Friday, September 22, 2017

Patreon Post: Neo-Rational Technology

Neo-Rationalism promises a new golden age of technology and delivers!  Neo-Rationalists also gain access to limited TL 12^ gadgetry via the Cutting Edge Technology (Neo-Rational Tech) available to all Neo-Rationalists.  For today's Patreon post, I offer a first draft of that technology.  It's available, as a preview, to all $3+ patrons. If you're a Patron, check it out! If you're not, I'd love to have you.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Neo-Rational Organizations: Institutes and Salons

No single, overarching organization governs Neo-Rationalism; one can better think of Neo-Rationalism as a movement. Organizations form within that movement for the express purpose of exploring, expanding and teaching the ideas of Neo-Rationalism. Broadly speaking, these organizations break down into two categories: institutes, official organizations that teach Neo-Rationalism in a formal manner, and Salons, which teach Neo-Rationalism in an informal manner.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Neo-Rational Disciplines

Unlike the philosophies of the Akashic Mysteries and True Communion, Neo-Rationalism doesn’t have a strict set of disciplines deeply associated with its philosophy. Nonetheless, Neo-Rationalists have, over time, applied their deeply scientific approach to combat, social interaction and even to defeating their ultimate nemesis, psychic powers. While not every Neo-Rationalist institute teaches all of the following disciplines, especially depending on what specific branch of Neo-Rationalism the institute adheres to, but the following represent the most common Neo-Rationalist disciplines.

The alien race known as the Traders cross-pollinated extensively with Neo-Rational disciplines. Some practice Combat Geometrics, while some Neo-Rationalist humans attempt to master Hyperdimensional Meditation.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Neo-Rational Schisms

Neo-Rationalism does not follow a strict hierarchy, nor it is a dogmatically organized philosophy. Instead, Neo-Rationalism is better described as a movement, an attempt to return to, and understand, the rationalism of old. As such, it has no strictly agreed upon interpretations or ideologies. The standard Neo-Rationalism described thus far is really just the most common form of Neo-Rationalism, and the exact nature of Neo-Rational dogma changes from person to person, and experiences fads and trends.

Neo-Rationalists offer far more respect to Neo-Rational schisms than they do to other “irrational” philosophies. To the Neo-Rationalist, a “wrong” Neo-Rationalist is still rational, just not as rational as he is. As such, members of Schisms tend to vigorously debate one another and possibly disparage one another in papers, but they respect whatever laureates or credentials the others have.

A character who wishes to follow an alternate form of Rationalism may note the alternate name in their belief, eg Belief (Cyber-Rationalism) rather than Belief (Neo-Rationalis). Neo-Rationalism schisms default to one another at -2; optionally, the GM may treat them as familiarities: once a character has spent some time arguing with members of a schism, he can waive the penalty.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Neo-Rationalism as Esoteric Style

Students of Neo-Rationalism attempt to re-orient their minds towards “rational thinking.” This tends to create a cold and logical outlook on the world, but masters of the philosophy tend to be genuinely more stoic and mentally focused than non-practitioners.

Neo-Rationalists argue that they have superior moral and philosophical insights to all other philosophies, but even most outside observers agree that their philosophy is exceptionally well-suited to describing “the natural universe.” If someone is able to attain it, Neo-Rational Heuristics, when paired with appropriate optional skills, allows for superior results. The precise determinism of Neo-Rationalism also allows reasonably accurate predictions of the future, giving some followers a spooky, nigh supernatural foresight events, thanks to Foresightful Planning. While not ubiquitous throughout the Empire, many Academy trained individuals are also Neo-Rationalist trained; some of the best admirals or investigators supplement their practice with Neo-Rational heuristics and foresightful planning.

Neo-Rationalism has modest anti-psionic benefits, mainly in the form of skepticism and the tight logic and mental discipline of a practiced Neo-Rationalist. Anti-Psionic characters, like Dawkins Nigh, like to subscribe to Neo-Rationalism, as it makes them feel like their strange powers have a purpose, namely in hunting down the “irrational” psions, and especially in proving their claims wrong.

Neo-Rationalists tend to ascribe inhuman feats of intellect to their founders. There might be a case for “supernatural” powers or some variation of the Illumination advantage, especially if Neo-Rationalism is “true.”

