Designer: Steve Simmons
Publisher: Self Published
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2 – 5
Playing Time: NA
Main mechanic / Theme: RPG / Men-At-Arms, Medieval-Science Fiction
A Role-Playing Game of Exploration and Adventure
Find more info on RPGGeek.com
Planet Archipelago is a medieval-science fiction roleplaying game. Set in the distant future on a distant planet where the people embraced older forms of technology to survive.
I was given a copy of Planet Archipelago and The Game-master’s Guide by the author Steve Simmons while attending the Life, Universe and Everything (LTUE) Writing Symposium (webpage) for review purposes.
Game Setting Overview
In our future the planet known as Archipelago was discovered and was colonized by Earthlings who were looking for a chance to have a better life. The captain who had helped to take the people there didn’t do much exploration before taking people to the planet and didn’t know about the unique animal life that had developed and prospered there.
The technology that many of the early settlers took for granted was discovered to be a danger to their existence if they wanted to survive on this new world. One example is there are large and dangerous creatures living in the deep waters between the islands. The vibrations and noise of engines is a lure those beasts of the deep can’t ignore. The advanced boats were quickly sunk.
The populace of Archipelago reverted to use earlier forms of technology, though there are still some futuristic items around.
Planet Archipelago was developed with the same concepts of Men-At-Arms. Men-At-Arms uses attack and defense rolls. Basically, for most actions a character takes against another character there are two dice rolls made. The character initiating the action takes an “attack” roll and if that is successful, then there is a “defense” roll. This applies also to noncombat rolls that put skills at opposition of each other (i.e., hiding and searching).
The combat can be lethal to characters. Therefore, the basis behind character development and game play is on more of the non-combat skills. With all the different islands on the planet the focus is more on exploration and trade. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any skullduggery taking place the characters have to contend with. The premise just isn’t based in dungeon crawls and monster hunting.
There is a lot of room for individualization of characters. Each island has its own resources and history. There are larger kingdoms and small out of the way places. Five main races inhabit the world, or you can create new ones. Most players will be able to adjust what they know about races in other game systems and standard fantasy writing to get a feel for what each race is like.
Advancement of characters is by learning. Player characters work through training to become better at what they want to do. This requires a little more planning ahead, in and out of game, of what the character is learning and who they are learning it from.
The Game-master’s Guide
This volume is a wonderful reference for people who would like to run a Planet Archipelago campaign. The information is also a great tome of information for players that can be dealt out in pieces or allowed in larger chunks.
There is information for skills to provide broader use and application. Since it is a world of water, there are pages detailing weather (including hurricanes), volcanoes, earthquakes, currents, and other game aspects you may want to include.
Inclusivity and Accessibility:
Steve Simmons is a retired educator. Planet Archipelago started years ago when he oversaw after school activities for students. He wanted to teach them roleplaying and was informed the popular game at the time was not acceptable to be used. He therefore created his own setting and system that didn’t have magic and wasn’t using the standard fantasy races.
Planet Archipelago also has a lot of practical skills built into the game. Since the focus is on using skills for exploring and trading, Mr. Simmons includes skills in the game that can be used in real life. Many points of interest in the books give examples of what a player can do to learn more.
Planet Archipelago provides a unique setting. Here is a place where technology brought people to the world. That same technology is partially responsible for why they were stranded. To survive the people learned to revert to earlier levels of technology, adopting and adapting them to their new environment.
Our introduction to Planet Archipelago was a good experience. We enjoyed the play being focused on exploring and trading. The Men-At-Arm’s combat is slower than most are used to. It requires some additional work during development to include the different possibilities of how a weapon can be used, and consideration when they are being used.
The part we liked the best was the detailed information. Ships are detailed for easy use and reference. The information in The Game-master’s Guide is something that could easily be adapted to other systems. If you are considering a campaign taking place on the seas or islands, this is a reference to check out.
I recommend Planet Archipelago to those who are looking for a roleplaying game with more of a medieval feel (with no magic) with a sprinkling of sci-fi technology.
As a sidenote Steve’s son is writing a series of books based on the world of Planet Archipelago. He writes under the name of B. A. Simmons. Like his father he is an educator and runs a campaign for his students. I had the opportunity of reviewing the first book of the series The Voyage of the Entdecker. This is a great introduction to the world and the people on Archipelago.
About the Author
Daniel Yocom does geeky things at night because his day job wouldn't let him. This dates back to the 1960s through games, books, movies, and stranger things better shared in small groups. He's written hundreds of articles about these topics for his own blog, other websites, and magazines after extensive research along with short stories. His research includes attending conventions, sharing on panels and presentations, and road-tripping with his wife. Join him at guildmastergaming.com.