Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack

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Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« on: August 03, 2013, 08:00:45 PM »
I've been wanting to make/run a Space Opera style game for quite a while, but I've grown quite fond of the AW and DW mechanics. Considering how open to hacking the system is, I finally decided to buckle down and work on a Space Opera hack. The game has a lot of different inspirations, though it started mainly with Traveller. I quickly realized that rather than limit myself to the fiction of another, I'd rather approach it on a broader scope, with my own fiction. That said, Mass Effect, Traveller and Lois McMaster Bjould's amazing Vorkosigan series (and obviously Star Trek, Star Wars Dune, etc) all inspired me greatly.

I've gone through a few iterations already with friends from another forum, and I feel that I have something quite solid to show. You guys are the veterans of the system, so I greatly appreciate your Yoda like wisdom (that Google Hangout you guys did on hacking a while back was stellar, it really helped!). This hack is growing way bigger than I intended, and it's turning into a full-blown production, rather than a "skin". I'm cautiously optimistic about the whole thing becoming a solid product.

That said... I'm kinda new to these forums, and I especially have no idea how one goes about "starting" a hack here. Do I just... post stuff in this thread? Is to kosher to ask for one of those neat subforums, or should I stick to the more general forum for the moment?

[Edit] Here's what I have so far. There's still TONS to do, but I feel it's off to a good start. The GM Principles took a long while to come together, but they have since been SUPER helpful in designing the rest.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2013, 08:37:02 PM by Archangel3d »

Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2013, 08:52:47 PM »
I guess a bit of information about the game is in order, eh?

Uncharted Worlds is a roleplaying game about interstellar exploration and discovery. It's about the larger-than-life adventures and perils that lie just beyond the next event horizon.

Features:
- Create your own class: Create your own unique character class/playbook with the Origin/Career character creation system.
- Debt and Favor: Uncharted World is all about balancing your debt to various factions while leveraging the favors they owe you.
- Spaceship Life: The spaceship is the final member of the team. The players build and outfit it together. It's their home, and the crew are their dysfunctional family.

GM Principles:
- The ship is a home, the crew a dysfunctional family
- Make each and every new planet unique and full of interest
- Embrace the deadly beauty of the galaxy
- Leave room for new discoveries
- Paint in primary colors
- Local actions, global events, galactic repercussions
- Debt makes the galaxy go ‘round
- Everyone has someone pulling their strings
- Weave your Moves into the narrative
- Be a fan of the player characters

Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2013, 05:05:36 PM »
- Scapegoat seems ripe for abuse. Probably be better to make it an +Ing roll triggered by a 6-, rather than an automatic success

- You get followers, you get followers, you get followers! EVERYBODY GETS FOLLOWERS! When one person can roll up 12 followers, you've got the makings of a bookkeeping nightmare and a huge ensemble cast. I would at least make the followers skill only takable once.

- With your current very strict debt/favor mechanic, "Investments" seems way overpowered. Get an additional +3 favor when most others get only 1 +1, and replace a crushing, inescapable debt with one that can be worked off fairly easily? Win.

- On the same idea, equalize Authority/Diplomacy. Either +/-3 or +/-2 would work, but +4 favor means you can ask for about anything and get it without penalty. That should have a bit of cost.

-Ice Cold doesn't make any sense without +cool. I'd replace Mettle with Ingenuity and call it something like "schemer."

-Why does changing a melee weapon into an energy weapon add +Reload, but turning a missile weapon into an energy/laser weapon remove -Reload?

-What does 2x Loud do? (Pistol/Rifle+explosive)

Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2013, 12:01:38 AM »
Good questions/comments, Phaed, thanks for crossposting them (for those wondering, Phaedrus has been providing me feedback for a bit, so I asked him to hop on these forums to post his feedback here, seems like the right place for it)

I'll try to address them here:

Quote from: Phaedrus;4216179
- Scapegoat seems ripe for abuse.  Probably be better to make it an +Ing roll triggered by a 6-, rather than an automatic success
Note that it's the GM that chooses who your potential new targets are, and the player has to choose one from among them. In a game where the crew is your (dysfunctional) family and everyone has a faction behind them, inelegant use of this skill will trade short term ass-saving for long-term trouble. That said, it'll be something to keep an eye on in play.

