Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Interstellar Inspiration: From Starkiller to Skywalker

Following are some concept sketches of Luke Skywalker's character as he (and in early stages "she") progressed through script stages. Die-hard fans will recognize these (just a selection of what's out there really) but I've always been intrigued by how the character's evolution paralleled the changes in the screenplay.
Originally, Luke's surname was Starkiller, and he was in his mid-to-early 60s, more of a Ben Kenobi type. Luke's character was rewritten, in some versions, as a female lead. (The male character pictured is actually Han Solo).

By the time filming comensed on the original film, the name was revised to "Skywalker" to appease studio heads who felt uncomfortable with the "Killer" moniker...or so the story goes. ;)
After finding these, I was intrigued that the last sketch pictured here and one of the first shots of Hamill dressed in blue. The costume is certainly cool and "appropriate" to an adventure story, but in the context of the story it was out of place. Probably could have worked for Empire though.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Random Space Finds #20 (Special 1d20 Edition!)

Floating flotsam and jetsam, tumbling slowly in the void (1d20:)
  1. Moderately damaged ramscoop intake, if repaired, will meet 25% of ship's fuel requirements, coolness factor will increase proportionally
  2. High-gain antennae, bent
  3. Huge "Viva Las Vega" casino sign
  4. 3 Blank transponder units
  5. Universal remote, will operate any electrical device within 20 feet, for 1d4 rounds, can be used once per game
  6. Robotic motivator unit (burnt out, repairable)
  7. Electro whip (2d6 damage + AGL or DEX bonus)
  8. 9 tons of Sinisite crystals
  9. Half-dozen humanoid cloning cultures, recently initiated
  10. Pair of climbing claws, need sharpening
  11. Classified dossier files with love letters written in alien language between a human prince and alien princess from enemy empires
  12. 14" eyeball floating in sealed preserves container, iris still responds to light 
  13. Battered targeting system computer, enhances to hit if repaired (200 cr = +1; 400 cr = +2; 1,000 cr = 1d6, 1,500 cr = 1d6+2)
  14. Gorlicon egg (6 meters tall)
  15. 370 meters of internal deck plating
  16. Dozen robot restraining bolts, 1d12 of them are faulty
  17. Automated mook yan jong, increases fighting skill by +1 for every week of practice
  18. Yellow roller coaster car, skeletal remains of 6 occupants, spoiler-mounted thrusters still operational
  19. 7,051 hard bristle brushes
  20. Piggy bank, 1,200 credits inside, underside states "Reward if Returned" and gives owner's planet and address

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sci-fi Genre Mashup: Star W.T.F.

In my haze to get to work the other day my mind was wandering (as usual) and I though it might be cool to combine all the best parts of disparate sci-fi franchises into one. What would it entail? I got to thinking what it wold be like to combine Star Wars, Trek, and Frontiers into one big gumbo space opera.
Say for instance you took the Jedi from Star Wars and made them part of the crew of the Enterprise. (What would that equate to in Star Trek parlance? Spock + Worf maybe?) So you've got them exploring a galaxy far, far away, that's not too well charted. Think early days of the Old Republic era (well before the Empire). Throw in some wookies with wing flaps ala Star Frontiers, a wheeled-explorer vehicle for mixing it up on planetary excursions, and of course a corporate alliance to butt heads with the Federat--er, uh, Republic.

It's a big ol' race to discover galactic riches but you've got one force for privatization (Pan Galactic Corporation from SF) and the Federation/proto-Republic from Trek and Wars doing it for public good. There's three times the aliens, planets, and tech to choose from in a universe where Jedi-mind melds and Klingon's with lightsabers go together like chocolate and peanut butter. I feel strongly that one should be able to pick elements from any era of any of the settings--after all the entire galaxy is strange and new so you can get a healthy dose of super-advanced tech and backwater, primitive crapola planets.
What kind of fun could you have building scenarios? A Sith ambush where they just beam in and beatdown? What if Kirk and Kenobi stumble upon a cloning facility preparing to launch a coup? Artoo and Data instead of Threepio? Maybe the PGC is run by the Hutts!

