Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Elite Armor III: Shinjurai Armor

I've been busy with the posting of my Atlas, but I haven't forgotten my tech series.  More warriors in the Psi-Wars galaxy get to enjoy the benefits of advanced armor than just the space knights and their imitators.  The advanced Shinjurai people also have their own secret armor systems, from the sleek cybersuits of the Syntech corporation to the heavy battlesuits of Wyrmwerks.  This armor tends to be less widespread, either because of intentional secrecy on the part of Syntech, or because of the loss of the Wyrmwerk foundries during the revolt of the Cybernetic Union.  Even so, both tend to find their way into the hands of the galaxy's mercenaries, assassins and bounty hunters.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Patreon Update - the February Roadmap

January worked out really well, so I thought I'd try more of the same for February.  The following is available on my Patreon:

Friday, January 25, 2019

Psi-Wars Atlas VI - The Sylvan Spiral

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The Sylvan Spiral has long hidden its mysteries not behind a veil, as with the Umbral Realm, but with a mysterious web of hyperspatial filaments that prevent travel deep into its heart. Throughout most of galactic history, this meant that march of conquest across the galaxy largely left this arm untouched. Those who have braved its depths find wondrous worlds, flush with life and untouched by time.

(Patrons, don't forget to vote on which world you'd like to see more detail on!)

The Sylvan Constellations

  • The Spindel Web: The gateway to the Sylvan Spiral, bio-technological adept Shinjurai clans rule this constellation and have tamed their worlds into beautiful gardens.

  • The Morass: The great bulk of the Sylvan spiral has its hyperspace lines cut apart by alien “thalline-filaments” along which its space-based lifeforms travel. These interconnect the ecologies of its many varied worlds, and make for extraordinarily diverse life found within the thousand worlds of the Morass

  • The Serpentis Constellation: On the farthest edges of the Sylven Spiral, outsider civilizations from beyond the galaxy wage war on one another and make alliances with the Slaver empire.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Psi-Wars Atlas V - The Umbral Rim

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Alternate Names: The Dark Arm.

The Umbral Rim invokes both dread and a sense of curious wonder. The veils of its nebulae shroud its worlds from sight, and its alien inhabitants exude an aura of exotic appeal. Its strange philosophies have swept the galaxy, and its inhabitants once ruled the galaxy.

Where the Glorian Rim is home to the least aliens, the Umbral Rim is home to the most, which makes this region of space a melting pot of cultures and genetics. The three most famous alien species to arise from the Umbral Rim are the sacred Keleni, who produced the True Communion philosophy, the vampiric and beautiful Ranathim, who conquered the Galaxy and produced ecstatic cults of Dark Communion, and the hungry and disgusting Slavers, who currently rule the Umbral Rim.

The dead system of Styx and its nebulae dominate the Umbral Rim’s astrography. Once the homeworld of the Ranathim, some secret and dread technology, suspected to be of Eldothic origin, caused their star to go supernova and collapse into a black hole. Its death shattered the hyperspace routes and cast a nebulous veil over the Umbral Rim. Its death also broke the Ranathim’s tyranny, and they fell from being a race who held others in slavery and into a race itself enslaved. Today, those Slavers ply the stars of the Dark Arm, demanding a tribute of flesh, trading in the alien races native to their region of space and coveting the chance to capture more exotic species, like Traders, the Nehudi or even humans!

The nebulae and the broken hyperspace routes make travel through the Umbral Rim difficult, but not impossible if one is familiar with the region. A successful roll of Area Knowledge (Umbral Rim) grants a +2 to Navigation rolls, while a successful roll of Area Knowledge for a specific constellation within the Umbral Rim grants a +4.

