Sunday, November 28, 2021

FREIGHT RATES AND WHAT THEY MEAN FOR YOUR SETTING

 To go back to a favorite topic of mine, let's talk about what the implied freight rate says about your setting.  Hopefully by putting something that feels abstract and not particularly meaningful in very concrete terms this post can provide a good framework for thinking about how your setting works.  It definitely informs what is and isn't being shipped. 

Before we begin, a note about assumptions -- a Mothership credit is worth between $1 and $5 depending on a lot of things.  As in my previous posts on starship economics, I've settled on about $4 per credit based on a basket of PSG and APOF items and services that aren't likely to change much in value in a retrofuture setting.  Other baskets may get a lower value.  So there's a bit of an error bar when you connect this stuff to the numbers in the PSG.  Relatedly, I assume (with a very strong basis) that shipping costs roughly reflect energy costs.  The ability to light a fusion torch implies other things about the economy (like how expensive fuel is).  Whatever number you pick has implications elsewhere. 

Also, remember that your freight rates are only a potion of whatever something costs.  The size of that portion is extremely variable and rests on a lot of boring economics but the short answer is that if it's cheaper to pay exorbitant shipping rates than set up a widget factory at the destination the widget will be shipped.  Colonial economies probably have some really bizarre price distortions as a result.  For example, if shipping costs are high and substantially exceed other costs you won't see much difference between luxury foods and regular imported foods (anyone who can afford not to eat locally produced algae glop will be eating lobster, caviar, and fancy steaks).

And now, examples:

OUTRAGEOUSLY LOW

$0.01-0.10/kg: This is not Mothership.  This is not even the Culture or Orion's Arm.  If you're shipping things over interstellar distances at the equivalent of one hundredth of the price of US mail, you are dealing with something unlike any society we can conceive of.  In any event, such a society can and will ship anything it wants for really stupid reasons.

$0.10-1.00/kg: This is also a really extreme situation outside of the realm of most fiction.  10x less expensive than utterly preposterous is still preposterous.  There's really no comparing a society like this to real life and again with the amount of energy involved, this society is going to be post-scarcity.  At cents per kg a person will travel for the cost of a short haul airplane flight or a particularly pricey bus ride. 

VALUES YOU SHOULD ACTUALLY CONSIDER:

$1-$10/kg: This captures a lot of campy soft science fiction settings (and is within the range of postage rates).  If ships are small and cheap (closer to IRL trucks or boats in cost), you may see something like Star Wars.  If ships are large and expensive but shipping is cheap, you'll see something like Warhammer 40k.  Regardless, a passenger ticket will cost between $250 (250kg at $1/kg) and $5,000 (500kg at $10/kg).  The higher end of this category is probably the minimum rate that makes sense in Mothership.  You're making a choice not to to extrapolate a lot of complicated consequences but if you own that or find a way around it you're set.  Regardless, at this price, certain things simply won't ship (bulk goods like grain, iron, aluminum, etc.).  Large scale colonization is very viable and large numbers of people can be moved.  Moving a person and ten tons of stuff only costs $100,000.  

$10-100/kg: This is probably your setting! Most people probably fall on the lower end.  I fall on the higher end.  Regardless, bulk goods will not ship at this price.  Colonization will be viable but nontrivial -- but within the range supported by an indenture contract (or if you're a rich eccentric).  Even at the very high end, manufactured goods like guns, drugs, electronics, and complex machinery will definitely be shipped.  On smaller colonies there will be a serious shortage of nonessential heavy machinery (cars, etc.).  A truck will get shipped if it's necessary but the markup will be brutal (people do pay brutal markups for cars though -- just look at Singapore).  Most non-luxury food won't ship (hope you like algae goop!).  This is also the highest price you can plausibly get while having space truckers. Anything higher and you'll see commercial crews that look more like real-life 21st century astronauts.  Why?  Because crew weigh something.  And when payroll expenses are less than cost per kilogram you will prefer elite crews because they're more cost effective.  At most, passenger tickets will cost $25,000 to $50,000 (less if you skimp on weight).  Business travel is feasible at these prices (barely) but most people won't leave the planet they're born on except once as a colonist. Corps may prefer thin employees to save on expenses and the pre-flight scale will be as significant as the one before a boxing match.  I'll expand on this category in a follow-up post.

$100-1000/kg: This is the outer bound of settings in Mothership.  A colonist and the things needed to start up a colony will cost as much as $10,000,000.  If you cut weight aggressively the price goes down to something affordable in exchange for greater risk of colony failure and very perilous setups.  Most goods won't move at all but small colonies will pay obscene markups for essentials (or revert to barbarism).  For what it's worth, it costs about $1,400/kg to launch something on a Falcon Heavy.  You won't see much trade and colonies will probably require heavy subsidies.

VALUES THAT ARE PROBABLY TOO HIGH:

$1000-10000/kg: This is comparable to the cost to launch something into orbit.  If you're a human, you'd better be worth spending two to five million dollars on.  Change "Teamster" to "Payload Specialist."  This isn't entirely outside the realm of playability.  With very rich sponsors or very strong pulls, there is stuff that can profitably be traded at this price.  Avatar is the easiest fictional example, but all sorts of exotic drugs (or better yet, just the knowledge of them).  Valuable data will also ship (because a jar of SD cards is very cheap).  Certain very expensive foods ship too!  Saffron costs $10,000/kg and a further 50% markup is not out of the question.  While the ability to engage in large scale space travel probably means that metal prices are a lot lower than real life if they aren't for some highly unlikely reason, gold and other similarly rare metals are worth moving at this price.  

$10000-$100000: Certain very, very unusual cases might support trade.  But this is probably the outer bound for any kind of interstellar exploration.  If somebody has a magical antimatter well, trade makes sense.  Likewise, exotic biologics and scientific data may be profitable (but better to send back the information).   Cynical corporations may prefer to strand people (in the name of science!).  Return shipping probably isn't worth it.

