Wednesday, 29 February 2012

You've got a commerve...

I was typing a bit fast today and spelt the word 'commerce' wrong. But 'commerve' has to mean something, right? Somewhere and somewhen...

Not every vessel is commervous, but those that are laugh and cry with local space, trembling around their passengers at almost imperceptible frequencies. The passengers may be troubled by the experience at some deep level, and soak up the horror of it unbeknown for later, but they do gain immediately, and tangibly. For the sensory endings of the commerve are plugged into subrealian tissues, and feel the tension of the traumas flowing from the brutal brood worlds of the hot stars. With the forewarning of a slight twinge, the pangs of those spacetime streams may be avoided.

Crewbrew (1) - crew cohesion, concentration & repair

I'm having a go at a ruleset along the lines of one from the 40K uncut? post, for deeper vehicle use.

It could be thought of as homebrew for 40K, but it's not. It's a start on a general system for adaptation to games in which vehicles are more heavily abstracted. The first part is the core mechanism for development over time.

Crew cohesion

Crew cohesion is a variable for any or all of low visibility, cramped confines, heat, noise, vibration, motion, rushing air, failures, confusion, bickering, incoming attacks and death.

A D6 is placed with each vehicle or vehicle unit at its first appearance, with the 6 face up. At the end of every turn, the number face up on each die is reduced by one point.

For each glancing or penetrating hit on a vehicle, the number on the relevant die rises by one, for the focus it encourages. Each death among the crew reduces it by one, for the shock of the loss and change needed. Cohesion may not rise above 6 or fall below 1.

Any cohesion check required is made for a vehicle or vehicle unit by rolling 1D6. A result equal to or below its current crew cohesion indicates success; above indicates failure.


At the beginning of each turn a cohesion check is made for each vehicle or vehicle unit. If the result is a success, the vehicle may be used as normal. If a failure, the crew are distracted, meaning a) the controlling player decides how far each affected vehicle moves this turn, but an opposing player then decides whether and where a 45° turn is made for each, and b) any hits caused by affected vehicle weapons are rerolled this turn.

Running repairs

If a vehicle suffers damage, at the end of any turn, before the number face up on the die is reduced, the crew may attempt to repair this. To do so, a cohesion check is made. If successful, it is repaired. On a natural 6, one crew member chosen by the controlling player becomes a casualty. Whatever the result, crew cohesion is reduced by one point.

For every unit in the controlling player force able to repair a vehicle, a modifier of one point is deducted from the roll for all running repairs, regardless of relative unit locations.

The idea then is a quick and simple system adding some options and fun. Hopefully so far it's neutral overall, with the rising chaos as cohesion falls offset by more crew activity.

There's a lot more can be done with this and I'll come back to it. All thoughts, revisions and expansions are welcome - as far as I'm concerned this is a new community project.

Monday, 27 February 2012

A 40K uncut?

An open question for 40K players; it crystallised here at From the Warp. What kinds of interaction in the 41st millennium haven't been seen yet in official or homebrew rules?

It's been 25 years and a lot of editions of a lot of games. We have campaigns, strategy, big battles at two official scales, plenty of skirmishing, miniatures-free, urban ruins and various interiors, aerial and space combat, plus landings. So what's left to be added?

So far I've got vehicle compartments, warp-based interactions and fraught diplomacy.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Are we helping an AI learn its ABCs?

Pause for thought re commenting verification. If this new system is getting us to identify hard-to-read words - see here - we may be part of something needing more discussion.

In this article, on a modified history of the computer, Freeman Dyson's son tells us:

In 2005 I visited Google's headquarters, and was utterly floored by what I saw. "We are not scanning all those books to be read by people. We are scanning them to be read by an AI," an engineer whispered to me.

It makes perfect sense, if we want to make the fictions real. But do we? And which AI? How soon? Whose vassal will it be - or is it? What do we all owe to a lifeform like this, and - getting back to the mundane - what does it mean for our use of the verification?

