Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chain Reaction 3.0

Ed Teixeira of Two Hour Wargames has released the third edition of his Chain Reaction (and Swordplay!) miniatures wargame as a free download. If you're not familiar with this game, it's an excellent set of fast-play skirmish rules that can be played with any figures.

Models are divided into Stars and Grunts. The Stars are sort of like PCs with various advantages (Cheating Death, Free Will, etc.) and attributes (Born Leader, Nerves of steel, etc.) Grunts are, well, grunts. All models have a single stat, Reputation, or Rep, ranging from 1-6. The player rolls two dice (on most occasions) trying to roll Rep or less (this is a roll low game).  The dice are read individually, not added. This gives three possible results: Pass 2, Pass 1, and Pass 0.

In place of the standard moral system the game uses a unique Reaction system. That means models that come under attack must make a Reaction Test that may result in an Involuntary Action. (Now you see why the Free Will advantage is important.) This gives the game a very dynamic, unpredictable feel. The Reaction System is also something most players either love or hate. As Ed himself says, "It’s not for everyone. If you like total control of your forces then just keep walking because you’ll hate it."

The Reaction System is best suited to what I think is the finest of the published versions of the game, All Things Zombie. It really brings the shambling undead to life, so to speak. The game's add copy gives a good overview.

"ATZ takes you to where no other zombie game has before. Yes, it starts on the first day of the outbreak, but then let’s you continue your life building your very own future. It’s a game where every detail has been covered, as you first escape the soulless creatures that threaten you, then hunt them down and take back what’s yours.

On the way there you’ll find out that maybe your most dangerous enemies aren’t the zombies, but maybe your neighbors or sometimes your friends. ATZ can be played solo, cooperatively with everyone on the same side, or competitively with everyone against one another. ATZ can be played as a one up game or part of an ongoing campaign."

If the undead aren't your thing, Simon Norrington has rules on his website for using CR to run Star Trek TOS and Dr. Who games. They're written for the second edition, but should work fine with the new third edition.

So give Chain Reaction and Swordplay! a try. Ed says, "And if you don’t like CR 3.0 it’s all good. Because really it’s all about playing games that you like."

[via QuasarDragon]

Friday, May 29, 2009

MZST Shuttlecraft

Here's a write-up of a standard Class F Shuttlecraft. I had to go a bit beyond the basics and trade some Kills for Spaces (MZ pg. 54) to get everything to fit, but even so I stuck to the basic design system just like I did with the starships. Mekton Z isn't just for gearheads, you know.

While I was finishing the design and checking some details online, I discovered that the old FASA Star Trek RPG is on Scribd. So expect some updates to the starships soon. For now, here's what the FASA game has to say about shuttlecraft.


Shuttlecraft are used by Star Fleet for courier vessels and to transport personnel when transporter operation is impossible or impractical. Not intended for faster-than-light travel, they are powered by an advanced ion propulsion drive similar to the impulse engines of larger spacecraft. Takeoff and landing are vertical, the shuttlecraft standing on three sturdy landing pads. Most larger starships carry several shuttlecraft in shuttle bays; Constitution class ships like the Enterprise are assigned six shuttlecraft, but may carry more if their captains so choose. Every starbase and most smaller Star Fleet outposts berth shuttlecraft as well, and a number of them operated by Star Fleet have no set berth, acting as 'floaters' that can be used and left at the destination Star Fleet facility. Some have even been sold for civilian use. The shuttlecraft come in two standard designs, well engineered for years of service. Parts and service are available at nearly every Federation outpost of any appreciable size, and on any starship carrying them. Some have been in use for over 20 years, with newer models having only a few cosmetic and electronic design changes and additions. Model S-3, the standard model, travels at a maximum of .89 light-speed and is operated by one pilot. It carries 7 passengers comfortably, but, in emergencies, it may carry up to 12 on a short hop, though its life support system will not tolerate such a load for very long. The larger Model S-5 travels at .76 light-speed and also is operated by one pilot. It carries 14 passengers. Not in general use, it usually is assigned only to large stations or starbases, though some have been issued to Constitution class vessels. An experimental design is the S-4 aquashuttle. Developed for landings on water-covered worlds, it bears little external resemblance to the standard shuttlecraft, though its internal systems are similar if not identical. It is capable of interstellar flight at .82 light-speed, and of submerged travel at 100 kph to a depth of 1200 meters. It can carry 6 passengers comfortably in its specially padded and belted seats, and it holds sensing devices for doing underwater detection and research. Aquashuttles are being tested by several Constitution class exploration vessels for possible addition to standard Star Fleet equipment. Standard Star Fleet shuttlecraft neither are armed nor do they have deflector shields larger than those needed for protection against small meteors and other space debris. Aquashuttles carry a single forward-firing phaser cannon, designed for use on dangerous undersea life; this cannon is about twice as powerful as standard phaser rifle. Despite rumors to the contrary, shuttlecraft are not used in starship combat, at least not by the Federation. Their power plants are too small to even be effective as guided bombs.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

MZST Update

"What if Star Trek were an anime?"

