Friday, November 29, 2013

From the Writings of Chairwoman Ameena Miran of the Liberated Worlds, 3198AD

Flag of the Liberated Worlds
(In-setting text, written from the perspective of the charismatic and highly popular ruler of the Liberated Worlds, a polity in my Stars Without Number setting, Alkonost Sector).

"I can already hear you, my future critics, sharpening your pens, growing fat in your soft couches of whatever comfortable future you will live in, pouring out tons of bleeding-heart arguments against my work, against my dream, against what I had to do.

But I do not live in that hypothetical prosperous, peaceful future; I live here, in the thirty-second century by the outdated Terran calendar. Imagine yourself for one, my future critics, in these times, in my place.

Have you ever been forced to choose to which cryo-compartment to divert the remaining power of a failing starship, knowing that whatever you do, half of the cryo-passengers would die, and all you could do is choose who lives, and who dies?

Have you ever found yourself ordering your ships to fire on a fleet of large civilian transports carrying refugees from Sicarii, knowing that if you will spare the refugees, you will most likely be infiltrated the deadly AI Core hiding in the transports' computers?

Have you ever faced, as an administrator, a massive, world-wide food shortage? Have you ever faced hoarding, speculation and black-marketeering of the few remaining food supplies, knowing that these hoarders, speculators and black-market men are profiting over the very lifeblood of untold masses? Could you imagine yourself sticking to the usual, long-drawn democratic procedure of investigation and trial of these criminals when the masses starve? I used force; I used what you'd call Draconian methods. But the speculators were dead in short order, and the masses were fed.

Have you ever faced the pressing and urgent military need to eliminate the command centre for one of your bitter enemies when the only thing you had in your disposal was a small raiding force only capable of a single hit-and-run attack, alongside with some foreign support? I used nuclear weapons against  the world of Sicarii, a planet which also had a large civilian population. But otherwise the Machines would have done worse things to my people.

How do you think it feels to fight all your life for the right of the masses to freely elect their leaders, and then suspend the elections because you are fighting a desperate war on at least two fronts, are facing shortages of almost every possible crucial resource, and know for certain that traitors and spies lurk beneath every stone in your territory, and thus your polity simply doesn't have the time and resources for the complex process of world-wide elections?

How do you think it feels to lie in your bed at 5:00 AM local time, after a sleepless night, scared of what the next day will bring, scared of what you will have to do, and then get up because you know that there are so many things that have to be done?

I have killed people. I have used what you can call tyrannical methods. So much blood is on my hands. But the most important thing, my motherworld of Laana, survives as a single flame of hope against the night of decay and barbarism. I did what I did because there was no other choice. The people have voted me into the office of Chairwoman, they have entrusted me with the task of coordinating their fight for survival against the forces of the encroaching night. But I had so little time, so few resources, to do the job with which I have been entrusted. I had no other choice.

Why don't you leave me alone to roll over in my grave in my eternal agony over my own choices, and go instead to investigate the leaders of the late Terran Mandate? Why don't you point your sharpened pens of scholarly criticism at those leaders who had almost unimaginable power at their hands, who ruled over so many sectors of space, who lived in a well-fed era of peace, who had all the potential to peacefully and gently solve the problems of their time, yet trusted their future in machines rather than in people? And for what? To die among the burning ruins of their Imperium?

In 3190, the Assembly tried to put a motion to build statues of me and place them in every major city of Laana and the newly-liberated Sicarii. I used my power of veto to prevent this stupidity from being carried out. As long as the Liberated Worlds exist, it is a living monument for me and for my work, making any statute utterly unnecessary. If the Liberated Worlds will fall, what use would be shattered statutes of a woman who's dreams were all shattered?

When I die, bury me in the radioactive mass-graves of Sicarii along with my victims; do not build any mausoleum or monument for me; do not attempt to preserve my body after my death. Remember me by carrying on my work, by ensuring the survival of the Liberated Worlds, by spreading the light our Liberation further into the night.

And, to all of you who will end up leading your people, know that such leadership will bring you to betray the things you hold most dear, but also know that if you truly belief in these things you will have to take the position of leadership. I only hope for you that in your time the material conditions will allow you to betray your ideals less, to use more truly democratic methods to push your dream forward.

