Battlestar Galactica hack? (sans clever mouse motif)

Burning Empires was the obvious choice for Battlestar Galactica… but I’m starting to dig Mouse Guard more and more. I really like the Nature concept, as well as the Seasonal aspects.

Plus, if I want all the players to be Viper pilots, then I have a harder time herding cats with Burning Empire.

So… just the nascent ideas so far…

Humans don’t get Nature for all the previously discussed reasons on this board. It’s a pain in the ass, and I’m not calling for “Nature (Caprica)” or crap like that.

Cylons… you need Human-model Cylons. They need Nature (Cylon). Maybe things like “Computing, Deceiver, Opposing Humanity”?

GM’s Turn… Cylon obstacles & Human obstacles, of course. Political issues & Crises of Faith for the other two? Or Shortages of stuff?

I like the Seasons, as said. I like the idea of change over time, with different themes in different periods. I think the Faith or Politics angle could fit into here as well.

Anyway, this is really high-level, unspecific stuff at this point. Just my initial thoughts on it.

I forgot… Nature (Cylon) also needs some sort of religious thing.

The Seasons… throwing it out is always an option, but I like it, as said before. My random musing would be to use it as some sort of gauge about the political winds/the temperament of the civilian fleet, a commentary on modern democracy & political crassness. Views on the Cylon threat, public opinion polls regarding the current President & the Quorum, convenient political use of military “successes”, markers on the path to Earth & what they mean for people in the day-to-day of surviving the holocaust of the Colonies… all these and more would be part of the political “seasons”, as I see them.

Phases of the Seasons would be akin to political periods. Election seasons, the inter-administration period (the handover from one President to another, and/or the establishment of a new candidate to match the new agendas), the “honeymoon” in the immediate post-election period, and the doldrums in the very middle of a cycle where policies either work or fail.

The other Season thing I was considering was based on Faith. Now, it’s not a specific religious creed I’m after. Rather, it’s a general state of grace.

In the “real world”, faith is very personal. In a television show, there’s more generalities. And looking at the Bible, the people break the covenant with God all the time, and not just individuals.

Plus, the idea is to put pressure on the players and lead them down the dark paths as the characters did on the TV show.

Along those lines, the “seasons” of Faith would be something like: State of Grace, Seed of Doubt, Crisis of Faith, the Long Dark Path through the Soul.

In State of Grace, Cylon threats are overt. Raids, small recon missions, nothing of a major threat. Or the Colonials go on the offensive. Shortages are of nonessential things, like entertainment or the like, or they are overcome with relative ease. Political problems are likewise minor. Everything is right with the world, and all wants are relatively small.

In Seed of Doubt, the schism begins. Maybe some event triggers negative separation from the divine (an illness of a loved one). Or excessive good stuff makes people arrogant and forgetful of what led to grace. Threats/obstacles ramp up, and perfect solutions are harder to derive.

In Crisis of Faith, separation is nearly perfect. There are questions with no easy answers. Ideally, there are complications/conditions driving events here.

In Long Dark Path through the Soul, the only path left to return to grace & goodness is the hard one. Stuff has to blow up, pride has to be humbled, the lies have to be laid bare.

This is just the general idea. The point is a schedule or format for influencing the style of story rather than the more subtle influence of the Seasons. It’s a blunt instrument, I admit.

I just got back from NYC via Montreal, but this sounds cool. I shall think about it and try to add some thoughts.

Transforming the skill list… I haven’t looked at finished hacks, but keeping the same general number & character of the skill list seems important. At minimum, it keeps the Recruitment rules mostly intact if I don’t butcher the rules with 3 different Piloting skills & 4 different martial arts, and so on. Skill point tweaks are something I don’t want to do, so retaining the same general number of skills seems important.

Some things have to go, like Apiarist. And it pains me severely to think that you need both a Pilot skill (for Viper pilots) as well as a Fighting skill (for fightin’). Maybe Pilot is a maneuver/feint skill? But then you’d need a “fightin’” skill for shooting Cylon Raiders? sigh I do hate making several skills “required”, and Mouse Guard is not so picky in that regard. I guess it must be “Pilot” for everything in the cockpit, including shooting down Cylon Raiders.

