Thursday, October 31, 2019

Robot Design Revisited

Psi-Wars needs robots.  Star Wars has its droids, and cute sidekick robots and ominous kill-bots clutter up Pulp Space Opera.  They tell you that you're in a sci-fi world, and they occupy an interesting niche between tool and character, especially in pulp space opera.  They let us waive the complex technobabble by having a robot do it ("Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow" becomes "No, shut them ALL down!").

We have a few things that we need Psi-Wars robots to do.  They need, of course, to be trusted allies, someone our fighter ace counts on to keep his starfighter in tip-top shape, or someone our noble trusts with his agenda.  People will also want to play as one, because they've already been asking.  In both cases, we need to know the point totals involved.  Finally, people will want to buy robots, like picking up a hireling.  Sure, you can have that trusted Tech-bot fixing your starfighter, but if you don't care about your starfighter all that much and you don't need to be on a first name basis with your robot, won't any robot off the market do? In which case, how much money do you spend on your robot? So, we need to know a price for our robots.  If we're honest, we also need to know the weight and power-consumption of our robots too, at least in broad terms.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Wiki Showcase: the Simple Form as Martial-Art-As-Power-Up

When I held a snap poll for the martial art most people wanted for their own space knight, the Simple Form won not only the Non-Maradonian styles, but proved the most popular style overall, handily winning the poll.  This quite surprised me, as it was the newest of the styles, created in Iteration 6, exclusively for the Templars, who remain the main people who will use it.

With the Simple Form, I wanted to explore two major ideas.  First, if we're going to have people learning multiple styles and integrating them together, I wanted a style that really exploited that.  In that regard, I created Infinite Stance Mastery, which allows the character one "free" 5-point move from any style.  Incidentally, this works much better in the power-up form, because you can just go pluck an existing 5-point move, rather than designing them yourself.  Second, I wanted to reward players for exploring multiple styles.  Originally, I gave them a "Style Mastery" perk, which let them upgrade their Style Familiarity from allowing them to ignore -1 in Deceptive Attack or Feint penalties to a full, outright +1 to defense. I had intended to give them a universal version of this, so they gained it with any style they had style familiarity, but I found myself thinking "They'd literally be better off with Enhanced Parry (Force Sword), or Higher Purpose. Hey! Not a bad idea!"

For the rest of the style, I had a couple of problems.  First, most moves are built on a single trademark move and then whatever techniques required to make it work.  But the Simple Form doesn't really teach techniques other than Feint.  The whole point of its original trademark moves were to codify pretty standard tactics, like the basic attack, or the basic parry.  I see the Simple Form as taking what new players to GURPS typically do ("I attack.  I parry.  I feint. Then I attack with everything I can.") and making them better at it.  So, the only way I could do that in a move was by collecting all of them, and thus First Steps was born.  Then I wanted to make them good at fighting in general.  I pondered what most players generally did in addition to the basic moves (retreats, extra-effort, etc) and made those better in the style. Finally, I rounded it out with a few Judo tricks. One concept I still like, but didn't fully emphasize here, was something similar to the Fell Form's approach to Karate, only with Judo.  Judo can, after all, parry armed attacks, so a character with Judo 20 is as good at defending themselves from Force Sword attacks as someone with Force Sword 20 (technically better, because they gain the +3 retreat bonus even without Chambara rules).  I added the Warding Parry to answer questions as to whether you can parry a force sword with an unarmed skill (from what I can see, it's perfectly permissible, but some people might have some doubts, so, you can do it with a -1).

This is the bit where I explain that this might have drawn loose inspiration from a Star Wars ligthsaber form and then point out which one, but in this case, I was explicitly inspired by Form I, or Shii-Cho, especially their discussion about how most Jedi don't take it seriously, but people who master it tend to be extremely flexible and effective.  Like all other lightsaber forms, you don't really see this in the fiction; even Kit Fisto, who is supposed to be a true master of it, doesn't seem to fight in a particularly distinct way, and doesn't seem especially impressive in any of his video-game outings.  Nonetheless, I wanted to explore the idea of a force sword form that seemed unimpressive at first, something only worthwhile to students, but really profited those who invested deeply in it.

"I guess people really want Wuxia in space." --Nemoricus

The other major inspiration, natural from its description and other inspirations, are Chinese martial arts and the traditions around them.  If the Serene Form is the epitome of Japanese swordsmanship, then the Simple Form is the epitome of Chinese Swordsmanship.  My experience with many Chinese styles is that where Japanese martial arts often focus on perfecting a single move or a single tactic, Chinese martial arts tend to focus on the fighter in a holistic manner.  This is where these "Miyagi"-style traditions of putting a martial artist through lots of training that seems to have nothing to do with fighting comes from.  We get concepts like "Internal martial arts" from this approach: improving the fighter's core, endurance and "chi" and only then teaching them to express it through their "external" martial arts, or their actual combat techniques.  This likely means people will ask if they can use some of these moves with other martial arts precisely because they're so broadly applicable, and I think the idea is valid, though I'm not sure if I'll migrate them to other, non-force sword styles n exactly these forms (the Simple Form needs to maintain some sort of niche, after all).

Given that it's evidently the most popular style, I hope those who came to love it back in Iteration 6 still love it in its Iteration 7 incarnation.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Wiki Showcase: Psionic Force Swordsmanship as Martial Arts-As-Power-Up

In my snap poll to see which Psi-Wars martial arts everyone favored for their personal space knight, the Maelstrom Form (aka, Psionic Force Swordsmanship) came in second for non-Maradonian styles... and second over all.  Because, of course, the most complicated and difficult style had to be (almost) everyone's favorite and couldn't be quietly shuffled away.

A common complaint I hear about Star Wars when it comes to the Force and the Jedi (or the Sith) is that they don't do "enough" with Force while fighting.  Indeed, we see entire discussions online about integrating the Force into combat moves in cool and tricky ways pretty regularly, one of which I, for the life of me, cannot find anymore (edit: Here it is), where someone posted a bunch of pictures about cool tricks and counter-tricks to defeat your opponent in a force-heavy duel.

Psionic Force Swordsmanship was meant to address this.  If you have psychic powers, you expect you might use them to help you fight.  The problem, in Psi-Wars, is that psionic powers aren't the force.  The Force is probably closer to "magic" than as how GURPS handles psychic powers.  That is, in Star Wars, anyone who can use the Force can use all of the Force, there might just be some things they're better at than others.  In Psi-Wars, someone will have one or two powers, but rarely will have all: a Knight of House Grimshaw has Electrokinesis, but doesn't have Psychokinesis, and someone with Psychokinesis may never have Electrokineses.  This means I can't write a single style for all users; I have to write several styles for a variety of possible users.

