Saturday, June 30, 2012

Coming Soon to FATE SF

I am working on a new setting for FATE SF.

Here's a small clue about the theme:

No worries, we will not be statting out a certain notorious TV series. Instead, we will be exploring a classical SF theme.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Glasscage System

This post presents a Diaspora conversion for Prison Planet 27121, while also sharing alternative setting content. Here goes:

"Deorbiting to the blue ice giant" by Nicole Cadet 

The prison isn't actually on Planet 27121; it is on one of the many icy moons that orbit the ice giant planet. The moon's name is Glasscage. It's atmosphere is just as toxic as 27121, but at least the moon has a surface on which you can walk. When a shuttle lands with prisoners, they need to be walked from the small, rocky landing pad to an ice cave nearby. The prison facility is almost entirely built out of tunnels dug below the ice moon's surface. Those nearest the surface were cut from ice; the deeper ones were cut from stone.

There are traps all along the way inside the complex. Explosive charges can be remotely detonated to seal off the exterior tunnels, making extractions and jailbreaks extremely dangerous. Those are just the beginning of the obstacles in the way of freedom.

The prison complex has many alternate access/egress points that are protected by remotely controlled blast doors. These are carefully hidden in the sides of steep, sharp hills and will be very difficult to see from orbit.

Finally one of this system's slipknots is artificial. It is a hyperspace suture leading directly to the capital of a powerful state. That state is an unofficial sponsor and supplier of the Glasscage facility, and will typically keep at least one stealth vessel in-system to provide additional protection for the facility.

OGL Mechanics

Planet 27121 - Glasscage
  • Technology 2: Slipstream use (pirate base)
  • Environment -2: Hostile environment (ice moon with toxic atmosphere)
  • Resources -2: One significant export (hostages returned for credits and goods)
  • Aspects:
    • We're in the human capital business
    • Only one small landing pad
    • Friends in high places (and usually more than one)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Prison Planet

Planet 27121 is briefly mentioned in human space survey records an uninhabitable ice planet in a system of resource-poor worlds with toxic atmospheres. It is in fact a prison world with several hundred captives. The planetary ice giant orbits far from its red giant star. Its atmosphere is incapable of supporting life. The world has a number of ice rings (not visible in this image) and many moons. It is remote from the core areas of human space, in a pirate-infested interstitial zone between rival and sometimes warring states. Conveniently enough, the system also has a hyperspace suture which connects it directly to the imperial homeworld. There is usually an imperial presence here, sometimes strong, and most often clandestine and cloaked.
While an abundance of gulags and prison planets exist within the states of human space, this one is privately operated. Originally, it was a pirate base made from a few pressurized bubbles and tubes. Over time, it has become a very well-defended and supplied private prison. Today, Planet 27121 is a very lucrative warehouse for interstellar kidnapping and hostage-keeping. It is also the ideal place where a sovereign can or state ministry can remove potential successors, pretenders, and dissidents from the political chessboard.

  • The imperial Sacred Band's Heirophant-class Battle Carrier Akhenaten appeared in the system recently, and dropped a shuttle planetside. The shuttle and the ship departed a few hours later though the hyperspace suture.
  • Several of the empire's rival and sometimes warring states stockpile potential alternative heirs of their adversaries here
  • Structure B recently experienced an accidental depressurization, killing several cult leaders and social reformers
This world was generated using the Planet Generator in Chapter 26 of Starblazer Adventures. I was watching Alien 3 at the time. What are the odds of randomly generating a prison planet while watching Alien 3?

