My Trek – Part 5

Last week I introduced the first part of my spaceship battle rules, which set the scene and defined the terms, so to speak. Today, we finish them up with the actual combat rules.

Combat Rules

Combat is handled in turns. Each turn is divided into 12 phases. Each phase determines when a ship can move (based on the ship’s speed) and when it can attack.

All movement is handled on a grid. During a phase when a ship is permitted to move, it can be moved one space forward or turn 90 degrees.

Phase Zero: The Command Phase

Before the normal phases of a turn begin, there is a “Phase Zero”. During phase zero, captains give orders to their ship for the current turn, as follows:

  1. Power points are assigned to the ship’s three major systems (engines, force fields, weapons), and possibly to the ship’s tractor beams and invisibility device. You can do this by writing it on a paper. Ships start the game with 8 power points, and can put no more than 3 PP into each of their systems.
  2. Speed is determined. The amount of power directed to engines determines a ship’s maximum speed during a turn – the captain can choose to move at any speed up to and including this maximum speed.
  3. If a captain wants to self-destruct their ship, they must decide to do this now. The self-destruction occurs during Phase 12 of the turn. See below for more information on this last resort tactic.

Combat Phases

The table below indicates which phases a ship moves during the turn, based on the ship’s current speed. In the chart below, “H” stands for “half sub-light”, “F” for “full sub-light” and each number for a hyper speed.

“•” indicates a phase in which the ship can move.

Phase H F 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12

Ships can attack during phases 3, 6, 9 and 12. All ships move during a phase before any attacking takes place. Moves and attacks occur simultaneously. Thus a ship destroyed during an attack phase may still carry out its attacks for that phase.

Attacking

To attack, a captain designates a target, counts the range in spaces to the target and rolls their attack dice. The following deductions are made from the attack roll:

Condition Deduction
Range 4 to 7 spaces -1
Range 8 to 11 spaces -2
Range 12 spaces -3
Attacker Hyper4 or above -1
Attacker Hyper8 or above -3
Defender Hyper4 or above -1
Defender Hyper8 or above -3
Target is Size D -1
Target is Size E -2
Target is Size F -3
Targeting a specific system (see below) -3
Target is “blocked” by another ship or object -3
Target is invisible -6

If a weapon’s attack roll is higher than the force field’s value, it deals damage to the target’s hull equal to the modified dice roll minus the force field value. Thus, an attack roll of 16 against a force field with a value of 12 deals 4 points (16-12=4) to the target’s hull. The target’s hull points are reduced by 4 in this case.

Targeting Systems

A captain can either make a general attack against a vessel, or it can attack a specific system. Attacking a specific system carries a -3 deduction to the attack roll.

If the targeted attack roll would score at least 6 points of damage (i.e. the modified attack roll is at least 6 points higher than the target’s force field value), then the targeted system is damaged (see below).

Hull Damage

As a ship suffers hull damage, it loses key systems and personnel. This is depicted in the game by the loss of power points. You will remember that a ship begins the game with 8 power points. As it suffers damage, its total available power points drop, as follows.

Damage Level Hull Points PP
No damage 100% 8
Light damage 75% 7
Serious damage 50% 5
Critical damage 25% 2
Destroyed 0% 0

The following table helps one determine a ship’s damage level based on its size class and current hull points:

Size Class None Light Serious Critical
A 60-46 45-31 30-16 15-1
B 48-37 36-25 24-13 12-1
C 36-28 27-19 18-10 9-1
D 24-19 18-13 12-7 6-1
E 12-10 9-7 6-4 3-1
F 6-5 4 3 2-1

A ship reduced to 0 HP is destroyed and removed from the board during the next Phase Zero.

System Damage

When a system is damaged, its maximum factor is reduced by one step, i.e. from Factor III to Factor II, Factor II to Factor I or from Factor I to Off-Line.

Until a system is repaired, it cannot be energized above its current best factor. Thus, if weapons are at a best of Factor II, only 2 PP can be directed to them. Each turn during Phase Zero, a ship can attempt to repair a system by rolling 1d6. If the roll is a “6”, the system’s factor is increased by 1 step. Only one such system can be repaired at a time in Phase Zero.

Self-Destruct

When a ship self-destructs, it makes a final “attack” against all ships within 12 spaces. The total attack roll against each target (including friendly vessels) is 12d6. This is reduced by 1 dice per space between the self-destructing ship and the target.

Assembling a Fleet

To keep games fair, all ships are assigned a point value derived from its size and its other capabilities. To stage a game, decide on the point total for each fleet and then use those points to purchase ships.

PTS Size Max. Speed Force Fields Max. Damage
100 A Hyper 9-10 V 9d6
50 B Hyper 7-8 IV 5d6
25 C Hyper 5-6 III 4d6
10 D Hyper 3-4 II 3d6
5 E Hyper 1-2 I 2d6
0 F Sub-light 1d6

 

Special Weapons and Abilities PTS
Aft Weapons 25
Invisibility Device 25
Torpedoes 25
Missiles 10

Example: A Size A ship that can travel at Hyper10, has Type V Force Fields, Type III weapons, torpedoes and aft weapons, is worth 100+100+100+50+25+25=400 points.

My Trek – Part 4

When the Klingons and Romulans get squirrelly, it’s time to send in the USS Enterprise, phasers a-blazing to send those jokers back across their respective neutral zones. To handle a situation like this in my Star Trek campaign, I needed some spaceship battle rules, and I wanted a set of rules that would be quick and easy. Since I write lots of games these days, I figured I might as well write them myself, with a little inspiration from Starfleet Battles and the Star Trek RPG I’m using for the campaign.

I might spread these rules out over a couple posts. They’re pretty concise rules, but they’re not “blog concise”. I’ve made these rules neutral in terms of the jargon so CBS/Paramount doesn’t sue me, but I think you can figure out what’s what.


Spaceship Battles

Copyright 2019 John M Stater

Spaceship Battles is a spaceship combat simulation game using a simple gridded mat, counters or miniatures to represent spaceships, a full set of dice, pencils and paper. There is theoretically no limit to how many players ca play the game, although play by more than 6 players would likely be difficult.

Spaceship Specifications

Ships are ranked by their size and by three systems, engines, force fields and weapons. Systems have three factors to represent their potency – from I to III. A system’s current factor is determined by the power directed to it and system damage.

Each ship begins the game with 8 power points (PP). Power points are allocated to the ship’s systems to determine that system’s current factor. Factor I requires 1 PP, factor II requires 2 PP and factor III requires 3 PP.

Ship Size

A ship’s size determines how many hull points it has and how maneuverable it is. Hull points (HP) measure how much damage a vessel can take before being destroyed. Maneuverability (MVR) determines how many spaces a ship must move forward before it can rotate one quarter turn and then continue to move.

Note that Class F ships are assumed to operate in squadrons of three vessels.

Size Class HP MVR
A—Battleships, Carriers, Colony Ships 60 3
B—Battlecruisers, Heavy Cruisers 48 2
C—Cruisers 36 1
D— Destroyers, Frigates 24 1
E— Corvettes, Scouts, Transports 12 0
F—Shuttles, Fighters 6 0

Engines

Engines determine a spaceship’s maximum speed. The spaceship’s actual speed during a turn of combat is determined by its captain. Ships can move at two sub-light speeds – half and full, and ten different hyper speeds, from 1 to 10. A combat turn is divided into twelve phases, and a ship’s current speed determines during which phases it moves a space.

Force Fields

Force fields protect a ship from damage. The more power directed to force fields, the harder it is to damage a ship. See the Combat section for more information about how force fields work in the game.

Factor Type I Type II Type III Type IV Type V
I 1 2 3 4 5
II 2 4 6 8 10
III 3 6 9 12 15

Weapons

There are two main types of weapon, energy and projectile. Energy weapons rely on power, so the more power that is directed to them, the more damage they inflict. Projectiles are not as limited.

