Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bonus Post: There's a Sale!

Hello, dear Psi-Wars reader!  I sometimes hear my readers comment on how they like and/or use my material "but don't have as many books as" I do. And I do use a lot of books, and part of the reason I do that is because those books are simply great, of course, and to show how you can use existing resources to create your game.  Thus, it's my intent to sell you the books you don't have, because ultimately this blog seeks to support GURPS. The problem is, of course, that books cost money.

Well, today, they're a bit cheaper!  As extra incentive, I've compiled a list below of particularly useful books that come up often in Psi-Wars, all of which are on sale!

  • GURPS Basic: Obviously, if you don't already have this, this is where to start
  • GURPS Ultra-Tech: This book is your golden standard for any sci-fi game, and Psi-Wars definitely makes extensive use of it.
  • GURPS Space: This book doesn't see that much use in Psi-Wars, and you can live without it, but if you want to build your own campaign material, it's a great place to start!
  • GURPS Spaceships: This is your system for space combat and for designing new ships
  • GURPS Psionic Powers: If you want to use psionics in psi-wars, you'll need this book!
    • GURPS Psi-Tech: Not strictly necessary, but some of the psionic technology I refer to can be found here
    • GURPS Psis: Also not strictly necessary, but interesting for grab-and-play psionic packages.
    • Psionic Powers is a subset of Powers, but Powers is still useful if you want to understand some of the optional rules I've implemented.
  • Need more communion?  Check out Divine Favor
  • GURPS Action 2: Exploits Psi-Wars is built atop the Action Framework, thus you'll need this book to make sense of a lot of my rules
    • GURPS Action 4: Specialists Not strictly necessary, but I use this to build my Psi-Wars templates.
    • GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures Not an Action book, but I'll use this later to work out some rules for handling adventures on worlds.  An excellent book.
  • GURPS Bio-Tech: Strictly optional, but some of my medical rules derive from this, and its chock full of alien ideas.
  • GURPS Aliens A 3e book, but if you're hunting for Alien ideas, this is a good place to start
    • GURPS Aliens: Sparriels Looking for excellent 4e translations of the above?  Look no further than this series (only one book thus far)
  • GURPS Martial Arts You want Forceswordsmanship?  You'll need this book.  Chock full of the details on all my optional rules and a variety of my perks
  • The Power Ups series is full of good books, but two I often use for Psi-Wars are:
GURPS isn't the only thing on sale.  While Pyramid subscriptions aren't on sale, issues are!  I use lots of Pyramid articles, but here's some highlights
This is by no means exhaustive, but if you need a Psi-Wars shopping list, this is a good place to start.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

EM Guns Feedback Part 2: G-Verse Variants

So, last post, I offered the context of G-Verse, for those who need to know how the setting works and how games played out.  I've also tagged my Andromeda Incident After Action Reports from ye olden days if you want to go back and look at them.

Now, for the actual feedback.  How did G-Verse actually play and how would it play out with Pulver's suggestions?

EM Guns Feedback Part 1: The G-Verse Context

Steve Jackons Games recently put out a call for feedback regarding EM guns and their damage and performance, specifically in comparison to ETK guns (Edit: There was a miscommunication, it was in comparison to ETC, because ETK guns are ridiculous and nobody should use them).  Now, lots of people have already busted out some math and done some comparisons, but that's not really what they're asking for, and that makes sense.  I'll believe that Pulver is totally great at math and has already worked out the models necessary for his design.  What he needs is actual play, seeing how it works in a game.

Alas, I am not running anything with gauss weaponry at the moment, nor do I think I could spin one up in the near future.  I can do the next best thing, though, and see what the changes would do in a game that I already had that used gauss weaponry.

Psi-Wars is not my first foray into GURPS sci-fi.  Really, it's probably my fourth or fifth exploration of what makes sci-fi works in GURPS, and one of the reasons I've been posting about sci-fi in GURPS is precisely because it can be so tricky if you don't handle Ultra-Tech right.  Psi-Wars keeps technology at a minimum to keep innate character abilities front and center, but half the fun of sci-fi is playing with cool toys.  My last sci-fi campaign, G-Verse, really focused on detailed use of technology. I tried to blur the lines between action thriller, military sci-fi and cyberpunk in that players could and should geek out over their equipment.  In that campaign, I solved my abilities/tech dichotomy by minimizing crazy abilities and maximizing how cool your tech was.

One thing that became clear to me in that game was that technology exists within an ecosystem.  Sometimes, someone will ask why NATO uses the round it does, given its terrible stats in GURPS, and GURPS players will respond that NATO doesn't use GURPS as its guide for appropriations.  But more to the point, the round was chosen based on assumptions about what other people would be wearing and the role it would play on the battlefield and how the logistics of the round would work.  It's not a round all by itself, it's a round interacting with armor, competing rounds, and living in a context of politics, economics and infrastructure.

I think one of the reasons Pulver is asking for "actual play" is that he needs to see this larger interaction.  Given that G-verse used gauss weapons in a world full of competing weapons and armor, that makes it a good choice for examining what those changes would make to my ecosystem and how it would play out in my campaign.

In part 1, I introduce the basics of how G-verse works, including a look at the weapons, soldiers, tactics and context of the setting, so you can find your footing.  In part 2, I'll look at how my current model already worked, and then see Pulver's proposed changes would have interacted with the setting and see what ETK weapons would do to the setting.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

GURPS-Day Cross Post: So you wanna play in a game, huh?

Hey, it's November, and this month, the GURPS blog selected "Community" as its theme.  Being a good member of the blogging community, I'd like to join in.  Originally, I wanted to talk about one of my favorite topics: legacy, and contrast it with the murder-hobo straw man.  But, after some discussions on GURPS Discord (You guys hang out there, right?) that inspired me, I remembered an old topic I wanted to talk about, especially since I've taken up playing in a GURPS game.

The world of RPGs brims with advice to GMs about GMing, and that's hardly surprising.  For one thing, GMing takes a lot of work, and thus there's a lot to discuss, and a lot of people want to learn to GM better.  For another thing, us GMs tend to get really good at planning, thinking and writing, and thus we're more likely than, say, a more casual player, to write about what we know.  But being a good player is just as important as being a good GM, and it's a topic that doesn't get much attention.

So that's what I want to address.  How can you be a better player?

Iteration 4 - The Final Playtest

Starlight sprang back into view with a strange, eye-watering blur as Jenna Skyrunner slowly pulled down the throttle on the hyperdrive of the Grey Morning and revealed a planet, brown and desolate. She smiled.

“I told you I could get you there.”

Dun leaned over the console of the spy vessel and marveled at it. “Old Maradon. I didn’t believe it could be found anymore.”

“Not if you follow those old star charts. Hyperspace has changed a lot since then. You have to know its ebbs and flows, like I do.” The blond flashed Dun a fetching smile. Alas, the other two people who had just stepped onto the small, compact bridge of the corvette held his attention..

