Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tinderbox Station

Randomly rolled up for a thread on RPGnet, from In Harm's Way:StarCluster:


World Description: Space Station/Habitat (This was a given.)

Cultural Technology Level: 10 (The highest)

Settlement Status: Independent State

Population: 100s of millions

Type: Humans and Aliens (Kiskit)

Cultural Traits: Hot Tempered 3, Argumentative 2, Arrogant 2

World Traits: Crowded 2, Gaudy 2, Spicy1, Rich 2

Political Traits: Ineffectual 3, Honest 2, Comic-Operatic 2

Tinderbox is the only inhabited "world" in the system of the same name. It orbits the dim red dwarf closely. There is a rich asteroid belt just outside, and a frozen water world farther out, from which raw materials are mined, but no substantial population lives outside Tinderbox itself.

Tinderbox is an enormous rambling structure, ostentatious and glittering. It is settled by a mixture of Kiskits and Humans in about equal number. The technology level is very high, and as the only source for antimatter and fusion gasses on this section of a rich trade route, Tinderbox has wealth to spare.

Tinderbox belongs to no supra-system organization, being independent and unaligned. The government is regarded as a joke by most citizens. Though government functionaries try their best, they are routinely scammed, avoided, beaten up, laughed at, and ridiculed. They are able to collect so few taxes that they stumble along on a mostly voluntary basis.

Private enterprise is a powerhouse. Most anything imaginable is available if you have the wealth. Even the poorer Humans and Kiskits of Tinderbox are comparatively wealthy compared to most places, and know it. They are arrogant, and love to duel. One had best be polite to a Tinderboxer!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

In Harm's Way: StarCluster in Playtest

For those of you interested, IHW:SC is now back in playtest. I am very happy with all the changes I made, and I think I have covered everything. Chargen is pretty much the only thing that hasn't changed since the previous playtest. I am *much* happier with starship and vehicle combat! Virtually everything is extremely customizable - clusters, worlds, aliens, ships, vehicles, and of course, characters. No two games will ever be the same, but the feel of StarCluster will be there. The use of traits throughout lends a consistency to everything. I wish I could have used the same combat system for vehicles and spaceships, but I couldn't do that and keep the physics based feel of StarCluster.

That was the important point for me. I could have a military game, but it wouldn't be StarCluster if it didn't feel right. These customizable elements end up feeling like a part of StarCluster that I never designed, which is just perfect!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

When Last We Heard From Our intrepid Heroes....

My notes establishing the end situation in my group's last OHMAS session, so we can pick things right up after Christmas:

1: There is a huge pocket on the bottom floor of the bell tower at Cambridge, being held stretched open by Franklin, a Ghost-cloathed-in-flesh familiar of the Warlock Edgar. The pocket is full of both charred and living earwigs.

2: There is a Salamader of unusual power sizzling in the pocket, frying and eating earwigs.

3: The Warlock Gwylliam and the Magus Rev. William are covered in live and dead earwigs, having just scrambled out of the pocket.

4: The Human Changeling Whit is in the form of a tabby cat, who is hunting and eating said earwigs.

5: Rev. William has a earwig which has eaten into his brain, and which is sometimes controlling what he does - each time he does anything he rolls a die. Even, he acts as himself, odd, he acts as an insect would.

6: Gwylliam is holding a glowing pin in his teeth. On the end of the pin is an Anchored Will-o-the-Whisp.

7: The Warlock Edgar is waving a torch at the earwigs, keeping them away from the entry.

8: The Savant Isabelle is near her husband Whit, trying to avoid the horrifying earwigs. It was she who opened the pocket, saving Gwylliam and William from certain death as they fell from far up the bell tower, both having fallen when Insect-William tried to eat his way into Gwylliam's brain. Luckily the proto-matter of the pocket is soft and rubbery.

9: Gwyilliam's familiar, the Sylph Melissa, is currently discorporated, and in the form of a swirling wind in the center of the bell tower.

This is the chaos I call home. You wouldn't believe what happened to lead to this...


Tuesday, December 15, 2009


In between finishing up IHW:SC, have begun work on Outremer, a Blood Games II game set at the same time period as OHMAS, but in an explicitly alt-universe. In this setting, the Crusader States have managed to survive by balancing between Sunni, Shi'ite, and Ismaili Islamic forces, and by compromise and intermarriage. The Assassins (Ismaili) have carved out an independent state around Homs, Egypt is governed by a Shi'ite Caliph, and Bagdad by a Sunni Caliph. The Turks under their Sultan have taken most of Anatolia, except for lesser Armenia (Cilicia) which is allied to the Latin states of Outremer.

Islam will be fully detailed in the game, as will Christianity and Judaism. The Islamic section will differentiate between Sunni, Shi'ite, Druze, and Ismaili Islam, while the Christian section will differentiate between Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Nestorian, and Protestant Christianity. The Jewish section will differentiate between Ashkenazic, Mizrahic, and Sephardic Judaism. Not all the States of Outremer will be Christian. The intrusion of European culture and thought into the area caused shockwaves in both directions.

There will be new Paths of Power found here, coming from the different religions and from the interactions between the religions. There will also be new monsters. The Djinn will be very important, I think.

Hope this is of interest!


Monday, December 14, 2009

The Compulsion to Showcase New Technology

Bill Corrie's Blog Hinterblog has an excellent post entitled "Compulsion of Technology in Sci-Fi" which got me thinking. This post is tangentially related to Bill's, but not directly.

Back when I released StarCluster 2E, I got a lot of people who asked - essentially - "Where's the nano-tech in StarCluster?" to which I would reply something to the effect of "In the factories where it belongs." This reply is, I think, insufficient.

I don't mention nanotech anywhere in StarCluster. Not once. Not in the core book and not in the supplements. This is by design. There are many reasons why, and I think they are compelling reasons.

First, the time frame of the game setting is some two thousand years in the future. By that time, nanotechnology will be a known, understood, and mature technology. People don't make a big thing about normal, everyday tech. Do you tell your neighbor "Hey! My new car burnes fluid hydrocarbon fuel in an internal combustion engine! Isn't that cool?" No - you only tell your neighbor how your car works if it's a hybrid or some other new technology. Nanotech is old stuff.

Second, many SF settings use nanotech in an obvious, personal way - grey goo that one squirts on matter to change one thing into another. I personally don't think nanotech would be used like that. For one thing, I think there would be elaborate safeguards to its use - it would be properly contained, programed to die if let out into the normal environment, and stringently controlled. It is too dangerous to be let out into the environment.

Third, I really dislike the use of nanotech as a substitute for magic. It's not, things don't work like that, and I'm not putting that into my game, thank you!

Thus nanotech is behind much of the technology explored in StarCluster - Active Plasteel, Active Color and texture, "Drugs" and other medical care, Bioroids and genetic design, etc. It's just used in the "factory" - behind bio-safeguards and underneath the hood, and not talked about as such. People talk about the products of nanotechnology, not the little critters themselves.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Aliens Redux

I did a rough sketch of the alien in the last blog post. Quick pencils, conventional pose, but it gets the idea across.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Randomly Generating Aliens

I've gone completely over to random setting generation for In Harm's Way: StarCluster! You can always use the setting supplied in StarCluster 2E, or SC3 if and when I ever write it, but that will not be included in the game. I wrote a section on creating aliens the other day, and finished it up today with an example. The three tables use a 4d6 roll, which gives a strong tendency to the middle. I thought I'd share the example with you all.

Example Alien

We’ll go through the steps of generating a random alien. Don’t feel obligated to use this alien in your game - it’s just an example of how you can create your own aliens tailored for your Cluster.

Diet: We roll a 10. The alien is a Carnivore.
Size: We roll an 8. They are dog-sized. Not too big, not too small.
Body Covering: We roll a 12. They are covered in scales.
Average Attributes: We need to roll for each attribute separately.
STR We roll a 19 for 10 - that’s too strong for a dog-sized creature, so let’s move that to COOR. We roll a13 for 6. That’s better. Still strong for its size, but no longer outlandish.
COOR We put the 10 from the first STR roll here.
AGY We roll a 17 for a 9. Excellent! It moves well.
END We roll a 12 for another 6.
CHAR We roll a 15 for 8. humans see this creature as rather attractive.
INT We roll a 14 for 7. Fairly smart, too.
PSI We’ll switch tables for PSI and Luck. We roll a 13 for a PSI of 1.
LUCK We roll a 15 for s LUCK of 2. Quite lucky!
Manipulator We roll a 13 for Tentacle/Trunk. Let’s make it a trunk! Trunks are cool! An elephant has two “fingers” on its trunk, and this alien has an average COOR of 10, so let’s give it 3 ”fingers” at the end of its trunk.
Locomotors Another 13. the alien has legs and hooves. That goes well with an AGY of 9!
Life Cycle We roll a21. Young-Adult, like a human. No egg or nymph stage.
Reproduction We roll a 16. Interesting! There are two sexes, but individuals change sex. Do they change at will? In crisis? In response to stimuli? Over time? Cool!
Senses We roll 2d6 and get an 8, so we’ll roll 8 times. We get Touch 1, Smell 3, Vision 3, and Hearing 1. So it hunts by sight and smell primarily.
Species Traits: We’ll assign it Lithe 2 for it’s AGY, Muscular 3 for its STR to size ratio, and Glistening 2 for its shiny scales.
Own Name: We’ll make up something - avoiding apostrophes, as they’re rather cliche! How about “Herensti”?
Familiar Name: Its most obvious feature is its manipulator. Let’s call them “Trunks”
Prejudicial Name: With that big nose, nothing but “Snotters” will do!

