Friday, November 30, 2012

Redshirts: Brain Surgery

Why is there a picture of Ricky Martin over there to the left?  We will get to that - I promise.  I wouldn't leave you hanging where Ricky Martin is concerned.

So I'm finally catching up in the Redshirts Recaps.  This one is from Wednesday night's game.  This was one of those games where the players surprised me on several levels.  I mean, not like recent outrageous traitorous behavior, but innovative thinking.

The players were trapped on the bombed out, eternal war planet of Levant, their ship destroyed by airborne nanobot clouds.  They had one mission - find a working spacecraft and get the heck off the planet.  AIs deep within the planet were running the war, keeping each of their pet factions fed and armed with gigantic underground factories.

So, I gave the players the location of the nanobot shooting missiles that prevented safe atmospheric flight.  I gave them the location of a storage hangar full of spacecraft.  I gave them directions.  I gave them mech suits and trained them in their use.

And what do you think the players did?


They started asking how the food and supplies arrived from the underground factories.  They started asking where the AIs were.  They began to fiddle with the pneumatic tubes that delivered the food and ammo.  They put one in maintenance mode and began to decent into the depths of the planet, looking for the nearest AI.  They sought out an old Terran Mandate emergency soldier freeze bank, took the official brain chips out of the mummified remains, found a old nursery and the brain chip resequencer inside, CUT INTO THEIR OWN HEADS AND IMPLANTED RESEQUENCED WIFI IDENTITY CHIPS INTO THEIR OWN BRAINS and proceeded to go talk to nearest AI, pretending to be people that would have authority over the AI.


Oh, and the AI in question, named Vicente, presented a holographic image that looked just like Ricky Martin.  See - I didn't leave you hanging about the whole Ricky Martin question, now did I? :)

So were is the breakdown from our own Sweet Adelaide:
  • One night Titus disappears in front of everyone’s eyes. In the morning everyone is brought to the bar where they see their old friend Professor Ramapudi and a new person named Gustav Adler.
  • Gustav has a message for Lt. Mark Five which he tells him soon after meeting him which is “You broke the ship, find a new one, blah blah blah!”
  • Lt. Mark Five shrugs it off with a “sounds about right” and Gustav seems to be accepted unquestioningly. 
  • Professor Ramapudi talks to a random man around about computer things and is told there is none. He searches for “wifi” and finds some from down below, he then tries to connect.
  • Owlicious attempts to open one of the tubes that regularly gives food and supplies and a man warns her against it just in time.
  • “John Smith” casually starts talking to the man trying to figure out a way to get down into the factories below.
  • Professor Ramapudi hacks into a tube and turns it into maintenance mode and Owlicious opens it so they can then see into it.
  • Everyone turns on either their mag boots in their suits or gravs down the tube.
  • As they head down “John Smith” receives a transmission from the man in charge and asks them what they are doing. “Smith” talks him into believing they are doing the job they were ordered to but in another way. Before the transmission ends “Smith” is warned about drones that will come and attack them if they aren’t careful.
  • As the crew rounds a bend Kal Kek see’s that there is a big room up ahead that has a 500ft drop to the floor below and he pauses to consider the options.
  • Everyone decides it would be best to ignore this room and continue on.
  • Once they do everyone notices a drone approach them and ask who they are, they lie about being maintenance crew and it believes them and flies away. 
  • Another AI looking like Teddy flies by looking slightly angry and Owlicious is excited but contains herself.
  • Kal Kek at the front then see’s something floating towards them. Owlicious scans it and see’s that it is an AI riding a Kawasaki grav vehicle towards them.
  • Feeling threatened the wild Kal Kek preps his guns for firing.
  • Owlicious awakens Teddy and questions him about the AI and is informed that it is a more intelligent AI then himself. They hold fire until it approaches.
  • “Smith” starts speaking to it wondering why it’s there if its not a maintenance drone. He tells them he was there hiding from the warchow.
  • They take the AI as a new part of the group and he shares an ass full of information about what goes on around the planet.
  • He leads them to a giant room that looks much like a data room, except there are thousands of bodies instead of data. The AI opens the computer and the team asks him to search for the highest rank. There only happen to be 10 “master chiefs” which the group then tells him to take out so they can loot.
  • “Doc” Davies takes their brain chips out and then attempts to implant it into Kal Keks brain, which at first doesn’t go so well, but she later is able to successfully to do it.
  • She then attempts to do the same thing to Desmond Conners but accidently cuts a part of his brain before fixing it and once again succeeding.
  • She then artfully implants them into the rest of the crew without any problems; she’s an expert neurosurgeon! LEVEL UP!
  • Gustav does her surgery but cuts a part of her brain before getting the chip correctly in. She wasn’t pleased.
  • The new AI goes on a trip with Professor Ramapudi to get a chip remodifier and when they receive it they return to try and remodify everyone’s newly implanted chip, it works for everyone but “Doc” Davies and “Smith” but they remove and replace new ones that are already modified with no problem.
  • The next day they go in search of an elevator that the AI conveniently left out knowing about until now and when they find it they see that it is large enough to fit a large ship. The group decides to use it and head to the warchive.
  • The group reaches a giant data room and in walks a Titan robot who then askes who is in charge, “Smith” lies and makes it believe he is in charge but it does stand down. A holographic image of a man claiming to be AI ---(?) starts talking to them. 
  • The new AI attempts to hack the Titan and fails causing it to aim its guns at him and warn him to stop. He does it again anyway and this time succeeds.
  • The core starts closing itself and Kal Kek opens fire blasting through the window. Gustav moves to stop the closing door and in the process gets his mech stuck there.
  • “Smith” starts bartering with the AI and manages to talk it into letting them go. The elevators behind them open and a ship is waiting there. 
  • Everyone gets into the ship and start feeling like they are moving upward. The AI’s face appears at the pilots seat and calls them all irritating humans. Everyone feels complimented.
  • The Ai then fires a missile at the ship as it leaves but the new team member AI fires an EMT cannon at it and the nanobot swarm dies before it can even start. Lt. Five floors it out of there before something more bad happens.
  • The Aquila come to pick them up and credits roll.
So, the intrepid crew escaped the planet armed to the teeth, and with a brand new shuttle.  Well, a 600 year old shuttle.  But it's new to them.

- Ark

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Revelation Space

I have bags under my eyes because of this book.  Revelation Space, written by Alastair Reynolds, has kept me up for many night now.  It's the story of, well, a lot of things.  There is no one protagonist.  Exactly who is 'good' and who is 'bad' is hard to tell sometimes.  Reynolds has a tendency of pulling the wool over your eyes with glorious mind fucks that make you laugh or groan or just sit there and think deeply for a bit.

There is a lot of exposition in the book.  A lot.  Exposition can ruin a book and make is a boring, lifeless hunk of pulp.  But Reynolds is so good at exposition, it makes the novel.

There is a story.  Actually, a really good one.  It takes place over decades of time with multiple viewpoint characters.  That type of storytelling can get confused and jumbled in the wrong hands, but Reynolds pulls it off very well.  It's kind of hard to regurgitate understandably to someone, else, though.

 In fact, rather than try to sum up a plot or something, it would probably do better to just describe some things in the book:
  • A dead alien planet settled by an entire city of archaeologists.
  • A kilometer long, slower than light spacecraft with a technological biology all its own.
  • A nanitic plague that takes over technological and biological processes.
  • Aliens wrapped in cocoons of space-time.
  • Ancient technologies beyond imagining.
  • Lovecraftian horrors and insanity.
  • Cities mutating beyond control.
  • Brain hijacking.
  • A planet that is not a planet.
  • An assassin, and astronaut, and a novelist walk into a baroque spider, and two get drunk.
And beautiful, beautiful terms that have found homes in my brain:
  • Resurgam
  • Amarantin
  • Melding Plague
  • Conjoiners, Demarchists, and Ultras
  • Triumvirs Volyova, Sajaki, and Hegazi
  • Pattern Jugglers, Inhibitors,  and Shrouders
  • Nostalgia for Infinity
  • Sunstealer
  • Warchive
  • Lighthuggers

I soooo want to take the ideas from this book and fashion a game setting.  Actually, I've been sprinkling the Redshirts games liberally with some of them.  But Reynolds has written quite a few books in this same setting - I need to go digest those as well.

