Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ad Astra Aliens II: Anageni

Ad Astra: The Anageni

A peculiar being, with a body and four limbs but decidedly not “humanoid”. It moves about like a crab, often in different directions. It is comprised of a blue and orangish skin, fuzzy to the touch, and one side has a lumpy bump,a sort of head, with numerous marble-like protrusions serving as sensory nodes.

Seemingly androgynous, sparsely-detailed, and extremely slim humanoids, with double-jointed limbs and digits. They lack a centralized cerebellum, and instead have brain tissue laced throughout their body in tight cords around their fibrous, flexible yet strong skeletons. Anageni developed gravitic technology over a three thousand years ago, and only within the last nine centuries were they able to manipulate wormhole technology to open low-energy portals wide enough to cross through space time. The Anageni achieved mastery of their genome and the process of genetic manipulation long ago, and biogenetics are commonplace on their worlds. They also have mastered remote probing of parallel universes through subatomic wormholes. They have been studying Progenitor technology for centuries, and have a keen understanding seen in no other species. They communicate most efficiently by touch, exchanging streams of protein chains encrypted with a vast sum of information, but the xenological Anageni and diplomats among their kind have “grown” specialized sensory organs such as a mouth by which they might communicate with humans and other species relying on audio-visual sensation for interaction. The backs of Anageni are ridged with fine, hair-like filaments that are nerve-endings leading directly into their cerebral network, and are capable of detecting and interpreting light well into the microwave band as well as motion on such a level as to create a stunning, 1080 degree image in their minds of their environment, though efforts to understand how they actually “see” what they feel in their sensory network is beyond human imagination.

Anageni are Double-Jointed in all of their limbs and digits (both legs, both arms, seven fingers and toes on each foot and hand). Anageni actually prefer to move about on all fours, and while they don’t need to, will prefer to do so whenever possible.

Anageni have no “heads” to speak of, but instead have a sensory-stump roughly where the human mind tries to place a neck and head. This stump contains the longest of the sensory hairs, which are really tendrils for close probing, and an Anageni which is struck and injured in this area is as impaired as if blinded. A similar effect can be achieved with they are hit with a sudden, intense burst of microwave energy, which could permanently burn them if intense enough, besides the usual burn damage.

Anageni do have some of the finest sensory organs in known space, however, and as such, make all Awareness broad and specialized skill checks at -2, with regards to details about the light spectra being felt, distant movement, and difficult optical effects. Likewise, they are nearly impossible to surprise, and an attempt to do so must be done with a +3 modifier, unless special precautions are taken.

Anageni may take on specialized mutations, through genetic manipulation, but do so as a practical species, and are not in the habit of gratuitous self-provement without a reason, Often, an Anageni will alter himself as necessary for a specific task, only to reverse the change later when the necessary task is complete. This ease of change is due to the amazing flexibility of their bodies, their susceptibility to change, and the peculiar way in which they, long ago, modified their genome to work almost like an input/output processor. It is not hard for an Anageni to change himself as necessary.

For this reason, an Anageni at the start of play may spend 5 skill points to begin with a mutation package. Later on in the course of game play, they may pursue such changes as necessary.

Anageni are part of their own Stellar Community, and claim dozens of worlds as their own, and many more that are under their safe-keeping. They have a direct alliance with the Free world Corp, who negotiated a trade alliance with them a century ago, and with the GICH, whom they sympathize with. They have a tentative cooperation agreement with the Federated Commonwealth, and have resisted treaties or trade agreements with all other groups. The Anageni are not isolationist, however. Rather, they have a strong sense of libertarian values, and have cosntructed a spacefaring society and government which operates on such principles. There is a great deal of concern among the anageni that this system could be compromised if alien powers are given the opportunity.

Anageni Characters:

Anageni have some unusual options due to their transgenic habits as a species. Many anageni also modify themselves transgenically, adding bioware to their bodies (use the augments rules for some ideas in the main rulebook):

Extra Arms: Anageni have ful use of all four limbs, and are double jointed as well. This grants them Ambidexterity as well as a +2 Dex bonus. Furthermore, they may multitask, performing two non-combat actions at no penalty simultaneously if circumstances permit (for example, two limbs fixing a communications array on the left while the other cleans a weapon on the right). The first reaction of an anageni in combat does not reduce the initiative track by 1 (though subsequent reactions do).

Sensory Node: Anageni have a sensory node which is especially attuned to the following senses: stereoscopic sensory field on all levels: hearing, vision, smell, touch, as well as infravision, and magnetic field detection. Anageni may make observational checks normal humans could never do without instrumentation to help them out.

Not Too Tough: Anageni are physically weak and are at -1 Str and -2 End.

Scholarly: Anageni prize intelligence and education highly, and gain +1 in both Int and Edu.

Anageni are always modifying themselves through biomechanics and gene manipulation; many other unique or unusual augments can be purchased. To reflect this, Anageni who are rolling on their career paths may substitute any mustering out benefit rolls for a choice of 1 augment. They may also choose an augment in place of any attribute increase on a personal development skill, subject to referee approval.

