We have a lot to discuss today, so I’ll spare myself the unnecessary preamble and get straight to the point. If you like sci-fi RPGs and haven’t played Coriolis yet, you should at least give it a second thought. And because I already convinced you of that in the preview and in the review, I will no longer wear stars in the night sky unnecessarily.
What I will add is that if you ask me, the best way to enjoy this game’s massive universe is sandbox style. Letting players aim wherever they like. Fly from planet to planet, jump from system to system, and instead of pre-prepared, scripted campaigns, let them explore the game world as the stories come to hand.
But that’s easier said than done when you’re talking about a universe consisting of 36 star systems, each containing between a handful and a dozen planets and asteroid belts, usually tied to one or more of ten factions locked in a constant power struggle, about not to mention a lot of other cultural, historical and political nuances.
Running Coriolis in sandbox mode means (at least assuming you don’t plan to populate the entire universe yourself) to have a pretty solid grasp of a lot of the moving parts of his world. And after all, you can’t avoid that inventing either, because if the players decide that they want to go to Dziban, for example, then I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you, because you won’t find it – along with many others of those 36 systems – described in any manual.
So if the storyteller in Coriolis wants to give his players that longed-for fantasy à la Firefly, where their nest is their home and their fate rests solely in their hands, he has a lot of work ahead of him. But he is lucky in one thing: he has Coriolis incredibly extensive a supply of additional materials in the form of all kinds of oneshots, mini-scenarios, new planets and atlases for entire systems.
And one of the easiest ways to conduct a sandbox Coriolis is, in short, every time the players arrive in a new location, reach for a suitable scenario, load it a week in advance and gradually, plot by plot, little thing by little thing, lay out a rich story mosaic in front of the players , from which, over time, stories will begin to sprout by themselves. And it doesn’t cost that much work in the end either.
There are really clouds of those products, and the lion’s share of it is the community that throughe Free League Workshop zsupplies this differently… let’s say moderately popular RPG with more and more quality supplements that many times surpass even the official ones. And what’s more, they usually cost just a few bucks, and sometimes they’re even completely free. There are so many of them that it’s easy to get completely overwhelmed by them and make an even bigger mess in your head than after reading the basic guide.
Lucky for you, someone has read them all. And that someone will now spend an entire article telling you about them. About everyone. Because the best way to play Coriolis is in the sandbox, and the easiest way to play Coriolis in the sandbox is with this treasure chest z RPGDriveThru. I had to rummage through it for a few months before I was clear about them. The rest of this text will be enough for you. What’s more, the whole thing will be with absolutely minimal spoilers and peppered references to said material.
As for the Grace of Icons…
It would be unfair to talk about ready-made scenarios for Coriolis and completely leave out his main official campaignň Mercy of the Icons. Pokud for whatever reason, the idea of a linear (or more linear) campaign is more comfortable to you than a completely free sandbox, with Mercy of the Icons you certainly won’t miss it.
We will probably cover the entire campaign in a separate article soon, but for the purposes of this text, let’s simply summarize that it is a solid trilogy with a slower, but high-quality start, a carnage plot and… ahem, a controversial ending. And if the mysteries revolving around the mystics and Emissaries of Xena fuel you the most in the world of Coriolis, you will find (very satisfying) answers to them in this campaign.
But if you are going to start the campaign, I would recommend cutting a separate prologue before it Last Voyage of the Ghazali. We reviewed it here and it’s overall a decent introduction to the world and gameplay of Coriolis, however you intend to build on it, but it shines especially in the context of the second part of the campaign, when its events take on completely new dimensions.
So. We should have a campaign. But what if you want to unleash your players and launch them into space?
Basic orientation in the Third Horizon
Welcome to the Third Horizon! We have 36 star systems here, one of which (Kua, the central system of the star cluster) jin the basic manualtaken in detail, and the other six (Algol, Mira, Dabaran, Sadaal, Zalos and Odacon) are described in it on roughly one page per system. Which is not much, but then we also have an official supplement Atlas Compendium, ktéry subsequently expands each of these six systems on a few more pages and also contains a chapter intended for game masters full of spoilers about the history of the Third Horizon, the mission generator and similar joys. Let’s face it, the entire Atlas Compendium should have been part of the core guide from the start, and if you’re serious about Coriolis, I suggest you don’t skip it.
