Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rifts: Buckets of fun in the New West o'rama

The other night I ran the first session of a Rifts campaign. I know! Right? Rifts!!!!!!

I set the game up about a week ago, as there was this longing in my soul to run the game. It was the first game I had ever played. See I had run games for three-ish years, but never played any. Needless to say that this caused some problems as I had no real way to judge my GMing chops. Then my friend Eli said he would run a game of Rifts for me and a few of our friends(and this one guy who just sort of hung out at the game store, no one really liked him, but he was in our game for some reason). The game was awesome, I played Yukon Cornelius, a dog boy with a sombrero and a corn cob pipe. He was awesome. True story. Anyway, that game is burned into my mind like giant radioactive rubber pants. The pants command me to run a game.

I sat down with only the vaguest of ideas for a campaign premise. But during the week something wonderful happened. Pinnacle announced that they have the rights to make Rifts books for Savage Worlds. After everyone checked to see if it was still April first, or if hell had frozen over, it was found to be a true statement. This is huge. HUGE!!!!!!!(extra exclamation points)

Anyway, the game started and we got some characters made and the setting built. The campaign will focus around a bunch of monsters from the Rifts and the Coalition each fighting over a small town in the rockies that would rather not be in the middle. Its going to be pretty sweet. I utilized some rules fixes I came up with to fixe some of the problems with Palladium's system. I made sure to announce them all quite loudly in the recording, should you wish to try them out. So far they seem to work well, though the number of skills is way to high.

Here is the recording should you wish to watch.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Jake Reviews: Exemplars & Eidolons

I normally don't do reviews. Its not that I don't have opinions, but I generally prefer to avoid telling people what to play. That said, I have recently run into a game that I think is truly fantastic and I would like to recommend it. It is a free pdf so I feel OK about recommending it. If you like it, great. If you hate, nothing lost but a little time. So here goes, my first review, a review of Exemplars and Eidolons.

The Peritextual Elements
The cover art is decent, in that old school D&D style. I will admit, it did not draw me in at first. It is the kind of art that grows on you as time goes on. The internal art is solid, it is basically solid and appropriate(it is taken from a couple of open source art packs, so make of that what you will). The layout is purposefully in the style of the original D&D booklets and is designed to showcase how to do that layout. As such it is very fine. Simple and well laid out, no frills. By and large the peritextual elements of the game are solid and well thought out.

Game mechanics
Overall this is the slickest take on classic OSR based rules I have ever seen. It avoids much of the rules baggage I have seen in many OSR games. Each player rolls 4d6, drop the lowest, for their attribute(which are the standard fare. This is followed by writing down three facts about your character. Facts are a single sentence that defines a relationship, influence, or background about your character. When a fact applies to a given situation you gain a +4 to a given ability roll. to  Players then choose between one of three classes: Warrior, Rogue, or Sorcerer. Each grants the player a set of gifts. Gifts are special abilities and super powers. Players get two from their class and one from any list at level one. You then pick weapons, equipment, and write down effort and HPs. Effort is new, it is how one uses gifts and some magic spells. Leveling up is pretty slick, you may choose any class at the new level and can switch back and forth as you go. Every level grants an additional gift and some more HP. Sorcerers work a bit different than many OSR games, they can cast any of the spells at a level they have mastered, though only a couple per day, per level. You basically start out as a master magus and go up from there.

The die rolls are split between three types, ability checks, saves, and attack rolls. Abilities are rolled against with a roll under mode. Saves are also rolled under, though you add your level in appropriate classes to the appropriate saves. Attacks are rolled pretty much standard. Damage rolls are an interesting take. You roll the damage and compare it against a chart. The results will end up between 0 and 4 damage. Damage comes off of the player characters hit points and NPCs HD(this is pretty great as it lets you pull NPCs from most any OSR game and use them here with minimal fuss).

The other really spiffy mechanics are Wealth and Influence. As you are playing larger than life heroes you don't really have to worry about everyday money, in fact the game tells you to just allow players to get whatever incidental items they could reasonably want. Wealth represents serious riches, like dragon hoards and the like. You can spend it to get influence and other big things. Influence is quite possibly my favorite part of the game. The GM is encouraged to build a really big problem and a bunch of lesser problems. Each one of the lesser problems is worth a set amount of influence. You gain influence by doing great deeds, completing quests, using wealth and gifts. Once a minor problem is taken car of you gain XP, and when a major problem is dealt with you gain much more XP. It is a really slick system.

