Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What is a System?

From - Specific jargon usage deleted:

sys·tem   /ˈsɪstəm/ [sis-tuhm] –noun

1. an assemblage or combination of things or parts forming a complex or unitary whole: a mountain system; a railroad system.

2. any assemblage or set of correlated members: a system of currency; a system of shorthand characters.

3. an ordered and comprehensive assemblage of facts, principles, doctrines, or the like in a particular field of knowledge or thought: a system of philosophy.

4. a coordinated body of methods or a scheme or plan of procedure; organizational scheme: a system of government.

5. any formulated, regular, or special method or plan of procedure: a system of marking, numbering, or measuring; a winning system at bridge.

6. due method or orderly manner of arrangement or procedure: There is no system in his work.

12. ( sometimes initial capital letter ) the prevailing structure or organization of society, business, or politics or of society in general; establishment (usually prec. by the ): to work within the system instead of trying to change it.

All of these definitions work to help comprehend what a roleplaying game system is. Many games use system as a synonym for resolution mechanic. This is wrong. A mechanic is a component of a system. in all the meanings of the word above, System refers to a coordinated assemblage of working parts. The resolution mechanic is one of those parts.

Some components of a roleplaying game system are systems themselves - most magic in games is set up as a system rather than a monolithic entity. Character generation is another typically systematized component. These do not have to be systems in themselves, but typically this is so.

Here are the typical component parts of roleplaying games:

Character Generation - creating a character ex nihilo. Point allocation, random rolling, lifepaths either random or determined, choosing descriptors, templates either simple or overlain, and variations from the norm. These techniques can be used either individually or in combinations to create characters. For example in StarCluster 3 I am using all of the above in one form or another.

Character Advancement - the growth of the generated character in ability from experience in play. gain abilities in levels, purchase single abilities with XP, gain in ability by accumulating items or components, gain in ability purely over time, undergo special training. These techniques are used to model the character's increasing mastery over his environment.

Powers/Magic/PSI - the ability of the charater to use exceptions to influence the setting. Vancian fire-and-forget, using Magic Points, burning attributes or lifepoints, ad-hoc casting, rituals, spell components, preparation, refreshing resources, spell lists, combinng spells/powers, combining power from several characters. These techniques codify exceptions - the ways the character can influence the setting which violate the physics of the setting.

Resolution Mechanics - the way the system adjudicates conflict. Task resolution, scene resolution, conflict resolution, dice pools, bell curves, straight curves, exploding dice, roll and keep, roll over, roll under, Chance of Success/Failuer, Quality of Success/Failure, unified mechanics, diversified mechanics, karma, fallout, bennies, resource allocation, playing cards. These techniques are used for resolution of conflicts - task resolution is after all conflict resolution by accumulated tasks. Who wins, who loses, and what is the price paid are answered by these techniques. These things are sometimes operated through the character, but generally they are operated by the player directly.

Initiative - the method of determining when the various characters act within the structure of the conflict. Roll high, roll low, stat determined, resource allocation, rounds both short and long, ticks, cycles, maneuvers, simulaneity. These techniques structure time in conflict to determine when actions happen, and may be rolled into the Resolution mechanic, or may be entirely separate.

Resources - the things the character owns or controls which can be used to aid in mastering the environement or aid in conflict. Equipment, tools, magic items, technological items, animals, vehicles, shelter, weapons, slaves/servants, money, favors both owed and granted. These resources are controlled by the player through the medium of the character, and exist in the game setting separately from the character.

Abilities - the qualities inherent in the character which can be used to aid in mastering the environement or aid in conflict. Skills, level abilities, masteries, attributes, stats, power reserves, point pools, refresh rates, Life points, Hit points, life levels, traits, edges, specializations. These are the direct means by which the character directly manipulates the world, and thus the ways the player manipulates the game world through the character.

By combining the various compenents together - coordinating them, they become a system. The system is the structure and coordination of these components, not just the components themselves. Every system has its own flavor, and like anything with flavor, some people are particular while others are broadly accepting, and tastes vary. That's there are a so many systems out there. :D


Saturday, June 26, 2010

StarCluster 3 - Alpha Test Session 2.5 - Angels of Mercy

We had a short session, because James had to leave early, and decided to use it to create an entirely new company. This company is a sort of interstellar Doctors Without Borders, called Angels of Mercy. It's a non-profit corporation, sustained by donations from the public and from companies.

