Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

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Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Jul 07, 2015 5:30 pm

Now that the 2e Campaign Guide is now out, I can finally shift my attention back to the 2e Companion and First Contact (Menagerie replacement) books. They are about about 50% done, but I wanted to poll the audience and see what kinds of things you want to see in these books? Is there anything from 1e that you definitely want to see stay around in the new versions, or some things that you really want to see in the new versions?
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby aelius » Wed Jul 08, 2015 2:50 am

For the love of God, give me the Admiral level system generation!! :lol:
Or at least the new version of them. I do like the detailed sysgen for some campaigns. For the core rules I just use the same scale as Federation and Empire and call each hex a sector. Makes for a grand epic galactic war.
For First Contact, hmm... I was pretty happy with the 1e rules for menagerie, but simpler, yet more variety sounds good.
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Jul 08, 2015 3:16 am

Admiral level system generation is a strange fellow, as bits and pieces of them have been split up and thrown into a blender. The elements are all still *there*, I just have to figure out how to bring them back together. The core star types are in Atlas of Nearby Stars, which will probably be our next release. That covers how to have those star types influence basic VBAM system generation. The multi-planet rules still sit in the Companion, and will likely exist as a "snap-in" that you can combine with the Atlas rules if you want the full package of multi-planet systems + planet types + star data. I will need some bridging text to make sure that the Raw bonus from F, A, B, and O stars is applied to planets in the Admiral rules, now that you mention it.

I kind of always assumed in most settings that a system/hex was more or less a sector of space, and that particular system was just the most important one in the area. As you said, it makes it feel like I'm fighting over a larger area of space. The change to restricted lanes in 2e kind of makes a similar assumption, as most of the movement penalties are gone and you just have to worry about extending supply into those backwater areas now.

I'm spending this evening on the Government rules to reorganize them. I'm mixing and matching based on my notes. For the most part each political focus (new term for sub-types) is usually going to give the same or similar benefit to a government, and every government is going to have access to every political focus -- which was not the case in the 1e Menagerie. It leaves me room to maneuver if I find things I need to update during playtesting, but at the same times makes those rules much more consistent.

On the empire traits front, I have eliminated probably 1/3 of the old traits, but have quite a few new ones to replace them with. It's just a case of separating the wheat from the chaff after 6 years of notes piling up.
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Iron Sky » Wed Jul 08, 2015 7:28 pm

Mostly looking for the solo rules. There's a small chance I can get a forum-based game running with some of my buddies, but usually those fail within a month or two, so I'll probably be playing by myself (as soon as I have some time to mess around with it at all anyway).

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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Jul 08, 2015 8:04 pm

Something that I think might help keep PBEM or PBP games flowing better would be to ratchet down the economics and have everyone start on a Minor Colony or Colony homeworld. That reduces the amount of economic activity players have to worry about and should let the game flow faster as each player won't have as much "stuff" to manage each turn. It would also limit the size of their fleets and armies to a manageable size.
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby aelius » Thu Jul 09, 2015 5:00 pm

I assume you are still planning to release the Engineering Manual, or whatever the tech book is going to be called. After the Companion and First Contact that is the one I want most. Is it going to be in the next wave of releases after those two?
And just in general, is the EM or some other product going to expand the ship design rules?
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Thu Jul 09, 2015 5:24 pm

The Engineering Manual is in an odd place, and right now where it ends up depends on if we have enough content to fill a separate supplement. I think we should once we scrape all of our remaining 2e development unit ability notes and tech system ideas, but if not then the lion's share of the content might end up falling back into the Companion.

The Companion is like our pet shoggoth that keeps sucking in rules and then spitting them back out again. It's constantly flowing back and forth and refusing to take shape. A lot of that has to do with content coming and going during the 2e development period.

I have an alternate tech era system that could form the foundation for the Engineering Manual, and with that as its nucleus we could then attach the prototyping rules and some other alt tech systems in with the advanced special abilities and make it work.

