This week I am putting out an Open Call, there was another OC from another 3PP and he said something about the right time to do something is always now. So, I’m taking the opportunity to do something similar, but do it my way. To get the biggest pool of respondents I thought I should lay out all the pertinent resources I could find and encourage as many people as possible to try, this is how we learn and grow the talent pool right?
So I’m laid down the design goals for Galaxy Pirates in my last installment, but we’re just doing equipment this week. Seeing as how high technology and magic accomplish a lot of the same goals, I want to repurpose a lot of the design goals/rules that Paizo has set forth in their RPG Superstar competitions for creating Wondrous Magic Items.
So there were like 27 rules that would auto-reject a Wondrous Item from consideration, one of them we’re going to bend a lot is #17 is you item couldn’t be Modern Technology presented as Magic, technically we’re using existing game mechanics for magic to balance the game effects of technology. Anyways the complete thread is here, and below I mention what liberties we’ll be taking.
#1 Spell in a Can: We kind of need a lot of these kind of items, they won’t get you into RPG Superstar, but where is your SciFi Bounty Hunter without his trusty Rocket Pack?
#2 Swiss Army Knife: D20 Modern had a Multitool in the equipment section, I believe we’re keeping it. The advice linked above is really more about not cramming a bunch of unrelated abilities into one item and that still makes total sense for us.
#3: Backstory/History/Description Item: High tech equipment shouldn’t be more history lesson than equipment.
#4: Item Ought to be Not-An-Item: High tech equipment shouldn’t be a plot device.
#5 Item Fails to Follow Games Rules: As mentioned in the link, we’re going to pay special attention to Slotted Items. Can I wear Goggles or Sunglasses over my Contact Lenses, sure I can but if those items grant me some kind of abilities, I should only really get the effect of one item.
#6 Item is a Variant of an Existing Item: Strangely enough I think we can bend this one a little, because there should be variety in the Galaxy.
#7 Obvious Pricing Errors: Goes with #5 really, we’re changing Gold Pieces into Credits, but otherwise pricing items the same to make it easier for Pathfinder and Starfinder players to use the crunch we come up with.
#8 The Random Item: Equipment doesn’t need a random component.
#9 The Intellectual Property Violation: Yeah, this is still an important consideration.
#10 Item isn’t Spell-Checked or Proofread: This reflects on the writer and is all too easy for you to correct before submitting.
#11 The In-Character Quote: Equipment’s usefulness should be evident in the descriptive text or game mechanics.
#12 Item is a Joke: Nope, we don’t need these either.
#13 Item makes you blind and not blind: The advice in the link is good, mostly about the supposed disadvantages of a removable item and how the players will just wait until the advantage outweighs the disadvantage. If the item can be exploited like that, then it’s not good game design. There is a race in the setting that is Blind and has something akin to Blindsense naturally. Some members of that race wear goggles that send signals through neural induction to vestigial Optic Nerves in order to give them sight whereby they can read signs and Pilot vehicles.
#14 Item is something we can’t advertise due to mature or offensive content: The Dungeon part of Dungeons and Dragons encourages a playstyle where breaking and entering, armed robbery and murder are just part of the adventurers daily life. I’m working on a pretty dark setting myself, but this is gear, it should be as innocuous as any other tool.
#15 Item is unclear on how often it is usable: This is really a variation on #5 and #7, but Flashlights, Glow Sticks, Road Flares should all describe the number of their uses and duration. Jim Groves advice in the thread is spot on.
#16 Item’s name is a real-world item name: For the Generic name of a piece of equipment this should probably be okay to ignore.
#17 Item is modern technology presented as magic: We are technically going to be inverting this rule a lot, some of the game mechanical balance behind an Incendiary Grenade might come from the Fireball spell or the effects of Night Vision Goggles might be that they grant Darkvision. That also violates Rules #1, but again, we kind of have to, it just won’t get you far in competition.
#18 Item makes bearer unable to be lost: I have a Holographic GPS in the setting, go ahead and read this advice anyway. A modern or futuristic setting would be crazy to not have something the Player’s smartphone can do. However, even if a tool can make it hard for the user to get lost it isn’t an absolute certainty. There are uncharted, unmapped planets, planets with no magnetic poles, etc.
#19 Item involves vomit: Generally bodily functions/fluids are bad fodder for game design, some exceptions might be made for medical equipment.
#20 Item makes GMing harder: Weirdly, Modern settings blow this one out of the water, 1st level characters can travel farther in a day than high level Fantasy characters. SciFi characters get easy access to Flight well before Fantasy characters would. Communicators can talk to ships in orbit, Robots or Cameras can record everything they see and or hear. So the Modern GM’s job starts with a pretty high bar, I know people who don’t run Modern settings because it’s the GM against 4-6 players and the Internet. Anyways we’re going to keep our gear as realistic and unbroken as possible.
#21 Item gives a class ability or a feat: Well the D20 Modern “Laser Sight” is exactly Point Blank Shot in a Can, in D20 Modern it was equipment, by the Future rules it would be a Gadget. The Robe of Eyes grants the Rogue’s Uncanny Dodge and Improved Uncanny Dodge class features without a level limit making them better than a Rogue that acquired the abilities normally. I actually want a Robe of Eyes type item in the setting (sensor net and a Neural Interface), but without the automatic See Invisible or Ethereal and Uncanny Dodge abilities at least as limited as a Rogue’s treating the Character’s Class level as their Rogue level.
#22 Item makes adventuring safe: In my setting I have Recon Drones, throwable Recon Cameras, Demolitions Robots, Guard Dog Robots the players and bad guys can use, but none of these things makes the characters absolutely safe. Neil Spicer had a great comment on not making an item too niche that probably would broadly apply to equipment as well. Example might be the D20 Modern/Future had a *Comp for every technical Skill, Star Trek had one Tricorder.
#23 Item’s drawback is actually a benefit: Yeah, don’t do this.
#24 Item repeats existing rules text in its description: We’re going to bend this one a little, because while Pathfinder players may have the rules for Fireball handy, we can’t guarantee that Starfinder players will.
#25 Item is a child’s toy: If we’re writing Ultimate Toys maybe, for the foreseeable future, no toys.
#26 Item encourages metagaming: I’m going to have Spacesuits that enable the Party Medic to read vital signs of anyone connected with medical Telemetry. Medic might know Blood Pressure, Heart Rate, how much Oxygen is left in the suit’s tanks, if the user is losing Blood or not. This information would allow them to remotely diagnose condition and maybe even deploy built in medical technology but they wouldn’t know Bob’s Bounty Hunter has 10 or 10% of his Hit Points left because HP are Player information.
#27 An awesome item may disregard the previous advice: Lets see you do awesome coloring inside the lines first.
So for the first open call, I want to limit the equipment used to things that help you see (contacts, glasses, goggles, eyes, rifle scopes and sights, throwable cameras) and Light Sources (matches, lighters, glow sticks, flares, candles or LED equivalents, flashlights, lanterns, Laser Sights/Designators, Dazzling and Blinding Grenades). This tightens the design space that I need to evaluate.
Future open calls would open up other equipment areas, Feats, Weapons, Armors, Monsters, Classes, Villains, Maps, Encounters and maybe Adventures. Each time I’ll try to provide information about the design area of interest and help you to be successful.
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