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
<end sidebar>

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.   

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Song of Dirt and Wind - Ritual Magic

So I got distracted from working on the house rules.  I'd been meaning to polish up the rules for ritual magic for awhile, and figured I'd hit that part this evening so the supernatural rules were pretty much complete.  I know ritual magic doesn't fit in a lot of post apocalyptic games, but I wanted to make a tool kit set of rules that supported occult apocalypses, like awakening ancient gods, vampires taking over the world, etc.  I'll be working on more example rituals in the near future.


Rituals are mystic procedures that when preformed by one trained in the occult arts can produce amazing results.  Those without training in the occult arts can attempt these rituals, but doing so is a difficult, dangerous, and foolhardy choice.  Rarely are such decisions made twice.
Characters who wish to perform rituals should think about purchasing the Knowledge (Occult) specialization, the Occult Training benefit, and the Ritual Specialization benefit.

Rituals are found through gameplay, such as discovering ancient texts or otherworldly scrolls, and must be learnt individually.  Learning a ritual requires a Knowledge (Occult) test against the Learning Difficulty of the ritual.  Learning a ritual generally takes ten minutes, but due to the difficulty most ritualists spend more time than the minimum.  Each doubling of the time required to learn the ritual grants a +1B bonus to the Knowledge (Occult)  check to learn the ritual.  

New characters with the Occult Training benefit can select one ritual per level of Knowledge (Occult) they have, but any rituals selected must share one keyword with the keywords the character has gained through Ritual Specialization and the Casting Difficulty of the ritual cannot be higher than the Knowledge (Occult) specialty of the character x3.  Thus a character without the Ritual Specialization benefit cannot start with rituals.  
Casting a ritual requires a Knowledge (Occult) test against the difficulty of the ritual.  Generally these target numbers are very high, so characters must spend extra time to get bonuses to their check.  Like with learning rituals, each doubling of the time required to cast the ritual grants a +1B bonus to casting the ritual.  Thus rituals are something that must be prepared and planned for rather than something used on the fly.  Also most rituals require special components, intonations, movements, etc that make them impossible in some circumstances. These are detailed in the ritual description.  

Many rituals can be further increased in power with a sacrifice of lifeforce or blood, either the caster or someone elses.  For each Injury the caster inflicts on himself or someone else during the ritual, the casting check gains a +1 bonus.  For each wound the caster inflicts on himself or someone else during the ritual, the casting check gains a +1D bonus.  More benevolent rituals, particularly the Protection and Life keywords, may not gain this bonus, but that’s up to the gamemaster.  Due to this option, some villainous sorcerers may rely on human sacrifice to fuel their more difficult rituals.  
Rituals can be cast ahead of time and left unfinished save for one syllable or gesture, called hanging a ritual.  To hang a ritual the player must cast the ritual as normal, but it does not activate and is instead tied to an item that becomes a talisman holding that ritual.  The player must have that item in hand to activate the ritual, which, the player may choose to do as a Greater Action.  While a player has a spell hung the player suffers 1 point of Composure damage that will not return until the hung ritual is discharged.  A character can only have a number of rituals hung equal to his Knowledge (Occult) specialty.  A hung ritual can be harmlessly discharged with no effect at any time as a free action as long as the talisman is in hand.  If the talisman is destroyed the ritual is immediately lost.  .

Rituals could be reskinned to use Technology (Repair) instead of Knowledge (Occult) to represent building mad scientist gadgets, though a different set of rituals is likely a good idea along with adding a time requirement to the rituals.  In this case Ritual Specialization would become tech specializations and keywords on rituals would become fields like Robotics, Energy, or Computers.  
Example Rituals
Circle of Binding
Keywords: Binding, Area
Learning Difficulty: 15
Casting Difficulty: 21
Physical Requirements:A circle must be drawn on the ground(or if it is within 10 feet of the floor, the ceiling).  This circle must be unbroken and must be all of one unbroken material, such as a rope, chain, or pile of salt.  For every 100 supply days of goods used in procuring higher quality supplies grants the caster a +1B bonus to casting this ritual.  

The caster creates a circle up to 10 feet across and at the close of the ritual names a specific creature or type of creature.  Any creature fitting that description that enters the circle cannot leave the circle or target anything outside the circle without passing a Challenging (18) Will (Dedication) check.  Failing this check inflicts an injury in the trapped creature.  

