[OSR] Help me pin down communties in my sci-fi setting.

So I've been wanting to run a sci-fi hexcrawl for a long time and having finally sat down to write some a little setting for my players I've reached a bit a rough patch that I need some help with - the communities of this world and how they'd function. I thought I'd pitch some questions at the braintrust and see what solutions y'all come up with. Cool? Cool.

The setting overview is this:
Long, long ago, your great grandparents arrived on this world in a vast starship. The ship carried people who had slept for a thousand lifetimes on the long, silent voyage through the gulf of space away from their dying star to this, their new home. Slowing to approach this world something went terribly wrong - some malfunction or accident - and the starship fell from the sky, dashing itself to mountainous pieces on the surface of the planet.

Escape pods were lunched as the mothership tumbled, burning, and shot out for thousands of miles over the curving panorama. Many were lost but a few landed favourably and those that survived soon fought their way clear of the wreckage. Salvaging what they could, your great grandparents looked about this alien world and grieved for their species; it was an alien wilderness of strange, primeval jungle of fungus, coral and massive, chitinous creatures.

Little of their fabulous technology worked. Their artificial intelligences were either silent or mad and their batteries and generators flickered and died in the following months and years. They built shelter abutting their crash sights, defended themselves against predators and tried to teach their children what they'd need to know to survive.

Player characters are the third generation after the (2d6) initial survivors. The omens are right (or perhaps now venerable great grandparents have decreed it) and settlements are sending forth their young men and woman to explore the world, uncover its secrets and contact other settlements. Who knows what caches of forgotten technology lay hidden under pulsing creepers, what strange civilisations have grown up in a hundred years and whether or not humanity can master their unforgiving new home.


What's appealing to me about this set up is that all the PCs are going to be related in some way and all apart of a small, intimate community that they'll journey from and return to with riches or tales of horror. Nothing like the death of a sibling to really make you feel the OSR.

What I wanted to pick your brain over is what you might expect the third generation of maroonees to know about their ancestors, about fantastic technologies they've never seen and repeated, poorly comprehended eduction their forebears laid down. I imagine star-faring
humanity having a great reliance on advanced, automated systems and artificial technology. Star Trek stuff. How do you teach the next generation when your education was all VR psych-impressioning?

Also, talking numbers. If there are (2d6) survivors on mixed gender, how many persons would a settlement have by the third generation? I'm thinking perhaps 50, but I'm not sure that number holds up to scrutiny. Any genealogy buffs in the house?


Lastly, I'm a big fan of D&D that doing its thing outside of the fantasy genre. Can anyone help me come up with a few good examples. I remember there was a western D&D around a while ago, I want to say... Owlbears & Outlaws? And I'm a big fan of Into the Odd, too.


  • edited February 2015
    If it's only the third generation, I would expect they have a pretty decent or at least non-mythological idea of what the previous world was like.

    Like, 3 generations ago was World War I and Prohibition. Even without books I'm pretty sure my grandmother could give me a solid idea of what her mother said things were like. (And I suspect if we had lost a lot of information suddenly when everyone's Kindles broke in a space crash, people would frantically start writing things down.)
  • Agree in general, but I think it's dependent on just how hard the struggle for survival was. If survival required constant attention, perhaps only the most vital wilderness/survival skills would have been taught strenuously; everything else would be secondary in importance, and everyone's education would include different stuff.

    I think there'd be a lot of "telephone" i.e. a lot of words you heard frequently used by your grandparents and maybe even use casually yourself, but you use them slightly wrong, or understand them only as metaphors.

    Here's an attempt at a genealogy, modified from the one I did for AW...

    Your Grandparents (you may have never met them, depending) - Year 0
    People who were of childbearing age when the crash occurred. They inventoried and distributed whatever gear could be used, and their desperate experiments led to developments like (insert survival mechanisms here). But they were divided into a myriad distributed communities - many little more than traumatized cavedwellers - and struggled to learn how to survive among bizarre lifeforms, weird weather, occasionally discovering randomly-scattered caches or the hideouts of lone survivors long gone completely insane... and some of them survived.

