CSG update #6 - factions overview

A generation ship is a perfect ant-farm where different societies can coexist within a limited space, influencing and affecting each others' development while fighting for that limited space, which adds “the end justifies the means” pressure. Let’s take a look at the various factions and groups:



The Protectors' one truth is the Mission, and the sole way to ensure successful completion of the Mission is to follow the Old Ways. The ways of the fathers, forefathers, and Founding Fathers are together the beam upon which the Ship travels to our ultimate destination. The mutiny, which through their steadfast and timely intervention was thankfully aborted, was the ultimate betrayal of the Old Ways, of everyone who had come before, the nullification of every sacrifice and every life dedicated to the Mission.

Sworn to regain control of the Ship, the Protectors will subjugate anyone who threatens the Mission. Over the last century they have managed to expand their enclave somewhat, but the Brotherhood is deeply entrenched. To overcome them with violence would result in a massive loss of life, an unfortunate consequence which itself would endanger the Mission.

The Protectors are governed by the Mission Control Council, which appoints the Mission Commander to implement their policies and decisions. Failure is regarded as a deviation from the Mission. As such, Commanders are twice as susceptible to death-by-misadventure as the average citizen.



The Brotherhood was formed to liberate the people from the iron shackles of the Ship Authority. Though their first sally -which the fossils of the old world denigrate with the term "mutiny"- failed to completely achieve this aim, the Brotherhood was successful in establishing themselves as a power to be reckoned with. More importantly, their ideals of liberty and freedom are now discussed everywhere.

The Brotherhood's initially pure goal, to free the enslaved wherever they may be, has unfortunately been sullied by the practical concerns of democracy. If the Brotherhood had had access to the older histories they would have realized that democracies beget their own factions, factions which cannot be put down with violence for now they are within. The Executive Council was also forced to consider issues like the right to vote, and whether it should be granted freely to all, or earned through service to the state. The first generation earned their rights rebelling against the tyrants, whereas the youth of today have forgotten even the names of those heroes. Easily swayed by rhetoric and bribed with cheap comforts, these layabouts could hardly be less concerned with such abstractions as liberty and universal suffrage.

To bring freedom to the Ship entire must involve war, and no war may be won without sacrifice, nor may battles be managed by committee. The unwillingness to back high ideals with bloodshed is, as far as the Council is concerned, the reason for the recent losses against the Protectors. Yet any attempt to limit majority rule must be interpreted as a retreat from the ideals upon which the Brotherhood's very identity is based.

If every decision, even those which mean death to some of the Brotherhood's own citizens, must first be approved by a majority, how is it possible even to start?



As inevitably happens in dark and challenging times, some citizens turn to God for reassurance, the promise of an end to pain and hunger. Or failing an end, at least a purpose.

The Church of the Elect rejected both the Protectors of the Mission and the Brotherhood of Liberty as worldly fools distracted by politics and their own egos. Teaching their adherents that they were chosen by God, the Church frames the journey of the Ship as a centuries-long test of faith. We all face a series of difficult trials, yes, but with a very definite end.

When the Ship arrives at her destination, Judgement Day awaits every citizen. The righteous will be welcomed into the Promised Land of Alpha Centauri-4, while the unrepentant will be returned to the Hell from which we fled -Earth- to suffer for all eternity.

Led by the Chaplain-General, the Church of the Elect is a militant organization. While Christ was undoubtedly a man of peace, what he preached on Earth does not strictly apply in the void of space. Extraordinary challenges require exceptional measures, for even Jesus can't do much for an unarmed man.



When a small percentage of children in the Habitat were first born deformed, they were immediately shunned. Superstitions – that their deformities were contagious, that they were radioactive – swiftly followed and they were branded Mutants. The young were abandoned, and those whose defects didn't manifest until later driven out of the Habitat.

