Saturday, December 15, 2018

Dark Nebula 2900 AD - The Last Ship from Terra

The last ship from Terra arrived in 2780. A battered merchantman, bearing the telltale marks of laser fire and missile impacts, haphazardly held together by crude frontier repairs. Its hardy crew embarked from Terra in 2762 and slowly traded their way to the Spinward. There they hoped to reach stars less affected by the general collapse of the Rule of Man. Indeed, they found Maadin - with its still-functional economy, cut off from the collapsing 2nd Imperium.

They brought tales of untold horrors closer to the core. Interdependence between well-developed worlds caused mass famine once trade relations broke down. Entire worlds, inhospitable to maintain human life without external shipment of spare parts and supplies died even faster. In the absence of government, pirates and raiders ruled space. Slavery reared its ugly head. World turned upon world in a scramble for dwindling resources. Worlds blamed each other for piracy - in some cases with good reason - and waged wars, destroying their already meager fleets and making way to piracy even further.

The Rule of Man was gone, replaced by Chaos. The merchantman's crew spoke of a dark Night descending upon once-prosperous space. How long will this Night be? Probably very long - as the wounds suffered by Known Space economies will take many decades, or even centuries, to heal. Will anyone ever replace the fallen Imperium with a government of Law and commerce? From the crew's description of dying Imperial-Terran space, this sounded improbably in the foreseeable future.

Regular communications with New Libdis, the titular Dark Nebula Sector Capital, have been intermittent as well, through free traders and the occasional Scout craft. Courier services had collapsed decades ago. Despite the growing Aslan threat, New Libdis has no ships to spare. Neither does it have resources or funds to send to Maadin.

The Rule of Man was dead.

We were on our own.

But it took that battered Terran freighter for us to understand this.

- Klara Semonova (2887). History of the Maadin Confederation, p.12. Confederation Historical Society: Maadin.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Dark Nebula 2900 AD - Ships and Technology


Following my continued interest in the Dark Nebula OTU variant, I was thinking about the setting's technological and space groundwork.

Highest sustainable technology for both Aslan and (local) Solomani is TL11. The Rule of Man reached TL12, but Maadin and Mechane - the most advanced local human worlds - were frontier colonies. Once cut off due to the 2nd Imperium's collapse, they were left to their own devices and had to rely on the less advanced local frontier manufacturing capacities. There is TL12 gear around - but is decades old. The reason I lowered sustainable technology is mainly to make space "topography" matter - at J-2, there are far more "choke points" which you have to pass to reach your enemy, and the Dark Nebula offers such a route as well. At TL12, with J-3, everything becomes easier, too easy in fact, and "topography" matters far less. Without the Dark Nebula, there is only a single J-2 route between the prospective belligerents, so control of the Nebula will allow circumventing defenses and choke-points.

Of course, the Dark Nebula has TL12+ artifacts, sometimes reaching up to TL16. Most in working order as subjective time in the Nebula during its "jump" was quite short. Exploring the nebula is key for rapid technological development, which, in turn, is key for victory in the upcoming wars.

This will probably be a "quasi-small-ship" universe. The Dark Nebula board-game calls for large ships, such as transports capable of carrying an entire ground forces division. However, their number is sharply limited by local production capacities. I will probably use Trillion Credits Squadron for the main combatants. However, apart from the major combatants (quite few in number - you get 40 RUs to start with and a Strike Cruiser costs 10 RUs, for example), everything is below 5000 tons and can use The Traveller Book/Starter Traveller rules. I will check TCS for more details later, but again - no huge fleets of tens of multi-kdton battlecruisers here.

I might use either High Guard or "Expanded" Book 2 for the bigger ships; the "Expansion" allows ships of up to 12,000 tons by logically extending the Book 2 drive table. If this will be sufficient for transporting an armored brigade or an infantry division - I will use this. Otherwise - I will use High Guard.

I'm using High Guard jump drive TLs in this setting: J-1 at TL9-10, J-2 at TL11, and J-3 at TL12.

There are no empty-hex jumps in this setting, again - to maintain space "topography". Also, no "Jump Torpedoes".

Otherwise, expect standard Traveller technology peaking at TL11 outside the Nebula (and up to TL16 inside it) - grav/cars, grav-tanks, fusion reactors small enough to power a vehicle but not compact enough to power personal plasma weapons. Cybernetics exist outside the Nebula but are uncommon; inside the Nebula you can find cyborgs and all sorts of cybertechnology. No AIs or sentient robots outside the Nebula, but one fully sentient (and mad) AI ruling at least one world inside the Dark Nebula itself.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Dark Nebula 2900 AD



I've written much about the Dark Nebula, both in 2014 and in 2018. However, this setting evolved in the meantime, and it is high time to present a coherent, consolidated setting overview. I have also made some changes to the setting, reflected below.

Real-world work constrains permitting, I will continue developing this setting on this blog in the following days and weeks for your enjoyment and for my own (prospective) Solo game.

The Long Night has Come.

The Ziru Sirka, mighty empire of Mankind, ruled the stars for millennia. Suffocated by bureaucracy and drowned in a quagmire of bureaucracy, this magnificent culture was rotten at its heart. Its Terran conquerors, despite their heroic efforts, could not save it from its inevitable doom. Thus the Rule of Man - a bright light among the dark stars - fell into oblivion. Many worlds died in isolation. Others fell prey to raiders, pirates, and slavers. Chaos reigned.

This is the darkest hour of Humanity.

The year is 2900 AD - later generations will call it -1619 Imperial. The 30th Century has just begun. The Long Night reigns for 157 years. The Rule of Man is no more. But on the frontier, far from the worst parts of the collapse, a new candle flickers in the dark. A candle at Maadin, an old colony of the Second Imperium. With its rise from the ashes of the old empire, it built a confederation of nine worlds - the new Maadin Confederation.

However, a new power arose to challenge the scattered human colonies of the Dark Nebula - a young alien species, proud Aslan. Entering the scene five centuries ago, the slowly rose from their homeworld to a union of several worlds - the Aslan Heir ate. Its Trailing expansion, however, encountered human resistance from the various pocket empires of the day, and thus most of its colonial efforts are to the Spinward. Cold peace endures between humans and Aslan, disturbed by brief periods of warfare.

Now, once more, a war is brewing. The Solomani Confederation of Maadin thirsts for resources while the Aslan thirst for land; slow recovery from the initial collapse means that heavier military forces are once again available.

But as the two polities maneuver in preparation for war, the stars of the Dark Nebula, long absent, have reappeared. Now, they are the key for victory - or possibly the doom of both prospective belligerents.

A Note on Canonicity
Dark Nebula is not canon. I repeat: it is not canon in any way. It is vaguely set in the OTU, but in a variant OTU. Specifically, I use material and even CT adventures in a way suiting this particular version of the setting, sometimes in ways which are very different than those of canon. That is, some adventures set in the Solomani Rim, the Spinward Marches, or Foreven are placed on this Dark Nebula map, and so are a few alien species, locations, and artifacts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Hard Space: Updated Starmap

I have updated the Hard Space map. This reflects my rethinking of the Trading Blocs.

