30 April 2013

Update: Back in Action.

So Gentlebeings,

Once again I am busy as all get out. So what is going on here behind the screens you may ask?

Well, let's see, first off still working on getting all you Travellers in the 5th Edition a Character Record Sheet out soonish (looking like about mid-May) hopefully just in time for most folks to use in their games. Of course we are still working on the HMS Herald of the Marches as well, which is coming along. M/V Lion Rampant 2 is also being worked on. Plus there are still some NPCs to be Generated for Greg P. Lee's T5 Cirque Campaign.

In addition to that it turns out my original Traveller5 Play by Post game on the Citizens of the Imperium website's now closed Private T5 Beta Forum was more interesting than I had realized as I got roped into running another one. Which is cool as I always meant to do more for the first game, but then I got pulled in the Star Chamber and in the end got my first professional gaming credit in the Massive Black Book (MBB). Two actually since I am also credited as an Imperial Shipwright. :D

Since it turns out that quite a few folks were still interested in me running a PbP game, I let myself be talked (is that the right word when we are typing on a forum?) into running another PbP on CotI. This is why you haven't heard from me in a while. It turns out running a PbP game takes a lot of time to get up and running. Right now I have two Scholars (one a Linguist, one a Cyberpsychologist), one ex-Royal Marine (who is responsible for making all characters in the Royal Armed Forces take a Mod -1 to all their Target Numbers in CharGen) and my first non-Organic character, a Robot (who is making me actually read the Robots chapter of T5). There may be an AI character who will be the Brain of the new DDB Lab Ship that the players are looking to get for their Travels.

So, the start of the Campaign is the characters have been Personally Invited to the Winter Ball on Permatic [FS 1725] at the Palace where one of their number is about to be Elevated to the Rank and Title of Baronet as well as be Knighted in the Order of Maltese. This will begin with a flashback of the Imperial Courier Lord Stephen Vilecashar in his Livery hand delivering the Invitations to the various characters. After that, there will be the traveling to Permatic (for those not already there), the Elevations and taking and giving of the Oaths of Fealty to His Imperial and Royal Majesty, the Emperor of the Permatic Imperium Vladimir II. From there a State Dinner and then the Winter Ball itself. Then we shall get to their meeting with His Maj and their new Mission. Which right now is looking to be Exploration along with some Trade and Commerce, perhaps with some bits of Military Action here and there as needed, as this was how the Voting broke down in the Poll I posted.

So, if my posting rate seems a bit laggard to you, my dear Readers and Followers, please excuse me as I am really working rather hard back here Behind the Screens. I have not forgotten you as I think this Update shows, just damned busy, as its late posting also shows.

Well, I got to go and get all that work I just mentioned done, so I will close here.

Oh and welcome to my new Followers. Thanks for the support and encouragement.


14 April 2013

Metagame: On the Zombie Apocalypse.

Greetings, my Readers and Followers.

A quick update. I am working on getting a T5 Character Sheet out, the Herald may have to get a bit more work, the Lion Rampant 2 needs even more, I started a project dedicated to the Imperial Armed Forces in collaboration with a well respected source. And yesterday was my birthday and I celebrated by taking it off. So today, instead of working (which of course being serious, I did a bit of anyway) I am playing the coolest game in the world, Zombie Gunship.

For those who either can't figure it out from the title, you are the Gunner of an AC-130 in the Zombie Apocalypse. It is of course pretty basic. You, some guns, orbiting some god-forsaken base with little live humans running desperately to get to those bunkers before either the doors close in their face or worse they get eaten to death. You are their only hope. You get points for the humans the bunkers take in, you get a couple of civilian kill passes, two or three before they order your ass back to base.

You can buy upgrades and objective skips, but where's the role-playing in that. And there it rears its ever present head. The original twelve year old boy who grew up on pen and paper, books and video games at the same time. With the Moon rockets of my childhood gone at least I got some neat stuff, I thought. So, when I play this game, I am in the damned Gunship, I pull the trigger, those are my rounds  landing out there, I...*crestfallen sigh*...*a couple deep breaths, shoulders up*, yes, Sir, I did kill those live human beings with my fire, Sir! And, it sucked for me too, Sir.

