Friday, October 29, 2010

Designing Plausible Spacecraft for Role-Playing Games Part VI

   This is the last post in this series, and it mainly deals with publishing your gear.  But I have a very busy weekend, with Halloween and my son's birthday, so we're gonna go through these real quick:

9: Does the Spacecraft in Question Have a Point?

     "It looks cool" is not a good answer.  Take a gander at the sub guidelines for most Star Trek blueprint websites.  You will see some variation of the following, "No Uber Dreadnoughts, Please."  This goes double for hard sf designs.  It's an ancillary of rule seven; If there are no useless rooms in space, there probably won't be entire useless ships, either.  Remember, even with more advanced technology, spacecraft will still be among the most expensive investments for governments and corporations.  They will not make a 300-Meter-Kill-O-Zap-Super-Rocket if a ship like the Heinlein will get the job done.

10: Make Your Ships Unique.

     By this I mean, "Do not make a dozen small orbiters when one or two will do."  Think about it.  If your ships are too similar, then PCs will lose interest.  I had this problem back in the day when I was running Star Wars on a regular basis.  After a while, it started to devolve into, "oh, another freighter."  and a total lack of reaction.  If your ships aren't exciting to your Players, what's the point?
     This is even more important for making spacecraft deck plans for sale.  If your designs are too similar, your customers have no reason to buy more than one.  Even worse, if people only need one of a certain type rocket and you have several different versions of that type, you're essentially competing with yourself.  Not to mention you have nothing to offer for you customers other needs... That's why every design I've produced so far is radically different from themselves.  That and its more fun.

     So, that wraps it up for this series, ladies and gentlemen.  Hope you enjoyed and found it useful and stuff.  Next week, I'll be starting a new series on space combat for the The Back Desert, and of course, role-playing games.  See you all Monday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Designing Plausible Spacecraft for Role-Playing Games Part V

(I read over this post when I felt better and noticed some glaring mistakes and incomplete thoughts.  From me, this is really saying something.  Here is the Beta version:)

     Sorry about being so late with the blog today...I pulled an all-nighter with my sick kids.  I did use part of the time to get the first draft of the Valkyrie's life system finished up.  This is the first spacecraft I've designed that has no gravity from thrust or planet fall, and it was educational.  It was also fun- not being constrained by normal surface area means that the walls can be the floor and the there is no reason not to have consoles mounted "upside-down" relative to other stations and fun things like that.  I also, as per my personal policy, made a few all-new map elements for the interior and even re-did some of the old ones to make them cleaner and more detailed.  Let's check it out:

     It's kind of tiny, I know, but larger versions of the individual "decks" will be posted on Flikr later, for your enjoyment.  I also did some reworking of the overall interior, to make room for the life system and to see if maybe I could get away with only one fusion reactor.  Originally, I didn't want one at all, but fission power is just too dirty to have a atomic rocket in the nose, and the shielding would take up too much space.  But going with fusion lets me add some political stuff to the rocket's back story, so it ain't all bad.  BTW, the little hamburgers flanking the reactor are electric turbines.

     When working on the interior of this little beauty, I had to use a bit of discipline.  Like all of you, I'm used to gaming in ships like you see in Traveller and Star Wars; ships with a lot of space in them.  Its fair enough; the ships we see in on the tube or the silver screen. That space is needed for production reasons movies and television, and is useful for exciting combat scenarios in gaming.  Unfortunately, it is also completely bogus.  The plethora of "storage rooms", "crew lounges", and other interior areas that exist just to fill out the empty spaces on a map may seem like a good idea...but in hard SF, they fun afoul of RocketDad's Rule number seven:

