Solo Skald |||

Starforged - Exploration Part 1

With our truths set up and the basics of the sector defined, we can go on to character creation. Expanding on what I said previously, I envision this character as a combination of scout and scholar, heading out into the void beyond human civilization to see things no one has seen before and learn things no one has known before.

Character Creation

Before we set out on our voyage, let’s build this character. We already have a decently-defined concept, so the first step is to choose a path.


To fit this concept, a few paths seem interesting. The book itself recommends the following:

  • Interstellar Scout: Explorer, Voidborn
  • Tomb Raider: Scavenger, Scoundrel
  • Far Trader: Navigator, Trader

Explorer is a lock, straight away: it’s the core of our concept.

When you Explore a Waypoint, take +1 momentum on a hit. When you Finish an Expedition and score a hit, mark 1 extra tick on your discoveries legacy track.

Voidborn definitely has some benefits, but I intend to land on some planets, so I’m not sure if it’s worth it. Scoundrel is right out, and Scavenger doesn’t quite feel right either, at least not at the moment. Navigator interests me a bit, but the benefits it offers seem to indicate that it’s for trying to get places either quickly or safely, and our focus is elsewhere. Trader doesn’t fit at all. Looking through the others, I like the idea of Lore Hunter.

When you Swear an Iron Vow (formidable or greater) to recover valuable knowledge or an extraordinary relic, reroll any dice. When you Reach a Milestone in the pursuit of that quest, take +2 momentum. When you Fulfill Your Vow and score a hit, also mark 2 ticks on your discoveries legacy track.


Generally I do not like to write an elaborate backstory before playing a character. I’d rather discover them as we go. But having a sense of who they are, at least in broad strokes, can help even early on. So looking at the prompts in the book, I think the following would be interesting:

She was a student at some learning institution, and perhaps even finished some course of study, but decided her future was out among the unknown stars more than in classrooms and libraries. That’s where the discoveries of this age will happen, and that’s where the resources and knowledge that will help humanity continue to rebuild will be found.

Background Vow

This isn’t necessarily a vow we’ll actually fulfill in the game. It’s more of a mechanization of her drive to explore and learn. But nothing’s coming to mind, so first let’s assemble some possible quest starters from our campaign truths. I’ll list them here, and then we’ll see if any of them inspire a vow.

  • The galaxy your people left behind is a cold, lightless grave. But a solitary star still glows, a beacon in a vast darkness. How did this star survive the plague? Why do you vow to find the means to travel across the immeasurable gulf to this distant light?
  • An explorer brings news. They’ve located an active gate in the depths of the Forge. Why do you swear to travel there? Which power or foe seeks to take control of the gate?
  • A balefire threatens a deep-space settlement. Can a rescue fleet be marshaled in time to transport the inhabitants of the station to safety? What foe stands in the way?
  • A black iron token of special significance has been stolen. What power or authority is bound to this object? Who has taken it?
  • In the upper atmosphere of a gas giant, transport vehicles carry valuable and volatile fuel from the processing plant to a heavily guarded storage depot. The notorious leader of a criminal organization needs this fuel, and gives you the schedule for the transports. What leverage does this person hold over you? How will you undertake this heist?
  • A charismatic leader claims to have harnessed a technology that offers new hope to the people of the Forge. What is this innovation? What is your relationship to this person or their followers? What grave danger do they pose?
  • An ancient technological relic unleashes a power indistinguishable from magic. What is the origin of this artifact? What ability does it grant? Are you sworn to protect or destroy it?
  • You discover a crippled courier ship. The pilot, carrying a critical and time-sensitive message, is dead. Where was the message bound, and why do you swear to see it to its destination?
  • A rigger is in desperate need of a rare technological artifact to create a life-saving medical device. Their patient is someone important to you, and won’t survive more than a few days. What is the nature of this artifact, and what protects it?
  • A rogue AI has taken over a transport ship. The fate of the crew and passengers is unknown. What critical cargo did this vessel carry?
  • On a remote jungle world, settlers harvest a rare medicinal plant. Once a year, raiders come to claim a sizable portion of the crop. This year, the harvest was meager and they cannot bear the cost. With the raiders due to arrive in a matter of days, what will you do to protect the people of this outpost?
  • On a scorching, barren planet wracked by massive storms, miners delve beneath the sands to gather valuable ore. But dangerous lifeforms live in the cool places beneath the surface, and several encounters have taken a deadly toll on the miners. Work is at a standstill. How are you involved?
  • In the ice rings of a remote world, a precursor vault was discovered by grub scavengers. The team delved into the relic, but never emerged. What is your relationship to the grub crew? Why are you sworn to investigate their fate?
  • You receive urgent distress calls from a ship stranded in the event horizon of a black hole. The ship itself is broken apart—a shattered hull trailing debris. There are no signs of life. And yet the ghostly messages persist.

