Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Design Notes, the Revised Otherverse America

For the last couple of days, I’ve been working HARD on the revised Otherverse America. The core book is going to be absolutely huge, and will be out sometime next year- late spring or early summer, depending on how quickly I can afford to gather art resources. I don’t want to rush it, and buying a lot of art at once strains my finances to the breaking point unfortunately.

(As an aside, if you’re an artist and want some work in the next couple of months, drop me a link to your online portfolio and information about your rates. My email is Christopherafield@hotmail.com.)

So what’s going to be in the book?

Right now, I’m consolidating information from the original core book and APEX, and incorporating bits and pieces of the sourcebooks I’ve written to date: Coven of Bast, the Eleusinian Covenant, Neverborn Again, and Razor Culture. Those will all still valid, and I’m pulling all the good ideas I had in those books, that I hadn’t though of yet when the core book was written. For example, the evil Nuremberg AI from Neverborn Again will be mentioned in the corebook, though greatly expanded on in the sourcebook, and the expanded information on the Nicellos family from Eleusinian Covenant will be included.

I will be including 11 races in the corebook- humans plus 10 non-human options:
• From the original book, we’ll have the Full Conversion Cyborgs, along with the expanded cultural options from Cybernetics Armory. We also keep the Neverborn, though their more complex racial feats will remain with their sourcebook.

• From APEX we’ll include the Couriers, Mechanics, Mediators, Nanofeasters and Shy Minutemen. (The Fluxminx and Softling Healers are getting moved to Sexually Transmitted Future, along with greatly expanded cultural info and racial feats.)

• From Coven of Bast we’ll have the Dreamborn Mau and the Ubasti, which are such an awesome idea I wish I had included them originally.

• From Guide to the Known Galaxy, we’ve got the Half Grey, who will be absolutely bad ass as spies.

The racial mix is pretty good. We’ve got at least four races that are incredible melee bruisers: FCBs, Nanofeasters, Shy Minutemen and Ubasti. Of those, two are tied to a specific faction: the Choicers have Ubasti and the Lifers get Nanofeasters, while the remaining two can be associated with any faction. With the Mechanics, you’ve got tech-experts and the Dreamborn Mau and Mediators are both diplomacy / leadership specialists. The Couriers and Half Grey make excellent spies and rogues. The Neverborn are just creepy and add a lot of flavor, and also have some great defensive abilities as undead. So we’ve got all the major game play niches filled.

Object Philosophies- the techno-magic superpowers which are unique to the setting- got heavily revised. I went through and edited a bunch for clarity and simplicity of effect. Instead of each philosophy being tied to a specific key attribute, 90% of them are now Wisdom-based, which makes sense as the abilities are run off willpower and belief. I also standardized the durations and uses per day- if a Philosophy had fewer uses per day, it’s likely now usable 3 + WIS Modifier times per day.

A few of the minor Philosophies were simply pulled and turned into regular feats. That will make them a bit more common. Also, I took a look at entry prerequisites for Philosophies and adjusted a few downward, to make them easier to learn. Also, I’ve added a few more feats, Stating Occupation and other rules elements to reinforce the idea that Object Philosophies are a big, important concept.

I’ve gone through and revised the classes in original corebook. We’ll still have Covenguards, Neo-Witch Midwives, Closers and Vindicators, and they’ll be joined by the renamed Juggernaut Brutes from APEX and a few others. Several abilities and entry requirements got tweaked. For example, the Midwife’s “Feminist Medicine” class feature was altered so it now provides a skill bonus equal to ½ her class level, and it’s easier to become a Closer.

I’ll be adding a few more classes- the Tactical Commander and Sniper from APEX will get expanded into ten level full classes, I think. I also want to adapt the old Scion of the Pilgrim into a general Politician class. I also want to add at least one more class to each faction, but I’m not sure what it is yet. I’ve mentioned that the Choicer military uses a lot of precogs and diviners in it’s strategic planning, and I want to expand on that. I also want to create a Lifer illusionist/fear manipulator type character… I’ve been thinking of a Lifer “Mysterio” for a long time.

A couple of days ago, I downloaded Big Finger Games Talent Tree Compendium because I want to include variant Talent Trees for each faction’s basic classes, to further differentiate the cultures. I wanted to see how another game company did the same thing. I’m going to pull some of the OGL talent trees from the Big Finger Games product, as well as add lots of setting specific talent trees to each side. If I can pull it off, it will really help differentiate the cultures. Depending on the final word count of this section, it might be in the revised core book, or might end up being a stand alone product released near-simultaneously with the revised corebook.

