Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers - Take #9

So we begin playtesting M&S this weekend. I have completed starships, alien creation, setting generation - two actually! One for Humans Only and one for Aliens Only, chargen is straight from StarCluster 3 with some professions barred - No PSI, no military in the Aliens Only setting, and a few mechanical and fluff bits for life in the settings including a nasty Stress Mechanic, equipment will also be from SC3, and station creation.

I need some kind of space combat mechanic. I'll want something simple! Possibly some stake setting gambling thing, or maybe something component based. I don't necessarily need anything on the first day, but eventually it will come into play.

I have some glimmers of ideas, so I'll let you in on what I come up with! :D

Oh! And I need to play-test the playing card resolution mechanic! That's new too!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

StarWars-ish and the Battle for Endor

Finished our Star Wars-ish StarCLuster 3 campaign last night! The gang arrived in Annaj - the Moddell sector capital, just after the Rebel alliance fleet left. They decided that, since they *knew* the Imperial fleet was in ambush, and where, they took a jump to a secondary system, and from there jumped in at an angle behind the gas giant, where the Imperial fleet was in wait.

They decided to take out if they could a Super Star Destroyer, so went in with a prisoner delivery. This was the five Jedi and and the spy who had warned the group about the ambush, with unlocked force cuffs, and Lyssia, the ex-navy padawan, dressed in the Imperial Navy uniform she was in to steal the Grand Moff Takin, the frigate they were using.

The spy was s known high value prisoner, and that got them in to see the Admiral and Flag Lieutenant, along with a dozen stormtroopers. The Jedi and Lyssia took them all out but two in one surprise round, and they immediately surrendered.

From there they went into the nearby bridge, where they took out the Captain and lieutenant, shoved the controls over so that the SSD pitched towards another SSD, welded the controls, took out the comm and navigation, and blew the bridge's power junction - where Lyssia knew quite well the location.

They backed out of the bridge under shields and ran to the nearest escape pod bank, took out the guard, and popped out just before the two SSDs collided.

Meanwhile, Shiraska and the group in the Moff Tarkin fixed the controls to ram the bridge of a Star Destroyer, and left in the Albireo, while the rest left in the Shakti, the Y wing, and Dindar's Dungeon (scout) for the forest moon.

As the Grand Moff Tarkin collided with the star Destroyer's bridge, three Tie fighters arrowed in at the Albireo. They were shot down, and the Albireo scooped up the escape pod with the Jedi, Lyssia, and the spy.

The Shakti had left with the youngest padawans, but the Y-Wing and Dindar's Dungeon went to the Forest Moon. Dindar's Dungeon landed with Dindar and the Spec Ops bunch near the main entrance to the shield generator. It was protected by two AT-ATs and two AT-STs. After three passes of the Y-wing, all four vehicles were burning. Meanwhile the Spec Ops and Dindar assaulted the stormtroopers. Dindar was badly wounded in the battle, but the spec ops were fine. They took out 18 of the twenty stormtroopers, and the other two were wounded and surrendered.

The blew the door with a mortar, and ran in, only to find the shield generators wired and ready to blow, with only seconds to get back out. They barely made it - classic blown through the doorway by the blast stuff - and rendezvoused with the Albireo, witnessing the explosion of the Death Star II, and the defeat of the (much less powerful) Imperial fleet.

That's all we can do until the movie comes out this winter. So we set up a playtest of Merchanters And Stationers for next week.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Merchanters and Stationers Take #8

Just a small note. the intention here is to release this for free. It is not a complete game, but with StarCluster 3 or StarCluster 3 Light (free to DL), it will be. I expect the vast majority of downloads will be by those people who vacuum up anything so long as it is free, who will then ignore it, because they have ten thousand free RPGs. :D

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers - Take #7

Working last night on a section I'm calling "Life", where I talk about all the things that actually living in this setting would mean. What different ship's crews are like, what Jump is like, What the War was like, what is the new Peace like, etc.

I mean during the War a lot of refugees lost their papers, which means criminals and agents could be - were - mixed in with a lot of unfortunate and innocent souls. This is set just after the War, Ex Earth Fleet pirates (Mazianni, but I don't use that word) are trying to survive while being hunted down, huge family ships are taking the bulk of the trade, small traders are trying to survive on the margins, some stations are mothballed, others are blown... This is a great time to explore!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers Take #6

In the "Compact Space" books, there is a history there that comes through the present - This species does not trust that species, that other species can do things others cannot with spacecraft, or yet another species has several disputed stations with some other species entirely. These things color the setting deeply, and to do justice to the concepts, I need to create that same coloring, but varying for the differences between the inspiration and the game.

To do this, once the new setting is mapped out, one uses the background cards. These are a set of 27 cards with a single sentence on each. The say things like "Piracy Flourishes in This Space" or "This Species is Barred from That Space", or "This Species Runs the Central Station." Some of them are in gray letters on a white background and are meant for Oxygen breathing species. The rest are in white letters on a cray background and meant for Methane breathers.