The setting is quite slim. Basically the game tells you to play larger than life heroes in a fantasy world and leaves the rest up to the group to decide. I kind of like that as I immediately thought up a bunch of scenarios and campaigns for the game. It has an intrinsic setting that is implied more than outright stated. I rather like this method, as it leaves room to play with the features in new and interesting ways.

Overall I rather like this game and, as it is free, I think it would be worth your time to check it out. At 48 pages it is not a heavy game, but it handles larger than life heroes rather well.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Trek to the Stars part 8:Character Creation

Character creation in Trek to the Stars is a bit more involved than I normally like to make. That said I think there is a lot of interesting things that can happen in a more involved character generation. I hope I am right in that, and not just kind of meandering at the mind. In this post I will be putting down the framework of character creation, step by step. For those just picking this series up, here is the precious posts:
Initial thoughts
Part 1: The Pitch
Part 2: Skill roll basics
Part 3: Potential Campaigns
Part 4: History in brief
Part 5: Keys and Secrets
Part 6: Timeline and Technologies
Part 7: More technologies

Character Creation
To create a character for Trek to the Stars you start with the basic campaign template. Decide what sort of game you wish to play as a group. The game makes the assumption that you will all play members of a star ship crew travelling the space-lanes, taking colonists and cargo to and from the various outposts of human occupied space. However, if you wish to play a colonist, miner, or some other form of game the mechanics will allow that style of play.

Star Ship
Decide at this point weather or not your ship is registered with a government/organization. If you are registered that has some benefits and some downsides. If you are not, you remain free of outside influence, but that carries a lot of downsides as well. At this point choose a model of star ship from the list provided(no list at the moment, but I will have one in the final draft, for now just make up a cool sounding star ship) Also each player should write down one fact about the ship. Facts are one sentence descriptors that can enhance rolls during play.

Character Origins and Motivations
Next you choose an origin. Origins cover your birth planet/government, whether you are a baseline human or some variant, and your defining background events. You will choose one Origin Key that will be most important to your character. Following the origin you will choose a motivation. Motivation Keys are the driving force for your character in the moment. They are what you want, what you need. Check out part 5 of this series to get advice on building keys.

At this point you will also choose whether or not your character is a baseline human or something different. Currently I have only three types available, but my end goal is to increase that number to cover all the types I have discussed in previous posts. This is an area I am still heavily developing so any thoughts on this would be very welcome.

Baseline: you gain a character the first time in a session when your biology would cause a hindrance to you. when you spend a character point on a fact to gain an extra kept die you gain two extra kept dice instead.
Alpha: Increase your maximum dice in physical and mental categories by one and increase the rating of two skills within those categories by one. Gain a character point the first time in a session your biology would hinder your character.
Raven: The first time your biology would get in the way in a given session, gain a character point. You can fly at your running speed.

I am still working out how to do some of the human augmentation within the systems I currently have. Any thoughts on how to do enhancement within the system would be greatly appreciated.

You start out with 35 points to spread among the various skills. No skill can start higher than five dice. This may be not enough skill points(or it may be too many) for actual play. I feel that this works, but will need to run some tests to see if adjustment is needed. I am currently using the skill list I set down in part 2, so check that out for the current list.

Your character starts with three achievements. Achievements are specialties or talents within a given skill. Currently I do not have a bunch of names for specific achievements, but I do have a set of rules for creating them. An achievement can do one of the following:

  • Allow you to keep an extra die on a given roll(usually only in a given circumstance, though perhaps if you take it twice you can just increase the kept die for all rolls with the skill) 

  • Give you a minor unique ability of some sort or permission to use your skill in a new way(let you use a skill in the place of another skill within a defined field)

  • Increase the scale of the skill in a specific circumstance(I am still working on the specific effects of this and would love to hear any thoughts on what I can do with it) 

  • Increase effect or damage of a skill after the roll(basically you achieve success with style automatically on a success, you critically succeed when you succeed at all)

  • Character Points expenditures and advancement
    After character creation you can improve your character through the expenditure of character points to enhance a skill roll. The final character sheet will have a list of ten boxes set below the skill rating bubbles so you can easily track skill growth.
    10 character points gets you the next dot in a skill
    5 character points grants you an achievement(a specialization or ability within a given skill)
    2 character points grants you a fact(something like an aspect that is attached to the skill). These are the only character points you can spend on character advancement without spending them on enhancing a skill first.

