Sunday, August 30, 2015

Gods in the Attic

Welcome to Number 12 of 13 posts regarding the Ghost Drive Setting. If you came to the party late you can check out the other posts on my Ghost Drive Page (see sidebar)!

Against all odds mankind seems to be one of the first and most advanced races in the Milky Way Galaxy. There are several reasons for this.

The Milky Way suffers from periodic eruptions of gamma rays that sterilized a number of areas in the past. That activity seems to have settled down. Add to that intelligent life takes a long time to evolve, on average ten billion years.

Sol is only four billion years old or so which has many xenologists scratching their heads.There are currently two theories on why we are advanced enough to ponder that question rather than be concerned with breaking carbon dioxide down into carbon and oxygen. The first theory is that Sol is a fairly unique star system with enough giant planets to keep cometary impacts that destroy most life down to a reasonable level and enough asteroids to provide near extinction events and drive evolution faster than most worlds. The may be so. It isn't like the xenologists were around to watch all this stuff. But there are enough star system similar to Sol's to make that theory a little shaky.

The second theory, no one likes. While the Milky Way is barely old enough and only recently  hospitable enough to evolve intelligent life there are older more hospitable regions, the Halo Stars (most are old enough but lack the right chemical mix) and some globular clusters.

One of those clusters was the Omega Centauri Cluster (OOC). The OOC may in fact be the heart of a smaller galaxy the Milky Way devoured. Its hospitable stars might have developed life before and seeded our galaxy with life.

The xenologists don't expect the seeding to take the form of god like elder aliens jumping into rockets and having picnics on prebiotic Earth next to the primordial ooze. Meteor impacts and other cosmic disasters could carry cosmic debris with advanced microbes to other younger worlds. The sub sentient and semi sentient life humans found and their eco systems all have many features in common that may show a common ancestry or that there are laws to biology and evolution we are just learning.

Some very unpopular theories hold the the Non-Biological Entities are the Milky Way's native life and we are in effect invaders from the OOC. Some critics of the theory wonder where the other advanced life forms descended from the OOC are. Could we be the only intelligent life descended from the older stars?

Now there have been ruins, old artifacts, found on some worlds. These are incredibly old, in most cases fossilized on terrestrial planets or in very rare are cases mostly intact on vacuum worlds.  In most cases again these are found around stars from the OOC or that were close to them at some point, millions of years in the past.

There is still the possibility of far off starfaring races. The old stars fell into the galaxy a long time ago and could have been carried far away in their orbits around the galaxy.

Maybe the ghosts got them. The OOC invasion failed and fell to the NBE retaliation. There are no gods to meet us. We are the gods for all that is worth.

The ghosts, spirits, NBEs, and what have you may be native to the Milky Way. They may be entities from the Omega Centauri Cluster who transcended their physical forms. They might be the pets of those long ago beings.

For all the worlds humanity has found and settled we still move into the galaxy like a child who found their way into the attic. It is silent, deserted and feels like someone else was just there a moment before.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ghost Space

Here's the drill. Reactionless drives, faster than light travel, those good things that make your Empire possible, requires exotic matter. As we have yet to find a way to find exotic matter let alone collect it, you need NBEs (Non-Biological Entities -ghosts or spirits in laymen's terms) who show much of the same properties of dark and negative matter.

I have already pointed out the downsides. NBEs often do not like pushing our ships around and sometime get loose and wreak vengeance. Some NBEs are just what you call evil and seek to harm all life. But there's more.

FTL takes you into Ghost Space. At the very least Ghost Space is a second home to the NBEs and maybe other things. But you need it to travel between stars in weeks or months and not centuries. A ship engaging its ftl gets its NBEs to open a wormhole which requires repulsion force. You could try to get the effect with electromagnetic forces, providing you could convert say, Jupiter, to energy. NBEs are way easier than strip mining a gas giant. Not to mention the Solar System would only be good for one or two jumps.

Ghost Space is usually called Overspace. Ghost drives are referred to as overdrives by techies who don't want to sound poetic. Overdrives are capable of different speeds. At the lowest speeds the ships is merely taking a splash in Overspace. At higher levels you're getting your feet wet and take care you don't get in over your head. When a ship goes too deep in Overspace and/or stays too long NBE's start to notice it. Then they tell their friends and family or whatever they have and then they start to party.

Most crews do not wish to attend such a party. Bad things happen. Whole crews get possessed or terrorized into acts of madness. Non-psionic crew suffer from visions. The visions are never anything they want to see. Dementia and direct telekinetic attacks follow. Making an entire ship NBE proof is just not possible. It would interfere with the operation of the Ghost Drives among other things.

