Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Even more for fiddlers on roofs

A comment ckutalik left at a previous post this weekend reminded me what a cool thing NetherWerks have with their roofcrawling.

Roofcrawling is all about adventures set high above ground, through attics and over rooftops, a complement to classic D&D dungeoncrawling.

They've made the concept a living table at DM Muse, so we can all add ideas and generate them online, for inspiration in creating fiction.

I've put two batches in so far, of 20 and 29. Inspired again now, there are 20 more here, making 110 in total. Go check the table out, and maybe even add an idea or three.

  1. The roof here has been torn away, its skeletal truss exposed to the elements.
  2. Strange energies spark and crackle from beyond the nearest roof slope.
  3. 2D4 thick-stranded webs span this passage, many with prey trapped...
  4. With a roar and rush of disturbed air a conical projectile passes overhead.
  5. A broad window sits in a facing wall - did those curtains twitch?
  6. 1 Rain Cloud hovers here, scudding forward when sighted.
  7. The wind grows and a tornado touches down, stripping tiles and toppling walls.
  8. A tree bearing 4D8 exotic fruits is rooted among tiles beneath a high window.
  9. This section of open space is transfixed in a sunbeam that seems almost solid.
  10. A poignant song may be heard, seemingly lilting from a lofty minaret.
  11. A line suddenly uncoils from above, and 2D6 figures rapidly descend.
  12. A large, baited trap lies partially concealed beneath shattered tiles and weeds.
  13. A great, hairy creature is far off scaling a tower.
  14. A whoop is heard from the low cloud above.
  15. Cries rise from the street below, heralding a hail of incoming missiles.
  16. 3D4 varied items of furniture stand here, apparently discarded, but not emptied...
  17. The dome of an observatory rises, and is open with telescope extended.
  18. Another rooftop explorer, shocked to discover that others have penetrated so far.
  19. A base camp, occupied by 1D8 Social Climber(s).
  20. The flat roof here opens down into a yawning bay filled with machinery.

They'll be ready to roll at DM Muse soon. New entries - and even tables - are welcome.
_

Monday, 27 June 2011

'Geddon on it (4.1) - Citizens

This post has two parts linked by theme. First some short flash fiction then stats for gaming.

The flash fiction is for Jennie's fun Expansion Joints. Anyone can join in. The idea is to tell as much of a story as possible in 15 words, but using a word Jennie provides, this week lines.

Lines drawn. They meet at barricades. 
In front. Behind. 
And those lines run through hearts.

The link is that torn loyalty, the many difficulties in standing free. Now for the gaming.

It's been a while since I did anything ruleswise re the Heroes of Armageddon Charity Project, a plan to raise money for charity Doctors Without Borders through gaming. Last was the homebrew approach to playing 40K inside hives and very close terrain.

Today I'm going to build on the series of linked 31-word stories I ran through May, which could be tied in to the Armageddon setting if that's how you choose to read them. I want to see if the protagonists can be statted up for 40K, to have them playable in games.

First up are the people of the City. If you don't remember, you might want to read Day 3 for a beginning, Days 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 for battle, and Day 27 for a result.

I've tried to work the story into the rules. The unit is designed to be used with the hive interior approach, as the residents of a given urban area. There's a statline for the model, and below that one for a new weapon - the improv - plus a special rule. Range isn't needed in the interiors of course. Citizens may not look much, but they can dig deep.

TROOPS

Citizens

Cost: 3 points per Citizen (?)   Type: Infantry   Size: 10-30 Citizens

   Citizen    2  2  2  2  1  2  1   6   -

Weapons: Improv   Special rules: Fabric of Society, The Idea Lives On
- - - - - -
Improv: Improvs are firearms fashioned from everyday items, production machinery and other material salvaged as the opportunity arises, as well as antique, ceremonial or recreational devices adapted for use in combat.
   Improv    (6”)   2   -   Assault 1 
Fabric of Society: Units of Citizens command a range of skills. Before each game, roll a D6 once on the following table for each in the force.
1.  Schematics  The player controlling this unit may modify the rolls for movement of all friendly units, including reserves, by an additional 1 point.
2.  Barricades  This unit and all friendly units in its initial location are assumed to be in cover with a 5+ save, each until it moves for any reason.
3.  Control  The player controlling this unit may each turn force any opposing player to reroll one reserves roll and reroll one of his or her own.
4.  Access  This Improvs this unit carries become S3 for the entire game.
5.  Expertise  This unit gains 1 point of WS, BS, I or Ld for the entire game, the characterisic chosen now by the player controlling the unit.
6.  Sacrifice  For every full five models this unit loses for whatever reason it is able to ignore up to 1 wound in each subsequent turn of the game.
    The Idea Lives On: If a unit of Citizens drops below five models, it may be removed by the controlling player in one of its movement phases with no gain to an opponent in kill or victory points.

