Cawnpore and Perseus are available in the Createspace eStore and on Amazon.com where, if you order a physical copy of the books, you get the ebook for free. They are also available as ebooks on every ereader out there.
6 September, 2012
6 March, 2014
This past week, I introduced a bunch of new plot elements to the players. The “B story” about the CAG (a PC) who is also an oracle and has been found out for his abilities while engaging in initiation rituals with an Eleusinian-like mystery cult culminated with the revelation that their priest, Iblis (a tip of the hat to the old show), is in fact a Cylon. Iblis realizes that the CAG is the man destined to destroy the Blaze and seeks to get him alone and kill him. The intent was for a good fight that might lead to the chaacter getting roughed up and a chase to find Iblis by the fleet’s marshals. Instead, Iblis fairly easily incapacitates the character, but they are interrupted by a third party — a young girl from the cult that has been a sort of spiritual guide for the character (he’s even seen her as an angel-like creature in his hallucinations.) She’s no match for Iblis, and even though she distracted the Cylon long enough for the PC to get in a few blows, he’s knocked cold.
Oops. Now what? The obvious end to this is Iblis kills the unconscious character. We cliffhangered on that for the night, but now the question is, “What do I do?” I’ve been too successful with my baddies, and now it threatens the overall plot. I dropped a few emails to the character to ask him what he though: Do we kill him and roll on? Do we kill him off but find some what for him to aid the others in what he was supposed to do? Do we come up with a contrived last-minute deus ex machina savior?
The key, I think, in something like this, where you’ve set up the character as “the One” or some kind of plot-important element is to remember to provide some kind of escape hatch…I didn’t do that. It you get into a situation like the one above, and don’t wish to use GM fiat to ‘cheat” for the character, then I think it’s important to touch base with the player and see what they think should happen. They’ve invested a lot in their characters, and if the dice roll the “wrong way” for the story, you have to improvise. In this case, the player is more interested in aiding the story than saving his character, so we’re trying to figure out what, exactly, would work here.
28 February, 2014
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28 February, 2014
We were able to finally get the whole crew together Thursday for play, and saw a lot of movement in the various plots. There was a set of romantic subplots that look to cause trouble at some point in the future when the CAG (a PC) may have to put one of the other PCs in harm’s way. The players attempted to prove that Boomer — her personalities collapsed together by hypnosis — is a reliable source of intelligence. She confirmed their target star as the location of Kobol and has been generally cooperative, although they’ve noticed she has fugues where she doesn’t track the conversation if they try to get certain kinds of information out of her, such as the identity of other Cylon agents.
The big discovery was signals from 300 years ago emanating from Kobol, and showing what appears to be a divergent human culture that worships the Blaze, has technology slightly ahead of the Colonies at that point, and early space travel and exploration. they appear to be a unified world government led by a theocracy, but there’s no indications of the twelve or thirteen “humanoid Cylon” models that they believe exist. As the ship gets closer, they should get more up-to-date information.
The second discovery was of a strange cathedral-like ship, guarded by four basestars and their fighter groups. A raptor crew managed to get PHOTINT and ELINT on the vessel that shows it to be some kind of command & control, comunications, or some other high-value asset vessel. Boomer confirns it to be a resurrection ship – one of 13 that ply space providing support for the Cylon’s “immortality.” While she doesn’t know the exact nature of their uploading, she knows that a loss of the vessel would result in any Cylons whose mind-states are connected to the ship would be mortal, and that tens to hundreds of thousands of copies would be killed. It’s a tempting target and the characters are slavering to have a go at the ship.
The other comment Boomer makes is that the Cylons attacked the Colonies to “bring the Tribes” home to submit to the Blaze, and that they are rebuilding the Colonies. Also, she tells them the resurrection ships are a “gift from the Blaze” and that the loss of one of these ships would get the attention of this “god.” So the choice: hit the ship and get some paycack, possibly strike fear into the Cylons and force them to adjust their style of fighting due to sudden mortality, and possibly piss off a supranatural being; or let the target go in the hopes of negotiating with the Blaze, should the time come?
The session ended with recovered drone footage showing another raptor that appeared to be trailing the resurrection ship battle group. It’s not their ship…so who is out there?
