Friday, April 28, 2017

Patreon Double Trouble: the Names of Humanity and Building Imperial NPCs

Today, I've got not one, but two, Patreon posts!  In the first, I've got the Names of Humanity, a proposed expanded list of the generic sci-fi names offered in Iteration 5.  These include a brief discussion of the various "ethnicities" of humanity in Psi-Wars, and where the original culture groups came from ages ago, to create a cohesive set of names, as well as a discussion of how to mix and match them.  Hopefully, this gives you plenty of ideas on how to name your characters.  The Names of Humanity is available right now to all $3+ patrons (and no, you're not crazy, back in the State of the Patreon I argued that this would be a $1+, but in retrospect, it's less of an aside or generic article, and more of a preview of coming Psi-Wars material, so thus appropriate for $3+.  I hope this change does not offend!)

Next, I have Building Imperial NPCs, an open invitation to all $7+ patrons (my Disciples) to contribute to the Empire by creating your own NPCs.  I've included instructions, what I'm looking for and what I'm not, as well as questions and real or fictional characters to inspire you.
Go and take a look!  If you're not a patron, as usual, I'd love to have you!

Support me on Patreon!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bonus Post: Tactics of the Imperial Navy

I've been terribly busy with my newborn son, but I do want to keep moving forward with Psi-Wars. When I built the Empire, it occurred to me that I didn't know all that much about how they really operated.  How do they invade planets? What purpose do cruisers serve and how are they different from dreadnoughts?  If you attack a defensive Imperial installation, how do they look?

So, I wrote up a bunch of "signature tactics" for various Imperial institutions, but I wasn't sure how valuable others might find them, so I showed them to my Patreons.  They nearly unanimously felt they were extremely useful.  I'm not sure how I'll fit them all in, but I wanted to share one of the documents with you, the tactics of the Imperial Navy.  If I have time, I might expand them to include other organizations, but in the meantime, enjoy, and be sure to tell me what you think!

(The Tactics for Imperial Security is also available, but currently only to Patrons.  It's available to all $1+ patrons, if you're interested!)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Presenting Theodore Cayden Dover

He was born April 21st, 2017.  He is the first born son of the first born son of the first born son of the first born son of the first born son of Flix Dover, and the third in that line to bear the name Theodore. He's also super cute.

Obviously, as a first time dad, I have less time for things than I did before.  I don't know what that'll do for the blog, but it'll be a little touch and go for a bit.  I appreciate your patience.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Empire: Characters, and a Retrospective

(How am I doing, guys?)

I've written about the Empire for nearly 2 months and produced more than 70 pages of content (40k words).  Is it enough?  Is it too much?  Let me take a minute to think that through, discuss why I think my material is justified, and then to offer a summary of the whole thing, and a focus on building Imperial Characters.

My Target Audience

Back in the First Steps to a Setting, I described three sorts of people that I imagine might actually use Psi-Wars:
  • Star Wars fans open to something new
  • GURPS Sci-fi fans who want support for something Operatic
  • DF Fans who want to play something sci-fi-ish, but don't want to do the work.
My design has generally pushed towards a conservative design of the Empire: any fan of Star Wars will readily recognize the Empire of Star Wars in here, but with only a few major differences: Black Ops (and a similar organization surely exists somewhere in the EU), the fact that the Senate still exists, and the nature of the Emperor himself. Everything else is fairly recognizable.

From there, I've tried to focus exclusively on elements that directly support gameplay where I can.  The result should be organizations that need no additional work to play with (helping the DF-types), offering insights into how such organizations might work (for the GURPS Sci-fi fans), and offering Star Wars something familiar, but not too familiar.

