Wednesday, August 16, 2017

House Grimshaw, Part 1

If House Sabine was the aristocracy at its most egalitarian, I wanted a house that represented the elitism inherent in aristocracy.  I wanted to remind you, dear reader, that nobility is not always so noble, that sometimes, it can be deeply oppressive.  Which isn't to say that I wanted to make them outright villains, but I did draw considerable inspiration from some villains I've used in the past.

From that initial kernel, they've changed quite a bit.  Originally, I had intended for them to be telepathic, but I eventually shifted that to another house.  I also wanted them to rule over the homeworld of the Shinjurai, representing a sort of oppression, so Ergokinesis (not as a means of interface, but as a means of the destruction of technology) fit.  From there, they sort of became "space wizards."

I also wanted to take the opportunity to create an example of a cadet branch, to show you how they might work.  This idea inspired some of the drama below.  Originally, I named the house Daijin (though a very complicated route of inspirations, including the name the Japanese had for samurai families, and the name of the four-state period that followed the fall of Alexander the great), but settled on Grimshaw because at least one house of Maradon should use a Maradonian name, you know?

The result makes for an excellent "villain" candidate.  If there's a house you want to put all your sinister conspiracies and dark plans for conquest, this is the house for it.  But I try to push for multiple perspectives on a house (the "dramatic poles" as Robin Laws might say), and that comes for their reason for oppression: they see themselves, right or wrong, as the last vestiges of true conservationism in the Alliance.  The Alliance claims to be fighting to restore the Federation, but House Grimshaw actually is.  This also makes them champions of a golden age, and depending on how you see that "golden age," that makes them heroes or villains.

The House Grimshaw

Cadet Branches: Daijin

House Grimshaw is technically a cadet branch from the now disgraced House Daijin. The latter served as the chancellor to House Alexus, and ruled over the Royal Moon, Atrium, that circles Maradon. After the fall of the House of Alexus, the most powerful noble of the era, Shio Daijin, stepped up to seize the Empire, and saw the rest of the Houses rise up to defeat him and cast him down as a war criminal and usurper. Since then, House Grimshaw rose to take Daijin’s place. Like House Sabine, Grimshaw’s power base lies primarily in humanity’s home and the center of the Alliance, and thus it retained most of its power when the Federation fell.

The Oracular Order saw House Daijin (and thus Grimshaw) as defenders of the status quo. They oversaw the governance of the Maradon Empire, guided the Alexian Emperor, and recorded its history in the great libraries of Atrium. At the same time, they maintained constant vigil against those who would deviate from the Golden Path. House Grimshaw has largely remained true to the Oracular Order’s vision, and more than any House, concerns itself with the purity of its blood. Despite its early struggles, house Grimshaw has become the aristocracy of aristocracy, and stands today as one of the most powerful houses of the Alliance.

Members of House Grimshaw appear no more, or less, attractive than the common folk (though they tend to have more aristocratic features than most), but they have strong, magnetic personalities that draw others to them. Most Grimshaw have vibrantly blue or liquid silver eyes and an intense, almost electric gaze, that seems to crackle of glow when they draw upon their psionic heritage, ergokinesis. Despite their charisma, however, most Grimshaw have cold, calculating personalities. They tend to concern themselves first and foremost with the safety and power of their House and, thereafter, with their adherence to the philosophies of the bygone Oracular Order and, lastly, with ensuring that everyone else adhere to their vision as well.

Grimshaw Titles

House Grimshaw, through its connection to the royal House Daijin, is also a royal house. House Daijin still retains its hereditary dominion over Atrium as Count or Countess. The master of House Grimshaw is always a Duke, and traditionally the Duke of Denjuku (Homeworld to the Shinjurai) and Lord of the Shinjurai. They also have seats at the executive boards of a variety of corporations, not the least of which is Syntech. They also traditionally hold the title of Master of Ceremonies, the sons and daughters of Grimshaw Dukes may title themselves Prince or Princess, and they recently persuaded the Senate to allow some of their rank to hold the title of Defender of the Faith.

Notable members of House Grimshaw

The Duke Bale Grimshaw rules the House, and holds more influence and power than any other current Alliance noble. He strongly believes in returning the Alliance back to its roots and restoring the Federation, though he’s willing to forge a truce with the Empire if it gives the Alliance time to solidify its position. A staunch conservative, he opposes any expansion of non-aristocratic power, regularly pushes to expansion of aristocracy privilege, and advocates for a return to the Oracular Order as a state philosophy. He has also begun rehabilitating the image of Shio Daijin, revising his memory from usurper to patriot, and rumor swirls around Bale Grimshaw’s ambition: many suspect he intends to create a second Alexian Empire, with himself at its head.

Shio Daijin remains a controversial figure to this day. After the death of the last Alexian Emperor, his forces moved quickly to secure the Imperial Capital, so seamlessly that some accuse him of orchestrating the murder of the last Alexian Emperor (though he almost certainly didn’t strike the deathblow himself). He then engaged in a powerful crackdown on the last remnants of the Knights of Communion and those Houses that still revolted against the central power, attempting to seize control of the Empire or, according to House Grimshaw, to restore order to the Empire. Either way, he failed and the victors executed him as a war criminal. House Grimshaw, which rose after the fall of Daijin, originally distanced itself from his actions, but today, speak more warmly of their founding house.

Janus Daijin founded the House, and while the specter of Shio Daijin has retroactively tainted his memory, his remains still rest in the imperial necropolis of Maradon with the rest of the old Alexian heroes. He served as adviser and councilor to Alexus, using his considerable psionic power and genius to guide his master to victory after victory, both in matters of war and matters of peace, and he was offered the first daughter of Alexus as his bride. He wielded such psionic power that the Oracular Order, in eugenically engineering House Grimshaw, did not seek to improve them, but to ensure that they bred true to their founder.

Grimshaw Eugenic Legacy

Grimshaw Eugenic Power-Up 50 points

Advantages: Grimshaw Bloodline [1]; Spend up to 49 points on Classic Appearance (Aristocratic) [1] or on the following packages:

Grimshaw Magnetism [6]

Grimshaw Detachment [16]

Grimshaw Intellect [16]

Grimshaw Power [10]

Disadvantages: Replace any of your template disadvantages with the following disadvantages (If you have Bloodline Purity 2 or higher, you may choose an additional -5 points worth of the following disadvantages, increasing your disadvantage limit by -5 points!): Callous [-5], Distinctive Feature (Silver or vibrantly blue eyes) [-1], Jealousy [-10], Mental Instability [Varies], No Sense of Humor [-10], Overconfidence [-5*], Selfishness [-5*]

Grimshaw Magnetism 6

Advantages: Charisma 1 [5], Bloodline Purity 1 [1]

Grimshaw Detachment 16

Advantages: Bloodline Purity 1 [1], Unfazeable [15]

Grimshaw Intellect 16

Attributes: IQ +1 [20]

Secondary Characteristics: -1 Perception [-5]

Advantages: Bloodline Purity 1 [1]

Grimshaw Power 10

Secondary Characteristics: Fatigue +3 [9]

Advantages: Bloodline Purity 1 [1]

Features: Fatigue may exceed HT by 100% [0]

Daijin Eugenic Power-Up 50 points

As the Grimshaw Eugenic Power-Up, but replace Grimshaw Magnetism with Daijin Focus:

Daijin Focus 6

Advantages: Single Minded [5], Bloodline Purity 1 [1]

Mental Instability

Mental Instability is a secret disadvantage (B120), a lurking “trap” in the genetics that the GM can spring upon a player whenever he, provided she takes the Mental Instability disadvantage. Allow the player to take up to between -10 and -20 points, and then assign a disadvantage worth at least five points less.

