#RPGaDay

“Make every song you sing your favourite tune.” – The Rolling Stones, Shine a Light

I’m late to the party on this one, but just for fun, this is what I would have posted day by day if I’d been paying attention to the challenge…

1st – First RPG Played: Original D&D. We’re talking the 1974 edition of the white box here, although I didn’t actually start playing until 1976.

2nd – First RPG Gamemastered: Original D&D.

3rd – First RPG Purchased: Original D&D.

4th – Most recent RPG purchase: Interface Zero 2.0 cyberpunk setting for Savage Worlds.

5th – Most Old School RPG owned: Original D&D. Although I have lost the box and quick reference sheets now. C’mon, WotC, re-release the PDF already. You know you want to.

6th – Favourite RPG Never get to play: Fortunately, over the last 3-4 years I’ve been able to play pretty much whatever I like; the only limitation has been what we can fit into our schedules.

7th – Most “intellectual” RPG owned: A tie for this one: Vampire the Masquerade, Dogs in the Vineyard and The One Ring, all of which take me a long way out of my action-adventure comfort zone, deep into narrativist territory. For some reason, I associate “intellectual” with “narrativist” (and Ingmar Berman films; I feel sure Vampire is the RPG Bergman would’ve played).

8th – Favourite character: Volshen, the Favoured of the Slug. A barking mad, slug-worshipping, thief-hating wizard with a slug familiar. His NPC sidekick was, of course, a thief, who lived in terror of his secret being discovered. Many years of bizarre fun were sadly terminated when I failed to realise the artefact under construction in the dwarven city was a primitive atomic bomb. Oops.

9th – Favourite Die / Dice Set: I have a set of percentile dice from 1976, NavWar I think, which I’ve used as d20s for nearly 40 years now. My wife bought me a pair of small, silver d6 as a gift some years ago, which have great sentimental value, but are too valuable to be "working dice".

10th – Favourite tie-in Novel / Game Fiction: The Man of Gold by M.A.R. Barker, set in his game world of Tekumel. Very close behind that, Oath of Swords by David Weber – not explicitly game fiction, but by the end of it you’d be able to identify the class and approximate level of all the main characters under D&D, and take a good guess at what the spellcasters had memorised.

11th – Weirdest RPG owned: Amber. I don’t really get diceless RPGs, I’m afraid. I have nothing against them, they are just a language I don’t speak.

12th – Old RPG you still play / read: Original D&D. Most years, the old D&D crew from University days gets together for a marathon weekend session. These days, a few of our kids join in too. It’s the highlight of the gaming year for me.

13th – Most Memorable Character Death: My fighter facing off against an ancient red dragon while the rest of the party ran away. And then hiding behind a rock once they were out of sight… it didn’t help.

14th – Best Convention Purchase: Original D&D. I got the white box and all the supplements then available at a con in London in 1976 for £20, which was serious money in those days.

15th – Favourite Convention Game: Playing the NPC mad scientist in one of the scenarios at AmberCon, a long time ago. The PCs had decided I was a harmless old man, being unjustly persecuted, until they realised what I was building in the basement could destroy the universe if my calculations were off by a smidgen. It was FOR SCIENCE, you philistines!

16th – Game you wish you owned: SpaceQuest. I used to own this, but it went walkabout a few years ago. I keep meaning to replace it and Savage the setting.

17th – Funniest Game you’ve played: Paranoia. There are only two games that have made me laugh out loud just from reading them; this is one. The other was the Dying Earth RPG, in case you’re interested.

18th – Favourite Game System: This has evolved over the years… In sequence, OD&D (1976), Classic Traveller (1977-1985), 2300AD (1986-2006), True20 (2007-2008), and most recently Savage Worlds (2009 to date). Dates in parentheses are those during which I would’ve said it was my favourite game system. Now that I look at that, the one that held sway the longest was 2300AD, which is not what I would’ve said if I hadn’t checked my records.

19th – Favourite Published Adventure: Death of a Tyrant (GRAmel) for Savage Worlds. We had an absolute blast playing that.

20th – Will still play in 20 years time: Yes, but I’m not sure what; it will depend on who I’m still playing with, since that matters more to me than what we play. The older I get, the more my gaming interests drift from science fiction towards fantasy, I’m not entirely sure why, so most likely some kind of fantasy setting using D&D (9th edition no doubt) or Savage Worlds. Let’s see when I get there.

