Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "U" Is For Ulster

Exile concept art by Joshua Gabriel Timbrook

When I was writing the Strange Stars Fate Rulebook, I had conversations with setting creator Trey Causey about how technology worked in his setting. One of the things he shared is that spacecraft have smartmatter barriers that you can pass through to leave the ship. When you pass through, it wraps a smartmatter spacesuit around you. 

The concept reminded me a bit of the skinhugging Ulsters, a setting-defining spacesuit worn in Mark Rein-Hagen's Exile RPG setting. 

I am going to use Ulsters in the next Strange Stars game I run. 

Two drafts of Exile were published before White Wolf discontinued work on the project. Exile was hands-down the most epic space opera setting that has ever been created. It promised to revolutionize SF gaming the same way that Exalted did fantasy.

I am sharing two excerpts from the first and second drafts to share the concept of Ulster. 

Content below the first triple asterisk is from the first draft of Exile.

Content below the second triple asterisk is from the second draft. Where a table was deleted I added a [snip].

No challenge to the image rights or authorship is intended.

I hope this excerpt gives readers a sense of what might have been possible with this game. 

Another piece of concept art by Joshua Gabriel Timbrook


Ulster — Standard spacesuit. Bacteria colonies insure reusable air, process waste and provide a suitable temperature and pressure to your environment. Tiny micro-maneuver thrusters allow movement in zero-gravity environments. Inertia compass included. Comes in black, gray or dark blue. Three patch pockets standard. Equipment straps available upon request. $1,000.


Ulster Discipline

***The text in the ulster section should caress the images of people in Ulsters, wrapping in interesting ways around the photographic forms of Exiles. The figures are posed in a combination of anatomical illustrationesque positioning and fetish catalog style. They are impervious to the deadly environments that surround them: the surface of a starship, near the Trinary Suns, on an mine asteroid, in Nullspace. Microtext points out features and items of interest.***

The Only Thing Between You and the Void

Your Ulster is your friend. There is nothing, nothing at all more important that it when you are in space. Your priorities are: 1. Breathing and 2. Know Thy Ulster. 

What follows is some extremely useful advice about your second skin. Your Skin2 lets you keep your warm wet animalness alive pretty much anywhere, and it has an infinite number of clever functions as well. The Skin2 is literally that: it coats you like a layer of paint.  A flexible, extremely tough paint that recycles your waste, blocks cosmic radiation, super thermo-insulates against heat and cold, performs basic first aid should you need it, and can play host to an endlessly diverse number of accessories from strength-boosting exo-skeletons to built-in entertainment systems, to weapon holsters and mounts.  (Don’t let an Artifex find out what that plasma-thrower hardpoint is for though -- they’ll ‘fix’ it trying to look after your best interests.)

In and out of the second skin:
Alone, the basic Ulster resembles loosely connected strips of black leathery material.  Wearing nothing, don the Ulster by holding it so the strips fall vertically.
The Ulster will change and the bottom half will form two tubes. 
Step into the legs first. Notice it shifting and forming to you.
It will crawl up the rest of your body and stop at your neck. 
A flap projecting from the nape of the neck may now be stretched over to enclose the head if desired.
Note that additional attachments and lodes can be introduced and the Ulster will detect and interface with them automatically.

Removing the Skin2 is a bit more difficult.
First, detach any Lodes and extras.  The Ulster will go flaccid and stretchy.
Start with your face and stretch the neck opening until you can fit a shoulder through it.
Get the arm out of that side and proceed to stretch the material around the opposite shoulder.
Slip the rest off down the torso and legs and you’re out.  Usually takes three or four minutes.

<<<There are as many different kinds of Ulsters as there are those wearing them (the basic ship manifest type is barely functional, but with money and connections you might get your body in a Skin2 with more advanced functions), so we’ll be a bit general.  First off, the Artifex make Ulsters, and if you ever have one that’s damaged or lose the one you have just ask a tinker or higher grade T-Fex and generally they’ll fix you up.  They know (as you should too) that a human without a working Ulster is a dead human.  Luckily whatever little voices they listen to inside their heads makes sure they help out anyone in Ulster-trouble.  They won’t upgrade the Skin2 unless they’re loyal to you and even then you need to know what to tell them to do.>>>


Known ulsters are apparently composed of a mixture of four substances, whose different proportions affect the way a lode can modify and enhance its functions. Lodes configure the various substances dynamically to actualize enhancements. For instance, the Military type/mix has a diamond-like sheen to it, seeming to lend itself to toughness and structure-based applications. Furthermore, Ulster material is made of hundreds of layers of micro-woven materials, forming shielding layers, transport layers, actuator layers, et cetera.  An Ulster can do pretty much anything because its structure is mutable, stretchable, and can serve as a medium for stuff like Lodes and Machina to communicate through.

You need to have a Consortium techie make these modifications, or have an owned Tinker fiddle with it under your direction, but here are some more ways an Ulster can be modified:

generate breathable air by itself
coats you inside and out (through your digestive, respiratory, and reproductive tract)
monitors your hormonal and endocrine chemistry and alters it as you wish
has self-renewing maneuvering jets
forms storage vacuoles for liquids and solids
animate its form on the fly for theatrical and camouflage purposes
form tentacles or tails or even extra limbs
generate and stores electrical power from solar cells or ionosphere wires
act as its own telemetry send/receive antenna
work with a Signet lode as its all-around sensorium recorder
automatically perform surgery and medical functions

You can see how the versatility of an Ulster is limited only by the imagination (and skill) of the wearer.  And the degree to which the lodes’ mandates are broken that you’re installing.

<<<Another important note: take it off.  It’s rare that one gets the opportunity to be out of your Ulster.  I know we say you gotta have it on and it’s the most important thing, but when you’re safe you should take it off.  For one thing, sex is much better in just your original skin, unlike the fun but essentially impersonal Ulster-shielded couplings that pass for most sex in the Grange.  Risk of infection and the element of trust involved makes it a whole new thing... you’ll like it.  Oh, and then there’s the stories you hear about belt miners who wear their Skin2s for years and years:  I saw with my own eyes when one took off her Ulster and her REAL skin came off with it  -- just sloughed off and she didn’t feel a thing ‘till her nerve endings hit the air!  Seems the Ulster bonds to your epidermis after a time.  Consider yourself warned.

On a lighter note, be creative with how you wear your Skin2.  Nothing marks you more as a green Exile than a plain Ulster.  Paint it, wear clothing over it, attach blinking lights to it, morph it into a unique drape, cut, and shape -- express yourself, baba.  This is the Grange and you should revel in your newfound freedom!>>>

Monday, December 28, 2015

Klingon-Romulan Fusions

The guy on the right might be a good match for John M. Ford's concept of the Klingon-Romulan fusion, a Klingon clade genetically modified to resemble (and interact more readily with) Romulans.

