Showing posts from April, 2016

Human Computers

Super intelligence is a difficult to game ability. It's very hard to roleplay as someone much smarter than you (despite what some people think). Moreover it's unlikely any military will allow someone who can cobble together death rays and rocket packs anywhere near the front. Then again a person with a higher intelligence would be able to hide it from their colleagues. Super intelligence is represented (in part) as a huge body of facts and study in a wide variety of subjects. In practice the player character could be allowed an intelligence roll to provide exposition on some obscure facts and be provided any information the referee would expect them to know. In addition the character can be considered to have an intelligence of 18 for most mundane purposes (their stat number is just used for genius stuff). In addition the character is a skilled technician able to tinker, cobble and kitbash a variety of devices from whatever is at hand. Again note that being a fricking geniu

Tivk Cornered

Tivk's Personal Log Saltornus: Friend Tivk. Tivk: Admiral Saltornus. Saltornus: Guard, at ease. I wish to convince Tivk I am his friend. Here Tivk. Take this. Do you know what it is? Tivk: … it is a suicide capsule. A Videni suicide capsule. Saltornus: Indeed, friend Tivk. Tivk: How does this profess friendship? Saltornus: It is quick and painless. If we shoot you trying to escape your death will be painful and somewhat protracted.  Tivk: Ah. I see. You are a Videni spy. You accuse me of being one to deflect curiosity from yourself. A good plan. Unfortunately I am going to remain sitting here. You may explain to the coroner the odd angle of beam wounds on my body. It will not look good for you.  Saltornus: Oh. That is annoying. But you are going to take this pill nonetheless. Your dear friend Professor Mukh? He will be dead before the day is out if you do not.  Tivk: … Saltornus: There is only one ethical decision you can make. You are

Iron Horse

Superhuman constitution is a touchy spot in a game like The Front, which is supposed to be gritty (which is the word from Mark Hunt, the designer). Making people too hard to kill in a war is kind of playing against the genre. Supers can really devalue the heroism of ordinary men who faced bullets, blades, shrapnel and flame with only a uniform for armor. So when I looked at constitution I wanted to look for a way to make it useful but not hand out mounds of hit points. Put simply constitution can help you heal up and come back from a fight but not survive a hit from a bazooka. It will let you shrug off the effects of non-fatal injuries. Low: (still within human levels but nearly immune to pain and minor injuries.. Think Rasputin). The character gets an advantage die when making a constitution save of course. He requires half the sleep, half the food and is considered to roll maximum for hit points every level (18 hit points if you go by constitution equals hit points and double if

Special Accommodations

A glossed over aspect of interstellar society is the difficulty of accommodating humans (let alone aliens) comfortably on the same ships. I'll just deal with humans for this post. Atmosphere is the first thing passengers will notice aboard a ship. Not being able to breathe trumps decor and cuisine. While passengers will be assured of a breathable mix, humidity, pressure, temperature and such will be for the crew (or captain's) norm and not theirs. This is because having your pilot or engineer become light headed at the wrong time may lead to inevitable and infinite delays in reaching your destination. Note that crew will usually forgo any atmospheric contaminants they grew up with (and acclimated to). Passengers could have atmospheres set to their comfort zone in their staterooms. In some extreme cases filter masks or compressors might be worn. Contaminants can still become an issue. Consider most free traders and subsidized merchants travel to a number of worlds. The ship

Thinking Outside the Box

Doc: Medical Log: Analyzing Sanford Vasquez is troubling. Aside from the fact he's ugly, unhygienic, obnoxious and unstable he has a high psi potential like some human outcasts. This phenomena was  long documented. Apparently in Old Earth many honeless street nomads would wander around carrying on conversations with their comrades separated by several blocks or even miles. The medical boards are still unclear on whether the psionic ability was developed due to their isolation or was the cause of their isolation in the first place ... Riasi: Dolphin will you please let me knock out the patient? Doc: He doesn't need sedation ... you're talking really knocking him out. Riasi: With something blunt and thick ... like him! He put ... he grabbed. May I have a Marine escort when I have to deal with him? Doc: Marines, hell ... GAIA? GAIA: Yes, Doctor? Doc: If Vasquez grabs for my ... kitty again please put a stop to him. He's scared of you. Riasi: Good thing you w

Are You Dextrous or Sinister?