Skills to add. Certainly, there’s a Pilot skill… you’d run a “Helm-wise” (for the people who helm the big capital ships) as separate from Viper-wise (for the Viper jocks). There’s a need for a skill for “electronic warfare” (with wises like DRADIS-wise, or Comms-wise). Engineering is a classic sci-fi RPG skill (with whatever wises I can scrounge from the Cortex version of BSG). And the Mouse Guard “Scientist” skill can stay, IMO, since there’s no anal-retentive need to spell out Astrophysics, Xenobiology, Molecular Chemistry, and the like. Computers also require a skill (with Networking-wise, and various other wises).

And, of course, Weather Watcher - my favorite Mouse Guard skill. Depending on the Seasonal thing that comes out of the musing, you need the appropriate skill for that. Political Savvy, for the political season idea, as an example. Will of the god(s), for a faith-based season.

The other aspect of the Mouse Guard skill list that is interesting… the interconnections between the various skills. Output from one skill can aid another skill. Any replacement skill list needs to keep that idea intact because a list full of orphan skills (with no linkages) would not work well in group play. I do have that in mind as I throw this stuff together.

I guess I have enough to start thinking specifics, especially with the BSG RPG book by Jamie Chambers to reference, but do let me know if these generalities do not make sense in the meantime. It’s pretty high-level, “Let me show you my Mouse-Guard-Philosophy-Wise skill level” stuff, but keeping the spirit of the rules is important to me.

One thing that strikes me about Mouse Guard, the Conditions, and the Skill list… It’s all rather physical. Skills cure material conditions in MG. Conditions track physical problems in MG.

BSG has that physical stuff as a minor factor. Water shortage is a threat, but thirst is never present. Being Hungry, Sick… these don’t resonate in the sci fi sphere in the way that they do in the “historical” method of Mouse Guard.

BSG is more emotional, with problems of the psyche. Rather than being physically “Sick”, the characters lose Hope or are Broken-Hearted or the like.

Skills to build and repair morale are probably the kind I’d envision replacing Glazier & Carpenter & the like in a BSG Hack. Again, this is my sense of it in what I read in Mouse Guard’s setup.

Other prelim ideas for skills…
Loremouse becomes Computers. This encompasses computer skills as well as the Loremouse insights into the alien/animal, with Cylons being the Other in the case of Computers.

Scout becomes Covert. The skills are similar, but Covert has the more modern feel.

Administrator, Deceiver, Instructor, Persuader, Orator, Fighter… don’t need to be changed.

Checking my handwritten notes…

Scientist, Militarist, Laborer stay. Laborer might become “Grunt Work” (in spaaaaace).

New skills… Writer (wises for Speeches, Plays/Dramas, etc), Performance (wises for Music, Dance, Acting, etc), “Sports” or Athletics (wise for Pyramid, Boxing, and various other organized games). These are all morale/psyche skills, replacing physical skills like Apiarist or Miller.

Brewer (in some form or another) would have to stay. “Hooch Stiller” or something. Horrible drunken military officers is in the fine tradition of militarist fiction, and booze is also used to treat emotional issues.

I’d also want some sort of “Military Crap Work” and/or Bureaucracy. Bureaucracy & all manner of spirit-crushing crap needs to be confronted in the spirit/emotion theme of the hack.

Other skills… Healer is transmogrified to Medical. Harvester becomes Farming or Hydroponics or whatever. Hunter is taken out for “Electronic Warfare” (DRADIS, comms/encrypted, etc).

There’s still a ton of skills like Weaver, Stonemason, and others in MG that I’d have to account for in a hack.

Okays, after many rambling posts, how about some questions (and rambling about mechanics).

Dogfighting. Scramble the Vipers, shoot down some Cylon Raiders.

