Diaspora: Cluster and Character generation (ridiculously TL;DR)

Exactly one year after our first gathering, the Wednesday night group got together for our first session of the new year, and we decided to get started in 2010 with Diaspora, the world’s softest hard sci-fi game.

Counting myself, there were four players, and we opted to each create two worlds in “the cluster” (a series of different star systems, connected by ‘slip points’ located above and below the barycenter of each system), for a total of eight.

The “theme” that we used for the system cluster was this:

  • Your first system starts with the same letter as your first name.
  • Your second system starts with the same letter as your middle name.
  • All system names are derived from characters in Shakespeare.

This worked pretty well, and gave us some pretty evocative setting elements, especially when the players took things a bit further and wrote out some of the Aspects on the systems, their characters, and even their ship as quotes from various works of Shakespeare.

Due to scheduling problems, we won’t be able to play for a couple more weeks months, but we’re all looking forward to it.

Anyway, we did the whole Cluster and character generation the first night, then posted the results to a Google Wave where we’ve since fleshed things out a bit. Here are the results.

The less useful, but prettier, cluster map.
The less useful, but prettier, cluster map.


  • Tech: -1 (Earth-level)
  • Environment: -1 (1 planet that’s easily habitable (but unpleasant), breatheable air + drinkable water)
  • Resources: 0 (Sustainable, no surplus, but no needs)


  • All Summer in Day (severe storms virtually every day of the year)
  • She blinded me with science
  • You want water? We’ve got water.

Keepdown was originally settled by Dauphine government agencies trying to make the jump to an interstellar presence without the requisite tech to support the effort, long-term. While Keepdown looked good on initial (albeit secondhand) survey scans, the reality the Dauphine “science settlers” found was far from ideal; a planet wracked by near-constant typhoon-level storms.

It quickly became apparent that outside help was no longer an option — Dauphine had already commited all it could into simply reaching the system — it had nothing left to invest in a work-in-progress like Keepdown.

Left with no other options, the original settlers did for themselves as best they could. Today’s “cities” are all biodomes, lurking next to massive, mostly-functional terraforming factories laboring into their third century trying to tame the wild weather. Although the world is rich in the cluster’s most commonly used slipship reaction mass, it’s far from making anyone wealthy. The settlements’ aging populations suffer from a cripplingly high suicide rate among its youth, its adult inhabitants addicted to ‘sun lamp’ tanning and overly-optimistic dreams of science’s ability to Make Everything Better. Keepdown’s children dream of anything that will let them leave.


  • T: +1 (Commercialize the exploitation of the system, can be exported, can trade with slipstream cultures)
  • E: 0 (Single world, comfy human habitation w/o special tools, other barren worlds)
  • R: +3 (Multiple exports, unobtainium!, raw material to manufactured goods, leasing slipships)


  • Dangerously Bored Rich
  • Ridiculously Nutritious Food (life extension)
  • Benevolent Dictator for Life

Trinculo could easily be the beating heart of the cluster, but the ubiquitous availability of food stuffs throughout the verdant world have both extended the native’s lifespan and expontentially increased their desire for meaningless excess in the place of actual achievement. Among the planet’s idle rich extreme sports, “reality” entertainment programming, and illicit “hunt the most dangerous game” expeditions distract the world’s finest minds. Trinculo is a world of unhealthy extremes: Mountains that breach the atmosphere, man-made buildings that attempt to, massive entertainment industries, incredibly conservative religious minorities, extremely high crime rates, and morality generally as thin on the ground as the food is thick.

Ruled (as much as anyone on the world is ruled) by the biologist-savant who developed the first ‘superfoods’ from the native plantlife several centuries ago, the system resists any outside attempts to harvest resources from the system just as strongly as it resists attempts from within to push it into the Cluster as true power; those with sway in Trinculo seem more than happy to remain an insular sybaritic paradise.


  • T: +2 (Commericalized slipstream technology, expensive)
  • E: 0 (Single world, comfy human habitation w/o special tools, other barren worlds)
  • R: -2 (Pressure for conflict, needs imports!)


  • Ring of Scrap
  • Letters of Marque
  • Your Resources, Our Ships, No Questions Asked!