Friday, September 15, 2017

Patreon Post: Faith, Psi-Wars and the Old Ways

Not psychic, last I checked.  Probably isn't
strong in the Force either.
I hope you've been enjoying Neo-Rationalism.  It's the only non-Psionic philosophy I'll release as an official part of this series, but it got me to thinking about other non-Psionic philosophies and faiths, and about faith itself.  Faith, not just in the sense of religion, but in finding something to believe in, features strongly in many works of science fiction.  I suspect many others enjoy contrasting the shine, confidence and soullessness of technology with the austere humility of spirituality.  As such, I wanted to write something addressing that and offering potential ways to include some non-psionic religion with the uncertainties of the world addressed in an uncertain and subtle faith.

Some of my readers have begun asking about Old Westerly philosophies, and what other sort of religions humans might follow. I've always seen the Old Westerly as the Corellians of the setting, characters more space cowboys and pioneers than shining knights or sketchy cyberpunks.  If we imagine them as inspired by Firefly, then a good, "wild west" philosophy for them would look a lot like the religion Shepherd Book follows.  So, as a worked example of a non-psionic faith, I offer Shepherdism, an optional "old way" that one might found lingering on the rim of the galaxy, or if you want some humble, monastic faith that rolls up its sleeves and helps the poor, and True Communion doesn't do it for you.

This patreon special is available to all $1+ patrons.  If you're a patron, check it out!  If you're not a patron, I'd love to have you.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Neo-Rational Symbolism and Ceremonies

Neo-Rationalists tend to be less formal than other philosophies. They lack strict organizations and what passes for Neo-Rationalism tends to change based on what is currently fashionable among the intellectual elite, united only by the Rationalist Canon and its antecedents. Neo-Rationalists do like ways to display their rational piety and to hone their minds, however, and so ceremonial actions do occasionally become popular and widespread.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Neo-Rationalism as a Philosophy

The Principles of Neo-Rationalism

  1. True understanding of the universe is the only worthy pursuit
  2. True understanding of the universe can be achieved only by a rational mind using science.
  3. Science achieves understanding only through empirical research, logic and experimentation.
  4. Man is an irrational animal in his natural state; the irrational, like an animal, cannot be held responsible for his actions.
  5. Rational thought can only be achieved by hard work, education, and dedication to the geniuses of the past.
  6. Rational thought frees man from irrational instinct; freeing all men from irrational thought will bring about a utopia.
  7. The supernatural and mental does not exist; only the physical exists.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Neo-Rationalism: The Cultural Context

The philosophy of Neo-Rationalism did not spring fully formed into the world.  It reflects a specific intellectual tradition of the Shinjurai people, and it's evolution bears the markers of the rise and fall of that culture within the Galaxy.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Neo-Rationalism: An introduction

Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels' hidden fort...”
-General Motti, A New Hope

The first philosophy I want to discuss has nothing to do with psionic powers and is, in fact, the closest thing to an actual philosophy that I am likely to discuss.

Psi-Wars, like Star Wars before it and many of the genre-mashing space opera stories that were especially popular during the era in which Star Wars was conceived, suffer from the problem of embracing both the “wonder of advanced science” themes of sci-fi as well as the “mysticism of the ancient past” themes of fantasy. On the one hand, we need science, as we’re writing science-fiction, and how else do we justify the amazing technology of the setting (force screens, hyperdrives, man-portable weaponized particle accelerators powered by impossibly efficient batteries)? On the other hand, if we embrace science in its totality, we leave little room for the spirituality inherent in the mysticism of Star Wars. How can we get both together in the same place?

To make both work, we need to both embrace and reject science. We must explain why the Galaxy of Psi-Wars has been stuck in the same tech level for the literally millennia necessary to give us the huge sweep of history that we want in the setting. We can solve this problem in a variety of ways, but Neo-Rationalism is one of my answers. Scientific progress is not manifest destiny; its paradigm, the culture of skepticism, analytical thinking and bold experimentation, can be lost and replaced with dogmatism and doctrine. This has happened before in history. I would argue, in fact, that we’re constantly under attack by our own impulses to move away from the unintuitive strictures of the scientific method and towards the more intuitive impulses of mysticism and worship of authority.

