Example Scene – Prologue
“As you open the sliding metal door, the hallway beyond is eerily silent and dark, except for the occasional creek of metal. You can’t help but remember that the ship’s orbit is decaying and you need to get to the bridge. What do you do?”
“I use my datapad like a flashlight and take out my pistol before proceeding into the hallway.”
“You walk into the corridor. You haven’t gone but five meters before you hear something chittering.”
“I get ready to fire! I look towards the sound!”
“Okay. You turn the datapad’s light on the sound and you discover – a small furry creature. He has big floppy ears and bunny-like legs. He even looks like he’s been put in a little EVA suit.”
“It smiles and chitters, and its teeth you notice are full of massive dagger-like teeth. It moves towards you.”
“Uh, I slowly back away.”
“It’s speeding up. This is now a Distress – play initiative.”
Thank you for considering Abide Asteria for your next out of this world experience! This is a free tabletop role playing game made by a single person with help from many friends. Abide Asteria will change the way you experience your world and interact with your characters and the story by using a normal deck of playing cards instead of dice. You will build a character, draw cards, and play your skills with powerful technique chains, while feeling closer to the action and the life of your character. Abide Asteria can be played with or without a map and tokens. Like most tabletop RPGs you’ll need a character sheet; we provide character sheets for free. Feel free to always use our links, they are hand-picked to perfection and we serve zero ads while you’re surfing AbideAsteria.com; you’ll never* need to worry about ending up at the wrong place. (*Unless we screwed up, if you find an error in a link or even just a simple typo please email us or let us know on our Discord. Abide Asteria is always looking for your feedback and improving.)
What do you need to play?
To play Abide Asteria, you will need a pen or pencil, a character sheet for each player, a minimum of three humans or other sentient beings who speak a common language gathered remotely or in person, and a Guide. The Guide acts as your game master, and is responsible for building the story, world, and challenges your players might face – other than the ones they create for themselves, of course! Each player and the Guide should also bring one standard deck of playing cards. The Guide might even want to bring extra, just in case.
Players interact with the world through the use of their playing cards and their Skills. In other words, when a player wants their character to do something, they often have to play a card, or more if it’s modified by skills. More information on what skills are and how they work can be found later in this handbook.
Player Hand Sizes
Player power is primarily managed by their hand size, which increases as they level. The term “Hand” refers to the cards drawn from the deck and held in your hand. Players start with a hand size of 4 cards, increasing at the levels indicated on the chart below.
Playing Actions and Taking Damage
A player may declare an action during their turn (or at any time if it is a free action). The Guide may ask you to play this action. You may play any card out of your hand and use the card value, then if your card is on suit to the skill type apply any Techniques using your Skills after playing. Techniques are a core mechanic to Abide Asteria, reference it often when creating your character later.
Player characters may move up to 10 meters during their turn for free or play acrobatics to increase their movement for a given turn. If there is no gravity you must play EVA and do not get the 10 movement for free.
When attacking or defending you will play your cards directly against the armor of your target. If the armor is greater, no damage is done. If the armor is lower than the damage the target will take the remainder of the damage after subtracting the armor. If the target has no armor they will take the full value of the play. Targets cannot be declared if they are not within line of sight. This does not apply to area of effect attacks.
In the event your character is hurt, you must discard the amount of damage done or more from your hand. Your hand will no longer refresh to its max size until you are healed or rested. Example: Your character takes 8 damage. You are holding a 3, 5 and 10. You may choose to discard the 3 and 5 to lose two of your hand size or the 10 and lose only one of your hand size.
Initative & Card Values
Players draw up to their hand size at the start of a Distress (combat, a dangerous or limited time event, etc.) and refresh their cards at the end of their turn. Distresses in Abide Asteria are played in rounds, following an Initiative – determined by flipping the top card on the player’s deck at the start of a Distress, with highest going first. Players can choose to add one card out of their hand if they wish to influence the initiative, as long as its value is less than or equal to their level. The total of both cards determines their final initiative. The winner then decides if turns will be taken clockwise or counterclockwise around the table or circle of players, making certain that each player and the characters the Guide controls are played in this order each round.
When it becomes a player’s turn, they take actions by playing a card – any card – in their hand; suit doesn’t change the value, even if it doesn’t match the skill – a 10 is a 10, of course. As for the face cards, King, Queen, and Jack, and the Ace, their value is covered on the table above. Note that we do not use Jokers. Once played, move a card to your discard pile.
There are two forms of character movement in Abide Asteria – normal gravity movement, handled by the Acrobatics skill, and low/no gravity or atmosphere movement, handled by the EVA skill.
