Friday, May 16, 2014

Deck Of Fridays 20: Top Of The World

Welcome to the 20th episode of DECK OF FRIDAYS, our weekly feature here at FATE SF! Each week since the release of the print edition of the Deck of Fate*, we have made a draw from the Deck of FateRPG Inspiration Cards, or another Aspect-generative randomizer. Then we do something interesting with it, using the Aspect as inspiration for a campaign or scenario seed, a situation, scene, location, NPC, thingie, etc.

This week's draw from the Deck of Fate is a card with the Aspect: Top of the World, a card with a +3 value. This seems appropriate for celebrating our 20th post in the series!

Top of the World makes me think of space elevators which are often colloquially referred to in SF as beanstalks. So today we have a table on Beanstalks that you can use to flesh out one or more details of a setting which includes one.

Jack's Table

Roll 4DF and consult the corresponding result below.
  • -4: Monsters (Horta, Dholes, deviant Morlocks, rogue 'bots, etc.) are gnawing at the beanstalk's roots
  • -3: The beanstalk is ruined and abandoned, and has fallen into a tangle planetside
  • -2: A literal Tower of Babel, the beanstalk's populations are culturally and linguistically balkanized and frequently in conflict with each other 
  • -1: Jim Crow to the stars - the beanstalk's amenities (transport tubes, hotel and dining spaces, etc.) are segregated according to some discriminatory scheme (humans vs. uplifts and robots, for example)
  •  0: The beanstalk is ruined and abandoned, but still upright - and ready for exploration and plunder
  • +1: A typical beanstalk: a spaceport at the apex, a commercial-industrial city at the base
  • +2: The beanstalk is the hub of a thriving interplanetary or interstellar civilization 
  • +3: The beanstalk has numerous zones/rings of habitation, baroquely stratified with ascending tech levels (low at the base, astonishingly high at the apex)**
  • +4: Gods (Vorlonic aliens, transhumans, etc.) live at the apex, and lord over all below

*With some exceptions.

**As in Alastair Reynolds' Terminal City.


  1. Great list. It strikes me you could do a rationalized Jack the Beanstalk with "giants" (thanks to freefall conditions) living in a habitat at the top of a space elevator and poor planetside bumpkins trying to steal the riches the giants have easily acquired living at the top of the gravity well.

    1. That is a really brilliant, fun, and amusing idea!

  2. Interesting post. I just picked up a copy of John Rackham's 'Beanstalk,' a couple of weeks ago. It is literally a re-telling of Jack and the beanstalk as a scifi tale. I picked it up really cheap, it's an old DAW paperback, early Seventies, with a Kelly Freas cover. Haven't read it yet, so I can't vouch for the quality, but it might be a fun book to look up. The notion of approaching a hardSF tower like this from a softer Fantasy angle has a lot of appeal. It worked very well for Poul Anderson's High Crusade, so it could work pretty well in this case, if not even more so, as a sort of 'storming the gates of heaven,' sort of campaign...

    1. I am reading an amazing DAW right now that I will be blogging about somewhere soon. So many great books came out on that imprint.

      Strangely enough, before the entire weekend went down in an orgy of yardwork, I watched the movie "Jack the Giant Killer". It's pretty fun.

    2. I haven't seen that one yet. We did get to see Cap'n America & the new Godzilla though. As for the DAW books, you are right, there are tons of fun books that came out through that imprint. I still find cool DAW books at Uncle Hugo's and yard sales.

      Hope the yard work went well.