In the vein of Bill’s The Veil on $20 a Day thread, I figured I would give my own rundown of Starforged. Starforged uses Ironsworn as a basis, but makes several improvements on that system based on observations of the creator and the player base, as well as other changes to gameplay and core assumptions to fit the space travel theme of the game. If you haven’t read Ironsworn before, go give it a look. It’s free.
- You are a spacebound hero sworn to undertake perilous quests for a displaced humanity. You explore uncharted space, build bonds with those you meet in your travels, and unravel the secrets of a mysterious galaxy. This game was inspired by Firefly, Star Wars, the Mandalorian, Alien, Dune, and the Expanse and can be used to tell stories like those (though not necessarily those stories).
- The Setting is called the Forge, a cluster of space that humanoid has retreated to after the Fall (what caused that fall is determined during Session Zero along with other truths). It consists of four areas: The Terminus (the most populated and explored region of the Forge), the Outlands (the borderlands of the Terminus where settlers have set up scattered settlements on whatever habitable planets they could find), the Expanse (the largest section of the Forge, almost completely unexplored save for some isolated settlements, disconnected from the settled regions of the Forge), and the Void (the vast gulfs of nothing outside of the Forge, difficult to travel and barren save for a few isolated stars).
- You play as Ironsworn: driven, competent, though imperfect individuals who have chosen to travel the stars of whatever reason you decide upon. The default setting assumes your character is human, but other than that you have free rein to decide who and what your character is and what being an Ironsworn means beyond “someone who swears vows and sees them through.”
- Each character has five stats which are used when rolling dice: Edge (quickness, agility, and prowess at ranged combat), Heart (courage, willpower, empathy, and loyalty), Iron (physical strength, agressiveness, and prowess at close combat), Shadow (sneakiness, deceptiveness, and cunning), and Wits (expertise, knowledge, and observation). These stats range from +1 to +3.
- You also have several Conditions which track how your character is doing: Health (tracking your physical well being), Spirit (tracking your mental well being), Supply (tracking your available resources, shared between the entire group), and Momentum (tracking how well things are working in your favor, either spent to negate a bad roll or to hinder a good roll). Most conditions have tracks that range from 0 (bad) to +5 (great), while Momentum ranged from -6 (very bad) to +10 (very good).
- These conditions can further be altered by Impacts: statuses which either prevent your conditions from being raised (such as Unprepared) or otherwise signify a long term detriment (such as Indebted). Each impact lowers your Maximum Momentum and lowers where your Momentum resets to after it is used.
- In addition to stats, your character will start with three assets: special bonuses which represent companions, equipment, or special skills your Ironsworn has. For instance, your Ironsworn may be Augemented with advanced prosthetic or other mechanical enhancements, or they may be a Diplomat skilled as resolving disputes. These do many things from giving numerical bonuses to rolls, preventing major failure on certain rolls, or otherwise alter the rules of the game. These fall into five major categories: modules (which alter your starship in some way), support vehicles (which are vehicles you use in addition to your starship), companions (allies which assist you), paths (natural talent and learned skills of your Ironsworn), and deeds (Special assets which your Ironsworn must accomplish prerequisites, such as Face Death and live, before you can purchase them. You cannot start the game with these assets.).
- Any gear not covered by Assets (above) provides narrative benefits. It enables you to make moves where that gear is important, or perhaps allows you to avoid the risky nature of a move altogether. The game recommends listing a couple of pieces of gear which would make sense for your character to have, but not necessary for game play.
- Finally, you have three Legacies which track your accomplishments within the Forge: Quests (completing vows), Bonds (making friends), and Discoveries (exploring the unknown). Each time you fill a box on one of these Legacies, you receive 2 XP (used to upgrade your assets or to purchase new ones).
Launching Your Campaign
- The game has a prescribed Session Zero in which the group determines several Truths about the setting to make sure everyone is on the same page and to inspire their characters. However, the default assumptions of the game are these (copied from the test document):
- This is a perilous future. Two centuries ago, your people fled a cataclysm and settled a distant galaxy they call the Forge. This is a chaotic place full of dangers and mysteries.
