Named a “swashbuckling space opera” this game is a “combat focused TTRPG that blends mechanics from PVP tabletop skirmish games into a cooperative experience.” As stated within the cover of the Core Rulebook, Enemy Book & Adventure module; Quasar is a passion project. The author understands how other ttrpgs can be inaccessible due to costs, availability and resources. “Quasar’s base rules will always remain free and accessible to those who don’t have access to hobby stores, accommodating homemade terrain, minis and the creative spirit of the players.” This passion and level of accessibility is big for me.
This game is the passion project by Arcane Whiskers. I got this game from itch.io/Quasar and with the download you get 4 items:
Quasar Tales From The Endless Void: Core Rule Book Version 0.5.6
Let’s talk Quasar and the 133 page rule book. To play the game you will need character sheets and minis (like most table top games). Quasar works best if you are able to have a visualization of terrain and enemies to help reach objectives. This could be as fancy as a digital table, or 3d printed terrain/enemies to as simple as using paper to draw things out. In Quasar the missions and difficulty level can be discussed as a group, just as players decide the order of their turns as the game unfolds. It’s a game about cooperation and communication. The mission/game will end when the players complete all the mission objectives or until all players are incapacitated. If your team plays Narrative mode the GM can use special events or use cliffhangers to end a mission/session for the sake of storytelling.
The game itself has two types of play modes: Skirmish and Narrative. Skirmish is based on actions and a mission where there is a clear objective and enemies. It is usually a one objective/goal game that makes a short story mission and no sandbox exploring. The Skirmish type games can be repeated similar to that of a video game and may be done with different small groups. This type of play mode it is easy to add other video game based objectives or goals such as who can clear the mission the fastest, what group accumulated the most kills/deaths, the most melee vs ranged kills, etc. There will be more on Skirmish later.
Narrative mode is the more common ttrpg mode where there is continuous story, exploration and narrative play between players. This mode is where the player characters will make character progression, gain abilities and skills, and explore/interact with the world around them. In narrative mode there is a GM required, but the GM can also join their fellow players if they choose to use the enemy decision tree to provide an unbiased co-op experience. I find this to be unique and I personally like the concept as the GM being a fellow player at the table, as some tables forget that the GM is a player too. Page 6 of the rule book is the first mention of specific dice rolls where it states that skills are used and it is rolled by players needing 2d3. 3 sided dice are rare as they are not in standard sets of rpg dice but I have seen people use six sided dice labeling sides 1 & 2 are treated as 1, sides 3 & 4 are treated as 2 and sides 5 & 6 are treated as 3.
Like many ttrpgs, Quasar has a variety of small mechanics that players can use to navigate and over come with non- combat obstacles they may face in the game. There are 20 narrative skills (listed on pages 9 & 10) that can be used. Some skills are familiar from other systems (such as acrobatics, insight, medicine, etc.) but there are some Quasar unique skills as well such as “cool.” The GM assigns the difficulty that a player needs to meet or beat for that skill. Page 11 has a clear and concise chart to describe the differences between the 0 - 12+ difficulties for rolling and successes.
Part of the role playing process is getting “scars and injuries” when your character is removed from the mission due to something a med-stim could not fix. I think this is a great addition to the game to add a 1d6 (chart on pg 12) of permanent effect or scarring due to major damage. It makes the game more realistic and is a reminder that our characters are mortal, facing consequences to harm. These consequences range from visual scaring/burning to the loss of limbs and if you roll the dreaded one the character dies as sometimes medicine/surgery can’t fix everything.
What makes Quasar a bit different than other ttrpgs on the market is there is no leveling system. Characters show progression by buying or acquiring new gear/programs/devices through the use of K.CREDITS. PCs can also train through narrative actions to get new abilities, a new passive or bonuses to their skill points. This way GMs can reward good role play, narratives and successful missions without needing to track experience points or over all levels. I also like that loot from fallen foes or equipment from saved allies can also be gifted to the players in this manner. This is nice because players aren’t fighting for kills or trying to do things just for the sake of xp, rather stories can be created
Your team picked a mode, and now it's time to play! I would highly recommend using a laminated version of the character sheet as things change frequently and for me I find it easier to use a wet erase marker to keep track of things then constantly erasing and leaving smudges or holes. An example of frequent changes is at the start of a players turn they gain 1 SP (special points, up to the max of 6) and their AP (action point) value resets allowing a player to use one of each of these actions on their turn (unless specified by other rules such as items, spells, etc). This means every turn you will be doing many changes to pg 2 of your character sheet. The other thing that I thought was clever is the character sheet recommending using dice to track stats such as HP, SP and your ability counters. One thing that I noticed in Quasar is that players can use multiple items for no cost as long as necessary conditions are met, eliminating the D&D 5e idea that using an item is your action. Players can end their turn by running out of AP or when a player decides their turn is done.