So yeah, I recommend the book highly. :)

- Ark

Redshirts: Nanobots Ate My Spaceship

At the start of each session of Stars Without Numbers, when the freeze dried scouts are unfrozen for duty, I have the players roll a Physical Effect Save to avoid throwing up.  Actually, I don't have to mention it.  They just roll their puke save for fun.  It's an odd ritual, but something they enjoy.

The Thanksgiving week adventure brought the players to the planet Levant, a nanobot infested warzone that looked like Beirut in the '80s.  Unsurprisingly, the group's flying saucer was eaten by a cloud of air defense nanobots while they were still flying it.  I mean, who didn't see that coming?  The players landed the ship in a bombed out soccer stadium just as the nanobots digested the maneuver thrusters, and they bailed out alive just in time to meet the Levant Liberation Front.

The LLF were a group of humans that were fighting a group of Warchou on the planet, and had been fighting for 600 years.  Deep beneath the crust, AIs with factories constantly spat out food, clothing, weapons, and ammo for all sides, keeping the war going on and on and on - forever.

It was an excellent excuse to kit the party up with an endless supply of mech suits, if I do say so myself.  Here is the blow-by-blow from Adelaide:

  • The team wakes back up, O’Brien has been court marshaled for revealing top secret information to the Warchow and shipped out to space in his undies.
  • “Doc” Davies holds Owlicious’ hair as she vomits her intestines out. Again.
  • HerMANdez debriefs the group again and orders them to go to a planet called Levant. Teddy pilots the ship while Lt. Five and Kal Kek defreeze in the back. He then hands over the ship once Lt. Five is fully awakened.
  • Owlicious scans the planet as they approach and see it is vastly polluted and there is movement (vehicles, energy charges, etc.) that make it look like a warzone.
  • They break the cloud bank and two communications open up with their ship. One in German and the other something that seems similar to the Warchow. 
  • A missile gets fired at the group as they are being warned off by the human communications. Lt. Five artfully moves the ship out of the way but when the missile blows up it explodes into a black cloud of nanobots which quickly reaches the ship on its own.  
  • While the nanobots start demolishing the ship Lt. Five lands it into a soccer field on the planet and everyone quickly jumps out. Kal Kek and Owlicious don’t make it out quickly enough and their suits are destroyed leaving them in just street clothes.
  • A giant mech-suited person comes out and start speaking in German to the group, which Owlicious translates to the rest, and after a while 6 other mechs come out and lead the group back to their command post to wait.
  • The command post inside actually looks like a deserted bar and the team nervously looks around while waiting to see what happens. Titus jumps up into the rafters and stealthily hides with his bow and arrows out.
  • Another man comes into the bar, this time speaking English, and tries to get information from the group but “John Smith” confidently lies to him about most of it.
  • The group is then asked to sign up with these peoples military in return for supplies and care or nothing if they refuse. Everyone signs on and many use aliases. 
  • After a day of training the group had already received from Aquila they are given mech suits and set out on a patrol mission.
  • On the patrol they encounter 4 Warchow children in mech suits and the team annihilates them gleefully but not before Desmond gets hit with a chainsaw after he was wrestling with one.
  • Kaye wants to us his gravharness to fly naked at one of the mechs to attack them with his bow and arrows so he is now going to be assigned the name Cupid. Imagine a giant African man with a jetpack wearing nothing and shooting arrows at giant mechs. Laughs were had by all.

So, we left off with the party marooned on Levant.  Will they ever make it out alive?  Tune in next time, for the further adventures of Redshirts!

- Ark

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Redshirts: Courts-Martial Carnival, an Email Interlude

The pre-Thanksgiving week Stars Without Number session was so odd - from an outside perspective - that I felt that a higher authority should get involved.  I mean, while the scouts were initiating first contact with two genocidal species - the Berserkers and the Warchou - the CO had been killed by friendly fire, a team member had allegedly committed treason against the entire human race, and another team member had tried to murder that alleged traitor.

In a D&D game that would be nothing strange.  It would not even be that strange in a tramp steamer space opera.  But Redshirts is a military scouting expedition.  Yeah, it's specifically set so far away from the brass back home that the PCs have a lot of autonomy and leeway in how they accomplish a given mission, but the results of this particular mission were on the order of several levels below 'complete screw up' and dangerously approaching 'fire everyone and outsource to the another dimension.'

So, between games, I had the players give email testimony in various courts-martial regarding the mission, having the top brass level charges against the scouts.  They really got into it.  I swear, some of them must have had lawyers coaching them.  It was funny.

Here are some quotes from various players:
"On charge D. Spacer Kal Kek's attempted murder of Lt. Miles O'Brien. Not Guilty, the Lt. O’Brien is a traitorous scumbag, and he was about to divulge the location of the secret asteroid base and the rendezvous location for the ancient mother ship to a known race of hostile creatures."
Yeah.  Miles O'Brien was his name.  Yeah.  Anyway, more quotes:
"On charge C. Spacer Kal Kek's negligent discharge in the death of Lt. Commander Nathaniel Taylor. Guilty, but I wish it to be here recorded that I was attempting the execution of a well thought out rescue plan to retrieve Lt. Cmdr. Taylor. But despite my best intentions, my understanding of the spatial rotation of space born rotating mass was lacking, and I could not preform the calculation well under pressure. These facts lead to a miscalculation and a mis-fire. I there for ask for the leniency of the court in sentencing as it was not my intention to damage the Lt. Cmdr. Taylor, but rather to assist in his rescue."
"Spacer Kal Kek's attempted murder of Lt. Miles O'Brien.  Not Guilty.  Officers have the right to put down members of the team that are endangering the mission. Kal Kek was simply the weapon used to do so. Due to incompetent training Lt. Miles O'Brien was only wounded. Requesting Kal Kek be put into Field Arms Training course to better prepare for such events.  Requesting Lt. Commander Mark Five be sent for a brush up on Officer Training, with possible officer candidate evaluation. Lt. Miles O'Brien should have been apprehended after such an encounter, yet was not. This is against regulations."
and this gem:
"Lt. Miles O'Brien's high treason against the Union.  Guilty.  Knowing full well that these aliens had already exterminated the humans in the area, O'Brien gave away the biggest secret known to team, endangering the mission and all Humans in the sector.  Requesting evaluation of loyalty, Evaluation of officer candidacy, Psychological Evaluation, Back ground check, Drug check."
In the end, all charges were dropped except one.  I mean, really, all of the friendly fire was basically a lot of natural 1s rolled one after the other, and a DM who is a prick. (Yay me!)

Lt. Miles O'Brien was convicted of high treason against sanctity of the Aquila Union, and had his rank reduced to Midshipman.  He was then released on his own recognizance into the depths of space without directional control or atmospheric succor.

One player thought that meant I was giving him a shuttle and letting him go.  Funny . . .

- Ark

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Redshirts: Fred Saberhagen Attacks!

Kzinti Warrior
This session of Stars Without Number was the one back the week before Thanksgiving.  The intrepid freeze-dried scouts were sent to a system that happened to be the main theater of operation of a war between two races.

The first 'race' was Saberhagen's Berserkers - those spaceship-robots programmed to wipe out all life in the galaxy.  I loved the Berserker series, and I even called them Beserkers in the game.  The PCs keep calling them 'reapers.'  Grrr.