I've chosen for the familiar path to cut down on the need to explain things to my players.  You don't need to read all 30 pages of the Psi-Wars Empire to get that it's like the Star Wars Empire: "Oh, it has dreadnoughts instead of Star Destroyers and Typhoons instead of Tie Fighters, and the Emperor is a little different.  Right.  Got it."  This means it lacks some creativity, but I don't personally feel this is the place for deep creativity.  Players should be grounded in a familiar world, and the Empire very much represents that world.  This helps the "Brents" who just want to jump straight into the game and not "do homework" to play.

Most of the material focuses on organizations, what they can do for you, and how they might oppose you.  This makes them a great grab-bag for the "Bjorns" who want to know which organization they should join, and why.  Perhaps he'll join Black Ops, play as a Black Op commando and get some great commando toys.  Or perhaps she'll play as a Imperial Security Agent who genuinely believes in the Empire, and is working to root out corruption from her post as an attache to a Minister of Justice aboard a Dominion-class Patrol Cruiser.  It also helps the Rebel player who wants to know what interesting opponents the Empire can throw against him.

This focus on organizations also helps the "Desiree" player who wants to know which factions to join and what they might want.  However, the elements that I expect will most interest her come at the beginning, as I discuss what it feels like to be in the Empire.

The player who will likely enjoy Imperial material the least is likely the "Willow." This material largely lacks rich lore, other than perhaps the true agenda of the Emperor, but the most fascinating elements are likely the secret cabal of evil space knights that surround him, which I haven't touched upon yet.  Why?  Because I need to understand space knights first, so we'll come back to them.

I also want this to be a grab-and-play sort of document for GMs, hence the inclusion of agendas (which amount to session seeds), and minions, who represent characters the GM can immediately throw at his players.

The net result is on the very small side of an SJGames supplement (on par with Boardroom and Curia) and smaller than the average Pyramid (which is about 40 pages long), unless we count gear.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Cross-Post Highlight: GURB, the Generic Universal Roleplaying Blog

I think I've mentioned several times that I regularly use material from other blogs to power Psi-Wars, and 90% of the time, I mean I'm using GURB.  He regularly dives into all parts of Ultra-Tech and pulls out more nuance that you can add to your setting and gadgetry, which is exactly the sort of thing I need.  If I'm honest, give GURB a year, and I won't need GURPS Vehicles 4e anymore.

I want to highlight two things.  First, GURB has put together an extensive modification of the article "Blaster and Laser Design" from Pyramid #3/37 "Tech and Toys II."  Erik, the writer of GURB, promises that at some point, he's going to compile all of his material, but I thought I would at least compile a set of links, for my own convenience, and for yours!

Second, I've noticed that Erik is a fan of Star Wars and, hoping that he was a fan of Psi-Wars, I asked if he'd be willing to donate some guns.  I gave him no constraints other than to allow him to create what he wanted to create and to follow the conventions of Psi-Wars, which meant he had to discard his alternative rules for Star Wars-style blasters (a rule I have in place to avoid more house rules than necessary, but I happen to think it's a good one, as removing the surge modifier from blasters would make some kind of EM disruptor an interesting weapon to wield against robots, so I might institute it anyway, but he's been kind enough to leave everything as backwards compatible as possible).  You can check out the weapons here: Psi-Wars: A Blaster Grab-Bag.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Patreon Post: The Scale of the Empire

Just how big is the Empire?  It's "big enough" of course, but how big is "big enough?"  How many fleets can they support?  And how big is a "fleet?"  Is it reasonable to have 100 dreadnoughts show up at every single planet they control, or is a fleet of 5 dreadnought huge?  For that matter, how many worlds does the Empire control? Five?  A million?  And why would the Empire ignore a world festering with pirates, or attack a well-defended world when it could just bypass it?

These are the sorts of questions that I don't think need an answer for you to run your Psi-Wars game, but if we want to "internally model" what's going on, it might be useful for us.  This post dives into economics, hyperspace geometry and the Pareto principle to give us an idea of what the Empire (albeit one using the compacted, manageable numbers I've stuck to throughout the design process) might really look like.

