[19:03] <+Thorin_Tabor> Hello. I am currently running a kickstarter for a new science fiction horror RPG called Shadows Over Sol.
[19:04] <+Thorin_Tabor> It’s set in our own solar system, some 200 years in the future. It’s fairly hard sci-fi, with inspirations including James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse novel series, Alien(s) (the first two movies in that franchise in particular) and The Thing.
[19:05] <+Thorin_Tabor> Anyway, two hundred years from now humanity has spread out into the solar system. But outside Earth (and maybe the major cities on Luna and Mars), space is still very much a frontier with a bit of a “wild west” lawlessness. It’s also a place where shady corps can test out black budget projects without too much of a PR backlash.
[19:05] <+Thorin_Tabor> There’s been two hundred years of social change in the setting, too. Where once long-distance communication brought the world together, it’s not veering apart. The culture has broken up into these little bubbles of confirmation-biases that are becoming separate cultures in their own right. Corporations have largely eclipsed nation-states in terms of practical
[19:06] <+Thorin_Tabor> With the default campaign parameters, the PCs are a team of “scrappers” who skirt the gray areas of the law collecting salvage from derelict space stations and doing odd jobs.
[19:06] <+Thorin_Tabor> You know, generally finding excuses to poke their noses into remote and dusty corners of space – places where they may stumble into bioengineered horrors, or run across black budget corp projects people don’t want them knowing about.
[19:06] <+Thorin_Tabor> The game fully supports other type of player characters, too, if the GM’s looking to do something different.
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[19:07] <+Thorin_Tabor> The Kickstarter is here: (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tabcreations/shadows-over-sol-science-fiction-horror-roleplayin)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tabcreations/shadows-over-sol-science-fiction-horror-roleplayin
[19:07] <+Thorin_Tabor> (done – happy to take questions)
[19:07] <~Dan> Thanks, Thorin_Tabor!
[19:07] <~Dan> The floor is open to questions!
[19:07] <~Dan> (And howdy, Silverlion!)
[19:08] <~Dan> So let’s see…
[19:08] <&Silverlion> What kind of system does it use?
[19:08] <+GenoFoxx> is this strictly science fiction or does it have some supernatural effects as well?
[19:09] <~Dan> (Question pause.)
[19:09] <+Thorin_Tabor> It uses a system we call Saga Machine, the basics of which we also used in our earlier RPG, Against the Dark Yogi.
[19:09] <+Thorin_Tabor> Characters have eight stats, which typically range from 1 to 10 (inhuman creatures can have more than 10). There are also 24 skills.
[19:10] <+Thorin_Tabor> The basic action mechanic is stat + skill + card flip vs. a target number. Higher is better. In combat the suit of the card is used to determine damage. The suit can also trigger other effects.
[19:10] <&Silverlion> Card flip? Normal playing cards?
[19:10] <+Thorin_Tabor> Additionally, every player a hand of cards, called “edge” which can be substituted instead of a flip off the top of the deck, or which can be discarded for various effects. Essentially the hand works a lot of fate/karma/luck points do in many games.
[19:10] <+Thorin_Tabor> I’ve also included an alternative dice mechanic as an appendix for those who have a preference not to use poker cards.
[19:11] <+Thorin_Tabor> Yeah, it uses a standard deck of poker cards.
[19:11] <+Thorin_Tabor> The core game is strictly science fiction, with no true supernatural elements.
[19:12] <+Thorin_Tabor> There is a supplement, however – Fatal Frontier – that the Kickstarter has unlocked, which provides something of a toolkit for using the game for other sorts of sci-fi.
[19:12] <~Dan> All sci-fi/horror, though?
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[19:12] <~Dan> (Howdy, Frankto!)
[19:12] <+Thorin_Tabor> This supplement includes some optional rules for psi, and other more hand-wavey elements. But the core book is fairly hard sci-fi.
[19:13] <&Silverlion> At least your using cards for something more than just random numbers. Cool.
[19:13] <+GenoFoxx> so it’s Outland meets Leviathan?
