Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Grin and Bear It

"Yes my boy, think on it!" Professor Ormsby said. "Were it not for the fortuitous combination of solar storms, x-radiation and novacane ... and a little help from the Cern particle accelerator you would never have made it to our enlightened age!"

"I knew I should have broken that appointment with the dentist. Stupid insurance. Stupid before and after x-rays," I muttered. I poked at the IV in my arm putting glowing blue juice in my arm. Blue was god in medicine, right.

"Izzat all you have to say? You knuckle dragging primitive ingrate. I brought you to life to aid me in my great endeavors! What say you?"

"Can you fix me up with a cell phone at least? I feel naked without one" I asked.

"Cell ... phone ..." the professor said processing the words.

"Yes ... miniaturized electronics, transistors, you make calls on it, get the weather, internet services?"

"Tran-resistors ..."

"Fer gosh sakes, you guys have anti-gravity, the 5:15 to the Moon and you could kill a small dog with one of your radiophones! What the hell happened in the last 600 years?"

"You obviously know nothing of history. Later for that. Miniaturized electronics! Interesting story about that," the professor said rubbing his hands together. I nodded and made the go on hand waving.

"The company I once worked for had embarked on an ambitious plan to make the tiniest vacuum tubes ever. This required a miniature labor force. We hit on using water bears or your tardigrades to manufacture the eensy tubes! Of course we had to modify the water bears: opposable thumbs, a hive mentality with rudimentary intelligence we might train. But we did it!"

"So how come your electronics all look like something out of Frankenstein's lab and weigh a ton?"

"Oh ... well water bears live in water. We never did figure out how to coax the little bastards to climb out of the water and build fires, let alone blow gas. The company went into bankruptcy."

I face palmed.

"But it had a happy ending! I bought the process and set up my own company. I taught the group minds to master mathematics, built a portable life support system for them and sold them as electronic difference engines. It worked quite well and the tardigrades could hibernate for years until needed."

"Brilliant. Water Bear Hardware," I said.

That got a laugh out of the old guy then he got serious for a moment.

"The hardest part, believe it or not, was micro engraving the tiny slide rules for them. I thought I'd go blin

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Dieselpunk Manifesto Episode Five

Buck Rogers Strips 40-49

Buck is surprised in his cell by the lovely Nunah, whom you might remember was the badass aviatrix who strafed the vagrants trying to do for Buck. She tells Buck of her lost love: Lone Wolf who was captured by the Han. Despite being a badass aviatrix and crack shot she needs his help to rescue Lone Wolf from the labs of the evil Airlords.

In a show of professional courtesy between badasses Buck of course agrees to help her. They'll rescue Wilma and Lone Wolf! Nunah for her part is deserting her Org and stealing a plane to rescue her love, which is exactly what Rogers did to land in jail and she comes off as a capable, brave character who's easy to sympathize with. Landing near Los Angeles they camouflage their plane and don Han disguises.


Nunah might get away with this, in dim light. Buck is a  six foot three Caucasian with blond hair and blue eyes. Buck makes Superman's trick with the eyeglasses and forelock look like chopped liver. The Han really seem to have no idea what the American jumping belts can do because the City of Los Angeles is defended by a ten meter wall. They leap it pretty easily and cosh a lone guard. They slip into an apartment and hide their jump belts because they'd make the rescue easier. They slip back onto the wall (why?) and almost get arrested by another guard who kicks the pretty woman and the tall blue eyed blonde haired Han off the wall.

Meanwhile Wilma is watching this drama unfold on her magic TV. She wonders if Nunah is another one of Buck's 'sisters'. One can imagine the hijinks that might ensue if Buck called a guy 'brother' in front of her.

Buck and Nunah lay low for a couple days after this assuming no one will notice the incredible lifting belts they hid and work their way to the Han laboratories. They get in by bashing a couple of guards on the head and soon find Lone Wolf. Now with his help they intend to break into the Emperor's harem. Yes, I know harem is an Arabic term and the Han are your generic Asian bad guys (thankfully they are now extinct and we just demonize politicians). As for Wilma she makes the mistake of expressing utter boredom by wishing something would happen. Her peeping Tammy phase seems to be over.