Done! Ten minutes tops.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Last weekend, we were playing our Aces and Angels WWII campaign instead of our usual OHMAS game because of absences. The Squadron Commander (a PC) told the flight that they were in for a few days leave in a place called Guadalcanal. The guys flew out to the island and were surprised to see a brand new field hacked out of the jungle, with fuel tanks, burned out hulks of planes, and nothing much else.

The Marines informed them they'd been had, and the pilots were appalled to hear about the daily sniper attacks and the nightly bombing by Washing Machine Charlie and shelling by a Jap cruiser from Ironbottom Sound.

One of the PCs (played by my wife, 52) looked out over the Sound, and asked about mines. When informed that there were no mines and that no one knew how to set them if there were, he replied "We could use some frogmen!" At this, another player (James, 21) looked at my wife with the most puzzled expression on his face and said: "Battletoads???"

I about died laughing!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Writing and Rewriting

I'm just beginning the third rewrite of the Vehicles section of IHW:SC. When I began writing this game in the long gone and sorely missed days of Spring - I speak now of a temporal unit corresponding roughly to a three month period, beginning in March and concluding in May, as there is no Spring Season in New England; then again February is at least 90 days long here, so I may be somewhat off - everything was falling into place so quickly I had visions of finishing it before Summer - which is a season here.

Since then I have re-written vast swaths of it. I have dropped almost anything already in StarCluster 2, instead using generators to create the setting and people it. In doing so, I have done my best to slant those generators towards creating the StarCluster "feel". This is because there is no such thing as a generic SF setting. Every SF setting contains fundamental setting assumptions which define the setting in key ways. For example, in StarCluster the fact that Fleets can't jump through wormholes with any expectation of arriving at the same time gives huge advantages to defenses already in-place, which means it's hard for the "typical" space-empire to form, which means cultures are extremely different from world to world, which means it's had to get them to agree on anything, which means any supra-system organization which they would form would of necessity be as loose and un-limiting as possible, which means... See what I mean? This one thing defines a lot of other seemingly unrelated things.

Anyway, the vehicle section has been giving me fits, but I have finally decided on two things - I will adapt the notation system of IHW: Wild Blue, which means three dimensionality is important in gravity wells; and I will use the Cold Space Vehicle Design Guide method of creating vehicles. In the CSVDG, I supplied base or iconic vehicles, and the GM could take one and use the system to change a number of parameters about the vehicle in positive or negative steps, so long as the steps in the end totalled zero. Example: Take a hover tank. Increase the Speed by 4 steps. Increase the Armor by three steps. Now you have to find some way to balance those seven steps! You end up decreasing the Range by five steps, and mounting a smaller primary weapon, giving two steps. You have a balanced vehicle, ready to introduce into play.

Because I finished the vehicle section twice before and changed my mind, this is the third total re-write of the chapter. The first modified the starship rules. Then I changed the starship rules and the vehicle rules carried the same awkwardness I had escaped from in the first starship section. So I re-wrote it, this time basing the system on the StarCluster Vehicle Design Guide. This system is very detailed, and allows you to construct any vehicle from scratch. It led to tracking too many factors in combat - the SCVDG combat rules are designed to work with small groups in small numbers of vehicles. Mass combat would be impossible. I got involved in a mares nest of "increasing X means that Y is too low, so that needs to increase, which means Z is totally out of phase for the mass..." AAARGH!

SO this time I'm going in clean. The IHW:Wild Blue vehicle combat system is designed for mass combat, it focuses only on those aspects needed in play, and it will work with the CSVDG balanced vehicle design system. I think this is the final iteration! I'm happy with the results so far!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Persistence of Old Technology

Let's assume we have a star spanning setting - a typical SF setting with space ships, wild electronic gear, armored marines, etc. What would be the most typical hand-held distance weapon? Laser? Electric shock? Tiny spin stabilized rockets? If you ask me, it's a slug thrower. Why? Easy to use, simple to make and maintain, self-contained, cheap, and deadly. But... but.. it's old-fashioned! So what! Good technology doesn't go away just because it's old technology.

What's a good model for transportation on an earth-type colony world? Anti-gravity buses? Sleek bullet trains? How about a prop-driven flying boat or amphibian? No need for infrastructure as it can land in any body of water, simple repairable tech, could be produced by the colony instead of imported, good range, and adequate load-bearing whether passengers or cargo. Colonies don't have established infrastructure like tracks and airports. They don't have extensive high tech manufacturing. Exotic materials may be scarce until their economy matures.

Instead of looking for flashy and sleek, let's look at sustainable, easily maintained, simple tech. Sometimes older technology is good enough, and sometimes it may be preferable in a different situation.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Genesis of Traits

I've been using Traits for a while - since Blood Games II back in 2007 - but I've kept them applying only to character personalities. I got the basic idea from Risus' cliches, not from Fate's Tags/Aspects. I've been a fan of Risus for a long while - it's an elegant extremely light game system. I didn't read Fate until SotC came out, and since I didn't care all that much for SotC, I didn't use them 'til I got StarBlazer Adventures at GenCon in 2008. Risus' cliches are ranked and free form, and are meant to be used as descriptors and mechanics equally. I used them to apply to the character's personality, so that the personality would be of mechanical use to the character.

Applying Traits to things other than personality is due to two game system mechanics - Precis Intermedia's Gimmicks, and Fate's Aspects. Both are descriptor mechanics applied to many different things, and work the same wherever applied. I really liked that, and decided - rather than creating a new mechanic or importing Gimmicks or Aspects - I'd use Traits which are already integrated into the system and are similar descriptor/mechanics.

This frees up a *lot* of overhead trying to get random generators working properly. The generator I came up with for systems doesn't have to account for making perfectly natural results, because the creator can edit them simply with some re-arrangement and application of Traits after the fact. I don't have to make sure the worlds come out in order, hottest to coldest, because you can re-arrange the results. I don't have to worry about small differences between worlds because Traits takes care of that. I don't have to generate governments or cultures, again because the creator can apply Traits as needed. I don't have to worry about the differences between planets and moons, because the re-arrangement and Traits deal with that. Does this world make more sense as a moon than a planet? Make it a moon! Want to make this vaguely earth-like world different from that one? Make one Stinking 3, Jungle-clad 2, Thick-Atmosphere 2 and the other Chilly 3, Flinty 2, Hardscrabble 2.

I'm enjoying this!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

More on Traits

I've extended the traits system to system and world generation, as I mentioned in my last post, but since then I've pushed it a lot further. Let's take a look at the Tenderloin system, presenting in the Making Your Own Cluster post, but this time with Traits in place:

Char is a burning quasi-molten cinder, and is unsettled.
World Traits: Searing 3, Hellish 2, Baking 2
Culture Traits: None
Government Traits: None

Light Belt
Light Belt is an Asteroid Belt, and is a Diasporan Community State. There are tens of millions of Humans living in this belt. Tech Level is 9.
World Traits: Sculpted 2, Light-gravity 2, Rocky 2, Heavily-modified 1
Culture Traits: Meticulous 2, Argumentative 2, Jumpy 2, Judgmental 1,
Government Traits: Theocratic 3, Hereditary 2, Honest 2

Hero is a Gas Giant, and is a SaVaHuTa Colonizer with billions of mostly Human inhabitants living in the clouds. Tech Level is 10.
World Traits: Cloudy 3, Stinking 2, Lovely 1, Windswept 1
Culture Traits: Gregarious 3, Roguish 2, Greedy 1, Sly 1
Government Traits: Corrupt 3, Despised 2, Rapacious 2

Blue Ring
Blue Ring is a Ring System, and is a SaVaHuTa Colony with millions in population, mostly Uplifts. Tech Level is 9.
World Traits: Highly-modified 3, Beautiful 2, Desolate 1, Empty 1
Culture Traits: Spacey 3, Off-kilter 2, Audacious 2
Government Traits: Functional 2, Capricious 2, Disinterested 2, Open 1

Haricot is a water world moon, with almost no land. it is a SaVaHuta State, with hundreds of millions of people, mostly Humans and Vantors. Tech Level is 8.
World Traits: Oceanic 3, Windswept 2, Populous 1, Fresh 1
Culture Traits: Officious 3, Bombastic 2, Loyal 2
Government Traits: Popular 2, Bumbling 2, Bureaucratic 2, Overbearing 1

Andalusia is a hot, rocky, and dry moon, and is currently unsettled.
World Traits: Dusty 2, Arid 2, Flinty 1, Baking 1
Culture Traits: None
Government Traits: Mone

Heavy Belt
Heavy Belt is an asteroid belt, and is an Alien Colony, inhabited by Tumuran. Tech Level is 8.
World Traits: Rocky 2, Crowded 2, Rough-hewn 2, Light-gravity 1
Culture Traits: Off-kilter 3, Nefarious 3, Arrogant 1
Government Traits: Tiny 2, Ineffectual 2, Under-funded 2

Quiver is an icy water world, and is currently unsettled.
World Traits: Oceanic 3, Icy 2, Sculpted 1, Virgin 1
Culture Traits: None
Government Traits: None

Tinkerbelle is a small iceball moon, and is currently unsettled.
World Traits: Icy 3, Light-gravity 2, Empty 2
Culture Traits: None
Government Traits: none

Now that gives you an excellent picture of these worlds, without too much information. The Traits can be free-form or picked from a list of examples, like these. Even if you don't use them as mechanical devices, which is certainly possible, their utility as descriptors is excellent.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Traits for Non-character Use

One of the things I am doing is extending the Traits mechanic I have used for some time to use in describing other things. Traits in the SC system work sort of like Tags in Fate, except that you don't need to use a token to invoke it - it's a resource pool which refreshes per session - and there is no formal mechanism for a GM to compel it - though informally I use stuff like "Wait a minute! George has Hot-Headed 3 as a Trait! Do you really thing he's going to take that insult so calmly?" all the time, and it works. Traits are free-form, though I supply a list of suggestions to prod folks who are having a tough time on their own.