By increasing the difficulty of casting the spell by +5 the caster can increase the size of the circle by 10 feet or the difficulty of crossing the circle by +3.  The spell lasts until something breaks the line drawn during the casting of the ritual.  Often such lines are drawn in sand or dust, meaning a good wind, rain, or someone outside the circle swiping with their foot can break the ritual.  More permanent rituals use metal circles.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Song of Ice and Fire RPG - House Rule Changes

So the other day I posted the following on google+:

Watching the Beowulf CGI movie from a few years and thinking about Dawning Star has made me want to run a Fading Suns game about a crew of Voldrok helping a previously lost world deal with an ancient AI and the monsters it creates using the genetic engineering facility under its control.  Lots of big heroics, doomed last stands, all that sorts of stuff but with plasma pistols, force shields, broadswords, and spaceships with draconic, gargoyles carved onto their prow.  But like I have enough time for that. 

Which Samhaine said was a tease. Fair enough. It has sort of highjacked my brain for the past few days, except I've been thinking about running it using a modified version of the Song of Ice and Fire RPG to make use of the house system. Samhaine has already done some work in that direction, plus a lot of the work in A Song of Dirt and Wind can be re-purposed towards that end. In the process of doing so it put me to thinking about the house system.

In addition to putting in some tweaks during my previous SoI&FRPG campaign, I've already done some work on the house system for A Song of Dirt and Wind. Plus I've dome some freelance work for Green Ronin, writing the wildling chapter of the sourcebook on the Wall and beyond, including modifications to the house system to better represent the nomadic tribes of wildlings. And on top of that, I've done some work for the setting-less Chronicle system books that involve the house system. So, in short, I've put a lot of time into thinking about the system, including what I would change about it.

Make no mistake, I love the house system. It's a great way to tell a story authentic to the Song of Ice and Fire novels, plus I love metamechanics that bring the party together by sharing a cause, resources, goals, etc. The SoI&FRPG campaign I ran a few years back was probably one of the best I have ever run. The system has been fun to write and create within, but all those positives aside, there are some aspects I would change (and will change within my own hacks of the system) given the chance.

And those are, in no particular order:

1. Comparison Tables: This isn't really a mechanics thing, but the tables displayed in the beginning of Chapter 6 regarding what various ranges of the house stats mean is way off. The point totals listed for the North, for the whole Seven Kingdoms, etc, are way too small if each land holding is only a few miles across. Those need to be revised or just taken out.

2. House History: The house history table is completely borked. You roll 3d6 on the table and see what historical event the 3-18 result indicates happened to your house, with the results naturally skewing towards the middle due to the probabilities of using three dice. This would be fine, but the table is in alphabetical order, not order of severity or rarity. So you've got some really awesome and terrible results right in the middle of the table among the most common numbers rolled, as opposed at the top or bottom where they should be to not screw houses so often. It's really easy to get a slew of punishing tragedies due to this table. Easy fix overall, but important. Definitely going to fix for A Song of Dirt and Wind.

3. House Stats: Some of the house stats are just counters that inflict penalties or bonuses on house fortune rolls dependent on their value (Law and Population), while others are pools that are used to buy upgrades for the house (Defense an Power), while others can be spent to gain specific advantages but also function as upgrade pools (Wealth and Influence). These need to be unified in some fashion, especially since Law and Population do pretty much the exact same thing. I think turning each into an upgrade pool in some fashion is probably the best bet, with those upgrades then providing some of the bonuses the stats previously supplied. For example, population holdings could add to house fortune rolls in much the same way that high population does. This would take some finagling to hit the exact benefit/drawback curves the stats currently have (like Population being bad if you get too much of it), but I think it would help overall. This would mean holdings like the following:
  • Population: Groups of people for specific social classes, cultures, etc.
  • Law: Judges, jails, and general reputation for the rule of law.
  • Influence: Heirs, alliances, trade agreements, wards (in the prisoner exchange sense).
If each could also have some sort of spend mechanic like Wealth and Influence that would be cool, but I can't see how that would work for Law and Defense (spending Population gets you militias, spending unallocated Power gets you unit upgrades). May spending Law could get you a short term benefit representing really cracking down, but costing you in the long run?

