Friday, May 24, 2013

the space travel mini-game

It occurs to me that every science fiction game has a mini-game where the characters navigate the stars and travel to a new destination. This mini-game has only two consequences: getting lost or not surviving. Depending on the system the consequences can be more elaborate than that, but it always comes down to those two outcomes.

Classic Traveller
This is the only RPG which doesn't allow the player to bypass the mini-game by becoming a passenger, because even as a passenger the PCs' lives are at risk. However, this game also has the most simplified use of the PCs' relevant skills since skill level doesn't adjust the difficulty of the rolls involved.
The Navigation and Piloting skills are written in such a way to suggest that if a character has the skill they simply perform their task without a roll being necessary. Navigation is only difficult and requires a roll when the character doesn't have equipment or computers on hand to assist. Divided up by vehicle type, the character is able to pilot less complex craft based on how high the character's most advanced Piloting skill is.
Traveling from one planet to another in the same system is given a Travel Time table, but there appears to be no need to roll dice for this kind of travel. Interstellar travel also doesn't require a Piloting roll, which is noteworthy. However, two rolls must still be made when a starship jumps from one system to another.
The first roll is to determine if the starship malfunctions. If the ship requires engineers then each one that is missing applies a -1 to the roll, other negative modifiers include using unrefined fuel and overdue maintenance. Under optimal conditions, there is no possibility for failure. If a failure does happen then multiple systems can require repairs (each one is rolled for separately), and if life support happens to be one that goes down and doesn't get repaired, everybody's dead. Joy.
The second roll is to get the starship where you want it to go. While you need somebody with the appropriate Piloting skill to make the jump, their level of skill is not used. The roll has two negative modifiers, one for using unrefined fuel (again) and another for trying to cut the jump close to a planetary body. See, in Classic Traveller your jump drive had to be 100 diameters away from the planet in order to jump safely (to get to this distance is also shown on the Travel Time table provided you know the diameter of the planet you're moving away from or jumping to, but the GM surely would know this even if you don't). This is another roll that under ideal conditions has no possibility for failure.
Being a passenger on a ship is relatively easy, unless you want to save money by traveling in the Low Passage bunks, which is essentially suspended animation. This would require a roll to revive the character where they could potentially die if the roll was failed. The roll could be modified by the character's low Endurance score or the presence of a trained medic.

Stars Without Number
Only the Navigation skill is required to set courses within star systems, and no roll is necessary unless some hazard might hamper movement or the pilot is looking for to shortcut the travel time. To jump from system to system a character needs Navigation at a level above basic proficiency and it requires a roll, modified by distance traveled and how old the navigational star charts are. If the pilot wants to shortcut the time this can also increase the difficulty. Failing the roll leads to a random mishap.

This is a difficult rules system to quantify since a GM can houserule so much of it. There are simply too many variables in the GURPS rules to list the requirements for navigating and piloting a starship between systems.
The only science fiction game of GURPS I ever played in was a Star Trek campaign that used a skill-heavy emphasis. The GM of that game required a roll for navigation and a roll for helm, usually the same PC made both rolls. A failure on one roll could result in the ship going someplace we didn't want it to go, and a failure on the other roll could result in a shipboard malfunction. I believe these were custom mishap tables the GM had written.

Star Wars Sage RPG
No skill or roll required to travel from planet to planet, rolls are only required for combat and evasive maneuvers.
Traveling through hyperspace is different, takes a random amount of time modified by the power of the starship's hyperdrive, and requires the Use Computer skill. The difficulty of the check is dependent upon the existence of a navigational computer, access to the HoloNet, and how much time the navigator takes to plot the course. Failure results in a re-roll, if another failure occurs the ship gets randomly damaged and takes twice as long to arrive at the intended destination.

There are rolls required for using a starship in combat, or being involved in a chase, but otherwise starship travel is handwaved. There are no skills and no rolls required to travel from place to place, though there are time restrictions based on how powerful the starship is. There are rules for jumping from system to system, or psionically teleporting, but these don't require rolls, they simply give PCs' penalties upon first arriving at their destination until they orient themselves.

I'm partial to the Classic Traveller method. It's the most difficult to explain, but it's the easiest to use since failure only occurs if you're not operating with a full crew or using poor fuel.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dungeon World playbooks

I made letter-sized playbooks for Dungeon World, similar to Apocalypse World only in that they're printed double-sided and along the short edge of the page. I left plenty of empty space on the second page for changing Bonds around and picking up extra Gear.
And treasure of course!

Click on the pictures to see bigger versions

The pdfs are in color, but as you can see from the pictures they print off into black and white just fine. They're intended to be printed two-sided, divided by the short edge of the paper.

  • the Bard
  • the Cleric, and Cleric spells
  • the Druid
  • the Fighter
  • the Paladin
  • the Ranger
  • the Thief
  • the Wizard, and Wizard spells
  • Moves booklet
  • the Barbarian
  • the Dungeoneer, by Johnstone Metzger
  • Wednesday, May 8, 2013

    a Science Fiction RPG

    I'm working on a science fiction role-playing game heavily influenced by Classic Traveller that uses the Apocalypse World engine. I spent one week writing ideas furiously but now my work has tapered off and I need to organize all of my notes into a single document. This hasn't been going well because as I transfer the notes into a pdf I re-read them and start to worry that the way I've written some things becomes hard to pull off for a character sheet. Consequently my work has slowed. My working title for this game is Tales of Imperial Space, but I would like to go with something simpler (as soon as I think of it). Originally it started as an idea for doing a hard science fiction setting, but now I'm gravitating toward a more pulpy space fantasy kind of game.
    Things that are different from Apocalypse World:
    • characters are slightly weaker, the moves are less comprehensive than the playbook moves of AW (like Monsterhearts)
    • progression is different, I wrote out experience tracks that fill and then reset, I'm thinking that failing a roll will garner experience instead of highlighting stats (like Dungeon World)
    • slight randomization during character creation, since a character can try to go for as long as possible in a service and reenlistment is random (like Classic Traveller)
    • countdown clocks use different "times," I made a countdown clock with 6 equal-in-size segments which leaves the times at 2,4,6,8,10, and 12 instead of 3,6,9,10,11, and 12
    • there is no Weird or psychic maelstrom, instead there is Psi, and it always starts at -2, another reason characters are weaker

    Monday, May 6, 2013

    Everything I have Kickstarted

    A little over a month ago I wrote a summary of all of the games I had contributed to on Kickstarter. One of my friends was curious about all of the non-gaming related things I kickstarted as well, so I'm doing a complete listing now of everything I've given money to on Kickstarter. These projects are listed in the same order that they display on my Kickstarter profile page.

    Because I've funded so many Kickstarters (59 as of this writing), the little color wheel on my Kickstarter page was almost full but not quite. I decided to contribute a single dollar to a few Kickstarters just to fill in the wheel because I am a huge dork and I had $6 to burn. Those are denoted below simply with green words saying "$1 recipient"

    So here's the format:
  • Name of the project is a link to the project but these words are a link to my KS profile: Estimated Delivery: May 2013, brief description of project and whether or not it was delivered on time

  • Torchbearer: Estimated Delivery: September 2013, Burning Wheel + OSR game, also just started
  • TARDIS Eruditorum: Estimated Delivery: November 2013, essays about Doctor Who, as of this writing he's a week from finishing but I expect this to be late because he hit a few stretch goals that he made up after starting the project
  • NUIA eyeCharm: Estimated Delivery: Jul/August 2013, use your eyes to control a Kinect sensor, $1 recipient
  • The Doom That Came to Fiddle Creak: Estimated Delivery: October 2013, a Lovecraft marionette play, $1 recipient
  • The Secret Order of the Black Diamond: Estimated Delivery: June 2013, a not entirely serious secret society in Kansas, $1 recipient
  • America: Witnessed: Estimated Delivery: August 2013, a photography book, $1 recipient
  • NotEqual.: Estimated Delivery: May 2013, avant-garde fashion designer, $1 recipient
  • The Union Project Dance Company: Estimated Delivery: May 2013, dance company needs a space to perform, $1 recipient
  • Small World 2: Estimated Delivery: December 2013, iOS version of board game, on time as far as I know
  • Torment: Tides of Numenera: Estimated Delivery: December 2014, a video game, I will be pleasantly surprised if this arrives on time
  • Deadwood Studios USA: Estimated Delivery: September 2013, deluxe version of old board game, still in progress - no updates since funding ended
  • Achtung! Cthulhu: Estimated Delivery: August 2013, Cthulhu + World War 2 rpg, hit lots of stretch goals but it still looks on schedule
  • Dungeon Roll: Estimated Delivery: August 2013, dungeon delving dice game, appears to be on schedule!
  • Sea Dracula: Judicial Inquest at Gamestorm 2013: Estimated Delivery: March 213, only funded this for the Apocalypse World playbook offered, I got my goods weeks within the project ending!
  • Screamin' Cyn Cyn and the Pons' final EP: Estimated Delivery: July 2013, a local band wants to do one last album before they split up
  • God Hates Astronauts: Estimated Delivery: May 2013, webcomic printed into deluxe graphic novel, exactly on time!
  • Rifftrax wants to Riff Twilight Live in Theaters Nationwide: Estimated Delivery: August 2013, self-explanatory, hopefully on time!
  • The Last Days of Coney Island: Estimated Delivery: May 2013, animated film by Ralph Bakshi, I don't think he understood what "estimated delivery" meant
  • The blue Girl: Estimated Delivery: February 2014, documentary about Susan Oliver, on time as far as I know
  • Alas Vegas: Estimated Delivery: June 2013, weird horror rpg, frequently updates and it seems on time
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess Free RPG Day Adventure: Estimated Delivery: July 2013, self-explanatory, I'd wager money that this will be on time
  • Fate Core: Estimated Delivery: March 2013, got some pdfs but the an rpg book, two months late
  • Tavern Cards: Estimated Delivery: April 2013, a deck of cards + rpg resource, regular progress and updates but still late
  • Ehdrigohr: Estimated Delivery: April 2013, tribal African rpg, slow moving but consistent - still late
  • Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual: Estimated Delivery: June 2013, an OSR rpg book, delivered two months early!
  • Póstumo - The Deck of the Dead: Estimated Delivery: February 2013, a deck of cards with zombie iconography, delivered two months late
  • "The Goon" movie: Estimated Delivery: December 2012, a movie based on a comic book, I got my rewards on time
  • Spears of the Dawn: Estimated Delivery: March 2013, an African-inspired OSR rpg, was delivered 2 months early!!
  • The Art of Brom: Estimated Delivery: June 2013, a book of Brom's artwork, looks on schedule
  • The Power Principle: Estimated Delivery: September 2012, 1st issue of a self-published comic book, on time
  • Horror on the Orient Express: Estimated Delivery: August 2013, Call of Cthulhu rpg scenario, they might be late but I'm not too worried
  • Bos Meadery: Estimated Delivery: September 2012, local business, on time and so far they've been very successful - GOOD MEAD!
  • Numenera: Estimated Delivery: July 2013, a new rpg from Monte Cook, if this gets delayed it will still release this year
  • +5 Food of Eating Cookbook: Estimated Delivery: September 2012, gamer-themed cookbook, inexcusably late
  • Axes and Anvils: Estimated Delivery: November 2012, a dwarf-obsessed rpg, I will be surprised if this ever gets delivered
  • Black Moth Super Rainbow, Cobra Juicy album: Estimated Delivery: October 2012, self-explanatory, everything was either early or on time
  • CLANG: Estimated Delivery: February 2013, Neal Stephenson's swordfighting video game, I only funded this to support the work but I think they could have gone through an established game studio for assistance
  • The Horror in Clay: Estimated Delivery: October 2012, a Cthulhu tiki mug, it was a little late
  • Champions of ZED: Estimated Delivery: August 2012, an OSR rpg, updates are few and far between but he's got a rough draft... whoop dee doo
  • Drifter: A Space Trading Game: Estimated Delivery: November 2012, a video game, 6 months late and there's a "beta" build for the game
  • Our Last Best Hope: Estimated Delivery: August 2012, GM-less rpg about saving the world, delivered late but I have it and for some reason still haven't played it yet
  • Amanda Palmer: record, art book, and tour: Estimated Delivery: September 2012, self-explanatory, on time and I actually got more than I paid for so her critics can go fuck themselves with razorblade dildos because she treats her supporters well
  • Phil Tippet's "MAD GOD": Estimated Delivery: December 2013, weird apocalyptic animated film, production is moving faster than expected!
  • New Fire: Estimated Delivery: July 2012, an Aztec-inspired rpg, super late but eventually delivered
  • OGRE Designer's Edition: Estimated Delivery: November 2012, a new 6th edition for the OGRE board game, production difficulties and bloated stretch goals have really delayed this game but frequent updates are informative and show that lots of work is being put into the final product
  • Zombicide: Estimated Delivery: September 2012, a zombie board game I liken to Left 4 Dead, delivered super EARLY
  • Nekro: Estimated Delivery: June 2013, a video game whee you play a necromancer, infrequent updates but otherwise seems on time
  • Curse the Darkness: Estimated Delivery: August 2012, a horrific post-apocalyptic rpg, still haven't played it yet (what's wrong with me?!)
  • Shadowrun Returns: Estimated Delivery: January 2013, Shadowrun video game, I always thought their estimated delivery date was optimistic
  • The Banner Saga: Estimated Delivery: November 2012, a combat strategy video game, super late and super disappointed
  • Wasteland 2: Estimated Delivery: October 2013, post-apocalyptic video game, super excited for this one and it looks like it will be on time
  • Dwimmermount: Estimated Delivery: August 2012, an OSR megadungeon, LATE but it's moving forward again now that James Maliszewski has been divorced from the project
  • This is Not a Conspiracy Theory: Estimated Delivery: December 2013, a multi-part documentary explaining modern politics from the same guy who did Everything is a Remix, appears on schedule
  • Farmageddon: Estimated Delivery: July 2012, a farm-building card game, got it one month late
  • Return of the Deck of the Living Dead: Estimated Delivery: April 2012, zombie-themed deck of cards, delivered two months late
  • Double Fine Adventure: Estimated Delivery: October 2012, Tim Schafer's next video game, like Ralph Bakshi I don't think these guys understood the phrase "estimated delivery" when they set their kickstarter up

    Green delivered on time or early
    Blue not delivered yet but not late either
    Yellow means late but delivered
    Red means late and not yet delivered