Thursday, January 15, 2015

HEL-LO! WHAT HAVE WE HERE? Lando comes to Star Wars Rebels!

Not even droids are safe!
Billy Dee Williams (a.k.a., the coolest cat in the cosmos!) is reprising his role as the consummate smooth-talking, double-crossing, starbuckling space hero on Star Wars Rebels. All is right with the galaxy!

Calrissian makes his series debut next Monday, January 19. (That's SO soon!)

Here's a look at BDW behind the scenes, recording his velvety voice:

Whoa, is he wearing a gold medallion on a chain? Dude is STYLIN!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

TRAILER: The Venture Bros. are going into SPAAAAAAACE!

It really doesn't get any RADDER than Team Venture aboard a giant space station casino! They return to the cablewaves in a one hour special airing at midnight, Monday January 19. You have until then to binge watch a refresher on last season (it's been too long!).

Here's your trailer:

Via io9. Official site for The Venture Bros.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Like tabletop roleplaying games? GET ON GOOGLE PLUS!

There's really no other way to say it: if you're a pen-and-pencil gamer or used to be and can't find a group in your area? There's no more excuse for not gaming. Get on Google Plus if you're not already. If you've ever asked "Where can I find an online RPG game?" or "Where can I run an online roleplaying campaign?" You're answer is here!

Many of my readers have Google accounts--converting your account or signing up for G+ account is easy. There's so many Communities (big "C" as that's Google's name for groups with like-minded folks) out there for gamers of all stripes. 

Let this settle in for a bit: Just typing in "Dungeons and Dragons" is going to give you dozens if not hundreds of results for Communities to join.

Here now are many of the groups to which I belong on G+. If there was an official tagline for the group, I pulled it off their page. Some had nothing. I bolded at least one in each category that I think are good for getting you started. 











I'm sure some of my "plusser" pals out there in Internet-landia can help fill in the comments with any that I've missed. (Note: please do comment from your computer, as posting from mobile devices gives a different address or some cases, doesn't work at all.)

Once you've joined Google Plus you should:
  1. Fill out your profile and make it obvious that you're a gamer. Read THIS POST by Adam Muszkiewicz immediately.
  2. Join some gamer Communities. Some may need to approve you to join, so make sure your profile is filled out first.
  3. Turn OFF your 1+ notices and turn ON notifications for the Communities you've joined.
  4. Take some time exploring posts, Get caught up on what the community is talking about--but also what ground they've covered. Post questions if you're in need of help.
  5. Games are done via Google Hangout, so you'll need a good set of headphones and a webcam (most are built right into laptops nowadays).
  6. See that "Recommended for you" link at the top of your Google Plus feed? CLICK IT. There's more Communities to join!
Join G+ and get gaming!
No longer do you need to scour the web looking for a game here or there. Now you can join Google Plus--and if there's not one already you can make one yourself!

Updated: November 4, 2015

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Galaxy Laser Team makes everything gonzo!

I've had several people ask me where I got the green figures that made an appearance at Saturday Night Space Opera last week. The answer is: The Internet!

Okay fine, it was Amazon. Seems like just about everyone remembers seeing those figures, but not recalling where. "When" is always "when I was a kid" which if you're like me, was in the 80s.

The line is called Galaxy Laser Team, though they also go went by "Star Patrol". Tim Mee Toys is the name of the company that's recently brought them back into production, and boy are they doing a stellar job!

The exact set we had on game night were these fellas, the jumbo set:

Back in the day, Processed Plastics was the manufacturer, but a few years ago they closed and sold off the molds (is my understanding anyway). Tim Mee has been reproducing the sets, including this jumbo set which was also produced years ago. If you're thinking that the sculpts look strangely like other popular scifi characters, you aren't wrong. GLT were expeditiously brought to market following that one 70s space opera with that big hairy dude and that short, boisterous robot.

Unfortunately, they're only able to recreate what was originally produced back then. The female space commander at the computer console and the cool "x-fighter" were never previously made as jumbo figures---so no current ones exist either.

I've inquired as to whether these will ever get made or if NEW figures could be designed and released in the same aesthetic as the originals (like say, a female figure with a ray gun, more spaceships, playsets, etc.). The response was along the lines of "we hope so," which I think translates into "we'd love to, but these have to sell well enough to allow us to do that."

