Having discovered Dungeon World (DW) I dug a little deeper to find what else had been created based on the Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) engine. There are several, of course, and a real bloat of playbooks for characters. This is to be expected for anything that is any good: people get excited.
Uncharted Worlds (UW) is the science fiction implementation that caught my eye. Similarly funded through Kickstarter, it seems to me to be complete, rational, and entirely usable. The play style encourages sandbox style development and a story-oriented event resolution system. Both DW and UW are story games, not tactical wargames, and so will not appeal to everyone. But they appeal to me.
The Typhoon Maiden (TyMa) story is one I’ve been developing for years and concerns the travels of a city in space. A trading ship of enormous size, with a population in the thousands. This ship travels a long path between worlds, probably on a regular route that may well take decades or even a century to complete. On these journeys the inhabitants of the city go about their normal business of cooking and building and falling in love and having run-ins with the law. When around a host planet they descend, trade, explore and cause mischief. By UW classification the ship is a Type 5 in terms of size, but my technology level is clearly different. My ship, though several kilometres long, has a listed population of around 18,000 and is steered/run/guided by an integrated AI, or Mind. People aboard the Typhoon Maiden occupy a place somewhere between passengers, parasites, and pets. They are not ‘in control’ of the ship. It just so happens the Mind has chosen this migratory life and invited an ecosystem of short-lived humans and other animals to come for the journey.
The inspiration for Typhoon Maiden comes from Metamorphosis Alpha and all the great lost world ship stories of the 50’s and 60’s, and also from Rogue Trader in a more general sense, and Iain Banks Culture novels in a very specific sense. With the tools available in UW, and the growing enthusiasm for the PbtA engine around me, I hope to get a video-conference game going set on the Maiden.
A great and clever tool in UW is the Factions. In the rules these are presented as large galactic structures and here I suspect the typical interpretation will be the ‘Federation,’ or ‘Empire,’ or ‘Blue Sun Corporation.’ Which is all fair and good, however when I read the section I was put more in mind of the Secret Societies of Paranoia, and how these factions could place pulls on a character leading him or her into difficult moral territory. What follows now are the factions aboard the Typhoon Maiden. These are not formal organisations with badges and oaths as much as they are political power blocks that can act openly, but more often in the shadows. They provide some of the dynamic tension aboard the ship.
There are five main factions that exist in a dynamic tension aboard the Typhoon Maiden. They are the Merchants, the Conventionals, Command, the Landlords and the Adaptives.
The Merchants are concerned solely with trade and act to increase their access to markets, protection of their goods and profits, and to influence ship policy towards those goals. Their base of power are the vast numbers of transport ships that service the TyMa and ferry goods to and from planetary surfaces. They provide the prosperity that is at the core of why the TyMa is in space at all (as far as people are concerned – who knows what motivates the Mind that is at the core of the ship?). Merchants employ private guards to protect their persons, vessels and property. The Merchants as a faction are not ideologically opposed to any other faction, but strongly oppose any action that might impact their ability to make deals both aboard ship and dirtside.
Might: Paid security
Reach: Primarily the docks and warehouse districts. Merchants are strongly associated with the Seneschal department
Structure: A formal Merchant’s Council meets, but anyone that engages in trade is by default affected
The Conventionals place their concern in ‘public health’ and stability. They represent the efforts to prevent destabilising foreign or radical trends. The Conventionals have the most ‘soft’ power and the least ‘hard’. They appeal to the shared culture and destiny of the city and seek to keep things as they are. Their influence is most keenly felt and most obvious in their control of public events in the city: festivals, ceremonies, sporting events, speaking events, fairs and exhibitions. Their specific enemies are the Adaptives.
Might: Social shaming hand in hand with gossip. Strong interaction with the Religious Police (RePo), who are concerned with criminal insanities
Reach: Public events and any other social activity
Structure: Loose structure of concerned citizens groups, clubs and associations
Ideology: Social stability
Command is typically associated with the Voidboss department but this is not necessarily so. Command is concerned with the technical and mechanical fitness of the city. It includes in its membership command staff but also technicians and support personnel such as plumbers and electricians. The Command faction finds itself in sometime alliance with any or all of the other factions, as long as those groups don’t threaten to break anything in the city. They violently oppose actions that do affect the city’s functioning.
Might: Control of the official city security force, the Excubitors, and the Security Police (SePo)
Reach: Utilities and infrastructure, engineering
Structure: At its core there is a formal command and rank structure
Ideology: Don’t break the city!
The Landlords are property owners, renting out living space, commercial and manufacturing facilities, storage and transportation services. Landlords typically belong to established family structures with long lineages of accumulation of money and hence power. They are concerned only with maintaining their positions of stability and privilege, seeing themselves as aristocratic cornerstones of the City’s civilisation. The natural allies of the Landlords are the Conventionals.
Might: Land ownership and therefore power through rent. Criminal Police (KriPo), concerned with investigating and punishing everyday crime
Reach: Landlords’ powers reach to every part of the Typhoon Maiden. These ‘districts’ are guided, exploited and competed for amongst the landlord families
Structure: Family hierarchies
Ideology: The natural social order is a pyramid, with the landlords at the top
Adaptives embrace the new and exciting possibilities opened up by exposure to foreign cultures. As the city pulls into contact with the a new world, Adaptives go to work exploring, cataloguing and investigating with the intention of finding all that is good that could be imported and applied at home. They are usually in violent opposition to the Conventionals who hold all such importations as destructive and undesirable. Officially, Adaptives are just radicals and trouble makers. To the members of this faction they are the true patriots attempting to improve life for everyone and stave off stagnation and extinction.
Might: The corrosive power of memes and incremental change among the common people
Reach: Strongest in casual meeting situations where people can share ideas: bars, restaurants, public events
Structure: The few formal mouthpieces of change and adaptation are merely a front for the real work which is unstructured and largely word of mouth
Ideology: Change is good