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I don't mind rules with a heavy setting. In general, I can always file it off with relative ease or tweak things. I can never understand the concept of one's imagination being shackled by a game's setting. If there's something I don't like, I toss it or tweak it. If I get Starfinder, I'll probably prune it and change it to fit what I like. I can always find use for pages of factions or countries that I can alter, edit, and tweak as I please while also making my own organizations from scratch.
Richard Redmane wrote:
Well there's only 8, but I guess if we are including Pluto then we have to include the other dwarf planets in our system. Like Sedna, Orcus, Ceres, Eris, Makemake, Quaoar, and Haumea. Though I'd hate to be the one that has to make up a mnemonic for that ;)
Count me as one, but while true, now that we know it'll never be solved, I don't really care too much about it anymore. Even some of the adventures that are focused around his disappearance don't feel all that fun because in the end, they don't really mean much.
The main fun in mysteries and investigation is finding clues, putting them together, and trying to find the solution. But now it's been released that there is none. In a way, the mystery is solved by saying there is no solution, so there really isn't a point in delving into it for me. I'd rather do other adventures about exploration and discovery, which is more my jam.
I feel the Gap will be the same thing. A background setting event to give it some color, but ultimately, it will be unsolvable in PFS. Nothing wrong with it as that, but as a mystery, it just won't catch my eye.
I'm interested to see how elves are portrayed in Temple of the Twelve, as it appears we will be running into Starfinder elves in this chapter. My hopes tend to align more with Mashallah and Benjamin's here in wanting to see some depth or variety beyond the "reclusive xenophobes" to them. It does kind of bother me that elves are prone to having a negative reputation; I've always been rather enchanted by elves myself, and would like to see them remembered by some of their better attributes again. Less Mirkwood, more Rivendell and Lothlorien. I'm hopeful we'll see a lot of this especially in the Forlorn.
Hopefully we won't have another Second Darkness on our hands. That was not a fun part of the adventure path.
I always do my own setting, good or not. I like world building.
The only thing I don't like about the Starfinder setting is the gap and making elves even more exaggeratedly aloof and xenophobic than before. The gap as a concept bores me because it's a mystery that will never be solved, yet I'm sure we'll have plenty of adventures dealing with it. And making elves even more insufferable, especially given how cool the other races are, is very disappointed. It's like they asked players what were the worst things they hated about elves, then turned it up to eleven.
Aqua Zesty Man wrote:
I actually disagree, but only because you can have cool adventures without requiring a habitable planet. I recently had my players explore a hot volcanic planet near their system's sun that was lethal to the players because of radiation and heat. But they went through an old crashed space ship on the planet and found cool stuff.
Honestly, I'm still pretty disappointed that we still have WBL tables and balance stuff around that. But it is what it is. I've been in a wait-and-see though process for Starfinder, and it comes out in another month, so I don't mind waiting. Some stuff I like, but the guns with lots of dice at high levels, WBL still being a thing, and being unable to sell space ships are definite red flags. I've run plenty of Traveller/CE for years and never had an issue with equipment vs space ship balance. That's why I really hate WBL. It's very restrictive and I was really hoping Starfinder would have kicked it to the curb.
That said, I like the races you've presented and the setting seems genuinely fun. And I love the Drift. So that seems good.
Even in Traveller, things aren't completely hard. Rolling up a sector would leave a lot of M class stars and very little habitable worlds. While you can have adventures in all kinds of barren and hostile worlds, a little hospitable world here and there helps to liven up the area.
And yeah, things changing really makes certain aspects of hard science hard to keep up with. For example, in Book 6 Scouts of Traveller OG, you can't have a gas giant in a close orbit (like Mercury). But since that has been published, we've found out that is actually very common. Same thing in Eclipse Phase, where it had the planet Tyche as a real thing. But since then, we've proven that it does not exist.
That's the problem with hard science. Hard to keep up with it. So it's better to accept a certain level of softness so to speak for ease of the game.
I think the intent was that this was to clear up things to make high level play more accessible, no? And truthfully, I'd like the game to be as well done as it can be at all levels. Or else, why even have high level play in the first place?
