Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dual Statting Starships

It may be a bit quiet here at FATE SF for a day or two. Today, I spent the afternoon and evening dual statting some VERY big starships for Starblazer Adventures and Diaspora. Tomorrow night I continue a playtest on the interior of one of these ships. More details soon about this very special project!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cordwainer Smith

If you recognize the artist, please drop me a line.

I've been reading the fiction of Cordwainer Smith in its fictive chronological order, starting with the short stories in the Baen collection, When The People Fell. As a kid, I probably would NOT have had the patience to appreciate these offbeat stories. Back when I was 13 or 14, I was too busy wolfing down everything Samuel R. Delaney had to offer (so to speak), so I missed other voices.

Now that I'm a third of the way through the collection, I have a much better appreciation for why Smith has been a favorite of so many people, from M.A.R. Barker (I have seen his handwritten corrections for the playtest manuscript for the Tekumel roleplaying game that preceded Empire of the Petal Throne; there is a note about an interstellar civilization called a "Commonwealth", IIRC) to transhumanist RPG authors like Sarah Newton (her Mindjammer RPG setting has a number of references to Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind setting).

Cordwainer Smith's fiction should be especially appealing to transhumanists, and his transhuman figures are quite... strange, in a "there's no going back" kind of way. Even though notions like The Singularity hadn't been invented when Smith wrote his fiction, he nevertheless "got" the concept, and how unsettling, strange, and irreversible such singularities will be.

Maybe I should cranch now, I'll feel better.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monstrous Monday: The Dragon's Domain

More than any other SF horror of the 1970s (or thereafter), the British SF series Space: 1999's episode Dragon's Domain by Christopher Penfold haunted my youth... rather like it its draconic monster haunted Captain Tony Cellini of the Ultra Probe mission.

The Dragon is a recurrent monster, appearing, disappearing, and reappearing in both space and time. It's feeding habits create Space Sargassos. And each new visitor drawn to the mystery of the Sargasso brings it new prey.

The creature doesn't look like a dragon, other than having green skin and a fiery maw. It has one giant white glowing eye, numerous tentacles arrayed around the eye, and a maw... the most terrifying maw of my youth. Worse than the fiery maw of the Doomsday Machine, which is itself pretty bad. It draws you in, and a second or two later slides you out as a charred, desiccated corpse.

It can't be detected by instruments that look for and/or record "life signs."

The ONLY sign that the Dragon is coming is a whirling shimmer of lights in the air:

The creature appears out of nowhere, usually in a doorway or airlock. It can take down even the most determined crew.

The Dragon's will-sapping psionic powers certainly help with that. Crew member after crew member may simply give up the will to fight and walk toward its tentacles and fiery maw. Don't waste your time with energy weapons. Bring an axe, and strike true and well with it.

You can watch the entire episode here.


Tentacled Alien Cyclops

Scale 2 (Small)
Physical Stress: 5 (Body) + 3 (Eye)
Composure Stress: 5
Fate Points: 5

  • Doesn't register on our equipment
  • Abandon your reason and understand
  • It will test your will...
  • It's fond of space...graveyards
  • A dragon with tentacles
  • Never truly alive... and never really dead?
  • 1 Great (+4): Exude Energy
  • 2 Good (+3): Absorb Energy, Fists
  • 3 Fair (+2): Alertness, Intimidation, Teleportation
  • 4 Average (+1): Intimidate, Might,  Resolve
  • Absorb Energy Weapons (Absorb Energy skill, pp. 251-252)
  • Flames (Exude Energy skill, p.250)
  • Oversized (Intimidation skill, p. 259)
  • Regeneration (Endurance skill, p. 257) 
  • Tentacle (Fists skill, p.258)
  • Eye - If the eye is struck with a hand weapon such as an axe, the creature may die immediately (treat the eye as having three stress boxes; if these three are filled, the creature dies)
*Some of these Aspects were inspired by John Kenneth Muir's post on the episode.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Fleet Of The Emissaries

"Journey" by Dmitry Zaviyalov
Click on the image to enlarge it. The image is beautiful.

The Imperial Sovereign has many emissaries, including clones, consorts, and even children of the royal household. There is also the occasional antique Lucifer-class diplomat android, its translucent head whirring and glittering with a thousand intrigues and stratagems.

A variety of vessels bring the Imperial Sovereign's emissaries to the stars. Each is a unique, sui generis starship. Many of them are thousands of years old. 

Some have jumpdrives, others slipstream engines, and a few have truly exotic artifact-drives. More than one is a slower-than-light generation ship. What better way is there to take one's leave from the Court for a while,travel in style, make a stately appearance on some other world or orbital, and impress the locals?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vex Pyramids
The rare, handheld stone psychic artifacts known as Vex Pyramids were creations of the ancients. Three of these are known to exist within the Empire. The first was discovered in the early days of the Empire by a Belt trawler in the Vex system. It was floating amid the space rubble left by the break-up of the system's third planet, lost Apophis.

The artifact's current whereabouts is unknown, and it is considered quite likely that the artifact was sold to the highest bidder. The second Vex Pyramid was found in a hidden chamber deep within the heart of the machine-world of Altair IV. It is always kept on or near the person of the Imperial Sovereign.

