As I mentioned on Friday, I got together with Kenny and Tom at the Gurganus hizzle this past weekend for some hot role-playing action. Our main focus was to get characters created for Diaspora, maybe to play an encounter or two with them, and then try out a couple of other games. Basically, we succeeded on all counts!
Character Creation for Diaspora
Kenny’s character was Esteban Marsh from The Lester Strand, which is a used-up asteroid-belt of a system controlled by a few powerful, mafia-like families. He was a corpse broker, who bought dead bodies from families to render back into their reusable molecules and elements. But he took his job seriously, and treated both the dead and their families with the respect and compassion they deserved.
Tom was Jind, Ki-Lord of Delateen, a small province in the Combine system. Combine is the “newest” member of the cluster, discovered only a hundred or two years ago. While still human, they are distinctly different from the rest of the cluster, and Tom’s character was a low-level noble (27th in line for the throne) who was a member of their emissarial corps sent out to facilitate contact and trade with the rest of the systems. He was well-prepared academically, but found quickly that the reality of the outside world was not quite what he had been told.
And then there was my character, who has adopted the alias Adam, First Son of New Eden
Adam was born as a commoner on one of the three garden worlds of New EdenTM, a resort system owned by three wealthy corporations. Unfortunately, life on New Eden is cheap, and “workers” there are little more than slaves. So being a particularly handsome young boy, he was conscripted into service as a catamite for a wealthy businessman from Tellos. This older man took a particular fancy to Adam, and offered to buy him outright from the corporation. But since the workers are techinically not “slaves”, they can not be bought or sold. Instead, the man kidnapped Adam and kept him aboard his ship, teaching him all about the rest of the cluster as well as, of course, using him for his own carnal needs.
Early life with this father/mentor/lover-figure was relatively good for Adam, but as he grew into his adolescence and began to realize what had been done to him, he began to chafe and rebel against his mentor’s control. His mentor responded by physically abusing him, and eventually found another young boy on which he could shower his affection. Driven both by jealousy over being discarded and by the horror of realizing that another boy would suffer his same fate, Adam rose up against his mentor and killed him, taking his ship and treating the boy as a brother.
Moment of Crisis/Side Tracked:
When the resources available to them from their mentor ran out, Adam and his younger “brother” found their way into the darker side of the cluster. In one dealing with some buyers for some stolen merchandise in the Lester Strand, things went really bad. When ambushed by the group, Adam managed to take care of himself, and being both powerful and ruthless by this point, he took his assailants apart with his bare hands. Unfortunately, however, his brother was killed in the fight. Being both ambivalent about the boy and pragmatic about his resources, Adam ended up selling his corpse to Esteban Marsh. While Adam wasn’t fully aware of the hornet’s nest he had stirred up, Esteban felt for the young man and helped cover up the mess even though it required “taking care” of another three members of the same gang.
Esteban was good with people, and he had become wealthy because of it. He was, just maybe, too good, because he soon attracted the attention of one of the families, which made him an offer to become their new “face” to the public. Knowing that he wanted no part either in their business or in being under their thumb, Esteban made plans to leave the system as quickly as possible. So he befriended a naive emissary from Combine, Jind, and used him to launder his fortune and escape. Jind, however, wasn’t quite as naive as he seemed, because at one point, his assistant discovered the unapproved transactions happening in his name and was prepared to cancel them all, but Jind, seeing both the desperation and the goodness in Esteban, allowed them to be completed.
The two formed a partnership of sorts, with Jind seeing Esteban as somewhat of a mentor, especially in regards to interpersonal and other “real world” skills. They even travelled in Esteban’s ship, the Visitation, to attend to the state business of Combine. One such business trip took them to New Eden, where Jind was negotiating a trade deal with one of the corporations to hire a significant workforce for use in various parts of the cluster. As the talks were coming to a close, however, Jind entered his personal quarters to find them darkened. Sitting at his desk was Adam, knife in one hand and a file in the other. Jind was scared, but listened as Adam told him about the “workers” he was about to “hire”, and showed him pictures of their living conditions in the holds of freighters ready to ship off to wherever the corporations sent them. Adam was prepared to threaten and possibly even blackmail him, but before it even got to that point, Jind grew incensed at the situation he was almost a party to, stormed out, and confronted the corporation representative. The representative denied it, of course, but Jind severed all talks and nearly challenged him to a duel.
