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Re: Starships
meanmean 22 Apr 2008 21:41
in discussion Games / The Idea Crucible » Starships

Yeah, exactly. My previous idea was basically to write a bunch of adventures and have them doled out by a particular contact that the party may or may not choose to interact with. I'd have these adventure-givers seeded throughout the game world, and when the party came into contact with them they'd get that adventure. I've changed this now so that many of the adventures are generic insofar as representatives from several factions will be able to give out any particular adventure. The specific actions the party is asked to take will differ depending on who gives them the mission, but the adventure itself will be essentially the same. For example, a Norian fixer might want the party to steal an item from a Brogan transport ship and return it to him, while a Brogan emissary might want the party to escort the item to its rightful destination, and a crooked Marit Authority official might want the party to steal the item and deliver it to a mining colony somewhere. But regardless of who they get the mission from, they'll travel to the same transport ship and interact with the same NPCs on that ship, so that work does not need to be duplicated. And, of course, if they take the mission from the Norian fixer, they will lose standing with the Brogan and the Marit whether or not they know that those factions also have an interest in the item (I figure even if they don't get caught and aren't wanted by the authorities for stealing the item, vague descriptions of them might get out, etc, making others wary of them and reducing their standing). Further, depending on what the party does, they will occasionally get the same mission from multiple sources, forcing them to choose. And depending on who they get the mission from, they may discover different major plot points. Using the previous example, if they get the mission from the Norian or Marit, maybe they sneak onto the transport ship and overhear part of a secret transmission from the Brogan emissary that implies the Brogan are involved in something shady. Or if they get the mission from the Brogan, maybe the captain of the transport ship willfully misleads them about what they would have otherwise overheard.

Doing it in this way has created a fair amount of additional work, but I think that the end result will be a game that feels very open ended while staying within a manageable scripted framework.

Re: Starships by meanmean, 22 Apr 2008 21:41

I guess that's the real trick - that feeling of limitless choices while sticking to a script.

Loved reading through Die, Die My Darling. Very interesting to see the work that went into it, having only experienced it from the players POV.

Re: Starships by Anonymous (65.28.63.x), 22 Apr 2008 20:18
Re: Starships
meanmean 22 Apr 2008 01:30
in discussion Games / The Idea Crucible » Starships

Die, Die My Darling was highly scripted. I have invited you to view the initial setup doc which contains the first two adventures, which took us several weeks to get through. This was all written before the game even started; after that, I worked off notes and scripted various events based on what transpired in the game. I figured there was no way I could realistically script the whole campaign beforehand, but I wanted to plan out as far in advance as seemed reasonable. This worked out really well, and I thought the game played nicely. It is essentially what I'm doing for the Arnegax game, too, but with some fairly serious tweaks.

The first tweak involves what I call freedom of association. One thing I learned in DDMD was that confining the party at the beginning of the campaign forces them to interact with certain NPC factions and, through those interactions, gives them an opportunity to gain a positive or negative reputation with the faction. Unfortunately in DDMD, I didn't take advantage of this. It was a foregone conclusion that the party would have hostile relations with the Festering Toad Crew and the Hook Street Gang, and friendly relations with Legless Jak. The only real leeway was in how the party interacted with Filthy Klaus's faction (The Watch), and there wasn't even that much there. This is something I'm addressing in Arnegax by giving the party much more freedom insofar as which factions they ally with. Much like the beginning of DDMD, the Arnegax campaign will begin with the party effectively confined to a sparsely populated agricultural planet…and with a broken ship. This is the easiest way to start the game because the party is obviously going to be motivated to find a ship or fix theirs.

There will be 2-4 ways the party can get a ship or fix theirs. Each choice will effect the party's Rep and standing with certain factions in different ways, and will open and close different jobs (well, adventures) offered by different factions. For example, the party might be tempted by an offer of a really nice ship if they do a job for one particular faction, but then they'll be faced with a dilemma: maybe they still owe money on the broken ship, for example. So they will have a choice of whether to gain favor with one faction for a new ship at the expense of losing favor with whomever they owe money to, opening up adventure seeds from the new faction and closing off seeds with the debt holder. The brilliant(?) thing here is that the jobs are largely interchangeable in a general sense, because each faction will be looking for someone to go to whatever planet and procure whatever item, etc. So every job they take will increase their standing with whomever they do the job for and decrease it with any other faction who might offer that job. In this way, many of the adventures I'm writing are going to be available to the party no matter what factions the party is allied with, the only difference will be how it effects their Rep and standing with the factions. Hopefully this will provide for a feeling of limitless choices while actually following some kind of script (even if an open ended one).