21st – Favourite Licensed RPG: Warhammer Fantasy Role Playing, 2nd Edition; or if you want something licenced from outside gaming, the West End Games version of Star Wars.

22nd – Best Secondhand RPG Purchase: SpaceQuest. A little-known gem whose concepts can still be seen in Space Opera and Stars Without Number, if you know where to look.

23rd – Coolest looking RPG product / book: AD&D Second Edition. The internal artwork in this was just superb.

24th – Most Complicated RPG Owned: Warhammer Fantasy Role Playing, 3rd Edition. I would never GM this, because it’s too complicated and has too many fiddly little bits; I only play it because that’s what the main gaming group I play in now prefers.

25th – Favourite RPG no one else wants to play: Again, I’m lucky here; the group I’ve been GMing for will try anything, it’s just a question of what we can fit in, as we only play every few weeks.

26th – Coolest character sheet: The sheets for the pregenerated characters in the Pathfinder Beginner Box. Normally, I create my own, and practicality generally trumps coolness.

27th – Game You’d like to see a new / improved edition of: I’d like to see a Savage Worlds science fiction setting done properly, one that inspires me as much as the Beasts & Barbarians fantasy setting. I hope that either Nova Praxis or The Last Parsec will do that; but there really ought to be a licenced setting for the Dumarest Saga, ideally for Savage Worlds or Traveller.

28th – Scariest Game you’ve played: Games don’t scare me personally, but my group stopped playing All Things Zombie because it was giving one of the players nightmares.

29th – Most memorable encounter: There are so many of these, but if I had to pick just one: Persuading a group of ogres in Moria that they should give us all their gold to save themselves from heavy metal poisoning.

30th – Rarest RPG Owned: The original 1977 edition of Classic Traveller, at least since my copies of SpaceQuest and Ringworld went walkabout.

31st – Favourite RPG of all time: Original D&D. The most fun and the best memories came from playing this in the 1970s; I’ve been trying to recreate that ambience ever since, but I suspect the feeling was more about being young and playing with those particular people than it was about the game itself, so I doubt that even going full-on Old School would help.

By The Numbers

Before I drill too much into individual worlds, let’s make a few assumptions and see what we can deduce from the map and the SWN world generation rules. Quite a bit, as it turns out…

NEW WORLDS AND NEW CIVILISATIONS

Now that I’ve reinstated the double stars, there are 59 systems on the map; 2 Homeworlds, 8 Primary (naturally habitable), 39 Secondary and 10 Tertiary. For this first pass I assign Homeworlds a population of billions, Primary millions, Secondary hundreds of thousands and Tertiary no population at all.

Statistically in SWN, one would expect 59 systems to include 3.28 with populations of billions, 11.47 with millions, 26.22 with hundreds of thousands, 11.47 with tens of thousands, 1.64 with alien civilisations, and 4.92 with either outposts or failed colonies. So we’re a bit light on high population worlds and a bit heavy on uninhabited ones, but not unbelievably so. About a third of the Secondary systems should have populations in the tens of thousands, but as you’ll see it makes very little difference at the sector level.

Meanwhile, I already know that I want to use rakashans and saurians as well as humans in this campaign, and statistically that is already slightly too many alien races for this many worlds, so that’s all I need.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

I derived the cultures for the systems by looking up the world names in Google and selecting the closest culture in SWN for the world concerned – you’ll see the details of that reasoning later as I look at each area of the map in turn, but for now we get the following:

  • Arabic culture: 8 worlds, 1,002,500,000 inhabitants (49.84% of the total).
  • Chinese culture: 3 worlds, 300,000 inhabitants (0.01%).
  • English culture: 15 worlds, 700,000 inhabitants (0.03%). Six of these worlds are N1-N6 in the Dark Nebula, and another two are tertiary systems outside the Nebula; perhaps those should not be counted.
  • Indian culture: 5 worlds, 1,400,000 inhabitants (0.07%).
  • Japanese culture: 2 worlds, 1,000,000,000 inhabitants (49.71%). One of these is a tertiary system with no inhabitants.
  • Nigerian culture: 7 worlds, 1,500,000 inhabitants (0.07%). Again, one is a tertiary system.
  • Russian culture: 11 worlds, 3,600,000 inhabitants (0.18%). Two of these are tertiary systems.
  • Spanish culture: 8 worlds, 1,600,000 inhabitants (0.08%). One of these is tertiary.