Genre blending is nothing new, of course. I've heard of people using tech from one setting in another universe (mainly using Trek or Wars in Frontiers, which already has a healthy dose of both--sonic swords? Please!). But I'm wondering if anyone's done direct ports or just taken the settings and smashed them together like a couple of juiced up particles.

So let's mix it up in the comments. What do you think: Star FTW! or Star WTF?!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Random Space Finds #19

Floating flotsam and jetsam, tumbling slowly in the void (1d10:)
  1. 6,200 boxing gloves (all left handed)
  2. 2 pairs mag-boots, power cells drained
  3. 12,014 feet of Scotch® brand Magic Tape®, one giant spool
  4. 108, fifty-liter tanks of deuterium
  5. Crocheted teapot cozy with Benuvian beetlemen embroidered across it
  6. Three-story, hollow metal head from a statue of Lenin that's been turned into a spaceworthy craft
  7. Spray foam insulation gun
  8. Field of space mines (1d100) +10; damage 2d12+2 each mine that makes contact with spaceship hull (scale damage as needed)
  9. Medical laboratory microscope, needs repair
  10. Chrome "ring for service" style desk bell, makes no sound but blinks brightly 5 times each time plunger is depressed 

Alien Races: Kthodah, Super-intelligent Neanderthals

The Kthodah are a new alien race for X-plorers RPG

No one is exactly sure where the kthodah hail from, but they make their home on worlds with advanced civilizations. They are a race of super-intelligent humanoids that are descended from Earth-like Neanderthals. Kthodah brandish weapons similar to their primitive ancestors (clubs, maces, and the like) but they are more sophisticated, energy-enhanced, and far more dangerous (see below).

Physical Characteristics
They resemble Neanderthals in nearly every way, exhibiting the same sloping forehead, prominent cranial ridge, and pronounced jaw. Males are usually of bulky build, especially around the shoulders and upper torso/arms. Females are not as big as their counterparts but bulkier than a typical human female.Kthodah leaders may opt to remove a portion of their skull to help enhance their psionic abilities (see below). They often replace the missing part with a transparent metal skull-plate that aids in psionic training and can translate to a +1 ability bonus should they elect the procedure. Through artificial enhancement they live to around 300 years old, with middle age beginning around 235.


In certain circles, kthodah males may participate in a ritual de-toeing meant to exhibit their stamina and tolerance for pain (a feat that takes enormous mental fortitude and will power as well as resistance to fatigue). In traditional fashion, center-most toes are removed using a ceremonial clamp (not unlike a typical surgical utensil) and twisted off the foot. The outside remaining toes are left to provide the men some stability when walking.* Kthodah "Fathers" (communal leaders) typically only have 2 toes per foot.

*Note: kthodah typically have shorter legs in proportion to their body and are not great runners anyway.

Special Abilities
Females have a unique musical/sonic talent, wherein their "singing" can calm their male counterparts with great effectiveness. This ability is known to work on humans, but to a slightly lesser degree (-1). Kthodah males can be lulled to sleep with the song of a female, if her "song is true" (pleasing to the ear and the male is receptive). Males have enhanced strength and endurance beyond normal human ability as well as a keen senses of smell and hearing. Males can also leap remarkable distances, adding up to 1d10 to their movement.

A larger-than-human brain provides both sexes a few select psionic abilities to call upon, including telepathy, empathy, and psionic blast abilities. With intense training they may also develop telekinesis. Physical and mental abilities develop early, around age 7 or 8.

Kthodah live in small cliques of 12-15 adults with a patriarch usually mating with several females. Dominance is determined through championship duels combining brute strength and psionic powers, the winner of which gets his pick of the females. These groups are constantly traveling in spacecraft of their own design and build, often colorful and highly polished--even to the point of garishness.

