Diaspora passed the first test.


When I buy a game, the true mark, the truest review, is whether or not I am so inspired after reading it that I feel compelled to get a posse together and play the damned thing. As I was three-quarters done reading Diaspora the group came together. I was growing just a touch sick of fantasy, as I’ve had a steady diet of delicious Burning Wheel fantasy for the past year or so with slight side dishes of Shock: Social Science Fiction. Pete and I cleared up our Friday nights and got a posse together.

Diaspora is a love-letter to the Traveller’s Little Black Box. The introduction talks about the creative team’s background with old school Traveller and its setting creation. The Introduction charmed the hell out of me.

The Economics system has touches of Burning Wheel’s Resources rules. The Personal Combat has touches of Burning Empires’ Firefight and the Cluster creation has touches of BE’s World Burning. The Space Combat has touches of Agon’s abstraction in combat. It steals liberally and it steals well. Character creation takes the Spirit of the Century model and does some nice little tricks with it that we enjoyed.

The issues I have with FATE it addresses but doesn’t quite come out and solve them. Spirit of the Century’s character advancement never sat right with me and that makes sense, pulp characters don’t do a whole helluva lot of growing. They explain how to advance skills and how to change Aspects but it isn’t where my picky-ass wants them to be yet. That said, it isn’t so far gone that I can’t play it. As a matter of fact, its my favorite iteration of FATE yet published.

I would have liked a mediagraphy, a list of movies, books and graphic novels that inspired it, along with a list of the games that inspired its design.

The Cluster creation, I think, could inject just a touch more situation into the mix. I’d like the dice rolls to inspire just a little more conflict and mystery but just a touch more. It is a minor quibble.

I wanted to play it as soon as I was done with the Cluster creation rules. When I got hip deep into the Mini-Games, the different forms of conflict resolution (Personal Combat, Platoon Combat, Space Combat and Social Conflicts) I was damned hungry to give it a go.

I e-mailed the posse of guys who had clear Friday nights:

Dear Gaming Geek Brothers,
Pete and I are currently playing a one-on-one game of Burning Wheel. There is an end-point in sight, or at least a good resting point and when we get there, I’d love to get a posse together and game. I’m rather sick of fantasy at this point and just got a new shiny, science fiction toy that I’d love to take out for a spin.
Here it is…wanna play? Friday nights from around 9:30ish until around midnightish?
Here’s the game’s basic pitch:

Old Earth-that-was and faster than light travel are myths.

The human diaspora through the galaxy was thousands of years in the making but since the earth empire fell apart, it is made up of isolated systems called clusters. These clusters might be thousands of light years apart, only linked by slipstream gates.

Some systems have regressed back into a superstitous Iron or even Stone Age, viewing left-over technology as magic artifacts left behind by the gods, medieval tyrants wielding plasma rifles like clubs. Some are edging back towards transhumanism, re-capturing the glories of past ages, if not attempting to push beyond it.

What’ll we do, Judd?

We’ll get together and make our own cluster, a 4-system group with its own astro-politics, conflicts and mysteries. Then we’ll figure out where we want to adventure and make our game (and our characters) there. Diaspora is Hard SF, no anti-gravity or FTL but still with awesome ship-to-ship and platoon based combat. For tone, I am thinking Firefly, more raw space with bills to pay and a dangerous void out there. I’d love to end up with a game where the PC’s are former marines turned free-traders or government-backed settlers pushing to the edge of space’s frontier…shit like that.

I’d love to start off in the GM’s chair but I think this game would be a neat one to swap around the GMing once in a while, maybe play for a solid chapter with one GM and then fast forward the system 300 years or make up another cluster or whatever makes sense. We’ll figure it out once the cluster is made and we get some laser blasts.

Here’s the web site:

Here’s the SRD (all of the rules that are Open Content):

Thoughts appreciated.

And that is as nice a review as I can give. It made me want to take one of my two gaming nights a week, in a busy, brutal schedule and play this…now. I had to get like-minded geeks together, get the fudge dice out and play this damned game. Now let’s see how she flies with lasers taking aim, the engines creating too much heat and electronic counter-measures mucking up the computer systems. Next we get to find out how it works at the table.

AP threads on Story Games & ENworld

2 thoughts on “Diaspora passed the first test.

  1. Thanks for this Judd! Regarding your request for a mediagraphy — the reason there isn’t one is because there isn’t one. Diaspora was not intrinsically driven by external media but rather by pure nostalgia. In the acknowledgements we mention a few authors — Vernor Vinge certainly — but for the most part this is not a work that derives from a desire to emulate any extant fiction. It lets our teenage selves playing Traveller grow up and play something cooler.

    That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that C.W. Marshall is an avid BSG and Firefly fan (he tipped me off to both–I don’t get television signals except by DVD); so much so that he edited and wrote for the book, Cylons in America .

    But really there’s nothing you can watch together that’s going to deliver Diaspora to your brain in advance of playing. Too much of it is yours from the moment you start — cluster and character generation will be (and are best) informed by the films and books and studies that the players bring to the table and not by the author’s experiences. The system is, in fact, designed to leverage your ideas at the expense of ours wherever possible.

    • I totally dig that.

      I would’ve liked to have seen a game bibliography even more. There are so many games that seem like obviously mechanic inspirations and I would have loved to have seen them given their props.

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