Wednesday, September 28, 2011
One is depressing, the other is infuriating, and the third is wonderful. I'll let you figure out which is which.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
I know that'll be way down the line, as I have too many other projects to get out right now, but I would love to do I superhero RPG.
My initial thoughts:
1. Lower the point buy numbers. It's like an unwritten rule that all Superhero games are point buy, however I hate the huge 200+ point math that most games involve. That's something I deliberately avoided with FURSONA. You're working with 4 build points, maybe 6-8 if you add in some disadvantages. Now, I know superheroes are more complex mechanically than furry characters, but I'd love to get the numbers chopped down a bit. I'd love to work on a system where you could build somebody as mechanically complex as Dr. Strange with like 20 points.
I bring up Dr. Strange for a reason. Most superheroes can't handle magic well- they assign sorcerer type characters a 'dynamic' or free floating power set. To me, magic superheroes don't really do that. Dr. Strange doesn't really have Unlimited, dynamic type powers. Instead, he's got a basic energy blast spell, an astral projection ability, can see through illusions, has some exorcism/uncurse type powers, and he can fire off the Crimson Bands of Cytrorak as either a personal forcefield or mystic prison. Sure, he occasionally does other stuff, but in every comic I've ever read, he defaults to those basic powers I just listed. Basically, you could really simplify the write up, and just mention that Dr. Strange can do lots of power stunts or use lots of Hero Points or whatever.
2. I'd also like to design a system that makes things feel less generic. I hate gadgets in superhero games, even M&M 2, which is my current favorite. A pistol isn't a Glock or a Colt 1911, it's a Blast +5 with the device flaw. And don't get me started on the FUCKED-UP gadget system in the old DCU Adventures game. You get to the point where the stat blocks suck all the life and individuality out of the characters, because you start seeing the same numbers and power modifiers in everybody.
For instance, you've got Cyclops- he should be simple character, a guy with a cool energy blast and excellent leadership abilities. Instead, he's a basic Blast power with tons of power modifiers and a couple of flaws tacked on, not a viable character, or even an interesting character sheet.
This generic-ness, is the only reason I picked D20 Modern over a M&M iteration for Otherverse America. To me, classes and levels and racial choices that matter are more fun and result in more interesting characters than just giving the player 150 build points (or whatever the budget is) and telling them to build something. D20 Modern has more 'flavor' than M&M2, even though M&M2 is mechanically a better system.
3. I'd like a high lethality system with HP, not damage saves or condition tracks. I really like the Image Comics/Ultimates/Warren Ellis era of comics, where superheroes are living weapons that can absolutely kill the hell out of an ordinary human, rather than the Silver Age 'no killing' default most superhero RPGs go for. Give me a lethal system with lots of equipment crunch and 'weapon porn' and I'm happy.
4. Less emphasis on experience points and character advancement than even that found in M&M2. In comics, the only guys that seem to get better are gadget users (like Batman or Iron Man) and young heroes (like Robin, the New Mutants, most of the Legion of Superheroes). Ironically, those are among my favorite characters in comics, but I digress.... Spiderman never really gets better, or gains new capabilities. Superman's abilities fluctuate at the needs of the story, but Iron Man's suit has been on a consistent upward powercurve since the 60s. I think it's because his suit is meant to be 30+ years higher tech than what we've got in the real world, and as the real world has caught up, he's had to stay competitive. I mean, an iPod today has better processing power and better electronic warfare capability than his first VC-era Iron Man suit.
Heroes in training get better steadily over time; they learn new skills, in the case of guys like the New Mutants, they buy off some pretty heavy power limits after a few issues, the Legion turns joke powers into things that are amazingly tactically useful, and so on.
I wonder if limiting character advancement to certain genres of heroes would be appropriate. If you're playing a Thor or Martian Manhunter character, you'll be kick ass from the beginning, but won't get much better by the end of the campaign, but your sidekick might eventually grow to equal or surpass you....
Anyway, more thoughts as they come.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
That changes with this set of releases. The Tatakama will become the default campaign world for Black Tokyo related material. The first book I'm going to do will be "Races of the Tatakama", which will convert 8-10 of the races from Black Tokyo and BT II over to PFRPG. I want a good mix of types, including one or two Undead player races for gamers to try out.
Right now, Races of the Tatakama will include:
The Akaname (shit eating undead)
The Bloodstrong Men (inbred demonhunters)
The Daughters of the Kirin (heroic unicorn girls)
The Dodoma (many eyed thieves)
The Futakuchi (two mouthed drill sergeant type women)
The Ironclub Oni (big, demonic bruiser types)
The Kitsune (shapeshifting foxes, tricksters)
The Tanuki (shapeshifting raccoon dogs with magic testicles)
I'm going to add 2 more to the book, but I'm not quite sure which races will add to the mix.
Anyway, I'm about 50% on the text, and art will come in quickly after that, so expect something soon. Do me a favor, leave me some comments arguing for (or against) the inclusion of any of BT's races. I'd love to hear some feed back.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Levels, Decks and Districts
Solomon Station is arranged vertically, along the Well. Its neighborhoods are arranged into multi-story Levels, most accommodating several decks (each deck is about equivalent to the story of an Earth skyscraper). Each Level is color coded, with an instantly recognizable artificial sky playing on flat panel holo-displays built into every ceiling on the Level, and color coded decorations built into the bulkheads and portals help identify Level as well. Traditionally, the higher the Level, the higher the standard of living and the wealthier the tenants. Despite the class divisions implied by these levels, its not uncommon to see wealthier station inhabitants on lower Levels. Parents will often take their children on family excursions to different levels to enjoy the light of a different false sky. Only Below Decks Charlie is off-limits to non-essential personnel, because of the hazardous work being done down there.
The station celebrates holidays by altering the artificial sky. The July 4th night-cycle is a spectacular, 12 hour long fireworks extravaganza. January 22nd, the Roe Anniversary, is marked by high resolution time lapse footage of a developing fetus, bathing the station in blood red and soft pink light. Thanksgiving is a holographic autumn, and it’s always a white Christmas. The station also celebrates the March 15th anniversary of the Sacajwea’s first flight by converting all the station’s screens to spectacular, color manipulated star-scapes.
Color and Artificial Sky
Number of Decks In This Level
Violet. Earth twilight or sunset.
Elite neighborhoods for the wealthy. Mansions, shopping, mega-churches.
Indigo. Earth twilight or sunset.
Primarily housing for the station’s engineering and scientific community. Several universities and tech schools.
Blue. A pleasant summer day somewhere on Earth.
Primarily middle and some upper class housing. Several churches, schools, hospitals.
Green. The Aurora Borealis, seen from Kodiak Island, Alaska.
Agricultural and hydroponics, several ‘micro-parks’ and small public baths. Emergency o2 scrubbers and algae tanks.
Yellow. Close satellite views of Sol in visible light.
Lower-middle class housing. Large population of recent immigrants. Large Wrench community. Some decent libraries and cheap theaters.
Orange. Earth sunrise.
Poor areas. Some ‘rehab’-ed shopping areas and surprisingly good, affordable restaurants.
Red. Earth sunrise.
Governmental and beauracratic areas, several elementary and high schools, hospitals and nursing homes.
Below Decks Alpha
White. An Earth blizzard.
Tourist areas. Commercial starliners and most private ships dock here. Hotels, shopping, entertainment, all at premium prices.
Below Decks Beta
Grey. An Earth rainstorm or thunderstorm.
Stores and grain silos. Emergency o2 scrubbers. Fuel depots. Zero-gravity repair bays and shipyards.
Below Decks Charlie
Black. No false sky, just ambient lighting.
Refinery and heavy machine level, space docks for industrial starships and fuelers. Refining booms and harvesters.