7. There Are No 10'x10' Rooms in Space.

     Observe the case of the International Space Station.  The ISS is the single most expensive construction project in human history.  This includes things like the Manhattan Project, the Great Wall of China, and the estimated cost of the Great Pyramids at Giza.  The total cost of the ISS is greater than the Gross Domestic Product of some industrialized nations.
     I mention all this so that you will understand my point about extra space in space:  The habitable volume of the ISS is roughly that of two 18 wheeler trailers.  There simply is no spare room in spacecraft.  All realistic spacecraft are designed for minimum weight and volume.  Accept this and go on.
     The important thing, I think, is not to see this as a limitation, but rather as an interesting challenge.  As you  can see in the above deck plans, I have managed to create an interesting environment without extraneous spaces in it.  There are still blind corners, still places to hide, and, when you factor in the lack of gravity, plenty of room.  Even better, that room can be used in new ways;  I imagine a freebrawl fight between the mid deck and the bottom one, with the characters using the handles for leverage and darting up and down through the large open space in between the "decks".  Eat your heart out, Neo! 
     I'm sure you noticed that the there is a large amount of cargo in the tube connecting the airlock with the rest of the habitat, but this is not an oversight.  I have observed this to be the case on the ISS, in the Zvezda module, where up to half the corridor space is filled with supplies and the astronauts float above them.  This is simple practicality and the reality of trying to cram enough supplies for a crew of six for a month.  I like adding little real-world details like that, it gives the location flavor (and treasure!).  The exercise equipment attached to the walls is another new detail that you would see in any spacecraft that sees a lot of use in freefall.  I fudged a little in the Heinlein plans and only showed where the equipment would be when unstowed, so in this one I decided to show the the stuff out and ready to work.   Of, course, in the actual battle map version, that stuff will be out of the way; no one's gonna bring treadmill to space fight.
   Anyway, I think little things like that are important enough to give there own rule:

8. Keep the Design Grounded in Reality.

     Science fiction is, by its very nature, fantastic.  It takes a good bit of willing suspension of disbelief to put over the stuff  that is actually true about space travel.   The stuff we hope to do later on, like interplanetary travel in weeks instead of months and terraforming Mars, is simply beyond the pale.  This is one of the reasons that flat-out untrue things like sound in space, handwavium gravity generation and the other familiar tropes of frontiersmen and romance are easier to put over than the reality of that most strange of environments, deep space.  It also doesn't help that most TV and Movie budgets are too small to make a realistic-zero-gee-floating-all-the-time-and-stuff film or series.  This makes the problem worse by simply reinforcing the common misconceptions of space. 
   But just because a realistic setting is outre doesn't mean that the the tech has to be fake.  I get around this necessity by adding things to my twenty-third century spacecraft that exist in the twenty-first and would most likely be replaced with something strange.  It's a compromise; by keeping certain elements low-tech and real, the high-tech and imaginary is easier to believe.  It may be just as unrealistic, in a way, but if I had to choose (and I did)  I'd rather use elements from the the real world to ground my rockets in reality.

(enjoy the newer version, folks.  My final post on the subject will be out later on today.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Designing Plausible Spacecraft for Role-Playing Games Part IV

Aaaaaaaand, we're back!


     This is where we get down to the nuts-and-bolts of making all the cool ideas from the pre-viz come together into a coherent whole.  This is mostly a matter of personal taste and style, so there are not a lot of specifics I can offer on designing the general look of your craft.  Its up to you, your influences, your audience, and your personal skills.  But I can add  to my unofficial List-O-Design-Rules:

6. Fictional Spacecraft are  Either Anthropomorphic or Iconographic.

     This is part and parcel with the human condition.   Even real spacecraft, whose designs are influenced far more by money, politics and the inescapable physical limitations of chemical, disposable rockets, fall into one of these two categories.  The Soyuz/Progress capsule is an excellent real-world example of this.  Its a ball, bell and cylinder-simple, efficient shapes- yet they combine to define the entire eastern bloc space design ethic in a way that is instantly recognizable.  In fiction, probably the most iconographic spacecraft is the Enterprise.  Say what you will about it being a totally non-plausible design, you know what that design is.  The point is illustrated by the many different versions that have been made over the years; original, A-E, reboot- they are all recognizable as "The Big E" in design.  I think that, despite Doug Drexler's awesome designs, the titular ship from the television series Enterprise, the NX-01, sort of doomed the show because of its lack of the iconographic design.
     Anthropomorphic is a bit of misnomer.  What I mean is "ships that look like animals and stuff"  Does anybody know the word for that?  The mental process involved is called matrixing and referes to the human trait of finding patterns in random images and things like seeing faces in the light socket and stuff.  The point is, a ship that invokes a certain object through similar design invokes the emotional impact of that object.  I'll offer two examples for this, on animal and one inanimate.  The K-03 midbulk transport Firefly-class from the show of the same name is an excellent example of a spacecraft that invokes an animal.  Or, more to the point, two animals.  It has a bulbous, glowing abdomen that gives the Firefly its name, and the long, graceful swan neck that make it remind one of a bird in flight.  The ship is also iconographic in the sense that it is instantly recognizable and unmistakable for anything else, so its a double whammy of WIN.
   The Imperial Star Destroyers from the Star Wars franchise are also iconographic to the point that they have inspired the off shot prequel designs, but they are also anthropomorphic- if that's the right word- in that they all bear the general shape of a spear or arrow head.  This primitive, lethal imagery is part of what makes the Star Destroyer so ominous and dangerous looking.
   That, and they're freaking huge...

   So any way, how does this apply to our project Valkyrie, do you ask?  In order to make the spacecraft memorable and therefore lucrative, I want to make it either iconographic, anthropomorphic, or both.  Iconography is kinda something that a design has to earn, in a way, but anthropomorphic can be accomplished easily.  Now, I realize not everybody reads manga- I hardly ever do myself- so lets take a look at the inspiration for the project, the DS-12:
     See, isn't she cute?  Looks kinda insect like, which is good, because - like an ant -  the Toy Box 2 scurries along busy orbits and cleans up debris.  The Valkyrie is designed to clean up debris as well - its function in the game world is to clear the orbital space between asteroid colonies that have been cut off since the Geat War.  The part of the DS-12's design that stuck with me the most is the round protrusion in the bow and the "bumper guard" that covers most of the dorsal surface. 
      After doing some research on real-world debris removal scenarios, I came upon the "laser broom" proposal.  It resonated with an idea I had about using a species of fusion torch to vaporize debris.  So I''ve decided that the Valkyrie will have an armored spine, a thrust nozzle on the bow, and several pairs of robotic arms for grabbing the big salvage.
     After playing around with the elements I had collected and the design principles we've outlined, I come up with the basic design for our space scow:

     The design, to me, is invokative of a mole and a angry, angry beetle.  This is what I want for reasons that will be revealed later.
Now, the exterior is not designed in a vacuum (no pun intended).  I also played with the interior, remembering that living space in a purely free fall spacecraft is only about half the size of what's needed in gravity, I'm just adding in a simple cylinder and connecting tube for the life system.  I also have to account for the fusion generators, propellant tanks, support trusses and hard science-y stuff.  Fortunately, I have Photoshop!  So, here is the skeleton of the Valkyrie superimposed:

     So you see, eveything fits.  We now have a plausible design that looks cool, does what it it's supposed to do, and invokes the imagery I want it to. 

     That's it for today, folks.  Tomorrow, we'll start designing the interior in detail.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Designing Plausible Spacecraft for Role-Playing Games III

...Monday turned out to be a very long and busy day, and on top of that I had to wait for my meds at the pharmacy (I'm very diabetic).  So this installment is a little shorter than the last two.  I'll make it up to you later.  I promise.

    Before we continue with the design phase of the Valkyrie, I wanted to mention my overall organization method for putting our consistent product on a monthly deadline.  This may not be of interest to non-professionals, but it does explain why I do things in a certain order. 