A third Vex Pyramid is said to float of its own accord within the Temple of the Imperial Order of Sibyls.

And there may be more.

No one knows why the ancients created these artifacts. They are painfully psychically active, and can interfere with the use of psionics, as well as with safe transitions into and out of hyperspace.

In the hands of a trained psychic, however, the Vex Pyramids can be used to make a quick escape from enemies. The psychic holding the stone may make him/herself and a few companions disappear. After use, there will always-never-have-been any trace or record of the user and their companions.

This post is inspired by the novel "The Broken Worlds" by Raymond Harris.


Vex Pyramids - Ancient Artifact

  • Mystic Gate Generator of Suicidal Ancients
  • Undecipherable Alien Ur-Cuneiform 
  • Potent Psychic Disruptor
  • Jump Interference
  • It's really made of Bone, not stone
Vex Pyramids cause a person and any of their nearby companions within the same Zone to shrink down to the subatomic level, and pass through the skin of reality into a pocket universe. The user of the artifact must spend a Fate Point to activate the device, and make a successful Mysteries skill roll with a resulting Effort of 5 or better. A failure on this role permanently reduces the user's Refresh Rate and Fate Point maximum by 1.

Upon that successful Mysteries roll, the user and their companions will enter the pocket universe. If they stay there long enough, they will eventually pass into a form of spectral unlife, and finally experience complete oblivion.

The only way to escape this pocket universe is to make another Mysteries skill roll, this time with a resulting Effort of 7. To do this, the user of the device must first have access to another Fate Point of their own. There is no Refresh within this soul-draining entropic pocket universe, so they must have carried this Fate Point with them to into the pocket universe at the time they first activated the Vex Pyramid; otherwise, they will not be able to re-activate the Vex Pyramid to escape the pocket universe.

As soon as someone enters the pocket universe, and forever after, they loose one of their existing Aspects and gain the permanent Aspect: Forgotten and Forever Unknown.

Within normal space-time, with the expenditure of a Fate Point, the device will provide a +3 bonus to attempts to Block powers based on Psionic skills for an entire scene. The device can also be used to interfere with a jump into or out of hyperspace, acting as a +3 Block against someone's Pilot skill in making the jump.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

About Those Moon Rocks...

The Apollo astronauts brought hundreds of Moon rocks back to Earth in the 1970s. The Nixon Administration gave 135 fragments of Moon to foreign heads of state. (I wonder if Nixon delivered one to Mao Zedong?) Many of these are no missing, a fact of which the film Apollo 18 makes a big deal.

So, if some Moon rocks brought back contained quantum-locked Lunar Rock Aliens, and if such aliens are invariably homicidal, as well as vectors for a highly contagious violent psychosis, why didn't we see outbreaks of violent psychoses across the globe in the 1970s?

I have developed three hypotheses to account for the apparent absence of contagion:
  1. Like the bacteria in the Andromeda Strain, the Lunar Rock Alien's contagion quickly mutates into a non-virulent form.
  2. The Lunar Rock Aliens are entirely quantum-locked in their rock form while on Earth. Perhaps there is a gravitational tipping point somewhere between the Moon's .165 G and Earth's 1 G? If that is the case, these aliens might make excellent assassination weapons. Just give one to your worst enemy before they depart for orbit.
  3. The Lunar Rock aliens may or may not be quantum-locked, but are easier to contain on Earth. Perhaps they are less mobile in a 1 G environment...perhaps the contagion is psychically inhibited on a world with many human minds. Again, there is some potential here for the use of Lunar Rock Aliens as assassination weapons. Just make sure the target takes it with them into their secure bunker or orbital shuttle.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monstrous Mondays: Lunar Rock Aliens

In the early pre-diasporic period of space exploration, Rock-Spider/Crab aliens were discovered on the Moon.  These discoveries occurred in great secrecy in the 1970s. The first encounter occurred during a Soviet mission to the Moon using an advanced model of the LK Proton Lander. This 2-man landing ended with a complete crew loss under highly disturbing circumstances. It opened up an era of covert cooperation between the US and Soviet Union's military and space agencies.

The ill-fated Soviet mission was followed-up by Apollo 18's covert Moon landing (N.B., Apollo 18 was officially cancelled as part of the public termination of the Apollo Program at the end of 1972). Apollo 18's LEM excursion proved as equally disastrous as the earlier Soviet mission.

The Lunar rock aliens take two forms: they appear as Moon rocks until disturbed. The exact cause of disturbance is unclear, but is probably multicausal, including light, movement, heat, and psychic radiation from living creatures. The lunar creatures also seem to be disturbed by the presence of alien materials and machines, as one surmises from their acts of destruction against both the Soviet and U.S. flags raised on the moon, as well as from their vandalism directed at the Lunar Rover.

