I had a brief chat with creator Jacob Ross about his gaming and his games.
Welcome to Farsight Blogger! Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got yourself embroiled in the wonderful world of roleplaying games.
My name is Jacob Ross, I write as Jacob DC Ross to differentiate myself from the award-winning writer from Grenada. The first RPG that I ever owned was WEG's The D6 System: The Customizable Roleplaying Game, by George Strayton. I got it in 1997 from a regular big-box bookstore. From there I found LUG's Star Trek RPG and Legend of the Five Rings.
I fell in love with L5R so hard that 2009 I ended up begging Shawn Carman for a shot at writing for the game line, and bless his heart, he gave me a spot on Enemies of the Empire. I got to write about badgers, sharks, apes and such while the veterans were telling tales about ninja and naga. I didn't care. I was a WRITER now! I got a bigger assignment for the next book, The Great Clans, before branching out. I've written for the first edition of Mongoose Traveller, Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures and other game lines.
Your best known for the best-selling Exodus System RPG rules. What was the genesis of the game?
I see what you did there. Side note, the game was originally called "The Genesis System", before someone informed me that FFG had announced their own "Genesys System" a few weeks earlier. The game system came about because I was having issues at the game table. My absolute favorite RPG campaign of all time is Pirates of Drinax for Traveler. My wife and our friend wanted to play, but because of how long character generation took them, they decided not to go forward.
I decided that I needed to come up with my own system, something that checked off all of my boxes:
- Fast character generation that retains mechanical depth and diversity of abilities
- Spotlight balance, or no situations where wizards are always better at everything than warriors
- Easy GM prep, having generators that allow the GM to prep a scenario after getting home from work and before the rest of the party comes home
- Simple NPC stat blocks since I hate nothing more than finding a system that looks fun, going to write up a scenario for publishing and then seeing that I have to list how many ranks that the starfighter pilot has in "Handle Animals".
I got to work, blended some of my favorite elements from different games and tried it out, then refined things. I am a fan of how Numenera lets you make your own character class, so I adapted the principles behind that design into something that would allow you to have these Pathfinder-like ability tracks but without having to plan out your character build from rank 1. All you have to do is pick which stat to upgrade during character creation, choose a Combat Role, a Party Role and two Flavors for your powers.
Long story short, I wanted something that was easier to customize, both for gameplay and publishing.
You have a Kickstarter running as of this interview, 'Triskelion Space'. What can you tell us about this game that helps recreate 'old-school space opera stories'?
The atmosphere of the setting is oriented towards sci-fantasy space opera in many ways. The Southern Arm of the Triskelion Galaxy is embroiled in war, with the main factions diametrically opposed to one another's philosophy. Grand stories of freedom versus order and all that.
I want to avoid a single faction being seen as a monolith of evil, though. In Star Wars I'd say that the Empire fans are probably equal to the Rebellion fans. In Triskelion Space the Supremacy dominates the northern half of the Southern Arm of space,but it's composed of multiple feuding houses. While they're obligated to support the overall military, each Supreme House fields their own navy and army, too, and is at odds with one or more of their peers. This allows PCs to support a faction that they like without having to join an army that might be liberating a world from alien incursion one day and then slaughtering a village of innocents the next.
Planets in Triskelion Space are not concerned about things like which trade goods are available for purchase, or the percentage of helium in the atmosphere, but by what types of adventures that they facilitate. The spotlight planets have their own encounter tables and problem tables that are geared towards getting into trouble or overcoming heroic opposition.
Alien races are iconic, and include broad stereotypes like the Foi "Elder Aliens" or the various beastmen-inspired uplift-type species. A humanoid rabbit piloting a starfighter through a ridiculously packed asteroid field is my idea of old-school space opera, and that's there. Enormous capital ships disgorging waves of wasp-like strike craft against hapless freedom fighters is my idea of old-school space opera, and that's there, too.
The galaxy is under threat from more than one source, so i's perfectly plausible that members of the Insurgency and Supremacy might even team up for the greater good. Or they might allow their nemeses to face the "Assimilation Bugs from Beyond the Stars" or the tyrannical Flux Mages' secret infiltrators on their own. The one constant, wherever you go, is that every world is in peril, and it is up to idealistic, action-oriented folks to save the day.
The book is also going to be filled with gorgeous artwork, including several interior pictures from Matt Bulahao, who painted the starships fighting on the KS page's banner. Dean Spencer is doing the cover, and his work is unbelievable. Both of these artists and others help to create a visual sense of epic scale.
|A Flux-wielding Star Mystic- Daniel Comerci|
The first Exodus System book is designed for hacking by GMs or publishers. That's why I present both target number-based skill rolls and opposed skill rolls. The first book is also very abstract on vehicle and equipment systems to be easier to adapt to any genre.
Since I wanted more of a two-fisted, pulpy feel, virtually all rolls in Triskelion Space are opposed. Climbing that cliff face isn't a TN of 12, it's your d10 Agility versus the cliff's d8 AD (Action Die). This increases tension because you never know exactly what you have to beat for each roll.
Writing up the sci-fi book, I had requests from readers for, in their words "guns, guns, lots of GUNS". The new equipment system allows you to customize your equipment in thousands of different ways. I also further detailed the starship and vehicle system, plus space combat, commerce, item crafting and more. You can even create ships and mecha to use as PCs instead of human characters. This process is fast and takes only a minute or two per ship.
Space combat now is more cinematic. There are crew positions for virtually any party member so everybody has something to do during a fight. I refined the concept of Scale for this game, making the captical ships an enormous threat, but leaving fighter craft with options to save the day.
What kind of support will 'Triskelion Space' receive in the future?
We're working on a ships and space encounters book with dozens of premade ships and space monsters (beyond those in the core book) and options for ship creation. Think High Guard for Traveller, but it doesn't take an hour to make a vessel. There's also a series of gazeteers in the works, which expand on the non-spotlight planets from the core books and introduce new ones. I also want to introduce competitive, PVP starship battle rules for players who just want to sling missiles and disruptor beams at one another all day long. James Spahn, who wrote White Star, is contributing material, too. I'm really excited to have him aboard!
|Forest Villager Settlement- Windfall|