A Burning Wheel Fight is typically one-on-one (or a few), with the objective of knocking out a single enemy combatant. A Dogfight should not necessarily be so. For elite enemies (Scar, or whatever, in one of the later seasons…), then a Fight setup would be more appropriate… but for scores of Mooks?

BUT, then what is it? What is the TV Dogfight?

Militarist is perhaps too big a scale. However, you could have a wing commander leading several into a dogfight against several. Maybe at the Nugget/Tenderpaw stage, you’d only be running the one-on-one style fights? And at the Patrol Guard & Patrol Leader equivalents, you’d lean towards the Militarist style of contest? And at the Captain/CAG level, you’d be almost exclusively in the Militarist-style scale?

(Yes, I should be looking at the Firefight rules in Burning Empires, even if the BE doesn’t have scores of fighter craft in the BE universe.)

In any case, these figure to be the larger source of dice contests for Viper pilots. It has to feel right, and I don’t want every dogfight to just be a one-on-one duel because that’s not how it was on the show.

Weapons for the contests…
Viper Mk II, Viper Mk VII, Raptor, Cylon Raider, Heavy Raider. Simple enough to throw some numbers up for those.

Large scale ships would be scenery & dressing for the contests at hand. Lose a Dogfight, lose a civilian ship or something.

There should totally be a Drunk condition, ideally as compromise in a social Conflict or other failed social tests.


Thirsty must be replaced by Drunk. Rather than scarcity of drink, people of the future should suffer from excess of drink as a cure for heartbreak, ennui, and the other pains of living. Calix meus inebrians!

I’m not sure about Fat Apollo, however.

By my count, there are 34 skills plus Wises. So here’s the skills I’ve come up with, looking at faith/psychic well-being as the thing that gets sapped by the game rather than a physical wearing-down in Mouse Guard.

Administrator (same as MG)
Deceiver (unchanged)
Doctor (replacing Healer)
Scripture (need a better name, and possibly better as a Wise, replacing Archivist)
Performance Arts
Fine Arts
Crafts (replacing Weaver, and all manner of non-arts crafting)
Athlete (professional athletics, sports, etc as opposed to survivalist-type physical stuff)
Covert Ops (replacing Scout)
Navigator (replacing Cartographer/Pathfinder)
Prophet (replacing Weather Watcher)
Hooch Distiller
Pilot (flying vehicles)
Gunnery (cap ship big guns)
Driver (terrestrial vehicles)

I need one or two more to have the same number as MG, but it’s pretty close.

I’ll write these up more formally as I get the other stuff in order.

Also, this list is still very much subject to change. Several of those could be Wises as I think through what a game might be like.

I have more ideas about skills to include/exclude (after another read-through of Burning Empire’s skill list), but I thought I’d muse about Dogfighting again.

There’s a place for one-on-one dueling, but I think the idea should be about badass heroes (with soft, emotional underbellies) rather than mook-like nuggets who suffer from being suck-y at flying Vipers. The goal will be to combine something like 3:16 (d100 bad guys fragged!!!111!one!) with the Burning Whatever genre, allowing for climbing the Wing Commander-style kill board in a cinematic yet soap opera-y Battlestar Galactica universe.

And you’d need to allow for player characters being part of the same squadron, or different squadrons, or whatever.

I’m close to framing the conflict subsystem for this, but I wanted to set the tone first. If I forget the ideas of 3:16 & the TV show & the challenges I’ve sketched out (more emotional than physical), then someone needs to remind me.

Okay… Dogfighting. I’ve absorbed the Firefight scripting in Burning Empires (now that I have it in hardcopy), and I like the differentiation between unit-level and individual-level action in the midst of the scripting.

After absorbing the Firefight rules, I think the Dogfight concept in this hack should be player characters in one unit for Firefight/Mouse Guard-equivalent purposes. Squadron Leader or CAG choosing the script & rolling the big dice, with individual dice underneath (a la Firefight in Burning Empires).