The two veteran players in interstellar colonization are the UN - led by Switzerland, Britain, Russia, and some Asian countries including parts of the devastated China; and the International Commonwealth, which is mostly African and Chinese. The American Federation - where Brazil, Argentina, and the former US hold sway - are latecomers to the interstellar scene. However, they are aggressively expanding into further stars using cutting-edge ships with long-range jump drives.

The default setting is the UN Arm, which is mainly British and Swiss in culture, with some strong elements of Southeast Asian culture as well. The biggest corporations around the UN Arm are the Royal British Interstellar Company (RBIC), the Russo-Chinese Zhang-Markov, and the Swiss biotech giant Sanapharm.



Monday, November 12, 2018

Preview: Cepheus Light - Traits

Our first new supplement for our Cepheus Light rules is Cepheus Light - Traits. This supplement allows further (optional, of course) character customization without over-encumbering the rules or over-powering the characters.

Under these rules, characters gain Traits – focused abilities and areas of training which only partially – if at all – overlap with skills or characteristics. A character has one Trait per 4 total skill levels (rounded up); for example, a character possessing 7 total skill levels will have 2 Traits. If using the optional experience rules in Cepheus Light, character gain new Traits according to their new total skill points; for example, a character raising their total skill points from 8 to 9 gains an additional Trait. 

Any character may choose any Trait they meet the perquisites for. 

Some Traits use a "throw 3D and pick the higher two" mechanic. For example, if you throw three dice and get a roll of 2, 3, and 5, your result will be 8 (3+5), as the 2 is discarded.

The booklet will include 50 Traits.

Below are a few sample Traits:


Assassin 
Perquisite: Melee Combat skill 

The character knows how to hit weak spots in the enemy's armor in melee combat. 

When attacking in melee, if the to-hit throw's Effect is +6 or better, ignore the target's armor.


Latent Psion 
Perquisite: None 


The character has untrained psionic abilities (see Cepheus Light's Appendix A: Aliens and Psionics). 
Untrained, the character has 1 PSI point and one of the following powers: Enhanced Characteristic, Sense, Lift 1 gram, Life Detection, or Blink. The PSI point regenerates after a night's sleep, as usual. Psionic drugs affect the character as usual and allow more frequent use of their powers
  
Actual psionic training allows the character to roll a normal PSI characteristic and additional powers.


Surgeon 
Perquisite: Medicine skill 

The character is a specialized surgeon.
  
When treating a seriously wounded character, the surgeon may throw Medicine 6+ to reduce recovery time from 5D days to 2D days. 

If using the Trauma Surgery rules (available for free from Stellagama Publishing) the surgeon throws 3D and picks the highest two when throwing for such a surgery. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Cepheus Light

Stellagama Publishing is PROUD to present:

CEPHEUS LIGHT

Starships riding fire across the sky. Heroes and villains exchanging laser fire. Desperate spacers struggling against an alien monstrosity. Vast alien vistas, flying cities, moonscapes, mad robots, and first encounters. In short: high-action science-fiction adventure that stimulates your sense of wonder. Cepheus Light puts you in the shoes of an adventurer visiting distant stars and encountering untold alien wonders. Whether you are a seasoned player looking for a rules-light game, or a new gamer wanting to experience what science-fiction role-playing games are all about, Cepheus Light opens your way forward.

Cepheus Light is a set of rules for playing classic science fiction games. It includes rules on creating characters, resolving actions, fighting other creatures, and engaging in space battles, generating worlds, handling the risks of interstellar speculative trading, exploring new worlds, and many other activities. While rules-light and designed for fast, action-packed play rather than an accurate simulation of reality, Cepheus Light encompasses a wide variety of rules and materials for building a science-fiction universe and playing in it.

Cepheus Light draws its inspiration from old-school science-fiction roleplaying games. It shares a lot of similarities with these games. Material from older rules sets and those created with Cepheus Light, the Cepheus Engine Core, and old-school sci-fi roleplaying games are easily compatible with only a moderate amount of adjustment.

The future awaits!


Compatible with the Cepheus Engine System Reference Document and other OGL 2D6 Sci Fi games.

Get it HERE!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Piracy and Privateering

AVAST YE SCURVY DOGS!

Stellagama Publishing proudly presents:

PIRACY AND PRIVATEERING!

Pirates are the scourge of the space-lanes. Cutthroats, bandits, and scum, they are enemies to all humanity. Captured pirates can expect no mercy: only grim justice for their heinous crimes. Despite the risks, this book encourages science fiction roleplayers—Gamemasters and players alike—to embrace their inner space pirate, and set forth to the stars to carve a bloody swath across the galaxy!

Piracy and Privateering is a system-neutral sourcebook to help gamemasters run complete space pirate campaigns. In it, you will find guidelines for setting up a piracy or privateering sandbox campaign. There are fully developed encounter rules for figuring out which poor unfortunate souls have crossed paths with terrible player character pirates. We have also included system-neutral rules for fleshing out encounters with ships, space stations, and other unexpected sources of adventure. There are rules for selling ill-gotten booty, for splitting up crew shares, and for holding privateer courts. We have included examples of the economics of piracy and privateering, as well as sample encounter tables for two systems. There are over a dozen NPCs for GMs to use as pirate crewmembers, merchant captains, or pirate-hunting naval officers. Finally, we’ve included eight adventure seeds to help kick off space piracy and privateering campaigns!

So, strap on your boarding cutlass and laser pistol, raise the black flag, and start a campaign of plunder and riches! After all, haven’t you always wanted to be a space pirate?

Piracy and Privateering is compatible with most game systems, including the Original 2d6 OGL Science Fiction rules, Cepheus Engine, and Stars Without Number.

Get it HERE!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Hard Space rocket engine types

Artwork by Philippe Bouchet AKA "Manchu"
for Robert Heinlein's Time For the Stars
Torchship "Lewis & Clark"
I have decided to make interplanetary travel in Hard Space more nuanced than I have originally thought.

So we now have three types of rocket engines used in this setting:

1) Fusion torches. Used by starships and fast interplanetary ships. Can maintain constant acceleration/deceleration at high G (typically 1-G). Highly destructive exhaust. Ships with fusion torches use chemical thrusters for fine maneuvering (such as docking) where a fusion torch would be too dangerous. Such ships do not land, at least not in most cases but can "dock" with smaller asteroids. Unobtanium (i.e. physically possible but we don't know how to build them yet) but not handwavium (unlike J-Drives).

Note that the fusion torch is not a fusion power plant; in fact, torchships ships carry fission reactors for their energy needs (especially when the rocket is turned off). Controlled, contained fusion reactors are massive planetside affairs, to large and heavy to include in a starship.

2) Closed-cycle gas-core fission rockets ("Nuclear Lightbulbs"). Used by slower interplanetary craft and interface craft not intended for atmospheric use. Much safer than fusion torches while providing significantly better performance and endurance than chemical rockets. Such ships can land on airless worlds if they have a standard - rather than distributed - hull. However, still unsafe to use in an atmosphere due to the risk of radioactive gas leakage in case of accident or combat hits; thus, used for airless worlds where everything is sealed and radiation-shielded anyway. Realistic.

