Saturday, April 28, 2018

Patreon Post: How Big is Big? Size Modifier Contexts

I've seen some discussion about whether or not the ships I use in Psi-Wars are "too big" or "too small."  I've just used spaceships out of GURPS Spaceships, but that's slated to change, and it got me thinking: I don't really understand size modifiers.  To me, they're just empty numbers with more empty numbers attached to them ("SM +15 is 700 yards long.  Okay.  That's like 7 football fields, but is that unbelievably enormous or are there like naval ships that big?").  So, I wanted to work out things I could visualize, see and compare them to, as well as collate a collection of values to compare them with. If I start building vehicles, I want to have a sense of how big they should be, and how big that means.

What I have for you, then, are two posts.  The first is a collated list of size modifiers and some example vehicles that fit those size modifiers as well as a discussion of what that scale might mean, and I round it out with a discussion of small-scale megastructures and why sci-fi spaceships often seem to be so gigantic.

Second, because I've found it extremely useful when working on additional vehicles, I've included an excel sheet that I collected for size modifiers, their volumes, surface areas, dimensions and GURPS SS masses.

This post is available to all Dreamers ($1+!).  Enjoy and thank you very much for your support.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Dragon Heresy Kickstarter

I've wanted to do a special series on this, but my job situation suddenly turned (in a good way) and I spent a lot of time these past couple of months handling that, traveling all over the country, diving into a lot of interviews and getting acquainted with my new work.  I offer this as an excuse, because I really want this to work.

Those of you in the know are aware of Douglas Cole and his work with GURPS, including some of my favorite Pyramid Articles: the Last Gasp and the Broken Blade.  Now he's got a kickstarter going for Dragon Heresy, a viking-themed D&D Open License game.  As of this writing, it has about 2 days left to get in on the action, and has already kickstarted, but I would be proud if I could help him jump over the $10k mark.

Alright, you say, why should I back this?  If you're a typical reader of my blog, several things are true about you.  First, you like detail, you like GURPS, you like rich settings and you don't mind fantasy.  You're probably not a D&Der, so why should you back a D&D game?

First, D&D is the lingua-franca of the RPG world.  Everyone speaks it, and so if you're with a group that's not super into GURPS, or you're trying to branch out, having access to some flavor of D&D is highly useful.  I have a copy of 13th Age sitting on my shelf, for example.  So if you're not a D&D fan, it should be noted that it's worth learning and worth getting into.

Second, most GURPS fans I know really appreciate the level of detail that GURPS has and tend to dislike the level of abstraction found in D&D.  Well, Douglas let me take a look at his rules and I did my usual thing of trying to tear it apart and to break it.  And I was surprised how well it worked. 

For me, I want several things out of a game, any game.  First, I want it to be able to handle all levels of play simultaneously.  For example, in Cherry Blossom Rain, I wanted our Big Damn Heroes to face off against hordes of minions (while still being threatened by them) or  facing off against equal foes in interesting fights.  I want to be able to play as a warrior or martial artist and have it be more interesting than "I hit him.  I hit him again."  Dragon heresy managed to do all of this. 

While the site might give you the impression that it's "Just D&D themed with vikings," it has in fact bloomed out of Cole's desire to bring more reasonable, "real-world" tactics to D&D.  I don't mean this in the sense that Cole is an actual martial artist who practices HEMA (though he is) and he wants to bring his superior knowledge of those techniques to D&D but rather in the sense that he wants things like shields to feel more like they really would, to give you a better sense of what's actually going on in a fight.  In so many D&D games I've played in, I've done something and it did damage and that was good enough, I suppose, while in GURPS, I can articulate precisely what I'm doing and see it play out in the game.  Dragon Heresy brings D&D much closer to the latter.  For example, he articulates the difference between vitality and "Hit points," with the latter representing Gygaxian "Luck, effort, focus and ability to effectively parry" and the former representing actual, physical integrity.  Thus, if you attack you succeed and do "some damage" to my hitpoints, what's really going on is that you're forcing me on the defensive.  But if you make an attack I cannot reasonably defend against (ambush me from behind, shoot me with a crossbow bolt), I'm forced to either make an extreme defense (losing more HP), or I suffer real damage, damage that can kill me.  Meanwhile, armor reduces actual damage, which creates interesting tactical trade-offs.  Where in classic D&D a well-armored character and a skilled swashbuckler both effectively have the same AC, here, a swashbuckler is harder to hit and thus harder to damage, while the armored character is easier to hit, but cares about it less because he can afford to ignore your light attacks that will glance off of his armor.  Likewise, different forms of defense bring different advantages with them that feel right, like having a shield to block arrows.

What made Douglas Cole famous, though, is his Technical Grappling, and he brings that with him into Dragon Heresy.  Grappling is famously bad in D&D, as lampooned in Darths and Droids here, but Douglas both manages to simplify it and make it tactically satisfying by using the same control points concept he offered in GURPS: success in a grappling roll results in points that can be spent in an effort to force your opponent into particular positions and situations, which makes it both quick and simple, yet enjoyably complex at the same time (Incidentally, if this alone interests you, check out his other work, Dungeon Grappling)

Finally, Douglas dives into deeper detail in your common races and common character tropes, encouraging you to think about your place in the world, and about the world itself.  While I didn't dive as deeply into this part as I did the rest (I was more concerned with combat mechanics and I've had limited time), what I saw looked impressive.

