Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Into The Oort: Hexes

Into The Oort is set in a region of space that is 50,000 astronomical units (AUs) from the Sun, way out where the comets that orbit the Solar System move in a vast shell across a huge region of space. What is an AU? An AU is the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Which is vast. To reflect the incredible distances and emptiness of space, each hex is 10AU across. Approximately 1.5 billion kilometres. If you were moving at the speed of light it would take over an hour to cross a hex.

A hex is big.

As with other settings, a hex in the Oort has a quality to it. In another game it might be called the "terrain". Some are basically space, empty; some have dust clouds, some have a high gas concentration, some have cometary debris, some have rogue asteroids in them. With the distances involved, there is a good chance that there is a human settlement of some form somewhere in a hex; if not, there is a good chance that there is an old human settlement - something abandoned or lost or wrecked. And of course there are ships that are travelling here and there; the Oort Cloud is big but the people living there are not static.

Occupied settlements might have huge populaces - tens of thousands of people - or only have a few dozen, or even less. The Hub - the largest human settlement that anyone knows about - has far more people than anywhere else, and no-one knows quite how many people live there.

The region of the Oort Cloud 50,000AU has, from a back of an envelope calculation, on the order of 500 million hexes. If, on average, each hex has a thousand people in it (some have far more, some have far less) then this region of the Solar System might have 500 billion people living in it.

Variety and wonders and opportunities are everywhere...

A note: for the playtest campaign and ultimately a release of Into The Oort I am planning to populate a region of around 50 hexes around the Hub, along with tables for populating hexes with settlements, groups and people. I've shared an in-progress document for generating the basic outline of a human habitat before; if you haven't seen it you can get it here.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Into The Oort: Ships 2

In Into The Oort, ships have three stats, just like player characters. They also reflect, sort-of, the features or attributes of the player stats (which at the moment have the same name as stats in Into The Odd, Strength, Dexterity, Willpower). The three stats in Oort for ships are currently:
  • HULL: the physical structure of the ship; the exterior, the interior, how spaceworthy it is, and so on. It is no indicator of size particularly, or speed - it is more about resilience.
  • DRIVE: a measure of how fast a ship is and also how well it handles. It is used almost-directly to calculate transit times across large distances (a hex can be crossed in 20-DRIVE days by a ship), and over short distances it is needed to make difficult manoeuvres.
  • SCAN: the sensors of the ship - whether those are heat-based, x-ray, optical wavelengths or radio transmissions. It is also a measure of how good those systems are for understanding what signals have been picked up.
Unlike characters, rolls are made under the ship stats for active choices rather than saves. For example:
  • Roll under the SCAN stat when you are trying to look for something.
  • Roll under the DRIVE score when there is a difficult comet debris trail to navigate.
  • Roll less than your HULL when you're trying to maintain the ship in a difficult situation.
Does that make sense? I hope so. I don't have much more to say about ships today, I suppose I just wanted to clarify or share a few more details beyond what I mentioned in the last post.

I'm creating tables that generate the appearance of ships, but my impetus for doing so is for NPC ships to be generated quickly. Players could use some them though, but appearance could also be left to player-choice - so long as they can choose fast. As with Into The Odd, I aim for players to get playing ASAP. At the time of writing I'm constructing a table to give some details of the features of the ship - does it have something special like missiles, a cloaking device or a leaking engine coil? Or is it perhaps owned by someone else or a notorious past?

Friday, 24 April 2015

Into The Oort: Ships

Chargen in Into The Odd is one of the fastest things I've seen for a game. 3d6, 3d6, 3d6 and a d6 and then mechanically it's done. Sure, you might want to make up some details of what your person looks like or talk about how they know the other players' characters, but after a brief flurry of rolling you're done.

I want the same thing for chargen in Into The Oort, but also for shipgen as well; a starting group of players has their own ship, which has three stats that are related to different mechanical aspects of the ship. Roll 3d6 for HULL, 3d6 for DRIVE and 3d6 for SCAN, along with a d6 for shield points. Shields are always on, as a kind of energy shield to deflect dust and particles. In a pinch they absorb and redistribute weapons fire; once they're overloaded damage is taken by ship systems, but it only takes a short break from combat before the shields are back online.

Some combination of highest/lowest stat and the d6 for shield points will index a table that gives some details on what else the ship has - type of weapons, armour, special systems, and so on. I'm looking at ways to make other aspects of shipgen as simple. I think that there are possibly three other aspects which could be done quickly, and I've tried something for them recently at my second playtest game.

I had a short table of six entries for each of three aspects: TYPE, CREW, CARGO. Players roll three d6 as a group, and then use each result to pick out what they want. 6s are generally better than 1s. So at the playtest I think they got 6, 6 and 1. They assigned the 6s to TYPE and CARGO and the 1 to CREW. For the purposes of the playtest this meant that they had a decommissioned warship, two valuable cargoes but a small cargo hold, and they only had a skeleton crew of two others.

I liked this, but it also seemed slightly at odds with the other mechanical setup. That may or may not be a bad thing. I liked the aspects of choice rather than totally random gen. The discussion at the table - "We want an ex-warship, but do we need a good crew? Would it better to have no cargo?" - was great, and didn't take long. I can see that it might take a different group more time deciding what ship they want. I'm not 100% sure about it yet, so it might change.

What do you think? Any questions? Maybe in the next post I'll say something about how the different main ship stats work, mechanically, in the game.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Into The Oort: Start

Some time ago I was convinced that I wanted to run a game called Dogs In The Oort Cloud. I had this idea that there was something attractive about religious peacekeepers in a far future solar system, on the edge of interstellar space, going from asteroid to asteroid, helping to solve problems and mete out justice.

(There's a whole other post that I want to write some day soon about why DitV is such an attractive proposition for me, that for the faults I find in the game's mechanics I actually found it to be one of the best campaigns that I've had the pleasure of being able to run. But another day!)

Time and life intervened. Apart from one shots I've not run a game for ages, but I keep reading, keep noodling ideas, keep on talking nonsense with David over on A Gaming Podcast About Nothing. And then towards the end of last year Paolo Greco posts a link to a new thing he is publishing by some guy called Chris. The price is right, so I buy the pdf. I flick through it for ten minutes and email Paolo asking if I can upgrade to get the print version.

Into The Odd is fantastic for many reasons: the setting is imaginative and heavily themed (implicitly), but not described through page after page of flavour text. Everything about the setting you get from the various tables. Chargen can be done in a minute, and the mechanics for various resolutions are easy for beginners and familiar for more experienced hands. It's a game that anyone could be a party of playing.

And precisely because the game is so clear, so simple in mechanics, it popped into my head that it could be perfect for combining with my idea of the Oort Cloud as a setting. Gone are the religious peacekeepers (for now, although they're in the background as one possible group in the Oort Cloud) and hello to adventurers and explorers, traders and tyrants, anyone and everyone existing thousands of years from now at the edge of everything.

This has been my creative playground for the last few months; tables and setting things are coming together, and I took a step to start sharing some work-in-progress tables for various elements. I'm a big believer in tables as a useful aid or prompt for setting generation (inspiration providers), so while some of them have been difficult to put together so far, they've always been there for a clear reason for having them.

This is the first in a series of who-knows how many posts. It's a long time since I've posted on this blog (although until fairly recently I was doing a good job of maintaining a work blog) and I hope to update a few times per week as I talk about where Into The Oort is going - ultimately, I'm aiming at publishing it - but that's a little way off yet.

Thankfully not 50,000 astronomical units though.