Archive for the ‘Let’s Study’ Category

What’s a decent Space Opera without spaceship and space travel, aye?

Coriolis knows full well that to truly claim ownership of this genre, you need to have everything from different kinds of spaceships, to harrowing space dog-fights and all the other troubles that spacefaring adventurers get into.

Star Travel in The Third Horizon is a fairly straightforward affair, with a network of portals linking star systems that allow spaceships to make jumps that shave off an enormous amount of time.

There’s a whole lot of controls and protocols for making a jump, as these are busy commercial lanes that are used every day in The Third Horizon. That said, making a jump is a complicated affair, with heavy fees levied for the coordinates for a reasonably safe jump.

Poorer pilots will have to make do with their own calculations, or even Jump blind, which will likely entail a much bigger margin of error leading to any number of misadventures.

Creating Your Ship

Ship creation is one of those quiet pleasures of a Sci-fi game. Unlike fantasy settings there’s something about being able to create a craft (or in some games, a mech) that truly belongs to your character.

Coriolis’ ship creation system is a template based one, and we’ll be going over the steps as we attempt to put together a decent ship worthy of a group of Free Traders.

Decide what kind of ship you need

The book recommends a Class III vessel as standard for most adventuring groups. Given that I’m looking at a Free Trader group concept, a Small Courier ship sounds like a good deal.

At this point the group also chooses which Shipyard their craft came from. This choice modifies the base stats of the ship.

After looking it over, Chelebs Shipyard sounds fun, with “Beautiful, lean and fast ships” +1 to Maneuverability, but +1 to Signature and +5% to base price.

Looking over the Ship Classes Table, here’s what the stats look like do far:

Maneuver +1, Modules: 10, EP 5, HP 6, Signature +1, Armor 5, Speed 2 for a price of 1,050,000 birr

The Ship’s Problem

Here’s a fun detail. Every ship has it’s own problem, one that the GM can trigger to make life more interesting with Darkness Points.

After looking over the available problems I figure this one sounded the most amusing (or infuriating)

Eccentric Ship Intelligence: When the problem is activated, the intelligence will refuse to perform a  specific task and instead begin to protest loudly over the ship’s intercom. The effect lasts during a combat encounter, or a few hours.


A ship has a number of modules that perform certain functions. There are three required modules in a ship: The Bridge, the Reactor and the Graviton Projector.

Looking over the available modules, I decide on the following:

  • Salvage Station
  • Docking Station
  • Cabins – Standard
  • Cargo Hold
  • Medlab
  • Service Station
  • Smuggler’s Stash

This ups my ship’s cost by another 160,000 Birr


Next up in creating a ship is picking out its features. Ships in the game start with 3 features, but more can be added later. For the ship, I go for:

Sensitive Sensors
Gives +1 to all sensor rolls +10% cost

Ship Intelligence
Versatile AI, all attribute scores 1, relevant skill levels 3 +30% cost

Tuned Accelerator
Bonus +2 to the advance / retreat action +10% cost

This brings my ship total to hefty 1,815,000 birr, definitely not a cheap ship, and possibly why we’re running away from the Syndicate to begin with.

Coriolis definitely has enough systems and forethought to come up with unique ships with funny (and appropriate) problems that will make for a memorable time in space. I can definitely see the advantage of doing this as a group as everyone has their own chance to contribute to the ship’s final appearance and personality

Next up, a quick look at the setting, maybe a sample combat if I can fit it into my schedule and then my thoughts on Coriolis as a whole!

It’s been a little bit of time since Part 1 of this series but let’s get back into the thick of things with a look at Character Creation in Coriolis


Image from Fouad Magdoul Photography

Building a Group

With a world as expansive as Coriolis, and with so many opportunities for different kinds of adventure, it becomes necessary for the GM to focus on a particular portion of Coriolis as the basis of his games. This is done when the players all gather and form a group of player characters.

We begin by picking a group concept, the game has an offering of the following: Free Traders, Mercenaries, Explorers, Agents and Pilgrims. These are broad concepts, which are open to a lot of wiggle room for character concept to fit in. Each concept helps narrow down the kinds of adventures you’d run into in each game.

