Thursday, January 31, 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fun Star Wars-ish Gaming!

In my Saturday game - Star Wars-ish, using StarCluster 3 suitably modified - the ship was being chased by an Imperial StarDestroyer. The captain flew it onto a desert planet with bad air, so that the Jedis and Padawan had to wear breathers outside. She set it down under a rock overhang, facing out, as a shuttle was sent down to follow them. The Jedis fanned out and took down a platoon of Stormtroopers, dressed in their uniforms, and walked to the shuttle, with the wookie and Salustan as "prisoners". They almost botched the signal to come in safe, but a Jedi Mind Trick on the commander led to him emptying the shuttle, which the Jedi took over. The Wookie flew it up to the Star Destroyer, where it was directed to land in Bay 3. As it did, the jedi saw that two officers and twelve stormtroopers awaited them.

The PCs set the engines to explode after twenty seconds, and succeeded in downing everyone but one stormtrooper and shutting the blast doors behind them before tine ran out. The shuttle exploded, and - while men from all over the ship raced to the bay to contain the damage, the PCs sped through the ship, cutting their way through two stormtrooper patrols and Mind Tricking another before they reached their goal, the engineering section at the stern.

They forced their way into Engineering, cowing any resistance and locking the engineers up in storage before setting the Star Destroyer's engines to overload, then smashing the controls - the Salustan was an ex-Imperial engineer who did an amazing number on them. They located (using LUCK) the captain's gig - a swanky atmospheric ship for impressing VIPS - and bulled their way through the service droids to get in. They had almost escaped when the Star Destroyer blew up. The rear of the gig got caught in the explosion and was on fire. The Wookie did a great job and crash landed the gig in the desert. They ran out of the wrecked and burning gig into the desert. Minutes later, the flaming Star Destroyer smashed in some miles away, sending out a huge blast wave, and covering the party in sand.

They were dug out and picked up by the captain and crew, and all left the system post-haste.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Last night, I finished adapting Levi Kornelsen's Ouroboros Engine to be a drop in StarCluster resolution mechanic, which I'm calling StarWorm. Ouroboros is based on StarPool, but Levi put GM-mediated Stakes into the system. In every situation where dice are thrown, the GM sets the stakes. There can be several stakes, of two types. I call them "You Might" Stakes and "You Could" Stakes in  StarWorm. "You Might" stakes always start off with "You Might", as in "You Might Die", or "You Might be Shamed", or whatever fits the situation. These are dangers, and they will happen unless you buy them off with a success. "You Could" Stakes always start with "You Could", as in "You Could Seduce Him/Her", or "You Could Make a Great Impression", or "You Could Lop Off His Head", and the like. These are opportunities, and they will not happen unless you trigger them with a success.

One of the cool things that happens with this concept is the granularity of action is whatever you want it to be. Want to zoom in on something? Make the Stakes smaller. Want to bite off big chunks of action at a time? Make the Stakes bigger. You control the scope of the action, from task to conflict, by setting appropriate stakes.

Another cool thing you get with this concept is that the GM no longer rolls opposition. By setting the stakes appropriately, you are giving opposition. Stack "You Could Die" on top of "You Could Be Badly Wounded" on top of "You Could Be Lightly Wounded", and there are three levels of opposition which the Player has to either buy off with successes, or suffer as consequences.

A third cool thing is that the dangers always match the situation. You can set up situations where the repercussions of failure are deadly, and others where the consequences are minor, and still others where the consequences are just plain different, and the system can handle it. You can say "You Might Break a Leg" rather than have Constitution (Hit Point) damage. You can say "You Might Be Emotionally Devastated" instead. Whatever makes sense for the situation.

Next I test the rules out in play! If you can't wait, though, get Levi's Ouroboros and check it out!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Sampan

In my Monday night In Harm's Way: Pigboats Game, we had an interesting situation. The submarine, USS Pike, was heading north at night to position itself for a daylight submurged transit of the Lombok Strait between the islands of Bali and Lombok in the Japanese-controlled Dutch East Indies. The Lombok Strait - unlike most of the straits in this area - is fairly wide and deep, and uncluttered with inconvenient little islets and reefs. The US subs use it constantly as a shortcut to the Java and Sulu seas north of the archipelago, and the Japanese are very aware of this fact, countering with strong air and sea patrols.

