Friday, February 26, 2016

Dark Stars XVII: Netherspace Survey Sector Report 7 (End of Season One)

This was the conclusion of the first Season (opening campaign) arc for the storyline. I'd committed to running White Star through the end of February, and here we are! The plot ended on a cliffhanger, teasing at the direction of events to come for Season Two.

The crew of the Juan One (alias Star Dolphin) cruiser had survived their various encounters on the Curiosity 796 starport and prepared to leave the station with the dark star mind core stowed away in their cargo hold. A few more events took place on the station:

1. Tamralese the Imperial Loyalist met the Inquisitor Horus in his newly cloned body, with fresh mind imprint (post death from last week's encounter) and after a lengthy interrogation/discussion Horus charged her with approaching her allies and making them a significant credit offer to turn over the mind core and any data on Tesla Dane....and to discharge them from service to Captain Lars. He needs her to buy time while he finds replacements for his lost inquisitor team, and doesn't expect his offers to be accepted.

2. Erin had met with the station governor and been given a message broadcast from Tesla Dane received a month prior. The message provided coordinates and a message about finding her at the feet of the "Incumonitrox." Her holoimage in the message shows what looks like the foot of a great beast-statue behind her. The coordinates put them in subsector 12, uncharted space with an unnamed star system.

3. The crew gets the ship repaired and also scour the hull for tracking bugs, finding many. They also get their funds from Captain Lars at long last and spend a lot of money. 101010 tricks himself out...he's now a rolling gun platform, essentially.

4. While at the comm relay/bank securing funds they run into Tamralese doing the same. She pitches the Inquisitor's ideas to them with her own spin. The crew is not interested.

5. The crew realizes qinlons have taken an interest in them in the marketplace and they make a dash for their ship. A firefight ensues as the ship powers up, but the qinlons have a gunship blocking escape! A close quaters firefight results in the qinlon vessel being destroyed thanks to some timely initiative rolls. They escape the station. Unbecknownst to them, the Inquisitor Horus has hired the qinlons to do his dirty work while he regenerates his inquisitor agents.

6. The ship heads for the coordinates Tesla Dane provided. They find an uncharted star system with some evidence of massive trauma: a world is missing, and a moon from that world was captured in the orbit of a gas giant. The moon is heavily terraformed and shielded, and shows a great city built around a sky-scraper sized statue of a cthulhoid beast....the Incumonitrox.

7. In orbit around the moon is a space yacht with a star knight snub fighter tethered to's Tesla Dane's ships! They speak to the AI of the ship named "Sally." Sally helps the Juan One/Star Dolphin's AI release it's own locked databanks...the ship suddenly remembers it's history under Captain Ephemeron and Tesla Dane. The crew tethers to the yacht, but not before finding out that there are numerous void lord weapons platforms cloaked in orbit, closing in on them like a chinese finger trap....they are okay as long as they don't try to leave.

8. On the space yacht they find out that Tesla left the ship and went to the moon below. The ship reveals a secret: a cyborg named Gavon in suspended animation who's blood is a cure for the Von neuman nanovirus plage. They extract samples, innoculate everyone who needs it (which is pretty much Dirk and Sam at this point since Tamralese, Erin and Dyvinil are slowly changing in to strange-matter from the gift of the Stellar Librarian; an 101010 is a robot), and then they break in to the hidden cargo module and innoculate frozen Captain Ephemeron. The cure doesn't remove the virus, but it quells the nanovirus and makes it controllable by the host...Ephemeron will remain a converted cyborg, but retains free will and control over the nanovirus.

After discussion with Sally they crew piece together that the dark stars allegedly created the very first star knights to fight the Incumonitrox, which were making "incursions" in to other universes, destroying them as they did. She says the Great Attractor region of our universe is evidence of an ancient incursion attempt. The first star knights were warped in this battle, creating the void lords.

9. The crew, with Ephemeron, decide to take the cruiser to the surface of the planet to the exact coordinates Tesla provided. They land in a large open park in the city, at the foot of the giant statue of the Incumonitrox. Here they find a great bowl-like depression with an impressive hoop-like stargate in the center. The gate has equipment with a fusion reactor already set up to power it all up. On approach they trigger an activation by accident and the stargate opens a portal...and an elder Void Lord named Corvus steps out!

10. Corvus asks them if they are allies of Tesla Dane and they assert they are (oops) so he proceeds to try and kill them. It's a tough fight....he's a 10 hit die Void Lord with level 4 meditations, a personal shield AND an energy absorbing glove and in the end they drive him back in to the stargate, but it was a tough fight. Erin pursues....only to discover the portal opens up into an immense Void Lord military compound at the edge of the galaxy, and Corvus is preparing to send his army of void lord soldiers through!  She retreats and they quickly disable the power source to close the star gate.

11. While checking out the area they find a mysterious hand in a glove attached to a star sword. There's evidence of blood spatters....they track it to the city, and find in one of the mysterious, monolithic buildings made of an unknown composition the body of an extremely old woman, something that modern humans rarely see anymore due to anagathic treatments. She has a data crystal....and on it after a decryption is a message from a woman claiming to be a colonist in Diaspora Sector on a world called Saber. On the recording she says she came through the star gate to warn Tesla's allies that a tachyon wave was en route, and to find a way to escape....but the message is damaged and hard to make out details on. The crew is mystified....records indicate Diaspora Sector is one of the original sixteen sectors of Old Human Space, from the first two centuries of slow FTL colonization by humanity, before the Fourth World War against the Ascended Apes destroyed the old seat of human control (yes, you read that right). Saber was the first world on which evidence of sentient alien life was found, in the form of ancient, giant statues of tentacled winged things....

They also find lots of evidence the city was built and occupied by the telepathic mindoids, but all that remains are skeletons.

12. Anyway, the crew proceds to investigate the immense statue, and find a giant star gate built in to it's base, large enough to fly the cruiser through. They meet an ancient mindoid who is waiting for them, and explains that they are only the most recent of several visitors in the last month. He tells them Tesla Dane went through the immense portal to escape the ones that followed (presumably the void lords). The mindoid reveals a shocker: when asked about their obsession with the immense statue, he explains that the Incumonitrox were the "first beings" to exist, and that the mindoids worshipped them as trans-dimensional gods. He explains that the dark stars were actually a race of aliens which tried to steal the god-like power of the Incumonitrox and succeeded....this statue marks the star gate which opens up into the sacred world of worship for their kind, in an entirely different universe.

The crew decides to power up the star gate and they do so, bizarre gravity waves are detected and strange phenomena in the sky wreak havoc with their sensors. Is this caused by the star gate, or by the tachyon wave the dead woman warned them about? They hurry up and pilot the ship through the star gate.

13. The other side of the star gate turns out to be another universe, one which is near the end of it's heat death with no visible stars left in the sky, and which has slightly different fundamental properties (such as a different cosmological constant, variation in Planck length, etc.). The moon-like world below is distinct as all across the horizon appear to be the giant mile-high statues of the Incumonitrox, but it turns out that they are actually alive....and moving, albeit incredibly slowly. In a valley below the great star gate is a vast plain of hundreds of additional depressions containing more star gates. A single one of these has a force field around it, holding an atmosphere.

14. Investigating the force-field covered star gate reveals another fusion generator to power the star gate and a camp, as well as an atmospheric scrubber/creator and a heating system (the temperature is just warm enough that the atmosphere in the shield bubble hasn't frozen yet). They warm it up and deploy into the protected area....and in the camp find another diary from Tesla Dane.