 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

TEN THOUSAND EMPTY TOMBS: HOMINIDS

 This post should be equally combatable with Mothership and GLOG -- there's not much numerical content.

And also, a brief but important disclaimer about race/species in science fiction and fantasy.  It's a touchy issue and rightly so.  It's also an issue that's tightly wound up in actual play culture and the implied fiction of different games (e.g. whether your characters are presumed to be exceptional or drawn from a random cross section).  This is not a post discussing any those things (but I'm always receptive to sensitivity concerns).  

Each group of people in TTET gets a letter in the Phoenician alphabet as a name -- because they are distributed between more than a dozen planets and moons and thousands of habitats that have in many cases developed in cultural isolation for hundreds or thousands of years it's impossible to find a demonym everybody would agree on.  This also isn't a post about culture -- there are too many cultures to describe.


- ALEP
Small, dark and very radiation tolerant, hairless, make their own vitamin C, ear canal adapted to centrifugal gravity. Bonus on saves against radiation hazards.

One of the most common groups of hominids and one that has for various reasons (mostly luck and geography) wielded outsized influence over the past millennium and into the present day.  The polity that became the Monument Builder Empire was  as are the Philosopher Kings and many of the Great Merchant Houses.  

- BET
Pale, webbed hands and feet, short but thick oily body hair suited for extended periods in the water, very strong lungs, strong preference for carnivory. Can hold breath for around 10 minutes and swim as long as you can walk. 

Another common group of hominids (and the most common down a gravity well) -- many paraterraformed moons in the system are covered entirely in shallow oceans with floating Gardener megastructures, volcanic islands, or reefs providing habitable surface area.  Before the Monument Builders, there is evidence of an ancient spacefaring empire that spread  from a single world of origin.  

- GIML
Tall, long-limbed, and lightly built.  Full range of hair and skin tones found in homo sapiens.  Adapted to very low gravity.  Constant bone density -- no adverse effects from extended time microgravity.  Very good at climbing, leaping, and maneuvering in microgravity.  Can't run for extended periods.

Origin traced to a single large de-spun rotating habitat but contact with the Monument Builders spread  to many smaller habitats in the Low Belt.   makes up a plurality of the peoples of the Great Merchant Houses.  Behaviorally very similar to  (and homo sapiens).

- DALET
Heavyset and very large (100-150+kg), strong but not a great long-distance walker compared to homo sapiens.  Full range of hair and skin tones found in homo sapiens.  Strong preference for herbivory, many behavioral adaptations favoring larger group cooperation (for better and worse).  Reroll strength and take highest.  You will likely live to 100 with modern medicine.  Can't run for extended periods.

Adapted to agrarian life on an evolutionarily significant time scale (there have been uncountably many hominid civilizations and their evolutionary influence is substantial),  Widely distributed in many different habitats.   differs from most hominids psychologically; better at coordinating in slightly larger groups with less in-group violence and more out-group violence.  Disposed to very hierarchical social groups (like many nonhuman primates)

- HE
Long white (or rarely blond or light brown) body hair traps heat; blue-black skin; adapted for incredibly thin atmospheres and extreme temperatures.  Can breathe at altitude without supplemental oxygen.  Body hair as heavy winter clothing.  May experience respiratory issues in high oxygen environments.  You can jog like other hominids walk and run like other hominids jog.

A rare group of hominids confined to two moons and a handful of habitats.  Can survive in borderline Martian conditions.  Many miscellaneous health problems as a result of very extreme specialization.  Behaviorally similar to  (and homo sapiens) but extreme environments often lead to extreme cultures. 

- WAW
Solitary, highly intelligent, obligate carnivores.  Short, coarse grey or black body hair with powerful jaws, strong limbs, and excellent eyesight.  You can see in moonlight as well as a typical hominid sees in daylight and your unarmed attacks are effective as weapons. Reroll intellect. Your ability to process complex social situations is limited but you assess body language well.

Like Neanderthals, originally sophisticated ambush hunters.  To the extent general intelligence exists as a measurable thing  are substantially smarter than most other hominids.  Psychologically adapted to life in smaller family groups but that has not stopped spacefaring technological societies from cropping up (though more rarely than some varieties of hominid).  




 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

TEN THOUSAND EMPTY TOMBS: VARIANT ZOUAVE (OR JUST SETTING BUILDING)

 It's been a long, bloody revolution -- a century of bloodletting -- and back in your day you've seen it all.  Now, for whatever reason, you've picked up a dusty weapon and strapped the old plate carrier on again.  There are no rebels now; they're just the government.  Kids who were born after the War are soldiers now and people are already forgetting.      

This is a set of variant Zouave backgrounds and kit.  Use it with the other Zouave features except the B template probably needs some work to fit in a modern setting (no duels here).  But you were a badass revolutionary and people do take you more seriously as a result.


