Diaspora Spacecraft Rules Addendum #1

The Diaspora Spacecraft Design section provides a list of common stunts.  Given the build point system there is plenty of room for more stunts.  One of the things I’m curious about is exploring spacecraft stunts that cost zero or less build points.

Another element that is not addressed in the core Diaspora rules is  improving existing spacecraft.  Included is a section for improving spaceships.

BEGIN Open Game Content

Additional Stunts for Diaspora Spaceships (Alpha)

  • Broadband Guidance Jamming: May make EW skill check at -1 as defense against torpedoes. 1 bp.
  • Expanded Trade Capacity: -1 V-shift, +1 Trade. 0 bp.
  • Expanded Beams Array: -1 V-shift, +1 Beams. 0 bp.
  • Expanded Torpedo Array: -1 V-shift, +1 Torpedoes. 0 bp.
  • Explosive Beams: Beam weapons may attack all ships in a given band. 2 bp.
  • Explosive Torpedoes: Torpedoes may attack all ships in a given band. 2 bp.
  • Hardened: Choose one stress track; when choosing consequences to mitigate damage against the chosen track use the following schedule: 2/3/4.  1 bp.
  • Improved Armor: +1 Frame stress track, +1 Cost, -1 to Maintenance checks. 0 bp. (Not available for Wargaming)
  • Improved Heat Sinks: +1 Heat stress track, +2 Cost, -1 to Maintenance checks. 0 bp. (Not available for Wargaming)
  • Improved Computer Systems: +1 Data stress track, +1 Cost, -1 to Maintenance checks. 0 bp. (Not available for Wargaming)
  • Penetrating Beams: Beams inflict one more point of stress on a successful attack. 1 bp.
  • Penetrating Torpedoes: Torpedoes inflict one more point of stress on a successful attack. 1 bp.
  • Penetrating EW: EW inflict one more point of data stress on a successful attack. 1 bp.
  • Prototype: Choose an aspect, it is free-taggable once per encounter by your opponents. -3 bp.

Proposed Rules for Spacecraft Upgrades (Alpha)

Upgrades must be performed at a space station.  An Assets and Engineering check are required to complete the upgrade.

Paying for the upgrade requires an Assets check against a difficulty of base 4 + build point difference + difference in Tech level between ship and system. For example, if the T2 spaceship is at a T1 space station and is going to improve it’s V-Shift from 2 to 3 then the base difficulty is 7 (base 4 + 2 for V-Shift 2 to 3 on a T2 ship + 1 for T2 – T1). 

Completing the upgrade requires an Engineering check against the same difficulty as the Assets check, with a base time of one day with (positive or negative) shifts modifying the time to repair by one per shift.

Once an upgrade is complete, replace one of the spaceship’s aspects with an appropriate aspect representing the upgrade.  If the spaceship loses the aspect related to the upgrade, the upgrade is lost as well.

END Open Game Content

Z is for Zebullon’s Guide to Frontier Space

My tattered copy of Zebulon's Guide

My tattered copy of Zebulon's Guide

This was written on April 29th and scheduled to be published.

I purchased Zebulon’s Guide to the Frontier Space in 1988, a rules accessory for the Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn game.  Zebulon’s Guide was an overhaul of the Star Frontiers system that made a dramatic turn in both task resolution and skills.  If there would’ve been RPG message boards in those days, I’m fairly certain there would’ve been a rather loud Edition War.

But I didn’t care about the rules changes, I was drawn in by the cover of a space marine with some kind of data-monocle attached to his shiny power assault armor.  Wielding both a pistol and rifle, he was ready for combat.  For the longest time, this gaming book was my most prized possession; I’m fairly certain it is the one role-playing book that I have spent the most time perusing.  I didn’t quite have it memorized, only mostly internalized.  And there were pieces missing.

If you look carefully, in the upper right corner of the cover picture you can see the words “Volume 1.” And where there is a Volume 1 there must be a Volume 2, at least so the logic goes in a gaming-information deprived teenager’s pre-Internet mind.  After all, there was so much that was left unconverted: There was no power assault armor or rules for space ships — the two most glaring omissions.

This hope of discovery was in a time before the Internet. A time before I could spent vast amounts of time both seeking and being bombarded with information concerning a game, game book, or what have you.  Discovering a game, at least for me, was a matter of serendipity.  There weren’t any television ads for the games I played (at least none that I was aware of).  There weren’t any public groups that played the games that I played; Turns out they were all around town, but confined to their own living rooms and dining room tables.  Instead, it was a matter of going to the Sci-Fi / Fantasy section of a book store and seeing what they had to offer.

