Sunday, December 3, 2023
Saturday, September 24, 2022
In this post series, I will be selecting TV shows and movies that pair nicely with different rulesets. I won’t be picking big-budget, well-known series that probably have dedicated rulesets, like Star Wars, Firefly/Serenity, Farscape, or anything in the MCU.
I wanted to start off with an easy one, a TV show is adaptable to many sets of rules.
The Rain is an amazing Danish TV series running 3 seasons. It is available on Netflix and it’s a very quick binge. The Rain’s story is covered in just 20 episodes, which is great for gaming. Once establishing the scenario, the tight episode schedule allows for a great amount of deviation for role play.
The main characters are Rasmus and Simone Andersen, two children who live through an apocalyptic plague carried by the titular Rain by escaping into a secret bunker. Cut off from the world, they live in isolation for 6 years. They are forced out of the bunker by an alarm and are taken captive by Martin, Patrick, Lea, Beatrice, and creepy Jean. Simone turns the tables on the raiders by revealing that there is a network of bunkers full of food and supplies the gang desperately needs.
It soon becomes clear that the raiders are atypical survivors who avoid as much trouble as they can. They live by their wits and their ability to hide. It is rather anticlimactic when the plot reveals a dangerous organization called Apollon that hunts survivors for unknown purposes, making Martin and Patrick’s gang far less dangerous than they seemed in the prior episode. Even Jean who starts off creepy is far, far less threatening than one would imagine.
The technology stays about 5-minutes in the future, with the highest tech items being either drones or one-off 3d printed affairs with little purpose other than to build suspense. The vast majority of the technology revolves around detecting various things and horror-style virology experiments gone wrong.
The series is weapons-lite, where the primary purpose is either defense or mayhem. This is kind of understandable given the possibility that the sky could open up and kill everyone. Marin has a semi-automatic rifle, but no one else bothers to pick up a piece. The scenario puts the rule of 3 in full effect: water, shelter, and food, in that order. Many of the other survivors have weapons but not the skill to use them effectively nor the ability to maintain them. Apollon is a paramilitary group that uses Humvees, body armor, and automatic weapons but is not terribly inclined to use them. The story is more of a cat and mouse game than a post-apocalyptic shoot ‘em up.
In adapting this universe for gameplay, the referee or gamemaster will be crossing off more items than they add to pretty much any ruleset. That makes for quick set-up and low maintenance.
I did notice some odd items that were missing in this series. Of course, cell phones are a thing of the past given that electrical power is not generally available. The same goes for private vehicles due to the total societal collapse. Some characters have bows and arrows. I found it odd that almost no one has a knife, axe, or hatchet. Nothing could be more useful in a survival situation.Cepheus Light edition but literally, any edition will do. The lack of gunplay will increase the character’s survival rate because guns in Traveller are rather… ah, final. Traveller’s skill collection and mechanics are perfect for this sort of cat and mouse thriller but would require some careful choices in character generation.
On the plus side, most of the characters in The Rain are under 30, so straight character generation might not be too off kilter. Simply replace certain items from the tables with more mundane goods. I would urge a referee to modify the tables in advance with goods and resources from the world of The Rain preloaded so players don’t feel cheated.
More than a few of Traveller’s skills are not made for a 5-minute in the future story but by performing the same preplanned swap for other skills is easy. Logistical and basic education skills are king in this sort of world. It is important to let the players know you aren’t taking things from them but substituting a skill that is more appropriate.
Another old ruleset that could work is Top Secret. That game has a good set of skills baked right at character generation. Going light on starting skills mirrors the feel of The Rain’s characters. Many of the main characters have no college education while a handful are “Super Asmodeus” types when it comes to knowledge. Depending on the player’s style and desired characters, you could make a “team level” pool of skill points where the party chooses who to dump points on. Top Secret isn’t set too far in the past, so it’s almost perfect for this TV show’s era. Again, the lack of weapons in the show will merely enhance character survival.
