Sunday, February 28, 2010

Random Finds in Space #6: By the Numbers

Floating flotsam and jetsam, tumbling slowly in the void (1d10):
  1. 0-gravity strength training kit
  2. 50s diner menu, nav coordinates printed on back
  3. 3D chess set
  4. 7 bolts of radiation-retardant fabric, heavy gauge, various colors/styles
  5. 12 kilo bag of Step Fresh kitty litter
  6. 4 dozen long stem roses in capsule, still fresh with FTD tracking number tag
  7. 3, meter-long tubes of navigation charts, notations included (writing is alien)
  8. 2000 liter drum, barbecue sauce
  9. 4 pairs BluBlocker sunglasses (+1 for all vision checks in daylight)
  10. 42 super bouncy balls in a plastic jar, cover not as tight as you assumed

    Friday, February 26, 2010

    Harryhausen film fest highlights sci-fi classics

    So I'd posted this over at my other blog Spellcard! and thought I should at least mention the sci-fi angle here. The Trylon Microcinema, a tiny indy filmhouse here in the Twin Cities is showing several of Ray Harryhausen's classic films every weekend in March. I'm quite familiar with this "Sinbad" fantasy series, as well as "Island" and "Argonauts," but I've not seen any of the science fiction ones on DVD let alone the big screen, so I'm hoping to get a chance to finally correct that oversight. This being GINORMOUS FOES weekend and all, I thought a prep for next month would be appropriate. Here's the sci-fi schedule:
    Sunday, March 7 - Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers
    Sunday, March 14 - It Came From Beneath the Sea
    Friday, March 19 - First Men in the Moon
    Saturday, March 20 - First Men in the Moon
    Sunday, March 21 - 20 Million Miles to Earth

    See the full schedule.
    I can't wait! Oh and here's some artwork (courtesy of Wrong Side of the Art) to make you all jealous:

    Run for your lives!

    Hail to the King Baby!

    King Ghidorah that is. By popular insistence I give you a giant three-headed rockstar bedazzled in glorious gold.

    Here's a few artistic interpretations. First is one of my favorites from a Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics module. I need to get my hands on one of these and convert it to a space adventure:

    Next are a few selections from Deviant Art by Artists hypergojira and KaijuSamurai (respectively)

    And then we have--hold on...what's that? There's a Ghidorah with one of the heads replaced by a robot?!!That's just crazy talk.

    Know your enemy folks:

    ...and then make him your plaything:
    That's if for now. I've decided that portions of this weekend's program will be dedicated to GINORMOUS FOES! So get ready. Then we're back to your regularly scheduled sci-fi posts and gearing up Exonauts to take on these baddies.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    Favorite Sci-Fi RPG Poll Results are in!

    First, let me say a big "thanks" to everyone who stopped by the blog and voted and especially to those who commented and gave feedback. I feel like I've got a good idea of what types of systems are out there and a much better idea about what those systems do.

    So there were five options in the poll, here are the tallies for each and the percentage they garnered:
    • Star Frontiers - 35 votes / 43%
    • Star Wars (West End Games ed.) - 14 votes / 17%
    • Traveller ("little black books" ed.) - 13 votes / 16%
    • X-plorers - 3 votes / 3%
    • Something else - 15 votes / 18%
    Vote total: 80!
    And now the hokey, Excel graph....
    Assuming these are all unique votes, then it would appear many of you who didn't vote for Star Frontiers (the clear winner) were torn in a near, three-way tie between Star Wars, Traveller, and "Something else". Something else won by a nose. X-plorers tracked much lower, but I think this might be due to the game being so new and much less known. Most of these games have been around for decades, so in a sense it may not have been fair to lump X-plorers in there, but I was glad to see it get some votes anyhow. The "big three" of Frontiers, Wars, and Traveller each garnered a large portion of champions in the comments, with Frontiers edging out the others as far as "pulpiness" is concerned.

