Saturday, January 30, 2016

Introductory Adventure Map

For the starter adventure, I wanted to give a scenario that GMs would be able to use in a variety of ways. I decided that the opener has to do with an Orak Gunship. I'm going to stat it up, and then provide a few different hooks for ways to use it, rather than a single linear adventure. Here's the map of the gunship... my favorite iteration has all of the Orak turned into zombies, and the PCs sent to steal the five Orak interceptors for a local guild master; their payment would be that they'd be allowed to keep one of the interceptors. This has a lot of potential for fun.

I have a hand-drawn map of the interior of an Orak ship, but I like this one (computer-generated) better than my hand-drawn style for the game. Starships would be more mechanical and precise than the more earthy Dyson-inspired maps I usually do...

A Nomenclature of Planets

In developing the campaign setting for Shards of Tomorrow, I am working on names for planets and other heavenly bodies. I want something that sounds both familiar and unusual, classic and yet offbeat. I think I've come up with a solution that checks all the boxes and fits my personality... Shakespeare!

The suns would be named after the main characters for a number of plays, with the planets and planet-like objects named after other characters from the plays. These are easy to remember, evoke the right feeling, and actually suggest some of the relationships between planets or their nature... for instance:

Prospero is the original system of the Confederacy, and was once the most settled and prosperous, but now is (largely) in ruin. The vast celestial sea connects the thousands of small fragments of what was once the planet Ariel. The planet Caliban is a wild planet of monstrous lifeforms, and home to the kobo. Miranda is a settled and colonized world, the new home of terrans after the destruction of Ariel, and the homeworld of the gnorom.

Romeo and Juliet are binary stars. Two of the largest planets, Montague and Capulet, are powerful trade worlds in competition with each other. Tybalt is a planet at war, barren and hot. Friar is a small planet of deeply religious philosophers, and homeworld to the nuaru.

Hamlet is a system in conflict. Ophelia is a watery world, home to the Trog. Laertes is a tempestuous planet. Polonius is a gas giant. Claudius II is the new homeworld to the Orak, who were moved there as a prison colony, but they rebelled and took the planet over.

Macbeth is a dark and backwards system of savage peoples. The small planets orbiting this relatively cold star, Banquo, Macduff, Duncan, all share the qualities of being generally inhospitable and barren, with a variety of challenging climates. Malcolm and Donalbain are more hospitable but relatively unsettled planets, with rich natural resources and pockets of civilization.

Othello was the system of the Orak, but it is now destroyed. It serves as the location of the Shadow's Rift, the black hole leading into the Void. Two planets orbit the black hole, Desdemona and Iago. Both are barren worlds teeming with dark forces. However, both also have the remains of valuable artifacts and relics of the times before buried deep underground.

See? It just all fits together so nicely. Shakespeare provided such a nice variety of characters and settings for his plays, so borrowing these provides instant variety and consistency to the planets. That, my friends, is what you call a win.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I Love It When A Game Comes Together

Shards of Tomorrow is coming along quite nicely. I'm somewhere in the vicinity of 90% done with the rulebook, and the heavy lifting is pretty much done. I like where it's gone, and it has a nice blend of my favorite sci fi tropes without being especially beholden to any one brand. It has some heavy elements of Star Wars for sure, but there's enough Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek in there, along with smidges of Firefly and Guardians of the Galaxy, to give it a real comprehensive feel while still being internally consistent. I can't say it's my 'best' work, because I don't even know how I'd measure such a thing, but it feels very complete and focused. I'm looking forward to releasing it into the wild. I need a few days for writing, and a few more for editing, and it really needs another half dozen or so illustrations, so I'd expect a few weeks yet, but you never know.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Okay. Now I'm Done. I'm Dropping the Mic and Everything

Here's a FINAL layout of the various ships that will be in the core rules for Shards of Tomorrow. Even if (or rather when) I draw a whole bunch of additional ships, I'm still stopping here for the core rules. This gives a wide range of starcraft to cover almost any situation you might run across. I added a few details to some of the ships, popped in the new ones, measured, named and categorized them all. This process has really helped me to understand the various forces involved, and the ways in which they interact. Obviously, the Confederacy of Systems was the major producer of starships, but the forces of the Void have produced two, a big carrier and smaller interceptors, and the Orak have produced two as well, a gunship and an interceptor. I see the Orak ships as heavy duty but slow, while the void interceptor is exceptionally light and quick, but easy to destroy once you lock on with your blast cannon.