Most ships have a safe area in case stuff gets surreal. It was named after the old term for radiation shelters in archaic ships: the bio well. If the ship gets noticed the crew nd passengers pile in, seal the hatch and hope nothing hitches a ride. Mostly it works. Some merchants and traders who use capsules ferried by commercial carriers can afford to shield their entire capsule.

Sometimes a crew emerges into a trashed life module. Other times the airlocks are opened or equipment is vandalized. Objects may be missing or broken.

Those are the lucky crew. As I said. Sometimes, something hitches a ride back with you and your psionic starts wishing they took up plumbing instead. That's the point where the merchant with the deluxe capsules release their docking clamps and send a distress cal for pick up. Screw the cargo it's insured. Screw the carrier crew too.

Oddly, mankind feel the Galaxy is worth all this.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Creature Feature Part 2

Considering that man's first contact with an alien intelligence was with the Non Biological Entities (which technically occurred in prehistory) humans were incredibly optimistic about encountering alien life. Optimism in this case is defined as short sighted. We were looking for aliens like us though with weird hair and skin tones or funny shaped head. Essentially like us in the gross particulars. They ate, drank, respirated, poo'ed. All that good stuff.

The optimism was short lived.

Humans continued to encounter more and more different types of NBEs, the familiar haunts, overt, and poltergeists as well as types that seemed to defy classification. These are called sorcerers after Old Earth legends. Sorcerers seem to laugh at most capture systems. They are similar to poltergeists in feeding on psionic energy. In the case of a sorcerer they feed on psionic energy exclusively with deadly effects to unshielded minds. They are also far colder than the lesser NBEs appearing as cool areas to infra red scanners. A sorcerer can cause hypothermia in a human.

The most frightening ability of a sorcerer is its power to control other NBEs. Some sorcerers have killed a ship's psionic or driven them mad and then freed the NBEs leading them on a rampage that usually ends with the destruct button being pushed. This actually destroys the drives preventing further movement by the ship. The crew compartment can usually survive this but they usually have stocks of cyanide. If things are really bad the captain is supposed to hit the kill switch to prevent his ship from becoming a lure for other spacers. Not all captains push the button soon enough.

Special Ghost Lights automatically snap on when the destruct switch s thrown advertising to all that the NBEs are in charge of the ship. Any rescue efforts by other parties after this are purely optional. Some mad and greedy individuals will mount salvage operations on a 'lit' ship. Few will ever want to crew such a ship. Patrols will usually tow these hulks to the nearest gas giant or ice moon and drop them there to chill the NBEs into hibernation. Sadly sorcerers seem to resist even this for months, maybe years.

Some cultures worship and adore NBEs however, giving their ghosts free run of their ships. The entities are usually commanded by a sorcerer who has shown the ability to work with its human worshippers. These slave ships have large crews to feed their masters and are usually not allowed into most starports.

Another frightening ability of the sorcerers is their control of machinery. In Ghoul cultures they are frequently supplied with robot shells of ornate and sepulchral design to better make their wishes known. it is unknown how much of the robot's demands are the result of the NBEs it harbors and how much is the result of the programmers, to further oppress their living citizens for humans operating behind the scenes. Communication with such robots follows that of most NBEs: disjointed, obsessive at times and explosive without warning.

What is worse is the use of living humans as vessels for NBEs. Possession of a human is a feat only the most powerful NBEs can manage on their own. Ghouls and other cults advocating NBE supremacy use drugs, implants and torture to break down human resolve and allow the entities to move in. Again demands and behavior are disjointed and erratic, often masochistic, as though the rider indulges in  many of the sensations humans would find unpleasant. Possessed humans are hard to detect other than by mental probing. The possibility of innocent tourists being NBE sleeper agents is something the Empire has nightmares over (hence the lengthy quarantine before being allowed to land.

Coronans are a life form that may be related to the NBEs. They are creatures of plasma and energy that develop on stars and in the hot Jupiters that surround them. They appear as balls of light. They are not capable of the telekinetic effects NBEs are. However they will sometimes pay for passage to a new system by riding in your fusion generator and amping it up a bit.

Coronans are friendly and hospitable creatures. This might be because they want almost nothing humans can give them. A little metal vapor, a few megawatts of sunlight and they're good. They too produce oddly disjointed conversations with humans, however their observations are less creepy. Electronic weapons such as capture fields will work on them to a degree but they can usually burn their way out of most containment facilities using some of the plasma that makes up their bodies.

