Tag Archives: SpaceCore

Thousand Worlds – Introduction

dying-of-the-lightThe Thousand Worlds is a bizarre science-fiction universe created by the mind of George R.R. Martin in the 70’s and 80’s. Yes, that guy.

What draws me to it are that the stories told describe a broken universe that is very alien to our experiences in the real world on earth. Like most stories set in the future, the themes presented are all parallels for modern problems the world is experiencing right now, in the present. However, the subject matter is often unsettling, creepy, uncomfortable, and most important, hits with an emotional impact like a punch to the gut. This is exactly how I like my RPGs to be.

So, I created, ran, and successfully completed a Thousand Worlds campaign, using Edge of the Empire as a basis for the nuts and bolts ruleset. From the outset, I started the campaign design by sketching out what I wanted to accomplish. I had a burning passion to share my enthusiasm for these stories, which I had just finish reading. And I wanted to have a “rags-to-riches” campaign, one that started the game off with the player characters extremely weak and poor, struggling to survive, but then end with them in an earned position of incredible wealth and power. Above all else, I wanted a campaign that – on an emotional, gut level – gave the players the feeling of wondrous discovery. I wanted to give them the childlike wonder of exploring what’s buried under the rocks, and have that thing be fun, interesting, and memorable. I wanted them to never feel like they had run out of the game, or were in any way limited to where they could go or what they could do. There’s always more out there.

In the next few blog posts, I’m going to be talking about some of the details of my Thousand Worlds campaign – design goals, planning, house rules, a starmap puzzle, creating heists, a design checklist, and reinforcing the theme of wondrous discovery in as many ways as possible. Sit tight, it’s a hell of a ride. It might take me some time, be patient.

If you’d like to dig in more into The Thousand Worlds, and I heartily recommend it, go check out this overview video. There’s links to the stories themselves in the video description, many of which have audiobooks or free recorded readings available. There are a lot of stories, but (aside from Dying of the Light) they are all short stories and novellas, making them very quick reads. My favorites are probably In the House of the Worm, A Song for Lya, and The Stone City; though it’s very hard to choose, many of them are really, really good.

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CRUSH the REBELLION released!

imageTrue to my word, February has come and CRUSH the REBELLION has been released!

Go get it now! – LINK

While you’re at it, delve further into the minds of the designer (that’s me) by checking out the sick kicks of the customized CtR playlist, then go sign up on the CRUSH the REBELLION G+ Community to chat up other fans!

Spread the word, suffer no insurrection to your rule, and may The Emperor’s merciful shadow fall upon you!

CRUSH the REBELLION is a structured storytelling game with an emphasis on competitive world-building. It is a fast-paced roleplaying game of competing agents struggling to fulfill their own personal agendas in a hostile, bureaucratic nightmare futuristic fantasy universe.
The actions of the players all contribute towards a shared history together, set in the fictional game universe. However, Crush the Rebellion is also a strategic, competitive game between the players. There are winners and losers to this game.
The universe of Crush the Rebellion is grim, dark, and hateful. It is a futuristic fantasy setting, full of both awe-inspiring technological prowess and ancient mysticism.
A central dogmatic figure known only as The Emperor rules over the whole of Humanity. The Human Empire spans across an untold number of galaxies. The true size of The Human Empire is difficult to even comprehend, supported by the most byzantine, Kafka-esque bureaucracy of all existence. It rules through fear and intimidation, using unlimited resources to oppress the unruly masses of civilization who dare challenge The Emperor’s infinite wisdom.
The Emperor uses an elite cadre of specialized agents (the players) to lead missions against His enemies, crushing any rebellion. Unfortunately for The Emperor, these agents are highly ambitious and treacherous, subverting and abusing their Emperor-given powers to further their secret objectives.


C is for Characteristics

4105bd4d5c854fd89537b249e6bbcc19When designing a deadly, challenging B is for Beast or N is for Nemesis, it is often helpful for the Galaxy Master to begin by envisioning what extreme Characteristics their creation should have. These types of superlative enemies should always have an array of talents, tricks, weapons, and defenses that present a challenge to the players that have broken the rules, gone beyond the envelope of “fairness”. Most importantly, these additions make this creature into something totally awesome. The techniques described in this post are in large part an extension of the design of the major enemies in Fane of the Sith Lords, such as The Emperor, Mara Jade, and the Four-headed Hyper-evolved Dianoga.