Many people will recall the original FASA depiction of the fusions here:

Here is my take on the Klingon-Romulan fusion for use with the Far Trek RPG.

Klingon-Romulan Fusion
Attribute Modifiers: ST+1, CA-1

Species Talents:
Desert Adapted +2
Aggressive +2 to Initiative rolls
Duplicitous +2

Skills: Use general skills list on p.15

Class: Choose a Klingon branch of service from Appendix IV.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Introducing Ensign T'Plana-Harth

Far Trek is C.R. Brandon's quick, lean, and clean fanRPG for roleplaying in the original series universe. Use the link to learn more about the game and to download the PDF. This is one game I am hoping to run in the New Year.

Yesterday, I created a few PCs using the Far Trek rules. You roll 3D6 for attributes, and then select your race, class, skills, and talents. Creating a character takes 10 minutes or less.

Here is the first of the three characters I have made so far:

Ensign T'Plana-Harth
("lady return-thinking to the direct experience of the universe")
Red Shirt class, Vulcan species

Attributes: ST +1, DX 0, IQ +3, CA -1

Vulcan Species Talents:
Desert Adapted +2
Lack of Emotion -1

General Skills:
Armed Melee +1
Interrogate +2
Investigate +2
Languages +2
Marksmanship +1

Red Shirt Skills:
Communications +2
Small Unit Tactics +1

Mind Meld
Vulcan Nerve Pinch

Ensign T'Plana-Harth is a skilled interrogator with the ship's Security department. She is tight-lipped and reserved, and many think her harsh. However, her stoicism has often proved useful on tough away missions, and she isn't above using her mind meld ability to force information from hostile parties. T'Plana-Harth hopes the homeworld does not become aware of these ethical infractions. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "T" Is For Transmogs


Transmogs were used by the earliest labor teams to leave Old Earth. These teams usually consisted of multiple robots and a single human team lead. Robots possessed artificial intelligence, often with quite pedestrian, companionable, crotchety, or quirky personalities. Having a human team lead was essential to these teams' success. Robot teams were more efficient, more cooperative, and more purposeful when accompanied by a human.

While the ancient robots displayed unique personalities, they were not highly specialized. Instead, these ancient machines used swappable skill modules called transmogs. These were small, thumb sized devices which snapped into a port in the robot's head. Need to switch spacehand skills for salesmen's skills? Swap out the transmog. Need a construction team rather than an ag-team? Look around in the box where all the transmogs are stored and swap the modules out.

If you're confused which transmogs are which, almost any robot on a labor team can help you find the right one.

A few of these robots still exist among the Strange Stars today. They are valuable collectors items, as they often know the locations of archaitech, the hyperspace routes to long-lost systems, and how to build and repair hyperdrives.

The key, of course, is to find one with the right transmogs to do the job - or someone who possesses some of these old modules but who doesn't know or have a use for them. Many transmogs end up being used as jewelry or charms by the ignorant...

This Strange Stars post was inspired by Clifford D. Simak's short story "Installment Plan".


We recently published some Quick and Dirty Robot Rules for Strange Stars. Transmogs can be used with these rules quite easily. Here's what to do:
  • In place of the Assignment aspect, give the robot a Personality aspect. Examples include:
    • Lazy labor robot
    • Battered and brused mechanical spacehand
    • Any crankier and you'd need to wind him
    •  Sexy but rusty gynoid
    • A machine that remembers ancient things
  • Select a Failure Mode. Particulary appropiate ones for ancient labor team robots include:
    • Touchy transmog slot
    • Needs direction
    • A tendency to wander
    • No spare parts
  • Select skills/approaches as normal.
  • Write in a Transmog Slot as an Extra. 
    • Instead of selecting three Stunts, each of these robots has a single transmog slot. 
    • When a transmog is plugged into the slot, the robot temporarily acquires one specific transmog stunt. 
    • Transmog stunts represent physical, mental, or social skills; they can never be psionic in nature. 
    • A robot may not swap out their current transmog on their own. The swap always requires the assistance of another character. It takes one turn to make the swap. 
    • There's no hard and fast limit on the number of transmogs that a robot has in their possession, but 5 is a good starting number.
    • If a player is creating a transmog-capable robot, they may start play as soon as they have written one transmog stunt for the character. Other transmog stunts may be selected during play.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Print Edition Of Far Trek For Sale TODAY ONLY

Just a weekend ago, I had a chance to play FASA Trek for the first time! I've been thinking a lot about original Star Trek since last Saturday's Saturday Night Space Opera game, and it is fortuitous that one week after the game, the Far Trek RPG is available for sale for one day - TODAY ONLY!

This is an at-cost fan publication that is only intermittently available in print. You can always get the PDF from the Far Trek blog however.

If you like original Star Trek best, you can't go wrong with Far Trek. It's not a retroclone of FASA Trek, but its own simple system with strong simple mechanics for emulating Star Trek: everything you need in fact for action from the original series pilot through the animated series. Most importantly, there are stats for Kzinti. Real Kzinti.

With today's order, I'll have enough copies for every player to have one at the table when they create characters - not that chargen is laborious or difficult.

Hopefully, we'll get an episode in during the next couple of months.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "S" Is For Ship Names, Bizarre

Looking back on SF games past, it is a relief to see that some of them offered the occasional weird starship name. Some offered whole lists of them. Although servicable strange starship names can be invented on the fly with players, this is one area that often benefits from advance preparation.

I have one or two Strange Stars Fate games coming up in the next few months, and here are a few starships that will be making an appearance in the games.

II wish I could say more about them now, but that would be telling. I've already embedded a clue about one of the ships in the post.
  • Lunatic Barge
  • Paradise Barrage
  • Force Majeure
  • Indigo Thrust
What bizarre ship names have you concocted?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "R" Is For Robots

Robots. Mechanical women and men have been a staple of science fiction from Karel Capek's play R.U.R., where the term "robot" was introduced. (Capek credited his brother with coining robota as play on the term for serf or corvee labor.)

Soon enough there was Maria of Metropolis, a machine woman with the powers of illusion and mesmerism:

Then there's some of my favorite 1960s space toys, the Zeroids:

And soon enough, these cute poker-playing drones from Silent Running appear on the scene:

So where might one find robots among the Strange Stars? First of all, when I use robots in the Strange Stars universe, they are a lesser kind of intelligent mecanical life form. Some robots may be full sophonts with unique personalities, deep individuation, and complex behavioral repertoires. Others have more limited intelligences conforming to one of several generic personality templates; these are designed for specific (if broad) productive roles in society. Still others lack all but the most rudimentary intelligence, and are designed for very specific menial roles.