For years, I kept the candle burning for Zebulon’s Guide Volume 2, until one day it dawned on me that I could use the World Wide Web (that’s what we called it in those days) to find the answer. I went to http://webcrawler.com and searched for Zebulon’s Guide to the Galaxy Volume 2; (I almost typed googled instead of searched).  It turns out, while TSR had initially planned for more volumes, they had opted to abandon the whole line.  It was a strangely sad moment; What I had held dear as a kid wasn’t as important as I had thought, at least according to others.  The market had spoken, and my first role-playing game was put out to pasture.

Y is for YINSH

YINSH by Chris Brum, it is part of the GIPF project; DVONN, which is also a member of the GIPF project.  Like all games in the GIPF project, YINSH is an abstract game.  The rules are relatively simple yet yield a constantly changing playing field.

The goal of the game is to remove three of your rings before your opponent removes three of their rings.  This is done by moving, with some constraints, one of the your rings across the board, and flipping over the tokens that you pass over.  Get five tokens of your color in a row, and you can remove one of your rings.  The process of removing your own rings reduces your available options in play, so it becomes harder to block your opponent.

I have played a handful of games of YINSH with my wife and my son and have always enjoyed my games; It has the feel of Othello, but instead of coping with less and less space, the game feels like it slowly opens up, giving more and more room to breath.

The game itself takes about 20 minutes to play, which means it is perfect as a best 2 out of 3 game.  In fact the GIPF project games each play at 20 or minutes.  The idea being that you start a game of GIPF, and each GIPF project game has a special GIPF piece that you can attempt to play.  In order to play a special piece (i.e. the YINSH piece in the GIPF game), you have to “pause” your game of GIPF, break out another game (i.e. YINSH board), and then win that game.  With victory in hand, you then return to the GIPF game, and play, in this case, the YINSH piece (or DVONN, PÜNCT, TZAAR, ZÈRTZ).

X is for Xizors

Xizors was a Verrick Mind Witch in an Arcana Evolved game run by our friend Geoff.  He was created and played by Matt.  Xizors was one of Matt’s more menacing and powerful characters, but also extremely fragile.  The Verrick was succumbing to promises of power, and was likely going to be a problem for the rest of the group.  Sometimes intra-party conflict is an excellent device, and this growing problem was an excellent case.

Matt and I have been gaming buddies for the past 24 years — even our relationship is old enough to drink. Matt has been a constant presence at my gaming table.  More than anyone I’ve gamed with, Matt pours his soul into his characters.  I truly enjoy playing alongside Matt, and enjoying the interchange. Some of Matt’s characters follow:

  • Grell (sp) – the idiotic half-orc so afraid of fire and magic that he “lead” the group by his abstinence.
  • Captain Navar – An evil cleric, parading as a bard, carefully using only spells on the bard’s spell list until he had to tip his hand to save everyone’s ass; Only to then be killed at a later point by his own man; the man that had witnessed the unholy symbol on the Captain’s palm.
  • Ghennit – a dwarven river pirate, who swore utter vengeance on the damn gnome that sunk his boat.
  • Slade – a mother, disguised as a male bounty hunter for herself, looking for her child.
  • Gryxx – An all-around wicked man who, through vile acts, had become trapped in Ravenloft.
  • Timothy Hizerman – C.S.A. (Certified Space Accountant) –  so consumed with his own rising star aspect and love struck that he purchased a military-grade starship for a rebel woman; Oh and he had the ship named after him. Also, he gladly flaunted his new found Diplomatic Immunity (major systems hack performed by another player) by taking pictures with all the downtrodden.

Which is why, when he creates characters with such problematic names, the group dog piles.  Poor Xizor’s menacing aura and mystique was dulled by one (witty) comment:

Careful not to run with Xizors.

Of course, this is nothing compared to Matt’s 2nd Edition Psionicist named Wend. Wend was a traveling performer, augmenting his performances with psionic powers.  The first encounter with him was when Wend was on stage saying “Come on, try and move me.”