Humans that make extensive use of fusion drives such as the Dynastics often hire Coronans to monitor their engines from the inside in exchange for power and some ionizates. They're part engineer and part engine.

NBEs and Coronans hate each other and will attack each other on sight. In such contests the advantage is the Coronan's as even a young spark of a Coronan has enough heat energy to roast most NBEs. A Sorcerer capturing a Coronan is something no one wants to think of. While they may be related, humans have learned it's a good idea not to point out any similarities between NBEs and Coronans to either party.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Humans Beware! Beware, Humans!

Humans are an odd and diverse breed. In Ghost Drives I have already characterized cultures by their views on NBEs and psionics but within a culture there can be significant disagreements on how to practice psionics and deal with NBE's.

The Dynastic. They're called that because they avoid psionics and NBEs totally. No reactionless drives or FTL for them. They move between worlds in asteroid world ships, some spending the trip in cold sleeps and others raising generations that live and die in the trips  between stars. Considering they nuclear drives and other deadly engines their fear of NBEs is confusing to many.

Spacers are the oldest culture. They decided that they have little use for planets and instead build space stations and colonies, using asteroids and comets to supply their needs. In many ways they are the closest to the original Terran stock. Most spacer cultures are neutral to psi and NBEs. Psionics are citizens with restrictions. NBEs are non-sentient but treated humanely.

 Avatars are uplifted animals that were created to perform a variety of functions. Many have broken away to colonize their own worlds. Avatars are considered equals to humans by most cultures. They have no psionics of their own and make use of human psis for star travel.

The Worthy are humans that use genetic modification and surgery to achieve perfection or some esthetic ideal. They vary widely in appearance and capabilities. Some opt for the popular cat-grrl/guy packages. Others choose more subtle means like pheromones or voices with subsonic tones. Unlike many subcultures the Worthy appear in every known polity.

The Charans are genetically modified for extreme intelligence. It did not work. The concessions humans made in evolving their brains were enormous (physical strength, digestive atrophy among others). Charans are too weak to live in a standard gravity field and require highly processed food. Their intelligence modifications are more towards multiprocessing and speed f calculations. They are excellent at tweaking inventions but not so great at lateral thinking or building new devices.

Cyborg is a way of life. A person who loses an arm and receives a mechanical replacement has a prosthetic. Cyborgs are genetically tweaked to have modifications allowing cyborging from an early age. Some are purposely born missing one or more limbs and receive their mechanical analogs soon after birth. In utero cyborging is in limited use. They live their entire life as man machine hybrids. Many cultures look down on Cyborgs. The Empire does employ them to monitor and discipline psionics.

Demons are the biotech equivalent of Cyborgs. Genetically engineered organs and organisms are grafted onto them, again at an early age. Most Demons regard themselves as far superior to other humans and avoid contact where they can.

Thetans are humans who have nanotech colonies inhabiting their bodies. These colonies keep them in constant contact with wireless services serving as a sort of technological hive mind. Thetans have a weakened immune system to tolerate nanotech and often engineer clean environments for themselves. They make excellent monitors for psionics since any mental intrusion can be noticed and dealt with quickly. The hive mind can also function as a weak psionic shield. Many polities police Thetans as brutally as they do psionics.

You would think psionics would have agreement when they get together considering they often have few friends. That is not the case. While they all seek to increase their mastery of the mind they differ in methods. Most psionics are otherwise plain vanilla humans who seek to increase their mastery through training and usage. Since policing NBEs is excellent practice they are the type most ship captains prefer and hire. The time spent serving in ships and the traveling is regarded as a coming of age rite.

Some humans had their genes tweaked to increase or activate their psionics. These attempts are outlawed in virtually every polity. The results are uneven to say the least. Some ship captains prefer a bunch of NBEs floating around loose to a 'psionogen'.

Implant psionics straddle the line between psionic and cyborg, though few receive their implants at birth. Implant psionics are generally less powerful than other psionics but implant psis have greater endurance. Few have other cybernetics. They often suffer from headaches and certain EM devices can hurt them limiting their effectiveness in dealing with loose NBEs unless stunning devices are dropped in favor of endothermic technology.

