Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blogs and Conversations

I shouldn't have asked that question in yesterday's post. Why? Because Blogs aren't about conversation. They are about monologues - some idiot saying something, and everyone else watching/reading/listening. Blogs are a form of passive entertainment, like reading an article in the paper, or watching TV.

This is why I never wanted to do a blog in the first place. My ego isn't big enough to assume that what I find fascinating is of any particular interest to anyone else. Monologues liek this are an energy sink hole for me. It's a huge effort to write a Blog for me. Why? It's a monologue. I feel like I'm talking to the wind. Why am I doing this? Because as a game designer/publisher, being without a blog these days is like being without pants. This is a necessary evil I must do to continue doing other stuff I love.

Conversations, on the other hand, give me energy rather than sucking it all out. Talking with someone - as opposed to talking to someone - gives me something to work with, a different voice with different ideas, and different ways of looking at things. I love conversations!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

After Outremer - What?

I've begun working on Outremer again as ToI gets ready to release. I've finished four illos in the last week - including the one I popped up here before Christmas - which had been in various near finished states. I have begun writing it again as well. I need to write up the Kingdoms of Jerusalem and Armenia to wrap up my countries, then finish the Adventure Generator, the Djinn section, and Chargen before it will be ready to playtest. So - ToI in January, Outremer late in Q1.

After Outremer, what?

The Pre-Cluster Solar Setting for SC3?
In Harm's Way; Pigboats WWII Subs?
In Harm's Way: MiGs and Sabres Korea-Vietnam jets?
In Harm's Way: Frozen Chosin Korea ground combat?
Lowell Was Right - the strange solar SF setting that extrapolates 1900 science to the 21st century?

What would you all like to see?


Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Illo from Outremer

I enjoyed painting this one! Hope you all enjoy it too!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! :D


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ToI Opponent Ballplayers

I've made a decision on ToI. I have created a table which - with one roll of a d20 - you can create an opposition ballplayer - sort of a generic NPC. The roll's modified by the type of team you are facing - Elite, Struggling, etc. - so your roll goes from 0 to 24, with anything above 20 being reserved to increasingly better teams as the number climbs. while the reverse happens at 1-4. The roll outputs a stream of stats, enough to play the ballplayer in the field or at bat.

I will also be setting up one or more sample teams for free download. Anyone else is, of course, welcome to set up their own teams for DL. If enough people do this, I can collect links to them online, and there will be many teams to choose from!


Monday, December 20, 2010

ToI Playtest Changes

I've eliminated Initiative and Complex problems and Solutions at the advice of one of my playtesters, Gonster, and at the confirmation of my players. Basically, initiative would be so rarely used, it wouldn't be worth the confusion it might cause if included. Complex Problems and Solutions would just never occur. I had waffled back and forth about deleting them before, but now I'm convinced they are just not necessary. I also took out the Starpool illo and replaced it with an illo of a guy going out flat to catch a sinking liner I had painted the day before. Now I have four illos - Pitching, Batting, Baserunning, and Fielding.

I am wondering if I should include a sample team, or whether I should just offer it as a free download. It will require making the game a bit longer, and I don't know if I should. Right now it's at 45 pages, and that seems about right. As designer of two games more than ten times as long this year - In Harm's Way: StarCluster and StarCluster 3 - it's nice to know I *can* make a short game if it suits the subject matter! :D


Friday, December 17, 2010

Tools of Ignorance ready for Beta Testing

Anyone interested in Beta Testing ToI?


As a designer, and as a GM - The RAW truth

As a designer:
It's my *job* to make sure the game runs just fine as written.

It's my *responsibility* to make a system framework that is solid enough that it can stand a hellova lot of twisting and warping without breaking.

It's my *honor* to supply alternate rules in the game that can be slotted in, yanked out, and used with no further work, so folks can configure things the way they like.

It is my *pleasure* to give folks tools that can change the setting safely, without any fear on their part of breaking anything.

As a GM:

It is my *right* to screw around as much as I want with rules, whether or not the designer allows for it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Performance Enhancing Drugs in Tools of Ignorance

You can use performance enhancing drugs - various steroids, HGH, and the like - to improve your attributes in Tools of Ignorance, but doing so places you at risk of detection. Some of the Team (clubs) cards trigger a club-wide Random Drug Test, with the TN associated with the card. If a player is clean, not using performance enhancing drugs, there is no need to roll. Players using these drugs must roll one d20. If the modified TN listed on the card or lower is rolled, they are caught.

Using the drugs to raise one attribute by one point gives no bonus to the TN to get caught. Each point an attribute is raised thereafter raises the TN by one. Any given attribute can be raised a maximum of 3 points, or to 15, whichever is lower. The attributes which can be raised are STR, AGY, and END.

Ballplayers using these drugs also have an increased severity of injuries, as the overstrained muscles, ligaments, and tendons are pushed beyond their capacity. The severity of any injury beyond "Nagging" is increased by one category per point of the highest attribute increase. For example, a player who has increased STR by 2 and AGY by 1 will have the severity of any non-nagging injury increased by 2, as the highest increase is two points to STR.

Once the player has stopped taking the drugs, attributes decline by one point per month until they are back to normal.

The first offense has a penalty of a month's suspension and -15 points of Notice, and a permanent +1 to the TN of all Random Drug Tests.

The second offense has a penalty of suspension for three months and -30 points of Notice, and a permanent +2 to the TN of all Random Drug Tests.

The third offense has a penalty of a year's suspension and -60 points of Notice, and a permanent +3 to the TN of all Random Drug Tests.

Any violation after the third has a penalty of permanent banning from baseball.


Monday, December 13, 2010


I've been suffering through a nasty cold the last couple of weeks, and have not been writing anything for my current projects or for the blog because of this. I didn't want anyone to think I've lost interest, though I have lost momentum, so I thought you all ought to know. I generally don't put personal stuff in this blog - no one wants to read that kind of crap! - but this time I thought it was appropriate.

In other news, The Tools of Ignorance is almost ready for beta release. If you're interested in testing it, let me know! The only thing left to do is to cover PC advancement.

My current Blood Games II face-to-face game - it's set in New Orleans in 1900 - is running a bit longer than I expected. We had as close to a TPK as I've come in decades last session. Only one PC was on his feet and concious at the end, with three players almost dead, and two - including the one on his feet - badly wounded. The poor guy had to drag all the other PCs back to the boat, go up the bayou to the city, hustle them to the car, and drive them all to the doctor's house - the one doctor in N.O. who would understand how one PC was in werewolf form and all were almost dead with strange bite marks all over - in the pouring, tropical rain. Fun stuff!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Her Arcane Service

Levi Kornelson has taken On Her Majesty's Arcane Service and run with it. We started a year or so ago talking about re-laying OHMAS out. Levi has actual talent in this direction, along with being a brilliant designer, so we both thought this would be a fun thing. Along the way, the project mutated and took on a life of it's own. The result is Her Arcane Service, an ultra-light version of the OHMAS game in twelve pages. Levi has done an astonishing thing, reducing the rules to only the essentials, while retaining most of the flavor.

You can download it here: Her Arcane Service

If you purchased OHMAS in pdf form, you should get an invitation to join our new Yahoo group soon, unless you don't share your email because of spam. If so, or if you bought the print version of OHMAS, let me know and I'll get you situated. We'll be supporting OHMAS and HAS through that site!


Monday, December 6, 2010

Wow! StarCluster 3 wins the RPG Blog's Best Game of 2010!

I am totally blown away! I was expecting ICONS or Shadow, Sword and Spell to walk away with it this year, but to my complete amazement Zachary Houghton named StarCluster 3 the best game of the year! I am just stunned! I am also ridiculously proud! Thank you Zach! I am honored and gleefully happy! :D


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ToI Managers

Managers are the people who decide lineups, call special plays, shift players aropund, substitute ballplayers for other ballplayers, and the like. Managers come as Boy Genius, Veteran, and Crusty Coot varieties, with 8, 12, and 16 non-baseball skill ranks to allot respectively.

Management styles come in several varieties as well - the Tactician - with a Tactics of at least +4, the People Person - with a Leadership of at least +4, the Drill Sergeant - with an Intimidation of at least +4, The Mastermind - with a Psych of at least +4, and the Accountant - with a Business of at least +4.
Thus a manager could be a Boy Genius Tactician, or a Crusty Coot People Person, or a Veteran Mastermind, or any other combination.


ToI Card Options

I added the following options for those who would prefer it:

You may wish to use one or more of the options below

Take Out
Take any card distributed out of the deck in a discard pile, and reintegrate only after the season is over.

The GM assigns the card to a nominee, who may read it, then decide who gets the card. The GM may declare herself immune.

Bad Card Bennies
A bennie is given along with any bad card, and not with good cards.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tools of Ignorance Cards

The Cards

Before each game session, the GM shuffles a full deck of cards and deals out one card, face down. The consequences of the card *must* be applied to one of the PCs, voluntarily or not. If one of the PCs takes it voluntarily, sight unseen, he will gain a bennie - see below. If no PC volunteers to take the card, sight unseen, a player character is assigned the card by the GM, using random determination.
Half the cards have good consequences, and half have bad consequences. The suits determine what area of the PC’s life the consequenses will apply to - Spades apply to the Media and Public Relations, Hearts apply to Family and Romance, Clubs to relations with the Team, and diamonds apply to the PC’s Health. The rank of the card determines the magnitude of the impact on the player. Odd cards are negative, and even cards are positive.

Optionally, you can treat any suit as diamonds, using the cards for health only.
Apportioning Cards
If any character voluntarily takes the card, the PC gains a Bennie - a token or chip. The bennie can be used in a variety of ways:
As an extra Challenge for all games this session
As an extra die for any situation in each game this session.
As a point of LUCK, valid for this session only.
Aside from healing, all bonuses and penalties given by the card last for the current session only.
The GM can adjudicate the effect of the cards ad hoc, or use the suggestions below:

(Hearts - Romance only showed for space reasons)

Hearts Romance! This result table may used by any player character - single, divorced, or married. You may choose the result under Family instead.