OGL Mechanics:
  • This is a Class 8 Planetary Ice Giant
  • Atmosphere incapable of supporting life
  • Full ring system
  • Many moons
  • Average population (+4) - 100s of inhabitants
  • Planetary Skills:
    • Diplomacy +7 Epic
    • Resources (wealth) +6 Fantastic
    • Resources (materials) +8 Legendary
    • Resources (industrial) +3 Good
    • Military capability +6 Fantastic
    • Planetary security +8 Legendary
    • Tech level +5 Superb
    • Trade level +4 Great
  • Mandatory Aspects:
    • Planetary Government: Pirate Kingdom-Penal Colony
    • Parent Star Classification: Red Giant 
  • Additional Aspects:
    • Friends in high places (usually several high places)
    • Ready for a siege
    • If you want to leave, someone will have to pay
    • "It's an ice giant - you have no one to blame but yourself if you try to escape"

Monday, June 25, 2012

Table 1: Cargo Hold Scene Aspects

If you're like me, it's usually after the game session that you think of all incredible scene aspects you should have used. Scene Aspects tables offer you ideas for Aspects you can deploy in your FATE game. Roll once or more using a D30 to select some aspects - or just go ahead and pick some that look interesting. Modify them at will. If you have some other ideas for Scene Aspects, please feel free to add them in the comments!

Table 1 - Cargo Hold Scene Aspects

  1. Leaky chemical drums with illegible labels
  2. Shiny new biohazard containers stacked neatly on pallets
  3. A chemical spill, again?!?
  4. Is that alien snot or some kind of lubricant?
  5. Laser torches, fully charged and ready to go
  6. Plenty of improvised weapons tools
  7. Stowaways/lurkers in the way
  8. Is that an airlock? Why is the blast door ajar?
  9. Can't see all the way up on top of those (a big stack of cargo boxes, engineering equipment, etc.)
  10. Never noticed all those ventilator shafts before
  11. Critter swarm (space rats, space roaches, Trelebs with Pervasoids) 
  12. Heavy cargo lifter (see the photo, above)
  13. Maintenance bots (active)
  14. Maintenance bots re-charging in botbays
  15. Motion/heat activated lighting (see only in your own Zone, unless something else is out there moving)
  16. Flashing strobe alarm lights only (good for Compels)
  17. Dim lighting (see out 1 Zone only)
  18. No lighting (good for Compels)
  19. Force barrier up
  20. Cages - locked? -unlocked?
  21. Cages - something got loose
  22. Raw power jacks
  23. That looks like contraband
  24. Cargo lift (doors in the floor)
  25. Cargo elevator (doors in the wall)
  26. Stale air, thin air, soon no air
  27. That radiation klaxon is deafening (good for Compels)
  28. Sliding blast doors (drop from overhead or close sideways)
  29. Big boxes with fancy locks - what's in those, I wonder?
  30. Those items have been missing for a while... what are they doing down here?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Conker Root

Conker Root, also known as Conker is a plant descended from certain herbs found on Earth.
Conker is highly valued for its psychoactive properties, and it is a favorite of long-distance spacefarers such as scouts, explorers, rogues, and charioteer-pilgrims.

The roots are said to convey good luck to the gambler. More than one gambler in a seedy spaceport casino carries an amulet pouch containing Conker root.

Its seeds are often ingested or smoked by smugglers and blockade runners just before making blind hyperspace jumps.

Some explorers use the seeds to gain a deep affinity with a particular region hyperspace and/or realspace. Use in such circumstances confers a long-term familiarity with that region of space, one that may seem uncanny to others. A navigator or pilot may develop a sudden hunch that disaster is imminent, suddenly avoiding an otherwise nearly undetectable and deadly superstring or black hole.

Of course, more than a few rogues claim the tuber of the plant confers other kinds of charm and prowess, when rubbed.

The synthetic derivatives of Conker can be quite harmful and addictive, and are controlled substances in most human systems that have drug laws. But the natural Conker plant is seldom a focus of enforcement activities for the Cosmic Patrol. Its cultivation and distribution occurs on a very small scale and almost exclusively planetside. Securing the plant is almost impossible without knowing herbalists and folk practitioners who live in the woods and wetlands surrounding some backwater world spaceports. Only a handful make the journey up into space.

