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Sunday 30 July 2017

Wild West Campaign: The Arabians

Dodge City was especially cold, snowy, and barren that February, with little going on.  Until two old familiar faces rode into town.

First, Mysterious Dave Mather got back from his failed gold-mining expedition.  He'd gone to Colorado with ex-lawman Charlie Bassett. They'd found nothing, and Mather came back to Dodge; but Bassett just couldn't bring himself to return to the town he'd come to feel so embittered about.

(Mysterious Dave)

At around the same time, the long-missing psychopath John Joshua Webb came back too.

Webb had last been seen helping Miller fake the death of his horse (Brimstone), and taking said horse out of Dodge, on account that it had killed Miller's wife. Miller inquired of Brimstone, and at first Webb tried a white lie, but then admitted the horse was dead, saying only that "things got complicated" and that "it was him or me".  Then Webb asked Miller for a job, and Miller hired him on as a security man, much to the chagrin of Other Miller, who was already one of Miller's security men.

The next people to ride into town were all newcomers.  One was a guy calling himself "Big Jim" Davis, owner of a large Oklahoman ranch, who rode in with a bag full of money  he intended to spend in Dodge's saloons, and two stunning Arabian horses he intended to sell a bit further east.

He promptly started buying rounds of drinks for everyone at the Long Branch, becoming a quick favorite of the regulars.

Then came along a pair of young men who accused "big Jim" of being an impostor. The real Big Jim, they said, was their uncle, and this man had murdered him, stolen his money and his horses.  Both Big Jim and the two "nephews" seemed extremely convincing. It proved very hard to tell who was lying and who was telling the truth, and there was not a shred of definitive evidence between them. Everything Big Jim had to authenticate himself by was claimed to be stolen goods by the nephews; and they in turn had nothing to prove their uncle was dead and this man was not Big Jim.

Kid Taylor was the only lawman around, and he realized the nephews were trying to goad "Big Jim" into a shootout, though he wasn't sure which side was telling the truth.  He decided to take "Big Jim" into custody for his own protection. Then Other Miller figured out that they could send a telegram to the nearest town (where the nephews claimed they had left Big Jim's corpse) to confirm their story. They acted pleased about this, but so did Big Jim, so that solved nothing in the immediate sense.

Taking Big Jim into custody to avoid a gunfight was not as such a bad call, but it turned out to be a problem, when the "nephews" tricked the Mormon ex-Gambler (I should really start calling him the Mormon Concierge) to give away the number of the room where "Big Jim" had been staying in the Beattie Hotel. They broke in and stole Big Jim's carpetbag full of cash.

Miller, meanwhile, was in the Alhambra and ended up overhearing Dirty Dave Rudabaugh planning to steal the two Arabians.

He talked Dirty Dave out of robbing the Dodge stables, but Dave and his two sidekicks only shifted plans to hijack whoever ended up with the horses on their way out of town.

They didn't need to wait long. The Mormon Concierge and Kid Taylor discovered the break-in at the hotel, and rushed to check on the horses. Kid Taylor had made the dubious decision to leave the septuagenarian stable-master and his octogenarian rifle alone in the stable as the sole guardian of the Arabians.  The Kid rushed to the stables, but actually got there third. First, the nephews had gotten there, knocked the old stabler in the head, and fled with the Arabians. Second, Dirty Dave and his men who had been tipped off by a lookout. They rushed to their horses and chased after the fleeing 'nephews'.   And right behind Kid Taylor came Miller, accompanied by his new bodyguard Webb, who had both been following Dirty Dave.  Kid Taylor immediately set to ride after them with the two others.

They didn't quite catch up in time. Dirty Dave got to them first, knowing the local terrain better than the 'nephews'.  He and his men ambushed the nephews, unhorsed and unarmed them, and left them behind in the snow.  Kid Taylor's posse went after the footsteps first, and quickly found the two men, who he tricked into admitting they were criminals. Meanwhile, Taylor had sent John Joshua Webb after the horse thieves.

Along the way back they ran into a second posse, led by Wyatt Earp and including the Mormon Concierge and Other Miller.  Earp tonguelashed Kid Taylor for heading off with out a proper posse, and sent him back to Dodge with the two prisoners, while the rest of them went after the horses.

They found their way to a killing scene.

Though they couldn't be sure what had happened, it was in fact Webb, having caught up to Dirty Dave and his gang, who offered Rudabaugh his life if he double-crossed his former partners and he and Dave split the money for the horses. Dirty Dave naturally agreed.

What then followed was a manhunt of various days; only with a twist. In the night Webb actually doubled back and spoke to his "boss" Miller, asking for Miller's blessing. Miller agreed, in his usual half-assed way, saying he couldn't interfere and if Earp kept tracking them he wouldn't be able to help.

As it turns out, Webb and Rudabaugh were quite good at hiding their tracks. Earp also wasn't wearing a US Marshal's star, plus he realized that Miller had a kind of bond with Webb that wasn't entirely different from Wyatt's own toward Doc Holliday, so he gave Miller an out. He suggested they might not keep on searching. Both Millers agreed, and the Mormon Concierge, who has terrible luck, had already been forced to abandon the posse on account of his horse suffering a fall.

So the posse headed back to town without any luck. Of course, they knew Webb was involved, even if they couldn't prove it.

Other Miller confronted Miller directly, asking if Webb had done what he did on Miller's orders, or if he'd betrayed him.  Miller, too cowardly to admit he'd given Webb carte-blanche, told Other Miller that Webb hadn't been acting on his orders, leaving Other-Miller with the idea that Webb could not be trusted.

The telegram confirmed Big Jim's identity and he was set free. He proved quite forgiving of Kid Taylor and the lawmen, since he was mainly pleased the fake "nephews" had been caught and were bound to be hung for horse-thieving.

A couple of weeks later, John Joshua Webb and Dirty Dave came back into town.  No one knew Dirty Dave had anything to do with it, and Webb didn't give the lawmen any straight answers, but when speaking privately to Kid Taylor he ended up giving away the fact of Dirty Dave's involvement.
Kid Taylor wasn't interesting in arresting Dave or Webb though, he wanted the horses back to make up for his failing to Big Jim. So he spoke in Dave's language: he offered Dave immunity if he told him where they sold the horses. And of course, Dave snitched, as was his habit.

Kid was planning on heading out with Wyatt Earp to get the horses, but Earp suggested that they just wire Big Jim with the information, and offer to leave it up to him how to settle the score. Kid agreed. A couple of weeks later, they got a very thankful telegram from Big Jim, who'd recovered his Arabians, and a reward of $500 dollars that Kid and Earp split.

In the end, Kid happily declared that he hadn't learned a thing from all this. But he was $250 richer.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + C&D's Bayou Evening

Saturday 29 July 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: The Space Patrol

This is a review of "The Space Patrol", written by Richard Hazlewood, published by Stellagama Publishing.  It is as always a review of the print edition, which is a hardcover, about 90 pages long. The cover has a full-color image of one starship in pursuit of another, near a saturn-like planet (possibly Saturn). The interior is black and white, relatively sparse of images, and these mostly consists of other images of starships.

