Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mini Maps: Ceres Class Frigate

This is a collection of maps and designs I've shown off here and there, but never, I think, all in one place.  The Ceres-class Frigate is designed to fit the stats published in Starships &Spacemen 2e, pg. 45.  So here we are: spaceship.  Enjoy!

Exterior orthos
Perspective of the landed Ceres
The gravity is a little odd: it uses the artificial gravity field as an inertal compensator.  That's why it lands upside down.

The larger of the two decks houses the Bridge, torpedo room, beam bank control, shuttle bay, arboretums, and the crew quarters, teleporter, sickbay, main airlock, galley, brig...just about everything, really.

The second deck contains the water tanks,life support, labs, computer core, fabricators, escape pods, and of course, the landing legs and machinery.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Gentleman’s Errand

    “I still can’t believe that is a computer.”
    This was from Ipa Sam, engineer of the The Gentleman Scoundrel, a tramp plying the so-called trade on the frontier.  That, was specifically a suitcase-sized appliance sitting on the mess table of the Scoundrel’s crew lounge.  That such a thing could carry useful electronics through a wormhole and have them work on the other side was only credible to Sam because she herself had seen it.
  “This thing is amazing!”  This was Ruku Mat, Navigator.  Her normally shy and retiring demeanor was for the moment gone. Her purplish skin looked even more vivid in the blue glow from the strange computer’s screen.  “Its easily twice as powerful as our entire mainframe!”
    Also at the table was pilot and fist mate, Zag Esseru.  She smirked at the diminutive Ruku as a ripple went through her head-quills. “Facinating, uh huh.”  Bet you’ve seen faster and smaller, Kura.  Right?” This was at the ship’s steward.  Canto Kura, being from one of the Nexus systems of the Janoi, was the only one who had recognized the computer for what it was.
    “To be fair,” Kura said as he distributed the sacrament of coffee to the three officers, “It’s the smallest I’ve seen that can travel on a ship with NegMat drives.”
   How small can a computer really get though?” asked Ruku Mat.
  “Ah!  Have a look.”  Canto sat at the table and, with a little flourish, produced what was, to all apperences, a ballpoint pen.
   “Is this the one where you do math on a napkin and say it’s an analog computer?” Zag frowned.  “Because if so, I’ve heard it.”
    “No, no: Observe.”  Kura held the thin cylinder in one hand and with the other picked at the side of his pen.  A thin stave came off of the side and, as he pulled, a opalescent membrane of translucent material could be seen, like the sheet of a scroll.  The membrane caught the light strangely, showing a honeycomb of silvery threads embedded within.
    “I forgot I had my QIL in my pocket when I first shipped off Gleise.  It had my whole life on it.  Photos, video, songs and movies, books - everything. And this is a cheap model.  My last nanobiotics booster has more processing power than this entire ship.”
    “Bullshit.” Zag offered.
    “I won’t believe that was a computer.”
    “Canto,” Ruku Mat looked hurt.  “You didn’t have to make something up.”

    Kura knitted his brow and sighed. “That’s what everyone says.”

Saturday, June 11, 2016


That particularly nasty kind where you’re worried about becoming dehydrated because you can’t keep anything down.  Worse, it hit my Monday, after my first experience hives the night before.
But MUCH worse, as many of you know, I am a Type I Diabetic.
My sugar was off the scale of my glucometer by Monday night, and took over 600 units, fifty at a time hourly, over two days to get as low as six hundred, where it could be measured.  If you’re curious, the normal blood sugar levels are around 70-90, and a normal insulin dose is 5-10 units.
So...yeah.  Almost died again.  
Needless to say, after a week of fever-induced delerium, vomit -induced delerium, sugar-induced delerium, and delerium -induced delerium, I’m pretty tired out.  Hopefully, we will resurme regular service Monday, but it may be another week before I’m up to full steam.
Thanks for understanding.  If you’ll excuse me, I have about seventy notificiations on Google+ to get through... 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Species Spotlight: Myrmidoni ON SALE NOW!

You know you want to.
They are nomadic marauders from the edges of space. Always, they serve those with the credits to buy their power and are loyal only to their own.”

Warbands raiding across the stars. Iron juggernauts that cannot be contained. Warriors the likes of which the galaxy has never seen: These are the Myrmidoni.

In this Species Spotlight supplement you will find:

A Tribe of Warriors: The Myrmidoni, notorious across the galaxy as the finest fighters in space.
A Tribe of Mercenaries: The Myrmidoni are implacable foes. Their warriors face a gauntlet of challenge, their warlords command armies, their elites hunt the deadliest prey among the stars.
A Tribe of Armored Goliaths: With their special Starloy armor that turns even laser swords aside, the Myrmidoni are as indestructible as they are destructive.

