Margaret Weis Drops #MarvelRPG #RPG #gaming cc:@GamingMeerkat

I’ll miss you, old friend … until I play you again a week from Saturday.

Despite my many hours playing Dungeons & Dragons since 2005 (after a 24-year absence from the game), I’m really not much of an RPG gamer. I love FASA Star Trek RPG, but what do you expect? I loved Enterprise! I’ve played Gamma World 4e, Legend of the Five Rings (3rd edition) three times, Dragon Age RPG (Green Ronin Publishing) a few times (mostly as Game Master), and Star Wars Saga Edition once (again, as Game Master). I enjoyed all of those games but played Call of Cthulhu d100 twice and hated it. If I’ve played any other RPGs with dice, I don’t remember it off the top of my head, so apparently they didn’t make much of an impact.  (I’ve also played the diceless RPG, Fiasco, which was great.)

I’d like to broaden my horizons as far as RPGs are concerned, so when my friend, Rishi, offered me the chance to join his new Marvel RPG game, I jumped at the chance. I’ve heard good things about it, so I was intrigued even though I never read comic books. (Come to think of it, I’m not a good geek in general. I don’t play video games, and I find Dr. Who to be retardis.) I wanted to play the mechanics everyone was talking about, so I agreed to play for a couple of sessions before gracefully bowing out.

I don’t think I’ll be bowing out. Our first session was a lot of fun for me. My approach to RPGs has always been to focus on a character concept, where the character has some interesting, overriding character trait, usually but not always a flaw. I then play that trait to the extreme. With my group, that wasn’t only tolerated but welcomed with open arms. As comic book fans, the other players liked the fact that I played my character’s traits so faithfully, even to the detriment of the team, because these are the characters the players love.

Clearly, I’m the baddest ass of the bunch!

Incidentally, I played a guy by the name of Hank Pym, a.k.a., Yellow Jacket. I’d never heard of him but am sure that means something to a lot of you. It also meant something to my cousin, Tom, who still collects comics. When Rishi gave me a list of characters from which to choose, I passed the ones in favor of the Super Human Registration Act to Tom, who told me to pick Yellow Jacket. It’s worked out so far. An insecure, nerdy guy who 1) supports government registration of people, and 2) gains experience points by blaming his own major failing on a loved one? Yeah, I can do this.

Mechanics

And that (finally) brings me to my first point. The mechanics of the game have their flaws, but overall it’s an fun system, especially for someone like me.

The Bad: The dice rolling is unnecessarily convoluted, requiring you to figure out which types of dice to roll (d4, d6, d8, d10, or d12) and in what number every single time you roll. Once I’m used to it, it’ll probably become second nature, but it creates a barrier for entry. If I were the rule rather than the exception, the group probably would have moved on and never played it again. Instead, I was the odd man out. I was the only one that didn’t have experience with the game and wasn’t a comic book reader. Keeping this game going will be easy despite the unnecessary complexity, but I don’t think that will be the case for all groups.

The Good: Rewarding me for domestic violence? Brilliant! I know that sounds bad, but stay with me. No one’s perfect, not even superheroes. We all have flaws, and a role-playing game that doesn’t hide from that fact, even among the heroes, is exactly what I need to make me happy. (Also, I don’t actually have to beat my wife in the game. It’s not necessarily that specific.) Needless to say, this doesn’t always go over well in other systems. In 4e D&D, I have a stereotypical, senile old man, Luigi, who’s great for comic relief, but when I play him in character during combat or role-play, he usually makes bad decisions. It’s never once actually hurt the group when all was said and done  — he was responsible for winning a “social skill challenge” in one adventure despite his eccentricity — but while it’s occurring, it’s tough to convince the other players of that. Some people get very annoyed by his erratic behavior. With Marvel RPG, no one is complaining, and I doubt this is a characteristic of my group itself. The mechanics of the game actually encourage me and them to act the fool at times. And it works.

