[Let's Read] 3:16 Carnage Amongst The Stars


Esoom G Noj
Validated User
Picked up 3:16 today, since it looks like a very cool science fiction indie game, and I love it when my FLGSes have indie games.

So, I'll go through it with all y'all and share my thoughts as I read. I've done this before for Savage Worlds: Explorer's Edition and found that fun, so I'm going to do it with another short game.

So, here we go.

Quick Overview
3:16 is a military science fiction RPG, said to "out-Verhoeven Verhoeven" (quoting Robin Laws). It is a landscape digest book with 96 pages, published by Cubicle 7 and Box Ninja. It was originally written for the Ronnies 24 hour rpg contest, which it co-won. High praise for a game, I think, that something written in 24 hours gets professional art and printing. It was written and designed by Gregor Hutton, who also wrote "Best Friends" (a game I know nothing about).

The book is split up into chapters (unsurprising, given that it's a book). It's got chapters 0-9 and a-f, and then an Index and Colophon (seems to be an afterword, though I've never encountered the word "Colophon" before).

Now, I'm going to go chapter by chapter, read it, and summarize here for all y'all. Give my thoughts. That kind of thing.

0. Tollman's Tale
The book gets going on page 4 and 5 with a quick introduction. It's a very short story, only about 6 paragraphs long, with an accompanying comic book for visualization. Tollman is fighting some aliens, and has a flashback. It seems that's probably what this game is about.

1. What is this book?
Again 2 pages (6 and 7). Your generic "what is an RPG?" takes up a column, and gets out of the way. Then we get right into what the game is. Here we are in the far future. Humanity has conquered death, disease, crime, and all that. No one works any more. It's paradise. So, of course it's boring. So, what do you do when you get bored of life? No, don't go use the suicide booth - come join the 3:16 Expeditionary Forces! We'll show you the world, and all the life it has within it - all for you to kill! The PCs are members of the elite 3:16th. 16th Brigade of the 3rd Army. And here we'll start seeing this 3:16 theme come about, I think. The book has 16 chapters. You're playing members of the 3:16th. I suspect we'll see these numbers pop up more and more, too. (btw: john 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.")

2. Getting Started
Another 2 page chapter. This one is all about laying the groundwork of the game. One page is talking about materials and equipment, and what to do before the game. The GM should create a Planet (seems like a Town in Dogs - go the the Planet, do stuff, go to the next). It touches on the Theme of the game. War, and choices therein. War that's far from home. War you might not agree with. And what do you do about that?

Page 9 is a Glossary of terms. Quickly goes through the important terms in the game and what they mean. Simple, quick, easy to find, easy to read, easy to reference. Probably a good thing. Interestingly, this game apparently uses a d1000 (3d10s in 3 columns). Stats appear to be either Alien Ability (for Aliens), or Fighting and Non-Fighting Ability for PCs.

I'll leave it here for this post, as I have to read more before writing any more about the game :) So far, it looks cool and neat, and I'm happy with the purchase.



Retired User
I had the privilege of playing a game of this being run by the author, a hilarious Scot named Gregor, at this year's DragonCon. It's an absolute blast, especially with a couple of beers.


Esoom G Noj
Validated User
3. Character Creation
This game holds itself to be a game of discovery about the characters, so we define (and thus know) only a little bit about them before the game starts. We know their Name, their Reputation (a phrase describing the character). We know their two abilities, Fighting and Non-Fighting (they add up to 10, and each must be at least 2). We know that they have Strengths and Weaknesses ("Flashbacks"), but not what they are (p.24 tells us more, the book says). We know they have a Rank (highest NFA is the Sergeant, highest FA is the Corporal, everyone else is a Trooper. Two NFAs tied for top, randomly one is the Sergeant, the other the Corporal, and the highest FA has to suck up being a grunt). And lastly, we know they have kit (depends on their rank, and there's a choice to be made between weapons). And then they're ready to have at it.

Seems like this game would suit one-shots pretty well: would take all of about 5 minutes to create a new character. On the other hand, the idea of character discovery probably leads it to be a campaign game more than one-shots, but we'll see later what things look like.

Oh, and everyone has orders. I'm not sure what the ranking is, but Troopers have Order 1: Kill things. Corporals have Order 2: Maximize kill ratio (bugs : troopers). Sergeants have Orders 3 and 4: Follow directives issued by Officers, and Protect your squad (and you can use E-Vac, which is in bold and referencing p.89).