THE GAME PLAN      This is not something I created, its more something that evolved over time.  I use it because it works for me.
     First, I design and draw all of the maps for the ship I am working on.  If you're gonna write about a rocket, you've got to know where everything is.  While I'm drawing the spacecraft in question, I am constantly thinking about the back story, any nifty things I can mention, cools way to use the ship - basically I'm playing with the spaceship like I used to play with Legos and my old Star Wars toys.  Hey, I do this because it's fun, which is good because it will be awhile before doing it for the money is an option...
     Second, I write the entire text of the document up.  I will write for as long as I can without rushing.  For me, once I start getting tired, I try to hurry up and finish, which usually leads to bad writing and typos and other general FAIL.  If you're like me, stop writing when you are tired.  If you start early enough on a month-long project and don't commit to more than 25-30 pages, you will have enough time to finish.  Relax.  This is a hobby, right?
     The third step may seem kind of odd.  It's the "do nothing" step.  I don't look at the maps and I don't read the text for at least a week.  This kind of reboots my head and lets me return to the project with fresh eyes later.  This is not to say I sit idle; I plan future projects, work on the core book, write long-winded blogs...
    Fourth, I proofread and review the maps.  Having taken a break from the material, I can read it without skimming over mistakes.  Also, I can be more objective with the content.  I personally hate having to re-do a picture I just spent hours working on, so by waiting a few days, I can lessen the emotional attachment an do the necessary hatchet work.
    Fifth, I polish, PDF, and publish.  End of list.  

   I was going to start explaining my way through the design phase today, but like I said, I ran out of time and energy.  Most of this post was written at ten this morning, so I'm happy to be able to put out some quality content, even if it's not as much as I planned.  Anyway, design phase tomorrow.  This will be fun, because you, my RocketFans, will be able to get the FIRST LOOK at the Valkyrie, still in its planning stages!
Won't that be fun?

Se you tomorrow then.  Enjoy! 

Designing Plusible Spacecraft for Role-Playing Games, Part II

     I hope everybody had a good weekend, because I sure did. Among other things, I volunteered to do a "Coming Soon" page for the upcoming D6 Magazine.  So if you visited the site and saw a GoDaddy advert, relax.  That will soon change.
     If you are a contributor to the D6Magazine,  I need an image file of your logo for the new homepage.  I you'd like to be a contributor, the deadline for proposals is Halloween.  Follow the link below in the sidebar for more info.

     Anyway, last Friday we began out discussion of how to design rockets that are both plausible enough to qualify as hard science fiction and cool enough to be exciting locations for RPG adventures.  Using the principles I outlined, I am going to walk you all through the design process of Blue Max Studio's November release, the Valkyrie Utility Craft.

     ...Which is a fancy way of saying, "getting an idea worth selling" in BS-ese.  Basically, I need a good idea to get started with.  Fortunately for me, I spend most of my spare moments marinading in a witches' brew of futurism.  I subscribe to SF blogs and forums, SF websites, watch the Mars Society vids on YouTube, and basically inundate my subconscious in space-ly goodness.  So getting an idea usually takes care of itself.
     The idea for the Valkyrie as inspired by watching and reading the awesome manga/anime series Planetes.  The characters in this hard SF offering are employed in the glamorous job of space debris removal.  Yes, they are trash collectors.  But they have a pretty awesome garbage truck, the  DS-12 Toy Box 2.   Its a little POS spacecraft that would have to have drop tanks added to the sides to get from LEO to the Moon (which, if you care to know, takes a very small amount of Delta-V).  But it has personality, and that is precisely the trait I want in a RPG ship.  In fact, I could add another rule to my list of spacecraft design guidelines just for that:

4. Unless they're Power Gamers, Players would rather have an interesting ship than a powerful one.  If they are Power Gamers...make 'em play Paranoia.  That should take some of the starch out of their trousers...
     Think about it; when have the heroes of a story had the better ship?  the Enterprise?  Can't cloak and in TNG it was half the size of a Romulan Warbird.  BSG? Try again, not only was it outdated, it had to defend a civilian fleet.  Serenity?  Falling apart and unarmed.  The Falcon?  Well...okay, the Falcon was pretty badass, but it kept breaking down and never fought in its weight class.  A ship in a movie is something to show-off in, not with.

     That being said, RPGs are not movies; I know that.  So a ship that you expect heroes to fly in maybe unarmed but PCs need something to cover their assets with.  I solve this problem in The Black Desert in two
ways: One, space combat is really hard to even accomplish, much less succeed at. Two, The main propulsion systems of plausible spacecraft are themselves usually weapons of mass destruction.  See John's Law:

"Anything That is Interesting as a Spacecraft Propulsion System is Interesting as a Weapon."

