All posts by Stargazer

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

First Look: Stellar Adventures

imageI was looking for a simple science fiction roleplaying game on DTRPG when I stumbled upon Stellar Adventures. It especially piqued my interest since one of the authors listed in the credits is none other than Jonathan Hicks aka The Farsight Blogger. Only on a second look I realized that Stellar Adventures is actually a game based on Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd Edition, a roleplaying game inspired by the Fighting Fantasy game books of old.

Stellar Adventures itself is a 130-paged PDF containing all the rules you need to run games in basically every scifi setting imaginable. The core rules itself are pretty easy and straightforward. Each time the outcome of an action is uncertain you roll 2d6 and compare the result with your SKILL value. Is it lower or equal than your SKILL, you succeed. Otherwise you fail. Characters can learn special skills, that grant bonuses to their SKILL rolls. There are also talents which grant the characters special abilities beyond mere bonuses.

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All-in-all characters have four characteristics: SKILL, STAMINA (basically hitpoints), LUCK, PSIONICS or TECH. The latter is only used with robot characters and is a measure of the technology used to construct them. It should be obvious that the mechanics are not as deep as in something like Starfinder, but they are perfectly fine for one-shots, online or convention games, or even short campaigns. What really surprised me, is that Stellar Adventures contains basically everything you might need in a SF game: there’s an extensive equipment list, rules for robots, starships, sector and planet creation, rules for designing your own aliens, mutations, cyberware, and much more. It’s not only a simple SF game but actually a complete toolbox. If you wanted to run a game inspired by Star Trek or Traveller, you should have no problems at all. Heck, the warp drive described in the rules is basically the Traveller Jump Drive with serial numbers filed off.

The layout and artwork of Stellar Adventures is definitely old-school. It looks like something from the early 80s, but luckily it’s better organized and better written than a lot of the games from that era.

So should you get a copy of Stellar Adventures? I’d say yes! Aside from its old-fashioned looks it’s a small gem. The simple rules are perfectly suited for online and convention games and on 130 pages you get a toolbox full of material! If you also own the Advanced Fighting Fantasy rules, you can even combine the two since the mechanics are fully compatible.

Stellar Adventures is digitally available from DriveThruRPG and sets you back $14 or your local equivalent. Print copies are also available from local and online stores.

Fallout Wasteland Warfare Q&A with Designer James Sheahan

FOWW-Starter-Box-Mockup_550x825Stargazer’s World is first and foremost a roleplaying games blog, but that doesn’t mean we can’t cover board or tabletop miniature games from time to time. One game I am very excited about is Modiphius’ Fallout Wasteland Warfare. It’s an exciting Fallout miniature game which can be played cooperatively, competitively and even solo. Since I am a huge fan of the Fallout franchise, I reached out to Modiphius and asked if James Sheahan, designer of the game, was willing to answer a few questions for us. Luckily he agreed. Before delving right into the interview I want to thank James for taking his time to answer my questions!

Stargazer: Thanks again for taking your time and answer our questions. Before we talk about Fallout Wasteland Warfare, let’s talk about you. Who is James Sheahan?

James: My pleasure, Michael.  I worked in video games for 10 years and then as a consultant/freelancer game designer for the last 12 years working for games companies, global ad agencies, Google and others.  Like most of us, I have played board games, RPGs, wargames and video games since I was young, and I love film and fiction too.  I actually didn’t start out in games as a designer, but I worked my work across into design as that was my main passion.  I have been very fortunate to have had a very varied experience – some of it, even I can’t quite believe.

Stargazer: Can you tell us a bit about how the idea for a Fallout miniatures game was formed? What problems arose during development? Feel free to share any interesting anecdotes – we love those! Continue reading Fallout Wasteland Warfare Q&A with Designer James Sheahan

Judging a book by its content

I recently wrote a couple of reviews for this very blog without having playtested it. That kind of review is pretty much common for most RPG reviewers, but also criticized by some readers and sometimes even publishers. I actually wanted to write a post in which I share my thoughts on the matter, but then I realized I have already written that post back in 2010. What follows is a repost of that 2010 article called “It’s hard to be a reviewer”.

“It’s hard to be a reviewer” by Michael Wolf

(this post first appeared on Stargazer’s World on July 27th 2010)

Sometimes it’s not easy to be a reviewer of RPG products. If you’ve followed my blog for some time now, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve written quite a few of those in my time. The category “Reviews & First Looks” lists 94 posts. This is quite a lot and in most cases these have been based on a read through of the product in question and not a playtest. And especially this type of review has been criticized recently.

I think most of you remember when John Goodman of Goodman Games called a reviewer an idiot because he didn’t playtest one of Goodman’s adventures but pointed out issues within the module based on a read through. While it’s always a bad idea to react on criticism by calling the reviewer names, it’s also wrong to think only reviews based on a playtest are proper review.

Recently  fellow RPG blogger Dane of War wrote an article (Editor’s note: this article is not available any more) that took the same line. While I can understand that he’s annoyed by overly short reviews that appear only hours after a game has been released, I don’t think he’s right. Let me explain why.

>Roleplaying games are different from other media because they can be consumed in more than one way. You can’t possible judge on a movie without watching it, and it’s hard to judge an album without listening to it, but there are two ways to consume a roleplaying game: a) you can read it and b) you can play it.

In a way RPGs can be compared to movie scripts. You can of course read the script and write a review based on that or you can watch the movie and judge it by what you’ve seen on the silver screen. Since there’s usually only one movie made using one script, its a good idea to review the whole package.

But things are differently when you look at RPGs. When 100 GMs run a game, you’ll get 100 different experiences. So, if you really want to write a review about the game, do you think including the GM’s abilities into the equation does make the review better? Of course there are things that you might miss in a review based on a read through, but that might happen with the playtest report as well. And especially in the case of reviewers who have played RPGs for a long time, I trust that they can judge a game without having played it.

The second problem is that when you demand reviews based on a playtest only, you will get less reviews and you’ll have to wait much longer. So the new D&D 5th Edition is out, and you are eagerly awaiting the first reviews before you buy it. But alas all the reviewers are still trying to get their D&D 4th Edition campaign finished before they are asking their groups to give 5th Edition a try. If you as a customer (or as a publisher/author) expect reviews close to the release dates, you’re out of luck if you expect the reviewers to playtest all games. It’s just not working that way.

So when you try to please everyone out there you probably have to playtest the game on day one, but in all ways possible, write an in-depth review on the same day and even make sure you focus on the aspects of the game the publisher thinks is most important. That’s an impossible feat. Especially when indie games are concerned it’s often hard to get people to try the game out. Not everyone has a group of players interested in trying out a new game every week.

The title of this post is “It’s hard to be a reviewer”. And this is definitely true. Whatever you do, you will be given crap by people. You like a game, they don’t like, or you review the “wrong” way. I always try to write the best reviews as possible. I read the book thoroughly, take my time, write an in-depth review and try to be fair and objective. What I don’t like is reading on that ‘net the I am “doing it wrong” or that I am an “idiot”.

Editor’s note: The title of this post is a quote from a comment written by the user Jiggen under the original article in 2010.