    Your Parents - Year 25
    Their children, who came of childbearing age in those slowly-stabilizing communities, for whom the weirdest details about this planet were regarded as normal facts of life. They remembered much of what their parents talked about during their childhoods, but depending on how harsh their situation was, a lot of this data was disregarded or misinterpreted. The word "Earth" started to sound like the word "Eden". By the time they reached adulthood Survival of the Fittest was the rule in at least some areas. These people lived in very different world from their parents. For one thing, they lacked any direct experiences of the previous civilization; they had no personal memories of Life Before the Crash. Their ideas of "civilization" were nascent, random, and frequently brutal. Some of them began to develop new technologies, new social systems, new ways of living, some began reaching out, cobbling together little experiments that were sometimes workable, creating the first true "settlements", adapting more readily to the harsh realities of life... and some of them survived.

    You - Year 50
    Their children, most of whom are of childbearing age now. That's you. You remember much of the above from your childhood, and things haven't changed that much. If anything the major concepts of the game world - technology, slang, lore, etc - have now become crystalized.

  • I rather like the idea of generating the PC community from first principles, starting with 2d6 interbreeding survivors. As you say, it makes it personal, and it'll make for an interesting supply situation concerning replacement characters. You should also randomize or otherwise determine the local 3rd-generation lifestyle: water, sustenance, shelter, preserved aspects of high technology, discovered aspects of low technology. A snappy method can then be reused to quickly generate the other communities the PCs stumble upon, which allows you to give quick and interesting answers on matters such as potential marriage partners or the presence of blacksmithing.

    I imagine that by third generation you'd have roughly half of the population largely ignorant of the greater cosmos, but also another half whose personal character, parents and grandparents would conspire to leave them with a pretty solid picture of what's what. Perhaps even more if the original settlers were various flavours of cultural actors as opposed to a random sampling of Earth humanity. I know that if I personally were facing a localized death of civilization like this, my first long-term project would be emblazoning the say one hundred most important facts on the brainspace (and preferably a big block of stone while I'm at it) of the descendants. "We live on a planet and it revolves around a sun", "there is no such thing as divine mandate to rule", stuff like that. A survival lifestyle that doesn't leave room for even oral culture is one that doesn't leave room for sanity either, after all.

    Then again, if the high-tech society was incompetent due to technological infantilization, maybe they didn't have the social and pedagogical skills, or the sociohistorical perspective to really plan any long-term transmission of culture. With such a small community and short time-span, it all depends heavily on who and what the founders were. You could conceivably dice on this a bit as well; for example, if 50% of the colonists were useless drones, 15% were history buffs with some basic survival skills, 15% were social engineers of various flavours, and so on, perhaps this combined with some early social interaction randomization (was there fighting to establish social dominance in the first generation, how it went, etc.) might work to answer many questions about the current state of the community in a way that differs between individual tribes.
  • I would also imagine that the First Generation would have some sort of very special status in this society, being, effectively, aliens from another world and time.

    They know things the others don't. They have seen things no one else living has...

    On a different topic:

    Does anyone have any idea of how many descendants 2d6 people would have? It sounds like the assumption here is population growth, but it seems to me that if the people are incompetent enough (as Eero says, technological infantilization) and the environment is deadly and unfamiliar enough, very few children might survive.

    You also have to consider that some proportion of the initial settlers might be too old to have kids, have no desire to have kids, or unable for various other reasons.

    I *really* like the idea of making an OSR game that much more intense by having a small community of named characters, which gives a limit to how many characters can die before you've doomed the entire colony...

    Maybe in this game "leveling up" is somehow connected to discovering a new "batch" of survivors, another colony - which is effectively a resource for the players (who are presumably quickly running out of bodies to inhabit).
  • Does anyone have any idea of how many descendants 2d6 people would have? It sounds like the assumption here is population growth, but it seems to me that if the people are incompetent enough (as Eero says, technological infantilization) and the environment is deadly and unfamiliar enough, very few children might survive.

    You also have to consider that some proportion of the initial settlers might be too old to have kids, have no desire to have kids, or unable for various other reasons.
    There are SO MANY variables there that I think you can arbitrarily choose the answer you want and retroactively justify it. The birth rate could be low or high, the mortality rate could be low or high, there might be restrictions on how many of the original settlers could actually have kids (because of age, or how closely related they are, or personal preference, or medical issues, or...), there might have been disease or a resource shortage or a serious accident that kept the population from getting above a certain size, and so on.

