Intergalactic Rockstars of Ill Rapport; Released!

Well, this is an exciting post! The first of the website, and I have the honor of writing it. Doubly exciting, given the fact that I’ve never written a blog post before in my life. But there’s a first time for everything. Just like how this article covers my first tabletop roleplaying game release as well! Just in time for New Years, Intergalactic Rockstars of Ill Rapport, a lighthearted two-page ttrpg system about playing sci-fi musicians, is the perfect stocking-stuffer and ill-advised fruitcake additive for the enterprising rpg nerd. Especially since it costs nothing at all! Largely a means of dipping my toes in the icy waters of the rpg writing world, Intergalactic Rockstars is a culmination of easy to understand mechanics that sounded good in my head and tested positively in-session.

You can find the system here at our page, completely free to download and play-

Let’s get into those mechanics then, eh?

Mission Statement; Rock & Roll, Emphasis on the Rolling

Requiring only a d6, paper, and pencils, the very nature of my struggle to cram everything into two pages kept the system simplistic and easy to use! Neat! Covered in the pdf are; Character creation, where players distribute points between the four most essential characteristics of a rockstar- Hotness, Skillz, Passion, and Mojo. A list of twelve traits for players to choose from, such as sick costumes or pyrotechnics, further fleshing out their character concept while gaining mechanical benefits. Rules for Battles of the Bands, simple yet flashy musical fights where players get to show off in soloist competitions against opposing musicians. And a short list of scenario concepts and GM tips to help come up with sessions.

Intergalactic Rockstars is best ran as a lighthearted, punchy, joke-strewn one-off game, as a means of having a fun evening with friends. It’s also simple enough, and has enough of an understandable base concept, that you could play with people unfamiliar with rpgs, something that went well when testing with some of my less-nerdy friends. Just sit down for twenty minutes, type out some GM notes and silly alien names, and BAM you’ve got a session. If people really enjoy it you could even run a campaign of the player’s band on tour. Though the system doesn’t really have rules for non-rockstar related challenges, you could definitely just arbitrate that whatever activity a player is doing falls under one of the four stats, and set a difficulty number they have to roll over. But I’ll get into more of this in the Rules Cuts and Clarifications section of this post. Right now, I want to share the Test Session concept I ran, and what I learned while running it for my two groups!

Beginner Scenario & Playtest Info; Testing 1, 2, 3…

So for testing this system I played two sessions. One with my usual rpg group, and another with my brother and his friend (neither of which have played many ttrpgs). I played out the same story for both, and it went pretty well. None of the mechanical cogs got clogged during gameplay, and everyone seemed to have fun getting into character and playing up the ridiculousness of sci-fi rockstars. The biggest change I made to the system rough draft after testing was specifying what happens when ties occur during battles. Anywho, I’m gonna summarize the session plot in a different post, to keep this one uncluttered. Feel free to use it as a beginner scenario if you want to try out the system.

Link to the Playtest post here-

Probably the most important thing about playing the game is to let go of embarrassment and inhibition. If the GM is having fun doing air guitar and hyping up the player characters, it’ll encourage everyone to do the same and get into the mood of being an Intergalactic Rockstar. Or at the very least it’ll be funny. Being confidently dorky helped a lot, and being supportive is a great way to get ttrpg beginners into character. It’s one of the strengths of this admittedly simple system, and the real instrument rules are meant to enforce this. Heck, you can even give players bonus points for singing.

Beyond that, improv skills are handy, though that’s fairly typical to GMing. The first playtest group went pretty crazy breaking into places and stealing things (in the game, of course), and being able to keep up with their antics without saying “No” was useful. Wild ideas work well with the zany, punchy feel of the setting, and seeing what people come up with is usually a lot of fun. Adding complications instead of denying players helped both playtest sessions flow well.