Wend was planning to use his psionic immovability power, but due to bad dice rolls he was easily toppled.  And that is when it went downhill.  As we Wend our way through tunnels…As the ill Wend doth blow…All we are is dust in the Wend

Someday, probably wend I’m older, I’ll drop this joke.  But for now, wendever Matt is playing I’ll make sure he knows I haven’t forgotten.

W is for Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Earp, designed by Mike Fitzgerald and Richard Borg, is a Rummy-type game.  Each player is trying to collect the bounty on one of seven outlaws, and the reward grows the greater the outlaws infamy.

This is a game that I have been playing with Aidan, my son, for many years.  Both of us enjoy the tension of whether we will capture the outlaw; Either through playing cards to help our cause, or playing cards to hinder the other player’s cause.

The tension in the game is most evident when “Sheriff” cards are played.  When the typical Sheriff card is played, you need to immediately reveal the top card of the deck to see if the Sheriff card takes effect.  Does the gamble pay off?  And if it does, to the victory goes the gloating right!

The game plays rather quickly, typically 2 to 3 hands at 10-15 minutes per hand.  What this means is that Aidan and I can typically enjoy a game in the time it would take to watch a television episode.  With the Sheriff mechanic there is tension, and resulting trash talk.  All told, a great means of bonding with my son.

The game plays best with 3-players, so the times that Savannah has joined us, we’ve seen a more interesting cadence.  Alliances form and dissolve quickly as fortunes ebb and flow.

All told, Wyatt Earp is a great game.  Not to complicated, plenty of tension and luck, but with rewards for strategy and patience.

Diaspora: The Precious Few, Session #4

At the conclusion of our third session, Joe offered to run the fourth session. So I took him up on the offer (See my “planning” thoughts regarding the 4th session).  As I’ve also been writing up blog reports, I decided the campaign needed a name: Say hello to Diaspora: The Precious Few.

Honest Abe’s Station

The opening scene was on Honest Abe’s (Awesome Beard, Short, Alone in the Black) mining station.  He was privy to some information concerning a salvage, and was willing to part with it, for a price.  Timothy ponied up the cash, and while looking through Precious for his hidden resources he stumbled upon a stash hidden XX (a potent psychotropic drug).  Immediately accusations flew, but it was quickly diffused by Martin’s impeccable charm.  The presence of XX was a compel on Martin; which Jaron, Martin’s player, gratefully accepted.  It also means, at least in my mind, that XX is on the ship and will possibly cause future problems.

Eventually, after a few purchases, they were off for the salvage of a Vulcan freighter and a Real New Mexico salvage ship.  Given the previous session’s unfulfilled compel of not letting the innocent suffer, they were going to do a quick salvage and then head out for New Florida to inform the family of Alfred, the Precious’ original pilot, of Alfred’s death.

One, Two, Salvage

Arriving at the salvage location, their sensors indicated that both ships had very likely collided; The side of the Vulcan freighter was blown open and exposed to space and the nose of the Real New Mexico salvage ship was badly damaged.  There was a field of debris between the two ships.  Joe, the referee for the session, sketched out a map, and they began their Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA).

Almost immediately a bunch of Space Shrimp Zombie Parts began attacking us.  Fortunately Billy’s auto-fire cleaned them up rather quickly.  A shriek came over the intercomm; There were animated body parts beating up against the hull.  Mason and Billy, the only ones skilled in EVA, went and cleared the husks, instructing William to stay behind and guard the airlock.  Joe compelled William’s collector aspect, and had William leave his post.

When Billy and Mason returned to the airlock, there was a swarm of zombie parts, and William was across several zones, fighting off a handful of zombies parts; Joe opted to give William an aspect of “Slop on my visor.”  Again, Billy’s auto-fire cleared out a good chunk of them, but there were a lot more of them this go around.

Eventually, after some fist to cuffs, some spin against Timothy and Martin for their incompetent Micro-G skills, some maneuvers to “Flank Mason” and “Wrap the zombie up in the Umbilical”; the zombie parts were dispatched, and they salvaged some of the spare parts. I should mention that in order to avoid giving a zombie spin against Timothy, Matt free-tagged the final zombie’s consequence.  Nevermind the fact that Billy was going toe-to-toe with the thing, and the zombie was tied up in the umbilical.  Timothy is completely and totally not a fighter.

Bound for New Florida

With the zombies dispatched, the Precious few stripped the transponder from both ships, and replaced their transponder with the Vulcan one, With some salvage parts collected — alas no functioning slipdrive — they blasted out of the Real New Mexico system and into Exxon.  Here, using Timothy’s bureaucracy, they spent only the most minimal amount of time in Exxon, before slipping into New Florida.

