Firmament d20

September 14, 2007

I’ve been distracted from posting here by the new Fingers on the Firmament project I’m doing with Justin D. Jacobson of Blue Devil Games. There was a thread on Story Games where they tried to pair up hippie and grognard designers to create fun games and build bridges between the indie and more mainstream roleplaying scenes. So we’re taking a crazy concept of mine that’s been languishing unexplored for many years and Justin’s helping inject some structure and purpose into it.

The premise is:

Basically, characters reach out into the sky one day and discover that they can grasp the stars and pull on them, yanking themselves into the great void of the universe. They can rock-climb on the heavens, basically: grabbing Sirius and pulling themselves towards it, then grabbing another star, further away. There would be star maps included in the game, so the characters could figure out where they were.

Eventually, assuming they are uncommonly lucky, they are stumbled upon by some of the other millions of humans who live amid the stars. Billions of other star-travelers are simply lost forever, wandering amidst the void forever, since finding other humans amidst the insane hugeness of the universe is surprisingly rare. But the humans who do find each other create strange mini-societies among the stars, where they try to find those who are lost and create lives for themselves way out beyond the world that we know. Some even try to find Earth, so they can go home.

The game asks, if such a situation were to occur, what would the society of these dwellers among the stars actually be like? It’s a kind of reconstructed anthropology based on a magical realist premise.

So far… I’m not gonna lie, the results have been stunning. I’m more excited about this project than I have been about anything since I was working on the Exalted hack with a bunch of people on RPGnet. Our new blog is bursting with insane ideas in both the posts and the comments. Putting this all together is going to be a huge undertaking, but the groundwork looks really, really solid.

It’s amazing how versatile d20 can be, actually. I’ve seen some great designers produce really interesting things with it (Mutants & Mastermind, Spycraft, Blue Rose, Freeport), don’t get me wrong, but I have yet to see people try to implement really insane things with it, as different as Continuum or Nobilis or Breaking the Ice. Hopefully the Firmament project will end up being both 1) accessible to traditional roleplaying audiences, because of the familiar chassis, and 2) different enough to really rock the boat a bit.


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