Sunday, March 22, 2020

Combat in Legionnaire

Art by Ed Emshwiller

The 'combat' section of Legionnaire assures us that combat is “fairly simple.”  Note the use of “fairly” as a qualifier.  While simple compared to other Renegade Legion games – which Legionnaire asserts, “could prove to be more cumbersome than you wish” – Legionnaire combat may be less than streamlined.  Yet, who am I to judge?  Decide for yourself.

Combat occurs in a series of rounds lasting ten seconds each.  During a round, each character can move as well as perform an action (such as using a weapon, using a device, “study an opponent or area,” picking up an object, etc.).  A character can conduct “...movement and action in any manner that he wishes.”  There are four options for movement:  sprint, run, walk, and crawl.  While sprinting, a character moves a number of meters per round equal to that character's Speed.  The running rate is half of Speed, walking is one-quarter of Speed, and crawling is one-tenth.

Many games combine the concepts of Dexterity, Agility, and Speed into a single attribute.  In Legionnaire, they are separate attributes and each has a distinct function in combat.  Attacking uses Dexterity, defending uses Agility, and initiative is determined using Speed.  Specifically, at the beginning of combat, the initiative of each participant is determined by adding the result of 1d10 to the participant's Speed.  Initiative does not change for the duration of the combat.

All actions are simultaneous – sort of.  “Starting with the character with the lowest initiative,” we learn, “each player declares his actions for that round.”  As soon as a character's action is declared, any character who has not yet declared for that round can attempt to 'pre-empt' the declared action.  To be successful, the pre-empter must roll 1d10 and the result must be less than the difference between the two initiative scores.  A result of 1 always succeeds; 10 always fails.  If successful, the pre-empter resolves his (or her) action immediately, superseding the simultaneity of other actions.  Each character can attempt no more than one pre-emption per round.  Of course, a successful pre-emption doesn't mean the action that the pre-empter attempts will be successful.  More than one character can attempt to pre-empt the same action.  It is even possible to pre-empt a character attempting to pre-empt an action – a pre-pre-empt, so to speak.  Although the rules don't mention it, one presumes the possibility of a ponderous chain of attempts to pre-empt other pre-empt attempts.  If a pre-empt attempt fails, the Agility of the would-be pre-empter is halved for the remainder of the round and the character declares his (or her) action in normal initiative order.

To resolve a ranged attack, the attacker adds any situational modifiers and appropriate skill levels to his (or her) Agility, from this the defender's (possibly modified) Dexterity is subtracted.  The result is the number or less which the attacker must roll on 1d10.  As with pre-emption attempts, a roll of 10 fails and a roll of 1 succeeds.  However, with a result of 10, “a 1D10 saving roll against Luck must be made to see if the weapon jammed (or the bow string broke, etc.).”  The weapon is 'cleared' in one round with “a 2D10 skill check against IQ and the weapon skill.”  Failure to 'clear' the weapon means “the weapon is broken and will require Repair Tech, Small Equipment skill (along with suitable equipment) to fix it.”

Resolving a melee attack is handled similarly, but with additional details.  First, “Melee combat can occur between characters who start a round within 10 meters of each other.”  One supposes that characters possess sufficient Speed to close the distance.  A melee weapon may have inherent offensive and defensive modifiers.  A character can allocate melee weapon skill levels between attack and defense.  However, “Levels in a Martial Arts skills can be used both offensively and defensively at the same time.”

When an attack is successful, injury location is determined by rolling 2d10 and consulting the appropriate Hit Location Table – either Aimed or Random.  The Random Table is used when an attack is unaimed, such as “explosions and other area effect weapon fire.”  The difference between the two tables is that the “Aimed table is weighted toward the less vital areas of the body, so that skill is usually required to hit a vulnerable area when using it.”  An Aimed table result can be modified in either direction by an amount equal to the attacker's skill level.  Upper torso hits suffer double damage while strikes to the head suffer triple damage.  One of two 'simpler options' states, “Hit locations can be ignored.”

