The third act of Andy Slack's gaming blog

Archive for July, 2018

Review: Hellfrost Gazetteer and Atlas

“Welcome Kickstarter backers, fans, friends, and internet pirates to the Hellfrost Atlas!”

The Gazetteer is one of the three core rulebooks for Hellfrost, the other two being the Player’s Guide and the Bestiary; I’m reviewing the Atlas at the same time because the two books are closely related, although they don’t overlap much.

I understand the core books were split by publication limits, much like The Lord of the Rings, which they frequently remind me of; but the way they are split has practical benefits. Players can read anything in the Player’s Guide, while the Gazetteer and the Bestiary are for the GM only; the Gazetteer is system-agnostic, and could be used with another game, while the Player’s Guide and the Bestiary rely on you having the Savage Worlds rulebook.

They’re also colour-coded; the page backgrounds are pale blue in the Player’s Guide, pale green in the Gazetteer, and pale red in the Bestiary. I just thought I’d mention that to show that I’m paying attention.

The Gazetteer

The Gazetteer is a 134 page PDF written by Paul Wade-Williams (AKA “Wiggy”) and published by Triple Ace Games. It summarises the main regions of the Hellfrost setting, and interesting locations within them, as well as providing a number of adventure seeds.

The main stomping ground for the Hellfrost campaign is called Rassilon, and it’s about the same size as present-day Europe. It’s divided into several regions:

  • The Hellfrost: The northernmost area, full of snow, ice, frost giants, ice dragons, and mammoths.
  • The Outer Hellfrost: Taiga. It’s just about possible to survive here, if you can deal with the orcs and the wind that drives men mad.
  • The Icewall: A mile-high barrier of solid ice, surrounding the Outer Hellfrost. Expeditions are occasionally sent over it; most fail to return.
  • The High Winterlands: Wild, dangerous, and permanently below freezing point.
  • The Low Winterlands: Bitterly cold, but inhabitable. Just.
  • The Hearthlands: A bit warmer; farming is viable.

The Gazetteer focuses on the Winterlands and the Hearthlands; neither the map nor the descriptive text goes into much detail about the Hellfrost itself.

There are almost 50 individual lands and 15 evil organisations detailed, so I won’t go through all of them. (The good organisations are in the Player’s Guide.) Wiggy’s attention to detail and knowledge of the Dark Ages shines through in this work. The GM is expected to add small settlements, ruins and whatnot to the official maps, and there are detailed descriptions of what (say) a credible Saxa steading should be like, should you wish to add one.

Each land has a couple of pages of information, including a statblock, descriptions of elements such as its government and military, an overview of geography and a few paragraphs on key locations, and finally current events – this last is basically adventure seeds. After that, we get a few paragraphs on each of the evil organisations.

The Gazetteer looks nice enough, two column black text on pale green, but it’s dense text throughout, with few illustrations (though what there is, is nicely done).

By this point I was wondering where the map was, but it turns up as a double-page spread right at the back. It reminds me of the maps in the endpapers of the Allen & Unwin editions of The Lord of the Rings.

The Atlas

The Atlas was created some time after the Gazetteer, also by Wiggy, and is a 386 page PDF. While it contains guidelines for the GM on how to create sacred places of wonder, the lands of the fey (not covered in the Gazetteer as they are more a parallel dimension than part of Rassilon proper), the bulk of it details the lands of Hellfrost.

Each realm has its own section, with locally-applicable setting rules, details of society, a full-colour map, and new locales of interest for players to visit. Often there are also maps of settlements, temples or dungeons, or new monsters specific to the area, as well. Especially useful is the section “Why Come Here?” which is in effect a set of adventure seeds.

Some of the individual lands, like the Borderlands, have enough meat in them for a whole campaign; you only need an area a few hundred miles on a side with a handful of interesting places to make that work. That’s probably the best way to use this book; skim-read it to pick one realm, and start your campaign in that, following the story hooks into other areas later.

After that is an appendix with three new organisations, each of which could have PC members.

