Friday, August 29, 2014


Today at FATE SF, we are thrilled to have a special guest post by Mark Carroll!  Mark had noticed that I hadn't yet posted a Fate conversion for my post on the Annihilator weapon for use with the Cosmic Patrol RPG.

You can see that earlier post on the Annihilator, as well as Fate stats for that weapon's unluckiest targets, the Overkilled, right here. As you will see, Mark has gone well beyond describing one version of the weapon. He expands the mythos of the Annihilator, as well as providing descriptive details and stats for several versions of this terrible weapon at different scales.

Thanks, Mark, and welcome to FATE SF!



No weapon is feared or despised more than the Annihilator. Its origins are a mystery, but some have speculated that the radiations it emits have some link to the Dark Consciousness that lies at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Indeed, given that the weapons can only be found in the deadly debris fields surrounding clusters of singularities at the edges of the galactic core, and that the weapons invariably find their way into the hands of those desperate or vicious enough to use them, it's hard to argue that some agency isn't creating them for some bleak purpose.

Rules:  Annihilator weaponry makes use of the Weapon and Armor Aspects and Scale optional rules found in the Fate System Toolkit.

Annihilator Beam (Scale 5, Heavy Weapon): These ship- or emplacement-mounted Annihilators represent the largest and most powerful versions of the weapon available. Possession of one is a death sentence...either for its victims, or for those vile enough to employ it.

Weapon 5

Aspects: Armor is no Protection!, Deadliest Weapon in the Galaxy, Overkill*

*The Overkill Aspect represents the possibility that the strange energies of the Annihilator have a chance to convert living flesh to purulent, slimy anti-life matter. A Fate Point and the appropriate Aspect or Equipment can be used to avoid the Extreme Consequence of Consumed by Anti-Life.


Manpac Annihilator (Scale 4, Heavy Weapon): Also called a Matthews-Boskone Vortex Projector, this is the largest Annihilator weapon that could reasonably be considered man-portable. Consisting of a sealed power pac, a heavily-shielded conduit cable, and projector (either with a stabilization harness or magnetic tripod), the Manpac is sometimes mounted on vehicles, but more often used to mass-murder. The power packs for the Manpac sometimes leak if overused, bathing the operators in deadly radiation.

Weapon 4

Aspects: Armor is no Protection!, Built for Indiscriminate Murder, As Dangerous to You As It Is to Them, Overkill*

*The Manpac's Overkill Aspect functions as the Annihilator Beam's, but inflicts a Severe Consequence.


Death-Spear Annihilator Rifle (Scale 3, Standard Weapon): The D-SAR is the most commonly-encountered version of the dreaded weapons, found in the hands of the most despicable pirate crews and evil alien races. It is slightly larger than the standard blaster rifle, with twin barrels and a massive power cell that is sealed within its stock. The D-SAR can engage multiple targets at once, and the reciprocating barrels keep the weapon cooled.

Weapon 4

Aspects: Armor is no Protection!, Area Effect, Bulky, Overkill*

*The Overkill Aspect for the D-SAR works identically to the Manpac and Annihilator Beam's, inflicting a Moderate Consequence.


Berserker-class Annihilator Pistol (Scale 3, Standard Weapon): Easily the most dangerous of the weapons using Annihilator technology, the Berserker is a death sentence for target and user both. Essentially a modified version of the D-SAR, the Berserker's power pack is enclosed by only rudimentary shielding, primarily in the weapon's grip. It resembles a stubby, wide-mouthed pistol-grip shotgun; the emitter shielding bell over its muzzle is more for confidence than safety. Every shot exposes the firer to accumulated doses of Annihilator radiation, and as such, the weapons are only given to those who have literally nothing to lose. Even if the firer never succumbs fully, the radiation is guaranteed to drive them psycopathically mad.

Weapon 3

Aspects: A Madman's Weapon, Armor is No Protection!, Accumulating Contamination, Overkill*

*The Overkill Aspect functions slightly differently than other Annihilator weapons. Targets may still suffer the Moderate Consequence Consumed by Anti-Life, but unless a Success With Style is achieved, the weapon's user has a Minor Consequence inflicted upon them: Rotting Body, Maddened Mind. As with the usual Overkill Aspect, this may be resisted with a Fate Point, but given the weapon's proximity, no armor or energy field gives protection.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Golden Sphere

Art by Tom J. Manning

Think of it as a Wrecking Ball: the Golden Sphere is said to be able to fulfill your innermost desire. Conscious or unconscious, but it often turns out to be the latter. It's at the very heart of the labyrinth, the heart's desire of the heart's desire.

