Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Looking for your feedback about skill advancement

I posted this over at Google+ earlier today, but didn't see any responses as of yet, but I'd sure love some advice. As I'm refining notes for Rad Astra classes I'm designing, I'm trying to allow PCs to advance at a nomimal, yet fair, pace. Meaning, I don't want them to get too powerful too quickly. So I posed the following question:

When crafting a new class and your working on your advancement table for skills do you:

A. Typically throw Level 1 characters a bone (+1 for a skill particular to their class)?

B. Tend to start them at zero and they get the +1 (or whatever bonus) when they hit Level 2?

C. Something else? (explain)

So the idea here is to give first level PCs something to shoot for right off the bat. Their skills aren't refined until they advance one level (e.g., they've used them at least once or they've paid to advance through some sort of training).
Here's an example of a skill set for Starbarian:
LevelPilot Ancient TechSurvivalWeapons SpecialistBeast WhispererStealth
1 Tendertoes+1+2+1d4+1+2
2 Furfang+1+1d4+1d4+1+2+1d4
3 Bonescratcher+2+1d4+d4+2+3+1d4
4 Battleaxe+3+1d4+1+1d4+3+1d4+1d4+1
5 Warrior at Arms+1d4+1+1d6+1d6+1d4+1+1d6
6 Doom Dealer+1d6+1d6+1d6+1+1d4+2+1d6
7 Moon Mauler+1d6+1+1d6+1+1d6+2+1d6+1d+1
8 Vanquisher of the Void+1d6+2+1d6+1+1d6+3+1d6+1+1d6+1
9 Guardian of the Galaxy+2d6+2d6+2d6+1d6+2+2d6
10 Champion of the Cosmos+2d6+1+2d6+1+2d6+1+1d8+2d6+1

Here's one way I could scale it back, by dropping bonuses a level or so, while still keeping most of the greater bonuses in the higher levels:
LevelPilot Ancient TechSurvivalWeapons SpecialistBeast WhispererStealth
1 Tendertoes-----
2 Furfang+1+2+1d4+1+1
3 Bonescratcher+2+1d4+1d4+1+2+2
4 Battleaxe+3+1d4+1+1d4+2+1d4+1d4
5 Warrior at Arms+1d4+1d4+2+1d6+1d4+1+1d4+1
6 Doom Dealer+1d4+1+1d6+1d6+1+1d4+2+1d6
7 Moon Mauler+1d6+1d6+1+1d6+2+1d6+11d+1
8 Vanquisher of the Void+1d6+1+1d6+1+1d6+3+1d6+1+1d6+1
9 Guardian of the Galaxy+1d6+2+2d6+2d6+1d6+2+2d6
10 Champion of the Cosmos+2d6+2d6+1+2d6+1+1d8+2d6+1

Anyone have experience with this approach? Something else?  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Disney's Star Wars is shaping up to be very different from Lucas'

Sharpen your no. 2 pencils kids, there will be a test after!
Much has been made of the recent revelation that Disney intends to trim the ever-burgeoning Star Wars expanded universe (EU), in recent weeks. Some even welcome the imminent slaughter, which will no doubt cast much of the existing EU from the summit of Space Mountain like fleas off a wookie's backside. But this all raises a much more interesting series of questions, beginning with....

What sort of expanded universe will Disney create for Star Wars?

First, a not-so-quick recap. We'd heard last year that, beginning in 2015, there would be a Star Wars sequels, taking place after the original trilogy. These would seem to invalidate--at least partially--the canon status of a good chunk of the (very popular) novels, games, and Dark Horse Comics-era comics that also take place in that time period. We hear rumors of Skywalker-Solo children, and even the return of the big baddie himself, Emperor Palpatine--but not as a clone as the EU had resurrected him.