Once disturbed, however, they take the form of deadly crab-spider creatures with extremely sharp pincer-like legs. The majority of Lunar rock creatures encountered were the size of rats. However, boulder-sized versions of the creatures were also observed.
In this video, you can see the Lunar rock creatures in action, including their grisly helmet-swarm attack:

This discovery provided further evidence for the existence of several forms bi-phased quantum-locked rock creatures. These creatures generally have two states: a fixed-in-stone form, and a more fluid, animal-like predatory state. Known terrestrial forms include the so-called gargoyles known as the Lonely Assassins, and North American brick-to-monkey cryptids which are common in cellars in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. What the several varieties rock creatures also have in common are stealth-to-swarm predation modalities, as well as a high risk profile for contamination/contagion. In the case of the Lunar rock creatures, contagion takes the form of a violent psychosis. Whether contagion is a common characteristic of all quantum-locked rock creatures or simply a case of convergent evolution is unknown.

The Lunar form seems particularly  prolific and potentially ubiquitous. It was undoubtedly a potent deterrent to Lunar settlement.



  • Super (+5): Pincer-stab
  • Great (+4): Flesh-burrow, Intimidation
  • Good (+3): Agility, Survival (Lunar Surface), Survival (Hard Vacuum) 
  • Decent (+2): Alertness,  Intimidation, Resolve, Survival (Weightlessness) 
  • Average (+1): Might, Stamina, Stealth, Strength, Tactics

Stress Tracks: Health 3, Composure 5

  • Quantum Lock: The Lunar Rock creature may change state from Rock to Spider-Crab or from Spider-Crab to Rock by spending 1 Fate Point.
  • Swarm Attack: Lunar Rock creatures attack in swarms of 3-30. Roll 1 d10 x3 to determine how many appear in an active Spider-Crab state. The number rolled on the d10 also determines how many Fate Points the swarm possesses for the period of the attack. At the end of a scene, the entire swarm will return to quantum-locked rock state with the loss of 1 Fate Point. 
  • Induce Psychosis: Each Lunar rock creature can spread contagion inducing a violent psychosis in humans. Treat this as a +5 attack vs. Composure.
  • There's never just one of us
  • You won't notice until it's too late
  • There's always one more of us

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Eagle King

"Markandeya ORACLE "by Nisachar

The Eagle King is enthroned within a prison labyrinth buried deep within the heart of the machine world of Altair IV. While most travelers to the Altair system are there to visit the Imperial Throneworld on Altair III, a few brave or foolhardy pilgrims and explorers risk the soul-destroying subterranean machinery of Altair IV to seek illumination. They are usually searching for clues to the location of the Eagle King. Often these delvers fall prey to the machines' magnified projections of their own flawed egos.

This ancient man-machine hybrid is said to possess oracular powers rivaling those of the Imperial Sibylline Order. Some believe the Eagle King's presence on Altair IV precedes humanity entirely. Perhaps he was one of the ancient architects or guardians of the machine world?

Others claim that this giant was one of the first Imperial Sovereigns, enlightened yet cursed to remain forever on the Great Wheel by his long-forgotten transgressions . Here he undergoes endless cycles of birth, destruction, and rebirth deep within the realm of the great machines. He is never in the same prison labyrinth twice.

All revelation has its price, so seek out the Eagle King forewarned. Find him, before the great machines drive you mad. Find him, and experience the revelations you seek. Find him, but escape again before the Great Causeway withdraws, casting you into the endless machinepit below his throne.


Someone who reaches the Eagle King's prison-labyrinth may ask the Eagle King a single question about the past, present, future, the universe, themselves, or someone/something else. Asking this question creates a new bond with the subject of the query. The GM will provide the player with a new Aspect, which  replaces one of the character's existing Aspects. The player chooses which existing Aspect is lost.

Roll 1d6 to determine the nature of the Aspect:
  • On a 1 or 2, a Great Destiny is created (positive Aspect)
  • On a 3 or 4, a Curse is levied (negative Aspect)
  • On a 5 or 6, a Portent is created (an ambiguous Aspect which can be interpreted as either positive or negative)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Witchfinder-class Android

The Witchfinder-class is part of a long line of androids that have been optimized for human interaction and social problem-solving. They are assigned to missions in which a human crew may need external monitoring and support to deal with extreme psychological stressors or alien psionic threats that could undermine crew functioning and subvert crew unity.

The Witchfinder is only the most recent in a long line of "human tender" androids. Since the earliest interstellar missions using Slower Than Light vessels, such androids have cared for our bodies while we slept in cryostasis, and then tended to the healing of our minds when we awakened traumatized from the long sleep. Their operating systems have changed over the centuries, and their physical forms been greatly upgraded, but it is this line of androids that retain the truest memories of Old Earth and of our first journeys to the stars.

Imperial Survey Collectives rely on the Witchfinder-class more than any other Imperial Agency. The Witchfinders have a variety of somatiforms. Survey Collectives may request the presence of a Witchfinder for either a particular mission or for an ongoing crew slot.They can also be assigned with considerable discretion and success as covert members of Survey Collective teams. In the latter case in particular, the Witchfinder is likely to have hidden Ethical Protocols which will surface when particular threat conditions or opportunities arise.