You can look on the Atlas as collecting and expanding supplemental background material from the numerous Region Guides. I don’t have any of those, though, so I can’t say if there’s any duplication. I can say that there’s a huge amount of material here, and I would have to read it several more times to absorb it in any detail.

Conclusion

This setting is huge, and if I were to start using it, I can’t imagine ever exhausting its possibilities.

The thing I find most impressive about Hellfrost is it’s all Wiggy. There are thousands of pages of densely-packed and detailed information, and it all came out of one man’s head. It’s bigger than any fantasy body of work I know of; consider also that most of the big franchises have multiple writers, and in an RPG setting there’s no story or character development filling up the pages, it’s all background material. And it’s not the only setting he’s responsible for, either, although it is the biggest.

Wiggy; I salute you.

Advertisements

Arion, Episode 26: Boarders

Outbound from Irbev, 176-3401

  • Starport Encounter leaving Irbev (p. 39): Ship limps into port with damage and crew casualties. Fortunately the next roll tells me what it is…
  • Starship Encounter leaving Irbev (pp. 40-46): 3 – nothing. I already know there’s a ship limping in so I roll again; 400 dt trader, must have a J-2 drive or it wouldn’t be here, so it’s non-standard – fortunately it’s not likely to fight us so that’s all I need to know for the moment.
  • Onboard Events in jump (p. 56): Well, not quite; a patrol ship boards and conducts a routine search. The Old Musky campaign has established that Confed has Type Ts nosing around the subsector looking for trouble, so I select one of those rather than rolling for it.

“Archive Surveyor Dolphin, this is Confederation Navy patrol corvette T-514. As per the terms of the Treaty of Kamat, we will exercise our rights to board your vessel and search for contraband. Cease accelerating and prepare to be boarded.”

Arion mutes the microphone and asks the others: “Is that a real Confed corvette?”

“All the emissions check out,” says the Dolphin. “But we know one or two have gone rogue. I don’t know if this is one of them. Something shot up that freighter we passed earlier, it may have been them, or they may be looking for whoever did it.”

“Do we have to let them board?”

“Legally? No. However, they have four times our mass, ten times our crew, a 50% edge in acceleration, and lots of weapons. We really need to get a laser or something, you know.”

Arion shrugs. “They’d still outgun us, and they may be able to tell us something useful.” He toggles the mike back on. “Corvette T-514, Dolphin. Ceasing acceleration and transmitting course data.” Toggles the mike off.

“Dmitri? Coriander? You have anything incriminating?”

“No,” says Dmitri. “Nothing I can’t explain.”

“Just my brain,” says Coriander. “And I can kill them with that if I have to.”

“Mmm, let’s not use that as our opening move.”

Boarding party reaction roll: 8, so it’s just a job for them. (I would’ve interpreted a very low roll as the Type T being a pirate ship in disguise.)

It takes the marine squad several hours to search the Dolphin, but they find nothing untoward, and a compliant attitude and a present of gourmet coffee for the corvette’s mess are exchanged for some advice from the corporal leading the boarding party; on Bulan, they should stay close to the starport, which has the best bars anyway; steer clear of Changa (full of pirates, some of whom they suspect shot up the damaged freighter which arrived at Irbev as the Dolphin was leaving) and Karpos (interdicted).

“Interdicted, eh?” muses Dmitri, once the airlock has closed behind their guests. “Frankly, that just makes it more tempting. What are they hiding?”

Jumpspace, 181-3401

  • PC Reaction Tables in jump (pp. 19-20): Coriander is overcome by remorse, most likely about leaving her family and friends.

Dmitri again finds Arion sitting alone in the crew lounge as he comes on watch.

“No Coriander?” Arion shrugs in response.

“In her stateroom. Sounds like she’s crying. One minute she’s showing me some pictures of her family, next minute she’s gone.”

“You should go to her.”

“Tried that. She told me to go away. I think she meant it. This is about as far away as I can go, without a spacesuit.”