4. House Fortune Rolls: The current house fortune table is far, far too easy to succeed at. With a Status of 4 and Stewardship of 2-3 (I think) my group never suffered a bad result. It needs more terrible things further up the table, and I think having a more detailed table would not be a bad thing. Sure, just saying “lose X many points from the stats of your house” does let you tailor your results to your campaign, but it sure doesn't inspire any creativity. Some random tables to generate bandit raids, plagues, etc, could really help some spontaneous stories develop. Also I would probably change the check from every month to every season, and tie any random events and modifiers for the roll to the seasons. So Winter may have a penalty (that building a granary could help offset) while Spring has a bonus (assuming you are on a planet with normal seasons).

5. Units: The military units purchased through a house's Power stat are not created equal. In our campaign we learned pretty early archers were death machines, while scouts were all but useless. This is true of most of the units; they are either totally awesome or useless. This is because each unit has three skills that it is supposed to be good with, but no rules are given fore these skills aside from the combat ones. What can a unit do with Stealth? Or Survival? As mentioned above, there is no reason to get scouts as they get the Stealth, Survival, and Endurance skills, two of which are never mentioned in the rules of what you can do with units. Also you can combine units to get access to more skills, but this is almost never a good idea due to the point costs involved and the discipline adjustments. I would fix units in three ways:
  • Skill Usage: Give each skill a list of unit specific actions, like being able to use Stealth to sneak into a battlefield and place yourself before the battle begins, or using Survival to help feed units in the wild.
  • Special Abilities: Each unit gets some sort of unique power, like Scouts get a bonus attacking from Stealth or Raiders can generate Wealth if they destroy an enemy unit. Make sure each unit has a reason for a house to field it.
  • Special Commander Abilities: Currently the rules allow players to attach themselves to units to aid or command them, but the effects are pretty much always the same and only really effective of you are a combat or warleader character. If you are a healer or some other support profession you can only make your people good at killing. I would add a set of actions for most skills, allowing people to support units in ways that make sense for their characters. For example in the campaign I ran, the Septa (who was phenomenal at healing) could help units recover health, while the group maester (who was an expert in occult matters) could ward units from supernatural threats. The players actually did some commander juggling during field battles as situations and enemies changed, always trying to get the right character to the unit that needed them most.
I figure all these changes will find themselves incorporated into A Song of Dirt and Wind somehow, but it will take some time for it all. Now if I only had time to run a game to get these idea more testing; sadly my most frequent companions, my kids, are only four months old so I don't think they will be much help.   

Saturday, May 11, 2013

FATE-ing Dawning Star: Species Part 3

So I've done some futher work on the races, mainly working on what I want them to have in terms of stunts and skills. Below is the format I'm looking out now with some examples drawn from the original Dawning Star material.

I'm not crazy about the formatting, the descriptive text is too short, and the stunts are going to have to be tweaked a lot over time, but I figure it's a good first stab.


The velin are natives of Eos who are a tribal society that dwells within the ancient ruins that dot the planet. While barely into the iron age, they know a great deal about the materials and devices left behind by the previous inhabitants of Eos. Thus far they have had good relations with humans on the hole, at least somewhat due to the fact that the velin look extremely human like aside from their purple-gray, leathery skin, pronounced facial features, and stark white hair.