TALL TALES

Back in the day you:
  1. Defeated an Imperial exomarine in single combat (half true): One servo was broken and he didn't have a gun.  But you caught him under the arm with a compressed gas knife while you got pummeled by a mechanical fist.  You get +4 to hit with light weapons while you are being grappled.
  2. Fought alongside Old Man Rat in the siege of Face 54-K01 (true): The worst campaign in a century long war.  You met the legendary rebel in his later days -- still fighting at the front. Hand-to-hand fighting in tunnels barely big enough to wriggle through.  1-in-6 chance you can't sleep through the night without pharmaceutical assistance.  But you are at home below the ground and can spot most spelological hazards and avoid them.  You are also totally unafraid of claustrophobic spaces and can fight effectively in implausibly tight quarters. 
  3. Stormed the Governor General's palace (and obliterated his gold-plated toilet) (true): You're really good at looting.  It takes you half as long to search rooms and you can appraise most mundane loot to a reasonable degree of accuracy. 
  4. Lost in the mountains in the Plateau War (true): Stranded with just one tank of supplemental oxygen, you managed to scavenge what you needed to survive for several weeks until the seasonal storms receded.  +4 on saves against environmental hazards.  You're harder to trip than a mountain goat. 
  5. Hot drop with a defective heat shield (half true): The shield only gave out at Mach 3. It was still a really bad time.  You're that person who takes the controls in any aerospace disaster.  Doesn't matter that you aren't a pilot.  You'll land safely (but maybe not intact).
  6. Survived a gas attack (true): You can don armor 10x quicker and can sleep well enough in a pressure suit or heavy armor.   
  7. Stranded at sea in the Long Campaign (false):  You were stranded for a few hours but you managed to fix the life raft's electric motor and spent a good few months on a very nice tropical island.  The psychological effects of isolation don't bother you much and you're unsettlingly lucky when living off the land.
  8. Tutored by a Reborn Sister (true): You are totally unafraid of death.  Not suicidal.  But willing to consider acts of heroism sane people would not.  You also have +4 on saves against fear.
  9. Took an Imperial tank on a joyride (true):  You can steal any ground vehicle or crude aerospace craft with the stuff in your pockets and operate it well enough to cause some problems. 
  10. Survived a suborbital exfiltration after the battle of the Red Mare (true): Being caught in midair by a spaceship is nerve-wracking.  There's only one shot and if they missed you'd have tumbled down to the surface and left a big red crater.  Your sense of timing is impeccable.  If you need to do something at the same time as someone else, you always do.  You are also very good at judging distance and can make ranged attacks against very fast targets with no penalty.

KIT:

A souvenir from your past:
  1.  An exotic power cell made of tightly-wound Gardener superconductors.  With a day's work you can configure it for use with a single portable energy weapon.  Twenty times the capacity of a regular high performance battery (no other mechanical changes).  If it explodes everything nearby will have a very bad day.
  2. Precious fullerene cable.  100m of rope in a container the size of a large cigarette lighter (dangerously sharp but with proper protective equipment that you don't have you can do stupid things like rappel with it).
  3. Gardener repair hive -- A porous spongelike structure made of durable ceramic the size of a fist.. Restore all your HP once per month.  1 in 6 chance you will be killed or turned into an uncontrollable Meat Horror (player's choice).  The latter effect is what it was used for in the Revolution. There is a further 1 in 20 chance that you retain enough of your mind to control the Meat Horror. 
  4. Monowire sword -- very fragile (likely to break if used against armored targets) but incredibly sharp.  Retractable and fits in a compact package).  It's still possible to get new blades for these but very difficult and expensive.
  5. Lucky boarding axe.  Reroll any critical fumbles.
  6. Imperial signet key -- this opens all sorts of weird stuff (you're not sure what -- try it on everything!). 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

TEN THOUSAND EMPTY TOMBS REVISED: ANSWERS TO 10+20 SETTING QUESTIONS

Archon's Court and Throne of Salt have laid out a very useful resource for building setting efficiently.  Instead of item lists, here are the answers to for the current iteration of Ten Thousand Empty Tombs, a hard SF Mothership (or GLOG) setting in which humans live among the detritus of a vanished Kardashev Type II civilization and the shadow of other human civilizations that have risen and fallen in the distant past.  The media list is as wide-ranging as it is predictable (Diaspora, Known Space (and especially Ringworld and Protector), K6BD, Cowboy Bebop, Planetes, and many, many old-timey SF classics as well as elements shamelessly transplanted from my Default Implied Mothership Setting and placed into new and strange cultural contexts.



0. What do PCs do?
Crimes, exploration, and archaeology with extreme prejudice. In a very geopolitically complicated world filled with old ruins and Really Old ruins, there's a place for people willing to dig into old habitats sealed for millennia or even just collecting relics from the collapse of the Monument Builder Empire (toppled after well over a century of brutal wars).

1. What's the setting's scale?
One big star system with an unreasonably thick accretion disk and many, many medium-sized bodies.  Multiple ~Mars-sized worlds terraformed or parateraformed by the Gardeners. Many mega-scale habitats.  Two large, asteroid belts filled with secrets, hidden habitats sealed for hundreds of thousands of years, and crazy belters.  Everything interesting can be reached in days to months by tether-assisted chemical or nuclear-thermal propulsion.

2. What level of tech will PCs generally have?
Smartphones, guns, and really good batteries.  Some characters may be human brains transplanted into chimeras made using of Gardener high-energy carbon life and regular terrestrial Meat with the scary Gardener bodyjacking war machine bits lobotomized.  (Useful) lasers, room temperature superconductors and Really Weird medical technology are available but probably too expensive for PCs.

3. What's the highest level of technology?
For humans, brain transplants into a Meat Horror, cybernetics (difficult, experimental), and bulk fullerene production. Whispers of human-to-human brain transplants and extreme cybernetic enhancement. Gardener technology is built around bespoke biochemistries, extremely advanced wet nanotech, and continent-sized megastructures. 

4. Are there any psychic abilities, superpowers, etc.?
A Meat Horror might be regarded as superhuman but their powers ultimately stem from being big, durable, made from sturdier materials than humans, and a very high-energy hydrocarbon biochemistry.

5. How do I improve my character?
Life experience (to a point).  Or irrevocably abandon your human form and share a consciousness with a posthuman horror that eats plastic and drinks kerosene. 

6. What's the most important faction in the area?
The largest extant polities are the Philosopher Kings who are Very Hard theocrats with a Very Okay human rights record who fought a century long rebellion in the dark places beneath the surface of many large cylinders and were (and still are) instrumental in stamping out imperial remnants and the Great Merchant Houses who are powerful belt mining concerns that sprung up after the Empire's stranglehold on metal extraction was broken.  But these groups usually maintain an effective monopoly of force.  Characters exist where state power is weakest. Other large polities are planetside and not as interesting.  

