Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dog Eat Dog Days

Too pooped to blog with a new puppy that adores play and the outside world. I'm way too out of shape to be playing with a puppy.

Also, GMs, let your players have dogs as NPCs, even if they aren't a ranger. It's fun, not game breaking, and just something totally awesome.

That's all I have today. I'm going to go pass out now.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Campaign Space Ship: NECI Sigrun

This here is the spaceship that my players have been using for their game of M-Space. While it's mostly just been a plot device to get to the planet from the Ark, this time around, it'll get put through its paces in actual space combat. For those more knowledgeable of M-Space, you'll notice that the speed, engine power, and armor is low. This is to represent a lower tech ship on the cusp of achieving fusion drive, somewhere between Traveller and Orbital 2100. Many of the added stats like tonnage were mathematical formulas I used to convert Traveller stuff to M-Space.

I plan on working with either Blender or Unity to combine the 3D models of the ships and planets to make cool landscapes with them. It's something my players certainly will like. 

NECI Sigrun (created using the Galactic Civilization III Ship Builder)

New Earth Colonial Initiative's Sigrun


Size: 58 (290 Tons, 52 meters/170' 7" long)
Armor: 2 AP
Speed: 5 (Delta V: 80 km/s)
Handling: 3
Distance per Month Traveled: 200 Mkm
Fuel per Month Traveled: 3 tons
Fuel Capacity: 10 tons

Named% chanceHP
Cockpit 1-42
Engines, Thrusters 5-135
Engines, Maneuver 14-225
Sickbay 23-304
Crew Quarters 31-409
Cargo Hold 41-455
Railgun 46-471
Railgun 48-491
Engineering Lab 50-511
Crew Common Area 52-668
Hanger, Rover67-744
Hanger, Shuttle 75-9210
Sensors 93-1003

The NECI Sigrun is the premier spaceship for the Initiative Scouts. It is outfitted with two railguns for defense, a standard nuclear thermal rocket, and a life support system to last a crew for six months. The Sigrun has a connection to the ark AI, Noah, for information and orders from the higher echelons of the NECI. Able to traverse 1.3 AU in a single month and scan for all kinds of minerals and chemicals to locate important resources for the survival of humanity. The Sigrun can fit a standard crew of 9, including pilots, surveyors, and an engineer, all of which crossed trained to be survivalists, scientists, and security for the planetside away team.

Monday, July 24, 2017

M-Space Campaign

This coming Wednesday, I'm continuing my M-Space colonial campaign by using the above module with some changes to the adventure here and there. The main focus isn't going to be on the alien, though it will play a large part in harrying the players. The focus will be on the ship itself and a crew member cryogenically asleep in there.

While my game has been more of a episodic sandbox of exploring a hostile planet with a lethal atmosphere, there has been a sort of metaplot that the players have found. Some context. The players were on an ark leaving a dying Earth for a new planet through a wormhole. The plan was to set them there, set up shop, then bring resources back to Earth to help everyone survive. However, the ark stayed in the wormhole for 86 years before letting the players out, then closing forever, leaving them stranded away from a now dead Earth. As the players explored the planet, they found a crashed human ship called the FEI Icarus, despite the fact that the PCs were the first to make planetfall. Whats more, is that the spaceship has a more advanced power plant and an unusual engine in it that is more advanced than anything the player's or their colonial initiative has. 

So the question is, who are these humans and where did they come from?

In the next session, the players are going to the second planet of the star system to investigate an unusual radio signal. What it'll end up being is the sister ship of the Icarus, the FEI Iapyx. Inside will be the discovery of a lifetime for them. Evil hydrocarbon aliens, a rogue AI protecting the Iapyx, and the only living crewmember of the Iapyx, trapped in cryostasis.

The discoveries the players make will be this:
  • Earth and humanity still live on! Though in a much different state than they left it.
  • The Iapyx and Icarus were ships testing an Alcubierre warp drive that sort of worked, but left the Icarus marooned on the planet the players were on, while the Iapyx simply got lost.
  • The warp drive and the fusion power plant can be retrofitted by the player's engineering after some time.
  • The players are on the other side of the galaxy.
This will advance the metaplot by a great deal, and it will give the players a chance to upgrade their spaceship to take them beyond the confines of the stellar system. Just gotta do some more stuff for the module Wednesday and I should be a-ok. I plan on having the crewmember in stasis for a time due to health reasons, before revealing more about the state of Earth. But in the distant future, I do plan on having the colonies encounter Earthlings. And it won't be pretty.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Great Kitbashed Campaign

From the game Offworld Trading Company

The current game I'm running is an M-Space/Mythras game, where the players are colonists, explorers, and security for the last of humanity aboard a giant ark ship. It's been a fun game with a new system for all of us. We're still getting used to how Mythras does things and keeping track of things like special effects, hit location, luck points, and action points. But I feel it's made a much more meaning game with how it does combat. And I really enjoy the more skill based system as opposed to class and levels.

