Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Kabbalist in Outremer

We are temporarily stopping our StarCluster game to run a game of Outremer. Outremer is set in an alt-universe where the states created by the Crusades lasted into the Renaissance. It is a game where magic is real, and the characters can follow various Paths of Power to learn to control Magic.

One of the Paths is that of the Kabbalist. One of the possible powers of the Kabbalist is the ability to create Golems. In the game, Golems start with a Strength of 18 and an Intelligence of 1. Each month, the Golem's INT increases by 1, but its STR decreases by 1 as well. After 18 months, the now hyper intelligent but pathetically weak Golem dies, unable to raise the strength to breathe, but able mentally to pierce the veil and see the face of God as it died. Most Kabbalists destroy the Golem before this time is up, as a mercy.

One of my players wanted to - as a Kabbalist - be able to change this, so that the Golem could live on longer. I love this! Thing is, as a Kabbalist, he (the character, not the player) would know that the life, the soul which animates the Golem, is not under his control. It is a gift of God. It may be a life quest of the Kabbalist to stop the Golem's rapid change, in which the Kabbalist might succeed once - either to allow the Golem to grow and mature, as in the Galatea myth, or as an immortal repository for the Kabbalist's mind, a kind of Kabbalistic Philosopher's Stone.

Interesting settings lead to interesting questions. Just thought I'd share this!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Link from Jeshen Space to SaVaHuTa Space

The Jump Route between Jeshen Space and the area dominated by SaVaHuTa is long and tenuous, characterized by dim red dwarf stars, no easily habitable planets, and only a couple space stations to supply fuel. In the Dweomer system is Fae Sidhe - the Fairy Station, and in the Kaleidoscope system is Marche aux Poisson, the Fish Market. Both are remarkable places, and both have a monopoly on fuel - it is quite impossible to traverse the route without stopping at either or both stations.

Fae Sidhe

Fae Sidhe is inhabited by a strange human offshoot of humanity who have genetically modified themselves into their idea of the romantic Fae - high PSI potential, pointed ears, tall and slender, high charisma. They often frequent the station night clubs and bars, attempting to seduce the "Mortals" who come through the station. They seek children for their breeding program, and any stationer by-blow is examined for desirable traits as they grow up on station. They will also examine any child fathered by one of the Fae if it is brought back to the station.

At 18 standard years of age, the child is judged, and either accepted into the Fae, or rejected if not pleasing - too "Mortal" looking, Psi Dull, short, not slender enough. Those rejected are given a short time to beg a ride off the station from any passing ship. If, at the end of that time, if they are still on station, they are sterilized and put to work as "Drabs".

Most of the station is off limits to "Mortals", as they refer to passing ship crew and passengers, and almost nothing is known of the strange life the Fae must live. They are high aesthetes for the most part, paying well for art and music that pleases their odd tastes. Most of the inhabitants of the Fae Sidhe are "Drabs", who own nothing and control nothing, slaves of their Fae families. They are for the most part more human looking than the Fae, but still odd and strongly aesthetic.

Marche aux Poisson

The Fish Market is a remarkable place, obsessed with aquaculture to a remarkable degree. All sorts of fish are bred here, and bringing in a new stasis-held fish will earn you the right to sell it in auction. The people of the Fish Market are separated into Houses - kin-based clans - who have a monopoly on certain species of fish.

The Station has enormous free-range "Seas", with specific types of habitat in each, the fish of all Houses together in a suitable environment, such as coral reef, or alpine lake, or cold ocean. You can purchase any kind of fish you like at the Fish Market - the variety is staggering - and the house that owns that species receives a cut of the profits. Restaurants at the station compete in serving rare and choice species to discriminating customers.

The Fish Market station is enormous, with a population in the millions, and does not depend on outsiders buying fish. The fuel supply business alone brings in enough outside credit for their needs, and most of the economy is internal.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bye to Jeshen Space Game, Hello to Outremer!

My StarCluster Jeshen Space campaign ended for the nonce, with 3 incipient pregnancies - planned to be decanted simultaneously, although each child will will have a different two of three possible parents - while a 10,000 ton colony supply ship is converted into the Monty Python, a giant flying circus. In order to free humanity from being slavers. truly!

We are switching over to an Outremer campaign next week. I have no idea what they will be doing, or where in Outremer they will be located. They will be putting together an Association before creating characters, though one said he wanted to be a Sufi Dervish, while another was interested in either a Kabbalist - no idea what religion - or a sorceror. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

I Got A Mashup of Sister Wives and Empire! 

In my Sunday IRC StarCluster game, one of my players' characters decided that it was a good time for getting pregnant, so he/she (currently male, but that's recent, and probably temporary) discussed it with his/her wives, they approved, and they are planning on three - one from each. Two of his/her wives are hermaphroditic alien Jeshen, while the other is a Sphynx bioroid. He/She is not necessarily to be the father, as it's a human/alien/alien/bioroid marriage, and the standard old-fashioned way won't cut the mustard.

Another one, she is a four armed wolf-human hybred pilot/musician, announced she wanted to take a ship and make a Circus - a Flying Circus - with acts from all over on a tour of Jeshen Space, stopping at every inhabited planet. The ship is to be the site of the performances, with several venues within it, and the audience to be flown up from the various worlds the ship is orbiting. What is absolutely scary is this makes complete sense in this campaign! It could be a brilliant stroke if they can pull it off, and they have the money, talent, and contacts to do it.

Who needs pew-pew-pew?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Young Supers!

So we are playing my son Klaxon's supers game Look! Up In The Sky! AKA LUITS. I'm setting up a Supers High School, in Santa Cosima CA. One thing I want to emulate is the fact that these kids will not be totally able to control their powers. That's why they are going to a Supers High School! This will be effected two ways:

1. If the player voluntarily uses less dice (dice pool game) than the character is entitled to, they get a build point counter for each die.

2. Each player draws a card from a freshly shuffled deck at the start of the session. they can play this card on any other player whenever they want.

*Hearts* lower the TN for success by an amount proportional to the value of the card, to a minimum of 1. The affected player gains a build point.

*Spades* raise the TN for success by an amount proportional to the value of the card, to a maximum of 15. The player giving the card gets a build point.

*Diamonds* give a spectacular success in proportion to the value of the card. The effect can be long lasting and mild, or short and powerful, as described by the card giver. The player giving the card gains a build point.

*Clubs* give disaster in proportion to the value of the card. The effect can be long lasting and mild, or short and powerful, as described by the card giver. The affected player gains a build point.

I think these two mechanics together will make the game feel like adolescents just learning how to control their powers.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Another Resolution Mechanic for StarCluster 4

Here's another Resolution Mechanic page for StarCluster 4. This is for Star100, a mechanic that uses percentiles, but is a bit different from the old StarPerc. This is necessarily a bit wordier than the StarPool mechanic I posted a while ago. What do you think? Is this as clear as the StarPool (d20 dice pool) mechanic?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Postcard From My Gaming Groups

Just a post to tell folks where I am with things! I haven't been posting much, as I am sure no one much cares about what I am doing in my game sessions, and I haven't had any big breakthroughs with StarCluster 4. I really need to make up some Template Trees and start playtesting, but right now we are doing some Look! Up In the Sky! supers gaming. LUITS is fast becoming my favorite Supers game because (TADAAAH!) it's so very flexible. We are running pulp level in a made up city called Santa Cosima, which is between Los Angeles and San Diego in California. The Association is based on helping (hidden) aliens settle into the population, and pays for itself by (painlessly) integrating alien tech with current human tech, and taking a percentage of the IP rights. Should be interesting!

My Sunday IRC (StarCluster 3) game is as usual a tangle of soap opera relationships - if soap operas had multiple member marriages with hermaphroditic aliens, that is. One big threat has been nullified, but uplifits, bioroids, and robots remain effectively enslaved on Human worlds within Jeshen Space. The group is wrestling with how to free slaves who are engineered to get pleasure from serving, and thus not want freedom, who are also pampered and indulged in their servitude, even loved, and only belong to the rich as playthings. No "Rise up and shake off your chains!" rhetoric is going to work. Their only chains are in their minds, and are invisible.

My Wednesday IRC group (Vanilla Volant) has succeeded in stopping the Orc army from romping through the almost uninhabited ithsmus, and is now attempting to cut an ally from the main bad guy empire, a nation they had no idea even existed since it grew up where nothing much was before the Great Plague. This will be interesting! There are no guides to what this culture is like, and the party will be walking through a cultural minefield. The carrot they have to dangle is the possibility of trade with their (good guy) empire. The trouble is, the bad guy empire is just over those mountains to the south.

Monday, November 23, 2015

How My Saturday StarCluster IRC Group Rolls!

In my long running StarCluster IRC game (since 2003) Saturday. The crew of the _Beginner's Luck_ have just nipped in the bud a plan to cause civil war between the Jeshen and Humans in Jeshen Space by monopolizing the music provider services on the Human worlds, and allowing access only to music that affected to public's mood towards resentment of the Jeshen.

In response to the Luck crew's attack - which involved contracting the broadcast rights to all the bands sidelined by the plot and selling a music device with the music digitally recorded on it, rather than being downloaded from the cloud - the conspiracy overextended itself, and became visible to the Human world governments, which did not hesitate to crush the cabal.

In the meantime, they have conclusively proved that Jeshen were genetically engineered to appeal to Humans, and it is strongly implied that Humans were treated likewise. They are currently sitting on this news, but have bought up the land around the entrances to the underground ecologies where their evidence exists, and established a non-profit institute to study the phenomenon.

This groups is so strange and wonderful!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thursday, November 5, 2015

High Strung Revised - Print and PDF Versions

Flying Mice Games and Precis Intermedia present...

You belong to a band. Pick your skills. Pick your style. Play clubs and festivals. Suffer critics and create demo tapes. Gain hope to get a multi-album contract. Lose hope and join a cover band.

