Thursday, August 17, 2017

Galactic News Stream Report! (Day 4)

Despite ISU efforts to contain the situation surrounding Starliner Flight 252, a new development has occurred. One of the passengers aboard the flight withheld video evidence and has anonymously put it online for all to see under the name True252, including statements that Union Guard agents from the ISU were called in to “suppress” the release of this information. The video clearly shows unidentified spacecraft of unknown alien origin flying alongside the starliner, some of them darting in briefly for what seems like an attempt at a closer look. Shortly after the encounter, a pulse of energy engulfed the starliner and all power was shut down. The poster of the video claims that he suspects it was an electromagnetic pulse—an EMP blast—of some kind, and that it appeared that the alien ships were potentially hostile. After the starliner lost power and was adrift in space, the passenger claims that the alien ships appeared to lose interest and departed, though there is no video proof of this because all electronic devices shut down. The passenger states that he decided to remove his device's data card, which he encouraged several other passengers to do. Once the starliner powered up again and eventually reached port, all devices were confiscated by waiting ISU officials. The passengers that had removed their cards, however, were able to hide the data cards. Some of the passengers brought those cards to us, but when we sent the data to be independently verified, we have learned that the ISU confiscated the data and advised our verifier to insist that the videos were fakes. If not for the anonymous posting of one brave passenger, we might never have known the truth! ISU, what are you trying to hide from us?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Galactic News Stream Report! (Day 3)

As the investigation into the events surrounding Flight 252 continues, we must apologize to our followers for what we can only call misinformation. Yesterday we reported that videos of strange purple lights had been seen by some passengers, but we have been notified that these passengers were never on Flight 252. We have attempted to contact the supposed passengers we spoke with yesterday, but none of them have returned any calls. Although we had sent their videos to be independently verified before sharing them with you, we have been informed that all the videos were fakes. The videos are not being released for viewing because they have been deemed fake. We apologize for our error, and assure you that the incident with Flight 252 has been confirmed to be pilot error. The pilot of the starliner did not heed star-data reports and flew the ship within range of the radiated zone surrounding the Ignatius flare star. All passengers are being tested for radiation poisoning, and are being held at an undisclosed location by ISU officials until further notice.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Galactic News Stream Report! (Day 2)

Breaking news: new information has surfaced in the investigation of Epsilon Flight 252, the starliner thought lost until it pulled into port yesterday, 4 days late. The flight log does indicate that the craft was nearing the region of the unstable, high-mass Ignatius flare star, but warnings and adequate route adjustments had already been made before the sudden power failure. Telemetry and positioning data indicates that the flight was not near the star enough to suffer a power failure and communications loss. Several passengers have come forward, under condition of anonymity, to share strange videos they managed to take just before the incident occurred. Odd, purple lights were spotted, moving along the same path as the starliner while darting in closer for brief moments, then quickly resuming their course at a distance. The crew's Science Officer has refused to comment and is not returning calls.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Galactic News Stream Report!

This just in: A starliner bound for the colony on Ourea that was believed lost last week has finally pulled in to port, more than 4 days late. Reports indicate a communications failure, but some passengers have independently confirmed a solar event during the expected two week travel time. According to eyewitnesses, the starliner experienced power loss and was adrift for several hours before power was regained. Emergency life support systems kept everyone alive during the frightening ordeal. The captain later informed the passengers that the starliner had to change course because of the activity of a flare star on their route. It has been confirmed that the star, Ignatius, is now in its final phase. All routes have been altered to avoid the extreme radiation levels--enough, scientists say, to cook all occupants inside any nearby spacecraft. An investigation is underway.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Writing Your Own Solar Echoes Mission (part 5)

I have a few more final tips for mission writing. I highly recommend keeping the GM's narrative sessions short, because players often have short attention spans and they are not very patient when it comes to “story time.” Don't write a book! I usually try to keep things down to one or two paragraphs of narrative if possible, the only exceptions being the mission briefing at the beginning and the mission debriefing/epilogue at the end. Intersperse your narrative with decisions for the players to make. Even a simple “Awareness Check” involves everyone making die rolls with the hope of rolling high so they can determine something helpful for their team. Keep things concise in your writing and don't get overly descriptive—you can do that when you're talking with your players and describing the situation as they're playing. For example, as the players' characters breach a warehouse and see the smugglers, you can quickly describe the smugglers as a group of 5 humans that immediately reach for their assault rifles. Keep things moving and get to the action, but during the action, you can start to fill in the description. For example, a player targets a particular smuggler and as they exchange gunfire, you can describe the smuggler, saying something like, “this human leers at you maliciously as he quickly turns to fire back, his black leather trench coat whirling behind him like a cape.”

I'd also like to add that you need to keep loot and flavor in mind while writing a mission. Players are always excited to discover new weapons, armor, and equipment during their missions, so make sure that they can find a few unusual items. Flavor is a term I use to describe short embellishments of the setting you've created. I hope the mission-writing tips this week have been interesting and useful! I'll end with a short flavor example from the mission, “Egg Drop,” when players finally locate a bar called the “Star Wrangler” that they've been searching for:

As you pass various curio and souvenir shops at the starport, your attention is suddenly captured by a bright, holographic projection. A colorful animation shows a star being captured with a rope and pulled in to another cluster of stars by a Krissethi wearing a ten-gallon cowboy hat. He sits proudly upon the cluster of stars, points right at you, and winks. The words "Star Wrangler" appear for a few moments, and then the animation cycles again.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Writing Your Own Solar Echoes Mission (part 4)

I don't have a set formula for writing a mission, but I do seek a fair amount of balance among the different activities. Though this can vary because of the mission plot, I'd recommend that squad combat events should range somewhere from 30% to 50% of the mission, while vehicle/starship combat can be anywhere from 10% to 30%. Hacking should be about 5% to 15% of the mission, and dialogue encounters should be present in all missions, ranging anywhere from 20% to 50%. I try to include all of these activities in a mission if possible, but sometimes the story doesn't warrant certain things. For instance, if the story involves a planetside scenario for the entire mission, trying to fit starship combat into the story will just feel contrived. In a situation like that, though, terrestrial vehicle combat is a great alternative. But do try to include everything if possible, because you want players to feel that the skills they've invested in are useful to the team. A player who was excited about starship combat and designed his character with related skills will be very frustrated and disappointed if he doesn't have a chance to shine. Thanks to the Solar Echoes skill point system which forces skill diversification, no character will ever be unable to contribute, but think about the players you are writing for and try to include situations in the mission that will make them feel special. If you're not writing for a specific group of players, then keeping the different activities balanced is even more important!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Writing Your Own Solar Echoes Mission (part 3)

Players can turn a good story into a great story, depending on the decisions they make. In my many years of running RPG games, I've learned that the best stories can happen when the Game Master is able to improvise and adapt the story line. Rail-roading players removes from them the feeling that they have any affect upon the story, so the GM needs to write his missions with a lot of opportunities for player choice. It's difficult to do this, though, because you'll find yourself trying to write branching paths for every possible decision players might make. Trust me, it's impossible to think of everything! Some events will happen regardless of what the players decide, and these “hard events” occur because they are larger than the players—they are outside the players' sphere of influence. At the same time, though, players should feel like they are heroes whose decisions are impacting the story, so the smaller “soft events” should have eventual impact on the storyline. When you begin the mission and introduce the mission goals to the players through their Operations Sergeant (OS), make certain that the goals are actually achievable. When the mission is finished and the players' characters are reporting back to their OS, they will feel like the experience rewards they've earned are fair because each reward is associated with whether or not they achieved the mission objectives.