As the number of outcast Mutants grew, they began to settle in what had come to be known as the Engine Room, the vast open space providing access to the Ship’s engines and reactor. With the condition of the fusion reactor degrading to dangerous levels, and the number of volunteers for jobs in areas exposed to radiation remaining few, the Mutants approached the Habitat to negotiate the Covenant, a pact granting the Mutants protection from harassment and violence in exchange for their maintenance of the engines and other vital ship systems.
 
Out of necessity, engine work and electronics were taught to the outcasts by Engineering Officers, and out of "charity" Christianity was introduced by the missionaries. Over the decades, the isolated Mutant collective became increasingly tribal, and the confused worship of both science and religion led to a theocratic, caste-based society. Believing themselves chosen by a higher power, the Mutants declared their disfigurements not a curse but the Mark of God, the physical manifestation of their destiny to save the ship, and thus mankind.

Now the Mutant priests hide the stigmata of their kind behind masks depicting beatific metal faces, and their Consecrators regularly tour the Habitats, to seek out children bearing the Mark and to spread the word of God. Frowning upon (or more aptly, fearing) such blasphemy, the Church of the Elect claims that the Mark of the Beast is the proper name for the Mutants' affliction, but as long as they tend the Ship's engines they remain inviolable.



At the heart of the Ship sits one of its deepest mysteries: the House Ecclesiastes. A simple, unadorned facade belies the importance of this temple, and the curious visitor is welcomed by nothing more than a centuries-faded relief spelling ECLSS and two well-maintained turrets. Only senior faction representatives are granted audience here. All others are turned away.

The monks of House Ecclesiastes are the keepers of many secrets. Deep within the zone, they are said to meditate on the very essence of Life and Death, but their practice is not one of philosophy. Their rituals are crucial to the systems that allow every citizen to survive. The burden of their knowledge is so heavy that they have cast aside all other earthly concerns, caring not for wealth, pleasure or power. Thus their motto: He who increases in Knowledge increases in Sorrow.

With few exceptions the needs of these ascetics are modest, but whatever they request, they promptly receive. In return they offer nothing but the continued supply of air to breathe and water to drink.

Generations will come and go, but the Ship is eternal.

Freemen

Recognizing neither the Protectors of the Mission or the Brotherhood of Liberty, the Freemen submit to no one's laws. These ruffians have no respect for titles, tradition, or any rules restricting their right to live in whatever manner they choose.

Refusing to trade their principles for the comfort and safety -and the subjugation that goes along with them- of the various squabbling boot-licks of the Habitat, the Freemen have chosen to settle beyond its borders, where they make a living as scavengers, traders, and highwaymen.

The center of their domain is one of the Ship's capacious cargo holds, now a container town. Aptly named The Pit, it is dark, cold, and lawless, a place where a person might go to secure an illegally modified pistol, or a flask of alcohol fermented in a disused cooling duct, and end up with a blade in the gut instead. As the Pit offers nothing of value to either the Protectors or the Brotherhood, it currently enjoys all the freedoms a citizen could desire.

But however much the Freemen shout about their ideals, should the situation change these anarchists may find themselves truly liberated — from all worldly laws and cares.

Colony Ship RPG - early in development

Our long-term project is a colony ship RPG inspired by Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky. We want this game to feel and play differently from AoD. The core design (turn-based, choices & consequences, non-linear, text-heavy) would remain the same.

  • Character System

    Expect the same 6 stats (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Per, Cha) and 18 skills grouped in sets of three:
    • Melee (Fist, Bladed, Blunt)
    • Firearms (Pistol, Shotgun, SMG)
    • Energy Weapons (Pistol, Rifle, Cannon)
    • Science (Medical, Mechanical, Computer)
    • Speech (Persuasion, Streetwise, Trading)
    • Stealth (Lockpick, Pickpocket, Sneak)
  • Party-Based.

    It’s a fundamental change that affects every design aspect, most notably content “gating”. If you have 3-4 party members, most likely you’ll have all skills covered.

