Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Psi-Wars Atlas I: Introduction and Overview

 For this month, my patreons voted for a setting overview.  The intent of this vote was no more than 2,000 words, but as you can tell from the fact that I've talked about nothing but maps for the past couple of weeks, it has turned out to be a much larger undertaking than I expected, and it'll take awhile to release, as there's quite some material.

I'm often asked what my method for setting creation is, and I wanted to take a moment to highlight my approach to this one.  If you look over my last two posts, you'll get some perspective on how I sorted the galaxy, and there's more that could be done.  I could sit down and make sure that I don't repeat myself with systems that are too similar ("Dantooine. Tatooine."), or ensure that every star system has something interesting in it, something players can deal with.

I didn't do that.  Instead, I did something else, and I'll offer it to you as a tip, especially for your first run: Write what you know.  People too often stare at a blank sheet and freeze up; when I ask them what they want to write, they say they "don't know."  That's a lie, you do know, you're just worried.  Write what you've got in your head!  It won't be good, but you can always go back and revise it later.

That's what I'm doing here.  I'm writing what's been accumulating in my head, based on the core themes I see of each region of the galaxy, the various aliens I've written up, the snippets of history I've stitched together, and mentioned worlds that have made it into character backgrounds or faction write-ups.  In many cases, I had to make up names on the spot to vague concepts I'd been using for quite a long time.

This is, perhaps, a long-winded way of saying that this is a first draft.  We'll almost certainly revisit, renaming worlds, expanding them, adding new ones, removing redundant ones.  Thus, I welcome feedback, and even encourage you to suggest your own worlds.  You can leave a comment, or hit me up on our discord!

This will also be long, so I've broken it up into pieces, and not everything is even done at the moment of this writing (I have the galactic core and half of one of the four arms written). I also want to emphasize that the detail here is sparse, because this is a setting overview, and not a deep dive into specific worlds.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Mapping Psi-Wars 2: Galactic Map Making

So, previously, I had a post on making a map in general, but the problem with Psi-Wars, and space-based sci-fi in general, is that astrophysical realities make map-making in space especially challenging. I wanted to spend a post talking about these difficulties and how I plan to fudge things to make it work for Psi-Wars.

I also want to comment that I'm not entirely happy with this post.  Galaxies are pretty complicated, and this post was already running long, but I hope I captured the sort of core issues that one faces when going from the surface of a planet to the black sea of the stars.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Mapping Psi-Wars 1: Map-Making in Theory and Practice

Making a Map

Ever since Tolkien unveiled his Middle Earth with the luxurious map of his world therein, fantasy worlds have followed suit, and I personally find it difficult to find fantasy novels that don’t include a map. This has spilled into the fantasy RPG genre, such that Dungeon Master who begins his campaign preparations by first sketching a map has become a cliché in RPG circles. One can do a quick search of the internet to find a glut of such maps and software that can make them look fantastic.

Sci-fi settings seem to have less of a close relationship with maps. Star Wars, Star Trek and Warhammer 40k all have such maps, but they don’t seem to feature nearly as prominently in the work. While sci-fi mappers certainly enjoy mapping our worlds and sectors, they seem to do so with less gusto, especially when it comes to galactic scale maps. I think this is, in part, because such maps are less visceral for readers. You intuitively understand concepts like “Mountain” and “Ocean” but “blue star” and “red star” don’t say nearly as much to you.

I’ve held off on creating a map for Psi-Wars for a variety of reasons, but my Patrons have requested it as a January topic (if you want to vote on the February topic, feel free to join us and help us build the Psi-Wars setting!), so here we are. The actual creation of a good looking map is proving quite difficult and time-consuming, so we might not see an “actual” map so much as a sketch and descriptions, but I also wanted to stop and take the time to discuss what I think the purpose of a map is, mistakes people often make, and what I’m trying to achieve with my map.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Generalized Politics - Domain Management

Quite some time ago, I released a commissioned GURPS work: the Orphans of the Stars (If you’re a patron, check it out. If you’re not, feel free to join us! Of course, this post should tackle most things without you needing that document to follow along, but it's a handy worked-example). The intent behind the design was to create a space opera political system in a rather specific, Dune-inspired setting, with extensive bio-tech and where genetically engineered nobles ruled planets.

Since then, I’ve had several people ask me for a more generalized version of the political system, especially in regards to lower-tech settings, such as fantasy worlds, so I offered it as a General Topic Patreon Poll option for January, and it won quite handily!

