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Old 09-15-2021, 10:03 AM   #1
Tungsten93
 
Join Date: Sep 2021
Default New GM needing help with almost everything with space campaign

Hello. I am new to roleplaying in general. I've played a DnD one-shot once and a Pathfinder campaign for like 4 or 5 sessions before one of the players gave up. Me and my friends (who are just as unexperienced as I am) have decided we want to play a new campaign and I've made the stupid decision to be the GM. We decided on doing a space setting with a bounty hunter theme like Cowboy Bebop, so mainly adventures on planets, sometimes in space, with the spaceship mostly being a form of transport. Space combat is secondary. After looking at a couple of systems that do space, I decided on GURPS.

Now of course what any sane person would do is pick a premade scenario and play that to see if we can get a hang of the main rules and see if we still enjoy it after 5 sessions. Sadly I am not a sane person when it comes to projects like this because I always want to do way too much before I'm satisfied with a creative product. I've read Lite, the Basic Set and Space and I have mapped out a galaxy with jumplines and instant travel (to not have too worry too much about calculations that for now might not add much). I also have an idea for an opening scenario, where the Bounty Hunter group returns from a bounty mission to claim their bounty on a space station, but a robot 'terrorist attack' kills the person who offered the bounty right in front of them. The first scenario will be about staying alive on the ship and destroying the robots. I still have to map out the space station.

Now the part where I'm struggling with is trying to get the galaxy to make sense. How do I reason the space station being there in the first place? Right now I've basically made a galaxy by just putting random dots on a map and I've generated star systems using the GURPS Space generator and I've assigned the systems to different factions. I feel like I have to have a completely working economy before I can decide on reasoning why certain stuff is where it is, though. I feel like I'm going deeper and deeper and I'm now at a point where for every single planet I'm deciding what resources there and who is mining them, where they are going, why they are going there, who's controlling them, how much tax is being paid on them and on and on and on. I feel like I'm going down the rabbit hole pretty quickly right now. I feel like I should've done this entire project together with someone who's way more experienced than me.

Now I don't want to make this sound like I'm disliking the project of trying to make my own world. So far I've enjoyed creating what I have so far a ton and I don't want to give up on making this work. I feel like I just need someone to put me in the right direction. And yes, I really should've started small, with just the space station, playing a scenario on it, then build out from that.

So after that ramble, I basically have two questions:

What is your step by step process if you have create a new universe?
How do you have stuff make sense in your world, without going down the rabbit hole?
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Old 09-15-2021, 10:45 AM   #2
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Default Re: New GM needing help with almost everything with space campaign

Welcome to Gurps! We're really glad to have you!



Quote:
Originally Posted by Tungsten93 View Post
What is your step by step process if you have create a new universe?

I don't go step by step, per se. I pick an "interesting" center point, make a list of questions based on that, and evaluate how important they are/ how easy they are to answer, and then start answering the questions in that order.



When I'm building a setting to play with later, the center point might be a magic system, a proposed scenario, or a randomly generated set of communities. When I'm working on an setting with regularly scheduled games, the center point is the players, and their current location and activities.



Quote:

How do you have stuff make sense in your world, without going down the rabbit hole?
There is a few things you can do:


One is to use default settings and reference societies. In a fantasy setting, medieval Europe is often used as the default. Its not the most entertaining or creative default, but it lets you build something without completely imagining a society from scratch. Space opera often uses mid 20th century america as its default society. Fictional societies can fill this role as well: cyberpunk societies are common, or you can say "Things work like star-trek, except for where I say". Having a good idea of Genres and Genre expectations helps here.



Another thing you can do is to choose the rabbits digging the holes carefully. Ignore some of them and chase ones you think will either have short tunnels or produce interesting setting material. You only have so much time: use it wisely, and your goal is enjoyment, not perfect simulation.



Quote:
I feel like I have to have a completely working economy before I can decide on reasoning why certain stuff is where it is, though. I feel like I'm going deeper and deeper and I'm now at a point where for every single planet I'm deciding what resources there and who is mining them, where they are going, why they are going there, who's controlling them, how much tax is being paid on them and on and on and on. I feel like I'm going down the rabbit hole pretty quickly right now. I feel like I should've done this entire project together with someone who's way more experienced than me.

