Solo Tabletop RPG Review – Ironsworn: Starforged Part Two

Ironsworn: Starforged (Mophidius)
Written & Designed by Sean Tomkin
Art by Joshua Meehan, Jeff Zugale, and Sarah Dahlinger

You can purchase the game here

Read part one of this series here

In our last part, I did a brief overview of some of the differences between Ironsworn and Starforged that stood out to me and engaged in the worldbuilding process of getting our game set up. My particular take on Starforged is much more populated and inspired by the core science fiction tropes in film & television (Star Trek, Star Wars, Dune, Alien, Blade Runner, etc.). That’s a lot to take in, but as we create our character and hone in on their particular goal, there will be a lot of elements in this universe that don’t immediately touch on the type of story I’m attempting to tell. 

I used the fantastic online character sheet/campaign manager Stargazer to create my character. If you don’t need a printed physical page to write on, this is the most perfect thing you could ask for. The first step of character creation is to choose two Paths from the Assets. On a mechanical level, these work as additional Moves or augment existing Moves. They also flavor your character, pointing at the type of story you will pursue. For my character, I wanted to get from setting to setting and get rewarded for it, so I chose Navigator. This asset allows for some nice bumps to Momentum and strong hits with a match get ticks on the Discoveries legacy track. I also wanted my character involved in conspiracies and investigations, so Sleuth was my second Path. When making certain crimes the center of a vow, I don’t make them any more difficult than Formidable. When I Gather Information concerning these vows, I roll three Challenge Dice and pick the two that give me the most favorable outcome. However, if I roll a miss on Gather Information, the mystery goes deeper than I thought, and its difficulty gets bumped up a level, meaning the pursuit of that vow goes on for longer. 

The next step is to use these Paths and develop a backstory for the character. I wanted my character’s story to take place in United Planetary Alliance (UPA) space, my analog to the Federation in Star Trek. Attending Starforce academies is not necessarily mandatory but is something many people do when they are young. So my character attended but didn’t follow the officer’s Path. There will be plenty of other careers that branch out of this. Instead, my character went into analysis, particularly a sociological/anthropological path. One of the UPA’s core goals is the preservation of all cultures. The character’s father was a Starforce officer and was part of the effort to stabilize the Bamiri people after they were freed from subjugation under the Kreder Union. Many Bamiri refugees & speakers passed through the home during my character’s childhood, and they spent the last few years working to preserve Bamiri literature. This involved a lot of traveling as the Bamiri was split as a culture. 

He spent his time mostly studying in the Bamiri homelands and only a little in the diaspora. His brother, on the hand, became a Starforce officer and served aboard the ship designated The Da Silva when he died. This happened in a sector of space home to a large portion of the Bamiri diaspora, and the circumstances are strange. Nobody was recovered, so a memorial service was held without one. My character’s study of Bamiri traditions, while not his own, has emphasized to him the importance of the remains of the dead in grief. Starforce has also been strangely vague when pressed for details about the circumstances surrounding the death, which has caused my character to believe they are covering something up. The details of this will emerge more as we continue with character creation.

Next, we write our background vow, which seems easy enough: “I vow to learn the truth behind my brother’s death.” This is open enough to go in many different directions and aligns with my Sleuth path very strongly. 

Now it’s time to “board our starship.” In the same way, a college professor keeps that clunky Volvo running, I think of my character as having a similar non-flashy yet reliable ship. I perused r/imaginarystarships and found the image below from this post, and it felt perfect for my ship. I named it The Vigilant.

This is also where I got to pick an asset for my ship, and I went with Sensor Array. This lets me reroll one challenge die when I Undertake an Expedition. Then it’s about choosing one final asset. It can be another module for my ship, an additional Path, a companion, or something else. Finally, I chose a Research Lab for my ship, which provides a +1 when Securing an Advantage or Gathering Information in the context of experimentation or careful analysis. 

Then I took the stats array (3, 2, 2, 1, 1) and assigned them to character attributes. I went with Heart for my 3 as I envision this character as very passionate about the things and people he cares about. His whole vow shows his brother’s importance to him and makes sure his soul can move on. Going where this character is going, he’ll need NPCs that he can have strong bonds with because there will likely be many people he won’t be able to trust. Edge & Wits got my 2s, with Iron & Shadow taking the 1s. It made sense that his ability to be sneaky and stealthy was low, and that would also create some great dramatic moments where it doesn’t seem like he will get out of situations without being caught. He also doesn’t want to get into up-close physical confrontations, which is why Iron is low too.

