, 5, 4, 2, 2, 2, and 1.

Each die is the position of a star system and the die result is the number of planets that orbit that star.

I used this die drop result with OmniGraffle to generate a vector image that was easier to work with. Following the procedures on pg 113, I measured the distance between each of the dice in inches (rounding down) to determine the distance (presumably this is used to factor in jump difficulty, fuel usage, or time… I’m not sure yet.) The book doesn’t give a Traveller like table to determine whether a route exist or not, it just says to draw lines between neighbouring systems.” I decided to wear my GM hat and made some judgement calls about whether a connection would exist or not.

A star map of 8 different star systems with connecting lines between the stars to show the connecting star routes.

There’s no name generation tables in Stellar Adventures so I’ve turned to my usual collection of tools: a custom system that builds names in the style of the old Elite computer game and a series of phonetic tables from the Wizard of the Coast book Star Wars Galactic Campaign Guide the builds natural sounding Star Wars words.

There’s a die-drop similar procedure for laying out the individual systems. I decided I would start with what I assume is the core systen given its central location, Rylin. Rylin has 5 planets - although it turns out this is really more like 5 stellar objects of note because your die results may determine that it is not a planet but an asteroid or something strange.” Here’s my die drop from the Rylin system:

Five six sided dice are randomly located in a rectangular area. The die faces show a 5, 3, 2, 1, and 1.

Each of these dice is the location” of an object orbiting the star in this system. Results of 1, 2 or 3 will be planets, 4s are Gas Giants, 5s are Asteroids, and 6s are strange” things. Each of these results has their own sub-table you roll on. There’s also a random table for determining if the planet has lifeforms and what type of settlements exist. After working with those procedures I’m left with this map I created in OmniGraffle again:

A system map with a star in the center and 5 stellar objects orbiting the star.

Obviously I’ve used some GM fiat to adjust the positions of things - mostly for readability. Also, here’s the outline of settlements across the various planets:

  • Rylin, Ocean world
    • Anisis Point, Starport
  • Enlid-1 & Enlid-2, Twin ice planets
    • Enciso Town (Enlid-1), Surface outpost
    • Zodai Outpost (Enlid-2), Surface starport
  • Riscornaan, Lifeless tidally locked world
  • Talrinnal, Desert Planet
    • Aoredle Depot, Surface starport
    • Meridian Dock, Space station
  • Duras-1, Asteroid field
    • No known outposts (pirates? smugglers?)

This was a fun exercise. As much as I love Traveller this was way more fun than doing subsector layout although there’s still a certain charm to the Universal World Profile method of generating a planet. In another post I’ll use the Places” procedures on pg. 99 of the book to stat out each of these settlements. That will start to give us a richer picture of their size, technology, society, military presence, and resources.

Homebrewing with Two Hour Wargames

Published February 1, 2023
updates 5150 thw

My hardcopy of the new 5150 New Beginnings Quick Play has arrived. It is the slimmest Two Hour Wargames (THW) title to date and is bound to elicit three responses:

  1. OMG, this is the best thing ever.
  2. Wait, there’s not even Battle Boards anymore?
  3. Cool, more toys.

I’m squarely in camp #3 at this point in my THW play style. I don’t think I’ve played a game of THW that was straight out of a single title - I’m frequently mashing up different bits from the different titles I own. Typically these days I’m pulling what I need from:

  • 5150 No Limits
  • 5150 New Beginnings 2022
  • Future Tales
  • Universal Challenge and Interaction Table (forum freebie)
  • and now 5150 New Beginnings Quick Play

What’s nice about the new Quick Play rules is that they don’t require counters, minis, or maps. What’s also nice about the THW rules is that the mechanics are scalable. What do I mean by that? Well they scale on several axis for me:

  • The way the games typically generate opposition is balanced against the size of your band” or the number of player characters in your party.
  • The mechanics can be scale down to entirely theater of mind or all the way up to a complete tabletop with scenery & miniatures.
  • You can throw out or absorb just about as many rules as your game needs so as long as you keep a few of the core bits that power the game loop (so carefully balancing rules that interact with Decreasing & Increase Rep.)

The core of the Quick Play game is extremely appealing to me because I typically only have time to game in 30 minute or 1 hour bursts. Not enough time to setup a full tabletop and while the Battle Boards are quick, Quick Play is even faster - more gaming.