There is still randomness, albeit less so. Personally, I'd rather have less dice. Still random, just less of a pain.
It is true that you shouldn't let the rules, nor the dice, get in the way of a good story. However, something that one must look at is to make sure that the GM isn't getting in the way of a good story. That is a very difficult thing to do, and it's something I used to have trouble with in my early years of GMing.
That's not a bad idea.
When I consider fudging, I generally only apply it to dice results. That's generally how it has been defined to me. I don't fudge dice results and generally don't like it as a GM and Player. I roll the majority of my dice in the open. I think most people don't like fudging dice rolls because the dice are seen as a sort of neutral arbiter between the players and the GM. And if you are simply ignoring them, then it can seem like it's done to screw over the players. And sadly, in my experience, I generally see it done to harm the players rather than help them. I find that fudging is a symptom to something, rather than the actual problem.
Generally, when you fudge a dice result, it stems from a desire to maintain control over the situation and the results in favor of a certain outcome. Mind you, this isn't always negative. A good example is dialing back damage a bit to monsters because they are creaming the PCs. That is something done with a good intention and I cannot fault a GM for doing it. However, at least for me, there is a bit of a loss of tension and drama when I know the Gm will simply soft ball us a win. I enjoy feeling that danger when my character is in a bit over his head, or the possibility of failure can happen. It's not that I like an adversarial GM, but I do like legitimate consequences for failure.
So back to fudging and control, there are several methods to set up your encounters and obstacles where there is little need to change your dice rolls. Here are some things I do.
So balance? I generally don't balance encounters. While I may look at the Challenge Rating for a pound-for-pound gauge, I find that CR rarely works. It doesn't take into account players' tactics and crits and stuff. So I generally just eyeball stuff. But I let all my players know before I run a game that combat is more lethal and that sometimes, they might be in over their head. Especially if they just run in like it's a WoW raid and try to mow everyone down.
Secondly, I strongly encourage player ingenuity. One of the strengths of playing a TTRPG is that you can do clever things to circumvent and overcome an obstacle. So at the beginning of every campaign I run, I always let my players know that they can go at any situation how they want, not just running in with swords blazing, taking turns smacking each other. It just ends up making a better game. I once had players take on a red dragon several levels above them by causing a mudslide on the dragon. It was severely weakened and they went in for the kill. It was still a tough battle, but because the players executed a clever strategy that worked out, they were able to take on something much stronger than them and to this day, still talk about that battle. I find that new players are more likely to do this than experienced gamers, so sometimes I'll have an NPC do something clever to give them ideas.
Thirdly, I tend to remove binary pass-or-fail obstacles, instead preferring a more spectrum of failure. Tell me if this has happened to you. You guys are sneaking around and someone fails a stealth roll. Suddenly, the enemies are all somehow alerted to you and now you have to fight them anyways. And from then on, most people don't try using stealth again. That kind of bites, no? So I tend to make each failure bring about a new complication, rather than complete failure. So with the above example, instead of the enemies automatically firing at the PCs, I have them instead alert but unsure, going towards the sound that the PCs made. This gives the players a chance to recover from their failed stealth check, and it can even open up the chance to use disguises if they take down the enemies. I do the same in combat. Not everyone fights to the death like it's Final Fantasy. I'll have some enemies run away if the going gets tough, or, like in Cabbage's example, there can be ogres that are too dumb to do good tactics. That's not fudging, and while it may be softening the encounter some, I actually don't think that's a bad thing. I believe a variety of difficulties is great for a game. Sometimes I throw easy baddies at my players and other times I make them really difficult. Lately, I've been running an M-Space campaign and many of the xenofauna will spend a round to threaten the players before charging. And most will simply avoid or run away.
That leads to number four. When I make a scenario, I like to use obstacles that bring about complications and force the players to be clever and innovate. Looking at the example above, the players were just spotted and now stealth has a chance to go out of the window. They can't just stay hidden in the same place, so now, because of the danger, they have to improvise. They could fight and take down the soldiers, or cause a distraction, or go to another hiding spot. That simple little obstacle suddenly forced the players to have to think on their toes, sink or swim. Again, we are encouraging players to try different things, but not funneling them into one singular action.