Neo-Rationalism is, at first glance, a scientific strawman. It represents a preening, condescending and obviously wrong take on science by emphasizing all the worst traits of scientism, the sort of “smug, ivory tower scientist who doesn’t really understand the world” that we see so often in science fiction. The Neo-Rationalist is the irrationally skeptic who refuses to believe the truth of things like True Communion. This makes him a natural enemy for the heroes of the Psi-Wars universe, someone they can defy and defeat, and thus is strongly represented in the “evil” Empire.

But everyone who reads this work does so on a computer and lives in a civilized world shaped by science. Does science really need to be villified? In this sense, Neo-Rationalism represents a tragedy. It shows a galaxy that was once on the path to scientific enlightenment, but lost its way. Science lost its discipline, and thus its power, and in its absence, mysticism has sprung up.

Neo-Rationalism also represents an opportunity to get the galaxy back on the right track.  It holds genuine keys to self-improvement! And unlike the other philosophies here, one needn't be psionic to access it.  It also has access to (experimental, dangerous) TL 12^ prototypes and is perhaps the best place to find the last embers of the fire that once fueled technological progress.  With the right spark, and by cleaning away the gunk that has grown up around it, perhaps the flames of progress could be lit once more.

This creates the core tension of Neo-Rationalism, one paralleled in the Psi-Wars setting, between mysticism and skepticism. The Neo-Rationalist craves answers to difficult questions that science cannot answer, but wants to hold onto the truths of science. It must carefully navigate what science can offer and what it cannot, and at this point in the setting, the movement has failed to do that, but the PCs might succeed where others have failed!

Neo-Rationalism also offers players the chance to play an intellectual who isn’t a space wizard. It rewards deep investment in intellectual skills and offers nigh-super-human, but entirely plausible, displays of genius. It befits characters like Thrawn, Moff Tarkin, especially cunning investigators and deeply thoughtful scavengers. It explicitly allows the sci-fi fan to bring the science back into the space fantasy of Psi-Wars, without disrupting that space fantasy.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Patreon Post: Neo-Rational Preview and Tinker Titan Rebel Spy

For the next two weeks, this blog will dive into Neo-Rationalism, the traditional philosophy of Shinjurai science and rational self-improvement.  If you're a $3+ patron, you can get the preview of it here.

Second, for those interested in Tinker Titan Rebel Spy, we still have two spots open, and it's now open to all $5+ patrons.

If you're a patron, check it out.  If you're not, as always, we'd love to have you.

Support me on Patreon!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Patreon Post: Philosophy

Over the course of writing the philosophies of Psi-Wars, I dived pretty deeply into philosophy, and I found it useful to compile some basic notes to sort my thoughts out.  What we really needed, I thought to myself, was the equivalent to GURPS Religion, but using Philosophy.  I've compiled those notes into such a document, that offers some quick ideas and insights into how one might create their own philosophy and what sort of tenets such a philosophy might hold to.

Note that this is as superficial a study of Philosophy as GURPS Religion is a superficial a study of Theology.  It's not meant to be comprehensive, but a place to get started.

If you're a $1+ Patron (that's right!  $1!), check it out here.  If you're not, hey, it's a buck!  And I'd love to have you!  If you're curious to learn more, check out the History of Philosophy Without the Gaps, the Partially Examined Life and, of course, Wikipedia.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Philosophy in Psi-Wars: An Introduction

The most memorable and innovative part of Star Wars is, without a doubt, the Force. Star Wars created such a compelling sci-fi religion that to this day, most discussion of Star Wars revolves around the Force and its Jedi. Psi-Wars would not be complete if I didn’t take the time to really expand on our corollary for the Force and the Jedi: Communion and the Knights of Communion.

But Psi-Wars is more than just Star Wars. It draws inspiration from other works, like Coraabia, Dune, Killjoys, the Endless series, the wuxia genre, and history. Each of these have their own philosophies and religions which drive their societies and the narrative of the story. These unique philosophies act as a distancing mechanism, reminding us that we’re in an alien setting, but each story dives into their philosophies and explain them in detail, making them the center of exploration of the setting.

For me, a single philosophy just isn’t enough. The real world brims with alternate philosophies and cultures, and the conflict between them shaped history. Moreover, the sort of space opera that inspired Star Wars traded on the exploration of the exotic. While Star Wars doesn’t delve much into alternate philosophies (outside of its expanded universe), mainly, I suspect, due to a lack of time, but it’s critical for a game that focuses on the exploration of exotic worlds that characters have interesting philosophies and cultures to explore. We want the galaxy to feel large, with plenty of options for people to explore!

