Category Archives: Reviews & First Looks

Review: Elite Dangerous Roleplaying Game

I still remember when I first saw the space-trading computer game Elite. It was a friend’s house and he showed me this snazzy new game on his Commodore 64 computer. I was totally blown away. Even though the graphics were extremely primitive compared to what we’re used today, the game just looked great. It was also not just one of those simple and linear games we were used to, but you could explore a whole universe containing countless system.

Each system had a trading station, there was information on each system’s inhabitants, its government type and more. Probably because everything was a bit vague and because of the simple graphics you really had to fill in the rest with your own creativity. The game also allowed you to play how you wanted. You could be a peaceful trader, a smuggler, a pirate, a bounty hunter. At this time there was no game like this. It was unique.

Eventually I got a copy of Elite for the PC and played it for a while, but at this point some of the magic had waned. I also had always trouble with games that forced me to set my own goals. But regardless I always had a soft spot for the game and its sequel Frontier. I especially enjoyed a set of short stories which came with the box for Frontier: Elite II. There seemed to be a whole gaming universe out there, which I would have loved to explore outside of the confines of a computer game.

In 2012 David Braben, one of the two initial programmers of Elite, started a Kickstarter campaign for Elite: Dangerous, basically a new version of the original game, which modern graphics, a more realistic flight model, and 400 billion star systems to explore. The Kickstarter project was a huge success and in 2014 the game was released. Since then its developers have constantly supported it with updates and it’s currently one of the most impressive space simulation games out there.

I was not the only one who thought that there should be other ways to explore this massive universe besides the computer game. In fact there were several authorized Elite: Dangerous RPGs for a while. The first was created by one very enthusiastic fan and from what I heard it was extremely detailed and complex and obviously not what Frontier Developments (the company who developed the computer game) expected. So eventually the gave permission to create a second RPG to Spidermind Games. Today I want to have a closer look at this second official Elite Dangerous RPG. Modiphius is acting as publisher for E:DRPG and they graciously provided me with a review copy which is basis of this review.

Continue reading Review: Elite Dangerous Roleplaying Game

HOPE Playtest

I randomly generated a mission, to raid for armory resources, and followed through to create random challenges.
Starting play I didn’t use the travel rules as hex crawling it really not my thing. That being said there is a 8 step procedure for hex crawling that will create the world before the characters complete with encounters with mutants and caches of resources.

My adventure started at an ambush, there was a raging sand storm and dragged across the road was a rusted out wreck of a school bus. Our truck slowed down suspecting a trap but the raiders had second guessed us and set their ambush so far in front of their barricade that our cautious position put us right on the perfect ambush site. There was a short fight during which my PC was thrown clear of the truck just before it exploded. The attacker was a huge humanoid that appeared to be covered in chitinous plates of natural armour.

The beast quickly disappeared into the swirling sand carrying the inert bodies of two of my team. On investigation of the wrecked truck the fourth member was clearly dead. I scavenged what equipment I could from the wreck and set off the track the beast. I had noted the direction it went and had a compass. As it turned out it was heading straight up the road past the old bus and towards the point marked on our mission maps for an old arms dump.

I followed as best I could until I reached what appeared to be the dumps location but was confronted with a forest of giant fungi. Approaching cautiously I was caught out when it started to belch out spores that made me dizzy and eventually blacked out. I regained awareness to find the fungus beating down on me but I struggled to crawl out of the mutant plants reach. My body armour had protected me from the worst harm but I wasn’t about to go in there again.

I had no means of making fire, which was my first instinct. I prowled around the bunker looking for a way in and eventually I found the egress point but still needed to get past the mutant. Finding a point where the wind would carry the sound of my rifle away from the bunker, I doctored some bullets to make flare out on impact, hoping that would do more damage to a fungus than a neat hole from a bullet. It took a fair few bullets to eventually rip the visible parts of the fungus to shreds but eventually I had a clear path.

Once I got to the door it was clear that the locking mechanism had been destroyed long ago and I could slip inside. What I was faced with looked like a giant nest made of all the wreckage of furniture from the original interior but no massive mutant or comrades. There was an open door leading to a passageway that turned out to be a gantry at ceiling height looking down on a cavernous warehouse of military gear. This is far more than we had been lead to expect. It would never have all fitted into our truck. A movement caught my eye down on the concrete floor.