They opted to land at a research station, and with Timothy’s expert brokerage, they were able to make their maintenance check.  While on the station, they picked up some grossly overpriced supplies, and performed a bit of computer sabotage.  William hacked into the system mainframe, and created a record indicating that Timothy Heizerman was a diplomat from Exxon…Timothy now had diplomatic immunity, at least until it was subject to further scrutiny.

They needed to land on Little Tallahasee and needed to keep Precious away from prying eyes.  They opted, via spending a Fate point, to rely on Precious’ Cheeky A.I. to quietly orbit and wait for them while they took the interface vehicle to the surface.  Landing on Little Tallahasee they were immediately approached by beggars and peddlers.  Alfred’s family was a bit further away, so Billy, the all-around thuggish one, was tasked with staying behind and making sure that no one touched the interface vehicle.  Billy didn’t notice that one of the peasants took a heat shield panel.  Had he noticed, it is likely the scene would’ve been a mess.

While Billy was keeping an eye on the aircraft, the others were meeting with Alfred’s family.  Like most families in New Florida’s poor district, they were a large extended family, and Alfred’s family was overseen by Grandpa Shiny Cane, an elderly man who had a most interesting and quite shiny cane; He also had a problem, his wife was missing, and Mason was again compelled to not let the innocent suffer.  The Precious Few were on the case.

With the bad news broken, and the request for help compelled, William, Martin, Mason, and Timothy returned to the aircraft.  They noticed the heat shield panel was gone, but there wasn’t much anyone could do.  Given that they were going to be dirtside for a bit, they went back to the police station to find a better place to park as well as dig up some more information.  At the parking garage, Timothy Hizerman took the opportunity to pose for pictures as a diplomat of Exxon.

They soon discovered lots of others were missing as well. They went down a few paths looking for clues; Martin turned to an old lover, who was now an obvious XX addict…Dead end.  William wasn’t able to pull any patterns from the database of missing people.  Eventually, they opted to go to a pawn shop to look for any personal effects.

Prosthetics at the Pawn Shop

Grandpa Shiny Cane’s wife didn’t have any personal effects, though, Matt opted to chip in a Fate point to say that she did have a prosthetic leg;  Given as everything in a New Florida is re-purposed, the prosthetic leg showed up in pawn shop.  Through some interrogation, and flaunting of Diplomatic Immunity, as only a nasally screaming accountant could do, they were able to get access to the pawn shops security camera.

Panning through the camera, they came to realize that the Ice Cream company was abducting people.  The problem being, the Ice Cream company was a government entity.  Looks like the ice cream was probably for the people and of the people.  Not wanting to go up against another government, they opted to return with their findings.  William, also asked to check out the cane.  Turned out it was a T4 artifact, likely some kind of ignition device.  Grandpa Shiny Cane, a refugee from New Memphis, said he found it in a swamp.

William had to have it to study, and Timothy purchased the shiny cane in exchange for a huge house on Orlando, the garden world of New Florida, for the entire family, along with a large enough nest egg to secure their position.  The wealth check resulted in 3 boxes of stress on Timothy’s assets stress track (looks like the referee is going to keep pounding that stress track).

During the examination of the artifact, Joe compelled Billy to have a transmitting chip in his head, after all he had spent time in prison in Exxon. Billy accepted, and it appeared the chip was implanted near his spine and was transmitting something.  As the session wound down, they were looking for a competent surgeon that could be hired to take care of Billy’s chip; But, with only a few minutes to go, and a stress track that both Joe and I wanted tested next session, they closed the session without having a surgeon hired.  Looks like Timothy’s going to have to help out…Or worse yet, Billy’s going to have to scrape up some cash.