The most common mental instabilities for House Grimshaw are Delusion (“Everything is Connected”, or “Secret conspiracies seek to undermine the Alliance”) [-5 to -10] or Paranoia [-10].

Grimshaw Psionic Legacy

House Grimshaw has latent Ergokinesis Abilities. If the character has the Grimshaw Bloodline perk and the requisite Bloodline Purity levels, he may take the following abilities and talents whenever he wishes:

Bloodline Purity 0: EK Shield (PP 33) [4/level]; Electric Vision (PP 33) [8 to 12]; Light Amplification PP 35) [1], Power Generator (PP 35) [1]; Presence (Pyramid #3-69 p7) [1].

Blood Purity 1: Flash (PP 35) [22+5/level]; Surge (PP 340 [11/level].

Blood Purity 3: Dampen (PP 33) [12/level]; Lightning (PP 33) [12/level].

Blood Purity 4: Ergokinesis Talent +1 to +4 [5/level]

Sample Grimshaw Psionic Power Packages

Grimshaw Deflection 25 points

Prerequisite: Grimshaw Bloodline

The Grimshaw can absorb or deflect enery attacks sent his way, and many focus on batting aside blaster fire with a wave of their hand. Grishaw Deflection provides a DR of 25 against energy attacks (blasters, force swords, lightning or plasma weapons).

Advantages: EK Shield 5 [20]

Skills: EK Shield (H) IQ-2 [2];

Technique: Blaster Absorbtion (H) EK Shield-1 [3];

Grimshaw Vision 25 points

Prerequisite: Grimshaw Bloodline

The Grimshaw simply sees electricity, that it is present, and how it flows. He may make a skill roll to detect any hidden electrical devices and to gain greater insight into how that device functions and its nature. Apply normal vision penalties (range, darkness, etc). He may even see such devices through intervening matter, such as stone or metal, up to a foot thick.

Advantages: Electric Vision 2 [12]

Skills: Electric Vision (H) Per [4];

Techniques: Deep Scan (H) Electric Vision +0 [9]

Grimshaw Purge 25 points

Prerequisite: Grimshaw Bloodline, Bloodline Purity 1

Should someone use technology a Grimshaw disapproves of, he may short it out with nothing more than a judgmental glower and a wave of his hand. If the Grimshaw can see it (see Grimshaw vision), he may make a roll against Surge, which the device opposes with HT. If he succeeds, he rolls 2d and if the rolled value is over 1/3rd of the devices HP, it must make an HT roll or short out for seconds equal to its margin of failure. This attack ignores DR completely!

Advantages: Surge 2 [22]

Skills: Surge (H) Will-2 [1]

Techniques: Mass Surge (H) Surge-6 [2]

Grimshaw Glory 25 points

Prerequisite: Grimshaw Bloodline, Bloodline Purity 1

The Grimshaw focuses all ambient light into a single pulse from a single point, usually just behind his head, creating a momentary halo of power. Anyone within 2 yards must roll HT; failure stuns the target (they may roll to recover each second to recover), while those who fail by 5 or more are blinded for minutes equal to the margin of failure. Protected vision grants +5 to resist this roll, and characters with closed eye or who are already blind are immune.

Advantages: Flash 1 [22]

Skills: Flash (H) Will-2 [1]

Techniques: Overwhelm (H) Flash-3 [2]

Grimshaw Fury 25 points

Prerequisite: Grimshaw Bloodline, Blood Purity 3

The Grimshaw draws lightning from nearby electrical flows (such as the power in the wall or in a nearby reactor). Such an attack deals 2d burn, Acc 3, Range 50/100/ ROF 1. Some Grimshaw learn to focus this lightning more intensely, gaining an armor divisor of 5; Remember extra effort to improve the attack!

Advantages: Lightning 2 [24]

Skills: Lightning (H) IQ-3 [1];

Technique: Particle Beam (H) Lightning-7 [0];

Grimshaw Shadow 25 points

Prerequisite: Grimshaw Bloodline, Blood Purity 3

By exerting his “shadow,” a Grimshaw can end all technological activity within an area of two yards radius, either around him, or in an area touching him. This causes all electricity it that affected area to stop flowing, causing all electrical devices to simply cease functioning.

Advantages: Dampen 2 [24]

Skills: Dampen (H) IQ-3 [1];

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

House Sabine, Part 2

People will want to play as members of a house, so naturally, we need to make some modifications to the Aristocratic Background lens to allow them to do so.

As you may have noticed, these posts are much more specific than most of the previous posts of Iteration 6, with names, planets and cultures.  Aristocracy is "bound to the land," you cannot discuss a house without discussing its lands, its culture, the people who serve it, and offering up generic examples aren't enough (in fact, that's what I've done these past two weeks!).  You need to see concrete examples, so I've done that here.

In a sense, a house is like a world in that they have their own culture, though I would argue their culture should have no more than 1-3 distancing mechanism: they're not an alien culture, just a distinct one.  One element I wanted to show for House Sabine, that I expect will be repeated in other houses, is a culture of a distinct, hidden language, like the sign language of House Atreides in Dune, or the "Fan Languages" of the real world.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sabine Addendum: Sabine Blindness

Some patrons who read the material in advanced asked about playing Blind characters.  I included Blindness for flavor more than anything else, and felt that if a player really really wanted it, a GM could work out some way to make that happen.  I even had thoughts on how best to do it.

"If you already have an idea of how to do it, why not write it in there?"

Good point!  Here it is:

Disadvantages: Replace any of your template disadvantages with the following disadvantages (If you have Bloodline Purity 2 or higher, you may choose an additional -5 points worth of the following disadvantages, increasing your disadvantage limit by -5 points!): Bad Sight (Mitigator, Lenses -60%) [-10], Blindness [-50]†, Blindness (Sabine) [-10]†, Distinctive Feature (White hair), Low Pain Threshold [-10], Mental Instability [Varies], Odious Personal Habit (Finnicky) [-5], Selfless [-5*], Shyness (Mild or Severe) [-5 or -10].

Blindness is disallowed in GURPS Action, and for good reason, as it can be cripplingly difficult to be an Action hero if you cannot see. Even characters like Zatoichi or Blind Fury’s Nick Parker or Daredevil either explicitly have alternate means to see, or are explicitly skilled in overcoming their blindness. In Psi-Wars, characters like Mystics might get by while being blind, but I would ask your GM for permission. Moreover, blindness is -50 points, and thus completely fills up your disadvantage point limit. Consider, instead, the following package:

Blindness (Sabine) -10 points
Prerequisite: Sabine Bloodline
Blindness runs in the Sabine Bloodline, and sometimes children are born with eyes as white as their hair. Some such children display unusual talent with ESP and gain a psionic awareness of their environment very similar to Sabine Blindsight. Such Sabines often veil their eyes to hide the fact that they can see without sight.

