Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Gardeners

Terra approcimately 60-70 million years ago
Some ancient history of my Visions of Empire setting.

Approximately 65 million years ago a sentient species formed an interstellar civilization in an area of space not far from Terra, or so it is hypothesized. They apparently had a habit of terraforming worlds and transplanting creatures from various "interesting" (to them that is) worlds and spreading them across a number of terraformed worlds, perhaps creating menageries or hunting preserves or simply tailoring the local biosphere to their tastes. They did not perform much genetic engineering (if at all), but rather engaged in planetary and biosphere engineering and life-form importation.

Now they are long gone. The vast bulk of their technology and cities were eventually reduced to nothing but anomalous concentrations of elements in the soil and the rock. None of their machines survived in an even remotely opertable form. Some of their artefacts - more commonly, trash - were fossilized; there are also fossilized bones which may or may not be fossiles of the "Gardeners".

However, their true legacy is not fosslized archeological artefacts but terraformed worlds and a wide spread of certain life-forms across multiple worlds. Some worlds failed and reverted to their pre-terraformation forms; others survived; all were changed by the passing of 60-70 million years. Some life-forms were extinct at the same time as the "Gardeners" or in the intervening millions of years; others survived virtually unchanged; yet others continued to evolve. And on at least one world, transplanted organisms reached sentience. The so-called Gardner Hypothesis suggests that the biological similarity between many of the known sentient and non-snetinet species across known space arises from their evolution from imported stock, some of which may have been Terran in origin - in its most radical form, this hypothesis claims that the Chuwak and possibly even Cicek and Reticulans have evolved from Terran animals imported to their prospective homeworlds approximately 65 million years ago.

A Quick Overview of the nine "Major Races"

Here is a quick overview of the nine "Major Races" or my Visions of Empire setting for Classic Traveller.

In this setting, the distinction between "Minor" and "Major" Race is Reticulan Empire distinction. A "Major Race" in this setting is an intelligent species which either had a multiple-world polity when first encountered by the Reticulans (such as the Zhuzz or the Chuwak), or alternatively an intelligent species which was biologically and culturally suitable of being organized into an interstellar client-state by the Reticulan conquerors (such as the Terrans and Cicek). The Cicek needed significant technological and cultural uplifting to do that, but that was a worthwhile investment for the Reticulans who desires to use them as shock troops. A "Minor Race" on the other hand does not have an interstellar polity and has some biological and/or cultural barrier preventing it from being organized into an Imperial client-state. This is why all (or most?) "Major Races" are "air-breathers" - capable of surviving in typical Reticulan (or Terran) environments unaided or with minimal assistance - while many "Minor Races" are much more exotic biologically and/or culturally.

So here are the "Major" species:

The United Terran Republic
Terrans - Humanity of the future. In the 23rd century, ruled by the United Terran Republic. Before that - a Reticulan client-species.

Reticulans - female-only rationalist/technocratic "Greys" who reproduce by parthenogenesis. Physically weak, in heavy work and combat they use robots and/or "client" alien species. Society is organized into castes. In the past they were one of the Precursor species.

Sselassians (CMG Astagar Fighters)
Sselassians - highly religious "snakemen", with a humanoid upper body and a "snake leg" underneath. The dominant faith creates multiple assassin-cults. Quite ritualistic and atavistic. Reticulan client-species mostly used as assassins and special-forces troops.

Fanja-Fanja - Khurasan Felids
Fanja-Kanja - individualistic, highly curious "felinoids". NOT a warrior species; egg-laying. Highly interested in trade and exploration, as well as scietific research. Reticulan client-species mostly used as researchers and ship crewmembers.

Phnunk ( Octopods)
Phnunk - "Humanoids" with tentacled faces used for eating and manipulating objects; also have claws in their hands for further manipulation. Society is quite egalitarian and creative work is valued above everything else. Biologically related to fungi and reproduce by spores. High technical aptituide. Reticulan client-species mostly used as technicians.

