Category Archives: News & Reviews

Ghost Ops QS & One Page Solo

This is a sort of double play test as I was using the One Page Solo Engine that I talked about last time, specifically the Fudge version I wrote in Javascript, to play test the adventure provided by Ghost Ops RPG Quick Start.

This was also my first encounter with Fudge and to support my weekend I downloaded the 1995 Fudge rules from http://www.fudgerpg.com.

Part One

So lets start with Ghost Ops specifically. The game works really well! There are a few editorial issues with the quick start rules but the beauty of modern PDF publishing is that these could be fixed and the PDFs updated in no time. I am not worried about those as I am sure they will be fixed.

The Fudge rules I have makes a point of using words rather than numbers for the difficulty factors and player attributes. The actual wording says “It [Fudge] also uses words rather than numbers to describe character traits.” The claim is that “Fudge’s descriptive nature makes ideal it for novice players.” I am not a novice and I detest the adjective based difficulty levels. I am pleased to say that Ghost Ops leans much more towards Target Numbers rather than difficulty descriptions for example to quote the sample mission “There is roof access and it would be easy to rappel down the building from the roof (TN 3).” In pure fudge I guess that would have been an Average challenge or something like that. Ghost Ops does have the descriptions and specifies ten levels from Easy TN1 to Mythic TN10.  For me rolling the dice, adding my skill and trying to beat a target number makes perfect sense and I am comfortable with that.

There are 13 skills in Ghost Ops and they are the way I like them, suitably broad that a single skill is used for all related tasks, one skill covers picking locks, disabling traps and bomb disposal. There are enough skills to need a balanced team to get a good coverage of the skills and the individual skill abilities differentiate characters even further. Over all the combination of pools, skills,  abilities and talents means that characters can be as unique as you could possibly want.

Character creation (in the full quick start book) is really quick and easy and is all choice based, no dice rolling needed. The source material is really cool, describing the SAS, Delta Force and a few other special forces units as your starting point.

Combat is quick and easy. In the play test the first half of the mission I was dealing with mainly innocents and tested the unarmed combat. At the end of the mission it was a lot more Frank Castle (Marvel’s Punisher/Netflix) and the body’s soon mounted up.

I never thought I would play a Fudge (or Fate) game and enjoy it but after this weekend I am a convert. I will be using Ghost Ops as the yard to measure all others against.

I am really looking forward to July when the full game is due to be released.

Part Two

The One Page Solo Engine performed extremely well. I don’t want to give any of the mission details away but at one point I was making my way stealthily up an access stair way when the solo engine prompted guards would be coming down, ducking out a fire exit there was another guard out there. Having avoided them and got to the right floor the solo engine was a bit kinder and the mission progressed. Trying to make my way out after completing the task Not only were there security guards on the roof but they were also fully aware of me coming up the stairs, cue yet another encounter.

Looking for a safe side of the building to rappel down to get away I asked the question “Is there anyone in the street below?” The “Yes and…” result, given that all the security and fire alarms in the building were blaring, suggested that not only was the street occupied but the police and fire services would be screaming into the street.

This is the sort of thing that you just have to go along with when you are using a solo engine. The mission went rather off piste for a while but that allowed the solo engine create a range of threats and challenges. The javascript plus dice roller together in the same window make running the solo game really easy and the solo engine almost became invisible. By comparison the paper version required multiple dice rolls for most questions and table look ups. It is a lot more imposing than my version.

People new to solo engines often ask too many questions, not trusting themselves to improvise. In total I only needed to ask eleven questions of the solo engine. For my eleven questions I got four unscheduled encounters any of which could have ended in combat, two new locations and when faced with the the moral dilemma over collateral damage of civilians I learned a lot about by characters moral position. No innocent NPCs were killed during this adventure although several probably had to call in sick the next day.

Over all the solo engine was a great success and it is now my engine of choice. I have saved it to my phone and as it works entirely locally it even works in flight mode so long plane journeys are now even easier!

Part Three

Fudge… The 1995 Fudge rules are certainly not to my taste. Ghost Ops was described to me as ‘leaning towards Fudge’. While I agree the dice and the skill resolution mechanics are defintely Fudge-like the implementation is much grittier than Fudge and comes across as more empirical. I think Target Numbers do that where as Good or Great sound a bit fluffy or fuzzy.

What this has done though is make me want to look at other Fudge games. I may not get on with the original implementation of the rules but I can no longer tar derived games with the same brush.

This has been a really enjoyable and educational weekend.