Rules Cuts & Clarifications;

Nixing the cute, tongue-in-cheek blogpost style for a moment, I’d like to talk about the rules here, and reflect on this project a bit. I’ll be perfectly honest; I struggled greatly fitting everything I wanted to onto just two pages. It’s pretty obvious, given that I shrank the text on the lists and was still one single line from spilling over into a third page. I was unable to fit everything I wanted to into the game. Specifically, I wanted the traits list to have more traits, and the GM Examples section to have actual NPC stats, as in their ability stats and traits, for each adventure idea. As of right now the GM Examples section in particular I find lacking, falling short of what I really wanted to convey and recommend. This is slightly remedied in my post about the Playtest Adventure I ran, which includes some of the ideas I was hinting towards, such as dynamic battle areas and open-ended scenarios, but I don’t think I could’ve gotten anymore about those crammed into the base system pdf.

Well practice makes perfect, I suppose. So moving on from my self-review, let’s get into some rules ideas. First and foremost I want to talk about out-of-combat challenges. One of the biggest takeaways I had during the Playtest was that you should use the Ability Stats and rolling them to succeed at difficult tasks. With my first group, they attempted pickpocketing, breaking into a broadcast room, tricking guards, and other various actions that don’t involve music-related rules. I ended up just “yes, and”‘ing quite a bit and it was fun laughing about the ridiculous things their characters did, but having real stakes is also fun, and the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. So for the second group I decided to openly declare some difficulty numbers for their more outlandish requests, like attempting to climb up the inside of a huge glass dome. I told them they needed to roll a 6 in Skillz to accomplish this. The player failed, not having a particularly high Skillz stat. But as mentioned earlier in this post, instead of saying “No” I said they got halfway up before the crowd noticed and started throwing food and other trash at them. They laughed and started throwing things back at the crowd, which was pretty dang funny.

Another rule I had to cut for space was the JAM Session! After testing combat, I felt that the game was more focused on soloists facing off than I had wanted. It didn’t feel like they came together during battle as a whole band to kick butt, and play a sick song together. Though they felt like a team when a round would end and the soloists would return to their group to discuss and send someone else in, that always felt like a lull in the song where the musicians just held the beat so they could talk and strategize. I wanted to include a rule in the combat system to allow a band to go all-in and play together, but I just couldn’t find the space, or a fully satisfactory mechanic for the idea, so it was cut. If you want to give it a go, I’ll share my ideas for it here.

“JAM Session!”
Once per battle, a band can come together to go all-out, declaring a JAM Session! When a band would choose a soloist to perform at the start of a round, they instead unanimously declare a JAM Session. This round, that band counts as having all of their members’ instruments for the sake of gaining a +1 from the Instrument Triangle, and the opponent cannot gain a +1 from the Instrument Triangle this round even if the instrument weak to them is present in the battle. During the Opposed Skill Check, the band having a JAM Session can choose any one of their members to make the roll.

I initially intended for JAM Sessions! to be player exclusive, as a means of showing their extraordinary abilities as musicians. If you want NPC bands to also be capable of JAM Sessions!, feel free to let them, but then questions arise of what happens when both the player and NPC bands jam out at the same time. The rules written above should still work in this case, at the very least.

Lastly I wanted to quickly mention some random things that didn’t make it into the system writeup. Though not specifically mentioned, players can play as aliens so long as they get permission from the GM, just to make sure it fits their setting idea. Players can also make up instruments, describing how they work and what they do, and getting GM permission to include them in a fitting Instrument Triangle category or just going with the Other category in lieu of that. Multi-way Battles of the Bands aren’t mentioned, but they should work perfectly fine, the only major question I see is the order of declaring soloists during a round. Round Winner should still declare their soloist first, but the remaining bands wouldn’t have a set order for who declares next. Personally I’d just make the order random for remaining NPC bands, and let the players declare last, giving them a slight advantage. Just make sure to keep track of Round Points for every band involved, as well as their Sway.

Final Thoughts; Finale!

That should be most of what I wanted to talk about, so I guess I’ll end the post here! If you have any questions, feel free to ask here or on the page’s comment section. I’d also love to hear critiques and thoughts, both about the system and this article, as I’m new to this.

Thanks for reading this far, and I hope you enjoy Intergalactic Rockstars of Ill Rapport!