Monday, August 21, 2017

House Elegans, Part 1

Early on, I had realized I couldn't make every house a major power house.  After all, the Empire had gutted many Houses, so I needed at least one example of a house that was circling the drain, trying desperately to gain allies in its fight to regain its estates, or trying to borrow money from the more accomplished houses (I also had the idea for a dead house, one that had been wiped out, as things long gone can be as interesting in a game as things still present, and I still think that's a good idea, but I ran out of room).

I originally conceived of this House as useless courtiers who used plots, machinations and marriage to achieve success, but then I saw Afro-Samurai and thought "Psi-Wars needs that."  The idea of tragic samurai have long appealed to me, and Afro-Samurai represented an alternative take on that, which blends the cultural fusion I'm going for in Psi-Wars.  His tragedy made him a natural candidate to be the inspiration for the House that had lost everything, and so I chose this house.

Empathy and Telepathy make a lot of sense for a house that's all about persuading others to help them, but it's also a great choice for the anime-esque samurai who stares down his opponents and knows an attack is coming moments before it does, so I shifted Empathy from Grimshaw to this house.

Once I knew I was going to use an African character as inspiration, I could dig into one of my favorite characters, Eshu Elegba, as further inspiration (hence the name "Esau Elegans"), as my handle here is "Mailanka" which is a reference to a Changeling Eshu, which was my favorite game (and story within the game) of my youth.  Thus, the House gained a tradition of trickery (appropriate to a house with telepathy!) and with trying things other houses would not, seeking solutions where other houses would not, becoming the "left handed" house.  I also gave them this tradition because I wanted to have at least one house that had stepped away from the Oracular Order, and the house that had lost all of its territory to the Empire would reasonably be far from the center of the Oracular Order, which means they would be the best candidate for joining the philosophy of True Communion.

This makes them a complex house, one that seeks the assistance from traditional houses despite having a tradition of violating those traditions, a house of warriors whose greatest asset is political manipulation, a house who must cling to the last of their aristocratic heritage, yet knows well the struggle of the common man.

The Cadet Branch Afolayan is a reference to Lady Maya Afolayan, a character by Kelly Pedersen.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Patreon Post: The House of Alexus

An emperor to an eternal empire, at least
The Eternal Emperor, Rulers of the Alexian Empire, the Lords of Maradon.  The House of Alexus ruled the Galaxy for centuries and their legacy still casts a long shadow across the Galaxy.  They brought the noble houses of the Alliance to power, and so, in a sense, their legacy still lives on.

But who were they?  Are they dead?  In what other ways does this ancient house continue to make an impact on the Galaxy?  That's up to you to decide, dear Patron.

I wanted to emphasize that while I've given you four houses, they're not the only four possible houses.  I have at least two more houses for you, Patron, with House Alexus representing a dead, bygone House.  This one, given its importance, is going to be a special case: I'm making it exclusive to my $7+ Patrons, my Disciples.  It's a poll that, as usual, consists of a multitude of questions, and they're slated to drop in "reverse order," once every 15 minutes, so if you're seeing this, wait a spell and the rest of the poll questions will come soon enough.  They are:

  • The House of Alexus (An introduction and discussion of the House)
  • The Ancestral Legacy: The Founder (A look at the semi-mythical Alexus Rex, the man who conquered the stars)
  • The Ancestral Legacy: The Zenith (A look at Tarquin Alexus, the man who defined the Eternal Empire at its best)
  • The Ancestral Legacy: the Fall (A look at the Mad Emperor, Lucius Alexus, and how exactly he managed to screw everything up)
  • The Eugenic Legacy (What sort of genetic upgrades the Alexian dynasty had)
  • The Psionic Legacy (What sort of psionic powers the Alexian dynasty had)
  • The End of Alexus (Is the House dead?  And if not, in what state does it live on?)
  • The Final Legacy of Alexus (In what way does the house, dead or alive, continue to impact the setting?  Why do they matter to the player characters in the present).
If you're a Disciple, go vote!  If you're not, I'd love to have you!

