Saturday, May 30, 2015

Cats and Dolphins

C.M.O. All this schooling and I’m writing a report on the effects of mac and cheese on a gender changing frog’s stomach. Which it turns out is not so good when ingested on top of various insects and a slow moving Chinch.

Riasi: Dolphin!!

C.M.O.: Riasi?! What are you doing here? You’re a sight for sore ... whoa hey! Oof! Ummm ... m’okaaaaaay! Dial it back a notch. These beds are for medical purposes only. Seriously ... I’d need Tivk to recalibrate the whole thing with what you have in mind ... That IS what you have in mind?

Riasi: You inferred correctly. I will settle for delayed gratification. Sorry. I had a week of stroking that pig Korsa’s ego. It’s nice to see a friendly face that doesn’t look at me like I’m a pork chop.

C.M.O.: ... what’d the pig do? Does he need a lesson in manners?

Riasi: You are hardly a credible threat to Korsa. Sorry.

C.M.O.: Who said I was going to do it? The Chief owes me one. 

Riasi: Enough of Korsa. I am not here to speak of Korsa or really do much talking ...


Mukh: Hey Doc!

C.M.O.: Son of a mother... 

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Second Oldest Profession

Riasi: In any event salle-Korsa was kind enough to allow me to download the pig slaver’s data files before blowing him to quarks. I would have liked to keep him alive for questioning at least but salle-Korsa was pretty clear on his desires. I did not care to argue with him. For a pirate he has a strong sense of honor in some things. He’s a good tipper too, I hear.

Captain: So you downloaded the data from the slaver and found this list? Confederation citizens posted by name. Data files for each. It looks like someone was planning mass abductions event.

Riasi: I would say so. There are a large number of beanpoles listed, some frogs, several humans, one vole female and child.

Captain: I can relay the names to my superiors and alert the security forces. Meanwhile we can see whether the targets fall into any patterns.

Riasi: That would be good Tesla-Captain. Apparently my colleagues and I were not on the list. We were just a stop along away. Rather insulting being the target of impulse buyers.

Captain: Or flattering. If I’m reading these prices right.

Riasi: Nrrrrrrrr.

Slaves, one of mankind's oldest institutions is a staple of space opera/pulp. This is often decried by people who prefer hard science fiction. Robots or at least automation are going to be way cheaper and more practical. Here's some doubletalk to allow you to make oppression an ongoing theme in your game. After all where there are the oppressed there are also liberators. There's too many good story hooks here and slavers of any stripe never go out of fashion as villains. Any comments about me defending slavery will be deleted. 

Why not a robot?
1) Robots require charging, parts, servicing and other commodities not available locally. Sentients require the same foods and care the oppressors require.

2) Slaves are a status symbol (very important among your proud warrior races).

3) A slave revolt is bad enough. A robot revolt is an economic blackhole. Plus slaves are way easier to keep complacent ("We'll give you basic cable if you get back to work now ... okay, premium.")

4) Slaves have some quality that can't be built into robots. Adolescent power trips aside, a clairvoyant or even a skilled artist might be worth their weight in AI chips.

5) A debt. Indentured service is a form of slavery. New colonists might be forced into indenture before being allowed to settle to give the colony an economic boost. 

6) Social norm. The masters come from a caste culture with slaves. there have always been slaves. That's it.

7) Responsibility. Back to the proud warrior race. You conquered them, you're responsible for them.

Finally in a SF setting there are a few other considerations. As mentioned above automation is the enemy of slavery. So your SF slave is more likely to be an oncologist or geophysicist than quarry worker. In the Roman Empire having slave teachers for rich citizens' children was not unheard of. Similarly the Mongols often carried off craftsmen after looting a city, those having skills the nomads lacked.

Your proud warrior race might have slaves servicing their battle fleet and weapons. Raymond McVay had this to say:

Lastly SF provides many high tech alternatives to the whip to enforce servitude: psionics, drugs, neural weapons, and brain implants are just a few of the atrocities possible. They work great until they don't then you have an adventure.

For the truly twisted you could have an enslaved population building robots for export offworld. Who's going to to rebel first?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Scout Variant

I took the classic Scout deckplans for Snapshot and started cutting and pasting with them. I went a little wild and built a triple decker Scout. I know I'm off volume wise. In defense, I think this looks cooler and the biggest offenders are the fuel tanks which have to be a bit larger than the fuel volume to account for scoops, refrigeration equipment and insulation. Part of the reason I stuck them out was to keep the fuel cold and the cabins and main compartment warm easier.

I'm putting the air/raft in the nose along with a cargo lock and some storage. Behind is the avionics and computer systems. I'm thinking of reducing the ship's locker to two squares and putting it alongside an airlock next to the bridge.

The drive controls are on the highest level and looking down on the drives themselves.
I'll post more plans as I firm them up.

Monday, May 25, 2015


Captain: Morning all.

Cadet: Good morning sir!!

Captain: Report.

Cadet: Sir. All ship systems normal. No intruders in the no fly volume. Nothing ... to report.

Captain: You sound disappointed, mister.

