Starforged Playtest: Part 1 - Truths
There’s a playtest edition out of Ironsworn’s science fiction sister game “Starforged”. As someone who previously twisted Ironsworn to play SciFi I thought I should give the proper version a spin. As with Ironsworn, you are encouraged to use a “World Trurths” exercise to define your game.
Note: I had originally provided my answers here to the first 20 question Truths exercise but I have removed those as Starforged’s author Shawn Tomkin released another update of the Truths exercise and encourage folks to use this version if they had not started their playtest yet. Seeing as I haven’t even made it to character building I figured I’d throw away my first run through the 20-question version and go with this.
In light of some discussion on the playtest discord I’m going to push myself to stay within the confines of the exercise because I’d like to reduce the amount of friction I have with the oracles in play. If you aren’t familiar with Ironsworn then you need to understand that many of the game’s rules interact with the various “oracles” (random tables) the game provides and while it is easy to reskin these oracles to better suit your theme I’m not inclined to do so for a playtest.
So with all that in mind, let’s do some Truths “once more with feeling!” style: (I’m going to take a few more notes this time as I go)
- Cataclysm: Everything fell apart in an age of chaos. A crisis was sparked by the rise of a fascist power.
- I choose this one initially and I still like it.
- “Do you possess a keepsake or artifact of pre-cataclysm society?” I noted yesterday that I felt like the cataclysm was a thing from a distant time and most inhabitants of The Forge (the in-game galaxy) don’t really think much about it. My idea is that there is a massive innactive jumpgate near “terminus” (the populous part of The Forge.) The stories that are passed down are that we fled our home galaxy eons ago through this gate and disabled it so we could not be followed. I think there’s room for this story being hogwash though, perhaps we are a “prison galaxy” - we were exiled here by our former civilization and they don’t want us coming back. I’ll let play determine how much stock people put into the origin story. Anyway, my character does not have a pre-cataclysm trinket other than the giant jumpgate that looms over The Forge.
- Exodus: Mysterious alien gates provided instantaneous one-way passage to the Forge.
- As noted above, here’s where I’m bending the Truth statement a bit. I don’t see much harm in doing so.
- “Does your family or cultural history offer any stories of the Exodus?” As above, there’s some origin story that is thrown around but we are so far removed from it that people don’t talk about it much anymore.
- Iron: We swear vows upon the iron remnants of ships that carried our people to the Forge.
- “What do you swear vows upon?” I think most folks wear some sorta of iron shard as part of a necklace, perhaps some as a body piercing, etc. Many of these items may not be as authentic as people claim. I think some folks have some equivalent of a military-style “dogtag”: the real ones are from the original families and peoples who came through the gate before it was disabled. Did they make these to keep track of people? Does the military thing mean they were rebels fighting the fascist government? I don’t know yet.
- Communities: Dangers remain, but we have made our mark in this galaxy.
- “Your character is assumed to be without a home as you start your campaign.” Oh, really? I had not envisioned that and it has thrown for me loop so I ask the oracles for an Action+Theme and I get: “Bolster Innocence”. In that case I have been wrong convicted of a crime and kicked off a planet I used to call home.
- Clans: Through brute force or cunning, a few powerful clans control most of the settled territory and resources.
- I don’t think my character is loyal to any clan - maybe as result of whatever crime they have been (falsely?) accused of.
- Laws: Communities or clans define their own laws; there are no common laws which bind us. The exception is bounties on fugitives or criminals, which are almost universally recognized.
- “Has a specific incident in your background pushed you to respect or rebel against authority?” Rebel, apparently.
- Religion: Our gods failed us. We left them behind.
- “What is your relationship to religion?” None.
- Mysticism: Mystical powers are wielded by those rare folk we call gifted. The miraculous abilities are a product of: Evolutionary mutations?
- Well I’m just going to steal “The Force” straight out of Star Wars. We can call it “The Way” (ala Evil Hat’s Scum & Villainy) or whatever. I might leave that to an Oracle prompt. Anyway, I imagine people who are gifted are just born with it or not. Few people are.
- “If mysticism is an aspect of your setting, how does your character and their culture view these unnatural abilities?” Shall I quote an influential person on this matter: “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid”
- Communication and Data: Information is life. We rely on an clan of spacebound couriers–the Heralds–to transport messages and data across the vast distances between settlements.