If the basic conflict level is unit-level, then does Pilot matter as much as tactics/Militarist for the Leader/CAG scripts? This is like the Orator versus Persuasion split in the talking conflicts in Mouse Guard, I think. At the Unit basis, I think Militarist makes more sense as the unit-level skill for group scripts, with Pilot also available for Feint & Maneuver. Individually, Pilot takes over for the rolls.

(There can also be a conflict for one-on-one dogfights, but they might not be differentiated much from the basic fight rules.)

Some musing about individual actions during group vs group Dogfights (again)…
Attack. During individual dice tests during a group Dogfight, this would be the only way to crank up the kill count, and perhaps reduce enemy disposition by 1. (This is in lieu of the big anti-disposition action at the unit level.) Colonial Raptors shouldn’t be able to do this move.

Maneuver. I like the concept of this for dogfights. Getting to optimal kill shot position while minimizing the enemy’s ability to get into that cone of death is more important than fighter’s hit points, IMO.

Defend. Hmmmm… I need to think on this some more as I am tired.

Feint. Ditto to comments about Maneuver.

A concern with individual rolls beneath the unit rolls is pacing. I haven’t run Burning Empires yet, so I don’t know how this split affects the pace of Firefights. Bogging down a dogfight with extra rolls could be bad…

I was thinking about World Burning & Infection from BE. Both are ideal and not ideal in the structure of the Battlestar Galactica story. Ultimately, they work great in the Burning Empires style, but 1) it wouldn’t be right to copy those rules over, and 2) a standalone MG hack shouldn’t point outside the core rulebook either.

The “reimagined” show supposes that the reincarnation of BSG is a recurring cycle, and that it will happen again. This explains the connections with the original TV series. I think that is a great approach to gaming within BSG as it opens up authorship to the group, as done through a method like World Burning.

Things to burn up: Type of Government, Size of the Civilian Fleet (see the episodes with the Pegasus), Composition of the Civilian Population, Market Economics (incl. the black market), Supply of Pilots, Event that lead to the Exodus, Attitude towards Cylons… And whatever.

What do these things inform, if not Infection? I think this is where we get back to the Seasons concept in Mouse Guard. A modern or futuristic game with MG can’t be opposed by Seasons in the same way that Medieval mice can, but the Seasons are still vital to the MG experience, IMO.

Seasons have more inevitability to them relative to the Infection mechanics. You don’t fight the Seasons, but the Seasons still do inform about what obstacles might be involved.

So, the World Burning for this hack might work to frame the types of recommendations for what happens in the “Seasons”.

The question is: where does the campaign end? What’s at the end of the road?

Infection ends with invasion (or if the humans kick the worm off the planet before the final play). I don’t think that’s the only endgame result for BSG… but I need to see how Infection works in play. I am not a BE expert, so maybe I can try to run Omac before I really define this.

I do want to be able to encompass New Caprica, as well as finding Earth (minus the anti-technology, hippy nonsense at the end of the new BSG). Some kind of evolution of the Cylon-Human relationship should be a part of this.

Just jotting “Season” ideas again…

Forget if I mentioned this, but I did play a short campaign with the Infection mechanics grafted onto a modernized Mouse Guard… and I don’t recommend it unless you understand all of the mechanics (e.g. how they behave in the long term) much better than I do!

I think Mouse Guard conflict would work just fine as is for dogfights; you’re not so much simulating the dogfight as you are the tactical level of the battle. You’re not attacking the enemy or defending yourself so much as you are attacking the enemy’s plans and protecting your own or your side’s assets. Raptors can ‘attack’ just fine at this level, as enemy ships are always a threat to your plans. (For all the enemy knows, they might be carrying missiles, preparing for a boarding action, laying down heavy ECM, etc.) Defending can be as simple as flying away from enemy ships, shooting down Cylon fighters near the BSG, etc.

The constant pressures in BSG were resources running out (which just gets worse as time goes on, minus the weapons depot), the proximity of the Cylons (which acts as a brake on the community or individuals to develop themselves, as they’re always on the run), the state of repair of the ships, the morale of the crew and civilians. Much or all of this you can do just fine without a specific mechanic.