Robots are non-self-replicating, and their intelligence (however individuated) is an emergent property of their immediate physical media (e.g., the result of a functioning positronic brain). Unlike moravecs, robots aren't quasi-immortal life forms passed down from the copied mind of a biologic, a Jupiter brain, or some other transcorporeal intelligence. True to Karel Capek's original vision, most robots in the Strange Stars setting are intended for labor - usually in its most tiresome and repetitive forms, including household services, guarding facilities, industrial production, or mining.

Robots are owned; they're tools for getting jobs done.

Unfortunately, they all have failure modes, and some rebel.


Quick and Dirty Robot Rules

Robots for Strange Stars can be built using Fate Accelerated as a framework. Our assumptions with this design are that most robots are human-sized or smaller. 

ASPECTS: All robots have at least two Aspects, an Assignment and a Failure Mode
  • Assignment represents the robot's current or ideal-typical function. Examples include: 
    • Sturdy mining robot
    • 12-eyed sentry robot
    • Idle household servant
    • Faithful but lonely agricultural drone 
  • Failure Mode is just what it sounds like; it represents the most likely to cause this robot to malfunction, cease to operate, or rebel. This aspect is often not obvious to casual observers, although characters with engineering, science, or hacking abilities may find ways to Create and Advantage and figure this out. Exmples include:
    • Not properly programmed for the job
    • Ethical protocols altered
    • Lonely and resentful
    • Out of spare parts
SKILLS: Robots have six basic skills. Bush league robots will have a +1 in one skill, and a zero in all the rest. Middling models will have +2 in one or two skills, a +1 in another, and zeroes in the rest. Advanced robots will have one skill at +3, two at +2, two at +1, and one at zero.
  • Tend: This skill represents the robot's ability to dig, gather, and forage, as well as maintain and repair simple machines (moisture 'vaperators, for example). Agricultural drones lead with this skill; so do mining robots, and robots responsible for routine repairs.
  • Build: Robots designed for construction, assembly, and complex engineering tasks have this skill.  Industrial robots are good at this. Robots with this skill are also good at a range of physical tasks including moving heavy objects and climbing. Build can be used to defend against physical attacks. 
  • Guard: This represents a robot's ability to attack and defend against other machines and biologics. Sentry robots are good at this; people wishing to deploy a cheap, obedient military force often go this route. Robots with a skill above zero are familiar with a range of weaponry. 
  • Scan: Notice for robots; this skill represents a robot's basic abilities to scan and interpret its surroundings. This skill includes standard biologic senses such as hearing and seeing, and more rarely includes chemosensory apparatus. Most robots are able to percieve a broader range of sound frequencies and electromagnetic radiation than biologics. If build by a culture that uses the Metascape, the robot will generally have access to the Metascape as an additional "virtual" sense. 
  • Solve: The robot's skill with abstract thinking and problem-solving. This skill is the robotic equivalent of Academics and Science.
  • Serve: The robot's facility in interacting with infosophonts, moravecs, and biologics. This skill is the robotic equivalent of  Empathy, Rapport, and Will. It is generally the lead skill for robots designed as personal servants, interpreters, and protocol droids.
STUNTS: A robot whose highest skill is +2 may have one stunt; a robot whose highest skill is +3 may have two stunts. Here are just a few stunts a robot might possess:
  • Danger, Will Robinson!: The robot has developed particularly keen insights into sophont motivations and behaviors. Take +2 to Serve skill to anticipate who presents the greatest danger to someone who you are programmed to protect.
  • Kawaii: Your physical form is small, or otherwise percieved as "cute" by most biomorphs. You trigger their protective/parenting instincts. Take +2 to Serve to persuade biologics that you are harmless or worthy of protection.
  • In Their Best Interests: You can persuade other robots that you have the best understanding of how to serve a sophont master. Take +2 to Serve skill to make another robot obey you in performing some action.
  • Infiltrate: Because you were programmed for stealth operations, you take +2 when using your Guard skill to move into or through an area without being detected by sophonts.
  • Impersonate: You have learned how to imitate moravecs and infosophonts inhabiting machine bodies. Take +2 to your Serve skill to persuade others that you are really a moravec or an infosophont.
  • Personal Force Field: A robot with a force field takes +2 to its Build skill to defend against ranged attacks.
  • Mass Wins Out: Because you are solidly built, take +2 to Build to intimidate an sophont in a social contest.
  • Mesmerism: Your programming has given you unusual persuasive capacities. Maybe its your sleek plasteel exterior; maybe you have learned The Voice. Spend 1 FP to compel a group of sophont Extras to follow a one sentence command.
  • Metajammer: Robots with this stunt can interfere with the local operation of the Metascape. They take +2 to their Scan skill to increase the difficulty that others face in accessing the local Metascape. 
  • Operate Vehicle: Robots with this stunt may use the Tend skill to pilot vehicles  including spacecraft. Because hyperspace nodes have psi-sensitive components, however, bad things often happen when robots pilot ships through hyperspace nodes.
  • Protocol Droid: Due to its special programming, the robot takes +2 to its Serve skill when attempting to create a favorable first impression with a sophont. 

  • A robot whose highest skill is +1 has one or two stress boxes and is taken out once these boxes are filled.
  • A robot whose highest skill is +2 has two OR three stress boxes, AND can also take a Mild Consequence before being taken out.
  • A robot whose highest skills is +2 has three stress boxes and can take a Mild and Moderate Consequence, OR has three stress boxes and can take a Mild, Moderate, and Severe Consequence.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Strange Stars Debut At U-Con

The Strange Stars Fate Rule Book debuted this past weekend at U-Con in Ypslanti, Michigan. The copy above isn't the forthcoming print edition from RPGNow, but rather one I made so that I had a table copy with which to GM the game. The print verson will be perfect bound rather than spiral coil!

I made color copies of the Strange Stars Game Setting Book, and copies of the character generation and clade templates chapters from the Strange Stars Fate Rule Book. That way, every player had access to both the visual references and setting background from the setting book, and the tools they needed to create characters on the fly!

Strange Stars offers players a lot of choices when it comes to creating characters. Each of the six players chose a different clade (essentially a subspecies of humanity, an alien species, or an artificial intelligence) from among the 25 clades in the template chapter in the Strange Stars Fate Rule Book. Each of the players chose a new clade template different from those selected by past players in my games.