But the main advantage of the Atlas Compendium really lies above all in the narrative part, because the chapters describing the individual systems are easily trumped by the second large atlas in this local group: Community Atlas of the Third Horizon, fanouškov supplement with a fat 120 pages and one of the best products that were born for Coriolis in the Free League Workshop.
The Community Atlas again describes the six systems mentioned above (plus four others: Altai, Ordanu, Sivas and Zhau, all located on the Miran Chain), bringing together the information from the basic manual and expanding it with the authors’ own inventions and fragments connected to others fan and official products.
The Community Atlas information thus serves as a de facto expanded canon, containing roughly double the information and ideas for each of the systems, while remaining fully compatible with the vast majority of what you read in the official manual and elsewhere. If there’s one product on this whole list that’s truly indispensable, it’s this one.
Speaking of atlases, there’s another fanké Coriolis Planetarium: The Miran Chain, but which the authors created through the process of random generation of planets and systems, and thus contradicts other official and community materials in many points. Not bad for general inspiration, but given that you can find most of the Mir chain in the Community Atlas anyway, it might not be worth the effort. On the other hand, it costs five dollars. Nothing that will drive you bankrupt.
Finally, you can find free downloads on the Free League websitení Star Systems of the Third Horizon, that is, the graphics maps of most major systems, which will serve as nice handouts for the player once they emerge from the portal to the new system. I just hope your printer handles black well.
Ok, enough for basic orientation. If you’ve been counting on your fingers, you know that out of those 36 systems, we manage to find solid evidence for about 11. What about the remaining 25? Well, really, not much. They are there to allow game masters to let their imaginations run wild, while most of the prepackaged material is concentrated around the mid-horizon (Kua), the Mir chain (Zalos, Mira, Odacon, Altai, Ordana, Sivas, Zhau) and then a few main systems in the peripheries (Dabaran, Algol, Sadaal).
The game more or less expects players to travel primarily between these hubs, and the worlds between them serve as wild frontiers, ideal for some plot involving pirates, lost spaceship wrecks, or monsters from the depths of space. After all, there is nothing wrong with using them as a star desert that must be crossed on the way to a distant goal – however, the difficulty of traveling through the pitch-black void is one of the main motives of the whole game. And if you have some of your own material in stock that you’d like to beat the players with, these “empty” systems are perfect for that.
But now let’s go back to the beginning. Let’s say you’re about to have your first session and you need to kick off the plot with some suitable opening scenario. Do we have any candidates?
Where to start?
Of course, there are plenty of options, but since this text is starting to (un)expectedly swell under my arms, let’s focus on the main favorites, how about you?
V corebooku nyou will find the opening scenario Stauette of Zhar Baghra and follow-up Terengganu Valleywhich are not bad, but the introductory part at the Coriolis station can be a bit overwhelming when you have to describe the most complex location that the setting has to offer in the very first session.
O Last Voyage of the Ghazali už jwe mentioned, but my personal favorite is the low-key community oneshot Hyaenas of Odacon od Michael Masberg (we will repeat his name a few more times here). It is designed as a starter scenario containing more or less everything that makes Coriolis Coriolis. We’ve got shipwrecks, dark supernatural creatures, space gunfights, and you can play it all in one or two sittings. In addition, Odacon is an excellent introductory location, rich in interesting history, cool space phenomena, and at the same time it is not nearly as overwhelming as the title Coriolis. In combination with the community Atlas, you can easily spend the entire mini-campaign in it.
Alternatively, there is also the community scenary Siren, ktera will bring the budding characters together in the Mir Prison Colony. I myself have only heard of its qualities second-hand, but given that it costs literally half a dollar, there’s no reason not to at least look at it for inspiration.
Kua: Tourist guide
Otherwise, it’s very likely that your players will spend most of their time in the Kua system, at least initially. Due to the way the game sets up the debt mechanics and portal travel prices, it will probably take a while for them to jump from system to system (unless the game master comes up with some trick to get them into that Odacon, for example), and if they’re going to be the first several games get stuck on one single system, why shouldn’t it be the one that the corebook offers the most information about, right?
