The Guide Book is for the Guide of your table, which is referred to as a dungeon master in other popular titles. This section assumes that you’re already familiar with the player sections. If you’re a player or need a refresher, we suggest you start here.
How To Guide The Galaxy
Being a Guide means taking up a pretty large role. You not only have to know what your players can do, but you have to build the literal universe around them! You need to know what their ship can do, what enemies they might come across, what adventures they might have, and so on. All of this can be pretty overwhelming, however rewarding it may be.
This section is designed to help you figure out what you need to make decisions as the Guide. It broaches difficult topics within the game universe as well as more mundane ones. It also talks a little bit about the ideas behind some of the systems that you have already read about. Remember: as Guide, your rule is law – you can supersede any and all of these rules, though try to keep consistent for your player’s sake!
Players and Player Characters
Abide Asteria is a bit of a paradox when it comes to character strength. It allows players to feel both strong (when that chain of card hits just right!) or weak (when they can’t draw anything higher than a two and their armor failed before they got to move). While there is strategy involved, it’s important to not discount the random element of the game too – sometimes it’s just not in the cards for something to happen, and encourage levity and lightheartedness when the cards fail to fall into place. Still, more than strategy is on the player’s side because most NPCs actually function differently than players do. More details on that in a moment.
Still, know your characters’ strengths and play to them when you are planning out their adventures. If you notice your friends have dumped all their points into ranged weapons, throw them into combats they can make use of them, or if they’re really good at repair, have their ship break down at a critical moment so they can save the day. While NPCs don’t usually have stat sheets to keep track of, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider what might actually challenge your group and plan accordingly.
While acting as Guide, you are the one creating the universe, be careful you don’t forget that it isn’t your universe alone. Your players might get attached to the characters and stories you help to spin for them, and they might even give you story ideas they want to see happen; if so, leverage their help! It’s hard being a Guide. If they go down in combat, you should be careful about declaring an end to those characters. The lore (see the following section of this handbook) gives reasons why they might be tougher than most life today, or why the ship doesn’t easily explode – so just because they have a hole in their gut doesn’t mean it’s the end for them. On the other hand, though, if their deaths were entirely their fault, don’t hesitate to punish them, even including character death – your universe has laws: what matters is that everyone follows them.
One of the goals of Abide Asteria was to create a simplified system so that seasoned and novice Guides don’t have to stress too much about NPC generation. Coming from other TTRPGs, you might be worried about keeping lists of huge stat blocks for mobs, knowing their special abilities, and so on – and while nothing prevents you from adding or doing just that, your typical NPC is much simpler and broken into a few categories: Mooks, Henchmen, Villains, and Antagonists.
Mooks are low-level fodder and great for starting out. Mooks don’t take card damage like players do. Instead, once they take 5 points of damage, they’re done. You can also play variant where they are armored, and simply don’t go down until they are hit with a play of damage higher than 5. They are assumed to have Trained skill in 1-3 skills, usually related to whatever nefarious purpose they have been designed for, and Unskilled in everything other than magic, which is natural blocked as normal. For example, a combat Mook might be Trained in melee weapons, but would be Unskilled in Hacking. Their hand is usually 3-4 cards, or for easier Mooks, just draw from the top of the deck and play that for whatever skill they are attempting.
Henchmen are the next step up. Henchmen take damage as Mooks do, but can take 10 damage before going down. They have a hand of 4 cards, and are Advance Trained in 1-3 skills, much like Mooks. They are also considered to have Trained in most other non-magic skills. As before, play from top of the deck if you want easier Henchmen.
Villains are the last level of ‘easy’ NPC. Villains can take between 20 and 30 points of damage before falling depending on what difficulty you want them to be, and are Skilled in one skill, Adv. Trained in three more, and Trained in everything non-magic. They have a 6-card hand. Note that in all of these cases, you don’t need to write out ahead of time what these skills they’re trained or skilled in are – just have them apply to whatever you want them to be good at, and keep track as you go.
Antagonists function essentially the same as PCs do. Antagonists, as might be guessed from the name, are best when they are reoccurring characters who challenge the party – this isn’t always in combat, of course: it could be they want the same item the party is after, or they upstage the party in front of their employers, and so on. They have levels, max hand sizes, equipment, even exploits if you want. When you do prep work ahead of a game, make time to flesh these characters out, both in terms of stats and in terms of character and motivation!