Individual districts within a Level are arranged radially around the central Well. Districts are usually named for conservative politicians, moderate Lifer activists and Christian authors and artists from the Protestant Reformation through to today.
The Card District, named for ultra-conservative science fiction author Orson Scott Card, dominates Yellow Level and has been home to a thriving Mormon community since the stations founding, a sort of Enclave within an Enclave. Several of the most conservative voices on the Council of Mothers call Card District home, and the district serves as their power base. Station law allows the practice of polygamy, which spurred the immigration of ultra-conservative Mormons early in the station’s history- a migration that virtually gutted the religion’s presence on Earth.
Most of Solomon’s Wrench community also lives on Yellow Level, in a crowded and rambunctious residential district nicknamed “The Toolbox”. Located along the curve of the station’s outer hull, the Toolbox is designed to open into space. During Wrench holidays, warning klaxons blare for up to an hour, before the depressurization bulkheads slide into place, separating the Toolbox from the rest of the station. The outer hull slides open, giving the space-born Wrench a day to play in hard vacuum. Ordinary humans either clear the district or gear up for an EVA whenever the Toolbox opens.
Other interesting districts include:
Harvey, located in an isolated part of Green Level, is protected by heavy, fire-proof emergency bulkheads, and remains perpetually sealed from the rest of the station. Harvey is one of the few places on station without the omnipresent kudzu. Harvey is home to Triumph Hall and Victory Hall, the two live-fire training centers for the Solomon Fire and Rescue Department. The two modular halls can be reconfigured to mimic the layout of any building or environment on Solomon Station.
Gensen, on Blue Level, is an educational district, and home to the best schools on station. Nearby, several pediatric and pre-natal hospitals, founded by the Council of Mothers, serve the station’s families. Some of the best gene-labs on Solomon are found here; the district has several facilities dedicated to the care of Solomon’s post-human community.
Gentry, on White Level is a prestigious shopping district catering to tourists. Gentry is home to salons, boutiques, and designer clothing stores. It’s also home to the largest Baby, Belly, Blankets franchise on station, a two story behemoth catering to the needs of the station’s mothers-to-be.
Le Hay is sandwiched between Blue and Indigo Levels, and hosts several colleges and technical schools. Le Hay is also the location of the Galactic Studies Group, a Lifer-run think tank dedicated to examining Lifechained artifacts. The GSG has some War-era Artemis-tech on site, as well as a few pieces of Senator xeno-tech bought on the open market.
McCorvey, named for the bones of the district’s most famous ‘resident’ is located on Indigo Level. After her death in the 2030s, the pro-life activist Norma McCorvey (who was once the plaintiff in the Roe vs. Wade case under the pseudonym Jane Roe), was disinterred and her bones carried to Solomon. Her crypt was built against the Wall, and is the centerpiece of Solomon’s museum district. McCorvey hosts the Roe’s Tears Museum, a comprehensive history of abortion (and the reasons behind the Evangelical Exodus to Solomon). Despite the accomplishments of Solomon, the Museum focuses heavily on the crimes, scandals and atrocities committed by Christian America. The history of Solomon goes virtually unmentioned in its premier museum, in favor of propaganda.
Ramirez, located in central Orange Level is one of the station’s older habited districts. Its first citizens were primarily South and Central American Evangelicals, who won citizenship aboard the station in complex, mega-church run lotteries during the early 2050. Strong pioneer spirit and Hispanic pride are the dominant emotions driving Ramirez. The system-famous Abuelita’s restaurant chain (long regarded as the best Mexican food in Jupiter-space) got started here.
Reagan Center, which surrounds the Well on Red Level, is the center of station government. Several courthouses are found here, as is Peace Hall (police headquarters), Serenity Hall (the fire department’s central HQ), and Station Control, the Solomon Station equivalent of a city hall.
Thurmond, located in Grey Level is the center of Solomon’s rather rudimentary cybernetics industry. A few full disassembly parlors serve the maintenance needs of the station’s full conversion cyborgs. Three or four cyber-clinics in Thurmond offer full conversion, but most facilities are limited to repair and upgrades. Thurmond is home to a thriving trade in black market cyber-weapons, most smuggled in from the Belt.
Station Laws and Crime
Compared to the superbly trained and equipped Fire and Rescue Department, the station police force is trained to only baseline competence and equipped with whatever scraps are left over from Solomon FD’s annual budget. Constantly overworked and ill equipped to deal with serious crime, the local police force often rely on vigilantes and Block Mothers in the community to solve any crime much more serious than shoplifting or a stolen ‘machine’.
Most crime on Solomon tends to be fairly minor: petty theft, domestic violence and minor assaults are common, and most of Solomon’s citizens are fairly law abiding. Social pressure and the threat of a career-ending censure from the Council of Moms keeps most of Solomon’s citizens in line. However, Solomon is home to over 50 million souls, and due to sheer weight of numbers means the station has more than its share of drugs, murders, rapes and felony assaults.
Solomon Station maintains several large brigs across Red and Grey Levels, but is ill-equipped to handle long term custody of prisoners, and the station maintains contracts with for-profit prisons on Diana and Earth-side to imprison any one sentenced to more than a year in the brig. Most crimes are punished with censure and long terms of community service, or by confinement to quarters. Solomon Station’s legal codes allow the death penalty for only a handful of crimes: the willful murder of a child (which by Lifer standards includes abortion), the murder of a station police officer or firefighter, sexual assault of a child, or arson. Condemned criminals are spaced- anesthetized and then launched out a Black Deck external airlock and into Jupiter’s gravity well. The last such spacing was carried out in 2103.
Police Chief George Ortega
George Ortega is the older brother of the station’s current mayor, and the battle-scarred old Wrench was appointed by his ‘baby brother’ as head of Solomon’s poice force nine years ago. Since his appointment, George has attempted to modernize and expand the station’s relatively primitive police force. Though it offended the station’s sense of sexual modesty and decorum, George Ortega established a sex crimes unit as part of the station’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID), even hiring a few former Fed-Gov techs to provide the necessary know-how.
More controversially, Ortega personally approved the visas for a trio of Covenant doctors to train his investigators in handling sex crimes investigations; though the women were not technically abortion providers, and wore the golden bionic arms of civilian medical techs, their arrival sparked three days of protests and near riots. JP Ortega backed his older brother’s modernization initiative, though squabbles with the Council of Moms over the issue cost him dearly. Ortega knows that if his brother is voted out of office next year, his career is over.
Ortega is most often found at Peace Hall, the station’s police headquarters, centrally located on Red Level. He lives alone in a dreary apartment a few blocks away, above a Mexican food kiosk- the real reason he picked that address. When she’s in the solar system, Ortega rendezvoused with a Sequence scout/navigator named Cha-Sa-Fel. She usually hires on as a guide for exploratory vessels heading into the Galactic Core, and as such is usually only in town for a few months at a time, every 3-5 years. Somehow, the dour old cop always knows when she’s heading back, and manages to schedule his few vacations to coincide with her arrival, even when she turns up unexpectedly.
Fire Chief Louis Salvador
Chief Salvador is an old Wrench fire-fighter, harder than carbon nanotubes, and marked by gnarled silvery scar tissue, the result of a plasma fire aboard The Laughing Elephant back in 2089. Salvador has run the station’s fire and rescue department nearly single-handedly since the 2090s. He holds his department to impossibly high standards, and has blacklisted hundreds of otherwise qualified candidates for a FD appointment based on gut instinct alone.
Salvador refuses to hire anyone he doesn’t trust one hundred percent, and refuses to play politics with his department. Two years ago, he brutally beat one of Randy Jammner’s loyalists rather than allow the well connected Wrench into the department over his wishes. Instead of getting fired, Salvador became a local hero, and only strengthened his position in the FD. He is virtually untouchable, and no matter how the 2108 elections turn out, he knows his position is secure through sheer force of will.