Support me on Patreon!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

House Grimshaw, Part 2

I wanted to take the opportunity to stop and address something I had essentially ignored over the creation of the entire Alliance: they use robots, a lot.  One of the elements I had proposed for the economic hardships that helped spawn the Empire was the over-use of robotic labor and the increasing desperation of the average citizen.  The Empire ostensibly removed a lot of robotic labor, which is why I didn't talk much about Imperial robots, but the Alliance should still make use of them, from secretary bots to guardian robots.  To emphasize that, I've created a robot unique to house Grimshaw, which gives our space wizards a nice space golem to accompany him.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

House Grimshaw, Part 1

If House Sabine was the aristocracy at its most egalitarian, I wanted a house that represented the elitism inherent in aristocracy.  I wanted to remind you, dear reader, that nobility is not always so noble, that sometimes, it can be deeply oppressive.  Which isn't to say that I wanted to make them outright villains, but I did draw considerable inspiration from some villains I've used in the past.

From that initial kernel, they've changed quite a bit.  Originally, I had intended for them to be telepathic, but I eventually shifted that to another house.  I also wanted them to rule over the homeworld of the Shinjurai, representing a sort of oppression, so Ergokinesis (not as a means of interface, but as a means of the destruction of technology) fit.  From there, they sort of became "space wizards."

I also wanted to take the opportunity to create an example of a cadet branch, to show you how they might work.  This idea inspired some of the drama below.  Originally, I named the house Daijin (though a very complicated route of inspirations, including the name the Japanese had for samurai families, and the name of the four-state period that followed the fall of Alexander the great), but settled on Grimshaw because at least one house of Maradon should use a Maradonian name, you know?

The result makes for an excellent "villain" candidate.  If there's a house you want to put all your sinister conspiracies and dark plans for conquest, this is the house for it.  But I try to push for multiple perspectives on a house (the "dramatic poles" as Robin Laws might say), and that comes for their reason for oppression: they see themselves, right or wrong, as the last vestiges of true conservationism in the Alliance.  The Alliance claims to be fighting to restore the Federation, but House Grimshaw actually is.  This also makes them champions of a golden age, and depending on how you see that "golden age," that makes them heroes or villains.

The House Grimshaw

Cadet Branches: Daijin

House Grimshaw is technically a cadet branch from the now disgraced House Daijin. The latter served as the chancellor to House Alexus, and ruled over the Royal Moon, Atrium, that circles Maradon. After the fall of the House of Alexus, the most powerful noble of the era, Shio Daijin, stepped up to seize the Empire, and saw the rest of the Houses rise up to defeat him and cast him down as a war criminal and usurper. Since then, House Grimshaw rose to take Daijin’s place. Like House Sabine, Grimshaw’s power base lies primarily in humanity’s home and the center of the Alliance, and thus it retained most of its power when the Federation fell.

The Oracular Order saw House Daijin (and thus Grimshaw) as defenders of the status quo. They oversaw the governance of the Maradon Empire, guided the Alexian Emperor, and recorded its history in the great libraries of Atrium. At the same time, they maintained constant vigil against those who would deviate from the Golden Path. House Grimshaw has largely remained true to the Oracular Order’s vision, and more than any House, concerns itself with the purity of its blood. Despite its early struggles, house Grimshaw has become the aristocracy of aristocracy, and stands today as one of the most powerful houses of the Alliance.

Members of House Grimshaw appear no more, or less, attractive than the common folk (though they tend to have more aristocratic features than most), but they have strong, magnetic personalities that draw others to them. Most Grimshaw have vibrantly blue or liquid silver eyes and an intense, almost electric gaze, that seems to crackle of glow when they draw upon their psionic heritage, ergokinesis. Despite their charisma, however, most Grimshaw have cold, calculating personalities. They tend to concern themselves first and foremost with the safety and power of their House and, thereafter, with their adherence to the philosophies of the bygone Oracular Order and, lastly, with ensuring that everyone else adhere to their vision as well.

Grimshaw Titles

House Grimshaw, through its connection to the royal House Daijin, is also a royal house. House Daijin still retains its hereditary dominion over Atrium as Count or Countess. The master of House Grimshaw is always a Duke, and traditionally the Duke of Denjuku (Homeworld to the Shinjurai) and Lord of the Shinjurai. They also have seats at the executive boards of a variety of corporations, not the least of which is Syntech. They also traditionally hold the title of Master of Ceremonies, the sons and daughters of Grimshaw Dukes may title themselves Prince or Princess, and they recently persuaded the Senate to allow some of their rank to hold the title of Defender of the Faith.

