I’ve recently gotten my hands on Ironsworn Starforged, and I’m really excited. I had run a few Ironsworn campaigns in the past, and my favourite thing about Ironsworn was the fact that it was an entire RPG system designed for solo. All the bugs and the issues with soloing an RPG was addressed, from the challenge dice system to the tracks system and its infinitely hackable settings and mechanics. So you can imagine I was excited for Starforged, but cash being an issue I couldn’t exactly back its Kickstarter. Now it’s on itch and DrivethruRPG, so I’m assuming it’s in a state where any changes, if any, are minimal.
So, what better way to celebrate my new purchase than by playing it? And what better blog post could I hope for than by documenting my playthrough? I did promise some solo RPG write ups in the past, anyway. A spacefaring adventure sounds like it could be a hell of a series to start!
So let’s first start with what I want from a Spacefaring adventure. When I think of space, somehow, I think of…peace. I think of solitude, of being alone in the stars, nobody else around me, and I think it would be incredibly peaceful. I think of being inside a spaceship, floating through the void, nothing but calm and serenity around me.
I think a lot of this has to do with my childhood. I distinctly remember being taken around a lot by my parents, maybe in a car, maybe on a plane…I remember a ferry once, on the ocean. I loved that feeling, that being somewhere on the way to another place. I suppose it explains my love of liminal spaces, too. People say it creeps them out. I feel comfortable, cosy, pleasant in liminal spaces.
So I’m imagining myself in a tiny spacecraft, sort of like the shuttles from Star Trek. I love those. They always look super comfy. It’s jetting across a vast expanse of space…maybe a nebula in the background. It’s going at speeds that would cross the Earth in seconds, but here, in space…it just appears to be lightly cruising, drifting along the empty blackness.
I’m using a lot of comfy words and that doesn’t make a great Ironsworn game to be honest. But of course there’s adeventure to be had. I mean, I like the parts where I explore the outer reaches of space, but surely there’s a destination in mind. All I know at this point is, that I want to be someone who’s always crossing the galaxy for some reason or other. Maybe I’m an explorer, or a smuggler, or a trader. Who knows (not at this point, anyway – we’ll develop this idea later). But I have enough of an idea for expectations of this game, anyway.
First thing I do when starting up an Ironsworn game is build up the world. I’d like to play a resident of the world, not just as a visitor. I mean, sure, I don’t know the world well enough right now, but with a solid background understanding of the world, I think I can just start playing as a character of the world and help sketch out the details as I go along.
So Starforged has a series of exercises built into the game to help with the worldbuilding. We shall do that today. First things first: Default Assumptions.
- This is a perilous future.
Two centuries ago, your people fled a cataclysm and settled a distant galaxy they call the Forge. This is a chaotic place full of dangers and mysteries.
- This is a lonely future.
With some possible exceptions (that you’ll identify as part of your own truths), humans are the only known intelligent life in this galaxy. Others once lived here, but only mysterious and perilous vaults remain to mark their legacy.
- This is a diverse future.
There is a vibrant mix of people and cultures among the humans of the Forge.
- This is a far-flung future.
Settlements lie scattered and often isolated from one another. Your starship can travel at faster-than-light speeds, but it’s ponderously slow at a cosmic scale.
- This is an unexplored future.
Discoveries await. Even in settled regions, much of the Forge is unknown and uncharted.
- This is a wondrous future.
The Forge is a galaxy of ancient mysteries, spacefaring creatures, startling phenomenon, and other marvels.
- This is a retro-future.
Envision the technology you wield as only slightly advanced over today’s real-world technologies—or even a step back in many ways. Resources are scarce, and the people of the Forge must cobble together what they can.
- This is an unjust future.
Those in power hoard resources, control technologies, and impose their will on others through force or cunning. Others must stand against these forces of imperialism and oppression.
- This is a hopeful future.
Despite these challenges, hope remains. Fulfilling your sworn vows is a realization of that hope.
I’m liking all of this so far. It fits with what I want out of the game. On to the next part of the exercise: selecting truths. I’ll be rolling here, unless I don’t really like what I roll in which case I shall either choose another option or make something up.
We escaped the ravages of a catastrophic war. Over millennia, we consumed resources and shattered lives as we fueled the engines of industry, expansion, and war. In the end, a powerful foe took advantage of our rivalries in a violent bid for power. Fleeing the devastation, we assembled our fleets and traveled to the Forge. A new home. A fresh start.