I Need A Starship Intervention

Remember when I said I wasn't posting any more starships? I LIED!

Okay, I meant it when I said it... and then I opened MS Paint and kept playing. I absolutely LOVE how these are coming out. In order, we have...

1. A planetary aircar that would be used by local police forces for patrol.
2. A gunship of the Confederacy.
3. An Orak Interceptor.
4. An Orak Heavy Gunship.

In general, I'm seeing spaceships in this game being on the smaller side in regards to ships in sci fi pop culture. The largest ship I've designed so far is 465' long, so something on the order of the SW Blockade Runner. I suppose I view this a little more medieval in terms of starship design... we have the large ironclads that would have been around in the Civil War era, but the era of the massive battleship has not yet dawned. I'd say it would be a good campaign hook to be working on one, or trying to prevent the enemy from developing one...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Final Starship Post For a While... I Think

This should be the last starship post for a bit... right? I went through and re-scaled ships to show relationships between various craft, and this gives me a good variety of ships. I probably need to add one or two large starships (but not capital ships) to span the difference between the dropship and the smallest capital ship.

Starships of the Void

I've designed a number of terran ships, but I thought it was time to knock out a few ships of the bad guys, the fiends and undead of the Void. The first ship is a battle carrier (maybe 1000' long) that goes on deep-space missions, while the second is a ghoul interceptor (maybe 25' long), which is so named because... well... it's piloted by a ghoul. These things have the unfair advantage of having void-based weapons, which fire charges of anti-matter that do all sorts of badness.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

More Ships

Okay, now I'm just having too much fun. Here are a few more ships... the first two are my takes on something about the size of the SW Blockade Runner (about that size), what would have been an escort ship for one of the big Battle Carriers of the Confederacy. I see the first as a supply or medical ship, while the second would be more military in nature, but both comparable in size (maybe 700' to 1000' long). The third ship is a smaller dropship, but I could easily see these being prime candidates for retro-fitting by smugglers and mercenaries as personal craft, with jump drives bolted on and some of the troop hold filled with additional oxygen filtration so that the ship would be viable for long-term travel through space. I like the bulky look of the last one... and that it just has a single big, chunky cannon sitting on top.

Friday, January 22, 2016


Let’s break down weapons systems…

A pistol can fire twice per round, deals 1D; range is in feet (half range); cost x1

A rifle can fire once per round, deals 2D; range is in feet; cost x2

A heavy rifle can fire once per round, deals 3D; range is in feet (double range); cost x5. A heavy rifle cannot normally be carried into combat, and requires two operators to move (although STR 14+ would allow a character to wield a heavy rifle in combat normally).

A light cannon fires once per round, deals 4D; range is x1; cost x20; base targeting +1

A medium cannon fires once per round, deals 5D; range is x2; cost x50; base targeting +1

A heavy cannon fires once per round, deals 6D; range is x3; cost x100; base targeting +1

Blast weapons deal D6 damage, base range 60/1, base cost 25 sc

Pulse weapons deal D8 damage, base range 120/2, base cost 50 sc

Phase weapons deal D10 damage, base range 180/3, base cost 100 sc

Weapon Breakdown (damage; range; cost)
1d6; 30’; 25 sc
1d8; 60’; 50 sc
1d10; 90’; 100 sc
2d6; 60’; 50 sc
2d8; 120’; 100 sc
2d10; 180’; 200 sc
Heavy Rifle
3d6; 120’; 125 sc
3d8; 240’; 250 sc
3d10; 360’; 500 sc
Light Cannon
4d6; 1 mile; 500 sc
4d8; 2 miles; 1,000 sc
4d10; 3 miles; 2,000 sc
Medium Cannon
5d6; 2 miles; 1,000 sc
5d8; 4 miles; 2,000 sc
5d10; 6 miles; 4,000 sc
Heavy Cannon
6d6; 3 miles; 2,000 sc
6d8; 8 miles; 4,000 sc
6d10; 12 miles; 8,000 sc

For example, a planetary patrol vehicle is likely to have a heavy rifle position affixed to the top. A planetary tank or standard starship interceptor is likely to have a light cannon affixed. A medium freighter or similar vehicle may have a medium cannon, or a pair of light cannons. A heavy gunship may sport a pair of heavy cannons and eight medium cannons.

