Thursday, March 30, 2017

Patreon Post: the Security Agent

Have you enjoyed Imperial Security?  Have you thought "Wow, it'd be totally cool to play one of these guys."  Well, what are your options?  Now, you have one more: the Security Agent, a new Patron-preview Template, available to all $1+ Patrons!

If you're a patron, check him out.  If you're not, I'd love to have you.

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Imperial Security: Spaceships

Imperial Prison Ship
While military power-project, or even defense, aren't technically in the purview of the Ministry of Justice or Imperial Security, they definitely need a presence in space.  Its special agents need some form of transportation from world to world, the Imperial Security needs to check incoming vessels for contraband, defend transport ships from pirates, deal with internal terrorism and chase down fugitives and make arrests. Of course, just because the role of the Ministry of Justice isn't military power doesn't mean Imperial Security is opposed to mission creep.

Imperial Security needs, at the very least, some sort of patrol corvette, and for that, they have the Arbiter-Class Patrol Corvette.  This ship has sufficient firepower to handle most converted trade corvettes, or any smuggler vessel that wants to make a run for it.  They can also act as the personal transport vessels of special agents.

While not completely necessary, Imperial Security demands some capital ships of its own, to better deal with piratical threats (and for the sheer prestige of commanding such large vessels).  For this purpose, they employ Dominion-Class Light Cruisers, which pair firepower with electronic supremacy to take complete command of a situation, and can deploy paramilitary assault troopers via Retribution-Class Boarding Shuttles from their main hangar bay.  With a few luxurious quarters, these vessels can also transport high-level Imperial ministers in style!

Finally, the Ministry of Justice is tasked with prisoner transport, and for this, they use the huge Golgotha-Class Prison Transport, which can act both as a transport and as a mobile prison in its own right.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Imperial Security: Personnel

Imperial Security is generally BAD -2 to -5, and thus features trained and highly trained minions. In principle, Imperial Security prefers to supplement local law enforcement, rather than replace it, though its agents often act on matters of interstellar jurisdiction, provided it is within the borders of the Empire. Beyond the borders, of course, it relies on bounty hunters.
Imperial Security also makes use of criminal assistance. Often, it will offer to release convicts in exchange for service, or threaten to take criminals in unless those criminals offer to assist. The result is that these criminals become fodder for Imperial Security raids. Some criminal gangs take pride in their connections with Imperial Security, especially as it affords them some immunity from the law.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Imperial Security: Materiel

What sorts of soldiers, vehicles and equipment do Imperial Security generally sport?  Well, we already have a rough idea of what sorts of roles their troopers fulfill, because I wrote up security agents back in Iteration 4, and we touched on it already:

  • Generic Security Troopers: generalists with blaster pistols and neurolash batons who represent the typical security trooper one might meet and who act as basic backup for the rest.
  • Assault Security Troopers: elite specialists with a focus on direct attack in close environments (urban or ship-borne raids).
  • Riot Control Troopers: Troopers armed with shields, neurolash batons and a bad attitude, meant to put down riots.
  • Security Snipers: While the Empire of Star Wars generally isn't associated with high accuracy, the concept of a sniper fits perfectly with the oppressive atmosphere we'd like our empire to foster.
  • Security Officer: An officious lieutenant who either supervises security troopers, or assists a named Security Agent.
As before, and despite claims to the contrary, the role of Security Troopers isn't it kill people, it's to enforce peace and order.  They prefer to take suspects in alive for questioning, and to intimidate the populace, rather than kill them.  Plus, many security troopers genuinely believe in protecting civilians and killing bad guys, and see the rebel conspiracies they undo as dangerous anarchists and little better than more base criminals.  Sometimes, they're even right!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Imperial Security