Cutting the Cord to the EU

It started a while back we when we heard of some "spin-off" films that would be produced in the Star Wars universe, but focusing on on a single character. A different points, Yoda, Han Solo, and Boba Fett were mentioned. Another red flag: early reports pegged them as origin stories calling into question the backstories of popular characters in the saga--not a good sign for EU-established story arcs.

Then a few weeks ago confirmation (everyone knew it was coming) that Dark Horse would relinquish Star Wars. The license, in 2015, will revert back to Marvel, which is now Disney's in-house comics publisher.

Dark Horse has had hits and misses, but their Dark Empire series really brought the Jedi angst.

The Purge Begins

Meanwhile, Disney went on a project killing spree, pulling the plug on the phenomenal-looking Star Wars 1313 video game and--shockingly--the ardently watched and highly rated Clone Wars TV series. This seemed like a pre-emptive strike to take out any current or future competing content from what is essentially a wide stream of "official" Star Wars storytellers.

Shoulda' been a slamdunk success, like shooting a dianooga in a holding tank.
Inevitably, word finally came last week: Disney will be paring down the EU, getting Star Wars ready to fit into a new Disney mold. This purge is likely to ignore the nearly decades-long efforts to flesh out that far-far away galaxy in greater, grander detail. Arguably, the most well-received and ubiquitous EU tales came out of Dark Horse. Not all agree. These stories would likely see the trash compactor (NOTE: Consider snapping up what you can from booksellers now, seeing as how those stories will likely never see print again.)

A New Hope Backstory 

This week, another revelation: Boba Fett solo film scribe Lawrence Kasdan (yes, THAT, Larry Kasdan) says he's looking at rebooting Fett from the origin up. Like most of us, he wasn't won over by Lucas' attempt at an origin story, so he's come up with an idea to kill the clone and make off with the mask. This is essentially another nail in the EU, since most of Boba Fett's escapades between films (and much more after) all weigh rather heavily on non-film storylines.
Soon to appear in "Spaceballs the Sequel: The Search for More Money"
It's been stated that this won't affect the established canon of Star Wars--but in a way it already has. The mere mention that the clone origin wasn't solvent enough to make an impression is essentially rewriting the Star Wars saga in what Lucas has looooooooooong said is the ONLY storyline that matters: the movies. Of course, that too is about as clear as mud.

To make things more the powers that be are now denying the spin-offs are set up from a single character's point of view--seen as hint by some that the films will focus on totally new characters. When she's not completely confusing the fanbase, Star Wars head honcho Kathleen Kennedy tries to reassure folks that the real story is the Skywalkers. So then why even make these other stories if they're not "really" part of the Star Wars canon? ("Money," yes, of course is the answer....)

Where will the EU get most of it's material?

So how will Disney's Marvel handle the EU? Will they be forced to ignore the earlier storylines by Marvel--the ones that saved their bacon in the 1970s? Will Marvel be expected to retain any of the Dark Horse content or will they straight-up reinvent the saga, starting from 5 minutes after Return of the Jedi. And what about the Star Wars of "thousands of years" a.k.a., Knights of the Old Republic? How much are EU are we talking about?

Before sequels, there was Howard Chaykin and Carmine Infantino.
Probably the biggest question though is, who is the torch-bearer for the EU? Currently, it's Dark Horse--most of the stories germinate or pass through that keyhole. So will Marvel take up that role? Or will Disney double-down on their videogame success and put the focus there?

One answer has cropped up in all the reports, it seems that the new EU will be canon:
"A primary goal" was to ensure that there was no hierarchy between the movies and spin-off material, but instead one cohesive canon across the entire franchise, adding that "more so than ever, the canon field will serve us internally simply for classification rather than setting hierarchy."
From that standpoint, the re-canon-ing everything into a single, meshed storyline seems like a great idea. I'm sure fans who revel in the wild and briar-like threads on Wookiepedia and are wont to disagree.

How will Disney owning the property affect other licensors?