    Any feedback is welcome on this of course, especially on points cost. To allow for the variation in unit size I've made sure the random benefits favour large units and small. The Idea Lives On may seem powerful, but it shouldn't be for the victory conditions used with the interior approach. Have a read if you haven't yet as it's a different kind of game.

    Check out the Heroes of Armageddon project at the website too and consider chipping in, even have a think about what you could do to draw attention to this or other causes, the LiveStrong Wargaming Project for example. Everything makes a difference.
    _

    Sunday, 26 June 2011

    Deep thought not Friday

    It's been another long time since we had one of these posts. The subject today is less obviously epistemological and there's optional reading too.

    - That David Brin article; several of us responded.
    - JB's review of Tron: Legacy, seeing it differently.

    The question then. Can we define science fiction and fantasy so as to clearly separate them? If not, how might the continuum be visualised?
    _

    Mustering and mustard

    Here's an inspiration. Dylan Gould at his Hobby Works is painting a 3,000 point dwarf army for Warhammer Fantasy Battle in just a weekend.

    It takes an effort to complete a project that big of course. For added challenge, the Storm of Magic supplement for WFB could be about to raise the bar, through army expansions and expectations.

    Let's not think about the time assembly takes too, let alone conversions if that's the way you like to go, and I do. I'm sworn off new wargame forces for now, beyond skirmish level anyway. Luckily there's a lot of skirmish games out there. The wargaming label here will turn up a fair few links, as will blogs like Miniature Review and Tabletop Fix.

    If you want some dwarves like Dylan's, don't forget Brian has some for sale, classic Chaos too. On the subject, ArmChairGeneral has a Tzeentch army and cards going.

    I'm meandering a bit in this post, having read round the blogs and let the mind wander. I'll hopefully have a Deep thought Sunday up later, but for now it's more practical ideas.

    For example, I can't help pondering how a battle of dozens or hundreds might be run as roleplaying rather than wargame, even presented fully in written fiction. I'd love to try something like that at a convention. It certainly suits the minus level characters idea.

    After all, as, say, christian is reminding us at destination unkown, and NetherWerks with their roofcrawling, dungeons are just one venue, even for Dungeons & Dragons.

    A post at Symptoms of Radness looked at the overlap a while back, here, and it's very inspiring. Shawn at Blue Table Painting is looking at blurring the lines by blending Warhammer and D&D to tie in with the Valhalla gaming weekends he's running.

    To get a seamless link-up might be tricky, and with dozens or hundreds of players trickier still. The most obvious way to go seems to me to be resolving increasingly compact pockets of interaction simultaneously, stopping at set intervals to check for new entrants or effects from other pockets or beyond. Cool problem to ponder anyway.
    _

    Saturday, 25 June 2011

    Money in old tropes - Cyborgs

    Second in the series in which I give YOU a new take on an old trope and tell you to go earn big!

    Last time was marines; this time it's cyborgs.

    We know the concept very well. A cyborg is a cybernetic organism. But that's been done. To death. Check out just this list. We've had all of endoskeletons, exoskeletons and implants.

    What's left? Well, our imaginations are the limit.

    For example, you've probably heard of utility fog. It's been mentioned at the Expanse here re gaming and here re philosophy. The idea is that a huge number of tiny links in a 3D matrix regulate their relative positions to change shape, colour and property. The T1000 starts to look less fantastical. The real world starts to look less solid.

    But how does this tie in with cyborgs? Surely utility fog is beyond biology? Not so fast. There might be plenty a nanocloud couldn't do, or do easily. Believable mimicking might be tricky, and replication of the large array of integrated systems in a complex organic lifeform - and that integration itself - might prove harder than creating the cloud.

    There's more on that kind of thing up now at the superb Astrogator's Logs, here.

    So how about a biological base on which nanotech has gone to work, producing a transbiological form of tougher, more flexible bone, more efficient muscle, improved nervous and circulatory systems, and through all this a utility cloud has been run?

    Within the body the cloud could beat the heart faster, reinforce blood vessels, hold wounds closed while they are repaired. It could project out beyond the skin to provide an invisible cushion, reacting to incoming projectiles and maybe deflecting them with concentrated electromagnetic pulses. It could provide support for the limbs or additional limbs, and allow chameleonic changes in appearance as well as a limited shapeshifting.

    Impressive. How you feel about it as a possible reality likely depends on how you feel about transhumanism in general. It's a big subject. Fiction can help us explore it, assuming it's not selling it to us, whether for enthusiasm, profit or something more sinister. And there is of course a danger that fiction can make development more likely.

    Am I being irresponsible? Maybe. Ideas are very powerful things.

    Let me trivialise it now then, by statting it up for gaming. I'm going to use the great free skirmish game FireZone by Gotthammer, which would work just as well for a more classical punk approach to cybernetics, something like Lantz's AdMech FanDex, also great and free. I put together a blunderbuss last week, but this time it's a protagonist.

