Friday, December 27, 2013

High Strung Example Character

So - moving along with High Strung! I have chargen finished. Here's an example character:

Assign one each of 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, and 5 to an Attribute.
VOIS (Voice) 8
FNGR (Fingers) 10
DANS (Dance) 5
ENRG (Energy) 7
CUTE (Cuteness) 9
SMRT (Smarts) 6

Choose your age, apply modifiers.

24 -25 (Hippie)
You’ve been at this a while, haven’t you? Your chops have never been better, but why does there have to be such crap? You have a Decent Job, and the Real World is looking tempting.
Base Hope: 12
Attribute Mods: CUTE+1, ENRG+1, FNGR+1, VOIS+2
Skills: Apportion 13 Skill Points from your Training Skills

Up to age 24, you are limited to one Training. Over 24, you may choose two Trainings.

Training 1 - Relentless Gigging
You played for a pop cover band. Skills are Play Instrument, Sing, Choreograph, Banter, Groupies. Your Style is Pop, and you gain +1 to ENRG

Training 2 - Art Schooler
You were an art major who slipped into music somehow. Skills are Graphics, Flash, Play Instrument, Sing, Promote. Your Style is Progressive, and you gain +1 to CUTE

Styles: Styles are your preferred style of music, and when you
perform in that style, things just go better. You gain 2
Small Bonuses whenever you play a song in your Style.

How Skills Work
Skills are capped at a rank of +2. in order to go beyond +2, you must specialize.
Anything can be a Specialization, if the GM agrees. Three possible specializations for each skill are included in the table above.
Unlike other skills, Play Instrument is immediately separated into type - Strings, Keyboards, Beat, Reeds, and Brass. This is because the mechanics of playing each Type of instrument are very different. After +2, they are further specialized like all Skills. Play Instrument would be noted thus - Skill: Subskill (Specialization).
Example - Play Instrument: Reed (Baritone Sax) +4, playing Baritone Sax, Skill Check is at +4, playing Alto Sax, Skill Check is at +2.

Example Character: Shelly (Chili) Burns
VOIS (Voice) 8 + 2 = 10
FNGR (Fingers) 10 +1 = 11
DANS (Dance) 5
ENRG (Energy) 7 + 1 + 1 = 9
CUTE (Cuteness) 9 +1 +1 = 11
SMRT (Smarts) 6

Base Hope: 12
Styles: Progressive and Pop
Job: Decent

Graphics +2
Flash +1
Play Instrument: Strings +2 (Guitar+3)
Sing +2 (Smoky+4)
Promote +1
Choreograph +0
Banter +1
Groupies +1

Monday, December 23, 2013

Political Map of Earth for Lowell Was Right! Campaign

Here is the political map of our campaign Earth, for the year 2014 in LWR!

The world is divided among eight Great Powers - an Isolationist USA, which has combined with Mexico and Canada, A South American Confederation - with some Central American and Caribbean buffer states - owns the Panama Canal.

The Ottoman Empire has overrun most of Europe, with only the UK, Eire, and Scandanavia still free. A Pan Arab Caliphate rules from Morocco to Iraq, the Tsars own the north from Belarus and Finland to Kamchatka. The Manchus and the Japan-led Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere had been fighting, but now they are competitive Facist buddies. Australasia brings up the south, ruling from New Zealand to Malaya. Right smack in the middle are The Stans, a battleground between all the old world Powers in Proxy Wars. Africa South of the Sahara is mostly a sea of smaller nations, none of them Great Powers.

This campaign world was created by the players, by either nomination - South American Confederation, Tsarist Russia, Isolationist USA - or random roll. It's a nasty world, full of strife and war. Few of the Powers are speaking to each other. The players mean to be out in the solar system somewhere, though the Association is as yet un-created, so I'm not sure yet just how, where, or why. Probably the reason is to escape the horrid state of the Earth! :D

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sunday's IRC Game

Ran the last In Harm's Way: Napoleonic Naval game of the year yesterday. It ended in epic fashion, with a small group infiltrating - via a creek and canoes - the palace at Bluefields, and saving five year old King George from death by Poison Dart Frog toxin, as his uncle Stephen's poisoner and four other lackeys were killed in the fray, along with several guards.

Out front, between Bluefields and the palace, the confrontation between would-be-King Stephen and his advisor the Admiral's forces, and the forces of General Robinson and the British Flotilla was stopped with a parlay. During the parlay, one of Stephen's Assassins attempted to kill Princess Emma with a thrown poisoned knife, but Lt. Bobby Cooper interposed her body - Bobby is a woman disguised as a man - and took the blade in her shoulder, knowing it was probably poisoned.

At this violation of the laws of Parlay, Bosun Grim leaped at Stephen and severed his arm, which was holding a knife, at the shoulder. Stephen bled out as Lord Alexander Sinclaire shot the assassin as he ran from the parlay. Emma saved Lt. Cooper's life by sucking out the poison, at some cost to herself - Poison Dart Frog toxin is equally poisonous orally or insinuated into the bloodstream, unlike - say - rattlesnake venom.

So the Miskito Kingdom was saved, both the King and his older sister surviving, and Princess Emma made regent for young George.

I have been running this annually game for eight years now, since 2006, and we have gone from 1793 to 1802. This Miskito Kingdom Scenario is based on real events in 1801 and 1802, when Stephen poisoned King George, and General Robinson prevented him from doing likewise to young George. Emma was an invented character, but not impossible... :D


Sunday, November 24, 2013

High Strung and Ecce Homicide

Usually, when I am writing one game, I am also writing another as well, so that when one game is released, there is another partially written game taking its place immediately. For the first time in a decade, I had no secondary game going while writing Lowell Was Right!. Now that it is in Beta Playtest, I find myself at a loss.

So, I took some suggestions from folks on G+, then went my own way. Lord forbid I should write a game someone actually WANTS! I came up with two games, which I am starting simultaneously. One or the other will at some point start clicking and pull ahead, but at this point it could be either.

One game is called High Strung - thanks for the name Ray Otus! - which is about being a rock musician in the mid-to-late 70s trying to make it big with original music. Why the seventies? Well, I lived this game, and know it very very well. Besides, it was a time of change and ferment in music, and lots of new things were being tried out. If I can make an RPG about baseball, I can do this!

The other is called Ecce Homicide. Yes, it's a police procedural game. People are always telling me that this is very difficult to do, but I have run procedurals in a dozen different games over the years, and they are fun and easy to do. Every time I see someone write about how they tried to do this, I think they are doing it backwards.I will design this game the way I do it. :D


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Look! Up In The Sky News

So, some *Look! Up In The Sky!* news!

I'm taking advantage of the wait to get some feedback from *Lowell Was Right!* Beta Playtesters, and doing some editing for Klax' supers, game, *LUITS!*. Klax has sent me some examples for power restrictions, and I am inserting them under each power description. You can take a power restriction to reduce the cost of a power - or the reverse, technically, though it isn't common, and one of the "restriction" examples actually increases the cost.

After that is done, Klax thinks that an example character - with some restrictions - could demonstrate things nicely. When that is done, it will be ready for Beta Testing. We have had an immense amount of fun with LUITS! over the last year or so of Alpha testing, and I can't wait to get it out there!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lowell Was Right! Now Available for Beta Testing!

Lowell Was Right! is now available for Beta testing. I am interested in both play and non-play testing - in other words reading - as I believe both are helpful in different ways. If you would be willing to give some feedback, please contact me via email at clashUNDERSCOREbowleyATyahooDOTcom and I will send you LWR! via return email.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Uranus System in Lowell Was Right!


Uranus is quite cool, with little heat left from gravitational collapse. Minor differences in heating occasionally start weak storm systems in its atmosphere. There is no heating of the surrounding moons except through tidal interactions. None of Uranus’ moons is massive enough to retain a significant atmosphere.


The moon Ariel seems to be an anomaly. It is significantly larger than its small mass would indicate, suggesting a hollowed structure rather than solid. It also has a lower albedo than most moons. This was discovered fairly recently from telescopic observations from the Saturn system.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Saturn System and the Neptune System in Lowell Was Right!


Saturn is warm, but its rate of collapse is nowhere near Jupiter’s, and the warmth is not even close to enough for supporting life on Titan any more. It is possible that Titan’s people have migrated in to Saturn’s clouds, and are living in anti-mass supported cities in those clouds - that is up to the play-group/GM to decide. It would be extremely hard to detect them if you were not looking specifically for them, and virtually impossible to escape Saturn’s gravity well if you went in to see them.


Titan is an iceball, about the size of Luna and the Galilean moons of Jupiter. There is no life on the surface - everything is frozen. The atmosphere would still be breathable. The old Titan cities are way down under the ice, some of them smeared by glaciers, and some crushed by the weight of the ice above them.

A possibility exists that there may be a Titan city down under the ice, protected by a shell and warmed by geothermal heat produced by tidal forces. If so, the Titans living inside may be degenerate and devolved. According to the Galileani, who knew them when their culture was fading, the Titans were evolved from a kind of land octopus.
The Neptune System


Neptune is cold, with no residual warmth at all left from gravitational collapse. Heat differentials do not pump energy through the atmosphere. Compared to stormy Jupiter and Saturn, Neptune is placid.


Triton was once habitable, like Titan, but the time it was habitable is so long in the past that only the Titans may have met them, and they did not tell the Galileani about them. Titan’s cities are crushed and smeared under mountains of ice, and there is no possibility anything still exists of that culture.

Gravity And Physical Exertions in Lowell Was Right!

Gravity affects any type of physical exertion in different ways. In the Solar System of Lowell Was Right!, there are basically four sorts of gravitational conditions:

Zero Gravity

This is the condition prevalent during Boost-Drift-Brake space travel. Boosting and braking are of short duration, and most of the travel is done under Zero G conditions. While not quite Zero G, the micro-gravity of tiny moons and smaller asteroids can be classified as Zero G for game purposes.

Very Light Gravity

This is the condition for Slow Boost space flight, and for the smaller worlds in the system - Luna, Callisto, Io, Ganymede, Europa, Titan, Triton, and Ceres. It is approximately 0.16 (one sixth) G.

Light Gravity

This is the condition for the medium-sized worlds in the system - Mars and Mercury. It is approximately 0.3 (one third) G.

Standard Gravity

This is the condition for the large worlds in the system - Earth and Venus. It is approximately 1.0 G.