And child of the Cold War that I am, I know what the fuck the AC-130 gunship is all about. I mean, Vietnam was just chock full on neat wonder death toys for our side (that being the losers, the United "Sure, you can elect who you want, we don't mind at all, we encourage voting in fact and we 'encourage' you to vote for our guy" States), which as you might recall, in the end did the US fat lot a good. Gave the new owners some sweet US hardware though as a parting gift. :D To me the AC-130 gunship is crewed weapon system. Loaders, flight crew, fire control, that is actually quiet a crew there. So, the idea that it just me there in the sky is sort of ludicrous. In the end of course, I just build one in my head while I play. In fact, the more I play the more wrapped up in this horrible world. And it is a world.

It goes something like this. Standard Zombie Apocalypse breaks out. For whatever reason, peace is declared on Earth probably the fact that zombies don't see those pesky national borders, or color, or religion, you are just live, tasty flesh to a pack of hungry zombies. Also, zombies have yet to work weapons, much less sophisticated anti-air defenses. So humans are broken into various strategically located, logistically sorted bunkers and bases. Bunkers are the base, that is where live humans are saved and initially processed. Medical checks, quarantines, debriefings, skill and aptitude exams given and graded, all this is done at the Bunkers in a Zone. Then, they are shipped off screen in the misty background mythology. The basic Bunkers contribute in other ways, that is where the gardens and the arms are still being manufactured. Research Bunkers are kept out in the Badlands somewhere, but I'm not cleared for that, just a Gunner after all, nothing but Warrant on the LT's ride. That fact led that to somewhere I realized, somewhere, there must be Air Bases for these damned things to be flying out, rearming, I mean they keep ordering me back to it alot. So, I wondered, what would it be like? Think about it. To the civilians who are fighting to get into the Bunker, to the ones who are still there making their 10,000th 25mm High Explosive shell, you lead a cushy life if you are that AC-130 orbiting up there in the air, no zombie threat, no threats at all, fly around, kill zombies, go back to a nice cushy base for tea and crumpets.

It isn't. It is being in the world's largest, ever running, never ending, non-stop war. There is no the doors closed now it is safe here. No, you Nugget are now based in the largest outdoor collection of zombie bait in the North American Human Defense Forces (Combat Air Department) system. I mean, the Navy's got some damned water keeping them safe for while, nowhere near the security requirements. So, get used to the sounds of the guns, you never stop hearing them, big guns, arty, tanks, mortars, mini-guns, the works. Mix that with the sounds of gunships and other attack aircraft taking off and landing all day, every day. Sure, you have nice quarters and food is good, but that is upside of the zombies that never, ever stop, always trying to get in and eat you.

Since the Declaration of Peace Among the Living Humans on Planet Earth under Article 4. Citizen Participation in the Armed Forces limited mercenary contracts have been opened up allowing a Citizen to have a limited control of various military weapon and systems with government support to run missions for the defense of humanity.  In this case you have been given a Gunship. Nice thing is this being the near future, the logistics of keeping the gunship crewed and armed have been greatly reduced. This allows the new AC-135 Wight Gunship to be crewed with less crew due to among other things, an upgraded, robotic, autoloading system. There are still two human Loaders who help keep the ammunition flowing and the Plane Chief who is responsible for keeping the Gunship in the air and the guns running smoothly. Due to the lack of qualified Fire Control Officers (FCOs) in the NAHDF, fire control computers now slave the gun systems to the control of one FCO letting the service spread the remaining FCOs out broadening the areas patrolled. The new touch screen interface aids in both training new FCOs and lets experience Fire Control Officers work miracles they would be unable to duplicate with old TL-7 analog interfaces. The lack of AA due to the Peace (if anyone dares break it all will fall on them and wipe them out) allows the flight crew to be reduced to a single Pilot/Navigator who is the final call regarding the safe operation of the vehicle to and from the Zone of Operation.