Once you have your Mooks, you can give them a piece of gear or two if you like, though that might lead to some complications (see Looting later in this section). Still, equipment is the easiest way to modify your no-name mooks and villains. You can also scale up how much damage they take, or what they can do if you need greater challenge for a higher-level party.
Random Character/Event Creation
Another system that could make it easier for you to Guide is to use the Cards themselves to hint what happens next. It’s simple on the surface: draw a card, and use the suit and number to give you an idea about what might happen next. You might recall that suits are linked to certain skill groups – Spades to combat skills, Clubs to tech and repair skills, Hearts to piloting and charisma skills, and Diamonds to magic skills. You can use these to help you generate random challenges or encounters for your group. The value can help you determine the difficulty or number of people in the challenge. Say for instance you draw a five of Spade – maybe 5 Mooks decide to start a fight with your group. Or you draw a two of Clubs, and a minor system gets shot and needs to be repaired. Maybe you draw hearts and just find someone famous to chat with, or diamonds and meet a traveling wizard. Diamonds might be the hardest to come up with, but it can always be that someone has a tip about some rare artifact or strange out of place object, like ruins from a potential Asteria-native species.
You can do this to generate antagonists too, but the most memorable ones you make will be the ones you spend time on. Still, every gang needs its boss so pull a card to suggest their skill set and level, and then go from there.
Finally, you can apply the same idea to mission generation. More on what missions are in a moment, but by drawing your card you can gauge what kind of mission your players could do and the level of challenge. Spades are fighting or defending missions, bounties and the like. Clubs would be technology related, either protecting, refining, or repairing. Hearts could be a VIP transport, or a dangerous flight through difficult space. Diamonds could be the ruins mentioned above, old artifacts, or something magic or religion related.
Missions, Payouts, Experience
In other TTRPGs, missions would be called Quests. While some players might be rearing to go explore space and begin their life of roguishly handsome smuggling, not everyone will come with a clear goal in mind, and even those who do will need some place to generate their money. While some may be content to be moisture farmers, most players do not go into space looking for a boring job to do! Thus, it is necessary for there to be missions the player can accomplish for other entities, whether they are corporations, governments, or private individuals.
While a seedy space bar might be a good place to go searching for some missions, it isn’t the only way, and might not even be the most efficient. In Asteria’s lore, you’ll discover that most civilized space is broken into Local Groups of systems, most of which is known as Core Space, and that both Liberators (a sort of UN police force) and local governments hold jurisdiction throughout these. By this point, public terminals are pretty standard everywhere, and it would be highly likely to just log in to what amounts to a bulletin board and find your missions, posted by any of the aforementioned groups. You can use random generation to fill out the board, or limit choices to send your player onto the mission you want them to take, but regardless of how, this is an easy means for any group to find a mission.
So, what’s a mission? Well, it’s whatever you want it to be. You can handcraft each part if you like, or just let the cards and RP take you where they will. Anything that would be suitable for a space setting words: hauling cargo through space, fighting off pirates or other threats, exploring ancient forgotten ruins, helping to terraform or colonize new worlds, recover stolen goods, salvage damaged ships drifting in space – all of these and more are great adventures for your players to go deal with for their employers. The hard part is figuring out the payout.
|Exp Needed To Level||Total SC Earned|
|Level 2 – 10 Exp||100,000sc|
|Level 3 – 20 Exp||200,000sc|
|Level 4 – 40 Exp||400,000sc|
|Level 5 – 80 Exp||800,000sc|
|Level 6 – 160 Exp||1,600,000sc|
|Level 7 – 320 Exp||3,200,000sc|
|Level 8 – 640 Exp||6,400,000sc|
|Level 9 – 1280 Exp||12,800,000sc|
|Level 10 – 2560 Exp||25,600,000sc|
|Level 11 – 5120 Exp||51,120,000sc|
|Level 12 – 10240 Exp||102,400,000sc|
|Level 13 – 20480 Exp||204,800,000sc|
|Level 14 – 40960 Exp||409,600,000sc|
|Level 15 – 81920 Exp||819,200,000sc|
In order to figure out how much money to pay your group, you should take into consideration how leveling works and how the mission payout system works. First, direct your attention to the chart: You’ll notice that every 10,000 SC that is rewarded to the party, the characters receive 1 point of XP. It also is pretty obvious how the system scales – every level requires double the money/experience to reach the next. You can continue this chart ad infinitum if you like, but the game system was not designed to go well above 15 – and by that point, your players would need 1.6384 billion SC – each of them could have a small empire of fleets with that cash. Regardless, how much money you want them to have is also the same as asking what level do you want them to be – so if you want the game to be smaller scale and low level, don’t pay them much, or if you want them to level, have them find difficult jobs to somehow pull off.
