Imagine a Sci-Fi ACKS

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fletch137
Joined: 2012-11-24 19:12
Imagine a Sci-Fi ACKS

With some science fiction elements added to ACKS in Kanahu, I got to wondering what a sci-fi sister game might look like. I'm personally fond of near-future science fiction with mostly real technology except for the occasional stardrive or low-level psionics which suits the Terran Cosmonaut, but there's always the Terran Navy of the 23rd century that brought us the Terran Starman and it's super-science and aliens.

Could ACKS be used to create a Traveller-like galaxy of space hexploration, colony building and free trading?

What about fantasy elements? Are the D&D bones ACKS is built on robust enough to support a game without spells or magic?

Would you need a skill system, or could you bake that into classes like Pilot, Engineer, or Space Pirate?

What do you think a game like this would need to feel like a companion to ACKS? More importantly, what would you call it? Traveller, Settler, Raider might cause some legal problems...

GMJoe
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Allow me to introduce my friend, Traveller.

Aryxymaraki
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My current proof-of-concept draft is Explorer, Settler, Imperator.  The basic impetus was when I realized that, using sci-fi hyperdrive rates of travel, you could say that a star system is basically a 24-mile hex and a planet is a 6-mile hex.

I generally feel that a sci-fi system needs to have at least soft classing, but also that it's important to maintain compatibility, so it currently experiments with a system of Professions and Specialties.  A Specialty is a class built in 3 points, and is basically "what you do in combat", and a Profession is a plug-and-play Thievery 1 for "what you do out of combat".  Since it's Thievery 1 no matter which one you pick, each Speciality can be presented as a full class with a known XP cost and so on.

 

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10
A sci-fi version of ACKS is something that I've given some though to. It seems difficult to do a truly generic sci-fi set. The "laws of physics" for Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, and Aliens are all quite different and so I think one would need to lock down a particular genre to emulate, with supplements expanding it from there. White Star seems to have SW-style space opera well-covered, and Stars Without Number has Traveller-style hard science fiction well in hand. Free trader science-fiction is well-covered by Traveller and although I could certainly do it, I personally don't love that genre. The market for Aliens-style space horror/exploration of space hulks/etc probably remains open, since Bughunters is out of print and Hulks & Horrors is too. ACKS could do this really well. However, military science-fiction of the Starship Troopers, Hammer's Slammers, or Shiva Option seems to be the most wide open and would probably be a place where ACKS-type rules would shine. You could use D@W-type rules for starfleet battles. Space Horror and Mil Sci-Fi might be able to be combined into one game, since marines killing bugs is prominent in both genres. My working title is something like "Trooper Commander General".
RandyB
Joined: 2018-02-14 22:07

A sci-fi version of ACKS is something that I've given some though to. It seems difficult to do a truly generic sci-fi set. The "laws of physics" for Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, and Aliens are all quite different and so I think one would need to lock down a particular genre to emulate, with supplements expanding it from there. White Star seems to have SW-style space opera well-covered, and Stars Without Number has Traveller-style hard science fiction well in hand. Free trader science-fiction is well-covered by Traveller and although I could certainly do it, I personally don't love that genre. The market for Aliens-style space horror/exploration of space hulks/etc probably remains open, since Bughunters is out of print and Hulks & Horrors is too. ACKS could do this really well. However, military science-fiction of the Starship Troopers, Hammer's Slammers, or Shiva Option seems to be the most wide open and would probably be a place where ACKS-type rules would shine. You could use D@W-type rules for starfleet battles. Space Horror and Mil Sci-Fi might be able to be combined into one game, since marines killing bugs is prominent in both genres. My working title is something like "Trooper Commander General".

-Alex

Back compatible with AKCS? Take my money now! :)

fletch137
Joined: 2012-11-24 19:12

Allow me to introduce my friend, Traveller.