The only inhabited world with a definitely Japanese name is Kuzu, and we already know that is inhabited by aslan – errm, sorry, rakashans. So it’s tempting to do what I did with my last 2300AD campaign and have the aslan – sorry, rakashans – be a life-form genetically engineered from human and feline DNA by Japanese scientists. That would explain them having a vaguely Japanese culture and let me use the Japanese name tables, because no other worlds will need them.

You can see from the table that over 99% of the sector’s population is concentrated in the regional hegemons.

LANGUAGES

It’s actually quite hard to find out how many speakers a language has in a given country, so I assumed an even split between them by culture. This gives me the following, in descending order of speaker base:

  • Arabic: 1,002,500,000 speakers.
  • Japanese (or whatever the rakashans actually speak): 1,000,000,000 speakers.
  • English: 3,600,000 speakers, of whom 81% speak it as a second language.
  • Russian: 3,600,000 speakers, as many as English but more concentrated.
  • Spanish: 1,600,000 speakers.
  • Hindi: 1,400,000 speakers, most of them on Gazzain so this may be an overstatement as that’s where I’m going to park the saurians.
  • Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba: 233,333 speakers each.
  • Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese: 150,000 speakers each.

SWN states that all PCs speak English, certainly all the players do, and there is a long tradition of English as the language of air traffic control which it seems reasonable to extend to space travel as well. So the idea occurs to me that a disproportionate fraction of ship crews are English-speaking people, with enclaves at most starports; this gives the players a reason to work together, as they are members of an ethnic minority, much like gypsies or Sephardic Jews.

GIMME THAT OLD-TIME RELIGION

It’s always a bit risky including actual religions in games – one reason most of them don’t do it – as you may offend potential players; but made-up ones have never felt right to me in science-fiction games, especially if I’m using real-world cultures.

So I assumed religions in the sector are split roughly along cultural lines, again with an even mix in cultures that have multiple religions, as finding the actual numbers of worshippers is more work than I want to do. This gives me the following:

  • Islam: 1,003,310,000 worshippers.
  • Buddhism: 500,410,000 worshippers, of which 500,000 are rakashans on Kuzu. Maybe they picked it up from Japanese genetic engineers, maybe I apply a trapping to make it less obviously human.
  • Shinto: 500,000,000 worshippers, all on Kuzu. Same comments.
  • Christianity: 6,560,000 worshippers.
  • Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism: 350,000 worshippers each.
  • Traditional Nigerian religions (assorted): 150,000 worshippers.
  • Confucianism, Taoism: 60,000 worshippers each.

REFLECTIONS

It’s amazing how much the campaign unpacks itself just from the map and the names, no?

Space Travel, Trade and Encounters

In the same way that the default D&D campaign was about plundering an underground complex, the default Traveller campaign was about a small starship trading from world to world and getting into trouble while it did so; and that seems like as good a spine as any to hang a Savage Worlds SF game on.

The Science Fiction Companion is easily understandable when it comes to ship construction and combat, less so for travel, trade and encounters. Let’s look at each of those in turn before we start rolling dice, shall we?

TRAVEL

On first checking the rules for travel and upkeep in the Science Fiction Companion, it seemed it was always cheaper in the long run to burn extra fuel to arrive on the day of the hyperjump, because the cost of the crew’s wages is more than the cost of fuel. Experimentation showed this was wrong, for two reasons; first, you pay your crew once per month, but you have to replace fuel more often than that if you burn extra. Second, the cost of the extra fuel has to be less than the profit you expect to make on your cargo, or you will go broke within a few months. You’re likely to do that anyway, as you’ll see in the next section, although it takes longer if you don’t pay your crew.

It also seemed that the Knowledge (Astrogation) roll to make the hyperjump was dramatically uninteresting, because all failure does is delay the jump by a few minutes, and unless you’re being pursued by rakashan pirates or about to be eaten by a giant mutant star goat, it’s not worth rolling. Again, that’s not quite right; it matters how much you eventually succeed by, as raises on the astrogation roll reduce transit time and hence operating costs.

