Custom Moves for Apocalypse Space

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Tsenn

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Custom Moves for Apocalypse Space
« on: January 30, 2014, 03:39:18 PM »
So, I've been thinking about a minimal-effort hack to do Apocalypse Space.  A Hardholder can have a space station, a Chopper has a fleet of space fighters, that kind of thing.  I've got two custom moves I would like to present for your consideration and feedback.

Supplies

Supplies are a type of barter that are explicitly useful.  Ration packs, modular circuits, medicine and spare parts.  Supplies are not pre-Fall literature or artworks or holorecordings of classical opera, but given a well stocked trading post you can swap one for the other.  I wanted to make the division between the two general types of things nice and clear.

Here's the other one:

Hyperspace

Have you seen Gene Rodenberry's Andromeda?  They travel between stars using slipstream.  Get to an appropriate zone in a star system, turn it on and you go barrelling through a transdimensional rollercoaster that spits you out at your destination.  I'm thinking that kind of thing.  You need to have a map your navicomp can read, or at least some kind of galactic coordinates to make sure you're pointing in the right direction to start, but once you hit the stream it's instinct and luck.  You're basically surfing the psychic maelstrom with a starship.

When you jump to hyperspace roll +weird.  On a 10+ pick 1, on a 7-9 pick 2, on a miss the MC may offer a choice: either pick all, or drop 1 for 1 psi-harm.  Player gets to pick which one to drop.

  • The jump seems to take moments for the crew and passengers but actually days have passed for the outside.
  • The ship takes stress damage.  Minor repairs will cost 1-supply.
  • You emerge in a bad place, in the mass shadow of an asteroid or moon, or about to hit planetary atmosphere.
  • The jump is hard on the crew.  The MC holds 1 on each PC to be redeemed for -1 forward due to nausea, dizziness, blurred vision and hallucinations.  Alternatively, 1-supply of drugs from the medbay will clear that up for everyone.


Here are my thoughts:

Jump takes days - if you're carrying something to trade, someone could beat you to market, if you're carrying news, someone scoops you, if you're carrying a message - well, your client should have paid for a rush job.

Stress damage - MC picks something, it breaks.  Anyone that can fly a ship has a basic grasp of how to fix these little issues, you just need time and 1-supply.  Like, it's not like the life support is down, but the condenser coil is out, so the atmosphere gets unpleasantly humid if it's not fixed.  And if you don't fix it and let it stay that way, something else will break later, and that might not be so minor.

You emerge in a bad place - the MC puts you in a spot.  I would suggest being careful with the crosshairs here.  You can't put one character (or the entire party) a single Act Under Fire away from splattering across some random moon.  It's not fun.  What you can do is offer them opportunities, like a hard burn to swerve out of the way, but that will cost you in stress damage and supplies later.  Or maybe you can slingshot it, but that will add several more days to your trip while you turn back around again.  If your pilot hits the Act Under Fire with a 10+, fair enough.

The jump is hard - why is this a hold instead of just -1 forward?  Well, it may seem a little mean, but I don't want players burning off their -1 with a poker game for chores they don't want to do.  Or maybe it should just be -1 forward, I'm not certain.  Any thoughts?

Re: Custom Moves for Apocalypse Space
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2014, 06:20:39 AM »
The jump is hard - why is this a hold instead of just -1 forward?  Well, it may seem a little mean, but I don't want players burning off their -1 with a poker game for chores they don't want to do.  Or maybe it should just be -1 forward, I'm not certain.  Any thoughts?

It should just be -1 forward. If they decide to play poker next instead of doing something important, that decision has just as many consequences as if they go off and do the important thing they would have otherwise done next. Moreover, it doesn't seem to make much sense fictionally that the ill-effects would be arbitrarily delayed, if they are the direct result of the jump.

