Friday, February 15, 2019

Solar Trek Episode Guide

It seems like a good time for a post collating my Solar Trek (a solar system confined, more hard science fiction rationalized Star Trek). Here's what I've done so far, titled with the TOS episode/setting element that inspired it.

The introductory post
The Orion Syndicate
"Return of the Archons"
"That Which Survives"
"The Cloud Minders"
"The Trouble with Tribbles"
"Tholian Web"

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Empire and Venus

This is a follow-up to this post

Perhaps no planet in the Solar System has benefited more from the benevolent hand of the Earth Empire than Venus. The thick covering of clouds obscures modernization on a grand scale, and a planet moving from ignorance and savagery to progress and industry!

Looks a bit draft, doesn't it? The barracks are heated!

The mist-enshrouded cloud forests of the Venusian Highlands are home to a hairy race of primitive tribesmen, known to Earth explorers as "Woollies." The Woollies historically lived in crude, wooden huts, high up in trees to escape the numerous Venusian predators, but the Imperial Development Corps has helped them transition to secure reservations, with many modern Earth comforts. The grateful Woollies are eager to help the war effort against the rebellion, and the Imperial Army lets the well-meaning but unskilled primitives pitch in with menial tasks!

In the lowlands, the reptilian predators are even larger, making colonization and development hazardous. The Empire has granted Venusian Timber an exclusive contract to clear away those forests and eradicate the monstrous beasts, all in the name of a better tomorrow.

Watch out, there's one of them, now!
Everyone has heard the stories of the green gnome of the Venusian swamps. Well, there have been reports of rebel activity in the area, too, and the government worries this eccentric old Venusian might be in danger! Imperial troops are looking for the little, old alien and hope to relocate him to safety, soon! Good searching, trooper!

They're gonna find you, little guy. Bet on it!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Black Book: The Art of Jim Starlin

Preempting my return to Storm this week was the fulfillment of the Ominous Press Kickstarter, Black Book: The Art of Jim Starlin. It's available for preorder now from the Ominous Press site. it includes images (mostly black and white but some color) from over his career and at the Big Two and independents.

We get to see his original image of Thanos:

And unpublished stuff from an as yet unfinished (tragically, never to be finished by Starlin alone) new Dreadstar story:

It does tend to skew a bit toward more recent material rather than his heyday, but has some images of stories or characters that never saw print, including work he did on a Captain Marvel (the Shazam! one) limited series.

If you are a Starlin fan, it's something you'll want to pick up.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Solar Trek: That Which Survives

There are the voyages of the exploratory vehicle Enterprise...

Kalanda was a small station built inside of a modified asteroid in the Main Belt. It was also a black site whose construction began in 2159, in the build up to the Romulan War, one that did not appear in extant Federation databases. It's trace heat had lead to its discovery by Enterprise over 100 years later.

When the station was entered by Enterprise's away team, they encountered a hologram of a woman later identified as Lorisa Prado, Kalanda Station's Chief of Security. The projection behaved erratically, and its appearance presaged and attempt by the still-functional automated defense systems to kill the perceived intruders.

Ultimately, Enterprise personnel made it to the central computer and discovered that Kalanda Station had been involved in bioweapon research. An accidental breach of sample containment had led to the death of the crew and placed the security systems on a century long high alert.

The Federation has promised a full investigation.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Games I Thought About Running, But Then G+ Was Going Away

Okay, it's highly likely, indeed probable, that I wouldn't have run any of these games regardless, but I did think about it. And then I thought about the impending doom of Google Plus. They are presented roughly in chronological order of conception:

Wild Wild West: Old West spy-fi like the 60s TV show. Well, inspired by the TV show, maybe with a bit more of a SHIELD type organization and the sort of villains that occasionally showed up in Marvel Western comics. I thought about using the much-maligned TSR Indiana Jones game for it.

Something Superhero: This was a less formed idea, but I had had a couple of ideas, one of which was running it in the world of the Armchair Planet Who's Who.

Vancian Talislanta: The works of Jack Vance were a huge influence on Talislanta, and the native system has its charm, but I thought it might be fun to give the first edition of the Dying Earth rpg a whirl at the more heroic Turjan level. Tweaking Talislanta to be a land of verbose rogues is probably only a slight shift, but a flavorful one.