    Finishing Touches
    Write down three facts about your character. One should be about their training and background. The other two should be about relationships or social duties your character has. These are very important as they allow you to increase the number of kept dice you can have on a given roll. These Facts also allow for a bit of niche protection and individualization of specialty. Also here is where you mark down any signature equipment and your physical description. And then you should be done...

    So far that is what I have for character creation. I would like to do a bunch of character creation and see if it stands up to repeated iterations. If any readers would like to build a character(or a bunch of them should the mood strike), I would like to see them, post or link in the comments. In fact I would love to hear any thoughts on this method for character creation. Let me know if you think it will work what areas are weak, and anything else you thought about it.

    Saturday, March 21, 2015

    Trek to the Stars pt 7: The Inevitable Machine Uprising

    In this post I am going to talk a bit more about the setting for Trek to the Stars, and all that. I am also going to talk about an area of design that I normally do not pay much attention to. I am going to talk about when you reach the point where you have to decide what to do with your game. Mostly, when I make a game for this site, I just go until the muse no longer strikes and then I let the idea lay fallow. After talking with some of my friends and fellow designers I have decided that I would be better served by finishing up these projects and putting them out all polished and gleaming. So that is what I am going to do. I will start with this project; my goal is to have a working beta document ready by mid April. From there I will start a fairly low key kickstarter to get editing, art, and layout done. Then I will release it to the world as a pay what you want pdf and also do some sort of print on demand bit. After that, I will move on to other projects that are near completion: Heartbreaker, Omnis Mundi, and Where the Antelope play. I also have a bunch of other ideas that keep springing into my head, so look for those in the future as well. Don't worry about Jadepunk, though. I will still be putting out books for that. It is just that I have spent so much time focusing on that single project that my other work has started to slide a bit. This is my attempt to get back in the saddle, to get designing the other stuff that I always wanted to do.

    All that said lets get to the design bits, yeah? For those who haven't been following this project, or want to refamiliarize themselves with it, here are the previous posts:
    The initial idea
    Part 1 Influences and basic pitch
    Part 2 Skill Roll Basics
    Part 3 Campaign Frameworks
    Part 4 History in brief and major technologies
    Part 5 I talk about Keys and Secrets 
    Part 6 The basic timeline and a description of the clades and uplifts

    Last time I talked about the genetic engineering side of things. This time I would like to delve into the mechanical and technological side of the equation.

    Quantum Computers: The advent of the quantum computer changed everything. For most folk in the system, it was just a faster and more reliable computer. To those into advanced mathematics, economics, or artificial intelligence research it the quantum computer opened the universe. When the quantum computer was first invented, those who had it used it to crash every market on earth for over ten years. Only when the nations and corporations changed over to quantum cryptography that things began to improve and even then it was the discovery of fusion that managed to pull the economy out a decade long slump.

    The Internet
    During the Last War the Internet was struck, and struck hard. It was a line of communication and could not be allowed. Satellites were destroyed, wires cut, severs were wiped out. By the end of the war the nature of computer networks had changed. Much information was lost or fragmented during the war, but a lot was taken outward in the second diaspora. Networks are now far more centralized and controlled. Server farms are hidden and guarded

    Artificial Intelligence
    During the first diaspora artificial intelligence came to be. Several labs managed the feat within months of each other. At the time few laws existed to deal with man made sapience. this was quickly rectified and within twenty years Artificial Intelligences were considered capable of being citizens like any human. That said there is still a great deal of distrust and prejudice against Constructed Intelligences(their preferred term). Some folks do not believe the results of the Ferrera-Tannous Test are accurate, that these beings are only mimicking sapience. Currently a Constructed Intelligence requires a massive quantum computer with massive constant power needs. Most are housed in satellites or space ships, interacting with the external world through drones.

    Transportation of the future is manifold. From Vactrains traversing the Atlantic and across multiple continents to Ground effect vehicles and vacuum balloons, there are more ways to get around now than at any time in the past. The biggest advance has been in the area of space travel. Cheep fusion reactors and mass drivers drove the race into space. Currently there are two main drives in use Solar Sails and Fusion Drive Rockets. Solar sails are cheep, but slow. One can increase one's speed by hiring a laser array to increase the ships speed. Fusion Drive Rockets(called "Rosies" in the engineering vernacular) are used primarily for military uses and other uses that require a fast burn. They are far to costly for most normal travel needs. Primarily ships are use for trade purposes, bringing He^3 and other materials out to, and back from, the edges of human occupied space.