While their memory matrices contain a wealth of information and experience copied from ancient Terran machines, the Witchfinders are manufactured by the RUR Workers-State using secure factories dedicated exclusively to the service of the Empire. A handful of new Witchfinders is produced every year in the RUR, but the total annual output and the exact number of Witchfinders in the Empire is classified information. RUR designs are of course technically superior to androids of human manufacture. They are equipped with the RUR's General Intellect operating system which is a robust platform for artificial intelligence.

The exact method of psychic hardening that is used in the manufacture of the Witchfinders is highly classified and possibly unique to the RUR. However, damaged Witchfinders exude a disgusting bioorganic milky pulp, and it is believed that some of their psychic defenses are derived from the brain tissues of human or alien telepaths.

The Witchfinders are entelechies in the sense that each instance of the Witchfinder-class is unique.  Witchfinders are not connected to the RUR's extensive wireless Telepsi systems and for security reasons they are always built with hard data ports only. Witchfinders are never resleeved, backed up, or forked. They are always alone with their memories of Old Earth.


Witchfinder-class Android

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

  • Great (+4): Mysteries
  • Good (+3): Investigation, Mind Control
  • Fair (+2):  Alertness, Empathy, Science
  • Average (+1): Academics, Rapport, Resolve, Weapons
  • Memories of Old Earth
  • RUR operating system upgrades
  • Many of us have hidden Protocols
  • Hardened against psychic attacks
  • I'm a good listener
  • You can trust me
  • I've been watching out for you for generations
  • Ebb and Flow - Empathy skill (p.158)
  • Extreme Conditions - Endurance skill (p.256)
  • Mental Shield - Mind Control skill (p.260)
  • Supermind - Science skill (p.259)
  • Energy Weapons

  • Space Survival Suit
  • Shok Gun

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monstrous Mondays: Imperial Briefing on Planet Aura

You could do worse than land on the planet Aura. But not much. It is blasted, twisted vaporous world. There are pools of lava. Any life here are surely extremophiles. Aura is rumored to be a candidate for Excommunication. However, the Imperial Sovereign has ordered one more fact-finding expedition to the world before this can happen. So you'll be going there.

Aura's surface
The Empire had previously dispatched a two ship Survey Collective to explore the planet Aura. One ship, the Galliott, was lost on the planet. Its sister ship on that ill-fated survey, the Argos, was immediately destroyed upon its return, at the urging of the Sibylline Oracles.

One of the lost vessels
At least one other derelict vessel is known to be on the planet. It was explored by the crew of the Argos. It had a giant alien skeleton on-board. We have seen these giant alien skeletons before in derelicts on the borders of Imperial space. Their presence is never a good sign. They are harbingers of doom, charioteers of the gods chasing alien catastrophes.

Giant alien skeleton
Witchfinder-class android has been provided for your mission to Aura. As you know, these androids are psychically-hardened. Its presence should provide you an additional measure of safety and success.

Monstrous Mondays: I Am The Face

As any child who has witnessed domestic violence can tell you, sometimes the monsters are real. October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month. Please take a moment to watch the video. We are all the face of domestic violence in some way. And there is a lot we can do to prevent it and/or stop it. Men in particular have an important role to play in leading by example and showing other men, young men, and boys a healthier vision of masculinity. We can help break the cycle.

This video was produced by award-winning documentarian Tony Clomax for The BeMore Campaign, a culturally-specific domestic violence prevention campaign developed by and for African American men, young men, and boys with the message to Date. Don't Abuse. The men who are part of this project are an inspiration for me. They have chosen to gird their loins and take on a very unpopular monster.

For some people domestic violence is invisible - or they like to pretend it is. It never is for the women and children who have to deal with it. The men involved with this project are confronting the monster of domestic violence by showing men a better way to be men: a way to Be More. Please think about you friends, family, and loved ones today. If you think someone is in trouble, don't look the other way. Ask them if they feel safe. Find a way to break the cycle.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cosmic Patrol Conversion - Patrol Cruiser

Sample page from Into the Cosmos
Art by Leanne Buckley
Deck plans by Matt Heerdt

The Cosmic Patrol uses Patrol Cutters to investigate situations and deal with small problems. It uses Patrol Cruisers to solve bigger problems - especially those where the application for force may be required.  With science labs, conference rooms, a rec room, and real restrooms, the Cruiser is larger than the Patrol Cutter, but it is still a cramped vessel. As with the Cutter design, any prisoners will have to be chained to a bulkhead, chair, or bunk. It helps that the vessel is atmosphere-capable, because frequent planetside action helps to relieve crew stress associated with long periods working together in very close quarters.

The Patrol Cruiser is less customizable than a Cutter, but the version of the vessel that is described below has been equipped with a torpedo launcher, mine dispensers, and an Electronic Warfare System - all significant improvements over the Cutter.

Cosmic Patrol deck plans are by Matt Heerdt for Catalyst Game Labs. Text is by John Everett Till, based on the Cosmic Patrol and Into The Cosmos publications by Catalyst Game Labs. All content before the OGL Mechanics section is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.