Once you’ve got a concept, it’s time to move on and put together your spaceship. In Coriolis, the group begins with a ship, preferably one suited to the group concept. This can be chosen from a list of pregens, or the players can work on making their own ship from scratch with the ship creation rules. In either case, starting with a ship isn’t cheap, so every Coriolis group begins in debt.

Debt is calculated as half of the ship’s original value. Who you owe is up to the players to figure out. Whether it’s their patron, some other NPC or even their nemesis! Players are expected to pay back about 5% of their total debt per year in monthly payments. It’s a quick and easy way to make certain that players keep taking on jobs

The players also get to pick or create their own Patron and Nemesis. These are pretty much self explanatory, and the book is helpful enough to grant a list of potential Patron and Nemesis concepts to use per group concept.

The Character

With the concept out of the way, we can look at Character Creation in earnest. This is a fairly straightforward process with a few random rolls on tables as an option if you want to mix it up a bit.

Choose your Background

The first step is to choose a background for a character. This means deciding if they character is among the Firstcome or a Zenithian. Each one has a different outlook on the world, so being able to make a decision here can help ease the way you think of the character as you develop them.

For our sample character in this exercise, let’s go with a Zenithian trader for a Group with the Free Trader Concept. He’s more adventurous, and perhaps a little less pious, but has a healthy respect for other people’s cultures if it means he can turn around a quick buck.

Choose your Upbringing

At this point we choose from 3 options of Upbringing: Plebian, Stationary or Privileged. Plebians are the lower class of the Horizon. People who were raised on major space stations are called Stationary. The Privileged are the highest of the social strata. Your Upbringing influences many aspects of your character, including attributes, skills and Reputation score at the start of the game, as well as the starting capital.

With our sample character, let’s go with Stationary, he was raised on a space station, and that means he’s somewhere in the middle. According to the table for reference, our character begins with 14 attribute points, 10 skill points, 4 reputation and 1,000 birr.

Choose Concept

Concepts affect the attributes, skills and talents that I can pick from, some gear and relationships and personal problems.

I’ve already sort of got the whole trader idea in mind, so I’m picking the Negotiator Concept, with the Peddler Sub-Concept. Flipping over to the various Concept descriptions, I’ve got the following:

Peddler – You scheme and deal in anything from frozen goats to Kuan hardwood. Profit is your imperative, and birr jingling in your pockets make you truly happy. You could be a free trader, an import mogul, or a dabra of a souk. Or you could be working from the shadows as a smuggler or a fence for the Syndicate.

Name: Radwa
Reputation +1

Key Attribute: Empathy
Concept Skills: (Peddler) Culture, Manipulation, Observation, Pilot

Appearance: Face full of stubble, wearing a black caftan

Talents: Faction Standing

Personal Problem: You owe money to the Syndicate. They want it back. Now.

Relationships to the other PCs: ____ is good with words. You respect that.

Gear: Tabula, Com Link V, Exquisite Clothing, Language Unit, Mercurium dagger

Assign Attributes

Characters in Coriolis have 4 attributes: Strength, Agility, Wits and Empathy. These should have a minimum of 2 points assigned to them and a maximum of 4 points, except for your Key attribute, which is allowed to go up to 5.

Given a pool of 14 points, I’m going to go ahead and spend his attributes points this way:

Strength 2
Agility 3
Wits 4
Empathy 5

Hit Points and Mind Points determine just how much punishment  a character’s body and mind can take. HP is equal to Strength + Agility, while MP is Wits + Empathy.

This gives me 5 HP and 9 MP. I guess Radwa had better stay away from combat!

Assign Skills

Skills work in tandem with attributes to determine how well a character can do in the game. Skills range from 0 to 5 with the higher being better. Concept skills can be raised up to a maximum of 3, while other skills are capped to 1.

As a Stationary, Radwa begins with 10 points to assign to skills. His Concept skills are: Culture, Manipulation, Observation and Pilot

Given his background and concept, I think I’ll give Radwa the following:

Agility: 1
Culture: 2
Infiltration: 1
Manipulation: 2
Observation: 2
Pilot: 2

Determine Talents

Now that we have Radwa’s basics down, let’s take a look at his talents. New characters begin the game with 3 talents. These are determined by several factors, including the Group Concept, and the Icon your character is born under.

Rolling randomly, I get a result of 33, leading to… The Merchant Icon. Fancy that.