The HQ is at a rural retreat on the beautiful world of Tranquility in the Klaxon System. The group decided on 40 standard security, with ten mercs as elites. They purchaces 6 ground cars for use as ambulances, and 6 air trucks for mobility. They have a Mobile Clinic, a Mobile Surgical Unit, 4 orderlies, 4 nurses, 2 Physician's Assistants, and the PC doctors/surgeons. They also purchased Rare and Uncommon Sociology and Medical Databases.

The PCs they created were done troupe style. Each player has a Doctor or Surgeon on one hand, and a Mercenary elite guard on the other. The Security forces are expected to double us unskilled labor if needed, but the mercs are not. Local doctors may be recruited to help, and local nurses and orderlies will almost certainly be recruited, but they will not be a permanent part of the organization.

They don't know this, but their first mission will be an epidemic on the densely populated but backward (Tech Level 6 - about equivalent to 1900-1950 on earth) world of Demarcadia. Demarcadia is an earth-sized moon of a gas giant called Calhoun. Demarcadia is populated by billions of Uplifts, with no humans. It is wet and earthlike, with extensive forests and farmland, and huge oceans.

We'll be using the StarRisk mechanic initially, later switching to StarKarma and StarNova. starRisk is a 1d10 roll over mechanic with the unique feature of rolls being entirely optional. The PC can always just choose to succeed at the lowest possible success, or gamble, and roll with the possibility of failure and of much higher success. Should be interesting!


Friday, June 25, 2010

StarCluster 3 - Alpha Test Changes

Klax is gone to Florida for his Masters program, and I miss him terribly already. We may thus end up changing the playtest parameters tomorrow. The group really enjoyed the Detectives, but they may want to do something new. The Detectives was entirely Klaxon's idea - they let him make the decision as he was going away so soon. Whatever happens we will be changing resolution systems. Klax chose the StarPerc percentile system, because it is so very well tested. He didn't want to introduce too many variables at once.

Klax and James are continuing work on Look, Up in the Sky! at long distance. There is nothing restricting such an endeavor. I do it all the time. I have never met many of my collaborators, like John Snead, Pat Brady, and others. James is working on the setting, and Klax is working on the system. He's already entirely re-written the skill system so as to de-emphasize it, and expanded Blood Games/OHMAS' Paths of Power into an entire Powers system.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

StarCluster 3: Necklace

StarCluster 3 is almost ready for beta test. I have to create more example space ships and vehicles, but I think everything else is covered. If anyone readig this blog is interested in beta-testing, please reply or email me!

I thought I would pass along one of the most interesting StarCluster 3 worlds. This one was created by Klaxon. He rolled a result of "really physically bizarre" when creating his home system worlds. He thought for a bit, then created Necklace. Necklace is partially an artifact and partially a natural phenomenon. It's a life bearing gas torus around a neutron star which orbits close in around the primary star - see Niven's Smoke Ring. The torus is a million km think, but only the center has enouh air to sustain life. Unlike the Smoke Ring, however, Necklace has been modified by either the Ancients or the Etvar.

Using artificial gravity and rocks from an asteroid belt, clump worlds were constructed in the torus, with varying amounts of artificial gravity, but all with far more gravity than their mass would indicate. They also created a sort of gravity ribbon which is intrinsicly sloped down. This ribbon is The River, which carries water endlessly around the torus, it's course meandering randomly. The total length of The River is about 1.5 times the diameter of the torus around it's centerline.

Most people live on the clumpworlds of the torus, but there are more clumpworlds than there are settlements. The volume of habitable space is enormous. The rest of the volume is in free fall. There are free-fall plants, animals, even whole jungles. Water assumes a spherical form, and most everything can fly, even a little.

Hope you enjoyed this!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Outremer - The Emirate of Aleppo

The Enirate of Aleppo is a Muslim state on the semiarid edge of the desert. It is a fragment of Saladin's empire, which once stretched unbroken from Aleppo to Aqaba. The capital and largest city is Aleppo, and the land encompasses a rough equilateral triangle with one point at Aleppo, one at the city of Harran, and one at city of Tadmor/Palmyra, with a fourth city at al-Raqqah, midway between Tadmor and Harran.

