Saturday, February 23, 2013

Skills in Lowell Was Right

In Volant, I went with a reduced skill set - 30 skills, five tied to each Attribute. This worked very well for Volant, and I decided to use this setup for Lowell Was Right. Unfortunately, it gave the opposite feel of what I wanted - the reduced skill set made it feel pulpy. The Science skill felt too much like Science! to feel right, if you know what I mean. I love pulp, but I was not writing a pulp game, and Lowell has too much in common with pulp to go in that direction.

On the other hand, going with a reduced skill set has a lot of advantages. It's simpler to learn, it's easier to keep in your head, it's more balanced,  and it fits on the Character Sheet. So I've decided to use the reduced skill set, but allow it to branch out into *Areas of Expertise*.

Areas of Expertise

Skills in this game are broad, defined from center, and overlapping. They are also limited in their broadest sense to a rank of +2. If the character gains skill ranks above +2, the character must declare an Expertise.
The Expertise describes the area where the character, through specialization of knowledge, is able to transcend the normal limitation of rank +2, and effectively utilize ranks of +3 or higher - if the skill check lies within the area of expertise.

Example: Kelsey has four ranks of Science. She must declare an Area of Expertise. She declares it will be Biology. If a problem comes up where she must apply her Science skill, she is limited to using a rank of Science+2, unless the problem lies within her Area of Expertise of Biology, where she is ranked at Science+4.

Open Declaration

Declarations of Areas of Expertise are open - that is anything within the greater field of the skill may be declared as an Area of Expertise, so long as it is significantly more limited than the broad skill. Each skill in the table is given three example Areas of Expertise. These may be used as is, or as examples to compare player chosen areas against.

Multiple Areas of Expertise

A character may declare multiple Areas of Expertise within the broader skill, so long as there are enough ranks of skill to support them.

Example: Kelsey has four ranks of Science skill. She may declare two Areas of Expertise within the Science skill, such as Biology+3 and Chemistry+3, or alternately declare one Area of Expertise, such as Chemistry+4. When gaining new ranks of skill, the character may always choose between adding those ranks to an existing Area of Expertise, or adding a new Area of Expertise.


Masteries are gained when a character’s Area of Expertise reaches a rank of Skill+5. At this point, the character gains a re-roll on any Skill Check involving the Area of Expertise, or alternately, with combat skills, a second attack.

Friday, February 22, 2013

LUITS! Cover

Thought you all might like to see the cover for Look! Up In The Sky, Klaxon's Team Supers game

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Of Babies and Submarines.

Last night's Pigboats game went off into an odd direction. The Captain and XO were discussing how to get through the 300 mile long Makassar Strait, and had just decided on running through it full speed on the surface at night, when the XO thought aloud "I wonder how Hope is doing?" Hope is the name they gave the baby they rescued from the Sampan. I had also been wondering about her, so I rolled a d20, low good, high bad as befits a roll-under game. I rolled a 20.

I told the XO that she had been crying for some time, and he could hear it up on the bridge from the forward torpedo rooms, even over the diesels. Signals Officer O'Grady went to see what was going wrong. He found her being cosseted ineffectually by a torpedoman, who told O'Grady she was hot. O'Grady felt her skin - definitely feverish.

Some time ago, O'Grady had learned that the Skipper had received Corpsman Training - a very odd thing - which meant he was more qualified medically than the ship's "Doc", a mere Pharmacist's Mate, who the XO had gotten hastily and partially trained in battlefield medicine on his own, in case one of the flyboys they might rescue on Lifeguard duty had been shot. He sent the Torpedoman up to get the skipper, while he took Hope and went to get the Doc.

