hard science-fiction role-playing with fate
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A short screed on why Sci Fi writers get computers wrong and how a decently designed ship's computer should operate. Also, and how to leave room for the characters to still be a bad assed hero.
After Ibanez explains that the new course she plotted for the Rodger Young (without oversight, explicit approval, or notification to superiors) is "more efficient this way," Barcalow walks to the n...
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Thomas Davis's profile photoNathaniel Sheppard's profile photo
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AEGIS system of the future "ready" message:

"You should now allow me to unleash devastation upon your enemies in the fiendishly clever and efficient manner which I have already calculated and checked despite all of the foolish and limited human operators staring in dumb amazement at my information packed displays."

"So push the button now."

"YES. YOU. - PUSH IT NOW."
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Mark Anderson

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There are some excellent renderings of space habitats on this site.  
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Multiple garden worlds, anyone?  How about 60 planets in the habitable zone?  Could be something engineered by a T4 civilization before collapse.  Lots of lost tech, abandoned zones, you name it.
How do you squeeze 60 Earth-like planets into a single solar system? Take one scientist and apply some heavy-duty planetary physics, reports Dr Karl.
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clash bowley's profile photoFranck Michaux's profile photoYunus Wesley's profile photoCochise César's profile photo
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What a coincidence, +Franck Michaux! I've been wanting to write a setting for StarCluster 3! :D
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John Reiher

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A T-0 ship that would be hard to deal with. Any ship that uses atomic bombs as a propulsion method, has a really good shield against missiles and lasers.
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Nathaniel Sheppard's profile photoWinchell Chung's profile photo
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I'm not sure a spacefiaring civilization would consider that kind of nuclear explosive to be a "Weapon". Anything can be dangerous in space, not the least of which your engine, I'm sure my Prius would be deviating on a bronze age battlefield, but nobody would call it a weapon today.  A "Real weapon" is something with penetration aids, a delivery system, and which won't waste 90% of it's energy, or be foiled by a pusher plate. If the enemy thinks they can hide from you by armoring only one side of their spacecraft, you throw something with submunitions at them and shower them with neutrons from all sides.

Also, even for things which technically aren't "proper weapons" I'm not sure a pusher plate would offer adequate protection from hyper-velocity projectiles. For the exact same reason you wouldn't use your Whipple shield as a pusher plate.
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Not that they are required, but it would be nice to have some spaceship miniatures with the Hard SF Diaspora look. Is anybody making them? #SciFiMinis  
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Martin Page's profile photomichael wikan's profile photo
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I have many of all of these. The attack vector ones by +Ad Astra Games are especially nice.
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Wayne Williams

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Cool possibilities.
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Sacha Ratcliffe's profile photo
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C. W. Marshall

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Check out these awesome conflict maps by +David Leaman !
 
I don't know what it is about the Diaspora RPG, but I have had some really awesome conflict maps while running it. Here are three maps I made in two different campaigns over the years. 

One trick I picked up and quite enjoy is to have the map of a social conflict mirror the physical layout of its location. The second picture in this series did that really satisfactorily.
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Brad Murray's profile photoWinchell Chung's profile photoD.A. Sturgell's profile photo
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These are really good. I wish you would write a small commentary about each one-- how you developed it, and then how it worked in actual play. Great job!
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Tom Tyson's profile photoBrad Murray's profile photoDavid Leaman's profile photoWinchell Chung's profile photo
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LOL. Geek dads we're the best! I shall tell Kurtzhau this story. I'll also update the links once I have recovered from a day teaching swords and writing...
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Winchell Chung

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Garth Rose's profile photoJohn Reiher's profile photo
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Linked to TV Tropes?!  That's just cruel!
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About this community

For discussion of the tabletop role-playing game, Diaspora.

John Reiher

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What, no tea brewing?
An Italian aerospace firm, in conjunction with coffee company Lavazza and the Italian space agency, have jointly developed a system for producing zero-gravity espresso.
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Winchell Chung

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Weaponizing the Bronze Rule or
How I use the Bronze Rule to avoid having to do special things for weapons, and armor.

First off, thanks to +Paul Vencill for even asking me to provide an example of what I was saying. It hadn't occured to me to put it in writing before. Not in this way.