The beast was down amongst all the crates. I unslung my rifle slowly hoping it hadn’t seen me. At that point I realised it was feeding and it was feeding on one of my colleagues. I carefully took aim and opened fire. I hit the beast and certainly got its attention, it then charged up the gantry towards me. A lucky shot brought it down as it was about to smash me into a pulp.

I very cautiously investigated the rest of the weapons dump and unfortunately my colleagues we both dead. There was a garage at the back of the place with a jeep, and that probably saved my life. I loaded it up with what I could. Secured the place by blocking the main entrance with debris from the nest and then tried to get back to Hope settlement.

All of my playtest was randomly generated, from the stats for the mutant fungus to the beast living in the weapons cache. My mission was to raid for just a handful of arms resources measured in in ‘units’. The random encounter actually specified an entire arms cache.

In this adventure I got to test drive the random adventures/missions, the skill system and combat. All in all it was fun to play and worked quite well. The negative was that the playtest PDF is scans of pages and as such you cannot search it for text. That lead to a lot of scrolling back and forth to find rules. The playtest rules are 79 pages so I was disinclined to print them off, although that would have solved the problem.

If I was running a session for other people I also would not be rolling for random events during the session. A little prep goes a long way in making games play smoothly at the table. The small adventure above took about two hours to play out from starting character creation to jumping in the jeep to head home. The key moment was rolling a critical for my attack in the round where the beast was in melee range but I still had my rifle loaded and ready to fire. If that attack had been anything less than a critical then the balance of power would have been very much in the mutant’s favour.

Does the game work, yes it does. Was it fun? Yes it was.

The combat is very dangerous and it could easily have turned into a TPK. If you are going to fight then at a distance and behind cover is by far the best idea.

I am not too sure about the setting. It is set 200 years after a nuclear armageddon and to my mind I cannot imagine that much 20th century military hardware surviving for 200 years. I was imagining it to be nearer nearer 20 years than the described 200 but that is personal choice and foible.

The game is a fully funded kickstarter  and it is in the process of unlocking stretch goals.

HOPE is a fun game, a bit more bleak than MY:Z but definitely in the same vein as MY:Z and Gamma World.

The Siege Perilous

If you are even remotely interested in the Ultima series of computer roleplaying games and D&D you owe it to yourself to check out Michael Shorten’s excellent “The Siege Perilous” rules.

Back in 2009 he took Swords & Wizardry Whitebox to create his vision of a Ultima pen & paper roleplaying game loosely based on the first three games in the series. The Siege Perilous consists of a 46-paged core rulebook, a 54-paged GM’s guide, and a 10-paged gazetteer which unfortunately he never finished.

One thing that makes The Siege Perilous special is its interesting approach to classes. At character creation you can pick between the classes of Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric and Thief – quite standard so far. But at level three you can either stick to one of the base classes or switch to one of the advanced classes like the Alchemist, the Lark, or the Paladin. Sure, advanced classes like this are nothing new to D&D in general, but I haven’t seen the concept in OD&D-based games before.

The playable races in The Siege Perilous are pretty standard as well, which is no surprise since the Ultima series was originally based on the creator’s own D&D campaign, but how they work mechanically is quite different. Humans for example do get an Intelligence bonus in the early Ultima games and so is the case in Michael’s tabletop game.

Another change from D&D is that The Siege Perilous throws out Vancian magic and replaces it by a spell-point based magic system complete with Ultima-inspired spells. The deeper I delve into this game the more excited I am about it. The Siege Perilous combines two of my favorite things into a perfect blend.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that the rules also include space combat? No? The early Ultima games like many other CRPGs of that era often combined fantasy settings with SF elements. Ultima 2’s story for example heavily relied on time travel. In Ultima 1 you eventually got access to Scifi equipment like blaster weapons, aircars and even space shuttles. From how I understand things these artifacts are left-overs from an ancient civilization. Perhaps Sosaria is actually a post-apocalyptic setting. 

Overall I think The Siege Perilous is a great example for a White Box-based game which tries to do something different. While it’s still D&D at its core, it’s also a totally different beast. I also think that some of the ideas of early computer roleplaying games can still be exciting to explore even today. So do yourself a favor, and check out The Siege Perilous!