In terms of both technology and the ‘geography’ of the cluster, Caliban is a Hub; its slip knots allow access to an unmatched number of other systems, and it sells (or, more accurately, indentures ownership under a letter of marque) the large majority of slipships throughout the cluster.

It’s fair to say that Caliban has taken advantage of their position. Most spacers think of Caliban and piracy interchangeably; the system runs slippoint stations at great cost, recouping that cost by gouging its customers for refuel, repair, and ‘safe escort’. Resource poor (the ruling families long since stripped any and all valuable metals from the system, leaving a powdered ring of detritus circling its home world), Caliban ‘sells’ its tech by requiring several years of ‘resource acquisition’ from any new slipship owner. Some pay this debt through legitimate trade and courier work, but most do so by mining illegally in other systems (often the rich-but-largely-indefensible Dauphine) or through acts of licensed piracy, hauling their annual stipend back to the giant tortuga that is Caliban.

It is very little surprise that, by the time a captain’s ship is paid off, it is simply easier for the now-independant crew to continue the same practices that brought them to that point; many of the bullet-shaped ships scouring the cluster do so at Caliban’s command, but just as many do so simply because the pirate-kings have taught them that that is the best way to do business.


  • T: -1 (Earth-like)
  • E: +1 (one garden, several hostile but livable w/ tech)
  • R: +2 (More than it needs, but maybe not enough to start a war over)


  • Turned our back on the stars
  • Pillaged by Pirates
  • Bent on Revenge

Pinned between meddlers and pirates, Dauphine suffered for generations on the losing side of pretty much any conflict with its neighbor systems (be it Caliban’s pirate raiding of outlying mineral-rich planets and moons or Shylock’s relentless trade agreements). In a desperate bid to get out from between this vice grip, the system’s progressive political parties pushed through a major effort to colonize a new system with better connections to the rest of the Cluster. Unfortunately, Keepdown turned out to be a much less hospitable system than was hoped, and all the effort poured into colonization yielded little.

When word came that Keepdown would need decades more development to truly come into her own, all support for further expansion died, and the progressives were nigh-permanently ousted from power by an ultra-conservative, ultra-religious, anti-exploration party that rules to this day. Publically, this faction has no interest in space exploration or any of the technology that might lead that direction. In secret, they work as covert saboteurs bent on revenge against those systems (read: nearly all systems in the Cluster) that have hobbled their future.


  • T: +1 (Commercialize the exploitation of the system, can be exported, can trade with slipstream cultures)
  • E: +2 (One garden, several harsher but survivable w/o tech)
  • R: +1 (Active trader in cluster-wide commodity markets)


  • Neither a borrower nor a lender be
  • We meddle
  • Exporter of Exploiters

Despite lacking slipship technology of its own, Shylock is a remarkably self-sufficient system with strong influence throughout the Cluster, thanks to extensive and shrewd negotiation. Shylock’s intra-system navy (both governmental and corporate) is entirely capable of exploiting the relative wealth of the system and defending the system from those (notably Caliban-indentured privateers) who would steal from them — perhaps they could not win (or even wage) an interstellar war, but they can (and do) make raiding their resources an unattractively unprofitable option.

The system is comprised of several “City States” located both on the ‘home world’ as well as on several slightly less hospital worlds (actually, all the settled ‘worlds’ are moons orbiting a vast gas giant within the system’s habitable zone). Generally, Shylock is very intent on controlling their fiefdom and maintaining independence above all other things — the only real threat being themselves and their inability to keep from meddling in other systems’ politics.


  • T: -2 (Steampunk world!)
  • E: -2 (HOSTILE – one world that barely supports life with non-native/understood tech)
  • R: -1 (Almost viable! Lacking something!)


  • Leper Colony in Ancient Ruins
  • Extremely Mysterious Past
  • Drowning in Missionaries

Lear was, of a certainty, once a far greater world. Ruins (both human and alien in origin) dot the uninhabitable landscape of the world, shattered in places but unknown forces, but otherwise unaffected by the scorched, acidic skies. Those that remain on Lear “live” beneath the planet’s surface — living at a barely industrial-age level in vast caverns, breathing air and drinking water made useable by machines that none now understand. Few escape the confines of the planet; many are afflicted by a strange disease that remains dormant on Lear but which manifests as a highly-communicable rotting disease when a carrier travels elsewhere in the Cluster, and in any case few slip-capable ships travel to Lear in any case — only archeologists (hoping to find lost treasures or deduce the reason for the planet’s fall) or missionaries from the ultra-conservative (but mutually hostile) sects on Trinculo, Shylock, and (rarely) Dauphine) have any reason to come here, despite the widespread rumors of hidden treasures.