I'm a bit mystified by the Supplies/Barter distinction. Is there a mechanical effect to this? Is there an in-fiction effect? Are you going to just arbitrarily decide on the spot, when the rules reference 'barter', whether they mean barter or supplies? (Like, when somebody gets paid for a gig, what do they get paid in?) What is the advantage of making this distinction?

As far as the general concept, I guess my question would be: is this the apocalypse, still, or just some people in space? I know some people have run AW-in-space before but those were explicitly apocalyptic; i.e. the PCs were survivors on a space station orbiting the earth when the apocalypse occurred. Etc. It's unclear from these moves if you're going for a setting that is still apocalyptic, and I guess my suggestion would be that if you are going to develop custom moves, I'd be most interested (as a hypothetical player, or whatever) in seeing moves that address the intersection of 'apocalypse' and 'space', rather than one or the other.

The reference to Andromeda may just be colouring my point of view, since that's pretty much not very apocalyptic at all. But I think another thing to consider is whether you are expanding the scope -- is a fleet of space fighters really the equivalent of a biker gang? How much hyperspace travel is regularly occurring? I think AW works best when operating at a personal-interaction level, so I'm always wary of things that start to feel like PCs directing fleets or managing large-scale logistics or the like.

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Tsenn

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Re: Custom Moves for Apocalypse Space
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2014, 10:08:45 AM »
It should just be -1 forward. If they decide to play poker next instead of doing something important, that decision has just as many consequences as if they go off and do the important thing they would have otherwise done next. Moreover, it doesn't seem to make much sense fictionally that the ill-effects would be arbitrarily delayed, if they are the direct result of the jump.

Fair point, I feel.  The issue I have with the first is that it will take a day or two on average to get from where you jump in to where you're going.  Plenty of time to do laundry, clean guns, take care of regular maintenance and get bored.

I'm a bit mystified by the Supplies/Barter distinction. Is there a mechanical effect to this? Is there an in-fiction effect? Are you going to just arbitrarily decide on the spot, when the rules reference 'barter', whether they mean barter or supplies? (Like, when somebody gets paid for a gig, what do they get paid in?) What is the advantage of making this distinction?

Ok, so: Supplies are things of direct use, Barter represents things of intangible value.  Supplies could be thought of as having the tech tag, while Barter would likely have valuable.  Generally speaking planetary settlements can provide for themselves and would prefer you bring them shiny things in trade, but space-based settlements are often in need of something or other so either would do.  Similarly when you look at getting paid, we look at where you are and who you're dealing with.  If you've just shipped parts for an atmo plant to a planet that's terraforming is in the process of breaking down, they're much more likely to give you crates of food than tech parts.

Yeah, and now I'm having a hard time distinguishing the difference myself.  I had a vision of a scavenger crew raiding a hulk and coming out with precious art and music, like 10 barter worth, but having to breathe foul air and nurse the engines to make it back somewhere to sell it off because they have no supplies to change the filters or make repairs.  You may have a good point there.

As far as the general concept, I guess my question would be: is this the apocalypse, still, or just some people in space? I know some people have run AW-in-space before but those were explicitly apocalyptic; i.e. the PCs were survivors on a space station orbiting the earth when the apocalypse occurred. Etc. It's unclear from these moves if you're going for a setting that is still apocalyptic, and I guess my suggestion would be that if you are going to develop custom moves, I'd be most interested (as a hypothetical player, or whatever) in seeing moves that address the intersection of 'apocalypse' and 'space', rather than one or the other.

I want to keep it pretty open, but the setting that's sitting in my brain goes like this: humanity discovers hyperdrive in the near-ish future, spends a while mapping and sending out robotic terraforming plants to likely-looking exoplanets, and colonises the hell out of the stars.  Some decades later interstellar relations have broken down to the point where over the course of a year or so every gets their own apocalypse - virus bombs, regular bombs, orbital strikes, planet-crackers, grey goo, autonomous warmachines (like Terminators), anti-terraforming, what have you.  And hyperspace goes from simple mappable routes to a twisting snarl that you need to be half crazy to figure out.