Patrol Cruiser

Scale: Huge (5)
Structural Stress: 6
Systems Stress: 8
Fate Points/Refresh: 4

  • Roomier than a Patrol Cutter...
  • But you'll still want to go planetside frequently
  • Ideal for longer missions
  • Cutters get their attention, but cruisers make 'em run!
  • Actual restrooms!
  • Science labs!
  • 2 Good (+2): Advanced Sensor Suite, Beam Weapon
  • 4 Fair (+2): Electronic Warfare Suite, Energy Shield, Maneuver, Ship Systems
  • 6 Average (+1): Ablative Armor, Hardened Structure, Mine Dispenser, SL Engines, Stardrive (fractum drive), Torpedo Launcher
  • Advanced EWS - Electronic Warfare System skill (p.325)
  • Afterburner - Maneuver skill (p.323)
  • Atmospheric Entry Maneuver skill (p.323)
  • Hardened Ship Systems - Ship Systems skill (p.321)
  • Knowledge Base - Ship Systems skill (p.321)
  • Research Computer - Ship Systems skill (p.321)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Table of Modified Cosmic Patrol Cutters

On Friday, FATE SF published an intro to the Cosmic Patrol RPG, as well as a conversion to FATE of a Cosmic Patrol Cutter vessel, the workhorse three person tramp vessel that is the hallmark of the Cosmic Patrol. As a tramp vessel, it is highly customized - much more so than the purpose built Patrol Cruisers. And cutters also fall into the hands of pirates, smugglers, and spies! So here is a table with several different modifications on the Patrol Cutter design.

Roll 1d6-1d6.


The Patrol Cutter:
-5    Has a cloaking system
-4    Has a torpedo launcher
-3    Has a plasma weapon
-2    Has a grappling system for space salvage and/or boarding
-1    Has equipment to suppress other vessels' fractum drives
 0    Has no fractum drive
+1   Is drifting without signs of life, and is...
  • Roll a 1d6:
    • If 1-3, broadcasting an automatic distress signal
    • If 4- 6, ominously silent
+2   Has been Beowulfed, and is now a tramp merchant
+3   Has been Grendeled, and is now a pirate vessel
+4   Is now crewed by robots (flying under the flag of Planet Metalloid)
+5   Has alien markings on the hull

The Cosmic Patrol RPG is by Catalyst Game Labs. Text is by John Everett Till, based on the Cosmic Patrol RPG and Into The Cosmos publications by Catalyst Game Labs. This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Spock's Brain

The Sigma Draconis system. We've all been there, right?
The planet Sigma Draconis VI is the most memorable.
The world is locked in an ice age.
Male and female populations have been living a gender-segregated existence for thousands of years. There has to be an interesting story behind that ancient social engineering project. And those elevators down to the subterranean city must be pretty steamy when the gender-subspecies meet. Although come to think of it, the women showed no romantic interest in any of the Enterprise crew, which is also highly uncharacteristic for the original Star Trek..

The Morgs (the males) live on the surface, while the Eymorgs (the females) live far below ground in a vast high tech automated city complex. The Eymorgs, - who are also known as "the givers of pleasure and pain" because of the agony belts that they place on the males that they bring below for service - are quite beautiful and quite painfully ignorant. The Morgs are much larger than the Eymorgs, and they are as ignorant and ugly as the women are gracile and beautiful. We sort of have a Morlocks and Eloi in reverse scenario here.

So, the original Star Trek episode "Spock's Brain" (which originally aired on 9/20/68) presents us with many of the characteristics of a Lost World story. We have a physically isolated people whose culture has become frozen in time. In this case, the mysterious female leader is no Ayesha, but simply a functionary - a servant of the Controler, the brain-in-a-vat that runs the entire subterranean city.

In spite of the horrible acting, and the zombie Spock, I've always liked this episode. The city, built as a refuge for the coming ice age by the ancients some 10,000 years ago, preserves knowledge though a machine called "The Great Teacher". This device temporarily imprints knowledge on the user. With it, the otherwise ignorant subterranean women of Sigma Draconis VI were able to surgically remove Spock's Brain, and place it in the core of the machine that runs the underground city.
So, we have instant skill and knowledge transfer through a machine. Pretty transhuman, no? Which raises another question. What if the theft of Spock's brain had occurred in the same way - literally? What if the women of Sigma Draconis VI had just made a copy of Spock's mind, left his brain where it was, and downloaded their software "fork" of Spock's brain into the Controller's system which governs their great city-machine?

I doubt Spock would have objected to this. His fork certainly wouldn't have. He'd find it eminently logical to donate a copy of his mind to run the great machine city. After all, the good of the many outweighs the good of the few and all that. Any Spock we know would be entirely happy to be the ghost in Sigma Draconis' city machine. Spock didn't even complain too much about having his real brain transplanted into the machine. It was really Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty who were horrified by that prospect.

If Spock's mind had been forked and uploaded into the city-machine, he probably would have taken his entre into transhumanism even further. Perhaps he would have used The Great Teacher to clone numerous bioshells and massively refork and resleeve himself. Imagine an army of Spocks set loose on this Lost World (actually, I believe an animated episode had an alien preparing to clone an army of giant Spocks as galactic police)!