Most weapons are located on the fore section of a ship, and are given a 180-degree forward arc. Ships with aft weapons can fire in any direction.

Energy weapons can be used during each firing phase of a turn. Projectile weapons can be fired once per turn, unless the ship has rear weapons, in which case the projectile weapons can be fired twice per turn, but only once in each direction.

Energy Weapons

The primary weapons of a spaceship are energy weapons. The more power that is fed to these weapons, the more damage they can cause. The most common weapons are as follows:

Factor Type I Type II Type III Type IV
I 1d6 2d6 3d6 3d6
II 2d6 3d6 4d6 6d6
III 3d6 4d6 5d6 9d6
Range 9 9 12 9

The number indicates how many dice are rolled when the weapon attacks. See combat for more explanation.

Type IV weapons lose their potency at longer ranges. You can use the following table to determine the number of dice rolled on a Type IV attack based on range.

Range
Factor 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
I 3 3 3 2 2 1
II 6 6 6 5 5 4 3 2 1
III 9 9 9 8 8 7 6 5 4

Projectile Weapons

Torpedoes and missiles are not powered like energy weapons. They can be used with just one power point directed towards weapon systems. Projectile weapons always have the same attack value. Ships have a limited number of projectile attacks, usually 6 for Class D/E/F ships, 9 for Class B/C ships and 12 for Class A ships.

Missiles Torpedoes
Attack Dice 4d6 6d6
Range 9 9

Tractor Beams

Most spaceships are equipped with a tractor beam. To use a tractor beam, one PP must be directed to it. The ship can then tow another willing ship no more than one space behind it, or can attempt to tow an unwilling ship.

An unwilling ship must first be caught in the tractor beam. A tractor beam has a range of 3 spaces and rolls 3d6 to attack. If this attack is successful, the tractor beam catches and holds the target. The target then has a chance in subsequent turns to break away. This chance is based on its current speed, as follows:

Speed Chance to Break Away
Sub-light Roll 6 on 1d6
Hyper 1-5 Roll 5-6 on 1d6
Hyper 6-10 Roll 4-6 on 1d6

A ship caught in a tractor beam cannot move on its own, but can be dragged (see above). A ship in a tractor beam can still fire its weapons.

Boarding Parties

A ship can transport a boarding party (about 6 people) to a target if the target has no force fields operational and both ships are moving at the same speed. The boarding party can be targeted at the enemy ship’s bridge, engines, force field generators or weapons.

A boarding party attacking a bridge must roll a 6 on 1d6 to succeed. If they succeed, they control the enemy ship. Against other systems, a boarding party must roll a 5 or 6 on 1d6 to succeed. If they succeed, they take that system offline until they are repelled.

A boarded ship has the same chances of success to repel as the boarders had to board.

Ramming

A ship itself can be used as a weapon by ramming into another vessel. To ram, one vessel must move into the space of another. To make contact, one must roll a “6” on 1d6. Modify the number needed to hit down by one for every two levels of speed faster the attacker is than the defender. Thus, a ship traveling at Hyper4 trying to ram a ship at half-SL is traveling at 4 levels higher and modifies the number needed to hit down two, from “6” to “4 to 6”. If the ramming ship is traveling at a slower speed than its target, it always fails to ram.

The ramming ship does damage equal to its normal hull point value (i.e. hull points without damage) to the rammed ship, and vice versa. The defender’s force fields reduce this damage as normal.

Example: A destroyer traveling at Hyper5 attempts to slam into a heavy cruiser traveling at Hyper3. It is traveling two speed levels faster than its target, so it needs to roll a 5-6 on 1d6 to hit. If it succeeds, it deals 36 points of damage. Assuming the cruiser has a force field value of 12, it would lose 24 hull points. The destroyer would lose 48 hull points minus its force field value.

Invisibility Device

An invisibility device allows a ship to hide from other vessels, though not perfectly. Attacking an invisible vessel is done at a penalty of 6 points from the attack roll. A ship must direct 3 PP to an invisibility device to use it. While a ship is invisible, it cannot attack. A ship can become visible and attack during an attack phase, but cannot become invisible again until the next attack phase. Power points no longer used when a ship is visible are not re-assigned until the next Phase Zero.


I’ll continue these rules next week, with an explanation of how combat works and how you assemble a fleet for a battle.

My Trek – Part 3

If I’m going to have a Star Trek campaign, I need some Star Trek rules. Fortunately for me, I discovered a pretty groovy set of rules a few months ago … in fact – the very first set of Star Trek RPG rules, Star Trek – Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier, by Grenadier in 1978. I reviewed these rules a few posts back (LINK here).

As I said in the review, it’s a very lean set of rules, and in my opinion pretty nifty. The rules are divided into basic rules, which permit you to play the game using the Star Trek characters we all know and love (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, Uhura, Scotty, Chekov), and advanced rules that introduce character creation and other enhancements. For my campaign, the rules need just a little bit more.

Who’s in Charge Here?

Commodore Gray and Captain Kirk from Star Trek Continues

One interesting thing “missing” from the game is the idea of rank and command. You get a group of players together, they roll up characters … and so who is the captain. Who is an ensign versus a lieutenant commander?

Here’s my idea for solving this little issue:

First and foremost, each player can decide whether their character is going to be an officer or enlisted crewman, and which division they wish to be in – Command (green shirts*), Sciences (blue shirts) or Operations (red shirts).

At the start of campaign, starting rank is assigned based on the raw ability of the characters. Total each character’s ability scores. The character with the highest total score who is in the command division is given the rank of captain. The new captain is put in command of a scout-class starship of his or her choice.

Using the other character’s total scores, assign them their starting ranks in the following order. Note that whether players choose to be officers or enlisted, there is only one character at the highest rank (commander or chief petty officer), and so on.

  • 2nd highest: Commander / Chief Petty Officer
  • 3rd highest: Lieutenant Commander / Petty Officer
  • 4th highest: Lieutenant Commander / Petty Officer
  • 5th highest: Lieutenant / Crewman (1st grade)
  • 6th highest: Sub-Lieutenant / Crewman (2nd grade)
  • 7th highest, etc.: Ensign / Crewman (3rd grade)

Side Trek – Gold or Green?

According to the William Theiss, who designed those original Star Trek uniforms, the command shirts were indeed avocado green. Apparently, the texture of the fabric and the lighting on set made them look gold. Speaking as someone who is color blind, I honestly could never figure it out. Hell, I only just this year asked my daughter whether Spock had a green cast to his skin or not – when you’re red/green color blind, it’s a tough call. So – command wears avocado green in My Trek.

Advancing in Rank

The Star Trek rules I’m using mention the idea of character advancement, but offer no rules for it. Now that’s what I call old school.

Since a campaign is supposed to represent numerous games with the same characters, it makes sense to allow those characters the chance to advance in rank a bit. Of course, we see very little rank advancement for the characters in the original series – I think Spock goes from lieutenant commander to commander at some point in the series, but poor old Chekov remains an ensign until he got an off-screen promotion to lieutenant. This means, no rank advancement might actually be the way to go, but I know players and what keeps them interested … so here’s my take on the subject.

The simplest way I could have handled character advancement was to introduce levels and experience points of some sort. I decided to try something different. For accomplishments during a mission, a character is awarded a decoration:

For specific acts of heroism, the following commendations may be awarded:

In addition to the commendation to decorate your chest, the newly decorated character may roll once on the following table to receive an upgrade to his or her abilities.

D6 Bonus
1-3 +1 bonus to one skill (tricorder, medikit, psionics, etc)
4-5 +1 bonus to combat ability
6 increase one ability score by +1

After completing five missions, characters are eligible for an increase in rank. The chance of a promotion is 1 in 20, plus 1 per commendation earned since the last promotion. Thus, a character that has earned two commendations during those five missions has a (1+2) 3 in 20 chance to earn a promotion.

