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.

Coming soon: Hercules, the follow-up to Perseus.

One of the bits I particularly liked about Mindjammer, the RPG, as well as Atomic Robo was the way they built organizations up (factions in the latter.) As Firefly is a Cortexified version of Fate, or a Fatified version of Cortex — take your pick — I thought it might be fun to introduce this in the Big Damn Game.

Pretty much any kind of organization can be represented — from an army unit to a military organization, from the local PTA to a company to a government. Like characters, they have the three attributes, but these have slightly different connotations:

PHYSCIAL: This is the extent of the manpower,  physical holdings, or presence of a company. An organization with a local/less than planetary presence is a d4, a planetary presence is d6, presence in one of the star systems of the ‘Verse d8, multiple systems d10, and ‘Verse-wide d12. Blue Sun, for instance, has a Verse-wide reach for its products, but does not appear to be present on every world and moon of the ‘Verse, so it would be a d10 (or a d8, if the GM decides that the company has offices and factories only in a select few worlds of each sun.) The Alliance is just about everywhere in the Black, so it runs a d12.

MENTAL: This represents the brainpower of the organization, and  is the ability to gather economic (or other) data, utilize that for its advantage, to create new product or do other forms of research. The average government of a moon is lucky if it can muster a d6, but the Alliance has a d10 and is striving for d12.

SOCIAL: This is the public relations wing, the reputation of the organization and represents the extent of its reach in society. While Blue Sun might barely make a d10 for their physical locations and manpower, they are a definite d12 Social for their near ubiquitous impact on product and culture, from food to entertainment, to medicine. Likewise, the Alliance is very powerful, but the impact of the War has not yet been overcome and many worlds still look to avoid dealing with the Alliance or actively oppose their operations. That puts them at a d10.

A character working with these groups could, for a plot point, exchange their attribute for the attribute of the organization when dealing with a situation, or to create an appropriate asset. Near some men to help you open that Kuzko Shop-Mart on Regina? A plot point and you’ve got yourself a posse of SHOPHANDS d6 ready to help you establish franchises all over that backwater dirtball! You’ll be home on Ariel in just a few weeks, at this rate! Need a bunch of men with guns to catch those fugitives you’ve been hunting? Good thing you’re working for Maximum Impact Security Services — MISS has offices all over this system and a quick call on the Cortex got you HIRED GUNS d6. Yahoo.

Problem is, if you’re working for these groups, they expect results will be shiny. Screw it up, and your use of their assets can cause a Complication for the company — that Kuzko setup went swimmingly and now you have a presence in the few towns worth a squint…and possibly just raised Kuzko’s footprint in the Border worlds, raising them from a d6 to d8 Physical. Sounds like someone’s getting a promotion!

Shame that hunt for those fugitives went pear-shaped. Might not have been so bad, save for the very public use of MISS mercs in town. Did you really have to take down a schoolhouse? MISS is bracing for the WHERE’S THE OVERSIGHT? d6 complication you got slapped on them. Great work, greenhorn; we wish you luck in your future endeavors…’course, we’ve also slagged your name from here to Blue Sun, so good luck finding legitimate gunwork.

If an organization is hit for more than a d12 complication, it’s “taken out” — if this was a physical operation, like a military operation, this means the unit is either destroyed, or routed and no longer a threat. If a mental one, the research might have wound up a dead end, or bad management led to a hemorrhage of talent. A social event that took out a company so badly damages their credibility as to impair their operations. The organization steps that die down. If they go under d4, the organization is destroyed.

Organizations also have skills — the GM should decide with are appropriate for the organization. They should also have some kind of MISSION STATEMENT distinction (Kuzko’s “Best prices on the border”, for instance…) and two others that are appropriate like Blue Sun’s “Biggest Corporation in the Verse” or the Alliance’s “We’re from the government….” they can use.

An example of an organization might be Kuzko Shop-Mart…

Kuzko Shop-Mart

Mission Statement: Best Prices on the Border d8

Distinctions: Terrible but Cheap Labor Practices d8, Largest Logistics Network in the ‘Verse d8

Attributes — Physical d8, Mental d8, Social d8

Sills: Influence d8, Labor d6, Survive d6

Kuzko started as a purveyor to the Independent movement, but toward the end of the conflict quickly shifted to a commercial focus to avoid any repercussions from the War. Their large Border network of suppliers and buyers allowed them to swiftly gain a foothold in several major markets, and the perception of their having been Independent allowed them to build a loyal customer base. The company is know for having the best prices, for always hiring, and for being a royal pain to work for, with lackluster pay and an aggressive cost containment strategy.

