Thursday, September 16, 2021

Generic Space Opera Bestiary: School Fish


We don’t put much thought into aquatic animals in RPGs, in my experience, and that makes sense, because unless we’re playing Atlanteans, they mostly don’t matter. We’ll fight a wolf and we’ll ride a horse, but what will a fish matter to us? Well, if we’re doing songbirds and rats, we might as well at least look at fish, especially the sort of fish people might eat. And the sort of fish people might see if they’re out on an ocean. It’s also worth noting that a lot of space opera does dive into deep sea adventures, or have aquatic aliens (Psi-Wars has the Keleni, and I’d like at least one more aquatic species, so we can have some underwater adventures!).

In this case, I wanted to look at fish that form schools or shoals. That is, the sort of fish that form these huge swarms that you fishermen haul onto the ship in great netfuls. These fish form the basis (well, a basis) of the food chain, and are one of the most common interactions the ordinary man has with the sea.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Generic Space Opera Bestiary: Space Song Birds


We’re surrounded by birds. We might be surrounded by vermin, but they hide beneath our feet. Birds we see, or here
. These flitting bits of color decorate the branches of trees and their bird song fills the air. One might imagine the branches of an alien forest filled with similar color and bird song, only from a very different sort of creature.

These creatures would be defined by their small size, their charm and beauty, and their relative ubiquity as a bit of color in the background. They’re non-threatening, bottom-of-the-food-chain prey animals that often die at the hands of space cats or space hawks (or alien children with slingshots). Thus we might define them as Small, Winged Fliers who act as Herbivores and likely involve a meditation on communication methods.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Generic Space Opera Bestiary: Space Rats

While far from the most interesting opponent to face, and unlikely to be a stalwart animal companion (though rats do make good familiars), rats and other vermin tend to show up often as a nuisance in the background. They are your smallest prey, that thing that gets on the ship and takes an exterminator to get off again and scuttles in the background in ship docks. If gathered into a sufficiently large swarm, they can even be dangerous!

This will be a more speculative post than usual, as getting rats (or other vermin) start to get small enough that they fall under the radar of GURPS stats. That’s fine, though, as there’s plenty of room for variation within the “guild” of “Vermin.”

A rat is an omnivore, though I think you could classify them as a cross between scavengers and gathering herbivores, as they seem to favor fruits and nuts and will eat dead animals they come across, but they’ll feed on grains, birds (eggs?) and insects. A rat is also a burrower, though not exclusively or even primarily, but I think it’s fair to classify digging as part of what they do. They’re also very small: a black rat can get up to 7 inches long (15 if you count the tail) and weigh up to about half an lb. “Rodents” can be found on every continent except Antarctica, according to Wikipedia, but I bet you can find them there now. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Generic Space Opera Bestiary -- Introduction


I've been putting this off for a long time, because it's a lot of work with very little payoff, but I can put it off no longer: Psi-Wars needs a bestiary.  Space Opera is rather in the worst possible place when it comes to animals, because animals take a ton of work to write up, it's difficult for them to plausibly provide a challenge, the players are unlikely to be interested in exploring interesting biological facts of strange, evolutionary creatures, and realistically the GM is even limited in where he can use this critters.  But Space Opera, especially those that descend from Planetary Romance as Psi-Wars does, needs monsters that heroic, square-jawed heroes can wrestle into submission or fight off with their blaster rifle.  It needs interesting background color to remind they players that they're on an alien world.  We need them, and if we lack detail the players will notice, so it's just got to take the time that it takes.

I've complained about this before, but when I did, I had dismissed the idea of wildlife, the generic critters in the background, things like alien songbirds or alien rats or alien fish. I got some feedback that, yeah, actually, people would like that. It doesn't need a ton of detail or carefully balanced stats, but some ideas on how to make alien songbirds that a GM can toss in the background might be nice. That seemed like a nice, narrow, easily definable goal, so I began to collect my thoughts on it.  How could I make some quick and easy "wildlife" that you could pepper a sci-fi game with?

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Phoenix Cluster Poll 2 -- Refinement

 So, last months poll for the new Poll-Driven setting element, the Phoenix Cluster, is finished. All Backers can read the results here:

Of course, the point of this is to be a series of polls. And, as always, once a poll is done, I'm often left with as many questions as answers, but we've at least narrowed down the nature of the Phoenix Cluster. In this month's poll, we'll fine tune some specifics of the broader setting, including:
  • Where exactly the Phoenix Cluster is located and with what systems does it have a special relationship
  • What unusual astronomical features it has
  • What are some of the governments that make up the Phoenix Confederacy?
  • What is the nature of the Westerly Clans?
  • What the current situation of the tumultuous religions of the constellation is?
  • What sort of aliens can you find in the cluster?
  • Who were the ancient aliens that once occupied this region of space?
  • When did the extra-galactic aliens finally arrive at the Cluster?
  • When did particular major events happen?
  • Who is the Disruptive Heretic and what made her so Disruptive?
$5+ ("Companion") backers can vote on the poll here:

Monday, August 30, 2021

GURPS PDF Challenge 2021: GURPS Action Adventure 1: Templar's Gold

 So, here we are, the PDF challenge completed!

This has one chapter;

  • The Adventure: which is the adventure.
I was really looking forward to this adventure, and delighted to see it unlocked. The actual thing didn't quite live up to my expectations (I liked Green Madonna better), but it's not bad. The adventure is somewhat barebones, you'll need a good knowledge of Action to make it work, and the adventure suffers from an incomplete understanding of Action's core mechanics, but there's nothing really deal breaking here, and it makes up for it in rich historical context and detail that, I think, really sells the adventure. Recommend

Friday, August 27, 2021

GURPS PDF Challenge 2021: DF 23: Twists

 This is the last PDF unlocked by moolah.  The other one needed to be unlocked with total backers.

This has one chapter, Strands in the Braid, but the one chapter is pretty cleanly broken into three parts to the point that I thought it had three chapters.

  • Lords and Ladies: Titles and Status in DF
  • Demons and Darkness: Horror DF
  • Sufficiently Advanced: So I heard you wanted guns?
It's a good book. It tackles the things it needs to tackle in a very DF way, and you'll walk away with more knowledge of how GURPS works, and how to expand your DF game. I think you're better off having it than not having it.  That said, I get the sense a lot of people had higher hopes for this than it could match.  It will not give you courtly games out of the box, or DF Monster Hunters, or DF: Galtar.  It will point you in the right direction to make those yourself! But you'll still have to make them yourself, you'll just have a little more guidance in doing so.  I think that's going to disappoint some DF fans.  I found it okay, but I have very high proficiency levels with GURPS that a lot of people in the DF community don't (as DF is often a gateway into GURPS). I still think its worth getting, as I said, but modify your expectations.
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