So in hopes of someday seeing NEW Galaxy Laser Team members.....

You can find them on Amazon for a reasonable price, the regular figures come in packs of 50.
....and if you wanted to make your space adventures Gonzo-to-the-MAX, there's also these sets:

That's a lot of funky fantasy dudes in yoga pants!

BONUS: If you're REALLY inclined to ask for more far-out space and fantasy figures, go "Like" the GLT's Facebook page and tell them how awesome they are/send them a message!

I have several vintage figures from the Galaxy Laser Team, so it was inevitable that they'd find their way to guest appearances here on Exonauts. The Space Yeti inspired a whole alien race I wrote up for X-plorers. I've a fondness for the old-fashioned static-pose, plastic figures of my kidhood. I'm sure you'll see more them here in the future.

To be continued...
A few weeks ago, the jumbo figs were on sale and I acquired several extra sets to use as prizes for some future fun activity. Haven't decided yet if they'll be awarded at a forthcoming Saturday Night Space Opera or part of that world-building blogging event I'd still like to do. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Saturday Night Space Opera Part 2: Rad Astra Play Report!

If you've had a chance to digest my previous post on Saturday Night Space Opera's inaugural event, then you're now ready for this (as short and sweet as I can recall) summary of the actual RAD ASTRA game play:
  • Four players chose three standard X-plorers classes: Technician (the team's pilot), Scientist, and Scout. One chose my custom class of Astrosassin (heck yeah!). 
  • Plot involved them being hired on a centuries-old (and it shows) space station called Sanctuary Six in a backwater part of the galaxy referred to as "The Shallows". They were hired by one Captain Harford Fenn, an old smuggler specializing in do-or-die cargo runs, pushing retirement. The team met for the first time in a rundown saloon. 
(Fig. 1) Space station: Sanctuary Six
  • Their mission was to take aid supplies through pirate-infested territory to a colony on the planet Cerellis VI.
  • Colony communiques have been confusing for weeks, with garbled messages from the administrator giving panicked updates on how their original 100 settlers had dwindled to less than 15. No further details were given.
(Fig. 2) Cargo ship: The Radium Tear 
(Fig. 3) Captain Harford Fenn
  • Fenn's ship, The Radium Tear, is a mid-sized freighter that's fast in hyperspace and well armored, but slow at sublight speeds. As such, he travels with an entourage of small, pointy single-pilot fighters called the Minutemen. 
  • The Tear's crew are the four "mission specialist" PCs, plus two other regular members they've not yet met.
  • Because the planet they're traveling to is located in unclaimed (and therefore fair-game for pirates) territory the freighter will drop them into orbit via a trim little shuttle craft with a three 1x1x1 meter cargo pods filled with humanitarian aid supplies.
  • They boarded a station tram to make way to the ship dock and ended up catching a shifty character looking their way. Though the Astrosassin was brave enough to try and confront him, said miscreant gave them the slip.
(Fig. 4) He just doesn't look very trustworthy....
  • At spacedock, Captain Fenn filled them in on the ship's compliment and other mission details. They boarded and the "aid supplies" were loaded aboard.
  • Once the ship was in hyperspace the PCs took to grabbing a meal in the galley, but overheard yelling in the corridor.
  • The astrosassin spied the captain being threatened by the ne'er do well from the tram! He was one of the Tear's crew members.
  • The other PCs arrive just in time to scare off the dude, who bolts for the shuttle bay. A confrontation in the bay escalates into shots fired and tranquilizer needles readied (Scientist Till had no firearm on him at the time).
  • The team brought down the renegade crew member (injuring him, but not killing him) just as Fenn huffs and puffs his way into the shuttle bay. During the fracas, the assailant was injured--or damaged, really, as he turns out to be an android!
  • During their interrogation, the android refuses direct answers---only spewing hateful barbs at the crew, as well as some sort of greenish-black liquid. He says he's working for a space pirate named Argal, Basically, they're walking into a trap. The team agrees to take up battlestations aboard the Radium Tear to fight off any incursions.
  • The captain informs them that they've actually only got minutes before they're out of hyperspace---giving them little time to prepare for an ambush. The captain tells them to make their delivery and he'll hold off any space hostiles as long as he can. To prove he's serious, he transmits their payment transfers---in full---back to Sanctuary Six. All they have to do is make it back to the station in one piece to get paid.
  • At this point, several of the players have a protracted debate about what to do:
    • Three players want to board the shuttle and make a dash for the planet and complete the mission
    • One player wants to man a gunnery station on The Radium Tear---hoping to defeat the pirates and make off with the cargo (which he hopes to open, sell, and/or make it back to the station to collect payment regardless of making the delivery. SO MANY MORAL DILEMMAS, that guy.
  • The other PCs convince him to shut up and get on the shuttle. They scoot the dingy out of the bay an into a full-on starfighter dogfight!
(Fig. 5) Quick and durable Minutemen fighters escort the Radium Tear