    Something Else
    I should reiterate that I'd posted in a couple of forums to get reach beyond the loyal readers here at Exonauts! and obtain even more input via comments. So the comments on this blog make up only a portion of the total responses (and those threads are still eliciting comments). Of the comments that didn't cover the main four named RPGs, I heard the following suggestions:
    • Starblazer Adventures - LOTS of positive comments about this one, emphasizing ease in tailoring setting (a big plus for me). Also, lots of comments about it's "pulpy" gameplay. I have the PDF, which is filled with setting material and lots of comic book art.
    • Savage Worlds - Perhaps the biggest and most welcome surprise. The existing setting material places this more in the "retro space" era of Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers (which I adore, actually) but several commenters suggested it's versatility as a key benefit--so dropping something like Star Wars or a a generic sci-fi genre in wouldn't be a problem. Hmmmmm..... It's by far the "pulpiest" RPG mentioned.
    • D6 Space - When the West End Games version of Star Wars wasn't extolled, D6 Space took it's place. If nothing else, the PDF is free and the system nearly identical.
    • StarSIEGE - Also received several positive comments, though I'd not heard of it before. I downloaded the free version to review.
    • Star Ace - Pacesetter's answer to Star Frontiers was brought up as a good alternative by several. commenters. I'd never heard of this one before either, so it was a welcome option. Again, comments about "pulp" here too.
    • GURPS was also mentioned  :P
    • And then there's this guy's free Star Wars-based RPG, which was suggested by the author. I haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but I'm an avid supporter of homebrew efforts! 
    Update: A few others I'd forgotten were mentioned:
    • Alternity - Had a fair amount of supporters. I'm not up on this one, so I'll have to take a look.
    • Thousand Suns - Not sure how I forgot this one, esp. since I asked one of it's creators to weigh in on how Traveller was influential in its development. Several commentors brought up how TS did a great job of distilling the original LBBs.
    • Mongoose Traveller - Also mentioned, as an alternative to the LBB version as it's a tidier version in a nice format, and yet pre-Imperium which makes it essentially a clean slate for setting material.
    I think that covers the "Something else" category, if I'm missing something, let me know. Many commentors expressed feeling torn between voting for their favorite versus voting for the game they either play the most or find the most versatile--making nostalgia a huge factor in this poll. I'm okay with that, since part of finding the right game is finding one that you can have fun in--perhaps even in spite of the rules it employs.

    "Pulpy" RPGs Win Big!
    I think the biggest notion gleaned from the poll is how much people love a heap of pulp in their sci-fi. Which really got me thinking about what "pulp" means in gaming. I understand the term, sure, but I wonder which of these games holds closest to the idea of pulp adventure--and does that necessarily translate into a great gaming experience. I'd assumed pulp is what I wanted when I set out to gather info, and I'm not backpedaling now. But it did get me thinking on a deeper level about the nature of the games I'd asked about.

    Final Thoughts
    Well it definitely appears like I've got my work cut out for me in researching all these great games. I'm still knee-deep in several manuals at the moment and I expect it will be that way for a while. Whatever system I end up gravitating to, I'll be sure to post. For now, I'll be making my material setting-neutral so it's as easy to transpose as possible. I'll leave the poll online for a little while until I start updating the right nav again (a week or so).

    I can't thank you guys enough for the feedback. I'm both shocked and humbled by the fact that 80 people stopped by my little corner of the galaxy and voted. Feel free to come back anytime--and sign up to be a follower if you're so inclined.

    And as always, I'm "all ears" for suggestions and comments. I wish everyone great gaming in 2010 and...Expiscor Eternus!

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Last day to vote for your favorite Sci-Fi system!

    Today's the day--you have until 11:59 p.m. tonight to cast your vote in the poll (at right) for one of the following:
    I'll report the findings tomorrow and let you all know about some of my own observations. Thanks again for all your help!

    Sunday, February 21, 2010

    Random Finds in Space #5: 12d Edition

    Floating flotsam and jetsam, tumbling slowly in the void (1d12):
    1. Collectors case of military medals, 4 polished, 2 broken, 1 tarnished, 1 missing
    2. Well worn, softcover atlas of Mars' Valles Marineris National Park
    3. Case of four cyanide tablets, three left
    4. Giant geode, split open with amethyst center (50% 100 meter diameter, 40% .5 kilometer diameter, 5% 1 kilometer diameter, 5% 5 kilometer diameter)
    5. Pair fuzzy dice, smells of Brut cologne
    6. Photo album of alien dignitary
    7. Seashell necklace, handmade
    8. Ejected reactor core, recent make and model, some melting around edges
    9. Samurai-styled sword, blade emits low-pitched hum when unsheathed
    10. Box of Hostess "Temporal Twinkees"
    11. Tube of camouflage cream, rub into skin to blend with background
    12. Head of giant robot

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Reminders and Remainders....