Vocational Aptitude
These hominids are extremely bright and have mastered advanced technology in terraforming, agriculture, medicine, communications, and space travel; and excel in other disciplines as well. Their language is so sophisticated that most linguists are unable to successfully translate their native tongue. Fortunately kthodah are able to communicate using telepathy and can interface with most intelligent/sentient lifeforms.

Belief System
Kthodah do not seem to exhibit any type of religious or philosophical indoctrination. While they respect the views of other races, they do not worship any particular deity.

The kthodah are a passionate people and well cultured, despite outward appearances. Older males are very gruff, while younger bachelors are fairly care free. Home life for both sexes can be combative (to say the least), hence, they tend to have a short fuse in moments of duress.Kthodah are master strategists in life and battle and take planning important ventures very seriously. The lack of humor in these situations can often be off-putting to outsiders.While not inherently nasty, they can run the gamut of friendly or downright evil, especially into middle age.

Males and females often wear colorful and striking tunics and brightly colored headbands. As males have a great deal of body and facial hair, they may opt to wear shorter sleeves to accentuate this aspect to females in close proximity. Females are sometimes seen in chainmail on the occasion they enter a battle. Both genders wear a synthetic type of armor (resembling leather) that allows for greater protection against mental as well as physical attacks (+1 to both) and may don jewelry if it pleases them or a mate.

Common Weapons/Accessories
Energy-amplified Club/Mace/Axe - treat as regular weapon with +1d6/+1d10/+1d12 accordingly.
Energy-amplified staff - +2d4 and often also used for support in walking (typical weapon for older males)
Sonic submissive grenade - roll vs. stun, causes 1d4+1 rounds of deafness
Energy or ray weapons - kthodah are known to use a variety of advanced energy projection devices including energy rods, wands, scepters, lasers, ray guns, etc.
Psionic circlets - kthodah have some inherent psionic abilities, but they are known to devise psionic weapons to enhance these talents with an additional 1d6 effectiveness
Stats Template
Move: 12", or hindered by 1d4 if high ranking male

AC: 9, can be augmented depending on armor

Special Abilities: Females: lullaby - treat as sleep spell with +1 bonus per level of PC; Males: scent, hearing, and +1 on encounters where brute strength or stamina is involved , leap adds 1d10 to their movement range.

X-plorers Bonuses/Penalties:
PHY +1
INT +2 (bonuses to psionic abilities as listed)
PRE +1
AGL -1

D&D Bonuses/Penalties
INT +2 (bonuses to psionic abilities as listed, and linguistics)
STR +1
WIS +1
CON +1
DEX -1

Note: As I'm bad with stats, which likely explains the hodge-podge approach. Feedback is appreciated. :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In the news: space junk getting out of control!

I posted a full article over at Threads of Adventure, but those of you who read my weekly Random Space Finds will get a kick out of our floating trash heap problem and what NASA's doing about it.


Want an Interactive Map of Ringworld?

It's a work in progress, so there's not a ton on it yet. But still, the concept is really intriguing!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Flash Gordon Artist Al Williamson Remembered

I'd heard this morning that Mr. Williamson had passed away from a few blogs, but I wanted to wait until it was reported by news agencies to post (lest we have another Arneson-like did-he-or-didn't-he debacle). And frankly, I really didn't want to believe it. This is indeed a sad event and a tough year for fans of sci-fi/fantasy artists all around.
I first knew about Al Williamson's extraordinary talents from his work on the Star Wars comic strips and the comic adaptions for the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It wasn't until later that I discovered he was one of the mainline artists for Flash Gordon.
I think you can tell from my profile image that I'm a big fan of Flash Gordon. Mr. Williamson's work took my imagination for a spin--and more--and I'll always remember him for his incredible talents, though I've never met the man. I'm truly saddened to to hear of his passing and wish his family the best.

