As you can see from the Career Moves, v3 linked above, in the latest iteration of the rules I’ve done away with the Survivor career, and added the Psionic career instead as one of the core 10 careers. Survivor itself was a new career, ostensibly an updated “Explorer” from UW1. A couple of other 1st Ed careers were merged or divvied up as well. I figure I should go through my reasoning for the various career changes.
Out with the old
- The Explorer and Starfarer careers were merged into the new “Explorer”, which focuses on mobility and vehicles. The subtheme of “survival” in old Explorer was moved to the new Survivor career, while the cosmopolitan aspects of old Starfarer were divvied up between Personality and Commercial.
- The old Technocrat was retired, its computer and programming skills divvied up between Clandestine and Academic.
In with the new
- A new “Advocate” career was introduced, an outwards mirror to Personality’s self-aggrandizement. This takes many of the diplomatic aspects of the old “Consul” career from FBH.
- A new “Survivor” career picks up a number of loose ends from the old Explorer, including the recklessness and wilderness aspects.
Out with the new
After repeated iterations of the career moves, I was left with the realization that the Survivor career was too passive or narrow to provide interesting gameplay by itself. I needed to replace it. Each career had a two-stat identity, and Survivor took up the Force/Intellect slot. Force made sense for “weather the storm”, but the Intellect variation (“resist mental/emotional harm”) was a bit of a stretch.
Much of the tone and fantasy of the Survivor career felt like an Origin instead, so a lot of its philosophies were brought over to the Brutal, Frontier, and Impoverished Origins (more on Origins later).
In with the psychic
Deciding to have a psionic career as one of the ten core careers is probably the biggest decision for UW, tone-wise. I intentionally made things as ‘vanilla’ as possible in UW1, thinking it would allow players to play in their setting of choice* .
*that wasn’t necessarily effective, since “Starfarer” was a career, which didn’t work with single-planet cyberpunk-ish games without space flight.
In any game, each career, class, and character option implies something about the universe, and creates base assumptions about the kind of stories the game will tell. Take D&D, for instance: The mere existence of the Cleric, the Wizard, the Druid, etc, implies a world where there are many kinds of magic, and that those magics are a relatively common tool. It would theoretically be possible to run a no-magic “realistic” campaign in D&D, but that would severely limit character choices and (more importantly) would undercut a number of design decisions.
By having a default level psionic career (rather than an optional add-on) I would be planting a flag. I would be implicitly stating that there are such ‘supernatural’ forces in the universe. And I feel that’s a stance I need to take, to support the core genre tropes, from Jedi, to Biotics, to Psykers, to the PsiCorps.
This whole thing ties in to what I said in my post-mortem: I wasn’t prepared to commit, and thus ended up being wishy-washy.
(Those who wanted to play in, say, Firefly or The Expanse -style settings would have to do a bit of tinkering or hand-waving to achieve their goal. Not nearly as extensive or problematic as removing magic from a D&D game, but still cutting out 10% of the available career combinations. A bit of a pain, but do-able)
Why not have [thing] be optional
The oft-suggested solution to these issues is “give people the option and let them choose”. That sounds all well and good on the surface, but it honestly creates a pretty bloated and inelegant design when it’s done as part of the core experience. Optional rules are superfluous by their very nature; the core needs to work without them. A rules-light game needs to be especially sleek. It needs to provide confident direction, and the mechanics need to mesh tightly together to subtly shape the gameplay and fulfill the promise of the genre.
Far Beyond Humanity was nothing but optional rules components, and honestly it kinda ended up creating bloat. I tried to cater to so many different styles of play, from horror, to cyberscapes, to psionics, to giant mechs, that I kinda lost sight of what I was doing. If I make another “Optional Rules Toolbox” in the vein of FBH, it will have to be designed and organised very differently.
…That ended up a LOT more rambly than I anticipated! Sorry about the meandering blog-esque post. I’ll have some more new design stuff next time. Possibly related to economy (gasp!).