My last pick of rule sets is After the Bomb by Palladium. The reason I place it last is The Megaversal system is so well integrated, it is easier to expand the possibilities than reduce them. Megaversal is a great system but the referee would need to cull a ton of bits to fit with The Rain. While After the Bomb seems a little off-beat for a bunch of plain Jane humans, I have not revealed details of the TV show which make this a sensible choice.
The skill system is robust and sound. There is a total lack of MDC weapons used in The Rain but that doesn’t mean the heroes won’t encounter MDC tough items in the form of vehicles and bunkers and such. I like the hand-to-hand combat system for this sort of survival scenario. Lots of dodging and parrying and pushing, as opposed to city leveling MDC combat.
What I haven’t mentioned in some mysterious events and people in The Rain, so as to avoid spoilers. After the Bomb and Traveller have the best rules to support these things while to my knowledge, Top Secret has none. A savvy referee could probably adapt these issues away while using the strengths of the Top Secret to keep things together.
Now, you may wonder why I haven't suggested other rulesets. The reason for this is simple, three is reasonable AND this is a series where I'll make future pairings of movies and TV shows to game sets. Stay tuned, your favorite game may show up eventually.
Wednesday, November 3, 2021
In my last post, I reviewed Stellagama's Cepheus Light Upgraded. One of the great things about the character generation process is you can take any rolls for characteristics and turn them into a pretty functional character, no matter how bad those rolls are.
My Scholar has the following stats:
|In the fifth term, I tallied a mark|
for the three skills I
was thinking about.
That didn't happen.
In rolling one of each character type, I came across a quirk where something bad happened to a Scholar character that from a storytelling point of view should not have happened. The Scholar was the only character to suffer a significant injury. He lost an arm.
Hmm. How does it happen that a Scholar loses an arm but none of the military types have any significant injury?
That story comes out in the skill generation portion.
I imagined that all 6 characters would be a part of the same crew on a ship. So the Scholar needed some people skills and every other odd skill that a military guy wouldn't have.
I lead with carousing as a homeworld skill. In his first term, I gave him Computers and Medicine and he ended up with +2 to benefits. In the next term, he received Medicine 2 and Animals plus a contact. So far so good. In the third term and subsequent rolls, things got rough. He received another rank of Medicine and Science plus the Liaison 1 skill which was great, but then he was kidnapped and escaped. In the process, he lost an arm.
Then he was kidnapped again. And he gained an enemy, in addition to Investigation. In his fifth term, he picked up a rank in Leadership.
At this point, he got out of the business. Obviously, he was pushing his luck.
He was researching poisonous animals, breeding them for military purposes when he was kidnapped. The Scholar wanted out, so he allowed himself to be bitten by a poisonous lab animal and played dead. Once all eyes were off him, he shot his own arm off to stop the poison from reaching his brain and heart. When the government agents got to him, he was nearly dead but thanks to their quick actions, he survived and picked a government agent contact.
Using his fourth term talent of Investigation, he arranged to be kidnapped from the government agents and vanished off the radar of his prior employers, picking up an enemy.
It's nice when a plan comes together in character generation.
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
(No really, I'll slow down. 52 reviews in 52 weeks is like drinking from a firehose.)
|Title: Cepheus Light Upgraded
Rule Set: Cepheus Engine
Author: Omer Golan-Joel, Richard Hazelwood,
Josh Peters, Robert L. S. Weaver
Publisher: Stellagama Publishing
Pages: 118 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 Gold Stars
Monday, June 14, 2021
I am always a big fan of having realistic details of what is happening around my players to bring them into whatever world they are in. Each of these items is based on real-world technologies and phenomena.
Real lasers are silent unless they hit something. But the power supplies are not. They can sound like a hammer on a metal garbage can. This applies to medical lasers. Talk about making a trip to the auto-doc scary.
