Uncharted Worlds 2nd Edition - Alpha

Welcome! This is a thread to discuss the Alpha development of Uncharted Worlds 2nd Edition!


+++ DOWNLOAD UW2 ALPHA v3 +++

Previous UW2 design thread, preserved for posterity.


While the ruleset is playable in its current form, it doesn’t exactly teach you how to play yet. I’m also still working on fleshing a number of secondary rules out for a Beta version. Below is a rough roadmap of systems that still need to be designed (in no particular order).

Definite (in the works):

  • Assets – Weapons, Gear, Cybernetics.
    • Vehicles
    • Armor
  • Economy – Purchasing, Selling, Cargo, etc.
  • Experience – Earning XP, Levelling, Career Skills

Potential (might be cut?):

  • Crew/Contractors – NPCs as “Assets”
  • Alien Characters – Rules + balancing
  • Psionics – Supernatural abilities/careers

Please feel free to check out the latest alpha document. Take it for a spin, try making a particular character archetype, run a few scenarios for yourself, or even run it for your gaming group if you want. I openly and eagerly welcome any feedback or impressions you all may have! I’ll be trying my hardest to respond to this thread in a timely manner, so by all means post your questions and comments here.

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Thanks for this - looking forward to reading it. As I’ve said before, I’d be happy to put sessions up on the Gauntlet Calendar when you are ready for feedback. As we post sessions up to 2 months ahead I currently have a slot free in May (GMT midweek evenings).

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I recently ran a Star Wars game with Uncharted Worlds and Far Beyond Humanity. All the PCs were Jedi. For Force Powers, I largely used Biomods (Force Push is a Projectile mod, Class 1 Pistol Firearm with Impact upgrade), calling them ‘Midichlorians’, and allowing the Players to make Acquisition moves to gain, lose, or replace them at any time, treating The Force as an ever-present ethereal marketplace. Going over the Mod limit meant they were trying to hold onto too much power, giving them a ‘Corruption’ major debility that threatened to lead them down the Dark Side.

I think this approach would work better with 2nd Edition than doing supernatural careers, and would interact smoothly with the existing rules, and could even be used for creating Alien Characters, as what is natural for them might be supernatural to the rest of the galaxy. To have a ‘supernatural economy’ that characters can access (Laws of Magic, Inner Strength, The Force, Rassilon Imprimatur, etc.) to gain abilities as assets, perhaps with special costs, limitations, or drawbacks.

For example:

  • Advanced Origin could come from a society so advanced that they’ve also delved into magic or psionics or otherwise learned to expand their minds (Time Lords, etc.).
  • Ambitious Origin knows how to levy the supernatural marketplace to gain an advantage, such as sensing someone out to gain a contact (finding a fellow force-sensitive, making contact with an elder god, etc.).
  • Academic Career could Study by feeling out with the supernatural, rather than employing a mundane tool.
  • Advocate Career’s Counsel can be supplemented with hypnosis or other subtle mind control
  • Explorer Career can Maneuver with supernaturally-enhanced acrobatics.
  • Industrial Career can Construct with telekinesis.

And so on. Some examples for supernatural assets are: ‘Precognition’ being a body armor that protects from physical harm; ‘Mental Influence’ being an equivalent to Personality’s Expensive Clothing suggested asset, as you radiate an impressive aura; or ‘Telepathic Link’ being an equivalent to Vanguard’s Command H.U.D…

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Interesting! I’ve been toying with a similar concept for the natural abilities of alien species; taking up gear slots with permanent, natural “gear” abilities (instead of a heat sensor visor, your species naturally has heat sense, etc).

Since many supernatural powers can indeed be mimicked by technology, it would make sense that there be supernatural “assets”.

A good idea! I’m currently working on the Assets section of the rules, so I’ll keep that in mind. It might be a very elegant solution to having setting-specific supernatural abilities.

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After a wonderful and very entertaining one-shot playtest of the Alpha v3 rules last Sunday*, I realized that the “timing” of the Moves wasn’t consistent, and set about to correct that. Thought I’d share it here, see what you folks think.

So in roleplaying games there tends to be a sequence to resolving an action:

  • Player states action, describes it.
  • Dice is rolled.
  • Did the preciously described action work?

However, it leads to situations where the player says or does something really epic, rolls, and then the dice are like “lol nope” and then everyone is left narratively scrambling to figure out why/how it failed. At best, it feels like wasted effort. At worst, it can be harmful to the tone of the scene or the perception of the character.

