This is the exciting first instalment in a new series of PDF products for The Expanse RPG by Green Ronin.
TL;DR: All in all I am impressed by the content in this supplement. It is short, perhaps too short to some people’s liking, but it is very useful, and it packs a punch! There are some aesthetic and typographic issues (in the PDF I downloaded, same date as this review was written).
The page count fits the cost, and the content of these fifteen pages is surprisingly extensive, and everything is useful, which in sum makes me consider this to be a bargain.
The supplement starts with a short treatment on bounty hunting the Expanse storyverse and gives a brief and good overview with ample room to fit bounty hunting into your games. I personally wouldn't have minded that this was a tad more substance heavy, but that is what the following pages are for, I suspect.
There is a typology of five different kinds of bounties. This classification of bounties is useful when creating the story. Particularly regarding considerations of legality, but also the various stages of the job, the encounter types if you will. Some bounty hunting jobs will be more investigative and focus on tracking and social encounters, whereas others may slant more towards the action encounters. A tracking job may not even involve meeting or having an encounter with the bounty or target, however there's usually more to it than just locating the target.
The bounty type classifications interact well with the next section, which concerns clients. The client section covers the main providers of bounties: governments, corporations, security contractors, and individuals. That there is no specific listing for criminal organisations is a bit disappointing. Of course an argument can be made that a criminal element can be part of any of the four client types, however something more on this would have been useful to give it that little extra oomph (perhaps for another instalment in the series about being a criminal and part of organised crime?).
After bounty and client types, the supplement enters into more details about finding jobs. This section is good, even if it - like much of GRP produce - leaves figuring out how the tables interacts with gameplay to the reader. An example here would have been great. However, it contains all you need, whether preparing jobs before the game starts, finding jobs during gameplay, or by quickly rolling up a job before the session starts: 1) Pick the kind of job you are looking for (e.g., a standing bounty), 2) roll the appropriate test, 3) check the drama die result against the next table, and you have a bounty type and reward (income modifier).
The finding bounties table is nice, but some more information about the rewards and drawbacks from picking a harder kind of job would be nice, with relation to its interaction to the bounties available table.
The bounties available table aligns with the client classification, except it has an additional entry (sensitive) that could've been explained somewhere. The type of client comes with a reward (income modifier), where the more rewarding jobs are harder to get.
All in all, these tables are great for when you're preparing one or more stories for a game series. They may be a bit more clunky to randomly generate a job via skill tests on the go during gameplay.
The job types in this section suffers from some inconsistencies with the finding bounties table, Agency Assignment vs Agency Contract, and Freelance Contact vs Freelance Contract. These minor details aside, the entries on the job types are short and to the point, giving you the briefing you need about what you may consider, and how best to categorise a job you have in mind (insofar as this categorisation is useful for you around the table). It is at least useful in considerations about who the client may be, and to set the stage in the regard. Very useful when preparing adventures.
The next section is about the hunt, and it comes with some new bounty hunting stunts (the table in my PDF is missing a proper header for that table, but it is self-explanatory). The section breaks down how bounty hunters may go about their business and is a version of a Detailed Investigation as described in the rulebook. It continues with questions about payment, with a sidebar about turning temporary income modifiers into a non-temporary income modifier (spoiler: it's not easy). The table about bounty income could need some more explanation, as could lifestyle and income ranges in the core game. It is not entirely intuitive how and when to use in gameplay. The last bit, before the new gear, is a short entry about going "off-script" and calls upon the reputation rules (more on that later).
The new gear is what I would expect, not a bunch of new guns, but useful tools to get into places (for bounty hunters without all the necessary or useful skills), restraining targets, and surveillance. Even two new ships, and while there are no deck plans, I would not have expected that. The ships are thematic and cool alternatives to the extensive collection already in the game (although why one of them has "weapon systems" under qualities I don't know).
The next couple of pages give the players more fun to work with. Here is the new specialisation Bounty Hunter, which I really like. Thematically fitting, i.e., it’s not a power armoured gun-toting specialisation, it’s all about preparedness and gaining the upper hand. This alone is almost worth the price, particularly with the additions to reputation (three new honorifics, and some more about “bad reputation”), and specific Bounty Hunting Churn events (anything from automatically failing tests when contacting the target, to competent competitors trying to steal your bounty and reward, to jobs turning out to be something (entirely) different). A great section!
The supplement caps all this nice and useful stuff off with a list of bounties: Named NPCs presented as story-hooks, with pictures and threat levels (but not stats).
All in all I am impressed by the content in this supplement. It is short, perhaps too short to some people’s liking, but it packs a punch. There are some aesthetic and typographic issues (in the PDF I downloaded 19 August 2022).