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 Post subject: New here!
PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 10:49 pm 
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Hey, happy I found you all, space games are so neat but finding resources is so horrible. How do you do plot hooks without it sounding like a fantasy plot hook strapped to a rocket? (i.e. find this item, negotiate people between these people, capture this animal, fight in this war, smuggle these containers, protect this person, use propaganda in this area, ad nauseum, all of which are firmly fantasy plots.) With billions of worlds out there, how do you do basic world building, or at least the starport, without them all sounding the same with only a few judicial tweaks here and there? When something draws them to a "primitive" planet, how do you plan it without every primitive planet sounding stone age but at the same time have a level of advancement that mirrors nothing at all in Earth's past (for example, 18th century technology without any aspects at all from the 18th century)? And finally (more of a general RPG question) when the group can't define an identity for themselves, how do you lead them to one when throwing idea after idea after idea fails to capture them? (I asked the players, and got responses ranging from "be honest traders" to "be space pirates". That's how undefined they are.) And finally any advice on anything not asked?


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 Post subject: Re: New here!
PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2015 11:41 am 
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Hi and welcome.

I'm not sure all of those ARE firmly fantasy plots. For instance, I've seen plenty action, war and spy movies/TV shows where the plot was 'protect this person' or 'fight in this war'.

To answer some of the other questions, I think I need to know what style of game you want to run. For instance, fantasy has magic and the obvious way to make a game be unlike fantasy is to take the magic out. Have tech instead, but make sure it really works like tech, not like magic. That will be fine if you want to do a gritty and realistic game, but won't if you want something with a more pulpy feel. So if you want Jedi mind powers and Dr Who's sonic screwdriver in your game, then yeah it is going to feel like fantasy a lot of the time - because those are magic with the serial numbers filed off.

An obvious way to make them realise it is a science fiction world (or to be frank, the real world) is to have the existence of technology have major consequences on what the PCs get up to. They save the president's life? People will recognise them in the street because every news broadcaster in the universe has shown that interview they did and that medal awarding ceremony. They murder a guy who spilled their pint in a bar? The police will use DNA, fingerprints and CCTV to identify them. They do something monumentally stupid in a public place? It'll be on YouTube.

Not quite sure what you mean by "for example, 18th century technology without any aspects at all from the 18th century". Do you mean social and cultural stuff, like women in crinolines or there being a British Empire?


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 Post subject: Re: New here!
PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2015 2:54 am 
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First of all, welcome!

And to take on your first question, I'd have to agree with Strontygirl; your examples could be SF, fantasy, or various other genres. Here's a genre-neutral list of plots which I've used for ideas:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thirty ... Situations

And the original text is available online here:

https://archive.org/stream/thirtysixdra ... 0/mode/2up

As for world building, it would help to know what you're working on.

_________________
After the Terracide... 300 years from today, artificial space colonies orbit distant stars while terraformers labor to create new worlds for humanity. Bizarre aliens come to trade exotic goods unknown to Terran technology. And the lifeless, charred husk of mankind's homeworld slowly cools in the empty, silent void of a dead star system.
Welcome to the rest of the Galaxy; It's Dark Out There.


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 Post subject: Re: New here!
PostPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2015 12:03 am 
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If you players cannot decide on what type of group they are... give them a situation where they can go in several directions and run with whatever they do...

They receive a distress signal, when they respond it is automated and the ship seems life-less.

When they board the ship, they find someone in a Low Berth and the rest of the people dead. The person in Low Berth is wearing a ship uniform.

If they want to be honest, they will revive the crew member and recover the ship, getting whatever honest salvage they are due.

If they are dishonest, they kill or enslave the crew and take the ship. Now they are pirates and off you go.

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 Post subject: Re: New here!
PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2015 3:23 am 
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arouetta wrote:
How do you do plot hooks without it sounding like a fantasy plot hook strapped to a rocket? (i.e. find this item, negotiate people between these people, capture this animal, fight in this war, smuggle these containers, protect this person, use propaganda in this area, ad nauseum, all of which are firmly fantasy plots.)


I agree with the others who have commented that they don't think these generic plot hooks are distinctively related to fantasy. On the other hand, I am going to agree with you that they are not distinctively related to SF either.

In my SF GMing I do a lot of "investigate this crime" hooks to adventures that involve ultratech means to commit the crimes, ultratech means to investigate the crimes, and othersocial motives for the crimes. I also do a lot of "explore this planet and prepare an ethnographical briefing on its weird society" and a bit of "find out what this guy on this planet is doing, and if it is pernicious stop him without revealing our involvement".