This scheme would mean quicker promotion than was seen in the TV series, but oh well – nothing’s perfect. I suppose, using the show as a guide, we had seven principal characters on 79 missions with one rank promotion … giving characters a 1 in 553 chance of promotion even when saving the universe multiple times. If we assume everyone got a promotion at the end of the series, then we’re down to a 1 in 69 chance.

I’m okay with that, though. I’d like to see the players earn higher rank and better starships as they explore the galaxy. I think it would be fun. I like fun.

A master chief that earns a promotion is offered a commission as a lieutenant commander.

Captains earn better starships instead of rank promotions. New captain command scout ships, and might then be promoted to better ships in the following order: destroyers, light cruisers and then heavy cruisers. Naturally, the captain can take their crew with them to their new ship.

A captain that has earned a heavy cruiser can be promoted to the rank of commodore. A commodore can choose any vessel as their flag ship, or can retire to commanding a starbase. A commodore promoted to admiral is retired from starship command (unless they’re Captain Kirk, of course).

Side Trek – The Medals

Viewers of Star Trek will recognize those medals up there, as I got the names and designs from old Star Trek episodes. Naturally, I just had to make up what name went with what emblem, and since my graphics skills are not super strong, I made the emblems the best I could. I’m sure there are better representations of them out there on the web. I thought it would be fun to have a square on each character sheet colored in with the uniform color of the character’s chosen division, with the sleeve stripes of their rank on the bottom and their collected medals above those stripes – thus I took a stab at drawing the medals.

The corollary to the “captains get better ships instead of higher rank” is that captains that violate Starfleet rules (especially that darn Prime Directive) or who royally screw up missions might be assigned lowlier ships. Using Franz Joseph’s deigns (plus one), the chain of ships would start with the Ptolemy-class transports (which I actually think look pretty cool) and then go through the Hermes-class scout, Saladin-class destroyer, Miranda-class light cruiser, Starship (i.e. Constitution)-class heavy cruiser and finally the Federation-class dreadnought. I would start my players in a Hermes-class scout, leaving the transport available as a punishment.

Next Week – Starship Battles!

My Trek – Part 2

I’m finally getting this post up on the cusp of a new year. In this post, I discuss the foundations of my non-existent Star Trek campaign.

First things first – My Trek is all about me. What I like, what I enjoy. It’s not a matter of opinion – of what is objectively good or bad or right or wrong. It’s just about what I like in my Star Trek. The point – you don’t need to argue with me here. Arguing with make what I’m writing way more important than it is or deserves to be.

So – what is My Trek – what elements shall make up my little campaign?

Star Trek (1966-1969)
If it is in Star Trek, it is in my campaign. Star Trek is the basis of the whole campaign, but it’s not the entirety of the campaign, and in fact, some of it is not technically in the campaign. My campaign would start in 2265, as Kirk and crew are blasting off for adventure. Heck, the PCs might even beat them to a few adventures in my campaign.

Star Trek (Animated; 1973-1974)
Since the animated adventures shared many key people with Star Trek – and since they’re fun and I love them (and wouldn’t think of running Trek without the Skorr and a 20-ft tall Spock), they’re in My Trek.

Star Trek Phase II (1977 … sort of)
Although there isn’t much material in the planned sequel series to Star Trek that one could use, especially since it would all take place 7 or so years after My Trek starts, the Klingon material from The Kitumba is all valid for my purposes.

Star Trek Continues
I just love this web series, so I treat it as mostly official in my campaign.

Side Trek I
I’ll put a few of these asides into the My Trek posts. The Klingons in My Trek are the Klingons in Star Trek – sans bumpy foreheads and maybe with a little more individual personality than the later honor-and-war-is-all-we-know Klingons (not including Kheylar from Next Generation, who was fabulous). The Klingons live in a military dictatorship, with ten subject planets under their control. In one of James Blish’s novelizations of Star Trek, he notes that the Klingons are descended from Asian peoples – maybe dropped on their home planet, Ultar, as the Native Americans were dropped on Epsilon Beta.

So that’s the stuff that is definitely in the campaign, but there are other sources as well. Two key sources are James Blish’s novelizations of Star Trek episodes, and Alan Dean Foster’s novelizations of animated Star Trek episodes. They often add in little details and bits of color that I like. I also like the Spaceflight Chronology – with some work done on the timespan it covers – some other early Trek books like the Federation Reference Series, Star Fleet Technical Manual and U.S.S. Enterprise Officer’s Manual, and even some of the FASA material. These are mostly used for gathering little details, like some names of Klingon D-7 battlecruisers, rather than as key pieces of the puzzle. Again – my campaign starts when Star Trek starts, so PCs could create their own legends alongside Kirk and crew.

Outside of these sources, not much enters into my campaign. Just as old school gamers explored the early days of Dungeons & Dragons before so much new material was added to it in the 1980s and afterward, I like the idea of getting to know Star Trek before the Next Generation/DS9/Voyager/etc. rewrote substantial parts of it. This isn’t about not liking the later series, but rather treating them like the pastiches of Conan written by folks other than Robert E. Howard. I want to get to know what the show’s original creators and fans saw in Star Trek.

Side Trek II
I thought Deep Space Nine was okay – didn’t love it, didn’t hate it – until they got into the Dominion War stuff. I just didn’t give a rip about grandiose story lines about fictional people and places. I was reading about the making of the show recently, and came across the idea that the main bad guys in the show were originally going to be the Romulans, rather than Cardassians. That got me thinking about a 60’s era Deep Space Nine, with the Romulans as the antagonists and the Orions replacing the Ferengi as the mercantilists. It might be a location to use in my campaign – Deep Space Station K-9, near the Romulan Neutral Zone.

The key thing about My Trek is the overall vibe and ambiance. The campaign is very 1960’s in terms of its design aesthetic and “New Frontier” exuberance. It’s about hope, promise, adventure and exploration, of an alliance of free worlds trying to find new friends in the cosmos while dealing not only with the aggressive Klingons and the xenophobic Romulans, but also their own tortured past – overcoming the unknown as well as the less attractive aspects of what it means to be human.

Side Trek III
Some of the FASA Star Trek material is really useful, in terms of the starships and what they can do. One thing that struck me, though, was the number of space ships they imagined being built by the different entities. Hundreds and thousands of the things! I prefer to make spaceships a little less numerous, for a couple reasons. First, there is some reason from Star Trek to believe that the Federation’s resources are not unlimited. According to Kirk, there are 12 Constitution-class (or Starship-class) vessels active. Franz Joseph’s lists of other vessels lean towards more limited runs of vessels as well. There’s also a dramatic reason to limit the number of ships. If there are only a few big bad starships defending the Federation, losing one really means something. I like that. When devising how many vessels these various space fleets include, I’ve actually used the size of Earth navies in 1965 as a guide. Works great!

With the “Star Trek feel” in mind, there are some non-Trek works that I think work within the overall scheme. The 1959 TV series Men Into Space, for example, has a very similar feel to Star Trek in terms of its emphasis on exploration, engineering and science. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to give it a shot.

So that’s My Trek. It’s about exploration and overcoming our own personal demons and it’s about having fun. It’s colorful and lively – no Beige Trek, no Lecture Trek.

Up next, I’ll talk a bit about the supplemental rules and guidelines I have devised for the My Trek campaign to cover promotions and spaceship battles.

My Trek – Part 1

A couple months ago, I was nearing burnout in terms of writing and publishing game materials – and I didn’t even know it. I was working at my normal pace, and although there were a few indications I was hitting the wall, I was still getting things done. When I started goofing around with Star Trek, though, I was soon to diagnose my coming burnout.

It started with my daughter wanting to watch all the Star Trek that had been made in the order in which it was set (more or less). She started with Enterprise, which I watched with her (still frustrated at the close-but-no-cigar aspect of the show), and then we watched Star Trek. Yeah – I just call it Star Trek, because that’s what it is. When you’re the “original series”, you don’t need an amendment to your title. We followed up with the animated Star Trek, the Star Trek Continues (because I like it and think it was worthy of inclusion), then the movies and now on to Next Generation – we’re on season 3 I think.

