We are going to be chatting about our thoughts and reflections on this the Season 6 Wrapup.
I knew this was going to be a big project and in the end I feel like we haven’t done enough to get more than a few stories out of what we have so far. And the prospect of writing a full campaign journal for the setting is going to be much bigger than we have the time to do. I don’t regret doing this at all. It taught me that while I have some good ideas a team is what you need to really bring a project like this to life. I would like to do something like this again in the future.
Ideas are easy. Structure is hard. I’ve loved this project and the idea of creating a campaign setting. It has been wildly instructive but also shows where we, as GMs both on the show and more broadly, can fall short. Creating a larger structure or outline is something I preach in other contexts but it didn’t always follow through on the Edenship. That created some friction in design, but also showed how many ideas are constantly bubbling beneath the surface.
This shows that there is a lot out there to create, but that less ambitious and more structured set ups go a long way. I would want to do a shorter season next time in the creation process. Also, not to have a break in the midst of the season.
Head back and checkout the whole season starting here.
Zendead – we have a Tik Tok for the show. I will be posting a few things on there so maybe if you want to see me you will. https://www.tiktok.com/@seizethegm_podcast
Joules – Life Without People
Guard-a-Manger – We have a TikTok? Play a new game. Help out a ttrpg vet. “Veteran ttRPG blogger, developer, publisher, and writer Owen K.C. Stephens suffered a pulmonary embolism in February, resulting in his hospitalization. While still recovering from that ailment, he was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer. While he has every intention of overcoming this challenge and producing game material for years to come, and despite having medical insurance, the medical bills have begun to pile up. The ttRPG industry has come together to create a mega-bundle to help, with all proceeds going to help Owen with those bills.”
Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae
General Sani is a middle aged woman whose predecessors came from the Indian subcontinent. She is always dressed in a very proper military uniform. While she is in charge of the overall functioning of the ship she is not condescending to those that are not close in rank to her. She was raised on the ship as was her father, he never got as high in the ranks as she has. Kaamada knows that the ship is not in a good state. Things have gone down since the last generation. The spiral is getting worse.
Kaamada has started to make small changes to find a place for the people on the ship to call home. It is not easy since the issues surrounding the crew and families are getting worse by the month. The last three planets that were looked at while hopeful ended up not being something that could be used. A very big issue is that all projections can not give an accurate count of the people on the ship. She wants to find a place that can be used to refit and resupply the ship so that they can get on to the planet that is the original destination. Though she isn’t sure that that is a reasonable idea the more time goes on. In the end the crew is more important than the ship no matter what the old timers say.
Back in the old days of cinema when it was 2D and non-choice driven there was a series of movies that had planets that were only a single environment. It was so unrealistic even at the time. We had hardly reached our local moon. This concept was tossed away as not realistic even when a close neighbor was very much that. The number of other planets that we have seen since that time are so high that to say they were like that is very small. But Planet 28543 is such a planet.
The planet known as Planet 28543 is a mono environmental one. The planet does something unlike any other that we have seen. It does not have a constant angle tilt with a dedicated north and south polar regions. This planet is a massive jungle of vegetation. It is able to do this in a way that we haven’t quite figured out yet. But one thing we do know is that the whole planet has a short and unregular day cycle because it spins in ways that are not right. It is always moving the direction of North. So every part of the planet seems to get an even distribution of sunlight and warmth. The rain patterns make no sense either since it is always raining but there are almost no ice caps. The oceans are big for the planet though. More study needs to occur to figure out how this all works.
The Polyglot Knot
Language is a barrier that has divided mankind almost as much as the color of their skin or the gender that they are. So early on in the prospect of traveling between stars the idea of a standard language was one that came up a lot. No government involved could get enough clout to have their language be the language of the ship. So what do you do as a member of the Council of Stars? You bring in scientists in a few disciplines to ask what can be done.
After a few months of debate and discussion the idea of an implant in the body is proposed. One that is connected between the ear and the part of the brain that interprets language. Some bit of technology that is AI and cybernetic. Not a big AI just enough to make you understand all recorded languages. While the idea was still a bit away at the time they had time to make it. The ship was still in the early stages of being built. After a few failed attempts the tech was found to work. It was also capable of learning things like expressions and colloquialisms. This might even be able to learn alien languages given enough time. So the Polyglot Knot was created. All children born were implanted with it after they had time to come to understand a language. Now everyone can communicate in theory.
To keep the ship running, effective communication is essential. Enter Rosetta. And yes she’s completely aware that her name is a bit too “on the nose”. Rosetta, from a young age, had a knack for linguistics. She does prefer written word to spoken though, due to an unfortunate accident as a child which left her vocal cords paralyzed. She has slowly been combing through all the documents (digital and analog) aboard the Eden and translating them. There is an enormous backlog, due to the rushed launch. And she works through what she can in her spare time. Which is pretty rare.
Currently Rosetta has been spending most of her time compiling various translations and dictionaries of the languages that the crew has encountered thus far. Not just words but grammar, linguistic quirks, and “unspoken” rules of etiquette (which has served the crew well during diplomatic negotiations.) She’s explained that her own limitations in communications allowed her to fully analyze and absorb the art of conveyance in all its forms. If she had to speak, she had to get her point across in only a few words. If she had to write something, there could be no ambiguity. And her efforts has earned her admiration from the crew as well as respect from other races. Maybe not full trust (as humanity is indeed strange), but she has been asked to translate and transcribe various star charts and scientific documents provided by various other interstellar races. And to her absolute delight, all of her efforts are their own proof, so she really doesn’t have to explain herself when delivering the final translation.
