Since I first started shooting, I’ve been a fan of 10mm. My first semi-auto handgun was a Glock 20, I’ve owned the Tanfoglio (EAA) Witness in 10mm, and a Kimber Camp Guard. What I’ve really wanted was a 10mm carbine. A few manufacturers toyed with AR versions back over a decade ago, but quickly disappeared. CMMG is doing a Banshee in 10mm, but they’re $1600. Hi-Point is doing a perfectly decent, if ugly, 10mm carbine. But a smaller centimeter gun has been banging around for over a decade, the TNW Aero Survival Rifle. I’ve thought of buying one for years and finally decided to pull the trigger on it.

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The Aero came with a 28-round aftermarket Glock 20 magazine, and I dropped a Holosun red dot on it and took it out for a run at a local hillside used for target practice. Ranges spanned 10 to 50 yards. The accuracy was superb, but I was having repeated issues with the bolt not getting back far enough to eject the spent cartridge, which was then rammed back into the breech, jamming it so badly I had to unscrew the barrel and smack the but on the ground to get the barrel to come loose. After 50 rounds of this, I sent it back to the factory.

Even with the Coronanonsense, I had it back a week later. The bolt had been replaced and the barrel as well — the new one was threaded for a suppressor. No complaints there. Again, I had trouble with the same malfunction, but only with Armscor ammunition. It fired SIG-Sauer V-crown without fail. We took our time shooting, noting sharply different ejection on rounds that were getting out of the firearm. We decided the buffer spring might be too tight, so we backed it out a turn. Now only a few of the rounds were failing to eject or jamming in the breech. The ammunition was showing sharply different power. Another trip out I used some older Armscor without fail, and a box of nuclear load Action Ammunition. No malfunctions. But a new box of Armscor showed the same issues. Satisfied the issue was ammunition related, I shot up a few boxes of older Armscor and Action without fail.

So how does it shoot? In a word, superbly. Accuracy was solid out to 50 yards, with the rounds landing smack on where the Holosun was illuminating. The rounds were throwing milk jugs and can around the hillside in a way that the 5.56mm and .300 Blackout we were shooting didn’t.

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Takedown of the rifle is easy. Knock out of the retaining pins on the trigger assembly, unscrew the barrel, pop out the cocking handle, and drop the bolt out the front of the receiver. There’s a single pin to remove the firing pin. Done. Cleaning is a bit of a chore: the rifle got fairly dirty, but nothing unusual.

So is it worth it? Mine cost $700 or so and yes — the quality of the build, the use of Glock mags, and the performance of the rifle was excellent, outside of the issues I had with a lot of bad ammo. Still, this could mean the rifle, if shooting .40 or .357 SIG might need the buffer tube backed out to prevent issues with failure to eject or feed.

 

So this started out as a joke drink, thanks to all the online stupidity at the start of the current stupidity that has engulfed the planet. There were internet rumors that Tito’s vodka cured the ‘Vid, and i figured, “well, Vitamin C is good for the flu”, so here it is, the Quantini:

What you need:

2 measures of Tito’s Vodka (for the joke, really any vodka or gin), a measure of sweet vermouth (dry is fine but loses some of the citrus), 1/2 measure of lemon juice for Vitamin C, a few shakes of orange bitters (normal is good, too. Combine in a shaker over ice, and shake. You could stir, but that makes you a alcohol heathen.

What you’ll get a nice smooth libation with a nice citrusy, sweet flavor and a nice kick.

Enjoy.

So, this isn’t going to be the usual specs and benchmarks crap you’ll see in reviews. You want that, hop over to a website that does that. Just like when I review games, guns, motorcycle, etc. this is totally subjective.

I’ve been using a 2015 MacBook Air for about four years now; I’ve had it since my original 2010 Air was stolen out of my car. (Dammit, Albuquerque!) It’s been a superb machine. I’ve rarely seen the Beachball of Doom™️ and I’ve done writing, layout, and publishing of a host of books on it. Even on the latest macOS, it’s not slow, I’ve still got half the SSD drive to fill, and it has two excellent features: a ton of different ports (including the camera card slot for extra storage), and the superb MagSafe power cord. There was no real reason to walk away from the old Air, especially with the crappy keyboard design people were complaining about.

