25 July 2010: “Vortex” occupations and affiliation

Vortex occupations

Adventurers wanted! From the teeming megalopoli of Terra and the Sol system’s far-flung colonies to the vast reaches of interstellar space, humanity needs brave explorers and warriors, wise diplomats and mystics, and canny traders. Some aliens offer assistance, but others provide new dangers. Can you be a hero?

Fellow role-players, as my “Vortex” space opera approaches, here is more information for your Player Characters. While the D20 Star Wars: Saga Edition role-playing game is only one of the rules sets we’re considering (along with FATE Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer/Diaspora, BASH Sci-Fi Edition, and GURPS 4e Lite/Space), its occupational classes are similar to those I’ve used in past versions of my homebrew campaign setting.

Diplomat (Noble): These people are interested in facilitating relationships among factions ranging from tribes to interplanetary alliances. Around the time of First Contact, diplomats can use their social talents as spies, peacemakers, or journalists. They tend to work best in the upper echelons of society.

Explorer (Scout): Just as humanity is colonizing the Sol system and encountering extraterrestrials, so too are aliens investigating Terra and numerous uncharted worlds. Scientific and survival skills are at a premium in hostile environments.

Mystic (Jedi): Terrans have just rediscovered abilities loosely classified into ecomancy (healing), elementalism (ergokinesis), probability control (luck), technomancy (machine control), telekinesis, and telepathy (drawn in part from GURPS Psionics). Unlike the Jedi knights, Mystics are secretive, specialized, and not necessarily militant. Still, their unusual abilities are much sought after.

Trader (Scoundrel): Freelance “fixers” work in gray markets, privateers and pirates ply the space lanes and cyberspace, and interstellar guilds try to control the threads of commerce linking worlds. Traders put a high priority on profit, but knowing when — and when not — to haggle is key, and they often work best
in the shadows.

Warrior (Soldier): Times of chaos increase the demand for the protection or aggression. Bodyguards, mercenaries, and members of regular militaries fight on land, under the seas, in the air, and in deep space. Martial artists and professional athletes entertain others with their feats of prowess, while Marshals enforce
frontier law.

So now you have a range of species and occupations to choose from. (If we use Saga Edition, there would be talent trees for further customization; there are similar mechanics in other systems.) What about alignment? When “Vortex” was more closely tied to AD&D2, I devised the following ethics:

-Justice (Lawful Good)

-Altruism (Neutral Good)

-Freedom (Chaotic Good)

-Order (Lawful Neutral)

-Balance (True Neutral)

-Anarchy (Chaotic Neutral)

-Might (Lawful Evil)

-Selfishness (Chaotic Neutral)

-Void (Chaotic Evil)

Those guidelines are still valid for individual beliefs, but for those gamers who prefer more nuance or flexibility, I recommend thinking about affiliations instead. Does your Player Character have a personal code of honor, and are there things he or she won’t do? How do species, personal history, occupation, group memberships, and socioeconomic status affect your P.C.’s outlook?

Returning to GURPS or FATE for a moment, each character should build ties to the “Vortex” setting through a web of associations with the following:

-Allies (peers such as fellow party members)

-Contacts (who can provide information)

-Dependents/followers (who need you for support)

-Enemies/rivals (not necessarily bad guys)

-Patrons (who can provide missions and material support)

These affiliations can be with individuals, groups of similar species/occupations (like a band of smugglers), or larger organizations such as megacorporations or militaries. I don’t expect everyone to have identical motivations or associates, but I hope they can at least be in parallel.

For example, “Miriam Accolon” is an Olvar Mystic stationed on Earth just after First Contact. Unlike her predecessors, who were spies disguised as Gennies or Synths, she operates openly as a Technomancer advising the United Ecumenical Movement on behalf of the Kharvamid Alliance.

I would previously have described Miriam as Altruistic, but now I’d say that her connections to the Kharvamids and U.E.M. show that she is firmly aligned with the “good guys.” That’s not to say our heroine is incapable of chaotic actions (she is Olvar, after all) or of evil, but she’ll likely use violence only in self-defense, try to help those weaker than herself, and behave in a rational fashion.

By contrast, “Adam Reutan” is a Terran human serving as a gunner in the North American Aerospace Marine Corps. He’ll follow the military code of honor only when necessary and is always “looking for an edge,” whether it’s against someone playing cards, a girl in a spaceport bar, a competitor for a mech suit assignment, or an enemy vessel. This Warrior isn’t malicious, just a bit self-absorbed, so I designated his ethics as Freedom in the past and would note that his orders are sometimes outweighed by his impulsiveness.

Regardless of the rules set we ultimately use, I plan to have some group character creation and discussion of party goals, and I’d also like your help developing relevant N.P.C.s and groups — Jim J.D’B. and Byron V.O. have already offered ideas.

I hope these examples are helpful, and I’ll post soon on why our choice of rules matters! -Gene