This full-color Revised Rock 'n Rollplaying Game™ PDF is designed for experienced gamers.

Here's what people haven't said:

"A sullen, brutish ignorance hammering in vain anger at the gates of music"

"All the grace and delicacy of a pig on quaaludes lap dancing in a clown suit"

"A buzzkill four lines of coke couldn't dent"

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Quick Post on StarCluster 4 Progress

I have finished all 6 Skill pages - Strength-based, Coordination-based, Agility-based, Endurance-based, Charisma-based, and Intelligence-based.

Now I have started work on the Resolution Mechanic pages. What do you think about this?

Friday, October 30, 2015

High Strung Revised to be Released by Precis Intermedia

High Strung has been relaid out, edited and put into a new form factor, preparing for release this weekend by Precise Intermedia Games. I am very pleased by the new edition, which is mechanically identical to the current version. It looks sweet - really kickass! Precis Intermedia is releasing High Strung Revised as both pdf and print. I will be selling the pdf only though OBS - RPGNow/DriveThruRPG - while the print version and print+pdf bundles will be sold through the Precis Intermedia site. Previous purchaser of the pdf through OBS will get a a coupon, good for the price difference between the old pdf and new pdf.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Skill Presentation in StarCluster 4

Here's how I am thinking of presenting skills for StarCluster 4. There would be six of these, one for each Attribute. Theses are Strength Based Skills.

This is a huge departure for me, trying something radically different.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Wherein my Plans for The StarCluster 4 Big Book o' Possibilities are Revealed

Imagine this: You go to a website and are presented with a page of choices. You have a choice of chargen and skill-handling method. You select broad skills with specializations, and stacking templates for Far Future times. For Resolution Mechanics, you choose StarNova because you like d6 additive dice pools with exploding sixes. You check off Far Future Vehicles and Starships, because you envision a lot of space travel. You then select a setting, one where humans are just exploring and know nothing. You name your grouping, select DONE, and receive a pdf, ready to print. It's basically a custom designed game, based on what you are interested in.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Battle of the Bands for High Strung - Oooops!

Went camping this weekend with El Zambo and Klaxon. Among other things, we decided to play the Battle of the Bands one shot adventure for High Strung and had an absolutely awesome time. They loved playing 16-17 year olds living at home and under the parental yoke. Unfortunately, we couldn't finish the Battle of the Bands! Not due to time, but because the pdf was screwed up! This is the pdf I had put up for download at RPGNow and etc. There were several problems with it, and it is because I was not careful.

First off, I had created it from an older, in process source document, so there weer some minor fixes that never got into the pdf, like TNs for the competing bands. Second, and most important, the pre-gen characters tacked on at the end had slipped position and were covering two pages of text! Apparently, I had not checked the pdf after generating it.

I fixed the pdf so it now is updated and the pregens are where I put them. I uploaded, then downloaded the new file to be sure, and it is fine. I beg anyone who has bought the adventure to redownload it! Please! it is unplayable at the end!

El Zambo and Klaxon had so much fun - we played the end after we got home from the camping trip - that they want to keep on with the band and see where it goes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

StarCluster 4 - The Core Book - A Modest Proposal

The Core Book will be an extremely focused implementation or instantiation of the full rules. It will contain:

A Chargen section with Template Trees - maybe six or so - focused on producing characters for the given setting. Each Template Tree is a page, with a master page.
A choice of 4 species - Human, Jeshen, and 2 Other Aliens, at one page each.
A limited selection of equipment, focused on the scenarios included. There will be several related bits of equipment per page, probably a dozen pages at most.
A single page with general resolution rules
A single resolution system - probably StarPool. One page.
A list of skills and how to use them. One page per linked Attribute - i.e. STR based skills, AGY based skills, etc - and one master page. Seven pages altogether.
A section on the pre-generated ship, one page per section - bridge, quarters, drives, weapons, etc. Probably about 6-8 pages.
A character sheet with one page character worksheet.
A small selection of space suits/armors as appropriate. One page per suit, with one master page, Five or six pages total.
A one page map of Jeshen Space.

Three scenarios, separated in time and place, linked by the spaceship, which is owned in turn by three different Associations. Each Scenario will have:

An Association to which the characters belong. One page.
A stellar system map in which the scenario takes place. One page.
One page descriptions of each important world in the system. Total varies. Say one to three.
Scenario Setup. One page.
Two to four factions involved in the scenario, one page for each faction, with a second page each devoted to important individuals and a standard mook for that faction.
A default timeline for _'if things are not changed by the PCs'_ events. This is *expected* and *desired* to not happen as planned!

Hyperlinked Metainformation

There will be an unknown amount of metainformation, almost all concerning how this feature or that feature was constructed from the greater cloud of options available. This metainformation will be a separate document, so the Core can be printed out/read without the metainformation.

This gives me *very* little wiggle room, which may, in fact, be desirable.


Monday, October 5, 2015

StarCluster 4 Skills

Friday night and Saturday I refined the StarCluster 4 skill list down to 24 base skills, making sure that each Attribute had four skills, and each skill in the StarCluster 3 skill set (94 skills) could be expressed as a field of expertise within the StarCluster 4 skill set. In doing this, some surprising combinations have occurred - Baking and Demolitions are fields of Discipline, for example - but they all make sense, Baking and Demolitions both require precise measurement, the ability to follow directions perfectly, and self-discipline.

In StarCluster 4, base skills cannot progress above rank +2. if you raise the rank of a base skill to +3 or beyond, it becomes a narrower Field of Expertise within the skill. You can name the field yourself, or choose one of the example field names. Example: Science+2 becomes Science +2 (Biology+3).

StarCluster has always had a large, center defined, and overlapping skill set. Now it will have a small, center defined, and overlapping skill set.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers Spyrates Game

Had a really good session of Merchanters and Stationers tonight! They were poking around on Rela Station - a Malamo Station being unofficially taken over by Trissein - getting information - doing well too, when one of the crew bought a dress for his girlfriend, Peony, the human. Peony was secret - both the Rassa and the Trissein were after her - so he told the tailor that she was a doll, implying she was a sex doll. The tailor made a virtual model of Peony's body - humans weren't in the database - and created a beautiful dress, using the dress and model in his holographic advertising.

By the time the crew knew of this, the Trissein and Rassa had both learned of her being on the Mad Prince, and some Rassa almost caught one of the crew trying yo get back. He was a geek, though, and hacked into the hull breach alarm, and the Rassa were swept up in the rush.

The Trissein Assistant Stationmaster tried to hold him, but the exec had caught a Rassa prisoner for the Captain to interrogate, and the Captain ordered the prisoner sealed in a cargo can and left on the dock. He told the Assistant Station Master that Peony was in the can, and traded the access code for permission to get away.

The Mad Prince made a strung jump out - a jump with no slowdown in the destination jump point, followed with a second jump. This plays hell with stress - the Exec was hallucinating the Captain giving her orders, some of them paranoid, and she was one of the four who had to be drugged out and locked into the autodocs. The session ended with the Mad Prince hiding amongst the moons of the Jump Point's rogue gas giant, trying to get the crew unstressed enough to continue.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

StarCluster 4 Default Setting

Now I must make my decision on what the 'default' setting is to be in StarCluster 4. StarCluster 3 had no default setting, and people just flailed like Kermit. It needs to be physically fairly small and varied, with lots of adventure potential. It needs to be extensible. It needs both humanoid and non-humanoid aliens.

The Necklace alone is too small. It's a single system with an amazing setting, but there is not enough variation. Otherwise, it would be perfect. I could flesh out the region around the Necklace's star system, and that could be very interesting.

The old StarCluster 2 setting could be revived. It's too big as is, but some small portion of it could be used. It would feel like a retreat though.

I could create a setting specifically for SC4.

Jeshen Space - a setting I created for my IRC game - might be very usable. It has humans as the second species, allied to the Jeshen - an extremely humanoid species, whose apparent similarity to humanity masks a very different evolutionary trail.

Jeshen are almost exclusive carnivores, small, hairless, with a powerful tail they use in swimming, semi aquatic, hermaphroditic, with amazingly good eyesight and slick skin that will not wet. Otherwise, they look very human indeed. It may be parallel evolution, or it may be that they or humans were designed to look like each other by a third party. This would be left open.

In any case, Jeshen Space is mostly surrounded and threatened by space controlled by another alien species, one which detests both human and Jeshen. There have been several wars with this other group, which the Jeshen-Human alliance has so far been able to stave off. There are continual pokes, prods, and 'border incidents' now, though not actual warfare.

I could also include the Necklace into Jeshen Space with very little change...

And a link - a long, difficult link - to human controlled space as well, room for further expansion...

What do you all think?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fragments of Air and Stone Released

We've just released Fragments of Air And Stone, a supplement for Volant that covers colonizing and developing Fragments. A Fragment is any floating stone too small to be a proper skyland, and is usually private property. FoAAS covers how to claim a fragment, clear it of monsters, plant a settlement, and modify it so that it is better suited to the use of the Association which owns it. You can dam surface and subterranean rivers, redistribute water through irrigation canals, honeycomb it with passages and living space, create hunting reserves, use cisterns to collect rainwater, place sails to steer it through the air, place shrines and temples, build shipyards, villages, towns and cities, and much, much more!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Finishing Up Fragments of Air and Stone

Volant - Fragments of Air and Stone is just about done. Klax is looking it over, but I think he won't find any showstoppers. If so, it should be available tonight. After this, I will try to find The Outremer Companion. I seem to have mislaid it. If I can't find it, it's off to StarCluster 4 land!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Fragments of Air and Stone

Just putting the finishing touches on to Fragments of Air and Stone, a supplement for Volant. Fragments are those chunks of floating stone too small to be considered regions. They can be tiny to fairly large, but they are usually owned by Associations, those groups that player characters are members of. Many Associatons base themselves on fragments, and this resource is all about creating and improving them, from creating cisterns on an arid fragment to underground reservoirs, from ranches to irrigation canals, from villages to towns to cities.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Battle of the Bands for High Strung Released!