For five, as the GM you are in charge of describing things. You are the players' senses, so I tend to overdescribe things. Things may seem obvious to us GMs because we are the ones thinking and writing the adventure, but the players can't see our minds or notes (and if they can, you have some bigger problems there mate :D ). So I tend to describe five key things in a location. That tends to get the creative juices going for making a plan. So if I say, for example, that there is a chandelier above some orks, then the players may think that hey, we can shoot it and drop it on the orks! So don't be afraid to get a bit detailed.
And six, I generally don't prep things like a story or plot. That's a big problem new GM's have is that they imagine everything coming together like their favorite novel or TV show. The problem with that is that in those mediums you have a single person or group that controls everything that happens in that book. Aragon has no say in his future or destiny. Neither does Luke Skywalker or Bruce Wayne. But in TTRPGs, the players control the characters and will do things that you won't expect. That's the nature of RPGs because it allows for creative freedom and lateral thinking to problems. It would be like having five authors all arguing over what happens to the Fellowship of the Ring. It just doesn't work out. So it's good to player to the advantages of the medium you are in.
What I generally do is that instead of prepping a full plot, I string up a series of goals that the antagonist is looking to meet for their end game. If the players don't act, or fail, then they complete a goal and go on to the next. But if the players do stop one of their goals, then you can improvise what would reasonably happen next as a consequence. Keep it loose and flexible. Also, I feel that if there is something that you simply want to happen and there isn't any way the players can feasibly interfere, then instead of rolling it, just let it happen. Using my example of goals above, if I really want the players to have an epic showdown against a cultist trying to summon Lucifer or Cthulhu or Ron Simmons, then I simply have all of their goals completed except the last one. And for the adventure, I would frame it more as a mystery leading up to the revelation that the world will succumb to Sweating to the 80's unless the PCs stop them. Again, that's not fudging and not really railroady, because the players are still using their wits and actions to solve a puzzle. Maybe they sneak into the ritual dressed as cultists, or maybe they come barging in on an APC.
Which brings me to my last way to minimize fudging dice. You have to get good at improvising. That's one of the skills a GM needs to cultivate to really step up their game, fudging or not. No plot or adventure module survives first contact with the players, ever. One of the most common mistakes GMs make is relying too hard on the adventure modules's structure and becoming inflexible when the players do something that the module doesn't cover. One of the best ways I did that was to force myself into situations in the middle of the game where I had to think on my toes or else the game would plop. Another thing I do is find random prompts and make adventures out of them in a set time limit. Start with half an hour, then shave off five minutes. I'm at the point where you can give me a verb-noun phrase and I can conceive of a basic plot in as little as five minutes. But it takes practice and dedication. And being in the right headspace.
Right now, there is this thought that the players against fudging are somehow entitled snowflakes with pitchforks making unreasonable demands. That's not what I want you to think about, although there are sadly some that do this. Most players against fudging have had adversarial GMs that screwed them over with it and don't like it. No one is saying that you have to cater to unreasonable demands, merely that there are other ways to provide an excellent, sometimes even better playing experience without having to change dice results. Really, this isn't about player agency or GM fiat, but a more mutual respect to make the game fun.
If you fudge, you aren't a bad GM, full stop. Especially Cabbage, who is doing it to make their game better. I cannot fault the intent, and I think it's great that as a GM, you still want to make your game as good as it can be. Most GMs get a bit full of themselves and believe that since they do all of the work, then it's their way or the highway. That's a bad way of thinking, whether you are a GM or a player (or in life in generaly). There are just better ways to get the desired results, and in addition, there are changes in the thought process when running a TTRPG. Whether it's an OSR sandbox, or a more story driven fox hunt (a more positive term for railroad I once read), these things really will help you out.
And this is coming from years of experience in many many game systems. I've been GMing for over half of my life and much of this I've learned the hard way. But currently, I've got a great group of players and we are having fun. I remain very transparent with my GMing and we are all pretty respectful of each other and what we want from the game.