If the combat mechanics interest you as much as they interested me, it's definitely worth backing him for at least $5.  If you want the whole kit and kaboodle, it's a mere $20, which isn't bad at all.  Consider it, please.  Again, that link is here.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Patreon Poll: the Fourth Chapter

Who is this mysterious Templar?  That's up to you!
Patreon Week continues.  If you've enjoyed the Templar Chapters, now it's your chance to make your own!  My patreon now sports no less than 10 polls that, put together, will introduce the 4th Chapter.  Are they a secret cabal waging a shadow war on the Akashic Order?  Perhaps they are an order of librarian knights preserving long-lost lore of ancient dynasties.  Perhaps they are a militant group of zealots on the edge of the galaxy, safeguarding the Keleni royal line and preparing to restore both the Knights of Communion and a new Communion Golden Age, with the last Grand Master preserved in cryostasis below, ready to be awoken.

The final results are up to you!

If you're a patron (this is for my Companions, thus $5+), check it out!  And thank you so much for your continued support.  If you're not, don't worry, I'll unveil the results when we collate all the documents of the new version of Psi-Wars.  Have fun!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Patreon Post: Keleni Art Preview and the next Art Poll

It's Patreon week!  First up, I have the result of the Keleni art, available to all $3+ patrons (my Fellow Travelers!) who can view it here.  For my Companions ($5+ patrons), the next art poll is up.  Do we want to look at the sinister and ancient Eldoth, the exotic and alluring Traders, or are we done with aliens and want to move on to humanity?  Go and vote, my Patreon faithful!

As always, thank you, Patrons, for making all of this possible.  The art, in particular, comes directly out of the funds you donate to this project.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Templar Chapters: the Far Striders

Alternate Names: The Templar Vagabonds

The rim of the Galaxy has more than its fair share of beggars and religious pilgrims. One can find them in a cantina drinking quietly, or sitting in the street with a raised bowl, begging for credits or scraps of food. They seldom stay in one place long, often wending their way to some distant temple, or to richer planets. They make easy pickings for thugs or pirates, but most criminal scum native to the rim tend to leave religious itinerants alone, for they know who travels with pilgrims. Those who violate this taboo may find themselves casually disarmed by a staff-wielding pilgrim or wake up in a gutter with no memory of what happened after they first uttered a threat. The religious itinerants of the Rim enjoy the protection of the Templar Vagabonds of the Far Strider Chapter.

The Templar Vagabonds resemble the pilgrims they protect. Many wear simple brown robes, belted with a sash over a tunic and pants and sturdy, serviceable walking shoes. Others might wear an old, well-worn, patchwork vacc-suit. They often wear hats, to keep the sun off their face, or a scarf over their face to keep out dust. They typically wield either a staff, usually just a very long length of pipe or some rough-hewn wooden walking stick, or a cobbled-together force sword at their belt. Many mistake them for scavengers, beggars or wandering trash; the Templar Vagabonds prefer it that way.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Templar Chapters: Wardens of the Monolith

Alternate Names: The Templar Pariah, The Templar Wardens

Those who fought against the Great Galactic Menace, when away from prying ears, will sometimes whisper of a rumor of assistance from deep in that arm of the Galaxy. The wildest intelligence reports from the Cybernetic Union which discuss looming threats against the Terminus Council, confirm these rumors. Both discuss mysterious, armored space knights seemingly unstuck from time, caricatures of the Knights of Communion from before the fall of the Alexian Empire with devastating force sword skills, powerful psychic abilities and a message for all who came to the world of Sepulcher “Go. This world is forbidden.”

The Wardens of the Monolith are real. Their massive Temple-Fortress guards Sepulcher, the ancient homeworld of the Eldoth. A fully militant order, they cut an imposing figure in their traditional armor. They often fight in perfect silence, operating in squads of two to five, and they move with psychic synchronicity, intuitively knowing one another’s plans. When roused from their quarantine of Sepulcher, they have a military fleet of carriers and fighters at their disposal; they could be powerful military allies against the Cybernetic Union, or against a returning incursion of the Great Galactic Invaders and, indeed, quietly assisted Leto Daijin’s efforts to defeat the first of such incursions.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Templar Chapters: The Dark Vigil

Alternate Names: The Templars Vigilant

In the heart of the Tangled Expanse, on the cusp of the riotous and exotic Dark Arm of the galaxy and the ordered and imperial galactic core, lies the former ocean world of Alhari. Upon a shallow, turquoise blue sea and abutting a the great island mountain of Alhari sprawls the canal city of Maon. Hyperspace travel to and from Alhari is easier than any other world in the Tangled Expanse, and once one reaches Alhari, the restof the Tangled Expanse is easier to reach. As such, Maon is the busiest space port of the Tangled Expanse and serves as its de facto capital. All merchants, treasure hunters and pilgrims who seek to explore and exploit the Temple Worlds of the Tangled Expanse pass through it, and enjoy its rich, colorful and riotous culture. Where money flows, so too does crime, and Maon overflows with vice, with casino barges, floating brothels, and thieves clambering the tall buildings of Maon. Despite all of its crime, however, Maon has a reputation as a safe city, free of slave traders and assassins, because even with the grip the criminal underworld of the Dark Arm has on Maon, they fear one thing in the shadows whose name they mention only in hushed whispers: the Dark Vigil.

The Dark Vigil Chapter, a remnant of the legendary Knights of Communion, are Maon’s guardians. The popular image of them depicts them either in rich, silken black robes, with a force sword belted in their sash, or as extraordinarily fit and athletic men and women bearing tattoos on their backs, shoulders and arms. They perch atop the towering buildings of Maon and watch over their city; they have hidden bases and vaults scattered throughout the city in which they hide untold treasure and the secrets of immortality. They are more than just the boogeymen of the Maon’s criminal underworld, but it secret masters, demanding a cut of all profits and dictating what may and may not happen on Maon: the casinos and brothels get a nod, slavers and assassins disappear into the night. And when those in need, be they escaped slave or orphaned child, call upon the darkness of Maon for help, the Templars Vigilant answer them.

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