You are under arrest, my lord. 
-Mace Windu, Revenge of the Sith 

I never broke the law! I AM THE LAW! 
-Judge Dredd
I must admit surprise that Star Wars almost never deals with the police (The films; the EU references the Imperial Security Bureau).  Sure, I realize that Star Wars is, of course, about war, but so much of what Star Wars deals with actually falls under something a police officer would deal with: A smuggler should fear the port authority (and not Storm Troopers), and a conspiracy of evil Sith should be uncovered by detectives, not by space knights.  In fact, we regularly see military personnel or the Jedi acting in a police role that the sudden and inexplicable abscence of the police becomes rather transparent, at least to me.  That, alone, is enough to justify the inclusion of Imperial Security (something the Old Republic does as well, by the way).  But I have more reasons.
Hannah Arendt, who wrote the classic analysis of totalitarianism,said that totalitarian societies had three characteristic institutions:massive propaganda efforts directed at their own populations, secretpolice forces, and concentration camps that caused mass deaths.   
-Bill Stoddard, Social Engineering
A police force imposes the will of the government on the people.  The Imperial Ministry may make the law but Imperial Security enforces those laws.  More than that, dictatorships need police, taken to extreme levels.  The Empire is almost certainly CR 6, and it must therefore police its people to make sure that no "sedition" or "corruption" has seeped in, and that nobody threatens to topped the delicate structure upon which the Emperor has settled his throne.  All must embrace the cause, all must understand the divine purpose of the Emperor, and all who do not must be found, convicted and shipped off to labor camps to die out of the public eye.

More than any single force, I expect the players will run up against Imperial Security.  When they try to assassinate officials, or smuggle medical supplies onto a rebellious world, or when they're trying to make sure their machinations aren't uncovered by the empire, it's Imperial Security, not the Imperial Military that they'll face.  Thus, we need them, both as someone to serve (especially if you're a Bounty Hunter), but especially as opposition.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Patreon Post: Building Grav Cars

Next week, I'm going to unveil Imperial Security and then we'll shortly dive into the Imperial Navy, both of which really require decent vehicles, but especially Imperial Security.  The problem I have is that I lack a decent system by which to build vehicles: There's no Vehicles 4e!  So what's  a man to do?

Well, I struggled with several ideas, from just modifying the existing grav car, to using GURPS Spaceships to build it, and then I finally gave in and looked at Vehicles 3e.  My final solution resulted in a compromise between the various solutions.  In today's patreon post (for $1+!) I offer my design journal for creating grav cars and, because that's a meandering mess, I also offer a cleaner and more concise guide on how to build 4e vehicles with Vehicles 3e.
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A Psi-Wars Round-Up

I should pay better attention.

I wrote Psi-Wars for people to use, so when I see people using it, that warms my heart.  I also believe in the Death of the Author, in the sense that I do not believe my way is the only way to run Psi-Wars, or even that it's my own setting (that's why Iteration 5 was a very good stopping point, because it gives GMs the tools they need to write their own material).  Thus, when someone creates new material or goes in a new direction, I feel that adds to Psi-Wars.  It can also highlight weaknesses and things I need to shore up, which makes it good feedback for me as well.

Today, I've got two blogs for you, both of which have been delving into Psi-Wars.  The first is adding lots of optional rules to everyone's favorite mechanic: Communion. The second is actually using Psi-Wars for a campaign. Fun!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Imperial Ministry and Senate

Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo.While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict....  
-The Phantom Menace

"Control the coinage and the courts—let the rabble have the rest." Thus the Padishah Emperor advised you. 
Dreary politics and statecraft is probably the furthest thing from the minds of the players of any action scenario, and yet politics feeds into every action scenario: The Expendables features a political coup against a South American dictator at its core, and James Bond stories revolve around Cold War politics.  The action hero might not be a politician, but politics often drives the context of his action.

Thus, I'd like to  get the "least exciting" of our Imperial triumvirate out of the way first, and take a look at imperial politics.  Of all the character types, I expect only the Diplomat will really invest deeply into the organ of state within the Empire, but any character with an aristocratic background might find himself or herself tied into it.

But everyone and anyone might find themselves at the beck and call of a powerful imperial official or a wealthy imperial senator.  They'll call upon Assassins to destroy their rivals, or find themselves the marks of the Con Artist, or they'll confer quietly with their personal Spies.  The point of this organization, more than anything, is to provide context for the actions of our characters.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Patreon Post - The Results of the Emperor polls

Last week, we had a poll for the Emperor.  Today, I have the results of that poll, compiled into a single document.  I don't have the final version of the Emperor yet, because we still need a few pieces before that can be finished (the voting definitely demanded a psionic conspiracy, and I haven't begun working on those yet), but in the meantime, we know what the emperor looks like and what sort of person he is.

For all $5+ patrons, check it out here.  If you're not a patron, don't worry, I've got more material for you Thursday and, as usual, if you'd like to become a patron, I'd love to have you.

