Every RPG should be good for 10 sessions. Unfortunately, I don’t see many RPGs designed to support long-term gaming campaigns.
I grew up in the early days of Traveller RPG and I couldn’t afford all the adventures. Instead, I used the tools presented to me and made my own adventures. One adventure after another.
Unfortunately, what I see so many RPGs do is sell you “adventure campaigns” or “modules” and the like. Each of these products is usually one campaign arc, and often use the “three-act play” approach. Can one get 10 sessions out of them? Yes – if a few of the sessions are stretch out. My point is that what is usually sold as a campaign most times does not go out to 10 sessions.
This “short campaign” focus highlights to me a problem that the RPG gamespace – many games provide the means for world building and long-term adventuring but published adventures and campaigns work in an opposite manner with a campaign that can be started – and completed – is a reasonable (as in few) sittings. I recognize why companies do this; they need to see you more products and giving you one product that doesn’t depend on future sales is not necessarily a profitable strategy. Indeed, I think many gamers expect shorter games, especially if the RPG is based on a licensed RP. The source material is often “episodic” and the going-in assumptions often so not support long-term adventuring but rather the “adventure of the week.”
Now, before you all accuse me of doom-n-gloom, let me say that I am excited at what I see on the Net and Twitter and the like. There are many home-brew campaigns that are the foundation for long-term campaigning. Home-brew, like I have been doing for nearly 40 years.
Although I have been playing RPGs for nearly 40 years, the most impactful session happened not too long ago. It was the day I introduced the RockyMountainNavy boys to RPGs.
I had the new FATE Accelerated rules in hand and it looked to be easy and fun – a great lite RPG and a gateway game. I found a small western RPG scenario online (basically the PCs ride into town and things start happening). The big bad was a Hutt; his minions droids.
I GM’d the game in a very loose fashion. After all, it was also my first really serious run of FATE Accelerated.
Using a closed 5-ton chassis (3 Hull, 3 Structure), Armor 25, the Heavy Plasma Hover Tank is a main battle tank. It has the Hostile Environmental Protections System. It carries a Fusion power plant, Code K, and a hover propulsion system, Code K, giving it a top speed of 150kph, a cruising speed of 112 kph, and an Agility DM of +1. Three kiloliters of hydrogen support the power plant for 1 week of use. This vehicle is equipped with the Advanced Vehicle Control System, Class II Laser Comms (LOS or 50 km), Basic Military Sensors (-2), and a Model 2 computer. There is a Basic Cockpit for the Driver and a Standard Seat for the Gunner/Tank Commander. The vehicle has one weapon points. A large, heavy turret carries a TL-12 Rapid Fire Plasma Gun. Cargo capacity is 7 spaces. The chassis is armored with Superdense (x5). It also mounts an Explosive Belt. The vehicle costs 690.12 KCr and takes 1,125 hours or 47 days to build.
Superdense (Armor x5)
Fuel Capacity = 1 Week
Class II Laser
Laser LOS/Very Distant (50 km)
Comms DM 0, Very Distant (50 km)
Turret (Large Heavy)
Rapid Pulse Plasma Cannon – TL-12
ROF 1/6, 12d6 Dmg
Total time to create this design was about 30 minutes. This is still a lot more time that a GM wants to take to create a vehicle at the table, but fine for a prep session. The design is not a Slammer’s blower tank – it doesn’t have a powergun nor the armor to match. But it was a good exercise of the CEVDS and an encouraging start to designing vehicles for Cepheus Engine RPG adventuring.
All Terrain Vehicle (ATV): Also known as the ATV, the All Terrain Vehicle is a wheeled or tracked vehicle designed to provide high-quality transportation on the terrestrial surfaces of any number of worlds. It can traverse all but the most forbidding (difficult) terrain and is fully amphibious (capable of water operations).
ATV’s commonly have the following features:
The ATV masses 10 tons, and can carry a payload of six tons, including the driver and seven passengers.
Cruising speed depends on the terrain being traveled: roads can allow up to 100 kph, while cross-country will rarely exceed 60 kph, and broken ground will keep speeds to 20 kph and under. Tracked ATVs are somewhat slower that wheeled versions, but are more reliable in difficult terrain.
An ATV may be powered by a battery charged from a ship’s power plant, or it may contain a small fusion pack requiring water or hydrogen for fuel.
The vehicle’s pressurized interior allows up to eight passengers living quarters with reasonable comfort for long periods of time.
The major drawbacks of ATVs are refuelling requirements (depending on the specific model), slowness in some types of terrain, and the bulk of the vehicle itself
While amphibious, most ATV’s have very poor water performance. Unless intended for short trips, a dedicated watercraft is recommended. And in rough seas or under inclement weather conditions, on large bodies of water, an ATV can be a very dangerous vehicle to be in. Some more advanced ATV’s have better water performance, but most have extremely poor water performance.
Going all the way back to the first book in the series, Leviathan Wakes, the small shuttle Knight gives us some insight into the technology of The Expanse:
It wasn’t long before Alex called down, “Okay, Boss. It’ll be about a four-hour trip flying’ teakettle. Total mass use at about thirty percent, but we’ve got a full tank. Total mission time: eleven hours.”
“Copy that. Thanks, Alex,” Holden said.