The cards are shuffled, and four are dealt out to each species territory. The players and GM go around the table four times, laying out a card and determining what species is meant, and everything is recorded, so instead of saying "This Species is Barred from That Space", they would say "The Kantuan are Barred from Stoshi Space!"

There are three cards that probably should always be in the number dealt out, but actually, it really doesn't matter all that much. Things can be worked around. In any case, this gives a setting with odd places, prohibitions, and quirks.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers Illo #2

A quick sketch illustration of a merchanter docked at a space station. This is the only way Ms. Cherryh's statements can work out properly.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Spaceships of the Merchanters and Stationers Universe #2

Spaceships of the Merchanters And Stationers universe use spin gravity or thrust gravity, depending on their function.


Riders are ships designed to be carried on larger ships. They use thrust gravity while in space - their decks are laid out perpendicular to the direction of thrust - but land on their sides. Cabins are designed to rotate on landing, with the entrances engaging different corridors than in flight configuaration.

Landers and Shuttles

Landers and shuttles are designed for short flights in space, and do not need to worry about internal gravity. Consequently, they are laid out parallel to the direction of thrust, like airplanes. Many cargo landers carry inflatable seats in the decking to carry a variable number of passengers.

Asteroid Mining Craft

Asteroid mining craft spend all of their time in space, and use thrust gravity if any. Miners spend considerable time in zero-G, and must spend equivalent long periods exercising at higher G on station to repair damage to their bones. Thus most asteroid mining craft have two or three sets of crew who alternate using the craft.


Starships - Jump capable craft - operate from station to station, never landing for long periods. Thus they use spin gravity while in flight. Each ship has a rotating cylinder which houses all habitable areas, and spins on it’s long axis, giving a moderate gravity outward while inertial - that is, while coasting between boosts. While boosting, crew remain in their crash couches or beds, moving only during brief inertial periods to change shifts.

Starships are constructed with a ventral keel running the length of the craft, and usually side and dorsal keels as well. All turrets and airlocks are built into these keels for strength. An armored shell is built around the rotating cylinder - all ships are at least Armor factor 1 to deflect dust and debris, and protect from near misses - and over the cargo hold(s). The main engines and Jump Vanes are built near the end of the ship. At the nose are the docking equipment - probe, cargo doors, and personnel tubes and locks into the habitable areas.

When in station, starships lie nose into the rim, dorsal keel out, parallel to the inside of the rim. They lock into the immensely strong side walls of the station rim and support structures, with the personnel tube leading down to the station floor, while the cargo doors mate up above, and the station’s docking gantries load the ship.

In dock, the rotating section is locked down, and the ship uses the station’s rotation for spin gravity, so most of the ring is sideways or upside down, and mostly unusable. The ship’s crew thus must stay on station in hotels called “sleep-overs”, and while not helping with the loading, are off duty.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers Starships

I've spent the last two days creating ships for Merchanters And Stationers, my Cherryh-verse love letter. They range from a tiny 30 ton cutter to a 50,000 ton Great Merchanter (like Cherryh's Finity's End or Dublin Again) and a carrier of the same size (like her Norway or Africa).

The disparity is size of the ships is remarkable. The smallest jump-capable ship is 300 tons, which is almost 200 times smaller than the largest. Compact Space ships are smaller than those in Union/Allinace Space, and I will need to mention that in the text.

I've decided not to put a ship creation section in the supplement, probably going to release it as a spreadsheet later on. Here's a look at one of the ships:

1500 Ton Medium Merchanter

This ship has 1 G of thrust in space on mains and standard jump vanes. This is a popular jump-capable ship. Its tank holds 135 tons of deuterium fuel, for 200 hours of thrust. Twelve cabins and a large lounge are available for the 5-15 person crew, as well as passengers for long flights, and the ship can hold 1000 tons of cargo.

Cost: 290

Saturday, June 13, 2015

New Review of Lowell Was Right! - Finally!

Here is the first review of what I think is one of my best games: http://www.therpgsite.com/showthread.php?p=836322#post836322

Friday, June 12, 2015

Merchanters and Stationers - Take #5

OK, I have a functional Alien creation system, and a setting creation system. Now I have started work on spaceships.

Luckily, Alert and I have worked out a new fusion-based drive system for The Necklace, and that can be dropped into this pretty much intact. The Jump Drive from StarCluster 3 can be adapted into the hyperspace drive used in the Alliance/Union/Compact Space setting fairly easily too, but how spaceships behave in M&S is pretty much going to be diametrically opposite from how they behave in SC3!

In SC3, Jump Drives use a wormhole network to go from star to star, so ships jump into a system at the outer limits - and in the system ecliptic, with a relative speed of zero, so they are effectively defenseless until they can build up some reasonable speed. Albert and I designed it this way to really limit offensive movement into a star system, making for a mosaic of independent worlds.

The Cherryh-verse ships in M&S will be riding the hyperspace interface, dropping into real space at relativistic velocities well out of the ecliptic, which the ships need to bleed off with skips along the hyper-interface to bleed off speed as they come in. And the depth into the system they arrive at depends on the skill of the navigator. All the initiative in these situations rests with the incoming ships, who can blast into a system just behind their own wavefront, and possibly carrying relativistic debris or even munitions.