You’ll get a lot of general information about the planets in Kue (which are Lubau, Jina, Kua, Xene, Surha, and the Rimward Reach) in the core guide, but when it comes to the scenarios, there’s a bit of digging involved. So let’s run the system from the sun to the edge and talk about what to reach for if your players land/crash on that particular lump of space rock.
The scenario takes place on Lubau Algebra of the Icons and a somewhat more loosely conceived adventure location Mahanji Oasisboth of which can be found in the officialm Scenario Compendium 1. Nand you can leave the planet Jinaon him Aram’s Secret (sceneø, which by the standards of oneshots pleasantly grinds into the metaplot of the whole world) and her moon Cala Duniha is a suitable, if not necessary, location for a very nice community sceneář Diamond Sands set in a luxury hotel resort. If you want to play White Lotus in Coriolis, I highly recommend it.
It takes place primarily on the planet Kuam the first volume of Mercy of the Icons, aonly at the Coriolis station in orbit can you seize the player mentioned Statuette of Zhag Bagra (in the corebook) or heist scenariosm The Prophetess of Marakanda opfrom the pen of Michael Masberg. He is also responsible fora Three Rivers, a one-page adventure about a terrorist attack aboard the Coriolis that, despite its short format, can conjure up some really intense sessions.
Xene, a planet key to the campaign’s metaplot Mercy of the Iconshas no own adventure (except linear A Song for Jaroumain which players can experience first-hand the events of the arrival of the first Emissaries, which is presentthose of the first part of the campaign), andle zato has plenty of moons on which to place plenty of non-localized adventures, which will be discussed in a moment. On the other hand, the icy Surha is the scene of the community scenario Frozen Inferno, excellent in case you feel like playing in Coriolist Thing.
And then we have the lair of pirates and nomads, the Rimward Reach asteroid belt and its Djachroum station. There was originally supposed to be another whole campaign around this location (still under the baton of Järnringen, before they took Coriolis on their backs Free League), of which only its opening part remained, written only in Swedish and in the original system of the first edition. Thanks to the English translation and system update by Frank Graeff, you can enjoy at least the first third of the unfinished story iny: Djachroum and the Rimward Reach serves as an atlas of the entire asteroid belt and its main stations, while the opening scenario can be found under the English name Light Flower – Dark Leaf.
Lost in space
Few scenarios have a fixed location outside of Kuu. It is only official Tailor from Mira (to be found in the aforementionedm Coriolis Scenario Compendium 1), an urban quest in Icon City on Mira, whose finale is sympathetically reminiscent of the episode Train Job from Firefly and the fan-made Iron Storms, tothree characters are trapped by a sandstorm at a research station in the middle of the Dabaran Desert.
Fortunately, there are plenty of add-ons that you can place practically anywhere in the Third Horizon. After all, space is a big place, there are plenty of abandoned ships, and every planet has a moon that can serve as the setting for more or less any scenario you want. So if your characters stray outside the mapped territory, consider reaching for any of the following products.
If you enjoy the horror exploration of derelict ships drifting aimlessly through the void, there’s either Dying Ship (separate official product) or Dark Flowers (currentlyt quickstart available for free), which is technically based on the script for the original edition of Coriolis – and you can play this original version thanks to Frank Graeff’s further translation in the form of a script Truth About Station 18.
Then we have Eye of the Beast, a pleasantly “wild” scenario in which players explore the effects of levitation, an element that magnifies everything it comes in contact with. This is the last scenario from the mentioned oneso Scenario Compendium 1. Diamond Sands už we also mentioned, so let’s just remind you that this resort can really stand more or less anywhere on the horizon and add a microsandbox modl Under Saffron Skies, pthe final scenario on this list by Michael Masberg, featuring a brand new moon orbiting a half-forgotten planet on the edge of a half-forgotten system.
If you need to liven up your Horizon with some extra bit of civilization, you can take a look at Mira’s Restaurant & Cantina, Hamurabi Station (also a componentí Last Voyage of the Ghazali) nebo Sesame Pirate Station.