The second race is the Warchou.  Actually, I had it in my mind that the word was spelled WARCHOW, but the players have emailed me about them, all spelling it WARCHOU like some strange zeitgeist was whispering to them (except Adelaide,) so I kneel to the zeitgeist and spell it WARCHOU now.  Anyway, have a giant love fest with the Kzinti, the Klingons, the Billy Goats Gruff, a megaphone, a laugh-track from a sitcom in the 1970s, and a tribe of dancing bears, and those are the Warchou.

The Warchou live for glorious, hand-to-hand battle, even if they have to jump out of their spacecraft and go take on alien robot battlecruisers toe-to-toe.  They love to laugh.  And they love to shout everything they say.  This makes few other races really want to talk with them.  The Warchou are not interested in science or technology or history or algebra or anything you'd learn in school.  They really just want to kill things and laugh about it, stealing other races' starships and weapons when given the chance.

What surprised me about this session was the unexpected TREASON.  The Warchou fully admitted to killing all of the humans on 13 planets, but despite this, and despite being on a super secret military scouting mission, Lt. O'Brien the psychic decided to tell murderous aliens everything they were up to, detail all of their high technology, and give them  the location of their secret stealth mother ship.  It was a rather jaw dropping moment.

Oh, and their CO Lt. Commander Taylor died.  Shot to death by his own crew.  Oops.

So here is the Ballad of the Redshirts, as sung by Adelaide the bard/scientist:

  • The group awakes and now there is another robot that is in the room with them. (this was Fixer)
  • Their ship was taken but Owlicious was allowed to keep Teddy. (the AI)
  • They are told there are a lot of ships fighting each other and they are supposed to find out who those people are.
  • They head off and not too long into their trip Owlicious notices another ship heading their way.
  • Lt. Commander Mark Five artfully dodges that ship and another two head their way which he also dodges.
  • The group hears some weird noises from the waves Lt. Commander Taylor hacked into and Owlicious knows it can not be made from any human.
  • One of these ships comes and attaches to the group's ship and they see it is a metal squid like thing. Owlicious fires the heat cannon at it but it does nothing.
  • The squid manages to break into the hull and Lt. Commander Taylor punches the shit out of one of the tentacles.
  • Miles O’Brian teleports a grenade at the squid that hurts it but doesn't kill it, unfortunately shrapnel from the grenade flows into the ship but luckily no one takes damage from it.
  •  Owlicious notices on her sensors 4 more squids are coming.
  • A tentacle wraps around Miles and Kal kek neatly avoids another before firing at it and missing.
  • Desmond Connors fires a pre-tech laser at a tentacle and hits. Robot RC1140 “Fixer” also fires but misses.
  • Owlicious fires the heat cannon again and this time blows a chunk of it off. It then flies off with Lt. Commander Taylor grasped in its tentacle. Lt. Commander Five fires a gun and it hits Lt. Commander Taylor in the leg.
  • Then Kal Kek fires and hits Lt. Commander Taylor in the stomach, knocking him unconscious. 
  • Connor fires at the tentacle and actually hits it, freeing the dying Lt. Commander Taylor. “Fixer” jumps out in his grav-harness to attempt to bring Lt. Commander Taylor back. He succeeds and grapples unto him. 
  • Lt. Commander Five flies the ship gently off with the two of them hanging behind.
  • When they finally get Lt. Commander Taylor back in Owlicious and Miles slap some laz patches on them until he stabilizes. 
  • Another squid attaches to the ship but derps out and can’t seem to get his tentacles in the hole. A third one misses its attachment at first but later gets it and starts fighting with the last one to get inside.
  • Another broadcast of unintelligible noise and they unsuccessfully try to communicate. Owlicious decides it would be best to slap Lt. Commander Taylor awake. He then immediately starts speaking with the creature communicating over the coms and talks it into assisting them.
  • Suddenly a man-bear-dog appears on the screen riding a jetpack and is headed towards the group screaming.
  • O’Brian decides to pull out his history book to try and figure these things out, but is unsuccessful.
  • Owlicious looks it up the new “ally” while the boys are firing at the squids and believes it is a War Chow.
  • Lt. Commander Taylor jumps out of the ship to try and mimic the War Chow in punching them but misses his jump completely.
  • The squid that the War Chow is attacking tries to smack him off but misses and smacks itself.
  • Another one gets into the ship but Kal Kek burst fires at it and almost completely killed it. “Fixer” misses with a chainsaw sword and falls out of the ship, O’Brian nearly hurts himself punching the same one.
  • Lt. Commander Five fires the main cannon and sends shrapnel all over the place when he blows the squid up.
  • Lt. Commander Taylor decided it would be an excellent idea to snap the seal off his extra oxygen tank and use it to propel himself towards another squid. He hits it hard and kills himself, spinning his body out farther away from the group.
  • Kal Kek opens fire at yet another squid and smashes its face in again. 
  • “Fixer” follows in Lt. Commander Taylors shoes and goes straight for the core of a squid and misses. O’Brian goes outside as well to punch a squid and misses as well.
  • Everybody but Lt. Commander Five and Owlicious are punching things, I’m tired of writing that.
  • Another two squids come and latch onto the ship. Omega team coms in yelling that they are under attack. Yeah, like anyone else gives a shit. Toodles Omega team.
  • Five more ships looking the same as the first war chow arrive and four other war chows come out and start punching squids knocking the squids armor off and the team quickly jumps in to help defeat the last of them.
  • Owlicious awakens Teddy and orders him to try and save Lt. Commander Taylor but he is unable to do so.
  • The war chow are preparing to leave when O’brain decides it would be a wise idea to let them know the Aquila are in possession of high tech level ships and the war chow then declare they will set out to retrieve them. 
  • Kel Kak Shoots O’brain for being a traitor but it doesn’t kill him.
  • The team heads back to the Aquila with their tails between their legs to sleep off another however-long defeat.

So, the intrepid crew didn't do too well this time around - but at least they survived.  Well, some of them did.  Sort of.

- Ark

Random Book Porn

Brown chicken brown cow.

- Ark

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gazetteer of the Ptolemy Sector

The Ptolemy Sector

Alliance of Independent Systems - Green
Aquila Union - Blue
Skorpios Empire - Red
When I created the Ptolemy Sector from the world building rules in Stars Without Numbers a while ago, all I really did was jot down the required fields onto a piece of paper.  The specifics of the Ptolemy Sector that jumped out at me as I was creating it just stayed in my head, gestating and growing like a virus inside my brain.  Since I've been writing bits about the sector's history and major players, I figured it was time to write down at least some brief notes about each system.  So here they are - the 22 systems of the Ptolemy Sector:

Almagest - 0609
Apotelesmatika - 0509
Aquila - 0501
Arachne - 0300
Argo - 0605
Atlas - 0303
Belinski - 0606
Cicada - 0201
Corvus - 0604
Dubyago - 0506
Geographia - 0109
Harmonics - 0508
Locust - 0101
Novikov - 0105
Optics - 0608
Patton - 0602
Pershing - 0500
Ridgway - 0502
Schwarzkopf - 0601
Skorpios - 0607
Smirnova - 0307
Talus - 0003

Almagest (0609) - Located in the Skorpios Cluster, Almagest is a dusty, dry planet - the result of a terraforming project interrupted by the Scream.  Over a third of a billion humans live in high tech cities around the polar seas, chaffing under the oppressive might of the Skorpios Empire.  The populace is forced to produce weapons and spacecraft for the imperial war machine, though a violent rebellion has been active for a generation.  The system itself is full of debris, making meteor and comet strikes common, especially along the uninhabited equatorial wastes.