    Or rather two, one playing up the slow inexorable zombie tradition, one faster.


    Nanorg (slow)

    S  P  I  D  E  R
     3  4  3  6  8  3   Abilities: Dauntless, Shielded 4/1


    Nanorg (fast)

    S  P  I  D  E  R
     5  4  5  8  8  5   Abilities: Stealth, Free Running, Sure Footed, Dauntless, Shielded 4/1


    No equipment here, but for weapons - if you need them - Gotthammer's flamethrower, thermal cutter and plasma welder would reflect the idea that lifeforms like this might get burdened with heavy, difficult work. He statted those for Studio McVey's Sedition Wars.

    Read FireZone to see what the notation means; to whet the appetite, those shields recharge. Again, the rules pdf is free and could become that new wargaming system.
    _

    Sixth edition + CS S T W I Ld?

    There's a lot of discussion on the rumours of what a sixth edition of 40K might contain. The most exciting thing for me is not the rules described, but the fact it's got us talking about a much greater range of potential than we might otherwise have considered.

    It's a reminder that rules are no more than ideas, maybe written out and dressed up later for publication, marketing etc. In that sense, who cares what a given system might look like in six months, a year? Why not write our own rules now, a whole new system even?

    Maybe we can do it better?

    If you're looking for inspiration, check out yesterday's strange new weekly.

    Anyway, it got me thinking about a post here a while back, a thought experiment on how the organic growth 40K has seen over the past two decades could be conslidated. As the possible statline, CS S T W I Ld sums the argument up well. You can read it here.

    The post got some good discussion going, and introduced me to the great FireZone.
    _

    Thursday, 23 June 2011

    Fire in the sky

    What a great custom this is. Inspiring stuff, even before we get to fictional uses. It's for the central and eastern European Ivan Kupala Day, or the Feast of St John the Baptist.

    _

    Wednesday, 22 June 2011

    Money in old tropes - Marines

    A series in which I give YOU a new take on a tired old idea in fiction. Go forth and earn! First up it's marines, stars of so many - yawn - franchises and staples of military sci-fi.

    You see them. You see... Baddies, handlers too. Butcherbutcher. Everybody's gone, sir. Fin.

    The Marines. Creaming the cream of the cream across galaxies, the Milky Way barely a fatty spot on their tablecloth; so highly trained they stoop beneath the information ceiling of the universe.

    They leap through higher dimensions to cover light eras of three-dimensional space, skipping from fluid to fluid, the denser the better. They appear suddenly in oceans, atmospheres, nebulae, the darkest of dark matter, surfing the forces between particles.

    They condense the fabric of being for their armour, weaponise the fundamentals to release the near-boundless energy in existence. Irony they sacrificed first and thus they are gods to fearful worlds.

    But that may go only so far in a thinning universe. Are they tools in the wrong kit? Entropy grows. And their maisters hold the wax.
    _

    Tuesday, 21 June 2011

    Glug, glug, gurgle - Living table (2) - Entries 51-70

    Some more entries for the Bodies of Water table at DM Muse, begun about a fortnight ago here.

    The table is a tool to inspire gamers and writers creating pools, ponds or lakes, even small seas.

    It's a generator, meaning it allows entries to be selected randomly using dice or other methods, although sites like DM Muse automate this.

    This extra 20 makes a total of 70 so far, plenty to work with, but this is a living table, which means anyone can add entries. Yours are very welcome.

    This time I've gone with weird ones, but aimed again to keep them mostly non-genre and avoid being too specific about the surrounding area.

    1. The liquid here forms the lens of an eye belonging to a subterranean creature.
    2. The body of water is a vessel from which extraplanar beings sup.
    3. Transdimensional currents refresh the waters; what will wash in?
    4. The land is sorrowful, and its tears have filled this depression.
    5. Flames dance across the surface.
    6. The surface foams.
    7. The waters evoke an intense craving for dusty, arid spaces.
    8. The body has its own isolated cycle, clouds forming and bursting above.
    9. A waterrise carries the glittering contents of the pool far up into the sky.
    10. Tubes run out over the bank and away across the countryside.
    11. The liquid is a highly volatile substance held in check by powerful fields.
    12. The location draws strange flying craft to drink and so gain new energy.
    13. A beacon stands unlit on a promontory.
    14. The swampiness of the land suggests this body of water has recently shrunk.
    15. The surface is no more than a projection.
    16. The surface is found to be entirely solid - and hollow!
    17. An eyestalk or periscope quietly observes.
    18. A protuberance emerges at irregular intervals to run slowly over the banks.
    19. The banks are extremely slippery and draw the unsuspecting inexorably inwards.
    20. The reflections here are in fact scale models placed just below the surface.