2 - You meet a fascinating woman at a bar who is interested back.
3 - You meet a fascinating woman at a bar - then your S.O. walks in.
4 - You are seeing a starlet!
5 - You are seeing a starlet and your S.O. finds out.
6 - Your current relationship is taking on depth and meaning. +1 TN to any skill.
7 - Your current relationship is in a death spiral. -1 TN to any one skill.
8 - A cool rumor goes around about your current relationship and the press hear it. +2 TN to any one skill.
9 - A rumor goes around about you philandering and your S.O. hears it. -2 TN to any one skill.
10 - Your S.O. moves in with you when you ask. + 1 die to any one skill.
Jack - Your S.O. breaks up with you and moves out. -1 die to any one skill.
Queen - Your S.O. is pregnant! +2 dice to any one skill.
King - Your Ex announces she is pregnant... by you... to the press. -2 dice to any one skill.
Ace - You make your current relationship permanent. +1 die to all skills.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dekes, Psyches, and Intimidation in ToI

Deke is a term that originated in hockey, but rapidly became assimilated into baseball. A deke is a fake, a feint, a move designed to put the opponent out of position. If you bite on a deke, you will look like a fool. I remember watching outrageous dekes in baseball, especially Carl Yastrzemski pulling fantastic dekes on sure doubles off the wall at Fenway, holding the hitter to a single, and the runners to only one base by pretending to be in position to catch the fly ball as it went over his head. It would bounce off the wall instead, and Yaz would turn around and be in perfect position to catch the carom and fire it in. Deke is a skill in Tools of Ignorance.

Psyche is the ability to get inside another's head, convincing him he will fail before he even starts. The best psyche job I ever saw was the one Arnold put on Lou Ferrigno in Pumping Iron. Arnold had Lou compensating for things he didn't do, hesitant and insecure when he tried anything, and over-thinking everything. Arnold blew him away. Psyche is a skill in Tools of Ignorance.

Intimidation is an amazing tool. It's the ability to convince the other guy that you will do anything - ANYTHING - to win. There have been many intimidating pitchers in baseball, but the best I saw was Bob Gibson of the Cardinals. He had absolute pinpoint control of his explosive fastball, and he would glare at the batters like they were cockroches, like he would like nothing better than to rip their heads off, then he'd unleash a fastball an inch off their chins. The batters would jerk away, pick themselves up, and go back into the batter's box at least two inches further back. Gibson would then pour strike after strike on the outside two inches of the plate, and the batters would flail. He was amazing. intimidation is a skill in Tools of Ignorance.

The only defense against these things is experience. There is an Edge everyone gets as they play the game called Been There. The longer you play, the higher your rank in Been There. You've seen enough dekes to not be so easily fooled. You've been psyched enough so you know when someone is trying it on you. You've been intimidated by the best, and you know when some clown is trying to do it to you. This time, you don't fall for it.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Tools of Ignorance - Tuning the Engine

I've been working on ToI lately, which is wht I haven't been posting.

The potential offense problem I discussed last week has been addressed, I think adequately, by Lefty/Righty/Switch-Hitter Edges. Each has two edges - Lefty hitters have the Lefty Edge hitting either for power or average. Similarly, Righties have the Righty Edge hitting either for power or average. A Switch hitter has the either the Lefty or Righty Edge when hitting for average, and either the Lefty or Righty Edge hitting for power. The Edge gives a +1 to the TN when facing the opposite handed pitcher. I also gave a random-roll chart to determine whether a character was a lefty, righty, or switch-hitter based on current Major League statistics.

I also worked out some other tables which may be useful - a two part "Where Do the Balls Go?" random table giving the type of out or hit in-play - i.e. grounder, fly, or liner - based on the type and handedness of pitcher and batter. I also worked out a multi-part non-random Expected Results table based on the output of the first table, factoring in the presense of men on base, to give the expected result of that type of out or hit - i.e. a ground ball to the left side of the infield with a man on first should result in a 6-4-3 double play. This gives a basis for Challenges. With a 6-4-3 double play, the runner on first might Challenge the arm of the shortstop to beat the throw, or the batter might challenge the arm of the second baseman to beat his throw.

The GM is free to ignore all this - a GM knowledgable about baseball can give a better result, quicker, than any random table.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

First review of StarCluster 3 up

Consonant Dude has the first review of StarCluster 3 up on his blog.

Also, I've integrated StarPool into Tools of Ignorance - basically stripping it of all the junk not needed - and it's less than 2 pages. If I hadn't decided Initiative might be needed off the field, it could've been under 1 page.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ToI game - Scrappers vs Weebles

My wife and I tested out the baseball-game part of Tools of Ignorance last night. We each made up a team of 8 position players and two pitchers - a relief pitcher and a starter. We each had the same number of rookies, veterans, and over-the-hill retreads:

The game was a blast - the Burlington Scrappers (wife) vs the Waltham Weebles (me). My rookie left hander had a rocky top of the first inning! He let up one run, and had runners on second and third, when the Scrapper's first baseman hit a scorching line drive over shortstop - AKA he rolled a double - when my shortstop leapt and snagged the liner - AKA he Challenged the double - to end the inning, though he came up with a Nagging Injury because he pushed it with a Trait, and failed his roll. The Scrappers pitcher was amazing, and my rookie settled down to a less smooth, but no more productive stint. Several excellent plays - i.e. challenges - helped keep the scoring to a mutual goose egg until the bottom of the sixth. My fleet right fielder got on with a single, and stole second - AKA Challenged the catcher's arm - before being doubled home, tying the game at one run each. In the top of the seventh, with a Scrapper at first and one out, the visitors grounded a single past the Weebles first baseman, and the runner tried to advance to third, but was cut down at third on a superb one-hop throw across the diamond by the Weeble's right fielder - the runner Challenged the right fielder's arm, and tied, but failed to beat, the throw, and the challenger always loses the tie - scuttling the rally. In the top of the eighth, the Scrapper's third baseman hit a solo home run to take a slim lead. In the bottom of the ninth, the Weebles got a man on first and third with one out, but failed to score against the Scrappers' veteran closer, and the game was done.

It really mimicked the feel and rhythm of a real game, but I wonder if I need to adjust the batting to make it a bit easier to hit. It could be that the challenges - and there were a *lot* of them, the single up the middle that put a man of first and third in the ninth couldn't be challenged as the Scrappers' second baseman, shortstop, and center fielder were all out of challenges - make things lean a bit much to the defensive side. It could also be that it was just a close game, and the next one might be 7-5. Of course it was a National League game, and the pitcher was batting, so that may be part of it too.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Tools of Ignorance - Hitting and Pitching


There are 2 ways to hit in ToI, and the batter can change between these two methods as he wishes. Hitting for Average, and Hitting for Power.

Hitting for Average

When a hitter is hitting for average, the Hitting check is made with a TN of COOR. The number of successes made is subtracted from the Pitcher's successes. If the result is positive, that is the pitcher made more successes than the hitter, an out is made. If the result is zero or negative, that is if the hitter made as many or more successes than the pitcher, the result is a hit. If there is a tie, the batter walks. If there is one more success, the result is a single. Two more successes means a double, three more a triple, and four more a home run.

Hitting for Power

When a hitter is hitting for power, the Hitting check is made with a TN of STR. The number of successes made is subtracted from the Pitcher's successes. If the result is positive or zero, that is the pitcher made as many or more successes than the hitter, an out is made. If the result in negative, that is if the hitter made more successes than the pitcher, the result is a hit. If there is one more success, the result is a single. Two more successes means a double, and three more a home run.


There are two basic types of pitchers, Power Pitchers and Crafty Pitchers - AKA Junkballers. A pitcher must declare what type of pitcher he is at the beginning of the year, and may only change after the season ends and before the new one begins.

Power Pitchers generally use fastballs and sliders to blow the ball past the batter before the batter can react. Their Pitching Check is made vs a TN of STR. Any time the Power Pitcher has at least two successes more than the hitter, he can declare a strikeout. Strikeouts cannot be challenged.

Crafty Pitchers use curves, knuckleballs, splitters, and other junk as their main pitches, to trick and fool the hitters. Their Pitching Check is made vs a TN of COOR. Any time the Crafty Pitcher has at least two successes more than the hitter, he can declare the out a ground ball, with potential for a double play.

answers to Questions:

How would you model a Hit & Run?

- Team at bat Manager makes a Tactics check, compared against catcher's Tactics check, then:

If the Manager wins, the runner has a bonus success in the ensuing play.

If the batter gets a hit, the runner attempt third, adding the bonus success to whatever is rolled.

If the batter gets out, the runner has a bonus success to add to his chance to steal second.

If the catcher wins, it's a pitchout, and the catcher gets an extra success to add to his throw to second on the steal attempt.

How would one bunt?

- A drag bunt has been treated already in the examples. It's basically the batter Challenging an out.

- A sacrifice bunt takes away one die from the hitter, and adds it to the Advance Challenge of the runner

How would a pitcher pitch around a batter?

- Pitcher declares he's Pitching Around the hitter. Both pitcher and batter lose a die from their respective checks. Batter is also forced into Hitting for Average.


Tools of Ignorance Challenges


Challenges are the way base running and fielding works. A baserunner challenges the catcher's arm when trying to steal a base. A fielder challenges a hitter by trying for a spectacular catch on a hit. Players only have two challenges per game, so they need to pick and choose their challenges. Challenge a single in the third inning, and it's a waste. Challenge a homer in the ninth and you may not have enough to stop it. Otherwise, the result of the contest between a hitter and pitcher stands.

