Saturday, April 30, 2022

Wordpress Update

 It's been the first full month of Wordpress. If you haven't transitioned, here's what you might have missed!

That covers everything I posted in April.  If you haven't updated your bookmarks or subscriptions to the new blog, remember to do so!

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Migration and Mothballing


Mailanka's Musings is moving! I've already migrated my blog posts over to the new location at wordpress:

I've wanted to get away from Google for awhile, and this was my last tie. However, because the new blog doesn't have quite the same functionality as the old one, I'll leave this one up for awhile for archival purposes. Once I figure out how to more easily search and reference things in the new location, this location will close.  I'll try to run links between blogs for awhile for those who are late to the party, but after this month, there will be no more posts to this blog.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Why is Psi-Wars Armor So Heavy?


Mavrick pointed out on the Discord that Psi-Wars armor seems a bit heavy for its description, and asked why this was.

Generally speaking, Psi-Wars matches Ultra-Tech pretty closely, assuming a Battleweave armor is roughly on par with Energy Cloth with 2/3 the DR for the weight. An Energy Cloth suit is 8 lbs, and a Battleweave bodysuit is 8 lbs. There's a bit of a discrepency in that the Energy Cloth suit covers "all" while the Battleweave body suit covers "body and limbs" and so is slightly heavier, but this is because the values in Ultra-Tech are a little generous when you work out their actual values in the armor design system (they're likely Optimized despite their descriptions depicting them as Fabric), which is what I eventually did. So that's the short answer: based on Ultra-Tech, the values are close enough to correct to not worry about the discrepancy.

Sci-fi "Armor"

But in the conversation, he raised a more interesting point: what does this have to do with clothing? I tend to picture battleweave bodysuits as skin-tight garments that super-heroes or super-spies often wear, that's inexplicably tough because it's the future! This hearkens to works like John Wick, where he can wear what looks like a perfectly ordinary suit yet is magically armored "because technology." This allows the character to blend fashion with protection, which is a hallmark for Psi-Wars, especially maradonian characters.

(As an aside, I worry about this sometimes. There are a few elements in Psi-Wars, such as how Extra-Effort works with psi abilities, and the fact that anyone can have DR "for free" but only if you know about it. They represent little complexities that make sense, but are easy for a newbie to miss, and I hate creating "newb traps" in design. But on the other hand, I imagine most people will imagine their sci-fi character, at least those outside of the planetary romance realms of the Umbral Rim and the Sylvan Spiral, as wearing a full covering, and might be pleased to learn that this provides DR).

Monday, February 28, 2022

Psi-Wars Wiki Highlight: February Progress Report

 As usual, I've neglected the blog in favor of the wiki and the discord, as I tend to get a lot of immediate feedback on the discord (plus I'm winding this blog down as I prep to move it to Wordpress, which looks to be stable so far, so I may take the plunge sooner than later).  So the lack of content here doesn't mean I've stopped producing material.  So, let's get into it.

The March of the Slaver Empire

One of the most important, and popular, Psi-Wars races are the Ranathim, and one central conceit is their dead empire. They once ruled a dark part of the Galaxy known as the Umbral Rim, but today, they have been enslaved by another. That's the premise of the Ranathim.

So what is this other race, and what empire do they run? I had tagged them as "Slavers" in my drafts, and the name has stuck around, but I often refer to them as the Temkorathim. They obviously had to rule the Umbral Rim now, right? What were they like? Probably not a major threat, but morally repugnant enough that you'd want to kick them around, even if you never got around to it, but dangerous enough that player characters would find them interesting to adventure in while rescuing Ranathim damsels from a fate worse than death and battling in the gladiatorial arenas of the Slavers. I suspected they would look something like the cinematic depiction of the third-world dictatorship/kleptocracy, like Doctor Doom's Latveria, or Vilena of the Expendables, though probably with even more inferior technology (though not so inferior that characters could steamroll through opposition).

So, in continuing the slow rollout of the Umbral Rim, I released the Oligarchy of Vech, and a Backer-Exclusive supplement that rounded out four of the Council of Seven, including their minions. These were generally well received (though not without some light edit notes). These are follow-ups to last month's Slaver Cartels and the associated backer release. Between them, you should be able to work out quite a lot of Umbral politics, at least between Slavers.

It's not enough to know what they are, but we need to know how they fight, and this section of space is unique enough that we expect a very different technological infrastructure, so I worked on that too!

This month I released Lithian Tech, with is a rolling, unfinished release. This includes weapons, armor and vehicles available in the Umbral Rim, including materiel from Redjack, Orion Arms (which has been around, but is greatly expanded now), and the new Rath Industries, unique to the Oligarchy of Vech. These aren't finished: I need to release the capital ships and ground vehicles from the Umbral Rim, but a highlight of the new vehicles available now are:

I still need to release ground vehicles, the Mauler, the Spire and the Fugitive, and there's some drafts floating around. I should get to them soon.

Drugs are Bad, Mmmkay?

The Umbral Rim is filled with vice, and drugs are certainly one of them. The Slavers excel at the creation of drugs to addict their victims, and they equip their soldiers with addictive, performance-enhancing drugs. This was an important part of the the Lithian tech release, and something that required some careful balance for future releases (especially since once you have performance enhancing drugs, someone is going to want to use it, and we'll need alchemy/potions at some point for our Inevitable Space Witches).

This also required expanding the Krokuta, who have a special relationship with these drugs. I have all of their unique power sets except Amberdine, which is still in a draft state.

In Memory of the Phoenix Cluster

The backer-led project of the Phoenix Cluster carries on.  The Umbral Rim dominates my attention at the moment, but I did release the last poll result regarding the first Westerly Clan of Phoenix Cluster. The trick here is that I need to write them up, and the other clans, and I'm trying to balance that with this rollout of the Umbral Rim.