Solomon prohibits the entry of any thing it considers dangerous to station morale and well being, which may range from aliens or post-humans with potentially hazardous powers to ideas. The following are banned from legally immigrating, or even setting foot aboard, Solomon Station.
- Neo-Witch Midwives or any other known abortion provider, whether or not she possesses ob-nan cybernetics.
- Any current or former member of the Choicer Woven Circle.
- Any Choicer military officer above the rank of 0-5.
- Known homosexuals are allowed on station as tourists, but are not usually approved for permanent resident status.
- Any Powered Hero with Shooter Type talents or any Psionic with any kind of pyrokinetic or heavy energy manipulation abilities. A handful of Shooter Type Powered Heroes serve with the Solomon PD; these native superhumans only manifest non-flammable force-based energy blasts, less dangerous aboard station.
- Full Conversion Cyborgs with onboard weapon systems are required to remove the components and submit to a full system diagnostic before boarding. Despite being a Lifer flagged station, characters with levels in the Closer Advanced Class are always prohibited entry.
- Choicer and non-Christian Psionics with telepathic or empathic abilities are forbidden entry. Mediators are also refused entry; the station council is justifiably afraid of Choicer memetic warfare efforts and their effects on station morale.
- Choicer characters who have mastered any Object Philosophies are similarly forbidden on the city. The station government may make exceptions for tourists with non-combat, minor Philosophical talents. However, despite the ban, Solomon Security has no real way of screening for Philosophy practitioners other than self reporting.
Travelers to Solomon are prohibited from bringing weapons of any kind aboard station. Flammables and volatile chemicals are only allowed aboard under tight control and only after the importer pays hefty surety bonds. Paper is forbidden- it is both an ignition hazard and unnecessary in the all-electronic future, a waste of precious space. Beauty products and household chemicals must be carefully screened, so not to disrupt the station’s artificial ecosystem, and are often confiscated at the immigration checkpoint. The Council of Moms periodically attempts anti-pornography and anti-Choicer entertainment crusades, with predictably minimal effect.
Childhood and Education
As a pro-life colony, a huge portion of Solomon’s population is under twelve. Huge families are the norm; the station’s Council of Mothers encourages steady population growth- most of the stations middle class have 3-5 children, and the wealthy significantly more.
Each district is peppered with dozens of elementary, middle and technical schools. By long standing tradition, these public schools follow specific naming conventions. Kindergartens, pre-schools and elementary schools are named for Old Testament prophets and heroes; middle schools are named for New Testament and early Christian figures, while high schools take their name from medieval and modern Christian heroes and theologians.
Education is strange on Solomon, and more than a little schizophrenic. Through their high school graduation, children are steeped in Young Earth Creationist dogma- the Earth was created by Yahweh little more than six millennia ago- and are taught a distinctly biased, Christian view of history. However, Solomon has a top flight technical education and physics program that has little time for superstition. Teenagers enrolling in one of Solomon’s many universities are expected to have (somehow) acquired a technical education equal or better to most Choicers by the time classes begin for the first semester.
Solomon’s most prestigious university is the centerpiece of the Mormon section in Card District: the New Brigham Young University (NBYU) is a 22nd Century counterpart to Utah’s prestigious college. NBYU is known for its top flight physics, astronavigation, and xeno-tech departments, and in terms of job prospects, its graduates compare very favorably from those hailing from Harvard. Most NBYU graduates stay local, finding careers in Solomon’s volatiles refining or stellar aviation industries.
NBYU makes efforts to recruit some of the best scientific minds in Earth space, including many thinkers and scientists from Choicer America. In contrast to the rest of faith-based Solomon, many of NBYU’s intelligentsia are atheists (and even a few iconoclast pagan ex-pats, living out in the Black among the Christians). Most have employment contracts that keep their names off the censure black lists. This makes NBYU a haven of sorts for free-thinkers, and a constant source of irritation to the Council of Moms.
As space starved as Solomon Station is, its inhabitants have been forced into more sedentary and less equipment intensive pursuits than Diana’s inhabitants. Theaters are popular, and hundreds of small movie houses and live stages can be found on every Level; few seat more than 100 patrons, and most consisting of only a single screen. Finding a theater playing a recent film can be a challenge- most theaters choose their play lists more by their owner’s whim than any real schedule.
Plays and live entertainment are popular; most local bands play cutting edge smartlight instruments almost as good as the real thing. While many local blues trumpeters dream of one day visiting Earth and putting their lips to the brass of a real, hard-tech trumpet, the cost of importing instruments to the station is prohibitive for most.
Dreamscape is intensely popular, but due to the expense in maintaining FTL communication links, most Dreamscape servers are purely local. A few servers are linked to similar servers out in the Belt, but most are limited to gamers in Jupiter-space. Offline, Solomon’s citizens pass the time with word games and logic puzzles; despite the old Evangelical distrust of gambling, poker is a major pastime, though gambling is a misdemeanor on station.
Public pressure and the threat of a one month censure for sloth or gluttony forces most of Solomon’s adults into small gyms. Like everything else, most of Solomon’s gyms and weightrooms are microscopic, just big enough for one or two athletes at a time to work out, in uncomfortably cramped quarters. Most decks offer hundreds, however, though finding an unoccupied workout spot can be an irritation. Most fitness centers also offer treadmills fitted with full holo-suites, to simulate running through a natural, Earthlike environment. Similarly, resistance pools are designed to mimic an ocean in a space only a little bigger than most Terran bathtubs.
Team sports are almost non existent on Solomon for two reasons. First, it’s hard for competing teams to get to Solomon; the expense of travel to the station for away games would bankrupt most pro sports teams. Second, Solomon’s quarters are too tight for practice areas or pro-quality sports arenas. That said, individual, amateur level sports are common, especially ones that require small arenas and simple equipment. Racquetball is extremely popular; wrestling, MMA fighting and Rescue Judo have their fans. Half-court, 3 on 3 basketball is the station’s favorite sport. Every school, business, church and even most private families field several teams of amateur ballers.
There’s a station-wide obsession with Lifer Idol Singers; it seems like every flat surface that isn’t buried under kudzu is papered with holofoil stickers and holographic pin ups of the latest spritely young diva. Strangelet’s the current dream girl; this summer, she’ll be returning to Solomon after a year long tour of the Big Black.
Heather Marie Vickers, Codename: Strangelet
Nineteen year old Heather Vickers has been a performer since she was five, and is already a multi-platinum recording artist. As Strangelet, the perky little blond is one of Earth-space’s most powerful superhumans, a being of pure light, willpower and energy who can soar through ITF space under her own power. There’s also a very good chance that Strangelet is the first True Post-human (see the revised Otherverse America core rulebook) of the Lifer nation.
Fortunately for the Choicer Covenant, Strangelet has channeled her impressive superhuman gifts into her career as an Idol Singe rather than as a combatant. At thirteen, she released Non-Lethal Sanctions, a collection of old Lifer protest songs and combat anthems re-mixed into electro-pop, which became the definitive sound for that Summer of Rescue. Each succeeding release has been bigger, and she’s even crossed over into the Choicer mainstream, converting a few pagans in the process. Two years ago, she took a sabattical, heading out into Phallus Space under her own power. The energy being has made good time, and is en route from the galactic core, her head filled with an entire catalogue of new song, all of which she’ll premier at this summer’s Resk-Fest aboard Solomon.
What ideas she’s bringing back from the core is anybody’s guess. Even before her extra-solar sojourn, Strangelet was an iconoclast. She counts Makepeace Lacy, the disgraced creator of the Neverborn species as one of her favorite authors, and has spoken openly against the Lifer military. A few extreme voices within the Lifer AOG would like to see her dead, but nobody is sure if that’s even possible anymore.