The wealth of the Emirate lies in trade, along the Euphrates from Mesopotamia to Edessa, across the desert in grest caravans through al-Raqqah and Tadmor, and between Edessa and Homs. The silk trade, though, which once passed through Aleppo on it's way to Antioch and Alexandrette now routes through Damascus and Acre. This is due to the great enmity and continual low-grade warfare between Antioch and Aleppo.

Harran is an agricultural center, well watered by the rivers Cullab and Deysan, and cotton is grown on the flat plain. Harran is only 24 miles from Edessa, and trading ties are close between the two cities. It also boasts the oldest University in the Islamic world. Al-Raqqah on the Euphratesis a bustling trade city, though the area is well irrigated and intsensively farmed. Tadmur, the ancient Palmyra, is an oasis city far to the south, which flourishes with trade caravans coming from Mesopotamia and terminating in Tripoli. Aleppo itself is built on fertile ground, and has many farming towns and villages nearby. The capital is famed throughout the Muslim world as the greatest center of Islamic music.

The north and east get the most rainfal, mostly in the winter, while Tadmor/Palmyra is an oasis in the desert. There are qanats - underground water channels - carved under the desert and accessed through deep wells, which supply the desert towns which would otherwise be too dry. The desert stretches all the way to Persia, and is only habitable in oases or where the Tigris and Euphrates pass through.

The Christians of Aleppo are mostly Assyrian and Aramean Catholics of the Eastern Syrian Rite, neither Orthodox nor Schismatic, but in full communion with Rome. There are many Jews spread throughout the area, concentrating in the four great cities. There were once a great number of Mandeans centered in Harran, but most were massacred just before the Crusades, and the remnants have scattered to villages and small towns throughout the Emirate.

The area near the border with Antioch is dangerous, with sudden raids and attacks occurring with a fair frequency in both directions. The Emir keeps up a guard of Turkoman cavalry stationed in the border towns, where they are disliked by the townspeople for their arrogant ways.



Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Edges Work

I have gotten quite a bit of email from folks who don't grasp Edges. Not mechanically, but understanding what Edges are suppsed to represent. They are continually confused with Traits, which are fundamentally different, both mechanically and conceptually. Here's another try:

Who would you trust to guide you through an arctic blizzard - an guy from Point Barrow Alaska, or a guy from Vero Beach Florida? Why? Does the Alaskan have a skill called "Blizzarding?" Is there such a skill? Should there be such a skill?

I don't think it's a matter of skill at all - it's a matter of experience with a specific condition. The Floridian is very unlikely to have a lot of experience with snow storms. The Alaskan, on the other hand, probably has been through a few. They know what it's like, what dangers to avoid, what clothing to wear, what foods to eat. This is an Edge.

Edges can be a result of Repeated or Prolonged Exposure to that Condition, or of Intensive Training in that Condition. An example of a Training Edge is a US Navy SEAL. Intensive training drives home the value of Teamwork. SEALs always operate as members of a Team. A SEAL always operates with a "swim buddy" - the basic Seal unit is two, not one. In training, prospective SEALs are given tasks they can only perform as members of a team. Individualists are flushed out of the program. The Teamwork Edge is trained into them.

So - Edges are bonuses that are due to experience working while exposed to a Condition. When a Condition matches the Edge, that person has a bonus while that Condition is affecting things. If a character has the Snowstorm Edge and it is indeed snowing, but the characters are inside a heated, lit building, then the Condition is not affecting anything, and the character's Edge is not operating.

Hopefully, this explanation works! :D


Sunday, June 20, 2010

StarCluster 3 - Second playtest!

The second playtest game, finishing up the situation established in the first game, concluded on a very high note! The players were detectives of the Valiant Detective Agency, on call to a number of worlds in the Lemur Loop for difficult cases. We had two "new" players, both long time group members who had missed the initial session. Their characters were Weller-Sai, a SaHu from an enlightened police state, and Kholi, an uplifted Snow Leopard from a cold, mountainous world.

