Friday, April 30, 2010

StarCluster 3 - CharGen

I've been working on SC 3E's CharGen. I have taken out the schooling up to college, and replaced it with Background skills based on the character's lifestyle. Colleges are completely changed now - you go through a degree program - Associates, Bachelors, Masters, or PhD. After that, you go out into professions. One skill per year. That's it. That is far simpler than StarCluster 2E, and even simpler than IHW:SC.

I brought all the professions from SC 2E into SC 3E, but they have been updated, with new skill lists and different preconditions and almost universally more difficult waiver targets. I've completely dropped Metaskills - there was a novelty that failed! Social skills, which were available separately in SC 2E, are now integrated into the skill lists for the professions.

The "standard" Sastra, Vantor, Human, and Tagris humanoids are available, along with the hybrids, but I have integrated Augmentations from Biotech into the chargen. Optionally, in another chapter, you can be a robot, an alien, an uplifted animal, or a bioroid construct, with rules for creating each and examples. I will be putting implants in as well, into a medical section, to create cyborgs.

So chargen is done. Next is spaceships!


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sorry about the no posting lately. I'm busy trying to figure out why I'm doing this, and not coming up with anything.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Greetings to the Brave!

Now that I've frightened the horses with that last post, hi to all you guys* who are still here! You obviously have more guts than brains! :D


* This is, of course, the New England unisex "guys". Here it is perfectly normal for one woman to walk up to a group of women and say "Hey guys!". What can I say? It's wicked pissah!

Alternate Resolution Mechanics, Framework Systems, and Other Gewgaws

OK, you all know my base system - StarCluster - is a framework system. It can accept most any bolt-on sub-system so long as the interface is correct. What the system cares about is fairly limited - its 'interface'. It has certain values it presents to the subsystem - these are the system's 'tools'. It expects certain values in return. So long as the system gets these values in the proper range or ratio, it doesn't care how they got there. Let's examine the Resolution sub-system.

The system's tools are Attributes, Skills, and Modifiers. Attributes can range from 1 to 15, though this is a limitation only because of certain sub-systems - StarPerc, for example, can work with arbitrarily high Attribute values, while StarPool needs a limitation to work - in order to keep the interface compatible, the limits are necessary. Skills are ranked, with +0 being unskilled, +1 being skilled, +3 being expert, and +5 being master. They can range arbitrarily highly, with multiples of +5 being Levels of Mastery. Modifiers are presented in two classes - Small and Large. You can add modifiers together - i.e. 2 Small or 1 Small and 1 Large - but they are not necessarily on the same scale. in StarPool, for example, a Small modifier is worth + or - one to a Target Number, where a Large Modifier is worth + or - one die.

There is a derived stat - Constitution - which represents the pool of physical damage the character can take. This is always expressed as the four physical attributes added together and multiplied by some value. That value varies from sub-system to sub-system, and may vary within a single sub-system.

The most basic value the system needs in return is whether or not the attempt was successful - the Chance of Success. This is binary - yes or no, zero or one - however you want to phrase it. This can be generated by whatever means are needed - it's not a complex problem. I try to set a typical skilled person to have a success at around 45-50% of the time.

The second value returned is Quality of Success. Physical combat damage is an example of Quality of Success, and is expressed in play as Quality of Success + Weapon Damage Modifier. WDM is a value - positive or negative - which is added to the base QoS. How the QoS is generated depends on the sub-system. In StarPerc, a separate d% roll is made, while in StarPool, successes are counted and multiplied times 10. This number needs to be in balance with the Constitution for the feel you want. In a gritty game, you probably want a single hit to potentially kill. In a more cinematic game, you may want a danger of death only after several hits. You may not want death at all in - for example - a supers game, so you would substitute some other penalty. Working out the proper balance of damage and Constitution is a huge part of establishing the feel. In StarPerc, Chance of Success varies greatly by skill, and Quality is extra-ordinarily random, while in Star Pool, skill affects both Chance and Quality.