At novums we get a reminder of where this could be going re Isaac Asimov's "The Last Question", but that's one of the more optimistic views, and the literature has others.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

40K OSR? (16)

So far, so good then - it's been less than two weeks since the last full 40K OSR? update.

Possible definitions for 'OSR' here and Colonel Kane's logo to the right. If you use it, consider giving him the credit and adding Tales from the Maelstrom to your blogroll as an exemplar.

          As always, feel free to leave links to anything you think I've missed, even your own work.

          Update: Look at what Jeff just posted, but only if you're not easily provoked, and don't mind a bit of strong language - it's Lasfodder, an RPG set in the world of Rogue Trader.

            Rogue Space - Item availability and pricing

            Rules for shopping. They're designed as part of the Rogue Space project, but could be adapted.

            What's Rogue Space? A free, compact, rules-light, modular RPG from Fenway5, which a few bloggers are expanding with ready-made systems and content. The key links are in the post footer and my original review is here.

            Given Rogue Space is rules light, this is simple and fast too. The idea is to allow a GM to draw up a master equipment list for the campaign with just one price listed for each item, but have that price vary according to location, and suggest supply and demand.

            Reference cost: Each item introduced to the campaign is given a reference cost by the GM. This should be the average minimum cost in a location where it is very common.

            Rarity: The GM gives each item a Rating for its rarity in a given location or region, or the whole campaign. Rarity is measured on the WARE scale, for another RS-style acronym.

            W  =  1  =  Widespread  =  A large quantity widely used and easily accessible.
            A   =  2  =  Appropriate  =  A reasonable quantity used by or accessible to many.
            R   =  4  =  Rare              =  A small quantity used by or accessible to specific groups.
            E    8  =  Exceptional  =  A tiny quantity, or unique item; difficult to acquire and hold.

            Example: A keyring reactor may be Appropriate on a technically advanced world, but Rare on the frontier. A fertile soil Widespread there may be Exceptional on an orbital.

            Starting equipment: Core starting characters begin with any number of Widespread items, up to 1D3 Appropriate items and up to 1D2-1 Rare, i.e. W / 1D3 A / 1D2-1 R.

            Finding supplies: More acronyms - the two basic approaches to finding supplies are What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) and Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO).

            Using WYSIWYG, 2D6 is rolled and the Aquiring Attribute added. The GM may wish to apply a modifier based on the nature of the search or centre. The result is compared to the WARE scale. For each Rating equalled or exceeded, one item type of that Rating is available. For each multiple by which a Rating is exceeded, one extra type is found. The number is also the number of each type. Player and GM alternate selecting these types.

            Example: A result of 6 exceeds the Widespread Rating (1) by 5, the Appropriate (2) by 4 and the Rare (4) by 2 and so turns up six items of six different Widespread types, three items of three Appropriate types and one item of a Rare, i.e. 46 items of 10 types.

            Using GIGO, one item of any type and Rarity may be found by means of a successful Aquiring test. The type sought must be specified in advance of the roll and the target number is the rarity Rating. The GM may wish to apply a modifier based on the nature of the search or centre. For each multiple by which the target number is exceeded, one extra item is found. The GM may allow consolation items to be found using WYSIWYG.

            Example: If the target number is 4, a result of 9 exceeds it by 5, turning up two items.

            Pricing: To find the price, roll a number of D6s equal to the number of items of that type currently available and discard all but the lowest result; multiply by the reference cost.

            Example: A reactor keyring has a reference cost of 50 CR. If three are available, three dice are rolled, for a 5, 4 and 2. The 2 is used: each item costs 2 x 50 CR, i.e. 100 CR. 

            If Fenway5 is happy, I'll add this to the batch I'm sending for the RS quarterly. I'm now working on some trading rules which build on this framework, also potentially universal.

            Update: This has been reorganised, revised and expanded for Rogue Transmission #1.


