Monday, 18 June 2018

The influence of Hollywood epics

Image result for The Fall of the Roman Empire hollywoodWhen I first got into tabletop RPGs in 1984 there were very few movies or TV shows around; I think I'd seen the animated Lord of the Rings, Dragonslayer and Hawk the Slayer at this point and other than the books themselves that really was the only visual representation I had as to how these games looked and felt.

The other imagery I used to draw on was from the huge Hollywood epics from the 1950s and 1960s. I'd watch El Cid, The Fall of the Roman Empire, Land of the Pharaohs, The Vikings, Prince Valiant and all kinds, along with movies like Jason and the Argonauts and some huge Italian classics. Along with the TV show Robin of Sherwood to keep me 'grounded', I absorbed these movies and allowed them to colour my games.

So, my first Fighting Fantasy games had the wonderful artwork of the gamebooks to give them flavour, but my D&D games needed a different injection of visuals as the few pieces of artwork in the red box Basic D&D set I had to source inspiration from another source, and this ended up being the Hollywood epics.

So, when I was describing a fallen tomb I took my cues from the great sets from The Fall of the Roman Empire, when I was describing raiders hitting the shore I used elements of The Vikings, and when the players found themselves in a huge battle between two nations I used the great war scenes from Alexander the Great and Spartacus. As soon as I said 'have you seen Quo Vadis? The city is burning like Rome' the scene was set and it made for one of the best action sequences I think I've ever run in a game, with the collapsing buildings, panic in the streets and the struggle to get out of the city as the capital was ransacked, and the players had find the way to their tavern to get hold of the riches they had accumulated over the last few games.

These films were a great source of inspiration for me in my formative gaming years, and they still have something of an influence on me now. After Gladiator hit the screens I ran a huge Warhammer campaign with those elements, using stills from the film to get my point across, and recently I've been thinking about a Conan game and I used images from Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments to help visualise ideas. As well as being amazing movies they can really help fill out a world and can be source of amazing melodrama.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Culling a game collection

I've been subjected to a lot of cyberpunk recently, especially after the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer, and I've been looking at other games like Deus Ex, Syndicate and the Blade Runner game from the late 1990s that I still can't get to work on my machine.

Because of this I thought a hell of a lot about the roleplaying games, so I dug through my boxed RPG collection to get hold of my copy of Cyberpunk 2020 with the intention of settling down for a couple of hours to enjoy that retro gaming feel.

I couldn't find it. I found my old copy of Shadowrun first edition - which was nice - but I still couldn't find my CP2020. Then, as I wondered at the missing book I suddenly remembered... I'd sold Cyberpunk 2020 and the supplements I had back in 2006. My son was on his way at that point, and to help pay for his impending birth I sold a huge swathe of RPG products. I made a lot of money; my collection turned out to be a hell of an investment and it pretty much paid for my son's first year on the planet. More than worth it, but when I realised that this particular game was gone my heart sank.

However, I did hold some games back, games I didn't think I could part with for all sorts of reasons, but sadly Cyberpunk 2020 didn't make the cut. It was one of my favourite games, but I think I was putting the feelers out on Ebay and I was made an offer that was amazing. I remember parting with quite a few things I said I wouldn't; my MERP modules sold really well and a lot of my more obscure and collectable games ended up in bidding wars.

So, how did I decide what was going and what was staying? I remember sitting down for an entire day going through the collection and making three piles of books and boxes; To sell, to possibly sell, and to keep. At first, I just went through the games deciding what it was I didn't want anymore, but in the end the 'possible sell' pile was the highest and it made very little difference to the collection. I decided to have a look at what had been sat on my shelf for years without being used, and that was a lot! It was a shame to hold on to stuff that wasn't going to be used, I'd rather they went to people who would appreciate them more.

Then I did the hardest thing, and that was to go through my collection to see what I'd get for it on Ebay. That drastically reduced my collection; the impending arrival of my son overshadowed any emotional connection I had to some of these games, and I think Cyberpunk 2020 fell into that category. Over the following few weeks my collection went out across the world, and I like to think they have a place on someone else's shelf and they get used often.

