Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dawning Star Ten Years On

So for the past few weeks I've been working on rewriting the history for Dawning Star while noodling around various bits and pieces of Fate Core to see where I want to go with it. When I say rewriting I don't mean making huge changes; the core story is the same, I'm tweaking some things here and there to make the setting make more sense. I made contact with the velin happen earlier, changed the nature of what kept the settlers on Eos close to the planet, etc. For the most part minor stuff. The big new stuff has been additions to the setting as we're moving the timeline ahead five years and introducing a whole bucket of new stuff to the setting; stuff that takes Dawning Star in new directions that that I think are much more interesting than the previous version. I think I've actually ended up putting political allegory into my game about humans trying to survive on another planet.

So some background with those not familiar with Dawning Star, it originally was a d20 Future setting about a cold sleep evacuation ship from 23rd century Earth ending up on a distant planet, Eos, after getting separated from the rest of an evacuation fleet fleeing the destruction of Earth by a comet. The fleet was separated by an alien stargate type device built by a long dead alien civilization that threw the fleet across the galaxy, and the Dawning Star ended up near the capital planet of that dead civilization. The game was sort of a pulp mashup of Firefly and D&D; mixed high tech and frontier tech, riding horses with laser guns, and exploring ancient ruins looking for hyper-advanced tech from the previous inhabitants of the planet. The sound track would be a mixture of Johnny Cash and Afro-Celt Sound System. It was a pretty morally clear game; there were good guys, there were bad guys, all pretty black and white. As an example it turns out there was a group of human-ish aliens on Eos called the velin that were pretty much stone age tech, and instead of abusing them as usually happens with indigenous people, the colonists of Dawning Star were fair with them all the away around. I guess you could say humans learned something in the centuries between now and then, but a Western scifi game with a Native American analog that pretty much plays into a lot of Native American stereotypes...well, not exactly the best plan in hindsight. I don't know if it counts as cultural appropriation since they're purple skinned humanoids who ride lizards, but if you look at the setting their place in it is pretty clear. They're about two steps from Tonto-ing it up.

As the setting expanded through the second sourcebook, Helios Rising about the other planets in the system, this mashup nature was maintained and every planet sort of had it's own genre + science fiction mashup. If Eos was Western scifi, C'thalk was Samurai scifi and Thres was Fantasy scifi, etc. Dawning Star was very much a product of where I was at the time and the influences present in my life, which was almost ten years ago now. I had just started working freelance full time and had big plans for it being awesome. I was writing for realsies now. I was elated to have moved out of New York City after three years (did not like the city, dearly loved and miss the friends though). But now I'm working on Dawning Star and its coming out very different. Everyone's motivations are more suspect. No one's totally a good guy. Self interest is everywhere. This is explicitly spelled out by characters in in-play writings, such as admitting the evacuation fleet brought nukes in case they had to take a new home world by force and wipe out some other species. That sort of hard edged realism and pragmatism has crept into a lot of the game; the idea that people in the setting sleep better at night thinking they're the good guys, but are totally ready to do terrible things if they have to in order to survive. It's a game about numerous species on the edge of extinction, so this seems apt. The faction-camps in original Dawning Star were human settlements that were nebulously up to no good and plotted against the Dawning Star Republic, the main human settlement on Eos, because...they were bad. Pretty much. Their motivations were terrible. Okay, one is being mind controlled by an alien relic, but the rest had no real motivation. So they've become sort of self interested libertarians who are motivated by a desire to escape the government of the Dawning Star Republic and its growing and corrupt bureaucracy. They're right in that the Republic is flawed, but theire alternative may be no better.

