Moons of Leviathan: Space Drugs

Inspired by the Visions of Death move in Apocalypse World: Burned Over in the Volatile playbook and in Apocalypse World 2nd Edition in the Battlebabe Playbook.

Moves are gained through using technology.

When you take Trance before battle, roll your approporiate training:
On a 10+, name one person who will die and one who will live.
On a 7-9, name one person who will die or one who will live.
On a miss you see a vision of the monster you become as a result of this battle and the fell havoc your hand brings to the universe, take -1 for this battle and hold 3 moving forward after the battle is done.
[ ] +1 to a roll that brings this vision to reality.
[ ] +1 to to a roll that brings this vision to reality.
[ ] Roll this move again as if you were entering battle. Either retire this character as the destiny is made real or prove you have free will by changing the course of destiny.

“I live in an apocalyptic dream. My steps fit into it so precisely that I fear most of all I will grow bored reliving the thing so exactly.”
― Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah

True Sword, a networked blade with an AI embedded in its core.

Link to t-shirt

Knife Fights in Space t-shirt, all profits go to the Trevor Project

Training and Moves in Moons of Leviathan

Riding a wave of inspiration from Morgan, we’re playing Traveller(ish). We’re using the skills as a way to resolve conflicts using Apocalypse World moves. So far it is working

What about skill improvement?

In Book 2: Starships of the Traveller Little Black Box, it talks a bit about getting education and training. Easy enough to Apocalypse it up a bit. Here’s a different way to say something similar, drawing inspiration from ( or ruthlessly pillaging, depending on your POV) Apocalypse World and Burned Over:

“Muad’Dib learned rapidly because his first training was in how to learn. And the first lesson of all was the basic trust that he could learn. It’s shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult.”
Frank Herbert, Dune
When your character wants to train, either gaining a new expertise or improving an established skill, talk to the Referee about the people who offer such training.
Then the Referee will tell you 1 to 4 of the following:
[ ] It is going to take X weeks/months/years of consistent training
[ ] First, you will have to hire a tutor through [an in-game faction]
[ ] You will need X to help you with it.
[ ] It is going to cost dearly.
[ ] There is ancient tech that is said to condition the brain in this manner.
[ ] You’re already the best in the sub-sector; you’ll have to venture deep into the void or take on a massive under-taking in order to improve.
[ ] It is illegal to train the brain in such a manner; you will be risking imprisonment, excommunication or worse.
[ ] Those who safeguard these training methods are rigid in their orthodoxy and will guard them dearly but there are always rebels and heretics at the fringe of the worlds…
Once your training is complete you can add the skill to your sheet or increase the skill you already have. The Referee will tell you what you will need to do to keep this skill sharp so that this expertise does not become covered in rust and decay.

But, Judd, you ask, what about stats?

I like that we’re saying that the limits of the human body aren’t interesting to us. What you use to change the world is your training and in order to gain training you have to go out and interact with the world.

What about non-basic moves?

Non-basic moves are all tech. Maybe the True Sword, a networked blade with an embedded AI, gives you a move like the Gunlugger’s Not to be Fucked With, where you fight as a gang. Certain drugs give you access to psychic powers.

A True Sword and a cool way to show the end of the blog post

Can you get a mask with this on it?

Yes, you can. LINK

Moons of Leviathan, Session 1, Remembering Morgan

That game was special and strange. Thank you, Sean and the Actual Play team. Thank you to everyone in chat.

Thank you, Morgan, for the cool character and cool everything. Thank you for continuing to inspire us.

Ithaca Station’s True Sword

That is exactly what we did, Morgan. There was a duel out on the ship’s hull, in the void of space under the baleful glare of the Leviathan’s eye.

I think you would’ve loved it. What you made and you inspired us to make was too cool for one session. We’re going back.

Preparing for Moons of Leviathan

Getting ready for a game this Friday and just getting all of my notes all in one place.

The Atlantic Ducal Moons

  • Jiddah
  • Mgaar
  • Suez

The Arctic Ducal Moons

  • Baikonur
  • Zadar
  • Messina
  • Doha

The Indian Ducal Moons

  • Oakland
  • Bushehr
  • Anchorage

4 Noble Houses: Job, Triton, Rangomai, Mizuchi

Questions to consider before play:

What is your name?

What are your yachts named?

(Perhaps named for Mythical beasts, Types of Storms, Revered Ancestors?)

