Gencon 2018 rolls on and Saturday is all about space adventure!
Star Trek from Modiphius Games
I am a Trek fan. At least I was until JJ Abrams turned my beloved franchise into a charmless “Fast and Furious” clone. Griping about the recent movies aside, I looked forward to playing “Star Trek Adventures” as it comes from Modiphius and I am a fan of their “Achtung Cthulhu!” game. I was a bit surprised when I sat down and the pre-generated characters were the classic crew. I went with the Monkee…er…Chekov and our fearless captain lead us into adventure. “Abyss Station” is an alien artifact orbiting a black hole. The Federation science team accidentally turned it on and the alien macguffin started moving the black hole towards a nearby inhabited planet full of primitive humanoids. We explored the station, fought some security droids and eventually turned off the alien artifact. At the bitter end we discovered a crazy Vulcan turned it on because she was exposed to the same chemical that made T’pol nuts on “Enterprise.” It was an odd round because we blew through it in two hours. Turns out we could have visited the planet to talk to the natives. Truly awful adventure design comes in many forms. This incarnation gives you a choice between a glowing, active alien artifact moving a black hole around like a ping-pong ball or spending quality time with some goat herders on a planet to explore their culture.
Hmm. Let me channel Kirk on this one….this is hard…primitives with the potential for some inter-species love or GIANT, PULSING ALIEN ARTIFACT. The system is fine and uses a system of “momentum” that players earn through rolling that can be spent to pull off amazing stunts. It was an acceptable game system, my issue is Starfleet campaigns feel dated in the age of “Firefly” and “The Expanse.” Everyone is too idealistic, too non-violent (the GM gets points to mess with the party when you shoot to kill) and generally felt more like a parody than a real game. Of course, this is one adventure, but I would much rather play a game with some dirt on it. If they came out with a Klingon campaign….
Ironically, after getting a morality enema with “Star Trek,” we got down and dirty in “The Expanse RPG.” I played the AGE system years ago for “Dragon Age” and jumped right into an “easy” salvage mission. We, a crew of scumbags working for a distant corporation aboard a ship called “The Goat” stumbled across a derelict Martian corvette dead in the belt. We boarded and took control after fighting some drones and capturing the lone survivor, a Martian marine. I played an engineer, which will become important later.
We captured said marine, knocked her out with a sedative and locked her in a room while the crew argued about how to handle her. She meant we would not get the salvage because it was not an abandoned ship. As the players bickered about what to do I passed a note to the GM indicating I was going to flood the marine’s room with carbon dioxide and kill her. I planned on blaming the sedative for giving her a “bad” reaction.
Sadly, the GM interpreted my precise instructions poorly. Instead as the other (innocent) players entered her room, the GM indicated that it had been opened to vacuum! So much for an undetectable death. One of my more naive friends immediately shouted something like “there is a saboteur onboard!” The captain player who is not part of my regular game group orders me to investigate the “malfunction,” which I do. However, in the course of my investigation the maintenance logs are erased. Oops.
My regular group was at the table and immediately blamed me ( I have a reputation for sinister acts for some reason) but no evidence was found. I got away clean. That said, the GM finally just busted out laughing as he could not keep a straight face. Good times.
I love “The Expanse” as a world, but the AGE system is not my favorite. All the cool stuff depends too much on charts when you roll well and not enough on creativity. The charts also slow down the game as players consult how to spend their allotment of “stunt” points. I feel an Expanse campaign will come to my table someday, just not with AGE.
I have been trying to play this for two years…and the round cancelled because no one else showed up! I heard this was an ongoing issue with games held in Lucas Oil Stadium, but I have not seen any numbers to back that up. Just convention rumors. That said, the stadium is quite a hike from some of the hotels. Regardless, I missed out…again. Maybe next year.
Reaching out to Haaldar and basically jogging from the hinterlands of Gencon (Lucas Oil Stadium) I managed to score a seat at a DCC run of Ravenloft. We got some pre-gens and immediately presented ourselves at the door of Ravenloft castle to kill Strahd. Then it went wrong. Not wrong like “oops I colored outside the lines of my adult coloring book” more like “I pressed the wrong button and convinced the entire state of Hawaii it was about to be nuked by North Korea wrong.”
My usual gaming group took four of the table seats and three mouth-breathing mutants took the remaining seats. Believing themselves “good” gamers they proceeded to make bad decisions, not related to character traits, but because they were too stupid to come up with any good ideas. We started throwing small, packaged snacks at them because when they ate they stopped talking. Never have I been so grateful for the sound of crunching crackers.
Though our three Dunning-Kruger exemplars made the game painful, our GM pushed it into waterboard territory. Our pre-gens had no equipment. Well, I did have three items. A hen (chicken) which ran off at the castle gates, weapons and a vial of holy water. No magic items and our supposedly 5th level characters had weapons doing 1d6…against Strahd’s minions.
We stumbled through the castle, had forgettable encounters and finally everyone died attacking the heart in a tower and got turned into vampires…in one round. The DCC System is an abomination of 1st Edition and weird 16-sided dice. I did not enjoy the system at all. The GM had a pre-made mechanical stamp for our character sheets indicating we died playing DCC. Forget my character, this awful game managed to kill part of my soul. Never again.
I will wrap up the games played in part 3 tomorrow!
Trask, The Last Tyromancer