Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Patreon Polls: June

Every month, for my Patrons, I hold a poll on topics for the next month, so I (ideally) give you guys at least one post per month that suits your interests.  A patron recently suggested that I make these polls visible to the public, so that people can see what we're talking about behind the scenes and, if they like it, maybe become a Patron.

All Patrons ($1+) get to vote on a general GURPS topic

  • A Deep Dive into Conditional Injury: I've been using Douglas Cole's Conditional Injury for my ships, but how well does it handle personal combat? I'll do a thorough review of the article, make suggestions on how to alter it or improve it and discuss how it might apply nicely to certain genres.
  • A Review of Fantastic Dungeon Grappling: I backed Douglas Cole's recent backstarter, not for the product itself, but because I wanted a copy of Dragon Heresy and Fantastic Dungeon Grappling.  This might also turn into a review of Technical Grappling, as they're essentially the same thing (as I understand it).
  • Trademark Moves as Style Basis: Back when Pyramid was still a thing, I had one idea for writing an article: the synergy between designing trademark moves and martial arts styles, and how to use one to build the other.  It's a topic I find myself explaining to people online regularly, so I could codify it into a single post.
  • Martial Arts as Power-Ups: When I started working with GURPS Martial Arts, I found it a little disappointing, as I was used to a different style, similar to Exalted where one buys moves and powers rather than some nuance to a skill.  I've recently been exploring power-up ideas for martial arts and struck upon an idea of how to combine the two. (This topic has obsessed me recently, and I actually have a mess of worked examples already)
  • Plague Creation Rules: As part of Orphans of the Stars' biotech rules, I worked out some guidelines for creating your own diseases: how severe should they be, what sort of knock-on effects might a disease have, etc.
  • A New Ultratech Framework with Setting: So back when I created my series on Ultra-Tech frameworks, I had a sample setting that I wanted to release to illustrate it.  I left it unfinished as it took more work than I expected.  I could round it off fairly easily and release it, if you're interested.
$3+ patrons ("Fellow Travelers") get to vote on Psi-Wars topics. Normally I allow a lot of leeway, but recently I've seen a lot of demand for rule collation, so we have two polls running right now:

  • The Basics: BAD in Psi-Wars, Impulse buys, and other basic core rules of Psi-Wars
  • The Call to Adventure: how to get a Psi-Wars adventure started
  • The Road to Adventure: Space and Planetary Travel in Psi-Wars
  • Unveiling the Secrets of the Galaxy: Investigation in Psi-Wars
  • Action: Combat rules and Vehicular Action rules
  • Templates! Just pick a template and revisit it!
  • Psionic Powers, including Negative Psi and new Techniques and Powers
  • Communion, with all the various little rules its picked up over the years. 
Last month, we had the Eldothic Deep Engine, but this turned out to be a bit more involved than I expected, so I pivoted, and this month we're looking at which race we'd like to see elevated to a full "conspiratorial" setting element, complete with their secrets, stats-as-monsters, and how one goes about defeating them.  Options here include:
  • The Eldoth, the Deep Engine, and their servitors
  • The Skairos, the Devils of Persephone and the Labyrinthine Worlds
  • The Templars and their secretive Chapters and the Temples of Communion
  • The Cult of the Mystical Tyrant, the Imperial cult and their catspaws
  • The Ghosts of Broken Communion and Death Cults
  • The Anacridian Scourge, its corruption, its relics and its connection to the Machine-World of Azrael. 
If you'd like to join in, just hit the link on the side.  Otherwise, I'll see you later this week when I announce the winner and thanks, as always, for reading.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Review: GURPS Powers: Totems and Nature Spirits

When I first heard about GURPS Powers: Totems and Nature Spirits, it naturally piqued my interest and when I saw it available for $5, I picked it up.  It's a slim volume, clocking in at a grand total of 17 pages and ~8,000 words, and it seems to represent yet another step GURPS is taking away from magic-as-skills and towards magic-as-abilities, which is a direction I can approve of.

Let's take a look, shall we?

Friday, May 24, 2019

Alliance Space Vehicles - Prestige-Pattern Diplomatic Shuttle

ST/HP: 210

Hand/SR: +0/4

HT: 13

Move: 2/200 (+12)

LWt.: 74

Load: 29

SM: +7

Occ.: 2+2ASV + 12SV

DR: 200*

Range: 2 jumps

Cost: $35M

Loc.: G3rR

Stall: 0

Total Chase Roll: +12

*The Prestige has 200 diamondoid DR on all sides; halve DR against crushing damage. It also has a force screen with 300 ablative, hardened DR.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Alliance Space Vehicle - the Ronin-Pattern Battle-Yacht

ST/HP: 150

Hand/SR: +2/4

HT: 12

Move: 5/300 (+13)

LWt.: 27.5

Load: 5.2

SM: +7

Occ.: 4ASV

DR: 200*

Range: 5 jumps

Cost: $55M

Loc.: g3rR

Stall: 0

Total Chase Roll: +15

*The Ronin has 200 diamondoid DR on all sides; halve DR against crushing damage. It also has a force screen with 500 ablative, hardened DR.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Alliance Space Vehicle - The Valkyrie-Pattern Light Psychotronic Fighter

ST/HP: 95

Hand/SR: +5/3

HT: 12

Move: 15/600* (+14)

LWt.: 7.0

Load: 1.1

SM: +4

Occ.: 1SV

DR: 75

Range: 18,000

Cost: $15M

Loc.: Wi3rR

Stall: 50

Total Chase Roll: +19 (+20 with afterburner)

*The Valkyrie is equipped with an Afterburner which improves the Move to 22/700 (+15) and consumes four times as much fuel (reducing range to 4,500 miles, if used continuously).