I don't expect to see it released until after the Companion and First Contact. If I had to guess right now, our release order for the rule books is going to be something like this:

1) Campaign Guide (already released)
2) Atlas of Nearby Stars (Aug 2015)
3) With a Purpose (Aug/Sep 2015)
4) First Contact
5) Companion
6) Those Who Serve

Our source books will slot in as they get finished, and we may have some other minor products in there somewhere. I'm finishing up work on Atlas of Nearby Stars, and am also been getting the First Contact rules as close to playtest ready as I can. After Atlas is out and First Contact is out to playtesters for review I can then pivot to Companion, Those Who Serve, and the Engineering Manual.

I would expect to see most if not all of these books released before the end of the year, as they are expansions of existing 1e rules and require less external playtesting because they are known quantities in many respects. With a Purpose has been in development for as long as the 2e Campaign Guide and Atlas of Nearby Stars for almost as long, for example.
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Iron Sky » Thu Jul 09, 2015 6:11 pm

Oh! Another thing... the random benefits/flaws part of ship creation as an optional rule. Even though it unbalances the ship creation somewhat, I thought it was neat.

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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Thu Jul 09, 2015 6:36 pm

Iron Sky wrote:Oh! Another thing... the random benefits/flaws part of ship creation as an optional rule. Even though it unbalances the ship creation somewhat, I thought it was neat.


Can do! I'll add that to the list of things to put with the rest of the optional tech rules.
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby aelius » Thu Jul 16, 2015 8:32 pm

I thought of something I really want in FC. Some kind of trait to cover "Assimilation". I created a thread about it a few years ago and I noticed it in some of the "road to 2e" pdf's.
It is a great trait for things other than Borg. Illithids need a host to mature their young, and Goa'uld need a host to do anything. It enables a creepy race that could be very different from others with the trait.
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby WunderBullub » Mon Jul 20, 2015 7:08 pm

For First Contact there are a couple of things I would love to see based on my experience with playing and running some games under 1st ed with the Menagerie.

In Menagerie there was a racial trait for robotic races that worked fairly well for those that wanted to play a fully robotic race like the Cylons from BSG etc.
However this did not really do such a great job of modelling a race like the spacers from Asimov's robots series of novels.
What I would love to see is either a racial trait or some sort of mechanism for a race to have a mixed population of organic and robotic census?

I would also like to second Aelius' request for some sort of trait to cover forcible assimilation of conquered and captured census be it through cybernetic implants and mind control chips or through some sort of parasitic control over a host.

As a side note I'm not sure whether this would be for First Contact or the Companion but I would like to see some better or at least a little more detailed rules for slavery.
Right now it seems just a little too easy for players to enslave another player or NPR's census with very little additional cost to themselves.
I would imagine there should be a higher garrison cost or lower productivity out of a slave census than there seems to be now, it seems all too easy for a player to stick a captured census on an already well garrisoned military industrial world and put them to work with seemingly no difference in their output as compared to if they had an extra census of their own.

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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Jul 21, 2015 3:37 pm

I'll see if I can find a good hybrid for situations where you want to have a mix of organic and robotic species. The optional rules for tracking individual Census cover part of that, as I think they let you continue to purchase robotic Census. But there might be some kind of middle ground between the two that would fit.

I have an Assimilation ability mapped out, but need to update it to reflect both the basic rules and the advanced Census tracking optional rule. In broad strokes, the main advantage will be that the system won't lose Morale when it's conquered because the population is being Assimilated. With Census tracking, you can then convert 1 Census per turn to your species type. And the system can't be liberated later on, because there isn't anyone there to be liberated.

I'm working on a negative trait called Slavers for First Contact that gives conquered worlds a production bonus at the expense of Morale penalties, culminating in much worse rebellions (to represent slave uprisings). I had more detailed rules for civil resistance after an invasion occupation in earlier drafts of 2e, and it sounds like adding those to the Companion would go a long way towards addressing your concern. In that case, a system fell into resistance after it was invaded and it would take time for the resistance to burn away.

Similarly, the genocide rules from the 1e Companion are being rolled into a new Cannibal trait in First Contact that covers the same outcome (converting Census into economic points). This lets the effect exist in the rules, but in a way that makes a bit more thematic sense within the rules.
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby wminsing » Sun Jul 26, 2015 3:07 pm

I'm 100% sure that a lot of this is already on the docket but here's what I'd like to see:

Companion:
Breaking systems out into individual planets- something like the 1st Edition rules, which tended to work pretty well, though maybe updated to match some of the findings we're seeing in exo-planet astronomy and to smooth out the interaction between the planet types and the climate ratings for different species (which sometimes got odd results).

