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Help me make a "simple" Sci-Fi RPG

PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 4:30 am
by Onix
It is very hard to make a simple RPG. I don't mean a rules lite game. I can do that easily. I mean an RPG that is simple to play. Most rules lite RPGs make things really hard on players (especially the GM) by giving a wide open world and no process for going through it.

With that in mind, I'm working on a game that is procedural, focused on combat, and the GM is purposely adversarial. I know that sounds awful but it's simple and I think it could be a fun experience if given the right constraints.

I need ideas though when it comes to the nitty gritty, I get stuck in style ruts and I see myself getting stuck with this. That's where you come in. We might not have ten thousand regulars that post here, but we are pretty diverse, so if there's a way to get me away from my comfort zone and out of a rut, let's do it.

On to the game. My working title is a bit B-movie, but that might have it's own charm. The game is based off a drawing my son did. I thought it was so freaking weird I might as well use it.

Star Eaters
We didn’t know why the stars were going out, but one by one they blinked and died. At first our scientist tried to find a an explanation that didn’t involve aliens. Eventually they resigned themselves to some kind of class 2 civilization that was using the stars as a power source. The truth was far worse.

The young star eaters expand out into the systems around their parent. If they don’t feed on a star, they never reach adulthood and eventually die. That means the young will never stop coming as long as the parent is alive or we still have our sun.

We don’t know what the parents look like, the closest one consumed Proxima Centauri thirty years ago and we did’t have a good way of getting there until we learned more about the star eaters.

Each child is different but most are hundreds of kilometers long. At first it took fleets of space ships to stop the star eaters until we found their weakness. Their hides are nearly impenetrable even by our largest fusion bombs. By entering their mouths and traveling deep down their digestive tract, small groups of fighters are able destroy an organ to stop them from feeding.

Our neighbor stars are still going out one by one and more and more children are coming for ours. They say in ten million years, all the stars in our galaxy will be dead. We have only one way to stop that. Each child has organs that can be harvested to power kill vehicles. Each star that goes out has an adult that must be killed to keep it’s children from spreading. The more stars go out, the faster more will go out.

The Resistance

Mechs
Brute force is the name of their game. Mechs are durable and do plenty of damage.

Orbs
These small self contained craft use technology developed from studying the star eaters. They have three modes. Only one can be charged at a time so choose wisely. Orbs can fire a plasma beam that is very powerful, they can create a nearly impenetrable plasma curtain or they can create plasma spheres that act as an active defense system.

Biohackers
A biohacker is able to alter the function of various organs in the star eater using chemicals or electrodes and change their behavior. They can also become temporarily invisible to the Star Eater’s defenses by altering their bio signatures.

Artificer
Team mates often need spare parts for repair and more weapons and ammunition. Artificers can also produce replacement body parts that Biohackers can use to heal with. Artificers can produce items that the team may need to circumvent some defenses.

Re: Help me make a "simple" Sci-Fi RPG

PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 4:41 am
by Onix
One core concept is that the GM plays the Star Eater. The dangers the team faces are generated randomly and the GM is really trying to kill the players. By balancing the hazards, the GM is limited it their power to what is given. The GM directing the Star Eater's immune systems a'la all those weird bio-shooter games in the 80's and 90's.

This might sound annoying to an experienced GM, but it's very natural to a board game player. I think that's important to making this work.

I think a game mat, probably a hex grid, would really help early players. It goes against what I usually do in a game design, but I think a battle map would fit with what this game is going for.

So this is where you come in. The most important part of this game is the random hazards. What would you want to see the Star Eater throw at the players. I have some ideas, but I want to hear what pops into your head.

Re: Help me make a "simple" Sci-Fi RPG

PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 9:14 am
by Rob Lang
In times like this the thing I always ask is "What do the players do?"

Are they playing fighters, trying to take out a Star Eater Child? If so, do they die in the Child or can they live to fight another day?

One way to make an RPG accessible (although I've never tried it) is by writing down the ruleset in an adventure chapter-by-chapter way so that they players are playing while learning.

For example:
Chapter 1: Players apply for flight school, they do a number of tests that set their stats.
Chapter 2: Players play flight school with the simplest Orb mechanics.
Chapter 3: Players fight against drone Mechs to learn about shooting.
Chapter 4: Players have to take out a weak Star Eater; one that's been around for ages and running out of energy.
etc.