The Gas Giants have heavier gravity, but there is no way to experience it and live.

Effects of the Various Gravities

The effects of the various gravities depends on the gravity you normally live in.

People From Zero G

In Zero G, things are normal.

In Very Light G, you have a -3 to your TN on all tasks based on STR, AGY, or END, and all Missile Skill tasks. After a month, this improves to -2 to the TN, and after a year  to -1 to the TN,. Also, all Quality of Success for STR based checks is halved.

In Light G, you can barely move. You have a -5 to your TN  on all tasks based on STR, AGY, or END, and all Missile Skill tasks. After a month, this improves to -4 to the TN,  and after a year to -3. Also, all Quality of Success for STR based checks is divided by four.

In Standard G, you are helpless.

People from Very Light G

In Zero G, you have a -3 to your TN on all tasks based on STR, AGY, or END, and all Missile Skill tasks.
After a week, this improves to -2 to the TN, after a month to -1 to the TN, and after a year to normal. Also, all Quality of Success for STR based checks is doubled.
In Very Light G, things are normal.

In Light G, you have a -3 to your TN on all tasks based on STR, AGY, or END, and all Missile Skill tasks. After a month, this improves to -2 to the TN, and after a year to -1. Also, all Quality of Success for STR based checks is halved.

In Standard G, you have a -5 to your TN on all tasks based on STR, AGY, or END, and all Missile Skill tasks. After a month, this improves to -4 to the TN, and after a year to -3. Also, all Quality of Success for STR based checks is divided by six.

People from Light G

In Zero G, you have a -5 to your TN  on all tasks based on STR, AGY, or END, and all Missile Skill tasks. After a week, this improves to -4 to the TN, after a month to -3 to the TN, and after a year to -2. Also, all Quality of Success for STR based checks is multiplied by four.

In Very Light G, you have a -3 to your TN on all tasks based on STR, AGY, or END, and all Missile Skill tasks. After a week, this improves to -2 to the TN, after a month to -1 to the TN, and after a year to normal. Also, all Quality of Success for STR based checks is doubled.

In Light G, things are normal.

In Standard G, you have a -3 to your TN on all tasks based on STR, AGY, or END, and all Missile Skill tasks. After a month, this improves to -2 to the TN. Also, all Quality of Success for STR based checks is halved.

People from Standard G

In Zero G, You have a -5 to your TN  on all tasks based on STR, AGY, or END, and all Missile Skill tasks. After a week, this improves to -3 to the TN, after a month to -2 to the TN, and after a year to -1. Also, all Quality of Success for STR based checks is multiplied by ten.

In Very Light G, you have a -5 to your TN  on all tasks based on STR, AGY, or END, and all Missile Skill tasks. After a week, this improves to -3 to the TN, after a month to -1 to the TN, and after a year to normal. Also, all Quality of Success for STR based checks is multiplied by six.

In Light G, you have a -3 to your TN on all tasks based on STR, AGY, or END, and all Missile Skill tasks. After a week, this improves to -2 to the TN, after a month to -1 to the TN, and after a year to normal. Also, all Quality of Success for STR based checks is tripled.

In Standard G, things are normal.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lowell Was Right! System Overview

I have been posting almost entirely setting related stuff for Lowell Was Right!, so a bit of system info. I'm using - as always - a mutant form of my StarCluster 3 system. SC3 uses drop in switchable resolution mechanics, and I'm including only StarPool and Star Worm with the book, though any of the mechanics available for SC3 would work fine, depending on how your preferences lie. I have been particularly impressed with using the combination of the two - StarPool for task resolution and StarWorm for conflict resolution. They use the same dice and same TNs, so they play very well together.

Character generation is like I used in Volant - a series of templates you apply, stacking results - if Template One says you get Skill A +1. Skill B +1 and Skill C +1, and Template Two says you get Skill B +2
and Skill D +1, you have Skill A +1, Skill B +3, Skill C +1, and Skill D +1. The templates are arranged in template trees, with earlier templates being pre-reqs for later templates - you must take Hunter before Expert Hunter, and Expert Hunter before Master Hunter. The result is extremely fast life-path type chargen.

Skills use for LWR! is different from my earlier games. There are 30 basic skills, five tied to each attribute. They are very broad, but they only go up to +2 in rank. If you have higher than +2 rating, you have to turn that into an Expertise, which is much more focused - so Science +4 could turn into , say Science +2 with Biology +3 and Chemistry+3, meaning for all general science, your skill checks are at +2, but for Biology and Chemistry related checks, you would have a +3.  Expertises are free form, with three examples given for each skill, but not limited to those. As always Skills are Center Defined and Overlapping. The benefit of this is broad basic skills but with areas where characters can map out their own place to shine.

Personality Traits and Edges work as always, Traits give you bonuses when you burn them, as a resource, so long as the trait matches the situation. Edges always work so long as the situation matches the Edge.

PSI use  is standard skill check plus burning a PSI point - thus Telepathy is Language or Communications skill plus 1 PSI point, for example. Effectiveness depends on the skill. You can choose PSI abilities as Expertises of the related skill, so you could have Language +2 and Telepathy +3. This makes PSI use very simple - no special skills to use.

Hopefully that gives an overview! Questions welcome!

Saturday's Playtest #2 finale for Lowell Was Right!

The wrap-up for playtest #2 went off interestingly! In this playtest, we had decided on an earth-limited espionage game, and created an earth circa 2013, where the Nazis had taken continental Europe, and were opposed by the League of Nations, a union consisting of the eastern US and Canada, and the UK. The two were at actual war, and the Nazis were supported by their allies in Mormon Zion, which held the American West. BTW, the current Fuehrer was Arnold Schwarzenegger...

The PCs were agents of the League, on a mission to snatch plans for a new weapon from the industrialist Rudolf Hochstetter. After sneaking, sabotage, and changes of identity in previous sessions, the climax came at a party Hochstetter gave at his castle.

One pair of PCs were invited in, disguised as a reporter and photographer from the Mountain Press, a Mormon Zionist paper in Provo. Another got in disguised as a waiter. It turned out that the man he was replacing - and killed - was unfortunately gay - not a good thing in Nazi Europe - and was intending to poison the entire group invited to the party. The fourth PC was a cat burglar who lurked outside as the backup plan.

As the the "waiter" served poisoned flutes of champagne, the "reporter" and "photographer" snuck upstairs. The Gestapo man who had almost caught the "waiter" and the cat burglar drank his, but went to the toilet to throw up too early, and the cat burglar slipperd in the bathroom window and drowned him in the toilet.

Using dowsing, the "reporter" located the attache case with the plans in the wall safe of the main bedroom. The "photographer " cracked the safe using past sight, watching Hochstetter dial the combination the day before. The guests began dying, and Hochstetter, who wasn't drinking, went looking for the two "Mormons" who had disappeared. He walked in and saw the "photographer" opening the  briefcase, but didn't see the "reporter" who threw him down with a judo move and crushed his larynx.

The "waiter" escaped out the side door in the confusion. He was stopped by a guard, but shot him with a single shot pen-gun in the temple. Taking the gun and overcoat from the SS Trooper, he followed another trooper who was chasing after the "Mormons, who had escaped from the bedroom balcony. As the trooper raised his rifle to shoot them, the "waiter" shot the trooper in the back of the head.

The two "Mormons" had run to a cliff and were trapped. the "Waiter' came up and identified himself. The "Photographer" grabbed the other three and stepped off the cliff. He was wearing an anti-mass belt held down by weights. He dropped the weights, and by rappelling down the cliff, was able to break his fall enough to get away, the cat burglar joining them later.

The combination of training, psi, and strange LWR! devices like the anti-mass belt gave the whole caper a real Bond-ish flair. Lots of paranoia, betrayal, and skulking made this one of our favorite campaigns yet!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Luna in Lowell Was Right!

Luna is the accepted multinational name of Earth’s only moon, which has many names in Earth languages. Luna was used by the Martians as a raiding base for taking human slaves, and they left a number of intact structures on the far side of Luna, which humans discovered and re-inhabited when they became capable of reaching Luna. Great artificial farms were renovated and adapted to Earth crops to feed the growing population.

Martian artifacts were found and studied, and through understanding of the underlying principles, many devices were created and refined. Most important were the various crystals used to enhance and control PSI abilities, which before this were elusive and almost unusable. The famous Luna University located here grew out of these scientific explorations and research units, one of most prestigious institutes of higher learning in the Solar System.

This complex is known as Luna City, and it has grown, with new structures built by Humans and Martians, as well as the various Galileani. Luna city is the only place near to Earth where Humans, Martians, and Galileani can meet and trade. The gravity is almost identical to that of the Galilean moons, and the Galileani have built huge flight cages to live in.

The Great Concourse of Luna City is famous for the availability of anything from anywhere. Great liners from Earth put in here, and hotels and restaurants have sprung up to serve the tourists. Luna City is the stepping off point for travel anywhere in the solar system.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Galilleani Cultures in Lowell Was Right!

Galilleani typically have a free-wheeling lifestyle, with mature males maintaining a harem of between two and ten females each, rarely with the same individuals each breeding season. These are known as “breeders”, and are generally low-level workers. As they age, male breeding activity tapers off quickly, and the male Galilleani enter a long, fruitful period in which their imaginations and intellect increase in inverse proportion to their interest in breeding.

Female Galilleani, on the other hand, have longer breeding lives, though at a lower level than males, retaining their usual intelligence throughout their breeding period. They foster and maintain close relationships with the co-wives of their various mates long after these breeding harems have broken up.

The Oddfellows

This is the term for males of breeding age who do not for whatever reason attract mates. Some are defective in some way, others are disinterested, and still others prefer their own gender. They do retain their intelligence through the breeding years, and often attain high rank early, but without wives, cannot access the female Wives Network, and thus miss many opportunities.

The Wives Network

This is the relationship web of co-wives, which functions in the anarchic Galilleani system as bankers, investors, and government rolled into one. They bankroll projects by their ex-mates and former co-wives which interest them, after coming to a general consensus. There is not one Wives Network - nothing so fixed is possible with the Galilleani - but many such networks, though it is always spoken of as if it were singular.

The Elder Clubs

These are the associations of post-breeding males, who gather together for companionship in clubs when their breeding days are done. These clubs are a secondary source of infrastructure investment, but as these clubs are considerably smaller than the Wives Networks, their financial impact is lesser.