Under normal gravity circumstances, even Distresses, your character can move up to 10 meters (~33ft) without having to play a skill at all. If a character needs to move farther than this, they can play their Acrobatics skill in addition to their action for the turn. Every point played equates to 1 meter, so if a door is 15 meters away and you need to run through it shuts and you are spaced out an airlock, you would need to play a 5 or higher to do so. While this doesn’t impede your other actions per se, that cards has been played, and you are left with however many cards are in your hand to complete what other action you will take; as always, your cards will refresh at the end of your turn, drawing up to your hand size. Note that sometimes movement itself can count as an action – climbing a rockface, for instance, is a difficult task in itself, and may constitute a challenge. Check with your Guide if you are unsure.
Moving in low or no gravity, or if your character does not have breathable atmosphere, is a bit more tricky: you do not get a free movement. You will have to play EVA skill and, as it was with Acrobatics, every point played is 1 meter and does not count as your action unless the maneuver is extremely dangerous. Note that you play EVA even if not wearing an EVA spacesuit – but of course that causes its own problems! You’ll begin suffocating, or possibly freezing or burning to death (or both!), so let’s talk damage!
Damage and Current Hand Size
As established above, players have a max hand size based on their level. However, not only do these cards indicate what you can do, they also serve as your character’s health pool. Say for instance that you have been shot for 7 damage. Ouch. You must discard a number of cards equal to that 7 damage – however many are necessary. Say you have a 10, 5, 2, and 4 in your hand. You can discard the 10, or you can discard the 5 and 2, or you can discard the 5 and 4 – however you choose to reach that 7 damage is up to you, but there is a catch: every card discarded due to damage does not refresh at the end of your turn. Instead, you will refresh a number of cards equal to your Current Hand Size: the difference between number of cards discarded for damage and your max hand size. So in the example above, you could lose the 10 and have a current hand size of three – or you could drop the 5 and 2 and have a current hand size of two. Maybe you know you just need that 10 to fire back and finish off your adversary, or maybe you want to hold onto that 10 in case you get shot again, but strategic decisions like this are at the core of the game.
There are other ways of taking damage as well. Most of these are explained in the relevant section; for instance, the suffocation mentioned above can be found in the Guide section of this handbook, but spoilers: you lose a card every turn you’re exposed to the dangerous environment.
What happens when you have no more cards in your hand? Well, you’re unconscious; you can’t do anything more until you are healed. In the future, characters are pretty tough and won’t die outright unless they are intentionally murdered by their adversaries; murder is usually not done lightly in the future, but be careful who you pick a fight with! Naturally, no one likes to be injured for long, so how can your character heal?
Much as with the real world, a character is generally able to heal with time, though there are ways of speeding it up. Even natural healing tends to be pretty quick in Abide Asteria, possibly due to the organ known as the biochip (see the lore section of our handbook for that). If allowed to heal naturally for three hours, your cards will return to their max hand size, assuming there’s no ongoing effects like poison.
Still, that’s not going to help if someone is shooting at you, so there are two main healing methods during Distress: technological and magical. The former relies on special medical items, such as Med Punchers, which can heal a number of cards as described on the item. The latter requires simply using the magical healing skill and healing one card for every 10 points played. Why not just always take magic healing then? Well, there are some consequences to magic; learn about them in the skills section of this handbook, as they are outside of the scope of this section.
There is a third way to heal in a Distress, but it is not very reliable. When you create a new character, you will choose one of the suits of cards to be your ‘sign.’ At the start of a new round (turn order has returned to the player with the highest initiative), the Guide draws a card from his deck. If your sign matches the suit drawn by the Guide and the number of the card is less than or equal to your character level, you also recover one card of damage.
Now that you’ve been shot, perhaps you might want to return the favor? In Abide Asteria, there is no to-hit roll or play; you simply play the appropriate skill and, if the target is in range and line of sight, you will deal damage. This means that armor and cover are extremely important to surviving in a firefight; armor greatly affects how and when you take damage, and each armor type is explained in its armor entry in the Equipment section of this handbook, as is the range of weapons in its subheading. Equipment in general modifies the gameplay – you can’t shoot someone if you don’t have a gun, for instance – so let’s talk about ways in which this gameplay can be altered.
Now that you have a sense of the basic systems, it’s time to talk about some of the ways in which other systems modify the “play hand, refresh cards” gameplay loop. The three modifiers with a simple effect on the gameplay loop are background, exploits, and equipment. Background is much like class in other TTRPGs – each has certain rules and mechanics, explains how many skill points you have to spend as well as money you make, and so on; these will be detailed in the Background section. Exploits are meta-abilities which can help modify how the cards work or are played in the game, and it too is explained in depth in the Exploit section. Equipment, as we already mentioned, helps to detail what a character can do (such a heal with med punchers or shoot with a gun), but they can also give bonuses to plays. A +1 pistol will increase whatever your play to fire it is by 1; for example, if you play a 10, it becomes an 11.