Novina wore a modest, priestly gown crafted of violet silk that flowed around her body, bunching enough at the waist and hips to remind those who looked upon her that she was, in fact, a woman, with long sleeves that hid her hands. A ribbon the same color as her robe bound up her platinum-colored hair. Her gaze met Dun’s, and she smiled warmly before she remembered her position and averted her gaze back to the planet. She folded her hands into sleeves and stepped beside Dun.

The other woman owned the ship. Leylana finished gathering her hair into a smart pony bun and bound it up with band. To Dun’s surprise, she wore not haute couture, but a form-fitting battle-weave jump-suit, with a jaunty utility belt and some sturdy boots. She answered his raised eyebrow with a scoffing smile “I can be practical, Mr. Beltain.” Her eyes flitted from Novina to Dun, noting their closeness and Novina’s covert smile.

Novina’s raised her soft voice, her introspective tone suggesting she murmured more to herself than to her compatriots. “Alexian Command once controlled a million warships from their headquarters on Maradon. I’ve read texts that spoke of grand spires and breathtaking gardens. It seems all that is left now are bones of a dead world and endless deserts.”

“Not completely.” Leylana cooed smugly. She produced the small fragment of technology she stole from the dying Willow Star. “This is an old Alexian security key, and it’s keyed to the Maradon Headquarters. If that still exists, then we should be able to access its old databases and find...”

“A throneship.” Novina whispered, awed. She tilted her head, making swift mental calculations, connecting her knowledge of history and future history with this singular point. “You mean to use me to destroy the Empire.”

“Don’t sound so accusing. When I’m done, you’ll be a queen.”

Vesper Tane 3.0, the Ultimate Dark Space Knight

Vesper Tane serves two purposes.  First, of course, he's going to be our big bad for our final playtest.  We don't need to stat out a big bad, of course.  We can just declare what they have, and to an extend I'll do just that: He's gathered a band of Empire-hating, revolutionary pirates to his cause and, of course, he has both M'elena's loyalty and her heart.

But I also want to get a feel for whether or not 300 points is enough.  One way to do that is to look at a more expensive space knight.  At 350 points, Vesper was already a fairly convincing space knight, but what might a space knight look like at 400 points?  If I continued, I'd probably go into what a 500 point space knight looked like, but if I'm honest, it would likely be more of the same: more Communion, more Psionic powers, more Martial Arts.  There's plenty to explore in those, of course, but I don't see what 500 points would show us that 400 points doesn't already.

So, what does 400 points of space knight look like?  Well, in addition to the Communion powers he gained last time, we've added Psionic Force Swordmanship, which is what I wanted him to start with.  He's not actually any better with the Force Sword, as most of his skill has focused entirely on mastering his now considerable TK of 12, giving him a TK-Control of 18, with Beat at 20 and Jam at 15, giving him a rather nuanced power.  I've removed TK-Tether (his force sword now does that automatically) and replaced it with Grip Mastery.  I've also given him Contact-TK, to explore the idea of that as a perk.  This means when he's not using his TK, he can have +3 to his ST "for free."

Dun Beltain 4.0, Space Knight of Humble Origins

At last, Dun benefits from the new Space Knight template.  In some ways, he looks more like his first iteratation template than the other two iterations.  He's dropped all of his security elements, regained his psychic danger sense (and added Visions (Dreams)).  I've given him his Lost Alexian Force Sword, meaning he currently wields the coolest force sword in the game thus far.  We also know the name of his Space Princess: Novina.  And for his power-package, I've given him martial arts, and chosen to expand more fully into the Defensive Form, making him a master of the buckler.

I've immediately noticed a problem: To precognitively parry and block, you need two separate skills.  That's unfortunate.  So, I've replaced it with a Precognitive Defense, which seems plenty to me.  He can now precognitively block, parry, and bounce shots back at his opponents.

The net result is a definite boost in the already highly competent Dun.  He enjoys defenses in the range of 16, 100 points of DR and Danger Sense, as well as a really awesome sword.  He's definitely a space knight.  Compared to Vesper or Rafari, he lacks a real understanding of what he's doing.  He has only minimal meditation and philosophy skills and largely untapped Psionic potential, and no training in Communion.  This is likely going to be true of most starting space knights, as a space knight has enormous possibilities for growth (which is why their templates don't get Experienced power-ups), so a "master" space knight is probably closer to 500 points in value.

Lady Leylana Grey 4.0, Aristocratic Spy

The trick with Leylanda was that she was already pretty good.  The only things I really wanted from her were, perhaps, a greater connection into the Imperial Elite and DD-6 as a full-on ally.  Before, the latter was highly impractical, but now with robot costs down to a reasonable level, DD-6 should clock in at about 300 points.  I haven't checked precisely, but my back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests she's close enough.

But that's only about 25 points.  We have a full power-up we can purchase, so what do we get?  Psionic Powers and Martial Arts are right out: the point of Leylana is that she's not a combat character, and we're exploring psionic powers.  Thus, she's a great opportunity to see if Experienced characters or Heroic characters are good enough.  In this case, I've chosen to go with Ghost from the Spy Power-Ups, because I enjoyed her being super-stealthy in Iteration 2, and also becuase the Heroic Power-Up is a full 50 points, which means she can't buy DD-6 as an ally, and I like the idea of that.  So, this is Leylana, as a super-competent stealthy spy.

Kendra Corleoni, Escaped Slave, Felinoid Bounty Hunter

Now that we have a more finished version of the Bounty Hunter, we can expand Kendra to a full 300 points.  Felinoid is already 35, so I chose to simply expand her existing Bounty Hunter/Slave/Felinoid advantages for another 15 points to round out the character.  Thus, we can finally see Kendra without her race really slowing her down.  With those extra points, I've been able to expand on her slave background (evidently she was held by some snake-like civilization called the Slithians) and note her own race as a cultural familiarity/language, meaning she's the most diverse of our characters when it comes to interacting with aliens.  I also have the points to really give her the pistol-slinging badassness that we've wanted for her since iteration 1, giving her an astonishing Beam Weapons (Pistol) of 19, including full-rate Dual Weapon combat and Fast Firing, meaning she can really lay down some firepower if she's so inclined.

This is probably the close to the very final version of her.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Playtest 3: Rafari and the Nahudi Warriors vs the Empire!

The previous playtest was to make sure that our space knights have a certain sort of minimum competence. Now I want to see how far I can push them. If a space knight has little trouble taking on 7 criminals by himself, how about a single space knight vs ~30 imperial troopers?

To balance the scales a little, I'd like to see how our Alien Warriors do as well, as Rafari offers a great opportunity to look at Alien Warriors. The story practically writes itself. Rafari, having completed his training and parting ways from his dear friend, Vesper Tane, returns to his homeworld, only to find it invaded by the Empire! He finds his tribe readying for war, and his welcome is a bit rough. “Rafari has gone soft,” they say, but Rafari proves them wrong and convinces them to let him assist them in protecting their homeworld.

The Nahudi people are heavily outnumbered, so we'll give Rafari 5 warriors and 5 scouts. His opponents will be 6 heavy imperials (thus three guns) supported by 5 imperial carbine troopers, with an advancing force of 15 imperial carbine troopers and 5 elite troopers in a kill squad leading the assault.

