Thursday, February 28, 2019

State of the Blog: March

Today is my birthday, hence the art
I resolved at the beginning of the year to more deeply involve my patrons and my readers in my process, and so far, it's working.  I haven't gained any new patrons, but I also haven't lost any, and my views do better month by month, so we're definitely making progress.  After the Psi-Wars Atlas post, I'm feeling bullish about rounding up Psi-Wars this year and moving on to new projects.  We'll have to see how it goes.

The Psi-Wars Wiki

The Psi-Wars Wiki began last month, and currently has:
This month, I'd like to transcribe philosophies, starting with True Communion.

I may re-organize the Wiki soon, as some elements of it displease me and I haven't decided how to handle some of the deeper detail, or the more generic elements.  I'll think on it.  If you'd like to contribute or have suggestions, let me know!

The Roadmap

This month, interested Patrons were able to add their own worlds, and have done so.  Later in the month, I'll update the blog with what new worlds have been added to Psi-Wars, and I will update the Atlas to include them.

For March, the Patreons have voted on a general topic and a Psi-Wars topic for me to focus on.  The general topic will be Buckets of Technology and discuss some ways to handle the discrepancy between cheap ultra-tech and expensive advantages.  The Psi-Wars topic will be a setting overview of the alien races.

I'm still at work on technology, so with luck, we'll also see some vehicles and starships which will almost round out the technology series (at least, on the military end of things; there's a lot of technology in a sci-fi setting!).

I hope you guys enjoy March, and I'll see you on the other side!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Psi-Wars Blasters VIII - Wyrmwerks Laboratories

Wyrmwerks famously headquartered in the Kybernian Constellation in the Arkhaian Spiral as a beacon of wild innovation that led to many innovative and coveted designs, as well as a bit of a reputation for unreliable technology that, when it worked, worked miracles, but when it didn't, might burn your face off. Unfortunately, the twin perils of the Anacridian Scourge and the rise of the Cybernetic Union shattered Wyrmwerks, and the Valorian Empire folded what remained of its assets and technology into its Combine.  Still, scavengers and rogue engineers keep the dream of Wyrmwerks alive in workshops, storehouses and archives scattered across the galaxy, where they'll do their best to repair, rebuild and tinker with Wyrmwerk's inventions.

Wyrmwerks is where I remind players that Psi-Wars is still a sci-fi setting, and it has room for mad scientists with wild gadgets.  Wyrmwerks represents a triumph of science over mysticism, but also a perished dream, which makes it an ideal match for scavengers or especially quirky/tech-heavy mercenaries and bounty-hunters who are used to having technology be a bit touchy.  The weapons here aren't really inspired by real-world weapons so much as the sort of technologies one might want to see in a sci-fi setting, and Mandalorian technology from Star Wars.

The naming conventions follow Syntech conventions, except they replace the first two numbers with two alphabetic characters that typically reference the nickname or represent an inside joke.  The names tend to be grand and fantastical.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Psi-Wars Blasters VII - Syntech

Syntech, which headquarters in Denjuku, has long served as the corporate arm of the Shinjurai royal family.  Under the rule of the Grimshaw Dukes, it now answers to the Maradon aristocracy and, by extension, the Alliance.   Both Bale Grimshaw andth eldest princess of the Shinjurai royal family sit on the Syntech board, ensuring that both Maradon and Shinjurai interests are met by the company.  Even so, the Alliance tightly controls what Syntech is allowed to produce, which prevents it from being an overtly military corporation. Nonetheless, it excels at secretive projects, most of which occur with explicit Alliance permission.

Syntech is meant to represent cutting edge-technology and the sort of gadgets and technology a super-spy might have.  They have the sleekest and coolest toys, with an eye towards small, light and easily concealable technology and highly accurate weaponry, but one must pay a premium for the benefit.  In principle, Syntech represents the industrial needs of a conquered people, and thus mustn't produce "hard" military technologies.  Instead, it focuses on police, civilian and "secret operative" weaponry.

For the naming conventions, I chose a "serial code" of 4 numbers; there's a logic behind them (the first two represent a weapon that inspired the design, and the next two represent the intended market and the scale of production), but ultimately they're meant to reflect the futurism of the technology by reducing them to a single "barcode" identifier.  Obviously, most people prefer to tag them with nicknames.

New Weapon Types

Stunners: These replace the rules for partical beam stunners (UT 124). These affect both robots and living beings. If any Electrical or biological (that is, vulnerable to metabolic hazards) character is struck with a stunner, they must roll HT at the listed penalty of fall unconscious for a number of minutes equal to the margin of failure (one minute minimum). Some weapons are just stunners (they have no particle beam setting). They always have an (5) armor divisor.