Rosetta is a valuable asset to the crew, but due to her limited ability to speak, it has been difficult for her to effectively pass on her knowledge and techniques. And as each year passes, it becomes more and more obvious how much her skills are needed. Computers, while they are competent in basic language analysis and translation, are wholly unable to grasp the nuances of language and communication that Rosetta instinctively intuits.
We always longed to go to the stars. As brave explorers charting the unknown and little by little expanding our sphere of knowledge. However the race to launch the Eden lead to a scramble to gather as much data and resources in a very limited time. While there was a lot of astral information, it was spread amongst different systems, countries, and private corporations. All with their own storage and security requirements. At the time, saving as much data as possible was the priority. Only after the launch, was their shortsightedness made manifest.
Only the data that was saved for configuration with the Eden was readily available. The amount of time and processing power to simply convert the data, put strain on the ship’s resources. So conversion and consolidation has been slow going. Retrofitting old technology (and the scarcity thereof) has also slowed the consolidation of data. And dedicating processing power to brute force crack security protocols has been slow going (which is the understatement of the century).
However progress has been made, as each bit of data reveals itself, it’s added to what is colloquially called “The Chart.” It originally started as a hodgepodge of whatever astral data was available upon launch. Then over time it was augmented with real time data and whatever archived data was decrypted. It has grown more detailed and comprehensive. Despite the name, it’s more than an astral map. It is a dynamic interactive program with information on every type of stellar phenomenon. Location, atomic makeup, gravity strength, and much more are conglomerated in “the chart.”
As to the reason for its name, many survivors say the same thing. That it’s more than a map to the stars, it’s a map for humanity’s survival and its future.
The Dragon’s Eye Nebula
Some of the most gorgeous nebulae were formed after the most destructive stellar event, a supernova. The horsehead nebula, cat’s eye nebula, and the crab nebula have been described as some of the most beautiful. But a recent discovery of a new nebulae has had the ship’s crew enraptured. The Dragon’s Eye Nebula.
A year before the ship launched, earth’s telescopes picked up a seemingly standard type II supernova. Always interesting, but at first blush, nothing unique. But years later, when Eden “was in the neighborhood” as it were, its true splendor was discovered.
The Dragon’s Eye Nebula is truly a stellar marvel both aesthetically and scientifically. One crewmate stated “it’s like the holographic projection of a dragon’s eye.” Normally when we observe a nebula, we see it as a flattened image against the interstellar medium. If we looked at it in 3d space, the illusion fades. The horse’s head disappears, the crab vanishes. However this nebula is different. While initial images were stunning, seeing it in “person” was breathtaking. The nebula had the appearance of a dragon’s eye…in 3 dimensions. It turns out that there were two undetected neutron stars in a polar orbit around the supergiant prior to the explosion. And when the star went supernova, the gravitational influence of neutron stars stretched the explosion into an ellipsoid. At least that’s the current theory. But what’s keeping the nebula in a static shape is still a mystery. And whatever it is, it’s not making its presence known.
The Eden ship has returned many times to the Dragon’s Eye Nebula. To take measurements, study the weird gravitational and electromagnetic forces at play, and let the crew take in the majestic view. There is much to be learned here. And sometimes the lesson is simple; that even in the unforgiving blackness of space, there is beauty.
Binkie Doodle Prime
It is a luxury in the world of the Eden ship, but children love their toys, Binkie Doodles are a popular collection of doll-like drones. Collection may be a bit generous as these are creations that are pieced together by individual artisans from whatever scraps they can scrounge. The Binkie Doodles respond to simple voice commands, are clothed in approximations of what everyone on the Eden ship wears, and cross all class lines in their acceptance. From the most ragamuffin moppet to the scion of the greatest family of the Command Section, every child wants, has, and plays with a Binkie Doodle.
Binkie Doodle Prime is a Binkie doll that doesn’t seem to have an owner. It turns up in the background of a number of events the PCs have dealt with over the last several months.Dressed in a combination of command and military garb, the Binkie Prime moves without the herky jerky tendencies of most Binkies as if it is a well oiled and well maintained toy. It seems to have a life of its own as it watches from the shelf, incongruous with the other items there but also invisible in its ubiquity as a Binkie.
Surely, someone will adopt this precious toy. This precious toy drone. This toy drone that keeps showing up.
Klimt keeps a well maintained little place just around the corner from the main thoroughfare. A simple repair shop on the outside, it is one of the bastions of technohacking and experimentation going on in the sector. The back room is always filled but thats became Klimt keeps the shop stocked with doodads, knick-knacks, and every little thing that could be needed to solder, code, or subvert some existing tech into a new fun toy, It isn’t a surprise to anyone that Klimt is old friends with Felix Chin.
Satoru, as Felix would call him, was one of the best explorers of the Civilian Welfare sector before he lost his spark. As Felix likes to tell it, once Satoru had saved Felix’s hide three times, it was too close a call for him since he had a boy back home. He couldn’t take the chance that the next time, it would be him that took the bad step instead, so he ‘retired’ from running into hazards and EVA suited walks to run a little shop.
A little shop that never seems to be short of funds. A little shop located right by a main data trunk line … with talented and eager young hackers looking to test their mettle.
