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RE: [FateRPG] Update on Diaspora: a harder sf Fate

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  • Lisa Steele
    I had an SF character in a GURPS space setting that was found of a crossbow for sniping -- zero energy signature or emissions for bad guys to pick up before
    Message 1 of 17 , Oct 13, 2008
      I had an SF character in a GURPS space setting that was found of a crossbow
      for sniping -- zero energy signature or emissions for bad guys to pick up
      before the arrow hit.

      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: FateRPG@yahoogroups.com [mailto:FateRPG@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf
      > Of Brad Murray
      > Sent: Monday, October 13, 2008 12:59 PM
      > To: Spirit of the Far Future; Fate Mailing List
      > Subject: [FateRPG] Update on Diaspora: a harder sf Fate
      >
      > Well we've got a solid couple of playtests of the cluster and world
      > generation and last session we did a complete "prep" session: build a
      > cluster and build characters in it. The results look pretty good, so
      > my eyes are wandering to the usual favourite of any sf, hard or
      > otherwise -- the equipment list.
      >
      > My mind is still, I find, a little ossified around the Traveller idiom
      > for gear, so I can't get "gauss rifle" and "fusion gun" out of my
      > head. I could use your help -- help me brainstorm weapon systems for a
      > hard-ish sf game. I'm thinking of weapons with highly practical,
      > mission-directed features. Weapons that exist because someone ordered
      > a million of them to outfit the infantry or space marines or border
      > patrols. My initial thinking is that, for most purposes, throwing a
      > slug mass at the enemy is the most efficient way of accomplishing
      > combat objectives, but the rules change a little in space -- with no
      > atmosphere and no gravity, lasers look pretty useful.
      >
      > So, if you're keen, give it a go! I promise you nothing but credit,
      > and not Traveller credits at that. Just a nod and a thanks in tiny
      > print.
      >
      > Diaspora main page: <http://www.phreeow.net/wiki/tiki-
      > index.php?page=Diaspora>
      > Prep playtest page:
      > <http://www.phreeow.net/wiki/tiki-
      > index.php?page=Diaspora%3A%20character%20snippets>
      >
      > --
      > Brad Murray (halfjack)
      >
      > All the money's gone -- nowhere to go.
      > But oh that magic feeling -- nowhere to go.
      >
      > ------------------------------------
      >
      > | Fate * http://www.faterpg.com/
      > | SOTC * http://www.evilhat.com/?spirit
      > | DFRPG * http://www.dresdenfilesrpg.com/Yahoo! Groups Links
      >
      >
      >
    • bachelornewtling
      ... ordered ... Indeed, fast moving mass is probably the best weapon, lasers need lots of power and a tight aim. look at missiles and Metalstorm for high tech
      Message 2 of 17 , Oct 13, 2008
        --- In FateRPG@yahoogroups.com, "Brad Murray" <bjmurray.halfjack@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > I could use your help -- help me brainstorm weapon systems for a
        > hard-ish sf game. I'm thinking of weapons with highly practical,
        > mission-directed features. Weapons that exist because someone
        ordered
        > a million of them to outfit the infantry or space marines or border
        > patrols. My initial thinking is that, for most purposes, throwing a
        > slug mass at the enemy is the most efficient way of accomplishing
        > combat objectives, but the rules change a little in space -- with no
        > atmosphere and no gravity, lasers look pretty useful.

        Indeed, fast moving mass is probably the best weapon, lasers need
        lots of power and a tight aim. look at missiles and Metalstorm for
        high tech anti-armour and anti-personell. If you've not ever looked
        at Metalsotrm, do, it is an awesome technology, a great idea
        reimagnining area denial, anti-armour and personell. I watched a
        video a while back of a metalsorm weapon litterally cutting a tank in
        half. It's as scary as hell which is why the US military put so much
        money into it. It looks like developments from metalstorm will
        probably replace phalanx and patriot defence systems too.

        Metalstorm smallarms also are looking to include biometric readers
        into handgrips to stop unauthorised use of weapons without serious
        downtime for reprograming, stopping the enemy from infield use of
        fallen weapons.