A few Moves in v3 were already set up so that the primary description happened after the resolution instead, based on the one-roll combat resolution from UW1.

Basically, instead of: [Commit] -> [Describe] -> [Roll] -> [Result]

Those new moves were: [Commit] -> [Roll] -> [Result] -> [Describe]

Those Moves played out super well. They had a nice, structured-improv feel, where both player and GM were cooperating to steer the scene to where the dice results ended up. It was less a question of “why that happened” and more and exploration of “how did we make that happen”. Knowing where the scene is going (pre-resolving) allows the table to lay groundwork in their rp, and shape results that are true to the dice and true to their characters/situation.

I’ve since set out to re-write all the Moves to follow that improv-inspired structure. I think it’ll really set UW2 apart, and allow for more cinematic, coherent Move-resolutions.

For example, this is the old Counsel Move (of the Advocate career)


Counsel – Advocate Move
When your rhetoric fills a heart with passion and resolve, Roll+Influence.
When your wisdom tempers and shapes a plan of action, Roll+Intellect.

On a 10+, the advice becomes a key factor in their future decision-making. They will try to uphold this new outlook, and incorporate it into their existing beliefs.

On a 7-9, they accept your counsel (as a 10+ result) but choose one, and the GM will elaborate:

  • Bond of trust: You develop a connection. They become important to you.
  • Second thoughts: It won’t last. They’ll reconsider their position soon.
  • Painful truths: It causes social, economic, emotional, or physical harm.

On a 6-, there has been a profound misunderstanding. They take the wrong lesson to heart, and will act on it zealously.


And this is the new one


Counsel – Advocate Move
When you inspire action and resolve with passionate rhetoric, Roll+Influence.
When you instill patience and understanding with quiet wisdom, Roll+Intellect.

On a 10+, describe a new truth and how your words mesh it with the subject’s existing beliefs, history, and emotional state. The subject will strive to live up to that new outlook.

On a 7-9, describe a new truth (as a 10+ result), but choose a secondary effect of the exchange:

  • Bond of trust: You develop a connection. They become important to you.
  • Second thoughts: It won’t last. They’ll reconsider their position soon.
  • Painful truths: It causes social, economic, emotional, or physical harm.

On a 6-, create a profound misunderstanding or miscommunication. The subject draws all the wrong conclusions and will act on them zealously.


Of course, “how to run/adjudicate the timing of these Moves” will be a big section in the GM guidance chapter. I totally get that this is a fairly big departure from traditional “roll-to-hit”.

With the work on the Asset rules almost done, I should have an Alpha v4 in a couple of weeks, so hopefully the new Moves will test well. So far they seem quite promising.

*(Would folks be interested in short playtest reports? I can totally write up little summaries).

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Actual Play is bread and butter for design and play tweaks, so YES! and Thank You.
Also, this thread about when the roll falls flat (random output) : How to randomize?
I am all for Random input.

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Toying with revamping the core Face Adversity move, to bring it more in line with the descriptive zeitgeist of the career moves. It’s funny, I tried my best to not even have a catch-all Move, but playtests just naturally flowed back to it. At some point I have to stop trying to make water flow uphill.

Anywho, here are a couple of variations. Very rough stuff, but I figured it would be interesting to show, maybe get some gut-reactions from you folk:


Face Adversity A – Core Move
When tackling a hostile or volatile situation, state what you want THEN Roll+Stat.
On a 10+ , work with the GM to describe the new situation. You’ll get what you specifically wanted to achieve, but other elements of the scene could cause problems, at the GM’s discretion.
On a 7-9 , the GM will offer you a choice of harsher outcomes. Describe which of these costs or compromises you’re willing to endure to overcome the adversity.
On a 6- , choose what failed you: Your tools, your tactics, your resolve, your allies, your timing, etc. The GM will hit you with the appropriate consequences for that failure.


Face Adversity B – Core Move
When tackling a hostile or volatile situation, state your primary objective THEN Roll+Stat.
On a 10+ , describe how you achieve your goal, despite the dangers or opposition. One or more peripheral elements of the situation may also get to act, change, or cause future problems.
On a 7-9 , Choose one:
Power through : Ask the GM for a choice of harsher outcomes. Choose and describe the sacrifices you make to achieve your goal.
Set Up : You’ve done as much as you can do. Describe the opening or opportunity you’ve created that one of your allies can exploit to finish the job.
On a 6- , the GM will tell you how the situation plays out. It will probably hurt.