What follows is a list of weapons/armor illustrating that the Bronze Rule is all you need to give them depth, and value. I avoid things like Harm, Penetration, etc. My school of thought is that it is the wielder, and not the weapon you should fear. The weapon just gives them permission to jack up in that special way. Otherwise they'd have to use their teeth, and nobody's all that good with those. So anyway:
Note, the name of each object is an Aspect.

Aspect Only:
-Fiona's Dagger

Aspect + Skill:
-Sword of Divining
Skill:
Find Water: Legendary

Aspect + Aspect + Aspect + Skills + Stunt:
-Bracers of Ron. That's right. Ron.
-"Yes we talk, AND we belong to Ron!"
-"Ron wouldn't do that!"
Skills:
Impudence: Superb
Blocking: Superb
Lore: Good
Stunt:
Knows everything about Ron-
+2 to Lore regarding all things Ron related

Aspect + Skill + Stunt + Stress:
-Gun so smart it shoots itself
Skill:
Shooting: Great
Stunt: 
So easy a monkey could fix it-
The design of this weapon grants anyone attempting to repair, or maintain it a +2 to their Crafts when doing so.

Phys Stress:
OO

Aspect + Stress + Consequences
-The really, really, impossible to break Sword

Phys Stress:
OOOOOO

Conseq:
Mild
Mild
Moderate
Moderate
Severe
Severe
Extreme

Each thing is just a character developed to a different degree, and what's more important is that it may be the case that not everything is known about each (Maybe through the course of the story the Bracers find out that Ron actually stole them from their rightful owner, for instance, or the PCs find out that the Smart Gun had a built in retractable bayonet the whole time, and they only just now found the switch), and the state of them might change.

The Bronze Rule is your friend, and it is what people are talking about when they refer to The Fractal as a solution. They are one, and the same.
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Winchell Chung's profile photoErgodic Mage's profile photo
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Yes, when I finally realized how the Fate Fractal can be used, my jaw dropped and I was literally blinded by its brilliance.
It is nothing less than shear genius.
Vehicles, starports, Mafia gangs, political parties: all can be "characters"
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Winchell Chung

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Fate Core Thought of the Day:  Fiction First, Fiction-Rules Interaction, and Nonsensical Results

So, this is just a collection on my thoughts on this subject, as I think it's often one of the most overlooked, often by me.  Some of this stuff may be subtle or just pedantic.  So, either bear with me, or call me an idiot.  It's all good.

"Fiction First" is the Golden Rule of Fate.  To understand it, we have to define "fiction".

"Fiction", to me, is just the crap we're imagining in our heads.  When we forget about our numbers, and let our imagination take over the scene, that's the "fiction".  It's not a statement of some kind of book-writing agenda, or talking about some kind of predetermined plot.  It's what happens when we let our imaginations take over the game, instead of focusing on the dice and character sheets.

And that's pretty damn powerful.  I don't know about anybody else, but that's the reason I play RPGs.  Not for the number crunching, but for that sense of being "in" the world, and seeing what happens.  That's the good stuff - all the other stuff is just what helps us get there.

So, what does "fiction first" mean, at least to me?  It means that character actions should start with the "fiction", and be described in terms of the "fiction".  Then, and only then should they be interpreted into mechanics.

This means that in general, players shouldn't start with "I Attack/Overcome/Create".  If you hear a ton of game jargon in terms of what's going on, it's time to place more emphasis on the "fiction", and less on the rules.  Paint a picture.  Make sure everybody is "seeing" the same thing in their mind.  Have them say what their character does, not what the collection of numbers on the page suggest is the optimal course of action.

From that, figure out what else is involved in this action.  Who is opposing it?  How difficult is it?

Once we've figured this out, then we can start figuring out how we're going to resolve the action.  Is it an Attack?  An Overcome?  A Create Advantage?  Is there passive opposition, and if so, at what level?  Then we roll the dice, go through any invocation 'bidding', and finally get a resolution.

And here we get to the next point.  Fate doesn't actually tell you what happens.  The dice never tell you what actually occurs - at least not the way they do in GURPS, where the system will tell you "you hit the orc in the arm, for x amount of damage, and have disabled the arm".  Instead, they place constraints on the narration.

If you Attack an opponent with a sword, and tie, you get a Boost.  Great.  What does that mean?  It's nothing concrete, that's for sure, at least not like it would be in GURPS.  We have to narrate what happens, but what does happen?