    Basically, wave your hands and lo, you get the small community you wanted to have.

  • edited February 2015
    Does anyone have any idea of how many descendants 2d6 people would have? It sounds like the assumption here is population growth, but it seems to me that if the people are incompetent enough (as Eero says, technological infantilization) and the environment is deadly and unfamiliar enough, very few children might survive.
    Assuming a 50/50 gender split and that almost all of them are adults of child-bearing age (surely children and elders would be an exception in a cryo-colony project), we may assume an average of three women per "pod" - the local term for clan. Realistically the gender split per pod wouldn't be so neat unless the evacuation procedure of the ship was planned with that in mind, but I'll mark that down as an acceptable genre conceit.

    So an average of three women of child-bearing age - their exact age won't matter, as technology and lifestyle skew the number of healthy child-bearing years anyway. One might assume that they won't be healthy enough to bear any more children in 15 years from landfall, no matter their specific age at the time.

    We may assume that e.g. 50% of the pods adopt some sort of a lifestyle counter-productive to survival (e.g. they decide to implement a birth control regime, or they don't get along and refuse to breed together), but because those pods will have died out or joined with other clans by the third generation, we may also discount them when answering the question of what a single-pod community would look like in the third generation.

    The successful monopods will thus range from a "barefoot and pregnant" breeding strategy of e.g. 5-10 children per mother to a more civilized "we need every hand on short-term survival" planned parenthood approach that'd result in say 3-5 children per mother. Considering the range in the number of 1st generation women (average 3, but could be more or less, and they could lose one or two without falling into the aforementioned non-viable category), we may conclude that the breeding strategy pod will have about 10-50 children in the 2nd generation, while the equality strategy pod will have 5-25.

    At this point the otherwise viable pods will deviate strongly on the basis of the comparative success of their survival strategy: there's a big difference between being able to survive day to day as adult humans, and the ability to raise healthy children. We may again disregard e.g. 50% of the pods because nutritional deficiencies, hygiene practices or such cause drastic enough infant mortality to curtail growth and force the pod into joining with others or to die out.

    Of the remaining pods that have sustainable life quality to raise the 2nd generation successfully, we may assume that they fall into four groups: there are breeding and planned parenthood pods, and those strategies will either work well or badly for the pod in question. A breeding pod will succeed if food is available easily, while a planned parenthood pod will be more resilient in general - and I will also assume that the planned parenthood pod has an edge on the medical sciences, simply because this whole idea of survival through extreme K-selection sounds to me like something you'd only try if you had your shit pretty well together as a community. If we assume a 70% infant mortality for an unfortunate breeding pod, 30% for a a fortunate one, 50% for an unfortunate planned parenthood pod and 10% for a fortunate one, we'll end up as follows on 2nd generation adults: 3-15, 7-35, 3-17, 5-23

    The lower ends of those ranges are obviously something of non-starters (even less females than 1st generation), but the high end seems promising. The range of uncertainty caused by initial seeding, personal qualities and fortunes of survival somewhat outweight the choice of survival strategy, but we can say that a breeding pod will likely have about doubled its population in 2nd generation to 15 people or so, while a planned parenthood pod will maybe be slightly lower, at around 10 people. Socially they'll be very different, of course, as they've invested their work force in quite different types of activity: the breeding pod would have worked out a stable community capable of feeding all those mothers and children, while the planned parenthood pod would have focused on survival, life quality and long-term planning at the expense of increasing numbers. The breeder mothers each have about five-ish living children, while the planners each have three.

    If we assume for simplicity's sake that the third generation breeds in similar patterns and the community doesn't face any major existential issues, and infant mortality goes down slightly due to increased experience with the chosen lifestyle, we may assume an average community of 35 for the breeder pod and 15 for the planner type pod in the 3rd generation.

    Thus, my answer to Paul's question off the top of my head would be: about 15 adults in the 3rd generation for a more leftist sort of civilized community, or 35 for a full-scale conservative survivalist fantasy :D For the full population of the community this translates into about 20-50 people, counting the 1st-2nd generation still alive when the 3rd hits adulthood. Obviously the population would be rather youth-biased.