Psi-Wars Blasters VI: Startrodder Defense Manufacturing

Startrodder Defense Manufacturing traditionally served independent colonists out on the rim, providing them with the means of self-defense against pirates, and then larger threats against their independence.  "Independence" is a core value for Startrodder, and when the Galactic Federation erupted into civil war, Startrodder chose to back the Alliance, and remains a member of the senate today.  It turns its shipyards and manufacturing assets over the Alliance's military needs, but focuses less on arming the aristocracy and more on arming the common man so they can keep their planets out of the grip of the Empire.

Startrodder replaces Han & Kord Defense Manufacturing but occupies the same niche.  I've changed the name because GURB used the name in his Psi-Wars Grab Bag post, and I had forgotten how much I liked it (if you look through the weapon names and naming schemes, you'll see I borrow a lot from his work; I haven't called out each instance, but be aware that I've tried to give him a nod and homage where possible).

Startrodder weaponry is designed, like most Westerly arms, to be cheap for what it gives you, fairly robust (but not as robust as Rook & Law weaponry), very militaristic in nature (but typically heavier and slower than imperial weaponry).  The theme behind many of these weapons are WW1-2 weapons, and a few pulp weapons (like the Tommy Gun).  This makes them the most like the weapons one might find in the hands of a rebel in Star Wars.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Psi-Wars Blasters V: Rook & Law Industrial Cooperative

The Rook and Law industrial cooperative was put together by rim colonists trying to handle the rigors of survival beyond the bounds of civilization.  They combined their knowledge and industrial capacity under a single cooperative, and as a result, Rook & Law produces some of the most reliable, accurate, rugged and useful blasters for loners wandering the wild wastes of remote planets.

Rook & Law replaces Grahm Industries.  I found some old notes and the original name and I liked it.  Grahm was a reference to a magical sword, but sounds a bit too much like "Gram" for my tastes, hence the change.

The themes of Rook & Law are cheap for the quality you get (they get a 10% discount), rugged (high malf values), accurate, slow in firing and short-ranged.  They also benefit from superior knowledge (they can be fast-fired or "fanned" to improve their ROF beyond 1). They tend to heavily inspired by wild west counterparts.  Their naming conventions are "model" and then three digit number and a nickname.

Psi-Wars Blasters IV: RedJack Shipyards

RedJack focuses primarily on making ships and gear appropriate for "asteroid miners and other spacers," though its material seems surprisingly popular among space-based rebels and pirates.  RedJack weaponry tend to be very flashy and explosive, ostensibly to serve the needs of miners in "blowing out" parts of their mines as they look for valuable ores and rare earths.

RedJack weaponry tends to use unusual beam-types, such as mining lasers and plasma weaponry.  They tend to be single-fire, fairly cheap, and while no more reliable than any blaster, they're a more reliable source of plasma weaponry than their competitor, Wyrmwerks.  They have no real-world basis, and tend to be inspired by sci-fi weaponry.

RedJack naming conventions include a 3-letter code followed by a two digit number.  The letters and/or numbers may form cute nicknames (typically inspired by card games or chess), and tend to be arbitrary.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Psi-Wars Blasters III: The Imperial Combine

The Imperial Combine is the result of the Imperial Directive to create a cooperative board of major Imperial corporations, including Wald & Tac, Intersol, Lazcorp, Caster System Shipyards and the remnants of the now defunct Wyrmwerks, so that Imperial military needs could be coordinated across the galaxy

This replaces the name "Directive," as that turned out to be a poor name.  I'm still not sure if I like it, so it might change.  If you prefer a different name, leave a comment.

Imperial Weaponry tends to be innovative, with high rate of fire and lots of modular accessory rails, allowing an imperial team to adapt on demand. The price of their superior weaponry is an arbitrary mark-up, representing corruption in the process.  I based a lot of the guns off of highly modern guns, as they're meant to evoke top-of-the-line modern firepower.

The naming conventions are a simple numeric code (meant to evoke the weapon it's based on), and a single letter code which represents the mark of the design.  "A" (or "Alpha" or "Antique") denotes weapons from the original Leto Daijin crusade against the Scourge (and have a reputation for being superior to modern imperial weaponry).  "C" ("Gamma" or "Civil War Era") denotes weapons from the initial years of the Galactic civil war. "D" ("Delta" or "Modern") denotes weapons in current circulation. "E" ("Epsilon" or "Experimental") denote cutting edge weapons, the next generation of weaponry. "X" ("Omega" or "Special") denote secretive prototypes not yet assigned another designation.