Quote:
With billions of worlds out there, how do you do basic world building, or at least the starport, without them all sounding the same with only a few judicial tweaks here and there?


Umm. Well. By application of such creativity and analytical capability as I possess to my knowledge of history, anthropology, political science, economics, human geography, planetology, and SF and fantasy precedent. And I sometime use random generators to seed wild thoughts.

I have computerised aids to help with the planetological detail.

Quote:
When something draws them to a "primitive" planet, how do you plan it without every primitive planet sounding stone age but at the same time have a level of advancement that mirrors nothing at all in Earth's past (for example, 18th century technology without any aspects at all from the 18th century)?


Well, I tend to use developing countries rather than historical epochs as models for backward planets. And it's more about the social detail than the tech detail for me.

Quote:
And finally (more of a general RPG question) when the group can't define an identity for themselves, how do you lead them to one when throwing idea after idea after idea fails to capture them? (I asked the players, and got responses ranging from "be honest traders" to "be space pirates". That's how undefined they are.)


I use a method that I picked up on the Steve Jackson Games forums from a fellow who posts there under the username "whswhs". I take a little time to make a list of all the different campaigns that I feel happy to run, and then I write a brief prospectus for each one. Then I send copies to all my players, and get them to rate them according to how much they would like to play in them. Then I go through the responses to find a campaign that is agreeable to everyone, or sometimes an assignment of the players among more than one campaign that suits everyone. Then I get the players in each campaign together for a discussion of party design and characters, and when that is agreed upon I let them loose to design the characters they have agreed to play.

For an example, is the last prospectus I issued:

on another site, I wrote:
Okily dokey then! You know the drill: distribute ten whole points among the following five campaign suggestions, with zero indicating a game that you would rather not play at all than play in, and 10 indicating "OMG how fabulous! The only FLAT BLACK I want to play, like, ever!"

Without further ado, the campaigns:

  • We Came, We Saw…

    Genre: rationalised planetary romance (exploration), dark humour in the vein of M*A*S*H.

    The PCs are: Explorers on one of the Survey missions in the 530s PDT, which is to say bright and ambitious social scientists from the Core (and mostly from colonies, not Imperial Direct Jurisdiction), who have leaped at the first chance in centuries to do real anthropological fieldwork, and who originally thought they wouldn't mind spending five years in a tiny spaceship with the same forty other people.

    The adventures will involve: the PCs landing on planet after planet and trying to figure out the crazy locals, and sometimes doing a little bit of good on a personal scale, in an entirely unofficial way. Meanwhile being driven buggy by the crowding and humourless fanatics in the Navy. Caution: this is going to involve a lot of staring at hopelessly intractable social problems and not being able to make any difference to the important stuff.

    Bonus material: GURPS Ultra-Tech, GURPS Social Engineering.

  • The Voyage of INS Icebird

    Genre: rationalised planetary romance edging into space opera, "Star Trek done right" in a much grittier universe.

    The PCs are: Imperial officers with diverse duties and backgrounds on one of the Survey missions in the 530s PDT. Each player will play one explorer, one diplomat, one Imperial marine, one Imperial Navy officer, and one of either the captain or the heads of department who advise her on strategic decisions.

    The adventures will involve: the characters arrive in orbit around planet after planet, whereupon the explorers and the diplomats try to discover what the Hell these crazy colonials are up to. Occasionally they may get into trouble trying, or they may discover a problem that is worthy of official notice, in which case the PC captain and her advisors will consider what to do, and the PC Navy, diplomatic service, or marines will attempt to do it. Note: This will involve a bit more scope to solve some middle-sized problems than in "We Came" but you're still in FLAT BLACK, where more serious problems are practically unsolvable.

    Bonus material: GURPS Ultra-Tech, GURPS Spaceships 1, 3, 5

  • Same Scumbags, Different Planet

    Genre: Planetary-romance thrillers and hard-boileds, disguised as SF police procedurals.

    The PCs are: A team of criminal investigators working for the Independent Commission for Justice c. 603 PDT.

    The adventures will involve: Posted to a particular planet, the PCs will be given cases to investigate; investigating, they will have to go down some very mean streets, and they can't always rely on local assistance, or even Imperial back-up.

    Bonus material: GURPS Ultra-Tech, GURPS Mysteries

  • Secret Servants

    Genre: rationalised planetary romance, spy/caper adventures in the vein of Mission Impossible but in a grittier universe and with more stale beer.

