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!