Monday, January 13, 2014

Interplanetary Flatfoot Sounds Better Than Space Dick!

As implied a few posts earlier here's some of the more interesting pieces of gear used by Dick Tracy. At one point it looked like the Major Crime Unit could take on a banana republic and win. Most of this gears is from the Moon Era where Chester Gould wanted to make Tracy a 'space cop.' This period is either loved or despised. There is no middle ground. I found it fascinating,and maybe it's time to give it another look since many of its themes are more relevant today. Tracy began dealing with a variety of foes who used high tech to commit crimes. Some inventions like the space coupe had devastating potential in the wrong hands and Tracy often had to guard them from crooks. Finally humans were discovered living on the far side of the Moon in a habitable valley and the possibility of crime coming to their utopian world caused no end of twists in this first contact.

Yeah I know people on the Moon. Assume it was the doing of the Ancients. They were human too because Junior Tracy knocked boots with one with the result of a baby girl. Oh yes, they had horns that stored solar energy they could fire in blasts that could nix an armored car!

The stats are according to Mongoose Traveller which I'm now convinced can run ANYTHING. Now I want to play a few games dealing with the MCU trying to bust a dope smuggling ring the Apparatus is using to entrap some Moon people into doing their evil bidding. (Oh Hell just check out the strip, it's on and you can find a million wikis with further information.)

Space Coupe (‘Sparkle Plenty’ SI-003)
Component Notes dTons MCr
Hull 70 dTons Code S7 Std.
1/1 Hull/Struc. 1.7 MCr.
Structural Reinforcement 4 points 7 0.17MCr.
Radiation Shielding +1000 rads/ 6 pts. 17.5 MCr.
M--Drive sJ 2 Thrust 9 15 MCr.
Power Plant sJ Fission-2 14.4 21 MCr.
Control Cabin 2 Crew 1 Passenger 9 0.35 MCr.
Computer Model 2 0.16 MCr.
Airlock 1 0.1 MCr.
Basic Civilian -2 DM 1 0.05 MCr.
1 Turret Single Blaser Mount 0 MCr.
6 Cabins 9 0.45 MCr.
Library 4 MCr.
Cargo 15.6 MCr.
Expert Software 0.1 MCr.
Totals 70 61.58 MCr.

The first space coupe was a versatile and robust vehicle. Its control system was very simple allowing anyone with piloting background to handle it in routine operations (operate it at skill 0 if you have any pilot or flyer skills.) The coupe had fission batteries giving it nearly unlimited range and it was capable of 2 gees continuous acceleration. On at least one occasion a coupe was armed with a laser cannon to take down a tank being operated by a gang of thieves. It was not usually armed perhaps as a precaution given the many people trying to steal one!

Mini Coup (“Mysta” SI-002)
Component Notes dTons MCr
Hull 40 dTons Code S4 Std.
1/1 Hull/Struc. 1.4 MCr.
Radiation Shielding +1000 rads/ 6 pts. 10 MCr.
M--Drive sD 2 Thrust 4 5.25 MCr.
Power Plant sD Fission-2 8.4 18 MCr.
Control Cabin 2 Crew 1 Passenger 9 0.35 MCr.
Computer Model 2 0.16 MCr.
Airlock 1 0.1 MCr.
Basic Civilian -2 DM 1 0.05 MCr.
1 Turret Single Blaser Mount 0 MCr.
6 Cabins 9 0.45 MCr.
Cargo 7.6 MCr.
Expert Software 0.1 MCr.
40 36.86 MCr.

The smaller version of the space coupe was retained by Smith Industries for years after the Moon severed all ties and the rest of the space fleet was scrapped. Some models installed a docking clamp which was capable of lifting a small armored vehicle. This model was a frequent target of crooks.

Small Air Car
TL 8
Agility +2
2 spaces
1/1 Hull/Structure
225 kph/ 135 mph
Range 1000 km
Armor 12
Cost 140,000 cr.
One pilot and one passenger (cramped.) Optional windshield (no armor.)

The first generation air cars were built with Moon people technology. Magnetic propulsion allowed them to function with the speed, range, and versatility of a helicopter but without the noise or down draft. The flying bucket usually held one operator though in a pinch two could squeeze in. The air car was open topped and had a detachable windshield. It was controlled with two crutch-like sticks the operator gripped, though one could be operated with one hand at slow speeds. 

