Monday, 27 March 2017

Ark Frontier Organisations

This week I'd like to talk a bit about the organisations and factions in Ark Frontier.


Last time, I discussed the different groups that have emerged due to different life-experiences. I really like generating complexity by combining several basic options. In Ark Frontier, your species, group, organisation, and occupation form the basis of your social identity.

So far I have the following major organisations, no doubt with more to follow.

The Council

This is the group that's officially in charge of the Ark and all its inhabitants. It's made up of representatives from all three species, although I've yet to determine its exact nature. How many members are there? Are members elected or nominated — perhaps it's different for different species? Are representatives from different factions, regardless of species divisions?

In any case, this is the organisation that makes the hard decisions in the best interests of the colony. Many no doubt find it slow, inefficient, and painfully cautious.

Colony Defence (The Line, Liners)

The equivalent of the military, this group is charged with keeping the new settlements safe from Phantom incursions as people start to slowly spread out from the Ark. Liners patrol the expanding borders and check in on settlements regularly, but they are responsible for holding the line rather than pushing it forward; that job falls to the Blazers.

Colony Defence also controls the Ark's entire supply of exo-suits. They have three different models: the Pioneer hardsuits, Vanguard powered armour, and Destiny mecha. These pull double-duty as construction machinery and armoured combat vehicles. Some would like to use them for expeditionary missions, but the Council feels they are too valuable and few in number to risk losing them somewhere inaccessible.

Blazers (Trailblazers, Adventurers)

This is more a collection of loose groups than a coherent organisation, though there is a shared sense of camaraderie and an informal guild that helps coordinate teams. Blazers venture into the wilderness to explore, fight back Phantoms, and extend the colony's safe-zone. They uncover ruins from the fallen civilisation, and seek to uncover the cause of the Phantom Storm. In essence, they are classic fantasy adventurers.

It's a dangerous yet thrilling life, and many Arkborn are drawn to it with a blazing passion.


Brave souls who have chosen to leave the cramped safety of the Ark to build new homes under the sky. It's a hard life, but one eagerly welcomed by many of the native population as they resettle and rebuild. Some feel a little resentment towards the human settlers, but for the most part there is plenty of space and enough of a shared history of cooperation that nothing has come of it yet.

Exodians (Breakers, Pioneers, Outsiders)

When the Ark first opened its doors, some of the older native folk ignored the Council's warnings, leaving with their families to reclaim their ancestral land. They are outside the Ark's jurisdiction and protection. No doubt many of them fell to roving Phantoms, but some well-equipped and canny groups have established strongholds and carve out a life on their own terms. What happens when the Ark's settlers build far enough out to encounter an Exodian settlement remains to be seen...


Shortly after the Ark re-opened its doors, a small number of sorcerers learned how to summon and control Phantoms. This practice has been outlawed by the Council because of the obvious dangers it poses, and so Summoners must operate in secret. There is a secret society of Summoners who see their skills as a way to neutralise the threat posed by Phantoms, and perhaps even put them to good use battling their wild kin.

Other Organisations

I haven't fleshed them out yet, but there will also be a number of gangs; a criminal organisation that built a black market during the years on the Ark and are now looking to expand their influence throughout the new colony; possibly some sort of magic college, though I've yet to properly define the available magic; and presumably a general school system to train people towards useful professions. And no doubt others.

I was going to also talk about the elemental nature of the Phantoms, but it's getting late so I'll have to save that until next time!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

New Frontiers

I'm going to see if I can get into a routine of posting on Sundays to talk about what I've been working on for the past week. On top of my current freelancing jobs, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about Ark Frontier.

Ark Frontier will be a setting and campaign supplement for PowerFrame. I want to play to the system's strengths, so in short, it's a technofantasy hexcrawl inspired by JRPGs such as Final FantasyWild Arms, and Star Ocean, and also by an obscure old anime called Genesis Surviver Gaiarth.