In the midst of this, I started getting the Star Trek bug, and found a copy of the first Star Trek RPG, which I reviewed on this blog a while back. This got me to designing a Star Trek campaign (hence, My Trek) that I knew I would probably never play, but wanted to do anyways. And here’s where I discovered my potential burnout. I started having so much fun goofing around with Trek, that I just plain stopped working on my writing. I have an issue of NOD that is written, edited and ready to go … and I’ve just let it sit there for a couple weeks. I could publish it today … but I don’t think I feel like it. The writing and publishing, as much as I enjoyed it, was becoming work, and so messing with Star Trek became not just a vacation, but really more like playing hooky. When writing game materials for myself feels like playing hooky for writing game materials for others, you know you’re heading for burnout.

To avoid that burnout, I’ve indulged myself with good old Star Trek. I followed up my Star Trek RPG purchase (and I do love that little game dearly) with an old Star Fleet Battles rulebook (which I found overly complicated – so I wrote my own version, which will appear in future posts), and then the Spaceflight Chronology, Star Trek Concordance, the book about Star Trek Phase II and a bunch of the novelizations of the animated series (though if I’m honest, I prefer Blish’s novelizations of the old episodes to Alan Dean Foster’s animated episode novelizations). I have created massive databases of star systems and starships for my probably never-to-be-played campaign, created my own map of the Star Trek universe, made a nice little time line graphic of Starfleet, Klingon and Romulan vessels (at least, the one’s I think are cool) and have written a handy little campaign guide for prospective players.

The lesson here: Watch for a burnout (of any kind), and deal with it before you suffer it. That way, you don’t lose a thing you really love and value, plus maybe you pick up a new thing to enjoy along the way. That next issue of NOD will be published, and next year I’ll do my Deities book and maybe my Nodian Cosmos book and some issues of Nod, and I’ll do them because I gave myself a well-deserved break.

Next Week on My Trek: I’ll discuss some challenges and solutions to turning Trek into a playable campaign – specifically how you deal with tons of material that contradicts and conflicts (and, honestly, just doesn’t always fit into the same milieu despite being called Star Trek).

Good advice if we’ll only take it

Star Trek at Rules Lite Speed

Playing around on the Internet Archive recently, I came upon some old issues of Different Worlds magazine. This was a magazine I was unaware of in my youth, and I’ve enjoyed looking at another take on the RPG world in its infancy. One article in particular, “Kirk on Karit 2” by Emmet F. Milestone in issue No. 4 (1979) brought to my attention the first licensed Star Trek RPG, Star Trek – Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier. I did a little hunting, and found a copy for sale, and I’m glad I did.

Written by Michael Scott in 1978 for Heritage Models to support their range of Star Trek miniatures, Star Trek (which is what I’ll call it from now on in this review to save time and space) is a dandy little game – very old school, very rules lite. In fact, some folks seem to think it a little too rules lite, but not me. I love discovering these little games from the hobby’s origins, because they remind you just how much you can do with a very light rules set.

Here are a few highlights –

The game is very focused on its mission, which is to simulate Star Trek landing parties – I think it does this pretty well. In fact, you could spin this thing into doing Star Trek dungeon crawls with very little trouble.

Being written in 1978, it is all original Trek, including the animated series, which I really dig. This means you get stats for creatures like the K’zin and Skorr.

The rules are really simple – in the basic and advanced versions – and meld pretty well with old school D&D. The six ability scores are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma, Luck and Mentality. Not too difficult to track those to D&D. Ability scores range from 3 to 18 (3d6). Characters get a modifier that is positive for every point a score is above 12 and a negative for every point a score is below 9. They also have a hand-to-hand combat value and equipment. In th basic game, you play one of the characters from actual Star Trek – Kirk, Spock, McCoy, etc. In the advanced game you can roll up a character yourself.

Sometimes hand-to-hand means butt-to-face

Combat is simple – roll 1d6 to attack, adding strength, dexterity and hand-to-hand bonus to determine total potential damage while the defender subtracts 1d6 plus luck and hand-to-hand modifiers. The resulting damage, if there is any left, is deducted from the defender’s constitution score. If damage equals more than half of the character’s remaining constitution, they are knocked out. Ranged combat is a little different, but just as simple – you have to roll below a number based on your dexterity score, with modifiers for a few common situations. Damage is based on the ranged weapon used.

The advanced game has more hand-to-hand weapons, which involve rolling more d6’s for the attack, and armor to reduce damage suffered.

Skill checks are a roll of 3d6 which must be less than or equal to whatever ability score makes the most sense. If Spock is trying to use his tri-corder to pick up signs of life, he makes a roll against his Mentality. Easy … but I would personally change it to a d20 roll rather than 3d6.

Psionic powers work basically the same way – roll under Mentality.

There is no experience point or leveling system in the game, but the author mentions that as characters succeed in adventures their hand-to-hand rating can improve or they can get bonuses to certain tasks. I like the idea of advancement being kind of arbitrary, though you would need a good Mission Master to keep things from getting out of hand.

The game has stats for all sorts of Star Trek monsters – again, a Trek dungeon would probably be lots of fun. Given that Kirk and Spock had to deal with ancient Rome, the Roaring ’20s and the Old West, a dungeon crawl would not be too outrageous … and nicknaming the hirelings “red shirts” would be entirely appropriate.

Spock: “I use my tricorder to scan for life forms on the other side of the door.”

MM: Rolling … “You detect no life forms.”

Kirk: “I bust open the door and somersault into the room.”

MM: The room contains four Klingon warriors – roll for initiative!

I really grok how simple this game is – you can pick it up and get going within minutes if you have players who understand the basics of role playing games and Star Trek. I especially love that it instantly lit a fire in me to play it and play with it – why not work up quick stats for Doctor Who characters and creatures, or Star Wars or Next Generation or whatever – it would be so easy!

If you get a chance, check it out. Expect simplicity, “rulings not rules” and lots of thinking on your feet, but also a game that you can get up and running quickly.

Also – check out that article I mentioned above – Emmet F. Milestone came up with a dandy little scheme for characters falling in love with one another – a must if Kirk is in your boarding party, though as Emmet often remarks, “Kirk has no luck in love, so his Luck modifier is never added in a Romance Roll”. I instantly want to use this in my next D&D dungeon crawl.

Heritage Star Trek miniatures – image found at Noble Knight Games

Aliens I Have Known

I love lo-tech aliens. I don’t mean aliens who wield sticks and stones, but rather aliens from old TV shows and movies who look goofy (or often look goofy). I love the creative work done by make-up artists and folks working with rubber and shiny polyester on these creatures. I’ve always appreciated old time special effects with technological limitations – nothing has taken the magic out of sci-fi and fantasy for me more than computer graphics. I used to wonder how they did it … now I know, and I wonder why with the ability to do virtually anything, they did what they did.

But let’s get back to those old sci-fi aliens – here’s a little chart of aliens I have known (or “watched” would be more appropriate). I’ll include a link to download it below. This could be used for rolling random alien encounters in a gonzo fantasy game, or just for inspiration when doing your own thing.

Oh – and those aliens from a galaxy far, far away who are too stuck up to come visit the Milky Way Galaxy – I left them out. Enjoy!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

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Manbot Warriors!

These guys would be great for a game of Manbot Warriors. Buy them HERE.

There was no Dragon by Dragon on Sunday because I was visiting relatives in the great state of Iowa over the weekend. While I was doing that, I was formulating this, which I now present to you …

MANBOT WARRIORS
A Mini-Game by John M Stater

For 3 to 5 players, aged 13-1/2 and up (sorry 13 year olds, but you’ll understand why you’re not allowed to play this intense sci-fi RPG when you get older)

When evil threatens from the Galactic Core, the planets of the outer rim call out for … the Manbot Warriors!

