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Old 03-27-2021, 03:55 AM   #1
Greg 1
 
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Default Infinite Worlds Alt-History Supernature and Superscience

How important do you think the inclusion of supernatural or superscientific elements are in putting together a fun world for Infinite Worlds alternative history settings?

When I think about alt-history settings for Infinite Worlds, I find that I always gravitate towards including supernatural or superscientific elements for fear that without them, the local challenges will be too mundane for dimension-hoppers like the PCs.
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Old 03-27-2021, 04:30 AM   #2
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Default Re: Infinite Worlds Alt-History Supernature and Superscience

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Originally Posted by Greg 1 View Post
How important do you think the inclusion of supernatural or superscientific elements are in putting together a fun world for Infinite Worlds alternative history settings?
Depends on the GM and the campaign, I think. I usually avoid them in my timelines (TM), except when the plot or the setting demands them.
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Old 03-27-2021, 06:08 AM   #3
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Default Re: Infinite Worlds Alt-History Supernature and Superscience

While about any setting I seriously design is likely to have supernature and/or superscience, that's just a personal preference. Purely mundane challenges and threats can be every bit as serious as ones involving magic or unobtanium - even a powerful wizard can be threatened by technology (unless using a magic system where this isn't the case, at least).
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Old 03-27-2021, 06:24 AM   #4
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Default Re: Infinite Worlds Alt-History Supernature and Superscience

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W. Purely mundane challenges and threats can be every bit as serious as ones involving magic or unobtanium - [).
Dying of dysentary on the Oregon Trail was a very serious threat but simulating that doesn't look like fun to many people.

We might actually be talking more about the cinematic/realistic axis than hard science or historical accuracy v. fantasy or fantastic science. An adventure campaign without any non-realistic elements could still be cinematic enough that it didn't focus on long journeys while eating bad food and getting blisters on your feet from ill-fitting boots.

I'd expect that sort of thing to be glossed over in any IW campaign. So you could have a TL4 Pirate! adventure without any magic or ^ and still buckle lots of swashes. A truly grim and gritty low tech survival game doesn't sound like IW. See the way "Sleepover" is treated in IW lore.
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Old 03-27-2021, 06:45 AM   #5
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Default Re: Infinite Worlds Alt-History Supernature and Superscience

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Originally Posted by Greg 1 View Post
When I think about alt-history settings for Infinite Worlds, I find that I always gravitate towards including supernatural or superscientific elements for fear that without them, the local challenges will be too mundane for dimension-hoppers like the PCs.
I tend to operate the other way around. I'll often carefully prune magic and superscience worlds because they let dimension hoppers have access to those powerful tools that slice through mundane problems. If I'm focusing on the Infinity Patrol, Magic, Psi, and Superscience are limited to the worlds they are found on, and most of the challenges are about action heroes with mostly realistic technology solving human problems. Though there is a "flavor" of adventure where infinity agents have to deal with a problem on a weird world.

Sometimes I let loose and let the heroes have magic and superscience. This usually results in a scope larger than infinity unlimited. Half of those games are "ISWAT" games, though I tinker with ISWAT's organization and history: most of the time my ISWAT doesn't report to the Patrol: its a more powerful organization that tolerates the patrol, and is happy to take jobs from them when they stick their foot is something too big for them to handle. The rest of the time it tends to not be an organization, but an individual caught up in a wide multiverse.
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Old 03-27-2021, 03:46 PM   #6
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Default Re: Infinite Worlds Alt-History Supernature and Superscience

About 90% of my worldlines have no supernatural or superscience elements, while 10% do.

And I suppose it depends on what you mean by 'challenge'. Yes, the PCs have vast resources, typically more than their adversaries. But if that was going to be relevant, we'd be playing on one fixed world, not IW. If we're talking about Echo stabilisation, the PCs have to get things very precisely right; not clean up the scene and eliminate witnesses after the fact, they need a solution with zero witnesses and collateral damage in the first place (or very close to it). Anybody at all dead 'ahead of schedule' is mission failure, at least potentially. Let the PCs have great power, they're going to need it because their win condition is very, very, very narrow.

They have more leeway on worlds that are not Echoes, but still less than a lot of players think at first. Locals aren't stupid. Keeping the Secret is hard. Not Keeping the Secret leads to demotion, heavy artillery, and possibly indefinite detainment in Coventry. All of that creates opportunities for Swagmen in your wake to turn your small screw-up into a gigantic one. Bringing enough gear to easily beat the locals jeopardises the Secret. Fixing a 'misunderstanding' is going to take amazing social skills, backed by good forgeries and the ability to engage with locals on their own intellectual terms.

Nearly all IW adventures are puzzle adventures. Real tactical challenges are quite infrequent. That's the nature of the metasetting; valid solutions are subtle and social, tactical mayhem is for campaigns that don't have worldhopping.
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Old 03-28-2021, 05:30 AM   #7
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Default Re: Infinite Worlds Alt-History Supernature and Superscience

About 50/50 within our campaign, alt/real world historical scenarios can be just as challenging and horrific, one of my groups most challenging and harrowing worlds was rescuing an army officer in the final days of the Fall of Berlin.

A race against time to stay ahead of the Red Army war machine whilst dodging a fight to the bitter end Wehrmacht.

Even from an action perspective, sensible use of enemy numbers, ammunition etc means that even high powered PCs are under threat in echoes or normal parallels.

Opponents are not stupid and nor are they all cowardly, a PC that dosen't go down from a volley of fire that should put them down is just as likely to provoke overkill rather than retreat - fight or flight, my group are aware of that so dependant on their Ads/Dis's play accordingly, Overconfidence can be tricky at times.

As previous posters have said normal echoes or parallels also present opportunities for intrigue, espionage and detective work which my group particularly enjoy.

One of the big ingredients is interesting concepts or memorable npcs

For me supernatural or superscience just creates alternative mystery, it allows the PCs to use their more unusual abilities slightly more liberally or create a fantastical story whilst letting me outlet my imagination differently.

Last edited by arcanus; 03-28-2021 at 08:01 AM.
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Old 03-28-2021, 06:29 AM   #8
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Default Re: Infinite Worlds Alt-History Supernature and Superscience

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Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
Dying of dysentary on the Oregon Trail was a very serious threat but simulating that doesn't look like fun to many people.
Sorry, by "mundane" I meant "neither supernatural nor superscience," rather than "common." I was absolutely thinking of more PC-worthy concerns - combat situations, whodunnits, political maneuvering, etc (depending on campaign).
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Old 03-28-2021, 08:36 AM   #9
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Default Re: Infinite Worlds Alt-History Supernature and Superscience

When I think about it, the great majority of my campaigns, in GURPS and other systems, have had overtly fantastic elements; in particular, I run a lot of fantasy and supers.

I haven't made use of Infinite Worlds as a campaign frame. However, I've used GURPS Alternate Earths as inspiration for campaign ideas; in particular, I've actually run a campaign set in the Earth of the Chinese Empire in AE2. (I did some tweaking based on adopting the 19th century British Empire as a model for the Chinese Empire; for one thing, I had England as a princely state.) I didn't feel any need to have supernatural or superscience elements to make the setting interesting. I did have martial arts, and worked out a dozen or so new schools of martial arts to fit the timeline. The campaign was intentionally cinematic in style and that seemed quite sufficient to make things interesting.
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