The velin are a very spiritual people who place a great deal of importance on the spirit world and the will of the Ancients of Eos, but most importantly they week to keep the evil of the vaasi at bay. While this was met with derision for many years since no one had actually seen a vaasi the whole time Eos has been colonized, lately it seems the velin were right.
  • Starting Stunts:
    • Velin Weapon Training: Gain a +2 bonus to Shooting or Fighting attacks against vaasi when using traditional velin weapons
    • Vaasi Sense: You can sense vaasi with an Notice check against a difficulty equal to how many zones away the vaasi is. The velin need not be able to see, hear, smell, or otherwise detect the vaasi using normal senses.
  • Starting Skills:
    • Average Physique, Will, Fighting, Shooting, Survival.
    • Poor Computers and Physical Science.
  • Example High Concepts:
    • Blade Champion of the Blackfish Tribe
    • Avenger Against the Vaasi Scourge
    • Grass Window Seeker (Grass Widows are velin who go through ritual exposure to Red Truth after losing a loved one and being unable to deal with the grief, so instead choose insanity)
    • Crafter of the Sacred Metals of the Ancients
    • Greatest Tracker of the Northern Resource Zone
    • Keeper of the Visions of the Ancients
  • Example Aspects:
    • The Ancients Had the Powers of Gods, and So Will I
    • The Ancients Are Dead, the Humans Are Our Future
    • More Comfortable with Animals than People
    • Never Sleeps in the Same Place Twice
    • We Are all the Children of the Ancients
    • The Only Good Vaasi is a Ritually Disemboweled Vaasi
    • Even if Others Ignore the Danger I Cannot
  • Example Species Stunts
    • Ruinsmith: Gain a +2 bonus to Crafts when using materials salvaged from the ancient ruins of Eos.
    • Longrider: Gain a +2 bonus to Survival when riding animals native to Eos.
    • Child of Eos: Gain a +2 bonus to Survival to overcome obstacles related to finding food or surviving the elements on Eos.
    • Expert in the Tools of the Ancients: You can use Crafts instead of Physical Sciences when trying to understand or use the materials used by the Ancients.
    • Dreams of the Past: You may spend a Fate point to operate any device of the Ancients for one round at Fair (+2).

Saurian Flyers

One of the four subspecies of the saurians of C'thalk, flyers are the smallest of the saurians. Possessed of a light frame and wings between their arms and legs, they are able to fly short distances if not carrying much. The senses and dexterity developed learning to fly serves them well as pilots in both the atmospheric and space based forces of the Saurian Empire. Indeed they make up the majority of the pilots across all saurian vehicles.

While flyers are renowned for their piloting skills, they are equally renowned for their criminal habits. Flyers are seen as greedy by other saurians, which combined with the mocking flyers receive for their size has driven them to create social organizations to protect them from the other saurians. These groups, called Fang Gangs, are much like the organized crime of old Earth; while officially they help saurians deal with problems, threats, etc, they are also the heart of crime in the Saurian Empire.
  • Stunts:
    • Flying: You can use Athletics to move by flying, avoiding most obstacles on the ground but requiring open space; saurian flyers cannot fly in cramped quarters like hallways. Flyers cannot carry out actions requiring their hands while flying and cannot carry more than a few small items.
    • Natural Aviators: +2 to Drive when carrying out defense actions in an atmosphere.
  • Starting Skills:
    • Average Drive, Burglary, Craft, Athletics, and Notice.
    • Poor Rapport and Empathy.
  • Example High Concepts
    • Bone Guard Fighter Pilot
    • Fang Ganger Gunman on the Run
    • Messenger in the Imperial Bureaucracy
    • Explorer Looking for New Skies
    • Underworld Gunsmith
    • Helmsman of the Blood Guard
  • Example Aspects:
    • If They Won't Give Me Respect, I'll Take Everything
    • The Gang Comes First
    • Of Course I Can Fly That
    • Small in Stature, Tall in Cunning
    • I Will Not be Grounded
  • Species Stunts:
    • Floating is like Flying: Gain a +2 bonus to Athletics when defending in zero gravity.
    • Aerial Maneuvers: Gain a +2 to Drive when creating advantages while operating a air or space vehicle.
    • Try This: Gain a +2 bonus to Athletics creating advantages when engaged in a chase.
    • Tools of the Trade: Use Crafts for Burglary when bypassing locks or security systems.

Saurian Brachin

The least common of the saurian subspecies, the brachin are the long-necked keepers of the Imperial Bureaucracy, and more specifically the servants of the Empire. Most brachin are involved in serving the Empire, most having done so for generations beyond count, but a small number set their own path and find their way to running businesses, criminal groups, etc.

Brachin by natures are talkers and organizers. They are not much for leadership in combat or inspiring others, but they are excellent at keeping the government working behind the scenes while the tyran saurians gets all the accolades and honor. To the brachin, honor is one by effectively providing for your family and friends, not by killing people.

