Previews, RPGs, Tabletop Games

Review: Beta edition of the Stargate RPG

I posted some time ago about the Stargate RPG coming from Wyvern Gaming and the opportunity to do a bit of playtesting.  Not long after this post, I managed to get the game to the table, just making it under the wire before the world went on fire and all the in-person gaming sessions were outlawed.

I had a good look through the book and, sure enough, the authors have done a really good job of converting the 5E system to work relatively seamlessly with Stargate.  They’ve thrown a lot of stuff out and elaborated on other things to ensure that the fantasy elements are no longer there at all.  I know that should sound obvious, but I’ve seen a lot of ‘sci-fi’ homebrew that barely conceals the fantasy stuff.

The book itself is still pretty rough, but this is an unfinished product – though as we’ve seen recently, this does not stop me attempting a review…  Some pages, including the table of contents, are entirely blank whilst other sections are populated by lorem ipsum, a typesetter’s tool to create placeholder text in print layouts.  The only time this was really inconvenient for my group was in the missing descriptions of Jaffa equipment:

stargate jaffa lorem ipsum

This was a little annoying when one of our players was a Jaffa, but at least the really important bit – the stats for these weapons – were in the book.  Here they are, by the way:

jaffa weapons table

This is actually a good example of a weapons table.  It shows the similarities to D&D, but also some of the differences.  The weapon damage, coming from D&D, seems high, but these are firearms in a setting where being shot is going to hurt.  It should be noted that armour is generally quite high as well.  There are also some really interesting weapons, such as the Zats on that table that don’t do direct damage, but have other cool effect instead.  I really like the equipment section of the book.

Races and classes are also pretty interesting.  We’re familiar with most of the races in the book, including humans, Tok’Ra, Jaffa, and Unas.  There’s also a new raced, modelled after the Nox but without all the powers.  They are the Aturen and are pretty cool, actually.

races sg

I really like the subraces that are presented as well.  For example, as a Jaffa you have the option to have a Goa’uld symbiote in your belly, or you can be one of the Jaffa who has transitioned to using the Tretonin drug instead.  Here’s a comparison of the two:

I do think that, mechanically, the symbiote-carrying Jaffa is the stronger of the two subclasses, but for players like me for whom the narrative is more important than min-maxing, it’s nice to have the option to play as a Hak’tyl.  In a longer campaign, it would actually be cool to transition from one to the other.

There are similar subraces for the other races.  My favourite is the Tok’Ra, who choose between one of the original, ancient symbiote, or one of the newer symbiotes from the SG1 episode, ‘Cure’ (season 6, episode 10).  Again, here they are for comparison:

These feel a bit closer in terms of power than the two Jaffa variants were.  Again, there’s a lot of opportunity for good roleplay when you consider the differences between these ancient Tok’Ra and these newer, mutated symbiotes.  I like abilities that adjust what attributes to attach to skills.  I think it’s a neat, simple way to make a skill more useful.

The classes in Stargate are one of the big areas of departure from Dungeons & Dragons.  I mean, obviously, you don’t have Paladins and Warlocks running around the SGC, but that’s not quite what I meant.  I was thinking more about how classes level up.  Before going into this, here is a list of the classes available in this game:

stargate classes

The six classes cover pretty much all of the characters that have appeared on the various Stargate shows.  The book features a core group of characters that are used as representations of their classes and races, and each does use a solid combination.  We have a Jaffa soldier, a Tok’Ra diplomat, an Aturen medic, and then human characters for the scientist and engineer.  They’re a useful illustration of race/class combos.