It turns out Tesla determined that the threat to our universe began when the people of Saber accidentally activated an ancient artifact on their world long ago, one which summoned the attention of the Void Lords in their insatiable quest to find the artifacts of the Incumonitrox. The Void Lords would take 1,500 years to arrive, but it was that day in 2209 that started the process. Her diary indicates that her goal now is to stop all of the future from happening by going back to Saber in 2209 and preventing them from activating the ancient artifacts....and destroying it all, if possible!

The crew realizes that they are facing the final star gate she passed through, one which moves back to their universe in both space and time. Do they pursue Tesla Dane? The coordinates on the small star gate can be replicated on the giant star gate that the cruiser passed through....


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Conan RPG Kickstarter

I've tried --mostly with success-- to avoid backing Kickstarters, chiefly because I am risk averse and also because I am more of a "retail customer" end-product kind of guy. A game which sounds awesome on Kickstarter today may not be so cool or interesting when finally released 13 months later. The same principle guides the pre-order mentality with video games, but with the only risk being the pre-ordered game will turn out to be awful on release; with Kickstarter you have to also worry that the game will release at all.

I'll make an exception for Modiphius's Conan RPG, however. First, Modiphius doesn't just mess around....this is unexpectedly probably one of the leading print-release publishers out there, with books rivalling and exceeding the quality of big boys like FFE and WotC. Plus: they've got the Conan licence, and Conan (Howard, really) remains my single most inspirational resource and fan-favorite source of swords & sorcery fiction. I've got all of the Conan books, both original in pastiche, in multiple editions. I both appreciate the original unedited Howard and also love the various eras his fiction went through, from the period in which de Camp and Carter revived the works and tried to apply a timeline to Conan's adventures to the Tor era of endless 80's era adventures of quality ranging from amazing to tepid. I also had an opportunity to write some of the sourcebooks for the prior iteration of the game (Tales of the Black kingdoms and volumes 2 and 3 of Messantia Adventures), but it was a version done by Mongoose Publishing, which has a reputation for products of mixed quality, especially in editing and consistency.  Conan has long been overdue for a new edition, in other words.

Anyway....I'm tentatively in at the Hoard of Yezdigerd level. I would never back that much (approximately $431 US) print core plus all PDFs level (about $81--changed my mind due to some dental work my son needs; dentist informed us he has weak enamel, and multiple forming cavities...this is, alas, a problem that plague's my wife's side of the family so I guess he got the bad teeth genes).

If I hadn't already seen Modiphius hit it out the park for so many other books, and I want all the print stuff for Conan I can get my hands on.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Indiana Jones: Drink from the Grail and Survive a Trip in a Refrigerator

Monster Island News linked to this article here about a fan theory that the reason Indiana Jones survived his ride in the nuked refrigerator in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was because he had drunk from the correct Holy Grail in the prior movie. It's actually a stroke of minor genius to suggest this, I explains a lot!

Despite that, I also love the explanation posted by Reel Physics, which actually argues that our assumption about the non-survivability of a nuked lead-lined fridge being tossed away via nuclear detonation is possibly a tiny bit off-base:

If you combine fan theory with Reel Physics then I think you get a plausible explanation for the entire scene!

I guess you could call this one a case of....fridge logic....

(Disclaimer: I actually liked Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and am a big Indie fan. I think using 50's era thematics such as the soviets, aliens, crystal skulls, MKUltra style mind control and UFOs was a stroke of mad genius in showing how the very nature of the pulp and weird was transforming, and that Indie is the guy who gets to experience all of it. My biggest gripe was --like most-- the trauma of having to watch Shia Labeouf swinging on vines).

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ramping up on Realms of Chirak 2nd Edition 5E

You may have noticed fewer posts here recently. Aside from the uptick in work demands I've also been working on completing my draft of the Realms of Chirak 2nd edition for D&D 5th edition (especially now that we have an official OGL!) and that's coming along nicely....but it's also more work than originally planned as I'm doing a bottom-up rewrite, to both clean up errors and inconsistencies as well as update the setting to reflect the current timeline (I've run quite a few campaigns since 2008 and they've had a measurable impact on the state of the Realms of Chirak, as well as pushing the timeline ahead almost a decade).

Here's a sample from the way the cults & orders section is being revised. It's now presenting all data relevant to each Zodiac Stone in one section, then focusing on other cults, pretenders and philosophical orders in their own sections:

The Divinities

   The divinities are almost universally chosen by happenstance: a lucky or hapless soul stumbles across a Zodiac Stone without a symbiotic bearer, waiting to bond. A few, such as Milina, were created early on and have existed for over two thousand years now as demiurges, unable to unite the shards of the respective stone or overcome their rivals to the point where a new true god would arise. Most are mystics (Kalie’Yana), scoundrels (Piscrael) or wanderers (Mardieur Mardiuex) who found their respective stones by happenstance and are still considered avatars. Mardieur Mardieux, for example, stumbled across the long-lost grave of the elven hero Itharian, who was an avatar of Akquinarios for centuries. Within that grave lie the Aquarius Stone, and the key to the divine path.

   The Zodiac Stones are a unique force within Chirak. Each of the twelve stones comports to an astrological sign, which is in turn tethered to one of the twelve planetary bodies orbiting in the skies of Chirak. The mystical nature of the Zodiac transcends this realm, and the Zodiac as a power of prophecy and the divine is known by planar scholars to resonate throughout other planes of existence; but they believe that such a resonance originates with the World of Chirak itself.

   The Stones are largely a mystery, but the most learned scholars of the current era, including certain Preservationists, believe that the Zodiac Stones are unique crystals which are attuned to a power called the Divine Wind. This is a physical manifestation of the divine energy of the world itself, which can be harnessed and turned into a godlike force. The stones allow this to happen….and without them, no divine power is otherwise possible in the world. So long as the Zodiac Stones continue to exist, the Divine Wind can be unlocked and harnessed.

   A bearer united with a stone find that he can influence the divine magic awarded to his worshippers. The stones by default tend to reward belief that reflects the last active master of the stone, and if that master was a true god in status then the influence will run deep. Younger avatars and demiurges can begin to “overwrite” this influence with time, effort and meditation.

  More about how the Zodiac Stones work will be described shortly. For now, what follows is an overview of each stone and the known entities –both alive and dead—associated with that stone.

Divinites of the Aquarius Stone

   The Aquarius Stone is associated with the sacred power of healing and water, and has a strong association with principled goodness in morality. Made of jasper, the stone is mostly complete, but several shards are missing in the current era. Mardieur Mardieux, the current principle avatar of the stone, has recovered two shards, one of which he placed in his great axe to imbue it with additional power.
   The Aquarius Stone ties to the constellation of the Water Bearer in the northern skies, and is tethered to the constellation of the Manta Ray in the southern skies. Followers of the stone’s divinities currently trend toward law and goodness, but that is changing, as Mardieur Mardieux is a neutral good minotaur and his influence is slowly coming to dominate the divine magic of the stone.
   The Aquarius Stone has been in the possession of the following divinities:

   Regarded as the sacred god of life, water and goodness, Akquinarios was believed to have been the last true god to wield the Aquarius Stone. The stories of the old Final War suggest that he sacrificed himself at the very end to stop the world from being destroyed, but in doing so gave up his life force; in the form he had taken he manifested as an immense manta ray in the sky made of an entire sea’s worth of water, and on his death Akquinarios rained to the ground, flooding the old Mythric Empire in a great rain which did not end for weeks. When it was over, the Sea of Chirak had been formed in what was once the centerland of a vast continent on which the old Mythrics held their seat of power. Now…drowned ruins and a great inland land-locked sea.
   Relics and ruined temples dedicated to Akquinarios are found all throughout the Kaldinian Isles, and his indirect influence remains as there are still cults which worship him, though they have recently begun to embrace his most recent successor, Mardieur Mardieux.