3) Chemical rockets. Used almost exclusively by atmospheric craft, as well as for fine maneuvering on ships with fusion (or even fission?) rockets. Inefficient but safe. Can land anywhere if they have a streamlined hull and can fly like an airplane in an atmosphere if they have a lifting body. Realistic.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Hard Space - Colonial Commerce Commission and Infinite Stars Cooperative

In a previous post, I have detailed the Trading Blocs, the Earthbound polities, of my Hard Space setting. In this post, I'll detail two international and interstellar organizations, the Colonial Commerce Commission (C3) and the Infinite Stars Cooperative (ISC).

Colonial Commerce Commission (C3)
The Interstellar Agreements on Colonial Commerce (IACC), signed in 2072 by the Big Four corporations and the three Trading Blocs. IACC set basic ground rules for extrasolar colonization and commerce, banned overt piracy and claim-jumping, and established the Colonial Commerce Commission (C3). The latter began as an inter-corporation arbitration body but grew to a framework of extrasolar corporate governance. It is not a government, as it does not truly govern individual citizens and holds no armed forces of its own. Rather, C3 is a system operating to serve the common interests of the Big Four and the three Trading Blocks - open commerce, avoidance of overt large-scale warfare, and preservation of the corporate order of things. C3's executive body, the Presidium, holds seven representatives - one from each Big Four megacorporation and one from each Trading Block, giving the corporations, as a group, a majority.

As part of the IACC, to facilitate trade, C3 also issues and regulates the common currency, the Credit, agreed upon and used by all corporations and governments.

Each official colony has a C3 representative, situated in its starport. The representative's job is to ensure compliance with the IACC by local corporations and authorities, handle complaints for such violations, and more than anything else - serve as a neutral mediator and arbitrator in local corporate negotiations and disputes. Getting on the representative's good side is highly useful for travellers, as such an individual and their staff often hold intimate knowledge of local corporate affairs, intrigue, and "job" oppotunities.

Infinite Stars Cooperative (ISC)
Starting as a loose professional association of deep-space explorers during the Second Generation of interstellar colonization, the Infinite Stars Cooperative grew to a tightly-knit quasi-corporation offering survey and courier services. In return for hiring its services rather than those of freelancers, the ISC guarantees professional exploration and secure courier services. Those who join the ISC begin as ISC employees. Those who survive several terms of dangerous exploration - the number changes from case to case - become ISC members and shareholders. Such members may receive their own "detached" scout craft and may operate as autonomous (virtually "independent") ISC agents. However, no one ever truly leaves ISC, and the Cooperative may reactivate a "detached" member at any time, or - more often - give such members special missions on behalf of the Cooperative.

The ISC "encourages" freelance explorers to join it, or at least pay a fee as "honorary members". This allows better job opportunities with the corporations, as well as preferred rescue operations in case of being stranded on the frontier. Rumors of "accidents" happening to non-compliant explorers have never been proven. The same goes to rumors about smuggling operations, and more than anything else - conspiracy theories, common on the internets, claiming that ISC has its own covert operations branch tackling supernatural and technological threats.

ISC also has the primary spacer journal, Infinite Stars*. It manages the Explorers' Society - which is open to non-members as well. This allows investment in the ISC by third parties. You can get into the Society if you pay the initial investment, or when a corporation of government pays for you. You then get the return on your investment in form of starship passage tickets.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Lovecraftian Magic in Traveller and the Cepheus Engine - Initial Thoughts

I am developing my own Lovecraftian magic system for use in Traveller and the Cepheus Engine. This will be especially useful with my Hard Space near-future, near-Earth Lovecraftian setting.

In a nutshell, under this system, anybody can attempt to learn spells by studying Mythos tomes; anybody can attempt to cast any spell. And there are no spell points or "hard" daily "spell slots".


HOWEVER:

  1. Learning spells has a Sanity cost. So does studying the tomes to begin with. Learning also requires an INT throw to successfully learn; failure means you need to repeat studying it, again - with a Sanity cost. The more powerful the spell, the harder the INT throw to learn it.
  1. Spells take time to cast; in many cases, hours. "Combat" spells, which are often weaker, usually take two full combat rounds to cast, and concentration might be broken if the sorcerer received damage while casting the spell.
  1. Spellcasting requires an Occult skill throw. Fail or roll "snake eyes" (there is no automatic success in spellcasting), you'll get the spell's integral "miscast" result. The stronger the spell - the nastier the miscast.
  1. The really powerful spells damage your Sanity on failure and/or on success (Commune with Cthulhu at your own peril!). So you can technically attempt to cast any number of spells a day as you'd like, and a totally clueless layman can try to learn and cast magic (with the usual DM-3 Unskilled Penalty), but the limiting factor is the risk you're taking (a very, very powerful limiting factor), as well as casting time. Cast as many times as you dare and as the casting time allows you - at your own peril!

Yes, this means that even skilled sorcerers will sometimes fail in spellcasting - at least once in every 36 spells (on average - the chance of "snake eyes"). This is H.P. Lovecraft's legacy we're talking about here - not Dungeons & Dragons. Sorcerers do not cast powerful magic casually. They may use weak spells more often, as the risks of failure for them might be bearable, but no no one takes powerful summoning and necromantic magic lightly.

This, of course, leads to all sorts of sorcerous disasters (read: adventures), as - for example - some utterly unskilled fool is just bound to try casting that 6th Circle earth-shattering summoning spell, unleashing something horrid upon the local colony!

The above were just initial thoughts and ramblings. I'll write up a more coherent magic system later on.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Hard Space: the Trading Blocs


So far I have detailed many aspects of my Hard Space setting for Classic Traveller and the Cepheus Engine, from spaceflight to history. Now it is time to detail the political "big picture" - the Trading Blocs. The next blog post will detail the Fig Four corporations, as well as the Colonial Commerce Commission and the Infinite Stars Cooperative.

Following WWIII, nation-states were too discredited and bankrupt to function individually. Furthermore, they had great trouble retaining much of their former territories. To maintain a semblance of governance, they banded together, signing trade agreements and aligning themselves with the rising corporate powers. These supra-national government entities are called Trading Blocs. Each Bloc is an economic entity first and political entity second; the Trading Blocs map to their backing corporations. On Earth, this is a corporate-government partnership. Off-world, the Trading Bloc is little more than a flag of convenience.

United Nations (UN): The original United Nations collapsed with the first shots of WWIII in 2038 and officially disbanded in 2043. However, once the war was over, China, Russia, and India reestablished the UN, at least in name. With backing from the gigantic Zhang-Markov Industries, the UN soon expanded, first to Brazil and South Africa, and later to encompass most of Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of South America. They extended invitations to the (formerly) developed nations of North America and Asia to join them, but it was clear to these nations that the UN is firmly in the hands of their old wartime rivals, and thus they refused, forming their own competing Trading Blocs instead. The UN claims much of the world's territory as its own, as noted above, but only holds tenuous control over much of inland China, Siberia, and the recovering South-East Asian jungles. It also claims the Levant as its own, but holds no power there, despite repeated attempts to force its political will on it.