Support me on Patreon!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Patreon Posts: The Empire and the Emperor

Today begins the reign of the Empire!  Over the next month, I'll release all the details of the Empire, from its organizations to its unique technology and its dangerous personnel.  For my $3+ "Fellow Traveler" Patrons, I have a complete preview (though currently lacking technology and personnel!)

For my $5+ Companions and Disciples, you get to decide on the Emperor himself.  Heir to the great war hero's legacy, he might be a sinister psion or a misunderstood genius.  What is his true agenda, and who will reign when he passes away?  The introduction post is here.

As usual, I want to thank my patrons: you guys make this possible.  If you're not a patron, don't worry, all of this stuff will eventually be available to you too, but if you'd like to join, I'd love to have you.
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Designing Organizations: Overview and Empire

New Empire by Adam Burn
Organizations represent the heart of every Action game.  Organizations (the police, the CIA, a spooky cabal) hire heroes to fight other organizations (the Mob, terrorists, a spooky cabal).  While organizations aren't central in the sense that they're not the mechanics that drive the action, they encompass, surround and provide the context for the action.

So, more important for Psi-Wars than planets, or alien races, or cool technology are organizations. Of course, some organizations will be unique to planets or regions of space, but a few major organizations so thoroughly saturate the setting that they must be defined before the rest of the setting can be: the Empire, the Rebellion and the Space Knight Order.

All of them need the same sort of questions asked and answered to work in a proper Action context, so in this introduction, I'm going to start with the Empire itself as an example of Organization design.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Patreon Post: Trader Tech

Today, I finish up my documents on Traders.  Tomorrow, we'll resume our normal posting schedule with the Empire.

The polls for the Traders resulted in an increased focus on interesting technologies, including Trader Arks, Symbolic Superlogic neural architecture, extensive cybernetics and skin-suits.  I've gathered all of these, and more, into a single Trader Tech document.

The post is a preview and thus available to all $3+ "Fellow Travelers".  If you're a patron, check it out here. If you're not, I'd love to have you!
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Patreon Post: The Final Traders Document

Another day, another Patreon post.  Yesterday, I announced the results of the Trader poll.  Today, I have the Trader documents. The results took a lot more work than I expected, and came to 9000 words.  I'm interested in your thoughts!

The post is a preview and thus available to all $3+ "Fellow Travelers".  If you're a patron, check it out here. If you're not, I'd love to have you!
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Monday, March 13, 2017

Patreon Post: The Traders Poll Results

This week is going to be something of a Patreon Week, rather by accident.  I offered some polls on the Traders, and the results have come in.  The results took more time and energy than I expected, so the material is rather extensive and is going to take some time to release.  Don't worry, my non-Patrons, I do dearly love you too, and this week will see the release of the first of a very long, multi-series post on the Empire!

So, today, I have my Poll Results, which are available only to my Companions ($5+) because those are the people who voted for them.  If you're not a Patron, I'd love to have you, but note that you won't have much context, at least, for this post.  The results of the Traders will be visible later this week as a "preview," and thus available to all $3+.  Eventually, of course, all of this ends up in the final documents.

Check it out here.

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Patreon Post: A First Draft Historical Timeline

I was bothered by how uncertain my history was.  How much time should really be in each era?  Did I cover enough?  Could I cover more?  To solve it, I broke everything out into a much more detailed timeline.  I don't intend to release the timeline in the final book (who reads timelines?) but it's still a useful reference for me, and I thought my Patrons might like to read it.

So, if you're a $3+ patron, you can get the complete timeline here.  It also necessarily includes a slightly deeper look at the setting.  I'd love some comments if you have them.  If you're not a patron, as always, I'd love to have you!

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Psi-Wars History 3: The Roots of Communion

History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes 
-Mark Twain 
Four thousand years before the rise of the Galactic Empire, the Republic verges on collapse. DARTH MALAK, last surviving apprentice of the DARK LORD REVAN, has unleashed an invincible Sith armada upon an unsuspecting galaxy. 
-Knights of the Old Republic, Opening Crawl

The First Jedi Temple, from the Force Awakens
The Star Wars universe boasts a considerable history, often a cyclical one.  In it, Luke goes in search of the "First Jedi Temple," and we're treated to visions of the ancient city of Jedah, and we have an entire game series set in the "Old Republic" which nearly replicates the galaxy in its later state, only with a few minor changes (convenient for an RPG!).