The Wrench living on station have a slightly greater degree of freedom than their human neighbors. They can simply step out of an airlock and into the depressurized Well anytime they want privacy or the simple pleasure unaided flight through deep space. Wrench children zip like porpoises through the crowded air space surrounding Solomon station. Evolved Wrench teenagers, who’ve pushed their gifts to the fullest, race their friends into the Belt, or skim the icy atmosphere of Ganymede after classes let out for the day.
As the last inhabited human outpost before the Big Black, even spacers who normally want nothing to do with the Lifer nation are forced to use Solomon as a way-station and refueling depot. Billions of tons of cargo come through Solomon each day. Freighters from the Asteroid Belt, carrying raw ores for processing, luxury yachts from Earth, ferrying in blue-haired Lifer touristas, Stonecutter merchant sloops, bringing in ultra-tech from beyond humanity’s stars…..
Some regular visitors to the station are described below. These ships might be docked alongside Solomon Station at any time.
The al-Bīrūnī, is registered to the Belt. The refinery ship assists with collecting volatiles from the upper atmosphere, and is a familiar sight for the Wrench working the Below Decks refineries. The ship’s captain and first officer are husband and wife, Thomas and Jessica Shawki, who make their home in one of the more liberal asteroids. The couple are popular with the Wrench community because they usually smuggle in Choicer movies when they come aboard.
The Lizzette Barnes is a gambling yacht that makes regular 2-3 day tours of Jupiters moons. Passage aboard the Lizzette is priced to remain an affordable vacation for Solomon’s middle class population. The three day tour is a non-stop buffet and has an excellent open bar- more of the ship’s passengers come aboard for the free food and liberal amounts of booze then for the gambling. The Lizzette Barnes is captained by an assortment of former military fliers and Islamic retirees from the Belt’s space program.
The Samantha Dacoveney is named for Ellen Dacoveney’s first child, her infant daughter, who never made it to three years old thanks to dumb, tragic luck. This silver-hulled luxury liner can carry 3,200 passengers on the tourist circuit between Boston and Solomon using a non-ITF ‘slow drive’ that can make the journey in about two weeks.
The Trockman is a grungy old cargo hauler flying the Lifer-American flag, registered out of Pensacola. The Trockman usually hauls foodstuffs (grains and citrus mostly) to Solomon, and volatile fuels back to Earth. Its captain, Sammy MacDonald, is a former Lifer pilot, and its rumored he occasionally smuggles Lifers to and from Solomon for the right price.
Solomon Station hangs like a state-scale man-o-war made of steel and polymer in Jupiter’s crimson sky. Larger than the state of Nevada, Solomon is largest structure ever devised by humanity. Drifting through the gas giant’s turbulent upper atmosphere, thousand kilometer long harvesting booms dip down into the atmosphere, scooping out usable trace chemicals and refining the volatile chemicals into starship fuel and complex hydrocarbons. Solomon Station was founded in 2055, by moderate North American Lifers who wanted no part of the dominant Choicer mega-culture, nor did they want to become gunslinging soldiers for the pre-born.
Hardworking and insular, Solomon Station is one of Earth’s most prosperous out colonies, and among the oldest. It is also an ideological Enclave, a proudly Lifer nation far from what its citizens see as an increasingly pagan, increasingly Hell-bound Earth.
Solomon’s populace is mostly human, of mostly Hispanic ancestry. Roughly sixty percent of Solomon’s baseline human population is Hispanic, with Caucasians making up the next largest racial block. The black presence aboard Solomon is tiny, and the Asian community is a demographic footnote. Wrench post-humans are by far the most common non-human species on station; the Wrench dominated Spacelifters Union is a powerful force in local politics. Mechanic post-humans are slightly less common, but still found in sizable numbers aboard the colony. A few dozen Half Grey and a handful of Stone Cutter businessmen can also be found on station. In addition, 5-10 Dhale technicians are on station at any given time, assigned to upgrade and maintain the imported Tessarect mansions that have become a status symbol for Violet Level’s ultra-rich.
The Treaty of Boston has made the independent station the ‘ancestral homeland’ of the Lifer Nation. Any Lifer can petition the Solomon Station government for an immigration visa, though the conservative and increasingly insular station council only tends to approve such immigration requests in two cases: when the potential immigrant has skills or training useful to the Station, or if the potential immigrant is wealthy enough to afford citizen ship in Jupiter-space’s sole Enclave.
For many poor Lifers, Solomon is an unattainable dream. Some sign on with Lifer-run mega-corps, hoping to earn Solomon citizenship for themselves and their immediate family as part of a corporate benefits package. Though officially, Solomon Station is a refuge for any Lifer who needs sanctuary, in practice the station council rarely extends citizenship to former terrorists or direct rescuers. Despite Fairfax Dacoveney’s political pressure to make Solomon Station a non-extradition sanctuary for his operatives, Solomon has always tried to keep the ‘direct action’ arm of the Lifer Nation at arm’s length.
Solomon Station, Independent Orbital Habitat
Location: Jupiter Orbit
Colony Officially Founded: 2055
Type of Government: Independent City-State with an elected, Christian theocratic mayor and two chamber legislature
Progress Level: Mid-PL Seven
Total Population: 52.3 million permanent residents
Timekeeping: Based upon Greenwich Mean Time
Current Governor: John Paul Ortega (Starlifters Unionist), third term
Average Educational Level: Equivalent to a 4 year bachelor degree
Percentage of the Population below the poverty line: 3-5%
Percentage of the Population who are combat veterans: 6-8%
Percentage of the Population with a felony record: 12%
Age of Consent: Twenty One
Age of Majority: Twenty One
Metahuman to Human Ratio: 1 in 600+
Full Conversion Cyborg to unmodified Human Ratio: 1 in 195
Wrench to unmodified Human Ratio: 1 in 93
Station Life and Layout
Solomon Station is a multi-level colony arranged around a depressurized central shaft, known aboard station as “the Well” or “the Womb”. This wide, zero-gravity shaft runs the length of the station, from the mega-church cathedrals touching the stars at the upper level, all the way down to the refinery levels at the station’s below-decks areas. The Well has loading docks and airlocks to accommodate workers and small work vehicles, which are allowed to enter and exit through the lowest, open end of the shaft. Both the inner and outer surface of the Well are lined with gleaming gold-alloy paneling, laser etched with the names of millions of aborted humans. Insect-like droids, linked to the constantly updating Nuremberg AI, use their cutters to etch in new names.
An enormous ‘Golden Door’ encloses the upper reach of the well. With a radius of nearly ¼ mile, the Golden Door is a gleaming beacon at the exact center of Violet Level anytime the distant sunlight touches it. The Golden Door has never been opened in the station’s history; station legend has it that when the lord Jesus Christ returns, He will enter Solomon Station in triumph through the massive portal.
In contrast with spacious Diana, Solomon Station is a working colony. Every square inch of space is utilized and conditions are incredibly tight. A family of four might make do with only 600 sq feet of living space, 700 sq ft if they’re really lucky or have good friends on the Housing Board. Every bit of technology brought into the station must be miniaturized, and most consumer electronics sold on Solomon Station, by necessity, are equipped to perform dozens of functions. Bedding retracts into walls or floors when not in use, to maximize floor space, and many of the station’s poorer residents use memory-gel hammocks rather than beds. Most of the same waste recycling and water rationing technology used on Diana is also in wide-use on Solomon.
When Solomon was commissioned, its designers wanted low-tech backups and multiple levels of redundancy for the station’s life support system. In addition to huge algae tanks identical to those on Diana, most station bulkheads and inner walls are carpeted with a fast-growing, genetically engineered strain of kudzu moss. This supposedly infallible back-up O2 generation system has proven to be one of Solomon Station’s greatest missteps; all but impossible to eradicate, the kudzu has plagued colonists since the 2050s. Residents spend hours each week cutting back the weed, pruning it back where it overgrows doors or gets tangled in electronic cabling. More than just an annoyance, the weed’s life cycle has super-saturated the station atmosphere with oxygen.
