Monday, May 30, 2011

Fading Suns: Mining Firebirds -- what am I looking for?

I mentioned before that it's so easy to mine for the Fading Suns setting, so I guess the first thing I'd want to do is find some kind of focus in doing this mining thing.

1. Keep the setting in mind

Before you start extracting stuff from other sources, it's important to have a clear idea of where you're going to eventually insert it in the Fading Suns milieu. Here's a quick refresher taken from the Fading Suns 2nd Edition (Revised) by Redbrick:
"Fading Suns is primarily a science fiction game, which means that there are starships, blasters, powered armor, alien races, and weird science. But there are also many elements of traditional fantasy gaming: heroic characters and struggles, a feudal sociopolitical structure (noble lords, high priests and headstrong merchants), powerful artifacts and great mysteries. And there is horror: monsters and maddening discoveries revealing terrifying metaphysical truths."
With science fiction, fantasy, and horror explicitly stated as genres for this RPG, it's no wonder why I've mentioned as a "kitchen sink setting."

And yet there must be some thought to what elements are mined from this rich sources of gaming material; not everything will work. As stated in one of the Fading Suns blogs:
"Many new players in the Fading Suns universe have trouble understanding the mindset of the background. It is a place of intolerance, inequality, and of rigid dogma."
With this in mind, all extracted material should be given tweaks and adjustments so that rationale on how the various major and minor factions would view and interact with them.

2. RPGs

I essentially want to mine RPGs from different genres, rather than from the source material, because there are a lot of them out there that already have material written with an RPG adventure or campaign in mind (both fluff-wise and crunch-wise), making the mining easier.

3. Campaign Themes

Now, this may be somewhat alien to the "explore-dungeons-not-characters" crowd, but I've seen enough blogs from sandbox builders that there is some (and in some cases, much) thought also to campaign themes.

The themes of Fading Suns were succinctly explained once again in the Fading Suns rulebook:
Like medieval passion plays, Fading Suns deals with grand themes universal to human experience. Its main theme is the Seeking. This is the mythological role all heroes play: the knight on quest, seeking power to vanquish his enemies or the secrets of self-discovery. Success or failure on this quest is not as important as the insights learned while on it.

The atmosphere of the dramas played out in Fading Suns is one of tragic ignorance. Civilization is in decline, and superstition and fear are everywhere. New ideas and frontiers are spurned by a nervous populace, fearful of change for the harm it brings. But it is just this sort of willful ignorance that keeps civilization from rising again. It is such fear that keeps hope buried and great challenges from being met. The player characters represent the heroes who can break the bonds of this ignorance and bring something new and great to their culture, to reawaken and invigorate life.

Clearly, these themes can be realized even in sandbox-style campaigns by populating the setting with characters, institutions, and artifacts that evoke theme-inspired feelings.

Examples of seeking in a fantasy setting would include the classic over-arching quest to recover the Rod of Seven Parts, or the secret weapon needed to vanquish the Great Evil Overlord, or the discovery of what happened to an ancient civilization, and all the adventures along the way. Examples in a science fiction setting would include the exploration of a mysterious alien structure, or an investigation into a clandestine space-faring organization intent on destroying the Confederation of Planets.

Emphasizing the theme of tragic ignorance can be done through NPCs: the close-minded customs inspector who confiscates and destroys aberrant religious artifacts, the power-crazed governor who secretly kills all mages to steal their magic items, the single-minded zealot focused on destroying those who differ from the idealized norm.

It can also be done through artifacts: a broken weather-controlling device deep in the bowels of a dungeon that could calm the storms raging above if only the keepers of the ancient knowledge would cooperate.

And it can be done through carefully seeded trends and fads in the towns and villages that PCs pass through: increasingly prevalent use of dark and ancient magics for trivial purposes by an unsuspecting populace, the worship of a seemingly benevolent new god whose alternative names and titles disturb the more learned members of the party due to their possible connotations.

With all these parameters rambling around, it should be fairly easy to pick from some of the more intriguing RPG systems, settings, and supplements that have come out since RPGs have been around and repurpose them for the Fading Suns game.

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That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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