Saturday, December 27, 2014


LIVE, FROM SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA! (Actually, it's in Roseville, but whatever...) ---in the game room at Source Comics & Games it's---

The urge to game has finally taken hold and Saturday Night Space Opera is a chance to get your scifi fix amid the crowd of fantasy-heavy game nights.

Our first session kicks off January 3, 2015 at 6:00 p.m., and we'll return to hypergate coordinates every first Saturday of the month from 6pm to close. The honorable Star Admiral John Till of FATE SF is co-commanding the fleet with myself. (Finger crossed that he'll run a Strange Stars campaign in sometime in the future!)

The first few sessions, I'll be running a Rad Astra mini campaign for X-plorers RPG. We're hoping folks enjoy gallivanting around the galaxy so much that we'll end up hosting several simultaneous games. What kind of games, you ask?

There's a lot of different systems (and settings) out there, here's just a few up for consideration:
  • Cosmic Patrol
  • FATE Core / Starblazer Adventures / Strange Stars
  • Firefly
  • Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP) set in Marvel Cosmic universe
  • Metamorphosis Alpha
  • Spelljammer
  • Star Frontiers
  • Star Trek
  • Star Wars (West End Games and/or Fantasy Flight Games)
  • Stars Without Number
  • The Strange
  • Tekumel
  • Traveller /Thousand Suns
  • X-plorers
  • And more!
If you're interested in being a GM, let us know.

We're hoping to see more tabletop games join the fleet too:
  • Battle Beyond Space 
  • Cosmic Encounter
  • Eclipse
  • Firefly board game
  • Fluxx
  • Race for the Galaxy
  • Space Cadets
  • Space Empires
  • Space Hulk
  • Star Munchkin
  • Star Fleet Battles
  • Star Realms
  • Star Trek miniatures (Wizkids)
  • Star Wars: Imperial Assault
  • Star Wars: X-wing
  • Twilight Imperium
  • You name it!

Stop kicking yourself for being stuck in the launch bay and wanting to play more games. 2015 IS THE FUTURE! Add some far-out space-capades to your weekend and join us---RSVP NOW!

Click cheesy flyer image to visit the full site!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Here's my homebrew Space Opera idea starters...

Sometimes when I'm racking my brain, trying to come up with adventure ideas, it helps to think about the basic elements of space opera--or at least, the elements that I believe are the biggest dramatic story turn-ons. So if I get stuck, I remind myself to start small and build upon bare bones. Here are the minimal elements that I try to work with.

Players. Yeah, we do just fine with three or even two, but four is a magic number because real group dynamics come into play. No longer is it the dynamic duo or trio, it's a fully realized team. It's much easier to diversify skills with at least four participants (besides the GM).

Even if fewer players actually show up, I try to write each game with four different classes and skill sets in mind. Let the players figure out who does what, but give them some purpose by challenging them on four fronts.

I go by the acronym A.R.M., which stands for alien, robot, monster. That could mean there's one of each or three of the same--or some combination thereof. Doesn't matter if they're friend or foe, but weirder is always better.
These creatures don't need to be instrumental to the plot, they can be encountered incidentally or as foreshadowing for a later adventure. But space opera is nothing if not exotic, so this is where I can turn up the dial on "fantastic beasts."

Hopefully every game has at least one thing they've not encountered before or at least has a unique spin on an old trope.

At least two destinations are required--could be planets, space stations, etc. But space travel needs a Point A and Point B to be interesting. Doesn't matter what those two places are, but preferably they require travel in a spacecraft of some sort. I always have at least one scene/encounter in space. ALWAYS.

I tend to ping pong my players between highly contrasted worlds (high tech vs. primitive, utopian vs. lawless, paradise vs. unbreathable hellscape, etc.). 

A Big Bad Wolf! There's gotta' be at least one scheming maniac, super-powered warlord, evil space wizard, etc. This usually helps to not only give a climactic battle, but to flesh out some of the plot with motives and minions (henchmen/bounty hunters, etc.) that might be encountered by the PCs, as well as other story-centric elements that creatures in the A.R.M. category aren't always intended to exploit.

Honorable Mention:

At least one thing that's totally out of my control. For one game I gave the PCs a mutagen stim, with a random table of possible mutations. They were encouraged only to hold on to it until the last half of the game. It surpassed all expectations as they really went for it with roleplay and it became the best part of that game.

What about you?
Again, these are just the starting positions, but they generally get me off to the races brainstorming. What are your must-haves for your games?