  • T: 0 (Exploring the system, colonies, cusp, volitile)
  • E: -1 (Single, Habitable but unpleasant, breatheable + water)
  • R: -1 (Almost viable. Lacking something.)


  • Tragic experimentalists
  • Hostile plant life
  • Slugthrowers ‘R Us

Although Achilles has fared better than Lear, it too has fallen far from some long-past technological height. The inhabitants of the world feel that their ancestors engineered their own destruction; the collapse left their descendents fighting for their lives on a world where almost every plant on the planet is hostile and hungry. City militias are well-trained, and spend many months of each year defending settlements from hostile, possibly sentient, plant-life. What Achilles lacks in space-faring technology, it more than compensates for in the development of efficient weaponry.


  • T: +2 (Commericalized slipstream technology, expensive)
  • E: +1 (Single world, comfy human habitation w/o special tools, other ‘need tech’ hostile worlds)
  • R: +1 (Active trader in cluster-wide commodity markets)


  • Fine on our own
  • Dreamer Idealists
  • We sell our tech to keep things fair

Orpheans have always felt as though their were somewhat on the ‘outside’ of the cluster. With only a few slip connections available and readily available resources and a rich system, it would have been easy for Orpheus to isolate themselves. They have chosen not to do so. The archetypal Orphean is a dreamer and an idealist, working toward a day where the entire cluster stands on even technological footing. Meddlers (like Shylock) who would exploit or (worse) hold down another system are disliked and actively (if obliquely) resisted whenever possible. (Conversely, they have little patience for systems like Dauphine, who seem to have given up.) To that end, Orpheus sells their tech to anyone who can reasonably afford it, with none of the associated ‘strings’ that come with a Caliban freetrader.

Orpheans should not be seen as high-minded austere philosophers — it’s is far more accurate to think of rugged frontiersman who beleives everyone should get a fair shake, provided they’re willing to work for it.

This second cluster map is the more useful one from my point of view — it reflects the politics that I see in the cluster.

Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.

On both maps, there’s some color coding going on. Systems with good environments are green. Mediocre enviros are yellow. Lear is brown. Resources are reflected in the thickness of the border, so Trinculo is super-thick and Dauphine’s is pretty good also. If the border is red, it’s tech level can create slipships.

So all this presents some fun questions: where the hell does Caliban get the resources to make their ships? The ideal solution for them is Shylock, but they’re kind of an insular system with no direct slipstream to Caliban — I’m sure they trade, but at the best possible rates they can, and it’s nigh-impossible to get the better of that deal. Trinculo, thanks to the prejudices of their benevolent dictator-for-life, rarely trades with “Caliban pirates”. Annoyingly (for Caliban) both Shylock and Trin have the technological means to make raiding their system for resources difficult and dangerous, if not entirely impossible.

That leaves Orpheus, who doesn’t like the way Caliban plays ball and is even better equipped to defend their resources… and poor Dauphine, which both has the resources Caliban needs and lacks the means to defend said resources. Dauphine’s looking for any way out of that situation, but how do you get out when the only system willing to help/trade (Orpheus) is hell and gone from you? (To get to Orpheus through relatively neutral systems from Dauphine means Dauphine -> Keepdown -> Trinculo -> Lear -> Achilles -> Orpheus. Whew.)

I like Lear near the center of the cluster, but gutted — looks like system that was once great in ages unrecorded.

Next came characters… they aren’t entirely done yet.

