Saturday, June 21, 2014

Cosmic Patrol Was A Hit!

We ran the Cosmic Patrol RPG for the first time today as part of Free RPG Day at the Source. I had four players and two very nice observers who hung out for big chunks of the game (one for the beginning-middle, and one for the end). Open gaming like this has its risks; just earlier this week, I read a horror story about a player's bad experience with other players and GMs in the Games on Demand space at Origins.

But open gaming events like this also offer us the chance for valuable kinds of exchange:
  • The ability to try out new games with folks who are curious and interested in them
  • The opportunity to meet new players
  • The chance to share knowledge about games and how they're played with other GMs and players
For example, the second observer (Dennis, I am pretty sure) asked me to hang out for a bit after the game, so that I could give him a look under the hood at the dice mechanics in Cosmic Patrol.  I did that, and then I asked him what RPGs he likes. He was similar in age to me, and shared that he enjoyed a broad range of games and systems - with an emphasis on ones that facilitate character-driven storytelling.

Dennis said that he likes to run Fantasy Flight Games' new line of Star Wars RPGs, especially Age of Rebellion. I shared that I had found Edge of Empire difficult to read because of all the different dice type icons in the text. Dennis smiled, pulled out his dice bag, and ran me through a couple examples of how the Star Wars dice are used. I really appreciated the exchange!

The Cosmic Patrol scenario I used was the provided in the 2014 Free RPG Day Cosmic Patrol booklet at the top of this post. I ran the first part of The Continuance Contingency in the four hour game slot, which is spot on with the book's guidance that each part takes a game session. I did a lot of improvisation, and so did the players. The Stat Die mechanics encourage the players to do a fair amount too - which they did. The Plot Point mechanics in Cosmic Patrol further facilitate players making narrative declaration, in much the same way that in Fate, you can spend Fate Points at any time to make a declaration.

Cosmic Patrol is designed so that the players will rotate GMing responsibilities between scenes. Players normally take turns being the "Lead Narrator" but for this open gaming event, I GM'ed the entire session myself. Asking players - who are just learning the game mechanics - to take turns running a published scenario: that's asking a lot. The LN model probably works best with a group of players who have experience with the mechanics, and are comfortable with improvisational play and narrative power-sharing. I'd also guess that the LNing also works better without a formal written scenario, so that successive LNs can take the story in whatever direction they prefer without worrying about "breaking links" that connect one part of a scenario to another.

Since I'd like to run Cosmic Patrol at some point for my own Thursday Night Group, I won't say too much about the storyline except that it has things that John Clute's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction calls World Ships: some of my favorite objects in the YOU-KNEE-verse, as Brian Cox might say. Well, I can also share that the players encountered one of the most loquacious Cylon Centurions in galactic history.

One more thing I can share is that the PCs had a shootout with some Achernarians, one of the alien species that are the brainchild of the Hereticwerks blog. (The Achernarians have also made their way into my Doctor Who games. They're called the people from The End of the River for a reason. They get around.)

While we're talking about Hereticwerks, be sure to stop by here and pick up Hereticwerks' Free RPG Day scenario at their blog.

So I'll be running Cosmic Patrol again. It's a great rules-light pick-up game.

If you look at the picture at the top of the post you will see that I also picked up a copy of the Valiant Universe Universe RPG Quick Start Rules today. Valiant uses a modified version of the Cosmic Patrol rules, so I guess I'll be buying that game when it gets released in August!


  1. How very cool! I wish I'd known about this event; it sounded like it was a lot of fun!

    1. It would have been fun to have you join us. It's a great game for conventions because the rules are super simple and keep things moving.

  2. Good to see that the Achernarians are getting out to events like this one. They always cause mischief when they get bored.

    It sounds like you and your players had a good time. Cosmic Patrol sounds interesting. Maybe we can drop in on a game one of these days.

    1. We're fond of them. There's more than a few of them in the Empire as well.