Making systems into sectors- Going in the opposite direction, it seems like some players tend to treat 'systems' like larger sectors of space, so maybe some bolt-on rules that cater to this model? I'm thinking stuff like determining how densely the sector is settled (are those six Census all on one planet or spread over many?), rules to support multiple races settling in the same sector, etc.

'Squadron Level' CSCR- Again like in the old companion, a bit more chrome for the CSCR system, particularly aimed at making lower ship count scenarios more interesting; individual squadron fire/targeting, more formation options, etc.

Additional Movement Options- Might be too early, but hex-based movement probably needs to show up somewhere, and there might be other options that could be presented to players (I'm thinking variant jump lane rules). Also if using individual planets you might also want to slot in rules for Intra-System movement here.

Additional Economic Options- on the basic level there should be some rules for mining asteroids and harvesting resources from Gas Giants if using individual planets. Another thing I'd like to see added is the notion of a resource extraction operation on a planet *without* a major colony. While VBAM tends to go with the idea that large permanent settlements are needed to produce EP, that's not the only possible model (in real life or in science fiction). I'm imagining scenarios like seabed oil extraction (as a real life example) or Avatar (as a science fiction example), where the permanent population is basically nil and the transient population is still very small, but the resources extracted are worth a lot more than the 'settlement size' would indicate.

Mega-Projects: Rules for stuff like Ringworlds, Dyson Spheres, etc. Might be better in some sort of future Engineering Manual.

'Underworld Empires' revamp: Always thought these were a cool idea, but they were very much geared towards criminal entities. I'd like to see this concept extended for all sorts of 'non-government' entities, as the same idea could easily represent stuff like resistance groups, mega-corporations, religious movements and so forth.

Anyway, this is getting pretty long, I'll do a different post on First Contact later.

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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sun Aug 02, 2015 2:13 am

wminsing wrote:Breaking systems out into individual planets- something like the 1st Edition rules, which tended to work pretty well, though maybe updated to match some of the findings we're seeing in exo-planet astronomy and to smooth out the interaction between the planet types and the climate ratings for different species (which sometimes got odd results).


These are in, although they have been compacted down from Captain/Commodore/Admiral to a single Advanced System Generation option that is closest to the Commodore rules in format, but with additional elements thrown in. The Captain level of detail may still get added in as an optional component here, as it wouldn't be that hard to do.

The detailed star type rules are being shuffled over to the Atlas of Nearby Stars, but they can still be used with the Advanced System Generation rules and there will be an optional component linking those two in one book or the other (likely the Companion).

The number and type of planet types has been expanded, although not as much as was the case earlier in development. We now have Superterrestrial, Garden, Barren, Hothouse, Dead, Gas Giant, and Asteroid Belt system objects. The old climate ratings have also be removed from the rules (they may reappear as optional rules, but the balance issues were enough that they may just go away). Instead, all empires are assumed to prefer Earth-like climates and have climate modifiers set appropriately by planet type.

The more exotic rules for aliens that favor other environments are going to appear in First Contact as part of the custom empire rules. I'd originally planned on having a whole "orders of life" subset to those rules, but I've since scuttled that idea and will go back to incorporating those into the trait system instead. So you'll still be able to come across Exotic, Silicon, Hydrogen, Synthetic, and Transcendent lifeforms, but they'll be dependent on the trait system. For example, the Lithovore trait will subsume Silicon lifeforms, and they will have a preference for Hothouse (Venus-like) worlds. Or you'll have Exotic empires that favor Superterrestrial worlds, and have a penalty elsewhere.

Making systems into sectors- Going in the opposite direction, it seems like some players tend to treat 'systems' like larger sectors of space, so maybe some bolt-on rules that cater to this model? I'm thinking stuff like determining how densely the sector is settled (are those six Census all on one planet or spread over many?), rules to support multiple races settling in the same sector, etc.


I think I see where this is headed, but I'll have to think about how that can be rolled into a workable format. I had some rules at one time for letting players split ownership of a system, and that could be integrated here. Of course, you could almost just use the Advanced System Generation rules to handle this kind of situation, just each "planet" would be another system in the same star cluster.