    The PCs are: Secret effectives of a nameless Imperial covert agency, c. 603 PDT.

    The adventures will involve: The PCs will be sent to planet after planet, on each with a brief to accomplish some very specific thing that the Empire needs done and is utterly forbidden to do. If they are captured, well, they don't even know who will deny knowledge of their activities.

    Bonus material: GURPS Ultra-Tech, GURPS Social Engineering, [GURPS Action 1 & 2] <edited to derogate Action>

  • I Think We're Not the Imperial Secret Service

    Genre: rationalised planetary romance, caper adventures, "cigarettes and stale beer" espionage.

    The PCs are: "Effectives" of some interstellar NGO (to be determined), such as GreenWar, the Sons of Patrick Henry, Democracy Unlimited, maybe even the Humanity League, c. 603 PDT.

    The adventures will involve: The PCs will arrive at planet after planet with an indication of something that their handlers think needs fixing, and a wholly inadequate set of resources for fixing it.

    Bonus material: GURPS Ultra-Tech, GURPS Social Engineering, [GURPS Action 1 & 2] <edited to derogate Action>



Quote:
And finally any advice on anything not asked?


I think that it is a big mistake to let players generate characters until you have discussed and agreed what the party is going to be and what it is going to be doing. And I think that to launch a campaign without a clear, explicit agreement among the players as to what the party is going to consist of an what it is going to be doing is a recipe for discord among the players and failure of the campaign. You need what they at Fear the Boot call a "group template", and you need it before characters are generated. If you wait until the characters are generated and then try to determine what they are like and what sorts of things they will do be presenting a situation and seeing what happens, there is every chance that some of the characters will be honest merchants and others pirates, and you'll end up with them never all doing the same thing at all, and somebody annoyed and disappointed that his plans were spoiled.

_________________
— Brett Evill

My SFRPG setting, Flat Black

© My posts to this board are copyright under the Berne Convention. They may be quoted on the board with appropriate attribution. They may not be reproduced beyond the board except with explicit permission from me.


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 Post subject: Re: New here!
PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2015 10:25 pm 
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Thanks for the warm welcome, folks.

World building is difficult to me, because I don't profess to be an expert at all the little things that create a culture, and 7 days, in between caring for several cats and working full time and running a fantasy campaign and playing in others, doesn't leave me enough time to build several complete worlds. The group travels a lot each session. Shortcuts/bullet points would be greatly appreciated, so at least the starport can look different, as well as map links (a running joke is my recycling of maps).

I want to spend a few times stranding them as that could pull them out of their comfort zone, but again I get stuck with how do you get medieval technology while throwing out knights in shining armor and fair maidens? It seems like I should be able to get the technology level while totally divorcing it from the social and political pressures that were the driving forces behind creating such technology and substitute something totally alien, but I'm hitting a major mental roadblock.

I ended up with such a diverse group because I've added players as time went on and I don't like telling them exactly what they are going to play. Instead I tell them what they're getting into, and expect them to figure out a way of making their character concept work. Right now, my group has people added on in 5 waves, only one person remaining from each wave, and the initial ties for the earlier characters don't bind the later characters. In other campaigns with different people, my method has worked, the newer people jump on the plot, but this time it didn't. Plus, it's not really fair to the older players to reboot the campaign and ask for new characters every time I have a new player join. Counting the wave that has no one left from it, that would be 5 restarts, and no one would have gotten past level 3 before being knocked back down to level 1.

Maybe if I tell you a little about the characters, someone can suggest something. There is the vampire doctor, literally all she wants to do is lock herself in her lab and research how to make fake blood, she suggested being honest traders (the original group identity). The super computer hacker, sociopath, wants to become a vigilante, aka dark comic book heroes. The former space pirate, I think the player was joking when he said they should all become pirates, but I'm not sure, and he wants to rule a hell or other afterlife. The mage (the system I use allows for superpowers, magic and psionics), he came after I asked what the group wants, he wants to build stuff and get off the alternate Earth they're currently stranded on, and a lifetime supply of muffin tops (good roleplaying when the group got stranded). And finally the ordinary human from the alternate Earth, he's so new I don't have a handle on what he wants, heck he doesn't even know what he wants, he's happy following everyone else. Right now everyone is stranded, and they want off the planet. The older characters want to kill an NPC, the two new ones have only been shot at (and had a building toppled on them) by said NPC. I've got material lined up for while they're stranded, but then what? Back to the same problem of collective group identity.