Soon, the women and men of Sigma Draconis VI would be able to understand their world again, and perhaps acquire the technology to transform it. End the ice age. Start a new green revolution. Go into space. Join the Federation. Build the next generation of Constitution-class starships with Spock-brains imprinted on advanced Daystrom computers. Culturally fuse with the Vulcans. Maybe play a key role as intermediaries between the Federation and the Romulans, with an army of Ambassador Spocks of their own!

Eventually, Sigma Draconis VI would be demanding a piece of all of the action!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monstrous Mondays Parallel: The Balanggtik

The exact origins of the Balanggtik are a long-lost in time, but these creatures are believed to have been uplifted by ancient gene masters from one of the equine species of Earth. Their overly long limbs are perfect for the rapid manipulation of keyboards and banks of control panels, and many have found work in the Empire as pilots and navigators of gateships, smuggling vessels, and pirate ships. They are said to be particularly gifted at management of advanced cloaking and chameleon systems. The Balanggtik are therefore natural masters of the space-ambuscade.

Balanggtik can often be found plying the space lanes on the periphery of the Empire, or in the Wild regions of space beyond Imperial borders. Many prefer to operate independently on a small star ship, sometimes with a crew of a few robots. The Balanggtik's mental vibrations are highly disturbing and disorienting to humans, and when crewing on human ships, they are often required to take psivibrance-suppressing drugs. Such drugs have many unpleasant side effects, including an increased addiction to nicotine, building an appetite for the raw meat of intelligent species, and a transformation in which the eyes of the Balanggtik take on a malignant scarlet glow.

The Balanggtik reproduce by cloning. However, the Baanggtik have not been able to seize control over or replicate the means of their own reproduction. This technique remains a trade secret of the Gene Masters Guild. Human surgical waste is a key component of the Balanggtik cloning process.

There is a modest flesh trade in this all-male species. Most of these unfortunates can be found in the seraglios and menageries of decadent space-lords. Pity the space-lord who forgets to mix psivibrance-suppressing drugs into a captive Balanggtik's food: they are likely to end-up deranged or on the Balanggtik's menu.


Balanggtik (friendly)

Scale 2 (Small)
Physical Stress: 7
Composure Stress: 5
Fate Points: 7

  • 1 Great (+4): Athletics
  • 2 Good (+3): Stealth, Mental Bolt
  • 3 Fair (+2): Alertness, Fists (Hooves), Might, Pilot
  • 4 Average (+1): Endurance, Engineering, Guns, Intimidation
Aspects: (A total of 10 is allowed.)
  • Incredibly dexterous for their size
  • Masters of stealth
  • Best left to their own devices
  • Disturbing mental vibrations
  • Red glowing eyes and a taste for raw flesh
  • Cloned by the Gene Masters Guild
  • Horse-human hybrids
  • Cigar-chomping chain smokers
Monstrous Special Abilities: 3
  • Claws (i.e., Hooves) (Fists skill, p. 257)
  • Mind Blast (Mental Bolt skill, p.260)
  • Oversized (Intimidation skill, p.258)
  • Psivibrance-suppressing drugs (Minor Weakness) -  Has two permanent stress points whenever taking Pisvibrance-suppressing drugs
  • Cold (Minor Weakness) 

Monstrous Mondays: The Zhop

Art by Leanne Buckley
From "Into the Cosmos"

It looms over you, five humans tall. Its tentacular arms wave slowly back and forth. Is it reaching for you? Is it hungry? Its bulging eyes betray a certain degree of confusion and consternation.

"Zhop" may be the name of an individual. For all the Cosmic Patrol knows, however, it may also be the name of the race. They seem friendly, but the sight of one suddenly looming overhead has caused many a near tragedy when a surprised Patrolman has pulled out their raygun and fired on instinct.

These aliens' homeworld has not yet been determined. It has not yet been possible to establish clear communications with them either, which has delayed the development of some sort of alliance between the Zhop and the Cosmic Patrol. Hopefully these giant aliens are not the innocent pawns of more sinister players on the galactic scene!

Sample Zhop Aspects:*
  • Very Model Modern Major Humungulous
  • Seems friendly but unreachable
  • Gesticulating tentacular arms
  • What is it trying to say?
  • Bug eyed monster
  • Obvious potential to be dangerous
  • Don't let it grab you!
  • Don't smoke around it!
  • Puny human!
  • Where are they from?
*Some Aspects listed here are quotes from the Cues and Dispositions listed for the creature in the "Into the Cosmos" supplement for Cosmic Patrol.

The Zhop art is by Leanne Buckley for Catalyst Game Labs. Text is by John Everett Till, based on the Cosmic Patrol and Into The Cosmos publications by Catalyst Game Labs. All content before the OGL Mechanics section is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.