Map of the Ducal Moons that orbit Leviathan

Inspired by the Lawmaker from Apocalypse World: Burned Over:

This Ancestral Station has been in your family for generations, granting you the title, Marquis. One thousand souls are in your care. 50 trained knights and 100 soldiers and support staff are sworn to you. 
Choose 3
[ ] A leal and loyal knight named:
[ ] An engineering priest named:
[ ] A fine nexus-dock that brings trade.
[ ] A fine environmental system.
[ ] An engineering cathedral with an ancient reliquary.
[ ] A mercenary company, seperate from your Household Guard.
[ ] A trade agreement with a local mercantile fleet.
[ ] A hidden chamber used for swearing in your order’s knights that holds a secret.
[ ] The re-charging bay for a legendary True Sword.
[ ] Ancient scanners that miss nothing.
[ ] An oasis modelled after a paradise from Olde Earth.
[ ] Robot servants
Drink deep of the station’s plenty, choose 3: Art, Engineer-Priests, Feasts, Hospital, Intrigue, Water, Air, Pilgrimage Site, University, Ducal Attention, Music Arena, Digital Ancestors, Construction, Smart Laws, Leal Training Protocol, Spy Network, Clone Tanks 

Beware the station’s challenges, choose 2: Heretics, Decaying Orbit, Crime Syndicate, Feuding Knights, Vendetta, Debt, Dangerous Border, Heir Dispute: Father’s Clone 

Infantry Battle Experience: 1 Low Orbit Entry to Urban / 2 Station siege / 3 Lunar Siege / 4 Ship to Ship / 5 Asteroid to Asteroid / Noble House Ambush
Political Situation / 1 Changing Hands / 2 In Dispute: War / 3 In Dispute: Legal / 4 Treaty in Process / 5 New Heir / 6 Under Siege
Environmental Data / 1 Disaster Cascade / 2 Thin Air / 3 Storms / 4 Hallucinations / 5 Cruel but Liveable / Love & Earth-like

Dozens of moons surrounding a gas giant with a satanic storm eye moving to and fro. The gas giant is called Leviathan with dozens of moons and enough asteroids in its rings that new moons are still discovered.

There are 4 major houses: Job, Triton, Rangomai and Mizuchi charged with defending the ducal moons with the finest atmospheres with a dozen more houses minor picking up the scraps. Those with noble titles and their knights can wield fighting knives. They are trained with rifle and pistol but the ammunition is controlled by the Unions – laborers, crafters, and engineers who make sure those with title don’t drag everyone into frivolous wars.

War Mechs and Battlecruisers are only unlocked if there is an outside threat.

Alien artifacts on the solid planets closer to the system’s sun.

A science-station observatory at the edge of the system; this is where aging nobles who are found to be too warlike are exiled to.

Cover Mock-up for TRAVELLER / Science Fiction Adventure in the Far Future / Moons of Leviathan

I am imagining the Astrogation Temples, where you go to have your journey mapped. The mapping takes place in empty rooms with vaulted ceilings, where stone moon scultpures are put into motion on hard light holograms.

Why is it a temple? Because all journeys have religious significance. The navigators are trained in anthropological religious studies, helping humans keep in touch with their humanity while traversing the void. They might offer a parable or an argument or sit you down for a meal with a nearby family or offer guided meditation with their coordinates.

Astrogation computers are available but only used in an emergency. Computers have a rough time around Leviathan. The gas giant’s magnetic radiation wreaks havoc with any complicated computer and A.I. research is strictly forbidden because of the fell effects Leviathan’s pull has on synthetic entities of any kind.

The Ducal Moons are held by the 4 Major Houses: Job, Triton, Rangomai and Mizuchi. In the centuries since their settling, the moons have changed hands a number of times with houses Major and Minor rising and falling on a political tide.

Baikonur was the first moon settled and is held in trust by the Guilds and Temple. The Major Houses take turns guarding it, changing every 4 cycles. Baikonur, because of its special place in the orbits, was named for a spaceport on Olde Earth, rather than a nautical port.

Moons of Leviathan logo
Paul Atriedes and Duncan Idaho exchanging a knife salute. Good journey to you, Morgan. I’m sorry that we never got to play a knife-fight in space game.

Putting SWN Sectors to Use

Stars Without Number written around a black hole.

Razornet Away Team

Not as in, an Away Team but as in, a team that has been away for a while. There are plenty of reasons to have been out of the loop for a while. Here are a a few:

  • Armed Forces Service
  • Incarceration
  • Medical Cryogenic Hypernation
  • Shipwreck survivor
  • Pilgrimmage
  • Refugee

Whatever the reasons you were away, you’re back and either knew the other players from a past crew or job and now were put togther as a Freelance Team in Razornet’s app for enterprising freelancers on the edge of legality.