The Pike was on the surface when a lookout called out a sighting. A large sampan with the typical deckhouse covering half the length of the boat, and a single mast, though the mast was lowered and it was traveling on a gasoline engine. The sampan was putting from west to east across the route to the Strait. The Skipper and XO looked it over with their night glasses, both scoring phenomenally good successes. The Captain saw two people on her deck, with one sitting at the tiller in the stern, and the other walking towards the deckhouse carrying a bundle - "Maybe explosives" he added - and also noted the silver thread of a radio antenna in the quarter moonlight. The XO said the second person was a woman, based on her walk. The Lookout muttered to the other lookout that he barely even saw the boat.

The Pike swung in beside the sampan - which proved fairly large at about 50 feet long - and sent a stream of tracer across the bow, while one of the Lieutenant jgs tried various languages to call out for a halt. The sampan first tried to cut away, but realizing it was hopeless, soon cut its engine and waited. The boat linked up, and the Skipper sent Lt. jg O'Grady, the Signals officer, Ensign Rodriguez, and three volunteers over to the sampan.

The helmsman of the sampan proved to be a Malay, wearing loose cotton pants, a kris, and a turban. Lt. jg O'Grady interrogated him in Dutch, with one sailor standing guard with a rifle, while Ensign Rodriguez and the other two men went to investigate the deckhouse, presumably where the woman had gone to. The helmsman tried to mouth the word "Japanese" to O'Grady, who figured it out in time for a shout to the men at the deckhouse.

Innis, the lead seaman on the detail, had already opened the door to the deckhouse, but Rodriguez and the other seaman were able to throw themselves to the sides as a submachine gun burst slammed into Innis and dropped him immediately. A grenade came out of the deckhouse next, but it clipped the coaming and fell off into the sea harmlessly, where it exploded. Then two Japanese soldiers charged out of  the door of the Sampan, screaming "Banzai!". One shot a SMG burst at Rodriguez, but he had taken cover behind a crate on the deck, and the burst just blew splinters into the air. The other fired a burst at seaman two, but missed high.

Seaman two (never named, unlike Innis) fired his rifle from the hip, catching the second Japanese soldier in the leg. He fell to his knees, but was not out. Rodrigez fired his .45 pistol at the first soldier, but missed wildly as the man ran by. O'Grady fired his .45 and hit the first Japanese soldier in the left arm, but the man kept on running at him like a berserker. He fired his pistol at O'Grady, but was in bad condition and missed terribly. O'Grady fired again and the man was dead, drilled with a torso shot. He skidded to a stop in front of O'Grady and bled out in a pool at O'Grady's feet. The other solder took another SMG burst at Rodriguez, but missed again with the effects of his wounds. Seaman 2 and Rodriguez both hit him with shots, and he too was gone.

O'Grady started to walk up the deck to the others but the Malay helmsman shoved by him, attempted to hurdle Rodriguez, who was assessing if Innis was still alive - he was, but was out cold and loosing blood - but clipped Rodriguez and spun into the coaming, cracking his head and knocking him senseless.

O'Grady and Rodriguez had no idea what was going on, but O'Grady got past him and went down into the deckhouse. There he found the woman - a Malay - with her throat cut. On her lap was a wailing baby girl, covered in blood from her mother. O'Grady shouted something and stumbled out on deck, vomiting over the side. Rodriguez took one glance inside, and turned away, face blanched, not wanting to see more. O'Grady recovered enough to get some rags and clean the baby up, and the session ended there.

Next session, a decision must be made by the Skipper as to what to do about the sampan, the Malay man, and the baby. Does he put them into the sampan and let them go? They could talk about his presence - would have to in fact. Does he keep them as prisoners and destroy the boat?  A quandry.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Science Underlying Lowell Was Right!

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

Astronomical Theory: We are assuming 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.

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.

Biologic Theory: I'm thinking a combination of Lamarkian and Mendelian genetics, with a possible 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) could be helpful in explaining the speed of evolution required with a Nebular theory.

Chemical Theory: Caloric theory, with the addition of friction models, would work here. Since we are assuming no subatomic particles, we also need to presume an electrical fluid. The electrical fluid fluid could also act as the caloric fluid, following the Wiedmann-Franz law where thermal conductivity is proportional to temperature. The only problem is that this leaves unexplained the rare high thermal conductivity of a few insulators, notably diamond, which transfer heat by thermal vibrations, but I do not know that this was known by 1880.   Since we are assuming an etheric atomic theory, we should also assume an atomic caloric-electric fluid theory rather than a continuous fluid, though it might be best to assume it comes in both forms, new positive and negative pairs of caloric particles being produced by friction.  Thermal conductive insulators could then be explained by the motion of coupled pairs of positive and negative caloric particles.

One of the interesting features of this 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. A unification of Plutonism and Neptunism on how rocks formed - 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 need to develop things that *do* work, and see how that changes our world.