    Of course the real numbers can go down howevermuch ("giant cockroaches ate all but the three of us last year"), and they could also be up to 100% larger than that simply because everything went exceptionally lucky for this particular community through these generations. Also, multipod communities that have joined together at some point in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation will certainly offer even more possibilities of various sorts.

    Ultimately the most important determinant of the amount of population would be the particulars of the local conditions and the history of the community; if I were determining the size of the population first thing, before knowing anything else about the community, I would be comfortable with a 1d50 roll per pod to find how many people there are in the third generation.
  • Thanks for the thoughts, guys!

    Maybe I misspoke but I was thinking that the PC pool would be drawn from the third generation after the initial survivors. So it would be:

    -> Your Great Grandparents. Survivors of the crash in year 0.
    -> Your Grandparents, first Humans to be born on the planet. Raised in whatever remnants of space-faring technology could be salvaged, reaching maturity by year 25.
    -> Your Parents, second generation to be born. Probably very little technology from the past still functioning, reaching maturity by year 50.
    -> You. Third generation to be born. Technology that survives has ritual or emergency use only, reaching maturity by year 75.

    Do the numbers still add up?

    Your great grandparents could actually still be alive. Centenarians, miraculously still going after their upbringing in the medical culture of the techno-past (you, child, are not expected to be so long lived). Although, given the inhospitable nature of this Jumanji/Nausicaä planet, the very old would probably be quite rare and not necessarily coherent (at least, not to your ears. What even is "distress transmission" anyway?).

    Strikes me that most pods could probably be literate. Technologically primitive, but literate. Which is a weird idea. By year 75 you might reasonably expect a flourishing pod to have some kind of recorded history and book keeping. Depends how badly technological infantilization has effected the survivors. Also, I wonder how useful being literate would be when exploring the world - after 75-100 years, would I be able to communicate easily with people from another pod?

    This game definitely starts with the players sitting down and building their family tree together.

  • edited February 2015
    After a 100 years the spoken language should still be intelligible, and the written language would of course have changed not at all.

    For writing to be preserved there needs to be ample access to something paper-like. Making paper out of wood pulp (or lumps - where'd you get those anyway) would likely be out of question, unless the survivors have both detailed chemistry knowledge and the material science to build the necessary vats and extract the chemicals - I wouldn't even try, personally, unless I had some sort of mining bots or such to help me past the biggest hurdles.

    More likely is some natural product that makes for a reasonable writing surface. Historical examples are papyrus reed, wood bark, stone and animal skins. Stone takes too much work for writing to be very common, skins are too valuable, and plant products depend on what is available in the local ecosystem. Hit and miss on whether literacy will be preserved long-term, although I'd expect the 3rd generation born after landing to still practice it some if there are any texts available from the early days.

    (For those wondering about "losing" literacy and whether it's even possible for human society - the Greek aborogines apparently pretty much lost literacy during the Greek dark ages, when the Minosian culture disappeared. Simply not enough surplus economy to support specialists like scribes with nothing worthwhile for them to record, I expect.)

    As for the population numbers in the next generation (after the one I calculated above), assuming the same conditions apply, the 3rd-generation-born-since-landing would consist of 20-60 people, and the single-pod community would total roughly 30-100 people. I'd be happy rolling 1d100 per pod to find how many people are alive a 100 years after landfall. I imagine that'll help you far as a GM for an ultra-simple abstraction - decide how many pods have gone into a given community, and roll 1d100 for each to find the current total population. Elegant and reasonably in the ballpark.
  • 1d100 per pod does please me in terms of getting this 'plane off the ground.

    Is there an elegant way of breaking down the community generation a little? As a player (let alone a GM) I'd be excited to roll for each generation in terms of offspring (gender, stats?), major events and technology track.
  • That sounds pretty good, Mike.

    I'd want to know about technology:

    * What weird and unusual technological item/tool/technique/resource has managed to survive/was brought in the pod?

    * What effective survival technology has the community developed? (e.g. writing on papyrus, as Eero contemplates, maybe some form of agriculture, etc.)

    I'd want to know about a few major events:

    * Terrible catastrophes befalling the community in the last 100 years?

    * Weird mutations present in the colonists?

    * Discovery of resources/locations, etc.?

    * War with another pod community, perhaps? Traitors? Dictators? In-fighting?

