Exploring Warpcore: A Scifi Reign Skin

I’m piecing together a dystopic space-punk noir skin for Greg Stolze‘s game Reign. We’re calling it Warpcore and enjoying it immensely so far.

I’ve been excited about the One Roll Engine (ORE) for a couple years, and am excited for the opportunity to finally bring it to my table. My group didn’t want another heroic fantasy setting however (the Reign default), they wanted dirty megacorp space opera noir.

Inspiration

Space Opera Ships

EVE Online is a quality inspiration for aesthetics and tone for this game

My regular group that plays King Arthur Pendragon is down a player for a little while, so instead of taking the story years ahead and leave the missing player behind, we’ve been running off the cuff with Warpcore almost accidentally.

Here’s some background. For the last week, all of us in the group have been enjoying FTL (Faster Than Light)—I recommend checking it out—and as a result, the genre is hot on our minds for roleplaying.

Meanwhile, I’ve long held fond regard for the Escape Velocity series of games by Ambrosia Software ever since encountering them on my friend’s Macintosh in ’98 or so (the latest game, EV:Nova as featured on this post’s banner image, is downloadable as a full free 30-day trial for Mac or PC).

Finally, my oldest memory of the potential and breadth of collective creativity in gaming revolves around wide-eyed learning as another friend led me through a few trade runs in the text-only interface but rich tone of the economic space trading MUD Federation (started in 1988 and now replaced and continuing to this day as Federation II or Fed2official page).

As a side note, I’ve never played Traveller, but one of the players has and I’ve looked at it. What we’re going for seems comparable. Same goes for EVE Online.

So, yes, I confess, I may far too greatly enjoy what others might find tedium: imagining flying through cold, empty, inertialess space, discovering the unknown while hauling who-cares-what from here to there to make a living, and maybe, just maybe, getting wrapped up into a plot bigger than a single measly intergalactic punk.

How can this translate into engaging group roleplaying? Well, Firefly provides a pretty decent start to an answer of how there’s fun in ‘simple space trading.’  Reign allows us to take the answer further, beyond a crew, beyond even the known limits of space. One might even be so pedantic as to say, into infinity and beyond.

The Group for the Game

My Pendragon group is perfect for it because they’re already used to telling a story at many different scales, from the individual level, to the manor development level, to the dynastic family level over decades, to the national political level. They love shaping the game, the story, and the world at all those levels, so Reign is a perfect fit for this group.

I haven’t had a lot of experience with Reign and ORE yet to give a thorough review, but I expressed some of why I’m excited about them in one of the last Sep 17th comments on this Google+ thread.

One of my favorite aspects of Reign, and ORE in general, so far, however, is One-roll tools for setting generation at many levels. One roll character generation is especially fun (though you can choose to use less random chance, or even a full-control point-buy system if you wish).

An Accidental Campaign

I said we accidentally started a campaign because two of the friends were hanging out and I suggested rolling random characters to see what happens.

They did so, and then when they inquired more into how the rules work (“So say I’m trying to shoot someone…”) I tossed out an example where PC1 was chasing and trying to shoot PC2. They rolled, learned, added details to the scene “It’s a dark, dirty alley, naturally, behind a restaurant.” “I swing on the fire escape…”

After a couple rounds, as they figured out more of who their characters were by what they do, I threw some Unworthy Opponents into the scene to keep it interesting: third party mob goons after both of them, then a big tough lieutenant. All this was just to show them increasingly detailed aspects of play and how it all flows together smoothly: basics of rolling and interpreting rolls, difficulties, penalties, bonuses, options for more interesting and free-form maneuvers, multi-way conflict and mobs, hit locations and damage, recovery, other types of conflicts, passions, etc. It’s a very fast system to learn

All told, we had a blast. The pair of characters, once trading bullets, realized they knew each other, and that they both had expertise in the criminal arena, and so teamed up to pull a heist job to lift themselves out of poverty and maybe into a new life.

The next day, our regular Pendragon night, the other players made characters of their own and had a little introductory episode of their own (prospecting for lucrative space worms in an asteroid field, since one of them was lucky enough to start with a dirty, mostly worthless but space-worthy ship, thus introducing some basic Company rules).

Finally, the two criminals from the day before spotted the vulnerable ship after landing with its hard-won cargo (remarkably valuable for pharmeceutical use). The unscrupulous pair tried to boost the haul for themselves, hoping for a repeat success like their previous attempt. Well, it got messy, one thing led to another, and they all ended up blasting into the atmosphere together, away from bloodthirsty astro-bike gangers, bloody and bruised, highly understandably suspicious and cantankerous, but unfortunately in great need of each other’s skills, connections, or reputations. They all really just want to rise out of the smog of New Detroit, into any other life.

So was born—completely off-the-cuff—a campaign that can’t possibly produce anything but hilarity and adventure, right? With this group, I have high hopes.

The Dirty Little Details

So needless to say I’ve been finding snatches of inspiration here and there to cobble together the bare minimum details to adapt Reign’s assumed swashbuckling/fantasy setting to dirty future scifi. I don’t want to do a lot of work, because who knows how long we’ll play, but the details are fun for me so far. Fitting ships into the mix—halfway between being companies themselves and being like characters with hit locations and skills—along with high tech assets, participation in the intrigue of bureaucratic megacorporations, transhumanist existential angst, and the like.

Since I’m writing things up anyway, I’ll be posting them here for others to modify and run with. It’s the least I can do since most is inspired or derived from skins others have posted here and there (and there and there).

The next post in this mini-series will provide the One Roll Character tables we used to drum up our delightful motley crew.

About Adam

I'm a husband, father, explorer of the inexhaustible, and synergy cultivator. Starting with D&D, my explorations into role-playing and game design have brought me to savor mining diverse systems, initially Cortex Plus, then PbtA, ORE, Forged in the Dark, and now anything I can get my hands on.