Tag Archives: Planet Mercenary RPG

A Planet Mercenary Play Test

On Saturday, June 27th, we had a Planet Mercenary RPG play test at LibertyCon. Alan Bahr ran the game, and Steve Jackson joined us. Our small band of mercenary officers was cast as follows:

  • The purp doctor: Howard Tayler
  • The tetrisoid attorney: Alijah Ballard
  • The ursumari engineer: Keliana Tayler
  • The mobile-chassis A.I.: David Pascoe
  • The Ob’enn captain: Steve Jackson

The adventure began at MercCon, held in a dilapidated station in orbit around Damaxuri. We roamed the expo hall looking for swag, and while the captain adorned himself with things that blinked and glowed, our one-meter-tall attorney decided to prank random strangers by injecting them with stim samples he lifted from one of the booths. When an angry neophant caught him at it and grabbed him, the doctor whipped out a syringe and said “if you want the antidote, you’ll put my friend down.” It worked, and now that we could see that our attorney player was going to play as a rogue, we adjusted our deployment to keep a better eye on him.

The A.I. went sniffing through the data-streams, and determined that there was money to be made on the surface of Damaxuri, but only if we moved fast, and got there before the news broke to the rest of the mercenaries at the convention. After evaluating several slow, or bad, or slow-and-bad options for getting to the surface, the captain decided we should find a civilian ship with immediate clearance, hijack it, and then remove its transponder to provide OUR ship with clearance.

The following thirty minutes of game play were pretty hilarious, and included safe-cracking, recruiting, remote piloting for maximum “soft” collisions, a false alarm about an outbreak of smuttorhea, and us racing to the surface well ahead of anybody else who may have wanted the job that just posted. The attorney did the safe-cracking with the ursumari’s boomex, and only the fact that the safe contained both currency and blackmail material pacified the ursumari.

I’ll spare you any further spoilers, since the adventure (with some tweaks, of course) will be part of the final product.

The final tableau: while our ursumari roared in frustration, literally bristling with shuriken from her violently defective weapon, the doctor stabilized our target and began counting out pain killers and happy-pills for the angry wall of “friendly” fur. Meanwhile the lawyer and the captain managed the “recruiting” of our target’s hench-folk, and the A.I. rolled through the warehouse evaluating whether or not we could collect the bounty *AND* salvage the inventory of a profitable criminal enterprise.

Steve, Keliana, and I had to bounce out to another event, but everybody (including us!) kept talking about what our characters would do next. The game was over, the players had to leave, but we were all still telling the story.

That’s a pretty successful game.

The “speak first, go first” initiative system worked perfectly, in part because our captain spoke first and began issuing orders. Steve Jackson played that really well, which is no surprise, and the other players rolled with it equally well. Whether or not the captain was right about this plan to blow a hole in the bulkhead, we were going to pour our bullets through it and get the job done.

The mayhem cards also worked well. The doctor’s fire team gained a bonus to all combat actions by virtue of being terrified of him, and our company’s charter lost a couple of points of reputation because despite getting the job done there was an embarrassing video of our ursumari covered in bits of her own weapon. Both of these elements would have played straight into further adventure sessions, informing our role play and the math of combat.

Most auspiciously, the game played *fast.* The fun we had voicing our characters  carried straight into the combat scenes at a pace which felt natural, and which, even though we were all still learning the system, did not bog down.

To paraphrase Steve’s remarks to Alan: “This was fun. I suspect you could run *any* game well, but you’ve got a good thing here.” I don’t remember the exact quote, but that was the spirit of it, and Alan was grinning for the rest of the day.

I had microphone responsibilities at the luncheon which followed, so I wasn’t paying enough attention while Keliana sketched. I caught just enough to realize she was drawing our Planet Mercenary party, but before I could ask to see the finished piece, she’d given it to our play-test guest of honor.


Seventy Maxims, at Long, Long Last

Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that you’re not interested in the Planet Mercenary RPG. How could I possibly tempt you into that Kickstarter? What product could be sufficiently enticing to bring you over to our project page and enter a pledge?

The answer? Provide something that I’ve been anxious, thrilled, and quiveringly-excited about for months now:

The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

We have a pledge level for the Seventy Maxims book.