Career Paths: Anageni value the sciences above all, and are very disdainful of the military (law enforcement positions are as close as anageni get to any sort of armed forces). As such, anageni get a +2 bonus for their first career in any Science career, but a -2 penalty to enlistment in any military branch outside of law enforcement, since they would be enlisting in a foreign agency’s armed forces.

Sample Anageni:

UPP: 659887

Skills: Athletics (any) 0, Science (any) 1, mechanical 1, Acrobatics 1

All text copyright 2011 by Nicholas Torbin Bergquist, all rights reserved

Monday, November 28, 2011

Legend of Grimrock

Had to share this: it's a dungeon crawler in classic "Eye of the Beholder" style (which was pretty common back in the late eighties and early nineties...Wizardry, anyone?) but with all the spit and polish of a modern game. Legend of Grimrock is going into beta, and I'm rather's a style of game that I think holds up just fine, and has long been neglected due to the other more modern tantalizing possibilities of modern systems.

Meanwhile! Day four, baby doing well, mom doing well and happy she got a chance to play a bit of the Star Wars The Old Republic Beta (dad can feed, burp, and entertain the little guy, too!). She likes what she's played so far, for those interested in a cursory review.

Ad Astra: Aliens I: Praektorians

Ad Astra: The Praektorians

A 7-9 foot tall humanoid, with rubbery grey-blue skin, alien musculature, and huge saucer like eyes on an ovoid head. Where a mouth should be is a mass of dangling, writhing tentacles probing for food and covering a proboscis-like mouth. Each muscled arm ends in three powerful digits which flex to project enormous bio metallic claws.

The Praektorian species is one of the earliest man encountered. Due to the fact that the Praektor were harvested over a period of millennia by the Harbinger species, Praektorians were spread throughout the Orion Arm of the galaxy and perhaps beyond. They were cultivated as shock troops and ground soldiers by the Harbingers, and often genetically enhanced and altered. It is not even clear if their original point of origin still exists, of was destroyed by the harbingers. There are no present unified Praektor civilizations, but rather a loose cultural grouping over many domains. Only a few territories are ruled by this species.

Praektorians are large bipeds, averaging 8 to 9 feet in height, and bulky, though their surprisingly light for their size. They are still amphibious, and hail from a dense, watery world. Many Praektorians were genetically modified to no longer require immersion in water to avoid skin damage, but some pure-strain Praektorians still require immersion at least once a day.

Praektorians are gray to black in skin color, and have large, oval heads ending in a may hidden by draping tentacles. They have multi-colored tattoo-like imagery on their foreheads, serving to signify the males and females. These symbols are always unique among groups, and appear to have hereditary ties.

Praektorian eyes are large, saucer-like, and dominate much of the head. They are photoreceptors, big plates that do not swivel, and are positioned so that the Praektorian has 360 degrees of vision. They do not focus on specific movements or details, however, and have a complicated visual center of their brain which draws attention to desired details through a singling-out effect, in which they learn to ignore and focus, rather than deal with a constant surrounding image.

Praektorians are well armed, equipped with a three fingered hand with pronounced retractable natural blades. These blades can be broken by stronger materials, but are bony and razor-sharp. When pushing through the hollow, bony tubes of their fingers, the blades force their hands to go rigid.

Praektorians are equipped with exoskeletons, covered by epidermal tissue, with all organs and important body functions safely contained within. This provides them with a natural armor, and a better than average resistance to damage.

Praektorians have webbed feet and sometimes webbed fingers. They also have strong webbing running between their arms and rib cages. They can swim and dive to incredible depths, some as deep as a quarter of a mile, resisting great pressure at such depths. They can hold their breath for 30 minutes or more, and the amphibious throwbacks can process oxygen from the water they are diving in.

Praektorian Characters:

Praektorians get a number of special advantages, and may optionally choose to be amphibious as well.

Tough: Praektorians are large and hardy, and get a +3 Str and +2 End modifier. Praektorians tend not to value traditional educational systems, however, preferring the school of hard knocks and so get a -3 modifier to Education.

Natural Weapon - Retractable Claws: These do STR X1 damage. Praektorian claws can be broken, but regenerate in 1D6 weeks. They are strong carbon-metal claws and can cut steel.

360 Degree Vision: They get a +1 modifier to vision-based checks as well as initiative. However, they are susceptible to sudden changes in light; if exposed to sudden, intense light they will be at a –2 until they make an Endurance check.

Bad Reputation: former shock troops of the Harbingers, and receive –2 penalty to Social Standing .

Natural Armor - Tough Hide: Praektorians have a tough rubbery hide that provides a 2 point armor bonus. They are also insulated from unusually cold temperatures.

Optional: Amphibious subspecies. Some Praektorians still retain their amphibious heritage. They get the Aquatic trait, but do not suffer a dexterity penalty. They do require immersion in water periodically to avoid taking Endurance damage (1 point per turn if out of water for more than 24 hours). Should an aquatic praetorian decide to undergo transgenic modification, he may remove his water restriction through gene therapy and enhancements, at a cost of 100,000 credits and 1D6 months therapy and recovery from the operation.