High Strung's got an 'adventure'! Battle of the Bands is available as a pdf. It's a one shot, meant to be played in one session, perhaps at a con or over a hangout.

Thanks to +Apocryphal Chris for nudging!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers Released

On 9/8, Merchanters And Stationers escaped into the wild. it's an homage to Cherryh's Alliance/Union/Compact Space novels and stories, and is a free download for use with StarCluster 3 or StarCluster 3 Light (also a free download). I get nothing out of this but ticking off another item on my bucket list.

Merchanters And Stationers


Monday, August 24, 2015

Merchanters and Stationers Spyrates Playtest 2

In my Merchanters and Stationers game, the PCs had to leave Romekia Station in a hurry - the Captain staved off being served in a lawsuit long enough for the crew to return to the ship - the last one in losing a bit of fur from her tail, then broke out of the lock. Romekia was a Trissein port, and the lawsuit was a nuisance designed to hold the ship in port.

they took off on a heading to Kodia Point, a rogue gas giant, where they would change vectors for Varania Station, in the Disputed Zone. Another ship was following them out of Romekia, at the last minute moving up on them trying to crowd them so they couldn't jump. The PCs ship shot forward at the last second and made it into jump. When they came down at Kodia Point, they had not been in system for fifteen minutes when a ship came out of jump right on their tail.

The Captain knew it must be a the same ship that crowded them before Jump, as it came in on the Romekia Vector, and that it must be a hunter ship like theirs, because of the speed it showed in Romekia system, and by it's behavior in crowding them, but it showed a different name on it's transponder than the ship in Romekia system.

They were still coming in a .8c, as was their tail, as they had not yet made their first velocity dump, so they were still blind to what was in the Kodia Point area as they were just behind their own wavefront. The Captain knew that the species in that ship must be active in Jump, and only the Tamberlin and the Malamo were so, and the Malamo were pacifists who were miserable with technology. This ship had to be a Tamberlin hunter ship like them, and that meant it was an enemy. He ordered a salvo fired down their tail, and the kinetic killer shots absolutely shredded the other hunter. Now, this was pretty much mass murder, but as they dumped v to make their turn, they found the system empty. No witnesses.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

New Review of Volant

The RPG Pundit reviews my Volant - Kingdoms of Air and Stone. He, of course, hates anything in it that's that Forgey or Story Gamey, but ends up overall liking it. I, of course don't care about whether or not something is Story Gamey, so long as it does what I want it to do.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Stress in Merchanters and Stationers

Working on Stress in Merchanters and Stationers. Originally, I had lists of stress-inducing and stress-relieving events, and if one of those things happened, you rolled for how much stress it would cause or remove. I've refined that during play. Each payer now can remove one item - except Jump! - off the stress inducing list along with one from the stress relieving list for their character. For example, carrying a weapon is a stress-inducing event, but for professional soldiers and security, they could remove that. OTOH, they would be somewhat jaded with stress-relieving events as well, so perhaps a drink no longer does much for them any more. I do not insist the characters must tie their stress changes to their professions, but I think it's a good idea.

Also, you cannot relieve stress while in jump! Several alien species can move and operate in jump, and some selected humans as well, so initially I was allowing stress relief in Jump, but in thinking back to the books, jump itself - being in jump - is a stress-inducing event by it's nature. That means stress cannot be relieved during jump, no matter how your species deals with jump.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Outremer and Ohmas available in the latest Bundle of Holding.

Hi folks! Two of my games - On Her Majesty's Arcane Service (OHMAS) and Outremer are available in the latest Bundle of Holding, for less than the cost of one of them, along with Age of Arthur and Time Master. For a higher price, you can get additional bonus titles - Pirates & Dragons Core Rulebook + Dragon Isles Poster Map, Maelstrom Domesday, Heirs to the Lost World, and Northern Crown New World Adventures + Gazetteer. The price can't be beat, and the games are excellent. Go to the site below if you are interested!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Trouble in Paradise!

Leaving for work this morning, I noticed two people digging up the nearest fire hydrant. Next to them was parked a van with the name HydraTech proudly displayed. Dammit S.H.I.E.L.D.! You said they'd never find me! Now what do I do? Move out? I need a new identity PRONTO!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

First outlines of StarCluster 4 - System

Working on StarCluster 4.

I'm dropping the old Constitution mechanic, going with a completely different mechanic using successes.

I'm adding Negative Edges.

I'm using an adaptatation of the Lowell Was Right! skill system - you can have a maximum of 3 in any skill. Any more goes to a sub-skill, which is freeform - like Science/biology or Blade/dagger.

I'm using the Template Tree chargen method like in Lowell or Volant.

All resolution methods will use the same scales, so you can change resolution methods on the fly.

Some big changes in the game itself, which I didn't anticipate. I was thinking it would be more about the presentation, so fooled me! :D

Monday, August 10, 2015


Wow! It's the tenth of August and this is the first post this month!

I haven't posted because there is not a lot going on.

Merchanters & Stationers is at a standstill. I can't go any further without Alpha playtesting, and that has been defeated by summer.

You don't really care about how my games are going. :D

I'm thinking about finally retiring StarCluster 2. It's been available for free DL for four years now, or in print for the cost of printing. It was written in 2004, and it's old, creaky, and not at all indicative of what I can do now, and besides, I am starting prep work on StarCluster 4! Recently some guy decided to review it and gave it a lousy review. Why is it still up there? I'll just have to take it down.

Talking about Active Plasteel armor today with Albert and Klax. That was unceremoniously ditched in SC 3, and Klax didn't notice - too distracted by all the cool things you could do with regular armor. He's putting up an impassioned plea for it's return, but I don't see it. It's a super armor and devalues anything else. It's the one obvious choice, and that's not a good thing.

That's about it. Talk later.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Volant Vanilla - Status Report

In my Wednesday Night IRC game, we've shifted over as planned to the players' second characters. The game is what I call Volant Vanilla, using the Volant rules for playing an earthbound fantasy game, where the giant birds exist, though they are very rare, but the flying ships and skylands do not. The Orcs are human religious zealots who use tattooing and scarification to make themselves look scary, the Elves were punished by the gods for supporting the Dark Lord with eternal life, The Dwarves were rewarded by a long life and a quick aging and death, and the game is set 200 years after a terrible plague left much of the world uninhabited or mostly so. The second PCs were supposed to go with the mercenary army as they traveled down to the southern lands to fight the Orcs with their allies there, but the first group ran into Orcs on the isthmus between their northern lands and their southern allies. The message from the first group, who were only supposed to find out if the eastern road was still traversable, caused some real panic, and the second group with a flying detachment was sent by sea to hold the Orcs at an old Dwarven city which was hidden under a mountain along the sea, and which the Orcs apparently did not know existed. Last session, they were attacked by Orcs at sea, and the session ended in mid attack. I love cliffhangers!

The thing is, the LotR feel is very much there! The only magic is alchemy, and the dearth of healing magic makes things gritty. Hell, the first group was pretty much slapped down by a pair of giant hornets. The huge spaces interspersed with old ruins and once domesticated plants and animals really capture the feel. Happy with this one so far! :D

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mechanters and Stationers - Take 13

Here is the PC species in our playtest of Mechanters And Stationers:

The Tamberlin:

Own Name: Tamberlin
Familiar Name:Tambis
Prejudicial Name: Monkeys
Diet Package: Arboreal Omnivore
Body Type Package Male: Slender and Supple
Social Package: Trickster
Body Covering Package: Soft Fur
Attributes - STR 7, COOR 8, AGY 8, END 7, CHAR 11, INT 9, LUCK 2
Jump Reaction: Slowed
Extras:Prehensile Tails, Retractable Claws
Quirks: Curious, Pack Mentality, Playful, Acquisitive
Edges: Trickery, Social, 3 Dimensional
Negative Edges: Ambush, Negotiations, Hot
Skills - Endear+2, Engrace+2, Entice+2
Traits: Lithe 2, Slender 2, Tawny 2, Moves Silently 1
Senses: Touch 2, Smell 3, Vision 4, Hearing 2, Taste 1

Bailey-Wolfe Index:

Neotropism: +8
Sociability: +8
Instinct: 0
Logic: -5
Foresight: -2
Pattern Recognition: +5

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Necklace Print Delay

I just got my print proof of The Necklace. The copy looks great, and the illos look better than on the screen - of course the inside illos are all gray scale, so they should work nicely in print! The cover, though, is a bit off. The title is right against the top, and even a bit cut off in the bleed, as is the last letter of Klaxon's name! I will have to fix that before I release it for sale. First World Bummer! :(

Monday, July 20, 2015

Marriage in the StarCluster

From a piece Albert Bailey has written for the some-time-in-the-future-forthcoming StarCluster 4, but which is equally applicable for all editions of StarCluster - on Marriage:

"Once the Cluster was settled, there was some movement back toward earlier Earth traditions, more so on some planets than others. On most worlds both "Earth" marriages and "Space" marriages are accepted and common. Among the spacefaring community, "Earth" marriages are a rarity. On nearly all worlds, marriage is a matter of personal contract arrangements and marriage contract law has become as intricate as corporate contract law. The main distinguishing feature of an "Earth" marriage is that neither party is allowed to marry another as long as the marriage contract is in force. It is common for such exclusive contracts to later be amended to remove this restriction. More rarely, such a restriction is latter attached. In addition to providing for the normal rights associated between spouses of sharing incomes and property, providing for authority in cases of medical emergency, acknowledgement of rights and responsibilities toward children, etc., these rights were frequently extended to provide for some degree of authorization even for spouses of spouses and even more distant marital relationships. These proved particularly important for children, assuring them relatives by marriage as well as blood.