Wild Wetlands (LS Bay No. 3X7-*)
Nestled in the Life Sciences section of the Eden ship, the Wild Wetlands is a favorite destination for escaping the drudgery of the daily life for the muddy and boggy feeling of a vibrant ecosystem. It is easy to overlook just what the smell of greenery, even with mud or especially with mud can do for people who spend all their time in the sanitized world of the Eden ship. Even a park looks like something safe and sterile, so when the chance comes along to visit the Wild Wetlands, the colloquial description for Life Sciences Bay No. 3X7-*, most people will jump at.
It isn’t interesting that GAIA has maintained a swamp or fen like ecosystem. That is to be expected. It matches other bays, like The Great Expanse, but like the Great Expanse there is a lack of records or clarity about just how big it is and what it contains. The interminable starving of resources and exposure to radiation has left parts of the LIfe Sciences Section without clear readings. Too much life, too much interference … too much mutation. The Wetlands have the eternal mystery of a swamp but coupled with what can only be described as the cheerful protection of an AI.
GAIA needs the organic matter inside LS Bay 3X7-* to be maintained to ensure biocompatibility after all.
Guard-a-Manger – Transatlantic. On Netflix, this stylish and well made period piece about escaping Nazi occupied France recently dropped. It is a lot of moody and evocative cinematography with a well adapted story.
Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae
What do we mean by system swapping? Well the idea is if we put this all together in say 5e what would it look like in something like D6 Space or Gumshoe? What are things that really matter for those systems and what do they change or bring to the forefront of the game?
We have been thinking about the setup in the lens of Savage Worlds. While most of us are not super knowledgeable on the system. But what would we do if we did other game systems for this.
So I am going to go with 2 different systems that are very different from each other and from the base system for the setting. I am going to go with Fate as well as the system from Star Frontiers.
Fate: Well what are the big things that Fate does well. Player agency and proactive protagonists are hallmarks of Fate. The system is very story driven but has a bit of crunch if you push it. Also the system is able to add new things pretty easily. Psionics can be bolted on as well as ship combat things. Aspects make some things super easy to just do without having to get deep in redesigning the system to work in the framework we have laid out so far.
Star Frontiers: So this system is a lot more pulpy then some. Savage Worlds has that built into it as well. That was why I thought this could be kind of adjacent. The system wants players to be explorers of worlds. Since the ship is so big I thought it could draw that in as a bigger thing if that is something you want to do. The system is a simple d100 for most things so that makes it pretty easy to use. The idea of occupations is also a way to fill some of the roles we have discussed in different episodes. You can read more about the Star Frontiers system in the Card Catalog entry found here.
Savage Worlds: Savage worlds mechanics tend to be very swingy. And when uncertainty and worry is part of the setting the mechanics can really help set the mood. Its open enough that you can pretty much come up with rules and mechanics for whatever kind of character you have. And honestly, there’s a lot of “risk vs reward” baked in which really ties in well to a post apocalyptic setting. Running a game in this system, think Mad Max crossed with Erol Flynn.
Dread: If you want to stress the heck out of everyone, including those who aren’t even playing the game but are in the house, Dread is a hell of a system. No dice, just a jenga tower. You build your characters based on a questionnaire system and background system similar to fate. And here’s the thing, when you’re doing something your character would know how to do, you just do it. However if you’re uncertain, taking a risk, or operating outside of your wheelhouse, you pull a brick. It really heightens the drama where folks will do everything to limit the number of pulls. Cause if you topple the tower? GNC. This wouldn’t be good for a long form campaign, but for a one shot? It will definitely hold attention, that’s for sure.
I decided to use two systems that encapsulate two different approaches to gaming, separated by over a decade and a half. The FASERIP system developed for Marvel Super Heroes, Buck Rogers, and the “second edition” of Star Frontiers and the d20 system from Wizards of the Coast’s 90s and early 2000s.
FASERIP. The venerable FASERIP system was the basis for the old TSR Marvel Super Heroes Game, and even the later Star Frontiers revamp in Zebulon’s Guide, but it persists as a widowed system. Why would I use it for something like the Edenship? It has all the weird abilities I could ever want to use allowing a quick and easy psionics, alien, and high tech application by GM action. The advancement can be pretty ponderous, but that is okay for a post apocalyptic setting where you are mostly human. It provides a resolution system that uses a percentile system but has a green-yellow-red scale of success that makes it easier to adjudicate on the fly. On the downside, it is still a pulpy or heroic system that encourages big actions and big results that could cut against the idea of the hard scrabble underpinnings of the Edenship. The biggest lift for a GM here is defining the contours of the characters to mold the FASERIP system into a less superheroic style. For more on FASERIP, check out the Card Catalog series of posts about using it for a superheroic campaign.
d20 Future. The D20 OGL style system is rightly critiqued as being at times ponderous and nitpicky in ways that no game games approach aside from D&D 3.X and Pathfinder 1E. This is exactly why it can make for a great post apocalyptic engine. It provides an importance of minutia and a resource management system at a meta level by requiring players to manage all of the fiddly bits and sliders of chargen. Using the d20 Future book that is sadly not part of the OGL, a combination of the work for The Wasteland and Genetech campaigns makes it easy to put the rough mechanical frameworks in place. The upside of the system is that it has a robust engine with a lot of support for a GM’s dilemmas including adjudication and optional rules on top of the nitty-gritty resource management that may be utilized at all levels. The downside is that it is a level based game that has a linear progression requiring the GM to think more seriously about the balance of power between NPCs and PCs.
Zendead – Raising Dion This show was so cool. I loved so much of it. I wish there had been more of it but it has a total of 2 seasons and 8 episodes per season. There is so much in the show. Commentary on issues that are very dear to me. So please go and watch this show worth every minute that we can give it.