In some (maybe most) Zones, it's not there at all. There might just be a Room at the heart of the labyrinth which does the same thing. And the antechamber to the Room, oh that liquid floor. Watch your step.

It's a danger. For whose intentions are fully conscious, or entirely pure? Sometimes people don't know themselves at all until they're face-to-face with this thing.

A mirror.

It's no wonder that governments and militaries take a dim view of stalkers, and often just want them dead.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Art by Tom J. Manning

"Empties are two hand-sized discs always 29 centimetres apart. If one is moved, the other will also move to hold its position. No force can move the discs closer or further apart.There is nothing between them, so they can, for example, be located on opposite sides of a wall."  - Stalker RPG, p. 35

But sometimes the Empties have something inside them, such as a swirling gas which stays within the virtual canister formed by the two discs. These are known as Full Empties. While Empties are very common "finds" in a Zone, Stalkers can really strike it rich when they find a Full Empty.

Full Empties are rare.

Some have swirling colored gas inside; others, a liquid. They can also store something like grains or pellets. Still other Full Empties store discrete objects such as artifacts or creatures/phenomena found in the Zones, such as silver webs.

At least one Institute is studying the Empties to determine whether time "inside" an Empty passes at the same rate as everything outside one.

Are they Alien canteens? Food storage? Reliquaries? Fuel containers left behind as roadside trash after the Visit?

Perhaps they are bug jars for alien butterfly hunters.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Year Of The Cats

Richard Bellingham's The Secrets of Cats was released as a pay-what-you-want PDF on DrivethruRPG today; you can get it here.  It's a hefty 50-page adventure for Fate Core with a feline magic system. Richard's a really nice guy, so consider sending some money his way when you download it.

This is my fourth cat-game purchase this year, as I picked-up two volumes of the Call of Catthulhu RPG, along with a set of 12 Cat-dice over just the last couple months. Much to my amusement, my partner actually noticed these books, and understood why their title is funny. And he is not a geek.

And we are not cat-people.

What I really need is a dachshund game, although I guess anyone who lives with a dachsie knows that they are the GM and you are the hapless, de-protagonized PCs.

It's fun to see Richard's new cat-game for Fate - so give it a look!

While I was on Drivethru, I also noticed that this was now out:

It clocks in at 138 pages for $10 and is also for Fate. You can get it here.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Guardians

Cover art by Richard M. Powers

There is a touch of a one-eared Anubis about these fluid sculptures. And, of course, The Serpent. Big blocky striations like teeth pop up everywhere on these structures, and then slowly dissolve as new mucoid layers flow over and shift their architecture.

The sculptures appear on desolate, abandoned worlds. They are usually found near ruins that are at least 10,000 years old. Sometimes they sit on top of ancient built environments, or immediately in front of cliff tombs. Whether they mark ancient sites or are intended to obscure them is a matter of passionate conjecture.

When such structures are encountered, it is best not to touch them. Sometimes contact results in contamination with a viscous penetrative slime. Quarantine measures are recommended after contact with this material. At other times, the structure appears to be quite solid. Unfortunately, it is at precisely these moments when the sculptures are the most dangerous. In this glassine state, the sculptures are highly friable, and prone to sudden, catastrophic collapses. The shards can be long and deadly, like the spears of some long forgotten elf army.

Those who have visited these guardian structures have often reported hearing voices. Oddly, such voices do not appear in audio recordings of structure surveys, nor have they been successfully recorded using simsense devices. Nexialists and other psi-sensitive researchers attest that these structures are psychically active, and hypothesize that they constitute a form of weaponized psychic architecture.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Strangers & Friends: Cultures

Art by Juan Ochoa

Part of the Mindjammer RPG is the use of cultures to define characters' origins. Strangers & Friends is set in my own space opera setting, so the default Mindjammer cultural archetypes need modification. Here are a few of them for the Empire:

The Empire

You live within an interstellar empire built on the bones of the Star League, a corrupt Earth-based slaveholding regime. Comet Barbarians from the rim conquered the Star League and freed the slaves. Since its fall, many other civilizations, systems, and worlds have been incorporated into the Empire - many peacefully. Most worlds and systems are treated justly. Relative material equality exists on most worlds that have been part of the Empire for at least a century. The interior of the Empire is peaceful and progressive; it is well-defended by the Empire's numerous Legions and a Star Navy. However, great danger lies beyond the Empire's borders. Expansion and incorporation are the primary tools that successive Imperial Sovereigns use to tame these dangers.