Both playtests move forward. I did not run Undercity Noir in February, as I was quite ill, but we look good for March.  The other playtest set in the Umbral Rim collapsed under the weight of conflicting schedules, so I recruited a raft of new players for the one player would could consistently make it, and rebooted the campaign.  The Wastes of Dhim now has:
  • Raitha Temos, Mithanna Satemo (Ranathim Space Knight), 
  • Null Entry, lost Syntech medical robot
  • Rena, formerly enslaved Keleni psion afflicted with a dangerous split personality
  • Milathum the Devourer, Saruthim Bounty Hunter

 They played through a much more detailed retreat of the first session with quite some success, though naturally some of them required some additional work.

Marching On

For the next month, I'll carry on releasing material. There's obvious things that simply need to make it onto the wiki, such as Krokuta power-ups associated with Amberdine and the remaining Rathian ships. I've been expanding the cultural details of the Umbral Rim and I can edit my material on gladiatorial fights. I also need to clean up what I have on Lithian technology.

I've got some work on Tyrannic space craft which would be nice to get out as a backer release, but it's very much in a draft state (as it involves a lot of new technological design and a rather unique sort of write-up).

I'd also like to do a poll on one new Slaver Cartel for the backers to explore, so you can get a sense of how to build your own.

And finally, I need to write up the five Westerly clans of the Phoenix Cluster, which also involves settling on how I want to write them out.

All of this is tentative, of course, and depends on how much time I have, but we'll see how far we get.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Mook Passed Away

If you're on the forums or on the GURPS Discord, you've likely already heard that the author of How to GM GURPS, the creator of the GURPS Discord server and fellow Blogger William "Mook" Wilson passed away suddenly. If you want to help with funerary and medical expenses, there is a fundraiser here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Organizing the Psi-Wars Organizations

 So, I paused my grand Umbral Rim rollout to write up some basic corporations, because I've noticed people sometimes ask questions about them and I have those answers and it would be nice if they were on the wiki.  Also notice that despite my best efforts to keep Psi-Wars from devolving into Cyberpunk, it's definitely taking on some elements of that, and that means giant megacorps.  I suspect this is because I "let GURPS be GURPS" and Ultra-Tech + Action skews heavily towards Cyberpunk, and even Star Wars does, once you ditch the movies and go to the EU (which even introduced hackers slicers).

Then I found myself staring at the Patron cost for a Corporation and the rank levels.  And this has been bugging me for awhile.  Way, way back in the day, I argued that Psi-Wars should aim at the 15-point Patron and the 8 Rank structure.  Why? Because this is how Action worked: the Pulling Rank request numbers line up at the 15 point patron level, and GURPS typically settles on an 8 Rank structure by default.  But does this actually make sense?

One of the things I learned from discussing Psi-Wars melee with my community is they tend to like Psi-Wars as full on GURPS Ultra-Tech space opera, where all the numbers are big. People don't wield swords because of a handwave about how it looks on screen, but because they have some sort of crazy, over the top technology that will absolutely destroy you from up close.  They want the aesthetic of space opera, but they want some sort of excuse for it so it has the veneer of plausibility, preferrably in a way that sounds comic-book-awesome.

So ages ago, I whipped up a Patreon special on the scale of the Empire where I muddled through how large the Empire would be. I tend to downplay things from literally millions of stars with trillions of people per star to "just" thousands of stars with millions of people, but you still end up with crazy numbers like multiple fleets of 5-25 multi-billion dollar dreadnoughts, and when I say that, the response is not "Wow, that's unwieldy" but "COOL!"

The question then becomes can Psi-Wars handle more extensive organizations, and should it handle more extensive organizations?

Ugh; Social Traits are the worst when it comes to world building!

Friday, January 21, 2022

The Million Year Man

You arrive, as planned, to the base of Mount Everest with your friend.  After a brief interaction with the locals and settling your mountaineering plans, the two of you begin your long trek higher up the mountain. Higher and higher you climb into the chilly heights with your friend until the wind picks up and threatens a dangerous storm.  Night falls, but mist and swirling snow hide the stars.  Between the failing light and the rising winds, the two of you seek shelter in a cavern.  After stepping within, you notice that it goes far into the mountain, and a strange light beckons from within.  The two of you explore, and find strange artifacts of seeming alien origin.  You stand on a curious platform to play with a control panel and your friend suddenly calls out when a light flashes and then...

A million years pass. You are, of course, trapped in a Stasis Field, but you don't know it. To you, an eyeblink has passed.  What happened in that million years?

Because ten billions years' time is so fragile, so ephemeral... it arouses such a bittersweet, almost heartbreaking fondness. -- Now and Then, Here and There

Scale fascinates me, mostly in how little I understand it, whether it be size, distance or time. I watched a rather depressing anime quoted above and noted the desire to explore such remote deep time, and I understand it: the creator wanted to explore the expansion of the sun and its desolate imagery on the world. Of course, such an expanse of time has some issues, namely life will likely cease on this planet within a billion years. Numenara does it too, putting the setting many billions of years in the future with a handwave about something extending the life of the sun (plausible!). But I wanted to narrow my scope down from such a gargantuan number, and I had already explored millennia. I wanted to explore what a million years looked like. I figured that was more than enough deep time to explore some interesting concepts. 

I've explored specific concepts of deep time, such as some exploration of geology or evolution, but I wanted to bundle it together to get a sense of what that world would look like, what the totality of the change would be. Now, I'm not an expert, and this post is the result of the most superficial exploration: I ask myself a question and then try to answer it. So don't expect high level analysis of geology of biology. Most of this is just a quick read of Wikipedia and some basic internet searches.

So, what happens in a million years?

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