So, we now have a total crew of six. Pilot/Navigator, Lieutenant Unnamed (Smith) whose job is so much easier than in those human v. human wars, he flies a rock steady orbit though. Airman Loader Jones mans the two 25mm cannons (there is always a Jones on my crews :D), Airman Loader Druthers handles the 40mm and the 105mm. They get their jobs done quickly and well. Oh, and me,  Fire Control Officer Thornwood (Brevet, Owner/Operator: Thornwood Security, LIC). Last of course is the Plane Chief, "Chief". That's it, no one knows if he has a name or not, he's just Chief, as in "Okay Chief, get some paint and get her name on."

Which is an actual line in my head. Look, if you are shaking your head now and going "What a loony.", you either are new here or missed the part where I plainly told you my head is an interesting place sometimes. Welcome to it. Hey, this is the fun stuff, not like where I seriously look at what is going on the real world and try and figure out what can be done. That place is far darker and less fun. So back to fun.

Man do you empathize when you play this game! And so there we are, me and my crew going out and trying to save as many of those little people shaped blobs from the ones trying to kill all human life on Earth. Each one valuable not only in Credits earned, but in Honor and they are in your care, each one you lose a personal failing, each one saved, a joy. Thing is the little black and white figures on the screen, they start to matter a lot. (You can chose whether you have them show as black or white as living because you can choose the display mode. I keep them as glowing white hot bodies of live humans I am trying to save from the cold, deeper than background black of the ravening zombies. Also I like the dark landscape too, otherwise the landscape is too damned bright on the eyes.) So there I am trying to save each and every soul from the never ending streams of zombies bent on eating them or getting run over by the train.

Yeah, there is a board, um, a Zone where a Train runs through the Zone now and again mowing down everything in its path. Sure cool when it gets nothing but zombies, not so cool when it gets one of the souls. God comes up of course in those moments, or when you see a live person fighting the losing fight against a zombie and you can't switch to the 25mm and save them, because the Bunker perimeter is danger of being breached, so you swing the sensors and guns back to the gate and get to work. You don't see them die, but you know they did, alone, scared, knowing that if there is a God, it surely hates them. Still, the mercy for you is you didn't get to watch them go from bright white and full of life to quickly cold gray as they drop and fade away as your rounds dance about as you try not to kill them with a stray round as you save them. Yeah, if there is a God out there, he hates us. But then, maybe not, because I will have those moments where I am thinking about whether I should take the shot with the current weapon or switch to a smaller one when I find the trigger squeezed and the rounds fall oh so sweet. *shrugs* Don't matter much either way. Sometimes you sooo save the shit out a live one and then while trying to blast Zombie Jink-a-Lot a stray round wastes that exact same soul. Man, that one really sucks. Hurts the bank balance too.

Which gets to back the upgrades, which are sweet. You can buy them if you wish, but my crew, we earned our credits the old fashioned way, worked a mission for 'em. We're not some "weed" Count from Canada here in this unit to go and buy a Commission. *rolls eyes* I mean, you know except for Lieutenant Unnamed, he actually claims he is one, never proved it yet. We all think he's faking and is just another Reserve (Activated) Flight Lieutenant. Never can tell, again, doesn't matter, flies right. You can upgrade the weapons and get some nice benefits like increased civilian kill count, and my fave the extra Bunker Defense that lets one zombie actually breach the perimeter. They  get more expensive as you go which is to be expected. Since I am was already this deep, I decided our Gunship needed a name, I was going with Star of Life have her painted up in gunship meets ambulance paint scheme, but the crew wanted Apocalypse Rider, I don't think we are the first crew to use it, so it was settled on Apocalypse Rider 6 and her scheme shall be a garish fluorescent blue, brilliant white and international distress orange in razzle-dazzle stripes. A suitable crest to be applied to the nose, under or behind the pilot station window with the Gunship's Name emblazoned underneath. And that led to the bit about Chief painting the name on the ship. Actually, I figure a lot of the planes have WWI style paint jobs with no need to avoid enemy air assets or ground fire there is more leeway in paint schemes in aircraft. Hell, probably ground units too, the point is you want to be seen and identified from a distance. Seems sensible thing to do, I mean if a Zombie Apocalypse does breaks out. So back to earning those upgrades and stuff, there are also, these neat objectives like say Use 1000 Rounds of 25mm in a Round without Overheating. Sounds pretty fucking easy, short controlled bursts, spend a long time just mowing them down and bingo. Not so at all. It is amazing the times where I just don't get to use the damned 25mm, I am all on the 105 and the 40. Or I will just let run a smidge too long without realizing it till the little red letters tell me I screwed the pooch again.