Cadet: It was my first time taking the conn and ... I did nothing sir.

Captain: Excellent. If something came up ... what'd you do do?

Cadet: Call you and the X.O. immediately.

Captain: Capital. Good man. Now get out of my chair Shavetail.

Cadet: Aye sir. Thank you sir.

Captain: Beautiful planet isn't it? The blue oceans, the white clouds. Makes you a little homesick.

Cadet: Yes sir. Only home is two A.U.s away ... what happened here sir?

Captain: Now you're asking question above your pay grade, Cadet. For that matter, you are asking questions above my pay grade. No it's all right to ask questions. Just learn when to stop asking them out loud. The short simple answer is ... no one knows.

Cadet: But they are working on it, sir?

Captain: I should hope so. One minute all is well the next we have another Earth orbiting in opposition to our Earth. Most theories involve some kind of temporal incident. That's only because Contra-Terra is at the point in history we labeled 1957, old calendar.

Cadet: Why does this weird shit always happen in the Solar System,  sir? Sorry sir.

Captain: I think we've pissed off too many of them big glowing heads myself. In any case we've had a merry dance these last six months, putting up deflector satellites to screen in system chatter, establishing an observation post on Contra-Luna, rescheduling Fleet assignments to mount a blockade here. Good thing Mars was on the far side of the sun with Earth. That shielded the doppelgangers from most of our comm signals. It was still dicey.

Cadet: Sir, Mr. Tivk was saying the beanpoles are going over Klordhop's theories to account for this being that the Cluster Shunt Effect was proven true.

Captain: Right. Klordhop is suddenly a celebrity and under heavy guard. Everyone though he was nuts before this. You'd think that you need someone a little crazy to figure out time travel.

Cadet: The last I heard ... he was saying that Contra-Terra belonged here and the rest of the galaxy got shunted back in time.

Captain: Makes as much sense as the big glowing head theory.

Contra-Terrene just is. It's an example of a major temporal shake up in a campaign that while certainly disconcerting is not going to pull the plug on the game (hopefully). What exactly caused it is up to the referee of course. Answers include calling an elder god a smug bastard, time travel hijinx, playing with an alien artifact or a planet slipping from an alternate reality for any of the previous reasons.

The era of Contra-Terra is also up to the referee. In the example above 1957 is as good a year as any. The Cold War and paranoia is in full bloom. The UFO craze is just getting off the ground and in a few years manned spacecraft will be in orbit. In a few months Sputnik is going to be launched and require further cover ups. Will a big reveal change history? Is this the past of the campaign's timeline?

Why pick Earth? They always pick Earth. It can be used with any planet with interesting results. An evolved peaceful race could suddenly be confronted by their warlike ancestors. A primitive race could be exploited by their descendants who squandered their resources.

Down the road characters might be recruited for covert missions to Contra-Terra to find out what the bejeebers is happening. They might be humans or recruited from humanoid aliens to avoid any paradoxes. The Fleet has already foiled twelve attempts to engineer a grandfather paradox and taken the criminals into custody.

What happens when the Fleet discovers the flying saucer sightings of the era are real (at least on Contra-Terra).

Captain: Report!

Cadet: Port engine is out sir. Torpedoes coming back online!

Captain: They never told me I'd have to turn back  a damned invasion from Dimension X to preserve what might be our history ... fire torpedoes 1, 2 and, 3 on my mark! Target the big saucer!

Cadet: this explains what those Nazis were doing on the moon at least ... incoming!! Brace for collision!!

Friday, May 22, 2015


Edit: So the best question so far is from Kyrinn S. Eis  who asks why I don't have a link to all the Question related posts? Here you go gentle readers.

I wrote far more on that toxic meme than I expected; which is a little scary in itself. I wonder ... Anyway back to the musings of a wise phrog.

So many questions.

Is the Question really sentient as some say? Can it be modified? If it is sentient it could perhaps be persuaded or threatened to  change its behavior. It is not terribly successful right now as most of its victims are left drooling and contemplating. I don't know what.

It may be alive or act like it is alive but its behavior is more like a virus. It infects and turns its hosts into factories for producing more virus, more infection. It is very detrimental to its hosts.

Was it a weapon? Did someone devise meme technology? What would even be involved in that? Such memes would likely change the minds creating them. It'd be like a computer rebuilding itself while it was running.

Maybe we are all uplifted or created in some way and the creators left a backdoor in our programming so to speak in case we proved troublesome. That raises more questions. The many races have some very different tweaks in their thought processes. Would comparing all the common ground in our minds lead us down a dark stream.

Why does it drive the Slugs and the bean poles mad? Are they connected? Do they have similar thought processes?

What about our possible makers or modifiers? Did their meme failsafe turn  on them or are they out there waiting for us to draw too close?

I don't want to ask these questions. But sometimes I feel something scratching at the back of my mind. It's just a little nagging uncertainty. It is bigger at some times than others.

