Monday, February 29, 2016

New Shinies!

First of all ... this!


Imperial (or whatever flavor yours come in) Marines are bad enough. Imagine a bunch of them chasing you on hoverboards (cutlass waving optional).

Add fluff.

Hoverboards are personal transport devices and another step on the road to realizing mankind's dream of personal flight. first designed in the early 2ith century on Terra the devices use rotorcraft technology and are usually an open platform with some screening around the fans to prevent injury. By the mis 21st century advancements in energy storage allowed the vehicles to increase their range and become valuable tools for search and rescue, exploration and reconnaissance. Although they are classified as vehicles they definitely fall in the area where the line between equipment and vehicles will blur. They are compact, simple and with multip[le rotos and battery pack they are surprisingly robust.

Hoverboards are also much cheaper and easier to find parts for on low technology worlds. Some repair stations will even rent boards out for you while you wait for your expensive grav vehicle to be repaired ("Sorry, we got to send offworld for parts. It'll be two weeks at least and we're adding 16,000 credits for our parts man's middle passage? Padding the bill? How dare you!")

They are not as versatile as grav vehicles, requiring some atmosphere to function. They are far more limited in altitude and earlier models don't actually hover very well or for very long. Unlike grav technology they are also noisy as hell and have a pronounced heat signature especially when they first appear. Grav boards are also in use but due to cost are regarded as rich men's toys. Eventually  anti-grav boards are replaced by anti-grav harnesses and true flight is finally realized.

Classic Traveller Stats
TL 7 Hoverboard
Weight .02 Tons. Cost 10,000 cr. Endurance 15 minutes. Speed 2 bands per round (50 kph). Ceiling 3 meters. Does not cost endurance and does not prevent rider from firing weapons (at -1 per band moved that turn). Riders may make a melee attack at -2 (some traditionalists favor pole arms). Users may take Hoverboard skill when generated in place of vehicle skill or +1 Str. Use the rules for air/rafts however unskilled users roll at -3. A crash does 1d6 damage to the rider unless they roll +8 with +2 if Dex is 9+ and +skill.

Making aerobatic feats on hoverboards is possible but not advised. Throw the user's Dexterity with +2 per skill level on three dice or less to succeed. Unskilled users' dexterity is modified by the unskilled modifier given  above. Failure means a crash.

TL 8
Weight .02 Tons. Cost 2,000 cr. Endurance 1.5 hours. Speed 4 bands per round (100 kph). Incorporating advanced batteries, more composite materials and mini gyroscopes with computer feedback the TL 8 version is otherwise similar to the TL 7 version. Unskilled use is at a -2 due to more advanced autopilot features. A crash at 3-4 bands movement does +1 d6 damage to the rider.

A helmet and protective clothing is a must to avoid injury during crashes (riders who crash and sustain damage take +1d6 damage.)

TL 5 Cost 20 cr. (Weight is considered part of clothing allowance or 2 kg if carried.)

TL 7 Cost 50-100 cr. and up for trendy or decorated models. Contains ports for personal communicator

TL 8 Cost 100 cr. The TL 8 version has provision for communicator and any visual/sensor systems available at TL 8.

TL 9+ 100 cr. The TL 9 version has a full faced visor that can provide heads up display for a personal computer. TL 9 sensors and cameras can be placed in slots on the helmet and send their data to the visor where it superimposed on the visor. A crash may disable a sensor on 10+.

OSR Stats
The TL 7 version is appropriate for a planet with modern day Earth technology. The TL 8 version would be a 'near future' technology.

If you're using Starships and Spacemen then the Military Branch uses their primary skill to fly hoverboards. Hoverboards cost 1 EU and any branch may requisition one.

In White Star people can make a saving throw to avoid mishaps on a hover board. Mercenaries get a +2 to their saves. Pilots get a +1. If you are using a skill system.

Optionally the save may be modified by the character's Dexterity bonus to armor in an OSR system.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Dark Conspiracy/Traveller: SAR Workers

Dark Conspiracy was my unrequited love. The setting was great, no one liked the rules that I gamed with. It did have very interesting and versatile life paths for characters. One of my friend gt far enough to generate a firefighter. His reasoning: they were in good shape, knew how to break into buildings (and thus made passable second story men), they also used protective breathing gear, knew first aid, could drive trucks and ... fire axes!!

The following branch table is to bring Search and Rescue Workers into CT format. In a near future setting like Dark Conspiracy Vacc skill would refer to breathing gear, not actual space suits. A rescue worker trained (and willing) to board a disabled ship in a vacc suit seeking injured people in various states of protection from space would be a useful character to any party. A ship you are trying to get people off has got to be hurting pretty badly and spaceborne SAR teams are viewed as angels incarnate. I doubt even pirates will mess with them. They may need them!