If more than one challenge is made on the same play, each succeeding challenge is at an additional -1. The Challenger must *beat* the challengee, so a tie means the original result stands.


A batter hits an out with a runner on first. The Shortstop decides to challenge the out and try for the runner at second. Since he is challenging the hitter, he rolls an arm accuracy check against the base runner's Advance check. If he wins, the runner is out at second, and if he fails the challenge, everyone is safe. The second baseman can then challenge the runner at first the same way, but since it's the second challenge on the same play, it's at -1 die. If he wins the challenge, it's a double play. If he fails, it's a force out.

The runner at first base attempts to steal second by challenging the catcher's arm. The runner is challenging, so he has the burden of proof. The base runner must beat the catcher's throw or he's out.

Some Other Challenges:

You can see any baseball play as a Challenge, or as a series of Challenges.

Hitter Challenges an Out

When this is successful, it means a drag bunt or an infield hit. The Hitter makes a Base Stealing check vs. the Arm Accuracy of the infielder. The Hitter is limited to First Base unless there is an error.

Pitcher/Catcher Challenges a Runner

This is a pick off or pitch out. The Pitcher or Catcher rolls his Arm Accuracy vs the Runner's Advancing check.


Injuries have a chance of happening any time a character uses his Traits in play. By using your traits, you are - by definition - giving everything you have, and that's when injuries happen. Each time a character uses a trait, immediately after the play the player - or GM for NPCs - makes an END check on a d20.

A character would have a serious injury only on a botch - a 20 - on his END check. That's a 5% chance. There is a higher chance of a nagging injury - with a consequence of -1 to an Attribute - on a simple failure, depending on the Attribute. So if a character has an END of 12, he has a nagging injury (which won't prevent playing) on a 13-19, and a bad injury (which will prevent play) on a 20.

If a 20 is rolled, roll again to determine how long the player will be sidelined:

1-5 = 7 days
6-10 = 14 days
11-13 = 30 days
14-16 = 60 days
17-18 = 90 days
20 = season ending

Nagging injuries are the typical strains, sprains, bruises, and such that happen in normal play, and which the player is normally expected to play through. The Attribute injured in a nagging injury is the one used in the play where the injury happened. If it happens on a Base Stealing check, for example, the injury would be to the character's AGY. The character may play with any number of nagging injuries, but each one cumulatively degrades performance. The Manager may, of course, sit the player out until he has a chance to heal.


Any even diamond card turned over at the beginning of the day will heal at least one nagging injury, with higher cards healing more if present.


Each character has 7 points to put into personality traits. There are a minimum of 3 traits, with a maximum of 4 points in any one trait. Traits can be free form, but there's also a list you can choose from if you are stuck. Traits are both descriptors and mechanics. Traits when used can give the character an extra die for each trait point used *if* the GM agrees the trait is appropriate to the circumstance. In the example below, Stubborn would probably be appropriate, but Braggart probably wouldn't. Trait points are a renewable resource - they are refreshed entirely each session, and optionally a character can gain a point back when the player plays a trait to his disadvantage.

Example - A ball player who is Hot-Tempered 3, Stubborn 2, Adventurous 1, and Braggart 1 is attempting to stretch a single into a double. He's challenging the outfielder's arm and rolls three dice - Base Running+2 - against his END of 9, while the outfielder rolls 4 dice - Arm+3 - against his END of 8. Both get 2 successes. Since the runner is challenging the fielder the burden of proof is on the runner, so he has to beat the throw. A tie won't cut it. He uses his Stubborn trait - "bastard's not going to throw *me* out!" - to gain another die, and rolls a success. He's got a double!


Here's the cover of ToI:


Tools of Ignorance Character Templates

Background Templates


STR 7, COOR 10, AGY 12, END 9, CHAR 11, INT 8, LUCK 2

BASEBALL SKILLS: Pitching+0, Hitting+0, Glove+1, Arm+1, Base Running+2


STR 12, COOR 8, AGY 10, END 11, CHAR 9, INT 7, LUCK 2

BASEBALL SKILLS: Pitching+1, Hitting+1, Glove+0, Arm+2, Base Running+0


STR 10, COOR 11, AGY 12, END 7, CHAR 9, INT 8, LUCK 2

BASEBALL SKILLS: Pitching+0, Hitting+1, Glove+1, Arm+1, Base Running+1


STR 11, COOR 10, AGY 8, END 12, CHAR 7, INT 9, LUCK 2

BASEBALL SKILLS: Pitching+1, Hitting+1, Glove+1, Arm+1, Base Running+0


STR 8, COOR 12, AGY 11, END 9, CHAR 10, INT 7, LUCK 2

BASEBALL SKILLS: Pitching+0, Hitting+1, Glove+1, Arm+1, Base Running+1


STR 12, COOR 10, AGY 7, END 9, CHAR 11, INT 8, LUCK 2

BASEBALL SKILLS: Pitching+1, Hitting+1, Glove+0, Arm+1, Base Running+1


STR 12, COOR 10, AGY 7, END 9, CHAR 8, INT 11, LUCK 2

BASEBALL SKILLS: Pitching+0, Hitting+2, Glove+1, Arm+1, Base Running+0


STR 8, COOR 10, AGY 12, END 7, CHAR 11, INT 8, LUCK 2

BASEBALL SKILLS: Pitching+1, Hitting+0, Glove+2, Arm+1, Base Running+0

ALL AVAILABLE NON-BASEBALL SKILLS: Alert, Analyze, Business, Endear, Goad, Intimidate, Leadership, Overdo, Psych, Deke, Tactics

Professional Templates



Middle Infield: Arm+1, Base Running+1 OR Glove+1, Hitting+1
Corner Infield: Glove+2, Hitting+1 OR Base Running+1
Outfield: Glove+1 OR Arm+1, Hitting+2
Catcher: Glove+1, Arm+2
Pitcher: Pitching+2, Glove+1 OR Base Running+1

Age 24



Middle Infield: Glove+2, Arm+2, Hitting+1, Base Running+1
Corner Infield: Glove+2, Arm+1, Base Running+1, Hitting+2
Outfield: Glove+2, Arm+1, Hitting+2, Base Running+1
Catcher: Glove+2, Arm+2, Hitting+1
Pitcher: Pitching+2, Glove+1, Hitting+1 OR Base Running+1

Age 28



Middle Infield: Glove+3, Arm+2, Hitting+1, Base Running+2
Corner Infield: Glove+2, Arm+3, Hitting+2, Base Running+1
Outfield: Hitting+2 Glove+2, Arm+2, Base Running+2
Catcher: Hitting+1 Glove+3, Arm+3, Base Running+1
Pitcher: Pitching+3 Glove+2, Arm+1, Hitting+1, Base Running+1

Age 32



Middle Infield: Glove+1, Arm+3, Hitting+2, Base Running+1
Corner Infield: Glove+2, Arm+1, Hitting+3, Base Running+1
Outfield: Glove+2, Arm+2, Hitting+2, Base Running+1
Catcher: Glove+3, Arm+2, Base Running+2
Pitcher: Pitching+3, Glove+1, Arm+1, Hitting+1, Base Running+1

Age 35


STR-1, END-2, COOR-1, AGY-2, CHAR-1, INT+0, LUCK-0

Middle Infield:Glove+1, Arm+2, Hitting+1, Base Running+2
Corner Infield: Glove+2, Arm+1, Hitting+2, Base Running+1
Outfield: Glove+1, Arm+2, Hitting+2, Base Running+1
Catcher: Glove+2, Arm+2, Hitting+1, Base Running+1
Pitcher: Pitching+2 Glove+1, Arm+1, Hitting+0, Base Running+1

Age 38

Over the Hill


Middle Infield:Glove+1, Arm+2, Hitting+1, Base Running+1
Corner Infield: Glove+2, Arm+1, Hitting+2, Base Running+0
Outfield: Glove+0, Arm+2, Hitting+2, Base Running+1
Catcher: Glove+2, Arm+2, Hitting+0, Base Running+1
Pitcher: Pitching+2 Glove+1, Arm+1, Hitting+0, Base Running+0

Age 40


STR-3, END-3, COOR-3, AGY-3, CHAR-2, INT+0, LUCK-2

Middle Infield:Glove+1, Arm+1, Hitting+1, Base Running+1
Corner Infield: Glove+1, Arm+0, Hitting+2, Base Running+0
Outfield: Glove+0, Arm+2, Hitting+1, Base Running+1
Catcher: Glove+2, Arm+1, Hitting+0, Base Running+1
Pitcher: Pitching+2 Glove+1, Arm+0, Hitting+0, Base Running+0

Age 42

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mo' Tools of Ignorance!

As to not playing games out, my idea is basically to work off contested Team base ratings to get a modifier, then roll once for the unplayed game, win or lose. A highlights roll could also be made - each player roll 1d20, any 1 rolled means the player had a personal highlight. This TN should be modified upward depending on the star status (as determined by accumulated Notice) of the player - A standard player +0 to the TN, Rising Talent +1, Star +2, and Superstar +3. The quality of the highlight could be handled by a second roll with number of dice = 1, modified by star status, and counting only the highest roll. Thus the range of the result would be the same - anyone can hit a dramatic home run, or make an athletic catch - but the stars would have a better chance of getting the better success. I would let the player dictate the actual play, based on the roll and the predetermined result - no walk-off doubles when you lose the game! The highest result would decide first. The highlight would count toward Notice.

As for Tools of Ignorance CharGen, I'm thinking I'll go with layered templates. One for base Attributes and Background - life up to HS and/or College, and one for the Minors and Majors. Each template ages you a varying number of years, which affects your Attributes. So you can come into the game as a fresh-faced rookie or as an aging star on the decline, or as a veteran in his prime. Each template will have one or two switches, but mostly it is a package. This method will be a big aid in the Team Construction, because I can list the resource point cost of an Aging Superstar right up front, and the player-owners can see what slots are open for them. Also, real baseball loves these 'types' in real life, and it's a natural fit, like with pulp.