Large Air Car
TL 8
Agility +2
5 spaces
2/2 Hull/Structure
225 kph/ 135 mph
Range 1000 km
Armor 18
Cost 427,000 cr.
One pilot and up to 3 passengers (cramped.) Enclosed. Smoke dispenser (can carry tear gas.) Standard sensors. Cargo 1/2 space. 

The larger second generation air cars were big enough for an operator and three passengers. Bulletproof and fully enclosed they were slower than the smaller air cars but just as maneuverable. A smoke dispenser could emit smoke to camouflage the car of tear gas. Three gun ports allowed the passengers to use firearms while a fourth gunport consisted of a downward facing tube for dropping stun or tear gas grenades. Unlike the earlier cars this version had a dedicated sensor suite. 

Unfortunately soon after its debut all the air cars were pulled from service due to negative effects of magnetism.

2-Way Wrist Radio I
This was the first communications device built for the police by Smith Industries. A flexible antenna from the comm is taped down along the forearm to increase the range. The deivce is powered by a small atomic battery. The communications are encrypted. It was built at TL8 as prototech at TL 9. The radio has a range of 500 km. Cost 50,000 cr. 

2-Way Wrist Radio II
The wrist radio was uprated increasing its range and durability.. It was uprated to continental range but externally almost identical.  Range is 5000 km. Cost 5,000 cr.

2-Way Wrist TV
Smith Industries took their experience with the 2-Way Wrist Radio and produced the
2-Way Wrist TV. The device allows face to face communication as well as videotaping and photographing. The range is the same as the 2nd generation wrist radio. It was built at TL 8 as prototech at TL 9. Range is 5000 km. Cost 25,000 cr.

Wrist Wizard
The latest evolution of the wrist comms, the wizard offers all the features of the wrist tv and much more. An integrated projector allows visual displays and control screen to be projected. A small computer runs a database and a Security program/0. This is normally Routine to disable however most people have access to TL 7 computer systems imposing a -4 DM resulting in a Difficult task. Range is 5000 km. Cost 50,000 cr.

These costs are based on the open market. Black market devices command several times the amount. The MCU receives its gear directly from Smith Industries and the cost  is about 1/10 of these values. 

Heavy Riot Gear
This suit was invented by the late Officer Groovy Grove. The suit consists of a ballistic cloth body suit with semi-rigid staves along the limbs. The undersuit is Protection 4. An improved Flak Jacket is added and a visored helmet raising the total to Protection 8. An officer wearing the suit is -1 ro tasks requiring Dexterity. The suit comes with an extendable baton and a collapsible shield for dealing with rioters. Extending or collapsing either is a minor action. The baton can be used as a stave or club depending on how far it is telescoped. The boots are steel-toed and soled with heavy duty composites allowing the wearer to kick for +1 damage. 

Officers are rarely issued a full suit anymore. The invention is regarded as overkill. The helmet, baton, and boots remain popular. The helmet by itself provides Protection 5 against head shots and Protection 2 overall. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Atlantis Rising

Suppose we're playing a supers game. I offer you a pregen character. The character has mid level super strength (not god like but good enough to bend steel, rip through a fortress wall with time etc.), limited invulnerability (bullets sting, a tank gun is still gonna kill you),  the ability to travel at over one hundred miles per hour, and finally limited telepathy. Wait there's more. You have access to the technology of an ancient civilization and its resources in a pinch.

You're Aquaman.

You need periodic immersion in water (in the old days every hour, nowadays a few hours or days depending on humidity.) Telepathy is mainly the control and communication with marine life. Travel is swimming. So you have fairly rapid travel over 71% of the Earth. The ancient civilization is Atlantis of course several centuries beyond our technology and with some elements of magic.

Water breathing supers are something of a joke in role playing games and comic books. Mostly due to 1) limitations on dry land, air, and space and 2) suffering by comparison. When Arizona is attacked by giant toxic space gerbils, face it, the water breather will get monitor duty. When your other team  members can move small moons, run backwards in time or are the world's greatest sleuth commanding a bunch of sharks is no big deal. Especially in Arizona.

Suffering by comparison is a non-issue. Plenty of members in super teams fall way below the power levels of their big guns. You might have a demigod rubbing shoulders with a martial artist and a guy who can change colors or walk through walls (But not while changing colors … that's the catch.)

As for the limits out of water, why not create a team of water breathers? Everyone is a super hero of the undersea realms. Yes realms. Why have your water people be one type? Surface dwellers have diversified over thousands of years and they live on a piddling 12% or less of the Earth's surface (most of it near the oceans.) That's good enough for comic book style evolution!