    And perhaps a few general traits, like this community is hardy but bound by some bizarro philosophy/cult/religion, but that one is peaceful and remains civilized but appears to be hunted every Spring by some monstrous denizen of the planet (perhaps each time it comes out of hibernation), so they have to migrate every winter.
  • The community development could be pretty detailed or largely done through spontaneous envisioning during play, either could work - it depends on whether you want to fix up a delightful mess of tables and such to provide randomizations and choices for the community. I would probably work something out if I were planning for a long campaign of this sort, myself.
  • I think one great way to do this would be to develop a few personalities from the original seedship, and then roll for which ones happened to be in the Pod which seeded your colony.

    Then the community takes on certain traits of those original crewmembers, usually in accordance with them, but sometimes in opposition to them instead.

    So, for instance, you'd know that your community was "founded" by the ship's Captain, Hollister, who was adventurous and hardy, and therefore your community also has that reputation. However, also in the pod was Second Ensign A.J. Rimmer, who is now a legendary traitor (not unlike a mythological figure or minor deity) after he almost doomed the colony with his shenanigans and eventually was slain by the Captain. Those hailing from the community say they are "from the line of Hollister", and have a ridiculous and barbaric way of dealing with traitors, thieves, and cowards.

    However, you also know from the lore of the community that the ship had on board a famous doctor. If perhaps you could find where his pod crashed (and whether there is a community there), you might be able to glean some wonderful medical technologies or expertise which has been passed on to his descendants.

    If you had a list of all the crewmembers, and a table for generating reputations for them (maybe a table where you randomly combine a role - e.g. Captain, ship's doctor, etc. - and a reputation or character trait), you could use these to generate the lineage of each community.

    This could be fun if different people were to play this game and compare notes on "their" Captain or "their" Hollister, etc, etc. - sort of a shared mythology around the game.
  • You would get divergence in vocabulary as the pods coin words for things unfamiliar to them before the crash. Maybe one pod calls the native predators wolves, whereas another calls them crawlers.

    Roles within the community are also good for this. Maybe no one in the small pod knew the word carpenter, so they call their wood worker a "chipper". What if one pod was lead by someone with experience with naval ranks and so refer to each other that way?

    Also 100 years is plenty of time for strong divergence of accent. English has changed a lot since 1915 even with a large community. You can expect small communities to change more rapidly.
  • edited February 2015
    It depends on whether you want to fix up a delightful mess of tables and such to provide randomizations and choices for the community.
    Oh but you know I love delightful messes of tables.


    At the start of play, roll for each of the four generations...

    First Generation - The Survivors.

    Pulling themselves free from the ruin of their ejected starship segment, the survivors build a single defensible shelter as close to the slowly cooling wreckage as possible.

    (2d6+1) Survivors. Roll stats and gender. There is a 10% of each survivor being an officer of the Starship [Insert Naval Rank table, etc. here].

    Each survivor has a 25% chance of dying within (1d4) years after the crash. Either from... (1d4) 1. Succumbing to an old wound; 2. Radiation poisoning; 3. In-fighting; 4. An accident; 5. A fearsome predator; 6. Going missing in the jungle.


    (1d3) Pieces of technology are salvageable from the wreckage. For each roll on the following table... (1d12):

    1. A weapon's cache. The survivors are well stocked with light rifles, armoured vests, field scanners and grenades. There are 3d20 of each.
    2. Medical suite and equipment. An automated medical suite with an internal power supply. Survivors only have a 10% chance of dying in their first four years and have 25% more offspring.
    3. Plasma Tools. Powerful equipment that can cut metal and rock like butter. Attempts to enlarge and improve the settlement are made easier within reason.
    4. Terraforming tents. The environment inside these large, clear domes is made hospitable and fertile. Attempts at horticulture flourish, lessening the chance of famine. The domes can be expanded once per generation with a successful INT roll.
    5. Lifting frames. Mechanical exoskeletons that fit loosely around the human form allowing the wearer to lift and carry several tons, complete with claws and telescopic limbs.
    6. Genetics suite. 1d6 birthing pods that can each clone 2d10 persons per generation.
    7. Automated Servitors. 3d10 mute automata that will perform tasks shown or described to them. Only official codes can enable them to harm human beings.
    8. A.I. shard. A subsystem of the starship's Artificial Intelligence survives. The A.I is (1d4)...1. a navigation system concerned with interstellar travel; 2. a tactical system concerned with weapons targeting and point-defense; 3. a colonisation system that assumes the ship has landed and its massive terraforming plants are at work; 4. a data system with a dense and technical log of the ship's functions prior to the crash. There is a 25% chance that no sense can be made of the whatever information the A.I provides.
    9. Powerplant. A generator that doubles the lifespan of any technology powered by it.
    10. Comms System. A central node with 2d6 handheld devices that allow verbal communication over dozens of miles.
    11. Naval Ordnance. (1d2) A large piece of interstellar naval ordnance designed to disintegrate asteroids or a collection of high-explosive deep space mines (1d20 charges or mines).
    12. Long-range scanners. A huge dish whose original purpose was to examine distant astronomical bodies. A successful INT roll must be made to turn it to another purpose, such as to scan the surface of the planet.

