Although the two Humanspace Empires PbP games, Ancient Astronauts and Spaceswords and Glory, are just barely underway, I’m finding them extremely useful as diagnostic tools for improving the game system ahead of the planned revision of the play test draft as the final Humanspace Empires Book 1: Science Fantasy Adventures. I’m also thrilled to have a great batch of players and am already harvesting lots of good setting and design ideas from them.
The recently published Spaceswords & Glory Technical Manual might be of broad interest as it contains numerous Imperial Navy NPC characters, various robots and androids, and semi-statted play test starship and vehicles.
Clearly the skills system needs some refinement, duplicated skills need to be consolidated or differentiated, many skills need to be defined, the explanation of skill acquisition in character generation needs to be much clearer; and most importantly the rules need to convey that the skill system exists primarily to stimulate the imagination of the players and the referee and should not be overemphasized in game play particularly if doing so proves limiting rather than expansive. Overall, though, I’m pretty happy with the skills system and don’t anticipate a major overhaul being needed for the final rules.
I’m not completely happy with the Psychic and Super-Scientific Powers; however I think the current version needs expansion and refinement rather than substantial revision. My problem with Powers is intertwined with an area of setting development that has been neglected and I hope to make some progress on this in the near future.
I’m talking about the role of religion in Humanspace. I have tried to follow known EPT canon as much as possible in designing the Humanspace setting and there are several canonical references that lead me to believe that religion was of great importance in the Humanspace era. We have the star worshipping techno-priesthood in the Hierarchy of the Nóm but it is past time to crack open the Book of Ebon Bindings and begin detailing the theosophy of Humanspace; weird Astronaut cults and ancient mystical religions, Space Yoga, the Pariah Gods, VuhVedic Sunuzlām.
Psychic powers are a focal point of the game and in the spirit of EPT I feel these powers should be mystical. I have envisioned the time period of the default Humanspace setting (about 60k years in the future and 50k years prior to the Cataclysm) as an era when use of early primitive interfogulators had weakened the walls of reality sufficiently that humans and other species were able to tap into interplanar power with mental energy. Inter-dimensional access goes both ways though, so n-dimensional demons are certainly slipping in. Over time, improved inter-planar devices resulted in the re-thickening of the walls of the universe (sometime well before the 100th millenia) and a more scientific less mystical Humanspace .
I’m thinking of ways to further differentiate the Scientist and Super-Scientific Powers from the Astronaut and Psychic Powers. Expanding or at least semi-defining Scientist skills and developing a system for the creation of Techno-artifacts by Scientists (similar to the creation of magic items by Magicians) might be interesting. I also want to expand the idea that Scientists are often associated with one of several Institutes or Foundations that might be something like Interstellar- quasi -Wizard Guilds.
Some recent rumination on minor and not so minor points of game design might affect the PbP players in the near future and I’d recommend that anyone actually running the game consider these rules changes:
The Disintegrator Rifle (sub-atomic) is pretty unbalanced as written and too cool, in my opinion, to keep out of the hands of players and NPCs. I will be requiring a to hit roll for anyone using the weapon in the PbP games.
The Experience Rules as written award 1 x.p. for 1 CR worth of treasure. Considering the ultra-post-modern economy of Humanspace, the costs of vehicles, starships, etc. and the relatively low amounts of x.p. needed to advance in low level play; I don’t see this rule working out. I’m considering various revisions like maybe 1 x.p. per 10 CR treasure, or only awarding x.p. for credits squandered on Aldeberan brandy, Orion slave girls, and space age lounge music. I’ll consider any suggestions on this one…