Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
Old School
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Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby Old School » Sat Jan 25, 2020 10:49 pm

I’m re-reading the fourth book “Cibola Burn” and came across a passage that would fit in seamlessly to several campaigns I’ve taken part in.

The setting is a rapidly escalating conflict between colonists squatting on a newly discovered planet, and the representatives of the corporation that has scientific and exploration rights to said planet. Our heroes have been contracted as mediators to de-escalate the situation, and are about to head planet side:

Holden climbed out of the ops chair and floated to the crew ladder. A few minutes later he was on the airlock deck with Amos. The mechanic had laid out two suits of their Martian-made light combat armor, a number of rifles and shotguns, and stacks of ammunition and explosives.

“What,” Holden said, “is all this?”

“You said to gear up for the drop.”

“I meant, like, underwear and toothbrushes.”

“Captain,” Amos said, almost hiding his impatience. “They’re killing each other down there. Half a dozen RCE security vanished into thin air, and a heavy lift shuttle got blown up.”

“Yes, and our job is not to escalate that. Put all this **** away. Sidearms only. Bring clothes and sundries for us, any spare medical supplies for the colony. But that’s it.”

“Later,” Amos said, “when you’re wishing we had this stuff, I am going to be merciless in my mockery. And then we’ll die.”

Holden started a snarky reply, then stopped himself. Had anything ever gone the way he planned? “Okay, one rifle each, but disassembled and in a duffel. Nothing visible. And light torso armor only. Something we can hide under our clothes.”

“Captain,” Amos said with mock surprise. “Have you actually learned from your past? Is this a new thing you do now?”
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby ochd » Sun Jan 26, 2020 10:13 am

:D

I am currently just starting the third book.

Dan.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby Old School » Sun Jan 26, 2020 12:25 pm

I’m reading the eighth now, and re-listening to 1 on audiobook when I drive. Great stuff. Sorry for the spoiler, now you know Holden and Amos don’t die in the book you’re reading. :)
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby NOLATrav » Sun Jan 26, 2020 5:25 pm

Oh man, so good. So good. I read Leviathan Wakes back in 2011 after stumbling across it in a bookstore. Been hooked and have read everything since. The authors are absolute masters of escalating conflict to universal proportions while making you feel like it’s you standing there in your magnetic boots. So good.

I backed the Kickstarter for The Expanse RPG. Haven’t had a chance to play but the materials are gorgeous and very high quality. The books’ authors have been involved from the get-go and have contributed new original fiction from/for the milieu. It’s been a lot of fun just paging thru the core rules, reading about the OPA and the Belt and everything else from the perspective of an RPG Ref.

And don’t get me started on the live-action series. So reverent, so honest to the source material and such high production value. Everyone involved in that show is working at the top of their game.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby Old School » Sun Jan 26, 2020 5:56 pm

I have trouble watching v shows. Just no attention span for them. But I should give the show a try. I discovered the books about six months ago and have devoured them. Gonna have to read the novellas waiting for the last book to come out.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby ochd » Sun Jan 26, 2020 8:16 pm

Old School wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 12:25 pm
I’m reading the eighth now, and re-listening to 1 on audiobook when I drive. Great stuff. Sorry for the spoiler, now you know Holden and Amos don’t die in the book you’re reading. :)
No worries. While Ty Franck is George RR Martin's assistant, so far it seems that he's not intent on copying Martin's habit of killing off main characters. Long way to go till the end of the series, though, so who knows.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby steelbrok » Sun Jan 26, 2020 10:05 pm

ochd wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 8:16 pm

While Ty Franck is George RR Martin's assistant, so far it seems that he's not intent on copying Martin's habit of killing off main characters. Long way to go till the end of the series, though, so who knows.
Nor copying Martin's rate at putting books out (thankfully)
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby Old School » Sun Jan 26, 2020 11:04 pm

My impression is that Ty Franck mainly does the setting, both big picture and details, and that Daniel Abraham does most, but not all, of the writing. I think Ty said he writes everything concerning Amos. The story is based off of an RPG run by Ty.

When you combine this with Abraham’s other pen names, the output rate is pretty impressive.

