Sunday, March 31, 2019

Blog Roadmap: April 2019

A princess is coming
This month has been a good month.  I haven't had this good a month when it comes to views since September of 2017, and I even managed to increased the number of Patrons (Hello Marko!). 

The last time I had better views than this, other than September, was May of 2017, after which we had a pretty precipitous drop-off. I was looking at that and my wife leans in and says "You know what happened around then? Your son was born."

Given that, we might be seeing another big drop-off soon, because our little girl is going to be born this month.  We expect her on the 12th, and this is going to be a trickier one than last time as we need to juggle our son as well during all of this, so while last time I could write or work while the boy was sleeping, now we have no such guarantee and my wife is certainly going to be very tired (she's very tired now!).

So, I've had a lot of people ask me "What next?" and the answer is "I dunno!" I can't really guarantee that I can post with any reliability, but we'll see what I can do.

The April Patreon Poll results asked for a history of Psi-Wars and there was a tie between a Cross Post with Worlds Beyond Earth, a collaboration I've wanted to do for awhile regarding deconstructing GURPS Spaceships, and a rant about flexible magic. The Patreons also voted for a follow up of the "Slaver" aliens.  I've also got a lot of material ready for the vehicles of the Alliance (the aristocratic houses specifically), and I'm hip deep in that context, so it might make sense to continue with it, but at the same time, it'd be a shame if I did a bunch of work on it and then was interrupted for a month and got back to it and couldn't remember anything.

So I think in the end, I'm going to use this month as a mulligan.  I want to focus on the Patreon requests out of gratitude for their support, and for the rest, if I have time, I might post on general topics, nothing like a series if I can avoid it (though the History of Psi-Wars will certainly turn into a series).  If I can't get everything done, I apologize and I hope you understand.  Hopefully we'll have a fun month one way or another.

There will be no group chat this month (I'll probably be there next weekend, but I can't guarantee it. If I'm there I'm there, if you're there you're there, and if we want to chat, we can chat).

Oh, and the Psi-Wars Wiki is still churning. I've added four new reader-created worlds: Richat, Cabala Scan, the Orochi Belt and Pelia, and I've added the races and the basics of the main philosophies of Psi-Wars. What I focus on next month will depend on what I can get figured out.  I've had requests for both technology and deeper dives into philosophies and organizations.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Imperial Starships: Legion-Class Super-Carrier

ST/HP: 8,0000

Hand/SR: -5/6

HT: 10

Move: 1/50 (+8)

LWt.: 1,200,000

Load: 620,000

SM: +14

Occ.: 75,000 ASV

DR: 3000*

Range: NA (5 jumps)

Cost: $350B

Loc.: Gg16t

Stall: 0

*the Legion-Class super-carrier has a force screen with 10,000 DR (ablative).

Imperial Starships: Executioner-class Artillery Cruiser

ST/HP: 7,000

Hand/SR: -5/6

HT: 12

Move: 1/50 (+8)

LWt.: 370,000

Load: 20,000

SM: +13

Occ.: 75,000 ASV

DR: 4000/2500*

Range: NA (3 jumps)

Cost: $280B

Loc.: Gg4t

Stall: 0

*the Executioner-Class artillery cruiser has 4000 DR on the front and 2500 on the rest of the vehicle; it also has a force screen with 7,500 DR (ablative); it generally deploys its force screen angled forward for a total of 15,000 frontal DR and 3750 DR elsewhere.

Imperial Starships: the Dominion-class Cruiser

ST/HP: 5,0000

Hand/SR: -2/6

HT: 12

Move: 5/100 (+10)

LWt.: 150,000

Load: 13,000

SM: +12

Occ.: 1200 ASV

DR: 3000*

Range: NA (5 jumps)

Cost: $120B

Loc.: gGs20t

*the Dominion-Class cruiser has a force screen with 5,000 DR (ablative).

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Imperial Starships: Imperator-Class Dreadnought

ST/HP: 9,0000
Hand/SR: -4/6
HT: 12
Move: 1/75 (+9)
LWt.: 850,000
Load: 100,000
SM: +14
Occ.: 8500 ASV
DR: 5000/3000*
Range: NA (5 jumps)
Cost: $680B
Loc.: gGs40t

*the Empire-Class dreadnought has DR 5000 on the front, and 3000 everywhere else except for its turrets and sensors, which have a DR of 100. It has a force screen with 15,000 DR (ablative).

