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.

I gave my initial impressions of the new iOS8 in this post, but after living a day with it, here’s some reconsiderations and updates:

1) Battery life, for me, seems to be much improved. I played with the phone pretty steadily — mostly watching the coverage of the Scottish independence referendum —  over the last 30 hours or so and finally plugged it in about at 18% power. Not seeing a dramatic change on my iPad Mini, although it seems to be charging more slowly.

2) On my iPad Mini, I’ve noticed a glitch that seems to lock up the Mail app if you do a bulk delete of mail. Not happening on the iPhone 5s.

3) The voice recognition is vastly improved. I’ve been using it pretty steadily.

4) The voice for Siri is much much more natural-sounding.

5) I’m actually using the Health app to monitor blood pressure, weight, etc. — but that could just be the novelty of the app, at this point.

Nothing else has particularly grabbed me beyond what was already mentioned in the first post.

I noticed that the new iOS update rolled up this morning quite by accident, and I think I got in before the masses swamped Apple’s servers. I threw it on the iPad and iPhone and so far, looks good, though I haven’t really dug in yet…

The download process: It seemed very quick, at first, then wen’t glacial about halfway through. Took about 30 minutes, but the actual update process was quick. Set-up was easy enough and the update did turn on the bluetooth, like it always does. I went ahead and fired up the iCloud files, or whatever they’re calling it these days, even though the calendars, etc. look to not be talking to the laptop now. This is supposed to be sorted with the arrival of the next OSX in a month or so. I can get by ’til then. I mostly use my calendar, notes, etc. on the iOS devices, anyway.

The look isn’t much different. The control panel is cleaned up, you can answer a text from the notifications screen. There’s the addition of a “Tips” app that I wish you could get rid of (you can’t), as well as Podcasts (which, again, you can’t delete.)

The great: Family sharing — you can share multiple iTunes accounts between family members, so now you can watch a movie, music, whatever another in the house has bought on their account. The downside — it uses the initiator of the sharing as the lead and billing for everyone’s iTunes goes through you, looks like. I’ll have to investigate.

Siri is much faster and seems to be able to handle accents a lot better. (My weird mid-Atlantic American/Scots blather confuses the ol’ iPhone most days. It also fills in as you speak, instead of waiting until you’re finished, so you can see where it’s having trouble.

The good: Voice messages in the Messages app. The health app could come in handy.

The “meh”: Addition of a timer for shooting pictures with your mug in them. Time lapse video.

Performance: On the iPhone 5s, iOS8 is giving me no dramatic change in user experience outside of the better voice recognition. On the iPad, I noted the predictive typing slowed performance waaaay the hell down and made typing in Pages almost impossible. I turned it off and it started working well. Predictive typing didn’t come into play on the phone so far today, but i turned it off anyway.

Battery life seems a bit low, but then again, I’m playing with the devices pretty much constantly today to see what they could do so take that into account.

Overall, very pleased.

After a session or two of buildup and planning, the characters finally popped the trigger on the mission to find the Tomb of Athena on Kobol they called Operation PARTHENON. They had the benefit of a ton of intelligence from the damaged basestar they had found a few sessions ago — PHOTINT of the area, some idea of disposition of forces, and they know that with the skin jobs and centurions fighting each other, the attention will be off of a possible Colonial incursion. That said, they knew the mission was going to be extremely dangerous. They have a secondary mission after recovery of the “roadmap to Earth” of destroying the Tower with a nuke delivered from Galactica.

The mission entailed four raptors doing a LAAI [Low Altitude Atmospheric Insertion] jump. Parthenon 1 & 2 were carrying the ground mission, Parthenon 3 & 4 were ECM raptorsthat immediately took off through the mountain passes, hoping to draw any Cylon attention away from the ground mission. I put together a series of PHOTINT pieces for the players to work with on my iPad. Example: here’s the basic layout of what’s left of Olympus, overlooing the “City of the Gods” in the valley below, which is dominated by the massive Tower of Dis — the “home” or headquarters of the Blaze on Kobol, and now either the HQ for the centurions or the skin jobs (they don’t know which…)

olympus

And the insertion…

insertion plan

In this case, the Deiopolis (City of the Gods) is in the valley in the upper left. There is another inhabited (or not due to the civil war) city to the north (off the pic to the right.) For these aids, I pulled up Maps on the computer, killed all the notations (set to satellite view), and then captured the window and added the rest with Seahorse. (I’m on a Mac.) I threw together a Keynote/Powerpoint presentation for the mission…because Powerpoint, once invented, is like the herpes of an organization; you can’t get rid of it. Standing in for Olympus/the City of the Gods is Telluride, Colorado. It was the closest I could get to my verbal description of the area.

