Sunday, April 22, 2012

Beowulf and her crew drift from New Texas towards Ceres, New Oregon.

At the same time, a pirate corvette, the Celestial Eagle, is headed towards Dallas, New Texas, coming at nearly 90˚ to Beowulf's path. Coming in the opposite direction of Beowulf is a military frigate, Overlord. 

Beowulf is on the right edge of the picture. The pirates area in the bottom left, and Overlord is in the upper right corner.

At first the ships just continue on their courses.

As the pirates' ships are marked in Overlord's database as enemies,  Overlord starts firing on the fighters from long range, but does no damage. The fighters fire their thrusters to engage Overlord.

Overlord kills one of the fighter's pilots and the other is destroyed by a shot from the laser. The fighters turn to fire on Overlord but cannot penetrate Overlord's armor.

While the fighters and Overlord are engaging each other, the Celestial Eagle hails Beowulf and demands that they come to relative stop. To reinforce the message, they fire on Beowulf but cause no significant damage.

Beowulf is unarmed, so gives in as cannon fire causes Heavy Damage, cuts off parts of Beowulf's fuel supply, and reduces Beowulf's armor. 

At the same time, the fighters make a pass by Overlord, dogfighting with the slower frigate. Despite some skilled piloting, Overlord loses some Armor as a result of the fight. Its own laser manages to heavily damage one of the fighters, reducing fuel and speed significantly. The fighters are effectively out of the fight, using their last fuel to move on a vector that will make them easy to pick up/refuel after the battle.

To escape the fighters, Overlord accelerates with its main engine towards the Celestial Eagle and Beowulf. Celestial Eagle has just begun boarding Beowulf... while at the same time, the pilot of the Celestial Eagle is killed by fire from Overlord which lightly damages the ship.

As I have details on the crew and this is a campaign I'm following more closely than a quick battle, I decide to play out the boarding action with 5150. 

The crew prepares for boarding... Dempson and Sarah hide in the engine room with their weapons drawn, while Yosi and Sam prepare to stop any attempts at taking the cockpit. Poor Doctor Sera is stuck alone far away from anyone else as Beowulf is boarded; he's in the medbay downstairs!

The pirates' captain and his two best soldiers come in through the airlock first. Closely behind them are 4 of the regular crewmen... the engineer and the pilot (who is killed as this is all going on) stayed back on the Celestial Eagle.

Two of the pirates capture Doctor Sera while the Captain and his first mate head upstairs and wait for back up before proceeding. Meanwhile, Yosi and Sam have a minor disagreement over whether to try to ambush the pirates and retake their (now damaged) ship or to wait and see how things play out. Sam easily wins the argument, as he doesn't want to lose Sera and they are heavily outgunned. He accepts that they are probably going to be captured, but hopes for a better opportunity to show up soon.

The pirates regroup on the main deck in the crew area (kitchen,  lounge area, crew cabins).

Then I roll doubles for activation and go back to the space combat. Overlord turns to continue firing (like a mobile turret) on Celestial Eagle as it flies by. Celestial Eagle is now severely damaged.

The Engineer comes over onto Beowulf to escape the fire. Meanwhile, the pirate captain and his first mate come into the bridge area. There is a standoff between the crew of the Beowulf and the crew of the Celestial Eagle in the engine room and the cockpit. 

(The following is the result of an Argument Roll).

"Stand down, cowboy, I don't think you know how to use that gun." The Pirate Captain says to Sam.
"Lets skip to business," Sam responds, "We know that you have one of our crew captive downstairs."
"Captive for now. If my pilot isn't flying this ship in ten sec--" His first mate whispers in his ear-- "Well if you're not flying this ship the way I want it in ten seconds, your crewman's dead and this situation will get a bit more interesting."
"Look," Yosi says as he lowers his weapon, "We don't need to point guns at you, the authorities are already shooting theirs'. Now I don't think the authorities like me too much either. So I see this going one of two ways. Either you stand down and we all get out of this, settle our differences later, or we fight now but we all get killed-- by that frigate or by each other."
"Why don't we just kill you and get out of here ourselves?"
"Because," says Sam, "As soon as your finger goes for that trigger, I'll press shit button," he raises a small communicator "And we hail that ship. As soon as they hear that we're boarded and under attack, they'll come straight for you.
"Besides, without a pilot, I doubt you'll be able to outrace them with this beat up freighter."
There is a tense moment of silence.
"Alright," says the pirate captain as he lowers his weapon. "Just get us out of here."
So the combined crews (minus the fighter pilots and the pilot of the Celestial Eagle) pull away from the exploding Celestial Eagle.