Blast weapons are the most common, and the most readily available. The make use of fundamental energy production technologies to focus a burst of accelerated particles at relatively short range. They were the first energy weapons created, and have found renewed popularity since the Messari returned. Many gno tinkers have made a name for themselves as developers of blast weapons, hand-crafting these in their personal workshops.

Pulse weapons emit focused lasers, giving better range and effectiveness compared to blast weapons, but with greater cost. Pulse weapons were the heart of the Confederate army before the Messari, but many have been destroyed, and their production facilities have been all but wiped out. It is difficult to craft pulse weapons without considerable production facilities.

Phase weapons are somewhat controversial, since they rely on subatomic fusion, and may in fact channel some form of anti-matter in their processing. These are exceptionally rare, powerful, and expensive weapons. It’s not likely that you’ll be able to purchase a heavy phase cannon to strap to the top of your modified transport. These also require precise engineering, and are difficult to manufacture without exceptional resources.

I like this breakdown, because it clearly sets everything out and provides a lot of variety.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Minimalistic ship designs

In thinking about how to visually depict ships and other vehicles in the core rules, I am leaning towards the minimalist shadow forms like I used in the Army Ants rules. Here are some samples I worked up really quick... the first few are too small in terms of file size (I'll have to re-do those), but the last two are probably big enough files that they look good when reduced. The first few are too small and you can see the pixels, but the last two are about the right size.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

BSG and Star Trek Mashup Notes

In thinking about both Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, I came up with these notes to guide the next layer of the game...

Valhalla's Blade, the Last Battle Carrier
The last of the Heavy Battle Carriers from the Confederate Armada, Valhalla’s Blade returned from a three-year mission to explore the Frontier to find that the Confederacy had been wiped out. They have aboard a large number of military aircraft, a contingent of soldiers of the Confederacy, and a handful of Synthoid officers.

Synthoid are mechanical life forms. They are highly logical and incredibly intelligent. They are able to perform scientific and medical feats that most living creatures are incapable of, their synthetic brains operating at the highest levels of efficiency.

Synthoid Directives:
- Life is inherently valuable, and destruction of life must be avoided when possible.
- The mind is the greatest of all faculties.
- Adherence to lawful behavior is the best means for a just society.

Synthoids were part of the Synthoid project (now defunct) that sought to create a race of creatures that would be helpful to mankind, able to process information as a computer but interact as a human being. While only a few hundred synthoids made it into circulation among the fleet, thousands more remained in stasis.

Some ideas for Synthoid abilities:
+LM to INT
Science or Medicine as an innate trait
Immune to mind control, or any power that affects the mind
Immune to undead drain, or comparable abilities
+4 to all rolls to resist poisons, toxins, disease or other maladies

Aboard Yahalla’s Blade are 24 Synthoids ready for activation who are still dormant. The captain is weighing the need to activate these, and new player characters could be synthoids who he activates, or synthoids who were recovered from other locales after they were bombed/ruined by the Messari.

Delta 13, The Rogue Synthoid

Casting off his Terran name of Gregory, this synthoid (originally called Delta 13) changed his own programming, concerned that the value of life and adherence to law were innately incompatible directives. He was the first mate on the Battle Carrier Valhalla’s Call. He killed the captain and directed the ship to attack the moon of Vessex II, destroying a Confederate weapons operation on the planet that had gone on strike over payment disputes. When the crew mutinied, he changed the atmospheric calibration to slowly suffocate the entire crew, while he was able to adjust to the lower oxygen levels. He replaced the entire crew with bots, and continues to pilot the ship, seeking to mete out law and order on a grand scale.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Simulation Results for Shards of Tomorrow

So, instead of 'play testing' per se, I'm working on simulations... instead of making up a bunch of characters and having them explore, I'm playing with how well the game simulates what I want it to do. I know that the engine works, since it's the same engine I've refined over the last two games. However, I'm looking for subtle nuances and options that do a better job emulating the genre than just 'SSR in space'.