The Good but with a Caveat: The initiative system is fantastic, but it wouldn’t work in a game like D&D where building a character to go first has so many advantages. Other game systems would have to be tweaked dramatically to allow for the Marvel RPG initiative system. Still, it’s something every game publisher should at least consider.

It’s All About IP

My second point is, as always, that the world lives and dies based on intellectual property law, and this is the more important of the two points. IP law governs everything, and there’s a lesson to be learned here. RPG publishing is a low-profit exercise. It’s tough to do well in it, and whether most publishers will admit it or not, it’s ability to succeed as well as it has depends a great deal on the continued success of Wizards of the Coast. WotC produces Dungeons and Dragons (among others), and does so with the mighty weight of Hasbro behind it. They’re able to do things no other RPG publishers can do, and the entire industry benefits as a result. However, even WotC could hold on to the Star Wars license for only so long. With such a low profit-margin in the first place, having to give up a non-negligible chunk of that in the licensing fee reduces the profit margin even more. Also, unless you’re willing to give up and even bigger chunk of the profits, you have to settle with a non-exclusive license (if it’s even offered), meaning you won’t even be the only game of your kind available. It’s a no-win situation over the long haul.

With that in mind, be disappointed but not angry. I’ve never met or spoke with Margaret Weis, so I have no inside information here, but I’d put good money on the bet that she had a very good reason for letting the license go. This isn’t the fault of Ms. Weis, or of Marvel. It’s just the nature of the industry. The game was selling well, but the numbers just don’t add up in the long run. Everyone needs the core rulebook, but sales of add-ons will always be at least a little less, and often will be much less.

Fortunately, there’s a lot of material out there with even more to come, and many gamers will put together supplemental materials in the form of PDFs freely downloadable from their private sites. This game won’t die anytime soon, and that’s a good thing.

The End

Despite my optimism in the two sentences immediately preceding this one, it feels like there’s been a death in the family (not that bad, though; on the level of a step-cousin). 🙂 I just wanted to offer a eulogy of sorts, if for no other reason than to make myself feel good about it. It’s a good game, we’ll all continue to play it, but like all good things, eventually it must come to an end, and no one is to blame for that. Gaming will go on.

As always, happy gaming!

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FASA Star Trek RPG at TerpCon, Saturday, November 17, 2012 #gaming

Yesterday I sent in my registration to TerpCon for my FASA Star Trek RPG adventure, “Intruders.” If you’re planning to be in the Washington, DC area on  November 17, consider attending. It’s a free gaming convention held at my undergraduate alma mater, the University of Maryland at College Park. They’ll be a good array of RPG events there, but if you have any interest in an old-style, original series adventure, my event will certainly be of interest to you. The gaming schedule isn’t up yet, but you can already create a registration account and check out (or contribute to) the buzz over on their Facebook page.

I ran my other original adventure, Anything but Routine, at a past event, and Intruders involves the same ship and crew. Even if you can’t make TerpCon, you can find several other works published on my FASA Star Trek RPG Resources page and run your own adventures near where you live.

As always, happy gaming.

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FASA Trek Digital v1.0 Is Available

I’ve uploaded the first version of FASA Trek Digital, my Access 2007 database for the FASA Star Trek RPG. You can find it on my FASA Star Trek RPG Resources page (along with an explanation as to what exactly it is) by clicking here. I’ve never distributed an Access database, so if you’re having any problems opening it, let me know.

It’s an *.accde file (executable), so you might require the MS Access runtime application in order to run it. I haven’t packaged that with the program. I can do that if someone’s having trouble downloading the file, though you can also just download it yourself from the Access help database at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=4438. It’s a quick download and installation, and once installed, it should work. (You should not need the Access Runtime Application if you already have Access 2007 installed on your PC.)

I’m happy with the functionality it provides, but remember that “you get what you pay for.” It could be a lot better, but unless I receive some support through (100% optional) PayPal donations, further development isn’t strictly guaranteed. Nevertheless, I’m planning to complete the player character generation component and am willing to entertain specific requests from all of you.

