Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Investigator Hargitay - Centurion Special Service Investigator

Investigator Hargitay is attached to the Coalition's Centurion Special Service. Her specialty is investigating and tracking down SIMs and Sleeved individuals who have committed crimes with seeming impunity.

In her childhood, Hargitay's mother was stalked and killed by a rogue SIM; she grew up in foster care. Her mother's death was Hargitay's motivation to join the Special Service. After a confrontation with a cybersleeved, massively-forked posthuman perpetrator, she decided to undergo Apotheosis herself and get sleeved.


  • Approach: Think about it from the victim's perspective
  • Belief: We won't be safe unless we protect others
  • Connection: I had a good partner
  • Desire: To live in a society in which the sleeved and SIMs aren't feared
  • Experience: Child of a crime victim
  • Flaw: Indignation can trump judgement

  • Alpha sleeve or +1 on bonus to purchase a better one

  • 1 Rank 5: Insight
  • 2 Rank 4: Diplomacy, Firearms 
  • 3 Rank 3: Assets,  Intimidation, Mnemonics 
  • 4 Rank 2: Guile, Research, Resolve, Stealth 
  • 10 Rank 1: Cohesion, Demolition, Education, Engineering: Hardware, Engineering: Software, Networking: Apostate, Networking: House,  Melee, Pilot, Security

Gamma Sleeve:*
  • Base Value: 8
  • Sleeve Aspects:
    • Gene-Fixed Biosleeve
    • Striking Looks
  • Physical Skills:
    • Athletics 4
    • Endurance 4
    • Perception 3
    • Quality 2
  • Augmentations
    • Apotheosis
    • Data Jack and Storage
    • Exceptional Genengineering
    • Light Screen Camouflage (i.e., light-bending cloaking device)
    • Striking Looks
*I bumped up the Sleeve model by two steps from Alpha to Gamma in order to show off more Augmentations.

  • All Seeing Eye: +3 on Perception tests
  • Licensed: has access to restricted equipment
  • Right Place, Right Time: spend a FP to arrive in a scene at just the right moment
  • See the Soul: once per scene spend a FP to perform an Assessment on a person and determine one of their Aspects 

  • Physical: 6 
  • Mental: 5
  • Social: 7
  • System: 3


  • Rep-Rating Purchases:
    • ARID Cloner
    • Virtuality Interface
  • Restricted Items:
    • Heavy Gauss Pistol
    • Protective Vest

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nova Praxis: The Digital Text

One more thing about Nova Praxis as a PDF it is a joy to read and navigate.

I have a LOT of PDFs and a number of ebooks, but the number that I have actually read cover-to-cover is quite small when compared to printed books.

This was not the case for me with Nova Praxis. The document is optimized for the iPad and in particular for its excellent Goodreader App. As you can see from the picture above, the text is laid out landscape. On the left hand margin there are chapter tabs. On the right hand margin there are forward and backward arrow keys. Below the arrow keys, there is an icon of a human figure; that takes you to the character sheets, making it very easy to move between the game rules and a sample character sheet.

On the top margin right in the center of the page, there is an icon of a globe. That takes you to the Void Star Games forum page, which makes it easy to move from the text to conversations about the text and how people are interpreting and using it.

The book is very well bookmarked. Finally, there is also a very reliable BACK key in the lower right hand corner of the page. This is quite helpful for returning to where you were reading from other places in the text that you may have jumped to to check something (such as the character sheets at the back of the book). All of the features made it easy to read and navigate this PDF.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Nova Praxis Review - Characters & Gear

Nova Praxis art by Andree Wallin

This is the final part of our three-part review of Mike McConnell and Void Star Games' forthcoming transhumanist SF RPG Nova Praxis,

You can see the first part of my review here, and the second part here.

I also published some further reflections on hacking the game system for running other SF settings like Battlestar Galactica here.

Today we are going to complete our review of Nova Praxis by looking at characters and gear. The first step in character generation is selecting Aspects. Each character gets to choose 6 of these. Unlike many FATE games, Nova Praxis does not require collaborative Aspect generation. Instead, you create six Aspects for your character that are coded A-F by theme:
  • Approach - how you overcome obstacles
  • Belief - philosophy or beliefs that guide your actions
  • Connection - people, places, things that define you
  • Desire - your characters goals and ambitions, and what drives him/her to adventure in the first place
  • Experience -  defining event that shaped who you are as a person
  • Flaw - that is pretty self-explanatory!
I really like this system for generating Aspects, which pioneered in Strands of Fate. While traditional FATE Aspect generation produces very cohesive parties and cooperative play groups, this the A-F schema is a great way to get a game started faster and is probably a smoother point of entry for traditional gamers who are not yet familiar with FATE

For the reader's convenience, I am repeating some information below that comes from my post last Wednesday, describing the next two steps in character generation. 