That's the question that inspired my MZST posts, which present Mekton Z write-ups of key Star Trek characters and ships. It's a chance to show that Mekton can be about more than mecha, and to take the average Star Trek RPG in a different direction. One of the difficulties of running a Star Trek game is that cannon can often be constraining. It's a problem that Bat in the Attic commented on just the other day. By taking things back to TOS/TAS era and re-imagining the whole in terms of the stylistic elements of anime the idea is to take a step back from canon and give the GM and players the freedom to move in a different direction if they want.

One of the reasons it occurred to me to do this is that Star Trek is often referenced in the Mekton Z rulebook to illustrate a point, but to the best of my knowledge nobody has yet done a Star Trek write-up. So I did one. I'm sure my take on things may not be how others would do it. I treated the Enterprise's chief officers as standard PCs that could be used in a game, or more importantly as example characters for a game set on another starship. The is quite different from the view that Kirk, Spock and McCoy would have the status of legendary NPCs in the game, and should have extraordinary skills. I don't have a problem with that, and if you want to portray them that way just multiply the key skills (or all the skills) on my write-ups by 1.5 -- or do me one better and share your own write-ups.

Things didn't go without a hitch, and I noticed there were some mistakes in the starship designs, especially the Klingon battlecruiser. That's because it started out with a Medium Striker hull and when I upgraded it to the Heavy Striker configuration it has now I didn't adjust all the stats. That's what happens when you don't use a spreadsheet. The other glitch was the ship's sensor ranges, which were way off. They're pretty much ad hoc anyway, and don't add to the ship's cost. They're extrapolated from the basic sensor package (sensors 7 km; comm. range 1,000 km) and intended to give the ships enough sensor range to use their weapons effectively. I didn't use the full Mekton Technical System, or MTS, to design them because I wanted to keep things simple.

There were a few items of common equipment that I didn't cover, so here they are to round things out.

Communicators (as per Tech Level 7 Communicator, MZ pg. 47)

Tricorders act as a combination Bio-Scanner (MZ pg. 47), Micro-cam, Micro-Comp, and Techscanner (MZ pg. 48), but weighs only .5 kg. It can also scan minerals, chemicals and electro-magnetism. It can make general scans out to 3,000 m, and detailed scans out to 20 m.

Medical Tricorder (as per Medscanner, MZ pg. 48, but weight only .5 kg)

Medkit (MZ pg. 48)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mekton Z Star Trek

The other day over on the Mekton Zeta Mailing List the topic of out-of-range characters was being bandied about, and who should chime in but Maximum Mike himself. And wouldn't you know it, he used Star Trek to illustrate his point.

"The Enterprise crew is an anomaly in that EVERYONE (even Uhura and Chekov) are out of range characters. Only the Enterprise can fight Khan--all others get summarily pwn'd."

Well, there you have it. And me having just posted write-ups of the Enterprise crew as regular characters. しまった! So just consider my take on Kirk et. al as examples of what a group of original MZST crewmembers might look like and not as accurate depictions of that larger than life crew.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Space Opera Campaigns

The recent post over on Oddysey's blog about Six Traveller Campaign and Adventure Ideas has some good suggestions for space opera campaigns (my personal favorite being Space Ship Rockstar.) And while intended for use with Classic Traveller they're just as appropriate for any space opera game, such as Mekton Z. So to take this idea and run with it a bit, here are a few more tried-and-true space opera campaigns to have fun with.

Interstellar Patrol: The PCs are members of a service charged with keeping the peace and maintaining the safety of the spaceways. Whether it's fending off an alien menace, taking down a crooked trader, rescuing starships in danger, or ending a space-pirate's reign of terror your valiant crew is up to the task. You may even be assigned to top-secret missions that will take you undercover in the most dangerous corners of the galaxy. If it just weren't for all that red tape...

Colonial Convoy: The PCs are tasked with escorting a group of colonists to their new planet. The goal of the PC ship's officers or scouts is get the colonists to their destination in one piece. They may in one huge colony ship, or a fleet of smaller vessels. En route there can be any manner of complications, such as mechanical malfunctions (loss of artificial gravity, breakdown of FTL drive, etc.), contaminated stores, space-pirates, hostile aliens, disease, and natural disasters. Along the way you'll encounter numerous interesting planets and space stations offering rest and resupply -- as well as further tricky situations. And even once you get the colonists to their new planet they have to tame it...