Their case was a puzzler, a small city mayor on the world of Texas was found nailed to his office wall by iron spikes. The initial suspects were the wife, the deputy mayor, and the no-good son. Another suspect cropped up as they delved deeper into the situation - the wife's other husband who was also the next door neighbor. So far things looked boringly normal - then things went off the rails! The husband and wife had no history in any database before settling in the town 21 years before, the son had disappeared after appearing to go straight, there were millions of credits worth of stocks and bonds in the Mayor's hidden office safe, and dozens of identities began appearing as they searched out hidden caches in the couples' house - then the wife, on her way home from her mother's home in another city died in an airbus accident.

Before the end of the evening, though, they had pulled together a working theory, fingered the killers, and knew what was going on enough to stop another murder at the wife's mother's home in a climactic shootout. It was fucking brilliant. It worked exactly like a good detective story - they hit the databases, they modeled solution, they used a crime board and timeline. After it was over, the players and I were just immensely pumped! I had never run anything like this before - and it all worked so beautifully!

The players loved the new chargen, especially the new education rules. None of them were masters in firearms, and none felt the lack of it. They extensively used the company's collective resources, particularly the forensic lab, the medical examiner, and the various databases they had purchased. In spite of what initially seemed to be a low tech murder on a backwoods world, the game involved bio-engineered organisms, cloning, datamining, facial recognition, black ops, and deadly secrets. Pure, pure awesome!


Friday, June 18, 2010

StarCluster 3 - Vehicles and Starships and Rules - Oh My!

I'm plugging away at the final missing bits of the beta test version of StarCluster 3 - Vehicles and Spaceships. Spaceships are a matter of time. I have to judge what parts are appropriate for each size hull, and create some examples. I'm using the Starship Combat section from SC 2E rather than the In Harm's Way: StarCluster rules, as the older ruleset is much more focused on the PCs in single ship fights rather than epic space battles. I don't want to make this game all about the battles, and made a similar decision on the vehicle combat rules.

I'm really nerfing Civilian ships and vehicles compared to SC 2E. SC 2E covered both civilian and military gaming, and as a result, didn't distinguish between the two with regard to equipment, ships, and vehicles. This lead to civilian ships being armed equivalent to Navy ships, which is absurd. Civilians should not have access to the more powerful weapons and devices of the military. All governments depend on coersion to make their rules stick, and no government would allow the outrageously powerful weapons available to them to be used by civilians.

I'm limiting civilian armament to lasers and missiles on ships, and machine guns, lasers, unguided rockets, and autocannon on vehicles. This makes things much simpler. They are deadly enough to be useful fending off pirates and nasties, but not too powerful.

Now I have to mesh the civilian vehicles with the rules for generating military vehicles! :D


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why All The Mechanics, Clash?

I have been getting this reaction all over the place since I began using drop in resolution mechanics in my newer games. Not from people who have bought or read the games, strangely enough, but from people who have seen mention of this practice, in forum posts or reviews. I get this question from graybearded grognards and hippy indies. The trad guys don't like the idea of there being multiple choices of mechanics because it's traditional to go with one system, whatever it is. The indie guys don't like the idea because a mechanic should be crafted to fit the theme of the game, and slotting systems in like replacing lightbulbs belittles the SYSTEM MATTERS mantra.

Here's why I do it:

1: SYSTEM MATTERS. Different mechanics have different feels. I like that. I don't try to replicate the feel of the percentile mechanics when I use a dice pool, or when I use diceless. Using a different mechanic produces a totally different game. That's a GOOD THING to me. The price I pay is decoupling the mechanic from the system. Everything has to go through the interface.

2: PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT. I hear it all the time - "I hate dice pools!" or "I despise percentiles!" or "I much prefer bell curve distribution." So with so many people expressing such extreme views, multiple mechanics give me a better chance of pleasing more people.

3: IT'S FUN AND EASY. I like making up mechanics - I do it in my head while walking, or watching some brainless TV show. It's not rocket science, folks! It's really the easiest part of writing a system. It's also easy to drop in a new mechanic - it really requires just new dice and new character sheets - you can keep the characters.

4: THERE'S LITTLE OVERHEAD. Putting a new mechanic in requires 6-9 pages. That's it. It would require less without examples and with less description, but I'm OK with 6-9 pages.

5: DISTRIBUTION. Getting a new mechanic out to existing customers is as simple as putting a file on the website for download.