Queylinzar Itharian
   Between the time Akquinarios perished in the Apocalypse roughly 2,500 years ago and the time Queylinzar Itharian found the Zodiac Stone, roughly 1,500 years had passed. Exactly how Itharian came to possess the stone is not certain, but stories suggest it was given to him by Kalie’Yana, who even than was a spirit of the Sea of Chirak, birthed some said from the residual magic of Akquinarios himself.
   Itharian was a wandering adventurer and hedge knight of the Xernethian elves. He was born over 1,000 years ago into a diminished elven empire, a powerful but fading eastern kingdom which had suffered great losses and never recovered from the Apocalypse. Around five centuries ago he fell in battle against a never-ending hoard of goblins and orcs which all but annihilated the last of the old elven empires, and led to the enslavement of the first eradariin.
   Legends of the Xernethians suggest that their safe mountainous woodland in the Dreamwood was forged out of the magic of the Aquarius Stone as used by Itharian. His protection, and sacrifice, mirrors Akquinarios in many ways, albeit tinged with the elven interests. It was not until five centuries later that his lost tomb was unearthed by Mardieur Mardieux, a wandering minotaur ranger.

Seminzal the Deeplord
   Seminzal was an aquatic sahuaguin dwelling in the Sea of Chirak. He possessed a shard of the Aquarius Stone and used to rule his people under the guise of a god reborn. He had forged the shard into a weapon (a trident) which allowed for impressive power but never bonded with it. He was confronted by Mardieur Mardieux and slain in 647 EC, though some believe his cult may have attempted to resurrect him.

Mardieux Mardieur
   The current living avatar of the Aquarius Stone, Mardieur Mardiex found the stone in the grave of Itharian in 645 EC and bonded with the stone by 647 EC, in time to destroy the resurrected spirit of the old betrayer god Minhauros (see more on this event under Minhauros and the Taurus Stone).
   Mardieur began his life as a wayward minotaur of the Huron Tribes, serving as a mercenary and wandering ranger who arrived on his first sea voyage in Barcen, Espanea, in time to witness the theft of the Book of the Planes from the Librarium of the Preservationists by the arcanist Santana and his minions. Mardieur Mardieux became swept up in a series of events that escalated into the resurrection of a dead god, his own death and resurrection, the discovery of the Aquarius Stone, and ultimately his ascension as a true avatar.
   Mardieur has only been a true avatar for about 12 years now, but he has gained a cult following thanks to his prominent role in freeing Barcen during the two-year war between Espanea and Nithiad, leading to the liberation of the city. His association with the old cults of Akquinarios restored a measure of faith in the lost god, and over the last decade numerous temples have been restored in both his name and that of his forebear (Itharian, alas, remains largely forgotten).
   To live up to his newfound status as a cult figure and “living” divinity Mardieur Mardieux decided to seek out the other remaining shards of the Aquarius Stone, of which four remain unaccounted for that he knows of. He also decided to make a pilgrimage to the West, where he had heard the secret fate of the other fallen gods lay hidden. He disappeared near Pelegar in 648 EC, captured by the enigmatic otherworldly chaos lord Molabal, and did not reappear until he was freed in 657 EC, after which he resumed his journey West to distant Abraheil.

Other Aquarius Shards
   Mardieur believes there are five other as-yet undiscovered Aquarius Shards in the world, and he has worked hard on techniques to sense their location. So far he has had luck with finding only one (Seminzal's) and the other four remain elusive. Whether they are dormant or have masters remains to be seen. He has also experimented with creating shards, removing a sliver of the stone and imbuing it in his great axe to forge a relic weapon.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mythras and Classic Fantasy - Design Mechanism Ramps Up

The Design Mechanism has announced that Runequest 6's name change will be Mythras going forward. The name is derived from "myth" and the deity Mitra/Mithras which is pretty cool. Announcement here.

They also have a preview of Classic Fantasy up for review (here). I admit, I wasn't a fan of the Classic Fantasy Monograph for needed some work, and felt like a shoehorn of D&Disms into a BRP framework. That said, the preview for this new version has me intrigued, and hopeful as well that it will be more complete and focused (for example, it has a bestiary and treasure section, arguably important components of dungeon delving).

Part of me still feels like Classic Fantasy is an exercise in "missing the point" of BRP systems....but on the other hand, if it's done well then I really can't argue; a focused "refinement" of the RQ6/Mythras rules aimed at hitting that D&D sweet spot with a D100 system sounds kind of cool, actually.

OH! And did I mention I like the font in CF? Let's hear it for normal fonts!

Deadpool Review

You have probably already figured it out, but Deadpool is the movie about the sassy superhero who kills people dead while cracking jokes. He's the anti-hero of the Marvel Universe who regularly breaks the fourth wall, and Ryan Reynolds has a thing for Being him. Good news is, he does it really, really well in this adaptation which (among other things) treats us to a proper film adaptation of Colossus on top of a more (and not at all less) genuine Deadpool experience in the Marvel Fox Mutantverse. It eve skirts the edges of meta-continuity (spoiler alert: look for the retired helicarrier at the film's end). 

So, five cool things to keep in mind about Deadpool:

1. it's got 101 Marvel easter eggs in the movie. The helicarrier is just ONE of those

2. it's part of the overall super-weird X-Men film continuity, which is getting increasingly messed up (as Deadpool points out)

3. Deadpool is a hyper-violent, hyper-intense film all around. A sort of superheroes meet Pulp Fiction experience that will definitely give you a new experience in the genre

4. This movie is damned funny

5. Did I mention it's funny? Also, stick around for the end credits too.

...oh, don't bring your kids (at least, not the young'uns). The adult humor and situations in this film (such as a lengthy nudity-laden weird sex montage) are if anything going to be tougher issues to address than the blood-splattered dismemberments going on here. The movie is honestly more over the top than the ongoing comic, I assure you.

Either way, my wife and I secured a baby sitter and were DAMNED GLAD we did!!!! If you're uncertain on this, ask yourself this question: would I have been fine if my kid(s) saw Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2 (or any other equally grizzly Trantino flick) had the film also been hysterically funny and included a graphic weird sex montage? 

...I mean, we initially excluded our four year old son because we knew the F-Bomb was rife in this film, but I had at least two childless cohorts act surprised at the idea that we were excluding him from Deadpool. Ay yi yi....crossing some people off the babysitter list, we are!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Dark stars XVI: Starport Curiosity-796 and Relic

14 Curiosity-796
The otherwise mundane starport of Curiosity-796 is orbiting the moon Relic, another Spacer catalog anomaly. Evidence of a prolific civilization is defied by the fact that no living sentient remains to tell a tale of what happened when their entire civilization was seemingly extinguished—or kidnapped—twenty thousand years ago. Relic is favored by tomb hunters who love the place, but colony efforts have been troubled as the moon is saturated bio and nanotech which is debilitating to humans.