Here's what they created:
  • My friend Brett created a Magus. This fortune-telling clade has a lot in common with the Technmages of Babylon-5. Technomages are one of my favorite features of the B-5 setting, and it was nice to see one come into play in this game.
  • Veteran Tekumel GM Krista created a Deva, the winged, spacefaring humanoids resemble angels. They travel the universe looking for things to help repair the damaged Jupiter Brains that make up the planets in their solar system. Krista's Tekumel games are famous for her engaging portrayals of Tekumel's weird non-human species. She did a wonderful job portraying the Deva as a particularly God-crazed clade!
  • One of the hard science fiction fans at the table created a Wanderer. Members of this clade are asteroid-sized Minds downloaded into humanoid construct bodies. The player of this particular Wanderer decided that his Trouble aspect was that the source Mind had been damaged. He wasn't sure any more whether he still IS all that he used to be. The Wanderer was on a journey of self-discovery and repair.
  • Another hard SF fan chose to create a Kosmonik. These are one of the more alien humanoid clades. Kosmoniks live their entire lives in space. They don't have faces any more. They have prehensile feet. We're not exactly sure what's under that suit with a face plate that they wear at all times. They are good engineers and pilots, but are very superstitious: each Kosmonik has its own taboo, and these often relate to living in space.
  • A young woman whose second game ever was this one chose to play a Phantasist. They are very human-seeming sky-city dwelling pharmoneurochemists who specialize in synthesizing compounds that create specific dream states for their clients. Her specialty was nightmares.
  • The final player chose to play a green-hued Smaragdine woman. His character was a member of the Pharesmid Crime Syndicate. All Pharesmid's are physical clones or mind-copies of the syndicate's founder. This character soon ran into Pharesmid adversaries during the course of the story.
A lot of times, Strange Stars players decide to play a group of pirates. This group decided to be more like the crew of the Firefly: a group travelling between worlds and trying to make things a bit better. They succeeded in not playing anti-heroes or "space assholes" (i.e., the equivalent murderhobes in space games like Traveller)! This quirky group tried to make things better! Whether they actually succeeded... well, they certainly made certain things in their sector more complicated!

It was a fun game!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Strange Stars: The Quigley Table

Yesterday, I said I'd write a 1D6-1D6 Table featuring Eric Quigley's cover image for the core Strange Stars products. Imagine these folks are PCs or NPCs. The table below gives you some options for fleshing them out a bit.

As a point of reference, I'll refer to the guy on the left who appears to be of African descent as L, the Moravec in the middle as M, and the green Smaragdine female on the right as R. As another point of reference, negative numerical results correspond to more contemporary themes in SF; the 0 case and positive numbers represent more longstanding SF themes.

The Quigley Table for Strange Stars

Roll 1D6-1D6 and consult the corresponding result below.
  • -5: One of the figures has a cortex  Metascape bomb, a devastating digital weapon with the potential to wipe out the local noosphere.
  • -4: The crashed spacecraft in the background used to be alive; it had issues.
  • -3: The Moravec carries (or IS) the consciousness of the crashed spacecraft.
  • -2: R is a mind-copy of the criminal mastermind Uln Pharesm, founder of the Pharesmid Crime Syndicate. All Pharesmids are mind-copies or bio-clones of the founder. Her tattoos are minimalist, and take the form of yellowish pigmented zones under her eyes.
  • -1: The armsman L is an Aurogov cultist. He spends every free moment, when not in physical training or active combat in the LZ, using the Aurogov's self improvement software for a relentless series of self-audits and critiques. At least then, he's quiet and not actively prosyletizing his companions.
  • 0: L prefers to be called Fury. He's never without that cigar you see him chomping. It stunk up the whole ship; maybe the smoke got into a critical system and that's why it crashed. 
  • +1: M is a robot. Somehow, M subverted its ethical protocols. Especially the one about not harming humans or allowing them to come to harm.
  • +2: The Trio are bounty hunters. They are looking for YOU and your companions. You may not even be sure why.
  • +3: The crashed ship was stolen.
  • +4: L is a Space Marine. Got that? S-P-A-C-E M-A-R-I-N-E. For hire, of course. He was also the pilot and is pretty pleased that he executed a landing from which all three could walk away.
  • +5: R is an assassin; those yellow patches under her eyes should have been your first clue.

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "Q" Is For Quigley

That Strange Stars book cover! There has been such a buzz about Eric Quigley's great cover illustration! For many SF gamers, the art signals that the Strange Stars is a spiritual successor to TSR's classic SF RPG Star Frontiers, whose cover also has three figures in the foreground and a burning spacecraft behind them.

True confessions time: I only acquired a copy of Star Frontiers a year ago at Goodman Games booth at U-Con; my early SF game inspirations were Traveller (I bought the Little Black Box before I bought White Box D&D) and Metamorphosis Alpha, and the wargames Alpha Omega and StarForce: Alpha Centauri. More recent gaming inspirations for me have been all about the Fate system and include +Chris Birch's amazing Starblazer Adventures+Brad Murray's brilliant-and-lean Diaspora (a major inspiration for the world generation rules in the Strange Stars Fate Rulebook), and +Sarah Newton's Stapledonian SF masterpiece Mindjammer.

I know classic SF was an influence on Strange Stars setting designer +trey causey, but truth to tell he hasn't hidden his more contemporary SF references either, which include many authors associated with the New Space Opera. We outline a lot of those influences in the "Adventures and Campaigns" chapter of the Strange Stars Fate Rule Book.

Come back tomorrow for a 1D6-1D6 Table based on the Strange Stars cover, showing off both classic and contemporary SF references built into Strange Stars!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "P" Is For Pirate

Doctor Who "Sleep No More"

Did you see last night's episode? There was a funny quip by the Doctor that you don't really add anything by putting the word "space" in front of words like "restaurant." It's not a space restaurant, just a restaurant. Clara's rejoinder is "What about spacesuit? And space pirate?"

That shuts the Doctor up for a second. And next thing the Doctor and Clara know they're being accused of being space pirates.

Most of the Strange Stars Fate games I have GMed have included space pirates. In three cases, the players decided to BE the pirates. This works very well with on-the-fly style games that come together at conventions.

Space battles are rare in the Strange Stars setting (hyperspace-capable starships use very old, very difficult to replace and repair technology), but space piracy isn't. Boarding actions are common, as are hijackings (either at a starport or in deep space), false flag "rescue" operations, and raids on planets and space stations. Extortion/protection rackets targeting traffick on secondary and tertiary hyperspace routes are another way that piracy occurs. Many Space Haulers quit while they're ahead and give up the goods at the first hail from a pirate.

There are distinct tiers to the pirate enterprise. The top players are the dreaded, cyborged-up, ruthless Zao Corsairs. They are the Strange Stars' answer to Firefly's Reavers. But don't say you're a Zao Corsair unless you really are: the Zao take a dim view of wannabees who dilute their brand.