Flying teakettle was naval slang for flying on the maneuvering thrusters that used superheated steam for reaction mass. The Knight‘s fusion torch would be dangerous to use this close to the Canterbury and wasteful on such a short trip. Torches were pre-Epstein fusion drives and far less efficient. (Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 3)
From the book we know that the trip covers 50,000km. Working with classic space travel time equations, we can compute the Knight is traveling at about 1.0368 m/s or just over .1G acceleration.
Later in Chapter 5 we see the Knight running flat-out at 2G acceleration. At this speed the same 50,000 km trip should take only 53 minutes, which is a bit shorter than the approximately 70 minutes obliquily stated in the book. At this point it is unclear if the 2G speed is the upper limit of the teakettle or the fusion torch at low power.
The Knight does eventually clearly light it’s torch:
“Roger that, XO. Bleeding-g burn-and-flip laid in. Angled approach course so our torch won’t burn a hole in the Cant. Time to rock and roll?” Alex replied. (Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 5)
Here we have to interpolate the fusion torch acceleration based on Holden and his apparent weight. When lighting the torch Holden weighs 500 kilos. Assuming he is an average 75 kg to begin with, this works out to almost 7G. Interestingly, from the novella The Drive we know that 7G is the instrument limit on Solomon Epstein’s ship that he installed his new drive on, indicating that the fusion torch may have an upper limit of 7G.
In summary, we can say the shuttle Knight has maneuvering thrusters (teakettle) that operate efficiently at .1G. The shuttle also has a fusion drive (torch) that can accelerate it at up to 7G.
The Knight‘s torch drive could deliver a lot of thrust, but at the cost of a prodigious rule-burn rate. But if they could save the Cant, it wouldn’t matter. (Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 5)
The missiles that are fired at the Canterbury are also very impressive:
As if in answer, six new objects appeared on his radar, glowing yellow icons appearing and immediately shifting to orange as the system marked their acceleration. On the Canterbury, Becca yelled out, “Fast movers! We have six new high-speed contacts on a collision course!”
“Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, did that ship just fire a spread of torpedoes at us?” McDowell said. “They’re trying to slap us down?”
“Yes, sir,” Becca said.
“Time to contact.”
“Just under eight minutes, sir,” she replied. (Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 5)
For these six missiles to cover 200,000km in 8 minutes means their acceleration has to be around 150G!
In Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 51, Holden tries to remember how fast the Roci can go:
He tried to remember the Roci‘s maximum theoretical acceleration. Alex had already flown it at twelve g briefly when they’d left the Donnager. The actual limit was one of those trivial numbers, a way to brag about something your ship would never really do. Fifteen g, was it? Twenty? (Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 51)
In the episode “Home” if I caught the screen correctly it looks like the Roci was accelerating just over 17g. This again is in line with the book; and way faster than the 6g of Classic Traveller or Cepheus Engine and far ahead of the technology in Orbital 2100 where the alternative Nuclear Pulse Fusion Drive tops out at 1.2g! Compared to the Traveller RPG or Cepheus Engine universe, the ships and weapons of The Expanse are way faster and likely far more deadly too.
As late to the game as I am, I look forward to reading more of The Expanse series and seeing what further ship secrets are hidden within.
Two of my three favorite Traveller RPG, uhh…”2d6 Classic Sci-Fi RPG”, companies published new items recently that I acquired.
The first is Far Horizonfrom Zozer Games. The cover calls it Far Horizon: A TL9 Exploration Ship for the Cepheus Enginewhereas the front matter states Far Horizon: A Near Future Mission and Spacecraft for Cepheus Engine. Both titles are correct, although the second one is more accurate. This title is designed to go with the Zozer’s Alternate Traveller Universe (ATU) setting of Orbital: 2100 although everything is included here to play this adventure with just the basic Cepheus Engine rules if needed. Inside one finds not only background into the mission but also a complete description of the DRV Far Horizon, a nuclear-thermal rocket for exploring deep space. Included also are rules for TL9 Vacc Suits. The adventure itself is a race-against-time investigation into the unknown.
Parts of Far Horizon have been available previously. The ship itself is a free download at DriveThruRPG. The rules on vacuum suit construction were in a previous product, Vacc Suit, which is no longer available no-thanks to the Mongoose Publishing Community Content Agreement. So it is refreshing to see this packaging bringing back good near-future, hard-ish sci-fi adventure! Adding to the quality, the product is nicely illustrated by Ian Stead and others.
If one has looked at Orbital: 2100 but are not sure about making the jump into this ATU, Far Horizon is a great way to try out the setting.
The second product I got was Ships of the Clement Sector 17: Atlas-class Freighter from Gypsy Knights Games. This is the second of what I call “expanded” ship books from GKG. The 50-page product includes excellent narratives to set the mood, awesome ship art by Ian Stead (again), and just enough adventure seeds to whet a GM’s appetite. Indeed, this larger format allows for more of each giving both players and GMs more to think about and more potential for adventure. If you are a fan of The Expanse, you may find a similar vibe to that universe and some of the stories and background presented here. Though many might look at an 800 dT freighter as “not sexy enough to be my ship,” the reality is it takes ships like the Atlas to ply the shipping lanes of the Clement Sector and ekk out a living. This book helps your players do just that. Another must-buy from GKG!