7. Where can I get normal equipment?
Any wholesaler or on the black market if permits are an issue.  Nobody wants for guns.  

8. Where can I get illegal / dangerous equipment?
Really dangerous equipment and Gardener technology is only available through powerful groups (states, large organized crime groups, very powerful businesses).  Or you can find some yourself.

9. How do I heal myself?
At the hospital.  Cloned organs and grafts are common.  Cybernetics are very rare and very expensive.  Risky Gardener technology is available illegally but might overwrite your brain, hijack your body, and turn you into the Alien.  

10. What miracles (clear deviations from what is possible in reality) exist in the setting?
None.  Even the scariest Gardener technology abides by the physical laws of the universe and -- as K2 technology goes -- it is pretty comprehensible to humans.

11. How do people get from A to B? What is it like in terms of speed, scope, accessibility?
By public transit in a hab (accessible, about as fast as a regular bus). By chemical-fueled spacecraft accelerated by tethers between habs and worlds (about as expensive as a first-class plane ticket on a long-distance flight, takes between days and months depending on the destination).  

12. Where do people live, in general?
A substantial majority live in large cylinder habitats left by the Gardeners. Most of the rest live on terraformed or paraterraformed planets.  A small proportion (mostly working professionals and the people who support them) live in smaller habitats, asteroids, or aboard spacecraft.  

13. What is the average quality of life like?
Variable -- the Monument Builders maintained control over habitat-bound populations by restricting space travel and controlling metal extraction; leaving most of their subject in medieval conditions.  Hab-bound populations consume much less than somebody in a wealthy IRL industrialized nation but conditions range from agrarian paradises to tyrannical social control through rationing and measures that would be familiar to the Monument Builders. Planet-bound cultures have lifestyles within the range of terrestrial people but tend to be slightly richer in terms of consumption, are more insular, and lack many of the most extreme social organizations made possible (or required) by the idiosyncrasies of life in a megastructure. 

14. What are the points of conflict in this society?
What to do about the incredibly persistent imperial remnants.  How to equitably distribute metals, radioactives, and other essential stuff.  Who gets to boss who around in space.  How to maintain fragile closed ecological systems and also not be absolutely terrible. . . .

15. What are some commonplace technologies players will interact with?
Mostly similar to the modern world but you're more likely to see common, affordable space technologies and can expect somewhat better medical care if you have the means.  Weirder stuff is always looming in the background but it's not commonplace

16. What's something that technology has fucked up?
Biotechnology was the only way to resist an empire that controlled access to metal, computers, and radioactive.  Things are getting weird fast and society can't keep up.  

17. What's something that technology has fixed?
Extractive industries no longer blight planets and habs.  All that stuff happens in space; there are no hideously toxic mines and refineries and the people doing the mining are generally skilled, professional, and have decent working conditions.  

18. What are the most valuable goods and resources?
The Gardeners' biological waste and leftover creations.  Exotic materials like room temperature superconductors and degenerate matter composites.

19. What are the most valued personal beliefs?
Highly variable.  Humanity is even bigger and more diverse here than on Earth and it's impossible to generalize.

20. What goods / behaviors / beliefs are banned?
Traffic in Gardener technology, garden variety crime, etc.  Imperial sympathizers can expect to be criminally sanctioned among the Great Merchant Houses even in the absence of any subversive activity.  They can expect to be executed after a very thorough trial by the Philosopher Kings (if you kept unearthing secret Nazi moon bases a century after WWII you'd be pretty pissed too).  

21. Who enforces the structures of power?
Mostly state actors. Even just and equitable space-based polities demand very high levels of social control and humans inevitably chafe under such restrictions.  

22. Can PCs own a ship normally, or will they have to steal one?
Yes.  But it'd be a pretty shitty ship.  If it's provided by an employer or the PCs are very rich it'll be slightly less shitty. People with the resources of a PC can't even operate a non-shitty ship.  Because travel requires constant contact with civilization through tethers and refueling stations stealing ships is impossible.

23. Does alien life exist? What's its scope? Microbial? Rare, common, exotic? Sapient?
The Gardeners and their creations.  Various alien ecologies.  The system's binary companion orbiting at about 300 AU has alien life (the White-Feathered Species).  Humanity hasn't managed to collect enough nuclear warheads to get a ship there to say hello in person.  The dominant polities of the WFS have just developed the radio and seem curious about their strange (but rather violent neighbors).  

24. Can AI be made or become conscious?
Making computers too complex seems to annoy the Gardeners (or whatever they left behind).  AI research and even excessively powerful computers have had a number of carefully covered-up incidents.      

25. Is it possible to digitize and upload a mind?
If you can build a powerful enough computer without being killed, yes.  It's possible to transplant a brain into a Meat Horror (which is pretty easy because the Meat Horror connects all the little bits for you).  There are whispers of human-to-human brain transplants (which would be quite hard because they involves manually connecting lots of nerves) and would also require growing an anencephalic clone (not hard but very slow) or scooping out somebody else's brain.  Surely massive collections of people kept in medieval conditions would never be used as some rich bastard's second body.

26. Who counts as a person?
  • Anybody with a human brain unless you're a real shitbag. 
  • Humanity is a pretty big tent with many different human-descended hominids (that all get the label "human").  There are some genuinely hard cases with apes and their relatives and hominids that are smarter than apes but not as smart as a human (all major post-Imperial polities protect the rights of these species in theory but may not recognize them as full legal persons).  
  • Meat Horrors are usually regarded as monstrous people (they have a human brain, after all) but the chimera's own mind is usually not regarded as a person (there is some debate here and reasonable minds differ).  
  • The intelligent aliens hanging out around the system's distant binary red dwarf are also people by most peoples' definitions (again, unless you're a real shitbag). 
  • The Gardeners are not "people" in any meaningful sense and probably don't even have a concept of personhood.      
27. Who is this future for? Who survived, who benefits?
The future is for the states and groups that were able to pick up the pieces after the fall of the Monument Builders.  While most people benefit to some degree from not living under a truly horrific regime, some benefit a lot more than others.  Anyone with the influence to maintain complicated space-based infrastructure is a winner.  Large space-based powers are on the rise, enforcing their will with proxy wars and orbital bombardments.  