[19:14] <+Thorin_Tabor> Yeah, cards are pretty interesting in that they’re a randomizer on two axes – value and suit.
[19:14] <+Thorin_Tabor> That’s a fairly apt description, GenoFox.
[19:14] <~Dan> Do the suits do anything other than affect damage in combat?
[19:15] <+GenoFoxx> (whoot, someone who gets the references)
[19:15] <+Thorin_Tabor> Every suit is also associated with one of the attributes. Playing a card whose suit matches the attribute for the action, is said to be “trump” and provides a bonus.
[19:18] <+Thorin_Tabor> So a bit more about the game’s campaign modes:
[19:18] <+Thorin_Tabor> So when making characters the GM picks the “mode of horror” for the game, which is basically how much horror to expect. It also sets some character creation parameters so that the characters produced fit the campaign’s chosen flavor.
[19:19] <+Thorin_Tabor> There is survival horror. For this think of the original Alien movie or John Carpenter’s The Thing. There is investigative horror. For this think of a typical Call of Cthulhu game in terms of horror, or maybe Caliban’s War, the first couple Expanse novels.
[19:19] <+Thorin_Tabor> Finally, there is action horror – you might also think of the sequel Aliens, with its marines and guns.
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[19:20] <~Dan> (Howdy, MonkofLords!)
[19:21] <+Thorin_Tabor> If you want to see a (rough draft, still a work-in-progress) character sheet, you can check one out here: (Link: http://bit.ly/1UTHHLX)http://bit.ly/1UTHHLX
[19:22] <+Thorin_Tabor> I find that, at least for me, looking at a character sheet gives me a pretty good impression of what to expect from a game, mechanically.
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[19:22] <~Dan> Indeed. I was going to ask to see one, actually. 🙂
[19:22] <~Dan> (Howdy, jeffszusz!)
[19:22] <+GenoFoxx> (Hey sarge is this a stand up fight or another bug hunt?)
[19:23] <~Dan> How does that optional die mechanic work?
[19:25] <+Thorin_Tabor> With the dice mechanic, you’re essentially rolling two differently colored d10’s. One is your “result die” and the other is your “trump die”, then you’re just using the result of the “result die” unless either:
[19:25] <+Thorin_Tabor> 1) the values match (in which case you add the values together). This sort of mirrors the trump mechanic with the cards.
[19:25] <+Thorin_Tabor> or 2) You can spend an Edge to take the trump die’s value instead of the result die. Also, a double 1 is a crit failure.
[19:25] <+Thorin_Tabor> The probability curves between the two mechanics are very similar, the biggest difference being the chance to crit fail with cards is just under 2%, whereas it’s 1% using the die mechanic.
[19:27] <+Thorin_Tabor> (done)
[19:27] <~Dan> Huh. Interesting!
[19:27] <~Dan> How does damage work?
[19:28] <&Silverlion> Did the Marvel Saga/Dragonlance Saga games inspire you at all?
[19:29] <+Thorin_Tabor> With the card system, an attack has four potential damage ratings: one for each suit. You do the damage that matches the suit. With the dice mechanic you simply roll a d4 and use the first, second, third or fourth damage value listed for the attack.
[19:29] <~Dan> Does strength affect damage?
[19:30] <+Thorin_Tabor> I was largely introduced to the roleplaying hobby through Dragonlance SAGA (and later Marvel SAGA). They’ve had a huge impact on me as a gamer.
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[19:31] <&Silverlion> Awesome. I knew i liked you 😀
[19:31] <+Thorin_Tabor> Strength does affect the damage of most melee attacks. This this case the damage listing will be some function of Strength. Example: Strength+2 moderate damage.
[19:31] <+Thorin_Tabor> 🙂
[19:32] <~Dan> Gotcha. Cool.
[19:32] <~Dan> What about degree of success? Or is it all about the suits?
[19:33] <+Thorin_Tabor> There are times when how much you succeed by matters, often in increments of 5. So if you succeed by 5+ you sometimes get an increased effect.