Miranda Lafite

  • The Pirate’s Daughter
  • Wants respect, not fear
  • Lost Navigator
  • Already died once
  • Running from her past
  • A little bit rusty
  • The Tempest (ship)
  • Liquid Assets
  • A new family of my choice
  • One step ahead


  • 5: Brokerage
  • 4: Assets, Navigation
  • 3: Culture/Tech (Caliban, Shylock, Orpheus, Keepdown), Close Combat, Stealth
  • 2: Bureaucracy, Vehicles, EVA, Tactics
  • 1: Resolve, MicroG, Medical, Agility, Alertness

Health: O O O
Composure: O O O O
Wealth: O O O O O


  • Black Market Contacts (Military-grade Assets)
  • Have a Thing: Ship – The Tempest
  • (maybe) Naval Tactician (use Navigation @3, in place of Gunnery)

Growing Up:

  • Years ago, Miranda’s great-great-grandfather was a criminal and a scavenger. In retirement, it was his bright idea to finance and build the first docking stations that surround Caliban: stations he stocked with ammunition and pirates ready to impress not just sailors, but whole ships. After generations. her family became warlords. Miranda, once ***the pirate’s daughter, now ***wants to be respected, not feared.

Starting Out:

  • It was easy to convince her family to let her train as a navigator, though the only place she wanted to find herself was far away. On her first missions, she faked her own death several jumps away from home — a process that nearly killled her (***already died once) — and made her way to Shylock, happy to be a grounded but otherwise ***lost navigator.

Moment of Crisis:

  • After years on Shylock, building a reputation as a consultant (brokerage), Miranda learned the downside of being well-known: her own family sought her out to hire, unknowing of her true identity. In a moment of pure unthinking panic, she bought a ship of her own to flee again, firing all the crew but one — Kaetlyn, a familiar face from Arden Station. [need to insert aspects]


On the move with her new crew, Miranda starts to acclimate to her new role as captain/owner/navigator/broker of The Tempest, a ‘independent privateer’-class ship with lots of weapons and a reputation inherited from whatever uses the previous owner put it to. It’s not the money-maker that her previous work was, but it keeps her moving and makes her financials nearly-impossible to track.

***The Tempest
***Liquid Assets

On my Own:

Things aren’t a bed of roses aboard the Tempest: her pilot hates pirates (her family, and everyone she grew up with), her engineer/gunner and communications experts both hate most planets… and they’re sleeping with each other… when they aren’t fighting. Her one real friend aboard acts like she wants to be somewhere else.

And yet, the ship is home, and her crew… well, maybe they aren’t family, exactly, but neither were the people she grew up with.

***A new family of my choice

***One step ahead

T2 Privateer – “The Tempest”

V-Shift 3, Beam 3, Torpedo 2, EW 2, Trade 2

Frame: O O O O
Data: O O O
Heat: O O O

Slipdrive: can traverse slipstreams
Interface Vehicle: has a separate vehicle capable of landing on planet surfaces (and carrying a small land-based vehicle)

  • We seem to have Inherited a Reputation
  • Not exactly factory-spec
  • A most delicate monster
  • Made for pirates, by pirates
  • Out of Ammo


Titus Belliago

  • Almost impossible to pass up a joke
  • Leave no stone unturned
  • Deep desire to help people; even against their will
  • Dislikes gene meddling
  • Benevolent Dictator for Life
  • Practically Immortal
  • Deep grudge against pirates and their kin
  • Restless
  • On the Lam
  • I can fly anything


  • 5: Science
  • 4: Culture/Tech (Trinculo, Shylock, Dauphine, Caliban, Keepdown), Pilot
  • 3: Survival, Charm, Profession: Cook
  • 2: Aircraft, Assets, Bureaucracy, Resolve
  • 1: Archaeology, Oratory, Medical, Brokerage, Animal Handler

Health: 3 O O O
Composure: 4 O O O O
Wealth: 4 O O O O


  • Regeneration: Health – if access to microflash-fruit within one day, regrows in minutes

Growing Up:

  • Son of an archaeologist and a biologist, intensely curious adventurer, explored jungle around colony ship; got sick a lot; very sickly child, but adventurous, irrepressible; developed great sense of humor to deal with sickliness; ***almost impossible for him to pass up a joke; snuck out a lot; made friends easily wherever he went; wink and a nod from camp guards; very generous, always bringing back fruit from the jungle to give to people. Sheltered, but distractedly; experimented on things all the time. Environment of Trinculo one of extremes – everyone who came on the original ship had the heart of an adventurer, and ***struggled to leave no stone unturned. A long long time ago; perhaps knows things about the cluster that no one else knows!