Re: Starships by meanmean, 22 Apr 2008 01:30

Yes, after I had posted that I found the U reference.

The bullet/pierce thing is well-reasoned; I think I shall adopt it.

Player choice is a complex beast. The problem with it is, you have to rely on players to cooperate by recognizing the choices for what they are and willfully following GM hints and clues. When they don't do that, it can be frustrating.

I have always struggled with the balance between player choice and my inability to prep for every possible contingency

Over the years I have found what works best for me is a decision-tree format, where there are set scenes that don't necessarily have any order of occurence…one will lead to another, and back to another, and so on. That's what I've done with this campaign. But it works much better in an enclosed environment, like Crescent City or Saltmarsh or whatever. I got this from the early-90s FASA Shadowrun adventures.

I guess what it all boils down to for me is that I'm starting to lean MORE towards scripted adventures, rather than completely free-form ones. Unless the story is very, very strong, players won't respect it. Which is funny, because they know you came up with something, yet choose not to follow it. Maybe with a good GM that doesn't happen, but I think I'm pretty good and it happens to me all the time.

Don't get me wrong, I think there is plenty of room for player initiative and creativity. That's my favorite part of the game. But I like to see it all in the same kettle, without any splashing out onto the stove…if that makes any sense.

I think the lesson I've learned is that it pays to know the characters, their desires, the kinds of things they think it would be cool to do, and then write that stuff in, giving each person compelling subplots that make them feel special. They're not going to mind "going where the story is" if they think it's a cool place to go.

That saves me the time of prepping every other possible choice (I only do 2-3 these days), and I make what I DO have time to create better.

My other problem as a GM is that I sometimes walk the walk, but don't talk the talk. You can tell when I've prepped well for a game. They're better. I can prep for a session in about 2 hours. But even that is hard to come up with, when you factor in a busy schedule and laziness.

But I have yet to put all these lessons into practice.

It's good to have someone to talk to about these things…a GM support group, if you will. :)

Re: Starships by Anonymous (65.28.63.x), 21 Apr 2008 17:55

Name Rex Rodham
Race Marit
Class Doctor (of Love)

Main Stats
Str 26
Ag 30
Int 33
Sp 32

D Stats
Power 2
Acc 3
Life 3
Fort 3
Glory 0

Skills
Doctor 33
Science 33
Charm 32
Notice 33

How does this look?

Re: Buck Goodsense by AnryhahAnryhah, 19 Apr 2008 22:53
Re: Starships
meanmean 18 Apr 2008 21:17
in discussion Games / The Idea Crucible » Starships

Yeah, I'm still not done with it…I have some ideas for tables (trade goods, ship components, weapons) that will go in there, I have quite a bit more to do. What is up so far is just the verbose descriptions. I figure, tables are easy to put together once I have everything already written out, so they will probably come last.

You're right that one U is a cargo unit, and I didn't really make that very clear. If you look at the general description under the Cargo Hold bullet point, it says, "The smallest one-man freighters may only hold one unit (U) of cargo, while huge transport ships often hold thousands or tens of thousands of units of cargo," which probably isn't enough to make it clear. I will need to do an abbreviation key somewhere including FTL, STL, U, P, C (for Credits not Crush damage), etc.

The main reason I changed Bullet to Pierce is so none of the damage types started with the same letter, so that when I do a table I can just list the damage type as B, C, P, or S. My counter-argument to a sword being both pierce and slash is that (in the context of the game) "piercing" damage is done by a relatively blunt object traveling at high velocity, while "slash" damage is done by a relatively sharp object traveling at low velocity. Damage done by stabbing someone with a knife or sword isn't done primarily because of the weapon's velocity, it is done because of the sharpness of the blade and therefore it is, for damage type purposes, the same as slashing. To illustrate this, imagine taking a sharp knife and stabbing yourself in the arm. Invariably, the sharp surface cuts into your flesh with relatively little velocity (kinetic energy) required. Conversely, if you replace the blade of said knife with a bullet and stab yourself with it…well, you might get a bruise!

As far as what pierces that isn't a bullet, well, yeah, not much if you consider any high velocity projectile a bullet; though I was thinking the S in "Slash" was both "Slash" and "Stab".