With the worldwide house arrest we’re all suffering through and the new keyboard design, I decided to jump on a new computer as retail therapy. It was either do an iPad Pro with a big SSD or a new Air. I spec’ed them out and wound up going with the new MacBook Air. It’s a base model with the 1.1GHz Intel Core I3 with 8 gigs of LPDDR4X memory and a 256 SSD.

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So, from a totally user-based point of view, how is the new MacBook Air? for those where space and weight is a commodity — I do a lot of commuting on a motorcycle, so I need a small, light laptop with enough real estate for my tired eyes to see — it’s so much better. It’s lost almost a full inch in width, and about half an inch in depth, but the screen is the same size. The bezel around the screen is almost gone. The hinging on the screen is also improved.

It’s faster. I haven’t beachballed it, yet, and I was really trying the first night I had it. The picture above shows me trying to get the Migration Assistant to do it’s job, but it crapped out on me (apparently an issue with the new version of macOS). I wound up loading my files and other material from the internet, and from a jump drive. The jump drive took an hour and a half to upload the stuff I needed; it was 20 minutes from the USB3 pluged into an Apple adapter for USB-C to download. I had so much downloading, plus the Spotlight trying to indez the SSD, was on the internet surfing, had music going, and still the machine chugged along. It did get a bit hot, but it did it.

Also good: the screen is brilliant. Looks great and you can kick up the resolution to 1680×1050, instead of the standard 1440×900 to which it defaults. The True Tone gives the display a nice vibrancy, but if you turn the brightness down to save power it will lose a lot of the prettiness, just as what happens with any computer display these days. It’s also a power hog when turned up. More on that in a moment.

Speakers: The new machine has wee sound grilles on either side of the keyboard and gives a better stereo quality. Playing a music video side by side, I found the sound quality richer and with a wider range than the older machine, but strangely, I think the volume out of the older machine is a touch greater. It could have just been the way I had them set up in front of me, or me just wanting to find something to complain about. Still — good sound quality.

The keyboard is great. It’s got the same travel and feel as the Magic Keyboard for the iPads, and has a nice feel and sound when typing. the trackpad is much larger than the older MacBook I had. Not sure I like it, but I’m getting used to it. The Force Touch trackpad is taking me some getting used to, especially for tap and dragging things on screen; I’m doing it a bunch by accident. Also superb is the Touch ID. I know the Face recognition is the new meow in laptop and other devices, but it’s just a shit idea. Why? ’cause it’s obviously a shit idea from a security standpoint. I prefer passcodes, but the Touch ID makes buying things on iTunes or whatever they’re calling it this week and signing into sites using Keychain so much easier.

The “meh”: The 49.9‑watt‑hour battery is supposed to get you eleven hours of work. I doubt that. It drains faster than the 2015 MacBook Air and most of that seems to be the display and anything involving video processing (which it does superbly.) To use a period-appropriate example: a 2.5 hour Zoom meeting with six people burned up 50% of the battery on my old Air; the new one lost 20% in a 40 minute meeting with four people. I haven’t done much streaming video on it yet, but that seems a bit better on the battery. the key to conserving power, as with the older machines, turn the screen brightness down to 50-60 and turn off Bluetooth and if possible wifi. I’ll have to do a test with all this set up and follow up.

I’m also really not a fan of the USB-C ports and the paucity of the same. Yes, they’re fast, and the allow Apple to make the machine even thinner than the older ones, but there’s only two of them, and one might be used up charging the laptop. I’ve got a dock coming in to rectify that, but the point of a machine like this is to be small and convenient. The only reason I ignored this “feature” was that I rarely used the ports on the older machine. I have a camera SSD that has a 256GB storage, but I rarely plugged it in because it stuck out and I didn’t want to break it off when traveling. I use USB drives a lot at work, but the adapter i bought sorted that. Is it a drawback? Yup, but if you do most of your storage on some cloud server, it’s probably not much of a problem.