Monday, December 8, 2014

VIDEO: Actual space combat should be done by drones

In space, inertia is a bitch. If you were to pilot a starfighter--and really expected to be an effective star warrior, blasting at bad guys--you'd need to move quickly and efficiently through the vacuum. There's just one problem: people aren't made to be whipped around by the jerky motions required to capitalize on the freedom of movement offered in an environment without atmosphere.

The solution? Droids! Or rather, drones. They could be R/C, but really this is the future, and you'd want a leg up on the other guy, so give 'em so A.I. and let them do the work. You'd likely build an armada of smallish fighters to do your dirty work, as this clip from The Universe: Space Wars depicts a swarm of box-shaped pirate fighters attacking a larger vessel.

I remember being really wowed by the ideas presented in this episode back in 2009, and the visual artists did a pretty good job representing the concepts. The action gets going quickly, so here's a bit of a rough lead in around the 34 minute and 13 second mark.

Friday, December 5, 2014

VIDEO: Orion launches new US space era!

NASA's back in the big rocket business! Today they launched the Orion mission's first test flight, which one day will (hopefully) put manned missions on Mars. Here's video of the launch in case you missed it:

Here's a nice infographic on the scale of the rocket, including comparison to the Apollo mission's once ubiquitous Saturn V (click to enlarge):

Orion uses the two-stage Delta IV rocket system for hoisting payloads into orbit (and beyond). Here's some specs taken right from NASA's data page:
Delta IV Heavy with extra rocket boosters

Main Engine
Design simplicity, demonstrated capability and cost-efficiency define the RS-68A, the main engine for the Delta IV. Designed and manufactured by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, the throttleable RS-68A engine is the largest existing hydrogen-burning engine. Conceived using a simplified design approach, the resulting engine requires 80 percent fewer parts than the Space Shuttle main engine, is lower risk, has reduced development and production costs and has inherently reliable operation.

Nominal Thrust (sea level): 702,000 lbs
Specific Impulse (sea level): 362 seconds
Length: 204 in
Weight: 14,876 lbs
Fuel/Oxidizer: Liquid Hydrogen/Liquid Oxygen

Solid Rocket Motors
For missions requiring additional thrust at liftoff, the Delta IV M+ configurations use either two or four Alliant Techsystems-manufactured solid rocket motors (SRM). Separation is accomplished by initiating ordnance thrusters that provide a radial thrust to jettison the expended SRMs away from the first stage.

Peak Vacuum Thrust: 280,000 lbf
Specific Impulse: 275.2 seconds
Length: 636 in
Maximum Diameter: 60 in
Weight: 74,500 lbs
Nominal Burn Time: 90 seconds

Second Stage
Both the Atlas and the Delta IV second stages rely on the RL10 propulsion system to power their second stages. Logging an impressive record of more than 385 successful flights and nearly 700 firings in space, RL10 engines, manufactured by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, harness the power of high-energy liquid hydrogen and boast a precision control system and restart capability to accurately place critical payloads into orbit.
The Delta IV employs the RL10B-2 with the world’s largest carbon-carbon extendible nozzle.

Nominal Thrust: 24,750 lbs
Specific Impulse: 465.5 seconds
Fuel/Oxidizer: Liquid Hydrogen/Liquid Oxygen
Length: 86.5 in (stowed); 163.5 in (deployed)
Diameter (nozzle extension): 84.5 in
Weight: 664 lbs

Fun fact: the habitable space aboard the Orion crew module is roughly equivalent to two minivans. That's pretty tight quarters for a long journey to Mars!

Learn more

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

VIDEO: Inspiring short films about "boldly going"

Here's a fantastic short film based on Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" speech that captures the energy and spirit of the late astronomer by setting it to some beautifully composed visuals. The film, Wanderers, is by Erik Wernquist, and it's candy for the eyes as well as the heart.

Wanderers - a short film by Erik Wernquist from Erik Wernquist on Vimeo.

Love this still from the film:

Between this and October's Ambition short from the European Space Agency, we're riding a streak of really captivating shorts about space exploration.

The next was suggested by reader Graham. It's titled Man Conquers Space, and I'm afraid I don't know much about it, but looks to be an upcoming independent film. This is actually more of a trailer, but it makes good use of one of Wehrner Von Braun's finned rocket designs.


Monday, December 1, 2014


Yup. If you live on planet Earth, you've seen this. You've read a million blog and/or news site breakdowns. You've ogled the frame-by-frame analysis.

