Thursday, 29 December 2011

Rogue Space - Vehicle construction and use

Following the posts on the transhuman warrior and equipment, here's a possible vehicle system. I've adapted a sample from the Empyre, the Nova armoured transport gyrocopter, or ATG.

I want these rules to reflect those for spacecraft, partly for symmetry, and partly so that if you know one, the other should need little learning and cause minimal slowdown. This is key given that Rogue Space is really about speed and improvisation, fast before fiddly.

In Rogue Space the basic profiles for characters and spacecraft form easy-to-remember acronyms - FASER and SHIPS - so with the vehicles I'm continuing this trend by using CHASE, standing for Compartments, Hardware, Armour, Speed and Engineering.

If you read nothing else today...

Three posts up in the past few hours seem to me to deserve a good cup of tea or coffee and a long reflection - maybe a cup each - and they weave one into the other very well.

The first post is this, which could feel offensive, at Astrogator's Logs, on simplicity and danger in understanding of sci-fi. The second is this at The Secret Sun on Jack Kirby, synchronicity and war, which might seem rather silly. The third is this, a review of the year at From the Sorcerer's Skull, which links to what could look like gaming material.

I'd suggest delaying the reaction long enough to be inspired and to be sure you're sure...

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Insanity Clause, Slip van Kringle and Old Farther C

Dear Me,

I have been a good boy this year, and for many years now in fact, despite these most difficult of circumstances. You know that as well as I do.

There is just the one present I would like. To go home, to the workshop, back to the old ways.

Here it is strange. Whatever they have in some of these places, they are not chimneys, and the air and gravity leave much to be desired too.

I have lost the last of our reindeer - our good, dashing runners! - and been compelled to leave the sleigh. It lies now overtaken by a drift, but not of any snow I have ever seen. I do my work out of the sack, as needs must, and you can imagine how that is. Indeed.

You tell those elves from me - no more experiments! No more of that funny dust. I did it the old way all those years, and the world in a day was a bracing ride. I should not have agreed. Well, the aches had multiplied... But it transpires instead that all of me has.

For I am not alone, that I now know. I recently met a furtive man whom I instantly took to be kin. He went by the jocular name of Slip van Kringle and spoke of having met one other on his travels, an Old Farther C. These suggestive monikers are not so different than mine of course - Insanity Clause - by which alias I make light of my predicament among so many strangers. This Slip chap was loathe to assume I was not simply one of our numerous grotto brethren; I trust on reflection that he was not; it seems I am many.

I am sundered, perhaps split, though not in mind - touch wood - or anything like wood - but in essence. I am cast like last year's must-have toy into the vast spaces of myth and legend, virtual auctions. Yes, for unseen presences act. As I gather it, these lands have a common thread, are lands my people and believers visited, made or imagined. 

Not all I would sanction with the workshop stamp that much I will say, but it on reflection it is conceivable I bear some responsibility. A change of direction may be in order...

So go to work my good man, and set those elves to it. Apologies - I have been unable to find either mince pies or brandy for quite some time now, but I have left instead this blue produce. It has restored in me some of the old 'ho ho ho' and you shall see why.

Yours intrinsically,


*          *          *          *          *          *

If you're wondering what's going on, this is the second 'Transpluristemic', a festive entry for a series of transferrable characters. This one is fairly obvious of course, so you don't need my suggestions, but if you're interested, the basics are below in the format I'll be using all the way, stat-free so you can build the characters up in any game system.

     Insanity Clause, Slip van Kringle and Old Farther C, among others, are each...
  • a stout superhuman artisan entrepreneur of great age and jolly demeanour,
  • able to traverse shafts by a tap of the nose and to produce objects to order,
  • possibly travelling in a vehicle powered by quadropedal ruminant mammals,
  • likely to be found in the midst of exchanges, encouraging good behaviour.

He's out there, but who knows how many he is exactly, and where in time and space...

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Playing, winning and the First Dark Age of man

Recently I've been dipping into the classic First and Last Men by Olaf Stapledon. It's a stunning piece of science fiction setting out a future history at massively varied scales.

If you've never read it, I won't say you should, but I'd imagine on balance you'd also get a lot out of it. You need to know only that in places it could be shocking, and might break the odd taboo, maybe even one or two that weren't necessarily obvious before reading.

Here's a passage from early on in the book that ties in with our interests and has a lot to say, even before we pass the World State of the book. That larger context also runs into the Points of Light contest running at Hill Cantons and the specifics could be relevant to a discussion going on in wargaming, one that seems now itself to be slowly fading.

The soon to be god-man of the First Dark Age is in the supreme temple of the capital.