The Overlord finishes off the Celestial Eagle, assuming that Beowulf was merely escaping its pursuers. By the time Overlord realizes that Beowulf has pirates on board-- it picks up the two fighters peacefully-- Overlord is too far away to positively ID Beowulf, as its high velocity from escaping the fighters took a little while to beat, and Beowulf hit the antimatter drives to get away. Figuring that they weren't sure that Beowulf was criminal, the Overlord merely posts a note to look out for all ships of that class and continues on its original path.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Slice of Life

So, remember back in December when I first started working on a somewhat Traveller-like character generation system for 5150?

That was working pretty well, but since then I've been working on Fringe Space a bit more (especially the campaign elements) and recently finished my work on gaming Personalities and Relationships.

Simply, characters are defined by two elements of personality:

                 Pragmatic            Neutral              Idealistic   Y

And their relationships are defined in a similar way:
                  Antagonistic   Neutral       Cooperative         Y
Acquaintance (not a very accurate name, but whatever)

Note that these represent fundamentals... A character can be People: 5, Altrusitic (Pragmatic) and that can be interpreted in a million ways. Thats up to the player.

He could be a character who generally wants to help everyone even at risk of hurting himself (Altruistic) but accepts that sometimes you have to take the greater of two evils (Pragmatic), and as a result is likable and convincing as he is not overly idealistic while still always looking out for others (People 5).

He could be a lovable jerk (People 5) who's sense of humor wins people over, always wants the best for the entire world (Altruistic) but recognizes that his own life is the most important to preserve in most situations, as if he dies, then he cannot continue to help others (Pragmatic).

He could be a very good liar (People 5) who lies and manipulates to win people over (Pragmatic) to his side, which just so happens to generally be for the greater good above all else (Altruistic). He could even be a highly charismatic EVIL character, whose idea of the greater good is the idea that all people who sin must die to pave the way for a future utopia (like The Operative in Serenity).

Very different interpretations (Note that evil characters will have this fundamental difference be represented more by their affiliation and place in the game, not by their personality... as a result a character who is evil but has some good intentions might be easier to reason with than a character who is just evil for selfish or illogical reasons). But within the system of social interaction (to be presented below) they all actually behave in rather similar ways most of the time.

Same with Relationships.

Two characters love each other? They could just be very close friends or they could be spouses.
Antagonistic? They could just really enjoy fighting each other or they could assume that because the other is usually wrong they will tend to fight against them.
Note that antagonistic does not mean little bickering here and there, or even that they will get in the occasional big fight (as most couples in love tend to do-- usually for good reasons). It represents a general tendency to side against that character for whatever reason. A Love/Antagonistic relationship is not a great situation and could, for example, represent brothers who do love each other and want to protect each other but at the same time never agree on what is right.

So, how do these characters interact?

They can have Conversations and Arguments.

Arguments are somewhat like people opposed challenges in 5150 NB. They are modified, however, and come up when characters disagree about course of action (for example, if I tell one of my crew to kill a captured enemy when they are morally opposed to killing outside of combat) or when characters confront each other to cause change (If that character didn't fight that individual decision but confronted mine to try to change his personality-- probably to be less Pragmatic or more Altruistic). Arguments also vary by Heat Level-- how heated the argument is. If its a minor thing then its usually going to result in one giving in easily, while if the heat level is high the argument can become violent-- though often if you succeed in convincing a character in a high Heat argument, you'll fundamentally change them as well (hopefully this is for the better!) Heat is determined by the relationship of two characters, what the argument is over, and some other factors (arguments can also escalate to higher heat levels).

Conversations are a bit different. Instead of taking one character's Pep and pitting it against another's, the Pep scores are combined, modified (based upon how much the characters have in common WRT personality type), and then rolled for successes... with different amounts of successes causing different things.

Most of the time Conversation results in minor changes to relationship type (usually for the better) or nothing, but they can turn into Arguments as well. In some circumstances they can also give you information instead of relationship changes... play nice and people will do you favors. These can usually also be gained by arguing, but its a different process (the difference between wearing down someone withholding information from you by fighting them and just gaining their trust until they tell you).

In theory you could also have a situation where one is trying to make friends with another but the other doesn't want to contribute their pep score to the Conversation... I'm not sure why this would happen, however.

Lying works the same way as arguing but what is being "argued" over is really more like trying to convince another of something being true-- failure means they detect the lie (and may be angry about it), success means they believe you and may trust you more in the future.