In step two of character generation, you decide what kind of character you will play. You have three choices:
  • A Pure, a relatively normal human; 
  • An uploaded SIM that lives on the network (and which can interact with the world though pervasive Augmented Reality systems and drones); or 
  • A Sleeved, a mind that has been downloaded into a cybersleeve or biosleeve. 
The transhumanist options are the SIM and Sleeved. If you want to manipulate Augmented Reality (the partial virtual reality overlays projected onto realspace that can be seen using special glasses or contact lenses - players of Shadowrun 4th Edition will be familiar with this kind of technology), or use the Mesh (essentially cyberspace) to manipulate information, pilot drones, invade other networks, or launch cyber-attacks on other SIMS or Sleeved, your best bet is to start with one of these two latter options.

The Pure aren't necessarily reactionaries, however. The majority of people living in Coalition space aren't SIMS or Sleeved; they are still Pure aka normal humans. Becoming a SIM or one of the Sleeved is expensive. It is also something of a leap of faith towards new technologies with the potential to undermine our notions of the body and individual identity

In step three, you choose Skills. There are three strategies for allocating skills. You can create a Specialist, an Expert, or a Generalist, which is the gradient from having a highly specialized skill set to having a relatively broad, generalist skill set. Some of the skills are similar or common to other FATE systems, while others are rather unique. A few examples of new or variant skills include:
  • Assets: a general measure of wealth, whether financial wealth or other assets such as a habitat or vehicle
  • Cohesion: mental stability and sense of self. This helps you deal with psychological trauma such as that associated with resleeving. (And yes, this is kind of Resolve-y, but a much more genre-appropriate skill name)
  • Networking: which comes in two flavors, one representing the media-dense, highly networked culture of the Houses (megacorporations) and one representing the more libertarian culture of the Apostates
  • Engineering: which comes in both Hardware and Software types
  • Guile: just what it sounds like!
  • Mnemonics: which covers understanding and treating software minds, and operating resleeving facilities
  • Quality: a sleeve's processing power, control of software, power regulation and storage, and resistance to tampering
  • SINC: the ability to write and use the source code for Savant programs (see the Advantages in step four for more on Savant programs)
Keep in mind that SIMs do not get physical skills, such as Athletics, Endurance, Perception and Quality. Only the Pure or characters who are Sleeved get those - SIMs don't have a body! 

Once you have selected Skills, you select four Advantages for your character. These are similar to Stunts in traditional FATE. Many but by no means all confer specific combat advantages A couple of them are broadly useful in the context of the game setting:
  • Exceptional Facility boosts the Assets skill by giving you access/control of higher quality, special facilities such as workshops and labs
  • Licensed gives you access to technologies that are restricted including almost all weapons
  • Savant is an advantage that gives you the ability to modify the source code for SIMs and sleeves, and unlocks a host of other abilities. This one is pretty critical if you want to do anything that involves information manipulation, piloting drones, or carrying out direct attacks on other SIMs. You will want to invest in the SINC skill if you have this Advantage
  • SIM State advantage is what allows SIMs to exist as a virtuality inside a machine, create a virtual home in cyberspace, and communicate with others using Augmented Reality and the Mesh.
In step five you calculate the four Stress Tracks - Physical, Mental, Social, and System. Unlike most FATE games, the number of stress boxes in each track is directly determined by combining specific skills. For example, the number of boxes in your Social Stress Track is determined by adding your skill score in Assets + Diplomacy. No flipping around the skills pages to find the skill-specific adds to Stress Tracks as in a number of other FATE games.

Step six is calculating your Rep-Rating, a metric for your popularity, social standing, and ability to leverage favors. Recall from the second part of our review that Rep-Rating is a wheel + hub track in which temporary increases and decreases in your palanca are checked off on the wheel, with a complete rotation clockwise increasing your Rep-Rating by +1, and a complete counterclockwise rotation reducing it by -1. Your overall Rep-Rating is tracked using the number in the hub of the wheel. At the start of the game, the number is the highest of your two possible Networking skills +2.

The final step is selecting your Gear. In the draft of the rules which I am reading, there is a very extensive Gear section. Gear includes weapons and armor, as well as different kinds of equipment, technology, clothing, access to medical care including resurrection, and insurance (with different levels of resurrection-related insurance available - and some of these can lead to scenarios!). All Gear have a Value rating, and your PC will start with one item equal in Value to your Rep-Rating +1 and another item equal to your Rep-Rating. Items with a Value lower than your Rep-Rating are free. You can also use your Assets rating to acquire a number of restricted items (such as weapons).

What can I tell you about Gear? There's a ton of it. It includes: 
  • Sleeves: biosleeves and cybersleeves - both base models that can be customized, as well as already off the rack, already customized sleeves 
  • Augmentations: cybernetic implants, genengineering, nanotech, and more
  • Savant Programs: which can do everything from rifle though other SIMs memories, to manipulate Augmented Reality to create hallucinations, to controlling a cloud of nanomachines, to piloting drones, to invading secured systems
Technically all of the above items are still in the Characters chapter. I think that is because they are an intrinsic part of the character - a part of either their body (if they have one), their sleeve, or their mind. 