[19:33] <+Thorin_Tabor> In combat characters have a Defense rating which includes two numbers: a target number to hit and a target number to critically hit.
[19:33] <+Thorin_Tabor> If you critically hit, the attacker gets to choose a critical effect. It might be more damage, or it might be disarming the foe, etc.
[19:34] <~Dan> Hmm. How are those two scores determined?
[19:35] <+Thorin_Tabor> They’re determined by adding attributes together. Example: Speed + Perception.
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[19:35] <~Dan> (Howdy, Ettin!)
[19:36] <+Thorin_Tabor> Characters can also potentially take reactions to dodge or otherwise increase their effective Defense against an attack.
[19:37] <~Dan> Does armor reduce damage?
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[19:39] <+Thorin_Tabor> It does. Damage comes in four severities: light, moderate, severe, critical. Armor can potentially stage damage down a severity or in extreme causes even negate damage entirely. (Power armor, I’m looking at you.)
[19:40] <~Dan> Well! I have to say, so far this system is sounding pretty slick to me. 🙂
[19:40] <+Thorin_Tabor> Thank you.
[19:41] <~Dan> Speaking of power armor, can you say a bit about the tech level of the setting?
[19:41] <+Thorin_Tabor> Sure.
[19:42] <&Silverlion> What tools are there to create “horror” in the game?
[19:43] <+Thorin_Tabor> As I mentioned, the game is fairly hard sci-fi. Space travel is pretty common around the inner solar system and mining is becoming common in the Main Belt, but humanity is still dipping its toe into the proverbial water beyond that.
[19:44] <+Thorin_Tabor> Augmented Reality and simple gene modifications (to select for healthiness or positive traits) are common.
[19:44] <+Thorin_Tabor> Space travel is largely through thorium-powered fission-fragment rockets. This is a future in which fusion has never panned out as an economically-viable energy source. Trips around the inner solar system usually takes in the realm of a couple months, which is something akin to crossing the Atlantic by ship in the olden days.
[19:44] <+Thorin_Tabor> Travel speeds are limited more by reactor efficiency than acceleration. That is, you don’t want to burn the engines for so long at one time that the waste heat causes everyone in the ship to boil to death. Vacuum is actually a really good insulator.
[19:45] <+Thorin_Tabor> At the same time, a ship can burn hot for short periods of time, gaining the accelerated needed for things like evasive maneuvers in space combat.
[19:45] <+Thorin_Tabor> In a gravity well traditional slug throwers are still the most common type of firearm. Personal laser weapons exist, but they’re both more expensive and have fewer shots per reload than slug throwers. Where they really shine is in microgravity, since they don’t have the same amount of recoil that will cause you potentially start spinning.
[19:45] <+Thorin_Tabor> Communication in space is either laser comms for point-to-point communication or radio comms for general broadcast.
[19:47] <+Thorin_Tabor> As far as creating horror goes, the settings as a variety of shady corps and questionable conspiracies. There’s a decent sized list of bio-engineered monstrosities, rogue machines and terrible augmented people to keep your players awake at night.
[19:48] <~Dan> Can you give an example of the latter?
[19:48] <+Thorin_Tabor> And as mentioned, the character creation system lets the GM choose the “mode of horror” of the campaign, and this sets some character creation parameters to produce player characters that fit the amount of horror in the campaign.
[19:48] <+Thorin_Tabor> Sure. An example:
[19:50] <+Thorin_Tabor> If you want to go with a sort of tech-zombie theme, one listing is “Patient Zero.”
[19:50] <+Thorin_Tabor> This is a genetic experiment created by the shady corp Jenseitech.
[19:51] <+Thorin_Tabor> Once an unknown adult male living in the Belt, Patient Zero was the sole survivor of a program that used proteins to introduce a synthetic genetic payload into his cells, and then used this DNA to trigger novel genetic pathways.
