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< Caliban First | Denver Playtest | Denver Session 1 >

So folks got together on Friday, roughly around 6pm, to run through all the prep-work for a Galactic campaign: Captains, Crews, Factions, the Galaxy, our First Worlds, and an addition that Matt mentioned which I decided to run with: Scourge elements.

All the full-on details of the Factions and the like can be found at:

The Players

I had three players (expected four, but there was a snafu with the scheduling and he thought we were playing on Saturday), and that turned out to be just about right for the time we had to work with.

  • Dave is a long-time GM player who started playing back in college (more years ago than he'd thank me to mention) and has jumped into most any game I've pitched. I've played in a FATE spy game that he ran for about a year, and he's played in a whole bunch of stuff I've done, including Amber, Nobilis, d20, Heroquest, and a laundry list of others. He's shown a lot of interested in DitV and PrimeTime Adventures. He's also participated in a couple Lexicon games with me. He generally likes a good setting and seeing things tied together well (History degree), and tends to play support-characters, so a Captain would be an interesting stretch for him.
  • Randy plays a lot of Amber. A LOT of amber. A **LOT** of Amber. I've involved him in many of the games I've mentioned above, but he's never found anything that beats (for him) the Amber setting, the subjective drama mechanics, and whatnot. I think he's been deprotagonized a lot with starting-power-level characters in diced systesm. Also, he's very into realism when it comes to sci-fi -- he likes, in fact, often needs things to make supportable sense in a sci-fi setting. When things look like they're going to go more the Science-Fantasy route, he tends to over-compensate and make up silly characters.
  • Margie likes mysteries, likes figuring things out, and likes networks of facts that tie together into bundles that then can be unraveled. In 'new' systems and settings, she tends to make characters that facilitate her desire to find stuff out and figure out how the world works.

Before actually getting into character generation, I handed out the character sheets and talked briefly about the basic mechanics of the system, what the redshirts, other Crew, and Gear did (but I didn't get into Connections, since I couldn't find that text quickly), and talked about the rules for disallowing an idea that everyone hated... allowing that I still prefered "yes, but" over "hell no." With that said, I mentioned that I was hoping for a fairly serious run this first time out with the game, but in return for that (if everyone was behind that idea), I'd run a "Buck Godot"-inspired Galactic! romp on our next go round to let everyone get their Silly on.


Although this is the area where we had the most number of notes on the text, the process itself went well enough -- it took about an hour, but the results were good. We ended up with:

Amanda Tillotson, daughter of a high-ranking 'unification' commander in the Concordance Navy -- a man who who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, played by ***Dave.

  • Diplomat 3d6
  • Explorer 3d6
  • Warrior 4d6
  • Virtue: Dutiful 1d8
  • Vice: Obsessive 1d10


  • Concordance Navy
    • Type: 1d6
    • Strain: 0

Anse Schmalkalden, politically-disaffected captain from a major Territory's important family that has been shamed by shameful actions taken by his now-deceased sister, played by Randy

  • Astronaut 4d6
  • Explorer 3d6
  • Warrior 3d6
  • Virtue: Compassionate (heart of gold) d10
  • Vice: Anger d8


  • Byron Drax Plunkett-Smith, extremely wealthy politician - one-time sweetheart of Anse's deceased sister
    • Type: 1d6
    • Strain: 0

Robert James Wilson III ("Boyd"), university-trained rich-boy explorer, played by Margie

  • Professor 3d6
  • Tinker 4d6
  • Explorer 3d6
  • Virtue: Focused 1d8
  • Vice: Reckless 1d10


  • Old University 'Brothers'
    • Type: 1d6
    • Strain: 0

Here's a few notes from this part of the prep-work:

1. The fact that all archetypes are assumed to have a score of 1d6 (p.10) caused some confusion over the 10d6 to be allocated to attributes (p. 8) -- "Do you get the 1d6 rating for free, and then add 1 to get 2d6?" No, but it's hard to explain why. The group suggested saying, possibly, "You get 1d6 in everything, and then get 7d6 to raise up to three archetypes", or just not mentioning the the 1d6 'default' thing until later in the rules.

2. Two of the players immediately mentioned that they felt there should be a "Merchant" or "Trader" archetype.

I pointed out that you can get the functionality of a merchant by combining, say, some dice in Tinker and Scoundrel, or Explorer and something else, but that didn't really scratch the itch. The feeling is that a Trader is an identifiable archetype of the genre -- something that someone does and is that has a real identity and name and definable set of abilities: in other words, an Archetype. While, yes, you can combine some of the listed archetypes to get that functionality in a squishy way, it (a) inefficient to have to take two (sometimes character-inappropriate) archetypes to get the basic abilities of what is an easily defined trope of the setting (b) unsatisfying to be unable point at your 'merchant' archetype ability for a measure of your ability in that arena. Frankly, it seemed to vex people to 'have' to be good at mechanics and sneaky tactics (tinker/scoundrel) in order to be a trader-by-profession, and ditto that for an Explorer/Professor combo.

We brainstormed on this a bit, so as to not simply bitch without suggesting solutions and came up with:

Archetype: Trader

  • Negotiate a contract
  • Sway preferences
  • Customs knowledge
  • Haggle/Bargain
  • Know value of goods
  • Know where to find/sell various goods
  • Etc. (there was some other stuff, but they were talking faster than I could type -- suffice it to say it was a pretty easy archetype for everyone to immeditately understand the purpose of and share a unified version)

Now, once all that was done, I explained that I wasn't going to house-rule in that archetype, since that would defeat the purpose of a playtest, which the players totally understood. (Amanda and "Boyd" above.)

