Friday, February 27, 2015

Farewell to an Icon

I had intended on wrapping up a post about Thanos and the Thanosi tonight, but fate had other plans. Instead, I'm posting a fond farewell to a man that I didn't personally know, but one that had a profound effect on my life. I don't typically feel anything other than a quick "bummer" at the passing of actors/athletes/celebrities, but there are a few out there that do occasionally affect me. The passing of Leonard Nimoy is one.

While my sci-fi teeth were cut on Star Wars, it was Star Trek where they were honed. One of the most endearing characters on the Original Series was that of Spock, the half-breed Vulcan who was Captain Kirk's loyal and trustworthy sidekick. His cold facade hid a truly human heart. To this day I still tear up during the reactor scene in The Wrath of Khan as Spock forces out his heartfelt goodbye to his friend, "I have been - and always shall be - your friend..." is even more poignant now.

I credit Mr. Nimoy along with the rest of the cast and crew of Star Trek for instilling in my a love of science fiction and a desire to see their world become our future. It is with a heavy heart that I, like many of us today, say goodbye to one of the titans of the genre. Rest in Peace.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A'askvarii in Mythic Space

Galaxy: Milky Way
Quadrant: Alpha
Star System: Deneb
Planet: Oerlanii, third from the sun
Type of Government: Benign Anarchy, Member of the Galactic Concord
Level of Technology: Starships capable of Warp 5, little defensive technology

The A'askvarii are an aquatic semi-humanoid species from the planet Oerlanii in the Deneb system. They are a pacifist species, with only rudimentary weapons technology, who despite what they refer to as the Concord's "anti-tentacle sentiments" ingratiated themselves into the Galactic Concord even though they have no real governing body. 

A'askvarii are a very warm and inviting people, despite their somewhat fierce appearance. It is their appearance that kept them from travelling the stars too much until the last 50 standard years. They found early on in their interstellar travels that many humanoid species have a great fear of anything that deviates too far from the humanoid standard of two arms, legs, and a head. Their tentacle arms being the largest deviation from the humanoid standard. Especially after the Illithid Invasion, fears of such beings run higher and stronger than ever. Many A'askvarii felt it was too dangerous to mix with many other species due to their illogical prejudices, and largely kept to themselves. 

When they began to be harassed by Horune pirates that were making the Deneb system something of a waystation on their raids into fringes of the Concord, several groups of A'askvarii knew that they were going to need help, and the Concord was their best bet. It took several months of negotiations, but they were finally admitted into the Concord. However, since the A'askvarii have no central government they do not have a seat in the Senate. Since the A'askvarii don't see the need in governance, they really don't care as long as they can do their part to be useful members of the Concord, if individuals so choose that is. 

A'askvarii culture is one that is centered around peace and independence. They were once slaves of a species that sounds suspiciously like the Thorpids that were recently ousted out of Corvian space. The history of the occupation and time as slaves is sketchy at best, but what is known was that the A'askvarii largely did not resort to violence, but instead went about on a crusade of civil disobedience to make themselves as annoying as possible to their captors. Seeing as how Oerlanii has little in the way of precious resources not in abundance elsewhere in the sector, it was likely that the oppressors simply figured they weren't worth the trouble and left for greener pastures. This adherence to pacifism is one of the key tenets of their culture to this day. They are also fierce individualists, likely a side effect of formerly being a slaved species. This is a large reason why they have never set up a formal government. There are local councils and committees that oversee various issues like infrastructure and the like, and for larger issues some committees band together to talk over issues and make decisions for the planet, but once the work is completed these committees are quickly disbanded and the members go back to their everyday lives. A'askvarii equate governance with the gathering of power and that nearly always leads to violence and a loss of individual rights. That is something they will not allow to happen. 

The decision to join the Concord was one of the most heated debates in A'askvarii culture. To most A'askvarii, the Concord is no less violent and expansion-oriented as the Romulan and Klingon Empires and the Peacekeepers. Add in that many A'askvarii have had bad encounters with several Concord species over their tentacles, and many were not in favor of getting into bed with the Concord. However, the thought of throwing away good A'askvarii lives against pirates that were vastly better armed and skilled at war was just as terrible of a proposition. They have known for a long time that the time would likely come in which they would either have to become a more martial society or ind allies who could fight but were less inclined to impose their will, and so the decision by the "Grand Committee" was made to approach the Concord for admittance. 