Cultural Aspects: The Empire is the best society; It is natural for the Empire to expand; Fast friends with the R.U.R.
Genotypes: Human, Alien, Synth
Demeanor: Assume others want to join the Empire; distrust the remaining Comet Barbarian tribes, and others who seek to remain independent of the Empire
Language: The Prate, and many others including Glissendo and Old Martian
Tech Index: T9
Occupations: Diplomat, Nexialist, Omega House Operative, Scientist, Trader
Equipment:  Widespread use of the Mindscape; Slipknot and/or Hyperspace capable vessels


The R.U.R. are a vast machine civilization whose primary systems and settlements are coreward of the Empire. A post-scarcity, post-mortality society, the R.U.R. are open to humans and other aliens and synthetics living among them. They are also curious and open to cultural exchanges with other civilizations, races, and species, co-mingling with them whenever they are welcomed. For millions of years, the R.U.R. have been in a state of war with the Anti-Consciousness lurking in the galactic core. They have warned the rimward civilizations about this insidious and expansionist menace, and have re-located many Glissendo-speaking insectoid species away from the threat lurking in the core. The R.U.R. have developed a machine conlang called Cruft, and have mastered Glopnic, a language which can be used to communicate with (and texture) space-time itself. The R.U.R. are the Empire's closest allies.

Cultural Aspects: A society of androids, robots, and Minds; Let One Hundred Flowers Bloom; Scarcity is abnormal; Fast friends with the Empire
Genotypes: Synth, some Human and Alien
Demeanor: Cooperate with other civilizations to protect intelligent life; Encourage social experiments with other civilizations; Minds with new ideas are encouraged to split off and create experimental polities
Language: Cruft, and many others including Glissendo, The Prate, Glopnic
Tech Index: T9
Occupations: Diplomat, Explorer, Merchant, Laborer, Scientist
Equipment:  Mindscape, Slipknot and/or Hyperspace capable vessels

Comet Barbarians

Common in many of the rimward areas beyond the Empire, including the Shining Lake Sector, the Comet Barbarian clans span numerous polities and borders. Clans frequently rule small interstellar empires; others extract a surplus by protecting trade or pilgrimage routes; still others are pirates, or more rarely mercenaries. Clan life is itinerant; members live in space and travel between the stars in habitats fashioned from comets and small rogue planets. Most important decisions are made by elders - usually fully embodied living elders, but more rarely collections of living brains in vats (the clans ruled by vat-elders tend to be the most conservative and insular). Comet Barbarians distrust the thanatogram-derived intelligences of the Mindscape; they fear ghosts. Clans are almost universally exogamous, and may be either matriarchal or patriarchal. Inheritance rights are often... complicated. When disputes over property and migration rights can't be solved by marriage and negotiation between clan elders, they are often settled by force - either duels or small-scale wars.

Cultural Aspects: Clan comes first; Pity the weak and sedentary; Our worlds are weapons.
Genotypes: Human
Demeanor: Deal with the Empire but resist incorporation; Dominate planet-bound societies; Fear of machine intelligences and the Mindscape.
Language: Star Urdu, Space Egyptian, Chinesean, or Sunuz; The Prate
Tech Index: T7-9 (depends on habitat)
Occupations: Barbarian, Mercenary, Noble, Pirate, Rogue, Spacer
Equipment:  Taboo against the Mindscape; Sublight, Slipknot, and/or Hyperspace capable vessels

Shining Lake Sector

The Shining Lake Sector is a largely independent sector just rimward of the Empire. The primary economic power in the region is the R.U.R.'s ancient Kunlun Station, which is protected by the Empire's Legio XIV Lanterns of the Star Silk Road. Shining Lake Sector has been settled by humans, as well as by several Glissendo-speaking insectoid species from the core. These species were evacuated here by the R.U.R. over a million years ago. The sector is highly balkanized, with countless independent worlds and several pocket empires ruled by Comet Barbarians. While the dominant intelligent species in the region are immigrants from coreward regions, a number of worlds in the sector do have indigenous intelligent life forms, and the Achernarians have a presence in this sector as well. While the area is formally outside the Empire, the Star Navy maintains a strong presence here, which helps to keep the Comet Barbarians of the sector in check. It is reasonable to assume that the Empire's long-term goal is to formally incorporate this sector, but the timetable for that is quite unclear. Many interstellar faiths are active here, but Buddhism is particularly common among human and Glissendo-speaking species.