Anyone lucky enough to be on a planet at the time of play is likely the descendant of a hopeful colonist now living on a death world, at the mercy of passing raiders and bandits who perform protection at the cost of a regular tithe.  Those on stations are living in fragile metal islands turned feudal kingdoms where if your father was an air vent scraper, chances are you're going to be an air vent scraper too.

The reference to Andromeda may just be colouring my point of view, since that's pretty much not very apocalyptic at all. But I think another thing to consider is whether you are expanding the scope -- is a fleet of space fighters really the equivalent of a biker gang? How much hyperspace travel is regularly occurring? I think AW works best when operating at a personal-interaction level, so I'm always wary of things that start to feel like PCs directing fleets or managing large-scale logistics or the like.

I consider Andromeda to have some post-apocalyptic elements to it, more so in the early episodes.  It is set 300 years after the fall of civilisation, after all.  Other thematic influences I have in mind are Firefly, Stephen Donaldson's Gap series and Alastair Reynold's Revelation Space.  Chopper has a fleet of fighters, this tells us spaceflight is cheap (ish) and easy enough that you don't need a degree to do it.  Hypertravel is uncommon but happens.  You'd have to imagine that NPCs would likely suffer most or all the negatives, so they would treat it as a big deal, try and lay in extra supplies first, get a good navigator, that kind of thing.  Travelling in-system is like driving around in your local neighbourhood, jumping to another star is like travelling to another territory altogether.

You can be a trader, scavenger, itinerant gun for hire or own your own space station, but your world is inherently fragile.  You're going to have to depend on other people, which means forming relationships and extending your trust.  If all you want is an orbital shuttle, a home, and the clear blue of an alien sea at your doorstep (ref) you could probably get it, but what are you going to have to do to get there?  If you've got a grander goal, like you want to restore civilisation, you'll have to forge some strong relationships.  However it ends up, it has to start personal.

Re: Custom Moves for Apocalypse Space
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2014, 09:01:32 PM »
Fair point, I feel.  The issue I have with the first is that it will take a day or two on average to get from where you jump in to where you're going.  Plenty of time to do laundry, clean guns, take care of regular maintenance and get bored.

So it sounds like there shouldn't be a penalty at all in those cases? Maybe the choice should just be reworded to 'any actions you take immediately after the jump are at -1 due to nausea, hallucinations, etc.'? This would make it a conditional problem, rather than an absolute one, much like the 'it takes longer' choice.

I'm a bit mystified by the Supplies/Barter distinction. Is there a mechanical effect to this? Is there an in-fiction effect? Are you going to just arbitrarily decide on the spot, when the rules reference 'barter', whether they mean barter or supplies? (Like, when somebody gets paid for a gig, what do they get paid in?) What is the advantage of making this distinction?


[quote[Yeah, and now I'm having a hard time distinguishing the difference myself.  I had a vision of a scavenger crew raiding a hulk and coming out with precious art and music, like 10 barter worth, but having to breathe foul air and nurse the engines to make it back somewhere to sell it off because they have no supplies to change the filters or make repairs.  You may have a good point there.[/quote]

Yes, it sounds to me like barter is barter, and what you are calling supplies are fictionally important objects that happen to also be barter. Much like a gun, in AW, is both good for shooting things and also worth a couple of barter. Sometimes the ability to shoot someone is important, sometimes you need to trade it in for food, but that's all just the barter rules in play. I mean, I don't know what sort of planetary settlement you are imagining where food is of literally no value (surely not an apocalyptic one), but generally in regular AW those sort of situations are easily handled by just allowing the fiction to take precedence. If it turns out the thing you have defined as your barter-stuff is obviously of no value in a situation, then it just can't be used as barter, on a case by case basis.