Sociometric Cycle

There is something that might be of use, the so-called sociometric cycle, which is a way of mapping the lifecycle of enthusiasm and conflict in relationships onto the seasons. In Spring, we get excited about new possibilities, morale is up, infatuation, we start big new projects. In summer, things start to stretch; we’re overcommitted, differences in vision are revealed, resentments start to creep in. In Autumn, the conflict is open, and remains until something fundamentally changes. Winter is about solace and revisioning, finding guidance and the new direction to take.

So, one idea is to apply this to the survivors’ community as a backdrop to the players’ actions. In Spring, supplies are good - the ship is making strides towards Earth, moving on supply depots, holding elections, etc. In Summer, politicians are struggling to keep their promises, unpopular trade-offs are made, opposition factions are getting busy, cults are fomenting discontent. In Autumn, there’s outright war between factions; power is wrested from the leaders; riots; shootings - culminating in a coup or election that kicks things along for another cycle. (If you were true to the sociometric cycle, you’d skip winter completely, reflecting the fact that the community is under such pressure that it can never ‘find itself’ and take a sane step, and instead lurches from infatuation to infatuation, bold idea to bold idea.)

The obstacles that drive the calendar along might be Cylon raids, which have a much greater or lesser severity depending on the state of the community. Cylon attacks in Spring might be tough, but the CAP is ready, the community is behind them, etc. In Autumn, Cylon attacks are devastating; opportunist civilian captains use the attacks to make gains of their own, jumping away.

All this is assuming that the players are largely concerned with military actions outside the ship, or at the very least within the confines of the military hierarchy. If the players are mixing it up in the drama within the community, pushing for particular candidates, etc. then I think it would make more sense to have the state of the community reflect the challenge needs of the players rather than driven along a clock of their own. (And you might be wise to consider stock BE instead of MG.)

Fleet Conditions

Another way entirely (or on top of this) would be to give the fleet itself (or just the Battlestar, or just the military vessels) Conditions. The state of the BSG could be a big factor in the humans’ disposition in space battles; the BSG itself could even be a ‘player’ in the Conflicts, taking on Attack actions with its massive guns, Maneuvering out of the way, Feinting to lure the Cylon Battlestars into exposed positions. Being Low of Ammo or Damaged could affect its abilities enormously.

I see what you’re saying. BE does make more sense from the whole BSG perspective - political figures, cult/religious leaders, and so on. MG would be more Viper/fleet style of BSG (IMO, the good stuff). I just don’t know BE well enough at this point.

I like Mouse Guard, but I am pretty human-centric (plus Elven characters in BW). Stock BE is something I’d run, while as much as I like David Peterson’s comics, playing as mice or coming up with mice stories is a little more challenging for me (with tastes being totally subjective).

I like the Realm Guard hack, even if I have BW to work with in a sprawling Middle Earth setup. So, to draw the Realm Guard/Burning Wheel parallel with BE/MG BSG, I must be mindful that the scope has to be tailored better because MG characters and their BIGs are more specific than the BITs in a BE setup.

So, the Fleet becomes a source of Obstacles in the MG hack rather than a wide-open area for participation, as in a BE-style setup. That is much easier to conceptualize in terms of MG play.

Using the Sociometric Cycle also makes sense. The seasons of the Fleet informing the mood rather than trying to create/direct mood in player-characters (i.e. herding the cats)… definitely more manageable to conceptualize.

Fleet Conditions do make sense. It would help drive the scarcity/survival theme of the good parts in BSG.

Fleet Conditions interacting with Fleet-as-obstacle… Hmmmm. If the population of the Fleet gets Hungry (ferinstance), why does that matter to a well-fed Viper pilot? What impact does that have on his or her life, or even the mission?

Fleet disposition for Cylon attacks, I guess.

So is Fleet disposition more important than Viper squadron disposition in a dogfight environment? Are there multiple dispositions/units to deal with, like a Firefight?