She gets her wish. The Emperor is tying one on and the usual gaggle of pole dancers and bimbos doesn't send him so he sends for 'li'l Wild Wilma (hic)!'

Lanlu, an up and coming social climber in the Emperor's personal strip club, sees this as her chance! Fortunately Wilma will be wearing some sort of hood hiding her face and blinding her like a hawk. This is an apt metaphor if you know Wilma. Lanlu slips on the hood and costume and takes her place. She is brought to the Emperor by the Imperial flesh merchants while Wilma hides. For good measure the guards drug 'Wilma'.

You have to love the pulp era. In one strip we get female bondage, debauchery, drugs, and booze. I t's like Fifty Shades of Gray in four panels!

The Emperor gets about five seconds of cuddling Lan Lu, not even enough time to realize she isn't Wilma and kill his buzz when Buck, Lone Wolf and Nunah arrive and raise all manner of merry hell. They even bash the Emperor on his royal sconce with a priceless vase. Buck grabs the disguised and tripping Lanlu, thinking her Wilma!

The four flee raising more merry hell along the way. We're talking swords, rocket pistol diplomacy and a bunch of socks on the jaw. They grab a 'glide car' a short range version of the airships and make good their escape!

Oh wait. What about Wilma?

There has never, to my knowledge, been a mission to save Wilma Derring that has not turned into a clusterfuck in short order. Wilma grabs a funky hat, tight skirt and sequined bra and begins her escape.

Yes, the tall blonde blue eyed Caucasian woman loses the ornate robes she was wearing, bares as much skin as possible and tries to sneak out of the Han City. This alone puts her chutzpah far beyond Rogers and really she makes Superman with his eyeglasses her bitch.

Only it doesn't work. She boards an elevator car with the only two citizens who have their eyes open. they start screaming about a wild American being lose! Wilma found a gun somewhere (probably Han) and she busts both the snitches in the head as the car screams down to the lower levels of the city.

Buck and the others retrieve their jumping belts and make for the woods with 'Wilma'. You'd think someone would yank that dumb hood off to make sure she can breathe or note that this young woman probably never completed a hike in her life and was a Han but eeehhh it's already dark out. Besides this way is more fun.

When they stop for a rest they finally discover their mistake. Buck insists on going back. Nunah and Lone Wolf had enough but Lanlu is smitten with Rogers and decides to accompany him back. For some reason Buck throws his disguise away. Maybe he figures the Han are now on the lookout for blond blue eyed citizens now?

Lanlu shows Rogers a secret entrance into the lower levels of the city as we conclude strip 49 ...

It seems that Los Angeles has done a fairly good job of keeping the Americans at bay and on the defensive. The city has few defenses and few defenders, the opposite of the beleaguered Western Orgs. Obviously the Han feel the best defense is a good offense and that has worked till now. Aside from the disintegrators they have a few small arms like the pistol Wilma found that looks like a conventional slug thrower.

I'll also note, all kidding aside, that Deering and Rogers did sneak about the city so Los Angeles at least might be more cosmopolitan. In Armageddon: 2419 some orgs did deal with the Han and it is possible the Han had Americans working for them or trading. You might expect this after several hundred years of occupation.

The ease with which the Americans scale the defenses seems to show jumping belts are a recent invention that the Airlords are not familiar with (otherwise they would use it in their airships for sure) and a significant advance they have not duplicated yet. This theme ran through Arm: 2419.

Nunah and Lone Wolf were capable characters and I would like to see more of them.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Katana Blaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Doorways to Luna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Dieselpunk Manifesto Episode Four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Close Shave

Doc: Where the heck are you going?

Mukh: I can't watch!

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

Nok: Bitching.

Tivk: Do not encourage him. This is suicide.

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

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

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

Tivk: Did they slit their throats with it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nok: Pussies. I want to shave something.

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

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

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

Nok: Shave something else. Now!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dieselpunk Manifesto Episode Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what of the spy in Columbus Org? Hmmm.

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up, the engines!

Friday, May 12, 2017

And We're Live!

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

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

Rocket Pistols!

Rocket pistols have seen little development in the present time. At one time they had their fans in SF. With some material advances and research they could be on the verge of a golden age. Any dieselpunk stuff I do is going to have them just because they're pistols that fire teeny rockets!