The bad: I miss the MagSafe power cord. I had the cable kicked out a few times, and it’s a feature I really like. Does USB-C power it up faster? Yes. But it’s my review and I’m griping. Gripe over. The only real downside is the web camera. It’s a shitty 720p that isn’t even up to the quality of the 720p on the old Air. That’s pretty unforgivable for the quality of cameras on other laptops.

So is it worth the $999 bucks for the base MacBook Air? Yes. Solid yes. If you’ve been holding out due to the keyboard fiasco, go for it. If you are feeling unsure because of the ports, figure out how often you use the ports (other than the USB ones — you can get USB jump drives now for both USB-3 and -C on the same stick, or use an adapter). If you’re using the camera card slot a ton, it might not be worth it. If you’re not, I can say that the last two weeks I haven’t really missed them. I’ve been using the cloud or Airdrop to other devices, but once I get back to work, it’ll be a bit more pressing.

One thing we’ve seen in the Alien RPG we’ve been running is that while rolling is more limited, high-stakes actions out of combat have been leading our characters to occasionally panic. This seems a bit overboard for the usual run of the mill “losing their shit” that people do under stress. We’ve all had these moments — you’re so frazzled you forget what you were doing or where that thing is, you suddenly develop dropsy, you snap at people, you hide in the bathroom for 30 minutes…

So here’s a more appropriate social/normal day panic chart. Adapt as needed/wanted:

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The Ubiquity version has been approved by the printers and I’m waiting on the proofs to come in. The Fate version had an issue with the cover which has been corrected and I am waiting on the approvals before ordering a proof. ETA for print version two-three weeks, at most.

Here’s the link for the Ubiquity version.

 

 

We have two works in progress as the school shutdown has me out of work for three weeks: We’re continuing to expand the Thrilling Action Stories line with The Marvelous City: A Guide to 1930s Rio de Janeiro for Fate and Ubiquity, but we are also looking to expanding into the 5E realm with The Olympians, a sourcebook of the Greek gods.

Greek gods, people!

The art cost on this one is gonna be crushing.

pdf coverThe Sublime Porte is now live on DriveThrRPG for both Ubiquity and Fate. This sourcebook includes two adventures and maps to the Old City and “European” City, as well as the Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace.

The print versions are about two weeks away (hopefully) as we wait for the proofs to come in.

Here are the NPCs that have been turning up in our campaign connected to Lasalle Bionational.

EDINA LASALLE

3FA79D8B00000578-0-image-a-1_1493655969819Edina is the heir to the Lasalle fortune and the new CEO of the company her father built. Her mother, Shana and her father are both of Irish decent and Edina has a slight accent when emotional. Unlike her siblings and father, she does not view Lasalle as a “Texan” nor “American” company — nationality is a dying thing to her. She has been doing an audit of the company since taking over, digging up a lot of dirt, and investigating the disappearance of certain key scientists and other mysterious events tied to the Special Projects Division.

Nowhere as tall, strong, or attractive as her half-siblings — the “test tube twins” as she privately refers to them — she is still highly intelligent and ruthless. Edina still confers with her father on the direction she is taking the company, and her siblings are often jealous of the close relationship between their father and their half-sister.

She is considered one of the most eligible single women in the world and it is rumored she turned down an offer of marriage to the king of the Three Worlds Empire.

ATTRIBUTES: Strength 3, Agility 3, Wits 5, Empathy 3

SKILLS: Command 3, Comtech 1, Manipulation 3, Mobility 1, Observation 2

TALENTS: Cunning, Personal Safety, Take Control

SIGNATURE ITEM: Ring once part of the Royal Jewels.

BUDDY: Brendan Lasalle

RIVAL: Mercedes Lasalle

MICHAEL LASALLE

25-Chris-Hemsworth.nocrop.w710.h2147483647The face of Lasalle Bionational’s operations, Michael Lasalle is also a walking advertisement for their “designer child” line. He and his sister Mercedes were the first truly successful products of the bioengineering division at Optima Reproduction.