So with these new generators I'm creating for clusters, ships, vehicles, and aliens, I am adding Traits. You have seven points to distribute among at least 3 Traits, with no more than three points per Trait. So a culture which is Xenophobic 3, Pious 2, and Mercantile 2 would be very different from one which is Cosmopolitan 2, Refined 2, Snobbish 1, Back-stabbing 1, and Educated 1. A person from that culture would have these as personality Traits by default, though they can always vary as much as they like.

A ship might have Reliable 3, Comfortable 2, and Maneuverable 2. A vehicle could be Cramped 3, Up-Armored 2, All-Terrain 1, and Hard-to-Hit 1. An alien could be Intimidating 2, Fast 2, Huge 1, Revolting Diet 1, and Excitable 1. It all works slickly. Individual vehicles and ships could be customized - perhaps changing one point a year with successful applications of the proper skills. Even if they are only used as descriptors and never invoked, the system is simple, flexible, and shows how relatively important a Trait is.


In Harm's Way: StarCluster Progress

I finished the section for IHW:SC starship creation. As expected, it makes creating ships very easy, at the cost of a little flexibility and a lot of space. I created a few example ships, both to test out the method and to use as illustrations, and it all worked very well.

Next I need to create a similarly simple method of creating vehicles. I am thinking the best way to do this is the method I used in the Cold Space Vehicle Design Guide and the StarCluster Weapons Design Guide. In the CSVDG, I listed iconic vehicles with stats, and supplied a method of modifying the iconic vehicle in various ways, so long as all changes balanced. For example, you could add armor, but you'd have to drop something like speed or range to compensate. I'd create the iconic vehicles with the StarCluster VDG, and would recommend that for creating any user-generated iconic vehicles.

Next on the list is an alien generator, for peopling your own Cluster. This should have some wierd twists - the advanced aliens from the regular StarCluster game are not humans with funny foreheads or cat-aliens. Toads (Guaru) are humanity's closest allies, but their reproductive methods are creepy as all get out, and Slug-roaches (Tumuran) are just *wierd*. Imagine a species so alien that they "trade" by taking stuff and leaving what they consider just compensation in its place. And people call them "slug-roaches" for a reason - they eat decomposing food, scurry en masse on six slick, rubbery tentacles, and leave a trail behind.

This alien generator would be real useful even when playing in the standard StarCluster setting - I only created the Advanced species, leaving Backwards and Primitive species as an exercise for the GM. :D

Advanced in SC lingo means the species has at least fusion power. Backward means they have at least steam power but not fusion, and Primitive means pre-steam. These categories apply to human societies which could not maintain technological cultures during - and after - the 1200-1700 year long Diaspora as well as alien cultures. Cultures will only be contacted and traded with if they are Backward of higher. It is thought - with some solid evidence - that Primitive societies cannot stand the strain of contact, and tend to unravel.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Function of Randomization in Simulation

"Why does a presumably trained and qualified surgeon have a 70% chance of success? That's a 30% chance of failure! Any surgeon with a 30% failure rate would be stripped of their license!"

Ever hear stuff like this? I do, all the time. The problem comes from the first assumption made, in which the dice are assumed to be rolled every time. If this first assumption is not true, then the random system is a much closer approximation to reality. If instead the assumption is that the 999 iterations that went without a hitch are not played out because they have no interest for the participants, then when in the 1 in 1000 occasion which is rolled for there is a 70% chance of success, then the actual odds of success are 99.97%.

Now why is that 70% there? Why not just give the surgeon a 99.97% rating? Why mess with randomness at all? At this point isn't it basically 100%?

That randomness represents a slew of external factors, all rolled up into one and abstracted. All things are not equal, and the random factor is there to tip the equation. That doctor with a 99.97% success rate going into surgery may be coming down with a cold, the scrub nurse perhaps is upset, having just broke up with his girlfriend, and the anesthesiologist is possibly worried about an IRS audit coming up. Maybe there's an equipment fault, or an electronic glitch. In practice we can't deal with so many small influences, so we abstract their effect to a single random roll.

If you are going to work solely with modifiers, then you have to itemize every influence. It isn't worth the bother, so we abstract it to a roll. The roll represents unquantifiable factors - unquantifiable either because they are so by nature or because they individually are below the resolution of the simulation. Quantifiable factors are always best expressed as modifiers. By taking out any random component, you are essentially stating that either all factors are quantifiable or that all unquantifiable factors are collectively below the resolution of the simulation.

So that's what the 70% roll represents - It doesn't mean the surgeon fails 30% of the time, it means that surgeon has a 30% chance of allowing these outside factors to interfere in what would normally be a successful operation, if such factors are present and significant. The vast majority of the time, they are insignificant, but for this operation, they are significant.

We normally don't play out the stuff with no chance of failure. For those things every qualified surgeon is at or close to 100%. It's the tricky ones that get played out. If there is no pressure from external factors, there should be no roll - and there isn't, unless you have one of those ass GMs who make PCs do a dex check every time they walk.

Here is what I am saying, in a nutshell: If the GM calls for a roll, it means unquantifiable external factors are potentially interfering with the usual, expected result. The factors are balled up and abstracted into the surgeon's roll. The roll is not "Is something going to go wrong" but "When the thing which is going to go wrong goes wrong, how well does the surgeon handle it?" If there are known factors which are easily quantified, the GM is free to apply situational modifiers as required.

Now whether anyone designs games as pure simulation is another point entirely. I certainly don't.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Making your own StarCluster Setting

Back when I started working on the first version of what would become StarCluster - about 1995-96, long before I released it - I created a bunch of cascading random tables which were extremely complex, with weighted results and lots of modifiers. These tables I used to create the Cluster, the actual setting for the game. Once I had finished with the tables, I junked them. Tossed them. I never intended to release the game, it was initially designed for just me to use, and I didn't need them any more.

Flash forward to 2002, and the release of StarCluster. One of the persistent requests from everyone who asked me was "How can I generate my own setting for the game?" I had to answer "You can't. I randomly generated the Cluster, then tossed all the notes. I couldn't replicate it from memory if I tried."

Some weeks ago, I read a friend's copy of Diaspora - which I'm in the process of getting for myself because it's damn good - and their cluster generation system tickled something in my brain that wouldn't go away. It sat there in the back of my head and insisted that it was important. I just left it there, knowing how semi-autonomous my brain can be, and let it fume and perk.

Last night, it did a data dump, with a complete random Cluster generation system in three tables. It was far more compact and simple than my original system, but generates remarkably similar results. Here's a random cluster section, the Mammoth Loop:

Now that just *looks* like the Cluster! So far so good!

And here's the randomly Generated Tenderloin System:

Tenderloin is a small, dim star with two Jump Lines ‐ a Jump 5 to Soba, and a Jump 2 to Higgs. Rolling for # of Worlds, we get a roll of 12, for 9 worlds. That’s a moderate number.

World 1: Andalusia
Andalusia is a hot, rocky, and dry world, and is currently unsettled.

World 2: Light Belt
Light Belt is an Asteroid Belt, and is a Diasporan Community State. There are tens of millions of Humans living in this belt. Tech Level is 9.

World 3: Tinkerbelle
Tinkerbelle is a small iceball, and is currently unsettled.

World 4: Blue Ring
Blue Ring is a Ring System, and is a SaVaHuTa Colony with millions in population, mostly Uplifts. Tech Level is 9.

World 5: Hero
Hero is a Gas Giant, and is a SaVaHuTa Colonizer with billions of mostly Human inhabitants living in the clouds. Tech Level is 10.

World 6: Heavy Belt
Heavy Belt is an asteroid belt, and is an Alien Colony, inhabited by Tumuran. Tech Level is 8.

World 7: Char
Char is a burning quasi‐molten cinder, and is unsettled.

World 8: Haricot
Haricot is a water world, with almost no land. it is a SaVaHuta State, with hundreds of millions of people, mostly Humans and Vantors. Tech Level is 8.

World 9: Quiver
Quiver is an icy water world, and is currently unsettled.

What if a Roll Just Doesn’t Fit?

There are two ways to deal with a roll that just doesn’t fit, like a Space Station/Habitat with billions in population. You can ignore the roll and reroll or pick something you think fits better, or you can figure out just how billions of people live on a space habitat, which means getting creative. You choose!

Rearranging the Worlds of Tenderloin

This arrangement of worlds in the order rolled doesn’t make much sense, so we’ll rearrange the worlds into something more reasonable. Char goes into close orbit around the star Tenderloin, as it’s too hot to go anywhere else.
Next out we’ll put the Light Belt, the DC State.
Next out, let's move the Gas Giant Hero, and move Blue Ring, Haricot, and Andalusia around it as moons.
Next out, we’ll put the Heavy Belt, the Tumuran Colony.
Lastly, there is Quiver, the icy waterworld, with its little iceball moon, Tinkerbelle. The Tenderloin system is done.

Again, that really has all the earmarks of a StarCluster system! Several different political systems in the same stellar system? Check! Humans, Humanoids, Uplifts, and Aliens, all living cheek-by-jowl? Check! Stellar system loaded for conflict? Check! Mix of Tech Levels? Check! Unconventional worlds? Check!