    As in, "Really fast fusion-powered hydrogen rockets spew a jet of ten-million-degree ionized gas our their rear ends. "  Nothing can stand up to that, except a very powerful magnetic field.  So, in The Black Desert, pretty much every ship is armed, under the right circumstances.

   Surprisingly enough, all that wasn't a digression.  I want to make a new RPG spacecraft that has personality, isn't relatively powerful, yet packs a punch if PCs (or villains) need it.  I have an idea for a spacecraft that is inspired by the good 'ole DS-12, does not have much range or speed, and by virtue of its propulsion system, can provide a dramatically nasty surprise for cocky Players.

     As a GM myself, this is exactly what I want.

    What's that, you say? The ability to cut small asteroids in half is a bit more that "a nasty surprise"?  This is where game design comes in.  Some of this part gets pretty rules-specific, as in The Black Desert rules, but the general gist can be applied to other games as well.  I'll go into how in a bit.
    First, in order to understand this in the context of The Black Desert, you'll need a copy of The Black Desert Excerpt #1: The Ship's Log in Detail.  This is FREE, so don't worry. 

     You wanna get it right now?  (Sigh) Fine, I'll wait.

     Back?  Did....did you buy my other stuff?
     Never mind.  As you can see from the description, There is no "Speed", or "Space".  There's Acceleration and Delta-V.  Using your fusion drive to blast something is very powerful, true, but it uses a whole lot of your Delta-V.  So, again using the Heinlein as an example (maybe you have one, if so follow along),  While it's Fusion Torch does a whopping 25D of damage, it uses up an equally whopping 25 points of Delta-V.  Long story short, It can Torch a grand total of 5 rounds before using up its Safety Margin.  Four rounds after that (if you're insane enough to keep Torching), Your fuel tanks are dry and you fly off into space on a one-way course at 45 hexes a round forever.  This means only suicidal or mathematically inept Players will use the Torch for more than a couple of rounds.  After just two rounds, the ship has accelerated 10 hexes in the opposite direction and will take 10 rounds to slow down using its regular L-Drive.
     In The Black Desert this is simply physics.  In other games, it is an example of another Rule of RPG Ship Design:

5. The more powerful the weapon, the more limited the rate of fire/number of shots/ targeting accuracy/ something else that keeps it from breaking the game.

     Let's take arguably the most popular spacecraft super-weapon of all as an example: The Death Star.  Its main armament is a laser capable of turning a medium sized planet into an small sized asteroid field.  This is the mother of all Big Guns.
     Have you ever wondered why, in  A New Hope,  The Death Star didn't blow up the gas giant Yavin instead of waiting a half-hour for the Death Star's orbit to give it a clear shot at the moon the Rebel's Base was on?  Because the Superlaser took  an hour and a half to recharge.  Waiting to clear Yavin was simply faster.
     (Either that, or it really is a huge plot hole.  Sheesh, Lucas....)
     The same movie offers another example: the X-Wings making the bombing run had only two proton torpedoes.  This gave Luke just one chance to use the Force and blow up the Death Star.  The principle is the same; the torpedoes are more powerful and thus more limited.

   That about wraps it up for Pre-viz, ladies and gentlemen.  We will continue tomorrow with Part III.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Designing Plausible Spacecraft for Role-Playing Games Part I

  Since I mentioned in my site description that this blog would offer tutorials and advice about spacecraft design, I suppose I better get on with it...and this is a good time, because I'm working on our November release right now and it will make a good example.