If you're playing in a 2d6 game there is already a rocket pistol -the snub pistol. Snub pistols have their fans because I've already seen rules for snub machine guns and snub carbines. Hell, I wrote a couple of them myself.

Following are some system agnostic ideas for rocket pistols. 

First they're stupid simple to make (the ammunition is another matter). The rockets have little kick (in the barrel at least). They are caseless which is important if you're worried about brass fouling some machinery or controls or a hot spent cartridge landing inside your shirt. I've had this happen and I swear the little bastards look for any opening and hurt like a sonuva mother.

Unlike most caseless weapons rocket pistols do not suffer from heat buildup. Cased rounds carry a lot of heat away from their weapon when they are ejected. Caseless ammunition leaves the heat behind and it can lead to burnt fingers or even co0king off when a weapon fires off an entire clip despite your best efforts.

They have no kick worth mentioning. This is a bit of relief for shoot outs in zero gravity. Despite what some movies will have you believe firing a handgun won't send you spinning crazily. It will require you to adjust your aim and grip on whatever you're hanging onto.

The lack of a kick could make it easy for careers (or classes) with weapons restrictions to use. You might want to allow anyone to grab a rocket pistol and start blasting. That's pretty big in terms of training times and could make them ideal for militia or rebels. In Armageddon: 2419, Buck grabs one and proves himself a dead eye with it after a few shots.

They're stealthy. A phaser and most energy weapons will give away your position. Most firearms are very difficult to suppress (forget about actually silencing them). The rockets fire with a small puff and hiss. People who are shooting with surprise or from hiding might be able to get a punch of cheap shots in before their enemies realize where the fire is coming from or even what is happening.

Rocket pistols can also be an easy way to tell the good guys from the bad guys. In combat this is not as easy as you might hope. Now you have a way to tell if those guys are on your side or not. Just fire a rocket over their heads. If they hose you with rocket fire, they're on your side. If they disintegrate you they're on the other side.
(Two models of Rocket Pistol. The Mark 5 (l.) and the Mark 7 (r.) has a helical magazine holding 12 shots in a helical magazine. mark 5's are favored for boarding actions. The Mark 7 has a tubular magazine allowing a faster draw but only 8 shots. It is favored by explorers and some gunmen who favor a weapon that is a quick draw and can conserve their ammunition.)

I Can't Believe I'm Not Vetted Yet and Other News

I submitted Dieselpunk in a Nutshell to RPGNow. It's my fifth product in as many months and they still need to look it over and decide it won't mean the downfall of Western Civilization.


Hopefully it will go live on Monday 5/16. Some goodies for you my inner circle.

I answered a load of questions about it here.

Asking price is $2.

My next projects are Alien Capsules Book Three and a catalogue of dieselpunk style equipment (like Helmut's Helmets). This may or may not include stats for the Luna and using Metasite. I want to sell everything for $2 and under.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Metasite is Outasite

Metasite is the unobtainium powering my dieselpunk world. It can power yours too.

Metasite is a material with unique electromagnetic properties. The electrical forces holding its atoms together are very malleable when subjected to different magical magnetic fields. Subject it to one field it becomes hard enough to shatter steel or scratch diamonds. Another treatment will make the same Metasite as clear as the finest glass. In building ship hulls viewports and hull are one and the same, the ports merely being sections of hull made transparent.

There's more, the conductivity or metasite can also be tailored with the same magnetic fields. It can be a nearly perfect insulator or a superconductor holding vast amounts of energy. The energy can be released again by spinning the metasite through a specific magnetic field and the energy will be released in whatever form desired: em, nuclear, repulsive or gravitic.

Space craft can use the repulsive or gravitic properties to travel interplanetary distances with travel times of weeks or a few months, thrusting against or attracting the sun itself and (mostly) free of the need for propellant. Most vessels do have more conventional rockets for high accelerations.

The amount of metasite and the efficiency of the engine determine how much energy can be stored. It does provide unlimited delta vee because of these limits. It also has a nasty tendency to build up static charges and ships may need to stop somewhere to discharge this build up.