He found Doc Kendall pulling a sheet up over Hope's father's head. The Malay had gotten a depressed skull fracture, striking his temple on the hatch coaming on the sampan, and had lingered for several days after the sampan incident. The sub had meanwhile submerged as dawn was coming up.

in the Captain's quarters, Doc Kendall reported "The girl is an orphan now, sir. Her father just died. We'll have to bury him tonight - he's Muslim." The Skipper  nodded and asked for Hope. He placed her on his bunk and began to examine her. Kendal took her temperature. "She's at 104, Skipper. Not good. Looks like an infection to me." O'Grady asked "Is there anything I can do? Can we cool her down?" Doc handed him some gauze and a bottle of diluted alcohol. "Moisten a cloth with a little alcohol, and wipe her down gently. It will cool her as it evaporates. Be careful that she doesn't take a chill!" O'Grady did so, and as she cooled, she calmed down.

The Skipper looked her over - mouth, eyes, nose, but when he touched her left ear, she screamed. "That's it!" said the skipper. Kendall handed him an auriscope, and the Skipper bent over her, looking into her ear. "She's got an infected flea bite in her ear. It's badly swollen and blocking her canal. What have you got for this, Kendall?" He unrolled his never-used surgical implements. The skipper chose his tool with care. "I have some wicking for abcesses, plenty of gauze, and sulfa powder." replied Kendall, rooting through his supplies. He set them out.

O'Grady held her steady. Hope looked into his eyes, whimpering a little. "Poor little thing!"Kendall held her head as the captain cut into the abcess. Blood and pus spurted out as hope screamed and twisted her head violently. "Shit!" shouted Kendal as she twisted her head out of his grasp. The Skipper hadn't fully withdrawn the blade, and her ear was gashed. She screamed louder. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" shouted Kendall as O'Grady tried to comfort her, singing softly to her, and the Skipper cleaned out the ear, sprinkling it with sulfa powder before suturing the gash. Kendall packed the abcess with the wick, with Hope bawling the whole while. She quieted down to whimpers again when they finished.

O'Grady started back to the forward torpedo room, walking very slowly, and holding the girl like a package of nitroglycerine. He stopped and turned to face the others. "Thank you guys. I know you're doing your best." He turned back and moved on towards the baby's bunk.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Five Ships for StarCluster 3

From Klaxon Bowley comes five StarCluster 3 spaceships. These ships are designed to do their particular jobs, and are not just general cargo ships. They are:

Petronius - a 10,000 ton mining ship, designed to harvest chunks of moons or asteroids in space, but with space for people to live for years at a time. Includes a 600 ton Scout ship, 100 ton shuttles, and 30 ton escape pods.
Kirin Police Station - a 3000 ton mobile interplanetary police station, with 30 ton police cruisers and lockups.
Hare's Rest - a 30 ton fast smuggler, cramped and tiny.
Enchanting Esmerelda - a 250 ton Music/Theatrical ship, with two stages, shops, and recording studios.
Winston Powell University - a 600 ton peripatetic institute of higher learning, designed to bring students to the wonders of the Cluster for hands-on learning.

Along with the pdf is a spreadsheet, with greater detail in description, for making the ships customizable in all particulars for modification.

StarCluster 3 - Five Ships by Klaxon Bowley

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Seeing Destination Tokyo

My wife and son and I were watching Destination Tokyo tonight. It's a submarine film starring Cary Grant, and it's very good! Afterward, my wife and I were talking, and she said, "Y'know, it was really cool that we did all those same things they did in the movie when we played Pigboats, even though none of us knew anything about submarines."

That blew my mind, because she was right. Slipping through through a submarine net and a minefield by following an enemy ship though, right on it's tail underwater? In the movie. Dropping  off three men to watch from a height and report on ships in a harbor? In the movie. Dodging under a sinking ship to avoid escorts? In the movie. Running into medical problems the boat's pharmacists mate is not trained to deal with? In the movie. Picking off a depth-charging escort with a desperation down-the-throat shot? In the movie. All *THEIR* ideas! They were unreal!

They knew nothing at all about subs. Never read any submarine books or saw a submarine movie, yet they brought down the awesome game after game. My family - and the rest of my players - totally rock!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

More Pigboats play!