    There are a great many ways to augment the human body. Possibly the most invasive is biomechtronic human enhancement, often called(erroneously) cybernetics. Most folks who get enhanced in this way are replacing damaged limbs or organs. The ones who do not are viewed with great distrust. People who remove parts of themselves to gain some perceived advantage are seen as somewhat unstable.
    • Spartan: the cyborgs who focus on enhancing their own bodies with prosthesis are known as Spartans, after the ancient Greek warriors. Their enhancements are the most varied of the human augmentations. They tend toward protections and combat enhancements, though there are stories of those given prosthesis as a form of control. 
    • Collectivites: They sit in the secret stations hidden throughout the system. They seek to transcend humanity. Using quantum computers and brain machine interfaces they have merged their minds(mostly). They interact with the outside world using remote controlled robot drones. However they are still connected to meat space. They have yet to transcend their bodies. They sit in armored shells filled with nutrients and a mild electric current to stimulate their muscles to prevent atrophy. Full mind upload is the dream, and it is still a long way off. Those who have tried managed to upload...something, but what remained within the quantum computer was not human. They were not safe. The transfer loses all but the darkest parts of the human soul(if there is such a thing).
    Major Tech Corporations
    W-Y Corp: Born of the merger between two mega-corporations W-Y Corp produces anything and everything that people need. They control 4% of every market in the system. That may not seem like much, but it makes them the largest corporation in the solar system. There have been many allegations of shady dealings and cover ups, but they hold such power that they are considered a sovereign entity when dealing with governments.
    Omni Corp: The leading edge of the drone market, while also working to break into the field of mechanical augmentation. They have recently mad a deal with one of the moons of Uranus to build better soldiers in their near constant warfare with their neighbors.
    Tai Rel Corp: Leading the field in genetic engineering. they are currently focused entirely on building better life forms to survive the harsh conditions in Venus' atmosphere.
    Cyber Systems: They created the first quantum computers and still are leaders in the field. Recently they have been fighting an economic war against their chief rival HMI.
    Hueristic Modeling Inc: An upstart computer company that made a splash recently by outbidding Cyber Systems for a military contract with the Saturnian Regency.

    So that is what I have for this post. Let me know what you think.

    Monday, March 16, 2015

    Trek to the Stars pt 6: The Inevitable Momentum of History

    In this post I will be digging into the specifics of the timeline as well as talking about the genetically modified humans and the uplifts. I also bring up some issues I have run into with the previous posts. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, or any ideas you have for the setting or mechanics. Here are links to the previous posts in this project, should you wish to look through them:
    The Original Idea
    Part 1 Initial setting ideas and influences
    Part 2 How skill rolls will work
    Part 3 Campaign Frameworks
    Part 4 History and Technology
    Part 5 Discussion of Keys and Secrets

    Timeline of the Future
    2039 The first enhance combat prosthesis is fielded successfully. Mechanical human enhancement becomes more common as the century moves forward.

    2045-2053 A worldwide depression begins and runs for nearly a decade.

    2052 The fusion reactor is invented by engineers working for Lockheed Martin, within ten years they have revolutionized energy across the planet. The economy booms.

    2060-2075 The First diaspora begins. The mass colonization of the inner solar system begins with the great scientists and explorers of the age. Mars terraforming begins and specialists flock to it. The beginnings of the flying cities of Venus also take shape. A science station is put in orbit around Mercury to study the sun.

    2091 The African shipyards and mass driver. Three hundred kilometer long mass driver the spouts up through a mountain for launch.

    2094-2145 The second diaspora begins as space craft reach a relatively low price. Many begin an exodus to the asteroid field and the moons of Saturn Jupiter and Uranus.

    2110-2134 The Last War begins as tensions between colonies and the old powers. This is a war of surgical strikes and political maneuvering. Furious bouts of fighting last for moments and there are great stretches of tense ceasefires. The alpha mod for humans were created during the war, and they ended it when they utilized there natural abilities to wipe out several key leaders and cities taking control of most of central Africa. they were defeated, though several thousand made it into space before they could be taken out. This united hatred of the Alphas ended the war. Mars was ceded to two major colony powers, the neo fascists and compassionate communists(like the federation).