Today, the UN is the most populous of the three Trading Blocs and holds the most territory. It claims to be a democratic regime with equal standing for each member-nation, but the Shanghai Arcology calls the shots (together with the underground Moscow Arcology and the fortified center of New Delhi), and Zhang-Markov calls the shots in the Shanghai Arcology. In space, the UN holds titular claim over the Coreward arm of the Solar Main, with 23 colonies, 15 of then new; it also holds 3 new outposts to the Trailing of Sol.

American Federation (AF): Rising from the destruction of WWIII, the North and Central American markets  began their slow recovery with the support of Iron Star Enterprises. Refusing to join the Russo-Indo-Chinese-controlled UN, the former United States, Canada, and Mexico joined forces economically. They later absorbed the Greenland, Caribbean states, all of Central America, and parts of South America as well. Power rests in the few central arcologies of Eastern North America, especially the Boston and New York arcoblocks. Behind this power lies Iron Star Enterprises, closely followed by the electronics and cybernetics powerhouse of Federated Robotics. The latter is not one of the Big Four but is very close to being the fifth corporation in line. The AF claims the entire North and Central America, as well as parts of South America, as its own but holds weak control outside the arcoblocks, and no control of the vast wastes of the former central and south-central United States. Particularly, despite frequent skirmishes and "police actions", both the Rockies Cantons and the Free Republic of Texas remain firmly outside AF control.

Today, the AF is the smallest Trading Bloc in terms of population and territory. Its federal regime is de jure composed of autonomous states, though the central arcoblocks enjoy the most autonomy, while the smaller urban sprawls, Caribbean islands, and South American states are little but puppets of the larger arcology-states.

International Commonwealth (IC): The European nations, Britain included, came out of WWIII in a bad shape, having much of the ground combat occur on their soil. To recover, they banded together to form their competitor to the UN, called the International Commonwealth (IC). It is de jure an open organization of nations, akin to the old League of Nations or United Nations. In addition to Western and Central Europe, it also includes Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as a number of African countries. De facto, London, Berlin, and Neo-Tokyo set the tone and the rest follows. The IC has good control of Western Europe and Japan, but little control over the Eastern European wreckage and no control at all over the wasted Australian Outback.

Today, the IC is the second largest Trading Bloc in terms of population and territory, after the UN. Like the UN, it claims to represent the interests of Humanity as a whole, and presents itself as a more "enlightened" alternative to it. However, in practice, it represents the interests of the Royal British Interstellar Society (RBIC), United European Minerals (UEM), and their smaller Japanese competitors.

The American Federation and International Commonwealth share the Rimward arm of the Solar Main, with 19 colonies, 13 of them new. They also control 6 new outposts to the Rimward-Trailing of Sol.

A new logo for the Den of the Lizard King

As you may have noticed, this blog has a new logo, by the wonderfully talented Hannah Saunders.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Hard Space - revised setting history


Here is a short historical background of my Hard Space setting. I posted a history two years ago, but this one is a revised, expanded, and edited one to serve my new (current) iteration of the setting.

World War III and Solar System Exploration: 2038-2063 (TL8)
World War III came about in 2038. Luckily enough, it did not materialize into the all-out nuclear Armageddon feared by many. Instead, the war dragged on for almost a decade until all belligerents were bled dry and exhausted by the long war years. In 2047, the war was finally over. The world was in ruins from prolonged conventional warfare and the few nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that did see use in the war.

All sides claimed victory. In reality, there were no victors - just bankrupt and impoverished nations incapable of conducting any further large-scale military operations. Politically, most governments emerged from the war at a very weakened state. They had very little support from the war-weary population. They were mostly powerless to do anything meaningful to reconstruct the ruins of their nations. Into this vacuum stepped the private sector, thrilled with the possibility of profit from reconstruction. Earth's collapsing nation-states no longer had the political power necessary to force taxes or regulations on the larger corporations. Thus these companies grew rapidly in size and power.

Bit by bit, the corporations rebuilt parts of Earth. Not all of it; not even most of it. The corporate arcologies and gated cities provided their residents with the amenities of modern life, unlike the universal poverty of the urban blight surrounding them. Rising in profits, the private sector turned its eye to research and development, as well as the industrialization of the solar system. In the late 2050's, these efforts bore fruit and resulted in a rapid succession of innovations, from suspended animation to controlled nuclear fusion.

The greatest discovery in the history of space flight came in 2061 when a dig of the Cydonia region of Mars yielded weird alien artifacts. This came after long years of rumors and strange accidents caused to spacecraft and ground vehicles in the vicinity of this region. While the Face of Mars turned out to be nothing but an oddly-shaped hill, the region itself appeared to be visited by extraterrestrial travellers, dubbed the "Visitors" or the "Antediluvians". They left behind cyclopian ruins filled with unexplainable and deadly anomalies warping time and space, as well as a plethora of artifacts, the function of which was never fully discerned so far. 

First Colonial Generation: 2063-2082 (TL9)
In 2063, research into Antediluvian artifacts recovered from Mars led to the greatest invention of all times - the faster-than-light Jump Drive. It was demonstrated by a historic month-long round-trip to Alpha Centauri by Zhang-Markov Industries's starship Zhen He. Very rapidly - some would say too rapidly - Iron Star Enterprises followed suit and launches their own exploratory starship, John Glenn, on an expedition to Barnard's Star. Thus began the first generation of space colonization.

Space is dangerous, and interstellar space more so. The first interstellar travellers found this the hard way, with high mortality rates among the early explorers who ran into deadly jump drive malfunctions, vicious alien wildlife - and soon enough, inter-corporate rivalry resulting in bloodshed. But mankind continued its march to the stars, despite the small size of interstellar ships allowed by the early jump drives. Colonies soon sprang out on planets orbiting Alpha and Proxima Centauri, Barnard's Star, and Ross 154, as well as small research outposts on rockballs in orbit around Luhman 16 and SCR 1845 6357.

With the vast profits promised by extrasolar assets, corporate competition grew to enormous proportions. In the absence of any effective government beyond Earth orbit, this encouraged cutthroat methods and led to bloodshed. Warfare began with privateering and small, but overt, mercenary actions. In 2070, it grew up to a full-scale war between UEM's Olympus colony on Proxima Centauri c and the Zhang-Markov Arcadia colony on Alpha Centauri 2f. The war raged for a bloody year. In 2071, mercenaries operating for UEM accidentally (or so the official story goes) caused a meltdown of the fission reactor powering the Arcadia 2A sub-colony. The destruction and death toll - as well as the bad press they brought - brought an immediate cease fire. This made the corporations pause and think - such warfare already began rising beyond acceptable costs, and threatened to destabilize the political situation on Earth itself.