28. Who has been excluded? Who suffers, who is exploited?
Downwell populations that did fairly well under the Empire are disintegrating and unrest is on the rise in once-powerful states.  Terrible polities and rogue states that weren't affiliated with the Empire persist; but even peasants trapped in an artificial system of desperate rural poverty are technically doing better -- they just aren't doing well and the exploitation continues.  Increased commercialization and deregulated trade also brings its own set of problems.  Refugees and displaced populations are also still integrating -- the century-long conflict has resulted in tremendous movements of people. 

29. What's the overall tone like?
Optimistic but anxious.  It's a new world.  Freer.  Full of strange new technologies and opportunities.  But under the specter of great power conflict and a coalescing new order that might one day rival the Monument Builders. Also, full of gaps.  In the absence of a brutal, totalitarian super-state that ruled by restricting access to the resources and technology necessary for modern life there are many gaps left unfilled.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

GLOG: MOTHERSHIP INSPIRED CLASSES (PART I)

THE DOORKICKER AND THE TEAMSTER: (IF I CAN CONVERT GLOG TO MOTHERSHIP I CAN CONVERT MOTHERSHIP TO GLOG)

That's right. You heard me.  Add a 4-template overlay to Mothership's excellent mechanical tools and panic system and make character advancement super weird.  It's your life.  But right now, these are GLOG classes for GLOG.  There are some minor tweaks you'd need to make to import them (different stats etc.).  


Pictured: A Teamster

TEAMSTER

Tradie’s tools (one set of your choice), sturdy workwear, a very large caffeinated beverage, multitool

+1 Save at A & C, + 1 HP at B &D

A: The Yoonyuhn, I Get Knocked Down . . .  

B: Lucky, Rush Job

C: Improvised Equipment

D: Working-Class Hero, Seniority

The Yoounyuhn: It doesn’t matter where you go (or whether you’re in an actual union) – you’ll find some amount of blue collar solidarity even when you don’t share a common language or culture.  At the very least, other blue collar workers will hear you out before picking a fight. Where appropriate, add +2 to reaction rolls.  You can usually figure out who you need to bribe, impress, or bully to get what you need (either within your social strata or related to your work).

I Get Knocked Down . . . : A number of times per day equal to your charisma bonus, you can halve all incoming damage.   

Lucky: You may reroll one d20 per day.

Rush Job: You can jury rig a fix to a problem that would take most people hours in minutes given a full set of tools and somebody to pass you a wrench and hold the flashlight.  There’s a 1-in-6 chance this fix will make things worse in a few hours or days.  It’ll hold for now though. 

Improvised Equipment: You can use most tools as reasonably effective weapons (GM discretion but usually at least an improvement of one dice type) and can treat a small toolbox and a roll of duct tape as a specialist’s toolkit.

Working Class Hero: You’ve done something notable enough that your peers have heard of you; led a strike, outrun a famous pirate in a beat-up chemfuel skiff, got really, really drunk and became a legend among a feared organized crime group known only as “The Machine.”  Roll on the Zouave tall tale table of your choice but explain why you got the perk you got yourself. 

Seniority: You have an apprentice (a 1-HD teamster; enthusiastic, not usually willing to do anything really dangerous); an influential role in an organized labor group (you know a lot of people and can get in touch with Management if needed); or a supervisory role (you draw a good paycheck and can retire comfortably from the adventuring life as a building inspector, consultant, or some other fairly respectable job that doesn’t involve backbreaking manual labor and serious danger.




Pictured: a Doorkicker

DOORKICKER:

A: Dynamic Entry, CQC

B: Check Your Corners

C: Bum Rush

D: Young Man Do You Have a Girlfriend?

 

Dynamic Entry: Your attacks against inanimate objects always deal maximum damage and you may immediately move or make an attack when you kick in a door, blow through a wall, or drop through the ceiling.

CQC: You don’t suffer any penalties from using firearms against adjacent targets and firearm attacks from adjacent targets are made disadvantage (or a -4 penalty as appropriate).   

Check Your Corners: You cannot be surprised or caught unaware in any dense, complicated environment (forests, spacecraft, caves, buildings, etc.). One other player or NPC you designate as your buddy gets the benefit of this ability too.  Designating a buddy takes a few minutes of strategizing and a good pep talk.

Bum Rush: Charging down a corridor at people who are shooting at you is something you do with alarming regularity. You’re pretty good at it.  While charging, you gain +2 AC against anybody you are moving roughly towards.  You’re a lot faster than people expect.

Young Man Do You Have a Girlfriend?: Once per day when you make a dynamic entry you may force all enemies to immediately make a Morale roll.  A number of times per day equal to the absolute value of your CHA bonus (minimum 1) you may force a single enemy to reroll their morale check. So long as you are armed, people will take your threats very seriously.


Friday, November 19, 2021

MORE 13-ITEM WORLDBUILDING

 It's inevitable at this point.  Writing locations is slow going.  Writing factions slower still.  How to make those things punchy, engaging, and playable is actually pretty damn hard.  I'm not one for the setting book approach.  Know what is punchy and engaging? LISTS! 


[HONEST GHOST] (Sleeve as Class):

Not a Nun on the Run.  Just too weird for the cloister.  Belongs to one of the Sisterhood's mendicant orders; where all the useful eccentrics ultimately end up.    