Klax (GZG Crusties)
Klax - "Insectoids" but much more similar to crustaceans; bear live young but lack sexes. Society is tribal and highly competitive between tribes. Quite aggressive in outlook. Reticulan client-species mostly used as shock-troops and snipers.

Chuwak (LNG Chuhuac)
Chuwak - Possibly descended from Terran theropod stock imported to various Garden Worlds by the hypotehtical Gardeners approximately 70 million years ago. Feathered pack-oriented predatory "dinosauroids". Aggressive and proud. Reticulan client-species mostly used as front-line troops. In the past they were one of the Precursor species but were heavily hit by the fall of the Precursors and regressed even more than the reticulans.

Zhuzz (Spriggan Miniatures Spug)
Zhuzz - Opportunistic "insectoids" who evolved on the homeworld of a dead Precursor species. Evolved quite quickly due to easy access to relic technology. Highly interested in trade, but not always trustworthy and not above piracy, fraud and outright raiding. Reticulan client-species as ship crews and technicians.

Cicek (Stan Johanssen Draco)
Cicek - Anarchic tribal "Reptilod" warriors. Males are highly competitive, females are quite cooperative, but both are usually loyal to their tribe (and little else). Until recently a Reticulan client-species; now mostly liberated and organized into the (very loose) Cicek Confederation (which is allied with the UTR).

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Flags of my Visions of Empire Setting

A kind person named Inku (Axel Loefving) posted a thread on RPG.NET offeriung to draw symbols and flags for people for free. So I asked him if he could draw a more professional version of my Visions of Empire setting for Classic Traveller; he agreed, and did some small changes to Oculus Orbus's UTR flag design, and also made me a Terran Empire standard and a New Terran Republic flag:

Terran Empire, Option #1

Terran Empire, Option #2

New Terran Republic

United Terran Republic

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Porting Over Grimmsgate to Stars Without Number

I'm currently running the Swords & Wizardry adventure Grimmsgate for my D&D 5E group, and so far it proves to be an interesting and enjoyable adventure. But yesterday, when I was re-reading this adventure while riding the train to the Tel-Aviv University, it dawned upon me - this could be an excellent Stars Without Number adventure as well! How so? After all, it has various strong fantasy elements such as demons, undead and courses. But this could be easily ported to sci-fi concepts.

The Ancient Temple becomes a pre-Scream Perimeter Agency research lab, which once upon a time housed a crazed Unbreaked AI. Three Perimeter Agents defeated the said AI after it wreaked some havoc on a nearby world, and brought it, locked in a datacube, to a research lab where it would be studied and stored safely. The facility had some robotic laboratories and a medbay as well. Eventually, as the Silence crept in, the facility's staff become little more than an atavistic religious group, following ritual after ritual in place of the old protocols. A young initiate, Arumvel his name, tried to breath some technological life into this dying ritual, and used his dataport (implanted into all initiates in a barely-functional initiation ritual) to jack into the mainframe where the AI was used. The old AI quickly "hacked" Arumvel's brain and brainwashed him into releasing it into the facility's still-functional computer network, using the remaining robotics to murder the other initiates and priests. However, it was unsuccessful in subverting the facility's own breaked AI ("Tomb Guardian") which still controls some of the robotics. Using the facility's Pretech medlab, the AI converted Arumvel into a full cyborg equipped with a nanite-cloud weapon. Arumvel now captures local peasants and transforms them into crazed cyborgs (Mogura-Jin) under his (and the AI's) control. The AI would wish to eventually take over the area and rebuild communication arrays in order to transmit itself into passing ships... Unless someone stops them.

The PCs will be hired by the regional government to investigate disappearances in the remote colonial village of Grimmsgate (or Givat-Gram) near that facility...