    I've fed them in at DM Muse as usual so they should be listed and ready to start rolling soon. If you have an idea or two for entries, or even a whole new table, you can join in.
    _

    Monday, 20 June 2011

    Well met

    A look at bonds with flash fiction, with a simple propluristemic tool for relationships in gaming.
    - - - - - -
    First the weekly flash fiction challenges, a joint entry for both Jennie's Expansion Joints and Succinctly Yours over at Grandma's Goulash.

    The first should have 15 words, one of them tie, and the second needs 140 characters, has to be based on this image of a detective-like figure and may use the word fabricate. Tough task.

    Will they match up?

    Undeniable connection.
    A tie indiscernible, apparently fragile. Nevertheless, immensely strong.
    Impossible to fabricate - proof.
    Elementary.

    It's inspired by Jennie's intro for this week. So how about that gaming tool then?

    Well met

    This is a simple system for setting up random relationships between characters. It's aimed at sandbox roleplaying, but could work in wargaming too; more on that later. It builds on the idea of minus level characters and finds another use for the basic scarcity system I've been developing for the ever-growing Hogintu supplement.

    The basic mechanism is a die roll. I'll assume a D6, but you can use any. When a character or party meets another person, roll the die. The result is the distance from the current location that this person is from, geographically and/or socially; the higher the number, the further away the character has his or her associations.

    The GM or players can interpret this. A 1 may be a character from this exact neck of the woods, a 5 from the edge of the region. An instant foundation for the encounter, and perhaps even immediately obvious to the characters from equipment or accent.

    If you roll a maximum, the person is from a degree further afield. Roll again and add the second result to the first. Keep rolling and adding for each extra maximum.

    All well and good, but here's the important bit. When creating a new character, each player should go through the same process, and record the total. This number represents their origins. You can fudge to suit character concept of course, and a well-travelled character could have multiple rolls, use a larger die or be given a range.

    Every time the player character or party as a whole changes location, you could add or subtract a degree, here 6, from the player character numbers to represent distance travelled. If you want more you could even set up a matrix for extra dimensions.

    And the point? If when two characters meet, the numbers match, they know each other, or at least know of each other. You could roll a one-off die for how well, with a 1 being close family and a 6 a friend of a friend or distant acquaintance. This has clear potential. Strong bonds, shared secrets, memories unlocked, even new loyalties.

    And for wargaming? To take just one well-known historical example, when Poland was partitioned, Poles could find themselves facing each other in the armed forces of one of the three occupying empires, either the Prussian, Austrian or Russian. For a Romantic patriot and keeper of the flame, that must have been painful.

    Why not roll for units when related factions meet on the battlefield? They may do their nominal duty, but could instead choose to hold back, refuse to fight, even find common cause. A plan or force might collapse as supposed opponents join together and rise up.
    _

    Sunday, 19 June 2011

    Zombies, Daleks and the triumph of death

    Kent at Some King's Kent has an interesting approach to the nature of encounters with zombies. I can't help but connect this with the story Dave Morris tells at Mirabilis - Year of Wonders of meeting a Dalek at BBC Television Centre as a boy in 1964.

    But what is that connection? Do you sense it too? The zombie and Dalek seem akin.

    I think Kent gets at the movement link well with mention of resource management, and Dave in the suggestion of the sterile Dalek environments of the 1960s. Dave also hints at the body horror of the claustrophobic Dalek interior - "something small, vulnerable and fearful surrounded by electronics and armour" - and its world observed remotely, which ties in with the small but insurmountable distance separating us from a zombie.

    In this sense, both creatures suggest an alienation from our bodies. That's something I remember played up well in a sequence from the novelisation of Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovitch, and it could be part of what makes Davros so compelling.

    Zombie and Dalek are unlike us and yet oddly similar, recognisable, even if only by eyestalk, upper-limb-like extensions and voice. There's an uncanniness in there too.

    Interestingly, both can also be product of an apocalypse, nuclear in the case of the Daleks; and that powerful image of the '60s Dalek comes back - the petrified forest - and what is that if not ranks of the dead? A potentially empty future.

    Linked with all of this, Beedo at Dreams if the Lich House recently posted on the idea of the familiar dead returning. That's another reminder of the triumph of death, of loss.

    Isn't that the root of all the terrors our games evoke? Loss of a shot at greatness, of a squad, of a much-loved character. But also the loss of time as the years go by; christian at destination unknown had a wonderful post on this a while back, on a fleeting light. We may well play the good old games to relive the early feelings. The zombie and Dalek represent decay visibly, but also less visibly entropy, as they slowly close us down.

    That icy cold sweat.

    Remember Kirk and the Kobayashi Maru? Here's the line from The Wrath of Khan; very appropriately for Father's Day, it's Kirk speaking to his son, David Marcus:

    I haven't faced death. I've cheated death. I've tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity. I know nothing.

    In a way we gamers cheat, every time we deploy our army afresh in yet another battle or roll up a new character. How about a propluristemic rule then, a rule for many games?