Damage is inflicted as a fixed amount.  For instance, a Protector Laser Pistol inflicts 6 damage; a dagger inflicts 1+SD.  (SD refers to Strength Damage, which equals Strength/6, rounded down.)  Armor Factor reduces damage inflicted, but not via simple subtraction.  Instead, “the hit's damage is divided by the [armor factor] of that armor (round down).”  Fortunately, “The Armor Factor Table provides the results for most attacks.”  Heavier armor can affect attributes depending upon the location of the armor.  Upper limb armor can reduce Strength and Dexterity; lower limb armor can reduce Agility and Speed.  Armor factor 6 reduces attributes by 2 while armor factor 12 reduces attributes by 4.

The rules provide the following insight:  “Anytime a character takes damage, he's hurt.”  Damage is subtracted from a character's Constitution.  Once Constitution is negative, “a character is in danger of dying.”  Death ensues if damage reaches a negative amount equal to twice Constitution.  There are four wound intensities, numbered zero through three, based on the amount of Constitution lost from a given attack.  A loss of one or two Constitution points is a “light wound.”  Otherwise, a loss of up to half a character's normal Constitution is a “moderate wound.”  More than half and up to a character's normal Constitution is a “serious wound.”  A wound greater than a character's normal Constitution is classified as “near death.”  Wounds must be stabilized in order to be treated; stabilization is rendered more difficult as wound intensity increases.

Whenever damage reduces a character's Constitution, the character must make a consciousness check.  In other words, if the result of 1d10 exceeds the character's reduced Constitution, the character “collapses, unconscious or in shock.”  As usual, 1 always succeeds, 10 always fails.  With the second of two 'simpler options' in effect, consciousness checks are not made; a character is unconscious only when Constitution falls below zero.  Absent medical assistance, a character “remains unconscious for a length of time determined by the Unconsciousness Table.”

As an optional rule, on the round after injury, Dexterity and Agility are reduced.  The amount of Constitution lost is divided as evenly as possible between Dexterity and Agility.  In the event of an odd amount of  Constitution loss, the damaged character decides which attribute is afflicted with the extra point.  “Keeping track of the numbers as they shift can be tricky,” the rules inform us, “but it adds a dimension to combat that could make a one-on-one slugfest more interesting.”

During character generation, it is possible for a character to suffer a previous injury which can reduce attributes depending on the specific hit location.  For example, intense damage to the head can reduce Intelligence and Charisma; intense damage to the upper torso can reduce Constitution and Strength.  The 'effect of injury' is determined by rolling 2d10 on a chart and indexing the result by wound intensity.  There are six possibilities, the least of which is, “The wound heals normally without permanent effect.”  The worst possibility requires a “4D10 Saving roll against Luck.”  If failed, applicable attributes are reduced by three times the wound intensity.  As an additional optional rule, these 'previous injury' rules can also be applied to wounds inflicted during play.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Aliens in Legionnaire

Like any self-respecting space opera role-playing game, Legionnaire presents a selection of intelligent, alien species.  Player characters can come from any of the species examined in this post.  “A player should decide upon to create an alien creature before he starts rolling attributes or assigning points to attributes,” we are told.  In terms of game mechanics, alien player characters modify attributes in accordance with the Attribute Modifier Table.  Alien characters automatically possess certain culturally-taught skills (presumably only if they meet a given skill's Intelligence prerequisite).  Also, there are 'difficult' skills for each alien species.  These skills can be learned normally; however, when such skills are used, an additional die is added to the difficulty.

Art by Jim Holloway
As a species, the Naram are remarkably similar to humans, in fact, “...only expensive and difficult DNA mapping can actually distinguish between Humans and Naram.”  As such, they can interbreed.  Unlike Humans, the Naram have been civilized for more than 300,000 years.

It turns out that “Terran Mayans were actually a Naram colony.”  Mayan civilization 'disappeared' when they returned to their homeworld and became a quasi-religious movement.

Naram characters have +3 Charisma but –3 Luck.  They have Seduction as a culturally-taught skill and Interrogation and Urban Environmental Survival as difficult skills.

Art by Jim Holloway
Ssora are warm-blooded, lizardlike creatures who average a meter and a half in height and 70 kilos in weight.  While bipedal, they rely on their prehensile tail for balance.  The tail is interesting in that it ends in two fleshy pincers that can hold tools or delivery a nasty pinch.
“Because of the similarity between Ssora and Terran mitochondrial RNA,” it is theorized that Ssora “evolved on Earth and left in migration ships for the far side of the galaxy.”