Joules – Cutie Honey. Old School anime. It’s hilarious and silly and has some of the goofiest sci/fi & magic girl situations.
Guard-a-Manger – Mission to Mars. Buzz Aldrin has never stopped looking to the stars. In Mission to Mars, he lays out how he sees a viable and achievable plan to not only have an astronaut reach Mars, but how to achieve a habitat there. Whether you agree with all of the conclusions or methods, it is a thought provoking book and begs the question of why we don’t try harder to return to the stars.
Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae
I would start with a short run campaign like 3 or 4 adventures. What are those adventures? Where would it be set? Lets see what I had for an idea.
The opening scene would not be something in media res. It is a troupe that I feel like is over done in games. I think you should have in this case a question that is part of a mystery of something wrong on the ship. In this case I would do something with the Housing Sector being stripped out and the PC’s are going to be going in to reclaim some things from the old section of the ship. There is a group of people that command has left in this area, but why did they do it?
This is where I would have a few ideas for types of adventures I would run here. The first one I would do is have the characters get caught in the middle of a battle between two groups in this section of the ship. The second would have to do with figuring out why they got cut off. The rest would be some back and forth trying to get them maybe lined up to come back into the habitable sections but at what cost to the ship and do they bring something that can be used to advance the ship.
So in the end the characters should figure out why the group were left. As far as that I was thinking it could be something as small as they were the first group to show signs of genetic abnormalities. Over time Command figured the people had died so they could just go in and get the materials that were left in the area.
Guard-Manger’s Campaign Seed: A Small Patch of the Universe
Themes: Scarce Resources; Moral Conundrums; Fear of the Unknown
Act 1 – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Reclamation Center
Taking multiple months of real world time and many sessions sets the stage for the larger beats of the world. Following up on the intro adventure idea, these revolve around power fluctuations that are coming through the different sections of the Edenship and even some rolling brownouts. As these fluctuations become more frequent, the PCs get caught up in any number of situations where they must deal with the results of these fluctuations each of which can take several gaming sessions including:
Running Emergency Power conduits to a part of a habitat that has been cut off or frazzled at just the wrong time and exploring the exterior or bulkheads of the ship to keep the Gene Cradle active.
Retrieving a family or family’s keepsakes that were cut off from the rest of the ship when emergency power caused the Solar Storm Doors to slam shut.
Rescuing people from the disaster that happens when power fritzes and something just loses connection mid activity like construction or transportation.
Gangs trying to use protection rackets to claim to prevent the brownouts to certain sectors.
Plot Threads: Throughout this Act of the campaign, let the players discover certain plot threads or put things into place like the fluctuations are being engineered, some parts of the Command Sector know about the planned brown outs, and that the PCs are being watched.
Act 2 – Edenship Crusoe
To throw the Players off their expectations, Act 2 strands the PCs in a remote area and cuts them off from their usual methods of problem solving. This can be either on a planet where they have been sent with one of the recon ships or a cut off section of the base unsafe and unprotected areas of the Eden ship’s civil society areas. In either event, the characters must survive a hostile environment where the exploration aspects of a game may be emphasized and work together dealing with predators, let loose from … or even other sentient beings who see the characters as interlopers. The scavenged technology aspect of the post-apocalyptic Edenship setting should be driven home. Maybe this is the time for a special trick from Felix Chin to be overlooked by whoever put them in this predicament to be the key to making it out .
Plot Threads: The Characters should realize that they have put too many threads together from Act 1. Let the Characters figure out who was behind the stranding that occurred which will all play into the showdown in Act 3.
Act 3. The Curtain Drops
Finding a way back to the civilized parts of the Edenship, the Players should make it a priority to figure out what got them into such hot water. Knowing they are being watched, Act 3 begins with a sense of paranoia and espionage as the pieces become apparent. While there are several options for how the Campaign can conclude, here is one climax: The Prophylaxis Phylum has discovered that specific power fluctuations are planned and predictable – like a code – but not being driven by human choices. One concern is that Gaia A could be corrupted to direct power in ways communicating with aliens or subversive Edenship elements. The power spikes are an attempt to disrupt the communication as the code is still unbroken to attempt to stave off potential alien parasites. This conspiracy is slowly unraveled over the course of multiple sessions leaving the players and their characters with a quandary – what if the brown outs are protecting the Edenship? What if the K’ltl`moria are the advance force for these parasites? Here, the potential for combat, heists, and political maneuvering is huge and the showdown likely epic.
Zendead – I have been looking into starting to play Warhammer. It has some really cool miniatures as well as some cool lore for each army. And to be totally honest I am looking at 40K more than Age of Sigmaur right now.
Guard-a-Manger – The Oresteia. As we are talking about campaign design, and how to interlock stories, the greek classic Oresteia about Orestes and the House of Atreus is a fundamental part of the western narrative traditions.
Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae
So you finished that first adventure and now you ask what is the next step? Well dive into something bigger, what is that bigger thing? The campaign can be the next thing if you want to pull those characters your players had. Now you could do a few different things for a campaign.
Different types of Campaigns
One of these is a bigger story arc that focuses on a smaller section of the overall setting. And maybe a couple of those sections are dealt with in the whole arc. This is the one of the most common ways of setting up a campaign for games.
What about the idea of just doing a string of adventures that are not part of a bigger arc? Totally this is a valid way to set a campaign up. Is it common no, not really but it can be fun and a neat way to break player expectations about things.