So it's here if you want to see it again. And know that, yes, I enjoyed it immensely. It's a teaser, not a full trailer and it got my pulse going, which is all I care about.

A quick rebuttal on some of the naysayings orbiting the ugly side of the holonet:

1. Black stormtroopers

Seriously? This is a complaint? Here's a quick pic of the first stormtrooper:

C'mon, even clone troopers have better aim than some of those misguided pot shots.
...dude's a Maori badass. Not Caucasian. They made hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of him. How many precedents does one need to rebuff poorly thought out racism? (The answer is "zero.")

2. "Disneyfied" droids

Disney is even more insidious than you think. They made a time machine and cutsied up the wookies:

If you're 40+ years old (like me) and you even flinched when you saw cute lil' soccer-deetoo then you're having a serious "senior" moment. By now everyone knows that Lucas had intended the Battle of Endor to take place on the wookie homeworld. But somewhere between spiraling production costs and the Flanneled One having kids of his own, wookies went through the dryer and we ended up taking out the Empire with rocks and sticks.

And for those of you who grew up with the prequels, you've got even deeper Disneyfication issues to deal with, so I'm sure a rolling droid isn't going to derail your therapy any further. You have zero ground on which to protest.

3. Lightsaber crossbar

As soon as you manufacture your own handheld, self-contained, physics-defying plasma sword that doesn't require a containment tip at the end of the blade, you can complain about this. As far as plot points go, well, I think there may yet be justification for one:

"Obiwan never told you---you're supposed to have a crossbar on that thing!"
If it's still too much to handle (ha!) let this be a balm to your anxiety over lightsaber practicality:

If it's called the "protosaber" now, what did they call it back then?
Imagine getting a kink in your lightsaber power cord in the middle of a riposte. How embarrassing! "That guy just tried to run me through with his flashlight and an extension cord!"

Almost makes carrying a car battery on your back into swordplay worth it for the comedic effect. Hey, maybe the Ghostbusters are hiring?

UPDATE: Stephen Colbert has the definitive take on the lightsaber debate of 2014. "Amateur hour is OVER."

4. Yeah but...

RELAX. It's a space opera fantasy. It's all good. Remember that time, earlier this year, when you paid real cash money to go see a rascally raccoon with a machine gun and a talking tree? I heard that worked out just fine.

5. The Force is strong with this episode

Just to make sure we're still friendsies and such, here's a bonus video of that time Georgie totally asked his pal Mark if he'd be up for playing Luke in episode 7. Lucas postulated it would be out in 2011, so he was only off by 3 years!

We've been promised much less reliance on computer graphics, and Lucas has stepped back in an emeritus role. There are a lot of people working really hard to make sure you're not disappointed. So let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Search out with your feelings because...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

TRAILER: Jurassic World is now open!!

Dinos be loose! That last shot will get your heart pumping!


Images: Universal

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What's your GM pre-flight checklist?

My guide booklet for Con of the North just came in the mail yesterday! Now the real preparation begins. In addition to picking out the games I want to play, I'm also running a session of Rad Astra X-plorers, (page 65 for those of you planning to make the con).

I purposely left the listing in the book a little vague so I'd have a chance to stew on some ideas for a bit. It's time to start writing up the rest of the adventure in earnest. In the past, I've winged it bigtime and that has had mixed results.* So this year, I want to get serious and be more strategic in my plans. Here's my checklist for Con of the North 2015...

2-3 months before:
  • Sketch out adventure ideas (plot, main NPCs, featured aliens/monsters)
  • Scout for artwork
  • Order any supplies
1 month before:
  • Finish writing the adventure (playtest if possible, but usually isn't) 
  • Re-read rules (hey, it always helps!)
  • Codify house rules into a document for myself at the table
Couple of weeks before
  • Assemble player aids (mini rules booklets, character sheets, extra dice, golf pencils, etc.)
  • Dig up minis and extra dice
  • After (at least) a few weeks of not touching it, I'll re-read my adventure and make any last minute tweaks
  • Re-re-read rules and my house rules
Around this time I also start thinking about important things for the players to know once they sit down. This is really just an introduction of me and my gaming style, since we're usually strangers and most haven't played X-plorers.

I'm big on prefacing expectations. I'm looking for maximum FUN, not to punish them with a lot of rules memorization. We're here to create a shared adventure (me with them, and them with the other players). Likewise, it's good to explain what's expected of them: work with each other, XP is rewarded for roleplay and involving others, be nice/don't be a dick). So really, just some "ground rules" for the table.