Apotelesmatika (0509) - Apotelesmatika is a small, hot planet with a thin atmosphere in the Skorpios Cluster.  Its rocky surface is coated with a dark blue lichen, native but genetically modified to break up the rocks into soil and add nitrogen to the atmosphere as the beginnings of a terraforming project that was never completed.  Two hundred thousand humans live in underground cities, maintaining the machines that keep them alive and shunning outsiders.  It is a client state of the Skorpios Empire, but Apotelesmatika keeps from having a large Skorpios presence by voluntarily manufacturing high tech extrauterine fetal incubation systems.

Aquila (0501) - Located at the heart of the Aquila Cluster, Aquila is a rich, vibrant garden world colonized by Neo-Gaels soon after it's discovery.  Due to the independent spirit of the  Neo-Gaels, Aquila suffered very little during the Scream and Silence, laying down solid industrial and banking infrastructure that allowed it to grow into a planet of billions and emerge into the Ptolemy sector as a major economic and military power.  An an independent world, it has a larger gross domestic product than any other system in the sector, though recently, its allies are few and far between.

Arachne (0300) - Homeworld of the Klakker species in Melampus Cluster.  The planet is filled with the ruins of giant mound shapes cities crafted before the Klakker war with the Terran Mandate.  Now the Klakkers live in pre-industrial hives scattered across the world, worshipping their ancestors as gods.  A world government exists, on paper, and it swears its allegiance to the Aquila Union, as a proxy for the Terran Mandate.  Unscrupulous industrialists from Aquila operate factories on Arachne, acquiring workers from hives in exchange for pheromones that please the regional queens, though the Aquilan government tries to prevent the more egregious sapient rights violations.

Argo (0605) - Argo is a bright green ringed gas giant in the Skorpios Cluster.  The area's one hundred thousand inhabitants live on various moons and asteroids in orbit around the gas giant.  Due to the abundance of easily-had resources, the Terran Mandate built the Argo Yards quickly after the planet's discovery.  After the Scream, the population became insular as they fought of various scavenger fleet that tried to strip the Yards bare.  When the Ptolemy Sector began to recover from the Silence, Argo supplied the ships for the recovery, but it became the first battleground between Aquila and Skorpios when hostilities broke out.

Atlas (0303) - The Atlas system is in the Ptolemy Wilds.  The planet is hot and humid, and plagued by hurricanes that peel off from the equator and move towards the poles. The equatorial areas are void of multicellular life, but swamp biomes begin around the 45th parallel.  Atlas is, however, rich in various petrochemicals.  Five major colonization attempts before the Scream failed, and the few lingering colonists died out during the Silence.  Currently, the planet is inhabited by a misogynist religious group called The Truth Of Man, who have been mining there for three clone generations, and the group joined the Alliance of Independent States ten years ago.

Belinski (0606) - Belinski, in the Skorpios Sector, is a glacial planet, with melting near the equator, revealing rich forests and farmland tended by pre-industrial human societies.  The planet's populous sank into barbarity after the Scream, dismantling or destroying almost all high tech except the sky-cities.  Ten gigantic gravatic sky-liners, holding 10,000 inhabitants apiece, sail the glacial valleys, occasionally fighting with one another, but more often raiding the 130 million primitive ground dwellers for food and supplies.  The Skorpios Empire claims control over Belinski, demanding raw materials from the sky cities on pain of death.

Cicada (0201) - Cicada, in the Melampus Cluster, was the Klakker's first interstellar colony.  While a garden world, there is no plant life below 1000 meters of elevation due to nanitic defoliants deposited by the human military 'enthusiasts' during the Human-Klakker War.  Most continents are covered in various slimes, oozes, and animals that are not targeted by the uncontrollable nanites.  Thirteen thousand humans live on plateaus in the northern hemisphere, administrating Klakker 'reservations.'  The southern hemisphere is wracked with earthquakes and volcanoes caused by cracked continental plates due heavy wartime bombardment.

Corvus (0604) - Located on the edge of the Skorpios Cluster, Corvus is a garden world that was once the capital of the Ptolemy Sector.  Most of the infrastructure was destroyed in civil war after the Scream, and only a stone age population was left by the end of the Silence.  As the population began to recover, Skorpios and Aquila forces began to war over the planet, bombarding every potential military site, which included most of the planet.  Currently, the population is made up or 30 million humans, most of whom avoid any technology, instead putting all of their trust into the near-feral psychics known as the Witches of Corvus.

Dubyago (0506) - Nestled in the Skorpios Cluster, Dubyago is large terrestrial planet with a sulfuric acid atmosphere.  A psionics research facility was founded there early in the Empire's expansion, with the hopes of discovering why the Skorpios did not develop psychic abilities.  A handful of psychics were eventually bred, and the facility  became the headquarters for the Committee for State Security.  While a popular subject of rumors, little is known about Dubyago, except that the head of the CSS is referred to as the Eye of Providence, and that the Eye and the Scientist-Emperor of Skorpios have political differences from time to time.

Geographia (0109) - Once a beautiful garden World, Geographica suffered a nuclear civil war shortly after the Scream, turning the planet into a hot desert wasteland with a thick, soupy atmosphere.  A quarter of a billion people live scattered under the surface, understanding little of the automated technology that produces clean air, food, and water to keep them alive.  Geographica was the last world re-discovered, mainly as it was so far from any other in the Ptolemy Wilds.  Skorpios claimed the system originally, but could not protected it from Alliance warlords who wished to scavenge the place for weaponry and wealth.

Harmonics (0508) - A planet populated by Cambrian style microorganisms, Harmonics was chosen as the site of the Library of Ptolemy, a Preceptor Archive designed to house the totality of human knowledge to prevent its loss should society in the Void collapse and be cut off from the rest of the galaxy.  When the Scream happened, the Preceptors waited hundreds of years for the day that the Silence would break.  That day came when the Skorpios Empire arrived, learned what they could from the Library, decided the knowledge contained therin was offense to the Scientist-Emperor, bombarded the site from orbit, then turned the area into a giant strip mine to extract what resources they could from the planet's crust.

Locust (0101) - This planet has a elliptical four year orbit around primary star, sending it into winter for a three quarters of its cycle.  Glaciers scrape the non-equatorial regions to a rich pulp.  Locust was the second colony settled by the Klakkers, and saw only light combat during the war with the Terran Mandate.  A human colony took hold afterwards, which now counts it's inhabitants at half a billion.  Klakkers remain isolated in primitive ghettos, but they are allowed to work in that various heavy industries around the planet.  Locust is a member of the Aquila Union, and several military bases are maintained in orbit and on the surface.

Novikov (0105) - Novikov is a small, dry world with a breathable atmosphere and rich mineral deposits.  Native microorganisms proved very hazardous to several waves of early colonists, destroying their reproductive systems and leaving the planet uninhabited during the Silence.  Unaffiliated miners and traders came to the planet later and developed treatments against the bacteria.  Novokov served as a bustling free trade world until it was fought over by the Skorpois Empire and Aquila, when most of the population was driven away.  Now the system is held by warlords who mine the place with roughly thirty thousand slaves.

Optics (0608) - A flat, wet planet covered mainly by swamps and rain forests, Optics was once a resort planet that failed to maintain much civilization, or population, during the Scream.  The Skorpios Empire once used it as a gulag for political prisoners and research subjects from it's client states, but within the last few decades began to sterilize the population to prevent sexual reproduction.  Instead, huge areas of land are now being terra-sculpted to create alternative 'summer' housing for the political elite of Skorpios, to be tended to by a hundred thousand mind-controlled humans specially bred for loyalty and obedience.