Awareness 10 allows the character to “see” up to a mile in a 120° arc before him (like sight); with effort, he can see up to 240° up to a mile, or 360° up to 20 yards. He needn’t concentrate to activate it, but he must roll his skill to notice any details (like a normal person rolls Perception); and at least once per minute of active use; in the same circumstances that a normal character could simply see something, a Blind Sabine should roll Awareness at least once to see if he’s picking up any details at all. Failure means the Sabine loses precision of her sense and may have a difficult time navigating or be surprised, etc Characters with Awareness skill 16+ may take No Nuisance Rolls (Awareness) [1], in which case they never need to roll for Awareness except in the same conditions someone would need to roll for Perception. This is a psionic ability, and is subject to the same benefits (extra effort) and drawbacks (anti-psi characters might be invisible to the character, characters with psi-sense can detect the character, and psionic restraint collars will shut down the Awareness, etc).

Advantages: Awareness 11 [29]
Disadvantages: Blindness [-50]
Skills: Awareness (H) Per+0 [4]

Techniques: Extended Arc (H) Awareness-2 [7]

House Sabine, part 1

When I first knew I wanted to create noble houses, I immediately had two in mind. The first drew inspiration from Mon Mothma and Princess Leia, and represented the aristocracy of Psi-Wars as portrayed in Star Wars: elegant, egalitarian and full of noblesse oblige, but not contributing as directly to the effort as much as commanding.  If we had to have a house to root for, I wanted it to be this one.

The rest fell into place as I worked out the Oracular Order's role in the creation of the Houses.  If the Oracular Order were the Bene Gesserit, then this was House Atreides.  When I dug around in Bio-Tech for suggestions, I stumbled across altered sex ratios (technically a radical species modification, but meh, this is space opera) and fecundity, which made them a house associated with twins and who hovers protectively over their few male members. This also made them a great house for the "Damsel in distress" that a hero needs to rescue, though naturally some would have the wherewithal to rescue themselves.  I don't like to make a one-note house, though, so their "bene geserit-ness" gives them a manipulative, witchy vibe, at least to me.  Given that, traditionally, men fit poorly into either the "witch" or "princess" niche, that makes the rare male members an interesting puzzle to fit into the house.

Their name came from the Italian Sabine tribe, from whom the Romans acquired their first brides; House Sabine consists of the first brides of the Alexian Emperor, and were bred to be the brides of the other noble houses.

The Cadet Branch "Pavonis" is a reference to a character created by Elliot Belser, for his own Psi-Wars game.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Patreon Post: Kung Fu Double Trouble

Hello my dear Patrons!  I have not one, but two posts for you!  When I worked on the knightly martial arts, I quickly realized that I had two problems.  First, I found it hard to justify taking more than one style given the problems GURPS Martial Arts has.  This resulted in a deep meditation on why it's a problem and how to fix it (and a discussion of that on Discord spawned yet more thoughts on it from Douglas Cole, who offers a further take that might work for Psi-Wars as well, but it would need further study).  I also wanted to look very closely at each style, and make sure they each had a very distinct character and were useful for you even if you didn't use a proposed fix.  This resulted in the first document, which is Martial Arts Notes 1 - Reflections.  This is available to all $1+ Patrons, so please, check it out!

I also realized I needed kung fu secrets.  What's the point of being a master force swordsman if there's no man on the mountain to go talk to?  No ancient kung fu manuscripts to fight over?  The only problem I have with aristocratic martial arts secrets is that the aristocracy are kind of chumps.  They don't have to be, but many of them should be.  Some of them should be irritating ponces that you want to punch in the face, and I find them knowing ancient secrets to be a little too much.  But what about useless techniques, or techniques the exist primarily for show?  This resulted in Martial Arts Notes 2 - Secrets, which discusses a variety of expansions for the aristocratic styles, some much more useful than others.  As a preview, this is available to all $3+ Patrons, a gift to my Fellow Travelers.  I think it needs a little more work, so I'd appreciate feedback.

As usual, if you're a patron, thank you.  If you're not, I'd love to have you.

Support me on Patreon!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Aristocratic Culture

This is a bit of a last-minute addition.  When I wrote the Alliance, I finished it up and released it to my Patrons and then put all the posts up in advance.  Then, as my patrons read it, I got some feedback and one of the things I realized was that I lacked aristocratic culture.  What to aristocrats do with their spare time? How does one woo an aristocratic girl?  What offends and what does obligation demand you do? I've touched on some of these already, but I wanted to expand on those elements.

What I have turns out to be quite a bit of material, perhaps too much material.  I'd love your feedback on what you found useful and what you didn't.  In the meantime, though, enjoy, and I hope this gives you a better vision of how the Alliance feels, at least from the perspective of an aristocrat.

After all, what's the point of playing a space aristocrat if you can't go to a space gala, get your space knickers in a twist because someone said something mean about one of your ancestors, then lose the girl you were trying to woo to some space jock, and then challenge him to a duel and accidentally kill him, right?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Knightly Force Swordsmanship

Duel by rodavlasalvador
Space Knights need force swords!  It's their signature weapon, which also means they need detailed ways to fight with them!  I've already written up a bunch of Force Sword styles back in Iteration 4, but now I want to revise them a little, make them a little more distinct from one another and discuss them in an aristocratic context.  I've chosen 4 styles, the Defensive Form (renamed the Old Way), and the Destructive, Courtly and Swift form as the "three dueling styles" most popular in the modern Alliance.

I understand that for most people, the force sword should be the domain of just the Jedi, but I see the "Jedi" of Psi-Wars as evolving out of an existing knightly tradition and blending it with other traditions.  Thus, they draw (and perfect!) their force swordsmanship from these styles, rather than the other way around.

I could also create a lot more styles, but I feel that one "old" style and three "new" styles should provide sufficient variety while being fairly easy to keep track of.  The three also offer sufficient contrast and focus on one-on-one dueling.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Legacy of the Oracular Order: the Genetic and Psionic Heritage of Aristocracy

The Aristocracy of the Alliance wouldn't be where it is today without the Oracular Order.  Their insights into the future gave them the patience, prescience and precision to breed the nobility into superior stock.  As a result, the aristocracy is better than you: prettier, smarter, more graceful and healthier.  Or, at least, they should be.  In the centuries since the fall of the Alexian Empire, and without the guidance of the Oracular Order, the Houses have drifted genetically.  The rise of the new Empire has made collecting those bloodlines together and restoring the Oracular Order's original vision harder and harder.

The Order did all of this to create reliably psionic bloodlines.  As a result, all Alliance Aristocracy is potentially psionic.  This greatly shapes their military and espionage doctrines!

Finally, the Order did all of that to ensure everyone was in place for some great crisis it foresaw, a crisis that never came, that the Houses don't stand ready to face.  I want to treat this as a Destiny, which represents some interesting choices for how members of a house see themselves and what path they choose to follow in the present, whether they want to adhere to the purpose that gave them life, through it all away for their own power, or set everything aside and try something gloriously new.  However, as I worked on it, it became increasingly clear that it needed a fuller treatment that would have to wait until I dived into the Oracular Order itself, so it's been set on a back burner, but I do have notes, and those notes guided the creation of the four houses I will present, and the "notable members" within each.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Titles of the Alliance Nobility

What does it mean to be "Noble?"  This week, I cover the four legacies of the aristocracy, and today I start with the titles of the nobility.