As I said, original Dawning Star was pretty much Firefly plus D&D; this version is becoming more District 9, BSG, and Mass Effect. One of the big events in the moving of the time line is the introduction of a second human evacuation ship to Eos along with an alien ship carrying millions of refugees from dozens of alien species, the two ships having spent the last five decades together fighting their way through hostile alien space to get to Eos. Now a colony that could barely feed it's own people has millions more to worry about, some of which they can't communicate with and don't even breathe the same air. The tension meter has been cranked way up as the Republic gives the newcomers citizenship, but the newcomers will be able to completely dominate the upcoming election through sheer numbers. Political parties have formed on both sides of that question. All of the aliens are the last of their people, so there's a moral imperative to save them, but when there's just not enough food and resources to go around what do you do? Who can you trust out of all these aliens and their strange religions, philosophies, etc? Especially since many of these new human colonists are actually more loyal to the aliens they've been fighting alongside for fifty years then the humans who were just chilling on Eos during that time. That's a big question in the new Dawning Star. The Dawning Star Republic is not just some settled, high tech place the players can go back to after raiding an alien dungeon; it's a overcrowded, dirty city surrounded by ghettos and camps with every variety of inhuman creatures lurking in the corners just looking for some organic material they can actually digest or another methane capsule before their breather dies out.

Sure, there's still ancient alien threats to face, strange intelligences from other dimensions, and all the other fun stuff that was in Dawning Star, but there's a lot more weight to it now. I'm hoping I can stretch this out through all the setting, though I do think the other planets had more complicated societies to begin with. It feels like now I'm writing from a very different place than I was on original Dawning Star. I've moved several times, almost gone bankrupt, become a father, seen more of the conflicts that are part of human nature. Have vs have nots. Racism. Never ending war. Government surveillance vs privacy. All those have much more part in Dawning Star, in addition to changes to reflect how science fiction has changed in ten years (the lack of any real transhumanism elements in the original game is sort of shameful now). Hopefully it makes it better.

Not sure why I felt the need to write all this, but it's been nagging on me since I got started on the revisions. I guess I just wanted to warn people that Dawning Star is going to be different, but hopefully better.   

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Star Saga: A new game idea

Because what I need is another project.

Occasionally I get ideas for games or stories that I can't stop thinking about until I get something down on paper for.  This is one of those times, despite having Dawning Star and some other stuff being more effective uses of my time.  Not that I haven't been working on Dawning Star; I have, but posting big chunks of background text doesn't seem that interesting to me.  Could be wrong.  

Anyways, this is a game concept I initially thought of based on my Shadow of Azathoth game about space marines trying to fight back the forces of the great old ones in deep space without help, resupply, or reinforcements.  Sort of the same idea of a lone ship crew standing against great evil, only with the viking knob turned way up (because everything needs a viking knob).  I see this as a table top rpg with some pretty light mechanics though lots of gear and mechanics for building your ship and saga so far as group characters. 