If you have any problems or uncover any bugs/defects, please contact me.

Happy gaming!

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New Page: FASA StarTrek RPG Resources

FASA Star Trek RPG Character Sheet (click to enlarge)

I’ve created a new page for distribution of my FASA Star Trek RPG resources. If you’re interested in running or playing the game, this would be a good place to start. It will soon have a digital tool available to generate characters, starships, solar systems, and planets, as well as print character sheets and starship panels. It already has my own designs for the Command and Control Panels and Master Control Panels, a quick reference sheet summarizing the rules, and Anything but Routine, an introductory adventure I wrote.  A direct link to the page now appears in the menu at the top of this page, so you can always find it without searching if you come back to my blog at a later date.

Happy gaming!

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FASA Star Trek RPG: Yet Another Adventure

A friend had a birthday party yesterday, and although it was a board-game friendly event, I prepared a short, self-authored adventure for a game of FASA Star Trek RPG just in case anyone was interested in playing. The issue never even came up. Instead, I played 7 Wonders (came in a close 2nd my first time playing the game) and Circvs Maximus (my character was killed in a chariot race), but I digress . . . .

A Doomsday Like Any Other

By now any reader of this blog or my Loremaster blog should know that I’ve been revisiting the FASA Star Trek RPG recently, having run it once at TerpCon in College Park, MD. The adventure I ran, Anything but Routine, took place in the Outback area of the FASA Star Trek universe, which is where Federation space borders both Gorn and Romulan space. The Romulans were always my favorite Star Trek villain, and the Gorn were oddly underused. I remember once opining online that one of the later series or movies should revisit the Gorn as velociraptor-like enemies, perhaps representing a subspecies of Gorn. Again, I digress . . . .

For this adventure, I kept the same crew of the Chandley class Frigate, the USS Fife (lifted from the FASA adventure, A Doomsday Like Any Other). It was intended to be only two hours long in light of the fact that it was written for a board-game audience, but it can be fit rather nicely into the story I started with Anything but Routine, either before or after that adventure. In other words, I might have the start of an entire FASA Star Trek RPG campaign.

Now, if I can just find a table of players for it . . . .

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Remembering FASA’s StarTrek RPG

This is a re-blog of my post on Loremaster.org, “Remembering FASA’s StarTrek RPG.” For my thoughts on adopting the composite skill system for your Dungeons & Dragons game, see my last article, Composite Skill Bonuses in the d20 System.


I played D&D Sunday night [10/23/2011], and something came up that I thought I’d share with everyone. I was fondly remembering FASA’s Star Trek game from my high school years. I left [Dungeons & Dragons] in 1981 (not returning until 2005), but for a brief time in high school (1982 or 1983), I bought up materials from the FASA Star Trek game and played it a couple of times. I really miss that game and would like to do a 1-shot or 2-shot game. In 2007, I played the Demand of Honor adventure, which involved the Gorn, but online play was very “unsocial” and lacked the feel of true RPGing.

Can I Cook or What?

I’ve been very lucky to have founded a group that’s open to trying other systems. We’re currently in the midst of a Savage Worlds: Weird Wars campaign because we tried out that system one night (in the Deadlands setting). We’ve also played some Dragon Age RPG but have done nothing more than create some characters and run through a single sample encounter. Tonight, Hal Mangold of Green Ronin Publishing gave me two sourcebooks for DC Adventuresthe Hero’s Handbook and Heroes and Villains Vol. I, and although I’ve never been a comic book fan, I played a demo at GenCon run by its creator, Steve Kenson, and so it remains a candidate for our next experiment.

Still, FASA’s Star Trek would be my first choice for doing something different. As the one who’d be pushing the system, I probably wouldn’t get to be a player, but I love GMing as much as I do playing, so I can live with that.

What’s the Big Deal?

Of all the systems I’ve played (admittedly, not many), none immersed me as much into the setting as the bridge combat system. The hand-to-hand combat system was good, but when dealing with inter-ship battles, I felt like I was on the bridge of a starship. It was so good that they sold the system as a separate product. It could stand on its own.