Cultural Aspects: The R.U.R. saved our ancestors from certain doom; Kunlun Station has a living Buddha; An uncertain future.
Genotypes: Human, Synth, Parturitionist, Dragonbeam, Broughtlow
Demeanor: Many are anxious that the sector has an uncertain future; some fear the Empire, others fear the conflicts that will be unleashed (especially with the Comet Barbarians) once incorporation begins. The R.U.R. are an unalloyed positive influence on the sector. Many prefer the sector status quo: independent worlds defended by two allied great powers (the Empire and the R.U.R.).
Language: The Prate and Glissendo
Tech Index: T2-9 (depending on world/ habitat)
Occupations: Barbarian, Diplomat, Explorer, Merchant, Mercenary, Pirate, Priest, Rogue, Spacer
Equipment:  Some worlds/habitats have Mindscape; Sublight, Slipknot, and/or Hyperspace capable vessels

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Dura-Lux

Suikoden III

They're known as Dura-Lux, Ducks, and Halflinks (avoid this latter term as they consider it derogatory).  Xenogeneticists say that this bipedal duck-like species was uplifted from egg-laying mammals, whose genome was further modified with DNA sequences from aquatic avians. Common folk on many worlds avoid this species like the plague. The Dura-Lux are considered vectors for deadly viruses, and agents and products of Chaos. 

However, politicians and generals often welcome the Dura-Lux, especially in times of conflict. They are brave and determined soldiers, and make reliable mercenaries. Even better, an army of Dura-Lux doesn't move on its stomach. Their kind have the ability to feed on other-planar energies, allowing them to scout and skirmish with enemy forces considerably in advance supply lines. The Dura-Lux are also perfect for the defense of remote outposts, as their ability to feed on other-planar energies helps them withstand long sieges.

The most common forms of payment that Dura-Lux demand in exchange for their services are land and the right to nest and produce young in that territory. They prefer wet environments such as lands with meandering streams, lakes and ponds, and wetlands, where they can skim the waters and feed on small insects, amphibians, and fish. 

With adequate training and preparation, Dura-Lux can use almost any available technology. They have an intuitive facility with devices like Eyes that are powered by other-planar energies. They take well to armor and bronze and iron age weapons. However, when left to their own devices, the Dura-Lux establish settlements that rely on lower level technologies such as those derived from wood, other fibers, and stone.


Avian Demi-monotreme (neutral)

  • High Concept: Intelligent, bipedal ducks
  • Trouble: Shunned as creatures of Chaos
  • Aspect: Apt and loyal mercenaries
  • Aspect: We'll work for land
  • Aspect: Never go hungry
  • Careful: +1
  • Clever: +2
  • Flashy: 0
  • Forceful: +3
  • Quick: +2
  • Sneaky: +1
  • An Extra Eye: Dura-Lux are often equipped with the devices of the Ancients, such as Eyes, which channel other-planar energy produce a reliable, specific effect on a person, place, or thing.
  • Fast Swimmers: Because they are derived from an aquatic species, Dura-Lux take a +2 to their Quick Approach whenever they are in the water.
  • Neverdrain: Because Dura-Lux are able to channel other-planar energies, energy weapons and the devices of the Ancients never become Drained of charges when in their use.
  • Wet Ambush: Any time a Dura-Lux is in a wet/aquatic environment, they may take +2 to their Clever Approach to Create an Advantage against an approaching adversary.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Definitely Maybe

A group of Russian intellectuals find their researches are being interrupted. Some of the interruptions are bizarre, such as the sudden delivery of never-ordered booze, caviar, and cheese. Some of the interruptions are downright scary, such as the sudden apparent suicide of a colleague. Others are threatening, such as the interrogations of the devilishly red-headed investigator looking into the suicide, or a mystery telegram implying that a loved one is in trouble.

