Thursday, April 30, 2015

"What Is 'Library'?"

The second location that players visited in Friday night's Fate Strange Stars scenario at JonCon was the Library of Atoz-Theln, a library-world in the Zuran Expanse. As +trey causey's Strange Stars Game Setting Book relates, the Library was built before the Great Collapse. It has virtual records dating back to the era Archaic Oikumene - and even before that time. Not only does the Library contain virtual records; it also possesses physical records and artifacts from countless worlds. The Library therefore contains a vast store of otherwise lost knowledge.

The players in my "Rescue on Tenebrae" scenario had two reasons for going to the Library of Atoz-Theln.  Their ostensible purpose was to gain more information about their ultimate target, the world of Tenebrae.  However our ne'er-do-well Captain-and-Star-Lord's most important motivation for going there was to find a cache of ancient eight track tapes. Where else in the Strange Stars would one look for such antique and priceless cultural artifacts?

So they landed, under guidance from Library flight control. In my version of the Library, information is organized topographically, and one of the players declared the narrative detail that since the players did not pay special inducements, they had been assigned landing rights over the limnology section of the Library. I went with that.

The Library of Atoz-Theln has very strong Metascape virtualities, and almost as soon as their ship, the Kill-Wagon landed, the players found that they were on a lakeside beach. They felt lake breezes, even inside their ship as the Library's Metascape systems began to overwrite shipboard systems. The players exited the ship and heard the calls of shorebirds. They also spied an immense pterosaur soaring overhead. The Collections are eclectic. What can I say?

The players descended far below the surface of the world using high speed elevators accessible from the beach.  The found themselves in a corridor that was in fact a tube within a gigantic aquarium stocked with all sorts of aquatic life. If you have been to Biosphere 2 you've been in a miniature version of this.

Soon they encountered one of the numerous humanoid librarians dwelling within the Library. The player of the Star-Hawk-ey PC, who belonged to the bird-like Hyehoon clade, decided it would be fun to spend 1 FP and make a narrative declaration that the librarian recognized Gamorine, the party's Gamora-like character, as a wanted-on-all-worlds assassin. (I don't normally see PVP play in Fate games, but I went with it since it was an interesting complication. Really, I should have given a FP to Gamorine...).

The assassin teleported the librarian into one of the aquaria and let him drown.

Nasty stuff.

Next the players took a subterranean tubecar to one of the workshops where restorative work was being done on ancient artifacts. Eight tracks were stolen! The players were somewhat surprised that they were completely ignored by the librarian-restorationists in the workshops. Everyone was very focused on their own work. Kind of like the special neurological state of focus in Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky.

Finally, the players located a deep library section dedicated to the world of Tenebrae. This was a virtual reality as well. Things got creepy when the labyrinth's masked Skulkers appeared, and one took on the mien of Gamorine's father, Lord Death. Virtualities can be tricky that way, and sometimes a daughter can carry along a bit of her father without even realizing it...

Needless to say, the players soon high-tailed it out of that labyrinth and got back to their ship.

Next stop, the dead world of Tenebrae.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hard Times On Desperation B

Friday night I ran my Strange Stars scenario "Rescue on Tenebrae." The action took place on three worlds in +trey causey's Strange Stars setting. All three worlds were in the Zuran Expanse, a lawless and isolated region of space with many mysteries. Today, I am going to share some setting material of my own for one of the systems in that sector, the home system of the Penitents.

So who are the Penitents? They are also often called by the derogatory term Deodands, as they are a people cursed with eternal recurrence for some long-forgotten crime. Indeed, loss of memory seems to be a key feature of the Penitents' peculiar purgatory, for every time one dies and is physically reborn in a new body, they have only vague memories of their previous life.

This often brings trouble. Forgotten enemies who remember you. Unpaid debts to others. Lost goods and resources due to murky memories.  It's hard to access your financial resources when you can't remember where your accounts are, let alone your passwords.

That's why almost all Penitents are reborn on their home orbital in abject poverty. It's why those orbitals are squalid, overcrowded, dangerous places filled with desperate poor people.

There's no racial conflicts at least. While there are "lefties" and "righties" among the Penitents (terms which are a constant source of confusion to visitors), this isn't a source of conflict. Everyone's chromatic chirality flips periodically between incarnations. There's no racism, just grinding poverty, an abundance of self-destructive behaviors, and for a determined few, a slow crawl to the top of the social heap.