Maps is another way to make a game easier to pick up. Bold, clear maps.

Re: Help me make a "simple" Sci-Fi RPG

PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 9:32 am
by Onix
Rob Lang wrote:In times like this the thing I always ask is "What do the players do?"

Are they playing fighters, trying to take out a Star Eater Child? If so, do they die in the Child or can they live to fight another day?


Yes, the goal is to get down the star eater's digestive system and destroy a key organ. There are secondary goals of harvesting organs that the eater uses for propulsion. To make that remotely possible they'd have to be small and embedded all over.

As for survival after death, I haven't figured out how to handle that yet.

Re: Help me make a "simple" Sci-Fi RPG

PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 10:34 am
by Onix
Rob Lang wrote:Are they playing fighters, trying to take out a Star Eater Child? If so, do they die in the Child or can they live to fight another day?

On reading that again, I realise I read that wrong. I thought you We're asking if a player could resurrect a dead character. I see that you were talking about escaping the star eater.

Yes, I'm assuming the characters can get out once successful.

I'm trying to figure out if the pcs can teleport things. It would help with the artifacer character. It would also help with not having to haul several metric tons of organs around. I just had the idea that maybe the star eater has some kind of teleport organ that a biohacker can use to unload materials.

Then again maybe it's more mundane than that. Maybe there are pores that eject material out of the star eater and those can be used either to unload materials or escape if things have gone badly. That still leaves the artifacer in the lurch though, unless they use raw materials from the star eater's body. That's at least functional.

Re: Help me make a "simple" Sci-Fi RPG

PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 1:53 pm
by J.K.Mosher
Interesting idea . . a few questions though . . .

1) How do these "Star Eater's" consume stars? Do they absorb the radiation, ingest the plasma, do they excrete some substance that causes the star to rapidly cool thereby allowing them to ingest the un-fission-ed materials?
2) HOW do the PCs move around in these "Space-Worms". Is there a form of gravity? With no/low gravity then transport of materials can be accomplished easily by allowing the artificer to make transport drones that haul out the materials via a pore/wound/the mouth, or other nearby orifice.
3) Are these "Star-Eater's" biological or Mechanical or a combination of the two? I ask because if they 'Eater's" are biological then there are hazards that would confront the PCs that the GM would not have control of. Ie (Natural immune responses)

Some comments/observations I made in passing . . .

Refer to question #1 . . . if the Eater's ingest Plasma then the Orb class would be limited as the "Worm" would basically be able to absorb/eat what ever the orb class throws at it. (Maybe).
Are these things like Mega Space Worms, cause for some reason since the first time I read the description I feel like they would be space worms.

Depending on what the 'Eater's" are (mechanical/biological) they choices of the GM for hazards will vary greatly. Biological could "Vomit" parts of undigested stars, or do tricks like eels and leeches and ooze out toxins or radiation. They could "knock" space debris towards the PCs or out right attempt to chew them.
Mechanical eaters I could see having more "advanced" processes in which to harass the PCs . . . defensive systems including beam weapons, drones, and so and an so forth.

Re: Help me make a "simple" Sci-Fi RPG

PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 4:34 am
by Onix
J.K.Mosher wrote:1) How do these "Star Eater's" consume stars? Do they absorb the radiation, ingest the plasma, do they excrete some substance that causes the star to rapidly cool thereby allowing them to ingest the un-fission-ed materials?
My imagination says that they start to syphon off the star's plasma. The idea i'm going on is that they travel via some kind of gravity engine (which is part of their biology) and they use their gravity altering ability to draw in stellar material. It's probable that they also harvest energy from heat and radiation in the plasma they syphon off.

J.K.Mosher wrote:2) HOW do the PCs move around in these "Space-Worms". Is there a form of gravity? With no/low gravity then transport of materials can be accomplished easily by allowing the artificer to make transport drones that haul out the materials via a pore/wound/the mouth, or other nearby orifice.
I've been debating that. Since the Eater is using gravity to move, there would be a gravity well in front of it. That would make it's front (mouth?) down and it's tail up. It might be more intuitive to players to be traveling down though, which would mean the mouth would have to be on it's tail. I'm okay with that. The gravity wouldn't have to be super strong, so bouncing around and thrusters would be handy ways of moving. I've also imagined the characters having clawed boots that would allow them to hang on walls and ceilings but that might just make things more conceptually complicated.

