So soon enough I'll be running a Stars Without Number game, and I wanted to share my creations on the web for others to use. My working title is "The Price of Heaven."
My goal here is to take one of my favorite settings and kind of fling it into space for a politics heavy, dynamic world for the players and their ship to explore. This is all work in progress and nothing is in stone.
My idea for this world, in big broad strokes, is to take a Feudal Japan setting and catapult it into space. Once hit with a massive apocalyptic event, they are now trying to sort everything out and re-organize themselves.
The Kikumon Sector
Arrogance was our downfall. How foolish we were to have believed ourselves to be perfections of honor. Our once proud families instilled with the unfettering virtues of our ancestors unknowingly abandoned. Centuries came and went as we pretended to hold true to the teachings of Bushido as we reached towards the heavens to claim what was ours. Our past was so long ago and so much has happened, even after we made it to Heaven. The price of heaven was costly. We traded our Honor for Pride. Families for Corporations. Glory for Greed. We traded our very souls to see the God’s faces.
But what faces they did they have!
The first sign of the God’s displeasure came swiftly. The darkness spilled into our world and swarmed our planet consuming its fruits and withering the roots leaving nothing left but shadow. We called it the Oni for their insidious and ruthless torment, but the truth be told we know not what they are. Their host of shadow, madness, and rage descended on the planet Hiruma which was promptly overran. Our response to the threat cost the lives of numerous men and women, but no one bore the burden of loss more-so than the Kani who, afterwards, dedicated their existence to vigilance and eradication of the Oni to which our entire existence owes its thanks.
Following the Oni attack, Ki-Rin Aerospace Technology divested themselves and left after the Oni through the portal looking for answers and future threats, vowing to one day return.
Decades had gone by before the Heavens fell. This was the wake up call from the Gods. One we would not miss. With a great clap of thunder, the Heavens proved our reach was far beyond our grasp. It exposed our folly for dreaming we achieved what we never thought possible. Many of our great minds could not comprehend what occurred during the Thunder A great panic ensued along with the devastation. Our precious progress failed as did our technology. We were cast out of heaven by this great thunder. Stranded wherever we fell.
During the ensuing struggles of hundreds of years, many more men and women would lose their lives. The Oni would also strike. Amidst this darkest hour, among our skyrocketing casualties was our divine Emperor and, thus, our collective pride. His death proved to be a galvanizing moment for those who knew, for we once found the strength to put aside our wars and began rebuilding, relying on our corporations and cooperation with whoever and whatever was left as our only form of stability.
Life was bleak on the several planets, but our signals began broadcasting once again out to the stars.
After hundreds of years of silence, we began speaking to one another again.
Our collective will began to fall back once again on to our humble ancestral roots. Time will tell if honor and ethics can truly work alongside business and technology,
~Katsuyoshi, Monk and Psychohistorian.
The Great Corporations
The Kikumon League
Not actually a corporation, this is the league of the major corps of Kikumon sector (adopting the name of the flower representing the Emperor). Their struggle to elect their chairman of the board will be a large overarching plot of my game. The League meets at protracted events called "Outings" twice a year.
Houou GeoTech – Thinking Ahead
Founded by the mystical and religious leader Agasha and the pragmatic and charismatic Isawa long ago. Their combination of faith and fortune from fuels and food fired them to first in the realms of energy research, water purification, food modification, and geoexploitation. Houou Geotech made a name for themselves as “the peoples favorite” during the Great Thunder as their technology extinguished the resource wars over food, water, shelter. In practice, their techniques are far more sinister. They are media manipulators who use their control of vital resources to offer every advantage.
Touchstones: BP meets Scientology with a splash of Steve Job's cult of personality.
Ki-Rin Aerospace Limited – Measured Infinities
The eccentric leader of Ki-Rin Aerospace, Shinjo, became obsessed with tracking down new technologies and ship designs. After the initial invasion of from the “Rift” by voracious and sinister beings, Shinjo divested his company of all land holdings, built a gigantic spaceship along with his most devoted followers and entered the Void looking for new discoveries.
No contact was made with Ki-Rin Aerospace for hundreds of years since the Great Thunder and they were presumed dead. That is until an neverbeforeseen type of ship came through the “Rift” announcing itself as: Children of Shinjo
The Children of Shinjo have a fanatical devotion to their now dead supreme leader and carry on his dying wish to return to his homeland to be buried and a city erected in his honor. The once Ki-Rin Aerospace have adopted several strange customs since being away. They have a fondness for cybernetics and adopted a democratic meritocracy way of living.
Touchstones: Think Howard Hughes, Battlestar Galactica which turned into a compassionate Borg utopia.
Kuki Conglomerate – Delivering you a better tomorrow, today.
Once 9 small independent shipping and mining companies commanding no great respect, during the Great Thunder, they banded together and pooled resources into mining and supporting their population. Their need for raw materials led them to eventually drill through their home world, fracturing it into pieces.
