According to a conspiracy theory both odd and oddly un-sinister, a youthful Barack Obama, as part of a secret CIA program, used to teleport to Mars. Why, the official denials only serve to confirm it!
To rip this from the headlines into an Ashen Stars scenario…
Teleportation technology doesn’t appear in the game setting. It’s a notorious plot-hoser. And in a roleplaying game you never have to leave out an establishing shot of a shuttle for pacing or budgetary reasons.
With this in mind…
A wealthy woman hires the lasers to locate her missing daughter, Rika True. Like many missing persons contracts, the arrangement calls for them to bring to justice anyone responsible for any harm that may have come to her. Rika, they learn, was last seen applying for employment with the utopian Eden Corporation. They find the uncharted company world that serves as its headquarters: a lush paradise that provides Eden settlers with a life of ease and luxury. They discover that Rika won the coveted right to participate in an Eden teleport experiment. The experiment turns out to be a scam to feed willing volunteers to a bi-dimensional predatory entity. The twist: it’s the entity that makes the planet inhabitable. If they destroy it or drive it away, the atmosphere immediately becomes toxic. Should the lasers reveal this to the populace, the residents decide that they’d rather continue the modest sacrifices than abandon their paradise. Do the lasers bring the system crashing down, as their contract demands, risking the lives of thousands?
From the composers of the Eternal Lies Suite comes a six-track theme for Ashen Stars. James Semple and his team are working on six tracks of evocative, atmospheric melodies to become the soundtrack of your stellar adventures.
Listen to a sneak preview now.
Rewatching Zodiac recently, I was struck by the desire to see David Fincher similarly tackle the Mothman incidents of 1966-1967. This is no swipe at Mark Pellington’s The Mothman Prophecies, which I quite like for the way it evokes the enveloping paranoia of paranormal inquiry. It does, however, impose a cinematic structure and sense of resolution on a series of bizarre incidents distinctive for their lack of either quality. Zodiac, however, stands as a masterpiece of negative capability, focusing as it does on a mystery that seems explicable but always tantalizingly out of reach.
I then happened to move onto the underrated Breach, the 2007 film about the apprehension of FBI mole Robert Hanssen. Although investigation occurs in the background, the dramatic action focuses on the relationship between Hanssen (Chris Cooper, in a brilliant performance) and the young agent assigned to get close to him by acting as his assistant.
The two movies share a stylistic touchstone: All the President’s Men, the classic recreation of the Woodward and Bernstein investigation into the Watergate break-in. Zodiac even employs its composer, David Shire. Alan J. Pakula’s brilliant direction wrings incredible suspense out of simple phone calls, in the heroes press reluctant witnesses to cough up essential scraps of information.
Throughout the film, we see Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, as the two protagonists, use a full range of GUMSHOE-esque interpersonal investigative abilities. Like Mutant City Blues or Ashen Stars characters, who must not only figure out what’s going on but be able to prove it, they have to confirm what they know by wringing confirmations from multiple sources. We see them use Flattery, Flirting, Bureaucracy, Inspiration, Reassurance, and even a touch of Intimidation. Bullshit Detector comes out as official denials are issued. They also use social discomfort to get information out of people. By simply refusing to take no for an answer, or to do the polite thing and go away, they exert a subtle pressure on their sources, one distinct from real Intimidation. A journalism-focused GUMSHOE iteration might add this as a new interpersonal ability—perhaps called something like Journalistic Chutzpah.
A detailed and insightful review of Dead Rock Seven for Ashen Stars by kafka – 9/10.
Dead Rock Seven again demonstrates Pelgrane’s superior skills aptitude with design by creating a truly beautiful product. It brings over some the same similar layout, font and formatting used in the Ashen Stars core book- with but with a small number of modifications. Those slight adjustments are critical as they instantly position the GM to the sequence they need for running each scenario/adventure.
There is a review of Ashen Stars over on Flames Rising by Todd Cash. It’s a positive review giving 4 out of 5 stars.
There are not many sci-fi settings that I like; however, this is a damn good setting. Law populates Ashen Stars with interesting alien races, an excellent back-story, and tons of ideas to get players started.
Kevin Kulp, runs the Stowaway quick start demo for Ashen Stars
DieHard Game Fan offers this in-depth review of Ashen Stars from a reviewer who is not keen on the GUMSHOE system’s resource management.
Ashen Stars breaks new ground in that genre with its narrow focus on mysteries and problem solving. GUMSHOE fans and those looking for a new sci-fi setting with an emphasis on drama over technical details will get the most out of this game.
As with other GUMSHOE games like The Esoterrorists and Mutant City Blues, Ashen Stars GMs are encouraged to look to the news for episode inspiration. Like the writers of the various Treks and the nouveau Battlestar, they might use the space opera form to examine issues of the day.
Alternately, they can start with pop science articles and either work their way to political allegory, or not, as desired.
For example, a recent study indicates that drug addiction piggybacks on the same neural impulses that lead animals to crave salt.
In the episode this inspires, the crew is hired to investigate a series of attacks on Combine ships near the Bleed’s far edge. They discover that the hostile party is a heretofore unknown advanced species called the gretherin. Although at first they seem merely xenophobic and implacably hostile, a twist reveals their motivations. A gang of human and cybe drug runners has infiltrated their home world, engineering a synthetic drug by hijacking the gretherin’s necessary craving for arsenic, a trace metal they require to regulate metabolic function. The gangsters aim to addict the entire planet to a substance only they can manufacture, draining it of its wealth. The gretherin take this for an act of war waged by the entire Combine. Can the PCs avert a nasty local conflict by taking down the drug gang and destroying the technology used to create the drug?
Quick Start Adventure
Download Stowaway – the Ashen Stars 30-minute demo. Includes pregenerated characters.
If you want to introduce your players to Ashen Stars, it’s much easier to get them into it if it just takes up 20 minutes of their valuable time at the beginning or end of a session. It’s also a great convention demo.
Listen to Kevin Kulp, runs the Stowaway quick start demo for Ashen Stars:
Thanks to the players: Tim Crosby, Chris O’Gahan, Leah Shuldiner
Ashen Stars is now available to buy and download from [...]