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Ringworld: Roleplaying Adventure Beneath the Great Arch

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I'm happy to have the boxset and the companion book; even got to play in one or two adventures back in the day. 

I've thought about running a short Ringworld campaign now and again, but given the insane size of Ringworld?  You'd have to have something closer to a railroad set up for the Players.  A focused campaign where you pretty much control where the PCs will go and what they'll see.  You can't just let them roam free and drop in at random places on the Ring.  Though if you had a list of mini-adventures, you could let them play explorers and decide what they find as they land here and there.  A bit like exploring a Fringeworthy portal platform and the alternate rings found there.  A one-shot with a party of Kzinti would be fun, right? 

Let us know if you move forward with a Ringworld campaign.  I'd love to hear about it. 

Edited by ORtrail
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A focused campaign where you pretty much control where the PCs will go and what they'll see.  You can't just let them roam free and drop in at random places on the Ring.

Agreed. Or you've gotta be a hot improv GM (which I'm not).

 

The PCs would have to be outsiders, or natives caught up in an outside plot. Otherwise the party won't get the Ring experience.

 

I would use a soft railroad plot that presents imperatives to travel around the Ringworld. Perhaps a pursuit of a villain or faction who are following their own plan.

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1 hour ago, Wayne's Books said:

The PCs would have to be outsiders, or natives caught up in an outside plot. Otherwise the party won't get the Ring experience.

I would use a soft railroad plot that presents imperatives to travel around the Ringworld. Perhaps a pursuit of a villain or faction who are following their own plan.

I never got my nascent Ringworld campaign off the ground back in the day, and I think you've all put your finger on where I had a disconnect -- I should've run it essentially the same as my very successful Traveller campaign.  The two games share at least one very important commonality (aside from shared source material) -- their settings are effectively without boundaries, geographically, technologically and topically.  It's far more Star Trek than Star Wars.  The "soft railroad' was exactly the approach that I used with Traveller -- set a general, overarching goal to put them on a path through an open-ended map, then the players plot their own course through it.  Occasionally the GM has to do a little improv to drop in scripted hooks to remind them of the eventual goal, which with Ringworld will almost always involve the structure of the Ring itself or the Engineers.

So, kind of ironically, the title "Ringworld" is a bit of a mislead.  It's a general science fiction RPG set in Niven's Known Universe, and the Ring is just the backdrop for virtually any kind of adventure you can imagine or desire.  It's almost too big to grasp, but so was Traveller.  You just pick the kind of adventure you want to run this week.

Further irony.  While I was struggling to understand how to put a Ringworld campaign together, I resorted to making creating conversion notes from Traveller to BRP, a framework I could wrap my head around.

!i!

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I ran a Star Trek campaign (Prime Directive by Task Force Games to be exact) and it was pretty painless.  Each adventure was the 'episode of the week' and with the structure of Star Fleet it was easy to send the PCs here or there as the adventure needed.  The players had no issues with being told they had to escort some alien ambassador to a conference and keep them alive before, during, and after.  Typical Star Fleet assignments. The expectations were baked into the setting.  In contrast, Ringworld just seemed wide open.  

Edited by ORtrail
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Not to be trite, but perhaps the more appropriate sci-fi media model for Ringworld (and Traveller, since I've been making that association), is neither Star Wars nor Star Trek, but Battlestar Galactica.  Overarching goal for the campaign (find "Earth"), but each game session or two is an "episode of the week," and at the end of the episode, another tantalising hint is dropped to keep the players on the path toward the final payoff.  In Ringworld, the default final goal is finding a means to safely escape the Ring, but whether or not you actually get to that point is almost inconsequential.  Almost.  It's the adventure along the way that counts.  Galactica never got to Earth*, the Enterprise never completed its 5-year mission (on screen, at least), but we still enjoy the sense of mission.

So, aside from escape, what's the mission for a Ringworld campaign?

!i!

[*Yes, yes, but let's not talk about Galactica 1980.)

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Really anything that gets the party to hop around the Ring works for me. So the players need a motive. And transport, but not transport so good they leave -or- their motive is so compelling that they stay.