Imperial Vehicles: Sentinel-Class Utility Gunship

ST/HP: 90
Hand/SR: +3/4
HT: 10f
Move: 6/250 (+11)
LWt.: 6.9
Load: 1.8
SM: +4
Occ.: 13SV
DR: 250*
Range: 360,000
Cost: $30M
Loc.: G3rRt
Stall: 0

 *The Sentinel has carbide composite armor; double DR vs shaped charges and plasma weapons.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Imperial Vehicles: Peltast-Class Light Strike Fighter

ST/HP: 85

Hand/SR: +4/3

HT: 10f

Move: 10/450* (+13)

LWt.: 7.2

Load: 3

SM: +4

Occ.: 1S

DR: 15

Range: 22,000

Cost: $15M

Loc.: g3rR2Wi

Stall: 50

*The Peltast is equipped with an Afterburner which improves the Move to 15/550 (+14) and consumes four times as much fuel (reducing range to 5,500 miles, if used continuously).

The wings of the Peltast include a combination of maneuver thrusters and contragravity that, when activated, reduces the stall to 20.

Imperial Vehicle: Tempest-Class Orbital Superiority Fighter

ST/HP: 80

Hand/SR: +5/3*

HT: 10f

Move: 30/750* (+15)

LWt.: 4.2

Load: 0.42

SM: +4

Occ.: 1S

DR: 10†

Range: 11,000

Cost: $12M

Loc.: g3rR2Wi

Stall: 30

*The Tempest is equipped with an Afterburner which improves handling to +6/3 the Move to 45/1000 (+16) and consumes four times as much fuel (reducing range to 2,750 miles, if used continuously). Using the afterburner counts as a high-G maneuver.

Double DR vs plasma and shaped charges.

Imperial Vehicles: Javelin-Class Interceptor

ST/HP: 80

Hand/SR: +5/3

HT: 9f

Move: 20/600* (+14)

LWt.: 4.6

Load: 0.4

SM: +4

Occ.: 1S

DR: 15

Range: 15,000

Cost: $8M

Loc.: Tt

Stall: 35

*The Javelin is equipped with an Afterburner which improves the Move to 30/750 (+15) and consumes four times as much fuel (reducing range to 3,750 miles, if used continuously).

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Imperial Vehicles: Hunter-Class Recon Hover-Cycle

ST/HP: 35

Hand/SR: +4/3

HT: 12

Move: 6/120 (+10)

LWt.: 14


SM: +0

Occ.: 1

DR: 60*

Range: 750

Cost: $475,000

Loc.: ErR

*The Hunter combat hover-cycle has composite carbide armor. Double DR vs plasma weapons and shaped charge attacks.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Imperial Vehicles: Eradicator-class Mobile Howitzer

ST/HP: 125

Hand/SR: +1/4

HT: 11x

Move: 3/60 (+8)

LWt.: 18

Load: 4

SM: +4

Occ.: 2S

DR: 500/200*

Range: 90,000*

Cost: $18M

Loc.: Tt

*The Eradicator Mobile Artillery has a DR 500 frontal armor; the rest of the armor is DR 200. All armor is composite and EMA (triple DR vs plasma weapons and shaped charge attacks)

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Imperial Vehicles: Vanguard-Class Infantry Fighting Vehicle

ST/HP: 80

Hand/SR: +2/4

HT: 11f

Move: 4/70 (+9)

LWt.: 5

Load: 1.2

SM: +4

Occ.: 12S

DR: 500/200*

Range: 100,000

Cost: $4.25M

Loc.: Xt

*The Vanguard IFV has a DR 500 frontal armor; the rest of the armor is DR 200; the open mount on top includes a forward gun shield with DR 200. All armor is composite and EMA (triple DR vs plasma weapons and shaped charge attacks)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Imperial Vehicles: Vanquisher-Class Hover-Tank

ST/HP: 135

Hand/SR: +2/4

HT: 12x

Move: 4/70 (+9)

LWt.: 14

Load: 0.3

SM: +4

Occ.: 3S

DR: 1400/500*

Range: 100,000

Cost: $20M

Loc.: Tt

*The Vanquisher tank has a DR 1300 frontal armor and turret; the rest of the armor is DR 500, except for the underside and the sub-turret and sensor turret, which are DR 100. All armor is composite and EMA (triple DR vs plasma weapons and shaped charge attacks)

Monday, March 18, 2019

Imperial Ground Vehicles, an Introduction

I'm still hard at work on technology, and we're up to vehicles (I debated tackling robots first, and decided on vehicles as they would get us to a playtest faster, and a detailed look at robots might require more than just some stats).  I weighed where to start with vehicles and finally settled on "a little bit of everything," but with a focus on the Valorian Empire.

The Empire of Psi-Wars is heavily modeled on the Empire of Star Wars because it's readily identifiable and also because the Galactic Empire of Star Wars makes quite a bit of sense (in some ways, anyway).  For these reasons, and that it's so central to the setting, it's seen the most work on its vehicles and technology, so for some of you who've been following Psi-Wars intently, this is more of a review than anything new.