  • Starting Stunts:
    • Saurian Socialite: Gain a +2 bonus to Rapport checks to create advantages involving saurians.
    • Friends in High Places: Gain a +2 bonus to Contacts checks to defend when you can access the Imperial bureaucracy.
  • Starting Skills:
    • Average Knowledge, Rapport, and Contacts.
  • Example High Concepts:
    • Advisor to the Emperor
    • Exiled to be a Itinerant Tax Collector
    • Bureaucrat Trying to Change the System
    • Village Administrator Who Gets His Hands Dirty
    • Crime Lord of Seeking Respect
  • Example Aspects:
    • Family Before all Others
    • Honor is a Matter of Perspective
    • Bureaucracy is it's Own Reward
    • I Know a Man who Knows a Man
  • Species Stunts:
    • Can I Borrow That?: By calling in your friends to help you, you can use Contacts in place of Resources when looking to purchase a good or create an advantage.
    • Trust the Government: You can use Rapport in place of Deceive when interacting with saurians on government business.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

FATE-ing Dawning Star: Psionics

Despite the fact that Dawning Star is designed as a relatively firm sci-fi setting (it's not hard sci-fi but there isn't readily available artificial gravity, FTL travel, anti-gravity repulsors, etc), we wanted to have psionics as part of the setting since... well, psionics are cool. However, we didn't just want to make some weak explanation that humans mutate or some such and develop psionics; we wanted it to be something more unsual, involved, and ultimately terrible. The concept did not really coalesce until I was working on Helios Rising where I wanted to do a haunted space station location, but we don't have ghosts. So I came up with the idea of information ghosts, corporeal begins who had been reduced to the information that described their body and mind, and that were able to survive on an alternate level of reality where only information exists. This level of reality ended up being called Red Truth because I use color naming as a reoccurring structure in Dawning Star and because the ultimate truths of the universe could be seen in Red Truth, if your mind was strong enough to find them.

Red Truth grew from there. In it's final form, Red Truth is a different layer of reality that is normally separate and invisible to ours. Certain beings can learn to perceive Red Truth, and thereby gain extranormal amounts of information about their surroundings. For example, if someone looks at a table in Red Truth they can easily discern it's exact height, weight, chemical makeup, etc. With some more effort and skill they can sift through the information to see where it was made, or even who touched it last. The problem is the mind of sentient beings were not designed to perceive Red Truth, and it tends to overload the minds of those who touch it. Thus Red Truth can inflict serious mental stress and trauma and those who regularly expose themselves to it. Also if Red Truth is accessed too much in a given area, the barrier between our level of reality and Red Truth can weaken, allowing Red Truth to infect our reality, casting a dull red glow over the area with no obvious source. It is a virulent infection, almost as if Red Truth wants to come into our level of reality. Reports of creatures living in Red Truth in the information dead space between stars, consuming all information they can, are surely just rumors.

Also as a side note, there are truths (i.e. levels of reality) beyond Red Truth if various legends from more perceptive species are to be believed. According to yaom legend, Yellow Truth has a king that rules it that hungers for madness, while Black Truth is where the spirits of the dead wait for this universe to end and the next one to start. Of course these are just legends.

So what does all this mean for FATE Dawning Star?

Red Truth in Dawning Star is represented by a skill that allows characters to gain normally impossible information from their surroundings. Stunts allow additional uses of the skill, such as reading minds, blocking information from others (effectively blinding them), wiping out information in solid forms (books, computer drives, etc) with a touch, store vast amounts of information, and so on all the way up to actively editing information in Red Truth so to move objects, ignite fires, or bend the minds of others to your will.

Unlike other skills, most characters cannot use Red Truth at all; it is not ranked at Fair as a default, but instead is not ranked at all. The vast, overwhelming majority of sentient life has no ability to perceive Red Truth. Red Truth is an incredibly rare talent that only a handful of species can access naturally. These rare species start with Average Red Truth as one of their racial skills, and can advance it and learn the related stunts as normal. If the players of such characters plan on making Red Truth a major skill for the character, should have some tie to Red Truth in their high concept or trouble aspects.

