Friday, May 26, 2017

The Katana Blaster

The Katana syndrome holds that Asian martial arts and especially sword craft was highly superior to that of Medieval European techniques and blades. Thus the katana is the ultimate melee weapon and should deal out more damage than a European longsword. It has the best grade steel, best edge etc.

Katanas are bitching. Samurai are bitching. I just got through laughing and screaming and misting up over the final season of Samurai Jack. However, Toledo steel was the best in the world at the time in terms of flexibility and durability. Many well made European blades were every bit as deadly as the Katana. for that matter European warriors had a better grasp of technique than stand there and taketh it whilst thou hamer the other guyye. But see this mini-series called Shogun came out in the 80's. Everyone got into Asian culture (a good thing) and gamers got carried away.

So if you're going to write up a bunch of new weapons, say, you want your stuff to stand out and some people believe extra damage dice or points or mods or whatever is the way to go. People building a new pistol will obviously want it to be better than previous weapons and that means more damage, right?

Not really. A lot of firearms have gotten modifications to make them better at a specific job. The same holds true for most other equipment but firearms, weapons in general, are usually the best mass production technology people have. As my character Luch might remark, you can learn a lot about local technology and culture by what people are trying to kill you with.

A gun that does 4d6 damage as opposed to 3d6 won't do you any good if you get nerfed before you can draw it or arrested before you complete your ... assignment. Concealment or just ease of use is extremely important for weapons. If they're hard to tote about you might set them down at the wrong moment. One of the most important features of a sword for example, was that it could be worn sheathed at your side. A spear or axe had to be carried constantly and it was a pain in the ass.

Pistols were drasticaly inferior to rifles but again, they could be toted about fairly easily. Reaching for your shotgun could get you killed.

So I'm writing up some diesel-y weapon and equipment stats and I find I have even less incentive to vary damage than usual. See my products are geared mainly for Cepheus Engine or White Star folks. Cepheus Engine caps most slug damage at 3d6 because, hey, shooting right through your body places an upper limit on what a bullet can do. Similarly in White Star damage is based on the highly abstract hit points. Hit points, we've been told, represents the ability to turn a major injury into relatively minor cuts and scuffs through skill, experience and luck.

If you're lucky enough to avoid a bullet, beam or blade its damage potential doesn't really matter. If you're out of luck the same holds true. A dagger in the heart kills as surely as a bullet.

The upshot on this is my equipment and weapon right ups are going to focus on utility and other considerations. What about a pistol that does moderate damage but is so easy to use anyone can grab it and begin popping (at least at short range)? What about a rifle that collapses to easily store under a coat (I loved the Mass Effect weapons)? Or how about just ramping up the number of charges or rounds or whatever?

I'll note in closing that many weapons (or at least ammunition) are built to specifically limit performance (meaning damage). You might not want a high power blaster for a hold out on your bridge. Yes you'll shoot right through that hijacker ... and your control panel,  and your pilot. This is why my 'Trader Carbines' have several types of ammunition for shooting it out on your ship or on theirs.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Doorways to Luna

The post on Luna's engines has to wait a bit. I know what I want them to do and I am in correspondence with wiser heads as to what that entails. So this post deals with Luna's main airlocks.

Luna has four largish airlocks around her hull near the stern (which is the bottom in tail landers). Each one is on the Machine Shop Deck.

Why so many airlocks? Well they aren't all what you would consider an airlock.

All right dammit, there's a fifth airlock. But Ill get to that in another post!
The lock by the ladder is the main personnel lock. It can easily hold four people in spacesuits, even the big armored dieselpunk types. It gives access to the Machine Deck for a simple reason. People entering the ship from a walk on, say the Moon, will have dust and grit from their spacesuits. That grit has to end up somewhere. The Machine Shop already has additional filters built into the air vents there to deal with shavings and other cast off metal bits and vacuums and similar equipment to clean up as well. The deck also has far less machinery vulnerable to such debris and personnel habitually wear protective goggles and breathing masks. The upshot is dust does less damage there than elsewhere on the Luna.

The black boxes over the locks have lateral sensors. The sensor box over each lock has a light to illuminate the lock for people boarding. The locks are high off the ground because the personnel wear lift belts and can easily jump up and grab a ladder rung. Locals without belts would find it harder to get onboard though you could throw a friend a rope.

The airlock to the right of the main lock. Instead of an inner door to very heavily armored suits stand here with their back hatches mated to similar port on the inner bulkhead. To use the lock you open a suit's backpack and climb into the suit. Your lovely (or handsome) assistant then shuts your backpack hatch up and off you go. The lock also has heavy duty clean up gear incase you come back doused in toxic goo or radioactive dust. With the outer door shut you can disengage a suit and shove it out of the way to enter the lock and exit the ship. 