New Beam Weapon Types

EM Disruptors: EM disruptors use a variation on EMP technology to disrupt electrical systems (anything with the Electrical disadvantage), including most vehicles and robots. They are area attacks, and attack everything that fall into their area; this is an affliction: the target must roll HT at the listed penalty of fall unconscious for a number of minutes equal to the margin of failure (one minute minimum). They always have an (5) armor divisor.

Flamers: These replace the rules found on page UT 127. Flamers are burning rather than tight beam burning. Note that 10 points of damage is enough to set even flame-resistant materials on fire (and all of a target’s clothes on fire), and 30 points of burning damage is enough to set anything remotely flammable on fire (see B433). Anything set on fire continues to burn for 1d-1 per second and applies a-3 penalty to everything but putting out the flame. Treat flamer attacks as large-area injury (See B400); unsealed DR protects at 1/5 value; sealed DR protects at full value. A flamer jet may make an “All-Out Attack (Jet)” which allows the attack to become an area attack with a width of 3, but inflicts 1/3 damage (see HT 178).

Stunners: These replace the rules for partical beam stunners (UT 124). These affect both robots and living beings. If any Electrical or biological (that is, vulnerable to metabolic hazards) character is struck with a stunner, they must roll HT at the listed penalty of fall unconscious for a number of minutes equal to the margin of failure (one minute minimum). Some weapons are just stunners (they have no particle beam setting). They always have an (5) armor divisor.

Psi-Wars Blasters II: The ARC Foundries

The Allied Resource Conglomerate governs the cooperative sharing of all the individual industrial assets of each aristocratic house.  While the Houses themselves govern the use of their own assets, when they know they will not be using them, they donate their time and material to ARC, which builds standardized assets, using ancient "patterns" familiar to all Maradon Foundries.

Thematically, ARC weaponry is over-priced, stylish, specialized, very effective in the hands of people who know how to use them, and meant to serve the distinct appearance of the aristocracy.  These weapons rarely see use outside of the Glorian Rim today.  Their naming conventions are the name of their "pattern," and a mark, which represents how old the design is: lower marks date back farther than higher marks.

New Weapon Type:

Stunners: These replace the rules for partical beam stunners (UT 124). These affect both robots and living beings. If any Electrical or biological (that is, vulnerable to metabolic hazards) character is struck with a stunner, they must roll HT at the listed penalty of fall unconscious for a number of minutes equal to the margin of failure (one minute minimum). Some weapons are just stunners (they have no particle beam setting). They always have an (5) armor divisor.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Psi-Wars Blasters I: Introductions and the Stellar Dynamics Corporation

"Is GURPS High Tech just a list of guns? If so, it's not the book for me." - Some GURPS Poster, half remembered from years ago.
The above quote notwithstanding, players like lists of guns.  Gun-bunnies celebrate books like GURPS High Tech, and even games like World of Darkness, which doesn't even have rules that allow for meaningful distinctions between guns, produce giant lists of guns like World of Darkness Armory.  I think this is to allow players to pick a gun and make it feel unique to them, and Star Wars, to me, doesn't feel any different.  I think most Star Wars fans know the difference between Han Solo's blaster, and imperial storm troopers carbine, and Chewie's bowcaster, and if they've seen enough of the EU, might know what weapon their character would want.  Psi-Wars, like Star Wars, celebrates that "gunslinger" feel, and like most Action genres, often defines its bad guys by their arms and armor choices.

GURPS Ultra-Tech doesn't really support this, and that's fine for most games.  Gunslingers have a "heavy blaster pistol," Troopers have a "Blaster carbine." If you want more than that, you need to create your own blasters somehow.  I've been trying it for awhile, with mixed success, so I really wanted to sit down and work out some distinct, flavorful weapons for players to pick through.  What I have here is not a complete list; there will be additional technological subsets in the future (for example, Traders or Slaver-Empire weaponry), but it's a good start.

Today, I'm going to cover some minor changes to the tech infrastructure I'm making (this is a constant process, so more overall changes will be coming, I'm sure.  If you're ever worried about losing track, don't worry, eventually everything will get collected onto the Wiki). I'm also going to talk about some alternative approaches you could make to accomplish the same thing and why I chose the approach that I did, and then I'm going to go through every individual corporation and talk about their weapons.  The complete collection will eventually be added to the Wiki (link above).

Adding Variety to a UT Catalog

I often see people struggling with this very aspect of ultra-tech gaming, so I wanted to address some possible solutions for building your own tech catalog.  I've touched on it in broader terms with my Ultra-Tech framework series, but let's get into specifics for making more detailed and characterful catalogs.  We will use a heavy blaster pistol as an example.