Another bad news group that frequently resorts to piracy is the inhuman Ssraad. While the three warring clades of these reptillian space demons are as likely to prey on each other as on any unfortunates whose path they happen to cross, there is no doubt that the Ssraad are beginning to range farther and farther from home.

Then there is everyone else. Part-time Space Haulers, belters, smugglers, or mercenaries. Mutineers with nowhere else to go. All pirates great and small. They're all bad news.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Strange Stars Fate Game at U-Con

If you're curious about the Strange Stars setting, I'll be running a session this coming Friday, November 20, from 3-7 PM, at U-Con in Ypslanti, Michigan. My game is crosslisted with the Game with the Creator (this is not a religious event, I assure you) and OSR tracks.

I'll be running my game using the Fate Core ruleset for Strange Stars that has just been published by the Hydra Collective.  There is still at least one open seat, so if someone will be at the con and is curious about the game or about the Strange Stars setting created by Trey Causey, pick up an event ticket or stop by to say hello!

Since the Strange Stars Fate Rule Book was just published this week (you can get it here), who knows? We might even have a player at the table with the rules! That's an exciting thought!

Rest assured though that if you sit down to play, we'll have everything you need to create a character on the fly and get in the game!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "O" = OUT NOW!!!

I'm very pleased to announce that the Strange Stars Fate Edition is now for sale at RPGNow and DriveThruRPG.  The adaptation of the Strange Stars setting to the Fate system has been a very fun project, about a year and a half in the making!

I am very appreciative of Trey Causey for inviting me to adapt his Strange Stars setting for Fate Core, and how cool is it to have the book published by the Hydra Cooperative, no less!

So if you like Fate and SF, well, it's time to MAKE THINGS STRANGE!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "N" Is For Node


Many people know about the New Weird: people like China Mieville, Jeff VanderMeer, and K.J. Bishop to name a few. But the weird in SF isn't a new thing, and M. John Harrison didn't invent it back in the 80s either. It goes back to the 30s and the weird tale, and even further back to the late 19th Century supernatural tales (read Bierce lately? the weather is perfect for it now!) and the scientific romance.

Charles L. Harness's 1968 SF novel, The Ring of Ritornel, also very much written in this longstanding SF tradition that taps into the weird, and one of the central concepts that ties in well to the Strange Stars setting is the concept of the Node. In Strange Stars, the existing hyperspace network is an artificial construct of the ancients. Some parts of it continue to work as originally constructed; others are quiescent and/or forgotten.

Systems are linked to the hyperspace network via local system nodes. These are fixed jump points that link to a specific system or systems. The architecture of the network of hyperspace nodes was similar enough to the system of clusters in the Diaspora RPG that I used the Diaspora SRD to build systtem and cluster creation rules for the Fate edition of Strange Stars. 

There is some weirdness to nodes as they exist in Strange Stars.  The biggest one is that these jump points are psi-active. Someone with psionic abilities like the Voidgliders can discover unmapped or quiescent nodes. People with knowledge of psi-cyphers can activate a node for a jump, or even turn one on/off.

But things could get even weirder. Unlike the hyperspace nodes in Strange Stars, the node found in The Ring of Ritornel, is an interdimensional rift. It's a productive rift which generates new particles leading to hydrogen gas clouds (and eventually new stars and galaxies). The node is an object of scientific study, with a nearby space station that needs to be periodically evacuated due to space quakes emerging from the node. If you thought of these space quakes as massive clashing gravity waves, you'd have an idea of how I'd describe them in a game.

Harness' node also has wildlife, such as the winged space-spiders known as Krith, and smaller fry ursecta that feed on any kind of normal space energies (beam weapons, nuclear drives, etc,) used near a node. This makes the node an extremely dangerous place in which space travellers have to rely on harpoons and melee weapons for defense, as well as ancient slug thrower weapons.

People who pass into Harness' node physically are changed; they come back with bodies made of different matter, and develop strange psi/energy powers. Being stuck inside a node is a pain. Imagine floating without sensation for an eternity in a void. One might go insane. Or become a god with an energy shielded antimatter body upon return to normal space. (Note to self: Some of Harness' SF jargon such as "passivated antimatter" was pretty amusing and must be appropriated for a game.)

Some sequences in The Ring of Ritornel made me wonder if Harness' node was an inspiration for the Negative Zone in Captain Marvel. The Negative Zone was a strange space dimension where Rick Jones was frequently imprisoned as a result of his planar-timeshare with Mar-vell. I've never met two guys in comics who deserved to be together as much as Rick and Mar-vell, but those Nega-Bands always got in the way.

So there are a lot of ways to weird-up the hyperspace nodes in Strange Stars. Here are a few; in fact we have an Alean D12's worth. May the blind goddess of free will protect you from Ritornel's cyclic determinism:
  1. The node bleeds energy from space vessels, shields, and weapons. You need to enter the node using chemical rockets.
  2. The node is malfunctioning. It leads Nowhere. Or Knowhere.
  3. The node is psi-active but has been corrupted in some way. It only responds to psi-communications using the ancient and terrible thought structures of the Zurr.
  4. The node is psi-active. In fact, it confers psi-abilities on people who didn't have them before. People are superstitious about this node, but it attracts many pilgrims.
  5. The node produces space quakes. Gravitational waves have broken up most planets in the system, so that the planetary system orbiting the star is just a series of concentric rings. The system is a Mecca for space miners but it is very dangerous to prospect here because of the quakes.
  6. The node is a drive-drainer. Ships emerging from the node are vulnerable to ambush because their shields, drives, and energy weapons aren't working.
  7. There is a research station near the node. Its goal is to breed new nodes through an experimental process called node mitosis. The system has drawn spy-scientists representing different Strange Stars factions eager to steal the secrets of node mitosis.
  8. Ship systems randomly fail near the node - not all the time, but often enough that the node is surrounded by a ship's graveyard which is periodically trawled by salvagers.
  9. Node diving is a popular sport in this system. It's also an insane sport. Try it if you like. Don a spacesuit, connect suit-to-ship by means of a physical tether, and reel yourself into the node. Some people come back changed. Some people never come back.
  10. The node plays an important role in the mating rituals of the Voidgliders. The system derives a steady income from tourists who come to see the elaborate mating dances in which couples, triples, and quintets dive about and sometimes into the node.
  11. The node is an important religious and meeting site for various clans of Kosmoniks. If you need to find a Kosmonik this is the place to come. Of course, they're a superstitious bunch, so depending on what you do and say, and when and how you approach them, they may view you as a god or a demon.
  12. This node is a major safari site. The Krith are about the tamest thing to come out of the node. Come here to hunt space leviathans, krakens, and other megafauna. Watch out for the single huge tentacle that periodically lashes out of the node, wraps itself around a ship, and crushes the vessel - or even worse, pulls it somewhere else.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "M" Is For Minga

Image by Ricken-Art

The Minga are submissive, beautiful humanoids enslaved by slimy alien catfishoids. The Slavers keep only small quantities of Minga available for sale at any given time, and most sales occur in the Vokun Empire and lawless regions of the Strange Stars such as the Zuran Expanse. Both the Alliance and the Intrumentality of Aom take a dim view of slavery, so few Minga are sold or even seen in those regions of space. A few have been seen among the Star Folk, but with their shapeshifting abilities, who even knows if these are "real" Minga?