You could do short arcs like 4 to 5 session arcs that are all strung together in a way that makes for a cohesive story. Each mini arc could be separate but part of a larger idea and all touching on the same themes.
Which of these is the best? Honestly I don’t think any of them are the best, it really depends on your group.
To kind of get a subtle read on what should be the main focus of the campaign, you may want to kind of treat the first few sessions like a “choose your own adventure” book. See what decisions your players make, what kind of thing are they gravitating to? Have a few “loose” events/encounters in your back pocket, based on what the players do. The team starts to gel after a few sessions and hopefully will start working as a cohesive group. When that happens, you’ll be able to better prepare for sessions. If it appears that the group has a “Swashbuckly” feel. Or goes deep for intrigue. You can build plot points and set pieces that will further the plot as well as provide one heck of a game session. Now if they’re not grabbing your major plot point, that’s ok. Side arcs can always influence the main plot. And the decisions of the players doesn’t mean that all those wonderful ideas you have for the major arc should be abandoned. Keep them going on in the background. In parallel (or series) of your players actions. If the players ask about them, provide the kind of information that they would be privy to based on their prior actions. While the GM is omnipotent and the players can see the big picture, the characters wouldn’t. Their actions will have ripples, both subtle and overt.
It’s not a bad idea to get a small pocket notebook. Call it “The book of consequences” (both positive and negative). A brief comment to a kid ”we know you’re sad, But you should know your dog was the bravest boy. He was 19, and he still got the med staff to your dad’s room. He was a hero!”And maybe the kid may point you to bolt holes for hidden movement. If they yank a portable power generator for emergency use, well now they have to navigate a darkened section of ship.
Guard-a-Manger likes to think in a loose three act structure when making campaigns – Act 1 ses the stage and lays out the themes and larger hooks for the campaign. Act 2 throws a big wrench into the plans of the players, but maybe not the PCs. This is where the PCs get thrust into action one way or another and have to react to something that was not part of their everyday lives or standards. Act 3, finally, is the climax and confrontation with the denouement towards the end. This is where the secrets are revealed, if they have not been already, and the true face of the antagonist shows up. A rough campaign using this structure for the Edenship follows.
How PCs resolve the various types of challenges isn’t important – I don’t worry about specifics there. What I keep track of is the motivation of the world and the antagonists – how they react helps create the fluid campaign response. On the Edenship, the threats can be interior most commonly, but the fear of the unknown coming from the exterior of the Edenship is fertile ground for larger campaigns. I like to blend these aspects when making a larger campaign and often will shoot for the PCs to be in between them. In a post-apocalyptic setting, I find it important to put PCs in a moral quandary: a grey area that forces them to make choices like the trolley problem and the lesser of two evils scenarios.
Zendead – Take a break from things and unplug. From all the electronics as well as all the things you do as a GM. Sometimes we all need to get away from things for a bit.
Joules – Inspirisles by Hatchlings Games You play Pendragons, the descendents of Arthur and Guinevere. Sent to the Inspirisles, you must fight a dark energy known as Disbelief to restore their World Tree. By learning Shaping (ASL and BSL), a language allowing you to harness the elements, you will bring peace back to a crumbling kingdom.
Guard-a-Manger – Exercise and movement! In the northern hemisphere, we are coming through towards Spring and it has been easy to hibernate, but our bodies need some attention – do as much movement as your body tolerates or jumpstart an exercise regimen if that’s your jam. One way or another, remind yourself that even if Descartes confounds your existence, feeling like the world is real helps for sure.
Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae
We are in the final episodes of the setting build we have done. We wanted to touch on a few more topics before we put this season in the history books. So a starting adventure is a big deal. It is supposed to give a general feel for what the setting is supposed to do. Well at least the biggest and most broad strokes. It can also be a springboard for more ideas that will hopefully lead to a campaign that you and your friends will have fun playing for a long time to come.
So the things we think about are the big themes we are wanting to start with. Some of them are very big concepts and as such we need to lay the groundwork early for them. A thing to keep in mind is that you don’t need to bring all the themes into a game. Focus on just one for now, Are we going to go with Isolation or something else?
We need to have just a few locations for the adventure, like 4 or 5 areas. If you keep it tight then you can dive into the people that populate the areas. Not every area will or should have people. This is a massive ship that is seeing its decline. Sometimes the environment should be its own character. Those spaces should feel unique and not like the rest of the areas.
An opening adventure would whet the appetite of the players and introduce major parts of a campaign world that will come around in the main campaign. There is no need to try to make the first game, or introductory module, connect to a larger campaign, save having it reflect things that may be more universal in the game itself.
For my part, I want to introduce several biomes of the Eden ship, requiring players to go to at least one area they have not been, introduce at least two factions on the Eden Ship, preferably not directly tied to the biomes involved, and have at least one dangling mystery by the time it is done. This last piece could be the springboard to a new adventure, the start of a campaign, or a recurring gag but something won’t be fully tied up in a neat bow by the time I am done.
My plan would be to introduce a quick adventure or plot revolving around unexplained power usage that is messing up the balance of the Eden ship’s systems. Command is understandably perturbed that plans are not going off as intended, but who is benefiting from it? This leads to the possibility of a smuggling ring from the old chunks of the ship through to the Engineering section. An experiment has gone a little off the rails, so they needed extra supplies.
This framework means I can introduce politics in the command structure, exploration in ferreting out the smuggling ring or the Engineering stores, and combat because somebody will throw a punch somewhere along the way. The themes of resource management and scarcity drive this plot but the balance of power on the Eden ship is what really shapes it.