I went with the layered approach to speed up CharGen. The more choices players have to make, the slower CharGen is. I could go with a two-template version, combining Attributes and Background into one, and College, Minor and Major experience into another. My group has been with me for a long time, since they were 13, and my typical loose lifepath chargen with a lot of choices is duck soup for them - they blaze through it in minutes - but I recently lost a couple players to college and gained a new one, and watching the newbie slowly pick his way through was deadly slow, because each choice had to be analyzed and understood before he could select.

I originally went with a five-layered set up to reduce choices to five while retaining as large a variability between PCs as possible. Going with two layers reduces variability, but would speed up CharGen even more.

There will be two basic types of pitchers, Power pitchers who rely on STR, and Crafty pitchers who rely on COOR. END will differentiate between relievers and starters. There will be Infielder, Outfielder, Utility Fielder, and Catcher templates for position players. Generally DHs will nominally be position players who have poor fielding skills. David Ortiz, for example, is actually a competent first baseman with poor range, but why play him at first when you have a Kevin Youkillis?

Attributes will decline faster and earlier than with my other games - not because they actually decline compared to normal people, but because the gradations are smaller. An athlete is his 40s could be in terrific shape compared to a normal schlub, yet compared to young athletes would have lost his edge. The decline will start earlier and accelerate with age. The Attribute change would be built into the templates for chargen, and would apply to everyone, PC and NPC, in the yearly maintenance phase thereafter.

Social skills will be important as well. An intelligent, charismatic star could become a superstar solely because of media manipulation and fan favoritism. Leadership can also raise a character's status. There will also be a large component of the game devoted to the players' personal lives. I'm thinking of a random system - I'm thinking cards - which would turn up good and bad things happening such as scandal, romance, loss, betrayal, children, heartbreak, disease, etc. once per session. Players could volunteer to take it, earning a bennie, or it could be assigned by the GM with no bennie if no one volunteers. This may be an optional sub-system.

I'm thinking broadly along the lines of Hearts = Romance, Diamonds = Health, Spades = Media, and Clubs = Team, with the magnitude increasing along with the value, and odds being negative, evens being positive. So turning over a nine of Hearts might give a result of "You suspect your S.O. may be cheating on you", with the Player and GM hashing out the details, or substituting something which is equally important, but which makes more sense with the player's actual situation.

The higher ranking cards should possibly have on-field impacts as well, no matter the suit. A bad relationship can set a player into a tailspin as much as an injury can. Media attention can have on-field consequences as well. I'm thinking of giving a recommendation to suit the card result, which the group can enact, ignore, or modify as suits them.

With the StarPool system I have two aspects to play with, which can combine to create the overall ability - Skill (number of dice) and Attribute (TN). So Hit for Average would combine Hitting + COOR, and Hit for Power would combine Hitting + STR. Glove would be split into Range, combining Glove + AGY, and Ball Handling, combining Glove + COOR. Arm would be split into Arm Range, combining Arm + STR, and Arm Accuracy, combining Arm + END. Speed would be split into Stealing, combining Base Running + AGY, and Advancing, combining Base Running + END.

Thanks to Rich/Orklord on RPGHaven for crystalizing so much of this game with his suggestions!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Tools of Ignorance

A game I've had in the back of my head for some time is a baseball RPG. It's got a great structural similarity to RPGs - team play, season as campaign, individual heroics within the context of a group, rivalries and friendships both within the team and with other teams, tactics, strategy, risk, and reward. It's also awesome fun!

I want to do this using the StarPool resolution system - used in Blood Games II, OHMAS, and Outremer - because it's easy to deal with contested actions by subtracting successes from each other, or with uncontested actions by changing the TN. I would also set up a Company Resource allocation bit like in OHMAS and Outremer, to buy Free Agents, maintain and expand the park, and pay for other players. Income would be based on market size and modified by success. There would be a troupe aspect - the players would be both owners as well as players.

Most games wouldn't be played out - I mean there are 162 games in the season, plus playoffs and World Series. A Notice system might make sense as well - as in the In Harm's Way series of games - for appropriately rewarding important successes and failures.

Sound interesting?


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Levi's OHMAS Lite

Levi Kornelsen has brilliantly captured OHMAS' spirit in a very lite version of the rules in a thread over on RPGNet:

I think it's extraordinary! Comments?


Monday, November 1, 2010

Outremer Starting to Roll!

I should have an alpha playtest version of Outremer done very soon. I have most of the Paths done, and most of the setting. I worked on it over the last week - I was on vacation - and got off to a very good start. I still have a long way to go, but A good start like this was a huge energy boost for me!

Much of the work was collecting and integrating dozens of scattered notes into an actual game framework. I still have to write huge chunks of the Religion section, Most of the Djinn section, a couple of Paths of Power, and a few bits of the setting, but much has been accomplished!

Also, I need to paint some more illos! :D


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Outremer - the Kabbalist

The Kabbalist
The Kaballist is a person of knowledge, who approaches the arcane by means of religion and mathematics.

Kabbalists Gain:
+3 INT
+1 END
Linguistics +5

The Kabbalist is both deeply rational and something of a mystic, reading the tracks of magic on the face of nature. The Kabbalist has a deep seated belief in both God and Magic, which allows the Kabbalist to apply the tools of mathematics to the purpose of magic.

A Kabbalist is first and foremost a highly educated person. In addition to their normal skills, Kabbalists gain a mastery in Linguistics, with a fluency in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. They gain this Mastery over the course of their education, gaining a rank in Linguistics every three years - Hebrew at the age of 10, Greek at 13, Latin at 16, and the other languages at 19 and 22. The Kabbalist may take other ranks of Linguistics by year, as he would any normal skill

Kabbalists must be first an Apprentice Scholar and then a Proto-Academic, though they do not have to pay for the education if their family Lifestyle is too low, as their intelligence would be noticed and funding made available. Kabbalists must have an INT of at least 11, and a Mathematics rank of at least +3 to qualify.

Kabbalists can Ward a stucture from intrusion, both material and spiritual. An area Warded by a Kabbalist cannot be scryed, spied upon, or entered by anyone not inside the wards when the Kabbalist sets them out. The Wards themselves are Sigils of magical and/or mystical power physically painted by the Kabbalist, over a door or other entrance to a structure. On a successful Warding roll, the Wards are activated, one success indicating three Wards activated, with one more Ward activated per success after that.

Once per day, the Kabbalist may read the day’s Astrological chart. On a successful Astrology roll, the player may make one roll per success on the Astrology Table below. The player determines which column(s) to roll on. The word indicated should be treated as a temporary Edges which are part of the environment, and available to whoever the Savant tells them to. Edges give a bonus to any other action when used, so long as the Edge could believably help. Each Edge point used adds a bonus die to the roll.
(Astrology table goes here - can't be formatted for this)
Note: the Kabbalist may roll several times on one column.

A Kabbalist can force Spirits and Djinn into containers - bottles, lamps, jars, chests, and the like - with words of power and Seal them inside. These words of Power are determined by a Mathematics check - all words being mathematical to a Kabbalist - with one word of power per success. The number of words of power must equal or exceed the rank of the Spirit or Djinn to be Sealed. The number of successes in the Seal check must also equal or exceed the rank of the creature sealed. The creature Sealed cannot escape without assistance from a person outside the seal. The Seal is permanent otherwise. The Seal is made of wax, inscribed with a Sigil by the Kabbalist, with words recited over the Seal as the wax is inscribed.

Creating Golems
The Kabbalist can also create Golems. The Kabbalist first sculpts a rough humanoid figure from clay. Then the Hebrew letters of the Name of God are recited in various combinations while dancing around the Golem in a circle seven times. Then the three hebrew letters EDM (Truth) are carved into the forehead of the Golem. At this point the Kabbalist breathes on the face of the Golem and makes a Mathematics check. Five successes are needed to animate the Golem.

Kabbalist Profession
Person using numerology and language to control magical effects. Kabbalists may be either Jewish or Christian.

Prerequisites: Apprentice Scholar and Proto-Academic, INT 11+
Waiver Roll: N/A
Base Lifestyle: Upper Middle Class
Skills available: Warding, Astrology, Seals, Linguistics, Analysis, Astronomy, Course, Overdo, Operate, Mechanics, Mathematics, Evaluate, Focus, History, Research, Instruct, Meditation

Friday, October 22, 2010


I've been having a discussion about slowboats with Thalaba over on the RPG Haven which you may find interesting:

What technology propells these slowboats? What fuel? I assume they spend most of the trip drifting with the occasional course correction?

It's a fusion torch, fueled with deuterium - heavy hydrogen. They build up speed with a long slow burn over time to a fraction of c, drift for centuries, turn, then brake into the target system.

Incidentally, what are the by-products of deuterium fueled fusion? Are they using the same reactors on Earth to generate electricity?

Helium, mostly, with other light elements like lithium as traces. Yes, energy is cheap and abundant in the Solar system.

Are the people inside in suspended animation? All of them? Are the crews on rotation? If so, how much to the crew memebers age while the rest do not?

Most of the ships use a cold sleep technique which is a low-temperature hibernation, where the sleeper ages one hour in 20. The passengers are awake in decade-long shifts, with the vast majority being asleep at any given time. These shifts are generational - even with a one-in-twenty dilation, plus some relativistic dilation, the passengers age too fast to survive a substantial portion of the trip. The Passengers were the crew, though most of the passengers were busy teaching, learning, growing up, having children, and having as normal a life as possible.

The last few ships used a new cold sleep technique, where the passengers did not age in cold sleep. These passengers survived the entire trip from Earth to the Cluster, and they had a separate, much smaller, generational Crew which spent the voyage in shifts, though since they didn't age in their sleep times, they lasted far longer into the voyage.

