Category Archives: RPG

Preview: FrontierSpace Referee’s Handbook

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imageAs I stated in my recent review of the FrontierSpace PHB, FrontierSpace is one of the most exciting releases this year. Even though I have played and even written fantasy roleplaying games before, I am first and foremost a science fiction fan. Unfortunately a lot of SF RPGs out there have been written by designers who love rules. It feels as if crunch and science fiction often come in pairs. Luckily FrontierSpace is an exception. The rules are between rules-light and rules-medium, but there’s definitely enough depth for long campaigns. The referee handbook adds optional rules and various generators to expand your FrontierSpace game and help the GM (or Referee as it’s called in the game) to do their job.

This review is based on a unfinished copy of the RHB provided by DwD Studios. Thanks again, Bill. The 198-paged preview copy lacks a couple of pieces of art but aside from that it should be identical to the finished version. The RHB shares its look and layout with the PHB. The release is probably only a week or two away and like the PHB the RHB should be available both as POD version (soft- or hardcover) and PDF via RPGNow/DriveThruRPG. I guess it will probably set you back $10 just like the PHB, which is a very good price, if you ask me.

So what does the RHB add to the table? The first chapter of the book called Game Guidelines mostly expands on the rules on the PHB. In the first section of said chapter there’s a closer look at Character Rules including the morality system, how it applies to robots, and how the Referee can react when players let their character’s act against their defined moral code. Personally I don’t think codifying one’s morality is really necessary (especially in a SF game), but that’s just me.

More interesting are the information on earning DP (development points, FrontierSpace’s XP equivalent). In this section the author gives detailed tips on how to grant DP after each session. There’s a bullet list with ten item which if applicable grant you 1 DP each. This makes granting DP a much easier task, since you just have to check which criteria apply. Veteran Referees may just wing it, but if you’re new to the game it definitely comes in handy.

Another form of reward is also detailed: Loyalty benefits. These are special benefits granted to characters who have been loyal to a certain patron may it be a powerful corporation or a local government. Loyalty benefits are usually designed by the Referee but a list of examples is given which contains benefits like special skill training, the use of certain vehicles provided by the patron, or even company stocks.

Devil’s Staircase Aces High

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This time I want to get some ideas out about character progression. I am certainly not a fan of games that use levels and experience points. I suppose there are two reasons. I don’t like the way that levels often come combined with new abilities. It can seem very binary one moment you can’t and then suddenly you can do whatever it is that your new level conferred on you.  I also don’t like the lumpy nature of levels and experience points. You can spend forever and a day accumulating enough experience points during which time you do not improve at all and then suddenly *poof* you level up then it all starts again.

Games with detailed skills systems can get around this by allowing you to improve skills individually which makes progress more natural and tied to the skills actually being used in play or trained. I have house rules for Rolemaster that scraps levels and development points after 1st level in favour of this sort of Runequest progression.

This is not going to work for Devil’s Staircase as the skill system is too simple and lacks the granularity to allow one part to progress when it has been used while other parts remain static. It also does not fit with the fast and light ethic of the game so far and it would be a pain to try and fit that in with a card deck system.

What I want to achieve is that more experienced characters have greater control over their destinies. This is what better skills confer in the same way that getting more hit points and an improved proficiency bonus does in D&D.

I think I have a system that does this.

High Aces

A character can earn a High Ace. This is recorded on the character sheet. The High Ace can then be used to change the value of an Ace in the Endurance hand from a 1 to an 11. The High Ace can only be used once per day for each High Ace that a character has.

Over time a character can earn more High Aces and so can apply this boost several times each day if they have the aces in their hand to apply it to.

I like this idea as it adds an additional element of strategic thinking to playing the character.

So where do the High Aces come from and how are they earned?

What I am thinking is that they will be awarded by the GM for completing major plot way points. My first thought was actually to give them to the major end of level boss type NPCs and when they are defeated then any unused High Aces pass to the character that defeated them. In the Wild West themed game that would work well enough but in “Devil’s Staircase Espionage Role Playing” or an equally subtle genre based upon political intrigue or diplomacy villains may never truly be defeated.

Using major plot or story way points does not send the message that every villain must be killed to get the bonus.

So now all bar an equipment list and a starting adventure I think we are pretty much ready to play. This is what a basic character record looks like. We can stick a few possessions on the back of the post-it note!

Devil's Staircase Character Record

Orctober 2017 – Days 7 to 12

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Welcome back to my second post for October 2017. Like on my previous post,  This is a collection of my posts on social media celebrating all things orc in the month of October. I’m taking my cues form  a piece of art by the talented Mr. Claudio Pozas on Facebook. These correspond to weekend entries and the four so far, this week. I’m writing these on my phone, at night, without power, to stay distracted from all the chaos of the post-Hurricane María reconstruction. Apologies in advance if these have a few more typos than usual. I hope some of you find this interesting. I’d welcome your comments and critique. See you all soon!

#Orctober days 7, 8 and 9: Orc Bard, Orc Archer and Shadowrun Orc

Back from the weekend! I had intended to post over the last few days, but no power and iffy Internet connection post Hurricane María means you get a triple post today. And what a combination it is! I’m going for a narrative here, and today’s entry kind of throws me off for a loop. But Like I did for the Warcraft Orc, I have something in mind.

Don’t forget to visit the very talented Claudio Pozas’ FB page because he’s killing it with his daily orc drawings. He’s the reason I’m doing this. And now, on with the orc.

“Here drink this. Yes, we are in a wagon. How about that? You get hired as a porter and end up traveling in style. I know it hurts. Drink it all. It will take care of the cough. Let me continue my tale. Where were we? Oh yes!”

The gathered tribes lusted for battle. The orc army, unlike any the south had seen since the time of Kurgen Bloodbathed, marched upon the fields of Rose Garden. Across the fields waited the army of renowned military commander Hortense Gevalliene, the Duchess of Roses. Her cavalry had crushed her brother’s forces, her footmen taken the last garrison of her nephew in Sunfrost Bay, and the mercenary forces her vast treasure troves afforded her had made sure her father’s vassals knew their place. She was confident, sure of her victory over the largest orc army in human history.

But human memory is fickle, and the Duchess for all her education and knowledge, did not remember the Orc Wars of the past. Before the crowning of the King in Gersania, even before the construction of the grand cathedral to the Great Founders in Serissen, or the election of the Grand Master at the Library of Tesalon, humans fought side by side with the dwarves in the Orc Wars. Continue reading Orctober 2017 – Days 7 to 12