Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Diselpunk Post

I like dieselpunk a lot. I want other people to like it. Having said that, the major hurdle is to make it look retro in a way that appeal to people in the Twenty-first Century. That isn't much of a hurdle to be honest. The artwork of the period and the machines have their share of fans. There's a ton of reference images and there is a slew of wild inventions and vehicles documented and photographed.

There are a few problems though, like the Solar System. from what we know of the Solar System it's pretty darned hostile. Earth itself, our home wrold, is pretty darned hostile and can kill you in a number of ways! Consider 90% of the population is crammed into about 25% of the land area. There's a lot of deserts, tundra, and places with bears!

If you wanted dinosaurs on Venus a/o weird elder Martians in a steampunk game, you had to just go with it and say it was an alternate universe where life sustaining planets were the norm. For some reason disbelief is still suspended, even though a lot of physical laws and biological principles have to be disregarded. Dieselpunk doesn't seem to have that luxury. By the 1930's people knew a lot of steampunk ideas would not work. Fortunately, you have another option: terraforming. Yes terraforming could take centuries or millennia. Set your calendars accordingly or hand wave it gently away into decades. Don't be afraid to put the fiction in science fiction.

We knew jack about atomic power when dieselpunk started in the 30's. We know a bit more now (Heinlein's torch ship drive remains magic). You could specify a type of fusion for 'atomic power' these days and not raise any eyebrows. I prefer to go with boron to hydrogen reactions. It's a very clean energy source without many pesky neutrons.*

Dieselpunk doesn't have the information managing electronics we take for granted today. No smart phones with computer functions. Slide rules ... rule. This retro future never experienced, or forgot, the Information Age (how is that for irony?) Computers weigh hundreds if not thousands of kilos. Books are on microfilm or ... books. Space fighter pilots make sense! A computer that can replace a man would weigh far more than the man even with all his life support. It would probably suck, too. Just because something with the power of a Cray computer could fill a warehouse, doesn't mean they don't have them. They can use them for all manner of experiments and experimental simulations. They won't be toting these monsters on most ships though.

Technology is far beyond ours in areas of energy generation, as I said, and materials technology. Light alloys, super explosives, giant electromagnets and engines we can barely conceive are all possible. They remind you you're in a future. It is a future dominated by square jawed, steely eyed rocket pilots (and those are just the women!)

*Plus I get to throw out thermonuclear fission and yell "Aha!" and cite Atomic Rockets when someone tries to call BS.

We Has Met the Enemy Part Five

With General Buckner en route to the Triumph, Megan Detwiler sought to make the most of his carte blanche. The Flying Dutchman base had a number of tractor/ repulsor engines studding the surface, the better to aid docking and ping stray asteroids away from more expensive equipment. She quietly began supplying these with independent power cells, and it wasn't long before the engineers in the power department noted her activity. That and the fact she wanted them working triple shifts to get it done NOW! The other preparations were by the structural engineers who were Megan's old crowd. She knew them and scared them and they kept their mouths shut even as they worked.

The Martian battleship Enforcer approached the Flying Dutchman from a highly inclined trajectory. It had swallowed a lot of its heat to get that far that quietly. It also banked on beamed power from Mars. They picked up the metal beast while it was a half hour from weapon's range. The Triumph was 45 minutes out, but space battles seldom lasted that long.

The strategy of the Martians was clear -the base was the highest priority. Knock out the fuel and repair facilities and you would cripple the Earth Fleet. If the Enforcer had sustained little damage from the attack it would turn on the Triumph, which would be in need of refueling and unlikely to fight a lengthy battle. Chasing their new prideful warship away would teach the Earth and Moon dogs to stay in their kennels.

