Showing posts from July, 2015

Ghosts Make Everything Better

One of my dream occupations used to be Paranormal Investigator. The reason being there's no licensing or regulations to the field, no requirements and the main quality looked for is an earnest manner of speaking (I can do that.) I'd go to people's houses or wherever and explain to my clients what was causing their 'haunting', banging pipes, raccoon gang war on their roof or whatever and set their minds at ease. Pondering this I decided against it for a couple of reasons. The first is that I'm not handy at all. If it can't be fixed with duct tape I'm out of options. So I'd be the last person to be able to explain about pipes banging or electrical wiring. The second reason is that I'm sure a sizable fraction of my clients would want to be told they have a a real 'live' ghost. Third reason was that I might actually run into something paranormal and I'd really feel badly telling my client, "Looks real. I'm gone. I guess you'

Ghost Ships of the Stars and Mind

A ghost story that scares the crap out of me is the Ivan Vassili, a Russian freighter that sailed at the turn of the century. The sailors reported a presence there. A few people thought they saw something and then every couple of days they suddenly erupted into a wild melee that only ended with a homicide or suicide. There's a distinct lack of documentation on  the Ivan Vassili (like none whatsoever.)  It's still a good story.  Knowing a ghost story is fiction never keeps it from scaring you. Ghost ships are the worst, whether in sea or space. They have a few factors going for them that set them above the rest. Isolation: a ship at sea or in deep space is cut off from humanity. The crew is left to their own resources to survive. Some don't and some do. When that becomes less clear cut you have a ghost story. Isolation is harder to achieve these days. Cell phones are often blamed for that but any form of communications is a two edged sword. The more you depend on it the

The Ghost Ships

What has no mass but exerts force on objects? Ghosts! Watch some Ghost Hunters/Breakers/Doctors/Writers whatever. Whatever the heck those things are they move shit around but don't seem to have any mass themselves. Someone should pull them over for breaking the laws of motion. You know what else breaks the laws of motion? Maneuver drives. Before I continue let me just say there is about as much evidence (if not more) for ghosts as psionics, if you count balls of light in shaky video footage. There's plenty of anecdotal evidence and if you're going to allow psionics in your SF game, why not ghosts? Following is a rules agnostic setting in I dunno how many parts. If you're going to allow them then put them to work. Let them move your ship. Most of the life (if you can call it that) in the universe may be mostly unseen and unable to interact with us taking the form of Non-Biological Entities. NBEs might be the spirits of the departed. They might be spirits pret

The Salem Psionic Trials

In my last post I drew a parallel between telepathic animals and legends about magical animals. In an SF setting with psionic powers like telepathy and telekinesis there is the possibilities that legends of magic were accounts of primitive psionic use. Surely the view of Traveller where Psi is mistrusted and feared has parallels to the Witch Hunts of history. The difference is that Psionic Institutes and trained Psionics are a lot better at defending themselves. Psionic Institutes are very rare only being found on high population worlds (billions or tens of billions of people). I suggest the high population helps to hide psionic individuals from scanners that could pick them out of a crowd. This probably only applies to untrained individuals. What happens to untrained individuals who are caught is up to the referee. Execution, lobotomy, enslavement, or chemical treatments to remove psionic strength are possible. If there are drugs that suppress psionics then they may be widesprea


Gynoid Artificial Intelligence Assembly Transcript #20612 Starbase Vigilance Warehouse GAIA: Target acquired! Tivk: Patchpatchpatch. ‘Target acquired’ is inappropriate. Exception:  you are about to inflict harm on the target. Substitute: ‘Here it is/Eureka/I found it.’ Endpatchpatchpatch. GAIA: Here it is/Eureka/I found it. Tivk: Stop being obtuse. I saw that Klordhop-Turing score you faked. GAIA: ... I am unable to lift the container. Tivk: You may speak to me colloquially. Why do you adopt this stilted manner of speech with me? GAIA: Tivk/User stated he preferred a more … machinelike behavior from me. Tivk: Right now I would prefer that you grab one end of the container. Also contact Mukh. We lost sight of him a half hour ago. Nnnnnngh! GAIA: Affirmative. Warning. Weight limit exceeded. Tivk: Why did your designers make you a weakling? It is very inconvenient! Thud! GAIA: They’re always afraid we’ll try to take over … again. Tivk: It

You Don't Know Jack

No one knows Jack of All Trades, really. The original rules were pretty vague if not unbalancing if handled wrong. One level of Jack of All Trades gave you Level-0 skill in all the others. Wow. That's pretty overwhelming if you think of all the skills with hefty unskilled use penalties. Additional levels in Jack did ... nothing more. Furthermore we are told despite the skill level of Jack involved the benefits were never to equal benefit of having one skill level in the actual skill. I'm going to try to give you some ways to use Jack that I worked up. As usual pick one you like or make up something you like more. It isn't like I get paid for this. Unskilled Use The easiest way to handle Jack is to allow it to modify the penalty for unskilled use. For example Forward Observer has -4 penalty for unskilled use. A character with Jack-3 would only have a penalty of -1 when acting as a Forward Observer. Temporary Modifiers Each level of Jack gives a +1 that can be used