He is now the Chief Operating Officer of the company, and assists his “natural-born” half-sister Edina run the company. He is cunning and observant, with little empathy for other people but an excellent eye for their behavior. He has been learning his half-sister’s strengths and weaknesses in an ongoing effort to learn how to effectively manipulate her and improve his chances of eventually taking over the company. He is also dedicated to the idea of making genetic engineering of humans a respected and accepted thing.

While he disapproves of some of his twin sister’s activities and shortcomings, he is devoted to her.

ATTRIBUTES: Strength 6, Agility 5, Wits 5, Empathy 2

SKILLS: Close Combat 1, Command 2, Comtech 2, Manipulation 3, Mobility 2, Observation 2

TALENTS:  Personal Safety, Second Wind, Take Control

PERSONAL AGENDA:  He wants to make bioengineering a thing.

PROBLEM: When pushing roll, gains 2 stress.

SIGNATURE ITEM: Father’s ring.

BUDDY: Mercedes Lasalle

RIVAL: Edina Lasalle

MERCEDES LASALLE

3157550F00000578-3510081-image-m-48_1458950973226Brilliant and beautiful, ruthless and sociopathic. While she has little empathy, she can “model behavior” of others quite well. She is tall and deceptively strong and fast. She is a practitioner of yoga and jujitsu.

Mercedes is the head of the Special Projects Division of Bionational. Like her brother, she is one of their original “designer children” — physically and mentally superior to most humans…and she knows it. Unlike her brother, she stays out of the company limelight and prefers to be involved in the day-to-day research, but has crafted an image as a socialite to create the impression of being unserious and shallow. She has been romantically linked to a number of men. She is generally underestimated and she likes it that way. They rarely see her coming…

She has been slowly moving to discredit her sister so that she and her brother can take over their father’s kingdom. This has involved shady operations, the investigations of dangerous alien technologies, unethical experiments, and the disappearance of those that might cause her trouble.

ATTRIBUTES: Strength 4, Agility 6, Wits 6, Empathy 2

SKILLS: Close Combat 2, Command 2, Comtech 2, Manipulation 2, Mobility 2, Observation 2, Science 5, Stamina 2

TALENTS:  Flyweight, Second Wind, Take Control

PERSONAL AGENDA: Power…raw power.

PROBLEM: When pushing roll, gains 2 stress. She is sadistic and violent when crossed.

SIGNATURE ITEM: Necklace w/ her DNA profile.

BUDDY: Michael Lasalle

RIVAL: Edina Lasalle

We’ve been focusing more on the corporate intrigue end of things in the Alien universe and we quickly saw a move toward a more cyberpunk-styled world, to fit with the ’80s vibe of the Aliens period setting. (We even have two characters, brothers, appropriately played by Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen ala the late ’80s.)

The company that has been up front and center in the game has been LaSalle Bionational, and I added a slightly Blade Runner flair to LB by making one of their main product lines “designer children” for the rich and powerful.  To that end, some of these designer babies are now adults.

GENETICALLY ENGINEERED HUMANS

The designer children fad hit in the early 2130s, and was spearheaded by the Lasalle Bionational Corporation through their Optima Medical division. Created by genetic manipulation and artificial insemination, these children, while physically and mentally gifted, were often plagued with particular emotional issues. Some of the early children also had unexpected genetic abnormalities. Optima Reproductions stepped back their more ambitious research, focusing on more reliable assisted reproduction technologies, but the designer baby services remained available to those willing to chance the risks. NDAs and legal release agreements are typical for customers of the Advanced Biomanipulation Technologies division, now directly under the Special Projects of Lasalle.

These characters receive a +2 to two attributes, but their Empathy score cannot be raised above a 3. Additionally, they receive +2 stress when pushing a skill roll, and suffer a permanent mental trauma of their choice from the list on p. 101 of the Alien RPG rulebook, or the following:

Generalized Social Disorder: The character has some form of processing disorder that makes it difficult for them to connect with people. They receive a -1 die to any Empathy-based skill test.

Memory Disfunction: The character has a short or long-term memory disorder that causes them difficulty. -1 die to Wits’-based tests.