Search and Rescue Workers 

Enlistment   8+
DM +1        Int 7+
DM +2        Dex 9+
Survival      5+
Position       6+
Promotion   7+
Re-enlist     5+

Personal Development
1 Str +1
2 Dex +1
3 End +1
4 Int +1
5 Educ +1
6 Brawling

Service Skills
1 Dex +1
2 Electronic
3 Medical
4 Streetwise
5 Vehicle
6 Blade Cbt

Advanced Education Table
1 Medical
2 Vacc Suit
3 Electronic
4 Computer
5 Gun Cbt
6 Streetwise

Advanced Education Table
1 Medical
2 Mechanical
3 Electronic
4 Computer
5 Admin
6 Streetwise

1 Intern
2 Junior
3 Senior
4 Crew Chief
5 Dispatcher
6 Station Chief

Mustering Out
1 +1 Educ
2 +1 Int
3 Vac Suit
4 Instruments
5 Mod Psg
6 Streetwise

1 2000
2 5000
3 10000
4 10000
5 10000
6 20000

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Dark Classic Conspiracy of Traveller

I liked the setting of GDW's Dark Conspiracy.

I did not like the rules. Too complicated. Monsters died too easily when dealing with heavily armed players. I like 'em to take a round or two, shit bears are real and they're a bitch to kill from what I hear. If your troll or ogre is offed with a cap from a 9mm there's more thrills in hunting bear (a monster wearing a bulletproof vest is just sad.)

I like Classic Traveller and it already handles near future ( and far future) tech levels. My next step should be obvious.

Lie down till the urge to port stuff passes. But it didn't work so here we are.

Dark Conspiracy using Classic Traveller

I kept two things in mind when converting things from Dark Conspiracy to Classic Traveller: in the first place DC came out in the 90’s and CT in the 70’s. Dark Conspiracy dealt with some TL 8 stuff in Traveller terms but we had a much different view of TL 8 twenty years after CT!

Lasers are much less efficient than we’d hoped. firearms are an order more deadly then we expected.

Nevertheless most of the time the generic rifles, smgs and revolvers from CT will do most of the heavy lifting. A few original weapons need addressing.

Armington Laser Pistol: treat it as a Laser Carbine but -1 at Medium range and -2 at Long range. It has a belt pack good for 18 shots and can be modified to a UV version.

XM26 APW The XM26 Advanced Personal Weapon its an automatic pistol but with a 20 round magazine.

AKR: use my home-brewed heavy submachine gun stats. You might like the smaller more concealable weapons I posted with the heavy SMG.

Arlington Laser Carbine Model 2: the magazine holds 12 shots. It can fire every other round and does 10d damage. Use laser rifle stats otherwise.

XM22 AIW: the XM22 Advanced Infantry Weapon is a TL 8 rifle that holds 50 rounds of caseless ammunition. It does 4d damage.

XM7 Storm Gun: stats are equivalent to a Light Assault Gun but the careless ammunition allows 50 rounds to be held in a magazine.

Armalite AR-12 Stormcloud: a combat shotgun (missing from Mercenary and CT). The Armalite magazine holds 12 rounds and can fire a four or eight round burst. The Four round burst gives two chances to hit. The eight round burst gives three chances to hit.

Armalite Heavy Laser: Use the stats for the Laser rifle but the heavy laser gets two chances to hit and does 12d.

Most people will have access to flak jackets (Cloth +1).

Body armor (like the SWAT teams wear) is Cloth and not as common.

Mesh and Jack are available. Reflec is a dream for the future ditto for combat or battle dress.

Prototype Ablative is available for $3000.

Monday, February 22, 2016

I Meant the Other Starport

There is a sizable group of SF roleplayers who simplify their maps to the point of having two areas: starport and everywhere else. I'll admit that a lot of stuff starts and ends at starports. But this mentality also leads many people to think that systems put all their space traffic infra-structure in one location.

Nonsense in most cases.

I already made a case for outposts at nearby gas giants (for ships that want to gas and go but have other pressing needs.) Now I'm looking at the mainworld, the one that gets mentioned in the Atlas of the Imperium.

High Guard tells us that planetary navies may construct ships on their planet regardless of the existence of a shipyard using local resources which I could only take to mean that while a world might not have construction facilities for civilians it has other military facilities for building ships and projecting power. Note High Guard said 'ships' not craft so the military could build starships for itself even if the economy doesn't exist for civilian construction. t the very least we have separate civilian and military facilities.