Other things, like Traits and Edges, are expressed as modifiers. Each rank of Trait or Edge is worth a Small Modifier, with the differences coming in other ways - Traits are a limited, refreshable resource, while Edges are more dependent on situation and condition.

So let's take the StarNova sub-system and see how it works within the StarCluster framework:

A Skill Check is made by rolling d6s and adding them, with any 6 exploding - i.e. generating another die to roll. Skill controls the number of dice rolled - 1 die per skill rank, plus 1 die. The extra die being to account for unskilled attempts.

Attributes give a bonus for high attributes and penalties for low attributes. This is +1 per 2 over seven - at 9 (+1), 11 (+2), 13 (+3), and 15(+4). This bonus is added to the roll.

A Success is made - i.e. Chance of Success - when the total exceeds 9. This is *just* possible Unskilled if a 6 is rolled. A Skilled character rolls 2 dice, and may succeed without an attribute bonus or an exploding 6. A Master rolls six dice, so even a mix of ones and twos can succeed.

The Quality of Success is the total number rolled. This will usually be a fairly low number of at least 9, but with no cap. Constitution should also be fairly low. I wanted a gritty feel, so I chose 2 as the Constitution Multiplier. Weapon damage bonus can be quite high, so better weapons are definitely much deadlier. Average human Constitution will be around 60, while WDM can be up to +50. If you want a less gritty feel, the easiest thing to change is the Constitution Multiplier. A CM of 4 would bring average human Constitution up to 120 - much more survivable!

Initiative is arbitrary really. I do keep Initiative on the same level as chance of success, so that you can trade one for the other on the same scale, as an abstract tactic. I put Initiative at 1d6, highest goes first, with each point of init traded being worth +1 to the roll total.

So, there is how the interface works. The means of generation and resolution may vary, but the character doesn't.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

StarCluster 3 - progress report

StarCluster 3 is coming along fast. It helps that there is some unavoidable overlap with IHW:SC, though I tried to keep as little as possible in common. The alien and cluster generation, and the sections on Politics and the Diaspora, are substantially identical. I'm pretty sure that the rest is different enough!

I am toying with putting StarPerc in this game as well as in IHW:SC. I didn't want to, but some of the comments I have gotten have asked for a single die - and percentiles are effectively a single die - resolution mechanic as opposed to just pools and diceless. The alternative is a d20 (cinematic) version of Star20. Hmmmm - we'll see.

I've added the Cluster Religion guide into the game directly, as well as the entirety of the Created Creatures and Robots guides. The support material for SC 3E will be different than for SC 2E - more emphasis on sector-sized optional settings, created with the Cluster Generator. I'm incorporating the material that was optional in SC 2E into the game directly.

I doubt there will be any sample adventure. I'm not good at writing these for anyone but myself. There will be an adventure generator which will generate basic plot seeds, like the one in OHMAS.

One suggestion was that I put the sector generation and/or company creation sections ahead of the chargen section. That is *very* interesting! It flows logically, and I may end up doing this. For my own game of IHW:SC, I had my players generate their own home systems and planets, and they thought it was perfect, as it gave them some real grounding in where they came from - and why they left. I'm going to recommend this option more strongly in SC 3E than I did in IHW:SC.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Look, Up in the Sky! Update

James and Klaxon are going great guns on Look, Up in the Sky! - the supers game using the StarCluster system. They pulled in the Cluster Generation tool from IHW:SC and used it as a template for a City Generation tool. They've also adapted the Association rules from OHMAS to use for creating the Super Team's assets. LUitS! is very much a team oriented game. PCs are part of a team like the Avengers or Fantastic 4 rather than lone supers like Batman or Flash. They are looking at being able to run anywhere from Pulp level to ultra-powerful Supers level.