Drug enhancement is a common problem among psionics. Any of these types can use chemical enhancement. There's always side effects (NBEs 'talking' to you is a common.) Most polities outlaw all but the most mild drugs and/or restrict their use to emergencies. A common exception is the Ghoul Cults who compile all manner of foul narcotics to keep the psionics working for their bodiless masters.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Creature Feature

Chris Dunlap was asking what other creatures are there in my Ghost Drive set up. I've been pondering that myself. While the setting resonates well with the humans only empire vibe (NBEs are more like the latest app than citizens or even sentients in most settings) I started coming up with various human offshoots and variants. I also have a couple of aliens. The caveat being that I want them to be really alien. The sort who could colonize the same area as humans and yet almost never interact with them because they need different types of worlds or even stars.

Here's a preview of my next series of Ghost Drive posts.

  Dynastic- an STL culture
  Avatars- the uplifted and the slumming
  The Worthy- genetic fashionistas
  Charans (extreme gene-mods)
Cyborgs Pure Blood or Mods
Thetans (extreme nano-mods)
Psionic Humans
   Trained Purists
   Gene Mod Psi
   Implant Psi
   Drug Enhanced Psi
Hive Minds
NBEs in Robot Shells
Possessed Humans

Worms (Wormholes have worms)
Coronans (plasma beings)
Omegan Civilizations (extinct)
Old Machines

Monday, August 17, 2015

Joules Bumps

Ghosts make things cold. That is SCIENCE my beloved adventurers. Heat is a waste energy. You can't get any work or benefit from heat itself. On the other hand you can get a lot of work from two objects at different temperatures. So a ghost will be able to get juicy juicy joules from you till your body temperature reaches that of the ghost's. Now modern day paranormal investigations don't mention very many people suffering from hypothermia due to a haunting. Hypothermia starts in humans around 35 C. Normal body temperature is 37 C. Let's be generous and say the ghost has a temperature of 33 C.

The human body has a specific heat of 3500 J/kg K/C scale and an average human is about 70 kilograms so ...

70 x 3500 = 250000 Joules

A ghost that can chill a human body by 1 degree (Centigrade please) has made a quarter million Joules disappear. Let's say the ghost manages to use half of that constructively: 125,000 Joules.

A quick jog over to Atomic Rockets' Boom table shows that is the equivalent of about 30 grams of tnt or an anti-personnel mine. If it nails two crew it has the energy of one depleted uranium round from a GAU-8 autocannon. That's minimum because it is also picking up electrical energy and GHU knows what else (psionic points from your catatonic psi crew member perhaps.) That's not an entity you want running around loose on your ship.

Room temperature is 22 degrees, colder than the ghosty. It makes you feel cold by drawing on your heat. The cold spots paranormal investigators are fond of finding are no colder than their surrounding, merely pools of infra-dread (see my previous post). Ghosts are about 33 C and radiate a little heat allowing them to stand out from empty air on infrared sensors.

What do they do with the heat they steal? Where does it go? No one really knows. Any physical manifestations of NBEs seem to be low density gases that should be heated to high temperatures by the energy of a single human. Current theory holds that heat is either a drug or a catalyst required for their proper function. it also represents one weakness of NBEs.

Chill your surroundings and they're screwed they go dormant. A rookie psionic can herd them into a containment unit. Endothermic grenades work well for this. Ship's crews also use liquid hydrogen from their fuel tanks in a pinch.

Heat things up. Humans need oxygen but too much of it can cause toxic reactions in us. So it goes with haunts and heat. A rush of heat can hurt them. It better be a rush because the thing will use that heat energy in ways you will not like. Burning haunted dwellings and ships was an approved way of dealing with the haunters on Old Earth. Check out the tale of the Ivan Vassili. It's a seminal tale of a haunted ship with a hot resolution. These days some unreclaimable vessels are dropped into stars or nuked.

Laser weapons will work on NBEs. It's just hard to target a tiny spirit light reliably, especially through a light amplification sight.

NBEs are also known to draw power from electrical devices. This is the basis for our ftl and reactionless drives. In a controlled environment huge amounts of power are fed into NBEs that then use it to move our ships (preferably the way we desire)a  . Electrical shielding will impeded them for a while, Faraday cages can trap them. Modern drives work on similar principles. A Faraday cage (at least the sort you rig up in a hurry or can transport) will not hold an NBE forever. It is a means to get the damned thing (perhaps literally) into a drive unit.