RPGs have different demands than films. Star Wars focuses mainly on two ideologies: the Jedi and the Sith, with one as counter point to the other, the Good of the Jedi and the Evil of the Sith. This works fine for a simple, good vs evil narrative in a story, but I find that player characters struggle with such a simplistic approach. A Sith character cannot help but be mustache-twirlingly evil, while Jedi must be tediously good. The nuance necessary for varied, dynamic and personal characters struggles against the simplicity created by the movie.

As a result, I want the philosophies of Psi-Wars to be more nuanced, each written from the perspective of the player as well as the GM: why he might choose it, what it offers him, what variations he might pursue, and how it shapes his perspective on the setting. I also want to offer him a greater variety than just two: I want to offer five, for the same reason that D&D offers a multitude of races, or why the World of Darkness offers five factions for each supernatural creature: a setting, especially one as expansive as a galaxy, needs more nuance and options for a group to explore than is offered by a simple good vs evil narrative. We need multiple flavors of good and evil to explore, in the very least, and numerous factions to draw upon.

If I can sum up the purpose of philosophy in Psi-Wars, I seek to do the following:

  • Bring the alienness of the universe to life and make it reasonable to understand
  • Offer inspiration to the GM for factions and their motivations
  • Offer inspiration to players for their own motivations and how they see the world
  • Create a repository for cool powers
If I can return to my model of four players, too many philosophies threatens to overwhelm a player like Brent, thus we must ensure that each can be summed up in a sentence or two, and we must especially make sure that we have obvious parallels for the Jedi and the Sith orders, so that a player will recognize them when he sees them. For Willow, the more detail a philosophy has, the better! It drives the setting, and it creates nuance, and is full of history and interesting characters. For Bjorn, a philosophy must differentiate itself from other philosophies by offering interesting character options, character options that matter in the context of an action scenario. Finally, Desiree will want to shape her character by following beliefs and knowing what that means in the context of other philosophies.

The Five Philosophies of Psi-Wars

Psi-wars is a vast galaxy and brims with philosophies, but most of those will be localized. They should only be the focus of gameplay if the GM wants to bring them to the fore, or a player wants to explore them. A Star Wars example might be the Witches of Dathomir and how they see/use the Force: that’s interesting if you’re doing a story that focuses on those witches, or you want to play one of the witches, then it’s good to know how they work, but one does not need to know about them to appreciate Star Wars. Thus, for Psi-Wars, I’d like to limit this iteration to the five “most important” philosophies, the ones that most broadly shape the setting and the only ones you really need to know to understand the prime conflicts of the setting.


Neo-Rationalism is the dying relic of rationalism and science in the universe. Where rationalism’s carefully measured skepticism drove scientific progress throughout the galaxy, Neo-Rationalism has replaced it with a psuedo-scientific dogma that would rather quote the great scholars of the past than push the boundaries of knowledge. Neo-Rationalism believes strongly in its ability to produce superior minds, and its students can achieve superior feats of intellect. Neo-Rationalism is currently in vogue in the Empire, and the Emperor himself hides his machinations behind a facade of Neo-Rationalism.

This philosophy offers an in-setting explanation as to why science has stagnated, offers players a genuine, non-psionic philosophy to follow, and draws inspiration from Dune’s Mentats and the real-world General Semantics that inspired the World of Null-A and the Mentats themselves.

The Akashic Mysteries

Surprise! A new name for the Oracular Order! The Akashic mysteries found their origin on the Sabine homeworld of Persephone. The colonists of that world expanded on precognitive techniques uncovered deep in the mysterious caves of that world, and use their newfound mastery to explore the whole of history, including its many paths that led to the destruction of the human race, and found the one path that didn’t, the “Golden Path.” They used this knowledge to help found the Alexian Empire and the noble houses, all with an eye towards moving mankind onto the path of ultimate salvation. Their experiment ended disastrously with the collapse of the Eternal Empire under the reign of the mad Emperor, Lucius Alexus, and they have but fragments of their former influence.