On to an example.

After the last mission, in which Samuel Fresco was injured and then saved by Sarah Resnik, Yosi Parr (co-owner of the ship, Beowulf, along with Sam) took control of the crew and led a woman and her brother to their deaths at the hand of a vengeful old mercenary.

Samuel Fresco (Normal Pragmatic) was okay with the woman's death-- he's a mercenary soldier, and she was the target, and the vengeful old merc, Ha-Dam, seemed to have a good reason. But her brother was not guilty of anything, and was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Allowing Ha-Dam to kill him just to increase his revenge on the woman seemed immoral to Sam.

Yosi (Selfish Pragmatic), on the other hand, didn't mind at all. Given that Sam was reluctant to take such a violent mission in the first place (he envisioned his crew as private security contractors who helped keep colonies safe from pirates and similar, not as a ruthless assassin's club), and Yosi was the one who convinced the crew to take it, Sam was not happy with Yosi.

As the crew was brand new, Sam and Yosi were Neutral Acquaintances.

But  before Sam confronted Yosi, he wanted to thank Sarah (Tribal Pragmatic, a -1 in Conversations due to personality differences) for helping him get out of the combat alive.
Though Sam and Sarah are on the same ship, they do not know each other well (again, crew is a group of strangers who came together as coworkers and nothing more) so are also Neutral Acquaintances (+1).

So Sam goes to Sarah's room on Beowulf. (Sam and Sarah have a Conversation).
Sam is a pretty friendly fellow (Pep 4). Sarah is a bit on the shy side, but what she lacks in conversational skills she makes up for with a pretty smile (Pep 3 + Attractive).
"Hey Sarah."
"I heard about what happened in that gunfight. You saved my life. I wanted to thank you." (Circumstance: +1 die, as they have a reason to be friendly)
Now, what actually happened (The first time I rolled the dice) was that they had a very good conversation and became instant friends (specifically, Cooperative Friends).
They had similar views, they had some good laughs, found each other appealing, and so on. Details are up to the player.
Here were some other ways it could have turned out:
They could have just become Cooperative Acquaintances, realizing their common goals meant they generally agree with each other... though not having any particular personal attachment as a result of this conversation.
They could have become Neutral Friends, where they have some amount of personal attachment but don't find themselves to have that much in common when it comes to decision making and the like.
They could have just had a bit of chit chat.
Other results are possible but because they had a fairly high combined dice pile it is very unlikely for things to go bad.

It should be noted that conversations like these-- which result in changes to relationship type-- are actually not that frequent. They represent time spent together on the ship and such.

The type of conversation where the results are more like "Find out about so and so" or "get so and so mission" are much more common.

Arguments are somewhat similar, as many arguments "in the field" never actually get started... they CAN start, but its a random chance and usually not a high one. Confrontations with the goal of, essentially, preventing such arguments from happening at all (by changing personality types) are a bit more common but like Conversations take some time.

Anyway, after befriending Sarah, Sam goes off to confront Yosi.
Both characters are Pep 4, but in arguments you can make use of more than just Pep. Yosi brings in his 3 Notoriety... but Sam counters with 5 Fame. The Heat is 3-- this is a life or death argument between Acquaintances over whether or not Yosi should be Tribal instead of Selfish (and possibly, whether Sam should be Tribal instead of Normal if Yosi counter attacks).
What actually happens is a bit dramatic. They get in a fist fight. Yosi won't back down-- this is his ship as well, and they're going to do the missions the way that pays best, not the way that helps Sam's conscience.
Sam similarly won't back down-- if Yosi is going to be a mad dog, he needs to be put down.
Yosi swings at Sam, and they get into a bit of a brawl.
As a result of the fight, the two characters are now Antagonistic Rivals. They don't like each other so much and are more likely to argue in the future. The fight is also left unresolved-- unlike a more decisive victory, a fist fight means Sam can try to convince Yosi again and vice versa on the same subject (without further cause), but now with a higher Heat (as a result of being rivals).

Things aren't looking great for the unity of the crew of Beowulf!

Some other stuff could have happened:
If the dice had fallen differently, I got a result where Yosi became Tribal, convinced by Sam, and another time where not only did Yosi become Tribal but the butting of heads actually resulted in Sam and Yosi becoming Cooperative Friends!

Might do another encounter with Beowulf tomorrow... this time, their unarmed ship encounters Pirates, but luckily there is a police ship in the area.