One thing that has always bugged me about THW games is that the Encounter rules are typically all over the place. Some have layers upon layers of nested rolls, some seem to have a roll high” on a random table approach, while others use the tried & true pass” rolls (roll equal or under Rep.) It requires a lot of repetition to develop mastery and for some titles I’ve played them for years now and I still have to page flip” to remember the proper sequence. For the last few days I’ve experimented with swapping out the Encounters system entirely with the new Mythic Gamemaster Emulator Second Edition scene system. It is working shockingly well. This is the beauty of THWs system - it is extremely friendly to this sorta of hacking.

Starforged: Thoughts on Combat in the Forge

Published December 23, 2022
Ironsworn Starforged RPG design Observation Deck

Starforged: Thoughts on Combat in the Forge

I’ve been playing Starforged again (play reports to come… maybe?) and a couple of things dawned on me. Neither of these is probably an original thought but I can’t say I’ve seen much discussion of them. Perhaps these are helpful framings for people coming over from traditional RPGs.

Progress Tracks as hitpoints

I don’t believe that most RPGs truly use hitpoints as a simulationist measure of an entity’s health. Instead they use them to pace how long a combat scene will last which tells the players how dangerous and involved the combat could be. Ironsworn/Starforge Progress Tracks function the same way but they abstract and obscure some of this (for the better I think.)

One can approximate though about how much damage” (“progress”) one or more enemies can take in a Starforged combat encounter. A Progress Track is 10 boxes and each box can hold up to 4 ticks”. The Rank of the Challenge dictates how many ticks” you can mark in a Progress Track box. When it comes down it then you are looking at the following:

Rank HP
Troublesome 3~
Dangerous 5
Formidable 10
Extreme 20
Epic 40

So in a Dangerous Combat encounter, your foes can resist about 5 progress/harm/hits before you are in a strong position to make the Take Decisive Action move which would end the combat. In Ironsworn/Starforged to complete a progress track” you take the number of completed boxes (all four ticks marked) as a progress score and compare it to two d10 dice results. So if you’ve filled 6 progress boxes and roll a 4 and 6 on your d10s, then you’ve scored a weak hit because your progress score of 6 beats the 4 but not the 6.

Not every mark progress” in a combat has to reflect you pounding on your foe but let’s just work in the abstract as a thought exercise. In Starforged you are most likely to mark progress” once or twice (generally) in a move. So that gives you a feel for combat pacing: Troublesome fights might be over very quickly because a good start might put you both mechanically and fictionally in a position to end the fight on the next move. A Formidable fight is going to take several rounds even if you were marking progress twice per attack.

Initiative and control”

Starforged has an interesting take on what most RPGs would dub initiative” or maybe action order.” You are either in control” or in a bad spot” - you are acting or reacting to what’s happening. I see some push back on this as being not as realistic as my favorite RPG (D&D, etc) but I’m not so sure.

First let’s just establish that I go you go” is maybe one of the least accurate representations of real-world combat ever and yet it is the standard in many RPGs and even wargames because it is easy to referee. Even if you’ve never been in a hands-on combat situation think back to a schoolyard fight. Was it really two people taking turns having blows at each other? Not to my memory. One kid jumped another kid, wailed on them for several rounds (“in control”) and maybe the other kid got a spot of fortune that gave them an opening to move from being in a bad spot” to in control.” Did I watch fights where one kid maintained control the entire time? Heck yes. And certainly in popular fiction there is no sense of balance in combat encounters usually one side maintains the ebb of the flow more strongly than the other.

I think what Starforged offers is a spot on representation of combat - sides that have the a good starting position tend to maintain control until someone plans a decent counterattack or lady luck shines down on the opponent.

What Are Dungeons For?

Published November 10, 2022
game design Observation Deck

A little diversion from space-themed gaming but I promise I’ll tie it back together.

Matt Colville’s What Are Dungeons For? video discusses a number of game design topics framed around thesis that Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition only supports dungeon crawling as wallpaper”.

It is a solid video and while I made the mistake of looking at the comment it appears that Matt’s audience are full of mostly reasonable people who actually watched the video all the way through and digested the jist of his theory. (Matt also may be heavily moderating his comments, if so, kuddos.)

As someone very interested in game design I enjoyed this video and it prompted me to rethink a bit of my solo strategy going forward. Pairing the right game system for not just the right atmosphere or tone, but also my desired outcomes.