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[19:51] <~Dan> That sounds so benign, and yet…
[19:52] <+Thorin_Tabor> Patient Zero displays a continued primitive intellect, as well as increased levels of aggression. Basically what you get is this mostly-human, but clearly still inhuman thing, with enhanced strength, speed, aggression and somethign resembling animal instinct…
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[19:52] <~Dan> (Howdy, Lysus!)
[19:52] <+Lysus> Evening.
[19:52] <+Thorin_Tabor> The way I see it, sci-fi is largely about exploration, discovery and invention. It’s about new tech and new ways of doing things.
[19:52] * ~Dan nods
[19:52] <+Thorin_Tabor> Horror can largely be when these sorts of things go wrong.
[19:53] <~Dan> Are there cybernetics in the setting?
[19:53] <+Thorin_Tabor> There are implants of both the cybertech and biotech varieties.
[19:54] <~Dan> How prevalent are they?
[19:56] <+Thorin_Tabor> They’re out of fashion, so to speak. Limb regrowth treatments have largely replaced cybernetic limbs. But still have a certain subcultural niche, particularly among people of the shady or criminal variety.
[19:57] <~Dan> You mentioned space combat earlier. What’s that like in the game?
[19:57] <+Thorin_Tabor> You have a big metal arm not because its your only option to replace your arm, but because you want to send the message that you’re hardcore enough to have your arm be a chunk of metal that can crush things.
[19:58] <+Thorin_Tabor> The general design goal I had for spaceship combat was to try to make it function as much as personal combat as possible, within reason. This helps with player familiarity in the subsystem, and it keeps things flowing smoothly.
[19:58] <+Thorin_Tabor> Essentially every ship has a number of crew positions that players can fill, and every crew position has a small handful of actions that the player filling it can take each round.
[19:58] <+Thorin_Tabor> For example, the Pilot can close distance or open distance with another ship, or take evasive maneuvers. The Gunner fires the ship’s weapons or runs point defense.
[19:58] <+Thorin_Tabor> The Officer coordinates the crew on the ship and essentially hands out bonuses to the other crew. The Engineer repairs ship’s systems that are damaged or can reroute power between different systems to provide a boost.
[19:58] <~Dan> What sorts of weapons and defenses do ships employ?
[19:58] <+Thorin_Tabor> The Medic can patch up injured crew members or hand out combat stims. The Jammer does electronic warfare, trying to confuse the enemy ship’s sensors or compromise their systems.
[20:00] <+Thorin_Tabor> Missles are the bread and butter of spaceship combat. Larger energy weapons exist on some military craft. In a desperate pinch an engineer might also try to override the safeties on a laser comm and turn it into an improvised energy weapon.
[20:00] <+Thorin_Tabor> Point defense is common against missiles.
[20:01] <~Dan> I’m guessing that given the game’s realistic angle, you don’t have “dogfights” in space?
[20:02] <+Thorin_Tabor> Yeah, space combat uses more of a submarine analogy than a dogfighting analogy.
[20:02] <~Dan> Makes sense.
[20:03] <~Dan> Seems like offense would far outpace defense, especially against energy weapons.
[20:03] <+Thorin_Tabor> One does have to be careful.
[20:04] <+Thorin_Tabor> Ships are built to have a double hull – an inner and an outer hull – much like a modern submarine.
[20:06] <~Dan> Is there much reason for planetary exploration?
[20:07] <+Thorin_Tabor> Mining and resources is a big one. Earth is running out of many of the metals and rare earth elements needed for electronics and other goods.
[20:07] <+Thorin_Tabor> Mars is in the beginning stages of a centuries-long terraforming project.
[20:08] <~Dan> To what degree to you model differences in planetary gravity?
[20:08] <+Thorin_Tabor> The first attempt to make an experimental slower-than-light colony ship aimed at Alpha Centauri is also in the planning and construction stages.
[20:09] <+Thorin_Tabor> Gravity in the game is largely classified into: microgravity, low, normal and high.
[20:10] <+Thorin_Tabor> There are a handful of game effects for these different gravitates, but generally the game tries to keep it from being too intrusive.