I don't want to end up with dumbots for company on a station that is built around a gigaboom.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Charisma: the Dump Stat? Statting the Alien Part 4

Nok: Begin transcript /startstartstart/ N’sa Nok vegum Tesla ek

<<I miss you. I never thought the nights could be so long but they drag without you. Long nights and yet I feel life passing me by so fast. Too fast. I miss the sounds of the warren. I miss your scent. I yearn for soft rains out of a dark sky. I even miss the seasons of the Poisoned Light, at least the ones I spent with you in the warren.

Everything good about me came from you. You made me a better person. My crimes I will take credit for myself. There are those who say there is no justice in this life but they are fools or sociopaths. Truly I am being punished now.

A wise frog tells me: where you are from is not as important as where you are now and where you are going. Perhaps she is right. But some of us carry the weight of our previous days all the rest of our lives. Also I do not think I am going anywhere.

I do not ask your forgiveness. But will you at least give me a chance to atone? Surely there is atonement in this life if there is justice. The Dark Mother is ever merciful. She shows mercy to the basest sinner. It is said a moment of piety from a sinner is sweeter to Her than the laughter of children.

Surely I am not the same person who made those mistakes. I can’t be. Give me a chance.

Please M’fe?


N’sa Nok /outoutout/

Be-deep! Be-deep!

Nok: Xeche ... xe ... Enter ... you may enter.

Tivk: Is everything all right?

Mukh: Did the Captain find out about that trader we screwed with? Is he mad at me?

Nok: He doesn’t know you’re breathing ... and stinking up the ship.

Tivk: You did not answer my question.

Nok: No. I did not. Excuse me. I want to go get some food.

Tivk: Here ... You are forgetting your eye shades.

Nok: Thank you, beanpole.

Mukh: You okay Nok?

Nok: No worse than usual my friend.

Riasi has it. The Doc doesn't. He can't even get the aliens to stop calling him 'Dolphin'.

Charisma, for the short sighted, the dump stat. Charisma represents the force of personality of a person. Like it or not Charisma is often biased based on cultural perceptions or evolutionary factors as well. In some space operas this is treated as a planet of hats. A culture is based around a species' most salient trait (physical or mental). A species of large brutish warriors might accord more influence to a hulking warrior for example; use the Strength modifier in place of Charisma or add half rounded down to the Reaction modifiers. A brainy race might use Intelligence or Wisdom.Any characteristic could be treated this way for a planet of hats rule. 

Psionic potential could also be linked to Charisma. Having the nerve and will to read a person's thoughts or tell inanimate objects to move out of your way is the explanation for this linkage. It could also represent low level telepathy making people more likely to obey a person. This could work to portray a race with brilliant minds but little psionic potential, leaving such parlor trick to the slower but plucky humans. On the cool side your Space Knight can now look great while swaying the weak minded or deflecting energy bolts.

A referee has to decide how Charisma translates to other species. As written it is separate from appearance. However species' lines is stretching that separation a bit. A race evolved from prey animals will probably have an aversion to races evolved from predators. In game terms you could say a sentient predator spawn's Strength or Charisma modifier might work against them (a positive modifier becomes a negative modifier to the reaction.)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Statting the Alien Part 3 Dexterity

C.M.O.: I'm getting really sick of this big glowing head chasing us!

Nok: You called it a smug bastard. It's chasing you.I am merely your pilot.

C.M.O.: It's tractoring those asteroids directly in our trajectory! Veer off!!

Nok: No. It won't let us go until we give it a show. So a show we will give it!

C.M.O.: I don't suppose it ever heard of stand up comedy?

Dexterity modifies a character's armor class, their ranged combat bonus and initiative rolls. This does not have to be the case. A large heavily built species (such as Mukh's) with thick skins (and/or life giving slime) might use their Constitution modifier to adjust their armor class. A psionic race could use Wisdom (energy blades optional) to adjust their AC to represent ESP, combat sense, precognition or being able to read an opponent's moves (energy based blade optional).

It's up to the referee whether a pilot's Dexterity will modify the AC of their ship. It might just extend to smaller ships like shuttles. In keeping with the stat theme of recent posts certain ships might vary their armor class by the Pilot's Intelligence (neural feedback controls), or even Constitution (those high gee turns make you hard to hit but you can black out.)

A race of calculating beings or synthetics might be able to predict a target's moves and use their Intelligence or Wisdom for their ranged THB. For that matter humans (and other humanoids) have evolved for throwing ability and might add their Strength bonus to the ranged THB with thrown weapons.

Races might use Intelligence in place of Dexterity to modify technical or repair rolls if they are astute technophiles (or synthetics).

Creatures that evolved from ambusher type predators might have little dexterity when it comes to dodging or chucking rocks but could add their Constitution modifier to initiative on the first round of a fight to represent a quick rush or sprint carrying them towards prey that might be faster in the long haul (the Constitution bonus could also increase their movement once per fight or as many times as the GM wishes.)

Some races might use their Dexterity to modify experience earned if they learn primarily by doing and imitating others. That cat girl might be a copy cat girl.

Finally some melee weapons might use Dexterity to modify hit chances (or parrying if you use such rules). A neuro-lash is a fairly light weapon so strength doesn't necessarily convey a bonus, but a dextrous user can make it hit you just right!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Who Let the Cat Out?

