Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Alliance Summary and Retrospective

As usual, when I finish a major setting element, I work out the summary, the bit that would go in a simplified document so players can just jump straight in and play.

The Alliance took much longer than I thought.  In retrospect, I should have realized the additional complexity of what I was taking on.  Star Wars provides us with what amounts to the definitive space empire, the one which all other space empires tend to get measured.  It's fairly detailed, and it's not hard to expand upon the framework they built.  The rebellion, on the other hand, is something of a disaster as a setting element.  It has precious few details, and what details it has don't always make sense.  Like sometimes it seems to have organization (Rebel Intelligence, Rebel Fleet Command), and other times seems to just be a rag-tag collection of small insurgencies.  It has access to huge ships, but no shipyards or territory to call it's own.  It wants to be FARC, a small guerrilla band that loses itself in the jungle, while also being the Allied Forces of WW2!  And this is only what you can piece together on your own.  The various works on Star Wars just don't go that much into the rebellion as an organization, more as a group of heroes.

Thus, I ended up throwing a lot of it away and starting from scratch.  This created two problems.  First, the Alliance amounts to the opposite of the Empire: lots of heterogeneous powers rather than one monolithic one, which means I'm essentially stopping to right up "all the military forces of the Galaxy that aren't the Empire." While the Alliance only occupies a small portion of the Galaxy, its worlds tend to be representative of any generic, non-alien world you might find, whether it's officially affiliated with the Empire or not.  Thus, I ended up creating Planetary Governments and their associated organizations as well.

The Noble Houses, though, proved the most difficult but, I suspect, the richest.  Where a lot of material so far has been fairly generic, this necessarily gets specific.  I tried to write up a generic house, but such posts proved more useful as advice and rules for handling houses.  As with martial arts or philosophies, it's just easier for me to show rather than tell, and that's what I did.  But this means names, and more names, and titles, which means planets, and it means relics (which require names, and personalities, and historical events) and conflicts and politics.  You know, all the great stuff that really make a game come alive

I hope they work well, not just as fodder for politics and NPCs, but also as "splats" for players who want to be aristocratic and have it mean something.  That, more than anything else, has been what this cycle has been about.  This feeds into the Desiree ("Where do I come from? If I'm a princess, who do I want to marry?  What's the context of my house right now?  What am I worried about?") and Bjorn ("What totally sweet powers do I get?  What sets members of my house apart from members of other houses").  I worry a bit about the Bretts ("Like it's a rebellion, what more do you need to know? OMG politics?!") but Willow will love it, I'm sure.  It did prove that working out historical details in advance helped, though it necessarily expanded that history.

I've noticed that the aristocracy has probably had the single greatest response from my players.  Back during the Imperial run, I offered to let my patrons make signature characters, and the response was very tepid, while people were suggesting aristocratic characters to me almost as soon as houses dropped. Why? Context.  Thus fair I've offered fairly generic tools.  You know what a fleet is roughly like, and how they operate, but one officer can sub in for another officer, which is part of the intent of the Empire.  Even so, the players have very little to grasp.  What makes an imperial character interesting?  What sort of roles might they play?  While with the aristocracy, this is clear. You can see the tensions between various houses, the sorts of roles one might play, and what each member might look like specifically.  This partly arises from the heterogeneous nature of the Alliance vs the homogeneous nature of the Empire, but I think if I want to grab players, when I revisit the Empire, I need to find a similar point of tension and context, so GMs and players can see what their imperial character plays out as without necessarily having to draw on Star Wars sources they already know (we don't want every officer to be Thrawn, every imperial Space Knight to be Darth Vader, etc).

We're almost finished with the first half of Iteration 6 (It only took 8 months!  I had a baby, alright?).  Next: Philosophy!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Cross-Post: Libris Ludorum Ruminates on Houses

Nemoricus, who is one of my most supportive Patrons (also the author of the Psi-Wars primer: I just post what he gives me; and the author of the Psi-Wars bibliography, which I'll post soon; and frequent editor of my material) has been following the houses closely and decided to explore them, noodling through them in a series of four posts that I'd like to share with you, and then comment on.

The Posts

Patreon Post: The Fifth House (and an offer)

Who are they?  It's such a mystery!
I had originally conceived of several additional houses, but I stopped myself short, in part because I didn't want overwhelm everyone, in part because I have other things I need to write, and in part because I wanted to give you, dear reader, a voice.

