Saturday, December 21, 2013

Traveller Campaign News and Astro-Hooks

Next on Raving Foxoid Holo-News...
Fierce street fighting has reportedly broken out in the isolated moon-state of the Kral. Dogoids have appeared to rise up in an urban insurrection, firepower supported by dune-buggied commandos and an unknown starship. Cantonment Navy spokesdroids state that the service is “vaguely concerned” about the development and “will be monitoring any grievous threats to colonial infrastructure”.

In other news on Fredonia, the Polar Autonome Collective has issued a cryptic statement declaring that they will make a “great leap forward” in its “dream-struggle to topple the Planetary Work Machine” and “biopoesis our beautiful proto-planet” in the next 48 hours. Experts are nonplussed.

The Cerny Vlk, the subsector-famous Boloerium (a paraterraformed asteroid-vessel used for intra-system travel) dedicated to preserving pre-uplift wolf stock--and manned by a cooperative of self-styled “lycanthropes”--has gone “dark” according to months-old reports from The Grange. That wild and wooly system of micro-republics hunkered down on trojan-point planetoids has produced a not-too surprisingly conflicting range of hotly-contested salvage claims. Putting hard credits where their vacc-suited comm-boxes are, the system's two fiestiest polities, Cockyagne and Hayduke, are reportedly both offering 500,000 CR bounties to a crack “salvage and rescue team” for in-hand repossession of the outbound ship.

Galacto-Boyar Vdelko XLIV, renowned masochist and survivalist buff, is offering a “substantial fee” for a hardened group of “toughs numbering no more than six” to attempt to “hunt and kill” him in a three-day period on his island preserve on Kanus Major. According to his seneschal a bounty of 100,000 CR will be paid post-mortem from his estate if he is killed before the end of the third day. “I can take all you motherfuckers,” Vdelko added. \

Cantonment political pundits are shaking their nay-heads at the “unnatural vigor” of the newest addition to the Civil Service, the Trust for Planetary Procurement and Progress (or more colloquially “The Trust” or “Three P”). Some Overrada representatives have even begun to criticize “the wild-eyed idealists” of the agency with “wanting to explore and colonize worlds outside the Cantonment.” While Three P administrators have denied the scandalous charge they have issued “open contracts” that state a 120,000 CR finders fee will be issued to any exploro-bolo teams returning with the coordinates of “underpopulated, unmapped Terran-Prime or Terran-Norm systems within 20 parsecs”.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Project Ideas for 2014

Like many manic gaming hobbyists I seem to flit about with more “projects” hopping like crack-crazed toads around in my head than is right and healthy. Generally as I have learned from too many blogside promises is to silently keep track of these fancies on personal lists, but hey I'm trying to blog more so here's the going to-do list (fill free to embarrass me this time of year with it in 2014).

Finish (in descending order of importance and likelihood):
1. By This Axe's skirmish and campaign supplements. The latter is pretty much done though it could use a few playtests before I feel totally comfortable releasing it. To be released as free PDFs to BTA buyers.

2. Live Weird or Die, the Roustabout's Guide to the Hill Cantons. Basically the HC Mega-Compendium, a collection of all the variant classes, alternative D&D chargen, new critters, spells, items, house rules and the like—and for the first time a targeting round-up of interesting setting whoha (religion, places, NPCs, etc). Right now it's clocking in at 60 pages and needs some elaboration in a few parts and strategic cuts in many. To be released as a cheap (to charity) or free PDF and print-on-demand. (Also available as a work-in-progress draft to anyone interested.)

3. Feudal Anarchy. Though we are on version 0.83 with a respectable chunk of the chapters done-ish we have officially put this bad boy on hiatus until (frankly) the hardcore medievalist rpg urge strikes again. Despite it not getting published anytime soon, I am perversely pleased at what we have hammered out and written up.

Start (same order as above):
1. “Games for GMs”. A collection of solo mini-games and subsystems allowing GMs to have some fun rolling dice while creating things. Think Traveller world creation or How to Host a Dungeon but expanded into different aspects of the fantasy sandbox.

2. By This Bullet. Technically already started and even barebones playtestable (not a word), a system for running small-scale early 20th century battles.

3. Hail Fredonia, a political/military microgame that allows folks to play out the goofy civil war on the Traveller Coupbox moon. Based on La Revolución, a wargame I published in the early 90s that modeled a fictional early 20th century Latin American civil war. Outline and map done.

4. Writing up some of the adventure sites of the Hill and Space Cantons for public consumption. Keep feeling like this would be a good idea—and then not.

1. The Hill Cantons Home Group. We haven't played in an ungodly time and as much as I enjoy the freedom of playing evenings on Google Plus it never quite feels as satisfying as having people around me dining room table. So even if it means playing other things, face to face is a priority.