Through wealth and cunning, Kuki Conglomerate were the first to reinvent FTL travel securing them shipping agreements that exist until today.
This alongside their fleet assisting the Kani Applied Dynamics during the second invasion led them to prominence and a seat at the Kikumon boardroom… begrudgingly by the seated powers who still see them as second rate.
Touchstones: Ser Davos of Got, Corsair/Pirate kings and merchant lords, the new kids on the block.
Kani Applied Dynamics – Defense where it counts
No company suffered more than Kani Applied Dynamics when the shadow came through the “Rift”. The people on their home planet of Hiruma, the planet closest to the “Rift”, lost everything to this xenomorphic parasite except for one megacity called “Miracle”.
Temporarily losing respect from their peers, the company worked doubly hard to defend against future attacks and achieving massive breakthroughs in defense technologies and logistics. They are seen as leaders of intelligence, surveillance, and defense technologies which are put to use every day patrolling the city of Miracle for corrupted or tainted personnel. Kani Applied Dynamics construct no-frills weapon and logistical aid. Their biggest client is the Kikumon League itself who pays them for their ongoing defensive perimeter around the “Rift” known as HALO.
On the streets, Kani Applied Dynamics is seen as no-nonsense and less scheming than their counterparts. They are direct in their decision making and their formidability discourages swindlers.
Touchstones: Function over Form. Big Brother, Xenophobia, the Military-Industrial Complex. Serious face.
Raion Pioneering – Boldly pushing forward.
One of the three biggest firms alongside Tsuru and Saito. Working alongside Houhou Geotech, Raion’s megafarms on their agricultural moon, Akodo, ensured that the decadent and overpopulated planet Rokugan was well fed during the times proceeding from the Great Thunder. Raion Pioneering employs the most personnel than any other corporation and have their hands in many different industries, chiefly logistics and food. Their understanding of infrastructure’s demands was exactly why the megacities we know today were feasible and sustained through the Great Thunder.
Modern Raion Businesses and subsidiaries are seen publically as humble and dutiful due to their presence in food growth and distribution. On the streets, Raion security has a reputation for dedication and resourcefulness that borders on fanatical.
Touchstones: Monsanto and Fallout’s NCR
Ryu DataCorp – Information, delivered
The people of the rather inhospitable planet, Asako, did not have a lot of resources to contribute, ships to fight the Shadows, diplomatic ties to foster, but what they do have is innovation and patience. The modern Ryu DataCorp is a respected innovator of technology known for their electronics and computing which has found its way into aspects of everyone as well as other corporations. Defense, traffic management, astronavigation, water purification, and energy production all are calculated on Ryu chips. The street reputation for Ryu DataCorp is one of calculated perfection, void of all emotion.
Saito Pharmaceuticals – Refining Grace
Saito was started as a predominant waste removal firm called Sasori. Before the Great Thunder, Sasori were responsible for overseeing the dismantling of all corporation holdings of Maltech equipment: WMODs. Sasori's innovation in recycling technology saw its fortunes skyrocket as it went from not just waste disposal to waste recycling and chemical waste being reused for new inventions and technologies.
During the Great Thunder, while Raion and Tsuru battled over the rights to the agrimoons of Rokugan, Sasori claimed mineral and protective rights over several “worthless” forests and protected lands by the Emperor. These lands ultimately let them innovate themselves into Biological holdings as well, rebranding themselves as Saito Pharmaceuticals.
Saito's great achievements include supporting Kani Applied Dynamic’s Miracle megacity with Shadow-corruption resistance drugs and technology. Saito have a pervasively poor reputation of exploiters in misery. Most other corporations fear them for their cunning and knowledge of maltech disposal. The streets see their ruthlessness and wielding of cutting edge technologies.
Touchstones: US Healthcare/Big Pharma, Waste Management, Ginteki, Evo
Tsuru Media and Entertainment – Always on. Always delivering.
Before the Great Thunder, Tsuru Media were everyone’s news and goto entertainment company. All art seemed to come from this company. After the Great Thunder, Tsuru worked tirelessly to reestablish networking and communications among the Kikumon Sector. Under their wise CEO, Tsuru worked to deflect anger and rage from the Great Thunder away from the emperor earning his supreme respect... shortly thereafter he passed away under mysterious circumstances.
Tsuru Media is seen as masters of communications, psychology, sociology, as well as art and media. While the world ceased to be what it was, Tsuru was able to placate populations to forget their lives are forever changed.
The modern Tsuru Media has lost a lot of ground on the entertainment industry where they over around 36% marketshare of all broadcast programming and internet connection. On the streets, Tsuru is seen as efficient, competent, yet fair. This is deceptive however as the Tsuru are equally as ruthless and dangerous as any megacorp.
Touchstones: Comcast, Time Warner, GNN, Disney, Facebook, Newsnet.
Faiths of Kikumon Sector
-Tao of Prosperity – Unknown author. This piece led the shift from family clans to corporations.
