4/27/2016

Published on 4/27/2016 Written by 2 comments

Home Brew Black Ocean RPG

About 6 months ago I read through all of JS Morin's Black Ocean series.  These are short novellas, episodic in nature and feel a lot like the TV show Firefly where a crew of a ship gets up to silly hi-jinx while always looking for the next job, the next score, or the next get rich quick scheme.
The whole time I was reading the series, I felt like there was potential for a  RPG to be based on this setting.  It has all the essentials - an easy to sum up background, potential for fun quirky characters, and a familiar enough feel to get the uninitiated in to it.  Keep this last point in mind while I tell this next part...

Yep, this gets complicated....
A group of 6 or 7 of us have been playing a D6 Star Wars adventure fairly regularly for the past 4 months or so - typically meeting on Skype twice a month.  While not everyone can make it every time, we've managed to keep a fun adventure going with different characters popping in and out as available.  to be fair we're pretty spread out, one player in Newfoundland Canada, a bunch of us in Ontario, one in Alberta, and the last in Japan.  Time-zone coordination is a skill we keep adding ranks to.  Last week was supposed to be our next session, 8pm Friday night.  By about noon on Thursday it became apparent that not enough of us would be available to make it worth continuing the story, so the 3 of us that could make it talked about what we should do.  I volunteered to run a game. So, with about 30 hours to prepare, 19 of them spent at work and 7 sleeping, I did what I could.

While I had thought about a Black Ocean game, I hadn't gone past the very basic framework of an adventure.  I hadn't thought about the game system, or any of the details.  Once my 2 PC's picked character types, I made up some stats for each and sent them to the players to customize.

It's hard to sum up an universe created over 8 books in to a 2 paragraph email, but that's what I did.  Surprisingly, my players stayed mostly within the framework of the universe and the archetypes of their characters.  The impressive part of this is that neither of them had read any of the source material, I was the only one to have read any of it.

Being familiar with the D6 Star Wars game we had been playing, I based my system very loosely on this.
I picked skills relevant to each player type and gave them starting values.  To try to keep the game from getting too crunchy on the numbers, outside of the named skills, everything else starts as 1d6.  So if a player wants to try something, just roll a die and see what happens.  The skills that seemed most essential to that character started at 2d6.

Challenges are broken down in to difficulties.  To do something easy, roll a 3 or better.  So for those "everything else" rolls, players have a 50% chance of success.  If it's a skill they possess, they'll succeed 97% of the time.  These are the types of tasks that the average person can do most of the time untrained, and that people who are trained to do them do many many times in a day.  An example would be the pilot character coming in for a landing in good weather.
Numbers are fun!
To do a more difficult task, a 6 or better is needed.  At 2d6 players will still succeed 72% of the time, but there is a small but significant chance of failure.  Like the pilot landing in some fog with a cross-wind.
Next step up needs a 9 or better to succeed.  At this point only 28% of 2d6 rolls will make it.  Landing the ship in bad weather while running on auxiliary power only.
Difficulties continue to increase by 3 as things get harder and harder.  At 12, less than 3% of unmodified 2d6 rolls will make it. - landing in bad weather with aux power only and 6 ships shooting at you.
A failure on a roll doesn't mean the end though.  It just means there are some consequences to the action - in the landing example, maybe the ship is damaged and needs repair before it can fly again.  While you need a bit of danger to keep things tense enough, I wanted the players to be willing to try goofy stuff and experiment with the world knowing they wouldn't die at the first bad roll.

Things went well with some fun role-plays from my players, some of which I'll try to get to another post about soon, as well as some of the background I gave them.  I'm looking forward to our next Star Wars session, but I also hope we get to return to the Black Ocean some time soon.

Questions about the game?  Let me know in the comments.


2 comments:

  1. Like I said yesterday, I had fun with this game and I hope we get to play it again, too.

    I like games with smaller die pools, it keeps things simpler and quicker. It doesn't give as big a range for improvement over long term games, but how often do we ever play long enough for that to be a concern? Good stuff.

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