Human and Martian Enclaves

There are small enclaves of humans and Martians on all four Galillean moons. They have generally cordial relations with the Galilleani, but the Galilleani have no more concept of Martian-style Houses than they do of human governments.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Movies in Lowell Was Right!

Films in the Lowell Was Right! universe are exceedingly important. Films transfer culture, unifying peoples and grouping them around important concepts. A movie made by a culture embodies the core concepts of that culture in a portable package, accepted as intrinsic truths and transferred during the willing suspension of disbelief created by the audience while watching the movie.

This is the core concept of propaganda, but movies made _as propaganda_ are far less effective in transferring culture than those made _as entertainment_, because of the intensity of the state of suspension of disbelief engendered by the entertainment. In these films, the cultural core is deeply embedded in the entertainment matrix, never stated, but informing all of the actions of the actors.

Embracing the cultural core illuminates the entertainment just as embracing the entertainment transfers the cultural core. Each reinforces the other. The  more you see the movies, the more you understand the culture that created them, and the more you understand the culture, the more pleasure the entertainment can create.

In Lowell Was Right!, movies are the primary medium of entertainment. Not only feature films, but newsreels, shorts, and serials as well, are viewed in the communal environment of the theater. All of the cultures of LWR! are entertained communally, whether by performances onstage or on film.

Staged entertainment - plays, opera, music, speeches - is ephemeral, and locally variable.  Each performance is different, and cannot be exactly repeated, whether re-staged in a different performance, or in memory. Films are different, and can be repeatedly performed exactly, without variation. Use of movie magic - models, pyrotechnics, forced perspective, lighting - can vastly emphasize the shared fantasy, and thus the effectiveness, of the movie.

Books can be solitary entertainment, but depend on active imaginative engagement by the reader, and - while effective within a culture - can be difficult to transfer across cultures. Musical recordings are the only solitary entertainment which can compete with movies are portable, transferable entertainment, but the information they transfer is almost entirely emotional. Even so, recorded music is far more portable than film culturally, as basic emotions are universal even without a cultural context.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Venus in Lowell Was Right!

Venus is a young, flourishing hothouse of a planet. It is covered at all times by a thick cloud cover, which spreads the light, giving it somewhat longer periods of light than darkness by prolonging twilight. It rains virtually every night, and many days as well. The heat along the Equator is brutal, and humans do not flourish there, except in the highest mountains. The lowlands are left as the haunt of the Kraat. The cooler, more temperate and polar regions are more friendly to humans. Even these would be considered tropical or sub-tropical on Earth.

Venus’ animals and plants are more primitive in organization than Earth’s, with the equivalent of dinosaurs reigning supreme, and flowering plants being new and not well evolved. Insects have not evolved to pollinate flowers yet, so native venusian flowering plants rely on wind dispersion and self-pollination. Bees and other pollinators have been imported from Earth and Mars to service non-native plants, and have begun evolving into Venusian types. however, specializing in venusian flowers, and they in turn have begun to co-evolve to attract the outworld insects. These insects are now to be found all over venus, including the equatorial, Kraat-dominated, regions.

There are two generally hostile groups of settlement on Venus. generally, the polar areas and the highlands are the domain of venusian humans, while the lowlands and equatorial areas are the domain of the Kraat. The interfaces between these, however, are always in dispute, and a continuous low-level warfare is endemic in these places.

Both venusian Humans and Kraat have begun domesticating a few of the smaller, smarter dinosaurs, and hunt others for meat. Except for areas with significant Mercurian or Earther involvement, the general technology level is medieval. Hunting dinosaurs is extremely dangerous, but a single kill can feed a village for a long time. Villages are always protected by elaborate defenses, from both predatory dinos and Human/Kraat enemies.

Politically, both Humans and Kraat are organized into a few powerful city states of no great extent, with much onorganized settlement of the back country. Human city states which trade with non-venusians have slowly been climbing the technology ladder, and as a result can control larger hinterlands. Still, the most advanced of them would only qualify as early Renaissance in technology. Far-sighted rulers have begun sending people out into the solar system with outworlders, to return and become teachers on Venus.

The Kraat have refused trade with non-Kraat entirely. This may change at any time, as it is obvious to see the superiority of the more advanced city states compared to the most advanced Kraat. If this happens, it will result in a complete revolution of Kraat thought, based as it is in a hatred of the human interlopers.

Trade items from Venus include art objects, plants and exotic animals, handicrafts, dinosaur meat and skins, and tourism and big game hunting.

Lowell Was Right, Playtest #3 Setup

While camping last weekend, Klax, El, and I set up and played the first session of playtest #3. Playtest #2 is not finished yet, but since we will not be playing it until next weekend, we will be playing a second session with a less than full group today.

We rolled that there were six Great Powers on Earth - Greater nigeria, the Australasian Republic, the North African Confederation, The Atlantic Maritime Republic, the Pan-Arab Union,  and Imperial Manchu China. The players decided to play members of the Pan-Arab Union.

To generate the backstory as to how this particular group of superpowers came to be, we randomly generated a decade-by-decade timeline from 1880:
1880s - A Small but Important War
1890s - Widespread Political Ferment
1900s - A Great War
1910s - A Great Technological Revolution
1920s - A Great War
1930s - A Great Political Revolution
1940s - A Severe Cultural Repression
1950s - An Artistic-Musical Phenomenon
1960s - A Cultural Blossoming
1970s - A Pandemic
1980s - A Widespread Religious ferment
1990s - A Severe Political Repression
2000s - A Great Famine
2010s - A Great Change in Morals

The interpretation of this was that Europe had been devastated in the second Great War because of the fruits of the tech revolution of the decade before - Antimass and re-knotted hydrogen explosives. The political revolution that followed was the former colonial areas gaining their independence. The artistic-muical phenomenon in the 1950s was the emergence of Rockout as a world music, followed by a cultural blossoming as art, music, and literature followed the lead of rockout and resulted in a new freedom of expression.

The USA dissolved in the 1970s under the weight of a pandemic, which weakened many other nations as well around the world. Islam underwent a sweeping change from the ground up, as the very different islams evolved on Mars, Mercury, and Venus among the descendants of captured slaves impacted on Earth's islam. For the whole of the 1990s, Islamic regimes tried to repress the changes, but But most were swept away by the following decade. The last remnants of the Western democracies were destroyed in  the Great Famine of the 2000s, with only The Atlantic Maritime Republic still claiming Great Power status. Finally, the cultural blossoming that started in the 1950s played out in a great change in morals, as religions re-interpreted their source materials based on both other versions of their religions in the solar system - as Islam had done - and on other, non-Earth-centered religions.

As their Association, the players constructed PAMECO, The Pan-Arab Mineral Extraction COmpany. PAMECO was a huge organization with fleets of ships, headquartered in a hollow asteroid in the Belt. The Association had a budget of 65536 build points, and the players layed out an enormous company based around resource extraction on many worlds.

Their particular bit, however, was quite a lot smaller. The Exploration vessel Abu Ibn Battuta, with 40 people aboard- 12 crew and 28 passengers.  The Ibn Battuta was a constant thrust ship designed for the outer solar system. They were on a journey to Saturn's great moon Titan, which one day held a great civilization, but which was now dead and ice covered. The journey would take them 9 months out  from  their asteroid base, and nine back, with a layover of six months to set up a semi-permanent mining settlement. Many of the passengers would be staying on Titan, and the ship would be considerably less crowded on the return trip.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lowell Was Right! Playtest #2 Progress

My Saturday face to face game continues to excel. I'm running a playtest for *Lowell was Right!*, set in in 2013, in Nazi Europe. It's espionage based, and totally set on earth, unlike the other playtests. In spite of being conducted entirely sitting around the TV, watching the Red Sox playoff game, it still rocked on toast.

Past of it may be the setting - there is no information age ubiquitous computing and communication, yet there is other advanced technology available from strange materials to space travel to PSI amplification to light trapping glass. Another part is the particular mix of nations we created for this campaign. Nazis are truly scary, they have friends and allies out there, the Gestapo knows everything about everyone, and the feeling is claustrophobic to the extreme.

One of the two man teams - the 'husband and wife' Italian arms manufacturers - found out from a PSI bugging device that the Gestapo knows they are spies, and is intending to trap them, so they intend to change covers and work from a different direction. The other team *may* be compromised, but they decided to brazen it out.

So far both the crash-landing on Mars and the espionage on Earth have been awesome fun! This is, of course, what I am hoping for - a game you can play in a hundred different ways depending on how you set it up.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Volant IRC Game Highlights

My Wednesday night Volant IRC game went off wonderfully, The bat riders of The Raft had captured one of the NPCs in an engagement which left Aelia unconscious, though her bird got her away and back to the camp. They suspected they had taken the prisoner to one of their camps - this one on a fragment, with tents and a hastily built log bat barn - that Tyss and Karvan had sighted.

They selected Karvan and Lorah to sneak in and free the captive Farise, giving them invisibility potions. Peerless Leader Roy would throw fire bundles on the roof of the bat barn, while Tyss and Aelia distracted the batriders. Vegred would stay behind and guard the camp and pack birds.

Karvan and Lorah rode in low, barely over treetop level, while Roy, Tyss and Aelia came in very high. They sighted two sentries - huge two man bats with a pilot and a crossbowman in back. Roy dived right between them on Oundateka, his Maribou Stork, while Aelia and Tyss each dove on the guard bats, taking out the pilots in each case. One raced away, without a controlling hand, while the other dove after Oundateka with a screech.

Roy tossed fire bundles onto the roof of the bat barn as he zoomed past. The roof blossomed with flame as the the pursuing bat flew over. screeching to wake the devil. Men piled out of their tents and ran to save the bat barn. Roy did a wingover and flew back over the barn and away, tossing on more fire bundles as he went, the pilotless bat following.

Meanwhile, Karvan and Lorah flew up from underneath the fragment and came over the lip of the fragment, draining their vials of invisibility potion. The dove off their birds as they went over the lip, but Karvan landed badly, spraining an ankle and arm in the fall, and getting cut up. Lorah and he found each other, not easy when you are invisible, and - hand in hand for safety - slipped into the enemy camp.