Under the FFG Star Wars RPG, a typical creation made in this manner will have one of four options for their brutal base Characteristics:

  1. one characteristic at 7
  2. two characteristics at 6
  3. four characteristics at 5
  4. a mix of the above

In addition, every frustrating enemy must always have one or two Characteristics at a lowly 1. Your creature should have an unfair advantage, a true challenge to be overcome, but also a distinct weakness that can be exploited by clever and persistent players. The fun in using these horrorific creations is not in punishing the other players or reveling in your own ability to “win”; satisfaction is instead found in seeing the players pull out a glorious victory in the face of certain doom.

At this stage, a Galaxy Master should also begin imagining the fiction that informs and supports the Characteristics. What makes your creature’s abilities so extreme? Is it cybernetic, Sith-touched, genetically modified, from another universe, incredibly ancient, or something else?

Lastly, make sure to enforce your narrative with real bite by applying concrete, definable new abilities and weaknesses to reflect your creature’s Characteristics. An enemy with Willpower 7 is just one that rolls a lot of dice, but a foe that can drain the life force of living creatures is an opponent that will never be forgotten. An array of special abilities and weaknesses has been provided below to help inspire your own designs. It is recommended that a truly frightful enemy be provided with a minimum of 3 such abilities.

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C is for Crime & Punishment

ugo_princess-leiaThe Galactic Empire rules its subjects through uncompromising laws. Frequently, your player characters will encounter, or become, special Imperial citizens that have been accused of a heinous crime. These crimes all represent cases that are somehow unique, with the details of the circumstances left open to fit the needs of the Galaxy Master’s story.

Each crime has a Perpetrator, an individual suspected to be the head of the offense or perhaps merely a scapegoat. A suggested list of misconduct is then provided to describe the Crime for which this character stands accused.

Each wrongdoing here is consider a grave felony and with comes a Punishment designed to instill abject horror in any would-be felons. When the player characters get involved with this crime, and surely they will, a complication or wrinkle will be brought up that may make them question their previously held values. The Motivation behind the crime, why the perpetrator committed such an act, should come as some sort of surprise or revelation, a most excellent way to introduce ethical and moral decisions onto the players at your table.

Roll randomly (d10) on the charts below or choose the grim sentence of your own volition.

When designing a Crime & Punishment, it may be helpful to also envision the associated Trial to go with it.

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CRUSH the REBELLION – Post Campaign Interview

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At the beginning of this year, I launched an ambitious FFG Star Wars campaign, pulling mostly from the then-new Age of Rebellion Beta, titled Crush the Rebellion. An overview of the core assumptions, house rules, and scattered campaign notes have already been posted HERE on Triumph & Despair. I encourage readers who wish to probe for additional information on something specific to post Comments below; it is very hard to see from our perspective where we are vague and what details outside observers find interesting or lacking in detail.

The campaign had a rare, though certainly not unique, concept of the players acting as Imperial Agents sent out by The Emperor Himself to stop the most heinous crimes against the Empire. The player characters are set at a level on par with such legends as Darth Vader, Mara Jade, and Grand Admiral Thrawn. The Agents have bonus starting XP and unlimited funding; but are limited in terms of Restricted items, item modifications, and vehicles. The story of the campaign follows a seemingly natural theme of The Empire; corruption, a bloated beurocracy, traitors, and various threats from within are the true villains. Every Agent has a Secret Agenda that they pursue and must balance advancing that agenda, thwarting the rival Agents’ agendas, and keeping their activities hidden; all while still completing the incredibly dangerous tasks assigned to them. It is one thing to conquer the galaxy, it is a much harder thing to rule it. It’s dangerous at the top.

The most daunting task for me, as Galaxy Master, was to appropriately handle the innate player-vs-player dynamic that goes with this sort of campaign. This is something that many have found to be troublesome and problematic, experience showing the pitfalls, frustrations, and hurt feelings of such an endeavor. However, I felt very strongly that this was absolutely essential to the kind of story I wanted to tell; the story of the fall of Galactic civilization, the problems inherent in humanity’s empires, and how our own unchecked ambitions and hubris are the cause. Not only that, but in all humility, my track record has shown (HERE and HERE) that I am uniquely qualified in the endeavor of successful PvP roleplaying games. In other words, I am the shiiiiittttt.

Following the campaign’s conclusion, I conducted an in-depth discussion about both the faults and advances of the campaign; what made it good, where did it fail, and how we can use this information to craft better, more fun gaming in our futures. Listed below is a brief description of the Agents and a long, detailed discussion of the campaign via 12 questions I have asked and the players and their long-winded answers to them.