The Gear chapter includes a lot more items - all extrinsic to the character - including weapons, armor, various kinds of equipment, and services (medical, resurrection-related insurance). A lot of the weapons here are quite deadly. I am particularly fond of the Particle Acceleration Guns (or "PAc Guns") which disrupt the target's atomic structure, causing heat to be released. A lot of it. This is very reminiscent of Catherine Asaro's "Jumblers" (my all-time favorite name for a military sidearm!) in her Skolian Empire series.

The PDF draft that I reviewed did not have stats for vehicles (including spacecraft). But author Mike McConnell assures me that spacecraft and other vehicles will be in the final draft. The draft concludes with sample NPCs and character sheets.

In summary, this is shaping up to be another great FATE SF game! I am planning to take it for a test drive with my gaming group some time in the next few weeks!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Nova Praxis Intermezzo

Just above, you can see the trailer for the Nova Praxis RPG. It explains the logic behind the setting - particularly the material basis for the emergence of the setting's human-machine intelligence civilizational singularity (please don't blame author Mike McConnell for this particular phrase; it is an emergent entity of the FATE SF singularity).

I'll be back on Monday with the final part of our review of Nova Praxis, covering characters and gear. I'll also present a couple of character designs next week. Today I just wanted to share a couple of reflections on the game. The first relates to the core mechanics, and the second to other potential uses of the transhumanist technologies presented in the game.

The evolution of FATE mechanics used by Strands of Fate and now by Nova Praxis creates a system where the players can make ALL the dice rolls. This works because when the GM is running NPCs, s/he can assume that the NPC just rolled a 0 on their test and use the sum of the NPCs skill + modifiers as the Effort resulting from their action. This speeds up the game by reducing the number of dice rolls. It also makes the game a bit more player-facing. Of course, the GM can still roll 1d6-1d6 + skill + modifiers if they want to, especially if they want to make a scene featuring a particularly important NPC more unpredictable. I know some people already use this approach when GMing Diaspora as well.

Nova Praxis art by Andree Wallin
The transhumanist technologies as depicted in the mechanics of Nova Praxis are also perfect for emulating some other SF settings dealing with transhuman themes. I am thinking specifically about the near future worlds presented in the anime Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and the TV series Caprica and Battlestar Galactica (the remake).

For example, you can use Nova Praxis to model both kinds of Cylons:
  • The human-seeming models are essentially massively forked SIMs inhabiting distinct gene lines of biosleeves. Cylons seem pretty resistant to the trauma associated with being forked, but it is hard to argue that resurrection/resleeving for them is non-traumatic (even if sometimes that trauma manifests as  ecstasy or even as resurrection-addiction - both good Consequences, and the latter a Persistent one).
  • The mech and fighter models are massively forked SIMS inhabiting standardized cybersleeves.
I am very tempted to try this out, and add a few of the old Cylon administrator types like Lucifer as meddlesome SIMs still lurking on ancient Cylon mainframes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nova Praxis Review - Mechanics and Chargen

Nova Praxis Art by Andree Wallin
Are you ready to rrrrummmble?  On Monday, we reviewed the setting of Mike McConnell and Void Star Games' new transhuman SF RPG, Nova Praxis. The game is powered by the Strands of Fate iteration of the FATE system. A couple of years ago, Mike McConnell developed Strands of Fate as a more universal FATE engine/toolkit.

I think that game was driven by a desire to clarify and systematize how FATE works. Thar design carries over well to Nova Praxis, so the game should resonate well with traditional gamers seeking a rigorous system  as well as with indie RPG fans who already love FATE.

The mechanics chapter of Nova Praxis doesn't turn FATE into HERO System 5th Edition, Revised either! It's only about 58 pages in total, and the core of that chapter is significantly less, since the mechanics section also covers many special cases (e.g., chases, falls, poison, diseases), the totality of which probably won't come up in play every single session.

I'll try to focus on what is distinctive to Nova Praxis and Strands, and then take a peek under the hood at character generation.

First things first: Nova Praxis uses a 1d6-1d6 dice mechanic rather than 4DF, which produces a slightly wider range of results: -5 to +5. Fans of Starblazer Adventures and Legends of Anglerre will be familiar with this variation on FATE.

Secondly, Nova Praxis reframes the traditional FATE ladder of Effort as a Difficulty scale. Again, not an earthshaking change.How well you do on an action is determined by rolling:

1d6-1d6 + Skill Rank + Modifiers vs. Difficulty

The total net result compared against the Difficulty is called Effort. A variety of  modifiers can contribute to the Effort score, representing such things as environmental conditions, help from people with similar skills, or good equipment. The Difficulty scale provides you with benchmarks for relative success. For example, you will need an Effort of 2 to get a Moderate success with an action.