They are adapting the Paths of Power from Blood Games to supers play, using the Paths as keys to base your character around. For example "Brick" would be a Path, able to choose among Brick-type powers and skills. Skills have been greatly condensed - there are something like 20-24 skills which encompass everything - because of the preponderance of Powers. They are using the StarPool mechanic as the base for their system, though it should be easily changed to any of the available mechanics.

I'm really looking forward to how this all comes out! :D


Friday, April 16, 2010

StarCluster 3E - what's in it?

Here's an outline of SC 3E as currently anticipated:


Character Generation
- Attributes
- Backgrounds
- Education
- Professions
Character Options
- Humanoids
- Aliens
- Uplifts and Bioroids
- Robots
Guide to Skills, PSI Skills, Edges, and Traits
Playing StarCluster 3E
- StarNova - d6 roll and add dicepool
- StarKarma - diceless
- StarRisk - risk failure to gain successes, or get mild success without risk
Equipment & Weapons
- Equipment
- Vac Suits and Armor
- Weapons
Star Travel and Ship Combat
Commercial StarShip Operation
Commercial StarShip Construction
Private Vehicles
- Example Vehicles
The Diaspora
Cluster Religions
Making the Cluster
Overview of the Diasporan Community and SaVaHuTa
Appendix A: GM Advice
Appendix B: Adventure Generator
Appendix C: Optional Rules


Is there anything not there that should be there?
Is there anything there that should not be there?
Any questions?


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Outremer - Edessa

As mentioned in Outremer: A Brief Time of History, the regaining of Edessa with the Second Crusade was the key to Outremer's central idea of the Crusader States lasting into the Renaissance. In real life, Edessa fell to Nur ad Din from Aleppo and Damascus, and was thus the first of the Crusader States to be regained by the Muslims. In the Outremer Scenario, the Second Crusade sent to regain Edessa from Nur ad Din was eventually a success, though King Louis of France and Count Jocelin II of Edessa died, the crusaders rallied around Louis' young widow, Eleanor of Aquitane, and drove off the Syrians, Nur ad Din dying in the battle.

Eleanor proclaimed Edessa to be a sovereign Principality, rather than a County of Jerusalem, owing fealty to no-one. As Princess of Edessa, she wed Henry II of England, and the Principality eventually was given to her son Richard Courleon, and through him to his second son, Bohemund. The heirs of Bohemund still hold the throne of Edessa in 1560.

The court at Edessa is Angevin rather than English, and a peculiar idiosyncratic French - called Edessan - is the language of choice. It was sundered from French early on, and has a lot of antique word formations, as well as a lot of Arabic and Turkic loan words. Turkish is spoken mainly in the country, as well as Kurdish. Armenian is also spoken widely, as a good number of Armenians have settled in Edessa.

Richard began a process of inviting in Islamic splinter groups who were being persecuted in their own lands. The Alevi, a Turkish and Kurdish offshoot of Shi'a, in particular, settled heavily in Edessa under the protection of the Angevin overlords, and eventually gained great wealth and status. There are also a great number of Druze from the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains as well, with smaller numbers of other sects.

The Principality is, in essence, a strong alliance of Angevin-descended native urbanites, rural Alevi and Druze chieftans, and Armenian merchants. There has been a great amount of intermarriage despite the religious differences, and the lines between these groups are rather blurred and mostly theoretical by 1560.

The Principality is extensive, fertile, and well watered, unlike most of the Outremer States. The great Frankish horses are raised here and sold throughout the Outremer. They have been interbred with Arabian horses, with various interesting breeds being raised. Food is exported as well from the rich farms of Edessa. Cattle and sheep are raised in pasture lands, and wool is a prime export. Some small scale manufacturing is done in the cities, but is not a prime concern.

Edessa has traditionally had poor relations with Antioch, and good relations with Armenia. It's relations with Aleppo to the south and the Turks to the north vary more widely, good at times, warlike at other times. Edessa has even allied with Aleppo against Antioch a couple of times down the centuries. The natural trade routes go from Baghdad in the east to Armenia in the west, bypassing Antioch entirely.