Ssora characters suffer a modifier of –3 on Charisma, Dexterity, and Strength.  They have a +4 modifier for Speed (reaction speed only) and +5 Agility.  Ssora have Bureaucracy, Protocol, and Swindling as culturally-taught skills and Cryptography, Climbing, and Swimming as difficult skills.

“Often described as devious,” we learn, “Ssora are unswervingly loyal to friends, which makes them one of the more dependable species.”

Art by Jim Holloway
For the first three thousand years of Human/KessRith contact, the KessRith were implacable foes who neither granted quarter or expected it.  Since that time, they have also proven powerful and loyal allies of the Commonwealth.  Their fatalistic outlook on life colors everything they are and do, but their sense of humor mocks this more serious side of their nature.
It seems that KessRith did not develop faster-than-light travel independently, they “co-opted the technology from the Ssora.”

KessRith naturally possess an Armor Factor of 2 as a result of head-to-tail plates.  (The rules describe the plates as bony, but later indicates they are fleshy.)  KessRith suffer a –3 modifier for Agility, Charisma, Constitution, and Luck, but enjoy a +5 modifier for Strength and Dexterity.  They also have +4 Speed (land speed only).  Culturally-taught skills include Blade and Tactics.  Difficult skills are Bounce Pack Operations (“Bounce packs are anti-gravity devices worn on the back of infantry troops”), Seduction, Garrote, Swimming, Zero-G Ops, and Zero-G Martial Arts.

Art by Jim Holloway
Baufrin are an insectoid species, having two pairs of manipulatory limbs as well as “mandibles, six eyes, and five pairs of mobile limbs.”  Each pair of eyes are sensitive to a different electro-magnetic range.

Baufrin exoskeletons have an Armor Factor of 3.  They undergo a molting process every eight years.  We learn, “This molting process and occurs after the Baufrin enters a period of fertile, sexual frenzy.”  After molting, a Baufrin adopts a new personality, often forgetting their prior personality.

Baufrin characters receive a +5 modifier to Dexterity and a +3 modifier to Agility.  They have a –5 modifier to Charisma and a –2 modifier to Speed (land speed only).  Electronics and Repair Tech are culturally-taught skills.  Repair Tech requires an Intelligence of 13, so one wonders why Baufrin do not have a positive modifier to that attribute.  Brawling, Martial Arts and Wrestling/Club are difficult skills.

Art by Jim Halloway
This species is original to Legionnaire.  Menelvagoreans are divided into five 'breeds' or castes.  In descending order of societal prominence, these castes are:  Warriors, Pathfinders, Rockshapers, Drones, and Philosophers.  Little is known of the non-Warrior castes since, presumably, only Warriors tend to interact with alien species.  The Menelvagorean 'physical characteristics' described by the Legionnaire rules represent only the Warrior caste.

Although Menelvagoreans (or at least Warriors) have “bony skin (akin to that of an armadillo),” it evidentially does not provide any armor value. “Menelvagoreans slough their flesh every nine years or so,” we learn, “corresponding to one complete orbit of their world.”

Menelvagoreans have a +5 modifier to Dexterity and +3 modifiers to Constitution and Strength.  They also have a –5 modifier to Charisma and –3 modifiers to Luck and Agility.  Their culturally-taught skill is Martial Arts; difficult skills are Research and Xenobiology.

Art by Jim Holloway
This is another species original to Legionnaire.
The Vauvusar are four-armed, bipedal aliens with a tail.  Their eyes are set on either side of their enormous head, much like a hammerhead shark.  Because they evolved from amphibious creatures used to grazing on surface-floating creatures, their “head” is largely mouth – their brains sit in the upper part of their chests.  A Vauvusar's arms are not particularly strong, but they are capable of quick movement – so quick, in fact, that no wise human plays in a card game with a Vauvusar dealer.
Vauvusar have a +5 modifier to Constitution and a +4 modifier to Speed (reaction speed only); however, they have –3 modifiers to Charisma, Luck, and Strength.  Culturally-taught skills for Vauvusar characters include Negotiation, Protocol, Scuba, Strategy, and Swimming.  Difficult skills for Vauvusar characters are Ambush, Seduction, and Swindling.