Before I dive too deeply into this post, I want to highlight what it is and what it isn’t. First, “politics” can have many meanings. People sometimes use it to mean the manipulation of mass populations to persuade them to your course (covered by the GURPS skill of Propaganda); some people use it to mean drama and the accumulation or destruction of influence in a courtly/governmental setting (covered by the GURPS skill of Politics); and sometimes, we mean the management of a population or a domain (covered by the GURPS skill of Administration). This post is primarily about the last, about administrating a domain. Politics as manipulation of courtly settings is mostly handled by GURPS SocialEngineering, and perhaps I’ll go into it more at a later date. It’s also more of a “player vs player,” social-combat sort of situation, which is fine, but Orphans of the Star was designed for cooperative play, where characters controlled different aspects of the government, sort of like playing Civilization except you each control one arm of the domain, instead of the whole of the domain yourself.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Elite Armor II: Imperial Knight Armor

Over on my Patreon, I did a poll some time ago about the elements of the Emperor’s mystical conspiracy, those aspects of the Empire that are beyond the control of generals and bureaucrats, that answer directly to him and know of his command over Dark Communion. One such element is the Imperial Knight, a small cadre of elite psychics who have studied at the feet of the Emperor himself and deploy their psychic might in a dark mirror of the Maradon Space Knight or, more accurately, as a dark mirror to the Templars of Communion.

In Tinker Titan Rebel Spy, we had a player who wanted to be an imperial knight (even before Imperial Knights were a thing), and wanted to know what sort of armor they would have. I gave him some hacked together version of what I had designed for Maradon Space Knights, but it required a few different features, such as a unique material (diamondoid laminate, in this case). When I rebuilt the materials, he expressed sadness that I had removed their unique material (replacing it with Carbide Laminate, which is “common” now for the soldiers of the Empire). What this says to me is that his armor mattered to him. And why shouldn’t it? An Imperial Knight is as defined by his armor as a Maradon space knight is.

So, if I’m going to give Maradon space knights cool armor options, should I not give the same to Imperial Knights? More, this is an opportunity to show off some of the other options made available to the Cult of the Emperor, what secret technologies he uses to empower his most prized minions.

Imperial Knights are an order of magnitude rarer than Maradon Space Knights, but where most space knights play at war with their dueling while warrior over-priced fashion-original armor, the Imperial Knights are titans of psychic power with access to Dark Communion and thus make up for quantity with quality. So while this armor is unlikely to see much use throughout the Empire, those who wear it are such key NPCs, or the armor is sufficiently interesting to PCs, that its definitely worth diving into at great length.

Imperial Knight armor is elite armor. It may not be purchased with money, only as signature gear.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Elite Armor I: Maradon Space Knight Armor

While working on armor, I came to a few realizations.  First, increasingly, armor is the signature of a few factions, especially the Maradonian space knights.  One thing I've noticed my readers really enjoy is the idea of a fully armored space knight, rather than the lightly-clad space samurai of Star Wars.  I don't think they mind the latter so much as see the former as an element that stands out.  As such, I want to really bring an emphasis to that armor.

Psi-Wars feels like fantasy, but isn't.  From this, certain forms of Space Opera gain a lot of interesting tension, so I wanted the armor of the setting to merge tropes of each.  On the one hand, they should be obviously "plate armor," perhaps with relic suits worn by ancestors and maybe with magic psychic powers embedded into them.  But at the same time, if you look through the designs of armor in Star Wars: the Old Republic, or even just Star Wars itself, you find glowing buttons and tubes and wires.  What does all of that do?  I want to evoke a feel of the space marine who lovingly attends his armor, runs diagnostics over the whole thing before closing it about him with an atmospheric hiss and a click, and then ignites his force sword with a crack and prepares for battle.

All of this means that I need to give Space Knight Armor additional attention and, perhaps, ways of differentiating them.  Ideally, given its nature, each suit would be perfectly unique, as is true of all forms of Low-Tech armor from which it draws its inspiration, but asking your players to design their own suits of armor is a bridge too far, so I offer a few models and a few modification options below.

All forms of Elite Armor, including Space Knight armor, are sufficiently unique that one cannot buy them; they must be purchased as Signature Gear.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Psi-Wars Armor

This took longer than I thought.  Thank you for your patience!

This should be an all-inclusive list of all generic armor, readily market-available, in the Psi-Wars setting. If more arises, I’ll add to it. Most of the armor is presented as generic; the lack of inclusion of various corporations (especially Colt and Han & Kord) does not mean they do not produce armor, rather that the armor they produce is no different from the armor noted below.

There will be additional armor, but not included here.  This will represent "rare" and exclusive armor, typically taken as signature gear rather than purchased off the market.

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