I agreed to take over refereeing responsibilities for one of the games I play in. This means I’ll be running two games every week. The very idea of it is exhausting, and I’m honestly a little worried about how I’m going to hold up. If this blog ends up becoming even more of a word slurry than it already is, you’ll know why.
The first hurdle is figuring out what I should run. Should it be something I’ve already put a lot of work into, like Dungeon Moon? Or, I could run a second party through ORWA, and let the two groups see one another’s influence on the world. But both of those are post-apocalyptic settings, and I’d really like to branch out and do something new. I briefly considered running a game in a very traditional fantasy world, but as much as I do want to revisit that concept someday, it just doesn’t hold much appeal to me at the moment.
What I really want to do is run a game in space. And I want it to be the opposite of post apocalypse. I want it to be a galaxy of plenty. A society at its peak, but one with enough stark inequality that the players are hungry.
Faster Than Light travel is a technology so profoundly ancient, that it may as well be The Wheel. It’s prehistory, interesting only to the dustiest and most arthritic of archeologists. Commensurately, the whole of the galaxy–down to the tips of each spiral arm–was originally charted so long ago that many worlds have been forgotten, rediscovered, and forgotten again many times over.
Every star system of consequences is ruled by a member of one of the 36,000 families. Less consequential systems are nominally ruled by them as well, but usually by some minor relative who prefers living in a manse on a more cosmopolitan world, rather than moving to some backwater to govern it.
To say the hierarchies among the 36,000 families are complex, is akin to saying the galaxy is rather big. There are entire universities of scholars dedicated to understanding the finer minutia of who is in charge of what, and which person is subordinate to whom. But, bloated and directionless as the bureaucracy is, it all manages to muddle along under the guidance of the one supreme authority that is completely indisputable: The King of Space.
The current dynasty came to power four generations ago, in a series of ruthless wars pursued by Kulga “Bloodfist” Osbert. Her son, Ruldin, fought many of her later wars at her side, and was himself a powerful ruler in his day. His son, Trost, was competent enough for peacetime. The current King of Space, Trost’s daughter Bassiana, is a pathetically pampered creature with a cruel sense of fun. The only reason no one has usurped her yet is that dealing with her is slightly less terrifying than the prospect of succession wars.
None of that really has much to do with you, though. You’re just some dirt farmer who grows cantaloupes all year, then loads half of them onto a ship that transports them to some more important world you will never visit, where most will rot before anyone feels like eating them.
Or maybe you work in a factory, making fittings for mounting Repulsor Lift Dishes into Repulsor Lift Housings. You live in company housing, and every day you work a 16 hour shift at the conveyor belt, performing the same rote solder over and over again. Eventually, each fitting will be sold for 2 Darics, which is the same amount you make for every 100 you complete. So long as there are no defects.
Or maybe you’ve seen your share of the finer things in life, as you stood still and silent in some minor noble’s manse. Far enough away that nobody had to think about you, but close enough to respond instantly if any of them wanted a cup from the pitcher of wine you held.
The point is that you’re shit. You’re at the bottom of the pecking order, and always have been. But, recently, you resolved to change that. To take control of your life. With all your meager savings, you booked passage on an independent freighter that came through the local port. You hoped to disembark on some nicer world, and hopefully make a real life for yourself there.
Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out.
Two hundred years ago, The Bozac was a top-of-the-line pleasure cruiser, intended to ferry hundreds of passengers around in style and luxury. After many years of enduring more and more demeaning service, the Bozac was finally headed for the scrap heap, when an enterprising young fella bought it on the cheap.
Nine-tenths of the ship isn’t even pressurized. The remaining tenth is falling apart, but if you cram it full of people and cargo, it runs just well enough that you can call yourself an independent transport.
Things were going well enough, until the ship was ambushed by pirates. The crew and passengers of The Bozac never had a chance. If it had been one pirate with a marshmellow gun on a skateboard, they still would have been too fast and too well armed for The Bozac to get away. One shot crippled the ship’s engines, and one hour is all it took to steal all the cargo worth taking. The crew and passengers were herded into slave pens, and a few minutes after that, The Bozac was a deserted hulk drifting in space.
Deserted, except for a handful of player characters who managed to hide well enough to be left behind. Now all they’ve gotta do is find some way to get the ship moving again, before the life support system gives out.
My hope is that the players find some way to repair The Bozac, becoming its de facto crew. From there, the game would unfold as a sort of open-ended hex crawl, with the ship playing dual purpose both as the facilitator of their adventures (by allowing them to move around the Galaxy), and a lodestone around their neck (constantly eating up resources for fuel and repairs). Over time, they could customize the ship, or just buy or steal a better one.
Of course, the game could develop in any number of directions, and I don’t want to presume too much about how the players will solve their first set of problems. If they don’t end up with a ship of their own, they can always adventure on a single planet for awhile, and book passage on freighters whenever they want to move to a new one.
I’d like to put together a rules document before play begins. Nothing terribly fancy, mind you. Basically just the same rules I’ve been using in ORWA, but with some of the modifications that my ORWA group wouldn’t let me get away with.
A variety of alien species exist, but humans are the dominant race. No alien species has settlements on more than a handful of worlds, and the galactic nobility and monarchy are exclusively human. Player characters are assumed to be human unless some alternative is negotiated in advance. Classes are fighter / specialist / magic user, but I’m open to whatever weird class the players found on a blog somewhere, if they want to play it.