Notable members of House Grimshaw

The Duke Bale Grimshaw rules the House, and holds more influence and power than any other current Alliance noble. He strongly believes in returning the Alliance back to its roots and restoring the Federation, though he’s willing to forge a truce with the Empire if it gives the Alliance time to solidify its position. A staunch conservative, he opposes any expansion of non-aristocratic power, regularly pushes to expansion of aristocracy privilege, and advocates for a return to the Oracular Order as a state philosophy. He has also begun rehabilitating the image of Shio Daijin, revising his memory from usurper to patriot, and rumor swirls around Bale Grimshaw’s ambition: many suspect he intends to create a second Alexian Empire, with himself at its head.

Shio Daijin remains a controversial figure to this day. After the death of the last Alexian Emperor, his forces moved quickly to secure the Imperial Capital, so seamlessly that some accuse him of orchestrating the murder of the last Alexian Emperor (though he almost certainly didn’t strike the deathblow himself). He then engaged in a powerful crackdown on the last remnants of the Knights of Communion and those Houses that still revolted against the central power, attempting to seize control of the Empire or, according to House Grimshaw, to restore order to the Empire. Either way, he failed and the victors executed him as a war criminal. House Grimshaw, which rose after the fall of Daijin, originally distanced itself from his actions, but today, speak more warmly of their founding house.

Janus Daijin founded the House, and while the specter of Shio Daijin has retroactively tainted his memory, his remains still rest in the imperial necropolis of Maradon with the rest of the old Alexian heroes. He served as adviser and councilor to Alexus, using his considerable psionic power and genius to guide his master to victory after victory, both in matters of war and matters of peace, and he was offered the first daughter of Alexus as his bride. He wielded such psionic power that the Oracular Order, in eugenically engineering House Grimshaw, did not seek to improve them, but to ensure that they bred true to their founder.

Grimshaw Eugenic Legacy

Grimshaw Eugenic Power-Up 50 points

Advantages: Grimshaw Bloodline [1]; Spend up to 49 points on Classic Appearance (Aristocratic) [1] or on the following packages:

Grimshaw Magnetism [6]

Grimshaw Detachment [16]

Grimshaw Intellect [16]

Grimshaw Power [10]

Disadvantages: Replace any of your template disadvantages with the following disadvantages (If you have Bloodline Purity 2 or higher, you may choose an additional -5 points worth of the following disadvantages, increasing your disadvantage limit by -5 points!): Callous [-5], Distinctive Feature (Silver or vibrantly blue eyes) [-1], Jealousy [-10], Mental Instability [Varies], No Sense of Humor [-10], Overconfidence [-5*], Selfishness [-5*]

Grimshaw Magnetism 6

Advantages: Charisma 1 [5], Bloodline Purity 1 [1]

Grimshaw Detachment 16

Advantages: Bloodline Purity 1 [1], Unfazeable [15]

Grimshaw Intellect 16

Attributes: IQ +1 [20]

Secondary Characteristics: -1 Perception [-5]

Advantages: Bloodline Purity 1 [1]

Grimshaw Power 10

Secondary Characteristics: Fatigue +3 [9]

Advantages: Bloodline Purity 1 [1]

Features: Fatigue may exceed HT by 100% [0]

Daijin Eugenic Power-Up 50 points

As the Grimshaw Eugenic Power-Up, but replace Grimshaw Magnetism with Daijin Focus:

Daijin Focus 6

Advantages: Single Minded [5], Bloodline Purity 1 [1]

Mental Instability

Mental Instability is a secret disadvantage (B120), a lurking “trap” in the genetics that the GM can spring upon a player whenever he, provided she takes the Mental Instability disadvantage. Allow the player to take up to between -10 and -20 points, and then assign a disadvantage worth at least five points less.

The most common mental instabilities for House Grimshaw are Delusion (“Everything is Connected”, or “Secret conspiracies seek to undermine the Alliance”) [-5 to -10] or Paranoia [-10].

Grimshaw Psionic Legacy

House Grimshaw has latent Ergokinesis Abilities. If the character has the Grimshaw Bloodline perk and the requisite Bloodline Purity levels, he may take the following abilities and talents whenever he wishes:

Bloodline Purity 0: EK Shield (PP 33) [4/level]; Electric Vision (PP 33) [8 to 12]; Light Amplification PP 35) [1], Power Generator (PP 35) [1]; Presence (Pyramid #3-69 p7) [1].