A question that I'm sure will come up: What is "ascribed status?"  GURPS has two forms of status: imputed and ascribed.  Imputed is status that arises naturally from your wealth (Wealth and Status, B26) and your rank (B29); being the wealthy CEO of major corporation gives you a lot of social pull.  In Psi-Wars, you may not purchase additional Status unless you have a title, which provides Ascribed status, that is, status that people assign you because of your rank.  Thus, one can be poor and belong to no organization, but have Status because of his title.  You must purchase this status independently, using the rules below.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Psi-Wars Process

Creativity as a loop
Christopher Rice (of Ravens'n'Pennies) recently asked me to outline the process by which I've created Psi-Wars.  I believe I've discussed it before, but not really in specific detail, or all in one easy-to-find place.  So, I thought I'd take the opportunity to break it all down, at least as I see it right now (processes, of course, evolve).

Up front, this is a process I've learned as a computer programmer, but I believe it applies to all creative work where possible: most artists sketch before drawing, most writers make multiple drafts and so on.  But this is also informed by years of working on RPGs and struggling with the amount of work a really detailed campaign or session needs, and the amount of time I have to get work done paired with the big X factor that is the amount of learning I need to do, or the hidden complexities of my project, all of which should be familiar to any programmer.  As such, I've learned a few things that have informed Psi-Wars, and my session design (as seen in the minimum viable session).  The process is, at its core, this:

  1. Identify and articulate what it is you want to do.
  2. Do the minimum work necessary to achieve what the goal you want to do in step one
  3. Test the resulting work to see if it accomplishes the goal you set out to do
  4. Reflect on the work, and see what went well and see what you could Refine.
  5. Release the result
  6. Repeat until satisfied or your players bang down your door.

Like many things, this seems simple but I find it helpful to offer a more concrete scenario.  In particular, when creating a GURPS campaign framework, I find that we can get very specific, as certain results tend to come up again and again, and you need to have a certain, very specific mind-set.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Aristocratic Personnel: Regular Infantry and Space Knights

If you're going to fight the Alliance, you need to know what you're up against.  Today's post includes both typical bodyguards and soldiers who serve the aristocracy and the knights who make up a house (or an order).  For the latter, I've included some references to genetic, psionic and martial legacies that I'll explain in more detail later!  I've simply decided to reveal the aristocracy in this particular order, because I think it makes sense to have a feel for the organization that supports the aristocracy before diving into the aristocracy itself.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Aristocratic Materiel

The aristocracy, naturally, needs its own arms and armor.  Blasters and battleweave are good enough for the rabble, but a knight needs his force sword, his force buckler and his diamondoid armor.  Or, at least, a force saber and a bit of diamonoid jewelry to remind you of the armor that his ancestors wore, preferrably with a seal.

In principle, different houses have slightly different weapons and armor and their own signature gear, but this covers the equipment of houses (and knightly orders) in general.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Knightly Orders of the Alliance

The aristocracy of the Alliance have more military power than just their navies and armies, they also have one another.  Like-minded knights form together into Knightly Orders, patterned after the highly successful Knights of Communion. Many amount to little more than just social clubs for bored aristocrats, but some can prove to be major military forces within the Empire, and all become powerful political factions, able to push their agenda thanks to the wealth and prestige of their members.

I offer three knightly orders as examples of what Knightly Orders might be like.  Feel free to create your own!

I personally found it odd how isolated and unique the Jedi Order was in Star Wars.  Eventually, the expanded universe added a few new groups out there, but in reality, warrior-monks tend to rise out of joining religious and martial traditions, rather than springing up ex-nihilo.  The aristocracy of the Alliance represents the legacy of the martial tradition that gave rise to the Knights of Communion, and we'll dive into the religious/philosophical tradition that gave rise to them when we dive into philosophy.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Aristocratic Regulars and Military Forces

Celsius-13 Royal Railgun Guard
Not what regulars would
actually look like, but you get
the idea
Aristocratic power have nothing but the weight of tradition and law if they don't have the military power to back it up, and boy do they!  In fact, the primary reason I created the aristocracy and the Alliance was to give those who opposed the Empire reasonably access to military hardware.  While the ships will have to wait (it turns out designing the ships of the Alliance quickly turns into "Designing all of the combat ships of the Galaxy that don't belong to the Empire"), I can show you how their forces operate.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The State of the Patreon - August 2017

This has been a very up and down month.  At the start of it, I only had about half of the month worked out and while I had hope to get quite a lot of Patreon stuff done, I was only able to finish about half of it.  As a result, this has been one of my worst months for reviews and my pledges are down just a bit (but not much).

It's worked out well, though.  I've finally gained a full month of lead time on all fronts.  I have my blog scheduled all the way through August, which will finish the aristocracy and the Alliance, though there's a few little touch ups I might do before the end of August.  I'm already starting on September, which will be Philosophy.

What about Patreon?  Well, like I said, I had some good intentions last month, but didn't quite make them in July, so I've made extra effort to make sure I can deliver on my promises, and I've also got all the August Patreon posts scheduled already!  On the 11th, I have two Martial Arts posts, one a general one discussing problems with martial arts and Psi-Wars, and looking more deeply at how the martial arts of the Alliance were designed and how I see them interacting.  The second is for $3+ and looks at two concepts in GURPS Martial Arts: the Secret Technique and the Useless Technique.  I offer quite a few tricks that might improve a specific martial artists approach or give him a unique strategy, as well as a move or two that either outright doesn't work, is a questionable strategy, or is more cultural than martial.  This will coincide with a revisiting of the Graceful, Defensive, Swift and Destructive Force Sword forms on my blog, from the perspective of the Alliance.

On the 18th, coinciding with the release of the first two noble houses, I have my first ever $7+ patreon exclusive: the House of Alexus.  It will be a poll consisting of 7 questions that will allow you to decide how the vanished house that once ruled the "Eternal Empire" worked, what their character was, and what their ultimate fate was.

On the 25th, coinciding with the release of the last noble house, I have another poll for $5+ patrons: the Fifth Noble House.  I personally want to encourage all of my readers to realize that the four noble houses I outline aren't the totality of the aristocracy within the Psi-Wars galaxy, and by offering some inspiration, I hope to encourage you to make your own.  I've also wanted a fifth house since the beginning, and I thought this would be a good chance to have your voice in the setting.

That should cover all of August.  I do plan on doing more with Spaceships, but I want to make a priority of making sure I've got enough material going into September before I do that, so we don't see a repeat of June and July, at least not for awhile.  I also want to thank you again for your patience.  I wouldn't be here with you guys.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Noble Houses as Organizations, and an Introduction

I'm not saying it was a great movie, but it does a good job
capturing how sci-fi aristocracy might look.
The aristocracy of the Alliance served as the foundation for the Federation that came before the Empire, and the Empire that came before the Federation.  It has ruled the galaxy for over a thousand years, and does not intend to stop now.  They represent both the golden age of the past, and a chance to bring about a new era for the Galaxy.  Today, I kick off a surprisingly long series that takes a deeper look at them, both as organizations and as characters.

Today, I start with noble houses as organizations, what it means to belong to one, and what they can do for you.  I want to note that this is a "first draft," and that the following is incomplete.  The deeper I dived into all of this, the more I realized I needed greater detail on spycraft and law enforcement, but I already had the latter for the Alliance in the form of the Constabulary, and the former will require a thorough look at all organizations.  Thus, take all that follows as my first stab, just as everything else I've written in Iteration 6 has been.  I'll take another look at everything before the iteration wraps up.