The player can also choose some form of behavioral issue that can be roleplayed but which does not have a mechanical impact, such as kleptomania, sadism, masochism, obsessive lying, self-aggrandizement, etc.

We’ve played a few sessions since I last reported on our shift to a campaign game using the new Alien RPG by Free League. We had tied the new campaign into the cinematic adventure provided with the game bundle, Chariot of the Gods, and you can see the last installment here. Having survived an attack by a juvenile bloodburster, one of the characters was near death but saved by the medics, while the damaged synthetic Ava (from the original adventure) and their ship’s synthetic, Stella, worked quickly to improve on the vaccine for the 26 Draconis infection. Having saved the one mortally wounded character, they had to test the new inoculation on those characters that had been exposed to the air during the other action scenes. This had led to only one failure — and the only character lost to the mission. The characters found themselves battling their former buddy turned abomination and hastily had to abandon ship.

They had set the reactor of Cronus, the ship from the Chariots adventure to blow and had to convince the captain of their ship to let them onboard. Left in quarantine for 24 hours in the vehicle bay of their vessel, the characters seemed to be alright. They would so after rendezvous with a Colonial Marine ship, at which point they were poked and prodded, interrogated and interviewed, and finally found safe to proceed on their way. The characters had decided to tell the marine interrogators that they had not recovered anything from the hulk — a lie — but unbeknownst to them, the marines downloaded everything they needed from Stella’s memory.

The players did some upgrades to their characters and got paid for their work. At this point, we discussed the system and how it seemed to work. We had already played Tales from the Loop, so we had a good idea of how things worked, but there was a pretty consistent opinion that the three skills/attribute mechanic on TFTL didn’t quite fit the Alien universe so well. We thought the skill list too truncated. I thought a “science” skill was appropriate, and there were a few other suggestions to open the characters to a bit more differentiation. considering there is a more comprehensive (though not by much) list of skills for the Coriolis RPG using the same mechanics, we’ve decided to let people build out differing skills, and perhaps adjust their attributes. (I did not see this as an option in the Alien rules, though I seem to remember it in the TFFL.

So how did it play? We found expanding out the universe from the eponymous critters and looking at the corporate espionage and synthetics angle worked for us, and in the next play sessions, we returned to the characters, with different additions, back on Earth lying low with new identities…until an agent from Lasalle Bionational turned up to hire them to look into their original mission to steal the Cronus data from them. Edina Lasalle, the CEO of the company, is looking into security breeches and strange disappearances throughout their facilities. She suspects an insider is helping someone to damage the company and she was impressed with the way they managed to disappear, then reappear a month later having procured the information they so desperately had sought on the 26 Draconis mission. Soon they found their way to Japan (with a new PC, a corporate security officer) to investigate who had hired them.

Along the way they discovered they had ticked off the security contractors whom they had used as cover — a company owned by the yakuza. Additionally, their initial suspicions, that they had been hired by Weyland-Yutani to spy on Lasalle looked to have been false. The group that had attacked them was a top-tier military and security contractor called Constellations . Some of the team began looking into Constellations, only to be found by the yakuza, leading to a full chop-socky style fight in the kitchen of the coffee bar/internet cafe they were in . The other half hit up a high-end bar/sex club to find out what Constellations was up to and in the end the groups returned to compare notes in their hotel.

Their hacker, Jensen, had found a bank account that the Lasalle security guy, Hauer, was able to track to the National Bank of Polynesia — a bank owned by the Lasalle Financial Holding Company in Colombia. He worked out the time and date, and even terminal that had created the false account used to launder the funds for multiple operations Constellations was doing around interstellar space, then narrowed down the suspects until he had one: Mercedes Lasalle, the genetically engineered super-genius daughter of old man Lasalle and twin of their Chief Security Officer (and Hauer’s boss) Michael. They seem to have stepped into some kind of family feud for control of the company! They also noted to new contracts paid for — one in Tokyo, and a protection detail for a VIP going up to Luna City. At that point, a flash bang grenade came through the window, and they were captured by Constellations operatives that then bundled them onto a plane headed who knows where…