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  #1  
Old 09-17-2017, 04:29 PM
tsofian tsofian is offline
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Default The Project, Prime Base, The Game

In 1980 when dinosaurs roamed the Earth Morrow Project was one of the first, if not the original, RPG that let players run characters that they might meet or even be on the tabletop. You could directly base your character on yourself, your high school science teacher, the cop from down the street, or soldiers you read about or even served with. This was a huge difference from a fantasy setting or even something like Traveller.

The first few modules were shoot'em ups generally speaking. This reflected the roots of RPGs as "Kill monsters and take their treasure" dungeon crawls, as well as the preferences of some of the original design teams. It is also a fairly easy way to introduce new players into an sort of game. Give them a problem they don't have to think too much about and let them explore the combat rules.

Since those relatively simple beginnings in a time when Role Playing was in its infancy, a lot has changed in terms of gamers and gaming. This first led to the introduction of a skill system to MP and now to 4th edition. It has also led to a very deep schism in the very passionate followers of this game universe. On one side are the folks that feel MP is a combat based game setting, while others feel it is also a "thinking" game in which players must solve problems and their characters must be able to interact in peaceful, nay even cooperative, fashion with NPCs. I am an unapologetic member of the latter group.

I am not saying Morrow is not both. I've run plenty of combat heavy scenarios. I am saying that it has the possibility, for the right game master and set of players, to be a more varied setting. I've certainly run a number of scenarios, both in house campaigns and at conventions, where combat would not have solved the issues and players had to find other ways for their characters to resolve conflicts. Some of the published modules lend themselves to this style of play, but most do not.

Then came along Prime Base. This was absolutely a huge change in play style for TimeLine. For a crew of combat specialist characters and players it will be nearly impossible to succeed, or even to survive. As written it has a huge amount of issues. It's obtuse, it's complex, it has almost no combat at all.

I admire the ideas behind Prime Base as a gaming setting. I question how it was carried out, and I am pretty sure I'm not alone in that opinion. So how should the RPG handle Prime Base? I think the module should have a better balance between combat and non combat challenges.
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Old 09-17-2017, 05:56 PM
Matt W Matt W is offline
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I wish you luck. Prime Base is the worst of the modules; it's simply unplayable

But it's a brave effort. I would suggest that the "edit" starts with removing/altering the stuff that players will find implausible (dinosaurs, for example).

Remove/alter the stuff that players will hate (the super-competent Phoenix team, for example)

Remove/alter the stuff that players will laugh at (the Prime Base computer, for example)

SO what is left? Only puzzles? That's very hard to do in a way that entertains players. You'll probably find that only one player is interested. It also needs some sort of conflict to keep players "on their toes". I would suggest that someone else is also trying to get into the base... Perhaps they've already tripped over some of the automated defences

Frozen Chosen?
Snake Eaters?
The descendants of a Morrow Team on a sort of pilgrimage?

If you want to make it really complex then maybe TWO groups have found Prime Base and are likely to fight each other plus the PCs. The players may have to negotiate for a share of the loot

Then we must decide if the players are ever going to use this facility (probably not, IMHO). After all, it's over 150 years old, and hasn't had any maintenance. It's frankly unpleasant and superfluous. Once they've found the MacGuffin, it would be wise to relocate

And maybe it could be in Indiana?
http://qctimes.com/news/local/barb-i...2204ab112.html
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Old 09-17-2017, 07:15 PM
tsofian tsofian is offline
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I wish you luck. Prime Base is the worst of the modules; it's simply unplayable

I agree

But it's a brave effort. I would suggest that the "edit" starts with removing/altering the stuff that players will find implausible (dinosaurs, for example).

Done in the Prime Base Repairment

Remove/alter the stuff that players will hate (the super-competent Phoenix team, for example)

Yep, I will only leave that as an "option" for a PD. I hated the concept and think it robs the players and their characters from controlling their own future.

