Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Some Notes on Setting

Last night the baby slept quite well; we did get woken, but it didn't seem long enough for my brain to start to process something. It was carrying around half an idea from yesterday about luxuries in the Oort Cloud (what would be really valuable, or what would people treat as really valuable) but it is still only a half-formed thought.

And everything that is coming together related to that idea just reminds of things that Patrick has already said before about moving valuables in the Veins of the Earth.

So instead of writing about that, I thought I would share some of the thoughts and ideas about the more general space that the campaign I'm looking to run will sit in.

It started with the idea of running Dogs in the Vineyard in Space and then as I thought about it more I realised that the kernel of that was that I wanted to run something with humans - not aliens, although they might be in the background somehow - and I wanted to run something that was a harder science-fiction than other things I had seen or heard of. Not grim, but just with some thought about how and why things might work.

Then I got Machinations of the Space Princess, which right on the back cover says that it isn't any of that "hard sci-fi mularkey". That said, reading through I could see that for the most part it had a good OSR feel to it (as much as I can tell something is OSRish) - which at the very least means that it would be familiar and not require too much in the way of explanation to get people playing it (Dogs is great, but it takes some getting used to).

So, having read Machinations I started to think about what a campaign in the Oort Cloud would need. It would need places to go and people to see; it would need some general background hooks for why humans would be there. It would need some means of travel, and to be realistic would need an eye on just how fast people would get around. I thought about the species traits that the book uses for chargen and NPC gen (which then made me realise that I would need some tables for quick NPC gen perhaps!) and I realised that many of these traits would still work as human adaptations or traits - humans either having their natural talents or genetic enhancements.

But I wanted to remove the Psion and psi powers, and also the cybernetics - these didn't feel like a good fit. At the same time, the ships and the way they are handled felt like it needed tweaking (hence my noodling with "popomatic" ships in previous posts). Removing and tweaking these parts meant that the setting started to focus, but it also removed some of the moving parts - if I didn't have to think about these things then I was free to start thinking about the other aspects of the setting and the game.

(Aside: a recent thought has had me think that ships might have just seven stats/attributes, to mirror the seven stats of PCs. Just a thought, not fully thought through)

If I am going to play this Oort Cloud hard sci-fi hack of Machinations with people though, I'm going to have to do some more writing. The book is pretty well written I would say, but it gives people a lot of options: a base weapon doing x damage costs 5gp, but then multiply by this or that for these options like such and such... Which is nice in a sci-fantasy setting, and maybe something that you would really go town with, but in a hard sci-fi setting it feels like too much. I think what customisation options are presented need to be done cleanly, almost as tick-boxes? I was also thinking of creating character sheets that show off the skills-lists (which are extensive actually), rather than have little boxes for people to write in. That way they can see what they can do at a glance.

Anyway! This has been helpful to me to get some ideas out of my head - and to realise connections I didn't know where there previously. I hope at least it has been interesting to you the reader - and if you are interested in playing (maybe that's playtesting?) this in August or early September then drop me a line!

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