Asteroid Miners: Among the whirling rocks of the asteroid belt is a fortune waiting to be had. Prospectors stake their claims and hope to find the valuable substances (and alien relics) that will make their fortunes, all the while surviving a hostile environment and fending off claim-jumpers. And in the wild boom town on that large asteroid you'll find the casinos and sexroids to squander your earnings on. Just watch out for the cutthroats and vigilantes. And don't limit yourself to asteroids. Miners can be found extracting metallic hydrogen from the clouds of gas giants, or in rubber science games, on platforms extracting unobtainium from the corona of stars.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Appendix N(evitable)

Here's yet another Appendix N consisting of the 20 classic sf authors who have most influenced me. As an added bonus I even explain why I like them. How about that?

Poul Anderson
His Psychotechnic/Technic stories show you can have colorful space opera that is scientifically realistic.

Isaac Asimov
Three Laws of Robotics. 'Nuff said.

Barrington J. Bayley
He packs more ideas into a single book than many writers manage in a lifetime.

Leigh Brackett
The queen of planetary romance.

Edgar Rice Burroughs
A red-blooded storyteller and a pioneering world builder (despite his often disagreeable attitudes) and the guy I swiped my blog's name from.

Jack L. Chalker
His Well World series are classics.

A. Bertram Chandler
He wrote some of the most convincing navy-in-space stories.

Arthur C. Clarke
Creator of Rama, the archetypal Big Dumb Object.

Alan Dean Foster
His Humanx series is great space opera and it's still going strong. (In the first game I ever GMed I let one of the players be a Tran -- and it was a fantasy game.)

Edmond Hamilton
Pioneer of space opera and creator of Captain Future.

Keith Laumer
His satirical Retief stories are just plain hilarious.

Murray Leinster
A grandmaster who I've ripped-off so many times it's not funny.

Michael Moorcock
Aside from from being a brilliant writer and inventing the character I stole my nom de blog from, he showed the possibilities of the multiverse as a narrative device.

Andre Norton
Another queen of the genre whose stories, although written for young adults, are an endless source of ideas.

Frederik Pohl
Pohl's Gateway is a campaign all by itself.

E. E. "Doc" Smith
The father of space opera.

Fred Saberhagen
His Berserker stories are the only military SF I can relate too.

H. G. Wells
A pioneer of the genre who wrote great stories that also included subtle social commentaries, and father of modern table top miniature games.

Jack Vance
A master world builder who packs more ideas into one book than most people do into an entire series.

A. E. van Vogt
One of the most influential (and weirdest) SF authors of all time. I'll blog more about him sometime.

...and others too numerous to mention.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mekton Z Star Trek Pt. 04

MZST: メクトン Z 宇宙大作戦

What if Star Trek were an anime?

Finally, the trusty starship...

And the implacable foe...

NB: These ships were built using the basic construction rules in the Mekton Z rulebook because combat is not going to be the focus of a MZST series. They are based on the on-screen performance of the ships rather than in-show dialogue about the ships.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mekton Z Star Trek Pt. 03

MZST: メクトン Z 宇宙大作戦

What if Star Trek were an anime?

The cantankerous ship's surgeon...

The ship's armory...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dumping dump stats

A post today by Recursion King tackles the issue of dump stats. We've all seen it happen. A player will throw heaps of points into STR or DEX while stiffing CHA with as few as possible. The best solution to this is something I picked up from Greg Porter's rpgs. It's simple, straightforward and eliminates the problem at the point of character generation. The answer is to rule that a character's highest stat can't be more than twice their lowest stat. Trying to get by with a CHA of 5? That means your STR can't be more than 10. Want a CON of 16? Then forget about sticking only 6 points in INT.

The obvious exception to this rule is if lopsided stats are part of the character's persona and the player in question can be counted on to role-play the character faithfully. But players like that aren't the problem. This rule is intended to deal with your typical min-maxing munchkin. It works for me and I hope if you're having a problem with dump stats in your game it'll work for you too.

Or you could just play a random stat roll game like Call of Cthulhu...if you dare!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mekton Z Star Trek Pt. 02

MZST: メクトン Z 宇宙大作戦

What if Star Trek were an anime?

The unusual first officer...

Mekton Z Star Trek Pt. 01

MZST: メクトン Z 宇宙大作戦

What if Star Trek were an anime?

Our brave captain...