Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 149: Building the Setting
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Main Topic

The basics of the setting is the Ark. While there are potential asteroids and planets that may expand the horizon of the world, these will be primarily tackled when we talk about locales in a future episode. This episode is focused on the ship and relationship that a party will have to that main point. Each section will include a key location and an NPC or two we can come back to when we look at NPCs in more depth. 

Each “section” of the ship can be large enough to encompass entire campaigns, as a generation ship could be as massive as needed. This allows for shifting priorities within the ship, and potential mutations to take over entire sections without compromising the integrity of the ship as a setting and turning it into a horror game as a default. Imagine something close to the size of a continent, but not quite the size of a moon. 

Ark ship sections of note include:

  • Life Science Section – The Life Sciences section means more than just where you can find the best medical care, but also the hydroponics and green water and air facilities. You have the equivalent of the lush jungle of an unexplored planet in the middle of the ship. With the less than optimal crew complement, there are even rumors of entire villages or groups of … something not quite human within its folds. 
    • Great Expanse – The Great Expanse is 160 acres of grassland using genetically modified grasses that grow 3M high providing not only a rotational planting rich soil but a CO2 sink. Of course, nobody knows just how deep the roots of these grasses actually reach. At least three floors “below” the Great Expanse are blocked off on the ship schematics with nobody admitting to finding a way to tell if it is just soil, constantly regenerating from the refuse dumped in the Expanse or something more.  
    • GAIA Analysis (AI) – GAIA Analysis, or “Gaia A” is a top of the line science AI.  She works assisting everyone who comes into the life science section.  The soothing disembodied female voice serves as a teacher, a research assistant, doctor, data analyst, therapist, and a friend.  Some of the old timers refer to her as “Super Siri.”  She also works to gather real time data regarding all the biological specimens.  Sentient and non.  But she is still just a program, which leaves her vulnerable to code corruptions.  And if the hardware on which she resides is damaged, she may be lost forever
  • Engineering Section – A misshapen MC Escher design of winding corridors with questionable gravity make the Engineering Section a habitat left for the fearless or optionless. The inherent danger of a long forgotten experiment run amok or just a shifting mass of supplies precariously balanced on an outcropping means being constantly alert. And constantly tired. You do get really wiz trinkets and gear … if you can live long enough to make them work consistently. 
    • Tinkers Guild – Springing up where the command structure collapsed, the children of the actual engineering crew ended up turning a tween gang into a functioning guild. It doesn’t hurt that the scruffy little ragamuffins are the most adept at tinkering and repairing parts of the ship. Dealing with them can feel a lot like trading chocolate for bullets, but you have to do what you have to do and the TInkers Guilds’ twinkling eyes and mischievous nature make them especially dangerous in the enclosed space of the Ark. 
    • Duct Goo – A lovely little product thought up and then made real by the tinker’s guild.  Old School duct tape has been in use for various engineering flash repairs for such a long time.  So why not improve the go to quick fix?  Necessity being the mother of invention and all that.  The guild took into account the need for it to work in a wide variety of environments (Irradiated, extreme heat, extreme cold, zero grav, under water, etc) and came up with an amorphous substance that will take on specific qualities when exposed to different electromagnetic frequencies.  Once exposed, the solid “remembers” its properties.  And works to “duct tape” whatever is broken in place so it can be fixed at a later date.  Thing is that this substance requires unique and rare substances to make, so it has to be used sparingly. 
  • Storage/Bullhead – This is where any and all raw materials, scavenged or brought with are stored.  Also unidentified items, which need to be analyzed for usefulness and safety are kept here in isolation, to prevent accidental contamination.  Depending on the day/event/situation, the place can look like a tetris expert organized it or the aftermath of somebody shaking a lego box everywhere, writ large.  The area can also be used as an impromptu research station as the need arises
