Archive for February, 2021


Uncharted Worlds, a map, and intel as goals

February 27, 2021

I’m starting up an Uncharted Worlds game, and the scenario is developing star system attempting to protect itself against a sudden invasion.

One of the things I wanted to do was play out a bit of strategy in the game; where you are vs. where the enemy is, where your allies are, and where resources are, all being relevant factors. To this end, I made a star system map, and not just “here’s the planets and colony habitats”, but also, “Here’s the last known location of the enemies”, “Here’s the assumed locations of your allies”, and so on.

The player characters are ex-privateeers who have served in the local fleet for a number of years – they are usually entrusted with doing high value cargo delivery – ex-pirates would be the best at knowing how to evade other pirates, after all. So when the invasion occurs, they’re in the middle of a delivery run; no one else in their fleet knows EXACTLY where they are, and generally the fleet is going to be sitting on radio silence except for things that they don’t mind if the enemy learns or assume the enemy can’t do anything about/extra with knowing. So the party starts off with being a bit hidden, but also not knowing the full situation for their allies, either.

A lot of the map has markers for allies and enemies, but in some cases it’s simply “they have a few ships here” “About half of our fleet is usually at the capital” and the players are going to have to figure out how to get more intel if they want to know more. In a way, the map becomes a list of information objectives as much as anything else; the players are going to have to figure out where they can do the most effect/benefit while they have the element of surprise. Likewise, while their fleet is on “their side” they’ll probably want to link up with commanding officers who are more amenable to letting them do what they do best – hit and run tactics, not being a secondary destroyer in a large fleet battle – so that’s a bit of social information they’ll be digging up at the same time.

Note how this is a shift from the usual sort of mapping-strategy of a lot of fantasy RPGs – it’s not that you don’t know where or what the locations are, what you don’t know is why you would go to a place or avoid it – you need more info to make those decisions. I had known the ideas but not the name of, The Johari Window, but that’s effectively what we’ll be juggling with for this game.

Anyway, I’m really excited for this, and it is making me think about different ways we can choose to design map play into games. I’m leaving the map accessible to players between sessions, as I figure they may want extra time to mull it over between each session- while the characters may experience days of space travel between locations, the players are probably only getting a few minutes (“Ok, it’s a week to get there”) so I want to give them that time to think, at least.

(Minor aside; part of this campaign idea was inspired by the Honor Harrington sci-fi novels and the war logistics posts over at A Collection of Unmitigated Pendantry.)

If you find my blog entertaining and valuable, consider supporting me on Patreon.


Signal Boost: Our Traveling Home

February 15, 2021

Feb 2021 Game Hype

February 8, 2021

I figured I might as well talk about some games I’ve played, and games I’m looking forward to playing and hype them up a bit.

Once More into the Void

We played this as a one shot, but I feel it would probably do well as a 3-4 session game. The best way to describe this is Narrativist Mass Effect.

Each player gets a turn to set scenes, and each scene utilizes a type of subset rules based on the type of scene it’s supposed to be – a combat scene gets a different set than an investigation scene. These subset rules are all relatively simple with small charts to work with. The only two pitfalls I saw were: a) having some loose boundaries at least, for the group’s world building, and b) it can be tempting to speed through each scene and not give it some space to breathe.

I hope to play it again, later this year.

The Final Girl

I’m not a huge fan of horror games, so I was really surprised how much I enjoyed this one. You make a host of characters, who will, naturally, be picked off one by one (or more than one) until you’re left with a final character. Along the way, the relationships the characters have, end up determining their effective plot armor – characters who have neither friendship nor rivalries are picked off quick, characters who work their way into being the center of drama tend to have more staying power.

Again, with a lot of games with plot focused rules, it’s a good idea to nail down some boundaries for what makes sense for narration for the type of game you’re running, and to give some time/space for things to play out.

Primetime Adventures

I just finished another campaign a few days ago. As always, if you have players who are interested in narrativist play, PTA is one of the best games. The Fan Mail system, of players rewarding each other for good roleplaying, remains one of the best systems in play, and while Tenra Bansho Zero’s Aiki/Kiai system is a good cousin, it often feels like adding bells and whistles over a core idea that just works perfectly as is.

As I’ve heard more than once in my years playing/running PTA with folks, “Wow, we did more in (5/9) sessions, than years of play in other games.”

PTA just delivers GREAT stories.

Uncharted Worlds

I’m looking forward to trying out Uncharted Worlds as my next campaign for my Friday night game. It has an incredibly flexible character creation system that doesn’t require lots of complicated build considerations. It runs on a Powered by the Apocalypse system, which, I kind of see as neither here nor there, since most of the PbtA’s tend to either over generalize their Moves or remove the wider pressure mechanics that Apocalypse World has. If nothing else, at least it’s a simple system.

I dug out an old setting idea I had and just put it into UA, so we’ll see how it goes. I feel it might be a good system to hit my Mass Effect / Expanse etc. game needs with just enough tactical-ish bits in it such that I don’t just default to Once More Into the Void or Primetime Adventures.


Perilous is next up for my Sunday night game. It peels a bit of an idea from FATE by using an Aspect/Tag system, but has more interesting stuff with a light, flexible feat/ability system, and a meta resource of Edge which effectively has players trading between “Do I rest and recover wounds (but lose my Edge pool) or keep pushing harder to have the Edge points available?” which is a nice sort of very light version of the classic D&D “delver deeper or go home”? balance.

The game clearly establishes the point of adventuring for building up the home town communities, and not just treasure hunting, and the art depicts the sort of cosmopolitan – “goblins, humans, dwarves, demon people, whatever” kind of party groups that effectively hits modern fantasy.

I think less that the system is specifically innovative, as much as it is a good light alternative for people who want fantasy with some narrative emphasis and some fictional positioning strategy around tactics and resources.

Front Earth Striders

It’s pretty rare to find unique settings, but this one looks so charming and weird, I can’t wait to try it.

Take classic fantasy, except… push tech up to the 1950s, with magic tech and so on. And tons of animal-spirit type people. So, you’re basically going on adventure quests in your jeep, with your magic tech rifle, and sword.

The designer is Korean and the English is rough in some spots, but the game takes a combo of OSR-ish bits, item tag systems of modern systems, and some interesting ideas about consequences and stakes shifting, with rotating GMs. There’s enough stuff put together I feel like I’m just going to have to play it to see whether it fits well or needs some nudging and best practices to run smooth, but it’s doing enough different things together that it seems like it will be fun.

If you find my blog entertaining and valuable, consider supporting me on Patreon.