Patton (0602) - Patton is a planet with a thick, foggy atmosphere, wracked with frequent EMP bursts from its core.  When Aquilan scouts re-discovered the planet, they found huge deposits of rare elements useful in high tech manufacturing.  Colonists arrived in droves, and today the planet has over a quarter of a billion settlers.  The biggest problem is that the frequent EMP bursts fry high tech devices, forcing the settlers to rely on primitive, but stable, technologies for survival.  Patton has changed hands several times during the wars between Aquila and Skorpios, leaving parts of the planet scarred with craters.

Pershing (0500) - Before the Scream, a cult of xenophobic technophiles colonized the mineral-rich, but toxic planet of Pershing, altering their DNA to survive and isolate themselves from the rest of humanity.  During the Silence, the Pershingite culture changed and grew, instead romanticizing their lost neighbors.  When Aquilan scouts arrived at Pershing, the natives eagerly peace treaties, trade deals, and other pacts - eventually joining the Union.  The sight of the alien looking Pershingites does have a tendency to freak out standard Aquilan humans, but the loyalties of the Pershingites have never been in question.

Ridgway (0502) - Ridgway is a patchwork quilt of highly radioactive deserts and primitive sustenance farms that barely get by due to the invasive, inedible native flora.  Sword wielding psychic warlords have been in control since the nuclear wars hundreds of years ago brought the planet back to the iron age.  The half a million inhabitants of Ridgway live under a a Aquilan governor, whose main job is to keep the planet's military bases secure and to provide aid and technology for the inhabitants, but few of the psychic warlords are really interested in doing anything constructive.

Schwarzkopf (0601) - Schwarzkopf is dominated by a hot Jupiter surrounded by multiple asteroid belts.  The original colonists were miners who were forced to stay after the scream and build elaborate habitats from hollowed out asteroids.  Now, the half a million inhabitants of the system mine the gas giant for it's rare and heavy gases, descending into the thick, stormy soup in shielded collection/refinery ships to earn their fortunes.  Their ship building techniques are superb.  Schwarzkopf is part of the Aquila Union, and provide the navy with some of the best pilots in the sector.

Skorpios (0607) - Skorpios is a swampy, mucky place, overwhelmed by hazardous fungi.  During the Silence, the inhabitants merged their DNA with the native fungus in an effort to survive, and found that the transformation made them stronger, if a bit insane.  Now standard reproduction is impossible, and the government maintains high tech extrauterine fetal incubation systems to grow the populace.  With nearly two billion inhabitants, there are several castes, each genetically modified to provide different services to the Empire.  They worship science, or rather, a twisted philosophy of technological might making right, which has led them to be the most powerful system in the Prolemy Sector.

Smirnova (0307) - Once a beautiful garden planet, Smirnova came through the Silence relatively unscathed, supporting a billion people when the Skorpios scouts arrived.  Rather than wage a conventional war, Skorpios decided to spray an augmented fungal agent into the upper atmosphere, killing almost the populations and laying waste to the biosphere.  Then the planet was stripped of it technology and wealth, everything being brought back to Skorpios that could.  The survivors were rounded up and forced to work in slave labor camps.  Over the survivors have died off in droves, leaving only ten thousand left when Skorpios abandoned the place.

Talus (0003) - Only a small population lived on this garden world when the Scream hit.  When scouts investigated the system hundreds of years later, they found no one left.  People form all over the sector came to settle Talus, which promised a chance for all citizens to start over in a truly democratic and peaceful environment.  It was all that, but Talus also became a haven for pirates, crooks, and other interstellar criminals.  Eventually, the government became so saturated with corruption that the old regime was overthrown and a new political movement, the Alliance of Independent Systems, took control and separated from the Aquila Union.

Okay, I'm glad I dumped that all onto paper.  It was taking up so much space I couldn't remember how to make coffee.  :)  Enjoy.

- Ark

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Apocalypse

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving today.  The Seussian City I sketched on the way to the farm, however, did not.  It's kinda hard to draw a straight line in a truck bouncing on gravel roads.

- Ark

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Player Portraits: Kaye

Kaye is the man behind the infamous, and incompetent, wizard Torvalds.  He complained vociferously about the double chin in the picture I drew of him, but like his fake name Kaye, the picture isn't the real him - it's a caricature.  Well, at least that's what I told him.  This is actually, exactly what he looks like - sketch lines included. :)  The grin on his face?  That's the grin that Kaye gets when his character is contemplating genetically building acid dripping xenomorphs that will get out of control and eat the rest of the party.  On accident.  Of course.

- Ark

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Desmond Connors

The Boy's write up of his Stars Without Number character:

Recruit Archive Desmond Connors
Occupation: Military assassin
Height: '5"6
Weight: 150 lbs
Age: 26
Eye color: steely grey
Hair color: Dirty Blonde
I.Q: 143
Bench: 351 lbs

Background: Desmond Connors was born 3175 in the small town of Autumn Springs. At age 5 the Skorpios attacked the countryside he lived in.

He and a few of his quicker friends escaped the fray. They left the area and hunted and gathered for several years before making their way to the big cities.

While there Connors left the group and went to a stealth class. During this harsh time in Connors' life, he made a living as a petty thief, Then quickly realized it was not a "worth-while" career. At age 18 Connors was drafted into the military, and the recruit trainers quickly learned of his skill. He was put in a special unit for stealth ops and climbed the ranks to Petty Officer First Class. Then 7 years after being drafted, he volunteered for the Reprive expedition, where a new adventure awaits him.....

The Boy can draw too.  That's Desmond up there fading away with help from a camo-suit. :)

- Ark

Saturday, November 17, 2012

SWN NPC Profile: Admiral Beringer

Kaye wanted to know some things about the commander in charge of the Void Expeditionary Force in the Redshirt Stars Without Number game.  That would be Admiral Beringer.  He looks and talks just like General Beringer in the movie Wargames.  Well, as so far as I can imitate Barry Corbin, of course.

McAllen Beringer was born in 3143 CE and raised on the wild island continent of Garuda on Aquila, where his father was a park ranger at the Ganymede National Wildlife Preserve.  He grew up learning to ride horses and the Momma-Long-Legs, a native pack animal, while acting as a tour guide through the region's varied biomes.  He was very involved in helping his father to enforce the park's anti-poaching regulations, tracking and capturing several illegal hunters during his summer months off from school.  He moved to the Aerie, the capital of Aquila Prime, during his last year of high school, and joined the Reserve Officers Training Corp.  After graduation he joined the Aquila Space Navy and went to the Naval Academy on Eagle Eye Station, in orbit above Aquila.

Beringer developed an aptitude for recognizing patterns in data and entered the Communications Corp.  He was assigned to the AUS Hummingbird, a patrol boat in the Ptolemy Wilds that monitored activity in the Atlas system.  He participated in several anti-pirate actions, until the Hummingbird was appropriated by the Naval Intelligence Division for espionage purposes.  The boat did rim dives into the Skorpios held Novikov and Smirnova systems.

This led to the Novikov Incident of 3164, in which two Skorpios patrol boats detected and fired upon the Hummingbird.  The Aquila ship was crippled, but as the Hummingbird was being boarded, the crew killed the Skorpios marines and boarded the enemy ship instead.  Lt. Beringer successfully took over the Skorpios patrol boat's computers, destroyed the Hummingbird with the boat's weapons, and helped the pilot jump the boat safely to Atlas before the other patrol craft could react.  The three survivors were given commendations and Beringer was permanently assigned to the Naval Intelligence Division.

Beringer was then assigned to the Grendel, a free merchant ship secretly owned by the Aquila Navy.  The Grendel plied the spaceways along the Skorpios Cluster, collecting data on ship movements, the construction of the battle station Joseph Stalin around Skorpios held Corvus, and the Skorpios invasion of the Apotelesmatika system.  The latter part of his tour involved running guns to the Almagest rebellion.