The oracle had alerted the village that the ship of heroes had arrived six hours after noon.  It being winter, this meant the sky was dark enough to see the new star twinkling overhead, travelling at a speed across the night sky that made its presence obvious.  By the time the heroes has descended to the village of Ferruheim the inhabitants had collected the prescribed tribute around the oracle beacon, heedful of the ancient traditions dictating this momentous transaction.  
The heroes descended from their vessel of the stars in a smaller steel star boat the size of four wagons, landing the boat in the cradle the ancients had built for such.  Though no star boat had used the cradle in five generations, the people of Ferruheim had kept it clean and repaired according to the litanies of the ancients for just such an occasion as this.   The heroes’ star boat snapped into the cradle and immediately began replenishing itself from the supplies contained therein, the spirits that carried the arcane machine consuming much in their hunger.
The ten score inhabitants of Ferruheim had gathered in the village center between the cradle and the oracle beacon, a sea of dirt caked faces, soiled blonde hair, and rough spun wool dyed the color of the earth surrounded by a collection of thatch huts occasionally broken up by the metal structures of the ancients.  The tension in the air was palpable. The mood of the assembled host was one of respect, hope, and fear.  They had all grown up with the stories of the heroes who roam the stars protecting the colonies of man that survived when the great empires of the past age collapsed, but those stories always had cautionary lessons.  These were men and women with tragedy always nipping at their heels, and it was content to bite anyone who got within reach. Activating the oracle beacon in the first place had been a contentious choice in the village such was the fear of these beings clad in the weapons and armor of a world long dead, but another the loss of another family to the beasts of the caves had settled the matter.
The star boat opened with a hiss, spilling brilliant white light across the village center, causing the entire village to recoil and shield their eyes.  By the time they had recovered the heroes had begun exiting the ship, approaching Alfairn and the village elders who stood closest to the boat and cradle.  Alfairn and the elders, eight in number, were all gray of hair and bent of frame, their best days behind them.  Though they were the oldest in the village, none of them had actually seen a star boat before. Seven forms stepped off the ship, three men and three women that were nearly indistinguishable since they all had long hair and all wore various forms of armor.  The seventh form lagged behind, towering over the others and moving with a whir and clank that spoke not of flesh and blood.  A golem.  
The first of the heroes, the tallest aside from the golem at over two meters tall, stepped up to Alfairn and removed her plast-steel helmet, revealing a battle scarred woman in her middle years whose face was made of iron and strength.  She wore the Goliath armor of the ancients, decked out in runes and trophies from dozens of worlds, wreathing her in power arcane.  On her back she carried a massive sword that glowed softly with an unnatural light, while a fire wand rested at her hip.  She surveyed Alfrain and the elders, then the rest of the crowd.  She did not seem impressed.  
“You have called us here, we crew of the starship Pennsylvania, and asked for our help,” she shouted to the crowd. “Your beacon said you were in mortal danger, and that the strong people of Ferruheim would soon perish without our help.  It spoke of monsters and a witch to lead them. We have come to see if you are worthy of our help.”  She looked to Alfrain, cocking an eyebrow as she did.
“Mighty and honorable Captain of the Pennsylvania, we petition your help to deal with the monsters that live beneath our mines.  Our miners broke into their lair and her children have harried us since with no respite or parlay.  The one known as Grendel leads them and attacks our mead hall nightly.  They have killed dozens, leaving us nearly defenseless as children, the old, and the infirm are all that remain.  We would not call you away from your duties if we thought we could survive otherwise, but we cannot.”  Alfairn gestured at the crowd behind him and a score of older children began carrying up dozens of hemp bags, each clanking heavily as it is put down before the heroes. The pile quickly grew to stand taller than the captain or Alfrain.   
“We have collected the tribute prescribed by the ancient rites, a tonne of iron to pay for your assistance. Further,” Alfairn said with a gulp, “you may take what supplies of grain, mead, and wool you need from our stores and up to five of our number to replace those who fall in our defense.”  
The captain looked over the assemblage and the pile of iron without reaction.  She gestured towards the iron and the golem moved towards it, extruding a wand from its arm that it waved above the iron.  “Iron ore, grade B, eleven hundred and twelve point three kilograms,” it said in a metallic voice.  
The captain walked over to one of the older boys who brought the iron, grabbing his arm and inspecting him with a series of pokes and prods.  After a moment she seemed pleased.  “Mining folk, good strong arms and backs.  We could make soldiers out of you.  We’ll take your cause, Ferruheim.”  She yelled the last sentence so the entire village could hear her.  There were muted cheers throughout the crowd; while there was little jubilation there was noticeable relief in the crowd.  
“Now take me to your mead hall and we’ll see what we can do about this Grendel creature, and how much he likes plasma burns.”  Alfairn gestured towards the heart of the village, the crowd parting before him as he lead the six heroes and their mechanical servant towards the largest structure at the center of town.  

Long ago there were great empires that stretched between the stars, ruling dozens of worlds across vast reaches of space using ships of steel powered by arcane forces.  These empires ruled their worlds for centuries, but then something happened.  What no one is sure, but the legends offer many options.  Some say it was war among the empires that destroyed all their capitol worlds, while others say it was some star exploding at the heart of the galaxy.  Some even whisper it was demons summoned by ancient men desperate for power.  Whatever the truth, nearly overnight they fell into chaos and the tightly woven economies of the imperial worlds collapsed as most planets has developed specialized economies and relied on trade so heavily they could not survive alone.  A mining world with no atmosphere had no hope of growing the food it needed, while farming worlds regressed as their technology failed.  Only in the outer colonies where the imperial subjects still had to be self sufficient did much survive in the way of technology or civilization, but even then only the barest glimmers of each remained.  Humankind fell into a new dark age, reverting back to being violent, superstitious, and desperate.
The lone beacon of hope among the outer worlds were the ships of the imperial border forces.  The crews of theses ships went by many names.  Some were called Colonial Marines, other Emergency Responders, or any of a dozen other names varying from region to region and empire to empire.  All were charged with supporting the colony worlds, of which there were thousands spread across vast distance inconceivable to man, and helping them deal with threats they could not face lone.  Famine, disease, floods, war; all these were dealt with. These ships were designed to operate without resupply for decades at a time through use of nanofactories and other advanced manufacturing technologies, so when the empires fell these ships continued. They went where the distress beacons summoned them, sometimes taking weeks or months to do so due to the vagaries of space travel, and at each stop saw the colonies falling apart around them.  These few heroes in their ships of the stars dedicated themselves to do everything they could to save humankind, and now five hundred years after the empires fell they remain at their task.  
As soldiers have been lost, ships destroyed, technology broken, and resources consumed, their old allegiances, ranks, procedures, and training have been passed down in fragments to create a mythology of the ancient world that only superficially resembles the truth.  Resupply procedures have become tribute, plasma weapons magic wands, and robots golems.  These few surviving crews have fed this mythology to the surviving colony worlds over time, creating a vast lore of heroic sagas about the heroes and their star ships.  While this may seem self-aggrandizing, these heroes and their ships are one of the last threads holding the worlds of humanity together.  Only they still have the technology and skills to deal with threats from the old world.  The empires of the ancients knew that humanity was not alone among the stars, and many of these others did not hold humankind in their goodwill.  