To that end, I ran a simulation of the Battle of Hoth today (well, the first three rounds of it... it's a big battle), and made a few discoveries:

The vehicle rules I have going so far are SPOT ON. The AT-ATs felt and behaved like AT-ATs in combat, the snow speeders felt and behaved like snow speeders. An AT-AT was able to one-shot a snow speeder, and the speeders had great difficulty penetrating the armor and shielding of the AT-ATs, but the numbers were all manageable and generally small.

I had to find a mechanical solution to "Luke gets an idea to trip the AT-ATs", and the solution solves many problems at once. Tinkering (the gnome ability... or whatever I end up calling Gnomes... right now I'm leaning towards the Gno because they 'know' stuff... get it?) will allow you to make a supernatural Feat (target 30) to discern a weakness in enemy mechanical instruments, or a mechanical solution to the problem.

I know that Luke isn't a gnome tinker (or maybe he IS... that's the big reveal of Episode 8, or so I've heard), but his use of mysticism allows him to spend a point to make a CHA check instead of an INT check to mimic a Tinker check by using 1 of his 2 stunts this turn. In this case, he has CHA 14 (he's just an apprentice still, probably level 3, giving a +2 shift to his starting CHA of 12 at character creation). He needs to roll a 16 on the die to make the check (not likely, but possible) and does. He intuits that the walkers are weak on the top, and they could be tripped with tow cables. The GM resolves it this way:

The GM reveals that a successful attack with tow cables (requiring an attack roll at -2) will allow the speeder to spend the next round winding cables around the legs. On a successful Control roll, the pilot will trip the walker, which will disable it, and give +4 to attack rolls against it, in a location that has no shielding, and where the hull is only 2 points (instead of the 10 points of the rest of the walker). Any successful hit against that spot automatically scores critical damage.

Basically, this allows only tinkers or templars to have a chance to do something like this (and Tinkers more often and with more success, because of their nature). Others (like Solo or Chewbacca) probably have picked up tinkering as a talent, and could also try this.

Even better, it gives the GM a lot of flexibility to decide things on the fly that will alter the outcome of a battle or change the dynamics in play dramatically. However, it requires a successful check by someone with exceptional training or ability to set the wheels in motion, and it can't be done all the time - there's some resource requirement to get the idea. In this case, Luke didn't just 'think of the idea', it was inspired by the living force.

The other takeaway (for the GM section) is that not all battles are about 'winning'. In this case, the goal is to hold off the walkers from getting to and destroying the shield generator that prevents bombing and dropships from entering from above. Your goal isn't to win... it's to keep the enemy from getting to a specific point for as long as you can, or holding them at bay for a certain amount of time until the rest of your group can escape.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made A Choice

I am waffling really badly on the various options for character archetypes in Shards of Tomorrow. On one hand, I'd like for the core rules to have 6-8 archetypes that give you a wide range of options for play. On the other hand, I'd like for the core rules to give you a handful of exceptional options. Right now, here's what I'm locking in on...

Terran Mercenary. This is the jack of all trades archetype. A good selection of weapons and armor, and exceptional access to talents. If you want to be a normal human, you play a terran mercenary and customize your archetype from there.

Terran Templar. Holy knights able to wield energy in a different way from the Nuaru Seekers. I like the balance that the Templar are the warrior arm of the church, and the Nuaru Seekers are the priestly branch. They would take automatic bonuses to CHA equal to their LM. They link their casting to CHA, making them more like paladins/bards than clerics in how their powers work.