There's nice fun stuff in the gear: troopers have an unread field manual. Corporals have a tatty field manual. And the Sarge's is well-used. (Oh, and Corporals have the Really Big Gun, that's only usable at Near range, it seems)

Oh, right. Injuries. A peak at the character sheet available here shows "Messed Up", "Crippled", and "Dead". Presumably if you're none of those, you're fine. Messed Up and Crippled have boxes. Dead has a tombstone. That doesn't sound like you want it.

... and one more thing (I feel like Columbo :eek:). PCs get FAd10 kills to start their career as PCs.

4. How to Play
"So, how do we play it?" I asked. "Simple," said the Sarge, and then he trailed off. that was it. "Simple."
The meat of the game. Lasts from page 14 to page 23 (24 being the start of the Flashbacks chapter referenced earlier). There's a couple sidebars of Roleplaying tips, for newcomers, but one of them is good for those new to Conflict style RPGs: "Don't try to be too clever". The first couple pages are an overview of the game session, and roleplaying in general. Players don't really need any prep (characters are created at the start of the session if need be), but the GMs need to create the planet - the setting for the evening's carnage.

Sessions start off with the mission briefing, and then launch into roleplaying. The game says that the goal of roleplaying is to create "a vibrant verbal space", a turn of phrase that I rather enjoy. Being an indie game, it has the concept of everyone adding to the shared imagination space. Anyone can suggest anything, and if everyone accepts it, it becomes part of the scenery (or narrative). The text talks about veto power. Players have veto power over their PCs' actions and words, and the GM has veto power over the aliens and NPCs. Interestingly, planet/scenery veto seems to be group wide, as it's not addressed.

The GM frames the first scene (book references page 44 - probably more discussion on scenes and framing and such). This is the scenery, locale, and everything we need to make a scene. Then the GM introduces a "tilt" - a thing that makes the scene go. And off we go. The book says that it's perfectly fine to actually rotate the scene framing (making an ersatz GM-less system, if you wish).

The basic test resolution of 3:16 is talked about next. It seems to be a bit of a Price Is Right mechanic: roll d10, aim to get below your stat, but successes are rated high to low, so you want high.

Encounters start off with a Dominance test: figure out who sees whom. Each player who wants to be watching for aliens rolls an NFA test, and the GM rolls one for the Aliens. There's a chart determining who gets Ambushed, or who gets to choose initial range. I'm not going to copy that here, because that wouldn't be right :p Plus, it's annoying to copy a table.

Ambushes work simply. If the PCs are ambushed, the GM sets the range and each PC takes a "kill" (goes down 1 on the condition monitor). If the PCs ambush, from high to low on a roll of a d10, remove a threat token and add that die result's kills to their kill total.

As for Range, there's 3 "range bands", all measured from the point of the Aliens. Close (close combat / hand-to-hand), Near (... near. Most ranged weapons are good here), Far (... far). Setting the range involves putting the PCs to the appropriate range band. There's a "pseudo" range band of "Exited" after Far. If for whatever reason a PC goes further than Far, they're not in the encounter anymore.

Encounters have everyone take turns in a round until the encounter ends. Pretty simple. There's a 7 step process. Quickly: 1) Declare actions (figure out where people are and what they're doing). 2) Roll 1d10. 3) Compare to appropriate stat (AA, FA, NFA) and find out if you succeeded (equal or less than) or failed (greater than). 4) Successes take their turns, going from high roll to low roll. (FA success removes a Threat Token and causes Kills. NFA succeeds in the task. AA causes a Kill to PCs who failed or rolled less than or equal to you. You can cancel your own success so everyone below you fails). You get narrative rights over how you succeed. You may be able to maneuver range bands. 5) Failures get to go from high to low, narrating their failure. You get to add "colour" to the scene. 6) Continue until everyone dies, a PC uses a Strength, or everyone alive is beyond Far Range, or a stalemate (no kills for 3 rounds), or something ends the sequence, or there's no Threat Tokens left. 7) Surviving Threat Tokens get to go back to the threat pool.

Of special note: if you succeed in Fighting, you kill things. You roll your gun's rating at your range band, and that's how many things you kill. Genius.

Marines get two "once per planet" items: armour (absorbs a kill) and combat drugs (reroll a FA test, but if you get a 10, you take a kill).

As hinted at earlier, the GM's in control of the alien forces, represented by Threat Tokens. The GM has 5 times the number of players in total Threat Pool. They not only represent things, but can also be spent to power abilities. Presumably only the tokens in this encounter can activate the special abilities. If a PC uses a Strength, all remaining Threat Tokens are "killed" (and gets best roll of Kills). If a PC uses a Weakness, then the PC is removed, as well as 1 Threat Token.

To make life easier for the Marines, they heal one box of damage between encounters. (so someone who's Crippled becomes only A Mess). There's no penalties for being hurt, other than being almost dead. In addition, there's a second track (sorta) along the same lines: emotional / psychological damage. Represented by Es on the box. I'm unclear as to whether this is the next health box or a fully separate track. I'm not sure it matters. All E wounds heal between encounters.

After missions comes some fun parts. First, all alive heroes are healed to full. Second, the GM hands out medals of honour, valour, and all that fun stuff. Third, there's some advances. The PC that scored the most kills gains one Level. Each other player dices off, 1d10, and the highest roll(s) also gain one Level. Each Level allows you to add one to either FA or NFA (max of 10), and gain one available Flashback (from either Strengths or Weaknesses, whichever has fewest). Each soldier then gets better at killing things: their best gun gets a 1 step upgrade in one range band. In addition, a successful NFA test will allow them to gain more equipment or train better elsewhere.

This chapter ends with an example encounter. It's pretty well-written to highlight the mechanics of the game.

The next chapter, which I will leave for the next post, is on Flashbacks, what appears to be the key of the game.



Retired User
Its funny, but Laz's overview makes me want to dive back into the game. For some reason I just had a hard time really understanding 3:16. And, I really want to, a easy pick-up game like this is on my want list.

I figure I'll even get the next 3:16 Mr.Hutton has lined up. I'm just waiting for that light bulb to go off. :eek:


Esoom G Noj
Validated User
Ok. One more post before bed. (I'm tired, and it's raining). Here, I'll go over a few more chapters I've read, and insert some brainwaves I've had.

5. Flashbacks
The heart of the system. Only gets 4 pages. It only /needs/ 4 pages. Essentially, a Strength is an auto-win, except you can't Strength a Strength, and a Weakness trumps a Strength. A Weakness is an auto-loss. The book harps on this. You use a Weakness, you LOSE. Not even draw. LOSE. What are these? Well, you have some "available" slots in Strengths and Weaknesses. At any time, you can say "but wait! Because of [xyz flashback scene - about a paragraph] my character [abc]s!" and change what is about to happen. Most useful when a die roll is about to kill you.

The game doesn't say it explicitly, but here's a brainwave! Flashbacks can be aspects of your character, such as this: "Sgt. Angora once took one to many blows to the head. As such, he has had part of his brain removed and replaced by computer. Unfortunately, his brain/machine interface is a bit slow and has caused him to miscalculate the co-ordinates for the airstrike, taking him and a Threat Token out of the Encounter."

The last Weakness everyone gets Available is entitled "Hatred For Home". Page 33 ostensibly has more information about this one. In addition, realize that "Available" doesn't mean "Used" or "Has", just that it's available for use.

6. Missions
Mechanics and suggestions for missions. 4 pages (1 of which is another short story). Long story short: GM gets PCs * 5 Threat Tokens, which are allocated to encounters to pace the mission. The chapter does have some suggestions of things to do other than just killing things, though makes note of the fact that the goal of the Expeditionary Forces really is to wipe everything else off the face of the universe. So, killing is first and foremost, but there might be an ancient computer with plans for an advanced vehicle from some kind of standard template that can be built out of whatever materials available, that is useful to recover.

7. Between Missions
I, and the book, have touched on what goes on between missions. Levels are gained, development rolls are made, medals are handed out, and ranks may be lost. Level is indicated as the total of FA + NFA, and has a maximum of 18. (so, 9+9 or 10+8). In addition, Flashbacks increase by one each level, up to a maximum of 5/5. (Once you've Used a Flashback slot, it's gone forever, never get to use it again) [note: Hatred For Home can be used by any PC once one PC has made it available to themself]

Ranks can only be gained through development rolls if you've used a Strength. It's a bit risky, as it's an NFA test. If you fail, that Strength cannot ever gain you a Rank again. Oh well.

You can roll to gain a gun or other item. Unless it's "Everyday Trooper Shit", in which case you just get it.

You get to improve your gun (another spot where bionics or other kinds of traits like that can come into play) by one step at one range. Guns increase to a maximum of two steps higher per range. You can roll to improve a second gun.

It's also possible to be demoted: if you used a Weakness in the mission, did not just get promoted, AND another PC nominates you, you may be demoted. A contested NFA roll between nominator and nominee determines this. Trooper is the lowest rank; you can't be dishonourably discharged. (Possibly dishonourably executed next mission, though...)

8. Replacement
Replacements are easy. They're new characters to replace the guy who just got iced. As such, it's 1 page and 1 page of short story. You create a new guy with a Level the same as the old guy, one Strength that was used is now available again, and his rank has to be lower than the old guy. Oh, and he's got standard issue equipment. Sucks to be him.

9. Higher Ranks
This chapter, 4 pages long, is essentially just a list of ranks. Available PC ranks are, above Sergeant: Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant-Colonel, Colonel, and Brigadier. (However, it notes that the current Brigadier is still alive, and there can be only one. ... sucks to be him) The Brigadier's Order 16 is quite interesting, and I'm not going to spoil the surprise for you ;)

a. The Game Master
GM Tips & Tricks. Has four main important things it wants to impart: 1. adversity through NPCs and aliens. 2. Players own their PCs. 3. Judge as any other player would (i.e. keep pressure high through the NPCs and aliens). 4. Re-incorporation: pay attention to things you can use again and again. After these initial two pages, it then goes into the GM Techniques sub-chapter, 6 pages of things to help everyone out. Starts on page 44 with a quick discussion of scene framing. Should be familiar to anyone who Forges out from time to time. Then, PC vs PC and PC vs NPC. PC vs NPC is the same sequence as PC vs Alien, basically, but PC vs PC is a bit different (because both PCs are "important"). The chapter has advice for using Threat, for choosing range, pacing through Alien Ability, and the missions - and focusing on missions or on the bigger picture. Also has a bit about rotating GM, something this game really screams out for.

b. Planets
I'm partway through this chapter, largely because it's a big list of things. There's 5 different lists of things you need to choose for a planet, each is 20 long. You get to pick each element from each list once per 20 missions (though special abilities, you get to pick 2 on the second go, 3 on the third go, and so on, or otherwise vary it up ... make it harder for your Troopers if they somehow make it past mission 20!). The five lists are: Alien Ability, Planet Name, Basic Planet Description, Basic Creature Form, and Alien Special Ability. Alien Ability is just determining the AA rating of the planet (and is most often dealt with by taking one of the PC's stats and adding or subtracting 0, 1, or 2). Planet name is just that: its designation. Description is things like "Desert World" or "Radioactive". A bit Space Opera-ey there. Creature Form is, well, what the creatures look like. Dogs, Dinosaurs, Sentient Planet, whatever. Special Abilities are, well, things the aliens can do (powered by Threat).

Since I'm partway through that chapter, I'll leave the lists until tomorrow.

I'll part tonight with a further brainwave. There's nothing that says that the AA roll for the GM's aliens has to represent the aliens attacking. There's precedent in that NPCs use the planet's AA. I'm thinking, especially, things like the corrosive effect of the Radioactive planet.

And one final brainwave: this would make a brilliant aerial or space combat game, too, pretty much just with ship weapons. However, I think I would love to hack in a "systems officer" type role (NFAs to do xyzw, whatever, depending on role. Navigation Officer to maneuver, Gunnery to shoot with FA, Engineers to evasive or damage control), but that's for a large ship. One-man fighters (a la Star Wars) can be done with the rules as written, possibly even with just re-skinning the weapons. (On the other hand, with weapons rated in a limited amount of dice, it shouldn't be hard at all to come up with new ones).

Ok, challenge: can someone give me an X-Wing's weapons? (the PC determines how injured he/the ship are)


Carl Stanford

Carnage Amongst the Web
Validated User
Are you not giving the game away?

I'm not sure if I would be happy with this if I were Gregor Hutton.


Retired User
Are you not giving the game away?

I'm not sure if I would be happy with this if I were Gregor Hutton.
I dunno, it is kind of like a review and has inspired me to go back and take a look at the game with fresh eyes. I'm sure others might be inspired to get it and if I play it maybe the people I play with will get it.

Better than not talking about it.

Pandora Caitiff

Goblin Princess
Validated User
though special abilities, you get to pick 2 on the second go, 3 on the third go, and so on, or otherwise vary it up ... make it harder for your Troopers if they somehow make it past mission 20!
Really? I read it as second time around you could re-use previously used abilities. I'll read that again when I get home.

And one final brainwave: this would make a brilliant aerial or space combat game, too, pretty much just with ship weapons.
Like this? ;)


Esoom G Noj
Validated User
Are you not giving the game away?
I'm trying to keep it to the kind of discussion you'd see either in a thread about the game, or in a review. So, talk about things in broad strokes, leave out specifics, and give reasons to get the game - especially one as fantastic as I'm finding this one.

Note: the parts after the mechanics are a lot easier to talk about without saying them.

I'm not sure if I would be happy with this if I were Gregor Hutton.
In my Savage Worlds one, Shane (et. al) from PEG came in and said how much they enjoyed the thread. I would hope that Gregor would feel the same about this thread.

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