Curiosity-796 is actually part of the remnants of the Human Commonwealth, the vast independent disaspora of man that was shattered when the Void Lords arrived in the Milky Way. The station is one of a handful that still function in the Netherspace Sector, and it is protected by a loose picket fleet of independent privateers handled by self-appointed Commodore Andrej Markov, who vigorously defends the stations ostensibly libertarian open-door government.

Relic proper has a large Toho Megacorp colony called Osaka-Prime. Toho has been doing extensive nanotech research on the nanoviruses at Curiosity 796, which while note related to the Von  Neuman Plague directly may provide evidence on how to quell the well-known plague virus in other systems. For this reason Curiosity 796 and Relic both have no-entry quarantine requirements for ships that may have or been in contact with the virus….fear it gets loose on Relic and mutates are too great.

1.       The Goliani prospector Tearson who was entrusted with Cargo Hold 779’s contents by Tesla Dane
2.       Cargo Hold 779 contains the Mind Core of a Dark Star!!!! Just needs power and a body.

3.       The Chilopteroid Warlord Gadastron, brother to Chiron, is docked at the station for R and R. 

4.       Tesla Dane has enemies….and they know the ship. The Furies are the three sisters of darkness…..void knights who were turned star knights that have been hunting her; their spy, Emon Gloricam, a gray, will report the arrival of her ship and they will appear with an attack fleet in 48 hours.

5.       Port Governor Gav Tollis has news of Tesla Dane….she’s contacted him as recently as a month ago, from subsector 12, where the “missing system” of Arborea is located. Her transcript was brief: “Gav, tell them to find the idol of the Icumonitrox; they’ll find what they need there.” He assumes the crew of her former ship is the “they” she referred to.

(the following edited to avoid spoilers for my players...don't scroll over the redacted parts!)
6.       While in port, a stealthy cruiser from the Makamian Empire containing six assassins arrives, commandeered by Special Inquisitor Horus, specifically to assassinate the crew and uncover the mystery of Tesla Dane. They are here to protect the emperor from his original request to Captain Lars….as it turns out, Emperor Solvaros has been elevated by the Dark Stars and now controls dark energy as an immortal. His ascendance is what they seek to protect; they know Solvaros summoned Tesla Dane because he learned of her quest to answer the truth of the relationship between the Dark stars and the Void Lords, and they fear the answers (in truth,  Horus knows the answer: that the Dark Stars created the first Void Lords to be the original Star Knights, and that all Star Knights, given time, evolve into Void Lords….the young cull the ancient, essentially, in a never-ending war; they want the emperor to ascend and command both the Dark stars and the Void Lords!)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Dark Stars XV: Netherspace Sector Survey Report 6

This time around was spent more or less entirely in spaceport Curiosity-796, orbiting the moon called Relic, in an otherwise dead star system. Relic has evidence of a vast civilization which wiped itself out 20,000 years ago...yet another victim of the Netherspace Sector curse.

The crew in summary had the following events take place:

1. Most of the crew ran out to find ways to spend money, then realized they needed to "call home" to the empire to get their stipend and pay updated. It turns out that the spaceport, a fringe of the surviving remnants of the Human Commonwealth, has a 2:1 exchange ratio for local Commonwealth Credits (CCR) and Imperial Credits (ICR) in the PC's favor. Yay. Interstellar Communications still take days to travel so they have a wait for their credits to arrive.

2. 101010 discovered the glorious robotic emporium. I've been modding cybernetics rules to give robots more stuff to toy with, and also extended his leveling chart indefinitely....White Star needs a robust robotics supplement for robotic PCs.

3. Tamralese hatched from her chrysallis, now made of strange matter from another dimension. Recovers memories....can tell something is wrong (she can feel the elctromagnetic bonds of force holding matter together, and nothing feels "normal" enymore), tries to get a pheremone implant and poor chopshop is blown up in the process when they try to graft normal matter to her body. Boom.

4. A grumpy alien with a mysterious key to Cargo Hold 779 brings it by...he recognizes the ship, says Tesla Dane wants the key to return to the ship, and leaves. Also, an envoy from the Station Governor arrives, explaining he needs speak with the crew leader. Group sets an appointment.

5. Crew eventually spends money wisely on actual ship repairs and equipment then waits for extra funds for frivolous spending. Meanwhile heads off to check out Cargo Hold 779.

6. Along the way a trio of chilopteroids looking to collect a bounty unleash an Energy Eater on them. Fight's a tough fight! But the group wins.

7. Group kicks chilopteroid ass.

8. Group opens cargo hold 779. They find an immense crate, almost too large to store in their own ship's hold, and lots of additional crates of ship supplies. When they discern how to open the master crate it reveals a structure of crystal, silver, gold and platinum with an immense orb at the center. Dyvinil figures out how to feed it dark energy to power it up. It's a Mind Core to a Dark Star! And there's a notebook from Tesla Dane in the crate, too....she indicates her next quest goal: find a body for the mind core, leave it on this station for safe keeping in the interim.

9. The mind core reveals it is weak, and needs a proper body and power source, but imparts some data on what it is. Apparenly the Dark Stars created the first star knights...the first ascended species imbued with the power to manipulate dark energy. Those beings eventually mutated and became the Void Lords. The new generation of the star knights was created to destroy their predecessors. This mind core was a concientous turns out that such objectors are not appreciated, and the mind core was cast out in the area of the Serpent Nebula, a fate almost akin to death. Tesla Dane found the entity and recovered it.

10. Amidst this discovery, six Special Inquisitors of the Emperor himself show up and attempt to requisition the mind core. The group is suspicious, and a fight breaks out (except Tamralese, who leaves under orders of the inquisitors and heads to their ship like a good citizen). Sam pops ALL the grenades. The group survives but it was a tough battle.

11. Group heads back to ship. They manage to get the mind core stowed in their cargo hold. There are many mysteries to be answered:
--Why did the special inquisitors of the emperor show up and act so strange?
--What does the station governor want?
--Why did the Dark Stars exile this member of their species to the Serpent Nebula?

Stay tuned for more!!!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Genres that Need an OSR White Box Treatment

At the beginning of January I was thinking that a good forecast for this year was that we'd see more innovation in OSR rule sets with unique settings, but I wasn't thinking big enough...I focused on subgenres of fantasy and muddied the waters. My total conversion to a White Star sort of gaming focus lately had me realizing we need other non-traditional fantasy genres to get the White Box treatment. Right now we have White-Box/0E inspired games for science fiction (White Star), planetary romance (Warriors of the Red Planet), starship troopers (Colonial Troopers), super heroes (Guardians), fairy tales (Bloody Basic Mother Goose Edition), Totally-not-Warhammer-40K Space Hulk (Hulks & Horrors), espionage and X-Files (White Lies), urban fantasy (Skyscrapers & Sorcery), and no doubt others I don't know about or own. Some genres are well-represented (such as pulp adventures), just not with the White Box style.

Here's five genres we don't have represented properly yet, that I'd really like to see (followed by a mess of other suggestions):

5. Cyberpunk "White Hack"

Actually there is Stark Space, a sourcebook for White Star, that provides a nice expansion to cover this genre. But an actual dedicated Cyberpunk genre ruleset is not in the mix right now, anywhere. If I want to run guns as a solo or fixer in Night City, there's really no ideal system to handle this right now without grabbing White Star, Stark Space, and maybe White Lies and duct taping them all together with some classic CP 2020 for setting material.