I don't want anyone who read the last couple of weeks to think that this is every house in the Alliance, or that has existed throughout the Empire.  Houses and lineages clutter the galaxy, some lost, some hidden, some still quite powerful. I originally conceived of each house as a piece of inspiration for you, dear reader.  Sabine and Grimshaw are powerful houses at political odds (with Grimshaw as a worked example of what a cadet branch might look like); Elegans gives an example of a house that was powerful, but is no more, and Kain gives an example of a late-coming house, a distinct tradition that got folded into the broader Maradon culture.  That should be enough for you to get started, but there are more possibilities.

As such, I have a poll for all $5+ Patrons (My Companions)!  It offers a multitude of options for a new house, a "hidden" house that either isn't part of the Alliance or isn't particularly well known.  I have no doubt that the vote will be contentious because, like with the Traders months ago, there are so many ways we could go and all of them are right.  So if you vote, and your vote ends up not getting picked, don't despair!  And if you can't vote, but you have a totally great idea, then don't despair!  If you write up your own house, blog it, and then send me the link, I will link it on this blog.  I will even help you, if you like, to put your house together.  The point of this blog, more than anything else, is to help you get your creative juices flowing, so if I can help, I will.

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

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

House of Kain, Part 2

Not every house is going to use psionic powers, especially if we're looking at houses that joined the Empire later.  Cybernetics seems like a natural evolution in a society that makes regular use of force swords.  It also represents a shout-out to the Metabarons, who always have at least one cybernetic part as part of their initiation rite.  That requires a fairly extensive look at cybernetics, and a new catalog.  I don't envision every member of the House Kain as thoroughly covered in cybernetics, but most should have at least one piece.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The House of Kain, Part 1

I wanted to show that not all houses descend from the most ancient of bloodlines.  Sometimes, a businessman marries into a family, or conquered nobility fold themselves into the aristocracy, or a warlord gains legitimacy by joining the the aristocracy.  House Kain is one such example.

I drew my primary inspiration from both Clan Mitsurugi from my own Cherry Blossom Rain and the Metabarons.  Clan Mitsurugi controlled the main access point between two rivals, and protected it ferociously.  I wanted the same for the Alliance: a reason as to why the Empire hadn't just crushed the Alliance already, and thus Caliban and its ancient orbital fortress.  The Empire might defeat them, but it would cost them a great deal and give the rest of the Alliance a chance to respond.  It might bypass it, but the other routes are less practical and more likely to create a scattered fleet more easily defeated.  With the Empire facing wars on all fronts, they can afford to leave the Alliance for now until they have the firepower to overwhelm Caliban and its defenders.

I was introduced to the Metabarons when someone commented that my Psi-Wars reminded him of Jodorowsky.  I haven't had a chance to read the Incal, generally considered his most iconic comic, but I did manage to land a copy of the Metabarons, which suits the aristocracy of Psi-Wars better.

This combined into a ridiculously masculine, over-the-top house of warriors which make for an excellent contrast with the more elegant nobility. They offer an opportunity for a player to play a knight who disdains the elegance of the other families, or who struggles to restore the Alliance to its fighting roots, or creates delightful scandals when a member of the House tries to marry someone from another family.

I wanted a name that didn't sound like a Maradon name (thus a single syllable), but that fit nicely with the names I had come up with for the family members, thus Kain.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

House Elegans, Part 2

Tools of House Elegans

Elegans Background Options:

Given the difficult situation of Elegans, you may instead take the Outcast or Wanderer background and simply take your title as an optional trait.

If you choose to take the Aristocratic background, you may add the following:

Traits: Ally (Petbot, 150 points, 15 or less) [6].

Optional Disadvantages: Elegans may remove Wealth (Comfortable) if they wish and replace it with Wealth (Struggling) [-10]

Monday, August 21, 2017

House Elegans, Part 1

Early on, I had realized I couldn't make every house a major power house.  After all, the Empire had gutted many Houses, so I needed at least one example of a house that was circling the drain, trying desperately to gain allies in its fight to regain its estates, or trying to borrow money from the more accomplished houses (I also had the idea for a dead house, one that had been wiped out, as things long gone can be as interesting in a game as things still present, and I still think that's a good idea, but I ran out of room).