Art by Jim Holloway
This is yet another species original to Legionnaire.

Zogs “have been likened to a short gorilla upholstered in Gila monster skin.”  They undergo three moltings during their lifespan.  During the molting process, a Zog's “flesh stiffens into a chitinous cocoon within which the Zog lives, surviving off the stored fat, for up to three months.”  According to legend, on rare occasion, Zogs emerge from chrysalis as “tall, golden-skinned, human looking immortals with magical powers, that go to live within the planet's core.”  There is no evidence that such golden immortals exist.  Yet somehow, within the fifty years between the first and second contacts with aliens, Zog civilization improved from pre-industrial to “a technological level equivalent, in certain places, to 23rd-century Earth.”

Zogs have +3 modifiers to Agility, Dexterity, and Strength, but –3 modifiers to Charisma, Constitution, and Luck.  Zogs have no culturally-taught skills, but difficult skills include Negotiation, Research, Seduction, and Swindling.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Let's Generate A Legionnaire Character!

Art by Roger Loveless
“Creating a character is a matter of several simple steps,” page 8 of the Legionnaire rulebook states, “It is important that these steps be followed in their listed order.”  The first step is determining primary attributes.  By rolling 2d10 for each value, we obtain the following results:

AG: 14     CH: 7     CN: 14     DX: 16     IQ: 6     LK: 14     SP: 9     ST: 17

As a reflection of his low intellect, we will call this character Stultus.  An intelligence value of only 6 presents an obstacle for generating a well-rounded character because each career path requires a minimum IQ of at least 8.  Although he cannot engage upon a career, Stultus can still acquire 9 points of skills (i.e., IQ value + 3).  Stultus will be 21 years old (i.e., [skill points / 2] + 17).

Each skill has a prerequisite intelligence value, so the number of skills available to Stultus is necessarily limited.  With nine points we can purchase nine skills at one level each.  From the IQ 2 skills we choose Archery, Blade, Brawling, Knife, and Laser Firearms.  From the IQ 3 skills we choose Projectile Firearms, Swimming, and Wrestling.  Finally, we choose a “Career Skill” from the IQ 6 skills.  Career Skills “cover any sort of job that can be performed by a semi-intelligent creature” (but not jobs covered by other skills).  We may as well specify 'RPG Designer' as Stultus' Career Skill.  Anyway...

Let's Generate Another Legionnaire Character!

Another round of dice rolling provides us with the following values:

AG: 11     CH: 18     CN: 13     DX: 10     IQ: 12     LK: 12     SP: 11     ST: 11

We'll call this character Septimus Aquilae.  In Legionnaire, there are two types of career paths, military and intelligence.  For Septimus, we shall select Insurgency / Counter-Insurgency Agent, one of the intelligence paths.
      The Insurgency / Counter-Insurgency agent is effectively a blend between a well trained soldier and a deep cover agent.  In the insurgency role this agent is capable of raising, training and leading a resistance group on an enemy occupied planet.  As a counter-insurgency expert this character is capable of meeting a guerilla group on their own terms and defeating them.
This career requires a minimum IQ of 12 and a minimum DX of 10.  The skill point cost is 12 and it adds six years to Septimus' age.  He acquires the following skills:  Ambush, Communications (P-Comm), Demolitions, Drop Pod Operations, Environmental Survival (choose two), Leadership, Martial Arts (choose one), Negotiation, Projectile Firearms, Scavenger / Tinker, Security Tech, Stealth, Support Weapons, Tracking, and Training.  P-Comm refers to “Phase-Polarization Communications System,” a method of faster-than-light communication.  For the Environmental Survival options, we'll choose Urban and Temperate.  (“Urban Survival covers the savvy and streetwise skills to survive in the rougher urban areas of a world.”)  For Martial Arts, we'll select Karate.  With Septimus' remaining three skill points, he gets one level each in Tactics (Ground), Medtech, and – given his high Charisma – Swindling.

