Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Design Notes

RimWorlds Sector map c. 1984
The series of basic overviews of the six developed subsectors of the RimWorlds, collectively known as “Accidents in Astrography”, has been a lot of fun for me to write. I have taken the opportunity of both revisiting these subsectors after many years, and gleaning information for my website – in particular Languages and Library Data – as well as creating some new material, such as some historical and Astrography details.

What is interesting is that I can still see the early development layers, and what Science Fiction was influencing me, as I wrote up the three original subsectors of Gamelea, Nolgor and Miazan. Gazul Subsector came next, but was only partially developed (and only one game was set there, from memory). Lymethius Subsector was developed to provide a little background for the Outrim Wars, and for a late period Esra Weinbach game – so named for the longest serving character in the RimWorlds - while Cabria Subsector was fleshed out to provide a bigger battleground in which to resist Imperial expansion. A recent, abortive, attempt to run a PBeM game resulted in me expanding the Hunt of Rronurl and Huiha Khysokhou.

One of things that enrich a campaign, in my opinion, is a deep background. Things on the surface happen for a reason; and the reason, or reasons, lie back in time. Like creating a character for a novel, a lot of this material will never see the light of day, but if the novelist or Referee has worked out this detail, he/she will know why things are happening that effect the Player Characters.

I’m a firm believer that a campaign needs both a chronology and a macro-map. The former can be just a series of bullet points collecting together significant events, or it can be an in-depth account of all events that have gone before, while the latter can just shows a high-altitude view of the campaign area, or a meticulous survey of the all regions surrounding the campaign area.

A chronology fixes the game in time, and gives reference points for the character – if the players know that the Imperium defeated the Kalar-Wi Empire in 1105, and they encounter a Kalar-Wi warship in the Border Worlds in 1109, it is possible that this ship is a relic of the war. The Kalar-Wi lost three systems to the Imperium in that war, as well as having their homeworld occupied. If the ship is wrecked it might have a treasure horde, looted from one of the worlds the Kalar-Wi lost, but if it is cruising, it could be an “unsurrendered” raider bent on revenge attacks. Likewise, a sector map showing subsector capitals allowed me to write up the likely course of the Sarkul Wars of 842 – 906 when I came to that section of the Imperial History of the RimWorlds. Up until that time, I had no idea what the Sarkul Wars were about; except that they were some form of civil war and that they disrupted the RimWorlds for sixty years. The character of Principle Secretary Lissa Sarkul only emerged as I began to write that section – and my love of Byzantine History allowed me to create the Byzantine levels of that conflict – where the clannish Subsector Dukes and Admirals actively resisted the centralising Sector Duke. The seeds of the war were planted two centuries prior to Lissa Sarkul, but her policies in the name of her Sector Duke revived the centrifugal nature of the original ‘gentleman-adventurer’ nature of settlement of the RimWorlds.

For my next series of articles on the RimWorlds, I’m going to look at the history of the region, and possibly do a little exploration into the Outrim Void to map the worlds I’ve hinted at in my accounts of Lymethius and Cabria subsectors.