I originally conceived of this House as useless courtiers who used plots, machinations and marriage to achieve success, but then I saw Afro-Samurai and thought "Psi-Wars needs that."  The idea of tragic samurai have long appealed to me, and Afro-Samurai represented an alternative take on that, which blends the cultural fusion I'm going for in Psi-Wars.  His tragedy made him a natural candidate to be the inspiration for the House that had lost everything, and so I chose this house.

Empathy and Telepathy make a lot of sense for a house that's all about persuading others to help them, but it's also a great choice for the anime-esque samurai who stares down his opponents and knows an attack is coming moments before it does, so I shifted Empathy from Grimshaw to this house.

Once I knew I was going to use an African character as inspiration, I could dig into one of my favorite characters, Eshu Elegba, as further inspiration (hence the name "Esau Elegans"), as my handle here is "Mailanka" which is a reference to a Changeling Eshu, which was my favorite game (and story within the game) of my youth.  Thus, the House gained a tradition of trickery (appropriate to a house with telepathy!) and with trying things other houses would not, seeking solutions where other houses would not, becoming the "left handed" house.  I also gave them this tradition because I wanted to have at least one house that had stepped away from the Oracular Order, and the house that had lost all of its territory to the Empire would reasonably be far from the center of the Oracular Order, which means they would be the best candidate for joining the philosophy of True Communion.

This makes them a complex house, one that seeks the assistance from traditional houses despite having a tradition of violating those traditions, a house of warriors whose greatest asset is political manipulation, a house who must cling to the last of their aristocratic heritage, yet knows well the struggle of the common man.

The Cadet Branch Afolayan is a reference to Lady Maya Afolayan, a character by Kelly Pedersen.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Patreon Post: The House of Alexus

An emperor to an eternal empire, at least
The Eternal Emperor, Rulers of the Alexian Empire, the Lords of Maradon.  The House of Alexus ruled the Galaxy for centuries and their legacy still casts a long shadow across the Galaxy.  They brought the noble houses of the Alliance to power, and so, in a sense, their legacy still lives on.

But who were they?  Are they dead?  In what other ways does this ancient house continue to make an impact on the Galaxy?  That's up to you to decide, dear Patron.

I wanted to emphasize that while I've given you four houses, they're not the only four possible houses.  I have at least two more houses for you, Patron, with House Alexus representing a dead, bygone House.  This one, given its importance, is going to be a special case: I'm making it exclusive to my $7+ Patrons, my Disciples.  It's a poll that, as usual, consists of a multitude of questions, and they're slated to drop in "reverse order," once every 15 minutes, so if you're seeing this, wait a spell and the rest of the poll questions will come soon enough.  They are:

  • The House of Alexus (An introduction and discussion of the House)
  • The Ancestral Legacy: The Founder (A look at the semi-mythical Alexus Rex, the man who conquered the stars)
  • The Ancestral Legacy: The Zenith (A look at Tarquin Alexus, the man who defined the Eternal Empire at its best)
  • The Ancestral Legacy: the Fall (A look at the Mad Emperor, Lucius Alexus, and how exactly he managed to screw everything up)
  • The Eugenic Legacy (What sort of genetic upgrades the Alexian dynasty had)
  • The Psionic Legacy (What sort of psionic powers the Alexian dynasty had)
  • The End of Alexus (Is the House dead?  And if not, in what state does it live on?)
  • The Final Legacy of Alexus (In what way does the house, dead or alive, continue to impact the setting?  Why do they matter to the player characters in the present).
If you're a Disciple, go vote!  If you're not, I'd love to have you!

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

House Grimshaw, Part 2

I wanted to take the opportunity to stop and address something I had essentially ignored over the creation of the entire Alliance: they use robots, a lot.  One of the elements I had proposed for the economic hardships that helped spawn the Empire was the over-use of robotic labor and the increasing desperation of the average citizen.  The Empire ostensibly removed a lot of robotic labor, which is why I didn't talk much about Imperial robots, but the Alliance should still make use of them, from secretary bots to guardian robots.  To emphasize that, I've created a robot unique to house Grimshaw, which gives our space wizards a nice space golem to accompany him.

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.

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