Night before:
  • Pack up all game materials for transport, including:
    • Game manuals
    • PC aids (character sheets or booklets)
    • Writing materials and dice
    • Miniatures (characters, ships, scenery)
    • Sketchpad
    • Hand sanitizer (Don't laugh, I get a lot of "Thanks for having this!")
  • Review convention guide book and driving/parking directions
  • Re-re-read the rules
  • Try to get sleep, which is impossible because it's almost TIME TO PLAY! 

What about maps?

One thing you'll see right away---there is no map. I've not been good about using them. Tactical maps might serve a purpose, but honestly X-plorers works well without having to parse out every square inch. I've taken to using line-of-sight and just estimating move spaces. So far all my players have seemed to dig on that approach. Still not sure if I'll use one this year. If I have time, I could whip up something basic.

What do you do to prepare for games you run?

What about you folks? I'm especially interested in hearing about how other GMs get ready to run their games at cons--or any "big" events you might be planning in your campaign.

*This year was a catastrophe. Lack of sleep and having an infant made for a horribly underprepared GMing experience. One I won't again repeat. #GMFAIL!

Thursday, November 6, 2014


I sorta' feel like while The Force Awakens isn't knock-me-over awesome, it's also not giving me the violent, cringing reflex I fist had after hearing The Phantom Menace. My wife says they should have just called it STAR WARS: Fifty Shades of Grey. Heh.

One thing that I do like though is the subhead font. They've really made it look pretty sharp. It's had quite a history already.

The original typeface...

Thoughts on the new title?

News via

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

TRAILER: Robo drama "Chappie" from "District 9" director Neill Blomkamp

Hard science fiction visionary Neill Blomkamp's latest effort looks really impressive (per usual) with equal parts grit and pathos. Even when some of his efforts, such as Elysium, aren't outright successful they're still amazing to watch.

Chappie stars Hugh Jackman (as the heavy), Dev Patel as the robot's creator, Sigourney Weaver, members of the band Die Antwoord, and Sharlto Copley as Chappie himself. Check out the trailer and plot summary...

TRAILER: Cowboy Bebop on Bluray!

I'll admit to not being a huge anime fan. Most of the shows I like in the genre are from the 80s (Robotech! Voltron!) even though the American versions are considered terrible. (Note: I also love Miyazaki films, but those should really be in a totally different category, like not even film--but recorded dreams or something.)

Anyway, there are a few anime shows and films I really do enjoy and Cowboy Bebop is one that I come back to again and again. It's definitely a space opera, but also definitely not in the traditional sense. It's got a distinctively 20th century feel to it--a melding of the 40s/50s noir and 80s fashions. It's fantastically futuristic and yet still grounded in a believable spacescape where all the action takes place in our own solar system. There's a lot here for game or writing inspiration--it's an incredibly well-realized world.

I likewise appreciate the collection of bounty hunter weirdos that crew the Bebop: a cynical cyborg, a femme fatale, a hipster loner, and a weirdo with a corgi--all of whom are often at odds with each other. It makes for some off-the-wall fun that can often times find some not overly-sentimental heart (which can sometimes be the bane of shows in this genre).

Well now it 's FINALLY going to be available in a format that will do it justice. It's coming to blu ray and will also be available as part of a special edition set.

One of these days I'll get around to doing a solar system campaign--maybe around the moons of Saturn. Bebop will be one of the first places I look for some inspiration.

Best of all, it happens to have one of the coolest opening sequences ever! Enjoy:

Friday, October 31, 2014

You really shouldn't have eaten that expired mutagen tablet...

1d20 of Ick:

  1. Eye tendrils, flailing all the time
  2. Back scales (2"-3"), itchy and molting
  3. Constant wheezing from your new, tiny "throat mouth"
  4. Sideburns, running down neck, shoulders, ending at wrists (hopefully)
  5. A slippery ooze between extremities that won't go away, even with washing
  6. Extra teeth! Between your toes...
  7. Shoulders begin to bubble and swell into large sacks of leaky, too-sweet smelling fluid
  8. "Everything is normal!" say the tiny faces that appear where your kneecaps used to be
  9. Iguanna tail sprouts, greens up nicely, turns brown and dies...on an endless cycle
  10. Roll twice on this table, if you get #20 both times, you lucked out--no mutation!
  11. Knees now bend the other direction, walk like a chicken (add +2 to your move if you roleplay a headbob for the rest of the session)
  12. The person on your left gets to pick any two from this list for you
  13. Heel hooves! Which are hooves. On your heels.
  14. Fancy colored fish fins line your cranium and spine; also, constant dry mouth for some reason
  15. Polydactyly protrusions overcome hands, constantly wiggling
  16. Gurgling a pungent slime when attempting to make persuasive arguments
  17. Narwhal tusk! You know that's a tooth that protrudes through your face, right? 
  18. An ankylosaurus tail bursts out the back of your pants---pray you have the abs, back, and calf muscles to counter the added mass
  19. Pheromone firestorm gives you a massive +5 Charisma bonus, any NPCs you encounter follow you around for 1d10 rounds
  20. All of the above (you poor bastard!)
Happy Halloween!