-Holy Dragon Family – Psychic Shintoism belief in an extradimensional psychic force or entity that flows through our world called "The Kami".
-CyberShintoism – Copies of ancestor’s personalities are uploaded into databanks for “consultations” by the rich.
In the next post I will talk about the different religions of the world as well as the star systems itself in more depth.
Welcome back to part 2 of my series on dedicated combat mechanics in D&D. Here we will take a look into what exactly is going on under the hood of D&D in terms of its dedicated mechanics.
So games typically provide complex mechanisms for the parts of the game that are deemed “important” by its creators. In D&D, combat is “important” because combat is the crucible that enables character development and progress. (This is something D&D arguably does better than any other system out there.) The designers of D&D had a reason in mind when they gave combat multiple pages while giving Diplomacy a humble paragraph.
Consider for a moment just what improves when you gain a level in D&D. More HP, more combat abilities, more spells, even? Your proficiency bonus raises every so often that increases your other skills like perception, but that’s almost an afterthought since proficiency bonuses also improve your ability to hit stuff. That’s a lot of bonuses and changes for one thing: combat. But take a look at the rules for combat in the Player’s Handbook compared to everything else! This is a great rule of thumb for any RPG: If you ever wanted to know what an RPG wants you to do to resolve conflicts, look for the sections with the biggest amount of dedicated page space.
What do you get from a dedicated system?
So why do RPGs want to dedicate page space to different portions of a game? What do you “get” by introducing more rules into a system?
The first thing it does is introduce distinguishable paths of doing the same thing. In D&D are you fighting with a sword? Axe? Two swords? Bow? Javelin? Spells? These options allow players to choose how they want to succeed or fail. Players choose their avenue of what numbers to add to their rolls in order to improve their chance of success.
Pokemon does this exact same thing. While it doesn’t really come with a manual and it doesn’t really need to. Every problem in that game is a nail that you solve with your hammer: Pokemon Battles. Your choices are which Pokemon you bring with you.
In a more complex way, introducing new mechanics can also change the resolution of your action. If a game tells you to roll a die to determine if you succeed or fail, a designer may produce mechanisms to protract that instant success or failure into a series of successes or failures. Instead of a succeeding right away, you might have only taken a step in the right direction.
This is most obviously demonstrated through combat damage. If you hit a monster with your weapon, did you kill it? Did you cause just a flesh wound? The might of your blow is determined by this new “effectiveness” mechanic called damage. Damage figuratively and literally chip and hack away this game’s puzzle. If monsters are puzzles that take X pieces to solve (X being the number of hitpoints) then it’s logical that the more damage you do, the faster the puzzle is solved. This is why having more or less players at the table affects the challenge of puzzles.
Compare this to a perception check or other “skill or ability” check where your action’s success AND scope are tied into a single roll. If and how well you heard the goblins is a part of your single perception skill roll.
The trade-off for emphasizing combat is that your non-combat options are always a little underdeveloped and left to the GM to determine their effectiveness. Ponder this for a moment, does my character get experience and, thus, better at killing things, if he or she talks every problem out with monsters?
So Why Combat?
Why do we emphasize life and death struggles? Simply put, fictionally this type of struggle provides the easiest tension and understanding of the stakes. If I win, I live, if I lose, I die. Clerical spells aside, there’s a certain permanency to those ending states of a struggle so a player is forced to engage if he or she wishes to keep on keeping on.
Just like pokemon, sometimes combat is also the only way to settle disputes. The majority of adventures in D&D also occur outside the realm of law. Most fantastic adventures thrive outside towns and deep in the unknown outside world, above or below ground. And in these far flung places, the law is in short supply and thus the “Natural Order” is king. Kill or be killed. It’s difficult to look into the smoldering onyx eyes of the skeletal guardian and get it to agree to take this property dispute to the judiciary system of Hamlettsburg. What would the town do as skeletons gave testimony in court? Would the town even recognize these undead as legal persons? These are questions you rarely have to ask in your D&D games.
Next week, I will take a look into good and bad of a RPG system that grants near equal emphasis on everything: Dungeon World.
Essential for RPGs or just a relic of its multifaceted past?
It occurred to me that many RPGs have almost two games operating inside of itself at any given time.
You have the world exploration and interaction component and you have this tactical combat component.
Sound familiar? It should to anyone who plays Dungeons and Dragons because that swirl and music change in Pokemon is exactly what is going on when your GM or DM calls for you to “roll initiative.”
So I'm here to look at why RPGs with dedicated combat aspects are so popular, what exactly it is that they add and detract from gaming, and, lastly, take a peek at a Fantasy RPG system that threw that dedicated combat shit in the garbage.
Peeling back the VeiL of D&D combat
Additionally designers let you unlock new, exciting resources to add to your puzzle solving toolkit after you defeat enough of the easier puzzles. Now designers have made a game where you’re managing resources effectively for as long as you wish to play!
And that, in short, is combat for Dungeons and Dragons.
You got Tactical Combat in my Story Based Game!