4. Zombies "White Death"

The only OSR-styled zombie tome out there is Rotworld, which is actually a rendering of the classic Pacesetter game system in zombieland. It's a good straight-forward treatment of the genre but it is not what I want: a White Box treatment. A tome with some survivor classes, tons of equipment/salvage/survival rules and a load of cool GM tools for hexcrawl survival in zombieland would be amazing.

3. Post-Apocalypse "White Fallout"

Shockingly there's no real competition out there for post-apocalyptic emulators outside of Mutant Future, which of course is the Labyrinth Lord system with a very heavy coat of Gamma World colored paint. I like Mutant Future, but would love to see a White Box version in the same style and feel as White Star or White Lies, or possibly Warriors of the Red Planet.

2. Time Travel "Doctor White"

There's nothing like this anywhere for a classic OSR style. Instead we can look to the reprint of Time Master, or maybe Time Zero for Savage Worlds....but a White Box approach to time travel could make for a really interesting sort of setting. The challenge would be in figuring out how to handle a scenario generator for multiple timelines, and work out an over-arching set of general themes for the GM's toolbox...sort of how Dr. Who style time travel is one flavor vs. Star Trek or Quantum Leap type time travel. I feel like this could be a really interesting project for the right brave soul (not me, alas).

1. Cosmic Horror "White Doom"

Right now the closest effort at horror in OSR is Silent Legions, which is a Sine Nomine book so we know it's good, and closely aligns in general with the 0E aesthetic for the most part. But Sine Nomine is known for thick tomes with lots of elaborate detail and implied background....contrast Stars Without Number to White Star, for example; the former is like an encylopedia of procedurals and the latter is like a VCR loaded with Star Crash....if you've only got a couple hours to kill option #2 is going to be much preferred. The horror genre needs something like this in a White Box with a bunch of ready to rumble monsters, quick and easy rules for evil magic, some investigator classes, and maybe some efficient setting rules for a few key eras to help the GM along. I could really use a White Box styled horror game, is what I am saying....

And the Rest....

Absent from this list is the steampunk genre, which I'm not personally fond of, but I suspect someone could make a great OSR White Box game out of. I've also omitted genres that are not represented right now but which may be better served by other game systems' styles, such as schlock horror which is usually best with one-shot session systems. A wide range of OSR White Box games could easily spring out of an effort at adapting all sorts of historical settings into the system and style, however. Imagine an Imperial Rome White Box book, or one focused on ancient Greece. These have the disadvantage of requiring the proper level of work and research....and sometimes the effort spent in documenting the setting for use in an OSR system can make it hard to show restraint in the design, making more complex iterations of the game more suitable to the job at hand. That said, I'd love a good, clean White Box style book like "Ruins & Ronin" but exclusively for ancient Greek adventures, or Norse adventures...or Roman, Egyptian or even later periods. How about a Caribbean Adventures White Box? Think The Legend Pirates sourcebook, but actually useful.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Dark Stars XIV: Kedrak Prime

37 Kedrak Prime
The Kedrak system is doomed. The main star is about to go nova, and is an immense, ancient red giant which has engulfed much of the interior system. The gas giant Kedrak IX  has two dozen moons, and one inhabited moon called Kedrak Prime.  This civilized local world is unaware of what is about to happen; locals are a humanoid aggressive alien species of felinoids called the Keddirak, a lost colony from thousands of years ago during the pre-commonwealth expansion of the old keddirak Federation (which eventually collapsed, leaving countless felinoid worlds seeded throughout the galaxy).

Physically the keddirak are classic cat-men (Felinoids, see White Star core). The people of Kedrak Prime are survivors of a lost era of their expansionism….they have vague records of this time period, but no memory of how the old Federation collapsed (but war is a likely reason). There are relics of this ancient period still visible, including three immense terraforming atmospheric scrubbers. The machines failed long ago, and the keddirak regard them as almost mystical relics of their forgotten age, proof that they came from greatness and will one day ascend again.

Kedrak Primeis currently dominated by two world super-powers locked in a perpetual conflict: the Order of the Claw and the Razor Union. This has motivated them to spread in to space, and they have sophisticated late 21st century equivalent technology, cybernetics, and efficient nuclear power. However, advanced weaponry, foldspace technology and more have eluded the keddirak.

Among the keddirak is a growing movement of scientists and free thinkers called the Science Union who stand in opposition to the perpetual cold war. They are aware of the dire predicament that their world faces, and know that it is only a matter of time before the red giant star collapses on itself, blowing its matter out in to space and leaving a white dwarf in its wake….the entire star system will be dead at that point. They have engaged in active searches and broadcasting in to space on primitive radio transmission in search of the ancestors of the keddirak, but without success….so far.

Possible Plots:

Quinlon imperials are offering foldspace technology and weapons in exchange for slave recruits in their armies (the quinlons love using keddirak catmen as shock troops and have taken keddirak from other lost colonies for this purpose).

Chilopteroids have been studying the keddirak with the intent to harvest them for slaves, albeit secretly.

The Science Union will attempt to contact PCs who enter the system and beg for assistance in fleeing their world, emphasizing that the system could perish any day when the red giant goes.

A black ops branch of the Order of the Claw has hatched a plan to capture an alien vessel, and needs a target. They are using highly experimental technology recreated from a hidden vault in one of the terraformer ruins to create an incredibly dangerous and unstable quantum teleporter. Those who use it do not intend to return without a captured starship, and they go armed with the toughest armor and slug throwers the keddirak can make. The transporter range is limited….a target vessel needs to be within 1,000 km, so a separate diplomatic division is prepared to try to convince any alien contacts to come in close enough to use the device.

Star knights entering the system who investigate the local culture may be shocked to learn that there is an order of keddirak star knights….alien mystics who study The Way and appear to have learned how to manipulate dark energy without exposure to the Dark Stars…..

Keddirak Characters: Keddirak can be alien star knights (from Between Star & Void), alien brutes (core), alien mystics (core), the quixotic alien from Five Year Mission, and possibly others at the GM's discretion. Keddirak have nasty claws that deal 1D4 damage on a strike, and an uncanny sense of smell.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Dark Stars XIII: Netherspace Sector Survey Part 5

This week's game was quieter, thanks to our guest players being absent. The group got a lot done, and there was much plot and serious effort at enjoying the game to be had! Good stuff all around.

Quinlon salvager/dreadnaught Dark Claw
Roster of the crew of the exploration cruiser ISS "Juan One":
101010 the combat robot
Erin the star pilot and her trusty emancipated void lord snub fighter Sole
Dyvinil the totally not Sailor Moon star girl and her cosmic space Nancat
Dirk the rugged mercenary
Tamralese the xenosociologist, aristocrat, super model and secret sociopath
Samaros the crewman and survivor of Blight (NPC)
Oski the engineer (NPC)
Max Fuller the crazy transporter who's lost his mind after touching a "Mother Box' (NPC)
Medical Bot NB8 (NPC)

The session more or less went like this:

The group left New Germanican space in a hurry, only to be ambushed by non-baryonic dark matter aliens in Transitional Space. Three of the alien ships, which were effectively invisible except for a gravitationally interactive "signature" that the PC's ship's sensors could detect and use to form a picture of sorts  showed two carrier craft and a warship of some sort. They had captured the cruiser in three gravity beams acting like tractor beams....and inside the beams a boarding party of dark matter aliens!

Erin's AI-infused void lord snub fighter Sole mentioned that the Void Lords called these beings the In-Betweeners, or the "Vogel" in the Void Lord language.

