Space Lords and Ladies



  • So between having recently consumed the Red Rising trilogy and recent comments about Lords and Ladies games, plus a lack of space stuff, I have found myself thinking about Space Lords and Ladies. The Fifth World was run by legitimately nice people but never scratched my itch (not to mention being gone) so I found myself sort of musing the following. It is kind of random and a bit stream of consciousness but I thought I should share and see if my thoughts match with other people's at all.

    Key Ideas:

    • The setting is not supposed to be 'nice', Space Feudalism (Or Space Rome) is liable to be a fucked up kind of place with gigantic inequalities to support Space Lords and Ladies living in unimaginable luxury.

    • Space Lords & Ladies should have admirable qualities still, there should be honour, ideals, glory, bravery. Living up to the IC ideals of a brutal Space Noble should be seductive even if the whole society is built upon oppression and exploitation. Being a Space Noble should be amazingly cool.

    • Crunchy estate/fief management, resources should be limited, (social or economic), people should compete over them and gain tangible benefits. Resources should be expended and everyone should always want more.
      This should be fairly abstracted especially given the scale, a few moving parts, but people should be able to intuitively grasp what is going on. Also this should require fairly minimal administrative burden. Build in reasons to delegate power also!

    • Players should not be in outright warfare with each other in most circumstances, rivals, enemies, but not in open war. Part of the same 'society' with reasons to go to parties even if they are plotting the other's demise.

    • Space Nobles need some reason to be seriously important militarily. Magic Space Powers? Magic mind machine interfaces? Dune type shields and magic space swords? Genetically engineered super people? If the latter make it so that they are 'pushing the envelope' and not hugely stable so that fucking idiots and crazy people still make sense (some players are going to fit the bill!).

    Thoughts from Prior Games

    • Do not have one person make a Space Duke and get four Space Legions also then have the same tier +sheet as the person who makes a Space Knight who has their Space Sword and Space Horse (ship?). Alternative, Space Duke has to have Space Skeletons in the closet sufficient to summon a Space Count of Monte Christo or two, have people pay chargen resources for wealth/power which comes from safely 'Off Screen' and is not tied to drawbacks. So if you want to be a Space Duke who holds Space Lands on the border and is constantly menaced by invasion or is hated by the Space King for murdering his brother? Cool! Want to be the Space Duke who owns rich Space Estates in the core worlds and has an uninterrupted supply of infinite completely legitimate Space Gold? You might have to compromise on your Duelling skill.

    • Make the game an actual sandbox, that does not mean staff should not introduce plot elements and run NPCs with agendas but they should be deciding 'Where do we want the story to go?' then railroading things. The meat of the game should be competition between player characters and the environment they find themselves in.

    • Keep It Simple Stupid when it comes to economy, it should not be entirely abstracted, it should be something people compete over, but have it at say Reign level rather than trying to replicate Crusader Kings II in MUSH format. Too much administrative burden leads to staff burnout, leads to delayed requests, leads to collapse of trust and interest.

    • Do not have an awesome Space King. If there is a Space King then they should be an NPC and be kind of crap, better might be a Space Regency Council or a distant Space Emperor who issues directives then has to rely on local player characters to actually follow/enforce them.

    • Some people will try to insist that (Insert Sci Fi Thing Here, often assassination related or utilising of relativistic projectiles to kill planets) or nukes should let them instantly win whatever issue they are facing. First of all make it clear things are soft Sci-Fi, but also head them off at the pass. Fuck nukes, space battles already involve ships throwing antimatter missiles or singularities at each other. For bonus points really crazy tech levels mean that you can have your spaceships look like the ones from Jupiter Ascending (but limit your influences from that terrible film to stealing aesthetics).

    • Encourage making older characters or those with ties to the setting with bonus points or something, otherwise a lot of people will make orphan 18 year olds. I could also see giving bonus point for living children, more if they are potentially playable adults.

    • Let PCs be the characters who are awesome at things, only do not just let them, spell this out. Also communicate this to new players and publicise things like 'Hey, we have four people who are Supreme Space Duelmasters but nobody who is the Greatest Space Spy.' Try to discourage people making incompetent wallflowers.