Remove/alter the stuff that players will laugh at (the Prime Base computer, for example)

Yes

SO what is left? Only puzzles? That's very hard to do in a way that entertains players. You'll probably find that only one player is interested. It also needs some sort of conflict to keep players "on their toes". I would suggest that someone else is also trying to get into the base... Perhaps they've already tripped over some of the automated defences

The puzzles are definitely going to be core. One way to add interest is to breach part of the base and let some wildlife in. Robot defenders would be ideal. These are much more likely in 4th edition than 1-3. At that point the adventure becomes Damocles though. How can it be made different enough to stand alone? In fact in the 4th edition Prime Base might well have a really sophisticated AI, which would completely change everything about the storyline.

Frozen Chosen?
Snake Eaters?
The descendants of a Morrow Team on a sort of pilgrimage?

If you want to make it really complex then maybe TWO groups have found Prime Base and are likely to fight each other plus the PCs. The players may have to negotiate for a share of the loot

Then we must decide if the players are ever going to use this facility (probably not, IMHO). After all, it's over 150 years old, and hasn't had any maintenance. It's frankly unpleasant and superfluous. Once they've found the MacGuffin, it would be wise to relocate

A lot of this depends upon what condition the base is in, and what other Morrow assets are close by. I've been watching the discussion of MARS/Recon teams around the region with interest. Also is there a number of other teams that can be contacted with information discovered in Prime?



I believe that Timeline originally did envision abandoning Prime Base after the adventure. I seem to recall some guff about moving everyone to Idaho under the "wise" tyranny of the Phoenix team. This seems to indicate that the only reason Prime was written was to unleash the Phoenix Team. I've never liked the concept, either on the Project level or on the game level.

I think it might be important to make the game worth the candle though. Prime Base needs to really be worth dying for. It needs to be salvageable. It needs to be of huge value to the future of the restoration of the world. HUGE value. I believe that if players get through Prime Base and find everything that "everything" better be things like all the Morrow Project dependants in freeze tubes, mothballed factories capable of building just about anything.

And maybe it could be in Indiana?
http://qctimes.com/news/local/barb-i...2204ab112.html
That is Iowa, not Indiana but will be very useful in another project I'm working on so thanks!
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  #4  
Old 09-18-2017, 11:17 AM
Project_Sardonicus Project_Sardonicus is offline
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I remember buying Prime Base years ago and thinking,
Is that it?
Then putting it down for ages picking it up again and thinking, no really that's it?

Which is annoying as a UK MP fan, for years I had thought it was unpublished and this was like some treasure trove.

It suffers from 2 maladies of supplements of the 1980s.

1 The Abandoned Hole.

GDW Traveller was notorious for devising abandoned bases, temples and even starships. Which players would stumble around trying to solve a usually fairly pedestrian mystery and avoiding some fairly minor threats.

2 The Get out of here Guardians.

Seemingly every early D&D scenario had a city with level 3 guards and a level 6 wizard working for the local lord. Who's sole job was to make sure heroes got themselves out of town and raided the local tomb and didn't make any trouble.

Hence the Phoenix Team e.g. "who'd have thought the Project had Chuck Norris, Dutch and their combined special forces just to boot us out of our nice new Prime base!"

So basically a scenario where the players turn up half naked and injured after fighting giant lizards in a swamp. Before exploring a big empty tomb by match light and then if they finally find the secret, getting kicked out by Delta Force is probably one of the least entertaining scenarios of all time.

Which is even more annoying when you bear in mind; The Starnaman Incident and Damocles were easily some of the best post apocalyptic dungeon scenarios and worked so well.

My view keep the maps and ditch everything else. Maybe Damoclese has been run by the degenerate descendants of the survivors, perhaps a care taker crew woken up a 100 years ago.

The idea of the base being laid siege by some serious big bads like Krell or Sciens would be great.

