Sunday, July 10, 2011

Transfinite: Humanspace Design Notes - Responses to DHBoggs

More Humanspace design notes in the form of addressing some questions by DHBoggs from this post.
DHBoggs wrote:

Adventurer –
Should NOT be allowed any psychic ability; and conversely, should be allowed any skill level in other areas. This is going to be a very typical class type featuring a wide range of characters. As in real life, they should not be limited in how far they can progress in non psy, or non warrior areas of expertise. Anyone with PSY ability is (or should be) automatically either a magic user er, scientist, or they can join one of the mystic navigator/astronaut churches, er guilds.

There is no reason a person could not be an advanced geneticist or engineer or what have you and have no PSY ability. In fact I would assume most members of the scientific an academic community to have no psy ability.

Astronaught (cleric) – should be described as members of a guild or better, of competing guilds (churches whatever) where they receive their navigational and Psy training like in Dune or as the “pilgrims” in Wing Commander, and to some extent, the Jedi. Otherwise looks good so far. Pilgrims, if you are not familiar:

Scientist – please, please consider renaming – maybe Psytechs? Scientist does not work because it will be very confusing to talk about “regular” scientists, engineers and such, without getting them confused with the psy powered “magic user" type that make up the class.
The Adventurer class in Humanspace Empires was based on Glenn Rahman’s Adventurer class for EPT that appeared in Dragon Magazine #31.  Rahman intended that Adventurers would allow for the simulation of heroes of literary fantasy that like Moorcock’s Elric were wizards with warrior abilities or like Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane were warriors with some access to magic. The same philosophy applies to the Humanspace Adventurer and, as such, access to PSY powers seems a necessary part of the Adventurer class.  Further, the skills are not intended to be so vital to the game that access to a wider range of skills would justify the existence of the class.
As the rules are written in the playtest draft, a minimum PSY score of 9 is needed for the use of any PSY powers and a PSY score of at least 12 is needed for the more powerful (higher level) powers. This means that about 30% of all characters would have no PSY powers. I’ve considered raising the minimum PSY score to 10 or 11 which would limit PSY powers to around 50% of characters and revising the Scientist Skills/Powers table to further limit the number of Scientist characters with access to PSY or Super-Scientific powers.  I’ve also been looking at various schemes to give Scientists special abilities that are not PSY related.  Even without these changes, at least 30% of scientists would have no PSY ability. I suppose that my contention in the setting is that, during this period, the goal of science has focused, to a degree, on the use of the mind to tap into inter-planar power sources. 

Although it may be a bit of a stretch, the Humanspace Scientist was partially inspired by Dr. Morbius from Forbidden Planet. Although Morbius was a philologist by training, he was (in the grand space opera tradition) a brilliant multi-disciplinary scientist that embraced the idea that focusing mind powers to alter reality was the greatest goal of science.  Consider also the nexialists from Van Vogt’s Voyage of the Space Beagle.  The Nexialists sought to unify all the sciences and mental powers were an important aspect  of their training.
I definitely like the idea that Astronauts with PSY powers (like Scientists, at least 30% of Astronauts will have no PSY abilities) are members of competing cults or orders and this has been an area that I’ve intended to flesh out for some time.  The Pilgrims of Wing Commander are interesting and very similar to my original conception of PSY powered astronauts in Humanspace but I was not previously aware of them.
DHBoggs wrote:
Drune, are you aware of Dragons at Dawn? I'd be happy to hook you up with a pdf if you don't have one. I think there is a great deal on the Blackmoor boards you would find of interest too in terms of the Arneson/Barker context under which the EPT rules were birthed. AIF also, may be of particular use to you in developing your variant skill system.
I’m aware of Dragons at Dawn but haven’t read it.  Sounds very cool and I’d love a pdf copy.


  1. I quite like the straight naming - Adventurer, Astronaut, Scientist - and think it gives a slightly more serious edge to the game.

    The PSY for Adventurers could be looked at less as a feature of a conscious PSY user, at least early on, and more like an ability which helped the individual get to where they are. PSY Luck for example could be understood by the user nothing more than their being lucky, and invoking it as nothing more than a kind of finger crossing.

    It's natural that we have more questions than answers this early on in a project. I'm betting that the more that gets fleshed out over time, the more we'll be nodding and seeing the vision.

  2. Honored, Drune, that you took the time to answer so thoroghly. My EPT knowledge is unfortunetly limited to the original rules and a couple related materials so I had no idea you were modeling on a previous adventurer class. To my read, the class seems an "and everybody else" class, which I think is needed. I think so because it seems to me hard to justify someone playing a "scientist" or an "astronaught" character without significant psy powers. A character like that would be little more than flunkies in whatever organizations these classes create, or like a wanna be magic user who can't cast spells. So if you allow astronaught or scientist characters who have no PSY powers there's really nothing to differentiate the from an adventurer, is there? I mean the skill system would pretty much allow the adventurer to learn any of the mundane tech knowledge of science and navigation.