Korsa: Do you have any needs, cat-lady?

Riasi: You have been most generous, salle-Korsa. 

Korsa: You have the manners of a queen. You are a rare treasure to waste on less articulate and mannerly races. You speak my language and my name beautifully. 

Riasi: Okay, I’m blushing under my fur now. If I may make a request ... of course you will be compensated for your hospitality and cooperation by my superiors ...

Korsa: Compensation is always welcome. Oh pardon me! Domo, report. 

Domo: The enemy crew and their prisoners are all accounted for, salle-Captain. The captives are all transferred to our ship. The enemy crew is being returned to their stations ... most of them.

Korsa: Most? Who is still on our ship?

Domo: Sorry for being unclear. We don’t have any enemy crew onboard the Wanton Courtesan. We just returned a few enemy crew missing some unnecessary bits.

Riasi: That’d be my fault, salle-Korsa. I couldn’t see letting that scum of a jailer go with both his ears. The rest of my staff felt similarly. 

Korsa: Quite understandable. Their injuries will be of no importance.

Captain: Captain Korsa! I maintain this intercept and boarding action is completely unnecessary. My colleagues and I will be happy to pay you a princely sum for your protection. Far easier to collect that than stress your crew with this sort of attack.

Korsa: I can see why you want my protection there are a lot of pirates around here. 

Captain: I’m telling you.

Korsa: ... you’re lucky you were found by a mere pirate. If my father’s forces found you there would be no mercy, no chance for you. You'd be thrown in a pit full of your former victims while my relatives would watch and bet how long your death would take. 

Riasi: And the Terrans say your people are uncivilized.

Captain: Thank you for your mercy.

Korsa: I didn’t offer it. I will extend a small chance to you. Have your crew man their stations and run.

Captain: Come again?

Korsa: I said ‘run’! We open fire in one minute. Some of you might even live. I doubt it. My weapons officer is a freed slave. 

Captain: But ...!

Domo: Salle-Korsa is done with you. Take your one eared crewmen and point your nose at your rat hole! Leave before I let you taste the cat!

Riasi: I beg your pardon?!

Domo: Apologies my lady. We Terrans call the neural lash ‘the cat.’

Riasi: Oh. I’ll take it as a compliment! Give him a lick for me, Domo dear!

Domo: Indeed!

Captain: I’m going! I’m going! Man battle stations power up the tubes! Ngaaaah!

Korsa: Now what is this talk of favors and compensation?

Riasi: Oh! Yes! I need to get to the Tesla. I believe you know how to find her!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Tivk: I require your assistance immediately.

Chief: What's the problem?

Tivk: There is a creature in my quarters.

Chief: What kind of critter? Why didn't ya call security? Sound an alert!

Tivk: It is not an exceptionally large creature. Be careful!

Chief: I don't see no ...

Nok: This is going to be good.

Mukh: And how.

Chief: Are you outta your alien skull?

Tivk: Medically impossible.

Chief: That's a Chinch. It's supposed to be there. It keeps yer digs clean.

Tivk: I do not desire a Terran symbiote. Please dispose of it.

Chief: We use the critters to keep our quarters clean. The little fella won't hurt you.

Mukh: And they look delicious!!

Chief: Don't be eating the symbiote, froggy. Listen here, beanpole, deal with the critter yourself or let him be. Cuz I ain't hurting a little Chinch. Why don't you ask your entourage here to chase him out?

Tivk: They are being spectacularly unhelpful.

Nok: You thought I'd miss this?

Mukh: Not very likely.

Spacecraft of any tech level eventually become filthy. An enclosed environment with a bunch of humans will soon develop a funk all its own. Most household dust is 70% human skin flakes so dusting is still required. Add to this all the effluvia of eating and living and the many crawlspaces, ventilator shafts and heating ducts and you're talking about a gigantic petrie dish capable of space travel.

Enter the Chinch. The Chinch comes from Chinchilla stock with a minor bit of genetic tweaking to produce a lower birthrate and greater resistance to toxins and radiation. Chinch's retain the heavy fur coats of their wild forebears. Crew can install prefab Chinch houses in various out of the way places and let a family of Chinches lose. The creatures will crawl all over the place eating anything remotely edible. The creatures were bred to have a strong aversion to the taste of plastics and other insulating materials. Chewing through wires is not an issue.

Chinches operate unseen during sleep periods on most ships. Moving around they tireless lap up liquids and eat crumbs while their fur whisks away dust and grime. Back in the Chinch hole the creatures groom each other removing the detritus.

Although they were intended as a cheap maintenance solution many crews name their Chinches, create elaborate Chinch housing and otherwise treat the animals like pampered pets.

Chief: All I'm saying is I'm a graduate of Advanced Tactics school. I completed EVA Ops training with honors. I'm trained on servicing and flying shuttles. You get what I'm driving at here?

Tivk: I am quite sure your training will prove adequate ... It is attacking! Is it venomous?

Chief: Oh fer ... here. I got the big ole alien monster.

Mukh: You going to eat that all by yourself?