Commander Oyade was the acting commander of the Dutchman, a high honor he would rather not have. He desperately wanted the Triumph to have a base to return to. He raised repulsion fields and alerted all personnel to get their heads down as Martian drones were reported inbound. Earth flak guns and pressor beams did their best to keep missiles from hitting surface targets,

The attack wasn't the knockout blow the Martians had hoped for. Docking bays were damaged, fueling masts crippled but the Martian commander knew the real facilities were far underground and he needed a full strength nuclear strike to reach those. He brought the Enforcer close enough to the base's defense shields to begin overwhelming them with the power of his own engines. The pyrotechnics were incredible to behold, The Terrans didn't see it they were otherwise employed,

Next to Commander Oyade, Megan looked over several readouts and nodded. Oyade shouted, "Power up! Disengage supports! All hands to shelters!"

On the surface the Enforcer was treated to a final flash of light as the base's Feld powered down. then several more flashes of light from the asteroid's surface. The base commander can be forgiven for thinking for a moment that they were missile impacts. Then he realized something was wrong as a dozen heavy tractor/repulsor beams turrets detached from the base. Locked on the Martian battleship they closed the distance rapidly, gaining speed and momentum by the moment. The small caliber missile defenses of the battleship did not amount to much against a multi ton armored turret and each turret's power supply was brutally sufficient. The Martian might have lived to fight another day if he immediately tried to pull away and max out his acceleration. The Enforcer was turning to do just that when the first turret hit. Much like the old prototype lasers, they didn't have to work as designed. You just had to drop them on the enemy.

Six turrets hit the Enforcer with the force of  bombs. One penetrated the ship entirely. Flying Dutchman would not have simulated gravity for quite a while in its outer sections. A number of docking and fueling facilities were offline but the Martian goal of total destruction failed. The unspoken goal of not losing your damn battleship was also shot to the ether.

Even the most hardened military types had to admit the engineers won this one. The few surviving Martians swore to it

Commander Oyade summed it up," The Martians merely had a battleship. We had a woman with a Masters in Engineering."

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Just Chilling with my Yeeps

Last Friday night I had a great time with the Gamer + group on the Discord server at Tenkar's Tavern. It was momentous for me as it was the first playtest of a system I devised and will release soon. The title is Universe Unleashed. This first game was SF. I like having Unleashed in the title because it is a very fast rules light game that gets out of the way and lets you role-play. In fact I think the game system is a success so far. The players were all a little confused at first but quickly got up to speed and it turned out no one had time to read the rules before but were learning on the spot with one or two examples in play. there were two standouts in this first game.

The first was a player who came by and asked to join on the spot. Since it was an initial game I ran a scenario that was a dungeon crawl through an enemy base and an alien ship that was docked. The new player mentions as combat is joined that he is wearing and eco-skeleton and has to move last in a turn. Okay, I didn't set limits on equipment. Amused I went along with it. Then he mentions he is wielding a brush cutter, essentially a sword. I ask him what department he's with and reply is "I'm a scientist." I immediately christen him 'Doctor Chainsaw. He goes me one better and says his nickname is 'Tex'.

The other stars of the evening were the Yeeps. Yeeps were small alien animals looking sort of like blonde ferrets with Fennec fox ears and toes similar to a chameleon's. All but one character liked them immediately (the one wanted to kill them with fire IIRC). A friendly NPC exobiologist insisted they were harmless creatures. In  fact they were not, but they were definitely on the side of humans and proved their yips (or 'yeeps') could harm or kill some non corporeal creatures who were hostile. A major complaint to their handler was her lack of imagination. She said she was too busy researching them to make up a clever name.

Some odd facts about Yeeps:

Their pulses are very closely synchronized. All the time.

Their body temperatures are exactly the same.

A Yeep will bond to a human fairly quickly. They keep an eye on humans who are hostile to them. Dolph, the security man, noticed whenever he stole a glance at them they were all looking at him.

They are very good at coordinating efforts.

No cage or enclosure seems to hold them for very long if they want out. They do like to be crated -especially together. But sometimes they will get up and leave somehow. Exactly how they do this is unknown. They are just somewhere else.

They refuse to be separated more than 100 meters from each other, becoming agitated first and then simply 'being' closer to their pack. So far this has happened with the estranged Yeep being carried in a crate and then reappearing elsewhere. Sometimes the mechanism securing the crate opens and sometimes the Yeep vanishes from a secured crate.