Star Saga is a tabletop role playing game about playing the last remnants of an advanced, spacefaring civilization that has been reduced to iron age level technology save for a few remaining star ships and their crew fighting to keep humanity alive.  It is a game of larger than life heroes, lost artifacts, history becoming mythology, doomed last stands, and sacrificing everything for a greater cause.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Song of Dirt and Wind - Energy Shields

Granted, energy shields are not a big part of post-apocalyptic settings, I've been thinking a lot lately about running Fading Suns using A Song of Dirt and Wind and in that setting energy shields are a common item among the noble houses. Thus, rules for energy shields.

Energy Shields

Some advanced civilizations from before the apocalypse were able to harness the fundamental powers of the universe such they they could use gravity, magnetism, or other forces to deflect incoming attacks without need of armor.  Such devices ranged from man-portable devices meant for personal security use to massive versions meant to protect entire settlements or space stations.  Few of these have survived to current day, and the few that have are immensely prized for their usefulness.  A fully charged personal energy shield makes a soldier nigh unstoppable as long as the charge holds, while the larger shields can render a settlement invulnerable as long it does not run out of power.  Unfortunately few means to recharge such items survive in the Bonelands.  

Energy shields reduce the incoming damage of weapons by applying the class of the shield as a negative modifier to the attack’s base weapon damage before it is adjusted for the number of successes rolled.  So a Class 2 energy shield struck by a 4 damage attack will only do 2 points of health per success.  If the energy field reduces the damage to 0 that weapon cannot penetrate the energy shield at all.  Each time an energy shield is truck it consumes a number of charges equal to its Class, plus it consumes one charge each round it is active.  

The class of a shield is applied directly against falling or explosive damage, reduce the health damage of the attack by the class of the shield.  Falling damage and attacks with the Radius quality drain double the normal number of charges from an energy shield.

If an energy shield does not have enough charges to defend from an attack it provides no protection at all against that attack and then deactivates.  It will not reactive until recharged.  Recharging an energy shield requires a generator of some type and most can be recharged at a rate of one charge per minute.  

Attackers can attempt to bypass an energy shield by pulling their swing before striking the shield, fooling it into not registering the weapon as a threat.  This can only be done with a melee weapon and increases the defense of the target by +6.  If successful, each success reduces the Class of the energy shield against that attack by 1, but theses successes do not increase the damage of the attack.  So if such 3 damage attack against a class 3 shield that scores 3 successes while trying to trick the energy shield will ignore the shield since the shield’s class is reduced by 3.  

Energy shields higher than Class 3 are extremely rare, and anything higher Class 6 is practically unknown.  Energy shields cannot be worn over any armor with a Bulk value greater than 1 unless they have the Armored Field trait..

Shield Name
Armor Penalty
Brawler Shield

Duelist Shield

Soldier Shield

Armored Field, Removable Battery
Assault Shield
Armored Field
Bounce Shield
Stealth Shield
Stealth Field
Survivor’s Shield
Stunt Shield
Juggernaut Shield
Fortress Screen
Immovable, Removable Battery, Wide
Citadel Screen
Immovable, Removable Battery, Wide, Impenetrable

Energy Shield Qualities

Armored Field
Energy shields with this trait can be worn with armor that has the Energy Shield Integration quality.  