Selling a collection is not an easy thing, but I had to be realistic. I needed the space more than I needed the money, and being a dad meant that the majority of the games I owned would never see the wood of a gaming table again. I had no qualms about parting with about 80% of my collection for my son, but there were a few games I didn't want to let go. Regardless, sitting down and going through the collection piece by piece and deciding what to sell and what to keep, and then looking at it all again and being honest with myself as well as checking prices, meant I got the collection down from more than 300 books and boxes to less than 60.

Three entire bookcases, one entire wall, of games was gone. For a long time it kind of hurt as there wasn't a single game in my collection that I wasn't connected to in one way or another, but I realised it was necessary and in the long run the best thing to do. There were a few things I sold that I regret parting with - Cyberpunk 2020 and my five D&D Basic boxsets mainly - but that can't be helped. I can still get hold of CP2020 on POD and I got an original copy of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, so it's all good.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Preview: Dave Bezio's X-plorers RPG

A preview? Of a game that's more than a decade old? WHAT ARE YOU DOING, JONATHAN?

Well, this game has been on the scene for a long time but in the last few years it's slipped out of the spotlight. As an OSR sci-fi game it has kind of been eclipsed by other games of the same ilk.

I've been through the other games and, as good as they are, I chose X-plorers because of it's simplicity, which meant I didn't have to worry too much about stats and figures and I could concentrate more on stories and adventures.

Player Characters are class-based - Scientist, Soldier, Technician and Scout - and they level up as a good OSR game should. They have four attributes; Agility, Intelligence, Physique and Presence, scored from 3 to 18, and each class has skills which is basically a score the player has to beat on a D20 roll. It's quick, simple and smartly laid out, and the rules for aliens, robots and starships are fully fleshed out with enough room for referees to make their own game out of it.

Even though the game is about 'Galactic Troublshooters' in a Golden Age sci-fi kind of setting, with a 'Buck Rogers' action adventure feel to it, it can be used for any kind of sci-fi; action, mystery, horror, you name it. It's roots are firmly placed in the D&D ground with levels and experience points, and the grind that may come with that, but it's flexible enough to do what you will.

I'm also giving it a preview because I'm going to be writing new material for it under the OGL and releasing it through Farsight Games on DrivethruRPG. The rules can be bought from DrivethruRPG but you can also download the entire rules for free from the game's owners, Brave Halfling Publishing. And, at only 40 pages long, you can print it off quite cheaply and use it as an old-school black-and-white RPG book.

I've purchased the POD version in book form and it's smart and incredibly old-school, even down to it's presentation, and I like that a lot. Let's give X-plorers some love.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018


After having a lot of fun helping with the Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd Edition 'Stellar Adventures' rulebook and writing two adventures for the original fantasy game - therefore fulfilling two childhood fantasies I had, writing and drawing for Fighting Fantasy - I've decided to bring my Farsight Games label out of retirement to publish my own work on DrivethruRPG.

Since hitting the tabletop gaming hobby in 1983 and falling in love with pen & paper RPGs in 1984, I’ve always wanted to communicate my own ideas and adventures to the rest of the gaming community. I set up Farsight Games to do just that.

At Farsight Games we like to keep things simple and fun and try to reflect that in our work. The majority of our products will be uncomplicated PDFs of a low page count and cost; keeping these down means that you can print at your leisure or read from a device with ease, without having to spend lots of extra money on PODs or professional printers.

We'll keep things basic; this means we can produce material that’s perfectly suited to a gamer’s needs, make it available quickly and cleanly and always have something new in the pipeline.

Welcome to Farsight Games - we’re looking forward to gaming with you!

Monday, 11 June 2018

Cyberpunk 2077 Trailer

If I was going to set up a new Cyberpunk 2020 game, this is the trailer I would show my players to get them in the mood as it's an amazing representation of how I see the excellent Cyberpunk 2020 roleplaying game.

I used to use game videos to capture the atmosphere of games I was wanting to run - the trailers for the 'Star Wars: The Old Republic' MMO, the trailer for 'Dead Space' and the 'Modern Warfare 3' trailers received some play time and got my players in the mood for the game I wanted to run.

However, this Cyberpunk 2077 trailer is a step beyond all that and captures the essence of the game beautifully. The atmosphere, the music, the visuals are spot on and, even though I'd have liked a few more 'rain-soaked neon evening' images, it still shows you what Cyberpunk is all about.