While the form of marriages could be widely variable, over time some common forms and terminology arose. Terms for common forms of marriage arrangements are known as "primary marriages", "secondary marriages", marriages in abeyance, and finally "severed marriages". Primary and secondary marriages are marriages that are still active, where the spouses still see each other on a regular basis to enjoy each others' support and company. ("Tertiary marriage" is a joke term.) There is little legal distinction, but a primary marriages is normally thought of as the one associated with the person or persons living at your current main residence. Even where one has only one marriage, this may be regarded as a secondary marriage if the spouses do not normally cohabit. A marriage relationship may transition back and forth between primary and secondary over time, sometimes as often as seasonally. A primary or secondary marriage and can be transitioned to a marriage in abeyance either because they are separated by distance (e.g., no longer on the same planet), one or both are in hibernation or stasis, or have become emotionally distant; if conditions change, it may become a primary or secondary marriage again. Normally, a marriage can be transitioned to being in abeyance if either partner insists on it, though normally a period of time is required for disentanglement. Spouses who are no longer close (or who have even come to actively dislike one another) are expected to at least retain a marriage in abeyance if they have minor children, and there is considerable social pressure to maintain at least a civil relationship. On many worlds formal divorce (severed marriage) is not allowed in marriages with minor children except in extreme cases involving crimes such as spousal abuse, child abuse, or treason.

Another spouse of someone to whom you are married is normally referred to as your "wed-brother" or "wed-sister", and cordial relations are assumed, though jealousies are common. The spouses of a person may or may not also be married to each other. It is common for there to be several individuals who are all married to each other; these are known as "group" marriages. In group marriages, it is common to have more than one primary spouse. Depending on individual sexual orientation, in group marriages spouses may or may not be sexually involved; however, referring to someone as your husband or wife rather than wed-brother or wed‑sister normally implies that you are close and would prefer to share a room and bed. It is also common for person 'A" to be married to person 'B' who is married to person 'C', with no marriage between 'A' and 'C', and with 'C' married to someone else as well. These marriage ties form intricate interconnections throughout society and are known as "web" marriage. Individuals more distantly related through multiple marriages are known as "wed-cousins". Individuals in group marriages often have secondary marriages that join them into the web of relationships. This combination of group and web marriages form an important part of the social fabric. On some worlds, in conjunction with parent-child descendant relationships, they form almost the entirety of significant relations. In these feudal-like societies, friend and business relationships are shallow and insignificant without some form of blood or marriage bond. With advanced genetics, blood bonds are also frequently more complex, with children having more than two genetic parents. This is particularly common in many group marriages, all partners contributing one or more chromosomes to children born to the group."

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers Take #12

The Stress Track

Whenever a character does certain things _ there is a list of these in the book, but it includes Jump, carries a weapon, combat, lies, etc. - or things like them, the character rolls a d6, taking that many points against their stress track.

Whenever a character does certain other things _ there is a list of these in the book, but it includes time with friends, taking a shower, sex, meditation, etc. - or things like them, the character rolls a d6, if even adding 2 points, if odd adding one point to their stress track.

A stress track is based on the character's four physical attributes, STR, COOR, AGY, and END. Four pools of points equal to the character's attributes are made - and when you make the stress track, you have to choose Fight or Flight. Points are deducted from first COOR points, then either STR (Flight) or AGY (Fight), the either AGY (Flight) or STR (Fight), then END. Each level after the top has bad consequences ranging from hair/fur falling out to catatonia, and the lower you go, the worse your TN is. 

Merchanters And Stationers - Spyrates Playtest

I ran my first Merchanters And Stationers game Saturday. The players had made two characters each - a Spy and a Pirate - while the ship crew was all NPCs.

The ship's Captain was called in by his father, the exiled Tamberlin king, to a meeting on Central Station. Central Station is owned jointly by the six species - the methane breathing Vool'k, and the oxygen breathing Malamo, Sashtusad, Trissein, Rassa, and Tamberlin - and operated by the Tamberlin. The New Regime cannot force out the king in exile.

The king told his son that the Vool'k were vastly disturbed about something, and looking for something or someone, and that he - the son being an expert on the Vool'k - ought to look into it. In the meantime, the king had a mission for the son. A report had come out of Malamo Space that the Malamo had not renewed their treaty of protection with the Mashtusad, and were negotiating with the Trissein for said protection - the Malamo being constitutionally unable t protect themselves.

This was bizarre, because the Trissein and the Malamo had a dispute over two star systems with stations - the Trissein had taken them over during a dispute and refused to give them back. The Malamo should never have given the Trissein an invitation to basically take over Malamo Space! He told the son to go to the station their agent was on and talk to him, and maybe stop this potential disaster.

Meanwhile, on the docks, the crew had found blood between the stacks of big cargo cans they had ordered for supplies - food and drink - for the voyage. there were strange prints in the blood which could not be matched with any known species. It was assumed a large animal may be loose on the docks!

Viewing security videos, they saw something naked and brown run from the Rassa ship in the dock beside them and slip between the tall stacks of cans. then a group of Rassa came out of the ship, and split up as if looking for something. After that, the thing had left the cans and run up the access tube into their own ship as a couple of crew were exiting, slipping through the doors as they turned away!

The spies and pirates began to search the ship, and found the creature, hiding under the dirty laundry, naked and bleeding profusely on the floor. It was somewhat taller than they, long limbed, hairless except on the top of the head, and covered only in its brown skin otherwise. Judging by Tamberlin standards, it was female. As they held it under their gaze, it stooped and wrote in its own blood on the floor with its fingers, slashes for one, two, three, and four.

They figured that whatever it was, and they were not at all sure, it was intelligent. they placed it into the autodoc and wiated for the captain.

Later on, several Rassa came by and questioned one of the pirates who was on the docs, helping load the supply cans. They claimed to have lost a food animal, and threatened and cajoled the Tamberlin to tell them if they had seen anything. The pirate lied - incurring stress - and the Rassa left, having called the Tamberlin "monkeys" to their face, a nasty insult!

Rassa are huge predators - two meters or more high, and massing about 150kg or more. Huge heads filled with sharp teeth hint at their powerful bite. They eat their prey live, preferring it totally fresh.

When the captain returned, they told him of the 'Rassa food beast' they had in the autodoc. he came and observed it while it was medicated into deep sleep. He tasked his cousin Raisa, one of his spies, with coming up with some decent clothing to fit the thing. She worked on it after they left the docs, on their way to the jump point.

When the creature woke, the captain, a master linguist, tried to question it, but it knew only a few tortured words of Rassa, the captain's worst language. The creature had been savagely tortured, judging from the healing bite marks all over its skin. As they came close to jump, the creature - it called itself a hyoomin, with a personal name of Peeny - disclosed that she needed to be tranked for jump, like a Mashtusad. This they gave her as they readied for jump.

End session!

Things worked well so far. The lying to the Rassa incurred stress, as will the jump itself, but they should be able to work that out. The stress track itself alarmed them, though! They are accustomed to being armed, and wearing arms itself is a source of stress. This is going to be a big thing in this campaign!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers - Setting Up the Spyrate Setting #2

Here is another interesting thing. One of the points the players made in the card phase was that the lone methane breathers, the Vool'k, who have the most systems inside their borders, have a potential enemy at their back. The Vool'k got assigned a card which said a strange alien species is behind their space. This card was meant to mimic the situation in Compact Space, where the Humans are behind the Knnn - that is on the other side of the Knnn from the rest of the compact.

So, the Humans are loose behind the Vool'k. And what do the Vool'k have in their bit of space? The only settlement-free earth-like world in the compact. See, the Vool'k, being methane breathers, have no particular use for this world, in fact the Vool'k have three extra settled methane worlds, but the humans certainly would!

If they could somehow get transit rights through Vool'k Space...

If they could somehow communicate with the Vool'k, which only the Tamberlin can beyond a rudimentary level in our setting - the Vool'k being giant serpects who communicate to a great degree by changing color...

If they don't just assume the Vool'k are space monsters - as Cherryh said, never pick a fight with something you can't understand!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers - Setting up the Spyrate Setting

So I randomly generated the worlds and stations of the six alien species in our Spyrate setting. It is very unlikely to generate a habitable world, but it can and did happen. All the species automatically get a homeworld, of course, That's necessary! But I also generated two random habitable worlds, one for the Mashtusad, in the same system as their homeworld, and one for the Trassein, in a different system from their homeworld. That is interesting, and gives both of these species a bit of an advantage, but not what I wanted to talk about.

M&S is not centered on planets, but on stations. Stations are the lifeblood of the game setting. Worlds are mostly things to be mined or otherwise extract resources from, especially asteroid belts. There are rare instances where a station is damaged or mothballed for possible later use in the generation tables. I rolled two such instances, both damaged stations.

The first was a small station in (can't remember the name) Space. These people are not good with science, and do not even make their own spaceships. They are good with art, and fashion, and consider themselves the arbiters of taste. They only have five stations, and one of them was damaged and uninhabitable.

The second was an enormous station in Mastusad Space. The Mashusad are a much more powerful people. Mediators by nature, they are scavengers and carrion eaters, and pack-minded. It takes a lot to piss them off.

I asked Klaxon why had these stations blown. He's a player in the game, and this is a very player oriented game.

He said obviously the first station was a screw up. The species is just not good with science, and were carrying out some kind of lame-brained experiment that got out of control. They probably wouldn't talk about it, embarrassed by the subject.

The second, he said was obviously sabotage. He traced the trade routes of Mashtusad Space. It looked like a twisting snake, starting at Central Station and going far out before returning back to the Tamberlin Space border, and ending in a tail. The damaged station was the last big station before the border.

His theory was that the PC's faction, the Old Regime, traded through that long jump into Mashtusad Space even after it lost power, and the New Regime's agents blew the station to prevent trade with the remnants of the Old Regime. He said I would probably find the Mastusad did not like the current Regime.

I looked through the points they had made in the setup phase on Saturday, and there it was: Mashtusad Do Not Trust The Tamberlin. Bam!