As you can see in this last photo from our kitchen, his work is a part of our daily grind. On the right is a cover to the first in a series of Flash Gordon comics he did for King side-by-side with a much later DC version that paid homage to Al. These sit on a high window sill in our kitchen with a whole collection of Flash Gordon and retro sci-fi memorabilia.

Thank you Al, for sharing your magic with pen and pencil with the rest of us.

Expiscor Eternus.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Random Space Finds #18

Floating flotsam and jetsam, tumbling slowly in the void (1d10:)
  1. Complete set of socket wrenches
  2. 90 kilos of purple gourds with orange splotches, make rattling noise when shaken
  3. Gas grenades, four cases (10 per case)
  4. 93,736,355,812 magazine subscription cards to the same magazine (your choice), all with limited time offers
  5. Empty spray bottle, range 4 on squirt, 2 on spray nozzle setting
  6. Pterosaur saddle and bridle (sizing adjustable)
  7. Alarm clock with arc-reactor power source, alarm will not shut the hell up
  8. Signed CSC search warrant, ship ID serial smudged, can be easily forged
  9. 3x3 inch hunk of human flesh with the name "Bunny" tattooed on it
  10. 2-pack cockpit scented air-fresheners(1d4: 1-pine, 2-sour balox, 3-new cockpit smell,, 4-time-space tear/burnt almonds)

Space Ranger for a quarter!

Latest, best find at the antique store today: vintage space ranger for ¢25! Here he is exploring the surface of Saturn's moon Titan as depicted in Our Universe (with cover art by the great John Berkey, BTW).

Or maybe it was staged?
Let's just say it's a training mission....

Friday, June 11, 2010

Interstellar Inspiration: Odds and Ends

Usually it's just a few images, but I've thrown in some intresting links this time around. I'm trying to get back in the swing of things after an unintended hiatus that came about after a week of bad computer issues and a big ass project at work. I've updated Spellcard and Exonauts and I've got plenty more posts waiting in the wings for Threads of Adventure. Here's a few images of vehicles and spacecraft that I've found inspiring:

(click to enlarge)

Some useful links for brainstorming your sci-fi setting:
Stars and Planetary Systems in Fiction

List of weapons in Star Trek 

The Known Universe (A map of the 'verse starting with Earth and zooming out to infinity!)
The Known Universe video uses data from the Digital Universe Atlas, as maintained by the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.

Finally, a list of aliens, and another.

Carry on!

Alien Race: Muscolites

The Muscolites are a new alien race for X-plorers RPG 


Muscolites live on the wind-swept moon of Zeth where gales carrying fine particulates carve away at the landscape and lifeforms alike. The sand is so fine in fact that it feels soft if held in the palm of your hand--but once airborne it's a menace that has skewed the evolution of the humanoids in residence.

Physical Characteristics

In order to survive on the surface, muscolites have evolved soft, thick callouses entirely over exposed parts of their anatomy--such as their faces and hands. At the edges of their extremities, the pads become roughly hewn. The result is an appearance of pillows of flesh that can withstand the harsh climate. Underneath these thick hides lie luminous, angle-like faces, whose glow can nearly be seen through the layers of callouses. The muscolites have extremely well developed lungs to filter out dust and particulate. They expel any build up nasally at the base of their skulls, through a small, downward-facing blowhole.


Because the callouses grow to become so thick, muscolites go blind and deaf by adulthood. To compensate, they develop latent telepathic abilities. Through a lifetime of practice and the aid of ancient technologies they are able to enhance these talents.

Racial Abilities

Muscolites posses Awareness, Clairvoyance, and Telepathy as outlined in the X-plorers psionics skills (though not telekinesis). They are stronger than humans and are naturally inclined with throwing abilities. They also have incredible mental recall. (See below for stat bonuses).