But you know trust your team will want to leave of their own free will to rebuild the world. And not hang around to help the Phoenix teams clean up ala a 1980s montage.

nb I've always felt that the Morrow Project staff who wanted to man Prime Base would be a little screwy anyway. Volunteering to watch the world burn alongside all their friends and family (well most of them). Not well adjusted people, if a few survived in freeze tubes and ran the place. I think they may end up like those crazy Human's in one of the old Planet of the Apes films who worshipped an atom bomb...
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Old 09-18-2017, 02:06 PM
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My view keep the maps and ditch everything else.
The maps while cool are printed so small I found them almost useless. I scanned them and printed at 200% which was an improvement but still annoyingly small given the number of rooms per floor.
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Old 09-18-2017, 05:46 PM
tsofian tsofian is offline
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The maps while cool are printed so small I found them almost useless. I scanned them and printed at 200% which was an improvement but still annoyingly small given the number of rooms per floor.
Plus the basic design of the base itself is so badly flawed that the maps, even if they were great, have to be redone.
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Old 09-19-2017, 08:22 AM
Project_Sardonicus Project_Sardonicus is offline
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As a good natured dungeon crawler it's quite interesting and fun with lots of details.

A realistic bunker would be mostly generators, water tanks, and store rooms filled with MREs and empty body bags.

As it is I do think if it became a battleground possibly with the team both fighting invaders and occupants it could be quite nerve wracking.
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Old 09-19-2017, 09:50 AM
Sprocketteer Sprocketteer is offline
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If you haven't seen it already, check out "Operation Morpheus", for the old "Aftermath!" rpg by FGU, it brings a Morrow style project to "Aftermath!".
It features a prime base style complex beneath a major university, complete with frozen players etc. It is about US$4/£3 on drivethrurpg.
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Old 09-19-2017, 10:53 AM
cosmicfish cosmicfish is offline
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The fundamental problem with Prime Base, as has already been noted, was that it just didn't fit in with the rest of the released modules. Up until that point, the Team was isolated and alone, starved for resources and advice, doing the best they can and knowing it would never be enough. They were the Doctor, the A-Team, Mad Max. But once they find Prime Base, assuming it and the Project are at all intact, the game must change.

Prime Base was the 8th module released, which pretty much guaranteed that reviving the Project would mean that the Team would be given hearty congratulations and restored to a relatively low rung in the hierarchy. Phoenix Team or the senior Regional commander or some other individual would have to exist with the authority and ability to command the Project, and the Team is not going to have developed the skills and the knowledge necessary to plausibly hold onto command unless they have been doing a lot of GM-designed campaigning. That means they are no longer isolated and alone, they are part of a system. Outgunned? Call a MARS Team. Not sure what to do? Call your CO and ask them what to do. They no longer have autonomy, they are executing someone else's orders. That can still be a fun game, but it isn't the game that the players signed up for.

And if they are to plausibly take command, then they need to be at the point where they can do so and that either requires one of two things: that Prime Base is delayed for a long time such that when they find it they already have a decade or two of experience and a substantial mini-Project working for them, OR that they already some exceptional unit to begin with.

Think about Star Trek [2009] - it is fun to think that some Academy screw up could wind up with command of the Fleet's premiere exploration vessel, but how long can you sustain the illusion that it makes sense? When Kirk takes over, is every other officer on the ship, demonstrably more qualified for command, really going to accept his orders? And after the emergency, is everyone going to buy that some kid who had a few good days is really a better choice than other top performers who have been studying and working towards that goal for decades? For it to be plausible, Kirk needs more than just daring do and charisma, and if the Team is to take command of the Project, they need to be Project Commanders and not "random Recon Team XYZ".

If you want to start with a shoot-em-up game and transition into nation-building, then let them gradually ease into the role. Don't send them Prime Base after 8 modules, give it to them after 40. First, let them adopt a second team, waking or rescuing them, and taking them under their wing. Then give them a couple of more. Maybe with the support of other Team commanders the player leader can request Group command access and privileges from one of the automated bases which can be granted on an interim basis pending approval or rejection from higher command... which will never come. Now they have their own Group, because the failsafes acknowledged that a new Group Commander may need to be appointed in the field and may need to act before Prime Base can make a formal decision.

The scope of the game then expands, with the "modules" focusing on the special circumstances that require the Team to use their exceptional post-awakening experience out in the field once more. They take on larger challenges, coming to the rescue of other Teams or taking point on missions too tough for a Team just out of the ground to handle. They keep finding and rescuing or waking up other Teams, perhaps using their knowledge of technology and the Project to do what the KFS is doing - digging them out of the ground. After a while they have so many Teams working for them that they have a de facto Regional Command, perhaps with the Team members now serving as department heads with entire Teams or Groups under them.