As a result, you can see Psionic Force Swordsmanship as roughly three styles in one: a psychic vampirism style, a psychokinesis style, and an electrokinesis style.  I could probably explore a Telepathic style (though it would need to differentiate itself from Ishin-Denshen) or a Probability Manipulation style (but Probability Manipulation is considered a "Rare" power in Psi-Wars).  That is to say, we could expand the style, but I have a limited amount of time to work with, and it's complicated enough as it is.  I've tried to bundle the commonalities down and to make all three powers relatively interesting, but feel integrated into a cohesive whole.

This style has existed since Iteration 4, and has seen numerous rewrites, into the broader Maelstrom Form in Iteration 6, and now back into Psionic Force Swordsmanship in Iteration 7.  It's a complex style with lots of moving parts and different ways to interact with it, so if you see mistakes in it, that's why.  It's a fairly defensive, but also ruthless style, one suitable for a dark space knight, and we tend to see it more in the Umbral Rim than in the Glorian Rim (though a member of House Grimshaw who gets ahold of it is pretty cool).

If you're cribbing my material for Star Wars conversions, while I find the description of Form VI (Niman) vague to the point of uselessness, Psionic Force Swordsmanship (specifically, the Resonance Omen Moveset) works more or less how I picture Niman to work, as a fusion of psychic tricks and patient, cautious force swordsmanship.

Ugh, Electrokinesis

"Lightning, as it's written now, is only good for assassination" -- Lord Buss, paraphrased
This style, naturally, made me revisit Electrokinesis, and Lightning has been seeing some pushback, because people have to pick over every piece of Electrokinesis in ways that they don't over other powers (and I'm not sure why that is, other than perhaps people actually take electrokinesis, and it has a lot of crossover with actual gadgets).  As I returned to the "Lightning" powers, I noticed a few things about them.  First, I had originally edited out some elements from the original version that didn't seem to make sense (such as it stunning people) to save points for the fact that you don't draw your power from around you.  After all, we picture Lightning as erupting from the hands of the space knight, not drawn down from nearby power-lines.  But as I explored how Psionic Force Swordsmanship worked, I realized several things.

  • We tend to picture this lightning blast erupting from the hands of the character, and attacking someone relatively close by
  • We want to make this work sort of like a melee weapon, capable of feinting or making rapid strikes
  • We expect our target to survive a hit, but perhaps to be very much not happy that he got hit
  • The character can spend the whole fight doing nothing but lightning blasts
  • We expect lightning to work like it does in GURPS Magic.
This last is especially interesting.  I went back and checked GURPS Magic, and discovered that the original description worked like Lightning in GURPS Magic, so I dutifully went back in and restored those values: longer range, the ability to stun the target, etc.  With the removal of the channeling ability, this made it cost more, and I like the 12-point cost, because it means you can have ~6d for a single, 25-point power-up.  So, I fiddled some more, reducing the damage to 3d-3 per level (to match the Lightning spell), gave it a 2-fatigue cost, and added a wait time to "power-up" the lightning blast. The way you should picture this the character channeling energy, and then zapping a powerful bolt of lightning that strikes a target very far away. This is a sniper shot lightning bolt, not an arc of electricity.  So, yes, you primarily use it to one-shot people.

So, we need to make an arc of electricity.  I called this "Electric Lash" and focused on smaller-scale damage: rather than buying it in big chunks of 3d at a time, you can pick it up for 1d per level. It's a Jet, it costs no fatigue, and it has a maximum (and 1/2D range) of 20 (chosen because that's the same range as TK-Grab in Psi-Wars).  This comes to about 5 points per level.  This is your more Star-Wars-like "casually toss off some electricity at a nearby enemy" sort of power, and it lets you do all sorts of fancy tricks, and this is the power that goes into Psionic Force Swordsmanship.  I've also split the techniques up a bit, so that chain lightning and arc lightning goes to Lightning proper, and Painful lightning and Lightning Blast go to Electric Lash.  I've also given the option for adding Electric Lash to Lightning as an Alternate Attack.

I've also created a TK-Hand, since people seem to like the idea of wielding a force sword with their TK, and the easiest way to handle that is some form of Extra Arm with the Weapon Mount option.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Wiki Showcase: the Serene Form as Martial Arts Power Up.

When I made my Snap Poll for my Patron's preferences for styles, the Serene Form came in third for non-Maradonian forms, though it did well in the Poll overall. I suspect the poll's results might have been misleading, because I know for a fact that several talkative patrons are very fond of the style (and at least one PC has used it), and perhaps if I held the poll today, it might do better.

I believe the Serene Form predates its inclusion as a Templar Form, and that I created it back in Iteration 4.  It has seen quite some updates since, turning it into a beautiful, ceremonial style that focuses on meditation, introspection and connection with communion.  This is because the style was inspired by Iajutsu and Iado, which are deeply tied to meditation in the cinematic tradition, for good reason, as it has a lot less sturm und drang than most fights, and thus artists who wish to depict it often front-load it with a great deal of introspection and anticipation.

Naturally, in Iteration 6, I saw it as a style associated with the Templars, because Iado's introspection and its willingness to draw it only at the last moment lend itself well to pacifism, especially Pacifism (Self-Defense Only), because you can avoid any violence until the last possible moment.  So, naturally, with Tinker Titan Rebel Spy, the Dark Communion-associated Imperial Knight took it.  His reasoning makes sense: Tyrants seek to intimidate, and this is a very intimidating style, one that exerts itself only when it intends to, like passing a sentence.  This actually fits nicely with Iajutsu's bad reputation for "Cross-roads cutting," and so I created the Way of the Void in this incarnation.  The inner peace of the True Communion form could be replaced with an inner emptiness of the Path of Death or the Void and turn it into a style that creates a bond between the user and murderousness itself. I was tempted to make it a three-fold path, but Dark Communion doesn't cultivate the selflessness necessary to really make this style work, so I shifted that idea to the Fell Form, which is known for its reckless rage.  The Imperial Knight's player, however, counters that while it's true that the Paths of the Rebellious Beast, the Beautiful Fool and the Hungry Beast don't cultivate that sort of self-control, the path of the Mystical Tyrant does, especially in its Cult of the Mystical Tyrant form.  It makes sense that Tyrants might use it, and use it form a deeper bond with their Path.  That does make sense; so far, I've justified the connection with Broken Communion using the fascination that the Mystical Tyrant has with Broken Communion, but I'd like to revisit it soon for a "third way."

The style focuses on defensiveness, in defeating your opponent with his own attacks.  This means we need to talk about Reflection, a concept I've been struggling with since I first began Psi-Wars, all the way in Iteration 1, thanks to the Force Buckler.  See, the Force Buckler lets you reflect attacks back to the Attacker with a DX roll.  My initial impulse was that this was "unfair," so I reduced it to an attack that you could make on your turn after being attacked.  Since then, I realized that this ability was basically just the Reflection enhancement to DR on a piece of equipment, which means GURPS totally allows "free attacks" with Reflection.  My my my!  My current thinking is to allow it with both Force Swords and Force Buckler; you can use Precognitive Defense as your roll (making levels higher than 16 useful and interesting), the Force Sword has a penalty to reflect this way, and I've added some new options, first an optional roll for those who dislike the idea of someone reflecting all attacks this way, and a new All-Out Defense option that lets you focus on Reflection for the whole turn, a trick we often see Jedi do.