(Fig. 6) But faster, more numerous pirate starfighters overwhelm their enemies!
  • Minutemen fighters are doing their best to hold off the pirate ships which outnumber them 4:1. The pirate craft are numerous and very fast, but light on firepower (they rely on swarming their enemies). 
  • Another debate ensues over whether to gun the engines or try and fool the Argal into thinking his android is still steering the ship. The latter strategy is employed and fails. So it's a race to make cloud cover on the planet below. 
  • The Minutemen buy time as the shuttle escapes the fracas. The Radium Tear explodes, taking with it their employer.
  • A massive pirate spaceship emerges, it's Argal chasing down his prize.
  • The Minutemen break off and make for the planet as well (in pairs, but in differing trajectories and not along the same path as the shuttle).
  • Our game time had run out, but not before the crew had a chance to break atmo and see just how horrific the planet is gonna be next time:
(Fig. 7) Planet of thistle, bramble, and thorn!
  • Final twist of the knife: as a parting gift, the PCs learned their shuttle was very badly damaged (only 1 hull point left!) and so they'd need to find alternate means off the hellscape planet! 
  • The crew is on the lookout for Jem Quimble, security chief for the settlement on Cerellis. She's the only one who can open the cargo and ensure they get paid. But they have to FIND her first! 
(Fig. 8) Security Chief: Jem Quimble
Other stuff:
  • Hilariously, the Source made an announcement over their P.A. system about me GMing the game! The flood of people rushing the table nearly put me in the hospital. Actually, I almost died of embarrassment, but John and I had a good laugh.
  • Anyone wishing to run their own space opera game at the Source for SNSO should let me know and I'll custom make you a sign for your table. We're working to turn this into a regular Saturday event with multiple games going.
  • The next game is set for February 7 at 6:00 p.m., RSVP if you want to join in or GM your own space opera campaign.
  • My play report for next month won't be so lengthy, but I wanted to capture the fun of that first night (thank you for reading, if you've made it this far!). I'm sure John will chime in if I've missed anything good. ;-)

Image credits:
Fig. 1 Space station by John Harris
Fig. 2 Nostromo concept art by Gavin Rothery 
Fig. 3 Sergeant by Penko Gelev
Fig. 4 Cropped from UFO movie poster
Fig. 5 Arrowhead LEGO spaceship by Damien Labrousse
Fig. 6 IRD-A fighter from Star Wars: Han Solo and the Corporate Sector Sourcebook
Fig. 7 Still Frame from Fantastic Planet
Fig. 8 Space Girl by Travis Charest

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Kepler confirms 1,000th Exoplanet and habital zone discoveries!

NASA has just made an announcement that they've confirmed a thousand extrasolar worlds and three of the latest are in their stars' habitable zones.

 (Click the images above to enlarge.)
"Each result from the planet-hunting Kepler mission's treasure trove of data takes us another step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the Universe," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “The Kepler team and its science community continue to produce impressive results with the data from this venerable explorer."
The planets were validated as part of a survey of more than 4,000 objects. In addition, 554 further candidates were added to the mission for study. 

This is truly an amazing universe we live in. No longer are we bound by science fiction---we live in a universe with a cool grand in new, unexplored worlds!

Read NASA's statement for the full announcement.

Images: NASA

Saturday Night Space Opera Part 1: A Successful Launch!

