Monday, January 25, 2010

New Run of In Harm's Way: StarCluster

Saturday was the last session of my OHMAS campaign. The League averted an attack by a fairy army on London by negotiating a treaty with the Fairy King, and sealing it with a marriage between one of the League members and the Fairy King's daughter. We had almost half a session left, so we decided to create our characters for our next campaign, IHW:SC.

After reading Diaspora, one of the changes I made is a strong recommendation that the players create their own homeworld. I went a bit further, and more like Diaspora, in that I had each player create a component - a stellar system - of the Cluster Sector we would be playing in. First we generated the Sector and tied the systems together by Jump Lines - i.e. wormholes. Then each player created one of the systems in the Sector.

First we generated how many worlds there were in each system. They ranged from 9 to 15 in our case. Then we generated a world description for each world - basically a generic line like Gas Giant, or Asteroid Belt - which gave us a reasonable idea of what the worlds were like. Two of the players rolled the most unlikely result of all - "Really Physically Bizarre" - for one of their worlds. One decided that his Bizarre world was a torus of breathable gas and asteroids very close to the star, with river of water running through it. We decided it was probably a Seeder Artifact. The other player decided that his Bizarre world was a translucent crystal the size of a planet, formed inside a super Jovian planet. The people lived in cracks, crevices, and tunnels inside the crystal. Both ideas were awesome!

Then we arranged the worlds in order on an orbitmap of the system, from hottest to coldest. We made some worlds into moons, and some into planets. Next we generated the population type of the world - if it was populated at all - its Cultural Tech Level, and its Political Status. This showed which worlds were affiliated with which organization and how, and how technologically advanced it was. Then we linked colonizers with colonies, and generally made sense out of the mess. Next we generated the number of people on each world and the kind of people or peoples inhabiting it. Maybe it was a world inhabited by robots, or Aliens, or humanoids, or uplifts, or some mix - there are a lot of choices.

The last part was applying descriptors to the Player's chosen homeworld. There were Physical Conditions - like Dark, Cold, Windy, Rocky, etc. These may match up with Player Edges to give bonuses in those conditions. Next, we gave the Homeworld some Cultural Traits - basically describing a stereotypical member of this culture. Last, we gave the government Traits, where we described what the Character's homeworld's government is like. We didn't do this last process for all the worlds of the Sector, just the PC homeworlds - it takes some thought and judgment, and it's easy enough to do ad hoc if and when it's needed.

The rest of the night the Players created their characters, from these homeworlds.

I knew it was working from the general reactions of the players around the table as they were going through the process, but the general opinion of all the players was that it was a resounding success all around. One thing they all noted was the Cultural Traits they came up with served as a nice basis for the personal Traits of their characters. They also said they understood their homeworld, and the society their characters came from, and why their characters chose to leave and join the Military.



  1. Sounds awesome. The Bizzarre results might need a little reigning in to keep the SF a bit harder, perhaps some strong suggestions on how to do that in the book?

  2. Hi Tim!

    I will have some suggestions there, but in this game, my suggestions are there to be ignored. the default set-up intends toward a firmish SF setting, a little harder than Traveller, but in that area, but if a group wants to make it a little softer, the game will handle it fine. The group is in charge here, not me.

    Interestingly, that gas torus idea is probably inspired by Larry Niven's Smoke Ring setting,, which is harder than you might think... :D