In general, the style has been a study in Precognitive Defense.  I have a love-hate affair with precognitive parry and block.  First, they're one of those "extra" rolls that happen before all defenses.  For example, if you attack a Chambara Jedi, he might roll Acrobatics to see if he gets a +2, and then Precognitive Defense to see if he gets a +1, and then his actual parry value.  That's THREE ROLLS per attack.  Worse, there's no point in taking it above 16, as it never sees any penalties or bonuses; it works or it doesn't, and that's it.  So I've gone in and tried to simplify some things: we get a no-nuisance rolls option, so once you hit Master you can just assume you succeed at precognitive defense unless you're doing something crazy, and that thing might be precognitive reflection (by handing the DX roll off to Precognitive Defense, we get a reason for crazy high values), precognitive fast-draw (because some people hate waiting a turn before getting stuck in) or for better bonuses to your precognitive defense rolls.  I've also suggested folded Precognitive Defense rolls into Parry Missile rolls for certain situations. All in all, I hope it helps Precognitive Defense a bit.

Also, for those who get confused (the question comes up), Precognitive Defense replaces Precognitive Parry from GURPS Martial Arts, and Precognitive Block from Pyramid #3/9.

I built this style around how Obi-Wan fought in the original trilogy era.  We see it showcased in the Cantina scene, but there's also a pretty good moment with it in Star Wars: Rebels were Obi-Wan faces off against a returned Darth Maul.  Obviously, it primarily draws its inspiration from Iado, just as Obi-Wan himself does.  In principle, though, this style should be similar to Soresu, or Form III, if you just want to toss all of this into a GURPS Star Wars conversion, though Soresu seems more interested in Precognitive Reflection than in fast draws.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Wiki Showcase: Sefelka Sonostra, the Fell Form as Martial Arts Power-Up

When it came to the Non-Maradonian Forms, the Furious Form or the Fell Form came in dead last with zero points, matching the Swift Form in the Snap Poll for martial arts they personally would use as PCs.  Like the Swift Form, I suspect this is because most players see it as a background form: something an NPC would take, rather than themselves.  Where the Swift Form is iconic for the Maradonian Duelist, the Fell Form is iconic of the Ranathim Satemo of the Umbral Rim.

The Fell Form has been with us since Iteration 4 when I first put together martial arts.  Originally, I called it "Rim Force Swordsmanship," as I saw it as the way "Rim Knights" might fight.  Since then, I've given them "the Bastard Form," and when I wrote Domen Sonostrum, the Cult of the Lord of Rage.  Since then, I've increasingly pictured this as a "Ranathim" style, this very distinct form unique to the Umbral Rim.

My original inspiration for the form was, of course, the way Ahsoka Tano fights.  Her reverse grip lightsabers and her acrobatics and her kicks created a very distinct and visually pleasing style.  Like Count Dooku or Yoda, it represented a form you could point to and say "That's a specific way of fighting." Of course, in Star Wars, it actually isn't (she evidently mingles some elements of Shien, or Form V, with Ataru, or Form IV), but I can make it so.

While building the style, though, I found it really profited from certain elements.  I originally considered giving it Brawl (it was, after all, originally a street style) and giving the Destructive Form Karate, but the Destructive Form turned into the "form of being really strong," while the various elements of the Fell Form, from its acrobatics to its stealth, really made it something more DX-based.  Furthermore, a lot of its elements really profited from Karate: reverse grip let the practitioner use force swords in Close Combat at no attack penalty, and less of a defense penalty if they used karate, and if we're going to emphasize close combat strikes to stun and disorient our opponents, then kicks and sweeps make sense.  The net result is a style that turns every aspect of the fighter into a weapon: his feet, his fists, his blades, even his head!  I liked that niche, and an interesting variation on the Fell Form would be to replace the +2 Force Sword in the Master level with +2 Karate.  I'm not sure how many players would go for it, but with the Reverse Grip, it could be lethal!

As it became less of a street style and more "Taijutsu with Force Swords," I began to think of it as an assassin's style, and to more strongly associate it with the Ranathim.  So, naturally, I drew a connection between the association of the style with a "rage cult," and Form VII's (Juyo's) association with anger.  Why not give them a bonus when angry? I patterned it on Passionate Psi which is, itself, patterned on Drunken Fighting (though Drunken Fighting really requires you to accept penalties to everything else; it's not a free +2 to fighting; I've added something similar to Raging Warrior and I will add something similar to Passionate Psi). The result is a very "Sith Assassin" style, which fits the Ranathim nicely.

Finally, I shifted the original "Fell Frenzy" into a secret.  It may or may not be "secret," but All-Out Attacks are usually a bad idea in a force sword duel, so I've couched it in a lot of cautionary notes and given it some special powers that make it a "berserker's art."

If you're cribbing notes for a Star Wars conversion, note that this form might provide ideas for Form V, the Shien variant, Form III (Ataru) and Form VII (Juyo; you're on your own figuring out how to get Raging Warrior to work with the light side and make Vapaad); it doesn't really fit any single, specific Star Wars form.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Martial Arts Power-Ups Retrospective

If you enjoyed my Martial Arts as power-ups series, and you're just now joining us, you can see four more worked examples for Psi-Wars, my Space Opera setting:

Please note that Psi-Wars uses a "Technique Proliferation" optional rule: the costs of techniques are halved.

I wanted to take a moment and address some feedback and thoughts.  This turned into quite a retrospective, so I hope you don't mind long posts.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Wiki Showcase: Knightly Force Swordsmanship

Today is the last of "set 1" of my Psi-Wars Martial Arts As Power-Ups series.  Rounding off the Maradonian, we have the "ancient" style of the "Guardian Form," or "Knightly Force Swordsmanship", which was, in fact, one of the first styles I ever created or, better said, borrowed, as this is ultimately a worked example of Force Sword-and-Buckler from Pyramid #3/9 "Fighting the Future" by Kelly Pedersen.

The "Guardian Form" tied for "First place" among the Maradonian styles, and it didn't surprise me that it did so well. Where the other styles can point for lightsaber forms as as at least passing inspiration, Knightly Force Swordsmanship is a form far more grounded in GURPS.  In GURPS, you need armor to really survive UT combat, so it emphasizes armor.  In GURPS, we have force bucklers, so it has a force buckler.  In GURPS, you can't assume people are going to stand around waiting for you to get into range, so it uses the force buckler and all that armor to protect the character as he moves into place.  Dun Beltaine "used" this style before it even was a style, back in Iteration 1 before we introduced psionics or cool powers, because it let him "be a knight" without the "crutch" of the Force or Chi or something similar.

