Initial thoughts for Star Hex

We’re coming up to the finalé of our Dungeon World campaign this week, my plan afterwards is to have a couple of weeks off and then make a start on the next campaign. I’ve been very much enamoured of all things OSR (except THAC0) recently and used some elements of the good, old-fashioned hex crawl in my Dungeon World campaign, so it seemed only natural that I should continue down this path with my next campaign. I don’t want to jump straight into running another fantasy game so close on the heels of Dungeon World so I decided to turn to science-fiction (or science-fantasy depending on your definition), influenced by the fact I’m reading a lot of White Star at the moment.

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Video log 7th March 2016: I like D&D and I cannot lie

A video log where I talk about the games I’m playing/running at the moment, D&D, Dresden and Star Wars.

Star Trek hack: Boldly going where several people have gone before

Do you ever throw yourself into something and then, it’s only halfway through that you think ‘I wonder if someone else has done anything like this?’
That was the position I found myself in when asked to come up with a hack for a Star Trek (pre-Enterprise era) game by my friend Simon (you can see my two previous posts in this blog for details), I fell prey to my usual downfall of leaping straight in and starting to look at the mechanics rather than stopping to consider my options; this is something of a normal response for me and is something i’m working on. However, at least this time I had the good sense to stop and look around before I got too entrenched.
As I was wading through hacking Diaspora’s skill list and working out whether or not Professions (as per the Fate Toolkit were the best way to go) I flicked through Jacob Poss’ big list of Fate related links (viewable here and did a simple search for the term ‘trek’; I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me that there were a number of results (given Star Trek’s popularity).
One in particular caught my eye, an adaption by Aaron M. Sturgill (available here which seemed to do everything that we needed for a game but had a light enough touch that it could be expanded and adapted to the pre-Enterprise era of the game; it also seemed to use a modified and simplified version of the Diaspora rules (which was the track i’d been taking). I think it will be ideal for the game that we are doing, and many thanks to Mr Sturgill for making his work on the subject available 🙂

I suppose the lesson that I should take from all of this is that, despite trying to rain in my instincts to tinker with mechanics, I still have a way to go and that, certainly for Fate, there is an awful lot of very good material available (free of charge out that) that can be tweaking or used for your own games without having to start off completely from scratch.

Star Trek Hack: Skill list

Okay, the first thing I want to look at in my attempt to create a Star Trek hack is the skill list; in Fate Core the skill list is at the centre of the game, it is your skills that affect your stress boxes (the amount of damage that you can take in combat) and determine how likely (or unlikely) you are to succeed at a task.
This is the default Fate Core skill list:

  • Athletics
  • Burglary
  • Contacts
  • Crafts
  • Deceive
  • Drive
  • Empathy
  • Fight
  • Investigate
  • Lore
  • Notice
  • Physique
  • Provoke
  • Rapport
  • Resources
  • Shoot
  • Stealth
  • Will
When I asked Simon (who i’m writing the hack for) how specific he wanted the skill list to be in the trek hack his response was:

Vehicles will be done I think best by general type Star ship, Shuttle, Aircraft, Ground vehicle & I would use an edge to reflect greater skill in a particular vehicle of a given type.

With this in mind i’ve looked at how I can add a few skills onto the list to make it more appropriate for a science-fiction setting without adding too many additional skills; this has mainly come down to splitting some skills like drive, shoot and lore into specific skills.
Then it occurred to me that it would probably be easier (rather than starting from scratch) to look for an existing science-fiction skill list online and then trim it down/expand it to meet the needs of the trek hack; with this in mind I turned to the Disapora SRD skill list (which I had already used as a basis for my 40K hack some time ago).
  • Athletics – physical agility.
  • Brawling (combat) – bare fist fighting.
  • Deceive – convincing people that a lie is the truth.
  • Intimidation
  • Investigate – examining clues and searching for solutions to problems.
  • Notice – spotting things, general alertness.
  • Profession: <choice> – choose a profession to use for this skill; some appropriate professions are listed below:
    • Command officer
    • Communications officer
    • Engineering officer
    • Pilot
    • Science officer
  • Rapport – relating to others socially.
  • Stamina – how tough the character is (affects physical stress track).
  • Stealth – sneaking, thievery, etc
  • Survival – surviving in the wilderness, roughing it.
  • Vehicle – driving (non-space) vehicles.
  • Weaponry (guns) – knowledge of how to use and maintain weaponry of the appropriate type.
  • Weaponry (melee) – knowledge of how to use and maintain weaponry of the appropriate type.
  • Will – how strong of will the character is (affects the mental stress track).