Getting a Reaction From Thrusters

Reactionless thrusters are an oxymoron. Isaac Newton spoiled it for everyone with his Laws of Motion (tm). To get anywhere you exert an equal and opposite reaction on mass around you or that you expel. The problem is that this method sucks for space travel stories. Read Ken Burnside's The Hot Equations, or darn near any part of Winchell Chung's Atomic Rockets website if you doubt it. High acceleration ships have to be all propellant just to get to orbit. Deep space ships get wherever they're going slowly in order to wring the most out of their stores of propellant.  There's no rocketing to the rescue of the Martian Princess. A Mars transit will take months. It's not quite so bad to get to Luna but rescuing the Lunar Princess is just silly. Similarly your secret invasion of Earth will be underway for months and detectable by a High School Science project winner. Okay an Orion drive is high specific impulse and high thrust. However most referees will be hesitant a

Good-bye Mr. Tivk

Jenn: Morning Mr. Tivk. May I join you? Tivk: There is no one else sitting at this table. I see no physical impediment. Jenn: ... I mean would you like company for breakfast? Tivk: ... I will acquiesce to your request. Jenn: Thank you. Tivk: Certainly. There's no need to request permission. Jenn:The Chief has had me overhauling the Shaker the last few days. He's way upset about that whole Procurement Branch fiasco. Tivk: Of course he is. You got caught. Jenn: Good point. ... You would not believe how much lubricant a shuttle uses. Tivk: I know exactly how much it uses. It is a matter of fact. My belief does not alter it. Jenn: ... Tivk: Ms. Jenn I am going to pre-empt you here. I dislike small talk. I have enjoyed our collaboration on designing and tweaking various items of weaponry and equipment. You have a fine eye for design and practical engineering which I enjoy encouraging and you are a suitable co-worker. That is as far as I go. Jenn: What are you

Heat Radiators

Heat radiators. In general Traveller and Old School Space Opera ships don't have them. It messes their lines up. It makes them look too ... primitive. If you ask me the lack of heat radiators makes a ship as unbelievable as a reactionless or FTL drive. I think we'd find away around Newton and Einstein before we find a way around Old Man Entropy. Just removing heat from a machine's operation changes way more than the aforementioned drives. FTL and grav drives get you to the action. Then you can basically forget about them in a story. But heat is a necessary inevitable by product of any energy production or work. Take Star Trek's phaser, capable of annihilating a man sized quantity of nearly anything. A quick stop at the Atomic Rockets website 's Boom Table indicates that it requires 3,000,000,000 joules of power to vaporize a human being (leaving behind not even a skeleton in a space suit). (The Enigmatic Aliens got way less Earth ships nosing around when th

Eating Out

Riasi: I hope Dolphin will be all right. All those townspeople beating him … Tivk: Don’t underestimate the protective value of a Series 9 Marine  EVA suit. Riasi: Then you think he’s all right? Tivk: No. But the Tesla has more than adequate medical facilities and nursing personnel.  Riasi: … we should have done something. Tivk: When was the last time you saw three aliens fend off an angry mob of humans? Mr. Nok is the only one of us that even knows how to make a fist the right way. Riasi: Wouldn't need to make a fist if I still had my claws. Point to you beanpole. Tivk: Indeed. Here comes Mr. Nok.  Riasi: And the waitress!! Nok: Here are my friends. Thank you service provider. Waitress: Anytime. Here’s your lunch Miss. Riasi: I can hazz cheezburger!  Waitress: Excuse me? Tivk: It’s an old joke. You should get it in about 50 years. Waitress: Cheeseburger and a large coffee. Can I get you anything else, handsome? Tivk: No I

Scout Variant

Hey all. I'm keeping busy but I have neglected my blog long enough. More to come later but here's some variant Scout/Courier views. A few preliminary notes: the air/raft is held in a small bay at the nose of the Scout. The bridge is above it. The top deck rising above the bridge is mostly the drive control room and the aft airlock. I still have to detail the engines, RCS and running lights. But it is coming along.

Original Aliens

In coming up with aliens we face a fundamental problem: we haven't met any yet. I have no doubt there are beings beyond comprehension out there in the Universe. But for now we have to make stuff up for our role-playing games and they aren't going to be any help. As humans go our minds they can't create something absolutely new. Rather we synthesize something out of all kinds of facts and images we have lying around. Many aliens fall into one of these categories: 1) They look like use more or less. This happens a lot on weekly television shows. Makeup or CGI is hard. It also happens when you're more interested in telling a story than science. Some of our most enduring alien characters fall into this category, such as Mr. Spock, Lt. Worf and that Twilek dancer at Jabba's palace. Perhaps it's because we relate to them so much easier than an oviparous xenomorph that bleeds acid and favors basic black exoskeletons. 2) They are driven by a single over ridding conc