The Scale of the Empire is available for all $1+ patrons.  Go and take a look!  If you're not a patron, as usual, I'd love to have you!

Support me on Patreon!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Thoughts on the SJGames 2016 Stakeholder Report

This week, SJGames released, of their own free will, a Stakeholder Report, which is not something that they have to do, but they do so out of the kindness of their hearts.  Several people in the GURPS Blogosphere have made comments on it:
So I thought I'd toss in my own two cents, express some concerns I've had, and tackle where I suspect we, as a community, need to go from here.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Imperial Intelligence and Black Ops Personnel

The two spy branches of the Empire function very differently, but both have unique minions they can call on to support their agents in the field.

For Imperial Intelligence, their close connection with Security means they often arrange to waive or lessen a prisoner's sentence in exchange for service.  Many such "services" end in the death of the prisoner, but just as often they don't, and the Empire remains true to their word.  More, Imperial Intelligence often fosters relationships with the best of their former prisoner-agents, making use of them again and again.  The result is that many prisoners within the imperial prison system are, in fact, de-facto informers and agents for Imperial Intelligence, arranging for "escapes" by political prisoners and then infiltrating enemy ranks in return for special considerations back home.

Black Ops prefers a more direct approach and employs elite hitmen and assassins in the form of Commandos and Demolitionists, which they deploy in Outrider-Class corvettes behind enemy lines, where they can wreak havoc, investigate enemy positions, or assassinate their rivals.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Black Ops Materiel and Spaceships

While both Imperial Intelligence and Imperial Black Ops sport a great deal of interesting toys, the toys of Imperial Intelligence are mostly "generic" espionage trinkets that I currently don't feel need extra detail.  Black Ops, on the other hand, needs an entirely different set of tools to accomplish their work.  The brute force tactics of the Imperial Navy don't work with the Imperial Black Ops.

For the most part, the same weapons the Empire already has continues to work well for Imperial Black Ops, and they can continue to use the same spaceships (especially the Assassin-model of the Typhoon!), but I envision them with access to new armor and a few new ships, especially a corvette ideal for inserting commandos behind enemy lines.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Imperial Black Ops

When I realized I needed imperial intelligence, it occurred to me that the Imperial Navy would never trust Imperial Security to handle its intelligence needs.  The rivalry between these two, heavily armed sides of the Empire simply wouldn't allow it.  While I expect Imperial Security has the Emperor's personal sanction to spy on its enemies and hand that information up the chain of command, which then could be passed down to the Imperial Navy, the Admiralty would want its own intelligence assets, ostensibly for immediate, battlefield intelligence, but in practice, also as a check against the growing power of the security bureau, and for the benefit of individual admirals.  "You have assassins?  I have assassins too!"

The Imperial Navy and Imperial Security work fundamentally differently, which means I'd expect their intelligence branches to work differently as well.  Imperial Security works within the Empire, and uses the Empire against itself.  It captures prisoners and uses their information.  It terrorizes the citizens and uses that power to expand itself.  The Admiralty, by contrast, is independent and self-contained.  It sends out its fleets far from the Empire, and cannot rely on local Imperial resources to work for it.  It also has a different mission: Imperial Security needs to keep the Empire in line, while the Imperial Navy needs to destroy opposition to the glorious Empire.

The result is a new intelligence branch: Imperial Black Ops.  This answers to the Admiralty directly, and uses its own assets and resources to perform its tasks, which primarily consist of sabotaging enemy installations and assassinating enemy leadership.  This is the commando arm of the Imperial Navy.  It doesn't have the official status that Imperial Intelligence has, but the Grand Admiral implies that he has a secret edict from the Emperor himself allowing it to exist, and Imperial Black Ops does receive "black book" funding from the Empire, and its actions have evaded any imperial audit thus far, suggesting that it really does have the stamp of approval of the Emperor.  If this is untrue, however, it may well mean that the Grand Admiral has taken his first step against the Emperor.

