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Planet Mercenary RPG
by John P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/28/2018 14:08:03

I picked up this game because I love the comic. And it has lots of the flavor of the original schlock mercenary: fun, action-packed, epic.

Having played for about 15-20 hours, I think I'm starting to get the hang of it and really see its potential. There's no question that this is a game with lots of moving parts.  II love it, but it is complex and crunchy.

I was game chief, and had five other players, most of whom had zero experience with role playing games. And because we are all grown-ups with jobs and kids, and we live in different states and have to play the game by video chat, we were not able to play as often or for as long as I think would be ideal.

In retrospect, PM may not have been the best pick for this group. We ended up simplifying a lot of the game as we played, paring it down to the essential components. Two of the more innovative features that we kept in place were fire teams and the Mayhem deck. I think both of these are fantastic and really vitalized gameplay. I'd like to see similar things in other games.

Overall, I really enjoyed the game and highly recommend it. A great choice for experienced players or folks willing and able to learn. Maybe a little intimidating for total noobz or casual players.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Planet Mercenary RPG
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Planet Mercenary RPG
by Sean D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/30/2018 20:03:42

First off, this product is not perfect. Still, it comes pretty close. It's a lightweight system that pretty accurately depicts the world of Howard Tayler's Schlock Mercenary webcomic.

At its base, it's a simple system based on 3d6 rolls, applied to skills, as either opposed rolls or versus static target numbers. What makes this game special is a combination of a beautifully rich setting with lovely artwork and fascinating details about the universe that the protagonists live in and the fillips used to make the 3d6 system more elaborate. The inclusion of Mayhem (one die of the three is a different color, and if you succeed in your check and that die is higher than the others, interesting things ranging from bad to good to amusing happen in addition to that success. So a successful shot might result in extra damage, or something you didn't intend to hit blowing up, or your fireteam deciding you're so cool that they automatically succeed at your next task, to shifting one skill point from one skill to another to... let's just say there a lot of results with both mechanical and narrative results) and more complicated modifiers with doubles, triples, or sequential numbers producing results. Character creation is very simple, consisting of choosing a sophont type (equivalent to a Race), Command Package (what role your character plays in the company), and Background (who your character was before they signed on with the company). Then, you spend your points on skills at a 1-1 basis or on specialities (allowing you to reroll one die for a particular subset of a skill) for 2 points. And then, after that, you spend shared resources on your equipment. It's an oddly collaborative setup where players don't track individual wealth, and your initial choice of Command Package and Background just decides initial skill choices on a mechanical level, meaning that you don't have a "class tier" problem where Clerics are better than Wizards are better than Fighters, etc.

In addition, you get interesting mechanics like the Fireteams, where each player is assumed to be an Officer of some sort, who commands several soldiers who do things like provide covering fire, concentrate fire upon a tough target, or perform menial tasks like searching a room for hiding hostages while you're doing the more important things like defusing the bomb, or Ablative Meat where random members of the mercenary company are assumed to "take the shot" or "jump on the grenade" to avoid damage with the cost being an RiPP (basically a Hero Point from most systems, gained by roleplaying or the GM skewing the results) and having to name and describe the grunt taking the damage for you before flipping a coin to figure out whether they survive.

On the minus side, the game is not something where you can depend on the rules to prevent exploits. There are certain fireteam configurations which are pretty much superior to others, and certain fireteam actions that are essentially unstoppable. There are pieces of equipment which are more expensive than superior pieces that offer the same functionality. The game doesn't ship with any sample characters (although it does have a sample adventure), and there are some typos. But ultimately, these are small potatoes when lined up against the sheer fun of this system.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Planet Mercenary RPG
by Daniel Y. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/12/2017 19:43:33

If you are a fan of Schlock Mercenary by Howard Tayler, you can stop reading and go buy Planet Mercenary. The answer is, "Yes, it does the comic justice." For others, here is a science fiction role-playing game (RPG) based on a long running web comic that captures the fun people expect from reading about a group of space-based, future mercenaries.

Howard Tayler, Sandra Tayler, and Alan Bahr to capture the universe of Schlock Mercenary. Instead of me trying to tell you what this universe is like, go on-line and read through some of the history the mercenary company has gone through.