    The cold sweat

    If your army loses the campaign or your character dies, close the ruleset, book or box, put it on the shelf and never open it again. You may hold a ceremony.

    - - - - - -

    As an aside, talk of Kent and Daleks makes me think of John at John's Toy Soldiers, who's based in the county of Kent in the UK; just today he posted on an odd sign. He also has a Doctor Who battle report featuring Daleks, based on a modified 40K.
    _

    Beer on Mars and gateway words

    Great lines in classic sci-fi, some wonderful pulp weirdness and even Leslie Nielsen. The scene comes from Tales of Tomorrow, an important US TV series from the early 1950s.

    There's a d20 table under the vid, a small transformative homage to the show, the genre and the doorways to adventure hidden in everyday language; for loaded game moments.




         Gateway words (d20)
    1. So this is x.
    2. I'm disappointed.
    3. I expected something different.
    4. It's just that...
    5. It's kinda strange...
    6. ... that's all.
    7. Nothing here.
    8. There are no y.
    9. Why not?
    10. That's what I'd like to know.
    11. You can't expect to find z.
    12. No, you don't understand me.
    13. Look.
    14. Now take a look at this.
    15. What are you driving at?
    16. There's nothing.
    17. Only the barrenness...
    18. ...and the howling wind.
    19. It's weird.
    20. Makes me feel kinda funny.

    If you liked that, there's weird science fantasy at ix, Swords & Stitchery, Spaceswords & Glory, Ancient Astronauts, Dreams in the Lich House and From the Sorcerer's Skull, not to mention in the NetherWerks realm, especially NetherWerks, Zalchis and Riskail.

    And in plenty of other places too I'll bet. Where else can we get that vibe?
    _

    Saturday, 18 June 2011

    Chaos dwarves, dwarves and a broad blunderbuss

    Brian at A Gentleman's Ones has some classic Citadel Chaos dwarves and dwarves for sale. They look great. I like the later Chaos dwarf style too, though I know it's not everyone's favourite, and ideas like the blunderbuss. Interesting weapon in general.

    I've statted one up. I used Gotthammer's FireZone, which may be aimed more at sci-fi, but can certainly cope with fantasy, and has plenty of options for weapons. It's a very well-made skirmish game and free to download. I plan to do some sci-fi stats for it too.


    Broad blunderbuss

    The broad blunderbuss is a tough, crude, ranged weapon with a flaring barrel and bore. It is filled through the muzzle with solid shot, whether cast metal or simple scrap, brick or stone. A black powder charge spews the mass a short distance across a wide arc.

    Range  Acc  RoF  Dam  Type
      3 / 3"    +1     1       5     Jet 9/3, Reload 2

    Notes: Range in FireZone is split into bands, with a modifier for each full band out from the firer; the first number is the number of bands and the second the length of each.

    The blunderbuss also fires a Jet, and the extra numbers are the dimensions of the cone, a length of 9" and a width of 3" at the broad end. Accuracy here is a small bonus to represent the overall difficulty of missing. The weapon has a Rate of Fire of 1 and not surprisingly a reload is necessary, requiring 2 Action Points, likely to mean about a turn.

    I've kept Damage low relative to the sci-fi weapons Gotthammer stats up in the pdf.

    I hope I've not missed anything, but if I have, feel free to point it out. If you haven't had a read of FireZone yet, I recommend you do. It's here. Don't forget Brian's dwarves though.
    _

    Friday, 17 June 2011

    Lost heart

    No 40K OSR? post today. I've had too much positivity leeched out following events in the D&D OSR. A lot of passion is going into destruction of ideas, other people, into a downward spiral. We've likely all complained, expressed strong opinions, gone far, but why do knowing hurt? So much for games being the place we let loose those energies.

    The Joesky tax has been hinted at heavily. It's never seemed more appropriate, or more appropriately named. Today's offering then? Well, being led by example, it might be this; some especially dark propluristemic content, here largely above system and setting.

    The Mark of Progress

    Play a preferred ruleset. Enhance the experience by tearing up someone else's. None not already torn up? Tear into a playstyle. Or player. Little character and class needed.
    _

    Thursday, 16 June 2011

    Very odd jobs

    People in made-up disciplines wanted at Burning Zeppelin Experience. I've gone with K. A. Boom, parameteorologist, but that only skims the surface of spooky atmospheres.
    _

    True fog of war




    Another attempt at gamer horror in 140 characters, for Flash Fearsday. Rules below.

    The gaming table is empty. A true fog of war.
    Disorders are issued and resistance unmet; a non-zero sum game.
    But -
    What else do we not see?

    You can join in - it's just 140 - and leave the narrative or a link at Lunching on Lamias.

    Here are those rules then, some propluristemic content, for many, maybe all games.

    True fog of war

    You will not need: character sheets, maps, miniatures, counters, terrain or a board. All dice may be used, unless you are taking the optional higher random approach. Play.

