[Let’s Study Coriolis Part 6] Running the Game, and Conclusions

Finally we arrive at the end of our little journey through The Third Horizon. But before everything else, let’s have a quick gander at the GMing chapter.


To be honest, the advice on GMing here is decent, if a bit sparse. Fans of Sci-Fi settings and Space Opera in general will be able to pick up from what they already know in terms of the stories and make do, but I can’t help but feel that this one could use a little beefing up.

Still, it does the job of giving guidance on how to manage gameplay, paying attention to story, managing difficulty ratings and experience points. Just don’t expect this chapter to provide life changing insights and you’ll be fine.

That said, there’s also a small adventure in this section of the book, giving new GMs something to run until they can internalize the various systems of the game. I won’t spoil the details on the one in Coriolis, but it does feature multiple locations and plenty of opportunities for the players to get in trouble without feeling too much like it was on rails.

Conclusion & Review

Coriolis: The Third Horizon promised a sprawling Space Opera setting with a unique “Arabian Nights meets Firefly” aesthetic and it delivers. This is what happens when a game’s designers have a solid idea of what exactly they want.

Speaking of design, I would be remiss had I not talked about the production values and stunning artwork used in the book. There’s a certain visual tone in it that I’ve yet to see matched in other games, and I can only express joy at the fact that I’m expecting a physical copy to reach my doorstep within the next few months.

Taking the mechanics from Mutant: Year Zero does nothing to diminish the game, if anything the solid rules that power Coriolis is a great way to accommodate the wide breadth of possible games that can be run with it. Whether it’s a Free Trader game, or one where the players are all Mercenaries, Soldiers or Pilgrims, there’s plenty of mechanical backbone to support those stories.

In many ways, I find myself thinking back to the Arabian Nights, a compilation of epic tales of different genres, and different tones, and I can’t help but see Coriolis as a catalyst for such. I normally balk at games who “don’t know who they are” or “Try to do too much” but somehow Fria Ligan manages to do the impossible and actually give us a game that tells every kind of story we can think of, and much like Shahryār, I find myself asking, “What happens next?”

Coriolis: The Third Horizon is available for sale at the Fria Ligan Website:

[Let’s Study Coriolis Part 5] The Third Horizon

Welcome back!

Today’s entry is about The Third Horizon, and will briefly touch upon what kind of information you can expect to find in the book. Take note that in Coriolis, there are no less than seven chapters devoted to the various facets setting.

The Third Horizon is the chapter that gives you a history of the setting, a thorough treatment of the key moments that made The Third Horizon what it is today. From the First and Second Horizons, to the coming of the Zenith and the establishment of Coriolis, the chapter gives a great overview of the big events that shook the setting and gave it form.

Factions, is a fairly self-explanatory chapter, one that delves into the history, culture and nature of the various power-wielding factions of the setting. Divided into two main types of being either Zenithian or Firstcome, each of the factions is a pillar of society in The Third Horizon, even if some of them are involved in some truly dark deeds, like The Syndicate. Each of the factions has sufficient detail to satisfy any setting-junkie, and is loaded with interesting tidbits that an enterprising GM can spin off as a plot hook.

The People Of The Horizon is the chapter that goes into the details of culture, and traditions of The Third Horizon. There are broad notes on the various cultural lines between different colonies, and an overview of the daily life in the Horizon, from the point of view of people on the colonies, the space stations, the cities and as a nomad. Everyday technology and communication are also given treatment here, to give players a sense of what is “normal” in the setting. This chapter sums up quite nicely with a treatment of the Icons, their religion and myths and how this is expressed in a setting so highly steeped in technology as Coriolis.

Coriolis is the chapter that talks about the Coriolis space station, cradle and holy shrine to the Zenithian civilization. This chapter pulls out all the stops to describe all the various locations and details of the Coriolis station, making it an easy “urban” setting in itself for games of espionage. One could run an entire campaign without setting a foot outside of Coriolis if one wanted, and you’d still have plenty of space and plot hooks untouched.