The Book

I reviewed Planet Mercenary in PDF. I cannot address the binding or page print, but I can tell you about what I found.

The layout of the book made it easy to read and to find information. Clear references are provided if you have to go to another page, which made looking something up fast. The equipment sections are grouped nicely so I wasn't flipping back and forth trying figure out what I was needing.

The artwork was fun and precise (of course, when you have the game based on a comic and the artist is involved in the production). The placement of the art helped explain what was in the text.

There are a couple levels of text that demonstrate what this game is about. Throughout Planet Mercenary, you are reminded playing this RPG, and any RPG, is about having fun. Everyone is there to create an experience that everyone there is going to enjoy. Even when you are in sections that are loaded with information, they are presented in a lighter manner with ways of showing how to keep the experience of game play lighter and well-paced.

The second layer of text demonstrates this is a game for fun storytelling and the authors had fun putting it together (I'm sure they worked hard because I read their acknowledgements). Throughout the book there is a secondary story being told in the sidebars. It starts in the introduction where the CEO of the company Planet Mercenary makes a comment in the sidebar about what is in the text. This is followed by comments from others—and that sets the tone. The side bar comments tell a story all their own. At one point, I stopped and read just the comments from beginning to end because in those comments a story is presented that highlights how the game should really be considered, and played.

The front half of the book helps get the players started while the back is for the Game Chief (GC) to have information for running a game. This includes information about significant places, people, and events that can be used for adventure hooks. The information is provided in the same fun format making it something you can enjoy reading without it being just a travelogue.

Characters and Mercenary Companies

Planet Mercenary is designed to be played in a campaign setting. Each player starts with a main character who is part of the team of officers of a mercenary company. This means the players need to start out working together to determine who is going to take on the distinct roles (not everyone can be the captain, then again, not everyone wants to be the captain). There are many races to choose from and there is good balance between them so the role-playing aspects of the characters can come to the forefront during play.

Along with creating a character, the players can create their company. Of course, it could be built by the GC and given to the players, but it is recommended that the players combine their creative talents. Part of the company is the ship, which has an artificial intelligence (AI), which will be played as a player character and non-player character. This is done by shared play during things like space combat by the players, or by the GC when the action is slow and if being done by a player they would probably be surfing the internet in this era, instead of participating in the future.

After the creating the characters and the company the players need to equip. This isn't done by giving each player an amount of money to buy guns, ammo, etc. Players are making a company and because of that many items have to be shared (that is party how they have a ship). There will also be some characters that need to have supplies for the company, because no one want the medic to say, "Sorry, I'm out of bandages." The monetary system is broken into resources and supplies. Resources are there to be able to gain larger items and to convert into supplies. Supplies are what are used for gaining the smaller items everyone needs. This system works well without having to have a player be the company bookkeeper who spends game night on a calculator and spreadsheet.

Game Mechanics

Dice and Mayhem

The base mechanic is using 3d6 when determining success or failure when needed. Simply put, roll 3d6 and add to the character's modifier, the bigger the better. The mechanic is elegant in simplicity with the added element of adding mayhem to the event.

When dice are rolled to determine success or failure a side effect may be mayhem. One of the three dice rolled is marked in some way to make it different than the other two—the mayhem die. When the roll results in a success and the mayhem die is greater than either of the other two dice, a Mayhem Card is draw. Mayhem isn't always undesirable. They are designed to add additional color and consideration to the role-playing taking place at the table. These unexpected events may alter how events are unfolding in the moment, or later, depending on the card. Additionally, they may not occur at all if a player decides to spend a Role-Playing Point (RiPP).

RiPPs are used by players to make minor adjustments during game play. They don't always work, because the GC may decide the event is important enough, or fun enough to have happen. But, the players can try.

Initiative and Playing the AI

Planet Mercenary favors the mercenary with quick thoughts. Many games have initiative diced by a die roll, or the quickness of the character. In Planet Mercenary, initiative is won by the bold player. The first person to speak up with an action is the first to go in the round.

After the first player takes their action the next action is determined in the same fashion. After all the players have gone then the GC determines the actions of the forces under their control.