Other species can learn to perceive Red Truth, but only after massive mental trauma due to exposure to Red Truth, such as a character suffering a severe consequence from interactions with Red Truth. This would most often be caused by staying too long in an area infected with Red Truth, or being subject to attack via Red Truth by someone knowledgeable in its intricacies. For such an event to have happened in the characters past before the game, they must have an aspect that refers to it, which allows them to assign skill points to Red Truth as normal. Otherwise they must go through such exposure in game and afterward change one of their aspects to note this event. The Red Truth exposure must be a sufficiently harrowing experience that it marks the character for the rest of his or her life for it to be severe enough to allow that character to perceive Red Truth afterward.

My thought currently is to allow most basic uses of Red Truth, such as just gathering physical information about something, to occur with a normal challenge. More complex uses of Red Truth, such as reading minds or psychometry would require the expenditure of a fate point. More hostile uses of Red Truth, such as editing information of a heavy rock to change its inertia and thus throw it at someone, would require a contest and an expenditure of a fate point. At any point a character could open themselves more deeply to Red Truth instead of spending a fate point, but doing so inflicts a consequence on the character. Some stunts may allow extra Red Truth only consequences or such.

Locations can have Red Truth aspects if it has begun bleeding into the area, creating a consequence that can be used to add to most uses of the Red Truth skill. If characters spend fate points over some threshold in a given area they may cause an infection, or make an existing one worse, possibly adding or changing the aspects present.

Red Truth and psionics in Dawning Star are meant to be something that is powerful but terrible. Even the races that can access Red Truth naturally fear it and do not well understand it. So I'm hoping to make a system that promises great power at great cost, and where choices may have unexpected consequences.   

Friday, May 3, 2013

FATE-ing Dawning Star - Skills Part 3

Ended up deciding on a mixed approach; I cut the list down some and reshuffled some things.  I figure Survival can be used for riding animals, that makes it a more useful skill.  Also I don't see being a expert ground vehicle operator being a thing like being an expert spaceship pilot is, so combining Drive and Pilot works.  Systems can be handled by Computers, Engineering, and Pilot for the most part since most of the other systems you would use on a ship or other vehicle would either be handled by one or more of those skills.  This leaves with me with twenty three skills, which I don't think is extravagant.
  • Athletics – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Burglary – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Computers – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Contacts – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Crafts – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Deceive – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Drive – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Empathy – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Fight – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Attack/Defend
  • Investigate – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Knowledge - Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Life Sciences - Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Notice – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Physical Sciences - Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Physique – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Provoke – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Attack/Defend
  • Rapport – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Red Truth – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Attack/Defend
  • Resources – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Shoot – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Attack/Defend
  • Stealth – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Survival (Includes riding animals) – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Will – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
With the normal nineteen skill list players get 20 points worth of skills, so I think with giving races 3 skills at Average as part of their racial makeup things work out pretty evenly.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

FATE-ing Dawning Star – Skills Part Two

So one of the good things about my day job is I sit about three feet from Samhaine, and we talk about a lot of game stuff other than the game we actually are working on. As was pointed out by Samhaine at work today and Jacob Poss in a comment on the previous post, the changes I wanted to make means there are lots of skills in FATE Dawning Star. It looks like it was possible to make a character who is just “spaceship guy” who is useless the rest of the time, but since Pilot, Gunnery, and and Navigation would be useful in atmospheric vehicles and such it's not strictly true, but that guy is still not that useful while crawling through alien ruins.

So there are several options to deal with this issue that I am considering.

1) The simplest is increasing the number of skills available. I was thinking of doing something like a 1/3/5/7 pyramid, that way each character still has one thing that they are the best at and at least some skill in a little more than half the skills. This is probably what I'll end up doing as it's easiest, but is sort of a brute-force option.