Career Paths: Praektorians are known for their military prowess. They may belong to any military career and get a +2 modifier for enlistment in to a military branch for their first career term only.

Sample Praektorian:

UPP: A79745

Skills: Melee (claws) 1, Melee (brawl) 1, Recon 1, Swimming 0

All text copyright 2011 by Nicholas Torbin Bergquist, all rights reserved

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mobius - A Short Film

Aside from being a surprisingly entertaining short film, I like Mobius because it's filmed in area of California that reminds me of my home turf along the southern New Mexico/Arizona border, and it manages to touch on the border violence with a teensy bit of the X-Files thrown in for good measure. Anyway, fun short film with a twist:

Mobius from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

Home! And then there were three (plus a lot of cats and fishes)

We're home. This was quite the ordeal but it went surprisingly well. Marcus is a real trooper, and his mom even more so. I'm not sure who had it worse: the person who had to push a football through a golf-ball sized exit, or the person who got to be a football, but they have both come out ahead and are now sleeping soundly (or chewing on binkies) upstairs.

Despite being busy with family, my blog has many episodes programmed ahead, so you shouldn't see any interruption of this for some time....part of the advantage of having so much content already worked up!

Anyway, just wanted to provide that family update. Hope you all have as good a holiday season as my family is.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ad Astra: Regions of Space and Overview of Species

Regions of Space in Ad Astra

The galaxy of Ad Astra is represented by a large region of space defined by two zones: coreward (toward the galactic center) and spinward (the galactic periphery, the region where Earth is located). Within these regions are large areas called zones, each approximately 500 or more light years across. Zones are in turn broken in to sectors of 50x50x50 light years.

Region Summary

Spinward Regions of Space:

Rimward Zone The Terra-centered domain of space operated by the Human Federated Commonwealth

Freeworld Zone the human-dominated colonial expanses, loosely under HFC jurisdiction. Borders Pelegranen space and overlaps the Precursor territories.

Corporate Zones There are about a two dozen regions of human space specifically protected under HFC charters in which the local corporate interests have territorial control and complete legal jurisdiction. This was part of the civil conflict settlement.

Praektor Space The old-empire expanses once held by the crumbling Praektor empire. Much of this territory is under alien rule now.

Anageni Expanse A large, old, long-dominated region of space controlled by the Anageni, who function as a benevolent autocracy.

Zones in both Coreward and Spinward:

The Amber Zones A three-hundred plus light year region of space approaching the core of the galaxy that is quarantined. Once held the expanses of the now dead Byzanti Alliance. The charnel alliance was shattered two centuries ago, but the threat of it’s alien technologies and human dissidents live on, patrolled by HFC fleets.

Pelegranen Space The modest conquered territories of this warlike species.

The Founder Zone The Astratran Founders are heralded as the true sons of the space ways, having brought the technology of Wormholes to men and beyond. They are a benevolent, non-confrontational merchant species.

Metatranie Space The small but volatile empires of the Metatranie are luckily at war with each other far more often than with the Terrans.

Coreward Regions of Space:

The Dotari Region A quarantined region once held the the enigmatic Dotari, who progressed to a new stage of evolution millions of years ago, and are now trans-dimensional beings. Many encounters for simple four-dimensional species with these beings are fatal.

Grupnar Space Commonly known as the curmudgeons of the galaxy, this species holds sway over a unity of lesser species, and mistrusts terrans.

Harbinger Space This ancient region of space was once the playground of still-existant nearly cosmic entities which travel their routes throughout many galaxies via doomsday ships. This region has currently been quarantined since the return of on such Harbinger.

Shakaad Collective A region of multiple species with their own separate collective.

Kephran Empire A decadent humanoid empire discovered in 2592 which claims to have once ruled human space.

Species of the Ad Astra Campaign:

There are a bewildering variety of alien species throughout known space. The major species, that is, the major recent players in galactic politics, are described below. Each species has a known major affect on the current course of the interstellar community, either for better or for worse. Some species, such as the Farseers, are actually quite rare, and unlikely every to be encountered by most travelers. Others, like terrans and praektorians, seem to be everywhere and plentiful.

After the short list with brief intros, details on the abilities, profiles, and necessary character management data are provided.

Some of the most common known species include:

Name Quick Profile

Praektor Amphibious warriors once used by the Progenitors are soldiers

Grupnar mammalian-like “lizard-bears”, who rule their own region of space

Anageni quadrupedal, sensitive low-gravity dwellers, very scientific species

Cerr’K’Ta inimical species who adapt and advance by integrating others

Pelegranen warlike reptilian beings who are highly paranoid

Speakers squid-like psionic beings who serve the progenitors

Astratran Founders Tall, herd-minded explorers reminiscent of horses, very advanced

Dotari transdimensional beings who regard lesser beings as playthings

Metatranie powerful, primitive saurians, new to space-travel, and volatile

Hypolate Farseers evolved precursors, from Trikkus. Rare and curious people

Stick Men A trans-dimensional entity from another universe, a parasite

Gundari Wraiths Mysterious and deadly Byzantine allies, from quantum elsewhere

Byzanti Cyborgs Remnants of the machine intelligence of the Byzanti

T’Kazzt Rough terran allies, insectoid and very organized

Nommosi Thought nearly extinct, these ancient beings claim to predate all other species

Chael’Gaan A species brought near extinction by ancient war, spread thin and very violent

Golmak quantum beings from another universe, explorers and antiquarians.