Blood Purity 1: Flash (PP 35) [22+5/level]; Surge (PP 340 [11/level].

Blood Purity 3: Dampen (PP 33) [12/level]; Lightning (PP 33) [12/level].

Blood Purity 4: Ergokinesis Talent +1 to +4 [5/level]

Sample Grimshaw Psionic Power Packages

Grimshaw Deflection 25 points

Prerequisite: Grimshaw Bloodline

The Grimshaw can absorb or deflect enery attacks sent his way, and many focus on batting aside blaster fire with a wave of their hand. Grishaw Deflection provides a DR of 25 against energy attacks (blasters, force swords, lightning or plasma weapons).

Advantages: EK Shield 5 [20]

Skills: EK Shield (H) IQ-2 [2];

Technique: Blaster Absorbtion (H) EK Shield-1 [3];

Grimshaw Vision 25 points

Prerequisite: Grimshaw Bloodline

The Grimshaw simply sees electricity, that it is present, and how it flows. He may make a skill roll to detect any hidden electrical devices and to gain greater insight into how that device functions and its nature. Apply normal vision penalties (range, darkness, etc). He may even see such devices through intervening matter, such as stone or metal, up to a foot thick.

Advantages: Electric Vision 2 [12]

Skills: Electric Vision (H) Per [4];

Techniques: Deep Scan (H) Electric Vision +0 [9]

Grimshaw Purge 25 points

Prerequisite: Grimshaw Bloodline, Bloodline Purity 1

Should someone use technology a Grimshaw disapproves of, he may short it out with nothing more than a judgmental glower and a wave of his hand. If the Grimshaw can see it (see Grimshaw vision), he may make a roll against Surge, which the device opposes with HT. If he succeeds, he rolls 2d and if the rolled value is over 1/3rd of the devices HP, it must make an HT roll or short out for seconds equal to its margin of failure. This attack ignores DR completely!

Advantages: Surge 2 [22]

Skills: Surge (H) Will-2 [1]

Techniques: Mass Surge (H) Surge-6 [2]

Grimshaw Glory 25 points

Prerequisite: Grimshaw Bloodline, Bloodline Purity 1

The Grimshaw focuses all ambient light into a single pulse from a single point, usually just behind his head, creating a momentary halo of power. Anyone within 2 yards must roll HT; failure stuns the target (they may roll to recover each second to recover), while those who fail by 5 or more are blinded for minutes equal to the margin of failure. Protected vision grants +5 to resist this roll, and characters with closed eye or who are already blind are immune.

Advantages: Flash 1 [22]

Skills: Flash (H) Will-2 [1]

Techniques: Overwhelm (H) Flash-3 [2]

Grimshaw Fury 25 points

Prerequisite: Grimshaw Bloodline, Blood Purity 3

The Grimshaw draws lightning from nearby electrical flows (such as the power in the wall or in a nearby reactor). Such an attack deals 2d burn, Acc 3, Range 50/100/ ROF 1. Some Grimshaw learn to focus this lightning more intensely, gaining an armor divisor of 5; Remember extra effort to improve the attack!

Advantages: Lightning 2 [24]

Skills: Lightning (H) IQ-3 [1];

Technique: Particle Beam (H) Lightning-7 [0];

Grimshaw Shadow 25 points

Prerequisite: Grimshaw Bloodline, Blood Purity 3

By exerting his “shadow,” a Grimshaw can end all technological activity within an area of two yards radius, either around him, or in an area touching him. This causes all electricity it that affected area to stop flowing, causing all electrical devices to simply cease functioning.

Advantages: Dampen 2 [24]

Skills: Dampen (H) IQ-3 [1];

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

House Sabine, Part 2

People will want to play as members of a house, so naturally, we need to make some modifications to the Aristocratic Background lens to allow them to do so.

As you may have noticed, these posts are much more specific than most of the previous posts of Iteration 6, with names, planets and cultures.  Aristocracy is "bound to the land," you cannot discuss a house without discussing its lands, its culture, the people who serve it, and offering up generic examples aren't enough (in fact, that's what I've done these past two weeks!).  You need to see concrete examples, so I've done that here.