The crew did all it could to bust up the ships' gravity beams, which would quickly turn into powerful torque weapons, using increased graviton beams to rip and crush the ship. Erin could pilot "into" the torque to avoid too much damage while Dyvinil, Dirk and 101010 targeted the hell out of them....but the laser weapons weren't too effective, until they direclty targeted the actual ships; the lasers didn't seem to damage the ships but did disrupt the source of the beam energy. Once all three beams were interupted Erin jetted out of the area.

Meanwhile the vogel boarded in the upper crew quarter area. A fight ensued, during which it became clear they didn't care about lasers at all...the nearly invisible beings only displayed eerie colors of red and black energy as the light refracted through their bodies, which appears to be infused with gravitons to let the dark matter aliens interact. Using graviton particle guns the aliens managed to be formidable, but Sam the alien brute chopped one in half with a star sword....the dark energy of the star swords could harm them! 101010 figured out his newly installed particle beam cannon also harmed them. The aliens were defeated....but each one "imploded" in a graviton particle wave collapse on death, and being too close could cause harm...Sam lost some skin to the graviton implosion, and Dirk's arm was badly broken as he was almost sucked in.

After the dust cleared the ship had a massive engine failure and dropped out of t-space into the middle of nowhere, surrounded by other dead ships. They figure out they've jumped several parsecs, and are resting a light year from the Dark Twins, two immense black holes with a great nebula of gas between them, slowly engaged in a death spiral.

The group started on repairs but it was going to take at least a day. Once power was restored to minimum functionality a quick scan detected dozens of dead ships, and a few with faint heat or energy signatures. Several events took place from here:

1. A chilopteroid salvage ship showed up (suspicious!) and began investigating each ship with an energy reading....they powered their ship down although IR emissions would still give them away. Before the chilopteroid ship got to the ISS Juan One  (the cruiser), another ship dropped out of t-space and immediately cloaked....minutes later a quinlon dreadnaught blows the chilopteroid ship to bits!

2. Tamralese (corrected name! formerly Marlese) went into a chrysallid state in her room, as her form begins to change to the strange matter of the Stellar Librarian's universe in the midst of all this.

3. The crew investigates the mysterious hatch into the cargo unit attached to the bottom of the ship, which Dyvinil recently opened and discovered contains the frozen remains of the former captain of the ship, Ephemeron, along with an eerie growth of biomechanical substance that is super-cooled. Since the hatch was opened and closed the "growth" of silvery material has been creeping out of the hatch and quadrupled in covered area.

101010, Erin and Dyvinil decide that the substance is probably a variant of the Von Neuman Plague nanovirus, and they proceed to irradiate the area and repurpose some stasis units to freeze the area around the hatch to keep it under control. Efforts appear successful.

Amidst all of this Erin and 101010 read/process the diary of Captain Ephemeron she found. It reveals much interesting detail: the ship they are in was originally his, and was called the Star Dolphin before it was scrubbed of any IDs and repurposed by Captain Lars of the Makamian Imperial Navy for their "survey" mission. Ephemeron's last mission was to accompany Tesla Dane into Netherspace Sector! He believed in her mission, which started with a quest to find out the relationship between the Void Lords and the Dark Stars (the planet-sized starlike energy beings which created the star knights) and turned into a quest to stop "the void lords and the betrayers" but the diary doesn't elaborate. She intended to co-opt the Von Neumann Nanovirus to do this, reprogramming it...they found samples at Hapson's World, but this is where an accident happened and Ephemeron contracted the plague. They froze him to slow it down while a cure could be found. Ephemeron also confirms that Tesla Dane did release a version of the virus many years ago in New Germanican space that specifically targets and destroys t-space tech. Much was learned here.

4. The NPC Max Fuller who is obsessed with a "Mother Box" he was supposed to receive (I wrote about this subplot before, right? Hmmmm) is found in his underwear worshipping a metal fabrication of the mother box, and something about how it will reveal the true gods and the true way. Shades of apocalypse, but none of my players read DC comics so BWAH HAH HAH
...they try to keep him restrained.

5. The quinlons that blow up the chilopteroids begin investigating wrecks with signatures. They approach the PCs. Erin diplomatically invites them aboard before they blow the hull and send in salvagers armed with disruptors.

The quinlons are led by one Captain Zassa Tamralane. Recall that in Dark Stars quinlons are 1/3 klingon, 1/3 predator and 1/3 average dude from Mad Max. They are spooky looking. As it turns out, Captain Zassa is one of the many quinlon independent mercenaries in this area...they are salvagers. But apparently they are also actively at war with the chilopteroids. She offers to trade equipment or services to repair the PC ship in exchange for useful goods; she detects a faint trace of Void Lord tech on their ship, but the PCs decline, offering functional stasis pods instead. She agrees (inexplicably) and provides recovered engine parts from the recently destroyed chilopteroid ship in exchange.

No one seems to suspect (until they read this sentence) that the quinlons may have been so agreeable because they got what they wanted without having to fight. What that is remains a mystery.

6. While pulling out used stasis pods for trade the group notices a stasis pod assigned to one Thomas Hill is now vacant...he is missing. No one's been down here for days so they are not sure how long but initially assume it malfunctioned during the power loss when the ship dropped out of t-space. 101010 starts searching for the missing formerly frozen crewman. His record suggests a criminal thug, yet another of the hapless recruits of the devious Captain Lars.

101010 detects motion in the hangar bay....and finds evidence someone is tampering with Sole, the void lord snub fighter Erin re purposed long ago! He, Erin, and Dyvinil work to stop whatever is happening....

So it turns out Thomas Hill is an alias for a void knight spy who was awakened at a specific time. He had already gathered a great deal of information from the ship, and used an override code to gain control of Sole. Erin yanked the circuitry while the ship was powering up for an escape; the ship blasted the bay doors open and Erin's latent psi ability saves her as she develops vacuum adaptation. 101010 targeted the laser cannons and did enough damage to warp the barrels so they couldn't fire. The void lord "Hill" is using cloaking tech, but jumps out of the cockpit and almost disintegrates 101010 with a ball of corrupted energy. He then tries to kill Erin with a thought but fails...her psi resistance kicks in. Dyvinil transforms into an image of the space unicorn they had met on Blight and attacks...her cat attacks (remember, Dyvinil is a "totally not sailor moon" star girl) and 101010 blows holes in the void knight's armor....they defeat him.

On his body they find evidence that he was going to flee to a location called Void Station Vartinimos, only a parsec away. He knew the old code necessary to "leash" Sole and Erin works on fixing that backdoor control issue for her snub fighter. He also had downloaded all of the ship's data and survey information to date....with close attention evident in his data on two subjects: Tesla Dane, and the Mother Box! Apparently whatever Max Fuller was involved with, it's bigger than people realize...

The group gets some advice from Oski on possible locations where they can limp to a full feature star port for proper repairs, and set out to do so. Ironically they take about four times longer than necessary as they weave their way through The Tiberon Anomaly, but somehow they come out unscathed, although they get great survey data on the timepsace distortions in the area and record data on three massive wormholes spiraling around something undetectable except through gravity waves.

The group passes through Kedrak, and discovers a civilization on a moon around a gas giant at the edge of the system; but the system has an immense, old red giant nearing a collapse point. The moon's civilization is comprised of a race of cat-men who have developed 21st level space technology and even have space stations and some other moon colonies, but that's it. The ship is detected and contacted on primitive radio channels by three groups: two military groups of opposing factions trying to suss out what they are, and a scientific research group thinking they are the aliens destined to come save them from the imminent destruction of their star system when the star collapses. All three sides want help....but one does launch a missile (or something) at the ship's location, ETA 3 weeks.

