Showing posts from June, 2014

Mixed Bag

This post is a mixed bag as I am still recharging. My first subject, appropriately enough is downtime. Downtime In most RPG downtime is when your characters aren't in danger of being eaten (or slightly less danger YMMV.) It is when you do your campaign bookkeeping, apply experience increases and gloss over what your character do to keep from going nuts. Let's face it their quality of life on an adventure is pretty shitty and you can get eaten as I might have said. I may have mentioned I am a school teacher and downtime is very important to us. In a way for ten months of the year we get very little downtime and almost no break on the job. In return we get generous time off. In spite of this lengthy vacation we never get people flocking to become pedagogues. During the summer many of us take additional courses to stay ahead of the game etc. So in a way it's like a roleplaying campaign. This is the time of year when we apply our experience increases and de-stress. Downt

I'm Back

Having deconstructed characters and advocated screwing with their stats (something close to inherently evil, I'm told) I'd like to revisit the idea. This time with SF supers in a fashion. A long time ago a community living in an orbital habitat decided to tweak their children's genes to make them smarter. Their space habitat didn't spin fast enough to generate a full gee. Therefore they were carrying around some redundant muscle mass. The plan was to reduce their muscle mass and use the freed up circulatory functions to support a larger brain. It worked after a fashion. There was a slight intelligence gain. The drawback was that their children began to lose more muscle mass and suffer from lower bone density. Not a huge problem. They reduced the spin of their habitats a bit every year until it was about .1 gee. this worked fairly well. They could reduce the mass of many structures and vehicles. Sure they were fragile but sufficient for their comfy low gee world of w

Deconstructing Characters

When I started this blog it was full of all kinds of mopery about how my gaming life was ended essentially and I was sad. Eventually I got tired of moping and turned to writing about gaming. You see I was one of those people who started all manner of writing projects but finished very few of them. I had notebooks full of half remembered scrawls of ideas The wife called me on my bullshit as she always does. She challenged me to get my writing out where people could see it and let them tell me if it was any good. I don't think she had a blog in mind. In fact she was frequently annoyed when blogging delayed her nightly foot rub (yes I rub her feet, it's cheaper than flowers and can lead to all sorts of mutually enjoyable activities. Anyway I reactivated my blog and it had a meager few hits. On the one hand I was still writing for myself. On the other hand if you only write for yourself you'll never know whether you're any good. The feedback I got suggested I was 'm

Hiding in Plain Sight

The dinosaurs came and went. Pfft. Only they might have evolved further, into birds for examples and thus still be around in effect. Then there were the Neanderthals. Our ancestors killed them off. Except a great many people alive today seem to have a sizable portion of Neanderthal DNA. Previously I wrote about the Fermi Theorem and why intelligent life might be very rare. Many people again think there's some kind of filter wiping out civilizations. There must be aliens with so many worlds in the universe that are likely to support life. We don't see evidence of alien intelligence so they must be gone. It's just conceited to think we're the first born. Then I read this: If you don't want to read it, it says that applying mathematical analysis to the evolution of life indicates that according to the rate of evolution life must be about 9 or 10 billion years old. This is odd as

Life Is Not a Game

I'm drowning at work with a boss who is pouring water on me. At least that's what it feels like. With my job under fire that pretty much puts my mortgage, pension, and living arrangements at risk. If I were a younger person I'd consider running away from home. But I'm not going anywhere I can't take my wife and dogs. So I'm firmly in the camp of those who will try to keep their routines and put a twenty foot brick wall around their comfort zones. Obviously most player characters are not. What was the stress, the final straw that led your character to turn his back on his home and kin. I mean how often do you see your players sending their characters home or sending their dads Father's Day cards?? Did they borrow money from the wrong people? Were they hurt by someone so badly they had to leave everything that would remind them of that hurt behind? Are they on the run with a price on their heads? Don't get me wrong. Wanting to explore the galaxy or