So far, the acceptance of the A'askvarii into the Galactic Concord has been largely positive. The increased trade with many Concord members has improved the level of technology on Oerlanii and the Horune pirates were quickly driven out into space by the Concord Navy. The addition of a Concord starport near the fifth planet in the system leaves some with a feeling of disquiet, but few A'askvarii visit the station anyway. Really, the biggest issue has been the prejudices of many Concord species, but the A'askvarii are such a kind people, that any foolish fears are quickly done away with. Many A'askvarii have entered into careers in the Concord bureaucracy to help further drive out some prejudices as well. 

A'askvarii are a humanoid species, but one where the regular two arms are replaced by six tentacles with suction grips on the ends, three tentacles on each side. They are an amphibious species. Their noses consist of two gill slits. Their eyes are large and end and have a complex filtering system that allows them to see in the gloom of their deep marshes as well as protecting their eyes from the brightness of their sun while on land. Their legs come with three toes, all taloned, with the third growing on the back of their heels. Their mouths are filled with needle-sharp teeth, which are very evident as most A'askvarii tend to smile a lot. A'askvarii flesh is rubbery and a mottled green in color for males with females being a more blue-green shade. They mate in much the same way as most humanoid beings, surprisingly enough, but females lay eggs. A'askvarii infants are born able to eat meat, which makes up much of the A'askvarii diet. 

A'askvarii for Savage Worlds
Aquatic: A'askvarii cannot drown in oxygenated liquid and have a free d6 in Swimming. Their Pace in water is equal to their Swimming skill.
Additional Action: Due to their six arms, A'askvarii get one extra non-movement action per round at no multi-action penalty.
All Thumbs: Due to their lack of fingers, A'askvarii being play with the All Thumbs Hindrance. 
Pacifists: A'askvarii are strict pacifists and start play with the Major version of the Pacifist Hindrance. 

A'askvarii for Rogue Space
Archetypes: A'askvarii can be either Scoundrels or Technicians and add +1 to either Acquiring or Empathy. 
Abilities: A'askvarii can breathe both air and water. Due to their lack of fine manipulating digits, they suffer a -1 penalty to all Repair rolls. 
Psionics: A'askvarii can be Espers with Commune and Empath being the most common powers they display. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bleh and Ugh...

Another long stretch with nothing, nada, zippo out of me. We've had a run of the plague the last couple of weeks and this time I was not immune. However, with the forecast being cold and crappy this weekend, I foresee being able to put the finishing touches on a couple of Marvel Aliens. Hopefully, that will spur me on to getting back in a regular groove of posting.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Mythic Space Mutants

I've mentioned a few times that for mutant characters I use Darwin's World. I've had to tweak the system so that it works more generically than the post-apocalyptic setting it was designed for. Here's how I'm going about doing that.

First off, the default assumption is that most mutants with be human or near-human as a base. Alien species can have mutations, but in order to make use of the mutations the GM and player must come to a decision as to which default abilities are given up in lieu of the character being a mutant. (At least +2 worth of abilities for each mutation stage.

Mutant characters are broke down into 3 stages. The first stage are the weakest with the most defects with the third stage being the strongest with more major mutations and fewer defects, so no real change from the default found in DW. All mutant characters are considered Outsiders, which fits their background since most come from the worst hellholes in the galaxy. All mutations are determined randomly. The breakdown of mutation levels is the same as that found in DW with Major and Minor Mutations and Defects. I've even put together a table for Neural Mutations.

Speaking of Neural mutations, only the Novice level powers are allowed. Neural mutations do not automatically gain the Psionics Arcane Background, just three rolls to determine their powers and 10 power points. They can purchase the edge and become full psions, but until that point they are unable to advance their powers, and their powers cost +1 extra power point to use. (I tend to use the No Power Points rules for Psionics. In lieu of 10 power points, neural mutants suffer a penalty to their Psionics roll equal to the full cost of the power being activated.)

Why Didn't I Think of That?

I've made it no secret that when it comes to supers rpg's, my heart is set on Marvel Super Heroes. I like just about everything about the system, except for the chart. I've never cared for the chart, but it's always been something that I just put up with and it never really got in the way of running a good game. ICONS makes an effort to simplify the process and at least on the surface feels very MSH-like. However, I'm not a fan of the FATE-based bits and breaking down the action into panels and pages, while thematically great, just doesn't do it for me.

Enter Mutants and Marvels.

