Saturday, August 29, 2015

DIaspora cluster building

I wanted to spice up my solo RPG life, and to take a break from 5th edition adventure, so I decided to try to play with Fate RPG.

I decided to start with a game called Diaspora, since it has very nice world building mini game. As it is always the case, world building needs 3 players, so I decided to emulate two of them, Mr. Good and Mr. Bed using Rory's story cubes. Therefore, first two systems are mine, systems 3 and 5 are owned by Mr. Good and systems 4 and 6 by Mr. Bed. I picked up characteristics for my systems, while characteristics of other 4 are rolled using fudge dice as described in Diaspora.

In Diaspora, all space travel occurs by the predefined trajectories called slipstreams, and it all happens within a group of star systems connected into clusters.

To start, I made a 6 systems cluster that looks like this:
Lines that connect systems are slipstreams. Basically, from system 5, you can directly and instantly reach systems 3, 4 and 6. To reach system 2 from system 5 at least two jumps are needed. Slipstream configuration is rolled using Fudge dice as described in Diaspora book.
Below are descriptions of systems, after all in-game adaptations were made.

1. The Zone. Technology (T)+4, Habitat (H)+4, Resources (R)+4
Aspects: We are still here, One may return - two or more will not.

Story: In the old time, The Zone was known by some other, now forgotten name. At that time, it hosted a civilization so advanced, that humans who lived there were immortal.
System was so terraformed that on every place - even between planets, there was air, perfect temperature and optimal pressure. Nano technology took care of all things, humans were safe and supported wherever they are.
Nano technology was so advanced that there was nothing people needed to do. So one day civilization collapsed due to the pure boredom of  its inhabitants. From that moment until today natives of the Zone are just laying in their beds doing nothing - some say they are meditating meaning of life, others say they are just sleeping to shorten the boredom of their immortality.
Now, millions of years later, old name for system is forgotten and it is known just as The Zone. Some of its immortal citizens are still there, living and dreaming their impossible dreams. Their ancient technology is scattered all around them.
So, The Zone became a paradise for Stalkers, brave people ready to enter the system and return with the artifacts that will be richly paid in other systems of the cluster. This is dangerous profession, for many stalkers enter the Zone, and only few of them return. Some become victims of the nature that is taking back the system - dangerous life forms roam free through the Zone. At some places nano technology stopped working, creating holes without air, gravity or pressure - places that only experienced stalkers can recognize. Some stalkers become victims of misuse of strange technology. Some are even destroyed by ancient sleeping beings, as punishment for disturbing their eternal rest.
Another thing that makes the profession so dangerous is a fact that every stalker must go into the Zone by himself. Slipstream ship can emerge near one of the system poles, from where special small slipstreams can take smaller shuttles instantly to the desired place in the Zone. If the shuttles are crewed with one lone stalker, they will occasionally return to the mother ship with the loot. But each time two or more stalkers tried to enter the Zone as a team, they dissapeared never to be heard of again.This occurrence become known as "One man rule - go alone or do not go at all".
One of the mini streams can take a stalker trained as a pilot to the mother ships graveyard. If a lone pilot can take a slipstream ship on trust drive from there to the jump area, crew is added and it becomes part of the cluster fleet. The biggest part of slipstream technology in the cluster is acquired this way.
Food of perfect quality is available everywhere, but since every transport is limited to what one man can carry, organized export is not possible.

2. Outpost, T+1, H-2, R0
Aspects: It goes through us, Armed to the teeth

Story: Outpost is a gateway to The Zone since it is the only system that has slipstream connection to it. They use this fact to prevent free trading of the artifacts. Every ship coming from The Zone must go through customs, where Outpost government takes percentage of the estimated value of each artifact. Outpost government also preserves for themselves right of first buy, and they are purchasing all artifacts they do not want to be distributed through the system - mostly food replicators and heavy weapons.
Outpost protects these rights with strongest and best equipped mobile military force in the cluster. People living on the Outpost are either stalkers, traders or solders, or some mix of the 3.
Long time ago Outpost was a H0 system, but overpopulation, extreme use of resources and pollution made living outside of artificial created environments impossible. Food is acquired from food replicators - it is not tasty but no one is hungry. Replicated food is exported to the Destination. Real grown organic food from Nest or New Hope or special food from the Zone or Glory are considered delicacy and luxury.