    2134 Comet Halley makes it rounds through the inner system once again. A group of scientists tether a small probe to the comet to gather data, continuously.

    2140 Oldest person in recorded history dies at age of 150. In the future this becomes more common as advances in medicine become more easily available. By the end of the century the average lifespan has become 110 years old.

    2145-Now Saturnian Conflicts: after a generation of colonization the various colonies began to fight over the rights to mine He^3 several family run mines became massive corporations and began to issue letters of marque on the harvesters of the rival clans. It soon began to near open war, until the concord was reached. The families(as they became known) agreed to never use total war and the war they would practice had to follow several severe limits. This has led to a pseudo feudal state where all the families agree to operate as a united whole while fighting for power through ritualized warfare. In fact warfare is one of the few areas of upward mobility among the people of Saturn. Battles are either against the concord and hidden or with the concord and celebrated.

    2175-Now The third Diaspora has begun. Ship and fusion generator prices reach an all time low. Colonists head for the outer planets in droves. Many fail and die in the black, but some make it and strike it rich. Stories of the expansion fill most of the output of the mass entertainment. Earth begins to empty as economic, religious, and political pressures drive people to take to the stars.

    2199 The first Raccoon uplifts are discovered. They had been created by some genius with access to a highly advanced lab, yet no one took credit. The first Raccoon uplift remains a mystery to this day, and many a conspiracy theorist claims to know the truth. Examining the uplifts led to advances in the field, allowing for the Raven uplift program to succeed.

    2206 The first cybernetic gestalt goes online in a station in orbit around Jupiter.

    2209 the martian Space elevator is finally finished after a decade of delay.

    2221 First colonist sets foot on Eris, which soon becomes the hub of trade in and around the Kuiper belt. Soon after Haumea and Makemake are also colonized.

    2256 The first independent miners begin mining on Mercury. Through hard work, ingenuity, and luck they begin to make a profit. Soon corporations begin to form, as do unions, and conflict begins in earnest between all the forces seeking to control mining on Mercury.

    2342 The Alcubierre Shunt is invented by W-Y Corp and within twenty years there will be at least one in orbit of seven of the eight planets, Neptune is still missing a shunt. There is still some fear among the populous about travelling by this method.

    2356-2360 Neo fascist Mars has recently fallen to balkanization after a major civil war. The old government lost much territory in the north to several smaller break away nations. They have hunkered down and begun focusing on keeping control of the remaining territory.

    2358-Now The Uranian colonies have begun selling cheap He^3 to the other colonies for fusion power. This has cut into the profit margin of the Saturnian regency, who had close to a monopoly on He^3 for nearly a hundred years. The regency has begun encouraging revolts within the various Uranian states. This region is incredibly politically dangerous.

    2365 Now

    The Clades
    The clades are genetically modified humans who breed true. Currently there are four clades in existence: Alphas, Atavists, Angels, and Aewar. They have all existed as clades for over two hundred years. Some do not even consider themselves to be human anymore. They see themselves as separate from humans in all ways that matter. Most folk view those who believe such things as deluded in one form or another.
    • Alpha: physically and mentally superior in most ways(though not by a massive margin), though they have severe megalomania and paranoia. they rend to only live out past the belt, as their betrayal is still remembered in the inner system. Often are viewed as untrustworthy, crazy, and dangerous.
    • Atavists: physically stronger and faster, thicker bones and advanced healing. Downsides emotionally fragile and poor vision(colorblind and near sighted), their muscle density makes swimming very difficult. Folks tend to view them as slow and stupid, though they are not. 
    • Angels: Living in micro gravity or extreme low gravity environments they are the most common, and yet the most extreme, modified humans. They have modded themselves with lighter bone and muscles designed to resist atrophy in order to survive as well as bioluminescent patches of skin allowing them to work and communicate in the dark times in space. They have difficulty in any gravity over .5 Gs, and tend toward being tall and thin. They also have fairly heavy light sensitivity and must wear protective goggles in lighting designed for normal human comfort.
    • Aewar: They have enhanced senses and spatial understanding they can do many things that humans today would view impossible. They have live life on emotional mute and have difficulty making big decisions. Need to work on this.
    Folks who have had post utero modifications, have been modified in a new way that does not pass on to the next generation, or are singular in their modifications. They have real issues with diseases, their immune systems are shot. They can get very powerful, but they must take so many drugs and immuno-suppressants that even a simple cold can kill them.