Manbot Warriors was a Saturday morning cartoon that never existed, but could have in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. It would concern a band of warriors, human minds encased in robot bodies, defending the outer rim of peaceful planets from the evils of the Galactic Core. Each episode might entail some crisis that the Manbot Brigade would respond to, from hijackings of pleasure spaceships, to the heist of the First Cosmic Bank, to a threat of planetary invasion.

The game is played by up to 5 people. One is the Game Master, who concocts an evil plot and assembles various monsters to see the plot through. The Game Master must draw up any necessary maps or plans of spaceships or secret hideouts, and must also adjudicate the game fairly on behalf of the players. He is not their opponent, per se, but rather the referee of the game.

The players must roll up their manbot characters, and then counter whatever evil machinations the Game Master has invented for them.

Rolling up a character involves rolling ability scores, choosing a class of manbot to play, choosing and rolling up skills, and finally equipping your manbot with kits.

ABILITY SCORES
Manbots are a collection of abilities and skills. All manbots have the same seven ability scores. Ability scores range from 1 to 6 (though some monsters might have higher scores).

Power (POW): Power measures physical strength.

Reflexes (REF): Reflexes measures how quick and accurate a character is.

Fortitude (FOR): Fortitude measures how well a manbot stands up to punishment.

Intellect (INT): Intellect measures a character’s smarts and mental quickness.

Willpower (WIL): Will measures a manbot’s mental toughness.

Awareness (AWR): Awareness measures a manbot’s perception and situational awareness.

Charm (CHR): A manbot’s charm is their ability to manipulate people.

For each of these abilities roll two dice and write the value of the higher dice roll next to the ability score.

CLASS
Manbots are manufactured to one of five series, called classes. These classes are named after colors, and each class carries with it a bonus and a penalty to ability scores, and determines which skills are prime and secondary for the manbot.

Manbot Black
A manbot black is designed for stealth missions, like the ninjas of ancient Earth. They reduce their POW and FOR scores by one point each (to minimum of one), and increase their REF and AWR scores by one point.

Primary Skills: Stealth
Secondary Skills: Dodge, Fighting, Thievery
Tertiary: Choose any three

Manbot Blue
The manbot blue series is designed for science. They reduce their POW and FOR scores by one point each (to a minimum of one), and increase their INT and WIL scores by one point.

Primary: Science
Secondary: Detection, Engineering, Fighting
Tertiary: Choose any three

Manbot Gold
The gold series of manbots is designed for command and control. They reduce their POW and FOR by one point each (to a minimum of one), and increase their WIL and CHR scores by one.

Primary: Psionics
Secondary: Detection, Fighting, Psychology
Tertiary: Choose any three

Manbot Green
Green manbots are designed for commando operations in the wilderness. They reduce their WIL and CHR by one point each (to a minimum of one), and increase their REF and AWR by one.

Primary: Fighting
Secondary: Detection, Stealth, Survival
Tertiary: Choose any three

Manbot Red
The red series of manbots is designed for military operations – they are warriors par excellence. They reduce their INT and CHR by one point each (to a minimum of one), and increase their POW and FOR by one.

Primary: Fighting
Secondary: Dodge, Drive, Endurance
Tertiary: Choose any three

SKILLS
Each manbot has seven skills (see above). One skill is prime, three are secondary, and three are tertiary. Skill scores range from 0 to 12. Each skill (see below) is associated with an ability score. For the prime skill, roll 3 dice and use the two highest values. For secondary skills, roll 2 dice and used their combined value. For tertiary skills, roll 1 dice and use that value.

The following are considered skills in Manbot Warriors:

Acrobatics (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to leap, tumble, survive falls and flip over opponents.

Astronavigation (INT): Governs a manbot’s ability to navigate the stars.

Climbing (POW): Governs a manbot’s ability to climb sheer surfaces.

Detection (AWR): Governs a manbot’s ability to find clues and avoid ambushes.

Dodge (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to dodge traps or other attacks that cover a large area.

Drive (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to drive tanks, cars and hovercraft.

Endurance (FOR): Governs a manbot’s ability to endure pain and maintain focus despite confusion.

Engineering (INT): Governs a manbot’s knowledge of engineering and mechanics.

Fighting (POW/REF): Governs the manbot’s ability to inflict damage in combat. Melee fighting (i.e. hand-to-hand combat or combat with hand held weapons) is associated with Power, while missile fighting (i.e. shooting guns and laser beams) is associated with Reflexes.

Flight (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to control himself in flight, or to pilot spaceships and aircraft.

Medicine (INT): Governs a manbot’s ability to provide first aid and surgery to biological creatures.

Psionics (WIL): Governs a manbot’s ability to manipulate or damage another creature’s mind, or to detect the psychic emanations of others.

Psychology (CHM): Governs a manbot’s ability to figure out a creature’s motivations and to “use psychology” to fool or manipulate and deceive people.

Science (INT): Governs a manbot’s knowledge of the sciences, including physics, biology, and astronomy.

Stealth (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to move silently and hide.

Survival (INT): Governs a manbot’s ability to survive in the wilderness.

Thieving (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to pick pockets, palm small objects and get past security systems, either mechanical or electronic.

Obviously, you should feel free to add additional skills as you deem necessary.

KITS
Once a manbot has his ability scores and skill scores, he can pick out the kits to equip himself. Each manbot can be fitted out with five kits. The kits are as follows:

Avionics: Avionics improve a manbot’s Flight skill by +1.

Communications: A communications kit can either be used to radio up to 5 miles away (on planet, or to an orbiting spaceship), or to jam all communications (including from other manbots) within 1 mile.

Countermeasures: Countermeasures force smart missile attacks against the manbot to add +1 to the dice roll.

Energy Shields: Energy shields force missile attacks against the manbot to add +1 to the dice roll.

Energy Sword: Energy swords deal one extra point of damage.
Fire Suppression: A fire suppression kit permits the manbot to put out fires. Putting out a fire takes 1-6 combat rounds (roll one dice).

Flame Thrower: A flamethrower forces all creatures within a cone measuring 20 feet long and 10 feet wide to succeed at a Dodge check or suffer a point of damage to Fortitude.

Grapple Fist: A grapple fist can be fired up to 100 feet, and always latches on to a surface with hand holds. It can pull up to two manbots (or the equivalent to 400 pounds) up to the grapple fist.

Jackhammer Fist: A jackhammer fist can be used in melee combat, scoring one extra point of damage against Fortitude, or to break through one foot of concrete per minute and one inch of metal per minute.

Laser Blaster: Laser blasters deal one extra point of damage to Forti-tude on a successful missile attack.

Machine Gun: A machine gun allows a manbot to make three missile attacks per round, but for each additional attack, they must roll one extra dice for their Fighting check (i.e. 3D if attacking two targets, and 4D if attacking three targets).

Mind Gem: A mind gem allows a manbot to project his mental power as a beam of piercing light. The manbot makes an attack using his Psionics score, but deals damage to FOR instead of WIL.

Psi-Helm: A psi-helm deals 2 points of damage to Willpower on a suc-cessful Psionic attack.

Repair Kit: Can be used to effect repairs on other manbots. The repair kit is no good without the Engineering skill.

Rocket Boots: Rocket boots allow a manbot to fly at a speed of 1 mile per minute.

Science Scanners: Can be used to detect radiation, life forms, and the like. The data must be interpreted using the Science skill.

Smart Missiles: A smart missile hits unerringly, unless its target can de-ploy countermeasures or makes a 3D Dodge check.

Sonic Disrupter: A sonic disrupter allows a manbot to make a missile attack using his Fighting skill that deals one point of WIL damage.

Tritanium Armor: Tritanium armor forces attacks against the manbot to add +1 to the attack roll.

CONFLICT AND COMBAT RESOLUTION
To resolve conflicts, add a character’s skill score and relevant ability score. This number is called the target. Roll 3 dice. If the roll is equal to or lower than the tar-get number, you succeed. If the roll is higher than the target, you fail.

