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Author Topic: Solar Worlds  (Read 12873 times)
Simon JB
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Posts: 53


« on: October 15, 2008, 09:37:46 AM »

Since I used to rule at starting up ambitious projects (usually without finishing them) but haven't for a time I thought I would start one up now, or at least announce my intentions.

My group has just finished a year long campaign set in a post-civil war Sweden, a rather realistic setting but with superpowers la Aberrant or Mutants & Masterminds Paragons called Stormarnas Tid ("The Season of Storms", loosely), and our chronicles on the Swedish Rollspel.nu forum drew some questions on how this very ber cool setting would be presented in a setting book. We explained there that the setting was very much built around the protagonist PCs, and that a book fixed setting would probably not have produced that kind of campaign.

But now I'm thinking that maybe it would be a nice idea to put together some setting material in a tool-box oriented way, sort of like how the Solar System booklet is more of a campaign-running toolbox than a fixed game. I'm thinking of presenting a number of conceptual campaign settings, with modular content like organisations, major players and the like, thematic discussions and suggestions of focal points and a suggested crunch landscape for each.

I have some original settings I'd be happy to write about, and I want to include some shameless rips of a few popular settings that already exist but where I think the games come with uninteresting or unexisting RPG rules engines, like Shadowrun and 40k. I also think I could persuade some "indie" designers to allow their settings to be included in some form or other, especially where the games are out of print and no new version seems likely.

So, I'd very much like to hear your thoughts on this. Specifically...
  • How canonically should such material be presented? How much of "this is how it is, this exists, this doesn't" and how much of "this might be like this, you might want to include this"? Currently I'm a bit more in favor of the later, but I'm aware that too much of that might leave a reader without a strong feeling for the coolness of a setting.
  • How much material for each setting? Theoretically one could include as much as was presented about Near in Nixon's The Shadow of Yesterday. Would it be annoying with different amounts of material for different settings? Like maybe three well-presented settings and a few more sketchy ones?
  • Would anyone be interested in contributing to such a material? Either with complete settings or just with collaborative input.
  • If there would ever be a Solar Worlds book printed, should it contain a chapter with the general Solar System rules, or should it "require" the Arkenstone booket? I know the license allows the rules to be included, so the question is more about taste, really.
  • Would you like to hear about the worlds I'm already now thinking of writing about? ,-)

 - Simon
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2008, 11:00:42 AM »

That sounds like a fun idea. My takes on your angles:

Canonical setting material

The method I'm going to follow with TSoY is to not harp constantly about how something might or might not be true; instead, I'll just describe everything equally, ignoring potential conflicting accounts in the material, and then have a lengthy discussion in the book about how this sort of extended setting is best utilized and how it's up to the playing group to sieve through the material and pick the parts that are constructive towards their own campaign. Part of that discussion are the benefits of actively ignoring the way the whole setting hypothetically hangs together. In other words, I'll write locally as if everything is canonical, but refuse to get bound by prior choices overmuch; it's just fiction, nobody is getting hurt if you ignore it. The book will also include campaign frameworks that actively utilize these discrepancies for punchier gaming; if you're playing a campaign that deals with Ammeni colonization of the Qek jungles, it might make sense to rejig the geography of the setting for that particular campaign into something where Ammeni has an extended northern coastline and bustling port towns in Qek.

Of course, that's TSoY, which I plan to deal with in a pretty extensive manner. A smaller campaign setting would probably be better served by a less multi-faceted approach; I might suggest that your goal would be to offer one, solid campaign framework per setting, with some ancillary suggestions for independent development if the reader so fancies. Reflecting this back to the old TSoY as an example: you might want to make your settings something like 70% of the size of Near's treatment and include an explicit explanation of the sort of campaign the setting assumes. Or, you might want to make it 100% like Near, which essentially supports 3-4 different campaigns. Or you might go to 130% of the scope of Near, at which point you might wish to follow the plan I outline above for my new TSoY. Whichever you do, being explicit about the campaign framework(s) will make it easier to design purposefully.

How much material

If I were in your shoes, I'd deal with each setting to the extent that they reasonably require to be playable, which depends on how many options you want to provide. There are two different issues here, the scope of the setting and the extent of the treatment. How much writing work and space each setting requires depends on how much fluff, ideas and play advice you'll include.