Visualize the bridge of an Original Series starship. You have the science officer at one workstation, the helmsman at another, the communications officer at yet another, and so on for navigation, engineering, weapons control (for the Original Series movies), and of course the captain’s chair. Other than the captain, this is what the gaming table looks like. Everyone has their spot around a common center. The only difference is that, in a game, everyone always looks towards the center rather than occasionally.

Each of these work stations would necessarily have a different control panel on it. The science officer had a goofy sensor viewing thingy, the helm had it’s own in the Original Series, navigation had a star chart, weapons control had targeting systems and what amounted to “triggers” for the weapons, and so on. For the game, each of the players had their own control panel on paper tailor-made for their handling their responsibilities and tracking the resources for which they were responsible, roughly simulating a bridge workstation. The captain would make decisions on how to proceed, then ask the relevant character to carry out the order. This would usually necessitate a skill roll on the d100 system, and not surprisingly the character was built to contribute in ways appropriate for his position on a star ship.

In other words, there was a chain of command, but it was still a cooperative game, just like 4e [Dungeons & Dragons]. Although it’s certainly possible to play a 4e game without a leader, it helps if you have a healer. The same was true of Star Trek. Yeah, the captain’s in charge but can’t do it all. The time for the captain’s hands to get dirty was when it was time to make contact with others, and captains certainly were built to be good at that.

The game also addressed technology thoroughly, from starship weaponry, to sidearms, to medical and science equipment. All of the major races were addressed, including the Caitian from the animated series. In fact, at DDXP last year, I got to play one. My Gamma World GM created pre-gens for his game, and one of them was a Catian lieutenant from the Star Trek universe who had been stranded here by the Big Mistake. (At the time, he was playing in a FASA Star Trek home game.)

The game even had an ingenious explanation for why Original Series Klingons looked so different from the movie Klingons: The ones from the Original Series were “human fusion” Klingons, genetically combined with humans to make a Klingon better suited to deal with humans. The game took this to the next logical step, introducing Romulan-fusion Klingons as well. The Imperial Klingons (from the movies) existed, but they weren’t the first choice for dealing with humans, so you never saw them on the TV screen. Taking this level of detail even one step further, the game provided a ton of words from the Romulan language. This attention to detail is exactly the sort of thing a fan of the Original Series, like me, would love.

Finally, because everything was handled via the skill system, it wasn’t a burden to have a long list of skills for each character. This allowed each player to customize their character. Kirk liked to ride horses, Picard had a strong background in archaeology, and Riker played the trombone. Your character had plenty of skill points to spend. If you were an optimizer, you could certainly max out your engineering, but you didn’t have to do so. In fact, the game was basically built assuming some characters would be optimizers and others actors (i.e., role-players). Any character could be played by any player type, but because there was always a need for both role-playing and roll-playing, both player types could find a home somewhere on the bridge. Making sure everyone at the table is happy is a goal I’ve set for myself with organized play, but FASA Star Trek makes it easier.

Oh, and FASA Star Trek called them opportunity actions long before D&D had them. 🙂

What If This Isn’t for Me?

Obviously, feeling immersed in the setting isn’t important if the setting doesn’t matter to you. I’ll ask my group if they’re interested, but I won’t beg them to do it. “Play what you like,” implies, “Don’t play what you don’t like.” This might prevent me from every playing the game again, as I might have to find a table of players willing to do so and the time to play outside my group, but there’s always hope.

So Much to Do, So Little Time

Of course, there just isn’t enough time to do all the things I want to do. I’m currently having trouble focusing on a few projects for the Gamers’ Syndicate, and I’m essentially in a job hunt. Once successful in my job hunt, my time might become even more precious. We can’t have everything we want, and I can accept that, but there’s so much out there to do, I don’t see how I could ever get bored.

Either way, consider (re)visiting this game if you enjoyed watching Star Trek. You shouldn’t be disappointed.

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