The USS Pike transited the Lombok Strait underwater during daylight, and prepared to surface in the Java sea after sunset. On the routine periscope scan  of the surface, the XO thought the sea looked "weird". the Skipper took a look. "Snakes? They better not be snakes! They gotta be eels!"

The boat surfaced, and when the conning tower hatch was opened, along with the usual gallon or so of water, in dropped a big ol' sea snake, right on top of the XO. The skipper hastily stepped away as the XO tried to grab the snake, and failed miserably. The snake reared back to strike, and Lt. Carnegie, the Weapons Officer, reached in and grabbed it in a lightning move, right behind the head. Carnegie dispatched it by wringing its neck, but the XO ordered it evicerated. Carnegie handed it off to a seaman to bring to the cook.

On the bridge, the officers looked out on a heaving mass of migrating sea snakes, covering the water in all directions. A lookout called "I see smoke, sir! To the north, over the horizon!" Lt. Vaugirard, the XO, put up his glasses. "I see it! Looks like a convoy, tracking to the east!"

The Pike intercepted on the surface, eventually coming in and paralleling the convoy to their starboard. The convoy consisted of a small corvette in the lead, followed by two small, coastal freighters sailing abreast, then a big freighter of about 9000 tons and a somewhat smaller tanker of about 7000 tons, then another big freighter, about the same size as the one ahead. A fast frigate ranged about the rear of the convoy, going up and down both sides, and cutting between the rows on a random path.

The captain judged by observation that the convoy was following an asymmetric zig zag, and painstakingly established their pattern. Lining up to starboard of the convoy, the Pike dived to periscope depth and simultaneously turned hard to port, aiming to cut the convoy ahead of the freighter and tanker.

At short range, the Pike fired fish 1 and 2 at the tanker, about 20 degrees to the port bow, and 4 and 5 at the big freighter, at about 30 degrees on the port bow. All four fish ran hot, straight, and normal. Due to the timing of the shots, fish 1 and 3 hit almost simultaneously, doing terrific damage. Fish 2 and 4 also hit about the same time, torpedo 4 tearing off the bow of the freighter, but 2 was a dud, hitting with a weak pop. Luckily, the one torpedo was enough and both ships began sinking, the freighter driving itself under in moments, and the tanker burning like a torch and lighting up the night,

The frigate zoomed around the bows of the burning freighter, straight at the Pike. She had been ranging the port side of the convoy, and was right beside the tanker when it was hit, masking it from the Skipper's sight. The skipper ordered the boat deep, "Go to 175 feet. Dig for depth charge! Rig for silent running!"

The frigate came on, pinging like mad, but unable to get a lock on the Pike - she was bows on, and in the debris of the freighter's sinking. Right over the Pike, she loosed a classic diamond pattern of six ashcans and roared on by. The explosions set the Pike to vibrating like a plucked string, coming as they were from every side, but none were close enough to cause permanent damage. the Skiper ordered Vaugirard to collect junk and oil from all over the ship, and to bring it to Lt. Carnegie in the forward torpedo room.

Lt. jg O'Grady, on the hydrophones traced the frigate's sweep off to starboard, apparently catching up with the rest of the scattered convoy, while another source of pinging came down from the head of the convoy. Probably the corvette. It slowed down and turned lazy loops at low speed, pinging constantly. Eventually it looped over the Pike and dropped two cans. The second was very close to the Pike, knocking her sideways. The Skipper ordered all stop, which was the signal for Lt. Carnegie to launch the junk and cans of oil out the number four tube.

The boat sat, slowly settling in the water, while theJapanese in the patrol boat looked over the debris, Evidently satisfied, they left, roaring off to catch up with what was left of the convoy.

"A classic ambush, Skipper! Congratulations!" said the XO. The Cob said "Well, we're no longer virgins!" The boat surfaced and turned back to their original course for the Makassar Strait, between Borneo and Celebes.