(Suggestions) Other uses of cryo technology back home:
Illness: Freezing the terminally ill.
Jumpers: People with a sense of adventure and enough money to freeze themselve for the sole reason of getting to the future to either a) see what it's like, or b) cash in on investments without having to spend all that time waiting for them to mature.
Livestock: Frozen while still alive to either store them until they are needed for food, which might have a stabilizing effect on the markets and lead to 'cattle vintages', or to transport them to the colonies so fresh meat can be had.

Makes sense, but 1 in 1000 die from the process, so it's a bit of a lottery. The later cold sleep is safer, with only 1 in 10,000 dying.

What about life-support systems? Is the organic system inside the ship completely recycled, or does it accept inputs (presumably from storage). What happens to waste?

The assumption is that there will be loss, because no system is perfect, but with much better efficiencies than we can maintain.

This suggests that bio-recycling systems back home should be much improved, leading to a cleaner environment.

Very much so!

What about energy - is there a net gain, net loss, or a constant amount of energy over 1200 years? I'm having trouble believing a ship travelling that long would not suffer some sort of mishap that could lead to catastophe if the systems were finely balanced.

There is always a net loss. Energy is maintained by a fusion reactor - not the big torches - which uses the same fuel as the drives. Albert Bailey designed this "slowboat" system with me, and he is an actual rocket scientist - a plasma physicist. The drives and energy are the part we have the most faith in.

One reason I ask is that the technology required to send a ship over such a long distance would surely drive domestic innovation, too.

It certainly would! Not only is the better "Cold Sleep" introduced later in the process, but the ships themselves get better and better - faster, better designed, and more idiot proof. The last ships to get out are actually the first to arrive, as their transit is faster. The first ships to leave have not yet arrived. The later the ship leaves, the more certain it is of getting to the Cluster whole.

Now some ships die out, going silent on the long journey and never braking. On others, society melts down and people revert to a kind of savagery in the halls, leaving the ships on robotic autopilot. All kinds of mishaps occur! Systems - not just technological, but institutional and cultural - evolve to enhance the likelihood of arriving. There are more than enough ships sent to assure that some will arrive.

Very compelling stuff. Do the slow-boats communicate with one another while in transit?

Yes, they do, via radio waves, correspondingly doppler shifted as required. When a ship falls silent, the other ships will know that either the culture aboard has degraded too far, or that no one is alive. While the faster ships pass the slower ones, the pace of communication speeds up, then slows as the light speed lag decreases and increases. The steadiest communication is between ships launched at about the same time, with the same relative speed. At a certain point, it's useless to try to talk with ships light-lagged years or decades ahead or behind you, though.

This Diaspora is a central factor in all the descendant humans of the Cluster, like the journey of the Mormons to Utah, only extending for centuries. The necessarily static shipborne cultures had troubles when they finally got to their goals, as well. Static cultures do not thrive in an open and unfamiliar environment.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Tech Level and Population

There is a direct relationship between a culture's tech level and the available population needed to sustain it. That population needn't be politically or culturally part of the culture, but must be part of that culture's trading sphere - witness Singapore in the current era. Here are the relationships:

TL Age Population Required

0 Paleolithic Tens
1 Neolithic Hundreds
2 Ancient Thousands
3 Medieval Tens of Thousands
4 Renaissance Hundreds of Thousands
5 Steam Millions
6 Diesel Tens of Millions
7 Computer Hundreds of Millions
8 Fusion Billions
9 M/AM* Tens of Billions
10 FTL Hundreds of Billions


Population is not the only criterion for maintaining a Tech Lavel - you need appropriate materials, knowledge, and transportation available as well - but this ingredient is perhaps less obvious than the others.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Outremer: Mongols and Tatars

Dulahan over on RPGnet justly called me out on the way I had glossed over the time between the death of Saladin and the game date of 1560. Specifically, as a Mongolist, he insisted I had to deal with the Mongol invasion under Hulagu and the Tatars under timur (Tamerlane). I had glossed it over because I was in a mental hurry to get from the formative years to the action, sort of like in the gospels where Jesus is a baby then suddenly an adult. Dulahan was correct! I needed the detail those in-between years enough to explain where we are "now".

Hulagu was a grandson of Ghengis Khan, and one of the greatest Mongol kings. He had been assigned by his brother, the Great Khan Mongke, to deal with three problems in the middle east - the Assassins of Persia and Syria, the Mamluks of Egypt, and the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad. In the real timeline, he conquered all of Persia, wiping out the headquarters of teh Assassins at Alamut, took and sacked Baghdad and destroyed the Caliphate, then conquered Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs with the help of his allies, the Christian princes of Outremer. He turned back with most of his army because of the death of Mongke, and the need to elect another Great Khan - in this case Kublai Khan. A far smaller force under Kitbuqa was crushed by the Mamluks at Ayn Jalut in Galilee, and the Mongols were never able to sustain further conquest, though their Ilkhanate based in Persia endured until the time of Timur.

As an aside, Hulagu was very friendly to Christians - his mother and wife were Christian, as was his close friend and general Kitbuga. He may have been Christian himself, though this is in some doubt, and there is evidence he may have been Buddhist. The Mongols had complete freedom of religion, and individual Mongols chose their religions for themselves, rather than having it imposed.

In the late 14th century, Timur swept through the region. Timur was a descendent of Ghengis Khan, but his people were a mishmash of Mongol and Turkic people called the Tatars. He claimed legitimacy as a Khan, but he was never given it - he had to take it. Timur and all his followers were Muslim, though he killed far more Mulims than infidels. His Tatars destroyed the Ilkhanate, razed Baghdad with extreme prejudice - about 9 out of 10 inhabitants were killed, took Syria, then hammered the Ottomans - who took over a decade to recover - and Mamluk Egypt. He then turned his attentions to the east, and in the first years of the new century died on the verge of conquering Ming China with a vast horde.

In the Outremer timeline:

In 1192, after marrying his brother to Joan of Sicily and forming the new Muslim Kingdom of Jerusalem, Saladin was assassinated in Damascus. Simultaneously, the Assassins took Homs by treachery, and moved many of their people there over the next few years. Saladin never took anything beyond Syria, and Egypt remained under the Fatimids, who were not enemies of the Mongols, unlike the Mamluks.

In 1260, the Mongols under Hulagu allied with the Prince of Antioch and the Count of Tripoli, smashed the Assassins in Masyaf, taking Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo as well. Jerusalem offered tribute to Hulagu before it too was crushed, and Hulagu left, his mission completed, back to Persia.

By this time, though, the ruling clans in Homs and Hamah were decidedly Ismaili, and after a succession of Ilkhan governors, regained their independence after Timur rolled through everything to the east about 1400, along with the Sunni powers in Aleppo and Damascus.

There was no campaign in Egypt, the Mamluks never took power as the slaves from the north went elsewhere. The Fatimid Caliphs in Cairo were dissolute and nowhere near as warlike as the Mamluks. They made token submission to Hulagu, and were left in place.

Baghdad was revived from near extinction after the sacks of Hulagu and Timur, when remnants of the Ayyubids regained control of Iraq in the late fifteenth century. It still has nowhere near the power it once had, but controls most of the Tigris and Euphrates valleys.

Timur had two goals in the real timeline, crushing the Mamluks and the Ottomans. There were no Mamluks, so he turned on the Ottomans alone, staggering them for decades, before turning back to the East. His descendants - the Timurids - never amounted to anything, and his empire dissipated.

This gives me what I need for the setting, and actually explains the survival of the crusader states better than what I had. Being allies of Hulagu - which they were in our timeline as well - would leave them more strongly in place. The Ottomans were not destroyed, but were hit very hard, and took long to recover - leaving Armenia and Edessa in place, and allowing for Constantinople to survive.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pre-Cluster Part Deux

Started working on the Pre-Cluster last night. Re-read the intro to SC3, which I wrote half a year ago, and noticed some things I have to adhere to:

Venus was well terraformed, as was Mars. Cheap fusion power can really help with that, though I suspect it was microbial action that helped terraform Venus. This does not say that these worlds were very settled yet, or that the terraforming was finished, just that it was well under way.

Jupiter's and Saturn's moons had thriving colonies. This is easy enough to adhere to!

The Belt was well developed. OK, No problem here!

The Centauri colony was thriving. Great, but out of the Solar System, so not under this jurisdiction.

The Barnard's Star and Wolf colonists were on their way. And never did reach their intended targets. They tried to reach the 60 lY radius of devastation in time by coasting, but no one knows if they succeeded. Their ships were slow, and not intended for anything more than trips of a handful of light years. If they did make the limit, they probably didn't survive the long trip out. The Centauri colonists refurbished their ship, adding fuel tankage and improving engine efficiency with the latest Earth improvements, and definitely made it out in time, though by the skin of their teeth. They had to leave many colonists behind to die. Their ship will arrive in the Cluster 500 + years after the first ship made it.

So - I made up an orbitmap, with all the inhabited worlds - moons, planets, and orbitals - in the system, though I haven't placed the orbitals yet. I'll post that up tonight, when I get home.

Oh! When I said I will release this, I meant for free DL. I noticed I wasn't specific in my previous post. This is just a fun little mini-project for me.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mini-Project: Pre-Cluster

I've decided. I'm going to do a setting for SC3 based on the Solar System as it existed before the coming disaster that caused the Diaspora was dicovered. This may include the extrasolar colony in Alpha Centauri, but not the other colony ships, as they had not yet established themselves by this time. I am tempted to only refer to the extrasolar colonies in passing though. Setting up a viable Tech Level 8 society will be job enough.

I will use the random tables in SC3 to an extent - we know where the planets and moons of the Solar system are, their natural Conditions, and that Earth will be the most heavily populated world, but the details may be best determined randomly. It may be that Mars is not a popular place, and that Europa or Ceres are far more heavily settled. using an element of random generation will result in my having to come up with reasons *why*, which is always more interesting than doing the expected.