  1. Traditional robes; titanium dioxide-white with a full face covering.  [HONEST GHOST] has relearned a human gait and under the robe can pass as a human Mendicant Sister as long as she does not speak or move too quickly.  
  2. A favorite brass parable tablet carved with raised lettering, smooth from wear. ("Return to the city, find the dealer of slaves, and buy him. He is all you need.")
  3. Hand-carved alms bowl (rarely used).
  4. Sturdy clay cylinder-book; inside is hollowed out and stuffed with fabric and dice. Written in a private cipher (lots of time to invent imaginary languages if meditation isn't your speed); contains simple rules for a TTRPG-adjacent game which she taught to her Little Sisters before her de facto exile.
  5. Fossil of an alien sea creature cut from the wall of her tomb/cell (trilateral radial symmetry with three long rear tentacles and three short fore tentacles -- a small, fast predator in its day).
  6. A legendary [DREAD HEART KNIFE] in a compact, utilitarian scabbard.  Easily concealed beneath heavy robes.  She always took to swordplay better than doctrine.
  7. Funerary implements; washing basin, cloths, incense, and everything else required to send the spirit on its way in peace.  
  8. A credit stick linked to a personal bank account; she gets funny looks when paying for things with it instead of token money from the alms bowl.          
  9. Bricks of paraffin wax flavored with various plant resins, turpentine, and salts of hydrogen cyanide.  Essential trace metals mixed in in powdered form.    
  10. Carbon supplements (bought from a specialty store with bright packaging); essential for any sleeve engaged in a regular life of violence; essentially just packets of charcoal dust to be mixed in with water or tea.
  11. Cellular phone; also gets funny looks when using it.
  12. Train tickets to the Great Southern Hall.
  13. Cheap wheeled suitcase bought from a local news agent -- it really sells the human disguise. Nobody walks normally when pulling a wheelie bag. 


NUUL (Scientist):

An eccentric treasure hunter.  Formally educated and book smart but black bag jobs are a new experience for him.  

  1. Keys to a pressurized rover parked in a garage on the surface a thousand miles away.  Bought sight-unseen three days ago.
  2. Hand-drawn map on pulp paper using craters as reference points.  Designed to obfuscate the area it references.
  3. Firearms permit (doesn't own a weapon).
  4. Insulated suit (folded) and supplemental oxygen tank (unfilled) in a heavy duffel bag.  For expeditions to the surface.
  5. Pickled wall-ear mushroom salad and grilled shrimp in a takeout box (half-eaten).  Receipt still taped to the top of the box.
  6. Keys to a large train station locker.
  7. Three fake IDs and enough token money to buy a run-down house in a sturdy plastic briefcase (biometric locked).
  8. Burner phone (not connected to a network).  Several preinstalled casual games and the music app are currently open.
  9. Very expensive wired headphones. 
  10. Schlocky romance paperbacks bought from a train station bookstore.
  11. Academic's diploma-talisman (archaeology).
  12. Letter to parents on The Long Plain with a prepaid shipping label (first class space mail).
  13. Mistcoat -- the terraformed subterranean chambers are always damp and often rainy.  For someone used to The Long Plain's arid topside weather, this is a major adjustment. 


YENENKLEE (Teamster):

Forty years experience with odd jobs and petty crime.  Heard of the dig site through underworld contacts and they found some people.  

  1. Well-used stun baton; expensive spacer's model.  It's seen dozens of barfights and back-alley brawls and hasn't failed its owner yet.
  2. Homemade stuffed mushrooms -- itinerant criminal or not, it's always important to have homemade food.  This was grandad's recipe.  He was a real bastard but definitely knew how to cook.
  3. Resistance band set -- important for any spacer who wants to stay in shape.
  4. Military-style frameless pack; mostly filled with warm, comfortable clothes.
  5. Portable shortwave radio -- powerful enough to talk to a spacecraft in low orbit.  No permit for it.
  6. Large plastic bottle of beer from a spaceport pre-weigh shop.  Made in the style of the Great Merchant Houses by a local producer.  A poor imitation.
  7. Tickets to an underground music venue (punched, somebody's phone number scrawled on the back) with loud, controversial music blamed for corrupting the youth, cheap alcohol, and overpriced drugs.  The hangover was worth it.
  8. Patch: belter clan emblem. 
  9. Folding multitool designed for use in a space suit's gloves; well-cared for and expensive.
  10. Wallet containing local cermet token money (enough to buy a few stiff drinks and a long-distance train ticket).
  11. Mildly psychoactive tea and an elaborately decorated electric micro-kettle and small silver cups.  Another custom from home.
  12. Utility knife, extremely thin but sturdy fullerene cable and a firestarter in a small compartment in the handle. 
  13. Blood pressure medication (expired for one year but still seems to work just fine). 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

GLOG CLASS: THE REBORN

A class GLOGifying your favorite meat horror nuns/Jedi death squad operators.  Totally usable in a fantasy game (probably undead instead of a meat horror)


Reborn (Militant Sister)
We shall call it `war'. We shall confine it to the realms of death.

Thin Men, Chimneysweeps, The Plumbers.  That is what outsiders call you.  Ritually killed and reborn in a combat sleeve, you are part of a secretive order of warrior-nuns in service to the Philosopher Kings.  You preside over funerals of both the greatest and least in society, minister to dying pilgrims, and cut down the enemies of the faith from the shadows.  Some former Sisters have forsaken their calling and can be found in more conventional military and intelligence careers.  A very rare few have struck out on their own; hunted by their former sisters.

Race: Sleeve (stalker)
Starting Equipment: White Robes, Prayer Tablet, Mortician's Tools, Incense 

Gain 1 HP per template 

A: Living Weapon, At Home In The Grave
B: Gone Without Fear and Returned
C: Let There Be Darkness in the World
D: [Dread Heart Knife]

Living Weapon: Your sleeve's natural weapons count as medium weapons (instead of light weapons); while you have both hands free, they count as a two-handed weapon.

At Home In The Grave: You can enter a meditative trance which allows you to survive in vacuum, extreme heat, or extreme cold for [TEMPLATE] weeks.  You do not require your sense of sight to fight effectively in combat.