In the absence of an actual group, let’s just say that Radwa’s Group Talent pick is:

Everything Is For Sale
You have a knack for finding the most corrupt public servants, toll officers or guards, and always get a +2 Manipulation when you are bribing someone.

For his Icon Talent, Radwa gets:

The Merchant’s Talent
You can find a favorable loan enabling you to purchase an expensive object or ship module. The loan must then be paid back within the agreed upon timeframe.

Finally for General Talent, I have:

Faction Standing
You belong to a faction or gang and can use its reputation to get a +2 Manipulation when trying to scare or threaten someone – given that the person you are threatening knows of the faction, and the the faction has some influence in the location where you are.

Crew Position

The last part is picking out the crew position. Given his proficiency at piloting, I’m thinking that Radwa would make a good Pilot.

Overall character creation is a fairly straightforward process with a few lookups, but nothing approaching the level of Exalted 3rd Editions Charm Lists. The small templates that they give you to work with are surprisingly robust, and I enjoy the small plot hooks baked right into the characters from the beginning.

Next Up, we’ll take a look at the game mechanics behind Coriolis!

beast logo

Today we begin our look at the latest in Onyx Path’s Chronicles of Darkness core books, a game called Beast: the Primordial.

Here’s a quick look at their marketing blurb:

You are one of the Begotten, the living embodiment of a primal nightmare of humanity. Your soul, your Horror, is a monstrous creature – maybe something that humanity dreamed and wrote down and still speaks of in legends, or maybe some outlandish horror that no living person has ever seen.

You are a Beast, and you must feed. Your Hunger drives you, and your Hunger might damn you. Indulge too lightly and your Horror will take matters into its own hands, roaming the Primordial Dream for sustenance and awakening murderous hatred in spiritually weak individuals. Feed too deeply and too often, and you become sluggish, sacrificing the raw edge of Hunger for the languor of Satiety. You must decide how to grow your Legend – will you be the monster incarnate, the thing that all other monsters fear? Or are you doomed to die under a Hero’s sword?


Like a lot of the denizens of the Chronicles of Darkness, Beast assumes that you were once human, but were irrevocably changed by a harrowing experience.

The humans that become Beasts remember their mortal lives as being constantly under the effect of terrible nightmares. These were not simply bad dreams, but a glimpse of the things that existed in the Primordial Dream. These Horrors are the monsters of legend, and they have offered you a chance to become one of them and guide humanity to wisdom.

By agreeing to them, your soul was Devoured, and you awake not as a human, but as a Beast.


Being a Beast isn’t easy. As a creature that feeds on fear (and certain rarefied forms of fear at that,) you walk a tightrope between starvation and becoming overly full. Each of these states changes the way your powers work, and influence what options you have in terms of actions you can take.


Beasts believe that their role in the world is to serve as humanity’s teachers. Like the monsters in cautionary tales, the Beasts strike fear into humanity to hammer home lessons of solidarity, safety, common sense. Behaviors that have served mankind well enough to live this long.

This is not to say that the Beasts are benevolent. Instead their lessons are brutal, painful and traumatic. Their lessons are for humanity at large, not for single victims, after all.


Because of the Beast’s activities, mankind reacts in the form of heroes. These are unhinged individuals who

have developed a violent obsession to the idea of killing Beasts.


Beasts are nightmares made flesh, and this manifests in their powers as well. They have the inherent ability to create Nightmare, calling upon primal fears to terrorize and harm their victims. These take the form of daymares that can physically injure those experiencing them.


Beasts also manifest Atavisms, where a Beast is able to bring out a fraction of their Horror’s nature to the real world. This can be a manifestation on the Beast’s body or their surroundings, and is often very disconcerting to victims of such… assuming they survive the experience.

Overall, Beast: the Primordial paints an interesting picture and an admittedly creepy premise. Much like Demons, Beasts are NOT nice people, and while they might couch the benefits of their existence to humanity (via the wisdom and teaching angle) there’s nothing to justify what they do.

Beasts are perhaps among the most monstrous of the Chronicles of Darkness line and already I can feel it hitting the very edge of my comfort zone. But let’s forge ahead and find out more about them in our next entry which will deal with Families and Hungers.

Interested in checking out Beast: the Primordial? You can grab a PDF for only $19.99 over at DriveThruRPG!