It sounds confusing. And, in minor ways it is. And, it plays up to the setting of the game to create the level of uncertainty during the battles taking place, or even the activities happening between battles.

Ship to ship battles are handled by the AI. At this point in the game the players take on the role of the AI in the battle. Initiative is the same. The difference is the players take actions as though they are the AI running the ship.

This initiative system and group play of the NPC AI leads to some interesting role-playing.

Fireteams and Grunts

Mercenaries get killed. And, as pointed out by the comments in the sidebar this can be funny. However, players don't like characters dying if that means they miss out on playing.

Each player is a command officer. Officers need to command somebody. So, each officer commands a fireteam of three. These are specialists chosen from the number of grunts the company is employing. They have some extra abilities that complement the officer they work with (this is chosen by the player creating the officer). In the event of a character death, a fireteam member may get a field promotion.

For players, this means they have backup, partially created characters—no one sits out the rest of the night, or take on the role of the company bookkeeper. There are more nameless grunts also in the fight. A player who loses a fireteam member, through promotion of death, is able to replace the fallen, or risen, member from the collection of grunts.


Planet Mercenary was a fun book to read and a fun game to play.

The longest point we had was the creation of the company as players decided how to apply their resources and supplies.

Mechanics of the game were easily learned and easy to follow. The Mayhem Cards provide a sense of the unknown, both dread and hope.

For those who don't know about the comic, I think there will be new fans.

Thanks to Hypernode Press for the opportunity of reading and reviewing Planet Mercenary.

Originally posted on Guild Master Gaming.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Planet Mercenary RPG
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/16/2017 11:12:53

For anyone who is a fan of science fiction gaming, the SchlockMercenary comic, and/or fast action-driven / outcome-focused mechanics, I really cannot give this game a high enough recommendation.

Even for fans of the comic who might never get a chance to play the game, the book is probably worth it for the setting information and humor alone. Howard Taylor's style and humor, and the spirit of the comic, really come through in the text. It's also full of other artist's takes on the characters and equipment and ships.

The system itself looks quick and chaotic, so in feel it fits the Schlock Mercenary fiction. I did have some questions about the target numbers on the rolls and how the odds work out at various intersections of skill and difficulty, but it's a flexible system that small issues like that can easily be dealt with at the GC level (Game Chief, their term for Game Master). There are some instances where it appears the team favored creating a game with a freewheeling feel, for players to have their own fun and their own stories, over directly recreating what the characters (starring, guest, and side) in the comic are capable of.

It's evident from both the product and from their statements that the entire Planet Mercenary team have put heart and soul into this effort, and I'm sure there will be more to come.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Planet Mercenary RPG
by Eric W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/15/2017 18:11:16

This game is amazing!!! I'm prepping for my sixth session of Planet Mercenary right now (Not that much preparation is neccessary with this system!). The Alan Bahr, Sandra and Howard Tayler created this awesome work, and their dedication to quality is shown in every page. Planet Mercenary runs like greased lightning, from the 3d6 (with MAYHEM!) skill system, and Fireteam mechanics (which speed up combat rather than bogging it down), to Character creation which takes mere minutes.

The MAYHEM mechanic really sets this system apart, it throws variation into what could have been a standard "Stand and Deliver" test system. And there is enough swing in those cards to alter the very flow of the narrative. This is quite refreshing to a Game Master who has spent years running, the elephant in the room, Dungeons and Dragons. At first my players were afraid of MAYHEM, and spent all of the RiPPs to prevent those cards from being drawn, but they have quickly come to value them for the amazing mechanic that they are.

RiPP tokens may seem like your standard Bennie (al la Savage Worlds), but I assure you that they are not. Players compete to gain these tokens, and the game is enriched by them. One of the main usages of these is to invoke the "Ablative Meat" mechanic, which can have awesome and/or tragic results. Many a grunt has passed into great prestige while blocking incoming fire from their Officer. Some have passed away, but that is no less prestigious.

I absolutely cannot recommend this game enough. Half of my players had never heard of Schlock Mercenary before they began playing, but the system was so easy that they picked it up as fast as those of us who are long time Schlock fans. I have never seen a group of players be so excited for the next session. And, In all honesty, I've never been so excited to run a system.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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