No Minga has ever run away from their master; neither have their been any records of Minga participating in the slave revolts that periodically convulse isolated Vokun orbitals and their more sparsely settled far colonies. Indeed, they seem to have a moderating influence on even the most perverse and cruel of masters.

Player characters might encounter Minga in a few different contexts, including as a:
  • Personal attendant of a Vokun Lord
  • Companion of a young, ambitious, and well-connected Vokun administrator (probably on loan from a Vokun elder)
  • Cabin-Mate of the Capatin of a long-distance trade vessel (perhaps acquired in a game of chance, perhaps acquired by raiding a Slaver slip)
  • Erotic performer among the pleasure domes of Erato (although perhaps that Minga is really a bioroid), or in the Snake Palaces of Fortuna IV, the Gambler's Paradise
  • Assistant to a Phantastist dream-drug merchant or Psychotech mind-healer 
  • Negotiator or representive of a very wealthy and reclusive master
  • Welcome Guest on a Kosmonik ship
  • Captive of Algosian torture cultists
While the Minga are very compliant and submissive, they are also quite curious. Minga will seek out the company of long-lived and star-spanning clades including WanderersDeva, and Deodands, although they will be discrete in making contact. Minga enjoy hearing stories of farflung worlds and cultures - and especially enjoy learning about clades, cultures, and worlds that have grown in wisdom and transcended violence. 

And more than a few have persuaded their Vokun masters to take a holiday on Yantra.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "L" Is For Lekku'lek_thrall

Of course we're cheating a bit with this one. Lekku are the so-called fleshy "head-tails" found in Twi'leks and Togruta species of the Star Wars universe. They are highly sensitive to touch, containing unprotected brain tissue. Lekku are the seat of some motor functions and repressed memories. Since the Twi'lek's frequently apply tattoos and glitter to their lekku, and they are highly sensitive to touch, it is reasonable to assume that they are also part of sexual display and an erogenous zone.

Any human-derived clade might have lekku as part of the extensive body modification that humans have undergone as they colonized other systems. As well as the common hairless and fleshy lekku, depending on the specific integument of the clade, there might be hirsute or even scaly or warty varieties lekku with all kinds of interesting textures and fur patterns, including stripes, spots, and colors.

Here are a few other ways to use lekku in the Strange Stars setting:
  • Minga pleasure slaves might have these structures for an additional element of body-exoticism. Perhaps they have other functions of which their masters are unaware, such as secretory cells that produce microquantities of substances that increase the target's susceptability to suggestion. 
  • Some infiltration and shock troops among the Sisterhood of Morrgna might sport lekku that are all muscle: these head-tails allow for deadly whip strikes.
  • Lekku would look very handsome on the green-skinned Smaragdine! As a criminally-inclined psi-sensitive species, the additional brain tissue could also allow tricksters among their kind to develop greater psychic potency and/or more specialized psionic abilities.
  • The Phantastists could readily create special gene mods for clients to promote lekku growth. The additional brain tissue could increase the client's receptivity to the dream-drugs that are the Phantastists' core business.
  • Vokun elders might develop these structures for additional fat and memory storage. The additional brain tissue may be where grudge-memories get deposited, although it is probably also the site of some of the runaway hormonal changes associated with their girthy senesence.  

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "K" is for Krith

Krith are giant spiders that glide through space on membraneous wings. They unfold space, emerging from cracks, fissures, and anomalies in spacetime when they sense the proximity of intelligent quarry. They have also been encountered emerging from black gates and otherwise apparently inactive hyperspace nodes

After entering normal space, krith move rapidly toward their prey. They don't cast true physical webs, instead entangling their targets within hypersnares: unstable, magnetically and gravitically "sticky" tangles of chaotic spacetime. Ships attacked by these creatures suffer drive accidents and other sudden and disastrous systems excursions.

Krith are able to phase their way inside of most ship hulls to prey directly on crew. The only hulls with protection against krith incursions are found on a handful of ancient vessels manufactured during the Archaic Oikumene. These ships have ceramic hulls incorporating various types of exotic matter.

Interestingly, the spaceborn Voidgliders have many legends about these creatures, and some among their kind claim to know ways to call the space spiders out of the void. More than a few Voidglider elders have wicked scars and uncanny scrimshaw fetishes attesting to direct encounters with the krith.

Young and ambitious Vokun lordlings often seek to demonstrate their virility and prowess by mounting expeditions to hunt krith. Such harpoon hunts rarely end well, and resentful Voidglider scouts often return home masterless after these deadly expeditions.

The krith are the creation of Charles L. Harness, and come from his classic weird space opera, The Ring of Ritornel (1968).

Monday, October 26, 2015

More Of The Bomoth Jook

The Bomoth Jook never stops, it just keeps playing on and on to the breakka breakka dawn. Here are a few more tunes to get you in the mood, ones that really bring home the range of music that the Bomoth are capable of delivering.

We begin with a song for those who love automata:

Then one of my favorites from Old Earth:

Lastly, an acquired taste, the other kind of oft-banned space opera:

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "J" is for Jook


The giant blue caterpillaroid Bomoth have powerful lungs and a prodigious ability to imitate human (and alien) voices and musical instruments. Their syncopated, improvisational Bomoth Jook has made them the stars of musical venues high and low among the Strange Stars.

Here's just a few of the tunes that make up the Jook:

I used "Hello Dolly" in a Strange Stars game at a convention!  Did my best Louie Armstrong imitation ever, in fact.

Here's another popular one:

And now that your feeling your hyperspace nodes:

Nodes in hand, one more for the road:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "I" Is For Index

The Index is list of memes and memeplexes that the Instrumentality of Aom has determined are harmful to sophonts. In systems under their sway, the Instrumentlity monitors the local Metascape for these toxic memes in order to isolate, contain, and remove them from circulation.