As I said, classes are quite different in this game.  In D&D each class has a huge advancement table that takes their character from level 1 to level 20, showing what a character gets at each level.  This is a clear advancement table that then plugs into subclass options to add variety.  Not so in Stargate.  In this game, the classes only have 5 levels in their advancement tables.  Here are a few of these tables as an example:

So what happens beyond level 5?  Feats.  Feats are an optional feature of D&D that some people don’t use at all and others delve into quite heavily.  In Stargate, feats are the core character advancement after level 5.  At the time of writing, there are a good number of feats, mostly tied to specific classes.  I’m sure that more will be added, either in the final version of this book or in subsequent supplementary materials.  Here is the book’s explanation of this system:

levelling

The last bit of character creation that I really like is the origins system.  In creating your character, you choose two specific origins for your character and smush them together.   There are three categories of origin, namely Biome Origins (where you came from, such as Desert, Tundra, or Urban) Background Origins (what you did, such as Freedom Fighter or Scholar) and Racial Backgrounds (race-specific backgrounds such as Tok’Ra Spy or Tau’ri Military).  Combining two of these origins gives you a starting point for fleshing out your character and a few extra abilities, stat bonuses, or skill proficiencies.

Again, these work a lot like backgrounds in D&D, but I like this system of combination.  I like that I can have my Jaffa pilot who has lived his whole life on space ships, or my Tok’Ra Spy who is an expert in desert survival, or even my mountain-dwelling Unas who acts as a healer for her tribe.  It just works well and is my favourite part of character creation in this game.

Something else that I like is the character sheet.  This is not, I understand, the final sheet, but I love it.  Here, have a look:

I like how simple it is, and my group commented repeatedly on how easy it is to use in comparison to the D&D one.  I mean, the D&D one isn’t bad, but this is just so much easier and much more accessible.  It’s also attractive, which helps.

I’m not going to spend long on looking at the core rules of the game because it’s essentially D&D.  It’s the 5E we know and love, or at least are willing to fool around with from time to time.  It’s a decent, solid system.  I said previously that the authors of this Stargate RPG have managed to de-fantasy-ify (I know, not a word, don’t @ me!) 5E, and they have.  They’ve struck a nice balance of being different, yet familiar, and there’s more to come!  This is not a finished product.  There’s a lot of missing detail, but it will be added and things will be generally polished.

wg stargate

My own group followed one of the Gencon modules, ‘Only Fools Rush In’.  I prepared some pregenerated characters for the group.  Character creation is pretty simple, but with how unfinished the core book is, I felt that it would be frustrating or confusing for some less experienced players in the group.  Pregens seemed the way to go, especially as this was to be a one-shot adventure.

The game went really well.  Because each of them had played 5E before, they all had some sort of handle on the rules.  Those little differences were quickly picked up, and the rules really did not get in the way of gameplay.  I tend to run things pretty loosely anyway.  The central mystery or puzzle of the adventure worked really well.  It was difficult enough that it took the group time to work through, but not so difficult that they were unable to overcome it through a little bit of trial and error.  They also came up with an ideal solution all by themselves to complete a ‘bonus objective’ of sorts.

All in all, I’m delighted with this beta release of the new Stargate RPG from Wyvern Gaming.  Even as an unfinished product it is still very usable.  Basing it on 5E was an interesting choice but, given the work that’s been in, it’s one that just works.  It results in a game that is approachable for a lot of players already familiar with the system.  When the commercial release comes, I will be buying this game.  I think, had I not already played it I’d be more hesitant, but I really enjoyed this playtest.  Go check it out at Wyvern Gaming.

I feel, given how gushing this review is in places, I should say that no sponsorship or consideration was given, I just loved it.  That said, I would love the chance to get sent review copies of things and really tear into them, get them to the table for testing, and write reviews.  Not sure I have the clout at the moment, though.  Wouldn’t even know where to start!

3 thoughts on “Review: Beta edition of the Stargate RPG”

  1. Out of curiosity, have you heard anything about the Wraith being added later on? I know it’s still in production, but that would be awesome if they became characters to choose from in a later expansion or such. (sorry! I’ve only played Pathfinder three times so the word usage is no doubt off) Thank you and fabulous review!

    Like

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