Unifying my Blogs

Flag of the Alkonost Republic
I have decided to unify two of my blogs - Alkonost Rising and this Space Cockroach's Hideout. So I'll post future Alkonost material here piecemeal. What is the Alkonost Sector?

The Alkonost Sector is an area of space set in the Stars Without Number universe, which is home to 26 worlds and 4 polities. While the “lower” half of the sector is relatively well-developed and engaged in inter-polity wars, the “upper” half is relatively backwards and primitive – and up for grabs for whomever could overcome its dangers. In addition to Humans, one alien races is present – the insectoid Zuziik, as well as the sentient (and Unbraked) AI Cores of the Incunablis Machine Empire.

This area of space is rife with conflict and intrigue and has a long and bloody history. Therefore, opportunity for adventure abound. Just to name a few, there are civil wars on Ashera and Chemosh, a cold war between the Liberated Worlds, the Incunablis Machine Empire and the Kedeshian State, conspiracies within the Restored Alkonost Republic, roving Inheritor merchant-pirates, industrial strife on Svarog, TL5+ artefacts amongst the ruins of Ashtoreth, Witch-queens on Baba Yaga, tribal strife on Zariya – and many more.

Once each chunk of Alkonost proper would be ready, it will be published either on my Infinite Stars fanzine/blog or commercially.

Speaking of commercial material, will you be willing to buy Alkonost (i.e. a third-party sector for Stars Without Number) material for a reasonable sum? I have Kevin Crawford's (SWN's creator) permission to do this, but will publish it for money only if there will be a demand for it. The reason I'm asking is that a commercial product would mean being able to hire an artist or two for some serious art; otherwise, I'll publish it for free on my Infinite Stars fanzine, HOWEVER this will be with much less art and a much simpler layout. What do you think?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

ACKS: Deep Ones



"I think their predominant colour was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked ... They were the blasphemous fish-frogs of the nameless design - living and horrible."
- H.P. Lovecraft, "The Shadow Over Insmouth"




The Deep Ones are a race of aquatic monstrosities, part fish, part frog and part man, who have inhabited the oceans around Kanahu for aeons. They battled the Serpentmen for dominance; vied for control with the mysterious Visitors; and were the targets of numerous holy wars by the Lizardmen followers of Lawful Ixchala. And yet, they remain; dwelling under the waves in their magnificent, if terrible, reef cities, where they pay tribute to their father-god, Dagon, as well as to their over-god, K'tulu.

The Deep Ones are not content with living underwater, however. In service of their Chaotic masters, they seek to infiltrate coastal communities, intermixing with the local Human population, and tainting the blood of Men with their terrible curse. Indeed, the old, deposed nobility of Harat, mostly chased from their mansions and seaside castles by Hardun's Army of the Free, were, and still are, hybrids of Men and Deep Ones. This racial template represents these hybrids, who continually devolve from humanity to aquatic monstrosities.

A Hybrid is a 0 level Human tainted with Deep One blood; in addition to its abilities noted above, he may hold his breath for up to 1 turn (10 minutes), and sometimes uses this ability to ambush unsuspecting prey who wander near murky water. Without close inspection, however, Hybrids may pass for normal, if ugly, Humans, and they may use this fact to lure unsuspecting victims to their seaside villages, and even to stay at their inns, and then capture them and sacrifice them to their dread god K'tulu. They usually wear unkempt leather armour and fight using spears, tridents, hand axes and daggers. Each Hybrid gang is led by a ringleader with AC4, 1HD and 1d4+4 hit points. Each Warband is led by a war-chief with AC5, 1+1 HD, 1d4+5 hit points and +1 to damage and to hit due to greater strength. A Deep One Hybrid village will be led by a headman with AC 6, 3 HD and +2 to damage to to-hit from Strength; as long as he is alive, his cohorts will gain a +2 bonus to Morale; in addition, there will be a minor Priest of Dagon in each village, with AC 5, 3 HD, and spellcasting as a level 3 Cleric.

