Sunday, February 28, 2016

StarCluster 4 Character Sheet

I've made a character sheet for StarCluster 4. The species creation will be adapted from Merchanters And Stationers, and the chargen from Volant via Lowell Was Right!. The Damage systems are new with StarCluster 4.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Armor in StarCluster 4

Some more work done on armor. This ties into the post I made on possibly dropping damage bonus by weapon. On that point, on discussing things thoroughly with my son Klaxon, my co-designer, I have decided to include a damage bonus by weapon after all , from +0 to +5. Civilian weapons and armor will be severely restricted as to penetration and damage, so I am not too worried. Civilian weapon penetration will never top 3.

In any case, armor available to civilians also is drastically different from that available to militaries. Again, civilian suits will be limited to a penetration value of 3 at most. Particular suits can also have damage reduction as well as penetration.

Suits also have a lot of other variable - equipped sensors, number of available Comm channels, in-built programs, seal rating, interface used, mobility enhancements, skinability (cammo skins), Power and power taps available, and whether the armor improves or degrades particular attributes when worn.

Here's an armor sheet filled out. This suit is a civilian armor intended for the head of a small group - good comms, good protection, some programs, decent mobility.

This one is color coded - gray is determined by the armor material. Blue is based on the manufacturer's model design. Green are decisions based on the individual the suit is made for. In practice, the color coding is not needed.

Some options are not open to change once the suit is manufactured - this is indicated by the box being filled in. For example, the material cannot be changed without fundamentally changing the suit, thus the penetration value is fixed. Some programs are illegal for non-military personnel, so these are blocked by the manufacturer. Thus anything not blocked can be upgraded after purchase.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

No More Damage by Weapon?

I'm seriously considering dropping weapon damage entirely. Weapons determine the range, and armor penetration, but do not change the damage. A table knife can kill you just as quick as a machinegun after all. Reactions?

Monday, February 15, 2016

New Universal Damage Sub-System for StarCluster 4

One of the more complex sub-systems in pre-StarCluster 4 editions is the Damage Sub-System. This was a relic of StarCluster 1 and 2, both of whom used percentiles for everything. The Constitution, which was what damage points ablated, was a very large number, in order to accomodate a possible damage roll of up to 150 or more. In StarCluster 4, all the resolution mechanics return a number of successes. These successes can be used to determine damage in one of four ways. You can use any combination of these four methods as you choose - for example, you can use "Three Strikes" for mooks, "Ablating Attributes" for the PCs, "Attribute Pool" for the named opponents, and "Plus-Minus" for all conflict-scale resolution - all in the same encounter.

Three Strikes

With this variant, the character has three active states other than perfectly fine. They are: Hindered: The character has suffered a wound, and is at -1 Large Penalty Wounded: The character has suffered two wounds, and is at -2 Large Penalties Barely Conscious: The Character has suffered three wounds, and is at -3 Large Penalties Whenever the character is hit, the appropriate box is checked. When all boxes are checked, the character is out of action, and may be killed out of hand with a action, or may be patched up to retain life, or may be allowed to die by abandonment, depending on the situation, the other character actions, and the setting tropes.

Ablating Attributes

With this variant, the character has a number of check boxes next to their attribute equal to half their attribute, rounded up. When struck for damage, the player or GM managing this character may determine which attribute is affected, for example COOR, and check off the number of successes effected. If all the check boxes are filled, the Attribute goes down by one PERMANENTLY and all boxes are unchecked. This permanent loss can only be repaired by long hospital stays or mighty magic, and depending on the setting, may not be repairable at all. Checked boxes may be unchecked at a rate of one per hour of rest.

Attribute Pool

Add each Physical Attribute and place the total in a pool. All successes are subtracted from this pool. When there are no points left in the pool, the character is unable to the character is out of action, and may be killed out of hand with a action, or may be patched up to retain life, or may be allowed to die by abandonment, depending on the situation, the other character actions, and the setting tropes.