Industrial cutting and etching lasers are also loud, but more like a leaf blower because the beam is close to continuous. Again, it is the power supply and the drive required to move it around that is making the sound. This also ties into fashion. Characters messing with realistic lasers should always have goggles. If the tech level is high enough protective contact lenses would work nicely, too.
Since these satellites are in high Earth orbit it only happens once a day. If the satellite was in a lower orbit, it would happen several times a day based on the period of the orbit. This is great for plots involving a bit of mystery on a semi-regular basis, say every 40 minutes but the duration would be much lower, as in a few seconds.
Vacuum cementing is another phenomenon that can either stymie players or give them a power stunt. Two pieces of material will stick together in a hard vacuum as if welded or cemented together just by touching them together. This is a good way to force repairs using little-used skills to free moving parts. Alternatively, it can be used to add protective surfaces to objects to prevent or repair the damage with little or no skill and can use junk as a resource. Astronauts on the moon noticed this happened even to dust.
By the way, lunar dust smells like spent gunpowder or cooked meat, which can be an interesting detail to freak out the players. Why this smell (and taste) occurs is a mystery today. It is transient. Lunar dust doesn't smell like anything on Earth. It could be the release of charged particles or a quick, short-term chemical reaction with water or oxygen. No one knows how or why it happens.
I call another trick "Zinc-Clink". Zinc oxide sensors are used to measure the amount of oxygen around a sensor. If a sensor system gets some other material on it, say soot, it will believe there is no oxygen in the area and refuse to open the door. Again, players will have to resort to little-used or differently used skills to fix the problem. Say Vacc-suit or electronics. It's a handy way to slow the action down or pump up the drama because a hatch or door is misbehaving.
In space missions, these zinc oxide sensors are used to detect damaging oxygen around the sensor, which is counterintuitive. Oxygen in space is bad for some equipment.
I am also a fan of the idea of the Decadal Survey to land really sophisticated machinery in a small nook in the ship. In real life, the Decadal Survey is conducted once every 10 years and asks scientists to come up with very broad science questions to research. In ship terms, these research projects could place new sensors, small power supplies, and/or radios which are separate from the ship's normal operations. Think of it as an emergency lifeline for strange happenings on the ship. The crew would be versed in maintenance functions, so the equipment which is somewhat a "black box" would be understandable to the crew.
One of the more interesting types of research could be atmospheric aerosol tracking, which could enable a ship to use an alternative method to track other ships. GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) was a mission to look for gravitational anomalies (dense, heavy items) on the Earth's surface. In a sci-fi setting, it could locate shipwrecks, crashes, and other hidden items under the surface of a planet while also creating great maps.
Don't forget to put the "science" in science fiction.
Saturday, April 24, 2021
I've got my hands full. A moment ago, I had a gift card. Now I have a reading list.
Sunday, November 1, 2020
For starship and boat weapons, the roll is different. You need to roll 1 or 2 to hit. A pair or more of ones indicates a critical. The player receives a 1d6 per roll based on the tech level of their weapon, up to a maximum of 6d6.
In other parts of the game, there is a standard roll of 1d6 or 2d6, where the character can have pluses and minuses modify the roll. The roll is usually used to determine what of 6 or 12 things happen next not how good you are doing. The evaluation of "good" or "bad" happens as a result of reading a paragraph or two describing an event. Getting in a fight is supposed to be bad, but if you have large party of characters that idea is flipped on it's head because the player can dominate the battlefield. Getting a cool new item is supposed to be good, but if you don't have room for it, it's useless.
The D&D player in me only noticed the standard roll of 1d6 or 2d6 with modifiers and could not conceptualize why giving modifiers to weapons fire does not work. I know, I've tried. It's because those rolls are from a dice pool, a concept that is totally foreign to me.