This isn't that far from how history actually works.  History tells the story of humanity, our struggle to pull out of primitive and poverty-stricken barbarism, then to rise to the dizzying heights of civilization only to experience a total system collapse and be driven back into the depths of barbarism.  The history of China studies of the rise and fall of dynasties, and our own history has the rise of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire (you might call the 14th century collapse of High Medieval society brought on by the Black Death such a fall, but Europe recovered with its identity largely intact), and Rome itself rose after a period known as the Greek Dark Ages, which followed the Late Bronze Age collapse.  It is this last that some scholars argue give rise to Greek myths of a "Golden Age" that preceded the darker classica era.

Whether there's truth to that, those myths do exist, and they shape our myths.  The notion of ages, of civilizations rising and falling, followed by heroes plumbing the depths of those ruins to find lost treasure and secret lore.  Star Wars, following the trope of fantasy and mythic stories, whispers of lost Jedi temples and ancient Sith empires.  It's not the only to do this: Warhammer 40k has a loose sketch of its considerable history (and has recently released Warhammer 30k!); Dune likewise hints at considerable history, such as references to the Butlerian jihad; Foundation features an Empire that was ancient and on its way our before the series even begins, and also has an archaeologist hunting for the origins of humanity in the Galaxy; Traveler sets its current game in the third Imperium, and has details to the previous two.

Thus, a truly ancient history certainly has a place in Psi-Wars, but as before, we need to justify it by determining what questions it answers.  The most obvious to me are "So, what kind of cool ruins does this game have?" or "What's the story behind all of these aliens," though I would caution against making every alien race older than humanity.  But the biggest one players will probably want to know is:
  • "What are the origins of Communion?"
I don't mean this in the sense of "How did the psychic phenomenon of Communion come into existence?"  Presumably, it has always existed, though if we wanted some race to have constructed it, that should have happened literally millions of years ago.  No, I refer to the faith of True Communion, the philosophy that drives so much of the game.  Just as the Jedi faith seems to have ancient roots, and our own myths and religions also seem to have roots buried in oral traditions that existed before the dawn of time, players may well expect that Communion is an ancient faith that greatly precedes the modern era.  If that is true, then we need to tell the story of the world that gave rise to it

And while we're doing it, we can answer another question:
  • "What are the coolest relics possible?"
If we have a truly ancient galaxy, then we can have truly ancient relics brimming with unspeakable power, the sorts of things wars might be fought over.  These, too, would be grounded in our dawn era.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Psi-Wars History Part 2: The History of the Space Knight

Your father's light saber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times... before the Empire. 
-Obi-Wan Kenobi, A New Hope
Now that we've settled on the basic outlines of the history of the Empire and how the Republic collapsed into autocracy, we're left with some questions:

  • How did the republic form in the first place?
  • Who are the aristocrats who dominated the republic and where did they come from?
  • What did the military look like before the domination of our charismatic general?
But I, personally, have a question that I think is far more pressing and likely to be asked by your players, even Brent, more often than any of the above:

  • "What about the Space Knights?" 
Where do they come from?  Where did they go? Why are they gone?  What where they like?  Are they still around?  How?  And why do they seem to be suddenly making a comeback?

Star Wars has some answers for this: The Jedi Order was, like, always there, until their enemy, the Sith, took over and used Order 66 to kill them all, and this was like 10 years ago, but now the Jedi are already legends.

Personally, this doesn't sit well with me.  To me, when I heard that line above in A New Hope, I envisioned something Arthurian, this ancient order who had vanished centuries ago but somehow still had a few masters scattered across the Galaxy, if only you could find them and revive the good old ways.  

Then, the real question this history has to answer is: "How to religious orders fall?"

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Psi-Wars History Part 1: The History of the Empire

So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause. 
-Padme Amidala, Revenge of the Sith
When you design a setting element, or a story, or a hook you'll use to inspire yourself later, you should try to build a question into them, some element you want to explore and touch on, or let your players explore.  I would argue that all of the Star Wars prequels revolve around the question of "How did the Republic become the Empire?"

George Lucas answered that question with a bit of Roman and German history, plus his own personal political philosophy.  I also thoroughly believe that George Lucas wanted us to ponder this question ourselves and relate it to our daily lives, which quite a few people have certainly done, with gusto, in regards to the recent elections, if my Google Search for the above quote is any indication.

