SciFi Noire Game
The first session of a campaign is used to create the setting and the characters. At the time of this first session it is not necessary to have a referee (what some games call the Game Master or GM). Everyone can have complete narrative authority over the pieces they will create.
Designate someone as caller. This person will guide the group through the application of the rules and perhaps take notes on the results, even though the caller’s creative input need not be any greater than that of any other player.
You will create a handful of systems and find out what they are like, filling in details with your own stories as you make sense of the system statistics.
You will then link these systems into a structure called the cluster, which will show which systems are connected to which other systems by slipstreams. Faster-than-light travel between stars only occur along these paths. Once this geometry is established, it can be useful to go back to the systems and write a little more—how do the various surpluses and deficiencies affect traffic on the slipstreams? Who supplies slip ships? Who competes?
The first step in creating a cluster is to create the set of systems that will belong in it. The caller shall assign each player, including himself, one or two systems. The total number of systems usually is between six and ten.
Systems will be described by their statistics, and their Aspects. Details can be elaborated through narrative, but will have no mechanical effect in the game unless accompanied by Aspects.
Each system represents some place in space where humans might reside. A place where two slipknots exist—those mysterious points in space that allow limited faster-than-light travel. Nothing else is written in stone—a system can be completely empty but for the slipknots, and that’s got to have a story.
Typically a system consists of a star and some attendant planetary bodies. It could be a as familiar as a yellow star with eight worlds, one of which is habitable, or as exotic as an artificial quintet of neutron stars and a vast field of rubble a thousand million miles away. These things are for you to determine. They are what you invent to make sense of the statistics.
- Each player (including the referee) is assigned the worlds they will develop. Everyone will use slightly different notation, but numbering the worlds to be generated on a piece of paper, allowing three or four lines per system, is sufficient. We find it helpful if everyone records the information for themselves as the process is underway.
- In turn, each player determines the attributes for their system. Systems have three attributes:
Attributes are generated by a roll of the dice (4dF): the typical world will therefore be T0 E0 R0, or a system with a sustainable garden world which is actively exploring space.
- The Slipstream Guarantee. It is suggested (though perhaps not strictly necessary) that at least one system be able to create and maintain slip-capable ships. If no system in the cluster has T2 or higher, give the system with the lowest sum of attributes and the system with the highest sum of attributes each T2.
- Each attribute value corresponds to a short phrase (see the table below), which may become (and will certainly influence) one of the system’s Aspects. These may be noted, but as they derive automatically from the attribute value, they may just be borne in mind as the procedure continues.
- Each player shall give each of their systems a name.
- Players give each of their systems two Aspects that reflect their unique identities, extrapolated from the attributes. The final result is under the control of the table authority. Give it two Aspects that describe things that are not represented by the numbers or that are implied by the numbers. These things might relate to politics,philosophy, geography, hydrography, local astrography or history. Or something else…
- The relationship between the systems within the cluster is then developed. The procedure is described below in the section Linking Systems.
- Players should now examine their systems and their place in the cluster and add a final Aspect to each system to reflect their place in this implied web of trade and politics. Discuss the ramifications of these worlds and their placement—who is the hub? Who controls technology? Can the resource-heavy worlds defend them? Do they need to?
- Finally, the player generating the system should write a brief paragraph describing life in it. This will get fleshed out further through character generation and further through play, so it’s not necessary that it be comprehensive. A few questions that one might want to answer include:
- What does the sky look like here?
- How does the average person live?
- Why was this system colonized?
- What has changed since then?
You have already created some number of Worlds, so now we’re going to determine how they are connected. The Caller will draw a line of Systems, using the initial letter of each system name to identify it.
For each system, the owning player will roll four fudge dice.
- On a negative result, connect the system to the next neighbour in the line.
- On a zero result, connect the system to the next neighbour in the line as above, but also, if a system further down the list has no connections, connect to that neighbour.
- On a positive result, do all that you do for a zero result and if another system further down the list has no connections, also connect to that neighbour.
Continue for each system until all systems are connected. The second to last system never needs a roll – it will always connect only to its next neighbour.