Missions for Quasar are encouraged to have multiple objectives with a variety of terrain and enemies to allow players to use all of their skills and abilities, also allowing for different types of plans to be needed to complete the game. I am glad that even with this being a war game “storytelling is also a key part of mission design even in skirmish mode” (pg 26). Mission terrain/map boards, as Quasar is meant to be a physically built game with terrain, is roughly 30 by 22 inches which can fit within a playable space. The board is then split into starting zone and other areas/zones. Terrain is important as height can create difficult terrain or vantage points. Terrain can also give cover to players and enemies alike. Some pieces on the map can be volatile and explosions give extra reason for player caution.
The game Quasar can be customized and have varying challenges through the number and types of enemies, the types of mission, the terrain layout and initiative dice. Unlike other ttrpgs the die that you use to roll to determine initiative changes with each encounter and is based on the number of enemies there are. This means 15 enemies you’ll roll a d20 but if you’re fighting 6 enemies you would roll a d6 instead. There are a variety of objectives and mission rules presented on pages 29 & 30 to help make your game intriguing and fun. Missions can range from clearing an area, protecting/destroying/assassinating/looting a specific target to doing rules like Blitz Quasar where each player only get 5 minutes to play out their turn. Now that we got a basic idea of how Quasar is played, let’s look into character creation.
Character set up is relatively simple with a 6 step guide on page 32 to help you cover your bases. In Quasar you pick your species first, then your faction/alignment. There are a variety of classes that give your character boons to pick from. Then you customize your character by picking abilities, spending the 6k credits on your equipment and then lastly allocating your four skill points. Let’s break this down further.
Species- gives you passives, abilities and actions. This is the first step as some species can alter what other things you have “unlocked” for further character creation pieces. Each have some positives and some have negative attributes to keep things fair. I feel that there is a variety of species to pick from so your party can be as varied as you would like. Your options include:
Abna’Yam (Dragonborn line with functional wings)
Orc (green, grey and orange options)
Ul- Tur (“I am Groot” look)
Benandanti (think Anamorphs book cover art)
Goblin (the green or blue chaos creatures)
Factions- These are the groups and powers that your character can join. Each one has a variety of powers in the galaxy. Each one comes with some history and notable sub factions. These just give you background information, a place in the galaxy and flavor. Some classes (listed below and in the next chapter of the book) will belong to specific factions.
Character classes- The what you do
Some, like Vulpathian Infiltrator, are only allowed for specific species. Each class is broken down into information such as faction or unaligned, the passives, abilities and their equipment for example. There is a variety of hit points, armor and defense to pick and choose from with the different classes. This is the largest section of the book with many different classes. Some of them were surprising to me (like traditional “magic” classes and the ability to get a lightsaber) for a war game but I did enjoy the variety of options to play.
Vulpathian Infiltrator Roboticist Gambler
Psionic Hacker Shaman
Sharpshooter Witch Assassin
Bright Shield High Priest Swashbuckler
Enforcer Unseelie Hierophant (you get a lightsaber)
Bounty Hunter Peace Keeper
Enemy Book: Version 0.2.1
As a GM I appreciate that the enemies for Quasar follow behavior trees and have detailed profiles to help make games run smoother. Trees help take out some of the bias that might come in other ttrpg battles. The book also reminds in the first paragraphs that the GM always has final say, but for most Quasar games the enemies are alerted, and that there will not be negotiations. This is usually a true statement for most war games so to see it reflected in this ttrpg as well; this is a game that the players can’t talk their way out of every situation.
Elite enemies can be padded by GMs to be used to reward players with extra credits or gear due to their more dangerous nature. These enemies can also provide a challenge due to extra abilities or custom stats. Though it is not recommended to use many of these enemies, it can be used as a tool to drop in elites if game play is going to fast or the players don't feel challenged. Like some video games, Quasar also has an aggro mechanic in game, and actions such as damage being delt/healing/using abilities will gain the enemies attention and make certain players a target.