2) I could cut skills from my list; does it matter if a character who is good at piloting a spaceship is also good at driving a car or riding a horse? I think for Dawning Star it does as drastically different tech levels, and types of tech, are a major facet of the setting. The game has cultures that have tech levels from effectively iron age all the way to artificial black holes as weapons, and the limitations of a character to operate within his tech level has been part of the setting. In the old d20 Future rules each race had a Tech Level Familiarity, which was what level of technology that race was comfortable with. When using a more advanced tech level characters suffered a penalty. I could mimic this with a series of stunts where each race starts with one or more stunts that let them use tech of a given level without penalty. The levels would probably be numbered something like:
  • 1: Primitive Tech. Can use Drive to operate horses and wagons, Shooting to operate bows, etc.
  • 2: Median Tech: Can use Drive to operate cars and aircraft, Shooting to operate projectile firearms, etc.
  • 3: Advanced Tech: Can use Drive to operate spacecraft, Shooting to operate laser rifles, etc.
  • 4: Very Advanced Tech: Can use Drive to operate more advanced ships, Shooting to operate plasma weapons, etc.
  • 5: Quantum Tech: Can use Drive to operate wormhole driven spaceships, Shooting to use artificial singularity weapons, etc.
This means Pilot, Ride, and Drive could be recombined into just Drive, Crafts and Engineering into just Crafts. Gunnery could conceivably be cut and just rely on Shooting, Systems removed and just rely on Computers (which may not be a bad idea regardless), which would get me down to twenty four skills.

3) I could do a special skill associated with each species that covers the use of that species specific tech and cultural specialties. So a character with high Velin skill could use it to ride, survive on Eos, shoot bows, etc, while Elgie could use it for fixing things, haggling, climbing, etc. So to to operate a human spaceship you would need a high Human skill. Problem with this is vagueness what each skill can do, complexity to how these skills overlap with the other skills, and it doesn't decrease the number of skills. it actually it increases the total number, but most characters would only have one species skill (though that is an interesting character option, someone who learns another species' skill). This does model the idea of different species/cultures have different technology levels, and learning ancient tech of dead civilizations could be represented by being its own skill, but it still feels weird overall.

4) Each species would have a few skills at Average currently, so I could expand that idea, thus making each race stand out more but also making each species more cookie cutter. Instead of adding a 1/2/3 to the player seleced skills, put them on the race, though this would be odd if players could then place their discretionary skill ranks however they wanted since they could then be starting with a 7 in their skills. Capping things at 5 could help with that. This is my backup option currently.

Species Part 2

In addition to talking about skills, Samhaine and I talked about species today. In the last post I said I wanted to avoid putting aspects on species, and then in one of the examples I did exactly that. Consistency, hobgoblins, you know the drill.

As much as I want to avoid it, really aspects are the best way to handle certain aspects of the Dawning Star species. The big examples are the tyran saurians, who are ten foot tall samurai lizards, and the haimedians, who are plant people. Both of these have all sorts of situations I can never predict with stunts where their natures of their species may be useful, thus aspects suit them well. But how to do that? I've had two ideas:

1) Change the character creation process so one or both of the aspects that come from interacting with another character's history is replaced with a species aspect. These must be selected from a list, or constructed using words from a list, so all members of a given species will have somewhat similar aspects. This would be an interesting way to create a feeling of species abilities, but also could be annoying since the player's imagination is not being allowed to run wild.

2) Part of what makes aspects cool is our interpretation of them, which is really interpretation of language. We can get an idea of what sorts of compels and such a aspect should engender because we know what the words that make it up mean. For example, we could see the aspect Retired Marine Sniper Who Drinks to Forget used to compel the drinking of alcohol or as a bonus to shoot people since the words that make it up indicate that sort of stuff. The species names in Dawning Star are basically made up words; they mean whatever the writeup in the book says. So what if each member of a species has a species aspect that is the species name, and for each race there is a list of suggested situations it can be helpful, compels it can lead to. So if you had Velin as an aspect, you could use it to help in riding animals, hunting, fighting vaasi, survival on Eos, etc, while it could be use for compels to fight vaasi at ridiculous odds, to defend Eos from environmental damage, etc.

This can also be accomplished by the original idea of including the species name in the High Concept aspect of the character and explaining how that part of the aspect can be used/compelled. It does make that aspect super useful, and it does bring up the question of what humans are good at. Initially Dawning Star inherited the d20 idea that humans were the adaptable generalists that you get in descendants of D&D, but that doesn't need to be the case currently. I'm thinking that maybe humans are the stubborn cunning species; the sneaky bastards you never count out or write off as they will come back twice as hard. This doesn't really conflict with any of the other species so far, but not sure if it feels like a good measure of humanity.

And hopefully sometime soon we'll actually get to the stuff I started talking about Dawning Star in the hopes of figuring out: how to scale a punch and a portable singularity gun in one damage scale in a system with as little granularity in wounding as FATE Core.