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 Post subject: Re: New here!
PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2015 12:33 am 
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Location: the Retirement Coast, NSW, Australia
Vampire? Alternate Earth? Hell or other afterlife? Superpowers?

I think we could do with some context. What are you running?

arouetta wrote:
I ended up with such a diverse group because I've added players as time went on and I don't like telling them exactly what they are going to play. Instead I tell them what they're getting into, and expect them to figure out a way of making their character concept work.

<snip>

literally all she wants to do is lock herself in her lab and research how to make fake blood


It doesn't seem to be working very well. Perhaps you have not made it clear enough to the players that it is their responsibility to generate and play characters who are adequately motivated to participate in adventures. Or perhaps you have made it too difficult by being unclear about what adventures are going to consist of and what hooks will be offered.

Quote:
I don't like telling them exactly what they are going to play.

<snip>

Plus, it's not really fair to the older players to reboot the campaign and ask for new characters every time I have a new player join.


Indeed not. On the other hand, neither is it really fair to them to introduce characters who are incompatible with their characters, or that demand hooks that won't catch their characters or adventures that their characters can't or won't take part in. And it isn't fair on anybody to produce a party that the GM can't GM for, because then the campaign collapses, and that's no good for anyone.

I hesitate to advise you, because it seems possible that our approaches to RPGs and to SF might be widely discrepant. But if I were in your position I would terminate the current campaign as unsalvageable. Then I would issue a prospectus for an array of focussed campaigns that I was willing to run, each supplied with enough information that the players could understand what sort of characters would suit each one and what sorts of adventures the characters were going to be on. Then I would invited discussion, and for the players to take part in choosing a campaign that was agreeable to everyone. That done I would discuss a group template with the players and write it down. Then I would invite a discussion of what characters should be in the party and who was going to play each one. And then I would let the players loose to design their characters.

And if someone came along later and wanted to join the campaign I would show them the group template to enable them to design a suitable character with suitable grommets for my story hooks.

That isn't telling people what they have to play. And it has the advantage of providing a situation that PCs can fit into.

_________________
— Brett Evill

My SFRPG setting, Flat Black

© My posts to this board are copyright under the Berne Convention. They may be quoted on the board with appropriate attribution. They may not be reproduced beyond the board except with explicit permission from me.


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 Post subject: Re: New here!
PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2015 7:38 pm 
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Quote:
but again I get stuck with how do you get medieval technology while throwing out knights in shining armor and fair maidens? It seems like I should be able to get the technology level while totally divorcing it from the social and political pressures that were the driving forces behind creating such technology and substitute something totally alien, but I'm hitting a major mental roadblock.


I think you need to focus on what aspects of the medieval technology it is that you want to use and WHY you want to use them. After all, the medieval period was a hell of a lot more technology-wise than just knights in armour. It was pottery, waterwheels, agricultural practices, cathedral building, falconry, tapestry weaving, shipbuilding and the like. If what you want is guys in platemail with swords, then just say that your culture has the metallurgy expertise to make platemail and swords. That means that they will also have the knowledge to make a whole lot of other things out of metal. Meanwhile, if you want them to be rubbish at pottery and building catherdrals or be much better than medieval artisans at growing crops and weaving, then that's fine.

After all, Earth itself produced a whole raft of cultures featuring people who fought with swords, but feudal Japan, medieval England and [insert name of dynasty here] China weren't much alike apart from that.

As to getting rid of the fair maidens... Chivalry was a social construct for the upper classes, set against a Christian background. Upper class knights rescued upper class fair maidens. Peasants didn't get a look in. To avoid chivalry, take away some of the things it relies on:
1) No class system. Everyone is equal. So a guy might have armour, but he is not a knight, just a warrior. It becomes a job description, not a social class.
2) No sexual dimorphism in your aliens. Males and females have the same size and strength, so there is no 'weaker sex' needing rescued. (Maybe they are all hermaphrodites, so there is only one sex).
3) A different set of values predominates. Courtly love and writing poetry is right out. Vows of celibacy are right out. Everyone is expected to have at least 5 lovers, and children are raised communally, never knowing who their real father is.

And so on.


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 Post subject: Re: New here!
PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:55 pm 
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Take your standard western.


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 Post subject: Re: New here!
PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 10:53 pm 
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I'm using Palladium Books' Heroes Unlimited/Aliens Unlimited setting.


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