Option 1: Don't Do It!
Just because something is an option doesn't mean you need it.  Psi-Wars' playthroughs didn't suffer just because people used generic weapons.  A lot of settings don't need excruciatingly detailed gear.  The main reason I'm doing it is because if I'm going to be writing a detailed setting, I might as well do this too to give you players a little more variety to play with.  But it's definitely not strictly necessary.

In this case, we'd just include the Heavy Blaster Pistol from UT.  If you want to give it a name, we can call it  the Startrodder PC-440 Heavy Blaster Pistol.  We can even have a whole list of names associated with a particular weapon, even though the stats don't change, in the same way that most HT heavy pistols can be boiled down to the GURPS Basic heavy pistol.

Option 2: Steal from other Gun Catalogs
Rather than write your own catalog, use someone else's and modify it.  Psi-Wars, for example, is heavily inspired by Star Wars, which was itself inspired by pulp adventures, so we can use guns from pulp adventures if we "sci-fi" them up a bit.  For example, Han Solo's blaster is built from a Mauser, and if you explore the origins of most Star Wars blasters, you'll find a real world gun lurking underneath.  Given that we might expect these guns to work like these existing guns, only with some modifications.

So, for example, if we know that the Mauser is our inspiration for the Startrodder PC-440 Heavy Blaster Pistol, we can just take it and "Blasterize" it.  The damage turns from piercing to burning with an armor divisor of 5. We might improve its accuracy to better reflect its blaster nature (it's Acc 2, which is typical of pistols, so it would have typical blaster pistol accuracy).  We're using super-science cells, so we could multiply the number of shots by 5, and increase the cost to be more in line with most blaster pistols. Now, note that I have some alternate rules for range, recoil, etc, to make it fee more like cinematic blasters, rather than realistic ones, so the following stats will reflect that:

Startrodder PC-440 Heavy Blaster Pistol: Dmg 3d-1 (5) burn, Acc 3, Range 200/600, Wt 2.7/C, RoF 3, Shots 50(3), ST 9, Bulk -3, Rcl 2, Cost $1500. Malf 16 or less.

Option 3: Brand Loyalty
I'm sure I've linked GURB's Brand Loyalty article before and if so, sorry-not-sorry, because it's an excellent article and deserves more attention.  The idea here is that you determine a lens for every brand, apply that lens to the existing catalog of generic weapons to get our finished product.  You can modify nearly anything you want, just be careful about doing too much, or making a gun "too good," though see Gun Cults from Gun-Fu, page 39, for guns that really are better than everything else.  Or worse!

We might have two different corporations: our Startrodder guns might be +10% heavier, -10% cheaper, and more reliable (verify).  They might also have less range (half), but more damage (+1).  We might have Syntech as lighter (-10%), less damaging (-1), much more expensive (+20%), but get bonuses on "options" like stunner settings (say, half cost to add them).  The result might be:

Startrodder PC-440 Heavy Blaster Pistol: Dmg 4d+1 (5) burn, Acc 3, Range 80/240, Wt 3.7/C, RoF 3, Shots 75(3), ST 7, Bulk -3, Rcl 2, Cost $2500. Verify

Syntech 2355 “Enforcer” Heavy Blaster Pistol: Dmg 4d-1 (5) burn, Acc 3, Range 150/300, Wt 3/C, RoF 3, Shots 75(3), ST 5, Bulk -2, Rcl 2, Cost $4800. Has stunner setting

These are both just the Heavy Pistol, but clearly look different enough that someone could choose between them!

Option 4: Roll your Own
Pyramid #3/37 Tech and Toys II has a blaster design system, and you can use that to build all of your own guns.  Personally, I recommend this as a last resot, as it takes the most work and will slow your campaign the most.  I did it because I've included several new houserules for blasters that fundamentally change a lot, so it's easier to just to insert those into the blaster design spreadsheet I have (courtesy, I think, of Humabout) and rapidly create my own weapons.  In this case, I just tried to follow some certain themes and routinely used specific applications of concepts like "Cheap" or "Expensive," reaction modifiers, custom stocks, accessory rails, etc. You can find a plethora of interesting options with which to customize your weapons on page 153 from HT and page 149 of UT.

Stellar Dynamics

Ages ago, GURB kindly made me a grab-bag of guns.  These worked better in the heady summer days of Psi-Wars, back when it was new and fresh and didn't have houserules.  Now that it does, these blasters no longer really work, alas.  Even so, I find his naming conventions and some of the themes and ideas remain compelling. I've named a few corporations in honor of the names and naming conventions he created, though I've not remained perfectly true to everything.  Stellar Dynamics is one such company.