Ok, so why does the economy matter? I ask this in full seriousness. Why does this game need to know what the trade routes are? When does it add to the game play, and what can you abstract to make simple? Trade routes in space can be a powerful game tool, but we need to know what we're trying to achieve rather than stumbling around.



Thoughts on resources that matter: Unique resources matter. Manufactured goods vs agricultural goods vs mineral wealth matters. Carrots vs. Taro root could matter, but if you should either abstract that by biome, by culture, or some other "Tag" that keeps things simple.



I'm also curious how many planets you have, and how many factions.
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Old 09-15-2021, 10:53 AM   #3
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Default Re: New GM needing help with almost everything with space campaign

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tungsten93 View Post
Me and my friends (who are just as unexperienced as I am) have decided we want to play a new campaign and I've made the stupid decision to be the GM.
There's a long and honorable tradition going back to the very beginning of the hobby of people with no qualifications whatsoever deciding to run games. You'll be fine.

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Originally Posted by Tungsten93 View Post
What is your step by step process if you have create a new universe?
How do you have stuff make sense in your world, without going down the rabbit hole?
OK, first: breathe.

Now, on to more substantive matters. You're drowning on world-building. I would recommend taking a step back from that for a moment and considering what you're doing as a GM. Your job is, essentially, to provide things for the players to do and administer how all of that falls out. This is not to discourage world building, but rather a reminder to keep an eye on the point of that world building.

For example, you've got a space station as a set piece. So far, so good. Why is the space station there? Well, does it matter? Will your players care? They're in a star-faring SF campaign, of course there's a space station. And while your players will likely care about the layout, defensible positions, places to hide and sneak around, and all that kind of thing, they're not going to care more about the history of the station, the primary exports of the planet below, and so on any more than you care about the zoning and construction history of any airport you happen to pass through. You care more about where to go to get to the gate and how much they're going to gouge you if you have to buy a sandwich.

The point here, then, is not that you have to give up what you've done to this point, but if it's causing you problems--and it clearly is--then you can just let it go for now. Stop and refocus on the players and the game they're likely to play. You can focus on broad outlines for now and flesh them out down the line. While some kind of top-down work is important for plotting out things like what the important locations are, what factions and cultural trends everybody will be familiar with, who the major political entities and institutions are, and so on, you must stop at some point and focus on the "what are we actually going to do this weekend" end of things, which is mostly where your players are going to be. Your players will mostly be satisfied with the broad strokes of the greater galaxy because most of us are satisfied with knowing the broad strokes of the world we inhabit.
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Old 09-15-2021, 11:23 AM   #4
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Default Re: New GM needing help with almost everything with space campaign

"Make sense" is an interesting problem, since there are lot of things IRL that do exist that don't necessarily make a lot of sense. Maybe it used to and doesn't anymore ( So as long as there's a reason and that reason made sense at some point in time, then you can draw a line from each decision point along that point-of-interest's lifetime to the present day.

For world building (or campaign building), I like to start small and work outwards. You've definitely hit a key element, that the ship and travel are secondary and a method of getting from point-A to point-B without worrying about investing deeply (or at all) in ship combat. Totally valid, great way to keep the focus of the action in one realm. Also useful to use an existing property as a thematic grounding.

So, step by step process... I would probably start with the starting point. Where will the action start? A space station, ok.
From there, what else is nearby? Space station needs a purpose, so how about it being at a transit junction. Anchors a point in space, gives traveling ships a place to refuel and restock, maintains safety and security in the immediate area.
Next, I'd think a little bit about how people get around. Sounds like you've already got that fairly well defined: instant travel from point to point. I would guess also that there's real-space scooting around w/ some sort of drive for things like landing on planets or docking with stations. So that tells me that the action takes place around these junctions, because that's where people will gather to trade, produce, and meet, and that stuff doesn't really happen in-between ships in space really kind of like the same way that airplanes on Earth don't have encounters with other airplanes. You're on planet NYC and need to get to planet Chicago so you get on your space-airplane and in a few hours(days?) you're there.
At this point I may think about who's running the show. If travel times are relatively short, then perceived distance is small so a centralized government works. If travel times are long, then each location would be pretty independent and self-sustaining (i.e. fewer wildcat single-resource extraction colonies). This also depends on what kind of campaign antagonists I want, and how much involvement I want them to have. Since bounty-hunters (and not the bail-bondsman Dogg kind?) are a thing in your setting I'd probably lean towards a more factional and splintered up political scene that doesn't have a lot of resources to put towards internal policing. Or maybe the other way around, strong gov w/ robust legal system but with a lot of places for people to hide (spaaaaace) so you're Space-Dogg the bounty hunter and killing people is actually a Bad Thing.