    Typically, each piece of technology will last 1d100 years from the crash. A successful INT roll after loss of functionality adds 1d10 years of life to each item.

    Second Generation - The Settlers.

    The Second Generation are concerned with improving the security and stability of their settlement. They have learnt the hard lessons of their parents generation and are able to turn more of the planet's wild flora and funa to their use. Much is trial and error.

    Assuming they choose to do so and a male is present each surviving female in the second Generation may birth (1d6-1) offspring.

    Third Generation - The Builders.

    The Third Generation is more comfortable on the surface and begin major works on their settlement creating defensible and sustainable dwellings intended to shelter their descendants. Stone walls, watch towers, store houses and meeting halls are typically raised around this time.

    Assuming they choose to do so and a male is present each surviving female in the third Generation may birth (1d6-1) offspring.

    Forth Generation - The Pilgrims.

    The Forth Generation has either outgrown their settlement or are in need of assistance. Travel is dangerous and until now few, if any, attempts have been made to contact other settlements. Who knows what perils the wilderness conceals and how two possibly radically different cultures will interact on first contact.

    This is the pool from which players will draw their characters. Work out how each PC is related to the others.


    Prior to the crash both men and women could expect to live to 100 years old. The following generations have significantly shorter lifespans. For each generation roll (1d8)x10 - this is the percentage of casualties that the surface inflicts on the settlement due to animal attacks, poison spores, radiation, in-fighting, famine and accidents.


    Would anyone like to roll through these tables and see what they get? I need to learn me a little programming and make a little system that'll just print out a community on demand.

    Of course this is all just straight off the top of my head in the last hour. I'm up for suggestions.
  • edited February 2015
    This may not apply if you are, indeed, hoping to generate communities by computer, but:

    My feeling is that, while the info is good, it's not very gameable.

    It's pretty interesting to know that the colony has some "mute servitors" on hand. That's fantastic, and great material for play.

    I don't need to know that one of the original settlers died from an old wound while another was killed in an accident, on the other hand. Why does this matter to us?

    I *would* want to know about the general "culture" of the colony, however, their trends, beliefs, and conflicts. How did the personalities of the original crew (and perhaps their roles on the ship, much as you did with the ship AI) affect the outlook and abilities of the community? Their philosophy? Their traditions?

    Which technologies have they developed? Which have they maintained? Which are they in danger of losing or on the verge of rediscovering?

    Are they in touch with any other survivors? If so, what is their relationship with them like?

    Do they have any unusual taboos?

    What major events or problems has this community faced or survived? Tragedies, wars, coups, revolutions?

    What is the environment/situation of the colony like? (Is it in a hollowed-out volcano or in the middle of a swamp? Is it near a good mining site? Is agriculture easy, or do they have to travel to find arable land? Is there good game to be had in the area? And, if so, what edition do they play, and who's the best GM?)

    The list of technologies is very good - I like many of the implications thereof. Nice!
  • It occurs to me that if you're not familiar with the clan generation used in Heroquest (and King of Dragon Pass), then that might prove an interesting inspiration.

    While I encourage the creation of such subsystems, I also find this idea of a 4-generation community saga to be an extremely in-depth subject matter. That's why I haven't simply sat down and written out my own sample "pod generator" already, because much of this seems so intricate and full of creative possibility that I would rather approach it somewhat more organically through play, at least for the sake of playtest, before presuming to fully understand all the possibilities involved.
  • I agree - except it gave me one of those big ideas I like so much... Generate the first generation, make characters from that generation, and play a campaign there. Not all the way to retirement/death, just a good little set of stories. Then fade to black. Title Credits say "25 Years Later..." Generate the second generation. Make characters... etc.

