Saturday, January 9, 2016

Thrilling Adventures in Aetheria!

After last week's battle in Aetheria (my 1930ish imaginary world), I had a sudden bit of inspiration. Aetheria could be a fun setting for thrilling pulp adventures! Suddenly my mind was racing with thoughts of quick skirmish games with a handful of miniatures. I was inspired by the possibilities.

But what rules to use? I looked into commercial sets like Pulp Alley but I found them a bit too fiddly for my tastes. I thought about using my dungeon crawl rules, which I have modified for my solo RPG sessions. However, I wanted something faster with less record-keeping. I decided to work on my own rules.

First, I jotted down some ideas to create a series of linked scenarios. To track them, I created this adventure track in PowerPoint.

I don't have all the details worked out, but the "good guys" will roll to see how far they can move along this track every campaign turn. At each point where they stop, they will have a random encounter. The X marks the boss' lair, where they will have to fight a climatic battle to complete the adventure.

I'm playing around with ideas for adjudicating the encounters. The general idea is to give a dice pool depending on the figure's general status (heroes or major villains get 3 dice, sidekicks 2, and mooks 1). I tested it out with a quick scenario (using a virtual board created in PowerPoint. I got the figures from the internet).

For my test, I used a sample scenario from Space 1889. I previously mentioned how this scenario jaded me on the game's rules. Nevertheless, it makes a good test scenario. In this scenario, Carstairs, the British officer and amateur archaeologist, is investigating a Venusian tomb (I know, it's an Egyptian mummy. Just imagine it's Venusian). He is confronted by 3 Venusian grave robbers (not shown but armed with daggers).

Initial Set-up
 I rolled a D6/2 for movement. The Venusians surged forward but failed to reach Carstairs. Our hero decided to retreat strategically re-position himself, using the sarcophagus as cover. He also took a shot at the first mook (rolling 3 dice because he's a hero). He rolled 2 hits. I gave the mook a saving roll, but he failed, and was out of the fight.
One mook down

The remaining grave robbers began to work their way around the sarcophagus. Carstairs moved forward but did not have a decent shot (I ruled that the sarcophagus blocked line of sight. I probably should have allowed a shot with a negative modifier).
The enemy circles

One Venusian reached Carstairs. His attack (with only 1D) missed but Carstairs sliced him in twain.
Slicing down the bad guy

The last Venusian reached Carstairs and sliced at him. Another miss! Carstairs aimed his revolver and downed the mook.
Last one down

Now that this quick scenario is over, what are my thoughts?

  • The scenario was a clear mismatch. It probably should be, especially because the mooks do not have guns.
  • Nevertheless, I may be penalizing the mooks too much. In addition to giving them fewer dice, I also made it harder for them to hit (Carstairs needed a 3+ to hit while the grave robbers needed a 5+). Maybe I should make it a straight 4+.
  • I don't use a movement grid for my solo RPGs but I think it added some tactical thought to the game. The rules worked well enough (I borrowed them from Mice and Mystics) although I did not have movement bonuses like M&M.
  • I need to consider the combat rules. For example, I may just make it 4+ to hit. Also, I need to decide how to work the saving rolls (especially the number of dice per attempt)
  • I did not use activation rolls in this attempt (like Song of Blades and Heroes). I am debating it but right now I lean towards not using them. The random movement gives enough variability as it is.
  • I liked the virtual board, but I ultimately plan on using miniatures.

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