Chief: ... I don't understand why you're so freaked out by it. They keep the ship spic and span. They're harmless. Some crew even make pets of them. I think Jenn has one.

Tivk: They have waste. They eliminate like all animals possibly where I may come into contact with said wastes.

Chief: Oh why didn't you say so? No worries.

Tivk: Oh?

Chief: Nah. We got little robots programmed to follow them around and clean their crap up.

Tivk: ... I hate you all.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Statting the Alien Part 2 Wisdom

Chief: I got one!

C.M.O.: I got one too!

Tivk: I am successful as well.

Nok: There are some more moving to the left!

Tivk: On closer inspection I got a rock.

Mukh: Okay that's ... six we got. That's the legal limit. We can take them back to my clan holdings now.

Chief: There's going to be a hell of a fish fry.

Nok: Oh.

Tivk: Ah.

Mukh: ... what?

Chief: What'd I say?

Mukh: Give me that net please. Thank you. See you back at the clan holding.

<Splash! Swimswimswim!>

Chief: What'd I say?!

C.M.O.: Chief. These are the immature form of Mukh's species. They lay their eggs out here and come back after hatching season starts to capture their quota of young for their family.

Chief: I guess I brought that cooler full 'a brews for nothing.

Nok: I think you'll need every beer.

Tivk: Begin imbibing now. We have experience with angry mobs.

Wisdom is usually regarded as instinct, perception, understanding your own ways of thinking and the way others think. It is often used to measure psionic potential if your game includes that. This applies mainly to humans of course. Other species may have a very different idea of what makes a being wise although generally speaking wisdom is something that increases with life experience.

Wisdom often gives a bonus to experience points earned or bonuses to psionic powers and abilities. In a robot or synthetic it can represent how well the AI can learn from its experiences.

A robot or synthetic might use its Intelligence to give bonuses to its equivalent of psionics to represent hacking ability.

Wisdom might also be a criteria for a being to exceed level limits (if you're using them). Since Wisdom tends to increase with age this can explain all those extremely high level and multi-classed NPCs who seem more capable than other PC members of their species or product line.

Wisdom can also give a bonus to attempts to contact or communicate with newly discovered species. While Charisma or force of personality works dealing with beings you understand, Wisdom is what helps you understand them in the first place.

A high Wisdom could be used to allow aliens to perceive special things that humans can't. A being from a planet that undergoes numerous quakes could develop a sense for seismic activity based on Wisdom or a being from a world orbiting a flare star might be able to detect radiation storms from environmental or physiological clues others would miss. Some might even have a chance to detect secret doors on a 2 in 6 chance.

Wisdom could be used in place of Charisma if your values age and experience. Your mystical order of knights might not care if you're particularly friendly if you have command of your thoughts and feelings and see into the hearts of others.

Wisdom could be used in place of Dexterity to modify your armor class to represent precognitive ability or a combat sense. Using it to replace Strength or Constitution is harder to justify, but it could represent control of your endocrine system allowing you to trigger adrenal surges or respond more efficiently to disease and toxins.

Using other characteristics for Wisdom is harder to explain perhaps because a central bias of our culture is that there is no substitute for experience. A race of adept beings might be able to copy movements and abilities from those around them. These mimics could get the experience bonus for their Dexterity or Intelligence. Likewise a crude brawler type might not get an experience bonus for being insightful and perceptive and be more likely to succeed and improve due to high Strength or Constitution letting him rebound from beatings quicker and put what he learned to good use.

Mukh: Accepted. On both counts. I'm glad you learned something from this.

Chief: I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Mukh: ... that isn't a euphemism for telling me to go f...

Chief: No! It means ... I learned something from all this and in spite of often being a stubborn old gyrene.

Mukh: That's the good thing about being egg layers and coming into the world non-sentient and feral. None of us know exactly where we come from so we really don't get hung up on it. We think it's more important where you are and where you're going.

Chief: ...

Mukh: Where in Throgg's name did you get the idea this was a hunting trip?

Chief: ... Nok told me.

Nok: You bastard!!

Mukh: Why you .... REEEEEEEEE!!!

Chief: Two down and one to go. No one messes with the Chief.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Statting the Alien Part 1

C.M.O.: Frigging elder gods ...

Tivk: They do not like when you curse them or call them 'smug bastard'.

C.M.O.: Smug bastard.

Tivk: The elder god is most likely gone and coaxing some pre spaceflight culture  to build ... you were not addressing the elder god, were you?

Mukh: I love your priorities. Were lost. No idea if we got a call out to the Tesla. We're low on fuel ....

Nok: K-k-k-k-k-k-k-k ...

Mukh: Wake the hell up!!

Mukh: ... did you figure out where we are yet?

Tivk: Not as yet.

Nok: ... wake me when you do.

C.M.O.: How is your astrogation progressing?

Tivk: I have ascertained we are in the Arcturus Group. Given the proximity and direction of transmissions from the Tenebrian and several mercenary vessels we may be near the Lurans. The work is slow as I am alone.

C.M.O.: Alone?! What else can we do to help?

Tivk: Your efforts are adequate. Any further contributions will be counter productive.