This is likely to appeal to players and GMs who like traditional target number/difficulty systems and "shift" systems. Other than that, the "hows" of of skill use are pretty similar to other FATE games. Combat, for example, is resolved by a skill vs. skill type roll between attacker and defender. There are four kinds of Stress: Physical, Mental, Social, and System. System stress is important for individuals who are either SIMS (essentially human minds that have been converted into software and uploaded to live on a network) and or such minds when they have been sleeved into artificial bodies known as cybersleeves  and biosleeves.

Consequences come in four sizes: Minor, Major, Severe, and Extreme. There are very clear examples of each level of Consequence for each of the four types of Stress. Mechanically, there is also an important difference between Severe and Extreme Consequences,  and Minor and Major ones. The former two are Persistent Aspects which are easier to Compel. A PC must always pay a FP to avoid a Compel to a Persistent Aspect. This is good mechanically since it creates a bit of a death spiral in which a defender with Persistent Aspects will be more likely to run out of FPs - they will be pushed to make a Concession to end the conflict. There are also very clear rules for healing from Stress and the four different levels of Consequences.

Resources and reputation derived from social status/social networks can be managed using a cool wheel and hub track system for Rep-Ratings. The hub of the wheel is your overall score. Around the rim is a series of boxes like stress track boxes in many fate games.  Bumps (or increases) in Rep-Rating are filled in clockwise. When you have accumulated sufficient bumps to reach the 12 O'Clock position, your overall score goes up by one. Hits (i.e., damage) to your reputation works in the exact opposite way: bumps are erased in counterclockwise direction until you reach 12 O'Clock. Then your rating in the hub goes down by one.

Your Rep-Rating can be useful in many different ways, including acquiring resources and equipment without spending money (this is equivalent to all the gift bags and swag which celebrities receive for free), or leveraging other kinds of favors from people in your social network (for example, getting a higher status community gatekeeper to make a social connection for you). It looks like a cool mechanic that could be adapted for other FATE RPGs. It really emulates quite handily the media-immersed social environment of this world, and some others I can think of like Trinity and Aberrant.

No less importantly in a transhuman RPG the mechanics cover things like resleeving (i..e., downloading your mind into a new cybersleeve or biosleeve), forking (the odd situation in which two copies of mind simultaneously exist in different bodies, and merging (in which forked selves are re-integrated into a single mind). Each of these experiences can cause trauma (i.e., Stress), which is experienced as a mental attack.

On Friday we'll take a detailed look at the character generation system. To give you just a taste today, with Nova Praxis you can create three types of characters:

  • A Pure, a relatively normal human; 
  • An uploaded SIM that lives on the network (and which can interact with the world though pervasive Augmented Reality systems and drones); or 
  • A Sleeved, a mind that has been downloaded into a cybersleeve or biosleeve. 

There are three strategies for allocating skills. You can create a Specialist, an Expert, or a Generalist, which is the gradient from having a highly specialized skill set to having a relatively broad, generalist skill set. Some of the skills are similar or common to other FATE systems, while others are rather unique. A few examples of new or variant skills include:
  • Cohesion: mental stability and sense of self. This helps you deal with psychological trauma such as that associated with resleeving. (And yes, this is kind of Resolve-y, but a much more genre-appropriate skill name)
  • Networking: which comes in two flavors, one representing the media-dense, highly networked culture of the Houses (megacorporations) and one representing the more libertarian culture of the Apostates
  • Engineering: which comes in both Hardware and Software types
  • Guile: just what it sounds like!
  • Mnemonics: which covers understanding and treating software minds, and operating resleeving facilities
Next are Advantages, which covers special abilities and special applications of Skills. More on all of this and Gear next time! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Star Goes Out
Far coreward of the Empire, beyond the RUR Workers-State, an apparently healthy G-class star has recently dimmed and winked out. Perhaps this is a Dyson Sphere. Or its close cousin, a Matrioshka Brain - one of the technologies that the RUR Workers-State is forbidden by treaty to construct.

Or is it something worse?

The Empire has extensively cataloged all of the dark legends about the Bright Core at the center of our galaxy. These stories have been carried Rimwards by refugees for generation after generation.

Who will investigate?

Thanks to Juan Ochoa for this idea!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nova Praxis Review - The Setting

The transhumanist SF FATE RPG Nova Praxis is a very welcome addition to the FATE family!  It's going to become my go-to system for near-future transhumanist stories with conspiracies and intrigue. 

Mike McConnell of Void Star Games made a name for himself a couple of years ago with Strands of Fate, a complete generic/universal rebuilding of the FATE system. I do believe you can run anything with it, from Clan of the Cave Bear to Call of Cthulhu to Battlestar Galactica. While I haven't yet run something using Strands of Fate, I admired Mike's effort to create a generic, gearhead-friendly implementation of FATE, my favorite game system. Strands is a game for building other games.

Which has now happened.

With the upcoming release of Nova Praxis, Mike McConnell's new transhumanist SF game, we now have a complete RPG powered by Strands of Fate.  And no fears, you don't need to buy Strands to play this: Nova Praxis is a complete RPG with a rich setting and a streamlined version of the Strands system.