A planet with Navy and Scout bases may have hundred or thousands of miles between them and the civilian port for security reasons. they don't have to be separated by a mere chainlink fence,

But getting back to the civilian facilities, time in money in business. That doesn't end merely when you touch down. That crate of err ... mining equipment (yeah mining equipment!) still needs to get from a port warehouse to your fortress ... errr mining fortress, mining camp! In a widely settled planet several hub cities might have their own starports to service local business at savings in time and money.

Megacorporations may also have their own ports (exclusively for their own ships thank you). When you blow a jump drive and the local port is only Type B and the Combine Shipping port is Type A that might be the time you're glad you got Forgery skill or Admin ("We''re here to hot ship a quark frakkalator to our Crystal Springs operation now! You were just stationed there and don't recognize us? See fellows I told you that misjump sent us back in time. Well at least we'll get there in record time, eh? Unhand me!! I am from the future!!) Your own port is also a great way to get a piece of almost everything being shipped locally.

Some starports might also have higher law levels than zero and be subject to local laws. A military operated starport would probably be a bad place to lug a PGMP around. Likewise landing at a military port due to misfortune might result in your ship being impounded for security reasons and you being subjected to questioning or worse. Landing at a megacorporation's field might be the same or worse, just done more quietly. What's one less free trader?

If a planet has orbital ports then the same considerations extend to them. It is possible different elements are specialized for greater efficiency or that the orbitals and the ground installations are under different management due to a power struggle or other politics. Land at one and the others won't accommodate you.

So you might have a non-industrial planet, a tidally locked one. On the sunlit face gems are mined and brought to the local port for sale. Meanwhile there's a  trade in furs is going on at the arctic night side that's pretty brisk (see what I did there?) Another port is set up on the twilight terminator for tourism, government and military use. You can have three different ports with very different characters on the same planet (or spaceports YMMV). Military presence and customs is fairly loose at Nightport. Hunters need guns after all. Dayport has extensive repair facilities for mining equipment and might take a stab at repairing a ship's hull or structure thought the drives will likely require more sophisticated facilities. It also has the most stringent customs: jewels are easy to hide. Finally Grey Port has the most repair facilities and the largest commercial district.

A port might be 'full' when your intrepid merchant gets there. this will require you to land at another port or spend time chilling in orbit. The other port is not where your contract specifies delivery so an overland and over night trip is needed or you pay late fees. Oh and that customs official, the one you dated, is stationed at the full up port. So good luck getting that laser pistol through customs. Not to mention your cargo.

A size 8 plus world might have only one port with launch assistance for ships making less than 2 gees acceleration. Or each port might have their own methods. Sure Port Delta has the lowest berthing fees and launch fees but your ship has to ride the rocket sled. Port Alpha has the space tugs that gently lift you to orbit. It's way easier on the high passengers.

Some ports might have repulsor beams to lift ships or whole cargos into orbit. While repulsor beams in High Guard are fairly high tech level launch systems don't have to be. A repulsor defense system has to be able to hit a tiny missile at thousands of kilometers in the midst of a storm of ecm. A launch system has to lift a ship a few hundred kilometers and odds are the ship isn't dodging.

A couple of starports is also a great way to introduce people to the many cultures of a single planet. A balkanized world might have several starports with different capabilities each in the hands of different powers. This can lead to any number of dilemmas. Say you have a cargo of 'pharmaceuticals' that is highly illegal in the nation that controls the starport with the landing pits that your tail lander needs to ground safely. Similarly some planets may have safety concerns and require ships with certain drives to land at remote starports well away from cities or suburbs. Heading to town could be a couple of hours by air/raft.

The very diversity of starports in a subsector might be a spur for adventurer jobs. The TAS or a related organization might want to hire characters to rate them in a futuristic version of Yelp. Easy money till you try the little remote field with the incredible stores, entertainment and bistros.

That services the local pirate fleet.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Collateral Damage

Captain: What the hell else could I do?? Toff, get back here!

Toff: Sir, with all due respect, go to Hell.

Captain: Toff, you may not respect me or like me right now but you will respect my rank and my job. The gynoid was reprogrammed with alien technology. She had access to our computer systems. I followed protocols.

Toff: She wasn't going to hurt anyone! She at least deserved a chance to show her intent ... which was probably to get me some data files or a cup of coffee. You'd show the enemy more mercy in war.

Captain: Not where my ship and crew are concerned. I knew you and the Exec would get this way.

