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.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

So what is this bugger up to?

Me and Einat
You may have noticed that I post on this blog somewhat less frequently than back in late 2014/early 2015. The reason for this is actually good news - I am finally making a living as a full-time (sorta of) freelance English-Hebrew-English translator, and most of my financial woes are behind me. I am also in a second relationship (after seperating from my ex-fiancee two and a half years ago), so far almost a year and a half with einat, a beautiful, sweet woman who is also working full-time (as a kindergarten teaching assistant). So my own private life is quite full, with less time for gaming and online publications. Generally this is good news - I've found my place in life (as a translator), I am employed, I make a living, I have a beautiful girlfriend who loves me, and I also game every two weeks (right now a hybrid of Barbarian Conqueror King and D&D 5E). However there are three main big projects I am working on in the field of gaming, though a bit at a slower pace than I wished I could have worked on them:

1) Outer Veil improved/second edition (buy the old version here) - my commercial setting for Mongoose Traveller by Spica Publishing. My part of the work is more or less done and the whole thing is undergoing layout and preparation for print. Yes, you read right - this will go to Print-on-Demand (POD)! Also it has new and much improved starmaps and deckplans and a better layout. Stay tuned for the new edition!

2) Barbarian Conqueror King - a sword & sorcery sourcebook and setting for ACKS. I am going with this commercially - this will eventually be an ACKS sourcebook by Autarch LLC. But this is going far slower than I hoped to work on it, due to translation contracts and the usual delays of game writing. But I'll try to get it done as soon as possible and submit Alexander Macris (or Autarch fame) a full draft, hopefully within a month. This would be awesome - dinosaurs! Alien technology! Loinclothed barbarians tearing down decadent civilization! Tentacled monsters! Gladiatorial fights (yes, with full game rules)!

3) Translating Stars Without Number (SWN) into Hebrew (pro-bono) for the Israeli Society of Role-Players (ISRP), of course with a license from Kevin Crawford. This is taking very long and will also need editing, but WILL BE DONE eventually I'll also demo SWN in two games at the ICON festival/convention in Tel-Aviv in late September/early October this year.

Other than that, I am also (very slowly) working my way through my Classic Traveller setting, Visions of Empire...

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Terra Subector WIP

Here is a work-in-progress of the Terra Subsector for my Visions of Empire setting. The base data is similar to what I used to create Outer Veil six or seven years ago, but this is a new map, with its own data, and based solely on known near-Earth stars, with my extrapolations, "flatenning" or 3D real space into a traditional Traveller 2D hex grid and imagining what kind of worlds and gas giants would be found out there. Exectp for Terra (which should be named Sol after ist primary star), all star-names are real. Feel free to use this if you want a somewhat "realistic" near-Earth Traveller subsector.

This also allows me to extrapolate quite a lot about the Terran Liberation War. Reticulan Subsector Capital was at Keid, with strong local Reticulan colonies at Procyon, Kapteyn's Star and Epsilon Eridani. The old EFA (Earth Fedeal Administration - a client-state of the Reticulans) based on Terra had major colonies at Alpha Centauri, Tau Ceti,  Barnard's Star, Ross 154, 61 Cygni, and Epsilon Indi - and several other outposts; all of these were quickly taken into the new UTR (United Terran Republic) when we Terrans revolted against the Reticulan overlords.

As at TL13 (by the "Little Black Books 2" and 3 version of the Classic Traveller rules), maximum jump for serious naval combatants (1,000 tons and above) is Jump-3, in order to protect Mother Terra from significant Rericulan naval raids, the Terrans ahd to quickly seize Sirius and UV Ceti, which soon became major battlegrounds of the War. Since the mineral-rich Tau Ceti 5 was already an mining world with the highest colonial population outside the Sol system (approximately thirty million inhabitants), it became a major strategic asset and thus a major battleground as well - some sort of a "Stalingrad of the stars". Late war concentrated on Procyon and Epsilon Eridani, and the war culminated in the capture of Keid and the dethroning of the Reticulan House Thiragin.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Gardeners

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

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

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

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

A Quick Overview of the nine "Major Races"

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

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

So here are the "Major" species:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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