Archive for ‘ March, 2010

Anomaly One: The Outline

A roleplaying game outline is a wonderfully flexible document that bears little resemblance to the finished product. A narrative like a novel has to go from start to middle to end, you have a procession of events that have to be in order. A roleplaying game supplement is a textbook – you have a few topics you have to cover, a lot of topics you might cover, and the order in which you present them isn’t always obvious. As you write the book, you think of more stuff that should go in, and you find that some sections are redundant or a lot shorter than you expected them to be while others just go on and on.

(Outlining Anomaly One is further complicated by the potential for a print version – the length of the pdf is effectively unconstrained, but a print version really has to be long enough to justify a print run and a multiple of 16 pages long  - 32, 64 and so forth. Anyway, that’s getting way ahead of things.)

The content divides roughly into four sections.

1) The player section – background details on our solar system and the future setting. Earth has fusion power and affordable space travel (TL8 in Traveller terms), but we’re running out of various metals. To the asteroid belt, for profit! There’ll be new or tweaked careers, a few spacecraft, and new event tables to match the new background.

2) Anomaly One – the alien ship, and what’s on board. The ship is five kilometres long (think Rama), but the characters initially have access to only part of it. Exploring the ship is something you can do while in jump space (again, using the conventional Traveller jump drive). After the ship has completed its first jump, the PCs can control where it goes next to a degree. The ship bonds to the player characters to some extent, and only allows them to command it.

There are several other groups on board the ship. The initial outline had half-a-dozen such factions, but that’s too many – there’ll be new alien races in section 3 too, and I don’t want to overload the players with weird aliens. So, some of the previous passengers on board the ship are long dead, but they’ve left relics and ruins that the characters can find.

3) The new region of space that the ship jumps into. A full Traveller sector would be overkill, so it’ll probably be a 2×2 or 3×3 grid of subsectors, which is still plenty of planets to explore. There’ll be another four or five alien races here, and the region is on the verge of open conflict. The sudden arrival of a giant super-advanced starship may tip them over the edge.

4) Adventures and GM advice, including several long-term plot arcs and suggestions on what’s really going on and what the Anomaly One is. You can compare it to Stargate: Universe, with its ancient alien ship to explore, or Farscape with the characters being dumped into the middle of alien space with no way home. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, the Odyssey.

So, the initial outline looks like this:

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The Polls are Closed…

… and Anomaly One wins by the thinnest of margins! A mere two votes separated it from The Basileus of the Stars, so we’ll work on those two projects first.

Anomaly One is intended to be a campaign launchpad. The first two or three sessions of a campaign usually go well, but there’s a lull after that when the initial novelty fades but the game hasn’t yet reached a critical mass of ongoing plot threads. The material in Anomaly One is designed to be a second-stage booster for your campaign, giving it an added boost to make sure it takes flight.

That’s the marketing spiel, anyway. What it means is that there will be enough material in Anomaly One to create your own characters and play through at least four or five sessions of play, and then build your own plots on top of the setting material. Once you exhaust the initial adventures, you can either treat the game as a mini-campaign and bring events to a conclusion, or keep going for dozens of sessions.

Next week: Outlining!