Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Future Armada

Way back in March I mentioned Future Armada in a post about the Fate system. With the demise of the d20 license the creator of the series, Ryan Wolfe, emailed all of his customers to let them know that he was uploading new versions of the older ships minus the d20 logo, and with a few minor corrections where errata had been found.

This prompted me to take another look at my collection, and I'm still amazed at the quality of the product. The ships are beautiful and the deckplans are both beautiful and well thought out in terms of what humans would actually need on board a starship. For example, far too many deckplans tend to leave out rather essential plumbing fixtures. Passengers and crew aboard a ship from the Future Armada won't have to search frantically for a restroom that doesn't exist.

The ships themselves all share a common backstory in the form of the so far minimally detailed "Future Armada" universe. This lets the ships be described with a story and crew, but the universe itself is generic enough that they can easily be adapted to other settings. Prime candidates would be Star Wars Saga Edition or Serenity (the latter of which already features deck plans designed by Ryan Wolfe). They work less well with systems that feature strict starship design rules, such as Traveller, but could be used in those kinds of games if the GM is willing to be flexible in interpreting those rules, or just decides to set them aside for the campaign.

The scale of the ships range from tiny one man fighters and small Millenium Falcon style freighters to the giant 2400ft long Invictus carrier and the Argos III deep space port. They also have a nice mix between 'practical' and 'adventuring' ships. The latter are suitable ships for small adventuring parties to have while the former are things like the Prosperity class modular container freighter and the already mentioned Invictus. Ships that fill obvious roles in a science fiction setting, but which aren't likely to be owned by the players.

Every single one of these designs provides inspiration for adventures, if not entire campaigns, set around them.

For example, the latest release is the Misfortune Container Ship. The Misfortune is an aging Prosperity class container ship officially named the Fortune, but which has had a long history as a hard luck ship. A few paragraphs go into the history of the ship and the very real reason behind why it has had such an unfortunate history (I won't spoil it by saying what it is). This seed alone could easily make for an interesting adventure set aboard the ship, but there's also a few more paragraphs that work up a specific scenario that the ship could be used in.

The Misfortune product also shows one of the other strengths of the Future Armada series: modularity. Almost all the larger ships in the series use modular floor plans that can be combined in different ways to make different ships. The Misfortune includes three layouts. The basic Prosperity class container ship, the Prosperity Alpha that replaces the containers with regular cargo bays, and the AJAX military transport that radically shortens the ship, adds basic weaponry, and makes other changes to better suit the design for transporting cargo to the surface of a planet in the midst of military conflict.

One final strength of the line represented in Misfortune is the extra attention to detail. In this case the Sherpa class freight hauler stands out. Detailed in the product because it happens to be carried as a shuttle aboard Prosperity class ships, this little ship is essentially a one man cockpit and set of engines arranged in a framework designed to match up with a single modular cargo container. They're basically space semi-trucks, especially when the long haul option is added to the package that includes a little extra storage and a restroom (a bed is included in the basic package). The ship isn't just mentioned, it's given a complete set of plans including ten different modular containers running from the basic freight container to a specialized bounty hunter layout with holding cells and work areas.

The result is a ship that could be used for any number of NPC encounters or as a 'starter' ship for a small adventuring group or solo player, and this wasn't even the main feature of the product!

I just can't get enough of the Future Armada sets and highly recommend them to anyone running a space based science fiction RPG.

The only thing that would make them better for me would be if someone would put out a line of miniatures based on them.

Edit: I forgot to mention that the ships all come as pdf files, usually at least three separate ones: an overview file with the background text layouts and pictures, a full color deckplan file, and a more printer friendly black and white line art deckplan file.

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