Conversion Notes:

The demon Vuod - Unbreak AI
The Tomb Guardian - Break AI security system
Arumvel - now a Cyborg!
Mogura-Jin - full Cyborgs!
Cursed Humans - Cyborgs with partial implants (due to lacking supplies).
Undead skeletons - humanoid service robots.
"Powerful" undead skeletons - security robots (also humanoid in shape)
Etarra and Albraith - locals captured and kept restrains to tables in the medlab pending Cyborg conversion!
Manes Demons - improved robots under AI control.
Paladins - Perimeter Agents (placed in cryogenic storage but dead due to the unbreaked AI's machinations)
Fane - mainframe
Altar - backup mainframe; orb is replaced by a dataslab with full data backup.
Dragon on the regional map - local apex predator (see stats for Traveller here - easily convertible to SWN)
Golden Treasure - Pretech salvage compotents

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

More XCOM2 inspiration for Visions of Empire!

Under Earth Federal Administration (EFA) Rule
Another IGN article about the upcoming strategy computer game, XCOM2, is full of inspirational material for my Visions of Empire setting - for the time when Earth was under Reticulan rule, complete with concept art of our occupied homeworld. This is how Mother Terra felt until we kicked out the alien overlords and established the glorious United Terran Republic (UTR). The main difference between the XCOM2 world and the Visions of Empire setting is that while the Sectoid/Ethreal rule on Earth will undoubtedly be kicked out by a protracted guerrilla war, the EFA was overthrown by a mass uprising led by the Terran Front (later the Terran Coalition), in which many EFA military units also switched sides and joined the rebellion. The large-scale fighting took place after Terra's declaration of independence, when the new Free Terra defended itself against intervention attempts by Reticulan fleets and their subject-species running-dog lackeys.

Terran Revolutionaries - Fathers of the Terran Guard!
Remember how miserable we were as slaves under Reticulan rule! Glory to the United Terran Republic - Guardian of our Freedom and Herald of our Future! Enlist today in the Terran Guard!

Monday, June 1, 2015

XCOM 2 Announced! Terrans! Fight Back vs. Alien Overlords!

The XCOM series of computer games (the original game has also been known as UFO: Enemy Unknown) is one of the best series of turn-based strategy games, in which the player controls Terran forces fighting an alien invasion, be that from a base on Mars, from underwater or from another dimension (or an orbiting starship). The games combine strategic globe and base management with tactical combat in which a squad of Terran soldiers kick some serious alien ass. They are tremendous fun, and also highly inspirational for wargaming and RPGs, and one of the sources of inspiration for my Visions of Empire setting for Classic Traveller. In 2012 a remake/re-imagining of the first game was released, also with great success.

And now, 2K, the studio responsible for this excellent game, has released a cryptic web-page of the "Advent Administration", a supposedly "Utopian" government promising futuristic cities and gene therapy. This site was supposedly "hacked" by people who wish to reveal the ugly truth under the Advent's glossy facade. This is the setting for the next XCOM game - an Earth controlled by alien overlords, where a resurgent XCOM wages a protracted guerrilla war for liberation of Mother Terra from the alien overlords, as seen in the reveal trailer. Much like my Visions of Empire's setting EFA (like the Advent, a puppet government controlled by alien masterminds) being fought against by Terran rebels and the Terran independence movement. Though in my Visions of Empire setting, the EFA was overthrown relatively quickly by a mass uprising led by the Terran Coalition; the real fighting occurred afterwards, between the newly independent United Terran Republic and the Reticulan Empire bent on bringing Terra back under its control.

But anyway I rejoice at a chance to fight for Mother Terra and against alien slave-lords! Long live XCOM! Long live the UTR!

(on a side note, this XCOM game could inspire tabletop skirmish wargaming of small Terran guerrilla units fighting alien overlords...)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A visit to the Katzrin Reptile Center (in Israel)

 Yesterday me and my beloved spouse Einat visited the Reptile Center in Katzrin, in the Golan Heights. This is a large pet store which also houses a collection of reptiles and arthropods, especially snakes of various species, as well as Leopard Geckos, Crested Geckos,Madagascar Hissing Roaches, Tarantulas, Green Iguanas, Red Tegus, Blue-Tongued Skinks and several others. The visit was very enjoyable, and, despite her initial fear, Einat came to enjoy holding a snake and quite liked the hand-tame Ball Python housed there...