Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Coming Full Circle

StarCluster 2E is a fairly firm SF game. It's based on the fiction of CJ Cherryh, Larry Niven, David Brin, and other classic SF writers. It evolved system wise from Traveller, Ringworld (BRP), and SPI's Universe. It was originally designed in the early-to-mid-eighties, typed on a typewriter. My group at the time played a scenario - later rewritten and released as The Nugik Adventure - and then demanded more D&D, which was their unvarying response to playing anything else. They indulged me, grudgingly, then wanted to go back to what we (eventually) played for 20 years.

By the early nineties, I had just had enough D&D. I was beginning to hate running games, and that was not good. I was totally burned out. I disbanded my group and took a year or so off from gaming, but my son was getting to that age where he wanted to roleplay. I ran him and his friend Paul - the son of one of my old players - through an AD&D adventure, then asked what they wanted to do next. They answered that they would like to try something different, and didn't I mention once that I had designed my own game? I was floored. They tried out the game I had written way back when - running them through the Nugik Adventure, which came out totally different this time - and loved it, but even while they were enjoying it, I was beginning to alter it in my mind. We began a long series of explorations to figure out just what needed changing.

By the year 1999, I had completely re-written StarCluster through many different versions, though it was still recognizably the same game. By this time my new gaming group had grown, and they said I should publish it. I began re-writing the game for publication, and released version 1.0 in 2002 on the new RPGNow. It was weird - it consisted of a bunch of separate pdf books, like Traveller. It had a bunch of gaps and inconsistencies, and I was painfully re-learning how to draw after a 30 year gap and the illos suffered.

I incrementally improved the product, and in 2004, I released StarCluster 2E. it was completely revamped, much smoother, and got a lot of interest. I went on to develop other games using variations on the same mechanics, but I've wanted to rewrite StarCluster again for a long, long time.

By the end of the month, I should be releasing In Harm's Way: StarCluster - which is my latest take on this perennial game. It is *very* different. It doesn't replace StarCluster 2E, which will remain available until I write StarCluster 3, and maybe even after that, but it supplements it. IHW:SC is a military SF game, where SC 2E is decidedly civilian. You can play IHW:SC in the SC 2E universe, or play SC 2E in a IHW:SC universe of your own making. Virtually everything in IHW:SC is customizable, and I doubt there will be two games played nearly the same anywhere. PCs were always wildly customizable, but now the setting, the aliens, the ships, the vehicles, and more can be molded to your liking, and there will be three task-resolution sub-systems you can choose between - percentile roll under, dice pool roll under, or bell-curve d6 roll-over. I will be using this model for StarCluster 3 when I ever get around to writing it.

Also, what I started writing this blog entry to announce before I staryed off into history-land, there will be not one but two space combat sub-systems. One will be the StarCluster standard Firm SF, but the other will be soft and squishy, apply only to small craft, and be based on the vehicle combat rules, which are in turn based on the air combat sub-system developed in the In Harm's Way series to date. The group can choose whichever one they like, and I am betting the star-wars-ish Soft SF will be the more popular. I personally like the firmer, default one, but that's just me.