Note that the Backgrounds also have a modifier to their mission payout. This means two things for you: first, that you may need to encourage your players to share and spend their money wisely, and that two, they are spending their money which means you need to track their XP. The money/skill dichotomy exists to help keep the game balanced. Rich players can get items to help supplement their lack of skills, or help the party by making sure they have the best gear they can to do their job. Groups might also pool their money together to get a ship or other big purchase. Try to listen for things that the group wants or needs – if they’re eying the latest Elgar tech, you can speed some mission pay their way. Don’t forget that you should be the one to track their XP. Since you give mission payouts, you have total control over it after all – with a few possible exceptions. See the looting section below.
How hard something should be is one of the hardest parts to get right as a Guide. While level of NPC is one way of modifying difficulty, it certainly isn’t the only one, or even the most common. Instead, most skills are checked against a ‘Difficulty Threshold,’ or to put it more simply, how many points a player needs to play in order to succeed at the task they are doing. We’ve created a handy reference chart to give you a sense of how hard or easy a check might be – but remember to try your best to give them checks they can succeed on, at least potentially. If you give your players an Expert level Hacking problem, and their hacker is only trained with basic gear, you are setting them up to fail – and while that might be the point on occasion, don’t over-rely on this! By the way: don’t tell the player the number, though you can give vague hints about it such as this is a very difficult challenge. It not only makes it more immersive, it also helps to keep the strategic element in the game.
A note on the chart. While a lot of skills are assumed to work out of combat without needing plays, sometimes you can ask players to play cards outside of a Distress. It’s recommended that you reduce the check by 3-5 points when outside of a Distress, though – after all, it’s much easier to do something when you aren’t getting shot at!
|Trivial – 5||Very Hard – 18||Dragon Like – 40|
|Easy – 7||Challenging – 20||Impressive – 45|
|Moderate – 10||Expert – 25||Most Impressive – 50|
|Difficult – 12||Master – 30||Legendary – 51+|
|Hard – 15||Monstrous – 35||–|
Signs and Natural Recovery
A small system that you are responsible for is the Signs. At the start of every combat round, draw a card and lay it face down. The suit of the drawn card is the sign for the round. When this matches the sign of the character (chosen at creation) and is equal to or lower than their level, they recover one card of damage, which is a nice bonus. In times where there’s a pause between one Distress combat and another, Guides can keep pulling these cards periodically to help give their players a little boost if they got beat up. Remember that characters will automatically heal after 3 in-game hours when out of combat and when not suffering ongoing effects, so use this system only in combat.
You can also use signs to help you make some decisions. Say your player wants to do something reckless, but doesn’t require a skill check, like insulting that pirate captain’s mother. Obviously, the pirate captain could turn around and wipe the floor with the party and steal their valuables – but you draw a card and it’s the character’s sign – the captain might laugh it off, or really be wounded and leave, rather than fight. In other words, if you want to rule in favor of the players for their action, but want there to be some randomness, this is a useful way to add it.
Ships and Purchases
It is up to you whether or not the group should start with a ship. If they have a captain, they can afford a Pack-Rat or similar, certainly, but they still might not be able to purchase it if you want them to get stuck on-world for a while, or maybe it’s impounded by the local crime lord, or what have you. Ships represent the ultimate freedom of Abide Asteria and its universe of exploration, but all that space can be a huge double-edged sword too. New Guides or narrative-focused ones might want to limit players to controlled environments like planets where they can easily tell the story and know about the worlds without trying to figure out what’s in the next three star systems the group jumps to entirely at random.
The inverse is also true – you can just start them with one. No one said the group had to buy it themselves; maybe they work for a corporation or government that gives them a ship like modern day corporations have company cars. Or it could just be a reward in lieu of or in addition to a mission pay out. Or maybe they just upright steal one, though that’s a dangerous road to travel – see Dealing with the Illegal later in this section.