In a sense, a house is like a world in that they have their own culture, though I would argue their culture should have no more than 1-3 distancing mechanism: they're not an alien culture, just a distinct one.  One element I wanted to show for House Sabine, that I expect will be repeated in other houses, is a culture of a distinct, hidden language, like the sign language of House Atreides in Dune, or the "Fan Languages" of the real world.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sabine Addendum: Sabine Blindness

Some patrons who read the material in advanced asked about playing Blind characters.  I included Blindness for flavor more than anything else, and felt that if a player really really wanted it, a GM could work out some way to make that happen.  I even had thoughts on how best to do it.

"If you already have an idea of how to do it, why not write it in there?"

Good point!  Here it is:

Disadvantages: Replace any of your template disadvantages with the following disadvantages (If you have Bloodline Purity 2 or higher, you may choose an additional -5 points worth of the following disadvantages, increasing your disadvantage limit by -5 points!): Bad Sight (Mitigator, Lenses -60%) [-10], Blindness [-50]†, Blindness (Sabine) [-10]†, Distinctive Feature (White hair), Low Pain Threshold [-10], Mental Instability [Varies], Odious Personal Habit (Finnicky) [-5], Selfless [-5*], Shyness (Mild or Severe) [-5 or -10].

Blindness is disallowed in GURPS Action, and for good reason, as it can be cripplingly difficult to be an Action hero if you cannot see. Even characters like Zatoichi or Blind Fury’s Nick Parker or Daredevil either explicitly have alternate means to see, or are explicitly skilled in overcoming their blindness. In Psi-Wars, characters like Mystics might get by while being blind, but I would ask your GM for permission. Moreover, blindness is -50 points, and thus completely fills up your disadvantage point limit. Consider, instead, the following package:

Blindness (Sabine) -10 points
Prerequisite: Sabine Bloodline
Blindness runs in the Sabine Bloodline, and sometimes children are born with eyes as white as their hair. Some such children display unusual talent with ESP and gain a psionic awareness of their environment very similar to Sabine Blindsight. Such Sabines often veil their eyes to hide the fact that they can see without sight.

Awareness 10 allows the character to “see” up to a mile in a 120° arc before him (like sight); with effort, he can see up to 240° up to a mile, or 360° up to 20 yards. He needn’t concentrate to activate it, but he must roll his skill to notice any details (like a normal person rolls Perception); and at least once per minute of active use; in the same circumstances that a normal character could simply see something, a Blind Sabine should roll Awareness at least once to see if he’s picking up any details at all. Failure means the Sabine loses precision of her sense and may have a difficult time navigating or be surprised, etc Characters with Awareness skill 16+ may take No Nuisance Rolls (Awareness) [1], in which case they never need to roll for Awareness except in the same conditions someone would need to roll for Perception. This is a psionic ability, and is subject to the same benefits (extra effort) and drawbacks (anti-psi characters might be invisible to the character, characters with psi-sense can detect the character, and psionic restraint collars will shut down the Awareness, etc).

Advantages: Awareness 11 [29]
Disadvantages: Blindness [-50]
Skills: Awareness (H) Per+0 [4]

Techniques: Extended Arc (H) Awareness-2 [7]

House Sabine, part 1

When I first knew I wanted to create noble houses, I immediately had two in mind. The first drew inspiration from Mon Mothma and Princess Leia, and represented the aristocracy of Psi-Wars as portrayed in Star Wars: elegant, egalitarian and full of noblesse oblige, but not contributing as directly to the effort as much as commanding.  If we had to have a house to root for, I wanted it to be this one.

The rest fell into place as I worked out the Oracular Order's role in the creation of the Houses.  If the Oracular Order were the Bene Gesserit, then this was House Atreides.  When I dug around in Bio-Tech for suggestions, I stumbled across altered sex ratios (technically a radical species modification, but meh, this is space opera) and fecundity, which made them a house associated with twins and who hovers protectively over their few male members. This also made them a great house for the "Damsel in distress" that a hero needs to rescue, though naturally some would have the wherewithal to rescue themselves.  I don't like to make a one-note house, though, so their "bene geserit-ness" gives them a manipulative, witchy vibe, at least to me.  Given that, traditionally, men fit poorly into either the "witch" or "princess" niche, that makes the rare male members an interesting puzzle to fit into the house.

Their name came from the Italian Sabine tribe, from whom the Romans acquired their first brides; House Sabine consists of the first brides of the Alexian Emperor, and were bred to be the brides of the other noble houses.

The Cadet Branch "Pavonis" is a reference to a character created by Elliot Belser, for his own Psi-Wars game.
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