    There are currently two major species in the later stages of genetic uplift: Ravens and Raccoons. There had been serious attempts at uplifting great apes, by the time technology had reached that level very few ape remained in the wild or in captivity. The gene pool was too small. Whales and dolphins have gone through several uplift programs, but there seems to be some fundamental difference in thinking required for cetacean undersea life and communication that provides a divide that has yet to be crossed.

    • Raccoon: They stand between 3' and 4' tall(not counting the tail). Their skull size and brain capacity have been increased slightly more. No one is quite sure who did the first uplift procedure on raccoons initially, but it was brilliant work. There is a legend among them that they somehow uplifted themselves, most folk discount this theory.
    • Ravens: Have increased in size significantly, nearing 40lb with a wingspan of 8 feet or more, they are superlative communicators and excellent at non-linear abstract thought. There has been a recent surge in demand for Raven artwork throughout the inner system. Ravens are also excellent organizers and have been involved in much of the terraforming projects throughout the solar system. They are especially common on Mars, usually overseeing new construction or agriculture. 

    Uplift specific technology
    Waldoes: Ravens do not have hands and so they require a special mechanical frame to interact with devices designed for human uses. This frame allows for the raven to control a set of mechanical arms using its feet and beak.

    I would like to explore this idea a bit more. The idea for technology that helps uplifts interact in human society. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

    Some technical notes
    Solar Sails and lasers: You can travel at a fairly sedate speed or you can hire a laser satellite from a nearby planet to launch you at greater velocities. These lasers serve a double purpose. They serve to enhance speed, and they serve to defend a planet or nation from orbital threats.

    Alcubierre Bubble as transport without a shunt: I see the warp bubble as being something that can only be initiated and stopped by a shunt. Once you are in the warp bubble, you are in it until some external force breaks the bubble. Currently the only thing that can is the shunt. So you need a shunt at the starting point, and another shunt at the end point. You could send someone to Alpha Centauri, but they would end up slamming into the planet or star and dying, or flying right past forever. Perhaps normal ships cannot make the trip. Perhaps whet they do is take material and personnel to the shunt and they board massive cargo/passenger ships that travel to the next shunt in the line where they disembark onto various smaller craft to go to the various `planets/moons/dwarf planets/asteroids. I would really like these to work like a train system. You would have one in orbit around all the inner planets

    Artificial Intelligence: I am leaning toward a suggestion by +Paul Mitchener in that AI should require a powerful "quantum computer" in order to function. This does bring in some problems though. It requires quite a lot of power that would not really be portable on a man size frame, and so would require a power satellite or the equivalent. This is problematic as it means that players either could not play them or would have really weird restrictions on playing them. I would love to hear any thoughts on reworking AI into something more playable while still fitting within the themes and tones for this setting as established so far. Basically I am extrapolating from current technology, or current theory to the next degree.

    H'okay, so that is what I have so far. I would love to hear any comments, critiques or complaints.

    Saturday, March 14, 2015

    Trek to the Stars pt 5: Keys and Secrets

    Since last post I dealt with the setting, I figured that this post I would delve a bit further into the mechanics of the thing. Since I first heard about them, keys have fascinated me. It changed the way I looked at much of game design. Such a simple thing to have such a powerful effect. I found that merely adding keys to an existing game changed the state of play on a fundamental level.

    I have also made a decision about the nature of skills. In a previous post I set down two separate thoughts on how to do roll and keep in the game. In this post I will go into the decision I made and how I see it playing out.

    Should you wish to look through the previous posts related to this project, here they are:
    The original idea for a system
    Part 1 where I talk about my influences and a loose brainstorm for the setting
    Part 2 where I put down the basics of dice rolling and the initial skill list
    Part 3 where I discuss some ideas for potential campaign frameworks
    Part 4 where I start giving some specifics of the setting

    Keys are motivations, desires, problems, relationships, loyalties, and duties that cause your character to act. In a way they are a bit like aspects in Fate. They drive you to take action and grant you a reward for taking that action. In Shadow of Yesterday the bonus they get is experience points, in Fate the bonus is fate points. In Trek to the Stars they serve both functions. You gain character points by following your keys, and then you gain experience points when you spend character points on taking action.