The Kua System discusses the star system that surrounds Coriolis Station. Each of the primary planets is discussed with a profile of each one presented in a neat snapshot, along with notes on life and notable features in each.

Atlas Of The Third Horizon pulls the lens back to a macro view, and talks about the various star systems of The Third Horizon. Each of the thirty-six(!) different star systems gets a snapshot and encyclopedia-like entry discussing the system and what it has in store for adventurers, while leaving plenty of room for GM to improvise.

Beasts and Djinni is the bestiary chapter, and displays the myriad strange things that can be encountered in the various adventures of Coriolis. Given the wide range of different group concepts supported by the game, this chapter has an equally diverse selection of threats. From wild beasts to strange automatons, and even creatures that defy logic or are born from superstition and myth, there’s room for pretty much anything in Coriolis. I would definitely recommend that GMs choose their opponents to their players wisely, as it is rather tempting to throw just about anything at them, though that would sacrifice consistency and theme.

If it’s setting details you want, then Coriolis will not let you down. There’s a hefty amount of everything in this single book, a trend that I heartily encourage in other RPGs. While it does require a bit of effort to go through everything, Coriolis can’t ever be accused of  being short on detail.

Next up, a bit on running games of Coriolis, and wrapping up my review!

[Let’s Study Coriolis Part 4] Spaceships & Star Travel

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!

[Let’s Study Coriolis Part 3] Systems & Combat


Welcome back everyone. Today we’re taking a peek at the systems behind Coriolis. If you’re familiar with Mutant: Year Zero, you’ll find this bit familiar, but we’ll still go through everything for the sake of those entirely new to it.

Rolling Dice

When it comes to the basic resolution mechanic of the game, a player puts together a pool of six-sided dice equal to the appropriate skill and corresponding attribute. This is then modified by gear or external factors like bonuses and penalties. In order to succeed, you need to be able to roll at least 1 six. Rolling more sixes means that you get to unlock bonus effects.

Honestly this is possibly one of the simplest base resolution systems I know of. It’s a joy to teach, since you just tell players to watch for sixes.

Critical Successes

Rolling three or more sixes elevates the success of the attempt to a Critical Success that unlocks  bonuses depending on the skills being used.


If you don’t roll any sixes then something goes wrong and the GM gets to decide what happens to you. The fun rule here is that the GM is forbidden to just say that nothing happens. Failures must always have consequences, and that amps up the drama of the situation a bit.

Divine Assistance

Player characters may also pray to the Icons for help. This means that you get to reroll all dice that do not show sixes. Which Icon you pray to depends on the skill being rerolled. Praying doesn’t count as an action and takes no time.

The Dark Between the Stars

This isn’t without a cost of course. When the Players use the power of the Icons to help, the GM gets a little boost as well in the form of getting Darkness Points. These can then be used by the GM to enhance his own forces in game.


Right, so now that we know the basic rules for the game, what happens when words fail and the weapons start coming out?


To find out who goes first, each of the participants in a combat roll one die. The result of each die is the initiative score for that person, with the ones who rolled highest going first. Ties are re-rolled until all are resolved.

Initiative is only done at the start of a fight and remain so unless there are other actions taken to raise your initiative score such as:

  • Surprise attacks grant +2 to your initiative score but only for the first turn
  • The Combat Veteran talent lets a player make their initiative roll with two dice instead of one, choosing the better result.
  • Certain actions can be used to maneuver to a better position
  • Skill tests that score critical successes sometimes allow for raising intiative
  • Weapons give a temporary initiative bonus.


All players get 3 Action Points (AP) to spend each turn. Slow actions cost all 3 AP to perform, while speedier actions take less, with free actions costing no AP.