Gone Without Fear and Returned: Death and pain means nothing to you.  You are already dead.  You are immune to all fear effects.  Your experience ministering to the dying and tending to the dead gives allies +2 on fear and morale rolls.  Your bedside manner is very good for a Meat Horror.  

Let There Be Darkness in the World: You may always choose to kill quickly, painlessly, and silently.  Attacks made against targets that are not aware of you are always critical hits.

[Dread Heart Knife]:  You have been entrusted with a legendary blade; the symbol of the militant orders.  The [Dread Heart Knife] is a nanometer thin spike of degenerate matter composite; the blade is invisible yet very heavy and can punch through most solid surfaces.  It is a medium weapon and ignores all armor.  The blade is virtually indestructible (but if the handle is destroyed you may struggle to locate the blade). 






Sunday, November 14, 2021

WE'RE FROM THE POST OFFICE: A THOUGHT, A CAMPAIGN, SOME EXAMPLE LOADOUTS/PREGENS

 This post is also dedicated to persecuting Sigmacastell.

Imagine, if you will, a situation in which the interstellar flow of commerce, information, people, military power, and yes, the actual mail all travelled using the same infrastructure.  In Mothership's default setting, they do.  While MoSh's neoliberal hellscape is dominated by corporations and essential and non-essential services are probably broken up and handled inefficiently but very profitably.


Child sent by U.S. Mail ca. ~1913.

But any multi-system state actor that's still alive and kicking is going to nationalize their mail service.  It's just too important not to and far too dangerous to outsource.  Because it's also the internet, full of private government information.  Also, scale efficiencies that come with consolidation of different aspects of space shipping are a big deal.  A megacorp can't necessarily subsidize freight and passenger service with communications, national defense, law enforcement and other essential internal business unless they're as large as a multi-system state (then they're just another shitty, especially kleptocratic government pretending to be a corporation).   

To that end, a campaign idea: you are employees of the Post Office (or perhaps postal inspectors).  It's a good union job in an age when those are really rare.  You don't own your own ship (but your players shouldn't own their ship anyway) and you don't have unlimited freedom to go wherever.  But if you have a shipment for an obscure asteroid mining colony plagued by a goo monster or get waylaid in Prospero's Dream, that's just how it goes.

A better campaign ideas: you're postal inspectors; work for the Postal Inspection Service; handle criminal matters from wire fraud and identity theft (do you know how many crimes MONARCH commits) to piracy (plenty of adventures about that too!).  

When ships keep vanishing mid-jump somebody has to sort it out.  It's you.  It's always you.  You're heavily armed, unionized, and you will not fucking be taken out of this world by the Gaunt without using up all of your PTO (or, for that matter, by moon cannibals who commit serial mail theft).  


3 EXAMPLE CHARACTER LOADOUTS/PREGEN TEMPLATES:

DIAMANT:  Android
"OPEN UP! WE HAVE A WARRANT"
  • Patch: Notary's Insignia 
  • Trinket: A Really Nice Pen (vacuum-rated)
  • PIS badge
  • Revolver (2 reloads). 
  • SMG (2 reloads)
  • Zip Ties
  • Stun Baton
  • Hard copy edition of Post Office regulations and pocket copy of common mail-related criminal offenses
  • Authorization to issue search and wiretap warrants on the spot (programmed to be objective, respect due process norms; issuing a warrant generally requires probable cause).
  • Turner Model 4 portable tape computer with universal adapter kit. 
  • Barcode reader
  • Battledress.

GERALD DI MAGGIO:  Chimera (sleeve-as-class variant)
"One more year and I'll retire with a full pension."
  • Patch: "Pirata est hosti humani generis.
  • Trinket: Divorce Papers.
  • Combat Shotgun (2 reloads, safety flechettes).
  • Stun Grenades (6x).
  • PIS Pattern III boarding tomahawk.
  • Several gallons of Old Man Isham Black Label in a plastic pouches (he can't get drunk anymore but sleeves run on hydrocarbons and his sleeve likes the oak tannins).
  • Beat-up mailbag and the keys to the postal van he drove as an 18-year-old kid.

VIRGINIA MALIK: Teamster
"You're never too old to use the checklist, pal.  Occupational health and safety is serious business."
  • Patch: Long Service Award
  • Trinket: Mandatory biannual pilot certification and continuing education study guide. 
  • Revolver (4 reloads).
  • Electrical toolkit.
  • Riot Shield. 
  • Foam Gun.
  • Black Pear Tree menthol cigarettes and commemorative electric safety lighter (Navy). 
  • Vac Suit.
  • Control codes to the ship.

Friday, November 12, 2021

SHORT FICTION! SLEEVES! INVENTORY WORLDBUILDING!

This wide-ranging post has been assembled specifically to persecute Sigmacastell.  It's a synthesis of several different things including an embryonic setting riffing off my Ten Thousand Empty Tombs post but refined and with more Meat Horrors (tm).  It also includes a new combat sleeve, musings on a game set in the shadow of a Kardashev Type II civilization with no FTL, special forces as warrior societies/cults a la the Sardukar, and inventory worldbuilding.  Think of this as a very focused slush pile post.

Scripture is adapted from and/or inspired by @gods_txt, a GPT-2 religious text generator.


THE INITIATE

"AT THE HOUR OF YOUR DEATH, ATTEND!   ATTEND AND LET THERE BE DARKNESS IN THE WORLD."

The Body Of Tiba stood barefoot on baking sand under the agonizing light of the sun that had killed it.   Brittle bones and knees gnarled like the branches of a desert tree stood at attention.  Taller than she remembered but tiny before the long-fingered figures arrayed in a circle before her.  Brilliant white robes caught the sun.  A single soot-black blade against the brilliant white. 

"LET IT BE EVERLASTING DARKNESS."