Although 'rank' is not recorded on the character sheet, one must determine rank as part of a character's career duration.  For intelligence careers, we roll 2d10 and consult Rank Table 6.  A result of 16 means ten 'points' of rank; equivalent to a rank of lieutenant in the Commonwealth armed forces.  Septimus must 'earn' ten rank points by rolling on the Previous Experience tables.  Each pass through the tables adds a year to the character's age.  Each result has instructions to follow and a line or two of flavor text “descriptive of a uniformed soldier's life.”  Before each pass, a player must choose two skills (first and second choice) and two Primary Attributes (first and second choice) that may be improved.

For Septimus' first pass we'll choose Dexterity (1st) and Agility (2nd) for attributes and Projectile Firearms (1st) and Security Tech (2nd) for skills.  (Previous Experience charts cannot improve an attribute values beyond 18, so we may not choose Charisma.)  The first roll is 8 (“You put the year to good use, working hard at your training.”):  both skills improve but no rank points are received.

For the second pass, we'll keep the same attributes but choose Leadership (1st) and Negotiation (2nd) for skills.  The roll is 18 (“Pressed into service in a position you do not normally occupy, you perform admirably.”):  the second choice skill increases by 2 and one other skill increases by 1.  “Other” skills are determined randomly.  Since Septimus has 19 skills, there are 17 possibilities.  We roll 1d20 and ignore results over 17.

For the third pass, we choose Ambush (1st) and Stealth (2nd) for skills.  The roll is 9 (“You've had a more exiting time watching clouds form than you did in this year of service.”):  1st choice skill increases by 1.

For the fourth pass, we choose Leadership (1st) and Medtech (2nd) for skills.  The roll is 4 (“You ran into unexpected trouble in a supposedly safe zone.”):  the second choice skill increases by 2 and one other skill increases by 1.  Also, 2 rank points are earned.

For the fifth pass, we choose Leadership (1st) and Swindling (2nd) for skills.  The roll is 4 again.

For the sixth pass, we choose Leadership (1st) and Tactics (Ground) (2nd) for skills.  The roll is 9 again.

For the seventh pass, we choose Scavenger / Tinker (1st) and Stealth (2nd) for skills.  The roll is 9 for the third time.  Bored yet?

For the eighth pass, we choose Training (1st) and Stealth (2nd) for skills.  The roll is 12 (“If boredom was an ore, you hit the Mother Lode this year.”):  the second choice skill increases by 1.  Is the game becoming self-aware?

For the ninth pass, we choose Training (1st) and Security Tech (2nd) for skills.  The roll is 6, which directs us to another chart, specifically 2B.  For this new chart, the roll is 12 (“Fighting to keep your rations down is the most battling you do this tour.”):  second choice skill and second choice attribute both increase by 1.  Also, 3 rank points are earned.

For the tenth pass, we keep the same attributes but choose Karate (1st) and Projectile Firearms (2nd) for skills.  The roll is 9 for the fourth time.

For the eleventh pass, we keep the same attributes but choose Training (1st) and Tactics (Ground) (2nd) for skills.  The roll is 15 (“An action in which you figured prominently made the media broadcasts.  You're a star!  More importantly, so were your superior officers!”):  Both skill choices increase by 1.  Five rank points are earned, meaning Septimus has reached his quota.  Also, the character earns a Prestige point.

Prestige is a “special attribute . . . developed by David L. Arneson, and is used with his permission.”  It “reflects a character's reputation among others in the Renegade Legion universe.”  Normally, Prestige is accumulated during play, but some points may be gained during generation through a character's family, military unit, or previous experience charts.

Another “special attribute is called the Edge and is a reflection of the intangible difference between true heroes and normal individuals.”  We learn that, “Each point of the Edge can 'buy' a new die roll during a game.”  A character begins with a number of Edge points equal to 2d10 – 13.  Septimus begins with –2 Edge.  He can acquire a positive Edge via experience.

This leaves us with:

Septimus Aquilae

AG: 12     CH: 18     CN: 13     DX: 10     IQ: 12     LK: 12     SP: 11     ST: 11

Ambush 2, Communications (P-Comm) 1, Demolitions 2, Drop Pod Operations 1, Environment Survival (Temperate) 1, Environment Survival (Urban) 2, Leadership 2, Martial Arts (Karate) 2, Medtech 4, Negotiation 3, Projectile Firearms 2, Scavenger / Tinker 2, Security Tech 2, Stealth 2, Support Weapons 1, Swindling 3, Tactics (Ground) 2, Tracking 1, Training 2

Age:  35

Prestige:  1

The Edge:  –2

Sunday, February 2, 2020

In the battle between good and evil, this one counts!