He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander on his second tour and took control of the Grendel, continuing to gather intelligence data deep within the Skorpios Empire.  Most of that time was spent setting up a covert base on Smirnova and creating the Smirnova-Harmonics-Almagest Railroad, helping refugees from the war to escape, and sending munitions and supplies to the front. His last official action as an undercover intelligence officer was the sabotage and destruction of the battle station Joseph Stalin around Corvus, which was the first act of the Annihilation War.  The Grendel was destroyed in the escape attempt, and Beringer spent a year on the surface of Corvus, fleeing from Skorpios patrols and radioing troop emplacement data until he could be extracted after the Aquila fleet secured the system.  During his stay, he helped to organize the Witches of Corvus, an indigenous psychic contingent, against Skorpios troops, and they used their powers to help drive the Skorpios away from the planet.

He was then promoted to Commander and put in charge of the Brimstone, a Frigate class warship that was used for long distance intelligence gathering in the Agro system.  Beringer helped lay the groundwork for the Argo Invasion three years later, and then repeated the job six years later with the invasion of Belinski in 3180.  After the front was stabilized, he was promoted to Captain and forcibly assigned a desk job by the Naval Intelligence Division.  Beringer disliked the sedentary life, but did his job as ordered.

With a peace treaty signed in 3182, he worked quietly for Naval Intelligence Division, organizing the intelligence networks.  Over the years, he noticed patterns of movement within the Skorpios Empire and the wilds that disturbed him.  He wrote many reports on what was called the 'System Independence' movement within the Wilds, but his warnings were ignored.  He predicted the formation of the Alliance of Independent States five years before it happened.  But the people of Aquila were tired of war, the Navy lost funding, and complacency set in.

The Peace Movement on Aquila grew so strong that Belinski, then Argo, and finally Corvus were handed back to the Skorpios Empire.  Commodore Beringer had predicted that failure in judgment as well.  He worked hard to create intelligence network throughout the three systems that would survive the hand-over.  Beringer decided to lay low during the Wild Systems independence movement and fallout.  A number of military leaders resigned as Aquila lost the five additional systems in the bloodless coup known as the Alliance of Independent systems. 

In 3197, the Muldoon-Shaw administration was voted into power on Aquila.  One of President General Muldoon's first acts was to promote Beringer, the man who had predicted the loss of eight systems, to Admiral and put him in charge of the newly formed Special Projects Division.  The intent of the Special Projects Division was to, at a minimum, rebalance the strategic power in the Ptomemy sector in favor of Aquila, and ultimately, to complete regime change in the Skorpios Empire.

While marooned on Corvus, Beringer had heard tales of undiscovered caches of military hardware, but could never get any of the top brass interested in the rumors.  With his new authority, he sent covert operatives to Corvus and discovered the rumored bunkers deep underground.  The only problem was that there was no way to covertly reach the bunkers and extract the goodies inside.  

Reluctantly, President General Muldoon ordered a full strike on Corvus, at the request of Beringer.  Caught by surprise, the Skorpios Empire fled to protect the new shipyards at Argos.  With Corvus secured, Beringer and his people located the bunkers and extracted the pretech weaponry.  Regretfully, there wasn't much, but there were enough remaining components to construct a jump-4 spacecraft.  Thus began the Void Expeditionary Force - which officially began when Perimeter Station Nine was destroyed and the AUS Reprieve escaped to Three Sisters.

Admiral Berenger has focused the Special Projects Division on extracting lost technology from the Void sectors.  Once Beachhead Base was established in the Three Sisters system, and additional jump-4 transportation secured, Beringer moved his operations into the Void itself.  He understands that Skorpios has military superiority, better intelligence networks, and more wealth.  Much of the government, and even the military, does not understand how dire the situation is.  Beringer has the weight of the union on his shoulders.

- Ark

Thursday, November 15, 2012

SWN Faction Turns: February 3200

Due to popular demand (Kaye and Bill being popular,) I'll be adding two new new factions, a gang of psychic outlaw misandrist pirates called the Asteroid Witches and a rebellious army of androids called Steel Dawn.  I don't think either faction will like one another, but in case they start acting too chummy, giant snakes will attack everyone and make them nervous and prone to blast anything in view.

I'll add them in the future when it feels right.

Meanwhile, on February 2nd, the Redshirts game started with the Skorpios Empire attacking a secret Aquilan base in an attempt to steal or destroy the high tech spacecraft Reprieve.  The pretech research base, and the attacking fleet, are not really represented in the faction game itself, though they would be powerful assets.  I'm not going to worry about it.  I'll just say that the fleet and the base destroyed one another and that was that.  Accounting is easy when you close your eyes and wave your hands about.

So now, on with the faction game for February, 3200 CE.

Initiative is still using a d4, creating this order of play - the Almagest Rebellion, the Skorpios Empire, the Aquila Union, and the Alliance of Independent Systems.

Almagest Rebellion - The rebellion took a complete trouncing in January, and has little desire to do anything but hide and lick their wounds.  Regretfully, they don't have the resources to hide everyone.  The faction earns 2 FacCreds this turn, and with the 2 they squirreled away last turn, they have a total of 4.  It takes 3 FacCreds to purchase Stealth, and since they have two assets on the ground, one will have to remain exposed.

The rebellion uses the Buy Asset action and decides to spend the FacCreds and stealth their damaged Vanguard Cadre on Almagest.  This leaves their band of Zealots visible, with only one hit point remaining,

NEWS BLURB - On Almagest, the Talus Red Cross - and independent humanitarian group from the Alliance of Independent Systems - reported on February 5th that there was an influx of homeless children seeking shelter at the aide camps in the capital.  PXL News believes that these refugees may be remnants of indigent families that were driven out of the sewers during a violent purge last month.    The Sister Sally Saracen of the Talus Red Cross is asking for donation all across the sector due to this tragic turn of events.  Imperial Skorpios officials refused to comment on the story.

Skorpios Empire - I think I'm going to change the Tag of the Skorpios Empire from Imperialists to Eugenics Cult.  That just fits a lot better with their modus operandi.  I should have stuck with it, as it had been my first, instinctual choice.  Oh well.  So, the empire is feeling plucky since their victories on Almagest and the landing of the stealthed assets on Corvus last month and their hefty bank balance this month of ten FacCreds.  They unleash the dogs of war by selecting the Attack action this turn.

Their first military action is to use the stealthed Treachery asset to attack Corvus.  The treachery asset attacks with Cunning vs. Cunning, but does not do damage.  Instead, on a successful attack, it destroys itself, gives the user 5 additional FacCreds, and changes the ownership of the defending asset to the attacker.  The target is the union's Postech Infantry on Corvus.

The results of the combat are 10+7 vs. 4+4 - thus the empire wins.  The Treachery asset disappears, the empire's bank balance goes to 15 FacCreds, and the empire now owns the infantry.  That is a pretty devastating turn of events for the Aquila Union, who is only left with the Tripwire Cell and the Base of Influence left on Corvus.

Continuing with it's attack, Skorpios turns it's eye on Almagest.  The Zealots are in view, so the Impeiral Posttech Infantry attacks.  (In actuality, the infantry asset attacks the rebellions 'presence' on Almagest, and Almast chooses to defend with the Zealots rather than taking a direct hit to their Base of Influence and end up loosing the hit pints of the very faction itself.  A slight difference in working, but an important one.)

The results of combat are 6+8 vs. 1+3.  Yeah.  The empire wins overwhelmingly.  A d8 produces 6 points of damage, leaving them at a -5 and destroyed.  The rebels' Zealot asset is removed from play.