The Akashic mysteries serve as a background for the Noble Houses, and an explanation as to why the galaxy is the way it is. It also offers a human-centric alternative to True Communion as a possible “truth” of the setting, as well as an interesting source of potential conspirators. It’s also a non-communion-based psionic philosophy. It draws inspiration from the Bene Gesserit of Dune and from Minority Report, as well as the Mystery religions of ancient Greece.

The Nine Masks of the Divine (The Traditions)

Long ago, an alien Empire ruled the galaxy until a great galactic calamity destroyed their native star and sent the galaxy spiraling into a dark age. A multitude of philosophies, religions and cults spanned that Empire, and scholars, philosophers and theologians across the Empire noticed similarities between them, and began to forge a grand, pantheistic understanding of all these various psionic philosophies, bringing them under the umbrella of a single philosophy, the Nine Masks. The Nine Masks understood the essential elements of Communion, and believes the nine paths of Communion to be the “masks” that the divine wear, and that mortals who walk those paths mask themselves in a form of divinity. It began as an ecumenical exercise, a way of bringing all of the faiths of the Empire under a single roof, and a way of trying to understand the principles, but with the dissolution of the Empire, fragments of that lore has become the source for occult thought and mysticism, especially in the dark arm of the galaxy.

The Nine Masks serves as a basket we can put any interesting old cult that we want into, and acts as a de facto perspective on how Communion and its paths work. It also draws inspirations from the pantheism of the Roman Empire, and the occultism that arose around those “pagan” beliefs in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It gives us a place for spooky witches and exotic cults.

True Communion

Another race, long oppressed by the various Empires that have ruled the galaxy, formed telepathic bonds with one another and gained profound understanding of Ego Communion, or “True Communion.” Their understanding transcended the mere paths of the Nine Masks and uncovered the core truths of Communion itself. They forged a philosophy of pacifism and universal tolerance, accepting that all who could connect with Communion belonged to a oneness that transcended individual distinctness. One heretical member tested the bounds of this universal tolerance by openly spreading its wisdom to the very races that oppressed them, especially to Humanity, who eagerly took up its message of tolerance and freedom from the oppressive destinies imposed upon them by the Akashic mysteries. The philosophy reached its height shortly before the end of the Eternal Empire, and helped clear away the corruption of that failed state. The philosophy still exists, and its knights have scattered to the far stars of the rim, awaiting the time when they will be needed again, when they will be accepted again.

True Communion is the Psi-Wars equivalent to the Jedi doctrine. It offers superior understanding of Communion and a superior, heroic vision for how the Galaxy could be. It offers us the legends that Star Wars hints at, and draws inspiration from the Ikko Ikki, the Templars and the Shaolin monstary. It is, by default, the “true” philosophy if Psi-Wars.

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant

This philosophy began as the worship of the God-Emperor of the alien empire that once ruled the Galaxy, as well as a philosophy that justified the dominion of that God Emperor. As the Empire grew, they folded the worship of the Emperor into the Nine Masks of Divinity as just another branch of the same larger tree. But long after the fall of the Empire, racial supremacists of the fallen imperial aliens resurrected the ideology as a means of regaining their former prestige, and they expanded the philosophy. In its modern incarnation, it has shed its racist origins, and sees the path of the Mystic Tyrant not as an ends, but as a means to transcend all paths, to transcend morality and to gain control of the metaphysical underpinnings of the universe itself. It worships those who manage to achieve this nihilistic mastery, and has opened its doors to anyone who can achieve this personal transcendence. They corrupted the Knights of Communion, drawing members away from it and helping bring about its downfall, and now they conspire with the Emperor to bring about the total dominion of the Galaxy under the only man who can truly rule it: one who has transcended the path of the Mystic Tyrant.

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant is our Sith equivalent philosophy, offering us an ultimate antagonist for the philosophy of True Communion. As in Star Wars, it draws much of its philosophy from Nietzsche and from Objectivism to create a “self-centered” philosophy of moral transcendence; it also draws inspiration from State Consequentialism and Hobbesian social contracts, as it inherits a sort of “Divine Right of Rule” ideology from its origins as a monarchical cult. However, unlike in Star Wars, I want the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant to be more playable, and less of a “twisted mirror” of True Communion’s ideology. By default, thus, it may be an “evil” ideology where players who want “dark” powers can get their fix, but it should offer the real possibility of being a force for “good.”