Mutants and Marvels is a 45 page rpg that takes it's inspiration from MSH, but tweaks the system into the D20 system for the dice rolling only. It keeps the FASERIP stats. It keeps the rank names. It keeps the Popularity, Karma, and Resources. There's no more chart, there's only some simple addition and subtraction. On it's own, the book is far too light to make the robust heroes and villains that MSH players are used to, but applying the mechanics to the Ultimate Powers Book and the various Gamer's Handbooks to the Marvel Universe (not to mention the mountain of fan-created stats for just about every character in the Marvel Universe) and MSH becomes about as perfect of a supers game as I could want. There will be some tweaks that need to be applied here and there, especially for power specially written for certain characters, but most of those can easily be done on the fly.

This is one of those things that when I read it I thought "Huh. Now why didn't I think of that?" Seriously, I should have thought of that a long time ago. Thanks to Tom Doolan for doing it for me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Guilty Pleasures

I have a confession to make, I love late-night talk radio. Shows like Coast to Coast AM and Ground Zero are a couple of my favorites. They often delve into realms that no typical radio show would ever dream of touching for fear of appearing, well, unbalanced at least or outright insane at worst. Aliens, Bigfoot sightings, secret cabals, and so forth are constantly given airtime to anyone within the distance of the signal. Oftentimes when I listen to these shows I get the itch to make notes for a Dark Matter campaign I'll likely never run (again) as they are an excellent source of bat-shit insane ideas just begging to be added to a game.

Dark Matter was the first Alternity campaign I ran. From the moment I picked up Alternity, I worked on a space opera setting (much of that material turning into what is now coalescing into Mythic Space), but Dark Matter inspired me to get out from in front of my computer to the table with friends. During this time, X-Files was at the height of popularity and so it was easy to convince some friends to join in for a game. While it only lasted for a handful of sessions, it remains one of the more memorable campaigns I ever GM'ed or played in. I often look at it sitting on the shelf and get the hankering to run it again, and those feelings only get stronger whenever I catch a good episode of late night talk radio.

Tonight's episode of Ground Zero was "Synarchy" from the viewpoint that the world's empires and nations are following the guiding hand of extra-terrestrial or divine beings. "Evidence" was being presented in the form of quotes from people like Winston Churchill, to former Canadian Defense Minister Paul Hellyer, to even Meryl Streep supporting the idea that aliens (or angels and demons) are either working with world leaders or actually are the ones in charge of the world we live in and are behind everything that goes on. While the idea is laughable, these are the makings of a great Dark Matter (or Paranoia for that matter) game.

I'm not likely going to start detailing any such campaign, though I might dust off some of my old notes from my old Dark Matter campaign and post them here. Mythic Space will remain my primary focus, but it's nights like tonight that the ol' gamer ADD really kicks into high gear...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Some (Relatively) Recent Acquisitions

I've been working furiously on getting my core rules for Mythic Space finalized (I just keep finding more things to add and/or tweak), but I wanted to take a little time to tell you about some of my recent purchases.

First off, I realized the other night that I forgot to mention that the final setting book from The Last Parsec KS, Scientorium, was released a while ago. This one might just be my favorite out of the three. The Scientorium is an ancient space station/library of a long dead galaxy-spanning empire. It is a mysterious place full of knowledge, super-tech, and dangers. It's just the kind of place that a good sci-fi exploration game needs. Just like the rest of the Last Parsec line, Scientorium is light on the details, so it is more of set of interconnected plot hooks and adventure ideas than a fully-realized setting. All in all, while The Last Parsec ended up being less of a setting than what I envisioned when I plunked my money down, I'm still happy with the purchase and will find a use for all three books for many years to come. I hope that Pinnacle gives the setting a more detailed look, or at least more of these setting books in the future.

Next up is another Savage Worlds book, but this time for Interface Zero 2.0. Japan: Empire of the Setting Sun details, well, Japan from the Interface Zero setting. There's a lot of stuff backed into these 67 pages. Lots of cultural details and adventure seeds, plus new gear, golemmechs, and threats. If you are a fan of Interface Zero 2.0, or a fan of a dystopian, cyberpunk Japan (which thanks to movies like Akira and the asian-theme-laden Blade Runner is nearly iconic with the cyberpunk genre) then I highly recommend picking up a copy.

Finally, I picked up the system-neutral sci-fi setting Strange Stars by +trey causey from From the Sorcerer's Skull blog (which if you like space opera/sci-fi/sci-fantasy is a blog that you really need to be reading if you're not already). Weighing in at 32 pages, it's a bit pricier than what I like to pay for a pdf of that size, but Trey has put together a great setting that is throwback to games like Star Frontiers (complete with an homage on the cover) and the heyday of late 70's and early 80's sci-fi from movies, TV, and comics. If system-neutral isn't your thing, there is a Fate version and a Stars Without Number version in the works. Plus, there might just be a Savage Worlds version in the works as well. Strange Stars is packed with great material that can serve as the basis for a campaign in the setting to add to your own space opera campaign. I highly recommend checking it out.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Hirogen

Galaxy: Milky Way
Quadrant: Delta
Star System: Currently Karbaz, Original home system unknown
Planet: New Hirogia, second from sun
Type of Government: Clan-based republic, but currently in a state of societal turmoil
Level of Technology: Starships capable of Warp 9.5 or better and once had a vast communications array, but current levels of science and technology are stagnant. 