These events really inspire two separate news blurbs:

NEWS BLURB #1 - DATELINE CORVUS, FEBRUARY 9, 3200.  Residents fled in horror from the capital in the early morning hours as the sounds of fierce fighting erupted from the military base inside of town.  When the dust had settled, the top brass, including General Wallace McKenzie, lay dead in a bloody coup.  Witnesses report soldiers' eye glowing yellow and shooting anything in sight.  Since then, the base has been sealed off and communications blacked out.  "This yellow glow from the eyes and erratic behavior smacks of fungal mind control," Chief Research Scientist Fenrus Lucifer of BioTonics Labs on Aquila said in an interview.  "As we know, Skorpios is home to various fungi that are compatible with human DNA.  It's possible that the Empire has whipped up some sort of elixir that creates . . . fungal zombie armies.  I know that sounds a bit odd - but worse things have happened.  I have suggested to President General Muldoon that we inoculate our entire military force with a new anti-fungal vaccine we have just developed called Defungicin X-12.  BioTonics will be happy to provide the medicine at a reduced rate, of course."

NEWS BLURB #2 - The Talus Red Cross on Almagest is reporting that Skorpios Shock Troops launched a series of blistering assaults on refugee camps between the 12th and 13th of February.  Troops appeared to be targeting homeless children, and were killing them on sight.  Sister Sally Saracen of the Talus Red Cross denounced the attacks, describing them as unwarranted, shameful, and horrific.  Video smuggled out of Skorpios controlled space showed disturbing images of children wired with belts of high explosives hurling themselves at Skorpios Troops, then igniting into bright, orange fireballs.  The Skorpios Government denies any of the events took place and reports that all is calm on Almagest and that production in the rifle factories of Almagest is up sharply.

Aquila Union - This month, the union earns 5 FacCreds.  It is still in Peaceable Kingdom mode, so Aquila needs to avoid launching attacks on any other factions to gain experience points from the goal.  That doesn't stop it from getting it's war machine moving by choosing the Use Asset Ability.

On Aquila, the Postech industry asset is called to action.  The d6  roll results in a 4, indicating that an additional FacCred is earned.  The Venture Capital asset activates, and using the Postech Industry asset as leverage, rolls a d8 for a 6, indicating that another 2 FacCreds are earned, bringing the faction's bank account up to 8 FacCreds.

On Ridgway, Aquila sends its Blockade Runners to the Patton system for 2 FacCreds, with the intention of transporting the Postech Infantry asset located there to Corvus so that they can help defend the capital.

NEWS BLURB - PXL Financial News Update for February 20th, 3200.  Stocks rose for a third straight day today as investors dismissed conflicting reports from Corvus.  "We at MacBeth Trading are very bullish," said CEO Allister MacBeth.  "I whole-heartedly recommend buying into stocks from Yamato Shipyard Industries, the Maximum Defense Company, the LaserStar Weapons Combine, and BioTonics Amalgamated, home of BioTonics Labs.  This week's orders are up tremendously.  The recent downturn due to that Corvus hogwash is just that - hogwash.  Government sources tell me that it's a minor issue.  Assets are being put into play to deal with the situation, and they'll have things straightened out shortly with a minimum of fuss.  Yes, we are bullish on the future."

Alliance of Independent Systems - The Alliance again gains 4 FacCreds and decides to pump it's wealth into building a Base of Influence on Cicada by using the Expand Influence action.  Aquila tries to counter this move, and both factions roll off.  Since the Alliance is using a Surveyor crew, they get an additional roll.  So, it's d10 plus Cunning vs. d10 plus Cunning.  Aquila gets a 10 on the die, plus it's 4 for a 14.  The alliance rolls a 2, plus the 6 cunning, resulting in only an 8.  However, their reroll is an 9, giving them a 15 and a new base on Cicada with 8 hit points.  Aquila does not get to fight back.

NEWS BLURB - On February 25th, Harry Freedonia announced the creation of the School of Native Unity on Cicada.  "The Inland Relation Office is a serious threat to the well-being of the native Klakker community on Cicada," Mr. Freedonia said at a press conference.  "Governor Vidalia would get the peaceful race hooked on F-3000c like a common drug pusher.  What's next?  Offering the Klakkers blankets smeared with oozing small pox sores?  We reject this intolerable treatment and are building schools in the jungle to help educate the Klakkers about their unalienable right to free speech, to free assembly, and the right to bear arms for the defense of their well-being.  Klakkers are people too, you know?"

So that is February in the Factions game.  During that month, the players explored the Three Sister's system, discovered the Ark, destroyed the Shibboleth, unleashed GAIA the AI, followed the Ark to the Ukraine system, discovered that a lost Skorpios warship found it's way there 50 years ago and had taken over the planet, stole a Lost Skorpios patrol boat, escaped back to Three Sisters, and were in the process of hollowing out an asteroid to create Beachhead Base for the Aquila Navy to use as a privateer base to launch raids of Ukraine.  Meanwhile, the Reprieve travelled to Schwarzkopf to alert the brass back home and resupply, leaving the PCs busy mining out an asteroid and installing toilets.

- Ark

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

SWN Faction Turns: January 3200

The map is drawn, the combatants are stated up, and the pieces are in place.  It's finally time to begin the Redshirts Stars Without Number faction game for the Ptolemy sector.  I am sad, though, that I did not think to include an ASTEROID WITCH.

For those who have come late, or never paid attention and suddenly want to, here are the blog entries detailing the setup (but you probably don't need to really know any of it):

Galactic End Game
SWN Factions: The Begining
SWN Faction Game: Movement and Geography
SWN Factions: The Alliance of Independent States
SWN Factions: Aquila Union
SWN Factions: Almagest Rebellion
SWN Factions: Skorpios Empire

The Redshirts campaign began on Groundhog Day, 3200 CE, and has been going on for at least ten months in game.  That's a lot of travel time while they have been frozen scout-sicles.  I'll start the faction game one month earlier, and take it in one month turns until we've caught up with the PCs.

In the faction game, the first bit is initiative.  That's page 113 in the fancy (core) Stars Without Number rule book.  There are four players, so a d4 will do.  The order of the factions will be (dice roll please,)the  Alliance of Independent States, the Almagest Rebellion, the Skorpios Empire, and last, but not least, the Aquila Union.

Alliance of Independent States - They AIS gains four FacCreds for this month, and has no maintenance charges, giving them a total of four FacCreds in the bank..  The Alliance decides to take the action of Use Asset Ability, sending their Demagogue, Surveyor, and stealthed Psychic Assassin assets from Atlas to Cicada via their Covert Transit Net.  This moves almost all of their assets out of their realm of control, but their intelligence is good and the Alliance knows that the Aquila Union will be busy with Skorpios for a while.

NEWS BLURB - Labor leader, human-rights activist, and well know seditionist Harry Freedonia arrived at the Cicada system on the January 5, 3200.  "I'm simply here to speak to the natives - the so-called Klakkers - about their unalienable rights to freedom and self expression.," he told the PXL news service.  The Aquila Governor's office on Cicada issued a statement shortly thereafter, indicating that they had detained Harry Freedonia upon his arrival, but had released him and his staff within hours after they were unable to find official links between him and the Alliance of Independent States.

Almagest Rebellion - The Rebellion scrounges up two Fac Creds in January, and has no bills to pay.  Looking at the Goals, I think I assigned one that is far too unrealistic - that of seizing the planet.  I'll reassign a goal that is more plausible, without punishing the poor rebels.  Blood the Enemy requires eight HP of damage to be done to the enemy, which is far more doable.  With that, the rebellion chooses the Attack action, sending their Zealots and Vanguard Cadres into battle vs. the Skorpios Postech Infantry on Almagest.  They must come out of stealth to do the attack.

In the Vanguard Cadre battle, d10 + rebel's cunning vs d10 + empire's cunning result in 2+4 vs. 1+7 or 6 vs. 7 in favor of the Skorpios Empire.  The Postech Infantry's d8 counterattack did 6 hp to the Vanguard Cadre, leaving it with 6 hit points.  The zealots lost as well, 8 to 16, and took 2 hit points.  As zealots, they damaged themselves with a d4 resulting in 1, leaving them with only 1 hit point.  In seeking to do eight points of damage, the rebellion's assets took nine points instead, and exposed their positions.