That’s your cluster! It will have natural hubs and relationships between systems with positive and negative resources. Each world is connected by one to five links to other systems. Next we will discover which worlds can exploit these links and which will have to pay to engage in interstellar trade.
- Because of the nature of the game, the technology scale is privileging space exploration technology over other technological advances. Associated with each tech level is a whole host of other technological advances, and these may be extrapolated in the world design, and may be clarified with Aspects.
- Generally a high-environment system is going to see vast immigration. How the local system inhabitants feel about that will drive regional politics and adventure.
- The resource value of a system is what drives the economy. It tells you if the system is economically dependent on other systems, or if it is supporting them. In order to cultivate a system, invent the flow of trade in this way: every system with a R-2 or less is getting something from somewhere, and every system with an R2 or more may very well be the source. Knowing what these economic factors are should create plenty of room for competing interests and establish some conflicts between systems.
|4||On the verge of collapse||Many garden worlds||All you could want|
|3||Slipstream mastery||Some garden worlds||Multiple exports|
|2||Slipstream use||One garden and several survivable worlds||One significant export|
|1||Exploiting the system||One garden and several hostile environments||Rich|
|0||Exploring the system||One garden world (perhaps additional barren worlds)||Sustainable|
|-1||Atomic power||Survivable world||Almost viable|
|-2||Industrialization||Hostile environment (gravity but dangerous athmosphere)||Needs imports|
|-3||Metallurgy||Barren world (gravity, no athmosphere)||Multiple dependencies|
|-4||Stone Age||No habitable gravity or athmosphere||No resources|
Who are you?
Write down your name
- Race (if needed)
- A brief description of personality and appearance.
- Choose one Verb to start at -1
- Spend 10 points on you Verbs
- Define a “Special” Verb at this time
- You may decrease any two verbs to -1 for 2 Advances each
- Max of +3 on any Verb
- Every Verb bonus must have another Verb one step below it. Ex: a +3 means you will also have a +2, and +1 Verb somewhere else)
- Write down 3 Specialty Aspects
- Specialties Aspects are a further definition of a Verb. Ex: Seduction would be Specialty to help define Coax
- These start at +2
- Fill in your 5 core aspects
- Each core aspect is flavored based upon a specific part of your character.
- Write down your 2 Keys
- Include how to make them come up in the story
- Include two different buy off options. One flavored toward completion of the Key and the other toward giving up the Key
- Spend 10 Advancement points, plus any additional points acquired from reducing stats.
- Set the starting Damage Thresholds
- Stress has 3 boxes, all others have 1 box
How to roll
Roll 2d6 + verb + specialty (FP) + misc
|0-6||NO||Earn 1xpTake Stress||GM creates complication, Player narrate your failure|
|7-9||Yes, but||Effect (1)Take Stress||GM creates complication, Player narrate your success|
|10-13||Yes||Effect (2)||Player narrate your success|
|14||Yes, and||Effect (3)||Player narrates success, and adds a additional positive effect|
If another named character is acting as resistance a Contested Roll is made. Contested Rolls are against the opponents roll. Whoever wins the roll may do their effect to their opponent.
An Effect value is used to describe the action. This is your Damage, it is the bonus from a maneuver, the strength of a block, etc.
if you fail on a roll you are likely taking Stress, or least placing yourself in an even worse situation. When your character takes Stress you will need to mark down the corresponding number of boxes on your character sheet. The type of Stress is determined by the type of threat is present. Damage in the “Stress” is always filled first regardless of what of threat is involved. Once the “Stress” track is full excess damage will move to the appropriate track for the threat.
You may take a Consequence to reduce the effect as needed. Consequences are special Aspects that tell us the details about how your character is faltering. Your Consequences allow you to instantly recover the corresponding number of damage boxes on your character sheet.
Your opponents get to declare the description of the Consequence, write it down on your character sheet. Every time you are in a situation that your Consequence applies roll your Harm Die.
Your target may choose to remove an applicable Harm Die from your pool. Your opponent earns a FP for doing so.