Gnorom Tinker. Descended from gnomes, they are able to thief-type stuff but also are masters at machinery and tinkering weapons and vehicles, allowing you to get more out of your stuff. They get automatic bonuses to INT.

Nuaru Seeker. Descended from celestials and elves, these are the only pure casters. They are largely clerics, with the ability to compel those of the void and cast spells just like clerics. They take automatic bonuses to their WIS equal to their LM.

Trog Warrior. Descended from troglodytes, they are the pure fighters, with heavy weapons and armor. They are amphibious and regenerate 1 hp per round. They take automatic increases to CON equal to their LM.

These are familiar enough to be easy to conceptualize, but new enough to make them fun and different. I know that this is in large part a departure from some previous thinking, but I'm trying to balance out the archetypes and spread the various abilities around to make them all fun to play.

I see a number of other racial archetype possibilities (like the amoeba people, or creatures descended from the myconids, or a goblinoid race attuned to flame), but these all seem more marginal. The five archetypes above seem most fun, versatile, and general/specific at the same time.

Friday, January 15, 2016

RPG Fiction

Okay, so RPG fiction (as in fiction within RPG books) has a reputation for being... wordy? benign? uninspired?

I've seen several times where RPG designers are called out as frustrated fiction writers... and I get it, it's like 'if you want to write a novel so bad, go write one. I'm here to play a RPG.'  But sometimes a little fiction is the best way to get you into the game world. I could TELL you about the game world, or (if I do it well) I could SHOW you the world through a minimalist piece of fiction that whets your appetite for the game. Here's my first draft at something along those lines. I can see this ending up on the back cover, and/or in the general promo blurb for the game...


It was war. That’s all I can tell you. That’s the only way to make sense of it.

The Confederacy had turned the tide, driving the Orak back and rooting out several of their strongholds on Confederate worlds. The war was crawling towards its final stages, and our victory was a matter of when, not if.

As I said, it was war. You can justify a lot in war.

In desperation, the Orak enacted their final strike. They caused their own sun to super-nova, opening a nexus into the Void.

That’s how the Undead got back. That’s how the Fiends returned. That’s how the Messari came.

Their arrival was sudden and devastating. They had long brooded on the other side, spending the centuries since the Cleansing planning their revenge, crafting their own technologies, preparing to invade.

In a desperate gambit, the Orak had unleashed death itself.

Valhalla help us all.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

More thinking on species

I'm going back to the supers game and trying to mine it for ideas for the sci fi game... for example, I could create a variety of cool races by giving them abilities from the supers game as a species... options that seem pretty obvious right off:

Energy Form. Members of the species are composed of an element or energy.
Phasing. Members of this species are able to change their density to move through solid objects.
Ki from the Absolute Power book

I see each of these four being the cornerstone of a species. These are cool abilities, although might be a little over the top in a sci fi game. I suppose if the glyn have evolved to be composed of stone, that might be cool.

Now, I could see the Nuru composed of pure light energy... or being able to phase... or having access to Ki. Any of these would make them quite a bit different from the Templar.

My perusals of the Star Frontiers book have also had me thinking about an amoeboid species, and plasticity would fit right in there.

Basically, I've already solved how these work in the game engine, so it's about looking for the right opportunities to drop them in. I don't know whether to try to keep things a little more traditional in the core rules, or just go nuts and put in a dozen different species with out there abilities.

More on Mysticism

Some new ideas on mysticism:

As a light wielder, you can attempt a number of mystical stunts each turn equal to your LM. Mystical stunts are resolved as WIS checks.
  • Minor stunts have a target of 20.
  • Major stunts have a target of 30.
  • When you fail a stunt, you cannot attempt another stunt that turn.

Sample Minor Stunts (use 1 action to)…
  • Restore 1d6 + level hp to a living creature you touch
  • End the effects of one disease or end the effects of poison on a living creature you touch
  • Levitate, or cause a creature you touch to levitate, for the rest of the turn.
  • Call an object to your hand from up to 60’ away, weighing a number of pounds equal to your WIS score.
  • Lift or move an object within 60’ weighing a number of pounds equal to your WIS score.
  • Read the surface thoughts of a living creature within 30’.
  • Plant a suggestion in the mind of a living creature within 30’.
  • Take one extra action each round for 1 turn.