Quote from: Phaedrus;4216179
- You get followers, you get followers, you get followers!  EVERYBODY GETS FOLLOWERS!  When one person can roll up 12 followers, you've got the makings of a bookkeeping nightmare and a huge ensemble cast.  I would at least make the followers skill only takable once.
Actually that's a conscious design decision. I wanted to capture the gang/holding mechanics from Apocalypse World, which I feel were missing from Dungeon World. It plays heavily into the idea of "crew as family", and gives a lot more opportunities for PC-NPC-PC relationships. Having people bound to your through duty or employment fits a number of the Principles of the game.

Quote from: Phaedrus;4216179
- With your current very strict debt/favor mechanic, "Investments" seems way overpowered.  Get an additional +3 favor when most others get only 1 +1, and replace a crushing, inescapable debt with one that can be worked off fairly easily?  Win.
Duly noted. Tweaking is undoubtedly in order

Quote from: Phaedrus;4216179
- On the same idea, equalize Authority/Diplomacy.  Either +/-3 or +/-2 would work, but +4 favor means you can ask for about anything and get it without penalty.  That should have a bit of cost.
Note that even on a 10+ with Acquisition, you still gain Debt. So far the only way to not gain Debt to someone on an Acquisition is to be a Criminal, Roll 10+ on your crime, and then roll 10+ on your Acquisition.

Quote from: Phaedrus;4216179
-Ice Cold doesn't make any sense without +cool.  I'd replace Mettle with Ingenuity and call it something like "schemer."
Hm, true. That definitely is a throwback to when Hot was the primary interaction stat. I'll look at "Outwit" or "Scheme" as a stat replacement, I just have to make sure there's an even distribution of stat replacements.

Quote from: Phaedrus;4216179
-Why does changing a melee weapon into an energy weapon add +Reload, but turning a missile weapon into an energy/laser weapon remove -Reload?
Laser ranged weapons have high-capacity batteries that you can fire hundreds of times before losing their charge, and can be easily plugged in to recharge. They don't have physical projectiles that need to be reloaded. While it's possible they may run out of charge during a prolonged fight (as a result of a 7-9 or 6-), they don't need to be reloaded regularly.
Energy melee weapons discharge their entire cell into a strike, and have to power up again after each contact. From a design standpoint, melee weapons do less damage than ranged weapons, but don't require reloading, while guns deal more damage but do require reloading. You can alter your melee weapon to hurt more, but at a cost (making large and 2-handed or making it require recharge time between strikes).

Quote from: Phaedrus;4216179
-What does 2x Loud do?  (Pistol/Rifle+explosive)
It's very, very loud. Like really loud.
[edit] also it means you can't have a Silenced Explosive gun.

Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2013, 11:21:51 PM »
So a bit of a "vote" topic, because I'm of two minds on the subject

Shields and Tractor Beams in Space Opera settings: Yea or Nay?

I'm wondering what people think would feel better, as a system, and whether the game should be designed around the existence of these things or not. Spaceship combat is still in very early design, but I'm having trouble committing one way or the other. So what do you guys think? If you were playing a space opera game, what would you expect? Would it add anything to *not* have them?

*

Jeremy

  • 134
Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2013, 08:47:45 PM »
I cannot imagine a Space Opera game without shields!  They provide all the benefits of hit points (pacing, increasing tension, plot armor, difficult decicisions) without having to wrestle with the handwavy nonsense of "what do hit points represent."

Similar: tractor beams (at least in the hands of big, terrible bad guy ships and space stations) open such wonderful opportunities for plot escalation. They lead naturally to GM moves like "capture someone" or "tell them the requirements and then ask."   