This isn’t just 70 pages of aphorisms. It’s not something that would fit in the wiki, or on a poster. This is the hardback version of Karl Tagon’s personal copy of the 3001 CE Edition of The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries.  This is an in-universe artifact.

To introduce you to it, here is a block of text from the introduction:

In 2992, in a speech to the CDF Acadamy graduating class, Rear Admiral M. Randall Aarikaida dismissed the book as “an irreverent, irresponsible volume of malevolent canon.” In that same speech, however, he paraphrased maxims 9, 15, 35, and 70 without attribution, unconsciously cementing its importance in the field, and launching countless dissertations which focused on the cultural ubiquity of the very thing he was dismissing.

This edition serves as a distillation of that scholarship. The maxims are accompanied by commentary and corollaries, paraphrased, and in many cases translated from the original, unintelligible jargon so that the modern reader might grasp the essential point. By so doing we’ve made this book more accessible, and more affordable because now we don’t need to pay any of those scholars the ridiculous royalties they demand.

Barring handling them for yourself, the pages themselves are best experienced with an image:

This page is one of our early proof-of-concept versions, but it shows off the spirit of the thing. Don’t worry: the paper we use will NOT have a printed weathering on it. The weathering in this image is there to evoke the fact that we’ll be using a very toothy, heavy paper with a cream color to it.

The boxed text contains the maxims themselves. The text below that is “schlolarly commentary” which, as suggested by the excerpt above the image, is going to be all over the map.

The red-pen notes are from Karl Tagon, who acquired this book as an enlistee in 3044. His sergeant at the time told him he should use it as a journal of sorts, and so we’ll get an unordered series of snapshots of his military career. Paging back and forth to put the notes in order will be part of the joy of having this in hard-copy.

The blue-pen note above is from Alexia Murtaugh, to whom Karl loaned the book. (Well, “will-have loaned.” That bit of story has yet to appear on line.) While the book is in Murtaugh’s possession it is going to get picked up and scribbled in by a few others, including Sergeant Schlock.

We will leave room for you to write in it yourself, of course.


Note: PDF and eBook development is a project for another year. The final product wants to be rotated in your hands, dog-eared, thumbed through with multiple fingers holding your places.  It is not impossible to translate the experience into a purely electronic format, of course. Just time consuming. For now, we’re offering an in-universe artifact that is meant to be handled, and left out for guests to marvel over.

“Build me a prototype, dear.”

Alan and I have a plan for Planet Mercenary Game Chief screens, and it involves building something more modular, expandable, and ultimately more useful than the traditional tri-fold (or quad- or quint-fold) screen that has become the industry standard.

I bought some plastic clips and some comic book backing board, envisioned what I wanted, and ran into a conflict. I wanted to spend several hours making comics today, AND I wanted to spend several hours building a really cool prototype.

My twenty-year-old daughter Keliana, home from school where she’s majoring in illustration, was awake and exploring breakfast options in the kitchen.

“Hey, K. Can you build a thing for me?”

“What kind of thing?”

“You’ll need the mat cutter, some spray paint, my hot-wire knife, my sculpting tools, and probably tape and glue. I want to make this—” I pointed at the stack of backing board and clips “—look like this. ” I held a map pin up at the corner of the screen of my Chromebook.

“Okay, I can see it…” she said.

“I’ll make a steak quesadilla for your breakfast, and you’re on the clock for whatever Mom’s paying you as of the word ‘go.'”

“Tenderloin steak?”

“And green chiles, fresh tortillas, and green onion.”


As I write this, Keliana is upstairs taking a hot-wire knife to some clips that are *almost* the right shape. We’ve finished off the quesadilla, and now I can dive into making comics while reveling in the fact that a minion who once was barely useful enough to do dishes can now be handed a complex project, and can trusted to make it beautiful.

It’s been a long time coming. Also, we had to increase her allowance to the point that she gets a W2 at the end of the year.

This Time Next Week…

We’re launching the Planet Mercenary RPG Kickstarter on April 14th, 2015. That’s just a week away.

Here’s a wallpaper featuring one of Planet Mercenary’s best-selling brands, Strohl Munitions, makers of the iconic BH-209 Plasgun.Wallpaper-StrohlWeathered,PMlogo

Don’t let that weathered metal texture fool you! Strohl products are shiny and durable*.

(*Not bulletproof. Do not pour alcohol into the reaction chamber. Illegal where non-legal.)