Thus, Knightly Force Swordsmanship is one of those styles that makes Psi-Wars feel like Psi-Wars.  Sure, we've got high-flying space samurai with psychic powers, but we also have juggernauts with sword and board slamming into soldiers and then cutting them down.  The well-armored space knight is perhaps one of the most important signature images of the setting, as it reminds the reader that, yes, Psi-Wars draws inspiration from Star Wars, but isn't Star Wars.  It also feeds into the mythos and lore of the "Alexian Crusades."

Not everyone likes it, though.  I haven't had the time or focus, and it was someone else's idea, but one of my readers proposed a variation that used force sword and force buckler, but dropped the armor (keeping, perhaps, a battleweave body sleeve).  The idea is that by reducing armor, you reduce costs and encumbrance.  This is especially pertinent if you're not using psychic powers and precognitive defenses, because a force buckler can, in principle, protect you from blaster fire, but only with a Dodge that benefits from the defense bonus of the shield.  A typical character with Medium (-2) encumbrance and a Base Speed of 6 has 7 to 8 Dodge; with the shield, that improves to 10 or 11, which isn't great.  With no encumbrance at all, that jumps to 12 or 13, which is pretty reliable.  If you get hit, you're dead, but you shouldn't get hit.  You could probably get a lot of mileage out of combining the high-flying acrobatics of the Graceful Form with the shield-focus of Knightly Force Swordsmanship.  The Force Saber from the Swift Form also suffers with Encumbrance, so you can toss that on the pile of this "alternative hypothetical style."

If you're looking over my shoulder to steal these for your GURPS Star Wars game, note that despite being named "the Guardian Form," Knightly Force Swordsmanship really has nothing in common with Form III or Soresu.  You'll have to wait for the Serene Form for something similar to that.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wiki Showcase: The Graceful Form of Force Swordsmanship

Today, I have the third force sword form in my series in Psi-Wars Force Swordsmanship style as Martial Arts Power-Ups.  Of the "Maradonian styles," when I polled my Patrons about which style they'd personally choose, the Graceful Form tied for first. And I can see why: it's probably the most beautiful and romantic of styles.  If you're going to be a Maradonian noble who duels, you'll probably want this one, just for the sheer beauty of the style.  You can check it out here.

I created the Graceful Form to answer several problems.  First, it seems like a logical conclusion for a Force Sword form to go after centuries of peace.  The Swift Form represents the end-point of "Force Sword as dueling weapon," similar to modern fencing compared to real-world swordfighting, while the Graceful Form represents the other endpoint, where it becomes a beautiful "dance," similar to the sort of Wushu you see in films a lot. I also needed a place to put a focus on high mobility. After all, if you're playing a force swordsman, you need to close the distance between yourself and your opponent, and he's armed with the equivalent of an assault carbine.  The Guardian Form represents one answer to that problem; the Graceful Form represents the other: cross ground swiftly!  Star Wars assumes every Jedi will have Flying Leap, but Psi-Wars draws more inspiration from Wuxia and, like GURPS, assumes that you have to learn Flying Leap, and not everyone will as a matter of course.

Naturally, the final product errs on the side of cinematic effectiveness than pure performance (though I've included some rules for that, if you want). The result is a style that tends to outmaneuver its opponents: by getting behind your target, you spoil forward-facing defenses (like Deny Right for the Swift Form, the Defensive Grip of the Destructive Form, and the shield of Knightly Force Swordsmanship).  If you're cribbing my material for a GURPS Star Wars conversion despite my repeated pleadings not to, note that the Graceful Form most resembles Ataru, or Form IV.

I've given it two secrets; one used to be a Patreon special, but the second is entirely new.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Wiki Showcase: the Destructive Form of Force Swordsmanship

Continuing my series on the Psi-Wars force swordmanship styles as Power-Ups, when I put up the snap poll for "What force sword style would you pick for your character," of the classic "Maradonian" styles, the Destructive Form came in third.  As before, this style is written with a house rule that halves the cost of techniques, to encourage technique proliferation.

Personally, the Destructive Form is my favorite style, and if I had to pick one style, that would be it. I designed it based heavily on how Darth Vader fought in the Empire Strikes Back, and in a large way, it's a style heavily informed by the qualities of the force sword itself.  If one has the ability to casually lop off limbs, that may well turn into a major focus for how one fights.  It's also a major aspect of the original Force Swordsmanship of GURPS Martial Arts, and the style that probably looks the most like actual Kenjutsu, with a focus on lines of attack.

If you're a Star Wars fan looking to crib my material, the Destructive Form is probably closest to Form V, or Djem So.

The Destructive Form also features a greater focus on strength than most styles, which is rare for a force sword style, as the force sword doesn't require strength to impact its opponent. To make this work, I've had to monkey around with how Beats work, but it's changes that I made all the way back in Cherry Blossom Rain.  If you use default Beats from GURPS Martial Arts, all they really do is let someone who is extremely strong get a bit of a benefit when feinting, which is nice, but rare in a martial arts game as most people will focus pretty heavily on DX.  Additionally, beats have some interesting side-requirements, like the fact that you need to parry or have been parried, which means that if your opponent can avoid contact with your weapon (feinting and evaluating, for example), he can prevent you from beating his weapon.  Finally, realistically, one expects a beat to work exclusively against a weapon rather than a person (though I violate this concept with a Force Sword Shove, which is meant to simulate something we see often in Star Wars fights where someone unbalances an opponent through contact between force swords), so it's something you can also avoid by having multiple weapons.  Taken together, I felt it fine to let Beat be a contest of ST vs ST, so that Beat-focused characters had a real edge over non-Beat-focused characters similar to the edge that Feint-focused characters have over high ST, low DX characters.  I should state that it's ultimately an idea inspired by Icelander, from the SJGames forums (though I don't think he posts there anymore).

The original Force Swordsmanship from GURPS Martial Arts contains a targeted attack for the neck.  I always liked this idea, but burning weapons don't get a benefit from attacking the neck, while cutting weapons do.  This may well be a 3e holdover, because Force Swords used to inflict cutting damage.  I think there's an argument for letting them do that again, especially as a force sword is a weaponized force screen, but I leave that up to you, dear reader, to decide for yourself.  What I did do is give the players access to a perk that turns that option back on as an optional rule. If you think force swords should always just do that, reduce the cost of that move by 1.

