Author Topic: [EXO-ADVENTURERS] A micro RPG about exploring an ancient alien space station  (Read 896 times)

Sestuss

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Its me again back with another sci-fi project.

This time I'm trying my hand at making a mini RPG. Coming in at 4 pages total, the game is about exploring the fantastic landscapes of a Huge mysterious mega space station. Think Ringworld, a Dyson sphere, or the citadel from mass effect. Its also about getting strange powers after being exposed to what you find.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6V1QEnf-U00VmdYMC0wWGRxY28

Check it out. Feel free to give me feedback or playtest if you like, and let me know how it went.

cromlyngames

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Initial markup: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8jYpGYsU91nZzRPYjVLVFFrRGc

Theme wise, I'm not sure if this is supposed to focus on movies like Solaris, Sphere and Alien(s) or is supposed to fall in to colonising a new world/construct with all the politics of an colony like Eden or Stargate Universe. If the latter, it's still very Mill-spec in form.

Horror, trippy or both? It seems to lean strongly towards horror settings, but not support it much. Agenda and principles would help clear it up. Any chance of a GM playbook to help the GM keep on theme?

Mechanics wise - Roll+Stat+advantage basically quadruples the mental energy needed per roll. Needs playtesting. The wording almost brings you back to fiction after - where you roll to see what you do. I don't know if this is intentional or just an emergent thing with the milspec taking me back to dungeon-delving-in-space

Sestuss

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Hi there, thanks for the interest.

I will get to those typo's and grammar errors in a bit, I appreciate the heads up.

As for theme, I would say its meant to be adventure. At times it should definitely lean towards thriller, but not really horror, Trippy at times? for sure. I think our knee jerk reaction is to see horror anytime we see space sci-fi space stations because that's how cinema has trained our perceptions. I mentioned the Ringworld novels in the post, maybe there isn't a movie/television equivalent. You mentioned Stargate Universe and I think this would definitely be close to the theme of fun but still dangerous.

As for aspects of colony politics, those elements are there if you want them, but are meant to be backdrop and to narratively create a sense of remoteness, the rest of the galaxy isn't going to be swooping in any time soon. Other than that I would say, that I purposefully left thematic elements up to the players. If the answers you get from the worldbuilding/character questions head towards the colony stuff, include more of it. If they gloss over other elements ignore them. The first two pages are meant as a GM guide of sorts. However you are absolutely correct that playtesting is required and I imagine that section of the doc will grow to include tips for common misconceptions.

Mechanically there are no stats, but you do have boxes that denote a bonus. So I suppose there are implied stats. I think this is a subtle but important distinction. Its meant to look like a video game, the horizontal bar fills up and you're better at that category of tasks (I'm not sure if that came across). As for advantage, it does need playtesting, but I like it as is. The skills that denote advantage are fairly narrow, so it shouldn't be a constant thing.

It should feel a little like dungeon dungeon-delving-in-space. But with open ended awe and exploration as a a goal rather than a down and dirty hex-by-hex crawl.

Thank you for your feedback!

cromlyngames

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>> It should feel a little like dungeon dungeon-delving-in-space. But with open ended awe and exploration as a a goal rather than a down and dirty hex-by-hex crawl.

roger. I guessed that was what you were going for, but all but one of the example dangers were fighty and all three specialites and all bar one of the skills felt like a SpaceCorps-MazeRats game. I asked about the colony thing, becuase that's quite a big part of the set up questions, and ties back to one of the cores moves - Influence. There's a single core move for fighting, and two-three for exploring the strange, so the focus of the game is clear there, but the support for the small colony politics side of things isn't supported in the skills (or specialities.)
Come to that, the explorer aspect isn't supported in the specialities either -  Arrvial had a translator and a physist as the two specialists :)).


I guess that's why it felt weirdly off balance thematicly. I hear you on the stat-per-move is much less mental space than stat + move.
Is this intended for one shots or long term play?
 

Sestuss

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I see you point to some degree. In regards to sample threats, they are more traditionally fighty. My thinking in this was to provide examples of stats for combat threats. I figured other dangers would be abstract. So the sample threats are by no means representative of the usual suspects so to speak, just examples of combat threats. Maybe I can make that more clear in the text somewhere let me think about it.

As for skills hmm, you might have something there. I will take a look at them again. I never intended for the small colony stuff to be mechanical, simply as background to define who your character is. Sometimes you might head back and deal with them but for the most part your job is out there. BUT your point about the skills may be well founded, there could be a skill about dealing with aliens. I think the troubleshooter would work just as well if it was called physicist. but this bears some thought, I look it back over and see if I can get the theme across a little better.