Harm Dice and Bonus Dice
Normally you will roll 2d6
If you pick up bonus dice add them to your pool, and then keep the two highest.
Harm Dice are rolled as a separate pool of dice, or as a different color in the same pool. Harm dice cancel out any regular die if their rolled value on the die is the same. Ex: Roll a 4, 5 on your regular pool, and a 5 on your Harm Die pool? The 5’s cancel out, your final roll is a 4 instead.
Fate Points (FP) and Experience Points (XP)
Spending a FP on an Aspect gives +1
Specialty Aspects give their rank
Earn 1xp when your Keys are involved in the story
Earn 2xp when keys put you in danger
Earn 3xp when your take a consequence from acting upon a key
Earn 10xp when your take a buyout on one of your Keys
Earn a FP when your aspects are compelled
Earn 1xp when you self compel an Aspect
Earn a FP when you who are Awesome
Award FP when others are Awesome (it is good to be Awesome)
Spend FP for +1 on Aspects
+x on Specialties
To compel others
To make declarations
To re-roll the entire pool, except for any dice removed by a Harm Die.
Spend 2FP for a bonus die on the roll
Damage tracks clear at the end of the scene.
If a Damage track fills up (other than “Stress”), the character is “taken out.” Such characters are removed from the conflict in a way that fits with the conflict, and earn a number of FP and XP equal to the number of Harm Dice that they have.
Players may prevent this by suffering Consequences to reduce Damage.
Spend 5xp as an Advancement Point
Expert (1 point)
- +1 bonus on rolls to a specific action, no matter what Ability is used.
- +2 bonuses on specific uses of Ability. This bonus should only apply to very
- Specific uses of an Ability that’s likely to only occur rarely.
- Substitute one specific Ability for another in specific situations.
- Increase the rank of a specialty aspect by 1 (+4 max)
- Special. Any small benefit the character may have, such as ignoring penalties for taking a certain action as a supplemental action.
Heroic (2 points)
- Provide a +1 bonus to a broad use of a given Ability or a +2 bonus to a very limited (cannot stack if multiples apply)
- Take a new specialty aspect
- Spend a FP to make a scene or zone Aspect into a Persistent (P) Aspect for you
- Add 2 additional boxes to a (tied) Damage Track, or 1 to Stress. Can be taken multiple times for each track.
- Reduce the amount of stress that you take by one.
- Get a special benefit after generating Spin in a roll.
- Attack a foe by spending 1 FP if you generate Spin in a defense roll.
- Infinite ammo (immune the compel of “Out of Ammo”)
- Acting first in a particular type of conflict
- Gain a benefit for using special type of attack in a conflict
- Perform a Maneuver as a free action in if you generate Spin on an conflict roll
- Breaking or ignoring a specific game rule in exchange for 1 FP.
- [+2] To create a specific type of block /or/ maneuver
- Ask for guidance without a roll
- Not having to roll for obtaining a specific benefit (making friends, buying equipment, etc.)
- Make an Assessment when you normally wouldn’t be able to as a free action
- Delaying the effects of Defeat in a specific type of conflict.
- Increase the duration of a specific type of block /or/ maneuver by one round
- +1 to a Stat (only once per stat)
- Limiting the use of the Advantage to once per scene
- Advantage activates after taking a Consequence
- Advantage activates after generating Spin
- Advantage activates only on the first attack/defense roll
- Advantage activates only in specific situations
These are skills that we use to measures a character’s ability to affect the narrative and the world when a roll is called for.
An Aspect is a short phrase that describes a narrative truth about something. Aspects can be used to describe people, places, and things. They are generally both good and bad.
Aspects are activated with Fate Points, or FPs. Players begin each session with 1 FP.
Invocations — Spend a FP to Invoke an Aspect. The Aspect may belong to the acting character, the defending character, the scene, or an object involved in the action. Invocations have one of two results. The active player gets +1 to the roll or may reroll the dice and keep the new result. FPs are spent after the roll is made, and each
Aspect may be Invoked only once per action. On unrolled actions, Invocations simply add +1 to the Skill’s rating. When Invoking an Aspect belonging to another character, any FP’s go to the player of that character once the action resolves.