There are other neat bits, but I will let you discover them for yourself, if you haven't already. Or not, suit yourself, me, I love gunships, I love blasting zombies and saving humans. From the safety of the sky.

Anyway, I got to get back to killing the already dead.


01 April 2013

Metagame: Still More Notebook Transcriptions.

Greetings and Salutations My Dear Readers and Followers,

Today, as you can see from the title, we shall again dive into the Notebooks of the Institute and hopefully leave you more informed about the Permatic Imperium than you were when you arrived. Let us begin.

The first little bit concerns World Class Starships (WCS), also known as World Class Vessels (WCV) since they are significantly larger than even Battle Class Starships. While we are all familiar with the Adventure or Battle Class starships of most Traveller Universes (TUs) that is generally the size limit for starships among the Major Races, yet in that one movie that helped inspire and launch Traveller into gaming history there is those classic lines,

"It's headed for that small moon. I think we can get it before it gets there."

"That's no moon! That's a space station!"

Think about that. The first thing the characters think when they see the Death Star is that it is a small moon. But it's not, it is just a bloody super huge starship. (One with really bad port design, but hey have you ever tried to design a bloody moon-sized starship, some shit is going to get overlooked. It happens. And then your firm has to explain the big dude in black who likes to choke people to death with his magic powers why the Emperor's pride and joy is so much space dust around Yavin IV.) And then in the last movie we see an even bigger one that takes a Super Star Destroyer to the side and is still significantly bigger than one of the most massive Battle Class Starships there is this side of Galactica and even she is only about the size of the regular Star Destroyer. (Do you ever wonder what a Star Cruiser or Star Battleship might look like? I mean destroyers are usually kinda little ships.) The point of this rambling is that I do wonder what a World Class Starship might be like, so I wrote some notes in the Notebook and now I share it with you.

The first thing is that like the Death Star to be a World Class Starship it has to be the size of a world now this could be say as small as a Size 1 (1000 mi/1600 Km), but for true World Class you are looking at like Size 5 (5000 mi/8000 Km). So, big mucking place, lots of space and movable.

Next is style, or how do you use that space. I figured that there are two basic styles, the Interior or Exterior. The Interior style has the habitation and general use space in on the inside of the Hull of the WCS, basically a Dyson Sphere with Jump Drives. The other is the Exterior where the Sophonts on board live on the exterior of the Hull and treat it like any other world. In the end I decided that Size dictates Style. Size 0-5 are alway Interior Style taking maximum advantage of the structure's volume, often these WCVs will have artifical grav and a proto-star powering the Jump+ Drives (more on that in a bit). Size 6-A will generally be of the Exterior style and Size B-F may be of either Style.

Now about the Jump+ Drives, yes, there are more high TL goodies in Traveller5 than we have seen before. I know I helped write some stuff in the Equipment List that the TL was way above the standard TL-F Max of the 3rd Imperium. Of course mostly those were Ancient artifacts, but there were some things that one could have if you want to play High-TL Traveller, which I do. :D Well, one of the cool things about T5 and starships are the new Drives and Power Plants. J-6 is no longer the limit kids! For ATUs that is. Though it might explain some thing I saw in the book, that I am not going into that now, but suggests Strephon's Scouts might have their hands on some better Drives than folks know. Grand things seem to be afoot in the OTU, but back to mine.  Thing is Traveller5 has gone back to the roots of Traveller and the most beloved Classic Traveller (CT), it allows the Referee to have an ATU with no problems. It is much more the Little Black Books we all grew up on. No real Imperium weighing it down with Setting (though it is used in the examples of the mechanics and I honestly dig the OTU, I was a Canonista in fact, no really), but a set of Core Rules for a Traveller group to make their own TU.

