Psinaut – A Savage Worlds Adventure Edition JumpStart
By Ian Eller, Developer
In a world where we are perpetually exposed to creative media, where every person has the tools to become an author, filmmaker, musician or artist, it can feel like there is a lot of pressure to create something new. Not just new, but unique, heretofore unknown and, what’s more, never yet conceived.
This is, of course, impossible. It is also not particularly desirable, especially as it relates to tabletop roleplaying game writing and design.
Of course we don’t want to simply rehash what has come before, and of course we want to create a thing that makes people take notice. And certainly there are tabletop RPGs that really do invent something new, some system or setting or concept that really shines and influences what follows for decades to come. After all, Dungeons and Dragons, in 1974, was a revolutionary idea, wasn’t it?
Well, yes and no. Like almost all good ideas, it was a combination of things that had been happening already. It was a marriage between bringing miniatures gameplay down to the individual hero level mixed with the sudden resurgence of interest in heroic and high fantasy. That game was new and it was unique, but it did not appear from whole cloth. No really good idea does.
What does this have to do with PSINAUT, you may be wondering. The answer is pretty straight forward: PSINAUT is not a new idea or a revolutionary design or a unique setting in the landscape of science fiction. More importantly, it was never meant to be. PSINAUT is Sigil’s take on a tried and true genre — military space opera — married to the newest edition of the Savage Worlds game engine. Like D&D at the dawn of our hobby and nearly everything to come between then and now, PSINAUT is a combination of the familiar in ways that create something new.
When we sat down to figure out what to do to support the Savage Worlds Adventurer Edition, we went through a lot of concepts. Some were out there, really special and unexpected ideas, and some were comfortable and familiar like a beloved pair of sneakers. In the coming months you will see a lot of those ideas in the pages of THE SAVAGE SIGN. But in the end, for the first outing as a Jumpstart connected to the SWADE Kickstarter, we settled on PSINAUT.
PSINAUT is, as stated, military space opera. It has soldiers and specialists traveling faster than light between star systems, fighting rival soldiers and aliens. There are special powers, psionic talents honed with years of training, and special gear, arms and armor that weaponize those talents. There are massive alien war machines, left over by a billion year gone hyper advanced race, over which half the universe fights and from which the other half hides. There are planetary governments and interstellar corporations and criminal cartels and plucky spaceships with grizzled crews. None of these parts are unique to PSINAUT, and I don’t expect you felt a wave of wonder and surprise reading that ingredients list.
But here is the thing about creating game worlds: making them familiar, giving players something easy to understand, is a feature rather than a bug. Roleplaying games essentially exist as storytelling facilitators. The nature of those stories varies from group to group — some groups like something well crafted and tightly plotted while other groups prefer an emergent, chaotic narrative ruled by dice — but in the end we all want to walk away from the table, kick back with a tasty beverage, and recount the session’s events with passion. Tropes, archetypes and yes even cliches help us do that. By utilizing those known factors, we can draw participants into the overall setting and narrative situation quickly and easily, giving players and GMs alike strong footing and a shared language for their storytelling. In addition, by relying on expectations, we can sometimes subvert those expectations for dramatic effect.
PSINAUT does indeed contain a lot of familiar elements, but like all good RPG settings it is more than the sum of its parts. We weave those elements together to create universe that has a lot of stories to tell — for YOU to tell — while also providing you a scaffold on which to hang those stories and simultaneously getting out of the way. There are unique, strange and surprising aspects to PSINAUT, but by embedding those things in well trod ground, it makes the excavation of them that much more satisfying.
A lot of what has been said here about PSINAUT is true of a good number of the Savage Worlds setting we will be bringing you in THE SAVAGE SIGN. Not all, of course — we have some weird stuff, some experimental stuff, and some surprising stuff in store for you, too — but we know sometimes it is nice to sit down at the table and know what the broad strokes of the setting, genre and atmosphere are. Whether it is long lived elves or greedy future corporations or dark clad vigilantes, tropes serve a purpose in media and at the table.
Just don’t get too comfortable: no matter how well traveled the road, there’s likely to be unexpected potholes.
Sigil in 2018!
We’ve had a busy 2018 so far, can’t believe it’s almost April. We started things off fulfilling our first kickstarter, the Classic Horror Deck. We had a great time working on it and have another deck in the works for Jason A. Engle’s Mausolea.
We’ve also been hard at work finishing off the last of Pinnacle’s Flash Gordon kickstarter and it’s been a blast! Sigil contributed art direction, illustration, graphic design, maps, layout and more. Here are a couple of amazing covers by Aaron Riley.
We’re dipping our toe into publishing this year! We’re working on some Dungeon Masters Guild material, a line of Starfinder compatible products, and some Storytellers Vault books. Here’s the cover for our first book, coming soon!
We’re working on a few more projects we can’t share just yet, but we’ll have more for you soon!