I'm still up in the air as to whether I'll do all the Imperial vehicles in one go, or hit every faction's vehicle sets, but I lean towards each faction at a time. In either case, this week will be dedicated to the ground vehicles of the Empire, of which I currently have four.  Some may look at that number and find it low, but these take time, and I don't want to spend a year designing a hundred vehicles that most players won't use anyway.  We should focus on enough vehicles to get a broader idea of how the faction might work, and we can do some bespoke work for specific campaigns if necessary.

I'll start each section with a quick overview of the logic behind the vehicles and how I see each faction using them, and a quick recap of the sort of soldiers I see each faction fielding in a quick loadout.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

I backed the GURPS DF Monster 2 Kickstarter

I've never backed a kickstarter before (don't have a credit card) and while kickstarters have been shakey, I do believe the "kickstarter then PDF long tail" is the future of PDFs, and it's nice to see SJGames beginning to rev up into that direction, especially since the sense I get from SJGames is that the Munchkin bubble may have burst and their attempts to navigate the dawning era of whatever the 2020s will be for gaming has been expensive and dangerous, so hopefully they'll come out of this ahead.  So I backed the kickstarter. You can back it too if you go through here (assuming you haven't already).

So why am I posting this?  Well, to preen, of course, and to earn your admiration for my good deeds. But I want to make a few points about GURPS Dungeon Fantasy based on some comments I've seen elsewhere, try to explain some of my logic and to give you some context.

I backed the $95 version, which nets me a printed copy of the DF boxed set as well as a printed copy of DF Monsters 2.  If I'm honest, I could care about DF Monsters 2. I'm sure it'll be fine, but I can buy it in PDF eventually.  What really interested me was the reprint of the boxed set of DF, as I really regretted missing that. 

Why DF?

The internet often asks what my favorite dungeon-crawling fantasy RPG is, and I have a few answers, but the deepest and most correct is usually Dungeon Fantasy not just because it's GURPS, but because what I look for in a fantasy game, DF provides in spades. For example, I often complain that fighters in D&D aren't interesting enough ("I hit! I hit again! When I gain a level, I'll be able to hit three times!  So exciting!"), that magic is too focused on combat effects, and this can be said of a lot of the mechanics of the game, that races are too samey and not particularly nuanced, and that I have a hard time really differentiating my character and I feel I lack a good variety of options. Gaining levels feels pretty rote, rather than watching the organic growth of my character. And look, DF addresses all of this out of the box simply because it's GURPS: fighters get to play with techniques and a great host of highly specific combat options that make combat feel visceral; mages get tons and tons of non-combat options (and arguably lack decent combat options, which frankly feels better to me than walking artillery platform), I can build characters however I want, and blend together multiple classes how I want or just build a character from scratch, races have a ton of mechanical nuance, and I can shift the focus of my world however I want.

Having a DF boxed set makes it more of a pick-up game, which is really what I need to show some of the newer players how GURPS works, and GURPS actually works really well for new players, which will shock a lot of people who aren't a fan of GURPS, but it's true.  GURPS is hard to learn to run, but it's not especially hard to learn to play.  What you need most is something to focus on (rather than the deep oceans of "Anything you want!") and DF does that nicely, with a familiar arena. That makes it a great entry way to the rest of the GURPS world.

I've been interested in another game called Numenara for a bit now, ever since I picked up the whole set on Humble Bundle and I was looking at buying a copy of the basic books: Discovery and Destiny. These together came to $120, plus shipping and handling.  D&D 5e, if you want the player's handbook, the DM guide and the Monster manual, comes to $150.  $95 gets me the DF boxed set.  Oh, and Monsters 2.  It's a steal, so much so that I'm worried that SJGames may have undercharged for their product.  They seem to often underestimate the production costs of their products and walk away from successful kickstarters taking a loss, and I hope that doesn't happen this time.  Regardless, if you want a complete dungeon fantasy product, you're not going to do better, bang for buck, than DF unless there's some other dungeon crawling product that I don't know about (Dungeon World maybe?), certainly not at the level of detail and support that GURPS DF offers.

"But I like Science Fiction"

So this was the comment that made me re-evaluate my position in the first place (and seeing the boxed set available finally convinced me to take that last step).  Given that I haven't run Dungeon Fantasy ever, and that I've only played in a couple of games, why should I even bother paying for it, given my focus on Sci-Fi, one that isn't likely to change (not out of a lack of interest: I'd love to do some urban occult stuff too, but because I sense a void in the market that I'm trying to fill), why bother to fork over this kind of money.

Because you shouldn't think of Dungeon Fantasy as Fantasy, but as GURPS.