The group finally decides to send the research group a pod containing an interface to a limited-AI computer they can hook up, which will teach them how to make foldspace drive tech. They send duds for the military groups to chase. They then one's feeling overly charitable right now!

The group heads for Curiosity 796, and they arrive in-system to find an indepenent space station orbiting the moon "Relic." The Taylor-9 Station is an independent station, part of the old Libertarian Commonwealth that survived (miraculously) the void lord incursion a decade ago. They are assigned a docking berth for repairs....the only rules are that they must not be harboring the Von Neuman Plague (uh oh) or smuggling cannicks. The group bribes the inspectors to look the other way.

At this point, the only real concern is that there's also a chilopteroid exploration vessel in port.....


Taylor-9 Commonwealth Freeport

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperboria: Corvus the Grim

I finally have AS&SH in print, in its gorgeous little box with spiral-bound tomes within. The system is AD&D with lots of refinement...I really like it. The flavor is exotic, captures the feel of the pulp sorcery and sword genre remarkably well, and evokes the ghost of Howard, Ashton-Smith, Carter, Wagner and others quite handily. Anyway, if you're interested in what a typical AS&SH character looks like, here's my first: a ranger, ready to head off in to the world to die at the claws of Yithians or worse. Note that the ranger is one of a very modest number of core classes you'll recognize...there are a lot of interesting subclasses in AS&SH; it's part of the "options heavy" genre of OSR titles, which I really like.

Name: Corvus the Grim (“Grimcrow”)
Ixian (human) male, Chaotic Good, Ranger Level 1
Attribute             Test/Feat
STR         17           4:6/32%                +1 to hit, +2 damage
DEX        14           3:6/8%                  +1 missile attack
CON       15           3:6/15%                +1 HPA, +1 poison Adj.
INT         11                                           
WIS        10
CHA       12
Hit Dice: 1D10   Hit Points: 11   Fighting Ability: 1     THAC0: 19   Attack Rate 1/1
Saving Throw:   16           Modifiers: +2 vs. death, +2 vs. transformation
Armor:  Scale Mail            AC: 6      DR: 1

Ranger Abilities: Alertness (-1), Ambusher (3:6), Discern Noise (4:12), Hide (5:12), Move Silently (5:12), Otherworldly Enemies (+1 dmg/level), Tracking, Track Concealment, Traverse Overgrowth, Weapon Mastery (scimitar, +1 to hit and damage, 3/2 attack), Wilderness Survival

Secondary Skills: guard/watchman
Languages: Common, Thracian

Scimitar (1D10+3 damage 2-H style, +2 attack)
Short Bow (1D6 damage, +1 attack)
Quiver with 24 arrows

Backpack, fishing hook (12), fishing line, soft leather pouch, 50 ft hemp rope, leather scabbard, 5 torches, waterskin, leather belt, normal boots, normal clothing, hooded heavy cloth coat

2 GP; 7 SP; 2 CP


Corvus the Grim, known to his comrades as Grimcrow, is an Ixian ranger who served under the monster hunter Laithos, who perished several years ago while thwarting the necromancer Sevixar. Laithos left his wisdom to Grimcrow, who while still inexperienced in hunting abominations nonetheless feels he is ready for the task. Though there are more than enough opportunities to hunt the abominations summoned by the sorcerers of Scythium in his native land, Corvus the Grim has decided to march out into the greater realm of Hyperboria in search of the most fearsome beasts from beyond the starry nights that he may slay them all, or die trying.

System Notes:

AS&SH uses a simpler die mechanic for physical feats, the "test of strength" as well as for Con and Dex which is a D6 roll against a target number defined by stat. It also allows a percentile roll for extreme feats, and that gets a +8% modifier if you have a class that uses that prime requisite. 

The system uses a single save modifier, with class-specific adjustments. This is a welcome borrow from S&W.....seriously, once you see the one-save mechanic in action it's hard to go back.

Armor Class:
AS&SH also uses descending armor class, but employs a "Fighting Ability" value which determines the column you look up your hit chart on. The hit chart appears to be consistent with the THAC0 concept for purposes of easy the method in AS&SH is to Roll 1D20, add your bonuses to hit for the weapon and strength, and then see how close you get to THAC0 (or look up your chart). EX: Corvus rolls a 17 to hit, adds 3 for his scimitar skill (due to weapon mastery plus strength) and gets 20. he knows he hit AC -1 then, because his THAC0 is 19, so his THAC-1 would be 20. Later he rolls a 13, plus 3, for he knows he hit AC 3 (THAC0 19 minus 16 is 3). The format means it will make explaining AC easy to players new to the concept as it keeps everything consistent.

Action Resolution:
Since AS&SH is modeling AD&D mechanically, it actually addresses an action economy (action resolution) to handle multiple attacks per round. It's interesting to see this tightly defined....I've run AD&D multiple different ways when it came to the action economy. Given I have a strong, compelling desire to sun AS&SH I'll have to think about whether I want to stick to the action resolution system as presented, or play it fast and loose like S&W White Box editions tend to.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Dark stars XII: New Germanica

37 New Germanica
The colony of New Germanica was founded during early colonial expansion from mostly German spacers. They have developed starfaring technology over the last thousand years, and are now advancing in to the colonization of the system.  The current regime is a fascist xenophobic array of personalities who are preparing for “war” against the outsiders, i.e. the Makamian Empire and the Void Lords. The leader of New Germanica (NG) is Hans Grueller, a strong personality who is seen as a war hero, the man who “drove out” the Void Lords and refused a treaty with the star knights. New Germanica barely survived the Void Lord incursion a little over a decade ago, and had the Void Lords not began a retreat when the star knights arrived they would have been annihilated. The Void Lords retreated when the star knight fleet of the Lost Seven arrived, and it was through NG subterfuge that they did not detect the incomplete Void Lord technology left behind.

Resting at the edge of the star system is a monolithic structure, the Anti-Matter Wave Generator that the Void Lords were building to extinguish the system. The Empire of New Germanica has done all it can to keep the evidence of this weapon secret, and will do all it can to hide its existence, even as the New Germanican scientist pour over the device in an attempt to reverse engineer the technology hidden within, so they may complete the construction of the device. Early results have been successful in learning how to harness antimatter particles and store them indefinitely; these are now being converted into crude but incredibly dangerous weapons and raw sources of power.

The starships of New Germanica are only equipped with foldspace engines, so they have yet to expand beyond a few light years of space, but this has led to colonies on Remandalis, Habaris and Serpikus. They have deep space explorers moving slowly toward other star systems; part of their mission directive is to capture any advanced FTL technology, at any cost.

Events at New Germanica:

Capturing FTL Drive Tech: The NG has slow foldspace drive, so they can travel without relativistic effects but it takes years or decades to go a parsec or two. They have been trying to capture a working Transitional Drive for a long time, and try to lure “xenos” as they call all outsiders into traps to gain access to a working drive. However, they have a couple complications…

The Modified Von Neuman Plague: The NG was exposed by someone (possibly Tesla Dane!) to the Von Neuman Plague, which is a rampant nanovirus that destroys and assimilates any target it is programmed for; it was originally released on a remote colony called Last Call and spread rapidly throughout the old Triton Commonwealth, leading to that sector’s downfall. The version released in NG territory is designed specifically to target Transitional Drive technology, although mutational strains of the nanovirus have begun targeting bioforms again recently.

