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.