Sunday, November 2, 2014

Another Sun Rises - A Cypher*Space Campaign



Argos III, image by Ryan Wolfe
0-hr: art & technology

Spaceships!


Pretty much every Tuesday since March of this year a bunch of us have been getting together on Google Hangouts to play Numenera and The Strange.  We started out as a playtest group for The Strange, but we've also spent some serious time in the Ninth World of Numenera.  We've rotated game masters over the months, and a few players have popped in and out of the group, but still we meet.  

I started out GM'ing The Strange, but after we finished playtesting a few home-brewed adventures and then The Curious Case of Tom Mallard I stepped back while Jeremy Land and Lex Starwalker took turns running us through some incredible sessions.  We got to play with a Nightmare Switch, experienced the utterly horrific nightmares that lie Beyond All Worlds, and just recently we wrapped up a truly epic campaign uncovering the secrets of The Dark Spiral.  

So a few weeks ago the topic came up of our next campaign, and the virtual GM screen was passed my way.  This time I felt like doing something a little different.  Back in April, as part of International Tabletop Day I ran a Cypher Marines game: a space hack of the Numenera rules with some bits and pieces tossed in so that I could run a single adventure. I started thinking about how I could go further, and what it would require.  Actually, it was pretty simple really, and it didn't take long for me to start typing out some adventure materials.


Plausibile Space


I ran a one-shot a few weeks ago for Savage Worlds: The Last Parsec during its Kickstarter, so I've been heavily immersed in space fiction and games.  For this "Cypher*Space" campaign (my term, not an official title from Monte Cook Games), I wanted to do something a bit different from your typical space adventure.  My plan was to design a campaign based completely on plausible futuristic space travel.  

You see, I think science fiction movies like Star Wars and Star Trek do "space" a severe disservice.  Space is big.  Really, really big.  But when you see starships traveling across a sea of stars in mere minutes, or jumping from one part of the galaxy to another in less than a day, I think the whole wonder and beauty of the universe is lost.  When I was in high school I had this game called Microsoft Space Simulator for the PC.  The game wasn't very realistic with regards to fuel consumption, since you could accelerate for months at a time, but with a top speed just below that of light, travel between stars took years.  I remember one mission when I departed Earth in 1999 and made it home twenty years later.  What would that be like for the participants?  Did they sleep for part of the journey in suspended animation?  What would be the effect on their families?  Who funded such an incredible mission?

In my upcoming Tuesday campaign I'd like to start with this concept and embrace the full size and scale of the universe and see what that does to the player characters.  

Another Sun Rises


The player characters in our campaign left Jupiter's orbit aboard the Argos III in the year 2199 bound for Tau Ceti.  The journey is funded by two primary parties, the Indo-Anglo-American Union and the megacorporation Terracorp.  A third participant in the mission, the Confederated Colonies of Sol, are a collective of colonial holdings in the Solar System that are relatively poor in what they have to offer in cash, but have considerable expertise.  Our player characters will be part of these factions aboard the Argos III, and here's hoping for a little competition, as each faction does not particularly like the other.  Once at Tau Ceti, the crew of the Argos III is to explore Tau Ceti e, an exoplanet located on the edge of the star's habitable zone. 

The Argos III, a fantastic vessel that you can download yourself from DriveThruRPG as part of 0-hr's Future Armada, is a massive vessel nearly a mile long.  The ship consists of a massive deflector for near light speed travel, a central station and operations portion, and a primary engineering and fuel storage core.  As the players started building their characters, they kept in mind this ship and its mission as part of the setting.  Just who exactly would be going on this voyage?

Getting the rules customized for this game was relatively easy.  A simple reskin of the Numenera types gave us some starting flavor:

Glaives become Troopers
Jacks become Operatives
Nanos become Savants

I'm pretty lazy, so I've told the players to just be reasonable and take into consideration my "hard sci-fi" angle when picking descriptors and foci.  I'm letting them pick from either Numenera or The Strange, although for the latter I've advised them to stick to the Earth and Mad Science foci.  It looks like the players have taken this to heart, and following this Tuesday's game I'll share the characters' builds.  That's one of the best features of the Cypher System… not only is it easy to customize on the fly when running adventures in Numenera in The Strange, but lifting the game mechanics out for other games is a piece of cake. 

I just hope that this "love-letter," to movies like Sunshine, games like Kerbal Space Program, and books like Ben Bova's The Grand Tour series, is as interesting for my players in game, as it has been for me designing it laying here on my living room floor late at night.