This is making some crazy, scary kind of sense! :D

Monday, July 6, 2015

Merchants And Stationers - Take #11

One of the things that my M&S playtest group purchased with their Association funds was a small station on the edge of Tamberlin Space, right next to the single Methane Breather (Vool'k) border. The players decided that the Vool'k did not permit Tamberlins in their space, but also put in that they had secret negotiations with the Tamberlins. They decided that this meant the new regime was barred from Vool'k Space, but the old regime in exile was still able to cross.

Another thing they bought was a Rare Astronomical Database, which they decided meant it listed several secret jump routes, I gave them 1d6 and they rolled five, which they proceeded to put on the star map. So their station, with a shipyard and not much else, has a direct cross-border jump route to Vool'k space.

Their HQ is not the station. Their HQ is their ship, the Mad Prince, registered as a merchanter out of their station, but actually a 600 ton hunter ship, crammed with guns - no lasers in this setting - and missile launchers, armored, and with powerful drives, both real space and jump vanes.

They also bought a bunch of Bolt Holes - tiny emergency stations hidden inside asteroids - some spy rings on the major stations in Tamberlin Space, a couple of mid-level agents, one double agent ostensibly working the other side, and station security and some mercenaries (pirates) to board captured ships.

The initial seed money for the Association came from the exiled monarch's secret stash of hidden resources, who they decided currently resides in exile at the Central Station - outside Tamberlin Space, technically, but controlled by the Tamberlin. It is currently financed by sale of the cargoes they loot from sympathizers of the current regime, and sale to aliens of the ships they take, the shipyard acting as a chop shop.

The leader of the player characters is the prince in exile - the Mad Prince - a PC who volunteered for the job. Yay! He makes all the decisions for the PCs! I don't have to! :D

Merchanters And Stationers - Take #10

This is my group! They are CRAZY MAD AND WONDERFUL!

We had our first (Set up) session of the M&S playtest on Saturday. We are starting with the All-Alien - AKA the Compact Space - setup It went very well! We started off with some basic decisions. I had pre-made a bunch of oxy-breather aliens, and offered them for the group's use, or they were free to create the various alien species. They chose to create the PC species - in fact each of the players created a species (all of them took the Trickster package, BTW) and they voted on what they liked. We put away the non-winners, because they were all tricksters, and decided to choose from among the group I had pre-made for the other species in our Compact.

Then they rolled the number of other species - five oxygen breathers and one Methane breather - chose them, and we made a quick star map. Then we got into the relations of the various species with each other. For this we used a set of 27 cards I had printed and cut out, with various relationships (secret dealings, valuable trade, owns central station, etc.) on them, shuffled them, and counted out four for each species. I distriuted the cards randomly among the players, and they began layout how the various species felt about each other, how they traded, and the like.

At the end, they went a completely different way than I had thought. The PC species they had created - the Tamburlins - had the most powerful jump drive, could change vector in mid-jump -both of these normally reserved for Methane Breathers, but there was only one of those - and controlled the central station. All the other species hated, distrusted, and/or feared the Tamburlin because of this. Also, piracy was rife in Tamburlin Space.

Then they made their association. There were two proposals, to create an espionage company and a company of pirates, so they compromised on Spyrates. The Tamburlin had recently undergone a revolution. The old ruler was in exile on Central Station, while his heir formed a privateer group. They would be trying to build up support with aliens, while hurting and trying to undermine and destroy the new government. Then they made their characters - a squad of spies and a squad of pirates.

This is my group! They are CRAZY MAD AND WONDERFUL!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers - Take #9

So we begin playtesting M&S this weekend. I have completed starships, alien creation, setting generation - two actually! One for Humans Only and one for Aliens Only, chargen is straight from StarCluster 3 with some professions barred - No PSI, no military in the Aliens Only setting, and a few mechanical and fluff bits for life in the settings including a nasty Stress Mechanic, equipment will also be from SC3, and station creation.

I need some kind of space combat mechanic. I'll want something simple! Possibly some stake setting gambling thing, or maybe something component based. I don't necessarily need anything on the first day, but eventually it will come into play.

I have some glimmers of ideas, so I'll let you in on what I come up with! :D

Oh! And I need to play-test the playing card resolution mechanic! That's new too!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

StarWars-ish and the Battle for Endor

Finished our Star Wars-ish StarCLuster 3 campaign last night! The gang arrived in Annaj - the Moddell sector capital, just after the Rebel alliance fleet left. They decided that, since they *knew* the Imperial fleet was in ambush, and where, they took a jump to a secondary system, and from there jumped in at an angle behind the gas giant, where the Imperial fleet was in wait.

They decided to take out if they could a Super Star Destroyer, so went in with a prisoner delivery. This was the five Jedi and and the spy who had warned the group about the ambush, with unlocked force cuffs, and Lyssia, the ex-navy padawan, dressed in the Imperial Navy uniform she was in to steal the Grand Moff Takin, the frigate they were using.

The spy was s known high value prisoner, and that got them in to see the Admiral and Flag Lieutenant, along with a dozen stormtroopers. The Jedi and Lyssia took them all out but two in one surprise round, and they immediately surrendered.

From there they went into the nearby bridge, where they took out the Captain and lieutenant, shoved the controls over so that the SSD pitched towards another SSD, welded the controls, took out the comm and navigation, and blew the bridge's power junction - where Lyssia knew quite well the location.

They backed out of the bridge under shields and ran to the nearest escape pod bank, took out the guard, and popped out just before the two SSDs collided.

Meanwhile, Shiraska and the group in the Moff Tarkin fixed the controls to ram the bridge of a Star Destroyer, and left in the Albireo, while the rest left in the Shakti, the Y wing, and Dindar's Dungeon (scout) for the forest moon.

As the Grand Moff Tarkin collided with the star Destroyer's bridge, three Tie fighters arrowed in at the Albireo. They were shot down, and the Albireo scooped up the escape pod with the Jedi, Lyssia, and the spy.

The Shakti had left with the youngest padawans, but the Y-Wing and Dindar's Dungeon went to the Forest Moon. Dindar's Dungeon landed with Dindar and the Spec Ops bunch near the main entrance to the shield generator. It was protected by two AT-ATs and two AT-STs. After three passes of the Y-wing, all four vehicles were burning. Meanwhile the Spec Ops and Dindar assaulted the stormtroopers. Dindar was badly wounded in the battle, but the spec ops were fine. They took out 18 of the twenty stormtroopers, and the other two were wounded and surrendered.

The blew the door with a mortar, and ran in, only to find the shield generators wired and ready to blow, with only seconds to get back out. They barely made it - classic blown through the doorway by the blast stuff - and rendezvoused with the Albireo, witnessing the explosion of the Death Star II, and the defeat of the (much less powerful) Imperial fleet.

That's all we can do until the movie comes out this winter. So we set up a playtest of Merchanters And Stationers for next week.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Merchanters and Stationers Take #8

Just a small note. the intention here is to release this for free. It is not a complete game, but with StarCluster 3 or StarCluster 3 Light (free to DL), it will be. I expect the vast majority of downloads will be by those people who vacuum up anything so long as it is free, who will then ignore it, because they have ten thousand free RPGs. :D

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers - Take #7

Working last night on a section I'm calling "Life", where I talk about all the things that actually living in this setting would mean. What different ship's crews are like, what Jump is like, What the War was like, what is the new Peace like, etc.

I mean during the War a lot of refugees lost their papers, which means criminals and agents could be - were - mixed in with a lot of unfortunate and innocent souls. This is set just after the War, Ex Earth Fleet pirates (Mazianni, but I don't use that word) are trying to survive while being hunted down, huge family ships are taking the bulk of the trade, small traders are trying to survive on the margins, some stations are mothballed, others are blown... This is a great time to explore!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers Take #6

In the "Compact Space" books, there is a history there that comes through the present - This species does not trust that species, that other species can do things others cannot with spacecraft, or yet another species has several disputed stations with some other species entirely. These things color the setting deeply, and to do justice to the concepts, I need to create that same coloring, but varying for the differences between the inspiration and the game.

To do this, once the new setting is mapped out, one uses the background cards. These are a set of 27 cards with a single sentence on each. The say things like "Piracy Flourishes in This Space" or "This Species is Barred from That Space", or "This Species Runs the Central Station." Some of them are in gray letters on a white background and are meant for Oxygen breathing species. The rest are in white letters on a cray background and meant for Methane breathers.

The cards are shuffled, and four are dealt out to each species territory. The players and GM go around the table four times, laying out a card and determining what species is meant, and everything is recorded, so instead of saying "This Species is Barred from That Space", they would say "The Kantuan are Barred from Stoshi Space!"

There are three cards that probably should always be in the number dealt out, but actually, it really doesn't matter all that much. Things can be worked around. In any case, this gives a setting with odd places, prohibitions, and quirks.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers Illo #2

A quick sketch illustration of a merchanter docked at a space station. This is the only way Ms. Cherryh's statements can work out properly.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Spaceships of the Merchanters and Stationers Universe #2

Spaceships of the Merchanters And Stationers universe use spin gravity or thrust gravity, depending on their function.


Riders are ships designed to be carried on larger ships. They use thrust gravity while in space - their decks are laid out perpendicular to the direction of thrust - but land on their sides. Cabins are designed to rotate on landing, with the entrances engaging different corridors than in flight configuaration.

Landers and Shuttles

Landers and shuttles are designed for short flights in space, and do not need to worry about internal gravity. Consequently, they are laid out parallel to the direction of thrust, like airplanes. Many cargo landers carry inflatable seats in the decking to carry a variable number of passengers.

Asteroid Mining Craft

Asteroid mining craft spend all of their time in space, and use thrust gravity if any. Miners spend considerable time in zero-G, and must spend equivalent long periods exercising at higher G on station to repair damage to their bones. Thus most asteroid mining craft have two or three sets of crew who alternate using the craft.