Someone asked me if targeted attacks gain the benefit of a +1 defense if your opponent keeps attacking the same hit location over and over again.  To that I say: "Sure, why not?"  I would go further and say it probably applies to over-use of Trademark Moves too, but in both cases, you should probably be careful.  Players pay points (often a lot of points) to gain access to targeted attacks and trademark moves, and the latter, especially, reward players for thinking ahead and speeding up gameplay by simply rattling off a pre-worked-out move rather than paging through books every time they attack an opponent.  If you start giving your opponents a +1 to their defense because your players have Trademark Moves and Targeted Attacks, then you disincentive your players from buying them.  I think the real intention of that rule is to keep fights from becoming stale and boring.  If your players use the Reaping Stroke over and over again hoping for that one lucky hit, sure, give their opponents a +1 to defense, and start stacking it until the player gets the picture and stops doing the same thing over and over again. But don't do it if a player happens to use it twice in a long fight, IMO.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Wiki Showcase: the Swift Form of Force Swordsmanship

Maradonian Duelist
Art by Kriz Villacis
Owned by Daniel Dover
If you've been following my blog for awhile, you might remember my discussion of Martial Arts as power-ups. That was, in fact, born out of my desire to better explore the force swordsmanship styles of Psi-Wars, which I've been building since Iteration 4.  So, you're likely familiar with the styles I'll lay out over the next few days, but I wanted to explore them as power-up structures. I wanted a player to be able to say "I'm an Adept at the Swift Form" and have it mean something.  These power-ups have also been built into the structure of the Space Knight, but as you upgrade your character, it's nice to have an upgrade path, and I've provided that, for the Swift Form, here.

(One thing to understand before exploring it too much is that I've instituted a house rule in Psi-Wars where all Technique prices are halved. One point buys you +1 to the first level of a Hard technique, and +2 to all subsequent levels of a Hard technique, or all levels of an Average technique, to the listed maximum.  This is to allow for characters to have a greater variety of techniques).

I ran a snap poll months and months ago where I asked my Patrons what Force Sword style they would choose as players.  Of the Maradonian styles, the Swift Form came dead last with zero votes.  I don't believe this is a condemnation of the Swift Form, so much as a preference for players to explroe something else.  The Swift Form is, in many ways, symptomatic of the malaise afflicting Maradonian Space Knights, who have come to focus on courtly dueling over more practical battlefield applications.  Thus, I imagine players might expect to face a duelist using the Swift Form, and expect to dismantle him with their other, more unique styles.

That said, the Swift Form is probably the "best" force sword style, if your focus is actually on fighting with a force sword against a single opponent.  It's ruthlessly focused, great at hitting first (though the Serene style is competitive for the "first hit") and stacks up multiple advantages against a single opponent.  It tends to do well against any style where it can dictate terms.  It struggles a bit to get around the force buckler of Knightly Force Swordsmanship, and can be outmaneuvered by the Graceful form.  The Destructive Form usually just lops the Swift Swordsman's arm off or punches him in the face, but modern Duelists wear an extra heavy gauntlet and a face-mask to prevent these tactics.

If you're a Star Wars fan looking to crib my stuff for your game, the Swift Form is closest to Makashi, or Form II.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Wiki Showcase: the Space Knight

"Where is the stuff on the "REALLY not Jedi, leave me alone Disney lawyers!"?" - Kevin Hudgins

Space Knight by Kriz Villacis,
Owned by Daniel Dover
Ah, the Space Knight. Perhaps the most iconic element of Psi-Wars.  We've had Dun Beltain, our resident space knight, since Iteration 1, and we've added new space knights, such as the dark lord Vesper Tane and the holy warrior Rafari since iteration 3, and they've remained some of the most popular elements since Psi-Wars began. This is unsurprising, as they stand in for our "Jedi," and thus have all the appeal of samurai, wuxia and fantasy paladins.

My Patrons finally asked me to to make this the focus of this month's Template revisions, and I've cautioned them on it, because the Space Knight is tricky to explore.  So, with expectations managed, I've released my current version of the Space Knight.

This is a tricky project, and you need to see it as a work in progress, one that will likely continue for quite some time.  While I wouldn't call the space knight the "central" template to the game, as one can play entire Psi-Wars campaigns without ever touching one, the template is deeply bound up in legends and history, which makes it something profoundly tied into the setting, which means you can't talk about any aspect of the setting without touching on the Space Knight and vice versa.  That means there's a lot to unpack, and that means we can talk about them for a long time, which means we won't be done for a long time, which means you'll have to settle with what we have at the time until I expand on all the things.

For me, one of the key goals of the Space Knight project was variety.  A frustration I had with Star Wars gaming when I was younger was that they were all the same.  This was more true back when it was just the original trilogy (yes, I am that old), because you had essentially three archetypes: the young, idealistic apprentice, the old and bitter teacher, and the former student who had fallen to the Dark Side.  Since then, especially after the prequels, we've seen a greater variety of lightsaber fighting techniques (though these are woefully underrepresented in Star Wars RPGs) and hints of unique powers, but we still find ourselves exploring the same tropes.

I wanted Psi-Wars to be a game where everyone could play as a Space Knight and not feel like they were stepping on one another's toes.  I wanted numerous sorts of space knights, from your "not a Jedi, I swear" to your straight up "I'm a knight, in space" space knights and in between.  As an avid fan of kung fu movies and wuxia stories, I wanted them to explore martial arts and discuss which strategies are best, and why, and to differentiate from one another based on their preferred approaches to combat.  I wanted them to all have unique psionic powers, as well as a unifying set of power in the form of Communion.  And I wanted them to have varying philosophies behind their powers and behind why they fight.

Put all of this together, and we have a lot to talk about.  My patrons have asked me to talk about Communion, and that's all ready to go, it's just a matter of posting it; I've already discussed martial arts in broad outlines, and I'll be slowly releasing those as power-up sets and, given time, I may go more deeply into the Templars and the Cults of the Mystical Tyrant.

One last comment: if you're expecting to play as a Jedi with one of these, understand that these templates were built to balance with Smugglers, Commandos and Diplomats.  They're action characters with a little bit of psionic power, and a few points in Martial Arts. They've actually seen a downgrade since their last iteration, though I've made them better generalists (DX 13 rather than DX 12).  Their best Force Sword skill is 16 (17 in the case of Swift Form users), down from 18, but they have a little more psionic abilities and they can always invest in more martial arts.  If you want to play as the space knight who slings around True Communion like nobody's business and has 100 points in psionic powers and is the master of a force sword form, you're looking at closer to 500 points and, yes, I do have ideas for such a template, but that will need to wait!

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Psi-Wars Fallacy

There's a comment I often get from people who have read a lot of Psi-Wars, especially from the beginning, and it goes something like this:

"I like Psi-Wars, but it's funny.  At the beginning you talked about getting a campaign done with a minimal amount of work, and then you proceed to put years of work into it."

The comment is always given in a light-hearted "I don't mean anything by it" sort of comment, but it reads to me as an attempt by the reader to resolve a tension: either I was selling you goods at the beginning by promising that something would be easier than it was, or I was wrong and setting design is, in fact, hard.

The problem here is a misunderstanding of the underlying meaning of minimal work.  I've been seeing some videos, and I got some time, so I wanted to talk about what I'm trying to show with Psi-Wars, why I do it the way I do, what I think you should be doing with your setting design and how you can avoid some major pitfalls.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Wiki Showcase: Aristocratic Lens - The Shinjurai Royal Family

All this week, I've been showcasing the aristocratic background lenses that came in second.  Today, I can show you what came in first: the Shinjurai Royal Family. You can check them out here.