If you are rolling against an opponent with a higher skill or ability score, add +1 to the roll. If you are rolling against an opponent with a higher skill and ability score, add +3 to the roll.

If you are rolling against an opponent with a lower skill or ability score, add +1 to the target. If you are rolling against an opponent with a lower skill and ability score, add +3 to the target.

The Game Master can also rule that there is a modifier to the roll or target based on other conditions, such as working under pressure or attacking from behind. For an advantage, add +1, +2 or +3 to the target. For disadvantages, add +1, +2 or +3 to the roll.

Psionic acts that are passive (mind reading, for example) are rolled on only 2 dice (2D).  Psionic acts that actively impact the real world or a creature’s mind (such as telekinesis or controlling a person’s actions) are rolled on 3 dice (3D). Psionic attacks that deal damage are rolled on 4 dice (4D).

COMBAT
Combat is handled in combat rounds, with each round taking 10 seconds of time. To determine who goes first in a round, each player should roll 1 dice and add their REF score. Highest roll goes first, followed by the next highest, and so on. Ties go to the combatant with the highest REF score. If there is still a tie, flip a coin.

Combat uses the conflict resolution method detailed above, using a character’s Fighting skill, and either their POW ability for melee (hand-to-hand) attacks, or their REF ability for missile (ranged) attacks.

A successful physical attack roll deals one point of damage to the opponent’s FOR score. Psionics attacks deal one point of damage to the opponent’s WIL score. If the attack roll succeeds by 3 or more points, the attacker can also impose a special condition on his opponent, such as putting him in a grapple hold, tripping him or erasing a memory from his mind.

A creature reduced to 0 points of FOR or WIL is knocked unconscious and critically wounded, and they can be killed by one more attack.

Characters can be healed with the Engineering skill (for manbots and other mechanical creatures) or Medicine skill. Light healing requires a 2 dice task check, and restores one point of FOR. Serious healing requires a 3 dice task check and restores two points of FOR. Critical healing requires a 4 dice task check and restores three points of FOR. Other ability scores regenerate at a rate of 1 point per day.

MOVEMENT
Characters walk at a speed of 260 feet per minute (or 40 feet per combat round), and can sprint at a speed of 2300 feet per minute (or 390 feet per second). A sprint can last up to one minute. Running at half sprinting speed can last up to 10 minutes. An Endurance check can double the time a character can sprint or run.

LUCK
Each character begins a game session with a Luck score of 6. A luck score can be substituted for an ability score or skill score when making checks. Each time this is done, the character’s Luck score is reduced by 1 point. Points of Luck can also be spent in place of damage to ability scores.

ADVENTURES
Most Manbot Warriors games involve an initial criminal or in some way hostile act by the bad guys, followed by the reaction, investigation and apprehension or destruction of the bad guys by the manbots.

For example: There is an explosion on an asteroid used as a radar station by some planetary authority, to alert them to incursions into their star system by potentially hostile aliens. The planet has two other radar stations – if they are both destroyed, they will have no warning of an invasion.

The manbots are dispatched to discover who bombed the radar station, and stop them from bombing the other two stations. This will involve investigation, follow-up on clues and confrontation.

The Game Master’s job would be to figure out who the bad guys are, and how their plot is meant to proceed. If the players are slow on the uptake, there will be a second explosion. If they fail to stop the third explosion, they will have failed their mission.

ADVANCEMENT
Manbot Warriors can be played as a stand-alone game, or characters can be used in multiple sessions and advanced in their abilities.

Whenever a manbot warrior survives a mission and completes it successfully, he may attempt to make two advancements, one of an ability score or primary skill, and one of a secondary or tertiary skill.

To improve an ability score, roll 1d6. If the number rolled is higher than the existing ability score, advance the ability score by one point. A manbot warrior can never have more than three ability scores at 6, and never more than five ability scores at 5 or higher.

To improve a skill, roll 2d6. If the number rolled is higher than the existing skill score, advance the skill score by one point. Primary skills can be advanced to a maximum of 12. Secondary skills can be advanced to a maximum of 9. Tertiary skills can be advanced to a maximum of 6.

Alternatively, the manbot warrior can add a new tertiary skill to his sheet, with a value of 1. A manbot warrior cannot have more than five tertiary skills.

A manbot warrior can swap out one kit at the beginning of each adventure.

MONSTERS
A monster’s threat level is calculated using the following formula: Add FOR + Fighting or Psionics (whichever is higher) + 1 per offensive or defensive kit and special ability. A value of 0 to 9 being a Level I monster, 10 to 13 a Level II monster, 14 to 17 a Level III monster, 18 to 20 a Level IV monster and 21 or higher a Level V monster.

Amazon of Ouroboros
The amazons of Ouroboros are reptilian ladies with narrow faces. They are fearless and without emotion.
LVL IV, POW 5, REF 4, FOR 5, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Endurance 8; Energy Sword, Laser Blaster, Tritanium Armor

Android
Androids are robots that look like human beings, or nearly so. They are stronger and more logical than humans, but lack imagination. Most androids work in boring jobs, but some develop a wild circuit and head out to explore the galaxy as a robotic hobo. They attack with their fists.
LVL I, POW 3, REF 4, FOR 4, INT 6, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 2; Fighting 4, Engineering 8, Science 4; Communications Kit, Science Scanner, Repair Kit

Android Prime
Android Prime is a massive artificial intelligence that forms the nexus of all androids, and most computers. It moves on tank treads, and can trample (2 points of damage) and strike with sonic blasts.
LVL IV, POW 6, REF 1, FOR 10, INT 8, AWR 4, WIL 4, CHM 2; Fighting 4, Psychology 6, Science 10; Communications, Energy Shields, Science Scanner, Sonic Disrupters (2), Tritanium Armor

Celestial Siren
These beauteous star maidens actually look something like long, green worms with indistinct faces. They are capable of creating the illusion that they are beautiful women, and use their psionic powers to lure spacemen to their dooms on asteroids or drifting space hulks.
LVL III, POW 1, REF 3, FOR 4, INT 3, AWR 4, WIL 4, CHM 1; Fighting 2, Endurance 6, Psionic 10, Stealth 8

Comet King
The Comet King is a squat, unattractive man with the ability to control the paths of comets, but also to levitate and move bits of metal and earth. With his magnetic powers, he can hurl up to three bits of metal per round as a missile attack, and he can form the spinning metal into a magnetic shield (treat as tritanium armor and energy shield).
LVL III, POW 4, REF 5, FOR 6, INT 5, AWR 3, WIL 8, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Science 10; Communications, Energy Shields, Science Scanner

Crystal Killer
These monsters look like crystal statues, with glowing lights in their hands and heads. Their thick skin reflects lasers and psionic beams, so add +1 to rolls made to attack them with these means. Sonic attacks deal +1 point of damage to the crystal killer’s FOR. Crystal killers attack twice per round with their razor sharp fingers, or once per round with the equivalent of a mind gem.
LVL III, POW 3, REF 7, FOR 4, INT 3, AWR 4, WIL 7, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Psionics 8

Death Howler
Death howlers are quadrupedal monsters about the size of grizzly bears, with smooth skin of scarlet and black, fierce white claws and gnashing teeth. Each round, they can attack twice, once with claws and once with teeth. In place of an attack, they can howl, causing those who fail a WIL check (roll 2d6) to lose one point of POW and one point of FOR for one minute.
LVL II, POW 6, REF 3, FOR 4, INT 1, AWR 6, WIL 1, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Survive 10

Esper
Espers are powerful psychics with a desire to dominate other creatures. They have throbbing temples, bald heads and wear robes in weird, brilliant patterns.
LVL III, POW 2, REF 3, FOR 3, INT 5, AWR 4, WIL 7, CHM 3; Fighting 2, Psionics 9; Mind Gem, Psi-Helm