Starting Out:

  • Started combining various fruits and such to make powerbars for his own trips; started attacking his own sickliness with a vengeance; really wanted to solve it. Experimented on himself; secretly, and benevolently experimented on others, once he’d tested it on himself. *** Deeply resistant to direct-gene meddling; transition to knowledge as an adventure rather than the physical; met a girl with no legs; took her out on a hoverboard every day for a year; fell in love. Local Fauna break-in caused a near-famine among the crew, his powerbars helped save people until they could rebuild the stores; he decided to concentrate on nutrition as a way of both helping his own sickliness and feeding his world. ***Deep desire to help; even against their will;

Moment of Crisis:

  • Fiancee (legless girl) and he are exploring for new powerbar ingredients, and come across a grove of heretofore unknown trees; they test some of the fruits, and find off the charts levels of nutrition, but the fruits only last, once picked, for a few minutes. Girlfriend named it “Flashfruit”. As they are trying to gather and preserve samples; girlfriend accidentally fell into a pile of the fruits, and ended up getting buried in a pile of them, and regrew her legs; that was the end of their relationship; she ended up leaving him soon after and he buried himself in trying to make the Flashfruit viable. Eventually did so – “Flashfood”, and history was made. He became the benevolent dictator for life. ***Practically Immortal.

Moment of Crisis 2:

  • Got a wild hair to set up a doppelganger of himself; and go out exploring; try to help people. ***On the Lam. Managed to hitch a ride to Shylock; but got stuck there for several years, unable to give them anything of value to get off the planet. Eventually met a girl, Miranda, whom he was able to convince to let him be a pilot and cook. ***I can fly anything.

Out of my Control:

Was on a diplomatic mission; waylaid by pirates; rescued after befriending one of the pirates by noticing his fear of plants, and exploiting that by using a spray of the hormones of his pet Trinculo-bunny. He fed him one of his special powerbars of friendliness; which he was GOING to use on the president of Caliban, and the whole stupid mission was ruined. Would’ve stayed friends, but felt too guilty, and hatred of the gene-meddlers. ***Deep Grudge against pirates and their kin.

On my Own:

Exploring the Galaxy on the Tempest, trying to seek out new experiences, foods, loves, etc. And taking out pirates. ***Restless.

Kaetlyn of Keepdown (NPC)

  • There’s no rain in space, thank god.
  • Everything burns, even water.
  • You must have dropped it.
  • Everything’s on a computer, somewhere.
  • Finally found someone like me.
  • Bad is the only kind of luck I get.
  • Not a good team player.
  • Friends are worse than loansharks.
  • I am the static on your comms.
  • Restless


  • 5: Communications
  • 4: Computers, Stealth
  • 3: Charm, MicroG, Demolitions
  • 2: Repair, Close Combat, Energy Weapons, Assets
  • 1: EVA, Agility, Intimidation, Slugthrowers, Culture/Tech (Keepdown, Caliban)

Health: O O O
Composure: O O O O O
Wealth: O O O O


  • HaXor (Military-grade Communications)
  • Commo Wizard (Swap Communications (3) for Alertness checks involving comm devices)
  • Bomb hobbyist (use Demolitions to determine Composure track, not Resolve)

Skill-based gear:
Personal comp, black clothes, velcro shoes, electronic fuses, sunglasses, caliban ‘boarding knife’, Ariel Arms Zephyr-class PLP (harm 2, pen 1, rng 1-4), Achilles Arms “Nightshade” palm pistol (rng 0-2, concealed, pen 1, harm 0), pressure suit (lightweight, flexible, DEF 1), small toolkit

Phase One: Growing up

Kaetlyn grew up in the unfortunately named Goneril Dome on Keepdown. Boredom and depression dominated her life, and she longed for the opportunity to leave the depressing, neverending storm of her homeworld. A dangerous accident got her charged as an adult and shipped off planet, but she escaped on a slippoint station in Caliban before she could reach her final destination (a penal mine in Dauphine).

  • It doesn’t rain in Space, thank god.
  • Everything burns, even water.