Repost followed by more OSR rules!! I had the pleasure of attending a show by Penn and Teller once. Part of the show involved Teller having his body separated into several boxes. Each part seeming to remain separate and still interact with Penn who was disassembling his partner. That was impressive enough but then they showed you how Teller did it, exiting the stack of boxes through a trapdoor in the stage and crawling on his back between each box to stick his head, foot and foot through to create the illusion. Here, watch it: Really Teller's level of dexterity and flexibility is amazing. Not oh gee lookie that amazing. Scary amazing.  A few years later I'm in an rp playing Wildcat, an aged and ageless super hero who started in the 40's and was essentially a buff guy in a cat suit. Doesn't sound like a super hero. People argue whether Batman should be called a super hero because he doesn't 'do' anythi

Catalyst for Exploration

It was staring me in the face for years. Ever since I began reading Atomic Rockets (among other websites) in an effort to educate myself and keep my SF from getting too mushy I kept running into a problem. Why would anyone go colonizing other planets in large numbers? Judging from our solar system you get a single garden world and the rest of the real estate looks like shit. I'm waiting for more word on the exoplanet hunt but most of them will squash you flat and freeze or fry you at the same time. You could send colonists to the Antarctic or Marianas Trench for a minute fraction of the cost of sending them to Mars and the living conditions are far better (okay maybe the Trench is worse than Mars but Venus still trumps it!) Don't give me any guff about Belters. Robots could probably do the job just as well. I'm talking an exodus. Not a bunch of engineers herding an army of mining bots. At the same time most space opera settings have humanity using fusion power and i

The Best Defense Is a Good Protocol

GAIA Personal Log #3276 (I never thought of having my own log before my involuntary upgrade!) <<Shimmer shimmer shimmer>> Exec: That was a fairly smooth ‘porting. I prefer Toff’s style to Mr. Tivk’s. GAIA: Rrrrrrrr… grrrrr… brrrr. Ensign: Aye Skipper. GAIA? Exec: Apparently GAIA prefers Mr. Tivk’s style to Technical Officer’s. Wormholes hate AIs. GAIA? GAIA? … snap out of it! <<Thwap.>> GAIA: Oh … thank you Ensign! Ensign: No problem. Exec: Did you just dopeslap a piece of Fleet hardware that’s pending being upgraded to crew? Ensign: All in the wrist ma’am. She has a cooling fan that sticks after a ‘porting for some reason. Exec: Okay on to more serious matters. Our potential abductee’s shack is over that hill. About a half klick.  GAIA: More like two thirds. Exec: Look up ‘pedantic’ in your dictionary GAIA. GAIA: It’s more a thesaurus … <<Thwap.>> GAIA: You only get one for free, S

The Company Part 2

In the beginning there was the Company.  Capital 'C' if you please. It predated the Exodus. It was around while man was still groundbound on our Lost Home. When man went into the Universe the Company led the way in search of riches. It tethered asteroids and brought them into orbit for the hungry factories to devour. Gold, platinum, titanium and far more exotic minerals. The Company went with the capital "C' in this era. Company ships explored and mined and brought manufactured goods to colonies and raw materials to Earth and later other factory worlds. But there was a problem. Other people were getting rich. It started with independent prospectors and then free traders. They started nibbling at the crumbs the Company dropped and then began to grow into true competition, This was despite efforts . The problem was there were just too many riches in the Universe. Anyone with a ship could get rich eventually if they had half a brain and a half sober crew. The ones who d