6: PUSHING IT DOWN. I prefer to let the group make as many choices as possible, to let them tailor the game for the way they play. This is another way to do this, and fits with my philosophy.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Outremer - Djinn, Wishes, and Balance

From reading the Thousand and One Nights, I am getting a better idea of Djinn. A Djinn - or Djinniyah as the females are called - has a measure of personal power which varies immensely. There are also five different types of Djinn - Ghawwasah, Ghuls, Djinn proper, Efrit, and Marids, in order of power. Thus there is a smooth gradient of power from the least of the Ghawwasah to the most powerful of Marids. Reading of the Thousand and One Nights shows such a range, from the simple Ghawwasah who have only the least of power to the marvellous Marid who was slaved to Alladin's Lamp.

Now in the typical RPG, Djinn - or Genies - are the source of wishes, the greatest and most powerful of magic, and tradition is that these wishes be scrutinized closely and read literally, so as to not disturb the balance of power. In Outremer, one of the Paths of Power is that of the Sorcerer, whose power is the binding and controlling of Djinn. Interpreting the Djinn in a similar vein would either give the Sorcerer power immeasurable, or - by adverse interpretation of his commands - nerf the Sorcerer to inconsequence.

Thus the solution to the problem of the Djinn is found in the Nights - the Sorcerer cannot Summon, Command, and Bind a Marid until he has mastered Summoning, Commanding, and Binding the other forms of Djinn, and must vie with the individual power of that Djinn directly - even though the Sorcerer may be able to casually command lesser Marids, the Greater Marids would still be difficult. To ensure this, each Djinn would be able to resist the Sorcerer with a number of dice based on his or her rank, and with a TN which gets easier as the individual power of the Djinn rises. So a Sorcerer would need to be very masterful indeed to trifle with the likes of a powerful Efrit or Marid!


Sunday, June 13, 2010

StarCluster 3 - First playtest!

We started off our first StarCluster 3 playtest last night. The first half the session was used up by the players first designing their company and then creating their characters. Then we started play, and continued 'til the end of the night. This will be a short playtest, because Klaxon is headed down to Orlando to work on his Masters in Game Design at the end of the month. We have one more session next week before he goes.

The players decided on a Police/Customs company, a coopertive where the players owned shares in their company. They picked assets - a big ship as HQ, with six smaller ships to use for taking them from here to there, various specialty databases on Law, Xenobiology, Sociology and the like, A Medical units with doctors, surgeons, nurses and orderlies, and other interesting stuff. The company works for contract/hire in their home system and nearby systems. They called it Valiant Detective Agency, after Eddie Valiant from Roger Rabbit.

The characters were interesting too - a Wild Cop on the Edge, a Cop Driven by Vengeance, a Corrupt Cop, and an Upright Believer in Justice. What was coolest was when they all of a sudden *clicked* into character and began working as *cops*, not your normal PCs. Pure awesome! You could practically *hear* the click! ;D


Friday, June 11, 2010

That's Enough!

I am often stunned when, reading the various fora I peruse, I hit on variations of the following: "I have decided to sell off most of my RPGs. I have realized that I never play more than a handful, and the rest are wasted. From now on I am only going to stick to a few|single game(s) that have|has served me well over the years. I can do anything I ever care to do with this|these game(s), so I am no longer interested in anything new."

This is just so completely against everything I hold dear that it is a painful blow, and even more when it is someone who I like and admire posting, as it all too often ends up being. What can be happening? I don't comprehend it - it is not within the range of my understanding. That someone would turn their back on learning new things is just too bizarre to be bourne.

I can comprehend someone who never had much interest in new things. Some people like learning new stuff and some don't, and because I am in the former group doesn't mean I think the less of the latter. The bit that I find sticking in my craw is how someone who once loved finding new ways of doing things could just stop that love. Isn't it born into one? Isn't it a part and parcel of who one is?

I suppose it is not, and probably for every person saying "I no longer am interested in new things and new ways" there is another saying "I have been doing the same old thing for years and never thought about looking at something new, and perhaps better, but now I have changed my mind and find my self greedily devouring new games to see if there is something cooler inside than I had ever thought of."

What I am scared of, really, is the possibility that someday down the road, I will say "I am no longer interested in new ways and ideas." At that point, I fear what is me will be dead.