Examples of the actions are as follows:

Slow (3 AP)

  • Firing an aimed shot
  • Firing full auto
  • Administering First Aid

Normal Actions (2 AP)

  • Attacking in close combat
  • Firing a normal shot
  • Reloading a weapon

Fast Actions (1 AP)

  • Taking cover,
  • Picking up an item
  • Parrying in close combat

Free Actions

  • Using your armor against an attack
  • Defending in an opposed roll
  • Shouting something to a comrade


Range is divided into four categories: Close (2m), Short (20 m), Long (100m) and Extreme (1 km).


A Fast Action can let a player move about 10 meters. There are talents that allow for a faster Movement Rate, but generally only non-humans and vehicles can move faster than that.

Melee Combat

Making an attack is fairly simple in Coriolis. Melee is resolved by making skill check using the Melee Combat skill. The Enemy then chooses if they’ll take the blow or attempt to defend (which they can only do if they have AP left to do so!) Interestingly, if the defender is an NPC, then the GM also has to spend an additional 1 DP to defend!

If the Melee Combat roll is successful, then the attack hits and deals damage equal to the Weapon’s Damage rating. Each additional six on the roll can also be spent among the following: Increase Damage, Deal Critical Injury, Strike Fear, Raise Initiative, Disarm or Grapple.


Defending is a contested Melee Combat check, which is rolled at the same time against the attacker. For every six you roll as a defender you can choose among the following: Decrease Damage, Counterattack, Critical Injury, Disarm, Raise Initiative

This means that there’s an interesting option of taking a hit in full  just so you can deal a solid counter to your opponent, and dropping them on their turn.

Ranged Combat

Unlike Melee Combat, Ranged Combat has a few more items to consider. Target size has a penalty or bonus to the attack roll, and Range modifiers also apply to the difficulty.

A successful Ranged Combat roll allows you to deal Weapon Damage to the target, and extra sixes may be spent on the following: Increase Damage, Critical Injury, Suppressive Fire, Raise Initiative and Disarm.

Quick Attacks

There are Quick Variants of each of the combat types done at the expense of accuracy, suffering a -2 penalty to the attack roll. Melee Quick Attacks cost only 1 AP but can only be performed with light weapons. For Ranged Combat Quick Attacks, the cost is also reduced to 1 AP, but can only be used against enemies at Close or Short Range. If a character makes three quick shots in the same turn, the clip runs out and the weapons needs to be reloaded.

Stress Damage

If a character is reduced to zero Mind Points (MP), they suffer a breakdown, collapsing from fear or anxiety. This is especially interesting given how Suppressive Fire can be used to deal Stress Damage to a pinned target. Broken down targets can follow simple commands but cannot take any action that requires dice rolls.

Command or Medicurgy can be used to treat someone who has suffered a breakdown. If the roll is successful, the person being calmed down regains MP equal to the number of sixes on your roll. Each attempt is a slow action and each person can only try once.


Regular damage is tracked by Hit Points. Armor is used to mitigate this damage, and as a free action the attacked Player rolls a number of dice equal to their Armor Rating, each six lowers the damage by 1. If the damage from the attack is reduced to zero, they avoid critical injuries as well.

Critical Injuries

When using the Critical Injury option in an attack roll, a player has to spend a number of extra sixes equal to the Crit value of the weapon being used to deal it. If successful the attacker rolls a d66 on a table to determine the flavor of lasting pain inflicted upon his target.

Critical injuries have a short term and long term effect. Short term effects are often Stunned, or sometimes the target is forced to drop a held item. Long Term effects are penalties that they carry with them until the injury is treated properly.


Coriolis is a game that loves it’s vehicles. Combat therefore has a section for fighting on (and against) vehicles, and most of the rules are similar to the ones above, with the use of the Pilot skill as a means of control for maneuvers. You can also ram enemies with the vehicle, giving me happy mental images of a daredevil smashing into an opponent at full speed with a grav bike.


Coriolis uses a simple system with carefully considered subsystems to deliver a surprisingly tactical experience. There’s plenty of stuff to enjoy here whether you’re the type to prefer the “Theater of the mind” type of play, or if you’re a square-counting battlemat sort of person.