"Is this intended for one shots or long term play?"
Great question, I was thinking about this last night. I think that with the wild talents it seems you wouldn't be doing anything fun with them unless you played more long term. But other than that it would work for one-shots. I guess I was trying to hedge my bets and do both.

I will need to play this thing before I really know for sure. But I needed to get some feedback first on the writing and this has been really helpful thanks.

Sestuss

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Updated version:

Notes
-Fixed grammar errors
-Changed skill's to traits.
-Completely worked skills/traits.
-Reworked sample threats.
-Reworked starting table.

I'm liking the changes. Let me know what you think!

cromlyngames

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gone through and marked it up again. Few typos remain and few places I think the text could be tighter (but already makes sense).
I liked it enough to try making a stock set of characters.


Three problems:

1) Savant - tech, gear, hacking all feels like the same thing. Its not clear to me what situation one aspect would apply and the others would not. Maybe move hacking/code-breaking to Cunning?

2) Cunning - similar problem. when would trickery apply and bluffing couldn't?

3) Something a bit more mathy and nuanced:
a) Team player grants +1 to your aid to someone else. More powerful but less reliable then...
b) Persusive, leadership allows you to roll with advantage to aid/interfere with someone you lead?
c) Keen, people allows you to roll with advantage to ai/interfere with anyone?


cromlyngames

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No way to edit. huh.

Yeah, fix those first two things up and maybe think about the third and gimme a new character sheet, I'll be happy to run this as a one shot on https://roleplayinggames.slack.com/

Sestuss

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gone through and marked it up again. Few typos remain and few places I think the text could be tighter (but already makes sense).
I liked it enough to try making a stock set of characters.


Three problems:

1) Savant - tech, gear, hacking all feels like the same thing. Its not clear to me what situation one aspect would apply and the others would not. Maybe move hacking/code-breaking to Cunning?
These are left intentionally for the players and GM to decide on. It can feel similar, but there is negotiation between player and GM. Gear is the stuff you bring with you, hacking is software, do they overlap? Maybe, that's not really a problem though. Its flavor not mathematical balance. Its a way for character to do things their own way, it doesn't much matter that similar outcomes can be achieved by other methods.
2) Cunning - similar problem. when would trickery apply and bluffing couldn't?
Same answer
3) Something a bit more mathy and nuanced:
a) Team player grants +1 to your aid to someone else. More powerful but less reliable then...
b) Persusive, leadership allows you to roll with advantage to aid/interfere with someone you lead?
These are flavor not mathematical problems, It up to your game, but to me leadership is not aiding another player, aiding is doing something to help, leadership is tied to influence, it is getting your way, its inspiring others to action, is there overlap sure, its not really a problem though. If similar results are achieved through different methods that's not really a problem
c) Keen, people allows you to roll with advantage to ai/interfere with anyone?
"to figure these out" its tied to looking closer. Its specific to figuring people out, their motivations, their reasons for things. If you want to act on this reasons thats another matter. 

No way to edit. huh.
I don't know what you mean.

Yeah, fix those first two things up and maybe think about the third and gimme a new character sheet, I'll be happy to run this as a one shot on https://roleplayinggames.slack.com/
I don't know what you mean about a new character sheet. All you need to play is here in the document. Its intentionally a mico-rpg there are no playbooks, it's all very tightly packing in there.

If you want to play test it, awesome, but I'm not going to change the document for your playtest. In fact I am going to hold off on any major changes until after I get some playtesting feedback.

Thanks for your interest.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2017, 04:48:57 AM by Sestuss »

cromlyngames

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I seem to have touched a nerve. I like the game. I really do. I like it enough to read in detail twice, try to make some characters and offer feedback. If I'm nitpicking, its because I think it could be even more awesome. (the edit comment was because I couldn't figure out how to edit my previous post).


For points 1 and 2, I completely agree, it's just flavour. And I completely agree for a good, tightly themed game, the flavours need to fit the core palette. But at the minute, some flavours offered are really similar, and some that I would argue are core to the theme aren't there. It's like a cake recipe specifying "choose one of orange peel, lemon peel, mixed fruit and cherries", when it could specify "choose one of blueberries, glace cherries, mixed fruit, mixed nuts." Give us more flavour!

For 3), I disagree. The maths is core to the game. If there are two ways of doing something,and one is always worse than the other, than that space could be given to something more interesting and the flavour of both packed into the first option. And even if the designer doesn't check, someone will, and then post their results on the internet and then a load of people will blindly follow that and a bit of the game gets discarded.