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CRUSH the REBELLION Campaign Summary

Per request, here is a short summary of the characters involved in my CRUSH the REBELLION campaign and a few words describing each of our 9 sessions. Where applicable, links have been provided to longer discussions on individual Operations. As always, general feedback and specific questions of interest are appreciated. Later in the week, I won’t let you just take my word at it and will provide a comprehensive interview with the players to get their view on the campaign as experienced.

TaggeNeedsBureaucracy-ANHIMPERIAL AGENTS

Besk, Bothan Spy Infiltrator
Secret Agenda: Assassinate The Emperor (succeeded).

K1LL1NG3R, Droid Hired Gun
Secret Agenda: Construct a superweapon that would enable a new droid revolution to conquer the galaxy.

Zebb, Twi’Lek Slicer
Secret Agenda: Grand Moff, build an unspecified superweapon.

Tar’Yun, Twi’Lek Diplomat (Force Sensitive)
Secret Agenda: Orchestrate a massive military defection to the Rebellion.

Delanar, Human Bounty Hunter (Force Sensitive)
Secret Agenda: Hunt down and slay a hidden Jedi Master.

Daktari Jonez, Duros Scholar
Secret Agenda: Oversee the genocide of all Ewoks.

LIST of OPERATIONS

Operation I – A convoy of five Imperial transports must be protected from an anticipated ambush by Rebel military forces. Imperial Intelligence has determined that a lost Jedi outcast is among the terrorists. The Jedi must be captured and interrogated to learn further information about Rebellion military activities in this sector.
Surprise: The Jedi Knight is a non-gendered, weird alien composed of a slippery mass of tentacles.

Operation II – A geneticist located at an isolated research outpost has been selling Imperial secrets to the highest bidder. Prove which of the scientists is the traitor and bring him or her to justice while quelling uprisings from the local populace.
Surprise: The only way to route out the true traitor is to solve a complicated Zebra Logic Puzzle.

Operation III – Local organized crime on an outer rim world has been supplying outlawed, dangerous medicines to a plague-ridden populace as well as explosives to nearby terrorist cells and must be stopped.
Surprise: The Rebel Leader from Operation II returns angry and cybernetically enhanced.

Operation IV – The captain of the IEF Tydeus has succumbed to the unclean influences of a heretical cult located in the unknown regions. Find a way to board the renegade Imperial vessel and relieve its Captain Kitano of his command before the ship escapes and makes the jump to lightspeed.
Surpise: This adventure is a speed run of Only Two Ways Home, giving the players only about half the time that they really need to complete it. Players must use their metagaming knowledge of previous runs of the adventure to win.

Operation V – A shapeshifting alien has infiltrated the ranks of a local planetary government cabinet and the senate hall is on lock-down. Kill the shapeshifter and save as many cabinet members as possible. Everyone trapped inside is either vitally important to Imperial operations or is a noted public figure.
Surprise: The shapeshifter is a liqui-metal droids and there are, in fact, two of them.

Operation VI – With a Victory-class Star Destroyer at your command, watch over the development of the new TIE Phantom stealth fighter and goad any traitors into action so that they can be caught red-handed and in the act.
Surprise: The commander of the VSD is Zebb’s nemesis and does everything in his power to make this Operation difficult for the Agents.

Operation VII – Preside over negotiations on behalf of The Empire at the Kimanan star system, whose people have taken the local Imperial Moff as hostage and who are now led by a Jedi fugitive.
Surprise: The Agents’ covert, pirate transport captain has sold them out.

Operation VIII – Following your previous Operation’s failure, the Kimanan star system has gone into revolt and joined the Rebel Alliance, taking with it the military defenses supplied to the planet through The Empire and protected by the Pirate Queen Kath Scarlet. Command an Imperial-class Star Destroyer and support fleet to invade the system and punish the Kimanans for their treachery.
Surprise: The Kimanans have a Cloning Facility and Mitichlorian Infusion Center that will soon produce a clone army of artificially-empowered Jedi.

Operation IX – Hunt down the fleeing architects of the Kimanan revolt. Kill the Pirate Queen Kath Scarlet at the pod racing contest of Tattoine. Capture the Jedi Knight MacKenzie hiding in a lost Jedi ruin and bring him before The Emperor Himself.
Surprise: It’s a Trap! designed by The Emperor to kill the scheming Agents and put a stop to their Secret Agendas.


Torchbearer Towns in Star Wars

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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?

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