  First off, let's be all scientific and define our terms.  While I'm at it, I'll start salting the mine with tasty links and stuff:

  This is where the "Hard" in "Hard Science Fiction" comes from.  People with doctorates in aerospace and nuclear engineering design plausible spacecraft for a living, and I don't.  I do have a scientific background, but its in medicine and biology, not nuts and bolts. 
  But that's okay, because I have the Internet!
  The first and last place a budding rocket designer should go to on the Web is Atomic Rockets.  If this site doesn't have what you need, its linked to a site that does.  If you haven't checked it out already, you really should.  My current work is both inspired and informed by the enormous amount of data collected by Winchell Chung Jr.  But don't take my word for it; make this site your friend.
  If you want to get your fanciful notions about space in the future rudely wiped away (and replaced by something harder, edgier and scarier) then the Rocketpunk Manifesto is a good place to go.  This blog has discussions on midfuture tech and social issues, the plausibility of space colonization, and some of the most definitive discussions of plausible space combat on the Internet.  He uses Atomic Rockets as a reference too, but the blog deals more specifics and has a lot of great back and forth in the comment sections (they're practically a forum).  Worth the mouse click, I assure you.

  This is where I can offer something more than site recommendations.  I have been a gamer for over twenty years now, and I have played everything from Star Wars (D6 and D20) and Traveller to Star Frontiers and Buck Rodgers.  And, naturally, I have designed spaceships for all of them.  Here are a few of the RPG specific pointers I can offer for spacecraft design:

1. What's its function? No, no, not its "real-world" function, its function in a game.  This is as important as defining the mission is to an engineer, as the in-game function will dictate weapons armor, speed, size...uh, everything, really.
  As I see it, spacecraft have three functions in a game: First is the most obvious: Transportation.  The only reason for a spacecraft's existence is to get something from point A to point B.  What and who are important; there is a big difference in the Rebel Blockade Runner transporting a princess and some stolen plans and the Star Destroyer transporting a grumpy cyborg Sith Lord and some really big guns.  As far as greedy players go, they want to travel in something like the Millennium Falcon but are usually lucky if they can afford something like Serenity.  Either way, a ship has to go.
 Second, a spacecraft is also a Location.  Games like D&D are so successful because they have dungeons - specific and separate location to have encounters in.  Players know they need their game faces on as soon as they enter a dungeon; in SF games, Players should feel the same way when entering a rocket.  You never know what you will find inside another ship, and that tension can be both exciting and entirely justified.  In a hard sf campaign, you have as many hazards just being in space as you would find in any trap-filled tomb.  Radiation, decompression, lack of gravity, all of these factors can be used to make challenging encounters out what would on a planet be a milk run.
  Last (and the Player's favorite) is spacecraft as Treasure.  In games that price rockets realistically (say, 8 figures)  this is one of the only ways a PC group will get one that doesn't involve a loan from a twelve-foot- long talking piece of poo.  With that lovely image in mind, some of a game's villains need to be traveling in a ship that a GM wouldn't mind their Players getting their hands on.  No one wants a group of PCs cutting a swath through their campaign in a Kilometer-Long-Planet-Buster-From-Hell.  Or even in a medium-sized pirate ship.  That's why I define for GMs what level of PC would own a specific type of craft and then give them ways to keep the undeserving from breaking the game by stealing it.

2. An RPG Spacecraft Must Look Cool.  If you wanna sell a ship - either to your players or on the open market, it must look cool.  From all sides.  While the design ethic for hard sf should always be "form follows function" That is no excuse for making a dumpy looking rocket.  Take the Discovery I from 2001 (one of the most scientifically accurate movie rockets, even if the science is dated): It is a perfect example of a plausible spacecraft that looks cool.  Is at once both majestic and ominous looking.  In 2010, when the Leonov sends over a crew to open the ghost ship, it looks creepy as hell.  That's good design.