            Friday, 24 February 2012

            Goodbye, Mr Blofeld

            Many of us know space debris exists. There's a lot of it, and even flakes of paint do damage at high speeds. But is this the optimal solution?

            Sending up a disposable satellite, with all the cost launching objects involves, to catch it up, grab hold of it and bring it down to burn up? Could there be more efficient options?

            I'd bet we could think of a few more to look at. Even if ground-based lasers might have nefarious uses and send pieces further out, why not nudge the junk say, or set it on a downward course using gravity, or attach tiny thrusters, or repel it with the hunter's thrusters and even use the reaction to help the hunter transfer to the next piece?

            This gets me tinkering more with micro-G rules, like the Derelict set. Why do so few games use set-ups like this or have even basic rules for playing in these conditions?

            Table - Failed dungeons

            It seems strange the word 'dungeon' is used as often as it is for a roleplaying adventure site, given it's rarely actually a dungeon at all. But that's beyond the scope of this post.

            This is a D36 list of reasons for a site not working out or even existing. I'm hoping jasons at the enjoyable The Dungeon Dozen hasn't already written a table on the same theme.

            1. Unbuilt: 1) conceptually unobtainable; 2) just a dream, hallucination or fantasy; 3) successfully foreseen and terminated at source; 4) all supplications rejected; 5) creator suffering self-doubt; 6) sketched on back of envelope, but then sent
            2. Unvisited: 1) wording of rumour alienates most or all adventurers; 2) local NPCs not consulted by creator and withholding recognition; 3) disguised too cunningly; 4) ahead of its time; 5) buried in sandbox; 6) DM has that strange glint in eye...
            3. Inaccessible: 1) non-existent pocket universe; 2) built out from within, entrance never added; 3) arcane means of entry lost or forgotten early on in development; 4) not at scale of landscape; 5) too few dimensions; 6) statted for wrong system
            4. Unbalanced: 1) unexpected evolution of one or more occupants; 2) emptied by surprisingly effective trap; 3) entirely filled by fast-spreading mould; 4) grew to encompass all of reality; 5) trapped in temporal loop; 6) cleared by playtesters
            5. Repurposed: 1) creator rethought alignment; 2) creation not having any of that; 3) revolution launched by occupants; 4) repossessed by backers and put to more profitable use; 5) domineering collaborator, aggressive editor and/or proofreader with ulterior motives; 6) exploited by malwayre infection from external netwyrk
            6. Destroyed: 1) mortar or equivalent lost in unanticipated interaction; 2) collapsed under weight of treasure; 3) consumed by magical chain reaction; 4) demolished by higher authority for breach of terms; 5) killed creator's grandfather; 6) victim of generational change, hoping for old school renaissance with little fresh thinking

            Thursday, 23 February 2012

            Lure of pixel skies

            Troll and Flame has a link for a deal on D&D-themed video games, and Lasgunpacker mentioned the site has some free games too. It does, including Lure of the Temptress from '92 and Beneath a Steel Sky from '94, two classic adventures with a great mood.

            Remembering the impression particular games made graphically, I started thinking how useful screenshots could be in roleplaying, and the variety there is. The trick would be getting to the screens, unless there's a way to technically and legally unpack them.

            With enough screens you could even use a tabletop system to play the video game, or explore alternative paths through it, or the wider game world, and bring in extra screens from other games too. It might better reach those inner spaces out among the pixels.

            For a sense of the potential then, and the inspiration, and the pleasure of the journey, here are playthroughs for those two, Lure of the Temptress and Beneath a Steel Sky.


            Tuesday, 21 February 2012

            The same old different new

            A quick list of goings-on from the top blogroll themed around renewal and rediscovery.


              Monday, 20 February 2012

              Rogue Space - Empyric Citiʒant

              More material for the Rogue Space project. This time it's a new player character for games in the Empyre setting, the everyman Empyric Citiʒant.