I came up with metasite because I wanted a dieselpunk style technology and that means it uses the technology of the 20's and 20's as its template. One f the first things you'll note about that era was the technology was not capable of sending a ship any farther than the Moon and that might be a stretch. Therefore we have unobtainium allowing 30's technology to exceed 21st century technology in several ways. Those ways are material science, energy storage and propulsion. That covers most of your space faring dieselpunk antics.

It is improbably useful stuff. I don't even want to hazard a guess how it is produced or mined (or whatever). You make up something that fits your world. Is it common enough to make flying belts affordable? Again up to you. On the bright side, one type of unobtainium with these related effects seem more coherent to me than separate advances providing for antigravity, death rays and space flight but not smart phones, price scanners, and the internet.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Luna

I freely Acknowledge my inspiration for this ship came from the grandfather of all SF comics. The Luna project had the benefit of a rendering program that was unknown in the 1930's as well as a lot more time than a cartoonist banging out a daily strip say.

I have changed some design features and conjectured on what others were and added and subtracted and I think I can  say this is my design now. That is to say I'm going to put it in a product and hopefully not incur anyone's wrath.

The Luna

What is all this?

I'll probably put the Luna out as a series of small booklets.

Tomorro for ur regular post: more shinies for the dieselpunk adventurer.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Dieselpunk Manifesto Episode 2

So which helmet do the bad guys wear?

That's just to remind you I'm still laying out stuff (and selling said stuff). Anyhoo ...

When last we left Buck Rogers (strip #10) Wilma was missing on patrol. Buck was placed in command of a small squadron (three biplanes!) and sent to look for her. Considering the Americans were still under constant raids by the Airlords, who also controlled the skies, this was a helluva a case for no one left behind.

While searching Buck receives a transmission from Wilma saying the Airlords are at Akron and heading towards Cleveland or Buffalo (she apparently had a poor sense of geography outside Pennsylvania.) In a flashback in strip 11 the Airlords use a sensor device that can scan through the trees of the forest to spot Wilma and (being a squad of flesh peddlers) they pronounce her beautiful. I guess the sensor was very short range. Otherwise they'd mount them on their ships and wipe out the Americans once and for all or American installations were really well hidden.

You wonder what these guys are thinking, abducting a girl who is basically a trained killer to present to their emperor as his next main squeeze. I'll also note the soldier in the back has what looks like an old style rifle and bayonet.

After abducting Wilma and playing with her jump belt she manages to break away from the pimps of the Airlords (am I veering into Alpha Blue territory here?) and send her distress call. The Emperor video conferences his squad, is smitten and sends a squadron of airships to pick up the group. as Buck and his three biplanes rush to the rescue!

Spotting the group Buck and his cohorts bail out using their jumping belts and leaving their planes on remote control (by Buck's pilot who never really gets a mention or any time on panel). They beat the stuffing out of the flesh peddlers just as the Airlord squadron shows up.  They use their jumping belts to get back to their planes, Buck needs to climb a rope to his as the goons who abducted Wilma apparently lost her inertron jumping belt ("I don't understand, I put it down right over ... oh oh ...") In the course of the escape Buck and Wilma fall from the line and land in the Ohio River where they are rescued and robbed by scruffy wasteland types characterized by a racist term who grab their gear.

Stuck in a cave, Wilma finds a disintegrator ray in a pile of trash and managed to get it working. Turns out she's an 'electronist'. The disintegrator looks like an old fashioned two handed power drill and we're told picks up power from the Airlords' broadcast power system.

In this scene we see how beamed power is a good way to enable to enable your enemies to kill you. For that matter since Wilma knows the workings of a disintegrator so intimately, you wonder why the Americans don't have their own disintegrators to tap into the Airlord power broadcast and hand them a nasty surprise now and then. Rocket shells cost money man,

 They use it to tunnel out of the cave after which it quits on them because disintegrating their robbers would just be too easy. Under Wilma's direction they strike out for the Youngstown Org. Along the way Buck teaches Wilma the finer points of camping out like building a fire and crafting a bow and arrow to hunt game. Even I have to call bullshit here. Wilma grew up in the forests, patrolled the forest and you would think her training would include survival techniques in case, I dunno, she lost her equipment to robbers or something similar. After putting an arrow through a bear they make it back to civilization and are immediately ordered to convey a dispatch to the Columbus Org.

