Weapons and Tech in the Expanse RPG
“The Expanse RPG is designed to tell stories in the universe of The Expanse novels, not to be a tactical simulator.” I can’t count how many times I’ve written or uttered this phrase since becoming the line developer. It’s the best answer I can give when people ask why The Expanse RPG doesn’t have a more detailed space combat system, long lists of the different guns, or pages filled with wonderous technological devices. The AGE system and The Expanse novels are focused on the narrative and characters, not the tech. The tech is there to support the story, not the focus of the story. I discussed this in a previous RRT Here. So today, rather than going on further about that, I’m going to offer a few ideas on ways you can bring the tech to the foreground if that’s what you want for your campaign.
First, lets talk guns. This is an easy one. If you want to track ammo, you can certainly do that. All you need to do is look up some basic gun types and list the ammo capacity for each. The rulebook already states that reloading a gun is a minor action, so that’s already covered. If you decide to track ammo, you may want to ignore the Weapon Capacity rules, although you could still use this to indicate that the weapon jams. Then you need to decide how many rounds are expended for different stunts. Probably four for a short burst or suppressive fire and maybe double that for a long burst or spray and pray. Ultimately this is up to you and what works best for your campaign, but if you’re going to track ammo, you’ll want to set something definitive so that players know what to expect.
There are plenty of resources online for how many rounds different types of weapons carry. Also, some other sci-fi and futuristic RPGs have extensive lists of gun types. They often even have cool names that you could easily co-opt for your Expanse game. The core rulebook provides all of the tools necessary to create unique weapons and ammo. The Item Qualities and Flaws and Weapons Qualities and Flaws sections in Chapter 4: Technology and Equipment can be used to flesh out individual weapons to make one pistol different from another.
These guidelines work well for Ships and their weapons as well. Even the Qualities could be applied to different ship weapons or ammo to create a wider diversity for the players to choose from and something for characters to spend their Income on. For ammo, it is up to you to decide how many PDC bursts a ship can fire and how many railgun rounds and torpedoes they carry. Some details are mentioned in the novels, and real-life naval ships can also be used as a guide. Modern submarines generally carry from 12-38 torpedoes, so that can give you a starting point. Keeping PDCs and railguns somewhere in line with that makes a certain amount of sense. (Although PDCs fire thousands of rounds per minute so ites probably best to just determine how many “bursts” they can fire rather than worry about the exact number of rounds.) The important thing to remember if you decide to track rounds instead of using the narrative system is to make sure that it adds to the fun and doesn’t diminish it. Limiting rounds should be used to enhance the tension but never to punish players. It also adds another step of bookkeeping that many players might not find enjoyable. Read your table and make sure everyone is having fun.
Ultimately it is up to you and your players to decide what works for you. We’ve designed a game that we believe is fun to play. And while we occasionally add some more detailed optional rules, our focus will always be on the story. Speaking of story, look for the PDF adventure Secrets of Lemuria, coming soon!