              The 'ʒ' is pronounced the same way as the 'g' in 'genre', to load the word with more meanings and reflect the ideas in the background.

              Empyric Citiʒant

              In the deadly war of words known as the Uncivil Discourse, the Interlocutors call upon the Citiʒants of manifold Empyric worlds, for 'ʒantries can be convinced to take up any cause in relevant numbers if the promotional campaign is glitzy enough. On every front the Pleople speak, and do not mince their words; they mince their enemy - themselves.

              A Citiʒant may not be the equal of an Innergrounder, or have access to the same level of weaponry, but the individual does have a degree of specialist knowledge or ability either drummed in, programmed or literally embodied from an early age, if not before.

              Attributes: To use a point pool, divide 2 points among the Attributes. To determine Attributes randomly, roll 1d6 for each Attribute on the following modified points table.

              Roll        1    2    3    4    5    6
              ATR #    -1   -1    0  +1  +1  +2

              Archetype: Any ordinarily available, but with the starting Hit Points total reduced by 1. 

              Career: A Citiʒant has a socio-economic role represented by one word; this may be two or more words at the discretion of the GM. Each word is created by the player and/or GM, or generated by rolling 3D6 once on each table, combining the two elements.

               3) trepi-; 4) Who-; 5) preter-; 6) No-; 7) yoro-; 8) credu-; 9) ricto-; 10) ware-; 11) meteo-;
               12) putro-; 13) manu-; 14) loco-; 15) gyro-; 16) munito-; 17) macro-; 18) astro-

               3) -nik; 4) -dude; 5) -nut; 6) -dule; 7) -droll; 8) -monger; 9) -node; 10) -klep; 11) -crat;
               12) -goon; 13) -lug; 14) -mech; 15) -werk; 16) -path; 17) -list; 18) -lect

              Each word is interpreted by the player(s) and/or GM and assigned two areas of ability, one area of ability per element. If one of the areas may be useful when the character takes an action, the player may reroll one die; if both areas, both may be rerolled.

              Example: A putrocrat is an administrator in waste disposal. Dealing with red tape or navigating a sewer, one may be rerolled; searching a database for cycler plans, both.

              Equipment: Widespread / 1d6 Appropriate / 1 Rare. Starting weapons have a Range and Damage one Rating lower than normal, e.g. Range M, Damage V becomes Range S, Damage L. A Range of S drops to 0, and a Damage of S drops to LOL, i.e. 1D6-1.

              I'm planning an Empyric equipment list, which is why there's a division into a range of rarities. As ever, all thoughts are welcome, and for more material follow the links below.


              Thursday, 16 February 2012

              Appendix OSR (1)

              I caught up with the latest articles at Orion's Arm today. There's one on attention economics and another on money in post-scarcity economies.

              We're not post-scarcity on Earth yet - all of us at any rate - but the tabletop gaming community as represented online, when online at least, does to some degree resemble that kind of association.

              So what do we do with all the potential we have?

              Even if we don't get a wider discussion going just yet, it can't hurt to build up a useful reading list...

              Wednesday, 15 February 2012

              Opening - sound - trail

              The owl follows you with unblinking eyes as you crunch across the snow away from the oak, into the undergrowth of the space between the trees.

              Tearing your gaze away, you scan the treeline for an alternative route, in among the drifts and hollows below the canopy. Pushing through a clump of ferns, you set off a skittering somewhere beneath frosted fronds. You freeze.

              It comes again, now off to the left, movement over crusted ice, amid close-woven stems.

              Light glitters over the landscape. You stand, listen. And beyond, past the oak, you see another trail. Narrow, but somehow grander, it climbs to a ribbon of sky. The owl stares.

              Attempt to find the hidden creature   Blog One
              Wait, listening and observing   Blog One
              Take the game trail   Blog One
              Head down to the clearing   Blog One   Blog Two
              Follow the trail beyond the oak   Blog One   Blog Two

              Monday, 13 February 2012

              Keeping track of tracks

              If you're using those hunting rules I posted last week, you might be finding it difficult to mark the tracks using only dice unless you have a lot of a given colour or size, especially with large forces.