And now when they get to Prime Base, they are in a position where they can reasonably take command. Phoenix and the Regional Commanders can be convinced to give up control to a group of people that have spent the last 20 years doing the job, and the players will be in a place where they have the skills to actually do it.

Alternately, you could skip the shoot-em-up as anything but prologue and just start the players off with skill and authority. Perhaps they aren't "Recon Team XYZ", perhaps they were a Group Command Team, or perhaps the war came earlier and a Regional Commander and some others were forced to weather the war in an emergency bunker, or perhaps Phoenix wasn't all in one place and the players are a six-man Phoenix Unit responsible for the South Central United States. Those character groups could find Prime Base a lot sooner and still have the chops to take command. But it also means that the shoot-em-up part is going to be briefer, because they should have the skills and resources to find Prime Base and the determination and drive to make it happen.

And if you just want to keep it a shoot-em-up? Kill the Project. You don't need it and don't want it, so kill it. Perhaps the Project was compromised and the best the leadership could do was wipe the records to save the low-level units and facilities, but the higher organization was wiped out. Perhaps there was an internal power struggle and the factions duked it out, sparing only some low-level resources either overlooked or simply not gotten to. When the Team finds Prime Base, it is a hole in the ground and simply confirms that the Project cannot be revived, only gradually replaced.

Those are the options as I see it:

It's a lone-wolf shoot-em-up game. Kill Prime Base dead, the Team is more or less on its own.

It's a military shoot-em-up game. Keep Prime Base and realize that after that point, the characters report to other, better people.

It's a nation-building game. Keep Prime Base but give the players the kinds of characters that can revive and run the Project.

It can become a nation-building game, eventually. Keep Prime Base but push it down the line so that if and when the players want to seriously revive the Project they have built themselves up to the point where they can do it.
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Old 09-19-2017, 11:20 AM
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Prime base should never have been a module. A source book about the Project populated with non players and new equipment would have been better. Something where is the Players have sent an ativation code to a bakup groups or Alternate Prime and get someone else to run it.

As it is... after you get in the door it becomes lethally dull wandering the hallways moving light bulbs about searching for clues like a dime novel detective.
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Old 09-19-2017, 11:35 AM
cosmicfish cosmicfish is offline
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It could have been done better, but I think it could still work as a module. Perhaps the Base was defended for a bit longer, albeit by a small number, so that every level is a new challenge made complicated by the century and a half that has passed. Perhaps climatological changes have led to more travel through the area, and damage to the structure has exposed some levels to the caves, where creatures or refugees or criminals live in what they think is a small safe place, not realizing that behind the fake wall or sealed doors lies a much more vast complex.

The team could also be more guided, either by deliberate hints left for Project members or by the gradual decay of the structure. Perhaps a decaying explosive detonated and created a vertical path through a couple of "boring" levels, or a jammed elevator shaft forces the Team to detour through the bio-lab and its 15 decades of unchecked experimental growths...
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Old 09-19-2017, 05:40 PM
Matt W Matt W is offline
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Originally Posted by Sprocketteer View Post
If you haven't seen it already, check out "Operation Morpheus", for the old "Aftermath!" rpg by FGU, it brings a Morrow style project to "Aftermath!".
It features a prime base style complex beneath a major university, complete with frozen players etc. It is about US$4/£3 on drivethrurpg.
I'm a fan of Jeremiah's Thunder Mountain
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/...-Mountain?it=1

It includes a very large underground base
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Old 09-19-2017, 06:39 PM
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I'm a fan of Jeremiah's Thunder Mountain
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/...-Mountain?it=1

It includes a very large underground base
Jeremiah wasn't an all together bad post apocalyptic show. I have only seen season one and half of two.
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Old 09-19-2017, 08:34 PM
Sprocketteer Sprocketteer is offline
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I enjoyed the tv show myself. Only discovered the rpg last year on ebay, got it and Thunder mountain.
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Old 09-20-2017, 07:38 AM
Project_Sardonicus Project_Sardonicus is offline
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If the MP had a small force of super elite commandos, would they just freeze them in case everything went wrong?