One wonders what is in this dispatch that requires physical transportation. Everybody had radio phones. Then again Columbus seems to get a harder time from the Han than the Pennsylvania Org.

To cross the Ohio River Buck comes up with an ingenious use of their jumping belts. Wilma, it seems can't swim a stroke. So ...

This is a good way to keep your gear dry! I will pont out that Wilma's lack of swimming ability doesn't mean a hoot. She couldn't sink wearing her belt!! Her effective weight is too little. We also see one of the jumping belt flaws, there's no way to release part of the inertron in case you find yourself too light to deal with a situation.

While we're at it ... the average density of air at sea level is 1.27 kilograms. An average human takes up about a cubic meter of volume (though not in cube form (that'd be uncomfortable, messy and possibly fatal.) In strip 2 Wilma shows Buck how to wear a belt and remarks he only weighs about 2 kilograms. The belts reduce the danger of falling to almost nothing because their wearers are little denser than air. A little more inertron would give them neutral buoyancy and they'd behave like small airships! This buoyancy and air resistance keeps them from falling too fast! A few times the book mentions that people seem to fall more slowly than normal due to this resistance. It can't just be because of their lessened weight. Galileo had a lot to say on that subject

This is a good thing because when you hit ground it will be with all the kinetic energy of your mass (which inertron doesn't affect). You want to be going slow. Even experienced users make mistakes as we'll see. You're sort of playing parkour with gravity.

This wouldn't help you at all if you were falling in a vacuum like on the Moon. Two kilograms humans fall as fast as 70 kilogram humans without air resistance. Then again vacuum worlds usually have low gravity anyway.

It also doesn't help against spin gravity or acceleration forces unless you're close to a planet and boosting away. But I'm getting ahead of myself. That's next story arc.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Tales of Tail Landers

Short post of necessity this Friday. I spent the day in the ER due to a family emergency. It's all going to be all right though.

Whatever happened to tail landers? There was a time when they were the standard for space craft that errr ... landed.

Here's my treatment of an old favorite: the Luna!

A little color makes a big difference. In doing this and beginning my researches  realized that most of the deckplans I've seen are for space craft that are treated as aircraft (or hotels). So I plan to address that.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Coming of Gorg

I wrote this with Mighty Eroc (especially his avatar) in mind.


Professor Prost, the archaeologist were searching for preserved specimens of mammoth in an Alaskan glacier when he found the mummy. it was perfectly preserved, a man a good 7 feet tall, from an unknown and gigantic subrace. Prost worked to free him from the ice to transport him to a refrigerated storage vault for careful examination. It was a race against time with the glacier already showing signs of melting.

Prost awoke in the morning to renew his labors and found two intruders in his camp: a Kodiak bear and ... Gorg. Apparently just resting, the giant human fossil attacked the bear. With speed belying his great size Gorg climbed on its back and slipped a chokehold on it, throttling it unconscious.

The paleolithic giant then made his introductions to Professor Prost. "Gorg!" Prost was no fool and took the man home to examine, educate and then publish.

After Professor Prost passed away and Gorg walked a few hundred miles to Juneau. Stopping the giant required a concerted effort of a half dozen police. Gorg maintained he didn't want to hurt the police and was at a disadvantage. Gorg was then placed under the care of the War Department.

Gorg possesses immense strength. He also has great speed and agility. His senses are sharp as well. The big man doesn't talk much. this is because English is his second language and he feels embarrassed about his accent. His short statements and simple constructions of speech lead many to think he is an ignorant and primitive idiot. Nothing could be further from the truth. Professor Prost made a thorough study of Gorg's mental powers and found him highly intelligent.

Gorg was shown film footage of the Nazi's Creature. Even the most hard bitten officers grinned when Gorg stood up, pointed at the screen and hollered, "I ... Kill!"

Gorg, Giant Caveman

Gorg stands seven feet tall and possesses immense strength and speed. He is a 6 HD monster. His great strength let's him do +2 damage with melee weapons and +2 to hit. His fists and feet do 1d6 damage. In The Front Gorg has 12 armor points do to his agility and resiliency. In Operation White Box Gorg's base armor class is 6 [13].