If you step onto spacedock on Desperation B - one of numerous such stations in Penitent space - here are a few of the people you might meet.

Penitent Encounter Table

Roll 4DF and consult the corresponding result below:

  • -4: Metascape realtor: A respectable sleaze tries to sell you exclusive access to a less squalid virtual reality.
  • -3: Algosian procurer: A seductive alien seeks willing subjects to dominate, degrade, and torture. Non-Penitents are also welcome to apply.
  • -2: Aurogov labor recruiter: What's better than working for free in a cult sweatshop? Just download this self-help software and you will be motivated to improve yourself through hard work and all-but-voluntary labor.
  • -1: Flagellist: A Penitent or group of penitents seeks your help in doing themselves harm. Or giving them pleasure. Is there a difference? When you have lifetime after lifetime of misery, maybe it's all the same. 
  • 0: Alms, Please: You are approached by someone (or a group of someones) begging for alms, or offering a small service like a quick hull squeegee in exchange for a small amount of food, credit, or drugs.
  • +1: Something to Sell: Many who can afford to come to the Penitents' orbitals in search of sex, drugs, or something exotic and degrading. Penitents can often supply those things. 
  • +2: Swap Meet: Many Penitents have almost enough resources to get off world. Maybe one has leverage in the form of something to trade? Something weird and wonderful that you want. Odd little things have a way of showing up on the Penitents' stations... 
  • +3 Connections: Penitents can live a long time (do they even age?) and even when stuck in one place they can learn a lot of useful things. Like access codes for hyperspace nodes. Or the locations of star systems that are off the standard charts. Or how to reach the wealthy and well-protected Penitents.
  • +4: Moral debt swaps: There's no inheritance laws on the Penitents' orbitals, and the accumulation of wealth is usually limited to a single lifetime due to fuzzy memories - and a desire not to see others get ahead of you. But there are a few people who have worked out... complex quasi-financial instruments. Exchanges based on sin, obligation, and reciprocity. One of these speculators approaches you to make an impossible trade.   

Friday, April 24, 2015

Strange Stars Guardians

We've created seven PCs for our five players to choose from in tonight's Fate Strange Stars adventure, "Rescue on Tenebrae". A number are inspired directly by the Guardians of the Galaxy, but they are definitely interpretations that work within the Strange Stars setting. Any can be played as either male or female (and for a few gender may not even be relevant).

Here is our rogues' gallery:

  • Stakar Sokha, Hyehoon clade, a feathered humanoid xenoarchaeologist who has had some kind of encounter with an ancient, cruel Hawk God. Accused of Eden Seeker sympathies.
  • Pluvian, Silicate Moravec, a crystal-bodied artificial being that can project heat and cold energy beams, as well as sculpt the Metascape.
  • HV-27 (aka Heavy-27), a cloned heavy worlder used as a mining slave on Aygo. HV's the only slave to escape there, and HV's career as a gladiator and rebel is legendary. 
  • Free Radicoon, Musteloid clade, is an uplifted animal bred for animal companion therapy on a space asylum in the Keystone Quadrant. An ornery scientist and gun nut, Free Radicoon is wanted as an animal rights terrorist.
  • Gamorine, Smaragdine clade, from the lost colony of Smarag-dum. Gamorine is a green skinned assassin trained by Lord Death himself. Beware Gamorine's teleportation and Emerald Flying Daggers psi-attack!
  • Radion (Radiant Icon), exiled Star-Lord scion of the last living Radiant Lord (or so Radion's father claims). Radion has a divine aura, and the Radiant Lord gene markers to match. Radion pilots the Kill Wagon, a pocket warship that Free Radicoon hotwired and helped Radion steal from Father's fleet. 
  • Loki, Deodand clade, jet black on the right side, bone white on the left. Bad news on two feet, and newly reembodied after a disastrous Vokun expedition to Tenebrae, Loki's the key to everything. But Loki's memories have been altered.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Friday Night Strange Stars

Friday night, I'll be running my next session of the Strange Stars Fate System Edition game rules! The adventure, "Rescue on Tenebrae" involves a rescue mission on a creepy dead world.  You can see a few more details about the scenario here.

