I just wanted to share what the playmat looks like right now.
Edit: To answer questions I received, the blank character card was made with the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) 2.10. The original dimensions are 1000×700 but I place the card at 50% size, 500×350, so it will look good even zoomed in. If you would like to use them, here is an archive with .xcf, .psd, and .png format files. The fonts used are Alenia by shanayastudio and Spotnik demo by Alexatype.
I place copies of the blank card on the Map & Background layer on Roll20. The character info is filled on the Objects & Tokens layer in Contrail font.
The Fate bookmark is available from Evil Hat Productions as a free download. And I discuss the aspect tokens in a how-to post on Evil Hat’s website here.
We had our Session 0 for our Fate adaptation of The Expanse, leaving me with scribbled notes for adventure- and world-building.
Focus and Sub-Genre
Our strawpoll on themes and genre resulted in the following votes from four players:
Political intrigue: 3 Action and suspense: 2 Character drama: 2 Spaceship combat: 0 Mystery and investigation: 3 Horror: 0 Espionage: 3 Wacky hijinks and banter: 2
At the moment I’m going with the following issues:
The Truth About Eros
The Churn Throws Unlikely People Together
Faces and Places
Some of the movers and shakers at the UN and their extended network will probably feature in the backdrop. We discussed the following characters from canon:
In addition, we have a new NPC, Thomas Marshall III, the CEO of Marshall LifeTech and father to one of the PCs. He moves in rarefied circles and has some pull with the UN.
Players also mentioned Tycho Station as a place they would like to check into, and Camina Drummer as someone to interact with.
Venus, with possibly old half-built orbital staging platforms meant for the abandoned cloud cities project.
The rings/gates have not yet made their appearance at the start of our campaign. (In other words, we’re aiming more for Outland than Stargate.)
The Main Cast
Our four main characters:
Thomas Marshall the Fourth
Tom is a young man of 22 and he’s the only son of Thomas Marshall the Third, the CEO of Marshall LifeTech, a big player in life support systems. Tom has a lot of crazy conspiracy theories and his father indulges his little “journalistic” endeavors, but Tom lacks experience with the hard edges of the real world. Tom has managed to convince his family to fund a “fact-finding expedition” to Venus to follow one of his many flaky theories, but Thomas Marshall III made sure to add one trusted member to the crew, a young diplomatic attaché called…
Gabriel-Adan Zhao Cantador
Sometimes familiarly called Gaz, Gabriel-Adan Zhao-Cantador is an independent consultant, formerly affiliated with the United Nations Diplomatic Service. Zhao-Cantador was raised in a family on Basic in one of the Earth-Moon LaGrange-4 point. During school, [TBD] inspired Zhao-Cantador to push for a space at the Lower University. Zhao-Cantador studied political science at university and then accepted a position at the United Nations Diplomatic Service before being seconded to the Diplomatic Intelligence Directorate for further training.
While posted as a legal attache at a small station in the Belt, Zhao-Cantador exceeded his authority in authorizing refugee visas for Belters in need of relocation to Earth-jurisdiction, setting them up on Basic Assistance without prior clearance. Had this been a matter of simple corruption, the right people would have been paid, and the situation would have been ignored.
As a result, Zhao-Cantador was summarily recalled to Earth, and placed on paid administrative leave. While awaiting disposition of his career, Zhao-Cantador was referred to a meeting with Thomas Marshall.
A proficient if quirky xenobiochemist and the first (and possibly only) child born on Triton. Their parents were also xenobiochemists, sent to examine exoplanets with the big Triton arrays for signs of life. Extra mouths were unwanted so everyone was on some form of birth control, but mom and dad were on a timetable so they smuggled a fertilized embryo up with the rat and monkey embryos. Hilarity ensued. Born and raised Triton among a great community of science nerds.
Born on Eros, from a proletarian family. Her dad was a union representative on a drydock of Eros. Her mom worked menial jobs like cook, EVA suits repairs, whatever she could do to feed her kids.
Self-made woman who had to get her education through work and apprenticeship. She started working when she was 12 on small ships tasked to remove dangerous debris from stations vicinity. Tough jobs that involved EVA, piloting drones, heavy machinery. Later she got also involved in the commercial aspect of the trade: negotiating price of scrap or removal of hazardous material. When she reached her twenties, realizing that she’d be stuck in dead-end job if she didn’t switch career, Cécile got involved with smugglers and low grade criminals which opened her horizon to more profitable job opportunities. Now she wants to know the whole truth about Eros and everyone she lost there.
Cécile is a tall lanky woman. She sports very short hair usually by habit. It’s cleaner and you don’t get Belter lice this way.
On with our adaptation of The Expanse to Fate! Along with character creation and ship combat, spaceship construction is one of the most important pieces in this system conversion. Compared to character creation, however, we don’t have as good an internal blueprint for how ships should be modeled in a role-playing game.
As I explained in my interlude, how detailed the ship rules should be in a specific campaign depends on how interested your group is in directly controlling ships and how often this element will show up in the story. At the most basic, ships may be a backdrop, important but more of a scenery aspect the way space stations or planet-side locations may be. At the other end of the spectrum, ship-to-ship combat may be a your characters’ bread and butter.