This is also a great spot for PC Imperial Commandos to work, which is a nice side-effect!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Imperial Intelligence

Imperial Intelligence evidently does end up in Star Wars, and is evidently explicitly mentioned in Rogue One, though I haven't found an explicit reference to it. This makes sense, as a dictatorship needs to rely on secret police, which means it needs to spy on outsiders, as well as its own population.  The line between Imperial Security and Imperial Intelligence, thus, probably blurs, and that's how it's going to be in Psi-Wars as well.

I had just finished my Imperial work when I realized that I was missing Imperial spies, which is definitely a gross oversight, but at the same time, I also realized that the Imperial Navy would never trust Imperial Security to gather its intelligence for it.  Thus, just as the US government has a variety of intelligence agencies that sometimes come into conflict, so too does it make sense for the Empire to have multiple intelligence agencies, highlighting the fault lines of Imperial power.

Today, though, I want to focus on the "conventional" spies, that of Imperial Intelligence.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Patreon Post: Tactics of Imperial Security

This is part 2 of my two-part series on Imperial Tactics, my experiment into looking at Standard Operating Procedures for the Empire.  This time, I look at how Imperial Security enforces its laws, investigates crimes, gets its man, and what it does with its man once it has him.  Check it out in Tactics - Imperial Security

As before, if you're a patron (any patron, $1+!), I'd like your feedback on it.  Is it useful to you?  Do you think it should end up in the final documents? If so, which elements?  And do you think it should end up on my blog?

I look forward to your feedback, dear patron, and if you're not a patron, I'd love to have you.

Support me on Patreon!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Patreon Post: Tactics of the Imperial Navy

Now that I've finished off the Imperial Navy, I have a Patreon Post detailing something I devised rather late in my building of the Empire.  I realized it might be nice to have "signature moves" for Imperial Chase scenes, and from there, I realized I knew little about how the Empire actually fought, or the sorts of "standard operating procedures" it had.

So, I wrote up some material to sort my thoughts out, and I've offered this document to all of my ($1+) patrons.

This is a slightly different Patreon post from usual, though, because while most of my Patreon posts are things that I find interesting but feel that I shouldn't bother any but my most ardent fans with, this one feels like it might be something that should actually go in the final documents.  On the other hand, my document is already very long.  Thus, I leave it up to my Patrons to give me feedback on what material, if any, should go in the final document.  Thus, if you're a $1+ patron, please check it out and vote!  If you're not a Patron, we'd love to have you!

Support me on Patreon!

Imperial Navy: Starships

Naturally, warships make up the heart of the Imperial Navy.  So much so, that Star Wars itself is identified as much by stormtroopers and star destroyers as it is by Jedi.  In fact, I can think of few reasons one might want to play as an Imperial other than the thought of being on such a mighty engine of destruction as an Imperial dreadnought.  So, naturally, as I've worked on Psi-Wars, I've already looked pretty deeply into what sorts of ships the Imperial Navy would have, and if I'm honest, I'm pretty happy with them.

I've folded Psi-Wars so closely into the existing Spaceships line that, in fact, I can use the GURPS Spaceships line pretty easily, and I don't really have much need to make new ships!  Most of what I need, I have.

Thus, we need to look at how the Empire fights, using the ships it already has, and what holes it might still have that we need to fill.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Imperial Navy: Personnel

We've already tackled the personnel of the Imperial Military.  Now, we just need to make some tactical revisions and expand on our previous ideas a bit.

The biggest change, beyond some minor weapon changes, is the upgrade of the flame trooper to the chem trooper.  My problem with the flame trooper is that he just doesn't present that much risk to a militarized enemy.  In fact, in a heavily armored combat scenario, flame throwers are better for destroying buildings and terrorizing citizens than for really killing troopers.  Most modern, western armies would balk at such tactics, so we don't use flame throwers much anymore, but for the Empire, coming down hard on civilian populations is just another day on the job.  So, let's expand this terror capability.  Given that all the imperial combat troopers filter air through their masks, why not toss in some nerve gas as well?  The result is Warcrimes: the Statblock, who doubles as a combat engineer.