In other news, tonight at 7pm EST will be the third session of Infinite Verse, an Uncharted Worlds 1st Ed game on Twitch. I’m participating as a player (gasp!), and let me tell you, it’s been real nice to re-immerse in original UW… and to remind myself that people both play and like the game. It’s easy to get down on your old designs, so it’s been useful to re-visit stuff and remind myself why I made it in the first place.

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I like moves that ask players to say what success would look like so A appeals. However, the 6- feels like the consequence is driven by player who will tend to offer weak sauce. I’d prefer to see the consequence driven by the GM building a twist out of the narrative positioning.

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I’m right there with you for the 6- of version A. I think the 10+ and 7-9 feel ok, but the 6- really needs to have a much bigger, more GM controlled impact on the situation. Heck, it’s one of the few situations where the GM can really stretch out.

Tell me if this sounds punchier:

On a 6- , things go sideways. The GM describes how the situation plays out, what harm is inflicted, what opportunities are lost, and/or what new complications have arisen.

However, I do like the whole “choose what fails”, and might incorporate it into the 6- of the Vanguard career-specific Move.

On that note, a big design hurdle I’m still having is making the career-specific Moves worth doing compared to Face Adversity. The whole “other elements may cause harm or problems” on the 10+ is a bit soft, but I feel it’s essential that Face Adversity should not be a catch-all vanilla victory. I’m also going over the career Moves to make them a little more punchy to balance them out, and make players happy they’re being used instead of Generic Move.

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I favor Face Adversity “A” as you’ve written it. Analysis as to why:

10+ level, I like that it’s collaborative not prescriptive for the player; being forced to involve the GM here feels like exactly the sort of “mild limitation on full success” that will drive players to use Career moves when able. “Other elements may cause problems” sets that hook even further. Overall this 10+ result says to me, “here’s a way to get what I want if I have no better way to get it.” It’s also more explicit about that than B’s version of the second sentence.

7-9 results: I still favor A, again because it’s leaving more choice on the GM which feels just mildly (I hesitate to even use the word “punitive”) suboptimal. I’m not sure the word “harsher” is exactly what you want here; it implies failure, less than “partial success.” “lesser outcomes” perhaps? Same thing goes for A’s version not offering the player a choice between raw options, but rather between options the GM provides. In all cases, puts some more work on the GM, but closes avenues through which a squirrely player might try to blunt the sting of partial success with “the intentionally sub-optimal General Purpose Move.”

6-: Here I agree with Alun_R’s comment. A’s version actually sort of flies in the face of the “shifting narrative control away from the player” trend of the previous two levels. If there’s anywhere at all in the whole move-set that the player should totally lose narrative control, failing the General Purpose Move should be it I would think. Consequently, your expanded/reworked version of “The GM’s about to kick you in the butt, here’s some guidance as to what they might do to you” in your most recent post was pretty ideal; I think it’s the best version of 6- across all three, and should replace Version A’s 6-.

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Thank you for that feedback @Gornul! I appreciate the in-depth reply, and I definitely agree with your assessments there. I’ll be updating the Face Adversity accordingly for Alpha v4.

In other news, I’m currently re-examining the Scoundrel’s Prey move and the Clandestine’s Access move.

  • The Finesse aspect of Prey worked well enough as a sneak attack/mugging Move, but the scam/cheat version using Influence never felt quite right.
  • Similarly, the Finesse aspect of Access was a great sneaking tool, but the Intellect-based “access a system” was too different to be resolved the same way.

More importantly, there isn’t a generally useful “hacker” Move, despite there being four careers that leverage Intellect. So I’m considering shuffling the stats and behaviors.


One Move will be Infiltrate:
When you ghost through a hostile area, unseen and unnoticed, Roll+Finesse.
When you blend in as someone who definitely belongs, Roll+Influence.
Success lets you gather information, bypass trouble, or place yourself in opportune locations.


The other, currently-annoyingly-unnamed Move:
When you ambush an unsuspecting or helpless victim, Roll+Finesse.
When you hijack a computer terminal or data port, Roll+Intelligence.
Success lets you quietly take things from them, take them hostage, or eliminate them.


I’m not 100% convinced this is the right way to go, but I’m toying with it at the moment. I think I’d like it more if I could come up with a good name for the sneak-attack/hacking Move. Maybe ‘Hijack’ works? (I’m totally open to crowd-sourced answers, taking any and all clever double-meaning words)

Possibly a bit long, but Strike From the Shadows could work for the unnamed move?