The energy shield is designed to be attached to a structure or vehicle and requires at least four people to transport, and even then it is slow going.  The device cannot be moved while active.  The shield is projected around a single building or vehicle up to 100 yards across, though multiple shields of the same type may be linked together to protect larger areas.  Anything within the shield is considered protected by the shield, but it provides no protection from attacks that originate within the shield.  The shield does not stop the entrance of vehicles or creatures moving slow enough to not cause harm if they were to hit someone; faster moving vehicles hit the shield like a brick wall.  This also means weapons that are not thrown with great speed, like grenades, can penetrate the field.  

This shield cannot be penetrated by pulling attacks, or by slow moving objects like grenades. It also does not allow anything else through, so while the shield is active the wearer must have an oxygen supply of some sort, cannot be handed supplies, his wounds cannot be treated, and the shield cannot be deactivated by anyone but the wearer.  If the wearer is rendered unconscious or dead the shield will remain on until the power runs out.  .  

Removable Battery
The energy shield has a removable battery slot that can be used with any standard battery.

The energy shield has some means to recharge itself, such as a solar charger or using the kinetic energy of the wearer.  The energy shield will regenerate one charge per day it is not used.  

This energy shield not only stops attacks but reflects objects striking it back at their attacker.  When this field completely stops an attack from damaging the wearer, the field launches the object back where it came.  With melee weapons the wielder must succeed in a Challenging (9) Fighting test to keep a hold of the weapon or it goes flying 3d6 meters away.  With ranged attacks, make a Marksmanship test with 2d6 against the character who made the attack.; if successful the attack inflicts the original damage -2.  

Stealth Field
In addition to protecting the wearer of the shield it also bends electromagnetic radiation around the wearer.  The wearer gains a +2B bonus to Stealth tests, which increases of +4B when the character remains still, and shows up only as a vague blur on infra-red, radar, or ultraviolet sensors.  The field consumes two charges per round active.  

The shield is designed to stop larger threats like explosives or falls from great heights.  The class of the shield is doubled against explosive and falling damage and it consumes the normal number of charges when dealing with such threats.  

New Weapon Qualities

Bleed Through
Weapons with this trait have the capacity to penetrate energy shields since they rely more on heat than kinetic energy.  Such weapons reduce the class of the shield by one for each 6 used in the final attack roll, so unused bonus dice do not count.  This is normally found on plasma and fire based weapons.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dawning Star Chapter 1 - History

So in reworking Dawning Star to use FATE I'm rewriting most of the text so I can fix some issues that bug me, refine the feel, etc.  I've been posting lots of mechanical text, so I figured I'd switch things up and post some flavor text.  I left in the sidebars and such because I think while they look odd without actual sidebars, they have interesting information.

 Chapter 1: History

Sixty years ago, the colonists on the Dawning Star embarked on the greatest and most desperate undertaking in the history of humankind: Traveling to the stars in the hopes of surviving the destruction of Earth. These brave explorers and refugees found a home in the end, but not the one they were looking for. Settling far from where Earth once was, the Dawning Star and her crew set about making a new life on the planet Eos and were eventually joined by a second evacuation ship, the Evergreen, and the vast alien masses it now carried. The human condition has changed drastically over the last sixty years since the destruction of Earth and a new home found, and much has happened in that time. The old world of Earth is now only a memory held in the minds of the older colonists. Its stories will soon be myths of a faraway world, passed down through the generations. But in many ways, Eos is a lot like Earth.

The same people. The same problems. The same need for heroes.

Earth Before

As told by Edward Creech, formerly Chief Engineer of the Dawning Star and currently Professor of History of Technology at Dawning Star University. Recorded by the Eotian History Project, 2053.

I figure at this point most of the folks here on Eos wouldn’t even recognize what we had on Earth Before. We had everything and didn’t even know it. Everyone had their own nanofacturing setup, everyone had implants. Hell, we had even reversed global warming after trading out fossil fuels for laser driven fusion reactors. Really it was the closest thing I think humanity has had to a golden age; sure some people had less than others, but no one was going hungry and no one was dying of preventable diseases.