I was pleasantly surprised to see them top the list, though doubtless Mina Shinjurai (who appeared in Tinker Titan Rebel Spy) and the artwork for the Shinjurai Princess helped feed interest.  To me, most of the other aristocrats are fairly obvious outgrowths of what we already know about the setting: we know there is nobility and maradonian aristocracy, and we know there are imperials, and we know there are Ranathim (who presumably have their own aristocracy), but I don't talk too much about the Shinjurai except to discuss them in passing in Neo-Rationalism, so it was interesting to have a chance to explore this fairly unique element of the setting.

One feedback I got early from the Disciples was "Why so much detail?"  The argument wasn't that it was "too much" (when I came back with even more detail, nobody shot it down), rather, why have the Shinjurai at all?  They're just the royalty of a single planet, on par with the Pelian nobility or some Asrathi lord.  Why go into so much detail?

Well, there's a few reasons.  First, as I discussed in my setting design manifesto, settings should be fractal, and doing at least three of every fractal thing creates a real sense of choice.  And so, humanity has been split into three: the Maradonian branch, who act as "space fantasy" and act as the de facto rulers of the setting, the Westerly branch, who act as the "space Westerns" with their cowboys and their "Native Americans," their asteroid miners and their ancient tribal practices.  Together, we can see "high society" and "barbaric hinterlands."  The Shinjurai represent the "Third way," the "space as science fiction" element of the setting.  The Westerly are too fragmented to offer a single, cohesive aristocracy; if they "ruled the Galaxy," they would do it as a thousand little domains.  The Shinjurai, by contrast, represent a real alternative to the Maradonian way for galaxy-spanning dominion, as they ruled the Galaxy once before Alexus Rex, and the modern Valorian Empire, who at least gives lip service to their philosophies.

The Shinjurai royal family represent one linchpin for this sense of unity.  They are a single thing that all Shinjurai across the Galaxy can point to and say "We believe in that," similar to how Australians, Canadians, and all other members of the British Commonwealth can point to the British Royal Family.  They're a symbol of unity among a disunited people, and a symbol of hope that, perhaps, in the future, they could rise to their former place.

This gives them, to me at least, an interesting tension.  They are, in the eyes of many, the people who should be the most powerful people in the Galaxy, but they are some of the least powerful of all the aristocrats shown thus far.  They don't have secret occult oaths, or the legacy of a millennia of psychic engineering.  They have only tradition and knowledge.  They use their soft power to achieve their ends, while being held hostage by the Maradonian nobility and their own people.  They represent a repudiation of Maradonian aristocracy that, themselves, attend the courts and senates of the Maradonian Alliance.  They are chained kings, or bound princesses, if you will.

I also think it's important to have a "dark horse" in your setting.  A setting should have obvious high-points. In Psi-Wars, that's the Empire vs the Alliance, Templars vs Tyrants.  You know about princesses and space knights and commandos and fighter aces, and that's fine.  A setting should have these.  But there should also be something that rewards the player that digs a little deeper, something that's not actually part of the primary struggle of the setting, but still very interesting.  In Star Wars, this might be the Mandalorians or the Nightsisters; in Warhammer 40k, that might be the Tau. In Psi-Wars, this is exemplified by the Shinjurai, who bring an entirely different vibe with them, but one that still fits in the larger themes of the setting.  So, if you want to play as something a little different in Psi-Wars, the Shinjurai offer an interesting option for it.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Wiki Showcase: Aristocratic Lens - The Mithanna

I asked my patrons to vote on which aristocratic lenses they wanted to see, and four options tied for second.  This is the third (and last that I'll discuss here; the fourth was the Last Alexian, which is a Patreon special, available in the Lost book of Houses).

I was honestly a little surprised to see Ranathim Aristocracy do as well as it did.  I'm glad it did, though, because it gives us a chance to look at some truly alien nobility.  Most of our aristocrats are either human, or only superficially different from human nobility (you could, for example, build an Asrathi noble as a generic aristocrat, but there's nothing in that post that would encourage you to make him different from, say, a Pelian noble).  This gave me a chance to explore a really different sort of aristocracy, to set up some unusual and alien traditions.

One concern I had going into the design of the Mithanna was mounting complexity.  I didn't mind adding more and more houses to Maradonian nobility, because they're a central focus of the game and I expect players will want to see a lot of detail about them.  The Ranathim pose a different problem, as they're explicitly "foreign."  They're the "Red Men of Mars" that John Carter goes and learns about, with their Jeds and Jeddaks and Tharks, or the Klingons with their overly nuanced sense of honor and their unique language. They're meant to feel foreign and exotic, which both means they need a lot of detail, and that people don't care about their detail until they really care about their detail.

So I wanted to make something something that felt weird but didn't actually use any new mechanics.  If you're familiar with the Divine Masks, you're already familiar with Oath Magic (ie, just buying a learned prayer as a straight up trait and slapping an oath modifier on it), so I chose that mechanic as my core focus.  I chose a single oath (the Mithna Edict) as the focus of the characters, the one thing they turn on, then added a handful of ways to customize your characters (a few new oaths, some psychic abilities, a few common traits, etc). 

I felt three houses were enough, though I've heard murmurings of wanting a fourth or making their own, but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader. With the Maradonian nobility, I could easily see games centered entirely on them.  The Maradonian aristocracy are one of the participants of the central conflict of the setting, and they're a familiar sort of nobility, which allows players to easily understand them.  They could well want to play one and find that the four houses offered aren't enough, hence the Lost Book of Houses.  With the Ranathim Aristocracy, I don't see that nearly as much of a concern.  I see most players experiencing the Umbral Rim as outsiders, and those that want to run a strictly Umbral Rim/Ranathim game are, first, likely to be rare and, second, served already by the great variety of the region.  They can play as a member of one of the three Mithna, or they can play as a Slaver-lord, or they can play as a Gaunt priestess, or they can play as a Trader Merchant-King, or they can play as a Keleni prophet, etc and so on. The region is already rich with variety, so the Mithanna only really need enough variety to lightly outline how they might vary from one another, and then they can be tossed into the wild mish-mash of ideas brewing in the Umbral Rim.

What emerged from my design was, as someone pointed out, very Fae-like.  This wasn't actually intentional (I drew more inspiration from Vampires, especially Vampire: the Masquerade. If you squint, you can even see the Gangrel behind Mithna Galantim), but I can see it.  Like with most things I put into the Umbral Rim, the idea is to create a disorienting set of rules that nobody properly explains to the player, making him feel like an outsider, so that he staggers into insulting one of these and ends up dueling them in some crazy, pulp space opera dueling chamber with a gyrating floor and spike traps, while a Ranathim princess struggles with her feelings for this strangely compelling Earth man and the fact that her Edict forbids her from loving him (unless he does these equally weird, arbitrary things that the princess sighs and rolls her eyes when explaining it to him, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world).  I also had to explain how the aristocrats of a broken empire could still keep their power, given the constant churn of disorder and anarchy in the Umbral Rim.  I think it worked out well.