One of the things I like is the way they do spaceships. Everything is bought in modules and most of the actual cosmetic design is left up to the GM and players. I personally made the ships similar to Traveller with a bit of tweaking and math here and there, but kept it lower tech. Like something from Orbital 2100. No fusion drives, no FTL, no artificial gravity. It means travelling to the different planets in the new star system can take a little longer in game, but it gives the players some time for their characters to do their own things. One is building battle droids and researching a fusion drive they found. Another is focused on making their weapons better. And now that their colony is close to up and running, there can be more human interaction for them (since near everyone is in cryo stasis).

The game is a huge kit bash of sci fi rules systems (and one fantasy!). The base is M-Space and Mythras, with more and more from Mythras coming into play as we learn the rules more. For the creation of solar systems and planets, I ended up using Mindjammer and Traveller, with an extended table for creating gas dwarfs, ice giants, and gas giants. Much of that comes from Freelance Traveller's article about gas giants, because so much has changed since Book 6: Scouts was published. Mindjammer has some extended stats for planets, like temperature, gravity, and radius that I honestly like for flavor and world-building.

With the colony coming close to running, I've turned to the OSR for this. Stars Without Number has a supplement called Suns of Gold, which details a cool systems for running colonial holdings. In addition, there is Adventurer, Conqueror, King, which has a very robust set of rules for domain holdings, population growth, armies, and taxes. I've done a bit of massaging between the two and have a system that does the best of both systems. It's a bit simpler than ACKS, but unlike SoG, it has more of the land holdings and resource harvesting to get more raw materials for the colony. The colony starts with 5000 people, and the goal is to hit 100,000 citizens so that it can become self-sustaining. This is more of a side game, played in-between sessions throughout the week. And really, only for those interested in that style of game.

We are very close to beginning that, and I think one of the best things I like about the colonial game is that the players can see real, tangible results in a world with little law and order set up. And I think that's why they've really enjoyed the game so far. It's been a real pleasure.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Twenty Parsecs: The Setting in Broad Strokes

Was thinking a bit more on yesterday's article a bit more. I feel I should amend something. I guess while I love just about all sci-fi, it's space opera that really does it for me, alongside spacefaring hard sci fi. Military sci fi doesn't do it for me much anymore, but I partially blame its overabundance. It is a common theme since in many ways, that would be the future equivalent of the D&D adventurer. Can't really blame it honestly, since it really works. And, any time I say the word 'space marine', I get a litany of Warhammer 40k quotes about burning heretics and never suffering xenos. Gets old hat quickly. Cyberpunk is a mixed bag for me, though I love some of its tropes appearing in some Transhuman fiction. 

So, Twenty Parsecs. How do I imagine it? I'd like to subvert a lot of the expected tropes used in sci fi. First thing, no colonies vs homeworld. At least, not at the beginning and not as the main focus. I've seen enough Expanse and Gundam to last a lifetime, so I don't feel the need to do a spacer revolution for this. Rather, I want this to be about two cultures, separated by the vast gulfs of space and time for centuries, reconnecting and the trials and tribulations that come from it.

The first is the Commonwealth of Free Planets, a confederation of five core human worlds that exist 20+parsecs away from Earth. Each one was part of a generation ship many centuries ago, though most of the common folk have long forgotten that past. The planets have been united under a common lineage but have, over the years, changed enemies and allies alike, like squabbling siblings. Still, they get along enough with themselves and their alien neighbors these days. Many of the survival protocols set from the onset of the colonization program almost a millennium ago have become almost doctrine. Survive, reproduce, build, adapt. The planets have, until recently, looked inwards to ensure their own survival, but the last couple of decades have seen them finally branching out beyond their cluster.

Then there is the Republic of the Earth Cluster. Like the Commonwealth, the Republic is made up of several core worlds in the Local Star Cluster, but much more united under a representative democracy. With their own history has been several eras of war, peace, and a futile attempt at keeping an interstellar empire centered on Earth. Now, Earth keeps a light touch on its outer colonies, though still remains the capital and in charge of their Republic. Unlike the Commonwealth, Earth has yet to find sapient life forms. In many ways, this gives them a more humanocentric view on the galaxy when compared to the Free Planets, who regularly trade with, befriend, and make war (or love) with aliens. 