Already I filtered some out. The others have potential, though I may not use most of them. This is the background vow, though, not our first arc. So let’s tie this to the balefires:

I will discover the source of the balefires and how to safeguard humanity from them.

That doesn’t mean we’ll start immediately with them, but they’ll be significant if and when they show up in the narrative.


Of course, lots of excellent science fiction has starships as something close to a full-fledged character, if not a character in their own right. This is where having a little bit of a backstory helps. So this ship was granted by an organization or community. This could be the institution where she studied or something else; I’ll leave that open for now.

The ship itself needs a bit of personality. I’ll try rolling on the table in the book and flip things around as needed to fit the tone of our game.

  • [84] Someone marked the hull with graffiti during a recent layover
  • [35] Interior spaces are crowded with exposed cables and conduits

I like the idea that the ship, which we’ll name Newton’s Folly”, is a bit of a junker. Grant money is tight. The name actually came on the first random roll in the book, and it fits perfectly for a scientist in a far-future galaxy. Newtonian physics work decently well in classical situations but break down quickly when we start thinking about the scale of the universe.

Final Asset

I mentioned previously how much I like the idea of an AI companion, so we’ll take a Survey Bot:

Your survey bot companion scans the path ahead. When you Undertake an Expedition (+wits) overland or within a site, add +1.

I rolled a random name for it under Callsign and got [24] Crash. Yes! I envision a little hovering drone, not unlike the training bot that Luke uses to train on board the Millennium Falcon. But it has some intelligence and personality, more like R2-D2 (including communicating with beeps and whistles).


As much as I know these matter, I kind of find them a little boring. Anyway we have 3, 2, 2, 1, 1, and I assign them this way:

  • Edge: 2. In my mind, this doesn’t reflect her combat ability but her general quickness and agility.
  • Heart: 2. I imagine this character as brave and determined. Also, I’ve learned the importance of doing well with Swear an Iron Vow.
  • Iron: 1. Physical fitness, sure, but she isn’t aggressive.
  • Shadow: 1. She’s not particularly sneaky or devious.
  • Wits: 3. She’s a scientist, so she’s smart. Also, this stat is used for several moves I expect to come up often, like Undertake an Expedition and Explore a Waypoint.

Envision Your Character

As race is a social construct, I’m not thinking of this person in those terms, but I do see their skin tone as a bit darker with shoulder-length hair shading between brown and red. Similarly, the character is female, young enough to be fit and capable, but old enough to have some experience under her belt: perhaps the equivalent of 30 years old or so.

At this point, I’ll use ChatGPT to suggest a few more elements of her look. Here’s what I took from its suggestions:

  • She always carries a variety of tools and equipment in a backpack and utility belt.
  • She has a small tattoo as a symbol of her commitment to the organization she’s joined.
  • She has cybernetic fingers on her left hand, indicating that she’s been on dangerous expeditions before.


Rolling on the tables and fiddling with things a tiny bit, we have…

Lux Mole” Jemison

In this context, she picked up the name mole” for her habit of digging into things out of curiosity, rather than somebody who infiltrated an organization.


In session 0, we created two settlements named Apex and Erebus. I want to start in the former, but we need to zoom in a bit.

Zooming in

What do the oracles tell us about it?

  • First Look: [42] High-tech construction + [10] Built from random scrap
  • Settlement Trouble: [35] Hazardous environment

Space is quite a hazardous environment to start with, so perhaps the station is having trouble maintaining its internal environment and habitability. The air is a little bit thick and stuffy, which matches the oppressive nature of the authority here.

I like the juxtaposition of high-tech construction” and random scrap”. Perhaps it’s a minor marvel just to have everything working together and the station is a model of welding together sections from different ships and stations.

It orbits a furnace planet named Ember, so let’s also learn a little about that.

NASA/JPL-Caltech Artist conception of a young planet

  • Atmosphere: [40] Toxic
  • Observed from Space: [97] Descriptor + Focus = [43] Forsaken + [85] System
  • Observed from Space: [36] Magma seas
  • Planetside Feature: [71] Scalding geysers

Oh yes, a lava world with lots of active geological activity. In this context, Forsaken System” means to me that there was an attempt at a planetside settlement or installation, but it was a failure and has been abandoned.

Local Connection

We’re starting with an automatic strong hit per the rules. I want to see what the oracles have to say about them.