Starships - Jump capable craft - operate from station to station, never landing for long periods. Thus they use spin gravity while in flight. Each ship has a rotating cylinder which houses all habitable areas, and spins on it’s long axis, giving a moderate gravity outward while inertial - that is, while coasting between boosts. While boosting, crew remain in their crash couches or beds, moving only during brief inertial periods to change shifts.

Starships are constructed with a ventral keel running the length of the craft, and usually side and dorsal keels as well. All turrets and airlocks are built into these keels for strength. An armored shell is built around the rotating cylinder - all ships are at least Armor factor 1 to deflect dust and debris, and protect from near misses - and over the cargo hold(s). The main engines and Jump Vanes are built near the end of the ship. At the nose are the docking equipment - probe, cargo doors, and personnel tubes and locks into the habitable areas.

When in station, starships lie nose into the rim, dorsal keel out, parallel to the inside of the rim. They lock into the immensely strong side walls of the station rim and support structures, with the personnel tube leading down to the station floor, while the cargo doors mate up above, and the station’s docking gantries load the ship.

In dock, the rotating section is locked down, and the ship uses the station’s rotation for spin gravity, so most of the ring is sideways or upside down, and mostly unusable. The ship’s crew thus must stay on station in hotels called “sleep-overs”, and while not helping with the loading, are off duty.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers Starships

I've spent the last two days creating ships for Merchanters And Stationers, my Cherryh-verse love letter. They range from a tiny 30 ton cutter to a 50,000 ton Great Merchanter (like Cherryh's Finity's End or Dublin Again) and a carrier of the same size (like her Norway or Africa).

The disparity is size of the ships is remarkable. The smallest jump-capable ship is 300 tons, which is almost 200 times smaller than the largest. Compact Space ships are smaller than those in Union/Allinace Space, and I will need to mention that in the text.

I've decided not to put a ship creation section in the supplement, probably going to release it as a spreadsheet later on. Here's a look at one of the ships:

1500 Ton Medium Merchanter

This ship has 1 G of thrust in space on mains and standard jump vanes. This is a popular jump-capable ship. Its tank holds 135 tons of deuterium fuel, for 200 hours of thrust. Twelve cabins and a large lounge are available for the 5-15 person crew, as well as passengers for long flights, and the ship can hold 1000 tons of cargo.

Cost: 290

Saturday, June 13, 2015

New Review of Lowell Was Right! - Finally!

Here is the first review of what I think is one of my best games:

Friday, June 12, 2015

Merchanters and Stationers - Take #5

OK, I have a functional Alien creation system, and a setting creation system. Now I have started work on spaceships.

Luckily, Alert and I have worked out a new fusion-based drive system for The Necklace, and that can be dropped into this pretty much intact. The Jump Drive from StarCluster 3 can be adapted into the hyperspace drive used in the Alliance/Union/Compact Space setting fairly easily too, but how spaceships behave in M&S is pretty much going to be diametrically opposite from how they behave in SC3!

In SC3, Jump Drives use a wormhole network to go from star to star, so ships jump into a system at the outer limits - and in the system ecliptic, with a relative speed of zero, so they are effectively defenseless until they can build up some reasonable speed. Albert and I designed it this way to really limit offensive movement into a star system, making for a mosaic of independent worlds.

The Cherryh-verse ships in M&S will be riding the hyperspace interface, dropping into real space at relativistic velocities well out of the ecliptic, which the ships need to bleed off with skips along the hyper-interface to bleed off speed as they come in. And the depth into the system they arrive at depends on the skill of the navigator. All the initiative in these situations rests with the incoming ships, who can blast into a system just behind their own wavefront, and possibly carrying relativistic debris or even munitions.

Also, there are three types of jump route available - normal routes for freighters, longer jumps for freighters carrying no/light cargo or overpowered jump vanes on a normal mass ship, or else one only the overpowered vane ships can make if they strip down to a no cargo condition.

So how people use jump travel will be very different indeed!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Example Merchanters and Stationers Alien #1

i did this Alien up as a test of the Alien Generation system

Own Name: Mashtusad
Familiar Name: Mashies
Prejudicial Name: Jackals

Diet Package: Scavenger
Body Type Package Male: Slender and Supple
Body Type Package Female: Tall and Rangy
Social Package: Mediator
Body Covering Package: Soft Skin

Attributes - Male: STR 7, COOR 9, AGY 8, END 7, CHAR 9, INT 9, LUCK 2
Attributes - Female: STR 7, COOR 10, AGY 8, END 9, CHAR 7, INT 9, LUCK 2

Jump Reaction: Paralyzed
Extras: Savage Bite (+10), Sexual Dimorphism
Quirks: eat Anything, Disgusting Habits, Pack Mentality
Edges: Searching, Negotiations, Flexing
Negative Edges: Alien Social, Violence, Cold

Skills - Male: Survival+2, Engrace+2, Linguistics+2
Skills - Female: Survival+2, Overdo+2, Linguistics+2

Traits: Fluid 2, Willowy 2, Quiet 3

Senses: Smell 3, Vision 3, Hearing 2

Bailey-Wolfe Index:
Neotropism: 0
Sociability: +6
Instinct: -1
Logic: +2
Foresight: +2
Pattern Recognition: +3

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers - Take #4

Worked on the M&S Alien Generation section last night. I left Klaxon with the instructions and the components, and left him to craft an alien species. When I returned, he had created an amazing species - a small, foppish aboreal creature with plumes for feathers - or feather-like hair, he left that undecided - which had a multiplicity of cults and religions, and who was altogether too trusting. I'll post it up later.

Klax has experience with the Alien Generator from StarCluster 3, and asked him how they compare. He said the generator in SC3 was great at making physical details, but this one was fa better at integrating the physical with the cultural aspects. He felt he was creating sapients, not animals.

The more I have used this tool, the better I like it! It will probably be the default alien creation tool for StarCluster 4. :D

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Merchanters And Stationers - Take #3

So, I have been working on the Alien design section for Merchanters and Stationers, my Alliance/Union/Compact Space love letter. I'm going down a completely different path than StarCluster 3's Aliens, which are actually too generalized for this.

In M&S, there are two types of aliens, Methane breathers and Oxygen breathers. Methane breathers are bizarre, barely comprehensible beings who can only communicate with oxy breathers in a limited way. They will be necessarily limited to NPC status, and in fact should be treated more as natural forces, like weather.

Oxy breathers, OTOH, are much more knowable. All are bipedal, and are in general perfectly playable, so these can, and should, be PCs. In designing the species design process, I have settled on a non-random stackable package method. You pick a bunch of packages, and add together anything those templates give you.

For example, there are six packages each for Diet, Body type, and Social Organization. Each gives an assortment of Attribute bonuses, innate skills, and Edges.

I'm also adding something to the Edge concept. Negative Edges. Edges are conditions under which the character has a bonus - for example a nocturnal character might have the Edge of "Night". Negative Edges are the reverse, conditions under which the character has a penalty - for example that same nocturnal character would have the Negative Edge of "Day". Edges and Negative Edges of course only work if the condition could make any difference. Night or Day don't matter if you are under artificial illumination. :D

Anyway, Negative Edges, and maybe this method of Alien species construction, will be folded into StarCluster 4 for sure!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Merchanters and Stationers - Take #2

For Merchanters and Stationers, my next project, I need to do something to simulate the brutal edge-of-disaster feel of the C.J. Cherryh books it is emulating. I actually thought about a Jenga tower - yes, Dread - but that, I think, is too dependent on the players' manual skill, and not on the characters. Remember, I'm trad! :D I'm thinking of going with a stress track. Things can add stress, or take it away, but if you let it build too high, fallout is going to happen. There are different ways to implement this, of course! Die rolls, HP-like mechanics, mental problems, all sorts of things. I'm not sure how I want this to go, but stress should be a huge deal in this game!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Merchanters and Stationers - Take #1!

I've started work on Merchanters and Stationers, my love letter to the Union/Alliance/Compact novels of C. J. Cherryh. It's not a complete game - it's a method for creating a StarCluster 3 campaign that feels like those works, without actually being that universe. I finished up the world/system creation last night, so now I have to do the other changes - mostly dealing with spaceships and peoples. I also need to find some way to get the claustrophobic, skirting the edge of ruin feel of Cherryh's writing. I have some ideas for that, but I need to test them out in play. You - the GM/Players, I mean - could, of course, just take the universe directly from Cherryh's books, but I can't do that for this game. This will be fun!

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Necklace Released!

I've completed the Necklace, and it's available at OBS and from Precis Intermedia. As soon as I get a proof back from Lulu, it will be available in print.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Story Seeds for The Necklace

At the suggestion of a Beta playtester, I am making up a series of 100 story seeds for The Necklace, "for people that just cannot get their heads around how one of your games actually play" My games are generally geared for less explored aspects of play. :D

So, there are 20 suggested types of organization you can build your characters for, and Klax and I came up with five quick story seeds for each. Example:

8 Outsider Mission

1: Your tour group has crashlanded somewhere in the Zoo. Survive until you are rescued!

2: Your mission is to steal a bio-genetic formula from the Altisherpas. Good luck!

3: You're on a mission to deal with Rasi for Builder Tech, but your ship is taken by pirates!

4: Your Outsider group has just finished an interstellar resort, when you find a Carnivale tribe has filed a claim with the Altisherpas for your land as a holy site!

5: Your cruise ship has been hit by a sky whale and SURPRISE! The escape equipment is limited and/or faulty. Survive!

Some of the seeds are re-used from a different angle, for example, #2 above is complemented by this:

9 Commercial Espionage

1: You have information that Outsiders are planning on stealing a bio-genetic formula from your Altisherpan company. You must stop them!

and #5 by this:

20 Salvage/Repo Company

2: Your team is sent in to salvage an airship struck by a sky whale, but the passengers have formed dangerous bands in the long derelict vessel!