Regardless, at some point, players are going to want to spend their money. The most common example in Asteria’s lore of a place to do this would be Juniper Station. It has a sort of part-mall, part-bazaar in which traders and merchants come to sell their wares. Most purchases are done in person, since the way to transfer SC in lore is a handshake and an agreed upon number – the transaction is handled automatically by the biochip in most characters this way. That doesn’t mean tech isn’t and can’t be part of the purchasing process – most vendors have terminal readouts of their goods rather than necessarily hauling them to market, and holos of their goods, usually safe on their ships. Nulls, who lack this biochip, pose a bit of a problem, of course, but you can have it so that small purchases can be made through tech rather than biochip or, more commonly, using the hard currency known as HSC (details of this are found in the lore section of this handbook). Or, wiser still would have having someone else make the trade. Remember, though that the lore is what you make it – so you could have automated 3d printers that make items selected by an individual without any living interaction, or you could make it so everything had to be bought and installed for small fees and prices and each haggled along the way. Do what makes the most sense for your universe.
Magic And How It Ruins Everything
Magic, by definition, breaks the rules. In lore, it is described as literally changing reality around it, not to mention the fact it fries tech constantly. There are a lot of skills dedicated to magic – possibly, too many. And yet, it’s supposed to be extremely rare and barely ever encountered. Magic is a whole mess of paradox.
Players who gravitate towards magic will probably find all sorts of ways to bend and break the rules, but this shouldn’t be immediately discouraged. After all, that is the point of magic. Creative players can find ways of using illusions to hide groups or smuggled goods, take over the mind of enemy pilots to try to crash their ships, or most egregious of all, intentionally use the magical disruption of technology to their advantage. But creative players with the right skills can do the same with technology: they can disguise panels with the stealth skill, they can use hacking to take over a pilot’s ship console, and of course they could just launch an EMP. There is only one rule to keep in mind when it comes to magic-abusing players: is their fun interfering with everyone else’s fun? If the answer is yes, then you could consider intervening.
There are a few routes you can take should intervention become necessary. The harshest and most direct option would be banning magic altogether, but if it’s gotten to this point, that would probably ban an entire character and not be the best option. Still, if you’re afraid what magic can do to your game, or you just don’t want magic in your universe, it’s not that hard to remove. Magic and its magitek is fairly self-contained and can be shunted to the side if needed or wanted.
Another option would be to deal with it in game. Maybe they start attracting the attention of wizard hunters that hunt down dangerous magic users, maybe the enemies they come across have an abnormally strong affinity for grounding magic. Remember that Grounding is a hard counter to pretty much anything magical – all it takes is one trained Wizard to lock an entire area in a grounding field with their One Word, Magic ability and everything in the Diamond skill line instantly becomes next to useless. Or if you don’t want to be so obvious, increase the number of enemies who use mechanical weapons, like melee or gunpowder.
Probably the best option, though, is communication. Talk to the player about their character’s behavior, let them know how it makes you and the other players feel, and try to work with them to find ways that they don’t hog the spotlight or ruin everyone’s play session. Most players try to get along with each other and want everyone to have fun, so enlist them in helping the group achieve that. And if they don’t want to or take offense, maybe politely remand them to another group – one of the unspoken sections of the Guide’s role is mediator of group dynamics, and that might mean making some hard choices about who plays.
Your friend with slightly sketchy morals has just joined your game and has handed you his character sheet: a Null. You know where this is going – sooner or later, they’re going to try to go on a galactic crime-spree and possibly get the party killed. He’s already suggesting to the rest of the players they should form a ‘salvage’ outfit, where they go looking for lost ships that they can, somewhat legally, own – and probably from there it’ll escalate to pure pirating. Unfortunately, the game system expects you to use the mission payout system, which is filtered through the character’s money modifier – and the Null has the absolute worse and will always be broke. You know your acquisitive friend expects to get his character rich, so what do you do?
Even if on the right side of the law, looting is a time-honored tradition of tabletop games, and salvaging and reselling is a trope in sci-fi. Players will likely want to collect weapons and armor from enemies that shot at them, or take any rare and ancient tech from the long-forgotten cruiser floating in space. How each Guide handles this conundrum is up to them, but we offer three solutions below.
The first solution is to make the looting process part of the payout. Either include a static bonus for the looting action, not specifying too much of what they actually looted so you can keep it somewhat nebulous as to what its actual value is, so that when spoils are divided through the payout, no one knows what the actual price of the goods was. For most players, this will be enough, though they may want to find upgrades to their items this way, especially if playing a lower-income background. Be stingy about allowing this, as the purpose of keeping the payout system in place is to keep the game balanced for everyone; but do allow it once in a while, so that a small upgrade can be found and the player can feel the reward of finding it. Of course, this is not going to answer the scenario above: your Null friend won’t be rich and won’t be happy. So what else can we do?