    • Maybe some kind of Social Currency? Prestige? Something tangible and tracked that really encourages people to blow their economic resources on fancy parties, employing legions of servants and Moon Palaces.

    • Do not have players write up the wiki entry on their own family/house/country or whatever. They will inevitably end up being super awesome at everything with a token flaw.


  • Pitcrew

    @Packrat said:

    • Do not have players write up the wiki entry on their own family/house/country or whatever. They will inevitably end up being super awesome at everything with a token flaw.

    This one really jumped out at me. If you don't let the players do it, then you're going to have to do it all (something I've run into with my own game, and the scope of the houses I need is very limited in comparison to this). Especially given the 'they will inevitably' -- that's not actually true, and also solvable with an approval system for the houses, too.



  • @Packrat: To combat the 'perfect house' that people do you can make a rule of 'Every family has a flaw. Maybe they are incestual, maybe they get bloodlust at the sight of blood either way it has to be a substainal flaw that actually has an effect on the family.' Rather than saying 'No writing your own family information.'



  • @Sunny said:

    @Packrat said:

    • Do not have players write up the wiki entry on their own family/house/country or whatever. They will inevitably end up being super awesome at everything with a token flaw.

    This one really jumped out at me. If you don't let the players do it, then you're going to have to do it all (something I've run into with my own game, and the scope of the houses I need is very limited in comparison to this). Especially given the 'they will inevitably' -- that's not actually true, and also solvable with an approval system for the houses, too.

    Maybe actively work with the player/group. Don't write it from scratch for them, but don't let them write it all up without feedback.



  • @Jennkryst said:

    @Sunny said:

    @Packrat said:

    • Do not have players write up the wiki entry on their own family/house/country or whatever. They will inevitably end up being super awesome at everything with a token flaw.

    This one really jumped out at me. If you don't let the players do it, then you're going to have to do it all (something I've run into with my own game, and the scope of the houses I need is very limited in comparison to this). Especially given the 'they will inevitably' -- that's not actually true, and also solvable with an approval system for the houses, too.

    Maybe actively work with the player/group. Don't write it from scratch for them, but don't let them write it all up without feedback.

    That was what I was thinking, talk with people, collaborate with them, etc, then have staff actually make the wiki entry in light of that. From my point of view writing a couple of paragraphs about a cool Space Noble dynasty is the sort of thing I would find relaxing to do while I cook dinner however. While I admit that not all players would do what I accused above it does seem to be the norm, but I might be mostly channeling rage at what I saw on the Eternal Crusader wiki when I checked the place out.



  • I'd probably try it out if you make it.



  • Do Space Lords and Ladies in the Eclipse Phase setting. Don't have to use the game system, it's not for everyone.



  • Eclipse Phase (or similar Altered Carbon-esque setting) would be superb for this style of play. Then assassination plots could be minor setbacks. "The Game" could be lethal and totally fucked up because all of the people with the influence to play have enough cash to keep backups stashed away and get new bodies on demand.



  • Go look at Galaxy Express 999; it's a manga/anime series but it has a pretty nice Lords and Ladies feel.
    Sprinkle liberally with Lensman and Dune.



  • On my sci fi game, one of my factions was space nobility. But instead of houses, I set it up like a corporate oligarchy. Where corporations were considered noble families, and ownership was ruled by it's family. Marriages with other corporations were considered partial mergers, and purely based on fiancial success and the genetic compatability of the pair being wed.

    It also allowed for corproate espionage and assassinations, hostile takeovers and complete buyouts of other corporations.

    I thought it was a great idea, but the game ended up never taking off. If I could do it all over again, I'd probably focused wholly on just that one factions. And see what happens.


  • TV & Movies

    @Packrat I got the first Red Rising book for free at comic con and it struck me a bit like 'I'm gonna combine every popular Young Adult series I can think of!' (Hunger Games + Harry Potter + whatever that one about the genetic super kids). Not a terrible book for all of that, but still kind of my impression of it.

    THAT SAID, uh:

    • Crunchy estate/fief management, resources should be limited, (social or economic), people should compete over them and gain tangible benefits. Resources should be expended and everyone should always want more.
      This should be fairly abstracted especially given the scale, a few moving parts, but people should be able to intuitively grasp what is going on. Also this should require fairly minimal administrative burden. Build in reasons to delegate power also!