As for Martin, I’d be surprised if we ever see the final Fire and Ice novel. I won’t be buying it in any case. I’ve moved on.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby locarno24 » Mon Jan 27, 2020 8:30 am

Both read and watched.
The TV series is onto the new colony at the moment, as it happens - I don't recall that particular quote in the show, though.
Wes Chatham is awesome as Amos, though.

Even though you can see it coming, the "I am that guy." is perfect on so many levels.
Understand that I'm not advocating violence.
I'm just saying that it's highly effective and I strongly recommend using it.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby Old School » Mon Jan 27, 2020 11:07 am

Amos is awesome. Naomi’s description of him and why he hangs around Holden, later in the books (no spoilers!) is perfect.

Going through my campaign notes this weekend, I was also reminded of the scene where the Roci and its crew get fired by their patron for asking too many questions. Definitely has happened in my games as well, more or less the same way.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby paltrysum » Tue Jan 28, 2020 12:05 am

I've read through the fifth book, "Nemesis Games." Great series. Didn't much care for "Cibola Burn," but that line from Amos was classic.
Old School wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 5:56 pm
I have trouble watching v shows. Just no attention span for them. But I should give the show a try. I discovered the books about six months ago and have devoured them. Gonna have to read the novellas waiting for the last book to come out.
You should check it out. It's solid. The second season was my favorite so far. Looking forward to seeing if they can make "Cibola Burn" better than the book. Can't wait until they adapt "Nemesis Games." It's very cinematic.
My published Traveller adventures on DriveThruRPG:
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse.php ... %20Griffen
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby Old School » Tue Jan 28, 2020 12:39 am

Paltrysum! How goes it, my friend?

I didn’t dislike Cibola Burn, but its my least favorite of the 8. Definite change of pace from the civilization altering escapades of the other books. From saving humanity to a small western. Some of those characters will reappear down the road. The later books definitely go back to the grand scale.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby Old School » Sat Feb 01, 2020 12:23 am

NOLATrav wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 5:25 pm
Oh man, so good. So good. I read Leviathan Wakes back in 2011 after stumbling across it in a bookstore. Been hooked and have read everything since. The authors are absolute masters of escalating conflict to universal proportions while making you feel like it’s you standing there in your magnetic boots. So good.

I backed the Kickstarter for The Expanse RPG. Haven’t had a chance to play but the materials are gorgeous and very high quality. The books’ authors have been involved from the get-go and have contributed new original fiction from/for the milieu. It’s been a lot of fun just paging thru the core rules, reading about the OPA and the Belt and everything else from the perspective of an RPG Ref.

And don’t get me started on the live-action series. So reverent, so honest to the source material and such high production value. Everyone involved in that show is working at the top of their game.
How is the Expanse RPG for shipbuilding and ship combat? I downloaded the free quick start. Seems decent enough, but didn’t cover ships at all.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby snrdg121408 » Sat Feb 01, 2020 2:59 pm

Hello Old School,

On 01/18/20 I stopped by a Barnes&Noble and picked up a copy of The Expanse Roleplaying Game which recommends reading the first two books before diving into the rules.I've read the first two and will be picking up a couple more this month.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby NOLATrav » Sat Feb 01, 2020 6:16 pm

Old School wrote:
Sat Feb 01, 2020 12:23 am
How is the Expanse RPG for shipbuilding and ship combat? I downloaded the free quick start. Seems decent enough, but didn’t cover ships at all.
I’ve spent most of my time with the adventures and haven’t actually played the game yet so I still have quite a bit to learn. There is a large amount of real-world physics addressed regarding the Epstein drive, in-system transit, deltaV, gravitational effects of thrust, etc, for instance:
“The Expanse Core Rules” wrote: Whether you’re transferring from Ganymede to Europa or Mars to Neptune, the concept is the same: you plot a Brachistochrone trajectory that changes your apoapsis so it encounters the other body’s sphere of influence. Once there, unless the ship executes an additional burn, it will simply encounter the object and fly by (it has escape velocity unless it slows down).
Brachistochrone trajectories are the familiar “turn ‘n burn” maneuvers we see in CT.

So that’s cool but when we get to design, it’s very coarse. There are only four main qualities to a ship, regardless of its type or mission: Size, Drive, Sensors and Weapons.