Zomborgs: Cyborg zombies are a plague in the NG’s “slums” where most non-eugenicized races live in squalor. The nanoplague occasionally mutates and resets back to its original condition, which is to convert bioforms into mechanical life and a machine hive intelligence. These zomborgs are like assimilants, but any physical contact requires a save or the individual in question contracts the nanovirus, which takes 3D6 weeks to slowly convert the organism into a man-machine hybrid slave of the hive mind. The goal of the hive mind is to expand indefinitely….it has no other purpose.

Zomborg Stats: AC 15 (carbon plate armor); HD 4, HP 16, Move: 9, Attacks 2 or by weapon, claw (1D6) and bite (1D4) (and make a save or contract the Zomborg nanovirus) or laser rifle (2D6), ST 15, HDE 4/120 

The commoners of NG think that the zomborgs are a product of the NG government, and their lack of response is due to the disinterest the government has in "unmodified" genotypes. They are half-right: scientists of the NG did, indeed, seek to modify the Von Neuman Nanovirus initially to stop it from destroying T-Space tech, but later they realized it had a "locked" programming which they tampered with, then exposed their test population to. It got loose....but so far the threat is regarded as nominal to a system with a massive overpopulation issue and an elite genetically "superior" aristocracy in control.

The Dark Matter Aliens: There’s a sophisticated effort in the dark matter realm, which is bridged only while in Transitional Space, to destroy vessels which try to leave the NG system. The dark matter aliens are called the Kerig, and they use a complex form of biomechanics for their ships. More on these, and their motives, later….

Friday, February 5, 2016

It was the Skooma

Dark stars XI: Blight System

49 Blight
Blight was noted for its singularly unimpressive post-apocalyptic primeworld, the original name of which was long ago lost in favor of the scout’s nickname of Blight. On Blight rests the remains of an unknown civilization bombed back to stone age in what appears to be a genocidal war; debris in orbit and on the three moons of the planet clearly indicate they had progressed into space and were colonizing their system when the extinction level warfare took place. Now, the survivors of Bight are a handful of desperate wastelanders competing for precious resources with a large mass of mutated flora and fauna, a byproduct of biogenetic engineering for warfare and mutations from bioweaponry.

Events at Blight:

1. There is a strange orbital station/ship that looks like a vast, mirrored lens or saucer around Blight. It is defended by automated snub fighters, but may be friendly with the right approach. The vessel is run by a chilopteroid called Chiron, a race of ancient  near-immortal vampire bat-men. Chiron has arrived here from his home planet of Gleison, ostensibly to study the plight of the people of Blight; he represents himself as a benevolent god to them, and sends them on missions to gather ancient relics which he claims he is studying to determine what happened to the planet. In truth, he is implanting the natives with a red organic crystal, which he uses to sap psychic energy from the natives, feeding himself and his chliopteroid clan, and allowing them to continue with their indefinite life span. He is also secretly trying to find the Stellar Librarian (see below) which he believes contains the secret to true immortality.

2. A star cruiser from the Segurandi Dominion called The Infallible and piloted by the star witch Kalabretta (Mystic level 3; S 11 D 17 C 10 I 12 W 14 CH 18; HP 9, HD 2; AC 13, Attack 1, Star Sword +1 attack, 1D6+4 damage; ST 12; Meditations: invisibility, detect life, speed burst (gift); Mystic is in Between Star & Void, page 8). She has a dozen soldiers (WS page 80) in her service. She is investigating two issues: what the chilopteroids are up to (they are an enemy of the Segurandi Dominion and the witch queen in particular), and the recovery of a lost artifact: a Stellar Librarian. The Stellar Librarian is a holographic recording device that she believes is located in the ruins of one of the largest cities still standing on Blight, a haunted location which is overgrown with deadly flora and fauna. The Stellar Librarian may have been hidden here during the invasion of the Void Lords to save it from destruction, since the Void Lords tended to ignore already devastated systems. Kalabretta might be willing to hire the PCs to aid in its recovery, offering them 300 credits and the promise of an assist in the future if they need her help.

Bestiary of Blight:

Blight Natives are seven foot tall humanoids with insectoid features, four arms, and deep red and blue hues of “skin.” AC 13, HD 2, Move 12, Attacks 2, swords 1D6 or crossbows (1D6+1), ST 17, HDE 2/30; Special: most natives have odd random mutations, and all natives have all-around vision; surprise only 1 in 6 chance)

Gromics are 20-25 foot tall gorilla-like beings with wide, membranous wings. They actually have a limited form of telepathy which they use to gain lift and they then glide on the intense winds of Blight. AC 14, HD 6, Move 12 (15 fliying), Attacks 2, Fists 2D6+1 each or throw rocks (1D6), ST 13, HDE 6/400

Chilopteroids of Gleison are six to eight feet tall, and resemble humanoid bats. AC 13, HD 3, Move 15 or 18 fly; attack 1 (claw 1D4) or laser pistol (1D6+2), ST 16, HDE 3/60; chilopteroids can become invisible at will as per the meditation; a chilopteroid with its blood crystal receptor will regenerate 1 hit point per turn, and leaving a body around will let it come back to life eventually; only destroying the body will stop the regeneration.)

Spider-Hunters prowl the ruins of Blight, looking something like a furry mammal combined with an arachnid, the Spidere-Hunters were unleashed on Blight to hunt down Chilopteroid enemies and escaped slaves. They are larger than mastiffs and have a vile poison. AC 14, HD 4, Move 12 (climb 12), attacks 2, claw/pincers 1D6+2 each, plus poison (Save or suffer paralysis and take 1D6 damage/turn for 1D12 turns as guts liquefy); ST 15, HDE 4/120

The Stellar Librarian is a cosmic inter-dimensional sentient probe from another universe. It can be attacked but is made of matter from another dimension and can only be temporarily disrupted, reforming 1D12 hours later after HP reach zero. It can impart knowledge to those who desire it, releasing a small black globe which when absorbed requires a save; if the target fails, then the subject is cocooned and gains the abilities but begins to slowly transform into strange matter from another dimension (more on what this means soon!). Effects that can be granted include: gain a new skill (if using skill abilities), wild talent psionics (if using Psionics supplement), a meditation or even something more exotic at GM’s discretion. AC 18, HD 12, HP 42, Move 20 (levitation), attacks: none; the Stellar Librarian is pacifistic, but it can engage in a probe for 200 feet; targets must make a save, and on failure the Stellar Librarian knows all data on the subject; Chilopteroid nervous systems tied to blood stones are disrupted by this for 1D6 turns, and may affect unshielded cybernetics in the same way; ST 7; HDE 2,000

Zunathics are also other-dimensional energy beings, and are also made of a strange matter which fluctuates in an indeterminate matter/energy state. They can take any form (the one with the Stellar Librarian appears as a unicorn made of cosmic stardust….yes, that is right). Zunathics can absorb 50 points of energy damage before further damage disrupts their form; physical damage has no effect (but see below); if one is reduced to 0 HP it is disrupted and reforms 1D12 hours later. AC 19, HD 8, HP 28, Move 12 (18 running), Attacks 1, Particle Beam Horn 4D6 damage and make a save or take 2D6 damage for 1D4 additional rounds; Special: any physical attack striking the zunathic forces the attacker to make a saving throw; failure means the object is disintegrated or the creature takes 8D10 damage (and is disintegrated if hitting 0 HP); ST 11; HDE 8/800