The only downside to tractor beams is that they're obvious & somewhat cliched, right?  Like, what would you do with tractor beams that wasn't done in Star Wars Episode 4?  I guess the other downside is that they introduce some problematic science (how the hell does one work? what does that imply about technology and warfare in your universe?). But if you're really going for "space opera," I'd totally keep them.

Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2013, 10:00:51 PM »
Thanks for the reply. I find the whole "what do tractor beams imply about warfare" angle super interesting! In a way, tractor beams are the melee combat and grapple to ranged combat of rockets and lasers. I can see focused tractor beams being used to tear hulls apart (which would also have uses in the asteroid mining and salvaging sectors). What's more, tractor beam and shield technology seem to come from similar ideas; creating fields to affect matter.

I also realize that with tractor beams comes much easier access boarding parties and raids, which is just too good to pass up.

Now to come up with a name for this technology. I was thinking just "kinetic", as in "Kinetic Shield", "Kinetic Net", "Kinetic Lance", because it makes close ship combat feel somewhat... gladiatorial? However, it being kinetic makes it rather useless against laser weaponry, yes?

*

Jeremy

  • 134
Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2013, 10:35:17 PM »
Ever read Schlock Mercenary? The have gravitational shields, gravitational beams. They call them "gravy guns," etc.

Again, though: taking that route puts you more down the lines of hard sci-fi rather than space opera. It might be best to just call them "shields" and "tractor beams" to avoid drawing attention to the sciencey explanation and all that comes with it. Do you really want players thinking about whether a planet has earth-like gravity and, if not, how that affects life and combat and so forth? Or thinking about droid sapience, free will, and slavery? Or transhumanism? I mean, maybe you do, but that much more a "speculative fiction" game than a "high adventure across the galaxy" game.

Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2013, 10:58:54 PM »
Fair point, and well made. "The ship travels at the speed of plot" kinda deal.

Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2013, 12:11:17 AM »
Uncharted Worlds v 0.5.3 is up! As usual, I’d appreciate any comments, questions or suggestions! A huge thank you goes out to all those who have taken the time to playtest the game or read through and comment about it; your efforts have greatly improved the game.

Patch Notes
•   Overhauled the Debt system
•   Changed the way initial factions are created
•   Added “Role on the ship” to character creation
•   Changed a number of abilities to leverage new Debt system
•   Fixed many small inconsistencies
•   Now published under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
•   Cooldown of Survivalist skill reduced to 45/55/65, down from 50/60/70.

Download Uncharted Worlds v0.5.3 here

Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2013, 07:11:58 PM »
Well, it all looks pretty good to me so far. I'm going to be running a session on this system in a couple of hours, and I'll let you know how it goes. The only thing I'd really like to see is the ship creation rules, since those are kinda... important.

Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2013, 07:28:49 AM »
So, in short, we had a fuckin' blast with it. I think a large part of it for the group was just being able to play something that wasn't DnD, and particularly something that was kind of Firefly-ish.

We had:

An Artificial Military/Personality who was a mercenary with a Squad, who was the original owner of the ship itself.

An Artificial Scoundrel/Cybernetic on the run from the Imperial Navy R&D project that created him.

And a Spacer Clandestine/Starfarer, who was a little more amorphous, but had a background with the Silver Syndicate, a galactic trade cartel/migrant fleet. Kind of a schmoozer and a blockade runner, the kind of guy who can talk his way past a roadblock or a star-system interdiction with equal ease.

We kind of skimmed over the crunchy mechanics of the ship and stuck to the feel of it. Ship-to-ship combat was avoided when the Captain used his Gadget for a decoy system and maxed his Avert Disaster roll, thus escaping the Imperial Naval Intelligence ship that was trying to run them down. Looking back, I probably would have made him take a debt and then fight a boarding action; he should have won it easily, since the Agents wouldn't have been expecting six highly trained Marines and a couple of supersoldiers to be their adversaries.