*The Valkyrie’s 75 DR covers the entire vehicle and comes from Diamondoid, and has half DR vs crushing damage. It also has a DR 300 force screen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Alliance Space Vehicles - The Raptor-Pattern Strike Fighter

ST/HP: 140

Hand/SR: +2/4

HT: 11

Move: 5/375 (+13)*

LWt.: 24.5

Load: 5.5

SM: +6

Occ.: 1SV+1rx

DR: 100/50*

Range: 21,000, 2 jumps (Rating 1)

Cost: $20M

Loc.: g2Wi3rR

Stall: 20

Total Chase Roll: +15 (+16 with afterburner)

*The Raptor is equipped with an Afterburner which improves the Move to 7/450 (+13) and gains +1 handling and consumes four times as much fuel (reducing range to 5000 miles, if used continuously).

†The Raptor has 100 carbide composite DR on the front and 50 on the rest; double DR vs shaped charges or plasma attacks. It also has a force screen with 300 ablative, hardened DR.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Alliance Space Vehicles - The Valiant-Pattern Multi-Role Fighter

ST/HP: 130

Hand/SR: +2/4

HT: 12

Move: 9/530* (+14)

LWt.: 14.75

Load: 2.2

SM: +5

Occ.: 1SV+1xr

DR: 15

Range: 21,000*

Cost: $28M

Loc.: g3rR2Wi

Stall: 65/30

Total Chase Roll: +16 (+17 w afterburner in high speed or Agile configuration)

*The Valiant is equipped with an afterburner which improves the Move to 13/650 (+14) and handling to +3 and consumes four times as much fuel (reducing range to 5,025 miles, if used continuously). It also has a hyperdrive with a rating of 2 and sufficient fuel for 2 jumps.

†The Valiant has variable geometry wings. “Speed Geometry” use the above stats; “Agility Geometry” halves its top speed (275 (+12) or 325 (+13) with afterburner), gives it a +1 to handling and reduces the Stall speed to 30. While using both afterburner and Agility geometry, it has a total handling of +4 and a top speed of 300 (+13) for a chase roll of +17.

‡The Valiant has a force screen with DR 200. This may be angled to create 400 DR in a particular direction, but 100 DR in another directions.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Alliance Vehicles: Behemoth-Pattern Mobile Fortress

ST/HP: 1,000

Hand/SR: -4/6

HT: 11

Move: 1/17 (+5)

LWt.: 990

Load: 9.5

SM: +8

Occ.: 25AS

DR: 3000/1500*

Range: NA

Cost: $1.45B

Loc.: 4CGTt4X

*The Behemoth-Pattern Mobile Fortress has a DR 3000 armor on top and over its primary turret; the rest of the armor is DR 1500. All armor is composite (double DR vs plasma weapons and shaped charge attacks)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Alliance Vehicle: Phalanx-Pattern Orbital Artillery

ST/HP: 450

Hand/SR: -3/6

HT: 10f

Move: 1/8 (+3)

LWt.: 680

Load: 0.27

SM: +7

Occ.: 2

DR: 2500/1000*

Range: 1600

Cost: $290M

Loc.: 2CT

*The Phalanx-Pattern Orbital Artillery has a DR 2500 armor on top and the rest of the armor is DR 1000. All armor is composite (double DR vs plasma weapons and shaped charge attacks)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Alliance Vehicle: Sanctuary-Pattern Emergency Response Vehicle

ST/HP: 65

Hand/SR: +2/4

HT: 12

Move: 3/60 (+8)

LWt.: 2.3

Load: 0.8

SM: +4

Occ.: 2+7S

DR: 250/150*

Range: 250

Cost: $2.2M

Loc.: 4rRgX

*The Sancutary-Pattern Emergency Response Vehicle has DR 250 on the front, and 150 on the sides, top, rear and its gunshield. This armor is composite armor: double DR vs shaped charges and plasma weapons.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Alliance Vehicle: Charger-Pattern Combat Hovercycle

ST/HP: 40

Hand/SR: +3/3

HT: 12

Move: 5/100 (+10)

LWt.: 0.56

Load: 0.2

SM: +1

Occ.: 1+2

DR: 90*

Range: 700

Cost: $530,000

Loc.: 2ErR

*The armor is diamondoid; halve its DR vs crushing damage.

Monday, May 13, 2019

ARC and Maradonian Military Doctrine

Today, we continue the series on military vehicles in the Psi-Wars Galaxy.  Last time, we looked at the Empire and their "Imperial Combine" manufactured military vehicles.  Today, we look at their prime enemies and the default "heroic" faction of the Alliance.

