RPG: Churn-ing Out The Expanse

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Come get a taste of the upcoming Expanse RPG from Green Ronin Publishing.

Alright gang, let’s talk about the Expanse–in an article earlier this year, we covered the announcement of the Expanse, an AGE-based RPG upcoming from Green Ronin. The publishers of games like Dragon Age and the Tal’dorei Campaign Setting and Blue Rose are going to be tackling the Hard(ish) Sci-Fi Setting that is the work of power author duo James S.A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.)

via Green Ronin

First and foremost, The Expanse is a stand-alone game. It will share a common system with other games, making it easy for AGE System veterans to pick it up. The core book will be self-contained and all that you need to get started playing your Expanse series, much the same way Blue Rose is a stand-alone game, even while it shares systems in common with Fantasy AGE.

Second, while The Expanse uses most of the common elements of the AGE System, our design philosophy has always been to tailor the system to suit the setting and story rather than the other way around, so the game will feature elements particular to The Expanse novels, setting, and style, such as replacing the Health score with a Fortune score, measuring more of a character’s luck in terms of staying alive in a fight or other dangerous situation. A twist on Fortune is you can spend it on things other than damage, but you run the risk of not having as much of it when you’re attacked or encounter other hazards. Likewise, the spending of Fortune affects “the Churn,” an in-game measure of how perilous and complicated things are: Eventually, the Churn can boil over and—as fans of The Expanse novels know—things can get really complicated really fast.

Third and final for this preview, The Expanse core book starts out with a setting in the nearly year-and-a-half between the events of the first novel, Leviathan Wakes, and the second, Caliban’s War. It is after a significant shake-up in the solar system, when major events are beginning to portend even larger changes in the future. It provides us—and your Expanse game—with a convenient starting point without the need to detail every event in the entire series. Plus it allows you (and us) to follow along with the series as major events continue to unfold. You can play in parallel to the events of the novels (it’s a big universe, after all, with a lot going on) or put your own characters into the roles of the crew of the Rocinante in some of the later stories of the series.

Two big points of interest to be gleaned from the above. First, the game takes place between novels one and two, which primes the pump for military action, political intrigue, exploration, and everything in between. Fans of the books will understand how seamlessly you can blend these elements too. Book two, in particular, is a great example of how the political talky character also plays with the soldier type.

But secondly, that bit on the Churn seems like it really has potential. With Fortune replacing health and affecting the Churn, it sounds like the party’s health is a collective resource that makes things amp up even faster as it gets spent. This might really lend itself to the disparate storytelling that makes the Expanse so delicious.

Really, I just want to play a Belter, everything else is gravy.

  • marxlives

    I didn’t know The Expanse was based off novels. Dang guess I will have to watch and see what it is all aboot.

    • Will kenedy

      Actually, it was based off the notes for a mmorpg, then a tabletop f2f rpg THEN it became novels and then the TV series came from that.

      • marxlives

        Wow that is even cooler. The fact that this group project amongst friends turned into a novel and then a successful TV series is pretty cool. It is like hearing that Babylon 5 started as a Traveller campaign.

  • euansmith

    I like the idea of setting the game in a period that doesn’t require players to know a lot about the background.

    I despair when games are advertised as having a rich and complex background, especially if the designers expect the players to get up to speed before they start playing.

    I remember a friend investing heavily in a game called “Blue Planet” (I think) that seemed to have loads of background we needed to know about before having much chance of engaging with the setting.

    I’m a lot more a fan of, “You find yourselves stranded at a starport when your employer goes bankrupt; what do you do?” sort of games.

    • af

      > I despair when games are advertised as having a rich and complex background

      Agreed. Especially when, let’s face it, most “rich and complex backgrounds” are uninspired and derivative of well established tropes. It seems every game designer — both board and videogame designers — wants to be a failed writer/director these days. I’m all for derivative settings, but if your game is going to be a collection of tropes, just embrace it and ditch the pages and pages of uninspired “original” fluff. In other words:

      > I’m a lot more a fan of, “You find yourselves stranded at a starport when your employer goes bankrupt; what do you do?” sort of games.


      • euansmith

        How to do world building in a roleplaying game, “Okay, players, create you characters, including a bit about your background; like where you came from, what gods you worship, who you view as a force for good in the world and who you view as a power for evil, how you know the other characters, where you currently are, how you got there, and what you are doing at the moment…”

        This way, the players know a bunch of stuff about their characters’ background and environment (because they’ve made it up themselves), and the GM gets a bunch of hooks to play with, which shouldn’t feel like railroading to the players (because they’ve made them up themselves). 😉