The Umbral Constellations

  • The Hydrus Constellation: The sacred worlds of the Keleni and the Templar; the origin of True Communion
  • The Corvus Constellation: Skirting the edges of the Shroud, these worlds are the most accessible of the deep Umbral Rim
  • The Shroud: The heart of the great nebula the covers the Dark Arm, where the dead world of Styx rules.
  • The Sanguine Stars: The far end of the Umbral Rim, and heart of the Slaver Empire.
For Companion (or better) Patrons, you can vote on what worlds you'd like to see more of here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Psi-Wars Atlas IV - The Arkhaian Spiral

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The cold worlds and the blue suns of the Arkhaian spiral have a long history of technological excellence and eldritch disaster. It seems to teeter forever on the edge of collapse, with only the most recent innovations keeping it alive just that little bit longer. The combined calamties of the Cybernetic Union and the Anacridian Scourge may prove to much for it, but the Valorian Empire does all it can to save this progressive part of space from final apocalypse.

The Arkhaian Spiral gave rise to the Eldoth, a callous race with unparalleled technology that, for a time, held the galaxy in their sway. Their defeat and extinction at the hands of the Ranathim cleansed the arm, and left it free to be co free to be colonized by humanity, the Traders and other races; even the younger races wisely gave the ancestral worlds of the Eldoth wide berth. The arm developed into a region of exceptional technological prosperity and wealth, and came to rival the prestige of the Glorian rim.

When the Anacridian Scourge descended from beyond the edge of the galaxy, they tore through the Arkhaian Spiral, consuming its people and laying waste to its worlds. While the Galactic Federation dithered, Leto Daijin acted and reformed the military and purged the Arkhaian arm of the Scourge. The Federation may have seen him as a usurper, but the people o the Arkhaian Spiral see him as a hero.

With so much loss of life, the people of the Arkhaian Spiral turned increasingly to the support of robots, and were thus unprepared for the rise of the machines. The Cybernetic Union, which purports to bridge the gap between man and machine and to offer equal rights for all, began to force cybernetic alterations on humans and purge all who disagreed with its programs (robot or human). The now genocidal military machine of the Cybernetic Union wages war on the Valorian Empire, while the memory of the Anacridian Scourge and the Eldothic race lay forgotten… for now.

The Arkhaian Constellations
  • The Kybernian Constellation: The last remnants of human civilization in the war-torn spiral, the Empire offers them their last hope.
  • The Borean Stars: The cool, blue stars at the heart of the robotic Cybernetic Union, where humanity has been forced to submit or be exterminated
  • The Telas Constellation: The homeworlds of the dread Eldoth, now under the protection of an ancient sect of the Templars.
  • The Arkhaian Chasm: The interstellar gap between the Glorian Rim and the Arkhaian spiral, with vast swathes of tranquil emptiness.
Patrons (Companions and better), don't forget to vote on which world you'd like to see more detail on.  If you missed it, there's also a poll for yesterday's post, the Glorian Rim.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Psi-Wars Atlas III - The Glorian Rim

Before I dive into the post proper, a note on the navigational traits of galactic arms:
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30,0000 parsecs (100,000 lightyears); curved. It takes about 5 months to go from the point where the galactic arm meets the galactic core, to the very end of it with a rating 1 drive. Crossing the galaxy from the tip of one arm to the tip of another arm typically takes 1 year with a rating 1 drive.

The Glorian Rim

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The Glorain Rim gave birth to the galaxy’s current rulers: humanity. Its worlds nurtured their rise and today, houses the last remnants of the Galactic Federation: the Alliance. Thus, its occupants are primarily human. The Glorian Rim’s ancient traditions date back to the dawn of human space travel, and the most prestigious of aristocratic houses trace their roots to its worlds. It houses one of the few major powers in the Galaxy that can pose a reasonable threats to the Empire in the form of its alliance of psychic aristocracy and free worlds, which means it faces the constant threat of invasion from the Valorian Empire.

The Glorian Constellations include:
  • The Maelstrom: the swirling hyperspatial storm churned by a pulsar that guards the entrance of the Arm
  • The Ancestral Spur: The homeworlds of humanity
  • The Golden Belt: The most fertile worlds of the Glorian Rim
  • The Rogue Stars: Scattered stars on the edge of the rim; a hive of scum and villany.