Stellar Dynamics is an unremarkable weapons and vehicles manufacturer found in the Galactic Core.  It has remained isolated and distinct from the Empire's efforts to collectivize industrial interests mainly due to its ubiquity across the Galaxy. Stellar Dynamics produces a range of blasters mainly with an aim towards civilian and enforcement needs, though it does produce a few militarily useful models.

The theme of Stellar Dynamics is "generic."  Someone needs to create weapons that closely resemble those found in GURPS UT.  Because of my house rules and inconsistencies between the design system and the works found in the book, these are not exact matches (which is good, because that means I can print them). The net result is a gun uniquely focused on medium ranges, numerous shots, low costs and a semi-automatic rate of fire.  I have not recreated every gun in UT, because in some cases they looked too similar to another gun from another corporation or I did not see a niche for that particular weapon.  The naming conventions include a descriptive code (type of weapon, and then sort of beam), and the numeric value is meant to evoke a common real-world weapon that closely matches the design.

Stellar Dynamics BB-32 Holdout Blaster: A small, cheap weapon designed for civilian markets and intended for self-defense; it has a bad reputation as a go-to weapon for petty criminals.

Dmg 2d (5) burn, Acc 2, Range 50/150, Wt 0.55/B, RoF 3, Shots 70(3), ST 2, Bulk -1, Rcl 2, Cost $625.

Stellar Dynamics PB-9 Blaster Pistol: A wide-spread and typical blaster pistol, often used by police forces.

Dmg 3d (5) burn, Acc 3, Range 50/150, Wt 1.8/C, RoF 3, Shots 200(3), ST 4, Bulk -2, Rcl 2, Cost $1600.

Stellar Dynamics RB-16 Blaster Carbine: A common and widespread blaster carbine, it sees a great deal of use in paramilitary forces and planetary defense forces.

Dmg 5d (5) burn, Acc 6, Range 80/240, Wt 5.6/2C, RoF 3, Shots 85(3), ST 5, Bulk -4, Rcl 2, Cost $5750.

Stellar Dynamics RB-700 Blaster Rifle: A common and widespread rifle, often used by hunters and paramilitary forces.

Dmg 6d (5) burn, Acc 6+3, Range 110/330, Wt 9/2C, RoF 3, Shots 50(3), ST 7, Bulk -5, Rcl 2, Cost $10,000.

Stellar Dynamics RX-82 Heavy Blaster: A straightforward weapon meant to put the maximum blaster firepower on a single target. The RX-82 uses a sling and an inverted pistol grip to fire from an under-arm, slung position, and inflicts damage equivalent to a direct strike by a force sword at far range, allowing it to defeat most heavily armored infantry and lightly armored vehicles. Typically used by mercenaries or planetary defense forces.

Dmg 8d (5) burn, Acc 6, Range 200/600, Wt 20/Dp, RoF 3, Shots 100(3), ST 10, Bulk 75, Rcl 2, Cost $25,000.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Psi-Wars wiki

 The second February Patreon request was an organized setting primer, really just an introduction, but we already have a setting introduction.  I can expand it, but at some point, I think the core of what we need is a central, easy-to-navigate place where one can find all the information.  A year ago, SalsaTheGeek put together a wiki space for me, but I let it lie fallow for a year and it has since disappeared (but I want to give him credit for offering me the space in the first place).  Rather than ask him to re-open it, I've moved to wikidot.  You can find the link to the Psi-Wars wiki below.
It is a work-in-progress, as I'm just trying to get the material there on the wiki in the first place, and then we can re-organize it, update it, add to it, etc.  I'm trying to add at least a page a day, so expect it to grow quickly (it's mostly just C&P with some light editing work).  I'm focusing on setting because you already have rules documents from iteration 5, but as I continue to update mechanics, I'll collate them here in the wiki too.

The featured post is back to the index, and includes a link to the Wiki, so you won't easily lose it.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Patreon/Subscriber Specials Index

I've been releasing Patreon specials for awhile and I leave them up, because I think it increases the bang-for-your-buck of all people who join, but quite a few Patrons have noted that they find it difficult to dig through my whole patron feed to find stuff, and that's true: Patreon sucks for navigation.  So, my Patrons have asked me to organize them all into a single, easy-to-find place.  And, here it its!

Some of these specials are previews so not all of them will be "unique" forever, and some are outdated already, but I include them primarily for reference, or for those of you who want a preview. This list is also not exhaustive.  I may have missed a few, and certainly there are more to come.

If you're not a Patron, feel free to join us.  There's a link in the sidebar, or you can click here.  If you are a patron, enjoy!  Those of you who prefer SubscribeStar can access my page here.

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