I'm also trying something new with how I generate these posts, so you might notice that this is much earlier than the past month's worth of posts have been.  That's because it was actually scheduled, again.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Patreon Post: Iteration 6 Spaceships Playtest 1: The Standard Scenario and Dreadnought v Dreadnought

If I'm going to revise my rules, I need to test them.  Do they cause problems?  Do they fix the things I intend them to fix?  What I have going here is an iteration inside an iteration, and it was caused by my attempts to build spaceships for the Alliance, which turned into "Spaceships for everyone," which quickly ran aground of the fact that SS doesn't offer me enough options, which means I need to look at things more carefully, and that means playtest.

Today's playtest sets look briefly at a typical scenario (the old Starhawks vs a Dreadnought fight), and looks again at the playtest we saw Monday, namely Dreadnoughts vs Dreadnoughts.  I'll need to revisit these again, but with most of these findings, the next step will be to take a look at corvettes, which is the heart of why I want to do this, but that won't happen this week.  Instead, this Friday, look for the State of the Patreon.

If you're a Patron ($1+) check it out.  If you're not, as usual, I'd love to have you.

Support me on Patreon!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Patreon Post: Spaceships Rewritten

(I can't find more on the image than that)
I've tried to keep Psi-Wars as generic as possible, which means you should be able to use material straight out of the book and it should work.  But, first of all, not everything works that well out of the book (some ships are just too different from our assumptions to be useful, and others have major errata that requires a rewrite); second of all, it'd be nice to offer more publishable ships instead of always directing you to existing works.  Finally, I could more tightly refine my material to fix everything.

I originally started this because I wanted to fix Corvettes, which I worry don't work well enough in the current model.  In the meantime, more issues have popped up, so I wanted to address them with a new round of rule revisions, which will eventually necessitate a rewrite of quite a few spaceships, but I'm okay with that.

So, today, I present the first crack at those alternate rules.  When I'm finished, I'll collate them all into the Iteration 6 version of the space combat rules.  This post is available to all $1+ Patrons, so if you're any patron, check it out!  If you're not a patron, as usual, I'd love to have you!

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Patreon Post: (Old) Dreadnought Playthrough

I've wanted to take some time to look at spaceships again, because I see more points where they need work, and especially as dive into the specifics of Iteration 6, I want to take greater control over my setting (using generic Starhawks and Typhoons is fine if we want to just rapidly prototype a setting, but if I'm going to build it in detail, why not build my ships as well?)

This is likely to go on for awhile, and this week is mostly cleaning up loose ends.  This also means I need to dive into whatever changes I propose to make sure they work, so I hope you like playtests! Most of these will be $1+, because, they're mainly mechanical asides and technical discussions, but when I start building ships for the final version, those will be $3+.

Today's post is a companion post to an old post, going back to the dawn of my Patreon, back, I think, to literally my first Patreon exclusive.  It's the playtest between dreadnoughts that confirmed the rules I documented in Dreadnoughts Revisited. I've gone ahead and included the resulting document here, for ease.  I'm posting this because a few of my Patrons heard it existed and were very curious about it. Note that by the time my update is finished, a lot of the rules contained herein will be invalidated, but I find it a fun read, especially the battle between the Reaper and the Rain of Fire (the third one), which is the first time I think I've ever shown dreadnoughts at their actual scale of power.

It's for $1+ Patrons, so if you're a Patron at all, check it out!  If not, as always, I'd love to have you.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

PC Spotlight -- Zander Starlane, Aristocratic Assassin

When I showed the preview document to one of my Patrons, he found himself swarming with character ideas.  He created this one, Zander Starlane, and I offer it to you, dear reader, as a fun preview.

Zander grew up with Nova Sabine and believes in her cause.  However, visions of her death plagued her.  Desperate to prevent it, he found himself face to face with an ominous opponent to strong to defeat on his own.  Only through luck and the assistance of Asura Kain did he prevail.  But his visions didn't stop, showing him a dangerous conspiracy that worked against the Alliance and his House.  Now, under the guise of a playboy, he works in the shadows to protect his House, and his Nova Sabine.

Attributes: ST 11 [10], DX 16* [100]; IQ 11 [20]; HT 11 [10]
Secondary Characteristics: Damage 1d-1/1d+1; BL 24 lbs; HP 11 [0]; Will 12 [5]; Per 13* [0]; FP 11 [0]; Basic Speed 7.00* [10]; Basic Move 7 [0].

Acute Touch+1* [0]; Bloodline Purity 2* [0]; Craftiness +3 [15]; Cultural Familiarity (Galactic Federation) [0*]; Galactic Common (Native) [0*]; Honest Face [1]; Immunity (Golden Whin) [1]; Legal Immunity (Alliance Aristocrat) [2]; Luck [15]; Sabine Battle Trance (Combat Sense 1 [24]); Sabine Grace [16], Sabine Sensitivity [13], The Sabine Caress [1]; Status +1 [5], Title (Gentleman) [1]; Visions (Aspected (Death), Overwhelming) [5]; Wealth (Comfortable) [10]; Weapon Master (Force-Sword) [20].

Martial Arts Perks:
Style Familiarity (Graceful Form) [1]
Grip Master (Force Sword) [1]
Trademark move(The Counter step) [1]
Weapon Bond (Force Sword) [1]

Eugenic Perks:
20/20 hindsight (ESP) [1];
Bloodline Purity 2* [0]
Classic Appearance (Aristocratic) [1]
I feel them Watching Me (ESP) [1];
Sabine Bloodline [1];

Code of Honor (“Aristocrat”) [-10] ; Duty (House Sabine, Extremely Hazardous Duty, 9 or less) [-10]; Paranoia [-10]; Secret ("Sabine Assassin") [-5]; Selfless [-5]; Sense of Duty (House Sabine) [-5]; Trademark (Northern Golden Whin) [-5]; Vow ("Nova Sabine may never know what I do for her") [-5]

Dislikes (Empire) [-1]
Likes (Booze) [-1]
Lecherous when drunk [-1]
Debt (I owe House Kaine a favor) [-1]
Splatterpunk [-1]

Acrobatics (H) DX [4]-16
Acting (A) IQ+4 [4] – 15*
Beam Weapons (Pistol) (E) DX [1]-16
Climbing (A) DX-1 [1]-15
Combat Sense (H) IQ-1 [2] – 10
Computer Operation (E) IQ [1]-11
Escape (H) DX-1 [2]-15;
Fast-Talk (A) IQ+1 [4] -12
Flying Leap (H) – IQ-1 [2] – 10
Force Sword (A) DX+2 [8] – 18
Gesture (E) IQ+1 [2] – 12
Holdout (A) IQ+4 [4] – 15*
Judo (H) DX [4]-16
Jumping (E) DX [1]-16
Karate (H) DX [4]-16
Navigation (Hyperspace) (A) IQ-1 [1]-10
Observation (A) Per-1 [1]– 12
Pilot (Starship) (A) DX-1 [1]-15
Poison (H) IQ  [4] – 11
Precognitive Defense (H) – IQ-1 [2] – 10
Savoir-Faire (High-Society) (E) IQ [1] – 11
Shadowing (A) IQ+3* [2] – 14
Stealth (A) DX+4* [4]-20
Vacc Suit (A) DX-1[1]-15

Acrobatic Stand (A) – Acrobatics-4 [2] – 12
Feint (Force Sword) (H) – Force Sword+2 [3] – 20
Timed Defense (Force Sword) (H) [2] – 11 (12 with Sabine Battle Trance)

Cadet Branch Starlane

His notes: They are less prestigious than the Sabine and only came into power after the corruption of the oracular order. Before the Empire took over they were performers, merchants and traders, finding new connections for the Sabine, while there was rumor behind the scenes that they also concerned themselves with smuggling, prostitution and *gasp* murder.