We’ll talk about what kind of game we want to see. Do you want to have all known each other from you previous enterprise? Maybe you all know each other from time in some Void Marine unit or all survived a shipwreck caused by a malicious alien intelligence…


Terran Mandate Envoy Team

You have just entered the system with a checklist in hand and a vague authority that might or might not be recognized by the governments in this sector. Can you bring the sector back to the bosom of Olde Earth’s government?

Do you want to?

Your commanding officer is jumping to another sector but will be back with the full weight of (TMB) Terran Mandate Battlecruiser Serengeti’s weapons and marines in a year (you hope).

We’ll discuss how your characters all feel about the Terran Mandate government and make an Engagement roll to see how well equipped you are to start. I’m thinking I’d make a roll or two behind the screen to know when the Serengeti will actually arrive and what state it will be in once it does.


Far Traders

Your team just jumped into this system in a rare ship equipped with an Event Horizon-Gate Engine, designed to harness the energy of black holes and turn that energy into jump-gate coordinates that will send you to another black hole near a different sector.

Naming starships is fun.

We’ll make an Engagement roll to see how the ship is doing and how valuable your goods are in the hold and move from there. You’ll stay in this sector for as long as it is profitable to do so before moving on with whatever you can carry. I love the idea of jumping to different sectors, each sector as its own chapter or book or season…


Scrappy

You are representatives in a scrappy government that wants to stay self-governed. Maybe it is a moon or a orbital station or a science station whose original mission has outlasted the government that put it there. Either way, you are a team looking to represent and stay independent in the face of powerful forces all around you.

We’ll look at the map, talk over the Sector’s situation and put your home in a spot that makes sense.


To the Table

I’m thinking about how I might use these SWN Sectors (I’ve got a few more in my drafts section that aren’t quite ready yet) and how I’d pitch those games. The Burned Over playbooks are looking really good to me and so many of SWN’s worlds are in various stages of apocalyptic decline/ascension. Air and water are still a big deal. I don’t think we’d have to change much to make that work.

I’m reading through my Traveller LBB and I’ve got some vague ideas about using that chargen to get background and then Burned Over Playbooks to show what kind of physical shell the character is downloaded into but that all might be too much work.

I’d rather just throw playbooks on the sector map, maybe make up a love letterish (article about Love Letters from a decade ago by John Harper…sure) engagement roll (like in Blades in the Dark) to see what kind of situation the players are starting in and get to playing.


Original picture from 12019 on pixabay


If you’d like to see more designs like this please check out the Science Fiction Collection…

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/collections/science-fiction

Ducal Moons

Leviathan’s moons call to me!

Moons of Leviathan, cool logo from a cave looking out onto a Gas Giant.

I am imagining the Astrogation Temples, where you go to have your journey mapped. The mapping takes place in empty rooms with vaulted ceilings, where stone moon scultpures are put into motion on hard light holograms.

Why is it a temple? Because all journeys have religious significance. The navigators are trained in anthropological religious studies, helping humans keep in touch with their humanity while traversing the void. They might offer a parable or an argument or sit you down for a meal with a nearby family or offer guided meditation with their coordinates.

Orbital map of the Ducal Moons, being those moons with atmosphere and dockage.

Astrogation computers are available but only used in an emergency. Computers have a rough time around Leviathan. The gas giant’s magnetic radiation wreaks havoc with any complicated computer and A.I. research is strictly forbidden because of the fell effects Leviathan’s pull has on synthetic entities of any kind.

The Ducal Moons are held by the 4 Major Houses: Job, Triton, Rangomai and Mizuchi. In the centuries since their settling, the moons have changed hands a number of times with houses Major and Minor rising and falling on a political tide.

Baikonur was the first moon settled and is held in trust by the Unions and Temple. The Major Houses take turns guarding it, changing every 4 cycles. Baikonur, because of its special place in the orbits, was named for a spaceport on Olde Earth, rather than a nautical port.


Map inspired by the orbit diagrams from this blog post.

Moons of Leviathan

Morgan did his public twitter chargen and he rolled up a Traveller Noble and prodded at me to think about knife fights in space.

And we did.

Dozens of moons surrounding a gas giant with a satanic storm eye moving to and fro. The gas giant is called Leviathan with dozens of moons and enough asteroids in its rings that new moons are still discovered.