Existing Traveller Species in Ad Astra

Characters in Ad Astra may be human. From Phase I onward, genetically enhanced humans become more common. Besides the other alien and simulant characters described in this setting, the referee is welcome to introduce Hivers, Vargr, Droyne and any other classic Traveller species in to the Ad Astra universe if he wishes. Foe example, you could easily assume that the Vargr are a recently uplifted species, although that means that they are not as widespread, nor do they have a homeworld. Conversely, you could assume that a precursor species did, in fact, uplift the Vargr long ago and transplant them to their homeworld and place them wherever you wish in the Ad Astra continuum.

Some suggestions for enhanced and uplifted species ideas follow, as well as where I would place default Traveller Species:

Vargr: The Ad Astra version of Vargr are colonial uplifted beings who have gathered in a series of colonies throughout the Freeworld Zone. Vargr were one of many uplifted species brought forth by humanity after reaching the stars.

Droyne: Droyne are indeed descended from an older and more advanced civilization, and are located in a remote region along the edges of Dotari Space.

Hivers: The hivers are as perplexing and mysterious in Ad Astra as in other universes. They are nestled in a region of space between The Rimward regions and Anageni space. The anageni, unsprisingly, get along fine with the hivers.

K’Kree: The herbivorous K’Kree are found on a small stretch of colonial worlds which they dominate in the Freeworld zones. They maintain their own regional government and are on very friendly terms with the terran freeworlders.

Aslan: The Aslan are fairly hostile to most outsiders, but maintain careful relations with their human neighbors in the Freeworld zone.

Human Variants: Human variants from core Traveller do not exist as such in Ad Astra, though you could use them as templates to extrapolate specific deviant or transgenic societies which have spun off from humanity over the centuries. In Ad Astra, no precursor race drew from primitive human stock to seed other worlds, and so there are no alien planets full of human-like species out there. When you find a world with humans on it, you know they all descend from earth within the last few centuries.

Some ideas for other potential species or transgenics follow. The core Traveller rules provide plenty of information on developing interesting new species.

Aquatic Xenoforms and Transgenic Oceanic Hybrids: A fairly humanoid aquatic being which is naturally adapted to or has been transgenically modified to survive on a water world would gain a +1 Dex when in water and have Athletics (swim) 0.

Avian Xenoform: An avian or winged xenoform with flight may come from a low gravity homeworld if it still maintains enough mass to fly yet is also sentient (distributed brain mass, or more compacted cranial capacity, perhaps.)

Insectoids: Lots of unusual races could be insectoid in appearance, although such species would have different respiratory processes if their mass is human sized or larger, unlike Terran insects.

One of the underlying themes of the campaign is that it is a big universe, and by Phase III, there are literally hundreds of intelligent species interacting in known space, and thousands of minor species yet undiscovered. The referee should encourage players to design unique races for unusual characters they wish to play by this stage, as well as creating his own!

All text copyright 2011 by Nicholas Torbin Bergquist, all rights reserved

Friday, November 25, 2011

Marcus Torbin Bergquist

Born at 2:03 AM on Friday the 25th! First pic includes a very tired mom and later pic has a very tired dad holding Marcus. But we're very glad he's finally here!

The Shrine / An Argument by Sean Pecknold

I'll be honest, I my powers of interpretation are failing me on this one, but it is a fine example of why Vimeo is so awesome. Anyway, the best I can analogize this video to is the sort of disturbing psychotropic experience you might get after smoking a bit of the salv divinorum. Also, the music is great:

The Shrine / An Argument from Sean Pecknold on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ad Astra: Introduction and Future History

Traveller: Ad AstraA Campaign Setting for Mongoose Publishing’s Traveller Role Playing Game

Ad Astra (“to the stars” in Latin) has been my private space opera for two decades now. I have linked my science fiction adventures together over the years, producing the fairly lengthy and tumultuous future history of the universe. Ad Astra is a universe which begins with a near-future world of dark conspiracies and alien visitations, turns in to a not-too-distant tale of expanding humanity and two-fisted tales of hard-science adventures on the frontier of space, and eventually expands to a galactic tale of space opera and far-future politics among powerful alien empires. The intent of the setting is to insure that you, as GM, can run it in any particular vein you like, linking adventures in different eras together over time, as a grand plot that transcends the generations slowly unfolds.

The historical timeline of Ad Astra allows for a grand overview of the progress of man spanning several hundred years. It provides some details on the overarching plots and themes that develop over time, especially the gradual expansion of man in to foreign space and humanity’s first contact scenarios with the greater universe. The theme of the Harbingers and their eventual threat is also important, as is the mystery of such beings as the Byzanti and the Gundari Wraiths.