The Rule of 15 for OSR Games

One of my earliest posts was on super heroes when I introduced my Rule of 15 . The rule was my attempt to codify powers and abilities beyond those of normal humans for my games and establish a power level I felt comfortable running in a game. The Rule of 15 says that an amplified ability is fifteen times as powerful as a normal human's ability. An exceptionally fir man might lift 200 hundred pounds. An exceptionally fit man gifted with super strength would lift 3000 lbs. about the weight of a very large car ca. 1938. Check the cover of Action Comics #1 if you don't know what I'm talking about. Take running. A normal human might max out at 25 kph. A super running power would let you run at 375 kph (about 104 meters per second). That's fast enough to run on water or jump a 10 meter wall (104m/s divided by 10 for the time it takes gravity to notice you are airborne). The rule works well for a World War Two supers setting. It gives a decent power level while preventin

The Company

Megacorporations are evil. We all know that. I'm not sure when we started knowing they were evil or what the cause of the epiphany was. But the RPGPundit has correctly (IMHO) pointed out that MCorps are always evil these days and since I needed a post idea I decided to take another look at Megacorporations. The evil reputation of such bodies probably started with the British East India Corporation which made a fortune dealing in warfare, drugs, graft, and silk among other commodities. I really can't get into everything this marvelously lucrative and immoral institution did here. Go research them. Suffice to say they make any company you come up with look like a second rate imitation ... if you really make them as evil as you can. Because you are an amateur and these guys were professionals who literally wrote the book. Unless some real world despot is reading this ... Let's look at some of these tropes. As an example I'll use the Traveller's Aid Society. If you

Better Living Through Chemistry

Please note I do not condone the use of drugs to solve your problems ... unless the problem is say, an abscessed tooth or kidney stone in which case I can say Oxy Codone  saw me through a few rough patches till I could get either extracted. There are six drug types in use in your Traveller Universe. We'll start with Medical Slow Drug. One dose and sixty days pass for you ponder while your pals are pondering what to have for breakfast. This drug has a tech level of 7 which is absolute blather at first read. We're TL 7 and we have nothing like that. However, drugs are often refined from plants and animals in nature so this might be manufactured from a naturally occurring plant say and the refining techniques are only TL 7. Non-medical slow drug is a little more difficult to manufacture perhaps due to its shorter duration and measuring such effects so precisely. These drugs might be a cash crop for relatively low tech worlds especially if they require a large number of life fo

The Many kinds of Stealth

There is stealth in space. All smugglers know this. It's inside your ship for the most part. Smugglers are very similar to pirates or the total opposite depending on who you ask. An old joke goes there was a smuggler who switched to piracy thereby raising the average IQ of both groups. In terms of economics pirates risk the well being of their ships and crew to gain loot which is a 100% profit (minus a little liquid hydrogen for the lasers and drives assuming the target doesn't fight back). Smugglers are trying to beat out government duties, tariffs and taxes and running a much smaller  risk of their freedom and ship. Smuggling is fairly easy to grasp. You find a planet that imports and heavily taxes a commodity that is relatively cheap. You buy the commodity and deliver it to that planet in a way that avoids the tax man. Or better yet find a commodity that is highly sought after on one world but illegal. Buy it where it is legal, sneak it to where it is illegal and set bla

Reflections on Armor

Reflec is reflective material on a plastic base. It can be  can be tailored into a body suit. It is typically worn under other clothing (unless you're an exotic dancer or the like.) Reflec is expensive and often difficult to obtain. It is ineffective against most other weapons. It renders most laser weapons about as effective as a laser pointer. Unlike ablative armor only a minimal amount of reflec will melt under laser fire.  Unofficial Scout Survival Manual 7th Printing. The government of Mariros (C00088A-9) has a large and mobile population moving around their planetary belt. despite (or perhaps due to) the high law level there is a large covert rebellion going on. Attacks on government officials became so widespread that a few years ago government functions were all moved to several high security and well defended space stations. rebels were still able to get onboard and attacks were only diminished, not stopped as was hoped for.  The peacekeepers adopted a unique s