The Space Patrol is a sourcebook/setting-book for the Cepheus Engine, which is a kind of OGL clone of the Traveller rules. This means that it is generally compatible with most of the standard Traveller rules.  At first glance, I thought it was possibly a sourcebook for the "These Stars are Ours" setting I reviewed previously, but that doesn't appear to exactly be the case, and this is in that sense a stand-alone book.

It must be noted that in another sense it's not a stand-alone book. You need either the Cepheus Engine rules or some other version of the Traveller rules to play.

I think the Space Patrol is meant to be Traveller hearkening back 10 or 20 years earlier than default-Traveller's 1970s style. Even the term "Space Patrol" sounds like the kind of thing out of Heinlein's juvenile novels, that early-60s sci fi that was a bit like cops-and-robbers in space. Even the artwork seems closer to the imagery of 1960s pre-hippie sci-fi than the slightly-grittier 1970s sci-fi; space-suits with big bubble helmets, etc.

The Space Patrol is an independent interstellar police force formed during the era of space exploration to help keep the peace and enforce interplanetary law.  Their job is mainly to deal with criminals and pirates.

The first chapter details the space patrol's mandate, the different levels of law they deal with and enforce, and their structure.  One note obviously there for the benefit of better campaigning is the awarding of prize money, where the patrol crews that capture wanted criminals get to keep the bounties on their heads, and captured illicit goods or pirate ships grant them a percentage of the monetary value of those confiscated goods.

There's also some other forces that have overlapping jurisdiction with the Space Patrol: the Imperial Navy, the Port Authority and local Planetary Law Enforcement are all other law-enforcement groups that the Space Patrolmen have to interact, deal, and maybe sometimes clash with.
There are some special new rules for adding more detail to the basic "law level" of a Traveller World profile, to make it more useful for a space patrolman campaign.
There's also material on gathering evidence, search warrants, courts and trials, and determining the result of trials.  Additionally, material on the different Space Patrol bureau offices you can find on different types of planets, space patrol ranks, medals and awards, and mustering-out benefits. There's career tables (for standard Traveller Character Creation) for various separate sections of the Space Patrol: Secretariat, Investigation, Marshal, and Operations. This is complete with survival/mishap tables and event tables.

Next up we get 11 pages of the Space Patrol's ship. These include information and deck plans.  I'm sure this is the sort of things some Traveller fans will find interesting, exciting, and useful. It's not something I've ever been too into though.

This is followed by 4 pages of Space Patrol standard equipment. This doesn't just include weapons and armor, but also information about their uniforms and badges. That's good detail.

After this, there's the chapter on Space Patrol Campaigns. Since the default background of the Space Patrol 'setting' is kept mostly vague, there's a lot of options provided here for the type of background you might want.  You can have the default, of a single galactic empire. Otherwise, you could have adventures along a frontier region, where space patrolmen can't count on a lot of help and it's all a bit more 'wild west'. Or you could have a "pocket empires" campaign: where there isn't a single unified interstellar government, but lots of different little polities and many independent worlds. In that kind of setting, the Space Patrol is the main trans-governmental authority, operating independently and able to work across borders to hunt interstellar criminals.

You also get models for different kinds of campaigns: the standard "patrolling the spacelanes" approach, the "CSI in Space" model, the wild-west style Travelling Justices model, or even a game where the Space Patrol isn't all lily-white but rather much more like an intergalactic protection racket.

None of these descriptions are given very much detail, just a paragraph or so each.

Next you get about 20 pages of NPC stat-blocks, for a variety of standard models for Space Patrolmen of different kinds as well as criminals of different kinds.

Finally, there's 8 different "adventure seed" scenarios. Each of these are written out as a template. You get a recommendation of the type of characters the adventure would be suitable for (eg. "Marshal and Operations Personnel"), the required equipment (eg. "Dragon-class corvette or other Space Patrol ship"), a paragraph of basic information detailing the setup of the adventure, a paragraph of referee information that explains what's going on in further detail (which may include things like planetary information or prize money offered for capture), and finally each has a random table of 6 'adventure hooks', which add a twist to the basic adventure.
It's a good format; it doesn't provide a complete and detailed adventure, but it provides more than enough for a capable GM to fill things out to create a detailed adventure that he can customize to taste. Adventure seeds include a murder mystery ("Murder on the Orient Star"), a manhunt for a fleeing suspect, a situation with a bio-terrorist organization threatening to release a deadly plague, a fight with pirates, and a protective-duty mission where the patrolmen have to protect a noble.

So how useful is this book?
If you wanted, I think you could use it as the foundation for a campaign, or at least its central theme. I could imagine someone running a campaign of this in the style of a 60s sci-fi TV show, where the rest of the setting wasn't really all that detailed.  You could have episodic adventures with worlds and material being added to the background of the setting as you went along; and of course, in 60s sci-fi style not all of it would really have to be all that consistent, and you could add weird stuff (gas entities, a planet whose inhabitants are nazis, space-mobsters, all the stuff that came from any of the corniest episodes of original-series Star Trek, basically).

You could also adapt it to fit into any existing sci-fi setting you were already running with Traveller; though I would think this would need some adaptation. Basically, the Space Patrol as it is presented seems a bit too white-hat and respectable for the Imperium, way too old-fashioned for Mindjammer Traveller, and it doesn't even match the more realpolitik style of Stellagama's own big setting "These Stars are Ours". In each case, I could imagine a slightly different, less four-color version of the Space Patrol that could in theory exist in those worlds. But it would require altering some of the fashion of the text.

On the whole, though, I can see this book being a worthwhile product for Traveller fans, especially those who may want to try something a bit different than what they've done before.


Currently Smoking: Blatter Diplomat + C&D's Crowley's Best

Friday 28 July 2017

"Turn: Washington's Spies" Mangles History

You know, I love Turn.

Great, fun series. Intense drama and tension, and generally a good historical reproduction.  It doesn't even fall into blind jingoism.  Some of the rebels are shown as being less than perfect, even Washington himself. And some of the loyalists are deeply honorable, as indeed was the late John Andre. Even Benedict Arnold, traitor that he was, is treated with a tiny bit of sympathy.

But then there's this guy:

John Graves Simcoe.  The guy that for some reason, Turn's writers decided to turn into a cross between Joffrey, Khan, and that "friend-o guy" from No Country.

It's a really fucking weird choice, because in real history the real Simcoe was absolutely nothing like this.  In fact, he is still revered as one of Canada's founding fathers, and a champion of human rights.

The real John Graves Simcoe, far from being a sociopathic killing machine with no concern for honor, justice, mercy or common decency, was in fact a highly decorated soldier who showed the highest standards of honor.  At the battle of Brandywine, a disaster for the revolutionary forces, Simcoe (in spite of having just been wounded himself) ordered his men NOT to fire on the fleeing rebels, even though they had a clear shot at General Washington.

That's right, this guy:

Actually saved George Washington's life out of a sense of honor.