As I’ve gone along, I’ve taken note of some stuff I originally wanted to include in the revised corebook, as well as elements from APEX that I’ll be pulling out and releasing soon after the revamped corebook as short 5-20 page PDFs. Part of the reason I’m not loving APEX as much as I did some of the other sourcebooks is that unlike Coven of Bast, which had a single tight focus, APEX seemed to be all over the place, a clearing house for data on everybody in North America who WASN’T Lifer or Choicer. It doesn’t hold up as well.

• As I said, Fluxminx, Softlings and data on the meta-porn industry and genetic engineering goes to Sexually Transmitted Future.

• Black Dream gets its own short PDF and hopefully a better name.

• From APEX, the info on FBI Freelance Investigators, Beasting and NEST Teams, not to mention the sex crime stuff from the original corebook will each get their own micro-PDFs.

• The information on Mexico gets its own PDF, which right now I plan as Zapatista rebels versus drug cartel full conversion cyborgs. Cyberpunky and fun.

• “Beyond Otherverse America” a section on the state of the world beyond North America will get its own splatbook.

• Information on Diana Station and the Lunar cities get their own PDF.

• Solomon Station will eventually get its own PDF, which will probally be in the 20-30 page range.

• The X-Swat Agent and expanded information about the Islamic asteroid mining industry and space salvage industries will get their own book, which will tie back into Guide to the Known Galaxy more strongly. Expect near-Earth space to get a lot of support soon.

• The Submind talent tree from APEX will get its own short PDF.

In terms of world information, I’ll be adding a lot more content on specific locations within the setting, especially city info on the big factional capitols: San Francisco, Boston, Pensacola and the DC Metroplex. I’m also changing the organization of information, hopefully to make the book easier to flip through and more useful.

I’m keeping some but not all of the fiction. The Lifer story focusing on the beginning of the War still feels strong, and I plan to expand that into its own short PDF. You’ll have all the Dacoveney family scenes, stats for the players and Lifer political information. That might be a freebie or might be released day and date with the revised corebook.

The other fiction needs some rewriting and I want to include more evocative vignettes, that give a better sense of the world. To this end I’ll be including a glossary and time line, probably as stand-alone short PDFs included with the zipfile containing the Core Book. And yes, we’ll have a full index to everything.

So I’m also working on story elements as much as I am game play elements. I want to include more information about game-mastering this wild and complex setting. Expect a series of suggested plug ‘n play rules modifications that explore different themes and story elements in the world. Also look for the Intangibles sidebars, which I liked from the original core book, to remain and get a bit more comprehensive and useful. They’ll also be a bibliography in the back, which is an odd inclusion for a RPG, but there you go.

They’ll also be advice on more fully integrating Psi-Watch material into Otherverse America, either just as bits and pieces of classes, guns, ect and exploring some of the dimensional connections I brought up in Psi-Watch Unlimited Edition (Metamorphosis North, Bubastis Black, the dimensionally duplicated Cassie Feneris’).

Something else I want to do is include a sense of generationality, and provide better options for campaigns set at different eras of history. I’ve ran campaigns set during the RAINBOW era, during the War itself and during 2107, and I want to include that versatility for players. I really want player to be able to run characters groups of mixed age- 60 year old War veterans, 120 year old immortal physicians, 18 year hot headed rookies, and precocious 8 year old apprentice priestesses and child soldiers, and have the differences all mean something.

I also want to include more support for Lifer characters as player options and not just as shooting targets. It’s funny, but even when I’ve played the setting with people who are pro-life or conservative in real life, they’ve built characters that were either explicitly Choicer or unaligned mercenaries who work most often for the Choicers. They do this even when I try to keep interactions with both sides neutral or friendly, until the players themselves pick a side. It’s weird, and I wonder how much is my unconscious bias as a GM, and how much is a realization that whatever your real-world politics, in Otherverse America the Lifers are pretty clearly the bad guys.

Anyway, with Black Tokyo II coming out soon, Pirates of the Bronze Sky coming out next summer, Fantasy Firearms (print edition) still looming on the horizon and now the revised Otherverse America on the docket, 2011 is going to be a kick ass year for Otherverse Games.

Blessed Be,

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