The Delta Quadrant is a notoriously dangerous place. It is home to the Borg, houses numerous portals to Fluidic Space (home of the xenophobic Undine), and terrorized by the nigh-unending wars of the Kazon clans just to name a few. However, it appears that one threat from the Delta Quadrant isn't as much of one now. The Hirogen are known throughout many sectors in the Delta Quadrant as a very dangerous and aggressive species of hunters. Much like the Yautja, the Hirogen traverse the stars in search of dangerous prey that they then take grisly trophies from in order to increase both their personal honor and the honor of the clan. The Hunt dominates Hirogen life, but recent event have made it so that they are not the widespread threat that they once were.

The Hirogen are an ancient species by all accounts. There are tales from the legends of many species that talk of beings now known to be Hirogen that visited their worlds thousands of years ago. The Trans-Net was an ancient communication system that allowed the Hirogen to communicate across vast distances. The location of Trans-Net beacons throughout the Delta Quadrant suggest that they once traversed most of the Delta quadrant and into the Alpha and Gamma quadrants as well. Today, however, is a vastly different story.

The introduction of The Hunt into Hirogen society has been the single most damaging thing to happen to the Hirogen. The actual origins of The Hunt are lost to legend, but the legends state that the Hirogen were facing a time of great turmoil and were possibly facing extinction when a great hunter, the Hunter, gave them a purpose again. He told them to hunt the beasts of the cosmos to prove their prowess and superiority so that the Hirogen could once again show the galaxy and beyond that they are the pinnacle of life. The Hirogen spread across the stars hunting the most dangerous prey in the hopes that they can earn enough honor to join the Hunter in the Great Hunt in the afterlife. The idea of the Hunt did propel the Hirogen back into the stars, but it is now leading them back to the cusp of extinction.

The Hunt entails many rituals and rites. The Hirogen must first determine that a target is worthy of being hunted, and only certain creatures are deemed worthy. (Since the Hirogen see other species as being beneath them the highest praise they can bestow upon another species is to call them "worthy of being hunted".) They will study a target for some time, learning all that they can about them. If deemed dangerous enough to grant honor with a kill, they will then take time to determine the right weapon to use to complete the task. Killing prey with a weapon deemed to be not the perfect weapon for the kill could result in a loss of honor. They finally go on the hunt. Once the kill is made, they will take the carcass and soak it in an enzyme bath that will dissolve flesh, muscle, cartilage, and tendons, leaving only the bone. The skull (or whatever is the most recognizable piece of carrion from the creature) is then displayed on the trophy wall. While all of this is going on, a Hirogen hunter will smear paint on their faces, weapons, and armor in different patterns and places throughout the hunt. The meaning of these markings are largely unknown to all except the Hirogen.

The Hunt has been going on for so many generations that no one can truly recall the first hunts with any historical accuracy. To the Hirogen, such things are meaningless, only the Hunt matters. The search for ever more dangerous prey has scattered the species across the Delta Quadrant once again. Until recently, they have been a nomadic species, their homeworld lost from memory during their original expansion across the Delta Quadrant. Most Hirogen starships travel singly, and only have a crew of 20 or more rarely, and most only having a crew of two to five individuals. Hirogen genetics are highly resilient, so rampant in-breeding among their members doesn't have the effect that it appears to have on many other humanoid species, which is likely one of the few reasons there are any Hirogen left at all since ships rarely meet up.

The problem of Hirogen being scattered became an issue that many clan leaders began to discuss after the Undine entered into a war with the Borg about 50 standard years ago. Many Hirogen vessels were caught in the midst of this struggle. They saw the Undine as worthy prey and put a call out to gather the Hirogen fleet. Upon seeing their paltry numbers, several clan leaders began to wonder if the Hunt was truly the path their people should be on after all. This urge to find a better way only intensified after they suffered heavy casualties time and again trying to hunt the Undine.