Art by Jim Holloway

In the '80s, FASA produced several games based on licensed properties and did so with reasonable success (other than that one).  FASA hoped to obtain the license to produce games based on the Star Wars property; however, the license went to West End Games.  This left FASA with the basis of a space battle combat system but unable to publish that system for the intended setting.  As such, FASA came up with an original setting.  The 'Renegade Legion' background is essentially the Roman Empire in space.  While Star Wars features a rebel alliance against an evil galactic empire, Renegade Legion has an alliance of humans and aliens (the Commonwealth) against an evil galactic empire (the Terran Overlord Government).  As a result of these opposing forces, we get the rather lackluster tagline, “In the battle between good and evil, this one counts!”

The first Renegade Legion product was 1987's Interceptor, a space ship war game.  FASA produced other war games for the franchise.  In 1990, FASA published Legionnaire, a role-playing game based in the Renegade Legion setting and compatible with the prior games.  Is 1990 too recent to be considered 'old school'?  It's thirty years old, but it's just recent enough for it not to be cataloged in Lawrence Schick's Heroic Worlds.  Cherished readers with a strong opinion one way or the other are invited to comment.  Regardless, Legionnaire certainly has some 'old school' connections.

Legionnaire was designed by Tunnels & Trolls stalwarts Michael A. Stackpole and James “Bear” Peters.  It is therefore not surprising there are similarities between the two games.  Legionnaire characters have eight Primary Attributes:  Agility, Charisma, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Luck, Speed, and Strength.  There are few differences from the Prime Attributes of the contemporaneous T&T rules.  Legionnaire separates T&T Dexterity into Dexterity (aptitude with “fine motor skills”) and Agility (aptitude with “gross motor skills”).  Legionnaire also has Speed, an attribute which T&T would adopt in later editions.

The “basic value” for each Primary Attribute is determined by adding the results of 2d10.  Alternately, a player may allocate 88 points among the eight Primary Attributes.  Using the allocation method, “No attribute can have a value below 5 or above 17.”

After Primary Attribute values are determined, players select skills for their characters.  The Legionnaire skill system approximates that which Stackpole developed for T&T.  Each character has a number of skill points equal to his or her Intelligence value plus three.  Each skill requires a minimum Intelligence value; as examples, Gambling requires at least 4 Intelligence, Cryptography requires at least 15.  Some skills also require minimum values with other attributes.  For instance, Escape Artist requires a minimum value of 13 in each of Intelligence, Agility, and Dexterity.
It costs 1 skill point to purchase a skill at level 1.  Extra skill levels can be purchased at a cost, in skill points, equal to the sum of the levels up to and including that level.  i.e., level 2 costs 2 more points, for a total of 3 points.  Level 3 costs 6 points (1 + 2 + 3), 3 points more than level 2.  Level 8 costs 8 points more than level 7, or a total of 36 points.
The basic mechanic for Legionnaire is to roll a number of dice and compare the total result to a specified number.  Exceeding said number indicates failure.  The specified number is either a character's attribute (for saving rolls) or an appropriate skill level added to an appropriate attribute (for skill checks).  Difficulty is expressed by the number of dice to be rolled.  Minimum difficulty is 1d10; extreme difficulty is “6D10 or more.”

Every two skill points represents a year of time which is added to a character's base age of 17.  However, we learn that, “A good background story for a character can be rewarded by granting the character a skill or two for free.”  Such a reward “should be limited to two skill points worth of skills.”

Legionnaire offers 'career packages' from which characters can obtain a number of reasonably related skills at a discount.  For instance, the career package for a marine officer provides twelve skills for only nine points.  Only four years are added to the character's age (as opposed to six).  However, career packages require minimum attribute values.  The marine officer package requires a value of ten in each of Intelligence, Dexterity, and Agility.  The career packages in Legionnaire are limited to military or intelligence.  However, characters are not required to take a career package.  Also, rules are provided for creating original career packages.

In the next post, we will continue our exploration of the Legionnaire character generation system.