Here's a map!


Monday, April 12, 2010

Revisiting Abstract Tactics

I posted last summer on Abstract Tactics, and I'm going to revisit that theme again. I know I'm a voice crying out in the wilderness on this, but tactics are orthogonal to use of miniatures - you can use tactics without using minis. In fact, I never use minis, yet combat in my games is full of tactical choices.

Tactics is all about maneuvering for advantage. Whether you are in air combat trying to get on the bad guy's six, or a cowboy flanking the rustlers' camp to get a better shot, or a detective using a dumpster for cover in a back alley, whenever you maneuver to get an advantage, you are using tactics.

Do you need to know the terrain? That's not necessary, though it helps. If you know there is a hill to the left of the rustlers' camp, you can use it to shoot down on them from a higher position - almost always a plus - but you don't need it. You can just say "I'd like to maneuver to get a good shot at them from above and to the side. Is that possible?" GM says yes or no. You didn't know the terrain, but you used it to your advantage.

Do you need to know where your buddy is while you are doing your thing? No, you don't. The enemy? Well, the ones you are focusing on, yes, but the others? No, you don't. In fact in real life you almost never do. In combat, people focus on what is immediately around them. If your buddy is right there with you, you know where he is. If not, you should only have a vague idea. Read some real-life stories of air combat, as I did while researching my air combat games. The pilot will almost always say something on the lines of "When I looked around after I shot him down, I was surprised to find the skies which were so full of planes were empty." After a dogfight, they have to 're-acquire' the situation because they were focusing so much on their immediate situation. This is universal throughout any kind of combat. You focus on the immediate situation and pay no attention to the large picture. With minis, the large picture is always right there, staring you in the face.

Using abstract tactics,you are concerned with your relation to the particular element of the enemy you are fighting. All you need to know is where you are in relation to the target, and what your advantage is. For cover? What do you need to know? How much of an advantage does it give you. You say something like "I dive for the best available cover". The GM says "You get a cover bonus of X." That's all. Is it a bamboo thicket? A low stone wall? A doorway? It doesn't matter. That's description, and varies according to taste and the terrain encountered. What matters is the actual advantage gained.

These things don't need to be codified into the rules, though it helps if they are. What matters is that there is no hard-coded linkage to exact distances, topography, or line-of-sight. If these things are kept relative, then you can use minis or abstract tactics as you wish.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Starship Economics

Continuing the thread from last time, I'm looking at some interesting stuff. First would be a modifier for the world based on population, status, and Tech Level. This modifier will not change very often, so it can be written down. Next is current market conditions - normal, bull, bear, recession, inflation, depression, etc. This number is is rolled randomly every 6 months or so of game time, and modified by the general economic conditions. The form this number would take would be a difference from the last time in steps, which are read on a meter. Gaining 2 steps from last time might pull the world out of the recession it has been in, or it might push a vibrant economy into overheating. The general economic picture of the world is thus clear. If you have a small economy, it is more labile, more liable to change, than a larger economy, but it also heals faster. This is background, GM-area information.

Specifics are the PC area - whether you can sell your cargo at a profit or not. Goods not only cost money to buy, they cost money to haul, and they cost money to store. Rich cargoes mean you pay more for them, but they take up less tonnage, so we can treat quality as a tonnage modifier. Basically you have to haul X times as much of a bulk cargo to make the same profit as a rich cargo. Storage and haulage cost by the ton. You might bring a cargo in and find it would be better to sell for a small loss than to have to cart them to another system. You would roll for each cargo under the column of the current economic condition.