Well, Fate doesn't tell us.  What it does tell us is the general parameters of the narration.  We know that no stress has been inflicted, so that the target isn't really inherently closer to being Taken Out.  We know they haven't taken any Consequences, so nothing significant happens to them.  We do know that they're placed at a temporary disadvantage, though, and the narration has to incorporate that... how we do that is up to us, though.

For a gritty game, it could be that the shock of parrying the sword made them go slightly numb in that hand, but nothing that won't get shaken off.  Or they could be knocked back by the force of the blow.  For a swashbuckling game, maybe their clothes get ripped causing them to see red for a few seconds.  In a more cinematic game, maybe they take a flesh wound that causes them to recoil.

Wait..  What?  How can a Boost actually be a hit that causes damage?  We didn't inflict Stress!

Well.... yeah.  But Stress isn't damage - it's a pacing measure, a way of determining how close someone is to being Taken Out.  And succeeding on an Attack doesn't mean you hit, and tying, or even losing, on the Attack doesn't mean you don't hit (though that's usually a good bet).  Again, Fate doesn't tell you what happens, it just places constraints on the narration.  And since Stress is really a measure of how close you are to being Taken Out, so long as the narration of the resolution is consistent with that, you're fine.  You don't need to hit someone to get them to be closer to being Taken Out, and just because you hit someone doesn't mean that they are closer to being Taken Out.

So we narrate the results, and get on with the game.  This gives an overall flow that looks something like this:

1) Describe scene in terms of "the fiction"
2) Determine character's action in the "fiction"
3) Determine opposition
4) Determine how to apply rules
5) Resolve action mechanically
6) Get constraints on resolution from the mechanics
7) Narrate the resolution within the given constraints

Okay, so in my mind this clears up a few common questions/concerns that frequently come up about Fate, especially with more 'transitioning' players.  You know, like me.

First, if you can use Create Advantage to create an arbitrary aspect, why can't you just use it to come up with some blatantly overpowered thing that wins the scenario?

So, this is answered by the fact that we're skipping the first five steps of the resolution process!  If the proposed action doesn't make sense in the fiction, you'll never get past step two.  And step four definitely stops it, as there's no real way to apply the rules to an impossible action.

If we're playing a gritty military game, and someone says that they want to flap their arms and fly to the top of a guard tower... that just doesn't happen.  Neither does making a bomb out of sticks and mud.  To even get to the point where we roll dice, the action has to be accepted as plausible, even if unlikely.

Secondly, I've heard a bunch of stuff about stress and damage and taking large hits and whatnot.  The key here is that stress isn't tangible or concrete.  It just places constraints on the narrative.  If you "get hit" with a rocket launcher (aka, the Attack succeeded), and take a single point of stress, that doesn't mean that the rocket hit you full on the chest and you brushed it off.

What it means is you take a point of stress.  One point.  And that the narration of what happens as part of the rocket launcher attack needs to be consistent with that.  Since getting hit by a rocket launcher means, logically, that you're turned into the consistency of chunky salsa, then clearly you didn't actually get "hit" by the rocket launcher.  Maybe you twisted your ankle dodging.  Maybe you got hit by some kicked up rocks.  Maybe you were mostly covered, but got singed a bit.

But at any rate, Fate can't give you an illogical outcome, because it doesn't give you an outcome.  For it to give you an illogical outcome, there would need to be no possible scenario in which that outcome made sense... and there are plenty of ways to justify taking a single point of stress as the outcome of a rocket launcher being shot at you.

The third thing I see is the various forms of shooting someone in the head.  This even shows up in the main Fate Core book!  One of the sample characters (I forget which) drops an important NPC with a single hit from their sword.  What about stress!  What about consequences!

Well, what about them?  If a trained warrior hits an unarmed, unexpecting non-combatant with a sword, what do you think is going to happen?  They're going to get pretty well murderified.

This isn't really a Conflict, so stress isn't even relevant (stress is a Conflict pacing mechanic, not an inherent property of characters).  The missed step in the resolution outline above is four - determining how to apply the rules to resolve the action.  The core error here is really in assuming that every time someone swings a sword (or shoots a gun), it's a Conflict, and so we need to use the Conflict pacing mechanism and rules and all that jazz.