I'm a big fan of math and literature ("English") and I get frustrated when I see kids who ask things like "Will we ever use this in the real world?" as though unless the world were a series of tests (such as strangers lying in wait at street corners to pounce you with algebra questions), the exercise is useless (this sort of reflexive mindest can leak its way into gaming and it causes problems there too, but that's a post for another time).  In fact, math and language skills are tools.  The same people who ask if anyone will ever actually use algebra in the real world are the same sort of people who recoil from GURPS Vehicles as "too hard," not realizing that engineering a real world vehicle is even harder. The world is a sandbox full of possibilities that are easier to tackle if you have communication and STEM skills (determining the shortest route between two places; accounting and coding complicated things into your spreadsheet; working out why gambling is always a horrible idea, especially lottery tickets; dazzling a lovely lady with wordplay; articulating why people should follow your proposed policy; getting your kids to listen to you, etc).

GURPS is like Math and English: it's not there to solve a specific problem, but is instead a great toolbox to let you build your own solution to whatever gaming problem you have.  And just because it labels a particular product as belonging to one genre doesn't mean it's useless to you for another genre.  Let me list just a handful of books that aren't in the sci-fi genre that apply to Psi-Wars:
  • GURPS Action
  • GURPS Action 2
  • GURPS Action 3
  • GURPS DF 3: The Next Level (especially for its races)
  • GURPS DF 16: Wilderness Adventures
  • GURPS Powers: Divine Favor
  • GURPS Thaumatology
  • GURPS Thaumatology: Magical Styles
  • GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery
  • GURPS Horror
There are quite a few that are, genre-wise, on the borders of generic enough, or I would start to get repetitive, but all of these have played fairly key roles in the design of Psi-Wars, which is a sci-fi setting.

"But is it really, Mailanka? Isn't it more space fantasy?"

Personally, I dislike the term space fantasy. I don't know why "space opera" isn't good enough anymore, but fine: the structure of DF has informed every campaign framework book that has followed it.  It provides numerous ideas on how to handle specific elements, like henchmen, races, power-ups and load-outs, in compact and useful ways, discarding superficial elements to get what you want.  I got started on this sci-fi kick by working on a GURPS Captain-and-Crew set up that has evolved into all of this, and I got started with that after seeing Dungeon Fantasy.

Yes, the line does eventually begin to get into more specifically pertinent material.  Rather than fantasy templates, you want sci-fi templates, rather than fantasy henchmen, you want sci-fi henchment, and so on, but the innovation begins with DF, which sells, and only after, does it spread to the rest of the frameworks, and even if it never does, all of GURPS is mutally compatible.  This is not The Fantasy Trip they're selling, or Munchkin, but GURPS.  Even if they never produce any more sci-fi than they already have, their DF line would continue to provide plenty of "how to" inspiration for you to build your own sci-fi game from it (and they will continue to build more sci-fi content).

So that's why I backed the kickstarter, even though it seems counter to my interests.  My interests are broader than just space opera and even if they weren't, they're still well served by GURPS continuing with DF.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Psi-Wars Alien Races: Skairos, the Devils of Persephone

Alternate Names: The Devils of Persephone, Time Shadows, Corrupted Sabines, Jotans.
Homeworld: Persephone (?)
Other worlds: Unknown (but most sightings seem to be on other Labyrinthine Worlds)

Akashic mythology describes “the Devils of Persephone” or “the Skairos” as strange monsters found within the caverns beneath Persephone. According to these myths, sharp teeth line their maws and they hunger for humans; their milk-white eyes or the emptiness where eyes should be, can see without seeing, moving through darkness as one moves through light. According to myth, they live in shadows or are crafted of shadow, having inky black skin or the air of unreality to them. Some stories even suggest that one can only perceive them with psionic power. These devils held the secret of the Akashic record and gave it to humanity, showing them the Coming Storm, and giving them the tools necessary to found the Akashic Order.
What are they? Perhaps they’re literally monsters, strange aliens that lurk in the caverns of Persephone to this day. Perhaps they’re a distorted representation of the remnant of a wise and ancient race that lived within the caverns of Persephone and walk among mankind even now, posing as some minor, unimportant race and hiding their true identity. Perhaps they’re a misrepresentation of a genetic bloodline, one especially capable of reading the future, that arose on Persephone and may exist on Persephone still (and might even taint the Sabine bloodline!). Finally, perhaps the Skairos don’t exist at all! Perhaps they’re a metaphor for the dangers of viewing time, or the perils faced on the journey to uncovering this ancient secret. 

The Skairos can be whatever the GM decides they should be; the following offers guidelines for treating them as an alien race.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Psi-Wars Alien Races: the Traders

Homeworld: None (Sterilized during their war with humanity)
Other Worlds: Jubilee Station and the Trader Belt.

