Tag Archives: Renegade

The Ghost Monument

The Ghost Monument had a lot to say about the way you play time-travelling adventures, about not setting barriers but, at the same time, creating alien environments from the familiar. It wasn’t necessarily subtle, but programmes like Star Trek and Doctor Who have been doing that since the 60s. When you play adventures in sci-fi, don’t make the challenge understanding the small stuff – make it grand and strange, weird and disconcerting.

We’re (Not) All Human

In truth, humanity costs less than alien. When you have an alien, you need effects – cosmetic or CGI. When you do human – perhaps with a little tweak to the nose or a daub of paint on the temples – you can still be alien bit without needing the audience – or the players – to make a leap in their understanding.

The Ghost Monument did that brilliantly here because Ryan, Yasmin and Graham desperately want to find an anchor, a solid foundation in the world of Desolation. If they can find something familiar they can work outward from their in quantifying the strange and the alien. Neither Epzo nor Angstrom offer that – they don’t know what Earth is or humans for that matter. The sense of connection that the companions seek refuses to manifest, like the Ghost Monument itself.

When you run a game of Renegade or Doctor Who  don’t attempt to create aliens that stretch the imagination or demand lengthy description. When you opt for human-like aliens, you can achieve the sense of the alien by robbing the player characters of any common ground. Even in an alternate history adventure, you can achieve the same result when no one recognises Kennedy or Shakespeare, despite every certainty they should be known to everyone.

Universal Translator

For a very long time the TARDIS has been the essential element that made the whole business of alien languages make sense. The telepathic link with the TARDIS meant that everything made sense – spoken or written. In The Ghost Monument, without a TARDIS to fall back on, we have medi-units that achieve the same result, injecting a sub-dermal universal translator chip on detecting the lack of one.

While it might be interesting to occasionally find the travellers unable to understand the world around them, it makes for a simpler game all together if you skip language and move on. In a game with many skills, even spending a few points on a language means not picking something cool. In Renegade, you only have a couple of Specials to start with, so why would you spend them on something like Linguistics or whatever.

The challenge of the adventures should be more than the simple barriers of language. If you want the incomprehensible, they consider a puzzle instead, a riddle or hidden cypher than can challenge the player to solve it. Language confounds the characters and makes the game harder to run, never mind play.

Oh… I Forgot I Put Stuff in these Pockets

“I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.” If you offer the player characters the basics, they can work out the rest and use their ingenuity and background to fill in the gaps. A spark of imagination and a half-abandoned warehouse full of tools sounds like an A-Team montage scene to me – and the same should apply when the player characters need to create a missing sonic multi-tool or cobble together a means to temporarily immobilise an enemy.

Give them string, sunglasses, a cricket ball, a transistor radio and a packet of jelly babies – because with that lot they have a world of potential. The path ahead shouldn’t be plain sailing, by any means, but dumping the characters in an alien jail every time they get captured with nothing to work with will just get tiresome. Make that jail a tool shed. Make that cell someone’s stationery cabinet. Or at least give the characters a tool they can chisel a message into a stone pillar with and discover it by chance three adventures earlier so they can organise an escape.

Don’t You See… I Got It Mostly Right

Human but alien. Comprehensible but puzzling. Most of the answers but without all the facts about the problem or the tools to get it resolved. Playing a game of Renegade or Doctor Who should be challenging for all the right reasons – filled with people, clues, puzzles, mystery, abandoned ruins, odd remnants and more than a scattering of ghosts and memories. In the midst of all that lies fun without frustration – and the promise of adventures yet to come.

Eat My Salad, Halloween

Final victim of Tzim Sha’s trophy hunting spree, the Salad Man nevertheless can provide a handy new archetype to include in your Renegade games. If we’ve learned anything from the travels and adventures of The Doctor over the years it’s that those who die can still crop up later in another form – such are the benefits of time travel. And the occasional bout of Vortex induced amnesia.