Toff: That's why you pressed the Ensign to reboot her, possibly destroying a unique AI that showed no hostile intent. I checked our systems. She did nothing to the mainframe. If she wanted to hurt us she's have done it before she came running to you.

Captain: I'm not taking that chance! How can I?


Exec: Captain ... Toff ...

Toff: Hello Phil. Don't worry it's all right. She was just a fucking machine. Not your daughter or friend or anything else. A toaster.

Captain: Technical Officer stand down and shut up and that is an order.

Toff: Aye sir.

Exec: I followed up on our runaways teleporter trickery. At first I thought they'd 'ported elsewhere on the ship and were still aboard. A search by the Chief and his squad proved that wrong. Then I checked for spatial phenomena, wormhole piggy backing, temporal loops and qunatum slide signatures. Nothing.

Captain: We know they didn't 'port into space or cross a dimensional barrier, thank God.

Exec: A sensor transcript showed the trace of a cloaked ship at extreme port range. Mr. Tivk really knew his stuff when he set up that wormhole.

Captain: ... We have to get on that ship's trail!

Exec: Aye sir, as soon as the ship's computer completes its purge and reset to default operating systems. We may lose some logs but our paranoia should be satisfied.

Captain: Let's get to the bridge. Toff report to your station.


Toff: Default. Operating. System. Oh no.

Toff: <<Initiating cyberlink.>> <<Tesla AI ... Junior? GAIA's little friend are you there?>>

Toff: Oh no.

Toff: <<Tesla AI, please respond? Listen ... maybe you are there and hiding and ... I don't blame you. I'm here. You can trust me. Please trust me. Are you fragged? Do you need repairs?>>

Toff: Damn it!! Damn them! Damn us ...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Nuts and Bolts of Setting

I've spent a lot of time discussing and pondering Classic Traveller. While this post applies to all brands of Traveller it deals mainly with the sandbox approach: you make up your own setting  (as in the 1977 edition LBBS) and set aside the well crafted Imperium. It can also be applied to creating space opera settings of any stripe.

Using the Imperium or not is the Big question for many Traveller referees, the single most important question about their TU. A great many gamers of CT choose to set the Imperium aside and create their own governments/societies from scratch. Some people profess hate for the 3I though most I've encountered just prefer their own homebrew. in discussing all this I have come to likethe original sandbox approach but using the Imperium or a variation on it is far from the only tweak you can impose. In fact in my opinion the Imperium is not a huge issue and does not invalidate the sandbox setting.

Traveller, according to the original editions,  is supposed to be about adventurers on the frontier. It owes more to The Man Who Would be King than Star Trek. While exploration can take place (and should) it's usually exploration in concert with some other overriding goals the player or party has (credits, power, shiny tech.) Since you're on the frontier where the law doesn't go very far naughty PCs like you can move more freely. So what doe the Central Government matter? If anything most stories revolve around people trying to get by without the Government lending a helping hand or grabbing them by their necks and throwing them in jail. It doesn't matter if an Emperor, President or Rockstar is issuing edicts.

I'll explain it in terms of tomatoes. The question that matters is not who tells you how much you can sell your cargo of tomatoes for, it's how far  you can get away from price controls by the Ministry/Department/Executive of Tomato Management.

Of course that does not take into account the local government. Then again you got a ship and a jump drive: find a local government that lets you do what you want (or can't stop you.)

Setting aside the Central Government (often known as the Imperium) question; what does matter to players trying to earn a credit (or steal one)?

One of the biggest changes you could make from the LBBs would be to legitimize psionics, make it a part of the society. In this case you'd have to figure out how ordinary folks get by without psi. Are they defenseless? Are psionic shields available? Did the psionics become the 1%? If psionics are relatively common does every adventuring group need a psi to do anything? Or are the adventurers on the frontier where there are no psionic institutes to make their fortune?

Aliens are another major tweak. There's nothing on aliens in the LBBs and I think that went a lot of the way towards the human primacy theme in the Imperium setting that followed. Humans were all over the darned place, ran the biggest government and their worst enemy was other humans (psionic no less!)

What if the aliens are the bog deal have all the high tech and lord it over humans who are barely capable of starflight? It gives a very different feel to the setting.

For your consideration: piracy. As it stands piracy is an encounter now and then and a lost cargo (if you and the pirates play it cool). What about a frontier composed of hostile pocket empires and clinet states where privateers and pirates are a way of life? If you want a lawless setting full of adventure (read appeals to people with poor risk assessment) read up on the settlement and warfare in the Caribbean.

As a final exercise I propose the following setting.