This is actually going to work!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Future Projects

I have a bunch of projects that are very interesting to me, but I'm not sure which I should do after IHW: StarCluster. Here's the choices:


This would be an alt-historical Blood Games game, set in the Holy Land. History diverged when Saladin's brother married Richard Couerleon's sister as was proposed but did not happen in real history. It is now 1600, and the Crusader States have survived in an uneasy alliance-conflict cycle with the Islamic kingdoms of the area. The cultures of the area have blended and merged in different ways, and new hybrid states have emerged. This game would take much of what was developed for OHMAS, and bring in new Islamic and Judaic Paths of Power.

In Harm's Way: Pigboats

This game would be an IHW game set in WWII, with the PCs being officers and crew (troupe style) of submarines. This is a natural for RPGs - a self-contained vehicle with a moderate sized crew sent out alone on dangerous missions where there would be little strict oversight from the brass, and lots of room for PC improvisation. It woudl use the IHW ruleset of course.

A Very Different Now! - AKA Lowell Was Right!

This game would be another alt-history. This time, the idea is that the general scientific community of around 1900 actually got it mostly right. The very-different concepts that underlay Fin de Siecle science, if they were true, would yield a very, very different universe. In this world-view, for instance, the solar system's planets each had a time where life could thrive on them, but as the sun shrank and new worlds were created further in, the older, outer planets became cold, dark, and lifeless. Mars is older, but still habitable, with canals and a breathable but thin, cold atmosphere; while Venus is younger, a hot jungle planet with perpetual rain. The older civilizations on the moons of the Gas Giants have had their time in the sun, the Martians are no longer the fearsome force that destroyed the sixth planet and created the Asteroid Belt, and now - in the first years of the 21st century - it is Earth's time to shine. I don't know what system I would use - it's not pulp, but a very different Now - but Bill at Hinterwelt was intrigued and we may make it a cooperative project.

And there's always Glorianna... sigh!

So what do you all think?


Friday, October 30, 2009

Space Ship Design Redux

Here's a couple of different small craft set up for ship creation for In Harm's Way: StarCluster. Subtract tonnage from the total, and add troops and officers. When you can't subtract any more, you are done.

Light Fighter
A 15-ton single person craft with pilot station and no pressurization, The pilot is presumed to be in armor or pressure suit for the entire flight.
Monocoque hull with wheeled landing gear, lift surfaces for maneuvering in atmosphere, supplementary oxygen for pilot, tight-beam MASER and radio communications, and bubble-topped pilot station = 0.33 Tons
Hull Armor
Factor 1 armor = 0.75 Tons
Factor 2 armor = 1.5 Tons
Factor 3 armor = 2.25 Tons
Factor 4 armor = 3 Tons
Factor 5 armor = 3.75 Tons
Factor 6 armor = 4 Tons
Lift Surfaces
For maneuvering in atmosphere = 0.15 Tons
6G thrust, plus 24 hours M/AM fuel = 3.75 Tons
7G thrust, plus 24 hours M/Am fuel = 4.0 Tons
8G thrust, plus 24 hours M/AM fuel = 4.5 Tons
9G thrust, plus 24 hours M/AM fuel = 4.25 Tons
10G thrust, plus 24 hours M/AM fuel = 5.25 Tons
Standard Scan Array = 1 ton
Standard Shield Package Factor 3 = 0.25 Tons
Standard Shield Package Factor 4 = 0.3 Tons
Standard Shield Package Factor 5 = 0.4 Tons
Standard Shield Package Factor 6 = 0.5 Tons
Standard Shield Package Factor 7 = 0.56 Tons
In-Line Pulse Laser = 3 Tons
Pylon mounted M/AM Missile = 0.25 Tons
Pylon mounted M/AM Torpedo = 2 Tons
In-Line Laselet= 1 Ton
Drone Lure = 0.5 Tons
1 Pilot, either officer or crew
Stealth and Miscellaneous
Each factor decreases chance of detection by 1 Small Penalty, and increases damage by 1 Small Bonus.
EM Absorptive Coating Factor 1 = Zero Tons
EM Absorptive Coating Factor 2 = Zero Tons
EM Absorptive Coating Factor 3 = Zero Tons
EM Absorptive Coating Factor 4 = Zero Tons
EM Absorptive Coating Factor 5 = Zero Tons

Small Rider
A 100-ton craft with cabin pressurization.
Monocoque hull with wheeled landing gear, lift surfaces for maneuvering in atmosphere, docking spur, loading ramp, HVAC, tight-beam MASER and radio communications. = 1 Ton
Hull Armor
Factor 1 armor = 4 Tons
Factor 2 armor = 8 Tons
Factor 3 armor = 12 Tons
Factor 4 armor = 16 Tons
Factor 5 armor = 20 Tons
Factor 6 armor = 24 Tons
Lift Surfaces
For maneuvering in atmosphere = 0.8 Tons
1G thrust, plus 100 hours M/AM fuel = 9 Tons
2G thrust, plus 100 hours M/AM fuel = 13 Tons
3G thrust, plus 100 hours M/AM fuel = 17 Tons
4G thrust, plus 100 hours M/AM fuel = 21 Tons
5G thrust, plus 100 hours M/AM fuel = 25 Tons
6G thrust, plus 100 hours M/AM fuel = 29 Tons
7G thrust, plus 100 hours M/AM fuel = 33 Tons
8G thrust, plus 100 hours M/AM fuel = 37 Tons
9G thrust, plus 100 hours M/AM fuel = 41 Tons
10G thrust, plus 100 hours M/AM fuel = 45 Tons
Factor 1 Jump Drive = 9 Tons
Standard Scan Array = 1 ton
Standard Shield Package Factor 1 = 0.4 Tons
Standard Shield Package Factor 2 = 0.8 Tons
Standard Shield Package Factor 3 = 1.2 Tons
Standard Shield Package Factor 4 = 1.6 Tons
Standard Shield Package Factor 5 = 2 Tons
In-Line Pulse Laser = 3 Tons
In Line Cogar = 8 Tons
In Line Missile Launcher with 8 CG missile magazine = 5 Tons
Missile Pod with 8 GG missile magazine = 7 Tons + 1 crew
Laser Pod = 5 Tons +1 crew
Pylon mounted M/AM Missile = 0.25 Tons
Pylon mounted M/AM Torpedo = 2 Tons
Torpedo in weapons bay = 2.2 Tons
Drone Lure = 0.5 Tons
1 officer
Squad Troops = 10 tons + 10 troops
Stealth and Miscellaneous
Each factor of EM Coating decreases chance of detection by 1 Small Penalty, and increases damage from energy weapons by 1 Small Bonus.
EM Absorptive Coating Factor 1 = Zero Tons
EM Absorptive Coating Factor 2 = Zero Tons
EM Absorptive Coating Factor 3 = Zero Tons
EM Absorptive Coating Factor 4 = Zero Tons
EM Absorptive Coating Factor 5 = Zero Tons
Reflective Plasma Shaper = 1 Ton

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sauce for the Goose

In a recent OHMAS (On Her Majesty's Arcane Service) game session, the player characters returned to their home base, a semi-ruined castle in the Scilly Isles, full of satisfaction for having completed their job successfully. The Teamsters - the people hauling freight in wagons, not the union - had been behind the whole thing after all. They settled in, and the secretary took quill in hand to begin draughting a report to the queen on the strange occurences of the false famine in Bristol.

As the secretary began interviewing the participants, however, discrepancies emerged. Up to a point, the stories of the participating characters were very much the same. However, once that point had been passed - a fight with a massive teamster on the streets of Bristol - memories of exactly what happened diverged, sometimes radically, from each other. All remembered the fight, then the realization that the Teamsters were behind stealing and selling the stored food, and that they were suitably punished, but details varied wildly, and the times between those points of commonality were remembered very differently by everyone.

What was going on? It was a false memory implanted by a Minstrel. The Minstrel, one of the game's Paths of Power, can change ones' memories. By singing a song of surpassing beauty, the Minstrel can implant Words of Power into the minds of all those listening, so long as they can hear and understand the song's lyrics. These words work like seed crystals, freezing the memories of those listening into a new shape.

Why were these memories different? The Minstrel's Words are few in comparison to the memories displaced. Where the Words of Power hit, their memories were closely aligned - all remembered that the evidence convicted the Teamsters, the punishment, and the return home well content with finishing their job successfully - because that was what the Minstrel directly said with her Words. Everything else they made up, sometimes from whole cloth, sometimes from bits and bobs of buried memories resurfacing, to fill in the void left by the new implanted memories. Where the characters made up their own memories, they diverged quite a it from each other.

The PCs were horrified. What had they done that they couldn't remember? Who had done this to them? Who were the real culprit, and what was going on now?

The PCs, by the way, have their own Minstrel, who had "adjusted" the memories of many others, including that of the Queen herself. Sauce for the Goose.

So, have you ever used the PCs' own weapons against them?


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

With Great Power Comes Great Headaches!

I was explaining today to a fellow gamer that when Albert Bailey and I wrote StarCluster 2, we went to a great deal of trouble to understand, project, and exploit the various future technologies, then hid the information under gaming abstraction, so that gamers could just run the game without worrying about or understanding the physics behind it.