Thursday night, I'll be developing the pregens for the game. I'm drawing inspiration from some of the comics I have been reading lately, such as Guardians 3000, and the new Guardians of the Galaxy. So some of the pregens may end up being a tad evocative of certain Guardians of the Galaxy. There will definitely be a green-skinned female assassin, and bulky cloned heavy worlder.

If I get some more Prophet read before the game, there may be some borrowings from there as well.

Want to know more about +trey causey's Strange Stars game setting?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mindjammer High

A friend let me know last night that he had just run the Mindjammer RPG for a group of very smart high school kids, and that the game went very, very well. It has brought a smile to my face all day. There's a pleasure in playing, and there is a pleasure in running, and I guess there is also pleasure in seeing your far away friends having fun too.

Maybe somewhere really far, far away someone is playing something like Mindjammer right now. If you're really, really quiet you can almost hear the 4DF hitting the table around that distant blue star.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Strange Stars: Gelmorphs

Metal Aerogel

During the days of the Radiant Polity, it was commonplace for infosophonts to download copies of themselves into service substrates known as gelmorphs. These substrates were manufactured and extruded from raw material fabricators in the form of simple polyhedrons. They were then typically laser sculpted into a useful form desired by the infosophont, after which the infoporous substrate was imprinted with a copy of the infosophont.

Gelmorphs provided a convenient way for infosophonts to get around, particularly in war zones and other hostile environments. They are immune to vacuum, and difficult to damage using conventional weapons. Gelmorphs were one of the ideal-typical soldier types during the memetic wars which fractured and destroyed the Radiant Polity.

Mindless, ever-appetitive wild-type gelmorphs still prowl abandoned Radiant Polity complexes on isolated and long-forgotten worlds. The substrate is virtually immortal, and can even replicate if sufficient organic material is present. Wild-type gelmorphs are often still imprintable by informorphs, although an infomorph copy imprinted onto a wild-type substrate typically degrades quite quickly.


Wild-Type Gelmorph (Threat)
  • Aspects: Mindless hunger; Hard to see until it's right on you; Slimy and resilient; That scraping, shuffling sound; Susceptible to infosophont implantation
  • Skills: Superb (+5) Engulf; Great (+4) Digest; Good (+3) Physique; Fair (+2) Athletics; Average (+1): Notice.
  • Stunts: 
    • Tough Substrate: The gelmorph substrate is completely resistant to stress dealt by piercing weapons and projectiles, and ignores the first two stress inflicted by any hit using energy weapons.
    • Vacuole: Once a gelmorph has inflicted physical stress on someone using its Engulf skill, it may spend 1 FP to encapsulate its target within a digestive vacuole. The target is then assigned a temporary aspect such as Captured, Stuck, or Being Digested.
  • Stress: 4 Physical stress boxes, 2 Mental stress boxes 
  • Consequences: One Mild, one Moderate.

Special: An infosphont may attempt to imprint a copy of itself on a Wild-Type Gelmorph; they are are highly susceptible to this kind of attack. The infosophont makes an Engineering skill roll using the Metascape Sculpting stunt in an Overcome action whose difficulty is the gelmorph's Physique. If the action is successful, the infosophont has imprinted a copy of itself upon the gelmorph's substrate. Roll 1 Fate Die: on a (-) face, the imprinting lasts for one Scene; on a blank face, the imprinting lasts for one Session; on a (+) face, the imprinting lasts for one Scenario. The gelmorph reverts to its mindless wild-type nature once the imprinting is gone. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Fate Strange Stars in Layout

The Fate rulebook for +trey causey's Strange Stars setting is now in layout and in the very capable hands of +B. Portly. The writing happened from roughly June 2014-mid-March 2015. Last night, Trey shared a test layout for the first chapter, Fate in the Strange Stars. It looks wonderful.

There's really something quite special about seeing your first book in layout. Things suddenly seem very real!  I'm looking forward to having the real thing in-hand too!

We'll be sharing more content for Strange Stars very soon. My priority over the last month has been to get the manuscript in to Trey, as well as shepherding a major project with long term implications through the research phase at work. Both of those tasks are over the hump now, and I am just a few weeks away from my next Strange Stars game event, so you will be seeing more Strange Stars content here very soon!