What I'm Playing Now

I’m running D&D 4e online for some friends, which is a fun experience. I never DM’d before, and so far I like the various DM tools (though the rules are a little bit more dense than I ususally prefer). Still, it’s fun and I’ve really gotten into it. Our various common points of geek experience (D&D itself, CRPGs, World of Warcraft) are providing some useful mutual context. Yes, I’m marking quests as “yellow” or “red”.

A friend is running Mage: the Awakening soon (vanilla rules, no hacks, though I’m bringing my Mage tarot). Excited about that. I really have affection for the setting.

I’m going to over 9000 cons this year, apparently. I’m certainly excited about the games I proposed for this year’s Dreamation.

And that’s more than enough gaming for now, though I’d love to run something non-trad some time in the future.

Spacerpunks and Authority

I stumbled across the cards I made for an oracle-driven Spacerpunk setting (and rules), and I took a chance to revise it. I’ve been revisiting some assumptions.

I realized that I wanted to avoid having a powerful Imperium kind of organization in space, simply because I didn’t want a supercompetent/superpowerful entity crowding out the kind of fun the players could have. Once you have an predictable, regulated, enforceable system of interplanetary commerce, the role of petty smugglers and freelancers is possibly reduced.

However, I realized that in most of my favorite source material, you do still need some kind of authority to resist, even if passively or indirectly. The Alliance is sometimes a direct antagonist on Firefly, but is just as often a force of disruptive order that slowly expands. Blake’s 7 features an oppressive and all-powerful Federation that the crew actively evades and resists. In Cowboy Bebop, there’s a lack of central governmental authority, but there is the powerful presence of the mob syndicates – they’re hierarchical nature is in some fashion an Authority presence.

The authority provides pressure and, sometimes, the chase that is central to many of the stories I want to tell. I still keep the worlds pretty wide open:

It turns out that ships much larger than yours can’t handle the FTL jump. Trade between worlds is an ad hoc blend of barter, reputation and skill. Not much point to having a fixed price list. That makes it hard to extend any kind of stellar empire beyond a few worlds. Various powers still try to expand their influence.

However, I made establishing some kind of Authority and important part of creating your universe. This was an interesting evolution, and in many ways a reversal. Perhaps my thoughts of a frontier free of hierarchical authority were a little too fantastical and removed some key tensions.

Other changes: I added some suggestions for customizing your ship and common types of pirates, as well as some resolution rules for actions outsides of the players’ Roles. It’s all rather freeform (dare I say: structured freeform?), and I’d like to try these as is before mixing this into some other system.