The Traders earned their name through commerce, but they earned their place at the galactic center through innovative navigational techniques. Early Traders mastered higher mathematics that allowed them to envision and interact with hyperdimensional space. Using these techniques, they were among the first races to travel to the stars. They soon found other races, even ancient empires, and but rather than swap blaster fire with these new species, the Traders chose to swap trade goods.

When those ancient empires fell, the Traders discovered that the only humanity, a new-comer to the galactic scene, competed with them for dominion over the galactic center. If a few battles had gone differently, if luck had favored the Traders, history may well have gone in a very different direction, but instead, for their foray into empire-building, the Traders found their homeworld destroyed and their race scattered across the galaxy.

Today, Traders ply the stars with their great and vast arks, vast dreadnoughts that house entire cities of Traders within them, including housing, restaurants, hospitals, industry and ship-repair facilities. These great arks collect together into great “Guild fleets,” which used to act as roving industrial centers and corporate headquarters, but with the destruction of their homeworld, these guild fleets have devolved into extended clans, serving to guard and protect the remnants of the Trader people. Traders have only one permanent settlement: Jubilee Station, a huge space station/space colony in the Trader elt that acts as a permanent Trader marketplace, a home for myriad alien cultures, and a point to which all Guild Fleets return every 20 years for their grand Trader Jubilee, where they swap stories, star charts, and even family members, and then set off to explore something new.

Traders blend humanoid features with strange and alien traits to create an alluringly exotic combination that many other aliens find both intriguing and repulsive. They mostly resemble hairless, green-skinned humans with liquid black eyes, and wear tight-fitting skin-suits that underline just how feminine or masculine the more attractive members of the species might be. Beneath and along their supple, dark-green lips lie the tell-tale signs of the “Trader grin:” a thin black line that goes from their mouth down their chin and deep into their cheeks. When a Trader isn’t politely offering another alien a close-mouthed smile, their faces split open to reveal a split pair of mandibles lined with rows of teeth; their unhinged jaws allow the to gulp down slithering, still-living prey, like leather eels. Self-conscious Traders hide this feature behind a face mask or filter mask.

A Trader’s intellect truly sets him apart from other species. While no smarter than other species, they think faster than everyone else. For them, seconds drift by as slowly as minutes do for others. They read a page at a glance, and they speak a language called Klik, which allows them to convey a minute’s worth of conversation in a mere second, and at an exceptionally high pitch that’s barely audible to normal species. Most Traders master Galactic Common at a young age, and even prefer its poetry to the dry logic of Klik, but they’ll sprinkle Klik into their conversations in a series of seemingly unimportant clicks or short, high-pitched, stuttered whines that seem nothing more than an odd affectation to other species but is, in fact, an entire second layer to a conversation mostly incomprehensible to anyone but a fellow Trader.

Traders suffer from frailty. They have delicate physiques and their life aboard starships make them prone to disease. To compensate for this, Traders have mastered the arts of cybernetics and robotics. They often sport spidery and baroque cybernetics, and rather than battle their foes directly, they make heavy use of robotic assistance.

Traders usually prefer to be Diplomats or Smugglers, both of which allow them to bring their superior deal-making skills to the fore. Trader society frowns upon Con Artists, but Traders who choose to go this route tend to be very good. Traders make excellent cyberneticists, and such often end up as Scavengers. Finally, Traders don’t generally engage in war, but they do worry about their own safety, and so some Traders become Security Agents.

Most Traders have the Wanderer background; Traders who grow up on Jubilee Station have the Humble Origins background. Those who run Trader arks or guild fleets have titles and are thus Aristocrats.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Psi-Wars Alien Races: the Gaunt

Other names: Ghouls, Stiffs, Tarvathim, the Vat-Born
Homeworld: Tarvagant (the Umbral Rim)
Other worlds: The Gaunt can be found almost everywhere in the Umbral Rim and wherever aliens can be found in the Galactic Core, but tend to be especially common in Moros, Samsara and Grist.

When the Ranathim first faced the great armies of the Eldoth, they despaired, for they would never be able to gather an army great enough to defeat them, until one of their great science-mystics stole the secret of Thanatokinesis from the Eldoth and created the Dead Art. Using her newly crafted synthetic flesh, the Ranathim were able to forge numerous monstrosities to hurl against the armies of the Eldoth and, eventually, triumph.

One of these monstrous warmachines were the Gaunt, or “Tarvathim” in the Lithian language. This race served as the disposable footsoldiers and servants of the Ranathim. The have a pallid, pasty appearance from their unliving “synthetic flesh,” though older gaunts have a leathery appearance as exposure to various suns toughens the upper layer of their synthetic flesh. They have milky eyes, gaping nostril slits, and their lipless faces expose sharp, jagged, black teeth; similarly black claws extend from their hands at feet. The Gaunts are born via a mass-production process called “Flesh Vats,” and inconsistencies in the creation process leaves numerous discolorations, boils and deformities upon the Gaunt, which do little to inhibit their functionality, but make them a most unpleasant race to look upon.