But I digress. So far I haven't talked hardly about economics or 'how things make sense' and all about the major players and who wants what and how they get it. That's key. Unless the PC's will interact with municipal taxes, or the gross tonnage movable through a given port, or who produces what... don't worry about it. There are tons of historical examples of places that aren't economically viable but still people live there because they want to for whatever reason, or are economically viable but are just terrible places to be, or appear economically viable but only if you're really really lucky (klondike gold rush!) so there's lots of people there even if they shouldn't be. Also, as far as who produces what and how that keeps the system going... don't worry about it. Those places exist, but the PC's aren't interacting with them (yet) so you don't have to define them (yet).

Think about it like standing on a street corner. You're going to go into the coffee shop (first adventure), and you can see down the street that there's a hardware store and a restaurant (a couple places sketched out to go next), and you know that the next town over has a big brewery there (very loose detail about the larger world).

So there you go. Lay some things out in broad strokes so you have something to build on. Don't sweat the details until you need to, and let the largeness of the world absorb the oddities and quirks that might not 'make sense'. Improvise and retcon, if you make a mistake just fix it and move forward. Focus on the major players (of the plot, not the world) and who wants what. Plan ahead about three or four steps, but no farther because the PC's are going to upset the applecart anyway.
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Old 09-15-2021, 11:33 AM   #5
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: New GM needing help with almost everything with space campaign

I haven't designed a new SF campaign for a while but whn I did the first thing I decided on was the overall tone of the game.

I was looking for something Firefly-like so I decided that ten years before the three biggest and best developed colony worlds had fought for and won their indepedence from the oppresive Earth Colonial Authority. The ECA msotly collapsed so even the smaller colonies were mostly ont their own.

So, especially on the lightly settled frontier there is little law and not much order and heavily armed people in small armed spaceships wander around freely.

Why do spaceships travel between worlds? Because people on those worlds need Stuff and will pay to have that Stuff brought to them. The PCs are in the Stuff-moving business one way or another.

However much the macroeconomics of the setting interest you I'm afraid the above is an example of what you actually need.

While I did use Space a couple of ways during the design phase what I used most often during actual play (besides te Basic Set) was Ultra Tech. UT is full of things your PCs will want for their own use like weapons and defenses and ultra tech first aid equipment.

What you're going to allow your PCs to buy out of UT (or Bio-tech or toehr books) is probably closer to what you need to focus on. This will be a matter of TL and what Superscience you allow.
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Old 09-15-2021, 02:00 PM   #6
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Default Re: New GM needing help with almost everything with space campaign

Welcome to GURPS, and role-playing in general.

The first thing I try to do when creating a new setting is to have a good think about my campaign premise and what it implies about the setting. For example, let’s say I’m going to set up a Bounty Hunters in Space campaign. (Feel free to borrow anything that appeals to you.)

Bounty Hunters in Space raises a few questions and answers in the first place. Why do bounty hunters exist, particularly in space? The first obvious answer is to bring back fugitives that ordinary law enforcement a) can’t be bothered with; b) would take too long to bring to justice; or c) can’t touch. I’ll go with c) because eventually I’m going to make complications for bounty hunting, so a) is likely to be more trouble than it’s worth and thus you get few hunters, either because it’s a spirit-grinding job or it’s unprofitable or both and b) will tend to mean that bounty hunters are going to be in official trouble both at home and away.

Why can’t the law touch the fugitives? For the most part, once you’re off-planet, and certainly once you’re out-system, you’re out of the local police’s jurisdiction, much like crossing the state or county line in the Old West. Further, there is no interstellar police force/police information sharing system, so nothing like Interpol, and generally speaking, no extradition treaties between planets. If a fugitive gets out-system, he’s scot-free.