'Squadron Level' CSCR- Again like in the old companion, a bit more chrome for the CSCR system, particularly aimed at making lower ship count scenarios more interesting; individual squadron fire/targeting, more formation options, etc.


I removed these rules from the 2e CG because I didn't think anyone ever used them (except me, in a few campaigns). If there's interest I can look at reviving the Skirmish CSCR and putting it back into the Companion.

Additional Movement Options- Might be too early, but hex-based movement probably needs to show up somewhere, and there might be other options that could be presented to players (I'm thinking variant jump lane rules). Also if using individual planets you might also want to slot in rules for Intra-System movement here.


I have Grid Based Movement updated for the Companion, and a few options for using actual star distances to determine movement rate in Atlas of Nearby Stars.

Additional Economic Options- on the basic level there should be some rules for mining asteroids and harvesting resources from Gas Giants if using individual planets. Another thing I'd like to see added is the notion of a resource extraction operation on a planet *without* a major colony. While VBAM tends to go with the idea that large permanent settlements are needed to produce EP, that's not the only possible model (in real life or in science fiction). I'm imagining scenarios like seabed oil extraction (as a real life example) or Avatar (as a science fiction example), where the permanent population is basically nil and the transient population is still very small, but the resources extracted are worth a lot more than the 'settlement size' would indicate.


Currently, Asteroid Mining Bases are used to extra resources from an Asteroid Belt and turn it into construction capacity that can be diverted elsewhere; and Gas Siphoning Stations are cheap Supply Depots that you can build at Gas Giants. Both are likely to be maintenance free at this point, as they are really civilian infrastructure.

The rules for extraction units from The Flotilla (nomad empires) would meet the second requirement. I'm still waiting to see if that gets released as its own book or ends up being subsumed back into another supplement.

Mega-Projects: Rules for stuff like Ringworlds, Dyson Spheres, etc. Might be better in some sort of future Engineering Manual.


I have notes on these that I've been carrying around for 2 years now. I am just about ready to go in and update them for 2e (should be done this week).

The Engineering Manual contents may end up in the Companion, too, depending on what the final page count looks like. If not, that chapter will be ripped back out and have renewed life as the Engineering Manual. Right now the biggest concern that I have is that I want to keep the size of the VBAM supplements small enough that things are more bite-size. If I can keep the Companion at around 150 pages / $15, then we'll be fine. We'll still have the odd <= $5 supplement, but I don't want to nickel and dime people TOO hard.

But the closer that the Companion gets to 148 pages, the greater the chance that I'll rip a 30 page chapter out and then integrate another 30 pages of rules to make it into it's own book. I just checked, and with no formatting applied the current (incomplete) contents of the Companion come to about 79 pages. With additional rules, examples, charts, art, etc. I think we're comfortably looking at another 30 pages minimum, but that still keeps it within the 148 page that I'm shooting for.

'Underworld Empires' revamp: Always thought these were a cool idea, but they were very much geared towards criminal entities. I'd like to see this concept extended for all sorts of 'non-government' entities, as the same idea could easily represent stuff like resistance groups, mega-corporations, religious movements and so forth.


I have merged the Underworld Empire rules with some of the advanced pirate stuff I originally developed for the 2e CG (but removed for space/complexity reason). I have an OLD set of rules (circa 2007) that introduced a parallel set of rules for Influence instead of Corruption, and those could be dusted off and added into the rules, too. I'll see if that is doable at this point or not. I had Influence running in parallel to Corruption, so you could have both. But there's probably no reason why you couldn't just replace Corruption with Influence and leave it at that -- but it might require enough of a change to the rules to be untenable at this point.
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Re: Your Wishlist for Companion and First Contact?

Postby aelius » Mon Aug 03, 2015 7:29 pm

For the Underworld Empires you could probably just call Corruption Influence depending on the type of UE you are talking about. The die rolls would work the same way, just have a different set of modifiers. I recognize that balancing those modifiers is the real trick, but that is the best way I have been able to think of the keep it a simple as possible.
After all, mechanically what is the difference between guerrillas winning hearts and minds and criminals bribing officials to get cooperation. At the scale of the game those are just causes for the die roll.
I could easily see it getting out of hand and effectively becoming another set of Intelligence rules though.
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