I think this is what let people be so comfortable in their denial when asteroid 2186D3 was first announced in 2189. We’d licked cancer, AIDs, hunger, and were a hair’s breadth from whipping old age too; surely one asteroid was something we could handle. We had stations in orbit around Earth and the Moon, colonies on Mars, and had been sending ships to the outer planets for a few decades, though we’d taken a break after the USS Washington blew up out near Pluto. Still not sure what that was about. Anyways, then 2186D3 came hurtling out of nowhere into the system at almost a perpendicular angle. It wasn’t part of the Oort cloud, or really part of our stellar neighborhood at all. Just some sort of cosmic drifter in from some other part of the Milky Way. Most folks think that’s why we didn’t see it sooner; our collision detection systems just weren’t pointed in the right direction.

The United Nations kept the whole thing quiet for a few years while they tried to deal with it, but no luck. The tried nuking it, deflecting it, drilling it; hell they even tried some cockamany plan to render it intangible but shifting it to another dimension, or at least that’s what some people say. Nothing worked. And it was heading right at Earth, so they had some hard choices to make.

The Evacuation Alliance
Once the threat of 2186D3 was verified an alliance of nations quickly developed to pool resources in the hopes of averting disaster. This group was primarily organized through the auspices of the United Nations Space Agency (UNSA), but as the threat grew more dire NATO, the Pacific Prosperity Alliance, and other regional alliances began mounting their own efforts since the UN effort seemed to be bearing little fruit. Sadly none of these efforts were successful in destroying or diverting the dark object.
The evacuation plan was originally put forth by United Korea and was quickly backed by many European and African nations, but was opposed initially by the United States, the People's Republic of China, and the Free Russian States. Much of the early work was done using European know how and the industrial might of Brazil and Korea using the resources of various African states, but as the collision came closer all the major nations signed onto the effort. The operation of the so called Evacuation Alliance was mostly conflict free, but there were numerous debates about who to save, what resources to carry, etc. None of these escalated to violence, but several came close. Indeed after the fleet launched there was a massive outbreak of violence as old ethnic, religious, and cultural conflicts flared up for one final vengeance fueled attack.


Unfortunately while we had off world colonies on the Moon and Mars, none of them were self sufficient. They could maybe go twenty years without resupply if they really pushed, but the terraforming efforts on Mars were at least four centuries from actually making it livable. And we didn’t have anything close to an FTL drive; we had some fusion burner drives and ion drives that could get up to about .2C with a few years of acceleration, but certainly nothing that could get us to another habitable world easily. This hadn’t stopped UNSA from cataloging all the neighboring planets they could. They never found anything easily habitable in our neighborhood, but they found some things that were close enough in a pinch. Once the evacuation plan was made it wasn’t hard to find a good candidate. Tau Ceti 3 and 4 were only about twelve light years off and we were pretty sure we could make at least one of them habitable within a few decades after arriving. We just needed the ships to get there.

By the time 2186D3 was public, the ships were already in progress. The powers that be knew they couldn’t keep a project that size secret for long, so they didn’t bother. Instead they roped in everyone they could to help. Every resource on the planet was thrown at building as many cold sleep evacuation ships as possible in order to transplant millions of us to Tau Ceti 3 with the means to terraform it. With the best drives we could build it would still be a eighty year trip to Tau Ceti 3, so it was going to be done with the crew asleep for most of the journey.

Despite the riots and protests, the ships got built, and were filled with people according to need, national support for the evacuation effort, and lottery. In the end we had twenty ships and saved upwards of forty million people, but on a planet of nine billion that left a lot of unhappy people. Obviously, I was one of the lucky ones.

The fleet left Earth orbit May 1, 2196, catching a slingshot around the sun and then Jupiter on the way out of the system. The Earth was destroyed by 2186D3 on May 25th. I couldn’t watch it. Others could. It’s a day we still remember, and is a national holiday in the Dawning Star Republic.