Specials

Salad Man (2)
Confident Swagger, Strong Stomach, Eat My Salad Halloween, Too Wasted to Run, Know the Way

Background

Roll 1d6, choose an option or just create your own

  1. Eldest child and a favourite role model at his school (when he attended), he left with 2 GCSEs and got into gardening, a surprisingly lucrative business – but little helped by his addiction to online gambling. He enjoys humiliating close friends – though, at heart, he throws insults out of an inability to articulate his appreciation.
  2. Only child and raised mostly by his grandparents, after his parents split, he enjoyed music and played several instruments. Most skilled with the harmonica, peer pressure at school made him give it up. He started studying long after school through Open University, but struggled to keep focus. His irritating personality seems more defence mechanism than genuine ill-will.
  3. Middle child of a good family, something about his character rubbed his teachers up the wrong way and meant more time in detention or outside the headteacher’s office than in class. Still, when he got out of school, he landed a decent job and a small inheritance from the passing of a favourite uncle. He has his own business, completing home renovations. He doesn’t really trust anyone who seems to know it all.
  4. Bought up well in a steady and dependable family, he struggled at school with dyslexia and ended up leaving before he took his exams. However, determination pushed him and he found varied employment – from retail and handy work, to background acting and cab driver. He struggled with discrimination, but constantly rose above it, bolstered by unswerving confidence in his potential.
  5. While his teachers respected him, his parents never did – favouring his older brother every time. Bullied by his family, he spent all the time he could out with mates on the street or reading books in the local library. He got tough from his home life and canny in the company of friends. He works an ordinary job and spends evenings in the pub, but he has aspirations to be more.
  6. Despite appearances, brash and no-nonsense as he might seem, he has been nervous and hesitant throughout his life. He lost his mother while still young and his busy father sent him off to boarding school; there, he found his best shield was a short fuse and a sharp tongue. Now, by day he writes copy for one of the few surviving local newspapers and by night he watches football and plays the slots down at the local.

Brace for Impact

As a continued expansion of the simple Renegade system, I’m happy to expand the PocketMod core with the revision and release of Brace for Impact, a broadly system-free supplement for creating sci-fi encounters which now includes a brand new Infinity Table.

The Infinity Table adds an essential temporal twist to your adventures, from sleeping menaces and lurking Lovecraftian horrors, to uncontrolled science experiments or utterly innocent actions that accidentally subvert the timeline.

And, to round the book off, an up-sized version of the Renegade rules – in glorious A5, with extra antagonists and a brief guide to both Structure and Motivation when running adventures.

Available now as a PDF through RPGNow and DriveThruRPG.

Also available as a Chibnall-esque bundle with From Unformed Realms, to step up the behind-the-sofa quotient of your monsters!

The Woman Who Fell to Earth

To kick off the new Doctor Who series — and, to be really clear right now, SPOILERS AHEAD! — we have a couple of additions to the Renegade RPG from The Woman Who Fell to Earth that could certainly find immediate use as the seed for an adventure or two.

The Stenza

The Stenza warrior-race, blue-skinned bipedal Conquerors of the Nine Systems, place the honour of the hunt above all else and value trophies as much as they value their lives. The heart of their society rests in the tradition of the hunt, the careful and methodical tracking of a single prey target to the exclusion of all others.

For the Stenza, the hunt matters sufficiently that they train and prepare ceaselessly, to the exclusion of all else, fasting and focusing themselves through rites and ritual. They carry the honour of their family-clan with them in their armour, an item handed down, renewed and maintained.

Stenza perceive status through the outward display of their trophies, a single tooth from every felled opponent embedded (painfully) into the flesh of their faces.

Stenza Warrior: Sub-Zero Touch, Peerless Tracker, Driven By Honour

Tim Shaw (Tzim Sha) represents the worst characteristics of youth in the Stenza warrior-race. With an attention span shorter than his muscular arms and an ego too large to carry far in battle without fatigue, he savours the prospect of leadership too much for tradition to matter.

To that end, the “big blue cheat” has done everything in his power to cut through to the conclusion, skipping the dull business of tracking by sneaking additional support onto the planet.

Tim Shaw: Sub-Zero Touch, Short-range Teleport, Driven Beyond Honour, Trophy Pause

Gathering Coils

To sidestep the tedium of the hunt, Tim Shaw smuggled a Gathering Coil on to Earth, an advanced hive-entity scouting module normally used in small numbers for reconnaissance. The enhanced Coil consists of hundreds of squirming modules contained within a spheroidal gravi-static induction shield, allowing it to glide and levitate within the atmosphere of a planet with a standard gravity range.

The Coil possesses scanning clusters and data nodules designed to handle a rapid absorption of a vast amount of information, drawing on sensory and signal based observation to build a complex database. Tim Shaw used this data to locate his quarry without needing to sully himself in the business of the hunt.