So what did he do to follow up? He did what not a single US founding father (as great as they were) had the balls to do: he outlawed slavery.

You see, after the war, the remaining colonies loyal to the crown were reorganized (taking in a large number of refugee loyalists from the United States), and formed into the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada.  And Simcoe was made the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. So he founded the city of Toronto:

(that's why there's a Simcoe Street in Toronto)

(and this lovely park!)

(and the Simcoe Wavedeck. Would the psycho from the TV show have gotten a wavedeck named after him?)

And after that, one of the very first things he did in Toronto was to pass the first anti-slavery legislation in the whole British Empire.
He did it FORTY YEARS before slavery was abolished throughout the Empire, and SEVENTY YEARS before the emancipation proclamation.

That's right, the good people at AMC decided that in their period drama about rich slave-owning landholders revolting to avoid paying taxes, their evil psycho villain would be the modern English-speaking world's earliest successful abolitionist.

What was going through their heads?
"Ok, we want to be historically accurate but we need a really good villain!"
"Benedict Arnold?"
"NO. Too obvious."
"What about the humanitarian war hero who freed the slaves seven decades before we got around to it?"

And before you think I'm exaggerating and that maybe Simcoe was just imposing a law someone else asked him to, here's his own words on the subject (and if you're a Turn fan, I dare you to read it in Turn-Psycho-Simcoe's soft-spoken sing-songey-lunatic voice):  "The principles of the British Constitution do not admit of that slavery which Christianity condemns. The moment I assume the Government of Upper Canada under no modification will I assent to a law that discriminates between natives of Africa, America, or Europe"!

Of course, it wasn't all good: he also invented the Valentine Day's Card. I kid you  not. So he must have been at least a little evil.


Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Gawith's Commonwealth

Thursday 27 July 2017

Classic Rant: A Glaring Omission Indeed

So if you were to write a history of the RPG hobby from 2008 to the present, do you think you'd dedicate a bit of time to the OSR?

Apparently not, if you're the boss over at OSR-hostile Shannon Appelcline, who runs the forum most famous for its non-RPG 'tangency' political forum, decided that it just wasn't important to bring up the single most influential movement of these last seven years, except for one tiny reference where apparently the only thing worth mentioning to him about the OSR is that it "may be over-saturated" by "multiple retroclones of D&D". That's it. That's all the OSR means to him, it seems.

It shouldn't come as a tremendous surprise, given that most of the moderation staff at is manned by people fairly famous for despising the OSR, including Paul Ettin (who is also a moderator at Something Awful and one of the guiding lights behind their old-school-bashing "grognards.txt" megathread, which is largely dedicated to insulting and planning acts of sabotage on OSR games and writers). You'd still think that this, being an alleged work of historical research, would at least attempt to put on a facade of objectivity; but maybe you couldn't really hope that given that it was published by Fred Hicks, noted Pseudo-activist, supporter of various attempts at censorship and blacklisting in the hobby, and a guy who has a personal commercial interest in downplaying the OSR while trying to hype up the much less significant works of him and his clique of friends.

I especially love how when someone fairly brave decided to call him on it in his own backyard (the wonder being how the guy who did it hasn't been banned there yet, but I guess Appelcline is sufficiently cognizant of appearances that he'll at least wait a while before contriving some reason), the argument he gave in response amounted to "who knows, its hard to tell what kind of influence they might really have??"... as if it's crucially important to talk about some shit game by Vince Baker that three people have played, because its place in History is undoubtedly assured, but who the fuck knows if the OSR - the defining movement of this decade that already directly influenced the latest edition of D&D - will actually end up having an impact?! How could he possibly tell? Better to ignore the OSR almost entirely except for a single disparaging remark and focus attention on the vitally needed exposition of the work of obscure games no one likes by alumni of the failed Forge project!

But there you are. This is so par for the course from anyone associated with the trifecta of shit that is Hicks & friends, that it almost wouldn't be newsworthy. Still, I thought I should bring it up just to give fair warning: if you're considering buying the Platinum Appendix for Designers and Dragons under the impression that it is a solid and accurate work of unbiased research, think again.


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Amber Root Bulldog + C&D's Crowley's Best

(Originally Posted July 16, 2015)

Wednesday 26 July 2017

What I'm Running Now: my "Short" Campaign

I have a habit of playing incredibly long campaigns.  The original Dark Albion campaign, which ended last month, was played every two weeks for the last 6+ years.

And it was great.

But in between my long campaigns, I'll run a lighter "short" campaign.  By "short" I don't mean what I think most people would mean by short.  My short campaigns run somewhere between 4 months to two years.

It largely depends on how popular the game is and how much momentum it keeps up, though I've also run some short campaigns that had a pre-set number of sessions (usually 12, or 20).

The new one I'm doing now has no limits, it'll be played until it either becomes unmanageable, unpopular with my players (no risk of that so far) or until my next long campaign (which will probably be Lords of Olympus) is ready to go.

So I thought I'd share what it's about.  The last while, I'd gotten a couple of "asian" themed RPGs for review. One was The Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, and another was Kaigaku. While neither of them have systems that I would want to play as-is (a question of my personal tastes, you can read the review links above to judge if they would be to your liking!), they did get me thinking about kung-fu/samurai action.

But I also wanted something not really "historical" or even "pseudo-historical", because we'd just come out of that kind of campaign.

So, in my new campaign, I'm making use, primarily, of the following books:

Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate
Red Tide
the AD&D DMG & Monster Manual
Hulks & Horrors

Plus a few others to lesser degrees.  All to make a campaign that's a little bit like this:

Yes, inspired by Into The Badlands, I'm making a martial-arts themed post-apocalyptic fantasy OSR campaign.

It involves rival houses ruling over a tinderbox of potential clan-warfare in a very changed Earth thousands of years after an apocalypse.  There's intrigue, politics, dangerous gaijin, mutants, and plundering ancient ruins for high-tech salvage in the wild and dangerous "Land of Forests and Mountains" which borders the empire.

The first two sessions have been awesome.


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Diplomat + C&D's Crowley's Best

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Pictures From Uruguay

Here are some more pictures from Uruguay, since I'm short on time.  Time for some more street art.

This is a mural done outside a religious school. Possibly by the students.

This one isn't.

Here's one that was done creatively in a niche.  The imagery is a mixture of Carnival and the local afro-latin folk religion, which are connected to each other.

Here's the one next to it, which is more new-age, I guess.

Finally, a couple of more cartoonish ones:

That's it for today!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Horn + Argento Latakia

Monday 24 July 2017

DCC Campaign Update: I Just Wanted To See Mu Struggle

When we left off, the party was hiding out in the armory of an Ancients' complex that has been overrun with servants of the Dark Ones (Brain-Eaters) plus some feral dwarves and a retreating band of Dark Elves.  They'd lost two of their number (Tonut the Cleric, and the party's manager/agent Chris), but gained a former Hooker. Half the party was also missing, having been on a watch and then just disappeared.


-Sammi the Hooker levels-up and becomes Sammi the Cleric. Switching from the world's oldest profession, to the second-oldest and far less honest one.

