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 the 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 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. There 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 them. 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.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

A Quick Update

I've been working a bit on my guide to sentient species and I thought it would be a good idea to add in some quick overview stats to the aliens. This would be something that I would add to the species I've already written up here on the blog and at the wiki. Kind of like what was found for the alien species detailed in the old Handbooks to the Marvel Universe. Here's what I'm thinking about with the background stats for Humans (Terran)

Quadrant: Alpha
Star System: Sol
Planet: Earth, third from sun
Type of Government: Constitutional Republic, members of the Galactic Concord
Level of Technology: Terrans had developed Warp Drive capable of reaching Warp 6, but now have access to drives capable of reaching Warp 9.6. Advanced genetic and robotics technology.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Looking Ahead

Just like with a lot of people, the New Year is a time of reflection and a moment to pause and look forward to the new year to try and predict the future and set goals for the year's possible achievements. 2014 was a mixed bag, not all bad, but not what I would have liked either. 2015 is starting off with the possibility of being a good year right out of the gate, but we'll see if all the pieces fall into place to make that a reality. That's on the professional side, but this is a gaming blog, so we'll stick with that.

Despite some recent setbacks, work on my Mythic Space setting really kicked off last year and I look to continue the trend into 2015. I'm going to devote more time to getting all the collected rules put together into my big Savage Worlds Core Rules for Mythic Space. I know I've said that I've been close to finished with that project a few times, but each time I look at it I find more things to change. I'm also going to continue work on my Obsidian Portal Wiki transferring information from the old wiki and from posts here to that site, which is serving as the repository for all Mythic Space setting information. I'm also putting together two books covering the races and creatures found in Mythic Space. The first covers sentient species, and is designed more as a book of races. The second deals more with creatures and threats than PC-worthy beings. Seeing as I am supporting two systems, each book will sport stats for both Savage Worlds and Rogue Space like most blog posts.

As for non-sci-fi...I'm just not interested in regular fantasy anymore. Work on my hack of Swords & Wizardry and my monster collection has stalled out. Every now and then I get the itch to dust off The Veil (see here and here), but those itches are easily quelled it seems. I'm not saying that I'm never going to write about anything other than sci-fi/sci-fantasy/space opera ever again, just don't expect it anytime soon.

I do want to thank those of you that stop by this blog and read my musings and hacks of pop culture sci-fi. You all have made it fun to do all this. I hope I've entertained you a bit along the way and that you'll forgive the collecting dust.