Monday, September 28, 2015

Mars has liquid, flowing water!

NASA has just discovered liquid water flowing on Mars! Granted, the water flows seasonally, in the (relatively) warm summer, and thanks to the high saline content of the Martian soil, it does not freeze or boil as readily as it would otherwise, but this is still - flowing liquid water on Mars! This is the astronomy discovery of the decade, for the very late, and it will doubtlessly keep a good number of scientists busy for a while. This also means that there are greater chances for native (bacterial) life than anticipated. And it also means that terraformation might be more readily possibly - if still monstrously costly - than believed in the past. In any case, a monumental discovery in our solar system!

Now, in Traveller terms, it would probably be UWP X411000-0 right now, hopefully within a generation or two D411220-8 with a good scientific colony! And in my Visions of Empire setting, by 2260 AD, it would be a major colony undergoing terraformation - B433942-D...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Trying to fight and forge ahead despite setbacks

It ain't easy being me. Between PTSD and depression, both of which originate from very bad things I underwent in my childhood, life is a struggle. I struggle to stay alive; I struggle to do something meaningful with my life despite the black pain which returns and floods me once and again like a dark wave. But I fight. I have no other option. I do far less than I would like to, I have so many great ideas but only a little of them get realized as sometimes my free time is taken over by dark thoughts and darker crying.

But I am trying to fight ahead! Despite all this pain, I am trying to do something with my life. Gaming gives me joy; writing gives me a purpose in life and a reason to live. The other reason I have to live is my spouse, Einat Harari, and my mother, Sarah "Suri" Golan. I live for them, and I live to write. And I am fighting. The struggle is difficult, and other than the support of my spouse and mother, and a few close friends to whom I reveal my inner darkness, and some mild sedatives, there is no outside support. I have to fight on by myself. And I will continue to fight as long I am alive, hopefully for many years.

My next goal is to finally finish the draft for Barbarian Conqueror King. Once BCK is finished, I am going to work on Visions of Empire as a commercial setting for the next edition of Mongoose Traveller (I will start writing it only AFTER BCK is done). All the meanwhile I will continue to run my bi-weekly BCK campaign using D&D5E/ACKS hybrid rules (there might be some conversion notes ready after I finish writing the draft).

I will fight! I will never give up to darkness! I will forge ahead no matter the pain!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Re-focusing Visions of Empire

Some thoughts about re-focusing my Visions of Empire setting

The "core" alien species I really like and who always enter my ideas, plot and parts of this setting are only three (apart from us Terrans, that is) - the Reticulans, the Cicek and the Zhuzz. The rest are far less central to the setting concept, even the Chuwak. One idea I had was to keep only these (and maybe the Chuwak as the Reticulans' arch-enemies) as the Major Races and relegate the rest - Fanja-Kanja, Ssellassians, Phnunk, Klaxx and so on - to the status of "Minor" Races with a few planets each (usually just the homeworld and the occasional off-world individual or colony). The map can also be changed so that the "interesting" space would be the Terran "quarter" (or quadrant) of the map showing Terra, many Terran colonies, the Reticulans, Cicek and Zhuzz; the Reticulan Empire (and later Technate) would mostly exist off-map, as well as most of the Minor Races. This will help the setting get an important focus.

The main two ideas about minor races I have with this are for the Sselessians and the Fanja-Kanja. The Sselessian homeworld was glassed by the Reticulans a long time ago when they dared revolt against the Empire. They were then forced to become nomads, and slave-fighters for the Empire. The Terrans of course capitalized on this during the Terran Liberation War and claimed openly that they were fighting to liberate the Sselessians (among others) from Reticulan slavery. And indeed, at the war's end, the dissident Sselessians (the ones who supported the Terrans and fought for them) got a homeworld and their own "independent polity" (with Terran advisers, of course) on a few worlds conquered from the Reticulans. The Fanja-Kanja, on the other hand, do have a homeworld, but no 'proper' polity - but on the other hand they are common everywhere as merchants, and are allowed to roam freely by the Reticulans. Reticulan propagandists always show them as an example for how conductive the Empire is to people who stay peaceful and cooperate with it.