I am a okay with that. Good to have the threat of death looming over every so often :D
If you ever get the chance, look up Mindjammer RPG. They have a really cool stellar system creator that I use along side Traveller Book 6: Scouts and this update to TB6:S about gas giants to get some fairly close to realistic systems (if that matters). It includes distances from stars and probable year length in there that I've used in my M-Space game. I have the standalone Mindjammer RPG for FATE, but I believe they recently updated it to Traveller.
Benjamin Medrano wrote:
I have mixed feelings on the setting of Starfinder. I love the aliens and the Drift, but I hate the Gap and the current treatment of elves. I'll probably do what I usually do and cannibalize parts of it I like to use with the stuff I've made up.
Yeah, further research into ants have revealed less of an authoritarian style of rule and something more akin to anarcho-mutualism. But they have such simple nervous systems that no one it really in charge, not even the queen and drones. So you can't attach a human government to an animal species that are essentially automatons. Most of their actions are run by a complex array of pheromones, not independent thought.
Also some colonies have multiple queens and ants don't each their males. That's more of a spider/mantis thing. Also the drones (breeding males and females) represent an important part of keeping the hive alive and making a new one. Fun fact, ants and bees reproduce haplodiploidly, which means that unfertilized eggs are always female while fertilized eggs are always male. This makes an unusual generation precedence where male drones have no fathers or sons, but they have grandfathers and grandsons.
I think it's a good idea to read about ants before using them as an example. They are fairly surprising. I know all this because I made an entire race of ant-like people for a game I am running.
A good example of this are Heinlein s characters, who he purposefully made minorities as a counter to heroes at the time. That said, rpgs are much more interactive and more done for fun, so not every one wants to deal with social issues at the table. This is especially true if you've dealt with them in real life.
Archmage Variel wrote:
Unfortunately, in my experience, whenever a player plays a bigoted character, it never really pans out as great as it sounds on paper. When a story is told about a bigoted character as a protagonist, it's usually following the story on how they meet a person of the race they hate and learn from each other, overcoming their bigotry. Remember the Titans is probably a good example of this, as is American History X (although a bit more violent). While most of the players I've played with that do it end up playing their character as more a joke character that makes snide remarks about drow or half orcs, with little character growth. Of course, seeing a PC get worse over the adventure is a type of character growth and is interesting, it also has the capability of rubbing players the wrong way. Especially people that have dealt with bigotry in the real world.
Maybe I've just been unlucky *shrug*
Jason Mosher wrote:
That is true. Unfortunately, I still just do not like how the elves have become xenophobic and unilateralist. It's been done before.
Personally I really liked how Dragon Age did elves. I thought it was a more fresh take for them while still keeping them different enough from humans to matter. Same with The Witcher 3. For a long time, I kinda hated elves and preferred half orcs. But it turns out, I just dislike aloof protagonists with a superiority complex :)
But I don't want to take up the entire topic and make it about elves. So far, Castrovel seems to be an interesting planet. I really like the potential dangers there with the wildlife that the players can interact with while planetside. I'm actually running an M-Space campaign where the players are exploring a planet similar, so I can mine some good ideas off of this.
When you make an entire culture hateful and isolationist with a superiority complex, it's hard to root for them in a story. Especially if you're dealing with elven NPCs or worse, an elven PC.
And the thing is... this isn't new stuff. Nothing was changed, but merely amplified to an almost caricaturish level. The elves of Kyonin are depicted about the same way in Second Darkness, only not as bad. There isn't anything creative or new or interesting about their culture that hasn't been done in other mediums (Eldar for example). And yes while they are not a core race anymore, people are going to want to play elves in Starfinder because it's elves.
It just feels like a poor treatment on a race that had the potential for an interesting and engaging culture in a new setting. Why have a new setting when we'll just have the same old cultures? It is a missed opportunity. I hope that dwarves and half-orcs get something better than this.