You need a good pilot to survive and prevail in combat, but you need a good astrogator to make a profit. Since presumably you want the astrogator to be better than the ship’s AI, he or she will likely have Scholar and the prerequisite d8 skill.

TRADE

The intriguing thing about Savage Worlds trading (SFC p. 28) is that it has nothing to do with the characters or the planet they’re on. This makes it extremely portable; it’s a subset of rules with no connection to anything else at all.

After trying a few dozen trading voyages off-camera, I came to the conclusion that this also means that you go broke fast unless you have a number of possible destinations and know what the prices are going to be at at each one; if you don’t, on average luck over a long period you break even on the trading rolls, but it costs you money to move the ship around, so you make a loss overall.

Therefore, co-operation between trader ships is advantageous; they will share prices in some way. A government might operate subsidised ships of its own, or might pay for pricing information which it then shares on a Commodity Board at the starport, to encourage trade and thus boost its economy. A merchant’s guild might jealously guard the information, only sharing it between members. A large trading corporation might have the resources to do this itself, so the co-operation might be entirely internal to the organisation.

Whatever form the organisation takes, one of its primary functions is to collect price data from nearby worlds on a monthly basis (the prices change each month) and share them. This is limited to worlds within one jump of home, though, as by the time the typical ship has gone two jumps, collected local prices and returned, loaded up the best cargo and jumped back, the prices have changed, so there’s no point.

The organisation therefore has at least one ship per neighbouring world that basically does nothing but carry mail and news between the homeworld and its neighbours, and an extra one or two undergoing maintenance or repairs. These ships are as small as possible, since this minimises their operating costs on all fronts. Since there are ships (probably armed) scuttling around neighbouring systems on a regular basis, those systems count as "patrolled" for purposes of random encounters – see below for more on that.

Each ship trots out to an adjacent world at the beginning of the month, carrying something it hopes it can sell at a markup, then comes back. They share information, and then all make the most profitable run they can for the rest of the month; if there’s enough money to be made, the ships may burn extra fuel to reduce transit time, so that they can make more runs before the prices change.

Now, while it’s logical for these little ships to trade and thus offset their operating costs, they can’t be expected to make a profit, for the reasons stated above. So, like Traveller’s subsidised merchants, each ship has an Operating Cost Position – essentially, an amount the organisation will tolerate it losing. I reason this would cover fuel for daily operations and two hyperjumps per month (one out, one back), provisions, and crew salaries, but not additional hyperjumps or burning extra fuel to reduce transit time. Crews which lose less than their OCP are considered good; crews that consistently lose more than their OCP are replaced.

RANDOM ENCOUNTERS

The SFC doesn’t cover these at all, although Savage Worlds itself calls for drawing a card if travelling through an area that isn’t patrolled. If one were using random encounters, the logical point at which to check is on arrival in a new system.

By the above reasoning, any world acting as a trade hub effectively patrols all its neighbouring worlds (those within one hyperspace jump), so there are no space encounters there.

Beyond that, hostile encounters are possible; my thinking is that in most cases the setting will tell you what PCs should encounter; raiders, over-zealous patrol ships, pirates and so on, according to where the GM has placed those; my instinct is that consistency in this will be more useful in the long run than creating complex tables. ("Let’s not go to Tortuga, we always get hit by pirates there.")

REFLECTIONS

I can see I’m not going to want to track this in detail in the face to face game; while the characters spend a lot of time obsessing about trade goods and markets, the players neither need to nor should.

However, whether you call them scouts, couriers or trade pioneers, you could easily construct a campaign around one of the small price-checking starships, with the PCs as the crew. Start at the base world, visit one of its neighbours and have an adventure, come back and tell your patron what the prices are like there. If you make a profit, so much the better.

Faction Turn 1: January 3200

In turn one, all factions build Surveyors, as they are the only unit which can (a) move without costing their faction more money, (b) move two hexes on the starmap, and (c) require a low attribute to buy – the other alternatives don’t have all those advantages. Smugglers, for example, are cheaper to buy and have a similar range and attribute requirement, but you have to pay FacCreds to move them.

The Hierate builds its surveyors at Panas, the Confederation at Gazzain, and Mizah on Mizah (as it has no other choice).

Hierate: Income 7, spend 4, balance 3. Goal: Expand Influence on Valka; that’s the nearest primary system with good land to grab.