NEWS BLURB - Scattered reports from Almagast City over the first two weeks of January indicate a major offensive by the Skorpios Empire into the city's sewage infrastructure.  On January 12, Scientist-Theologan Yuri Azov announced via The Mouth of Truth News, "The womb-born slave malcontents of Almagast made a paltry and pathetic attack on the Chernobyl Barracks, but were massacred where they stood.  We've taken the liberty of gassing the sewers to root those maggot-eaten rats out of their fear holes.  All is calm now, and we are in control.  Praise Emperor-Scientist Andropov!"

Skorpios Empire - The most powerful faction in the sector pulls the biggest income at 6 FacCreds for January.  Like Almagest, I probably chose an unrealistic immediate goal, and will pick Expand Influence instead.  The Alliance decides to take the action of Use Asset Ability and sends the stealthed assets Surveyors and Treachery from Argo to Aquila held Corvus via it's Beachhead Landers for 2 FacCreds.

This movement sets off the Tripwire Cells that Aquila had placed on Corvus.  Rolling vs. Cunning against each asset, The tripwire ties with a 4+5 vs. 2+7 against the Surveyors, and looses to the Treachery at 4+5 vs. 6+7.  So, the Surveyors and the Treachery land stealthed on Corvus, safe and sound.

NEWS BLURB - The PXL news service had learned that due to a complete lack of suspicious activity along the Corvus/Argo border, military leaders are relaxing protocols, calling for a parade in the capital, followed by a planet-wide leave on January 21st.  "While we will still be on high alert," said General Wallace McKenzie, "I've got a feeling that the Skorps don't have much fight left in them.  After all, they've been getting their nose bloodied by the rebels on Almagest.  I think we'll be perfectly safe.

Aquila Union - The union gains 5 FacCreds this round.  While I would have normally had the union continue to build up militarily against the Skorpios Empire, I am going to go with the Tripwire Failure above and have Aquila turn its attention to the Demagogue Harry Freedonia who is making trouble on Cicada with the alien Klakkers.  Aquila will decide to buy an asset, specifically the Saboteurs asset on Cicada for 5 FacCredits.  This will probably cost them against Skorpios in the long run.

NEWS BLURB - On January 30th, the Aquila Governor's office on Cicada announced the formation of the Inland Relationship Service, a governmental organization tasked with improving relationship with the native Klakker populations.  "Its been centuries since the Terran Mandate put down the Great Klakker Rebellions," said Governor Alice Vidalia.  "The Klakkers left on Cicada mean us no harm.  They live in their little mud heaps out in the jungle and get on with their lives.  I think they are perfectly safe, and have no intention of building another Death Fleet intent on wiping humanity from Known Space.  We've assembled some highly talented teams to teach them the art of papier mache, how to perform classical theater, and each Klakker will receive a Rubik's Cube which will spray them with Happy Pheromone F-3000c when they complete the puzzle successfully.  I think these are excellent building blocks for an improved relationship with our impoverished alien hive-mind neighbors."

This has actually been pretty damn enjoyable.  It's pretty quick and simple once you get the hang of it.  The abstractness of the system lets me use my imagination in ways I wouldn't have expected, and writing up those news blurbs has been really fun.

So, that's it for the month of January.  Three days after the Klakker announcement was released, the Redshirts blasted out of a surprise Skorpios Naval Blockade on the Schwarzkopf Rim and began their adventures in The Void.

Oh, for those that have read down this far and still have some sort of clue as to what is going on - and care - here is a sector map detailing the large scale movement assets of the factions and some places of interest.

- Ark

Monday, November 12, 2012

SWN Factions: Skorpios Empire

The last of the major factions in the Ptolemy sector is the Skorpios Empire.  When settlers arrived on Skorpios, they discovered that it was dominated by a single type of organism - an alien fungus that would destroy or eventually choke out every other type of life.  High technology kept the fungus at bay, but after the Silence, desperate researchers discovered how to prevent the fungus from killing humans by adding the alien fungal DNA to the human genome.

The hybrid offspring had a tendency to be stronger, smarter, and a bit more crazy that regular humans.  The scientists decided that they had stumbled upon the secret to human perfection, and executed everyone who refused the upgrade.

Six hundred years later find the humans of Skorpios unable to naturally reproduce, requiring automated vat systems to produce new generations of crazy little supermen and women.  Scientist-Emperor Leonid Andropov, a 300 year old short, bald, macrocephalic crazy man in a white lab coat, rules the empire with an iron lab glove, intent on enslaving all other humans in the galaxy, working them to death, and replacing them with his vat born children.

Faction Skorpios Empire
Hit Points
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:29
Postech Infantry/Force 4
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:12
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:12
Postech Infantry/Force 4
Extended Theaters/Force 4
Beachhead Landers/Force 4
Treachery/Cunning 7
Stealth/Cunning 3
Stealth/Cunning 3
Surveyors/Wealth 2
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:4
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:4
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:4
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:4
Base of Influence HP:49
Tags Imperialists
Goal Planetary Seizure

- Ark

Sunday, November 11, 2012

SWN Factions: Almagest Rebellion

The third, and weakest, of the factions in the Ptolemy sector is a covert military organization.  The rebellion on Almagest has been taking place ever since ships from the Skorpios Empire invasion force landed there a generation ago.  The empire has enslaved the population, ravaged the landscape, and pillaged the planets natural resources, but it has not broken the will of the people.  The conquered populace has a tradition of giving one child per family over to the rebellion to be trained in the ways of combat and sabotage.

The Almaghest Rebellion has no visible leaders.  It is divided up into small cells that commit covert acts of violence to the Skorpios Empire whenever they get a chance.  In between one fifth and one sixth of the world's population goes to the movement, but in actuality, the empire finds and kills half of the cell members on a regular basis, leaving a very small and scattered organization left in operation.

Faction Almagest Rebellion
Hit Points
Base of Influence HP:15
Vanguard Cadres/Cunning 4
Zealots/Force 3
Tags Secretive
Goal Seize Planet

- Ark

Saturday, November 10, 2012

SWN Factions: Aquila Union

The next faction, alphabetically speaking, is the Aquila Union.  It is an federation of two major systems, three average systems, and four weaker ones - founded and dominated by the Aquila System.  Currently, the Union is led by two people.  First is President General Moira Muldoon, instated by the Union's Congress of Planets as the Supreme Commander in Chief under the long standing Temporary Defense Initiative.  The second is Prime Minister Charles Shaw, elected by popular vote and charged with keeping the Union strong economically.

The Muldoon-Shaw Administration is only three years old, forged out of the seven years of political chaos caused by the succession of Talus and the other members of the Alliance of Independent Systems.  Shaw is desperate to stabilize the economy of the union and balance the budgets, knowing full well that Mulddon will need the wealth of the nation to combat the eventual invasion of the Skorpios empire.

The capital, Aquila, is well defended and hosts the bulk of the union's industry and market activity.  The union's military is positioned towards Skorpios, ready to defend when needed.

Faction Aquila Union
Hit Points
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:38
Planetary Defenses/Force 6
PostTech Industry/Wealth 3
Venture Capital/Wealth 6
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:3
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:3
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:3
Postech Infantry/Force 4
Tripwire Cell/Cunning 4
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:22
Planetary Government
Base of Influence: 18
Postech Infantry/Force 4
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:18
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:3
Strike Fleet/Force 4
Blockade Runners/Wealth 5
Planetary Government
Base of Influence HP:18
Base of Influence HP:1
Tags Warlike
Goal Peacable Kingdom

- Ark