    I can see your point about adventurers having some PSY powers, if they are only of limited ability, like rangers or thieves gaining a few spells - it won't wreck the game and does make a certain amount of sense, but I do think it should be quite rare.

    "...the Humanspace Scientist was partially inspired by Dr. Morbius from Forbidden Planet." That's awesome and a great example, but I think in some sense it points to what I'm talking about regarding normal "scientists" The crew of "heros" abourd the United Planets Cruiser C57-D, put in Humanspace Empires terms, couldn't possibly be all classed as "Warriors" and they certainly aren't HE "scientists" yet among the crew there were professional scientists (Doc) and engineers. I'd class them as Adventurers with specializations in science and no PSY ability. So, this is why it seems to me that while someone like Morbius should be in a specialized class type, caling him a "scientist" while recognizing that there must be other, non psy scientists is too confusing. I'm sure there's a more evocative term out there.

    Copy of D@D - email me with your addy

  3. @Porky: Completely agree regarding the possible perception of certain Psy powers, particularly Psy Luck and Empathy and a few of the other most common low level powers, as "natural good luck" or "a sixth sense." This was intentional and is built into the skill/power system that makes these powers the most commonly available to low level characters.

    It's cool that you picked up on this.

    @DHBoggs: I see where you're coming from and have had similar concerns but I'm not too happy with any of the options to fix the possible problem...which I think is in large part perception and also in part approaching the setting from a gamist perspective.

    I could split Scientists into two classes such as (non-Psy) Science-users and Psytechs and split Astronauts into Psy and non-Psy versions but I want to keep the number of classes to a minimum and, in my mind, little would really change.

    Although the emphasis on Psy powers in the rules for these classes is certainly responsible for the perception, in the setting there would be many non-Psy Scientists, Astronauts, and Adventurers.

    From a gamist perspective or even from the perspective of most players I can see that non-Psy Astronauts and Scientists seem somewhat pointless but such characters are common in the setting and could be perfectly viable PCs.

    The 3d6 in order chargen will also make sure that some characters of this type will arise. I'm really thinking that the minimum PSY score for powers will be increased to 10 or 11 in the final version to further make this the case.

    Thanks for the D@D offer will be sending out email shortly.

  4. Heh, couple more thoughts. If you look at our own scientific profession, here in america, and in the english speaking countries in general, archaeology is a pretty open field. All of us get our hands dirty and any of us can continue on in the profession ("gain levels")as far as we like. But in some places, like Germany and France, there is an elite and very small class of "Archaeologists" who teach, originate projects and analyze the results, but wouldn't dream of every sinking a shovel themselves, while the bulk of the work is relegated to professional field "techs", who have virtually no hope of ever moving up.

    In an academic situation where an elite dominate and have unique and special privedges never accesible to "inferiors" there would be little hope and little incentive for non PSY scientists pretend to be in the same club as the PSY masters. In Germany, field "techs" (the Adventurers) may be just as knowledgeable as the "archaeologists" (scientists) but they are seperate classes just the same because of percieved status differences. In a world where such differences were backed up by actual supernormal mental abilities, the distinctions would be even stronger.

    Nexialists - missed that on my first read through but maybe that is what you should call the scientist class? It seems really apropriate.

  5. Yep, just read your reply, I think you're getting what I'm saying, but just to be clear, what I'm suggesting is that non PSY scientists and non Psy navigators could simply be members of the adventurer class with a specialized set of skills/training in ship piloting (Han Solo) or some branch of science (Scotty, Bones, Geordi Laforge). Whereas true astronauts (pilgrims, clerics) and True scientists (nexialists, Dune navigators, magic users, Morbius) are in a class to themselves because of their unique abilities. Okay, I'll shut up now and I'm sure however you decide in the end it will be perfectly playable. :)

    Maybe next I'll mention something about combat cause I'm wondering about the EPT style multiple damage dice, but I haven't had enough time to digest that part of HE yet.

  6. Aye, your stuff is quite awesome! :) Would love to see the evolution of your ideas.

    Cheap international calls

  7. going to be posting some thoughts and ideas about HE on my blog here

  8. Drune? Druuuuune? Are you still out there buddy?

  9. Is this thing on?!?! DRUNE ARE YOU STILL WITH US?

  10. Great minds think alike - so what am I doing here just a day after the mighty Needles?

    I don't know, but my cry goes out into the e-ther too - 'Come back to us!'

  11. Hope all is well. We're all wondering what the status of the game might be, but more importantly, take care of yourself. Post again when you're ready, willing and able.

  12. Just ducking my head in quick to say hello! Hoping there might be a glimmer of hope for a return to IX!

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