Wednesday, August 19, 2015


We're seeing the resurgence of quality hard, sci-fi and it looks fantastic. Great action and plot set-up, but it also looks very character focused, which is something that's been missing from previous efforts about the goal to explore Mars.

In the story, astronaut Mark Watney and crew make their way to Mars aboard the Hermes, the large spacecraft outfitted to endure the years-long-trek to the red planet. It's recognizable design is patterned after the very real International Space Station. Here's a look at the Hermes from the film:

 Click to enlarge

A while back, the studio released a viral video to show off some of Damon's character and the interior of the Hermes.

Looking forward to October 2, 2015!

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Donald Glover, Mackenzie Davis, and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Next Saturday Night Space Opera: Charles Stross' Laundry Files!

We've got another new spin on the Cypher System! Regular SNSO player and awesome gamemaster in his own right, Matt Towle will be running DARK SIDE OF THE MOON based on Charles Stross' Laundry Files.

It takes the world of Stross' books (think Lovecraft meets an underfunded Ministry of Magic) and mashed them with the Cypher rules (of Numenera and The Strange) from Monte Cook Games.

The result is a spy-fi thriller through the lens of an overburdened British bureaucracy. Players take up the role of a special agents sent to investigate supernatural on the moon...but without the resources of a well-funded special ops ministry. As Matt puts it:
Space:1969. While NASA spends millions on cutting-edge rocket technology, your cash-strapped ministry just gave you a wetsuit and a subway token. Next stop: the moon!
6:00 pm / Saturday, September 5
Source Comics + Games
RSVP now so we know you're coming!
  • BYO dice (d6, 2d10, and d20)
  • Character sheets provided
  • No prior experience with Cypher rules necessary

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Wargons space warlord race for X-plorers

WARGONS: Heavy Metal raiders of the void! 

I love what you've done with your ridge Gordak! Are you using a new conditioner?

Wargons are the galaxy's most-feared space pirates seeking fortune, glory, infamy, and bent on unleashing such woe unto their enemies so as to be told for generations. They organize into tribal units called "prides" with a parental matriarch or patriarch as captain. They hunt their spacefaring prey--migrant convoys, freighters carrying cargo, passenger liners, and even military frigates--aboard smaller assault ships with crews of a few dozen. For larger hunts, they employ heavily armed battlecruisers.

But sentient forms are not their only quarry. The Wargon hunt the megafauna that live in the void--space kaiju! They consider this their greatest challenge and most dangerous prospect. To slay a massive monster and live is to become an Exalted One for ages to come.

Ferocious Starships

Wargons do not kill for merely sport--they render every piece of their prize into usable goods--famously fashioning the bones and heads into the very structure of their wildly eccentric spacecraft. The process is ritualistic and highly technical, resulting in constructs that only accentuate their already terrifying reputations.

Because of the varied and random nature of their hunts, no two Wargon vessels look exactly the same. There are basic sizes and functions, but some may employ giant insect wings, filleted reptillian frills, beheaded space demons or dragon, unfurled giant bat wings or other body parts. The fantastic and fierce-looking craft designs are greatly determined by the relative variety of exobiologic game they have encountered. And the more exotic the quarry, the more they thirst for it to become their latest creation.
"Balrog Class Dreadnought" by Katase6626 on deviantART 

  •  Vangjar Class (pictured) raider ships (bird of prey) are the most common type of Wargon vessel. Crew of 25-60.
  •  Bagkar Class destroyers are a medium-sized (think classic Enterprise) and are an equal or better match for comparable ships. Crew of 200-300.
  • Drakmir Class battlecruisers are the big mama-jamas, think STNG sized. Crew of 800 or more.

Physical Characteristics

Wargons are relatively the same size as humans, though their skin is more leathery and even hardens into sharp, bony protrusions on the front and top of the skull. Their skeletons are more dense and therefore stronger than normal humans. And if you think that makes them slower, you'd be mistaken--their muscles more than compensate for their fortified interiors, giving them surprising agility.

In general, they are:
  • Stronger than humans (Physique +1 per level) 
  • More intimidating (Presence +1 per level)
  • Possess of enhanced abilities: Initiates are also trained in Wargon Martial Arts with extra significance placed on the use of the Dam'eth sword (Weapon Specialization +1 per level), one of which every Wargon possess.  

Rage Ale and its effects

When they render the carcass of a felled kaiju, the single-most prized organ is the beast's pineal gland. From it, Wargons distill and brew into one of the most potent concoctions in the known universe: Rage Ale! The substance hyper-activates the Wargons' own anger-prone tendencies (see Melee Madness below), often imbibed just before hand-to-hand combat ensues in order to push them even further into blind aggression.

Exposure is not without some lingering after-effects. Because they're ambitious pirates, Wargons are consuming large quantities of the stuff and therefore experiencing physical changes as well, including the growth of horns, hardened skin and bones, blood-stained scelera of the eyes, and sharpened hand and foot digits. It's not know if these effects are reversible.