But we don't.  We don't skip step four!  We should always think about what the right way to resolve an action is, even if just for a millisecond.  And most importantly, that resolution mechanic is dependent on a few things:

1) The action being performed
2) The intended result
3) The specific situation
4) The larger "goal" of the scene

In many systems, resolution is dependent only on the first of these.  In Fate, though, that's not the case.  Pushing someone can be an Attack (attempting to push them off a cliff), or it can be Create Advantage (knocking them down or off balance), or it can be an Overcome (moving them out of an advantageous position).

Shooting someone doesn't mean it's an Attack - Attack is generally a Conflict action.  If the scene is better modeled as a Challenge or Contest, or even just a simple Overcome, an Attack may not be necessary.  Heck, a sniper shooting someone in the head should be able to take out his target with one shot - something that's not really possible against non-mooks using default stress/consequences.  So... maybe that means that a 'typical' sniping situation (unaware target, etc.) isn't a Conflict - which would make sense since the target isn't providing active opposition, and isn't trying to hurt the sniper (yet!).

So... that's what "fiction first" means to me.  It means that the fiction drives the rules.  It's called the "Golden Rule" of Fate for a reason, and that reason is that following that rules settles an absolute ton of other potential problems or questions.

As well as being a hell of a lot more fun.
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Garth Rose's profile photoBruce Tarrant's profile photo
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The vast majority of the games I've played are always narative driven. It's always the story even if that beloved character dies. It may tear your guts out but, if it advances the plot with rational and in character it becomes an epic.
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Yay! My first blog about my new RPG group and game. I'm excited. Hopefully we can keep this one going for some time. I'm really enjoying Diaspora.
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Noah Doyle's profile photoTom Tyson's profile photoBrad Murray's profile photoD.A. Sturgell's profile photo
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Nice work. It will be good to see how it plays out.
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John Reiher

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So, you got yourself your standard water world. How do people live there? Like this!
A Chinese company wants to build this incredible four-square-mile floating underwater city using the same techniques they're using for the construction of the 31-mile bridge that links Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai. It's incredible—the kind of stuff I dreamed about when I was a little kid.
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Thomas Davis's profile photo
 
Quite a few new civilian markets for these kinds of things;

[ Ultra-Luxury Private Submarine Comes With a Pool ]
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Noah Doyle

Discussion  - 
 
Anyone tried writing up the 2300AD setting ships/stuff in Diaspora?
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Martin Page

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Tech 4 society anybody?
The world's most famous physicist is warning about the risks posed by machine superintelligence, saying that it could be the most significant thing to ever happen in human history — and possibly the last.
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Sci-Fi Interfaces: Piloting Controls
One thing to be careful about is mistaking a spacecraft for similar-but-not-the-same Terran vehicles. Most of us have driven a car, and so have these mental models with us. But a car moves across 2(.1?) dimensions. The well-matured controls for piloting roadcraft have optimized for those dimensions. You basically get a steering wheel for your hands to specify direction on the driving plane, and controls for speed.

Planes or even helicopters seem like they might be a closer fit, moving as they do more fully across a third dimension, but they’re not right either. For one thing, those vehicles are constantly dealing with air resistance and gravity. They also rely on constant thrust to stay aloft. Those facts alone distinguish them from spacecraft…

A very good discussion of how to think about the control interfaces for spaceships. It brings up several salient points and things to consider when you try to design your control interface for your Cosmic Flyer.
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Mert Torun's profile photoJoe Claffey Jr's profile photo
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Ad to that, the controls usually affect acceleration, not speed as in most terrestrial vehicles. You are one degree removed from what's intutive to you.
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Just finished Neil Stephonson's Anathem, best Diaspora campaign never ran.



It does however feature a very solid solution for stealth in space. (Which would only work against a single observer in earth orbit and absolutely not scale up to any kind of space battleship) +Winchell Chung should read it.
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Martin Page

Rules clarifications  - 
 
Space combat: Awesome rules! Had a blast this afternoon blowing up Lego spaceships. Some questions arising from this:
1. Position Phase tie-breaker with only 3 ships. The two winners cancel each other out. The third ship has no shift advantages and therefore can't do anything? Correct?
2. Calculating range - do you count the band that the target ship is on, e.g.  2 ships with 2 bands between them, is the range 2 or 3?
3. Is there a simple way of doing damage to systems?
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Martin Page's profile photo
3 comments
 
(thanks)
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John Reiher

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Heeding-Bowman, by Drell-7
Illustrations of 2010: Odyssey Two novel by Arthur C. Clarke. 
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