One thought that comes to mind is running down an interstellar terrorist/political faction that is using the Ring as the Universe's biggest hidey-hole and resource mine. The terrorists are using resources/technology scattered around the Ring making their activities around Known Space particularly dangerous. Adventures include investigation, dealing with natives co-opted by the terrorist faction, finding/capturing/killing particularly dangerous members, and halting their depredations threatening locals.

And since this is an RPG adventure, you gotta include treasure and tangential side treks.

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2 hours ago, Wayne's Books said:

Really anything that gets the party to hop around the Ring works for me. So the players need a motive. And transport, but not transport so good they leave -or- their motive is so compelling that they stay.

Allow me to humbly submit, the Landmaster.  Either that, or the Ark II, if you're not concerned about going off-road.  Ha.

If a terrorist faction (or freedom-fighters -- let's be fair to potential historical outcomes) has figured out a way of getting on and off the Ring without being obliterated by the automated asteroid defense system, that'd be a plot lure in and of itself.  Actually, one could even co-opt the 1950s movie and '60s cartoon Journey to the Center of the Earth, with a race between rival factions to reach a McGuffin then get off safely.

!i!

Edited by Ian Absentia
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Oh yeah, trying to find someone or something in that Ringworld haystack could be the basis of a really long campaign. 

There was a Ringworld module in Different Worlds issue 37 (Luis Wu & His Motley Crew) that followed up on the ending of The Ringworld Engineers.  They are sailing around exploring in an old Kzinti colony ship (a sailing vessel).  When it can take several YEARS of sailing just to reach a new planet map, you have few worries as a GM about the players catching you without some prep work being done.  Marooned on Ringworld would probably make for a better mini-campaign though. 

In line with the Battlestar Galactica suggestion, having to escort several thousand survivors of some disaster to a new homeland on Ringworld would also  work.  Not every area is created equal, but almost all the really good spots are already taken.  It could make for a nice blend of combat and diplomacy.  A campaign inspired by The March of the Ten Thousand by Xenophon, as the remnants of an expeditionary force march to an extraction point, would be fun too.  The PCs would be the recon team helping to find a path forward. 

One more thought, since we are dealing with Chaosium and BRP rules, you might as well have Ringworld overrun by elements of the Cthulhu Mythos, right? All the heavy lifting of converting game rules to the setting is done. 

Edited by ORtrail
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The mechanics of Ringworld were good, but I found the setting far too vast to be of any use to me. I prefer more focused settings.

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On 10/29/2019 at 2:18 PM, ORtrail said:

One more thought, since we are dealing with Chaosium and BRP rules, you might as well have Ringworld overrun by elements of the Cthulhu Mythos, right? All the heavy lifting of converting game rules to the setting is done. 

And thus we arrive at Cthulhu Rising -- essentially the Ringworld mechanics and the Traveller character concepts, married under the hallowed arch of the Cthulhu Mythos.  There was an excellent interstellar marines supplement for it that was so derivative of Book 4: Mercenary, Aliens, and Halo it seems to have been run off the Internet for IP infringement.  Bonus points for anyone who can find it again.

Simon's comment above gets at the central frustration we've been voicing -- that the game as presented gave players an impossibly huge map and little to no focus.  Were there to be any scenarios published for it, I'd like to see mini-campaigns set in virtually any corner of Niven's Known Space, not just the beneath the Great Arch.

!i!

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Very true. I've learned that I need tight parameters for my creativity, and the Ringworld campaign setting.

Right now, I'm reading the Ringworld novel (Larry Niven) for the first time since my teens. A fun read. I was concerned after first reading Neutron Star (Known Space short stories), and some of the fiction in there didn't catch my interest.

But, back to Ringworld, the book itself is a focused exploration (at least thus far) of Known Space and the Ringworld. The protagonists remind me a lot of a RPG party.

So the book itself offers a template for a focused Ringworld campaign. If my interest continues, I'll have to continue on to the other books, which I've never read.

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19 hours ago, soltakss said:

The mechanics of Ringworld were good, but I found the setting far too vast to be of any use to me. I prefer more focused settings.

And it was also something of a departure for old Chaosium, too. Their typical campaign packs would focus on some area in detail and really flesh the whole thing out so that a GM could develop it into a campaign. For example, RQ2's Borderlands not only came with seven adventures in the set (as opposed to the usual one, or, in the case of a series of modules 3-4), but it also gave the GM so many characters and situations to work with that he could easily expand it into many more adventures.