Consider that a human with scuba gear can descend 40 meters and conventional submarines have a maximum depth of 500 meters. Most of the sea floor is at least a mile down and out of the reach of humans directly. More people have been to the Moon than the Marianas Trench. There's plenty of room to set up adventures in the unknown oceans.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


Okay Mongoose Traveller can run supers (after a fashion.) This set up is a little easier for it. Dick Tracy!

Dick Tracy was my all time favorite strip as a boy. I picked it up in the '60's Space era, a time when fans either applauded or loathed the story arc. I couldn't read yet and it looked like a acid trip to a five year old. I was especially amazed and fascinated by the Space Coup and the Moon People.

Sadly the strip waned in popularity over the years and eventually was dropped from local papers. After I got on the internet I checked it out occasionally over the years and hated it after Max Collins was taken off writing. I started checking it out again few ekes ago and discover that Joe Staton and Mike Curtis had taken it to new heights (they brought the Space Coup back!) In fact the strip won the 2013 Harvey award for best syndicated strip or panel.

What really caught my ey was the crossovers. In the course of a year Tracy dealt with 1) a villain who was implied to be related to the Penguin 2) phoned Oliver Warbucks (Annie) to check on a criminal's background claims 3) had Mary Perkins (On Stage: Mary Perkins) and 4) vacationed with Popeye and Olive (though both were just glimpsed; I mean how do you draw Popeye and in the Tracy style?)

So what about a setting made up of Tracy's City (is the Tick operating somewhere around there too?) and other classic strips? You could add in virtually any sort of realistic strip and throw a few not so realistic for cutaway gags. (I actually had Popeye do a walk on in a World War 2 supers game. The reaction from the players was shock, laughter, and kudos.)

Dick Tracy, America's best known and most decorated law enforcement agent fights crime in his City. Tracy heads the Major Crime Unit as well as the Tracy Detective agency (the Tracy Agency might need investigators hook #1.) Gotham City has the vigilante known as the Batman to fight their more colorful so-called super villains. Many people have copied the Batman's methods leading to the International Club of Heroes. Star City has the Green Arrow who also inspired the Green Arrows of Many Nations (though many consider him to be merely one of Batman's imitators.)

Piracy, slave trading and terrorism are world wide threats. The only thing necessary for their victory is for good men to do nothing. Fortunately good men are far from uninvolved. A team consisting of Flash Gordon, Mandrake, Punjab, and the Phantom operates under UN auspices and with ties to major law enforcement agencies such as Interpol and the FBI and is funded covertly by Oliver Warbucks and Diet Smith.

In terms of technology: most of Earth is TL 7 though it has many more miniaturized and combined versions of equipment. The major governments have access to TL 8 prototypes. Smith Enterprises and Warbucks' Industry has built a number of TL 9 prototypes (such as the Space Coupe which has a unique maneuver drive.) Flash Gordon also has she access to TL 9 gear from his space adventures.

Mandrake and Punjab's 'magical' powers can be explained by the core psi rules (Punjab's magic items are focii that enable him to use his teleport power (cloak) and store extra psi points (sword.))

Any contributions to the setting are welcomed.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Supers Made Real

As I said I've been fiddling around with Traveller and trying to adapt it to a dieselpunk setting. As a side note I was also wondering about how far I could take the Mongoose Traveller system. Could you for example run a supers game with it?

The answer after a little thought is a cautious yes. No new rules needed in fact. Think about it. three possible origins for supers can already be handled with the RAW: power armor, cybernetics, and psionics for starters. Add to this the rules for creating aliens and you have genetic experiments as well. depending on what tech level you set the supers' tech to they could be gritty street level types or world beaters (assuming most of the world is TL 7.) Instead of the tech tree becoming a timeline it would become a measure of an individual's brilliance (maybe TL = Intelligence as a rough guide.)

Supers would be less freak accidents (although I guess some mutants and spontaneous psi's could creep in) and more national or corporate created. Captured or discovered alien tech could also play a part in 'unplanned' supers. A base tech level for supers of TL 10 works well to create people who are pretty tough but not impossible to kill (God didn't make all men equal, the RAM grenade launcher did.)

If I actually got you thinking about using Mongoose Traveller to run a supers game you might find the following supplements useful: Supplement 5-6: Vehicles (everyone wants to build a helicarrier), Supplement 4: Central Supply Catalogue, and Attack Squadron Roswell (excellent look at additional effects for grav drives: forcefields, invisibility etc. plus alien adversaries.) I haven't gotten Psion yet but that probably bears looking at as well.