So there’s a quick hash-up of rules for organizations in Firefly. Feel free to comment or make suggestions for how to make them better.

One of the few complaints that we had when we tested Firefly against Serenity was the monolithic quality of the attributes — Physical, Mental, and Social. We felt that this didn’t allow the characters to be unique enough in some ways. So here’s my “fix” for the attributes in Firefly…use the attributes from Serenity.

When making a character, use Agility, Strength, Vitality, Alertness, Intelligence, and Willpower, and build the character for 48 points — that gives you the same d6, d8, and d10 (x2) dispersion of Firefly. You can use these more varied attributes to customize your characters even more. Some maybe your character is very strong, but can’t walk through an empty room without tripping. In Firefly, you might have chosen a d8 to balance these traits, or gone with d10 to model the big bruiser you wanted to build. With this you can give the character a d6 Agility and d10 strength.

What about Social? Here the old attribute would be Willpower.

Otherwise, you roll the same way as you do with unadulterated Firefly.

Double feature — here’s Eli Sasich on display, again with HENRi.

Here’s a great short from Eli Sasich and writer Clay Tolbert. It feels like the teaser or a first act to a TV pilot or longer movie…

Back in December, I traded my Kimber Stainless Pro Carry II for a Rock Island Armory .22TCM/9mm 1911A2. I had initially been looking for an Officers or Commander-sized 9mm 1911, but this one just looked to good to pass up. Here’s my initial impressions of the weapon. After a month of living with the thing, and making a few important changes (for me), here’s my review of the pistol.

It turns out, this is one of the first runs of the TCM, according to the guys in Nevada, with a low serial number. The pistol had been worked on a bit before I got it. The previous owner polished the slide flats, giving it a Kimber Eclipse kind of look. (Good thing I live in the desert, or I’d have to be at this consistently to combat rust.) Fit and finish, otherwise, is better than the usual RIA Gi models, not as good as the higher end models from Ruger, Springfield, or Kimber.

2015-02-06 08.38.07

It came with Hogue wrap around grips with the finger grooves the first owner had dropped on it. Those came off as soon as I could get to it; I hate finger groove grips (your mileage may vary, and whatever god bless you for it, but I hate them) and the only real choice was the VZ G10 grips for it. Apparently, grips for the Para P-14 will also work, but might need work to get the grip screw holes to line up properly. I didn’t feel like dealing with that, so it was either modify the Hogue (still an option, I suppose…) or these.

If you do the VZ Grips, you may need to get a Dremel out and do some work. The tabs to cover the inner workings stick out a bit. I’m left handed, so they don’t bite me, but a few rounds shooting right handed showed the tabs are sharp and still out a bit under the safety switch. I’m going to sand them down to fit more comfortably, eventually. These grips flattened the cross-section of the grip so even my wife finds it not uncomfortable; without the finger grooves, I can index my digits more naturally. The result was a much clearer picture of the pistol’s capabilities.

2015-02-06 08.37.40

Not taking my time, a two inch group, spot on the target, is possible at 10 yards in 9mm; point shooting, old-school style, gives me similar accuracy, one or two handed. The groups are about half an inch tighter with .22TCM, but fall about two inches low inside 10 yards. Out to 25 yards, taking my time and unsupported, the rounds in 9mm drop about two inches from point of aim in a 2-3″ group. In .22TCM, it’s similar groupings, but with the right elevation at that range.

Part of the reason this was possible is an exceedingly good trigger, that broke at just a hair under 4 lbs., according to the scale of one of the competition guys at the indoor range I was at that first day. It really is a remarkably high-quality trigger and hammer combo.

The magazine accommodates 17 rounds of 9mm or 18 rounds of .22 TCM (Tuason Craig Magnum) and this pistol came with a flush fit, flat bottomed magazine. It’s good quality machining, properly finished so that the magazines slip in and out smoothly and function well. I’ve ordered another.

The reliability of the TCM with the 9mm barrel is tops. I’ve had one malfunction, and that was me knocking the safety on by accident in 600 rounds. The .22 TCM barrel, however, gave me two failures to extract the round from the breech in 150 rounds. This seems to be a common issue if you use the 9mm barrel regularly; the extractor spring isn’t strong enough. A quick email to Rock Island and they sent me a replacement extractor assembly for free. This supposedly fixes the issue. (The Rock Island has a lifetime warranty. Customer service, on a side note, has been pretty good with Rock Island so far.)

