D6 Space, semi final
"In space, no one can hear your scream..."
D6 Space is the 2nd product from the newly reborn West End Games, and is a rulebook meant for playing space/science fiction games using the D6 rules (duh, I know). It should be reasonably good for this, as it was originally designed for the original Star Wars RPG from West End Games (I think 1987 or so). Though it actually evolved from a similar system in the Ghostbusters RPG. (Space 1889 also used a similar mechanic).
As a disclaimer, the D6 system is my favorite game system. So I just plain like the thing. I've also run and GMed it an awful lot, as I've used it to run everything from Star Wars to Traveller to 2nd AD&D (specifically Birthright) to Bureau 13 to Deadlands to Star Frontiers to well, pretty much everything except Shadowrun and d20, including a number of home brew stuff based on TV shows and movies.
I first discovered it via the original D6 System rulebook, probably a good 8-9 years ago. That was a slim book, around 80 pages, not quite fully formed, but pretty much summed up the basics of the D6 System.
That original D6 rulebook was really more of a tool-kit, as opposed to a complete game itself. Rather than giving you a set list of attributes and the associated skills, it gave you a list of several attributes and skills that could be related to them, and told you to pick them according to what suits your game...
This book is a bit more of a rulebook, as opposed to a toolkit (as suits it's high pricetag), but it still is very much tool-kittenish. You'll have to do most of the work yourself if you use this book, but things are far more rigidly defined (there's a set attribute and skill list, most notably).
The basics of D6 are pretty simple. Characters have a skill or attribute rated in a number of dice (including pips), 1D = 1 D6, 2D = 2 D6s, 3D+2 = 3 D6s plus 2 pips (Attributes generally range from 2D to 4D for humans, up to 5D for aliens. Skills can go as high as 15D, though that is generally described as the best person in the Galaxy at that given skill). When they want to do something, they roll the relevent number of dice, and add them together, and compare to a target number. The target numbers range from 1-5 for very easy, all the way up to 31+, for "Heroic".
I personally have no problems with this mechanic (and in fact, love it), but some people don't like it, because in their words, it involves "bucketloads" of dice. I have also heard stories from ex-WEG people about how people often would have trouble counting the dice, especially at cons. I'm not especially good at math - I couldn't get through Boundary Value Problems in college, but it takes almost no time for me to add them up (being bad at golf probably helps with this).
This book (and presumably the two other D6 rulebooks) actually tries to address this problem with an optional rule, where you only have to have roll 5 dice. If you have more than 5 dice, then the additional dice are simply assumed to be the average, rounded up (3.5 is the average for a d6).
Like say you have a skill of 8D. You would roll 5 dice, and add the average of 3 dice (3.5 x 3 or 11) to it. Though if people have trouble adding, multipling by 3.5 could be even more difficult, so it suggests that you either multiply by 3 or 4, depending on how easy the task should be (and you can always use the chart in the back of the book).
Some might say that 5 dice is still too many to roll (I know that's a common complaint about Storyteller, which I think has a maximum of 5 dice to roll), but I think that's pretty silly. I mean, it's just 5 dice. They're not heavy. Haven't you ever played Yahtzee or Liar's Dice?
"Who are you?"
"Flash Gordon. Quarterback, New York Jets."
Characters have several attibutes: Agility, Strength, Knowledge, Perception, Mechanical, and Technical. The latter two are sort of odd attributes, but they represent how good a person is innately at technical or mechanical matters. Technical generally covers repairing or building things, while Mechanical covers how well someone uses mechanical objects, most notably flys or drives things.
I suspect these two were attibutes mostly as a way to explain a character like Luke Skywalker. Here's a guy just off the farm, 18 or so, but could fly just about anything, be it landspeeder or starfighter. And he was really good at it. And he could repair droids and other things pretty well.
While some people find the two attributes a bit weird, I think this perhaps does make sense. Some people are just good with machines. They just think that way. I mean, for instance, I took an auto shop class in high school. While I wasn't an all A student, I was fairly close. But auto shop, while I got an A in it, I just didn't have the knack. There were kids in there that normally got bad grades, but were mechanical aces. And I wasn't exactly foreign to cars, I had been changing oil and plugs and doing minor repairs since I was 15 or so. (I had a '80 Chevy Citation since I was that old, which cost a whopping $150, because someone had died in it. And yes, I think it was haunted. Not even remotely Herbie-esque, but the electrical system would do weird things).
So I think for societies were machines are common, this really isn't a bad way to do things, even though it's different from most other games.