I've also added some notes for standard fighter pilots.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Imperial Navy: Materiel

I already made an attempt at this back in Iteration 4, so what's changed?  Well, first of all, I have access to superior Beam Weapon mechanics, thanks to GURB, a better understanding if military formations, thanks to Lindybeige and to my analysis of Mass Combat in Iteration 5, and a superior armor-design system, thanks to Pyramid #3-96.  Plus, my discussion of Imperial tactics garnered me quite some feed back: Many of my commenters would like an even better Empire.  Why not?

So how will Imperial forces look now?  Well, I like the idea of a "modern Empire," one that uses tactics reminiscent of WW2 tactics, which suits their origin.  So, tanks rather than AT-ATs, heavy artillery, and forward moving troops with rapid-fire carbines, supported by even more rapid fire weapons and snipers.  A quick look:

For personnel:

  • Basic Troopers equipped with rapid-fire carbines and grenades
  • Drivers, equipped with submachine guns and pistols
  • Heavy troopers equipped with a bi-pod mounted machine-blaster.
  • Recon troopers with sniper rifles
  • Engineers with flame throwers and explosives
  • Imperial ground officers armed with SMG blasters and superior radio equipment
  • Elite troopers (Kill squads) equipped with grenade launchers, and advanced carbines.
For equipment, we need:
  • The Light and Heavy Hardsuit (or is what we have already good enough?)
  • The rapid-fire carbine
  • The blaster LMG
  • The advanced carbine
For vehicles, we need
  • A Recon Bike
  • A tank
  • Self-propelled artillery
  • Close Air Support
  • A troop transport/IFV

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Imperial Navy

We find that the Romans owed the conquest of the world to no other cause than continual military training, exact observance of discipline in their camps, and unwearied cultivation of the other arts of war.
-Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus

When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing more to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.

The Empire is, at its core, a militaristic organization. The motion towards empire began with the adoration of a military leader, resulting in sufficient military power and the worship of that power to topple the democracy that had so long ruled the Galaxy, and now, that military power serves its empire by constantly expanding its borders and acquiring their wealth to feed its own war machine.

Most of the rest of the Imperial organizations exist either to support the military or to keep its power in check.  The Imperial Ministry researches military weapons, provide propaganda to support its recruiting efforts, and manage the tax revenue that pays for its acquisitions and soldiers. Justice and Imperial Security watch over the might of the Imperial Navy, ensuring that it doesn't turn its power on the Emperor and overthrow him.

In Star Wars, the Empire was its military force.  We never saw any aspect of the Empire except its Star Destroyers, its stormtroopers and its tie fighters.  This means I had a paucity of material to work with when it came to other aspects of the Empire of Psi-Wars, but too much to work with here.  Now, I need to strike a slightly different note... or not worry about it excessively.  Between technology and more careful work on military doctrine, we have a somewhat unique force forming.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

State of the Patreon: April

Last month, I hit record highs twice.  First, I beat my first goal, and now we're working on adding art to Psi-Wars, which is honestly one of my biggest goals.  Second, I hit an all-time-high of 11,400 views on my blog.  Word is getting around, it seems, and you guys especially liked the Empire.  The biggest news is that someone is running a Psi-Wars campaign (I've already mentioned it, but let's mention it again!).  Based on where my views aggregate, I think there's at least one more campaign out there somewhere, or someone is using a lot of my character material to support their own ideas; either way, I call that a win.

Psi-Wars itself and my Patreon have both received some kind reviews, both from Libris Ludorum. I find the Patreon review particularly fascinating, because I've never seen such a thing.  It makes sense though, and actually, I think it's something more people should do.  Many people become patrons to support people they like, but it's ultimately a business transaction, so it would be nice to know what you're getting for your money.
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