OGL Mechanics:
  • Treat ingestion of plant as a poison of Good (+3) Potency and Average (+1) Subtlety
    • Roll Potency vs. the ingester's Endurance. 
    • If the plant gets the higher roll, two skills from among the following ones are +3 for one scene: Alertness, Gambling, Mysteries, Piloting, and Rapport. 
  • Synthetics will typically have a Potency of Great (+4) or Superb (+5) with a Mediocre (0) Subtlety.
    • Synthetic Conker will boost only one of the above skills, determined at random. 
    • Synthetics also reduce the user's Composure track by one, adding a persistent or permanent Consequence such as Conker Addict, Compulsive Gambler, or Blind Jumper.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Scene Aspects

If you are like me, sometimes after a scene in a FATE game you realize 
"I didn't use many scene aspects!" It can be hard to cook up flavor on the fly, especially while you are also adjudicating combat. 

We can all use a little help sometimes, just like this guy, here!

C. 2009 Joseph C. Brown

On Monday, I will be publishing the first in a series of Scene Aspect tables that you can use to make scenes more flavorful and tactically interesting for your players. 

Each table will focus on a particular kind of scene that is common in the science fiction genre and in gaming. Today, I developed a D30 Scene Aspect Table for Cargo Holds, and I'll be doing some fine tuning over the weekend.

Please let me know what other kinds of Scene Aspect tables you'd like to see!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Trelebs

Trelebs, also known as Trelebiti, are a ubiquitous alien race in known space. Humans gave them this nickname after trilobites, an extinct prehistoric Terran arthropod. The Trelebs simply refer to themselves as The People.
The Treleb exoskeleton has a head, thorax and small tail-like region called a pygidium. The head has a variety of different eye positions/arrnagements and numbers of eyes, although two large compound eyes, bilaterally arranged are very much the norm. The heads often also have antennae. The thorax has numerous legs. The creatures can move very quickly, as well as bend and roll into a protective pill-bug shape.

Their bodies are generally 2-4 meters in length, but in truth their "bodies" are merely bioshells containing one or more pulpy alien bodies. These bioshells come in bio-organic and bio-mimetic subvarieties, although the bio-organic modules are the most common. The shells have a range of natural colorations from a rust red to a bright orange. Trelebs living in close proximity to humans often have their bio-shells painted with a variety of colors and patterns that humans find interesting and diverting. The bio-mimetic models can change their colors and patterns at will; they can also incorporate a variety of cybernetic implants as well as camouflage their heat and EM signatures.

Beneath the shell, Trelebs are a pulpy brain mass with numerous ropy neuromusclular tendrils. Their exact reproductive modality is unknown, although it is known that many Treleb bioshells contain one or more brain masses that operate as a cooperative unit. Inside their shells, Treleb groups communicate through intertangled knots of neuromuscular tendrils, suspended in a heady stew of neurotransmitters and hormones. In time, their brain masses can even fuse. Trelebs also use telepathy within the shell, particularly when working out advanced concepts that require multiple minds, such as transplanar gate and jumpdrive geometries. They are particularly gifted in this area.

Trelebs communicate with their kind in other shells exclusively through telepathy. If a Treleb injects certain plasmids into the human bloodstream via stinging cells on tendrils extruded through their bioshells, they can confer Treleb-telepathy to humans. Usually no more than one human on a ship will undergo this procedure, as this transformation has a bewildering variety of psychic side effects.

One or more Trelebs will often be found on human ships or habitats. They live in the lower decks of ships and in the sewer systems of many human colonies, consuming garbage and refuse and processing toxins. They can perform a wide range of maintenance activities due to their numerous limbs, as well as to their ability to release and control swarms of pill-bug sized Pervasoids - essentially very small remote-repair bioshells.

Trelebs with bio-mimetic bioshells are often used in high radiation areas for special maintenance work such as the repair of gates and jumpdrives, or even on the outside of ships and habitat hulls, since they are immune to the effects of vacuum.

OGL Mechanics:
  • Treleb Aspects can include: 
    • Fast Scuttler
    • Our Own Form of Telepathy
    • Creepy Looking, But After A While You Forget We're There
    • Not Easy to Squash
    • Engineer the Bugs Out
    • Reach WAY Inside (thanks to Pervasids)
  • Apex skill is generally Engineering (Great or Superb)
  • Telepathy skill; weakness to Light-based weapons (double stress)
  • Stunts may include: Grease Monkey, Mister-Fix-It, Thump of Restoration
  • Physical Stress 5
  • Composure Stress 5
  • Treat the Treleb as if it has Blade and Projectile Armor (-3)

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Star Surgeons

The Star Surgeons are an interstellar guild devoted to the healing arts.