Would they even be the most useful people to have restarting Prime Base?

I suspect Phoenix Team would be more like the kind of people you'd want to get the planning, admin side of the Project working again.

So more like engineers and administrators.

And once they got Prime base warmed up it'll be years before it's even close to be operating again, never mind the project. They'll probably need to gather frozen project staff from across the nation.

The other problem being once the Projects started, it becomes not so much the start of the renaissance of the world. But rather a big hard to defend hole in the ground packed full of treasure.

However far away the KFS are they'll soon be setting up an expeditionary force to lay siege and plunder if they hear about PB.

As such fairly quickly the team will have to leave PB and never ever mention it, never mind expect much support from it.
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Old 09-20-2017, 10:44 AM
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Phoenix was never meant to restart the Project, they are just the best ones immediately available. My assumption was always that Phoenix would take control of the Project only until they could wake the regional commands and/or "Second Base" and turn control over to the administrators suited for the job.

And Prime Base does not exist in isolation. Yes, the location needs to remain secret (Why I have always advocated for limiting its scope to those activities requiring a minimum of traffic), but the only reason to abandon it is if the rest of the Project is so deteriorated that it cannot be revived. Otherwise, keep it secret, revive the rest of the Project, and get to work!
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Old 09-22-2017, 04:37 AM
Project_Sardonicus Project_Sardonicus is offline
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My point was more that if you're going to freeze a bunch of people in Prime Base to be woken up in an emergency. Would it not make more sense to freeze people who could potentially be more useful in taking over restarting the project?

That and if the project had a whole force of super capable warriors wouldn't they have more use for them?

Besides pointing out that this represented one of the more niggling cliches of 1980s RPG writing.
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Old 09-22-2017, 12:22 PM
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You are talking about two different needs, both of which are valid, neither of which are mutually exclusive. Yes, the Project should have a failsafe to keep/restart the Project if Prime Base gets taken out, but they should also have a team like Phoenix to handle high-intensity/small-scale military problems. Phoenix could be in Prime Base or somewhere else, the failsafe team should NOT be in Prime Base (at least not entirely). Having one does not preclude the other, any more than having firefighters precludes also having police.

As to other uses for Phoenix, I am sure they would have many uses for them, but having them frozen until actually needed makes sense. Remember that military skills and conditioning are perishable, especially at high levels. Freezing Phoenix until they are actually needed is far more efficient than the alternatives of either going with a degraded unit after 5 years in a bunker or else expanding said bunker into a full-fledged special operations training facility.

As for it being a cliché, I am not sure what to say. I don't care if it is a cliché, having special operations capability (and in tiers) makes sense, that's why governments do it. And if it became popularized in the 80's, well, that's when both Delta Force and SEAL Team Six started to creep into the public eye, so I suppose that makes sense.
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Old 10-26-2017, 04:14 PM
.45cultist .45cultist is offline
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You are talking about two different needs, both of which are valid, neither of which are mutually exclusive. Yes, the Project should have a failsafe to keep/restart the Project if Prime Base gets taken out, but they should also have a team like Phoenix to handle high-intensity/small-scale military problems. Phoenix could be in Prime Base or somewhere else, the failsafe team should NOT be in Prime Base (at least not entirely). Having one does not preclude the other, any more than having firefighters precludes also having police.

As to other uses for Phoenix, I am sure they would have many uses for them, but having them frozen until actually needed makes sense. Remember that military skills and conditioning are perishable, especially at high levels. Freezing Phoenix until they are actually needed is far more efficient than the alternatives of either going with a degraded unit after 5 years in a bunker or else expanding said bunker into a full-fledged special operations training facility.

As for it being a cliché, I am not sure what to say. I don't care if it is a cliché, having special operations capability (and in tiers) makes sense, that's why governments do it. And if it became popularized in the 80's, well, that's when both Delta Force and SEAL Team Six started to creep into the public eye, so I suppose that makes sense.
Actually having a massive "Frozen Watch" or series of such facilities holding the back up staff is a pretty good idea.
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Old 10-26-2017, 04:57 PM
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I would have 6 teams of 20-30 people each spaced around the country, with a matching number of MARS teams for security. 3 such teams could replace a lost Regional Command, supplementing later with individuals drawn from elsewhere, or all 6 could do the same for Prime Base. Each team would know the locations of 3-4 Regional commands and at least half would know the location of Prime Base.

