[19:31] <+MarkSab> Hi, I’m Mark Sabalauskas, and I wrote Return to the Stars, which is an optimistic Science Fiction RPG
[19:32] <+MarkSab> It is “powered by Fate”, so in the lightweight indie narrative tradtion
[19:33] <+MarkSab> I want to give people ways to stories of exploration and adventure in an optimistic space opera setting.
[19:33] <&Le_Squide> Got a link to website or kickstarter?
[19:33] <~Dan> (Please hold questions until the end of the introduction. Thanks! 🙂 )
[19:34] <+MarkSab> So, think Star Trek, with the twist that you come from a post scarcity culture of gamers and geeks.
[19:34] <+MarkSab> So imagine if Kirk were a genetically enhanced cosplayer, or Scotty hung out at maker faires.
[19:35] <+MarkSab> Thanks for the reminder about the kickstarter link, this is my first game, I probably would have forgotten it!
[19:35] <+MarkSab> (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2086583832/return-to-the-stars-optimistic-scifi-rpg)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2086583832/return-to-the-stars-optimistic-scifi-rpg
[19:36] <+MarkSab> If you already love games powered by Fate, we’ve added some fun new subsystems that you can enjoy: character arcs, competitions, downtime tinkering, props, and a large selection of space opera skills and stunts.
[19:36] <+MarkSab> This really a hopepunk game
[19:37] <+MarkSab> Star Trek is a huge influence for the game, and probably me personally, growing up on stories that valued science and spoke of diverse people being stronger because they work together.
[19:37] <+MarkSab> done
[19:37] <&Silverlion> Ok. So, are there pre-built alien races?
[19:38] <~Dan> Thanks, MarkSab! The floor is open to questions!
[19:38] <&Silverlion> Have you cut back on the number of Fate aspects needed? (Something even one of the creators has mentioned)
[19:39] <+MarkSab> There actually isn’t any intelligent alien life in the setting–I wanted to keep the stories about human beings.
[19:39] <~Dan> (Howdy, TheChairman!)
[19:39] <+TheChairman> <o
[19:40] <&Silverlion> That makes e sad..ah well.
[19:40] <~Dan> (Topic: (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2086583832/return-to-the-stars-optimistic-scifi-rpg)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2086583832/return-to-the-stars-optimistic-scifi-rpg )
[19:40] <+MarkSab> Similarly you digital intelligence can’t travel through hyperspace, to keep super AI from overwhelming human stories
[19:41] <+MarkSab> Of course, sufficently genetically modified humans can be pretty alien…
[19:41] <~Dan> Can you explain the premise of the setting?
[19:42] <+MarkSab> Here is the premise: In the far future hyperspace travel gave easy access to countless worlds, and humanity sorted itself into like-minded communities. One such society was the Convention Authority, founded to celebrate the now classical arts of science fiction, fantasy, and gaming.
[19:42] <~Dan> (wb, El_Squido!)
[19:43] <+MarkSab> One day, without warning, the stellar beacon that illuminated hyperspace went silent rendering galactic travel impossible. The systems of the Convention Authority stayed connected thanks to a replica fleet of early starships. Now, after more than a century of effort, a long-range exploration craft has been built. Its purpose: to return to the stars and reconn
[19:43] <+MarkSab> reconnect the lost worlds of humanity.
[19:44] <+MarkSab> (re: aspects–I stayed with the same number as Fate Core or Accelerated, which is reduced from the number in Spirit of the Century)
[19:44] <&Silverlion> Who built the beacon?
[19:44] <&Silverlion> And why couldn’t it be rebuilt?
[19:46] <+MarkSab> The beacon was built out of the planet Mars, on such a mammoth scale that the isolated worlds, disrupted by the disaster, haven’t been able to recreate it.
[19:46] <+MarkSab> Also, spoiler warning,
[19:47] <+MarkSab> a limited form of the beacon is appears in the intro scenario
[19:48] <+MarkSab> From a game design perspective, I wanted adventures to be episodic and eventful
[19:50] <+MarkSab> so having the beacon’s loss separate societies so they can diverge, and then come back in a limited way so people can explore while reconnecting helps the GM and players tell lots of interesting “first contact” stories
[19:50] <~Dan> Is the tech level analogous to Star Trek?
[19:51] <+MarkSab> In addition to adding a mysteries–why did it go away, where is this new beacon coming from.
[19:51] <+MarkSab> Tech is roughly Trek/Farscape level. No transporters.
[19:52] <~Dan> Personal energy weapons?
[19:52] <+MarkSab> One skill is cosplay, which involves granular genetic control of your body.