              So here are some counters just in case you don't have any that are suitable. I followed the pattern of the earlier sets, but switched the edging colour to one that should look reasonable over various colours of landscape, whether sand, mud, grass or snow. Feel free to download and print them.

              Sunday, 12 February 2012

              40K OSR? (15)

              Another flood of 40K OSR? links. I let them build again, but I'd like to get this weekly to fortnightly.

              Various definitions of 'OSR' are here and Colonel Kane's logo is to the right. If you use it, consider giving him the credit and adding Tales from the Maelstrom to your roll as a fine example - since the last time they've posted on Rogue Trooper.

              And away we go then - just don't look down...

              • Nurglitch is looking at a card-based approach to Adeptus Titanicus.
              • An alternative to buying new of course is refurbishing old, and Sign of the Aquila is doing that with a marine dreadnought in 1, 1.5 parts so far.
              • How 3D printing might change things is suggested by this story at TGN.

              In case you haven't read it yet and you have an interest, I'll also plug my recent post on ownership of IP. It's closely linked to the essence of this and possibly 3D printing most.

              As ever, if you think I've missed anything, even your work, drop a link in the comments.

              Update: Here's the first, a link to a series of posts at The Retired Adventurer on using Stars Without Number to run games set in the 40K universe; the introduction is here.

                Saturday, 11 February 2012

                Chess scenarios (2) - Viva La

                Another scenario in the series of alternate chess setups. Like the first, this one is also fairly obvious, but it's worth pointing out that the pawns are played with their colour, so the two sides really are in contact already and the pawns a step away from promotion.

                It's a reflection of general understanding of what revolution is, a bloody process unlikely to change the underpinnings of a system. That could mean it's now an unlikely event, and that today's revolutions may be internally transformative, growing out from within.

                That could mean many revolutions, some of them more like the one shown in that chess game in the Doctor Who story "The Curse of Fenric", in which the colours work together.

                In play then, assuming that the black king isn't in check yet owing to the need to protect the white, tactically white and black each have just a single initial option for survival, and strategically the game quickly becomes one of dynamic reordering. Thoughts welcome.


                Friday, 10 February 2012

                Steps - lines - structure

                You start up the trail towards a narrow arc of sky. The winding roots enclose stretches of soft turf, forming a set of natural steps; the spring in the earth makes the going easy.

                Emerging above the trees on either side are sets of criss-crossing lines, strung taut high over the path. They sway in the chill breeze, glint in the light, whine in the moving air.

                As you crest the last stair, the dome of a bare hilltop spreads before you. At the centre looms a single featureless structure, light in colour, large, perhaps capacious. Its outer surface is sheer, the top curved tighter than the hill. There is an opening at ground level.

                Silence but for the wind.

                Continue up to investigate the opening   Blog One
                Circle the hilltop under the treeline   Blog One
                Pause, observing the clearing   Blog One
                Study the lines over the trail   Blog One
                Return down the slope   Blog One

                ... with no letting up

                Another scene for the blogwalk, now added to the list. I'll have a follow-up ready later.

                Wednesday, 8 February 2012

                Small in-game hunting

                Here's a possible approach to deal with hunting in open mapcrawls and wargaming. It's modular and hopefully fairly simple. I was wondering how to create a real haze for a game with true line of sight, then tracks for navigation. I got the tracks, but the haze I still haven't worked out.

                There are two elements to it, the idea of wandering, given that a player may see a goal but the protagonists the player is guiding may not, and any tracks left in the landscape.


                If the system you're using doesn't allow for this, here's a simple die-based approach. The larger the range of numbers on the die used, the finer the gradation. If the die has an even range, the midpoint should be known, specifically the mean, e.g. 3.5 with a 1D6.