I've been wanting to talk about them for awhile. When I wrote up the Empire back in Iteration 6, I also wrote up a series on how I saw the Empire fight their wars.  With the Alliance, I began to do something similar, but I don't think I ever released it, and I know I didn't finish the vehicles because they proved complicated and, by this point, I had already grown disgruntled with the Spaceship design system.  I needed to really build everything from scratch and think my way through their different tactics.

But I like the Alliance because it presents such a contrast to the Empire, but they also represent a fairly unique faction for the setting.  The Alliance, with their focus on elegant aristocracy, space knights and a precognitive preisthood, represent an obvious deviation from the Psi-Wars inspiration of Star Wars, and I feel like their doctrines and military vehicles, despite some obvious inspirations from Star Wars (such as the Valiant by way of Starhawk by way of X-wing) represent a very different way of war.

So, as usual for these series, I'll start by talking about how the Alliance engages in war and what their priorities are.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Review: Katana Zero

A friend of mine pointed out Katana Zero to me a few years ago and promised it to me for my birthday. I only just now got it because it only just now released.  Was it worth the wait?

In a word, yes.

I had high expectations of the game.  I expected lightning fast combat, nintendo-hard levels reminiscent of Super Meat Boy or Dust Squad.  I expected a brilliant soundtrack.  I expected a moody, cyberpunkish, neo-noir storyline with hints of unreality and conspiracy in it.  What I got was a masterpiece of game design crossed with an amazing storyline and a wicked good dialogue system.  I didn't expect a retro action-platformer to evoke so much from me, from the frustration of the wild, brilliant, super-hard boss fights to the satisfaction of watching a playback of my fights where my character is moving too fast for you to track thinking "Is that me playing?" to a wild, convoluted, amazing storyline that has me wanting to play it again, to better explore the world, to understand what's going on.

It's about $15 on GOG (or Steam, if you prefer).  It plays like a cross between side-scrolling Hotline Miami, Prince of Persia and Spec Ops: the Line.  If that speaks to you, then the game is better than you think.

Normally I fill these reviews with the good vs the bad and an analysis, but I'm still digesting it, so my thoughts mostly boil down to "Wow.  WOW!"

But is it Psi-Wars?

I'm not going to lie: that trailer there inspired the Dark Vigil chapter.  I loved the idea of a samurai lounging in a nightclub with time control powers that let him rip through his opposition while navigating an underworld filled with crime, and so that's what came out of it.  After playing the game, I think I can give you a few more Psi-Wars elements out of it.

I do want to say this, though.  One of my big frustrations with Star Wars and people who are "strong in the force" is that this always translates into how well they fight or how much they can lift.  We never really get a visceral sense of what the Force can do other than telekinesis and occassionally some people sit around glaring at one another and we go "Oh, telepathy," or they find no useful information in the future.

In Psi-Wars, I wanted to emphasize how "power" might mean deep insight into the future, or absurdly good reflexes.  I wanted to make you understand what makes a Templar a monster to fight, and it's not that he can throw big rocks at you.

Katana Zero captures that perfectly.  Most games sort of give you victory, with most NPCs having slow or dull AI handling them so you can creep really close or kill a bunch before they've even noticed you.  Katana Zero does no such babying. If someone sees you,  you have maybe a second before they shoot you, and they can see you and shoot you from all the way off-screen.  I've seen minor NPC mooks shoot thrown weapons out of the air (mostly by accident, but still).

Your character sees it all.  Every mistake just means you reset and now you know how it will play out.  You know every move they will make before they make it.  Nothing will surprise you.  You can slow time to a crawl and parry bullets, dash past opponents and take out 5 guys before they can blink despite their armor, shields and guns, and the game didn't just give it to you,  you earned it.

That's honestly how I think a Jedi should fight.  Perhaps it's too hard to bring across in film, but perhaps I can achieve it in RPG form, and this game certainly achieves it in video game form.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Patreon Post: Clarktech and using Technology as Magic

For this month, my patreons voted for "Technomagic," which in this context means technology that fulfills the same role as magic in a fantasy-like setting. I was pleased to see this topic voted up as it was, as it's been a bit of a hobby of mine for the past few years to ponder how one could create a fantasy-like character with nothing but material out of GURPS Ultra-Tech.  The ideas found their way first into the Dark Engine in my unpublished Protocols of the Dark Engine, then into the Deep Engine of Psi-Wars, and it informed previous games I've run like Blackout Saga.  I personally find that a dash of science fiction, if handled well and noted used as a bait-and-switch, adds quite a bit of spice to a setting.

This document focuses on setting building, do's and don't's of techno-fantasy settings, suggestions for handling an overall magic system using technology as its basis, and what specific technologies, if taken out of their usual context and given a fantasy skin, might look like.

I've made this a Patreon special as it feels more like the sort of thing that usually ends up as a special, and as a thank you to my patrons.  So, if you are a Patron ($1 is all I ask) enjoy!
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