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52 Pick Up: A New Game Each Week!

Episode 9: Rocket Patrol

Gareth-Michael Skarka
April 5, 2001
Nine of Spades

Hello again, folks.   Inspired in small part by James M's "Hard Science" article about Space Opera, and the research I've been doing for the upcoming THRILLING TALES pulp RPG/magazine from Synister, my attention this week turned to how much I have always loved vintage space opera.  The Lensman series, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers...rocket packs, ray guns and bug-eyed aliens...great stuff, filled with the perfect mixture of the drum-beating jingoism and wide-eyed optimism of the time.

So, this week, I bring you ROCKET PATROL.

Welcome to the world of the future.   Welcome to 2001.   The Earth, unified at last, has colonized the solar system.  From the waving fields of red wheat on Mars, to the sky-cities of Jupiter, peace and prosperity reign.   The guardians of this peace, the Rocket Patrol, travel the spacelanes in their gleaming silver cruisers, defending the solar system from pirates, invaders and cosmic disaster.

So, strap on your rocket pack, holster your ray gun, and make sure your ship has enough radium.   We're off.


In ROCKET PATROL, the players portray the crew members of a Patrol Cruiser.  These ships have up to 8 crew members, and they respond to mission dispatches from Rocket Patrol Central, on the Moon.

Characters are defined by three fields, various defining traits, and associated skills.   The three fields are Mental, Physical and Social.  You have eight points to distribute among these three fields---no field may be higher than 5, or less than 1.   This will give you your character's concentrations...what areas of their being are more highly developed than others.

Then, for each point in each field, you pick a defining trait.  These are definitions which refine the fields.  For example, you might choose Strong as one of your Physical Defining Traits, whereas someone else in your group might choose Fast.  This way, even characters with identical field scores can be unique in their specific strengths.  Examples:

Physical Defining Traits:  Strong, Fast, Agile, Tough, Athletic, Untiring, Healthy, Nimble-fingered, etc. etc.

Mental Defining Traits:  Clever, Brilliant, Quick Thinking, Expert, Strong-willed, Inventive, Computer Whiz, etc. etc.

Social Defining Traits:  Empathic, Charming, Glib, Persuasive, Natural Leader, Connected, Empathic, Diplomatic, etc. etc.

Lastly, you pick skills for your character.   Skills are also divided into Physical, Mental and Social.  You have a number of skill points in each Field equal to your score in that field multiplied by 3.   Skills are rated from 1 to 5.  Examples:

Physical Skills:  Anything that relies upon physical action: Fighting, Piloting, Climbing, Sports, etc.

Mental Skills:  Anything governed by the mind:  Sciences, Computers, Robotics, Engineering, Area Knowledge, etc. etc.

Social Skills:  Anything within the realm of social interaction:  Negotiation, Command, Con, Seduction, etc. etc.

In addition, if you wish, there are also Psychic Talents that may be purchased.  Talents are bought with skill points, but each level of Talent (and they go from 1 to 5 as well) costs 3 times the number of skill points.  Talents include:  Telepathy, Telekinesis, Psychometry and Clairvoyance.  All Psychic talents are in the Mental field.

The rules of ROCKET PATROL are simple.   All you need are 6 sided dice.   To take any action, you roll a number of 6 sided dice equal to the governing field.   Add an extra die if you have an appropriate Defining Trait.   Finally, add your skill score (if any), to the final roll.    This is your action result.

The action result is compared to an opposing roll made by the Game Master, based on the difficulty (you guessed it, 1 to 5 range).   Higher roll wins.   That's it.

What about Combat?

Combat is also an opposed roll, with the target's defense roll taking the place of the GM's roll.   If the attackers roll is higher, the attack succeeds.   Damage is figured by taking the Damage Class (DC) of the attack (equal to the Physical field score + 1 for appropriate trait in the case of hand-to-hand, or a rating from 1-10 for weapons) and rolling that number of six-siders, against a Resistance roll, equal to the Physical field score, + bonuses for armor.  If the Resistance roll is higher, the attack glances off.  If the Damage roll is higher, consult the following:

Damage Roll                                                Result
Less than Double Resistance Roll                Wounded
Double Resistance Roll                                Unconscious
Triple Resistance Roll or more                     Dead.

Wounded characters are at a 1 die penalty to all actions....note that Wounds are not cumulative (this isn't realistic...this is space opera).

Starship combat is handled just like character combat (in fact, starships are essentially created AS characters, although they have only two fields: Physical (covering weapons, armor, engines, etc.) and Mental (scanners, computers, etc.)).   In the case of Starship combat, the wound results are "damaged", "shut down", and "explode!"   Given that most sci-fi gamers are gear-heads and totally into the tech involved, I'll leave a lot of the specifics of starship design and the like to you.

Now--  This is Rocket Patrol Central.   Farmers on Mars are reporting that they are under attack by giant, insectoid robots that are swarming out of an archeological site recently discovered near Olympus Mons.   Yours is the only ship close enough to respond.   So go on out there and kick some bad-guy butt.

9 down, 43 to go.

See ya in 7.

Gareth-Michael Skarka

Gareth-Michael Skarka is the Operations Manager for Synister Creative Systems.  He has written and edited for games including Star Trek, Deadlands Hell on Earth, and GURPS.  He is the designer of several RPG systems, including UnderWorld and Hong Kong Action Theatre!. TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

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Reshuffled: 52 Pick Up, edited by Chris Czerniak

52 Pick Up original run, by Gareth-Michael Skarka

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