There were at least two polities (that is, Terran client-states) formed by Terran victory - the Sselessian new homeworld and the Reticulan Technate. Of course the Cicek had a new 'government' as well, but as all things Cicek go, it was very loose, and not really controlled by the Terrans (or by anyone else, even the Cicek themselves; it isn't easy herding anarchistic tribal warrior-lizards into a cohesive political structure, after all).

The bottom line: let's focus on what's relevant to the setting core, i.e. Terran space. At its heart, Visions of Empire is always about Terrans, and their interactions and relations with aliens. What goes about, for example, on the other side of Reticulan space, and their long war with the Chuwak Holy Dominion, is another story for another time, part of the background, but not the main story here.

So I was thinking about a quadrant worth of space, 2 x 2 subsectors in size, with Mother Terra at its center or close to its center (this map would actually be easy to make from my old map using Paint.NET). Reticulan space is on the Trailing-Rimward part of this, Cicek on the Rimward, and Zhuzh on the Trailing. Terran Space is open to a frontier on the Coreward and Spinward. Alien space extends far beyond the borders of this area, and might eventually get a dot-map, but is not "core" to the story at hand.

Terran Quadrant Starmap:

For the full-res starmap, GO HERE.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Visions of Empire - Map Updates - Now with Borders!

I've made some progress (while mainly working on Barbarian Conqueror King and translation contracts) on the starmaps for my Visions of Empire setting for Classic Traveller, including political borders.

First is a political overview map for 2232, right before the Terran Liberation War; back then, all peripheral polities on the map are client-states of the mighty Reticulan Empire.

Second is a political overview map for 2261 - 3 years after the Terran and Cicek victory in the Terran Liberation War.

Third is the full starmap, now with 2261 borders. Notice how the Cicek (allied with the Terrans) managed to grab up Reticulan territory and how the UTR conquered much Reticulan and Sselessian space and colonized several worlds both in its war-time resource-rush and in an attempt to secure the Cicek Run (wartime supply route between the two powers.

All polities other than the Terran and the Cicek are still Reticulan client-states.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Can you get more kickass than this?

Helly Luv, a Kurdish pop-star born in Iran and raised in Finland, filmed this moving music video praising the Kurdish fighters who are kicking ISIS ass. But not only that - she filmed it no more than 3 kilometers from the ISIS lines, in Kurdistan, with the participation of actual Kurdish fighters and civilians. She even took her turn firing a tank cannon on ISIS scumbags. Can you get more kickass than that?

Visions of Empire "Dot Map" Ready!

Here is the whole sector "Dot Map" for my Visions of Empire setting for Classic Traveller which I'll use to plan out the astrography.

Blue worlds have liquid surface water.

Grey worlds lack surface liquid water.

Purple worlds have non-water surface liquids.

White caps indicate surface water ice and no significant surface water.

Multiple dots denote an asteroid belt main-world.

Starburst is a star system with no significant bodies or asteroid belts (typically bright stars).

A black dot on the upper right side of the hex denotes the presence of local gas giants.

Most system locations were "flattened" from real-life astrography; some (the ones without names) were hand-generated and handwaved to represent worlds orbiting hypothetical dim stars we haven't detected yet as per 2015.

Dataset was similar to what I used to generate the Outer Veil map, but I did make significant changes to this map.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Traveller Book 2 Expansion part #1 - additional fittings

Traveller Book 2 is my favorite ship-design system for Classic Traveller, or for any edition of Traveller for that matter - simple, elegant and interesting, especially if you add in the computer and software rules which allow you to trick out your ship to a great degree. The main charm of this system comes from two things - the great customability of the ships with its Lego-type plug-and-play construction method, and its end result - an entire starship described in one paragraph of plain English. Another strength was that of the small-ship universe which keeps ships at the player character scale of things. Later Traveller ship-design rules, while adding many more options and much bigger ships, also make the design process as well as the result much less elegant.

