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The Expanse Roleplaying Game brings James S.A. Corey’s award-winning series of science fiction novels to the tabletop.
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Expanse Extra: The Churn

Posted by Chris Pramas: Green Ronin Publishing (Creator)

Happy Monday, everyone! Yesterday we knocked down another stretch goal, unlocking adventure #4 in the Abzu's Bounty campaign. Only two more to go! 

Today, as promised, I have another peek at the rules for you. This week's Expanse Extra is The Churn. Amos knows what we're talking about! 

Expanse Extra: The Churn

In The Expanse, even when you’re on a job, handling one complication after another, the unexpected can happen, and happen fast. These events are dangerous more often than not, and always seem to happen at just the wrong time. And when you think things are bad, they get really bad, like how stopping a rampant alien infection becomes about chasing a rapidly accelerating asteroid before it hits the Earth. That kind of bad.

Sometimes you can still breeze through it. Other times, it engulfs you. There are lots of names for it: karma, mojo, bad juju, etc. In The Expanse RPG, this concept is known as The Churn. If you want to have the effects of one of the more pervasive elements of The Expanse setting in your games, the following is available as an optional rule.  

The Churn Pool  

To use the concept of the Churn in the game, the GM keeps track of what’s called the Churn Pool. It represents a buildup of events during an adventure, where every twist and turn adds its weight to The Churn, that swirl of fickle fate that eventually boils over and comes back to bite the heroes right in the tail.  

At the beginning of each adventure, the Churn Pool is “reset,” starting at 0. Add 1 to the Churn Pool each time one of the following occurs:  

  • A character succeeds on an ability test and rolls a 6 on the Drama Die  
  • A character spends 4 or more stunt points to perform a stunt.  
  • Fortune points are spent to alter a die roll.  
  • The characters successfully overcome an encounter or hazard  
  • The characters complete a section of the adventure  

When the Churn Pool reaches 10, roll 1d6:  

1–3: The Churn Pool “churns over” and the corresponding effect happens as defined by the Churn Effects table. Then the pool starts building up from 0 again.  

4–6: The Churn Pool moves to the next stage, requiring another 10 points before you make the d6 roll again. If the Churn Pool moves to Stage 3 and another 10 points are accumulated, the pool automatically churns over and the Stage 3 effect occurs, then the Churn Pool resets to 0 and starts again from Stage 1.  

Churn Effects 

Stage 1 Minor: The next ability check or hazard faced by a single character is increased by one level of test difficulty or hazard category, or a successful ability check results in a complication that calls for another ability check. 

Stage 2 Major: The next ability check or hazard faced by each character is increased by one level of test difficulty or hazard category. This could also include a hazard that requires a roll from every crew member. Alternately, a successful ability check creates a new hazard for the crew to deal with. 

Stage 3 Epic: Choose from one of the following: 

  • The next stunt performed by a character automatically fails 
  • Raise the difficulty or category of a crucial ability check or hazard by two 
  • A threat gets beefed up to the next rank (normal to Elite, Elite to Heroic, etc.) 
  • An important event during the adventure spawns an additional complication. For example, a powerless shuttle is now not only spiraling off course, but a micrometeorite has damaged the radio array. Now, not only is the crew adrift, but they are completely on their own. Tailor this to events in your own game to add additional flavor to an already unexpected turn of events.

GenCon Bound!

We are flying to GenCon tomorrow. We will have printed copies of the Quickstart for sale at the show. See some of you there! We'll have have some fun news to announce at our seminar on Saturday night with Daniel and Ty!  

Chris Pramas  

Green Ronin

BRADLEY CLARK, Vigilance Press, and 43 more people like this update.


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    1. Missing avatar

      Silu on

      Let me explain a bit what my concerns are:
      -The Churn Pool
      A character succeeds on an ability test and rolls a 6 on the Drama Die. - punishing players for a lucky roll

      A character spends 4 or more stunt points to perform a stunt. - punishing players for a lucky roll

      Fortune points are spent to alter a die roll. - I like this part

      The characters successfully overcome an encounter or hazard - punishing players for playing the game :|

      The characters complete a section of the adventure - punishing players for playing the game :|

      -Churn Effects
      Stage 1 Minor - basicly just annoying and not a real threat

      Stage 2 Major - better but still not "it can f**ing dodge" level and can by achieved by just GMing normally

      Stage 3 Epic - that's more like it. Especially the last segment.

      I'll probably houserule it in a way that:

      fortune points spent to alter a die roll go to Churn Pool (1 to 1 ratio).

      When the Churn Pool reaches 10 * '#_players' The Churn Pool “churns over” and I'll use Stage 3 effects only.

      That way players will know that luck is running out and karma will always come back to you.


      As a game master all rules are optional and can be enhanced, rejected or used at your leisure. What may not work for you and your crew might be the icing on the cake for another crew.

    3. Barry Wilson on

      Have you read the books? Things go from bad to worse all the time in them. The Churn is a great way to model that. But, it's completely optional. Just skip them if they're "pointless," "unnecessary," or "underwhelming."

    4. Missing avatar

      Silu on

      I hope this will be rewritten.
      For now it looks like a lot of work / distractions for GM and outcomes are... not impressive.
      My overall feel of it is "underwhelming" :(

    5. Missing avatar

      Wayne bridge on

      Seems pretty pointless mechanic to me.

    6. Michael Hill on

      Hmmm...seems an unnecessary exercise in bookkeeping...

    7. Michael Hill on

      The Churn pool is reset to 0 at the end of every "Adventure" or every game session?

    8. Barry Wilson on

      @Micheal Evans

      Green Ronin is planning on attending PAX Unplugged, and should have some GMs running games. But PAX Unplugged is a weird convention ( at least, the first one was ) and didn't really have scheduled games. Expect to see Green Ronin there, and expect someone to be running games of the Expanse Roleplaying Game.

    9. Barry Wilson on

      @Rob and @RicBret

      The Quickstart is an adventure and a condensed version of the rules with enough for you to play the specific adventure. It doesn't have all the rules in it. The Churn is an optional rule in the main rulebook.

    10. Den Parnovsky on

      This is "Kobold Horrible Death Record" concept from KAMB, isn't it?

    11. RicBret

      Seconding @Rob's question: it's good to know if tidbits are excerpts or discarded ideas.

    12. Rob Quillen

      Will the printed copy of the Quickstart have these rules included, or are they just the pdf you posted earlier?

    13. Robert Slaughter

      Will this be included later in the rulebook as an optional rule, or is here all there is for it?

    14. Aaron Bourque on

      While I guess it makes sense from a game stand-point, in the series, as Amos explains it, "The Churn" is a nihilistic understanding of the uncaring universe. It isn't good, it isn't bad, it's just the way things are. You get a windfall? It's the Churn. You lose everything? It's the Churn.

    15. Michael Evans on

      Anything planned for Pax Unplugged in November? :-p