    Good luck with that.

    Or, more constructively, you need to scale this ambition way back. Some of your ideas are contradictory (crunchy and abstract?) and some require more code than you likely have coders to slave away for ('minimal administrative burden'), etc. I shouldn't need to remind you how SC's spreadsheets of doom worked out.

    Want to be the Space Duke who owns rich Space Estates in the core worlds and has an uninterrupted supply of infinite completely legitimate Space Gold? You might have to compromise on your Duelling skill.

    I do approve of this, given by fairly stringent belief in having everyone use the same chargen. Fuck features, now and forever.



  • I see Eclipse Phase, and forever raise you 'space flight minigame so I can be Hoban Washburn with a backup body so I am immune to skewering'


  • Coder

    Eclipse Phase was a neat environment and setting, but, the rules for it were clunky as all hell. Back when I first tried to start coding I jumped in /way/ over my head and tried to code an Eclipse Phase chargen... that was impossible for me at the time.

    The ideas behind it are very cool, but, it also is a game that needs personal narrative driving things forwards so the scale as huge as it is, needs to be smaller in order to make sense.

    The other problem is the environments, sure you could ego cast yourself with forks or whatever but what kind of setting do you use? A station? A hab cluster with it's own rules? Space travel in the system is slow as heck to do it physically, and then there's the pandora gates, so it gets somewhat tricky to try and have a cohesive setting and theme that makese sense to a wide variety of concepts.

    It's a lot easier to do like, all resistance fighters, all explorer's, all trouble shooters or whatever which makes sense for tabletop but falls apart at larger numbers.

    As far as settings go, I love the RIFT's setting, but the system... damn you Siembieda... damn you for the Palladium system and all it's clunkyness.



  • As a long time Rifts player maybe I'm biased but I like the Palladium system. Character generation can be a bear but once you're in play I find very little wrong with the system. That said I'm excited for the Savage Worlds version of Rifts that should be coming out this year even if Savage Worlds is not my favorite system in the world. My TT game is playing a Rifts game set in England that is heavily inspired by Game of Thrones and the Arthurian legends and we're having a blast.


  • Pitcrew

    I would love to see/run a Space Feudalism/Rome game with Aurora 4X being used to adjudicate the travel and battles of fleets. It would be an enormous time sink for whoever has to SpaceMaster it, though. Also, the economic side of Aurora 4X isn't as developed as I would like for a MU*.

    My three solutions to "Space Nobles need some reason to be seriously important militarily" for when I need feudalism in space:

    • The Birthright model, stolen from the Birthright D&D setting. The nobles are the strongest psychics, which is a genetic quality, so bloodline is important. Around each other, they are normal, but a regular human is a combination of an open book and a car. They can read every thought and control every action if they want.

    • The nobles are the .01% and they own everything. This is basically megacorporations in space, except with a small pool of stockholders. They started using noble titles to satisfy their enormous egos.

    • Democracy failed. It seems to be doing such a bang-up job in the real world already, so it's not too hard to imagine a group of elites deciding that the ignorant masses can't be trusted to wipe their own backsides let alone control civilization, especially if the current civilization developed from the remants of an apocalyptic war waged between democratic societies.


  • Pitcrew

    Sounds like folks could just make another Dune game and it'd meet all or most of the criteria with a setting that's already at least partially defined (or greatly defined depending on how much of the various bits of written material one considers canon or not).

    But anyway, since I've got a spot of time now, I'll see about responding point-by-point:

    Key Ideas:

    • Yes, though it needs to be decided early on how far that goes, and how the technology level of the setting affects it. Space Lords and Ladies may live in unimaginable luxury, but if the tech level is high enough space-serfs can live "OK" even if their jobs suck. Might be useful to play up a bread-and-circuses atmosphere for the working classes, but again...depends on how you want to go.
    • Nothing really to add here. Agreed on all points..
    • Definitely useful to have some kind of system in place for this stuff. The trick is trying to make something that's simple, reasonably fun, and not-so-easy to "game" to suddenly make your position unassailable.