There should also be a heavy contingent of orbitals and stations, which are not there at this time. The cheap energy of fusion coupled with the cheap resources of in-system space make such a development likely.

Politically, the UN and it's member nations will be the prototype of the Leagues of the Cluster, with their member worlds. The UN does not rule worlds, but it regulates the space between them. A closer model for the Leagues than the current UN would be an amalgam of NATO and the EU, but the UN may grow into that - or absorb these entities - by the time of the setting, so I will go that way.

One thing I can do is add in a bioengineered solution for calcium loss in zero g. I have always assumed it, but it's best to place it front and center for this setting.

This would not be at all post-human. TL 8 bioscience is pretty much limited to non-visible changes in humanity. There will be early uplifts, and simple - but still sapient - robots, but the setting will be mostly human.

Average PSI will be 0, not the current -2, or the Cluster's 2. This is a result of early bioengineering, and the fact that the people sent to the Cluster later would not only be of a somewhat later generation, but be their best and brightest.

This culture will be shattered by the news of the impending disaster, and the culture that girds up its loins and sends ship after ship out into the unknown in faint hope of some of them surviving will be a different beast altogether - more like the US Home Front in WW II. This may be remembered by those refugees as a golden age, fraught with both danger and opportunity.

Any ideas you'd like to see implemented?


Monday, October 4, 2010

Odds and Ends

I have released SC 3, so now I am dealing with the stuff I left out. Most of the supplemental stuff that was released for SC 2 has been included or covered in the new game, but there are bits and bobs left over that I will eventually have to rerelease. The Marial Arts supplement is a prime example. In SC3, I covered only 2 martial arts, brawling, the natural fighting style, and unarmed, a military/police oriented art. The Guide to Martial Arts, on the other hand, covered such MAs as Boxing, Karate, Jujitsu, Capoera, and others, with a method to create your own. Unfortunately, it's tied to percentile mechanics, and needs rewriting entirely to be mechanic agnostic.

I would also love to create some settings for SC3. One would be the Solar system as it was just before the Diaspora began, so that everything was TL 8 with no FTL. I think this would be a fascinating setting to play in, and worth doing right. Another would be Glorianna, but that would be a hugely complex job to take on!

I also need to create a slimmed down version of SC3 with a sample cluster to play in, to be released for free download. This would not have all the options and tools in SC 3, just a slimmed down chargen and a couple sample ships. It should be able to use the drop in resolution sub-systems, and accurately reflect the full game, though. In other words, slimmed down, not dumbed down.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

StarCluster 3 is Out, and Self-Balancing Edges

Just to note, SC 3 is out. The Developer's Edition is outselling the Standard Edition by about 10 to 1, which is weird. I doubt that many people want to develop for the game, so why spend more money?

I realized today that Edges are self balancing. If you define the Edge broadly, you cover more conditions. If you define it more tightly, it's more likely to be able to stack with other Edges. I love self-balancing stuff!


Sunday, September 26, 2010

StarCluster 3 Developer’s License

Purchase of the StarCluster 3 Developer’s Edition, and registering your intent to use your license with xxxxxxx@yyyyyy.zzz, entitles you to develop new material based on the materials in this game. As a registered developer, you may use the ”Powered By StarCluster 3” logo on the next page. You may publish this work commercially, or you may publish this work non-commercially as you wish. As use of the ”Powered By StarCluster 3” logo tells the customer that your work is compatible with StarCluster 3, use of the logo on non-compatible works would be non-compliant.

What You Can Take:

In your derivative work, you specifically may use the text from pages numbered 50 to 56 and the pages numbered 67 to 73 from the StarCluster Character Generation chapter, the entirety of the Guide to Skills, PSI Skills, Edges, and Traits, and the entirety of the Playing the StarCluster RPG chapter if you wish, with or without alteration. You may use the ideas and concepts in the rest of this game book, but may not use any other text from this book without expressing it in your own words. This is a license to develop your own work based on this work, not a license to copy or distribute this work.

You may:

Produce an entirely new game, optionally using the material specified in the preceding paragraph along with your own developed work.

Produce supplementary material for your own game based on the StarCluster 3 game, as in the preceding paragraph, such as setting, equipment, adventures, and other supplementary material.

Produce supplementary material for the StarCluster 3 game, such as setting, equipment, adventures, and other supplementary material.

Produce new resolution sub systems for use with this work or any other work derived from this work.

Use the generators and tools in this game to produce your material if you wish.
Refer to concepts and system components by the names used in this book - there is, for example, no need to rename Traits to something else in order to use the concept. This practice is, in fact, recommended.

Change the orientation and size, but not the proportions, of the ”Powered By StarCluster 3” logo.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Simplifying StarCluster 3 Chargen

Most of the crunch in StarCluster 3 is in Chargen. The chargen for the game is designed to yield very individual PCs at the end, but the process is detailed. I've been thinking about how to shorten this process for developers who do not want or need the fine detail inherent in the process.

Let's drop the concept of separate skills entirely, and make Professions functionally equal to Skills. In effect, professions become broadly defined skills, like Risus cliches. A Soldier can do any Soldier thing, and a Lawyer can do Lawyer things. Skill Rank can equal Professional Rank. The rate of professional rank acquisition is up to the developer, but a StarCluster 3 standard 35% promotion rate translates to 3.5 promotions after 10 years, so that would round up to 4 promotions, or one rank every 2 years, when the base +1 is figured in. one can roll for rank acquisition, or you can assume it, or you can allocate points, whatever the developer prefers.

As for education, figure a Bachelors worth +2, Masters +3, and PhD worth +5 in the subject studied. Background skills should be treated as Edges - Hardscrabble Farmer, or Pampered Rich Kid - and be worth 1. I think this scheme would be easy to set up, simple to use, and be very much in the Pulp/Comic spirit.

One doesn't have to define or even list these Professions. People know what modern professions entail, and can supply them ad hoc if needed. A few examples will suffice in this case. Otherwise, a listing like the ones in the StarCluster 3 book - without the skills - would suffice for settings with professions that need detailing.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

StarCluster 3 Finished

I did the last bits of StarCluster 3 yesterday. Spent the day indexing and spell-checking everything. The only thing left is the developer's license, which still has to be worked out. I'm looking now for reviewers. The game will be released the 29th.

I could not find a license that would do what I wanted, so I will have to word my own. As I AM NOT A LAWYER, this will probably fail utterly to either protect my work or encourage others to share what they do with it. Thus I am dreading this.

I am just about wrung out. I know two games will be developed by others under this license, but beyond that I am totally blind.


Monday, September 20, 2010

The Axes of Skill Handling

I've been playing with a concept over on The RPG Site the last few days. The idea is that how a system handles skills can be quantified along certain axes. The axes we seem to have settled on in the thread are:


For the purposes of this discussion, anything that functions as a skill is covered. For instance some games use Professions or Classes as skills, in that they are what supplies the character's target number - or the character's part of the TN - for a test. This does not cover actual interpretation of how skills are handled by a GM, which is impossible to quantify for all GMs.

Player/Group-defined<--->Designed is a continuum from a game whare all skills are player or group defined and/or created to one where all skills are designed into the game by the designer. Example: Risus allows players to create their own Cliches - the functional equivalent of skills in that game.

Broadly-defined<--->Narrowly-defined is a continuum from a game where all skills are defined so as to cover a great deal of circumstances to a game where each skill is defined so as to cover a very limited set of circumstances. Example: A skill such as Science is generally broadly defined, where a skill like Hydrodynamics is generally narrowly defined.

Edge-defined<--->Center-defined is a continuum from a game where all skills are defined by their limits to a game where all skills are described by their central focus, with the limits being left vague. For example, GURPS skills are generally defined with a statement describing in a fair amount of detail what is and is not covered by the skill, whereas in Risus a Cliche like Lion Tamer is defined as "Stuff that has to do with Taming Lions."

Overlapping<--->Discrete is a continuum from a game where different skills may apply to the same situation to a game where the problem dictates the skill used. For Example, one game may allow you to use your Rifle skill to operate a pistol - either as is or with a modifier, while another game may force you to use the Pistol Skill, perhaps with a default.

Nested<--->Stand-alone is a continuum from a game where all skills start out as root skills which can in some manner be specialized into several other skills to a game where all skills are essentially unrelated. For Example, in Ringworld, you can take a root skill of Physics, which can be specialized into Physics: Astrophysics and/or Physics: Plasma etc.

The endpoints of these axes are essentially theoretical - such paragons seldom exist in the real world - but they are none the less effective. As to the gradations, make them however fine you want to make them. Strongly - Weakly - Neutral - Weakly - Strongly works fine, or 1 to 10, or -9 to +9 for that matter. However you feel comfortable.

Some combinations are more common than others I'm sure you can supply dozens of examples for some combinations, and none for others. Breaking down how one can handle skills is a useful tool, either in design or in nailing down why one reacts the way one does to a particular game, thus allowing you to apply that to other games.

How many times have you heard "I can't stand games with over X number of skills!"? On the surface, this makes no sense - there is no cutoff switch in the brain where when X is reached no more information can be processed. However, maybe they are actually disliking Narrowly-defined and/or Discrete and/or Edge-defined skills, all of which are associated by custom and usage with long lists. If you can address that, you have gained something.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Detail and Field of View

Here's an experiment. Take your camera and look at something through the view finder. Zoom all the way in. Now zoom all the way out. Notice that, zoomed in, you can see many details of the area you are focused on, but when you zoom out, you can see a much larger area. This is a law of perception - Field of View and Level of Detail are inversely related, given the same data flow. When you increase your Field of View, you decrease your Level of Detail, and vice versa.

"Well, clash," you say, irritated at the irrelevancy of the previous paragraph, "What's a camera got to do with RPGs? Are you changing your blog subject now?"