-"The character sheet we're using has the saving throws placed right next to the Ability Scores that modify them."
"I  never noticed that before!"
"It also has a shield for AC!"
"And a trapezoid for HP, the trapezoid being the universal symbol for health."
"Of course, that's why hospitals everywhere have a giant rotating trapezoid on their roof."

-"So how much should I charge you guys for healing?"
"It's usually free."
"OK, but the pegging is extra."
"Clerical healing is free? Have you guys not spent a lot of time around clerics in this setting?"

-"I'm looking at my notes here, who is Sammi?"
"That's my character, you know, the one I just leveled up?"
"Oh, OK, right. So who's Androman?"
"Wait... did you maybe write 'and Roman'?"

-"I wish we had a character named Androman!"
"Wouldn't Androman just mean 'man man'?"

(Androman is real! And possibly related to BOLT-0!)

-"I need money to reduce my disapproval if I'm going to keep healing."
"See? I told you it wasn't free!"
"So, you're really right back to your old job, huh?"

-The joviality is interrupted by the presence of a feral humanoid figure smelling of shit scratching frantically at the service duct grill.
"We kill it with fire!"
"Wait.. I think that's Mu!"

-"Christ, we lose him for 1 day and he reverts to a goddamn animal!"
"Hey, it was 2 days!"

-Sammi had not yet met Mu.
"What kind of monster is that thing?!"
"I'm not a monster, I'm a wizard."
"Wait, Mu's a wizard?"

-"Being all feral and covered in shit for most people would be a big humiliation; for Mu, it's Tuesday."

-"Where's Tonut?"
"Tonut is dead."
"Tonut's dead?!"
"Wait, which one was Tonut?"
"Your nephew!"
"OH! Yes, right... I'm so sad about that."

-"Chris is also dead."
"But before he died he transferred the right to your contract to us, so now we get to keep 80% of your treasure share."
"I refuse to believe that unless I see a contract."
"Ok, wait a second... hey, has anyone got any paper?"

-"So I was meaning to ask: what are all of you guys doing in this ruin anyways?"
"We're saving the universe."
"Yes, and believe it or not, this is the sanest, safest way to save the universe."

-The party having been reunited with Mu, and having rested and healed enough, they move on to the next room. It turns out to be the old water reservoir of the complex. And they find it guarded by Water Elementals!
"Be careful, they can only be harmed with magic!"
"Then we're doomed!"
"Goddamnit Mu, you're the wizard!"

-One of the Water Elementals swallows Kumar! But he quickly unretracts his retractable hoverbike and shoots out of it.

-Mu dives into one of the Elementals after casting Chill Touch.
"You do two points of damage, then the chill touch wears off and you start to drown."
"No I don't, I have gills, remember?"
"He's more of a freak than we thought!"

-Sammi made use of the spell we now call "Ack'basha's Sanctuary" to protect herself, and then backed away about 20' from the action.
"Kumar is hurt and could use my healing, but he's too far away..."
"He's 20' away!"
"So, so far.."

-Heidi fumbles and falls on his back.
"It's very wet here."
"That's what you get for running by the pool!"

-Mu is just floating around in the Elemental, whose internal body is now full of shit. He's desperately flailing around but can't get him out.
"This is your life now, Elemental!"

-Mu pretends to be drowning to see if the elemental will stop trying to pull him out, but the Elemental doesn't fall for it.

-"I guess Heidi's OK?"
"He's doing better than Mu's elemental!"

-Heidi flies up on his jetpack and divebombs the elemental! He does damage but of course goes right through the other side and slams at full-speed on the pavement, knocking himself out and destroying his jetpack.

-All night, the GM has been accidentally calling Heidi "Ack'Basha".
"You  know why? Because Heidi kicks ass now, and reminds me of his last badass!"
"He's even got a power armor!"

-No matter how hard Mu's elemental tries, he just can't get the slippery bastard out of his body.
"The funny thing is that if I was casting spells right now I'd be rolling really well!"
" probably wouldn't."

-"Mu's elemental now seems to have fallen on his knees, put his hands on his face and started to weep. The Elemental behind him is patting his back in a hopeless attempt to comfort him."

-Kumar and another elemental mutually off themselves, thanks to Kumar's chill-touch and the Elemental's high-damage slam.

-"Kumar is dead, guys!"
"Looting time!"

-Roman had run off at the start of the battle, when his sonic tool got soaked. He finally comes back in from the armory, his tool repaired, and starts blowing up Elementals with it.
"How the hell did you do that?"
"With... the powers of vibration. Yes, that'll do."

-"I got the thing you shouldn't get."

-"Roman, would you like to keep Kumar's hoverbike?"
"No, better not. There was a bike race in the desert once... things got weird. It's not a Vincent Black Shadow, is it?"

-"We should give Kumar a decent burial... throw his corpse into the reservoir."

-No sooner do they toss the body into the water, that a huge Water Elemental emerges from the pool.
"Mu, you fucking idiot."

-"Cheese it!"
"Yeah, but don't run by the pool!"

-Running away from the Elemental, they make their way into an exit gate. It looks too small for the Elemental to pass through and maintain form, so they run through, along a broad promenade. They suddenly run into a trio of terrified people running the other way!
They are a Blue Mutant Psychic Shaman, a Blue Mutant Orphan, and a human Lumberjack... or hipster.
"His trade good is a mirror; he's definitely a hipster."

-Turns out the trio were servants or slaves of the Dark Elf expedition, and the reason they're running in the opposite direction from the PCs is that they're fleeing the group of Brain-Eaters who just murdered all the Dark Elves.
"Do I know where the Brain-Eaters are?"
"Yes, they're in the opposite direction from where you're running."

-"What are your names?"
"How about we tell you after we finish fleeing for our lives?"
"We're not really in danger, nothing's after us. Well, except for 3 Brain-Eaters."

-The party goes into a room off the promenade, which triggers some kind of sinister memory in Mu's mind from when he'd gone feral. Vizi the Shaman uses one of his psychic powers to detect that Mu had a very traumatic experience here involving a kindly old dwarf and three wight-like ghosts.

-The party moves on to another room, one they hope is actually 'safe'. Inasmuch as anywhere is safe in this death-dungeon.

-The room has one broken door; so Mu tries to cast Ward Portal, finally turning into a man again. But it's not well cast, so he tries again, becoming a woman. Finding it insufficient again, he tries it a third time, becoming a man again, but to no great effect. Then he loses the spell.
"So is he a woman again?"
"Honestly? I can't tell the difference."

-"Should I spellburn to try again?"
"It doesn't really matter, Brain-Eaters can become ethereal and pass through walls."
"So we're all dead anyways, if they find us?"
"Why didn't you say that before?"
"I just wanted to see Mu struggle."

-The orphan is just desperate for affection.
"Hello, what's your name?"
"Hello Heidi; I'm Udin the orphan. Will you be my friend?"
"Oh, well, that's OK, that happens to  me a lot."