I’ve run Ad Astra in multiple role playing systems. Ad Astra grew out of an explanding metaplot I would develop with each opportunity to run a new SF campaign. The system was usually the hot game of the hour. Traveller, Megatraveller, GURPS, Alternity, Hero System, Savage Worlds and Tri-Stat DX have all hosted Ad Astra as the underlying system, and I’ve provided some online details for a couple of them. Most recently Mongoose Publishing released a new and very polished edition of Traveller, and so it is my pleasure to bring Ad Astra back to the original system from which it was first conceived. The adaptation that follows will include specifics on how to use Traveller as the default Ad Astra game engine with a minimum of fuss. In fact, pretty much the entire body of rules for Traveller will work just fine as-is with Ad Asta; all you’ll need from this setting are some specific details and statistics to go with it all.

Traveller Conventions:Ad Astra employs all of the rules for characters, ships and worlds as outlined in Traveller. Transgenics are also common in Ad Astra and less restricted than in the standard Traveller universe. Psionics exist in the Ad Astra universe as a barely-understood force linked to the quantum flux. It is believed by many mystical agencies that psionics are the first step of a conventional physical being in to a larger, incorporeal universe. The Harbingers, Wraiths, and other species have all developed this potential to some extent, but mankind as a whole remains largely uninvolved with psionics until Phase III and beyond. Finally, simulants and anageni are all affected by transgenics to one extent or another, the specialized weird science focusing on genetic modification.

A Future History in Four Phases The history of mankind in space begins before Sputnik, and may indeed have begun before man had left the stone age. His future history goes on for many millennia, but the four phases of expansion in Ad Astra deal with a period from the twentieth century in to the twenty-sixth.

Dawn of the Interstellar Age
Mankind’s first encounters with the galaxy at large did not begin in space, but in fact dates back to many early occurrences of alien contact. First contact may actually have happened multiple times over countless millennia, but some famous known examples include the following:

In 1947, the first documented modern contact with aliens occurs when a Gundari slave ship crashes near Roswell. Survivors reveal the millennial practice of harvesting humans and other lesser species for Gundari thrall armies before escaping. The havoc caused by the surviving shape shifters leads to the formation of MJ-12, a covert government agency designed to respond to alien threats.

In 1997, Nommosi remnants stranded on Earth from a crash-landing in the Cretaceous era are awakened when one of their poly phasic artifacts are discovered and activated. The surviving Nommosi attempts to create a chrono-phasic wormhole to return to the past and stop the disastrous crash, but in so doing begins dragging that period in to the near future. Fortunate intervention stops the irreparable damage to past and future.

In 1998, As a side effect of the Nommosi awakening, stranded T’Kazzt criminals are motivated to seek escape, and attempt to convert human listening stations in to FTL transmitters to call for help. Federal agents intervene in conjunction with MJ-12. Variable periods in history have revealed trans-phasic incursions by beings moving through poly-dimensional wormholes, most notably the so-called “Stick Men,” who have been with humanity potentially for several thousand years. Likewise, there is a suspicion among mytho-historic scholars that apocalyptic accounts of floods and disasters in human legends suggest a period in which the Sol System might have come in to a near-contact with one of the Harbingers (near-contact because direct contact would have led to the harvesting and extermination of Earth).

Phase I: 2048-2150

First Contact and STL Expansion Period
Mankind has developed a sophisticated future society and begun development of the solar system. In this period, humanity experiences a period of future shock, which is slowed only by the outward expansion in to space over time.

2048 marks the time in which a period of continuous global conflicts and escalating warfare over diminishing fuel resources are almost completely eliminated due to the unexpected development of cheap, almost unlimited fuel through the manufacture and development of anti-matter. The Klausman-Zabrinski Particle Collider and highly effective magnetic bottling methods make the exploitation of total energy-to-mass conversion through anti-matter dirt cheap and accessible to all. In less than a decade, humanity is lifted from the brink of destruction in to a new renaissance.

In 2052, The nations of the world are united and commemorate the new era of peace with the launch of the Orpheus Project, a multi-national effort to promote the furtherance of space development with the first anti-matter interstellar space explorers. Orpheus I, II, and III are set to launch on completion in orbital stations in 2056, and begin their journeys to three likely star systems displaying possible terrestrial planets according to new advanced telescopic imaging stations established in the Kuiper Belt Research Stations. Daedalus III will reach Alpha Centauri, closest binary star system to Sol, in approximately 50 Earth years acceleration and deceleration time. It will be the first vessel to arrive. Orpheus II is sent to Wolf 359, and Orpheus I is sent to Tau Ceti. Each Orpheus vessel carries an experimental wormhole receiver gate with it to be assembled on arrival. The current wormhole project holds that a two-way connection is required to operate the wormhole by utilizing the two openings to force the hole open with a web of complex hyper dense particles. Again, particles made possible using new accelerator and bottling technology.

In 2076 the first functioning self sustainable two-way worm-hole is created in the Kuiper Belt Research Stations. Technology has superseded itself here, as the means of exploring worlds still to be reached by the Orpheus project can be done in spite of issues of relativity. The new system allows a ship to be fired, virtually, through an accelerator 200 km long through a worm-hole entry which is momentarily flung open by a massive burst of heavy exotic particles from adjacent interactive accelerators. The ship arrives at a destination where it can then utilize it’s onboard equipment to mine and manufacture a receiving end which can create the sustainable wormhole. Plans are immediately put in place to make use of the new Gateway-1. By 2082, multiple avenues of research are underway and the first explorer ships are out.