If a command is lost, the Teams are activated. The nearest Team goes to the site and evaluates the situation and communicates whether or not the site is still viable, and sets up basic functions there or somewhere else. The rest of the Teams follow as soon as possible.

And with the exception of the MARS Teams, these are administrators , not field personnel. The regular Frozen Watch has a different job and needs different people.
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Old 10-26-2017, 08:10 PM
.45cultist .45cultist is offline
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I would have 6 teams of 20-30 people each spaced around the country, with a matching number of MARS teams for security. 3 such teams could replace a lost Regional Command, supplementing later with individuals drawn from elsewhere, or all 6 could do the same for Prime Base. Each team would know the locations of 3-4 Regional commands and at least half would know the location of Prime Base.

If a command is lost, the Teams are activated. The nearest Team goes to the site and evaluates the situation and communicates whether or not the site is still viable, and sets up basic functions there or somewhere else. The rest of the Teams follow as soon as possible.

And with the exception of the MARS Teams, these are administrators , not field personnel. The regular Frozen Watch has a different job and needs different people.
I meant the facilities would have the most basic gear, like the FW. mostly sidearms in the emergency lockers with a couple of long arms.
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Old 10-27-2017, 03:05 AM
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I meant the facilities would have the most basic gear, like the FW. mostly sidearms in the emergency lockers with a couple of long arms.
I've never seen the point in that. The expense of training and freezing absolutely dwarfs the cost of equipping, and minimizing their equipment endangers them if there is a bolthole compromise, renders them mostly ineffective until they can be properly equipped (and how long does that take?), and means that they can only be woken if the area is safe and/or a team is able to provide security... in which case are they really that badly needed?

Give them versatile equipment - assault rifles and hummers, or the like. Or something general but appropriate to their skills, like GPMG's or SAWs for MARS. But don't leave them useless and defenseless when you only expect to use them when something had gone wrong.
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Old 10-27-2017, 03:08 AM
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That was for the FW, but is still applies to a lesser degree for backup administrators. Such a team might need to cross hundreds or even thousands of miles of unsecured territory to accomplish their mission, that is too far for emergency equipment.
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Old 10-27-2017, 06:28 AM
.45cultist .45cultist is offline
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I've never seen the point in that. The expense of training and freezing absolutely dwarfs the cost of equipping, and minimizing their equipment endangers them if there is a bolthole compromise, renders them mostly ineffective until they can be properly equipped (and how long does that take?), and means that they can only be woken if the area is safe and/or a team is able to provide security... in which case are they really that badly needed?

Give them versatile equipment - assault rifles and hummers, or the like. Or something general but appropriate to their skills, like GPMG's or SAWs for MARS. But don't leave them useless and defenseless when you only expect to use them when something had gone wrong.
In this case it would be a "pull" to quickly gather these people and bring them home. Though the Pheonix Team could do that with a Chinook, and a C130. Perhaps hide Pheonix very well, use your book idea to discover and retrieve each team. BTW, the article with Frozen Watch vs. some Badges didn't have enough weapons for six people, I had to add another sidearm to a locker.
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Old 11-04-2017, 01:38 AM
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In this case it would be a "pull" to quickly gather these people and bring them home. Though the Pheonix Team could do that with a Chinook, and a C130. Perhaps hide Pheonix very well, use your book idea to discover and retrieve each team. BTW, the article with Frozen Watch vs. some Badges didn't have enough weapons for six people, I had to add another sidearm to a locker.
You can't count on being able to dispatch resources to those people, especially in the case of an emergency that threatens their location. The C-130's will take months or years of work to become available between any two given points, and helicopters may not be broadly deployable for a while either - how long will it to take to secure the airspace with sufficient surety to risk such irreplaceable assets?

There is already a reasonable expectation that the Project needs backup equipment as well as backup personnel, so why not put some of the former in with the latter?
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