-GMJoe

I've played Traveller a couple times and enjoyed it, but that was mostly due to a great GM rather than any appeal of the game. I prefer more class-based niche-protection for my characters. Somehow I randomly own a GURPS Traveller book, Interstellar Wars, and it's probably my favorite sci-fi game setting: a still-Balkanized Earth taking its first steps into the cosmos and running up against a decadent empire that's woefully unprepared for how insidious humans can be.

The market for Aliens-style space horror/exploration of space hulks/etc probably remains open, since Bughunters is out of print and Hulks & Horrors is too. ACKS could do this really well. However, military science-fiction of the Starship Troopers, Hammer's Slammers, or Shiva Option seems to be the most wide open and would probably be a place where ACKS-type rules would shine.

-Alex

That’s surprising to hear. ACKS is one of the best retro-clones of D&D in a very crowded market of retro clones, so the idea of having to find an open niche is an odd pitch. Meanwhile, the big appeal of ACKS is how much agency it gives the PCs to rule kingdoms, corner trade markets, and even build and stock your own dungeons for other adventurers to die in. A sci-fi ACKS that has the PCs as soldiers under someone else’s command (and that option only) is a bit off base. I mean, as long as we're talking "sister-game" and not just, "look, Autarch made another game."

golan2072
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With some science fiction elements added to ACKS in Kanahu, I got to wondering what a sci-fi sister game might look like. I'm personally fond of near-future science fiction with mostly real technology except for the occasional stardrive or low-level psionics which suits the Terran Cosmonaut, but there's always the Terran Navy of the 23rd century that brought us the Terran Starman and it's super-science and aliens.


-fletch137

The 23rd Century Terran Navy was a nod to this:

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/206628/TSAO-These-Stars-Are-Ours

It's a setting for the Traveller-style retro-clone, the Cepheus Engine, involving 23rd century Terrans who recently won a war against the local Visitor-equivalents.

golan2072
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Joined: 2012-01-14 14:14

My current pet idea is Dereliction.

Singularity came and went. It went badly. The Solar Federation is in ruins. Its once-proud ships and stations are derelicts haunted by technological and biological horrors. Its colonies are death trap tombs. Only Terra remans - clawing its way back to space out of desolation. The new Terran Union needs the technological artifacts of the past to help build its nascent industrial base. Such artifacts abound in pre-Signularity derelicts. As the small Terran Navy has its hands full, the Terran Union outsources this dangerous exploration to (fool)hardy individuals, typically ex-military. You are such an individual. A licensed Stalker. You go to dead star systems to salvage machinery from dead ships, confronting their dead crews and robotics. The government pays you in cash for every artifact you bring back. You may even keep useful items you salvage from ships - the government needs machines much more than it needs individual laser rifles. Keep us the good work, stay alive for long enough - and you might even get a highly coveted Colonial License to set up your own extrasolar colony. Vast fortunes await - or an early death. Most likely, an early death.

My initial thought was to do this using Sword & Wizardry: White Box rules, which are simple and easy to work with. But this may transition into ACKS rules, which are much better but also much more complex to work with.

Rodriguez
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That’s surprising to hear. ACKS is one of the best retro-clones of D&D in a very crowded market of retro clones, so the idea of having to find an open niche is an odd pitch. Meanwhile, the big appeal of ACKS is how much agency it gives the PCs to rule kingdoms, corner trade markets, and even build and stock your own dungeons for other adventurers to die in. A sci-fi ACKS that has the PCs as soldiers under someone else’s command (and that option only) is a bit off base. I mean, as long as we're talking "sister-game" and not just, "look, Autarch made another game."


-fletch137

 

I think entering an unoccupied niche is always a good idea, especially if its something like military/horror!

There should not be any agency loss if the theme is about private military contractors instead of being part of an army. PCs could be officers with their henchmen as sergants and the rest are mercenary grunts. Not much different then standard ACKS and D@W with the additional motivator of high monthly costs from spaceship maintainance and debt.