Revenge of the Jack o' Lantern Star

NASA recently captured a devilishly cool pic of the sun a few weeks back, complete with fiery prominence grin and glowing eyes. You can even download  high-res versions.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

VIDEO: The ESA's "Ambition" sets imagination ablaze!

This could also go under the alternate title "Space Magic as Instructed by Littlefinger" or "The Most Awesome Thing I've Seen in Ages!". Both titles would be completely appropriate. But it's actually a short film by Tomek Baginksi, commissioned by the European Space Agency (ESA) to celebrate and highlight the importance of the Rosetta mission, to explore the origins of the solar system.

Look, it doesn't matter what it's really about. It's just freakin' awesome, so watch it already!


This is pretty much how I envision Geomancy would work, being a part of the space magic in Rad Astra. So you can see how I'd be excited!

P.S. Is it me, or would Aidan Gillen make for a fantastic Stephen Strange?


More about the Rosetta Mission to orbit and land on a comet.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

TEASER TRAILER: Avengers: Age of Ultron hits early!

If you watched Agents of SHIELD last night, you saw a quick mention about the teaser trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron, which was to air with next week's episode. And then the trailer leaked today.

Marvel, being savvy to a good thing when they see it, released this official HD version this evening. Hopefully, they'll seize on next week's SHIELD as an opportunity to show even more. The film's U.S. debut--in all it's Hulkbusting glory--is May 1, 2015.


Hat tip to

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:

TRAILER: Jupiter Ascending finally takes off!

The Wachowski's next film, Jupiter Ascending has had some okay and steadily improving trailers. Now it finally looks like it went from "see on DVD" to "see in the theater".

With the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, I'm wondering if anything has been altered to help (what appeared to be) sort of a muddled storyline. It'd be great if the GotG effect has proved to be a positive influence on studios making space opera sagas.

Enough talk--check out the latest trailer:

Gelatinous Cubes: Let's review!

I was pleasantly surprised by the interest and nice comments about the Cosmic Dungeon Project! While I've done a fair amount of research on the topic of gelatinous cubes, it always helps to do a review.

Let's dive into the cube!

As expected, the entry for g. cubes has changed though the years, through various manuals, and under various editors. It's primary function has always been the same--to clean and clear dungeons of "living" matter. A quick excerpt from the Gospel of Gygax (Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, 1979, p. 43):
The gelatinous cube is one of the scavengers not uncommon in dungeons. Its cubic form is ideal for cleaning all living organisms, as well as carrion from the floor and walls of underground passageways. Certain very large cubes are taller so as to be able to garner masses and the like from ceilings as well.  
Gelatinous cubes are nearly transparent and are difficult to see (thus surprise on 1-3). As these monsters travel about they sweep up metallic and other items which are "indigestible" to them.
If a gelatinous cube touches (hits) an opponent, a saving throw verses paralyzation must be made, or the creature touches is anesthetize for 5-20 melee rounds. The cube then surrounds the victim, secretes digestive fluids, and digests a meal. Damage caused to opponents is due to the digestive secretions. 
It goes on to say that while they can be hit with all forms of weapons, fire is really your best bet. Cold has no effect (except failing a saving throw, which only serves to slow them down). Several other energy and magical attacks have no effect, including electricity, fear, holds, paralyzation, polymorph spells and attempts to put it to sleep. I would think that a giant specimen in space would need to be much hardier to survive radiation and extreme temperature swings.

Page 178 of the Dungeons & Dragons Game Rules Cyclopedia (1991) states that a cube is in fact, "10' x 10' x 10' and surprises 1-4 on a d6." So it became quite the crafty, ninja cube in the ensuing years. The Cyclopedia gives a few other particulars, but says that it "...will continue attacking creatures until it dies or they do..." making special note of it's blind ruthlessness. 