2. The G+ HC campaign. We came back to playing this Tuesday after the month and change Traveller hiatus (which I also plan to keep playing on alternate

3. Attend North Texas RPG Con. Missed it the last two years thanks to family reunions, but the date is saved this year.

So much gaming to be done, so little time.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Large, Exuberant Thank You to Those Who Bought the Axe

This morning I sent out our annual end-of-the-year check to Autism Speaks—with a nice extra tail-end bump of over $500.

As readers might remember (or not) 100 percent of the after-production proceeds of my fantasy battle rules By This Axe were earmarked for donation. Quite honestly, I was expecting to sell on the high-end around 100 copies which would net a little under $200.

To date, however, By This Axe has sold 276 copies: 234 PDF and 42 print copies. Punchline is that means I added a very nice $505.08 from BTA sales to our contribution, way more than I expected. Who knew that the shedding of buckets of blood of lead men could do such good?

Anywho a very sincere and hearty thank you from me to all of you for your support. And a special thanks to Jack Shear who gave BTA a nice big blogside bump early in its arc.

Sales continue to trickle in and I will fold up whatever is coming in around May and send it in as a contribution.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fantasy Battles for Kiddos

This week marked my final fantasy worldbuilding/creative writing class for the semester. I was hell bent on ending on a loud note of mayhem and ludic anarchy so after invoking the Battle of Helm's Deep, Pelennor Fields, and whatever in tarnation that battle is called in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in a mercifully brief lecture on the use of “final battles” in fantasy storytelling, we dived right into a big giant battle scene of our own.

Letting them divide up into two camps: Good and Evil (endearingly all the girls chose this team), I pulled out a big box of miniatures and several bags of homemade play doh. Each so-called Good player was allowed to pick out 15 miniatures while Evil got to make various abominations from the play doh and to employ the large plastic dragons we painted last semester.

To handle the rules backend, I whipped up a simplified system of By this Axe, presented here. You will, of course, need a copy to make of By This Axe miniatures rules to make any sense of this. PDF copy here, print copy here (all proceeds go to Autism Speaks).

Tommy's patron deity with an impossible name appears. 
By This Axe for Kids
Units are much looser than in the regular rules. Individuals can move in a group for mutual protection (to prevent flanking for instance) but are not required to stay in any kind of order.

All range and movement is measured with a regulation unsharpened Number 2 pencil.

Fighting Capacity, Armor Value and Hits
Mooks (normal warriors and the like) FC 2, AV 2 and can take one hit.
Tough 'Uns (heroes, big monsters, commanders, knights etc) FC 3, AV 3 and can take two hits. Heroes and heroines (who represent the player) never die they just get knocked out (or fade away).

Duel Phase
Any hero can call out an opposing hero in one pencil range. Duels are as normal in the rules. Note that in actual practice the dice pool seemed to confuse them, you may want to substitute normal melee combat.

Movement Phase
Movement as normal, terrain is just for show however. Movement must stop if it makes contact with an opponent.

Slow Dudes (big monsters, dwarves, giant sloths etc) half pencil.
Regular Dudes (foot soldiers, goblins etc) one pencil.
Fast Dudes (mounted, flying) two pencils.

Ranged Combat Phase
All weapons except for breath weapons (which get two) get one chance to hit. Roll under FC to hit.
Short Ranged Weapons (breath weapons, slings, muskets, javelins). One pencil range.
Long Ranged Weapons (bows, crossbows). Two pencil range.

Melee Phase
As normal, except that players can freely disengage figures from combat to “run away” during their next movement phase.

Divine Intervention
Twice per battle, the player can “call on their patron god” to intervene at any time. If a “6” is rolled on a d6 the god shows up (She/He/It must be represented by a play doh creation) and either grants two extra attacks, two extra saving throws or attacks itself as a FC 5 creature. It disappears to the sidelines after the turn is over.

No morale is used! Battle to the grisly, child-friendly end.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dogday and the Traveller Coupbox Endgame

The shit (finally) came down in the Traveller Coupbox last night on Google Plus. "Dogday" commenced at the stroke of midnight of Day 77 with the coded “Supper Time” and “Snasauges” messages of Radio Free Kanine's Three Dog—the signal for insurrection in the Kral's dogoid shanty towns and the invasion by the player-led soldier-bolo (mercenary cooperative).

To War!
The party's renowned extended-scout ship, the Cacafuego, touched down promptly northwest of Kral City behind the towering range of red rock formations (see map below). 

Two sections of four fire-teams each riding improbably (and hilariously) pepto-bismal-pink and purple-speckled civilian mini-buggies split out of the cargo hold to attack the radio and sensor towers on the outskirts.