Not only does this trailer force me to look forward to this game, it's kicking me in the creative nuts and telling me that everything I imagined, every detail I thought up, was lacking compared to what this game is going to offer. This trailer alone has made every synapse linked to my imagination go into overdrive and I have the need to play the game.

Cyberpunk 2077 had better be good. After all these years, and all this buildup, it can't be anything other than excellent. Such is the nature of hype.

Friday, 8 June 2018

D&D in Spaaaaace!

I've always had ideas about an old-school sci-fi adventure using the old-school D&D rules. I was always amazed that TSR never created a sci-fi version of their flagship game in the 1980s/90s, and even though I had fun with their 'Buck Rogers in the XXVc' game - which used the AD&D system with it's own skill system - I wasn't overly hot on the starship system.

It's a shame that TSR decided to use the Buck Rogers licence for the game - I won't get into why they decided on that setting - because I do feel that if they had made the system more generic, less setting focused and scaled back the starship system a bit it would have made a really good D&D sci-fi game.

I still have the game and every now and then I get it out and wonder 'what if...', but I've come across other games that take the OSR system and make it their own and, in many ways, use it better.

The primary one, which always impressed me, is 'Stars Without Number'. This is an excellent game from Sine Nomine Publishing that really puts the rules to good use, gives the GM plenty of material to recreate their own setting and is just a really well presented and laid-out game. If I was going to create a huge, long-running campaign this is the game I'd choose.

Next, I had a look at 'Hulks & Horrors' from Bedroom Wall Press. I've played in this and, as a group, we really enjoyed it. It was quick and smooth and really fun, and as an OSR sci-fi game it felt a little closer to the original D&D game. With more visuals this would be a lot bigger than it is, and I love the game's cover; very 80s retro/Traveller.

The game I settled on, and ordered a POD for, is 'X-plorers' from Brave Halfling Publishing. Now, this is probably the furthest removed from the OSR as far as stats are concerned, it's a trimmed-down version of the game with very simple starship rules, and there are only four classes to choose from. 

Why did I choose this? Well, for that very reason; it's fast, simple and very malleable, and I was looking for a game that wasn't only retro but also cut back, so that I didn't have to go through 100-plus pages to see how the game interpreted the original rules. At 40 pages, in which we're given everything we need to run a game, I think this is the D&D in Spaaaaace! game for me.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

DrivethruRPG POD purchases

I've got quite a bit of credit on DrivethruRPG, so I thought I'd get hold of a couple of books on POD that really grabbed my attention recently.

The first is 'X-plorers RPG' from Brave Halfling Publishing. I had a look at this a long time ago and I returned to it recently, and even though I got hold of a free PDF copy I really wanted the POD book as it looked really retro. I do like the cut-down OSR system and it seems to work really well.

"The Universe is a big place with big problems - that's where you come in!

Put on your space suit, charge your ray rifle, and flip ignition on an outer-space adventure!

Here is a simple RPG of interplanetary adventure, rules-lite, fast-paced, and inspired by a passion for science fiction. In X-plorers, you're part of a group of galactic troubleshooters on the look out for the next job-whether it be salvage, search, or rescue on an alien world.

Players: Explore, defend, and save the galaxy!

Be a SCIENTIST: Unravel the mysteries of a new alien race!
Be a SOLDIER: Take aim and defend against enemy invaders!
Be a TECHNICIAN: Pilot a spaceship through imminent danger!
Be a SCOUT: Foil the overlord's plans using espionage!

Character generation is quick and easy so you can get to gallivanting around the galaxy.
Choose from four character types with a simplified four-attribute skill system. Then outfit your team and prepare to make planetfall!

Game Masters: Create a cosmic sandbox using basic rules."

The second book I went for is 'OneDice Space' from Cakebread & Walton. Apart from the cracking book cover, this game is a simple six-sided die system and, as I'm really drawn to simple systems at the moment, this was another game I liked the look of.

"Quick and easy space roleplaying rules.

OneDice Space is a game of space travel and adventure. If you want to play space games in a universe of your own devising or adventure in the ready-made futures described within, all the rules you need are in this book.

Whether you want to play shady traders in a beat-up cargo ship, the captain and crew of a massive exploration vessel, rebels fighting against an evil galactic empire or artificial intelligences downloaded into cyborg or uplifted animal bodies, there’s something in here for you."