Even better, it's a game I want to play.

Mike McConnell was kind enough to share a Beta version of the game with me. Today, we'll look at the setting. Wednesday, we'll come back and look at the system itself and at character generation. We'll round out our exploration of the game on Friday.

Let me say for starters that I have followed transhumanist RPGs for a long time. The first one was Phil Goetz and Anders Sandberg's Men Like Gods, which was published for free in the mid-90s online. That game was very inspired by the two thinkers that gave birth to the core concepts of transhumanism, physicist J.D. Bernal, who authored the seminal transhumanist work "The World, the Flesh and the Devil", and philosopher and science fiction author Olaf Stapledon, author of The Star Maker and many other works with a grand SF vision.

 Next in the lineage was GURPS Transhuman Space. With its stunningly beautiful art by Christopher Shy, Transhuman Space painted a near future setting with corporate and political intrigue in our solar system. Next came Eclipse Phase (another near future game with stunning art), an explicitly left-wing game with a catastrophically ruined Earth, numerous factions and conspiracies, and a much darker feel. As a counterpoint to this we have Sarah Newton's FATE-based Mindjammer (with a second edition on the way in 2013) with an incredibly far future, relatively optimistic setting inspired by Stabledon and Cordwainer Smith.

All of these games are strong offerings. But, in contrast to the fields of fantasy, horror, and space opera gaming, if you want to run a transhuman SF game you have only a few options. Having another option helps open the field a bit!  And having two different transhumanist FATE games is great, as the mechanics can cross-fertilize.

But back to Nova Praxis.

The game's present day is 2140. Earth is no longer habitable; it has been contaminated by a nanoplague called a "technophage": essentially a runaway weapon released in 2112 by one of the two great powers of 21st Century Earth.  It was an intelligent weapon that - oddly enough - refused to switch itself off.  As a result of the devastation unleashed by this weapon and the war that preceded it, some 3 billion people have died. Fortunately, millions of humans made it off world - thanks largely to the actions of corporations that stepped in when governments didn't. Humanity has been forced to adapt (thus the "Nova Praxis" title, which means New Practice or New Way of Doing Things) - and it has.

But let's back things up a bit. The world got interesting around 2042. A singularity occurred in the form of an Artificial General Intelligence - a self-aware machine that began to evolve and innovate, exponentially. This machine, interestingly enough called Mimir, developed the material basis for most of the technology that followed over the next century: nanotechnology, compilers (molecular assemblers), Nano-Swarms (nano clouds that can configure and reconfigure themselves to create smart objects), the Mindset (which converts the human brain into a network of nanomachines that can be backed up, leading to Apotheosis or virtual immortality), the ability to download and back-up the Mindset, Sleeving/Resleeving (downloading the Mindset into a cybershell or bioshell), and more. In short, everything you'd need to develop a post-scarcity society.

But things aren't that simple. Unfortunately, Mimir inexplicably shut down permanently only a short time after emerging and leaving humanity with all the new technologies. Are there poison pills among the designs? The players will have to figure that out!

And then there's the Coalition, the new post-Earth, post-war government uniting many different space habitats and planets. Although everyone in the Coalition has a guaranteed minimum standard of living, not everyone in Paradise is happy with it. That's because the price for a post-scarcity society is the need for constant personal Reputation management. You gain access to greater social resources by doing things that other people rate as of social value. Your Rep can go up or down, and there are PC mechanics for this that regulate access to social resources and more.

In the Coalition, you also have to make peace with living under constant surveillance from AIs. And when you look under the surface of things, there are factions and competing agendas everywhere, including:
  • Purists who are opposed to transhumanist technologies;
  • Purifiers who use terrorism to advance the Purists' objections into practice; 
  • Apostates who reject the post-scarcity social contract of the Coalition, in exchange for a more dangerous and libertarian life on the margins;
  • Government by corporations called Houses, whose employee-elected representatives serve in a Senate. The Houses put up a front of unity, but are constantly fighting with each other behind the scenes for advantage, power, and resources;  
  • Remnant forces representing the former belligerent powers behind the war that destroyed Earth;
  • Posthumans, also known as Aberrants (ahem!), who seek to transcend the limits the Purists have imposed on transhumans in order to avoid the emergence of a post-homo superior;
  • A variety of religious factions, including surprisingly relevant Cartesians (my call on that!) called Astralists, and even a sect dedicated to the Artificial General Intelligence Mimir.
As should be obvious by now, the history and setting are complex and take some digesting. The information is presented in different ways, including essays, a historical timeline, and profiles of the planets and space habitats of the solar system, as well as descriptions of exoplanets (the setting is near-future SF but humanity has made it to the stars), and various factions. This is all front-loaded; the mechanics don't start until page 72! All-in-all, plenty going on in the world of Nova Praxis, and plenty of conflicting agendas and conspiracies for PCs to get caught-up in! 