Froglodytes
The ruffians and ne’er-do-wells of the galaxy, froglodytes look like big, bulky, humanoid frogs. They wear bits of scrap armor sometimes, and fight with normal hand weapons and firearms.
LVL II, POW 5, REF 3, FOR 4, INT 2, AWR 3, WIL 2, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Endurance 6; Machine Gun

Gaseous Ghoul
Gaseous ghouls are cannibal humanoids that, when destroyed, turn into a puff of sulfuric smoke. They can reform in one minute. They attack with their claws.
LVL I, POW 4, REF 3, FOR 3, INT 1, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Psionics 2; Stealth 10

Grimdark Commando
The grimdark commandos are fierce humanoids with noseless faces and grey skin. They hire themselves out as mercenaries, and are much feared in the cosmos.
LVL III, POW 5, REF 6, FOR 4, INT 3, AWR 5, WIL 3, CHM 2; Fighting 9, Stealth 8, Survive 6; Energy Sword, Laser Blaster, Tritanium Armor

Junk Ape
Junk apes are primates that live on vast junk worlds. They are expert tinkers, and have a passion for taking mechanical things apart and turning them into other things. They look something like orangutans with blue-tinged fur and pale green skin. They make two attacks each round with their fists.
LVL II, POW 5, REF 4, FOR 3, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 2, CHM 2; Fighting 6, Engineering 10, Stealth 3; Machine Gun, Repair Kit

Killbot
Killbots are robots designed for combat. Their forms vary, but most are bipedal and bristling with weapons. They attack twice per round.
LVL IV, POW 5, REF 5, FOR 5, INT 1, AWR 3, WIL 1, CHM 1; Fighting 10; Energy Shields, Laster Blaster, Sonic Disrupter, Tritanium Armor

Moondragon Warrior
The Moondragon Warriors are a shadowy cabal of psychic warriors who sometimes appear to oppose the Galactic Core, and other times to be aiding it. They are humanoids, and dress in long, grey robes and grey pleather clothes.
LVL III, POW 4, REF 6, FOR 5, INT 4, AWR 6, WIL 5, CHM 3; Fighting 10, Psionics 6, Psychology 6; Energy Sword, Mind Gem

Nebula the Space Witch
Nebula is the self-proclaimed Queen of Space Witches, and a major power of the Galactic Core. She is a tall, gaunt woman, graceful and elegant, in luxurious silks and a tall collar. She is usually guarded by four gaseous ghouls (q.v.).
LVL V, POW 2, REF 4, FOR 6, INT 6, AWR 5, WIL 6, CHM 4; Fighting 6, Psionics 12, Psychology 9, Science 8; Energy Sword, Mind Gem, Psi-Helm

Psiborg
Psiborgs are robots with the minds of psychics. They are dangerous physically and mentally, but their wild emotional states sometimes prove their undoing.
LVL III, POW 6, REF 5, FOR 5, INT 4, AWR 5, WIL 5, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Endurance 6, Psionics 8, Science 3 [7]; Engineering Kit, Psi-Helm, Tritanium Armor

Radiation Dragon
These massive reptiles dwell in space, soaking up the rays of stars and of radioactive materials in abandoned spaceships (usually abandoned because of the dragon) or asteroids. They can fly through space and in atmospheres, and attack three times per round, with a bite, claws and tail slap. All of these attacks deal 2 points of damage. In place of these attacks, they can spit radioactive fire in a 30-ft long cone, 15-ft wide at the base, that deals 2 points of damage to the FOR and POW scores of everything caught in its path.
LVL V, POW 8, REF 6, FOR 9, INT 3, AWR 5, WIL 5, CHM 2; Fighting 10, Astronavigation 6, Endurance 8, Flight 7, Psionics 5

Rust Viper
Rust vipers are large serpents with metal scales (treat as tritanium armor) and fangs that can pierce metal. When they do, they inject a venom that quickly corrodes and dissolves the metal, ruining tritanium armor and inflicting one point of FOR damage to mechanical creatures (including manbots) per round until repaired. Injected into a biological creature (which also includes manbots), the venom causes mild nausea and hallucinations.
LVL II, POW 3, REF 6, FOR 3, INT 1, AWR 3, WIL 1, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Dodge 6, Stealth 10

Salt Mummy of Kor
The infamous salt mummies of Kor are long-dead aliens preserved in pleather bandages and animated through dark space magic and an undying hatred for living things. They are found in ruins and sometimes on abandoned spaceships, often with a small cult of spacers or space bandits serving them, with an esper as the high priest.
LVL IV, POW 6, REF 2, FOR 8, INT 4, AWR 2, WIL 6, CHM 1; Fighting 8, Endurance 12, Psionics 9; Mind Gem

Saucer Man
Saucer men look like small, grey men with large, black, almond-shaped eyes and oversized heads. They are tremendously annoying, wanting to touch and probe everything they meet, and they have no respect for other forms of life.
LVL I, POW 2, REF 3, FOR 2, INT 6, AWR 4, WIL 4, CHM 2; Fighting 3, Psionics 4, Science 11; Repair Kit, Science Scanner, Sonic Disrupter

Shimmering Death
A shimmering death appears as a cloud of glowing, shifting motes of light. They drain the psyches of creatures, and are notoriously hard to kill. A shimmering death can only be harmed by psionics, sonic disrupters, and energy swords. They attack by enveloping a creature, who must make and Endurance check each round to avoid being stunned with fright while his mind is probed and his psyche gnawed on. Each round spent in a shimmering death drains one point of WIL.
LVL III, POW 1, REF 6, FOR 4, INT 1, AWR 6, WIL 6, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Flight 11, Psionics 8, Stealth 4

Skarbarian
The boisterous Vikings of the space lanes are raiders, pillagers, warriors, poets and spacemen extraordinaire. They wield energy axes (treat as energy swords) and go berserk in combat, attacking twice per round and ignoring wounds on a successful Endurance task check.
LVL III, POW 5, REF 4, FOR 5, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 3; Fighting 8, Astronavigation 7, Dodge 8, Endurance 8, Engineering 4; Energy Axe, Machine Gun

The Slime God
The Slime God is a horrible creature, a blob of cyan slime covered with blinking black eyes. A major power of the Galactic Core, he is bent on consuming everything in his path. The Slime God can strike up to six creatures per round with its pseudopods, or try to overrun creatures and smother them (Endurance check each round or lose one point of Fortitude).
LVL V, POW 8, REF 4, FOR 10, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 6, CHM 1; Fighting 10, Endurance 9, Stealth 12

Space Whale
These magnificent creatures look like humpback whales with shimmering black hides and brilliant eyes of star shine. They attack with their flukes and fins, striking two creatures per round and dealing 2 points of damage when they hit.
LVL III, POW 9, REF 4, FOR 8, INT 2, AWR 1, WIL 4, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Astronavigation 12, Flight 8, Psionics 5

Spacers
Spacers are traders who drive cruisers across the galaxy, trading exotic goods. They attack with handguns and daggers, one attack per round.
LVL I, POW 3, REF 3, FOR 3, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 4; Fighting 4, Astronavigation 6, Engineering 5, Psychology 7

Star Bandits
Star bandits are pirates. Some operate from space cruisers, others in starfighters that launch from asteroids and planetoids.
LVL II, POW 3, REF 4, FOR 3, INT 3, AWR 4, WIL 2, CHM 2; Fighting 7, Stealth 6; Energy Shield, Machine Gun

Stone Man
Stone men look like humanoids formed of stones. They stand about 10 feet tall, and have deep, raspy voices with which they speak very slowly. Their skin is as tough as tritanium armor, and their hands can strike like jackhammers. They attack twice per round.
LVL III, POW 8, REF 2, FOR 5, INT 2, AWR 2, WIL 2, CHM 2; Fighting 6, Endurance 12