Fate: Boldly going where no-one has gone before…

For those of you who aren’t aware I play in a small (1 GM + 3 players inc. myself), very interesting Star Trek inspired game run by my friend Simon at our FLGS Spirit Games; the game is set in a pre-Enterprise (the series) era and involves the players being the crew of an earth experimental ship built to test out new technologies. In the first session we were conducting tests on an experimental warp drive that effectively created a stable wormhole through which a ship could pass rather than folding space the way I believe a standard Star Trek warp drive does (although I may be wrong, although I enjoy Star Trek, i’m not the font of knowledge where it is concerned).
In a plot reminiscent of Star Voyager (although as Simon pointed out “Without the rubbish all-powerful alien bit in it”) something went wrong during the testing of the experimental drive and a motley crew of scientists, engineers and communications officers found ourselves hurtling through the galaxy at ridiculously high speeds, facing the prospect of eventually starving to death if we couldn’t find a way to de-activate the drive, which seemed to be emitting an energy field that barred access to it. Eventually we managed to use the point defence lasers on the testbed ship to damage the drive enough so that we could de-activate it without splattering ourselves over whatever quadrant we happened to be in.
As the game stands at the moment (about 3/4 sessions in) we find ourselves in a strange area of space where a human-like species called the Destroyers are waging a genocidal war against all other species in the area; giving that these Destroyers are human-like (and may possibly be descended from the earth population, although they have evolved separately since) we feel a certain responsibility and have decided to stay and try to help resolve the problem with them. Given that the Destroyers are extremely unreasonable and see their attempt to wipe out an alien life as some sort of holy crusade this means that we have effectively pitched our testbed ship into a war, and are now trying to weld together an alliance of the Talansidry, Athlar and other species we have encountered to deal with the Destroyers.
So what does this have to do with Fate?

Well, when we originally started Simon was going to use the BRP system from Chaosium (made famous in Call of Cthulhu and other games); however, without really having a lot of prep time due to the spectre of real-life interfering with roleplay preparation (the way it is wont to do from time to time) it hasn’t been possible for him to get the game ready for using the BRP system.
Given that I spend so much of my time banging on about Fate, Simon has volunteered me to write a quick and simple Fate hack for the game; this is a task that I was happy to undertake, especially since i’ve already done a Fate Core science-fiction hack (Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader), albeit of a very different sub-genre.
Before I even started to look at creating a hack I plan to send Simon a few questions so I can be sure that the hack does what he wants, the questions are below (Simon’s answers are noted in blue):
  • How detailed do you want the list of skills to be? For example, are you happy with just having a pilot skill or would you prefer a pilot skill for different vehicles?

Vehicles will be done I think best by general type Star ship, Shuttle, Aircraft, Ground vehicle & I would use an edge to reflect greater skill in a particular vehicle of a given type.

  • How detailed do you want the handling of equipment to be? Would you prefer each bit of equipment to be noted down and have an effect are are you happy to hand-wave this and focus on just major pieces that have a plot impact?

Largely yes, as it’s the narrative which matters most, however equipment will be listed by name as most of it permits use of skills in a way an unequipped character just cant. For example a perception check with a tricorder or equivalent will allow the character to see stuff his unaided eye would never notice at all. Same goes for the ships sensors scanners and computers used in analysis and research.
Weapons would work in a bit more detail as no one wants their character killed by gm’s fiat however its axiomatic to the setting that weapons are designed to kill and do so rather well especially the higher tech ones. This is one of the reasons for the seeti8ng emphasis on resolving conflict by negotiation.

  • How much detail do you want to put into space battles and the like? Are these just going to be handled narratively or do you want solid rules for them (either is not a problem)?
Space battles I would do most of them narratively with success or failure at skill checks where requested driving the narrative in a particular direction. 
With these answers gathered i’m about ready to start work on the hack.