And finally, we have two community pieces from Moy Frithiofsson, who aren’t afraid to delve into areas of the original game that even the authors of the official materials avoided. Himí Prisoner of Arkus to The Lost System se teyes around the Portal Builders, an ancient race that you barely learn anything about in the base game. But Moa built two entire epic scenarios on her theories. (A third is out of the question at the time of writing, but is reportedly being considered.) It’s one of the biggest departures from canon we’ll find in community creation, but given the Free League’s apparent lack of interest in developing Builders – and also the fact that these are simply good scripts – I don’t think that matters at all.
And as a side dish?
I started the previous paragraph with the word finally, but that was a gross deception of the customer. We may have exhausted the stock of scenarios, but the rabbit hole of community content for Coriolis is many times deeper, and remember that once we’ve dug into it, we’ll reach the bottom. In addition to scenarios and adventures, we also find a lot of all kinds of modules that can make the game easier, expand or enrich it in all possible directions.
Want examples? How about another work by Michael MasbergEternal Lurks the Darkness, de facto manual for more fun use of darkness points, one of the main mechanics of the whole game? Personally, I consider it practically mandatory reading. And if you have enthusiastic hackers in your party who would like to expand their talents beyond the limits of simply rolling skill checks, you can take a look at Web of the Data Spider od of the same author or on DataDjinn’s Delight by Jhekarna Hasamury.
Speaking of rule modules, they are very popular in the communityí Coriolis Reloaded, bcommonly known as Combat Overhaul for short. This module proposes alternative rules for duels, the biggest asset of which is the reduction of the number of rolls and mechanics allowing characters that do not directly have many points in combat abilities to be as valid as possible during conflicts. If, after playing a few fights in Coriolis, you will think that for some reason it’s not completely out, go for Overhaul, your experience might improve dramatically. And if you feel the same way about the breakneck spaceship battle system, check out na Simplified Space Combat.
Veterans of the Horizon pak adds fifty new talents, bionic implants, and mystical skills, greatly expanding the otherwise rather meager supply of basic materials. Combat Elite is a similar expansion, but focuses specifically on talents, gear, and all sorts of upgrades for whatever your characters use to punch holes in NPCs. Mystic Disturbances is then an interesting addition that represents milder manifestations of mystical abilities that can be invoked even by players without the otherwise required talent,
If, on the other hand, you need more specific rules for simulating property, wealth and reputation, reach out to Mro Birr and Reputation. Trade in the Third Horizon give it a try if you want to play Coriolis more like a space Port Royale. And in any case, I recommend reading this article about the princepu Havaleh, jotherwise, you’ll be in for a lot of head-scratching when your characters have to pay off the first part of the loan from the other side of the Horizon.
What’s next? Official additionek Artifacts and Faction Tech adds some super cool artifacts and tech to the game (and some new tidbits about the otherwise annoyingly mysterious Draconite faction). We have a whole series of great ship plans from John Salquist in case you don’t pick one up from the corebook. You usually don’t need battle maps in Coriolis more or less, but there are two fan map packs if you want them.
And we’re not done yet. Mwe have a random alien monster generator here. We have Beasts Among Us here, které will allow you to play as those monsters – or rather the semi-intelligent ones – if you wanted to for some reason. And I could go on until all the Icons have turned white ear hairs, but since we’ll never get to the bottom of that hole otherwise, I’ll end with my last two favorites.
The Third Horizon Phrasebook is a great resource to slowly infuse your game with Arabic and Eastern phrases in general if you want to add authenticity to your game. And the Coriolis Calendar is nan absolutely invaluable and beautifully designed tool for tracking data, debts, critical injuries and similar time-sensitive matters.
To infinity and beyond!
With any luck, you’re now a little better prepared for your first trip across the Third Horizon. Of course, nothing prevents you from filling the starry sky with your own wrecks, planets and entire worlds. But it never hurts to have a reliable supply of ready-made content on hand that someone else has sweated for you.
So good luck pilgrim. Let the Icons watch over your little girl, let the Darkness between the stars take care of its own, and let your journey be long and full of adventures and unforgettable experiences.