Sunday, 6 February 2011

Finally... Diaspora

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Share it Please

It was more than a year ago that I got the Diaspora rulebook and I've eagerly been waiting to play it since, but it's never really been the right time for it. We started with WFRP3 more or less as soon as I got back to Sweden from Japan and I don't think anyone wanted to mess with the flow we'd managed to find. However, when two thirds of our regular group had to cancel todays session I decided that the time was finally here to break out Diaspora.

At first I thought that it might be best if I made a cluster and some characters so we could jump straight in and try the system, but the more I thought about it the more I felt that it probably wouldn't work out well. FATE is not an especially difficult system, but it is very different from anything we've played before and just doing a cold start would most likely just end in frustration. Creating the cluster (basically the entire setting) and the characters would allow everyone to slowly warm up to the FATE system and also feel invested in the universe we'd create together. So that's what we did.

I sat down with Anders, Nicke and Anna and started out by explaining the basics of FATE. Using advice from this thread I went through how to roll and read the dice, how to make skill tests and how the FUDGE dice creates a bell curve of probability. Then I went on to talk about Aspects and how you can tag and compel them using Fate Points. Finally we talked about how you can put Aspects on persons or things using maneuvers and that this gives you a free tag the first time you use it.

With everyone slowly digesting these basics and how they affect play I started talking about the cluster generation. One of the unique things about Diaspora is that the first session concists of not only character creation, but also setting creation. Basically a cluster is a collection of solar systems connected through slipknots (ie wormholes) and each player takes it upon himself to create one or two system (for a minimum of six).

First you roll for the system's attributes: Technology, Environment and Resources. This gives you the skeleton of the system that you now need to flesh out using Aspects. When that is finished you figure out how the different systems are connected through slipknots and add a final Aspect. After that it's up to each player to add some more flavour information, but you could just as well save that for later.

We ended up with a fair mix although there was no real extremes, the highest atribute being Resources 3 in the Troy system. Basically most of the cluster consists of systems fairly low on resources and technology. The two exceptions are Troy, that is a the technology and resource juggernaut of the cluster, and Deimos, that has an old ship builder culture but very few resources, making each ship a work of art.

For characters we have an escaped slave that travelled the stars and finally managed to get his own ship, a burly hi-tech barbarian with an incline towards slugthrowers, a shipwright's son who lost his father's ship to pirates and a slave trader's daughter who revolted agains her family and joined the Troyan Navy as a pilot.

I'll post detailed cluster and character information later. EDIT: And here's the cluster!

All in all I have to say it was a great success! I was very ambivalent about starting this as I was unsure how my group would respond, but after just a few minutes everyone was in full swing, discussing intra-cluster relationships and whether the Lizard Empire of Gortrax (yes, there's a lizard empire...) maybe was importing slaves from the poor ZX-532 system. The hardest part for most of us was coming up with fun and fitting Aspects for systems and characters, but even that went pretty smoothly by the end. And there's always room for changing stuff around later, so no matter.

Recently I've been thinking about how to impart setting knowledge to the players, both the background setting in general and also how to handle specific queries in the form of knowledge skill rolls. There's an interesting debate on the former over at the Rogue Trader forums and a great post about about the latter at the Warrant of Trade blog. I suggest you have a look at both if you're interested. Anyway, when you do it the Diaspora way at least one half of this problem disappears as you create the entire setting together together and the GM knows just as much (or as little) about it as the players! This creates a very level playing field where I think it's easier for the players to take the initiative and interact more boldly with the setting. Very cool stuff!

I'm really happy we finally got to try it out! I can't really say when the next session will be as I consider Diaspora (and perhaps 3:16) to be the backup game for when we can't get everyone together for WFRP3. But hopefully it won't be too far off!

We also managed to play half a game of Dungeon Lords and it really left me with a taste for more! Great design combined with a great theme. Needs to be played pronto!

Now I need to go back to figuring out which miniatures to submit in which round in the LPL. :)

7 kommentarer :

  1. Thanks. Now I have to go and buy ANOTHER RPG!


  2. Hey Tourq, welcome to Fire Broadside! :)

    Yeah, you really should check it out, especially if you like FATE. It's available as a downloadable PDF as well these days.

  3. I agree - it sounds very cool. The setting creation also plays up the fate idea, in that players have a stake, and ideas buzzing from the get-go, and when they finally do get to interact with a location there could well be an odd in-game familiarity, a confidence, even what might seem like coincidences.

  4. @Porky Exactly! I've always struggled with getting my players to know as much (or maybe half as much) about the setting as I do when we're roleplaying. Even when playing in mileus that most of us are fairly familiar with (WFRP, 40krp etc) I still think that they don't feel confident enough in their world knowledge to come up with really creative (from a setting point of view) solutions to roleplaying situations.

    Doing it this way completely removes that obstacle and I could really see the cogs turning in their collective minds; "hmm... I'd like to go look for that rumoured treasure in the deserts of Zoltan", "the evil lizard empire will suffer my vengeance!", "the trade of indentured workers to Troy must be stopped" etc...

    Been thinking about this whole how to educate the players conundrum for a while now. I'll probably make an entire post dedicated to it one of these days. :)

  5. Geez you guys! You had me at "Hey Tourq." Are you trying to get me to buy TWO copies??? Cause I'm already sold.

    I'm definitely going to look for a game at DunDraCon. Hope to get in one there.

  6. More! What's keeping you from posting more Diaspora? Your blog is an inspiration and we're on the edge of our seats for more Diaspora reports. Just pick up the book and it'll jog your imagination in seconds.

  7. @Joseph - Haha! Indeed what IS keeping us? :D
    Actually I'm in a bit of a transition process both when it comes to the games I play and the people I play with. Diaspora is very high on my list and my friend Jimmy is very keen on playing it as well. We just need to sort out who are actually going to play and we're off!

    We'll start from scratch though - new players new cluster. But I'm really looking forward to it!

    There is some Diaspora content in the interim however. I hope you've seen the Alexander class destroyer. :)


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