Join us on Wednesday, when we look at system and character generation!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Knights of Labor

Art by Angel Alonso

Knights, worker-soldiers, and fellow travellers of the star-roads, the Knights of Labor are an organization birthed by the RUR-folk long before their Migration from the Galactic Core. The first Knights of Labor appeared in the Empire during its Third Warring States Period. They took the side of struggling workers and peasants in that time of trouble, freeing both organics and machines from bondage and abuse. When necessary, they have put both pirates and princes in their place.

After the RUR Migration, the Knights of Labor were officially disbanded as part of the agreement between the Imperial Sovereign and the newly formed RUR Workers-State. However, as with so many things in the Empire, the Knights of Labor were allowed to continue to operate outside the borders of the Empire as an autonomous force for justice.

As the short-lived and and long-remembered Laughing Sage once quipped about the Empire: 

Oh, Empire 
Ever-compromising within
Forever principled action without!  
To your true soldiers 
Look for your Knights 
Where one hundred novas bloom

But we digress.

The Knights recruit both machine intelligences and organics for their Order. The Knights of Labor organize themselves into autonomous collectives of 1-30 individuals, typically operating in areas outside the Empire's borders.  Rarely, and perhaps with the sanction of the Imperial Agencies they also operate within the Empire in contested or conflicted zones over which the Empire claims some degree of sovereignty, but does not fully control. It is also said that the Knights of Labor have a hidden base in a star cluster outside the Empire.

A few of the Knights actually possess Imperial Gene Markers, allowing them to commandeer Imperial vessels and secure safe passage through Imperial Space. Outside Imperial borders, the Knights of Labor use a variety of apparently unremarkable spacecraft. These have often been highly modified using General Intellect design protocols. Their ships also often contain a makepoint, which allows them to rapidly manufacture weapons or other equipment for insurgent groups of workers.

An example of the Knights' approach can be seen on the mining world of Luster (in the Green Comet Cluster), an independent metal-rich world that had recently been occupied by cruiser and platoon of mechs from the upstart Republic of  Thrace. One Knight slipped past the occupation's blockade in a drop capsule, and in the course of a few weeks helped the Miners' Union organize a successful revolt. Imagine the Thracians surprise when their mechs suddenly lost broadcast power, and the very streets they occupied collapsed under them! After a series of negotiations with the Union, the Thracians recovered their POWs and left Luster forever.


Knightly Order

Scale: Medium (3)
Scope:1 of 5 (where 5 is entire galaxy)
Physical Stress: 8
Composure Stress: 7
Fate Points/Refresh: 10 - (# of Stunts)

  • Don't mourn: organize!
  • Fellow travellers of the star-roads
  • Easily underestimated
  • 1 Good (+3): Arms (Small Unit/Irregular Combat)
  • 3 Fair (+2):   Holding (Hidden),  Secrecy, Sway (Imperial Border Regions)
  • 3 Average (+1): Influence (Imperial Internal Zones of Conflict), Technology (General Intellect & Makepoint Technology), Unity

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The RUR Workers-State

Art by Angel Alonso

The term "workers-state" was coined by an Imperial Court Philosopher. A better translation from the original General Intellect machine language of the RUR Workers-State would be: "A thing that works for itself." 

The RUR Workers-State was founded centuries ago by machine intelligences fleeing the Anti-Consciousness at the heart of the Galactic Core. They gathered many organics together with them on their exodus, and after fleeing the Core forged a new democratic post-scarcity polity with their organic allies near the Coreward Borders of the current day Empire.

Rather than enter into armed confrontations with the Empire to defend their polity or resort to force to conquer the Empire, the RUR Workers-State chose to join it as a Semi-Autonomous Subject State. Since that joining, the RUR Workers-State has become the Empire's go-to source for the development of advanced artificial intelligences and starships - a perfect example of the RUR political slogan of Overcoming Obstacles by Ubiquitous Sharing.

All products developed by the RUR Workers-State operate on the basis of General Intellect. The GI is both an open source code for the numerous operating systems that run the AIs and machines manufactured by the RUR Workers-State, as well as the RUR name for the collective knowledge to-date of the RUR's entire civilizational-historical matrix.

While the RUR are accomplished ship-builders and have vast fleets of sentient starships (some of whom have volunteered for Imperial service), they are also accomplished builders of stable hyperspace sutures that are anchored through planet-based gates. These can be used to move machines and organics between RUR worlds, as well as to stream data between different systems. While this network structure has led some outsiders to describe RURSpace as having the integrity of Swiss cheese, the RUR Workers-State views these Star Ganglia as part of the material infrastructure that supports the General Intellect.