No doubt the PDFs would have been cheaper but, unfortunately, I can't read a screen for any length of time and I'm a bit of a grognard when it comes to gaming books and anything over 12 pages has to be printed so that my head doesn't explode with the migraine.

The last PODs I got from Drivethrurpg were for the Star Frontiers books 'Alpha Dawn' and 'Knight Hawks', which were printed directly from the PDF and were of pretty good quality. I'm looking forward to getting hold of these books and checking out the quality. I'll post again once I receive them.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Interview: Maxim Krylov of Studio Ludens

I came across 'Interbellum RPG - War Adventures in a World of Technomagic' and Studio Ludens recently after it was suggested to me that I check out their Kickstarter, and after reading about this world where 'adventurers and soldiers try to survive on the battlefields of the first mechanized wars with magic and strange technologies', I became more than a little intrigued.

I spoke with Maxim Krylov of Studio Ludens to find out more about the game, where they are in development and what else we can expect to see from this war-torn, magic-fuelled dieselpunk world.

Welcome to Farsight Blogger! Please tell us about yourself and how you got into tabletop gaming.

Hello! My name is Maxim Krylov, I'm 26 years old and I live in Russia. Over the past 8 years I've come a long way in the game development industry, although I can not boast of great achievements. I developed modifications for video games, was a freelancer, worked on a few casual games, and now I'm freelancing again as a game designer. From childhood I liked to create my own worlds - or, as it called now, worldbuilding. Of course, I read Tolkien and many other classic sci-fi and fantasy books which influenced me. Like many other teenagers I tried to write my own short stories but they were terrible! However, I think my worlds turned out to be quite interesting. I had to put them in some kind of interactive form, somehow play with them. I tried to create my own board games with my rules, almost blindly and without any experience. For a long time I was familiar with RPGs only in the format of video games and later tried their original source - D&D and other tabletop RPGs. Alas, I lived in a small provincial town, where only a few knew about such games. This continued until in 2008, when I acquire a personal PC, got access to the Internet and finally plunged into the world of RPGs in all its diversity. And here I am!

What is it about tabletop RPGs that gets you excited? What's the draw to this particular hobby?

Oh, it's hard to say... as I said, since childhood I've been craving to create my worlds and games based on them. I like tabletop RPGs for their immense freedom of action for players, GMs and their developers. In fact, games occur in the minds of players, in their fantasies. It is in them that I can revel in my potential as a creator. But I had quite a strange relationship with the mainstream products. I feel in them the stagnation of ideas, some inertia of thinking. Therefore, I am more interested in homebrew systems and settings, experimental ideas. Perhaps, from large systems, GURPS and Fuzion had the most influence on me.

Let's talk about 'Interbellum RPG - War Adventures in a World of Technomagic'. The blend of magic and early 1900s warfare is an intruiging idea, and the artwork is already evoking a very dark atmosphere. How did this particular idea come about?

The origin of the setting is a long story. Many years ago, one of my favorite pastimes was to experience grand strategies via text games, through forums or chat. Diplomacy, planning, betrayals, building temporary or permanent alliances, provocations and intelligence – I am fond of it, especially when more than a dozen players were assembled on such games. It was reminiscent of the classic ‘Diplomacy’ board game, but we had a much more detailed and complex rule system.

In early 2013, me and two of my friends created a setting for another such game. In short, the idea was to play for the revolutionaries during the civil war in the fantasy world that had entered an era of technological progress. We were inspired by the Civil War in Russia, but wanted to transfer this spirit to another world with magic, monsters and the like. I still have a brief design document and a map of this world. For a number of reasons, this idea was abandoned and would have remained forgotten, but I was tasked as part of a recruitment test for game development company, Elephant Games. To judge my abilities and skills I was required to come up with and describe an interesting world, to provide it with references and other things. So I remembered my old idea, I detailed it, describe countries, factions, visual style, a short timeline and even asked a friend to create a couple of illustrations.

So the world of Interbellum was born, which I continue to develop. Why the combination of magic and technology? I want to experiment; I wondered how magic could be used with technological progress if it could be rationalized and studied from the point of view of science. This is a very interesting field for experimentation, both for the worldbuilding and for artists too. In addition, this combination gives greater freedom of choice in the use of game mechanics and introduces many familiar elements for players.

The last line of defense trying to stop the dreadful technomagically driven flying fortress.