    Charisma will determine the number and quality of your party members. The party size will range from 2 to 5. Experience points from quests will be split between the human party members (a droid will have its own leveling up mechanics and won't cost you any XP), thus a smaller party will be able to gain levels faster.
  • Party Dynamics

    Typically, RPG party members serve a purely tactical role, giving your more bodies to control in combat and access to different combat abilities. In a sense, you’re role-playing an entire squad as outside of combat there is very little (if any) difference between the character you created and the characters you’ve recruited or created next.

    It works great in RPGs that are mostly about combat, but calls for a different approach when it comes to non-combat gameplay. The main problem is that party members offer nothing but combat benefits (occasionally, freaky sex to relieve combat stress and party banter), giving you very few reasons to treat party members any differently than the main character.

    In short, the problem is that in most RPGs party members are mindless zombies lacking any free will, agenda, goals, etc – the very qualities that separate an actual “character” from a zombie. Thus, our main design goal is to create proper characters that have a will of their own, as well as agendas, beliefs, goals, and other infuriating qualities.

    Unlike the player’s character, the party members will have a complex personality & beliefs system that would determine their reaction. Most likely these stats will remain hidden from the player and you’d have to figure out what you’re dealing with by talking to them and observing how they act/react.

    We're planning to go with 10 traits (values ranging from -5 to +5) strictly for the purpose of reacting to different situations and the PC's choices.
    • Religion (-5 means raging atheist, +5 means true believer)
    • Politics (-5 filthy liberal, +5 glorious conservative)
    • Loyalty (-5 treacherous scum, +5 loyal to a fault)
    • Volatile (-5 comatose, +5 always ready to fly off the handle)
    • Connving (-5 honest abe, +5 Miltiades)
    • Opportunist (-5 a man of principles, +5 what are principles?)
    • Idealism (-5 cynic, +5 starry-eyed idealist)
    • Greed (-5 above money, +5 can quote Gordon Gekko)
    • Altruism (-5 selfish bastard, +5 For the Greater Good!)
    • Agreeable (-5 doesn't play well with others, +5 gets along with Hitler)
  • Feats & Character Levels

    Your characters will gain levels using experience points from quests. When you level up, you’ll select feats, unlocking or improving your abilities. The feats will be an important aspect of character development (i.e. they won’t give you minor bonuses but help you develop your characters along specific paths: lone wolf vs squad leader, offense vs defense, gunslinger vs sprayer or gadgeteer, melee vs ranged, which will go beyond which skill to develop, etc) and make as much of a difference as the skills levels.

    We want the skills to determine your chance of success with certain tasks and the feats to define what you can do and how you can use these skills to maximum advantage. For example, not every guy with points in Pistol is a gunslinger, not every guy who travels alone is a Jeremiah Johnson when it comes to survival, etc. Basically, the feats will define your character much more than your skills.
  • Skills & Learn by Using

    You will not gain XP for killing, talking, sneaking, picking locks, using computers, fixing mechanical things and such. You will not increase your skills manually. Instead your skills will be increased automatically based on their use.

    Instead of counting how many times you did something, we’ll assign a certain value (let’s call it learning points) to each activity (attacking, killing, fixing, sneaking, convincing, lying, etc). So killing a tough enemy or repairing a reactor will net you more points than killing a weakling or fixing a toaster. Basically, it will work the same way as XP but go directly toward raising a skill that did all the work.
  • Gadgets

    While melee builds will be viable, most enemies will use guns. Ranged combat will be dull if everyone just stands there, firing their weapons and dodging bullets. It needs cover but we don’t want to place cover everywhere, which means we need gadgets to make your own cover (among other things):
    • Depletable energy shield (absorbs x damage)
    • Reality distortion field (THC penalty against you)
    • Optical illusion a-la Total Recall (chance that enemies will target the illusion)
    • Cloaking field aka Stealth Boy
    • Stasis field (holds enemy, no damage can be dealt)
    • Brainwave Disruptor (don’t leave your home without Psychic Nullifier)
  • Factions

    While factions will get a lot of attention and play a large role, you won’t join a faction but will remain an outsider, free to work for and deal with all factions, which fits the setting better as these factions aren’t guilds but different hubs. However, many quests would have conflicting interests and reputation would play a stronger and more immediate role than it did in AoD, so you won’t be able to please everyone for long.