-"Hey Mu, do you want to know what happened to you back in that other room?"
"No, Vizi."
"So just to make sure, you don't want to know you were raped by ghosts? OK, I won't tell you then."
"You already said too much!"

-That night, an attack comes from the broken door. It's not Brain-Eaters, but rather Giant Bats!
"We shouldn't have stopped here, this is Bat Country!"

-Numerous giant bats swarm on the orphan, biting him fatally.
"I'm finally being adopted!"
"Is the orphan retarded?"

-Roman uses the Sonic Tool to make all the bats' heads explode.
"Take that you goddamn animals!"

-"I'll need healing now."
"I have shamanic herbs..."
"No, I need real healin-- wait, what kind of herbs?"
"'Medicinal' herbs..."
"That you smoke?"
"I will have some of your herbs, my good man, and I think this may just be the start of a beautiful friendship."

-The orphan is dead.
"Did he have anything of value?"
"Man, they get started early these days..."
"I'll take that rum!"

-"Mu was very expensive to heal."
"Well, his worth is.. not much, actually."

-The next day the PCs explore down the way the bats were. Going deeper into the complex they find their way into a huge chamber that took some serious damage at some point; the room is bisected by a huge chasm.
Vizi the shaman mutant uses his psychic powers, and sees a visions of ancients trying to flee on skyships when a terrible explosion cracks open the earth. It looks like everyone dies, but any remains of their skyships and possible cryopods would be somewhere down at the bottom.

-"G.O.D., please fix Heidi's jetpack"
"Your divine aid roll wasn't very high. Some cosmetic repair is done, but for the most part the jetpack is still clearly non-functional."
"G.O.D. did a half-assed job!"

-"I try not to look into the abyss, because if I do it'll probably look back at me."

-6500gp in sacrifices and divine aids later, the cleric has finally managed to repair the jetpack.

-"hey guys, over the edge there's all these bridges and ladders and shit. It looks like we could just walk the whole way down."

-It turns out that repairing the jetpack wasn't as useless as it seemed at first glance, since when they're about halfway down the chasm, the party gets ambushed by goblin archers!

-"I was just about to kill all the goblins, but then I remembered I'm a pacifist."
"Heidi's pacifism is very gradually wearing off!"

-"Are you present, Roman?"
"Its hard to tell, I'm on a lot of substances."

-The goblins were leading the PCs toward a Troll!

-"Wait a sec... water monster... goblins, deep caves.. are we in Moria?"

-Mu uses his levitation scroll to move away from the Troll, which throws Roman off the bridge! Mu is quite happy about this until he floats right into the crossfire of the goblin archers. They fill him with arrows and he starts to fall. Fortunately, Heidi saves them both.
"And you guys said there was no point to the Jetpack..."

-Unfortunately, goblin snipers kill the lumberjack. No one cares much, since it was pretty obvious that the Psychic Shaman was the one destined to become the new level 1 guy.

-The troll, meanwhile, tried to jump at Heidi and ends up plummeting to the bottom of the chasm.

-"The troll is still around... I can sense him."

-"can you decapitate a troll?"
"I intend to try decapitating him with this grenade."

-The PCs get to the bottom of the chasm, which is full of garbage from thousands of years of trash. One of them finds a hoverboard!
"What's a hoverboard?"
"There's two things you have to know about a hoverboard.."

-Vizi the psychic mutant, on the other hand, ends up finding a laser sword.
"So... he's basically a Jedi now."
"Wait, does that mean Heidi is Boba Fett?"
"I want to know if Roman is Palpatine..."
"Mu is probably Jar Jar."
"Yeah, I probably am."
"I don't like this game. It means as the only girl I'll probably end up in a slave bikini."

-The group finally finds the shell of a skyship with a number of ruined cryotubes.. but one still seems to be working.
"Always just ONE? We can't ever luck out with a backup?! Why??"

-The Cryotube has an ancient. He's an adult male, very large and muscular. Since Roman is the only one who talks ancient, the two have a conversation.
"He says his name's Mongo, and he's a great fighter."
"Oh shit, I think he might be retarded."

-The troll suddenly springs out to attack! He survived the grenade, but this time, the PCs finish him off.  Mongo rushes in after and stomps on the Troll remains, shouting like an imbecile.
"Told you so."
"It doesn't matter! We just need an Ancient. Even this one will do!"

-"Now we just have to get the fuck out of here and manage not to kill our Ancient."
"That's going to be hard..."

That's it for this session. Will the PCs manage to get out of the complex, without killing Mongo?  Stay tuned to find out!


Currently Smoking: Davidoff 400-series + C&D's Bayou Evening 

Sunday 23 July 2017

What I'm Working On Part XV: The Red Lady

I continue to work on my "Pundit Presents" project; for which you'll have to forgive the briefness of this blog entry.

What am I working on right now? Another short but detailed setup of an adventure-seed/villainous-group for fantasy-medieval (or historical-medieval) OSR play.  This one is called "The Secret Order of the Red Lady", and it's a chaos cult with a twist.

Stay tuned, and hopefully in a relatively short while the Pundit Presents series will start publishing.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Virginia

Saturday 22 July 2017

Classic Rant: Handling History in Dark Albion

So Dark Albion is doing quite well, and getting some rave reviews. Included in this is praise for how thorough the historical detail is in the game.

Said detail may in fact be more than some readers guess: obviously the timeline/chronology is historical, the NPCs are also historical; but what some readers might not immediately grasp is that the historical detail doesn't end there. You might pick up that a lot of the information in the gazetteer of Albion and the lands of "the Continent" are full of historical detail, but it may be less obvious that the chapter on Law & Justice is based on real medieval concepts of crime and punishment, that the section on currency and equipment tries to be as accurate as possible based on known price lists of the period (which leads to what seem like some odd choices compared to the standard price lists of D&D equipment), and of course that the section on demonology is based on real ideas on medieval demon-summoning from the grimoires of the period.

Now, some people might be concerned that all this history is a bit of a double-edged sword. In particular, at first glance the lengthy and detailed year-by-year history, and the chapter full of the noble houses and important members of those houses might seem a bit overwhelming, in terms of just how to manage it all as a DM.

(even the crests are are based on real history, and not just greyhawk-style stuff)

So, assuming most of you aren't blessed with a History degree, I'm going to give you a step-by-step set of pointers for how to manage all this without really having to get befuddled with too much historical detail:

1. look over the NPC section. Pay attention to the families with a lot of entries: the Lancasters, Yorks, Nevilles and Percy being the most important ones.

2. If you're playing in a specific region of Albion, read the Gazetteer section, and check out which nobles are important in that region. If you are playing a game where you're travelling around Albion, whenever the PCs go somewhere new, check out the names associated with that area.

3. If you're playing a game that moves along in the chronology, pay attention to the entries in the chronology and look up any names that you weren't already familiar with.

You do NOT need to learn every character from the NPC section, especially since depending on which year you're playing in some of them won't even have been born yet (or will already be dead)!
Just use it as a resource to look up as you go along.

If you're using the PDF, you can also presumably search the PDF by region in the NPC chapter, to catch any extra details.