In 2079, a monumental discovery is made by Kurosawa Mining and Development in the ice fields of the Titan moon when they detect a large artificial object trapped in the moon’s ice flows. The first and earliest Dragoons (cybernetically enhanced humans) are brought in when the initial research teams are lost, and discover that the vessel is of alien origin and infested with unknown, hostile organisms that strike at the genetic structure of their targets and take control of enemy organisms. This is humanity’s first contact with the Cerr’K’Ta. Later, when the infestation is eliminated, what is left of the vessel leads to more mysteries, many not answered until centuries later. Unfortunately, Kurosawa does not share it’s discoveries with other members of the Commonwealth.

In 2082, the first fracturing of the Solar Commonwealth is experienced when the Jupiter Faction breaks away, due to an artificial intelligence which becomes motivated to become exclusive caretaker of it’s willing society. The rampant acceptance of neural networking and biotech advances which have lead to the creation of biomimetic powers in the human mind are blamed for this bizarre cultural revolution. This cultural revolution slows interstellar expansion as the First Stellar War is fought, but it leads to the first idea of the Slingshot drive, locally constructed accelerator stations which can open smaller wormholes to fire a ship to another region in the solar system, making local travel times much shorter.

2086, The first phase of the interstellar survey teams has unexpected results as a team stumbles on a Dotari Habitat. The Dotari lash out violently to the xenobiological intrusion, and then send armed forces to Sol, where they begin a systematic annihilation of wormhole capabilities. The existing warfare makes things worse as the first contact with a present alien species proves overwhelmingly hostile, and the xenophobic, poly dimensional Dotari and their manufactured subjects are too alien to rationalize with. The First Stellar War ends with the Dotari domination and subjugation of human space forces on all sides in 2092. Confident Terran space development has been stopped, the Dotari leave. Unknown to them, factions of the Solar Commonwealth have survived with Kuiper Station technology intact, by moving key wormhole capable vessels to other systems, including Alpha Centauri.

In 2087, after a close engagement with unknown hostiles monitoring the system the human remnants are saved by a Founder trade ship which aids them. With the assistance of the Astratan Founders, the Solar Commonwealth contingent returns to the Kuiper Belt of the Solar System. Confident that the Dotari are gone, a methodical plan to restore humanity to the stars begins. Aided by the Founders, who seek to aid those injured by the Dotari threat to gain new allies, the reconstruction will take approximately three decades before man’s presence in space is fully restored. During this time, a great deal of effort is placed on careful, methodical, and quiet interstellar survey teams seeking to assess the neighbors, both hostile and friendly, in the local region of space. This is the foundation of the Interstellar Survey Corps.

2106 is the year Orpheus III makes it’s arrival at Alpha Centauri, only to discover a civilization on the hospitable world which has collapsed, and evidence of much warfare and many subsequent visits from other species. A game of cat and mouse begins with a being known only as the Survivor, a member of a forgotten species which was trapped by the automated protection systems which were put in place to protect the system from further incursion, or warn off visitors. The tools of biotechnic warfare abound in the system, and it appears that many of the visitors sought the technology out as a means of using it for their own purposes. Orpheus III discovers the first direct evidence of sleek, faster-than-light ship remnants employing warp drive to fold space. It then seeks to establish contact with humanity and builds it’s return worm hole, after finding a message left behind by the visitors of the Commonwealth.

Phase II: 2175-2300

The FTL Outward Expansion
Phase II is considered to have officially begun with the christening of the Rendezvous I, the first self-sustaining, wormhole-equipped FTL ship. At just under 3 km in length, Rendezvous I was meant to be humanity’s first great fortress of the stars, a vessel capable of operating indefinitely with a crew of several thousand and room to hold whole colonies. As much a space station as a ship, Rendezvous I included dozens of research, survey, and exploratory vessels attached to it’s hull along with a dozen well armed warships utilizing newly developed weapons technology employing gravitic weaponry as well as anti-matter missiles. In the years preceding the build-up, alliances had been made with the Astratan, Anageni, and Grupnar as well as several minor species in predicaments much like humanity’s. From this unity emerges the Human Federated Commonwealth, and an alliance between multiple species called the Interstellar Union.

2176 marks the founding of the first full human colony in interstellar space on the uninhabited terrestrial world of the Betelgeuse system. Within a decade, under the Rendezvous project, twenty two worlds and moons are seeded with colonies and terra forming development stations. Dozens more are equipped with stations, and key locations are established with developing wormhole station facilities.

In 2199, the first Commonwealth Marine Defense forces are put to use in protection colonies from another Cerr’K’Ta threat.