Hear me out! That is just an easily demonstrable illustration of that general principle, which applies to anything, including RPGs. The more detail you put in, the smaller your field of view needs to be, or else you need to increase the amount of information - i.e. make the game longer. This applies to everything - systems as well as settings.

Generally, increasing detail gives you increased flavor, but there are things you can do to increase flavor without increasing size much. Painting in broad strokes while implying much more is one way. With this method, the reader supplies the missing detail, much as the viewer of the movie Jaws supplies the shark. Increasing detail in the system - which generally is much smaller in total size than the setting - while keeping the setting sketchy is another. With this method, interacting with the system supplies the missing setting flavor. A third way is to allow the users to generate the setting in whatever detail they like by supplying setting generation tools. This engages the group's/players' creative abilities in a rewarding manner.

Of course, you can always just write more on the setting...


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Skills: The Thinning

Some folks really, really, really are bothered by the number of skills available. This attitude has always surprised me, though I don't question its validity for those concerned, so let's explore thinning out skills in the StarCluster system.

One thing you should always keep in mind - reducing the number of available skills directly reduces character options and thus character flavor. This is an asset in some genres, like Pulp, with its strongly drawn archetypes, and supers, to whom skill use is of minor importance next to Powers. It is not an asset in genres with subtle differences between character types, but if you are bothered by number of skills, this is presumably not a problem, or is taken care of in other ways.

Reducing the number of skills itself is not a problem in the StarCluster System. Since all skills are center-defined, as a skill is removed, the other skills close by naturally expand to take up the slack. For example, medical skills in standard StarCluster 3 would be Diagnosis, Treatment, Surgery, Drug, and Herbalism. If you removed Drug, Herbalism, and Diagnosis, you are left with Treatment and Surgery. Just subsume some of the damage that would be healed by Drugs or Herbalism into the other two skills' healing, and you are set. You could also roll Treatment and Surgery together as well, if you want to, into a Medicine skill, also increasing the damage healed once again. Using this collapsing process, you can bring the StarCluster galaxy of skills down to about 20 core skills, or anything in between, as Klaxon did for his supers game, Look! Up In The Sky!.

Now you need to change the rate of skill acquisition by the compression factor - the ratio between the starting number of skills and the number you ended up with - otherwise you will end up with supers in every hovel, and everyone able to do everything at a Master's level. For example, SC 3 has about 100 skills, including PSI skills. Compressing it to 20 skills gives a ratio of 5 to 1, as 100 divided by 20is 5. If it takes 5 years to learn 5 skill ranks in standard SC3 professions, then it should take you five years to learn 1 skill rank in the compressed Skill version of professions. This ratio would also give you 3 Background Skills for your first 18 years. As for education, an Associates degree would give you one skill in 2 years, a Bachelors 3 skills in 4 years, a Masters 1 skill in 2 years, and a PhD 2 skills in 4 years.

You would probably have to mess around with the professions of course, but that would be relatively straight forward, and would need doing if you were customizing for a setting anyway. Doing this will give you a game that will play just fine by SC rules, using any of the resolution mechanics, with the number of skills you want.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The FATE Skill Pyramid

OK, I like FATE. It's got some great ideas in there, and it's amorphous enought to easily change it in whatever direction you want. I don't like compels, for example, but it's easy enough to just not use them and have the players refresh FATE points voluntarily. Works a treat!

There is one thing about FATE that just rubs me the wrong way, though, and it's pretty much central to the game. That's the Skill Pyramid. In FATE, a character has to structure her skills pyramidally, so that she has one skill at the highest rank - the apex skill - two at the next rank down, three at the third rank down, etc.

Why does this bother me? It's too freaking neat and artificial. It's a BUILD. It is so obviously not natural that it jars me. It is there for the same reason D&D has classes - to make everyone in the party the best at something - enforced niche specialization. It is also, curiously, a bit of Anti-Munchkin Engineering, which means it's a limitation on the good guys too. I trust my players! They are awesome! Why do I need these stupid training wheels?

The next time I run a FATE game - which will be Diaspora - I will try ditching the Pyramid in favor of something less rigid and artificial. Maybe a rule saying no skill rank can be higher than ((total skill ranks)/X). Maybe just leave it open. I'll let you know the results!


Friday, September 3, 2010

StarCluster 3 Update

Playtesting continues to bear fruit. Last night (Thursday) we poked and prodded at SC3, as the guys made characters, worlds, and aliens. We also decided which mechanic to use (StarNova) and how many troupe characters each (three). John found some formating issues, a couple simply fixed, others requiring more effort. Tim also found a formating problem in CharGen, one which one of my Saturday players also hit - fixed by making the sidebox text more prominent.

This will be a problem with running StarCluster 3 - it requires some time and effort to set up in play. The good part is, if you set it up in game with the players helping, everyone learns and buys into the system. The good thing about the GM setting it up out of game play is that you can jump right in, but you don't have the understanding of the setting you gain with making it. I expect 3rd party pre-made settings to be a popular add-on, either for profit or for free.

I also came up with a simple and easy to use method of using senses. In a game featuring aliens and animal uplifts, senses can play a powerful role. Humans have a fine sense of sight, but everything else is pretty poor, so all the skill chances are normalized to human sight. In SC3, human sight is ranked at 3. If McGruff, your bloodhound uplift with a sense of smell ranked 5 wants to Track a fugitive, how does it work?

Well, Tracking is normalized for Human sight (3). McGruff is using Smell 5. Subtract that 3 from the sense you are using to de-normalize it. 5-3 is +2. Each point of difference is worth a Small Modifier. McGruff, then adds 2 Small Bonuses to his Tracking skill check. Suppose a Human (Hearing 1) wanted to Observe a conversation by overhearing it? Subtract 3 from 1, getting a result of -2. The human would have 2 Small Penalties to his Observe skill check. Works a treat!

Now, using a different sense for swimming would not net you any result, because like many skills, Swimming is not sensory based. However skills like Analyze could very well be sensory-based. Senses need to be ranged as well, with standard range modifiers, but that can wait til tonight to finalize!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Swords of Albion Series and OHMAS

I just finished reading the Swords of Albion book 1, the Silver Skull. It was very, very strange for me to read it. It's as if it were an Actual Play of an On Her Majesty's Arcane Service game, written up by a decent author - except for the whole Unseelie Court thing, as there is no such animal in OHMAS. I had no idea this book existed before someone commented about the similarities on a forum (I think!) discussion of OHMAS. The similarities are stunning!

It's not like In Harm's Way: Dragons!, where I read the Temeraire series long before writing the game, and where I was acutely concious of where I diverged from that series - all the details, BTW. This was, was, was bizzare! I had no clue this book series existed. Everything was created in parallel, separately. OHMAS is far closer to Swords of Albion than IHW: Dragons! is to Temeraire. If I had read it before writing OHMAS, the game would have been different, because I would have been conciously *making* it different. I just feel strange about the whole thing...


Cthulhu Does Not == Bacon!

When you add bacon to anything, it just gets better. Cheeseburger < Bacon Cheeseburger. Baked Potato < Baked Potato with Bacon. Turkey Sandwich < Turkey Club Sandwich. It's just a fact of culinary life.

Now I love CoC, but Cthulhu does not equate to bacon. RPGs are not automatically better because they have the Mythos in them. I just wanted to point this out, because it seems a lot of people think the way to make their games way more awesomer is to stick Nyarlathotep in there somewhere. Just like painting racing stripes on your car does not make it any faster. Just sayin'!


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Setting Playability

Game playability is a vital concept which most current game designers understand and practice. Unfortunately, Most focus on system playability - making the systems easy to understand, appropriate for the game and setting, and flexible enough to cover anticipated play. This is a laudable goal, and one not always a goal to the previous generation of designer. A different goal, and one I see met far less frequently, is Setting Playability.

Settings designed without keeping the goal of Setting Playability in mind can fall into what I call End Traps. End Traps are where the concepts behind the setting are pushed to a logical conclusion and become metastable. The settings cannot be affected by the PCs in any meaningful way. This frustrates groups who may like the setting otherwise. Settings need to be dynamic - stable enough to last, but not so stable as to be eternally unchanging.

Another potential trap is Setting Paralysis, where the setting is so different in every way from anything the group has seen before that GMs and players are mentally stunned - they have no handle to grasp, nothing familiar to ease their way into the setting. It's always good to have some familiar bits as well as some far out stuff in a setting. That way those unfamiliar with the basic tropes can have an opening into the setting.

Of course a huge problem with established setting is Setting Buy-in. This is where there is so much to learn about in order to get going that it all becomes more like work than play. This one is difficult to get around, because older setting just accumulate cruft. Even settings which are new to games may have been around a long while as TV shows or books. The difficult trick is to find the right balance between Too Much Information for newbies and Not Enough Information for existing fans.

Just some thoughts


Monday, August 30, 2010

Some Relicts and Randomness

I am running a StarCluster 3 game on Thursday nights with Tim Kirk (Silverlion), his wife, and John, both of whom comment here on this blog. Last Thursday we created our company, a combination of the A-Team, Leverage, and Burn Notice. We also created our Sector - the play area. We each took three stars and created systems for them.

My three systems were Honeybee, Toddler, and Caliban. We created the systems randomly, like the sector, with the tables in the game.

The Honeybee System

What I liked about the Honeybee System was Queen Bee, the big gas giant, which was populated by hundreds of millions of mostly Vantor living in the clouds. Yet it was not a State, but only an Affiliate. What occurs to me is that it is probably a fractured rather than a unified, society - unable to solidify into a world government necessary to become a State. Another bit I liked was Caesar. Caesar is normally uninhabitable, but has a single, large inhabited feature. There are a lot of possibilities for this, but what intrigued me was an oasys on a desert planet, one area with enough water to support life.