Ringworld, on the other hand, had to try and cram in a lot of "big Picture" information on not only the RingWorld itself but enough of Niven's Known Space to make the setting playable. So the setting wasn't fleshed out to the same small scale degree that a typical RQ or CoC gamebook would have had at the time. In fact, I think if you look over what things really worked for Chasoium and what didn't, you'll see a pattern of the more detailed regional/local stuff doing better than the more generic/wide scale approach. Hence RQ Glorantha was more successful than generic RQ. CoC with it's detailed. mostly real world,  New England town settings, tended to go over better than Stormbringer did, with it's description of the Young Kingdoms all short treatments,  that fit onto a couple of pages (at least initially). Of course in Chasoium defense reguard liscened properties, it is often hard to flesh out such setting without altering of expanding upon the information given. CoC benefited from just layering on Lovecraftian Horror onto a real world setting. 

 Ringworld didn't really play to Chaosium's strengths. Now had it been followed up with some sort of campaign setting, say a colony or outpost with various factions and problems, and several short adventures, similar to how Borderlands had set up, it probably would have done better. But adventures are the lifeblood of RPGs and no adventures pretty much dooms an RPG. 

I remember thinking that I really needed to read more of Niven's books before I could run the setting properly. 

 

Edited by Atgxtg
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2 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

I remember thinking that I really needed to read more of Niven's books before I could run the setting properly. 

I remember thinking that I wasn't interested in reading the Ringworld Books, if they were anything like the setting.

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1 hour ago, soltakss said:

I remember thinking that I wasn't interested in reading the Ringworld Books, if they were anything like the setting.

I know what you mean. I think it comes down to the fanbase and target audience. With Strombringer, they had FRPGers and Moorcock fans as the target audience, and, at the time Moorcock was a very popular author in Fantasy cricles, and a lot of FRPGers were fans of his work. With Ringworld, I think the target audience wasn't quite there. Not as many Known Space fans were RPGers.

With me, I knew a bit about Ringworld and Known Space, mostly due to the Kzinti, but I had already read some Elric books before I bought Stormbringer, and was somewhat familiar with the legends of King Arthur before I bought Pendragon. That gave me a bit of a leg to stand on with the RPGs. 

CoC benefited from Lovecraft's status in the horror genre, plus the fact that when it came out it was the only horror RPG out there. Ringworld had to compete with Traveller, Space Opera, Star Trek, and a handful of other Sci-Fi RPGs. Plus it really didn't cover tech as well as most other Sci-Fi RPGs, probably because the rules were adapted from a fantasy game. 

But of course I'm benefiting from hindsight. Just like I could say that RQ2's Questworld was a wasted effort, as RQ2 would soon be defunct and the Avalon Hill deal would pretty much kill the idea of an alternate to Glorantha that would be open to other authors. Questworld seemed like a great idea back when it came out, and the concept had a lot of possibilities. But once RQ went to Avalon Hill there was no chance of Questworld being filled out out by fan submitted ideas. They had a hard enough time just keeping Fantasy Earth and RQ3 Glorantha stuff coming. But again, that is looking back in hindsight.

I'm sure if Chaosium knew how some thing were going to play out they would have  handled Ringworld differently. Either they would have given it better support, or avoided it in favor of some other project. In the end Ringworld turned out to be a nice idea for a RPG that probably bit off more than it could chew. At least with the intial boxed set.

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'Ringworld' is quite dull. 'Ringworld Engineers' is excellent. The rest of the books? Not very good.

Quote

Simon's comment above gets at the central frustration we've been voicing -- that the game as presented gave players an impossibly huge map and little to no focus.  Were there to be any scenarios published for it, I'd like to see mini-campaigns set in virtually any corner of Niven's Known Space, not just the beneath the Great Arch.

Chaosium planned a full campaign pack called 'The City in the Jungle' which was designed to do provide a detailed and compelling society, with a problem to fix, that would keep the characters grounded for quite a while (I contributed a chunk called 'Ghosts in the Machine' - the titled got repurposed for a Stormbringer scenario published in Rogue Mistress), so the issues with the setting had already been anticipated. Essentially, you need to completely strand the characters, and have them spend a long time building the ability to move any kind of great distance, all the while uncovering more of the Ring's secrets as you go.