Remember ultimately the NPCs are there to add flavor, not to get hung up on with their various subplots, unless you're running a campaign where the PCs are constantly hobnobbing with the nobility. Conversely, if you're running a game where the PCs are mostly low-lifes (at least, for now), you won't need to know anything except the royals and the pretenders and your local lord's family.

So there you go, it's pretty simple really: use what you want to use. Don't sweat the rest! Happy Albioning!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Rhodesian + Argento Latakia

(Originally posted July 24, 2015)

Friday 21 July 2017

Here's Someone Else's Blog About Dark Albion!

Hey, I don't really have time to write right now.  I'm having a massive massive problem with one of my current projects, that I hope can come to a positive resolution. It came out of nowhere and is causing me a great deal of grief.

So, while I am busy trying to fix that, and I hope it can be fixed, I'll just draw your attention to this guy, who had already written a good review of Dark Albion and Cults of Chaos.

He's also now posted a good article covering the third appendix of Dark Albion, and dissecting that appendix. It was written by Dominique Crouzet, and presents a bunch of new classes for his "Fantastic Heroes & Witchery" RPG, for playing in Albion.

Anyways, go check those out if you're itching for something to read.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Chestnut

Thursday 20 July 2017

It's Irrelevant That the New Doctor Who is a Woman: It's The BBC That's the Problem

So, before I throw my hat onto the ring of the commentaries about the fact that Jodie Whittaker has been selected to play the next Doctor, let me first talk about the previous doctor.

Peter Capaldi was magnificent. He was everything the Doctor should be.  On some level, I know that David Tennant is still objectively the best Doctor of the new series, Capaldi was my favorite Doctor of the new series.  He was brilliant, grumpy, exciting, witty and heroic.

He was also sadly hampered by some fairly poor production and bad schedules.  Until this last season. This last season was very close to perfect; the "monster under the Thames" episode being probably the weakest one, and the final two-parter being not just the best of the season, or the best Capaldi episode, but possibly the best of Moffat's whole run.

It's a pity that Capaldi's leaving, just when he finally had a chance to be great.  It's almost (but not quite) a pity that Moffat is leaving, when he finally managed to produce a consistently great season (he had a consistently decent season or two before that).

So that brings us to the next doctor, Jodie Whittaker:

It might surprise you all to hear that I have no specific objection to a woman playing the Doctor. I honestly wasn't expecting it. I had always thought we'd see a darker-skinned male Doctor first, if only because this would be less harmful for the BBC in its foreign markets while still gaining them all the needed praise from the Virtue-Signalling crowd.

But I agree with the fundamental point that, unlike some other characters, the Doctor has regeneration as one of the key elements of his persona. The Doctor could look like anyone, and have a different personality and yet as long as he she or it still had the fundamental qualities every Doctor has, they could still be the Doctor.

So it largely depends on the chops of the actor.  I haven't honestly seen enough of Whittaker to judge her suitability to play the Doctor, having only really seen her in a very non-Doctor-like roll in Broadchurch.
But I'm willing to trust that she at least theoretically could be capable of playing the role.

I don't have a problem with a female Doctor in general, or with this female Doctor in particular (until I've seen her in action).

But I DO have a problem with the BBC.

Here's why it will probably go horribly wrong: you can have all the confidence in the world in Jodie Whittaker, but if the production and stories she's given are garbage, her skill as an actor won't matter.

And I have a very strong certainty that what we'll be seeing from the BBC in the next season will be just that, absolute garbage. It will be 12 episodes of BBC Triumphalism about how "The Doctor is a Woman Now" combined with "Isn't That Amazing?", "Isn't She So Much Better Than Any Man Including Male Doctors?", and "Suck It, All You Gross Evil Men (And By Gross Evil Men We Mean 7-12 Year Old Boys Who Are Watching, We Want You To Know For Sure You're Doomed To be Second Class Citizens Now)".
Her character will be "Woman".  The plot will be "Woman". The entire premise will be about "Woman".  The villains will all be turned into metaphors for misogyny or the patriarchy if not themselves being outright sexists; expect at least 50% of them to make some derogatory comment about the Doctor being a woman, only to have the Doctor show them up with her "powerful female life force".  It won't be the least bit surprising if just to make the point clear, she helps to overthrow some obvious stand-in for Donald Trump and helps put an obvious stand-in for Hillary Clinton into power, possibly both in the same episode. Hell, possibly more than one episode.

So here's the tragedy of it:
Jodie Whittaker won't be allowed to be the Doctor, she'll be too busy being a bullet fired by the Identity-Politics Left against their perceived deadly enemies: male nerds, the ephemeral "patriarchy", little boys, women who refuse to be feminist, and a bunch of extremely conservative 'prejudices' no one actually believes in anymore but that the Left insists on still fighting as a strawman.

And while they're heroically pissing all over strawmen and geeky virgin shut-ins and little boys, the Leftist media will sing their praises in articles about how amazing the new female Doctor Who is, just like they did for Ghostbusters, with a hearty dose of vengeful spite thrown in.   They've already started, just for good measure.

And any criticism of the new series, any at all, will lead to the social-media Left accusing the perpetrator of such a thought crime of being a Rapist for daring to suggest the new Powerful-Female-Life-Force Doctor isn't utterly perfect in every way and a triumph against evil white men.

All this will mean that, just like before, after some initial large ratings from the sheer curiosity of a female Doctor, the viewers will start to abandon the series.

And just like before, when they do, the BBC and all the Leftist media will not accept any responsibility. Rather, they will use the dismal ratings and viewer-appreciation figures as "Proof" of the "toxic masculinity of nerd culture", going into diatribes about how it's the audience's fault, how it proves that little boys will never accept female doctors and need more indoctrination in schools about how awful they are, that nerds are hateful rapists-in-waiting and all of nerd culture needs to be torn down, how the UN should pass a law imprisoning anyone who says the new female Doctor Who sucks, and how all this means they just need to double-down on the feminism.

Now I really hope I'm wrong. But everything I know of the BBC tells me I'm right, and this is how it's going to go down. The only question is whether it'll end with firings and a regeneration (and if so, into what?), or with the show simply being cancelled, in the ultimate act of "punishment" against those evil rape-culture patriarchal misogynistic nerds (many of them women and girls) who would refuse to keep watching while the BBC turned their show into one long 12-hour Buzzfeed rant.

And again, none of this will have anything to do with Jodie Whittaker as an actress, or the idea of a woman playing the Doctor. In the hands of someone who didn't give a fuck about identity politics, the latter could be pulled off just fine.  I just don't think we'll ever get the chance to know.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Egg + H&H's Chestnut

Wednesday 19 July 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: These Stars are Ours!

This is a review of "These Stars are Ours", a setting book for the "Cepheus Engine" rules (which are themselves a kind of retro-clone of the Traveller rules).  This is a review of the print edition, which is a hardcover book written by Omer Golan-Joel, Richard Hazlewood, and Josh Peters. It's published by Stellagama Publishing.