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General advice for designers: Sleep is your friend. When making a major design change, make it, save it to a new (temp) file, then sleep on it. Maybe don’t go back to it right away when you wake up. Take a walk or something. Have lunch.

Yesterday I was super down on my work. I was ready to gut a bunch of career Moves. Today, not so much. They do work. They need small wording tweaks, but they are still solid, y’know? I guess low confidence + high stress really made me want to make a bunch of changes that would have been ultimately unnecessary, if not outright detrimental.

So that’s my design advice of the day: sleep, eat, drink water, trust yourself.

<3 you all. Alpha v4 coming next weekend!

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I like ‘Hijack’ as I can’t think of another word that covers both people and things.

It’s here! Alpha v4!

+++ DOWNLOAD UW2 ALPHA V4+++


Changelog

  • New: Asset creation +gameplay (p.30-33)
  • New: Cybernetics rules (p.33)
  • New: Alien Physiology rules (p.33)
  • New: Supernatural Powers rules (p.33)
  • New: Formalized Core Design Statement (p.1)
  • Updated: Overhauled Face Adversity (p.5)
  • Removed: Eliminated Race the Clock (p.5)
  • Updated: Rebalanced Cramped Quarters and Shore Leave (p.27)
  • Updated: Minor balancing of all Career Moves (p.16-25)

I really feel like I’ve really started to get my writing momentum back. It takes a little while to get started, and a LOT of discipline to not get distracted, but once I hit that stride the words just flow. Feels good.

The new Asset rules are the big star of this alpha. They’re also some of the most loosey-goosey pseudo-mechanics I’ve ever tried to codify. Like trying to condense smoke into a building material. So I’d ask anyone checking this out, please take the time to read pages 30-33 and tell me if it was readable, usable, grok-able, etc. Heck, post a couple of Assets that you’d like a character to have, if you want.

Note: I haven’t updated the example gear in the careers section to follow the new Asset creation guidelines yet. I’ll do that if/when the rules pass the sniff test.

I’m also totally down to field any questions or go through my reasonings. I check the thread daily! Meanwhile, a short breather, then back to writing. Next up will be the Economy pass, which ties directly into assets and the player motivation/reward loop, which will subsequently lay the groundwork for Advancement and XP.

Cheers!

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This is exciting stuff!

In my time with various Star Trek roleplaying groups, we usually referred to the executive officer as the ‘XO’. Though of course, the ExO player’s character isn’t necessarily the ship’s actual XO, and technically functions more like a ‘COO’ (Chief Of Operations / Chief Operations Officer). So it looks a little weird to me, but I get what you’re going for.

Speaking of Star Trek. For the upcoming Economy section, I think a lot of players would appreciate some rules for running ‘utopia’ settings with replicators or similar devices. While currencies do exist in something like Star Trek, the average Federation citizen isn’t expected to work, and there’s a lot that is freely available from replicators.

And as a final point towards Star Trek, handheld energy weapons with various power settings are a staple of the series. They’re also present in Star Wars and a number of other sci-fi. But the mechanics surrounding asset powers would make these Class 2 assets, at the very least, which prevents players from starting with them. Unless “fires a focused, continuous beam of variable intensity” counts as a single power, but this seems too vague to me and offers a lot of power in a Class 1 asset considering what we know a hand phaser can do (stun, heat/burn, kill, disintegrate, breach).

With this in mind, I do have a consideration. Assets offer a lot of creativity and can really make a character unique. It’s kind of a shame that players might be forced to take certain assets so that their character is able to do their job. Such as an engineer taking a toolkit or a doctor taking medical supplies as one of their three starting assets (compare to a captain or helmsman, where everything they need is intrinsic to the ship, so all of their starting assets can be cool unique stuff). Especially if the game’s setting has the players as members of a faction and thus should have access to an Armory and have other such tools readily available.

On the Asset rules themselves, I find them all to be very elegant. I like that forms and powers are created by the players rather than picking from a list of tags. And the optional asset forms are integrated very well. The only thing I can say to add is to have a section for drones, as they’re mentioned in a few career’s suggested asset lists.

It would be nice to see Crew return (robots, animals, people, and all). In the UW1e games I’ve played in and GM’d, we’ve loved having Crew and detailing the members and interacting with them, but the rules surrounding Crew left a lot to be desired. With a specific example being a recent game where the players split up a science team of two between areas, and someone rolling a 7-9 result on a Command Move towards the scientist back at the base, which mechanically affects the distant other scientist despite it not making sense in the narrative. So I’m interested in seeing how UW2e will handle it.

