New Players' Guide

“What are the stars but points in the body of God where we insert the healing needles of our terror and longing?”
- Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

“What's so far-fetched about mermaids? There's all kinds of weird sea creatures here in the future, like Dr. Zoidberg!”
- Philip J. Fry, Futurama, The Deep South [S2E12]

Welcome to Wandering Star Role Play! This article has the basic steps and info you'll need to get up to speed. It includes a primer on the state of the universe, how to create a character, how to find a plot and join the community, and how roleplaying occurs.

Take your time if you feel overwhelmed or lost - maybe look at the relaxing scenery, grab a cup of tea, and smell the breeze for a bit. If you want, we have some recommended media for your consumption. Wandering Star's Game Masters and community feel the things listed reflect the setting's style and elements.

“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.”
- Rod Serling

Like a classic text-based roleplaying game, or tabletop game like D&D or GURPS, you and other players create characters living in the persistent universe of Wandering Star. Your imagination defines the traits and thoughts of your character, and their actions and words define their future - via collaboratively written stories posted to a forum.

The outcomes of these tales could potentially affect the setting for future players - woven by plots which grow together; They leave behind new discoveries, technologies, revelations, mirth, heartbreak, and with the right sort of attitude: History. But don't lose your head - The Aleph Null System and beyond is a strange and dangerous place! Misfortune, calamity, taxes, and even death await the unwary.

“Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space. Listen…
- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ch. 8

Let's compare Wandering Star's universe to those of our own, and look at some of the similarities differences between here, and where the action takes place in the Aleph Null System and beyond:

  • Existing Technology - For convenience and familiarity's sake, anything which exists in reality, you can safely assume has a place here, even if it's not specifically mentioned here on the Wiki.
    • Technologies and innovations of the modern age as we know it are present: Household appliances and amenities, the internet, social media, consumer electronics, research books, papers, or similar archival techniques; military equipment or firearms, medicine, transportation, space travel1), and so on.
    • However, the ideas and cultures wielding such things are not like here and now, because of some fundamental differences and additions listed below.
  • Space Travel - Between planets, space travel is easy: Many consumer-grade spacecraft in the setting are fitted with a System Cruise module, allowing the craft to move at a fraction or more of the speed of light within a star system, and return to normal speeds safely. This process can be interdicted, but escaped by following an escape vector.
    • An access to a personal-grade Spacecraft is a sizeable investment as the ongoing costs of fuel, replacement parts, and hangar service fees add up. However, many merchants have managed to turn a sizeable profit operating only within their star systems.
    • Moving between stars is not as easy, as the amount of power and the size of the technology necessitates the ships to be massive, requiring enormous powerplants and non-miniaturised technology to make faster than light travel a safe possibility between star systems.
    • One solution to this is the installation of Warp-rings between star systems, paid for much like a tollway and operated by either a government capable of colonising and policing space, or a highly lucrative private operator. These require an ongoing maintenance and hefty resource toll, and as such, are out of the reach of most people. Chartering passage between systems is costly, and requires preparation.
    • In either case, the ability to move from place to place in the universe has opened up the possibility of meetings…
  • Aliens - We're not alone; This is a terrifying and at times hilarious possibility. Humans exist alongside a plethora of alien species and creatures both familiar and bizarre.
    • The relationship between humans and alien species varies from place to place. To some, aliens are just more people in the mix of their day to day lives, while some community's whole lives can be defined by the arrival of a benevolent or malevolent alien species2). Even so, individuals will have their own opinions in the end.
    • Humanoids are a common shape, because aliens visit humans3) and enjoy things like being able to walk through doors, use seats, push buttons, and read. Its not neccesarily the best shape, but for those who can change or project their shape, it's very convenient. There will of course always be stubborn examples, and those unable to make the physical changes necessary.
  • Magic and Psionics - Arthur C. Clarke is quoted as saying that sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. In Wandering Star Online, magic and psionics exist as fundamental forces in the universe, along with means and pathways to access and manipulate it.
    • Technology does not suffer setbacks as a result of this, however - Magic and Psionics are merely additional ways for a player character to express their prowess. All three fields have means of being controlled, countered, and being accounted for in the end.
    • Powers, abilities, and objects enhanced or through magic or psionic means have their own checks, balances, infrastructures, and maintenance associated with them - just as most technology does.
  • Weird Things - There are forces in the universe beyond the alien species living in the next star system; They exist as a part of Wandering Star's world. These Weird Things (or Weirds) are natives to a series of pocket dimensions called The Weald, and they are known to dip into Wandering Star's universe occasionally.
    • It helps to think of these creatures as people would consider demons, devils, angels, ghosts, spirits, yokai, cryptids, fae, and other creatures with unexplained or supernatural powers.
    • Some Weirds can be summoned, managed, bribed, or wrangled somehow into a stint of servitude. They are readily associated with magicians and psionics.
“Only the framing material,” Lucas demurely, “obvious influences, Neo-Tokyo from Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Metal Gear Solid by Hideo Kojima, or as he's known in my crib, God.”
- Thomas Pynchon, The Bleeding Edge

“MISSION 1 - START!”
- Metal Slug

Roleplaying is a form of communication between its Players and their Game Master4), if present; It boils down to using the forum to write posts, or writing dialogue together over a chat program and pad, and posting them on the forums.

These stories often take place in colonies, towns, cities, spacecraft, space stations, starships, or may move from place to place over known and unknown locations. It is important that you should read up into the background of the kind of character you want to play and to get a sense of how the nations and entities within the setting work to determine which plot you feel would best suit you, the kind of story you want to be part of and the kind of character you want to play.