Alternative damage types could be:

Fire, Bullet, Crush, Slash
Burn, Projectile, Crush, Slash

Concerning story, it is still developing but there is definitely an overarching storyline, which without giving too much away involves the Marit Authority trying to make the case that they deserve seats on the Galactic Council. That isn't the whole metaplot, but at the beginning of the game it is the only apparent one. Such things are of course far from the day-to-day concerns of petty traders and pirates, but the day-to-day activities of petty traders and pirates will have an effect on how that storyline plays out. The party will be completely free to work for or against the interests of the Marit Authority, the Galactic Council, and the other races. So no matter what the party does, they're going to be making someone in the galaxy angry, and they will ultimately be either helping or hurting the Marit Authority in their attempts to get council representation. The question of whether getting council representation is a good thing or a bad thing, and who it might be good and bad for, well, that's another story…

In any case, I intend for there to be solid choices and direction, but I want the choices to be hard, and I want the direction to be guided by the players, not the plot. There will, hopefully, always be several compelling options to choose from that will force the party to make moral choices and weigh those choices against how it will effect their Rep and their standings with the various factions in the game. This is illustrated a bit under Rep (Characters->Stats): "You earn 'positive Rep' for doing jobs for the establishment such as the Marit Authority, Galactic Council, etc., and 'negative Rep' for doing underground jobs for Fixers, crime lords, and so on – regardless of the relative morality of the job itself. For example, if a Fixer asks you to steal a shipment of medicine heading toward a corrupt politician's estate and deliver it to a desperate, plague-embattled colony, that's negative Rep. If a corrupt politician asks you to steal a shipment of medicine heading toward a desperate, plague-embattled colony, that's positive Rep." Of course, not all positive-Rep jobs will be ethically questionable. Just depends on who you're working for. And of course outside of Rep, I will be keeping track of the party's standing with every faction in the game in secret.

It will be a balancing act between making somewhat serious moral choices and keeping the atmosphere light, fun, and action-packed. I want to make the players feel emotions about the decisions they make in the game, but I don't want to bog the pace and atmosphere down with a lot of heavy stuff. Looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

Finally, regarding shipbuilding, there's not much point in hitting that up yet. Who said you were starting the game with a ship? :D

Re: Starships by meanmean, 18 Apr 2008 21:17

One thing, when describing the cargo hold you reference "U" which I assume is "units" or something. If you described that elsewhere, I missed it.

How much cargo is a "U?"

I'd consider a very simple Trade Goods Table of some kind, with base price and +/- % of base price for the basic worlds we'd be likely to visit. It would also help in pirating, knowing where to go to sell the goods.

As for the Equipment, this all works for me. I notice you changed Bullet to Pierce. In GW, I made bullet separate from the idea of piercing because I knew some joker would try to "pierce" with a sword (and they wouldn't even be that much of a joker, because it makes sense). So I just subsumed piercing and poking and cutting into Slash. How will you handle the argument that a sword could be both pierce or slash? You could have a choice, but this seems to complicate matters, and people will just stop and ask a lot of questions about what kind of armor their opponent is wearing, blah blah blah. I guess my real comment/question here is, what pierces that ISN'T a bullet of some kind? Obviously I don't care what you call it, but if the only thing that pierces is a bullet (that is, all sword or blade damage is slash), it might confuse the issue to call it "pierce."

Just a thought, not directly related to this:

A very big danger with this campaign is that we could wander around doing nothing, or just buying and selling, going here and there (steal cargo, sell cargo, run from authorities, repeat). I think that will lead to boredom after a while. I know you like giving players a lot of freedom but don't be afraid to push a story on us, or some specific missions. Truth is, I think most players actually prefer some solid choices and direction. I personally wouldn't find it that fun to simply sack other ships and try to sell the cargo. I'd rather be involved in a deeper storyline of some kind. In Firefly, they have their short-term schemes but the main story arc always gets moved forward a little bit.

For all I know, you've already considered this, and I don't presume to give out unsolicited "GM Advice." But I thought I'd mention it, because good players should give GMs feedback and input on what they want to be doing…

Re: Starships by Johnny PharaohJohnny Pharaoh, 17 Apr 2008 20:57
Starships
Johnny PharaohJohnny Pharaoh 17 Apr 2008 20:36
in discussion Games / The Idea Crucible » Starships

I've finally read over the new information on starships. In general, it all looks good to me.

I think the starship construction system is probably not likely to be used in play that much. Nevertheless, I think players will like the opportunity to put their own ship together. We know the base price, but not how much a "new character" has to work with. In Traveler, you can end up having to make monthly payments on a ship, which might be something to do if the ship the characters designs ends up being more than they can immediately afford.

