Update for the Week of July 30, 2021

Author's Diary - Update for the Week of July 30, 2021

(Covenant’s playtest rules are out! Download a copy now and tell us what you think! If you like what you see, think about becoming a patron!)

Featured Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

We recruited another player for the playtest and keep working on the Archimedean Confederation this week! Find out more below the fold.

Here’s what we want to talk about this week:

  • This week’s playtest
  • The Archimedean Confederation
  • The game mechanic of the week, discipline
  • How to become a playtester


Our second player joined this week, and we got in two sessions of character generation with them. These sessions were short, due to life happening. However, we learned a lot in those two sessions.

First of all, we’re going to have to rewrite the rulebook a lot. Our new player was confused by all the background details that we added into the rules. We thought that players might need these details to understand our thinking behind the rules, but apparently they get in the way.

They also add a lot of length to the rulebook. It’s almost 300 pages long, and the quickstart rules are over 100. That’s just too long.

They also found the bids and traits to be confusing. To address this, we’re going to combine some bids where it makes sense (EXAMPLE: combine the repairing, debugging, and overhauling bid into one repairing trait) and then rename each bid and trait so that each is distinct from each other and can’t be confused.

We’ve also been thinking about ways to teach the Force Majeure and experienced players to teach new players the rules. We still have to make the rulebook as clear as possible, but making the game more educational and collaborative may help new players learn the ropes.

We still need at least a third player and preferably a fourth to start the game. So if you want to tell us what we’re doing wrong with Covenant, join the Radio Free Covenant Discord server and sign up!


We started taking notes on the Archimedean Confederation this week, too. Here’s the subjects we covered:

  • The Archimedean’s Confederation’s history
  • The types of government that you can find in:
    • The Archimedean Confederation’s company-states, which are megacorporations controlling entire parts of a planet or even entire planets
    • The indigenous worlds still resisting the company-states
    • The lawless regions found in between
  • Rho Strategic Group, the largest private military contractor in the Archimedean Confederation (and the first named organization in the game)
  • The psychology and politics of the Founders, who fled persecution in the Terran Federation to found the Archimedean Confederation
  • Perceptions of the founders in the company-states (in short, they’re the Founding Fathers)
  • The Archimedean Confederation’s economics
  • The politics of the indigenous governments
  • Artificial intelligence (AI), and why sapient AI gives the Archimedean Confederation a wide berth
  • How the Dominion, a Christian fundamentalist domain, funds the company-states
  • The cultures of the indigenous worlds
  • Culture and crime in the shantytowns
  • The demographics of the company-states

One thing making this harder is that there’s actually three different Archimedean Confederations: the company-states, the indigenous planets that they bamboozled to make the Archimedean Confederation, and the vast swaths of lawless space in between.

Despite that, we still think we’ll be able to apply our usual creation process for Covenant’s domains:

  1. Write up notes for the domain in a notebook.
  2. Transfer those notes to index cards (it’s easier to write them down in a notebook first).
  3. Organize those notes into an index card file.
  4. Use that file to write the domain summary.

This is the process we used for the Terran Federation and Old Empire. It took one to two months for those domains, but the Archimedean Confederation’s more complicated (and Sean’s starting a new job on Monday), so the Archimedean Confederation will probably take longer.

We’ll make all these domain summaries in Covenant available to the public when we’re done. However, patrons can read them as we finish them for the low price of $1 a month (hint hint).

Alien Asteroid Belt Compared to our Own (Artist Concept) (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)


Covenant doesn’t use dice. Instead, you spend your character’s resources to accomplish tasks, as well as resolve conflicts in the game and the story. This resource is called discipline.

Discipline is a highly abstract mechanic. It takes all of your character’s expendable resources – physical health and endurance, mental health and endurance, good will, contacts, time, ammo, medicine, you name it – and tracks them all in one number. The more of these resources your character spends to accomplish something, the more your character wants it to happen.

The thing is, you can choose which one or which combination of your character’s resources to spend. That means you can skin your character’s actions however you want.

Say you’re firing a gun at someone. You can skin this task in several ways, including:

  • You take careful aim before you pull the trigger.
  • You buy a lot of ammunition before the fight and unload on your target, hoping one of your bullets will hit.
  • You trick your target to break cover, then shoot xir.

This means that you aren’t locked into how you roleplay your character’s actions. Yes, the rules and your character’s actions restrict your options, but we didn’t want to put any restrictions on those options beyond that.


Have you downloaded Covenant’s playtest rules yet? Did we mention that they’re free? If not, do it now! They’re free! All we ask is that you tell us what you think about them. You can send your feedback in two ways:

That’s about it for now. Talk to you next Friday!

Published by radiofreecovenant

A podcast about the science-fiction roleplaying game "Covenant" and the urban fantasy novel "Crossing the Line", soon to be published by Black Opal Books.

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