Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Look! Up In The Sky Goes StarCluster 4

In the last few days, Klax has basically rewritten his supers game Look! Up In The Sky! to use the StarCluster 4 engine, changing from StarCluster 3. It makes certain things simpler, but required a conceptual breakthrough to understand.

He is using the most detailed damage tracking sub-system - where each attribute gets half the attribute (rounded up) in wound boxes. Each net success taken, you check off one box, and when all the boxes of a given attribute are checked, you lower the attribute by one and erase all the checks. The conceptual thing was that the boxes are superficial damage that the body will eventually heal. After a few nights of good sleep, you should be fine again. The attribute numbers, though, are real damage what rest and relaxation do not fix. To heal these numbers, the character needs medical attention or some higher healing power.

Regeneration by itself only acts as an accelerated rest. It clears boxes faster. There would be a separate power to heal numerical Attribute damage. Toughness - which previously increased the multiplier on your Constitution, now becomes a different multiplier on boxes - Daredevil has a really high Toughness, for instance. Armor can be represented in different ways - you can have armor with a high Penetration value to prevent damage, and you can have armor with a bunch of wound boxes to absorb damage, for example.

So far all interesting stuff!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Of Template Trees and Chargen

I did a bunch of template trees last night, nine I think. More than half of the bunch. I should have no problem being ready to go with the StarCluster 4 chargen by Saturday! Following is a Template Tree from Lowell Was Right, which is very similar to the ones from SC4 - in fact I am editing the skill names of the Lowell Was Right trees for this first pass playtest for SC4, as SC4 has a different and smaller skill list - only 24 instead of 30.

The idea is you can enter any tree by the base template - Athlete, in the top center here - of you have the points required (1) and meet the prerequisite (have either Athletics or Move already). You pay the point cost and take all the skill ranks and any Edge given by the template. The Athlete template serves as the prerequisite for any template with arrows leading from it to that other template (Star Athlete, Stunt Man, or Circus Performer) so you only need to pay the point cost for those templates.

From there you can continue on, taking any other template on this tree in the same manner, or you can take the base template on some other tree, so long as you have points to spend, and meet the prerequisite. This gives the character a flavor and back history, much like a Life Path.

Monday, March 28, 2016

StarCluster 4 Alpha Playtest Starting!

Started my StarCluster 4 chargen stuff last night. Finished my first template tree - Academics! Template Trees are my new go-to chargen device, with most of the goodness of life-path, but far faster, and with the added bonus of more coherent characters - no danger of a character picking only peripheral skills, resulting in soldiers who can't shoot or lawyers who know nothing of the law.

Combined with cutting back to 24 base skills, six per attribute, with ad hoc specialties, this removes a large amount of the intimidation factor in StarCluster 3's chargen.

I need everything ready to playtest by Saturday, when we start up Star Wars-ish Ep. VII - we already had Episodes IV, V, and VI linking with, simultaneous with, and walking around in the background of those movies, like Marty McFly in Back to the Future II.

Hopefully, the Sunday IRC group will want to go back to Jeshen Space so I can get them to playtest SC4 too! :D

Two Campaigns Ending!

Two of my campaigns ended this weekend. My face to face game of Saturday was a high school supers game using the Look! Up In The Sky! rules. It ended with the big dance, wherein Velvet's date Ghost Wolf almost showed up naked and invisible in a protest, Travis T's date went despite her dad - a super called Stormcloud - refusing to let her go, and with Stormcloud showing up at the dance, a mafia hit going down at the dinner before the dance, and aliens attempting to abduct Travis and his date Rouge, cutting a hole in the roof of the dance hall and beaming them up. We plan to get back to this game later. Next on tap is StarWars-ish Episode VII, playtesting the StarCluster 4 rules, so I have to have this playable by next Saturday. :D

My Sunday IRC campaign was an Outremer game, where the PCs were relic hunters chasing down the Rod of Moses. It was found in a cave by a kid near Petra, but stolen by a Djinniya an Efrit Princess named Summarya. Summarya claimed she was forced to do it by a sorcerer, whom the PCs identified as the Vizier of the Emir of Aqaba, who commanded three personal Djinn as well as a giant mechanical roc, which he used to steal pretty prepubescent girls from all over Outremer. The battle royal included a terrible battle on flying carpets against the roc, bottling the weakest djinn, finding a way for one of them to get past the Efrit, and neutralizing the Marid so that the final battle was between the Sufi and the Vizier, the Sufi armed only with words and a token of flame from Summarya. The Emir was defeated by the Sufi's relentless religious logic, and recanted before dying. The PCs rescued over a hundred young girls, who will mostly be returned to their families - mostly because some will surely be refused as no longer virgin. We are deciding what to do next in our session next Sunday - possibly a return to StarCluster and Jeshen Space. If so, I may make them change over to StarCluster 4 rules, so I can be running two Alpha playtests! :D

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spaceships in StarCluster4

Spaceships in StarCluster 4 have at least one of three drives. Fusion drives are used in commercial ships, due to the safety of the fuel used - deuterium (heavy hydrogen). These drives are available in various sizes and configurations for different size ships. The drives are rated in G's of thrust for a particular mass, from fractional (0.33G, 0.5G) to multiple Gs (1G, 2.5G, etc.).

M/AM drives are used in warships and a few other quasi-governmental vessels. M/AM drives use anti-matter - anti-methane to be precise - and water to produce prodigous energy, but the fuel is intensely explosive, and a small ship could take out an entire city. M/AM ships are barred from atmospheric flight, and must be refueled in orbit. They are also available in various ratios of thrust to mass, but almost always are 1G or greater.

