Shared GMing in Diaspora

I really love boardgames. 

But, as many of you probably know, role-playing is my real first-love in gaming.  But as I’ve grown up and taken on all the responsibilities of adult life (and now even have the added time commitments of parenthood), however, playing traditional RPG’s has become harder and harder to do.  Heck, just getting together for a game is hard, let alone finding the time (as the GM, which I usually tended to be) for the hours and hours of time needed to prepare for the adventure/story/campaign.

No-Prep/Low-Prep Games

So, over the last few years, I’ve been more and more attracted to the whole indie/story game movement, many of which tend to be no-prep or low-prep kinds of games.  Often, the games I like are completely GM-less, meaning that the responsibility for the story is shared among all players, and that any prep for the story tends to either be handled by the game text (e.g. A Penny For My Thoughts) or is done at the table immediately prior to play (e.g. Fiasco).

And the games I’ve been playing are incredibly fun and interesting.  But sometimes, they can still leave me wanting an experience more along the lines of more traditional games.  One where you have a continuing story/campaign with an overarching story arc and several smaller side plots.  And generally, a GM is required to devise and manage a story of this magnitude.


So, as I was looking around and listening to people talk about the incredible breadth of games out there, I was drawn to what I was hearing about the FATE system.  In Spirit of the Century particularly, the game is designed for one-shot adventures that require no prep by the GM.  Character creation is done in such a way to intertwine the characters and develop backstory, and then the meat of character “stats” are a list of statements (called Aspects) that serve both a mechanical purpose (to help die rolls and power the Fate-point economy) and to provide huge, glowing flags to the GM about what the player wants to see his character doing.

But again, I don’t really want only a one-shot type of experience, and the pulp-hero setting of SotC isn’t necessarily my favorite for in-depth storytelling.

So, here’s where Diaspora comes in.  Diaspora is an evolution of FATE with a hard-sci-fi theme and a number of extra mini-games that add some extra tactical detail to personal, social, ship, and platoon combat.  I was introduced to it by my long-time friend Kenny, and I was immediately attracted to it both for the setting and the system.  My relatively-new friend Tom wasn’t immediately all that interested in it, but once we completed the cluster-generation process (another mini game to collaboratively create the specific “world” that you’ll play in), he was hooked as well.

The Promise of Diaspora

And to me, the biggest hope and promise of Diaspora is actually this sense of continued sharing of collaborative storytelling, even within the confines of a relatively traditional game.  So in addition to the cluster generation process and character generation that I’ve already blogged about, our plan is to continue sharing GM duties thoughout the campaign.  And just to be clear, I’m not talking about a model where one of us will be the “GM for this session” and have all the responsibilities of preparing a story and running it for the other two characters (which is a more traditional “rotating GM” thing).  What we’re going to try and do is to maintain all the spontaneity of a very low-prep game where “control” of the story switches from scene to scene and decisions about story goals and complications are made through consensus between all three of us.

So our plan right now involves first identifying what we want our own characters to be doing.  Over the last little while, we’ve each developed a short list of goals both for our character (what they want) and for us as players (what we’d like to see our character doing, or where we generally want the story to go).  And before we play next (which will hopefully be next week!), we each need to spend just a little time thinking about some complications that might happen to the other two characters as they pursue these goals. 

Again, though, I am in no way talking about planning out any sort of formal “adventure”.  These are just going to be seeds of ideas for NPC’s, situations, or various other outside pressures that will prey upon both their goals and the aspects and skills from their character sheets.  Actual play will then be an interesting balance of switching back and forth between making decisions for your character and throwing in plot twists and putting pressure on everyone else.  

It’s going to be a little scary… and require a lot of trust and collaboration… but I’m incredibly excited about what it could mean for us and our gaming.  So, wish us luck, and give me any feedback that you think might be beneficial.

Character Goals

Just in case you’re interested, here are the character/player goals that we’ve identified:

Jind (Tom’s Character) 

Long Term: root out corruption that is beginning to infect his planet. How? Not sure yet but I’m thinking on it. He has bought into Adam’s crusade but knows that bringing down New Eden’s system of ‘government’ is not as easy as stirring up a revolution. Corporations have long arms and many heads.

Short term: I figure he is going to start looking into the other transactions he has set up. Find out if any of them are in fact fronts for slavers. He’ll use Kenny’s guy’s connections at some point. First place to go – don’t know yet. Deseret looks good but can’t really think of why.

Esteban (Kenny’s Character) 

• a spaceship battle/chase
• fighting onboard a ship (repelling boarders, boarding another ship, fighting off hijackers)
• finding something on Lord Carnavon
• solving a problem in a way that horrifies your two characters
• going to Combine

Adam (My Character) 

Long Term: To bring about revolution on New Eden and overthrow the Corporations, most likely dying in the process.

Short Term:
1) Convince Esteban that the Families of The Lester Strand are no different than the Corporations, and that the only way to deal with them is to eliminate them altogether
2) Either with or instead of #1, shame Esteban for his lack of focus/purpose and browbeat him into following my will
3) Get to Lord Carnavon (where the shipment of New Eden Slaves was rerouted to) and organize them into some semblance of a resistance
4) Protect Jind from some life-threatening thing or other
5) Totally overreact to some situation and kill someone inappropriately

Character Stats

And here are the most up-to-date “stats” for our characters:

Adam, First Son of New Eden

Perfect Physical Specimen
Stolen Slave
Resorts to Violence
Was he my Father or my Lover?
Makes the Tough Choice
Survival Instinct
The Ends Justify the Means
Maybe There Is Hope (Relationship with Jind)
Not worthy of The Promised Land

5: Resolve
4: Intimidation, Alertness
3: Stamina, Stealth, Brawling
2: Tactics, Energy Weapons, Agility, Culture/Tech (Lester Strand, Tellos, New Eden)
1: Pilot, Charm, Survival, Demolitions, Medical

The Voice of the Revolution (Use Resolve as Oratory)
Military-Grade Brawling
Military-Grade Energy Weapons

Jind, Ki-Lord of Delateen (a small province on Combine)

Groomed for Service
27th In Line For The Throne
Book Smart
Reality Shock
Sudden Backbone
‘On Combine, sir, this would mean pistols at dawn!’ OR Idealist (can’t decide)
Routinely Underestimated
New Found Mentor
Using The System
Secret Agenda

5: Bureaucracy
4: Brokerage, Assets
3: Charm, Oratory, Alertness
2: Languages, Intimidation, Close Combat, Resolve
1: Stamina, Computer, Agility, Medical, C/T-Combine, Tellos

Extra Stress Box (health)
Reads People
Diplomatic Immunity

Esteban Marsh
Homeworld: The Lester Strand

Born in the Belt
Grew up tough
Businessman with a heart
Never squeamish
Laundered fortune
On the run
Knows where to put the knife
There’s wrong, and then there’s wrong
Honored Exile

5: Charm
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


  1. Hello, mate! I am completely accede to this way of assessment and everything joined.

Comments are closed.