Sorry, sort of scattered today, but also excited as the Book and Swag are indeed shipping. I am getting a pretty stuffed box soonish.

So, back to my blathering about ships that are worlds. Since T5 has new Drives and PPs, I figure that if you are building these giant World Ships then hey, you might as well install Uber-Drive and Uber-PP. Now I have to admit that while the Jump+ Drives are there and awesome (along with a whole Chapter devoted to How Jump Works that should have killed the Holy Jump Wars, but in fact started some brand new ones. Such is life.) the proto-star as Power Plant is not in the T5 Core Rules (actually a bunch of stuff had to be cut or the book would have been a good 1000 pages, no really, a lot had to be cut due to page count restrictions, But hey, that means plenty of Supplements. :) I am pushing for Traveller 5: Atomic Rockets, but that might just be me. I don't think so, but it could be). The proto-star is straight ass pull as they say. But then Marc was designing PPs for Starships that players would ride in, not on. Which does get to the question of how do they Jump about the galaxy? Well, Traveller has two ways to go since back in the day, Grid or Bubble. Here I figure Grid for the Interior, but Bubble for Exterior (though you could use Grid, but that is a bit dicier for flora and fauna). I assume both can and may make use of Bubble Jumps as that allows for a certain amount of stuff you could bring along. Like satellites maybe even, especially if they are grav motivated and then they just land before jump like ships do. The Bubble though is really best used for the really good sized World Ships since they will generate a Jump Bubble big enough to contain the Atmo without to much loss or chance of Misjump. And yes, there is a now a formula for computing how large a Jump Bubble is. I haven't used it yet, I probably should now that I think of it. *shrugs* I did say they were notes, not fully thought out, worked through the Rules and checked for bugs, but basic "what if"s. Plus, you get what you paid for. :p

Last thing, World Ships do not have Deckplans, they instead are mapped to the appropriate World Map. The new T5 Mapping Symbols can be used as they are to map out the World Ship, they are spiffy and cover a lot of stuff. And now I find myself wondering, do you get Homeworld Skills from a World Ship, do they generate RUs like a World does? *hold up finger, briefly* Hold on a sec. Sorry, had to write that in the Notebook. Thanks for waiting.

Next on the hit parade is dying in the Frozen Watch. (See what I did there? I know "Bad, Craig.")

So, I turned the page and I got to the Frozen Watch issue. What issue, you ask? What happens when you get wasted on the HMS Lucky Strike while you are in Frozen Watch? Yeah, my head is an interesting place at times. Okay, so what does happen, I mean aside from you being not just technically dead, but now really dead? Well, from the notes I have it seems you get a "gong and possible Limited Pension", so let us consult the list of Traveller Medals. Well, first off there is the old Wound Badge. Though I am not sure you get one if you die, we can stipulate that you get one. (Anyone know if you get like say in the US a Purple Heart if you get zapped?) Thing is I can't really see you getting the MCUF (Meritorious Conduct Under Fire) since you were not doing anything, just waiting to get thawed out and then do something. Basically "...there is no 'conduct' involved in being in a Frozen Watch Berth in a state of technical death while the ship containing said berth is engaged in combat with the enemy. A sophont is only capable of such 'conduct' required for the award of a Meritorious Conduct Under Fire after they have been revived from their assigned Frozen Watch Berth with their shipmates and are capable of getting to and performing the duty of their station. However, the Court does find that said sophont may still be eligible for and be awarded a Campaign Ribbon for service in the Campaign in this question" Hasson v. Imperial Navy Personnel Command, (0027 PI) Imperial Admiralty Court Registry, 2d. I can also see the Limited Pension for any dependents you might have left behind. On the other hand I have another note here that wonders if they just don't warm up your clone and have you finish your Term. Nice part is it's not like you'll have nightmare about your death, nor will you have to wonder what you did, you just were there as body in stasis.