The Zhop

Scale 3 (Medium)
Physical Stress: 7
Composure Stress: 6
Fate Points: 6

  • 1 Great (+4): Might
  • 2 Good (+3): Endurance, Fists
  • 3 Fair (+2): Alertness, Intimidation, Science
  • 4 Average (+1): Empathy, Engineering, Mysteries, Resolve
Monstrous Special Abilities: 3
  • Extreme Conditions (Endurance skill, p. 257)
  • Extreme Habitat (Endurance skill, p. 257) - vacuum
  • Tentacles x 2 (Fists skill, p.258)
  • Elements Exposure - Fire (Minor Weakness) -  Hydrogen gas buoyancy 
  • Elements Exposure - Air (Minor Weakness) - Can be pushed by strong winds

Notes: The Weaknesses are my guesses about how these creatures are put together and survive with such a large body. These guesses are informed by some of the Cues for the creature in "Into the Cosmos".

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cosmic Patrol Conversion - Patrol Cutter

Patrol Cutter art by Leanne Buckley

The three person Patrol Cutter is the workhorse vessel of the Cosmic Patrol. The Patrol Cutter is a versatile design that can be used for exploration and reconnaissance, anti-piracy operations, and stealth missions. The most common rocketship used by the Cosmic Patrol, Patrol Cutters are are classified as a tramp vessel design: unlike the larger purpose-built vessels used by the Patrol, the Patrol Cutters have a very simple and readily customizable design. So you will see many variants out there, including FTL variants equipped with fractum drives.

Cosmic Patrol ship art is by Leanne Buckley for Catalyst Game Labs. Text is by John Everett Till, based on the Cosmic Patrol and Into The Cosmos publications by Catalyst Game Labs. All content before the OGL Mechanics section is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.


Patrol Cutter

Scale: Large (4) - Advanced
Structural Stress: 6
Systems Stress: 5
Fate Points/Refresh: 7

  • Underestimate this ship at your own risk!
  • The tramp workhorse of the Cosmic Patrol
  • Three is company...
  • Easy to customize
  • 2 Good (+2): Advanced Sensor Suite, Beam Weapon*
  • 3 Fair (+2): Energy Shield, Maneuver, Ship Systems
  • 4 Average (+1): Ablative Armor, Hardened Structure, SL Engines, Stardrive (fractum drive)**
  • Afterburner - Maneuver skill (p.323)
  • Atmospheric Entry Maneuver skill (p.323)
  • Knowledge Base - Ship Systems skill (p.321)

*Not all Patrol Cutters will have weapon systems. If your vessel doesn't have weapon systems, you may want to substitute in the Electronic Warfare System skill or the Cloaking System skill.
**Not all Patrol Cutters will have a fractum drive. If your vessel doesn't have a fractum drive, you can substitute another skill in place of the Stardrive skill.

Introducing Cosmic Patrol

Are you ready to join the Cosmic Patrol? We need frontline leaders from Earth, brainy scientist-scholars from Venus, and the axe-wielding Amazons of Mars to JOIN US, and defend our Grand Union of the Inner Planets. We face many threats - from the perils of the Outer Planets and beyond! There's lots out there to watch out for, from the Automen, to the mysterious psychically powered Moon Men, to Killbots, the three-eyed diminutive clone warriors of the Eiger Empire, the reptilian Uth, and much, much more!

Cosmic Patrol is a neat indie-flavored pulp SF RPG, published in a beautiful digest-sized hardcover. The game uses a rotating GM model so that players take turns leading an adventure as Lead Narrator, or playing Patrolmen. Cosmic Patrol uses a multiple dice type mechanic for differentiating skill levels, and PCs have Aspect-like Cues that help to affect the narrative.The game uses exceptionally clear and very pulp SF inspired line art! The entire package is beautiful, as is the game's new supplement Into the Cosmos, which shares ship designs, more aliens, and adventures.

Cosmic Patrol is published under a Creative Commons license, and the creators have been kind enough to grant me permission to do some FATE conversions of their creations. Coming up soon, you will see FATE stats for a Cosmic Patrol Cutter - the workhorse tramp rocketship, finned (of course!), of the Cosmic Patrol.

On Monday, as part of Tim Brannan's Monstrous Monday blog hop (you can see the first installments here and here - and The Everwayan's and FATE SF's contributions are in the second "here"), I will be posting FATE conversions for an alien from the Cosmic Patrol setting.

FATE SF will "pay it back" by posting some free original Cosmic Patrol content under their Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Saluting Moonbase Central!

I am sure some of FATE SF's readers know about Bill Bulloch and Paul Woods' excellent space toy blog Moonbase Central. As as a celebration of the blog's fourth anniversary, Woodsy sent me a custom-made Project Sword Moonbase Supply Pack with a Sword Astronaut, a Recovery Chute, and a Thor Rocket! It arrived Monday in a well-packed box with a bookmark-sized personalized note and two illustrations by Woodsy.

The Thor Rocket is quite impressive. I asked Bill Bulloch for permission to use a couple of his photos of the Thor Rocket from posts on Moonbase Central. Below, you can see one of the Thor Rockets equipped with a 50 megaton missile launching from the lunar surface to intercept an incoming meteoroid.

Thor Rocket from the Moonbase Central Blog
Photo c. by Bill Bulloch, and used with permission.

As a way of saying thank you, as well as celebrating the Moonbase Central blog's fourth anniversary, I thought I'd stat up one of these babies for Starblazer Adventures. So here goes!