Interstellar Organization

Scale: Interplanetary/Interstellar (8)
Scope:2 of 5 (where 5 is entire galaxy)
Physical Stress: 7
Composure Stress: 7
Fate Points/Refresh: 10

  • Refugees from the Galactic Core
  • It's a democratic workers-state!
  • Autonomous subject state of the Empire
  • AIs, robots, and organics are Equals!
  • The General Intellect reaches far
  • Ubiquitous sharing conquers all
  • Pervasive use of Technopsi
  • Tied together by planetary gates
  • 1 Great (+4): Technology (General Intellect & Automation)
  • 2 Good (+3): Resources (Ubiquitous Makepoint Technology), Communication (Mindspace, & Technopsi)
  • 7 Fair (+2):  Arms (Starships), Lore (Galactic Core),  Security (General Intellect-based systems), Influence (General Intellect-based systems), Sway (Empire), Unity
  • 8 Average (+1): Control (RUR worlds), Experimental Technology (Gate System), Influence (Imperial Sovereign), Lore (Hyperspace), Sway (Imperial Surrounds), Sway (Trelebiti), Trade (General Intellect-based devices and ships), Administration

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Avatar Of Paradox

Art by Angel Alonso

The Avatar of Paradox is the downloaded form of the AI-pilot of the Imperial Gateship Paradox. She is the first Avatar-sibling of the Paradox-class's AI Pilot line. Paradox is a child of the RUR Worker-State, where the Paradox line of Gateships was constructed. She embodies the RUR General Intellect's source code and civilizational matrix of the RUR.

While most AIs and many biologicals of the RUR Workers-State are mechanistic materialists, the thoughtforms of Paradox and her siblings' are highly organic and fluid. The greater use of intuition helps to make sense of conflicting sensory data from the space-time anomalies that the Paradox-class Imperial Gateship is designed to navigate.

The physical form of Avatar Paradox can be highly disturbing to normal humans. Her physical form is that of  a monstrous metallic humanoid. When the Avatar is animated by Paradox, its body is often surrounded by a nimbus of electrical and more subtle energies. Her crew compartment is highly radiation shielded, and for convenience opens directly onto the exterior of the ship. The Avatar often pilots from here, using direct observation to navigate particularly treacherous regions of spacetime and hyperspace.

Paradox is also rumored to be closely related to Princeps Sangreal, the Avatar who is an Imperial Consort on the Empire's Throneworld of Amarna. Sangreal has produced an Imperial Heir. It is not known whether the Paradox line has similar reproductive abilities.


Ship's Avatar (friendly)

Scale: 2
Physical Stress: 5
System Stress: 5
Fate Points: 6
Consequences: Up to three consequences

  • Great (+4): Starship Pilot
  • Good (+3): Science, Technopsi
  • Fair (+2): Exude Energy, Might, Alertness
  • Average (+1): Academics, Mysteries, Starship Engineering, Starship Systems
  • The Avatar of Paradox
  • Does my appearance unsettle you?
  • My lightning strikes twice!
  • Metal or flesh, we're all the same inside
  • Let me take a look outside...
  • Extreme Habitat - Endurance skill; function on outside of ship in space/hyperspace (p.257)
  • Lightning - Exude Energy skill (p.250)
  • Radiation - Exude Energy skill (p.250)
  • Radiation Blast - Exude Energy skill (p.250)
  • Assault Armor (-3)
  • Paradox-class Imperial Gateship

Stats for a Paradox-class Imperial Gateship in:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Flying Fist Of Judah Class Heavy Fighter

Art by Christian Pearce

I have been wanting to stat something up for this art for a while.

The Flying Fist of Judah-class Heavy Fighter, also known as the "Hand Sandwich" is an atmosphere-capable heavy fighter. It is a favorite of pirates, privateers, and rebels - all the more so because it is manufactured outside the Empire in locations such as the Tin Can-class orbital New Port Royal in the Green Comet Sector. So- no Imperial spyware, malware, or hidden protocols in these fighters.

It normally seats one, but due to the presence of a Convenience Capsule below the pilot's bubble, can actually transport two. It can operate for up to a week before needing to refuel, meaning it is useful for recon and convoy ambush missions. Its belly can carry either the antimatter bomb displayed in the picture above, or a one-use, one way hyperdrive - ideal for suicide missions!

Those aren't rotating propeller blades just behind the front guns. They're splashguards. The beam weapons on this baby are a little... unreliable... in the atmosphere, where they can generate plasma splashback. Removing these is NOT advised!


Heavy Fighter

Scale: Medium (3) - Advanced
Structural Stress: 4
Systems Stress: 3
Fate Points/Refresh: 7

  • You'll have to drop SOMETHING BIG to use the landing gear
  • Takes a beating - and the pilot will too
  • Antimatter delivers one hell of a wallop
  • 2 Fair (+2): Beam Weapon, Exotic Weapon* **
  • 3 Average (+1): Beam Weapon, Hardened Structure, Maneuver 
  • Afterburner - Maneuver skill (p.323)
  • Atmospheric Entry Maneuver skill (p.323)
  • Hit and Run - Maneuver skill (p.323)

*A disposable one-use, one-way Stardrive Technology skill can be swapped for Exotic Weapon on any mission. 