The Nehudi warriors arrived at their chosen battleground early. Two rough patches of rocky ground, rich with cover, face off over a relative no-man's land of loose sand. The ground is such that characters must either stand on Uneven ground (in the stony area) or on sandy ground (in between), for a -2 to attack and -1 to defense. Two large cliff faces line either side of the battleground, and the scouts have prepped deadfalls in these. The best way to get from one side to the other is in the cover of the cliff-face, which offers plenty of outcroppings to take cover behind. Going over the open field will force you into a field of fire without cover. The total distance between both rocky areas is submachine gun range, about -5. It'll take 3 rounds of movement to get from one to the other.

That night, Rafari medidates and uses Wisdom of Communion. He is given a vision of the battle the following day “Only with great sacrifice can a world be saved.” It's a grim destiny, and the GM decides that both sides can access one point of destiny. Rafari opens his eyes, ready to do what must be done.

The battle will take place in a sort of canyon.  The battleground is flanked on either side by canyon walls full of fissures that allow one to hide.  The mouth of the canyon is rocky and uneven, followed by a broad, sandy depression, and then lifts into another uneven rocky area.

The Imperial troops march by daylight. The scouts hide in the rocky ground that overlooks the sand, and the warriors hide in the rocky outrcroppings at the entrance to the canyon, ready to ambush the imperials. To properly ambush, both the Scouts and the Warriors must succeed at their Stealth rolls, but because they need to be well-hidden enough to attack from behind, the Warriors need to vanish, so they'll apply a -5. The Warriors have Stealth 15 and succeed with exactly 10. The Scouts have a 18 and succeed with a 12. The Kill Squad has the best Perception at 11, and have visors worth +2 to perception checks if heat signatures matter. The roll a 13, which means an exact success, the same as the Warriors. The GM rules that the kill squad is in the warriors when they notice the Warriors and begin to shout out a warning. The empire is not suprised but neither do they see the deadfalls.

As the troops made their way to them, Rafari meditated. He had been meditating all morning, so the GM grants him a +2 to his Communion roll, in addition to his +1 for meditation. He gets a miracle on a 10 or less. He gets a 14. He argues that he seeks a miracle to save his world and is willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary, and suggests the Immunity to Pain miracle. The GM agrees to let him spend his point of Destiny. Clearly, without some miracle, his whole tribe could easily die, so he gains a +4 to his reaction. He has also stuck to his beliefs, recently forsaking Vesper Tane for his heresy, so the GM grans an additional +2. He rolls an 18 (!), +6 is 24. Well! We could go for a Primordial Avatar, but Rafari follows no path. Of course, that doesn't have to matter for Communion, so let's imbue him with the Primordial Avatar of the Righteous Crusader.

I had actually hoped to have a more modest battle, but I suppose being imbued with godlike power shortly before going to war with the enemy has a certain sort of meaning to it. It certainly utterly changes the dynamics of this fight.

Rafari is immune to pain, has effectively HT 16 to resist subdual and death, has a will of 19, is Transcendantly impressive, recovers 1 fatigue per second, gets a free Concentrate action per turn, and is fixated with destroying the Imperial Troopers before him. He loses 2 HP and loses an additional HP per minute.

This is perhaps inappropriate. He's not really prepared to channel the powers of this particular avatar, but I hadn't expected to roll that well, and I'm curious to see how this will play out.  It's an opportunity to see an avatar in action!

Other pertinent modifiers: the Nehudi are defending their homeland, so have +1. All terrain is either sandy or uneven, providing a -2 to attack and a -1 to defense. It's brightly lit, so nobody benefits from dark combat.

Rafari 2.1

So, I made a few minor errors with Rafari last time.  He needed Esoteric Medicine, representing his understanding of psionic powers and how they interact with the body, to complete his prana-bindu training.  I've fixed that and, as with Vesper Tane, granted him Communion, representing the fact that he's completed his training in understanding Communion.

Unlike Vesper Tane, Rafari is focused entirely on Learned Prayers and Communion itself.  A few things jump out at me as I look at that list: the best Communion powers are in the first tier, meaning that going up to Communion 7 from 6 just isn't that interesting.  It might be worth looking at that more carefully.  Still, Flesh Wounds and the Wisdom of Communion are nice abilities.  I'm curious how well he'll do without the benefits of a Path or Legendary Reputation or Destiny.

Given that Rafari has chosen to take Gift of the Life Force, I have removed his Regeneration and dumped it into his Metabolism control, which takes him to his maximum of +10. With the spare point from Communion traits, I've given him a Stabilizing Skill.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Playtest 2: Vesper Tane vs Criminals (and M'Elena)

If we have all of these wonderful mooks at our disposal, we should use some!  How well can Vesper Tane (and most Space Knights) stand up against a set of mooks?  I'd expect him to be pretty handy against them, especially low level ones like criminals.  But how many is a good number?  Let's go for 7: 5 criminal goons, an Enforcer and a Bruiser.  I expect that he should be able to defeat them fairly handily, but I'm curious how well.

Furthermore, I'd like to introduce M'Elena to Vesper Tane, get her finally working for him, but I'm also curious how well an assassin will function against a space knight.  Granted, M'Elena is 300 points and Vesper is 350, but I wouldn't expect that to be an absolutely dominating difference.  Given that she doesn't have psionic powers, will he be stronger or weaker?  Are his points "wasted points"  and he'd be better off focusing entirely on martial arts over psionic powers and communion, or will they serve him well?

Vesper Tane, Dark Space Knight 2.0

The point of exploring Vesper Tane in such detail is multi-fold. First, by expanding him to 350 points and then 400, I get an idea of how well the power-up system works as a basis for experience. Of course, ideally heroes will purchase bits and pieces piecemeal rather than at 50 point chunks, but this should give us an idea of what building up a character. It will also give me an idea of 300 points is enough. Is 400 points closer to what players expect a real space knight to be like?

So, this is Vesper Tane after he has completed his training. He has gained a connection with Communion, though he has turned to the dark side of the Id. His drive to destroy the Empire has made the Path of the Rebellious Beast profoundly tempting. He embraces the Id because he believes that the destruction of the Empire is necessary and worth the sacrifice to the ravening, bestial greed of the id. His study has given him Dark Communion 6, unlocked his Destiny to bring down the (an?) Empire, and his Legendary Reputation for the Rebellious Beast, as well has helped him learn about the very nature of Communion itself, which explains the conscious choice to walk the Path of the Rebellious Beast. To do so, he must rearrange his disadvantages. He no longer directly serves his Space Knight order: For walking the path of the Rebellious Beast, Master Kimon threw him out, and Rafari has turned his back on him, even if Vesper Tane refuses to turn his back on them. His nightmares have cleared up now that that his connection with Dark Communion has solidified into something he can control, and that he understands his true purpose in the Galaxy. To funnel his power, he has built his hatred of the Empire into full-blown Intolerance, and the Rebellious Beast begins to seep into his mind, manifesting as an easy-to-control Bad Temper.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Playtest 1: Rafari vs Vesper Tane