You know, a year ago, I was more than a little reticent to support Fantasy Flight Games' snagging Star Wars for miniature and RPG games. Wizards of the Coast (Hasbro) let the rights expire. I was worried they wouldn't be able to fill Wizard's shoes.

Boy was I wrong. They have a verifiable hit with Star Wars X-wing, miniature game of starfighter dogfights. It's by all accounts fantastic and growing quite an exuberant audience.

Look at all those funny dice!
 The Star Wars RPG likewise looks fantastic and is getting great reviews. I've not played it yet (mostly because my house is overrun with RPGs--more on that and the spousal embargo later) but again, another win for FFG. Honestly, I couldn't be prouder. Fantasy Flight is located here in the Twin Cities and it's sort of awesome to have a local company be an integral part of the Star Wars family.

Will these changes from Disney--a family-oriented media company--end up undoing the work and achievements that FFG has so deftly accomplished? I was maybe too harsh on Fantasy Flight in that previous post. I'd feel gutted now if they lost the license due to some Disney legal dickery.

In my original post, I'd indicated doubts about Fantasy Flight being too adult-oriented. I don't think Disney would or could do better when it comes to RPGs or mini games. Quite the contrary, my fear is that they would do the opposite--kill them entirely in favor of very kid-oriented fare.

Disney Infinity, a mini-to-online adventure video game (patterened after the mega hit Skylanders) is being lauded a huge success for the Mouse. Is there room at the Magic Kingdom for two kinds of game audiences? Or will they decide to foreclose on FFG's aged gamers in favor of a younger, more online-synced audience?

So is Goofy-bacca canon or what?

Other unanswered questions:

If Star Wars were ever to be sold to another studio, would it undergo another purge?

Could this ever happen again? Hopefully I'll long be one with The Force before that happens, but I can only imagine the disastrophy that would ensue from redoing another entirely new take on Star Wars. Perhaps by then the whole thing will be public domain anyway? (One can dream!)

Will other big franchise transfers be handled similarly?

Say that Paramount were to lose the mess that is the Star Trek license, and be bought by another studio (let's say Dreamworks). Does the Disney hitting the reset button on Star Wars set the tone for how other studios might rework a previously-established license with decades of EU history? Other companies may be watching closely to see how the biggest media reboot in history pans out.


How the hell am I supposed to explain Star Wars EU to my kid? Seriously, she's not even a year old. All of this will have come and gone by the time she's old enough to see the original movie.
ME: So here's a really cool Star Wars comic, it takes place after Return of the Jedi!

KID: Cool! Is it before or after Episode 7?

ME: Neither, it doesn't fit with that movie. It's about Luke turning to the darkside and the emperor coming back as a clone.

KID: The emperor is a CLONE??!

ME: No, uh, not really....See it's part of the EXPANDED UNIVERSE.

KID: The spin-off movies?

ME: No.

KID: The Marvel comics?

ME: No, this is when Dark Horse did the EU.

KID: So how does it fit in now?

ME: It doesn't.

KID: So why am I reading this?

ME: It's like an alternative take--like Star Wars Infinities!

KID: Infinities?

ME: Nevermind.
All I'm saying is, it's a LOT of franchise baggage to be lugging around.
Okay enough whining--to the comments!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Upping incentives for a one-shot or con adventure

In preparing for this year's upcoming Con of the North, at which I'll be running a Rad Astra-themed X-plorers game, I was thinking about things I'd wanted to improve on since last year.

Yes, yes, I'd like to play less fast-and-loose with the rules. And yes, yes, I'd like charge to go more smoothly. (Read a play report on that game here.)

But it occurred to me that there was maybe another more subtle issue I hadn't picked up on. If one of the main incentives during roleplay games (other than, ya know, playing the game!) is to gain XP to level up--and you've got no chance of continuing said session later on (especially if it's at a con)--then what are the players playing for?
Top image: Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World

Now mind you, I'm fully aware this is nitpicking. But that doesn't mean it's without some basis. I think I was extraordinarily lucky last time to have a group of highly motivated individuals at my table. Rather, I had a table that included some highly-motivated RPGers. There were, perhaps, one or two folks who sort of didn't go whole-hog, if you get my meaning.