In this final war, we were set upon by:
A ragtag fleet of ships—propelled at tremendous speeds by experimental FTL drives—carried our ancestors to the Forge. But the technology that powered the ships is said to be the source of the Sundering, a fracturing of reality that plagues us here today.
The experimental drives used by the Exodus fleet are forbidden, but the damage is done. The Sundering spreads across our reality like cracks on the surface of an icy pond. Those fissures unleash even more perilous realities upon our own. Did we flee one cataclysm, only to inadvertently create another?
Few survived the journey to the Forge, and we are scattered
to the winds in this perilous place. Our settlements are often small, starved for resources, and on the brink of ruin. Hundreds of far-flung settlements are lost and isolated within the untamed chaos of this galaxy, and we do not know their fate.
Iron vows are sworn upon totems crafted from the enigmatic metal we call black iron. Black iron was first forged by a long-dead civilization. Some say it is a living metal, attuned to the hidden depths of the universe.
Remnants of this prized resource are found within ancient sites throughout the Forge. It is resistant to damage and corrosion, but can be molded using superheated plasma at specialized facilities. The Ironsworn carry weapons, armor, or tokens crafted from black iron, and swear vows upon it.
Laws and governance vary across settled domains, but bounty hunters are given wide latitude to pursue their contracts. Their authority is almost universally recognized, and supersedes local laws. Through tradition and influence, bounty hunter guilds are given free rein to track and capture fugitives in most settled places. Only the foolish stand between a determined bounty hunter and their target.
Our faith is as diverse as our people. Many have no religion, or offer an occasional prayer out of habit. Others pay homage to the gods of our forebears as a way of connecting to their roots. Some idealize the natural order of the universe, and see the divine in the gravitational dance of stars or the complex mechanisms of a planetary ecosystem. And many now worship the Primordials—gods of a fallen people who once dwelt within the Forge.
Unnatural energies flow through the Forge. Magic and science are two sides of the same coin. Soon after our arrival, some displayed the ability to harness the Forge’s energies. Today, mystics invoke this power to manipulate matter or see beyond the veils of our own universe. But this can be a corrupting force, and the most powerful mystics are respected and feared in equal measure.
COMMUNICATION AND DATA
In settled domains, a network of data hubs called the Weave allow near-instantaneous communication and data-sharing between ships and outposts. Because of their importance, Weave hubs are often targets for sabotage, and communication blackouts are not uncommon. Beyond the most populous sectors, travelers and outposts are still commonly isolated and entirely off the grid.
To help offset a scarcity of medical supplies and knowledge, the resourceful technicians we call riggers create basic organ and limb replacements. Much was lost in the Exodus, and what remains of our medical technologies and expertise is co-opted by the privileged and powerful. For most, advanced medical care is out of reach. When someone suffers a grievous injury, they’ll often turn to a rigger for a makeshift mechanical solution.
The vestiges of advanced machine intelligence are coveted and wielded by those in power. Much of our AI technology was lost in the Exodus. What remains is under the control of powerful organizations and people, and is often wielded as a weapon or deterrent. The rest of us must make do with primitive systems.
Professional soldiers defend or expand the holdings of those who are able to pay. The rest of us are on our own. Mercenary guilds wield power in the Forge. Some are scrappy outfits of no more than a dozen soldiers. Others are sector spanning enterprises deploying legions of skilled fighting forces and fleets of powerful starships. Most hold no loyalty except to the highest bidder.
Many sites and planets are infested by dreadful forgespawn. These aberrant creatures threaten to overrun other life in the galaxy. The forgespawn are hostile creatures born of the chaotic energies of this galaxy. Hundreds of abandoned or devastated outposts and derelict ships stand as testament to their dreadful power and cunning.
The biomechanical lifeforms we call the Remnants, engineered by civilizations as weapons in a cataclysmic war, survived the death of their creators. On scarred planets and within precursor vaults throughout the Forge, the Remnants still guard ancient secrets and fight unending wars.
Most insist that horrors aren’t real. Spacers know the truth. When you travel the depths of the Forge, be wary. Some say we are cursed by those who did not survive the cataclysm, and the veil between life and death is forever weakened. Supernatural occurrences and entities are especially common near a white dwarf star. These stellar objects, which spacers call ghost lights, are the decaying remnants of a dead star.
Well, that’s something. I have a lot swimming in my brain now to start with some history of The Forge, as I am going to play in it at least. This post has gotten a bit long for now, so join me next time as I tell you of this strange new world we find ourselves in.