I was looking for a good example, and found the various portable power supplies. Powered devices generally have a standardized power source they need to work - under "laser pistol", the description would say it needs to be powered by an Armpak 8 or above. that's all you need to know to play the game, but when Albert and I designed it, we went to the trouble of figuring out exactly how energy was stored for portable use, given the enormous power drains of extremely high tech gear. We came up with the following:


Just as the different Tech Levels have different characteristic materials, they also have characteristic power storage. At Tech Level 6 and 7, energy is stored chemically, in batteries and fuel cells respectively. At Tech Level 8, energy is stored in stabilized monatomic
hydrogen. At Tech Level 9, energy is stored by keeping atoms in an excited state, either with inner shell electrons removed or with nuclei in non-ground states. At Tech Level 10, energy is no longer stored. A matter/antimatter reaction is bottled in a variable temporal stasis field, called a stasis bottle. When energy is needed, it is generated on the spot by bringing the reaction back from the other space the stasis field puts it into for a microsecond or so, allowing some energy to leak out to the power leads."

"The various energy storage/containment devices referred to throughout StarCluster are keyed by a number denoting the type of energy storage used, such as battery7, or armpak8. A 6 denotes Tech Level 6 (battery) storage, while a 7 refers to TL7, 8 to TL8, etc. Armpaks are typically worn strapped to the upper arm, but can be fastened anywhere else if that would be more convenient. Costs for power storage devices may be found in the Equipment: Weapons Guide. A higher level energy storage device can replace any lower level device. It is not necessary to carry several different energy storage devices for powering different items if the energy storage unit worn is capable of powering the device with the highest energy drain."

Now, the players don't need to know that. Neither does the GM. All they need to know is that if you plug this do-hickey in there and pull the trigger, it goes zap. So why did we spend so much time coming up with future energy storage methods with the proper energy density to power these devices? No one would know if we just handwaved it. Well, no one except us. We went to this trouble to make sure that the technology was consistent and possible at that level, so that we had a firm base to extrapolate. If you understand the underlying technology, you can assess any device and see where it fits, and if it fits, into that universe. There are no great gaps or leaps in progression. Things feel consistent and more real because of it, and the gaming group doesn't have to know any of this to make it run.


There is no stealth in space!

"There is no stealth in space." Whenever hard science fiction is mentioned on an RPG forum, this baby is trotted out. Why? Heat. All work produces waste energy in the form of heat. Despite the bitter cold of space, the big problem of spacecraft is radiating waste heat, not freezing. So what's the problem? Just rig up a big ol' radiator, a heat sink, and pump away! Not a problem at all - unless you don't want to be seen, that is. That big ol' radiator stands out like a beacon against the cold emptiness of space. Let's leave that for a moment, and jump to a new subject - they're related, I promise!

Zero-Point Energy is the McGuffin of SF - infinite energy all around us, free for the taking! Yay! Free beer! The zero-point is the ground state of the universe - here's wikipedia's take - which basically says the zero point, the lowest energy state you can go, is full of energy. Compared with this universal ground state, the energy demands of even a space ship are trivial. Much SF has been written about extracting this energy in some way for useful purposes.

Unfortunately, extracting this energy is the problem. There doesn't seem to be any way to extract this energy, what with the laws of conservation of energy, and besides, using it would eventually mean taking the universe down a peg energy-wise - not necessarily a good idea. So how could you use this without extracting energy?

How about pumping waste heat into it?

That violates no physical laws. It's useful, and it's very appealing. A ship equipped with a zero-point pump could go stealth! I would expect the technology is not cheap, so let's assume it is mainly a military thing. Ordinary civilian ships wouldn't need it anyway, as they aren't stealthy in other ways - radar, for example. A big ol' radiator would work just fine.

So, in StarCluster, there is stealth in space. Take that, nay-sayers!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

The SaVaHuta Military Dicta

From In Harm's Way: StarCluster

I felt I needed to describe what the mission of the military is in IHW:SC. It's a different sort of setting, and not everyone knows what the mission of - say - the US military is, so how would they know what a freaky deal like SaVaHuTa would expect from its military?

The Missions of the SaVaHuTa Military

The SaVaHuTa military is used for various purposes both in war and in peacetime. As the military arm of a league of sovereign states, the SaVaHuTa military is constrained in certain ways, as opposed to the military arm of a unitary nation state. These restrictions, the Dicta, define the mission of the military.

One World, One Government

The military is tasked with preventing the formation of an Empire in the Cluster. Any move by any power to extend its governmental control over another world permanently must be opposed, whether or not the Leagus is involved. Wars between worlds are not necessarily fought with this object, but must be strictly observed in order to determine this. If necessary to prevent this object, the military is empowered to intervene. Member worlds found guilty of this transgression are expelled from the League.

The Military is not a Stepping Stone to Empire

The SaVaHuTa military is itself the most dangerous of weapone, one which may turn in the hand. Four times since the formation of the League, Sector leaders have attempted to use the SaVaHuTa military to create an instant empire. Each time, the plot has been discovered in time to put it down. Each time, though, parts of the military fought each other in a devastating civil war. Preventing such an occurance from happening again is a prime mission.

Piracy is an Enemy of the League

SaVaHuTa is a military-economic alliance. Piracy is a threat to economic prosperity. Piracy must be ruthlessly put down wherever it appears.

Terrorism is an Enemy of the League

Terrorism is a threat to the prosperity of the League. Terrorism against League Members must be ruthlessly put down wherever it appears.

Citizens are Entitled to Protection

SaVaHuTa citizens have earned the thanks of the League, by definition. Citizens are threatened at the risk of retaliation out of proportion to the offense.

Commerce is the lifeblood of the League

Threatening the trade of a League Member is at the risk of retaliation out of proportion to the offense. If possible, trade is to be protected in areas of danger with convoys and escorts to prevent temptation of belligerents to prey on League shipping.

Threats to the League Will Not be Allowed to Stand

Threatening moves by any power against the League itself will be met by escalation in kind.

Member States and War

Member states are free to pursue war against other powers without involving the League military. These incidents are considered a local affair. The League will not become involved unless there is a threat to the League itself. The goal of the League is to prevent widening of the conflict to include the League itself. The purpose of this dictum is to prevent one member State from using the entire League to solve its problems with other Sovereign States.

Application of These Dicta are at the Discretion of the Commander on the Scene

Communication within the Cluster is too slow to refer constantly to higher authority. The commander on the spot has the authority to commit forces proportional to the problem. Adjudication by higher authority will be made after the fact.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Maneuver Room

Here's a few maneuvers from In Harm's Way: StarCluster. None of these can be done by airplanes.

A Horizontal Fly By is used while passing a target going in the opposite direction or moving markedly slower to one side. The craft’s thrust is cut, and attitude jets are used to slew the craft sideways to continuously point the craft at the target while maintaining relative speed. Doubles the Quality of any hit. At end, craft is reversed, but coasting backward. Failure results in Large Penalty to Gunnery Skill Check. A Vertical Fly By is as a Horizontal Fly-by, but attitude change is vertical to hit target passing above or below

In a Grapple Slingshot, the craft grapples another ship or craft and uses it to change direction, passing the momentum to the other ship

In a Gravity Slingshot, the craft uses a gravity well to change direction. The deeper the dive, the higher the speed and the arder the turn:

  • High Gravity Slingshot - Skimming through a gravity well, using the gravity to change direction. Failure results in a Medium Gravity Slingshot
  • Medium Gravity Slingshot - Diving into a gravity well, using the gravity to change direction and add speed. Failure results in a Deep Gravity Slingshot
  • Deep Gravity Slingshot - Diving deeply into a gravity well, using the gravity to change direction and add speed. Failure results in breakup of the craft on the surface or atmosphere
Of course, the bigger the ship, the higher the penalty, and the smaller the craft, the bigger the bonus to do these maneuvers.

Sometimes you have to throw away the old methods, because they just don't work in a new situaton.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Harm's Way: StarCluster

I'm currently on vacation - my big project at Real Life work has been released, and I am free to take time off I have not been able to since this summer. That means 4+ weeks in the next four months.

The project I am workig on for Flying Mice is In Harm's Way: StarCluster, a marriage of the In Harm's Way military series and the StarCluster setting. It's also a preview of StarCluster 3, which I am in no hurry to release. I worked this game up to Beta test status earlier in the year, but ran into a snag with Fighter combat. Big Ship to Big Ship combat worked very well, but Fighters and Strike Craft were... well... boring. StarCluster is Firm SF - I try to keep to known physics as much as possible within the contraints of the setting. Therefore treating Fighter combat like air-to-air combat would be wrong. I kept hitting a brick wall whenever I thought about it, and shelved the project to concentrate on first Commonwealth Space, then Created Creatures for StarCluster, and finally On Her Majesty's Arcane Service.

The time off has done me a world of good. I came back to the game with fresh eyes and things just leapt into place. I was fighting what I had to work with because I had the cool air combat of IHW: Aces In Spades, Aces And Angels, Wild Blue, and even Dragons! in the back of my mind, and kept trying to fit realistic space combat into that. It would not work. This time I approached it from the standpoint of "what can you do in space that you can't do in atmosphere?" and was rewarded with new and very different maneuvers. I also took the perspective of the ship maneuvers in the original IHW: A Napoleonic Naval RPG, and kept to an abstract prose description, with consequences for failure and success.

Basically, in space, the entire ship can be treated as a turret, turing to face in any direction without affecting the flight path so long as thrust is cut off. Turning the ship to face another direction while thrusting results in a curve to the flight path with some slowdown. The slower you go, the more maneuverable you are, but the easier you are to hit. Targeting computers would display the target not as a point, but as a trumpet-shaped probability cone, with the point at the last known position, with light speed lag. The faster the target is moving, the deeper and sharper the cone. The slower the target is going, the more flared and shorter the cone. The person operating the weapon must put the weapon in the most likely place in that cone for the target to be, given demonstrated past behavior and known flight characteristics. In other words, pattern recognition. Humans are awesome at pattern recognition.