    Tip: Be sure you're at the right table, and not a piece on any other, in a stranger game.
    _

    Monday, 13 June 2011

    Webs in worldbuilding

    Science In My Fiction has a post up with the title Spiders In Space: Our Constant Companions. This may not be The Drune's post at ix on Space Spiders, or any of Needles' incredible creatures at Swords & Stitchery, but it's intriguing nonetheless.

    It makes me think of the end of this article, when the subject turns to Biosphere 2.

    Reading it all as a worldbuilder and games designer, there's a challenge - how to evoke or enable these evolving webs, with potential for unexpected niches and cracks? For me it also ties in with the idea of minus level characters, via ckutalik's image of ripples.

    Can a game system represent or suggest an ecology in a simple way? The posts here on growing a tabletop say I think it can. And it seems to me a set of supplementary mechanisms like this could make a sandbox more of a living, breathing space, increase the fun through naturalistic development, greater immersion. Does it burst your buds?
    _

    Gargants and a rant

    You might remember I was hoping to post an expansion this weekend for that hive interior supplement I put together for the Heroes of Armagedon project, a set of homebrew rules for games inside gargants. Exciting idea, right? For me, for sure. I was very happy with the result, all the more so because it took me right back to the early '90s and the Epic system, with power fields, boilers and fires, even escaped squigs.

    Trouble is, I'm not in the habit of backing up drafts. Can you guess where this is going?

    If you're a Blogger blogger you probably can. When I came back to the draft to make the final changes I found it was down to the introduction only. All the mood and rules text was gone. As far as I can see, except for that failure on my part - trusting the software - the fault lies entirely with Blogger. I've waited and it hasn't returned. Does anyone believe it ever will? I do have an earlier version I can build back from, but I don't want to think how long that will take. I may well do it, and feel I should, but not right now.

    The next paragraph is a rant, so feel free to take your leave here.

    What is it with Blogger? It may be free for most of us - if not necessarily a labour of love for Blogger's owners - but there are certain minimums we might expect with the service offered. That near-day outage with so little info was pretty rough, as was the vanishing of posts and comments and odd returns. The problems many bloggers have been having with commenting is arguably worse. A solution was doing the rounds a long time ago (uncheck the 'stay signed in' box at login), but why do we need to spread the word on that? How often do we have comments eaten? The first and possibly only time I tried using the post timer, it ended in loss of a past post and the hard work of others in the comments. This past few days my and other bloggers' stats have been highly unusual, and based on the discussions I've seen and had, they look in large part to be junk. In my view it's a mess. Well done Von, and anyone else who moved away.

    I've already taken steps towards independence. It's all but ready to go, but I don't want to jump just yet. There's a lot more to do at the Expanse. When I leave I want it to be much more than just a switching of platforms, more than a step forward only for me; I'd like to offer an open door to many. I'll talk about that another time.

    To borrow a metaphor, gargants may be reduced to scrap, but that's building material.
    _

    Sunday, 12 June 2011

    Paths in heavens or hells

    This week I'm on the ball with Jennie's Expansion Joints, in more than just timing terms. You know how we roll: a narrative in 15 words, with one word given; this week it's rush.

    "... it moves."
    The world turns. And we turn with it. Beat the rush!
    Turn away.

    For all the depth it might have, it also leads in to this post at Frontline Gamer, a look at the new Warpath from Mantic Games and its place in the sci-fi wargaming firmament.
    _

    Saturday, 11 June 2011

    Minus level characters

    We've seen some intense rolling discussions this past week. For anyone not following events in the D&D OSR, Stuart has a summary up here.

    The topics were shields, nihilism, heroism, gory art, oddly familiar art and level zero characters.

    For the last of these I have a small suggestion to make, hopefully useful in more than one OSR.

    But first a late entry for last week's Saturday Centus at Jenny Matlock's blog, 25 words plus the phrase the end. It was hard to resist writing it then and the theme seems to fit now.

    It is never the end, never the beginning. The story has no pages. There is no book. Perhaps there is retelling. And thus we may live on.

    That could be an approach. Level zero is an interesting concept, and ckutalik looked at it here at Hill Cantons a while back. The trigger now is the Dungeon Crawl Classics Beta Rules release from Goodman Games. Starting characters are weak; it's worth learning names, but you might not need to remember long with these guys.

    So what to do if you love the level zero idea, but not the execution so to speak? One thing we've been reminded this week is that gaming can be a very different thing to each of us; we may be at the table for very different reasons. That said, I'd guess many of us are there for a shared fiction, a story collaboratively created.

    A story of course is usually a piece of the possible cut out and marked as complete enough to tell. Away from those apparently shapeless possibilities, the story seems to have a form, a linearity, a point, and the events will naturally seem to be leading to that.

    This is sounding familiar to the fundamental laws idea, right? Well, yes.