I would possibly format the "how to build" stuff in more of a table format, or, perhaps better, leave it all as is and then create a supplemental table that clearly lists the costs for each section.

It's also inevitable that we'll need to see some more information on starship weaponry.

Overall, I think this is great stuff. I would create a ship myself, but I'll let you tweak a bit more, and feel that the others would probably like to be involved.

Starships by Johnny PharaohJohnny Pharaoh, 17 Apr 2008 20:36

That all sounds perfect to me.

As to being unsure whether people like rolling on tables, it's been my experience that most of them seem to enjoy that. But then again, most of my random tables end up with the roller receiving magical items, so…

It actually started as a series of tables that went something like, you'd first roll on the Severity Table, with severities determining the number of rolls to determine which part was broken as well as the length of time required to fix-assuming you had the needed part. The problem with that was it necessitated several tables, and I wasn't sure how much fun people had rolling on tables. Also, it made me want to add another layer of complexity and split it into even more tables, broken down into problems with, say, "engines," "control systems," "navigation systems," and, "life support."

Which actually might still be a pretty good idea, and it would give the GM a lot more guidance as far as how to implement the failure in-game; but it would be quite a bit more work.

My working "maximum complexity" concept is like this (it's in this particular order basically because it seems like this is the order a crew would likely diagnose failures-as far as game mechanics go, it may make more sense to roll Severity before System, but anyway…):

You have experienced a failure!

  • The GM makes a secret Mechanics roll for the ship's engineer (defaulting to the crewmember with the highest Mechanics score).
    • If the Mechanics test succeeds…
      • Roll on the System table to see which ship system has experienced a failure.
      • Roll on the Severity table to see how severe the failure is.
      • Roll on the Component table to see which part needs to be fixed or replaced.
        • If the Severity indicates the part is fixable, make the number of successful Mechanic rolls indicated by the Severity to fix the problem.
        • If the Severity indicates the part must be replaced, make the number of successful Engineering rolls indicated by the Severity to create a replacement part; OR go find a new part.
    • If the Mechanics test fails…
      • Roll on the System table to see which system has NOT experienced a failure-but you think it has!
      • Roll on the Severity table to see how severe you think the failure is.
      • Roll on the Component table to see which part you mistakenly believe needs to be fixed or replaced.
      • After every step, make another Mechanics roll to see if they realize they're wrong, but if they fail every one, go ahead and allow them to replace the wrong component. Such is the nature of highly technical systems!
Re: Ship Compenent Table by meanmean, 02 Apr 2008 00:23

I got some neat ones, though they're not with me right now. I remember "Thrust Intake Reactor" or something like that. I think it's a great idea, especially the aspect of the problem being more difficult the more times you roll on the table.

It's tempting to split it out into even more tables, but it's fine the way it is. I think it's a great way of illustrating the byzantine complexity of spacecraft engines without getting bogged down in needless detail.

Interestingly, I once read an article on elements of space opera, and "pseudo-scientific gobbledegook" was one of the main bullet points.

It would also be fun to make a simple web page or program that gave you a random combination of these names…players could access it directly from their laptop during the game, calling it the "Diagnostic Computer" or something. For that matter, you could do the same with planets (the "NaviComputer").

Really looking forward to this.

Whoops! Yes indeed.

Re: Buck Goodsense by Johnny PharaohJohnny Pharaoh, 01 Apr 2008 04:18

Shouldn't his Power be 3?

Re: Buck Goodsense by meanmean, 31 Mar 2008 23:24

I've been following along with the Arnegax character creation rules as Ryan writes them, and have created this character (so far).

I went with Soldier because I was using a Malcolm Reynolds sort of model. I also wanted access to Pilot and both combat skills. Otherwise I probably would have gone with Pirate.

I'll add other details as they're created!

Name: Buck Goodsense
Race: Marit
Class: Soldier

Main Stats
Strength: 30
Agility: 34
Intelligence: 24
Spirit: 33

Derived Stats
Power: 2
Accuracy: 3
Life: 11
Glory: 0

Skills
Dodge (34)
Fight (30)
Pilot (34)
Shoot (34)

Buck Goodsense by Johnny PharaohJohnny Pharaoh, 31 Mar 2008 21:35

Yes, I do see what happens, said the test reply.

And here it is. I'm not sure a forum is necessary - but here it is.

This is a test thread. by Johnny PharaohJohnny Pharaoh, 23 Mar 2008 14:58
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