Remnants I - Savage Marauder by Squiddy Treat
The first playtest I want to do is two space knights duking it out.  A force sword battle in Psi-Wars should feel like a lightsaber duel in star wars.  Does it?  For this reason, I created two new space knights, Vesper Tane and Rafari, each with their own unique style and their own unique psionic focus.  I envision the scene as a friendly practice duel under the tutelage of a master, but the intent is clear; Can two space knights duke it out in an appropriately cinematic fashion?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Cameron Delacroix, Excrucian Deciever

Cameron Delacroix is the oncoming storm, the great terror that reveals your sins, the death of angels, and the heart of the Excrucian War on Earth, and the great boogieman invoked by the Imperators to frighten their powers.  He is these things because he chooses to be these things, because he has defined himself thus.  Those who speak his name in frightened whispers, who speculate of his coming and what that will do, unknowingly invoke, and participate in, the Dark Tidings of Cameron Delacroix, and thus summon him.  So terrifying has this possibility become that many no longer refer to him directly.  He is only "him," or "the trouble."  Even this has become a euphemism for Cameron Delacroix, and so now some people just discuss the Excrucian War rather than discussing him, ie "I worry that the Excrucian War is going badly.  I worry that IT might come for us soon."

His flowers are Vervain, the Key of the Dragon, and the Star of Bethlehem, the Key of Burdens. He bears his abhorrent weapon, One Truth, also known as the Windflower Blade, which carries within it the heart of Sebastian Saint-Smythe, whom the blade is destined to destroy.  He rides on his terrifying skyship, the Dreadship, and is served by his prophet, Thomas the Mouse.  No Imperator hates him more then Meon and Joktun, for he regularly undermines the power of Scorn and Desecration in the world, by making the mocked beloved, and by making the ruined sacred once more.  According to whispered rumor, Cameron has wounded Azrael, but none have yet noticed where.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Assassin 2.0

So far, M'elena has proved that the Assassin template works well enough.  The assassin has Stealth 18, and sufficient DX and skill to hit an 18 in any combat skill she chooses to focus on.  The only remaining concerns are power-ups, and three immediately spring to mind.  First, just like the Bounty Hunter, there's certainly a "stealth component" to appearing helplessly beautiful, so she also has access to the Femme Fatale power-up, exactly as the Bounty Hunter.  Second, some players might prefer to see the assassin as a sniper.  While I want to keep the assassin focused on melee, the base template has a minimum of 20 points in melee skills which means someone who takes the Sniper power-up will still be competent at hand-to-hand combat.  Finally, some assassins might want to focus on the most traditional of assassin techniques: Poison.

M'elena Blackheart, Alien Slave-Assassin 1.1

I wanted to give Vesper Tane an assassin as a dragon, and I wanted her to be an alien. A space elf would be ideal, but existing elf templates are a little too attached to the fantasy milieu to work out of the box, so I chose an Avatar (Female) template from Bio-Tech (though I’m obviously ignoring the “Taboo Trait (Aggression)”, for the purposes of Bloodlust; her master has clearly broken her of any reluctance to kill). That makes her a race highly sought after for slavery, an obvious parallel to the twi’lek race. Thus, she has a slave background at this point, one more submissive than Kendra’s, representing her shortly before Vesper Tane cut her chains.

This gives us a chance to see both a high-cost alien racial template (66 points!) paired with the assassin template to see how things work out at 300 points. The net effect is a highly competent assassin. Her extraordinary DX means she can get by with very few points on her skills. Because of her improved DX, I did shift some points around, so she could score some Combat Reflexes, but everything else has remained the same. The result is a combatant who can go toe-to-toe with nearly anyone, and is swift and flexible enough to get there in short order.  She does the job, though I'll be curious to see how well she does against someone like Kendra.

Unlike the previous characters, I went ahead and worked out the gear on M'elena.  Her greatest constraint isn't money (I spent less than $15,000 on her gear) but weight.  Presumably, she enjoys a closet full of alluring slave-garments and probably has a few robots at her disposal, but I didn't cover them.  I picture her in a full, skin-tight battleweave suit, with a mask and helmet covering her face and hair and making her look inhuman and she stalks her prey in almost complete silence except for the hum of her blades.

This is the second version of this incarnation, focusing more completely on Brawl and improving her focus on Signature Moves.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

New Background Lens: Sequestered

Sequestered 20 points

You have lived a life of isolation, one in which you were prepared to be something. You might have spent years as a monk, or been the chosen messiah of a cult, or you might have been ruthlessly trained to be the galaxy’s greatest assassin. You’ve learned an enormous amount of highly focused knowledge, but your social skills have suffered. You don’t really understand how the world outside of your temple or dojo really works.

Skills: Savoir-Faire (Dojo or Temple) (E) IQ+1 [2].

Additional Skills: Another 18 points chosen from among Hidden Lore (Any appropriate) (A) IQ [2], History (H) IQ-1 [2], Judo (H) DX-1 [2], Karate (H) DX-1 [2], Literature (H) IQ-1 [2], Meditation (H) Will-1 [2], Mind Block (A) Will [2], Philosophy (H) IQ-1 [2], Religious Ritual (H) IQ-1 [2], Teaching (A) IQ [2], Theology (H) IQ-1 [2], or increase any lens skill by one level for 2 points, or two levels for 6 points.

Additional Traits: You may also spend your remaining lens points, or some of your template advantage points on improved Claim to Hospitality (Cult, Temple, Dojo) [varies], Clerical Investment [5], Contact (Fellow cultist, monk or martial artist, skill 15, 18 or 21, 9 or less somewhat reliable) [2, 3 or 4], Contact Group (Cult, Temple or Dojo, Skill 15, 18 or 21, 6 or less, somewhat reliable) [5, 8, 10], Higher Purpose (Varies) [5], Religious Rank [5/level], Patron (Cult, temple or order) [varies], Title [1], or any remaining points on an appropriate martial arts or psionic style of your choice.

Optional Disadvantages: Add the following disadvantage options to your template: Clueless [-10], Code of Honor (Varies), Delusions (False beliefs about the world) [varies], Disciplines of Faith (Ritualism or Mysticism) [-5 or -10], Duty (To Order or Cult, 9 or less, 12 or less, 15 or less) [-5 to -15], Easy to Read [-10], Enemies (Former Order/Cult, Watcher or Hunter, 6 or less) [Varies], Fanaticism [-15], Gullible [-10*], Honesty [-10*], Oblivious [-5], Pacifism (Any!) [Varies], Truthfulness [-5*], Vow (Any; Poverty, Chastity or Silence are common) [Varies], 

Novina d'Alexia, the Last Alexian Princess

I wanted to finally give Dun Beltain his princess, but I wanted her to be very important, without being fundamentally very physical. Let Kendra be our empowered warrior-woman. Novina is our priestess. She’s also a great chance to explore how powerful a starting Mystic can be. The results are surprisingly pleasing. She’s extraordinarily powerful with Communion, able to call up miracles with astonishing regularity, especially with her Destiny. I was also able to give her a fairly deep mastery of ESP, including the flavorful Oracle style. She’s no psi-knight of course, and is deeply lacking when it comes to combat skills, but if I had wanted her to be a primary combatant, I would have built her as a Space Knight. This creates an interesting contrast: She is more bene-gesserit than jedi. To compensate for this, our all-important princess, of course, is protected by a cadre of elite guardians, which sounds like a great time to pull out ceremonial guards.

