Friday, December 30, 2016

Sci Campaign: The System So Far

So I've been ranting and raving about sci fi and pretty much putting my fingers in everything science fiction related. I'm replaying Mass Effect 2, as well as playing a lot of Beyond Earth again. I'm watching The Expanse with the missus. And I got a whole bunch of sci fi RPG books and supplements, like Book 6: Scouts for Traveller and SWN's Engines of Babylon, as well as some Mindjammer stuff (the new BLUE adventure) and Diaspora. Basically, I think I'm going all in for the sci fi game next year.

I am thinking that I'm going to be running Stars Without Number, with the Engines of Babylon, Suns of Gold, and Transhuman Archives supplements. I honestly enjoy the themes and settings in Eclipse Phase, but the lack of spaceship support is a real deal break. I was heavily considering Cepheus Engine (and I still am), but I think my players might be more familiar with the more D&D aspects of SWN.

With Engines of Babylon, it's to bring the ships down a bit in tech. Less Star Trek and more Firefly or The Expanse. I've modified it somewhat for ease, using Cepheus Engine's acceleration and distance chart for travel. For Suns of Gold, I'm using the colonization rules from that with some alterations. Since the players are out on their own without any real allies, they are going to have to get their own resources. The ark ship they have has resources on it, but eventually, they will need their own stuff to survive on their new home of NESS 89-03 (purposely made it sound too scientific so the players would feel encouraged to give it a more dynamic name). This won't get into the detail and minutiae like you'd see in a 4x game like Alpha Centauri. I haven't decided how to do the resource harvesting, but I plan on keeping it very simple. I'm actually looking at ACKS's Domain Management system for this, since most of the leg work is done and I really like that system.

Speaking of ACKS, I will be using their Population Increase mechanic for the players' colony. Much of this is to represent the people in cold sleep or archived being put online and brought back down to the new colony. The big change I'm making is the value of families. In ACKS, 1 family is 5 people. For this colony game, it will be 50, 500 or 5,000 people, depending on how much resources they put into self sustaining terraforming installations. This will essentially be a part of building Local Supplies (from Suns of Gold) and means that population growth will increase until the colony is big enough (100,000 people) to really be its own city-state instead of just an outpost.

For planet generation, I've been using Mindjammer's System Generator. It's surprisingly good, with lots of information for the planet and its make up and resources. This means that each planet will always have something interesting on it, even if it isn't a full-on session of adventure. That will be very useful, as eventually, the players will get their hands on FTL travel. But, that will bring its own issues, which I'll talk about another time. Finally, I like the dual class idea from SWN's Designer Notes. I may be allowing that.

That's about it for the rules side. I do want to talk about the setting and get things squared away with that.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ideas for a Possible Sci Fi Campaign

It never really fails for me, really. When it comes to RPGs, I am very ADHD. One week, I'm all about D&D and fantasy races and building up my fantasy setting. The next week, I'm drawing up a star map for a sci fi campaign. Good thing for my players that I have a great deal of adventures ready for our 5e game, or else I'd be screwed for spending the last week prepping for a game I won't be running for a long time.

So, it started last Thursday on my girl friend's birthday. We went to see Rogue One. I liked it. And I kinda caught the bug for sci fi. Then we saw Interstellar on Sunday. Now we are watching through the Expanse. And boy, the sci fi bug is really hitting me. As much as I love D&D and fantasy, science fiction has always been my first love. Most of my movies, books, and video games are sci fi related. This is why I am now taking the time to detail out a possible campaign, or set of campaigns.

Campaign Idea

So here is what I have for ideas, first being what I'm most excited about.

Human Exodus - In this campaign, the Earth has been wrecked by a Luna mining incident gone wrong. This has fractured the moon and caused pieces of it to hit the Earth, flooding major cities and blanketing the world in a cloud of ash. The nations of the Earth come together in desperation and pour every resource into the impossible: a massive space ark with millions of people, seeds,  resources, and genetic material on board and a wormhole generator with enough energy to work once. So the players will be undertaking this one-way trip to a far away world charted for them. Of course, things go wrong...

For this, I'm torn between starting the game post launch, or starting it leading up to the launch. The latter is nice because it sets up the background and setting more with the ongoing conflict between those that want to fix the Earth and save everyone, and those that are leaving with only a handful of people. And it'll be something that'll haunt them in the future. For this first part, space travel will be stuck on the stellar system they currently jumped to. But that will change, as you'll see below.

One idea I have is that when the players make it to the world, they will eventually find remnants of a colony already there. The strange part is that they discover that the colony was filled with Earthlings. As they'll discover, they were stuck in the wormhole for decades, and in that time, the people of Earth sent a second ship capable of FTL to try and meet with the ark. Things went wrong, they crashed, and there are very few survivors. One of which is the person that invented FTL and can retrofit the ark with it. This will open up the sector and allow the players to have a more Traveller-esque experience with space exploration, further colonization, and getting more resources for their colony.