3. Destination, T-2, H+1, R-3. Rory's story cubes: Camera, Evergreen forest
Aspects: Holiday paradise, I work to buy the ticket out

Story: Destination's only habitable planet may seem like a perfect holiday destination - half of the planet is covered wit clear shallow oceans, while other half is covered with wast evergreen forests.
But things are not so perfect under the surface.
The evergreen trees that grow anywhere are the only native living beings on the planet. No other vegetation can grow on Destination soil. Furthermore, no part of this tree is eatable in any way for any known being - not even for bacteria.
Considering the fact that Outpost forbids food replicators to be used in any other system except their own,  Destination is forced to import already replicated food, so in this system eating is very expensive habit.
Big chunks of land on Destination are owned by rich artifact merchants or high ranked soldiers from Outpost or tribe lords from Nest. There they have they holiday villas.
Sea shores are filled with hotels where less rich but still well suited citizens of these two systems go for they annual vacations.
People born on Destination are always poor.  They work for small wages as servants, bartenders and entertainers and collect what food remains after guests finish their feasts in order to feed their families.
If a family of locals ever manage to collect some savings, they buy a place on a first slipstream ship to Outpost or New Hope.

4. Nest. T+1, H-1, R+1. Rory's story cubes: Knock, Fear face
Aspects: We can survive anything, If no one claims it - it's mine.

Story: The only habitable planet in a system is a hot desert. Tough conditions made rough people - locals belong to the tribal culture that glorifies war. Thanks to the aggressive approach and sometimes even insane bravery,  Nest has second best known army in the cluster. They are not annoyed by the fact that most other systems do not call it an army, but a pirate fleet.
If unprotected ship happens to meet Nest ship in neutral space, or even worse within Nest's territory, it will certainly be attacked and robbed. So if one goes into Nest, one goes heavily armed. Only then the brave merchant can hope to gain a good profit by exchanging artifacts from the zone for the rare delicious food in the cluster: meet and eggs of the desert lizards whom Nest tribes grow as a cattle.

5. New Hope. T-1, H-2, R0. Rory's story cubes: Present, Space suit
Aspects: Building our place under the sun, All are welcome

Story: Up to recent, this was uninhabited system. Only few hundreds of years ago, Outpost and Nest agreed that this may become a place that willing and unwilling refugees and unwanted persons from the cluster can call home. They were given limited terraforming tools and an empty system, and were allowed to build the community for themselves. Experiment is still in the early phase, but it shows results better than expected - colony grows, and they are managing even to produce some eatable plants in quantities enough to satisfy their own needs, and even to export some to Outpost.
Some important persons from Outpost are suggesting that this is a proof of Glory spreading their interest zone by helping New Hope colonists in secret, but so far no one was able to prove this claims.

6. Glory. T+3, H0, R+1.  Rory's story cubes: Safe-box , Ball falling behind man's back
Aspects: No entry! This could be heaven or this could be hell

Glory is a closed system, and in the rest of the cluster very little is known about it. Slipstreams to the system are blocked, and can be used only by ships from Glory itself. These ships are of different design than the ones taken from the Zone, and thus it is supposed that Glory developed it's own slipstream technology.
Still, slipstream ships from Glory are not seen very often. They appear only when Glory thinks that it needs to secure it's interests in the cluster, mostly messing with the plans created on Outpost or Nest - either by demonstrating military might or by delivering organic food and advanced technology to strategic places like poor villages of Destination or colonies of New Hope.
Sometimes, refugees manage to hide themselves between food or equipment crates. They plead for protection from the local government, describing Glory as the nightmarish place, where people are constantly oppressed by iron boot of the regime.
But it also happens that the most talented artist of the cluster are sometimes invited to board on the Glory slipstream ships in order to study and perform in the closed system. When they return, they describe Glory as a paradise, place where science and art create miracles unseen in other systems of the cluster.

I really like the way it turned out. 
Since food is a rare thing in the cluster, it seems to be the most important resource. 
The Zone is a great starting point for the campaign, and once I create a character I plan to start there by playing a stalker straight out of Strugacki brothers books. 
Later, there is a plenty of politics to explore, with 3 super-powers in the cluster, each with its own goals and techniques.

So, I hope to continue this game soon, using mix of Diaspora and Fate Accelerated. I will keep you informed about the progress.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tomb of someone important (5th edition dungeon crawl part 3)

Continued from here.

Oldbook visited several monasteries, looking for a cleric willing to follow him underground.
In one of them, bard managed to catch on the rumor he was looking for (poison + dead three) - the water in the well at the entrance chamber is poisoned, due to the vine blight living there.