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Yeah , that would have worked, and sounds just like something Chasoium would have done back then. It would have played to all their strengths.. I take it something  prevented 'The City in the Jungle' from happening?

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2 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Yeah , that would have worked, and sounds just like something Chasoium would have done back then. It would have played to all their strengths.. I take it something  prevented 'The City in the Jungle' from happening?

 

Probably some of the events in the RPG industry you mentioned in your earlier post, and maybe lacklustre sales of the game.

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I liked the initial novel but felt that all the sex scenes really slowed it down.  It was if it needed a disclaimer, "We interrupt our fascinating science fiction action for yet another round of gratuitous hanky panky."  I thought the setting was interesting but I agree it was a bit broad for a RPG.  Literally anything could lurk around the next bend, from an alien civilization to Ma and Pa Kettle.

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I'd also point out that many RPG gamers were fairly young back when Ringworld released, and learning to run a cohesive campaign outside of some fantasy world (where pretty much anything goes) took time to develop.  Add in the lack of a robust internet and the resources that come with that, and an RPG that is supposed to be based on hard sci-fi?  A big ask for teenagers to manage. 

Also, the stranding of the player characters seems almost mandatory.  In Star Trek they players have Starfleet and orders to keep them around when the sensible thing is just to beam up and head out of the current star system when things start to go south.  With Ringworld, just fly a few degrees spinward and you have a fresh start.

Which is to say, I think I could pull off a Ringworld mini-campaign now, but I'd have to go back and re-read the source material (I never got around to reading the last Ringworld novel for example) and decide what kind of campaign I wanted to run. 

Edited by ORtrail
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19 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Yeah , that would have worked, and sounds just like something Chasoium would have done back then. It would have played to all their strengths.. I take it something  prevented 'The City in the Jungle' from happening?

See Loz’s post in this thread back in 2008:

cheers,

Nick

Edited by NickMiddleton
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Ah so basically Niven's agent didn't allow Chaosium to hold onto the rights long enough to develop a product line. That makes a lot of sense -especially back kin the 80s, when non-RPGers didn't understand how RPGs work, and the amount of detail and story plotting needed to make them work. . 

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Another supplement would have been so nice, lowering the bar to starting a Ringworld campaign.  I've done some online searches for Ringworld resources/campaigns and most seem to date back to around 1999-2004.  Nothing really active, but if anyone has a nice resource feel free to post it. 

What would it take to revive interest in Ringworld?  Announcing a movie or streaming service TV series would certainly help, but some company would need to develop another RPG to go along with that.  Just the rights to create another Ringworld RPG would be a big risk without something to raise awareness of Ringworld compared to its heyday back in the early 80's when it was pretty much mandatory reading for sci-fi fans.  A Kickstarter campaign might mitigate that risk though, and maybe Ringworld is still fairly well known among the millennial crowd?

Speaking of reading though, I sorted through my paperback books and found I had more Know Space books than I remembered.  The first three Ringworld books, volumes II-VI of the Man-Kzin Wars, Flatlander, Crashlander, Tales of Known Space (a great title for a more comprehensive Niven-based RPG), Protector, and World of Ptavvs.  I also had a copy of the Oct/Nov 1995 Omni Comics issue that included a story based on The Ringworld Throne.  I'm still trying to dig that issue out from where ever it was stored. 

Edited by ORtrail
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As an avid Known Space fan I ran Ringworld adventures in the 1990s. Having cut my teeth on Traveller, I realised quickly that it had the same problems - rather the 11000 worlds of the Imperium, it had the surface area of 3 million Earths plus known space. The obvious thing to do was to not use the ring and just use Known Space. So I ran a campaign set on Earth and the known worlds in a game of ARM based espionage, corporate malpractice and Kzinti foolishness. It went really well and I didn't miss using the ring at all.

Having just re-read the five Fleet of Worlds prequels (I enjoyed them, your enjoyment may vary), I'd certainly run a game based on humans on one of the Fleet farming worlds discovering their heritage.

There's still a ringworld mailing list going since 2003,  isn't so active (last was a month or so ago) but I still get stuff from time-to-time:

RingworldRPG@yahoogroups.co.uk

ringworldrpg-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk

ringworldrpg-owner@yahoogroups.co.uk

and you might not have seen this:

https://www.dennisantinori.com/Ringworld/

 

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