Actual Play - [Diaspora] Welcome to the Cluster

Posted by: Iain McAllister On: Nov 12th 2010

So I have been running D&D for sometime now, and despite my love of it I needed a break. My group and I had a chat about what we would want to play and we eventually settled on 'Disapora' the Fate based sci-fi game that I have owned for a while but never gotten around to. I have some experience running Fate with SOTC and am really looking forward to running something non-fantasy.

The setup of Diaspora involves creating a Cluster of Systems and characters to inhabit them. Each system can be a single planet alone in space or a whole solar system with multiple garden worlds. Our group created 10 systems, 2 for each of us including me. Now although Diaspora is hard sci-fi focused I gave the group a little room with naming as you will see. Each system has 3 aspects that give an overview of its main features

  1. Baker's Star - Trouble Brewing, Rare Earth Metals, Not as Important as it thinks
  2. Aticama - Political Football, There's nothing here?, Ass end of nowhere
  3. Cardinal - HQ of 'The Order', Smuggling for fun & profit, Ripe black market
  4. Steelonia - Military Base, Strategically placed, Power to the people
  5. New Newcastle - Nothing left but ships, No Questions asked, Iona is ours
  6. Rectangulon - Mining Colony, Claustrophobic, Don't stay too long
  7. Iona - Dyson Sphere, Nature reserve, Point of contention
  8. Edenis - Predetermined lives, Science is King, Iona is ours
  9. Bad Risk - AI...sort of, Immortal society, Freya does our dirty work
  10. Freya - Armies for purchase, Fight in the heavens, Who's running this place?

It was decided that the campaign will focus around the appearance of Iona a few years ago, both Edenis and New Newcastle having already made claims for different reasons: scientific research and straight up looting for tech respectively. I have a plot idea focusing around each system that may come into play, but basically I will let the players lead the way as to what they want to do. I'll cover the characters in another post.

Unfortunately this game will not kick off properly until the new year, as one of the players is off to Australia for a few weeks. Still we have all the setup done and the players, who are a more traditionally minded bunch, have had a lot of fun coming up with the setting, cluster and characters. I hope I can show them that the more story focused mechanics of things like Fate can be just as fun as D&D.



Posted by: Gary Bowerbank On: Dec 1st 2010

Dear Iain with two I’s.

I played (well, ran) Diaspora with the Smart Party this weekend just gone. That includes Baz who is now hardcore 4e and plays nothing else –except at this specific get together – all year. It also includes Pete who’s a big time Fate fan and he runs that at conventions by preference now, along with the odd Empire game.

To try and keep focused I created the cluster in advance and characters at the table. The PCs drifted a bit, but in the interests of pace I let it go and just got on with the game.

In brief what we concluded was:

No one likes the mini games. They break the normal flow of the game and don’t add anything that you can’t get from good roleplaying. From the 4e side it was mooted that a well run skill challenge would have given more, and from the Fate side it was viewed as unnecessarily slowing down an otherwise fast and slick game. On the whole people would have preferred something like the Empire extended skirmish to get to the goal.

That said, the group as a whole is not into Burning Wheel or anything with mini games per se and conceptually struggled a little with the concept of the social conflict, mainly due to me doing a poor job of explaining it I imagine. Are your players interested in the game-within-a-game element? If so I’d recommend you get them up to speed on how that works before the game, so that when it comes to picking options, they’re down with it.

Space combat proved über deadly. The text talks of submarine combat and exciting social initiative, but that’s not what happened to us. I think multiple, more robust ships could have made a go of it, but 1 on1 with a T2 vs T3 ship was over in a heart beat and the players were nearly fried.

Overall there was a split decision on Fate itself, those that like it were disinterested in the extras (armour / weapons) and mini games as slowing it down, those that aren’t bothered about Fate saw no improvement by taking on the added stuff from Diaspora – rather the opposite.

Don’t know if that’s going to help you any and I know there’s a lot of love for the game out there, but me experience wasn’t great and if you’re trying to convert some D&D guys might be a word to the wise to think about how you’re going to prep the game and what you might need to do in managing expectations in advance. Like BE, I think everyone needs to know what the rules of the min game are and how to win. Get some cheat sheets together.

On the plus side everyone loves cluster and character creation. But you can add that to any game with little difficulty.

Sorry to be the voice of doom, but just that I’d give the shout out that despite all the love for Diaspora, there’s also a cautionary tale too…


Posted by: Iain McAllister On: Dec 2nd 2010

Thanks for the warnings Gaz.

To be honest this is a bit of an experiment. I have been running 4E for them for a long time and I really want to give them a taste of something a bit different. I have run fate a couple of times before and we all fancied trying out a sci-fi rather than fantasy setting.

I am hoping that they may like the mini-games as it will give them a little crunch to play around with that couple of the players like. They really got into the setting and character creation so I am hoping that is a good sign. I'll update with some AP once we get going.



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