By 2215, the HFC has laid claim to 100 star systems and colonies are spread far and wide in the safe zones established by the ISC teams of previous decades. Likewise, humanity’s allies in the Founder Worlds and Anageni space have helped to established Amber Zones, where unknown or risky civilizations are known to exist. The interstellar star charts are starting to look complicated. During this time, expansions of the original Rendezvous project are undertaken, and new self-sustaining colony ships are created. Among the controversial ship lines are the new Mars project vessels, battleships in space to serve as a threat deterrent against anticipated hostiles. The first Mars ship, the American Star, begins it’s tour of duty in 2212 along the Amber Zone borders. Later vessels include the Musashi, Meru, Churchill, Bradamante, and Challenger.

In 2221, under the command of Captain Harrison Hannibal, the American Star comes in to a brutal first contact experience with a fleet later later attributed to the Byzanti Alliance, and to the horror of the Commonwealth Navy it is discovered that the Gundari are a part of the alliance, and have harvested an army of biotech-modified human beings and other aliens for their thrall forces. Most frightening of the Byzanti forces is their callous disregard for the bodies of their thralls as anything other than expendable troops, and their absolute domination of their region of space. Praektorian military allies of the Byzanti forces complicate matters, as Praektorians are a diaspora encountered on many worlds, but regional Praektorians appear to serve a strong military presence to the Byzanti.

In 2230-2256, constant military conflict in the Amber Zone quickly escalates to war as Byzanti forces seek to attack human worlds. The first true interstellar conflict of the HFC begins, and a strong commitment to military defense is employed. Highlights of the war include a Byzanti assault in the Sol system in 2249 using nanotech weaponry, and the almost complete annihilation of the Praektorian homeworld in 2253 through orbital bombardment. The conflict will eventually lead to human control over much of what was once Byzanti territory, and the destruction of the Byzanti machine after HFC scientists unlock the secrets of the Alpha Centauri relic weapons, and develop a sophisticated nanotech virus that disables the byzanti thralls. The Byzanti surrender is followed by decades of ultimately unsuccessful disarmament and reformation, eventually given up in favor of regular patrols and limits on the use of arms and armament in space by the occupied Byzanti colonies.

Phase III:

The Future and Beyond
Many events are plotted and suggested for this period of the timeline, but await further extrapolation. Some interesting examples include:

2318, the first human contact with Harbinger space, and the new threat that results from this cosmic threat.

2446, in which The Slip Drive is first perfected, allowing for instantaneous space travel through the manipulation of cosmic strings. Unfortunately, the use of this mechanism involves an energy component greater than most galaxies produce. The mechanism for meeting this requirement involves exploding new quantum parallel universes out of the cosmic fuzz. By around 2500, this has attracted the attention of ominously powerful entities from completely different quantum realities, who realize the damage being done to the structure of the quantum universes in this manner.

2512 marks the first period in which a Harbinger assembly approaches settled human territories. This initiates the First Interstellar War of Territories, and proves very nearly to be the downfall of the entire Federated Commonwealth.

All text Copyright 2011 by Nicholas Torbin Bergquist, all rights reserved

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pathfinder MMO

The story announcement is here, and some company called Goblinworks is the licensee. Don't get too excited yet, though! Goblinworks appears by their new website to be founded by the Paizo gang. That's okay in and of itself, if they are able to properly wrangle together the sort of manpower necessary to make a full fledged MMO (just watch the credits roll on any typical computer game to get the gist of just how munumental such a project is), but time will tell. 

Shocked, We Iz!!!!

New Feature! Ad Astra: A Traveller Setting

I started the Ad Astra campaign back in the early 80's....technically even earlier, as before I ever discovered RPGs I was an artistic kid (a skill that did not translate into adulthood) and drew a monumental number of "comic books" in my youth....I was constantly drawing comic adventures of Hannibal Harrigan, captain of the military and research ship "American Star" (which looked a bit like  a mile-long BSG Viper from the original series) and his never-ending fight against the predatory Praektor, the evil necro-marines under command of the vile Lord Belasco and many other bizarre tales. Then I discovered role playing games...and then I found Traveller, and my tales of space pulp adventure migrated to the world of gaming.

Anyway, over the years I built a weird sort of meta-plot arc that moved from campaign to campaign, albeit more slowly than my fantasy tales did. In time, I had run many games in several systems with the loose connection of being set on the same present and future Earth, charting its history over time. A few years ago I compiled this data into a rough campaign setting overview, which I recently adopted to Traveller. The whole of this setting's core material was printed in one of the recent PDFs of "The Sorcerer's Scrolls" (which I have since given up on; the name has been handed over to Jeremiah Griffin who wished to carry on the legacy).

With Ages of Lingusia winding down, I think its time to provide some SF fun via the over the next couple weeks I'll be serializing the assorted Ad Astra and other Traveller entries I have lying around; as I said before, most of this has seen print in TSS, but here you can get it in tasty bits for free. Look for episode one, tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rosa by Jesus Orellano

First! Still no baby! Marcus is taking his time about getting here. We'll be seeing the doctor tomorrow about when we should schedule an inducement if necessary.

Second! Watch this amazing CGI short film by Jesus Orellano called Rosa. It's well worth it:

ROSA from Jesús Orellana on Vimeo.