Patreon Preview: the Alliance

Not what I had in mind
but sure, why not?
Alright, I've been dribbling out Alliance details for awhile now, but now I've well and truly got it finished, and for those of you who aren't patrons, it's scheduled already through August (in what will prove to be a very hectic posting schedule!).  If you are a $3+ patron, though, you can have it now!  It clocks in at 45,000 words, plus a 15,000 word personnel file.  No wonder it took so damn long to write!

This explicitly includes aristocratic space knights, revised versions of the "dueling styles" (the destructive form, the graceful form and the swift form), and four new noble houses (the beautiful Sabine, the haughty Grimshaw, the tragic and lethal Elegans, and the gruff Kain).

If you're a patron, you can check it out here!  If you're not, as usual, I'd love to have you.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Alliance Militia Personnel

Militia Strategies

Militias focus almost exclusively on defense, and each militia has its own approach to defense (which makes coordinating between multiple militia somewhat difficult!). To simplify, consider three strategies below, each of which offers some optional traits that members of a militia following that strategy might have.


The militia uses trench warfare, embanked guns, minefields and planetary shields to create impenetrable zones of control that the enemy cannot bypass.

Optional traits:

  • Barricade Tactics [1]. Militia in cover apply an additional -1 to opponents attempting to shoot at them, giving opponents a -3 rather than -2.
  • Cool under Fire [1]. Militia ignore the -2 for pop-up attacks (this increases all “Fire from Cover” Tactics by +2!).
  • Enhanced Dodge (Dive for Cover) [5]. Militia have +1 to defend from explosions.


The militia relies on mobility, vehicular supports and “defense in depth” to defeat the enemy. The create a flow, flexible defensive line that can absorb the enemy’s advance, and flow around the enemy lines for a counter attack.

Optional traits:

  • Move Under Cover [1]. Assume the NPCs always find cover, if any is remotely available, at the end of a move on foot.
  • Motorized Training [1]. Ignore penalties for firing from a moving vehicle if a passenger. Gain the following tactic:
    • Fire on the Move (+1 to base skill): While aboard a moving vehicle (-0) as a passanger, make an All-Out (+1) Sighted attack with your weapon, firing a single shot at your opponent. You may not defend (but your vehicle may).
  • Basic Move +1 [5].


The militia fights using asymmetrical tactics against a superior foe. They prefer to fade into the terrain, to break apart under attack and reform later, which makes them maddeningly difficult to defeat, though it does little to actually protect the land or infrastructure.

Optional traits:

  • Dead Eye [1]. The nameless NPC may aim for 4 turns for a maximum accuracy bonus of +3 (rather than +2). Gain the following tactic:
    • Careful Aim (+Accuracy+5 to base skill): After aiming for 4 turns, apply full accuracy +3 from weapon and make an All-Out (+1) Sighted attack with your weapon, firing a single shot at your opponent. You may not defend.
  • Sure-Footed (Terrain): Ignore up to -2 to attack penalties for a specific terrain, or -1 to defense penalties for a specific terrain.
  • Fit [5].

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Alliance Militia Materiel

The Alliance military is defined by a strategy of distributed defense. Where the empire manages the defense of all member worlds, the Alliance expects their military forces to manage their own defense, and where they cannot, the alliance calls upon aristocrats to ride to the rescue of member worlds with their highly mobile fleets. Thus, we might expect that each world has unique armaments informed by the nature of their worlds. To keep things simple, I’d rather focus on some basic core strategies likely common to all worlds, and then expand it out a bit to emphasize the unique nature of each world.

The commonalities of strategy mainly come in that distributed defense. The Alliance offers very little money to its worlds for defense, expecting them to defend themselves and, of course, quietly enforcing a dependence on the nobility who can come in to “rescue them.” This means that most militia soldiers are less professional soldiers and more reservists with a modicum of training combined with enthusiasts who like to practice on their own. It also means that their gear tends to be cheap, and usually what they already had on hand. The result might be less disciplined than a typical BAD -2 army, but it’s close enough to BAD -2 for my purposes.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Alliance Militia

The Alliance believes strongly in independent sovereignty, and a key component of that sovereignty is independent military power, a feature of the Federation violated only once, a violation that caused the rise of the Empire. Each member world has the right to its own defensive force, called a Militia. In fact, the Senate sees a militia not as a right but as a duty, and typically sanctions worlds that leave their defense to the rest of the Alliance. One reason the Alliance has survived as long as it has is because a blaster lurks behind every blade of grass.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Alliance Constabulary: Personnel

Just as criminal players dealing with the Empire will need mooks to fight, so too will criminal players facing down the criminal justice of the Alliance.  But, again, we find that the Alliance has wildly varying law enforcement.  This results in a highly customizable set of mooks that require a little bit of work from you, dear reader, to put them into action.  Once again, we have three different broad sorts of law enforcement, and we also have three different sets of equipment (the most common being Rook & Law and Stellar Dynamics).  You'll have to put the pieces together, just like you have to with insurgents, but I do have a "standard example" available for each entry.

Let me know what you think of the approach, and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Alliance Constabulary: Materiel

Our space cops need guns.  While the Empire has a single supplier, the Alliance has many varied suppliers and needs, which means that what sorts of arms and armor our constables might have vary depending on their intent and on where they get their weapons from.

A huge variety of guns resulted from my working on this post, not all of which are listed below, but I want to thank GURB once again for providing much needed variety for my weapons.

This design process went through quite a few steps, so you'll see me revisit again tomorrow when I look at Personnel, but that's because Materiel articles are design journals, while personnel documents actually make it into the final work.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Alliance Constabulary

The Alliance expects each planet to govern itself, which means it expects each planet to have its own laws and to enforce them.  That seems simple enough, until one crashes headlong into the fact that alliance members regularly intermingle and each has their own law.  What happens when a nobleman and members of an independent corporation run afoul of the law on their planet?  How do the locals handle that arrest?  How do they handle people who have fled justice on their world and have tried to find sanctuary on some other world?

Where the Empire allows its law enforcement to be judge, jury and executioner, the Alliance most definitely does not. It demands rule of law, not just out of sheer righteousness, but also out of the necessity of so many different legal systems rubbing elbows with one another.  If you're going to accuse a nobleman of breaking the law, you must present evidence to the House that governs him if you want to see justice done!

The result of this is a wild variety of law enforcement systems and approaches to the law meant to deal with the veritable chaos of the Alliance legal system.  I offer a few ideas below.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Patreon Preview: Alliance Planetary Personnel

Planetary Governments, naturally, need planetary militias and planetary law enforcement.  After all, the senate expects each world to be sovereign, independent and able to engage in its own defense and to handle its own criminal.  However, that independence means that each planet will have its own approach to these things.  The result turned into one of those highly varied documents full of opponents that I'm never quite sure what to do with, so I held off on releasing it and, with the release of planetary government, I offer it now to my Patreons as a preview.