The book's full-color cover has a Traveller-esque image of a spaceship, in orbit over an Earth-like planet (possibly Earth, since it's central to the setting), approaching what is either a larger spaceship or a space-station, I can't quite tell which. The interior art is black and white and rather sparse, but includes ship deckplans and star-maps.

I'm pleased with someone making an alternate setting for use with Traveller rules (or second-hand Traveller rules). I don't have any particular dislike for the Imperium. But I've always thought that Traveller as a system really doesn't need to be bound to one setting.  Of course, there are other alternative settings, most recently I reviewed Traveller:Mindjammer.  We'll see how These Stars Are Ours rates as an alternative.

The basic gist of the setting is that it is the year 2260, shortly after a war between of Terran Liberation against the mighty Reticulan Empire. The Reticulans (who look a lot like the 'grey aliens' of countless abductions from trailer parks) showed up en masse in the late 21st century, with promises of advanced technology, and the spineless world elites quickly handed over absolute power to them. Soon it became obvious that Earth had become a slave-state in the Reticulan empire. After various atrocities and failed rebellions, the Terran Revolution finally took off in the 2230s and gradually, after decades of war and with the help of a couple of other oppressed alien races and an internal rebellion among the Reticulans, the Reticulans were finally forced to sue for peace and give up an important chunk of their empire to the new Terran Republic in 2258.

 This led to the United Terran Republic becoming a major interstellar power. The setting is designed for (I quote) a "background of espionage, maneuvering and saber-rattling, and on the new interstellar frontiers the player characters can forge a destiny of heroes or villains of the new United Terran Republic".

The book details an area star-map of 16x10 hexes, with 64 major worlds in that area.

(note: the map in the printed version is in black & white)

We're told that to use the book you need the Cepheus Engine SRD (available through DriveThru) though I suspect you could also just use any Traveller rules.

The chapter starts out with setting material about the United Terran Republic, which frankly I think is a bit of an organizational error.  The chapter is very text-heavy, detailing the history of the Republic's rise (for like, 6 pages of pure text), then several more pages of society and government, ideologies, military forces, psionics, terrorism and other stuff.  It's a lot to read, and I think it would  have been wiser to start out with character creation (which often tells you a lot about the implicit setting) and then leave the heavier stuff for a later chapter.

Anyways, the very broad gist of it is that the Earth just won a war of liberation for itself, along with some alien allies, against a ridiculously older and more powerful species.  Now, on the whole, a spirit of optimism, certainty and expansionist thinking dominates the human race. I like that, it's nice to see a sci-fi game where you don't have everything being decadent or everyone being nihilist.

There is still a kind of Cold War going on between Earth and the Reticulans, and there's various major ideological schools of thought about that and and about expansion.  Some favor a focus on making peace on the Reticulans and leading them to change their culture through peaceful means. Others are nativists who want to more or less remain isolationist, then there's some who want to keep on a hawkish warlike footing with the Reticulans, and finally there's the 'hawkish nativists' (basically human-supremacist imperialists) who want a Terran Republic where humans dominate over the other species that are now in their territory.

As far as psionics in the game, the Terran Republic's position is generally benevolent but watchful over psychics. They are helped by a government bureaucracy to train their powers, but there are restrictions and laws about what are legal or illegal uses of psionic abilities.

Unlike a ridiculously vast majority of sci-fi settings, Corporations in this setting are not Evil by Default. That's certainly a nice change.  Most are just involved in business. One or two have some shady dealings, which makes sense, and one or two are very straight-laced and even 'moral' inasmuch as a corporation concerns itself with morality. What  you won't see here is what you get in a lot of other settings where "evil megacorps try to run everything and do evil things because they are evil".

There are some terrorist and criminal organizations in the setting: the more radical nativists have an ultra-radical wing called the "Children of Gaia" who engage in violent crimes against aliens. The "Consortium" is basically like the 23rd century version of the mafia, organized crime families. The "Exalted order of Fomalhaut" are followers of the Reticulan's religion (which was the state religion of Earth during the Reticulan occupation), who were declared illegal as 5th columnists during the war of Terran liberation, and today exist as a shadowy order engaging in espionage and infiltration on behalf of the Reticulans. The "Interstellar Liberation Army" consists of people (many of them "old guard" revolutionaries and military) who seek to restart the war and finish the job of liberating all of local space from the Reticulan Rule.

These are all fairly well-thought-out groups in the context of what the setting is about, and can make very useful sources of enemies or potentially patrons in a campaign.

The chapter on aliens is next, and starts with a detailed breakdown of the Reticulans and their empire. This includes details on their biology, their political groupings, their internal rebels (the Technocrats, who take the rationality of the Reticulan species to the conclusion that the Imperial structure of the empire is an outmoded anachronism to be overthrown), their military, and guidelines for playing a Reticulan character.

The Cicek are humanoid warm-blooded reptiles. They were the closest allies to the humans in the war of liberation. Cicek males are aggressive, anarchic, individualistic, and territorial, obsessed with personal glory. They were barbaric only a few centuries back before their world was conquered, so they still have a lot of relatively 'primitive' cultural features.

The Zhuzzh are an insectoid race. They're traders, scavengers and pirates. They're space nomads, with a shamanistic type of culture. They're pragmatic and opportunists.

Ssesslessians are reptilian snakelike beings. They were liberated by Earth but bear a lot of resentment toward Terrans, because they had failed to successfully plot their own liberation or revenge against their former overlords. The Ssesslessians had long ago been an interstellar power in their own right, but were brutally conquered by the Reticulans after refusing to surrender to their superior power, and their homeworld was rendered uninhabitable. They  have a complex polytheist religious system and are governed by their priest caste. They see themselves as tools of their gods and felt it was their divine mission to avenge themselves on the Reticulans (a revenge that the humans thwarted). They are skilled assassins.

The Chiwak are a birdlike species, though more in the "velociraptor" sense than, say, bluejays. They're carnivorous pack hunters. They were not slaves of the Reticulans but rather have their own stellar empire on the other border of the Reticulans from Earth. They used the war of liberation opportunistically to take a great deal of territory.

A couple of other minor species are detailed in shorter segments, as well as the "Precursors". The latter are mysterious aliens (this setting's version of Traveller's "Ancients") who had dominated space something around 15000 years ago, and then disappeared or destroyed themselves in an apocalyptic war. Several species (including the Chiwak and the Reticulans) claim to be descendants or inheritors of the Precursors.
There is also a much older 'lost species' referred to as the Gardeners, that some hypothesize spread relatively-compatible life around the whole area of space some 70 million years ago.

Chapter 3 deals with character creation, at long last. We're now 79 pages in, and while it was all interesting, it feels like a shitload of information before getting to how to make a character.  This is probably not as big a deal on account that most people getting the book will already be familiar with Traveller, but even so I think that (as my single big criticism of the book) it would have been wiser from a layout perspective to put character creation first (after maybe a very brief couple of pages of introduction).

The chapter starts out with some details about how to play alien PCs; the default is humans, but modifications and guidelines (as well as several whole careers) are provided if a GM wants to have non-human PCs.