26 February, 2014
I happened upon the preview for Mindjammer‘s new edition and was intrigued enough to secure a version of the game. The “thoughtcast” is the pdf version of the soon-to-be-released hardback, and is the second edition of the game setting, which started off as a setting for the Starblazers Adventures game that Cubicle 7 put out a few years ago. The book is almost exclusively written and edited, it looks like, by Sarah Newton, and features some decent (industry standard quality) art in the interior, with a very nice cover. According to Drive Thru RPG, this is a 99% complete version of the print copy, but I’m damned if I could find anywhere that wasn’t fully proofed (and to better standards than the typical RPG core book, I might add) and written.
On the pdf version: The only real fault I could find with the product is the lack of bookmarking. This is a massive core book, running to just under 500 pages, and could really use hyperlinks to the chapters, at the very least. Links to core concepts and rules would be a good idea, too. This isn’t typical of RPG pdf books, to be fair, but I was really spoiled by the high quality linking that Margaret Weis’ bunch did on the Marvel line and I’ve come to expect it. Otherwise, the imaging is very good, the print is pretty easy to real on my iPad, even with my now slightly farsighted eyes (hooray, LASIK!)
The rules: It’s FATE. I know I’ve got a bit of a rep, apparently, as a Fate-hater (FATEr?) but that’s not really true. Like the OGL d20 in the early aughties, I just kind of want to purchase a product that isn’t FATE at some point. (Mostly, I think it’s spoiled grapes of Fate getting into my beloved Cortex.) If you know Fate, you can play this game as soon as the download hits. In the case of this particular setting, Fate is an excellent choice, as it has a narrative flexibility thanks to the relatively rules-light mechanics to handle the wide scales that come with a trans/posthuman setting. If you don’t know Fate, there’s a lot of freebie Fate Lite rules sets floating in the wide electronic sea.
In Mindjammer, you can pretty much play anything you want. Human? Sure. Alien? Sure. Uplifted animal? (Rocket Raccoon, anyone?) Yup. Robots, sentient starships, bioroids, planetary-level computers? Yup, yeah, yes, and sure. FATE allows you a certain level of skills, and descriptive “aspects that can add to your test rolls, which you do with fate or “fudge” dice, but could easily use a d6 to handle. Fate/Fudge dice have two -, two +, and two 0 faces, so when you roll, it’s your skill plus or minus the result on the dice versus a target number from -2 to 9, usually. I suspect my ambivalence for FATE comes from this dice mechanic. (Although the negative die/positive die+skill mechanic of The Babylon Project didn’t bother me as much. I believe the term you want is “hypocrite.”)
Mindjammer uses the same character system to cover everything from a normal being to super-intelligent ships, computers, space habitats, even cultures and organizations. It’s easy, and it allows for a wide range of actions for players in a scenario — want to overthrow a culture? Your skills in manipulating it would be used to attack the Mental Stress of the culture and create complications for them or assets for you.
The setting: Mindjammer doesn’t play with the near future like Transhuman Space and to a lesser extend Eclipse Phase does. It’s placed about 12,000 years in the future, and the Human Commonality (a kind of analogue of Iain Bank’s Culture) is spreading back out into space and finding lost colonies of humans, their machines, and modified creatures that have been left to evolve their own cultures over millennia. There’s a bad guy race, the Venu — human castoffs in the Orion area; there’s sentient machines and uplifted animals that were engaged in a war and now have an uneasy alliance. There’s stranger aliens roaming space. The whole of the Commonality and some of the other powers are joined by the mindscape — a cyberspace/augmented reality that has to be regularly updated by “mindjamers” — sentient starships that ply space syncing the mindscape.
There’s a ton of background setting in this behemoth of a book, and for a newer gamemaster it could be a bit daunting to launch in an run the setting. I would suggest picking a small chunk of the setting and start small, expanding scope as you get more comfortable with the universe. Otherwise, I would consider setting it in your own chunk of the galaxy, create your own worlds and creatures and run from there, joining it to the game’s setting as you feel necessary.
Another area where the book is occasionally almost obsessive about detail is the ability to create cities, cultures, worlds, star systems, sectors, etc. from scratch — and there are tables to help you do it. If anything, Mindjammer might be worth the purchase for someone cobbling together their own sci-fi setting just for these guides alone. For an experienced GM, they’re useful, but could be overlooked if you were in a hurry to run, and/or knew what you wanted to do.