    In addition to your reputation, which will play a much bigger role in the game (the main quest is sort of built around it), we’ll add two important stats that will be affected by your actions: faction strength & morale (your actions might increase or lower both or increase one and lower the other). More on that in the future updates.

The Age of Decadence is now available



The Age of Decadence, our first but hopefully not the last RPG, is now available. If you've been following it or playing it in Early Access, you know what to expect (if you did play an earlier version, please delete prefs.cs file from your Documents/My Games/Age of Decadence folder before starting a new game). If you've just discovered it, "stay awhile and listen".

The most commonly asked question is:
What Kind of Game Is It?

It’s a very different game than anything you’ve ever played. I’m sure you’ve noticed that the RPG genre hasn’t really been explored yet and most RPGs follow the formula that didn’t change in 20 years. While there were always games that strayed off the beaten path – Darklands, Planescape: Torment, King of Dragon Pass – such games were the exceptions that only reinforced the rule.

The Age of Decadence is an experiment, an attempt to explore a different direction, taking you back to the PnP roots of the genre. It doesn’t mean that the game is awesome. In fact, there is a good chance that you won’t like it, precisely because we took too many liberties with the established design.


So What Sets The Age of Decadence Apart From Other Games?

1. The Setup

Traditionally, many fantasy RPGs are about killing things, clearing up dungeons, and being a hero. There is nothing wrong with mindless fun and wish fulfillment, but we want to offer you something different. To quote Tom Chick (Quarter to Three's game critic):

"But Age of Decadence wants nothing to do with kobolds, just as it wants nothing to do with Doo-dads of Unimaginable Power. The overarching idea is a crumbling society divided among three noble Houses, each fumbling around in its own version of darkness to comprehend what destroyed the world. That’s the central mystery. It plays out like noir in that you are the detective, piecing together what really happened from differing accounts, all vividly written with clear voices and efficient prose. And like a detective in a noir yarn, you can’t help but become part of the central mystery, effecting an outcome you might not have intended."

The Age of Decadence is not a game about killing monsters or exploring mystical lands, but rather, surviving amid the greed and brutality of your fellow humans and carving out a name for yourself. Good and bad are purely relative. It’s a world of scheming and backstabbing in which your words and actions have the potential to forge alliances and sow discord, and your path is never certain.

You get to play with seven different factions: three Noble Houses and four 'professional' guilds: merchants, assassins, thieves, and the army, all fighting for power or influence; over 100 named characters, over 750 ‘generic’ characters with unique IDs taking part in violent take-overs, assassinations, and power grabs, and over 600,000 words of dialogue: a well-developed and thought through world, believable characters, realistic motivations, but no elves, dwarves, magic, and wizards in fashionable, pointy hats.



2. Combat’s difficulty

Another design aspect worth mentioning is combat difficulty. It’s a hard game.

Combat difficulty is integrated into the setting. You can’t say that the world is harsh and unforgiving and then let the player kill everyone who looks at him or her funny. The game has to be hard, dying should be easy, and you should have reasons to pick your fights.

You aren’t a powerful hero who can defeat anyone and save the world and it is the difficulty that reinforces this notion. Make the game easier and we’re back to the powerful hero setup. So unless you’re a natural born killer, watch what you say and think before you act or you’ll end up dead before you can blink.



 

3. Choices & Consequences

Choices are what the game is all about - crafting your own narrative via a variety of choices that alter the story, playing field, and your options down the road. From multiple quest solutions to branching questlines you'll have plenty decisions to make and consequences of said decisions to deal with, which is what makes the game incredibly replayable.