A Note on Labyrinthine Worlds

Some worlds in the Glorian and Sylvan Rim are “labyrinthine,” which means their cores died millennia ago and some ancient race riddled the world with endless tunnels and passageways. Persephone is the most famous of labyrinthine worlds; the symbolic caverns of the Akashic Mysteries imitate the labyrinthine passages beneath Persephone, where the first oracles of the Akashic Mysteries first encountered the Devils of Persephone and mastered the art of peering through deep time. However, other such labyrinthine worlds exist, scattered throughout space and, some say, are fundamentally connected to one another somehow. Those who navigate the labyrinths can, according to this legend, travel from one labyrinthine world to another without ever leaving the labyrinth. Navigating a labyrinth is perilous; beyond the danger of becoming lost in its endless passages, traps protect secret chambers and monstrous creatures (like the devils of Persephone) roam their depths.

Other Labyrnthine worlds include:
  • Perspehone (Glorian Rim)
  • Caliban (Glorian Rim)
  • Exile (Glorian Rim)
  • Nehud (Sylvan Spiral)
  • Jotan (Sylvan Spiral)
  • Verdant (Sylvan Spiral)
  • Tho-Tan (Pheonix Super-Cluster)

Monday, January 21, 2019

Psi-Wars Atlas II: the Galactic Core

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The Galactic core is an oblong sphere roughly 15,000 parsecs (50,000 light years) across (it takes about a month for a fully cross the galactic core). The constellations of the Galactic Core are exceedingly easy to navigate via hyperspace, meaning it has more than its fair share of colonized worlds. It also has more hyper routes than any other part of the galaxy, making whomever controls it a master of trade across the galaxy and between the arms, and thus it serves as the prime seat of galactic power.

The Galactic Constellations:
  • The Galactic Heart: the inhospitable center of the galaxy dominated by a super-massive black hole.
  • The Crown: The seat of the Galactic Empire.
  • The Trader Band: A winding, interconnected set of stars that reach from one side of the galactic core to the other, allowing for trade and filled with rebellious aliens.
  • The Carina Constellation: Human-settled space wracked with the tyranny of the Empire.
  • The Crucible: The industrial core of the Empire.
  • The High Halo: A set of stars once held sacred by previous civilizations.
 If you are a patron (Companion or higher), you can vote on which world (if any) you'd like more detail on.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Psi-Wars Atlas I: Introduction and Overview

 For this month, my patreons voted for a setting overview.  The intent of this vote was no more than 2,000 words, but as you can tell from the fact that I've talked about nothing but maps for the past couple of weeks, it has turned out to be a much larger undertaking than I expected, and it'll take awhile to release, as there's quite some material.

I'm often asked what my method for setting creation is, and I wanted to take a moment to highlight my approach to this one.  If you look over my last two posts, you'll get some perspective on how I sorted the galaxy, and there's more that could be done.  I could sit down and make sure that I don't repeat myself with systems that are too similar ("Dantooine. Tatooine."), or ensure that every star system has something interesting in it, something players can deal with.

I didn't do that.  Instead, I did something else, and I'll offer it to you as a tip, especially for your first run: Write what you know.  People too often stare at a blank sheet and freeze up; when I ask them what they want to write, they say they "don't know."  That's a lie, you do know, you're just worried.  Write what you've got in your head!  It won't be good, but you can always go back and revise it later.

That's what I'm doing here.  I'm writing what's been accumulating in my head, based on the core themes I see of each region of the galaxy, the various aliens I've written up, the snippets of history I've stitched together, and mentioned worlds that have made it into character backgrounds or faction write-ups.  In many cases, I had to make up names on the spot to vague concepts I'd been using for quite a long time.