My thinking is that there are progressive digestion chambers that the players travel through.

J.K.Mosher wrote:3) Are these "Star-Eater's" biological or Mechanical or a combination of the two? I ask because if they 'Eater's" are biological then there are hazards that would confront the PCs that the GM would not have control of. Ie (Natural immune responses)
They're biological, but the biology would necessarily be unlike anything we normally would think of. I was thinking that there might be different scales of immune system. One for bacteria and such and one for larger threats like the players. I don't think that it would be too implausible for there to be mobile segments of the immune system that acts like an independent creature. I'm not opposed to plasma ball spitting beetles. It's a bit silly, but this is all about fun. I'd prefer that whenever possible, things make sense and follow real life physics or get as close to that as is practical, but I'm not opposed to occasional "I'll include this because it's cool". So goopy bio defenses (acid mucus on a grand scale) is right up my alley here.

J.K.Mosher wrote:Refer to question #1 . . . if the Eater's ingest Plasma then the Orb class would be limited as the "Worm" would basically be able to absorb/eat what ever the orb class throws at it. (Maybe).
Are these things like Mega Space Worms, cause for some reason since the first time I read the description I feel like they would be space worms.
I think the Eater itself is pretty safe from the Orb. There three modes of the orb is intended as a paper scissors rock kind of choice. One has to be activated at a time and the wrong choice means trouble. Not an instant death kind of thing, but a fun optimization challenge.

The original drawing was like a manta ray, but worms are possible. It would be cool if there were different "classes" of Eaters that behaved differently. One might be a "Ray Type" one might be a "Worm Type" and so on.

Re: Help me make a "simple" Sci-Fi RPG

PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 1:22 pm
by J.K.Mosher
I've been debating that. Since the Eater is using gravity to move, there would be a gravity well in front of it. That would make it's front (mouth?) down and it's tail up. It might be more intuitive to players to be traveling down though, which would mean the mouth would have to be on it's tail. I'm okay with that. The gravity wouldn't have to be super strong, so bouncing around and thrusters would be handy ways of moving. I've also imagined the characters having clawed boots that would allow them to hang on walls and ceilings but that might just make things more conceptually complicated.


I would suggest then that the gravity "well" that allows them to move and feed be centered around their digestive tract. Maybe with differing amounts of gravity. If it is their gut then it can be used to siphon (like a baleen whale using suction to fill it's mouth with krill & seawater) the energy/plasma from the stars it is consuming. This would also allow for more linear locomotion as the PCs would be moving towards higher gravity as they progress to the targets.

It would also allow locomotion as the Eater would be able to push against the gravity waves it produces to allow for locomotion, or even in a "Squid like" version force out gravity waves to move.


My thinking is that there are progressive digestion chambers that the players travel through.

Makes sense.

They're biological, but the biology would necessarily be unlike anything we normally would think of. I was thinking that there might be different scales of immune system. One for bacteria and such and one for larger threats like the players. I don't think that it would be too implausible for there to be mobile segments of the immune system that acts like an independent creature. I'm not opposed to plasma ball spitting beetles. It's a bit silly, but this is all about fun. I'd prefer that whenever possible, things make sense and follow real life physics or get as close to that as is practical, but I'm not opposed to occasional "I'll include this because it's cool". So goopy bio defenses (acid mucus on a grand scale) is right up my alley here.


Biological . . . don't forget pests and parasites that would infest such a large creature. (Think Cloverfield Monster for an example.) this should cover the plasma spitting beetles & such. :)

The original drawing was like a manta ray, but worms are possible. It would be cool if there were different "classes" of Eaters that behaved differently. One might be a "Ray Type" one might be a "Worm Type" and so on.


This is a neat idea. Various versions could have shorter/longer digestive tracts, more of less pests/parasites, higher/lower gravity, higher/lower radiation concentrations. Ray/Worm/squid/shrimp would be interesting variations.