Review: Waylaid on Wayland

Posted: 13 February 2013 in Reviews

You may recall I’m toying with ideas to set up a space opera campaign for next year. So far I have considered Emergent Settings and Dark Nebula as Options 1 and 2 respectively; here is Option 3, using published adventures.

For this, I looked into Umberto’s suggestion that I use the Daring Tales of the Space Lanes series from Triple Ace Games. I discovered there are 7 actual Daring Tales (one of which is a double adventure), 3 Ace Tales (the equivalent of One-Sheet adventures), and 6 Daring Tales of the Sprawl which I reckon I can add in by making the cyberpunk setting a planet in the main campaign.

That’s 17 adventures, almost enough to do the one-year campaign I was plotting. Add to that my calibration adventure, FGU’s Alien Base for Space Opera, and the ideas I’m sure the group will spin off as we go, and I’m done. Assuming I like them, of course; but plotting things out a year in advance gives me time to wait for them to come on special offer again, and I generally like things Wiggy or Umberto write. If that works out, that’s my 2014 campaign done already; would it be too soon to think about 2015, I wonder?

Let’s start with Waylaid on Wayland / Gunboat Diplomacy, the first Daring Tale of the Space Lanes. Oh, and the free Space Pulp Rules, and Pregenerated Characters, of course. The default assumption is a group of four PCs who operate a small starship on missions of dubious legality; the premise is that a detailed setting is neither necessary nor desirable, which may be driven by the apparent design goal of short adventures for pick-up or convention games.

SPACE PULP RULES

9 page PDF from Triple Ace Games, written by Paul "Wiggy" Wade-Williams. Of the 9 pages, 4 are given over to covers, adverts and so forth, leaving one with 5 pages of setting rules, which encourage pulpish behaviour.

Specifically, the rules ensure that no PC is useless in any scene of an adventure – he can’t be wounded badly enough to miss the scene, he can’t run out of bennies, ammunition or power points, and so on.

The only Arcane Background is Psionics, and PCs cannot raise their Psionics die type after character creation, although they can acquire Power Points and New Powers.

Big spaceships (cruisers and up) are treated as stationary obstacles bristling with guns. Small ones (like whatever the PCs are tooling around in) are treated as vehicles.

Races and equipment are as per the core rules, but with trappings – your blaster has the stats of a Glock, but fires bolts of blue light, or whatever you think is suitably cool. If you scratch the paint off your Tuatha science officer, you find an elf. And so on.

I don’t go in much for setting rules, but these are simple and unlikely to get in the way much. I’ll probably adopt a few (starship combat and hyperspace, for example) and drop the rest.

WAYLAID ON WAYLAND / GUNBOAT DIPLOMACY

27 page PDF from Triple Ace Games, written by Paul "Wiggy" Wade-Williams. Again, deduct 4 pages for covers, adverts etc., leaving 23 pages of adventures and new rules. There’s a distinct Star Wars feel to this one, which is actually an advantage as many of the potential players are Star Wars fans.

Waylaid on Wayland: This adventure is composed of 4 acts, each of 2-3 scenes. The PCs are delivering a McGuffin to a crime lord on an industrialised planet when things go horribly wrong. (Wayland, as the name of a Teutonic smith god, is an appropriate one for the world.) The plotline reminded me a lot of the Star Wars video game Shadows of the Empire; again, not a problem, as most of the potential players were aficionados of that game. There’s combat, bribery, escape from captivity, investigation, and more combat.

I like the results for Investigation and Streetwise rolls which outline what a PC knows by default, with a success, and with a raise on key locations and characters.

On first reading, it looks like 2-3 sessions of play, and a good introduction to the series. It assumes PCs begin with scenario with 20 experience points, i.e. at Seasoned Rank. Why does everybody do that? What’s wrong with Novice Rank? I shall ignore that recommendation.

Gunboat Diplomacy: This adventure assumes the PCs begin with 25 experience, presumably having gone through Waylaid first. A diplomat is brokering a peace between two star nations recently at war over control of an uninhabited planet, and who should blunder into an attempt to assassinate him but Our Heroes? Again, an adventure in 4 acts, this time each of 2 scenes; probably a couple of sessions worth of action here. It’s a mixture of combat, chase, and prison break.