The west section lead by The General (James's character) took some ineffectual fire from the tower complex but managed to spectacularly take out the main sensor dish with a RAM grenade launcher as they drove up the switched-backed trail.

The east section (led by Robert's character) encountered no resistance at all after driving around the Robodwarf warrens and factory district. The radio equipment was dispatched and that section drove through scattered fire at intersections in the residential and commercial district until ultimately converging on the platform.

Meanwhile back on the lake the second half of the soldier-bolo attempted landfall. The suicide hovercraft piloted by the obnoxious and drawling Private Hent retreated under missile fire. Fortunately the Cacafuego (with Michael's Toad on the pew-pew laser cannons) swung around and started pummeling the missile batteries from the harbor forts. In a likely expensive turn it sustained two direct missile hits: one smashing a hole in the hull, the other taking out the aft cargo bay airlock and the air-raft (sorry Bodhi).

The south battery was destroyed and Michael went on to destroy armored personnel carriers on the bridge into the Domed City (which is blocked with panicked, hunkered down Kral troops). Part of the southwestern barracks complex was destroyed by laser cannon fire and a 50-ton cutter fleeing the dome was shot down into the lake (unknown who was on the ship).

Zak's section made it through the fields by hovercraft though a machine gun volley decimated one team (all dead). They lit up the single guard at the fusion power plant and captured it.
The players map of Kral City. 
The current situation (now on “pause”):
1. Both buggy brigades have converged on the Plaza where a sizable Kral army unit is bottled up.

2. Zak's section holds the fusion power plant and has shut down power through the city.

3. The Cacafuego is still up and hovering on the west side of the city (unless you want to pull it out, though it can't go into orbit at the moment due to those big gaping holes.)

4. Dogoid insurrectionists hold both shanty towns and are battling the Vibes Committee militias. They have about 40 in each slum with firearms (bolt-action rifles, pistols, grenade launchers) and roughly 600 dogoids with makeshift weapons like lead pipes, spears and kitchen knives.

5. Casualties have been pretty light (so far) for the soldier-bolo. Of the 15 fire-teams, 14 are still in fighting shape.

6. The giant alien-hulk turned barge run by the Polar Autonome Collective is still slowly puttering toward the Kral City. It looks to have sped up slightly after the fighting commenced. 

Still in the hands of the Kralian military or militia:
1. Domed City
2. Main Plaza
3. Vibes Committee HQ
4. the two remaining Harbor Missile Forts
5. Monorail Station
6. Main Refinery
7. Most of the human residential and commercial areas.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Space Cantons News and Humor from the Kral

Tonight on Raving Foxoid News...
Kralian dissident and humorist Shmul Klemm has shuffled off his mortal coil. The author of the acclaimed political joke compilation The Loudspeaker Spoke Up and Said was found slumped over his holowriter yesterday dead in his Unterzone flat from an apparent self-inflicted icepick wound to the head. In Autokratic Kral, apparently, joke kills you.

In other news on Freedonia, a surprisingly turn in the perpetual stalemate that is that moon's civil war. The city-state of Pikkaro having gone 0-4-1 in recent battles has raised its white flag and been annexed by neighboring Pakha. Local observers say that the fractious nature of the Microbalkanizers League mean that its just a matter of time before Pikkaro reasserts itself as a polity.

FINESSE (the Federation of Industrial Needs Evolving into Economies of Scale Etc.), reputedly an astroturf lobby for Monglocorp, is calling for a “system-wide deregulation of mineral extraction rights of Novo Marlank's neighboring intrasystem bodies” citing inefficiencies in “business unfriendly local polities and other market rigidities.”
In Autokratic Kral, secrets keep you.
In homage to Klemm, some excerpts from The Loudspeaker Spoke Up and Said:
Four dogoids -- Mongloite, Kanusian, Xite, Kralian -- are discussing their lives. The Mongloite dogoid says, "the robo-servants used to leave meat out for me, but now I have to bark for it." The Kanusian dogoid says, "you have robo-servants on Monglo?" The Xite dogoid says, "they feed you meat?" The Kralian dogoid says, "they let you bark?"

Guard asks Kralian political prisoner, "what's your sentence?"
"Ten years," he answers. "But I did nothing."
"Liar," says guard. "For nothing Autokrator only give five years."

Citizen Yvan applied to the Vibes Committee militia. The Kral City chairman conducts interview.
"Comrade Yvan, do you smoke e-cigarettes?"
"Yes, I do a little."
"Do you know that Autokrater does not smoke and advises others not to smoke?"
"If Autokrater said so, I shall cease smoking."
"Do you drink?"
"Yes, a little."
"Autokrater strongly condemns drunkenness."
"Then I shall cease drinking."
"Citizen Yvan, what about women?"
"A little...."
"Do you know that Autokrater strongly condemns amoral behavior?"
"If Autokrater condemned, I shall not love them any longer."
"Citizen Yvan, will you be ready to sacrifice your life for the Kral?"
"Of course. Who needs such life?"