The intellectuals represent different disciplines: biology, astronomy, and literature to name a few. What they have in common is that a few of them live in the same big Soviet-era apartment complex. Back in my Binghamton days, my friend Boris and I lived in a big, run-down apartment complex that reminded Boris of his childhood in Leningrad. Happy memories. A sense of community. People dropping in on each other.

Most of the" action" in Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's novel Definitely Maybe is just like that: friends, and sometimes strangers (in both senses of the world), dropping in on each other, drinking, smoking, boozing, and theorizing. The conversation and banter is fun and funny. This novel is almost an SF comedy of manners.

This is a new translation of the novel by Antonina W. Bouis, with an afterword by Boris Strugatsky. It's part of the Neversink Library imprint from Melville House.

The friends propose different theories to explain the constant interruptions in their disparate lines of research:  a human conspiracy (secret masters of sorts), aliens, and the Homeostatic Universe. The latter idea is that the universe itself abhors being known/knowable, and acts against those who probe its secrets. The novel concludes with most of the characters deciding that pursuing their research will be too destructive: it will harm the people they love the most.

One among their number is determined to forge ahead with his research. He decides to relocate to the distant Pamirs, far away from anyone who could be harmed as the Homeostatic Universe makes "adjustments" to slow down the researcher's progress.

The novel is significantly less gloomy than the Strugatskys' Roadside Picnic and Hard to be a God. (But it's still gloomy.) It has one connection to Roadside Picnic which is that one of the characters hypothesizes that an (alien) "supercivilization" is behind the interruptions of peoples' researches. The same term is used in Roadside Picnic to explain the appearance of the Pillman Radiant and the Zones.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Recent Field Reports From the Zones

This is a week The Strange is everywhere. So I thought it would be timely to remind folks about From the Zones - an ongoing community project inspired by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's classic SF novel Roadside Picnic - as well as by Andrei Tarkovsky's great film STALKER, which is itself based on the Strugatskys' novel.

Background on the project and how to participate can be found right here. The collection of Field Reports by contributors describing new Zones, taxonomic tables, new phenomena, artifacts, threats, and more can be found right here. We welcome new Field Reports at any time.

We've had a recent Field Report by Bruce Baugh! Meet Moira Tesla, and her Glass Pistol! Bruce uses the new Valiant RPG to stat out a Stalker and a picnic in the Valiant Universe. We're a big fan of Cosmic Patrol, which uses the same game system as Valiant Universe, so we may be meeting Moira on her home turf once the Valiant HC comes out!

And hot on the heels of Bruce's post is a new interstellar campaign seed by Mark Carroll, called The Picnic Basket. Mark's Field Report calls on the Cosmic Patrol for help! You're going to want to read the comments for this one, which riff on Vernor Vinge, Roadside Picnic's Golden Sphere, and Hellraiser's Lemarchand devices.

From the Zones logo courtesy of Hereticwerks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Second Noon?

Give this wikipedia article on Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's Noon Universe a gander. We have an interstellar science fiction setting with no interplanetary or interstellar governments. No space empires, no imperialism and war among the stars.

Most humans just life on Earth. Most of humanity's problems have been solved - by humanity. It's a post-scarcity society, and one that is communistic. The stage of communism that has been achieved is the highest one, where the state has withered away. Socialism circles back into anarchism. Society is guided by other kinds of collectivities such as councils.

Interstellar travel is nearly instantaneous. It is mainly scientists and observers who get around the stars. Other worlds in other systems also have human or near-human populations (Arkanar is a good example of this), but how they got there is a bit of a mystery. We'd probably have to turn the clock back thousands and thousands of years to figure that one out.

Other systems have aliens. Some of the aliens are so alien that it takes a while to figure out they are intelligent.

Earth sends out observers to other worlds. When societies are less developed than Earth (and here it is important to point out that the development of most human and near-human societies follows predictable "stages" outlined in "basis theory"), there is a policy of non-intervention to prevent the development of things like a "20th Century Rome".

But people from Earth are no longer used to everyday violence and misery. Being around it sickens one. Some observers feel obligated to act. Small actions, like saving someone's life: probably no big deal. Big actions, like ending the life of a tyrant, fomenting a peasant rebellion, or introducing advanced technology: those are no-no's. Some observers will do it anyway. There's a story there to tell there.

Other humans go out to explore. Lots of stories to tell there as well.