So there is more than one way to view the same incident, depending on how it is approached.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Zoo - L4 In The Necklace

At the L4 point is a cluster of asteroids, all of them Builder-graviformed, and connected by loops to the River. Each asteroid contains from three to twelve distinct and separate self-sustaining ecologies, apparently imported by the Builders as curiosities. These asteroids are collectively called the Zoo, and this location is a mecca for tourism. Some of the ecologies are topped by films to keep in fliers, while others are open to the Necklace’s air. Over time, a few films have degenerated, allowing the fliers access to the greater Necklace, but Rasi and Altisherpa Rangers maintain the structural integrity of the films, and repair any tears that occur.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

From The Necklace: Altisherpa Nomad Camp

From The Necklace, a setting element, randomly generated:

Element Label: Air Mat (55)

Element Description: Altisherpan Nomad Camp

Element Size: Extra-Large

Other Element Data:

Settlement Type Altisherpan Nomad Camp

Settlement Name none

Settlement Size 151-200

Settlement Ancillaries/ Facilities/Resources Genetics Lab, Artists’ Colony, Actors’ Colony

Other Settlement Features

Vegetables - Enhanced Greens, Strange Liquors, Exotic Fruits

Meats - Zero-G Pigs, Exotic Fowl, Zero-G Cattle

Cultural Oddities

Economics -

Interpersonal - Legal Incest

Leisure - Recreational Drug Use

Fashion - Nudity

Taboos - Hair

Obligations - Social Bathing

Slavery -

Notes These Altisherpan Nomads are experimenting with a “natural” lifestyle, as they imagine their early ancestors on Earth would have lived, if their ancestors on earth lived in zero-G on a vegetative mat floating is a tropical sea of air whirling about a neutron star. Really, it’s an excuse for a somewhat kinky vacation in the wild, with no holds barred sex, drugs, and partying. They are fringe types, artists and actors, and they have regular exhibitions and performances.

The mat is huge, with forests, meadows, pools, and fields on both sides. The camp is distributed around a semi-permanent pool which is used for communal bathing. Portashelts, Inflatashelts, and hard and soft tents surround the pond, and the community airship is moored solidly nearby.

The Altisherpas are friendly and welcoming, so long as you abide by their community rules while with them. They’ve been on the mat for six months, and are not nearly ready to return to the City, though new people are going to be intriguing. Their biological changes are just starting to change the nature of the mat, making it more welcoming for future nomads. The introduced animals are flourishing, and culls have already been made, ending up on plates throughout the camp. They would certainly be willing to barter for other supplies and items of interest.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Yet Another Vignette From The Necklace

Cassie found him tangled deep in the jungle ball. She saw the feet first, toe thumbs pointing in, curled. Ustin! She reached out and grabbed his naked foot. Nothing. No pulse. Oh, God! Ustin! She called in on her comm, asking for medevac, gently untangling Ustin from the branches as she waited. Cassie knew better than to move him, but she could move the branches around him. She double checked when she could reach his throat. No pulse.

His face was puffed up. Bluish. Tongue protruding. His eyes were bugging out, milky. Cassie examined his face, his arms, his legs and feet. Aha! Two puncture wounds. Swollen and red. Right on the muscle between the left toe thumb and the index toe. One of the problems of being an Altisherpa - we don’t like boots.

The medevac cycle came just then, and the medtech - Josay - and Cassie put Ustin into the Life Stretcher. No chance of pulling him back, but it was standard protocol. Wouldn’t hurt, anyway. She hooked him up while Josay buckled him in. As a Nurse Practitioner, she was qualified. They had a short cry for Ustin. Poor guy! So young!

On the way back to the Camp, she input the parameters and symptoms into the report. Then she cross-indexed the data with both the Xenobiology and Medical databases. With this she was able to work up a profile of the culprit. Every jungle ball was different. The distance between the fangs, Depth of wound, Shape. There it was - a Walker’s Myriapede. She began working up a way to neutralize it. Predation? Yes - she could release Tinker Wasps. And they didn’t like Sweet Heliopang. She ordered the wasps out of stasis, and Sweet Heliopang planted around the camp. There! That was appropriate!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Another Vignette from The Necklace

The small airship taxied up over the River chop to the village. My mother sent me to see to them, so I arranged myself where they came in to the Almofada leaf. They tossed me a line, as if I were a dockworker. I stepped to the side and let the heavy line thump off the top, green layer, bouncing twice before someone grabbed it and tied the craft to the central stalk. I ignored the whole proceeding. There were plenty of my people there to take care of it.

They let their loading ramp fall and I winced at the damage to the leaf. Oafs! That would take weeks of careful tending to repair! I bit my lip. I had a job to do.

Rasi. They were Rasi. Not good! Altisherpas would meddle and move on, but Rasi liked to take things over. Stay. Take control. I exhaled and waited. Mother would not have reason to regret her decision to choose me!

They came down the ramp, looking around as if they were envisioning their settlement all built already. Useless Carnivales! They have no idea what they have here! We can get this place for a song! We'll cut into the leaf and make pools for swimming! How tall can we build our resort hotel, do you think? Notches in the leaf edge will make wonderful piers for the recreational sail boats! Do you know how much money we can charge for a stay at our resort here?

The last one, a woman, looked over the side into the clear water. She knew! She could see, far below, the shape of the last airship where we sunk it. She could maybe even see the gleam of white bone! God in heaven! She's about to say something! I pointed my finger. From half a hundred blow pipes came the soft thup! of darts winging out. The Rasi staggered and fell, clutching at their throats, tufted all over like molting birds. I pointed again and twenty silent warriors dashed up the ramps. Screams echoed in the hull. I looked up at the machine gun in its turret - it looked straight at me but did not fire. They were not fast enough.

I finally exhaled. It was done. Another airship. More bones. I had not failed mother.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A vignette from The Necklace

Bonchi saw the detective staring at his runabout parked on the rear deck of the airship, and walked over to find out what was on her mind. She was looking thoughtful.

"Hola Detective! Are the Rasi Police interested in acquiring a speedy little runabout? I can give you a good, fair, hardly inflated price!"

"Is this yours, Bonchi?" she asked, still looking at the craft, one finger tapping her lips.

"Why yes it is, Detective Jarlsdottir! I have the papers..." Or could write them up, real fast...

"Witnesses said they saw a blue runabout at the Trading Station some hours after your airship left. If that's the case, perhaps your airship leaving well before the casino heist doesn't give you all an alibi after all."

"That particular model was very popular when I bought it years ago. And who doesn't love blue? Blue is the color of the Necklace after all!" And if you buy that, I have a bridge I can sell, cheap.

She squinted at me out of the corner of her eyes. Why did I get involved with her in the first place? Oh yeah! Her eyes. "Really, Bonchi? If only the people involved looked anything like your troupe, your alibi would be worthless. Anyway, I'm free tonight, so I came to take you up on the offer of a seat for your play."

Ah! This I could do! "Of course, my dear! The ticket will be waiting for you at the window. And afterwards? I'm always pumped up after a show!"

She flashed a bright white smile. "Afterwards, we'll see what happens! Maybe I'll be all... excited too..."

As I waved to her affectionately, I figured I had put her off the runabout. Now if she ever realized how good our makeup people were, I'd be in trouble! I whistled to myself as I walked off. Life was good!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

New Pigboats Review

A new review of my In Harm's Way: Pigboats game is out:

Another indication of my utter inability to want to write a game people are actually interested in playing! :D

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Force in Star Wars-ish

In our Star Wars-ish game, the force is overlaid directly on StarCluster's PSI sub-system. Unlike that sub-system, the Force has two sides, Light and Dark. Light is Apollonian, intellectual, cool and removed. Dark is Dionysian, emotional, hot and involved. Any Jedi can access Light or Dark-side powers, but moving towards either side is an investment in that side, which may or may not be what that Jedi wants to do.

PSI ratings in StarCluster are limited, leaving a short power range usually capped at about 5 points - which is undeniably powerful, but definitely limited. By turning to the Light or Dark side of the Force, a Jedi can gain more power. Each step towards one side will increase a Jedi's power for those skills which use that side and for neutral skills, and decrease it for those skills which use the opposite side.

Thus a Jedi who has moved by one step into the Dark Side would be 1 point more powerful when using Dark Side skills like Force Lightning and Force Choke, as well as in neutral skills like TK and Shield, while being one point less powerful in Light Side skills like Heal and Stun. The further a Jedi moves into one side or another, the more powerful they become. Say a Jedi has a Force (PSI) potential of 5. By moving three points into the Light Side, the Jedi effectively wields a power of 8 for Dark Side and neutral skills, and a power of 2 for Dark Side skills.

Light Side is not equal to Good, and Dark Side is not equal to Evil. Still, one is what one does. Going further into the Light requires one to cut oneself off from emotion to enhance one's intellect, while going further into the Dark Side requires cutting oneself off from intellect to enhance one's emotion. The sacrifices necessary to move to one side or the other are commensurate with how deeply one goes. The sacrifice necessary to move from step one to step two are much greater than to move from zero (Neutral) to step one.

Evil acts are a shortcut to increased Dark Side power, but not the only way. They are just easier than other emotional paths such as Love. The self-denial required to advance along the Light Side makes one cold and calculating, not caring for others except in the abstract. Neither way makes a Jedi a better person.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Back to StarWars-ish!

We have now started - played our second session Saturday - on our third season of StarWars-ish. For the last two years, the party has been fighting the Mandelorians, who took advantage of the Empire's preoccupation with the rebellion to attempt to enlarge again. Now, though, the rebellion is gearing up for the Battle of Endor.

The party have come to Coruscant, when the Emperor and Darth Vader have departed, to try and cause holy hell in the capital. They first went to the ruins of Jedi Temple and Academy, all overgrown with 80 years - we are working with a timeline derived from information let fall in A New Hope - of neglect. They met up with Force Ghosts of Jedi children, ultimately freeing three of them from their compulsion to stay on the grounds, and finding a few buried artifacts - a gold bladed lightsaber wrapped in a white silky robe and bound with a gold bracelet, three holocrons, one being the record of Ashoka Tano's trial, and something else which i can't remember at the moment.