    I'm not talking railroad, but expectations. If a friend, parent, master or associate is killed another friend, child, pupil or associate may act.  He or she may seek revenge, or see succession. There may be unfinished business, or myth calling. A sense of honour, or maybe a deal waiting to be done, a power vacuum, a tipping point close, a revolution to be set in motion, nothing left to lose. A powerful purpose, reason to jump in.

    How about each level zero character having a simple ability, one-off or not? A destiny, an intimation of greatness, a push or a pull. Play it at a critical moment to barely scrape through, fulfil those expectations, reflect that framing. It may just be enough.

    If it isn't, have the NPC standing alongside raise the standard, or see a once-in-a-lifetime chance appear ahead, or have something click in a character out of shot, as yet unmet. There's the next guy you roll up. No emotional investment need be fully lost. The world can keep turning, the fire burning, perhaps only on new ground, with new fuel.

    Why not in wargames too? The last member of unit has a lot on his or her shoulders. And think of the auxiliaries, trainees, support staff, friends and family, passersby.

    I'm not saying this is how you should do it - of course - or even that it needs to be done. There are good reasons for a high attrition rate in a gaming. We all have our own cups of tea, even if made with the same essential liquid. There are many implementations, more elegance. This is just an option, another experiment in fun, more of that exploration.
    _

    Friday, 10 June 2011

    40K OSR? (9)

    This week's update on a possible 40K OSR. What's that? Some potential definitions here.

    If you identify with the idea, and most of all if you're putting out new takes, go ahead and use Colonel Kane's 40K OSR logo - to the right.

    If you do, consider crediting Kane and adding Tales from the Maelstrom to your blogroll. If the OSR exists, this is it; up at the moment more Rogue Trader landing party members.

    As well as that, this week we have rules suggestions, conversions and a scratch build, alternative models and short fiction.


    A couple of wild cards too, on different scales.


    As for me, this weekend should see an expansion for the hive interior supplement I put together for Heroes of Armagedon, with rules for playing games inside gargants. I love the idea, and wonder why I've never seen it done before. I hope I can do it justice.

    As usual, any and all links to alternatives are very welcome.

    Wednesday, 8 June 2011

    Glug, glug, gurgle - Living table (2) - Entries 1-50

    Dyson Logos at A Character for Every Game has made another beautiful map available for us to do with almost as we will. I don't dare tackle the whole thing, but it does have some intriguing bodies of water. I can supplement those.

    I've been working on a generator for pools, so I have a few options specific to that, but I've generalised much more here to get a more universal tool, perfect for DM Muse too.

    I've kept them mostly non-genre and avoided being too specific about locality.

    I realise some readers may not be sure what a generator is. In this case it's just a tool to inspire gamers and writers, allowing features to be selected randomly. Dice can be rolled, but with 50 entries that's tricky; luckily services like DM Muse automate this.

    1. This body of water lies in a steep-banked depression.
    2. The surface stands high above the surrounding area.
    3. This is a hushed, airless space.
    4. Unseen creatures produce a stentorian cacophany.
    5. Materials soak up the unnatural humidity and run with condensation.
    6. The waters are stagnant, choked with decaying plant matter.
    7. The water is tidal, yet with no visible link to a larger body.
    8. The waters draw the water of the body, cry for union...
    9. Sirens call.
    10. The water is salty, intensifying a thirst.
    11. The water is sweet, perhaps too sweet...
    12. The waters refract time, bringing either youth or age to the drinker.
    13. The waters will avenge themselves on all who sully their purity.
    14. Lightning coruscates across the surface.
    15. Out towards the middle a maelstrom spins.
    16. The pool is formed by a hot spring; a thin steam drifts across the surface.
    17. A geyser spouts at regular intervals.
    18. The surface bulges above its banks.
    19. The waters retreat from interlopers.
    20. The waters are in fact a shapeshifting mass.
    21. Approach sees the land become liquid and the waters solidify.
    22. A mist hangs low over the water, suggestive shapes forming.
    23. The glittering surface mesmerises - does a voice whisper?
    24. The waters are home to an unknown or lost civilisation.
    25. A thin film of oil sets the surface ashimmer.
    26. The water laps at banks strewn with wreckage.
    27. This body of water is a flooded shaft or sinkhole.
    28. Machinery rests all around, apparently abandoned.
    29. Banks of reeds make access to the water difficult.
    30. The shore is formed of pebbles.
    31. Strange tracks run down to the water's edge.
    32. The water here is a garish colour.
    33. Creatures move just below the surface, leaving rolling whorls.
    34. The pool is overhung; small creatures fall, feeding the water-dwellers.
    35. The waters breed small flying creatures and webs span the space around.
    36. Large flying creatures hunt smaller over ripples run by wingtips.
    37. A giant creature lurks beneath the surface.
    38. A great wreck of some kind lies a distance out.
    39. A vessel is moored here.
    40. A jetty runs out towards the middle.
    41. The bed is thick with tokens of indiscernible form.
    42. This water source draws all manner of creatures from far afield.
    43. This is a ceremonial site; a processional route leads away.
    44. The surface does not reflect the images of living creatures.
    45. The waters are perfectly clear; on one thing only, and otherwise quite vague.
    46. The waters absorb light, and much else besides.
    47. The waters emanate light and radiations beyond the visible spectra.
    48. The banks have a noticeably artificial shape.
    49. The surface reflects the night sky, even at noon or underground.
    50. This body of water is a portal to another location.