"Kneel," the voice behind her whispered.  The Body Of Tiba stumbled as it lowered itself to the ground, steadying itself with a hand.  At last, rest.

"LET IT BE THE ANGUISH OF THE WEAK."

The one with the knife took a single long stride forward. Sinuous muscle and a wedge-shaped head under the brilliant cowl.  Pale under the blazing light.  Razor teeth like a creature of the deep sea.  Only the eyes betrayed a flicker of humanity.  Solemn.  Indifferent.  Almost contemplative.

"Look on upon the light and cast it out," whispered the one standing behind her, setting a bony hand on her shoulder.  "Henceforth, you will forsake the light."

"LET IT BE THE GLOOM OF IGNORANCE."

A single point of black.  Held high.

"Give yourself to death."

"LET IT BE THE HEAVINESS OF OBLIVION."

And agony.

"And it will have no power over you."

"FOR YOU HAVE GONE WITHOUT FEAR INTO THE DARKNESS!" 

"GONE WITHOUT FEAR AND RETURNED!"

A tidal wave of sensation.  Sounds and scents and other things beside. Warm sand rustling like a distant stream.  And someone else's memories.  "Stand, [REPENT, SWEET CHILD].  In death you have been reborn."


THE "THIN MEN"

Thin Men, Chimneysweeps, The Plumbers.  These are names outsiders have for the secretive order of warrior-monks that the Philosopher Kings refer to as the Reborn.  The common exonym isn't accurate: most Thin Men are women.

Their sleeves are small and quick; flexible enough to fit through a space no bigger than a human head.  Hardy enough to survive dormant in hard vacuum for weeks. Just barely big enough for an brain-urn in the chest cavity.  For the most part, they live a life of contemplation, ritually interring themselves as a form of meditation and administering funerary rites to the faithful.  

The Reborn were among the first to make use of crude combat sleeves in the war against the Monument Builders' empire.  Without the ability to reliably remove all the dangerous parts of the Gardeners' biological horrors/tools/weapons, extraordinary discipline was required to retain any meaningful human perspective for even short periods of time.  

THE HOST: Fits into tiny places (and likes it), hunts from the shadows with chromatophores.  Far faster than a human; (analogous to a Horizon Reaper Sleeve).  Ambush hunter by temperament; plays with its food.  Despite modern improvements, the Host is barely controllable; not nearly as reliable as more common sleeves but thankfully much less physically imposing.

THE NUN: For all practical purposes, the Reborn are equal parts Jedi Knights and state-sanctioned death squad (the Philosopher Kings are not big on state killings, but like any state, they've got an intelligence service that sometimes wants people killed).  They do also fill an important social role: counseling the dying and ensuring that the dead are respectfully interred.  They preside over the funerals of the great and good and the common people alike.  Elder nuns spend most of their time buried; meditating in complete stillness and are only disinterred occasionally when their counsel, religious services, or knack for violence are required.  The extended meditation heightens already tremendous senses.

THE NUNNERIES: Stone towers in a UV-bleached desert.  Once a seabed.  Fossilized coral reefs carved into spires and limestone tombs.  Decorated walls of fossils and bones

THE DESERTER

The sky is empty. The earth is dry and dead. The water is full of monsters who eat you then shit you back out again. The mercenary's mantra.  A single long breath in.  The report of the hunting rifle, razor sharp in the thin air.  A spray of red on dead ground.  "Little one, the flesh is the only truth."  The child in the sling on his back wailed at the sudden noise. 

[No little thing.  Do not not fuss!].  The Host drummed softly from deep within cavernous lungs. Comfortingly.  [I/WE will protect you from that sting.  Warm.  Fed.  Safe.]

 You're really causing us a lot of problems.

Indifference from the Host.  Human problems were always too abstract.  Too distant.  Desertion?  A matter of indifference in the face of more urgent matters.

[Be still.  I/WE will chew your food for you.  Hush.  Still.]


THIRTEEN ITEMS:
  1. Responsibility for a human child (somebody else's); found crying in the back of a wrecked truck.
  2. Hunting rifle; found in the front of the same truck; resting on the passenger seat next to the charred bones of a local rebel fighter and a spent antitank missile warhead.
  3.  Combat Sleeve-sized plate carrier (10mm of composite titanium and graphene composite) in the House of Urula's forest camouflage.
  4. House of Urula standard-form mercenary contract.  Sealed in wax, signed in the Host's translucent blood.
  5. Jug of biodiesel; sleeve food.
  6. A dead deer; human food; the most nutritious bits are being steadily prechewed.  
  7. A debt mark; repeatedly re-tattooed as the Host metabolizes the ink.
  8. Handaxe with a flint striker inside the handle.
  9. A badly water-damaged map annotated in pen; can't count on radio under an orbital blockade; compass is long gone.
  10. Plastic bag filled with white ash; used for cleaning.
  11. Sling; traditional in the Deserter's culture (the locals use manufactured products).
  12. Empty LMG drums for the shoulder-mounted weapon.
  13. Signal mirror.

THE SETTING IN BROAD STROKES

This is a slightly more developed version of the setting set out in my Ten Thousand Empty tomb posts: humanity finds itself in a system full of the detritus of a Kardashev Type II civilization; habitats; terraformed worlds.  The builders are gone; maybe long gone.  They were knitters of flesh and shepherds of proteins; seeded and guided DNA/RNA biology.  Poor grasp of individual entities; causal chains are rights-holders.  Left technology, biological tools(?)/weapons(?) behind; terrifying creatures designed to reproduce by subverting DNA/RNA biologies (not very prolific but have left a legacy of terror).

Humanity has regained its ability to travel the system after the fall of a powerful empire, the Monument Builders.  Fractious worlds and habitats full of ruins and horrors. Megacorporations and states make their way as best as they can in a chaotic system.

Obviously, all of this is adaptable to regular MoSh with some details changed.