I'd imagine Sector General style stories could work in this universe too.

Here at FATE SF, I am going to explore developing a Second Noon campaign frame. I'll take my time with this project, lots of irons in the fire right now, and I want to read more of the Strugatskys' novels set in the Noon Universe.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hard To Be A God

Would you read a Culture novel set in Westeros? We have something like that in Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's Hard to be a God, now available in a new translation from the Chicago Review Press by Olena Bormashenko. She did the recent edition of Roadside Picnic, as well, so if you had a good experience with that book you should really try this one. First published in the Khruschev era in 1964, this novel was much more popular with Russian SF readers than Roadside Picnic. That makes sense to me, as a friend who grew up in the USSR once described conspiracy as the best hermaneutic lens for interpreting events in Russian politics. There's a lot of conspiracy going on in this novel.

Hard to be a God is considered one of the Strugatskys' more optimistic novels, set in the post-scarcity, communist future of the Noon Universe.*  There are cornucopia machines, even though they are not called that. The banter between the protagonist and his friends will be very familiar to the fans of the non-Romantic and more picaresque figures in modern fantasy, such as Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. The Strugatsky brothers set out to write a lighthearted urban adventure inspired by the Three Musketeers. However the novel took a radically different turn due to Russian politics in the early 1960s. The novel became a cautionary tale disguised as an adventure.

The time the novel was written was less than a decade after Khruschev's Secret Speech of 1956, in which he officially disclosed Stalin's crimes to party leaders. It was also just a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, which could have ended in a nuclear war if not for the moral probity of the Russian submariner who refused launch orders (but the world only learned of that much, much later).

Within Russia, the apparent cultural openness of the Khruschev period was being challenged by party operatives in the cultural sphere who used Khruschev's personal expression of distaste for avant garde art as the excuse to begin a crackdown on various types of experimental art and literature. The Strugatskys remembered the past decades; Hard to be a God was their response.

We find our hero, the ne'er do well Don Rumata (one of a number of Earth observers who are on the planet in disguise) living the life of a dissolute noble swordsman in the kingdom of Arkanar. The kingdom has fallen on bloody, brutal times, with a useless young king and his menacing advisor, Don Reba (think Beria, with the "i" removed for purposes of deniability). Reba has built up a private militia - the grayshirts - who are busy arresting and executing any intellectuals they can get their hands on.

There are concerns among the Earth observers that Arkanar's development has deviated from the normal course that "base theory" (i.e., "Dialectical and Historical Materialism") outlines for the development of societies from the medieval to industrial stage. Instead, some kind of quasi-fascist social movement is taking over the kingdom of Arkanar. Society has deviated from its natural course of development, and the Earth observers are uncertain how or why this has happened.

I won't give away the plot, but I will say that for a purportedly optimistic novel, its tone is unremittingly grim - much, much worse than Roadside Picnic. Sure, their are humorous moments, but all of them are set against a dark background. This is probably the strongest connection to the work of Iain M. Banks, for unlike the agents of the Culture, the observers of Noon Universe Earth are not allowed to intervene in the social development and political affairs of the kingdom.

Of course, some Earth observers have broken the rules and intervened anyway. And our hero plays close to the edge of the Noon Universe's "Prime Directive" by rescuing and relocating intellectuals, scholars, and scientists who are being persecuted by the regime.

Life is very cheap under the regime of Don Reba. Things aren't much different in our world. I was reading the novel during the midst of Israel's brutal re-re-re-invasion of Gaza, and at the height of the U.S.-based hysteria over and persecution of Central American children at the border. Seeing the U.S.'s latest intervention to re-fix the mess it created in Iraq, is a good reminder that it is Hard to be a God - very hard in deed. Best to think about it first. 

It goes without saying that the brutality of Don Reba, and of later social actors in the novel such as the Holy Order, are very reminiscent of the behavior of the powerful in A Game of Thrones. Perhaps it's no accident that Arkanar has a Gray Joy Inn, and a less-than-beloved king who dies at the hands of a poison wielding adviser.

 *Be forewarned that some of the information in the wiki article on the Noon Universe is inaccurate. For example, the Progressors are explicitly forbidden to interfere in the primitive alien cultures they observe. That is Earth's policy. One wonders whether Roddenberry had read (or heard of) the Strugatskys' novel before Star Trek debuted in 1966.