    1. Don't forget to vote for your favorite sci-fi system in the poll (at right). I'm still mulling over a ruleset to use for my own setting. Poll ends Monday, February 22. Oh, and you can change your vote up until then. I'll post results on Tuesday.
    2. Keep a look out for the next Random Space Finds this Sunday. That's a regular feature I'd like to do on Sundays. I expect one day I'll get around to putting them into context. Until then, grab a d10 and roll for space junk!
    3. Also, I'm in the process of working on a lot of setting material throughout 2010. 
     Lots to look forward too!

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Struggles with Choosing a System

    REMINDER: The poll is open through Monday, February 22. Cast your vote (at right) for your favorite sci-fi RPG. If it's not listed, feel free to comment below and explain why you like it! 
    So I thought I'd narrowed down the list of contenders for selecting a sci-fi RPG system: X-plorers and Star Frontiers. In recent weeks X-plorers was winning me over as David Bezio's ruleset is quite nicely simplified and packaged,. I'd previously weeded out Star Wars (WEG--I'd not wanted to wade into the more recent Wizards of the Coast Editions) and Traveller. That is until I found my old WEG Star Wars books in storage. And then James Maliszewski posted his thoughts on Traveller before the setting books on the Imperium began to sour the milk that so many players of that era had enjoyed. Update: James will be updating Thousand Suns for release this summer and said he'd comment then. :)

    I'm looking for something fairly simple, fun for combat, and especially engaging for players. (How generic, huh!). I plan on stealing setting stuff liberally from all the other contenders anyway so those types of trappings shouldn't be a major determining factor.

    And while the ultimate decision lies with me, I thought it'd be worth opening it up for discussion--frankly I think most of you have had more experience with these than I have, as I've only played SWWEG about 100 years ago! I've posted a poll on the side bar, which one week from today, February, 22.  

    Also, I would really love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. The current contenders include:
    Other options include home-brewing a totally new system or adapting some other system (e.g., Marvel Supers, Modern D20, Savage Worlds, etc.) but I'll leave the suggestions to you. I'm the learner here, all frequencies are open....

    Sunday, February 14, 2010

    Random Space Finds #4

    Floating flotsam and jetsam, tumbling slowly in the void (1d10):
    1. Golden Plump turkey, 13 lbs.
    2. Universal translator gadget with artificial intelligence, ill regard for users
    3. Royal gala event invite for two, dated for two days from now
    4. One tank of hydrogen fuel, 1000 liters, target hastily painted on one side
    5. Pair of stiletto heels, red
    6. One electromagnetic rail gun, (50% personal armament; 40% fighter craft-mountable; 5% battleship mountable; 5% asteroid emplacement)
    7. Canine tooth, 4 meters in length
    8. Steering wheel from your previous spacecraft, unmistakable
    9. Digital imaging device, stored memory contains photos of planetwide destruction, wedding
    10. Turkey baster

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Moon Wagon Train to the Stars!

    Part of my original purpose for the Exonauts! blog was to give some inspiration for early space pioneers and the type of gear that they'd need to employ. I remember reading recently (somewhere I can't recall at the moment) that the originally Star Frontiers didn't have spaceships. This, to me, is ridiculous. Apparently they introduced actual starfaring craft in the Knight Hawks expansion.

    How you can you not have space travel in a space opera RPG? It's THE basic element that all space-RPGs require! What do you mean you need to get the expans--wha? What's that on the cover?

    And then I saw it, and immediately I was in love...

    Huminna-hummina! It's called the Explorer, and it's basically a futuristic monster truck. Sort of like the A-Team van but with bigger wheels and lasers! And who can resist the striping?!

    I immediately saw potential here for a class of ground vehicle that was more robust and rugged than an ordinary rover. I did some digging and before long I'd come up with not one, but TWO concepts for non-hovering, heavy ground vehicles. These are rough concepts at this point, so I won't go into stat specifics in this post.

    So, I think the Explorer is a good start, but I see it belonging to a bigger family of planetary excursion vehicles. Something monstrous, but still dedicated to it's primary purpose: exploring. I call it the Moon Wagon.