3. The section of Virtues/Vices -- p. 11. last paragraph, reads funny: suggest saying "You can't apply both your Virtue and Vice in the same conflict."

4. P. 12 should simply say right there how many times you can use Virtue, or at least how many uses you can start off with. We never did find out what the limit mentioned on page 12 was for Virtue.

5. P. 12 - Suggest including a brief explanation as to how and why Connection dice might change in size, with refs to other areas. With the default connection starting at d6, and the examples in the text being d4 and d8, folk immediately wanted to understand how they changed, and that took a LOT of digging to provide a one-sentense summation.


Folks had a lot of fun, making up their crew members for each other's captains. They all went back to the captain's players and asked for reminders as to exactly which archetypes the Captains were good with, so that their crew members would fill realistic gaps. They also made a POINT of adding a few key adjectives to their brief crew descriptions, to give it some flavor. Here's what we ended up with:


  • Tovarra, Captain Boyd's ... private sociopath, played by Randy
  • Viktor, Captain Boyd's haughty, professional pilot (educated at the 'other' important university), played by Dave

Anse (picking up a rag-tag crew of supposed ne'er-do-wells)

  • Shiela, Captain Anse's somewhat-clutzy mechanic, played by Margie
  • Tam, Captain Anse's easy-going, flexible-morals quartermaster, played by Dave

Captain Tillotson (running her ship in a military style)

  • Juan, Captain Tillotson's hot-shot pilot/brown-nose, played by Margie
  • Orlando, Captain Tillotson's lothario head engineer, played by Randy


One of the things that struck me about the Faction creation was that it felt a lot like the intertwining common in a Lexicon game, and Dave (who has also participated in such things in the past) made just exactly that comment, later. It was a good time, and the politics of the Colonies really start to flesh out at this point.

Those factions fully filled out during this stage:

(Although my names are next to two of them, I'll also note that I simply detailed two previously-mentioned factions that I found too interesting to leave 'plain'.)

Those factions alluded to in other faction entires:

The Galaxy

Galaxy creation went smoothly enough, though we did have considerable coin-bounce -- it's not as though we have to do this step so often during the game that it was a serious problem -- but it did make me understand why Prince Valiant didn't take off back in the 80's.

Matt sez: Well noted. We didn't have too much bouncing in the last setup. I think it's more to do with what's underneath the map. But in my dream package the game might come with less bouncy mini poker chips.

First Worlds The night was running pretty late and with all the details we'd had to focus on all night, we were flagging a bit by the time we got to making up our first worlds. We flubbed up the process a bit. Basically, what we did was

  1. Have the Captain's player define the basic type of world.
  2. GM added a detail about the world.
  3. Captain's player added another detail.
  4. Other player added a detail.
  5. Last player added a detail.

We didn't get set resources as a seperate step, or a few other things -- misreading it, we thought we were just supposed to make sure that one of the player-introduced elements was a resource and so forth. The worksheet that Remi made up for the Durham Playtest would have totally bypassed this -- I recommend including something like this in the game, since world-creation will occur either in the middle or end of a session -- two times when people are most likely to forget something from a detailed procedure.

That said, the First worlds, their conflict, the dice, and the Captain's goals worked out pretty well and are totally playable as is, and we'll get it right next time. By this point in the evening, I think everyone was just about "creatived-out" -- something I've seen happen in long sessions of things like Inspectres.

Here's what they gave me to work with for next session:


  • "New Eden" Earth-norm planet
    • Religious Fanatics
    • Species on the cusp of Sentience
    • Mysterious disease amongst the Natives
    • Thriving Theatrical Arts

Adversity: 2d6, 1d4

Crisis: Human vs. Nature


  • The Colonial Merchants Guild


  • Cure Plague 1d6
  • Find Replacement Quantum Array for the U-drive 1d6
  • Rescue Frat Brother 1d4


  • Water World
    • Massive Native Lifeforms
    • "Floaty" Aerial Critters
    • Perpetual Sunlight
    • Exports Cesium

Adversity: 3d4

Crisis: Human vs. Human


  • Mob


  • First Contact with Air Whales 1d4
  • Rescue in Space 1d4
  • Outwit Gun Moll 1d4

Amanda Tillotson

  • Cold Planet
    • Planetary Ring Mining
    • Monolithic Monuments
    • Thin Atmosphere
    • Equatorial Skyhooks

Adversity: 2d4, 1d6

Crisis: Human vs. Human


  • The White Hand
  • Concordance Navy


  • Stop Terrorist Plot 1d6
  • Learn more about Dad's past 1d4
  • Obtain a Trade Cargo 1d4

Scourge Elements

Finally, I borrowed a suggestion from Matt and asked each player to come up with a 'scourge element' -- some quality that I, as the GM, would be obliged to incorporate in our personal version of the Scourge. Here's what I got:

  • Eucalyptus (Margie)
  • Heat (Doyce)
  • Chittering (Dave)
  • Convulsions (Randy)

At which point, I think I uttered for about the fifth time that night "I love you guys..." what great material to work with!

... and with that, we called it for the night, having going four hours on these steps and taking playtest notes. Everyone seemed very interested in the creation of the setting and characters, and interested in what was going to come out of the whole thing. Good stuff, and I'm excited for our next session.

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Page last modified on August 02, 2006, at 12:58 PM by DoyceTesterman

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