At higher tech levels electronic devices that can stun or hurt the NBEs are available. In general they are weapons of desperation to be used if the thing takes out your psionic. For one thing they are bulky (think many many battery packs hanging from you.) For another they can also do very bad things to a human's nervous system and nearby unshielded electronics.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Spectre Detectors

Technology is important to a sf setting in many ways. In particular it tells players what they can get away with. Cargo is impregnated with nano locator beacons? That'd make fencing cargo harder on planets with any kind of law or government. Some of the cultures I'm sketching out for Ghost Drive are repressing psionic humans and NBEs. Without technology to deal with psi or ghosts all the laws in the universe are useless. The first step in control is detection. It's hard to deal with what you can't find

NBE's have an effect on electrical fields and vice versa it seems. They draw power from electrical devices (also heat and possibly other energies). Sensors measuring EM fields can detect them though a savvy NBE or stupid sensor tech might explain away a lot. Also note that sensors are electrical devices and an NBE trying to misbehave will usually target them first.

Obviously electronics can be 'hardened' against psi and NBE effects otherwise what is the point of psi shields? Larger devices like ship drives obviously can contain NBE's. Few worlds have the tech to make them portable (think fridge sized) let alone man-portable (think backpack).

An informal system of categorizing psionic energies has been in place for centuries. Psionic energy can only be perceived by psionics so far. Machinery capable of interacting with it usually has ... organic components and is far creepier than that phrase suggests. Nevertheless the energies and the countermeasures for them work well enough for most people.

Shade-io: shade-io is the energy most often used by telepaths. It allows conversation and pinpointing NBEs (shade-ar) and very powerful psionic humans. This energy doesn't interfere with electronics. It can be identified by subtle changes to the brain waves of humans affected by it. Psionic shields can be designed to operate in standby mode until these changes are spotted in the wearer and then snap on full power to conserve battery life.

Infra-dread: infra-dread is usually the byproduct of living minds and psionics. It is the energy form psionics sense to detect life. A person's infra-dread aura is as individual as a fingerprint. Some skilled psionics can tell by the infra-dread signature what sort of psionic activity took place. It can create cold spots and be identified with infrared sensors. Even the non-sensitive human perceives a faint feeling of unease in areas saturated with infra-dread.

Visible Fright: These frequencies are also used by telepaths to send thoughts or assault minds. At this level a psionic can frequently send thoughts in a tight beam to burn through some shields or create an illusion. This radiation can create the 'spirit lights' that are often captured on video or holo recorders. It can cause interference with radio transmissions as well allowing a radar sensor to give an idea of an NBE's rough position.

Ultraviolent: This type of energy is used by telekinetics. It is particularly hard for psionics to detect. Telekinesis is pretty obvious in its use. There seems to be a limit to resolution with this energy. A telekinetic (human or NBE) can't perform very fine manipulation on a millimeter scale. Cheap mechanical locks could be picked perhaps). A revolver could be loaded. Separating grains of sand is too fine a task though, they could be thrown about. It is sometimes accompanied by spirit lights in specialized visual recorders. This radiation will likely cause temporary malfunctions in electrical devices near the source (lights flickering). Some skillful NBEs can sue this to record 'speech' on electronic devices.

Hex-Rays: This type of energy is only rarely accessible to human beings. It is used to teleport and for some powerful forms of clairvoyance. It is also the most difficult to detect. Hex-rays barely register on electrical devices making teleportation difficult to determine or defend against. A teleporter going through a psionic shield will get bounced off it but it will barely register on the shield. Some NBEs use this form of energy for direct physical assaults causing nausea and other physical symptoms such as loss of hair, blindness, hemorrhaging and even sterility or death. Some chemicals are affected by the radiation and Hex badges that turn colors when exposed to the radiation are used when dangerous NBEs or psionics may be encountered.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Attention Rocket Fans!

This is not my regular post but ... it's my blog and my first indie book so here!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ghostly Rights Part 2

This is the most play I ever got out of a post idea. Ghost stories write themselves. My campaign design infographic generated some interest too so I'd like to get into that some more. If there's anyone out there better at doing infographics feel free to chime in

I've represented the major players as simple shapes on the board. Now if you want to add the factor of how populous or influential  a culture is you could relate it to the size of the shape. In the Example above the Red Oval Empire is the major player on this stage. Long thin stretchy shapes would represent lesser powers with a wider range of beliefs. A polity with worlds having the widest range of beliefs would be a diagonal line reaching across the graph. There are people who believe everything in this polity (The 'Murrican Diagonal).

If you want to take it a step further you could loose the smooth shape look and represent each polity by a group of dots, each dot representing a million, ten million or whatever people and their beliefs or each dot standing for one world's policies. So if the Red Oval Empire Acquired a planet of psionic nobles on the outs from the Gold Star Guild They'd get another red blob up near the top left.