Mukh: We're too dumb in other words?

Tivk: Those words will do. But I refer to the lack of others of my kind. When we are together ... things work. We make ourselves brighter, more insightful.

C.M.O.: I resent that. We're a team and giving all the support we can ... except Nok.

Nok: Tell me where to fly. I fly there.

Tivk: No you can't understand. When I work in a group of my kind our minds link. Our congitive abilities improve. There is no insult intended. It is biology.

C.M.O.: You use telepathy.

Tivk: Nothing as crude as that. More like an unconscious gestalt mind giving us nudges in the right direction due to superior insight and pooling of data.

Mukh: And less like 'Pick a number from one to ten?'

Tivk: Yes.

C.M.O.: Uh that's a G type star we're closing in on. I'm reading a trinary star system a at 4.3 lights out and that gas giant with the red spot looks darned familiar.

Tivk: Sol system? Imposible. I am not reading any Fleet transmissions, installations or ships.

Nok: ... I'm checking our chronometer against known pulsar decay rates. Oh dear.

C.M.O.: Let me take a wild guess 1947?

Mukh: Fudge. We're too late to kill Hitler.

C.M.O.: I would absolutely let you kill Hitler.

Tivk: I think you guys are making me dumber.

I've been pondering aliens and how to treat them in rpgs: Traveller and OSR in particular. It's not easy. Aliens should seem alien which may seem obvious but the conventional treatment treats this by modifiers to different stats. This works to a point. An alien from a high gravity world will probably be stronger than a human. But some should be more unconventional and not merely take up a different spot on a bell curve.

One of the brilliant features of Traveller's design was giving different meaning to the Education and Social Standing stats to reflect different cultures. A Vargr for example didn't have a fixed SS. He had Charisma which would go up and down as he won or lost confrontations and had other successes or failures.

In the story above Tivk's people (beanpoles) share an unconscious mental bond that allows a group working together to increase the intelligence of their appointed leader. In game terms a beanpole leader who has a group equaling his maximum number of followers may add his Charisma modifier to rolls involving intelligence. A smaller group will modify the leader's intelligence according to the Charisma required to command that group.

Charisma was chosen because the leader must use his force of personality to command the group to increase his intelligence. When working with aliens an unusual effect takes place as the beanpole increases the intelligence modifier of the group.

As another example, Mukh's people, the phroggs, are not great at getting out of the way of trouble (or weapon fire). They are blessed with extremely thick slimy skins. In game terms the phrogg's modify their AC by their Constitution modifier, not Dexterity.

You can do a whole planet of hats riff this way. Get rid of Charisma (or just say that it only applies to galactic society or Terrans.) Want a planet of warriors? Use the Strength stat as Charisma (bigger stronger warriors have more followers because they are bigger and stronger), a planets of scientists would use Intelligence and of course there's Wisdom for your new age types.

Nok: I figured we'd solve the Roswell Mystery once and for all and people would stop blaming my people but it was bizarre.

C.M.O.: We ghost into a high orbit or try to and encounter over one hundred small crafts popping in through a series of temporal warps.

Mukh: Everybody wanted to kill Hitler but got there too late.

Captain: So what did you do then?

C.M.O.: We kind of waited a minute because we expected reality to implode. When it  didn't we didn't have a back up plan.

Tivk: I instructed Mr. Nok to proceed at full burn for the center of the mass of time traveling craft.

Mukh: Mr. Tivk asked me to send instructions to the other vessels to converge as well in as many lingua codes as I new. The space filled with chatter and we all did it. When we got the collision point <REEE!> and we were back in our time around Earth being yelled at by Space Command, Trafficon, C-Ops and ...

Nok: Them people don't know how to pilot.

Tivk: When I saw all those vessels I realized the Klordhop Temporal Paradox had a solution and what it was.

Captain: Annnnnnnnd?

Tivk: If time travel is possible why do we not have time travelers coming to alter history constantly? You had something similar called the Fermi Paradox. Where are all the smarter more advanced aliens?

Captain: Yeah. You SOBs were call screening. Klordhop though?

Tivk: Klordhop postulates that time travel is possible but meeting other travelers is not. Travelers encountering each other will be thrown back to their eras. Thus killing your Hitler is not possible. The many travelers attempting to kill him and save him at various points in his life makes intervention impossible.

Mukh: Crap.

C.M.O.: What is it with you and Hitler?

Mukh: Got me my reasons, Dolphin.

Tick: In any case I was correct. Of course ... with some encouragement from my colleagues.

Nok: There, did that hurt?

Tivk: Slightly.

Captain: Well brilliant resolution gentlemen. I'll expect reports on Big Glowing Head #67, your time jaunt and any other communiques you might have received from your future selves on my padlet tomorrow. But join me in the lounge for a libation now. My stuff.

C.M.O.: Thank you sir.

Mukh: Neat.

Nok: You coming beanpole?

Tivk: I need no libation. I wish to deal with some correspondence to my homeworld.

Nok: Later then. I'll have one for you.