Inbound to Bulan, 182-3401

  • Starship Encounter arriving Bulan (pp. 40-46): 6, nothing.
  • Piracy warning arriving Bulan (p. 40): 9, nothing.
  • Starport Encounter arriving Bulan (p. 39): 33, find a great place to chill.

Just finding a great bar didn’t seem like a good place to leave this particular episode, so I’ve pulled forward the onworld event from the next one; 64, meet a potential Contact, reaction roll 11, Corporate Boss. Good Lord, it’s not Anderson is it? A 10 on 2d6 suggests it might well be…

Coriander has cheered up by the time the Dolphin lands at Bulan; she genuinely has been looking forward to seeing the place. Following the corporal’s suggestions brings the three to the Birdwatchers, an open-air beach bar thatched with local vegetation. Cori insists on an outside table, and drinks are taken to it. The clientele is an eclectic mix of dieselpunk Indonesian locals, Arabic-looking Confed marines, multicoloured spacers of the Kith, and the occasional saurian ithklur from Gazzain – these last basking in the sun on nearby rocks.

It’s all going well until Captain Anderson walks up to the table.

“May I join you?” he says, sitting down immediately to make it clear that he may, regardless of what the Dolphin‘s crew might think.

GM Notes

My initial plan was to split the Arioniad into 26-episode seasons. That has never worked before, and it looks like it’s not working now, either. However, forcing things into a Procrustean bed generally causes more problems than it solves, so I’m rolling with it.

Arion, Episode 25: Eavesdroppers

Let’s step up to twice a week for the Arioniad until we catch up to where we should be; we’re five episodes behind the curve now…

Irbev, 175-3401

It’s a long time since anyone has been to Irbev, and unlike popular stomping grounds such as Mizah, I have to look up what it’s like… My notes say it’s C8C0415-A, and was settled by Israelis during the Rule of Man.

World encounter (p.58-60): 44, learn a secret, roll Streetwise to get away with it. That’s the sort of thing Dmitri would do…

“What is that smell?” asks Coriander as the crew emerge onto the docks at Irbev Highport.

“Hydrogen sulphide,” Arion explains. “The main export is sulphur, they scoop-mine it from the atmosphere. You’ll get used to it.”

“Does anyone live on the surface?”

“Would you? Ninety atmospheres of air pressure, 500 degrees Centigrade, and it rains sulphuric acid.”

“I can see why they’re all up here.”

Dmitri is a Wild Card with Streetwise d8 and Investigator. He rolls 7 on the d8 and 6+1 = 7 on the Wild Die, then adds +2 to both results for the Edge, and takes the higher of the two results, scoring 9 in all – success with a raise.

By the time they’ve completed their transactions aboard the station and returned to the ship, they’ve acclimatised to the smell. This is just as well as it has followed them back, and will take weeks to scrub out of the ship’s air.

Dolphin.”

“Yes, Arion?”

“Why does the telemetry show one of our probes outside this particular location?” He calls up a schematic on the main screen by gesture. “Have we lost one?”

“Because that’s where it is, and no, we haven’t, it’s supposed to be there.”

“And why, exactly, is it supposed to be there?”

“I’m too big. They’d notice me. It’s right outside the Station Head’s office.”

“Go on,” Arion encourages, starting to realise he’s not going to like this.

“I’ve got a low-powered infrared laser bouncing off the window. I can analyse the fluctuations in the reflected beam to reconstruct the vibrations in the room, and that lets me hear what they’re saying. Dmitri thought we might learn something useful.”

“And have we?”

“Yes. I’ll assume you don’t want a verbatim report of all conversations, most of them are so boring that I spun off a sub-partial to listen to them and let me know when something worth listening to happened. To summarise, the Station Head – one Karmina Rosenstein – is secretly working for someone in the Mizah Combine. I haven’t figured out who yet. She is unhappy with the terms of her employment, and these will improve dramatically if she can ensure Combine control of the station. Or so her contact has reminded her. This is him…” The Dolphin displays pictures of someone in conversation with Ms Rosenstein.

Arion shakes his head. “You’re better at this than I am, Dolphin.”

“Naturally,” says the Dolphin. “I am considerably more intelligent.”