Sample Major Stunts (use 1 action to)…
  • Restore a dead creature you touch to life (dead up to a number of days equal to your level)
  • Restore lost xp due to undead energy drain.
  • Lift an object within 60’ weighing a number of tons equal to your WIS score.
  • Dominate a living creature within 30’, taking total control of the creature for 1 turn.
  • Read the thoughts of a living creature on the same planet.
  • Allow all allies within 60’ to take one extra action each round for 1 turn.

So, as a level 3 templar, you would have 2 opportunities per turn to attempt a stunt. If you fail, you’re done. You keep making checks until you fail.

As a talent, you could purchase bonus mystical stunt, which allows you an extra stunt each turn, and would be available even if one of your normal stunts fails.

All-in-all, I like this. It’s pretty simple, flexible, and ‘feels’ like a certain power set of a certain order of mystical knights. This means that there has to be some inherent mechanism for templars that their WIS increases (probably based on LM). A templar at level 12 could have WIS as high as 20, giving him a decent shot (50%) at a major stunt, and guaranteed success (excepting a natural 1) on a minor stunt. This seems reasonable for someone like Yoda.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Weird Science

Was doing a little work today on concepts for Shards of Tomorrow, and I started thinking about how much hard science should be in the game. I'm leaning towards 'soft science', or comic book science, but then I started thinking about Star Wars... and that there is NO science. To whit:

All planets... moons... and even asteroids have the same gravity. In fact, everything everywhere has gravity. And it all works the same.
All planets... moons... and (almost) asteroids have a breathable atmosphere.
All planets... moons... and (seemingly) asteroids have the same day, year, calendar...

I won't even go into how there are explosions that require oxygen in the vacuum of space...

In effect, 'space' itself is just a connective tissue that links other lands together, and where big battles can happen. It is the replacement for 'seas' in mythic tales, which is kind of the point. But in this case, it's very literal.

I'm not sure what to do with this. I feel like as the writer of a game that at least pretends to be a sci fi game on the surface, I should make some effort to emulate scientific reality... right? For example, I'd be very happy with a simplified gravity scale that gives us the following:

- No Gravity (space). No STR checks are ever required. Movement in all directions possible. All characters effectively levitate at all times.
- Light Gravity (our moon). Take +4 on STR checks. Double leaping results.
- Standard Gravity (earth). No modifications.
- Heavy Gravity (a big planet). Take -4 on STR checks. Cut leaping results in half. Take -10 to movement.

This allows the GM to insert some real concepts into the game, but keeps the math simple and application quick. You could always go with 'medium light' gravity that gives +2 on STR checks if you really want to go all out.

This gives variety without any rules bloat, which is always my preference. I am not writing Traveler here...

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Vote for My Games So I Can Win A Bamfsie (which I assume is the singular of Bamfsies)

I would appreciate it if you'd take a minute to throw a vote my way (or two, since both Sentinels of Echo City and Absolute Power: A Sourcebook for Sentinels of Echo City) are nominated for the Bamfsies. In the words of A Christmas Story, "it's a major award!" And no, you don't get the lamp. I already promised it to someone else.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Mysticism in Shards of Tomorrow

My original plan was to have the mystical abilities of the terran templars work almost identically to clerics in SSR... you have a progression of spells by sphere, and you get more every level.

However, I'm now leaning more towards a hybrid approach that's closer in spirit to the Sentinels of Echo City game. As a Terran Templar (or a Nuru Seeker), you have a number of castings available each day, in a number of disciplines. Here's a for instance:

As a terran templar, you can wield a number of casting disciplines each day equal to your level + your WIS modifier. You know (have access to) a number of casting disciplines equal to your Level Modifier + your WIS modifier.

Some Possible Casting Disciplines:

- Aura of Shielding (self). Create a 10' wide barrier that moves with you that grants all allies within 10' a bonus equal to your LM to AC against all ranged attacks.