Each skill is associated with an attribute, and dice/pips in a skill are added to the relevent attribute. Like say a character has 3D+1 in Agility. Dodge is associated with Agility, so if you put 1D+2 into the Dodge skill, you'd have a total of 5D (3D+1 + 1D+2).
Characters start with 18 dice to spread among the 6 attributes (7, actually, if you include "Metaphysics", which I'll go into later) and 7 Dice to spend on skills. There's also a point based character creation system, which seems like it works, but I personally despise things like that, because I think they tend to promote min-maxing, as players spend countless hours tweaking their characters to be combat machines. D6 shouldn't be like Gurps.
I mentioned earlier that the normal limit in D6 games for attributes was 4D for humans, but 5D for aliens (like say, Wookiies from Star Wars could have 5D for strenght, since they are so darn big/strong). But for some reason, the limit in this is 5D for humans as well. Personally, I think this is a major blunder. It's just too overpowering, the system works best when attributes are at most 4D, and it's best when 5D is a rarity. (Like say, attributes over 18 in D&D)
I've always thought that 7 dice was far too stingy for skills, especially if you are creating characters that are experienced. This book suggests that if you want more experienced characters, you give them 15 extra skill dice for every year. Although that is a step in the right direction, I think that is going way too overboard.
I normally give out 15 skill dice for characters are normal (ie, say, 25 to 30-ish), but vary upon the "level" or "quality" of the character. I came up with a chart by essentially looking at every NPC in just about every Star Wars D6 book I own (which is most of them) and counting the number of dice they had in skills. Then graphing them,and breaking them down into categories. (In case you care, the most skilled character I could find was Mara Jade, with well over 200 skill dice. But in Star Wars d20, she's only like 7th level. Funny how different the two are). This is how I do it:
|Experience||Beginner||Normal||Somewhat Experienced||Experienced||Very Experienced||Greatly Experienced||Legendary|
|# Skill Dice||7D||15||22||30||45||70||130|
"It's what they call tears, it's a sign of their weakness."
This book adds an Advantage/Disadvantage system to D6. The original $10 D6 book also had a advantage/disadvantage system, but this is borrowed from Masterbook. Frankly, I don't understand the reasoning behind this - Masterbook sold poorly and was disliked by a lot of people, while D6 sold well and was fairly popular. So let's make D6 more like Masterbook!
I'm not a big fan of Advantage/Disadvantage systems to begin with - I think disadvantages should be purely done as a part of roleplaying and you shouldn't get benefits for it.
Anyway, advantages/disadvantages are broken down into 4 different levels, R1, R2, R3, R4. 4 being the most, 1 being the least.
Being addicted to cigarettes would be an R1 disadvantge, while being a junkie would be an R3 disadvantage. I think this is a bit broken, because taking an R1 disadvantage gives you 1 extra skill dice, while the R3 only gives you 3. But being a junkie is much much harder than being a smoker.
Somewhat related are "Special Abilities". These are essentially magical or "super" powers, which normal humans can't normally get. Wings, Immortalilty, Shapeshifting, stuff like that. These generally come into play as either powers that alien races might have, or mutants, or powers somehow attained as cybernetics. These super powers are rated from 1 to 10.
The cybernetic chapter is kind of fuzzy, mostly a way to get those powers, and so it's largely presented as a toolkit. Though there is a handful of premade cybernetic enhancements as examples.
"Open fire! All weapons!"
Combat works pretty simply. Initiative either happens by someone taking the first move (this is explained rather vaguely in the book), or everyone rolling initiative (basically a Perception roll) and going in order. You can do multiple things per round, but incur a penalty.
Trying to hit someone in combat works pretty much like any other skill, by rolling his relevent skill or attribute. This is either compared to a fixed difficulty, or the results of an opposing characters "Dodge" skill roll. If they have attempted to dodge on their action that round - it's not like BRP, where you do it automatically after a hit.
If you hit, you determine damage. All weapons have a die code, much like skills or attributes, and so the person who hit rolls damage. Damages for weapons generally range from 4D to 7D, averaging around 5D. There are two different damage options in the book - Wound Levels and Body Points.
Body Points are essentially like hit points. Damage is rolled, then are subtracted from the Body Point total. If under zero, they're dead. (Though it's not an all or nothing affair, there are qualitative wound levels based on the percentage of their body points they have taken. For instance, from 40% to 59% they are "Wounded". If armor is worn, then the amount of dice the armor has is rolled, and subtracted from the damage.