        Bach.
      • John Powell
        ... Here s an interesting article on possible non-lethal weapon systems: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.02/nonlethal_pr.html [excerpt] The entire
        Message 3 of 17 , Oct 14, 2008
          > --- In FateRPG@yahoogroups.com, "Brad Murray" <bjmurray.halfjack@>
          > wrote:
          > >
          > > I could use your help -- help me brainstorm weapon systems for a
          > > hard-ish sf game. I'm thinking of weapons with highly practical,
          > > mission-directed features. Weapons that exist because someone
          > ordered
          > > a million of them to outfit the infantry or space marines or border
          > > patrols. My initial thinking is that, for most purposes, throwing a
          > > slug mass at the enemy is the most efficient way of accomplishing
          > > combat objectives, but the rules change a little in space -- with no
          > > atmosphere and no gravity, lasers look pretty useful.

          Here's an interesting article on possible non-lethal weapon systems:

          http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.02/nonlethal_pr.html

          [excerpt]
          "The entire concept of national security has changed," Alexander declares. "Therefore, you
          need other sorts of force options." If the ideas circulating around the nation's top-secret
          weapons labs pan out, the nonlethal arsenal of the millennium could include such exotic
          "force options" as electromagnetic pulse generators and high-powered microwaves, which
          would short out communication systems and fry electronics. Computer viruses would
          infiltrate and paralyze banking networks and command-and-control operations. Aircraft-
          targeting sensors could fall prey to "demons," directed-energy munitions that emit flashes
          of light brighter than the sun. Clouds of combustion-inhibiting chemicals would choke
          engines, stopping tanks and troop carriers in their tracks, while metal-eating microbes
          and super-caustic chemicals would eat away at their armor. Enemy soldiers might be
          confused by holographic projections, dazzled by laser rifles, or disoriented by low-
          frequency acoustic beams that provoke vomiting and diarrhea. And if being blinded and
          humiliated isn't enough to sap their will, they could find themselves trapped in stinging
          nets or glued in place by ultrasticky foams.

          Cheers!

          John Powell
        • Brad Murray
          ... A cool idea! I think that weapons that have some special characteristic like this (even if it s because the weapon is repurposed by the player character)
          Message 4 of 17 , Oct 14, 2008
            On Mon, Oct 13, 2008 at 6:15 PM, Lisa Steele <steelelaw@...> wrote:
            > I had an SF character in a GURPS space setting that was found of a crossbow
            > for sniping -- zero energy signature or emissions for bad guys to pick up
            > before the arrow hit.

            A cool idea! I think that weapons that have some special
            characteristic like this (even if it's because the weapon is
            repurposed by the player character) are best handled by letting
            weapons have an Aspect. Mostly in Diaspora (SotFF) we handle the
            commno cases mechanically -- lethality scales by rating damage from 1
            to 3, penetration scales with a penetration modifier that degrades the
            target's armour Defense bonus, and accuracy scales by having or not an
            accuracy bonus (a kind of always-on aspect). But your example
            highlights the more interesting case -- what about when players find
            something the game didn't antcipate (which in my experience is a lot
            what happens and why Fate shines so brightly).

            That's probably worth stating explicitly in our equipment section I
            think. Thanks for tricking me into thinking about it! :D

            --
            Brad Murray (halfjack)

            All the money's gone -- nowhere to go.
            But oh that magic feeling -- nowhere to go.
          • Brad Murray
            On Mon, Oct 13, 2008 at 7:14 PM, bachelornewtling ... Metalstorm is a kind of fading fad with weapons/gaming enthusiasts thanks to some frankly awesome video
            Message 5 of 17 , Oct 14, 2008
              On Mon, Oct 13, 2008 at 7:14 PM, bachelornewtling
              <gungungungungun@...> wrote:
              > Metalstorm smallarms also are looking to include biometric readers
              > into handgrips to stop unauthorised use of weapons without serious
              > downtime for reprograming, stopping the enemy from infield use of
              > fallen weapons.

              Metalstorm is a kind of fading fad with weapons/gaming enthusiasts
              thanks to some frankly awesome video footage and very high ROF
              numbers. Whether or not it's a viable military technology is still up
              in the air -- is anyone buying and deploying it?