GM Notes

Like many of my successful worlds, Irbev’s physical characteristics are taken from a real planet, in this case Venus. It’s less work than building something credible to that level of detail, although it does limit the number of world ideas you have to play with. Many more recent games like Eclipse Phase or Nova Praxis limit themselves to the Solar System and a few extrasolar planets, and I suspect this may be so they can use real world info and so reduce the amount of worldbuilding effort. In honesty, the social shenanigans on-planet are usually more interesting than the environment, which serves largely as a backdrop; I reckon all you need to know about the planetary environment for most games is the answer to one simple question: “Mom, can I go play outside?”

  • Habitable World, High Population: “Yes dear, but watch out for the street gangs.”
  • Habitable World, Low Population: “Yes dear, but watch out for the Party-Butchering Hell Beast.”
  • Inhospitable World: “No dear, you’ll asphyxiate.”

Review: Hellfrost Player’s Guide

“Winter is coming!” – George RR Martin, A Game of Thrones

Periodically, people ask: What’s the best Savage Worlds fantasy setting? There are three that crop up time and again in that discussion; Beasts & Barbarians, Shaintar, and Hellfrost.

Today, I’m looking at Hellfrost, and specifically, the Player’s Guide. This is a 132 page PDF written by the prolific Paul Wade-Williams, AKA “Wiggy”, and published by Triple Ace Games. It’s one of the three core books for the setting, the others being the Gazetteer and the Bestiary, of which more anon.

The world of Hellfrost is one inspired by Norse and Germanic legend. Five hundred years ago, the ice god Thyrm unleashed an army on the lands of the civilised races, and although it was beaten back, the winters are getting longer and colder all the time. 30 years ago, magic began to fail, threatening to leave the civilised races defenceless against the surviving armies of Thyrm. This is the Dark Ages not just in terms of technology and customs, but also in terms of the theme and mood; the world is ending, and the PCs must hold back the cold and the darkness as best they can, for as long as they can.

In general, character generation follows the core rules, though there are a few new hindrances and lots of new edges, which do a good job of bringing the setting to life and tying PCs into it and its organisations, especially the edges for clerics, the professional edges, and the modifications to the Noble and Rich edges. The civilised (playable) races are humans (several different cultures), engro (hobbit thieves with the serial numbers filed off), elves (icy and warm), frost dwarves, and the frostborn, adapted to the new and lower temperatures and with limited powers of cold magic. There are no half-elves, half-orcs, or half-anything else in this setting, but the cold-adapted races suffer from Heat Lethargy, giving them trait penalties if the temperature gets too warm.

There are 27 different languages (a PC speaks as many as half his Smarts die), and about a dozen new Knowledge skills. Each race also has its own set of noble titles.

The gear chapter is mostly what you’d expect, although there’s an unusual focus on ships and fortifications.

Magic is modified in several ways. Firstly, there are herbalists, who take a professional edge instead of an arcane background and are immune to backlash; they produce herbal remedies which buff their friends but are not quite powers in the Savage Worlds sense. Secondly, there are no power points; you can cast as much as you like, so long as you’re willing to risk the injuries and permanent loss of arcane skill a backlash might impose. Thirdly, the normal Arcane Background: Magic is replaced by six new ones; Druidism, Elementalism, Heahwisardry, Hrimwisardry, Rune Magic, and Song Magic, each of which has a different power list, different rules modifications, and implications for how society views the character. Although Arcane Background: Miracles functions much as in the core rules, each PC is tied to a specific deity, which provides unique benefits and duties. There are so many of those I gave up counting; the same happened with the new and modified spells, the table of new spells alone is two pages long (and, parenthetically, something that the core rulebook would benefit from).