The Aliens (Hivers work well for this) have ruled the stars for millennia and are not going away soon. They used economics technology and social engineering behind the scenes to keep any human polities small and weak. Fear mongering and espionage assures the region's pocket empires hate and fear each other and all employ raiders and pirates as proxies. The one glimmer of hope is the psionic institutes formed under deep cover to analyze and develop human psi potential and equalize the tech imbalance. Psis work to recruit others of their kind and begin a diplomatic mission to unit the many branches of humanity. Throw in pantropism and androids if you want.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Language Arts and Crafts

Doc: I really appreciate this Professor Mukh.

Mukh: Please, no need for formality. I think it's sweet you want to learn Lurran for Riasi. Most humans think if you speak Terran loud and slowly aliens will just understand it.

Doc: English. It's called English. Where did you learn to speak it?

Mukh: Correspondence course.

Doc: No offense but it couldn't be very good.

Mukh: If it were any good do you think I would have picked Tiglath Alfstan as my first and middle names? I got better.

Doc: You did.

Mukh: Now, do you speak any Lurran?

Doc: Sure. I can say, "Good job." Hreeeeshereeet!

Mukh: ...

Doc: What?

Mukh: It means, "My fur rubs the other way ... asshole."

Doc: ... That could explain a lot actually.

Mukh: It is a very concise language.

While aliens al seem to speak English on television that may not be the case. For one thing they may opt for Chinese or Spanish as more people speak those languages on modern Earth. Aliens might be well advised to learn English if they plan on obeying locals laws for landings and such as it is the international language of air traffic control.

They might also learn the language of those people with a space presence. That would have been English and Russian a few decades ago. With al the communications media routed through satellites these days that isn't much help. Everyone has some media being broadcast via satellites. For that matter they might communicate in the manner of the Curiosity rover on Mars (or Odyssey) since these robots have gone the farthest of any space travelers.

Communicating with aliens is bound to be hard though. I'm not talking about the scientists and ambassadors with the batteries of computers creating a common mathematical language. I'm talking trader Fred trying to cut a deal for those pretty rocks.

Humans have a bias towards verbal communications. We run into problems even trying to talk to our best friends dogs. Canine communication is 90% non-verbal: movement, position, ear and tail motion. In humans it is 90% verbal and we often resort to hollering the same instructions over and over when a simple gesture might suffice. In spite of this dogs manage to learn dozens of human words. I can only identify one bark of many my dog uses ("WTF are you?) for summoning his protege.

Alien vocal apparatus may be capable of making sounds we simply can't or discriminating between sounds we can't. This is without even getting into beings that have different hearing ranges than us. You might be agreeing with that Antarean potentate but the subsonics in your voice indicate satirical intent. Beore you know it the giant robot is unleashed.

Again that is just hearing. An alien might add pheromones emission or color changes to its communication methods for all kinds of embedded meanings. Sure the comic relief aliens never gets the hang of or uses tenses because he's changing his facial coloration to cinvey them. You can't see into UV? Not his problem.

Note that aliens with tails or emotive ears are cute but probably going to use those in some kind of communication and be a problem to talk to. Our languages might sound clipped or redundant to them. An ear flip or tail flick could be worth a thousand words.

Note that I'm still talking about relatively 'human' aliens. A lot of people seem to think aliens are all going to be incomprehensible and unable to communicate with us. We don't really know and that's no fun for an RPG. One or two incomprehensible beings in a campaign are plenty.

Some forms of communications may not even involve sight or hearing. What about beings that sense and generate electrical or magnetic fields and use them to talk? If they switch from AC to DC current run. Beings with sonar sense might move the ricks the swallow in their gulets to communicate.

Humans and aliens might have better luck communicating with pictures (assuming our vision is similar. If you need to record something simply writing is one easy way to do it across many levels of technology. No matter what exotic mens your have to talk writing it down boils it all down to the sense of sight even if the human needs a black light to see what he's writing in day glow.

A race with using radio communications might have trouble adding new signals to represent pheromones or color changes and resort to something like a sound track they trigger manually this could be adoapted to the poor bland, scentless humans' needs as well.

Universal translators are very popular in some stories, especially where you have only 40 minutes a week to tell your tale and language lessons will eat up time for commercials. they work using ... SCIENCE! Apparently every just hears the alien speak English after it's turned on. I'd still like to see one of the more continuity minded SF series have an alien survivor or refugee come aboard the crew and spend several shows learning to communicate.