Character creation took about two hours between three players, which I didn't find surprising since we were handing off between two computers and two of the guys had never played an AW type game. That done, we spent at least as long on actual gameplay, in which we did a lot of world-building and fleshing out of our characters.

This was my third time GMing, and the first two were using straight AW. Third time was the charm for a successful and fun session on my watch, since the last two kind of flopped due to group chemistry and some lack of understanding on everyone's part. I think it might be the comparability of settings; when you compare AW to Mad Max, people look for the Humongous or Barter Town. When you say Firefly and Mass Effect, people want to walk around, meet people, and pull of a heist or two.

Seeing as how it was my third game ever as a GM, it was nice for my players, instead of asking what other systems I could pitch, to say "We're doing this again next week, right?" Really glad I went with this over the FFG Rogue Trader.

tl;dr It's solid, newb friendly, just needs the finishing touches put on it. Character advancement, ships and ship combat, and a sheet is all it needs. Moves need a few tweaks, or maybe some adds. There's no equivalent to either Go Aggro or Seize By Force, which my players needed a few times. Also, maybe an Interrogate move? But as I said, there's no reason it can't be played as is, unless you really need the stats on that ship.

Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2013, 03:46:07 PM »
From a purely visual standpoint, I like the Origin cards, but it would be fantastic if you repeated the origin blurb on each. Speaking as a GM who runs a lot at Cons, that would be handy for quickee character generation.

EDIT - Nevermind. I realized you'd put the pages under CC licensing, so I went ahead and redid the Origin cards, which are here. I could see using Uncharted Worlds for a convention sci-fi horror game I'd created years ago under another system -- I'd already had homeworld and profession separated, this just continues and expands that idea.

I should port the convention scenario to UW and release it under CC licensing so that others can benefit.

EDIT2 - The way I'd use the cards is to print the Origins and Professions on differently-colored paper, cut them out, and then allow players to mix and match.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2013, 06:29:47 PM by AlHazred »

Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2013, 12:20:09 AM »
So, in short, we had a fuckin' blast with it. I think a large part of it for the group was just being able to play something that wasn't DnD, and particularly something that was kind of Firefly-ish.

We had:

An Artificial Military/Personality who was a mercenary with a Squad, who was the original owner of the ship itself.

An Artificial Scoundrel/Cybernetic on the run from the Imperial Navy R&D project that created him.

And a Spacer Clandestine/Starfarer, who was a little more amorphous, but had a background with the Silver Syndicate, a galactic trade cartel/migrant fleet. Kind of a schmoozer and a blockade runner, the kind of guy who can talk his way past a roadblock or a star-system interdiction with equal ease.

We kind of skimmed over the crunchy mechanics of the ship and stuck to the feel of it. Ship-to-ship combat was avoided when the Captain used his Gadget for a decoy system and maxed his Avert Disaster roll, thus escaping the Imperial Naval Intelligence ship that was trying to run them down. Looking back, I probably would have made him take a debt and then fight a boarding action; he should have won it easily, since the Agents wouldn't have been expecting six highly trained Marines and a couple of supersoldiers to be their adversaries.

Character creation took about two hours between three players, which I didn't find surprising since we were handing off between two computers and two of the guys had never played an AW type game. That done, we spent at least as long on actual gameplay, in which we did a lot of world-building and fleshing out of our characters.

This was my third time GMing, and the first two were using straight AW. Third time was the charm for a successful and fun session on my watch, since the last two kind of flopped due to group chemistry and some lack of understanding on everyone's part. I think it might be the comparability of settings; when you compare AW to Mad Max, people look for the Humongous or Barter Town. When you say Firefly and Mass Effect, people want to walk around, meet people, and pull of a heist or two.

