Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Revised Map and some System Talk

Dark Stars Map

The Open Playtest has been underway for about 3 weeks now and we have had some 200 downloads to date. So far I've some feedback, most of it privately, but a couple of people had posted comments in the Vagrant forums for which I am very grateful. But I need more! I need more people testing, and most importantly I need more than 1-2% of testers to give their opinions, even if that opinion is negative.

As a result of the feedback I have had so far I've made a few changes already, and I'm currently floating a revised version of the rules in the Vagrant Development boards. This includes some radical redesign, dropping the d20 mechanic and replacing it with a new core mechanism that uses small pools of d10s.

Yes this is a radical design, but it servers two very important purposes. Firstly, it addresses many of the issues inherent in the old system that have lead to complaintes about the high degree of failure, or why do characters have to have such high stats and skills at the outset leaving little room for development potential. Secondly, It allows me to make a clean break from Fading Suns for which the basis of the current system was originally developed.

The basics of the revised system are very simple. Every skill is ranked from 1 to 5, and this is the number of d10s that a character must roll when he attempts an action. Once rolled, one of those dice are selected as the 'lead' die, the die which gives the result, the others can be used as 'matches' to bring about a critical. Rolling high is good, and modifiers are applied only to the lead die. The basic one action, one dice roll ethos remains.

I'm waiting to see what my friends at Vagrant think of the revised system, if it gets a thumbs up, I will update the playtest documents accordingly.


  1. Love the Map!! And I would love to see how you made it.. The rule changes are drastic, but to be fair, I haven't made it to a ones in the play test yet. That starts this weekend or next.

    I am not a fan of dice pools, and my players less so than me, but I will give it a shot.

    I will roll up a few characters, high and low, and get my son to help me "duke it out" to see how it all works. Then I can give you more constructive feedback.

    I do have a question... where is earth on your map and what 2 systems represent the dyson pair? =)

  2. I made the map in Adobe After Effects (its my principle tool at work), the mad idea I had was to animate it in someway. I may yet rebuild it in cinema 4D and build a map that you can rotate and move through. But that may be a while off.

    Generally I'm not a fan of dice pools, but the change to d10 solves a lot of the inherent flaws in the d20 mechanic, most specifically the high degree of failure. It also allows for gradated criticals, and gives a much better bell curve distribution the more you have. Most 'professional' level characters would be using 3-4 dice.

    Ah yes Perter F. Hamilton and George R.R. Martin are both major influences on me at the moment. No Dyson Pair (yet), and Ancient Earth is currently lost, if it still exists.

  3. an animated map would be cool, but no real purpose in a tabletop RPG.

    Ha! I knew some of this sounded familiar. Hamilton is good. I dont really care for George R Martin, at least his fantasy stuff. I also like the Honor Harrington series by David Weber as well.

  4. Transhumanism is always something that has interested me. The problem is that there are a number of good RPGs out there that look at this subject matter (Blue Planet / Eclipse Phase) so simply rehashing another transhumanist setting would only result in rolling eyes and accusations of copycatting.

    However, I'm not aware of any post-transhuman settings, which is what I'm really trying to aim at. What happens when transhumanism fails? Really I want do many of traditional sci-fi elements with a twist.

    Many sci-fi games (Traveler / Fading Suns) have all powerful ancients who did lots of stuff and left a lot of legacy behind them. I wanted to do this too, but decided that the ancients would be humans, that humanity would have been looked upon as gods by many of the alien races they uplifted. Its the same but different.

    Like wise I wanted jumpgates for swift travel, but saw no reason to dump them on the edge of a solar system. So why not link worlds directly (as Hamilton did), but that would destroy the need for starships. So I had to come up with a reason to keep spaceships and space travel for those who wanted it. It also grants granularity to the tech tree, with hyperspace, and gate travel.

    Factions naturally started to grow out of this arrangement. The Junkers became the hyperspace travelling 'gypsies', while the techno-magical Maji of the Covenant protected the gate network.

    As for animated maps, I'm interested in rich media presentations. Imagine buying a PDF, with embedded animations or maps that could be manipulated? Obviously that cannot be done with a print copy. But i can see the potential for the future of the RPG industry.

    1. The humans as the ancients is brilliant! I never thought of it that way. You are correct, many games. fantasy and scifi alike, always have ancient mysterious races that left things behind when they disappeared.

      The one thing I liked about Hamilton's jump gates and lack of space ships is that it did catch his 'worlds' off guard when they did find another empire out there. But you are correct, the players will want spaceships. I can now see how that fits beautifully.

      I would put some sort of limit on jumpgate distance, or resources to get you a long ways. Stargate had the 7 chevrons to normal places, SGU had an 8th, but it took power beyond belief to open a gate, which they didn't have.

      I can see the map animated in a pdf. Now a days, I find myself using both the pdf and print versions of the book. Pdf if great for reading at lunch breaks at work, prepping sessions, etc... The print version for the game table.

      I had the opportunity to join a Pathfinder game with a group of friends that I hadn't gamed with in a while.. When I walked in, a bit late, there was something wrong with seeing all 6 players and the GM sitting around the table, laptops open, no paper books,paper character sheets or dice. I am still more old fashioned tabletop.. I only use my laptop when I GM, it becomes my game shield.

  5. For me the restriction on gates is simple. There needs to be a physical gate structure at both ends of the wormhole. So although a gate can be opened and closed, or its apature reduced in size to prevent all but a comms channel, it cannot be opened wider than the physical structure of the gate arches.

    This restricts what can be send down a gate. While the players could have a small scout ship hauled through a gate (the equivalent of hauling a boat over land) they are never going to that battle cruiser through. The Covenant are the only faction with any degree of control over what a gate can do, and some say they're High Maji can divert gates to different locations (still must be a gate structure to link to). Mostly they are just toying with the Commonwealth's dwindling high sciences.

    Spaceships are there for generally restricted to the area in which they are. A ship at Junction cannot fly to Cerberus. Except that the Junkers have secret knowledge about the currents and eddies of hyperspace and are the inheritors of the most sophisticated jump technology. This allows them to things other factions cannot, though hyperspace still takes a long time when compared to a gate. Gate = near instant, hyperspace is several weeks for each jump.

    Astrogation is the big problem for hyperspace capable ships, being millimeters off target in jumpspace when you reenter real space can put a ship off target by hundreds or even thousands of AU. Which is why only a few surviving beacon worlds are visited, there are many hundreds more, but finding them is a real challenge.

    So that is really the rational behind the Junkers and the Covenant.

  6. I can hardly wait for all the setting info!