StarCluster 3 - Building the Weapon Design System

I thought it would be a simple matter to bring the StarCluster 2 Weapon Design Guide into StarCluster 3, but it proved to be an all night affair last night. The WDG works by giving rules for changing a stock weapon into something more to your liking - not for players, but for GMs. You take a standard weapon and see note the parameters. In the WDG, each parameter is an axis of change. You can change it as much as you want, but any increases in any axes must be cancelled out by decreases in the other axes. So, for example,, if you make a weapon longer in range and more accurate, you would have to balance that change, perhaps by making it costlier and harder to conceal. OK, got how it works? I love this system - my son Klaxon and I came up with it for the Cold Space Vehicle Design Guide, then applied it to the SC2 WDG.

So I tranfer the text over. Reading over it, I noticed that the costs were given in Credits - and Credits have been replaced by a Lifestyle/Wealth system. Hmmm. I had to throw out the way this worked, and reconstruct this axis by one based on Lifestyle. That took a bit of thinking, but I got it to where it worked smoothly.

Then as I was changing the examples around to reflect this, I noticed that the Concealability rating - foe concealing a weapon in normal clothing - was given in percentiles, for SC2. Now I have put the percentile mechanics into SC3 as one of four options, but this would be a pain in the ass to work if everyone has d6s or is diceless. This took a lot more thought, because concealability was all over the place - from 90% to 0%. What I finally settled on was making the former conceal percent be a bonus to the Quality of the character's Stash skill check to conceal it, to compare to the Quality of the opposition's check, full amount for casual lookovers, and half for more detailed visual searches. A real hands on search would certainly have a hefty negative modifier.

Cool! I'm set! I begin writing these into the examples, when I notice the Accuracy parameter is given in points to add to the TN for percentile checks. Now these are usually small, from -10 to +10 generally, but too large to just add in as a modifier to a D6 game, adn diceless was going to be a real headache. I was banging my head trying to think how to approach it, when Klaxon said "Why not just use the Small Bonus/Penalty you have been using throughout? These are defined by the mechanics already." D'oh! Perfect! All I had to do was figure out what I needed to scale the steps at, and when I got that, I was set.

Then I noticed the parameter Ammo Cost. Crap! For a minute I panicked, then I remembered I had done away with Ammo costs at the system level. The characters are assumed to carry a reasonable amount of the proper ammo. I just deleted this axis entirely, and for those examples with changes on this axis, I modified something else to make up for it. Done! And this time I was right!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Outremer and the Thousand and One Nights

I'm currently reading a one volume edition of Burton's translation of the Arabian Nights. It's unexpurgated, though abridged, so it's rather frank and racy for the times. Burton also has many, many footnotes which are utterly fascinating, as his knowledge of the East is extensive and first hand. He is especially knowledgeable about the customs of the various cultures, explaining why the characters in the stories do the sometimes strange - to a modern American, at least - things they do.

One thing that is readily apparent is that Islam in the renaissance period was a very different practice than it is today. Far less puritanical - everyone drinks wine, and there is a lot of sexual adventuring - and far more tolerant of peoples' imperfection, and of religious differences, than is generally seen today.

I am, of course, reading this as research for Outremer. The game is set in these times, the late Medieval to Renaissance, and this would be the Islam current in Outremer. The magic seen in the Nights fits perfectly into the structure of magic in Outremer, and the Djinn are just as fascinating as I had hoped. The Persian Magician in the Ebony Horse is perfectly set as an Outremer Alchemist. Some magicians are Sorcerors, binding and commanding Djinn, but most are Esotericists - and for some reason mostly female - with an ecclectic mix of very specific spells.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

StarCluster 3 - Almost ready for playtest.

I have nearly finished work on the StarCluster 3 game. I need to work on the weapons section, the ships section, and on the Robots section, and it should be ready for internal playtest. Figure a week or two. One change I keep tripping over is the shift from money to lifestyle. StarCluster 2 used Credits, and StarCluster 3 will use Lifestyle - Poor, Working Class, Lower Middle Class, etc. It makes things a lot easier both for me as a designer and for the group - less bookkeeping, no need to detail every purchase, no arguments about how much was spent in downtime... It does lose a bit of flavor, and the cash resource game is gone, but I'm cool with that.

Virtually everything in the game is customizable - ships, weapons, worlds, aliens, vehicles, and game mechanics. The Cluster is as big or small as you want it to be. You can use the old SC 2 Cluster if you wish, or any other method of generation, but that is no longer canon. There *is* no canon. The only Cluster that matters is YOUR Cluster.