So is it worth it? The sale price for the book is $54US (about $65 after shipping) and is due in March, but you get the pdf version now. I’m assuming that you will get an update through Drive Thru or RPG Now when the main release comes and will get a finished copy, but even if you don’t, this is finish copy, so far as I can tell. It has all the rules you need; you don’t have to buy Fate Core. The setting looks to be as complete as needed, but I expect there will be supplements. Even if you didn’t use the setting, there’s enough here to craft your own sci-fi setting from classic space opera to cyberpunk, to the transhuman settings of Banks or Stross. Yes — it’s worth it.
I’m even willing to run Fate to try it out.
Style: 4.5 out of 5 — the art is average quality, but the writing is good and leads you through the book quickly. Substance: 5 out of 5 — it’s a well crafted, fun, and fully-formed sci-fi universe to play in.
25 February, 2014
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After a few weeks with game cancelled thanks to the swine flu flattening everyone in my house, (kids — little bioweapons! I’ve got a cold, now, thanks to one…) we were finally able to play last week. It was mostly following up little character interaction vignettes, but there were also a few big “push” scenes that advanced the arc:
Our CAG (a PC) has been prone to divine visions throughout the game (he’s the son of an oracle), and has been delving into the Sacred Scrolls, but also the “Aurelian Heresies” — an apocrypha that appears to predate Mankind on Kobol, and possibly even the Lords of Kobol themselves. There are more ties to the Titanomachy (the period of the Titans, only mentioned tangentially in the TV series), and he delves into the Eleusian Mysteries with one of the cults that use the Heresies –which they call the Aurelian Prophecies. One of the introductory rituals is the use of kykeon — a combination of ambrosia, chamalla, and other things that produces a strong hallucinogenic brew. Lucky (the CAGs callsign) takes part and has been having more intense visions of The Blaze — the jealous god that started the war between the Lords and Man. (It’s a toss off line they cut from the Kobol episodes, but became a central theme for the campaign.) The Blaze seems to the “God” of the Cylons, but is also venerated by the Eleusinians as part of their cycle of death, discovery, and rebirth. During his vision, he is escorted by a minor NPC, his young chaplain’s mate who appears as a winged creature of light. He has the vision of the two and ten vipers, slithering into fire, but only one survives…could that be him? Is he destined to destroy the Blaze?
At this point, the Blaze “sees” him. There is a psychic connection of some sort and he realizes that the Blaze, his gleaming diamond-like spacecraft, are one and the same — some kind of incredibly powerful and intelligent creature or machine, but not God. And this thing has been retelling the story of Kobol, the Colonies, and Earth for thousands of years. To break the cycle, they need to destroy the storyteller…but what is helping him to do this?
The second push moment was a hypnosis session between Lucky and the lawman Chaplain (a PC), and Boomer. They are attempting to help her assimilate her Cylon and “human” personalities and memories. They rolled incredibly well and manage to pull it off — Boomer is Sharon Valerii, now, but her Cylon memories and personality have been integrated. She’s smarter, harder, but the “human” personality is dominant. She offers to help them find the Tomb of Athena, where they can get their roadmap to Earth. The humanoid Cylons (now confirmed to have come from Kobol and are “humans” that followed the Blaze after the War with the Lords) know where the Tomb is, where Hephaestus’ Forge is, have investigated the halls of Olympus, which overlooked the “City of the Gods”, but they cannot access the many of the places the Lords of Kobol left behind. They can only be opened by the faithful; Cylons, the automated systems kill. She can take them there, but she cannot enter.
The end of the session had the crew starting to look for transmissions from Kobol, hoping to develop a better picture of the tactical, political, and societal situation on the planet.
The goal has been to use the show as a jumping off point, to take the elements that caught my imagination and use those to tell another version of the Cycle of Time, linking it to an interesting idea from Zachary Mason’s excellent The Lost Books of the Odyssey — the idea Phaedrans had that every person’s story was a tale told by someone else, and if you could find the storyteller (and kill him) you could be free of your story to live as you pleased. The idea of escaping the predestination built into the Galactica universe was, to me, an interesting one — free will versus divine will. So the game has become focused escaping the Cycle of Time (as, to a lesser extent I would propose, was the bringing Cylons and humans together in the show.)
My hope has been to accentuate the themes of the show, while taking a new and fresh direction, and allowing for moments of “fan service” where the players think they know where the game is going (“Oh, this episode is Bastille Day!”) but then letting them change the outcomes.
22 February, 2014
20 February, 2014