The insertion is a close thing — they get the coordinates right, so no one winds up in a mountain, but going off of what was on screen and what we’ve established in the game, the jump effect creates a split second of vacuum around the raptors, which are moving at supersonic speeds, but that bubble collapses immediately. I rated the effect as a FORMIDABLE for the pilots. Parthenon 1 and 4 biff their rolls, lose control, but managed to make their recovery rolls at HARD. Had they missed, the raptors would have crashed.

The ground assault cuts through tight canyons and put down out of sight of the Tower of Dis, which can see much of the ridge that Oympus is on. One of the player’s characters did an excellent job with his ECM rolls and they go unobserved for almost 20 minutes while the ground team moves to Olympus and climbs a small rock face. Once in Olympus, however, they get spotted by strange boa snake meets lamprey meets robot sentries and the fight is on!

About this time, Parthenon 4 gets shot down, Parthenon 3 runs out of its decoys and other EW gear and jumps back to Galactica, which is waiting at about 30SU from Kobol (about the orbit of Neptune, if this were our solar system. They are 4 hours from knowing what is going on….

Except. The ground team gets aggressed by not just raiders, but directed energy weapons from the Tower that are destroying the ancient ruins around them. Heavy raiders bring in centurions and in a heavy exchange of fire, a few of the raiders and heavy raiders are destroyed. Unfortunately, Parthenon 2 is disabled and the crew injured; it is unable to make space. Parthenon 1 is damaged, but still in the game, but it is only a matter of minutes before the unarmed craft will be overrun.

In Olympus, the ground team loses four of their eleven members, and they finally move to rappel down to the Tomb of Athena. We cliffhangered (literally), with the group descending just as the Tower obliterates the buildings near them, possibly endangering the team. The raptor crews are either injured and about to be hit by a 12 man squad of centurions, and Parthenon 1 can’t stay on site much longer…

The session ran long — almost until 11pm, instead of the usual 930-1000 time. Only one of the (former) PCs had been killed, a few minor NPCs, and there was the chance of two major NPCs from the show (Starbuck and Helo) buying it.

Cut out the dreamy crap about spirals and life at the end and you have a pretty cool video of how the planets actually move around the sun. Now the “old model” they’re describing works just fine when you are looking at just the solar system, but the addition of the movement of the sun does give am interesting perspective…

Between rewatching Role Models and reading up on the Jedburgh Ba’ tradition, I realized something that can improve on the verisimilitude (a word I use because i love the sound of it, and it makes me sound smarter than I am) of your RPG setting. People play games, watch games, beat each other up over games…always have, always will.

Here’s some basic ideas for games your players’ characters might play:

There medieval football, the closest to which today would by the Jedburgh or Kirkwall game of ba’ (ball…with a Scottish accent.) You choose two destinations — one for the Uppies, one for the doonies (downies) from either end of town. There’ a designated person to “throw up” the ball, usually a leather hand-stitched thing about 4″ in diameter, sometimes adorned with ribbons, etc. The goal is to get the ball over the destination point up the town or down. You play in a mob — none of this small numbers crap — and it can take all day. The big honor of keeping the ball goes to someone on the winning side.

Rugby/football/soccer — There are other obvious variants of football. Some even use your foot, NFL fans. Rugby is a nice one — it’s like American football, but without all the padding and helmets. Score points by getting the ball into the goal, and have fun pummeling other people into the grass. Soccer is a bit more civilized, with mostly kicking, rather than throwing and carrying the ball, as in football and rugby.

Keep It Up — Volleyball, beach ball, tennis, badminton even jai alia are keep it up games. Drop the ball, the other side gets a point. There might be other rules, etc., but this is the basic game. Jai alia just adds the extra fun of a hard ball moving at high speeds for greater injury potential!

