Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Déjà View

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Activity here has fallen off due to an increased workload caused by the Great 'Windows XP Expiration', whose deadline hurtles toward us even now. But it's been too long without a post, so I'll hit this one out despite the fact that I'd originally planned on posting it later. As promised though this one does reveal some of the workings of my game universe.

Please note that this item is not written by me; I'd like to thank +Steve Zieser and +John Adams for their kind permission to allow me to re-host Steve's article.

Spacefaring in the Reaches: Warpjacking
Image credit Seth Pritchard via

In the storied history of the Reaches, multiple methods for creating the space "warp" that allows a spaceship propel itself hundreds of parsecs through the void in the space of a thought have been invented. The most popular and trusted method, though, has been the Continuous Magnetotron Spin Drive, a design which drives the tiniest space fighters to the most gargantuan robotic freighters that ply the spacelanes.
The use of the drive is simple. A starship sets its course to its destination. The power plant of the vessel then begins a slow transfer to power to the drive core, which begins to "spin up" the drive itself. (Note: No parts of the drive actually spin; "spin" is a term used by warp physicists to explain the motion of space/time generated by the drive) When the drive accumulates enough energy and spin, a warp in space in generated and the ship is carried along by its "wake" to the destination point, where the warp dissipates.
The warp in space that a CMS drive creates extends in a sphere for several meters around the jumping ship. Clever and disreputable pilots can take advantage of this by bringing in their much smaller vessel into a sensor blindspot within this zone while the jumping ship is spinning up its drive. Then, the smaller "warpjacker" opens the accumulators in his own CMS drive, but puts no power into it from his power plant. The warping space around the "host" vessel causes the drive in the smaller ship to spin up. Both ships enter warp. Because warp physics maintains that a smaller warp field cannot exist within a larger, the smaller field is "pushed "out of the larger field, allowing the smaller ship to emerge from warp at a completely different destination than the host vessel.
Warp jacking is a plague to large shipping companies and independent operators alike, and carries heavy criminal penalties throughout the Reaches. Without careful monitoring of the power input during spin up, these ships may take on warp jacking ships and end up using so much power that the host vessel exits warp light days or light years away from its destination with a depleted power core. This makes warp jacking a favorite tactic of pirates preying on large, automated freighters. The pirate warp jacks a large freighter and then later backtracks its course to pick off the helpless prize. Because of this, large ships often equip themselves with multiple sensors and gun ports to deter this type of action.
A pilot attempting to warpjack a ship must be piloting a craft at least 2 size classes smaller. The pilot makes an opposed roll with the Sensor operator of the larger ship using the Computers skill. If the pilot wins, he may warpjack the larger ship to the destination of his choice. If the Sensor operator wins, the pilot making the attempt is detected and a combat immediately ensues. Start this combat with the warpjacker 1 range band away.
Up next, a new, campaign-specific PC race.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Aliens as Player Character Options

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Eek!  It's a MEME!

X-PLORERS, as written, is a human centric game. There is no insight within the rules into the author's thinking about how players can use intelligent aliens to create characters. In fact, of the three intelligent alien species detailed in the rules there no information for using those species beyond being NPC opponents for the player characters (this count doesn't include the Greys, who got their own chapter [Chapter X] but are not available in the free version of the game). While Mr. Bezio did comment (final entry in the topic-chain) in the X-PLORERS Yahoo Group that he preferred the race, or in this case species, as class idea from earlier RPGs for aliens. Those of you who have read my other blog should be well aware that, for Fantasy roleplaying, I’m in agreement. Not so when playing science fiction games.

Surprised? The primary difference is the built-in conceit of most Fantasy roleplaying games that humans are the best of all races, so, it follows that other races are evaluated against humans. Race as class becomes about how humans perceive the other races, not how they are seen from their own perspective. Not so in the case of most science fiction. Human explorers in many science fiction works encounter species stronger and/or faster and/or more intelligent than themselves. So the mechanic that earlier fantasy RPGs relied upon is no longer valid. Additionally the restrictiveness of race as class is more keenly felt in a science fiction setting; if all Gygaxians are soldiers, how did they get into space for the other species to encounter them? For that matter how have they developed weapons beyond, say, chipped flint knives? That isn’t to say that every species must include every class, the peace-loving Harmonians well might not have any members of the Trooper class in their species. Just don’t expect them to put up a good fight when they’re invaded by the Fascistians!

So, species as class won’t cut it for a playable alien species.  Looks like I’m left to my own devices when it comes to creating intelligent alien characters. Lucky for me, far more creative-types have already addressed the problem.  The work of Mike D., Brutorz Bill and Eli A. have blazed that particular trail (part of why most of their blogs are also linked to, over on the right).  Mike D. turned out some alien species for a defunct project he called ‘Boarding Action,’ and Will and Eli borrowed what he’d done with the races to make their own.

Their approach springs more from the D20 school than the old-school as it uses racial adjustment of the character's attributes as a key feature, but I don't feel that this is incompatible with X-PLORERS given ascending armor classes are also used.  Restrictions and Bonuses are also used to further define a species.

As examples the following links take you to a couple of species created by Brutorz Bill and Eli, specifically the Gunkers and the Iskabob.  Both species are active in the Solterran Commonwealth and available as player characters in my campaign.  The links are followed by an alien species of my own, nothing ground breaking I assure you.




Image credit: Ryan Downing on

Arakelians are one of the oldest space-faring species active in the Milky Way galaxy and have seen the rise and fall of several more dominant species including the Lamians.  Arakelians are bright and engaging and spend much of their time in pursuit of music, dance and other artistic expressions.  They have great admiration for all objects of art as well as any beautifully crafted item regardless of its functionality; a well made weapon appeals to an Arakelian as much as any painting or sculpture.

To humans your typical adult Arakelian looks remarkably like an orangey-skinned twelve-year old child, in terms of height and build. Gender destinctions can be hard to make as male and female Arakelians are all, by human standards, 'beautiful' of facial features; adding to the confusion is the fact that both genders wear their hair long and braid parts or all of it and adorn themselves with jewelry, ribbons or feathers and such.  Other gender cues tend to be minimal, for example male Arakelians lack facial hair.

All Arakelians are able psionics and their abilty to see into the future seems to have had much to do with their success as a culture.  While all Arakelians are able conbatants and can learn any fighting-related skills none of them devote themselves to the arts or disciplines of war.  With their long lifespans, the oldest among them are almost two millenia old, Arakelians prefer to wait out most conflicts or if forced into violence seem to have a preternatural sense of how to inflict the most pain for the least amount of damage.

Arakelians may not advance as a Trooper and suffer a -1 adjustment to their dice rolls for hit points when generated and advancing levels.

Attribute Adjustments
Arakelians are somewhat frail and certainly not as strong as a typical human and so must take a -2 penalty to BRW.  They gain a +2 to CHR for their charming personalities and their grace of physical movement earns them a +1 to QKN.

All Arakelians have the psionic abilities of Telekinesis and Visions.

Example Names
Averoigneda, Hallani, Lothlori, Narnina, Tarabithia

An additional resource for player characters options is the Alien & Robot Class Design document available from Brave Halfling Publishing.

Up next, some insights into my campaign setting!

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