Confederation: Income 7, spend 4, balance 3. Goal: Expand Influence on Hasara; the Hierate is coming for Solomani land, and this is the most distant system where Confed can guarantee to set up a Base of Influence before the Hierate can, thus hopefully blocking their movement. Confed will then work its way back along the Hasara Chain building up influence on all worlds, with a view to their eventual absorption.

Mizah: Income 4, spend 4, balance 0. Goal: Expand Influence on Hasara; Mizah sees the Hasara Chain and Triangular Route as its pre-eminent sphere of influence, and correctly divining Confed’s plan, intends to get there first.

How does this manifest itself for the PCs? Well, they’re on Mizah, so it will be at least February before they can learn of the Confed surveyors, and March before they know about the Hierate ones. However, this is playing on the holovid in the corner of the bar where they hang out between scenarios:

“Preceptor Adept Aisha Tabari of the Great Archive announced today at a news conference in Sinqit that President Jibril Shadi has agreed to the proposed massive expansion of the Mizah Survey Service, allowing the Archive to carry its advice and services to worlds along the Hasara Chain and Triangular Route. The MSS is now acquiring a number of ships for this purpose and hiring crews at Sinqit Starport.”

B&B Hero Construction Set

A couple of years ago I bought the Beasts & Barbarians Hero Construction Set from Okumarts; I don’t normally do standees, but I like David Okum’s artistic style so I do have a few of his 2D figure sets. Last weekend, with the family still occupied elsewhere, I finally got around to building a set as an experiment. They look like this:

20140601

Left to right: Valk, Cairnlander, Gladiator, Barbarian, some chick with a dagger, Amazon, Ivory Savannah tribesman, Tricarnian, Jademan Monk, creepy sorceror dude, Alchemist, Red Desert tribesman.

So how did it work out? Well, firstly, the speed is a big improvement. It’s only taken me two years to get these ready for the tabletop, whereas my last batch of metal figures took eight years. In hindsight, it was a huge mistake getting rid of the figures I painted while I was in college, because I have not had the time since I started working and raising a family to replace them.

Secondly, they are surprisingly robust and stable. I was really dubious about the recommended basing technique (cutting a slot in a piece of foamcore), but it does work very well, once I learned not to press the figures into the foam board too hard – they bend at the ankles if you do that, although since I printed them on 160 gsm card (which folds up to 320 gsm) they recover quite well from that.

Thirdly, I need a thinner permanent marker. Running a black marker around the edge of the figure makes a surprising difference to how good it looks, but trying to force the chisel-tipped one I have into the little nooks and crannies around weapons means it often slips off and leaves ugly black marks on the figures. You can’t really see the mistakes from arm’s length, but I know they’re there, and it bugs me.

Fourthly – and this is important given my almost total lack of artistic and craft skills – there’s a lot less frustration and swearing involved, because if I ruin one of these figures I can replace it very quickly and easily.

Finally, though, this bills itself as a hero construction set, and that’s what it is. This set gives you a good range of Beasts & Barbarians heroes, but no mooks; if you want a couple of dozen Valk as opposition, say, you’re either going to print off loads of copies of this set, or find something else to proxy for them. (If I were to do that and stick with the same artistic style, I’d use Okum Arts’ hobgoblins.)

CONCLUSION

These little guys are not as nice-looking as a well-painted mini, but they are a lot cheaper, much faster to prepare, I get a lot less angry when one of them gets taken out by a passing elbow and I’m a big fan of the artistic style. So I can see myself using Okumarts’ standees for future games.

The range includes Wild West, classic fantasy and (obviously) Beasts & Barbarians, retro SF and Chinese martial arts figures. I can get zombies from the megaset “Katana Schoolgirls vs Zombie Furries”, but there are no modern or near-future figures unless you count the kilted highlanders in the Spot of Bother set. More moderns, please!

I wonder how long it will be before I can buy 3D printer files for minis and print them out at a local copy shop? If they came pre-coloured so that I didn’t have to paint them, that would be the best of all worlds.

Movers and Shakers

"Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"
"Same thing we do every night, Pinky – try to take over the world!"
- Pinky and the Brain

Before I kick off the Dark Nebula campaign in earnest, I need a view of the local factions.