Welcome space rangers!
WELL, we did it! This past weekend we hosted our first Saturday Night Space Opera at The Source! We had a total of three RSVPs, plus John Till and myself--plus a few other folks stopped by to ask about the event. They'd heard about it and have even gamed with John in a round of Cosmic Patrol (I think it was). 

There's too much to recount in a single blog post, so I'll cover the actual game in a follow up soon. For now though, just know that we all had a great time. A large part of that is due to having three young (teenage) players who were more than happy to get their feet wet with a system that's low on crunch. By the sounds of it, they'd actually played an early edition of D&D for a while, though it wasn't clear which, it was seemed to be some form of AD&D. So there we were, ready to kick off a new Rad Astra game using the X-plorers ruleset...

A True Wingman!
Having a veteran like John at the table was a huge benefit and great pleasure that I cannot overstate. When I was waist-deep in manuals and my own manically scrawled notes, he was gregarious to the other players, happy to ask them if they needed help, and generously chiming in with well-timed advice. He cheerfully kept the game aloft when decision-making ground to a halt between some of the other players. His avuncular presence was a boon to they and me. At the end of the night he asked the other players if they had fun, and they all responded firmly in the affirmative. All traits of a fantastic game master in his own right and I can't wait to thank him by sometime returning the favor when he's head of the table...or at least be class clown and heckle him!

So here's a few things I learned, or in some cases, relearned:

Character Generation Needs a Reboot
X-plorers is a game that not a ton of people have played. Despite its"rules light" nature, CharGen remains a speed bump. Even when there's Player's Guide books, simplified character sheets reduced to note cards, and a few summaries on classes, all provided at the table it can take a while. Mostly this is due to players enjoying the process of crafting their characters. But it's pretty much on my shoulders to make the process as painless as possible. So in the future I'll be writing up a quick-starter one-sheet with steps clearly outlined--if not a few ready-made templates. 

Still, I think the players had fun--too much maybe. Especially when it came to choosing....

Equipment is Everything
I already knew from previous session with this game and still forgot: hardware in a scifi game IS the theme. Yes, a lot of other things play into the aesthetics of a setting, but the gear PCs carry on them is the road on which the campaign travels. This extends to vehicles, spaceships, etc. of course--but their gear has to be the single strongest indicator of the kind of setting in which their adventuring. 

The game's default equipment list is heavily influenced by hard scifi (ALIEN, Outland, etc.) Rad Astra is not hard scifi. I like hard scifi just fine. But a space opera game needs broader strokes--it needs to dream bigger and bring the fantastic. So a very overdue equipment list will be created...and slowly integrated into the setting. 

Several of the players took their time to carefully consider each piece. Like whether or not they should carry flashlights or flare guns!! For most kickoff adventures, I don't want player to worry about that stuff, so I give them some basics to get started and let them improvise the rest. 
Either way, a selection of more setting appropriate gear is now top priority. 

Props Help Sell the Theme
I was like a kid in a candy store when I was planning this game. So I brought some table-candy: 
  • A felt game mat with starfield and nebula
  • A map of the six-armed super galaxy that I drew in the days leading up to the game
  • A smattering of hastily printed B/W handouts of characters, ships, and locations
  • Extra player aids (see Character Generation above)
  • A handful of Buck Rogers minis and a swooshy ebony spaceship
  • One package of over-sized Galaxy Laser Team figures to hold down the mat and just hang around being cool
  • Besides John with his awesome Zochi dice, the other guys brought minimal polyhedrons and shared. Can't get more "light" than that...
Yeah, it's a zany way to game, but I've found that having fun things around to hold and gaze upon are are a perfect fit for a root beer and pretzels game night. And that's what Saturday Night Space Opera gaming is all about!

Theater of the Mind Wins Every Time
Despite having some cool toys on the table, we only used the Buck Rogers minis once to quickly settle confusion around some hand-to-hand combat with multiple participants. The rest of the game was group storytelling and good-old-fashioned dialog. The players intimated at the beginning that this was their preferred style (it's mine as well). Even the visitors who stopped by prior to the game, said they prefer no-minis in their games. 

It's amazing how far you can travel with just paper, pencils, and a few funny dice!

UPDATE: Here's the first play report!