With all this, mind you, there will be colony and resource rules as well as exploration. The players will be creating a managing a colony, though the management part will be between sessions so that the session can focus more on the game itself. There will be your standard alien wilderness encounters, as well as the social issues of trying to keep a colony together. There will be splintering of factions and such as the colony is built up. Possibility of outright war. There is also dealing with the survivors of the FTL mission that have 'gone native' and are now raiding the colony for supplies. And even the air is attacking the players, as there is a large amount of fungal spores from the flora that is poisonous to the humans.

Some things for the future, if the campaign sticks, are plans for the players' first contact with aliens. I like to go weird with aliens rather than people with suits, so it'll be something crazy. In addition, when their colony is a large, bustling metropolis, there will be contact from an invading force. But it isn't aliens... it's the Earthlings they left behind. But that might be a different campaign for another time.

A lot of this is based on all kinds of games and movies with this in its nature. Alpha Centauri, Civ Beyond Earth, Mass Effect Andromeda, Interstellar... lots of good info of this. There is also a frontier feel to the game, much like Firefly and Starcraft. The players really are out in the space boonies. I tend to lean towards harder sci fi (though not too much) and I have been enjoying The Expanse, so expect at least the social issues of that to creep in. I have considered having multiple, smaller arks from different countries to make it easier to have rival colonies, but I think for now I will keep it one ark that they can fight for control over. Have the rival colonies splinter off from there. There will also be transhuman elements in the game, though not to the extent that you see with games like Eclipse Phase or Nova Praxis. But, there will be mind uplinks and sleeving, as well as some basic nanotechnology and cornucopia machines.

Rule System

So now the elephant in the room is... what system do I run this in? Right now, I'm looking at Stars Without Number, as it is the only rule system I know that has rules for running a colony (Suns of Gold). That is really important to me. I plan on tying that together with the rules of population growth from Adventure, Conqueror, King's Domain Management section. That said, I also enjoy Cepheus Engine (essentially old school Traveller) and the ruleset there. Though the trade section wouldn't get much use until much later. I thought about Mindjammer, but FATE rules don't quite resonate with me as they do with others. As much as I love the setting and technology of Eclipse Phase, the lack of rules for space travel and combat is a deal breaker for me. I've also considered M-Space, but I don't own that.

So that's the campaign I'm looking to make. Tell me what you thing, any ideas you have, and what ruleset would be great to try out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thivola Regional Map

Thivola Regional Map: 1 hex = 24 miles opposite corners. Sub hex = 6 miles
So here is the regional map of the setting I am running my players in. This isn't anywhere close to the final draft, as everything is too saturated and such. But, this is usable enough to where I can give it to my players and we can use it.

I will be placing some more icons on the map as the game continues and demands it. At the moment, the red triangle is the city of Kosna, the dilapidated frontier city that the players are currently at. As you can see, they are at the edge of a large forest. They've encountered some interesting locals both new to the players and familiar. There are some roads on the more zoomed in Province map below. These roads lead to some of the keeps that lie on the frontier. Two of the ones that the players have encountered were housing not the locals, but other people. The first one had a tribe of onbu, squat grey fey creatures that were robbing the locals on the roads. The second one had a mercenary band of orcs performing a sky burial for a fallen comrade killed by a pack of Iemesch. 

In addition to Kosna, there is the black square in the upper area by the merging rivers. This is the capital of the frontier province, Rikantu. This is very much a large city and a great place to get some items that would normally be out of the price range for the players. This is also a good place for some more urban styled adventures. Dealing with guilds 

At some point, I do plan on putting the map through the GIMP and work on it. Clean up the line art more, color it in a much better way, better icons. For now though, this will suffice for my game.
Thivola Provincal Map: 1 hex = 6 miles opposite corners. Sub hex = 1 mile
Above is the zoomed in Province Map, colored with pencils instead of GIMP. This is the actual map that I use currently for the day to day adventuring. Currently, my players are stranded in the mountains that are two hexes to the right of the city of Kosna (the red and black triangle). You can see that I've put in some roads and icons in here for the keeps and such. The way I have been doing my 'zoomed in' maps is that I try and break up the globs of terrain more as I zoom in. So, looking at the Regional and Provincial maps, you'll notice that I broke up the glob of forest some. I did this by adding bare patches of grasslands as well as some forested hills and such. I like doing this because it makes the terrain more realistic and more varied for the players. Though drawing it was a bit of a pain, but it was certainly worth it I feel.

I plan on populating it some more as the month progress. One of my biggest blocks right now is the trouble of finding stable work. Sadly, it's taken up a lot of my time to search for a job that can help pay to keep the lights on. The other thing I want to work on is the largest Atlas map, where I can get into some of the real big changes in area, like rainforests and deserts and such. Plus, I do plan on adding a sort of confederation of free city-states for the players to interact with and possibly even rule in, if that is their sort of thing.

That's it for now. I do want to detail some of the adventure sites on the Provincial map for the next blog, as well as talk about how the "Adventure in One 6 mile Hex" is going.