Like Shaintar, Hellfrost assumes that the PCs are essentially good and heroic; heroes must cleave to a certain code of conduct and take risks, and this reduces their range of options. This is balanced by Glory, which brings heroes benefits not available to those who turn to the Dark Side, and is perhaps the most important setting rule. While Shaintar expects that PCs will be heroic, Hellfrost rewards them mechanically for heroic acts. Glory starts at zero; PCs gain Glory by doing epic and heroic deeds, and telling people about them; they lose Glory by cowardice, oathbreaking, and so on. Sufficient Glory effectively unlocks extra Edges, but if your Glory falls below zero, you start gaining extra Hindrances.

There’s also an extensive chapter on life in this world; technology (appropriate to what used to be called the Dark Ages), diet, marriage customs, festivals, laws and punishments, calendars and whatnot. This segues into another chapter of organisations; racial, magical, religious, miiltary, and academic.

Setting rules focus on the effects of cold and bad weather, as low temperatures are a defining characteristic of the setting.

I’m impressed with the depth and detail of this setting, and I’d play it in a heartbeat; but I’m not sure I have the level of commitment it would take to be a Hellfrost GM.

So to answer the exam question, which is the best Savage Worlds fantasy setting? That depends on what you and your players are looking for…

Shaintar is the closest one to Dungeons & Dragons. Go with this if you like the Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms novels, or if you basically want to play D&D using Savage Worlds rules. (Nothing wrong with that; if you’re all having fun, you’re doing it right.)

Beasts & Barbarians is for sword and sorcery fans. Choose this if you like the stories of Conan the Barbarian, Jirel of Joiry, or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. (Yes, there is a Lankhmar setting for Savage Worlds, but personally I think B&B does it better.)

And Hellfrost? Hellfrost is The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, and the Norse sagas blended into one meaty, satisfying whole.

Arion, Episode 24: Desiderata

Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
– Max Ehrman, Desiderata

Again I’m moved to observe that potentially, much more goes on in Solo while you’re travelling between worlds than when you’re actually on them… but this time, it didn’t.

  • Starport Encounter leaving Kamat (p. 39): Meet one of your contacts. No contacts on Kamat yet; being arrested hardly counts.
  • Starship Encounter leaving Kamat (pp. 40-46): Mining derrick 600 dt. Ignores us, but polite.
  • Onboard Events in jump (p. 56): Piracy or hijack. I just don’t see this. Piracy at the Confederation’s biggest naval base? That would be a bold choice; I think not. Hijacking? There are no passengers, and all the crew are already heading to where they want to go.
  • PC Reaction Tables in jump (pp. 19-20): 5. I randomly determine Arion argues with Coriander.
  • Starship Encounter arriving Irbev (pp. 40-46): Type T. Ignores us, but polite. That could be the Old Musky on her way back to Kamat, but since they are currently languishing some weeks behind Arion on the timeline, we’ll leave that be.
  • Piracy warning arriving Irbev (p. 40): 10 – no.
  • Starport Encounter arriving Irbev (p. 39): 63 – for the first time I notice that entries 61-65 are missing from the table. Let’s call that nothing out of the ordinary, then.

Jumpspace, 162-3401

Dmitri enters the crew lounge to the sound of angry voices, and is nearly bowled over by Coriander flouncing out, or as close as she can get to flouncing in coveralls.

At the table, Arion sighs, head in hands.

“What was that about?” Dmitri asks.

Arion looks up and considers the question. “I have no idea,” he admits at length.

Dmitri moves to the galley and starts making coffee. “You really don’t, do you?” he asks, in surprise. “You know, if you’re going to be a spy, you need to work on your observation skills. You don’t have to be a mind-reader to figure this out.”

“Huh?”

Dmitri sighs. “Okay, let’s look at a couple of key events… First, back on Gazzain, fighting the Dinobastis? Her friends get ripped apart, I try to get her to safety… and she calls your name and runs back to the fight to help you. Runs back towards ten tons of pissed-off cats with claws bigger than your survival knife.”

“In my defence, I was unconscious for a lot of that.”

“Fair enough. Second, though – and you were conscious for this – she left everything and everyone behind to travel off who knows where with us. Specifically, with you. No disrespect, but I can’t believe she wants to see Bulan that badly.”

“Oh.”