Today we’re taking a look at how to build a character for Degenesis: Rebirth. After learning so much about the setting, it’s cults, cultures and a bit about the basic mechanics powering the game, we’re finally ready for character creation.

But before that, the game wisely chooses to spend some time to discuss the need for a GM to talk with his players to hash out what kind of Degenesis game they’re about to play. Given the broad spectrum of Cults and Cultures, it’s easy to see the game going in multiple directions. Because of this the players and the GM have to agree on what kind of game they’re playing, and what kind of conflicts will power it before they think of characters. Nobody wants to be the person who plays a character that doesn’t belong to the game.

It’s very good advice and I’m glad that they brought it up here.

STEP 1: Choose Culture, Concept and Cult

The first part of character creation is selecting their Culture, Concept and Cult. Each of these steps bestows a bonus to the character.

For the purposes of this character creation example, I’ll choose Borca as the Culture as I intend to make a Judge character.

In choosing this Culture, the maximum ratings for the following Attributes go up by one: Agility and Instinct. While the following skills maximum rating also goes up by one: Toughness, Artifact Lore, Engineering, Crafting, Survival.

Concept is determined by the archetypes of the Apocalyptic Tarot. Chosen from a list of 21 different archetypes, each one bestows another +1 Bonus to the maximum attribute and skills associated with it.

For this character, I’ll go for The Righteous, which adds bonuses to Intellect, Cunning and Negotiation.

Cults also work in a similar fashion, with each of the Cults giving a bonus to certain skills. As a member of the Judges, this character gains a bonus to Melee, Navigation, Conduct, Projectiles, and Domination.

STEP 2: Spending Points

Degenesis is a traditional point-buy system with a few little tweaks. Normally a stat can only be raised by 2 during character creation. The bonuses bestowed by Cult, Concept and Culture allows you to spend more on them as desired. So for my character, I can raise my Agility and Instinct attributes by 1 over the normal maximum.

Athletics 2
Melee 3*

Projectiles 2*

Conduct 1*
Expression 1
Negotiation 2*

Artifact Lore 3*
Focus 2
Legends 2

Cunning 2*
Domination 2*
Willpower 2

Empathy 2
Survival 2*

STEP 3: Backgrounds

Every character in Degenesis also has backgrounds that reflect their access to resources outside themselves. In character creation, you are given 4 points to assign to the 6 backgrounds (Allies, Authority, Renown, Resources, Secrets and Network.) None of these can be increased beyond 3.

I’m spending my points on Authority 1, Renown 1 and Resources 2

Step 4: Choose Potential

Potentials are special abilities that are bestowed upon a character from their Cult.

For a Judge, I figure I might as well grab Hammer Blow as a potential, which reduces the penalties for Impact special abilities by 1 per level of Hammer Blow.

Step 5: Determine Rank

Based on the stats I’ve assigned, I meet the requirements to hit the second Rank of the Judges: City Judge. This basically gives my character a Judgment Hammer; leather coat; hat; and a copy of the Codex.

Stp 6: Finishing Touches

The last part would be determining the final derived values of the game:

Ego points are either INT+Focus or INS+Primal. Given a Focus oriented characgter, I’m going for INT+Focus for 5 Ego points.

Spore Maximum is PSY+Faith/Willpower x2 for 10

Flesh Wounds is BOD+Toughness x2 for 6

Trauma is BOD+PSY for 6

Passive Defense starts at 1

Dinars and Chronicler Drafts  is Rank + Resources for 4 x 50 for 200 CD total.

Character creation was actually much faster than I thought. I found myself retrofitting scores to match Cult Ranks perquisites, but I suspect that might be by design.

In our next entry, we’ll go over a quick review of the combat system and if I can squeeze it in, I’ll do a swift example of the fight mirroring the one from my previous series dealing with Degenesis.

If you’re looking to get yourself a copy of the game, check them out at


Perhaps more than just the Cultures, the biggest decision that you’ll end up making in Degenesis character creation is which of the Thirteen Cults you want your character to be in.

Cults are factions that are bound together by a common purpose. If Cultures are who a character is, then Cults represent what the character does. Cults range from loose definitions of people who share common traits like Tribals, to actual secret societies with hierarchies and structure like the Spitalians.