This is, perhaps, a long-winded way of saying that this is a first draft.  We'll almost certainly revisit, renaming worlds, expanding them, adding new ones, removing redundant ones.  Thus, I welcome feedback, and even encourage you to suggest your own worlds.  You can leave a comment, or hit me up on our discord!

This will also be long, so I've broken it up into pieces, and not everything is even done at the moment of this writing (I have the galactic core and half of one of the four arms written). I also want to emphasize that the detail here is sparse, because this is a setting overview, and not a deep dive into specific worlds.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Mapping Psi-Wars 2: Galactic Map Making

So, previously, I had a post on making a map in general, but the problem with Psi-Wars, and space-based sci-fi in general, is that astrophysical realities make map-making in space especially challenging. I wanted to spend a post talking about these difficulties and how I plan to fudge things to make it work for Psi-Wars.

I also want to comment that I'm not entirely happy with this post.  Galaxies are pretty complicated, and this post was already running long, but I hope I captured the sort of core issues that one faces when going from the surface of a planet to the black sea of the stars.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Mapping Psi-Wars 1: Map-Making in Theory and Practice

Making a Map

Ever since Tolkien unveiled his Middle Earth with the luxurious map of his world therein, fantasy worlds have followed suit, and I personally find it difficult to find fantasy novels that don’t include a map. This has spilled into the fantasy RPG genre, such that Dungeon Master who begins his campaign preparations by first sketching a map has become a cliché in RPG circles. One can do a quick search of the internet to find a glut of such maps and software that can make them look fantastic.

Sci-fi settings seem to have less of a close relationship with maps. Star Wars, Star Trek and Warhammer 40k all have such maps, but they don’t seem to feature nearly as prominently in the work. While sci-fi mappers certainly enjoy mapping our worlds and sectors, they seem to do so with less gusto, especially when it comes to galactic scale maps. I think this is, in part, because such maps are less visceral for readers. You intuitively understand concepts like “Mountain” and “Ocean” but “blue star” and “red star” don’t say nearly as much to you.

I’ve held off on creating a map for Psi-Wars for a variety of reasons, but my Patrons have requested it as a January topic (if you want to vote on the February topic, feel free to join us and help us build the Psi-Wars setting!), so here we are. The actual creation of a good looking map is proving quite difficult and time-consuming, so we might not see an “actual” map so much as a sketch and descriptions, but I also wanted to stop and take the time to discuss what I think the purpose of a map is, mistakes people often make, and what I’m trying to achieve with my map.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Generalized Politics - Domain Management

Quite some time ago, I released a commissioned GURPS work: the Orphans of the Stars (If you’re a patron, check it out. If you’re not, feel free to join us! Of course, this post should tackle most things without you needing that document to follow along, but it's a handy worked-example). The intent behind the design was to create a space opera political system in a rather specific, Dune-inspired setting, with extensive bio-tech and where genetically engineered nobles ruled planets.

Since then, I’ve had several people ask me for a more generalized version of the political system, especially in regards to lower-tech settings, such as fantasy worlds, so I offered it as a General Topic Patreon Poll option for January, and it won quite handily!

Before I dive too deeply into this post, I want to highlight what it is and what it isn’t. First, “politics” can have many meanings. People sometimes use it to mean the manipulation of mass populations to persuade them to your course (covered by the GURPS skill of Propaganda); some people use it to mean drama and the accumulation or destruction of influence in a courtly/governmental setting (covered by the GURPS skill of Politics); and sometimes, we mean the management of a population or a domain (covered by the GURPS skill of Administration). This post is primarily about the last, about administrating a domain. Politics as manipulation of courtly settings is mostly handled by GURPS SocialEngineering, and perhaps I’ll go into it more at a later date. It’s also more of a “player vs player,” social-combat sort of situation, which is fine, but Orphans of the Star was designed for cooperative play, where characters controlled different aspects of the government, sort of like playing Civilization except you each control one arm of the domain, instead of the whole of the domain yourself.

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