Friday, December 6, 2013

Aliens of the Space Cantons: Dogoids

Deep Evan's quite marvelous series of posts (and formats) for his Boom Worlds Traveller campaign (in which I play the dashing young froguloid pilot, Sir Toad, mmm hmm) have inspired me to take a turn at some of my own for the Cantonment. 
Early uplifts were said to be less successful.
Appearance and Biology
As uplifts Dogoids (also known as “Canus Lupus Sublimis” or inaccurately and derogatively as “Vargrrr”) exhibit the wide speciation of their domesticated ancestors.

Ranging from 1.2-1.5 astroyards in height,they run spacehound slim to bulloid-dog heavy-set in build. Dogoid top paws have been genetically adapted to have opposing thumbs and longer more flexible digits, though wider and more weight-bearing the back paws are closer in appearance to their ancestors. Tails have grown shorter over the centuries and indeed some of the modern breeds have only the smallest of stubs. Coats range naturally in traditional colors though many Dogoids in sophisticated urbanite worlds have taken to elaborate primary and pastel color dyes.

Though their origin-story is murky and often confused with the rambling jokes of the elderly, it is said that Dogoids were first uplifted in the biovats of the now-lost world of Laika IV.

Sentience came slowly to the race--though quicker than your bigoted grand-uncle would allow for--and dogoids were held first as “pets” then as working slaves (famously used in exploration missions by the Blackstars). Following Extirpation Dogoids worked their way through various forms of semi-bondage from timesharing to multi-level marketing until finally arriving at their currently elevated status as second-class citizens. Casting one-seventh of a vote in the Cantonment-wide Overrada elections, Dogoids are surely appreciative of their new-found freedoms from their beneficent former masters.

Dogoid consciousness is dominated (no pun intended) by deep internal conflicts. The many thousands of years of intertwined human-canine evolutionary history has left a complicated dance of emotions for Dogoids in their interactions with hairless apes. Indeed it said that even the most diehard of Dogoid nationalists feels a great sense of ennui and existential angst when separated too long from the presence of humans--and that even the most subservient of “Uncle Spots” feels a certain nagging resentment when the choice dinner portions lie on the human table.

Amongst themselves the hunt for dominance and status is an eternal mixture of esteem and anxiety. When first being integrated into a “pack” (an amorphous name extending to any kind of Dogoid-majority institution from academic departments to revolutionary groups), a Dogoid will invariably ceremonially duel those it considers its immediate superior or inferior, Dogoids of equal or close rank within 1-3 Pack Status (see below). The victor of such fights will gain +1 to their PS if they vanquish an opponent of a higher rank or PS two over their current. Following such a display pack members will mostly get along without complaint.

Dogoids prefer as a matter of course the vainglorious status seeking of Representative Democracy.

Dogoids as Player Characters
-1 STR, +1 DEX, 1d6 SOC, 2d6 for a new stat called “Pack Status” used only among other Dogoids. Dogoids may serve in any branch but that of the blue-blooded Navy, they get a +1 bonus in attempts to join the Scouts due to their long relationship with that branch.

In loving memory of Nazrut who died much as he lived in murderhobo glory. May Roofdrak keep him in his furry embrace.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hill Cantons Bestiary: Fobbits

No. Enc.: 1d8 (5d8)
Alignment: Neutral or Lawful (Evil)
Movement: 60’ (20’)
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 1 -1
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: weapon
Save: D1
Morale: 5
Hoard Class: XX
XP: 10
It is well established throughout the Cantons that the hallmark of a successful borderlands home is the placation of its hirsute house spirits, the Domovoy. But just as the tidy familiar houses of humans have their cozy domestic fae denizens, the warped dream-logic of the Weird dictates that many of the terrible murderholes of that dread zone must also have a counterpart. One of the most common of which is the danger-adverse Fobbit.

While careful to avoid bunking in easily-accessible rooms in underground environs, Fobbit teams of 1d8 may be glimpsed in corridors hastily resetting traps, carefully repainting blood smears, rejamming dungeon door hinges and other assorted work.

An actual Fobbit lair will be a heavily-barred and trapped locale usually located off a back corridor, though the rich cook smells of gourmet hot grub may be smelled as far as 10-80 feet away. A Fobbit lair will host 1d4 Remfs (2 HD Fobbit commanders), copious barricades of paperwork and a surprisingly luxurious smattering of consumer goods.

There is a 1% chance that Glamdalf, a truly-fabulous, comfort-loving wizard and inventor of the self-reading scroll, will be found in any given Fobbit lair.