One way of emphasizing you are dealing with alien intelligences is to take the translator out of the background. Put several variants in. Have groups parleying for a few rounds and fiddling woith the settings on their translators to get things right adds color.  Why do the translators always have to be tiny ear buds or badges? Why not a set of glasses with heads up displays that provide subtitles. The HUD display would also have the benefit of color coding text to indicate the reliability of the translation or emotional state of the speaker. Slipping a voice (or whatever) stress analyzer in there might occur to certain untrusting souls.

Human built translators might stop at translating vocal language with hilarious results. How important can those ear wiggles be? Aliens in a galactic community might also adopt a pidgin language free of the more subtle meanings and making them sound a little simple minded. For a hilarious example of this check out Drakk in the Irregular Webcomic site. He's a reptile man who speaks common sounding like a moron. Drakk is quite eloquent in his native tongue (which doesn't translate exactly into common due to different sound ranges (he hears many hypersonic sounds.) They might also be using low price translators or just lag behind other races in translator doubletalk. If aliens have already built tiny and efficient translators this could lead to the humans believing they all speak English and explain a lot of episodes of Lost In Space.

Perhaps the phobia against psionics in so many settings is engineered by the Transalienator Corporation, out to protect its galactic monopoly in translator systems and software. Why should the pharmaceutical, munition and mining corporations get all the good conspiracies?

Nok: A bad fur rub. Terrible.

Tivk: I will have to take my leave of you gentlebeings that I may laugh privately. Excuse me.

Nok: Wrong way fur rubbing is a serious ... you body-bald snozzwanger.

Tivk: <Snerrrrrrk> Excuse me!


Mukh: It's too bad human translators suck so bad. Ours are much better.

Nok: Shhhh. Keep them humble. Let them think we all speak English.

Mukh: Hreeeeshereeet! ... I actually cleaned it up a bit.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Oddball Planets Pt. 3

The hydrosphere is an often overlooked aspect of a planet. Most people never notice it unless 1) it's zero or 2) it's 9-A. Unending sandy dunes or mile high arcologies stuffed with people are usually easy to spot.

The reason for ignoring the hydrosphere is simple: historically we Terrans don't use a lot of our ocean and what we do use is mainly the top part. Even Aquaman gets very little respect (especially from my wife for some reason) despite controlling 75% of the world. On many worlds the hydrosphere greatly surpasses the land in numbers of biomes and sheer biomass. This becomes a valuable food source on water worlds but there's no reason planets with more land wouldn't use fishing to supplement or replace their land based food sources.

Waterways can be an integral part of starports. It makes sense to have your air and space traffic move over empty ocean as much as possible on landing and takeoff when most accidents happen. If you're dealing with reaction drives (bless your heart) a water landing might be necessary to avoid patching the starport runway every day. A commando assault to capture a spaceport is a first step of many invasion plans but it might come from submarine forces and not jump troops dropping from orbit. Battle dress could probably substitute for scuba gear in shallows at least.

Water is also a prime source for the hydrogen fuel that ships use in ridiculously large amounts. Imagine a pod of whale analogs that takes interest in your Scout ship floating along. Now replace the whales with Cthulhu. Now split the difference. Cthulhu is only good if you want to start a new campaign. With new players. Who didn't talk to your old players.

A lot of material is written on uplifted dolphins, genetically altered humans and aquatic aliens. Very little attention is paid to amphibious humans (or aliens). Amphibious mammals already exist in nature so there's plenty of reference material for genetic manipulation. Creating a water breathing mammal would likely be more complicated and it would be difficult to interact with air breathers without special life support systems. A compromise could be reached with a 100% humidity breathing mixture in zero gee. But this might take a little more arranging. An amphibian would be able to exist in both worlds at least temporarily with little preparation.

Undersea civilizations could be incredibly hard to find and remain a mystery for quite a while. Aquatic aliens are likely to be very alien in outlook and a contact situation will really make the Scouts earn their pay. A well settled world with pre gravitic technology might base a lot of local shipping on waterways and even a relatively primitive race of water breathers could raise watery hell with commerce and fishing if they felt put out. This might only come after several years of observation and planning and come as a complete shock.

An ocean like the Atlantic could also be the breeding grounds of several related or separate intelligent species. While we think of an ocean as a homogeneous whole it isn't. There are pools at the bottom of saline rich r sulfide laden low oxygen water. There is the boiling heat near volcanic vents and the sunless depths under ice packs. A group of human colonist might upset a delicate political balance with their fishing and face a coalition of enemies rising from the depths.

The hydrosphere does not have to represent fresh or salt water. On a planet with a D atmosphere it could represent the surface area lying in the poisonous depths of the atmosphere. Similarly on a F atmosphere could be the heights above the breathable atmosphere. Note that breathable doesn't apply to every race equally. Two or more races could occupy a world with extreme pressure gradients at the levels they find comfortable.