Now they could be the kind of player who's just MUCH more casual about their style of gaming. Or maybe they didn't get what was going on--or even held back because they weren't super experienced at gaming (my default postition for learning new rules BTW, is to hang back before jumping in, so I get this P.O.V.).

That said, I tried to come up with some solutions for what's likely, not a huge problem. But I think I also wanted to dangle a little extra some'n-some'n in front of players that would encourage them to be more engrossed in the game.

Idea 1: Use XP to Fuel Next Encounter

Call it: insta-leveling! Or not. We all agree that there's no incentive to hold on to XP in a one-off game to build their character, right? So players might as well try and acquire XP to do more in the current game. Since no one's leveling up let's award XP after each encounter. Players are rewarded for roleplaying (highest value), achieving game goals (medium value), dispatching foes (lowest value).
  • Step 1: Make the XP awards nice and round, so everyone gets 40 each for helping to slay the space dragon and 60 each removing the eggs from her lair. Total = 100
  • Step 2: If they choose to now, players can divide their XP total by 10 (In this example, 100 /10 - 10 points.
  • Step 3: Players can elect to use those points to add to future rolls, spells, impossible feats, or just add to damage. They get to parse it out as they choose in the next encounter, be it combat, checking for traps, fixing the warp drive, etc.
  • Step 3: Repeat through next encounter.

Right away, I think I'd have to be making each encounter more difficult/crazy. But...is that really a bad thing?

XP earned = XP used!

One concession I'd be willing to make is to let the players know ahead of time how many encounters to expect in the game. I wouldn't go into detail, preferring to keep what will be a skirmish, puzzle, trap, or big battle to myself. But at least it gives them a sense of what might lie ahead that they can spend these points on.

I also wouldn't tell them that while they may get a fair amount of XP in the first encounter, the next one could be really light on XP. So, they need to think strategically about how they want to spend their XP bonus. They can spend and save, splurge, or save it all up for the end.

A variation of XP for in-game encounters might be to award for solely for roleplaying, so as not to highlight combat as much and really drive them to get into the setting more. The more engaged they are, the more they're rewarded for the next encounter.

Idea 2: Roleplay For Your Rolls

So this is more abstract, and would take some explaining at the table. It's feeling right now like this might be more geared toward newbies specifically.

Basically, anytime a roll is required, the players need to give a deeper explanation of what they're doing. This might seem dangerous almost--but I'd drop XP all together for this one. Make it as simple as possible:

Scenario: During a cantina encounter a PC finds himself in a gunslinging showdown. His dexterity is the same as or lower than his opponent, so he'll need to roll to see if he can pull off a shot before the other dude.

"Hey Bobby, take off that helmet and show him how ugly you are!"
There's not so much, steps, as a scoring system:
  • Roleplay to Roll: Provide details about how you'll pull of feat = +1 to hit 
    • "I lift my head ever so slightly to throw him off, reach for my , but I'm sweating up a storm!"
    • GM confirms this is enough detail to allow the PC to fire his weapon 
  • Signal Your Wingman: Include another PC in your attempt = +2 to hit
    • "I wink at Hoss in hopes that he'll get my cue to throw a drink and distract my enemy."
    • Hoss complies by tossing a shot onto the floor. (Note: Hoss can only roleplay a solution, he can't really perform a separate action like shoot the badguy himself.)
  • Call the Calvalry: Get your whole team involved = +1 to hit for each team member
    • "I whoop and hollar at my crew to shout alien obscenities the moment his hand reaches for his weapon."
    • Team members each roleplay something to help the PC gain an edge in distracting foe.
    • He earns a +1 from each of them to add to his roll
Obviously the idea here is for the PC to gain some sort of advantage in the situation. It's essentially everyone understands that the modifiers only apply to whatever action the PC is currently attempting in this round. GM's perogative: add in extra +1s or give a damage bonus if the PC's compadres really go for it with the roleplaying antics.