- This is a lonely future. With some possible exceptions (which you’ll identify as part of your own truths), humans are the only known intelligent life in this galaxy. Others once lived here, but only ruins and derelicts remain to mark their legacy.
- This is a diverse future. There is a vibrant mix of people and cultures among the humans of the Forge.
- This is a far-flung future. Settlements lie scattered and often isolated from one another. Your starship can travel at faster-than-light speeds, but it’s ponderously slow at a cosmic scale.
- This is an unexplored future. Discoveries await. Even in settled regions, much of the Forge is unknown and uncharted.
- This is a retro-future. Envision the technology you commonly interact with as only slightly advanced over today’s real-world technologies—or even a step back in some ways.
- This is a scavenged future. It’s decaying, gritty, and used. Resources are scarce, and the people of the Forge cobble together what they can.
- This is an unjust future. Within the Forge, those in power hoard resources, control technologies, and impose their will on others through force or cunning. Life can be harsh for those who lack influence.
- This is a hopeful future. Despite these challenges, hope remains. Your sworn vows are a manifestation of that hope.
- The Truths comprise of 14 different categories, each of which comes with three default options but can be answered however the group decides. These categories are: The Cataclysm, The Exodus, Communities, Iron, Laws, Religion, Magic, Communication and Data, Medicine, Artificial Intelligence, War, The Precursors, Lifeforms of the Forge, and the Horrors. Many of the default options also come with Quest Starters to inspire the group about what those options could look in game.
- Once the Truths are determined, the players can then start to make characters. This involves envisioning the characters we wish to play, selecting assets, and setting your stats.
- Next, the starting sector is created. This is done by determining a starting region (as above, either the Terminus, the Outlands, or the Expanse) and then creating a number of settlements depending on which region is select (many for Terminus, few for the Expanse).
- Finally, the players decide upon their inciting incident: something to start the game off. There have been many suggestions in the Truths section above and probably some interesting ideas came up during character creation. If not, there is a table of random choices (there is always a table).
Gameplay in Depth
- The core mechanic of the game is roll a single d6 plus a stat (your action die) against 2d10s (the challenge dice). If your action die exceeds both challenge dice, you have a Strong Hit (unmitigated success). If your action die exceeds one challenge die but matches or is lower than the other challenge die, you have a Weak Hit (mixed success). Finally, if your action die matches or is lower than both challenge dice, you have a Miss (a failure of some sort). If the challenge dice match, some sort of twist has occurred, either an opportunity (on a success) or a complication (on a miss) in addition to any other effects. No matter the number of bonuses you have on a roll, your action die’s final value can never exceed 10, meaning a double 10 on the challenge dice will always wreck your day.
- Additionally, you will be tracking several Progress Tracks throughout the game. These tracks are a single row of ten boxes you fill in to advance towards a goal. Your Legacies (above) are Progress Tracks, as are your Vows. When completing a particular task, you will roll the challenge dice (as above) but use the number of marked boxes in place of your action die. This similarly allows for Strong Hit, Weak Hit, and Miss results. Generally you can do this whenever it makes sense in the narrative or whenever you want to.
- Much like PbtA, Starforged has moves which may call for a roll of a particular stat (or an option of stats depending on the approach taken) as well as results for Strong and Weak Hits as well as Misses. Moves also may have no attached roll and may ask you to do something (such as marking the Impact Unprepared when your Supply condition reaches 0). These moves fall into several broad categories: Quest Moves (pertaining to swearing vows and fulfilling or forsaking them), Adventure Moves (a general category for anything that could happen at any time), Fate Moves (generally fulfilled by the GM when one is available), Connection Moves (pertaining to making and maintaining relationships with NPCs), Exploration Moves (handling traveling throughout the Forge), Combat Moves (for combat), Suffer Moves (telling you what to do when you suffer a particular sort of setback), Threshold Moves (for when something really bad happens, like death or desolation), Recover Moves (for when you need time to deal with suffering setbacks and generally require you to retreat back to a friendly settlement), and Legacy Moves (for when you fill a box on your Legacies tracks or someone new tracks up your character’s quest in their stead).
At this point, I’m sure folks have questions because I’m horrible at explaining things. Ask away.