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Modular: A First Look at Elite Dangerous Role Playing Game

Modular: A First Look at Elite Dangerous Role Playing Game

256 New COREBOOK Mockup
Clearly a labor of love

Yes, you read that right!

Elite Dangerous, the current incarnation of the granddaddy of all immersive video games, now has its own tabletop roleplaying game, and I’m sitting here with a review copy.

The problem with the video game is that, even with the new ability to land on airless worlds and trundle around in AFVs, it’s essentially space exploration on the radio. You don’t get to land on the worlds with interesting cultures and brawl with gangsters or tread the mean streets, or avoid being the main course at a barbaric religious ceremony. A tabletop roleplaying game has the potential to supply those missing experiences. But does the franchise really need its own game? (As you’ll see, “Yes, actually.”)

EDRPG 256 Book Spread 1
Well written, beautifully illustrated

Frankly, I half-expected Elite Dangerous Role Playing Game (EDRPG) to be a cynically put together I can’t believe it’s not Traveller-lite (please don’t send round lawyers with pulse lasers) with a detailed trade mini-game. Instead I found myself reading what’s clearly a labor of love that emulates a different corner of the Star Punk genre, and does so with an emphasis  — in the core rules — on what you do when you’re not trading. It’s also loaded with material pitched for beginner GM’s, but — again in the core rules — assumes some familiarity with the computer game; not disastrous, but  confusing if you haven’t played Elite seriously in four decades (I’m told there will be free material on the website to help with this).

Given Elite Dangerous has 2-3 million players, and a cult of enthusiasts who enjoy the “shared” part of “shared escapism,” Elite Dangerous Roleplaying Game promises to be an instant modern classic. It’s a good thing, then, that the game mechanics are elegant, but more refined than innovative, which is what you want in something obviously intended as a workhorse to support happy years of sandbox gaming.

Let me unpack some of that.

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Black Gate Online Fiction: The First Chapter of The Wreck of the Marissa

Black Gate Online Fiction: The First Chapter of The Wreck of the Marissa

M Harold Page The Wreck of the Marissa (Eternal Dome of the Unknowable 1)
Read the rest on Kindle…

Trust me, I’m a doctor. Some people need killing.

OK, yeah, Doctor of Archaeology but that gives me the long view. (Professor James Brandistock Ph.D. at your service, by the way, but you can call me “Jim”.)

Where was I?

Some people need killing.

It’s true! History turns out better when certain individuals are removed from it.

Case in point? His Royal Highness Prince George, galactic playboy and hereditary ruler of the Planetary Principality of Badland. Now he was a man who’d make your trigger finger tense even if you’d never fired a blaster.

I can tell you this because I was groundside during the ’34 Badland Revolution, avoiding looters and opportunists as I negotiated the streets of Fortunata — that’s the planetary capital.

The smug little f–ker popped up on every TV screen in every bar and cafe, and — I assume — every home. He called for calm, promised to see justice done and grievances met.

And he didn’t bother to keep the smirk off of his jowly face.

Prince George didn’t need to. His bullshit was just box-ticking in case the Empire was paying attention: “I reached out to them, Your Excellency, truly I did. Mass murder was a last resort. I wept when I gave the order…”

See, the real message — the reason for Prince George’s smirk — was the Devastator. They’d set up the TV camera so you had a good view of it through the Prince’s study window. The alien super weapon has its own pinnacle above the Citadel Rock — imagine a clenched fist making a thumbs up — so I guess the study was built with that view in mind. They’d also taped the speech at the right time of day so that harsh white sunlight flashed off the thing’s weird tubes and dishes as the gun crew swept it left and right, showing off its field of fire.

Look, Prince George was saying, I have a literal gun to the city’s head.

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Worldbuilding a “Star Punk” Future #2: Post-Certainty Society in Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s Peace

Worldbuilding a “Star Punk” Future #2: Post-Certainty Society in Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s Peace

Vatta Cold Welcome
…could be a superior Traveller campaign

Go on a Traveller RPG forum and ask for book recommendations, and somebody will suggest Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War series — a series that has just spawned a rather good sequel, Vatta’s Peace.

The Vatta books are, of course, a really good read. They’re gritty and realistic — it helps that Moon’s ex-military. They’re also fast-paced and well-written, they have vivid characters you enjoy hanging out with, and a strong female protagonist (or two). The same can be said of her other big SF series, affectionately known among my friends as “Scary Horse Aunts In Space” (*) but it’s the Vatta books that come up because they feel a lot like Traveller, meaning they fit my definition of Star Punk:

Set in [a] spacefaring civilization… where… technology has somehow failed to eliminate the human element, where you still need a human to pull the trigger or pilot the scout ship, and where nanotechnology, 3D-printing and vertical farms have neither eliminated trade, nor ushered in a crime-free post scarcity society. They all involve individuals or companions — adventurers, traders, investigators, contractors — pursuing goals of only local significance. (*)

Except for not being an ensemble piece, the series really could be a superior Traveller campaign! It even kicks off with Ky operating as a free trader having left Naval Academy due to a scandal — did somebody fail her survival roll during character generation? It expands to encompass family corporations, commercial espionage, romance, family drama, conspiracy, politics, atrocity, piracy and ultimately set-piece space battles.

However, it rarely loses sight of the business of space travel. Our intrepid hero must deal with crew, repairs, finance, quirky local custom, in addition to the issues around using a civilian ship in armed conflict against pirates and other enemies… this is like a story from the 1970s, but with a tighter plot, modern diversity and values, and much better writing.

The setting — the worldbuilding — is also very Traveller-like in that the technology is limited in such a manner as to create a near-future-but in spaaace feel. Moon achieves this mostly by deploying the third of the options identified in the my last article: she turns the technology against itself.

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