Ultimately, the document revisits the ideas presented in Iteration 4 on law enforcement and alliance military personnel, with a greater focus on variety and specific strategic or law enforcement doctrines.

This is available to all $3+ patrons.  If you're a patron, check it out!  If you're not, I'd love to have you.  For the rest of you, they'll be up soon enough!

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Planetary Governments of the Alliance

As I wrote the Alliance, it became clear that the divide between planets and the aristocracy was a crucial element of the political landscape of the Alliance.  On a particular world, one faced the military and law enforcement of a planetary body, but that might technically fall under the purview of an interstellar aristocracy, and certainly off-world, one faced the naval power of the aristocracy.  So for the next couple of weeks, I want to stop and take a look at the sorts of worlds that exist within the Alliance, which will be a fairly generic exploration (given that any world that serves the Alliance could just as easily fall under the sway of the Empire, or be independent).  Today, we'll kick off this little series with Planetary Governments themselves.

Friday, June 30, 2017

State of the Patreon: July

June was an up and down month for the blog.  For the blog itself, viewership fell off sharply, and even on Patreon, I didn't see any up-tick for access when Orphan of the Stars came out.  The conclusion I must draw is that, despite much praise for the ideas, there wasn't a lot of interest in Orphan of the Stars.  I suspect this is likely because I haven't built up an audience.  There are certainly people who have been coming to this blog for Psi-Wars for months now who took a vacation from the blog while I took a vacation from Psi-Wars.

But that vacation worked.  I have more material!  Next month, I'll unveil planetary governments and (unless things go horribly wrong), four noble houses of the Alliance.  I haven't decided if I want to break corporations out into their own thing yet or if I want to wait until I start looking at the galaxy as a whole.  Stay tuned!

Despite the general lack of interest in Orphan of the Stars, my Patreon has picked up, especially here at the end of the month!  I've hit my second goal, which means I have the funding for art!  It does turn out that art is more expensive than I'd hoped, but the monthly $50 I've set aside for it should get us a nice piece at least once a month.  I would like to announce that I'm going to change the remaining stretch goals.  I have two sketch artists working on general designs (Patreons who participated with the Trader polls will remember some sketch work by Michelle) and concepts for me and they're doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, but they actually do charge money when other people ask, and I think it fair that we pay up if we can, so the next couple of stretch goals will be about making sure our sketch artists get paid.

Next month will be a little touch and go like this month has been, but it looks like you might get a second look at cybernetics, and then I'd like to dive into starships, including: more detailed thrusters, a deeper look at hyperspace travel and how to detect it, and then corvettes, corvettes, corvettes.  If I'm lucky, I'll have a new template for you, but I'm still trying to build up ground on the aristocracy, so we'll have to see!  Speaking of the aristocracy, $3+ will see the aristocrat documents as soon as they're ready, and for $5+, I have perhaps the oldest poll I had arranged, the poll that kicked off the idea of polls, which is the poll for a new aristocratic house.

I want to thank everyone for supporting my patreon, and for supporting this blog.  I do this for you, so it's wonderful to see it so appreciated. I also thank you for your patience.  Transitioning into fatherhood has been a wonderful adventure.

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Senate of the Alliance

The last time we looked at "the Senate," it was a relic of the Federation's past, a rubber stamp for the Emperor's wishes.  Naturally, the Alliance, which claims to be the true heir to the Federation, has a Senate of its own, one with real teeth and real power.

Today, I'll look at this ultimate government for the Alliance, the one point at which all members of the Alliance converge to air their grievances, to welcome new members, to plot the overthrow of the Empire, and to make panicked plans with the Empire finally turns its great military juggernaut upon them.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Patreon Post: Mech Mob, the Rebellion of Grist

Last month, I gave my $5+ patrons a chance to vote on a rebellion, and I chose Dun Beltain's homeworld of Grist, as it was the only world that had serious details available for it already.

Today, for all $3+ patrons (as it's a preview!), you can now see the result of the poll, the fractious and idealistic Mech Mob, and the various tools they use (or seek to use) against the Empire in their pursuit of indepedence.

If you're a patron, check it out!  If you're not, I'd love to have you (Have I mentioned lately that we just reached our second goal of art work!  More about this soon).

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Patreon Post: The Rebellion of Grist Poll Results

Last month, after we finished discussing insurgencies, I put up a poll where my Patreons could vote on the Rebellion of Grist, a junk world in the Empire near the dangerous border with the Cybernetic Union.  Today, after  along delay, I have the poll results and notes on how I've chosen to synthesize them.

If you're a $5+ Patron (a Companion or better), check it out!  If not, I'd love to have you (but note that this'll likely be less interesting for you, as you didn't participate in the original poll.  Tomorrow, however...)

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Patreon Post: Modular Robots

Hello, dear reader.  I've been hard at work finishing the Rebellion of Grist based on our vote, oh, last month and one of the choices I offered, that people took, was combat robots.  I don't have combat robots!  Well, I do: Ultra-Tech has combat robots (about 2), but if I use those, then I'm using the same ones over and over again.  I knew I wanted to look at robot design eventually, as I wasn't happy with the robots I had on hand, by I thought I would wait until I took a look at the Cybernetic Union, but no such luck: I needed that system now.

So, that's what I have for you today!  For today, for all $1+ patrons, I have a modular robot design system, inspired by the Modular Mecha pyramid article, including a design journal discussing why I made the choices I did.  If you're already a patron, go check it out!  If you're not a patron, hey guys, it's $1!  That's less than a pyramid article, and you get access to all of my other $1 articles, including the recent tech-week.  Check it out!

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Alliance

Well, my dear reader, we've finally returned to Psi-Wars.  I have the Alliance for you, the rump state of the old Federation, which combines the remnants of the old Maradon noble houses with rebellious planets and anti-Imperial corporations to create an industrial base from which the rebellion fights the good fight.

I've noted before that Psi-Wars will go in a different direction than Star Wars, and this is where that difference starts to become obvious.  The Empire of Psi-Wars and Star Wars tend to resemble one another strongly, but that isn't so here, and that's because Psi-Wars has some core needs that Star Wars doesn't.  Star Wars prefers the simpler black-and-white politics of the good Rebellion, an underdog desperately outmatched, vs the evil Empire.  Psi-Wars, being an Action RPG, needs to have the sort of crazy internal politics that you tend to see in most action movies (You know, where the CIA sends you to topple a dictator that it, itself, put into power).  I also don't want to tell you who you should be playing as, and who your opponent should be.  Imperial players need a good Alliance to go up against, and Alliance players need internal problems to solve.  Thus, the Alliance needs to be more nuanced than the Rebellion of Star Wars. Furthermore, Star Wars draws a lot of its inspiration from World War 2, but that didn't involve the French Resistance defeating Nazi Germany, but the Allies, industrial powers like the US, Britain and Russia, defeating Nazi Germany, with an assist from the French Resistance.  Where, pray tell, does the Star Wars rebellion get all those carriers and capital ships?

