Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hyperion: Saturnal moon of caves and energy beams!

That's no (ordinary) moon! It's an electrostatic field generator!
Truth is often stranger than (science) fiction and Hyperion, a moon of Saturn is no exception. Besides being a largely porous, ovoid object, Hyperion has an electrostatic field (similar to our own moon's) that can apparently capture space craft, like the Cassini probe. From NASA
Hyperion is porous and icy, with a bizarre, sponge-like appearance. Its surface is continuously bombarded by ultraviolet light from the sun and exposed to a rain of charged particles -- electrons and ions -- within the invisible bubble generated by Saturn's magnetic field, called the magnetosphere. The researchers think Hyperion's exposure to this hostile space environment is the source of the particle beam that struck Cassini.

Measurements made by several of Cassini's instruments during a close encounter with Hyperion on September 26, 2005, indicate that something unexpected took place in the charged particle environment around the spacecraft. Among those instruments, the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS) detected that the spacecraft was magnetically connected to the surface of Hyperion for a brief period, allowing electrons to escape from the moon toward the robotic probe.
This raises the question of whether other bodies in the solar system have similar properties. Imagine the possibilities in your own games, stories, projects for objects that might pose a Bermuda Triangle-like danger to explores caught unawares. First they're caught in a natural tractor beam (of sorts) and then pulled down into the cavernous interiors. "Moon-as-monster" has a neat ring to it, is all I'm saying!


Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

More about the Cassini mission:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Asteroids are good for lots of things

Tired of the same old space rock tumbling around in your home star system?

"Aw hell, who forgot to wind the wheel this morning?!"

Asteroid base
- Captured asteroid serves as a space-based port; they can be dug into to provide cover, even disguised to appear as a regular 'ol space rock.

Mazes - Asteroids make for great zero-G labyrinths of any scale, including startfighter-sized tunnels if not the traditional humanoid-sized dungeon crawl.

Really big projectiles - Starship Troopers taught us they could be used as ammo for massive rail-gun type weapons with catastrophic consequences.

The trip to Grandma's just became one boring car ride.

Raw materials - That giant habitable ring around the sun needs ore! Where do you think it's going to come from? The value of an asteroid's mineral content has been valued in the trillions (today's dollars). Asteroids = treasure!

Colonization - Panspermia is the theory that life was seeded from space, via comets and/or asteroids. What happens when life already exists on a world that's about to be to get hit?

"Can I hang with you guys? Do you want to ride on my event horizon? Hey, where ya going? You know you can't escape, right?"
Food - Need to feed that rock-munching space kaiju? How about that stellar fragment that keeps following you around--or that sentient black hole that won't shut up?

Interdimensional jump gate - Buckaroo Banzai traveled through solid objects to breach the 8th dimension. What if phasing through rocks (or some sort of mineral found in them) were the only way (or easiest/quickest way) to travel between dimensions.

They remember what you did with the garden hose.

Insectoid alien nest - Weaving together several asteroids to make a hive or digging into the rocks to hollow them out for an alien ant nest.

Giant space geodes - Ultra rare jackpots for space miners or as a container for micro "Hollow Earth" adventures.

Monster - Space rocks need love too. And when they don't get it, they get angry, maybe even a little hostile. Think how many rocks there are between Mars and Jupiter that might have it out for us...WE'RE SURROUNDED!
Suggest more in the comments below, please!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

TRAILER: "Interstellar" is out to save humanity

Interstellar is coming out on IMAX, of course. And SUPER, MEGA IMAX. There's a list of theaters where you can catch it on the even BIGGER, big screen. Also, check out this summary on the different film formats.*

Check out the awesome trailer:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Stuff for novice PCs to know and do

When I was 10 or so, I'd gotten my hands on a Spider-man text adventure game that I could run on my Commodore 64. By then games had far outpaced the ol' texties, but I still wanted to play--this being my first of the kind. The game came with no manual, and therefore no entry point by which to understand what the frak was going on.

I remember not getting past the first screen for a LONG time because everything I typed into the computer was met with the same unblinking response from the computer: I DON'T KNOW WHAT ______ MEANS. Fun times! Ah, time to switch to playing Archon...

Anyway, it wasn't until many years later that I'd blundered into an online forum that laid out the options. I was stunned! You mean the game wasn't broken?

I imagine that's how my novice players might be feeling when we're in the thick of things. They've found themselves somewhere between not wanting to make a mistake (and get their character killed) and just plain, not knowing what should come next.

Mostly, they let me take the lead, but I've tried many times to encourage them to just start exploring.

The problem is, some of them don't get what that means.

So in the interest providing them a players' aid, I've started a list of things they can do. Now this sounds...stupid. I get that. And these are not uncreative people, by any means. In fact, they are enthusiastic, but usually just nonregular gamers. So this can be for novices and those players long out of practice.

I've posted and earlier list of things players need to investigate when they're learning about the campaign setting. This is different. This is literally a (not nearly exhaustive) list of tasks and tactics.
  1. GOLDEN RULE: Ask the GM questions and try stuff. Have fun!
  2. Talk to each other, you're a team so get to know your teammates.
  3. Look around at your surroundings, try to be aware at all times.
  4. Listen - this means both you as a player and your PC in game.
  5. Learn about your abilities, see Golden Rule..
  6. Look in your gear bag, learn about your stuff, see Golden Rule.
  7. Check for traps - decide if they should they be disarmed or sidestepped? Left for enemies to run into?
  8. Always be searching for clues, information is as valuable as treasure!
  9. Record any clues you find or hints you might suspect are being dropped.
  10. Learn about your enemies, keep a record in case you run into more.
  11. In combat - look for cover and take up key positions when possible.
  12. After combat - loot the bodies, see #7, and see #8.
  13. Remember to get paid, collect treasure, and then convert it to liquid currency if needed. You earn XP for spending your income.
  14. Return to HQ/town/etc. and get information on what you've found. Refer to previous clues discovered.
  15. Heal yourself and other teammates whenever possible (this includes rest and nourishment).
A few other, general pieces of advice.
  • Besides sticking to your class and/or race attributes, determine who's doing what on the team --(e.g., is one of you the group's "leader"? Who looks after team-owned gear, etc.).
  • Learn about basic tactics in combat (flanking, etc.)
  • When in doubt, ask the locals. Brush up on bribing, interviewing, and intimidating NPCs. Even if encounters appear to yield nothing, there could be a clue in their temperament or mood. What aren't they saying?
  • Try to determine who might find value in the treasure or information you've discovered.
  • Always review your character sheet -- look for ways of improving yourself. How will you spend your XP?
I want to add much more, so feel free to add to this list (or suggest any links) in the comments. I'm thinking I'll post a "final" list on the Rad Astra players companion blog. Thanks!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Zod is not the villain of Man of Steel

Yeah, this is a movie from 2013. Yeah, I should be writing other stuff, but the movie is on and the future of the JLA in movies has been on my mind of late, so....

For the most part, I enjoyed the Man of Steel when I first saw it, in the theater. But, there were of course some problems with the film. And let's not pretend that I think all movies should be perfect--enjoy a great many films on a relative spectrum of quality that can be described as "terrible-to-middling-and-beyond".

Still, there are issues that are difficult for me to reconcile. Here's a few. Oh, and--SPOILERS: