Category Archives: Guest Post

FrontierSpace Actual Play Report

On September 27th DwD Studios released their space opera RPG FrontierSpace. Stargazer’s World already reviewed it. I had the opportunity to use the playtest rules for a one shot session during ZeltCon 2017, the annual gaming convention of the roleplaying club of Biberach, “Palaver”.

Even better – I was invited to take part in a more or less impromptu session a friend of mine ran the following day. But I will come to that later.

I had prepared a short introductory scenario for “Ferne Sterne” (Far Stars), a new setting I am working on so I was not using DwD’s FrontierSpace setting. It was meant as a test whether it worked and whether it was worth developing further.

For the sake of convenience and quick access I had also prepared four Player Characters from two of the four species present in the region – humans and “Rakhaadi” (which actually are the more or less stereotypical Greys). So I only had to create one new alien species for this occasion. This process is covered only briefly in the Player’s Handbook but is included in the Referee’s Handbook in a concise yet comprehensive way.

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Hacking WR&M–A Play Report by Malcolm Coull

A while back Malcolm Coull got in touch with me asking me about the source files for the WR&M character sheets. He had created his own homebrew version of “my little game” and wanted to make some changes to the sheets. Luckily I still found the Indesign sources and made them available to him.

A while later, he let me know about the game he ran using his homebrew game and provided me with his work documents. I immediately thought that this might make a very interesting post, so I asked him to write a guest post for Stargazer’s World where he shares his experiences. He agreed and without further ado, I present to you Martin Coull’s guest post:

“I’m one of those annoying people who can’t pick up a game system or an adventure without thinking ‘hmmm, I don’t like that. Why didn’t they do…?’. Doubly so because, other than a few scenarios in an old D&D campaign, I never *actually* follow through with it. And so the search for the perfect game system goes on, my own Questing Beast of sorts.

I don’t know what made me start leafing through Michael Wolf’s Warrior, Rogue and Mage again either. I’ve long since kicked the D&D habit, and there are very few crunchy games that I can stomach any more, but I’m a Savage Worlds convert, and that can handle most anything I can think of. But here was a compact little game, no classes and levels as such, and most importantly, no D20 mechanic. God how I’ve come to despise that particular polyhedron. But of course, great as it is, I just couldn’t leave it alone. ‘What if it was just a little more like D&D?’ I thought. ‘Going to need a Cleric stat for a start…’. But this time, after checking with the man himself that, yes, messing about with his baby was perfectly fine, I actually did something about it. And so WRM became WRMP; which messes up the WyRM system name, but you can’t win ’em all.

Having made some changes – most superficial like carving up the spell list into two, one for Mage and one for Priest, but some a bit more substantial like adding in an alignment/behaviour system – off I went to my local games club where I’d offered an 8 week stint in their rolling GM program. To be fair, I don’t think the organiser sold it very well as someone referred to it rather dismissively as ‘D&D-lite’, but come the first night I only had 2 sign-ups and just about every other game was full. Nevertheless, the 2 quickly became 3, and over the course of the 2 months, random walk-ups tended to find their way to my table, so by the end we were up 6 – and more importantly, the ones that played once kept coming back. Apart from 1 guy, so I sacrificed his character as a plot device…

Our little homebrew setup of randomly generating a hex island using a dice drop method, and populating some encounters with some random combinations of Story Cubes set the scene, so even with that taking a few hours, as WRM character generation is so quick we were up and playing while most of the other games were still passing round rulebooks. That also was a huge boon when new players appeared as they could be off and running virtually as soon as I’d thought on an in-game entry point for them. I tried to give the characters a mix of things to do, with combat actually being the least common occurrence (like many of my games), but they investigated, snuck around, were diplomatic, picked up herbs and generally did about everything that the skill system offered them. When combat did eventually happen, I’d decided to use the ‘armour soaking damage’ variant, which worked well for plot purposes as otherwise the halfling woodsman might have decapitated a dwarven soldier, and then things might have got messy.

It all worked out in the end, so I took the chance as we wrapped up to solicit some feedback. ‘Great!’ from one player, ‘really like the system’ from another. And ‘any chance we could come back and play a bit more next time?’ sent me home with a warm glow of satisfaction.