[19:53] <+MarkSab> In addition to posture and costuming. (Keeping with the “your society is Worldcon, if Worldcon were a world” theme
[19:55] <+MarkSab> Yes, energy weapons. Building off of Fate, you can bring in the tech names you want plasma, laser, disruptor, and the system handles it in a storytelling way.
[19:57] <~Dan> So characters can use cosplay to… shapechange?
[19:57] <+MarkSab> with stunts available to make things differ, but without simululative crunch (which I like in other games, but the focus here is on who you are, not what you are carrying)
[19:58] <+MarkSab> Yes–why paint your skin green if you can make it green–and maybe photosynthesize when you are out of food.
[19:59] * ~Dan nods
[19:59] <+MarkSab> The modifications are with mostly useful for disguise, or changing your gender, or treating wounds. You can’t grow ten times your size.
[20:00] <~Dan> Can you grow additional limbs or the like?
[20:01] <+MarkSab> Because it’s a hopeful game I also wanted to highlight other non-combat skills like science and networking so you can learn things tell people about it, and have skills like cosplay and make which are “performative”
[20:03] <+MarkSab> You can regrow a limb, but that will take a while (For fate players, a severe/extreme consequence that clears the normal way after being treated by Cosplay.
[20:03] <+MarkSab> Anti aging, too.
[20:03] <~Dan> But can you grow extra arms, tentacles, wings, etc.?
[20:04] <+MarkSab> I have Ray Kurweil appear in the intro scenario 🙂
[20:04] <~Dan> Who is that? 🙂
[20:05] <+MarkSab> You could grow wings, but this is science fiction not fantasy, so it’s probably ornamental, unless you are on a very low gee world
[20:06] * ~Dan nods
[20:07] <+MarkSab> An early playtester played someone who’s family decided to they wanted to reengineer themselves to be halflings living in a New Zeeland style “shire’
[20:07] <+MarkSab> So she is 3 feet tall, very cute, with big eyes, dagger ears, and fuzzy hair
[20:08] <+MarkSab> She hates farm life, so she ran away to be a space pilot,
[20:08] <+MarkSab> But no one takes her seriously, because she is so small and cute (that’s her Trouble)
[20:09] <~Dan> Heh. 🙂
[20:09] <+MarkSab> So cosplay functions as a way to bring in elements that you like from the rest of Pop Culture)
[20:10] <~Dan> What is starship combat like in this setting?
[20:10] <+MarkSab> As does the “Federation, if the Federation was Pax or Dragoncon” theme
[20:11] <+MarkSab> Space combat, as you know, is really tricky in RPGs.
[20:11] * ~Dan nods
[20:12] <+MarkSab> My advice to gamemasters is mostly to treat starships as you might treat a set in a movie or TV show.
[20:13] <+MarkSab> Treat it as a set of aspects that can accompany the party–“well equipped terraforming ship” “ancient vessel”
[20:14] <+MarkSab> You can compell the ship for drama, in the way that a screenwriter would put Moya in jeopardy in Farscape.
[20:14] <~Dan> So is it like Star Trek insofar as there aren’t fighters and the like, just capital ships?
[20:15] <+MarkSab> You can treat the ship as a charcacter using the Fate fractal, and fight things out.
[20:16] <+MarkSab> But you probably shouldn’t.
[20:16] <~Dan> What is the Fate fractal?
[20:17] <+MarkSab> Ships vary in size from very small shuttles, to a planetary scale megastructure in a scenario that Emmett O’Brian wrote for the game.
[20:19] <+MarkSab> Sorry, for non-fate fanatics, the Fractal is a way in the system that you can treat anything as if it were a character, for the purpose of resolving dramatic actiion
[20:19] <+MarkSab> So, for example
[20:19] <+MarkSab> If you wanted to have the party threatened by a rampaging wildfire
[20:21] <+MarkSab> You could represent the danger it posed by the same mechanics that you would use for a character, even though, of course, it isn’t
[20:21] <~Dan> Ah, I see.
[20:22] <+MarkSab> But given that they game is about simulating the ups and down beats of stories, you may as well treat it as an antagonist
[20:22] <~Dan> (Howdy, JamesGillen!)
[20:22] <+JamesGillen> hi
[20:23] <~Dan> You mentioned the lack of aliens earlier, but is there any alien life at all?
[20:23] <+MarkSab> Coming from playing games like DnD and Runequest, Traveler, that intially took me a while to take on board, but it is very powerful in play
[20:23] <+MarkSab> Yes, alien life, just not intelligence.
[20:25] <~Dan> What’s the ecosystem like on… what’s the name of the PCs’ homeworld?