    • Research Block Zeta – Coming across strange and unique organic and inorganic materials is almost expected on this journey.  Research Block Zeta is set up with various scanning/analyzing tools as well as storage containers.  Standard storage containers from flasks and test tubes are mingled in with high power magnetic and plasma “bottles”.  While this research area is a lot less organized than the ship’s lab, many researchers enjoy the rustic and “cutting age of science” feel of the area.  It is also the most dangerous assignment for any of the science minded, since they have no idea what may be stored next to them.  Or what may happen when a power fluctuation lowers the containment strength of the magnetic bottle.
    • Lemurian Wyvern – One undisputed fact about the bulkheads is that a predator stalks its darkened recesses. Slipping in and out of different storage areas and bulkheads, the killer called the Lemurian Wyvern has been a threat to lone Arkers for over a century. The best information anyone can share, or is willing to share, is that victims are often damp with water, rent with sharp and devastating claws or blades, and branded with a wyvern somewhere on their body when found. It is a constant tension because the beast’s origin can’t be found in the computer system leaving many to believe an alien has infiltrated the ship while others claim its a ploy of the Command Section to keep everyone else in line. Or maybe just a fungus in the wheat. 
  • Command Section – Command holds an outsized importance on the Ark and the vast majority of controls for the Ark’s functions reside there … but these systems come with the downside of being the most frequently malfunctioning. The high tech, high demand computers require constant upkeep which means inhabitants of Command are constantly trading favors and resources to keep not only their little corner running but the ship flying. 
    • Leftenant Grigori Hayabusa. Inheriting the title of Leftenant from his father who inherited it from his father before him and who inherited it from his father before him … or maybe some sort of ceremonial competition, Grigori is best described as a well intentioned buffoon. Griks, as he is also called, can’t seem to help but stumble over his own ideas and plans. Perhaps it is the insulation from any responsibility growing up in the lap of technological luxury that kept him from actually internalizing the skills of his parents, or perhaps it’s the well hidden extra temporal lobe that showed up in an early brain scan. A quietly dangerous and calculating inhabitant of the “Command Section”, Grigori may harbor more answers than his inept appearance seems. 
  • Civilian Welfare – The section that was to be the most important section for the generational long trip is now the biggest wreckage of the ship. With little to provide a structure to its place, Civilian Welfare was the first area stripped of useful materials and mined of its components as immediate repairs had to be made in the first few decades. Perhaps the Arkers will come to regret having cannibalized their own civil society but it was in the name of pure survival. The miles and miles of run down and abandoned shops, faux parks, and recreational expanses are dotted with outcasts and exiles who couldn’t find a way to keep their wits in the horizonless Ark coupled with an ever present question of whether any particular room has been exposed to the vacuum of space. Taking a walk on the welfare side is to take your life into your own hands, if you are lucky.
    • Felix Chin – Felix is the person who is most likely to slip into and out of other Sections with “special deals” from Civilian Welfare leftovers! Felix is the head of a roughly organized chain of smugglers and grey market dealers who provide access to nearly anything you can imagine, often made from parts or pieces of a bygone recreational era. A special deal, this week only, and found virtually untouched by vacuum by yours truly! What is it? A box, my dear girl, a box! What is in the box? What IS in the box . . . 

Closing remarks 

Zendead – Enhance Game Bags I have been looking for a new GM go bag for awhile and I found one that does everything I need. It holds enough books and minis as well as all my dice and pencils. It even has a cool map strap for your maps that are too big to go in the bag.  I love mine. 

    Joules – Makai Kingdom – Turn Based Grid/esque video game.  It is intentionally over the top, campy, and crazy silly.  If you liked the mechanics of Final Fantasy Tactics, but want something insanely sillier?  It’ll overlord your faces off!

    Guard-a-Manger – Ms. Marvel. A reimagining of the quintessential Marvel comics story of a teenage outsider who has to come to grips with special powers in a world that doesn’t automatically love them. Ms. Marvel takes the breakout smash Ms. Marvel comic book hit and not only seamlessly adds it to the MCU but does it with a wit, charm, and poignancy other shows have lacked. 

Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae

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