Wednesday, February 21, 2018

At the Beginning of Lent

To all my fellow Orthodox Christians; to all faithful Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, and all who remember the season of Lent.

May this Lenten season truly be a time of renewed devotion: of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. A time of repentance, a real renewal of minds, hearts and deeds in conformity with Christ and his teachings. Most of all, of return to the great commandments of loving God and neighbors.

As our Father among the Saints Patrick of Ireland has said,
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

God be merciful to me, a sinner.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Mercenary and Traveller World Building

Recently I read a short story called Mercenary by Mack Reynolds. It appeared in Analog science fiction magazine in April 1962. It contains a great deal of political speech-making which may be the authors views on then-current political trends in thought. It presents a future Earth where unemployment is the norm. The masses are kept civil (best way I can put it) by a modern form of 'bread and circuses'. There is a substance never described but identified as 'Trank' which they get for free. As in tranquilizer. There is also the omnipresent 'Telly' to keep the masses entertained. I see definite shades of Brave New World to this setting. 
The main form of entertainment on Telly is watching corporate warfare. Corporations, unions, and governments resolve disputes by contract wars; they hire private armies to duke it out. The battles (the vernacular term is 'fracas') are broadcast live. People speak of armies, but most forces fielded are more Battalion or Brigade sized. Some time in the past there was a world-wide disarmament treaty signed. This keeps things from getting too out of hand and avoids nuclear exchanges. Now no one can use or even produce military weaponry or technology from after the year 1900. This becomes relevant for the resolution of the story.
Even in the future there's nothing good on TV . . .
This limitation means that the mechanized warfare of the 20th century is absent. No machine guns, no rapid-fire artillery, no tanks, no aircraft. Personal weapons are breach-loading rifles, like the type used by the US Army in the Spanish-American War. The story does not describe the available technology in a meaningful way. There are no accounts of a battle, so the reader can fill in for themselves what it looks like in practice.

The story concerns one Joe Mauser, a soldier/officer for hire who wants to sign on for the next corporate fracas. He has a plan which will enable him to rise in society. The society of this setting is very stratified into 'Lowers', 'Middles', and 'Uppers'. The Uppers are the ruling elite, who own the property, the companies, and the armies. They run the factories that are producing everything, especially the Trank and Telly to keep the masses somnolent. Mauser wants to break into the Uppers. Being a Telly hero can give him a status boost.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bringing More Psionics into Cepheus Engine or Classic Traveller

Variant Psionics for the Cepheus Engine – A review

Recently Stellagama Publishing released their Variant Psionics rules supplement, available from Full disclosure, I am listed in the credits as a Consultant. I suggested a few ideas for the book, but I earn no royalties. As it says on the tin, this is written for the CE rules set, but with only minor tweaking, these rules will work for Classic Traveller as well. Which is good news for me, still being a CT kind of guy.

What does the VP book offer? Let's have a look, shall we?

The first section explains how to fit psionics into any CE setting. How often do psionics appear? More importantly, referees now have three possible societal responses to the existence of psionics: friendly, neutral and hostile. In CT, the assumption even before the Third Imperium or the Zhodani Consulate, was that psionics would face a negative reaction.

Next we have details on how Psionics are a part of Stellagama's These Stars are Ours! campaign setting. Most psionics end up working for the government, but not necessarily as spies or secret police. Still, Terrans' attitude towards psionics leans toward the negative. Life for a government psion will not be easy.

The middle of the book contains the detailed rules for the available psionic abilities. All the talents from CE (and CT) are here: Awareness, Telepathy, Clairvoyance, Teleportation, Telekinesis. Each talents has several powers associated with it. The Variant part is the new powers that have been introduced for most talents. Clairvoyance still has only the powers listed in the CE rules. Some of the standout new powers are:

Thursday, January 4, 2018

More on Skills - Hunting

Hunting skill

Hunting skill is introduced in Book 6, Scouts, and also appears in the expanded career tables in Citizens of the Imperium in the Hunter career (shocking, I know). The skill is described thus:
Hunting: The individual is skilled in tracking and hunting animals. In animal encounter situations, this skill is used to enhance the chance of any specific type, of achieving surprise on such animals, and of surviving such encounters. DMs based on specific situations should be generated, and hunting skill should be a favorable DM.
The right gear and a faithful friend are worth a +1 DM

Reconnaissance can be used as Hunting minus 1.
Hunting can be used as Survival minus 1, but only for the purpose of finding food. 

Hunting is a major component of Adventure #10, Safari Ship. In that book, the hunting process is given an elaborate treatment, more than I could go into here without leaning on the copyright laws. Plus you may not have access to that adventure. Here, I present my personal ideas on the subject.

My reading of the Hunting skill leads me to conclude that the skill affects four things:

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Abstract Combat in Book 4 Mercenary

I bought the Mercenary book back in the mid eighties, and have built lots and lots of PCs with the expanded book 4 rules. I've even a few times tried building a mercenary unit by following the system laid out in the book. But until now the Abstract Battle system didn't make much sense to me. I figured out what I was doing wrong: I tried doing it totally in the abstract. 

The Abstract battle rules work the best when they are integrated into a story, so that both sides have specific objectives, which are determined by their particular missions. Let me explain.

This evening, my boys and a friend were finishing up the adventure of rescuing a princess, who was kidnapped by a General in her world's army. He was trying to usurp the throne and marrying the princess was part of the plot. 

As I have mentioned before, this was my re-imagining of the Amber Zone adventure Coup D'Etat, which I reviewed a few years ago. The setting is Pampati, in Holtzmann's Corridor, and the princess is Princess Aurelia. 

Well, the guys rescued her from the General's army base where she was held hostage, then retreated to the Summer Palace where the King was trying to keep his government together by radio and telephone. 
It may be cold outside, but the princess is Hot!
I provided the PCs with a small force of household guards, and a few hours to prepare defenses before General Kang's troops rolled in. The guards needed officers to direct them, so the King commissioned the PCs to lead the troops. They blocked the entrance road with trucks, hid in the woods and dug in on the front lawn. 

Kang's forces were attempting to capture the palace (and therefore the Princess & the King) and the PCs were there to prevent that from happening.

Here's where the abstract system came in. I drew a map of the area on hex paper. Each of the defending squads had a die-cut counter, and the attackers had a number of counters as well. As rebel and defending counters were moved adjacent to each other, I resolved each of the encounters as a battle round under the abstract system.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Free Character Sheet for These Stars are Ours!

Available now from Stellagama Publishing at DriveThruRPG:

Character sheet for the These Stars Are Ours! (TSAO) setting; compatible with the Cepheus Engine and other OGL 2D6 Sci-Fi games.

Available in three formats: Standard PDF, Fillable Form PDF, High-Resolution PNG.

All for the low low cost of no money whatsoever. Get it here!