The lock to the left isn't a lock at all really. It's a closet for tools and gear used outside the ship. A small airlock on the inner bulkhead lets personnel pass equipment or stores to spacesuited crew in the lock (usually with some choice comments about forget their head if they weren't strongly attached.) A pair or armored and vacuum tight sleeves on the inner bulkhead also let crew lend a helping hand to crew outside.

The final lock has a very large launch system for a magnetic grapple. This is used to grab another ship for boarding or rescue or to help with berthing. Some ships remove the grapple entirely to allow the full use of the lock.

In an emergency the crew have light weight metal mesh slides that can be used to drop supplies and passengers quickly from the lock. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Dieselpunk Manifesto Episode Four

This picks up with strip #30 of the Buck Rogers' strip and reviews 30-39.

When we last left our intrepid duo Buck was left stranded in the Southwest desert and Wilma was in the clutches of the Han Emperor and to get her memories wiped after a dramatically appropriate period.

Well Buck isn't too intrepid. He gets rolled by a couple of generic murder hobos as soon as he snoozes and is left to walk the rest of the way, no food, no water. He's nearly buried in an avalanche, drinks brackish water and somehow doesn't puke and gets his with a sandstorm. All this time Wilma is a captive in the lap of luxury and told she is about to be made the Emperor's favorite!

You gotta wonder what Buck was like before he got buried in that mineshaft. Was he an axe murderer or serial peeping tom? Because his karma seems to be black since strip 27.

Seriously if Buck bought stock in North American Inertron that shit would stop falling up.

He finally falls afoul of two more murder hobos who make the grave error of attacking Rogers when he is awake and facing them. Remember what I said about 25th Century folks being inferior in the art of dishing out knuckle sandwiches? Buck is about to beat the snot out of them when an airplane from the Navaho Org shows up and starts strafing the tramps. Fortunately they slow up and use a rocket pistol to scare them off so Rogers survives. The Commander introduces herself as Nunah and takes him back to her Boss ... who locks him up!

The Columbus Org Boss blew the whistle on Buck stealing their only plane (he probably accused him of winning his duel with Kane by cheating for good measure). Rogers is going to be held and tried for treason. Well what'd you expect? The Orgs are under military rule and Rogers just stole their only scout plane. What if they needed it for something crucial? Like I dunno, carrying dispatches instead of trusting them to a nut from the dark ages and his groupie (sorry but Wilma's acted that way the last few issues)?

Things look bleak but there are some tried and true pulp traditions. When things get boring a guy with a disintegrator walks into the panel, Buck and Wilma are idiots when it comes to expressing their feelings like adults, and when the chips are absolutely down your hero will be offered an escape by either a disgruntled minion or a beautiful woman.

Buck's luck finally changes as it is the beautiful Nunah who offers to let him out of the Org's underground guardhouse!

I note that as you travel further westward the Orgs seem to have less resources and be very well camouflaged. By the time you crossed the Appalachians Han airships and troops were really not tyrranizing and terrorizing with any gusto. As you got closer to the West Coast things were hurting for the Americans (murder hobo attacks were up 40% as well).

I also note that unlike Arm:2419, the Han are the ones with the magical sensors that can tune any view you wish. In fact this intrigues Wilma and she begins acting more like a resistant than arm candy. It is an important divergence from Arm: 2419, where the Americans had technology using an entirely different spectrum the Han didn't even suspect.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Close Shave

Doc: Where the heck are you going?

Mukh: I can't watch!

Tivk: Doctor ... you are a competent surgeon but this is ill advised.

Nok: Bitching.

Tivk: Do not encourage him. This is suicide.

Doc: Oh for ... I'm shaving. Just having. I'm just glad I packed the old razor in my kit. I never thought we'd be stuck out here this long in ... whatever the hell this is.

Tivk: You are a doctor. Why would you want to scrape hair off your neck and face with a piece of  razor sharp steel? You are placed a cutting implement in deadly proximity to your jugular vein and carotid artery. How do you ignore this?

Doc: Guys, human males do this all the time. I'm nearly done. I just like a truly close shave. Riasi likes it too. This straight razor was my dad's and his dad's.

Tivk: Did they slit their throats with it?

Doc: Wha ... no! They lived to ripe old ages.

Mukh: Mammals. All that silly hair ... and lactation! When you aren't shaving or consuming dairy you're mating. Wait, you ripen with age too? Eeeeew eeew eeew!