The game is set during a huge war and seems very combat orientated. What kind of things can players expect to do in this setting? What kind of adventures do you think they can have?

Well, I understand that this kind of setting is unusual and it is not so easy to imagine an exciting adventure in such a military-focused setting.

Okay, here's an example of one of the scenarios being developed; one of the largest cities in the empire, a metropolis, turned into a war zone and was ruined due to a sudden enemy breakthrough and assault. Remnants of the garrison, reinforcements and guerillas trying to resist overwhelming enemy force, become trapped and often without the possibility to escape from this city. Civilians did not have time to evacuate, many were killed. But even so, the damaged city is still strategically important because of the many factories and depots with supplies and weapons in the territory.

Players will be able to perform different tasks in this war zone; hunt enemy leaders, seek traitors, combat raids in the enemy's positions, look for ways to evacuate civilians and save them.

Another example. A distant colony of your empire, lost in the sands and steppes. Archaeologists have recently excavated the remains of an ancient city of an unknown civilization. Rumors talk about the untold riches in the catacombs of these ruins. Adventurers and bandits come here in large quantities, attracted by the profit and the treasures and artifacts, extracted from the catacombs and sold on the black market. You have a choice - you can play as military police and protect the law, or desert and become an adventurer, or just generate a character as a civilian treasure hunter. But what if the owners of the artifacts and the ancient city return? What kind of curse are you warned of by local residents who suddenly leave this place? And what is the source of such strange and horrible sounds at night from the catacombs?

Can you tell us more about the game mechanics? There appears to be a D6 involved and there also seems to be a levelling system. How does it work?

It is a combination of old ideas that have been used in many games. Each character has its own class, which makes it possible to develop certain skills to the maximum. Also the class gives unique class perks, which further strengthen specializations. Through performing missions and defeating opponents, the character gains experience points and when a certain amount of them accumulates  the character moves to the next level and receives several skill points. Pretty classic system. Skill points are spent on developing skills. Also through 2 or 3 levels the player can choose a new perk with an interesting bonus. There’s also also traits, chosen during character generation. Does it remind you of anything? :)

In general, this concept is still imperfect and we are thinking how to improve it. We would like to see a system in which a character could progress with what he basically uses and what he specializes in.

As for the main game mechanics and combats, our rules are now based on the principle of quick contests of player’s and opponents results of action successs. This is not the best solution and we are looking for convenient alternatives, but for now it's quite convenient on tests. We try to make simple and obvious rules for players. Honestly, the current state of the rules is very early and we honestly state this. There is still a lot of work and playtesting to do and we very much look forward to feedback.

Istalian Bastion-class landship. 100 tons of perfect engineering.

The stretch goals include tank battles, air battles, more magic and all kinds of extras. What else can we expect to see released to support Interbellum in the future? Adventures, sourcebooks, that kind of thing?

Yes, all of it; new sourcebooks, campaign books, maybe expansions about underground and mountain war, etc. Of course, only if backers and other players like our game and our world.

The artwork and setting details we've seen up to yet is excellent. Has the setting been fully fleshed out and how will the game world be expanded upon?

As you know, even the amount collected on Kickstarter is not enough for such a large setting as ours. Artist’s drawings make the fictional world more believable. This requires a lot of visualization, which means big spending for artwork. Anyway, the setting will develop in depth - each country will be described in more detail, the races will be divided into separate peoples and ethnic groups, they will have their own cultural differences, own pantheons, own technologies. And, of course, new races, equipment, weapons and the like will be added.

Already, two of my friends are writing short stories based on Interbellum and they will be canonical. This is an interesting way to view the world from within. Unfortunately, we do not have time to finish them by the end of our campaign on Kickstarter, but we will definitely post them later and will write our own fiction later, too. I have a modest hope that Interbellum may be attract the interest of professional writers, but this is only a hope.

When do you think we will see Interbellum on general release?

So far, I avoid calling specific dates. We want to polish our game and release it as complete and in as high a quality as possible, to make sure the backers are pleased. In the end, we monitor our reputation, and if backers trust us and want to see a quality product for their money, we must meet their expectations. Therefore, we will be sensitive to their feedback.

We plan to reach 80% of readiness this autumn and start a closed beta test among the backers. Depending on the feedback, the open beta test with quick rules will begin soon after, in January next year. Accordingly, we plan to make the release late winter/early spring.

