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Saturday 22 April 2023

Quick-Start Saturday: The Terminator

Quick-starts are means of trying out a roleplaying game before you buy. Each should provide a Game Master with sufficient background to introduce and explain the setting to her players, the rules to run the scenario included, and a set of ready-to-play, pre-generated characters that the players can pick up and understand almost as soon as they have sat down to play. The scenario itself should provide an introduction to the setting for the players as well as to the type of adventures that their characters will have and just an idea of some of the things their characters will be doing on said adventures. All of which should be packaged up in an easy-to-understand booklet whose contents, with a minimum of preparation upon the part of the Game Master, can be brought to the table and run for her gaming group in a single evening’s session—or perhaps too. And at the end of it, Game Master and players alike should ideally know whether they want to play the game again, perhaps purchasing another adventure or even the full rules for the roleplaying game.

Alternatively, if the Game Master already has the full rules for the roleplaying game for the quick-start is for, then what it provides is a sample scenario that she still run as an introduction or even as part of her campaign for the roleplaying game. The ideal quick-start should entice and intrigue a playing group, but above all effectively introduce and teach the roleplaying game, as well as showcase both rules and setting.


What is it?
The Terminator RPG Quick Start is the quick-start for The Terminator RPG, based on 1984 film, The Terminator, in which Resistance Fighters travel back from the future to prevent Skynet, a computer system, from achieving awareness and declaring war on mankind and so bringing about a devastated world where the survivors are hunted by robots.

It includes a basic explanation of the setting, rules for actions and combat, details of the arms, armour, and equipment fielded by the Player Characters, the one-shot mission, ‘Two Steps Back’, and seven ready-to-play, Player Characters, or Resistance Fighters.

It is designed to be played by three to five players, plus the Game Master.

It is a fifty-two page, full colour book.

The quick-start is very lightly illustrated, but the artwork is excellent. The rules are a slightly stripped down version from the core rulebook, but do include examples of the rules which speed the learning of the game.

The themes and nature of The Terminator RPG and thus the
The Terminator RPG Quick Start, specifically the horror and despair associated with the future it depicts, and the fact that the Resistance Fighters will be hunted, means that it is best suited to a mature audience.

How long will it take to play?
The Terminator RPG Quick Start and its adventure, ‘Two Steps Back’, is designed to be played through in one or two sessions.

What else do you need to play?
The Terminator RPG Quick Start requires six ten-sided dice per player. One of these dice should be a different colour to the rest, ideally, black.

Who do you play?
The seven Resistance Fighters in
The Terminator RPG Quick Start consist of a mechanic-turned explosives expert and strategist, an engineer and hacker, a heavy weapons expert with the best hair in the future, a medic with a sense of humour, close-in knife-wielding Sikh, a veteran sniper, and a rookie grunt. Two are core characters, needed for the plot, and three standard characters. The other two are ‘advanced’ characters intended as replacements or alternatives.

How is a Player Character defined?
A Resistance Fighter has six stats—Strength, Dexterity, Knowledge, Concentration, Charisma, and Cool. Stats are rated between zero and six, whilst the skills are rated between one and four. A Resistance Fighter can have Traits, such as Addiction, Arrogant, Exceedingly Cool, or Vision (Good). He also has Hope Points, which divided between three categories—Body, Brains, and Bravado—and indicate the ways in which a Resistance Fighter can emulate the cinematic style of The Terminator. For example, with Body 2, Brains 3, and Bravado 1, Minguez the strategist could ‘Go Crashing In’ to dive into a room and gain a single charge or ranged action before combat begins, to make a ‘Luck Guess’ and gain a free bonus to a Knowledge or Concentration skill roll, or ‘Lead From The Front’ to lead soldiers into battle and bolster their morale. Some of the pre-generated Resistance Fighters specialise in one category, whilst others are more balanced.

All of the Resistance Fighters have a special ability related to their role. For example, Davis is the Engineer and has ‘Technical Minded’. This allows the Resistance Fighter’s player to spend a point of FATE to reroll any or all dice for any Techanical Skill Test.

How do the mechanics work?
Mechanically, The Terminator RPG Quick Start uses the ‘S5S’ System first seen in SLA Industries, Second Edition. This is a dice pool system which uses ten-sided dice. The dice pool consists of one ten-sided die, called the Success Die, and Skill Dice equal to the skill being used, plus one. The Success Die should be of a different colour from the Skill Dice. The results of the dice roll are not added, but counted separately. Thus, to each roll is added the value of the Skill being rolled, plus its associated stat. If the result on the Success Die is equal to or greater than the Target Number, ranging from eight and Challenging to sixteen and Insane, then the Operative has succeeded. If the results of the Skill Dice also equal or exceed the Target Number, this improves the quality of the successful skill attempt. However, if the roll on the Success Die does not equal or exceed the Target Number, the attempt fails, even if multiple rolls on the Success Dice do. Except that is where there are four or more results which equal or exceed the Target Number on the Success Dice. This is counted as a minimum success though.