So then we started the long acceleration towards Tau Ceti; I was one of the few people assigned to be awake for the first few years of the voyage to make sure the acceleration procedure ran according to plan. The plan didn’t even make it out of the solar system. September 2, 2197, not that long after reached .02C and crossed Pluto’s orbit, we found a thing. A big metal thing; like big as in several kilometers across and obviously manufactured. Since we were already in acceleration phase there was no stopping to check it out, and any shuttle we launched would be unable to catch back up to us, so we scanned it as we went by. Whatever it was it was extremely old, extremely advanced, and shortly after we scanned it, it became extremely active. I’ve heard that some signal from the fleet turned it on, but whatever the cause, that thing opened some manner of wormhole in front of the fleet. We were already going fast enough after a few weeks of acceleration that stopping or changing course before we hit the wormholes was impossible, so we hit them. And then everything went weird.


The trip through the wormhole was instantaneous for us; if it wasn’t for the change in the star patterns, nebulae placement, galactic masses, and so on you would have never known we moved. But oh had we moved. In the blink of an eye we had moved approximately thirty two thousand light years to the other side of the galactic core, though it took us a good long while to figure that out. And by us I mean the evacuation ship Dawning Star, the destroyer Nebraska, and a handful of other support and military ships that were bolted onto the Dawning Star. The rest of the fleet, carrying the vast majority of the surviving mass of humanity, was gone and we would not find them again for some time. The Dawning Star was carrying the majority of the terraforming equipment for the mission, so our first reaction was to try to find the rest of the fleet as they were pretty much up shit creek without us. But it became apparent pretty fast we had bigger problems. .

The wormhole hadn’t reduced our velocity any, so we were shortly going to be entering the outer orbits of an unknown stellar system and a percentage of the speed of light; without deceleration we’d be through the system in a matter of weeks and out into deep space assuming we didn't run into something. So first order of business was getting the lay of the land. We found another station like the one that sent us through the wormhole, but it was behind us and there was no stopping to take a look at it. From what we could tell though it looked non-functional. Once we started looking ahead of us, things got really interesting.

The stellar system which we now call Helios, was a wonder. Seven worlds overall, it had three habitable worlds in the Goldilocks zone; the odds against that are astronomical. Whats more, two of them seemed to be producing electromagnetic signals; radio waves it looked like. As interesting as that was, given how little time we had to stop and our large but ultimately limited fuel supplies, our destination choices were restricted. If we wanted to reach one of these habitable worlds without running into anything or shooting through the system entirely, the second world was the only option, and even then it required some top notch navigating and braking maneuvers using the system’s gas giant to actually get into orbit at a low enough speed to not shoot right back out of orbit. We had years to plan our exit vector, and days to figure out a way to stop before we shot past the system and into deep space. And at .02C u-turns are a bitch. While we had only been in our acceleration burn for a year and change when we hit the wormhole, we only had so much fuel, so everything had to count.

The Escort Fleet
The fleet that accompanied the Dawning Star through the wormhole was made up of a dozen ships that were effectively bolted to the hull of the Dawning Star so they could make use of its fusion drive; none of the escort fleet ships had engines powerful enough to reach even .01C. This makeshift arrangement was made to expand the cargo capacity of the
various evacuation ships and provide smaller vessels for scout or security duties once the fleet arrived at Tau Ceti. While no one realistically expected to run into hostile aliens at Tau Ceti, it was not out of the realm of possibility.

The ships used in the various escort fleets were mostly military or state-owned exploration vessels, though many of the exploration vessels had extensive corporate stakeholders. Only one totally privately owned ship, the Last Resort owned by Maximillian Dagos, had the life support and structural integrity necessary to make the voyage and was attached to the Dawning Star.

The largest of the vessels assigned to the Dawning Star was the destroyer Nebraska, a moderate sized capital ship from the United States Orbital Navy that would have been decommissioned a few years after the detection of 2186D3 if spacecraft had not suddenly become such a valuable commodity. It is the cornerstone of the Dawning Star Republic's space forces, which is comprised of a handful of freighters, scout ships, and shuttles
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Luckily we managed to reach Eos without crashing into anything and set ourselves up in high orbit. We spent a good many weeks scanning the planet before committing to a landing, knowing that once the Dawning Star entered the atmosphere it was never leaving again; any landing was designed to be a one way trip so we had to be sure. What we found was better than we had hoped; Eos was so close to Earth norms we thought the sensors were broken for awhile. What’s more it showed signs of habitation; not recent, but still. We could not believe our luck, so at the command of Captain Brandes Jonah, highest ranking officer left in the fleet, the Dawning Star and several escort ships made preparations to land August 30, 2198.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