“‘Oh’, indeed. We might reasonably infer she’s wondering if that was worthwhile, because you’re not paying any attention to her, despite the lascivious thoughts she claims to have noticed while reading your mind. So, unless you want her to leave at the next port of call, notice her. Pay some attention. And right now, whatever you were fighting about, whoever was right, go and apologise.”

Arion thinks about that for a moment, then gets up to do just that.

GM Notes

At first I had no idea what Arion and Coriander could be arguing about, so I decided to do it off-camera, with Dmitri walking in at the end. And then of course it became clear. When you’ve been running a group under Solo for a while, the random events and the narrative merge together, and you start to get the feeling you’re reporting on the story as it happens by itself.

We meet a lot of contacts that we don’t actually have yet. Mongoose Traveller and Cepheus Engine generate contacts for PCs during character generation, so if I were using one of those games, I could call on that cast of characters. (“Yes, that fellow agent from your second term has somehow washed up here. Pity you didn’t get on, really.”) There’s nothing stopping me rolling up a few random contacts to use that way, mind.

The closest thing to this in Savage Worlds is the Contacts rule from Daring Tales of the Space Lanes; once per session, one player can invent a Contact, which is a named NPC in a specific location. This NPC can provide small amounts of equipment, information or healing, but no more than that; they’re a weaker version of Connections, which in my experience players don’t want to spend an Edge on.

I’ll modify this with the negotiation rules from Red Markets. Here, as the players negotiate with their patron, they attempt to improve the terms of the deal by playing on the patron’s weak spots. They find these out in flashback by narrating how they use a specific skill to get the necessary information from a background NPC. (“So I’m going to say I know a small-time local dealer called Jimmy the Weed, and he’d know if she’s using drugs. Before we came in here for the meeting, I used my Intimidation to get him to spill the beans. Hah, success with a raise!”)

Review: SpaceQuest

Something else from the Box of Lost Games; a 112 page digest-size book from what Ken Pick and Jeffro refer to as the Burgess Shale period and nothing to do with the series of comedic computer games. It’s written by George Nyhen, who I never heard of again, and Paul Hume, who went on to work on Aftermath, Space Opera and Shadowrun, amongst other games. SpaceQuest disappeared almost without trace before 1980, but I fancy I can see strands of its DNA in Space Opera and – more recently – Stars Without Number.

This was a game that I played at college; a small group of us took it in turns to act as game master – that was a thing in the 1970s – and adventured with no thought of logic, plausibility or series continuity across the frontiers of the 20 Suns Combine for a year or two. Gradually, we adopted house rules and parts of Traveller and Star Probe until there was no actual SpaceQuest left, and the campaign faded away shortly afterwards. While it lasted, though, it was fantastic. Get any three of the players together and mention SpaceQuest, and you’re guaranteed a nostalgic smile and a “Do you remember the time when…”

From a content perspective, the rules are… strange. You have 30-sided dice, armour with variable damage reduction, a vastly complex system for generating alien star systems and the life-forms that live there, random encounters with all manner of spacegoing life-forms that want to eat you and your ship, spaceships built of modules which appear to be strung together in a long, thin line… it was insane, and it was glorious, and we loved it. The first volume was focused on space travel, and a second book was planned for surface adventures, but we waited for it in vain.

As far as format goes, like many other first-generation RPGs, SpaceQuest laughed in the face of logical sequencing and attractive layout. Before DTP software, text was typed on an actual typewriter, and cut and paste meant exactly what it sounds like, including glue and correction fluid, which you had to fight off dinosaurs to bring back to the room where you were doing the typing in your spare time after work or school, and by the time you got to page 108 and someone told you yesterday’s playtest session meant a change on page 7, you were very much inclined to leave it alone, or put in a contradictory footnote on page 109 when you got to it. If you remembered. Some of the artwork is pretty good for its time, though.

I’ve read that Traveller seized the ecological niche of the premier SF RPG because GDW was already an established game company when they published it; but speaking as one of the early adopters, the real edges it had over its competition were that the rules were neatly laid out, in a logical sequence, and legibly typeset.