  • edited February 2015
    I'm not hoping to generate by computer, really - that would take all the fun out of the organic creative forces of a group of people inventing history and culture together. I'd want only as many tables as necessary to give some basic facts to shape interpretation.

    So, I had a quick roll on my tables so far to see if it sets off the imagination. Here's my sample community at the barest bones:

    First Generation.
    11 survivors, 3 of which are officers. 5 men, 6 women. The only female officer dies of her wounds in the first year and a male is lost in the wilderness in the third year. From the wreckage the survivors salvage 9 Automated Servitors (that will function until year 81) and 18 deep-space mines (that will function until year 35).
    All females attempt to have children and produce 6 females and 2 males.

    (Second Generation.
    The 8 members of the second generation breed and have 15 children, 10 females and 5 males.
    Third Generation.
    The 15 members of the third generation breed and have 26 children, 13 females and 13 males.)

    Just talking in terms of hard numbers and stating tech we can already imagine what this society looks like and start asking questions. Who are the officers, and what do they know? Were the survivors polygamous, how were the children raised? Who controls the Servitors? How have they helped? How have the mines been used? Do we know they're defunct by Year 35? And so on.

    The necessary tables would probably be Population, Technology, Geography, Culture & Knowledge, and Historic Events.


    Thank you for the heads up on Heroquest. Very cool but, whew, involved.


    Would you want to actually choose individual PCs for each generation, or just work out some meaningful challenges and crisis points to talk through and roll for before moving to the next generation?
  • Don't let me hijack your thread, this is just my weird idea. I like extended campaigns, and I think it would be fascinating to literally play out a story or two from each generation using characters from that generation.

    Doesn't matter if the character lives or dies because you don't have to play a *direct* descendant. Although if you wanted to play a direct descendant, you could do a genealogical tale with bloodline themes in it. I'm sure some sort of recurring themes would appear across generations (stochastically if nothing else), which would give another dimension to the whole world's story.

  • Stochastic. My word for the day. :D

    No, no, please hijack the thread. Perhaps if questions come up in play there could be a flashback scene to a previous generation to help establish details about the present. I suppose I want to keep most of the action in the Forth Generation for colour reasons - I like the idea of a crypto-scifi wilderness hexcrawl from an predetermined hub rather than playing settlers and camp-holders. But I suppose it depends on what interests you.
  • Ah, running short adventures as flashbacks to the past of the community would definitely be in my tool-box for something like this!

    Like, you'd have the cave of a big spider monster in a nearby hex. A huge deal, it's like an 8 HD monster, lord of its domain. So the PCs discover that actually, 20 years back the people of their own pod tried to destroy it. What better than to play a quick one-shot to find out what happened? Who knows, they might even discover from the tale that the monster was actually vanquished at the time (setting the scene for the return of the brood).

    Read Thulian Echoes, for the master's thesis on flashback adventuring in old school D&D.
  • I agree: allowing this kind of history to evolve at the table by delving into it through flashbacks, cutscenes (perhaps a Microscope-like method for establishing important turning-points in the colony's history), and such sounds much more interesting than an overly-detailed random generator which gives us all kinds of barely-gameable detail.

    I wonder at what point putting so much focus on the colony, its history, its people, and its themes might start to drift the game away from what you're looking for (as essentially a D&D-on-an-alien-planet), Mike?

    It sounds like a fun game, but also a very different game.
  • The game thus far pitched to the playgroup was by-the-book OS D&D with some tinkering on the random table level to produce a sci-fi flavour. I'm still pretty invested in the actual boots-on-the-ground hexcrawling rather than playing Microscope; the community generation being the jumping-off point for exploration of a wider world, but I'd be willing to re-pitch what I think I could get away with.

    Thulian Echoes seems like a fun way of drawing the past into the now. It makes sense in a dungeon environment (we play once, die, then play again) but I wonder how it could be applied to the less definite terms of community/culture building (death or retreat no longer being the clear marker of when we switch into the future portion of play)?