Sun Tiger of Yaoloo
The sun tigers look like cats formed of flame and light. They radiate intense heat, forcing creatures within 10 feet to pass an Endurance check each round or suffer a -1 penalty to all physical ability scores (POW, REF, FOR). They attack twice per round, once with eye beams (up to 30 feet) and once with claws.
LVL III, POW 5, REF 5, FOR 8, INT 1, AWR 6, WIL 2, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Endurance 6, Flight 6, Stealth 5

Vampiric Plant Man
A vampiric plant man looks like a thin creature with indistinct features, pale green skin and long, thorned fingers that can tear into flesh and drink blood. They attack twice per round with their fingers. Each successful attack forces a person to pass an Endurance task check or lose one point of POW to blood drain each round until receiving first aid. Lost POW returns at the rate of one point per hour.
LVL III, POW 4, REF 4, FOR 5, INT 2, AWR 5, WIL 4, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Psionics 5, Stealth 9

Volton
Voltons are large avians with leathery skin, long, jagged beaks, and 20-ft long, whip-like tails that carry a powerful electric charge. Creatures struck by the tail must pass a 3 dice Endurance check or be stunned for one combat round and unable to move or attack, in addition to suffering 2 points of FOR damage. Their tiny minds make them immune to psionic attack.
LVL II, POW 7, REF 4, FOR 4, INT 1, AWR 4, WIL 1, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Flight 8

Xodiac, Lord of Space Magic
Xodiac is an ancient wizard steeped in cosmic magic. He is a major power in the Galactic Core, commanding many froglodytes and space bandits. He travels on a boomer, seated on a golden throne before a giant crystal ball, through which he spies on the galaxy. His awareness of the future allows him to force opponents to re-roll an attack or task check once per combat.
LVL V, POW 2, REF 5, FOR 6, INT 5, AWR 5, WIL 8, CHM 4; Fighting 6, Psionics 12; Mind Gem, Psi-Helm

SPACESHIPS

These would be pretty awesome as well. Buy HERE.

Boomer
A boomer is a cruiser-sized spaceship that carries cargo, passengers or perhaps two or three starfighters. They carry three laser blasters, energy shields and tritanium armor. They move at a speed of 2 miles per minute (or 1400 feet per round), and can hyperspace one parsec away, once per day.

Saucer
These ships are operated by the saucer men. They are quick and maneuverable, and are capable of teleporting up to one parsec away once per day. They are unarmed, but carry science scanners.

Starfighter
These small, one or two-man spaceships carry a laser blaster and six smart missiles. They can operate in space or in an atmosphere. They move at a speed of 35 miles per minute (or 6 miles per round).

Zipper
A zipper is a small cargo ship designed to be a blockade runner. It is equipped with two laser blasters and energy shields. A zipper moves at a speed of 3 miles per minute (or 2600 feet per round), and can hyperspace one parsec away, once per day.

UFO – A Timely Review

Mismatched dice and a space station standing in for a rocket, but GAME ON!

As long-time readers know, I like to keep my reviews at the Land of Nod timely and relevant, which is why today I’m reviewing a game made in 1976 by Avalon Hill.

Once upon a time (because anything that begins with that phrase has to be timely and relevant), when I must have been in elementary school or thereabouts, I was digging through a closet and came across a box that apparently held a game. The title – UFO: Game of Close Encounters.

These were the days of Star Wars, but they weren’t the days of VCR’s / DVD’s / Netflix / YouTube / watch anything you want when you want no matter what. These were the days when the Charlie Brown Christmas Special was on TV once a year, and if you missed it, you missed it. Star Wars was a phenomenon, and since it was in short supply, anything sci-fi was doing pretty well. I didn’t know much about this UFO game, but it looked like it was at least in Star Wars‘ neighborhood, so I was intrigued.

The game belonged to my father, apparently a gift from somebody. My father isn’t much of a game player, and I’m not sure he ever played the game in his life. He sure didn’t play it with me. The game migrated to my closet as a kid, and then moved with me when I left home. And then, one day thirty-something years later …

“What’s this,” asks my daughter, rummaging through the closet in my office.

And I realize it’s time to end the cycle. UFO must be played.

The cover, found at Board Game Geek, of course

I get the game out and check Board Game Geek to see what I’m missing. Apparently, I only managed to lose 2 counters in all the years I messed with the game as a kid. Not too bad, and not really an obstacle to playing the basic version of the game.

The victory conditions in the basic game are pretty simple – the invading UFO player wins by landing five saucers on Earth. The Earth player wins by destroying enough saucers that the UFO player cannot win.

Game play is equally simple. The UFO player places his/her saucers around the outside of the board. The Earth player places his rockets on Earth. Each turn, players roll two dice. Each dice controls the movement of a separate piece. Pieces can move in orbit clockwise. They can move to a different orbit only along four paths, and may not change orbit or move clockwise in the same turn. If a rocket lands on a saucer, the saucer is destroyed. If a saucer lands on a rocket, the rocket is destroyed.

If the Earth player rolls doubles, he loses his turn and the Moon moves in orbit. If the UFO player rolls doubles, she may hyperspace one of her saucers to any empty space on the board.

If the Moon, while orbiting, moves over a piece, it destroys the piece. If the Moon is empty, a piece can be landed on the Moon on its own turn, by exact count. Likewise, Earth can only be landed on by exact count, but either player.

So, them’s the rules. How did the game go?

Pretty fun, actually. The strictures on movement make you think a bit, and the potential for hyperspace makes it tough for the Earth player to cover all his bases. Ultimately, you want to control those orbital paths towards the Earth, but it’s not as easy as you think, because if you just sit there, eventually the UFO player is going to destroy your rocket or hyperspace in behind you. In the game my daughter and I played, it came right down to the wire – four saucers landed on Earth, one saucer left needing a “1” to land. I got the lucky roll the dice  and destroyed the fifth saucer. Earth was saved. All humanity rejoiced.

The advanced game involves space stations and false signals on radar, and we’ll tackle it at some point. The game was pretty fun, actually. Didn’t take long, and didn’t drain the brain, so a nice way to spend a half an hour or so. Afterwards, we played LIFE (the old version with Art Linkletter on the money, of course), and my daughter cleaned my clock.

Of course, there wouldn’t have been an Earth to play the Game of LIFE on if I hadn’t stopped the saucer invasion …

Star Apocalypse

Image by NASA via Wikipedia

The universe (or should that be Universe) is going to die someday. Well, maybe – I’m no physicist – I don’t even play one on TV. But let’s assume that all the stars in the sky will someday cool or collapse, and leave a universe very short on energy. All the star empires and rogue traders will be left to scavenge what they can from self-sufficient star bases and colonies, plundering once fertile planets that are now cold and almost lifeless, etc.

In other words – Star Apocalypse.

The idea here is to combine the two gaming genres of Traveler-style sci-fi and Gamma World-style post-apocalyptic gaming. The main point would not be the gathering of power, but of just keeping ahead of the cold, entropic embrace of Death. Every alien species and human star empire and god-like superbeing in the universe is dying, and the players are just trying to outlast them.

The best rules for such a campaign would probably sci-fi rules modified to allow for scarcity and the idea that the best and brightest are gone and those who remain maybe do not understand the technology they use quite as well as they should.

Where would the adventures take place? Isolated colonies (under glass domes, of course) and star bases eager for trade, but wary of strangers (think in terms of isolated towns in Westerns), ruins of ancient civilizations, and drifting hulks (as in spaceships) in deep space. The play would often be dungeon-style – exploring a physical space and battling monsters and traps, but the drivers would be the need for supplies – energy, fuel, food and water, replacement parts for the spaceship. Of course, there could also be a meta-driver – the belief that some super-scientist somewhere built a portal that allows one to leave the dying universe for a parallel universe that remains young and vital. This Shangri-la could be the overall focus of the campaign – something akin to Battlestar Galactica‘s plot of a caravan of spaceships seeking Earth.

Just a thought – and probably not an original one at that.