However, the LBB2 rules do have several weaknesses, such as a very limited list of potential ship fittings, as well as a combat system which gets cloged when too many turrents are firing at once. Another weakness is that there is no way to load a ship with significant munitions other than filling it with fighters, as there are no military weapons heavier than what is available to civilian turrents in Book 2. In a later post I'll detail the (slightly) variant ship combat and weapon rules. An excellent source of inspiration for those could be found in TBread1999's excellent Book 2 House Rule Thread on the Citizens of the Imperium boards.

So here I'll post a short series of articles about simple expansions to the Book 2 design process. The main design principle of these articles is that they shouldn't invalidate any design created by the standard Book 2 design process and that the main KISS spirit of Book 2 should be preserved. This first installment presents several non-weapon ship fittings for your use in Book 2 ship designs; all are ready to drop into any Book 2 design with as little additional rules as possible.

Factory (TL7): A shipboard factory usually produced one product or a series of related products; the types and amounts of raw materials needed for production are left for the referee's discretion. A astandard factory module requires 10 workers, displaces 100 dtons and costs MCr50. At TL9+ the worker requirement is reduced to 5 and at TL13+ to 1 - a single operator of the now-automated factory.

Partial Hydroponics (TL8) displace 2 tons and cost MCr0.25 per person they support. This kind of hydroponic gardens include a limited variety of plant life and usually serve as both decorative-recreational facilities and a source for fresh fruit, vegetables and spices. they also assist the life support system by producing some foodstuffs as well as helping recycle air and water; the monthly life support costs of any person supported by Partial Hydroponics is reduced by 50%. Partial Hydroponics require 2kg of additional nutrients, seeds and spare parts (costing Cr300) per month per person they supports. 

Full Hydroponics (TL8), which are full-scale closed-circuit shipboard biospheres, displace 4 tons and cost MCr1 per person they supports. They include a diverse selection of organisms ranging from bacteria and yeast to higher plants and animals, and are capable of providing all the life support and food requirements of any person supported by them; such persons do not have to pay any monthly life-support costs at all. Full Hydroponics require 1kg of nutrient replacements and spare parts (costing Cr200) per month per person they supports.

Laboratory (TL7): a basic laboratory space has no significant cost and any tonnage available may be assigned to it. However, laboratory equipment is expensive, from MCr0.025 per ton for very basic facilities up to MCr1 or even MCr2 per ton for advanced reasearch tools.

Mass Driver (TL8): a large magnetic rail-launcher designed for slinging cargoes over interplanetary distances. A mass driver is too slow and inaccurate to be used in ship combat, but may be used to bombard planets. A mass driver requires a crew of four, displaces 25 dtons, and costs MCr26.

Ore Refinery (TL8): a refinery capable of processing most compounds found in planetoids into semi-refined raw materials which can easily be shipped to other locations. It requires 1 worker, and costs MCr6 per 10 tons of refinery size.

Shipboard Hospital (TL8):  while any starship has a fully-functional medlab subsumed in its stateroom tonnage which is enough for most emergency operations (and counts as a "medical facility" for healing wounds), a full-scale hospital can treat less common afflictions and perform particularly complex operations. A hospital module displaces 8 tons,  costs MCr5 and houses up to two patients with complete life support facilities. Each additional patient capacity adds 2 tons and MCr0.5. It is a fully-fledged hospital, complete with laboratories and extensive imaging systems, allowing complex medical procedures such as cybernetic implantation and giving a +2 DM to all medical tasks. A Shipboard Hospital requires one doctor per 8 patients (or a fraction thereof) and one nurse or medical technician per 4 patients (or a fraction thereof).

Workshop (TL7): A small workshop capable of fabricating several kinds of spare parts and repairing equipment. Its exact capabilities and raw material requirements are left for the referee's discretion. A workshop requires one skilled worker and costs MCr5 per 10 tons of workshop space.