The Premise

Civilisation on [WORLD] is on the brink of being wiped out by monsters in an event called the Phantom Storm, when a generation ship from Earth — the Ark in the title — lands. While the humans can't save the world, they are able to use their advanced technology to fight back the Phantoms long enough to get a sizeable number of refugees on board. Thankfully the Ark was designed to turn into a self-sustaining arcology city on arrival, and so tens of thousands of people are able to weather out the Storm.

Eighteen years later...

Although many thought it would never end, the Phantom Storm has finally abated. Phantoms still roam a land that is now unrecognisable, but they are no longer a constant threat. Refugees from the Ark — some of whom have never seen the sky of their home-world — emerge to explore and reclaim this new frontier.

Fusion Culture

One thing I wanted to do was come up with a frontier exploration setting that didn't either re-cast native people as "savages" to be wiped out (orcs, inscrutable aliens), or erase them altogether. Instead, the uninvited colonists from Earth (who were perhaps fleeing some desperate calamity of their own) opened their arms to the local peoples; recognising the value in saving a civilisation on the brink of extinction (and one that could help them understand the nature of their new world), and uniting in the face of overwhelming adversity.

That's not to say there aren't tensions within the new culture that has been forged in the heart of the Ark. Traditionalists hold onto their old ways, while the youth of three species have grown up together and look to the future. There are feelings of resentment, but also gratitude and reliance.

On top of the humans and two native species (that I haven't completely figured out, so I'll talk about them later), the events since the landing have split people into several demographic groups.

Natives lived through the Phantom Storm and boarded the Ark as refugees. Some are grateful to the humans for coming to their aid, while others resent the interlopers coming uninvited. These are the last survivors of the old civilisation, and keep its traditions alive as best they can.

Landers are humans who crewed the Ark when it arrived. Most of them are part of a "generation crew" contingent who stayed awake for the hundred-year voyage, but a few were woken from cryosleep shortly after arrival. Most were happy to help the Natives (whether out of humanitarian ideals or pragmatic considerations), but some have grown to resent their presence and their drain on resources as the years wore on.

Arkborn are children who were born on the Ark once the doors were closed against the Phantom Storm. The very oldest of this generation may be those carried onboard as infants, too young to remember a life outside. This group is the most culturally united, with members of all three species mingling freely. Many chafe against traditions, and want to explore the outside world.

Sleepers are humans who have only recently been awoken from cryosleep. Due to the influx of refugees, the Ark could not support all the humans being awoken, and so thousands have remained in stasis until the colony could begin expanding. They still remember Earth, and many now suffer from culture shock as they are dropped into the new society that formed while they were sleeping.

While the focus will be on exploration and trying to figure out the mystery behind the Phantoms, I'm hoping that a well-thought-out culture and differing points of view will create dramatic tension and provide opportunities for intelligent antagonists.

That's all for this week! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or ideas regarding Ark Frontier.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Blade Bind is available!

Hey, so it's been a while since I posted here! Once the Blade Bind Kickstarter concluded successfully, I was head-down finishing the work and keeping the Backers up-to-date on Kickstarter. I'm pleased to report that I delivered the project on-time, and the Blade Bind PDF, book, and cards are now available to the public on DriveThruRPG!

Available in softcover or glorious hardcover!

A lot of people have been downloading the free cards PDF, but I'd like to point out that the print-and-play PDF is just a courtesy product; it only includes the Blade Reference Cards, and you also get that print-and-play file when you download the rulebook PDF. It's useful if you buy the book without also getting the PDF I suppose, although the PDF is included free with physical copies.

Plus, you can get a cool tuck-box for the physical cards!
A big thank-you to all my Backers for making Blade Bind a success!

What's Next?

I'm working on several freelance projects at the moment, as well as some supplements for PowerFrame (including a setting book). I also have some ideas for a Blade Bind supplement, and I pulled the Thunder Hunters document out of storage to take a fresh look. So there's plenty of stuff keeping me busy! I'll try to post about what I'm working on soon.