A full Deep One is a monstrosity combining the features of a man, a frog and a fish. It may breath freely both under and above water, has Infravision and is immune to disease and ageing. Deep Ones have thick scales protecting their bodies and attack with their claws and teeth. Each Deep One gang is led by a champion with AC 8, 4HD and +1 bonus to both attacks and damage from Strength. Each Warband is led by a war-chief with AC 8, 6 HD and +2 to to-hit and damage rolls due to his massive strength. A Deep One village is led by a prince with AC9, 8 HD, and +2 to damage to to-hit from Strength; as long as he is alive, his cohorts will gain a +1 bonus to Morale; in addition, there will be a Priest of Dagon in each Deep One village, with AC 8, 7 HD, and spellcasting as a level 7 Cleric.

ACKS: Deep One Hybrid Racial Template


"I think their predominant colour was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked ... They were the blasphemous fish-frogs of the nameless design - living and horrible."

- H.P. Lovecraft, "The Shadow Over Insmouth"


The Deep Ones are a race of aquatic monstrosities, part fish, part frog and part man, who have inhabited the oceans around Kanahu for aeons. They battled the Serpentmen for dominance; vied for control with the mysterious Visitors; and were the targets of numerous holy wars by the Lizardmen followers of Lawful Ixchala. And yet, they remain; dwelling under the waves in their magnificent, if terrible, reef cities, where they pay tribute to their father-god, Dagon, as well as to their over-god, K'tulu.

The Deep Ones are not content with living underwater, however. In service of their Chaotic masters, they seek to infiltrate coastal communities, intermixing with the local Human population, and tainting the blood of Men with their terrible curse. Indeed, the old, deposed nobility of Harat, mostly chased from their mansions and seaside castles by Hardun's Army of the Free, were, and still are, hybrids of Men and Deep Ones. This racial template represents these hybrids, who continually devolve from humanity to aquatic monstrosities.

Deep One Hybrid character classes are created using the Deep One Hybrid racial category and experience points. Requirements, class category values, hit points per level after 9th, and experience point progressions are modified as noted below.
Requirements:
All Deep One Hybrid classes require a minimum Strength, Constitution and Wisdom of 9 or better. They must also be Chaotic, or, in rare instances (subject to the Judge's approval), Neutral, and never Lawful.

Class category Values:
Divine: Any build points allocated to the Divine Value stack with build points allocated to the Deep One Hybrid value for purposes of determining the class’s spellcasting ability (see below).

Deep One Hybrid 0 (XP Cost 250): at Deep One Hybrid 0, the class will have the following four custom powers:
  • Swimming: The character gains a swimming movement rate of 120' per turn. The character may hold his breath for 1 Turn (10 minutes).
  • Tainted Blood: The character is, since early adulthood, somewhat deformed, displaying some Deep One traits. Even to those who do not know what these tell-tale signs mean, the character will look ugly and unworldly, granting him or her a -2 penalty to Reaction.  However, most sentient Chaotic monsters will recognize the character's true nature and react favourably towards him or her, granting a +2 bonus to Reaction. 0
  • Into the Sea: If and when they complete their transformation into full Deep Ones, the Hybrids retain their class abilities and may continue to level and grow in HD and in power. This works similarly to the Sakkaran (Zaharan) Ruinguard's After the Flesh power. The character can be continued to play as a Deep One. A full Deep One has HD as the character has class levels, retains all class abilities and spellcasting, may breath both under and above the water indefinitely, is immune to disease and to further ageing, has Infravision and may attack with its claws for 1d4-1 damage each, in addition to all other powers. However, Deep Ones suffer a -4 Reaction penalty from all Neutral or Lawful mortals, but enjoy a +4 Reaction bonus from all Chaotic beings.

Deep One Hybrid 1 (XP Cost 500): Deep One Hybrid 0 + Divine 1

Deep One Hybrid 2 (XP Cost 750): Deep One Hybrid 0 + Divine 2

Deep One Hybrid 3 (XP Cost 1,250): Deep One Hybrid 0 + Divine 3 

Deep One Hybrid 4 (XP Cost 2,250): Deep One Hybrid 0 + Divine 4

Experience Point Progression After 8th Level
Deep One Hybrids increase the amount of experience required to gain each level after 8th by 40,000XP.