As they departed, they met up with a single person who turned out to be a hidden Jedi who had lost her master to the Inquisitors, but successfully stayed hidden by acting as a doctor. I mean she *was* a doctor, but hid her force use in surgery, healing, and the like. This was a new player, and after a lot of initial skepticism, took her with them on a raid, where she could 'prove herself'.

The raid was on a giant communications tower. For a kilometer around, the Empire had destroyed all the habitable layers of buildings, creating a flat plain. The party found disused paths under this destruction, and finally found a way up into the tower. They went in stealthily, protected by Jedi Mind Tricks into appearing to be nothing unusual. They even rode a few stories with three stormtroopers in a lift. They came to a control room protected by five stormtroopers. Daykon stunned two of them immediately, Nebula, the new Jedi, took out another with Force Lightning - in our continuity, the Force's Dark and Light sides are not directly tied to Good and Evil - and Torota threw her lightsaber, curving it with the Force, to take out two more. Josea herded the techies away from the comm equipment, and the Jedis shredded it with their lightsabers.

Learning that there was a single emergency comm link station above them which would have triggered when the main stations were destroyed, the Jedi sent the techs away, and rode up the lift. Assuming there would be an ambush laid for them, they exited the lift through the top. When it came to a stop and opened its doors, a fusilade of blaster fire exploded beneath their feet. Then after a short silence, one stormtrooper stuck their head in. This was their signal.

Josea, Daykon, and Nebula force jumped out, each taking down a storm trooper - Nebula taking out the curious one, Daykon taking the one to the right of the door, and Josea stabbing one right through the side of the lift to the right of the door. Again Torota waited until the last and dropped down normally into the floor of the lift, sending her lightsaber out to take down the last two in one loop of the room. (In this case, the first three used an attack by force-jumping, while Torota did not.)

They forced the lone techie out of the Comm station, gave the rest of the tower crew 9 minutes to clear the tower, set off a delayed destruct surge of the tower's power source, and force-jumped off the tower with the techie as it exploded behind them.

All in all, some fun sessions! Nebula's player will be irregular at best, but she lives in Coruscant, and that makes sense.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Slave Mentality

In my Sunday IRC StarCluster game - which has been going on since 2003 - the party have mis-jumped from the Cluster they knew (The one from StarCluster 1E & 2E) into a new, unknown set of stars called Jeshen Space. In this place, all humans are descended from one of two slowboats, and have been given worlds by the Jeshen, humanoid aliens who rule this area.

These humans have enslaved their uplifts and bioroids, making them playthings of the rich, and this the party cannot abide. They are attempting to overthrow this society with some muzzy plans. Concurrently, there is a serious threat from the Etvar, another alien people who control the space around Jeshen Space - which has only two really difficult jump routes in and out - and hate humans. The Etvar have begun a long term effort of splitting humans and Jeshen, who are closely allied, by using their music. Fairly simultaneously across Jeshen Space, the companies that control music distribution on the various human worlds began promoting types of music designed to make humans see themselves as disadvantaged next to Jeshen, proud, individualistically heroic, disrespectful of authority, and separatist. If the Etvar can split the Jeshen-Human alliance, they could just walk in and take over.

So the party split, a third of it trying to deal with the music threat, and two thirds combating the slavery issue. The two thirds were split between a couple going in to contact the underworld, and another group - a human with her two Jeshen wives and 'pet' uplifted dog - would be rich tourists, working in contact with the upper class. They took a Sphinx Lines ship there, and first class on the Sphynx Lines has dedicated cabin hosts and hostesses who are sphynx bioroids, created to order. They fell in love with their Sphynx, and bought her contract from Sphynx lines for an exorbitant amount of money.

Thing is, the Sphynx still thinks of them as her Mistresses, for whom she provides necessary and loving services, deriving - as designed - great pleasure from pleasing them; while they have been thinking of her as an independent, free person. They just broke the poor thing. She is deep in a slave - trained, expert, valued, even beloved slave, but slave nonetheless - mindset, and they have to understand it and deal with it before they can free the other slaves. This is not a case of the slaves being downtrodden and cruelly wasted. By all appearances, these slaves are treasured and pampered. The fact that they are still slaves is arousing cognitive dissonance in both the party and the Sphynx.

This is just the way we roll in this game - this is typical stuff. Oh! And the Sphynx is being played by a player as a secondary character, not by me.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Self-Made Ghosts

My Wednesday Night IRC game totally rocked. The PCs scared each other to the insanity point. The light wind, moonlight, thick fog, a tunnel, and a black basalt statue became a deadly ghost in their minds. The next day, they finally saw the statue in the light of day and realized they had let their imaginations get the better of them, but it was just wonderful fun! They came this close to hoisting their mounts up a fifty foot wall in order to travel on an ancient ruined road across the badlands rather than take the tunnel built at immense cost for the sole purpose of avoiding the badlands!

I did almost nothing to trick them. This was all their own doing. The sound of the wind across the other end of the tunnel was a low varying moan. That was the only thing I did. The rest was the player characters' doing. They interpreted everything I told them through a supernatural rather than a natural filter.

Merchanters and Stationers

Now that The Necklace is out to beta testers, I have started a small project, an alternate setting generator thing for StarCluster 3 which will give results something like Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe rather than something like the old StarCluster 2 universe.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Necklace out for Beta Testing Today

I've just sent the first few copies of The Necklace out for Beta Test today. :D

Friday, April 10, 2015


Here is my latest illo for The Necklace, Golfinho - pencil, gray tones, outline, and flood fill.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rasi SWAT Police - from The Necklace RPG

For The Necklace RPG - Rasi SWAT police don't walk, they swagger. Pencil, brushed gray tones, and black outline.

Friday, March 27, 2015

High Strung Reviewed!

My High Strung! game got reviewed by Tommy Brownell! - Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The StarCluster is, and Always Has Been, Brown

The Cluster is a SF setting I have been writing about for years, since 2002. Three editions of the StarCluster RPG, two of the Sweet Chariot RPG, and the In Harm's Way: StarCluster RPG all have been set there.

From the beginning, the Cluster has been explicitly multiracial and multicultural. The vast majority of slow boat settlers were from UN ships, with settlers from a purposely varied group of nations and peoples. There are very few which came from single nations, which are limited to the ethnic mix of that one nation.

Why? For a lot of very good reasons. One, the UN is made up of many different nations, and by assigning passengers and crew from multiple nations to each ship, it could guarantee better representation from each nation and people. Two, people from very different ethnic mixes would give more genetic material to choose from, a far better evolutionary situation than a monoculture, so that the colony would have the best genetic chance of success. Three, by sending a mix of cultures, it could better secure funding to make the ships in the first place. So, Politics, genetics, and money all entered into the decision-making process.

To prevent ethnic cliques and cultural dominance games, with consequent cultural breakdowns over the long (1200+) years of the sub-light voyage, most of the ships used cultural emulation, where all of the people in a ship or, more commonly, in a watch - that is, all the people who were awake as crew at the same time - were encouraged to adopt an emulated culture and language different from their own. Usually, over time the synthetic culture became the natural culture, without reference to actual ethnicity. This procedure was not forced, but was voluntarily adopted on most slowboats, because of a greater chance of coherence over time.

So, the people of the Cluster were ethnically and culturally mixed long before they got to their destinations. The genetic make up of each world is different due to the different origins of the initial crew, and thus the world had it's own particular ethnicity - most tending to brown skin, dark hair, and brown eyes with a slight epicanthic fold, but all unique, all varying, and none quite like the ethnicities of an Earth long gone.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What's new in The Necklace - Pucks!

Worked on the Pucks. The combination of the Losonta and Eleena that make up a Puck is fascinating for me. An Eleena is introduced to its future host, usually by the parents, when a Losonta is very young - before its head plates close. Losontas are born through the female's false penis, so Losonta heads must be very flexible at birth. After being introduced, the Eleena burrows its tentacles through the skin into the brain and nervous system of the infant Losonta. From this moment, they are a Puck. The Eleena begins both feeding on the Losonta, and stimulating hormonal production, making the Losonta sapient as it grows.

Losonta and Eleena births are not synchronized. Losonta are two sexed, male and female, while Eleena reproduce much more rarely, through asexual budding. Horizontal gene transfer with the Losonta makes the budding much more genetically variable than with most asexual reproduction. There are thus many Losonta on planet that are without Eleena, and in effect only intelligent animals. These are used by Pucks as unskilled labor.

The Elena is very visible, perched on the Losonta's head like a soft, fleshy, bouffant hairdo. The changes made by the Eleena are permanent, so if the Eleena dies, the Losonta stays sapient., though prone to irrationality and madness. The Eleena, through control of the Puck's hormonal system, serve as a super-ego for the pair. The Losonta half of the pair is the communicator as well as the mobile unit, while the Eleena sits back and controls the larger picture. Losonta and Eleena parts can communicate by thought, though more like an internal dialog than a conversation.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Assuming Things about Aliens

A casual remark by my son during a game has changed my perspective on the Puck aliens for The Necklace. It got me thinking about assumptions and aliens, and how dangerous that is.

So, as of now, Pucks are gender-flipped. Male Pucks have only internal sexual equipment, while females have external sexual organs. Females penetrate males during the generative sex act. Females give birth through their external genitalia, like hyenas. When performing outspecies sex with humans - which is a possible thing in The Necklace - Pucks would be seen by humans as the opposite of the sex they actually are, and humans by Pucks likewise.

Why? For a few reasons:

Aliens are different. This concept needs emphasis. It creates interesting situations. I love interesting situations It messes completely with expectations. This is always a good thing. It brings perspective to the table. Playing a Puck gives the player a new point of view.

I will give the two players currently playing Pucks in my current game the choice of keeping their character's current sex, or changing it.