Note: English is not Maxim’s first language so some very minor edits to the text may have been made for clarity.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Interview - Spidermind Games and the Elite: Dangerous Role Playing Game

No automatic alt text available.Elite - I used to hammer my rubber keys on my Spectrum back in the 1980s playing this game, and the never-ending free-roaming nature of the game has been beautifully realised in the new version on PCs and consoles across the globe.

This kind of starship-centric game may not seem to be the kind of thing that would make it into a tabletop roleplaying product, but Spidermind Games were up the challenge. I spoke with Oliver Hulme and Jon Lunn about Spidermind, the Elite: Dangerous RPG and the excitement of blasting through the stars.

Hello, and welcome to Farsight Blogger! Please introduce yourselves and explain how you managed to fall down the rabbit hole into the wonderful world of tabletop gaming.

I’m Oliver Hulme, the Lead Writer of Spidermind Games.  I’ve been playing roleplaying games for 3D12 years, and was suckered in with a combination of Fighting Fantasy and AD&D when I was about nine years old.  In all that time I’ve been a player for only about two weeks and a GM for the rest of time.

I’m Jon Lunn and I am the producer for Spidermind Games. It was cake that got me involved. At school we were always allowed cake during break times on Tuesdays and Thursdays but only every one and only after we had queued up for what seemed ages in the cold and the rain. Not so for the D&D players who seemed to be showered in cake… well that was good enough for me.

Tell us about Spidermind Games; how did it come about, and what was the inspiration for the name?

Spidermind Games was created so I could have a reason to work together with Jon, and to fulfil a dream about being published. I create games and rule systems in my head even just walking down the road, so Spidermind has been a good way to channel that weird energy into something useful.

The name, Spidermind, was created by my long-suffering partner, Melanie, who has been roped into all my RPG playing and testing for the last decade, or so. I think she had a vision of an evil genius who created games to thwart his enemies. Our designer, Bruce, came up with the iconic image of the spider with a human brain. I particularly like that its mandibles look like a bow tie. He’s a clever man, is our Bruce.

Your most recent product is the highly anticipated Elite: Dangerous Roleplaying Game (EDRPG). Elite has an amazing history (I played it to death in the 1980s on my Spectrum) and the recent incarnation is epic on many levels. What's your history with the game, and what drove you to create a tabletop RPG version of it?

So we both played Elite on the original 8-bit computers, including the Spectrum 48K and Commodore 64. I think it was the first computer game that actually made sense while still being fun to play. By that, I mean that the spaceships you encountered in the game behaved like real people. Traders only bothered you if you attacked them, bounty hunters pursued you if you were a fugitive, the police would come to the aid of the innocent, etc. In other early 8-bit games it seemed like everyone was against you all the time.

Also, Elite was a role-playing game without dice, in the sense that it was always told from a first person perspective and you had agency to do as you wished. The first RPG I made about Elite was in 1988 – however, since I was only eleven it might not have the kind of ground-breaking mechanics you would expect these days.

In terms of why I bit the bullet and made a fully produced and licenced version of Elite: Dangerous – well, Frontier Developments (the producers of Elite: Dangerous) only have themselves to blame. About three years ago they began inviting licensing applications to companies that wanted to utilise the Elite: Dangerous brand. Jon and I saw the advert, kind of nodded to each other, and then gave up a lifetime of job security to plunge into the tabletop game market. I’ve no regrets, really. I think this is what I was born to do, and I’m just horrified it took me so long to realise it.

The original Elite

Elite the computer game is 100% about the starships, so what were the challenges in including the character-driven human element into EDRPG?

Well, on the one hand, there was a lot to do. Clearly the mechanics of human combat had not been explored in Elite: Dangerous at the time we began writing. Ironically, though, the types of equipment available for spacecraft give a writer a strong indication of the types of technology that exist in the game world. I already knew there were pulse and beam lasers, as well as cannons, rapid-fire ballistic weapons, missile launchers and explosives. It made sense that this technology also existed on a personal scale.

In terms of everyday interactions and how the galaxy actually functions, fortunately there are lots of references. Frontier Developments created a world-building guide for the universe as part of their development of the game. As one of the licenced authors I was given access to it, and it really is fantastic, explaining all about the medicine, transport, governments and everyday lives of people. In addition a number of licensed books had been released by the time I was working on the RPG, and these very much helped me get the flavour of the living worlds beneath the spaceships.