Scope-wise something as large as TSoY is probably too much for an anthology, as a setting that already supports several completely different campaigns is an anthology in itself.

Contributions

I very well might do something for your anthology, provided that the financial deal works. And of course I'll help with honing the material and whatnot in an informal manner. We can discuss setting up layout, editing and other particulars if it seems that you get inspired to work on this.

Including the rules

My idea about how the Solar System might be useful to distribute in the future involves keeping it separate from setting products simply because it's already such a cheap and easily found rules-set. You can get it from the Internet and the booklet is cheap, so printing the same stuff in a new book is largely a waste of space for everybody. If you end up making the book I'll even make you an affordable deal on a combo pack, so you can sell the rules and the setting anthology together.

Of course, others might have different aesthetics that require different solutions. To each their own.

Hearing about your worlds

Of course I want to hear about your plans, I love new Solar System settings.
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d.anderson
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Posts: 19


« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2008, 05:05:22 PM »

Hello! Long time lurker, first time poster; my name is Dan Anderson.  I am very enthusiastic about Solar System, and also would like to produce material for it.  I have not found mention of a central repository and so I am wondering if I (and others with the same disposition) should use the part of RandomWiki set aside for The Shadow of Yesterday alternate settings.

-Dan
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2008, 11:21:25 PM »

Hi, Dan! What sort of material were you thinking? I like hearing ideas people have in this regard.

I'm not currently responsible for any sort of repository thang, and I'm a bit bad using such, too. Most of the stuff I've made public in English is in Forge threads, probably. However, if I were to start collating material into a central repository, I'd use Clinton's wiki at tsoy.crngames.com (probably asking his permission before embarging on anything major, of course). That makes sense to me. Randomwiki is good for this, though, and I don't have any particular plan regarding centralizing SS material deposition... I could even see just a directory of links on a forum somewhere, like here.

Of course, if there are any practical weaknesses to any of these solutions, anybody can take the lead on something more elaborate. Perhaps Simon's Solar Worlds initiative could benefit from starting with an explicit, indexed and lightly editorialized depository of Solar System materials, which could act as as a platform for developing material for a print book at a later date, to coin an example.
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Simon JB
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Posts: 53


« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2008, 12:39:32 AM »

I'll answer more here later, but yeah, I'm setting up a wiki to use just in this way. Just need to decide what wiki system to use and so on...
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d.anderson
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Posts: 19


« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2008, 09:54:52 AM »

Eero- The material I would like to produce is essentially what Simon laid out in his first post - setting material, original and ripped-off, refocused and crunched for use with Solar System.  Because I lack the time to commit to full playtesting and review of material I produce, I'd prefer to use a format for sharing that is free to the user and facilitates feedback and editing. Since RandomWiki already has a section more or less dedicated to this, that was my first thought.  I wanted to see if there was another plan in the works, and it appears Simon may be doing something; until that manifests I'll probably use RandomWiki and check in here regularly.  Thanks for your efforts!

-Dan
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Simon JB
Member

Posts: 53


« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2008, 10:40:29 AM »

Dan!
I'm just about done putting a dedicated wiki for Solar System in order. Your stuff is very welcome there! I've just got some tweaking and structuring to do, but if you'd like to pop in already, feel free to. It's at http://simon.beche.se slash solar. I wait with opening until I've done a bit more, but I think you can just register and start writing.
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Simon JB
Member

Posts: 53


« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2008, 04:52:52 PM »

That sounds like a fun idea. My takes on your angles:

Canonical setting material

The method I'm going to follow with TSoY is to not harp constantly about how something might or might not be true; instead, I'll just describe everything equally, ignoring potential conflicting accounts in the material, and then have a lengthy discussion in the book about how this sort of extended setting is best utilized and how it's up to the playing group to sieve through the material and pick the parts that are constructive towards their own campaign. Part of that discussion are the benefits of actively ignoring the way the whole setting hypothetically hangs together. In other words, I'll write locally as if everything is canonical, but refuse to get bound by prior choices overmuch; it's just fiction, nobody is getting hurt if you ignore it. The book will also include campaign frameworks that actively utilize these discrepancies for punchier gaming; if you're playing a campaign that deals with Ammeni colonization of the Qek jungles, it might make sense to rejig the geography of the setting for that particular campaign into something where Ammeni has an extended northern coastline and bustling port towns in Qek.