Phase Two:

A ‘vent system rat’ on Arden Station, Kaetlyn made a living as a pickpocket and used her computer and comms knowledge (thanks mom and dad!) to endear herself to the brighter local privateers and those in their orbit (such as Miranda, whose family ran the station).

  • You must have dropped it.
  • Everything’s on a computer, somewhere.

Phase Three: Moment of Crisis

Theoretically, there are people in the cluster with worse luck, more hatred of being planetside, and just as much preference for machines as Kaetlyn, but she never really believed they existed in reality. Then she met Phyl. Sex wasn’t nearly as bad as she’d expected.

Nothing good lasts, though, and a series of colossal screw-ups left Kaet and Phyl fleeing the station as the newest crew members on a privateer… just a few hours after one of the arms of the station started venting halon and chloride into space in critical quantities.

  • Finally found someone like me.
  • Bad is the only kind of luck I get.

Phase Four: Sidetracked

Despite hating the idea of going planetside, Kaet was all set to hop ship and run in Shylock and trying to find a decent space station to hide out on. (The system can’t maintain slip stations, but maybe…)

Then someone bought the ship. She didn’t even know it was for sale. Apparently, neither did the captain, who wasn’t actually the owner, anyway. The NEW owner gave all of the crew their walking orders, except Kaetlyn.

She figured out why when Miranda walked on board and asked if she’d stay. Please.

Dammit. She had to say please. Kaetlyn agreed, but only if Phyl stayed on too.

  • I’m not a good team player.
  • Friends are worse than loansharks

Phase Five: On Your Own

So this is where she is now: the “communications officer” on a pirate ship — excuse me — “private trading vessel”. Somehow, even though the ship is taking her to parts of the Cluster she’s never seen before, she feels, somehow, like she’s moving less than she ever has before.

  • I am the static on your comms.
  • Restless.

Phyll of Achilles


  • I Hate Nature (Dad Was Eaten by a Hibiscus)
  • Must Make the Machine Better
  • I Really Want to be a Pilot
  • I Speak Tech but not Much Else
  • Defender of the Weak
  • You Look Familiar
  • Spry with a Six-Shooter
  • Eager to Please
  • The Tempest is My Lady
  • Don’t Want to Feel Indebted


  • 5 – Engineering
  • 4 – Slug Throwers, Repair
  • 3 – Stamina, Agility, Gunnery
  • 2 – Resolve, Alertness, Intimidation, Survival
  • 1 – Brawling, Micro G, EVA, Tactics, Culture/Tech (Achilles, Caliban)

Health: O O O O O
Composure: O O O O
Wealth: O O O


  • Military Grade Engineering
  • Gun Fu (Substitute Slugthrowers for Brawling at level 3)
  • **TBD** (maybe military grade slug-throwers?)

Phase 1 (Growing Up): Phyll comes from a family of “Harvesters”, the group of Achillians assigned to the front lines against the plants. He witnessed dad get eaten by a plant (**I Hate Nature) Spent time working on new tech to combat the plants (Must Make the Machine Better) while also serving time as a Harvester.

Phase 2: Became a stowaway aboard a gunrunner’s ship, was caught and forced into indentured servitude doing whatever chores they gave him. Had delusions of grandeur (I Really Want to be a Pilot) but show aptitude at keeping the ships systems running (I Speak Tech but not Much Else)

Phase 3:(Moment of Crisis): Was pressed into service to raid a ship and assassinate a political person of note aboard said ship. In midst of raid actually had a chance to kill the politico but took pity upon him (Defender of the Weak) and helped him to escape, earning the enmity of more than a few shady folks in the process (You Look Familiar)

Phase 4: (Sidetracked) — Hooked up with a tech girl while on the run and got placed aboard a ship through her influence. The ship was rather sparsely crewed so he had to serve a couple of roles, one as security of sorts (Spry with a Six-Shooter), as well as anything else that was asked of him (Eager to Please)

Phase 5: (On My Own) — Happy to be aboard the Tempest, a ship he has come to know very well (The Tempest is my lady) but he wants to feel more like a crewmember than the indentured servant he was before on his previous ship (Don’t Want to Feel Indebted)


  1. We’re going to start the game tomorrow, if you’re REALLY feeling withdrawal. 🙂

    Yeah. I know… that’s evil, but maybe we can get something going for you’uns at some point.

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