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.",