Novina also features an entirely new background lens, originally suggested by Kalzazz: Sequestered, representing someone who spent a lifetime training in some isolated dojo or temple, stripped of human contact. Novina was raised from birth to be the final hope of the Alexian dynasty, the last heir of that sacred bloodline. Thus, she was never allowed to meet anyone and her deep connection with Dun Beltain, the outsider who rescued her, is cause for alarm within the cult of guardians.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Vesper Tane, Dark Space Knight 1.1

Vesper Tane, eventually, is going to be the Big Bad of the coming ultimate Iteration 4 playtest, but he also gives us a chance to see if we can make a decent "dark" psi-knight on 300 points. He’s an outcast, a criminal and a pirate, who has seen the dark side of the Empire, and his growing (but not yet controlled) connection with Communion manifests in nightmares that spur him forward to rid the galaxy of the Empire forever.

With a Psi-Knight, you really need to pick what direction you’re going to go in, and I chose psionic power over Martial Arts for Vesper. TK-Control at level 8 might not seem like much (a basic lift of 7), but he can effortlessly move a rifle and Push a person over, and with his phenomenal Will of 16, he can afford, to boost his TK-Control to 11 (on a 12 or less), and with serious effort (say, 6 fatigue), he can afford to boost it to 17, which means he can be much stronger than the average person for about a minute, should he need to be.

I had originally chosen Psionic Forceswordmanship, but that style needs even greater focus on TK-Grab or TK-Control than I am able to give with the template. So I’ve shifted to the Destructive form, which suits a more brutal concept. He seems competent enough: His will and Psychokinesis give him skill 17 in Power-Blow, which is terrifying, and he has (like most psi-knights) a Parry of 13, which is on par with his Precognitive Parry. Between the two, he has a fairly reasonable chance of parrying with a 14 or less against other melee opponents, and 13 or less against blasters. A few points in Beat has given him skill enough to batter down most of his opponent’s, and it would be nice to give him Dirty Fighting, but I lack the necessary points. Later, perhaps.

Is Vesper Tane good enough as a starting character to impress a player?  Yes.  He still has plenty of room to grow, but I think he manages to fit enough power into a template to be a believable space knight.  He also shows enough contrast with Rafari that I think the template is sufficiently flexible.

This actually the second edit of Vesper Tane, to better include Signature Moves (as they're fundamental to this iteration).

Monday, November 14, 2016

Rafari, Heroic Alien Space Knight 1.1

Rafari is my first attempt at a true Psi-Knight, the final successor to Dun's template.  I also wanted to tinker with humanoid aliens, and for Rafari, I used the "Drylander" template from Biotech.  I presume his planet, Nehuda, is a desolate desert, and his people, the Nehudi, are some of those crazy-awesome Alien Warriors I've written up.  Rafari is a heroic space knight, a close parallel to what we might see a Jedi look like, though I've given him some rather unique abilities including the Prana-Bindu esoteric style, a Primitive/Survivor lens.

The question is: Is he good enough? Well, with a Force Sword of 18, Flying Leap 13, Acrobatics 13, Precognitive Parry 13, Sure-Footed (Uneven), Flourish and the Graceful Form under his belt, he's not bad.  His Psychic Healing power grants him the ability to regenerate slowly and to gain complete control of his metabolism, allowing him to either boost his HT to 19 or to boost his Basic Speed to 8.  This means he has a parry of 13 with his force sword and a dodge of 12, and an acrobatic defense will add +2 to either.

He's not great, and he doesn't have access to Communion yet, but he's pretty good.  I don't think most players would turn their nose up at him.

This is actually the second version of this character, which I adjusted after a discussion regarding my signature moves, and I realized I hadn't included any.  This version explicitly includes four signature moves from Graceful Form (though none purchased with Trademark Move)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Meon, Desecration's Regal

Today I cleaned the shield of Nuri, a brash and noble Power, who found his own answer to the Windflower Law. Cutting forth his atman, he bound it into a shield, decorated with his love’s Design, as a gift for her. His body would forget her; his Estate would forget her; but he would be with her always. It hangs in Meon’s halls in Locus Entropy. I do not believe his Ramona ever learned of its existence. Such are the ways of life and love.
—from the Thought-Record of Martin Cravitt 

“My lord,” the Dominus said, “I have done no wrong. Driven no one mad. I was not present at the scene. I used no power.” 
Lord Entropy’s eyes narrowed. Two fngers moved slightly, against the stone. Meon lifted his eyes from Lord Entropy’s hand. “The Locust Court grants,” he said, “that it was not you but the portrait that broke the crowd; and in some sense the artist, who captured too truthfully your inner self.” He glanced back at Lord Entropy, but the fngers were silent. After a moment, Meon continued, 
“The Court recognizes the salience of your point. It should comfort you to know that the portrait and artist shall both share your fate.”
—from the Thought-Record of Hugh Rosewood

“Do you love me?” I asked, when our time was done.
Diamanta leaned her head back to look at me. “Is that why you think I come to you?” 
“Why do you, then?”  
She looked down. “I committed a sin I cannot bear,” she said. “Tis is my expia tion.”
—from the Tought-Record of Desecration’s-Regal Meon

Lord Entropy has many servants. He has three extremely competent Powers — Meon, who is the Power of Desecration; Baalhermon, Power of Destruction; and Joktan, Power of Scorn

Meon cannot possibly be as bad as people say, because if he was, then there would be nothing left for virtue in this world. There wouldn’t be any point in anything, in even trying, if Meon were as bad as people say. 
And I’ve never noted him explicitly as doing harm. I’ve never seen it, never heard of it, never obtained an authoritative documentary reference to any cruel and monstrous thing that he has done. He doesn’t even have his own wing of the palace; he isn’t part of the government of the evil world. He’s just there. 
But I’ve seen him. I’ve seen a photograph of him. I’ve seen his smile. So I know why people say what they say. I’ve seen his smile. He keeps all the worst things in the world in that smile, behind that smile, like he’s holding them all back. Like he’s holding back all the worst things that could ever happen, all the time.
Sometimes it seems that the thing Meon holds back behind his smile —the thing he is struggling so desperately to keep inside him, to keep from leaking out into the world — is the realization of Lord Entropy’s dreams and desires. Sometimes it seems he is not so much Lord Entropy’s Power as his jailor. When it most seems like that is so, Meon has unpleasant days in turn.

