Before I get too engrossed in the setting, there is something even more important, and that is the palette – what races, edges, and rules are in play?
WHAT PLAYERS NEED TO KNOW
Here, I’m sticking as closely as possible to the core rules of Savage Worlds, to keep the learning curve as short and shallow as possible. Over the last year or so I’ve used SW Deluxe rulebooks as presents on suitable occasions, and the core rules of Stars Without Number are free to download, so all the players have access to the rules, and those so minded can easily gain access to the relevant background information, found on pages 5 and 71-77 of SWN.
For character generation, players need to know the following:
- Available Races: Human (the default), androids, rakashans, saurians. The rakashan racial enemy is humans; partly this explains the coming war, and partly the only two playable races essential to the campaign are humanity and the Proud Warrior Race, which I have designated as the rakashans for this game.
- Available Arcane Backgrounds: Psionics.
- Setting Rules: Multiple Languages. This is a setting where languages are important, but not so important that I want to tie up skill points for them; and this approach is also in line with how Stars Without Number handles languages.
WHAT THE GM NEEDS TO KNOW
Primarily, I need to know where the join is between Dark Nebula, SW and SWN. The key to a successful mashup is to pick which game system characters use, and then avoid anything from the other games which affects characters.
For example, both SW and SWN have rules for starship combat, and that definitely involves characters. I have three options; avoid ship combat entirely, use SW and the Sci-Fi Companion, or use SWN. I can use the first one for a while, but eventually there will be a chase or a dogfight, so I can’t put the choice off forever; if I choose SWN, I have to integrate SW skills into SWN, and if I choose SW/SFC, I have to address what levels of hyperdrive exist – SFC ships either have hyperdrive or they don’t, while SWN ones have one of six different grades with different capabilities for both travel and combat.
A review of the various games I’m using for this particular gallimaufry leads me to these conclusions:
- DN’s contribution is limited to the map and a few snippets of background information.
- SW is used for characters and gear, the SW SFC for vehicles and more gear – the additional character rules are ignored to minimise the learning curve for the players. I will also ignore the SFC World Maker as the SWN world generation rules are better suited to this particular campaign.
- Starships will use the SFC, which is already integrated into SW. Ships can only move along the routes indicated on the map, but any ship can move any number of hexes. Knowing this is not essential immediately, but will save me time later when the players ask about their ship’s capabilities, probably in the middle of a chase or dogfight.
- SWN provides rules-agnostic background, and the World Generation and Factions rules, which don’t interact with characters mechanically, serving only to flesh out background. These are also the parts of SWN which are most useful to the GM, taking you from dice rolls to a playable adventures more quickly and easily than any other sandbox system I know. Now, strictly the Factions rules interact with how hyperdrive works, because some faction units have any implied spike drive rating; but the players don’t need to know that as it all happens where they can’t see it.
I also note the following points:
- I find interstellar trade boring, so we will not use the trading rules from either game. Trade is why the characters are travelling, and no doubt they spend hours doing it, but as in Daring Tales of the Space Lanes, that all happens off-camera and generates exactly enough money to offset their costs; they get financial and other rewards by adventuring, not from a few lucky dice rolls on a trading table.
- I also find Knowledge (Astrogation) rolls and variable trip time an unnecessary complication, so all hyperspace jumps succeed and take one week. This means the Knowledge (Astrogation) skill is not necessary, which is just as well as it isn’t in the core rulebook. However, I’ll adopt the rule used by several other games that a hyperspace jump can’t be made close to a planet, so that we can have Chases.
Notice that by this stage, pretty much all ship stats are irrelevant; so long as I’m willing to make up Toughness and weapon damage when I need it for combat, I don’t actually need the SFC in play. That means that I only need SW and my setting notes during play, and SWN between sessions to generate background and adventures.
That settled, and the key points disseminated to the players, I return to detailing the setting, starting with their base world and the pilot episode – those are, after all, what they will see first.