Tivk: Poising that steel millimeters from your life's blood. There are depilatories and electric shavers ... electrolysis treatment ... tweezers even.

Nok: Terrans shaving are awesome. How often? Once a year? Twice?

Doc: Almost ... everyday for me. Every other day for some.

Mukh: This is insane. Even the closer human-forms don't shave their necks.

Doc: you'd be amazed how hard we humans have to try to keep from laughing at neckbeards.

Nok: Pussies. I want to shave something.

Tivk:  I need a bowl of sand to shift through my fingers. Or better yet my toes.

Mukh: This is payback for the mac and cheese experiment, right?

Doc: ... hahahahahahahaha! Anyway I'm finished.

Nok: Shave something else. Now!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dieselpunk Manifesto Episode Three

In strip 21 Buck and Wilma are making their way in a leisurely manner over the former farmlands of Ohio when Wilma twists her ankle and can go no further. I will give her the benefit of the doubt since the exact nature of her injury is not described and I doubt a mere sprain would stop her, Buck makes like a he-man and carries her (and her jump belt) to the Columbus Org.

The sentry challenges them and is revealed to be -Killer Kane. the weapon Kane carries looks like a Bren gun with a circular magazine and it might be the long sought after rocket rifle! He also has a metal helmet with a banded metal visor and frankly looks pretty bitching. While Wilma is mending Kane tells Buck to beat it and when Buck gives him the bird, Kane challenges him to a duel!

Yes the Columbus Org has duels and a formal code for them. Seconds are required and appointed by the Org for strangers. Buck's second is a woman soldier named Gilda (who bears a ceremonial baton). The duel is to be to unconsciousness or death. Each participant has their choice of weapons though both take melee weapons. That may be a restriction to make sure both duelists are serious.

Buck chooses a WW I era rifle with a bayonet. Kane takes a bizarre weapon he designed himself which looks like a shish kebab made with a spiked mace and a couple boar spears.

The strip said Rogers served in the Great War in the Air Corps and I'm going to hazard a guess that  transferred there from the infantry because he knew his way around a rifle and bayonet because he gives Kane point and rifle butt in rapid succession and soon has him seeing stars. He wins!

Of course he does. The strip is called 'Buck Rogers.' You always win in your own strip or nearly so. This is a familiar trope of the series. Apparently your 25th century types aren't as handy with their hands or melee weapons.

Quick everyone roll up 20th century characters! You know it would play out that way in a game. The mining industry would soon be destroyed by people causing cave ins to induce suspended animation. This of course weakened the American military industrial complex and left us easy pickings for the Mongols (though their disintegrators must have helped a little).

Wilma arrives in time to see Buck fist pumping over a horizontal Kane. She assumes Buck and Gilda are an item and suffers a nervous collapse. Gilda wants to know why Buck cals all the pretty girls 'sister'?

I'm not writing the stuff. Complain to the Dille Family and while you're there please ask them to reissue the XXVc game and The Buck Rogers Adventure Game!

Meanwhile the Han Viceroy of Chicago learns through a spy in the Columbus Org that Wilma is there and sends a raiding party to abduct her for the Emperor's harem and gain favor.

Hey it's the pulp era. I'm going to stop apologizing for this stuff now.

The Han land under cover of night. One of the curious omissions of the technology in this world is night vision devices. Bearing a huge gas projector the Han knock out the sentries and kidnap Wilma. Buck pursues but fails to stop them.

While we're at it look at this freaking gas gun. It looks like there's enough to gas everyone in Ohio.

Here they manage to penetrate the defense of an Org and merely leave after grabbing the woman they're after. Also wearing a jump belt makes you very easy to kidnap! I mean these guys manage to outrun Rogers carrying a woman! Either Wilma has her jump belt or they must all try out for track. Seriously though after they got Wilma there was nothing stopping them from turning a disintegrator on Columbus and wiping out the whole Org. As villains they suck.

Wilma manages to get a message off on her radio and tells the Americans the Han are heading Northwest to Vancouver. Buck asks the Columbus Org to mount a pursuit and is turned down so he steals the Org's only biplane, a one man scout.

The plane's engine soon quits and Buck lands in spite of the forest below. A couple of Canadian Org men find him and get the plane up and running for him and even give him a heads up on the ship he was seeking. It's apparently on a course for San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Apparently the Han are as bad at geography as Wilma, going through Canada to get to the West Coast! Buck figures they're making their way to L.A. and the Emperor! He tears out in the plane and ... hits rough weather. A control wire snaps and he gets thrown from the plane to his death!