    The issue I have always had with Keys is the difficulty I have with constructing them. When you see a good Key, you know that it is indeed good. When you get a bad one though, or a mediocre one, you can feel it is bad, but not necessarily what went wrong with it. In this I will lay out the basics of Keys as it was set down in Shadow of Yesterday. In future posts I will try my best to set out some really solid examples(fingers crossed). Keep in mind that the numbers might change as we move forward in this project.
    From original document
    Keys are the motivations, problems, connections, duties, and loyalties that pull on your character. To the player, they're highly important because they generate experience points. Creating new Keys may be easier than new Abilities or Secrets - they follow very simple rules.
    • A Key must involve a motivation, problem, connection, duty, or loyalty.
    • Keys come in two types: * Motivations. When the motivation is fulfilled in play, gain an experience point. When the motivation is fulfilled against good odds, gain three experience points. * Everything else. When the Key comes up in play, gain an experience point. When the Key presents a minor problem, gain two experience points. When it presents a major problem, gain five experience points.
    • All Keys have a Buyoff, which is a reversal from the Key by the character. All Buyoffs give the character 10 experience points. This Buyoff occurs only when you, the player, wants it to happen: you can lose a battle with the Secret of Bloodlust and still keep the Secret. If you want your character to undergo a change in his personality, though, adding to the story, you can take this Buyoff by fulfilling it. If you do take the Buyoff, you can never take this Key again.
    So that is the basics of Keys. I will be designing them along those lines, though I will definitely be manipulating the numbers. I see folks earning character points two ways for each Key. You gain one point when it comes up in play, and five points(ten points?) when you resolve it. It is generally resolution that I find most difficult to nail down. So any advice on Keys and how I should use them in this game would be greatly appreciated.

    I am rather fond of this name for a special ability within a skill. I had been vacillating between perk and technique for that name. Then I reread Shadow of Yesterday and saw secret. Such a fine name. It reminds me of the old classic Shaw Brothers films, everyone is all the time learning secrets of their given skill. Each skill has a number of secrets attached to it secrets can do a number of things. What follows are the rules for constructing secrets for the skills. I will probably build a bunch when I go back through and do a finishing run on the skill list.
    • Allow you to keep an extra die on a given roll(usually only in a given circumstance)
    • Give you a minor unique ability of some sort or permission to use your skill in a new way
    • Increase the scale of the skill in a specific circumstance 
    • Increase effect or damage of a skill after the roll
    I think that will cover a lot of ground for secrets, though I would love to hear any ideas on ways to expand this list. I also need to sort out my skill list and how I would like to describe the skills. As they are important I am leaning toward giving each skill a larger description than they might normally get. I am currently trying to work through the skill list and make it work. I am trying to figure out knowledge skills and language/culture skills as I think they would be useful and interesting. That said, I am uncertain how best to use them in my game. Any thoughts on those would also be appreciated.

    My next post will be on the future history, giving a nice long view of how the next couple centuries will go(in my setting at least, I am no Nostradamus). I will also talk about the uplifts, gene mods, cyborgs, and my problems with AI. Alright that is it for this post, let me know what you think. Comments, critiques, and suggestions are always welcome.

    Thursday, March 12, 2015

    Trek to the Stars part 4: Future History and Advanced Technology

    H'okay so today I will be working on the setting a bit more and laying down some possibilities of the setting. I have these thoughts rolling around in my head, they are not really coalescing though. I will lay out what I have and hopefully spur some discussion on what to do with them. This is all just kind of roughing out the setting and building a solid base for future developement. If you have any thoughts, please let me know.If you would like to look at what I have already worked out on for the game(system and setting) here are the links.
    The initial Idea
    Part 1 My influences and some thoughts on what I would like to see
    Part 2 A tentative skill list and a fleshing out of the die mechanic
    Part 3 My thoughts on campaign frameworks that fit within the setting and system

    That out of the way, here goes. My ideas for the setting of Trek to the Stars:

    Future History
    350 years in the future, after the world fell and the sky opened up again, we have moved beyond our small blue sphere and have taken our place in the heavens.  Mars terraforming is nearing the end of phase two. Venus is going a different route. The game is set in the year 2365, and the frontiers of Man are limitless.

    Mercury is split between two nations, several mining firms, the unions, and the independent miners trying to make a living. 

