Recently, Andy McQuoid asked on Google+ for suggestions running a Diaspora campaign with a colossal derelict ship to explore—and that ship is actively trying to kill the characters. He also said, “ 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.”
I was reminded of my Solar System game and my post on how to prep for it. I wrote the following in response.
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.
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.
I’m running a biweekly Diaspora game in a Traveller Subsector. The party had just crash landed on a planet after being shot down by a gunship using space combat rules and made it to the base on a sort of social combat map with the opponents being earthquakes, a sea monster, and a patrol of aliens. Inside the base, they saw the overgrown and partly disassembled remnants of the ship that had brought the alien infection to the system and decided they were going to hook their diplomat-hacker up with the central nervous system running the base. I asked the table whether they felt like another map and combat but Harald reminded me of another technique I often use: Just go around in a circle and ask each of the players what they’ll do to help solve the problem.
Four players, four rolls. I said you need at least two successes. First attempt by Thomas at finding a quiet corner fails spectacularly. The aliens get spin. Second attempt by Florian at fighting the immune system of the mega-organism fails spectacularly. The aliens get spin. Third attempt by Harald at hooking up the hacker fails spectacularly. The aliens get spin. Whoa!! The last roll comes up and I ask for the stakes. What’s going to happen when Jörg fails? I say he’s going to be taken over and integrated into the base if he fails. He says “w00t!?” He doesn’t want to take the consequences for all the earlier failures. Harald volunteers to take a severe consequence that would change his result into a success – “infected by an alien mind”. Yay!! Jörg manages to reprogram the alien factory in order to make the resulting ship something they can use. Victory!
As the session was about to end, I give the diplomat-hacker the following choice:
- will you try to get off-world as quickly as possible with the intelligence you gathered, ie. leave safely but without resolving the situation? No fight, no loot, minimal plot advancement.
- will you man the ship as soon as possible, head over to the wreck of the old ship to rescue an ancient artifact, delaying long enough that you’ll have to fight your way out of the system? One space combat, but save artifact.
- will you confuse the three ships in the system in order to gain enough time to penetrate the central nervous system of the base, eliminate the threat, and then try to get off the system? One personal combat, and one ship combat, but resolve situation.
They picked #3 – Alien 2 style. So proud.
Bye bye Traveller category – our gaming group has decided to give Diaspora a try!
- One player left the campaign because he’s working in Berlin during the week and can’t play in Zürich on Wednesdays.
- Another player said that the campaign wasn’t really working for him.
- That leaves only three players – and one of them very busy – and a game master.
- I said that I felt the system was pushing us into micro-managing things we only cared for on an abstract level; basically we weren’t interested in anything involving money: trade, maintenance costs, equipment costs, etc.
- Three of us had given Spirit of the Century a try; we liked FATE but didn’t like the rulebook.
- Harald and I had read the Diaspora book and liked it.
Today we had three hours. First we discussed the state of the campaign and decided to switch to Diaspora. I printed out character sheets, skill reference sheet, personal combat sheet while Harald explained a bit about the rules. Then we converted our Traveller characters. It went pretty smoothly. The free form aspects are a real boon.
We assigned a system to each one of us, and said that we’d convert the UWP to the Diaspora stats on our Campaign:Kaylash subsector wiki. We’ll convert them as we go. Technology, Environment, Resources, and three aspects, that should not be too hard. We already have a map and a lot of info on some of the systems.
I don’t think we need a Diaspora cluster. Perhaps I’m missing something? The benefit of having small clusters might be a localized game suited for people that like to switch campaigns often? We’ve been playing our biweekly game for a year, now. I think we want to keep playing in this subsector and we want to keep exploring our characters for quite a bit more.
Wish us luck!
Tonight we’ll play in my Campaign:Kaylash Traveller campaign again. I’ve played Spirit of the Century twice in our regular experimental Monday one-shots and liked it. The game uses the Fate rules, which are based on Fudge. I’ve been a long time Fudge fan even though I never got to play it before. (I did prefer the “subjective” rules, however.)
I had heard about the new Traveller-like Fate-using Science-Fiction game Diaspora.
So when Haarald started comparing Traveller and Diaspora (in German), I was intrigued. Instead of getting eight pseudo-realistic stats and a multitude of trades codes from Traveller tables, you get three meta-stats, and some aspects. The question I’m asking myself is how much do the Traveller subsector generation rules afford the typical gameplay? Can you make good use of Diaspora without having played Traveller before?
I think you can. You’ll use Diaspora and it’ll end up being colored by whatever background you have: Mars, Earth, and Venus; or Corruscant, Tatooine, and Dagobah; or whatever they’re called in Mass Effect. I haven’t played in Traveller’s Imperium – is it an essential element of the game? I don’t think so. But perhaps the subsector generation rules and it’s implied setting generate a suitable campaign map.
I’d love to read more comparisons between the two.
|Traveller Stats||Traveller Trade Codes||Diaspora Stats|
|Law Level||High Population|
|Tech Level||High Technology|