From my side of the screen, it was so easy to run. Doing stuff on the fly was a piece of cake, minimal need to even stat things out, with a simple target number system that the players grasped straight away. Some of my changes worked, others didn’t, and I did have a momentary worry about how easy it would be actually damage heavily armoured characters with small weapons (other than via an exploding six on damage), but I can honestly say I was as happy as the players with the end result.

Do I want to tweak it more? Of course! I’m already thinking about a revised spell list, and have added in some religions and a few combat moves for the fighters, but the game ran perfectly well without them, and there is much to be said for NOT adding too many bells and whistles as it’s supposed to be a rules light game. But for something with as low a page count, it packs an awful lot in. And perhaps more than any other game in a similar niche, there appears to be plenty of scope for advancement and character growth – I gave the PC several small ‘bumps’ during the game, but having been a bit miserly with starting attribute points, they were still very manageable by the end, and it was easy to tailor the advances to cut down on anyone just ploughing all their ‘XP’ into the same thing. I also like that the default set up means that characters are decent at their ‘specialty’ from the start, but can still be challenged by more difficult tasks, and yet it is perfectly possible to play a generalist and not feel quickly overwhelmed by rising target numbers, which was another issue I found with later iterations of D20 based games.

It might not be quite perfect, but for a D&D type fantasy game I can’t see me running anything else in future, and includes Savage Worlds.”

Thanks again to Malcolm for sharing his thoughts and experiences. If you have any questions regarding his hack, or any ideas of your own to share, feel free to post in the comments below. As always every comment is highly appreciated.

Traveller: 3rd Party Settings

Michael has already shed some light on the various incarnations of the Traveller rules. The sheer number of different versions can be somewhat overwhelming.
But once you settled for a given ruleset you face an even more daunting task: making yourself and your players familiar with the vast setting of Traveller.
To my experience this is one possible point of failure when the scope of the setting encounters the expecations of the players for the first time.

The official Traveller universe
The official “Third Imperium” setting for Traveller encompasses 11000 star systems, at least six major polities and a plethora of human and alien cultures. Most of those features are deeply rooted in classical science fiction literature of the 60ies to 80ies – but where this might be very rewarding to me – a SciFi nut for more than forty years – there is little to nothing to relate to for a younger prospective player.

Neither Star Wars features strongly in the original Traveller setting nor does Star Trek and those are probably the most popular SciFi franchises around. And who even remembers Firefly or Battlestar Galactica any more? Coming from the “mainstream of pop culture” the sheer bulk of background “stuff” of the Original Traveller Universe (OTU) without easily recognizable features like a mystical knightly order or a benevolent planetary federation often leads to dismissive reactions (tl;dr).

So how to make this game your own?
There is – as always – more than one answer to this question.
Michael asked me to take a look into a couple of Third Party Settings but there are also a couple of DIY approaches like “Proto-Traveller” (Michael already mentioned it before) to adapt Traveller for your own science fiction gaming needs.

The Traveller rules where originally meant to be generic RPG rules for contemporary or futuristic settings and Mongoose themselves willingly provided a handful.

One of the more successful attempts was 2300 AD (meaning it is still around in 2016) which is probably sufficiently known. But since 2300 AD is Mongoose’s in-house Alternate Traveller Universe (ATU) setting these days I won’t cover it here.

As mentioned above there are also a couple of DIY methods but those were not part of Michael’s request und would be beyond the scope of this post.
Then there are those by third party publishers (3PP) like Spica Publishing (Outer Veil), Terra/Sol Games (Twilight Sector), Zozer Games (Orbital 2100) and Gypsy Knights Games (Clement Sector).
This list is neither representative nor complete those are merely the settings that caught my eye one way or another while I was looking for something new since the Spinward Marches and the Solomani Rim as well as the classic era had somehow lost their appeal.

Except for Twilight Sector they all have in common that they are well below the techological level of the “Third Imperium” setting, that there are no (playable) aliens and that Earth and its neighbourhood feature more prominently.

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