    Venus has a great many cities in the sky(as oxygen is a lifting gas there) they harvest the gene modded plants that float in, and live off, the vast cloud cover while dispersing vast amounts of ice into the planetary atmosphere. These shining cities drift on the winds and help deflect some of the solar rays that bombard the planet.

    On and around Earth the old nation states still cling to their power and history, though many new nations have risen. This is the heart of the old Lords of the System(basically the aristocracy that has lost much power lately, but still holds more influence than some would like). This is a hotbed of politics and money, as well as extreme political leanings. With so many folk leaving the planet the populations have been lowered significantly. 

    Luna was once heavily populated, though now many folk have moved out to the new colonies and wide open spaces. Now it sits as backwater and historical site. Like a ghost town, but in space.

    Mars has enough atmosphere that folks can breath unaided, and there are even some rivers and lakes. It is separated into three(or more, haven't decided yet) nations. There was a recent civil war has concluded over the southern portions of the planet, They seceded from, and were retaken by, a large neo-fascist regime. Their luxuries and education are currently being taxed punitively by their fascist overlords.

    Ceres exists as the trade hub of much of the asteroid belt. Anything can be bought and traded here. It stands neutral in the dealings of the solar system at large. A great many asteroids have been moved near it so that miners can trade easier.

    Europa has vast cities hanging from the ice down into the unlit depths. They have little to do with the outside system, the only access to their undersea realm is two surface stations over great elevators to the subsurface populations.  The remaining Jovian moons are also heavily colonized, though I still haven't worked out how it is all arranged.

    The moons of Saturn are home to a pseudo-feudal society that controlled most trade of He^3 throughout the system. They are a rich and jealous of others power. They live lives of glorified violence as one of the only ways to advance beyond the serf/peasant/worker caste is to join the local military and distinguish yourself. Distinguished soldiers can be adopted into the ruling families. Military might and economic power are all that matter on the grand scheme. Each lord serves a higher lord and so on. All fall under the domain of the Saturn Emperor.

    The independents around Uranus have begun to cut into the Saturn Baronies profits with their cheaper and easier to extract He^3. They are a disorganized and unruly bunch. Libertarian ideals founded the colonies, but soon thereafter the society almost collapsed and so a slightly stronger government was constructed, but the people are still independent and free wheeling.

    Out beyond this lies the great frontier. The moons of Neptune, Pluto, the Kuiper belt, and Eris are all somewhat colonized. Many hermits, tribes, bands, micro-nations, and families have moved out to the region with nothing but a fusion plant, a ship, and a fabricator. Live is hard, but riches can be had with a bit of work and a bit of luck.

    Major Important Technologies
    Fusion Reactors: Invented in the mid twenty-first century its proliferation changed everything. Requires He^3 or Deuterium as fuel, depending on the model of reactor. A small one can power a habitat large enough for six for years with little complex maintenance.

    Fabricators: A large machine that uses robotics and micro-robotics to construct anything it has the plans for. You must put the required material in the required amounts into the hopper. No household should be without one. You must purchase fabrication rights for the plans of any item you wish to construct and raw materials needed. Pirated plans and hacked fabricators are difficult to obtain, but not impossible. Laws regarding rights usage often change depending on which country you are in and from which the plans come. Basically advanced versions of 3D Printers.

    Solar Sails: The cheep method of traveling (relatively)swiftly throughout the system. Solar sails are the preferred method for most colonists.

    Ion Thruster: Using argon this engine provides steady thrust at a low cost. I am unsure if there isn't a better drive than this one, I do love the name of it though.

    Mass Driver: An electromagnetic accelerator used to transport goods from ground to orbit. Used on Mercury, Luna, and several of the moons of the gas giants.

    Alcubierre Shunt: A device like a beacon that allows a ship to travel faster than light for short periods. It bends space into a warp bubble around your ship and then fires that bubble of in a direction. In order to end the effect you must strike another beacon. Travel can take anywhere from a week(Earth to Venus) to a month and a half(Earth to Neptune)

    Space Elevators: Mars and Titan have the only currently operational space elevators in the system. Though Earth has been working on constructing one for the last two years.

    Vacuum Balloon: Recently materials science has advanced enough that this has become a possibility. Now there are several Vacuum Airships patrolling the skies of Venus. And recently a few such airships have been sent to Jupiter as a proof of concept toward building permanent cities in Jupiter's upper atmosphere.