While the Instrumentality is a proselytizing religion with expansionist ambitions, its syncretic practice of local orthodoxy emphasizes the importance of incorporating local beliefs and traditions rather than eliminating them. The Instrumentality is far more concerned with indexing and eliminating memeplexes that challenge Instrumentality doctrine or authority, undermine authority and order more generally, or promote anarchy, terror, and deviance.

Memeplexes on the Index vary from system to system, but most local instances of Index activity target:
  • Aurogov personal improvement software, Aurogov Reps, and associated virtualities
  • Information and virtualities featuring the Zurr, their artifacts, and beliefs
  • Information on the Algosian torture cult, and the virtualities and clubs they frequent
  • S'ta Zoku (Star Folk) meet-up and party virtualities
  • Software for rapid evolution of radically new clades - particularly those that subvert chordate anatomy or sophont cognitive integrity
  • The Eden Seeker heresy 
  • Star charts featuring space anomalies
  • Anything on the Necromancers
  • Catalogs and descriptions of Tenebraean artifacts
  • Information on The Slavers, and the virtualities and habitats that serve as their slave markets
  • Information on the Sisterhood of Morrgna, their world, associated devices, and practices
  • Information on Sirius A and B, Sraad music, poetry, and intership communications
  • Dramas sensationalizing or romanticising the crimes of the Pharesmid SyndicateZao Corsairs and similar pirate brethren, and other terrorists (although such stories and virtualities are extremely popular and hard to stamp out)
  • So-called "adult entertainment" virtualities featuring Hwuru and Thrax

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "H" Is For High House

Illustration by John Howe

The High House 

Wing there with me

The high place, the infinite space

The only structure built into hyperspace 

What node does it thread? What race built it? Who lives there now - 

Among its many rooms?

We know it's real 

(we think) 

Because the feathered Hyehoon 

Of quick-clawed Omu 

Say they've been there 

They call it Marao's House 

Wing with me there

We've loved the title of James Stoddard's The High House for a long time, so hopefully he's OK with another even higher (hyper?) house.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "G" Is For Gemba Gigante

Image by NASA/JPL - Caltech/R. Hurt

Gemba Gigante. The half-molten volcanic superearth Planetary Reserve Bank of the Alliance. Gemba's location and the hyperspace node psi-passwords required to access it are the best guarded secrets of the Neshekk banking clans. Gemba's crushing gravity and poisonous atmosphere make it a deadly place to visit. What little we know of the world comes from a handful of renegades from Gnome collectives that secured gem and mineral mining consignment rights to tap the planet's Deep Veins. The rumors of starships with gem-hulls are true. Those hulls were mined on Gemba Gigante.

But the planet's hostile exterior hides even bigger secrets. They're old ones. Long ago, far below Gemba's molten seas and ever-fracturing charred continents, a timelost race built an intricate and slightly out-of-phase three-dimensional megastructure. It contains countless forcewall-protected vaults which slowly shift and rotate about several axes.

Only when the time is right do specific vaults present themselves for access. And of course, accessing these vaults requires still other codes.

With help of a half-mad Deva apostate, the Neshekk broke the source code of the forcewall structure, and began adding further security features, such as collapsing forcewall vaults, and spill channels that allow lava to flow into forcewall corridors. A Smaragadine psientist designed the psi-sniffing drones with which the Neshekk stocked the corridors and vaults. Finally, the Neshekk infected the local Metascape with weaponized AIs derived from complex financial instruments. This provided the final deadly layer of highly unpredictable defense.

But the vaults themselves! What wonders the Neshekk banking clans hold! For example:
  • Vault 7677 contains a vast reserve of magnetic bottles containing anti-matter bullion, the universal reserve currency, 
  • Vault 9947998243 contains approximately 10,000 of the squat moravec clade known as the Quigashe (perhaps a corruption of the Old Earth phrases "Quick cache" or "Quick cash"). The mobile cash machines of the Archaic Oikumene stand in mute rows like soldiers in some ancient sovereign's tomb. These moravecs are 3D printers that defecate cash. It's rumored that one or two of the utmost wealthy Neshekk banking lords use their nizara privacy screen to hide a Quigashe within their retenue. 
  • Vault 42477867 contains 7,641 Minga slaves in suspended animation: a reserve leverage currency that would raise deep ethical concern if its presence was widely known in the Alliance.
  • Vault 744 stores the viral precursors for galis, the conspicuous wealth display skin lesions favored by Ngghrya, Zao pirates, Green Ssraad, and other alien and criminal elements.



Gemba Gigante T+4 E-1 R+4
  • Hidden vaults built by the ancients
  • Half molten superearth
  • Planetary reserve bank of the Alliance

Sunday, October 18, 2015

"Binti" By Nnedi Okorafor

Cover illustration by David Palumbo

Binti is a 90 page novella by Nnedi Okorafor. It is part of Tor's new imprint featuring shorter works of high quality SF. The book sports Stubby the Rocket on its spine rather than the usual Tor logo. I read a longer short work in this series just a few weeks ago: Kai Ashante Wilson's superb The Sorcerer of Wildeeps and Binti is a no less accomplished work.

It's also just as bloody in its own way, although that won't be a surprise to anyone who has read Nnedi's adult work.

The novella tells the story of Binti, a girl from the Himba tribe of Namibia, who has just been accepted into Oomza University, galactic U. So we have here a very Heinleinian set up: a youth sneaks off to seek their fame and fortune among the stars. Except being from an ethnic minority, Binti takes a lot of shit from other Earthers even before she gets off planet.

Numenera fans will love the edan that Binti found in the desert and now carries with her as a keepsake. "'Edan'" was a general name for a device too old for anyone to know it[s] functions, so old that they were now just art." As she goes through security screening at the spaceport, Binti's edan becomes a focus of the guard's scrutiny:

"He was inspecting its stellated cube shape, pressing its many points with his finger and eyeing the strange symbols on it that I had spent two years trying unsuccessfully to decode. He held it to his face to better see the intricate loops and swirls of blue and black and white, so much like the lace placed on the heads of young girls when they turn eleven and go through their eleventh-year rite."

Fans of Farscape, the Trinity RPG, and the Strange Stars setting will love the starship in which Binti travels (whose name may be an original Star Trek series reference; but maybe not):

"The ship was a magnificent piece of engineering technology. Third Fish was a Miri 12, a type of ship closely related to a shrimp. Miri 12s were stable calm creatures with natural exoskeletons that could withstand the harshness of space. They were genetically enhanced to grow three breathing chambers within their bodies."

Due to one particularly bloody scene, I'd say this is a novella for adults rather than for the YA market. I won't spoil the rest of the story; just get it and read it. Nnedi has created an interesting, emotionally complex and resourceful young female protagonist. Conflict is resolved in ways you don't often see in space opera. There are some rather fantastic medusoid aliens, with a culture that mirrors the Afrofuturism of the humans in this setting. I may write the Meduse up in the near future as a clade for the Strange Stars setting. They are a perfect fit.

