Reading Diaspora – Corrected version by B Murray, CW Marshall, T Dyke and B Kerr

Space ships, space suits, planetary orbits, zero gravity, scientists as heroes, faster-than-light travel; the stuff our SciFi dreams are made of. A while back I took a look at the old Traveller game, and found it nice. Diaspora leans heavily on that tradition, but offers a more modern rules set.



The book
Diaspora by Brad Murray, CW Marshal, Tim Dyke and Byron Kerr, can be bought from various sources, mine comes directly from Lulu, and is a fine example of what quality Lulu printing has on a good day. Both the book itself and they layout inside oozes of quality. All the art inside (mostly space ships and diagrams) looks good. The book is 270 pages, 9×6, and while it isn’t exactly a wall of text inside, much material has been squeezed in between the covers. It took me a few evenings to work my way through the game, and I’m still not sure I have gotten everything in the rules right.

The setting
Diaspora provides the tools for generating worlds and systems, and players are meant to build their own setting first in the same session where they generate their PCs. A pre-generated system is included, but part of the game is really to build your own setting. Some assumptions are given, humans have access to slipdrives that allow FTL travel between systems, but not inside them. Besides that things are rather ‘realistic’, huge space ships, no fighter battles, spend half every trip accelerating and the other half breaking, preferably at 1G, as there is no artificial tech in the setting.

The PCs are expected to have a space ship and play adventures with the focus on making enough money to play for the upkeep of the ship. Just like Traveller, but with significantly less paperwork around the economics. But the rules would support most other styles of relatively hard Sci fi I can think of too.

The rules
The game uses a hacked version of the FATE system, as known from Spirit of the Century, and the authors frequently make references to the SotC book for further details. The game looks complete to me though, no real need for the SotC book in order to play Diaspora.

No stats, but skills and aspects. Roll 4 Fudge dice, add skill and beat the target number to win. Use aspects to get bonuses. There is no advancement as such, but the players are expected to make minor reassignments of their points between sessions, to reflect character development. A neat system, I used it myself in Höstdimma, no need to balance anything for different power levels, and a new player in the group can jump right into the fray, power level wise at least.

Character generation uses a very free lifepath system, where the players invent their own lifepath options along the way, and write small pieces of fiction for every term. Then the aspects are derived from the fiction. The build your own setting theme shines through here too.

There are four different combat systems in the rules, personal, platoon level, spaceship and social combat. They are surprisingly crunchy for an otherwise so light game, but there are cheat sheets included.

The form
The form is traditional with GM and players. But the option is given of having everyone in the group make one character each, and then rotate GM-ing duties on a per session basis.

The GM is encouraged to hand over much responsibility, including parts of the generation of NPCs, to the players.

The setting is OK, there are some things suggested in the book. But the core is to have the group build a cool setting first.

The rules are good, they cover situations common to the genre I imagined when I read the book. Light weight until you run into combat, then more crunchy.

The form is OK, there is some advice on how to run the game, but the authors point towards SotC for the details. I would not put this into a beginner’s hands, there are better games for those situations, but for the experienced group I think the ideas presented in the game would be a lot of fun.

Will I play it?
Yes, I might. Diaspora will be my first choice for Sci Fi games from now on. I get Seikai no Monshō vibes when reading the game for some reason, it shouldn’t be that hard to make any necessary adaptations. – Official Diaspora page. – Diaspora softcover on Lulu

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