Get It In — Basketball, Battlestar Galactica‘s pyramid, Rollerball — all are versions of this: Get the ball, throw it in the basket/hole/whatever for points.

Ball games typically are team sports, with teams as small as doubles up to the mob scrums of handball. Team sports, like their older brother political parties, inspire intense — often idiotic — loyalty and pride. They can have a lot more subtext than just colored jerseys — they imply where you are from, your religion, your politics. Get asked in Glasgow is you are Rangers or Celtics, and they’re not just asking if you like blue or green; are you Catholic or Protestant. On a Friday night after a few pints, this could lead to a beat down in the wrong neighborhoods.

Speaking of beat downs: Contests of skill, strength, etc. are fun. Arm wrestling over a few pints? Always good. Archery or shooting contest? Obstacle courses? Boxing/karate/cage fighting matches — these are ways to have the characters earn some dosh or respect without having to run a mission of some kind.

The other major gaming you see is racing. People will race anything. If slugs were big enough to ride, we’d race ‘em. Dog racing, Pinewood derbies, horse racing, bicycles, trains (yes, there have been train races),motorcycles, cars, boats, planes, spaceships — we either ride ‘em or watch ‘em. For powersports, half the fun is when the person biffs it. Everything from regulated tracks with warning flags, and rules for not trying to wreck other racers, road rallies where you go from point A to B, timed events (to prevent crashes), demolition derbies — add some nasty terrain and speed and it gets fun.

Games of chance: People love the easy money, and the thrill of maybe winning is enough to have people playing the Redneck Retirement Fund weekly across the United States (the lottery, for those trying to figure out the putdown…) Dice. Cards. Roulette (with or without the gun), pachinko, dominoes….the quick way to handle this in game is to have the players roll some kind of gambling skill or attributes appropriate to the matter. But if the game is the point of the adventure — say, you’re running Casino Royale as a scenario in a espionage game — why not bust out the cards for some high stakes action? Even if it’s just a few hands, it will change the flavor of the session. (I bought triad cards for Battlestar Galactica for just this thing, but the characters have been a bit to busy for games, lately…) Now add gambling to any of the situations above and you can add drama to the events.

Can you make a simple game played in a session as intense and “important” as fighting the bad guys? Have a look at Role Models — a lightweight comedy that is actually much more respectful and understanding of geek culture than something like Zero Charisma. The climactic SCA/LARP battle is not life threatening, but for one of the characters, it is central to who he is — losing the scrum to the “bad guy” really is that important, and despite the characters using boffer swords and dressed like members of KISS (seriously, see this movie!), the audience does feel that this is high stakes, even if it is stupid to some of the characters.

We play role playing games because we want to be something, if only for a few hours in the safety of fantasy, extraordinary. The brave fighters, the canny wizard or hacker, the fighter pilot, the plucky thief, the social diva — whatever…we want something larger than life.

Most games are set in different periods from ours. Maybe it’s the faux medieval fantasy world, Renaissance or Enlightenment pirate settings, Victorian science fiction,  interwar pulp action, or futuristic settings. the draw is the difference from your modern day life. Even espionage games typically do the spy-fi settings where you drive expensive cars, sleep with comely enemy agents, shoot things indiscriminately, and maybe — if you’re lucky — you get to blow up a volcano secret base. The point being: it’s not reality.

However, the need for verisimilitude in a setting is important for audience (your players) buy-in. So how real should you go? The societies of pre-industrial nations aren’t known for their open-minded stance on gender, race, or sexuality. Combine that with class issues and the thought of living pre-1920 should put most people off. Set that reality dial too high and you will exclude certain character types, and by extension, certain demographics of players.

Race relations were not exactly stellar prior to …well, ever. And being a woman before the first sexual revolution of the 1920s was not conducive to a life of high adventure and being treated as an equal. And what if you were poor? Not a lot of crofters had the option to race off and explore the world unless they were wearing army red. How do you handle this?