The particulars will be immediately recognizable to anyone who's ever played Traveller. 2d6 for stats, get a homeworld, background, then start a career. All the standard stuff is there: survival, advancement, skills, aging, mustering out etc.

I'll note that it seems the Survival rules doesn't actually let you end up dead in character creation. But if you get an injury you roll and END check (with a penalty) and depending on how it turns out you can go from a range of effects between "cool scar" to "lose both arms, both legs, and blinded".  Luckily in the latter case, there's rules on cybernetics.  The character creation rules also cover psionic characters.

The Cepheus engine rules include a number of civilian careers which are listed as acceptable for this setting, but there's also a number of new careers which are presented here (16 in all) specific to the setting. This includes various alien careers, the CRC-8/16 (the Terran intelligence unit), CRC-32 (psionic intelligence), Elite (high class characters), Merchant, PRI (psionic, non-military), Scout, Terran Army, Terran Guard (irregulars), Terran Marines, Terran Naval Infantry, Terran Navy, and Terran Police.

There's event tables (as an optional rule), and also a War Events table (for events that the character experienced during the war), and a Civilian Events table.  A character can even end up in prison, and there's a table for skills gained while in prison!

Next up is the starship rules. These basically cover the differences for spaceships accounting for setting-technology of the book's setting (as opposed to the Traveller/Cepheus-Engine default).

A number of starships are provided, with floorplans, from different setting races.

The chapter on the Terran Borderlands starts by presenting the changes to the world-creation rules in the standard rules.  This includes a table for world temperatures, and some new spectral classes.

An overview is now presented for Terran space, with a standard star-map (Traveller Style), centered on the Terran Republic but featuring the bordering areas of the Reticulans and other races. All the planets in the map are presented with their world profile, and a paragraph or two of descriptions.  The whole thing is pretty rationally organized and the setting is (as one would expect) pretty coherent. The border areas and unclaimed worlds in particular provide a lot of rich potential for adventuring.

The final regular chapter presents a dozen patrons, outlined with a description, GM information, and a table of potential complications. It's essentially a small set of options for adventure seeds.  I think it is some ways a better choice than trying to provide a more rigid introductory adventure. The patrons vary considerably, everything from generals to celebrities to aliens.

There's a few short appendices. The first one lists some recent news items, five in total. They're all basically adventure seeds in the form of news updates.  The next appendix lists inspirations for the setting: literature is largely military sci-fi. There's Heinlein (Starship Troopers, of course), the Man-Kzin wars by Larry Niven, John Scalzi, and Barry Longyear's Enemy Mine, among others.  Film inspirations include the Alien series, Enemy Mine (again), Outland, and Serenity. TV has the expected stuff (Andromeda, Babylon 5, Space Above and Beyond; definitely NOT Star Trek). The longest list (with 14 items) is actually Video Games, including Wing Commander, Star Control and Mass Effect.

There's no character sheet, but I suppose that comes with the Cepheus Engine rules.

So, what can we conclude about These Stars Are Ours?  Simply put, it's a very well designed 'hard sci-fi' style of setting for Traveller-compatible use.

If you're a Traveller fan, and want an alternative to the Imperium, but not something that goes too far away from the Traveller standards, this is a good way to go.  If you want something that moves more toward the trans-human and modern sci-fi, you may want Traveller: Mindjammer instead.

If you like the sound of the setting, even if you haven't played Traveller before, you can always pick up the Cepheus Engine rules and run this setting.

As far as running it with other systems, that's certainly possible, though you might end up having to do quite a bit of conversion to get some of the more worthwhile stuff you get out of the character creation process here.


Currently Smoking: Davidoff 400-series + C&D's Bayou Evening

Tuesday 18 July 2017

I Was Wrong! There IS More Than One Way to Play Blue Rose.

So yesterday I posted a classic rant about Blue Rose, and this led to a few comments. I wasn't honestly expecting anything to come of it, only sometimes it seems people post  more comments when a blog is reposted than they did back in the original article.  Maybe I'm ahead of my time. Or people have had more time to think of their opinions.

Anyways, someone commented to me that if I'm arguing Aldis (the Blue Rose setting) is a totalitarian state and the new edition of Blue Rose unashamedly presents the default gameplay of the PCs not as individualist adventure-seekers but as agents of that totalitarian state enforcing conformity, then surely I had to have the same condemnation for the Dark Heresy book for WH40K, where you play brutal agents of a totalitarian state repressing any non-conformity. Right?

Well, I certainly have no special love for Dark Heresy.  As a specific game, DH RPG is badly done. It reduces the WH40K world into a micro-game.

As to the WH40K world as a whole, the setting in its modern incarnation is ridiculously stupid, infantile, and the sort of thing that is appealing to violence-obsessed adolescents (most adolescent boys like big guns and explosions and killing, it's the hormones), and emotionally-stunted man-children.

That said, I don't really think Games Workshop is pushing an ideology they actually believe in through their setting. The authors of BR are.  The authors of Dark Heresy are not, to my knowledge, people who hang around on Fascist websites and call for the deaths of the unbelievers. The authors of Blue Rose are people who self-identify as radical progressives, "activists", members of "the resistance" and who organized a campaign to try to force/shame/intimidate gamers and game designers into signing an "#Gamers4Her" pledge to vote Hillary.  They want a world like Aldis.

One more thought, however, about WH40K: it wasn't always like this. The early era, the original Rogue Trader, it was funny. It was obviously written highly tongue-in-cheek. It presented a ridiculous sort of universe, a dystopia of black comedy.

And this made me realize I was wrong about one of my most frequent talking points about Blue Rose.

You see, I'd already stated that I thought the only way to viably run Blue Rose would be as a counter-setting game, where the PCs are heroic individualists fighting against the oppressive thought-control regime.  That Blue Rose fails even as a progressivist romantic-fantasy genre setting, because it is too perfect, too propagandistic beyond the wildest dreams of Soviet state artists, so that the standard romantic fantasy trope of "plucky young heroine fights against prejudice, injustice and/or oppression with a rag-tag group of social rejects and save the kingdom while changing people's opinions" is impossible to achieve. The only "plucky young heroes" that could face culturally-approved "prejudice, injustice and/or oppression" in the world of Blue Rose would be a teenage version of Ayn Rand or Milo Yiannopoulos.   The only heroic campaign (rather than agents of oppression) that could be played in Blue Rose would be the Heralds of Breitbart campaign.

But now I realize I was wrong.  There IS another way to do Blue Rose, as inspired by early WH40K: parody.  You could play a Blue Rose Campaign, as the designers suggest, with the PCs playing "agents of the queen's chosen guard", where the PCs are insufferably deluded "Social Justice Warriors" who just don't get how horribly dystopic their world is, or that they're actually fascists.

They run around persecuting micro-aggressions, and ultimately trying to out-virtue-signal each other by reporting on their fellow PCs.

It would be like a new fantasy version of Paranoia. Totalitarian black-comedy zaniness in the name of the Magic Deer.


Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + C&D's Pirate Kake