It’s tempting to make up all kinds of custom factions, but at this stage I want to move quickly into actual play without worrying about whether the factions are sensibly designed or not, so I pick three template factions from SWN p. 127; the Aslanic Hierate (Regional Hegemon), the Solomani Confederation (Regional Hegemon) and the planetary government of Mizah (Backwater Planet). The Regional Hegemons each begin the game with the Planetary Government tag for all the worlds in their pocket empire.

I want the Dark Nebula system type for a world to be reflected in its government faction, and the simplest way to do this is to say that homeworlds are Regional Hegemons, primary systems are Backwater Planets, and secondary systems are Colony Worlds. Tertiary systems have no worlds, therefore no populations and hence no factions. For the most part, the planetary government factions will just sit there, waiting to provide opposition to the three active factions.

WHY MEN FIGHT

I now need to know the factions’ motivations, since that will both determine their goals and actions in game terms, and make them seem more real to the players.

Aslanic Hierate: Landgrab

In line with Classic Traveller canon, aslan are obsessed with owning land. If there is unoccupied land, preferably on a primary world, they will occupy it. If the only decent land they can get at is already occupied, they will fight for it. Aslan expansion therefore consists of creating Bases of Influence anywhere they can, starting with the primary worlds. The cheapest way to do this is to build Surveyors and send them to each world in turn to Expand Influence there. Once that’s done, they will happily spend their FacCreds upgrading the Bases, representing the expansion of aslan clanholds on the world.

Solomani Confederation: Reunify

As the spiritual heir to the Celestial Empire in my earlier campaigns, the Confederation seeks to restore the lost glories of the Terran Mandate, reuniting humanity under a single banner – this time, theirs. Their long-term aim is therefore Planetary Seizure of every system on the map. It’s faster and cheaper in most cases to do this by building Surveyors, using them to create Bases of Influence, and then building other assets for conquest at those Bases – otherwise they would have to spend faction turns and FacCreds just moving military units into place. Seizing control of systems is neatly Difficulty 3 for a homeworld or primary system, 2 for a secondary, and 1 for a tertiary.

Government of Mizah: Spread the Word

Mizah is comfortable with the status quo, thank you very much; it has a nice home, a comfortable income, and an honourable and altruistic purpose. To pursue its objective of sharing knowledge with its neighbours, it will also plant Bases of Influence offworld, and again the cheapest way over three or more turns is a unit of Surveyors. In philosophy, Mizah is closer to the Confederation, but its methods are closer to those of the Hierate. Its ambitions are also limited to a specific group of worlds, whereas the other two factions both want to dominate the entire map.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

It’s expensive both in FacCreds and actions to move assets around, so they need to be placed sensibly to begin with.

Mizah

  • Everything starts on Mizah. There’s no other option.

The Hegemons

  • Space Marines: Panas (Hierate) and Gazzain (Confed). They have to start inside the faction’s home turf, but they’re strike units, they’re no good at home.
  • Planetary Defences: On the homeworlds, Kuzu and Maadin. These need to be defended, and there are too many potential routes to the homeworlds to block with the available units.
  • Blockade Fleet: Gazzain and Bors. These are a bit of a white elephant really, they need to be refitted into something that can move two hexes.
  • Extended Theatre: These need to begin on the faction’s borders, and quickly move up to a transport nexus nearby but on the outside. The Hierate would be best served if theirs were at Dno, the Confederation needs theirs to be at Bulan until they have pacified that area; so the Extended Theatre units start at Panas and Kamat.
  • Pretech Manufactory: Maadin and Kuzu. These are probably a big part of why the Hegemons are Hegemons.
  • Shipping Combine: Wherever the Extended Theatre went, the Shipping Combine needs to be on the other main route out of faction territory. That puts the Hierate one at Bors, and the Confed one at Gazzain.
  • Tripwire Cells: These may as well stay at home to defend against stealthed infiltration units.
  • Cyberninjas: Panas and Gazzain. I’m not quite sure what to do with these, but those locations give the most options.

We can see from this that the biggest naval base in the region is at Gazzain, and the second-biggest at Panas.

REFLECTIONS

I’ve tried running macro-level wargames or boardgames to provide setting background before, and the game has always collapsed under the weight of record-keeping required. However, I think SWN factions will be different, as they can only do one thing each per turn, so record-keeping is fairly basic – at most three assets per turn move, usually less.