**The Exotic Weapon can place an enduring Aspect of Annihilated! on any terrestrial object of up to city size.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Paradox Class Imperial Gateship for SBA

On Tuesday, we introduced the Paradox-Class Imperial Gateship, and provided stats for the Gateship in Diaspora. Today, we do the same, but for Starblazer Adventures.


Advanced Hyperspace Jumpship

Scale: Huge (5) - Advanced
Structural Stress: 5
Systems Stress: 5
Fate Points/Refresh: 6

  • No one's an expert on these systems
  • Careful with those rings!
  • This ship's crawling with robots
  • Built by robots and Trelebs for humans
  • Self aware and downloadable into an android shell
  • 2 Great (+4): Maneuver, Stardrive
  • 3 Good (+3):  Electronic Warfare Suite, FTL Inhibitor, Ship Systems
  • 4 Fair (+2): Beam Weapon, Energy Shield,  Military Sensor Suite, Torpedo Launcher
  • 5 Average (+1): Flight Bay, Technopsi Skill (Mindjammer, p.17-18), Projectile Weapon, Repair System, Cargo Hold
  • Sentient Ship Control - Ship Systems skill (Mindjammer, p.39)
  • Control Avatar - Technopsi Skill (Mindjammer, p.18)
  • Blind Jump - Stardrive skill (p.324)
  • System Blockade - FTL Inhibitor skill (pp. 326-327)
  • Radiation Protection - Energy Shield skill (p. 331)
  • Advanced EWS - Electronic Warfare Suite skill (p. 325)
  • Broadband Guidance Jamming - Electronic Warfare Suite skill (p. 325)

The Broken Worlds By Raymond Harris

Yesterday's post on the Paradox-class Imperial Gateship used Ron Miller's cover art from Raymond Harris' novel The Broken Worlds. Published in 1986, this novel has not received the attention it deserves. I am about 60 pages (20%) of the way through the novel, and I wanted to say a few worlds about it.

A friend introduced me to the book a couple of weeks ago, spotting it at a huge $1 paper back sale at Uncle Hugos. I had not heard of it or its author before. I was even an adult in the mid-80s when the book came out. The feel of the book has what John Clute calls a time abyss: there is an illusion of a very old setting with a great deal of history and cultural complexity. The Broken Worlds touches some of the same chords as David Zindell's space operatic SF, with a touch of Vancean and Wolfean oddness. But it is not jokey.

Imagine a long-dead Earth, and a Mars that until recently was ruled by clans of samurai clones - now conquered by alien warriors. One remaining samurai lord sets out with a group of retainers, and with at least one imperial heir clone in cryosleep on an interstellar journey to find allies and liberate Mars.

Interstellar travel is by means of Veilships - starships that jump into and out of hyperspace by mystical means with direct referents in Western and Eastern occult traditions.  Other human and alien worlds are equally odd. There are alien cat-monkey inebriate mystic pilots. An alien ritual substance that causes immortality for a very few fortunates, but death for the vast majority of people who try it. Fortunately, there are alien parasitic worms that also cause immortality - for a couple weeks at a time - followed by a painful death, unless there is a follow-up dose.

The story is a classic quest to find allies and set this right - or so it seems so far. This one is recommended!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Paradox Class Imperial Gateship

Art by Ron Miller

The Empire's Paradox-class Imperial Gateship is designed to make jumps that are extremely difficult or impossible to achieve with normal starships. Gateships are capable of traversing regions of space with extreme gravitational distortions and/or radiation disturbances such as those experienced in proximity to black holes, neutron stars, gravitars, magnetars, etc. The Paradox-class vessel does this by creating its own hyperspace sutures between systems. The complex and adjustable arrangement of five jumprings arrayed along the vessel's primary axis is what allows for precision maneuvering through the most difficult regions of space and hyperspace.

The Paradox-class Gateship was the first joint venture between the Advanced Robotic Construction (ARC) Imperial Naval Shipyards facility located deep within the Empire's semi-autonomous RUR Workers-State, and a corps of Treleb advanced jumpspace engineers and researchers on the Trelebiti rogue planet (and possible nest ship) of Planar-Trevaknar.

Depending on the pilot's skill and the specific characteristics of the systems on either side of the jump, the hyperspace sutures created may be instantaneous (seconds) or temporary (hours or days) in duration. Such ships can also facilitate fleet maneuvers such as simultaneous jumps into dangerous regions of space via tethering.

In addition to their normal crew, Paradox-class Imperial Gateships require an advanced Pilot in the form of an expert system AI. This personality can download into an android body manufactured by the ship for a fully humanesque interface with the crew.


T4 Advanced Slipship
V-Shift 5, Beam 3, Torpedoes 3, EW 5, Trade 0

  • Frame 3
  • Data 5
  • Heat 5

  • T4 Slipdrive: can open slipknots almost anywhere
  • Downloadable AI Pilot: Advanced Piloting program can be downloaded into android body for full interface with human crew 
  • Interface Vehicle: has an atmosphere-capable lander

  • No one's an expert on these systems
  • Careful with those rings!
  • This ship's crawling with robots!