Also, there are three types of jump route available - normal routes for freighters, longer jumps for freighters carrying no/light cargo or overpowered jump vanes on a normal mass ship, or else one only the overpowered vane ships can make if they strip down to a no cargo condition.

So how people use jump travel will be very different indeed!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Example Merchanters and Stationers Alien #1

i did this Alien up as a test of the Alien Generation system

Own Name: Mashtusad
Familiar Name: Mashies
Prejudicial Name: Jackals

Diet Package: Scavenger
Body Type Package Male: Slender and Supple
Body Type Package Female: Tall and Rangy
Social Package: Mediator
Body Covering Package: Soft Skin

Attributes - Male: STR 7, COOR 9, AGY 8, END 7, CHAR 9, INT 9, LUCK 2
Attributes - Female: STR 7, COOR 10, AGY 8, END 9, CHAR 7, INT 9, LUCK 2

Jump Reaction: Paralyzed
Extras: Savage Bite (+10), Sexual Dimorphism
Quirks: eat Anything, Disgusting Habits, Pack Mentality
Edges: Searching, Negotiations, Flexing
Negative Edges: Alien Social, Violence, Cold

Skills - Male: Survival+2, Engrace+2, Linguistics+2
Skills - Female: Survival+2, Overdo+2, Linguistics+2

Traits: Fluid 2, Willowy 2, Quiet 3

Senses: Smell 3, Vision 3, Hearing 2

Bailey-Wolfe Index:
Neotropism: 0
Sociability: +6
Instinct: -1
Logic: +2
Foresight: +2
Pattern Recognition: +3

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers - Take #4

Worked on the M&S Alien Generation section last night. I left Klaxon with the instructions and the components, and left him to craft an alien species. When I returned, he had created an amazing species - a small, foppish aboreal creature with plumes for feathers - or feather-like hair, he left that undecided - which had a multiplicity of cults and religions, and who was altogether too trusting. I'll post it up later.

Klax has experience with the Alien Generator from StarCluster 3, and asked him how they compare. He said the generator in SC3 was great at making physical details, but this one was fa better at integrating the physical with the cultural aspects. He felt he was creating sapients, not animals.

The more I have used this tool, the better I like it! It will probably be the default alien creation tool for StarCluster 4. :D

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers - Take #3

So, I have been working on the Alien design section for Merchanters and Stationers, my Alliance/Union/Compact Space love letter. I'm going down a completely different path than StarCluster 3's Aliens, which are actually too generalized for this.

In M&S, there are two types of aliens, Methane breathers and Oxygen breathers. Methane breathers are bizarre, barely comprehensible beings who can only communicate with oxy breathers in a limited way. They will be necessarily limited to NPC status, and in fact should be treated more as natural forces, like weather.

Oxy breathers, OTOH, are much more knowable. All are bipedal, and are in general perfectly playable, so these can, and should, be PCs. In designing the species design process, I have settled on a non-random stackable package method. You pick a bunch of packages, and add together anything those templates give you.

For example, there are six packages each for Diet, Body type, and Social Organization. Each gives an assortment of Attribute bonuses, innate skills, and Edges.

I'm also adding something to the Edge concept. Negative Edges. Edges are conditions under which the character has a bonus - for example a nocturnal character might have the Edge of "Night". Negative Edges are the reverse, conditions under which the character has a penalty - for example that same nocturnal character would have the Negative Edge of "Day". Edges and Negative Edges of course only work if the condition could make any difference. Night or Day don't matter if you are under artificial illumination. :D

Anyway, Negative Edges, and maybe this method of Alien species construction, will be folded into StarCluster 4 for sure!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Merchanters and Stationers - Take #2

For Merchanters and Stationers, my next project, I need to do something to simulate the brutal edge-of-disaster feel of the C.J. Cherryh books it is emulating. I actually thought about a Jenga tower - yes, Dread - but that, I think, is too dependent on the players' manual skill, and not on the characters. Remember, I'm trad! :D I'm thinking of going with a stress track. Things can add stress, or take it away, but if you let it build too high, fallout is going to happen. There are different ways to implement this, of course! Die rolls, HP-like mechanics, mental problems, all sorts of things. I'm not sure how I want this to go, but stress should be a huge deal in this game!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Merchanters and Stationers - Take #1!

I've started work on Merchanters and Stationers, my love letter to the Union/Alliance/Compact novels of C. J. Cherryh. It's not a complete game - it's a method for creating a StarCluster 3 campaign that feels like those works, without actually being that universe. I finished up the world/system creation last night, so now I have to do the other changes - mostly dealing with spaceships and peoples. I also need to find some way to get the claustrophobic, skirting the edge of ruin feel of Cherryh's writing. I have some ideas for that, but I need to test them out in play. You - the GM/Players, I mean - could, of course, just take the universe directly from Cherryh's books, but I can't do that for this game. This will be fun!

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Necklace Released!

I've completed the Necklace, and it's available at OBS and from Precis Intermedia. As soon as I get a proof back from Lulu, it will be available in print.