Most victims find that unacceptable, they want the fugitive brought to justice, or sometimes, they want him dead. That’s where the bounty hunters come in. I treat them as being somewhat like privateers. Privateers were merchants who had suffered losses from an enemy power in time of war and been granted letters of marque by their government to try and even things up. Bounty hunting is a bit different in that the bounty hunter has not himself been wronged but the government of his planet gives him fairly wide-sweeping legal enforcement powers to pursue fugitives from their justice. They contract with individual clients to pursue fugitives beyond the government’s jurisdiction and bring them back to face justice, for a highly negotiable fee (bounty) between the client and the hunter. The hunter makes no representation about the outcome of local justice, their job is done when they bring the fugitive in.

So, already most planets in my setting will have a set of planetary laws at best, some trade between planets but no body with oversight between planets and little interaction between planets regarding individual criminals. Perhaps there are some areas where no one has legal jurisdiction.

Next, what can I do with that to complicate things for the bounty hunters? First, even though most planets use bounty hunters, almost no planet recognizes any foreign bounty hunter as having any legal power within their jurisdiction. Bounty hunters depend on anonymity while operating abroad. The surest way to botch a bounty job is to commit a crime yourself in pursuit of your fugitive. If you beat the whereabouts of the fugitive out of someone, they’re very likely to report the hunter to the real legal authorities who will put their efforts into capturing the off-world perpetrator and putting him away for a good long time.

The local government also takes a dim view of kidnapping locals/tourists and taking them abroad or of corpse-snatchers (those bringing in a dead or alive bounty in a dead state). The biggest problem a bounty hunter has is getting his quarry off-planet or out-system. Bounty hunting has resulted in exit customs checks. You have to satisfy the authorities that everyone exiting is legitimate. Customs often requires interviews, usually in a separate room, with drugged/sleeping persons before permitting them to exit, and their companions are normally detained pending the outcome of the interview. It isn’t quite a game between the bounty hunter and the local police. If the bounty hunter has been very careful not to break any laws during his visit, and produces his bounty hunting license, he will usually be allowed to depart without too much further being said. However, he will be persona non grata on that planet going forward, and a complete biometric profile will be worked up before he is permitted to leave, meaning he will never be able to bounty hunt there again. (Some persona non grata bounty hunters do make subsequent attempts, but conditions are much less friendly, and they have issues just getting on-planet without detection.)

Finally, just to add some spice to my setting, I’ll add two or three powerhouse powers to the mix. It’ll vary, but in this case, the powerhouses will have two or perhaps three systems that act as a single nation. The powerhouses really hate foreign bounty hunters. One of the powerhouses, probably the biggest, is especially hard-nosed about it. They don’t employ bounty hunters themselves and they take the kidnapping of their citizens/tourists very seriously indeed. They will send a platoon, a company, a battalion or whatever it takes of space marines (or their equivalent) to a) hunt down the bounty hunter and drag him back by the scruff of the neck; and b) break the quarry out of wherever they’re being held and bring them home, and Lord help anyone who tries to get in their way. Other nations may protest but most aren’t willing to go to war over it and that is what it would take to get the bounty hunter back.

Anyway, that’s how I would start setting up my universe. Once I’ve gotten that far, the rest is mostly “interesting color”/”novel situations”.
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Old 09-15-2021, 02:57 PM   #7
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Default Re: New GM needing help with almost everything with space campaign

Once again, I find myself recommending the blog Mailanka's Musings, this post, "The Psi-Wars Process" especially, here.

If you're interested in this, you might take a look at the Psi-Wars Wiki and at the catalog of world-building entries on the blog.

PS. Psi-Wars includes a bounty-hunter template and a lot of blog entries on using them in a sci-fi game.