What amount of freedom were you given to create your own material and content for the Elite setting? Did you find working with the license constricting?

It was quite interesting, really. Frontier Developments began on a strong note, wanting to see everything that was written and to check it for accuracy. As the project went on, and they began to trust us more, they became less stringent. I think the guiding factor for us was less a fear of upsetting Frontier, but more about getting the essential facts about the Elite: Dangerous universe correct. Fans of the computer game would tell us off for the rest of time if we got the lore wrong.

Eventually Frontier decided on a non-lore licence, which basically meant that, in terms of canon, the events and descriptions in the computer game would take precedence over what was written in the RPG. That didn’t mean that we were suddenly off the hook. We wanted to make the game as lore-accurate as possible. But the non-lore licence did give us all the room we needed to spontaneously create enemies and technology that didn’t currently exist. It was a matter of being respectful the hard-science lore of the main work when creating new work.

For instance, many of our wheeled vehicles are based off the Frontier-developed SRV (Surface Reconnaissance Vehicle), a type of moon buggy, ruggedly presented with flexible suspension, jump jets and large wheels. Creating other types of wheel-based SRV’s, transports and gangland battlecars involved taking existing elements from the SRV in the computer game. It helps that our lead artist, Kevin Massey, has a phenomenal eye for the little design details in Frontier’s work, and is able to echo those design philosophies in his artwork throughout the book.

Tell us more about the mechanics and the reasoning behind them; I imagine combining the character side of things and the starship elements was somewhat challenging.

I had one over-riding rule when making the rule system: it had to be fast. Once I had created a basic design I went back through it and stripped back more and more to make it faster, faster, faster!

In the 80’s I think so many of us were overjoyed we got to use guns and laser beams in RPG’s that we forgave anything. But the agony of waiting your turn while someone else spent five minutes calculating their weapon attacks and positioning used to drive me mad.

I decided on two inspirations for EDRPG that would drive the game onwards. The rapid-fire spaceship combat of the computer game needed to be emulated, and the phaser-slapping, karate-chop antics of Captain Kirk needed to contrast it in personal combat.

For spaceship combat I decided to replace precise positioning in space with a combination of different manoeuvres that you could undertake depending how far away from the action you are. Essentially, in space combat there are two zones – up-close and at-distance. When you are up-close the lasers and bullets are streaming past you, and you can see the ships attacking you at visual range.

You can try to dogfight an opponent like a space Spitfire, drop mines, fire turrets, or rely on real-world physics to spin around and shoot your pursuers, like a Babylon 5 space fighter. Or you can try to bug out and recommence an attack at-distance. When you are at-distance you can joust, strafe, snipe – or even try to play a game of chicken with your opponent, threatening to ram right into them! By replacing fixed measurements of distance and speed with just a general sense of whether your opponent is near you or far away, you can do away with a lot of the time-consuming measuring that tends to go on with most spaceship battle systems. It’s fast, and more than that, it feels very close to the kinds of battles you end up in with the computer game.

For personal combat there is a sort of virtuous triangle between ranged, melee and fist fighting combat. Ranged combat does the most damage, fist fighting inflicts the most debuffs, and melee combat provides you with the most attacks. It’s not that these fighting forms are equal – most people prefer guns in combat for good reason – but those who specialise in close combat can really ruin a gun-fighter’s day. To go back to my Captain Kirk example, phasers are pretty deadly in combat, but get Kirk up next to his opponent and he’ll send that weapon skittering into the dust. To reflect this idea in EDRPG, close combat fighting attacks have an automatic chance of disarming someone as part of their damage roll. This is because the first thing anyone tries to do when wrestling with a gunman is get that gun away from them. It’s such an automatic action that it doesn’t require the player to do anything special – basically if they inflict an even amount of damage with a punch or kick they will knock the weapon out of their attacker’s grasp. Because this mechanic is built into the damage dice roll it saves a good deal of time. This is, obviously, just one example, but hopefully it demonstrates the kind of thing EDPRG does.

elite: dangerous 5

Let's say that I'm a fan of the computer game but haven't touched RPGs before, or I do play RPGs and I'm in two minds about EDRPG. What is it about the tabletop game that you think would persuade me to dive in?