[20:28] <+MarkSab> The players come from the worlds of the Convention Authority, which has a few planetary systems, despite the Great Silence which ended interstellar travel, because they had replicas of early starships that went to Alpha Centuri and so on
[20:28] <~Dan> Ah, I see.
[20:29] <+MarkSab> Most worlds are pretty ideal, because Terraforming is highly advanced by the 27th century
[20:30] <~Dan> Doesn’t Terraforming kill off the native life, though?
[20:30] <+MarkSab> having first been developed during the Climate Wars of the 21st century….
[20:31] <+MarkSab> Yes, which can pose all sorts of interesting moral dilemmas if you want to explore that in play.
[20:31] <+MarkSab> And some people you encounter might never have terraformed their planet because of those concerns.
[20:32] <+MarkSab> Part of the way the societies you meet differ is because of the way societies diverged during the Great Silence
[20:33] <+MarkSab> but part of it is that people have been able to go anywhere in the galaxy and hand out with likeminded people before interstellar travel went away.
[20:33] <~Dan> Are all other societies aside from the Convention Authority limited to a single planet?
[20:34] <+MarkSab> I think we live at a time when the way people split up and find identity is a really interesting thing to explore.
[20:35] * ~Dan nods
[20:35] <+MarkSab> A few other societies had limited local interstellar travel. Most don’t.
[20:36] <~Dan> So it sounds like starship combat wouldn’t be that likely in the first place.
[20:37] <+MarkSab> Of course, the world gets out that there is another people, some other society will start traveling using the sorts of Origami engine ships that fold hyperspace and rely on a beacon for navigation
[20:38] <+MarkSab> Not as a general rule. But treating a ship as a “character” gives you a way to do that if it is fun in your story.
[20:40] <~Dan> How many worlds and/or societies do you detail in the core rules?
[20:42] <+MarkSab> They Convention Authority, and five other worlds you encounter, With two additional worlds in scenarios in a zine I am putting out at the same time.
[20:42] <+MarkSab> Emmet’s adventure is kind of 70s style hard SciFi, Brie Sheldon did a very solarpunk setting,
[20:43] <+MarkSab> Also, since last December, I’ve been tweeting daily “sci-fi news headlines” from the setting.
[20:44] <~Dan> That’s cool. 🙂
[20:44] <+MarkSab> So there’s a few hundred story prompts for the GM that exist and are out there.
[20:44] <~Dan> Can you define “solarpunk”?
[20:46] <+MarkSab> Even if you don’t the game, I know that coming up with “cool sci-fi hooks” is hard, so feel free to grab and repurpose ideas from @ninja_festive (my twitter) for your stars wars or traveller or Gurps space campaigns
[20:49] <+MarkSab> Solarpunk is focus on mostly optimistic stories about how things can be better in the future thanks to renewable energy and sustainable tech. Also often has a strong art nouveau aesthetic
[20:49] <+MarkSab> It is kin to my game’s subgenre, which is hopepunk.
[20:50] <~Dan> Isn’t positivity antithetical to the whole “-punk” thing?
[20:50] <+MarkSab> Hopepunk, unlike some other scifi genres using punk, actually leans in to “punk”
[20:51] <~Dan> How so?
[20:52] <+MarkSab> (I take your point, many things like “freezepunk” use the suffix punk to mean “speculative fiction which includes”
[20:52] <+MarkSab> Hopepunk on the other hand, is about a productive tension between anger and optimism
[20:54] <+MarkSab> It believes that cynicism, just accepting the way things are, is the opposite of punk.
[20:54] <+MarkSab> That when confront by darkness, the DIY punk thing to do is to care about things and try to do something.
[20:55] <~Dan> Huh. Interesting perspective.
[20:55] <+MarkSab> The prototypically hopepunk heroe are like Sam and Frodo–they may not know that they can meet a challange, but they will try.
[20:56] * ~Dan nods
[20:56] <+MarkSab> As opposed, say, to Aragorn, who is more a classical “noblebright” hero destined to lead (which isn’t really punk)
[20:57] <~Dan> Huh… So did you coin the term “hopepunk” yourself?
[20:58] <+MarkSab> The term Hopepunk was coined last year by the novelist Alexandra Rowland (whose first novel is being published by Simon and Schuster this month)
[20:58] <+jtdimino> MarkSab: How strongly does the idea of fandom/geekery play into the setting? Is it expected, for example, that the PCs are all Wannabe Jedi, Starfleet Captains, etc.?
[20:59] <+MarkSab> I started the writting the game before she came up with the term, but when I saw that I said “That’s what I’m doing”
[20:59] <+MarkSab> And I’m lucky enough that she was willing to write an essay on hopepunk for the game.