Hence the Alliance.  It represents a fractious and often politically tentative alliance of powers drawn together by their opposition to the Empire, and their general preference for the past.  This makes it a complicated group, heterogeneity in contrast to the Empire's homogeneity, and that took me a lot of work (and, as of this writing, still not complete yet).  I'd love feedback on it, as I slowly unveil it, especially how tenable a setting it presents.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Patreon Post: Alliance Preview 1: Planetary Governments

Hello my dear Psi-Wars fans! The time I took off has been well spent, and I come to you with the latest installment of Psi-Wars: The Alliance!

First, I want to note that the Alliance of Psi-Wars is very different than the Rebellion of Star Wars. Where the Rebellion is a bunch of rag-tag rebels from various walks of life who have managed to inexplicably get their hands on serious hardware. The Alliance is the rump state of the old Federation, the last hold-outs against the Empire, who take on a role similar to the Allies in WW2 and the Senatorial forces in the Roman Civil War. Thus, the Alliance has not only its own military, but it's own government and law enforcement!

The Alliance has also turned out to be much more complex and heterogeneous than the great, monolithic Empire, so I need to discuss the various parts of it. Today, I have the first chunk for you, which are planetary governments, which turned out to be much more important than I thought. Not only are they diverse, but you can also use ideas presented herein to create independent worlds out in the galaxy (which is effectively what they are), though this is an element I should revisit.

This is available to all Fellow Travelers ($3+). If you're already a patron (perhaps to check out the Orphan of the Stars document?) check it out! If you're not, I'd love to have you!

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Orphans of the Stars Political Document

meeting_the_emperor by klausmasterflex
First, I want to thank my fans for their patience.  This project has led to a startling drop in views, no doubt because the Psi-Wars fans aren't, you know, seeing Psi-Wars, and Orphans hasn't built up as much of a base, and also, the documents are a bit dry.  I've taken the time to rebuild some lead time on Psi-Wars, and I'm pleased to announce that we'll return to it starting next week, with a look at the Alliance, the beating heart of the rebellion against the Empire.

For those of you who are here for Orphans of the Stars, the draft is available on Patreon.  It's not particularly thoroughly edited (you'll get it "as is"), but I would appreciate your feedback.  It's 20k words on running political games for a sweeping space opera, but I'm sure you can alter it to fit other genres.  It's $5; if you're already a $5+ subscriber, you can just get it.  If you're not, just subscribe and you'll have it. You can immediately delete your pledge there after if this is all you want (you should be charged immediately and then never again), but while you're there, check out some other material, see if you like what I'm doing.  Some especially interesting posts might be:

  • Modelling Grav Cars, which includes a document that discusses how to use Vehicles 3e with GURPS 4e, provided you have access to works like GURPS Spaceships and several pyramid articles.  It's the best I've managed to cobble together, and it works pretty well until Vehicles 4e comes out.
  • Dirty Ultra-Tech, which borrows from GURPS High-Tech's Dirty Tech sidebars and applies them to Blasters
  • The Recent Tech Week has some general material, including a look at Weapons, and a discussion of Armor
If you're a psi-wars fan, dig back over the polls and some of the material that have come out of it!

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Orphans of the Stars: Political Conflict

This will be my last "design notes" post for Orphans of the Stars.  I'm going to post the actual draft next week at this time and place, giving me a little extra time to work on Psi-Wars (the Alliance is coming along nicely, though it'll be a very different beast than what we see in Star Wars.  Stay tuned, my Psi-Wars faithful!).  It'll be available on Patreon for $5, as stated before.

Today, I look into the most important element of political gameplay, conflict, which allows you to defeat your opponents through war, espionage, subversion and economic sanction, which is just what everyone seems to really want when they talk about "political gameplay."  Most of this made it into the final cut, and more!  And even if you don't want sweeping, interstellar political contests, the ideas presented herein might still prove useful inspiration for your own political games.

GURPS Day: How are high point total campaigns possible?

It's kinda like that.

So I'm just curious. How are 300+ character point campaigns even possible? I'm a "lower decks" kinda guy myself (between 100-130 points), and haven't ever considered one of those ultra-powerful types of parties. Given what I know of the GURPS 3d6 mechanics, however, how does that even work? Unless one limits the players to purchasing more breadth of Skills rather than height, it would generate Skills and Basic Attributes so high that only a 17 or 18 would indicate failure. I'd think whoever goes first in a round would pretty much accomplish every goal before anyone else had a chance, and in combat, you'd get strike/successful dodge/strike/successful dodge ad nauseam against NPCs. Unless the GM contrives clumsy penalties that mediate every dice roll. I'm sure there are supplements out there specific to high-point campaigns, and I wondered if the mechanics change somewhat in consideration of such super-powered settings. Otherwise, it would be like an AD&D campaign in which only a natural 20 or natural 1 ever indicates anything besides a miss or successful Saving Throw.
-Thomas W. Thornberry 
Douglas Cole, of Gaming Ballistics, spread this around  the GURPS day list, and it personally struck a chord with me, not just because I so regularly run and play in these sorts of games, but because he talks my language.  Breadth? Height? Bell Curves?!  Let's do this!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Orphans of the Stars: Organizational Gameplay

We know what the overall themes of gameplay are now, but we need to know what the PCs, themselves, do with it.  The ruling noble might decree that the planet is to wage war upon a rival while also changing the ideology of the people, but what organizations wage war? Who changes the ideology of the people?  And how and when do the PCs improve their organizations?  How does all of this translate into, you know, something fun like an action scene or a dramatic seduction or a cunning infiltration?

Eventually, less of this material made it into the final draft because it turned out to be more complicated than necessary, but I present the whole thing for your consideration.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Orphan of the Stars: the Gameplay of Politics

After I had laid out my plans for the pieces of the game, I found it necessary to think my whow the game would play.  This turned into a three-part discussion, starting with high level politics, and I hoped to turn the game from a look at a bunch of stats and into a dynamic series of interesting choices that impacted the players and was impacted by them in turn (you know, gameplay).

Monday, June 5, 2017

Orphan of the Stars: Ideology as Will

One core element I wanted for Psi-Wars was ideology.  I wanted religion, culture and the flow of ideas to be a major element of gameplay, both in trying to create it, and trying to manage it.  Dune had its faith, yes, but it also had the cultural differences between the "soft" nobility, the originally "hard" sarduakar and the legitimately "hard" fremen.  In many ways, Dune turns on what it takes to make great men, or the upsides and downsides of certain ideological leanings.

This also assists us with our desire to have multiple genetic lines, as we can use different ethnicities as receptacles for ideological differences. Thus, not only can our Not-Fremen have "wild" genetic differences from our local House, but it can have ideological differences, and when managing both the nobility of the House and the wild not-Fremen, one must be aware of the clashes in their ideologies and carefully navigate them.

Thus, I wrote up a proposal for how to treat the last of our three central elements: Ideology, which has no rulebook in GURPS (THS's memetics come closest, but those tend to be shorter lived than what I have in mind)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Orphans of the Stars: Boardroom and Curia as Organizations

The Imperial Court by Pictsy
The next of our triumverate is organizations, the people who actually build, maintain and attack the capital nobles use to enhance their power.  For this, the obvious choice is to tackle GURPS Boardroom and Curia, which was designed for running organizations.

So, today, I take a look at what these organizations can do for us, and how PCs will maintain them (as that's the core premise of Orphan of the Stars: You run one of your lord's major organizations to enact his will).

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