The muscolites live in honeycombed cities inside sinkholes and canyons. They follow a matriarchal tribal structure, where their "Grandest Mother" leads as a sort of shamanistic chieftain. Their young are born live but re-incubated in hive chambers that are dug deep into the walls of canyons and sinkholes or underground in other areas until they develop an initial layer of callouses. As they mature into adulthood, they ascend to higher levels of their colonies--and society--by growing thicker callouses to tolerate the worsening conditions near the open plains that sprawl out from the "top" of the sinkholes. When muscolites reach young-adulthood (about 18), their exteriors finally grow tough enough to withstand the rigors of open air without the protection of canyon walls.

Education /Vocational Training

Psionic abilities will develop early around age 5 or 6 but won't mature until puberty. At age 10 they are taken from their families to be trained in the ways of survival and psionic competence by shaman masters for up to 3 years. By the time they return they are of sufficient skill and ability to enter academic life for an additional 4 years of formal education, learning to hone their talents which are recognized by the Greatest Mother in a special ceremony that determines their ultimate life vocation. Occupations that are valued in muscolite society include hunter/warrior, quarryman, stonecutter, jeweler, merchant, textile/loomsman and shaman.

Belief System

Muscolites worship the cosmos as an element of nature and have no specific god. Moral authority and law comes directly from the Grandest Mother. Laws are memorized and never written down. They rarely leave Zeth, but have been seen in other parts of the galaxy, often preferring to live under settled areas and even large cities. There they receive the mental stimulus they depend on, without having to directly deal with the prejudices of other races.


Though they are by nature not outwardly gregarious, muscolites seek peaceful interaction. However, they are a proud, sometimes obstinate, people (considered so after millenia of being "misunderstood" by outsiders) and can be easily offended in diplomatic situations with other races.Their trust is hard-won, but they are loyal to their allies, whom they are known to take into their bands as brethren. Because of their intensive studies in the telepathic arts they are quite rational as well as though deeply passionate.

They are often hired as body guards due to their imposing physical features, their abilities--natural being strength/endurance and their developed psionic talent which gives them a distinct advantage in negotiation.

Dress and Equipment

Muscolites wear thick, heavily-padded robes with metals and and synthetic compounds woven into the fabrics. Seams are outward facing and are sewn together with metallic fibers like steel wool. This acts as a warning system and a method of detecting wear on apparel that must be monitored for breaches. Offworlders must always wear protective suits when visiting Zeth as the winds will rend flesh in 1d10 hours if uncovered.
 Stats Template
X-plorers Bonuses:
PHY +2
INT +2 (bonuses to psionic abilities as listed and memory)
AGL+2 for ranged weapons that are thrown

D&D Bonuses
INT +2 (bonuses to psionic abilities as listed and memory)
STR +2
CON +2
DEX +2 for ranged weapons that are thrown

Common Weapons

Every muscolite brave has her or his own javelin; but may also employ slings, bows, bolo weapons, and the occasional ray or rail rifle won in a dice game or an especially fruitful barter with off-worlders.

Nikac Javelins

Being natural hurlers and javelin tossers, muscolites carry long javelins with glowing tips. Upon puberty, muscolites learn to fashion their own javelin, constructed out of nikac needles* that employ an electro-shock and sedative (natural to the nikac) at the sharp end of the shaft. Running through the marrow of the needle is nerve tissue that terminates into a gland of sorts. The muscolites learn to tap into the gland's "frequency" and can triangulate the position of the javelin once it has landed it's target, making its retrieval easier.

DMG: 1d10+ PHY/STR and AGL/DEX bonus / while agility and dexterity are important for aiming, muscolite young are also taught to compensate for the the high winds of Zeth using their natural strength to land a kill with a nikac javelin. A targets that is critically hit (20) must roll a save vs. stun to overcome the electro-shock effect of the needle directly to their nervous system.

*To be covered in a future post.

Feel free to use as-is and as always I'm open to feedback. :)