This is a case of knowing your rule sets and having a great background in games, mechanics and theory helps a lot. I am all about D&D while I find Traveller to be entirely opaque. Traveller fascinates me because I can't figure out how the game master and players use the game mechanics to make great things happen. I've heard of people playing one Traveller campaign for decades, as I have been doing with Star Smuggler. The basic mechanics make that happen.
In D&D, my campaigns fizzle after a few weeks or months because the characters reach a point where the truly fantastic has to happen over and over each session to make the game go. The rules lose their gritty danger as the characters improve. That's baked right into D&D while Traveller has a totally different mindset where it's not likely that your character will mechanically improve at all. They get better and smarter, but everyone is still one blaster shot away from death. It's the psychological threat level that changes, not the characters abilities. It's all in the scope of the story.
This is probably the reason why I've been listening to Safco Cast so much. I am sure most listeners are looking to Jeff Koenig and Bob Loftin Traveller experiences, I am listening for their Gaming experience. It's this whole "new" world of Traveller that fascinates me not for the world itself, but the whole mechanical framework that makes the play happen. In the last episode I listened to, they spoke all about dice pools and it really sorted out some issues I had with Star Smuggler because of my personal experience with D&D. Bob and Jeff are truly enlightening, because of the way they present the Traveller rules while also looking other systems like Cepheus and make great comparisons in how things are done.
Amazing. Why don't you give them a try?
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Ok, in my last post I created a new ship for Star Smuggler, creatively called "The Antelope II". It's twice as big as the original.
Crewing the ship will be a problem as will generating weekly funds to pay for it. In order to dance around these issues, I decided to create a new mechanic for Duke Springer. Duke has a statistic no other character has, Cunning. When playing, you roll 1d6 to generate this value. When replaying the game, it is suggest that you reduce this number if the game was too easy and increase it if the game was too hard.
Since the game already allows a changing value for this Cunning mechanic, I want to use it to rapidly add crewmen. Duke can "purchase" one crewman for a point of Cunning. He cannot spend all of his Cunning on this, he must have at least one Cunning point.
Stats are generated just like retainers, but crewmen are different than retainers. Each crewman has a stake in the ship as opposed to drawing a salary.
Something like Mal and Zoe's relationship where Mal has an idea and Zoe does the tricky work of getting the details right. It also covers a situation like when Simon hired the crew for a heist or when Mal brought Simon (and River) on as crew after they had started their adventures.
EDIT 3 - The comparison doesn't make much sense now.
I haven't even begun to categorize the rules and event changes this would require. But it seems rather workable. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
I unexpectedly have the day off and want to revisit the Star Smuggler Universe. The temptation to reskin the characters as the crew of the Firefly is incredible, but that would take a lot of work. I am stealing some ideas, but not Firefly whole clothe. I have decided to interject some ideas from Traveller into this run through, too.
My understanding of Traveller is super weak, so I am taking some of the larger concepts and ignoring many mechanics. The main idea that I am stealing is weapon mounts are dependent on hull size. I have created a large ship, which I will dub the Antelope II and it's twice as big as a 100 ton ship.
The original Antelope was 100 ton ship with space to carry about 134 CU of goods. Sort of. I seem to get a different number depending on how I count. The Antelope II is 200 ton vessel and has 212 CU of space. That is a multiplier of 1.58 for those keeping score at home.
Since this is Inktober, I wanted to keep the high contrast drawn vibe from the original game. I used GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) to create a new deckplan, staying as close to the original art as I could. It isn't exactly "ink" but it sort of looks like it.
The overly large size will create crewing problems. I'll look at that in my next post.
Thursday, September 3, 2020
Instead of creating a characters, I went right to the ship construction rules. I like them. They make ship construction fun and easy. I came up with an idea and was able to spec it out in short order.
Main Compartment: 335 tons, Engineering: 65 tons.
Bridge: 20 tons
Jump Drive: C
Maneuver Drive: J
Power Planet: J
Computer: 4 (Launch, Target, Jump 1, Maneuver/Evade, Library, Navigation, Generate, ECM.)