                When moving a character or unit, the player chooses a direction to be taken. If there's a landmark visible in-game that way, including another unit or character, it is taken. If not, a die is rolled. If the result is below the midpoint, movement is off to the left; if above, off to right. If the range on the die is odd and the midpoint is rolled, there's no deviation.

                The number of points above or below is the size of the deviation. Depending on the die, each point represents a number of degrees, e.g. with 1D6, 1 point might be 45°. The protagonist may be able to modify the result, by a number based on a characteristic.


                Each character or unit is assumed potentially to be leaving tracks. In every location in which time is spent, a die or counter is left with a number facing up, this determined by some mix of the following factors: landscape type; protagonist number and skill; activity in the location; length of time present. The higher the number, the more evidence left.

                For example: loose sand, 1; up to five protagonists, +1; attacking or being attacked, +1; each extra turn, +1; in the case of melee, scores for the groups involved are combined.


                Combining the two mechanisms then, whenever a character or unit is forced to roll for wandering, the total of any tracks in a given range may be used to modify the result.

                *     *     *     *     *     *

                This all needs adapting of course, but hopefully makes a useful starting point. As ever, I could have missed something so if you can see it, or have any thoughts at all, feel free to say so, and if you have ideas for that haze or other real effects, I'm very interested.

                Monday, 6 February 2012

                Symbiogenesis, you and me

                Over the weekend I worked on a location for the next in the series, a fallen orbital lodged in bedrock which has produced a strange ecology, but maybe not such an alien one. Looking at symbiosis in evolution, I found this interview with Lynn Margulis, a critical thinker who died last year, but someone who's still changing minds on what life may be.

                After Gaia she's most linked with endosymbiosis, the theory that cells fused to make new cells, which is one that made the long journey in from the fringe to the mainstream against the usual resistance. But that's only part of symbiogenesis, the idea symbiotic relationships drive evolution too, with gradual change only part of the truth. She says:

                Evolution is no linear family tree, but change in the single multidimensional being that has grown to cover the entire surface of Earth.

                That's not core yet, but we're moving that way, even if the vids suggest it will take time.

                The first part covers education, and needing to see the sources, plus Carl Sagan, former husband and father of two of her children. In the second things warm up, and the third gets onto the nature of current science and suggests how much there is to understand.

                For a sense of why this approach could be so important even beyond big steps forward, just look at the quotes in Science on "the sprawling religious persuasion of Anglo-Saxon Biology" and mainstreamers who "wallow in their zoological, capitalistic, competitive, cost-benefit interpretation of Darwin". More on that here. We may be inside the science.

                And that's not all - here's one for gamers and game designers to adapt to our kingdom:

                Genuine insight into morphogenesis, the emergence of form ... comes not from computer models but from intimacy with the microscopic and submicroscopic behaviours of living beings.


                Friday, 3 February 2012

                Blogging our adventures (2)

                A list of the scenes in the blogwalk so far - the current total is 39 across seven blogs.

                Update: Garrisonjames is in now too, bumping the totals up to 40 across eight blogs.

                Update: They keep coming so here's the running total: 54 scenes across eight blogs.

                The blogs - with the abbreviations I'll use for them - are Lunching on Lamias (LoL), Nine Worlds, Ten Thousand Things (NW,TTT), ArmChairGeneral (ACG), Warpstone Flux (WF), The World of Damnation (WoD), Hereticwerks (Hw) and the Expanse (P'sE).

                Update: ... and of course Garrisonjames (Gj).

                It all starts here. Anyone can join in, no need to ask. Just write the scene, post it and drop the URL in a comment at the one before. Multiple scenes per option are welcome.

                Returning to the meadow (26, P'sE)

                I've grouped the scenes by location, theme or activity and used bold to show the start point. The number in brackets should be position in the chronological order of posting, and the italics show those I'm especially unsure about; the abbreviation is used to identify the blog hosting the scene. End scenes are marked 'X' and loop scenes '>'.