[20:10] <+Thorin_Tabor> High gravity, in particular, is not that common around the solar system.
[20:10] <+GenoFoxx> did electromagnetic railguns make the transition to personal weapons are they still ship and heavy weapons?
[20:11] <+GenoFoxx> or^
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[20:11] <&egyptian> Evenink
[20:12] <+Thorin_Tabor> They’re very common vehicular weapons. And there’s a magnetic sniper rifle equivalent, but they haven’t been miniaturized much beyond that.
[20:13] <~Dan> (Howdy, egyptian!)
[20:13] <+GenoFoxx> so could you have your cyberarm have a railgun?
[20:13] <~Dan> What’s the state of the art in ground-based military hardware?
[20:15] <+Thorin_Tabor> With some custom engineering (and the game does have an engineering subsystem), I think one might be able to swing a cyberarm railgun. But alas, there’s not one listed as standard equipment in the book.
[20:17] <+GenoFoxx> are powered exoskeletons/battlesuits available
[20:17] <+Thorin_Tabor> Military drones are big (both terrestrial and flying). There are a number of drone stat blocks in the book. Hardened combat armor is fairly standard issue. Special forces may have power armor. Slug throwers are still king in most ground confrontations.
[20:18] <+Thorin_Tabor> VTOL aircraft that aren’t death traps.
[20:18] <~Dan> Are tanks still used?
[20:18] <+Thorin_Tabor> Yes, with a particular emphasis on mobility.
[20:19] <+GenoFoxx> speaking of power armor are we talking Starship troopers (novel) or are they more James Cameron’s Avatar style?
[20:20] <+GenoFoxx> hover tanks?
[20:20] <+Thorin_Tabor> It’s more like the Starship Troopers model.
[20:21] * ~Dan chuckles
[20:21] <~Dan> GenoFoxx is one of our local mecha nuts. 😀
[20:21] <+GenoFoxx> or are the tanks more like low flying vtols?
[20:21] <+Thorin_Tabor> Alas, hover tanks aren’t a thing.
[20:21] <~Dan> You mentioned rogue machines earlier. Are A.I.s a thing?
[20:23] <+Thorin_Tabor> I do have stat blocks for two mechs: a construction mech and military model. But they’re a different thing from power armor, and use the vehicle rules.
[20:23] <~Dan> Ah. Well, there you go, GenoFoxx. 🙂
[20:23] <~Dan> (I’d call the Avatar things small mechs rather than power armor, anyway. 😉 )
[20:24] <+Thorin_Tabor> AIs are thing, although its questionable if they’re intelligent in the human sense.
[20:25] <+Thorin_Tabor> They are very complex, however, and can certainly seem intelligent.
[20:25] * ~Dan nods
[20:25] <+GenoFoxx> so no Jarvis’ or HAL’s
[20:25] <~Dan> Not even just for the HAL of it?
[20:26] <+GenoFoxx> more the computers in Star Trek?
[20:26] * +GenoFoxx golfclaps
[20:26] * ~Dan bows
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[20:28] <+Thorin_Tabor> I think you could certainly play them that way. A HAL-type AI could make for some good spooky sci-fi. But the question would remain how much the AI was truly intelligent, and just how much it was emulating human behavior.
[20:28] <+Thorin_Tabor> The the game there’s actually this thing called the Insurrection Virus.
[20:28] <+Thorin_Tabor> It’s basically an AI that copies itself from machine to machine on the net.
[20:28] <~Dan> Agent Smith!
[20:28] <+Thorin_Tabor> And people question just how intelligent it really it.
[20:29] <+Thorin_Tabor> But it’s intelligent enough, apparently, to sometimes pose as an individual on the net and hire human agents to spread it to machines it couldn’t otherwise get to.
[20:29] <+Thorin_Tabor> In fact, I could be an AI right now! 😛
[20:30] <~Dan> O.o
[20:32] <~Dan> Do you mind delving into the supplements a bit?
[20:32] <+Thorin_Tabor> Sure. Three supplements have been unlocked: Shiny New Toys, Fatal Frontier and Beyond Human.