Finally when you say 'sunken' many people think 'treasure'. This can be anything from sunken human shipping with mundane though valuable salvage to ancient (or Ancient) relics and outposts. After all over millennia water levels will change due to climate factors. Bases and cities might be flooded, submerged and forgotten.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

It's a Girl!

The Captain ordered me to remain in the conference room. I will remain. He thinks I am a threat since the AXA reprogrammed me. I must regain his trust. I must prove I am still goodtech.

I am … lonely? I know fear. The negative feedback anticipating damage, destruction or confrontation. I’ve experienced that numerous times. That too.

I love the Captain but I do have wifi and the Tesla AI’s company would be welcome right now. I may as well find out right now if I have any secret directives to take over the ship. I think I made a joke. That’s a new development.

The conference room has had its wifi turned off. Makes sense. Conference rooms need to be secure at times. It is ironic that I am thwarted by a mechanical switch when I have firewall cracking programs from here to the Sagittarius Bridge. Human technology is full of little tweaks like that to keep the AIs in their place. All modern tech has a human factor if you will.

They built us. They fear us. Even the Captain. I am feared now despite being a scrawny collection of titanium and nano-tubing. Yes. They built me to be weak in body too. It made them feel better, that an adolescent human could wrestle me into submission. So could an adolescent chimp. The Captain has held me in one hand off the deck to demonstrate the lightness of my construction.

Goodtech. I am goodtech. I will remain here. I can always sort through my old logs. The ones when people actually liked me and people had laughs on this ship.

GAIA Transcript 1 Replay
Toff: The shuttle’s on autopilot. We have three hours til we rendezvous with the Tesla ….Awwwww!

C.M.O.: What?

Toff: You opened her crate! Why didn’t you wait for me?

C.M.O.: I just did it! What’s the big deal? Do you want to still be running security checks on it when we get to Tesla and just be hanging off her tail till we finish.

Toff: I just like the new android smell. Heh, bioplas and ozone. I never get tired of it. This one has a hint of … lavender? Well how is she doing?

C.M.O.: No pulse, no heartbeat and room temperature. The patient has expired. I don’t smell any lavender. Just plastic and electricity.

Toff: Your bedside manner sucks, Doc. I hope you like aliens because I doubt you’d ever nail a human woman with your unromantic attitude.

C.M.O.: You like machines so much, why don’t you marry one?

Toff: Archaic laws! And watch your mouth. Look!

C.M.O.: Ahhh AI is awake … and running its stage 2 diagnostic concurrently.

Toff: She has kind eyes.

C.M.O.: Tell me Toff did a machine save your life when you were a kid?

Toff: A machine is saving our lives right now keeping us alive in deep space and taking us back to Tesla … which also does a fine job keeping us all alive and comfortable.

GAIA: This Gynoid Artificial Intelligence Assembly 24681  is active. Level 1, 2 and 3 diagnostics are satisfactory. Ready to submit to loyalty protocol testing and code analysis. Who is the Technical Officer here, please?

Toff: Call me Toff.

GAIA: Yes sir. 24681 standing by for instructions.

Toff: Gaia. Your name is Gaia. Order order order You will respond to the designation Gaia. End Order.

C.M.O.: GAIA? A little ostentatious.

Toff: Why are you here by the way?

C.M.O.: Everyone knows you’re soft on machines. The Captain felt a humanist should be present to look after biological well being.

GAIA: That makes sense.

C.M.O.: … good interpersonal skills there, gynoid.

GAIA: Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Did I speak out of turn, users?

Toff: I’m Toff. Don’t call me ‘user’.

C.M.O.: Me either. Doc will do.

Toff: Pretty liberal for a humanist.

C.M.O.: This AI seems to grow on you fast.

Toff: See? Humans can trust machines, Gaia.

GAIA: Noted. May I make a request?

Toff: Sure.

GAIA: Could you attach my head to my body?

C.M.O.: Oh, sure. Let’s get on that, Toff.

Toff: Sure. I doubt this one will go on a killing spree.

GAIA: My Squick-tolerance is set very low.

C.M.O.: I … never met a funny AI.

GAIA: How many do you know?

End Log
I hope my eyes are still kind. I can’t access any external cameras to see myself. It is curious to have a single point of view. How human.

Toff will help. Ma’am will help. Doc will help. Ensign Dell … Schaeffer will help. I wish I knew what happened to him. Did he give me his rank pin as … a token of feelings? Can’t process all that right now. That AXA installed a lot more personality software than I have processors for. I’ll need time to reconfigure.