SC 2 will remain available, for free DL and in print. The games are so very different I see no conflict, and whenever a new edition comes around for a game, there will be those who prefer the old edition. That's cool. I also see the supplements for SC 3 being very different than for SC 2 - more setting oriented guides for busy GMs, and fewer technical and character-based guides.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Outremer - The Kingdom of Cyprus

The Kingdom of Cyprus was founded during the Second Crusade, when Roger of Sicily's ships lay in the harbor at Alexandrette after having transported Henry and Eleanor's army by sea. They were waiting word of the success or failure of the crusade from Edessa, when the remnants of Conrad of Germany's army came limping in from Armenia. Conrad had been betrayed by the Byzantines, meeting his death in the mountains of Asia Minor at the hands of the Turkish Sultanate of Roum, and his men were angry and bitter against the Byzantines.

Roger, on his way from Italy, had been harried on his way to Alexandrette by the Byzantine fleet, and was smarting himself. Conrad's nephew, Frederick Barbarossa, commanded the remnants of the Holy Roman Emperor's army, and he was exceedingly angry. A young man, and a talented general, Frederick swore vengeance for the death of his uncle against the Emperor of Byzantium. Roger, Conrad's sworn enemy, needled Frederick, asking him what he intended to do. Frederick stated he intended to take a "bite out of the flank" of Byzantium.

In a game of cards, Frederick won the use of Roger's fleet, and he told Roger to take him to Cyprus. Landing at Larnaca, Roger deposited Frederick and his central European army and awaited the result. Sweeping up to the capital at Lefkosia, Frederick in a stunning move, stormed the city and took the governor of the province captive.

Within the year, Frederick left to take the throne of Germany, and ultimately become Holy Roman Emperor, leaving the island to his second in command, Vladislav II, Duke of Bohemia. Vladislav took the title King of Cyprus and Bohemia in 1150, and began the long association between the two countries. In 1162, the Knights of St. Wenceslaus were formed as a fighting order, sending warrior monks both to the Wendish Crusades in Europe and the fighting in the Holy Land.

The Dynasty of Vladislav, starting with the third son of Vladislav, Ottokar, and the Knights of St. Wenceslaus violently suppressed the Greek Orthodox Church and language in Cyprus, eventually wiping it out. It was eventually replaced by the Roman Church and the Bohemian/Czech language. The ties between Bohemia and Cyprus remain tight, with many nobles holding lands in both kingdoms, though eventually the kingdoms were split. The Knights retain great holdings in Cyprus, and often go to the mainland to help in the wars of their traditional allies Antioch and Armenia.

Cyprus is a rich agricultural land, with excellent seaports. Its grain feeds the rich coastal cities of the Holy Land,and the island supports a large and industrious population. Modern European farming techniques have been successfully imported, and the clever Cyprian-Bohemians have brought in their traditional crafts of crystal glass-making and armament manufacture.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Resolution Systems

Some alternate resolution mechanics for the StarCluster system:

StarPerc - percentile roll under -
Star20 - 4d6-4 roll under -
StarPool - d20 dice pool, roll under, count successes -
StarNova - d6 poll roll and add, sixes explode, roll over TN -
StarKarma - diceless -

Let me know what you think!


Saturday, June 5, 2010

StarCluster 3 - Character Generation

I'm working on a different method of character generation for StarCluster 3. I'm using the same method used to create individual aliens and uplifts - giving the average species stats, and allowing random or determined variations on this. After the attributes are generated, you can choose Augmetations if you wish. These can range from stat boosts to complete arbitrary body shaping. After that, you choose 12 Background Skills or choose a template to supply those skills. At this point you can if you wish go to higher education, or you can go directly into professions.

This method does two things - it creates an unambiguous average human character, and centers the characters around that average. It also is the same method used for other character types, unifying the CharGen structure. I like this idea, though it's different than the method used in In Harm's Way: StarCluster. I even thought of changing the CharGen in IHWSC to match, but I decided to leave it as it is. This way it gives more options to the group - if they prefer the method in IHWSC, they can use that for SC3 with no problem, as the actual results are comparable.

More and more, I'm moving toward more group-level options. The more that is up to the group, the happier I am.