Size gives you ship’s length, from Tiny at 5m to Titanic at 1km+, hull points and crew requirements.
Drives are limited to the Epstein drive with its integrated fusion plant and “thrusters” for orientation, matching vectors and station-keeping; smaller ships intended for planetary landings still use rockets but fuel and Thrust/G-ratings aren’t considered.
Sensors are all-around generic packages of everything you’d expect a ship to have but not detailed at all except as a score from -2 to +6, which acts as a modifier to sensor task checks.
Weapons are very simple: PDCs, rail guns and torpedoes. There are also Grapplers, which are used to grab a vessel and hold it for a boarding action. The GM is warned that nuclear weapons are insta-kill (no need to roll damage) and to use them only as a rare plot device.

There’s also a list of ship Qualities and Flaws (like Good Juice, Expert Medical System, Advanced Sensors, Fragile, etc) that can customize a given ship and provide DMs to various task checks.

There’s discussion of maintenance and upkeep but the game completely abstracts money into what basically becomes a character stat so I haven’t fully grokked that yet. So no monthly mortgages or annual maintenance. There are several ships of varying size and mission provided, like the basic Frigate which I think comes close to the Roci:

FRIGATE
SIZE: Large (45m long)
HULL: 2D6
CREW: 4 (16)
COMPETENCE: Capable to Skilled
DRIVE: Epstein, Thrusters
SENSORS: 1
WEAPONS: Two Torpedo Tubes (Long range, 4D6); Point Defense Network (6 cannons, Close range, 2D6)
QUALITIES: Good Juice, Improved Stores, Medical Expert System. Other common Qualities include an Advanced Sensor Package, Hull Plating, an improved Medical Expert System, or an additional Weapon System, like a spinal-mounted Rail Gun.
FLAWS: Usually none

Space Combat (actually all tasks and combat) is 3D6 against a target number, and your skills can allow you to do Stunts, which are cinematic moves or actions that can provide DMs or extra chances or what have you. Many tasks, like closing range on an enemy ship, are opposed checks. Ranges are Close Quarters (1km or less), Close (5km), Medium (100km) and Long (1000+km). Here’s an example from the book:
“The Expanse Core Rules” wrote: The Rocinante is at Medium Range from a closing UN frigate and wants to keep it that way, so Alex rolls a Dexterity (Piloting)
test against the Dexterity (Piloting) test result of the frigate’s pilot, who the GM rates as Capable (a +3 bonus). Neither ship has a Size modifier for maneuverability. Alex wins the roll with a total of 13 versus the frigate’s 11, so the Roci remains at Medium Range.
There’s a fixed structure to the combat rounds which are approximately 1 minute long but not exactly; “long enough for all of the ships involved to execute all of the steps.” Damage is not about hit points per se but rather conditions and the opposed check mechanic kind of carries over here. If you hit my frigate with a torpedo, you do 4D damage. My Hull is 2D so I roll that and deduct it. Then I can impose a negative condition (damaged sensors (DM-1) or a maneuver hit (DM-1 to Pilot checks) and so forth) on my ship to roll additional dice to negate your damage. “If any damage remains the ship is taken out.” If I do negate all your damage, I still have these negative conditions to deal with and that’s why Damage Control is the final phase of the round - depending on the roll (similar to Effect in MgT) I might be able to fix one or both of those negatives before the next round of combat.

I’m not used to the cinematic roleplay of the system and the gang doesn’t seem keen on learning a new system but I think it’s probably pretty fast and furious and a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby Old School » Sat Feb 01, 2020 6:32 pm

Thanks for the overview. Sounds like its simple and fast moving. Definitely appeals to some players.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby locarno24 » Mon Feb 03, 2020 10:12 am

NOLATrav wrote:
Sat Feb 01, 2020 6:16 pm
Old School wrote:
Sat Feb 01, 2020 12:23 am
How is the Expanse RPG for shipbuilding and ship combat? I downloaded the free quick start. Seems decent enough, but didn’t cover ships at all.
I’ve spent most of my time with the adventures and haven’t actually played the game yet so I still have quite a bit to learn. There is a large amount of real-world physics addressed regarding the Epstein drive, in-system transit, deltaV, gravitational effects of thrust, etc, for instance:
“The Expanse Core Rules” wrote: Whether you’re transferring from Ganymede to Europa or Mars to Neptune, the concept is the same: you plot a Brachistochrone trajectory that changes your apoapsis so it encounters the other body’s sphere of influence. Once there, unless the ship executes an additional burn, it will simply encounter the object and fly by (it has escape velocity unless it slows down).
Brachistochrone trajectories are the familiar “turn ‘n burn” maneuvers we see in CT.