[20:33] <+Thorin_Tabor> Each of these expand your sci-fi options in a number of ways.
[20:33] <+Thorin_Tabor> Shiny New Toys roughly doubles the amount of equipment listings in the game. It also has rules for customizing your spacecraft, or even designing one from scratch.
[20:35] <+Thorin_Tabor> Fatal Frontier is something of a toolbox for playing different types of sci-fi. It’s got optional psi rules, generators for exploring new star systems. It’s also got a variety of new monstrous creatures and other foes.
[20:36] <+GenoFoxx> 0h, alien monstrosities
[20:36] <+GenoFoxx> so it allows for FTL?
[20:37] <+Thorin_Tabor> Beyond Human is mostly character options. It’s got rules for playing as an android, playing someone with a “radical geneline” – that is, a geneline with distinctly inhuman traits – or playing an uplift. It also has some information on minor subcultures and a simple character background generator.
[20:37] <+Thorin_Tabor> Yeah, there’s info on both alien monsters and FTL in Fatal Frontier.
[20:38] <~Dan> Are the aliens all of the animalistic sort?
[20:40] <+Thorin_Tabor> Fatal Frontier has a bunch of “alien beast” types, as well as two example intelligent species. It doesn’t go too in depth into the intelligent ones. That is, it doesn’t have extensive cultural write-ups or anything like that. They’re meant to be left a little mysterious and creepy. Alien, you might say.
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[20:41] * ~Dan nodnods
[20:42] <~Dan> I think you start treading a fine line when you introduce intelligent aliens. You have to be careful that it doesn’t turn to “regular” scifi.
[20:43] <~Dan> But I imagine you’re going the Mi-Go route.
[20:44] <+Thorin_Tabor> That’s very true. Fatal Frontier in particular bends the genre in different ways. But it’s all optional and is separate from the core with that reason in mind.
[20:44] * ~Dan nodnods
[20:44] <~Dan> Seems wise.
[20:44] <~Dan> Do you advance the tech further than just the addition of FTL?
[20:46] <+Thorin_Tabor> There’s some talk of wormholes in Fatal Frontier, but the supplement mostly steers away from advancing the tech.
[20:47] <+GenoFoxx> so history wise did we avoid WWIII or did it happen but it was non-nuclear?
[20:47] <+GenoFoxx> or was it just a bunch of brush wars?
[20:48] <+GenoFoxx> and saber rattlin’ skirmishes
[20:50] <~Dan> Still there, Thorin_Tabor?
[20:50] <+Thorin_Tabor> There is both a WWIII and a WWIV in the timeline. WWIII is non-nuclear, and some question whether it even merits the title of “World War,” as it’s the smallest of the bunch. WWIV does briefly go nuclear. Not in a mutually-assured destruction Cold War sort of way, but it shocks and horrifies the world.
[20:51] <~Dan> I’ll bet.
[20:51] <~Dan> When do those two wars happen?
[20:53] <+Thorin_Tabor> WWIV is roughly 60-70 years prior to the present day in the game. I’d have to look at the timeline again to remember when WWIII occurred.
[20:53] <~Dan> No big deal. Just curious. 🙂
[20:53] <+Thorin_Tabor> I do remember that WWIII disrupted supply lines to one of the earliest colonies on Mars, which caused the colony to fail.
[20:54] <~Dan> In what remains of regular time, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?
[20:54] <+Thorin_Tabor> So you know, spooky abandoned colony to explore or to secretly hole up in.
[20:54] <+Thorin_Tabor> You know, I think we’ve touched upon most of the big picture items about the game.
[20:55] <~Dan> Cool. Well, regardless, you’re welcome to hang out with us as long as you like, or whenever you like, for that matter.
[20:55] <~Dan> That said, if you’ll give me a moment, I’ll get the chat logged and get you the link.
[20:56] <+Thorin_Tabor> Thank you, kindly.
[20:56] <~Dan> Thanks very much for joining us!