After two days of asking around, he was introduced to Grom, young half-orc priest of war. Two man found common language through the half-breed origin, and Grom agreed to follow Oldbook and try to stop the undead menace.

In order to reach the room with a zombie, heroes could pass by the stone jaws trap in 1 or by the giant fire beetles in 4.
They decided to go for the beetles, having in mind that once the giant insects were killed, they will have clear path back.
4 beetles were not a big issue for the bard and cleric. Heroes collected their glands and stored them for future use.
Then, Oldbook opened the wooden door, and Grom stepped in, with crossbow at the ready. There was still one zombie in the room. Pair quickly reduced him to 1hp, but thanks to Undead Fortitude, zombie refused to stay down. After 4 or 5 hits, zombie finally failed constitution check and was gone.
Then, while they were tending each other wounds, Oldbook reminded Grom that he is a cleric, and that he can kill zombies with radiant damage, something half-orc forgot in the heat of the battle.

Heroes picked up one fire beetle gland  and dropped it down into hole. At the bottom, they could see the circular antechamber to the tomb, but more importantly, another zombie climbing up. Pair prepared for a battle, and this time zombie was down quickly, thanks to the cleric's sacred flame cantrip.

After noticing that antechamber is empty, Oldbook and Grom took a short rest before venturing forward.

1. Heroes descend into antechamber. This tomb belongs to someone important - it could be seen by the way the walls were decorated. A corridor was leading east, and there were wooden doors to the south.

2.  Stable for afterlife. The owner's horse was buried here. And it was still there, as warhorse skeleton. The heroes didn't want to feel these hooves on their skin, so they retreated back into antechamber.

3. Big rectangle chamber behind the wooden door seemed empty, until another zombie guardian crawled out of the shadows. But single zombie was not a mach for cleric and bard. After killing the zombie, Oldbook wanted to leave, but Grom followed inscriptions on the wall and detected secret door. It was locked, and the pair had no means to open it. It was maybe better for all, since if the horse was too much for our heroes, meeting its owner would be certain doom for them.
Suddenly bard understood that the advice he received earlier was connected with this secret door. To open it, he will have to take the risk with the monsters in the mountains. But that seemed like a far future at that moment.

Discussing this, our heroes returned to the surface.

To be continued.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Deeper into dungeon

Continued from here.

After returning to the dungeon, Oldbook took right corridor from the room with the well.
1. Training room, containing stone jaws trap. Oldbook detected it and managed to avoid it, but will have to test to pass the trap every time he passes through this room again. Metal doors on the north are jammed. There are metal doors to south east to room 2 and passage to the north east to room 3.
2. Behind the metal doors there was a workshop for embalming the dead. Empty, no visible exits. It was a trap - sliding walls. Oldbook just turned around and closed the door.
3. Crypt. The part that was once containing graves collapsed into the lower levers. Is something coming from the chasm (25% chance)? Yes. Zombie is trying to climb up! Oldbook runs north and closes the wooden door. He will have to find another way to return to surface.
4. Giant fire beetle nest containing 4 creatures. They seem peaceful now, but who knows how they will behave next time someone comes in.
5. Crypt entrance. Cave in prevents metal door between 1 and 4 to be opened. Can it be removed (33% chance)? Extreme yes. Oldbook removes the dirt and opens the door. Now he has a way back, and he can also avoid trap in 1!
6. Crypt for less important burials. Still, steel crate blocks passage to the tombs (maybe even to prevent it's inhabitants from praying on living?). Some coins can be seen on the other side of the crate, out of reach. Oldbook decided not to disturb the dead, and returned to 5.
7. Trick - harm thief. A suit of studded leather armor is displayed on the stone altar.  Oldbook failed his perception save, so he reached for the armor that seemed to be poisoned. He took 5 damage from poison, and had to take short rest to recover.
There is wooden door to the east.
8. Antechamber. There is a trap here - locking pit filled with water. Oldbook successfully detected and avoided it.
9. Guard room, partially flooded. Otherwise empty.
10. This room will be explored later.
11. Schoolroom once, now a home for a Flumph and 2 Myconid sprouts. They seemed to be friendly, so Oldbook asked them to allow him to take a long rest. They agreed. Oldbook even received a cryptic advice from Flumph (Rory's story cubes - dice, monster's claw, mountains): "risk it with monsters in the mountains". So far without meaning, but it may develop into something later.
12. Courts. Flumph filled both of them with Shreakers, to alarm him  of unwanted presence. Lots of wooden doors leading in all directions.
13. Shreaker farm - where Flumph rises his pets. No exits.

