Thursday, December 15, 2016

GURPS Island in the Sea of Time [Wall Spaghetti 1]

One of my favorite authors is SM Stirling, he writes really good alternate history/pseudo-historical fantasy books. His currently longest running series is a post apocalyptic series called the "Emberverse" by fans due to the first book being titled Dies the Fire and the world the characters live in being the "embers" of ours. The first trilogy was a fairly hard post-apocalypse story where the end happened because some ASBs (alien space bats) have stopped electricity and high pressure gasses from functioning properly. It's a good series and if this sounds intriguing at all you should go look it up, the audio book is rather well done also if that's more your speed. (I want to run an After the End game based on this premise at some point but that's not really the topic of this post.)

At any rate Dies the Fire starts in 1998, which confused a few critics since he didn't write and publish it until 2004. The reason though is that it's connected to another series of his that he did write in 1998 that started with Island in the Sea of Time. The premise of this trilogy is that the island of Nantucket, along with the nearby Coast Guard cutter Eagle and her crew are all transported to the Bronze Age around 1250 BCE. They got to keep all their cool tech toys though they were limited to what could be produced on the island.

The game I think I want to run functions off of the same premise with a few changes. While in Stirling's book series everything was very hard from a sci-fi point of view, after the initial transportation of course, I want to fold in a bit more fantasy. The biggest change is going to be making the magic of the Bronze Age peoples an actual, practical thing which is it isn't in my source material. I think this'll help even things out a bit between the arriving time travelers and the Bronze Age folks, since one of the biggest conflicts in the books was between the Nantucketers and a wayward Coast Guard lieutenant that decided to carve out his own kingdom from the "savages" of the era he found himself in. While it made for entertaining reading and I'm sure it would make for an interesting game having the technologically advanced Americans and the populous and magically active Bronze Agers be on more of an equal footing at least to start sounds good to me.

One of the biggest decisions to make for the game is whether I'm going to make everyone play one of the displaced modern folks doing a "survey" or some such of the Bronze Age world either on a ship or based out of one of the forts that gets set up in lands that Nantucket has claimed or allied itself with; or if I'm going to start the players off as folks from one of a selection of Bronze Age kingdoms and tribes reacting to the arrival of these new "Eagle People" (as the Nantucketers get called by a number of groups in the books) and the upheaval it brings. I think I'm leaning more towards the first idea and letting new PCs come from groups that the PCs have made friendly contact with.

Some other quick notes since I want to actually post this and not let it join my stack of half written posts languishing with an italic "draft" notice next to it in my Blogger dashboard-
  • Everyone's human and though people from different countries might have suggestions for skills, advantages and disadvantages due to culture and such none of it is going to be mandatory
  • The 1250s BCE are mature Bronze Age which means overall most places are going to TL1 I believe. The Nantucketers are from 1998 so they'll start at TL8, though lack of manufacturing and infrastructure drops them down to a weird TL5-6 in the books. Then the areas with trade to Nantucketer bases or Nantucket itself will end up being a weird schizo-tech level somewhere in between those levels. I'll probably use the tech and scrounging rules from After the End to help cover my ass about that stuff.
  • I think I'm going to use Ritual Path Magic with some distinct traditions for the magic. Ritual Adept is either going to be completely unavailable or only something you can get through long and arduous study along with some kind of quest. It'll be so rare as to be completely non-existant. If I do go with Nantucketers PCs to start with if anyone wants to be a mage I'll make them choose a tradition as well as buying up the appropriate Cultural Familiarity and Language up to Native. Even after that I don't think I'll let them start with more then one quarter to one third of their points sunk into magic, Nantucket's big thing is going to be their higher tech level.
  • Spirits and monsters will exist as well though they're super rare in Nantucket controlled areas. I think mana levels are going to go down in heavily technological areas. So it won't matter in a battle say, or if a magus is trying to show those upstart Eagle People a thing or two in his king's court but if tries to go to Nantucket to cast spells it'll be much more difficult.