Jump drives are used to engage the wormhole network to travel between stars. The Jump drive must be used in certain places (Jump Gates) at exact vectors (Jump Vectors) to work, and instantaneously (to the crew and ship) move the ship through the wormhole to the exit point around the target star, retaining the Jump Vector, which is motionless relative to the target star.

Jump travel, while instantaneous to the crew, takes a varying amount of objective time - that is time relative to the systems connected by the wormhole net - depending on the number of successes the ship's Navigator has made for the transit. Jump Drives are rated in Factors, each Factor being 1*the current mass of the ship. A Factor of 2 would mean a ship could take another ship of the same mass through a jump safely, though Jump drives of Factors higher than 1 are extraordinarily uncommon on commercial ships other than Jump Tugs, which are used to ferry non-Jump capable spaceships between star systems.

Nomenclature note: Spaceships need only a Fusion or M/AM drive, as they only move in-system, whereas starships also need a Jump drive to move between systems.

Commercial ships are typically unarmed or lightly armed to fend off pirates or raiders. In wartime, commercial ships will sometimes be equipped with armament modules to better defend themselves, particularly if they are chartered by the Jeshen or an Allied Navy. Some smaller, more backward Human worlds will field a Navy of converted civilian ships. These are Fusion drive ships, and are slower, bulkier, and less heavily armed and armored than the equivalent purpose-built Navy ship. Others will buy refurbished retired ships from more advanced cultures which, while they may be a bit frayed around the edges and more or less antique, are at least constructed like proper fighting ships.

Monday, March 21, 2016

From the Jeshen Space Setting for StarCluster 4: Jeshen Races, Humans, Stereotyping, and Slavery

Stereotype: noun - a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

Jeshen do not have a history of slavery at all, let along slavery based on ethnicity. Any sort of coersive employment is anathema to Jeshen. They do have a history of servitude, though that is very rare now. They prefer non-sapient robots to servants currently.

Jeshen do tend to stereotype their own races, though it is understood individuals vary widely within a race. This takes the form of 'all other things being equal, this race is more like this than other races' rather than some hard and fast rule. Still, it is often used as a 'first pass filter', and some Jeshen resent it when that filter is wrong.

Humans in Jeshen Space, because of their conscious genetic diversity as a result of the selection process of their ancestors, have little to no racial stereotyping. Everyone is a mutt. On the other hand, stereotyping based on what world culture one is from is definitely taking hold.

On the other hand, many Human worlds in Jeshen Space consider sapient species as possible candidates for slavery. Commonly, sapient robots, uplifts, and designed bioroids can - and almost always are - legally be slaves on these Human worlds. Jeshen consider this disgraceful, and any slave who touched foot on Jeshen 'soil', including embassies and stations, is legally free anywhere in Jeshen Space.

Because Jeshen maintain that non-coercive servitude is not wrong - if one chooses to be of service one should be allowed to - Humans almost always implant a strong desire to be of service in their slaves. This clouds the picture for Jeshen - when the slave gets emotional fulfillment from performing a service, is it coercive or not? - so they have not as yet interfered in the Human system of slavery on Human worlds.

On most Human worlds, slaves are high priced servants belonging to the rich. They are not typically exploited for work, as most such work can be more economically done by sub-sapient robots. It makes for a tricky moral web, which is not at all simple to disentangle.

So the Jeshen maintain their strictly free worlds, and Humans maintain their legal slavery, and no one is perfectly happy. There are Jeshen organizations dedicated to freeing slaves of Humans, but when the slave finds fulfillment in service, most do not attempt to escape.

Friday, March 18, 2016

How best to handle a "Big Reveal"

OK, I have been stuck on how to approach something for my Jashen Space setting, the default setting for StarCluster 4. There is something which the player characters in the game should not know, and the GM should. How do I handle this? I hate "Big Reveals", and I don't think this is something earthshaking enough to be a "Big Reveal". It's not a gotcha thing. The people in Jeshen Space may not be affected at all by this. If you told them, it would be more of a "Oh, huh! That's interesting!" reaction rather than "OMG! EVERYTHNG WE KNOW IS WRONG!!!?!" reaction. Thing is, if they *did* know about this, they would collectively be approaching something important in a completely different way.

So, how do I handle this? There is no separate Players and GMs Guides. Do I put this off behind spoiler alerts? Do I put it in a separate product? Do I just throw in vague clues and hope the GMs can figure it all out? I hate interfering between a GM and players! GMs should be able to handle things like this in whatever way they wish.

This all goes back to the Levels thing - RPGs being created at three different levels, Designer, Group, and Individual. I like to stay on my Designer level when I am creating games, because I dislike it when a designer starts mucking about on my Group level when I am a GM. What do you think, my friends?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Updater post!

Just noticed I haven't posted once this month! I am continuing to work on the Jeshen Space setting for StarCluster 4. It's coming along. I have a lot of work cut out for me! I will also be starting work on the chargen templates. Once that is done, I will be testing the engine with a run of Star Wars-ish, set at the same time as Episode VII. This should be interesting! My Wednesday night Vanilla Volant game is moving into the end game, where things will be decided once the PCs make their move. My Sunday IRC Outremer game is just about to also move to end game, and it should progress quickly once it starts! My Saturday face to face game of Look! Up In The Sky supers High School is going well, but seems a bit aimless. The dance will be happening next week, so that may make some things move... :D