  • Role: [01] Agent
  • Rank: Dangerous
  • First Look: [97] Wounded + [91] Well-equipped
  • Character Goal: [32] Find a person + [71] Seize power
  • Revealed Character Aspect: [06] Angry

They don’t seem like a very friendly person but that can create interesting texture to the narrative. For now, we’ll use the callsign Firestarter” (which fits the locale). I asked ChatGPT for a few more details and chose the following:

Firestarter could be a mercenary, working for whoever pays the most, and his current mission is to find and capture a valuable target who has fled to the space station.

Fine, but what’s his connection with Lux?

Lux could have a personal connection to the target, such as a friend or family member, and Firestarter could be using this connection to lure her into helping him find the target.

This is good, because it creates layers to their connection. She just thinks he’s somebody she met on the station, but he’s actually a mercenary who is using her to find the target. We’ll figure out who that target is later, but it’s probably one of her colleagues or a professional contact. In terms of the seize power”, I’ll interpret that as meaning his mission is somehow related to the station’s authority or political disputes.

Sector Trouble

I rolled [05] twice, which means the oracle really wants us to deal with:

Blockade prevents trade with other sectors

The sector itself will be named Ferrous Flow”. This tells me that Apex and Ember in particular are really important to the sector’s identity and economy. I don’t know who is maintaining the blockade, but I imagine it’s related to the taxation dispute on Apex. That might cause trouble if and when we try to leave it, but we’re already out in the Expanse so we don’t need to go too far to find unexplored locations.

Inciting Incident

Lux (I have decided that I like using her first name more than Mole”) may get caught up in some larger intrigue, but that’s not what we’re focused on here. That may add complications or at least background, but for now let’s do some exploration. She’s seeking some knowledge or some location, maybe based on reports from previous expeditions.

To keep things ticking, let’s also assume she knows somebody else is looking for it as well. I like the idea that the other explorer is Firestarter’s target, so he’s trying to follow her somehow to get to that rival.

I don’t know what this location or item is, so let’s check with the oracles.

  • Descriptor: [66] Moving
  • Focus: [31] Equipment

To me, this means there’s a ship, maybe from a previous expedition, that’s been abandoned somewhere. It’s probably not in great shape, but it might have some useful equipment or information. That’s what we’re looking for.

I don’t want it to be in this system, though. We need to head out into the Expanse. Either way, I envision something like this:

Lux is sitting in her small cabin she’s rented in a sketchy part of the station. One wall has a large screen that shows what looks like a live view of the planet; it’s quite dramatic, with magma geysers visible and the occasional blinking light of some sort of industrial craft moving across the surface.

A blinking light and buzz from her console grab her attention. Finally, an assignment! As she reads further, though, she can feel her stomach tightening. Her mentor was lost long ago on an expedition here in Ferrous Flow. She’s been tasked with finding the ship that was lost and recovering any data or equipment that might be useful.

It’s a bit of a heavy assignment emotionally, of course, but Lux feels a bit of pride in knowing that she could be the one to determine what happened and bring back the information that was important enough for her mentor to end up losing his life over.

I will find you, mentor. I will bring back the answers.

We’ll mark this as Dangerous and Swear an Iron Vow, rolling +heart. Because this is her mentor, I feel comfortable adding the +2 for a bond. Lore Hunter doesn’t apply as this is not a formidable rank. Therefore we have: 1d6+2 = 4 vs 4, 10. That’s a miss. You must overcome a significant obstacle before you begin your quest. Envision what stands in your way.”

I think we already know that it’s something to do with Firestarter. He’s got some sort of hold on our ship, but Lux doesn’t know that it’s him. Instead, he’s going to show up and try to convince her she needs him to come along. What’s his angle? Let’s ask the oracle.

  • Action: [67] Oppose
  • Theme: [23] Defense

He positions himself as someone who has connections and can get the hold lifted. Maybe he whispers about the local authority and their oppressiveness. What does he want in return?

  • Action: [04] Affect
  • Theme: [66] Move

He tells her he needs out past the blockade. She’s got a ship and papers to get past (since this is primarily an economic dispute, they’re not likely to give a hard time to a research and exploration vessel). What he really wants is to catch the rival who’s also headed to the ship, but Lux doesn’t even know that rival exists.

I think Lux just agrees. She thinks it might be helpful to have somebody help with the ship, and dropping him off after finding the ship shouldn’t be a problem. This means that probably we don’t even need to roll a move. The complication is dealt with, the hold is lifted, and we can head out into the void.

Up next Starforged - Exploration Part 0 Starforged - Exploration Part 2
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