              It's certainly cool enough to warrant some kind of entry.

              --
              Brad Murray (halfjack)

              All the money's gone -- nowhere to go.
              But oh that magic feeling -- nowhere to go.
            • Lisa Steele
              Let me toss out an underlying question -- how important do you want gear to be? One of the things I like about SotC is the focus on the character. A gun is a
              Message 6 of 17 , Oct 14, 2008
                Let me toss out an underlying question -- how important do you want gear to
                be? One of the things I like about SotC is the focus on the character. A gun
                is a gun -- whether it is a vest-pocket derringer or an elephant gun it uses
                the same skill and the difference is in range, for the most part. What's
                important is the PC's skill and what aspects can be brought to bear. Same
                for cars, planes, etc.

                One of the things I disliked about 2nd Ed. Star Wars (the West End version)
                was the catalogs of gear that kept coming out and turning the players from
                Luke and his lightsaber into the walking piles of gear one sees in certain
                FRPGs.
              • Brad Murray
                ... Yeah I tend to agree. Part of the draw to sf, though, is the equipment porn, so a balance needs to be struck. In SotFF we created fairly broad categories
                Message 7 of 17 , Oct 14, 2008
                  On Tue, Oct 14, 2008 at 12:57 PM, Lisa Steele <steelelaw@...> wrote:
                  > Let me toss out an underlying question -- how important do you want gear to
                  > be? One of the things I like about SotC is the focus on the character. A gun
                  > is a gun -- whether it is a vest-pocket derringer or an elephant gun it uses
                  > the same skill and the difference is in range, for the most part. What's
                  > important is the PC's skill and what aspects can be brought to bear. Same
                  > for cars, planes, etc.

                  Yeah I tend to agree. Part of the draw to sf, though, is the equipment
                  porn, so a balance needs to be struck. In SotFF we created fairly
                  broad categories of weapons with distinct characteristics. It works
                  well in play, I think, satisfying player needs across a broad
                  spectrum.

                  We did not, however, bother detailing any equipment other than weapons
                  and armour -- basically it's only interesting if it's part of the
                  combat subsystem. Similarly, spacecraft are detailed sufficiently to
                  play the space combat subsystem and, we hope, not much more (they need
                  to satisfy the Trade mechanism as well).

                  With Diaspora we'll be sticking to this model because it delivered
                  well for us in SotFF. This is why I think a rule that clearly states
                  "variation on weapons or weapon usage should be handled by adding an
                  Aspect, perhaps free-taggable and perhaps temporary, to an existing
                  weapon type" might be sufficient.

                  --
                  Brad Murray (halfjack)

                  All the money's gone -- nowhere to go.
                  But oh that magic feeling -- nowhere to go.
                • Lisa Steele
                  ... Likely depends on the player and genre -- take a look at say Star Trek (classic), Stargate SG1, and Star Wars (1st movie) for examples of three successful
                  Message 8 of 17 , Oct 14, 2008
                    > Yeah I tend to agree. Part of the draw to sf, though, is the equipment
                    > porn, so a balance needs to be struck. In SotFF we created fairly
                    > broad categories of weapons with distinct characteristics. It works
                    > well in play, I think, satisfying player needs across a broad
                    > spectrum.

                    Likely depends on the player and genre -- take a look at say Star Trek
                    (classic), Stargate SG1, and Star Wars (1st movie) for examples of three
                    successful franchises.

                    In Trek, the PCs have three broadly defined gadgets (communicator, phaser,
                    and tricorder) as well as the transporter. For the most part, adventures
                    center around decisions that the viewer can't understand, not technobabble
                    or having the right gadget at the right time.

                    Even in the later movies, Star Wars doesn't get into gadgets. Our heros have
                    light sabers and mysterious force powers, blasters, stunners, and a few
                    other tricks, but not much else.

                    Moving to Stargate, which is a bit "harder" in its tech, for the most part
                    our heros encounter lots of alien stuff, but don't add it to their kit.
                    They've got modern guns, Teal'c's blaster, the stunner pistols, and their
                    radios. Atlantis adds a life-scanner and more portable computers -- but
                    again, very little in the way of equipment.

                    Anyone have some examples outside of military SF where gear is important to
                    the story/book/series/movie?

