Category Archives: RPG

First Look: Strange Stars

Strange Stars by Armchair Planet is a game setting book of a kind you don’t see that often nowadays – it’s system-less. The 32-paged PDF contains a complete space opera universe for you and your friends to play in, with whatever rules you deem fit for the task.

imageThe artwork and layout of the book are top-notch and the artwork has a strong 1970’s vibe. The setting mixes elements from the golden age of space opra with more modern ideas like transhumanism.

You might think that $9.99 might be a bit much for a 32-paged PDF but considering the high quality of the artwork and the cool ideas contained in these pages, the price is more than fair. I included a piece of artwork to the right as an example. I guess it also shows what I meant with “a 1970s vibe”. Zwinkerndes Smiley

What I really love about this little book is that it doesn’t provide you with a complete setting, but with broad strokes of a setting with some details thrown in (like the character in the image above). There’s definitely enough material to get you started, but not enough to choke the GM’s imagination. The “bottom up” approach taken in the book helps to evoke images of a huge universe players can explore – much like throwaway lines like “I made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs” etc. made the original Star Wars feel so much greater.

imageStrange Stars assumes hyperspace gates which allow travel of interstellar distances and the book provides several maps which show how the various systems and sectors are connected. Each of the sectors and planets is described in some detail, so that you have a general idea of how the Strange Stars look like.

The majority of the book gives some information on the various planets, alien species, and interstellar empires of the setting. The emphasis is on “some” here, because no aspect of the setting is fully fledged out, there’s always enough space for your own ideas. The information which is there is often weird, exciting and just plain awesome. Leafing through Strange Stars feels much like watching Star Wars for the first time. Trey Causey, the author of the setting, did an awesome job creating something which just screams “PLAY ME!”.

If you don’t mind that the book doesn’t contain any mechanics, it’s an awesome value even for its rather high price. The artwork contained in the book is definitely worth the money and the setting itself is just awesome with a capital A. Alas the only weak point of the product is the cover artwork. For some reason it just doesn’t look as great though it’s still fine. As far as I know there are at least two books planned by Armchair Planet containing rules for Strange Stars: one for Stars Without Number and another for Fate Core, but I am pretty sure a veteran GM can easily adopt the setting to any system.

P.S.: Strange Stars is currently part of RPGNow’s Science Fiction Month Sale. You can get it for the reduced price of $8.49 now. This deal is valid until the end of the month.

An Elegant System For A More Civilized Age

Most of you probably remember the line “An elegant weapon for a more civilized age” from 1977’s Star Wars. So it’s probably no surprise that this post is about the rules of the original Star Wars roleplaying game by West End Games.

Released back in the late 1980s the game used an updated and modified d6 System which premiered with the Ghostbusters RPG. If you compare it with the later editions of the Star Wars game and other d6 System games you’ll notice quite a few differences. While a lot of people prefer the more recent editions of the game system, I still have a soft spot for the Star Wars 1st Edition rules.

Overall the 1st edition rules were simpler than the 2nd edition rules. 2nd edition not only added the Wild Die (which could lead to some very epic results and as epic failures), but also tweaked scaling, changed movement speeds form dice codes to a fixed value, changed the damage and healing system, and last but not least added Advanced Skills. Do the changes make the system better? Maybe. Do they make the game simpler? Definitely not.

Especially if you’re looking for a fast system which doesn’t get in the way of roleplaying the old 1st edition rules are probably your best choice. I am actually not surprised that the creators of the Heavy Gear d6 conversion chose to model the rules after this system instead of using the more recent d6 Space as a basis (which is pretty close to 2nd Edition Star Wars).

What I’d really like to see is a generic SF RPG modeled after the original Star Wars ruleset. In my opinion it’s closer to what I personally would like to run. Perhaps I’ll have to do the heavy hauling myself one day, if noone else does it. But you never know.

Freebies: Heavy Gear d6

One of my favorite roleplaying games has always been the Star Wars RPG by West End Games. One of the reason why I enjoyed the game so much were the easy rules which could be explained in mere minutes. Creating a character was extremely fast as well. Just pick an appropriate template from the book and add 7D to the skills. Done!

A couple of years back, Eric Gibson, owner of West End Games, released the rules this game was based on under the OGL. The d6 System is now know as Open D6 and many fans of the system have started writing new material for the system. There are even a couple of small press publishers which have released completely new games powered by Open D6.

imageRecently I have been searching the web for fan conversions of popular games and stumbled upon an awesome Heavy Gear d6 conversion. The publisher of Heavy Gear has gratiously allowed Evan Anhorn to use their artwork for his creation, that’s why Heavy Gear d6 almost looks like a commercial product.

The 21-paged PDF contains all the rules needed to run your own campaign, but it probably doesn’t hurt if you have access to another Open D6 rulebook. I recommend picking up D6 Space from RPGNow. The conversion booklet doesn’t contain a lot of background information on the setting, so it probably makes sense to pick up the original Heavy Gear RPG as well.

imageHeavy Gear d6 comes with some tips on how to frame your campaign, an extensive list of equipment, stats for quite a few Heavy Gears, and last but not least with 18 character templates. There are also three supplements already available: Gears of the North, Gears of the South, and Gears of Peace River. Additional supplements are planned and will hopefully released soon.

Heavy Gear d6 looks like a perfect pick up and play game, especially if you’re already familiar with the Heavy Gear setting. Alternatively you can use the conversion booklet as inspiration for your own Sci-Fi mecha game powered by Open D6.