The dueling, blood-feuds, and the explicit bonds to worlds (such as Galantim ruling an estate on Hekatomb) is based on feedback from the Disciples.  They thought the Mithanna needed more context.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Wiki Showcase: Aristocratic Lens - Maradonian Noble

Ahh, here it is, the one you've likely been waiting for.  Since I started working on the Alliance, I think the Maradonian nobility are second only to Communion itself for interest from the community, thus they likely need no introduction, but here we go anyway: the lingering remnants of a psychic aristocracy, bred to save the Galaxy from some great apocalypse coming in the future, are the main force standing up against the Emperor.  They present themselves as heroic defenders of democracy, while quietly seeking to secure their own power over the galaxy.  The Emperor's empire was founded on removing their aristocracy from the Galaxy and bringing equality with him (though, perhaps, he has not succeeded at that as well as his propagandists say).

I created the Maradonian aristocracy for a few reasons, but primarily I wanted real opposition to the Empire.  Star Wars presents the rebellion as a plucky group of rag-tag farmers and adventurers who just happen to have their own fleet. This is based on a very optimistic and romantic notion of what a "rebellion" looks like.  To be sure, the American revolution saw the Americans with their own fleet, and the American civil war likewise saw the Confederation sport their own fleet, but in both cases, these were fully fledged states waging war on one another, rather than a band of guerrillas.  You need shipyards and workers to maintain a fleet, you need training grounds to train your pilots, you need to perform exercises to get your fleet to work well with one another.  George Lucas based a lot of his vision of the rebellion on a romantic view of the Viet Cong, but they didn't need to fight naval battles on the scale of what we saw on WW2 and, even if they did, they had the backing of a state (North Korea, which itself had the backing of China).

So, if you want to have large, sweeping naval battles in space, you need a state.  If Psi-Wars is WW2, and the Empire is Germany, then the Alliance is Britain.  Other good inspirations would be Napoleon vs the monarchies of Europe, or the aristocratic arm of the Roman civil war that led to the rise of Augustus Caesar.

I also created them because we need space princesses.  Space opera is based heavily on the "fiction of the day," and the fiction of the day that inspired works like Star Wars were fantasy works and, especially, the Ruritanian Romance, stories that involve swashbuckling adventures in small, valley kingdoms with very 19th century aristocrats. One needn't look that hard at Star Wars, with its princesses and heroic space knights rushing to rescue them from a grasping, napoleonic Empire.  We like stories about prim princesses who need a good scolding, or who heroically rebel against their gilded cage, or princes who seek to earn their father's favor and who must bear the crushing responsibilities of the state and the needs of the people at a tender, youthful age.  And, of course, everyone must know how to duel.

To make such an aristocracy work, we need to embed them in the setting and create a mythology around them. In large part, aristocracy is built on mythology, the story that some people are better than others, and that they're the better people.  They trace ancient, prestigious lineages, and they explain that their bloodline gives them greater right to rule. In Psi-Wars, we manifest this with their eugenic bloodlines and their ancestor veneration.  This gives them a reason to be picky about whom they marry, or to look down their noses at one another ("Bloodline purity 0? Seriously? Were your parents even trying to retain their dignity, or did they just give up when they decided to have you?"). Their heritage as space knights gives them a reason to retain their martial lineage, but the lack lack of warfare has turned it into something ceremonial, a game that focused duelists seek to win, rather than a way of war.

Thus, if you're thinking of Psi-Wars Aristocracy, chances are, you're thinking of one of them.  So, check them out here.  If you find my varieties of aristocracy confusing, just ignore the rest and focus on these, because they're the ones people seem to know best. Currently, I have four houses, four lineages.  You can make your own, and I have four more available in the Lost Book of Houses if you're a patron.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Wiki Showcase: the Aristocratic Background Lens - The Imperial Heir

When my Patrons voted for the Aristocratic Lens to be the focus of the month, I asked them what optional lenses they'd like to see focused on, and we had a four way tie for second.  The Imperial Heir was the second of those tied for second.

So, what's it like to play the second most important person in the Galaxy?  You can't play as the Emperor of course (right? I mean, that would be silly), but why not one of his children? 

Star Wars never really talked about imperial succession, because it was interested in having a tightly constrained narrative that it could wrap up with a bow: find the Emperor, kill the Emperor, the galaxy is saved.  Hooray!  But we have the luxury of exploring these possibilities.  We can have an imperial prince or princess and a convoluted race for succession if the Emperor ever actually dies, including which person gets backed to be the next in power.

Like the Corporate Heir from yesterday, the Imperial Heir is not powerful in their own right, but because of who they're deeply connected with.  Just as we can look to real-world corporate heirs, we can look to the children of real-world dictators and see what they might be like: spoiled, with nobody in their empire willing to say no to them, though sometimes, they come to see the plight of their people and may act as a sort of hero figure (or be set up as one by their father's very clever propaganda arm).

Of course, playing such a character isn't cheap (60 points! For the basics!) but that's to be expected. The ability to throw a tantrum, and then get your own dreadnought for your birthday, is a pretty powerful one. And the GM needs to be careful if allowing this, as the campaign can quickly become about the Imperial Heir, which isn't necessarily a problem, but it's not the sort of character you just chuck into a campaign without working out some of the details first.  But if you want to play that sort of campaign, you have the tools to do so here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

State of the Blog: The October Roadmap

It's that time again!

September Retrospective

Last month was, to my surprise given the volume of posts, a mediocre month for views. The big posts for this month were:

Of the vehicles, the Switchback seems the most popular, but the Nomad isn't far behind, and the Ranathim Mithanna get a special mention, likely because people like that picture.

I lost a Disciple Patron, which always hurts, but a I gained a new Companion patron, so overall Patreon is a wash.  I had a "drive-by" patron; some people really hate that, but I don't mind. I find most patrons stay for the long haul and join in with the community.  That said, I've seen a surge in comments and discord use, so I'm rather pleased with the direction of the Psi-Wars community.

The big wiki-updates this month have been:

An October Perspective

As always, I have a vote for what topics you guys would like me to cover.  The winners this month are:

For Rules Collation: Communion.  That'll be a big one.
For Template Collation: The Space Knight (with the Wanderer Background Lens in second place)
For General Topic: A tie between "What is magic, really?" and "Modular Robots Revisited."


Communion has been popular since I released it back in Iteration 3, and it's been largely uchanged since then except for Broken Communion, which keeps getting weirder.  We now have ghosts, and quite a treatise on them, and things like psychic diseases and loads of other problems that Broken Communion can cause.  I might also change how it's priced, as it seems increasingly reasonable to have True Communion miracles to break or override Broken Communion miracles (ie, you can use True Communion to purge Broken Communion sanctity) and perhaps you should be able to protect yourself from Broken Communion the same way you can protect yourself from ghosts.