This entry is also notable in that it mentions how a cube reproduces:
The lair of these strange monsters may contain 1d4 cubes (each with treasure type V, but usually no additional treasure). The lair will not have any "young" gelatinous cubes; adults split into two fully grown cubes. 
The notion that gelatinous cubes reproduced asexually has been around for years. Somehow though I'd had the misconception that they sloughed off material that became an independent entity. When I began work on this project, I'd decided that the Giant Gelatinous Space Cube should calve--like an arctic ice shelf, shedding icebergs. 

But the official explanation of the entire individual cube cleaving--much like a single celled organism--is quite evocative. If that's to be the case, then I'd like to think that the stuff inside swirls around a bit before it divides. Whatever the visual might be, the end result is two separate fresh cubes, not just one parent and one offspring. 

A likely side effect would be that any previous map of a giant space cube that was charted while trapped inside, would be rendered worthless. Contents would change position. Not sure if that's something I'll incorporate or not, time will tell. Maybe there can be more than one variety with different properties? Hmmm....

And then there's the not-so-small matter of what substances can and cannot be digested. You better believe that's going to be a dial that gets played with. Organics get digested first, but certain organisms might be resistant. Metals and rock would of course take longer, but some might be mostly immune aside from some corrosive effects.

Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself! ;-)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Cosmic Dungeon Project - Introduction

The adventurers wake aboard their spaceship. Interior illumination winks and flickers. Then, outboard lights.The stale waft of century old air hangs for a moment before the life support system comes fully online. A greasy blur obscures the windows of the spaceship, veiling all vistas of the starfield outside.

Soon, the crew is fully revived. The ship's command module is unable to interpret sensor readings. Without star positioning data, the navigation computer cannot calculate a current location. Worse, the ship is completely immobile. Thrusters fail to pitch the ship forward--or in any direction. Instead a terrible shimmy rocks all aboard. A rumbling warble of steal echos.

It's not going anywhere for a long, long time.

Sensors finally begin to pick up shapes in fixed positions around the vessel. Some nearby, some many kilometers away. None of them exhibit the usual "drift" that derelict vessels or debris would indicate. If the ship is unmovable, then perhaps they can make their way to one of the many abandoned craft? Or...the thousands of satellites both natural and constructed ("That's odd," the captain thinks), or...ancient ruins?

Some sort of temple from a forgotten time seems to have been plucked from the ground--while still embedded in it's earthen bed. A massive kaiju skeleton lies wrought in opisthotonus. The silvery head of a massive Celestial One stares vacantly, still helmet clad. Space junk from every era of humanity's time amidst the stars, surrounds the assemblage of strange objects. The sensors can't be right--can they?

It's up to our heroes to find out. They embark on a daring escape, taking only what they--and a few robot companions--can carry, unaware of the perils to come or the danger that fills the space around them.

The party could spend months traveling from one stop to the next, oblivious that the volume that they, and the other detected objects occupy... are already consumed. They were prey while they slept in suspension aboard their spaceship.

Outside that oddly blurred window, the spread of debris in this particular patch of inky black night fits neatly into a 300 by 300 by 300 kilometer behemoth. A monster of unfathomably cosmic indifference and perpetually unsated appetite. It roams space on an endless quest for no other purpose but to feed. It is all at once a wandering monster and migratory megadungeon.

Eons old, it is the most feared predator in any galaxy, it is the...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Destiny trailer looks pretty darn good

My video game portfolio, of late, has been quite thin to say the least. Right now most (if any) video games I play are on my Android phone or (gulp!) our plucky first-gen Wii. That said, this new game by Destiny looks really amazing to me--at least visually.
There's a live-action trailer out now, which looks like Elysium (nee: HALO) meets Appleseed in a Star Wars universe--set to a Guardians of the Galaxy-like soundtrack. And for good measure, it was directed by Neill Blomkamp (the same dude who did Elysium). Design-wise, it's very modern, but for all it's scifi trappings, (as I understand it) the game features some sharp looking space magic! I'm really interested to learn the narrative behind how magic works in the game.

Anyway, let's have a look at that trailer, shall we?

And here's the official game trailer with plenty of actual gameplay:

I'm pretty sure I heard Tyrion himself, Peter Dinklage as the "Bit" hoverdroid in the first video. Sounds like Kevin Spacey is in the actual game.

Here's a few more visuals* to feast upon:


I've not read any reviews, but based on the visuals alone I can definitely see enough inspiration for a tabletop campaign. Thoughts?

*Images:Bungie Studios