The Gaunt have fantastic strength and durability, being functionally living “machines.” They can shrug off blows that would kill a human, and their synthetic metabolism makes them virtually immune to metabolic hazards like disease, poison, even vacuum. They do not eat food, but instead, must consume more synthetic flesh or, barring that, the flesh of the dead (preferably the flesh of sapients, as their inherent necrokinetic nature responds better to that than to the flesh of animals, but that will do in a pinch). On the other hand, they lack the originality or ingenuity of natural races and they tend to be slightly clumsy or slow. Their synthetic metabolism works badly with most drugs, requiring them to have uniquely crafted serums for their metabolism. While most diseases find it difficult to harm a Gaunt, they can still infect a Gaunt, and many Gaunts act as unintentional carriers for insidious diseases. They may appear humanoid, but they are not: they cannot breed, they’re born from their vats “fully grown” and they die after a few decades: few Gaunts live more than 40 years. Finally, these were designed to be the servile minions of the Ranathim and, as such, are susceptible to psionic powers.

With the fall of the Ranathim Tyranny, most flesh industries collapsed, but the Gaunts did what they could to collect the last few flesh vats and use those to replace their numbers with old, run-down machinery. They’re a surprisingly common race, and their disgusting features can be found frequenting underworld cantinas or lurking in the bowels of some arcology where only the dead lurk. They tend to take on the culture of whatever civilization they live in, though some remember the old Ranathim ways and speak Lithian or practice the Divine masks (especially Navare, Zathare and, of course, the Dead Art).

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Psi-Wars Foundation Races: The Eldoth


Homeworld: Sepulcher
Other Worlds: Elysia, Acheron, Tartarus

Before the Alexian Dynasty, before the Ranathim Tyranny, before humanity even reached for the stars, the ancient and enigmatic Eldoth set the foundations for the first known pan-galactic Empire. They arose on the now frozen world of Sepulcher near the rim of the Arkhaian Spiral of the galaxy, and while exploring those far reaches, they encountered some great and terrible menace, something that drove them to the brink of extinction and that forced them to innovate and adapt, fighting an existential war for their very survival and in so doing, harnessed the very power of Broken Communion with their Deep Engine to defeat it.

The mad paranoia of the clinical and technologically unparalleled Eldoth drove them out into the galaxy, to gather resources and to ensure that nothing threatened their survival again, for they feared that the great galactic menace would one day return. Their pursuit for the safety of the Galaxy led them into direct conflict with, first, the Keleni Temple Worlds and then the budding Ranathim Tyranny. The sacred spaces of the Keleni threatened the integrity of their Deep Engine, and the Ranathim sacred spaces injected strange chaos into the order of their Deep Engine. The Eldoth sought to eliminate both threats. The drove the Keleni from their Temple Worlds, broke their power, shattered their temples, and dragged them off as prisoners to experiment upon them. In return, the Keleni turned to zealous assassination techniques to fight for the very survival of their species, and the Ranathim lent their power to the cause, uniting the worlds under the first Tyrant's banner and shattering Eldothic supremacy and taking the fight to Sepulcher itself, ridding the Galaxy of the dread Eldoth once and for all.

But the Eldoth have proven a tenacious species. Far from dead, they have rested in their regeneration sarcophagi in the catacombs beneath Sepulcher. A few of their number still roam the galaxy, some seeking to restore their slumbering queen to her throne and to rebuilt their fallen Empire; others concern themselves exclusively with preparing the galaxy for the return of the ancient menace that they once fought, whose presence drew the great galactic invasion to it; yet others seek to betray their race and the galaxy to that ancient menace, out of revenge of need for power.

The Eldoth are a tall and slender race, with long, lean limbs and necks. Male Eldoth have no hair on their head, though female Eldoth may have some, though usually at the back of their head. They have utterly black, calculating eyes, elongated skulls, and narrow ridges or furrows running along their features. While substantially taller and stronger than most races, they are not as strong as their size would imply, due to the lankiness of their physiology.

