Friday, February 2, 2024

Shelf Shuffle: Early 2024, part 2

Frontier Space leaves the storage shelf and joins my most-played shelf for another chance. This is an excellent game if you love Star Frontiers. It completely replaces the need for that game and is better overall due to the action economy and fixes for high-ability scores. The only thing it could do better is the Knight Hawks part and starship combat, but it does an okay job on an abstract level. However, you could always use KH for the ship combat and FS for the task resolution since the games are mostly compatible.

White Star, I love you, but you may get moved to storage alongside C&C. Both Frontier Space and Cepheus Deluxe are heavy hitters that outdo their original inspirations. I like Cepheus Deluxe far better than Traveller since the game is removed from any official setting or timeline, and I am free to create whatever universe I want. It is generic 2d6 hard science fiction at its best, and I can hex-crawl the stars and not have to worry about what empire is over where, and a massive 1,000-ship fleet will end this sector conflict if it gets out of control. I can do two sectors at war, finish that arc any way I want, and make one space lizardman and the others humans; either side is the bad guy or whatever I want.

I can fly around the map, haul cargo, and break into ship combats to fight pirates. I can answer distress calls on the way in-system and get ambushed by space-lizard fighters. I can explore the lost temples of the ancients and not worry about the backstory being written. I can do military missions, mercenary contracts, exploration missions, transport missions, and investigate strange phenomena.

The Traveller universe is one of the best in sci-fi, but it is so massive, explored, time-lined, and all the history (past and future) known that I can't play in it. I want my own sides and factions, my own worlds, my own dozen-hex space empires, and my own space sandboxes. Can I make a neutral casino world that is a significant player in sector politics and allows ships from all sides of a conflict? Could I have a string of backwater worlds that become important in a space war because they are close together? I can do it.

The Imperium is a fantastic concept but crushes my freedom and imagination.

Frontier Space and White Star will suffer compared to Cepheus Engine. One is d100 gaming at its best, and the other is have-it-all B/X - but Cepheus has tables for anything I want to do, and it limits ship size. The maximum ship size is 10,000 tons in Cepheus, which is nice. A smaller cap on ship size makes players more critical. The largest ship designed in the book is a 1,000-ton cruiser with 16 troops. Small ships matter, and thus, adventurers and their vessels are essential.

And then don't ruin it by making the local space navy show up with a thousand 1,000-ton ships. Limit size and number, and keep your starship game "down" and realistic. A moderate-sized system may only have a dozen navy ships active (plus older in mothballs), which are constantly working.

The worst thing in sci-fi games is those 1,000,000-ton planet-destroying behemoth star battleships that require a dues-ex-machina to stop. The next worst thing is the space navies of thousands of ships that cruise around and solve every problem before the players arrive.

Why even have a ship?

This is Fleet Battles: Watch from the Sidelines the RPG. Traveller (with High Guard), please step into the penalty box with Space Opera, Space Master, and most Star Wars RPGs. The "space navy and large ship" syndrome breaks a sci-fi RPG for me, and I won't play one that puts fleets, battleships, and supercarriers first.

I need to give Frontier Space a chance, but it is hard to find something to do besides being a Star Frontiers emulator. I need to find the game space and a setting to excel in.

FATE got moved to the most played shelf to give it another chance. I like Cypher System better, but the FATE/FUDGE dice I collected are too cool not to use. The dice they make are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, making me want to play the game.

I like the classic Core book better than the newer Accelerated version. You can't improve a classic.

My Aquilae books got moved to the shelf close to my GURPS and Dungeon Fantasy books. I last used this for a Pathfinder 1e game and wanted to use it for Dungeon Crawl Classics, but I will move it over to Dungeon Fantasy since I like that game for this world better.

I know, but it is just a map! A map can do anything!

My Pathfinder 1e game was a low-magic, low-fantasy game where survival and skills mattered. If you were a city character, your social and information-gathering skills were just as crucial to your survival. If the icy north, you don't want to get lost, get attacked by wolves, or freeze to death. In the city, you don't want to stand out, end up in a dangerous place, say the wrong thing to the wrong person, and get stabbed in the back.

DCC, Pathfinder, and 5E do not do those games justice. A GURPS-based game with a solo hero does, and I can buy advantages to make my characters shine in many situations. My city character can help my survival character. They can work together to survive and need each other. They won't be tied to an artificial class progression.

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