Mind Over Dark Matter

Psionics is the magic system for Traveller and many other SF rpgs. Some people try to dress it up differently. Mass Effect called it biotics and invoked dark matter and Element Zero as its components. Spiritualism is big in some steampunk settings. The Jedi had the Force. Whatever you call it it remains a collection of really wild abilities that very few people can do. Note that psionics IS the psionics system in D&D and MAGIC is the magic system. Many games use psionics to add a taste of the bizarre in an otherwise believable setting. Some people choose to leave them out believing that they hurt the realism of their campaign. Before you add psi to a modern or futuristic setting you should ask yourself some questions. Psi is very noticeably lacking in any real scientific way in our world. At present there is little or no indication anyone can read minds or move objects and a lot of proof that test subjects are better at cheating on tests than scientists are at catching t

Thinking Small in a Big Universe

Traveller and the SF games that followed it had the same trope. It was embedded in them. It traced its roots back to Star Trek and Star Wars. Very simply the Universe was flaming huge and you had to paint it in very broad strokes indeed. So we had empires that spanned a galaxy, planets with one biome, and societies where everyone wore the same hat. All the Tlingans were warriors first. That Tlingan chambermaid you hired because I haven't put in rules for robots yet? She could snap your neck and is a qualified sniper. Check my earlier posts: The Only Sci Fi Cliches You'll Ever Need 1-4. I do it too sometimes. Traveller had its own call outs to this convention. Star systems each had one main world and screw the others. Hexes had a star or nothing (though if you really had a galaxy one parsec thick those hexes would be very crowded indeed; but I digress.) In working up my ATU I realized I couldn't paint the Icy Shores in broad strokes. It'd take one or two strokes tops

Respecting Traveller Canon

One of the things that crept up on me in working out my near future Traveller setting was that I was respecting what the core books said about the way the setting worked. Robots? Under represented and low intelligence by any contemporary standard. Okay I had a reason: really smart AI's tend to wig out. I've seen this in a few SF settings. Let the characters learn the hard way that having a robot who can run the whole ship and act on its own is a problem when it decides it doesn't need the crew. Ships burn much more fuel than in the standard rules. There are reasons for that. Overcoming the problem may be a campaign in itself. Psionics. Psi powers are the bugaboo of the Traveller rules. Everyone wants them and they are universally feared. I intend to show just why people are scared of these powers in a later post and the results for psi characters. SF1 Fleet Scout (TL9). 100 tons. Jump-1, 2-G. 42 tons fuel. Model/2bis. 2 staterooms 1 double turret (B-Laser, Sandcast

Artificial Intelligence: No Preservatives Added

I'm writing up some ships for Friday. Instead we have more background material on the Icy Shore: Robots! Computer power in Traveller is the second biggest problem people have with the basic rules (the first being reactionless drives and light speed missiles.) I never had that much of a problem with the portrayal.  At a Gen Con a looooooong time ago someone asked Marc and Frank and Loren why the computers massed tons and the reply was that of course that didn't represent a solid mass of transistors. It included the room to house the computers, access for repairs, safety, and redundant features. Not to mention terminals in various part of the ship. If someone wanted to forego that weight they could and any hits to the computer system would leave it destroyed and I quote "You can let them die sucking vacuum." As for processing ability I have no idea how much actual processing ability you need to generate a jump program so saying a CPU of one for Jump 1 is not telli

Jump Starting the Jump Drive

Continuing my tinkering with Traveller for a near future setting. The facts: Humans have recently begun expanding into space via FTL, bringing them into conflict with colonists who arrived at their colonization targets decades ago via STL. The average TL is 9.  I'd like to use a minimum of material outside the LLBs. The LBBs make TL 9 drives too good. LBB 2 allows you to build G rated drives at TL 9. This allows you to construct a 400 ton ships with Jump 3. This is minimum TL for having a starship. J-3 is too darned good. I need to restrict it to J-1 to force people to use rogue planets and icy blobs between the stars (which are themselves colonized in some instances.) My options as I see it: 1) Use High Guard style drives. Possible, but I already stated my intention. 2) Restrict the Jump programs available to J-1 or increase the number of programs necessary to Jump. 3) As the first Jump Drive produced this beast guzzles fuel requiring refueling after