I'd like to revisit that question, using much of the same inspiration that George Lucas had, and show you how we can come to a very different conclusion than he did.  I want to revisit how democracies die, and more than that, I want to look at the broader implications of the histories from which George Lucas drew his inspiration, and use that to expand the setting beyond the narrow scope Star Wars has.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The History of Psi-Wars

I wanted to begin with history because history often explains how we got to where we were.  Thus, history and cartography are usually amongst the first choices of setting-builders when they get started, as history represents where things started.  History will explain why everything is where it is, making it the foundation upon which we'll build the setting.

That said, I almost held off on it, because history needs to explain how the setting came to be in the shape that it is, and without knowing what that shape will be, how can I write its history?  I could just write the history and then from that history derive the setting, but if I have some crazy-good idea later on as I'm working on, for example, geography or technology, should I discard it just because it doesn't fit my history?  Of course not.  The intent here is not to set everything in stone, but to build, collect and curate inspiration, and tie it together well enough to create a cohesive setting.  So, perhaps it would be better to write my history after I've finished coming up with the setting?  After all, that's how Star Wars wrote its history: George Lucas said "Space war! Evil magical samurai!  Giant planet-killing space station!  Details to follow!" and made his movie, then expanded his universe.

I propose we do both.  Having a decent grounding in the history of our setting well help guide us in our creative efforts.  It'll create a framework that will inspire the rest, but as we work on other parts of the setting, we'll fold their stories and histories into the greater fabric of the history we're writing.  Thus, we'll do this largely in two parts: Up front, to inspire our work, and at the end, a final edit of all the history we need to explain the setting we've come up with.

Before I begin, though, I'd like to do my usual discussion of setting creation theory.  First, we need to justify doing this at all, and get an idea of what our intent here is.  Second, we need a picture of how we're going to proceed, and finally, we need to tools at our disposal.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Hunting for Inspiration II: Stranger than Fiction

I'm afraid I can't find the quote by Kenneth Hite, but it amounts to this: No matter how creative you are, the real world will come up with something stranger and cooler than you can ever come up with, and you'd thus be a fool not to pillage history.

This is especially important for Psi-Wars, for two reasons.  First, Star Wars, from which Psi-Wars draws is principle inspiration, is very thoroughly based on history, especially the History Channel favorites like World War 2 and the Roman Empire.  If we want Psi-Wars to feel the same, then we need to draw our inspiration from a similar source.  But more importantly, Psi-Wars must necessarily be larger than Star Wars, given that Star Wars is "only" a movie, while Psi-Wars needs to be a setting that supports a huge variety of different possible games.  That means we need more material to steal from, and there's hardly more material than all of human history.

As before, though, I intend to pursue emulation rather than imitation.  I don't want Psi-Wars to be the the Fall of the Roman Republic with the serial numbers scratched off, I want to understand what made Rome fall, and then draw parallels with that with the fall of my Galactic Empire.  This is the same thing Lucas did in the prequels though I'm quite sure I'll draw different historical conclusions than he did (It takes more than a single war to turn a democracy into a dictatorship).  We need to do our homework, and I certainly have (Look, I like history, okay!), and I've noted some sources below.  Those are just some sources, a place where you might start.  The point here is hunting for ideas, not necessarily a rigorous historical thesis, thus I've happily included semi-fictional works and well-researched RPGs.  It's not meant as an exhaustive bibliography of books I've gone through.

So, what part of history can I draw on for inspiration for Psi-Wars?

All of it.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Hunting for Inspiration I: Better Stories Than Mine

The last part of setting building is research, and I'm going to break this up into two parts, starting with the other works of fiction from which I can draw inspiration for my setting.  I originally intended to dedicate a week to this, because I think there's a fantastic amount of stuff we can look at, but I'd rather finish sooner than later, so let's do a whirlwind tour.  As we go through the actual setting, I'll bring up sources and ideas from these original elements as necessary.

Obviously, the biggest inspiration is Star Wars itself, but we can gain additional inspiration from that which inspired Star Wars, that which Star Wars inspired, and whatever else I happen to find interesting.  Star Wars itself is much bigger than just the films.  Particular things that I often find myself referencing again and again

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