Elite Dangerous
Elite Dangerous
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Tue 01 May 2018

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75% HIT

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From the back of the book:
Blast into a dangerous galaxy, 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 armored combat drones, elite corporate assassins, and over-gunned solider of the interstellar powers.

Each player owns their own spaceship, which is completely customizable with multi-cannot, 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 basses.

With fast-paced combat, a quick but deep character creation system, and the ability to earn money outside of your GM's adventures, the Elite: Dangerous Roleplaying Game is perfect for beginner and veteran role-players alike.
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Thread: Elite Dangerous

  1. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    4 out of 5 rating for Elite Dangerous

    Elite Dangerous is the tabletop RPG version of the MMO, if you're familiar with it. The universe, from what I have been able to gather from the book and online, is similar to that in Traveller, with a few large stellar governments, a lot of commerce, exploration, politics, and war here and there. In that respect one might see it as a generic sci-fi setting, or on the other hand a flexible one that doesn't lean too far in any direction.

    The full-color book comes in at just over 350 pages, and the typesetting, art and layout are easy on the eyes and help to establish a distinct feel for the setting. Like any good gamebook, you get a certain vibe from the combination of those things, and Elite: Dangers does a good job of conveying a far future that is fantastic, clean, gritty, majestic, and dangerous all at once. The book's chapters are color-coded, with the edges of the pages standing to make page-flipping easier - a nice touch. Mine came with a single bookmark ribbon, as well, which seems like standard fare for Modiphius books.

    The book includes detailed character creation rules, rules for buying and modifying starships, vehicles, and equipment, and for skill usage and combat - personal, vehicular, and between starships. The core mechanic is d10+modifier(s) to defeat a target number, making it feel a little like the old Cyberpunk:2020 system, but far less crunchy due to fewer modifiers. A standout oddity of the system is that characters do not traits or attributes, but instead are defined only by skills, a karma pool, Endurance, and a few derived stats based in skills. This is nothing I've seen before - no strength, or intelligence, or what-have-you, but I think it'll work. At the end of the day, what matters in a system like this is the total bonus applied to a roll, right? DnD 5e is really the same way when it comes to combat or skill use: who cares what the stat bonus is? It's total bonus that matters, and Elite takes that entirely from one's skill number. Characters are primarily defined, therefore, by their skills, as well as their karma abilities, which are similar to feats or other special abilities in other systems. These are activated by spending from one's karma pool, which refreshes after rest and grows as a character becomes more experienced (along with skills). There's a good variety of karma abilities, impacting different types of combat and other interactions and uses of skills.

    Character creation is based first on spending 4 Backgrounds, which are used to buy different packages of skills and special abilities. There are 50-some of these, with most costing only 1 point and some (which provide more) costing 2. Thus, you could choose Born on the Streets (1 pt), then the Army (2 points), and then become a Freedom Fighter. From there you'd choose three karma abilities, determine your derived stats (parry and dodge) and that's about it for the mechanics of your character. You start with some equipment and one of several small starships. That's it...you're done and ready to adventure.

    Combat looks simple, with the base target number to hit set at an opponent's parry or dodge score, and any situational modifiers. The same goes for vehicular and starship combat, which are addressed in their own chapters after personal combat, each building on that first chapter. It all made sense and presents a simple, streamlined system that allows for increased damage based on degree of success, ways to vary how and what your character does through karma abilities, and what seems to be a strong desire to keep things simple in order to keep them quick at the table. I am impressed by what looks to be a balance between options and a single resolution mechanic, which are sometimes at odds, as more options can provide more variety, but tend to slow things down. A single, simple mechanic speeds things up but can lead to a vanilla feel at the table. This looks to present a healthy balance between the two, feeling more 5e than PF in terms of complexity and flexibility. What else? Armor subtracts from damage taken, with a minimum of one point for a successful hit.

    One thing about the core mechanic that I think might be a bit to my disliking is that a natural 1 is always a failure, and a natural 10 is always a success. I don't mind the latter; I mind the former, as that creates a persistent 10% chance of failure no matter what. I see this as impacting higher-skilled characters, who could roll a 1 and still succeed at some tasks, and I think 10% is too high. I have a house rule idea for working around this, but will try out the rules as written before deciding whether or not to try such a move.

    The chapters on equipment, vehicles, and starships are great for the player or GM who wants go shopping, modify things, and engage in creative play with the supposed things of the world. And, the rules for mods and such are easy and intuitive, meaning you won't need a graphing calculator to figure things out (lookin at some versions of Traveller there). If you have players who enjoy fiddling with story bits in this regard, with a mechanical dimension, this aspect of the game could be very entertaining.

