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).

Support me on Patreon!

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!

Support me on Patreon!

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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