Seeing as how it was my third game ever as a GM, it was nice for my players, instead of asking what other systems I could pitch, to say "We're doing this again next week, right?" Really glad I went with this over the FFG Rogue Trader.

tl;dr It's solid, newb friendly, just needs the finishing touches put on it. Character advancement, ships and ship combat, and a sheet is all it needs. Moves need a few tweaks, or maybe some adds. There's no equivalent to either Go Aggro or Seize By Force, which my players needed a few times. Also, maybe an Interrogate move? But as I said, there's no reason it can't be played as is, unless you really need the stats on that ship.

Fantastic, I'm super happy it worked well. Thanks so much for playtesting and giving feedback, it does my poor, fragile ego good to know that people are having fun with it. I've done a pretty major pass over some rules, Weapons, Armor and Harm, making combat more narrative, descriptive and fast-paced, and less numerical. Ship creation and combat is coming soon, I hope to deploy that at the end of the month along with a revamped crew/squad rules.

In the meantime, here's a link to Uncharted Worlds v 0.5.4 with the new combat rules.

0.5.4 Changelist
  • Changed Step 1 of Faction creation
    Changed Open Fire move
    Changed Launch Assault move
    Added Suffer Harm move
    Changed Harm rules
    Removed Health/Wounds rules
    Changed Armor rules
    Changed Weapons rules
    Changed following skills:
    • Hacking (Scientific, High-Tech) - Replaces "Calibrations"
      Calibrations (Starfarer) - Replaces "Spaceworthy"
      Heavy Lifting (Military, Spacer) - Replaces "Armored"
      Special Ammo (Military) - Replaces "Weaponry"
      Toughness (Military, Frontier)
      Scrappy (Scoundrel, Frontier)
      Survivalist (Explorer, Frontier)
      Harder (Cybernetic)
      Faster (Cybernetic)
      Stronger (Cybernetic)
      Interrogate (Clandestine)
    Fixed numerous tpyos

As for Seize by Force, that's handled by the new Open Fire and Launch Assault moves. Take a look and tell me what you think. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of "behavior control" Moves, though, so I'm still iffy about Go Aggro-style moves and even the current Manipulate. Those remains to be seen. I'm thinking that Avert Disaster using Influence might just cover cases where the dice are needed.

Thanks again for the feedback, really enjoyed your synopsis, and I'm looking forward to getting v0.6 (launch of the spaceship rules!) out the door airlock asap. If you have any questions about 0.5.4 (it's a pretty big change, combat-wise) please don't hesitate to ask. I'm afraid this site is blocked at work so I don't check it as often as I should, but if you want to get in touch with me, I'm also active over at Story Games. Heck, I'd be much obliged if you could repost your post there, too :)

Re: Uncharted Worlds - Space opera hack
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2013, 12:37:53 AM »
From a purely visual standpoint, I like the Origin cards, but it would be fantastic if you repeated the origin blurb on each. Speaking as a GM who runs a lot at Cons, that would be handy for quickee character generation.

EDIT - Nevermind. I realized you'd put the pages under CC licensing, so I went ahead and redid the Origin cards, which are here. I could see using Uncharted Worlds for a convention sci-fi horror game I'd created years ago under another system -- I'd already had homeworld and profession separated, this just continues and expands that idea.

I should port the convention scenario to UW and release it under CC licensing so that others can benefit.

EDIT2 - The way I'd use the cards is to print the Origins and Professions on differently-colored paper, cut them out, and then allow players to mix and match.

Hmmm! A very good idea, I'll make a note to do that for the next version (maybe 0.6.1, 'cause if I keep delaying 0.6 my regular G+ Hangout group is gonna get someone to drive up to Canada and club me with a lead pipe.) Same for the colors. I like the "mix-and-match" card approach! Could be a fun design to have pop-out cardboard at the back of the book, if/when I get this published and printed. I'll admit, I have never GMed a con, and I hear it's completely different animal to 'at home' style games. I'd love for your feedback/opinion of how UW could be made more con-friendly, what things might get in the way or just quality-of-life changes.

Also, it would be a blast to see a UW conversion of your con game :)