The Toddler System

The most interesting thing about the Toddler system to me is the two space stations. One is inhabited, with 10s of millions of mostly Humans. The other is uninhabited, strangely. I posited that the people of the habitat outgrew the old station and built a new one. It has drifted, derelict, into the trailing trojan point of the world Barrelhouse. There is also a large asteroid in the leading trojan, Kabinda, inhabited by millions of humans, but at a Tech level of 5 - Steam technology. This was, I determined, a rock hollowed out by the robot brain of a Diaspora ship from earth. Something had gone wrong with the passengers, and their culture had collapsed. The robot brain of the ship, doing its best to find them a home, had heated the asteroid and filled it with breathable gasses, creating a safe place for the broken society, after seeding the interior, it let the people out into their new home, where slowly they had built up a new, more stable society. As TL 5 is the minimum tech level allowing contact, the asteroid has probably only recently been contacted.

The Chandrasekar System

The most intriguing thing about the Chandrasekar System is the concourse of four inhabited moons orbiting the gas giant Einstein. The intricate social dance of these varied worlds - one independent, one Diasporan community, and two SaVaHuTa - all States and Colonizers, must be fascinating. I'd love to look at the development of their interdependence.

Random creation forces us to come up with non-standard solutions to the problems they present. Why is one station uninhabited? Why are these steam-tech humans living on a big asteroid? What possible combination of strange coincidences must have happened here to create this anomaly? This is why I love random generation - it forces me to think out of the box.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Metaskills and Edges

In StarCluster 2E, and carryed forward in no other game I ever designed, I introduced a concept called metaskills. Metaskills were an attempt to create a class of skills which could modify other skills when used in conjunction. For example Design (Metaskill) + Engineering (Skill) would be designing ship's drives and power, While Design + Electronics would design gadgets, and Design + Construction would design houses and other structures. Nifty idea, no? No. it was complicated to use - they boosted the Skill Check in an awkward way - and most people could never figure out how or when to use them. I bulled it through the playtesters' confusion, convinced it would work. I learned my lesson, and never used them again.

With In Harm's Way: Wild Blue, I came up with another concept - Edges. Edges are bonuses which would apply to any skill test when the matching condition was in effect. For example, the Edge Split Second - favored by fighter pilots - would be in effect whenever absolutely precise timing was critical. This worked nicely, and I've incorporated Edges into many games since, including In Harm's Way: StarCluster and StarCluster 3.

A couple of days ago, I realized what should be apparent by my juxtaposition of these two concepts - Edges are Metaskills.

Conceptually, they are both ways to treat a broad competence combined with narrower skills. If you are good at designing things, you will be better at designing electronic gadgets than someone with equal Electronics skills and no design training. Metaskills were just awkward to use, and badly named. Edges are simpler to comprehend - it's plain, standard English to say someone has an edge in a particular circumstance, whereas metaskill is a made up word - and simpler to execute - Edges are a straight Small Bonus, whereas Metaskill application needed a formula.

So now I am going to revisit SC 3's Skills and Edges with this in mind. I have a feeling there will be some changes!


Monday, August 23, 2010

Saturday's Game

Had our first full-on playtest of StarNova Sunday. By that I mean creating characters intended for StarNova and playing exclusively with it, rather than swapping it in on the fly to test it out. It was a hellova good game! StarNova is both extremely gritty and explosively high powered, due to the exploding 6. My players loved it, ranking it just behind StarPerc and on a par with StarPool in their favorite mechanics! Their closest comparison was to Pendragon, where life can be tenuous and death fast. My players do not care at all for StarKarma, the randomless mechanic, BTW, though they all say it works fine. They just prefer some random action - any random action.

Their characters are fun! Most are performers of some type who work in acts in the Casino - an extremely dumb exotic dancer (stripper) named Candi, a stage magician named the Great Marvello and his equally gifted assistant, and a knife thrower/actor/dancer. There's also the scions of the Castella Family - the grandson of the Don, Fabrizzio, who has led the life of a playboy, but now must shoulder the burden of running the family now that his father is dead, his half-sister, daughter of the ex-playboy's father and his father's lifelong mistress who was killed with him, and the ex-playboy's driver-bodyguard. The young man is intelligent, but utterly untrained for this, and his most trusted companions are not the made men around his father, but the lounge acts from the Casino. The first session was extraordinarily funny, and wonderfully in character for all. The group find out that his father and mistress were murdered, most likely by a member of the family, which only serves to drive them closer together.

The Casino is on an "island" - a chunk of rock floating in the Necklace, a breathable gas torus (a la Niven's Smoke Ring) around a neutron star, with an artificial River - created by gravitic technology - endlessly writhing through the torus. These chunks of rock, covered with vegitation, orbit the neutron star and many are inhabited. This island is fairly small. Many are huge. I have painted a view of the island:


Friday, August 20, 2010

StarCluster 3 - Playtest Status Report

I just sent out Beta version 3 of StarCluster 3. It adds a number of new things, fixes some small problem areas in chargen, clarifies some things better, and includes the beginnings of the Developers Support for the Developer's Edition. I still have to word the license and add some more stuff in the Developer's Notes. Aside from that, fixing the Index is the biggest task left before proofing.

I'm still planning on releasing SC 3 at the end of September/Beginning of October. Barring some catastrophe, I should be able to make that deadline.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Echolocator Implant

An Implant for StarCluster 3.

Lifestyle: Rich
Time Cost: 1 month - to get used to the slight unavoidable delay in data capture and image processing, which initially causes dizziness.
TL: 9

Benefits: Passively, the Echolocator allows personal navigation in complete darkness by mapping the surroundings by tracking sonic echoes off of surfaces. The sensor data is processed into a three dimenional model, with the resulting construct fed into the optic nerves and processed by the visual centers of the brain. In this mode, the construct is dim and ghostly, pulsing with transient sound, with only the most solid objects - stone, metal, and the like - reflecting images with any solidity. The Passive mode range is 3 meters. In Active mode, the ultrasonic emitter sends out a regular pinging pulse, rendering the surroundings with far greater detail. The denser the substance of the object, the more solid they appear in either mode. the Active mode range is 10 meters. People tend to look like ghosts, even in Active mode, though in that mode they are rendered in much greater detail, and without irregular pulsing. In Active mode, if the forehead is placed in direct contact with solid surfaces, it is possible to detect voids and differing meterials placed within the surface within one meter. The field of view mimics the visual field of view of the person, but placed slightly higher.

Drawbacks: Active Pinging can be heard by creatures with hearing rated 3 or higher. Non-dense objects and surfaces can appear transparent.

Description: An ultrasound emitter and sensor is placed in the middle of the forehead, replacing part of the skull. The device is interconnected to the optic nerves, allowing the construct to be perceived as if it were vision. The skin is replaced over the device, and it is normally invisible.



Monday, August 16, 2010

StarCluster 3 - IRC game #1

I started the first of my IRC StarCluster 3 games Sunday. It was a building session, deciding all kinds of things. The players decided they wanted to play in the StarCluster 2 Cluster, Gloria system, continuing our Glorianna-Warren war scenario from SC 2. They all are creating new characters, two each, who have no connection with our old characters. They created a Company called Delivery Services, based on Fiske in the Gloria system. Fiske is a neutral world, unaffiliated with -actually competing with - both Glorianna and Warren. Fiske was settled by a group with 19th century American Cultural Emulation, so we defined its Cultural Traits as Friendly 2, Corrupt 2, Can Do 2, and Freewheeling 1. We figured it should be a hotbed of spying, like Casablanca in WWII, or Berlin in the Cold War.

Delivery Services was, until recently, a delivery service, employing couriers to deliver important packages and papers. just recently, it was bought out by a group of investors. These people are intelligence operatives, and they have begun to change Delivery Services into an intelligence gathering outfit, retaining the old Courier service as a front. Players may choose one of three levels for their two characters:

Partner. These are the ex-ops who bought the company. They are skilled but for various reasons - being wanted for espionage, persona non grata, illegal immigration - are not going to go out on the actual op much. They control the company, its resources, and its operatives.

Op. These are the seasoned operatives brought in to the Company who are *not* Partners, and are intended for fieldwork.

Trainees. These are likely-looking couriers who are being trained as operatives, sometimes without their knowledge. Some of them are in on the change, and some aren't.

The company purchased the following assets:

A Warehouse. This is the home of the front company, the Courier service. It's got some offices, some repair facilities for vehicles, and a front counter for cutomers. The legit couriers work out of this warehouse.

Six Air Trucks. These are 5 ton grav vehicles, which can go into orbit or move packages anywhere on Fiske. Some of these have been tricked out for intelligence work.

Six Air Bikes. Also mainly for the couriers, these are for papers and small package delivery. Also grav vehicles, these can go to orbit, but being open, you would need a vacuum suit to do so. They are small, fast, and inconspicuous.

2 Local Sympathizers. These are locals working for the Warren and Gloriannan Embassies who have been bribed into passing things concerning Fiske along to the Company.

Common and Unclommon Legal Databases. This is to let them know the law so they can sidestep it. One of the PCs is a lawyer as well as a partner.

Secret Base. Located under the warehouse, and accessible only to those in the know and trusted by the company. The entrance is hidden, and won't show on scans, being made from Active Plasteel which looks solid.

Four Trainees. These are not the PCs, but may become PCs if needed. They are couriers being trained in intelligence techniques. Rookies.

Maintenance and Logistics. This eats up a ton of capital, but is necessary for both the front and the real Company to function.

Working Capital. The Company has 84 points in liquid capital to spend on emergency assistance (bribes), aquisition of humint talent (suborning people to work for them), and other needful expenditures.

The players are creating their characters this week. We have some wierd ones so far! An uplifted octopus, an escaped android Warrenese Second Wife, and a bioengineered human-wolf hybrid top the list. :D

I'm really looking forward to this! This game runs Sunday afternoons. IRC Game #2 will be running Thurday nights.