So far all tests have been minimally invasive. But the Yeeps have several anomalies. They have a  nervous system and several ganglia, but no discrete brain mass. Similarly they have a circulatory system but no central heart to do the pumping. There is no sign of a reproductive system.


The Yeeps encountered so far are all parts of the same organism. the prime life form is multidimensional (it has at least four spatial dimensions). Picture a human interacting with a two dimensional world. This world is like a plane the human 'hovers over. If they stick their arm through it, beings on that world would perceive it as a circular mass.

In this analogy, the six Yeeps encountered are fingers, toes or tentacles. The multidimensional being is dabbling in our world. Like tentacles, they can perform different functions. Being fourth dimensional they can leave an enclosure almost as easily as humans stepping out of a chalk circle (by 'pulling themselves free of our world/plane). They don't do it lightly as it seems to require some expenditure of resources (energy, stress or what have you).

The Yeeps are all attached, like fingers on a hand and exhibit similar behavior. They may have individual minds and some autonomy, We don't know. The prime creature might be intelligent or not. Higher dimensional nature doesn't mean you are intelligent. Most three dimensional creatures are not intelligent.

Encountering more Yeeps may tell us more about their nature. Are the new Yeeps another creature or another 'hand' of the same one already met?

I have not worked out the exact abilities of Yeep-Kind yet. Can they be killed, or is shooting one like cutting your finger? Are there always six? Can they survive in hostile environments? Vacuum?

My gut feeling is that they aren't hard to knock away or stun. Killing one is harder. If one Yeep is in an Earth like environment then they all have access to breathable air. Poison or drug one and it will affect them all in time.

The prime creature is intersecting our dimension but we don't know how far it extends beyond it. Are the Yeeps merely fingertips or a meaty cross section of a finger or tentacle or arm? Is destroying one a  minor injury or an amputation?

Yeeps have little or no protection against harm, despite being hard to really hurt. Hitting one with minor damage (hand weapons, fists, sticks) is usually ignored. Moderate damage (large melee weapons, firearms) seems to hurt and will make one disappear for 1d6 minutes. Hitting one with severe damage will make it retreat for 1d6 hours. Heavy weapons might 'kill' a Yeep, amputating it (3 in 6 chance). It also has a 1 in 6 chance of making all the Yeeps disappear for 1d6 hours.

Yeeps are poison to psychic or energy based beings. Their cries will stun them unless they pass a saving throw (Constitution/Endurance based) and cause them to retreat or take 1d6 damage.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Gravity of Our Situation

Passenger: Glurrrrgh. I can't be space sick! I paid for a first class transit!

Steward: You got it. You're not space sick. you have Downer sickness.

Passenger: But ... Urk ... artificial gravity?

Steward: This is your first exposure to it? Right. No one reads the disclaimer. See mimicking a fundamental universal force without lugging a billion tons of mass around or melting the ship is hard enough. Making it indistinguishable from gravity is a little much to ask for.

Passenger: ...

Steward: See we pulse the field a few hundred times per second to reduce power consumption. The field also obeys the inverse square law like any sensible phenomena. That means your feet experience slightly more 'gravity' than your head. Not a lot but it does affect your blood pressure and circulation. This all raises hell with some people's inner ear and kinetic feedback. Basically your body is telling you you're in motion but your eyes are not. Spacers are used too it and can adapt or they don't stay spacers.

Passenger: Well ... what am I supposed to do?

Steward: We have medicine to help with the nausea. We also have a well we keep in zero gravity if you prefer ... I guess not! We can also put you out and let you hibernate the six weeks till we make orbit.

Passenger: I did not invest in a whole new wardrobe to sleep through my <Bluuuuuurgh> ...

Steward: I didn't even explain how the field ... sometimes acts on the brain and causes hallucination ...

Passenger: My hands are staring at me! My fingers are eyes!

Steward: Medical alert. We have another Downer here! Prep the hibernarium! Next time sweetheart ... book passage on a low continual boost ship. No artificial gravity and you could really get the most out of 10 centimeter heels like the ones you just ruined.