The Wound Level option uses the same basic wound level categories, but arrives at them differently. The person makes a resistance roll, rolling his Strength, and comparing it to the damage done. Armor adds a bonus to this roll. The damage total and the resistance total are then compared, and you look it up on a chart to see what the result was. Basically, if the damage roll was 1-3 points more, the character was stunned, 4-8 points more it was wounded, 9-12 Incapacitated, 13-15 Mortally Wounded, and 16 or more is Death.
Like say the damage roll was 13, and the resistance roll was 11 - the difference is 2, so the person getting hit would be stunned.
Mechanically, these actually pretty much work the same, because essentially body points are determined initially by a strength roll. But wounds tend to happen more gradually (but surely) with the body point method, while with the Wound Level option it's more a matter of luck. You can avoid damage completely, but then suddenly get whacked.
(Personally, I've always used the option from the original D6 book, in which you simply divide the damage roll by the resistance roll, and that gives you the number of wound levels inflicted. Like if you rolled a 15 for damage, and made a roll of 10 to resist, it would be 1 wound. But if you had rolled a 5, it would be 3 wounds. But that is not an option in this book. Admittedly, it's perhaps not the best, because if you screw the resistance roll you are really screwed, but it is the easiest.)
It is interesting though, that the combat example is lifted directly from the original D6 book. Except cut down somewhat. The original combat example was 3 different players vs 2 NPCs. In this, it's just 1 player. So this example is about 1/3 as long, which is probably not a good thing - combat is generally the most important thing in games (for better or for worse), so a long-ish example is better than a mini one. Though mini-example is better than none at all.
"By magic, of course"
As I mentioned earlier, this book is very similar to the D6 system used in Star Wars, but with a few differences. "Metaphysics" is one of those differences. Essentially, it's a replacement for the Force, but instead of characters just being "Force Sensitive" (i.e., able to use the Force) or not, they get a rating in "Metaphysics" like any other attribute.
There are then 3 skills under the attribute. These 3 skills have different names than the ones in Star Wars, but are esentially the same. Control, Sense, Alter they were in Star Wars. In this, they are Channel, Sense, and Transform. Control = Channel, Alter = Transform. (I guess they couldn't find a synonym for "Sense" they liked)
I actually did this with the Force in my Star Wars games (have a Force attribute), since it kind of seemed obvious (because it said some people, like Luke and Ani were "strong" in the Force, which didn't make much sense in Star Wars D6 the way it worked, where people were just Force Sensitive or not.
Anyway, in Star Wars, Jedi would learn specific Jedi Powers. Like being able to confuse minds (Obi Wan's Old Jedi Mind Trick), or to flip out and kill people with the light saber. A whole bunch of things. But they had to be learned, not as skills, but just binary things (you either know it or don't).
This is much more flexible. In theory, someone with Metaphysics can try just about anything, you don't need to learn the powers before hand. There are rules for creating an effect using Metaphysics, called a manipulation, and these are fairly complex. So while a character can do it on the fly, it will likely take a while to figure out the difficulty rating of it using the rules.
This is actually an improvement I think over the old Force system and ironically, truer to Star Wars than that version. The downside is, there are only a handful of examples in this book, though of course, if you have the old Star Wars books, they are full of powers than can be converted pretty easily. Though it probably makes characters with Metaphysics scores a lot more powerful.
Still, upon reflection, I think these rules are probably more suited for a modern era or real world D6 game, or at least a paranormal game. Science Fiction games tend to have "Psionics", that is, mental powers, like telepathy and such. The "Metaphysics" rules in this are very close to real world Magick or miracles, where things happen because the person literally imposes their will on the universe. So it's kind of funny these rules are in the Space book, and the Psionic rules are in the D6 Adventure book (which is for the real world, apparently)
"Get shot or go up in that thing? What's the difference?"
There is a very simple starship contruction system. Basically, 5 pages worth (plus a 1 page worksheet). Essentially, you string together a whole bunch of modules and other things, which each have an amount of area and cost.
This section confused me a lot at first, since it's not explained very well, it just sort of jumps into it. There's also no example of how to build a starship, though there are 3 sample ships provided.
The big puzzler to me seems to be the engines. There doesn't seem to be any relationship between the number (or size) of engines on the ship, and the mass of the ship as a whole. As near as I can tell, if you made a 250,000 ton cruiser or a 50 ton corvette, they'd use the exact same engines and go the exact same speed.
The 3 sample ships aren't much help, because one is a fighter, one is a shuttle, and one is a small freighter (think Milenium Falcon). All small ships.