Tyss was magnificent as she used her bow to deny the batriders access to the burning bat barn, now filled with screaming, panicking bats. Despite having little skill with the bow, she used a maneuver most effectively, and drove them into cover. Aelia tried to toss more fire bundles onto the roof, but failed - Aelia having the coordination of a drunken bear.

Karvan and Lorah slit the fabric of a large, guarded tent at the rear, and slipped inside, but there was a guard there, along with five naked, trussed up, and gagged women, one of which was Farise. The guard did not see the invisible two slip in, but saw the slits appear in the back wall, and was ready. Lorah loudly whispered to Farise, attracting the guard's attention, while Karvan used a side kick maneuver to bring him down. Lorah took out the guard at the front with a sneak attack, while Karvan decided to rescue all the women.

The bat who had pursued Roy returned. The Bowman had managed to crawl into the forward saddle and get control. He was diving on Tyss and her raven Bertok, when Aelia and Rinne slammed into him and killed him.

The bats in the burning barn were screaming, and smashing themselves against the door and walls trying to get out, as the bat riders finally worked around through cover to free them. When they opened the door, though, the fire-maddened bats just burst out and flew away. Three riders were all that were able to swing themselves on board a bat, bareback, and go after Tyss.

Tyss, however, was riding Bertok, a raven, who was smarter, faster, and could fly higher than the bats. Together they led the bats a merry chase as the remaining bat riders tried to put out the burning barn. Meanwhile Aelia landed with Rinne, her woodpecker, and carried off two of the women with her, Rinne being a big, hearty bird. Karvan and Lorah took the other women and they dove off the fragment and away.

Fun times!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Second Painting for Lowell Was Right!

I did a second painting for Lowell Was Right!. it is amazingly difficult to make a Human stretched out into a Mars Human. Here is the original pencil sketch and the finished digital "watercolor.",

Monday, September 30, 2013

Playtest 2 of Lowell Was Right!

Saturday's playtest session seriously rocked! The group had decided to run an earth-only campaign, where they were secret agents of the League of Nations (Not the historical league, but a super nation of the Eastern US and Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and a few smaller nations) in a world where the Germans won WWII, and all of Europe save the UK was Nazi.

They had been in Berlin only a few hours when both groups were visited by the Gestapo, and strange questions put to them. One two person group's cover was as a Mormon reporting team from Zion - a Nazi ally, and the other as a husband and wife Italian arms maker from Milan.

There was a League air raid on Berlin, and the power went out. The reporter and photographer went to the factory they were interested in and conducted some investigation and sabotage. Meanwhile, the husband and wife seduced the industrialist who owned the factory and his personal secretary during the raid and blackout.

Afterward, the husband and wife were abducted by a resistance group. They shot their way out and deliberately killed the partisans, plus one Royal Navy officer with them. The office had given them the backgrounds of real persons currently existing. They are starting to think they were being set up.

Lots of tight, tense action, paranoia and suspicion.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Asteroid Belt in Lowell Was Right!

The asteroids are the scattered remnants of the fifth planet, called by the Martians Perago, and destroyed when Mars was at the height of her power, about the time humans were discovering agriculture. From Martian evidence, the people of Perago were much like earth’s naked mole rat. They communicated telepathically at very short range, and had a combinatory intelligence - that is, they were only sapient when 4 or more were in close proximity. Larger gatherings than 7 were unstable, and would fall apart after short periods. The Martians claim that there are Peragoans still living in the asteroid remnants of their home world, but this has been dismissed by scientists as impossible.


Ceres is by far the largest asteroid, and made up primarily of salt water, frozen into ice, from the seas of Perago. It holds the largest population of the asteroids as well, approximately equal portions of Martians, Mars Humans, Galileani and Earth Humans. The ice is melted as needed for water, creating honeycomb caverns all over the surface, filled with air. The surface is covered with solar panels to provide the power required.


Pallas is the second largest asteroid, and made up of core materials of Perago - mostly nickel iron. Pallas has been mined by Martians, Galileani, and now Humans since soon after Perago was destroyed. There is a significant transient population, as well as a large permanent population, mostly miners, of all three peoples.


There are scattered populations on several other asteroids as well - gems and rare earths are mined in several, as well as nickel and iron, and more are being mapped all the time. The remnant Peragoans are said to live in these scattered rocks and iceballs.

The Moons of Mars for Lowell Was Right!


Phobos is Mars’s moon, about 11 km in radius. Long ago, it was reached by Martians and turned into a space station. The interior was mined and hollowed out, and the ends capped with transparent hemispheres of unknown composition. Phobos was then put under rotation, enough to give .5 Martian Gs - equivalent to the gravity of the Galilean moons, or Luna. Inside live a species of Martian unknown on the planet - very tall and delicate, with paper thin ornamental shells. They service ships arriving from elsewhere, and sell the produce of their little hollow world.


Deimos was originally thought to be the smaller of Mars’ two moons, about 15km long and 10 km wide. It is actually a gigantic derelict spaceship - according to legend, the one that destroyed the fifth planet. Several exploring parties have penetrated far into its interior, with one - the infamous Henderson party - never returning.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

An Intro to Lowell Was Right!

I posted parts of this summation before, back in January, but Lowell Was Right! was just getting started back then, and there was less interest. Lowell Was Right! is not steampunk. Ether in the game is science, not Science!. It is set in the present day, just a very strange and different present day.

The original idea for this game came from the fact that what we think of as "Pulp" science fiction of the early 20th Century was based on fairly hard science concepts, concepts the SF authors of the day learned in school, but those concepts were utterly changed before the "Pulp" SF was written.

This game is based on a “What If?” question. “What if the science of the 1880s was basically correct? What kind of world would we live in now?” The name refers to the astronomer Percival Lowell, who reported seeing canals on Mars through his telescope.

Between the 1880s and 1920, the scientific world underwent an astonishing revolution in thought. The basic assumptions of science in the 1880s were entirely replaced by new basic assumptions by 1920, in all the big fields.

If those original assumptions were basically correct, how would things have developed? In developing this game, we took off the board any scientific discoveries made after 1880, unless they could easily be explained - and not contradicted - by those old assumptions.

My co-writer, Albert Bailey, and I spent two years researching the state of science in 1880 before writing a single sentence of this game.

The Science behind Lowell Was Right!

Here's a summation of Scientific thought current in approximately 1880, which is developed further in Lowell Was Right!, which is set in the second decade of the 21st century:

Astronomical Theory: We assume a Nebular theory for the solar system, with a solar system that is only a few tens of thousands of years old. Gravitational collapse is the source of the sun's heat; and the planets are created sequentially, the outer planets being older than the inner planets. Geothermic heat is also caused by planetary gravitational collapse.

As the sun contracted, it threw off planets. Thus the further out the planet, the older it is. As the sun collapsed, it shrank, cooling the outer planets. The newer, inner planets developed later, and became suitable for life in their turn.

Panspermia Theory: Life is spread everywhere by meteors and comets - this theory is called Panspermia, and is a very old theory which has never been disproved - and thus life would develop on each planet or moon large enough to hold an atmosphere, with a similar but different taxonomy. As the inner planets developed, life developed there, each world’s life forms peaking in turn as they developed.

Intelligent life developed in the outer system before the inner system, and gradually died out as those worlds cooled to ice.

Atomic Theory:  Basically, a unified Atom with no sub-atomic particles, which is essentially a knot in the ether. Basically Avogadro's view supplemented by evolved Etheric theory. There is no atomic radiation. Atoms are indivisible, but may be transmuted by Etheric reknotting. Transuranic elements are stable, and can be found in nature - though extremely rare - or created in Ether Vortex Reactors.

Biological Theory: Inheritance is a combination of Lamarkian and Mendelian genetics, with the addition of Vital Force. This means
some acquired characteristics may be inherited - but DNA does not exist. Typical inheritance follows Mendelian form. Vitalism (along with Lamarkism) explains the speed of evolution required with a Nebular theory. Basically, Evolution is very fast. New species arise and disappear constantly, and environmental pressures get an
almost immediate response.

Chemical Theory: Caloric theory, with the addition of friction models, are the basis of chemistry. Since there are no subatomic particles, we also need to presume an electrical fluid. The electrical
fluid also acts as the caloric fluid, following the Wiedmann-Franz law where thermal conductivity is proportional to temperature.

Since we are assuming an etheric atomic theory, we also assume an atomic caloric-electric fluid theory rather than a continuous fluid, though it comes in both forms, new positive and negative pairs of caloric particles being produced by friction. Thermal conductive insulators are explained by the motion of coupled pairs of positive and negative caloric particles.

Electrical Theory: One of the interesting features of Caloric theory is that static electrical charges produced by friction (say rubbing an amber rod with silk cloth) are easily explained: the frictionally produced positive charges produced preferentially collect on one substance and the negative ones on the other. Our own theories of frictional static electricity are forced to invoke some rather complex chemistry.

There is another interesting consequence: vacuum tubes don't work. They rely on the fact that the moving charges are of one polarity, so that a charged screen can block them. With a dual current, a charged screen would repel one polarity but attract the other, giving no change in the net current. This would mean that radio, radar, and electronic computers become impractical for most purposes.

Normally any electrical current would have a positive current in one direction and an equal negative current in the opposite direction. A thermal gradient would have positive and negative currents in the same direction. In combination you could have a current that was primarily positive or negative current.

Geological Theory: Continental Drift, but not Plate Tectonics. There are no crustal plates, but the continents drift on the surface of the earth over time. A unification of Plutonism and Neptunism is made - both theories about equally held in 1880 -on how rocks formed - as neither contradicts the other, except in claims of exclusivity. Catastrophism works much better over the short geological time frames of Lowell Was Right!.

These are all very fundamental differences in how things work. Now we'll see how that changes our world.

Lowell Was Right! - First Playtest Report

I finished my first run playtest of Lowell Was Right last night (Saturday). It started where the last session stopped, where the pilot of the jet airship they were flying in suddenly started screaming that he was going to crash. One of the PCs announced he could pilot it,, so they dragged of the screaming pilot and the PC attempted to fly the craft.

He was starting to get the craft under control when he felt a psychic attack, which he managed to fight off. He felt something hard in the seat cushion, so he took it apart. Reaching into a slit in the cushion, he was again attacked, and again fought it off. Using another member of the crew as a guinea pig, they established that the item was haunted by a ghost - the ghost of a pilot who had died in a crash

it was a t this point that they realized that the first crash - of their ship on Mars - was not an accident. Someone was trying to murder them without leaving a trace. This was the second time this ghost had been used.