First off, no matter how real it is for the NPCs, the players are special. There are always exceptions to the rule in history. Boudica was a warrior woman who wasn’t about to take crap from anyone, but lived in a world where women were second-class citizens of the Roman Empire. We’ll get back to her in a moment. Joan d’Arc was a peasant girl and maybe a lunatic, but she was an excellent general. Mary Read was a successful pirate. Jane Digby and Lola Montez were different stripes of female adventurer when is was not acceptable. Tom Molineaux was a successful boxer, despite being black, in the 1830s. The Lafayette Escadrille had a black pilot, and plenty of women and minorities found escape in early aviation.

They are the exceptions, the special ones…the ones the players are playing.

Gender and class come together here very well — the women mentioned are not middle-class. The typical view of the domestic goddess raising kids and doing what her husband told her, while quaint, was typically a middle class thing. Aristocrats like Boudica (a Welsh queen), or Jane DIgby (the former Lady Ellenborough), or the spy Lady Hamilton had the freedom to buck convention because they were wealthy or well-connected, and their eccentricities — while decried — often made them popular figures. Conversely, the poor woman could find herself with more options than the middle class woman by sheer virtue of having nothing to lose, and that they were “invisible” to proper society. By the time you get noticed, like Lola Montezz, you’ve used you talent or sexuality to become the lover of the King of Bavaria. Lower-class women pretty made the West — that madam, that landowner whose husband died…they were the ones that made Western society, not the cowboys and prospectors.

Similarly, even during the height of the slavery issue, freed blacks like Frederick Douglass traveled freely and openly spoke their mind. Jews might find themselves in a sticky situation in Nazi Germany — unless the were much-needed scientists — but with money and connections, you might still slip by. The exceptions should be the exceptions.

That doesn’t mean you should shy away from race or gender or class issues. Giving your players realistic impediments can (and should) be frustrating, but they should be able to outsmart, outfight, or out-politic their foes. They should have detractors who decry their stepping out of place or take steps to ruin the character socially, but there should always be those folks that back them. It’s actually pretty realistic, historically.

Example 1: I often ran Victorian sci-fi games. One of the players chose to play aristocrats almost exclusively. Why? Because of the freedom than money and connection gave her characters to flaunt convention and get away with it. She played almost exclusively characters that were socially adept and attractive — the sort that thrived in the nooks and crannies of the Victorian period.

Example 2: A young Chinese street urchin, female, who was able — because she was young, a girl, and Chinese was the perfect spy and go-between for the Western male characters in 1936 Shanghai. She was always in danger of physical or official abuse, was often hungry and dirty…but her utility allowed her to tag along on adventures.

Example 3: A black woman who had gone into prostitution in our Victorian game, but who managed to seduce the right men, gain some level of financial stability and notoriety, then launched on a series of adventures with the other characters who — being the exceptions to the rule — were at least tolerant of the character.

Example 4: A female Martian in a Space:1889 game got involved with an American cowboy wandering the Red Planet. Despite their string of high-profile adventures and relative acceptance by Martians, human religious types viewed their union as “bestiality.” this caused them troubles, but not insurmountable ones because they are the heroes.

Here’s a briefing sheet that went along with a briefing to the characters regarding the history of Kobol. This is, of course, specific to our campaign, so feel free to ignore it — but it also shows what can happen when youtake the bit and run in a different direction than “canon.”

History of Post-Exodus Kobol

Analysts: Gaius Baltar, PhD — Colonial Science Minister; Ambra Gallardo, PhD — Chief Astronomer, Galactica

Based on ELINT and SIGINT collected by the ships of the fleet, and the data recovered from Basestar 32, the intelligence compartment of Gaactica, in conjunction with the science ministry, has gleaned certain facts about the history of Kobol from the time of the Exodus of the 12 Colonies to current day.

BF is Before Fall, or the year of C Day.

~2200BF: The Thirteenth Tribe flees Kobol ahead of the War between Man and Gods. They settle on a place called Earth.

~2200-2100BF: War between Man (those rejecting the leadership of the Lords of Kobol) and the Gods. The population of Kobol is seriously reduced.

~2000BF: Arrival of “the Blaze” — an “angry, jealous god” — who we now believe to be the Lord of Kobol, Hades, returned from his efforts to find the Titans to aid in the war.