The other point I'd like to make is that this is a very simple diagram for representing different cultures and does not address whether they'd play nicely. At face value the four corners empires would probably hate each other but external threats might make them cooperate (aliens are good for that.) Similarly just because two blobs are close to (or touching) each other on the map it doesn't mean they like each other. The Amber Diamond State could be plagued by civil wars or power struggles over whether NBEs or Psi Humans are superior. You can have strife within your culture or between formerly close neighbors.

Similarly the Grey Pentacle Cult(s) could be divided over whether to provide human (clone or organically grown) hosts or robotic shells for their incorporeal masters. The Red Oval Empire could be split over the right way to control their psis, android with a whip, drugs in their water or cybernetic implants.

My next thoughts are going to be on how each of these cultures will develop their own tech in keeping with their beliefs. A ship from the Grey Pentacle will not treat its spirit propulsion system the way one from the Red Oval Empire will. How do you provide luxury accommodations for a ghost?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ghostly Rights

In the Ghost Drive setting I've determined two cultural aspects that you should really know about before you land on a new world: Psi Status (Pro or Anti-Psi) and Non-Biological Entity Status (Materialist, Spiritualist or Theist). I arranged the attitudes on a graph. If you recognize this infographic as used to display types of zombies or D&D alignments then kudos!

There's some room for tweaking for sure. Maybe you want to stick Rulers above Prophets/Priest as the Psi Status. Stick your own status terms in have fun. This is campaign making made easy. Print out a copy of the diagram. Fold it up and stick a sharp pencil through it (careful!). Open the sheet and see where you made holes. Circle the most interesting ones and bam you have several cultures. Optionally drop a couple of dice on the sheet and mark where they landed. You could also mark the number rolled to see how powerful they are! Voila! Instant setting.

I'm not rolling dice but I'm semi-pro (pro after September 1st). Here's my culture map:

At the bottom left we have the Empire represented by an aggressive red circle. In the Empire Psis are registered and required to have a handler who supervises them in their jobs. They are viewed with mistrust and suspicion as their powers would make a dictatorship pretty difficult. Actually psis can mess up nearly any government but despots worry about that more than most. They also don't have to dance around such pretenses as human rights. Psis are regarded as aberrations at best and alien at worst and forced to live in special secure facilities.

N.B.E.s are a resource. You slap the psis around to move the N.B.E.s where they are needed. The entities can be worked to death if necessary or experimented on in any way imaginable. Psis too for that matter though the human subjects might not be tested to destruction. Usually. 

Ghouls- represented by the grey pentagon on the lower right and hailing from the Derlet cluster. Ghouls regard the N.B.E.s as gods and are subservient to them. Psi are vessels for the masters' use. Very creepy people. They regard the entities as souls of the deceased or gods. Look for them to travel in asteroid ships that are mostly tombstones and grave markers. They like that sort of thing. they are also one of the cultures that use ghost powered fighters. No one else wants to get close to the things, let alone in their cuddle zone.

The Alliance of Good Guys is marked by the friendly green circle smack in the middle of the whole mess. Psis are citizens. N.B.E.s are to be treated humanely. Psis often have a robot to monitor their functions and aid them in their work or restrict their use of psi drugs for health reasons. Boring i.e. a good place to start players out.

The Psi Guild is marked with a gold star at the upper left corner where Psis are rulers and near gods. Entities are held in little regard and often used to augment a psi's powers or worked to death at need. Your psi rating is your social status combining two stats for greater efficiency. Non-psis are looked down on.

The Theocracy is marked by the gold diamond. Entities are gods, psionic humans are their priests, communicating between the entities and their people. Psis el within the sphere, with their entity partners, control all star travel.

A culture or government doesn't have to be thought of as a point on the graph.  The Empire could have some planets that regard Entities as non-sentient and deserving of some humane treatment and psis as an underclass but with basic rights. So the Empire could be represented as an oval to include such worlds. As a polity or culture modifies its stance it could move across the graph.

Next; Ghosts and Mad Science.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Rattling Chains

First: Shameless Plug


Now on to the blog.

It's hard to devise ways to hurt a being without a body. If you're going to interact with Non-Biological Entities you face the prospect of facing one you or someone else has pissed off. No one wants that. Even if they aren't pissed off an escaped NBE may not want to return to the engine willingly leaving you stranded 100 A.U.s from the nearest rock.

Of course most players will fall back on Liaison, Carousing and other social skills to persuade the entities it's in their best interests to return to work. They will deal with them in an enlightened and fair way and these beings will certainly adopt a reasonable bargaining stance.