Richard Powers (1963)
There are at most several thousand Star Surgeons in known space. The guild takes no money from government or corporations, relying solely on donations from patrons and patients, other guilds, non-governmental organizations, and religious societies. Star Surgeons may be found in a small number of  space-based guild medical facilities located in crossroad sectors, often near zones of conflict between different space empires and civilizations. Some Star Surgeons can also be found on independent space stations or as crew on independent starships.

The Star Surgeons Guild is open to any intelligent being that has been trained in the healing arts and is willing to take the Star Surgeon Oath: 

As a Star Surgeon, 
I will heal all intelligent beings 
who seek my help, 
as long as I am qualified to help, 
regardless of the patient's species or other status. 
I swear to take no side in any conflict, 
except as necessary for self-defense
to do no harm to any intelligent being,
and to reduce pain and suffering whenever possible.

There are even some androids who have taken the Oath.

Membership in the guild is by invitation only. The most typical way one is invited to take the Star Surgeon Oath is after being recognized for a medical or humanitarian accomplishment observed by Star Surgeons practicing in that sector.  Lone Star Surgeons, such as those on long range vessels, will usually adopt an Apprentice Star Surgeon who will one day take the oath.

Unfortunately, not all Star Surgeons are what they seem. Some Star Surgeons become corrupted due to excessive radiation, alien pheromones, or pathogens, stimulant abuse, surgical addiction, excessive xenophilia, creeping or exurgent xenophobia, or social pressure from coercive individuals. Corrupt Star Surgeons can harm intelligent beings in all sorts of ways, including assisting with torture sessions, surgical experimentation, alien grafts, illegal cloning, memory manipulation, exposure to harmful or addictive drugs, or even cyber-slavery. Such individuals are usually found-out quickly in Star Surgeon facilities, but can remain at large doing great harm for significant periods of time in more isolated environments, such as remote space facilities or long range vessels.

Due to the Star Surgeons' independence from governments, no central registry of their members exists, and nor does any external regulating authority. Trust your intuitions, or hire a telepath if you have concerns.

OGL Mechanics:

  • The Star Surgeon's Guild is a Large (+4) organization, which makes it extremely small by galactic standards. Guild Aspects include: Altruistic Healers, Above Government, and Dependent on Donations.
  • A Star Surgeon character should have the Star Surgeon's Oath as an Aspect.
  • A corrupt Star Surgeon should have a Broken Oath or Corrupt Star Surgeon Aspect, or something similar. 
  • Star Surgeons will generally be Great (+4) or Superb (+5) in the Science skill, with the Stunts Doctor and Surgeon.
  • Since surgery often is often assisted by complex machinery, and may also involve cybernetics and nanotechnology, the Engineering skill often proves helpful.


Friday, June 15, 2012

What Were Your Earliest SF Gaming Experiences?

Mine were the following:
  • Lou Zocchi's Alien Space starship warfare wargame, which my Dad bought for me on one of our many trips to the Strasenburgh Planetarium. This game had cutouts of alien ships (one per 8.5" x 11" sheet, if I recall correctly. I believe range was determined by running a string between ships. I never quite figured out how to play the game; I was pretty young.
  • SPI's Starforce: Alpha Centauri, a wargame of interstellar conflict among humans and a few alien species near Earth. Space travel was based on teleportation. The band the Human League took their name from this game. SPI created a very interesting setting, technology, and races for this game. There were two follow-up wargames, Starsoldier and Outreach, but it is too bad there was never a roleplaying game. One of the distinctive features of the game was that warfare primarily involved using teleportation to move enemy ships to another system. So, actual violence wasn't necessary in space (however the Xenophobes, a race with Nova bombs, had another quite genocidal strategy. The setting was particularly influential in the space empires that my friends and I created in the years before Traveller.
  • A hyperspace movement-based strategy game, whose name I have forgotten. With this game, the longer your ships stayed in hyperspace, the more of the game board was available to you when you chose to exit hyperspace. So in other words, hyperspace movement is a form of expanding potential energy until it is committed to a spacial expression upon exiting hyperspace. I don't even want to think about what happens if a ship isn't able to exit for some reason. Come to think of it, this would be excellent to implement in a FATE space opera game. If anyone knows what that game is, please feel free to drop me a line in the comments!
So what were yours?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

