Tabletop Gaming: The Savage Expanse

Savage Worlds roleplaying in the world of James S.A. Corey

This is a Work-in-Progess towards a roleplaying campaign set in the world of The Expanse, using the Savage Worlds RPG system. As well as a copy of the core Savage Worlds rules, you’ll also need the Science Fiction Companion in order to run this.

Races

Much of the tension in The Expanse comes from the interplay between the three “races” of humanity. Although it’s kind of glossed over in the TV show, there are clearly differences in each of the three, given the environments they grow up in.

Earthers

Earthers are basically the same as 21st century humans, but because the “baseline” of humanity in The Expanse is pretty much people living in space, let’s assume that Earthers have an advantage in that they grow up on a 1g planet, so they have more physical strength that characters from Mars or the Belt. (In the show, it’s fairly clear that both Holden and Amos are physically stronger than most of the people around them, the only exception being Bobbi, who has been trained to operate in 1g).

Earthers start with a free d6 in Strength.

Martians

It’s frequently stated that Mars has the best scientists and their tech in the most advanced in the system. So let’s assume their educational system is the best.

Martians start with a free d6 in Smarts.

Belters

Those born in the Belt are significantly under-privileged compared to Earthers and Martians, but growing up so close to the edge of space they have a strong sense of adventure and community.

Belters start with a free d6 in Spirit.

Weapons

Small arms in The Expanse are basically smart versions of current personal weaponry. The most commonly seen weapons are pistols, mainly 9 mm types, with the exception of Miller’s handgun, which appears to be similar to a .357 Magnum. Pistols make a lot of sense — in a spaceship or base with a low or zero g environment, having a hand free to help guide you around can be extremely useful.

Shotguns and SMGs are also weapons we see frequently. This would make sense in the confined spaceship and planetary base areas where a lot of the action in The Expanse takes place. Long range rifles have little usefulness in these environments, and the extra barrel length is more likely to get in the way. Also you don’t really want large-bore armor-piercing bullets flying around while you are inside a tin can.

We do see assault rifles used by marines and security teams where they might be going planet-side and need a bit more range and accuracy. I’d assume these to be modern 5.56 mm type because you still need fairly easy-to-handle smallish weapons. Even then, these would still tend to be on the rarer side.

Both the UN and the MCRN have powered armor for their marines. We don’t have a lot of info on the UN Reaver system, but here’s the Martian Goliath Powered Armor as shown on the show, built using the rules in the SF Companion. Note: since we see Bobbi getting shot repeatedly by pistol fire and not even getting scratched, we can assume that this armor can take at least 2d6 damage without any danger, so Armor +14 seems plausible.

MCRN Marine Corps Goliath Powered Armor

Heavy power_armor: Size 3, Pace 8 (20 mph, 31 kph), Armor +14, Crew 0, Cost $2.12M ($2,121,000), Remaining Mods 0, Weapon Mounts 0

Notes: 2x Pace, 2x Weapon Mount, Armor, Jump Pack, Magnetic Pads, Self Sealing, Sensor Suite, Strength Enhancement, Targeting System
Weapons:

  • Grenade Launcher (24/48/96, 3d6, ROF 3, HW. LBT. Grenades cost $50 and weigh .25 pounds each. They are the same as the grenades listed on page 20 and may be thrown as well.)
  • Minigun (24/48/96, 2d8+4, ROF 4, AP 3, Auto, HW. An additional 1000 round drum of ammunition weighs 20 pounds and costs $1000.)

Since Martian tech is more advanced that Earth tech, let’s assume Reaver armor isn’t as good. Also we see Earth marines on Ganymede running rapidly on the ground and carrying small arms, so let’s assume it doesn’t have built-in jump jets or weapon mounts like the Martians have, but can move pretty fast. Assume each marine carries a hand-held 5.56 assault rifle as a primary weapon and some grenades attached to the armor. Armor +8 isn’t going to stand up to sustained small arms fire, but it’s certainly going to give you an advantage long enough for you to put an enemy down first.

UN Marine Corps Reaver Powered Armor

Light power_armor: Size 1, Pace 8 (20 mph, 31 kph), Armor +8, Crew 0, Cost $545.00K ($545,000), Remaining Mods 0
Notes: Magnetic Pads, Self Sealing, Sensor Suite, Strength Enhancement, Targeting System

Spaceships

A very great deal of the action in The Expanse takes place on board various spaceships. Luckily it’s quite easy to build ships for the game using the construction rules in the SF Companion, with a few caveats:

  1. Speeds in the SF Companion are ludicrously out of scale. If you build a ship like the Rocinante using the SF Companion it will give you a speed of around 2000 km per hour. At that speed, travelling from Jupiter to Saturn (constantly, without even dealing with acceleration and deceleration times) would take over 120 years. So get even close to the real speeds given in The Expanse you need to convert all speeds to km per second instead of per hour. And even then you need to add a 0 to the end. That will get you closer to the speeds given in the series. Your best bet is to simply hand-wave it though.
  2. There’s no FTL in The Expanse. When building ships, treat the “FTL Drive” as an Epstein drive and it works out about right.
  3. Sensors in the SF Companion are either too short (Planetary goes out to 10k, Galactic to 1 light year!). Assume anything bigger than a Dropship requires Planetary sensors and hand-wave the range.
  4. Since The Expanse is very much a “pseudo-realistic” series there are no energy shields and basically no laser weaponry. Most ship-mounted weapons are either 40mm PDCs (Heavy Autocannons), Torpedoes, or Railguns (Mass Drivers). Note that since torpedoes are explosive weapons they have a minimum usable range in The Expanse. If you use them while you are too close to an enemy you will also blow yourself up. So generally torpedoes are used at long range only, with PDCs and Railguns used at short range.
  5. Calculating weaponry targeting is impossible for a human being to do directly, so if your ship mounts any weaponry it needs a Targeting Computer to function effectively.
  6. The shipbuilding system given in the SF Companion does not scale well to larger ships. For example, the OPAS Behemoth mounts 170 PDCs — good luck rolling the dice for that :-)

Sample Spaceships

Bulk Freighter

Large starship: Size 12, Acc/TS 40/500 (1200 mph, 1932 kph), Climb 1, Toughness 34 (8) , Crew 10, Cost $47.03M ($47,030,000), Remaining Mods 25
Notes: 4x Crew Reduction, FTL Drive, Sensor Suite (Planetary), Superstructure (Bulk Cargo, Vacuum)

MCRN Chariot-type Dropship

Small starship: Size 6, Acc/TS 50/700 (1680 mph, 2704 kph), Climb 3, Toughness 20 (5) , Crew 1, Cost $2.96M ($2,965,000), Remaining Mods 6
Notes: 2x Passenger Pod, 3x Missile Launcher, Atmospheric, Targeting System
Weapons:

  • Heavy Autocannon (75/150/300, 4d8, ROF 3, AP 8, Auto, HW. Covers 31 to 50mm rounds)
  • Heavy MG (2) (50/100/200, 2d10, ROF 3, AP 4, Auto, HW. A 200 round belt of ammo costs $500 and weighs 20 pounds.)
  • 8x Heavy/AT Missiles (200/400/800, 8d6, ROF 1, AP 15, HW, MBT.)

MCRN Morrigan-class Patrol Destroyer

Medium starship: Size 8, Acc/TS 45/600 (1440 mph, 2318 kph), Climb 2, Toughness 39 (20) , Crew 8, Cost $9.30M ($9,300,000), Remaining Mods 0
Notes: 2x Torpedo Tube, 3x Crew Space, 7x Armor, AMCM, Sensor Suite (Planetary), Targeting System
Weapons:

  • 16x Light Torpedos (Fixed to bow; 300/600/1200, 8d12, ROF 1, AP 40, HW, LBT.)
  • 2x Heavy Autocannons (75/150/300, 4d8, ROF 3, AP 8, Auto, HW. Covers 31 to 50mm rounds)

MCRN Corvette-class (Rocinante)

Large starship: Size 12, Acc/TS 40/500 (1200 mph, 1932 kph), Climb 1, Toughness 41 (14) , Crew 30, Cost $49.98M ($49,980,000), Remaining Mods 0
Notes: 2x Crew Reduction, 2x Torpedo Tube, 3x Armor, AMCM, FTL Drive, Sensor Suite (Planetary), Sloped Armor, Targeting System
Weapons:

  • 24x Light Torpedos (Fixed to bow; 300/600/1200, 8d12, ROF 1, AP 40, HW, LBT.)
  • 6x Heavy Autocannons (75/150/300, 4d8, ROF 3, AP 8, Auto, HW. Covers 31 to 50mm rounds)

Amun-Ra-class Stealth Frigate

Huge starship: Size 16, Acc/TS 35/400 (960 mph, 1545 kph), Climb 0, Toughness 45 (10) , Crew 120, Cost $89.32M ($89,320,000), Remaining Mods 3
Notes: 2x Torpedo Tube, 3x Crew Reduction, AMCM, FTL Drive, Garage/Hangar, Sensor Suite (Planetary), Stealth System, Targeting System
Weapons:

  • Mass Driver 8 (Fixed to bow; 100/200/400 (tripled in space), 8d12, ROF 1, Hw. Projectiles are 80 pound spheres that cost $800 each.)
  • 24x Light Torpedos (Fixed to bow; 300/600/1200, 8d12, ROF 1, AP 40, HW, LBT.)
  • 4x Heavy Autocannons (75/150/300, 4d8, ROF 3, AP 8, Auto, HW. Covers 31 to 50mm rounds)

Starship Combat

Note: this is derived from the Chase rules as given in the Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition, and expanded upon in the SF Companion. If you are using the new Savage Worlds Adventure Edition Chase rules instead, you can either use these rules or the new Chase rules presented there.