The thing is, it's missing rules for, the GM and space in particular. There are no rules on planets and stars or how to randomly generate them. There are no tech levels or anything.
You do get a small section on animals. But what sort of animals? Stats for dogs, cats, and the rat. Because you know, Space is full of dogs, cats, and rats. I can remember countless episodes of Star Trek, where they would beam down to a planet, and the guys in Red Shirts would get mauled by a cat. And what about the episode of Battlestar Galactica, where Starbuck was chased by a dog? (Okay, okay, there was actually a dog on that show, but it was at least a Robot Dog!).
In any event, my real point is, this book is hugely lacking when it comes to helping you develop a setting. You will likely really need to take another setting, be it another space game (like Traveller or even Star Wars) and steal that, including rules from that (like making planets and such).
While they did give you basic tools to create starships (maybe) and aliens, they only gave you a few examples of each. So again, all the work is left to the GM.
It would have been better if they had sample ships for just about every ship type (like say, d20 Future did), or lots and lots of aliens, instead of just 5 (especially since those 5 were basically just animal people anyway).
"It has no name. Many brave men died to bring it here from the Galaxy of Pleasure..."
The layout is pretty good - it's easy to find things, as there are 18 chapters in roughly 120 pages of rules (the rest is filler - blank templates and such). And it looks just like an old WEG book in terms of style. Which is nice. There's also an index, but it's extremely hard to use, because it's not clear when an sub-entry is underneath an entry - the indentation is very slight, and if the entry in question is in the previous column, it's hard to tell.
I didn't notice any editing problems within the text itself, but they did make a large number of mistakes on the back cover blurb, in the "flavor text". My guess is, when they changed the cover artwork, they added a new flavor text, and didn't get a chance to proofread it. (Either that or they outsourced the flavor text to a non-English speaking country).
If you don't know, the original artwork basically featured a nude woman, apparently writhing in ectasy, with several metalic tentacles in her, presumably some sort of cybernetic sex toy. For some reason, many people didn't like this cover, and so complained. So the cover was revised - some clothes were airbrushed on, and a couple space ships were added, so it now looks like she's an air (er, space) traffic controller guiding a ship in, rather than someone being pleasured by Mecha-Cthulhu. (Though it now looks like she really really enjoys her job. Too bad that's not the case in the real world - Reagan never would have had to fire them...). The sad part is, this is still the least silly of the 3 D6 book lots.
The artwork is a mixed bag. It's not bad, but there is no real coherence to it. It's like they took a bunch of random pieces of art they had lying around, and stuck it in there (I think this is actually the case, as several of the pieces are dated to the early 90s).
It doesn't help that they used 15 different artists. WOTC uses a lot of artists in this book, but they form a coherent style because they use the same characters over and over (the iconics). I imagine that wasn't possible, because of the clip art nature of the art, but still, they charge WOTC prices (a bit more, actually), so they should be held to their standards.
Should we stop the torture?
It's not a terrible book, just very light in terms of actual content, beyond characters themselves, though honestly, I have to disagree with some of the design choices. The latter of which might be presumptuous, but I have also played and GMed a lot of D6 myself, so I do feel qualified to judge them.
I also think it's very misleading. It's not really a D6 book about space, it's essentially a Player's Guide to a somewhat futuristic and space orientated space game. You can make characters with it, and there's a bare bones amount of equipment. But there are really no tools for the GM - you have to do it all. If it had been advertised as a Player's Guide (and maybe $5-10 cheaper), I wouldn't have minded. But it's sold as a complete game, and it really isn't.
It also really comes up short to Space books for other generic systems: Gurps Space, Star Hero, even d20 Future does a better job at least trying to cover most areas.
So even though the system behind it is in my opinion, the best RPG system ever created (and ever will be), I have to give this book a D, which is probably being generious (since I felt that I definitely wasted my money on it, which is the descriptor for a '1' here). If it had been advertised as a "Players' Guide to D6 Space", it would have been a C+ or so.
I think the way the new WEG put out their new D6 books is pretty lousy. They should either have had 1 big, comprehensive D6 book, a main D6 rulebook, then various smaller D6 books on various subjects. Or, they should have gone the route of Mongoose's OGL books, one fairly large, 256-300 page book on a given subject. I would much rather pay $40 for a 250-300 page book than $30 for a 144 page book. Even $35 for a 200 page book would have been better. I realize they're a smaller company, but I don't expect say, color (like WOTC and Mongoose generally offer in those priced books), just enough pages to actually cover the subject well.
(The first quote is the tag line to Alien, the other quotes are from the world's greatest movie, Flash Gordon)