- This is a setting conceit ripped straight from Traveller and it is one I can easily wrap my head around. Information moves at the speed of FTL travel. It provides some wiggle room for stale information.
- Medicine: The Menders are an order of sworn healers who preserve our medical knowledge and train new generations of caregivers.
- Ugh, I’m not sure about this one. I didn’t like any of the choices really. Give me a Medical Droid and a Bacta Tank and I’m good to go. Anyway, I’m going to try the prompt I chose and see how the oracles influence it.
- “Do you bear any notable scars or prosthetics?” Do I? I ask the Oracle - 61: (50/50) “yes.” Ok, so what is it? I ask for a Descriptor/Focus and get: “Abundant/Device”. Device sounds to me like some sort of augmentation. So how about a simple 1d6 oracle: Hand, Arm, Leg, Foot, Eye, Ear: 1d6: . Ok, I’ve got a augmented leg. I have to admit that I’ve never roleplayed much “cyberpunk” with an augmentation theme because it seems like an area of ableism I don’t feel comfortable with but we’ll just roll with this. If I was cool I’d run the Starforged equivalent of the “D&D Combat Wheelchair” but I’m not cool. I figure the character lost their leg and it has been replaced with a “Luke’s mechanical hand, boy that looks like a regular hand” version. There could certainly be complications with the technology though.
- Artificial Intelligence: The vestiges of our advanced machine intelligence is coveted and wielded by those in power.
- I changed my thoughts here from my previous assumptions based on a previous choice about the importance of a few powerful clans. It makes more sense to me now that this technology is limited, probably fought over.
- War: War never ends. Talented weaponsmiths and shipwrights craft deadly tools of destruction. The largest clans wield powerful fleets and hordes of planetside troops.
- “Have you fought in any wars?” Oracle says… 11: (Likely) “no” and we asked for an Action+Theme I got “Protect Disaster.” Maybe I was involved in some fashion but in a defensive capacity and the relevant war(s) never came.
- Precursors: An advanced spacefaring empire, what we call the Ascendancy, once ruled the entirety of the Forge.
- Ok, I changed my answer again given some rethinking - particularly with the disabled jumpgate. To have built such a gate would have required some pretty advance tech that doesn’t really exist in a working, widely available state in The Forge. Possibly the Ascendancy had started to colonize The Forge but stopped ages ago for some reason.
- “Have you had any notable encounters with precursor ruins, relics, or tech?” 96: (Unlikely) “yes”. A check on Descriptor/Focus tells me “Rich/Installation.” Maybe I’m a scavenger. I’ll need to think on this a bit as it is a wrinkle I had not considered.
- Lifeforms: The Forge is a chaotic galaxy, but life has found a way.
- Essentia: Some may weave wild tales of encounters with strange beings, but we cannot deny an inescapable truth. We are alone.
- There’s wiggle room for this prompt to be “untrue” through play and that’s fine with me.
- Horrors: Put enough alcohol in a spacer, and they’ll tell you stories of ghost ships crewed by vengeful undead. It’s nonsense.
- This is not an area of gameplay I intend to explore but I guess I’m willing to have my mind changed through play.
This went much better than my first time through. The writing is clearer and the choices seem more purposeful in some ways.
I’m very much used to the “random chaos sandbox” nature that comes from relying on GM Emulators/Oracles - so if it pains you to watch me defer to random chance as to what my character will be I apologize but trust me when I say the fun in all this (for me) is embracing that chaos.
The nice thing about Ironsworn’s system is nothing will break if you ignore components of the setting as the game wraps itself around the fiction you create. There is a post-apocalypse tone to some of the prompts in the Truths material I was not inspired by but I think if you step back from those statements you can reshape them in your own image.
I found going through the truths section deeply rewarding as it did make me think carefully about where to set certain setting dials and that’s the goal of this material. It is an excellent part of Ironsworn’s “first run” experience - out of the gate the game challenges you to think carefully about the fiction you are going to create. I’m happy Starforged has embraced this part of Ironsworn and I like that the Truths exercise feels more open and richly defined than the original game’s version.