And in the same vein, I’m curious to see how the WIP exotic asset forms will turn out.

Finally, here’s some write-ups of a few assets from different sci-fi media:

  • Force Push [Class 1]: A supernatural power of the Force; fires a wave of telekinetic energy from the user’s body that knocks targets backwards.

  • Holocron [Class 2]: Handheld cube-shaped information-storage gadget with a holographic display (1) that can only be used through the power of the Force (2).

  • Lightsaber [Class 1]: Light plasma blade weapon that can cut through nearly anything.

  • Phaser Pistol [Class 2(?)]: Handheld directed-energy phaser sidearm (1) with multiple power settings, able to stun, kill, or disintegrate (2?).

  • Regeneration [Class 1(?)]: A power granted by the Rassilon Imprimatur; allows the user to enter a regenerative state upon sustaining lethal damage, preserving their life at the cost of altering their body and personality.

  • Sonic Screwdriver [Class 3]: Pocket-size, handheld gadget that can be used as a scanner (1), universal remote control (2), or a lockpick, able to open electronic or mechanical locks of nearly any complexity, given enough time (3&4).

  • Telekinesis [Class 2(?)]: A supernatural power of the Force, granting the ability to lift, move, and otherwise manipulate physical matter in a variety of ways.

  • Tricorder [Class 2]: Handheld gadget with data interface and scanner for taking scientific measurements

No pressure, then, @SeanGomes :wink::rofl::joy:

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Thank you so much for your in-depth feedback @CCCXLII! I really appreciate the effort. I’m definitely taking notes here and seeing what fits, thought I’d address/answer a couple of the Star Trek things.

This is a bit of a holy grail that I tried to hit in UW1: a system without money, but with socio-political clout as a resource. It… didn’t fly. Or at least most players couldn’t quite grok it. It’s a sad commentary in a way, but folks have a lot of trouble creating narrative tension within the bounds utopic, non-scarcity settings. Even Star Trek stories often deal with lack of resources/materials/whatever. Scarcity has kinda been humanity’s number 1 enemy since the dawn of our species.

Speaking of sad topics: from a gameplay standpoint, the acquisition and expenditure of wealth/resources is one of the easiest and cleanest gameplay loops around, even more than “doing violence to people who want to do violence to you” (which is a close second as far as gameplay motivations go).

That said, it may be possible to tweak in a “semi-utopia” by removing the need for purchase for certain elements. For example, “Room and Board” never costs anything at a Federation station, no matter the duration of the stay. Simple tools can be fabricated, so as long as you have a replicator nearby, it counts as having most professional “kits” (though you may have to recycle), etc. Complicated stuff like weaponry and stuff need to be “purchased” but then we fall back into either an economic model or a very nebulous social-credit system.

That’s kinda working as intended. Class 2 assets are professional/military grade assets that are usually purchased and provided by a faction or organization (which keeps tabs on them and expects to get them back). Federation phasers (both pistols and rifles) are definitely Class 2s. That said, civilian-grade phasers (for private use/ownership) are much lower powered, and would definitely fall into a standard Class 1 Asset. Personally I’d consider Disruptors to be a quintessential Class 1 firearm in a Trek game; easy to make, variants for a number of species (Romulans, Cardassians, Klingons, etc), and commonly used by more violent randos like the Maquis and the Orion Syndicate.

I’ll try to get a few more answers in once I’ve digested a bit more, but heck, I like nerding out about Trek.

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I’m no Trekspert but this makes me wonder if Star Trek does have an economy … based on recycling. You have to throw stuff away in order to have the mass to replicate into the things you want. If everyone can replicate anything then raw materials still get depleted … which in any utopia has to be frowned upon. So are there expectations that you throw stuff away broadly in proportion to what your replicator demands are?
Members of Star Fleet must hold themselves to a higher standard than anyone else on this, so tracking (recycling) credits (cRedits) could still be representative of best crew practice? The bad guys abuse the benefits of recycling by others so always have anything the GM wants to give them, but Star Fleet … certainly not, unless they have the cRedits …

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Aaaaaaa :open_mouth:
But seriously, thanks for running this, especially using the 2E rules! If there’s anything that causes confusion, just hit me up! I’ll try to toss together a 2E compatible character sheet this week.

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