An onboard fire is the single greatest threat to life aboard the station. Solomon’s citizens fear uncontrolled electrical fires the way Earthers fear terrorist nukes or Lifechain bio-warfare. Solomon Station’s fire suppression systems are top quality, and its elite fire/rescue department is widely regarded as the best in Earth-space. Even Choicer fire fighters salivate the prospect of a few weeks of joint training with Solomon FD, and the waiting list for the few training slots stretch back five years or more.
Private vehicles are not allowed on Solomon; all working vehicles are company owned. The station is small enough that most citizens walk everywhere, and people-mover sidewalks are in place to accommodate Solomon’s large and growing geriatric population. Some of the station’s wider concourses allow the use of ‘machines’- the local station term for jury-rigged bicycles and rickshaws (usually collapsible), often running off battery-driven electric engines. Machine drivers are notoriously rude and have no problem running over the toes of any pedestrian dumb enough to get in their way.
Adventuring aboard Solomon Station
Solomon Station is an enclosed orbital habitat. All internal walls and bulkheads are advanced polymers, and extremely durable. The nano-laced spun-diamond windows that dominate the outer hull of Violet Level are as tough as an outer airlock door, and recover 1 Hit Point per minute if damaged, which protects them from micro-meteorite bombardment.
- Normal Gravity. Solomon’s grav-generators give it an Earth normal conditions throughout most of the station. The Well is a Zero Gravity environment, as are several industrial areas on Black Level (space ports, drydocks, heavy machinery and refining areas, and so on).
- Ordinary Walls and Bulkheads. Hardness 15, 40 Hit Points per 5 ft section.
- Inner Airlock Doors. Hardness 15, 45 Hit Points per 5 ft section. Disable Device DC 20 to open, or DC 30 to open simultaneously with the outer airlock doors.
- Outer Airlock Doors. Hardness 20, 60 Hit Points per 5 ft section. Immune to Fire, Cold and Electrical damage.
- Emergency Bulkheads. Hardness 20, 100 Hit Points per 5 ft section. These doors automatically seal shut on Initiative Count 0 in the round after a fire or depressurization is detected. They can also be sealed by station law enforcement in an emergency, by verbal command. DC 30 to open or seal. Immune to Fire, Cold and Electrical damage.
- Fires are especially dangerous in the super-oxygenated environment aboard Solomon Station. Increase the die size of any Fire based attack by one step (from 1d6 to 1d8 for example), and increase the REF Save DC of all fire based hazards by +2.
Solomon Station is governed by an elected mayor and a station council that function pretty much identically to the city council of any large, Earth-side city. Though its population dwarfs most Earth-side mega-cities, some American states and more than a few small nations, Solomon Station has never formally declared itself a nation. Instead, it operates as an independent city-state. Occasionally, proposals drift through the station council to formally declare nation-hood, and divide the station’s many Levels into provinces, such measures have been consistently voted down. Solomon’s 50 million citizens enjoy the illusion of small government provided by electing only a mayor and city council rather than a President and Congress.
The station’s mayor is elected to a four year term, while council members serve staggered two year terms; about a third of the station council is up for re-election in any given election. Solomon Station’s charter has also empowered a Council of Mothers, a civic advisory board that has complete authority to over ride station council decisions ‘in the interests of the pre-born and mothers-to-be.’ The Council of Mothers is only open to Lifer women in good standing, who have chosen the Block Mother starting occupation; these women are elected for six year terms.
Mayor John Paul Ortega
J.P. Ortega is a consummate politician; before being elected to Solomon’s highest office, he was an influential union boss. The slender, steel skinned man’s slick, ever-present grin makes him seem much younger than his 60 years, and his slick demeanor hides a cunning and manipulative mind. Ortega organized the ’96 strike, and the political capitol he earned among his fellow Wrench enabled him to claim office; Ortega is still paying off favors he called in during his first campaign.
J.P. Ortega lives on Indigo Level in a sprawling (by Solomon standards) 1,500 sq ft mansion with his wife Cynthia and their two teenaged sons, John Paul Jr. and Adam. The entire family are Wrench post-humans, and JP Ortega’s political career means the family is required to wear human clothes far more often then their neighbors. Most of Ortega’s old friends from the union days mock the tailored suits he wears today, and the family takes every opportunity to shed their clothes when away from the cameras.
The Council of Mothers are a source of constant consternation to the station council. They are fixers and political king-makers; offend the Council of Moms and you’ll never get re-elected. Keep the Mothers happy, and you can have a long and prosperous career as a Solomon politico. An appeal to the Council of Moms can earn a new family a few more square feet of living space allocation, especially if accompanied with a ‘gift’ to an acceptable Lifer charity. The Council of Mothers also mediates family and workplace disputes, meaning they often butt heads with the Spacelifters Union.
The Council of Moms (a less formal name as common as their official designation) represents the largest social-conservative voting block in the colony. Billions of dollars are funneled to the Earth-based Coalition for Life through Mom-approved charities. Though the citizens and government of Solomon Station do not want to stain their hands, nor risk their habitat’s prosperity, the station is a fertile fundraising ground for Earth’s Lifer nation. Virtually every business has a tip jar on its counter collecting for the CFL or to fund social programs for imprisoned Lifer ‘direct rescuers’ and their children.
Dr. Lamb Bachman
Dr. Lamb Bachman is the current chair of the Council of Mothers. An extremely low level telepath, she augments her Psionic gifts with a doctorate in psychology and memetic warfare from an on-station university. In addition to her duties on the Council, Dr. Bachman operates the Edenbright Center, a for profit clinic that offers the Heteronorm genemod and psi-manipulation from Bachman herself to ‘cure’ the stations minority openly gay population. Repeated sessions at the Center can remove a homosexual from the censure list- a list she controls.
Lamb Bachman lives in a suite of small apartments near her Edenbright Center, deep within the pastoral Green Level. Her husband, Dr. David Bachman, is a grief counselor specializing in abortion recovery. He has authored several books on the subject and often travels to Earth, and particularly Boston, on speaking tours. The Bachman family owns the Guinevere II, a four person ITF-capable spaceplane, one of the few ITF capable starships in private ownership. The luxury starship has a private dock on White Level. The family has three children; the oldest, Harold is a college student, majoring in urban planning and attending his mother’s alma mater. The other two kids are significantly younger: 12 year old Kenneth and 6 year old Brianna, have inherited some traces of their mother’s psi-talent. Young Brianna is an especially gifted telekine.
The Spacelifters Union is the dominant political power on station, and has made their power felt throughout the system. When the Union felt it wasn’t getting proper compensation back in 2096, the strike they organized virtually brought intra-system space travel to a standstill for three days. Faced with an economic crisis costing Terran businesses trillions of dollars, the Spacelifters got everything they wanted. The Union is dominated by Wrench post-humans, though most of the workers Below Decks, human and post-human alike are proud Starlifters Union members in good standing. Work on Solomon Station is hard and frequently dangerous, but thanks to the Starlifters Unions, it is at least well compensated.
Randall “Randy” Jammner
A young and ambitious Wrench businessman, Randy Jammner was a millionaire by 22, finding a new use for some of the volatile gases Solomon mines. His company, Horse-Sense Hydrogen directly employs 8,000+ Wrench, and indirectly employs or benefits tens of thousands more, and is a huge social presence on the Below Decks levels. Through his company, Jammner funds schools, dozens of 3-3 basketball teams, and hospitals specifically equipped to cope with the unique medical needs of the Wrench species. Jammner is obviously trying to buy influence, and its working. He’s an extremely popular local politico, beloved by the Wrench working the refinery.