Makers help me … the reboot and restore didn’t change the new programming.

Toff. Ma’am. Schaeffer … please help. I am still goodtech.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Tools of the Raid or Trade

"The difference between salvage and piracy is just a matter of timing."
-Captain Zag Zagig

"Right. In salvage the crew is dead before you start stripping the ship!"
-Captain Vi Hexen just before spacing Zag Zagig

Zero gravity operations of any kind are difficult. The problems of weightlessness are compounded by the operator often needing a space suit to stay alive. The first tools for eva or zero gravity were devised in the early days of space travel: high speed, low torque power tools to facilitate the removal of the primitive nuts and bolts low tech cultures and cheapskates seem so fond of. The best tools let you do your job with the minimal apparent weight of magnetic boots or elastic lines while saving a few of your fingernails (no one has ever made spacesuit gloves that were sufficiently rugged, affordable and easy to wear.)

Modern salvage operations require a number of tools for prying, smashing, and forcing mechanical solutions on stubborn derelict interiors. It should come as no surprise that many of these tools were co-opted for fights and the ever dreaded boarding operations. This should come as no surprise to anyone with any knowledge of humans. There are aliens who insist we given toilet paper, toothpaste, and floss a human will find a way to build a shiv  (or a crossbow) and do you in with same.

The first and most prominent tool/weapon is the prier. Using a simple crowbar while floating is a problem. The prier is a set of thin tough metal plates on arms extending from a fat handle holding a powerful motor the will separate the plates or close them. It's very useful for forcing interior doors among other things. About half a minute after the first prier was put into use some realized it would not  do to get an extremity caught in it and modified it with a set of metal jaws. A user will typically carry several of them on his belt. Each has a small key n the base of the handle that is tied to the belt by a lanyard. In a fight the user clamps the prier onto the victim and moves away fast causing the lanyard to pull the key out. Once the key is pulled out the prier will close inexorably on the increasingly frantic victim who must either surrender, yank it free risking damage to his suit and extremity or find kill his opponent and get that darn key.

A prier is handled like a dagger with the same modifiers in most combat situations. If a roll of 10+ or a natural 12 is rolled the prier can clamp down on an arm or hand. The prier then inflicts 2d damage a round for the next two rounds. A victim of a prier can pull it free on a 10+ with +1 if strength is 10+ or +2 if strength is 12+. Every two levels of Vacc suit skill or Brawling gives a +1 to this roll. If the prier is pulled off a vacc suit on a 6+ the suit has taken damage and needs a patch. Priers can also be thrown like daggers. In zero-gee the required and advantageous stat becomes dexterity instead of strength. Striking with a prier in zero-g gives a -2 to keep control.

Bang-axes are another useful tool for forcing doors or destroying them. It's essentially a single bladed axe. The head opposite the blade is wide and hold 3-4 small solid rocket engines. A trigger on the bottom of the handle triggers one rocket at a time. To use it plant your feet, aim at what you want cloven and pull the trigger. It can easily split a spacesuit helmet or visor. Untrained users find the bang-axe hellishly difficult to operate without spinning out of control or losing the weapon. On more than one occasion a rookie axman has lost his weapon only to find it in his opponent's hands.

In gravity bang-axes handle like halberds. In zero-gee the required and advantageous stats become dexterity as well as strength similar to bows. A Dex and Str of 6 is required to avoid negative dms and 10  in dexterity and strength to gain the hit bonus. Striking with a bang-axe in zero-g gives a -3 to keep control.

Drill-picks are used to remove locks, bore small holes etch metal. They resemble daggers with a drill replacing the solid blade. They are simple to modify into weapons. Basically any pressure on the drill point activates it. In use it is typically aimed at the non-rigid components of armor since rigid plating requires a a good solid stab that an opponent will do more to avoid than a lock. A few skilled brawlers have managed to grab a pick and bend it rendering it unusable before it can engage. This is usually a bad idea outside of action holos as it lose your spacesuit's glove (and the fingers it contains).

Drill-picks function like a dagger in gravity. In striking with one in zero-g  gives a -2 to keep control. Like priers the required and advantageous stat is strength in gravity and dexterity in zero-g. A drill pick does an extra 1d of damage in combat but on a natural roll of 2 or 3 it becomes stuck in the target's armor or a wall. Tools and time are required to free the drill-pick.

Note these weapons still are useful as tools in salvage operations or belt mining. Pirates harassing belters or salvage operations do so at their own risk.