Styles of Participation

Other methods of roleplay do also exist, but detailed below are the methods most used here on Wandering Star:

Joined Post

Players: 2 to 4
Requires: Forum account, Wiki access/account, online asynchronous text pad5)
Optional: Chat program6)
++ Reads like a short story or novella when completed.
++ Very close knit, and intimate.
!! Can serve as a catalyst for an ongoing plot, with one of the participants acting as the Game Master.
!! Players write and edit dialogue/actions together.
Requires players to have agreeable timezones/scheduling.
Does not scale well with more players.

The posts two or more players make are conjoined with direct interaction, over a chat program or pad, and edited for readability and punctuation. In this way, these collections of players can rapidly produce a very complex scene, or very personal interactions. These are often very intimate and emotional moments in roleplay. This makes them suitable for the prologues of plots, as they can afford to be detailed to set the scene and tone.

Joined Posts require the participating players to organise a scheduling arrangement to meet up and write together. An agreeable timezone arrangement helps immensely, but it is not unheard of for players from different timezones to make do. Otherwise, leaving replies on a pad until to work asynchronously until completion is possible.

Sequential Post

Players: 2 to 12
Requires: Forum account, Wiki access/account
Optional: Chat program7), as there is usually an OOC thread for discussion.
++ Format lends itself well to long term, episodic plots.
++ Asynchronous posting playerbase possible.
++ Possible for new players to join and begin participating quickly.
!! Run and told by a Game Master/Storyteller
!! GM acts, posts non-player character actions and events
then players react reply with character actions and dialogue.
Possible for players to drop out unexpectedly.
Lots of players can mean lots of work for a Game Master.

Posts which come one after another and contain only a single player and their characters. In this way, players who can't normally be online at the same time can post and then have others see their post and respond. More public and less intimate, sequential posts are ideal for moving something forward for players with busy schedules or different timezones. Sequential Post plots generally follow a format:

  1. Game Master makes a post with events and non-player character actions.
    • This includes the introduction, which draws player characters together and sets the scene.
  2. Players post their character's responses to the above, and to other characters.
  3. Game Master reads player responses, dictates their outcomes with further events and non-player actions.
  4. Repeat until suitable conclusion is reached. Then, start another episode.

No matter what happens though, the Players and Game Master generally have a vested interest to enjoy what they are doing together.

Messages

Players: 1 or more
Requires: Forum account, Wiki access/account
Can behave similarly to Joined or Sequential Posts
++ Ideal for news broadcasts, announcements, social networking, and trade conducted in-character.
++ Asynchronous of plot, and can be used for plot devices.
?? Basically, a forum within a forum, if that makes sense.

Messages are communications made in character, which can be result of or a cause for a plot. They can be written by one person representing an organisation, company, or character; But messages can also behave as Joined Posts or Sequential Posts are described above for social interactions or trade. Messages which can appear in Wandering Star Online can include, but are not limited to:

  • Broadcasts from news networks
  • Announcements from government, territory, or local agencies
  • A character's actions on a social media network
  • A phone call made outside of a plot
  • A private bulletin or edict within an organisation
  • The outcome of a game played between friends
  • Advertising material or promotions
  • The contents of a document or in-character book
  • A television show or an excerpt from a movie
  • A distress signal
  • Job openings
  • Government propaganda
  • An interaction with a government agency
  • Trade, such as between a character and a vendor, an auction, or offers to sell goods and services locally
  • Strange sounding alien gibberish from an unknown source

How to Start a Plot

“Shall I project a world?”
- Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

To get a plot started, Wandering Star has a place which acts as a rallying call and springboard: The Roleplay Request forum. A game master, storyteller, or player posts a thread which acts as a pitch, a summary of what their plot will involve doing or conveying, and most importantly: Looking for other players to join in.

Players then reply with their interest, bring forward character ideas, and ask questions. It is possible for the planning and brainstorming to take place beyond the thread, such as in a chatroom like Wandering Star's Discord. While this is happening, the would-be Game Master constructs a plot page, and adds it to the Active Plots. Throughout the writing and pitching process, the aspirant Game Master has support and resources from the community and the administrators.

Once the Game Master and/or players signal they are ready to start, the Game Master/Players work on an introduction post, placing it in the Side Stories forum. The first of these post may be written ahead of time by the GM to get it just right. The post's topic string has a [Plot Nametag] to distinguish which plot it is, and a name for the story within that plot. It is written as [Plot Nametag] - Story Name.

This prologue post acts as the beginning of the sequence of events of a given sub-story within the setting and can be thought of an Episode. Following the first episode or prologue of content, the story can be given a sub-forum, which can be thought of as a show or adventure within the setting. An OOC thread may be made and stickied by the Game Master8) for the purposes of sharing or specific information or for player chat.

After that, it's just a matter of making more episodes until the plot reaches a suitable finish. Completed or inactive stories may request to be archived by Game Master or players.

It really seems to me that in the midst of great tragedy, there is always the possibility that something terribly funny will happen.
- Philip K. Dick
1)
Hopefully defictionalised one day.
2)
But for them, it was probably Tuesday.
3)
Humans visit aliens, in turn.
4)
Also called a Storyteller.
5)
Wandering Star Online recommends using PublishWith.me.
6) , 7)
Wandering Star has a Discord Server. Join up today, and introduce yourself!
8)
Who is granted moderator privileges for the new forum, as part of becoming a Game Master.