I'll be posting more as I work on it!


Monday, October 5, 2009

Future Perfect

Fortune telling is one of the hardest things for a GM to work into a game. When the prognosticator lays out those cards, or gazes into that crystal ball, things tend to go south fast. When it's the GM laying out the future, the tendency is to get locked into a choo choo experience, and when its the PC peering into the future, it just usually ends up making no sense at all.

So here I am, putting astrology into OHMAS with the Savant path - so what's up with that?

When I researched the people on which I based the Savant, one thing all had in common was Astrology, so if I wanted to remain true to my source, I needed to somehow integrate Astrology into the game in a way that would allow the player character the chance to make meaningful predictions, while at the same time not locking things in to the point of pre-destining the game.

I went back and really looked at Astrology in the real world - how is it supposed to work? How has belief in astrology lasted since antiquity? Maybe if I based the game mechanic on the real thing, it would solve the problems which seemed inherent in game-based fortune telling.

The key seemed to lie in the attitude towards what the stars actually were presumed to do. The planets influenced events. They did not dictate events. Futhermore, each planet had a sphere of interest - Venus ruled romance, but had no power over fighting. Jupiter presided over fortune, not reason. So I had to create an abstracted game sub-system where the planets could influence things in their sector, but allow the GMs and players to play without pre-determined results forcing things into any given path.

What I came up with was a system of random bonuses, good for the day, and good all day. If you approach a problem in this sphere in this manner, then you have a bonus:

Roll Luna Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn
rules Emotion Reason Romance Conflict Fortune Order

1-2 Fear Deliberation Flirtation Trickery Secrecy Boundaries
3-4 Hesitance Inspiration Subversion Might Timing Laws
5-6 Horror Analysis Sex Indirect Boldness Customs
7-8 Anger Deduction Seduction Flanking Lavishness Families
9-10 Doubt Mystification Titillation Position Prudence Organizations
11-12 Affection Appreciation Fascination Intimidation Investment Channels
13-14 Lust Deceit Ingratiation Brutality Trust Ethics
15-16 Confidence Misdirection Sympathy Glory Miserliness Morals
17-18 Longing Compromise Intrigue Caution Distrust Patterns
19-20 Joy Persuasion Beauty Opportunity Openness Connections

So, the Savant decides to see what the stars have in store for Conflict, Romance, and Order, becasue those are the sphere she judges are most important. For Conflict, she rolls a 12, indicating Intimidation is favored. In any situation of conflict, attempts relying on intimidation gain an extra die. For Romance, she rolls a 7 for seduction. In any action concerning romance, the PCs can gain a bonus dice if they are trying seduction. For Order, she rolls a 2, for a result of Boundaries. In situations where order is important, somehow involving boundaries will gain the PCs a bonus die. In upcoming situations, the PCs will tend to use these methods because they are favored.

Simultaneously, the GM reads the prophecy backwards to put in opportunities for those methods to work. How these factors are involved can involve creative interpretation, but they give a seed for the upcoming situation. Don't worry about the PCs. they will supply their own creative interpretations. The NPCs also can use these bonuses if they know of them. These influences are literally in the air, and anyone can use them. The PCs have a relevant prophecy, and the GM has a situation seed without railroading.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Situational GMing

Situational GMing is a style of GMing, the one I am most comfortable with. It is not the ultimate, best, or coolest method, merely one that works really well for me, and one which is often misunderstood. Take this post not as avocation, but as explanation.


Prep is minimal in this style of GMing. Maps if needed are generated. Important NPCs are detailed - not usually their stats and skills, but their motivations, goals, resources, personalities, and organizations. This information is generated in my own games by pick-or-roll tables I include, and which I often use in other games. I also set up lists of typical opponents I can throw at the party when I need in Encounters.

First Situation

The First Situation *will* occur, sometime in the first session. Sometimes I lead off with it, sometimes I wait for the PCs to get to know each other a bit. The players may react to this situation however they choose. This situation is set up by looking at what the NPCs are trying to do and their resources, and with them creating a situation which the PCs must in some way react to. The PCs react to this situation with energy, pushing it out into an action. I see how the NPCs will react to the PCs' action, and apply resources and organization in the way they would, based on their goals, motivations, and personalities. This back and forth act, react, and react to the reaction process can last a good many sessions.

How NPCs Work

NPCs are not the enemies or the friends of the PCs. They may become such during play, but they are just aiming for their own goals. If their goals conflict with the PCs, they may clash. If their goals coincide, they may ally. If they do neither, they proceed along their own paths. Sometimes alliances turn into friendships, or even romance. Sometimes opposition turns into bitter enmity. I jsut play them according to their personalities, goals, and motivations.

Session-Starting Situations

These I come up with based on how the last session ended. It is set up like a First Situation, but occurs at various times when I feel it's appropriate.


These come up whenever I feel they are warranted, depending on the situation. They take no prep, as I did them up before the start of play.

NPCs Arising Out of Play

This happens fairly often, where an NPC intended as window dressing becomes somhow important to the PCs. I use the same tables I use in initial Prep to generate what I need to play them on the fly, refining it all after play, between sessions.

When someone achieves his goal, the game is basically over, though the PCs may - and usually do - continue on.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Plug-ins and Framework systems

Framework systems are designed from the start to accept modular plug-ins. The StarCluster System is such a Framework system, and I'm going to explore using different Task-Resolution plug-ins with the Framework, and the effect on play.

The StarCluster system uses a system of attributes which exist somewhere in the range of 1-15 - usually. In some games they're theoretically infinite, in others they're capped at 15 for humans. There are four physical attributes - STR (strength), COOR (coordination), AGY (agility), and END (endurance). There is one attribute which is partly physical and partly mental - CHAR (charisma), and one attribute which is wholly mental, INT (Intelligence). There is always another stat which measures something else - LUCK, or PSI, or MAG, for example. Skills are rated at Skill+0 for no rank, and +1 per rank, so skill+3 means you have rank 3 in that skill. Skills are tied to specific attributes. This is pretty much invariant among the various game susing the system. Weapons have a variable bonus to damage which is the same for each weapon across systems - a knife is always +0, and a revolver is always +15, no matter what game you are playing. Damage is tracked by subtracting from a derived attribute, Constitution, which is equal to the four physical stats multiplied by a number which varies between T-R plug-ins. At 3/4 Constitution you have a penalty, at 1/2 Constitution you are stunned without an Overdo (or END) check, and at 1/4 Constitution, you go unconcious and start bleeding out.

StarPerc is a percentile T-R plug-in. For chance of success, you roll d% under a number determined by the skill rank. It defaults to the attribute at Skill+0, but jumps to 45% at Skill+1, and 5 is added per rank after that. There is a bonus due to high attributes, of +5 per 2 points above 7 - that is +5 at 9, +10 at 11, +15 at 13, and +20 at 15. Quality is a separate roll of d%. Damage is one kind of quality roll, with the weapon modifier added to the result of the roll. The Constitution multiplier is 10.

This yields a game that feels gritty, but isn't. Most characters can take a couple pistol shots without going down. Skilled characters have a huge advantage over unskilled for chance, but it doesn't matter at all with quality, which isn't tied at all to skill. Quality ranges enormously - the random factor is very high - which simulates actual wound damage well.

StarPool is a dice pool T-R plug-in. For chance of success, you roll Skill Rank +1 d20 under the attribute, counting successes. Thus for Skill+3 you roll 4 d20, for Skill+0, you roll 1 d20. Any success means you succeed. The quality of success is determined by the number of successes. You multiply the number of successes times 10, plus any modifier, to find the quality. You would add the weapon modifier to quality in combat, thus 3 successes with a pistol (+15) would be 45. The Constitution multiplier is 5.

This yields a game which feels cinematic, but is actually deadly. A skilled foe can put an average character down with one hit. Skilled characters don't have a hugely better chance of success, but they can achieve far better quality. This, of course, simulates another aspect of reality well - someone good at something should have better results!

Star20 is a roll over T-R plug-in. For chance of success, you roll (4 X d6) -4 to get a bell curve from 0-20. Add Attribute Bonus ( +1 per 2 points above 7) and skill rank. 14-15 is 1 success, 16-17 is 2, 18 is 3, 19 is 4, 20 is 5, 24 or more is a critical success, and 6 or less is a critical failure. Damage is successes times 20 plus modifier, so 3 successes with a pistol (+15) would be 75. The Constitution multiplier is 8.

This yields a game where it's hard to do well with low skill ranks, but there's a marked accelleration at mid skill ranks, and someone very good can be devastating. The combination of moderate Constitution and rapidly increasing quality means a very skilled opponent can bring an average character down with one hit, but un-skilled or low-skilled characters have to peck away in combat. It is the most cinematic of the three plug-ins discussed here. Low-rank characters really are mooks.

There are other T-R plug-ins, but I haven't released games featuring them yet, so I won't detail them here. StarKarma, for example, is a diceless T-R system.


Monday, September 7, 2009

OHMAS - County Descriptions and Biographies

In an effort to supply some setting to OHMAS, I've included short descriptions of the counties of England, as well as short biographies of principle people of the era. Here are a couple of examples:

Kit Marlowe

Born the same year as Shakespeare, Christopher “Kit” Marlowe was born in Canterbury, Kent, to a shoemaker. He attended Cambridge on a scholarship, and received a BA in 1584. In 1587, the university hesitated to award him his Masters, because of a rumor that he had converted to Catholicism, but the Privy Council intervened, praising him for his good service to the queen, and his Masters was awarded. No one knows just what service provoked this extraordinary intervention, and speculation - including that he worked as a spy for Walsingham - flourishes.