Gorg dislikes guns and usually employs a spear or axe. Most trigger guards are to small for his finger and he is -3 to hit with firearms. He has difficulty with most normal sized equipment ("One size fits all? Hah! I laugh!") After the disaster trying to familiarize him with a Sherman tank (it required a blow torch to get him out and the tank crew had to be transferred) Gorg is not going into anymore tanks.He'd rather ride on top and throw rocks. Big rocks.

He surprises foes on 1-3 on 1d6 and is only surprised on a 1 in 6 chance.

Suppression fire works on Gorg like any other human being. The big guy isn't bulletproof, just tough and with the luck of Satan's Godson. When he's faced with suppression fire or grenades he will usually find a way to sneak around it. hen that fails he often rips up a sturdy object to use as a shield, like a car door or thick door. The big man can make a short rush (half his movement) and receives a ST to avoid the enemy action altogether for one round. He then slams into the attackers for 2d6 damage. He can do this once a fight.

Gorg has his issues. He doesn't really understand modern technolog. Though he could use it, such as turning on an electric light, he can have mishaps like licking an electrical outlet or catching his finger in an oscillating fan.

The prehistoric world made Gorg into an excellent hunter and forager. In the wild he can easily support himself. He's not above liberating a pie from an enemy commissary which he views as a test of skill and which has jeopardized more than one mission. He spots secret doors and similar clues on a 3 in 6.

Gorg has a great dislike of being closed in. The irony of being called a caveman is not lost on him. He hates caves and usually will make due with a tent or lean-to or sleep in a tree. He never uses the barracks.

He also has a short temper with wise guys. Gorg knows how to use pronouns. Any attempt to make fun of his speech, era or appearance will result in the wiseacre being picked up, held nose to nose and asked to reconsider his words. Everyone has so far.

The big guy has a good heart despite his brutish exterior. Kids and animals usually pick  up on this. He is especially fond of dogs (once he learned the difference between them and wolves). The fiercest guard dogs will abandon their duties to approach and fawn over him. Horses show no fear and will let him ride them (though the horse may regret the decision).

Since the discovery of Gorg the Soviet Union launched a huge expedition into Siberia to seek their own proletariat caveman. There are some rumors of success, though they may have just shaved an Alma.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Dieselpunk Manifesto

This is going live next week. I'm not sure if I'm vetted and can put it up immediately or I still have to wait an indefinite period before the folks at RPGNow decide it's innocuous enough to be posted.

It is a systemless set of tables to establish the basics of a dieselpunk style setting. It is running about 24 pages for $2.00.

Note the rest of this post deals with the 1929 vintage comic strips which are insensitive in some sensitive matters. You been warned.

It started with my love of dieselpunk (it had no name when I first encountered it here:

The first Buck Rogers strip (I got a hardbound collection of these for christmas one year)
Buck Rogers strips 1-10.

Anthony 'Buck' Rogers first had his story told in Amazing Stories. He told his tale his story was  in two parts: Armageddon 2419 and The Airlords of the Han. The stories were later combined as Armageddon 2419 in novel form and then picked up by the papers. Tony's name was changed to Buck because it sounded more action oriented.

The book immediately introduces two items that were the bread and butter of Buck and Wilma Deering for many years: rocket pistols and jumpers: belts that let you defy gravity (to a degree). In the strip. Buck is usually pictured with a ray gun of some sort. In the books and early strips it is very clear that the good guys use projectile weapons and the bad guys (the Mongols) used ray guns. Buck is seldom without his trusty rocket pistol. Some original illustrations also
showed the rocket guns that were very nasty, very mobile and quite cool.

Rocket guns are very simple contrivances so far as the mechanism of launching the bullet is concerned. They are simple light tubes, closed at the rear end, with a trigger-actuated pin for piercing the thin skin at the base of the cartridge. This piercing of the skin starts the chemical and atomic reaction. The entire cartridge leaves the tube under its own power, at a very easy initial velocity, just enough to insure accuracy of aim; so the tube does not have to be of heavy construction. The bullet increases in velocity as it goes. It may be solid or explosive. It may explode on contact or on time, or a combination of these two.

The weapons were light to begin with and counterweighted with inertron the reverse weight element. In the book they were far more useful in warfare that ray weapons, like the disintegrator, which were limited to line of sight and clearly showed where they were being fired from. Rocket rounds could hit targets by arcing over hills and barriers. The artillery pieces like these could be broken up and moved quickly enabling stealthy operations. 