The result was the Interstellar Agreements on Colonial Commerce (IACC), signed in 2072 by the Big Four corporations and the three Trading Blocks. IACC set basic ground rules for extrasolar colonization and commerce, banned overt piracy and claim-jumping, and established the Colonial Commerce Commission (C3). The latter began as an inter-corporation arbitration body but grew to a framework of extrasolar corporate governance. It is not a government, as it does not truly govern individual citizens and holds no armed forces of its own. Rather, C3 is a system operating to serve the common interests of the Big Four and the three Trading Blocks - open commerce, avoidance of overt large-scale warfare, and preservation of the corporate order of things. C3's executive body, the Presidium, holds seven representatives - one from each Big Four megacorporation and one from each Trading Block, giving the corporations, as a group, a majority.

Second Colonial Generation: 2082-2106 (Mature TL9)
In 2082, a transit station was built on a strange rock orbiting the dim brown dwarf HSC0801 (now Sheol), linking Sol to the Solar Main in a Jump-1 chain. This allowed larger ships to travel from Sol to the colonies. Together with the development of more robust orbital shipyards and thus a larger number of starships, the second wave of interstellar colonization in the early 2080's, colonizing seven new worlds, of them only two, orbiting 70 Ophiuchi (Tehom) and Gliese 667 (Agartha), turned out to be highly promising garden worlds, with the rest being more amenable to rare and exotic element mining.

This era saw a rise in local warfare and "police actions" on Earth itself. The Trading Blocks moved to consolidate their hold over Earth's devastated and lawless Wilds, and tighten their grip over the urban Blight surrounding the arcologies. They achieved the latter to a reasonable degree, defeating many of the urban gangs plaguing the old cities. However, taming the Wilds was a failure. Equipped with the best corporate-made equipment their limited budgets can buy, the Trading Blocks tried to force their rule over wasteland areas such as the Rockies, the Levant, and Siberia. They attempted to bring "rogue states" such as Iranistan or the Free Republic of Texas into their fold. This failed miserably. The Wilders - as corporate media often referred to such people - had no intention to be governed by the Trading Blocks. They had better knowledge of their terrain. They had much better morale than the underpaid governmental armies. By the dawn of the 22nd century, the Trading Blocks all but abandoned their dream of reconquering the entirety of Earth.

However, this warfare, as well as the horrible conditions in the Blight and the Wilds, drove interstellar expansion. People were, and still are, willing to risk the deathly perils of cryosleep to reach an extrasolar colony. Even though life is harsh on the colonies and death hides behind every corner, this is still far better than living in the blasted wastelands or shelled-out cities of Earth.

Third Colonial Generation: 2106-Present (TL10)
In 2106, research into the alien artifacts and anomalies - while yet far from bringing about an understanding of the Antediluvians themselves - gave scientists valuable insights into meta-dimensional physics and exotic matter. This brought about a new generation of jump engines, allowing both larger starships and longer travel ranges. This opened up new frontiers to Humanity. New expansion began in full swing, doubling the number of extrasolar colonies within a few years.

Today, in 2120, human space boasts 43 primary interstellar colonies. Most are very small in size, especially the remote ones, though Arcadia (Proxima Centauri III) does serve as a home to almost a eleven million people. The frontier is wide open, and starships are "cheap" enough for smaller corporations and all sorts of social and religious movements to afford. Criminals, of course, can afford them as well, and piracy is a blight on the high frontier... This is a time for daring people to go out of the Sol system and seek their fortune among the stars. Many, however, will find there not their fortune - but their untimely death.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Some initial thoughts about Sanity in Traveller

Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fhtagn!
As I already noted, Hard Space has a prominent Lovecraftian flavor to it. Insanity is a major theme in Lovecraft's tales. Thus, it is a good idea to develop sanity rules for use in Hard Space. The following rules use my Task Throw rules, but are very easy to adapt to other mechanics as well. 

So, on to the insanity!

Cthulhu Mythos "insanity" is not a mental illness as we define it in the real world, even if it has shared characteristics. Mental illnesses have biological and environmental causes. 22nd century technology will probably be highly effective to treat them. For those who can afford it, that is. Mythos insanity is the metastatic realization of one's, and humanity's, insignificant place in a vast, ancient universe inhabited by beings vastly more powerful and old than humanity itself. It is the infectious insight into cosmic reality, which radically is different from the more placid reality perceived by most human beings. The human mind is unsuited to process such knowledge, insights, and realizations, and hence "insanity". Psychiatry can alleviate some of the symptoms of Mythos "insanity". Psychotherapy might even help the subject rationalize or suppress the Mythos truth, which helps with recovery. But none can cure the cancerous thoughts generated by encountering the Unknowable.

Each character starts with a Sanity rating equal to the sum of their END + INT characteristics, minus their Occult skill. Sanity cannot recover above this maximum level, though it may increase if teh character increases END or INT.

Encountering the supernatural, the Mythos or - far less often - "mundane" horrors, forces Sanity checks. These are END throws. A sanity throw may be noted, for example, as END 8+/0/1d3, which means that you must throw 8+ and add your END DM (as in MGT/CE) to succeed; you don't lose Sanity if you succeed; and you lose 1d3 Sanity if you fail.

Spacers are accustomed to encountering alien flora and fauna. However, Mythos beings do not fit well into the mundane world of xenobiology and xenoecology. Encountering supernatural monsters or phenomena damages Sanity. Studying Mythos texts, learning magic, and in some cases using magic cause Sanity loss. Misjumps, or EVA while in Jump Space, may cause Sanity loss. Resurrection as a Cyborg definitely incurs serious Sanity loss.

If you roll “snake eyes” (a “natural” 2) on your Sanity check, or lose 3 or more points of Sanity within a single encounter, the character gains Temporary Affliction, which lasts 1D rounds. This includes things such as fainting, running away in terror, psychosomatic blindness, or a violent outbreak against all in sight. (I'll build a random table in a future iteration of these rules).

When the character’s Sanity score reaches half of their maximum Sanity (rounded up), the character suffers a Permanent Affliction such as phobias, compulsions, random bursts of anger, or amnesia.

If and when a character’s Sanity score reaches zero, the character becomes a permanently insane NPC, unless the Referee decrees that advanced psychiatric care (when available) can restore the character to a semblance of sanity.

Characters may regain Sanity in various ways:
  • Successfully completing an adventure against the Mythos recovers 1 Sanity point.
  • Every year of convalescence (non-adventuring life) recovers 1 Sanity point.
  • Every week in psychiatric hospitalization recovers 1 Sanity point.
1D months in psychiatric hospitalization may remove a single Permanent Affliction.

Entering psychiatric hospitalization often has a social and personal cost. At the Referee's discretion, characters spending long periods of time in psychiatric institutions might lose points of their SOC characteristic or even find difficulties acquiring legal weapons on higher law level worlds, among many other things.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Hard Space: Thoughts on World Generation

Hard Space inherits all its physical world data from Near Space, as well as its baseline map. However, I am now generating the colonies' world characteristics. Below are a few notes about this.

The key to everything are the colony's Generation and the world's habitability.

1st Gen colonies are relatively heavily populated (up to several millions) and have a more elaborate and powerful administration; 3rd Gen colonies have tiny populations and are typically quite lawless, at least outside the (small) main colony town/dome/mine. 2nd Gen colonies are in between.