The second solution is to allow looting, but to break it from the experience system. Since mission payouts are the only way to get experience, and looting isn’t a payout, it stands to reason they haven’t really learned anything from it. A galactic database tracking all purchases and production of items seems fairly incomprehensible to us, so maybe this is still true in the future, and your group can haul their ill-gotten gains to a local pawnshop and get half price for all the things they have no use for. This might imbalance the game somewhat, though, as players might have access to gear higher than expected for the challenges you’ve set in place – though that’s often just a matter of tweaking the numbers. This will make your Null friend happy, but it does break the spirit of the game somewhat, so what about our last option?
Solution three is a bit more dystopian, but can help keep the game slightly more balanced. Nulls are illegal, and so are a few other things mentioned in this handbook. Just having one in the party can fundamentally change the gameplay your team may experience; see the Dealing with the Illegal section later in this section. But you can also lean into that fact: perhaps there is a galactic database keeping tabs on every item ever created legally. This would make it virtually impossible to sell anything, but for a character like a Null, theft and salvage would make sense. They could use whatever they can find an upgrade for and leave the rest behind. Your Null friend would never become super wealthy, but he would be geared as though he was, and that might be enough to appease you both. And, since no money is being exchanged, there’s no experience gained either, so nothing needs to be altered with that system.
In reality, there’s no perfect solution to how to deal with looting, so check your party composition, consider how you want to handle loot, and stick to it. When it comes to immersion, consistency is the best policy of all.
Dealing With The Illegal
Space may be huge, but the places players tend to visit have people in them. And people arrange themselves into groups and tend to have laws and live in a society. But while most people are perfectly content to live in that society, some people are going to paint their faces white and put on a rictus grin and chase cars. So how do you deal with the illegal items, activities, and even backgrounds in this game?
As you’ll learn in the lore section of this handbook, much of the Asteria Galaxy goes unused and unexplored. It’s only been 500 years since everyone arrived, and while that’s enough to double or even quadruple the initial population approximately ten times, those who came to Asteria were relatively few in number. Planets take some time to terraform, there may have been a little squabbling as to who gets what, which group grows where, and so on. But most of the races of Asteria all grouped together and shared space, breaking up into mostly autonomous local groups fairly close to one another, somewhat near to the center of the galaxy. Except for a string of worlds on the way towards the edge of the galaxy that might have been colonized on the way in because they had the right conditions for life, most everyone is in Core Space. Core Space is settled territory, policed by both local governmental enforcement and Liberators, which answer to the galactic council. Crime is not easy in Core Space.
Naturally, then, most crime and illegal activity should be taking place in Fringe Space. This can be just outside of a local group, or several STS jumps away from a local group. Usually, Fringe Space is not entirely uninhabited; there may be a single illegal or pirate outpost, or it could even be a fairly large pirate empire, spanning multiple systems, either to control the rare material there or in some strange attempt to legitimize themselves as real galactic nations. Just as often, Fringe Space is inhabited by Core Space groups who are seeking some distant wealth, so there could be mining and trade outposts that are technically legal, but may still contain shady activity since they are so far from the protection of Core Space. Creating a safe haven or base of operations is probably a smart move for any team planning on walking the illegal side of Asteria.
But what happens in Core Space? Won’t they just scan the ship on the way in? Well, they might, if the place they’re heading to is particularly secure or paranoid. But there are ways around scans – hacking the incoming signal, lead-lining areas that look like they’re just panels and spare parts, and other smuggler’s tricks remain still effective into the future. Encourage creativity and thinking ahead for your pirate players – and be certain to punish mistakes for high-stakes escapes!
Of course, what happens if they get caught? Nulls are most susceptible to this problem, since all it takes is that forcible implantation of a biochip and they’re technically not a Null anymore. If you don’t want to have them escape, or they don’t want to, the simplest thing to do besides making a new character is to keep everything exactly the same, but remove the ‘illegal’ element. Confiscate equipment, take back stolen funds, and for Nulls, just make them legal – their SC modifier penalty is now paying for the expensive process of growing and implanting their biochip, but not having actually altered their experience with Street skills or their luck (exploits), at least to a degree. They could then be forced to work in Core Space to make up for their crimes until their debt to society is paid, or until they escape again.
As all things in Asteria, how you choose to build your universe will determine how your players interact with it, but also consider their wants and needs from the game. If they want to run illegal characters or augmentations or missions, let them – and make them aware of the dangers, consequences, and rewards for doing so.