So that’s cool but when we get to design, it’s very coarse. There are only four main qualities to a ship, regardless of its type or mission: Size, Drive, Sensors and Weapons.

Size gives you ship’s length, from Tiny at 5m to Titanic at 1km+, hull points and crew requirements.
Drives are limited to the Epstein drive with its integrated fusion plant and “thrusters” for orientation, matching vectors and station-keeping; smaller ships intended for planetary landings still use rockets but fuel and Thrust/G-ratings aren’t considered.
Sensors are all-around generic packages of everything you’d expect a ship to have but not detailed at all except as a score from -2 to +6, which acts as a modifier to sensor task checks.
Weapons are very simple: PDCs, rail guns and torpedoes. There are also Grapplers, which are used to grab a vessel and hold it for a boarding action. The GM is warned that nuclear weapons are insta-kill (no need to roll damage) and to use them only as a rare plot device.

There’s also a list of ship Qualities and Flaws (like Good Juice, Expert Medical System, Advanced Sensors, Fragile, etc) that can customize a given ship and provide DMs to various task checks.

There’s discussion of maintenance and upkeep but the game completely abstracts money into what basically becomes a character stat so I haven’t fully grokked that yet. So no monthly mortgages or annual maintenance. There are several ships of varying size and mission provided, like the basic Frigate which I think comes close to the Roci:

FRIGATE
SIZE: Large (45m long)
HULL: 2D6
CREW: 4 (16)
COMPETENCE: Capable to Skilled
DRIVE: Epstein, Thrusters
SENSORS: 1
WEAPONS: Two Torpedo Tubes (Long range, 4D6); Point Defense Network (6 cannons, Close range, 2D6)
QUALITIES: Good Juice, Improved Stores, Medical Expert System. Other common Qualities include an Advanced Sensor Package, Hull Plating, an improved Medical Expert System, or an additional Weapon System, like a spinal-mounted Rail Gun.
FLAWS: Usually none

Space Combat (actually all tasks and combat) is 3D6 against a target number, and your skills can allow you to do Stunts, which are cinematic moves or actions that can provide DMs or extra chances or what have you. Many tasks, like closing range on an enemy ship, are opposed checks. Ranges are Close Quarters (1km or less), Close (5km), Medium (100km) and Long (1000+km). Here’s an example from the book:
“The Expanse Core Rules” wrote: The Rocinante is at Medium Range from a closing UN frigate and wants to keep it that way, so Alex rolls a Dexterity (Piloting)
test against the Dexterity (Piloting) test result of the frigate’s pilot, who the GM rates as Capable (a +3 bonus). Neither ship has a Size modifier for maneuverability. Alex wins the roll with a total of 13 versus the frigate’s 11, so the Roci remains at Medium Range.
There’s a fixed structure to the combat rounds which are approximately 1 minute long but not exactly; “long enough for all of the ships involved to execute all of the steps.” Damage is not about hit points per se but rather conditions and the opposed check mechanic kind of carries over here. If you hit my frigate with a torpedo, you do 4D damage. My Hull is 2D so I roll that and deduct it. Then I can impose a negative condition (damaged sensors (DM-1) or a maneuver hit (DM-1 to Pilot checks) and so forth) on my ship to roll additional dice to negate your damage. “If any damage remains the ship is taken out.” If I do negate all your damage, I still have these negative conditions to deal with and that’s why Damage Control is the final phase of the round - depending on the roll (similar to Effect in MgT) I might be able to fix one or both of those negatives before the next round of combat.

I’m not used to the cinematic roleplay of the system and the gang doesn’t seem keen on learning a new system but I think it’s probably pretty fast and furious and a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.
That's the right size of ship. Tachi/Rocinante is officially a frigate.
The confusion comes about because for reasons best known to the characters in the setting, the MRCN named a class of frigate the Corvette-class.


Sounds quite a bit like FATE. One thing I do like about both it and Traveller compared to - say - a D&D based thing like Starfinder is the idea that every hit 'does something'; it does take a bit more bookwork but coming out of a missile barrage trailing minor system damage and stat penalties makes more sense than no effect/no effect/no effect/chunky salsa in the way 'hit point' RPGs tend to play out. (I know traveller ships have a hit point score too, but beam lasers do a LOT of criticals!)