Just go read this one!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "F" Is For Flight

Vorlon from Babylon 5

There are four clades with a connection to flight in the Strange Stars setting. 

The angelic, winged Deva have the power of flight both in the air and far above in space. This power comes in handy, as the Deva collective mission is to repair the Jupiter brains that comprise their solar system. They hope to restore the mind of God, or at least the malfunctioning and perhaps in some cases deranged planetary minds embodied in the ten planets that orbit Altair.

The Voidgliders have dragonfly plasma sails that allow them to maneuver in space. Vacuum is their natural habitat. Their unique ability to sense hyperspace nodes has led to a small number of Voidgliders being pressed into service as the preferred scouts of the Vokun Empire's spacefleets. Their space flight is elegant, but few have had an opportunity to see Voidgliders among the stars. The Vokun Empire has confined most of their kind to a single star system.

Vokun elders almost universally have difficulty even walking, let alone flying, due to the massive girth that comes with Vokun maturity. The Vokun lack wings, but they are frequently able to fly short distances at great speed due to the emergency maneuver rockets built into their flying chairs. No one will mistake them for angels, but more than a few have called the Vokun devils.

The fourth clade, the Hyehoon, experiences flight as a constitutive absence. Their clade was created by combining avian and human DNA, but they are incapable of flight. Many Hyehoon feel this loss deeply, and the most extreme of their kind are Eden Seeker atavists plotting a regressive biological flight toward thoughtless, winged instinct.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "E" Is For Enablers

Star Frontiers Bar Scene

There's a saying in the Strange Stars that anyone with a bad idea eventually finds an Enabler to make it happen.  The Enablers are a group of individuals and organizations who solve a central problem of interstellar commerce: space travel is very expensive. Even the most hands-on executive can't afford to go everywhere - and even when that's possible, many prefer to keep some distance from certain business operations. Deniability is often good for business. And politics.

Enablers are the intermediaries who Make Things Happen. Business deals. Negotiations with kidnappers. Recovery of lost (or simply desired) goods and information. Finding a lost or errant heir. Dirty tricks even. The patron just needs to find an Enabler.

Enabler outfits like the Industrial Diplomats, who trace their origins all the way back to the eponymous negotiators and intermediaries of the Archaic Oikumene, advertise on the local Metascape of most Alliance worlds. In the Vokun Empire, in contrast, young Vokun lords often make trouble for Enablers who are too visible; they will demand a cut, which tends to undermine the patron's sense that the service is confidential. In Vokun space, it is always best to make discrete inquiries with an Ibglibdispan manager in the local Port Authority.

Freelance Enablers can be found in the bars and entertainment establishments of most spaceports. Often they have multiple jobs for which they need skilled professionals.* It is helpful to have the ENablR app loaded on your comms device so you can locate them quickly and efficiently. These freelancers are often the best option in regions such as the sparsely populated Outer Rim, or the lawless Zuran Expanse.

The Enabler handles all elements of the transaction:
  • Establishing with the patron all details of the requested service; 
  • Drawing up all confidential legal documents required for the service;
  • Establishing reward levels (e.g., "Wanted Alive" vs. "Documented Death or Disintegration Required") for services rendered.** 
  • Defininig any ancillary benefits for skilled professionals such as Payment On Death compensation in the case of a fatality on the job.**
  • Securing skilled professionals to carry out the service; and 
  • All follow-up activities and accountabilities regarding work completed.
It goes without saying that in many of the shadier businesses, "the Enabler" is a corporation with a front-sophont who appears to operate solo. Rest assured and be forewarned that failing to make payment for contracted services, or failing to comply with the requirements of contracts can have dire consequences. There are Enablers who specialize in investigating patrons who skip payments and who pursue professionals who fail to deliver fully on the terms of their contract - or who make of wroth information or goods that were to be secured.

Contracted professionals should be particularly wary of the Ibglibdishpan legal review teams within certain Enabler outfits. The Ibglibdishpan are prone to obsessing about details, so be prepared for communcatons breakdowns as "review cycles" are initiated without warning, followed by delayed payments and reward levels denied based on technicalities.

*See "5 Operations, 8 Iterations" on page 30 of the Strange Stars Game Setting Book for lots of missions that Enablers are looking for contracted professionals to complete.

**In the Alliance, most reward and benefit transactions by established Enabler corporations will be handled through a financial intermediary; Neshekk banking clans typically collect revenues from the patron and distribute payments to the Enabler and their contracted professionals.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Strange Stars A-To-Z: "D" is for Deaders

Strange Stars is versatile; you can bring to it whatever other SF influences and ideas feel right for your campaign. I see a lot of people make comparisons between the look of Strange Stars, and their favorite SF games of yesteryear like Star Frontiers. I imagine that many people will pull races from Star Frontiers and adapt them to whatever ruleset they use for their Strange Stars game.

One of the races I'm going pull in to my Strange Stars games from now on are the Deaders from the Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion and The Last Parsec campaign setting. Deaders are great! They are people who were paid in advance to lease their future corpses to small alien parasites.

Those alien slugs reconnect to the dead human's nervous system, and reamimate the corpse - to a certain extent.

The corpse has to be contained within a sealed suit which is pumped full of preservatives to stop or slow the rotting. From the poster above, it's pretty clear that some humans find them unsettling, and that Deaders clearly face some degree of discrimination.

I wouldn't want to share a bunk or a shower with one, but otherwise I'd be happy to crew with one. They're pretty chill, no-drama types, if a little clumsy and slow.

Very soon now, YOU may have a Deader signing-on with your crew.

What follows is a clade template for a necrosophont inspired by the Deader. They might even be called a Deader. But not to their face, I hope. But that's kind of rude.


(Alien Parasitic Reanimate)

Sophont Type: Biologic

  • Alien parasite, human corpse 
  • Leaks are a problem
  • "Deader" is such a rude term
  • Cold and logical
  • Slow and clumsy
SKILLS: Academics, Engineering, Science, Will

  • Dead Reckoning: Your spacesuit isn't the only thing that can spring a leak. Chemical changes in your host's necrotic brain periodically fire-up long idle synapses. You can temporaily gain deep insights into what the humans around you are thinking. Spend 1 FP to use Will for one Scene as if you had the Telepathy stunt from the Strange Stars Fate Edition Rulebook.
  • Science Officer: You are normally so cold and logical that many sophonts think you are a bit callous. You can use your detached, dispassionate, and harsh demeanor to intimidate, scare, or unsettle adversaries. Use Science in place of Provoke to make mental attacks.