People prefer to live on habitable, or almost-habitable worlds; even a tainted atmosphere is vastly preferable to vacuum or an Exotic atmosphere. Unless very mineral-rich, non-habitable worlds have outposts, with small populations and typically minimal administration. Habitable or near-habitable worlds have colonies, with larger populations, and the more complex government this entails.

Note that, as in much of the "source material", Hard Space has a nearly uniform tech level across the worlds. Every sanctioned colony is TL10, though much hardware is TL9 (as TL10 is very new). Also, I have already determined the starports of all sanctioned colonies.

So:

Population
Outposts (regardless of generation) have a population digit of 1d3. Most non-habitable rockballs are outposts. Add DM+1 for Starport D, or DM+2 for starport C.
1st Gen colonies have a population digit of 1d3+4.
2nd Gen colonies have a population digit of 1d3+2.
3rd gen colonies have a population digit if 1d3+1.

Government
Most colonies are corporate colonies. Throw 1d6 per colony: on 1-4, this is a single corporate colony; on 5 this has multiple colonies (Gov 7); on 6 it is non-corporate (governmental or private initiative).
For non-corporate colonies, throw for government as per the Traveller (or CE) rules.

For corporate colonies, throw 1d6: 1, Gov 1; 2, Gov 3; 3, Gov 5; 4, Gov 8; 5, Gov 9; 6, Gov B.
Gov 1 - local corp focuses strictly on business and mostly ignores the bigger picture of governance. Weak governmental apparatus might be in place.
Gov 3 - local corp management runs things with little regard to those below.
Gov 5 - local corp department heads run their departments like personal fiefdoms.
Gov 8 - local corp runs a surprisingly efficient administrative apparatus with effective governance and meritocratic promotions. The corporate "ideal".
Gov 9 - local corp is a bureaucratic nightmare with poor leadership.
Gov B - local corp exec runs the place like his personal kingdom.

Law
1st Generation - law is 1d6+Gov-2 for a minimum of 1 (sanctioned colonies always have some law).
2nd Generation - law is 1d6+Gov-4 for a minimum of 1.
2nd Generation - law is 1d6+Gov-5 for a minimum of 1.



Sunday, August 26, 2018

Cepheus Light - Throws

As we noted before, Stellagama Publishing is still working on Cepheus Light, a streamlined version of the Cepheus Engine SRD. We strive to provide players and referees with a lightweight, fast-play, yet nuanced and varied, sci-fi rule-set. Its production takes more time than we originally anticipated, as we have decided to invest more into quality-control and editing, to provide you with the best, cleanest, most readable book we can produce.

In June, we provided a preview of the vehicle chase system. Today, we present another important part of our rules, the throw (task) system, which is the base game mechanic of Cephesu Light.

Note that it is very easy to use this system with any 2d6 sci-fi (or otherwise) ruleset, including Classic Traveller; it interfaces directly with skills and characteristics presented in these rules, requiring no conversion whatsoever.

Basic Game Mechanic
The basic mechanic of Cepheus Light is the throw, and when we say this, we mean dice throw. Throw 2D, add the relevant skill or characteristic DM, and if the total is equal or higher than the target number, you succeed. For example, “throw STR 8+” means “throw 2D and add your STR modifier; if the total is 8 or more, you succeed” The amount by which your total throw exceeds the target number is called the Effect If, using the previous example, you roll a total of 11 on that throw, your Effect is 11 – 8 = 3.
Note that a “natural” result of 2 does not denote automatic failure, nor does a “natural” result of 12 denote automatic success.

Opposed throws: in a situation where two characters oppose each other in an attempt, for example a spy trying to sneak past a guard, each character throws 2D plus the appropriate skill or characteristic modifier; the higher roll wins. Re-roll ties.

Common Target Numbers
DifficultyTarget Number
Routine4+
Average6+
Difficult8+
Very Difficult10+
Formidable12+


Characteristic DMs
Under this system, each character's characteristics has an associated Dice Modifier (DM) based on its level, as noted below:

CharacteristicDM
0-2DM-2
3-5DM-1
6-8DM+0
9-11DM+1
12-14DM+2
15-17DM+3
18-20DM+4

Friday, August 24, 2018

Hard Space: Updated Astrography

I've updated the map of my Hard Space setting. The main change is the inclusion of 9 new outposts to the Trailing. These are Jump-3 from Sol, and thus, per Classic Traveller Books 2-3, the largest ship that can get there directly from Sol without  a 6-jump detour in J-2 is 400 tons; the large Jump-1 ships cannot get there from sol at all. Colonization was virtually impossible before TL10 (reached 14 years ago). Today, a few tiny outposts exist in these remote stars.

For a full-res map look HERE.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Hard Space: Starflight


After discussing the subject of sub-light, real-space travel in my Hard Space setting, it is time to discuss the second part of travel, and that means interstellar flight. So how does this work?

  • Interstellar travel uses the Jump Drive. The jump drive is a complex contraption manipulating an Antediluvian artifact - a Spindle - to punch a transdimensional between real space and the alien realm called Jump Space. The complexity and size of the drive determines its capability to manipulate its Spindle, hence the different jump rates.
  • A jump is approx. 7 days in length and transports the ship one parsec per jump number, as in baseline Traveller.
  • Unlike baseline Traveller jump drives, Hard Space jump drives do not require fuel, only energy input from the power plant. However, after a jump, the drive requires time to "spool" and recharge. This time is 1D days minus the attending engineer's skill, to a minimum of one day.
  • Jump drives require a gravity well on both sides. A small brown dwarf is sufficient. There are no "empty-hex jumps" or "calibration points" - you need a star on both sides.
  • Jumps can be inaccurate. The higher the ship navigator's throw when plotting the jump, the closer to its destination the ship emerges. An unlucky navigator might find their ship in the outer system, while a skilled or lucky navigator might emerge directly into orbit of the target world. Ships do not emerge within large masses or very close to them - so there is no risk of emerging inside a sun or planet.
  • Misjumps are dangerous and can result in encounters with the Unknown and insanity. This is messing with barely-understood alien technology and parallel dimensions which defy too many rules of physics. A good jump throw avoids most of the unpleasantness, but a misjump exposes the crew to all sorts of nastiness. Beware.
  • Needless to say, I'll have to create my own custom jump throw table to account for accuracy in the target system and to the lack of jump fuel.
  • I'm using Little Black Books drive TLs and letters. This means that you can reach Jump-3 at TL9 and Jump-4 at TL10. Humanity in Hard Space is at early-mid TL10. This also means that smaller ships can jump further and are faster than larger ships. Of course, this entails a small-ship universe. This also means that the only drives available are Book 2 A-H drives. The biggest jump capable ship is 1,000 displacement tons in volume. 800-ton ships may achieve Jump-2, while 600-ton ships can achieve Jump-3 and an 400-ton ship may achieve Jump-4.
  • If using Cepheus Engine drives with these TLs, ships would be different - the maximum ship tonnage becomes 1,800 tons, but the largest ship capable of Jump-3 is 500 tons in volume and you can have a Jump-2 1,000-ton ship.
  • In any case, Drives E-H are very new - Humanity reaches TL10 only 14 years ago. Before that, the largest jump-capable tonnage was 800 displacement tons, and  the largest J-2 ship was 400 tons. This gave rise to the vast expansion of the third generation of colonization, with much larger tonnages at Jump-2 and better.
  • In any case, far jumps mean less payload. While there is no jump fuel, ships travelling the fringe require propellant for their engines, especially when not expecting each orbital refueling.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Hard Space - Spaceflight