I have wondered about the expanse as a setting - it doesn't even really need to be specifically the expanse - there's enough 'low tech' stuff in the rules to produce a passable analogue of the Expanse in TL7-10 traveller mechanics; just leave jump drives and jump fuel off and you can make perfectly sensible ships for the setting, and I've always maintained you don't actually need multiple star systems for an interesting setting.
Understand that I'm not advocating violence.
I'm just saying that it's highly effective and I strongly recommend using it.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby NOLATrav » Mon Feb 03, 2020 5:25 pm

locarno24 wrote:
Mon Feb 03, 2020 10:12 am
I have wondered about the expanse as a setting - it doesn't even really need to be specifically the expanse - there's enough 'low tech' stuff in the rules to produce a passable analogue of the Expanse in TL7-10 traveller mechanics; just leave jump drives and jump fuel off and you can make perfectly sensible ships for the setting, and I've always maintained you don't actually need multiple star systems for an interesting setting.
Yeah you right.

I've been working on house rules for expanded star system and world generation and am currently playtesting them with a multi-star solar system, no Jump drives, to make a Firefly/Expanse style single solar system with a few dozen settled worlds. Of course the baseline is our own solar system, so have developed that quite a bit as well. Tons of fun and just as interesting as a multi-star campaign setting.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby locarno24 » Tue Feb 04, 2020 11:55 am

Ironically the Expanse does introduce multiple star systems, of course, but you know what I mean.
Understand that I'm not advocating violence.
I'm just saying that it's highly effective and I strongly recommend using it.
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Re: Anyone else read “The Expanse” series?

Postby locarno24 » Tue Feb 11, 2020 12:11 pm

Trying to think through stuff for The Expanse using 2nd edition Traveller rules. A couple of thoughts:

1) Obviously non-gravity hulls are a thing, and there are rules for adding mechanics (double hull and hamster cage) which provide 'gravity' (well, centripetal force) to specific bits.

Ships in The Expanse, though, tend not to do this, either being at zero-G for a lot of the time, or else spending significant amounts of time underway at 1G, give or take.

I would assume that while a non-gravity hull obviously doesn't supply its own gravity, you'd also have to deal with the effects of acceleration in a way an M-drive ship is assumed not to (as per the Gravimetric Distorter) - so a prolonged 6G acceleration would eventually kill everyone on board, and accelerating at 2G should apply the High Gravity penalty to the crew. Possibly even more at higher G ratings? There is 'Juice' - an anti-acceleration drug, though, so maybe that could limit you to the normal high-g penalty or maybe even no penalty. Setting aside tonnage for Acceleration Couches and just handwaving that in a couch you're okay is probably a good idea.

2) The Epstein Drive is the one (human) bit of hand-wavey science magic - it's a fusion drive with incredible power and fuel efficiency and allows the above continuous 1G burns for long periods.

For the sake of simplicity, I would suggest most ships get a 1G M-drive and a high-burn thruster - a reaction drive with a significantly greater power but obviously limited endurance. The highest acceleration we've seen specifically namechecked in any story was 11G - which would definitely kill you if you didn't have 'Juice' - but a more reasonable value for most ships is probably 4-5G tops or maybe 2G for non-warships.

3) The TL should obviously be pretty low.

If we consider Railguns to be Mass Drivers , then you see missiles/torpedoes, point defence batteries, and mass drivers, meaning everything you want is available by TL10. I'd be tempted to call PDCs beam lasers instead, since they've got enough punch to be used on small craft and are good for disabling with some minimal level of precision compared to the 'warning shot to the head' railgun. Pebble rounds used make sandcasters a sort of 'light autocannon' to be useable both for point defence and against other ships (provided the latter weren't well armoured) so it's surprising they've lost both capabilities.

TL10 also allows you to field a reaction drive with three 20% fuel efficiency upgrades, meaning it only needs just over 50% of the fuel (0.8x0.8x0.8=0.512), so a ship isn't going to need to set aside quite as much tankage to have a few hours at 2G in the tank.
Understand that I'm not advocating violence.
I'm just saying that it's highly effective and I strongly recommend using it.

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