Starting the game as a mercenary and joining the Imperial Guards will give a completely different experience, different quests, different content and points of view than, say, playing the game as a merchant (less buying low and selling high, more scheming and plotting to gain advantages for the guild), a praetor serving a Noble House, or an assassin.

The questlines are interwoven, forming a large, overarching story, so playing the game only once will be like witnessing events from a single perspective, which is limited by default. You will have to play the game several times to better understand what’s going on, piece everything together, and see the full effect of the choices you make.

The Big Question: Should You Buy The Game?

Try before you buy. Even if everything I said sounds exactly like your kind of game, try the demo first. That’s what it’s there for. It gives you access to the first Chapter, consisting of 3 locations and about 30 quests split between mutually exclusive questlines and decisions.

What's Next?

We'll continue supporting the game and paying attention to your suggestions and concerns (as long as they fit the core of the game). During the next 3 months we'll work on extra content because why not? I dislike DLCs, so we won't charge anything for all extra content related to the game.

Our short-term project is a party-based dungeon crawler set in the AoD world. One of the characters mentions a prison-mine called The Second Chance and you'll be given an opportunity to escape it or die trying. This game will use the existing assets and systems.

Our long-term (i.e. a full scale RPG) project is a "generation ship" game, inspired by Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky. We're aiming to create a different experience with the same core ('hardcore', TB, C&C). So, combat will be turn-based but focused on ranged rather than melee (earth-made laser guns - rare but powerful, ammo even more rare, so save for special occasions - vs crude ship-manufactured firearms favoring burst rather then precision), level up to distribute skill points and unlock new feats, focus on the individual and more dynamic C&C, focus on exploring rather than working your way up in a faction; you'll be one of the 'freemen' who aren't born into a caste-like faction, more traditional open level design.



We'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported us over the years. We wouldn't have made it this far without you.

Aug update - First ending, fixes, and improvements

tl;dr
a LOT of fixes and improvements, you must restart Ganezzar (i.e. use a save game BEFORE you arrived to Ganezzar) to see them.

New content:

  • Two quests continuing Hector/Darganus questlines, featuring Miltiades
  • The very first ending* of the game (ask Bennie to perform the ritual on you)
  • Minor conversations with Varro and Athanasius after the siege
  • 6 death descriptions (some assassins quests, scorpion, construct, Faelan, the breach fight)

Improvements

  • You can save after IG3 fight, increase skills, change gear, etc, before going to Maadoran.
  • Improved the Ordu camp's visuals, added alchemy ingredients.
  • Added a few extra options in some of the Teron encounters.
  • You can explore Teron after the MG questline is over.
  • You can interact with some artifacts in your inventory to identify or activate them.
  • Livia got a brand new portrait.
  • Improved Ganezzar's visuals
  • New and improved models.
  • Confirm box for dropping an item.
  • Added "none" hair option for female characters
  • Alchemical items' prices are now modified by their level.
  • Changed Shorty's trading inventory.
  • Raiders' camp CS check increased.
  • Minor IG4 tweaks (combat and flow)
  • Increased the price modifiers for crafted items.
  • Increased material needed for repair from 0.2 to 0.5.
  • Gaelius now has the Crimson Eye on him.
  • Merchants start with the commercium ring.
  • Added civil SP reward for giving Hamza a fake name in MG5
  • Increased ingots rewards in the well.
  • Vitus gives you more steel and a few sharpening stones.
  • If you are affected by the "camera bug" in which you can zoom out forever, press the Center Camera button to fix it (and remember to report the issue!).
  • Tweaked some Teron's compound infiltration checks and added an option to investigate the dining room if you killed the patrolling guard.
  • Increased Livia's training.
  • Removed the need to click on the gate to leave Ganezzar and increased the size of the trigger for players first entering the city.
  • Praetors are no longer forced to see Meru right away when they arrive to the city.
  • You don't have to take Meru to Al-Akia right away when you join House Crassus.
  • Grifter now starts with a dagger.
  • The Abyss is closed for maintenance after you arrive to Ganezzar.
  • Reduced whetstone base price to 50 (from 100).
  • CS Training after AG1 increased to 10.
  • You are no longer forced to take the gold or return to Levir in TG4.
  • Added etiquette and lore checks with Lorenza in MG4.
  • Lowered the cost of higher skill levels
  • Rebalanced the MG questline, more CHA and extra checks in some quests.
  • Rebalanced the lore checks to use the entire 1-10 scale.
  • You can now place one-handed crossbow and bolter in the belt bags.
  • Broken armor lowers weight and price.
  • Feint no longer selectable if you have a shield.