    I've just added the table and entries to DM Muse, so they'll be up soon. This is a living table of course so feel free to add your own entries, or even start a completely new one.
    _

    Friday, 3 June 2011

    40K OSR? (8)

    This week's update on a possible 40K OSR. What is it? Some potential definitions here.

    If you identify with the concept, especially if you're putting out new ideas, feel free to use Colonel Kane's 40K OSR logo - to the right.

    If you do, consider crediting the Colonel and adding Tales from the Maelstrom to your roll,
    as one of the great 40K and gaming blogs.

    So what does this week bring?

    Fresh approaches, a scenario and battle report, conversions, brand new rules and original writing, as well as some comment and reflection, all in that order. Plenty.


    If you think anything else should be in here, just go right ahead and leave the links.
    _

    It's life, Lalei, but not as we know it

    A quick update on the Humanspace Empires playtest being run at Spaceswords & Glory, where the tension's rising fast.

    There's an intruder on the ship, one of the interdimensional Mihálli. The Deeds of Glory is now being locked down and a security team with a plan is moving to intercept, cautiously.

    Down on the ice planet, at the site of the former research station, unknown beings are closing on the shuttle. Warbots are prepared, air tablets in and weapons made ready...

    We've got a half dozen or so players. I'm guiding Payákár, a compassionate eight-limbed alien armed with a mighty Z-ray energy rifle - phasers on kill, shoot to stun - and bearing a secret. A mystery influence.
     
    You can read up on the events so far and all follow the action through the posts and comments, and there's general info on the project here. If it's new to you, Humanspace Empires is a pulp science fantasy roleplaying game by The Drune at ix, reviewed here.

    I highly recommend checking out the second of the two games as well, at Ancient Astronauts, an exploration of a future Mars. The escape in the van just hit a snag...
    _

    Thursday, 2 June 2011

    Half-elf, half-orc and the USS Enterprise

    It struck me today, more forcefully than ever, just how radical by our standards Star Trek was when first shown. A mixed-race crew with representatives of former and current opponents in hot and cold armed conflict. They may have had a white North American male ordering them about, but by contrast the alien half-elf was arch conservativism.

    The Next Generation always seemed to me a step forwards, but I suspect now it could have been a step back. An elder captain meant a more subtle paternalism, and as a Frenchman played by a Brit a reference to early influences on modern North American culture. For all the extra women on show - one to three in the main cast - and a man with a disability - overcome in part - there was less reflection of our diversity.

    That diversity seemed to have been moved into other forms of life - an android and a Klingon - and with regard to opponents, the assumption seemed to have been made that mass conflict would eventually be overcome too. The Prime Directive reinforced this, suggesting each group had to make its own way up. But, as the android suggested with his growth arc, up appeared to mean human, or at least the ideals of the Federation.

    It became fashionable to bash the good guys over the course of TNG, certainly in DS9, perhaps even to denigrate the idea of good. But there was a bright light in a character we might easily first equate with a half-orc - a trope I'd say is still fresh - Worf. The development of the Klingons through him made so much possible, not least DS9. 

    His being there highlighted the value of an alternative perspective on things, the wonders of a reference to multiple sources, the deep fulfilment in a constant struggle to know the best approach. This struggle is likely a very general thing, something fundamental to a universe in which it appears just one of potentially many possibilities is experienced. If the Federation was this, Worf's essence as a character, it might have been a worthwhile venture, and on that level, through Worf, TNG may have kept that early radicalism alive.

    Of course, that radicalism was largely conservative, belief in a wholesome past used to shape a better future. It seems to reject the Enlightenment while actually being at root the same process, an opening up of the mind to a lost, forgotten or revealed body of knowledge, the demonstration of its value and its use to synthesise new solutions.

    But then from 1987 to 1994, the consensus outside Trek was for consensus itself, and a globalisation was moving visibly and fast. In this sense TNG may have been advocating the other view still, albeit this time a comfortable, cosy, closed tradition, as far as the franchise would tolerate. After all, an update of a successful series isn't especially bold.

    As for the ideas of the original series, I won't argue the times weren't already moving ahead of Star Trek in the '60s, that the series was just matching a trend. But what does that say about us now? Who heads our fantasies today? A state-sponsored torturer in 24, an exclusive prostitute in Secret Diary of a Call Girl and a serial killer in Dexter.
    _