The next page is pretty short. We have Shoreside Intel. Many so called Patrons will be the fronts for several possible intelligence services. These could be Imperial, Royal or even Corporate Intelligence services, military, diplomatic or commercial the current trend seems aimed at the Parthians and the Free Spinward States. Information on the rimward and trailing areas of space are still sought after, but not as much these days. This doesn't mean that every Patron a Traveller meets and takes employment from is a front for some spook group or another, it just puts in on the table. Another thing I see mentioned is the need to work out some sort of pay scale for peacetime, wartime and deployment time, housing, things like that for members of the Imperial or Royal Services. Yeah, I am all sorts of stupid like that.

And on the next page, it seems I have a list of the twenty-four disputed systems. No, UWPs, just a list of Hexes and Bases. There are seven Scout Bases, one Waystation, three Navy Bases and three Depots and one lonely Research Station Delta.

On the next page is a bit about Low Berths and using VR, but I will save that for next time as the Ship's Cat is getting persistent in his desire that I give all my attention to him for a while. Rightly so I guess.

Okay, one last thing, I am looking at some past posts regarding the Imperial Army (which from what I gather is rather a hotly contested point in the OTU) and I see that there are some noted Corporate Armed Forces, two Navies, one Army and one Scout Regiment (I am figuring they use cavalry style unit designations in wartime). So, I have decided I should probably address them. I am not going to lie, I am not going to look up who owns those forces, but go into their obligations by having those forces counted on the Imperial Starcharts, Surveys, and Censuses. You see the Imperium recognizes the need for a company engaged in interstellar commerce to have security forces and maybe even small military forces, but past a certain level and those forces start to look dangerous to the stability of the empire. So the deal is that you can either hire mercenaries or have a true army or navy. If you take the later way you are treated at times of war like an Imperial Armed Forces asset. This means that your primary task switches from things like protecting company assets to engaging the enemy in front line combat. It also means your forces are now under the Imperial Code of Military Justice (ICMJ) and can be seriously hosed if your forces commit war crimes or flee from battle or other military offense that might be overlooked or prosecuted as lesser offenses if committed by Merchant Spacer forces. This is a standard part of an Imperial Charter (IC) as opposed to the more common Limited Imperial Charter (LIC) which only Imperializes the company's forces in very limited circumstances. That part also grants Corporate Armed Forces reciprocal rights to Imperial Base access and use of facilities, this includes fuel, armaments, and life support supplies.

One quick thing, regarding the Imperial Navy, I had in the past been undecided as to what size the Imperial Naval forces attached to a Navy Base was. I have decided that they have not Armadas, but Fleets attached. I looked it up and Task Forces and Group just don't fit. So back to Fleets it is which means the Imperial Navy has sixteen Fleets floating about space. Plus there are the Royal Navy units. I have not yet figured out how many and what kind of assets His Royal (as opposed to Imperial) Majesty commands, but Permatic has some 5280 RU on its own. As High Lord of Permatic, Vladimir II has quite a bit of resources and infrastructure to throw around and might just have a Fleet or two of his own. Right now I am leaning toward three RN Fleets with about three to four Royal Marine (RM) units apiece. I know that at least one of them is the 1st Royal Fleet, His Majesty's Own Permatics and at least one of the Royal Marine units is the 9th Royal Marines, which for some reason has an 84th Assault Squadron. But then the Imperiums stretch far back in time and some units have linages, crests, mottos and yes designations that may go back thousands of years and several star empire ago such as the Bibickian First Forces which hail as far back as the Second and the unit history has the First Imperium, sadly they were lost with Rufus the Immortal when the Great War was lost.

Well, it has a been a long day with yet another long day ahead so this is where I shall truly close. I bid you a good day or night as it be when you get here and then leave. Be well. (Yeah, I "Be Well."ed you. :p Can't lie, Rustin is right, that movie is just sick fun.)