RandyB
Joined: 2018-02-14 22:07

That’s surprising to hear. ACKS is one of the best retro-clones of D&D in a very crowded market of retro clones, so the idea of having to find an open niche is an odd pitch. Meanwhile, the big appeal of ACKS is how much agency it gives the PCs to rule kingdoms, corner trade markets, and even build and stock your own dungeons for other adventurers to die in. A sci-fi ACKS that has the PCs as soldiers under someone else’s command (and that option only) is a bit off base. I mean, as long as we're talking "sister-game" and not just, "look, Autarch made another game."


-fletch137

 

I think entering an unoccupied niche is always a good idea, especially if its something like military/horror!

There should not be any agency loss if the theme is about private military contractors instead of being part of an army. PCs could be officers with their henchmen as sergants and the rest are mercenary grunts. Not much different then standard ACKS and D@W with the additional motivator of high monthly costs from spaceship maintainance and debt.


-Rodriguez
Traveller owns the "motivator of high monthly costs from spaceship maintainance and debt" niche already. I'm OK with leaving it to them. There's a lot of other logistic challenges for a PMC that ACKS is ideally suited to model.
golan2072
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Joined: 2012-01-14 14:14

Why not both? Autarch could definitely publish its own Cepheus Engine (Traveller retro-clone) variant rules for PMCs and the like. Which would probably be better than the Mongoose mercenary rules.

 

That’s surprising to hear. ACKS is one of the best retro-clones of D&D in a very crowded market of retro clones, so the idea of having to find an open niche is an odd pitch. Meanwhile, the big appeal of ACKS is how much agency it gives the PCs to rule kingdoms, corner trade markets, and even build and stock your own dungeons for other adventurers to die in. A sci-fi ACKS that has the PCs as soldiers under someone else’s command (and that option only) is a bit off base. I mean, as long as we're talking "sister-game" and not just, "look, Autarch made another game."

 


-fletch137

 

 

I think entering an unoccupied niche is always a good idea, especially if its something like military/horror!

There should not be any agency loss if the theme is about private military contractors instead of being part of an army. PCs could be officers with their henchmen as sergants and the rest are mercenary grunts. Not much different then standard ACKS and D@W with the additional motivator of high monthly costs from spaceship maintainance and debt.


-Rodriguez

Traveller owns the "motivator of high monthly costs from spaceship maintainance and debt" niche already. I'm OK with leaving it to them. There's a lot of other logistic challenges for a PMC that ACKS is ideally suited to model.


-RandyB

Rodriguez
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Traveller owns the "motivator of high monthly costs from spaceship maintainance and debt" niche already. I'm OK with leaving it to them. There's a lot of other logistic challenges for a PMC that ACKS is ideally suited to model.


-RandyB

Thats no more a niche then "GP = XP" I would say and repaying debt fits the theme better then just doing the "1 credit earned from military contracts = 1 XP" motivator. Guess doing both at the same time could work though.

What challenges / rewards / motivators would you suggest?

Hardrada
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I'd like to see someone who modeled modern sensibilities into how PMCs fit the universe. Most Sci-Fi games portray PMCs as interchangeable with regular forces. It would be more interesting, I think, to capture some of the unique features of PMCd that explain why they exist (beyond BattleTech's vision of a feudal future).
wmarshal
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Is there a niche for a system that supports campaigns with semi-realistic space travel/logistics and economics AND plenty of aliens and mystical “wuuwuu”? I see that White Star has lots of aliens and options for space magic built in, but I cry when told that space travel is pretty much described as “speed of plot”. Stars Without Number has more crunch, but is lacking in the department of aliens. SWN does have low level psychics, and a separate book for space magic, but for some reason the psychic powers and magic feel off to me. (Might be the bizarre spell names/effects and the tool box nature of the material.) I think there could be a space between the two systems. For my Dwimmermount campaign to convert the Astral Reavers in the Divinitorium into some more interesting I’m basically converting Star Knights from White Star into a variant of the Blade Dancer (trading in Turn Undead for being more awesome with their swords), but if I was building a setting with interstellar travel I’d lift from SWN. I think Alex could come up with an interesting setting to go along with his version of space ACKS. The real question is whether or not Alex has the time.