- Create Sustenance (self). Use one action to create enough food and water to sustain a number of terran-sized creatures equal to your level.

- Detect Void Energy (120'). Use one action to activate sensory awareness that allows you to detect the presence and general strength of void energy for 1 turn.

- Healing Touch (touch). Use one action to restore 1d6 + level hit points to a living creature. Alternately, use this discipline to cure a malady (such as blindness) or to instantly end the effects of a poison.

- Leap (self). Use one action to take a great leap equal to your level x10'.

- Levitate (touch). Use one action to make yourself or a target you touch virtually weightless for 6 turns.

- Quickening (self). Use one action to increase your movement rate by +30' and to give yourself one extra action per round. This lasts for 1 turn.

- Resist Elements (self). Use one action to give yourself +4 to Feats against one elemental type, taking automatic half damage against the element. This lasts for 1 turn.

So, my terran templar 3 with WIS 10 would have 5 castings per day, and would have access to 4 disciplines. He might have aura of shielding, create sustenance, healing touch, and resist elements if he's more of a defensive/protective sort of guy, or aura of shielding, leap, levitate, and quickening if he's more offensively-minded.

On the other side, the Nuru would get things like bless, charm, ESP, hold person, light, object reading, sleep, cause/remove fear, warding.

I'm okay with the idea that a master templar with max WIS would have access to all available disciplines, which would mean that the game needs a total of 9 available disciplines. That shouldn't be too hard to come by...

This is more narrow in general than the spell selection in the fantasy version, but has some of the open-ended feel of the supers game.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

I had a few setting-based problems I couldn't really wrap my head around...

I know that the Messari are the big bad of the setting, and that they came through a black hole. I know that they are native to anti-matter (the Void) and their purpose is to destroy all life, because life itself brings them pain. However, I had them as masters of the Orak, who they had conscripted into their armies. That didn't really make much sense, the more I thought about it. All life would bother them, and whether that life is lawful or chaotic wouldn't matter much.

I didn't have a good role for the Nuru, and a clear idea of who they were or how they evolved.

I wasn't sure where undead fit into the setting, if at all. I was on the verge of taking them out entirely, or just having them be minor background foes.

And then I turned it around.

What if the messari had allied with fiends, and were using the undead as their minions? Now, void ships piloted by ghouls and captained by fiends could cruise through space, looking for the living with no other purpose than to destroy them? They could wield void weapons, weapons that disintegrate on a natural 20 (heroes get all sorts of protection from this - basically, if you fail a feat, something is disintegrated on you - you lose a hand, your armor, your weapon... or you could die if you roll REALLY bad). However, these void weapons are only usable BY the undead, as are their ships. Everything is powered by void energy, and this actually comes through the undead themselves, and their direct link to the other side of the black hole. The other problem is that their ships don't both with little things like life support, so if you are boarding a void ship, you'll need to be wearing a space suit.

Now, the Nuru have a place. They are the descendants of the last of the celestials who intermingled with the last of the elves, creating a new race that has some holy power, including healing, sensing, and controlling the undead. Maybe the templar have some of these things, too, since I'm thinking of them along the lines of paladins. They could do some minor healing (lay on hands?), but the healers/empaths/undead controllers are the Nuru.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Archetypes for Shards of Tomorrow

I'm going with the race/class combined archetypes like I have for Saga of the Splintered Realm, since I like how this works on pretty much every level. However, I'm struggling with the 'other races' and how they fit. Here's what I'm working on, and feedback is most welcome :)

Each archetype gets a talent at level 1, since I see 'skills' as more integral to this game, and that gives every character a chance to specialize a little bit right out of the gate. Archetypes generally have fewer starting abilities locked in than they do in SSR, so this offsets that.

Ones I like the best:

Terran Templar. These are like a certain order of knights in a certain sci-fi franchise. They are effectively human clerics, but they have access to sun blades, and they get to add their level modifier to attack and damage with sun blades as well as to armor class (since they wear only light armor).

Terran Mercenary. These are jacks of all trades, having access to two talents at level 1, meaning that they can become anything you want them to be. They have medium armor and heavy weapons access, making them good combatants. These could be stormtroopers, bounty hunters, fighter pilots, or pretty much anything else you need that is a combat-centric character.