Solar Trek: What started out as a thought experiment of a hard science fiction leaning version of Star Trek set within our Solar System got me sort of interested in seeing how that might actually come out in play.

Comic Strip/Serial Star Wars: Coming out of Solar Trek discussions was an idea for a "back to the roots" Star Wars, shorn of the 70s, and exhibiting its full Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon whiz bang glory. I suppose it has a stronger version of the old Star Wars problem: If you play the main characters the story is sort of known, but if you play other people in the universe, how do you keep them from being overshadowed, and in this case, how do you keep it seeming Star Wars like rather than just some pulp space thing.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

High Adventure Cliffhangers: Buck Rogers Adventure Game

In 1993, TSR took a second stab at the Buck Rogers license. Their first attempt, Buck Rogers XXVc apparently failed to find an audience. If anything, their second seems to have fared worse judging by the fact it has an even lower profile. Contrary to what many might assume based on its lack of success, it's actually not a bad rules lite sort of system.

Where Buck Rogers XXVc tried to update the then 60 year-old property, High Adventure Cliffhangers goes back to Nowlan's 1928 novel (Armageddon 2419 A.D.) and particularly the comic strip that ran from 1929 to 1967.  For those unfamiliar with the mythos, it tells the story of Buck (Anthony in the original novella) Rogers, who is put in suspended animation by some weird mine gas and awakens in a 25th Century where a Red Mongol Empire emerged from the Gobi to conquer North America. Driven from the ruined cities, the Americans formed "orgs" to fight a protracted insurgency. Despite its earthbound origins, the comic strip soon gets into space travel and peace is eventually made with the emperor of the "Airlords of the Han" so that villainy can shift to other worlds. (This story likely inspired the Yellow Peril and Red Scare Star Trek episode "Omega Glory," and perhaps the Klingons as "Space Mongols," and is at least prefigured if not inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Moon Men, which was originally titled Under A Red Flag.)

The game makes use of a lot of  Dick Calkins’ work from early days of the comic strip. Combined with the subject matter and the technology presented, it gives the setting a very retro feel, in contrast with XXVc.

The system, however, features a relatively hot new thing (in 1993) in game design: the dice pool. After all, Ghostbusters had only pioneered those sorts of mechanics in 1986. HAC uses six siders exclusively. The dice rolls are totaled and compared against a target number. Dice pools are capped at 8. It also makes use of "exploding 6s."

Like TSR's Marvel Super-Heroes ability scores have descriptive names, ranging from OK, to Good, Better, and Best. Each of these translates to a number of dice to be rolled for actions. The abilities (Strength, Aim, Brains, and Health) each have associated skills, though the list is not particularly large.

In combat, the heroes always get initiative, though situational factors may alter that. There are no hit points or other damage metrics. Instead, a successful hit calls for a Health roll, with failure meaning a character is out of commission, the duration varying with the means of attack. Deadly attacks require a second Health check on failure of the first, a Mortality Roll, with failure meaning death.

Combat uses maps, minis, and Action Points to quantify actions. It's not really as tactical as it sounds; it is certainly less detailed than 3e. Rather, it seems an 80s relic, like a less detailed version of the FASA Star Trek AP system.

Characters may spend experience points (or chips, because it uses poker chips to represent them) to add die to rolls. NPCs can also spend Experience Chips for a last minute escape.

Overall, the game seems to have been intended for those new to rpgs. Presumably, it was aimed at all these fans of  a 60+ year-old property lurking out there waiting to start roleplaying. Even its map-based combat seems less wargamey than catering to presumed boardgame comfort and familiarity. Overall though, it is a system with a bit a charm, and probably could be fun for any pulpy-type setting.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Heroes of the Golden Age Reference Guide #2

The pdf's for the Kickstarter of Heroes of the Golden Age Reference Guide #2 are out, which is a bit confusing because there wasn't a issue 1. It's actually a remaining of the series that started out as Heroes of the Public Domain, which I discussed previously.

Other than the man change, it is much the same as the first one. It has art by Chris Malgrain (who's name and work you may recognize from Armchair Planet Who's Who stuff) and entries on a number of Golden Age characters from Airmale (not a typo) to Tommy. This issue highlights just how many captains there were in Golden Age comics. There are seven in this issue alone.

If this sort of thing interests you, issue 3 will be not doubt Kickstartered as well, so be on the look out.