  • I'm also not sure why Thulian Echoes is relevant here. I've never played, but reviews suggest it's an adventure you play through once "in the past", and then again "in the present", with the "present" adventurers following the notes of the "past" adventurers.

    Is there more to it than that, in terms of brilliant D&D-flashback-technology? I'd love to hear about it.
  • edited February 2015

    Is there more to it than that, in terms of brilliant D&D-flashback-technology? I'd love to hear about it.
    Me too. You didn't do the layout work for this one too, did you, Eero? ;D

    My guess would be that Thulian Echoes is relevant because it is flashback-technology but still while playing LotFP rather than setting up a Microscope sideboard to deal with the past.

    @Paul_T, I'd be interested in hear how you'd run this sci-fi game. Also Eero and Tod, but you're usually easier to get an answer out of if memory serves. ;)
  • I'd be happy to answer, but I'm not sure what you're asking me! Can you be more specific?
  • 1. Create random tables for determining how any given generation of survivors do.
    2. Start out by playing whichever generation appeals to the players and you. Maybe even the first one.
    3. Whenever the players want, they can default to the random tables and at the same time move to play the next generation. Or maybe they can only do so at the end of a session so you have time to prepare.

    The idea here would be that players can play out how a generation is doing, and when they get bored, start running out of characters, start doing very well, or the fancy strikes them, then they can skip forward in time.

    You'd have to encode the current situation of the folk - how many are there, do they have water, food, shelter, and so on. Something as simple as what Potemkin suggested, with modifiers from circumstances, might do.

    In this way the players are managing uncertainty and resources, and one more-or-less desperate move is to see what happens when time passes.
  • Perhaps, when going forward in time, the random roll gets some kind of adjustment for what has happened so far, or how many survivors are still present?

    (I like the idea of a "reset" being a desperate move, but it wouldn't work if it can be used to erase all the consequences of bad player decisions/luck, effectively restarting with all the old advantages. Screwing things up for your colony *should* affect how the next generation turns out.)
  • edited February 2015
    I can't see how players wouldn't get very meta-aware about the flow of time - I know I certainly would be. Village about to be overrun by swarming crawlers? Well lets hop back in time and have our ancestors decide they really need to build defences here. I'm certainly not chill with this time travel hoodoo, most of all because it'd be royal pain to try and adjudicate.

    Maybe only forward skips are allowed? Action and inaction have consequences that echo down the generations.
  • Oh, yes.

    If you DO allow backwards time travel, you need to make sure there's no direct causal link between what's happening now and what happened *then*. (By leaving some things vague, and getting the players all on board with the concept of building a coherent history.)

    That's the only way I can see it working.

    Another simple rule:

    Once you "leave" the current time period/generation, you can never go back to it. Once you've explored all the generations, you're either in Gen 4 and moving forwards from there, or you have to start a new colony (and the current one becomes another detail in the GM's toolbox, to flesh out the planet).
  • Perhaps, when going forward in time, the random roll gets some kind of adjustment for what has happened so far, or how many survivors are still present?

    (I like the idea of a "reset" being a desperate move, but it wouldn't work if it can be used to erase all the consequences of bad player decisions/luck, effectively restarting with all the old advantages. Screwing things up for your colony *should* affect how the next generation turns out.)
    I think I see basically two alternatives.

    The first is that jumping in time tends to be a bad idea. Maybe the expectation of number of people goes down (the population as a stochastic process is a supermartingale) or there is significant chance of extinction or losing acquired benefits.

    This would lead to desperate survivalism, where the actions of player characters are the only thing that can prevent defeat.

    The second possibility is that going forward generally improves the colony's situation: The population tends to increase from what it was earlier (submartingale), technology and acquired benefits are generally not lost, and so on.

    In order to make this meaningful one should have a clear goal or time limit. For example, in how few generations can you conquer the megadungeon that was the mothership? Skipping forward in time would mean making the game easier.

    In a D&D-like game I would be uncomfortable moving backwards in time, since by nature of the game anything could happen there. You go back in time and then one of your ancestors causes a nuclear disaster that wipes out the entire village, or half of it, say. Such major consequences should be on table in D&D play, and I don't think they are nicely compatible with backwards time travel. Maybe someone has a good solution for this.
Sign In or Register to comment.