'... You are too serious, yet not serious enough; too solemn, and all for puerile ends. You are so eager for life, that you cannot live. ... There is something else, too, which is a part of growing up - to see that life is really, after all, a game; a terribly serious game, no doubt, but none the less a game. When we play a game, as it should be played, we strain every muscle to win; but all the while we care less for winning than for the game. And we play the better for it. ...
'... once when I was up among the snow-fields and precipices of Aconcagua, I was caught in a blizzard. ... After many hours of floundering, I fell into a snow-drift. I tried to rise, but fell again and again, till my head was buried. The thought of death enraged me, for there was still so much that I wanted to do. I struggled frantically, vainly. Then suddenly - how can I put it? - I saw the game that I was losing, and it was good. Good, no less to lose than to win. For it was the game, now, not victory, that mattered. ... Here was I, acting the part of a rather fine man who had come to grief through his own carelessness before his work was done. For me, a character in the play, the situation was hideous; yet for me, the spectator, it had become excellent, within a wider excellence. ...
'... Somehow I was so strengthened by this new view of things that I struggled out of the snow-drift. And here I am once more. But I am a new man. My spirit is free. While I was a boy, I said, "Grow more alive"; but in those days I never guessed that there was an aliveness far intenser than youth's flicker, a kind of still incandescence. Is there no one here who knows what I mean? No one who at least desires this keener living? The first step is to outgrow this adulation of life itself, and this cadging obsequiousness toward Power. Come! Put it away! Break the ridiculous image in your hearts, as I now smash this idol.'

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Rogue Space - Ammo, jams, armour and overhauls

I'm working up ideas for possible new material for Rogue Space, focused on adapting the Empyre setting, new technology and population centres, but in a roundabout way.

Given Rogue Space is rules light, I'm keeping the new material simple and fast, ideally not overloading the in-game action with extra rolls, but integrating it within the existing.

So here goes, a series of relatively modular optional rules for Fenway5's consideration.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


Václav Havel passed away today. I've not mentioned a death here that I can remember, but I'm doing it now for how relevant he could be to wargamers, roleplayers and writers.

That said of course, in general anyone who helps bring a community together to tackle a violent domination, and does so through art, who keeps going despite a clear danger of personal loss and harm, who takes high office and appoints Frank Zappa as a special ambassador on trade, culture and tourism has a life that rewards reflection, and all in.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Rogue Trader in Rogue Space?

To follow up on the review of Rogue Space last week, I thought I might run a series suggesting stats and rules for the system, for characters, equipment and so on inspired by other settings.

There are setting materials in the various free supplements of course, but the enormous potential in sci-fi means these are probably not what everyone is used to or looking for.

I thought I'd start with the obvious for many readers here - the 40K universe. Given the Rogue Space basic ruleset assumes a human starting character and lists light armour and projectile weapons, and the Armory supplement includes laser weapons, it's quite easy to create characters inspired by human Imperial forces like the PDF and Guard.

It also means there's a starting point for other standards, and if you want to run a game with a group of 40K players, it seems likely space marines in particular will come up.

So here's a proposal for a transhuman starting character in powered armour armed with an explosive projectile launcher, flamethrower, plasma gun or close assault weapons.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Deep thought Friday

I read John Lambshead's essay at the Baen site today and it got me wondering again how certain we can really be that civilisations didn't develop on Earth even many millions of years before us.

If exchange of ideas and transmission of cultural and technological records were communicated in movement or song, by tail and neck in sauropods say, and maybe constantly within and between large groups, rather like a more complex Occupy megaphone, and landscapes were transformed through cultivation only, would we have any more evidence than we do that we were not the first?

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Do you like shellfish and potatoes?

I have a guest post over at Hereticwerks today, on a creature called the Manitrude - a 'molluscotuberoid'.

I put it together on the basis of one of their pieces of artwork, the same piece they've used to make up the paper miniature here on the right. The mini is one of a series of three so far, with the Iron Pig and Toader.

The stats are for Labyrinth Lord, which is an old-school tactical roleplaying game like Mutant Future, and also free to download, but the info in the stats and write-up should be enough to adapt it to pretty much any game.

I recommend taking a look round the rest of the blog too, and saving the URL if you haven't yet, especially if you read the older NetherWerks or Objects of Chance.

They have a very distinctive style which mixes fantasy, sci-fi and horror in together, several settings and lots of pdfs in the sidebar, and the material just keeps coming.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Review - Rogue Space

With HoP focusing more on RPGs recently, and Von's new series, I thought I'd review a good starter game for sci-fi wargamers interested in setting up a roleplaying campaign.