Of course, that's TSoY, which I plan to deal with in a pretty extensive manner. A smaller campaign setting would probably be better served by a less multi-faceted approach; I might suggest that your goal would be to offer one, solid campaign framework per setting, with some ancillary suggestions for independent development if the reader so fancies. Reflecting this back to the old TSoY as an example: you might want to make your settings something like 70% of the size of Near's treatment and include an explicit explanation of the sort of campaign the setting assumes. Or, you might want to make it 100% like Near, which essentially supports 3-4 different campaigns. Or you might go to 130% of the scope of Near, at which point you might wish to follow the plan I outline above for my new TSoY. Whichever you do, being explicit about the campaign framework(s) will make it easier to design purposefully.

How much material

If I were in your shoes, I'd deal with each setting to the extent that they reasonably require to be playable, which depends on how many options you want to provide. There are two different issues here, the scope of the setting and the extent of the treatment. How much writing work and space each setting requires depends on how much fluff, ideas and play advice you'll include.

Scope-wise something as large as TSoY is probably too much for an anthology, as a setting that already supports several completely different campaigns is an anthology in itself.

Contributions

I very well might do something for your anthology, provided that the financial deal works. And of course I'll help with honing the material and whatnot in an informal manner. We can discuss setting up layout, editing and other particulars if it seems that you get inspired to work on this.

Including the rules

My idea about how the Solar System might be useful to distribute in the future involves keeping it separate from setting products simply because it's already such a cheap and easily found rules-set. You can get it from the Internet and the booklet is cheap, so printing the same stuff in a new book is largely a waste of space for everybody. If you end up making the book I'll even make you an affordable deal on a combo pack, so you can sell the rules and the setting anthology together.

Of course, others might have different aesthetics that require different solutions. To each their own.

Practically all of what you say here agrees with my thoughts since I wrote the original post here, so that's good to hear. I'm aiming for one rather narrow focal point for each setting, with a few alternative ones presented more peripherally, and I'm going to write in tones of hard canon for the most parts, putting the softening discussion in boxes or something like that.

Any contributions on your part would be more than welcome, no matter how small. The wiki I'm setting up has discussion features built into it, for when you don't want to take the discussion here in this forum.

I'm with you about keeping setting and rules separate, at least for now. But if this becomes a book, and we're going to bundle our stuff together, you'll need to get that smaller format edition into being, because this would most probably be 6x9". I'm really not fond of neither big, cumbersome books or flimsy, fragile booklets! .D

Hearing about your worlds

Of course I want to hear about your plans, I love new Solar System settings.
[/quote]

Oh, goodie! The three I'm most into writing about at the moment consist of two shameless rips and only one original, but I don't care, because I think those rips are just so damn groovy! .D

Quoting from http://simon.beche.se/solar:

Quote
The Dark Morning of Sandsmark
The free colonies of the Sandsmark Sector have been defeated and the federal government is anxious to solidify its rule over these distant parts of the stellar system. Space is huge out here and with faster-than-light travel a mere fantasy it can easily take weeks if not months to get anywhere.
  • Example crunch
    • Key of the Conqueror, Key of the Resistance, Key of Guilt, Key of the Climber, Key of the Builder, Key of Independence, Key of the Clockwork Society
    • Secret of the Spaceship, Secret of Contacts, Secret of Sleeper Cells, Secret of Senior Rank, Secret of the Veteran, Secret of the Agent, Secret of Undying Hate

Shadows of Tomorrow
In the shadowy underworld of The City freelance operators run the errands of organised crime as well as megacorporations and political interests. It is a world gone mad, where whiz-kid geniuses build supercomputers from scratch in the slums and elves and orcs walk the streets as regular people, where dragons rule the boardrooms and cyber samurai rule the streets.
  • Example crunch
    • Alternative pools: Flesh, Chrome, Mana.
    • Key of Nearness, Key of Numbness, Key of the Undercover Agent, Key of Higher Purpose, Key of the Burnout, Key of the Nationalist, Key of the Immigrant
    • Secret of the Adept, Secret of the Magician, Secret of Cybertech, Secret of Mentor Spirit, Secret of Goblinism, Secret of Elfin Beauty, Secret of Giant Size.