In terms of the setting, it definitely sounds like the scope is larger; you're talking about relationships between entire planets' worth of people. (Or maybe that's a misunderstanding?) It's not necessarily a problem, if the scale for most playbooks is still the usual, but it might be weird for Hardholders and Operators if they are suddenly dealing with multiple civilization-remnants worth of people. Like, it sounds like every one of your planets is going to be its own apocalypse, in the usual scope of things -- but it's also not clear if PCs are going to actually live in any of these communities, or just running around between them a la Firefly/Star Trek. If the vision is Andromeda/Firefly, then what you really have is the spaceship itself as the crucial Home Front community. But if multiple PCs have multiple ships and some guy lives on a planet and another one is in a space station, you risk losing the central community cohesion that makes a lot of AW's themes so interesting.

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Tsenn

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Re: Custom Moves for Apocalypse Space
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2014, 05:05:25 PM »
So it sounds like there shouldn't be a penalty at all in those cases? Maybe the choice should just be reworded to 'any actions you take immediately after the jump are at -1 due to nausea, hallucinations, etc.'? This would make it a conditional problem, rather than an absolute one, much like the 'it takes longer' choice.

Alright, I'm sold.  It's now, "Take -1 ongoing, until you get some nice meds or whatever to fix it". 

Yes, it sounds to me like barter is barter, and what you are calling supplies are fictionally important objects that happen to also be barter. Much like a gun, in AW, is both good for shooting things and also worth a couple of barter. [snip]  If it turns out the thing you have defined as your barter-stuff is obviously of no value in a situation, then it just can't be used as barter, on a case by case basis.

Alright then.  There are more than enough potential options available for players to write themselves into a corner regarding what their barter is good for.  Not in a mean-spirited evil DM kind of way, more in the MC following the principles and letting the scarcity help drive the drama.

In terms of the setting, it definitely sounds like the scope is larger; you're talking about relationships between entire planets' worth of people. (Or maybe that's a misunderstanding?) It's not necessarily a problem, if the scale for most playbooks is still the usual, but it might be weird for Hardholders and Operators if they are suddenly dealing with multiple civilization-remnants worth of people. [snip] But if multiple PCs have multiple ships and some guy lives on a planet and another one is in a space station, you risk losing the central community cohesion that makes a lot of AW's themes so interesting.

I like these thoughts.  So, my grand plan (I know, don't plan!  But bear with me) was that a game would start by either (with Hardholder in play) sorting out problems in one's own home star system, and over the course of three or four sessions start either looking to stabilise relations in other known systems (which means interfering) or by finding out what your place is in your home system and then getting on to sort out the problems.  I have that "six sessions in and the next option available is to retire/ make a new character" thing stuck in my head.

I think what I'm getting at is that no matter how large the theoretical scope, you're always going to have to depend on someone, somewhere.  You need food, ammo, fuel, parts.  And if you don't look after anyone else, they'll end up shot.  And then you don't get the things you need.  You can establish a relationship with a planetful of people when the planet holds three villages worth of a couple of hundred people and about the same number again in isolated scavenger types.  Hell, you don't even need to have a relationship with more than one of these villages, but you'll probably want to invest in one when you go to collect the food for everyone on your space station and it turns out that don't have enough for you on account of getting raided for the last three months by their neighbours.  Even if that relationship involves threatening them with an orbital strike if they don't knock that shit off.

Now I'm thinking about community.  Ok, let's turn it around.  You're a Driver (Pilot) with your own starship.  Grand.  And another player is the Battlebabe, and someone else is the Chopper.  You still need a place to live or to get things from, and that place will never really be stable until you do something about making it so.  That means finding and dealing with Threats, coming to terms with Fronts, and not pushing things on the Home Front until something vital breaks and it turns into a pit of crazies howling for your blood.  Your Driver can always bugger off and do his own thing somewhere else, as can the Chopper.  I'm just not immediately seeing the difference between that and a classical Earth-based post-apoc setting.