Getting started, especially when you already have an environment so dense can be tricky. Before just picking a starting point, see what your players are playing. Are they a mix of tech and muscle? Maybe an away mission or an investigation to a part of the ship that has lost communication with the greater whole. Are they mostly muscle, maybe have them serve as an escort to the ambassador to a newly discovered race? Science heavy? How bout working to decrypt some new data or stop an alien tech virus incursion.
The biggest thing is to give them an adventure. Something tough, for sure, but fun for the players (could be a right nightmare for their characters). The post apocalypse has to be hard for the people that live in it, not the players who play in that world. Losing all the time isn’t fun. Remember that not all victories have to be total victories. Your shuttle could get away from that asteroid field, but you lose some vital materials or data in the process. You could successfully fight off that incursion, but no one noticed that wee bug that was left behind.
Remember that you can’t lose all the time and your victories don’t have to be perfect but they have to strike that balance. We won, but what’s that shoe, and when is it gonna drop.
Zendead – Dracula the Netflix Series is really neat and full of cool ideas.
Joules – Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman.
Guard-a-Manger – Rachmaninoff, The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43. The 18th Variation is the most famous or at least most frequently listened to part of Rachmaninoff’s work. Take some time to put on headphones, or a fantastic home sound system, shut off outside distractions and notifications, and lose yourself in a work of classical music. Jot down anything you want when you are done, but make that length of time sacrosanct and focused as best you can.
Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae
Whenever humans collect in any numbers they do a few different things. One is they create groups or cliches, and another is they start talking. Once people start talking they realize that they are all alone in a big universe that doesn’t care if they survive or not. So like in the early days of mankind people start telling stories and some of them are made up.
Once a story is told a few times it starts to take on a life and quality all its own. This is the birth of Urban Legends and the new myths of mankind in a ship heading to a new star. So what are some of these myths? We are going to show you a few that have sprung up in the last 20 years or so.
The Lost Kids as they are called are ones that have been left by malice or accident in a section of the ship as it was being evacuated due to some problem. Parents will hear them crying in their sleep, if they can sleep after losing a child. Later a neighbor will catch a glimpse of them turning a corner in a dead end section of the ship. They will run to try to catch up with them so they can bring the poor lost kid home to their family. As they turn the corner there is no one there.
The parents might have a knock on the door to their quarters from what sounds like little hands. They look out and nothing is there. When they open the door there is a child about the same age as the one they lost. Standing on the other side of the passage and they look up to the adult and the face is gone. It is just a mask of flesh covering all the features of the face. But they hear a voice begging to be let in before the cold of space robs them of their will to get home.
The Bots are Learning
“The bots are learning”
OK just “water cooler kibitzing” but it seems to be more tenacious than other rumors. While the coding for the various autonomous drones around the ship is sophisticated, they are still just following their coding. But stories about the ‘bots acting strange are still being whispered from crew member to crew member. While there hasn’t been any recorded evidence of these events, anecdotal and hearsay accounts are numerous.
Stories of patrol bots being found far away from their programmed routes, with no reason as to the anomaly. Scouting drones just eerily freezing mid mission, responding to status queries with nonsense or eerie phrases like “It’s dark in here” or “Everythings Burning.” Assistive droids seemingly acting belligerent or contradicting an order.
Normally this would be chalked up to faulty coding or damage, but all recent inspections have not shown any damage to internal components and no corrupt code. Just superficial scuffing. And it’s a nightmare to track down the source of these stories and rumors. It’s always “I heard from crewmate so and so” or “I thought I read it in a memo somewhere.”
And cracking down on the rumors trigger the Streisand effect to an absurd degree. So the stories spread and change and grow.
It’s unfortunately having the side effect of putting everyone on edge. The crew is losing trust in the very technology that helps keep the ship together. Not trusting the data provided by the various ‘bots puts the crew in harm’s way. They don’t trust their robo-assistant to function properly. They’d quadruple check each robotic component to make sure it’s not going to act up.
Having a kid eying his father’s electric razor with distrust is the least of the ship’s worries
Sometimes you just need a little extra help, right? It’s one big closed system so it can’t really hurt anybody when you use it … and it had to come from somewhere inside the program. Look, I know you are worried about it, but it’ll be fine! The whole command sector uses it all the time.
It’s a simple little command to input at whatever terminal you’re logged into. Yeah, just a little code relic, a leftover piece of command access that they never got out of the ship’s system when it had to launch so fast. It just takes a little bleed off the scout ship’s launch, no big deal. Some kind of quantum power boost that gets around the system limitations and a little extra access to let you in where you need to go. Yeah, just use this passcode.
Don’t worry about it. They won’t come for you. There is no such thing as a code reclamation technician. It’s not true at all. No, there are no grey suited technicians behind every corner tracing the code. That’s crazy talk; where would they put the bodies if that’s what is going on? NO. It’s fine, I’ve been using it for the last month and nothing happened to me!
[There is always a myth or legend of access, but gotten through an underhanded way. Some sort of a hole in reality or in the systems that are controlling the world. When you reach into that power, you run a risk. These urban legends and myths are often associated with horror and the occult, but when it’s a spaceship lost in the depths of the stars, the allure of a little extra computing power is what will keep this urban legend alive.]
Zendead – The Wandering Earth on Netflix is a really neat idea. It is full of cool visuals as well as things to use for a massive ship type game.