His play Tamburlane was hugely successful, and the first blank verse play, influencing all who followed. His most famous play is probably the Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, with its themes of magic and the powers and temptations of devils. In the end, Faustus is torn to shreds by devils and dragged off to Hell.

In 1593, he was arrested on the testimony of Thomas Kyd, another famous playwright, and probably under torture, for libel against the queen. He was found living with Thomas Walsingham, cousin to the spymaster, and a noted spy himself. He appeared before the Privy Council on May 20th, and was set free on the condition he give daily accounts of his doings to the Council. On May 30th, he was murdered. According to official record, he was in a public house in Deptford with three men, all Walsingham’s men, when he attacked one, who slew him in self defence.

It is thought that such a case is far too suspocious to be believed, as the three men were spies with connection to the underground, and the death too convenient to some highly placed members of the privy Council.

Marlowe was rumored to be an atheist, a pagan, a homosexual, and a criminal. None of these charges can be substantiated, but it is very intriguing nonetheless.


A land-locked county, Nottingham is hilly in the west and low-lying in the east. In the southeast is the rich, fertile Vale of Belvoir. In the northwest, the famous Sherwood Forest, haunt of Robin Hood. The western hills are not high, and a ridge runs right down the center of Nottinghamshire. There are limestone caves throughout the county, most famously under Nottingham itself. The climate is dry and healthy. Cattle, sheep, hops, wheat, barley, turnips, and oats are raised in the fertile soil. The County town is Nottingham.

Map - 1809

OHMAS is almost completely done. I am just waiting any last comments from playtesters to make possible edits, then I need to spellcheck and generate a final index, and that's it.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

From the StarCluster Guide to Created Creatures, on sale as of tonight.


High TL9 Hammerhead Shark Uplift
STR 10 -> 11 = 0 points (from Stance change)
COOR 0 -> 7 = 0 points (from Manipulator change)
END 6 -> 4 = 0 points (from Stance change)
Constitution 320
CHAR 5 -> 3 = 0 points (from Vocalization change)
INT -2 -> 7 = -18 points
Natural Attack
Natural Attack Damage +30
Natural Attack Effective Skill Rank Bite +4
Special Attack? None
Sight 0 -> 1 = -1 points
Hearing 1
Touch None
Smell 3
Taste 0
Electric 3 -> 5 = -2 points
Special Notes
Stance - Belly crawl -> Slouched = -7 points
Speech - Voice Box -> Vocal Mimicry = -5 points
Manipulators - None -> Human-like Hands = -7 points
Armor Equivalent
Armor - Hide
Size - 7
Feeding Frenzy -> Edited Out = -1 point
Violent -> Edited Out = -1 point
Cannibalistic -> Edited Out = -1 point
Loyal -> Added = -2 points
The Shark Man is the only known shark uplift in the Cluster. Uplifted on the Vantor world of Pollux, the Shark Man was developed as a bodyguard for prominent Vantors. With their enormous size and immense, gaping maws, shark men are extremely intimidating. By breeding out the most objectionable facets of shark behavior, and breeding in loyalty, the Vantors of Pollux succeeded in creating a masterpiece of uplifting.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

On Faries

From On Her Majesty's Arcane Service

Fairies are creatures closely related to humans, but different enough so that they hardly ever interbreed successfully. Fairies preferentially live in pockets, either natural or made by a Savant, as they can’t make their own. Some fairy pockets are tiny, and others are whole universes. They generally have guarded entrances held permanently open by rocks, timber, or other props.


Faerie is a realm co‐existant with the human realms, hidden away in pockets of extra-dimensional space and complete pocket universes. In the British Isles ‐ England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the smaller islands ‐ there are hundreds of these pockets, ranging in size from tiny croftholds with less than five inhabitants to Faerie cities with thousands of inhabitants. Each Faerie pocket has different base rules, different physics, than human realms; and different from each other. Time may be faster or ‐ usually ‐ slower. Distances inside the pocket can be enormous even though the pocket may be tiny externally. Magic can be performed casually, and cause and effect are different, perhaps reversible.

The people of these realms are Fairies. Most larger fairy pockets are independent kingdoms. Fairie pockets generally have different timescales than our world ‐ fairies are conservative and don’t like change, so they like their pocket time to run slower than the real world. Sometimes human get into fairy pockets, either invited in or as Changelings, and sometimes hundreds of years might pass in the outside world before they return. Not all fairies live in pockets, however. Some have left their pockets to wander, some have been exiled from their communities, some prefer to live in the real world, and some simply have no home pocket to live in. Such fairies
occasionally commission Savants to create new pockets for them.

Fairy Children

Fairy children are much like human children, they are the same size and shape as human babies, and left to themselves will grow up to look and act very human indeed. In the fairy societies, though, fairies grow up to become outwardly what they are inwardly. Murderous fairies become Red Caps. Brutish fairies become Ogres and Giants. Innocent, flighty fairies become Piskies. Fairy communities are almost always of one type. A fairy born into a community of Piskies, for example, who shows signs of becoming a Red Cap will be forced out of the community to wander until he can find a Red Cap community to join.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Optional Rules

I came up with this optional rule for On Her Majesty's Arcane Service, but this could work in any game - particularly one with political intrigue. I will probably bring this into Glorianna when I get around to finishing it.

Optional Rule: A Currency of Favors

Favors were a major currency in Elizabethan times, and this rule aims to emulate it. Players begin play with 4 favor points, plus 1 per Wealth Rank above Middle Class, and can freely spend them by calling them in, or gain them by doing favors for each other or for NPCs. 1 favor point is worth a favor from a Middle Class or lower person. an UMC favor is worth 2 points, Wealthy 4, Extremely Rich 8, Plutocrat 16, and the Queen’s favor is worth 32.

That's it. Real simple, but I think it could be very effective in a political game.

Here's one I have used for many different games, and it works extremely well.

Optional Rule: Commando-type Actions

Characters may attempt commando‐type actions such as picking off a sentry by clasping a hand over the sentry’s mouth while slicing his neck with a knife. If the character has an appropriate background this should be purely a question of the character’s ability to sneak up on (sneak or stealth skills) or rush (flash skill) the sentry. If the sentry does not detect the approach of the character, or has no time to respond, the sentry should die. If a character without an appropriate background attempts it, roll at sneak, stealth, or flash+0 as appropriate, with modifiers for agility. In any case, the sentry’s constitution should be ignored.

Another simple but effective rule which really supports a particular type of play. again, it can be used in any game - the skills and stats used may vary, of course, but the idea is very transferable.

Finally, here's how I implement Hero/plot points.

Optional Rule: Plot Points

Using this optional rule, the characters and the GM each receive one Plot Point per session. They can be used any time during that session, but cannot be accumulated across sessions. The Plot Point can be used to do one of two things: the player may make any attempt, by anyone, an automatic success, or an automatic failure. These points should be used any time an action cannot fail, or must not succeed. The Plot point need not be used on the player’s character. It can be used at any time on any character.

My players *love* this rule! They can use it for a failed roll, they can prevent a bad guy's success, they can use it on each other, and the GM gets one and can use it however he wants too. Again, systemless rule. You can use it in any game.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Rank and the Chain of Command

I write a lot of military/historical games - the In Harm's Way series is up to five games now, with a sixth in development. A central focus of these games for characters is rank. None of the games I write have XPs, character advancement being taken care of by aging, but the IHW games have a mechanic which is tied not to skill increases but to rank increase.

The mechanic is the Notice mechanic. PCs advance in rank by accumulating Notice. Notice is awarded for doing things that get you *noticed*, like shooting down enemy planes, or boarding an enemy Frigate, or taking a heavily defended position. The more spectacular the feat, the higher the award.

Notice is awarded in character by the commanding officer via "I wrote you up in the dispatches", or a medal, or maybe just an "attaboy". Once the PC has accumulated enough Notice, he gets promoted. Of course, if you screw up, you can get negative notice, also given in-character.

In the games set earlier in history, characters start with an initial award of points called Interest. This is to simulate the political pull of the character's family. It is re-awarded at each rank, though it becomes a diminishing relative amount as the point totals needed to advance continuously rise with each rank. Games set more recently dispense with this Influence, as the military becomes more of a meritocracy.

Why award the points in-character? I just like tying it all into the game. Besides, if the CO isn't aware of the feat, no points are awarded - after all, it signifies doing something that your CO notices, that differentiates you from the crowd. It's fitting to award it in character. The CO doesn't have to be there, he just has to be aware of it. Also your CO gets a fraction of your points. Anything you do reflects on him too! If your CO is another PC, way cool!

Speaking of which, in games I have run using this mechanic, the players never seem to resent the success of their fellow players. Many times PCs end up in command of their fellow PCs, and it's all cool. The competition is fair and open, and that seems to make a difference - it isn't like the players bought their command. They won it.


Monday, August 24, 2009

From OHMAS: The Savant

From On Her Majesty's Arcane Service
In honor of Zach of RPG Blog II putting OHMAS on his Zack's Dozen hotlist, I present the Savant, a character type or Path of Power from OHMAS.

The Savant

The Savant is a person of knowledge, who approaches the arcane by means of science.