Skills are the main way in which gameplay is modified, however, through what is known as a technique chain. While the full details can be found in the Skills section of this handbook, the short of it is this: each skill has a suit associated with it, and players can have one of six levels of training with a skill, based on skill points spent. Each of those levels has an attached technique – a way of chaining cards together into much more powerful plays. For instance, if you are Advance Trained in Ranged Weapons (a Spade skill), you can play a Spade card to start the chain, and then play another Spade card to continue it, chaining additional cards as the rules for that technique explain. In this way, you can get plays much higher than just landing an Ace – at the highest level of trained, Elite, you can chain together nearly half your deck if you are monumentally lucky! Some challenges may require beating certain difficulty numbers, explained in the Guide section of this handbook. For instance, it may be necessary to play 20 or higher EVA to make a space jump from one ship to another. If you have a ten of clubs and a ten of hearts in your hand, and the appropriate level of skill in EVA, you can make it without hurdling off into space.
To illustrate some of these rules in action, we can follow the ongoing story of The Blueprint Heist. Our characters are Mira, a Liberator law enforcement agent; Kee the engineer who had her blueprints stolen; and Rosco, a former indentured servant to the mafia, who had been the first suspect. They’ve just suffered a Distress – two thugs from the mafia have identified Rosco and Mira, and they’re out for blood.
At the start of the round, they refresh their hand if needed, and play the top cards of their deck for Initiative. Rosco gets a 2, Kee gets a Jack, Mira gets a 5, and the thugs get a 4. Kee goes first, deciding that turns should be taken counter clockwise – meaning she’ll go first, followed by Rosco, then the Guide, then Mira. Having few combat skills, Kee just wants to get out of the ensuing firefight. She wants to bolt for the far door before arming herself. Her player checks her hand – six of Clubs, nine of Diamonds, king of Spades, and a six of Hearts. The Guide rules that she’ll need to make an acrobatics play in order to get around the thugs. She doesn’t want to use the King, in case she needs to stab someone – she’s trained in Traditional Melee weapons and can use a technique if needed; but fortunately, she doesn’t have to use an on-suit card just because Acrobatics is a Spade skill. So she plays the 9 to be safe, and the Guide explains she weaves around the thugs before they can draw their pistols on her and she’s able to grab her pistol once she’s out of sight of the thugs. She draws a Three of Clubs at the end of her turn to replace the 9 she played.
Rosco goes next, pulling his pistol and declares his intention to shoot. Our ace pilot is also pretty handy with a pistol, being advance trained in it. He also got lucky with his hand, with a five of Spades, a seven of Spades, a ten of Hearts, and a two of Clubs. This will let him use his technique to chain the seven and five together. He isn’t sure of the thugs are using armor, but he knows the thugs will go next, so he wants to hold onto the ten of hearts in case he doesn’t take them down. So, he adds the two of clubs to end his chain. The thug was not wearing armor, and the Guide explains he is pretty quickly gunned down. Rosco’s player draws a three of Hearts, a two of Spades, and a four of Hearts.
Next goes the remaining thug who focuses on Rosco as the threat. He’s got a submachine gun, and the skill to use it. The Guide plays his full chain, bringing the total damage to 28 – ouch! Rosco’s got some light armor; according to the rules of that item, he set a card face down before the Distress started, and so now he flips it – it’s an 8 of Diamonds – certainly not enough to stop that level of damage, but it does dull it down to 20. Rosco tries to survive by discarding cards – but even with the ten of hearts he saved and the armor, he’s still going to be missing 2 damage – so the character is down for this Distress and won’t be able to act again until the Distress ends or someone revives him. As a note, if he had two tens, he would have been able to discard them and keep functioning, though his current hand size would have become two, meaning he could only draw two cards going forward until healed. But no, he’s a very bullet-laden vultup on the floor. Ouch.
Mira does have some skill at Medic, but she’s also an officer and knows the initial threat needs to be neutralized. She checks her hand: A two of Spades, a four of Diamonds, a three of Hearts, and a three of Diamonds. Luck is just not on her side today. Fortunately, she has the exploit ‘I’m Better than This’ which allows her to discard one of her cards and redraw! She tosses the three of Diamonds, because the two of Spades, even as low as it is, can still start a technique chain for her ranged weapon skill. She draws a queen of Hearts. Nice! Using the two of Spades and the queen of Hearts, she quickly finishes of the remaining thug, ending the Distress. She can then use her medical kit to heal Rosco and bring him back from his unconsciousness, without having to play the actual skill; most skills used out of a Distress that are routine do not require playing the cards and can be assumed to work, unless there is a good reason.
Hopefully this has given you a sense of how the game functions on a turn-to-turn basis. The next section is designed to aid you in your character creation. The following sections go into greater depth of the systems of the game. And if you’re willing to be a Guide to this beautiful Asteria Galaxy, there’s a section dedicated to help you get started with setting up adventures for your friends, as well as lore to draw on if you don’t feel like making up everything on your own, or a place to start form if you do! We hope you enjoy your time with Abide Asteria and through it share wonderful memories with your friends and family for many sessions to come!
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