Jammner has recently announced his candidacy for the 2108 mayoral election, and has been attacking JP Ortega as being ‘too human’. Mocking campaign ads show close ups of Ortega in a finely tailored, human-cut suit, contrasted against Jammner’s steely nakedness. Even before making a single argument, these attack ads have scored points with the station’s Wrench population.
Faith and Censure
Solomon Station’s charter has declared it a Christian colony, and only Christians are allowed full participation in station life. Staunchly conservative, setting foot aboard Solomon means stepping into a comprehensive parallel world where multiculturalism and inclusiveness were abandoned somewhere out in the Belt. Fully 95% of station inhabitants are some breed of Christian, including many ultra-conservative sects long since extinct on Earth; Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses make up a large percentage of the station’s population, as do Roman Catholics. Many of the colony’s first citizens immigrated to Jupiter space from Central and South America, having been successfully evangelized by these faiths in the years prior.
Non-Christians are ostracized and quietly ignored. The few non-Christian station inhabitants and tourists practice their faith behind the scenes. While Violet Level mega-churches serve most of the station population, the handful of non-Christians aboard Solomon meet for worship service in private homes or in rented restaurant halls, after business hours. A single, overcrowded Jewish temple can be found somewhere in the depths of Orange Deck, one of the only non-Christian holy sites on the entire orbital habitat.
Abortion on Solomon Station
Abortion is outlawed on Solomon Station, as are most of the most common Chocier sexual gene-mods. Neo-Witch Midwives are arrested upon arrival and deported; there has not been a Midwife (or known abortion provider without Midwife training) allowed on station since Solomon went online. Performing an abortion is a capitol offense on Solomon, though in practice, usually results in deportation and a lifetime ban from the station rather than spacing. Joyce Sivik v. the Council of Mothers (2073) was the last time an abortionist was spaced- a politically motivated circus that ground the station’s legal system to a halt for months, and still strikes a raw nerve, even thirty years after the fact. That particular lunacy isn’t something the station government is anxious to repeat.
Procuring an abortion, or advising in favor of abortion is a misdemeanor, punished by public humiliation, community service and official censure from the Council of Mothers. Homosexuality and the implantation of sexual genegrafts or sex-cybernetics are punished similarly. If it can be proved a station resident traveled off-station to procure an abortion, she can be banned from Solomon for life, though this last proscription is rarely enforced. Simple forms of contraception are allowed and encouraged on station. Condoms, diaphragms and the rhythm method are all in wide use. However, bio-chemical or genetic birth control remains prohibited; the Council of Mothers still shares the old Lifer distrust of such drugs.
The Council of Mothers has wide latitude in issuing public censure for any activity they deem contrary to Christian law or station health. Most censures range from between 3 months and one year; while censured, a criminal is publicly shunned and is a social pariah. Censured citizens cannot vote nor hold governmental office during the period of censure. The station’s child welfare agency is administered through the Council of Mothers; families that find themselves repeatedly censured will usually lose custody of their children. The stations few liberal politicians and reformers are under a near constant sentence of censure, preventing them from ever being more than an irritation to Solomon’s ultra-conservative government.
Covenant ideas are semi-officially banned on Solomon. Ritual artifacts such as athames or pentacles are on the import-restriction “black list”. Covenant Mesh signals and slower than light comms signals are scrambled intermittently; most signals originating in Choicer America are still viewable, but static shot and ragged. There are no official pagan covenhouses on Solomon, nor is the pagan faith officially recognized by the station government.
Jenna Lacklan, Codename: Tabby Bast
One of the stations few secret pagans, Jenna Lacklan is a self taught witch and one of the station’s most capable dissenters. Lacklan works as a computer technician in the station’s life support section on Grey Level. Her liberal tendencies are well known, and a source of scandal for her family; her confused and mostly self-taught worship of the goddess Bast isn’t, and could be cause for expulsion from the station. She moonlights as a hacker, and occasionally pulls off some minor act of sabotauge, particularly against the Council of Mothers. She despise them- with good cause, as she’s spent most of her adult life on the censure list for one reason or another.
Over the last year, as ‘Tabby Bast’, Lacklan has made contact with Earth’s Choicer community. A small team of Bastian Assault Infiltrators (see the Coven of Bast sourcebook) is planning an incursion into Solomon, in hopes of teaching the station’s women another way to live. Tabby Bast has been giving the Infiltrators information on the station’s layout and culture through a dedicated comms-wormhole. In addition, and more importantly to Jenna Lacklan, the young spy is learning the true worship of Bast for the first time in her life.
Over the next few posts, I'm going to preview a major part of the revised Guide to the Known Galaxy right here, giving you a preview of Solomon Station. Basically, you'll be getting a free city sourcebook, including a new race for your Otherverse America campaign. Now, I might add some information before GTKG v2 is released, or change the layout, but what you're seeing here is pretty close to what you'll see in the book.
Medium Humanoid (Lifecount 1)
The Wrench were originally engineered at NASA’s request during the late 2020s, as mankind took its first steps outside our solar system. The first generation of Patriot Wrench were human volunteers who accepted untested genemods in hopes of winning a berth on one of the early FTL starships, but every generation of Wrench since then has been freeborn, and rightfully proud of their heritage as early out-colonists.
The Wrench genemod is one of the most severe alteration of the human genetic code in existence. Wrench mutates incorporate Lifechained alleles recovered from space-born super predators. These lines of alien genetic code give the steel-skinned mutates their ability to survive (and enjoy) hard vacuum. Further, their genetic heritage means that Wrench are comfortable in deepest, blackest space in a way few other Earth-born humans can ever be. Wrench are happiest on some massive starship heading towards Phallus Space and the Galactic Core; they’re bored and claustrophobic on Earth, preferring the cold, austere beauty of the stars.
Wrench are relatively rare in Earth space. They might return to their planet of origin for a brief R&R stopover, and might even own an Earth-side house or two, but they spend 80-90 % of their lives ‘out in the black’. They are a common sight in human and Stonecutter spaceports, and most Beanstalk shops and bars have learned to accept their quirks without complaint.
The majority of Wrench in our Solar System call Jupiter’s Solomon Station home, making their living servicing visiting star-liners. The Wrench union on Solomon is one of the out-colony’s foremost political voices and has been since 2096, when a Wrench strike shut down intra-system travel for nearly three days. Needless to say, by the time the strike was over, the Wrench Spacelifters Union had got what it wanted.
In Psi-Watch, Patriot Wrench mutates are a refinement of the earlier Shiftsteel Symbiote soldier-species. Patriot Wrench are less physically powerful, but more psychologically stable- they do not have to endure the alien dreams and implanted memories that plague Shiftsteel mutants. Every faction fields at least a few Patriot Wrench, because their natural gifts make them perfectly suited for exo-atmospheric work.
Psi-Watch itself has trained a small, elite Cadre of Patriot Wrench supersoldiers known as the Morningstar Brigade. Morningstar Brigade troops are trained in sky-diving and HALO operations, and a preferred tactic is to make a dangerous HALO jump from the edge of the ionosphere, using a Phobos suborbital as a mission platform. Morningstar Brigade is commanded by Major Samuel Jane, codenamed Starburn. The career Air Force pilot who accepted genetic reorganization after being shot down over Iraq. The Patriot Wrench mutation was Major Jane’s chance to walk- and fly- again.
Wrench mutates are instantly recognizable thanks to their metallic, gleaming skins, which are as warm and supple as human flesh but have a silvery, gun-metal sheen. They are perfectly adapted for starship life. Their skins are tough enough to shrug off micro-meteorite punctures, and they are highly resistant to temperature extremes. Never cold, and rarely modest, most Wrench mutates go nude or nearly so, only donning clothes or a uniform when they absolutely cannot weasel out of it. When forced to wear anything more confining than a tool belt, they are uncomfortable and fidgety.