    Character advancement is a bright spot, I think. Every time you use a skill for the first time in a session you check an empty box on the character sheet next to it. At session's end, that skill goes up by 1 point, regardless of how many times you used it. This is good because it ties skill improvement to actual game usage, and encourages players to vary how they approach problems through their skills. Skills are rated between 1 and 100, and in character generation they're mostly (but not always) increased by 10-point increments. Your skill bonus equals your skills score divided by 10, rounded down. Thus, if you have a 50 in Parry, your bonus is +5. If you have a 55 in Parry, your bonus is...+5. This makes for an interesting advancement system, as you will need to work to build up your bonus. Consider how long it takes to really get better at something and perhaps this system will make sense - I think I am okay with it. Anyway, skills improve that way, and you also have a Rank, from "Harmless" to "Elite" with several levels in between. Your skills score (the score - not the bonus) is capped based on your rank; the same goes for your karma pool, the number of karma abilities you have, and your endurance. Rank is increased by story accomplishments: meaningful skill usage, as determined by the GM, and reaching goals and defeating significant adversaries or threats. Once you rack up several of those you increase in rank, and by that pick up a number of new skill points and the increases in those pools I mentioned. It's an interesting system that is skill-focused but with a strong level side to it, which is not something I see often.

    The book also includes an extensive section with random story generation tables, making a GM's job easier, and sections on NPC creation and usage, trade and commerce, downtime mechanics, and a section with information about the basic political layout of the world. There are also blank reference sheets for characters, ships of different sizes, vehicles, worlds, and systems. All of these are well-organized, interesting, and easy to follow.

    The random generation section for adventures is especially helpful to any GM. There are there sections of tables, one each for Military, Espionage, and Exploration-type missions. The first two offer 10 different general story ideas, and the Exploration offers six. For each of these 26 idea, which are things like "Found a Colony," Investigate Anomaly," "Extracting a Spy," and "Main Assault," there are 4-6 "twists" a GM could employ to make things more challenging or interesting. Thus, a GM could decide what general type of story to run, roll d10 twice (one for the story and one for the twist) and have a story idea and a complication. There's also a table showing general compensation by Rank in both money and worth of items collected.

    The single glaring hole in the book, and thus the game at this point, is in setting background. Aside from a section with an overview of the three major political entities and some interesting and useful information about laws and such, there's nothing. No map. No list of systems. No distances between stars or places. Zip. I thought I'd missed something, and so I went back through the book, looking, and came up with...nothing. Some system names are mentioned in that political background piece, but nothing about where they are, or distances between them...it's a stunning omission for a game that bases itself on travel between planets. Perhaps the assumption is that a player of this tabletop version would also be an MMO player, and would therefore be familiar with the galaxy and would have access to tools for mapping. I am not that person, and so I am lost when it comes to interacting with the universe of Elite: Dangerous, which is disappointing because it sounds interesting. Another flaw in the book is the lack of an index...seriously! No index! Amazingly odd thing to leave out.

    For the two problems I just mentioned, Elite: Dangerous gets 4/5 stars. I think if you are familiar, via the MMO, with the universe and want a pen & paper version, you'd step right into this and be off and running. If not, and you want to play in the setting indicated, you're going to have to do a lot of homework, which is annoying. I might do that, or I may just make up my own stuff, riffing off Traveller and Star Frontiers for setting details, but using this far superior system.

    One day later edit: after asking the folks at Modiphius via their FB page about the three PDF supplements and if a map existed, they directed me to the actual authors/company, which is Spidermind Games. Their website, which is devoted entirely to the game, has a number of free downloadable resources, including....a map. In fact, it is a collection of six maps. Each of these has a variety of systems, with a ruler to figure out distance in light years. There is no system information, however, after a cursory check I found information about them at this site - just enter the system name and you'll get crunchy info about it. Is this enough to run an RPG based in one of these places without creating add'l background? No, but it's certainly a start. That site also has a distance tool, and so having two system names would enable you to find out how far they are apart.

    Back to Spidermind's site, they also offer, for free, downloadable adventure hooks (5 of them) which are all 5-9 pages each, and written in the style of a novel. Interesting. All the reference sheets in the back of the book are also available for download from this site. I didn't see mention of this site or the resources there anywhere in the book, but that might be an oversight on my part.
    Last edited by lyle.spade; Friday, 1st June, 2018 at 10:35 PM.
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