Guard-a-Manger – The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell. Chances are that you have heard of Joseph Campbell, and maybe you’ve read his work about the Hero’s Journey before. While not the last word on the subject, the prevailing power of the Campbell Monomyth work shows how you can grasp the underlying power of legend and myth for your game.
Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae
Alien lifeforms can and should be well alien. While being alien is important, being too far removed from human makes them hard to relate to. So while in reality aliens could be most likely so different from humans that they might not even be recognized as life. For a game making them relatable is a very important aspect that we will have to add to them.
The tug at the corner of your thoughts is distracting. You have noticed this happening more and more as the days go by. What is that tug you feel? You aren’t sure but it might be the tug because you feel like you are missing something. What is it that you are missing? Also why does everyone around you seem not right? Things are not just a problem for you but for those you care about as well.
What is really going on inside that skull of yours? Well sometimes “life finds a way” as the old saying goes. This time life is a bit hard to accept with this form. Thought has given rise to life and how it propagates. This time the thought has come from something that mankind has only just really started to truly dive into. What it has done is give us this mental virus that is taking part of our higher function offline so it can use it to recreate the thought form that has given it life. What is going to happen if or when it all comes online?
Life is always something that humans have trouble putting out there. Past is it a solid? Is it a carbon or silicon based form of life that is also humanoid? These seem to be the big things that humans have decided are the way you can have other life forms. The universe is massive and still expanding so life is going to show up in ways humans might not really understand. What is the first law of thermodynamics? Well we know that part of the human mind is electrical nature. What if there was a race that was just energy? In comes the Rydilian’s as we have started taking to calling them.
What are the Rydilian’s? They are a race of pure energy. They do not have a form that is physical in a way that humans can really interact with them. As pure energy the big question humans have is can they be a way for us to advance? It is possible but communication is hard between the two. Because the number of them we have found is only two so far. Does this mean that that is all of them? No, we are pretty certain that there is more but they are not very forthcoming with information about themselves. Since they are energy they do not have a need for ships. They can travel at speeds we can not understand. So what do they have to offer us? Nothing that they are willing to explain to us. Maybe they are seeing if we are worth trying to help before they do anything.
Not all life forms are macroscopic and sapient. (Or malicious) One of the biggest journey changing discoveries was in the form of extraterrestrial anaerobic bacteria. Named after a science fiction author from the 20th century, these microbes have quite literally been a lifesaver to the crew. These bacteria are extremophiles and can survive in a variety of hostile environments. Additionally, they don’t rely on oxygen to survive. But what makes these microbial miracles so special is that their waste product is oxygen. They have extended the time of EVM, allowing the crew to make lengthy, yet vital ship repairs. They are now a key component for emergency medical packs. They’ve been used as catalysts to help keep certain experiments oxygenated. While these bacteria do require more study, the benefit to the crew and the ship has been immeasurable.
Little is known about these strange creatures. The crew has started to calling them “Star Jellyfish” due to their semispherical “heads” (maybe) and long tendrils. Their semi transparent bodies bend and warp light within themselves, creating a gorgeous tapestry of shapes and colours. They don’t have any observable mode of self locomotion, they ride the gravity waves produced by interstellar phenomenon. (Supernovae, quasar jets, stellar collisions, etc.) As majestic as these creatures are, it is best avoided to avoid them, or risk damage to personnel and craft. While possibly intelligent, these creatures seemingly operate by having a distributed nervous system not a central one. As such each part responds based on external stimuli with no overt coordination. When anything comes into contact with the Surfers, they immediately latch onto it with their tendrils, pulling it towards their translucent dome. The tendrils are incredibly sturdy. An elemental analysis of a broken tendril fragment shows a makeup of every known element, in some very strange configurations. But once something is pulled into its luminant dome, it disappears from view. It’s assumed that whatever was captured is broken down to its elemental parts and then integrated.
So while it is breathtaking to watch these magnificent creatures, do so at a safe distance.
It took quite a while to figure out why the mass distribution seemed to be off between the quadrants of the ship. Things were … close to expected mass but just different enough to require an adjustment here and there. It wasn’t until some poor Prophylaxis Phylum initiate was tasked with cleaning out the recycling ducts near Her Honor Kazuya’s quarters that the first hint of the Mycosapiods were discovered.
Unfortunately, we’ve lost the name of that initiate, likely due to some unavoidable mishap with “first contact” with the Mycos. It is hard enough to get all the factions going along with one plan, but when you are dealing with a distributed fungal consciousness, it is even more of a challenge. As best as the big brains aboard the Eden Ship can figure out, one of the little planet hopping explorations brought back a microscopic piece of fungus that started to replicate within the waste reclamation system. Combine this with an opportunity for unadulterated cosmic radiation and it has evolved into something .. else.
The signs of sentience were hard to notice at first, but rudimentary communication was eventually established even if it mostly amounts to marking territory as off limits, ensuring a specific amount of nutrient density for the Mycos, and their continued improvement on the reclamation and biological systems of the ship. The trade off has been almost seamless, save a few crew who wandered too far astray and were consumed by the Mycos. It’s certainly creepy enough to find the slightly pulsing blanket of fungus down a repair shaft, but recently reports have filtered back that Mycos are starting to form vaguely human shaped mushroom lattices.
Are they still evolving? Or is this what happened on whatever planet they came from? What can you manage to barter with this seemingly sentient ocean of connected fungus?