                    > We did not, however, bother detailing any equipment other than weapons
                    > and armour -- basically it's only interesting if it's part of the
                    > combat subsystem.

                    Let me disagree philosophically again. One of the things I like about SotC
                    is that it has a decent social conflict resolution mode. If you detail
                    combat equipment, it sends the message that combat is important to this
                    setting and equipment key to combat success. If one described in detail
                    scientific, espionage, or crime scene, or even artistic/social
                    gear/customs/etc., that sends a different message about game play.
                  • Brad Murray
                    ... A good philosophy but one that doesn t bear out in actual play in this case. The social systems remain and remain at least as viable as combat. In fact, if
                    Message 9 of 17 , Oct 14, 2008
                      On Tue, Oct 14, 2008 at 2:12 PM, Lisa Steele <steelelaw@...> wrote:
                      > Let me disagree philosophically again. One of the things I like about SotC
                      > is that it has a decent social conflict resolution mode. If you detail
                      > combat equipment, it sends the message that combat is important to this
                      > setting and equipment key to combat success. If one described in detail
                      > scientific, espionage, or crime scene, or even artistic/social
                      > gear/customs/etc., that sends a different message about game play.

                      A good philosophy but one that doesn't bear out in actual play in this
                      case. The social systems remain and remain at least as viable as
                      combat. In fact, if anything there is less violence than in our SotC
                      game, perhaps because although both avenues are equally effective,
                      combat is far more lethal.

                      --
                      Brad Murray (halfjack)

                      All the money's gone -- nowhere to go.
                      But oh that magic feeling -- nowhere to go.
                    • Lizard
                      ... It should depend on the genre, and the players. Gun porn is a real, and for many people (self included) enjoyable aspect of playing RPGs. I strongly
                      Message 10 of 17 , Oct 15, 2008
                        Lisa Steele wrote:
                        > Let me toss out an underlying question -- how important do you want gear to
                        > be? One of the things I like about SotC is the focus on the character. A gun
                        > is a gun -- whether it is a vest-pocket derringer or an elephant gun it uses
                        > the same skill and the difference is in range, for the most part. What's
                        > important is the PC's skill and what aspects can be brought to bear. Same
                        > for cars, planes, etc.
                        >
                        > One of the things I disliked about 2nd Ed. Star Wars (the West End version)
                        > was the catalogs of gear that kept coming out and turning the players from
                        > Luke and his lightsaber into the walking piles of gear one sees in certain
                        > FRPGs.
                        >

                        It should depend on the genre, and the players. "Gun porn" is a real,
                        and for many people (self included) enjoyable aspect of playing RPGs. I
                        strongly dislike the idea that the Holdout Pocket Laser Mark I and the
                        Overkill Zap Blaster (Heavy Man Portable) are "the same gun" if the same
                        character is using them. It pulls me out of the story and slaps me in
                        the face with the gaminess of it. (D&D 4e does this so often that I
                        think it gives me bruises.)

                        "Hard" SF, in particular, pays a lot of attention to hardware.
                      • Bill Hamilton
                        ... _Some_ hard SF pays attention to the hardware. But gun porn isn t necessary to have a hard SF game. Frankly, I think this is why there are so few scifi
                        Message 11 of 17 , Oct 15, 2008
                          On Wed, Oct 15, 2008 at 8:44 AM, Lizard <lizard@...> wrote:
                          > Lisa Steele wrote:
                          >> Let me toss out an underlying question -- how important do you want gear to
                          >> be? One of the things I like about SotC is the focus on the character. A gun
                          >> is a gun -- whether it is a vest-pocket derringer or an elephant gun it uses
                          >> the same skill and the difference is in range, for the most part. What's
                          >> important is the PC's skill and what aspects can be brought to bear. Same
                          >> for cars, planes, etc.
                          >>
                          >> One of the things I disliked about 2nd Ed. Star Wars (the West End version)
                          >> was the catalogs of gear that kept coming out and turning the players from
                          >> Luke and his lightsaber into the walking piles of gear one sees in certain
                          >> FRPGs.
                          >>
                          >
                          > It should depend on the genre, and the players. "Gun porn" is a real,
                          > and for many people (self included) enjoyable aspect of playing RPGs. I
                          > strongly dislike the idea that the Holdout Pocket Laser Mark I and the
                          > Overkill Zap Blaster (Heavy Man Portable) are "the same gun" if the same
                          > character is using them. It pulls me out of the story and slaps me in
                          > the face with the gaminess of it. (D&D 4e does this so often that I
                          > think it gives me bruises.)
                          >
                          > "Hard" SF, in particular, pays a lot of attention to hardware.
                          >