    • I mostly agree, but tying into the point above, Resources are what people mostly go to war over in the real world (even if they couch it in ways that make it seem like it's something else). Sounds like you want the political heavy atmosphere, which is fine, but it seems like a bit of "damned if you do, damned if you don't." Space Knights are gonna wanna Knight, but if you play the theme too war-heavy you get a bunch of combat twinks. Play the theme as pure politics and you get folks like this Custodius guy who right out of the gate are playing against the other players rather than having their character play against the other characters. I think this is why so many Lords and Ladies games have so many problems. They invite this atmosphere from the get go and it can rapidly become toxic. Seems like it's part and parcel of the genre, though.

    • Me personally? I'd go with a combination of "genetically engineered" and "have the best equipment." ASome kind of potential drawback to the genetic engineering definitely makes sense.

    Thoughts from Prior Games

    • Yeah, though this starts to get into "character tiers" which can turn people off. Still, I agree in principle, even if it boils down to "Space Duke gets way better equipment and a higher degree of gene-therapy than random Space-Knight." And yes, Space Duke doesn't get to be Space Duke without making Space Enemies.

    • I'm of two minds on the subject. Making the game reliant purely on players keeping up the inertia is laudable, but I think would lead to Space-Marriage Simulator and Space-Tea Drinking and often little else, leaving things wide open for that one player who thinks he or she is smarter than everyone else basically taking over Space because no one else gives a hoot as long as they get their TS partner with a hot actor/actress set for their picture.

    • Yeah. Simple and automated is good, but see that bit about fief management and gaming the system above. Definitely not CKII though. Eeesh.

    • I love the idea of kinda ineffectual/remote Space King/Emperor. Maybe the Space-Nobles are competing over a few resource-rich worlds on the fringes of Space Empire. Space Conquistadors that may have the authority from Space- King but in practice are so far "out there" that they're largely autonomous.

    • Crazy high tech level sounds fun, but I would think adds more to the problem you're speaking of here than resolving it.

    • From what I've seen it's more likely you'll get the entire generation of 18-30 year-olds apped quickly but all the old people will remain in the background with a few exceptions. Though borrowing from Jupiter Ascending again...you might avoid that if your 300 year old Space Duke/Duchess can still look like Channing Tatum or Scarlett Johansson or whoever. But yeah, encouraging older/better connected players is good, especially when they're more likely to be the power brokers.

    • This sounds like fun. Maybe even more than one type of social currency. (Honor, Prestige, and Glory?)

    • Maybe a middle ground, because doing all the family/houses/whatever yourselves will be a lot of work unless there's a very limited number. But yeah, if players get to write their own there should be some strict guidelines and a rigorous review. Though I wouldn't necessarily say that all houses/families should be created equal and that some really could be demonstrably "better" than others, even the lesser ones should have something they're better at than the bigger, badder house. Though that also depends on how much you want to veer into House/family stereotypes, too.


  • TV & Movies

    I'd be interested in offering input. Everyone is coming up with awesome ideas so far.

    I kind of like the idea of maybe someonething...colonial. Human lords and ladies ruling over a colony of some galactic empire. Again, with like the "space conquistadors." Spain in Mexico AD 40,000. Make plantations where they grow or mine some precious raw material or luxury commodity.

    And laserswords. Yeah. Laserswords.


  • Pitcrew

    @BigDaddyAmin said:

    I'd be interested in offering input. Everyone is coming up with awesome ideas so far.

    I kind of like the idea of maybe someonething...colonial. Human lords and ladies ruling over a colony of some galactic empire. Again, with like the "space conquistadors." Spain in Mexico AD 40,000. Make plantations where they grow or mine some precious raw material or luxury commodity.

    And laserswords. Yeah. Laserswords.

    If you want to set up an interesting class-based dynamic, have one class/caste own the farms, and one class/caste own the /space ports/, and a limited amount of goods that can be shipped (and thus give profit to the growers) in a time period. You don't have to get ultra detailed about it, but just to have SOMETHING to actually negotiate over that doesn't involve marriage would be awesome. (And opens the possibility for smuggling and intrigue, if the game staff feel capable of handling that.)


  • Pitcrew

    A lot depends on the scope and scale you're going for, too.


  • Coder

    @Pyrephox And then on top of that, you have the ship captains themselves, so there is a third class that also dominates shipping because of smugglers and then you have the government who is taxing everyone and controls the city itself.

    This could be a lot of fun.


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