Monday, December 7, 2015

Counterfeiting Setting: Fading Suns

In writing another post, I came across a new game: Wyrd. At first I thought it was connected with Wyrd Miniatures, but no- their Malifaux setting has its own off-name rpg (Through the Breach). Wyrd's blurb didn’t help, describing a kitchen-sink fantasy campaign with a new homebuilt system. So I checked out the extensive preview pdf on RPGNow. It…is something. It opens with a vast and convoluted history presented in multiple fonts. You're 50+ pages in before it offers any sense of what the game is. Info-Dump: The RPG. 

Don’t get me wrong- I love a rich world. I love my rich world. But sometimes these products, clearly evolved out of house campaigns, boggle me with their presentation. Leaving aside that they don't open with what's new about the game, they assume text density equals awesome. It doesn’t. It just makes me roll my eyes. And that happens even when I theoretically love the setting. When I try to read Iron Kingdoms, I drown in the material; inevitably I get lost. It's like someone's used a program to compress all of Tolkien's secondary materials into several dozen pages.

When I read this stuff I’m thinking of how I actually bring this to the table; how do I convey it to the players? If a setting makes that difficult, opaque, or confusing I’m going to skip it.
So if I like the concept of a dense setting- Earthdawn, Ars Magica, Iron Kingdoms, Weapons of the Gods, Shadowrun- what do I do?

I build a collaborative, counterfeit version.

And as you can see from the post title, I’m going to try that with Fading Suns.

This process are how I imagine I'd do this. I'd combine that with the discussion of game/genre elements I talked about with PUG'BUTTAH. But how do I start? Maybe with art? I could hold up the book cover. Or more usefully, I could pull together a Pinterest board. Assuming we have a spark, we establish limited facts and ask collaborative questions. 

  1. It’s a far, far future space setting with an ancient lost Earth.
  2. Empires have risen and fallen. Relics, technology, and structures of previous ages remain.
  3. Everyone uses ageless, ornate Star Gates to travel between systems. These require psyker interfaces and keys to activate.
  4. A grand and elaborate Stellar Church exists. It has many distinct orders, with different precepts and powers. Some have pseudo-magical powers.
  5. The Church prohibits 'think machines,' free psykers, and advanced ancient tech. The public generally shares an unease about these things.
  6. A feudal structure controls most of the worlds. It's made up of an Imperial House plus five Noble families of massive influence.
  7. There are multiple Guilds as well. They represent the third power group beside the Nobles and the Church.
  8. Humanity has encountered Aliens. The less powerful aliens have been treated badly. If they have numbers, they’re treated warily. The most important are Space Elves and Star Gorillas.
  9. Everything has a general Techno-Medieval or Techno-Gothic look and feel. That extends to behavior and hierarchies.
  10. Each Noble House a distinct identity/theme. They each have several family lines.
  11. Old lost systems and places exist beyond the known worlds, through forgotten Gate codes
  12. Some tech is tolerated. Some is black market. Same for psykers.
Take those as base premises. That’s all the canon we need or want. Everything else we’ll make up. So what do we need to figure out as a group?

  1. What are the names of the five Noble Houses?
  2. What are they like and what are they known for?
  3. What kinds of Guilds are there?
  4. What’s a weird thing about each of those?
  5. What are some of the Church orders?
  6. What do clerics from those do and believe?
  7. What’s going on with the Imperial Household?
  8. How are psykers handled?
  9. What kinds of aliens are there?
  10. What are the three biggest threats out there?
After that we figure out the tone and what the characters actually do as I spoke about with Pug'buttahAll of this should fit on two pages, if that. Like a back of the book blurb. Everything else should emerge from play.

I have other game settings I like and want to establish. Which would work? Changeling the Lost, Mutant City Blues, Ars Magica, Ashen Stars, Iron Kingdoms, Mage the Sorcerers Crusade, Shadowrun, Night's Black Agents?

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