Broken Communion haunts the Eldothic homeworld of Sepulcher and so they, as a race, have learned to live with its strangeness. They have the natural ability to see ghosts, to pierce illusions, and they have a natural resistance to the corrupting nature of Broken Communion. This gives them an innate connection to Broken Communion, but forever separates them from natural psionic ability, or from other forms of Communion. This also means they have a very alien outlook on the world, and have a particularly poor grasp of emotions and have difficulty empathizing with others, especially other races.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Psi-Wars Foundational Races: the Ranathim

Homeworld: Styx (Destroyed)
Other Worlds: Sarai, Samsara, Covenant, Moros, the Blood Moon of Charybdis, Sable

The ancient Ranathim race once ruled the galaxy. They come from a dark, twilight world that once orbited a giant star, but which is now only a shattered husk circling a black hole. They have a devilish appearance, with subtle horns, the teeth of a predator, a lashing tail, skin of a pale white, red and violet hue, and black eyes with cat-like golden or red irises. Despite their sinister appearance, the sapient species of the galaxy find them to be exceptionally attractive, with their robust men sporting rugged features and broad shoulders, and their delicate women defined by their soft curves.

Given their beauty and their robustness, they make for highly sought-after slaves, but they hide a dangerous power and an unruly temperament. All Ranathim are psionic vampires, able to draw energy from others with but a touch of skin to skin, whether it be a warm handshake or a tempting kiss. They hunger for this energy, and when empowered by it, they become fantastically strong, quick and lethal. Powerful passions rule them, and those passions empower their innate psionic talent, which makes them their strongest when they’re at their most passionate and unpredictable. Nonetheless, slavers will pay a premium for the careful capture of one, and collar them with psionic inhibitors, forever depriving them of that sweet energy they so crave.

The Ranathim have had a profound influence on Galactic culture.  Their native language, Lithian, is the lingua franca of the Umbral Realm, and their ecstatic cults, the Divine Masks, are still practiced to this day, and gave rise to the Cult of the Mystical Tyrant, whic the human emperor, Ren Valorian himself,  practices in secret.

Ranathim once hailed from a great Empire, the Ranathim Tyranny, and a few of them have an Aristocratic background, but most have lived a life as Slaves or Outcasts, and a precious few have been sufficiently cloistered away by cults to have a Sequestered background. The Ranathim enjoy superior health and attractiveness, and if they can exploit that attractiveness to siphon off some energy from others, have the possibility of prodigious physical feats, at least temporarily. This makes them well suited to social and physical roles, such as Assassin, Bounty Hunter or, to a more limited extend, the Con-Artist. They also make decent Diplomats, Security Agents and Commandos. They have a long tradition of Space Knights and Mystics, however, given their innate psionic power, and given their reserves of psionic energy, they definitely benefit from expanding their psionic power with a Psionic Power-Up.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Psi-Wars Foundational Races: The Keleni

Homeworld: Anmārwi (however, no Keleni live there today)
Other Worlds: Samsara, Temjara, Covenant, Sable, Moros, Wyrmwood

The much persecuted Keleni come from a largely inconsequential part of the galaxy, the Hydrus Constellation of the Umbral Rim, were it not for their worlds being on a direct path between the galactic core and the Umbral Rim, making them a highway for conquest. As a result, they have been scattered and scattered again and cling to what identity they have.

The Keleni homeworld, Anmārwi, is a particularly wet world, known for its swamps, jungles, rushing rivers and shallow seas. The Keleni people are, unsurprisingly, an aquatic people. They move as easily through the water as they do through land and can hold their breath for 25 times as long as other races. They appear remarkably human, with blue or blue-green skin, pointed ears, flat noses or mere slits where their noses should be, and long, silken white or silvery hair. Older male Keleni often sport facial hair. Keleni have bioluminescent patches of skin, often in unique patterns on their body or on their palms or the base of their feet. While this can prove useful in the dark, it also helps to signal one another in the water; Artists often try to capture the beauty of the Keleni as they swim, with their hair flowing behind them like ribbons and their soft glow creating a colorful aura in the water. While nothing forces them to remain in the water, they are more vulnerable to dehydration than other races, which tends to keep all but the most ascetic tied to their watery homes.

The Keleni are naturally telepathic and deeply attuned to the life energies of others, making them naturally adept at psychic healing. While they do not exclusively communicate telepathically, many Keleni develop deep bonds that allow them to know what the other is thinking and any Keleni, with some effort, can read the minds of others. They even develop bonds across time and Keleni have a natural, if generally uncontrolled, connection to their ancestors. The consequences of the race’s innate connection to one another and all living things has given rise to an innate reluctance towards violence except in the defense of themselves or their loved ones, and gave rise to the first steps towards Communion. Communion, or Annāra in native kelen, is their faith. As they explored their connections with one another, they gained a connection with the universe itself, and their power with it is one of the few things that have kept their race together and alive after conquest after conquest.