Do you have what it takes the run The Gauntlet against them?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

5 Classic Types of Starship-Based Campaigns

     I meant to get to this post earlier in the week, RocketFans, but life happened.  All over the closet next to the master bath.  More I will not say...
    Anyway, last time we discussed gaming on spaceships, we listed five ways to add factions to a starship-based campaign.  Belatedly, I realized that we haven't actually discussed the ways to actually run a starship-based campaign.  Or what that even means.  So, to begin this article, I will provide my own personal, open-to-debate, by no means official set of guidelines on what is and is not a starship-based campaign.
   First of all, IT SHOULD BE SET ALMOST ENTIRELY ON SPACECRAFT.  This sounds obvious, but in fact it is easy to mistake a setting that uses spaceships extensively as one for a spaceship-based campaign.  For example, and it took me years to figure this out, Star Wars as seen in the movies, is not a setting for spaceship-based campaigns.  Yes, there are spaceships, and yes, they are among the most iconic in science fiction and yes, there are cool space fighters and mile-long dreadnoughts and space stations that are not moons.
Top: Space.
Bottom: Not space.
       But how much time do the heroes spend on a ship, verses the amount time on a planet?
     Think about it - among all seven of the movies, most of the time spent was on planets.  Spaceships were plot devices, not environments to explore.  While one could argue that the fights on the Death Stars and Cloud City were spacecraft-centric, I disagree.  The scenes on Starkiller Base in Episode VII demonstrate that the Death Star scenes could have been easily done on a planet with no loss of flavor.  Cloud city and Couruscant are also interchangeable, as far as flavor goes.  That's part of the point - it shouldn't just feel like a spacecraft, it should function like one in ways unique to spacecraft.
This is shown well on the TV series Babylon 5.  What makes the eponymous station a spacecraft and not just a frontier town in space is the preoccupation with life support, the attention to things like gravity.  Another excellent example, The Expanse, takes this up to eleven by showing the Coriolis forces involved in spin habitats.  
Top: Kansas
Bottom: Not Kansas
      Second of all, IT SHOULD BE A CAMPAIGN, NOT JUST AN ADVENTURE. Even if you argue that the Death Star counts as a spaceship- based adventure, it's still not a campaign.  An adventure, depending on the amount of time you spend at the table, will take at most two or three sessions.  A single Star Wars movie is an adventure.  And we all know that only the second act of the original movie was spent on the Death Star.  If you were playing Imperial troops that were stationed on the Death Star and helped build it (or just did sanitation), then you would have a spacecraft-based campaign.  But not a Star Wars movie.
     Thirdly, I MEAN A BALANCED CAMPAIGN, NOT JUST CONSTANT SPACE COMBAT.  There is a difference between a role-playing game campaign and a wargame campaign.  You could easily play in nothing but starships if your game of choice is Starfleet Battles or Attack Vector: Tactical.   Role-playing games, as the name implies, involve incidences of role-playing.  Also, exploration, player cooperation, problem solving, and the like.  You can easily, for example, run a mystery adventure in an RPG campaign based on a starship - look at the first season of TOS Star Trek.  You could not do the same with a handful of ship miniatures and stat cards.
     To more easily and thoroughly demonstrate what is or is not a starship-based campaign, Let us assemble our list of five classic types of starship-based campaigns.

1. Planet of the Week: This is one of the earliest examples of the spaceship-based campaign. We see it in television, at it's best, in Star Trek and it's spin-off series. The Players are part of the crew of a spaceship that travels to new and exciting places every adventure, where they will explore, solve problems or mysteries, or just shoot aliens and take their stuff. Any Star Trek licensed RPG is perfect for this, for obvious reasons, as are OSR hacks such as Starships & Spacemen and Five-Year Mission for White Star. But we see this style of game in other places as well - notably, Classic Traveller's adventure, Leviathan.
To be honest, this type of campaign kinda skirts the edge of what I'd call starship-based. Technically, if we're looking for the Dungeon - that metaphorical play environment where dice and hit points happen at the heart of any game based off D&D - then the "Dungeon" is space itself, because that's where the XP is. The spaceship is more like the town a D&D party goes to at the end of the adventure to rest, heal and get new equipment. This does not mean you can't have adventures on your own ship, but they tend to be roleplay-driven and hardly involve combat. After all, you can't have your cruiser invaded by bad guys every week.

2. The Rag-Tag Fleet: In this scenario, the players are part of a large fleet of spacecraft of many different types, travelling from point A to B, on a trip that will take most if not all of the campaign. That's really all you have to have for this kind of campaign, but there is so much you can do with this framework.
The phrase "rag-tag fleet" comes from the Ur-example of this type of campaign, Battlestar Galactica. The set up of this show, either version, is nearly perfect for the purposes of making a campaign setting. You have hundreds of different ships. You can't go anywhere but one of thise ships, and the ships are full of pretty much any kind of person you could imagine. In BSG they showed the fithy rich hoarding supplies while refugees starved below decks, prostitutes trapped on ships with puritans, crime syndicates taking over flotillas in the fleet and engaging human trafficing, enemy spies, terrorists, political rivals, military rivals - there really isn't much that they didn't cover on BSG. But the "fugitive fleet" isn't the only way to use this framework. Merchant convoys, colonial wagon trains to the stars, or collections of asteroid outpost a billion miles from anywhere are all valid. The basic thing to remember is that the Dungeon is the fleet itself - and it's a Megadungeon. I mean this in the strictest of terms; It has virtually endless new areas to explore, it is intended to be the sole gaming environment for a campaign, the number of players and their level is not restricted, and areas that have been cleared of threats will fill right back up. Best part? I get to map dozens of different spaceships.