Good luck!
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Old 09-15-2021, 03:18 PM   #8
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Default Re: New GM needing help with almost everything with space campaign

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tungsten93 View Post
Hello. I am new to roleplaying in general. I've played a DnD one-shot once and a Pathfinder campaign for like 4 or 5 sessions before one of the players gave up. Me and my friends (who are just as unexperienced as I am) have decided we want to play a new campaign and I've made the stupid decision to be the GM. We decided on doing a space setting with a bounty hunter theme like Cowboy Bebop, so mainly adventures on planets, sometimes in space, with the spaceship mostly being a form of transport. Space combat is secondary. After looking at a couple of systems that do space, I decided on GURPS.

Now of course what any sane person would do is pick a premade scenario and play that to see if we can get a hang of the main rules and see if we still enjoy it after 5 sessions. Sadly I am not a sane person when it comes to projects like this because I always want to do way too much before I'm satisfied with a creative product. I've read Lite, the Basic Set and Space and I have mapped out a galaxy with jumplines and instant travel (to not have too worry too much about calculations that for now might not add much). I also have an idea for an opening scenario, where the Bounty Hunter group returns from a bounty mission to claim their bounty on a space station, but a robot 'terrorist attack' kills the person who offered the bounty right in front of them. The first scenario will be about staying alive on the ship and destroying the robots. I still have to map out the space station.

Now the part where I'm struggling with is trying to get the galaxy to make sense. How do I reason the space station being there in the first place?
1. It is in orbit around an inhabited spacefaring planet. It acts as a place to dock for the ships that don't land. Every planet with a Class A or B spaceport is going to have space stations. Probably most of the Class Cs as well.

2. It is near asteroids or planets that are not habitable and have very low gravity but have active mining operations. It's easier in those situations for normal gravity people to automate the actual mining while most of the live people live on board a space station which can act as a refinery/dock with recreational facilities for the refinery and warehouse workers and ship crews.

3. It is located in a system that is worth nothing but simply happens to be conveniently located on the shortest route between two systems that are worth something. Thus it's a place for ships to stop and "refuel" (which can include things like replenishing life support), do minor repairs, buy and sell things that may be illegal in the worthwhile systems.

4. It's conveniently located as a deployment point for military, paramilitary and emergency services that may need to quickly respond to problems in multiple inhabited systems.

5. It's a border marker. It's there to establish a defensive and surveillance perimeter outside of inhabited space. (Whether such an idea is practical depends on the FTL mechanics being used.)

6. It's a research facility located here because there's something interesting to study.

7. It's a research facility located here because the research is either wildly dangerous or unethical. Either way, you want it far away from civilian population centers and scrutiny.

8. Actually there's no good reason for its existence. Whatever economic or political rationale once justified it's positioning is long outdated. It's population is slowly declining as most of the young who can leave, do. Still, the life support systems continue to work and people continue to live there because it's their home, or because they're too poor and undesired to leave.

9. There's no good reason for it's existence, but there are bad reasons for its existence. It's economic value rests in this being an out of way place where you can probably trade your contraband, pirate cargos and slaves without attracting attention because interstellar government and law enforcement agencies don't consider exercising authority there to be worth the effort.

9. There's a bad reason for it's existence but it's actually quite close to a major population who will be attracted to its position right outside the government's territorial space offering vices that are illegal inside.

Last edited by David Johnston2; 09-15-2021 at 07:38 PM.
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Old 09-15-2021, 03:45 PM   #9
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Default Re: New GM needing help with almost everything with space campaign

I would recommend that you build what you need for the adventure and little more. The results of how your players interact with what you have created will guide you on what to add next. This means you might have to improvise some stuff on the fly, but, in my experience, GMs need to be prepared to do this regardless of how much detail they've put into their setting already, because you just can't anticipate everything.

That said, it probably makes sense to have a reason for why a space station is in a given spot. Does it guard a jump gate? Is it owned by a particular government? Is it just an interstellar fueling station/rest stop? How large is its crew and how many guest berths does it offer? Who enforces the law on it?

I'd keep things at that immediate level unless you think there is a strong likelihood of the adventure moving off the station.
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Old 09-15-2021, 04:17 PM   #10
JulianLW
 
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Default Re: New GM needing help with almost everything with space campaign

More of Mailanka's Musings on Psi-Wars. It's really impressive. And this post, "A Manifesto on Setting Design," is the one I was originally looking for to recommend. Really smart, simple game design concepts here.
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