There is an old saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. How do you truly know who falls into which camp? While humans have formed affiliative bonds since time immemorial to help answer this in socio-political shorthand, other options have evolved in the cosmos. One benefit to the occasional trip to a planet when you escape the gravitic well of the ship is to find new ways that flora and fauna reflect and manipulate their biospheres. One such outing found an outpost of symbiotic insectoids that used the local flora as their “hosts.”
The jokes came quickly about how this was just like those old stories from back on Terra! This is another one of those movies or shows, or body snatching creatures! The jokes were not entirely wrong. The K’ltl`moria did require a host to survive for more than a scant few weeks, evolving on a lush world that was teeming with options. They identified a friend not by the shape of the host, but by the treatment of the host itself. While only a few dozen are currently aboard,they are a pleasant change of pace.
Gregarious and open, the K’ltl`moria seek out new experiences in these host bodies taken from the ailing and afflicted crew of the Eden ship. They enhance the metabolism of their host and have proven to be quite accommodating of the requests of the host bodies. The hosts own consciousness doesn’t survive the process, but so far there hasn’t been a rejection of a K’ltl`moria by a human host either. The long slow breeding cycle means it is decades before these dozens turn into hundreds, but when friendly and generous souls … even if they are insectoid souls …. Are trying to be helpful, how can you say no? A shame they didn’t have a better technological grasp than the Eden ship crew itself.
Zendead – If you are watching what is going on with #opendnd While I love lots of different games this is a big thing of our time right now. If you feel inclined please sign the letter and make your voice heard. https://www.opendnd.games/
Guard-a-Manger – Designers & Dragons. As you’ve likely heard, the TTRPG community is at a point of inflection as the future of the hobby is up for grabs. To best understand what futures may exist, one should study the past. The incomparable Designers & Dragons is a collection of books I would consult when preparing Card Catalogs to get a near encyclopedic overview of the history of the hobby and the large and medium sized companies and personages that made it up. Head over to Evil Hat today and pick up a digital copy of each of the four volumes.
Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae
We talked about different adversaries that were NPC’s but there can be other types of adversaries. Not all of them are people. Adversaries can fall into a few other categories as well. Part of what we are going to talk about are those this time.
This sounds kind of strange to include on a spaceship. This ship is old and not having been unkempt for a long time is starting to show signs of age. This is a very real thing when you think about a ship sailing between stars. The crew can not be put into a hibernation sleep or anything like that.
So not every location characters will adventure on will be nice and sunny earthlike planets. Actually none of them really should be. The worlds are and should be radically different from the planet we call home. Just think about your home solar system. There are planets that rain sulfuric acid that is almost boiling, to planets that rain diamonds. This is just the beginning of the hellscapes out there.
On earth, the ozone layer protects us from harmful high energy radiation. However that protection is absent in the cold void of space. One of the side effects of radiation on organic life is mutations. And some of the expected protections were either in part or wholly missing. People were herded onto the ship without going through the standard medical scan and quarantine. That, combined with insufficient medical supplies and staff, was, for lack of a better word, a petri dish for disaster. Under normal circumstances virus mutations, while relatively rapid, do follow a general expected timeframe. While mutations can be accelerated (gas attacks during WW 1 were blamed for the increased lethality of the flu pandemic), interstellar radiation caused mutations to go haywire. Trying to sequence the genome of the rapidly evolving viruses was a sisyphean task. Creating retrovirals, antibiotics, and even palliative treatments have been nearly impossible. Deep disinfecting and maintaining a sterile environment isn’t possible. We can only hope that as the Hyper Virii continue to mutate, that our own immune systems develop mutations that allow us to fight off whatever we may contract, as well as prevent the possible cytokine storm that may result from a hyper reactive immune response.
The ship’s mission, when it launched, was to transport humanity to a possible new home. The journey would take time and those that first left earth wouldn’t live to see humanity’s new home. But over time, new generations of humanity wouldn’t know what it was like to live on a planet, to see a sunrise, to live in relative security and comfort. All they would know is a nomadic existence, a subsistence existence. The drive and intent to find a new home for humanity initially was born from the desire of the initial passengers aboard the ship. However with each subsequent generation, the drive and intent slowly gives way to myth and tradition. “Why are we headed to this star to settle a planet”? “Because that is what we’ve always done.”
Over time the mission itself may be challenged, or even abandoned. Why keep making your way towards a planet? There’s a cool nebula over there and we’ve never seen one shaped like that before.
Zendead – Take time for yourself. Rest and recover. The holidays are over but rest might have been in short supply.
Joules – Good Eats/Alton Brown’s Youtube Channel/Quarentine Quitchen
Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae
Last time we talked about the maps for the ship. This time we are going to talk about maps of things outside the ship. Are there a lot of different kinds? Yes there are. You could have planetary maps so think about maps of the earth. You could map those types if you and having a few in your back pocket might not be a bad idea. This setting has exploration as a theme to it.
Speaking of exploration, having maps that are of even bigger areas like solar systems are also a good thing to have. These might seem silly to have but they can be used in a pinch if you want to have a solar system for characters to explore. This is a map that we will have a few different examples of. Finally the biggest area that has to do with a setting like this are star maps and they have just the locations of solar systems in them. These will not have all points of light in them. This way if you want to have more things in a section you can just add them. The point of this is to have lots of options.
There are a few different locations online to get these types of maps. In addition to a few of the planet maps, we will have a solar system or two and a star map as well. These will be able to be used as is or as idea jump points for your own stories in the setting of the Eden ship.
Additionally, checking out star maps from NASA or the European Space Agency can give a layer of realism and narrative stability.