When they landed in Syrtis, they tried to think who could be the target - The professional huntress? The Spaceliner steward who seemed too good at pilfering things? The Ex- Boxer turned bodyguard? The only one who was famous was the ex-football star turned action movie star - he was beloved on Mars. But that couldn't be it! No one had the kind of rich, powerful enemies that could do something like this. Finally one of them suggested "What if the first attempt succeeded?"

Then suspicion immediately fell on the ex-bodyguard, whose charge had died in the crash. His employer was Father Mackenroy, who was going to Mars to give something to someone, and feared for his life - that he was the victim of a vast political conspiracy. They still had Father Mackenroy's luggage.

When searched, the teiving steward found a false bottom. There, inside a wooden box, was a gold cross, with martian characters on it. When they asked their interpreter what it said, she replied that it wasn't Martian at all, but martian script used to write "Carolus Magnus Imperator Romanus". This was latin for Charlemagne, Emperor of the Romans.

This was most likely a relic from the time of Charlemagne, but they had no idea why it was so dangerous that someone would kill to stop it. They decided to take it to the Translator's professor at the University of Mars and Earth there in Syrtis.

He examined it minutely, and proclaimed it genuine. The Movie star, suggested there might be more to it, and the steward took a look, noticing a hairline seam along the cross. They opened it up after finding the hidden latch. Inside was a crystal.

Upon touching it, the Huntress began to speak in a voice not her own - using Mediumship, she made contact with the intelligence within - a Martian Ghost AI. The Ai told how Charles had murdered his brother and forged a relationship with the martians, sending thousands of slaves them. In return they eliminated opposition, and his rule widened. The pope made him emperor of the Romans because of his good works and his enlightened rule as well as his power.

They reasoned that it was some powerful faction in the Vatican that was trying to stop the publishing of this news - which could be used to argue against the infallibility of the Pope. When they decided to deliver it to the original intended recipient, the Translator revealed herself to be an agent of this person. She would take the cross to her master. She showed them papers written in what looked like Father Mackenroy's hand. The steward put the cross into the box and handed it to her. She left.

The Steward had palmed the crystal, and they brought it to a newsreel agency, where they were well paid for it. The truth went out.

Throughout this game, I had no idea who the boxer had been guarding. Since I didn't know who *he* was, I had no idea of what he carried. All I knew was he had something someone else wanted, badly.! I called it the MacGuffin, of course. it wasn't until the boxer rolled on random NPC tables to decide who his dead employer had been that  I could even *think* of what the MacGuffin was.

I made up the Charlemagne thing on the spot, while I was telling it to them through the ghost AI in the crystal. I had made up the ghost AI a second before. It worked - it held together well enough for the game, and no one knew I had done it that way. Sometimes life is good! :D

At the end of the session, they made up their next Association, and their next world. They would be playing the "Secret Service" of the League of Nations, and they would be playing on a totally different Earth!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Cover for Lowell Was Right!

Here's the cover for Lowell Was Right!. It may be the only illo I do for it.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Psionics in Lowell Was Right!


Psionics in Lowell Was Right! involve the use of a skill, plus the burning of a PSI point for the duration of the session. Any skill can be used with PSI to yield an effect, but what that effect is is decided by the GM and player. The following psionic effects are typical, but other effects can be created, and other skills used for these effects if the GM agrees they are pertinent.

Telepathy = Communication or Language + PSI
Psionic Healing = Medicine + PSI
Psychokinesis = Move +PSI
Clairvoyance = Discern + PSI
Dowsing = Hunt + PSI
Psychic Sensing = Discern + PSI
Precognition = Survival + PSI
Psychometry = Research + PSI
Aura Reading = Fake or Organize + PSI
Mediumship = Communication + PSI
Retrocognition = Humanities + PSI
Stun = Strike + PSI

Uncommon Powers

With the easy combination of Skill + PSI creating psionic powers, you may have strange and uncommon powers come up in play. If so, make a ruling for now, based on the above, and reserve the right to change it in the future, after you have had some time to think about it. Use the parameters above if possible.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Spaceships in Lowell Was Right!

Spaceships in Lowell Was Right! are built on a choice of "hull" - really a spar and attached module arrangement - and a choice of two drives for each "hull" available. One drive is a Burn-Drift-Brake type, and the other uses a constant low-fractional-G thrust. This means transit times between planets are measured in months rather than days or hours.

The Burn-Drift-Brake (B-D-B) drive uses more energy, and requires more of its mass to be fuel than the Slow Boost drive, which means the Slow Boost ships can carry more payload than B-D-B ships. On the other hand, B-D-B ships are much cheaper, and the very slow but constant acceleration of the Slow Boost means that B-D-B ships are faster over shorter runs.

On this, you can hang components - Crew Cabins, Passenger Cabins, Rotating (for false gravity) Passenger Cabins, Air Plants, Workout Rooms, Cargo, and more. What you won't find is weapons. Weapons available in Lowell Was Right! are pretty useless in space.

The only Artificial Gravity is through thrust or rotation. Thrust is either tiny or brief, and rotationally induced gravity is very expensive. Luckily, since radiation is space is all electromagnetic, and since calcium loss in bone was not a known effect in 1880, in Lowell Was Right!, weightlessness is for most people perfectly healthy, once you get used to it - though you may want to build up those muscles if you plan on going back to a planet...

Lowell Was Right! - Mars

Mars is much as it was imagined by Science Fiction writers early in the twentieth century. Small, bitterly salt seas are all that was left of oceans much like our earth’s. Canals bring the water across the land, nurturing scanty crops in the semi-arid lowlands. Across the highlands, nothing much grows - sparse hardy weeds nurture small herds of grazers, which in turn sustain a smattering of carnivores.

Mars was once as wet and warm as earth, but as the sun dwindled, the planet aged and shriveled up. Ancient and majestic ruins dot the higlands, where once fertile land has dried up and blown away.

The lowlands of Mars were at one time the ancient ocean beds. The highlands were at one time the islands and continents, and between the two there is a scarp, which was once the continental shelf. All of the lowland cities are relatively new as Martian cities go. The famous canals were dug over time, as the shrunken seas gradually retreated away from the continental shelves. Now, some of the lowland cities are very far indeed from the life-giving water. 

The Martians and Mars Humans who live here try not to think about the future, but one day, Mars will be as dead as Titan. In the meantime, the slow decline of the once powerful Martian Houses goes on apace. Once capable of cracking a planet into luimps of rock, the Martian Houses bend over backwards to curry favor with the now dominant Earth nations.

Mars is cold and the air is thin, like alpine regions of the earth. Humans have trouble in the highlands, though this is mitigated by Mars’ light gravity. The lowlands are somewhat better, and thus where most earth tourists stay. The great Martian cities of the lowlands still thrive, and the tourist exchange is welcome.

The Martians have forgotten much of the technology that brought them into space long ago. Their colony on Mercury was out of touch with the homeworld for centuries because they were forgotten about after a war, when the coalition that sent the colony out was defeated and records destroyed. Earth-sponsored archeological expeditions into the ruined cities of the highlands occasionally yield a rich trove of forgotten technology.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Generating Geopolitics in Lowell Was Right!

Superpowers are states which are able to support a space program, with military-civilian space presence. To find out how many superpowers there are in your world, roll 1d6+2. You can use nations from our earth, or you can roll or choose from a table.

How did this situation come to be?

The GM can decide alone, or the GM and players can jointly decide the course of the world since 1880 which would result in the geopolitical situation outlined above.


Designated player rolls 1d6+2, with a result of 4+2 = 6. Six superpowers are on this Earth! One player requests the USA to be a superpower, so that her character will work as she envisioned. No one objected, so the USA was chosen.

The other 5 superpowers were randomly rolled. They were Greater Nigeria, The Australasian Republic, Great Brasil, The Malay Republic, and Mormon Zion. The players and GM between them come up with the following scenarios:

1. Europe was flattened in The Great War - devastated, crushed, and bled dry. There are still armies of barbarians roaming the ruins throwing stones at each other as one player joked. A bit of overstatement maybe, but it never really ended, and armed arnarchic militias do indeed fight each other still in the shattered cityscapes.

2. A Mormon prophet came to prominence in Utah, creating a huge religious revolution in the Rocky Mountain areas. From the Dakotas to Alberta and Britsh Columbia, down to Oregon, to northern Nevada down to Utah, left the Union and became a Theocracy, to the relief of the rest of the USA.

3. In Nigeria, a Dictator arose when the British pulled out because of the Great War. An able administrator, he pulled the country together, then using his large, well drilled, well equipped armies, conquered everything in sub-saharan Africa but the southern part and Ethiopia and the Horn.

4. Because of the Great War, a flood of British and other European refugees set up a state in the Malay Peninsula, based in Singapore. The Dutch in Borneo, Java, and Sumatra soon joined in, along with - eventually - the French in Indo-China, The Thais, and Burma, making a multi-ethnic Asian-European state with immense resources.

5. The Pacific War of the 1940s between Imperial Japan on one hand and Australia and the USA on the other resulted in a union of Australia with western Indonesia, along with the Philippines and many Pacific islands. Japan was ultimately defeated, though not until they almost broke Australia and the USA, and today is a second rate power.

6. During and after the great War, a great many Europeans emigrated to Brazil, which enthusiastically embraced them into its ethnic and cultural stew. Using diplomatic and economic pressures, eventually all of South America north of Chile-Argentina-Uruguay were “volunteered” to be assimilated.

7. Overall, aside from The USA and Mormon Zion, the  equatorial position of these nations gave them an advantage in space launches before the discovery of anti-mass.

Ghosts in Lowell Was Right

Instead of being largely debunked, Spiritualism proves to be partially vindicated.  Ghosts exist, and mediums are able to make contact with them.   However, as they begin to be better understood, it becomes clear that ghosts are not exactly the souls of the dead, but bits of psychic energy that remain after emotional turmoil, carrying with them the feelings and the knowledge of those tormented souls.   The most common event that leaves behind a ghost are death agonies, but other events can prompt them as well, and living individuals may have ghosts in the world.  The majority of people leave behind a ghost upon death,  but persons who die peacefully frequently do not.