Fixed:

  • Serenas taking more money than intended in HD questline.
  • Loop in IG4 if you convinced Strabos to tell you what he knows.
  • The first wave did not appear in IG6 if you didn't do anything at the Ordu camp.
  • Inverted info for the sharpened weapons' strikes and damage.
  • Siege of Ganezzar when you travel there from Caer-Tor.
  • Silver tongued devil rank added incorrectly in MG2 (belongs to TG3).
  • Being able to ask about poison if the mine situation was already solved.
  • Trading bonuses description.
  • Power armor should no longer be damaged.
  • Camera issue after talking to Strabos at the end of MG6.
  • Tower guards dodging instead of blocking.
  • Escaping Zamedi as a thief or Daratan praetor should no longer show the Teron ending slides or end the game.
  • Distracting the guards in TG3 properly sends one of your man to take care of the crossbowman.
  • Crash when fighting Hagnon as IG is his tent.
  • Passability in Mountain Monastery and Dead River that allowed you to "fly".
  • Camera issue after passing the IG trial in Maadoran.
  • Being able to join the expedition as an HA praetor twice.
  • HA praetor being able to suggest going through the tunnels.
  • The Ordu killing the IG triggers a proper ending.
  • Proper Ganezzar state after HA taking over Ganezzar (with guards/ordu).
  • Ganezzar's medicus now has dialogue.
  • Loop in Meru's star chamber dialogue for praetors wanting to join him.
  • Portrait issues with Decanus in the mines.
  • You can report to Gaelius if Meru dies during the Al-Akia event.
  • Streetwise/impersonate check with the raider leader in Aemolas village.
  • Passability of siege elements in Ganezzar.
  • Sneaking into the mine and activating the machines take you to Gaelius, not drop you in Maadoran.
  • Being to enter the barracks after MG2.
  • A wrong version of the bringer of storms is no longer sold in the exotic emporium.
  • You use the robe when you disguise yourself to get the power armor.
  • You can now leave Darganus' house.
  • The guardian properly takes the ring in all situations.
  • The game ending notes the guardian is locked inside the tower.
  • If you return to the tower, the guardian will attack if you ran away with the ring.
  • Livia's fight not granting SP.
  • IG questline becoming MG questline in Al-Akia.
  • Narrative and bugs in post Abyss Ganezzar quest.
  • Slide text error in Balzaar ending.
  • Commercium questline is no longer available to all in Ganezzar.
  • Ganezzar traders have proper inventories
  • You can no longer escape combat in Darius tomb by clicking on the sarcophagus.
  • loop in the gem quest.
  • You can't finish MDN AG questline and then join HA as a praetor.
  • Added CS training and body count to several CS checks that were missing it.
  • Workers not carrying objects when loading a save.
  • Cleave critical now ignores armor.
  • Meru's loremaster not appearing when he should.
  • Transfer All no longer transfers unlootable items.
  • scorpions having no attack and defense skills.

Combat Balance:

We hit the word limit, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Release plans:

We’re planning to release the game in October. So far we’re on track and we fixed a lot of issues in the last 2 months, as you can see. For the next 2 months we’re switching from monthly to bi-weekly updates to respond faster.

We’re planning to release the final location by the end of August. At that point the game will be content-complete. We’ll test, tweak, and polish through September and early October (so far we’ve allocated 6 weeks) and release.

Thank you for your support and don't forget to restart Ganezzar to see the changes.

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