Ages of Lingusia: Languages of the Middle Kingdoms

Languages of Lingusia       

   Lingusia is home to a diverse range of dialects and languages, many harkening from ancient roots. Some species have languages shared universally by one another, and other species are given to as much linguistic diversity as humanity. In fact, the root of Lingusia comes from the idea "of many languages" in the Old Tongue.

   The “common” tongue of Lingusia is the Middle Tongue, closely followed by tradespeak, a language of common reference cobbled together by traders and merchants across the globe. Any character listed as knowing “common” is assumed to know one or both of these languages.
 Below is a chart of many fo the languages all characters can learn. Characters always have their native tongue as a base language, and some multilingual characters learn more than one, depending upon circumstance. There is at least one invented language as well, a sort of Esperanto called Tradespeak, which was created around the time of the founding of the Great Old Road, and while it has evolved dramatically over time, tradespeak remains the favored language of traders and merchants around the world. Anyone who speaks one of the common human tongues of Lingusia can communicate at least 30-50% of the time with a person who speaks tradespeak but no other common language. Likewise, a man who speaks tradespeak but not, say, one of the the Northern tongues can still speak to and understand a user of the northern tongue with 50% accuracy as well. The Merchant Houses of the Middle Kingdoms and the Eastern Kingdoms have conspired to make this so.
   Some of these languages are special. No character may begin play knowing Prehunate, which must be learned from a practiced student of the languages, and is never considered a class skill. Likewise, no character can pick a language for which no possible exposure could have occurred prior to the beginning of his or her adventuring career.
Bonus Language Rule: Because there are more than ten conventional languages in this setting, all characters may begin play with additional bonus languages equal to their Intelligence modifier (or none if negative).

A Sampling of the Languages of Lingusia

The Languages of Man:
Middle Tongue (common)
New and Old Galonian
Southern Tongue (Galvonari)
Eastern Tongue  (Zuedi)
Northern Tongue (Nordamani)
Steppelander’s tongue (no written language)
Northern Hettanari

Foreign Tongues:
Old Karaktuan
Mataclani Haxitol
Mataclani Talay
Neberanii (Gray Kingdom)

Old and Lost Languages:
Old Tongue (Arcane Script)
Ancient Middle Tongue (Holy Script)
Prehunate Script
Ancient Elvish Script
Abyssal and Infernal

Monstrous Languages:
Deep Speech
Goblin Tongue
Orcish (vandal)
Hidden Tongue (red orc)
Setiteese (serpent men)
Hashykirii (lizard man)
Draconic (Marlack, dragons)
Thargonid Trollish
Mihidir Trollish

Fey Languages:
Faerspeak (elvish)
Darkspeak (ashtarth)
Syllenic  (sylvan)
Dwarvish (Endurian)
Faerie Tongue

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ages of Lingusia: Social Rank in the Middle Kingdoms

Social Rank in the Middle Kingdoms

   The following table can be used to determine a character’s starting social rank in Hyrkania, Octzel, Jhakn  and abroad. To determine starting rank, roll 1D20 and add the Charisma score of your character (at the time of creation). You gain a title in some instances, as well as a wealth modifier. Characters who choose not to roll are automatically assumed to be of no rank, landless commoners (X1 wealth modifier). Nonhumans may roll on this chart if desired to establish approximate rank within their own society, though modifications may have to be made based on culture as needed.

The Use of Titles in the Warlords of Lingusia
   Most titles in the Middle Kingdoms are placed between the proper and surname of the person. Thus, Duke Ruoso Aleric in the Middle Tongue vernacular would be Ruoso Gonn Aleric. This can make for some flash titles, but is not necessary to gameplay, being purely for extra flavor. You should either use the more conventional English titles in their proper English format or the Middle Kingdoms equivalents inserted between first and last name, whichever is more comfortable (or cool) to the moment.

Ranks and Titles in Galonia
   The Galonians use a similar ranking system, but with different titles based on their language’s own titles, derived from ancient Galonian. You can use the table below to establish equivalent rank in Galonia, but use the following titles in place:

Title / Galonian Title:
All Commoners: Thanes
Landed Gentry: Gazas
Lesser Knights:  Essars
Landless/Disgraced Knight: Adashas
Baronet: Sadin
Baron: Sahadar
Count: Vogan
Duke: Saraedar
Royal Duke: Kalian
Emperor/Pharaoh: Atrakar

   There are many other titles and formal means of address in the world of Lingusia. Some are derived from real-world systems, such as in Zued where the Arabic naming system is common, Caratea where the Greek method of governance and citizenship is active, or in Al’jhira where the East Indian caste system is present.

Social Rank Table:
1D20+Charisma Score / Result / Title / Wealth Bonus
01-20 landless commoner / -- X1/2
21-25 landed commoner / -- X1
26-28 landed gentry / Edan X2
29-31 lesser knight / Dann X2
32-34 landless or disgraced knight / Elas X1
35-37 baronet / Ser X2
38-39 baron / Vann X3
40-41 count / Drovann X3
42-43 Duke / Gonn X5
44+ Duke with royal lineage / Dei’Gonn X10
Beyond Starting PC Scope:
King / Elevasos     
Emperor / Dei’Elevasos

All text Copyright 2011 by Nicholas Torbin Bergquist, all rights reserved