Fuel: 120 tons.
Standard Equipment: Laser Turret (1), Lifeboat, One empty hardpoint.
Non-standard Equipment: Nuclear Missiles (10) on two hardpoints.
Even while deviating from the standard rules by adding nuclear missiles, the system works. It even hints at why this ship would survive a couple of wars before being refitted as freighter.
The ship has just enough fuel to make two jumps and maneuver. It's a hotrod with those J type power plants and engines. However, the fuel load is worrisome. You have one jump to the target, one to return home and a good amount of fuel to maneuver. However, if any thing goes wrong it probably can't complete it's mission. Contaminated fuel, a hit to the fuel tank or a bad jump and the ship doesn't hit the target or doesn't come home.
This ship is a dream to fly, but not the best warship. Given that it's supposed to bomb the snot out of planets, it's not the first ship selected for a mission. The Devil Fish is a nuclear deterrent ship which could be displayed and flown but not used before it outlived it's usefulness.
Later, I'll be looking at the civilian freighter version and talk about mechanics.
Monday, August 31, 2020
This freighter version is outfitted with larger fuel tanks which is slightly more practical. The two long beams are where the missiles used to be. In the refit, these long tubes were simply sealed up. The crew calls them "Industrial Accident Site, Port and Starboard", because they lack the funds to put anything in there. It's a long open chamber, completely devoid of any safety features. There is a brass sign with the names of 5 crew members who have been killed and a longer list of names of people merely injured.
While creating the files for this ship, I made a typo that made me think of an interesting crew feature.
Unfortunately, the crew thought he was faking an accent but he wasn't. Instead of logos with a manta ray logo and the name "The Devil Fish" they got a green devil's head and the word "Devilish".
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Evening Fall (Piano) and
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
In this episode, I reminisce about 4 games: D&D, Star Frontiers, Gemstone IV and Traveller. I cover 35+ years of gaming experiences in one podcast. Part of the reason I have been offline for so long was a mash up of getting my lesson plans online for students, my classes at Buffalo State suddenly switching to an online format and the associate PITA from taking finals online.
I hope this format works better than Episode 001 and 000's. It was a pain to record, mostly owing to my new Podcat, Shinobu. She's cute even as she climbs the cables.
Now on to the episode!
Thursday, January 16, 2020
This is an Orion Type ship. I'm tinkering with Inkscape and coming up with ship designs. This one is a Bixby class exploration ship. The difference between battleship and explorer is slight with an Orion class ship.
Typical models are 10 meters across and about a hundred meters long. The long spar from the base to the top is where the payload goes, which I haven drawn yet. The whole ship is over 600 meters long.
Orions don't scale down, period. 10 by 100 meters is an arbitrary limit that one hits if you merely want to fill a spaceship with niceties like a 50-100 kg barber chair just because you might want one.
Typical Orion type ships have HUNDREDS of kiloton nuclear devices used to push the ship forward. This one probably has thousands. The grey area above the orange is the magazine for these propulsion devices. Often, the nuclear device will be deployed by a gun like mechanism through a hole in the pusher plate. That is option 1.
Option 2 is to have the nuclear device mounted on a missile that flies out the sides of the ship and to the target area 30 meters behind the pusher plate. The delivery rate is a leisurely 1 device per 1.1 seconds and one launcher would have the ability to perform this task. However, this ramped up version has 16 launchers, each one capable of launching nukes once a second, plus the gun-like arrangement at the bottom.
Theoretically, this is an unarmed ship. You can read a story about it in action here. The tech level in this story is all over the place, no FTL, but lots of AIs and reefer sleep. The AI is beginning to think about arming itself.
Monday, November 12, 2018
Why not take a look yourself.
I know I will be pouring over this book for days to come. For some odd reason, it isn't even for sale. It's free.
Damn. A mighty big thanks to you Mr. Pearce, you made my day.