Well rested, Oldbook decided to investigate what is behind wooden doors to the south of room 7 (area marked 10)
It was a room with no exits, but a lair for a Kobold and his pet Rat. Combat was difficult, and in the end Oldbook managed to kill his enemies, but was himself hurt and deprived of resources.

Therefore, our hero returned to the city, determined to find a henchmen - a cleric that can help him put an end to the zombie plague in room 3.

To be continued....

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

5th edition dungeon crawl, part 1

As I already mentioned on this blog, I think that 5th edition of D&D is just perfect for solo play. It has anything you need, from perfectly defined system, to good random dungeon creator.

So I tried several times to play a 5th edition dungeon crawl, but with moderate success. I was definitely doing something wrong. Then, it occurred to me that encounters are too difficult. I finally understood that the XP thresholds table on the page 82 of DM guide is meant to be used with party of 3 to 5 characters. If you use less characters, you need to implement encounter multipliers in reverse. This is actually written on page 83, but somehow I missed that info earlier.
Basically, using this system for single 1st level character, easy encounter is up to 13XP, medium from 13 to 25, hard from 25 to 38 and deadly from 38 to 50 XP.

Once I adjusted the difficulties, everything went smoothly.
And so, below you can find first write up from the (ongoing) 5th edition dungeon crawl campaign.

The hero of this story is Oldbook, half-elf bard who spent his young years working as librarian. Once the library in his home town fell into hard times, he picked his adventuring gear and descended into the famous dungeons below the city of Deepcold hoping to find enough treasures to sustain the library.

Numbers on the map correspond with the numbers in the text below
Oldbook descended into the oval room with well in the middle. After successful research test, he was able to hear roaring of some monster deep down in the well. But he failed history test, so he had no idea what monster is down there and why. Still, thanks to his researcher feat, he has a chance to find it out, once he returns to the surface.
Hall appears to be empty, and no other exits were visible. Then, Oldbook noticed the plate that triggers magic missile trap. He decided not to risk further investigation, and returned to room 1.
It was once a reception room. Oldbook was attacked by a single Strige, but he killed it easily. In the corner he found a body of a men, dried from blood. 11 Sp was lying next to it. Adventuring started to pay off, both in money and experience.
This was once a gallery - where a pictures once were, now there are only empty frames. Then, what at first seemed to be just a root of some three, started to move. It was a Twig blight. Oldbook killed it without even drawing a sweat.
Small room with no other exits. It was inhabited by a single bat and a poisonous snake. Half-elf had nothing against animals, so he decided not to disturb them and returned to room 4.
After carefully opening the wooden door, Oldbook have found himself in the chapel. A single cultist was performing some dark rite near the altar. In the battle that happened, half-elf managed to kill the cultist, but was himself hurt. He took short rest to recover to full health. Librarian also tried to recognize the signs to detect to whom is the chapel dedicated, but he could not decipher the symbols (failed religion test).
Pet room, lair of two rats. They surprised our hero and hit him for two points before he could kill them with his rapier. Room had no other exits, so he returned to chapel 6.
Portcullis leading to this guard room was closed and locked. Through the gates, Oldbook could see that the room has some coins scattered on the floor. He could also see that part of the room collapsed, leaving the chasm that probably can be used as a way to deeper levels of the dungeon.
Robbing room with no visible exits. Two shriekers were planted in the middle of it. Behind them, Oldbook could see some ceremonial items. Bard decided to run past the fungi and take the items. As it was expected, Shriekers sounded the alarm. Oldbook was not waiting to see who will answer it. He took items and started running back. Once he entered the chapel, he noticed that portcullis was now open. But he also noticed that something was climbing up the chasm. It was a Ghast. So Oldbook left the chapel closing the wooden door behind him and moved fast towards the exit from the dungeon. Lucky for him, Ghast was not giving a chase. The creature stayed in the chapel, probbably feasting on the body of dead cultist.

Out of the dungeon...
Oldbook stayed in the city and took the long rest, paying 2gp for comfortable life style.  He examined objects he brought from the dungeon - a mask, a chalice and a bone dice. Finally he realized - temple in the underground was dedicated to Orcus, demon god of the undead!
Bard spent next two days looking for a merchant willing to buy the items. Finally he found one who give him 27gp for the 3. Less then he hoped for, but beggars can not be choosy.
Librarian also tried to acquire some information about the monster in the well, but everywhere he ask he was met with the wall of silence.
So, he purchased some dried rations that can last in the dungeon just in case, and returned into the underground...

To be continued.