There will definitely be more culture shock differences as I flesh them out, but I think the key adventures would lean more on social intrigue and on planet adventures. I'm not too keen on wilderness exploration as a major focus, only because my current game is already all about exploration. Plenty of room for city and spaceport adventures for the players. Of course, I'd like to have a main conflict in the setting, as a sort of metaplot I can fall back on when the more episodic adventures run their course. Maybe most or all the players are all Earthlings that are the first to enter Free Planet space. This would allow them to rub shoulders with the leadership of the Free Planets while still able to have adventures with the common folk. I'll have to think about it a lot more.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sci Fi Setting Idea

For as long as I can remember, I've always loved sci fi. Books, movies, video games, and RPGs. While my desire to play or run in a fantasy, superhero, or other RPG game has always waxed and waned over the months, I'm always in the mood to run or play some sci fi. There's just something about exploring new worlds, encountering new aliens, and dealing with new technologies and cultures that has always spurred my imagination.

I'm currently running an M-Space colonial game, where the players are on an ark colonizing a hostile new world to ensure the survival of humanity. It's been a fun and interesting ride, and I've been blessed by some of the best players a GM could ask for. Still, I always like to brainstorm new ideas for future campaigns, especially with the Microscope game I wish to do, and this is one that I've thought about a bit. Here is one.

Twenty Parsecs

Humanity has, through the use of slow generation ship, colonized many of the planets outside of the Local Interstellar Cloud. Through long gulfs of space and time, they have lost contact with Earth, their homeworld simply becoming the place of legends and folklore. That is, until recently, when a space exploration vessel has crashed on the rim world Morning. The locals have discovered a real, bona-fide Earthling in their midst. What happens to Morning and the other colonies when this discovery is made? And is this the only Earthling that made it, or simply the vanguard of a larger force?

The name comes from Asimov, who calculated that at 20 parsecs, you can no long see the Sun in the night sky. The idea behind this is a political and locale adventure where the world as the players know it is being turned upside down. Earth, the fabled cradle of humanity, is real, and this is something that can shake the very foundation of the Union of Free Planets. Some may accept them with a cautious curiosity, while others may see the explorer(s) as a threat to their identity and independence. Whether or not the Earthlings come in peace, I haven't decided. I like the idea of keeping them mysterious and different, as it will have been several centuries since humans left Earth. I prefer a bit more of an optimistic theme for this campaign, but with the lingering fear of an unknown friend or enemy. I haven't decided on whether there are aliens here or not, but if there are, I prefer them to be crazy lifeforms, not humans with different ears and foreheads. I'd probably stick with M-Space/Mythras combined, with some elements of Traveller/Cepheus Engine thrown in there. Though I have been tempted to go back to Traveller for nostalgia sake.

There are other ideas I have for settings that would be fun, but I'll detail them another time.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Continuing a Solo Microscope

I'm getting into my work week now, and since I have the house alone to myself, it means I'll be fairly busy with work and housework for the next week. That means it'll be hard to really get into a game of Microscope until at least Sunday. Luckily, that should give me some time to sit down and figure out what I want from this.

So first, the "players".

I'm thinking about making four players, each one representing a different facet of making a history. They are the following"

Player 1 "The General": The general loves military history and battles. They are more likely to create scenes about war, whether it's the actual battles or the time leading up to or following a war.

Player 2 "The Politician": The politician loves social intrigue of leadership. Economics and trade, real politik, and Machiavellian machinations suit them well.

Player 3 "The Zeitgeist": The zeitgeist loves cultural movements, scientific innovation, and philosophical dialogue. Many of their scenes will be about advancements or regression in science, the arts, and reason.

Player 4 "The Explorer": The explorer loves the frontier and discovery. Scenes by the explorer include the discovery of new worlds and cultures, or lands of plenty.

These four players should be enough to do a good game of Microscope. What I plan to do is to use an oracle like GMA deck or Tangent Zero's Dice and interpret the icons in a way that would fit what each player would do. While it's still going to be biased towards my thinking, the random icons should inject a form of chaos to make the histories varied while keeping them coherent. I'll also have the standard Yes/No, And/But, Twist! dice for basic stuff.

The only thing I'm not sure how to model is the concept of Pushing a different idea. Obviously, it's kind of hard to push an idea or vote for one when I'm ultimately the only person doing it. I've thought about maybe having a d6 I roll for an idea Push if it hands on a 1, and adding +1 to it if it doesn't land on a one. But I'm curious how others would model someone pushing. 

A lot of this will really take putting myself into the minds of the four players above. I tend to be more of the Explorer myself, so that one will be the easiest. The Politician might be the hardest for me to grok. 

If anyone has more advice for running something like this and setting it up, I'd love to hear about it!