About a year ago, the dungeon crawling fantasy RPG Torchbearer was released and I absolutely love it. One of the key concepts in Torchbearer is the idea that adventurers are not knights in shining armor, they don’t venture into dangerous dungeons because it’s fun or noble, and they certainly aren’t in this life seeking fame and glory. No, like Han Solo in George Lucas’ “used universe” of Star Wars, the protagonists here are just trying to survive. They don’t have any fat inheritances or cushy jobs waiting for them back home. They ply the most dangerous routes and explore forbidden alien ruins because that’s the only way they can scratch out a living in this cold, unforgiving universe. This, I can totally dig.
Torchbearer also tends to lead with the fiction, smoothly integrating game mechanics into a description of the world. My favorite example of this, something that really blew me away when I first read it, is how Towns are designed in the game system. The Town that a character grew up in lends distinct mechanical effects based on descriptions that, on the surface, are interesting, intuitive, and evocative. This article is the start of my answering the question, “What if Torchbearer was set in space?”
The following is a list of seven generic home locations for Player Characters. Each of these locations describes a type of home location that Player Characters hail from, though the player or Galaxy Master should use be using these descriptions as a starting point in describing specific locations in the galaxy in detail. Where a character grows up has a lasting impact on his or her life; and as such, each character gains 1 rank in a skill of their choice as well as 1 rank in a Talent of their choice from those listed for their home location. Galaxy Masters worried about game balance should just stop and chill out. Each of these home locations serves the greater narrative in describing a brutal, bleak galaxy oppressed by the totalitarian Galactic Empire. There are no safe zones, the Rebellion exists as scattered, terrified cells across the outer rim, and life for everyone besides the uppermost echelons is miserable. It’s a much darker take on the traditional Star Wars themes, but I think one worthwhile and enjoyable, something to mess around with and use to contrast the norm. It is part of a philosophy I call SpaceCore.
WHERE IS YOUR HOME?
The regional or galactic population center where the teeming billions of inhabitants are oppressed by a select few in power.
Skills: Knowledge (core worlds), Negotiation, Streetwise
Talents: Indistinguishable, Sound Investments
A den of graft and petty crimes where friendships last only as long as the layover between cryosleep.
Skills: Cool, Deception, Knowledge (underworld)
Talents: Bought Info, Black Market Contacts
A nigh-forgotten world in the darkest regions of civilized space, forever indebted to their three-generations-old founding homeworld.
Skills: Brawl, Mechanics, Survival
Talents: Forager, Utinni!
A once-rebellious planet now forced in line by oppressive military occupation.
Skills: Leadership, Knowledge (warfare), Resilience
Talents: Basic Combat Training, Blooded
A research station, mining operation, or penal colony cut off from humanity by incomprehensible distances.
Skills: Discipline, Knowledge (education), Knowledge (xenology)
Talents: Grit, Researcher
Between The Stars
A life living on starships and constantly moving, forever in flux and struggling to find meaning and never having a true home.
Skills: Astrogation, Knowledge (outer rim), Piloting (space)
Talents: Galaxy Mapper, Well Travelled