So how do you make a ghost get back to work? It doesn't bleed so you can't shoot it. It doesn't exist to most sensors for gosh sake. They have minds and some form or awareness. This is based on some form of exotic matter having a structure. This the way a person with Education 13 says, "Damned if I know!"

Some groups will attempt to strike a deal ("Okay we'll get you episodes of this show 'The Golden Girls' from the Dark Ages. Now take us to a stable orbit!") Many will not and may not even have that option.

The first best response to an angry NBE is a skilled psionic who can perform psionic assault.  Psionic assault reduces the NBE's psionic strength by the damage rolled. Of course sometimes the NBE beats the psionic to the draw. Even if the human does draw blood so to speak it may not have put down the NBE and even with psionic boosters Assault will drain a psi pretty fast. Unless you have more than one psionic on the ship assault probably won't finish off the NBE by itself.

After or even before your psionic makes their move there are several ways to weaken an NBE. Only a madman fires plasma weapons in a ship. More controlled procedures are necessary. The NBE's create cold spots as they work their psi by absorbing heat and electrical energy to power themselves. The power to a section of ship containing the entities can be cut off. The drives are already sealed off by design. A corridor or compartment can be powered down. This can often make Haunts and some Overt entities go back to the energy rich containment fields of the drives for sustenance.

More willful entities can be de-powered by using endothermic grenades. These cost and are otherwise identical to fragmentation grenades. When they go off they chill a 3m by 3m area of deck causing any NBE in it to lose 1d3 psionic strength.

Some organic materials serve as a 'spirit repellent' for unknown reasons. A sub pistol loaded with the proper chemical mixture can also cause a NBE to lose 1d6 psionic strength. It is identical to gas rounds but the only affect on a human is disgust at the awful smell.

Psionic shield technology can be used to contain NBEs. For that matter they can emit a weak form of psionic attack (2d6-4). Such jury rigging is undependable at best. Hucksters also sell a variety of ghost stunners with no proof of effectiveness. If it doesn't work most customers won't show up for a refund ...

Or maybe they will. You just won't see them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

False Hope

Exec: What do we have Ensign?

Ensign: Ma'am, we ... ma'am ...

Exec: They're called 'shoulders' Ensign. I can wear what I want on my downtime. You're lucky the Captain is off ship. He'd come barreling up here from the shower wearing suds. Oh for, about face and give me a report mister!

Ensign: Aye ma'am. Thank you ma'am. It's the battlecruiser Lowell. Transponder and engine signals match the Index. No escape pods launched. Shuttle bay door is open.

Exec: Any sign of Shuttle 1?

Ensign: No ma'am, still missing.

Exec: (I'm going to kill the Captain for going missing when I find him.) Put the stats on the main view. Thanks. Minimal power. Low life signs. Okay ... drop a recorder buoy to mark it and let's continue the search.

Ensign: Ma'am ...

Ensign: The next words out of your mouth better be 'aye aye'. Are you receiving?

Ensign: ... aye aye ma'am.

Exec: Good.

Ensign: Yes ma'am.

Exec: Schaeffer. Sometimes you have to know your limits. The Lowell was sighted six times before this. Two of the ships sighting her sent parties aboard before all contact was lost and the ship's boarding went missing too. Of the four others one experienced total sensor and navigation failure, another drive failure and one ... the crew went berserk and began rioting.

Ensign: But Shuttle 1 could have been aboard.

Exec: It isn't. Trust and believe my dear.

Ensign: How can you know?

Exec: Because what ever happened to the Lowell she isn't Fleet now. She's a damned trap and an intelligent one. If it got the shuttle you bet your shirt it would have had the shuttle's transponder on and its distress call blaring. Whatever is there ... wants us to stop and go onboard.

Ensign: Yes ma'am.

Exec: There are no life signs there. There are 58 life signs on this ship and eight more on Shuttle 1. Now resume the search. Fleet has specialists they call for cases like this. It might even be an attempt at first contact but ... I don't know.

Ensign: Aye ma'am. Permission to speak?

Exec: Shoot.

Ensign: The Captain probably would have filled that hulk with ion torpedoes.

Exec: Possibly. He might even be right to. Resume search.

Ensign: Aye aye ma'am.

With thanks to Winchell Chung for reminding me of the story of The New Hope related in Sargasso of Space by Lady Andre Norton.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Ghost Riders

Let's talk about ghosts (sorry Non-Biological Entities) and psionics, in particular telepathy. Now maybe they are the departed; maybe they are spirits that never wore flesh (at least not their own). Sometimes they get loose and that is usually bad news.