He could be that thing which makes things discordant with themselves and the entire world, the thing that rips and ruins, the thing that is the worst face of every monster in the world. He could be that. He maybe even might be that. But for right now, he holds it back. He holds it back, so maybe he’s fghting it. Maybe on some level he’s trying to do good. But I don’t think that’s why. 
Meon is the god of defilement; he is the Power of Desecration. 
And it seems to me that he is leashing himself because it is more pleasant to him that people desecrate themselves, and one another, and their own holy things. It seems to me that he is choosing not to be so very great an evil as he ought to be, as he could be, as people say he is, because he loves how very wicked people are, even without Meon. 

--Jenna Katerina Moran, "Nobilis -- A Field Guide to Powers"

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Camorra of Vancouver

Negotiate a Deal

0 or less: Walk away with something you didn’t want and a huge debt to the Camorra. Good job!
2: You negotiate a deal and you get something useful, but you’re not sure if it’s precisely what you wanted.
3: Maybe you didn’t get what you wanted, but the Camorra always like a sucker. You’ve made friends with them! Good job?
4: You negotiate a deal and get what you wanted, but it comes at a cost.
6: Your streetwise impresses the Camorra. They look forward to working with you again.
7: You negotiate a deal and get what you wanted, and you manage to outwit the Camorra enough that your payment seems minimal.

Troubles, Tools and Bonds

  • The House Always Wins (Trouble -3): You must face this trouble if you attempt to out-negotiate the Camorra and gain some kind of benefit without any real payment. The Camorraalways wins in the end. This has the backing of Lord Entropy’s power, so the -3 also acts as an Auctoritas against miracles to get something form the Camorra for free.
  • Anything for a Price (Tool +2): If you are willing to pay the Camorra’s price, they can definitely improve your chances of finding anything illegal or illicit to help any mundane effort you might have. They have girls, they have boys, they have blue-skinned space-princesses; they have guns, they have explosives, they have ritual blades; they have booze, they have drugs, they have doorways to lost dimensions. If you want it, if its forbidden, someone can work it out for you. The bonus doesn’t apply to negotiation, but to any other mundane effort

Scavenger 2.0

The scavenger is a fairly straightforward template.  It's niche is "all things technological," though with a focus on acquisition and repair.  All relevant skills are 16 to 18, which is more than competent enough.  The previous template was a bit long on points by accident.  The final version has the gold standard of 25 points of advantages.

For power-ups, I've chosen Cyberneticist, which will augment the Scavenger's mastery of technology into mastery of computers and robots.  It should be noted that the Cyberneticist talent and the Artificer talent together amounts to 15/level, which means it might be worthwhile to exchange those points for a straight +4 to IQ.  Next, we have Relic Hunter, focusing the scavenger on turning his natural acquisitiveness for ancient technology and artifacts of power. Finally, for those artificers who want to acquire technology by any means necessary, the thief specializes in high manual dexterity and thievery.

Combat Robots

Now that we have aliens worked out, we can look at the other sci-fi staple: Robots! This is a topic I’ve already touched on previously, so it should be fairly easy going to rebuild it. While we’ve adjusted the robot costs since our last iteration, robot stats remain the same, so all we need to do is ponder our previous design and add a little more complexity… if we want it!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Alien Warriors

Setting Psi-Wars in space gives us the opportunity to explore more than just Action elements; we can also explore the typical tropes of sci-fi, and that means aliens! But what sort of aliens? Well, Star Wars doesn’t really support the in-depth exploration of alien races that, say, Star Trek does (for example, the Twi’lek race wasn’t even named until West End Games released their RPG). Star Wars follows the space opera conventions of taking a generic pulp story (say, a wild west story) and changing the window dressing to fit the genre. So, instead of Cowboys and Indians, we have a story featuring Colonists and Alien Warriors.

The term “savage” or “barbarian” or even the euphemistic “native” are, in reality, racist and dehumanizing terms. Our ancestors comforted themselves with the fiction that the people over the hill weren’t really people, but a sort of monster. “Indians” were wild, whooping monsters; “Huns” were the devil’s footsoldiers, Gog and Magog; those Scythians don’t even speak Greek, so they don’t count as real people, etc. At the same time, as cultures began to blend, the “we” began to admire the “them” and we get stories of the noble savage. This sort of story features strongly in most pulp serials; think of Tonto and the Lone Ranger, or Robinson Crusoe and Friday or, for a more modern example, Mani from Brotherhood of the Wolf. To continue to treat humans like this is highly questionable, but the resilience of these tropes, as well as how they cross cultures (The “savages” considered “civilized” people just as savage, though usually debauched and weak) speaks to their power as tropes.

So, Star Wars definitely invokes the idea of the alien savage and neatly sidesteps the dehumanizing nature of the tropes by pointing out that aliens are inhuman. Chewbacca, with his reliance on strength and his “primitive” crossbow becomes Han Solo’s Friday. The ferocity, cleverness and durability of cultures like the Bedouin and the Apache inspired the Tusken Raiders (and the Fremen, from whom the Tusken Raiders are also clearly inspired). Even the Ewoks, somewhat weirdly, were inspired by the Viet Cong: George Lucas envisioned Star Wars as ultimately a protest of the Vietnam War, and he defended the imagery of the primitive Ewoks defeating the technological empire as inspired by the Viet Cong defeating the technologically superior Americans.

So what I’d like to do here is also to invoke the fear and respect people have for more primal cultures, at least as they tend to be portrayed in stories. I’m not looking to specifically invoke cultures so much as stories cultures tell about their boogie-men: the dangerous mountain men, the ferocious jungle warriors, spooky witches and wild berserkers. But I also want to invoke the respect these cultures earned from their “civilized” enemies after sustained contact and combat. I also want to point out that while their technology might be different, even inferior, they do not lack for sophistication. They might be wild and dangerous, but ultimately, you can sympathize with them, perhaps even join them, as might be the case of a Frontier Marshal or a Commando, joining forces with alien warriors to defeat the technological juggernaut of the empire.

Realistically, these “alien warriors” should have racial templates. They should be scaled lizard people, or beautiful and exotic blue-skinned space-elves, or adorably large-eyed fish-people with crazy spears. But in this pass, I want to keep things generic. And, of course, these sorts of stories were originally told about humans, so a generic human template should work.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Minions: Pirates

The mooks I’ve created so far have obvious relations to the real world. Troopers, criminals and cops all actually exist, and I’ve largely just replaced real world firearms with blasters and real-world armor with ultra-tech armor. If I have one frustration with Star Wars (and thus Psi-Wars), it is this tendency to keep things “like the real world.” If we’re going to play in a sci-fi setting, I’d like to explore sci-fi concepts. Pirates are my first chance to do that, as they don’t really represent anything that actually exists in the real world. Certainly, we have our own, actual pirates, but the pirates of Psi-Wars must necessarily operate in a unique environment: space.

Smuggler 2.0

Smuggler 250 points 2.0

The smuggler is an excellent template, similar to the Fighter Ace in managing to bring both depth and breadth to her niche, and her niche is very clear: she will get you to where you want to be, wherever that is, and she will bypass security to do it. She’s also a reasonably broad character with decent (albeit unconventional) stealth skills, decent combat skills, and solid social acumen.