Keleni misfortune has resulted in their scattering. One can find Keleni in enclaves in most well-populated worlds of the galaxy. The most common background for Keleni, then, is Outcast, as other races tend to regard a naturally telepathic race who refuses to bend to the local religions or customs with suspicion. The notion of Keleni, especially those who have the temerity to become financially successful, secretly ruling the world is a popular myth among the downtrodden of other races. Their natural beauty and elegance makes them popular Slaves, especially down in the Dark Arm. Finally, in such circumstances where they do manage to retain self-direction and live among their own kind, their religious tendencies makes Sequestered a popular background. Keleni tend to prefer peaceful solutions that allow them to deal with others, and often become Diplomats or Mystics. Criminal Keleni prefer to be Con Artists. Keleni who get over their aversion to killing or dedicate themselves to the protection of their people or others generally either become Assassins or Space Knights.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Psi-Wars Alien Overview

(This was a Patreon Voted post.  If you're interested in voting for the monthly Psi-Wars topic, join up as a patreon with the link to the right!  Psi-Wars topics, as opposed to general topics, require a $3+ patronage, but also get you Psi-Wars previews and specials when they come).

My Patreons have been routinely voting for setting overviews, which tells me something about where my attention should really be, and recently, they've come to a collective realization that all the alien races of the setting exist only in Patreon specials (with a couple of exceptions)!  Thus, they've asked for an overview of the Psi-Wars races so that everyone who reads up on Psi-Wars can know what their options for alien races are.  They'll be made available in the wiki as well.

There are many intelligent species in the universe. Unless one is dominant or exotic, only those with Area Knowledge of its region of space will recognize it on sight. The various aliens mingle, and there may be true interspecies civilizations... the Star Wars universe suggests a great variety of intelligent beings. --Aliens Everywhere! GURPS Space
Psi-Wars is an "Aliens Everywhere" setting.  A PC who stumbles into a bar would expect to see more aliens than we can easily categorize.  It's also within the "space opera" genre to treat alien races the way most fantasy games treat fantasy races: to offer numerous playable options with varying levels of depth, so that a player can pick and choose from those.  But we're not going to limit our setting to just what aliens I create.  In principle, any GM should be able to shove in any alien he wants.

I've talked about alien creation before, and I've talked about setting design before.  What I want to do today with this preview, before I get into specific aliens, is show you the general overview I created and themes I used to inform my design decisions, why I chose the aliens that I did, and what role they serve in the setting, and where the "holes" in my setting are.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Buckets of Technology: A Proposed Solution to Tech vs Character Points

(This post was voted for by my Patreon community. If you'd like to vote on topics for this blog, you can join via the link to the left.  Even $1 a month lets you vote in the monthly topic vote).

I've been working with Ultra-Tech settings in GURPS for a long time.  Some, like Psi-Wars, you've seen. A lot, like Resplendent Star Empire, G-Verse, Protocols of the Dark Engine, and Heroes of the Galactic Frontier, have only been hinted at here on this blog.  Many of these lean towards heroic, even super-heroic, sci-fi and space-opera, and thus have high point totals and as a result, I've often come across a problem that anyone who has attempted to run Ultra-Tech settings with high-powered characters has: the value of technology does not match the value of character points.

Available technology, like magic or other inherent elements of the setting, are simply there for characters to pick up and use. They may require some training (represented by skill), unusual backgrounds (like Margery or High TL, if these setting elements are difficult to access), or purchase with money (if you can't just steal it or it isn't universally available), but none of these really cost much in the way of character points, rarely more than 50 for the most expensive or weirdest of things, and most often on the order of 1-5 character points, or even nothing.  How much this matters depends on the tech level.  A TL 3 character can start freely with a sword, while an ultra-tech character can start with a disintegrator pistol.  The problem only arises when we attempt to build a character who has an inherent ability similar to the application of technology.  A TL 3 character might have claws, granting him damage similar to a sword, which might cost him 5-10 points, while a character with a stare that instantly kills a target or disintegrates whatever he sees might cost him hundreds of points.  Both of these are fine in the TL 3 setting (a fantasy character who can destroy you with a glance is definitely a super-heroic character), but cause problems in an ultra-tech setting: the claws are useless and the disintegrating stare, while useful, can be matched pretty easily with a purchase that a character can have with his starting budget.  Why spend hundreds of points on traits like these when you can just have them "for free?"

The answer to that question is typically "Because it fits the world."  Consider Marines vs Bugs, where a marine and bug are meant to be roughly on par with one another, both capable of inflicting serious harm upon the other at roughly similar scales, but one does so with technology (purchased with a modest budget) and the other innate traits (purchased with literally hundreds of points).  Alien, cyborgs and psychics all feature prominently in sci-fi, but in most cases, a player would be better off investing his points in better gear and the training necessary to use that gear rather than in cybernetics, alien abilities or psychic powers.  This, then, is the crux of the Tech vs CP problem, and it often stymies a lot of Ultra-Tech games.

In today's post, I'd like to briefly touch on a variety of solutions I've either used or seen proposed, and then I'll dive into my most recent solution and the one I like best: Buckets of Technology.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...