Ghosts can be contacted by individuals with psi powers and who possess the necessary skill of .  In séances , they can allow others without psi powers to experience and speak with the ghost as well, but this requires the use of a psionic amplifier of some sort.

Ghosts possess the knowledge of the person at the time the ghost was created.  They have no knowledge of events in a the life (if any) of the person forming the ghost subsequent to the point at which they were formed.  They have difficulty in retaining any new memories and so remain mired in the past.

Ghosts are frequently insane from the agonies which create them.  They are always less than full, well-rounded individuals and are focused on whatever was the concerns of the person who formed them at the time of their formation.

The psychic energy of a ghost is always attached to a particular object such as a building, a natural object (tree, boulder, etc.), or personal item owned by the individual (weapon, portrait, jewelry, etc.).  Destroying the item banishes the ghost.  Ghosts may also be exorcised without destroying the object by a sufficiently strong psychic.
Persons with psionic abilities and emotional problems can be possessed by ghosts.  In this case the ghost is able to once more have a full life experience.  The ghost can be exorcised, in which case the ghost is destroyed.

Some alien cultures have learned how to deliberately form ghosts and this has become part of their technology.  Ghosts are deliberately created to act as expert systems and to preserve the knowledge of the past.  In some cultures, creating a ghost is considered the appropriate final action of an individual  in the last moments of life.  Psionic devices and drugs have been developed to which aid in the formation of a ghost.   This technology has now passed into human hands and trained psionic individuals can form ghosts at will.

Creating a ghost requires one point of psi power which remains lost for the duration of the ghosts existence.  Temporary ghosts may be produced which vanish after a period of time but permanent ghost imply the permanent loss of psi power.   Permanent ghosts are therefore commonly only formed by persons in the last stages of life.  Because of these limitations, items haunted by expert ghosts are necessarily rare and expensive.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A New Review of Volant Up!

Another new review of Volant: Kingdoms of Air and Stone! This one from Geek Native's Andrew Girdwood.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lowell Was Right! and Filling Up the Cracks

In playtesting Lowell Was Right!, one of the first things my players noticed about the new skill system was that, though it worked great for everything it covered - and it covered a hell of a lot of territory in 30 skills - there were areas where things just weren't right. In the first session, within an hour of play starting, a player asked me "What about cooking? I want to cook this stuff. How good is my cooking?" I opened my mouth, and realized nothing in the skill system would work!

OK, cooking is an Art, right? Except as a specialization of the broad Art skill, the cook could paint at an almost expert level. Besides, only artists could cook well. That didn't make sense! Maybe cooking is a specialization of Survival? You need to eat to survive, right? Then the thought of Emeril dumped in the desert without pans, onions, or essence stifled that notion.

Maybe I can make it a new skill! Take one of the existing skills out and replace it with Cooking? No! Cooking was far less broad than anything it might replace, leading to many more gaps than before.

It just didn't fit! I made a quick house-rule to get out of that situation, but damn!

As play went on, these little cracks kept appearing. Places where broad skills were too wide and specializations too powerful. I realized I had to come up with a parallel system that wouldn't replace Skills, but complement them. So I came up with this...

Spheres of Interest

Everybody has different interests competing for scarce time and attention. The more time you give these interests, the better you understand it, yet that means taking time away from other interests. In Lowell Was Right!, each character has five points of interest to distribute among five Spheres of Interest. These Spheres are:

Domestic, Intellectual, Political, Cultural, and Religious

These interests are measures of time spent engaging in these general areas. If a Skill applies to a situation, use the Skill check. Skills always trump Spheres of Interest. The GM determined the most applicable Sphere of Interest, and whether a Skill or Sphere applies to the situation.

To use Spheres of Interest, in a situation where an interest might apply, use a Skill+0 check with an Attribute of 9. Each point in the applicable Interest adds a large Bonus.

Example using StarPool: Jordan is attempting to impress visiting Mars Human House members with a tasty Earth meal. He has 3 points in his Domestic Sphere of Influence, so he rolls a Skill+0 check - 1d20 roll at or under TN 9 - plus three Large Bonuses - 3d20 roll at or under TN 9 - and counts successes. He rolls 7, 12, 9, and 18, for two successes. A good meal, but not as impressive as he hoped.

Example using StarPerc: Jordan is attempting to impress visiting Mars Human House members with a tasty Earth meal. He has 3 points in his Domestic Sphere of Influence, so he rolls a Skill+0 check - 1d100 roll at or under TN 9 - plus three Large Bonuses - +60 points to TN,  making the TN 69. He rolls 58, for a success. A separate Quality check is made, with a result of 71. A good meal, but not as impressive as he hoped

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Digression

I make a lot of jokes on how few fans my RPGs have. I make jokes about my "stealth marketing" and how "I had a fan once, but he retired" and the like. It's exaggeration for laughs, but it's pretty much true in spirit. That has apparently led some folks to believe I think I'm not getting my fair share of interest.

That is not in the least true. My games are getting exactly the lack of attention I deserve. If I wanted fame and fortune, why am I not spamming for my games? I should work at that, but I won't. Even when people are specifically asking for something I just feel stupid, awkward, and horribly self-conscious. Fault all mine.

I should be part of some group, like the OSR or the Story Games movement. Both of them boost their members' games by cross promoting like crazy, all part of the movement, and all working for some end. I'm sorry, but I can't do that. I'm not much of a joiner. Like Groucho, I would never join a club that would have me as a member! Causes and movements leave me bored and uncomfortable. I boost a lot of other designers' games, because I just really like those games. They have not much in common, really. It's all over the place. No coordination. Awful job, really!

I should write games that people actually *want*! If I did that one thing, if I just paid attention to trends and stuff, I could hop a wave and cruise. Instead, I only write games about things that interest me, and those are usually quirky, strange, and don't fit what anyone is looking for. Really - I can't imagine someone searching desperately for a game about a 21st century world where 19th century science was correct. What am I thinking? I really should stuff some Cthulhu in there. or just drop the science and make it Steampunk, but I won't. See the stupid trend here? Mulishness.

I really should get involved writing for some popular system like FATE or Savage Worlds or something. People who write for these game systems have a built-in audience, and these are fine systems! Not this special snowflake!  I'm too interested in refining my own system. It's starting to vaguely resemble what I wanted when I started it 12 years ago. A little more chiseling, some polishing, and in another dozen years maybe it'll be mostly done. Like anyone but me cares! It's not like we are facing a critical shortage of RPG systems! Why doesn't that matter to me? It really should!

So, it's my own fault. It's like I deliberately set myself up to disappear!  I have no interest in or talent at leading, and I refuse to follow, so I should get out of the way, right? Except I don't see it that way. I'm on a journey to wherever my mind takes me, and just because I don't want anyone following me doesn't mean I'm not glad of the company if someone is heading in the same direction for a bit.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Popular Music in Lowell Was Right!

The history of popular music remains essentially the same as in our world until the popular Big Band music of the '40s gradually moved up in age demographic in the '50s, and became more and more Latin influenced. The younger kids of the early '50s embraced small band jazz - quartets, trios and quintets - as a more intimate reaction to the Big Band era, but by the middle of the decade, popular teen music was all about Rockout - a genre derived from the blues and country music, featuring loud steelbox guitars, simple vocals, standup bass, and trap drums in a heavy beat. Rockout would remain at the core of popular music until the present, though the sound changed every few years as new aspects were featured.

By the '60s, Rockout was cross-pollinating with other genres, becoming a mega genre which absorbed others. Some Rockout bands crossed with small band jazz to form Bopout, which heavily featured horns and syncopated beats. Jango was created when bands took on the Latin influences of popular Big Band music. The Glitz style featured complex shifting rhythms  which were impossible to dance to, and elaborate polymelodic lines for all the instruments.

In the mid '70s,  reaction to the overelaboration of rockout styles - particularly Glitz - triggered the inevitable backlash. A movement toward home-made instruments and simple, strong rhythms led to the Thunk movement. As percussion instruments are the easiest to create, most Thunk bands were heavily percussion oriented, which encouraged dancing. By the '80, Thunk bands were automating their music with flywheel-strummed steelbox guitars and extremely fast rhythms to make the Speed style. This in turn led to complete automation - machined designed and constructed to make musical sounds controlled by a single person. This movement was dubbed Mechanica, and became quite popular.

The Glitz style of Rockout eventually merged with Thunk and evolved into a new style called Loopout, which was created by control and manipulation of recording devices, particularly tape loops and record scratching rhythms. The loops were played through keyboards, where the speed of the loops could be varied to sound different tones. Anything - even percussion or machine noises - could be recorded and played back through these keyboards. Loopout is a studio-bound style, as the tape loops change their size depending on air temperature and humidity.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Volant - Merchants of Death III

We played our third session of Volant over IRC Tuesday. So far the Scrounger characters and their relationships have shone. The "rivalry" between the veteran Scrounger Farise and the young Tyss has been fascinating. Scrounger flight leader Ray has demonstrated great abilities as a teacher and as a leader. Aelia has been amusing for her overall competence and sardonic detachment.

The Spy/Diplomat/Negotiation team has been less golden. I hope they can pick it up a notch next session. They have been interesting, but not as developed as the Scroungers. Next session,when the actual negotiations start, should see some character development!

The uniformly excellent nature of the reviews for Volant (2 at 4/5, 2 at 5/5) obscure the real fact that no one has heard of it. Like almost all my games, it has created no buzz at all. It's lucky I am doing this for other reasons. My marketing skill must be at a negative value. By sheer random chance, somebody with no particular skill should have had a game that received some notice  by now, after 11 years, releasing an average of two games a year. The little marketing I do must actively drive people off. Maybe I should just not do anything at all? :D

I've started work - broken ground on - two different Volant accessories. One is a supplement for creating Fragments - skylands too small to be called regions. The other is a supplement centered on taming flying monsters for use as mounts. So far both subjects are holding my interest. :D


Monday, July 15, 2013

Another Volant Review

Another review up for Volant: Kingdoms of Air and Stone on This review is from AsenG, and he actually liked the two page long trading/debate minigame! Awesome! And he's coming from a different viewpoint. Rich Rogers of  Canon Puncture called Volant "Joust: The RPG", and most people are attracted to the bird rider aerial combat. AsenG, who wrote this review, is far less interested in that aspect of the game, but was very intrigued by the other aspects of the game. That means the game reflects the balance I sought when I wrote it. It's *NOT* just about the birds! :D

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Volant Hacked!

