Discussion  - 

I need some advice on how to best structure a game scenario.

I have in my mind a scenario for my players to begin playing Diaspora by investigating a derelict ship. The ship itself is integral to the larger game and has many mysteries. It is also actively opposing the players and many of the systems on board do not function as they should. Think a mash-up of The Liberator from Blake’s 7 and Nostalgia for Infinity from Revelation Space.

So I have a sentient, ancient spaceship, possessed by an Alien AI that is in a cold war with the former captain of the ship who has somehow managed to merge with the ship. Most of the ship bears the scars of this civil war and things do not work correctly. But the ship is huge, over 2km long. As you can imagine, there is lots of potential for all sorts of fun and games, and that is before I introduce the larger background and politics that are behind much of the story.

I will have the players go through the system and character generation process, as I thing these are integral to the Diaspora experience, and suites my plans well.

But, neither myself or any of my players have played anything Fate based, and although the idea of exploring a massive, mysterious ship sound great on paper, I cannot get it straight in my head how best to present this with my players. All of my players are experienced with RPG’s, and have done DnD (all variations from the original Red Box upwards) Call of Cthulu, Traveller etc., and I am worried that I will not be able to convey the excellence of the Diaspora system to them. I am also unsure if I present the whole ship as one big Social Combat scene, or to break it down into the component areas, i.e., bridge, engineering, medical etc. and run scenes in there. If this was a Traveller game I would draw up the plans of the ship and have the characters proceed room by room. However, I think Diaspora offers a better, story based way of doing this that would be much more satisfying to do, and I want to showcase some of the great things in the minigame toolkit that Diaspora offers.

So you have a group of 5 experienced players, who haven’t played Fate based games at all, and you have a colossal derelict ship to explore, and that ship is actively trying to kill you. How would you GM it?

Thank you


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I would treat it as an old-school megadungeon and therefore structure game along missions. The session begins and log files show a certain percentage of extra heat radiation. There must be an unknown energy source in the ship. Outer hull sensors report increased infrared around the 1.7km line...

Prepare a sheet of paper with ideas. List NPCs (machines, programs, robots), rooms and the challenges they pose (stuff to reconnect, overcome, evade), tidbits you want to reveal, decisions that need to be made, consequences you'd like to see, and so on.

Make special note of mini-games you want to run. I'd suggest none on the first or two session but then one or two for every three hour session you play. This can be a social conflict, a platoon combat, a larger combat with a lot of zones, etc. Prepare those little maps and rules before-hand in order to make it a smooth experience.

The game itself is the structured along the challenges, players looking at their skills and deciding how to go about it, resolving the skill checks, invoking aspects, enforcing consequences, revealing interesting parts of the background and leads to new missions for future sessions.

Here's an example from a similar game of mine, even though it's not Fate based: http://alexschroeder.ch/wiki/2012-01-07_Preparing_for_a_Session_of_Solar_System_RPG

I also recommend following the link to The Shadow of Yesterday. http://zork.net/~nick/loyhargil/tsoy2/book1--rulebook.html#designing-an-adventure

Every now and then, I'd make sure to add adventures outside the ship. Visiting a system. Contacting other ships, etc. But it all follows the general outline above.
No solid advice from me about your questions but maybe you could cross-post this question in the Fate Core group as well since Diaspora is Fate-based many of the approaches you ask about possibly will be answered in that group as well. That group is also much bigger so you increase the chance of getting a good discussion.

Thank you Henrik I shall do that shortly
I agree with +Alex Schroeder's advice about mission and session structure. You'll want to establish early on the PCs' group and individual goals in relation to this ship. I suggest making this part of the character Aspect creation phases. The players should write some of their Aspects to include each others' PCs, and to include the ship.

If there is a civil war raging across the ship's computer systems, and you want to model some effect on the PCs, write some Aspects that reflect this escalating conflict. So you might start with "Alien AI and Captain are in a state of cold war" and move to "Alien AI and Captain communicating with the PCs" and then "The alien AI shuts down life support" and finally "Ship is set to self-destruct!"
thanks for the advice, although i do like the idea of the whole thing being centered on the ship, i also feel that this may distract from the system generation that in my mind makes Diaspora what it is, a collaborative experience. What I may do is run 2 games, with different characters one on the ship, one in the universe we create...
Is the ship "beached"? Maybe it can move about, allowing you to make the most of the system generation as well. Getting the ship to travel to the destination the PCs want could be a mission...
1st session (after cluster and character gen): mission is to get control of ship navigation/thrusters, with pre-set challenges to introduce FATE. (I'd start with physical combat and maaaybe one abstract/social combat, the other subsystems later if needed.)
2nd session: 2-part episode, half the session is exploring the ship or learning more about it, half is up to the characters. When they get control of thrusters, they can start exploring the cluster etc.
Further sessions: the ship becomes a sort of base of operations, like the weird old house you inherited that you're not sure what's in the basement. Sessions involve internal exploration/weirdness and also some external stuff with planets and other people interested in this unique artifact (e.g. pirates, governments, T4 weirdos).
Why not hold a "Ship generation" session instead of a cluster generation session? Just like the systems in the cluster, have everyone create a section or two of the ship and link them up. Have them roll three attributes for each section and then write three aspects.

The attributes that first come to my mind are:

Function: How critical the section is for the operation of the ship, in other words, how badly it would affect the rest of the ship if it was lost somehow. -4 could be a spent disposable fuel tank, while +4 could be the main structural junction without which the ship would break apart.

Safety: How safe/dangerous is the section for the characters to be there. Living spaces probably have high safety while the same cannot be said of the spent fission fuel storage.

Control: Who has the upper hand in the "civil war" you mentioned in this section. +4 and -4 represent the dominance of the "Captain" and the "Alien AI" respectively, while a ±0 represents the front of the conflict.

And then have the characters explore the ship they created.
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