With Plus-Minus, each conflict has dangers (Minuses) set by the GM, which WILL HAPPEN unless bought off, and rewards (Plusses) which MAY HAPPEN if the character purchases them. Buying off a Minus or purchasing a Plus each cost a success. For example, Pola is covering the party's rear with a ranged weapon when the bad guys attack in this area. The GM states that this is a dangerous attack, and that Pola has three Minuses and three possible Plusses. the Minuses and Plusses will be described with a chart included in the game - and beautifully done by Levi Kornelsen - and Pola's player rolls four successes, buying off two Minuses and purchasing two Plusses. As a result, she is Hindered, but drives back the attack spectacularly.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sometimes You Eat Bear!

Last week, I talked about my dilemma in my Volant Vanilla game on Wednesdays over IRC. Several of you made suggestions on how I might get out of it. None of them quite worked for me. Anyway, last night I spent the first half of the night dealing with the brawl that got out of hand. That resulted in a reasonable self-defense plea, and worked out well enough. The PCs had to pay weregild for the three NPCs they killed. Everyone was OK, this was fair.

Then on the the Elven healer. I had to deal with this, and I had no idea how I was going to do that. To stall for time - and because that was the way he had dealt with the brawlers - the Duke asked the elf to present her story of what happened. She admitted seducing the young lord, but for some reason, decided to play the "scared and desperate woman who panicked" card. He didn't buy that. The body showed no hesitation in her attack, no defensive wounds, no sign of struggle, no panicky stabbity stab stab, just a single clean surgical slice across his throat from ear to ear - the elf was a healer after all.

I still had no idea what to do as he demolished her arguments and told her to stop lying. Then he mentioned that she was an Elf, or as he said, "accursed", and that there were no Elves in his land. I didn't know why he said it, but then it all clicked. My subconscious had found the key that my conscious mind had missed.

This game is very Tolkien-ish - not Tolkien-esque. The Elves and Dwarves in the setting - as in Tolkien - were respectively immortal and long lived. The Elves were immortal as a punishment from the gods for fighting against them, while the Dwarves were long lived, with a short and precipitous decline at the end, as a reward for their noble service. If killed, the Elves were reborn with their memories intact - there was the matter of growing back to physical adulthood, but what are a score of years to an immortal. They could not escape this life, even if they wanted to.

Thus, death for an Elf was not a punishment, but a temporary inconvenience. A slap on the wrist. If he was going to punish her, and the Duke needed to, for justice, death was not going to do anything. He told her he would give her her trial, which was going to declare her guilty of the assassination of her son. She could say what she wished about this in public. Then her sentence would be announced and carried out, and it would not involve death.

That worked out perfectly - and all with setting appropriate reasons. I did not need to get meta at all. She can continue on, but she will have to deal with real and severe consequences. The party will have to deal with these consequences as well. Her presence will hamper them in ways quite visible. And I worked it all out subconsciously, while I was in character talking to her.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Sometimes Bear Eats You!

My Wednesday IRC game Volant Vanilla - a terrestrial Tolkien-inspired fantasy game run using Volant rules - went strange on me. Two sessions ago, a young dickwad lord and his retinue/posse popped into a local tavern and was a complete dick to the serving wench waiting on the PC party, as in he wanted her right then and lords don't have to wait. This royally pissed off the party, of course. Then one of the characters, an elf healer, decided to intervene. She seduced the lord and brought him upstairs to a room that was presumably rented by the quarter hour.

Meanwhile, downstairs, things went sour fast. What looked like a looming bar brawl changed when somebody on the Party drew steel. Suddenly, three of the lord's people were dead and two were badly wounded, while two of the Party were badly wounded. There were arrows flying! In a bar!

Upstairs, things went worse. I knew the elf was not actually attracted to this POS, but I was expecting her to sap him and embarrass the hell out of him. Instead, she sliced his throat... while he was on top of her! Premeditated murder! Assassination! And of the son of the local Duke in the bargain! I was hoping he would be an ally, but not this time! And their mission was to bring this country into a possible alliance, or maybe at least separate them from allying with their enemy...

Last session I took the other group - each player has two characters, so we can split up as necessary - on a simultaneous jaunt, partly because they needed some things, and partly to give everyone time to cool down and rethink.

This session, they argued over how to handle things. They could run away to an enemy of the Duke in another city, they could attempt a coup d'etat and take out the Duke and place one of themselves on the throne, or they could admit to the charges - they were totally true after all, give themselves up, and throw themselves on the mercy of the court. The elf decided to give herself up, which kind of decided the others in that way too.