                          _Some_ hard SF pays attention to the hardware. But "gun porn" isn't
                          necessary to have a hard SF game.

                          Frankly, I think this is why there are so few scifi games out there.
                          Everyone has their own opinion on what should and should not be in a
                          game, and everyone is vocal about it. Authors try so hard to please
                          everyone that they end up pleasing no one, and the game fails.

                          Brad, write the game you want to write, and don't pay attention to
                          anyone who tries to tell you you're doing it wrong.


                          --
                          -Bill Hamilton
                        • Lisa Steele
                          ... Agreed. And I m not saying he s doing it wrong. There isn t a right or wrong. One of the things I like about SotC is the de-emphasis on equipment -- others
                          Message 12 of 17 , Oct 15, 2008
                            > Brad, write the game you want to write, and don't pay attention to
                            > anyone who tries to tell you you're doing it wrong.

                            Agreed. And I'm not saying he's doing it wrong. There isn't a right or
                            wrong. One of the things I like about SotC is the de-emphasis on equipment
                            -- others see that as a problem -- there's no right or wrong answer here.
                            It's like trying to decide whether chocolate ice cream is better than
                            vanilla.

                            On the other hand, when you are designing a game, you can shape the
                            resulting campaigns a great deal with the rules and the equipment. Take a
                            look at Traveller. I've played at least four versions of it -- Classic, TNE,
                            GURPS, and briefly, T20 -- the settings are very similar, but the changes in
                            the rules, and to some extent, in the flavor text, equipment, and sample
                            characters, resulted in very different characters. This was particularly
                            evident when we tried to translate our Classic Traveller characters into
                            GURPS then into T20.

                            I'm just trying to help, not give Brad a hard time. I've tried my hand at
                            game design and writing (and had a few things published for White Wolf and
                            GURPS) -- the playtest feedback was invaluable for seeing how things that I
                            took for granted in my game group translated when applied by other groups.
                          • Brad Murray
                            ... Oh no fear there -- when it comes to the crunch I can be pretty passionate (some would say dictatorial) about how my vision will translate to game. And
                            Message 13 of 17 , Oct 15, 2008
                              On Wed, Oct 15, 2008 at 8:57 AM, Bill Hamilton <billwerk@...> wrote:
                              > Brad, write the game you want to write, and don't pay attention to
                              > anyone who tries to tell you you're doing it wrong.

                              Oh no fear there -- when it comes to the crunch I can be pretty
                              passionate (some would say dictatorial) about how my vision will
                              translate to game. And honestly I think the end result in Diaspora is
                              going to be both more and less. That is, underneath the weapons list
                              in SotFF there is an abstract structure for "creating" weapons and
                              consequently any weapon can be stated in terms of this abstraction
                              rather than as an entry for "Dunarmco MkII Fusion Rifle (Man
                              Portable)". For Diaspora, because the details of the setting are
                              fundamentally player created, it will be more useful to expose the
                              abstraction as the core tool for players and use a specific weapon
                              list as an example rather than as a definitive list. The system is, in
                              keeping with Fate, extremely simple -- there just aren't that many
                              "statistics" for a weapon in SotFF. In Diaspora I think it may come
                              down to a derivation from type and technology level and not much else,
                              but the paint job (adding Aspects perhaps) can get pretty colourful
                              without adding complexity.