Buck and Wilma never used rocket rifles to my recall. They always used rocket pistols, though they sometimes had very elaborate sights for distance work. The 'scope' on Helen's pistol looks like it requires a Masters in Mathematics to operate.

Despite the formidable sights we are told the pistols are very accurate, having no recoil worth mentioning. Buck grabs one and uses it to great effect immediately.

I'll also note that the strips and book were pretty derogatory about the Mongols. In the books at least Nowlan tried to point out they were some sort of hybrid of humans with aliens (explaining their advanced technology) and that all the races in his future were regarded as equal. The strips were much worse as it was the thirties and Japan was a rising power viewed with some hostility by the United States. 

The racism of the strips is sort of at odds with some other conventions such as female soldiers For it's tie this idea might have been as bizarre as a jumping belt. Wilma fares even better in the comic strips than she does in the book. In the book she'll engage is sabotage and murder and be as ruthless as any man but then faint afterwards. There's none of that nonsense in the strips (there's different nonsense.) For a quick look ahead:
I had a serious crush on Wilma Deering when I was 12 and fan service just aggravated it!

The other great invention was inertron which I already went on about. Jump belts not only reduced your weight, allowing you to make huge jumps and fall great distances vertically (yay wind resistance). Interesting trivia. The Amazing Stories that featrued Arm:2419 had this cover:

But the illustration was for another story. Apparently there are several types of reverse weight substances. 

Inertron lightened loads. When someone wanted to know what a piece of equipment weighed the proper response was, "What do you want it to weigh?" It had other properties I went into, none of which made it to the strips. In particular it was a perfect defense against disintegrators! Apparently the newspaper people didn't want Buck to have too easy a time.

The first ten strips also give a pretty graphic illustration of the destruction of United States around 2029. Oddly the American forces of 2029 seem to have WW I surplus gear. It's only 12 years away and I guess we'll find out then. They soon encounter Rogers' first Mongol Raider.

Mongol airships were said to fly on 'repellor rays'. They're your air raft's grandfather. Obviously there are paralells with dirigibles of the day. The craft were armed with the deadly disintegrator ray that could evaporate mountains (or at least small hills). At this point the Americans' defense policy is best described as 'run for it!' In Arm:2419 Rogers becomes the first American to down one of the craft when he discovers the repellor beams actually grab stuff from the ground and suck it up the beam. He fires a highly explosive shell from his ever present rocket pistol  and blows out the forward beam causing the airship to fall over. 

This may be the first case in SF of a person from our own time being better than the natives/aliens/contemporaries at survival or fighting an enemy they have studied for generations (also known as the 'Avatar' syndrome).

As an aside the Mongol disintegrators made Star Trek's phasers look weak. They would blast continuous destruction in a wide swath. They didn't play out after disintegrating a couple of lousy humans.

As an amusing aside no one (except Wilma) believes Rogers' story about being in suspended animation (this was years before Captain America after all). He thinks he's to be executed when they say he's getting the 'chair', but it turns out to be a relatively painless interrogation method/lie detector.

By the end of strip 9 Wilma is reported missing on a patrol and Buck  takes a 25th Century biplane to go looking for her! Dick Calkins was a very good artist and he knew aircraft of the era. In this case his knowledge either made him hesitant to create bizarre new vehicles or he decided to start with forms that were recognizable to readers.

The aircraft were described in Arm:2419 as being far superior to the ones Buck was familiar with. In the first strip we learn that Anthony Rogers was an aviator in the First World War. Even so it is amazing how quickly he gets into a plane and begins flying it. Perhaps they have sort of computerized controls or at least aids that made flying them easier than biplanes of Rogers' home time.

They probably had some inertron used in their construction. With the large amount of lift the planes could probably take of or land from very small spaces (always a plus when the Mongols were ready to dis your landing areas. They also might be designed to be low noise and low sensor signature. The North Americans move on to really cool rockets shortly after this, so they may have been progressing rapidly as aviation engineers and just started out with a fairly simple aircraft to cut their teeth, one that was easy to  build and maintain.

Nonono. They are sophisticated aircraft of the 25th Century, not old time biplanes. Honest!

More next week!