3. The Interior is as Important as the Exterior: Again, the Discovery I  is a good example.  In reality, the two-man crew and rogue AI sat in a 40-foot wide ball the entire trip.  The arraignment of that interior, however, was labyrinthine and had several distinctt areas that made it seem much bigger than it was.  Though not as scientifically accurate, Serenity also is a good example of a cool interior.  There were public areas, private one, and each chamber had its own color scheme that lent it a distinct personality.
  While you're not designing a ship for movies or TV like the examples above, there are some important, "non-functional" design tips for making an exciting vessel interior for RPGs:
* Separate Rooms: You can't have ambushes without having areas that are visually cut off from each other.  This is one of the reasons that fictional spaceships have lots of hallways, when plausible design would dictate few or none.  Alternately, the separate decks and curved corridors of a classic vertical rocket (See the Heinlein in the sidebar) can have the same effect.
* Cool Stuff:  This sounds obvious but its for more than eye candy; the more imagery a GM can use in a description, the more colored maps they have at their disposal, the easier it is to keep Players engaged and on task.  So add lockers, robots strolling the halls, multi-layered holographic displays, glove boxes with mechanical waldos - let your imagination roam.
* Treasure! Its a game location, right?  You gotta give the Players a reason to keep going deeper into the abyss, and that mad Cheddar is the old reliable standby.  This is not usually money in sf; supplies are just as valuable if you think about it, and often more exciting as well.  Real-world pirates, for example, would raid a booty ship's medicine chest and food stores before they'd start unloading treasure.  They also valued new weapons and powder magazines highly.  Any space worthy craft is gonna be loaded with the stuff the PCs spacecraft needs to stay up and running, be it fuel air, spare parts...practically anything can be treasure.
  Also, rockets (especially tail-landers) can be set up to provide PCs with "safe zones" to rest and resupply in.  Using the Heinlein  again as an example, There are EVA rooms in the nose and the middle of the fuselage.  Besides the logical functionality of the design, this puts a set of rooms in the middle of the ship that have spacesuits, air, power supplies and gas-tight doors.  A party of PCs can, if they are hurting, duck into one, seal the door and stock up.  They can even leave the ship.  In addition, the Keel segment on each deck there are emergency food, medical and damage control supplies.  Not only is this good sense for the rocket's "real-world" mission, but it makes for much treasure, much re-stock for PCs and also a way for hostiles to stay hostile for as long as possible.

That does it for today's discussion.  We'll start putting some of these principles into practice Monday.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

OpenD6 Magazine Article Finished!

At first I was wondering whether or not I could get 3-5 pages of free content done for the October 31st deadline.  Fortunately, I managed to get the last of the text write-up done today, and the final article will be almost eight pages long.  I hope they let me get away with that....
But that is the virtue of e-zines, isn't it?  The infinite canvas of the Internet allows us to focus on quality content and not have to edit great stuff for space. Reminds me of a little story Robert A. Heinlein wrote called "Searchlight" for a magazine advertisement.  It had to be a single page in length and feature the product on sale.  In his book Expanded Universe, Heinlein said that little story was some of the hardest fiction he ever tried to write.  This is from a guy that once spent four days doing ballistics calculations on butcher paper in order write a single line of narrative.  Becoming the Grand Master of SF was hard work back in the day.

I would love to show off the artwork and stuff for my article, but part of our Gentleman's Agreement in producing OpenD6 Magazine is that we will not re-publish any of the content for six months.  So I'm afraid you'll have to wait until January 31st of next year and see the magazine for yourselves.  The up-shot is, it's FREE!  We're making this magazine as a way to showcase our work and the OpenD6 system, so we want you to read it.  You can follow the progress of the magazine on The D6 Online OGL forum.
That's all I have for you today, folks.  Have fun and game and stuff!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Hello out there in Internet land!  I am Ray "RocketDad" McVay and this blog is about my RPG company, Blue Max Studios.  We are currently producing supplements and other resources for the recently released-to-the-public OpenD6 rules engine (used by such winners as the original Star Wars, TORG, and Septimus).

Our main focus for our 2010-2011 product run is the hard science fiction game The Black Desert.  While the campaign setting for Black Desert won't be released until next spring, we are offering supplements in the form of our Ships of the Black Desert series (samples in the sidebar) and bonus excerpts.  All of our products are available exclusively at

This blog won't only be about company news.  Blue Max Studios is also beginning a series of articles about spacecraft design, world building, and other guides to the incredible and under appreciated world of hard science fiction.  Look for content updates Monday through Friday on this page.

That's about all I have prepared for you today, folks.  Enjoy the pics, and I'll see you tomorrow!