Tivk: Begin transcript /startstartstart/ Tivk na-Tesla

<Brothers and sisters. Apparently I am not the moron you have always categorized me as. Rather my gestalt abilities lie in an unconventional area: I inspire others to great cognitive feats. I am compiling the anecdotal evidence as well as some brain scans and psi tests ... my friend the Doctor will administer shortly to prove my claims. They will also be sent to the Fleet Medical Board for confirmation ... so I doubt they will argue if I elect to remain with them. You were clear about me being a volunteer on this so-called worthless assignment. In any case you do not deserve my contribution. I am going to remain with my friends.>

Tivk na-Tesla /outoutout/ ... Smug bastards.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Travelling Light

I have not been as active on the Traveller groups as I'd like to be lately. I apologize for that. Traveller especially CT is one of my favorite RPGs ever. So rather than my usual trend of writing something up that's good for space opera and has some application for Traveller I am writing something new for Traveller that can be used for Space Opera style games (you know the ones with the funny dice) with a little work.

I bought the Lost Rules of Traveller supplement and eagerly read it. It has many little nuggets of ideas that fell by the wayside or didn't get enough love. But the section on missiles stands out (actually it leapt out and grabbed me by the throat.) In the section titled 'Expendables' on page 15 variations  of missiles are given for the referee to stat out such as bombs for attacking planetary fortifications. But the item that really leaps out is the jump torpedo!

This little 50 kg remote vehicle was capable of making an interstellar jump. True in the 1981 rules edition and ever since Mr. Miller stated unambiguously that a vehicle less than 100 tons could not mount a jump drive or enter jump space. Surely nothing like this ever came up in official histories of the Imperium.

Of course the Imperium also maintains a secret Jump 6 X-boat network to have an advantage in acquiring information over its subject worlds and no one is supposed to know about that. Obviously the agents of Strephon have gotten to Mr. Miller. Anyway here's my take on the jump torpedo.

Jump torpedoes are TL 15 cutting edge naval technology, second only to the black globe design principles in secrecy (and not by much). They hinge on a simple fact: the limit on entering jump space is a function of the jump field holding the raw chaos of jump space at bay. Even a momentary field collapse will reduce a ship to free quarks. Momentary flickers will erase data banks, scramble electronics and sicken or kill crew.

The jump drive uses a specialized jump grid made of rare elements to keep the torpedo in one piece. Even so the torpedo's electronics and memory banks are kept super cool to prevent their scrambling until it exits jump space. The elements of the jump cage can't be worked on a larger scale. A jump launch is flat out of the question at TL 15 and even if a TL 16 breakthrough occurred no creature coud hope to ride one and live..

A torpedo can be fired as a standard missile. It has no maneuver capacity however beyond a small gas thruster designed to move it to a afe distance from a ship. The torpedo must be programmed by a navigator using the launching ship's computer. The throw to prevent misjump has all normal modifiers and is at an additional -2. The range of the torpedo is one parsec. The torpedoes weigh 50 kg like a standard missile. The Navy (and some say the Scouts too) do not sell the things. A torpedo could probably be sold to a mega-corp or government for several million dollars if you found one you could trust. A torpedo typically mounts a small beacon, a recorder with a few shielded terabytes of information and a kilo of cargo capacity (nothing living). Most also have a self destruct charge to prevent people from salvaging them without the proper disarming codes. Some have carried up to a kilo of cargo.

Needless to say the adventure hooks write themselves: the pcs can find one of these beauties adrift in space. Is the self destruct damaged (or merely delayed) by a rough transit? Is there information on the memory bank? Can they decrypt it?

Will they replace the X-boat? Heck no. They can be used to send a distress signal or secret message. Even though they can easily misjump it may be worth it to pack several on an exploration (or spy) ship for a small chance of sending a distress message or vital information back to base.

All well and good until the wrong people find one.

At TL 16 it /may/ be possible to fit an air raft sized vehicle as a jump torpedo. Rumors persist of at least one such vehicle being used with a heavily shielded low berth to carry a human cargo. Range and endurance are unknown.

Oh yeah bombs.

Bombs fill an important roll in Classic Traveller if you follow the Book 2 rules. Planetary defenses ignore everything but turret hits. This is all well and good if you use beam lasers or pulse lasers (I suspect pulse lasers might be the go to weapon for ground attacks with their two hits.) What about missiles? Well in the RAW missiles can't be used to attack ground defenses. On the hit location table you see you apply a -4 dm for missiles which makes the highest roll possible an 8. To get turret hits you have to roll 10-11 which you can't so there you can't hit ground targets with missiles. :-P

But wait they do mention bombs and what kind of a busy body free lance designer for free would I be leaving you without the ability to hit that pirate base with a missile strike?

Bombs are slow moving explosives designed to penetrate planetary atmospheres and explode with great violence. In game terms they have one gee turn or can accelerate one space band. When they reach the target they strike any ground installations there without the -4 location modifier. They do 1d6 hits to ground installations rolled separately. Against a ship the bomb is a crude weapon with a -1 to hit. A bomb is incapable of closing to proper explosive range and will do 1-2 hits to the target. Bombs cost and weigh the same as missiles.