FATE-ing Dawning Star: Weapons, Armor, and Other Equipment

And now on to the topic that was the first one that came to mind as possibly problematic when I started thinking about how to convert Dawning Star to FATE: equipment. Dawning Star is a game where a character's equipment should run from the character defining weapon of choice to the mass produced sidearm of little interest, and the tech level runs from stone knives all the way to weapons that throw small singularities at you.

In FATE Core your average character can only take two points of stress before starting to suffer consequences if they want to stay in the fight. The primary way given to model weapons is to have them increase the amount of stress inflicted on the target, which is done by giving them the Weapon: (amount of extra stress inflicted) trait, while armor is a flat reduction of the amount of stress inflicted on a target (written as Armor: amount of stress reduced). Personally I don't think this has enough granularity for what I want to do with Dawning Star. With the existing Weapon rules getting hit with anything past Weapon: 2 is pretty much instant consequences for most characters unless they're wearing armor, so armor becomes required to survive. Which is not desirable. Plus it lets high levels of Armor make it really hard to hurt people (though, as with all things with FATE, you can come up with some cool advantage or really stack the aspects on to power through someone in heavy armor).

Ideally I'd like the choice of weapons and armor in setting to matter, so players. have a good reason to choose an EDF-9 Auto-Pistol over a EDF-15 Assault Rifle. To make each weapon feel unique I'd need more than range and damage to make it work, so I was thinking of adding stunts to each weapon. So something like:

EDF-9 Auto-Pistol:
The standard sidearm of the Dawning Star Republic.
  • Weapon: 1
  • Range: 1 zone
  • Concealable: +2 to Stealth checks to hide the weapon from visual inspection.
  • Armor Piercing: Reduces the effectiveness of armor by 1.
  • Capacity: 15

EDF-15 Assault Rifle
The standard longarm of the Dawning Star Republic.
  • Weapon: 1
  • Range: 2 zones
  • Burst Fire: Consume 5 shots for a +2 bonus to attacks.
  • Armor Piercing: Reduces the effectiveness of armor by 1.
  • Capacity: 40

Lumin Sword
A sword made from a rare material from the ruins of Eos that is especially effective against vaasi.
  • Weapon: 1
  • Range: Melee
  • Glow: Lumin swords provide enough light to read by in the zone they are inside when drawn.
  • Vaasi Bane: When used in an successful attack against the vaasi, the attack inflicts two additional stress.

And armor:

Rought Outs
Heavy work clothes worn by murcow ranchers made from leather, heavy clothes, and kevlar scraps.
  • Armor: 1
  • All-Weather: Gain a +2 bonus to Survival checks to defend against inclement weather.

EDF Combat Armor
Heavy combat armor used by EDF assault forces.
  • Armor: 3
  • Sealed: The armor is environmentally sealed, making the wearer immune to gas, radiation, and other environmental threats.
  • Electronics Suite: The suit has built in radio, GPS, computer, and sensor suite.
  • Aspect: Heavy and Not Subtle

The goal would be to give each item two stunts or so, with some have an aspect as well. My hope is to stat out each weapon and each suit of armor so they are close to equal, and then each character can choose some number of weapons to begin, plus being able to find more in game through loot, Resources, etc. Weapons and Armor from greater tech levels, such as the aforementioned singularity weapons, would be limited to loot since they cannot be constructed given current tech levels.

Another idea was allowing each player one weapon they can assign additional stunt or aspect to so they can customize it. This would be a unique version of the weapon, and could be lost in play. Giving everyone a signature weapon seems like a fun idea, but it is aspect bloat, which I do not want to get into.

Aside from weapons and armor, most equipment in Dawning Star would be the “allows me to use my skills” sort of equipment. I was thinking of maybe allowing players a stunt or two of special gear, but again, bloat. I personally like games where having the right gear at the right moment can totally save the day, so I'd like to encourage at least some inventory work in Dawning Star. How that is encouraged without adding too much additional stuff to keep track of I do not know.