The book is broken down into different groupings as follows: Crimson Sun Mercenaries with 8 enemies to pick from; Android and Mechanical Monstrositiie with 9 options from sentries and traps; The Unseelie with four options; there are 2 Unexplained Phenomena. The Eshians have 9 different enemies stats and Corporate security has another 6 including but not limiting to assassin and samurai. There are also creatures listed under Wildlife of Asphodel with options such as Bone Dancers and Carnage Beetles. The Ancient Automata has sentries and sentinel with a very big beefy "Damaged Guardian." The last section is Rhu-hi Yakuza with low heath thugs and gamblers to more challenging Yakuza modders.
It is also nice to see the "More enemies coming soon" at the end of the book reminding us that this is an on going passion project. As a Gm I like the variety of HP and difficulties provided in each category. Color coded maps with yes/no prompts make it easy to navigate the actions and priorities of each unique enemy. War gaming is not my usual ttrpg go to, and I will admit that there were both things well explained in the books and stuff that I had to look up. In the enemy book some of the things I didn't understand was when there was a number + DEF (for example 4 + DEF from crimson sun raider) but I found that key words and the other pieces that were not explained in the enemy book could be found in the core rule book. Overall the Enemy Book was well handled.
The Character Sheets
Transport Terror- A One-Shot Adventure
This particular 7 page mission is available and pre-prepared on Tabletop Simulator through a Steam Community shared file. Though it is short and sweet it still is worth looking at and running. Transport Terror is a concise adventure that has goals that make sense and allows for players to get used to the rules and mechanics without worrying about messing up something for a longer game. The document may only be 9 pages cover to cover but it still has enough material for a long game session. Unlike video games where a mission like this could be completed in a short amount of time expect to play at least 45 minutes + (and that's if everyone rolls amazing and everything goes exactly as the players plan it to go on easy mode).
**The following section of the review is for Gm’s eyes only as if you are a player you will be exposed to spoilers. Skip down to the next orange heading to avoid spoilers**
The first two pages are the game setup and three mission objectives for the players based on the concept that the players gather together to take a transport and the warp gate goes wrong. The players wake up to carnage and must escape with their lives. There are three clear objectives/goals for this particular one shot which includes: 1. finding the captain’s key so they can 2. Override the quarantine/ security protocols so they, the players, can 3. Reach the escape pod and escape. The map and the mission is broken down into 4 quadrants and there is a clear breakdown of each of the enemies and terrain needed to complete each quadrant. The map is easy enough to understand where to place each of the terrain bits, and is clearly labeled for the gm to identify where each mission objective will take place. The mission structure is a page with bullet point entries of how to do the game from the beginning (choosing a difficulty) through the end.
I found it quite amusing that page 5 is the colored visual sign that the player’s characters would have seen in the in-game pre-flight talk. Another aspect that I appreciated as a GM is the ending, even with the party reaching a mission success ending by engaging the escape pods, the writer made sure to add a reading section on how even escaping lost in deep space the survival rate is still practically impossible. This gives game masters the ability to leave the party here if they wanted to just play a one shot, or is the perfect set up for a long term campaign if the players will come across “rescuers” of some sort after.
Thoughts from the Fox
I will admit, I am not a big combat game type person making Quasar a little difficult to understand at first due to terminology but this game does a very good job of having definitions and explanations. Lists (such as the skill lists) are in alphabetical order and have understandable descriptions. If you want to read more specific rules about game play read pgs 14- 24 of the core rule book. There is also a QR code to scan that leads you to video explanations which I love as people learn differently and having a video explanation is very helpful. The diagrams (such as the ones for plasma shuriken on pg 16 or the Tectonic Axe on pg 17 core rule book) were also helpful to explain all the numbers as well. Overall I think that Quasar is a war game ttrpg that even those not familiar with wargame can get into with lots of different pieces that can make each round or game unique. There are tons of classes with the promise of more to come. I definitely recommend reading the whole core rule book cover to cover first as knowing the different classes and races will be helpful with the character creation process. Everything is pretty simple to understand and the classes have the information needed without needing complicated rolls to figure out health or having a ton of feats that you need to pick from. I like that it is visual and that there are files to help game masters create an area that is interesting and can provide challenges. I love that this is a continued passion project, and even as I was creating this article there was even more changes. Please make sure to check out their itch.io to get their most recent copy of the Quasar.