How do you travel between planets in Hard Space? I've written about this subject before, in the previous iteration of Hard Space, but since then I have had some new ideas, especially following a very fruitful discussion on the Citizens of the Imperium forums. So here you go for spaceflight:

  • There are no gravitics in this setting. Not even as a side-effect of the Jump Drive. Neither are there reactionless drives. So there are no air/rafts - instead, you use a tilt-rotor, chopper, or ducted fan/vector-thrust. Or just a ground vehicle. You also must use reaction engines to travel in real space, mainly fusion torches. Which leads to the next point.
  • Interplanetary travel uses fusion torches. These require a fusion power plant, which uses regular Traveller p-plant stats. 10% of ship tonnage in propellant ("fuel") allows 100 thrust hours at 1-G*; faster travel requires a proportionally larger fuel tank. For example, 100 hours of constant 2-G acceleration would require 20% of ship tonnage in propellant.
  • Fusion torches are devastating and dangerous to use in atmospheres. Thus, the cost of streamlining subsumes interface engines, such as Scramjet engines coupled with vector-thrust jets for the final landing (or initial takeoff) itself. Most starships are not streamlined and use streamlined small craft.
  • Again, there are no gravitics in this setting. Stations spin. Ships have a "tower tail-sitter" structure with the engines below the "floor". This allows "gravity" by constant acceleration or deceleration. Ships in orbit either dock with a station, or stay in a powered orbit at 0.1g acceleration to maintain some shipboard "gravity". In long-term orbital "parking" without a station, this will require refueling from time to time.
  • There are no inertial dampers. This means that travellers must endure acceleration stress when accelerating beyond 1-G. Commercial ships, and even military ships in routine non-emergency travel, often stay at 1-G acceleration while travelling. For higher acceleration, crews and passengers buckle down and get a "cocktail" IV. The "cocktail" is a mixture of several medications allowing functioning and preventing stroke during high-G maneuvers, such as during combat or when travelling beyond 1-G acceleration.
  • Better starports provide their own interface craft for swift off-loading and loading of the visiting ship. Starports A's (Earth, Luna, and Mars) have "beanstalks" (space elevators) for massive transportation of material between surface and orbit. Starport B has a large "highport" space station and a fleet of heavy interface shuttles. Starport C has a small "highport" and a smaller fleet of interface shuttles. Starport D lacks orbital facilities but often has some interface shuttles available. Starport E rarely has any local infrastructure, though some colonies do keep local small-craft which may assist in offloading a coming trader.
  • Some smaller starships can land in atmospheres. However, the axis of a starship and that of a streamlined aircraft (or small craft) are different due to the above-mentioned gravity concerns and the ships being "tail-sitters". Starships capable of landing do so like rockets, with chemical (or plasma?) thrusters for both descent and ascent. A bit like the proposed (real-world) Phoenix Single-Stage-To-Orbit fully-reusable launcher/lander.

In the next post, I'll detail interstellar travel.


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* Yes, I know this is grossly unrealistic in terms of engine efficiency, but its still a far smaller "handwave" than reactionless grav-drives, and it also prevents the "near-C rock" issue with gravitic thruster plates. Also using volume rather than mass for ships for Traveller legacy compatibility...

Monday, August 20, 2018

Hard Space - Preliminary notes on Technology

Below are some preliminary notes on technology in my Hard Space setting for Classic Traveller and the Cepheus Engine.


  • Hard Space is generally TL10. Cybernetics, computers, and medical/pharmaceutical technology are at TL13.
  • Corporations try to develop all sorts of cutting-edge technologies. Prototypes of such technologies, often found in high-security laboratories, may be up to TL16. The higher the prototype's TL, the more dangerous it is. Messing around with TL11+ jump technology is particularly dangerous and often creates catastrophic results (ala Event Horizon). "True" AI is TL16, a "holy grail" of corporate IT R&D, and will most likely produce catastrophic results omce created (ala System Shock)...
  • I'm using 3-Book Classic Traveller drive TLs. This means that smaller ships are faster than larger ones, and that you can attain Jump-3 at TL9 and Jump-4 at TL10, albeit on very small ships. Also, there are definitely no empty-hex jumps - you need a gravity well on both sides of the jump. This means that space has a "topography" and that commerce and colonization strongly prefer "mains" allowing Jump-1 travel.
  • As I noted before, there are no gravitics and no grav vehicles.
  • Fusion plants exist, as well as fusion-torch drives, but fusion is expensive and bulky. The smallest fusion reactor available is 1.2 displacement tons - approximately 16 or 17 cubic meters - in volume and costs MCr3. 

On a side note, one thing I am thinking about is setting Hard Space in 2120 rather than 2130. I do like the "(exactly) one century into the future"* vibe of 2120, thoughit requires significant developments (J-Drive and potentially fusion) in the 2050's. Even then, this means that all colonies are young - 1st generation colonies are 65 years old, 2nd generation colonies are 41 years old, and the oldest 3rd generation colonies are at most 16 years old. There are people born outside of the Sol system, and people who are the second (and in some cases even the third) generation of extrasolar spacers!



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* If this develops into something substantiation, 2020 seems like a reasonable deadline for publication



Saturday, August 18, 2018

Hard Space tentative astrography

Here is the Hard Space work-in-progress map. It uses my Near Space map as a baseline and the world's physical stats are identical to those of Near Space.

Humanity has 43 extrasolar colonies, 28 of them established in the last 15 years.

The "trading blocks" - supranational governments on Earth and corporate flags-for-convenience in space - are the American Federation, the International Commonwealth, and the United Nations. AF and IC members do not belong to the UN, which is now only one of three blocks. They grew out of international trade and military agreements following the chaos of WWIII.

The UN - by far the most populous trading block on Earth itself - officially governs the Coreward arm of the Solar Main, with 23 colonies, 15 of then new.

The American Federation and International Commonwealth share the Rimward arm of the Solar Main, with 19 colonies, 13 of them new.

The map does not show (yet) unsanctioned colonies set up by all sorts of non-governmental parties and non-affiliated states.

For the full-res map look HERE.


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Hard Space Redux Design Notes

Over two years ago I wrote an outline for a near-Earth, near-future setting called Hard Space. Since then, Stellagama Publishing has published These Stars Are Ours! our premier space opera setting. More important to the current discussion, however, is another Stellagama product - Near Space. It uses abstracted (“flattened”) real space with some hypothetical brown and red dwarfs added for better gameability. The latter allow Jump-1 travel from Sol to other worlds. They also create a “Solar Main” allowing slow Jump-1 ships to travel quite far, albeit at a snail’s pace.