For power-ups, I wanted to emphasize the different models of smuggling, but I think the template already does that well enough, and pulling them out would unduly damage the template. I wanted to add an aristocratic power-up, as being aristocratic allows one to easily bypass most security counter-measures… but this is already handled by the aristocratic background! So, I’ve stuck with two tried-and-true approaches. Like the Fighter Ace, I’ve added a tinkerer power-up, which means the smuggler is better at handling her own ship. And, furthermore, I’ve given her a gunslinger power-up, representing the traditional smuggler proficiency in the Way of the Galaxy, albeit in a limited way.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Minions: Security Agents

Security Agents
If we're going to have criminal thugs, and we're going to feature characters like Smugglers and Con-Artists, we should feature law enforcement as well. After all, what is it that the smuggler is slipping past, and who are the criminals on the run from other than the police?

 Star Wars is surprisingly mum on the topic. Wookiepedia has a terse couple of articles that say little more than what a law enforcement officer does and offers few examples. In the films themselves, we occasionally see storm troopers acting in a capacity similar to law enforcement, usually responding to crises and questioning random passerbys about droids. Even the Bounty Hunters of Star Wars are closer to paid hitmen than they really resemble people who collect fugitives from law enforcement.
So, in Psi-Wars, we'll be charting our own course, borrowing from generic sci-fi works that seem to fit, and doing what space opera generally does, which is take the modern world and truss it up with sci-fi gadgetry.

Bounty Hunter 4.0

Bounty Hunter 4.0: 250 points

The Bounty Hunter has been pretty thoroughly edited by this point. Her niche is finding people and getting them out. This makes her excellent at unarmed combat, shifting from unarmed combat rapidly to pistols, and hunting down one’s prey in an urban environment. Most of these skills are already 15-16, including pistols, which seems a bit low, but she has the option of upgrading her pistol combat to 18, and I’ve rounded out the template already with some martial arts options. The additional 10 points of combat perks and techniques ensures that the bounty hunter is a top-notch combatant.

Further exploration of martial arts is the most obvious power-up, but this doesn’t need explicit exploration (she just takes a martial arts power-up). Instead, we should focus a little more intently on alternate depictions of a bounty hunter. Initially, I had included the “Imposter” talent and the “Stalker” talent. The stalker was meant to trap their bounty through cunning strategems, which still seems like a good idea, but steps a little too much on the toes of the Frontier marshal. I enjoyed the idea of the Imposter mainly from the sense of a femme fatale, a “cute” and “harmless” girl who comes close to her target through her attractiveness, then suddenly unveils her combat lethality at the last moment. This allows for the Femme Fatale power-up. On the other side of the spectrum, we have the image of Boba Fett as a bounty hunter: A heavily armed and armored mercenary who uses overwhelming force to take his opponent out. This gives us the Heavy Hunter power-up. Finally, we need to catch our prey, and the Bounty Hunter excels at spaceship mobility, but why not also enjoy some contragravity excellence?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Rajani Jones, Dark Marchessa of Coffee

Rajani is not a Vancouver native, but is instead darkly, dreamily, exotically American.  Rumors swirl around the mocha-skinned beauty: She came from the American South and sacrificed her soul to the Dark, that she and Abigail Ng were ferocious rivals or the best of friends, that she broke the Windflower Law for the world famous Yukimura Yuji, her prophet and lover, that she sacrificed her hometown to the Camorra in exchange for protection from some dread crime.

Rajani is certainly a very attractive and successful African-American woman with two degrees, one in business and one in philosophy, who is often the most popular girl in the room.  She's as hot as an espresso, as sweet as ice cream, and as strong as the blackest coffee in the darkest of dawn.  She serves the Dark, and often worked closely with Magnus Carter on previous occasions.  With the death of Abigail Ng, Rajani dropped all her plans and took the first flight to Vancouver, where she plans on getting some answers.

Rajani's flowers are the Lotus, the Key of the Descending Angel, and Chamomile, the Key of Something Romantic.  Her anchors are Rebekah Jones, the ghost of her dead grandmother, Yukimura Yuji, her prophet and the greatest barista to ever live, and Starbucks, which is her temple.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Minions: Criminals

The game Star Wars: Empire at War has three factions: Empire, Rebellion and Criminal. This seems logical, if watching the films. Criminals serve neither faction, only themselves, and can pose a threat to either, and criminals are a deeply central part of Star Wars, present in all three original films, from the “hive of scum and villainy” of Mos Eisley, to Lando Calrissian, to Jabba the Hutt. However, it might be a mistake to see them as on par with the Empire or the Rebellion. After all, the full might of Jabba the Hutt is a laughable fraction of that of a single Imperial dreadnought and its accompanying legions, or a full armada of Rebellion forces. Setting aside sheer numbers that either faction can bring, they also bring superior training and equipment. What is a Gamorran with a vibro-axe against a fully armed and armored storm trooper?

This mistakes the role of criminals in the setting. They are not a military faction, but a presence on the streets, in back alleys and in gloomy cantinas. They represent the corruption of the world and the slow failing of institutions in the Galaxy. They are your slavers, your drug dealers and your muscle. They live in a different world than military might, one where heavy weapons will rarely come to the fore for a variety of reasons, but weapons still matter. I discussed them at length when analyzing the tactics of Psi-Wars. Given how differently criminals will fight than military forces, I think it might be useful to examine what sort of mooks we might face were we to anger the wrong crime-boss, or meet the wrong sort of person in a dark alley.

Spy 4.0

I'm largely happy with the spy.  Her design has remained pretty consistent since Iteration 2.  Most of her skills hit 16, which is appropriate for a skilled generalist, but she can easily hit 18 on skills that matter to her particular focus.  Her focus still remains on infiltration, either by means of deception or stealth, gathering intelligence, engaging in a little light sabotage, and then getting out.

The only substantial change has been to remove the Conspirator power set.  I like it... but I'm not sure it fits.  I want to look at a few more elements, especially in Iteration 5, before I approve of that one.  The rest of the power sets help her focus on her various specialties, giving a cinematic boost either to infiltration or deception, and adding Hacker as a possibility to give her an entirely new direction

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Minions: Alliance Troopers

If the Empire and the Storm Trooper are the golden standard of soldiers from Star Wars, the brave troopers of the Rebellion are the silver standard. Of course, a typical Star Wars game doesn’t feature combat against the Rebellion, but there’s no reason for that to be true of Psi-Wars. Moreover, heroes of the Alliance may well be accompanied by Alliance Troopers. Thus, they’ll need as much detail as Imperial Troopers.

The Concept of Alliance Troopers

The soldiers of the Rebellion are defined by being in a state of rebellion. They’re the brave resistance to the great and powerful empire and stand as a contrast to it. The empire is the Leviathan, the great, tyrannical state, and the Rebellion fights against it: they’re the Minute Men, La Resistance, the Viet Kong, and the Taliban. George Lucas often described the Rebellion in these terms. If the Empire is Goliath, the Rebellion is David.