If the factions were merely level grinding, they’d all go for the nearest system and set up a Base of Influence for a quick experience point; but these moves seem more aligned to their known mindsets.

Finally, notice that I don’t need to know anything about the worlds to pick factions and set them at each other’s throats.

Mizah

After rereading the rules for my various science fiction RPGs, and experimenting a little off camera, I came to the conclusion that for the kind of game I want to run, SWN world generation, faction rules, and setting background will give me the most fun for the least effort. There is almost no mechanical interaction between those and the PC-level rules, so Savage Worlds PCs and SWN worlds and factions can co-exist peacefully without requiring any complex rules interfaces.

The PCs’ home world is going to be Mizah, and I have a very clear idea of what I want to do with it; so I move directly to assigning stats without worrying about dice rolls.

WHY MIZAH?

  • It’s naturally habitable.
  • It has routes to six other systems, making it the best-connected primary system on the map and making offworld travel simple when the PCs start to do that. This is also why it’s a trade hub.
  • It isn’t aligned to either the Hierate or the Confederation, but would be a valuable ally to either. Enter intrigue and espionage, stage left, but with the PCs having a free hand as to which faction they support. This is the “offworld faction trying to seize control complication for the trade hub” tag in action.
  • It’s only a few weeks’ travel away from either the insectoid Hive of space bugs (off-map past Simba) or the mysteries of the Dark Nebula itself.

MIZAH

Atmosphere: Breathable mix. Temperature: Temperate. Biosphere: Human-miscible, dominated by giant beetle analogues (the players told me this, during Back in Black). Population: Millions. Tech Level: 4. Tags: Preceptor Archive, Trade Hub. Culture: Arabic (“Mizah” means “joke” in Turkish, and the closest culture to Turkish in baseline SWN is Arabic).

Mizah’s government is a representative democracy; the current president is Jibril Shadi. (As recommended by SWN, the base world gets a representative democracy because how it works will be instinctively familiar to the likely players. President Shadi’s name is courtesy of a couple of dice rolls on the Arabic names table in SWN.)

When the Scream came, Mizah managed somehow to hold things together, thanks to the joint efforts of the Great Archive outpost and the planetary government. During the Silence, the Mizah Survey Service worked closely with the Archive to keep the flame of civilisation burning, however weakly, along the Hasara Chain and the Triangular Route, acting as a cultural bridge and provider of news and technical (especially medical) advice. Local populations therefore look on it fondly for the most part, although of course there are those who infer sinister conspiracies.

  • Hasara Chain: Hasara, Tangga, Salia, Kov, Mizah.
  • Triangular Route: Mizah, Simba, Omaro, Umuru.

These worlds will all have Tech Level 4, as a result of the Great Archive’s “missionary” work along those routes.

Places to Visit

  • Sinqit starport, whose wide, open plazas bustle with activity.
  • Charshi Market, a raucous bazaar on the edge of the starport whose coffee-houses are frequented by ship’s crews on shore leave and adventurers on the make.
  • The Great Archive lecture hall in the centre of Sinqit City and its quasi-religious ceremonies.

REFLECTIONS

The campaign is likely to develop over three phases. In the first phase, the PCs will be limited to Mizah, since they have no ship and no shipboard skills. In phase two, they will escape into local space, which effectively means the Hasara Chain (Hasara-Tangga-Salia-Kov-Mizah) and the Triangular Route (Simba-Omaro/Umuru-Mizah); the Hive of space bugs can turn them back at Simba, the Solomani military can stop them going past Gazzain, there’s nothing to do in the Nebula so far as they know and Daanarni can have a flare or something if they try to go that way. In phase three, all bets are off and they can go anywhere on the map.

So, I needed to know what Mizah is like right away, and should soon have some idea about eight other worlds; the other fifty-odd star systems may never come into play from the PCs’ perspective, although Maadin and Kuzu cast long shadows and are easy enough to generate, as the fact of being a Regional Hegemon dictates most of a world’s statistics.

You’ll note I’ve swerved from the CT Long Night as the historical background to the SWN Scream and Silence. Dramatically, these are much the same – worlds re-emerging into space 600 years after a great human empire collapsed – and experience teaches me the players will neither notice nor care, so I may as well go with the path of least effort, which means the SWN world and faction rules claimed the background followed them home and asked if they could keep it.