FATE can be spent to reroll the Success Die or any of the Skill Dice. The rules also cover fear and willpower. Failing Fear Tests, which typically occur when the Fear Rating of situation is above a Resistance Fighter’s Cool stat, lead to a loss of Willpower, as can losing too many Hit Points or encountering a Terminator. As long a Resistance Fighter’s Willpower remains above ten, they should be fine.

How does combat work?
Combat in The Terminator RPG Quick Start is designed to be desperate and dangerous. It is detailed and tactical. It takes into account offensive and defensive manoeuvres, rate of fire, recoil, damage inflicted on armour, cover, aiming, and so on. The scenario features a lot of combat and the Game Master should pay particular attention to those rules in the quick-start.

All Resistance Fighters are combat trained, though some do specialise more than others. In general, the more combat capable Resistance Fighters should be working to protect the less capable, but less important specialists on their mission.

How does Hacking work?
One of the pre-generated Resistance Fighters possesses the Computer skill and is the designated Hacker for the mission. This enables him to hack electronic devices and computer systems. In general, hacking small systems requires only a simple skill test, but for bigger systems and where it is narratively appropriate, the hacker can attempt to infiltrate a system consisting of a series of connected nodes represented by a ‘Network Architecture Diagrams’. The player rolls Computer skill tests to generate points of Progress which can be expended to move deeper into the network, create a backdoor, capture a node, exploit a subroutine. If alerted, Network Security, or ‘NetSec’, will spread through the system attempting to locate the hacker and halt his progress.

Hacking is in effect a two-player mini-game between the Hacker’s player and the Game Master. Fortunately, it is intended to take place at the same pace as combat rounds do, so it can be run in parallel with them if need be.
It needs careful study by both the Hacker’s player and the Game Master, and although there is an example hacking attempt given of the system included in the scenario, it would be a good idea for the Game Master to run through this at least once to understand it.

What do you play?
The Terminator RPG Quick Start includes
‘Two Steps Back’, a short, one-shot mission. Set in the future, the Resistance Fighters must break into a Skynet compound to find their captured leader and prevent Skynet from sending several Terminators into the past to destroy several armouries set up by John Connor. It begins en media res with the attack on the compound, and after some bloody encounters with Terminators and a chance for hacker to show off his skills, before they can get into the Time Displacement Chamber and take command of it. Once alerted, Skynet will do its very best to prevent the Resistance Fighters from taking command of and using the Time Displacement Device. It ends in an even bigger battle and a cliffhanger...

As a mission, ‘Two Steps Back’ feels very appropriate for The Terminator setting.

Is there anything missing?
The Terminator RPG Quick Start is complete and it even comes with advice for the Game Master on running the game. Where it is lacking is in art. None of the Resistance Fighters or NPC are illustrated, and neither are the weapons. The Game Master may want to provide them. In addition, the
Resistance Fighter biographies are separate to their character sheets, so the Game Master will make sure that each player receives both.

Is it easy to prepare?
The core rules presented in
The Terminator RPG Quick Start are relatively easy to prepare. The Game Master will need to pay closer attention to how combat works in the game as it is the most complex part of the rules and highly tactical in play, as it figures heavily in the scenario. She should also study and work through the hacking rules so that they can be easily taught to the player who roleplays the hacker.

Is it worth it?
The Terminator RPG Quick Start is a short, bloody, and brutal mission that demonstrates the desperate and dangerous nature of the future under the dominance of Skynet. The emphasis on combat and the hacking rules make it slightly too complex for a convention scenario unless the Game Master knows the rules for both well. Otherwise, The Terminator RPG Quick Start is solid introduction to the setting and potentially more if the Game Master decides to run the sequel, The Terminator Quickstart Part II ‘One Step Forward’.

Where can you get it?
The Terminator RPG Quick Start is available to download here.

1 comment:

  1. I feel like the adventure makes a jump with no guidance. My copy has the characters talking to resistance until a battle happens and then suddenly they are in a Skynet compound. About three combats and two hacks, no roleplay albeit a conversation. It would need some expansion to make a 4 hour one-shot. There just doesn't seem to be much to do.