                              --
                              Brad Murray (halfjack)

                              All the money's gone -- nowhere to go.
                              But oh that magic feeling -- nowhere to go.
                            • Hans
                              ... ordered ... Some thoughts: * At lower tech levels (pre-useful energy weapons), recoiless rifle- type weapons (along the Gyrojet direction) seem like the
                              Message 14 of 17 , Oct 15, 2008
                                --- In FateRPG@yahoogroups.com, "Brad Murray" <bjmurray.halfjack@...>
                                wrote:
                                > I'm thinking of weapons with highly practical,
                                > mission-directed features. Weapons that exist because someone
                                ordered
                                > a million of them to outfit the infantry or space marines or border
                                > patrols. My initial thinking is that, for most purposes, throwing a
                                > slug mass at the enemy is the most efficient way of accomplishing
                                > combat objectives, but the rules change a little in space -- with no
                                > atmosphere and no gravity, lasers look pretty useful.

                                Some thoughts:

                                * At lower tech levels (pre-useful energy weapons), recoiless rifle-
                                type weapons (along the Gyrojet direction) seem like the way to go in
                                zero-g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyrojet
                                Greg Bear describes weapons of this variety in his novel Eon, if I
                                remember correctly.

                                * Its hard to imagine the basic design of the personal military
                                assault rifle being topped at any role-playable tech level in a game
                                that intends to be hard SF. You can make incremental improvements
                                (better targeting, better ammunition, better reliability), but I
                                can't honestly think of anything that would truly replace it that
                                wouldn't also entail changes to technology that seem to me darn close
                                to singularity inducing. The advantages of any alternative would
                                have to be very compelling in terms of price, reliability, and/or
                                portability, except as crew-served weapons or vehicle mounted weapons.

                                * Assuming you want to use personal directed energy weapons anyway
                                (because, lets face it, they are cool) an important decision would be
                                whether they are constant output or pulsed in some way. Ubiquitous
                                continuous output weapons would create a paradigm shift in tactics
                                similar to that caused by the advent of the machine gun. Larry Niven
                                has a description of how this might affect tactics in the Ringworld
                                Engineers (or was it Ringworld?).

                                * John's message about non-lethal or semi-lethal weapons I think is
                                very important. This is especially true of the microwave based
                                weapons such as the Active Denial System, which have both anti-
                                personnel and anti-material uses. They could certainly result in
                                changes to personal protective equipment; every military suit might
                                be required to have a mesh of conductive material to act as microwave
                                shielding.

                                * I have always liked the glove used by Donald Hogan in John
                                Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar (I can't remember its trade name). It
                                becomes completely rigid when impacted (say, during a punch), but
                                then become flexible again almost immediately. This would be a
                                pretty typical item among security/law-enforcement, I suspect,
                                especially those for whom concealable weaponry is a big plus.
                              • Bill Hamilton
                                ... A form of this actually exists now. I think was developed as protective equipment for skiers. -- -Bill Hamilton
                                Message 15 of 17 , Oct 15, 2008
                                  On Wed, Oct 15, 2008 at 1:09 PM, Hans <skalchemist@...> wrote:

                                  > * I have always liked the glove used by Donald Hogan in John
                                  > Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar (I can't remember its trade name). It
                                  > becomes completely rigid when impacted (say, during a punch), but
                                  > then become flexible again almost immediately. This would be a
                                  > pretty typical item among security/law-enforcement, I suspect,
                                  > especially those for whom concealable weaponry is a big plus.
                                  >
                                  A form of this actually exists now. I think was developed as
                                  protective equipment for skiers.

                                  --
                                  -Bill Hamilton
                                • bachelornewtling
                                  On Gun porn. In the game I m starting, I was toying with the idea of making equipment quality an issue in the game and having an effect like a limiting skill,
                                  Message 16 of 17 , Oct 15, 2008
                                    On Gun porn.

                                    In the game I'm starting, I was toying with the idea of making
                                    equipment quality an issue in the game and having an effect like a
                                    limiting skill, so using a Quality 1 gun would be fine for a novice of
                                    smallarms, but someone with skill 2 or higher would have their skill
                                    penalised because it isn't up to standard. I imagine most guns or other
                                    equipment would be level 3 or so, allowing most serious professionals
                                    to get good use from it, but the best of the best need th e best gear
                                    to get the most from their skills, so olympians and snipers really want
                                    quality 5 gear to shoot with. There are problems with this approach,
                                    but I still think it is worth toying with.

                                    Bach
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