The author of this blog does not support using missiles or bombs to enforce your will on others but this a roleplaying game so what the Hell. Also pulse lasers are king.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Elder God Generation Tables

Elder God Generation Tables
C.M.O.: What is it?
Tivk: It's a big glowing golden head chasing our shuttle.
C.M.O.: ... I mean I want exposition. Do you know anything about it?
Tivk: It is a big. Glowing. Head. Would you care for range and bearing?
Mukh: I'm assuming this is your first contact with a sufficiently advanced jerkwad, Doc?
C.M.O.: ...
Nok: Hang on it's closing. I'm killing our relative velocity. They love it when you run. Any suggestions?
Mukh: Prayer?
Tivk: I do not know whether to commend you or slap you.

Sometimes you just need an elder god in your SF game. Whether it is for a big bad in your campaign or just to keep the characters away from that strange white void with no charted stars that you haven't mapped yet.

Elder gods, much like Nazis, and guys in white armor never get old as villains. So roll away or just pick. It is a god and no one expects a balanced contest.

1) Glowing body parts as needed.
2) A perfect specimen (and a hottie) of a known race.
3) A glowing orb of energy.
4) A hyperdimensional nexus it hurts to look at.
5) Diminutive person with a bowmer hat.
6) Disembodied voice.
7)A bizarre compilation of humanoid, animal, vegetable and mineral (fungal optional).
8) A writhing mass off tentacles.
9) A nondescript humanoid in a business suit or archaic clothing.
10) A different deity to each observer based on the religious beliefs they or their culture holds.

The elder god's dark secret is:
1) On the run from their peers.
2) Screwed something up big time in the past that was hushed up.
3) They have blood on their hands. A lot of blood.
4) Not the god you think they are.
5) On the run from their former believers.
6) They have the soul of an innocent child (good luck making them give it back!)
7) Will wipe out  beings that don't measure up to some double standard.
8) Is just testing you! Isn't that a relief?
9) Is an elaborate AI constructed by someone long ago.
10) Is an elaborate genetic construct built by an AI long ago.

The elder god is really:
1) A con artist with some state of the art tech
2) A con artist with an genuine artifact of the gods not completely understood
3) The real deal in that they are practically immortal, have existed since prehistory and were worshipped by someone somewhere who didn't know better
4)The real deal in that they are practically immortal, have existed since prehistory but don't really give a throggit's tail about you primitive types.
5)A powerful being that is practically immortal but hasn't been around long at all and is the equivalent of a teenager (or a toddler).
6) An all knowing type that likes to watch but is limited in their direct interactions.
7) Totally alien and incomprehensible.
8) Existing in multiple dimensions and really incomprehensible.
9) Says they are incomprehensible but really a jerk.
10) A time traveller from your future.

Humans are ...
1) Toys.
2) Great but you can't eat a whole one.
3) Primitives.
4) Animals.
5) Better left alone.
6) To be watched carefully.

The elder god's weakness is:
1) Nonexistent. Run.
2) A finite supply of energy.
3) A focus for their power is needed.
4) They or their power is limited or bound to a place.
5) Their life force is linked to a place, object or person.
6) Their true love.
7) Over confidence.
8) Dependency on the belief of their followers.
9) Physically a normal humanoid.
10) Roll twice. It's a bad day to be a god (relatively speaking).

Modus Operandi
1) Behind the scenes using followers.
2) Appearing in giant form and demanding worship.
3) Appearing and spending all their credits on ale and whores.
4) Chasing starships, breaking up wars, and otherwise interfering with your natural development.
5) Offering people their fantasy in exchange for their soul or a reasonable facsimile.
6) Making people love them.
7) Natural disasters: planet quakes, thunderstorms, meteor showers, actors going into politics etc.
8) Feeding off the living to make undead slaves of them.
9) Really nasty minions.
10) Bad news. The elder god doesn't mind getting their hands/feelers/claws/suckers dirty (or bloody), it's a throw down.

Power Level
1) They can neutralize the defenses of an entire world
2) They can slug it out with a capital ship.
3) They can slug it out with smaller spaceships.
3) They can raise merry hell with a landing team and shrug off any attacks with ordinary sidearms.
4) They can terrify and dominate primitives.
5) They are stuck in a big test tube and can't act physically.
6) They are stuck on the plane of dreams (woooooo!) and can only act through dreams.

1) Possessing sentients a/o machinery.
2) Incredibly realistic illusions.
3) Mind control (they make new friends easily).
4) Tech blocker. Your blaster will not function here!
5) Shapeshifter.
6) Knows what scares you.
7) Unearthly allure.
8) Warping reality in an instant.
9) Established and extensive theocracy with armed might.
10) Very sneaky and capable cult of total fanatics.

Tivk: That s an encounter I do not desire to repeat.
Mukh: Meh. He gave us three riddles we answered three riddles.
C.M.O.: I knew he was just messing around when he asked "What do you get when you cross an ape and a dolphin?" Smug bastard.
Nok: I bet he didn't really give us three wishes either.
C.M.O.: Smug. Bastard.