Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cut with Our Own Dust

"Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, like diamonds we are cut with our own dust."
-- John Webster

I started a different post for today, but it is really not coming together the way I want it to.  I have a system for writing just about everything (I know you are shocked).  The post I wanted to make has not only broken my system, it has shattered it and scattered the pieces to the four winds.  Since I am on a self-imposed deadline and time is winding down, I will change over to a different topic and try to wrangle with the original post when I have more time, patience, and a better idea of how to tackle it.

Instead, today I will reintroduce a pitch that I made to the weekly group last year.  At the time I developed a paltry five different game ideas and presented them.  As there were four players, I allowed each one to eliminate one of the pitches and then we played what was left.  That process ended in the Supers game that I have mentioned a time or two already.  One of the other pitches has made an appearance earlier in the month.  The other two have potential as well and may show up after this month is over.  Today, however I want to talk about dust.  Specifically Other Dust.

A few years ago, author Kevin Crawford came out with a pretty nifty space game called Stars Without Number. The game is an intriguing mix of old school and newer mechanics. And even better, the game is free.  He does have a spiffier version that you can pay cash for, but the free SWN is complete and playable on its own.  Unlike so many other free games, looking this one over does not give the reader the impression that they got what they paid for.  SWN is, in fact, pretty damn good.  The true innovation Crawford creates was a system of keyword that the game master can attach to a place (in this case planet) to use as shorthand in case the players decide to go there some day.  When someday arrives, the GM uses the keywords to flesh out the location.  Looking at what I wrote, what he did does not seem very impressive, but I assure you that is the limitation of descriptive ability and not his product.  The system is amazing, adaptable and deserves better than the vocabulary I possess to describe it.

With the publication of SWN, Crawford made a name for himself as a solid game designer and has developed a bit of a following among independent minded gamers.  Capitalizing on his success, Crawford has adapted his keyword system to other genres.  Other Dust, which shares a history with SWN is his post-apocalyptic entry.  It uses a system compatible with  SWN, but different enough that the characters feel like survivors instead of citizens of the stars.  The setting is Earth, but one that had already colonized the stars before the end came.  Events in SWN reveal that Earth was abandoned.  The history of Other Dust reveals what happened to those who were abandoned.  I find that combination of stories irresistible and  something I would like to explore.

The Pitch

When the cities look like this, maybe
 it is time to look to the stars.
When it was obvious that Earth had finally succumbed to the years of greed, environmental devastation, and subsequent natural disasters, those who could afford it took to the stars.  You were lucky enough to win the lottery and secure a berth on one of the last sleeper ships off of the planet.  Unfortunately, when you finally emerged from the decades of cryo-sleep, you found that your ship was damaged and never made it off the dying planet.   Now you and your fellow survivors must make your way in this strange new earth, a planet that did not actually die, but did not quite survive either.  Using your limited amount of old world equipment, can you and your fellow shipmates navigate what the world has become?  And when a stranger offers you the chance at salvation, can you overcome the obstacles that stand between you and a more permanent sanctuary? Adventures will begin with PCs just trying to survive in the unfamiliar remnants of their former world, but a definite goal will eventually present itself, if the players have the fortitude to finish what they started.

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