I did the maths, the Teamwork stunt vs the Leadership tag is pretty balanced: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1EpRX9TMAb2cwaRIbNtfKG8g5adgvtQ7z8gn3749kFlY/edit?usp=sharing

I do have a question though. The Teamwork +1, does that still apply on a 6- roll? (Ie, on a 6- +1 aid, on a 7-9 +2 aid and 10+ +3 aid?), or does it only apply if you get 7+ ?

---
Characters I tried to make and had difficulty
Daniel Jackson, Stargate - couldn't find anything for archaeologist or language expert
Louise Banks, Arrival  - again, language expert



Ones that did fit:
Ripley, Aliens 2 - ended up with tough and combat expert  and pressure expert - kinda works. More about Ripley than the setting I think
Howling Jake, one of my old Traveler characters - cybernetic ex rock star carouser turned drug smuggler - ended up with a single point in all moves but strange, which isn't bad I think for a generic weird character.


I've printed off another 8 character sheets, so will run through more options.



Sestuss

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No worries, I just shouldn't respond to posts late at night right before I go to bed, it makes my entries more clipped than I like.

For points 1 and 2, I completely agree, it's just flavour. And I completely agree for a good, tightly themed game, the flavours need to fit the core palette. But at the minute, some flavours offered are really similar, and some that I would argue are core to the theme aren't there. It's like a cake recipe specifying "choose one of orange peel, lemon peel, mixed fruit and cherries", when it could specify "choose one of blueberries, glace cherries, mixed fruit, mixed nuts." Give us more flavour!

The problem is an economy of space. Its a very tightly packed area and I have opted for short words, and there's no other explanation provided. Ultimately they can always be interpreted as too specific or too similar no matter what I put there, so I choose small generic words because to me that means when a player picks it (or uses it for something) the GM asks "Gear, what does that mean to you?" or "How do you hack?" or "Trickery? How do you go about that?" If there needs to be clarification it happens there.

I would love to have "Systems expert, Equipment Specialist, Remote computing wiz, Quantum entanglement scientist" but there's no room for that. The only other direction I could go would be to use terms defined elsewhere in the game so it might say:

"Savant: Pick one (Relicís, gear, networks, artifacts) Roll at advantage when modifying these."

This changes the flavor while still fitting in the space. I was reluctant to do this because it means players might need to look elsewhere to figure out what that word means, but its certainly more thematic.

For Cunning, "trickery" is different from Bluffing because one is more about what you say, and another is about what you do. Trickery might cover slight of hand, forgery, disguise. I'm open to suggestion for other short, single word that fits.


I do have a question though. The Teamwork +1, does that still apply on a 6- roll? (Ie, on a 6- +1 aid, on a 7-9 +2 aid and 10+ +3 aid?), or does it only apply if you get 7+ ?

Only on a success or partial success as far as I'm concerned. 

Sestuss

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Characters I tried to make and had difficulty
Daniel Jackson, Stargate - couldn't find anything for archaeologist or language expert
Louise Banks, Arrival  - again, language expert

While its true, these two don't jump off the page mechanically, they still work it just feels indirect. If a player wanted to play either of these character I would have them pick "Keen, advantage: aliens" and make sure to put some points into looking closer and influencing someone.

It doesn't say "linguist," (there are no professions listed at all now) but the in the character motive section they might put seeking and the GM asks the question: "You have always had a talent for spotting what? You are looking for something in particular out there, what is it?" The player would hopefully say "language" or "symbols" and their looking for "ancient aliens." The motive is picked first and covers a lot of the thematic character stuff.


« Last Edit: May 22, 2017, 05:15:50 PM by Sestuss »

cromlyngames

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Ahh ok.

I think a chunk of it might be that I'm reading Savant as 'academic' while your meaning it as 'Tony Stark'.

I've got to admit though, personally, I really like "Savant: Pick one (Relicís, gear, networks, artifacts)", that screams the theme at me, and after all, by the time I get to the character sheet I've read the previous three pages, so all those terms are activated in my brain :)

Sestuss

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Yes, specific trait names were tricky. There is always that potential confusion for any of them.

Well I might make that change, I was trying to stop tinkering with it before it goes to playtesting but I have to admit that I like it too :/

Sestuss

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I also want to add more thematic descriptions to the gear but I don't know where to find the room!

I want the pistol to not just be a pistol, I want it to be a "variable ammunition multipurpose device" Thematically speaking, "Its launches flares, embeds adhesive nav positioning dots, launches grappling spike and micro-line, emits anti-impact flame retardant foam, and acts as a small blow torch, oh yeah and it shoots bullets."

I want there to not just be armor but to have an exo-suit, with micro assist electro-gel motors and built in emergency environmental seals. But yeah where would I put all that?