So what was good about SpaceQuest? I’ll compare it to Traveller, because you’re more likely to have played that than Starships & Spacemen, which was the only other SF RPG readily available in 1977.

  • SpaceQuest had a setting, detailed enough to inspire, but not so detailed as to stifle. At that time, Traveller had no setting but what you made yourself.
  • It had illustrations of the characters, equipment, playable races and so on. That was a real help in visualising what was going on. Traveller didn’t go in for illustrations.
  • It had lots of SFnal equipment. Much of Traveller’s technology was stuff you could’ve bought off the shelf in 1977; in SpaceQuest you could have an energy sword, an antigravity skateboard, and a crossbow firing nuclear-tipped quarrels.
  • It had a 3-D starmap and multi-world star systems; Traveller had neither. That felt important at the time, even if those systems and worlds were a real pain in the posterior to generate.
  • It had alien races, both playable and otherwise. Back then, Traveller did not; you landed on a vaguely Earthlike planet full of, well, humans mostly. In SpaceQuest, you could be standing on the core of a gas giant in your grav-resisting powered armour, negotiating with a samurai squid with a plutonium-based metabolism carrying a sword made out of Ice V.
  • Cheesy as it was, there was a certain satisfaction in hiring a flock of zaps to protect the ship from voidsharks.

So, while Traveller felt gritty, realistic, and not too different from what was going on in the real world, SpaceQuest felt pulpy, cool, and full of bug-eyed monsters you could shoot with a wide range of exotic weaponry. Once Traveler grew a setting, playable alien races, and high-tech weapons, SpaceQuest’s lesser production values and availability meant it fell by the wayside.

Many early RPGs are now being reprinted or updated, but the odds of that happening to this little gem are remote; as I understand it, the authors would rather it wasn’t revived. Periodically I toy with the idea of resurrecting it; married with a contemporary rules engine such as Green Ronin’s AGE or Savage Worlds, I think there’s still a pretty good space opera setting in here. Not that I’m short of those.

Someday, maybe, Savage SpaceQuest? We’ll see. Perhaps when I retire.

Savage Worlds: Rocinante

Here’s the Rocinante from the Expanse novels, built using the Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion. Because I can.

Rocinante (ex-MCRN Tachi)

Large Starship: Size 12, Acc/TS 40/500, Climb 1, Toughness 34 (8), Mods 30, Crew 20, Energy 300, Cost $28.69M, operating cost $1,500 per day. Remaining Mods 6.5.

Notes: AMCM, AI, Atmospheric, Crew Reduction x3, Sensor Suite (Planetary), Superstructure.

Weapons: 2x Torpedo Tubes with 20 heavy torpedoes, 6x Light Autocannon, Mass Driver 6 (Fixed).

GM Notes

The Roci is established in Leviathan’s Wake as being able to disguise herself as a gas tanker; I’ve treated that as being able to carry a superstructure. The same book cites the normal crew as being about a dozen naval personnel and six marines. Comments about the ship’s expert systems and high level of automation in the first and fifth books justify an AI to me, although you could argue that’s just crew reduction. Those points together justify a size of Large and three levels of crew reduction to get the life support capacity down to about 20.

Initially fitted with six PDCs (effectively, Vulcan Phalanx equivalents) and two heavy torpedo tubes with a load of 20 torpedoes, by the start of Cibola Burn the Roci is also sporting a railgun, and during that book she lands on a terrestrial planet, justifying the atmospheric hull.

FTL travel in the Expanse is done using large stargates left behind by a vanished alien race, so the Roci neither has nor needs an FTL drive.

Humanity in the Expanse doesn’t have access to Ultra Tech, so has no artificial gravity or antigrav; this is a better match to the SFC than Traveller, but does mean the ships are built like skyscrapers, with decks stacked one on the other, and worry about things like fuel and high-G manoeuvres. The SFC handwaves all of that. Someday I may attempt to incorporate things like brachistochrone trajectories and characters stroking out under high-G; but I suspect I should leave that as background colour rather than forcing the players to consider it.

Tag Cloud