[20:59] <~Dan> Oh, that’s cool.
[20:59] <+jtdimino> (Sorry if that was already answered – joined late and tried to skim through as much as I could.)
[21:00] <~Dan> (No worries, jtdimino! And no, it hadn’t.)
[21:01] <+MarkSab> Your characters don’t have to lean into the geek culture–I’ve had players who rejected these socitial norms, or whose parents where stranded in the Convention Authority from elsewhere.
[21:02] <+jtdimino> Ah, cool.
[21:03] <~Dan> How does the geek culture thing manifest, though? I mean, given the setting, how do you tell a “geeky” starship captain from one that’s “normal” for the setting?
[21:04] <+MarkSab> You character needs a reason, typically incorperated into an aspect (a phrase in their character description) why they want to travel away from a post scarcity paradise and seek to reconnect the scattered world of humanity
[21:06] <+MarkSab> As a game powered by fate, you’d typically represent your geek cultural elements as an “aspect” one of a few phrases you use to describe your character that have game mechanical consequences
[21:07] <+MarkSab> The best aspects are double sided, you can use them to get into trouble and get out of trouble.
[21:08] <+MarkSab> That’s standard Fate. I did add
[21:09] <+MarkSab> a new subsystem called “character arcs” that allows you to spotlight how your charcter grows past an element of their character that kind of works for them but has a shadow side.
[21:10] <~Dan> Are cybernetics a thing in this setting?
[21:12] <+MarkSab> Yes, you can have a cybernetic limb. Typically the more advanced cybernetics are on NPCs you meet on planets, because digital computers can’t work in hyperspace. (A PC, can have cybernetic limb that makes them awesome, but it’s made with really advanced analog parts)
[21:12] <~Dan> What about psionics?
[21:13] <+MarkSab> I’m canonically thinking of cybernetics as a no go–a bit too much like magic.
[21:14] <~Dan> You mean psionics?
[21:14] <+MarkSab> I have a section that talks about tech, not just what is there but why,
[21:14] <+MarkSab> Opps, psionics!
[21:15] <+jtdimino> What about Clark’s 3rd Law?
[21:16] <+MarkSab> It’s easy enough to mod and bring in thing stuff you love and want to explore, but the idea is to set a baseline for what you can expect in adventures and encounters I’ll publish
[21:17] <~Dan> Speaking of which, do you see this as the start of a game line?
[21:19] <+MarkSab> I would generally use Clark’s law in an isolated way on a particular planet, and have it tied to a quantum computer or something–this can justify telepathy in an “episode” but you don’t have to live with it spoiling your con job scenario, because it is isolated there
[21:19] <+MarkSab> I intend to support it with a quarterly zine with more adventure content, short and long form.
[21:20] <+MarkSab> Also to keep pushing out daily headlines on twitter.
[21:20] <~Dan> Good!
[21:20] <~Dan> So in the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
[21:20] <+MarkSab> It will be a tiny indie thing, not looking to sell lots of splat books
[21:21] <~Dan> And I’ll just remind folks that gratuities are always welcome at (Link: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/)https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/ 🙂
[21:21] <+MarkSab> But I think there is value is giving players more content in a rich setting to work with. I think most Fate settings lack that.
[21:22] <+MarkSab> The is probably the Glorantha/RQ nerd in me speaking.
[21:22] <~Dan> 🙂
[21:24] <+MarkSab> I’m really trying to give people setting stuff in a form that is useful–if you are inspired by a tweet, then that planet can be the next one you explore–if not it’s way over there and you don’t have to worry about it.
[21:25] <+MarkSab> If you don’t like a tech, it just never spread. If you want a tech I lack, just pull it from another setting powered by Fate.
[21:26] <+MarkSab> I should mention my website, if you want to learn more, see some art or characters, is festive.ninja
[21:27] <+MarkSab> Because, how can you resist the chance to have .ninja as a domain name?
[21:27] <~Dan> How indeed!
[21:28] <~Dan> Thanks very much for joining us, MarkSab!
[21:28] <~Dan> Please know that you’re always welcome to hang out with us here. 🙂
[21:28] <+MarkSab> Thank you very kindly for having me! I look forward to coming back and hearing from other game designers, this is so cool.
[21:29] <+MarkSab> I will be back!
[21:29] <~Dan> No need to wait for a Q&A. We’re always open for general chat. 🙂
[21:29] <~Dan> Now, if you’ll give me just a minute, I’ll get the log posted and link you. 🙂
[21:29] <+MarkSab> Cool!
[21:29] <+MarkSab> Thanks
[21:29] <~Dan> Of course!