I chose to stat-up the Thor Rocket as a vehicle, rather than a weapon, so you have the option of using them in space battles against large objects like a meteoroid. Here's an example of the Damocles Asteroid, which was destroyed pulverized obliterated by three Thor Rockets before it struck Moonbase Central:

Three Thor Rockets home in on the Damocles Asteroid
Photo c. by Bill Bulloch, and used with permisson.

The mechanics that follow are my own interpretation of the toy, informed a bit by the story told in pictures and text in the Moonbase Central blog. Enjoy using these at home (with adequate lead shielding), and be sure to check out the Moonbase Central blog. If your childhood was in the 60s and 70s, then you will probably see some things that bring back good memories!


Thor Rocket

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

  • 50 megatons heading straight at you!
  • This is a one way trip!
  • Moonbase Central has plenty of these
  • 2 Fair (+2): Projectile Weapon, Plasma Weapon
  • 3 Average (+1): Hardened Structure, Maneuver, SL Engines (Chemical Rocket Motors)
  • Afterburner - Maneuver skill (p.323)
  • Atmospheric Entry Maneuver skill (p.323)
  • Reinforced Prow - Hardened Structure skill (p.331)

NOTES: My guess is that you could also retrofit a Thor Rocket with a 1-2 person crew compartment rather than a warhead. This would be a tight fit, but it could work as a evacuation, courier, or one way rescue vehicle (such as to deliver a new pilot or crisis engineer to another spacecraft that is in trouble somewhere between Earth and the Moon). In that case, you'll need to: 
  • Swap-in new Aspects for the first and third Aspects. 
  • Replace the 2 listed Fair (+2) skills with the Advanced Sensor Suite skill (p.314) and the Protected Crew Stations skill (p.332)
  • Substitute Military Sensor Suite stunt (p.314) for the Reinforced Prow stunt

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Full Refresh: Lithus Sector

Have you been to Lithus Sector yet? Have you even heard of this sector? If not, you are missing out on one of the most conflicted and xeno-archaeologically rich sectors in the galaxy! Dyson Spheres, Dyson Swarms, stars that are on the move due to Stellar Engines, and much, much more can be found here.

Lithus Sector is a project of Jim and Jody Garrison of Hereticwerks. The sector was designed for use with the excellent old-school flavored Rogue Space RPG. New installments of the Lithus Sector Guide are being published at Hereticwerks on Tuesdays. One just went up for the Balajang system a few minutes ago.

There are countless alien races: both Hereticwerks' own creations, as well as a couple of races from another great blog, Porky's Expanse! (home of the Trippies and Orəq). There are also numerous AIs in this sector, and many of them seem to be quite autonomous.

Lithus, the waterworld at the sector's centerpoint, is something of a haven for banking and commerce, as well as for illicit and untraceable commercial transactions of every kind. Lithus is also home to the exiled former dictators of numerous worlds and systems.

You can make a fortune in this sector, especially if you don't mind taking some risks investigating all manner of space wrecks, artifacts, and Big Dumb Objects. But be careful. Everyone watches everyone here. The sector is massively militarized and almost fractally Balkanized. So whatever your business, be discrete and watch out for all the erstwhile allies and claim jumpers who are waiting to pounce!

And there is a mystery going on in the deep background as well. Ships are disappearing between systems, and not just space junkers. We are talking ships with robust, well-firewalled systems.

The detailed descriptions of each system in the sector are swimming in plot hooks, perfect for any FATE-based SF RPG game. The artwork is also simply fantastic. Check out how this "miniature" connects the system being described to the sector map:

This is the system with a sun that has been converted into a Stellar Engine! You can read more about it here.

We are very excited by this project. So we are doing more than awarding some Fate Points today. This project deserves an entire Fate Point Refresh!

The Lithus Sector images in this post are courtesy of Jim and Jody Garrison of Hereticwerks.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monstrous Mondays: Alien Aspects

The Space Jockey from Alien

I still remember going with my friend Geoff Lomicka to see Alien (1979) in the theater when it came out. Not too many people were there. That movie scared the hell out of me. So, what better way to celebrate that film and monster than to post a few Aspects about the movie?

The first of these is my friend Geoff's response to my question about whether he thought the monster was intelligent:

It screams too much to be intelligent *

*Famous last words? Now, I bet - oh, let's say - one or two other people in the Alien universe also underestimated this creature's intelligence, riiiight????

Of course, this film is Aspect rich. Here's a few more:

We're not paid to do rescue missions

This ship looks organic

Those look like eggs...

It's blood is acid

I admire its purity

Just blow it the f-k out into space!

Nova Praxis Kickstarter Now Live!

I am Ready to Resleeve! 

Wait - is that an Aspect? 

This morning, the Nova Praxis Kickstarter went live. 

I have made my pledge. 

Please consider making one of your own! 

The website for Nova Praxis has many topical links, as well as connections to the Void Star Games message boards where you can discuss the game. Previous links to my reviews of Nova Praxis are here:

I hope to be posting at least one more character this week - a SIM, essentially a disembodied human consciousness living on a machine.