As it so happened, one clanlord discovered Virtual Reality technology on a merchant craft that had done business with one of the worlds of the Concord. With this technology, the Hunt could be simulated and with the synaptic safeties turned off, these simulated Hunts could be lethal and provide ever more dangerous hunts to satisfy honor. The clans were called to a planet in the Karbaz system that the Hirogen once colonized long ago. There the plan to utilize the VR technology was debated. Many saw the idea as complete heresy and wanted nothing to do with it, however, several clanlords pointed to their own small and dwindling numbers (only a few hundred clans were in attendance, all that could be contacted within range), their lack of any society beyond the Hunt, and the complete stagnation of their sciences as proof that without change there won't be a Hunt within another couple of generations. Add in the threats presented by the Borg and the Undine, and their extinction was assured if they don't learn to work together. The VR technology would allow them to begin to reclaim some of what they have lost, and to build a future. This swayed many of the clans, but still a good number of others left to continue their Hunt wanting nothing to do with this outright blasphemy. Those that stayed re-christened the planet New Hirogia and began the task of colonization.

Colonization proved to be a difficult task. The Hirogen knew little about anything not pertaining to the Hunt or keeping their ships able to continue the Hunt, so another heresy was committed: they sought out assistance from other species. Finding assistance was difficult to say the least. Hirogen ships have long been seen as hostile, and the tales about the species were wild and varied, but many revolved around the ultimate end of the bodies they took on their hunts. Finally, however, they found some that were willing to trade technology and expertise to get their colony off the ground.

Today, there is still turmoil among this new Hirogen society. They are essentially having to re-learn to be civilized again. More clans continue to join the colonies on New Hirogia, which is both a blessing and a curse. The clans are trying to form a system of government akin to the republics seen among many other species, using their honor as a way of determining who should be in power. However, arguments over whether or not some kills are honorable and therefore valid keep meetings between the clanlords one step away from bloodshed. Their is some reason to believe that the Hirogen will be successful, they have entered into trade agreements with several other stellar nations. Their region of space is close to both Borg as well as several rifts leading to Fluidic Space, making allies a very important component of survival. The Hirogen have proven to be formidable allies, offering their services as hunters, scouts, and warriors to their allies in return for non-military technology and various other goods that most civilized species take for granted.

One threat that has cropped up are Hirogen that see what is going on on New Hirogia as an affront to the Hunter. Several of these fundamentalist clans have banded together to commit acts of terror on both New Hirogia and among their allies, chiefly the Malon. The terrorists have made successful attacks against key facilities on New Hirogia, nearly wiping out one colony when they destroyed a power plant. They have also taken to targeting Malon waste freighters and have poisoned several M class planets with Malon radioactive waste. These clans have failed to see the irony in that their cause has kept them from the Hunt that they feel those on New Hirogia are neglecting.

The Hirogen are a reptilian humanoid species. They stand around six and a half to seven feet tall with powerful builds that are only made more imposing by their armor they wear into battle or on a Hunt. Their bodies are covered in bumpy scales, not unlike those found on a gila monster, that are tan in color. Their eyes are small and black in color. Hirogen are also a very hardy species, their immune systems are such that toxins and diseases must be very potent to have an effect on their. Also, their sense of hearing is very acute, which has evolved over countless generations of hunts.

Hirogen women rarely take part in a Hunt, but they are still trained in combat to protect the broods of young Hirogen. Hirogen give birth to live young, which are then raised by the clan. Honor dictates which male is allowed to select a mate first, and the females compete with each other to seduce a mate with more honor therefore bringing her closer to the Hunter and her own place in the Great Hunt (which is the only time that women are allowed to partake in the Hunt).

Hirogen for Savage Worlds
Attribute Increase: Hirogen start play with a D6 in Strength.
Size +1: Hirogen receive a +1 bonus to Toughness due to their size, but they must also pay 50% more for clothing and armor purchased anywhere that does not specialize in their size. 
Keen Hearing: +2 bonus to Notice rolls pertaining to Hearing. 
Tough Scales: Hirogen scales afford them a +1 bonus to Toughness.
Poison Resistance: Hirogen have a +4 bonus to resist poisons.
Attribute Penalty: -2 penalty to all Smarts rolls.
Outsider: Hirogen have long been seen as murderous pirates throughout the Delta Quadrant. Even though they are trying to become more civilized their reputation precedes them. They start play with the Major version of the Outsider Hindrance.

Hirogen for Rogue Space
Archetypes: Hirogen can be Soldiers or Technicians, add +1 to Fighting.
Hunters: Hirogen gain a +2 bonus to Fighting rolls made to resist poisons.
Psionics: Hirogen have no psionic aptitude.