Ghosts start with telepathy automatically. It's just more interesting that way. They roll a straight 2d6 for psionic strength.

Without life detect turned on (and paid for normally) the living (biological entities) are very hard to notice: throw the NBE's strength + the person's Intelligence or less on 3d6 (3d6 are also handy to have around if the ghost starts throwing daggers.)

Telempathy can be used to send emotions normally. Not all ghosts send fear waves. Some can be quite benign and comfort humans. A powerful NBE could provoke a riot among a crew with just this ability and draw in the increased brainwaves and metabolic energies.

Read Surface Thoughts works normally as well but the target may experience a sudden chill (8+ to notice DMs Int 10 +1 Int 12 +2). This ability may leave cold spots infra red equipment can spot (6+ DMs for Elect or Recon skill). This ability will let them perceive a human and their condition (working, tired, on guard etc).

Send Surface Thoughts is not quite as simple as hearing a voice. NBEs often communicate through non-verbal means. You might see a message scrawled on a bulkhead or a shadowy figure. A rule of thumb is the lighter and more distinct the figure the less you have to worry about. Shadowy or dark wraithlike forms are bad news.

These forms are psionic projections. A video or holo recording might catch a small ball of light. This level of activity produces a semi permanent cold spot that an anti-hijacking program can detect automatically.  The cold spots turn up on infra red equipment  (4+ DMs for Elect or Recon skill).

This level of activity may also cause minor malfunctions on control panels nearby.

Probe is where things get very scary. A NBE probing a human mind will run roughshod over a person's memories and take the form of deceased family and friends or more primal terrors who will berate the victim. NBEs with any brains will do this when the person is sleeping and make an attempt to take the form of a nightmare. The person wakes up exhausted (-1 or -2 End) and can't count that day for healing purposes. EEG and some hormonal tests run on the victim's blood may provide evidence of outside interference. At this point a cold spot will turn up if anyone searches for it.

Assault is usually not found in most entities used for engine duty for obvious reasons. But a few sneak by screening and a few are used for the high acceleration ships. Assault will render an unshielded mind unconscious and inflict up to 2d6+6 hits. The NBE can reduce this to keep their target alive. The wounds inflicted are added to the NBE's psionic points. Having unshielded crew can make things tough for a psionic defender really fast. Check your psi shields twice daily.

The nastiest tricks an NBE can pull are using the teleport power. A level of 5 or more will allow them to make small objects vanish, or make people spit them up. This sort of activity is rarely done by canny NBEs as it has lead to radiation sweeps of ships (or their scuttling by dropping them in suns.)

Next: Countermeasures!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Necrology of Ghosts

It appears the Non-Biological Entities powering human spacecraft can be categorized according to their habits. Don't call them ghosts please.

The three classifications of NBEs are

Haunts- Haunts are the equivalent of herbivores usually feeding on heat or electrical energy in machinery  and electronics and causing occasional malfunctions, They are the most common NBE. They can sustain accelerations of 2gees or less and Jump-1 or 2.

Overts- Overt NBEs make themselves known more often than haunts and may even try to communicate occasionally. They will feed on energy in the environment or that of living beings. They elicit a fear response in sentient life to make their brains generate more energy. They can sustain accelerations of 4 gees or less and Jump-3 or 4.

Poltergeists- Poltergeists are the most powerful NBEs. They prefer to feed from living creatures and often have negative side effects on them. They are the most intelligent of the NBEs and the most dangerous. Some are capable of psionic assault. They are also the most hostile entities often causing damage to ships and structures or harassing occupants to the point of madness or death.

The categories of 'feeding' may be innate or preferences. A NBE's energy needs are easy to satisfy with ship power and will usually keep them quiet and content. Using too much power in too short a time has side effects on the entities. For example if you run your thrusters too long to get a very high delta-vee or make a series of jumps as fast as possible instead of waiting the usual week NBE's can move up the food chain, from Haunt to Overt to Poltergeist. Power plants are rated for the highest order of entity they can contain. This is not hard and fast. Containment has to be checked weekly at least, preferably day by day by a psionic.

Scout ships and long range vessels typically have rocket drives to fall back on if they aren't in a hurry or solar power systems to shut down the main reactor and starve the ghost crew into submission.

Using your NBEs for too long without a break is the surest way to find out about the classification beyond Poltergeist. No one wants that.