There are 4 major houses: Job, Triton, Rangomai and Mizuchi charged with defending the ducal moons with the finest atmospheres with a dozen more houses minor picking up the scraps. Those with noble titles and their knights can wield fighting knives. They are trained with rifle and pistol but the ammunition is controlled by the Unions – laborers, crafters, and engineers who make sure those with title don’t drag everyone into frivolous wars.

War Mechs and Battlecruisers are only unlocked if there is an outside threat.

Alien artifacts on the solid planets closer to the system’s sun.

A science-station observatory at the edge of the system; this is where aging nobles who are found to be too warlike are exiled to.


Oddly, I have two copies of LBB Traveller on my shelves.

How long would I be able to run Traveller before hacking in some Apocalypse World moves?

No idea…


Morgan, I salute you.


I continue to daydream about these moons here.

The Beowulf Exploration and Mercantile Corporation FAQ

Is it true that everyone serving a BEM ship is a convict? Will I be serving on a ship full of criminals?

It is true that some people get out of prison with the skills necessary to serve on a BEM ship and that one of our founding captains served time. That said, we have plenty of explorers who just got out of military service, university and even a few lately who just got out of cryo-sleep from an antique generation ship!

Our crews are diverse and our mutiny index is far below average in the sector.


20 missions and I get my own ship, that seems like a scam – too good to be true. What gives?

After 20 accredited missions you will get shares in your own ship with a group of freelancers whose skill-sets and emotional intelligence and cultural backgrounds compliment yours. Our algorithm is so good that the Perimeter agencies investigated us to make sure we weren’t using an illegal AI!

When our founders left their jobs as freelance spacers on other people’s ships, they crunched the sociological data and found that most spacers either quit after 5 missions or stay for 20+ with an incredibly high rate of mutiny and dissatisfaction. We wanted to find a way to change spacer culture and the way we’re doing that is by giving our explorers the chance to own ships and hire other freelancers.


What if I just want to serve 5 missions?

That is great. Many of our most valued alumni serve less than 20 missions. Once you serve 5 you are a part of our Beowulf Society with access to a network of spacers, freelancers and starship captains all over the sector.


How long will this take?

Different people take different amounts of time. Our fastest explorer got it done in just 5 years and is now on an Admiral Hayla Muhkerjee, Vice-President of Explorer Resources.

The average is around 7 years, earning freelance rates far above average in the sector. We’ve had a few people earn their shares in their Beowulf ship and with the money they’ve saved purchase a second ship all their own!


NOTE: This led to a G+ Thread and that led to a Play-by-Post Community.

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/collections/science-fiction

Latest Bundle of Holding: Traveller PDF

My tablet is now filled with amazing gaming PDF’s thanks to the Bundle of Holding. Great stuff and the money goes to a good cause too.

This month they are rocking Traveller PDF’s and I’m picking them up, not only because the Little Black Box fascinate me but because they go well with a bundle I purchased earlier, Stars Without Number. I’d imagine these PDF’s will compliment each other quite well and the ship schematics will be handy if I ever get to run that campaign in my head where the players are a spaceship repo team, floating through space and reclaiming ships whose payments are overdue.

Speaking of space economics, an old post in which I interview Jason Morningstar has been seeing lots of hits and is well worth reading over if you want some insight into Traveler.

In the comments, please tell me about your favorite science fiction RPG moments, campaigns or characters.

Interview: Jason Morningstar on Traveller

Jason Morningstar posted on a Story Games thread about things he learned playing Traveller in his youth and I immediately sent him an e-mail:

Now I really want to get the story of how Traveller taught you kinematics, stock market and planetary science. Were you gaming with scientists and economists?

GDW’s Traveller was published in 1977. If you were a gamer in 1977 you had access to crappily-produced games like Dungeons & Dragons that looked like zines assembled by slightly deranged high school students. The art alternated between pervy and terrible. In contrast, in the same format (a digest-sized box with three books) Traveller was professionally laid out and edited and had made a few passes through a Linotype machine. The text was crisp and clear, sans serif, in an austere black box. There was no art, because art was for people who were not serious. It was revelatory and awesome, and just looking at it made you want to be a better player.

And then reading the actual text – the actual well-edited, concise, well-written text – was even more eye-opening. Marc Miller, Traveller’s designer, is a decorated Army Captain and the game reflects his experience and influences. In many ways it is a game about service, even though the core activities of many traveller PCs are grey market tramping, piracy and mayhem. A tired joke about Traveller is that you can die during character creation. This is completely true. As a guy who won a Bronze Star in Vietnam no doubt knows intimately, it is also true in real life.