2001 Space Pod in Diaspora
As I noted in my last post, the 2001 Space Pod was a hallmark for pre-RPG science fiction fandom. In this post, I am going to stat the vehicle out using the Diaspora RPG rules.This seems very fitting, since Diaspora is a hard SF RPG where this kind of workhorse vehicle would make sense.

OGL Mechanics:

T0 EVA Space Pod - T0 is the midpoint on a Technology scale that ranges from T-4 (stone age) to T4 (approaching collapse due to imminent singularity). T0 indicates a civilization that has begun to explore its solar system.

V-Shift 0, Beam 0, Torpedo 0, EW 0, Trade 0


  • Skeleton Crew: Takes only one crew member to pilot, as long as they have both the Pilot and Navigation skills.
  • Grappler Arms: Pilot skill can be used to retrieve objects, conduct repairs, or attach itself to another ship.
  • External Repairs: Use Engineering (space) or Repair skill to make external repairs to a space vehicle. A ship carrying a pod increases its Trade score by 1 for the purposes of monthly maintenance checks.

Frame 3
Data 1
Heat 1

These three items were sheer guesswork. I gave the Pod a Frame 3 because it survived going through inter-dimensional gates, after all.


  • Did you turn off the autopilot?
  • You'll lose at least one of these before the mission's done
  • Ideal conference room for shipboard conspiracies
  • Two's company in here, three's a crowd
  • They go where no one's gone before

Monday, June 11, 2012

2001: A Space Odyssey

Currently watching 2001: A Space Odyssey. This film greatly influenced my friends and I in the late 60s and early 1970s as we created our own space empires. This was in the years just before RPGs were invented. If only we had had access to games like Traveller a few years earlier, the history of roleplaying would have been a subset of the history of SF rather than fantasy.

Particularly important to us were the ship and pod designs in 2001:

2001 Space Pod

Also important were the cute agricultural robot Drones from the film Silent Running:

Robot Drones Huey, Dewey, and Louie from Silent Running
It could be fun to stat these items out for FATE!

Kepler-22B & Future Optimism

I had time this weekend to start sketching some details for my sector of planet Kepler-22B. I'll post more here once the Galactic Adventures blog officially launches, as well as posting FATE-based stats for the my planetary sector.

Over the past two weeks, two recent hard SF books have been published that are 1) optimistic and 2) extrapolate an important future for Africa in our (inter)planetary civilization. These are Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312 and Alastair Reynolds' Blue Remembered Earth

I have never had much luck reading Robinson, but Reynolds is my favorite SF author. I picked up both books. So we will give Robinson another shot. I got a kick out of his intercalary chapters about political economy and more. Somebody has been reading Steinbeck lately!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Kepler-22B Planetary Survey Project

Yes, that's right, the giant Earthlike planet Kepler-22B is open for exploration now. This weekend, I decided to join this collaborative sector mapping project. Sectors of the planet are assigned from a grid map, and different people are creating encounter tables and locations for their sectors of the planet. Can't wait to get started with this new project.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bulldogs! Ports of Call

There is a hefty 70 page supplement out for FATE Bulldogs! called "Ports of Call".

Time to get off the space freighter and take a look around at some new starports and planets!

It is fairly unusual for a FATE-based game to have multiple scenarios and supplements, but it looks like Bulldogs is well on the way to that! To date, Galileo Games has published this supplement, four free scenarios, and a novella for Bulldogs! You can see the entire inventory of that company's PDFs right here.