Next time, we’ll take a peek at the Spaceships and Star Travel rules for Coriolis!


[Let’s Study Coriolis Part 2] Character Creation

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!

[Let’s Study Coriolis Part 1] Introduction

Coriolis is the new RPG release by Free League Publishing. Enthusiastically described as “Arabian Nights in Space” and citing inspirations from Joss Whedon’s Firefly universe, this title has pretty much dropped all the citations for me to invest.

And invest I did. I backed the game on Kickstarter on a pledge level that gives me a print copy of a whole boatload of stuff. While the boatload of stuff is still on the slow boat from wherever it’s being printed, I’ve been able to secure a copy of the PDF which I am going to be reviewing now.

Let your heart decide

Coriolis – The Third Horizon assumes that the players take on the role of a crew of adventurers in a space opera setting that draws influence from the Arabian Nights, full of exotic locations, strange artifacts and mysterious secrets.

As you might have noticed, this leaves a big question wide open: Just who are the player characters, and what are they meant to do?

Well, Coriolis sort of flips this on its head by being open to a large spectrum of possible play styles. Depending on the nature of the Crew and what side of the Coriolis universe they want to explore, games of Coriolis can be anywhere from high adventure to techno-thrillers to even Space Horror.

Shining, shimmering, splendid

In order to sustain this kind of open sandbox, a game needs to have a solid setting. Coriolis is set in a region of space known as The Third Horizon, a collection of 36 Star Systems joined through space and time by mystic portals, making The Third Horizon a massive melting pot of cultures, peoples and factions.

The history of the setting is one full of classic tropes from Space Opera. Mankind set off from Earth on 2 massive ark ships named the Zenith and Nadir respectively., towards the distant star of Aldebaran. Only the Zenith made the voyage successfully, and discovered that they did not make it there first.

Instead, Mankind had discovered the ancient portals in space, and they used them to establish distant colonies, one of which is the Third Horizon. During Zenith’s travel time, a great war broke out among the colonies, resulting in the Third Horizon closing off all portals outside of itself.

When the Zenith arrived, they had to meet and get along with a civilisation of humans that had been there before. Sending word to the Third Horizon’s Firstcome denizens, the Zenithians established a council for peace and trade. While it wasn’t a perfect solution, it did help in the integration of the Zenithians to the existing Firstcome cultures and led to a time of relative cooperation.

But just as things were settling in, a mysterious race known as the Emissaries arrived and demanded a seat in the Council. Nobody knows what game the Emissaries are playing, or even who they truly are, but the trouble they’re stirring up among the factions can only mean trouble.

A new fantastic point of view

Coriolis is a new spin an an old Space Opera setup. The elements of Arabian culture definitely give it a different feel, while still being accessible to fans of Space Opera that might find the themes a little different from what they’re used to.

Overall, while I don’t see anything super unique in the broad strokes of Coriolis, the devil (as they say) is in the details. It’s an accessible Space Opera setting with many similarities to popular Space Opera worlds that will make it friendly for people what will want to try it without being too intimidated.

Next up, we’ll take a look at character creation in Coriolis, and see how they were able to take Mutant Year Zero’s rules and apply it here.

[Let’s Study] Coriolis The Third Horizon


Now that I’ve had a chance to recover from my recent trip to Dubai in the UAE, I think I’m in the right headspace to do a Let’s Study series on Coriolis The Third Horizon by the Free League.

I joined the kickstarter campaign for this game, sold on the premise of “Arabian Nights, in Space!”, and opted to get a PDF and a copy of the physical book. While the book isn’t out yet, the PDF is, and so I’ll be cracking it open and sharing my thoughts on the setting, rules and design of the game. Having had the time to experience Middle Eastern Culture first hand (however short it was,) I’m really looking forward to seeing how the game brings it to the forefront.

As with all my Let’s Study Series, I’ll be taking the game apart to see what makes it tick. We’ll create characters, try out combat, and see if there are unique mechanics that deserve to be called out.

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