I mentioned that it was serious in tone, and that is reflected in every corner of the design. There is an assumption of realism throughout, even though the gloss is space fantasy. This realism extends to space travel, which is relativistic until the hand-wavey FTL kicks in (and even that is reined in by hard and fascinating limits). It also extends to planet and system design and fighting, on every scale from the shoving match to cracking planets in half. You can compare this approach to, say, 1976’s Metamorphasis Alpha, just to see the gulf in design approaches. Traveller doesn’t always succeed but at least it tries. It is serious.

As an elegant adjunct to this, the game relies on the majestic 2d6 bell curve for pretty much everything. You don’t need a Crown Royal bag full of special dice that look like an elf’s magic jewels to play Traveller, no sir. You need randomizers, six-sided, quantity two. That and a thorough grasp on the metric system and you are good to go. Traveller taught me the metric system and, of course, the 24 hour clock.

Perhaps the most unappreciated piece of Traveller is the setting, which is presented in media res as a living thing, and with the lightest of touches. There’s an Imperium, which rides herd over a loose coalition of semi-autonomous regions of space. There are the military services which define the Imperium. There’s a name tossed out very occasionally – a planet here, an Emperor there. And that is about it. If you come late to the traveller party (and by late I mean after 1979 and the game’s second supplement, High Guard) you may be confused by this, because a crushing history and metaplot second only to Glorantha has subsequently developed. It is roundly stupid and sad, because the first little black books straight-up told you to make your own damn universe.

Which me and my brother dutifully did. We couldn’t afford any additional books anyway. We made our own Imperium in our own universe and it was a fantastic place full of danger and adventure, precisely calibrated to our interests, enthusiasms, and attention spans. We made up characters until a merchant mustered out with a heavily-mortgaged ship, no small task. That ship became our home away from home, and keeping her solvent and operational was the alpha and omega of our game play. Mortgaged? Yes, for 40 years. Playing Traveller introduced me to the concept.

One of my brother’s friends, flush from a job-related in-game windfall, suggested we go into commodity trading. There weren’t any rules for that, per se, but we all agreed that if we could do it on Earth they must do it in the free market future of Traveller. So we traded commodities, using actual products and actual firms and actual stock market data, pulled at each game session from that day’s newspaper. Playing Traveller introduced me to the concept (and also the concept of losing money in the stock market). Our ship tooled around on a semi-profitable trade route we had built. Occasionally we were beset by pirates, which is how I learned about applied kinematics and the intricacies of delta-V. Traveller taught me that. It taught me how lasers work, and how to foil them with sand. Planetary science, how atmospheres work, gas compositions and why some were better than others to breathe, how to get fuel from a gas giant, hell, what a gas giant was. Traveller, Traveller, Traveller. It was, for tiny me, extremely hardcore.

Your game was so adult with mortgages and investments. I am really fascinated by how the book’s lay-out inspired you to take the game seriously. Are you looking at your lay-out choices for Bully Pulpit with those kinds of eyes when a game is coming together, thinking to yourself, What does this inspire a reader to do with it?

Regarding Traveller’s book design, I think it was influential in a subtle way to me – it demonstrated that digest sized could be a genuinely cool format. Compact, succinct, easy to handle and reference, easy to use and browse. Digest and trade formats were more or less abandoned until small press publishers reclaimed them many years later, and I think that’s fantastic. Maybe it also taught me something about how to present information in a way that communicates both rules and tone, but that’s more of a stretch.

You wrote:
“We made up characters until a merchant mustered out with a heavily-mortgaged ship, no small task

Do you happen to remember that ship’s name?

Thinking back on it, I don’t think our ship *had* a name. Why
would it need a name? It was our ship! I remember one very bad day when we were boarded by pirates, and we fought them off in the corridors of our ship, the ship we were working so hard to keep from being repossessed by the space bank. In the end there was one pirate who survived, and we had him duct taped to a chair, and we put him in an airlock and cycled it without a second thought. I remember being viscerally livid, just furious, and that horrible execution seemed like justice. We loved our ship. I was like ten years old.

How does one get fuel from a gas giant?

Traveller Jump Drives use hydrogen, so it is possible with the right equipment to skim the atmosphere of an appropriate gas giant to top off your tanks with unrefined l-hyd. Gas giants are so important to the Traveller universe that “presence of nearby gas giant” gets its own letter in the Universal World Profile.

Did one of you GM or did you take turns?

My brother, who is four years older than me, was our GM. I didn’t start GMing until I started playing with my own peer group some years later – with Traveller I was the punk kid among my much-cooler elders.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Jason.

This design and more in the Science Fiction Collection…