The starship combat section in the SF Companion advises using the Savage Worlds Chase rules, which is quite a good idea for abstracting things; but as written they have some major issues — particularly in that often only one ship will get to fire each turn. This makes running dogfights with multiple small fighters an exercise in frustration for the players — nobody wants to spend several turns in a row getting shot at with no way to fight back. Here is a modified faster system:

Rather than dealing everyone an Action Card as usual, the pilot of each ship makes a Piloting roll. Pilots draw a card for each success and raise on the
roll, and keep one (usually the highest) as their Action Card. This determines not only their initiative but how well they managed to “maneuver” that particular round. Characters who don’t score at least a single success remain
in the chase but get no Action Card that round.

Speed: A character may add +2 to his roll if their ship has a higher top speed than the fastest opponent.

Crew: Those riding in a ship have a choice. If they want to help the pilot maneuver, and it makes sense in the context of the situation, they may make
a cooperative Trait roll. They draw no cards themselves but may add to the pilot’s total as usual.

Advantage: A character with a higher card than a foe is said to have “advantage” over him. This is abstract so it may mean the character is ahead, behind, or even parallel to his foe. The important thing is that he has somehow maneuvered in such a way as to gain a superior position, and can bring his weapons to bear (if he has any and is inclined to use them).

Complications: if a pilot decides to play a Club card as his Action Card, he creates a complication. The exact form this takes is up to the GM to decide, but it might be something like putting the ship in the line of fire of another ship, or overloading the thrusters and losing his next turn while they come back on line.

Attacks

  1. Assume that all Autocannons can do Reaction Fire, not just the Light ones — this is important for PDCs to function properly as defensive weapons as in the series.
  2. Ignore all range modifiers once a dogfight starts — worrying about whether the range is 200 metres or 300 metres makes little sense when an fighter can cover that entire distance in quarter of a second. However bear in mind that torpedoes have a minimum range in order to be effective, and PDCs and Railguns have a relatively short maximum range. So basically there are only two effective ranges required: Long range (suitable for torpedoes) or Short range (suitable for PDCs and railguns).
  3. Gaining the Advantage with a face card in a round enables the gunner in a ship to fire all of their turreted weapons and all of the fixed weapons on a single facing without penalty. Ships with fixed weapons on multiple facings can choose which facing to bring to bear.
  4. Gaining the Advantage without a face card (i.e. 10 or less) enables all turreted PDCs to fire if their targets are within range OR all fixed weapons on a single facing.
  5. Ships which do not have the Advantage in a round may fire half of their turreted PDCs at a single target within range, at a -2 penalty.
  6. PDCs and railguns are fired using the Shooting skill. The may be fired by either the ship’s pilot or a dedicated gunner. If the pilot fires them they will take a multi-action penalty. (This isn’t entirely realistic, but means that other people on the ship have a useful function apart from just the pilot)
  7. This does mean that large ships with multiple weapons become much more dangerous (as they should be), but don’t forget that they will often have an additional penalty to hit because of the size difference. The rules give a flat +/-2 bonus/penalty for a size difference of 2 or more between ships. That means, for example, that a Morrigan-class destroyer shooting PDCs at a battleship will get +2 for shooting at a much larger ship, whereas the battleship shooting back will always be on a -2 to hit the smaller ship ; plus since it’s slower it will often be shooting at an additional -2 penalty and only using half of its weapons. However since that battleship will be bristling with multiple gun arrays that it can bring to bear, a smaller ship on its own is still going to be in trouble!
  8. Ships can only fire one heavy torpedo or two light torpedoes per turn for each tube or launcher they have. So for example a gunship with 2 torpedo tubes can fire up to four light torpedoes per turn. Torpedoes automatically lock on to their target and follow it, without requiring any skill roll.
  9. If a ship is equipped with an AMCM, the pilot may make a Piloting roll to to try to dodge a torpedo. Another crew member may make an Electronics roll to assist in this. A successful roll dodges the torpedo for one turn only, and then it will lock on again. A success with a raise enables the pilot to permanently dodge the torpedo.
  10. Ships can shoot down torpedoes with PDCs. Since torpedoes are very small and travel very fast, assume a -2 modifier to the gunner’s Shooting roll to hit one. However because torpedoes travel very fast and PDCs only operate at close range, assume each PDC only gets one chance to hit each torpedo. Failure of all PDCs to hit a torpedo means it gets through to the target next turn and explodes causing damage.
  11. If a ship takes a “Wound”, crew members can attempt to do damage control by making a Repair roll as a Dramatic Task (i.e. it will require 5 successes within 5 turns). Success means that it is temporarily patched up, but will require permanent repair after the battle is finished.

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