Declarations — The player spends a FP to make some narrative detail related to the Aspect a fact. (If you want to make a declaration without an Aspect you will need to make a Maneuver first.)The GM has the final say on what is and isn’t allowed, but players should be able to make alterations to the story this way. Declarations do not involve any sort of roll.
Compels — The third thing about Aspects is that they can be disadvantageous. This is in the form of a Compel. Compels dictate some constraint to behavior. When one is made, the GM, or another player, offers a FP. If you accept it, you accept the constraints. If not, you must turn down the offered FP by spending one of your own to cancel it out.
Specialty Aspects — Specialty Aspects produce a particular effect with a greater bonus. Compels and Invocations by other players proceed as normal.
Conflicts are when one character attempts to perform an action involving another character, and that character tries to stop them. This could be a fight, a seduction, a political campaign, or any other conceptually similar action.
First determine the scope of the conflict. Is it a seduction attempt? A fight to the death? Etc. This will determine the Skills that you use and which Damage track to use and what appropriate Consequences are (see below).
Once the scale of the conflict is determined, you need to figure out who goes when. Once the first character to act has been determined, that player chooses who goes next. Choose one Skill to use as a standard to resolve this. Select a secondary Skill to break ties. Compare the primary Skill and then break ties with the secondary Skill; ties after the breaker result in simultaneous actions.
Spin — Spin is generated anytime you beat your opponents roll by 3 or more.
When it is there turn, players choose what sort of action to take. They have the following choices.
Maneuver — This is a catch-all term used to represent what might otherwise be represented as use of tactics, higher ground, positioning, etc. Instead, players roll to apply Aspects to their target, and then take advantage of it. Choose a Skill with which to place the Aspect. Individuals get to contest the Maneuver with Contested Roll.
If you get a partial Effect it lasts for one use (less than 10). If you rolled 10+ it lasts as long as it is appropriate in the narrative (usually just the scene). If you rolled 14+ you also place a bonus die on that Aspect, the bonus die lasts for the scene.
Attack — This action is an attempt to harm another character in some way, based on the nature of the conflict. Roll attacks using an appropriate Skill. Defenders contest. If the attack succeeds, the defender takes Stress equal to the Effect. For every 3 points that the attacker beats the defender deal +1 Effect. If the defender beats the attacker by 3 they may spend a FP to Counter Attack and deal their Effect back to their opponent. If the defender spent their action as a Defense that round they may make a counter attack without spending the FP.
Defend — Defensive actions get a +2 bonus for the round, at the cost of all actions. Counter Attack for free.
Block — One character acts to prevent another character from performing a specific action. Generally this is worded as using one Skill to stop an action performed with another specified Skill. The initiating player rolls the stated Skill and declares Effect. Then anyone else attempting to use the named Skill to perform the specified action uses that Effect as a penalty to their roll. Blocks remain as long as the character that created it is maintaining it. Getting Spin immediately removes the Block entirely, but the blocking player may attempt to create it again on their action.
Move — There are two options for moving: walking and running.
Walking does not take up the character’s action for the turn, instead imposing a -1 penalty to the primary action and moving 1 zone (see below).
Running takes a character’s full action and moves a number of zones equal to the appropriate Skill rating +1.
Zones are areas in which conflict happens. This could be a room in an apartment or something more abstract like social group at a party. The area of a Zone corresponds with some logical division of the conflict. A character can affect anyone in their zone. To affect someone outside of their zone they will need to either move, or have an effect that has an extended range. Zones can be represented by a Border that applies a penalty to movement across it, or even requires a roll. Border values represent hazards such as making a large jump, or having the correct social status.
A thrown weapon or a shout has range 1
To go beyond range 1 a modifier must be purchased
Characters grow and change throughout play. Players may alter one Aspect per session. This alteration should reflect some change that occurred in play. The Aspects that will change the most are those that Tie to the Job.
5xp Are worth one Advancement point. Advancement points may be spent to purchase stunts.