Melee Madness

"The Madness" is a direct effect of consuming Rage Ale, which gives Wargons enhanced strength and stamina during combat. Every Wargon carries a personal cache (flask or ampule) of the potion to chug just before contact with the enemy. Non-Wargons have been known to die or at least fall extremely ill should they ingest any. Rage Ale enhancements are as follows:
  • Physique/Strength & Constitution +2/per level
  • Hit Points +1d/level
  • Intelligence -2
  • Wisdom/Presence -2

Wargon "Blessed One"

Blessed One

Every Wargon warship Fafnir class and larger has a "Blessed One", a crew member selected for genetic mutation to turn him into a berserking freak--basically de-volving him. They usually keep them in a large cargo hold and assign another crew member (a former comrade) to look after the lucky fellow.

Nasty rumor: Wargons might be descended from rancors, not primates. That might be just a scary story, but it explains why they're so cranky.

Size: Large Monstrosity at 5.5 meters!

Agility: 10
Intelligence: 3
Physique: 20
Presence: 3

Attacks: Grasping claws and chomping bite. Don't worry about damage stats, if one gets a hold of you it's time to roll up a new character.

Society and Ritual

The life of a Wargon is defined by the harsh vacuum of space. They call it "the sea" and each soul upon the inky black "a sailor". Both males and females fight for their pride's honor. They are an ornery bunch, so they seem to work best in small tribal crews aboard their hunter ships.

Wargons worship RAGNULK!, God of the Great Thermal Death and live aboard ships that resemble flying heavy metal concerts crossed with outer-space megafauna. Ships are crewed by their own kin. Their "prides" are ruled by a father or mother figure (their captain). When a rival rises through the ranks s/he may try to assassinate her/his liege (this is never done during combat with an enemy--which is cause for instant execution). But a challenger that successfully topples the reigning captain, takes over command of the ship.

If the attempt fails, the would-be challenger is put through a gauntlet by peers in the ship's' Great Hall. Should they survive, they would be expelled from the pride--but with good intention. The erstwhile challenger is given a barely-working launch from which to begin their own pride. This is how the Wargon proliferate their kind.

A Wargon captain introduces him or herself through a string of surnames, relaying their lengthy and belligerent heritage--each name is usually more intimidating than the last.

"Beware preyling! For I am LORP, droplet of WEGAT THE BEMUSED, a kinsmen of WERDAR OF THE WASTE, and kinsfolk to VORDAM THE SKULL-SCRAPER!"

What their poor victims don't know is that Lorp was a cranky radio operator, Werdar is a sanitation officer and Vordam was really the ship's barber, heh!

Wargon High Chiefs are the highest authority in their society. They give orders to the many raiding parties, organize reconnaissance and patrol missions, and lead fleets in battle. The current high chief ruler sitting at the head of the Onyx Pentagram is know is MAD MELEANATH. No one has seen their visage in years, but it's said they are actually a were-creature, turning into some sort of rapacious space wolf whenever their bloodlust goes un-sated.

Vocation and Station

Wargons take service aboard a ship of their kinsmen and are divided into groups by skill. This is usually done based on Agility or Dexterity. The highest scores fly the ship and fire weapons. Lower scores are sent to work other systems. Intelligence isn't valued that highly, except among the highest echelons of society. 

All technology, at this point, is stolen and reconfigured to fit the Wargon motif. They stopped innovating eons ago. Wargon scientists are the worst kind---never intentionally employing the scientific method but very adept at reverse engineering. 

Ship crew compliments are typically divided into fifths of 1/5 ship control and command officers, 1/5 tech engineers, 3/5 soldiers and basic crew--with the understanding that when it comes to down and dirty combat, everybody fights.

Weapons, Armor, Equipment

The Wargon soldier is heavily armed, but only moderately armored so they can quickly dispatch enemies in hand-to-hand combat. In addition to carrying a personal energy carbine or blunderbuss, they carry at least one signature melee weapon, which can include:
  • Great axe, oversized, oversharp, heavy metal!
  • Double throwing axes, these are still quite huge, weighted at handles to provide maximum spinnage...
  • Spiked mace or flail, swingy, spikey--make sure not to sit on them
  • Gantlet covered in spikes, gives edged damage to punches as well as a little knockback
  • Cat O' Nine Tails, embedded with razors, also used in corporal punishment
  • Dam'eth sword, double-bladed swords or giant butterfly-handled swords, often curved or barbed but require a special touch to wield as they're mounted via fast-access, swing mechanism 
In addition, they'll usually wear some sort of padded armor or leather equivalent. They will don ornately decorated helmets with openings that allow their Rage Ale-infused horns to protrude through, as well as all manner of overwrought shoulder armor in battle, but find these restrictive aboard the confines of a ship. They will wear them however to intimidate enemies over viewscreen confrontations. Helms and pauldrons vary highly and are decorated or adorned as a sign of individual expression. 
Finishing off the Wargon look are any assortment of ritualistic tattoos, scarring, tramp stamps, big heavy stompy boots, toothy grills, and other extravagantly badass accouterments.


Warlike races in space opera are no longer a foregone conclusion--it's practically an expectation. Klingons have had many iterations over the years. Who could forget the great "head crest vs. no head crest" debate? To me they always epitomized of the greatest warriors in history, like the surliest pirates, Vikings, or Mongol warriors. Aesthetically, I'd believed their onscreen depiction in the original Trek films was based on the latter.

I always liked that they were best in small crews aboard BoPs and with a tribal command structure. They raiders who conquer through intimidation and cunning in battle. It's no wonder that they have become iconic in the decades since their appearance on the original series.