If you’re a fan of the Elite: Dangerous computer game you’re going to feel at home here. You can build and modify your spaceship in the same way as the computer game, and your combat choices – jousting, dogfighting, strafing, flight-assist-off, etc. – are going to feel very familiar. You’ve probably already got a backstory for your commander in your head. Well – now you can get out the cockpit and negotiate your own contracts, break into corporate bases, rescue civilians from burning ships, fight pirates in dune-buggies on abandoned desert worlds, fall in love with deadly assassins and be back in time for breakfast.

If you are an old hand at RPG’s, the main draw here is that every player gets their own spaceship. You are not all sharing the Millennium Falcon, or in charge of the sensors on the Starship Enterprise. Instead it will be you shooting down pirates and flying into narrow canyons. The combat system is fast, but with tactical depth, so you can fight as a lightly-armed fighter or as a heavy battleship. In addition, your character has a life outside the party, and you can earn money doing independent trading, mining, exploring or bounty-hunting. If you miss a game because of other commitments you’ll be able to fill the time with more of these between adventures actions to make sure you don’t fall too far behind.

The game is also gorgeously presented, filled with art, advanced design and lovely, lovely tables! Seriously, the whole thing is quite striking – go and buy it at once!

What kind of ongoing support will the game receive? Adventures, campaigns, supplements?

We’ve just finished the game’s fourth supplement, Exploration, so right off the bat the game is well supported. You’ll find downloadable character sheets, ship sheets and vehicle sheets, both in black and white and colour, and form-fillable. We’ve got a GM’s screen coming out in June, which is looking very striking.

If you want a taster, a free adventure The Worst Intentions, is available to download from www.edrpg.co.uk and DriveThru RPG.

What more can we expect to see from Spidermind Games in the future?

ED Battle Cards, which is our next project has just been released and is available to pre-order at www.edbattlecards.com – no, we are not just producing Elite Dangerous products it was just that of all the projects that we are currently developing, the card game was completed first. Later in the year we will take a break from Sci Fi and release our first board game – more to follow. We will also be announcing a tie in with a well known publisher to make an RPG of a bestselling series of books, but again more of this to follow later in the year – lots to look out for.

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…where the police shoot on sight, entire systems are overrun with space pirates, and money is the only thing that talks.  Gear up with high tech equipment to overcome heavily armoured combat drones, elite corporate assassins, and over-gunned soldiers of the interstellar powers.


Each player owns their own spaceship, which is completely customizable with multi-cannons, plasma accelerators, enhanced shields and super-fast Frame Shift Drives. Land on alien planets and get behind the wheel of your Surface Reconnaissance Vehicle (SRV) to explore, or strap yourself into your own battle tank and storm pirate bases.


Elite: Dangerous is the modern day incarnation of the seminal space trading game Elite. 30 years after the original game reinvented the way people experienced playing computer games, Elite: Dangerous Role Playing Game seeks to immerse the role player in the same cut throat galaxy experience by online players."

The UK Games Expo 2018

This weekend (1st to the 3rd June) I'll be attending the UK Games Expo, my yearly pilgrimage to the biggest tabletop gaming convention and trade show in the United Kingdom.

Held in the NEC and Hilton Hotels, Birmingham, the show builds year after year and is a major date in the calender of tabletop gamers and firms across Europe and the world. There's been an average 20% increase in attendance every year up to yet and there'll no doubt be an amazing turnout this year.

It's an excellent venue and, quite literally, less that 15 minutes walk from Birmingham International train station and airport. With two halls in use and rooms in the Hilton hotel near the main entrance to the exhibition centre, the UK Games Expo is entertaining, easily accessible and a great weekend of all kinds of tabletop gaming.

I caught up with Michael Pearson of the UKGE to find out what's in store this year.

'This year on the lake area we have two camps - one is a Viking camp and the other a Tolkien camp - complete with wolves (two of which can be petted!).

There are lots of highlights... we are headed to fill two halls in the NEC this year, with a considerable increase in exhibitors. Everything else gets bigger, partly because people see that their genre of exhibitor is attending, so they come along.

We already have 157 games/products submitted for our awards, well ahead of last year, our Design Track of events is growing - supporting game makers to create their games. We have the Wyverns Lair event again - like Dragon's Den for games.'

It all sounds great, and I'm really looking forward to attending this year. There's always so much to do and see that one day is never enough.