First Look Ghost Ops RPG

Ghost Ops RPG by FeralGamersInc is available as a free quick start document. You get an overview of the fudge system, five pregen characters (called Operators) , and overview of the combat system, equipment and a GMs section with introductory adventure.

I have no love of the Fudge/Fate system but this book caught my eye. Some of my dislike about the FATE system is partly down the the whole negotiated world aspect. Call me old fashioned but I still feel most comfortable when I, as GM, build the world, tailor the professions, skills and or magic to reinforce that game world and present the world to the players for them to explore and adventure in. The negotiated world aspect feels like it is robbing me of that particular pleasure I get from writing adventures and prepping sessions.

With Ghost Ops takes that objection and throws it out of the window. The game world is our world immediately following the attack in the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. There is nothing fuzzy about that.

The players play the ‘special forces’ on missions I get to plan. They are soldiers or from law enforcement agencies and they will damn well take orders(!), there is nothing fuzzy about that.

This is the first time I have actually looked at a FATE based game and wanted to finish reading the rule book. This quick start is 62 pages and I flew through it. There is a lot of good in here but a couple of negatives as well.

+

I love the setting and I think the treatment of it is far better than I thought possible of a fate system.

This is not an Evil Hat Productions game and the overall production quality, page layout, presentation etc. are not up to the same standard.

There are really important rules missing from this quick start booklet. For example there is a paragraph about pools being locked by trauma but no definition of what a pool is.

This may not sound significant but I actually dug out my copy of FATE Core to look up what the pool was because I actually wanted to know. I now believe that the pool is the pool of FATE points that characters start with.

I know that elements like art and page layout are expensive for small indie game producers. FeralGamersInc have been clever with this game. The Quick Start is free and is featured in this week’s RPG newsletter as free product of the week. They also have a $12 upgraded quickstart with character creation rules and a few extras. Then there is the full game. That is a nice stepped entry into a new game. There are typos in the text, the art is not amazing but the treatment of the setting more than makes up for that. So much so that for another project I have blocked a few hours for a solo gaming project and Ghost Ops RPG is going to be the game system I am going to use. This will be my first attempt at playing a FATE game. That is something I never thought I was ever going to say!

So the conclusion of my first look is that this is the best FATE based game I have ever read.

I will try and report back after the weekend.

EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that Ghost Ops is, in the authors own words “I think of it as more leaning towards Fudge than Fate”. I had assumed Ghost Ops was Fate based when I saw the copyright acknowledgement to for the FATE Core font on the opening page. This is my mistake. It is still really cool though!

EDIT 2: I really should have linked to the games kickstarter. It is already funded and well into the stretch goals but I guess every extra helps.

Star Fighter – Fourth Wish Games

Star Fighter by Lucas Jones, Forth Wish Games, is a fast and loose Sci Fi role playing game released in February this year. I am a fan of games that define characters through skills rather than off the shelf professions or character classes. Star Fighter treats everything as a skill so there is mo rolling stats or characteristics. If you want a physically strong character then you take the Might skill, want to be athletic the choose the Athletic skill.

Every character starts with the same number of skills and at the same levels, you simple have to choose what you excel at and what you are weaker in. This makes character generation extremely fast and easy.

There are two aspects of Star Fighter that make it really stand out. The first is skill resolution.

Skill Resolution

Star Fighter uses a dice pool built of d8s and d6s. You roll your pool and if you get at least one 8 then you succeed, no problem. Anything less that an 8 and you start to build up consequences. So, a 7 still succeeds but with a minor consequence and so it goes down from sucesses with consequences and then failures and increasingly serious consequences. Each scene in the characters story has a break point value and as soon as the number of consequences that the characters have accumulated equals or exceeds the break point value then the story takes a turn for the worse. This is rather like the ‘plot twists’ in a GM Emulator or solo engine, only here there is a GM to decide what sort of nastiness to throw at the characters.

The second stand out feature is dice control. In Star Fighter the GM never rolls a dice. Everything is on the hands of the players. If the players want to shoot someone then they roll their attack. if someone wants to shoot them then the player rolls their dodge. If they fail the dodge then they were hit. As GM all you need to keep the story going.

The rulebook in Star Fighter comes across as a labour of love. Lucas Jones obviously loves this game, style of play and genre. It has a lot going for it and I confess that I have taken some bits and intend to roll them into my future gaming.

I am pretty sure my player would not enjoy this but then that says more about them than Star Fighter. If you are a control freak or power gamer then this game is not for you. If you like free wheeling gaming where you can be fairly sure your best laid plans are going to go awry then you can do a lot worse than Star Fighter. The game is a Pay What You Want download on RPGnow and deserves some support in my opinion.