Given the nature of the setting, these cults are very pro-active when it comes to their individual agendas. Each of the cults is given a thorough treatment in the book, going over their beliefs, organizational structure, goals and practices, well-known members of the cult, as well as a short one-page summary of what they think of everyone else.

I remain convinced that Degenesis might work best as a limited or single Cult game. Some Cults work naturally together as in the case of the three African cults, but there are those who despise each other to the point that coming up with a group that has members of those cults working together tends to break suspension of belief.

Here are the Thirteen Cults present in the game:

  • Spitalians – A curious organization of trained warrior-medics who know a lot more about the Foulness and the spores than anyone else. Armed with flamethrowers and superior medical knowledge, they travel the world, healing the sick and burning away the Foulness where they can find it.
  • Chroniclers – As masters of lost and forgotten technology, the Chroniclers turn their attentions to the recovery and preservation of technology to hopefully uplift themselves (and the rest of humanity) out of this age of ignorance and barbarism.
  • Hellvetics – Descended from the swiss military, this cult operates with a strict code of honor. Acting more like Knights of old, the Hellvetics are a largely neutral faction with an unassailable fortress in the Alps.
  • Judges – Formerly known in the previous edition as Marshals, these grim dispensers of instant justice make their home in Borca where they are respected and feared. Cloaked behind a strange code of law and indecipherable legalese, they are feared by the general populace for their methods, but they certainly know how to enforce control.
  • Clanners – Not exactly an organization as a demographic, the Clanners represent those who have returned to the purest form of barbarism, starting over in the state where only the strongest have any right to rule.
  • Scrappers – Whereas the Chroniclers are busy with tinkering with technology, it’s the Scrappers that are out there in the ruins digging for it. Scrappers are often, cold, hungry and desperate, but few can doubt the fact that they are determined and very dangerous.
  • Neolibyans – This rich faction of Africans are the beating heart of trade in the affluent African nation. They control trade and handle the administration of the wealthy superpower. Their influence reaches far and wide, though it is no surprise that they are largely seen as gaudy and pampered.
  • Scourgers – An organization of African slavers, the Scourgers see themselves as avengers of the African people who have long suffered from the Europeans even before the Eschaton. They are a proud group of warriors who tame large hyenas to serve as allies in their raids for new slaves.
  • Anubians – This group takes upon itself the mantle of the seer, the oracle and the shaman. Born of Egypt, this African Cult is one of the most occult-oriented, with a strong affinity for death, and a whole lot of secrets.
  • Jehammedans – The other strongly religious group of the post-apocalypse are an equally fanatical group dedicated to fulfilling the words of their last prophet to subjugate the world for the Chosen of God.
  • Apocalyptics – This nomadic cult involves themselves in the tradecraft of vice: drugs, prostitution, gambling, nothing is sacred. Their determination to live large among the ruins of civilization and willingness to do anything for their benefit has made them equally admired and despised.
  • Anabaptists – A strange gnostic offshoot of pre-Eschaton religion, the Anabaptists vow to purify the earth of all evil and herald the coming paradise with fire and faith. While they are merciless to their enemies, the Anabaptists have had surprising luck in coaxing food from barren land, and gaining the faith of many farmers who have joined their ranks to spread the word.
  • Palers – Formerly known as The Ashen in the previous edition, this cult is a community in itself. Having adapted for centuries to living in darkness, the Palers are a freakish but intriguing group with its own designs for the surface world.

I mentioned before that the Cults tend to work best in subgroups, and my previous suggestions seem to hold up well:

Lions Ascendant – Neolibyans, Scourgers and Anubians
Here and Now – Spitalians, Chronicler, Apocalyptiks and Scrappers
Expedition – Spitalian, Tribal, Chronicler, Scrapper

Most of the others strike me as better for a single-cult game. A Dogs in the Vineyard-style game of traveling Anabaptist Inquisitors for example, or a Jehammedan Rebel squad stuck fighting the Africans in Hybrispania.

Degenesis feels more like a well thought out sandbox game, where your character has all sorts of openings to get into different kinds of adventures and even more kinds of trouble.

For our next entry, we’ll be checking out the new system powering Degenesis: Rebirth and see if it measures up to the grit and terror of the previous one.

If you’re looking to get yourself a copy of the game, check them out at