A Wrench’s upper torso and upper arms are decorated with luminous, genetically encoded tattoos. These glowing tattoos display the Wrench’s name, birth location and current duty station. The Wrench can alter the color and illumination provided by these glowing birthmarks with a thought, and a Wrench’s brightness is a good clue to his or her emotional state. A Wrench’s radiance can dim to near invisibility, or can flare bright enough to be seen at orbital distances. Wrench astronauts use color-flashes to communicate with one another when performing EVAs.
Wrench mutates have no set breeding season and enjoy sex for pleasure. Despite their human-like shape, they cannot successful interbreed with baseline homo sapiens. The genemods that make a Wrench are far too extreme for cross-fertilization. Wrench can only bear off spring with their own kind or another Lifechained humanoid.
Most Wrench prefer sex in zero gravity or hard vacuum conditions, and have little interest in sex when trapped in a gravity well. Wrench males usually suffer impotence while on a planet with Earth-normal gravity.
Size and Type
Wrench are Medium Humanoids with the Lifechained subtype, and have no special bonus or penalties due to their size. A Wrench’s base landspeed is 30 ft.
Ability Score Modifiers
+2 to one ability score of choice. Wrench post-humans are every bit as diverse as their human ancestors.
All Wrench receive Zero-G Training as a racial bonus feat. They enjoy zero-g conditions and make excellent spacers.
Wrench have direction finding organs modeled on bee and homing pigeon anatomy built into their neural tissue. They receive a +8 racial bonus on Navigate checks, and can always sense their distance and relative direction to their birth planet, regardless of how far they range. They also receive a +2 racial bonus on Pilot checks.
Patriot Wrench receive lowlight vision and darkvision with a 120 ft effective range. They can sense the presence of, and general direction to, other Lifespawn within one mile.
Natural Armor (EX)
A Wrench’s metallic skin is designed to be resistant to micro-meteorite punctures. It can also shrug off small arms fire. The Wrench receives a +3 natural armor bonus to Defense, which improves to +4 at 5th level, and by +1 for every five additional levels.
Wrench do not need to breathe and are immune to the effects of suffocation, vacuum and radiation. They are immune to environmental heat and cold and can sustain themselves indefinitely on solar energies and ambient cosmic radiation. Outside of an atmosphere they do not need food or water, but in a planetary atmosphere, they need as much food and water as a similarly sized human.
As Lifespawn, Wrench characters may select the Awakened Heritage feat at any point during their careers, not just at first level. A Wrench may always take either the Thermonuclear Heart or Starleap Spaceflight Lifechained feats, regardless of whether she meets the prerequisites or not. These two feats represent natural evolutions of her already impressive engineered gifts.
A Wrench’s natural biological processes allow the humanoid to generate incredible amounts of light. The Wrench can produce light equal to that of a halogen spotlight (bright illumination in a 100 ft cone, shadowy illumination for twice that distance). The Wrench can reduce her light output to less than that of an illuminated watch dial.
As a standard action, the Wrench can create a blinding flash of light, similar to the effect of a flash grenade centered on her self. All creatures within 30 ft of the Wrench who can see her must succeed at a FORT Save (DC 10 + her CON modifier) or be blinded for 1d4 rounds.
Wrench Racial Feats
Sequence Hybrid (Racial- Wrench)
Intermarriages between Wrench spacers and Sequence meta-humans hired on as guides for the starships they serve with are extremely common. The two species are extremely similar in outlooks and abilities, and both share a love for the freezing beauty of deepest space.
Prerequisites: Wrench species, character level first
Benefit: You gain a Sequence’s Starburst racial ability. Additionally, you can speak and are literate in Sequence. Wrench with this feat usually have coronas of ivory white flame licking their steel skins.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Right now, I have two short sourcebooks focusing on various aspects of Choicer culture, one dealing with variant Ubasti breeds, and one focusing on medical equipment, for used by Neo-Witch Midwife characters. Those will be out in a few days.The rough sketch of the medical equipment micro-book's cover, by Vic Shane, is shown.
I’m still playing with the revised Guide to the Known Galaxy, but I find myself wondering about the format. Will it be one huge sourcebook, or a series of smaller PDFs each focusing on a particular galactic region, its adventuring sites and its inhabitants? Right now, I’m leaning toward the series of regional PDFs idea- it gives me more page count to work with, allowing me to get a bit more in-depth about each region.
One thing I know I will do: whatever sourcebook ends up including the Lifechained Bestiary will be presented in dual stat format, allowing awesome monsters like the Nemesis Hellraider, Scorpion Mirage, Hostage Taker and others to be used in both Pathfinder RPG and D20 Modern campaigns. Likewise, I want to include stats for using Genesis, Nemesis, Roe and Artemis as gods in a PFRPG campaign, with appropriate domains and new Lifechained sorcerer bloodlines. That should be A LOT of fun to work on.
Farther out, I want to a setting book on India, circa 2107. I almost completely ignored the region in the first book, only going back and giving India a bit of personality and page space in the revised Core Book. Now, I want to do something unique with the region. As I was planning the revamp of Otherverse America, I bought the first trade paperback of Devi (Virgin Comics) and it blew me away with how much beauty and dramatic potential Indian culture offers. Anyway, I see 22nd Century India as this utterly bizarre, post-human, high-tech, cyberpunk place. You’ve got the Indian government spending billions of dollars on national uplift programs to upgrade its citizens, this super high tech industry contrasted against a still poor rural population and some surpisingly primitive elements, even in 2107. I also want it to be the country where cyborgs from all over Earthspace come to get upgraded- you can buy shit in India that’s 20 years better than anywhere else, but with tech that cutting edge, who knows if it really works or not? I figure the India sourcebook will also be a kick-ass cyborg sourcebook and equipment manual.
I’m also going to put together a serious Lifer ‘army manual’, focusing heavily on the Lifer nations best trained soldiers- the ones they grow in secret on Kodiak Island. I want something as comprehensive as Palladium’s Coalition War Campaign sourcebook, or one of Games Workshop’s army books for Warhammer 40,000…. Lots of new feats and talent trees, cybernetics unique to the Lifer military, and some new classes reflecting the unique training the superhumans on Kodiak are given. I also want to stat out several of the Ghosts of Babies Past- a lineage of Lifer terrorists, the most powerful and fearsome of their kind- and offer suggestions on players wanting to build a current-gen Ghost as a player character.
Finally, I want to put out huge, comprehensive city books for the major cities of the setting: San Francisco/Aradia, The Federal Metroplex, Boston and Pensacola. Of course, that’s going to be a lot of work, and a lot of art, so the city books are pretty far down the line.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Okay, the other day, I found this awesome image on Deviant Art, and I figured I’d fantasize a bit, as I often do, what I would do with the license if I were working on RIFTS. Seriously, I would kill to covert Rifts over to an updated D20 Modern, or even just modernize it into a stand-alone system.
So what would I do with it? First off, I’d change up the organization slightly. As with the Ultimate Edition, Erin Tarn’s overview of North America would begin on page one, and only after the fiction’s done do we start in with character generation.
I would like to include about ten playable races in the revised Rifts core book, and I’d do away with the whole concept of Racial Character Classes. You pick a race, then a class and then some feats and gear. That’s it, simple and done. However, I’d take a cue from 1st and 2nd Edition D&D (which is appropriate, since D&D 2nd was a major inspiration for the Palladium house system in the first place) and restrict specific classes to specific races.
The core player races would represent the most common races in North America, and unlike the original, gloriously unbalanced Rifts book, would have a bit more level power curve. So there’d be no Dragon Hatchlings as a player race in the revised corebook. Save that for the first sourcebook.