Oh wait, inertron. He lights in the desert and starts walking/jumping with no food or water. Wilma meanwhile is subjected to the indignities of the Emperor's court. that is she gets a bath, beautiful clothes and three squares, all the while screaming how much she despises the Emperor and threatening suicide/homicide. Nevertheless Barla Ka Nizra, the toadie in charge of the Emperor's ladies, decides to present her, in a masterful show of pulp villain denial!

The Emperor is a sort of go with the flow kind of despot. He tells his henchmen to watch Wilma and if she hasn't changed her mind about a life of luxury in ten days to wipe her memories! Yes things look dire as strip 30 comes to a close!

Wiping a person's memories is an incredible technology for a pulp villain to obtain. Instead of disintegrating those wild Americans, the Han could gas them, wipe their minds and have a ready pool of day workers. Of course the Airlords already automated their entire society so disintegrators save them a lot of food bills for servitors.

Then again, Buck and Wilma encounter a bunch of people of mixed race (Wilma has a more racist term for them) who are apparently shunned by everyone. These individuals live in the ruins and forests largely by stealing and murdering whoever falls into their hands. It makes you wonder just what the Han were up to. Did they have brainwashed Americans in their cities. Was there some other interaction between the two, more than just a drunken dictator with exotic tastes. those gys probably weren't all his offspring.

These are the pulps and they frequently created villains and goons from stereotypes. Arm:2419 had none of this socializing. In fact a major plot point of the book was using new tactics to wipe out an Org that was in collusion with the Han. If you're setting up a game using this setting though a character of mixed race might be an excellent spy, having at least some knowledge of the Airlords' language and customs (before they grew up and weren't cute and thrown out to die in the wilds).

And what of the spy in Columbus Org? Hmmm.

While I'm at this, how are you enjoying these 'episodes'? If none of you are biting I want to know before I write another 170 episodes. I'll switch to some other topic I can blather about.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Faces of Luna (Mark 1, 2 & 3)

The best part of doing renderings is that you never have to throw anything away. As I began pimping the Luna like a found Roomba, I saved the previous renders and now have three different subclasses.

Luna Mk1, Mk 2 and Mk 3 (l. to r.)

The Mk 1 Luna does not have the stabilizer ring of the later models. It's still a fine ship but a bit trickier to land than the Mk 2 and Mk 3.

The second change between the Mk 1 and Mk 2 was adding additional armor to the stern. Ramming was considered unlikely but useful as a threat when boarding suspicious ships in orbit. The reality was the Luna had no landing gear and was often called on the refuel from icy bodies. In that case tit was expedient to smack the ground and break it up before loading ice int a hopper installed that could be set up in the emergency lock at the stern.

As you can see the added armor proved such a good idea that the engineers kept adding to it. It made soft landing somewhat academic provided the crew was strapped in.

The Luna's Ram was of a transparent variety of metasite. It was further reinforced with a concave tip. The metasite was as clear as frosted glass and a searchlight was installed to further illuminate the landing area. t helped keep stupid people from being squished.

Luna has four main airlocks ... technically. One lock is the standard people passer. You get in you vacuum gear and it cycles you through. Another lock usually has a magnetic grapple thrower mounted. The third lock has deluxe spacesuits mounted against the inner wall. You enter them by climbing through a small port into the suit. The last lock is usually not a lock at all. On most ships it is a simple tool locker opening to the outside. Vacuum sleeves and gloves let personnel onboard help spacesuited personnel. A tiny lock mounted on the inner wall lets tools and parts be passed out of the ship quickly. In practice all these can be converted back into standard airlocks within an hour.

There is a fifth hatch opening on the rocket control deck for loading large pieces of equipment and machinery easily. This is merely a hatch, not a lock! In practice docking with a station is done through this hatch using an extendable boarding tube.

One of the later modifications of the Luna was to the guns. The rocket ammunition used liquid fuel pumped into the barrel to fire rounds initially. The rounds then ignited their main motors a safe distance from the hull. The storage of this liquid fuel and barrel corrosion caused maintenance problems and eventually magnetic accelerators replaced the fuel system.

The viewing ports above and below the guns are specially treated sections of hull rendered transparent and polarized against glare. They are part of the rest of the hull and nearly as strong. In practice it sacrifices very little to safety and crews like seeing what is around them. In later ships there is an argument whether to even include transparent sections. Another proposal is to have the transparent sections also function as data screens highlight important feature or allowing video conversations.

Next up, the engines!

Friday, May 12, 2017

And We're Live!

Dieselpunk in a Nutshell is up for sale on RPGNow and OBS! Link is here. Go buy it (c'mon it's only $2), rate it, and roll yourself up some dieselpunk settings!

You can even fudge some rolls. I'm not telling!