My off-the-bat fear on this one is that not every situation will lend itself to this kind of co-operative roleplay. The other party members might choose to comply, choose not to, or choose to do something so off-the-wall that it garners more points on their pal's behalf. I think it's worth experimenting with to see how players get their teammates involved.

There's also the side benefit of getting power-gamers to be as uber focused on their buddies' attempts as they would be in crunching numbers for their own at bats. It's always a bit irksome when a player arrives with every intention of playing solo in what's essentially a team sport. This could help the situation by prodding them to think about the team since that's the only way they themselves will earn bonuses.

These are all spitball ideas. I'm sure some variation fo these has been tried in the past, yes? Anyone try anything different with XP in finite game sessions at cons and such? 
Insults, derisions, mocking, and general banter welcome in the comments!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Comics Pull List Revised!

For the last few months, I've been whittling my pull list down and now I've only got two titles.

One hasn't even started yet, the new Silver Surfer by Dan Slott and artist Mike Allred. It looks like Allred is the perfect fit to illustrate this character! I loved his take on FF (somtimes called "Fantastic Faux"), which were basically replacements for the Fantastic Four. I still love that series, but stopped picking up individual issues and opted for the trade pub version, mostly to save some scratch, but I also prefer reading complete storylines in big books. I'll miss those individual covers though!

Allred's art has a carefree, joyously colorful look to it that I just relish. And judging by the cover, it'll be the kinda' fun that the surfer should be having.

The other is a title I've blogged about previously, and the first issue didn't disappoint--Rick Remender's return to space-fi in Black Science! It's dripping with the cool, unmerciful and cosmic setting you're used to finding in an H.P. Lovecraft tale, but with a little gonzo/wa-hoo in the mix.

I'm technically also signed up for The Star Wars, that "rough script" version of George Lucas' original screenplay for the eponymous film. The art is really fantastic. The story is just okay. The actual layout--how the story fits together panel-by-panel--is terrible. So much so that I basically bought the last issue in my pull file out of guilt, which makes me feel terrible. If it didn't have "Star Wars" on the cover you'd think it was just a poor imitator not worth reading.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

CES 2027: Glimpse the future of law enforcement and private security...

If this video is any indication, the CES hype machine is destined to go into overdrive in the late 2020s.

Despite the shiny white cyberscape, it seems awfully foreboding. Good thing it's a ways off--or possibly a viral tactic to get you to see the new RoboCop. ;)

Feed your "robophobia" here:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

VIDEO: FLASH GORDON: Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe

Here's an entire Flash Gordon serialized, 12 episode storyline, "Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe" ready for you to explore. The original title didn't include "Space Soldiers" when it was in theaters--that was added when the serials were strung together for television broadcast in the 1950s, so as to avoid direct competition with the Steve Holland version.

 Plot synopsis, per Wikipedia:
A deadly plague is ravaging the Earth, known as the Purple Death because of the spot left on victims' foreheads. Ming the Merciless is suspected to be behind the plague and it is discovered that his spaceships have been dropping "Death Dust" in the Earth's atmosphere. Flash Gordon, along with Dr. Alexis Zarkov and Dale Arden, is sent to the planet Mongo to find a possible cure for the plague. They eventually find an antidote, called polarite in the Kingdom of Frigia. Flash and Zarkov distribute the antidote the same way the original Death Dust was spread. Ming sends an army of robot bombs after the three and he succeeds in capturing Zarkov for a short time before Flash frees him.

The trio continue to battle Ming and his allies. Ming's Captain Torch is the "head villain" of this serial. He is in charge of stopping the Earthlings.