Not necessarily. It's definitely possible to keep to their own flavor while not making them oversimplified and stereotypical. Complexity and depth in a culture doesn't somehow equal bland. That's the issue I'm having is that the other aliens in Starfinder are fairly interesting and cool, with great ideas that are twists on standard space opera tropes. While the elves are just xenophobic isolationists, just like they've always been since Tolkien's time. Only turned up. It feels like a missed opportunity to do something unique and fun with the elves, and instead makes them even more unlikable and a caricature of elves. It's like no one learned from their mistakes with Second Darkness.
Besides, let's not forget that humans can be xenophobic and aloof isolationists. Arguably better at it than fake elves.
Alternatively, they could be a race not defined by an oversimplified monoculture and instead could have complexity and depth beyond "we hate everyone."
Anything would be better than taking the most disliked traits of elves and making it worse. I'll pass.
I'm disappointed in the treatment of elves. It's an unusual step backwards I feel, making them even more aloof and xenophobic and unlikable. I feel like given all of the ways they made many of the other alien races fresh and fun, this was a weird choice to take a stereotype that arguably many are tired of and bringing it more to the front. Definitely a missed opportunity imo.
As for the change in the Lashunta, I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I disagree that their depiction was problematic. On the other hand, I actually prefer this change to the lashunta. I find aliens that have different biological functions and capabilities to be cool, especially to see how a culture is built around it. And their ability to have different results of their puberty interests me moreso than the previous sexual dimorphism. So I think the retcon made the lashunta more interesting to me than the more cliche original pulp trope. Also I like their decentralized, more libertarian government style of a confederacy of city-states. Too often you just see either a space democracy or space empire, so it's cool to see something different and fresh in sci fi.
And for me, I really wanted to hear more about the formians. But I like ant people, so that's admittedly a bias for me.
Yeah, I feel you on that. I'll just stick with my black hair.
Jason Mosher wrote:
I disagree to a point. As we've seen in today's world, there is a great deal of misinformation on the internet. And that having the information to do something doesn't actually mean you can use it effectively. If I ready a WikiHow on doing brain surgery, that doesn't mean I can suddenly do it. Or that the WikiHow was even correct.
I think knowledge skills still have a place in sci fi games, both as a way to do specialized things and as a way to spot misinformation.
Depends on the ship I imagine. Star Wars and Traveller low balled how good computers would be in the future. Eclipse Phase gives some good ideas on how to do Stealth. Thing to remember is that not every ship will have those capabilities. Especially low end military and most civilian ships.
There's also hacking. It's doubtful that ships will have super advanced sapient virtual intelligence, so you can hack the ship's computer to leave you undetected from such measures.
As for knowledge checks, the way I've seen it done and I do them is to have basic knowledge freely available, but specific stuff that requires a degree take a bit longer to find, and with a higher chance of finding misinformation. Just because it's on the internet doesn't mean it's true :)
Also it's better to focus on using information in an age where information can be found fairly easily.
Honestly, I always found that mindset silly, especially in a game where everything including the loot is imaginary. That's why I play the game to have fun, face challenges, and chill with friends. Because gp isn't real.
Reading Cepheus Engine, which is a retroclone of T1, there were rules for increasing skills. You could also get some stat boosts, but the importance of progression was based more on getting more money and doing the adventure, rather than getting experience for better stats. Which for me, I've honestly preferred adventuring and gaming for fun and the excitement rather than getting loot and XP.
Stellagama has a PWYW pdf that has a great deal of the stars around the sun. It's come in handy in my sci fi games, so I think you guys might enjoy it. It's more of the standard Traveller hexagon star map, but that is a bit simpler on the table than going full on 3d Cartesian map.
The link is here
There is also the level of automation that a ship can have. Earlier science fiction like Star Wars and Trek don't have a significant level of automation since that didn't fit the thoughts of science at the time. Especially Star Wars has a level of analogue tech (which I personally dig) that requires a person to run it. So ships like that would require a larger crew.
I like having the option to pay for automation for certain functions. Gunnery, Life Support, Engineering... things that you don't need a lot of people for. Maybe it costs less than hiring out a person, but you get a more limited use out of it. Or conversely, it costs more than hiring a person but there isn't a monthly salary/wage to pay the computer.
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