Observations

  • Space combat is terrifying.  One physical consequence, and you need to patch your suit; A non-trivial action for most of the crew of the Precious.
  • Without Micro-G or low-recoil weapons, your options in low gravity become greatly reduced.
  • Using maneuvers to gain a future bonus is lots of fun; My character was out of range, and could choose to draw a weapon or move to engage.  I instead chose to make an opposed check to wrap the zombie part in my character’s tether.
  • I really liked the combat zones; As we were playing, we realized that there were too few zones.  The result was the flechette pistol looked to be amazing!
  • I really like the idea of spending a Fate point to weave something into the larger narrative; Billy, using his Former agent of New Florida, spent a Fate point to create a friendly former co-worker.
  • Compels are so much fun; I was really hoping that Billy would’ve been compelled, via loves the sound of gunfire, to open fire on the crushing mass of impoverished beggars seeking to salvage anything from the ship.
  • In the case of Martin and Billy, who have some gloriously terrifying aspects for Compels, dropping below two Fate points is certain to create a whole lot of mayhem.
  • Once there is even the smallest asset stress, it makes sense for the followup session to pound home on that stress track.  Much like, if the spaceship has a serious consequence, don’t let up, make them earn the removal of that stress condition.  By challenging the character with explicit failure/complications, success is all the sweeter.

Procedural To Dos

  • In-game, record the Compels that are offered as well as the overall response.
  • Using a larger index card, create an Aspect list that all players can see for tagging and compelling.

V is for Versions

I’ve been playing and collecting role-playing games since 1987.  And during that time I’ve been part of:

  1. Two versions of Star Frontiers
  2. Three versions of ShadowRun
  3. Three versions of Rolemaster
  4. Three, four or five versions, depending on how you count them, of Dungeons and Dragons
  5. Two versions of Monte Cook‘s Arcana Unearthed
  6. Three versions of Star Wars

Typically, I have embraced these version changes for a variety of reasons.  The first, and probably the most common reason, is that a new version holds the promise of improvements over the previous version.  After all, if the game companies continue to play their own games a better understanding of the system model should emerge.  And if they listen to their customers, an even better understanding can emerge.

Another reason for embracing these versions is that when a new version is released the previous version is commercially put out to pasture.  Any commercial support and future developments are done on the latest version of the game; No new source books, no new adventures, no “sanctioned tweaking” of the rules.

Inevitably, transitioning versions will always leave some people at the curb. Look at the number of computer users still running Windows XP, 98 or, god forbid, Windows ME.  Transition is hard, especially when, from most people’s perspective, things still work.  A new role-playing version doesn’t invalidate the previous version; The dice will still roll for the older version and the hard-copy books remain intact.

In cases of large change Edition Wars erupt; The hold-outs and the adopters bicker over the merits and failings of the editions.  This has been evident the transition from 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons to 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, where the changes between the rules set were quite noticeable.

The Dungeons and Dragons community fragmented with the introduction of the 4th Edition.  I believe the primary reason is that Wizards of the Coast did not release the game under the Open Gaming License, instead using their much more limiting 4th Edition Game System License.  The result was that all 3rd party publishers had to evaluate whether they wanted to play by these new and very limiting rules?  The market spoke, and the 3rd party support for 4th Edition is almost nil, especially when compared to the vast, and continuing, 3rd party support for 3rd Edition. As a result of the Open Gaming License, the core elements of the 3rd Edition of Dungeons and Dragons is very much alive in the successful Pathfinder RPGBased on interviews with retailers, distributors, and manufactures, it appears that Pathfinder RPG is holding it’s own against 4th Edition.

Dungeons and Dragons is the 800 pound gorilla, and in 3rd Edition, the 800 pound gorilla had a tribe of many smaller gorillas.  Now, the once 800 pound gorilla has shed a few pounds, and must share the forest with a 600 pound gorilla.

Ultimately, I believe the game changers for this whole version mess has been the Internet and the Open Gaming License.  Prior to the Internet, information concerning games was rather difficult to get (especially if you were 15 years old).  Now gamers can get lots of information about changes, as well as vent about version fatigue.  More importantly, they can establish communities around their “favorite system.” These communities, morning the loss of support for their favorite editions, can take on the mantle of support, often times in a limited manner, of the system they hold dear (Birthright.net, Alternity.net, StarFrontiersMan.com, and Fight On Magazine! just to name a few) .

Couple the Internet with the Open Gaming License, and suddenly a version of the game need not die. A handful or legion, not quite sure, of intrepid souls have, from the Standard Reference Document and Open Gaming License, managed to rebuild much of the 1st Edition and 2nd Edition (list of Retro Clones) of the Dungeons and Dragons rules-set.  They can’t call it Dungeons and Dragons, as that is the proprietary name.  However, there are Fighters, Illusionists, Dwarves, Elves, Armor Class, Hit Points, 1st level Spells, Saving Throws, etc.