More to think about since this is the meat & potatos area for the hack…

Here’s a sample write up for Fleet Burning (not complete, just to show where it’s going). It’s really more inspired by the ideas in Burning Sands because I don’t want to write up Infection-like mechanics for this stuff.


In life, there is no strength that cannot be turned into a weakness. The seeds of our downfall are sown in the midst of our strengths. Every choice in Fleet Burning should have a benefit and a weakness, which gives the GM room to maneuver in terms of the storytelling.

Also this list is by no means meant to be complete. It is a launching point for your own universes, and your own cool “what if” scenarios. However, if you think an idea is great, and beyond human ability to twist and corrupt into a cruel mockery of your ideals, then you have not tried hard enough. Push yourselves into seeing the downside of things you love, as well as the positives of the things you hate. The challenges of loving your enemies, and seeing your friends turn against you - these are all part of the drama.

Fleet Government

Civilian Presidency
Like the re-imagined television show, this type of government continues to hold to the ideals of democracy. The civilian population has the expectation that the government (and, in turn, the Colonial Fleet, who serve the civilian President) is ultimately beholden to the citizenry. Democratic freedoms are still the expectation rather than exceptions, even in these dark times. The Colonial Fleet is answerable to the President & the civilian government, unless the Commander of the Battlestar wishes to usurp power through force.
Make this choice if you like:
Weaknesses: rule by the mob, freedoms allow for easy penetration by Cylon agents, fickle electorates & regime change, high expectations of the governed easily lead to disenchantment

Suspended Democracy
This type of government represents the democratic government that has shifted to martial law under a civilian President. The reasons for the shift from freedom to the war footing can be any combination of internal and/or external threats, ranging from Cylon aggression to terrorism to simple anti-government dissent. The President still has the support of the Commander of the Battlestar, and it is this relationship that provides the power behind the President’s war powers. This etc and etc
Make this choice if you like:

Rule by the Quorum
Similar to the original television series, the civilian population is primarily represented by the legislative body known as the Quorum (also the Quorum of Twelve, with single representatives from the twelve colonies). Executive powers are vested primarily in the Commander of the Battlestar, in lieu of a formal sitting President. This is nominally a condition of martial law, but with significant democratic traditions still in place. It represents a mostly stable relationship between the military and civilian sides of the fleet. While this gives more powers to the Commander, especially in relation to the Quorum and to the relationship with the civilian populace (as the de facto President), it also means more responsibility. This means that any administrative & governmental problems are also the domain of the Commander, which is perhaps a role that he (or she) is ill suited for. Discontent with the defenders of the fleet will occur faster something, something
Make this choice if you like:

Military Junta
In this type of government, real democracy has been suspended, and control of the government rests in the hands of the Commander of the Battlestar & his or her subordinates. Civilian government does not exist (the Quorum has been suspended, disbanded, or assumes some authority in exile), or perhaps has been relegated to figurehead roles (and the civilian population knows it). Usually, this will mean a hand-chosen group of loyalists in actual positions of authority, with military logistics personnel filling out the administrative roles for the government. All matters pertaining to law and order also fall within the purview of the military government, with military judges presiding over civilian matters. Civilian discontent is a given under these conditions, and only a question of degrees rather than whether or not civilian unrest exists.
Make this choice if you like:
Weaknesses: concentration of power leads to corruption (“power corrupts”)

For this type of fleet, the Battlestar has remained independent from the fleet, and the civilians in the fleet have very limited organization. Quite likely, no members of the Colonial government survived the holocaust, and there is relatively little civilian infrastructure. The Commander of the Battlestar is either disinterested or powerless to change this condition at the present time. Concerned citizens (read: organized crime) may have filled the vacuum of power, but there is little that actually works within the fleet. People suffer and die for lack of simple resources, with no real ability within the fleet to organize the logistics needed to sustain a large population. This situation is untenable over a long period, but may exist for several cycles something something, blah blah.
Make this choice if you like: