Welcome to the Maelstrom Galaxy in the 23rd Century: a vibrant setting brought to life by a colourful array of aliens, custom gameplay mechanics, and sentient machines.
Two years after saving the galaxy from the machinations of a mysterious organisation known as Whispers, the crew of the Katherine Johnson II are just trying to get back to life as normal. That’s not always easy when you’re famed all across the galaxy for being the Heroes of Yentao, and it’s even less easy when your adventuring retirement is gatecrashed by cosmic omens foretelling the impending end of the universe.
Dragged into a deadly chain of events stretching back to the dawn of time, the crew must rely on one another – and on the luck of the dice – if they’re to stand any chance of success.
Meet the crew
Dr. Faraday Zenith-Lewis
Played by Leonie Selby-Evans
Hailing from the Sunfish, a Namazir city-ship that patrols the Mist nebula, Faraday was raised by two mothers and ended up training to be a medineer out of pure indecision. Under the chaotic eye of Dr. Liam Malcolm she began to find her natural inclination towards necromancy, though her relationship with her power is by no means an easy one.
she/her, human cleric, pansexual
Lore’la Wide Wanderer
Played by Jess Thomas
Lore’la comes from Korus, a forested world of druids and dangerous plantlife. She left everything behind to search for the missing piece of her people’s most important relic, spending years travelling as a chef and medic on various ships before making the deal that would cause her to join the Space Squad on the mission that would ultimately result in the Battle of Yentao.
she/her, araswati druid, queer
Schlurp Ruth / LM3
Played by Shona Clacher
Originally known as LM3, Schlurp was activated in the year 2217 by infamous (and disgraced) AI technician Suresh Choicegiver. Under the care of Suresh’s lab assistant, Prisha Chainbreaker, they began to express themselves – first through music, and then with magic. Schlurp is anxious, talkative, and a bit lost. You will never find them far from an instrument or their lion rabbit, Bugsy.
they/them, cyte bard & sorceror, asexual
Played by Duncan Clacher
Karel is an Ipeltan Worker from the New Colony, a group of Ipelta who live in the Trade Galaxy and oppose the Empire’s Queen-dominated hierarchy. Karel can come across as nervous and uptight, but is able to keep their cool when it really counts. They are fiercely loyal to the Colony and to the small circle of friends they have found within the Space Squad, especially Faraday.
they/them, ipeltan rogue, asexual
Captain Mitchell Crick
Played by Ell Folan
Born on Earth in Cornwall, England, Mitchell Crick joined the United Earth Fleet at the age of eighteen, eventually becoming Captain of the UEF Endeavour. He held this post until a tragic accident drove him to quit the UEF and become a bodyguard-for-hire instead, wandering the Maelstrom until his fateful meeting with the rest of the Space Squad in Septemberish 2220.
he/him, human paladin, asexual
The Maelstrom Galaxy is currently populated by five peoples, all of which vary wildly depending on the planetary ecosystems they evolved within.
For full details on the Maelstrom Galaxy’s sentient, playable aliens, you can view and download our illustrated PDF further up the page.
Spaceships in the Maelstrom typically belong to one of two families: the fishlike Piscihulls used all across the Trade Galaxy, and the brutalist, geometric Whalers used by the Ipeltan Empire.
Regardless of shape, all spaceships have the following basic stats:
- Speed: ships can accelerate or deccelerate through levels of Speed: 0 (stationary), 1 (docking), 2, 3, 4 and 5. An individual ship’s Speed value refers to how many levels they can go up or down in Speed in a single Piloting check.
- Agility (AG)
- Hull Points (HP)
- Weapon slots
Pilots & Gunners
Spaceships are complicated, which is why the roles of Pilot and Gunner must be held by different people. On a mechanical level, it also makes sure that everyone has something to do. A typical arrangement would be to have one party member as the Pilot, and then one player each on a different weapon.
To make a Piloting check, you do the following:
(Piloting check + the ship’s Agility) – the ship’s current Speed
While the galaxy’s sentients typically only settle worlds with gravity close to what they evolved for, some planets do fly outside the norm.
Unless thwarting the effects of gravity with the use of an augmentation exoskeleton or nanite “boost” potion, players will experience the following effects:
- Halved jump height
- Doubled fall damage
- One level of exhaustion for every three hours on the move
- Disadvantage on non-augmented physical melee weapon attacks
The semi-aquatic Namazir are the oldest sentient people in the current Trade Galaxy, and in their time have colonised a number of ocean worlds. These extreme environments pose a number of threats, the chief of which are:
Occurs when players use air breathing devices in deep water and resurface too quickly. Victims suffer internal Force damage that varies depending on depth:
- Twilight zone: 2 levels of exhaustion, 4d10 Force damage
- Abyssal plain: 4 levels of exhaustion, 8d10 Force
Occurs when players experience a high pressure environment without protection. Impact varies depending on body type and depth. Crush damage happens per round until players or creatures have left the crush environment.
- 4d10 Force damage (cytes)
- 2d10 Force damage (ipelta)
- 1d10 Force damage (humans, plueen, araswati)
- 8d10 Force damage (cytes)
- 4d10 Force damage (ipelta)
- 2d10 (humans, plueen, araswati)
We use custom skills for Maelstrom including Piloting (Dex), Computing (Int) and Xenobiology (Wis). We have also modified the Medicine skill into the multidisciplinary “Medineering” skill, which you’ll often hear Faraday using over the course of the show.
Rather than magic potions, we use nanite gels (for cytes) and nanite solutions (for organics) for on-the-go healing or other effects. We also use the fairly common homebrew rule of being able to take a potion (or in our case, a solution or gel) as a bonus action during battle.
We lean towards fewer, more cinematic fights with Maelstrom, and one of the ways we keep up momentum and tension is by using Escalation. This mechanic comes from another TTRPG system called 12th Age, and can be boiled down as following:
- Starting from the second round of combat, all player characters receive additional bonuses to their attack and damage rolls: +1 at round 2, +2 at round 3, +3 at round 4, +4 at round 5, +5 at round 6, all the way up to a maximum of +6 at round 7
- As the rounds progress, the situation will worsen or build up to some catastrophic finale: this gives players a sense of urgency around finishing a fight before it goes sideways