    The primary mission of a moon wagon is exploration. It may also serve scientific, reconnaissance, and survivalist missions. They provide excellent protection from harsh planetary environments and are considered a cross between a mobile headquarters and the Conestoga wagon of yesteryear. Moon Wagon's are built to endure harsh climes and terrain and come in a variety of configurations employing either axeled drive (two wheels per axel), can be fit with independent wheel drives so each wheel moves independently, or a combination thereof. In addition, MW class vehicles adhere to the following criteria:
    • General purpose and complement: exploration, scientific, and engineering purposes; boast scientific instrumentation, cargo/personnel focused
    • The fewer the axles, the bigger the tires
    • If axel powered, Moon Wagons have a minimum of 2 axles (with a 2-wheel minimum per axel), however 3 axels (with a 6-wheel minimum) are more common
    • Moon Wagons must always have some wheels, caterpillar treads are okay, but at least one axle or wheel pair is required to keep classification
    • Moon Wagons often employ external accessories like robotic arms, construction implements (buldozer blades, drills, etc.) sensor modules, communications arrays, etc., or combination thereof for general use in many mission types
    • Moon Wagons may have some external weaponry, but they may not bristle with weapons as warfare is not their primary function

    The other main ground vehicle type is, as you've probably already guessed, the big guns. No reason to be coy here, it's a @#$! Space Tank!

    Heavily armored and armed, Space Tanks or "Spanks" as they're called by the grunts who operate them, are ground force artillery vehicles dedicated to offensive/defensive campaigns. Strictly speaking, spanks "bring the pain" on a given battlefield and adhere to the following guidelines:
    • UPDATE: Built for heavy combat situations, Space Tanks are always equipped with two pieces of equipment: an obvious, primary weapon and extremely durable--if not outright heavy--armor plating
    • Spanks have limited space for cargo and crew, most interior space is dedicated to housing artillery, ordinance, and mission critical personnel 
    • Spanks must always have treads, an axle  or use of independently powered wheels are acceptable, but at least one caterpillar is required to keep the classification (BigTrak would seem to break this rule! Also, the Mako from Mass Effect is quite obviously a tank, where it had previously been classified as a Moon Wagon)
    • UPDATE: Space Tanks may be wheeled or use treads
    • Obvious communications and sensors are kept to a minimum, but a variety of defensive accessories such as bulldozer blades, drills, etc. may be added as long as they serve the vehicle's primary mission



    Both Classes:
    • UPDATE: Both vehicle classes must be able to operate in an absence of atmosphere (vacuum), hence required pressurized/sealed life support systems
    • Cross-over designs should be avoided to alleviate any confusion
    • Either class may use a variety of chasis sizes and power plants to serve their specific mission types
    • Either may have on-board robotic pilots, and may be controlled remotely, but should not act as unmanned vehicles or robotic rovers (these are separate classifications)
    • Both Space Tanks and Moon Wagons may act as personnel carriers or increase cargo space, but sacrifice some of their primary components to do so (i.e., a MWs carry lighter, scientific equipment, STs carry less ammunition and possibly fewer weapons).
    • All ground vehicles will have 1980s color-coordinated striping, this is non-negotiable
    Neither Class:
    Neither class includes the following vehicle types:
    It's likely I'll revise this in an ongoing fashion--including a growing gallery of images for inspiration--so expect a fair amount of updates/edits. And yes, I'll get to spacecraft in a future post. ;)


    Sunday, February 7, 2010

    Random Space Finds #3

    Floating flotsam and jetsam, tumbling slowly in the void (1d10):
    1. 17 anti-armor artillery shells, each with different symbols or names etched on them
    2. Heirloom case containing two dueling ray gun pistols
    3. Voyager 1, human representations defaced with obscene graffiti
    4. Binary Dyson sphere
    5. World's #1 Dad mug
    6. Paperback copy of Machiavelli's "The Prince,"annotated and highlighted
    7. Eight 55 gallon drums of high-grade DDT-based insect spray
    8. Bank drive-thru canister, deposit slip inside for 4 million credits
    9. Wishbone, size of VW beetle
    10. Hatch and with explosive bolts blasted, bloody hand prints

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010