Humans (probally pumped up with some kind of enhanced action point/drama point mechanic to keep them competitive and effective in mixed race parties)
Dog Boys (a bit restricted in terms of occupation: can only choose soldier/fighter style classes, and maybe juicer)
Full Conversion Cyborgs (I treated FCBs as a race in Otherverse America, and it seems to work pretty well; since Rifts is a major inspiration, why not port that concept to the setting. They’d be restricted to mostly military occupations, but maybe there’d be a feat or variant character class that allows them to become Techno-Wizards.
I’ve always wanted to include cyborg mages, even if the original flavor text forbids it. I figure if as Crowley says, magic is causing change in accordance with the will, who would better able to effect such changes then someone who had the will to surgically change their entire body? As an aside, that’s one of the reasons I love Grant Morrison’s character Lord Fanny- probably the only likable character in the entire Invisibles roster.)
Psi-Stalkers (they’d be restricted to stealthy/predatory classes or psychic classes)
On the D-Bee front, I’d make the Brodakill, Simvan Monster Riders, Quickflex Aliens and those big guys with the sword-hands as core races. I’d also include an option, similar to my upcoming Space Cases PDF, about rolling up a random D-Bee refugee or explorer stranded on Rifts Earth.
The more powerful races, like True Atlantean, Dragon Hatchlings, Titans, Vampires and more powerful D-Bee and demonic races would be in the first sourcebook.
I would convert the various classes into D20 compatible Base Classes, but I would probably keep Palladium’s unique 15 level class format, and for the spell-casters, I’d change the spell progression so a 15th level caster could cast 9th level spells. That not only emphasizes that Rifts Earth is a ridiculously magic-rich setting, and the mages there can do things effortlessly that are epic feats elsewhere in the multiverse, but also encourages multiclassing. In an expected 20 level character progression, on Rifts Earth, primary spellcasters can take a few levels in other classes, expand their capabilities and still have access to 9th level, capstone spells. It makes mages on Rifts Earth a bit tougher, and emphasizes how deadly the world is: to survive, even the mages have had to learn to fight and shoot.
The core classes would remain mostly as found in the original core rulebook, though I wouldn’t bother much with the Mystic, just covert over the Pathfinder RPG sorcerer and give him a bit more ‘hippy’ flavor text. The one problem with Rifts classes is they’re super frontloaded- most classes give you all your cool abilities at 1st level, and nothing but skill boosts for the other 14 levels. The Lord Magus from the FoM sourcebook, with its new spell-like abilities at every level, has the most Pathfinder-like progression in the game, giving a cool ability at every level.
I would also like to give a greater sense of history to the Glitter Boys- an elite caste of warriors piloting armor handed down and lovingly maintained since before the coming of Rifts. They’d be somewhat like the Cavilers in the PFRPG Advanced Player’s Guide, but with a supersonic rail gun (Another thing I’d change- most of the fiction in Rifts uses rail guns as a futuristic substitute for mini-guns like the one Jesse Ventura carried in Predator. I’d change that so rail guns work more like sniper rifles, and leave the heavy machine gun role to some other form of MDC weapon).
Other than that, most of the classes would be unchanged, you’d still have Cyber-Knights, Ley Line Walkers, Juicers, Crazies, Techno-Wizards, Shifters, Wilderness Scouts/Rangers and so forth, though I would probably consolidate the Rogue Scientist/Rogue Scholar and Cyber Doc into a single “expert” class with more balanced and useful abilities. The vagabond OCC would disappear forever, and I don’t think any Rifts player would shed a single tear. I’d love to pull the Ecto-Hunter class from one of the Russian sourcebooks into the corebook, because they were just damn cool, and filled a neat niche- the high-tech monster hunter. Core book Psychic classes would include a generic psychic warrior class, Mind Melter, Burster, Operator (which would be purely psychic to differentiate it from the Rogue Scientist), the Nega-Psychic from Psiscape, and maybe one or two others. I would also like to include a dedicated Healer class of some kind in the game.
One thing I would love to do is streamline the various Coalition and NGR military occupations into a single Soldier class (and the Headhunter would be more of a bounty hunter/slaver variant on this class). It would free up tons of page space, and consolidate classes with only minor differences in skill selections and equipment packages into a single class. Various modular class abilities would let the players build up different kind of soldier: a field medic package, a sniper package, an officer package, a combat engineer, an infantry grunt, saboteur, whatever. There’d of course be a minor skill mod for Coalition soldiers, one long time fans would expect: they’re all illiterate.
That’s one thing I would definitely play up. The Coalition bans literacy, but they’ve got this crazy-advanced, high tech military. Now, I did my four in the Navy, and everything had a procedures manual… .I would love to know exactly how a military conveys this info to its troops without the written word. I figure all of their gear comes with a little hologram projector that projects a CS Drill Sergeant explaining how to use it, and they have to be huge into symbols and info-graphics. Anyway, I’ve never seen much on the daily life and civilian culture of the Coalition, and would love to see more about that. Hell, I’d love to write that.
I’d pull some of the info found in Sourcebook One and the Federation of Magic sourcebooks into the core book. Archie-3 is a fucking AMAZING villain, and I’d love to see more on him. I love the idea that he’s this total wildcard, this secret power that the other great American powers (the Coalition States, the Federation of Magic, the Vampire Kingdoms) have to deal with the repercussions of, all without realizing that he exists. I’d also like to include an allegiance type system, and make who the PCs allies are count more. An adventuring or exploratory unit backed by Tolkien (renamed from the slightly too cutesy Tolkeen) or Lazlo would feel different than a FoM or Coalition group, obviously.
One thing I would absolutely not touch is the setting’s lethality and the ridiculously over powered nature of the weapons. One shot from even the crappiest MPC pistol should be able to mist an unarmored human- I’ve got no problem with hand weapons of this era being deadlier than artillery from an earlier era. (Though I might change the history a bit so that when the apocalypse happened, humanity still only had cyberpunk-level, SDC weapons and nukes…. They boostrapped their technology, developing juicers, ‘borgs and mecha from recovered tech they scavenged from whatever poor D-bees fell into Rifts Earth and died there. That also explains why, in some ways, Rifts-tech is inferior to our own.)
When I first started playing Rifts, I was also reading Mark Silvestri and Jim Lee’s run on Uncanny X-Men and so the concept of MDC was a natural one for me- Colossus is an MDC creature in armored form, adamantium is an MDC alloy, Cyclops and Havok fire MDC energy blasts, and so on. I’ve never understood fans who complain that MDC is too over the top- playing Rifts with non-MDC weapons or MDC that’s been nerfed so one MD=10 HP or some similar ratio seems to be missing the point. Uncontrolled, unstoppable power in the hands of unworthy people is the central theme of Rifts- playing Rifts without MDC is like playing Dungeons & Dragons without any dragons, and without ever setting foot into a dungeon. Hell, it’s more fundamental then that, because I’ve run in plenty of campaigns like that- it’s like playing D&D without SWORDS.
However, with MDC armor, we need some kind of kinetic damage or traumatic brain injury mechanic. That way, even SDC peasants have a chance to kill MDC thugs and oppressors if they fight dirty and fight clever; shaking them to death inside their armor with high explosives or roadside bombs, breaking their bones by ramming them with a truck doing 70+ MPH, killing grunts walking through the forests with one ton log falls and so on.
One thing I would love to include is some kind of political mechanic. To me, Rifts adventures should include convincing a dozen small wilderness towns to ally against an invading CS army, jockeying for position within the Coalition Military and eventually leading a military coup against the Prosek regime, backstabbing your betters in the Federation of Magic and so on. I’d love to have actual rules support for building alliances, screwing over your allies, breaking or keeping treaties and so on.
Anyway, just some thoughts I had.