Before Flash and his team leaves, they kill Ming by locking him in a tower and crashing a rocket ship loaded with Solarite into it. Prince Barin takes his rightful place as ruler of Mongo. Ming's last words are "I am the universe!". Zarkov announces that Flash Gordon has conquered the universe.
  • The Purple Death
  • Freezing Torture
  • Walking Bombs
  • The Destroying Ray
  • The Palace of Peril
  • Flaming Death
  • Land of the Dead
  • The Fiery Abyss
  • The Pool of Peril
  • The Death Mist
  • Stark Treachery
  • Doom of the Dictator
Main Cast
  • Flash Gordon - Buster Crabbe, Olypic Gold Medal winner of the 1932 games (he also played Buck Rogers in early serials)
  • Dale Arden - Carol Hughes
  • Dr. Alexis Zarkov - Frank Shannon (Notice it's not "Hans" Zarkov as in the comics and other film/TV depictions)
  • Ming the Merciless - Charles B. Middleton
This was the first exposure I ever had to Flash Gordon, via my late father who grew up catching them in movie theaters as a kid. I've always thought those rockets sounded like Remington electric razors on overload.

Its exciting to see how far Flash has come and how deeply the tropes came to be ingrained in today's science fiction and fantasy. Seems like a lot of today's media is overly self-referential and snarky. It's heartening to know that there was once a time when this was all fresh and innocent.

These vintage serials are pure pulp space adventure in all it's original glory!

Check out the IMDB listing for more.


VIDEO: FLASH GORDON....in 6 minutes!

Or "Flash Godon in a Nutshell" as the editor has dubbed it. Seriously worth every second, since it highlights the best parts to hilarious effect!

Flash Gordon turns 80 today!

It was on January 7th, 1934 that Alex Raymond's FLASH GORDON first appeared in newspapers to the delight of pulp adventure fans and readers of funny pages. It should go with saying just how much Mr. Raymond's hero has influenced modern popular culture.

Whether he was reappearing throughout the years in his own strip, comic, TV show or movie serial or acting as the zeitgeist behind even bigger mythologies (*cough*, STAR WARS), the other-worldly escapades of Flash Gordon have given us decades of epic entertainment.

Happy Birthday Flash!

Click to embiggen. Image: King Features Syndicate 2014, all rights reserved.

To commemorate the occasion, Flash Gordon's publisher, King Features launched a new website www.flashgordon.com with comics from the most recent artist to steward Flash's newspaper appearances, Jim Keefe

Jim's been a fellow Twin Citian now for a number of years and I've been lucky enough to bump into him from time to time at local comic conventions. Besides being the nicest guy this side of Mingo City, he's an unabashed Gordon fan himself, with a real reverence for Raymond's original imaginings. 

From primeval monsters, to swashbuckling sword fights, and swooshing rocketships, to finned spacecraft, sleek cityscapes, and elaborate costumes--Keefe's Flash hearkens back to the early Raymond adventures and planetary romance themes. But he's also put his own unique spin on the Mongo universe, including updating a few characters.

From time to time, he's even turned the pencil work over to a few guest artists, including Al Williamson himself!

Longtime readers Exonauts, know that Flash looms large in my geek psyche. To kick off Flash Gordon day here on Exonauts, here's a few of my favorite renderings of Flash. I've noted artists/sources in the file names when known. Click to embiggen. 

Probably my favorite though is this one:

For more art, check out this Flash Gordon Pintrest board I put together. 

We'll have a little Flash Gordon Fest here on the blog throughout the month. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Check out Comic Kingdom's post on Flash's anniversary.

UPDATE 2: Jim Keefe has posted an excellent snapshot of Flash's career in comics, check it out!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Saturday Star Control: Identifying and Classifying Planets

I'm behind on my Star Control post for the weekend, but I'm hoping this helps to make it up a bit with a rundown of the types of planetary bodies used in the game. Since part of the game includes extraction of resources and establishing contact with other races, it helps to know which ones make the best candidates for those activities.

Click to enlarge. Image from Too Much Zerging

Here's a quick outline planets by type as described in Star Control II:

Gas Giants

  • Huge balls of gas composed of light elements (hydrogen, helium)
  • Ships can't attempt landings since there's no solid surface
  • It's possible that massive "scoop ships" could harvest elements
  • No intelligent life has been found on/in a gas giant...yet...

Water World

  • Large, rocky planets with nickel-iron cores, fluid mantels and covered in water (Earth-like)*
  • Distance from parent star determines whether water is liquid,gaseous, or locked up in ice
  • Life is common on these worlds
  • Surface temp ranges 0-100 degrees centigrade

Selenic World

  • Small, not dense, composed of light elements and metals
  • Rarely have atmosphere
  • Comparable to Luna, Earth's moon

Dust World

  • Surfaces composed of silicates and metal oxides
  • Little or no usable mineral deposits
  • Thin atmosphere may support minimal eco system

Hydrocarbon World

  • Like water worlds, but covered in inorganic hydrocarbons like ethanol
  • Small deposits of useful minerals 
  • Known for ability to support life

Primordial World

  • Large, rocky have metal core with silicate sheath
  • Dense atmosphere of carbon dioxide makes for hot, volatile surface conditions

Metallic World 

  • Usually found in the first or second orbital position
  • Lighter materials have often burned off leaving small dense core of heavy metals and minerals exposed
  • Highly valuable for the natural resources, but may have intense gravity fields

Reduction World

  • Similar to water world but surface gas is not oxygen, but methane and ammonia**

Radioactive World

  • Contains higher surface concentration of radioactive elements 
  • Higher amounts could indicate uncommon gas composition or mantle convection process

The manual indicates that there are other "less common" types of planets spread throughout the game and encourages you to seek them out.

When planets are encountered in-game, players (starship captains) typically scan them for minerals, lifeforms, artifacts, etc. Scanning brings up a stat-block of the following attributes:

  • Planet Type: (As covered above)
  • Orbital Radius: Distance from primary star in astronomical units (A.U.s)
  • Temperature: Surface temperature; hotter worlds make for dangerous landings
  • Tectonics: Seismic activity; rated 1-8 "classes" which seems to follow the Volcanic Explosivity Index not the Richter Scale
  • Weather: Measures force and density of disturbances and measured similar to tectonics (8 classes); lightning is most dangerous weather effecting landings
  • Atmospheric Pressure: Measured in "standard Earth units" and adds more flavor than function in the game
  • Mass: Total mass measured in Earth units, 1 = 1 Earth
  • Radius: Also measured in Earth units; mass combined with radius determines a planet's gravity attribute
  • Gravity: Measured in Earth units and determines how much fuel it costs to land (and leave) a planet
  • Length of Day: How long it takes for planet to revolve on its axis, not a large in-game consideration
  • Axial Tilt: Difference between a planet's rotational axis and axis of orbit, determines planets seasons (which likely affects weather patterns/overall climate)

In Star Control, it's important to understand most of these attributes, while a few seem to be more geared toward rounding out the game's aesthetic. I appreciate the amount of thought that went into crafting the planet classification and I could see actually making use of all of these in a paper and pencil RPG.

Whereas SC2 sorta' auto-calculates the danger to your crew when you attempt landings, attributes like Length of Day, Atmospheric Pressure and Weather could be used to greater effect in a home campaign of your own making. They might influence how PCs choose to expose them selves to the elements and for how long.

All in all, I think this is an excellent to classify planets. It gives nice snapshot of each planet encountered. Might be worth an attempt to do something similar in an X-plorers, Star Frontiers, or other scifi game.

*Star Control II came out before the notion of "Super Earths" was widely known by the public. In the game, Earth is considered a larger, rocky planet. Venus, Mars, and Mercury are typically small-to-medium sized worlds.

**Manual; says "oxygen" here, should really be referred to as "nitrogen" or an "oxygen/nitrogen mix."