The biggest change to Communion was introduced with the Divine Masks: occult communion and a greater role for Paths.  I had originally conceived of Paths as a way of specializing one's form of Communion, but I've been increasingly seeing it as a "road to Communion."  That is, a Templar or a Mystical Tyrant might command Communion, but most people who interact with it do so unwittingly by embodying archetypes.  This needs to be codified, and that means Paths need to be expanded, because normal communion gives you access to all of Communion, while a path gives you only a limited subset of Communion.

Finally, I've decided we need more paths.  I find three paths per form of communion a little constraining.  I'd like to add one more path per form of Communion, to better refine the concepts of the Paths, which means some things will get shifted around.  All names subject to change.

True Communion gets the Wounded Healer, who moves some of the gentle, self-sacrificing things from the Bound Princess, who becomes more of a self-sacrificing authority figure.  Domen Venalina (the Ranathim Sin Eaters) will shift from the Bound Princess to the Wounded Healer.

Dark Communion gets the Devourer, or the Hungry Beast.  This will focus on the "vice" of greed and gluttony, on self-preservation via base, animal means.  It'll have a strong resonance with wild animals and wild places, and take some of the bestial aspects of the Rebellious Beast and the hungry aspects of the Beautiful Fool for itself, making the Rebellious Beast more about thoughtless destruction and rage, and the Beautiful Fool more about lust and laziness.

Broken Communion gets the Void.  This will focus on thoughts of nothing of nothingness and emptiness, the inability to grasp both the infinite and the truly empty.  It'll touch on cosmic themes and, obviously, travel powers and higher dimensional powers.

The Space Knight

The Space Knight is a tricky one, easily on par with (or more difficult than) the Aristocrat.  It's not so much that we need a ton of setting information, because we have most of that.  We need to dive into force swordsmanship using my new approach, and I still need to work out a couple of styles.  Fortunately, you already know what "Martial Arts as Power-Ups" looks like, so that shouldn't be too bad.

The biggest problem with space knights is tackling their sheer variety.  One of my goals with Psi-Wars was to open up the "Jedi" template to a much broader range, and I think I've succeeded.  Templars feel like Jedi and the Tyrants like Sith, but Maradonian Space Knights feel like, well, knights, and the Satemo of the Umbral Rim feel more like vengeful ronin, and we have room for "Street Knights," like Dun Beltain.  We need to not only integrate all of these different cultural elements, but also their martial arts and their psionic powers or, in the case of House Kain, how one can be a space knight without psionic powers.

If that doesn't work, we'll shift to the Wanderer, which I suspect did as well as it did thanks to curiosity about Redjack, which seemed to be popular with the Discord community, and what sort of people might fly those ships.

Modular Robots? Magic?

Last but not least, we had quiet a discussion about robots recently, which led to some people criticizing my approach to ST.  I think it's well-founded... but it turns out there's an interesting counter-case to be made, which could lead to some different designs.  Using this approach could lead to new problems, and it might be worth discussing what works well with my old Modular Robots approach and how, possibly, we might be able to keep it.

If that doesn't pan out, I can rant about magic for a good 10k words.

Is that all?

If this isn't enough to keep me busy for the month, in theory the last part of the military doctrines series are robots.  We need to get stats on the robots that fill the tech-bot slot on most fighters, and we need to talk about the robots that tend to your wounds, or that Redjack pirates use to scout (or patrol) outposts.  This makes a revisit of Modular Robots quite timely.

It also means creating an entirely new set of rules to govern how they work as allies, how you can quickly design your allies, and how PC robots might interact with the system. This is a project on par with the Sidekicks supplement for Monster Hunters or Henchmen for Dungeon Fantasy, and so it might take a lot of work (though, compared to the ships, thus far, it's been pretty quick!).  With Communion and Space Knights on my plate, these might have to wait but, on the other hand, I have a week of vacation, some of which I might even be able to use to write.

If I find I still have time, I'd like to do a Patreon poll series wherein we build our own military doctrine and associated materiel.

Well, that's what I'd like to tackle for October, we'll see how it goes.  I'm glad to have you still with me and thanks, as always, for your patronage and your clicks.

Wiki Showcase: Aristocratic Background Lens - Corporate Heirs

When my patrons voted for aristocracy, I held a poll for what sort of aristocratic lenses they'd like to see, and we had a four way tie for second.  One of the tied-for-second choices was: Corporate Heirs.

So far, we've only seen aristocracy-as-aristocracy, but really, the background is about being one of the well-heeled of the Galaxy, someone with money and social influence who gets to attend the nicest parties in the nicest outfits and gets to worry about their manners. So far we've based that in blood and lineage and psychic power, fitting for Psi-Wars as inspired by Star Wars, which itself was emulating fantasy, swashbuckling and Ruritanian romance.

But Psi-Wars talks a lot about corporations (as does the later installments of Star Wars, it must be noted).  I talk about them because they're a good way to introduce disruption to aristocracy, as you begin to shift from "old money" to "new money," and capitalism regularly creates (or at least underlines) social upheaval in its cycles of creative destruction.  And Psi-Wars begins to gain something of a cyberpunk edge to it, a sense of more modernity when compared to Star Wars.  GURPS thrusts this upon us, in part, thanks to how it handles tech levels, but it's something I've personally wanted to explore, because it differentiates the setting from Star Wars, and because a cyber-samurai dueling a psychic space knight is a wonderful image.

Certainly, groups like the Hyperium Mining Guild and ARC draw inspiration from corporations like Dune's CHOAM; less modern corporation than medieval guild or aristocratic collective for sharing profits, but companies like Syntech could fit in the glass towers of Neo-Tokyo.  These companies give us different technological profiles (which we've been exploring recently), but they could also give us story seeds ("Syntech has hired you to smuggle this cargo to the Umbral Rim, no questions asked."), and we can explore the people behind them.  Thus: the Corporate Heirs.

A "Corporate Heir" in this context is anyone with sufficient connections to a company to enjoy the wealth and power of that connection without actually working there: the son of the business owner, or the wife, or the mistress.  They have money and people want to impress them which translates, effectively, to status.  They are, however, still in a world dominated by the "old blood" aristocracy.  They may have money and influence, but they tend to lack class, breeding, honor and "fighting spirit." They're a merchant class, not a warrior class.  This gives them the ability to innovate and think outside the box while the aristocracy tends to be stuck in its old ways, but it also tends to give you self-centered party animals who run away from trouble rather than, like those irritatingly brave Knights of House Kain, towards the trouble.

I like them as a pallete cleanser for the aristocracy.  You can sprinkle them at your parties to remind people that the age of the aristocrat in Psi-Wars is beginning to pass away.  You can play as one, and instead of having your aristocratic father talk about what a disappointment you are to the family, you can have your corporate father talk about what a disappointment you are to the company, but instead of proving him wrong by mastering a force sword style, you'll do it by creating an amazing new invention.
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