 

 

GMJoe
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Is there a niche for a system that supports campaigns with semi-realistic space travel/logistics and economics AND plenty of aliens and mystical “wuuwuu”?

-wmarshal

Rubber-forehead aliens and mystical wuuwuu are associated more with the science fantasy genre, which tends to care more about drama than about how its settings' technologies work; wheras fiction that leans heavily on detailing the capabilities and limitations of specific technologies is almost by definition "hard" SF, and hard SF avoids handwaving like the plague.

Which isn't to say you couldn't have an SF game with both wuuwuu mysticism and hard logistics - just that there's not much written fiction that includes both, so the "I wanna make a game that plays like the books I love" motivation for designing such a game is missing, so it's less likely that a game designer has already been inspired to make such a game.

Your best option might be to import some wuuwuu mysticism into an existing hard SF game. Traveller's pretty easy to mod, in my experience; maybe you could... I dunno, import Mage: The Awakening's system of spheres as abilities for player characters, or something?

Stars Without Number has more crunch, but is lacking in the department of aliens.

-wmarshal
Eh? It has rules for making new alien races, and the sector generation rules have a fairly high chance of generating alien-inhabited worlds, and the entire game is built on the premise that you can import old D&D adventures and reskin the monsters as alien critters of various sorts... Is it that you want some predefined alien cultures that fit into the setting in a well-defined way, rather than rules for rolling your own?

SWN does have low level psychics, and a separate book for space magic, but for some reason the psychic powers and magic feel off to me. (Might be the bizarre spell names/effects and the tool box nature of the material.)

-wmarshal

For a while now I've been considering running a Stars Without Number campaign with magic, but using only the Arcanist class from the SWN Deluxe Edition core book and the eldrich spells from ACKS's Heroic Fantasy Handbook, instead of any of the content from Stars Without Number's own magic sourcebook. My idea is to flavour magic as an ancient practice barely changed since the days of pre-modern alchemists and astrologers, and which has been preserved and passed on only by secretive cults - differentiating it from the more mainstream-studied-and-publically-acknowledged psionic disciplines.

I've no idea how well that idea would work in practice, but there's something about using insense and chalk and ritual to conjure cacodemon spawn in the engine room of a tramp freighter starship that I find fascinating.

wmarshal
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Stars Without Number has more crunch, but is lacking in the department of aliens.


-wmarshal

Eh? It has rules for making new alien races, and the sector generation rules have a fairly high chance of generating alien-inhabited worlds, and the entire game is built on the premise that you can import old D&D adventures and reskin the monsters as alien critters of various sorts... Is it that you want some predefined alien cultures that fit into the setting in a well-defined way, rather than rules for rolling your own?


-GMJoe

It’s probably because I’m more of an modifier/mixer of existing settings than one who creates a setting from scratch.

RandyB
Joined: 2018-02-14 22:07

 

 

Traveller owns the "motivator of high monthly costs from spaceship maintainance and debt" niche already. I'm OK with leaving it to them. There's a lot of other logistic challenges for a PMC that ACKS is ideally suited to model.


-RandyB

 

Thats no more a niche then "GP = XP" I would say and repaying debt fits the theme better then just doing the "1 credit earned from military contracts = 1 XP" motivator. Guess doing both at the same time could work though.

What challenges / rewards / motivators would you suggest?


-Rodriguez

The logistics of a PMC are semi-notoriously described as "lawyers, guns, and money", all of which are required at a scale beyond "high monthly costs from spaceship maintenance and debt". For an ACKS-ish depiction of the establishment of a PMC, albeit in an alternate early 21st century setting, read Tom Kratman's "Countdown" series, currently sitting at three releases.

The main protagonist, in ACKS terms, is at the late "Adventurer" tier and, lacking any perceived opportunity to move into the "Conqueror" tier, has retired. Then just such an opportunity is unexpectedly presented to him.

Kratman, and Jerry Pournelle's Falkenberg stories, are my main go-tos for PMC campaign inspiration. ACKS is ideally set to be adapted to those kinds of campaigns.