In a sense, both forces are foils to one another. Where the Empire’s soldiers are faceless, the Rebellion’s soldiers show their faces. Where the Empire is well-funded with sleek and advanced technology, the Rebellion is poorly equipped and makes use of old technology. Where the Empire has legions of soldiers at its disposal, the Rebellion has only a few desperate heroes to defeat the great military-industrial behemoth that marches on them.

While describing the Rebellion as “the Taliban” might seem harsh to modern ears, it fits tactically. Like the Rebellion, modern terrorists fight a technologically and numerically superior foe. They must make use of spoiler tactics, explosives, old and reliable weapons like jeeps and AK-47s, and cheap missile launchers to defeat their opponents. They must also make use of the land, network with the local natives, and scatter when their foe launches a serious attack.

The Rebellion differs from the terrorists on two key points, though. First, terrorists lack professionalism. They generally draw their ranks from disenfranchised and disposable youths. The Rebellion, though, shows signs of full military training and also have access to military hardware. If we look at the Rebellion as a splintering of the Empire, then that seems appropriate, and closer to the Revolutionary war, where a portion of the military broke with the Empire and joined forces with the Rebellion. Second, terrorists are villainous. They sow discord for the sake of discord and often have no real plan, other than nebulous idealism, for what will come if they achieve victory. The Rebellion, thanks to its superior professionalism and leadership, is heroic, and has a real plan in place, a restoration to the Golden Age that came before. To evoke this, the Rebellion should represent something from our past, from our own golden age of war.

Thus, I propose that the Rebellion be professional soldiers with a focus on spoiler tactics, explosives and agile hit-and-run tactics. Thematically, they should evoke Americans of WW2 or possibly the revolutionary war crossed with the French resistance movement.

Fighter Ace 3.0

The Fighter Ace is already a pretty good template.  It's nicely focused and excels at what it sets out to do, which is to be good at piloting a starfighter. This makes him ideal in handling military-scale problems set in space, giving him an interesting relationship with the commando.  Unfortunately, the Fighter Ace is arguably too focused.  Is he good at anything else? This creates two problems.  First, how often will military-scale issues come up in space?  If everyone is a fighter ace, it can come up all the time, but if your party consists of an assassin, a spy, a bounty hunter and a fighter ace, what does the rest of the party do while the fighter ace if dogfighting the enemy, and what does the fighter ace do when the rest of the crew is doing their thing?

To help with this problem, I've made sure that handling any vehicle, mostly through the rules I've applied to defaults, as well as a few secondary skill options.  Thus, the fighter ace can assist people with any movement needed.  He's not as good as the Smuggler for getting you there, but he can also help you navigate space, and he's better than the smuggler at bypassing military-style blockades.  He can also support the more military characters with close-air support.

I've tried to expand his secondary skillsets in a few useful directions, which have resulted in his power-up packages.  First, the Fighter Ace can easily be very social, with access to good looks, charisma, and a variety of social skills to complement his leadership skills.  This is not a unique power-up package, though, because enough of those skills are fundamental to how a fighter ace needs to work that they make little sense to refactor out.

If a pilot falls behind enemy lines, he'll need to escape, which gives us the Evasion package.  I had already included a variety of skills and advantages meant to assist a pilot in resisting torture, escaping imprisonment and surviving on a deserted planet, and I have since shifted those into the Evasion package.  This gives the pilot a secondary role as infiltrator and chaser.

Finally, knowing how to fix and maintain technology is a useful skill for a fighter ace.  Add to this the possibility of deploying unique technology on his preferred fighter, and he can turn his fighter into a temporary swiss-army knife, using it to solve the situation in unique ways.

Finally, to take advantage of unique "starfighting styles," I've included a few martial art packages to guide players in choosing their perks and techniques.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Commando 3.0

The Commando primarily focuses on the Great Galactic War.  They are military characters.  Their niche is access, and ability to play with, heavy military equipment appropriate for ground-pounders.  As such, they are consummate gunmen.  They must be extremely good with blaster rifles (skill 16), and competent with all other military things (skill 14).

I've kept the MOS divisions and added two more: the Field Medic (with rudimentary medical skill, in case a medi-bot is unavailable) and the Sergeant (an intermediary position between officer and commando, with high levels of leadership, soldier and various, squad-level command skills).  However, I've made their specializations even more important: Instead of spending 30 points on a specialization, characters now spend 50, but they can also access skills, techniques and perks appropriate to their MOS. Assault troopers gain access to Riot Control techniques and Infantry techniques.  Recon troopers gain access Sniper tactics. Heavy troopers gain access to Elite Gunner tactics.  This has resulted in less dexterous, less intelligent commandos, but it seems to give me the numbers I'm looking for.

For power-ups, I've added a single one: Demolitionist.  Perhaps as time goes on I'll think of more, but Demolition seemed an important addition that didn't require a complete MOS.  For the rest, Cross-Training seems to work well enough. And, of course, each Commando has more than enough skills, techniques, perks and advantages to keep him busy if he should seek to expand his skillset.

Minions: Imperial Troopers

We already discussed Imperial Troopers in some detail when we talked about building mooks, but let’s go from theory into concrete detail. I want to start with Imperial troopers because they represent the most obvious element from Star Wars that we’d want to port into Psi-Wars. We already know what Storm Troopers look like and how they fight: They’re terrifying, they’re highly inaccurate, and they’re impressively armed. In Psi-Wars, Imperial Troopers will have the same vibe, but I want to dig a little deeper into the reasoning behind the decisions and the impact they’ll make on how combat plays out for our heroes.

The Concept of Imperial Troopers

When we discuss empire, especially in the context of something like Star Wars, we really mean dictatorship, the rule of a single august emperor, directly, over all of his territory (one can make the case that the big shift in Rome with the victory of Augustus Caesar was not from republic to empire, but from republic to dictatorship, since the Roman Republic had been an empire for many years, in the same way that the British Empire was also a parliamentary democracy). Typically in these sorts of dictatorships, the military is personally loyal to the dictator, and their loyalty and might keep him, directly, in power. This fact also forces him to conquer, since his conquests result in increased wealth and prestige for his military forces, which gives him more power, but also more military officers to please, which means he needs to conquer again.

The military in these cases needs to be deeply loyal and very impressive. They need to march in the square, to intimidate the populace, as much as they need to march on the enemy. Thus, as said before, they need to be about shock and awe. The empire also has vast resources that it constantly pours into its military (at the expense of its civilian populace), meaning the empire has all the coolest toys. Their deep loyalty, though, either needs some form of personal empowerment or a deep sense of belonging to the group and a willingness to sacrifice oneself for the “greater good” represented by the dictator. The former would result in heroes who could overthrow the emperor, though, so the latter is far superior. Imperial troopers need to be brainwashed and devoted to the imperial cause or, at least, made to fear those loyal to the cause enough that they’re willing to fight.

We also know what stormtroopers feel like in a film: Faceless mooks who look really frightening but prove to be rather ineffective. They might have the coolest toys, but they often prove overpriced and fragile, glass cannons easily destroyed by a focused and skilled opponent. They pour firepower into the enemy, but they’ll seldom actually hit. They are Goliath, vulnerable to a focused and skilled David.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...