So Levi Kornelsen took Volant and ran with it, and this is what he came up with -

I think it totally rocks! :D

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Lowell Was Right! Update

I am going to start Alpha playtest of Lowell Was Right! on Saturday. The game is now playable, though it lacks severely in several areas. Albert and I are working on space ships, but we are starting to nail down the aesthetics.

Life on Earth in Lowell Was Right!:

With virtually no radio - only spark-gap all frequency broadcasts - and no electronics, life on 21st century Earth in Lowell Was Right! is very different from ours. All recordings are in analog. Images are on film, sounds are on tape and wire recorders, and on platters played on gramophones. There is no amplification other than electrical and pneumatic/acoustic horns and speakers.

It is much more common to go out to see movies and musical performances than in our world. Most clubs offer live music rather than recordings. Computers are analog and mechanical‐electric rather than digital and electronic. They are large, specialty instruments with cams and shafts, designed to calculate ballistics and other unwieldy mathematics.

Phones are connected by wires, and long distance calls are manually switched at switchboards by operators. Most vehicles use external combustion steam engines instead of internal combustion
engines, except where power to weight or speed is vitally important, where turbine (jet) engines are used, even on motorcycles. The IC engine was never properly developed in Lowell Was Right! All machines are run by cams and levers, or manually operated. Even kitchen appliances. There are no microwaves, no turbo ovens.

Even so, there are compensations. Anti‐mass jet dirigibles lift great amounts of weight, and air travel is very cheap. Materials are available which could never exist on our world. Spaceflight is not uncommon. Stirling cycle steam engines are extremely efficient, and environmentally friendly. There are no radioactives. There is no detectable human engendered climate change. People read more ‐ newspapers and magazines thrive, and books are extremely popular.

Fashions have gone in different directions than on our world. Hats are universally worn by both men and women. Skirts are longer ‐ flowing and accentuating shape ‐ slit, and layered. Men’s clothing also emphasizes shape, texture, and draping. Waists are set high - Empire fashion. Waist‐length jackets are common, though longer thigh‐length or calf‐length coats are common as well, and both are often worn with vests and bustiers.

Collars tend to be high, open, and stiffened. Neckties are typical, but in the form of scarves worn around the neck, inside the collar. Clothes are more formal in public. No one wears jeans and t‐shirts where people can see. Balanced asymmetry is fashionable. Capes are worn frequently in bad weather. Buttons are more prominent, and zippers are generally used only where hiding the fastener is preferred.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Volant - Merchants of Death II

We had our first session of Volant over IRC. We started off with our scroungers searching for giant bird nests and eggs. Two of our characters, Tyss and Farise, got into a verbal bitchfest, some nasty epithets being thrown around - which was totally expected, set up from day one - and kept on flying without really looking. Meanwhile the rest of the scroungers found a giant eagle nest in a tall tree over the river they had been following. When they swooped down to investigate, they found that the eggs had been smashed and the chicks stabbed in their shells.  Roy, the scrounger leader, read the evidence, examining the scratches on the tree limbs, the fecal matter, and a bootprint in it, and shivered. "Bat-riders!" he said. The Raft was back, the nasty predatory horde of the air had returned to haunt them.

He sent Tyss and Aelia off to warn the Cockoos' Nest that the Raft had returned. Along the way, they ran into a Quetzalcoatl, a huge, 10 meter long flying feathered snake-bird. Tyss said something, and the Quetzal abruptly turned and headed for them. They split up, Tyss diving, while Aelia broke left. The Quetzal followed Aelia through a barrel roll as she tried to get behind it. The Quetzal made one less success, however, and Aelia came out of the barrel roll with a decent shot. She attacked, making a slight wound, while Tyss who had made a low yo-yo, swung up from below and shot the Quetzal in the belly. With the Quetzal and Aelia both losing their airspeed, and in search of easier prey, the Quetzal dove for the ground. Aelia and Tyss regretfully let it go, as they had a mission. the others meanwhile camped for the night on the shelf of a cliff, with no fire.

It went well for a starting game, but the new players Rich Rogers and Franck Michaux  seemed a bit confused by the air combat, so I ran a quick Volant Air Combat 101 over G+ Hangout on Saturday night. Both seemed to have things in much better comprehension at the end, so I think that too went well! Now to Wednesday, when we play again! :D


Friday, June 28, 2013

Volant - Merchants of Death

The Volant IRC game has come alive in the last week! We have developed the setting - here:

That is culture, religion, and the Association's POV of four different cultures, plus the culture the Association is part of. We are Merchants of Death,  selling trained war birds, siege engines, and clockwork devices to various customers, with a dreaded enemy due to show up at any time. The PCs live on a free fragment - the Cuckoo's Nest.

This enemy, the Raft, is made up of a single culture on hundreds of tiny fragments, which they steer by sails. Being much lighter than full skylands, the fragments whip around the world faster than the larger nations, lapping them every few years. Each time they come through, the nations in our local area get beat up. So, we have a hot commodity in a seller's market.

 Most of the PCs are done as well. Play begins on Wednesday, and we are all champing at the bit to play! My one worry? We couldn't possibly do more than scratch the surface of this rich, rich setting in the few weeks we have!   

Friday, June 21, 2013

Volant IRC

I will be starting up a game of Volant over IRC in place of our suspended Pigboats game. This game will have 3 players and be played on Wednesday nights. Currently, I am also running a Saturday face to face Outremer game and a Tuesday game of Look! Up In The Sky! over Google+ Hangout, and am setting up to GM In Harm's Way: Napoleonic Naval over IRC on Sundays starting next weekend.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The End of an Era!

Today, I ran the conclusion of along, long story arc in my 11 year old StarCluster IRC campaign. We began it in 2003, with StarCluster 1, moved to StarCluster 2 and then StarCluster 3. The game has been fascinating, due entirely to my awesome group of players! But the story arc we started six years ago on landing on Glorianna is over. Where we go from here, I have no idea! :D

One of the players sent this around:

"Wow,  I don't believe it.  Clash mentioned before we left that the
Glorianna plot line has been on going for six years. Thanks to everyone for creating a truly awesome gaming experience."

Thank *you* guys! It was an incredible ride!


Lobsters Rule!

So, with two of my players out, we decided not to play our regularly scheduled Outremer game. Instead we played a one shot of Tools of Ignorance. One of the players missed the entire time we playtested it, so it was a new experience for him. They decided to play rookies, just up from the farms, and I brought them into the Maine Lobsters Baseball Club, the finest expansion team in the National League. Well.. after a visit to a strip club in San Diego, with hijinx and mayhem, and almost a fist fight between two rookies.

The game against the padres was.... amazing. The three Lobster rookies had hellacious games - The pitcher pitched a shutout and went four for five at the plate, with seven RBIs. The shortstop went 3 for four with a hit By Pitch after goading the Padre's pitcher, and four RBIs - and stole home. The rookie first baseman hit for the cycle with two more home runs to boot. I stopped the game after five innings with a rainstorm - we were running late and it was a mercy killing. Lobsters won 28 to 0. :D


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hangout Up In The Sky

Tuesday, I ran a session of Look! Up In The Sky! over Google Hangouts. Though I have participated in Hangouts before, this was the first game session I had ever run. I have been running various games for over a decade on IRC, which is a wonderful medium, and I will be comparing and contrasting the experience with both that and running face to face.

First, it was a struggle to get everyone together. The first session, where we built the City, the Association, and the Characters, went off fine, but this first game session was tough to get rolling. We tried and failed for two weeks to get people coordinated, but we would end up without a quorum. Anyway, we finally got started - late, but started. This is just a fact of life when you are getting together with adults who have Real Lives, and is no different than with IRC, though my older groups have no problem, having been committed for years to the game.

The city was New Haven, a new city built on seven hexagonal artificial islands arranged in a super hexagon and connected by bridges. It had been built on a seamount in the Pacific, off the coast of northern California, and was no more than fifteen years old. Each of the seven islands was a neighborhood, with its own topographic, ethnic, and cultural characteristics - all defined in the city building process.

Our Association was Captain Cook's School, a school for talented but poor kids, which ran a Grade School through High School program. The PCs were a school-supported and authorized club. They had after-school access to a clubhouse - a storage container with a garage and a single room, both with power - and a classroom in the school building, three school bus/minivans painted yellow and black with signs and lights, an old computer with internet access running Windows ME, and two poor databases.

The player characters were all seniors in the High School program - Nate, a geeky boy with Weird Science! skills and elastic limbs; Sigurd, a nice but oddly naive lad who claimed to be a reincarnation of the Germanic hero of the same name; Kilauea - AKA Kila - a mountainous Polynesian girl who could grow much larger and stronger; and Eric, a redneck kid with strange light powers.

The session went well as an introductory session. The characters were great and worked well together, and the setting was interesting. They came in after class to find their clubhouse door smashed in by a single blow from a giant fist, and evidence of a fight or other violent encounter inside. This led them to a search for a kidnapped girl, with glimpses of something bigger behind and beneath it.

Playing over Hangout was different from either face to face gaming, or IRC gaming. Hangout is a video+voice medium, and when several players were talking at once, things could get garbled. Only one voice source at a time can transmit, and the players' voices could be chopped and mixed, with whoever was loudest at that moment coming through. One of the players and I did not have video enabled. This is intentional on my part, as I think playing a dozen NPCs would be easier if the players only had the NPCs' distinctive voices to go by, and were not distracted by the old geezer face.

I have found IRC with its text over various channels to be superior for the roleplaying aspects of gaming. It's really good for immersion and for back-channel communication. The Hangout was more like a face to face session, though with the camera off and different voices, it was a little better than real life. Over IRC I have to do voices entirely with odd spelling mimicking an accent and/or peculiar methods of expression and stock phrases to give characters real shapes.The last thing that was tricky was that there is no log for sessions. You can record a hangout, but I had no wish to publish it. i have come to depend on a log for reference and AP reports later.

All in all, a very good start! Mix interesting characters, an interesting setting, and a cool situation is my tried and trusted ingredient for successful gaming.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

See the Conquering Hero Comes

Our new player couldn't make the game Monday, so we played out the return to normalcy in Fremantle of the Pike's officers. Having insulted Captain Quigley's intelligence with wild talk about sinking aircraft carriers, he had just left in a huff, when the XO, Bobby Vaugirard, was assaulted from behind as he spoke to his skipper. The red-haired assassin was none other than Galatea, Bobby's WREN driver and current romantic interest, and origin of the name of the late, lamented frigate Galatea.