I gave my players a mini-survey to see where their interest lie: Political intrigue, Action and suspense, Character drama, Spaceship combat, Mystery and investigation; Horror, Espionage, or Other. The two options that go no votes were horror, which didn’t surpris me, and spaceship combat, which did. I had my answer: keep the spaceship combat rules light for my players, don’t burden them with detailed mechanics they’re not interested in using. (Good thing I asked first!)
Therefore, I will use the lightest version possible in my own campaign; in essence, I will treat the AGE System ship profiles as narrative descriptions. Does it say the ship has a med bay? OK, your PC gets a bonus for recovering from appropriate conditions such as Injured or Wounded. Does it have an advanced sensor package? You’ll see other ships coming a little earlier in the fiction.
However, I promised you a more detailed version and here it is. I largely based it on Tachyon Squadron and its supplement, the Spaceship Construction Toolkit, but I do follow The Expanse RPG as closely as I can, especially in the technology lingo.
In case you’re wondering about the next installment in our series, I’ve been musing about ships and space combat. I have one way of doing things based on staying as close as possible to the write-ups in The Expanse RPG, and another based on the ship rules from Tachyon Squadron and its supplements.
It’s going to come down to what my players want for a series framework: if they’re going to go have a lot of ship-to-ship battles where their PCs are in charge of the action, then I want solid rules – meaning derived from Tachyon Squadron. But if they are going to be mostly bystanders like the captured crew of the Knight aboard the Donnager, then just lightly adapting the AGE System rules and using them in broad strokes suffices.
Both approaches can be used in parallel. I can write up both sets of rules and make them available for fellow fans; however, as GM I want to start with what’s immediately useful to me and will not confuse my players. That said, I promise you I will give you both, in time.
Finally, if you do not care about staying close to the published game The Expanse RPG but only about the books or television series (e.g., if you don’t already own the RPG nor plan to), and want a Fate solution, you might want to take a look at Evil Hat’s Fate Space Toolkit. It contains a handful of ready-to-go campaign settings and one of them, called Mass Drivers, would be a good fit for The Expanse and particularly for a Belter campaign If you’re starting from scratch, it’s an excellent choice.
That said, I love the amount of useful material in The Expanse RPG and its supplements so I will continue to use it a lot in my Fate version.
Continuing from my previous post: let’s look at creating some GM characters. This is a spot where Fate really shines for me, making my life easy as the game moderator. You see, while it’s true of any role-playing game, Fate is one of the few that openly acknowledges that adversaries don’t need to be statted the same way as player characters. At all. They don’t even need to use the same skill list. For example, here is a way to make very minor antagonists, a.k.a. mooks:
Make a list of what this mook is skilled at. They get a +2 to all rolls dealing with these things.
Make a list of what this mook is bad at. They get a −2 to all rolls dealing with these things.
Everything else gets a +0 when rolled.
Give the mook an aspect or two to reinforce what they’re good and bad at, or if they have a particular strength or vulnerability. It’s okay if a mook’s aspects are really simple.
Mooks have zero, one, or two boxes in their stress track, depending on how tough you imagine them to be.
Mooks can’t take consequences. If they run out of stress boxes (or don’t have any), the next hit takes them down.
This method is found in the Fate Accelerated Edition but used widely throughout the Fate range of implementations. It works very well for the lowest category of speedbump adversaries, dangerous mostly when in numbers or as impediments to slow the PCs down and let the real target escape. For example, I give you the hooligan: Continue reading “The Expanse in Fate: NPCs”→
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times recently, I have put in a lot of work in creating modules for Evil Hat Productions on the Roll20 virtual tabletop (VTT). Of the 36 modules I have worked on, 29 have been Fate modules, 21 of which have been released on Roll20 already. And this really drove home the point that circumstances have driven me to a Fate-less gaming schedule right now: none of the games I have played this year are powered by Fate. This is unacceptable and there was only one thing to do: start a Fate game.
Setting-wise, I have been itching for a long while to play hard science fiction. Rather than going for a ready-statted Fate setting, I decided to adapt The Expanse. It’s funny, of course, because the book series and later television series have their origin in a role-playing campaign led by one of the authors (GURPS, I believe). A couple of years ago Green Ronin Publishing picked up the license and published The Expanse Roleplaying Game based on their AGE system, which I had played in Dragon Age and run in Blue Rose 2nd edition.
I feel that Fate is a great system to run and play exciting adventures in this setting, and it certainly makes preparation easy for me as GM. On the other hand, The Expanse RPG is crammed full of information and I want to get as much of this goodness as I can, not reinvent the wheel. This led me to hew as close as possible to the original character stat profiles.
Yeah, like I need more ideas. As I was trying to get back to sleep last night, I was thinking about things I like and didn’t like about R. Talsorian’s game Castle Falkenstein (1994). It provided inspiration for a lot of other games and I loved it from day one, but it always suffered from a problem I’ve encountered in, I think, all the RTG games: the skills’ magnitude was overwhelmed by the randomizing element. In this case, randomizing was provided by playing cards rather than dice since, of course, genteel society would not stoop to dice!
Because Castle Falkenstein used the narrative descriptors that would later inspire Fudge, Fate, PDQ, and similar systems, it ought to be an easy match for a Fate conversion. But what of the use of Fate dice? Wouldn’t it go against the setting?
Of course it would. Fortunately, as of this week Evil Hat Productions has us covered: the lovely Fate Deck has been released. Instead of dice, you can use the Fate Deck to provide the random element, as well as a slew of other narrative uses! So hey, this is one of my games for next year’s Big Bad Con.