40.000 Years of War
The planet Arcadia is ruled by wilderness, despite the Kingdom of Man's battle for domination of the planet - 40.000 years of battle against the enigmatic High Ones in their towers, against the brutal Trogs that grow like mushrooms in the undergrounds and the deep forests and the Corruption that always threaten to rend the Kingdom apart from inside, against Independancies that refuse the King's tribute and agains the hostility of the planet itself.
  • Example crunch
    • Alternative pools: Force, Skill, Integrity
    • Key of Brutality, Key of Kindness, Key of the Scholar, Key of the Templar, Key of the Civilian, Key of the Grunt, Key of the Officer, Key of the Touched, Key of the Corrupted, Key of the Rebel, Key of the Interrogator,
    • Secret of the Psychic, Secret of the Templar, Secret of the Specialist,
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2008, 08:11:11 PM »

Seems good to me. I have some setting ideas of my own that might or might not work for your anthology, but I'll sit on those for now - we'll see how quick you're going to be with your development, and we'll see how much time I'm going to have this coming winter for new projects. In the meantime, though, do bring your thoughts here, I'll be happy to discuss the fine points of setting and crunch design when you get underway with your ideas.

A hint for when you start writing: it's often best to think of crunch in terms of inter-dependent "crunch families" instead of long lists of individual ideas when you first start working. Some sort of abstract organization will also help organize the material for the end-user, who ideally wouldn't so much make choices out of a long list of undifferentiated options, but would rather first choose his character's nationality, beliefs or whatever and then just take the crunch associated with those in-setting facts. Working from this viewpoint one can start estimating how many crunch families a given setting will include by thinking about how archetypal the player characters are supposed to be in the campaign; for example, in TSoY characters consist of a choice of race and a choice of culture, the latter of which usually includes 2-3 (the latter for only Khale, pretty much) implicit crunch families the player chan choose between or mix.
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Simon JB
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Posts: 53


« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2008, 11:54:47 PM »

I'm looking forward to your thoughts, as always. And yes, we'll see how quick I'll be - I've no idea about that now, this whole idea is just a few days old as it is!
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Simon JB
Member

Posts: 53


« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2008, 03:57:46 AM »

Damn, it's going well! At least I feel so. .D

I'm working on a 40k-ripoff world at the moment and I like it how the crunch for that is coming. I'd be happy if you'd care to take a look and give me your thoughts so far. Just remember it's still full of holes!

My intention with the Corruption crunch there is to make it rather advantageous to take corruption secrets, but ones you start you'll have to go deeper into that line, and either keep having corruption stuff, which some holy persons will probably be able to sense, or become a repentant, making your struggle against corruption a major issue for the character.

Anyhow, you don't have to look at it. I just wanted to report that work is progressing...
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2008, 05:02:53 AM »

Seems to me that you have a good basic chassis here. Perhaps a session or two of play would be in order to see which parts are put to use and which stay in the sidelines.
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d.anderson
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Posts: 19


« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2008, 11:39:39 AM »

So I put up White Pickets on Simon's Solar Worlds site, a setting for petty fears in the 'burbs.  I'd like to hear ideas for Secrets that would help drive a setting like this.  Thanks for the wiki, Simon, and thanks again for your work, Eero.

-Dan
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Simon JB
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Posts: 53


« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2008, 03:32:03 PM »

Just read it, Dan. Very nice concept, and the implementation looks nice as well.

One thing: how could low and high pools be characterized in the fiction? I've noticed that kind of description usually helps me get my head around what the essence of the pools are.

Care to put up a couple of example starting characters? To help communicating the idea of the setting?
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d.anderson
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Posts: 19


« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2008, 11:30:40 AM »

Done.  I'll also address the Pools here.

Desperation is the pool that governs whether or not you are going to get ahead in life; a character with a large Desperation Pool will have the drive to get ahead; a character with a low Desperation Pool will never amount to much.  A good example of a character with a large Desperation Pool would be Daniel Plainview, from the movie There Will Be Blood.

Hatred is the pool that lets you compromise others' resources; a character with a large Hatred Pool will dominate other people at their expense; a character with a low Hatred Pool will have to give in to threats or get hurt.  A good example of a character that spends a lot of Hatred Pool would be William Foster, from the movie Falling Down.

Shame is the pool that helps you to control others; a character with a large Shame Pool will exploit any weakness in others and aggrandize themselves; a character with a low Shame Pool is a lackluster manipulator of the social scene.  A good example of a character with a large Shame Pool is Miranda Priestly, from the movie The Devil Wears Prada.
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