I think this is the reason I’ve had the most solitaire success with Starforged and the various 5150 RPG titles. Both do a very good job on the game design side of the house - the mechanics reinforce the designer’s preferred outcomes for your play. With Starforged the goal is to get you to undertake quests, make lasting connections with communities, and explore the unknown. In 5150 the goal is to earn Increasing Rep so you can retire comfortably. You do that by picking up jobs, taking out your opponents (either through interaction or combat), sell cargo, or delivering passengers. Then of course there’s Traveller which has no real reward<->game loop. Playing the game, going on the adventures, playing to find out” - that’s the game and engaging with it is the reward. For me at least I’m finding I need a more focused set of outcomes integrated into the game to enjoy it from the perspective of a solitaire player.

October 2022 Solitare RPG SciFi Update

Published October 25, 2022

This is not an actual play post or a review, just some notes on what’s been going on.

We’ve obviously been light on game play updates of late but much going on behind the scenes.

First, we’ve had a new entry into the solitaire RPG sci-fi game space. Martin Knight, best known for d100 Dungeon”, has released d100 Space. I’ve taken a look and there’s certainly everything in book one” someone might want to undertake a space adventure on their own. Much like d100 Dungeon, d100 Space focuses the action on a single character but there is some notion of having a crew” for your spaceship. The book is well laid out and the rules seem easy to follow but with lot of fiddly bits to play with if you like a little crunch.

In other solitaire RPG news, Two Hour Wargames has added a new 5150 scenario book to their lineup: A Night at the Fights. There’s added bonus that it includes the new Quick Play” tables but there’s no instructions supporting how to use them. I have my usual concerns about content organization with a THW title (why is the Down the Road” tool include from the Usual Suspect title but it refers to page numbers in the core New Beginner Book? Who knows) but the scenario material looks enjoyable.

I was recently alerted to the existence of Pazio’s Starfinder Flip-Tiles”. These are boxes of 6” x 6” gridded squares that you can mix’n’match to build a game map. While I would never tortue myself and play Starfinder these maps look suitably space adventure” generic to me and should work well for anyone wanting to use 15/28mm miniatures or paper standees.”

Meanwhile, my own gaming has been interrupted a bit by some playtesting of other upcoming solo titles. I also see that my Starforged physical assets are on their way, so it is not unthinkable that I’ll be drawn back into playing that wonderful game again.

Starport Scum - Extra Resources

Starport Scum - Extra Resources

Here are three additional resources you can use in your Starport Scum campaigns. (Starport Scum you say? What’s that? Look at my Forgotten Gem” post to see a quick intro to what the game is about.)

Starport Scum Reference Sheet

First, an improved reference sheet for Starport Scum. One sheet, back and front. While there is a reference sheet in the back of the core book I wanted some additional details such as fumble tales, social, & task rules.

This document is shared with the approval of Ivan Sorensen (because it contains text directly from the core rules.)

Starport Scum Revised Job Tables

While I like the jobs in the core rules and Starport Scum Bils to Pay” New Jobs Guide expansion I find the tables are too inconsistent and unorganized for my tastes. Inspired by Shaun Travers 4 Dice SFRPG Tables” style I reorganized the jobs into a more compact and consistent format. Roll 2d6 to select a job table and then roll 4 dice and (in-order) to grab a result from each column. Take the result and use them to build out your job encounter. Entries marked with an asterisk” earn you an additional Fistful of Credits” on top of the starting pay of 1 for all jobs. In addition this includes a new job Courier” which covers your usual things like point-to-point delivery, passengers, smuggling, etc.

I’ve purposely kept things fairly abstract - the idea is to give you prompts as to why you are throwing minis down to battle on the tabletop. I think this is in the spirit of all Nordic Weasel Games titles - we want to have a miniatures battle but also want to have a bit of story too. If you need additional details about your patron there are approximately 100 different RPG supplements (many for Stars Without Number or Traveller) that will give you all the NPC details you need.

Expanded Patron Resources

Starport Scum Flavor Tables

Finally, on my jobs table sometime you might roll up an executive” or bureaucrat.” In these case you might want to know about what type of work the corporation does or how the government functions. Likewise you might also want to know more about the Starport services or the Planet surface. So here’s one page of a bunch of common details you might need to build out a more detailed environment for your Scum battles. Not too much detail, just enough.”

Good Hunting fellow Scummers.

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