Now the brawl-turned deadly will probably turn out OK. These things happen in bars, and there was no apparent intent to kill. Things just got out of hand. Weregild will be levied, families of the deceased appeased, and PCs will be contrite. These things happen. Nobody intended murder.

But the elf? She certainly planned it. She openly seduced him - there were plenty of witnesses - and then sliced his throat. No other wounds. It's cut and dried - no pun intended! There is no realistic doubt she will be judged guilty, and if guilty, she'll hang. Hell, she'll be drawn and quartered. I am trapped. I hate when that happens!

Meanwhile, the party's mission is off to a terrible start!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Teruvars and PSI

Something that has been present throughout my development of the StarCluster game has been the presence in the setting of PSI. This was been vitally important in StarCluster 1E (2002), slightly less so in StarCluster 2E (2004), and has become less and less important since. In StarCluster 3E it was definitely de-emphasized, and in StarCluster 4E it will be entirely optional, with PSI skills being completely removed, replaced by using normal skills with PSI, as I did with Lowell Was Right!. My other games frequently become laboratories for new ideas which later become integrated into StarCluster.

What does this have to do with Teruvar? Game designer +Kyrinn S. Eis asked me on G+ if Teruvar had PSI. If so, they could co-habit the body of a Human or Jeshen, bestowing long healthy life in return for service as a representative. That is such a sweet idea! Still, the possibility of a being of Teruvar scale having PSI just scares me. What if they just casually decided to take over the people inside them as meat puppets? What if they got angry and decided to order a world to commit suicide? What if they just let go an angry bomb that worked like a massive EMP and wiped the minds of a world's entire population clean. How do you fight that kind of power?

Answer: You embrace it. PSI is optional in StarCluster 4, so let it be a similar choice on the group level. I can supply some ideas, but I won't make that final decision. Here are some interesting possibilities, and here are some frightening ones - you decide if you want this in your setting. StarCluster 4 is all about choices - the full game lets you choose setting, game mechanic, and virtually everything about the game. You select from the choices, and the pdf is generated with those choices. Turn and face the strange!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Politics and Teruvar

One of the realities of living within a Teruvar is that you are there on sufferance. The Teruvar itself is, in essence, the absolute monarch. You, after all, living inside the body of a much larger being. Unlike any other form of government, where the government gets its power from the people, the government of the Teruvar is the Teruvar. Essentially, you have no more vote in what the Teruvar does than does a single E. Coli organism in the gut of a Human.

Now, this does not mean that the inhabitants of a Teruvar have no power. After all, E. Coli can make a Human very conscious of their presence collectively, but the Humans must rely on the Teruvar's innate decency and willingness to allot them some say. All of the Seven have pledged not to eject their peoples without warning or without time to relocate. After all, what is Human or Jeshen scale time to a Teruvar? Still, each agreement is between the Teruvar and the people who live inside it.

There must be a high degree of trust between the two for any such agreement to be made. Generally speaking, a Teruvar controls the number of people living within, and any single person may be ejected - that is removed from the covenant which binds the people and Teruvar, and thus forced to live elsewhere. A Teruvar often will select a person, Jeshen or Human, to represent them in talks with the rest of Jeshen Space. The representative will negotiate any deal, then submit the deal to the Teruvar in question, who can say yea or nay. In any case, the seven inhabited Teruvar all have thus far elected to retain control of access, and not delegate this power to the people within.

So far, the Teruvar in general have thus far chosen to drastically limit the number of people inside them. Where a large Teruvar may be theoretically able to support tens of millions, none has so far granted more than a tiny fraction of these numbers access. Within the Teruvar, the settled scale is very small, and the people within live a more rural lifestyle than many in Jeshen Space. Children are very limited, under replacement by default, with increase coming through permitted immigration. This may be due to various reasons - a desire to keep control by the Teruvar, a need to know each settler personally, a preference for the natural ecosystem, or many other reasons.

Each Teruvar is an individual, with individual rules and cultures inside. The settlers stay on good terms with the Teruvar, for obvious reasons, and thus personal freedom is generally very good. Teruvar are not micro-managers. As long as the inhabitants stay within the guidelines set down, they can do pretty much what they want.