"They said you were dead! Don't you ever do that t' me again, you sod!" were her affectionate words. Bobby found himself trapped in pretzel logic in the ensuing word storm, and, panicking, made several verbal blunders, including asking for her number, forgetting she had already given it to him, and thus implying she wasn't worth remembering concerning such petty details. He escaped with his skin intact, while his Skipper watched from the sidelines, vastly amused.

The Skipper, Ray Campbell, left for Captain Quigley's office with his report, while Bobby dived into the mountain of paperwork that awaited him as a reward for his station as Exec. Quigley left Campbell to cool his heels in the anteroom, while he read Ray's report - undoubtedly to get Ray nervous - but that strategy failed as he read Ray's report that the Pike had indeed sunk two carriers in the Surigao Strait, along with many other craft he had known nothing about. The last he had heard from the Pike was acknowledging the receipt of the "Ultra" message that had precipitated the entire encounter, as the Pike's radio antenna had been wiped out along with most of her upper works by the vicious depth charging following the attack.

He immediately called Ray into his office and told him that the report was ridiculous, crazy. Ray backed the report as nothing but the truth. Quigley growled that if Ray's report were not completely backed up by his officers, Quigley would throw him in the brig and cashier him from the service. Campbell maintained the report was the simple truth, and his officers would indeed back him up. Quigley read further. "I see you recommended Vaugirard, Rizzo, and Sanderson (the three volunteers on the Galatea's attack) for the Medal of Honor... If what you write is true, that doesn't sound too excessive." He hesitated at the end, looked at Ray, then signed the report. When he looked up, Ray was still there. "What do you want, a parade? Dismissed!" Ray's parting remark that a parade would only be fitting earned him a "DAMN YOU CAMPBELL!" for his pains.

That evening, Bobby called Gal's number and began with affectionate remarks, only to learn that the recipient was Ginny, Gal's roommate. They ended up going out for dancing and Swan beers at a club in a double date with Ray and Ginny. While the other two were dancing, Bobby learned that Gal was a widow, having been married for three days last year before her new husband Jimmy was shipped out to die in Egypt. Bobby told her he was married, but he and his wife had not touched each other since the birth of their daughter years ago. He told her that when he got back to the States, he'd divorce his wife and send for Gal. Gal told him not to make promises. They were hazardous things in wartime, and they should just enjoy the moment. The night proceeded. All in all, a sweet  session that was needed and wanted.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Next Patrol of the Pike Begins Tonight!

The USS Pike has made it back to Fremantle (mostly) intact. The sub will be undergoing intensive repairs after its pasting by Japanese escorts after an extraordinary patrol to the Philippines, so this will be a long layover.

Some notable departures - Lt. Windy Windham, the boat's Engineer, will be leaving, replaced by Lieutenant William Ashley, a 40 year old Seattle native with family problems. The boat's Diving Officer, Lt. jg Theron Yoder, will also be rotated out, replaced by Lieutenant jg Jackie Keene, a rich artist trapped in the Navy by the war. Lt. jg Sal Rizzo is also leaving for a War bond tour in the States followed by reassignment. He will be replaced by 26 year old Lt. jg Lawrence Foote, a newly minted jg from Savannah.

It will be impossible to top what the Pike did in the previous patrol, but I doubt there will be any slackening of action, as her Skipper is most intent on sailing In Harm's Way.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Patrol Ends

I have been writing all along on the AP for my In Harm's Way: Pigboats campaign so I should tell you the first patrol is done. The Pike is safely tied to a dock in Fremantle. She had no radio, radar, periscopes, deck gun or AA gun. She could dive, but not deeper than 100 feet, and only with the punps going full bore. She made it by going cautiously the long way around, east of Timor, where the shipping and patrols were least.

Because they had no way to communicate, Mr. Vaugirard, the XO, went into Fremantle on a rubber raft with a couple ratings to arrange a rendezvous. No-one as yet knows about the spectacular end to the patrol, as the Pike's messages ceased after the received the ULTRA message. Ray and Bobby have mentioned it casually to the Captain, but he thinks they are joking, and is not amused.

We will resume play this coming Monday!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Goodby, Mr. Vance.

What more can I say? Your words will be rattling around in this old head until I join you.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We Have Met the Enemy, and He is Ours

From our Monday night In Harm's Way: Pigboats game:

At sunset, the Pike and the Galatea rendezvoused in a channel between two islands just off the Surigao Strait. Mr. Vaugirard went aboard the Pike to confer with the Skipper and officers. "Wanna have a look at my new love?" he asked Ray. The skipper looked her over. "What's her armament?" "120mm guns fore and aft, four twin 20mm and two singles, and two torpedoes in the deck tubes!" Bobby said proudly as he pointed each out. "No reloads for the tubes, but she'll do 30 knots!" Ray considered this. "Any extra munitions or explosives?" "Plenty of shells for the 120mm and 20mm guns," Vaugirard replied, "And thirty odd depth charges!"

He thought, then added "If we're going to do a suicide run, I'll only keep the smallest crew. A lookout, and someone to run the engines and fire torpedoes." The Skipper nodded. "Remember to take the rubber boat if you don't want to go down with the ship."

For the next hour, they plan their attack. They figure that the task group, which is going from west to the east, will tear up the Surigao as fast as it can. Problem is, the Strait is 14-18 miles wide, and visibility in the rain and dark is only about 3 miles. The Surigao is almost perfectly north-south. The task group wants to go east. At the top of the strait, where it widens out, is a fair sized island, Hibusong, about a third of the way across the strait from the north.

"My guess they'll either take the east channel here between Hibusong and Dinagat, or possibly swing north around Hibusong then east." said the Skipper, tracing the route with his finger. The XO agreed. "The Galatea can wait up here, north of Hibusong, and still be in great position, and the Pike can wait here, behind this cape on Dinagat!"

Mr. Rizzo volunteered to go with the XO on the Galatea. The extra munitions were packed into the nose of the Galatea, and the depth charges were set for the shallowest depth. The wheel was rigged so it could be locked into position. They got into position and waited.

A little after 1100, Galatea's lookout spotted the task group. "They're coming up the east channel, like we figured, sir! A destroyer in the lead, and something big following!" Soon thereafter the lookouts on the Pike saw them coming too. A flattop emerged from the dark as well. "That big ship's a cruiser, Galatea" radioed the Pike. "Wait for the battleship." The destroyer had swept past, and the cruiser was going by when yet another, even larger carrier loomed up astern of the first. "Message the Pike, Mr. Rizzo! We want a carrier!" "Pike to Galatea. Take the first" "Let's go!"

With a roar, Rizzo opened up the engines full throttle. The Galatea leapt forward riding a white bow wave. The Japanese made no attept to fire on her, just a lazy aldiss lamp query. The Galatea's path turned into a high speed curve.  "Fire the  torpedoes!" "One away! Two away!" With that, a few guns began to fire on the Galatea. "Let's go, sir!" Vaugirard lashed down the wheel and leapt off, diving into the water. The two torpedoes hit first. Boom! BOOOM! Huge towers of water leapt up the sides! The light carrier slowed. Seconds later, the Galatea hit in a huge fireball. KABLAAAM! Then the depth charges went off in a staggered, rolling water-hammer underneath the flattop - BaBABOOOmBABOOOM! The middle of the carrier lifted, her back broken, sinking.

Rizzo and Vaugirard screamed in victory as they clung to the raft. "WE DID IT!" "Top THAT, Campbell!" They paddled toward Hibusong Island.

The big fleet carrier had gone around the stricken light carrier to the east, away from the Galatea's deadly attack from the west. Consequently, she was perfectly silhouetted against the burning carrier from the Pike's position at the tip of Dinagat Island. Ray Campbell was at the TBT on the surfaced ship as she bore in at 19 knots. "Bearing 2 5 1, range 1 5 0 0 yards! Shoot when we have a solution! Prepare to go about!" "We have a solution! Fire One! Fire Two!" came from Yoder at the TDC below, and the Pike shuddered. "Bring stern tubes to bear!" shouted Campbell. "Right full rudder! Come about to 8 0 degrees!" shouted Yoder.

Campbell raced back to the aft TBT on the cigarette deck as the Pike looped around in the darkness. "Use same range! This bearing on my mark!" "We have a solution!" "Fire five!" shouted the Skipper. "Fire six! Combat reload our last fish in tube five! Yoder - head for the cape and dive to 200 when we pass it!" "Aye sir!"

SLAM! BAAAM! Two torpedoes slammed into the big carrier. Fire blossomed and lit the Pike in sharp relief. A shell screamed overhead - from the destroyer or the cruiser, he couldn't tell. There was the cape. BRAAANNNNG! BAAAMMM! Two more smashed into the carrier. Foom! Fire spread quickley before KABAAAAM! she exploded! "Dive! Dive!" He hit the klaxon as more shells screamed in.

For two days, Vaugirard, Rizzo, and Sanderson the lookout had avoided Japanese patrols, lying up all day, and scavenging the beaches of  Hibusong Island by night. They ate crabs,  fish, and mussels raw, and drank from clear-running streams after popping in their water purifying tablets. It was night,  and they were scavenging a crab, when a soft hissing noise reached Rizzo's ears. "What's that?" he asked. "The radio!" shouted Vaugirard. "Listen to it!" "Hello? Hello?" shouted Rizzo into the small voice radio.  realizing how unprofessional that sounded, he added "Frigate Galatea." "Enjoy your shore leave, gentlemen?" The unmistakable sound of the Skipper's New York accent was electric.

The arranged a rendezvous.  The silhouette of the sub was frankly unrecognizable. It looked like bent and twisted steel that had survived a tornado. "What did he do to our baby?" said the XO softly. "What happened to the periscopes? The deck gun? The 20mm gun?" asked Rizzo as they were hauled aboard. " The Skipper answered "Dunno. Lost them somwhere. the Japs weren't too pleased with our shenannegans." The XO nodded. "They're petty like that. When you get beat up, you don't do it halfway." The Skipper grinned. "Your hand radio will be a major boost to our communications. I also don't think we can dive any more."   The XO replied "That's going to be a difficult ride home."