The game is Rogue Space RPG by Fenway5. It's rules-light even by the standards of old school games, which makes it easy to pick up and keeps the focus more on the action and less on the detail of the mechanics. The basic rules and all the supplements so far are free, and each fits onto a sheet of A4 and folds into a booklet, which means you can keep everything in a miniatures case and play in the spaces around battles.

The downloads are here, found through the image at the top of the blog's right sidebar.

So how does it work? To my mind very well. The simple rules framework allows players to try pretty much anything they might want if they can imagine it, and in that sense the evocative name is a solid foundation, conjuring up all kinds of images of pulp sci-fi and space opera shenanigans, kickstarting the imagination even before the rules are read.

You'll need to know coming in that there are few limits with a system like this, but a bit of work may be needed, even if only through preparation or on-the-spot improvisation.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Space marines in space

With 40K getting old, and a sixth edition probably on the way, I thought I'd ask a few questions and suggest some ideas, as a series, maybe with a title like 'flashes in a grim darkness'.

It's partly for the designers at GW, to lend a hand, even if we know they won't always want or be able to use the ideas. It's also for designers everywhere, who can add them to games direct. The point is to inspire and help keep things spicy.

The first is for space marines as a whole, who do after all look to be the buttresses holding the edifice up. Get them wrong at the edition change and it might end badly for shareholders.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Deep thought Friday

Here's a pretty big one, focused on fiction. As a DtF seed, it grew out of discussions at the FTL and greenery posts, and ties in with this past Dtf. For more reading you could try this article on V for Vendetta and the one last time on progress.

To try and fasten any responsibility on art as the cause of life seems to me to put the case the wrong way around. Art consists of reshaping life but it does not create life, nor cause life.

Can this really be true? Do ideas not lead us on?


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Winged messenger, but whose message?

Forget cloaking devices. Could the anomaly near Mercury recorded by STEREO be evidence for plasma cosmology? It was elongated and it did appear in a solar flare...

Who knows?

I'm no advocate for plasma, but it's a subject that's fresh in my mind, just as UFOs were presumably fresh in the mind of the guy who said 'manufactured object', and the tried and tested presumably fresh at the NRL with the suggestion it's just an artefact.

But all three do seem a bit premature. Reading how the image was built, it's hard not to think how complex and subjective the process could be. Are we all denying our limits?

It's not only outer space. Our own natures as reflected in archeology are also subject to our subjectivity, and I recommend The Subversive Archaeologist for a good reminder.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

John Higginsbottom, the Intercosmic Man of Misery

Mr John Higginsbottom, 45, would very much like you to believe that he has pursued a number of highly unusual careers - as a decorated military commander, a small-town garden shed burner's assistant and even a half-starved scavenger in the tumbledown ruins of a backward civilisation.

He claims to be the victim of a cosmic joke, a claim which he readily admits will be difficult for readers of this blog to accept. It has, he says, turned his life upside down, or rather inside out.

His adventure, as he describes it, began with the activation of the latest CERN particle accelerator, a large literary experiment currently up and running below the ice of the Antarctic. The CERN project is a recurring feature of his bizarre experiences. It is, as he says in his slow, broken speech, "my nemesis".

It is also the anchor in the fantastical 20-year journey which he states quite calmly has seen him catapulted out of his ordinary life and across a range of alternative realities. Our reality is but one of these, and not an especially interesting one by all accounts.

That 'ordinary' life saw him born on Earth in the late 20th century, where by the time of his departure the principles governing plasmatic technology had yet to be discovered. Most bizarrely of all, humans in this strange world remained the dominant form of life.

The various cosmic stays are all of uniform duration: each begins as the accelerator is switched on and ends when a key event occurs. That event? Confirmation of the Higgs boson, that staple of children's literature, which he claims is a fundamental particle.

[Read more...]

*          *          *          *          *          *

Stories are doors to other worlds so this guy could be pretty much anywhere now. If you want to use him, here's the core info, stat-free for building him up in any game system.

     Mr John Higginsbottom, the self-styled 'Intercosmic Man of Misery', is...
  • a creative and quick-witted muscular male human with an analytical mind,
  • dangeous unarmed and adept in the use of fire and exotic ranged weaponry, 
  • phlegmatic and likely to be found making enquiries on existential knowledge.

The idea is basically just a development of the propluristemic rules, inspired mainly by the crossovers at Hereticwerks, which use mechanisms like the Synchronicitor. I can see it being a series with all kinds of transferrable characters lost in strange spaces.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Deep thought Friday

Here we go then. If you'd like some background reading, try this thesis and this recent blog post.

Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever.

But is a birth an imperative to grow or succeed when presumably we had no say in whether or not it happened? And if many of us play games we played in our youth, would we now aspire to grow old given the choice? Should life on Earth?