For those unlucky enough to meet the Coil, the visitation seemed harmless at first, but the Stenza leader-apparent had fitted it with DNA Bombs that embedded themselves painlessly into the geno-structure – and would, on activated, annihilate the target in a matter of moments.

Gathering Coil: Hive Sense, Gravi-Static Levitation, DNA Bombs, Unfiltered Total Data Transfer

Adventure Ideas

Skeleton Key. The player characters must track down a long lost member of the royal family of Ixat, the only individual with the means to deactivate an ancient defence system on a rogue planet that threatens to collide with Earth. However, the family are long dead – the last of them wiped out by a disgraced one-time leader of the Stenza – but if they can find him they can access the royal Ixat DNA from a certain jealously guarded trophy.

Insider Dealing. Once a small start-up, Swarm has become a part of every day life with their life-changing search engine. Interacting and intersecting with everyone and everything, Swarm can deliver data with a rapidity no competitor can match. However, truth-be-told, they have the unfair advantage of access to a captured Gathering Coil hive – Swarm has tapped into the modules of the Coil’s quantum database using a crude reciprocal interface. However, the Coil already had a mission – and now the Stenza battle wave approaches with all the information they need to make the entire planet the ultimate trophy.

Destination: Known

It’s noted in section 3.1 of Renegade, that characters don’t die – they tend to find themselves in a worse situation than the one faced before the conflict. Take, for example, the end of The Magician’s Apprentice (spoilers… spoilers… SPOILERS!), where both Missy and Clara succumb to the evil of the Daleks (as does the TARDIS for that matter) – destroyed even as the Doctor seeks to plead for their lives. That’s a good example of a hindrance – as Clara (as a player character) ends up separated from the Doctor and in the clutches of Missy. It makes the adventure harder for Clara, because she has to (a) depend on the unreliable assistance of Missy and (b) survive in the hostile wastelands (and sewers) of Skaro.

Of course, that’s not always the way. Sometimes companions do die. However, this is not an ordinary humdrum death – these tend to fall into Destination deaths. I would say Destiny, but somehow Destination seems more suitable for the likes of Susan or Tegan, who end up somewhere – whether they wanted to leave or not. Another example of a Destination would be the Library, for example – or maybe the Singing Towers of Darillium would be the better spot to describe River Song’s Destination – because the Library (as is her want) happens to be where she started rather than ended, dying before we had even got to known her properly.

Setting Your Destination

Destinations shouldn’t be commonplace – but, a player who chooses one will know they have a finite lifespan for their character. River Song might have had a fair run before she met her Destination – less so for Adam or Danny Pink.

In return for choosing a Destination, the character earns a Time Token at the start of any adventure, without needing to roll a triple fail; their finite destiny means that the end always looms.

To give an appropriate sense of what the end means to that character, the Player should lay down some rough details. It can be an absolute location – like ‘Heathrow Airport’ – or it might be more vague – like ‘Love is the Ultimate Sacrifice’ or ‘Helping Those Who Cannot Help Themselves’. Such a loose end point will be easier to pair off with a narrative conclusion, but when you have a TARDIS, T-Mats, Vortex Manipulators and other mechanisms of random transportation, an actual spot isn’t too tough to justify. Of course, saying farewell to friends and companions in the heart of an interstellar plague ship has more emotional resonance than just disappearing and never being seen again.

Arrival Time

When does the Destination arrive? If you want a manageable number of appearances before destiny steps in, separate a single suit of cards from a normal deck and shuffle. At the start of each adventure AFTER the end of the first, draw a card. If the card is an ACE, the character has reached their Destination and should narratively work with the Gamemaster to reach that conclusion before the close of the adventure. Given the selection of knowing what that Destination should be, the whole group might seek to find a way to satisfyingly find it without totally ripping up the adventure! The conclusion of The Angels Take Manhattan, for example, or Earthshock present skewed Destinations that don’t necessarily precisely fit the overall adventure. Think cracks in time, dimensional rifts, malfunctioning devices, narrow escape plans, or last ditch defences against an invincible foe.

If the player character removes any other card, set it aside – the pack should get smaller and smaller, the chances of pulling the Ace greater and greater. Characters like River Song and Tegan Jovanka were not around forever – they just packed a lot of time and adventures into their travels with the Doctor.