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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Star Frontiers Ultimate Edition Updates

I have updated the Alpha Dawn, Beta Dawn, Gamma Dawn, Delta Dawn, Traders & Freighters, Star Law Campaign Book, and MedLab Campaign Book Ultimate Edition projects with the information I compiled, pretty much as they appeared when I took them from the starfrontiers.us servers last year. But most of it remains unformatted and hard to read. after I get all the book blogs filled in, I will go through and properly format them. I still have yet to do anything on the Epsilon Dawn, Knight Hawks Campaign Book, Explorer's Survival Guide, and Lambda 500 projects.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Knight Hawks Vector Review

It's no secret that I have no affinity for its author, but I finally took the time to give an objective review of the Knight Hawks Vector (KHV) rules. When I first looked through it a couple of years ago, it seemed very confusing to me. I initially thought that it was the math, but now that I have examined it, I realize that the reason is more complex than that.

First and foremost, it does not tell you that this is just a supplement of Knight Hawks in the vain of Zebulon's Guide. The KHV rules are meant to be added on to the original books. It is not a rewrite. This point is the most confusing part about it. While I was looking for ship construction rules, there really aren't any. The adjustments to the ship construction rules are found at the back of the book instead of the front, where they belong. The name "Ship Construction" for the first chapter is misleading. Instead it should be titled "More Spaceship Types".

Next, KHV lacks any conversational manner to keep your attention. Not to be offensive, but the result is that it is very dry, like an overcooked pork roast. While RPG and boardgame rules cover rules information, they need to be provided more explanation and reading to divert you from the dry information. This is why instruction manuals are so hard to stay awake while reading. A rulebook should not be simply an instruction manual. It should be entertaining to read so as to make you want to play the game. KHV is not.

Another point is that it lacks a table of contents or index. This makes it difficult to find what you need. This, however, can be easily and quickly remedied.

Speaking of finding what you need, the information is not in the order of either of the original books. While it starts out with the spaceship types, similar to the KH Campaign Guide, it quickly diverges. Instead of covering Space Station Types or Spaceship Hulls, which is what you would expect, it instead covers "Ship Systems". You don't even know how to create or understand ships yet, but the order suggests that you're supposed to go straight to the ship's systems. It's anti-intuitive. This is likely why I so quickly got lost in the document.

Along those lines, it does not clearly distinguish between what it is adding on and its alternate rules.

Further problems are found in its tables. First, the tables it does have are badly formatted, causing your eye not to be able to focus on them. And there are no summary tables providing stats and costs except in the weapons tables. Instead, the stats and costs are provided solely in the descriptions, which makes trying to use them tedious. Their stats and costs must be tabled for quick reference and ease of use. Some of the weapon tables just coincidentally happen to look grouped, just because the page is formatted as a single column.

Another table problem is that instead of relying upon the simple math of just providing the cost and minimum hull size to calculate the cost, every cost is provided. Additionally, weapons are given 10 sizes, unrelated to hull size. This complicates ship construction more than it needs to be.

Also, the technical information and terms on the new devices is not information that should be provided in a rulebook. It's not the place of rules to tell people how things work in reality; we don't need to know the engine types of missiles, it just unnecessarily complicates things. Rules should only cover the mechanics of the device within the game.

Finally, the math, as I initially grasped through my perusal a couple of years ago, is unnecessarily complicated. To give an example, on page 13 in the rulebook it says: " A good way of getting an estimate of this is to take a the cube root of a ships volume, square it, then multiply by 6 (size 1 hull cube root is 5m, size 2 is 10m, and so forth counting by fives.) In short, multiply the ship's hull rate number by 5, multiply that number by itself, then multiply by 6000. This will give you the cost in credits." The words "in short" in no way simplify this equation. To put it simply, find a new way to do it that keeps game play and ship generation simple or dump it.

Though this review is meant to be unbiased, as a last statement, I will indulge in turning the tables and revisit the author's own words upon him by saying confidently that Knight Hawks Vector is a poorly written document. In all, it is confusing and far more complicated than it needs to be, and would likely never get published by a game company. It needs to be rewritten, and essentially redesigned entirely. It's just not good game design. The actual vector movement rules are the only redeeming aspect to these rules, though I think it may be possible to do even that more effectively.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Upcoming Articles

I just wanted to update about the status of things. Larry and I have been working to help flesh out a robot character for my robots article coming in a future issue of the magazine. It's currently in his hands undergoing what should  be the final revision. Besides the robot article, I have submitted a playable version of the Zethra race, and a revised and expanded article about Star Law and creating and playing Star Law characters. I also have some art that's almost done for issue #13, though I still need to iron out some details. It's so easy to get burned out doing art, so I have to keep after myself to do it.

I am currently working on an Background/Personality article for helping players flesh out their character randomly or just to inspire ideas. It will generate more character bios than there are people on earth. Besides that, I'm bringing all the old Sage Advice, Star Questions, and Dispel Confusion Q&As into a single comprehensive and updated Q&A document. Lastly, I'm also working on a revised psionics article. There are many other articles on my computer waiting to be written, but these are the ones I've been working on.

If you would like to help me playtest my articles, be sure to let me know. I'm not interested in running Knight Hawks games unless they are more focused on Alpha Dawn roleplaying. Speaking of which, I have been trying to do a full revision and expansion of my previous articles about space fighters and scaled space flight. I will be dividing up parts of both articles into different articles. One will be about KH subsizes (including engines), one reintroducing my fighter/bomber weapons (including the weapons allotments for size 1 and 2 vehicles/spaceships; also targeting systems, though I may do those separately), one will be about small space fighters, one on bombers, one on civilian atmospheric, transatmospheric, and space vehicles, another covering ship's system packages (perhaps for all sizes), one regarding special combat actions and strategies, another on sliding scale spaceflight and mapping (which will also include roleplaying instructions, as they will be presented as I discovered that it is an indispensable part of multiple scale combat), and finally I might be revisiting three dimensional mapping.

So keep an eye out and don't forget that playtesters are always necessary.and welcome.