On Their Own:
Adam’s mission now is to bring down the corporations of New Eden. Ever since his brother’s death, he has had a growing sense of responsibility for the suffering that is going on among his people. Through the contacts he established while living as a smuggler and with the help of his new allies (Esteban and Jind), he is trying to do everything possible to interrupt the exploitation of his people. Powered by the force of his resolve, Adam lives a public life as Jind’s bodyguard while organizing resistance both on New Eden and in the expatriate communities throughout the rest of the cluster. Adam knows that he is far too damaged to ever be able to enjoy the new paradim of his dreams, but he hopes that his sacrifices (both up to this point and in the future) will make the difference for the rest of his people.
Out of Character Stuff…
The character creation process for Diaspora was almost as cool as the cluster generation. We’re going to try and “co-GM” this campaign by rotating who is the referee/caller either between or perhaps even within sessions, and the history from this collaboratively created background is just ripe with opportunities to develop the story. The Moment of Crisis and Side-Tracked sections of character creation force the players to link their characters together at a point before the campaign starts, so they have personal history as well to build directly on.
And not only was the process interesting, but it was also incredibly fun! I’ve never played a game where world- and character-building could really be considered a “play session” quite as much as this. Even if I never got to play the actual game (which I desperately hope that I do), I’d still consider my time and investment in Diaspora to be a success just from what I’ve done so far. And as a long-time GM, that’s quite a thing to say after just world-building and chargen.
Brief Actual Play
But we actually went ahead at this point and played out a couple of scenes both to kick off the game and to get a bit of a feel for some of the mechanics in the game. We started with Jind (Tom’s character) being called in to see his direct superior in the Embassy on Tellos. This happened almost immediately after the last event in the Moment of Crisis of character generation, so he was being asked to explain his actions with the New Eden representative.
So we set up a little 4 or 5 zone map for social combat. In the zone to the complete left, we labeled it as “Official Reprimand for Jind” or something like that. His superior was in the next zone over, and then next was a zome called “Willing to listen to outside evidence”. All the way to the right we labeled the zone as “Approving of and Aiding the Cause”, which I guess was the stake we wanted from the conflict. We set some pass values between zones based on how hard we thought it would be to move him one way or the other.
So starting with just Tom and then bringing me in later, we pulled and pushed his superior until he ended up erading the reprimand and actively helping us reroute a shipment of workers from New Eden (acquired in a separate deal) to a camp on Lord Carnavon. In looking back at the Social Combat rules after the fact, we did a lot wrong. But still, I think that we got a decent feel for how it’s supposed to run, and we had a good time.
Just to give Kenny a chance to play his character a little, I then took the role of Caller and established a little scene in a “casino” on Tellos (I use quotes because Tellos is a system of extravagant wealth, and status here is gained by giving away stuff, so the point of the casino was actually to lose as much as you can). Two bounty hunters came looking for him, and so we got to play out a little Personal Combat scenario as well. It turned out to be pretty sedate, though, since he eliminated one of them with a composure attack (bribing him with his assets skill) and then killing the other when he was taken down by the first. Again, we got a lot wrong, but it was still fun, and it was a good evercise to try out the map-building and FATE economy.
Overall, we had a great time, and I can’t wait to try out Diaspora in another “real” session!
If you’re interested, here’s the most pertinent stuff from our three characters:
Adam, First Son of New Eden
Perfect Physical Specimen
Resorts to Violence
Makes the Tough Choice
Takes Care of Business
The Ends Justify the Means
Maybe There Is Hope
The Promissed Land is Not for Me
Intimidation, Alertness (4)
Stamina, Stealth, Brawling (3)
Tactics, Energy Weapons, Agility, Culture/Tech (Lester Strand, Tellos, New Eden) (2)
Pilot, Charm, Survival, Demolitions, Medical (1)
The Voice of the Revolution (Use Resolve as Oratory)
Military-Grade Energy Weapons
Jind, Ki-Lord of Delateen (a small province on Combine)
Groomed For Service
27th In Line For The Throne
‘On Combine, sir, this would mean pistols at dawn!’ OR Idealist (can’t decide)
New Found Mentor
Using The System
Charm, Oratory, Alertness(3)
Languages, Intimidation, Close Combat, Resolve(2)
Stamina, Computer, Agility, Medical, C/T-Combine, Tellos(1)
Extra Stress Box (health)
Homeworld: The Lester Strand
Born in the Belt
Grew up tough
Businessman with a heart
On the run
Knows where to put the knife
There’s wrong, and then there’s wrong
4: Assets, Brokerage
3: Resolve, Alertness, Profession: Corpse Broker
2: Micro-G, EVA, Engineering, Pilot
1: Close Combat, Navigation, Communications, Computer, Survival
Have a Thing: T2 Starship, the Visitation
Skill Swap: use P: Corpse Broker for Close Combat
Take A Bonus: allies can get a +1 bonus for using my Assets skill