Hard Space is a setting explicitly using the Near Space data. Right now, I post here it as a series of blog-posts for Classic Traveller and the Cepheus Engine. If there will be enough interest, I might consider making this a commercial product for the Cepheus Engine. All map locations and physical world stats in Near Space exist verbatim in Hard Space. Some colonied by humanity and some waiting to be explored.

This does not come at the expense of my main sci-fi universe, These Stars Are Ours! (#TSAO). As in my 2016 post, I have resolved to write three paragraphs of TSAO-related (or Cepheus Light-related) content for each paragraph I write for Hard Space, whether on this blog or otherwise.

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The elevator pitch for Hard Space is:

Cyborg Smugglers Fight Cthulhu in Space!

What does that mean?

Cyborg - this is a hardcore cyberpunk setting. Major chrome, significant upgrades of the human machine, hacking, and of course the cultural aspects of cyberpunk, such as individual vs. corporation and style being important. Think Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Smugglers - Player characters (PCs) are, at best, in a legal “grey area”, that is - bounty hunters, mercenaries, and private eyes. At worst, they are criminals and outlaws. Again, this fits the cyberpunk themes, where protagonists are often dealing with all sorts of shady business or existing on the wrong side of the law. Think Firefly.

Fight - life is cheap, and so are bullets. There are no major wars, but there are brushfire conflicts, covert operations, and police actions. Combat is by no means the center of the setting, but violence is common. Think Ghost in the Shell.

Cthulhu - the one place where the setting eschews hard-ish science is in the element of cosmic horror. Space itself is deadly; some things which dwell in it are deadlier. There will be a sanity mechanic for use in CT and/or CE as part of this setting. Jump drives and shipboard gravity, by the way, belong here. Think Event Horizon.

Space - this is an (early) hard-ish space interstellar setting. Space is hard. Apart from the cosmic horror element mentioned above, science is pretty hard. No grav-cars, no fusion making your life easy - you use vector-thrust and fission. Ships have reaction drives. And space can definitely kill you. Think The Expanse.

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Anyhow, the premise of Hard Space is this - the year is 2130 AD. Humanity has only recently reached out to the nearby stars, but limited technology does not allow for rapid interstellar expansion. Space is dangerous, ships are small, and even sixty-three years of faster-than-light exploration and settlement have only carved out a small, sparsely populated colonial region around Sol. As the old national governments on Earth have been bled dry financially and politically by the events of the mid-21st century, space is the domain of the private sector - of the larger corporations; once you leave Luna's orbit, Earth governments are little more than flags-of-convenience to private-sector investments and facilities. Competition among the "Big Four" interstellar corporations, and to a lesser degree between their rivals, is tense and quite cutthroat, leading to a great degree of underhanded actions and industrial espionage.

Most of humanity still lives on Earth, followed by Luna and Mars. As Earth is highly polluted, extremely crowded, and suffering from an unstable climate, many people - especially from the lower classes - are willing to take major risks to move to the colonies, where living conditions are often somewhat better, and where corporate jobs abound, even if they are mostly low-level jobs. To get away from the urban Blight of Earth, many would even accept the risk of travel by Low Berth. Moving to Luna or Mars is easier, but the jobs on the extrasolar colonies pay better, and some of them have actual open-air environments.

This is a time of outward expansion and adventure among the stars - and also of great, mortal danger. Going into the Unknown is a particularly risky endeavor, as the Unknown as teeth, and Claws, and tentacles and even the slightest malfunction in a ship's drives or in a spacer's vacc suit could spell disaster to the hapless explorer. Corporate and government marines battle vicious pirates, desperate rebels, and nasty xenomorphs on many worlds, facing a bloody attrition rate; explorers and couriers on the frontier and beyond - colloquially called "scouts" - go among unexplored stars, and in many cases do not return from their missions. The rewards of interstellar exploration are staggering, but so are the risks...

"Going out", into interstellar space, is relatively "cheap". A wealthy cult or rich madman can charter a starship and start their own "utopia". Engage in immoral research, dabbling in the occult, 

Meanwhile, very old, alien things slumber on countless worlds, awaiting the hapless explorer or greedy colonial corporate exec to stumble into them...

Sources of inspiration - literatureMars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson
Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Call of Cthulhu, Shadow over Innsmouth, and other works by HP Lovecraft

Sources of inspiration - film and televisionAlien and Aliens
Apollo 18
Event Horizon
Firefly/Serenity
Outland
Pandorum
Stalker
Star Hunter
The Expanse
Ghost in the Shell

Sources of inspiration - video gamesAlien Legacy
Dead Space
Descent
Metro: 2033 and Metro: Last Light
Red Faction and Red Faction: Guerrilla
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
S.T.A.L.K.E.R - Shadows of Chernobyl
System Shock 1 and 2
Deus Ex: Human Revolution

"The Lost Islands" goes commercial!

I am pleased to report that I have signed a contract with Autarch LLC for writing my "The Lost Islands" campaign setting for ACKS as a commercial freelance project!

I'm already working on several very cool ideas, which would make this a prehistoric sci-fantasy romp to remember!

It will also be set in the official Auran Empire setting, offering a change of pace from the Empire's late-antiquity milieu.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Tentative ACKS Psionic "spell" list

In the previous post, I presented my take on psionics for ACKS.

As noted, these are the psionic spell type categories:

Blast - unavilable
Death - as cleric
Detection - half cleric!
Enchantment - half cleric!
Healing - 1.5 cleric (i.e. slower progression)
Illusion - as mage
Movement - as mage
Protection - standard as cleric and mage
Summoning - unavailable
Transmogrification - unavailable
Wall - unavailable

So:

* denotes a reversible spell
(note that a spell and its reverse are separate spells for a psychic and must be learned separately)
Italics denote a spell from the ACKS Player's Companion,

Level 1:
Charm Person
Command Word
Detect Chaos*
Detect Charm*
Detect Danger
Detect Invisible
Detect Magic
Detect Secret Doors
ESP
Find Traps
Locate Object
Protection from Chaos
Read Languages
Remove Fear*
Sleep
Speak with Animals
Trance
Ventriculism

Level 2:
Choking Grip
Clairaudience
Clairvoyance
Cure Light Wounds*
Enthrall
Hold Person
Hypnotic Patterns
Inaudiability
Invisibility
Levitate
Mirror Image
Phantasmal Force
Telepathy

Level 3:
Charm Monster
Chimerical Force
Confusion
Command Animals
Command Person
Command Plants
Delay Poison
Dispel Magic
Fly
Invisibility, 10' Radius
Locate Object
Nondetection
Protection from Chaos, Sustained*
Protection from Normal Missiles
Speak with Plants
Tongues
Wizard Eye

Level 4:
Control Animals
Control Undead
Cure Moderate Wounds*
Fear
Feign Death
Dimension Door
Divination
Feeblemind
Hallucinatory Terrain
Hold Monster
Panic
Remove Curse*
Strength of Mind*
True Seeing

Level 5:
Control Plants
Cure Blindness
Cure Disease
Cure Serious Wounds*
Enslave
Neutralize Poison*
Passwall
Telekinesis
Teleport
Geas*

Level 6:
Anti-Magic Shell
Dispel Chaos
Project Image