Setting Expansion: Space Dangers. Four pages of things that liven up space combat by adding "terrain" to the chase or dogfight – radiation storms, asteroid fields, clouds, gravity shears and black holes. People who know how far apart asteroids are in a real asteroid field should look away now; this is pulp sci-fi, and they’re all over the place.

These adventures are designed for use as pick-up games or at conventions, using Triple Ace Games’ pregenerated characters, of which more below. There are quite a lot of handy tips for those purposes, specifically which parts of the adventures can be left out if time is a problem. That’s clever.

PRE-GENERATED CHARACTERS

Like the other Daring Tales lines, the default assumption is that you use the pre-generated characters from the Triple Ace website. These are free to download, and use the features of Adobe Acrobat to present the same character at different Ranks or experience levels depending on which boxes you tick.

So, you can pitch up with those and an adventure, and say to four complete strangers "OK, today I’m running a space pulp game for Heroic PCs. Pick one of these and we’ll get to it."

The four PCs for DToSL are the ones on the front of the books; a human pilot who has "borrowed" the group’s starship from a crime syndicate, a space elf psionic, a space dwarf engineer, and a human purser/medic/gunner.

The Daring Tales are written assuming the PCs begin at 20 experience, and gain 5 experience per adventure, which they use to level up through a pre-ordained set of advances. That’s well thought-out, especially for new or casual players, who want to advance their PCs but are often unsure of how best to do it – as an aside, that’s actually one of the advantages of a class-and-level RPG; the player doesn’t have to worry about what improvements to buy for their PC, the game mandates them.

CONCLUSIONS

I like this stuff. I can see myself running it next year, or whenever Shadows of Keron draws to a close, but it’s not so good that I feel the urge to drop everything and start playing it right away. There’s a definite Star Wars vibe, but with an underlying assumption that there are no major stellar powers operating in the region where the adventures take place. The minimal setting information makes it easy to drop any of this into an existing campaign.

The Daring Tales appear to be written for the Explorer’s Edition of Savage Worlds, rather than the current Deluxe Edition; but I didn’t see any places where that would cause a problem – one of the beauties of SW is that it doesn’t change much from edition to edition.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Comments
  1. Umberto Pignatelli says:

    The most important setting rule that you should not drop is that Extras’ damage doesn’t ace. Using this one, I think you could play DTSLs with novice heroes (but reduce a bit the number of opponents).

    • andyslack says:

      Thanks for the tip, Umberto! I’ve run Novice PCs in several settings without that setting rule and had no trouble, are the encounters in DTotSL tougher than they look?

      • Umberto Pignatelli says:

        Yes, they are quite tough. There is always a LOT of extras, and the great part of them are armed with ranged weapons (so Parry doesn’t help).

  2. raikenclw says:

    I bought the compendium, but I’ve only really had time to dig into the first two adventures (Waylaid and Gunboat). The only major change I intend to make in them – so far – is to drop the gravity-based trash compactor and just have one device, both as a combat-useful feature and (later) a death trap. If I show the compactor as unreliable (such as by having it just being returned to groaning service as the PCs intially arrive) a later deus ex machina won’t be quite so obvious. Plus, having only a mechanical compactor gives PCs with no Repair Skill a way to contribute to getting escaping the death trap, by wedging junk under the edge of the moving wall.

    As to the setting rules, I am probably going to keep everything more or less as is except for:
    1) Change Uncertain Death Save – I remember HATING having that pulled on me as a player. The legal 50% seems plenty.
    2) Allow Armor Bonuses For PCs – Armor will work normally for everyone. But I’ll tell my players that their Armor Bonus will also work as a negative modifier to reactions, DOUBLED for security/police forces. If you look like you intend to cause trouble, you’ll treated like it.
    3) Endless Ammo – I will treat the ammo part as written – explaining it as power packs having reactors too small to power weapons directly yet strong enough to recharge the packs between scenes – but drop the Endless Power Points, because I will . . .
    4) Use No Power Point Option For Psionics.

    I also plan to completely re-work Psionics (treating it as an additional Attribute), but that’s a much longer story . . . 🙂

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