The Savant is not sceptical, but is both deeply rational and something of a mystic, reading the tracks of magic on the face of nature. The Savant has a deep seated belief in both God and Magic, which allows the Savant to apply the tools of science to the purpose of magic.

A Savant is first and foremost a highly educated person. In addition to their normal skills, Savants gain a mastery in Linguistics, with a fluency in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. They gain this Mastery over the course of their education, gaining a rank in Linguistics every three years - Latin at the age of 10, Greek at 13, Hebrew at 16, and the other languages at 19 snd 22. The Savant may take other ranks of Linguistics by year, as he would any normal skill.

Savants must be first an Apprentice Scholar and then a Proto-Academic, though they do not have to pay for the education if their family Lifestyle is too low, as their intelligence would be noticed and funding made available. Savants must have an INT of at least 11 to qualify.


Savants can Ward an area from intrusion, both material and spiritual. An area Warded by a Savant cannot be scryed, spied upon, or entered by anyone not inside the wards when the Savant sets them out. The Wards themselves are at least three objects of magical and/or mystical power physically placed by the Savant, defining the periphery of the Warded area - three wards defining a triangle, four defining a quadrilateral, etc. On a successful Warding roll, the Wards are activated, one success indicating three Wards activated, with one more Ward activated per success after that.

Once per day, the Savant may read the day’s Astrological chart. On a successful Astrology roll, the player may make one roll per success on the the Astrology Table below. The player determines which column(s) to roll on. The word indicated should be treated as a temporary Traits which is not part of the savant’s personality, but part of the environment, and available to whoever the Savant tells them to. Traits give a bonus to any other action when used, so long as the Trait could believably help. Each Trait point used adds bonus die to the roll. Traits are a resource which are used up in play.

The Astrology Table
Luna rules Emotion
Mercury rules Reason
Venus rules Romance
Mars rules Conflict
Jupiter rules Fortune
Saturn rules Order

Luna Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn
1-2 Fear Deliberation Flirtation Trickery Secrecy Boundaries
3-4 Hesitance Inspiration Subversion Might Timing Laws
5-6 Horror Analysis Sex Indirect Boldness Customs
7-8 Anger Deduction Seduction Flanking Lavishness Families
9-10 Doubt Mystification Titillation Position Prudence Organizations
11-12 Affection Appreciation Fascination Intimidation Investment Channels
13-14 Lust Deceit Ingratiation Brutality Trust Ethics
15-16 Confidence Misdirection Sympathy Glory Miserliness Morals
17-18 Longing Compromise Intrigue Caution Distrust Patterns
19-20 Joy Persuasion Beauty Opportunity Openness Connections

Note: the Savant may roll several times on one column.

The Savant can commune with spirits. The particular device used could be anything - a mirror in the proper place tilted at the proper angle; the severed head of an innocent set in a silver cage of peculiar and particular design; a complex armature which holds a pen, with which the Savant can write and the spirit write back so long as the Savant holds the pen, etc. The player and GM must agree to the device used, noting restrictions placed on the communication by the device’s nature.

The spirits communing are not under the control of the savant in any way, and may lie or not, or totally ignore the Savant’s questions as they choose. As the Savant gains skill in Communion, however, she is better able to filter out extraneous chatter and malicious lies. on a Communion check, the more successes rolled, the more trustworthy and pertinent the information is.

Arcane Geometry
Arcane Geometry is the science of what would now be called non-Euclidean Geometry and its applications in the real world. Folds and tunnels in space, pocket universes, fairy hills, containers and domiciles with more volume on the inside than on the outside - these can be detected, changed, and created through application of Arcane Geometry. The savant describes what he is attempting before the skill check

Creating a pocket:
The creator may vary space, time, and condition within the pocket, both at the time of creation and afterward. With patience, as pockets may only be changed yearly, a small pocket may be enlarged, time ratios changed, and conditions added. On a successful arcane Geometry skill check, each success may be applied to one of these variables.

Varying Space in the Pocket
Each success applied to space makes the pocket larger. For the first success, a pocket of .1 cubic feet in volume - large enough to tuck in a scroll or book - is created. Each further success extends the space as follows:
10 cu. ft. - big enough for a crouching Human, 1000 cu. ft.- a 10' X 10' X 10' room, 100,000 cu ft.- a 100' X 100' X 100' cube, etc. The actual contours of the pocket may vary according to the whims of the creator.

Varying Time in the Pocket
Time ratios are expressed as a relationship of time in our world to time in the pocket - X:Y (X to Y) - where the first element (X) is time in our world, and the second element (Y) is time in the pocket. A ratio of 2:1, for example, would mean one hour (day, week) spent in the pocket will equal two hours (days, weeks) spent in our world. A ratio of 1:2, for example, would mean two hours (days, weeks) spent in the pocket will equal one hours (day, week) spent in our world.

At the pocket's creation, the direction of the ratio must be stated as being Fast or Slow. Fast pockets have a ratio where the first number is one, and the second number is always greater than one. For example, 1:3. Time in Fast pockets is always faster than time in our world. Slow pockets have a ratio where the first number is always greater than one, and the second number is one. For example, 3:1. Time in Slow pockets is always slower than time in our world.

Increasing Time Ratios
Each success applied to time increases the ratio of time in the pocket as compared to our world. Without applying any successes to time, the ratio of time in the pocket to time in our world is 1:1 (one to one). One success applied to time will increase the ratio to 2:1 or 1:2. Each success applied to time will increase this ratio by one - i.e. two successes applied will increase the ratio by two, a 1:1 ratio becoming 3:1. Increasing a pocket's time ratio can be done once every ten years of our world's time. When increasing time ratios, the number increased in Fast pockets is always the second number, while in Slow pockets, the number increased is always the first.

Varying Conditions in the Pocket
Conditions within the pocket can be varied as well. Without putting successes into conditions, pockets are featureless, filled with fresh, breathable air, lightless, colorless, irregular, and pliable - pliable meaning the walls are soft and can be manipulated to an extend so long as the total volume of the pocket remains the same. Each success put into conditions can be allocated to change a condition of the pocket. These conditions include, but are not limited to light, walls (including floors and ceilings), water, vegetation, animals, structure/shape, and the like.

Each success put into a specific condition will increase the complexity and/or realism of the condition. A single success put into vegetation for example would give a single plant, perhaps a giant pumpkin vine, with the pumpkins carvable into houses. Five successes might give a pocket a vegetative variety and realism equivalent to the same area of our earth. A single success given to light might give a vague, sourceless light, whereas five successes might give a sun in the sky and light like a sunny day at noon, or three moons and innumerable stars giving light enough to read by. Conditions in the pocket can be whatever the creator can imagine, and are not limited by our world's constraints. Anything of the pocket, including items constructed of materials in the pocket - like a box carved from the ivory of a pocket creature - belongs to the pocket, and will dissolve to nothing instantly as soon as it is removed from the pocket.

Pocket Entrances.
Normally, pocket entrances are almost invisible "seams" in reality which can be opened up with the hands, simple tools, and/or devices designed for that puropose. The creator will always see his own entrances plainly, while pocket entrances created by others will need a single success on an Arcane Geometry skill check. It requires a slight effort to hold the entrance open, and the entrance will close again if released. A framework can be constructed of materials from our world to hold an entrance semi-permanently open like a doorway. If the framework is removed, the entrance will close. Actual doors can be hung on this framework, allowing access at any time.

A second entrance to a pocket can be constructed from within the pocket to a place well known to the creator. This creates a tunnel, with the entrances separated by an arbitrary distance in our world not at all related to distance in the pocket. To construct an additional entrance, five successes must be made on an Arcane Geometry skill check from within the pocket. An emergency entrance can be created from within a pocket with a single success on an Arcane Geometry skill check, but this entrance will disappear within five minutes from the time it was last used, and opens to the same general area as the original pocket entrance.

Other Properties of Pocket Creation
Pockets can be created within other pockets. Pockets can be created within items, or creatures. Pockets created within some item or creature carried into another pocket will be accessible from within the other pocket. Use stabilizes pockets. Pockets will disappear if not used by a person within a year as measured within the pocket. Light, food, and water must be brought into a pocket if the pocket itself does not supply it.

Savant Profession
Person using mundane means to control magical effect

Savants Gain:
+3 Int
+1 END
Linguistics +5

Prerequisites: Apprentice Scholar and Proto-Academic, INT 11+
Waiver Roll: N/A
Base Lifestyle: Upper Middle Class
Skills available: Warding, Astrology, Communion, Arcane Geometry, Linguistics, Analysis, Astronomy, Course, Overdo, Operate, Mechanics, Mathematics, Evaluate, Focus, History, Research, Instruct, Meditation


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Who do you design for?

Well, I mean who dictates your designs? S. John Ross once told me that if you design to limit abuse of your system, you are designing to limit use of your system. It's something which is not as intuitive as it seems. Putting in a rule which could be abused requires trust in your players. If you know your players, this works uniformly well. A GM knows her players. It is another thing entirely to publish a ruleset with rules which could be abused. A published game designer does not know who will be playing games with his rules. The trust must be blind.

Do game groups merit blind trust? I don't know. I don't know if I merit blind trust. Thing is, I want folks to have the best possible experience they can, and when a good GM and good players get together with trust, it's a beautiful thing to see. I decided some time ago to design for the good players - the ones who see how a rule could be exploited and decide not to. I expect them to use the rule to do cool stuff, not screw with it.

Jesus said "The poor will always be with us." I feel the same way about bad players. If I design for bad players, I limit the enjoyment good players get from my games, and I would rather allow the bad players the ability to push things too far. I put my trust in the groups, and hope they don't disappoint me.