Terran Outlaw. These are the ones with thief abilities. Since the talent at level 1 could be used to pick up a starship, it's easy for these to become pirates or smugglers right out of the gate if so desired.

Trog Warrior. Descended from troglodytes, these amphibious fighters have the best armor and weapon selection, are stealthy, and they regenerate.

Ones I'm struggling with:

Nuru Seekers. These are empathic and lawful, graceful and long-lived. In my head, they are hybrids of elves and vulcans (must be the pointy ears). I see them having bardic voice or something like it, maybe immunity to fear, and possibly the luck that stoutling explorers have. I kind of see these as more of a role-playing than combat-centric archetype... they're pretty vague to me right now. I don't want their charm/mind control to overlap too much with terran templar abilities, so the whole mind control thing may come out from under the purview of the templars....

Glyn Engineers. These are descended from goblins. They have a connection to an element, giving them resistance to that element. They are naturally good at tinkering, getting that talent for free, and able to upgrade it by taking the talent. They are able to manipulate starships and weapons to make them more effective... at least, that's the idea.

I know this is only 6 archetypes, but I wanted to keep it basic for the core rules. Any notable omissions? Suggestions for improvement?

Starship Combat

One of the things I want to do in Shards of Tomorrow (or Splinters of Tomorrow... I go back and forth) is make starship combat interesting and engaging. I like the whole 'flexible variety' concept, where you have a set of simple, clear rules that provide a wide range of creative possibilities. The GM never has to hand wave the results, because the rules give the framework, but the rules never tell you what you can't do, only provide options for what you can do. The other thing is that, in my experience, starship combat rarely involves the whole team. If you have five players, one of them is piloting, and maybe two of them are operating the guns... but the others are sitting around waiting.

Enter the rules for tinkering.

During combat, the character with tinkering (or jury rigging... or engineering... or whatever I end up calling it) is making rolls to do things. In my previous post on starships, I suggested some ideas that are (generally) still in play. However, the next layer is tinkering. The one doing said tinkering spends the combat working the internal systems, re-routing power, shutting down non-essential systems to improve others, and generally wringing all available usefulness out of the ship. The dependability mechanic works here, because the tinkering character trades dependability in the short term (1 turn) for short-term bonuses (1 turn). For example, a character (or even bot) of level 5 (level modifier 3) could provide up to 3 points of bonuses to various ship functions while also rolling Feats every round to give up some things. I think of Artoo and/or Chewbacca monkeying with controls and re-wiring systems on the fly, allowing the guns to deal more damage, increasing the Falcon's maneuverability temporarily, or re-setting  the shield generators after a squad of Tie Fighters has knocked them out. The ship just became a LOT more powerful because you've got someone working the controls inside to push it. Your first mate becomes a very valuable part of the team, and is making important decisions (and important rolls) during a starship battle that have a huge influence on how things play out.

And, the resource allocation that comes with rules for dependability make this even more engaging. Sure, you can try to re-route power to increase your speed, but you're going to do so risking blowing out your jump drive and crippling your ship. Want to try? Pick up the dice and roll...

Well THIS is a help!

I stumbled upon this chart comparing various starships across sci-fi franchises...

This is helpful from a number of perspectives... and also not. The fact of the matter is that with ships this big, it's almost counter-intuitive to try and stat them up. You can have information on them, but actually creating game stats to assault a celestial dreadnought borders on the ridiculous. How many interceptors and modified shuttlecraft do you need to take down the celestial dreadnought Vanquisher? Correct answer: all of them.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Character Sheet for Shards of Tomorrow

Here's a draft of a character sheet for Shards of Tomorrow. Obviously, I'm sticking with the basic design here and just trying to give it the right setting vibe... I've added gender and homeworld spots just because, and played with the formatting to make things fit a little better. I think that a character sheet goes a long way towards establishing the vibe of the game (since it may be the only 'visual' a player actually ever sees!), and should be practical and evocative at once. Let me know if I succeeded...