Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Shining Void v2 Plans

Wolfgun's music so spacey <3 br="">

So I had a couple goals in mind when I started my revision pass of tSV. My first two-session game was a surprising complete success, and I've heard very little but positive things which really excites me. Those positive things weren't without suggestions though, and I've finally got my other stuff sidled away for a few minutes to look at tSV again.

First though, I want to note: I am slightly intimidated by the other members of the field I'm running around in. Between the slightly dormant Star Wars World and Traveller World, the still-evolving Uncharted Worlds (who I am surprisingly undaunted by, I'm confident we seem to be moving in very different directions), and now Strange New Worlds. I'm not going to stop, of course, but if anyone is also intimately familiar with any of those I'd love to know if you see me straying into a major overlap. Avoiding such overlap isn't super-critical, but if I know of a different way then preserving individuality is better.
Given the recent release of Strange New Worlds I want to say some cool things I like about it! I like the XP phrases being tied to which stat array you pick, it's a clever way to increase the fictionality of the arrays. I like advantage/disadvantage, even if I have doubts about the math (though not as great as my doubts about it in D&D Next). I'm comforted by its traditional feeling - its DW roots are clear, and they make me more okay about sharing the design space because of my more storygames approach (I don't have a better way of putting that, if you really care ask me and I'll decompress the idea :/). I'm unsatisfied with its social context for the characters - they're competent independently but I'm not sure what their relationships are assumed to be. Social mechanics are tricky, but I also think they're indispensable.

Okay, on to The Shining Void.
The big change to the writing is a continued effort to scrape off the Mass Effect name and genericize it a bit more. I want to be able to play Mass Effect, but I want people unfamiliar with ME to be able to pick up and play the game, which currently isn't plausible.
This means two big changes: biotics and species. To put it bluntly, I don't have a better name for Biotics yet. I don't want to just call it psionics, for several reasons. It's basically telekinesis and energy manipulation, but neither is alone a complete description and together they're far too long. I mean, in its most basic form, Biotics is Space Magic. Even the most precise description of biotics (that you're altering something's mass content) doesn't clearly line up with the energy blasts and shields you make with it. I know it can be justified, it's just not clear. The move itself is pretty functional, though the exact wording will probably shift to avoid ME-specific ideas.

The other big diction change is around species. To start with, the playbooks for species are no longer the speciesbooks. Instead, they're Cultures (Roles are also dropping the -book suffix). It isn't a universal Newcomer culture or Scientist culture, but one particular one of those cultures. You then have a chance to choose from a couple lists to flesh out your own species within that culture. This gives a much more diverse galactic landscape while still staying in the same classification scheme. It's a little more Star Wars than it is Mass Effect, but I think it's appropriate. Of the Cultures, the Mechanoid culture is changing to the Outsider culture, which will continue to cover mechanical intelligences but also other bizarre or outlandish species.

Each of the Cultures has three lists you pick from: History, Reputation, and Appearance (which will, of course, replace the Look list). Each list has three options, giving nine different combinations for each Culture in addition to the three moves to choose from and the six Roles to combine with. Here's the lists I'm thinking of. I'm trying to strike a balance between variety, evocativeness, and tension-potential.

Newcomer: (I'm oddly pleased that Newcomer is at the top of the list with the new name change)
History: * Displaced member of young species, * Recently came to galactic significance, * Uplifted by accident or intervention
Reputation: * Unassuming, * Aggressive and involved, * Actively hostile
Appearance: * A galactic standard, * A single striking feature, * Completely unique

History: * Planet crackers, * Forced from home, * Species-wide wanderlust
Reputation: * Unreliable vagrants, * Exciting visitors, * Raiders
Appearance: * A combination of cultures, * Hidden in suits, * Adapted to space life

History: * Unrecognized independence, * Prominent, even in scarcity, * Lacking unified culture
Reputation: * Exclusive, * Unjustly suppressed, * Boat-rockers
Appearance: * Construct of inanimate material, * Like a major species with an unnerving feature, * Dangerous adaptation

History: * First member of the galactic community, * Cultural melting pot, * Isolated hermits
Reputation: * Manipulative, * Sophisticated, * Invasive
Appearance: * Unaging, * Look different from viewer to viewer, * Clearly influenced by another species

History: * Stumbled into space, * Uplifted, * Tribal communities
Reputation: * Lacks cultural cohesion, * Holds grudges, * Nonviolent by primitive
Appearance: * Gigantic, * Naturally hardy, * Unassuming
History: * Responsible for recent advancements, * Atoning for past atrocities, * Galactic leaders
Reputation: * Cold and logical, * Altruistic, * Reckless
Appearance: * Large brain, * Expressionless, * Augmented

History: * A galactic coup, * Trusted protectors, * The biggest armada
Reputation: * Highly regimented, * Honest, * Boneheaded
Appearance: * Scary, * Animal-like, * Cute

So any input on if you like/dislike any of those would be great. The move lists for each may be slightly altered (particularly the Nomad and Outsider have a couple moves to change) but I haven't done that work yet.

Another change to the game is to the stat lines for the Roles! I've been convinced to shift from a -/-/+/+ line to a -/0/+/+ line. A little more successful and heroic.
Stats are Alien (ALN), Experienced (EXP), Paragon (PAR), and Renegade (REN).
Academic: ALN +, EXP 0, PAR +, REN -
Agent: ALN -, EXP +, PAR +, REN 0
Leader: ALN 0, EXP -, PAR +, REN +
Loner: ALN +, EXP +, PAR -, REN 0
Rebel: ALN +, EXP -, PAR 0, REN +
Veteran: ALN -, EXP +, PAR 0, REN +
There's a little more love to PAR/REN than to ALN/EXP but I'm actually kinda comfortable with that.

One thing I need help with is a new name for XP. Having both a stat called Experience and a resource called XP is potentially a bit confusing and I prefer the stat name. My current best is Energy, and that's not all that good. I need something that can be accumulated and then spent to improve permanently.

I'm switching the MultiTool move to +Experienced.

I'm re-writing Support Your Team. I'm actually considering binding it and Help together, as Help is almost always a better move currently and they share a theme.

Things I need suggestions for:
~ What would a better name for Biotics be?
~ What do you think of the Culture lists?
~ Can you think of a different name for XP?
~ Anything you want out of the game that I haven't addressed?

End Recording,

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