You can also do other things - haul for a smaller guaranteed profit; take passengers; create, buy, and sell Intellectual Property; etc. Some might be safer but have less potential, others might be riskier for more potential reward. IP and such intangibles have the great benefit of costing nothing in mass, and thus having no haulage or storage costs. These have yet to take shape in my mind.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

StarCluster 3E - Commercial Space

One of the memes of SF RPGs that is very popular is the Tramp Spaceship model - the group of PCs who own/crew a spaceship which travels from world to world, picking up cargo here and selling cargo there. This is one of the memes I want to support in SC 3E, yet it seems incompatible with the economic future as envisioned in SC 2E - that all things being equal, one does not ship in from another system what one can make in-system. The reason you buy something is that it is perceived as being better and/or cheaper than the alternatives - it is either one, the other, or both.

If you are transporting something from out of the system, the product is very unlikely to be cheaper than what is manufactured in-system, so it has to be better to compete. Your friend here is the Tech Level difference. If you have a positive TL difference between the source and the highest TL in-system, you are selling goods that cannot be made in the same manner in this system, and thus may undercut the price and/or quality of goods in-system. If you have a negative TL difference between the source and the lowest TL in-system, you need too be selling something which is not made at all - handicrafts, unique objects, and the like. There are some items which can be sold regardless of tech level - artwork, gourmet foods and drink, and much Intellectual Property, for example.

So I have to work out a commercial system for SC 3E which can take all of the above into account. It also must use the Wealth system rather than credits, like IHW:SC, and unlike SC 2E. What I'm thinking is using the group rules I developed for IHW:Wild Blue and extended in OHMAS as a basis for this. The group creates a company, and the company prospers or not. The PCs earn paychecks from the company. The company owns the ship, and buys and sells merchandise. I like this! It's simple, logical, and extensible.


Monday, April 5, 2010

All Work and No Play Makes Clash a Tired Boy

I'm posting this from work, because my home computer is hors de combat. Last night I moved all of the furniture out of most of my rooms so that the carpet could be ripped out, the cracks in the flooring could be sealed, bleached to kill mold, and dried, and new carpet installed. I worked until 4:20 AM, and somehow along the line dislocated my jaw on the right side. I'm in no pain so long as I don't try to close my jaw. When I do, the pain is excruciating. I have an appointment for the afternoon to see about my jaw. This is just truly bizarre! I'm also physically exhausted, because I had to be up by 7 AM after working all night cleaning out ruined electronics and papers, hauling furniture around, and cleaning up as much flood damage as possible. You have no idea how much paper an RPG designer and illustrator can accumulate! It was unreal! I ended up throwing loads of stuff away, including a lot of old hand drawn maps and illustrations from before I went totally digital. See! I made the post game related! :D


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bits and Bobs

Updates on a few things:

Klax and James'supers game using the StarCluster 3 system now weilds the magnificent working title of "Look! Up in the sky!". Thank you so much Tim! It's pure awesome. It also sets up the cover illos beautifully. Speaking of illos, I can't do them - my range of styles never intersects with comic books in any way - so they will need someone else.

I'm working on the setting for a reboot of PIG's The Colonies. Rather than create a new one out of whole cloth, I'm expanding on the concepts in the original, which were more like seeds than actual settings. So far I'm really liking the results. It stretches me in interesting ways out of the comfortable familiarity of my own concepts. My own deeply ingrained pattern is to think of causes first before proceeding to effects, and this particular instance reverses that flow.

Outremer is going nicely! Again, once I had figured out the cause - the deviation in the Second Crusade - the effects start to fall naturally into place. It's beginning to become startlingly real in my mind - which is a scary thought. I want to start adventuring in Outremer now! :D

I've decided to fold the Robot Design Guide and the Created Creatures Guide into StarCluster 3. That will vastly increase the PC options, which is always a good idea in my book! The more I can put on the Group level, the happier I am!

On a personal note, I am constrained quite a bit by the recent flooding in New England. My place is entirely soaked, the carpet splashing and squishing as I walk through it. I'm having the carpets taken up and replaced, but while this is going on, my furniture is being jammed here and there, and I can't work normally, so please, if you send me something, or email me, or say something in a forum to me, be patient. My best access is from work currently. I am *far* better off than many, though, so I am not complaining.