ACKS: Darkmantle




The many-tentacled octopoid Darkmantle hangs from a ceiling by a muscular "foot" at the top of its body. It can look like a stalactite, by holding its tentacles stiffly under itself, or like a lump of rock, spreading its tentacles so the membrane between them covers its body. Its shell and skin usually resemble limestone, but a darkmantle can change its color to match almost any type of stony background, and thus may surprise opponents on a roll of 4- (rather than 2-) on 1d6.  A Darkmantle is about 4 feet long from the tips of its tentacles to the top of its head. It weighs about 30 pounds.



In addition to its camouflage and surprise abilities, the Darkmantle has several unique abilities, making it an effective ambush predator in a subterranean environment. First, once a day, it may cast Darkness, as per the spell, as if cast by a level 5 Mage. Also, on a successful hit on an enemy with its slam attack, the Darkmantle constricts its victim for an additional 1d4+1 points of damage. The constriction continues on subsequent rounds. The hold may be broken on a roll of 1 on 1d6 (add the victim’s Strength bonus to the range, so a Strength of 16 would result in a range of 1-3 on 1d6); breaking the hold takes a full round. Finally, the Darkmantle may "see" in pitch darkness using echolocation, up to 90'; however, as it uses high-frequency sounds to locate its prey, a Silence spell effectively blinds the creature.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tomorrow's War Flags

I haven't posted wargaming-related stuff in a while; but here are two flags for Tomorrow's War, of the New Soviet Federation (NSF) and Imperial Russia.

The NSF flag is RED, the proletarian colour, with the big star in the centre symbolizing their capital-world of Novaya Moskva, and the three smaller stars symbolizing their colonies of Gorky, Kirov and Novi Stalingrad:


The Imperial Flag is the traditional Russian tricolour, with teh old Imperial Coat of Arms in its centre:


ACKS: Crayman



Craymen are hideous humanoid crayfish, standing 5'6'' upright and sporting sharp pincers instead of hands. They have a yellowish-brown chitin exoskeleton, and two red eyes on top of long eyestalks emanating from their hammer-shaped heads. Completely amphibious, a Crayman may live indefinitely on land or underwater. Craymen have a rudimentary intelligence and a primitive social structure, and communicate with each other using a series of inhuman clicks. They have the equivalent of Infravision, which works underwater as well. Craymen eat all kinds of watery life such as crabs, fish, crayfish and squid, as well as algae, but crave the taste of landlubber flesh, and, in addition, sacrifice any captives to their dread lord, K'tulu.

ACKS: Coatl



The mighty Coatl is a servant and emissary of Ixchala, the Lawful goddess of Lizardmen. This feathered serpent – actually, a feathered and winged cross between a serpent and a monitor lizard – is 12 feet long, with a wing-span of 15 feet. It vibrates in a rainbow of brilliant colours as it flies through the clouds. For Lawful Lizardmen, this is a harbinger of good luck and hope. For the Serpentmen of old, however, this was the harbinger of their destruction by Ixchala's righteous wrath. Highly intelligent and imbued by virtue, the Coatl seeks to protect the innocents and the cause of Law – of Lizardman civilization – and to punish the followers of Chaos.

A Couatl uses its ESP ability on any creature that arouses its suspicions. Since it is highly intelligent, a Couatl usually casts spells from a distance before closing. If more than one Couatl is involved, they discuss their strategy before a battle. Coatls may constrict their foes with their long, serpentine body - on a successful hit on an enemy, the Coatl constricts its victim for an additional 2d8+6 points of damage. The constriction continues on subsequent rounds. The hold may be broken on a roll of 1 on 1d6 (add the victim’s Strength bonus to the range, so a Strength of 16 would result in a range of 1-3 on 1d6); breaking the hold takes a full round. Furthermore, any creature bitten by a Coatl must save vs. Poison or die in 1d6 rounds from its potent venom.

Coatls are imbued by Ixchala with potent mental and magical powers. At will, a Coatl may use Detect Evil, Detect Good, ESP, Invisibility and Dimension Door, and may communicate with any sentient creature telepathically regardless of language barriers. It may also casts spells as a level 9 Cleric. Finally, a Coatl may polymorph at will to the shape of any Lizardman-sized humanoid.