3. Casablanca IN SPAAAACE!: The inversion of Planet-of-the-Week, this scenario has the players living on or crewing a large space station, and the adventure coming to them. Examples include the obvious, such as Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There are also not-so-obvious settings that use this trope. From Star Trek's original series, there was Deep Space Station K-7, where a variety of shady characters came and went bearing Tribbles. Vangard Station, from the Trek novel series of the same name is an even better example. If you wanted to set such a campaign in a galaxy far, far, away, you could have a Cloud City type of space station.
Not, however, the Death Star. Despite the moon-sized volume available to set the mother of all Megadungeons, DS-1 and 2 are monotonous, homogeneous, and and as exotic as an Ikea catalog. To be a Casablanca in space, you need to have a preferably neutral location, politically, where sworn enemies can mingle under the banner of truce, spies can spy, smugglers can smuggle, and the station personnel are more concerned with maintaining life-support and the sudden appearance of holes in the hull than they are with micro-regulating every aspect of a stationer's life. Even so, those that like their science like they like their cider may add such things as air taxes, and the spacing of squatters. Whatever details of the setting are decided upon, the amount of exotic variety and laxity in law enforcement are more important than the physical size of the Station.  That being said, the Space Station is your Dungeon, so making it a Megadungeon will keep it from becoming stale.

4. Star-Wrecks & Scavengers: One of the advantages of this type of campaign is that you need not set it in space to have the action available set on a spaceship.    This scenario - exemplified by the planet Jakku in The Force Awakens - has a large starship or fleet of same laied up on the surface of a planet or floating in space and non-functional.  The wreaks are crawling with scavengers, illegal salvage operations, homeless squatters, and feral animals.  And that's just the new people.
     The idea of dungeon crawling a mile-long dreadnought is an old one as far as RPGs go.  It was first featured, as far as I know, in the OD&D module Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.   But admit it, the scenes in Episode VII make for the coolest images of this style of campaign.
     The Dungeon in this type of campaign is, obviously, the wrecked starships.  This gives one the ability to explore a Star Destroyer or Battlestar without all those rude stormtroopers or nasty colonials getting in the way of your fun.  It also offers challenges in the way of uneven/hazardous terrain, locked doors, puzzles and malfunctioning equipment, and lots and LOTS of treasure.  But perhaps the biggest draw of using a scavenger type starship-based campaign is that it is easiest type of SF game for traditional fantasy gamers to transition into.  Other than the window dressing and some of the obstacles unique to the environment.  It can be used as just another type of dungeon with elves and orcs,or one with SF characters, or both. It works in any combination, that's the point, so have fun storming the castle starship!

5. Medieval O'Neil: Our final type of classic starship-based campaign is a classic of science fiction, science speculation, and possibly science fact.  The players are the descendants of the original crew on a generation ship bound for parts unknown. The populous of the gigantic starship have, through disaster or calamity lost the knowledge of how to use their technology, repair their starship, or that they are even on a starship.
     This type of story has not only been told everywhere from Heinlein's Orphans in the Sky To the original series of Star Trek, it's the premise of entire games - not just campaigns.  TSR's Metamorphosis Alpha is based on a Medieval O'Neil, as is the brilliantly twisted Axis Mundi.
     In addition to its popularity in fiction, generation ships pose a legitimate concern for the planners of interstellar missions and explorations.  Moral conundrums include everything from dooming  your descendants to being born, growing old and dying on a starship, to the tragic consequences of the 3-generation rule. 
     Keep in mind, those are just the obvious type generation-ship-gone-wrong scenarios.  There are other ways portray a starship full of people that forgot where they were going.  Just look at the society of pampered lotus-eaters in the Pixar classic WALL-E.  Between you an me, I think I'd like to play a robot more than one of the doughboys-and-girls among the crew...
     Anyway, the colony ship is the Dungeon in this type of scenario, obviously.  How "dungeony" it is depends on how low-tech you want your players to be.  The idea of a pre-industrial regression among the crew's descendants has its appeal, but not if the ship's rogue AI is has access to sentry turrets or can turn harvester mecha into meat grinders.  A GM must also decide if fantasy elements will be present, such as psionics, out and out magic, or space-eleves.  

     The above five examples of starship-based campaigns are listed here as reletively "pure" scenarios, with little overlap.  The truth is, however, that there can be a lot of overlap between these classic campaigns.  Star Trek has used every item on this list in at least one episode or another, BSG has it's share of planet-of-the-week explorations, and Babylon 5 had lots of other spacecraft coming and going for players to crew.   You could even conceivably make a campaign featuring all five.  In fact, next time on on this blog, I'll be doing just that - introducing a campaign idea that has elements of all of the above types of starship-based campaigns.  See you then!

P.S.: Out latest offering, Species Spotlight: Myrmidoni is just about wrapped up.  It should be available for sale Monday, barring any unforeseen problems.