GTM #228 - The Expanse Roleplaying Game
by Green Ronin Games

Launch Into The Expanse

The Expanse is an award-winning series of science-fiction novels by James S.A. Corey that has already launched a popular television series (on SyFy and now on Amazon). Now fans of The Expanse will be able to experience adventure in the far-future solar system on the tabletop in The Expanse Roleplaying Game from Green Ronin Publishing.

In The Expanse RPG, players take the roles of characters living and working in a solar system where humanity has spread out from Earth to colonize Mars, the asteroid belt, and the moons of the outer planets like Jupiter and Saturn. A now independent Mars competes with an overcrowded Earth for resources, with the Belters of the Outer Planets caught in the middle, exploited for their labor, their voices and needs ignored by the Inner Planets. Into this conflict comes the discovery of the protomolecule, viral alien technology deep within one of Saturn’s moons, with the potential to reshape the system and humanity’s future. The core game is set in the space between the first two novels of the series, Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War, offering plenty of opportunities for growth as further products explore the developments in later books in the series.

Play an Earther, who has left the cradle of the mother-world behind to find a new life out in the vast Expanse. Play a Martian, one of that proud Republic dedicated to turning the red planet green, even if it may take centuries to accomplish. Play a Belter, someone born out among the tumbling asteroids and whirling moons, into a life where hard vacuum and death is always just on the other side of a wall or hatch. Play a crew of characters living and working together on a ship or station, finding opportunity—and danger—in the System.

The Adventure Game Engine

The Expanse RPG is powered by the Adventure Game Engine or AGE system, designed by Green Ronin’s Chris Pramas and used in such games as Dragon Age, Fantasy AGE, Modern AGE, and Blue Rose Romantic Fantasy Roleplaying. The rules in The Expanse were designed in conjunction with Green Ronin’s Modern AGE rulebook for modern action-adventure, customized to fit with the style of the novels and their characters.

The AGE System uses a simple and quick-playing resolution of three six-sided dice (3d6), plus an ability score and optional ability focus modifier, compared against a difficulty or target number, to determine the outcome of actions. The fun twist is that, if the numbers shown on any two of the dice match, the roll generates a number of “stunt points” which the player can use to enhance the character’s action in a number of ways. There are stunts for combat, exploration, social interaction, even piloting and space combat! The stunt system keeps game play fast-paced but also full of interesting new elements.

The Expanse version of the AGE System introduces the concept of Fortune, treating character “hit points” as a measure of their luck and overall importance to the story, which players can use both to mitigate harm to their characters and to improve their chances of success in any given situation. But watch out! If you spend too much of your luck to succeed, you have less to avoid danger, so manage your resources carefully.

Similarly, The Expanse includes the concept of “The Churn”—the various, often cruel, shifts in fortune that characters must survive. As players use their resources and progress through the story, the Churn builds and builds, until it can potentially “churn over” and cause sudden new dramas and challenges to unfold. Does the crew take the safer and more cautious approach in hopes of avoiding this, or do they choose bold and daring, perhaps succeeding before the consequences of their actions catch up with them?

Plus, The Expanse RPG offers a complete system for creating and describing spaceships and handling ship-to-ship combat in the style of the novels. From tiny “rock hoppers” and ship’s boats to massive battleships kilometers long, the game applies the same fast-playing approach. Ships can have qualities and flaws to define their good and bad points, giving them more character, and ship combat is a team effort, with members of the crew each contributing to the process and adding to the chances of success and survival. The game also discusses the novels’ fairly realistic approach to space travel in the solar system and the concepts of mass, acceleration, and orbital mechanics, with quick references for travel and communication times across the Expanse. The core rulebook includes a fold-out poster map of the solar system for easy reference.

Opportunities for Adventure

Game groups have plenty of opportunities for adventure in The Expanse right from the beginning. The Expanse RPG contains a starter adventure, “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream,” where the characters investigate the fate of a pair of scientists who have gone missing from Tycho Station.

The Expanse QuickStart is already available and free for download from the Green Ronin Publishing website: greenronin.com/expanse. It is a great introduction to the universe and the game of The Expanse: 42 pages, including essential game rules, a crew of six pre-generated and illustrated characters, and “Cupbearer”, a complete introductory adventure where the crew investigates the whereabouts of a runaway heir from a wealthy corporate family.

The Expanse Game Master’s Kit features a sturdy three-panel cover-stock screen with essential game reference tables on one side and three pieces of evocative Expanse art on the player-facing side, game system reference cards for stunts and common actions, a dry-erase initiative tracker, a Churn tracker, and another complete adventure. In “The Ganymede Insurance Job” the crew is hired to find a criminal who has scammed Belters out of their savings, but they’re not the only ones looking for him!

That’s three adventures to immediately launch game groups into The Expanse, but plans don’t stop there! The next product for the game line is the Abzu’s Bounty campaign, a collection of six adventures designed to take a crew of characters through the first half-dozen levels of advancement. Along the way, they will visit many of the important sites in the System and become embroiled in a conspiracy that could change the fate of everyone on Earth, and beyond! Abzu’s Bounty is designed to kick-off an all-new Expanse campaign or to work in conjunction with the earlier adventures, allowing existing crews to pick it up and continue their exploration of the System. Plenty of adventure content to keep an Expanse game going, with even more adventure and opportunities planned to come as The Expanse RPG explores the events of the later books in the series.