The Twelve Tribes of Man flee to the Colonies. The trip takes almost six months.

~2000-1500BF: Collapse of Kobol civilization and rise of the Blaze. Rules from the Tower of Dis.

Population of Kobol about 6 million — about 0.01% of pre-war levels. Pogroms of polytheists reduces this to a million or so. Tech level collapses to about TL2-3 (Iron Age.)

The Blaze was apparently not “present” through most of this period.

~1500-1000BF: Slow development of Kobol civilization to TL5 (industrial revolution). Humanism and religious schisms.

991BF: Creation of the Holy Kobolian Empire.

978-765BF: Religious wars between monotheists, polytheists, atheists, etc. Rise to TL6 (Advanced industrial revolution.)

789BF: Creation of the Republic of Cumae.

764-760BF: First World War. Destruction of HKE .

760BF: Establishment of multiple new countries in HKE territory.

760-700: Rise to TL8 (Information Age.) First spacecraft launched. Population rises to ~2 billion.

697BF: Small scale nuclear war between Soldiers of the One and Cumae. Destruction of most large political entities. Collapse of population to 500 million. Drop to TL5-6

509BF: Return of the Blaze and the Gift of “the Twelve”, also known as “Seraphs.”

508-500BF: Resistance to the Twelve. Population drops to 160 million. Establishment of the Rule of the Seraph (the Twelve.)

509-450: Rise to TL9 (Microscale engineering and early space travel.) Discovery of signals from The Twelve Colonies.

440BF: Development of the jump drive: TL10.

430-400BF: First of the Seeks — looking for other human settlements.

425BF: Discovery of the Twelve Colonies. The political situation is deemed too volatile to intervene.

401BF: Discovery of the remains of the Pleiades Colonies of Man. Recovery of the Aurelian Prophesies.

375BF: Rise to TL11. Development of the Cylons — cybernetic servants for the Seraph.

350-300BF: The Second Seek (for Earth.) Unsuccessful. All vessels lost.

299-200BF: The Third Seek.

299-250BF: First introduction of monotheism into the Colonies by Kobolian agents.

276BF: Discovery of New Ophiuchi — a small colony of the 13th Tribe.

275-200BF: “Recovery” of the Ophiuchi settlers.

250BF: Loss of Seekers to possible location of Earth.

120-55BF: Involvement in the establihsment of Soldiers of the One and other monotheist groups, including the Eleusinians, in the Twelve Colonies.

Seraph involvement in the development of the Cylon.

52-40BF: YR1947-59 — The First Cylon War.

40BF: Seraphs stop the First Cylon War to save Mankind.

39-30BF: Incorporation of the remaining Colonial Cylons into Kobolian society.

18-1BF: Third Recovery of the Twelve Tribes — influencing Colonial society and preparation for possible war.

17BF: Assassination of President Guderian before Cylon infiltration can be revealed.

5BF: Replacement of Lord Lucan and insertion of Seraphs into Colonial society in an attempt to prevent war.

1BF: Operation UNDERTOW and discovery of Cylon infiltration. Seraph realize war in imminent and decide to move early on “recovering” the Twelve Tribes, hoping to force them to Kobol and submission to the Blaze.

THE FALL OF MAN: Cylon attacks on the Twelve Colonies. Galactica leads a rag tag fleet to safety.

C+64: Battle of the Blaze. Major Crius Muir, an oracle and CAG of Galactica, leads two and ten vipers to strike at the Enemy through the fire. The Blaze disappears without warning after Muir rams the “Ship of Light” with his fighter. The Cylons flee the field and no contact is made until C+77.

C+66: Caprica 6 releases the centurions from behavioral control. 60-70% of the centurions revolt against the Seraph.

C+67-70: Spread of the Cylon Revolt in the fleet.

C+70…: Cylon Civil War (Second Resistance to the Seraph.)

C+77: Discovery of Basestar 32. Intelligence on Cylon strengths, location of the Tomb of Athena, and other important strategic finds in Colonial hands.

Battle of Kobol between Cylon fleets. At least 14 basestars engaged in combat with each other.

C+105: Operation PARTHENON — Colonial mission to find the “map to Earth” from the Tomb of Athena.

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