And then, it was time to finalize the details. My character is Kei Becker. He’s a thoughtful academic, though disillusioned with the UPA a bit. Their efforts to support the Bamiri have been admirable, but they are also walking a diplomatic tightrope with the Kreder Union, meaning the Bamiri aren’t being aided that robustly. Kei also notices details that often get overlooked, and the details of the death of his brother don’t make sense. His brother, Tomo, died while on his first away mission. The Captain Selassie of The Da Silva has provided a report completely lacking in detail about who even killed Tomo or why there was an away mission in the first place. Kei has dropped his work restoring a Bamiri myth cycle to travel to the edge of UPA space to get to where Tomo died.

After the character is in place, it is time to create a starting sector for this adventure. I tweaked mine because my setting differs from the core book. For choosing the region, I used the three options (Terminus, Outlands, Expanse) as general themes. I wanted my starting sector to feel like Outlands, with signs of established settlements but spread out. This meant there would be three settlements. Then began a fun process of building each settlement through random rolls. The worldbuilding here is a game unto itself, with the oracles providing lots of fodder to get your imagination going.

This is my sector map when I finished my fourth and last session for this first round of play. As you can see location and characters are marked on the map with more details filled in through drop down menus on Stargazer.

Each settlement has the following aspects: Name, Location, Population, Authority, and 1-2 Settlement Projects. For any settlements located on or in the orbit of a Planet, you get to go through a series of roles to create those worlds, which is also a ton of fun, especially when you get elements that contradict each other. You have to work the brain to make sense of these things, and if you can do it, that leads to extraordinary alien environments. I also did the optional task of generating a Star to serve as the center of my sector. 

This story will begin in The Regulak Sector, on the fringes of UPA space, home to the Bamiri diaspora and bordering The Kreder Union. The first settlement, the one where this story will begin, is Glimmer. It’s orbital, embedded inside a massive asteroid that’s part of a chain. The planet it orbits is Orcus, a grave world devoid of life after a terrible catastrophe. Some say if you descend into the acid-rich atmosphere and turn on your ship comms, you can hear the whispers of the dead coming from the planet. Centuries earlier, Orcus was the site of a major mining disaster. The planet was rich in minerals that are processed to power the FTL drives used by most cultures in what is now UPA space. The Kreder Union was boosting production as their society was facing internal conflicts, and an accident caused a chain reaction that sundered Orcus down the middle. The minerals became exposed entirely, but millions were incinerated in the blast. About a decade after the Bamiri were liberated from Kreder’s control, the UPA built a mining operation to extract the exposed minerals. The Bamiri diaspora also saw Glimmer as an important place for them culturally & historically. They have established a strong presence in the settlement and have taken on the task of blessing the souls of each of their lost kin to help them transition into the next life. The population in Glimmer numbers in the tens of thousands as you have a mix of the religious (both residents & pilgrims), UPA administrative staff, mining contractors & their staff, the miners, the associated bureaucracy with any settlement, and all sorts of visitors both legit and suspect. 

Kei’s local connection on Glimmer is Astrid Sutton, a private investigator who contacted him about his brother. The Da Silva stopped at Glimmer before heading to Tomo’s final destination, the deep space station Lyra. Astrid has information but doesn’t trust even the encrypted channels to send it to Kei. She claims a battle for leadership is happening behind the scenes at Glimmer, and the UPA is losing its control. So Kei has to physically travel to Glimmer, and she has encoded disks she will give him that have some, but not all, the information that can help Kei understand what happened to Tomo. 

There has also been an influx of refugees flooding over the border from The Old Imperium. Empress Maharanee has issued an order to exterminate all members of The Celestial Order. This means the Calugar (Knights of the Order) and other people that are victims of the ongoing cruelty of the Imperium are fleeing. The UPA still needs to determine how they want to handle this; they face tensions with neighboring governments that could easily align themselves with the Imperium if things go badly.

And that is where we stop for today, Kei Becker aboard the Vigilant, coming out of lightspeed and about to fly into the bustling spaceport of Glimmer…

Read Part Three here.


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