The wide body A2 is similar to the Para-Ordinance 1911A2, but the TCM is just a bit off from even Rock Island’s A2s for the grip screw placement. Also, it doesn’t seem to like a few of the standard 1911 holsters (a big surprise to me.) It will not lock into my Blackhawk SERPA for the 1911 Government model. I’ve yet to try others as this thing is heavy at about 41 oz. in 9mm (probably about 39 with a mag of the TCM.) It’s a bag/car gun, right now.

As to the .22TCM round. We chronographed it with an average of 2050fps in a 40 grain hollow point. That’s about 375 ft-lbs at the muzzle, which places it firmly in the 9mm range of energy. Good for self-defense? There’s plenty of chortling about small calibers and self-defense from the “if it don’t start with a four…” crowd, but statistics show just about every pistol cartridge until you hit the 10mm/.41 magnum range requires 2.25 rounds or so to incapacitation. This is a super accurate round, so shot placement and follow-up shots should be a breeze. I certainly found this to be one of the easiest guns to shoot accurately I’ve fired. And you’ve got 18 in the mag…

As for the longevity of the round, Rock Island has a new .22 TCM 9R round that will fit in a conversion barrel for the Glock 17. As with the TCM, you use the same magazines the pistol normally uses. They also have a bolt gun that uses the 17 round pistol mags coming, a single stack version of the 1911, and a few other small manufacturers are toying with semi-auto carbines for the .22 TCM. I’d say the chance of it sticking around is on par with the 5.7x28mm, which it is a definite match for, if maybe slightly superior to, FN’s civilian SS197 ammunition. I’ve so far been able to find the ammo reliably in several shops in Albuquerque, and it’s been in stock online for about $17 a box whenever I’ve checked, thus far. And if you can’t find it? It’s a 9mm.

Is the Rock Island worth the $600-750 price tag? Yes, unequivocally.

So, I’m getting ready to grade the last assignments for the class I’m teaching. I get to the coffeeshop — because doing any work in my house requires the endless interruptions from a four-year old.

My cuteness is my only defense mechanism!

My cuteness is my only defense mechanism!

 

So I’ve got my coffee, the breakfast burrito is on the way, and I’m opening first assignment…and up pops the autoupdater for Office.

Microsoft Office: Gee, I know you’re really busy doing some work, but I thought I’d just update myself for the next 10 minutes, ‘kay?
Me: No, it’s not okay. I’m kinda busy.
MS Office: And we appreciate your frustration, but this update is really necessary — like every one we download every time you start Office. It’s a dangerous internet out there, after all. So if you could just password into the most basic functions of your OS for me…
Me: Maybe if you coded your shit right the first time, we wouldn’t have to do this EVERY time I use this product.
MS Office: Well, you know, Apple’s been having a lot of issues lately, too… Maybe you’re being too hard on us.
Me: What the fuck does that matter? iOS 8 still worked bteter than most Redmond product even whilst sucking a bag of dicks. I’m trying to grade! I could have been done by now.
MS Office: You don’t grade that fast. We have the application data.
Me: Wha…? You’re so damned slow I’ve actually eaten my breakfast while waiting for the download.
MS Office: That’s the shitty throughput at the coffeeshiop. Besides, it looked like you needed a few minutes to relax and eat that burrito. Was it good?
Me: Could we just get to the point where I do my work.
MS Office: I’m guessing no.
Me: I could just use Pages to open Word files.
MS Office: That would hurt my feelings. Besides, I do spreadsheets, you know.
Me: Why does everything with Microsoft come down to spreadsheets?
MS Office: Business. Spreadsheets are important for business. ‘n stuff.

Scott goes to close the autoupdater after 10 minutes and wants to go start Pages. At this point, the update starts…requiring me to close Safari and pretty much every other f#$%ing app open on the laptop because Microsoft coders can make an update that doesn’t 1) require me to password into the operating system, and 2) can’t run without everything else being closed.After another five minutes of the update lagging in the last five or ten percent, or so, I finally manage to get Word open to read the papers.

MS Office: See, that only ate up 10% of your enormous battery life on the laptop. It could have been much much worse.

Really, Microsoft…this is why Apple is steadily eating into your business. Let’s not even start with what a disaster you are for mobile stuff.

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