The Philosophy Skill

If we’re going to dive into Philosophy, we should discuss what player characters can actually use Philosophy for. We can define these as techniques, which is useful for defining philosophical styles. The closest we can find to philosophical styles are found in GURPS Powers: The Weird

Aesthetic Appreciation (Average Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy+0;

Prerequisite: Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill+4.

Some philosophies allow one to better appreciate what beauty means. Treat this as a complementary roll to any artistic roll or connoisseur where beauty matters, provided the aesthetics on display subjectively line up with what the philosophy believes is beautiful.

Moral Insight (Average Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy+0;

Prerequisite: Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill.

This is the default use of Philosophy according to GURPS Characters. This is only genuinely appropriate to any philosophy that contains Ethics. This allows the character to gain moral insights into his actions based on what his philosophy would argue is ethical. Secondly, it allows one to gain insights into the behavior of someone else who follows the philosophy.

Philosophical Argument (Average Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy+0;

Prerequisite: Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill+4.

A new use of Philosophy, it allows the character to frame an ethical argument with the careful logic of his philosophy. When used with a character that believes in the philosophy, treat this as a complementary roll for the purposes of a Reaction modifier, or you may use it directly as an influence skill.

Comparative Philosophy (Philosophy) (Hard Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy-5;

Prerequisite: Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill.

Derived from the Theology skill, this represents a philosophical application of Comparative Theology. Characters may use this technique when attempting to use their philosophy skill on someone who follows a different philosophy (to gain Moral Insights on another, or to make a Philosophical Argument). Characters must specialize by philosophy, and the GM may decide that two philosophies different are too sufficiently different to allow for comparative philosophy.

Heuristics (Hard Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy-6;

Prerequisite: Illumination; Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill.

Heuristics is a technique for GURPS Powers: the Weird. It acts as a superior complementary skill to “uncover truth.” In Powers: the Weird, Heuristics requires Illumination. For our purposes, we’ll use the Secret Knowledge perk, which will allow Heuristics in specific instances. In what cases it can be used depends on the metaphysics and the epistemology of the philosophy in question, as certain philosophies may grant profound insights into the reality world.

Symbolic Communion Lore (Average Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy+0;

Prerequisite: Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill+4.

Philosophies deeply tied to Communion can better interpret the strange visions and imagery of Communion. Characters may use Symbolic Communion Lore in place of any Philosophy roll called for by a Communion Miracle.

Symbolic (Path) Lore (Average Technique)

Defaults: Philosophy+0;

Prerequisite: Philosophy; Cannot exceed prerequisite skill+4.

Paths typically have milestones or symbols associated with them. Characters trained in the right philosophies can readily recognize that imagery. They may roll Symbolic (Path) Lore in place of any Philosophy roll to recognize a milestone or to recognize someone else wittingly or unwittingly following a Path. At the GM’s discretion, this may also be used to interpret visions from Communion provided those visions are sufficiently closely tied to the appropriate path.

Following a Philosophy

Any character who chooses to believe in a philosophy may take the quirk Believer (Philosophy), which allows a character to use Philosophical Arguments against the character. Characters may alternatively take appropriate Disciplines of Faith, which assumes the Believer quirk, or Fanaticism (Philosophy).

Formal training requires the appropriate Philosophy skill, but may be expanded into a full Philosophical Style, which requires a Philosophical Style Familiarity. This does not necessarily mean that the character believes in the philosophy (take an appropriate quirk or disadvantage to represent that belief). The benefits of such a style is defined in GURPS Powers: the Weird

  • You have the equivalent to a Claim of Hospitality with other practitioners of your philosophy, whether it be access to their schools, monasteries or home, and certainly access to a place where you can practice your philosophy.
  • You have Cultural Familiarity with your philosophy, which means you never suffer cultural familiarity penalties with other practitioners of your philosophy.
  • You may freely spend points on any traits associated with the philosophy, including any optional traits.
  • You may access secret techniques, secret skills, secret powers or secret miracles associated with the style.

Philosophical Styles have a new type of trait called Removable Disadvantages. These represents disadvantages that the player may justify buying off simply by practicing his ideology. If the philosophical style also contains optional disadvantages, the character can justify replacing a Removable Disadvantage with an Optional Disadvantage.

Do characters who follow a philosophy also need to take the philosophy skill? Do they need to follow a style? No.

To be a follower of a philosophy or a religion, simply take the right quirk or disadvantage; you need nothing more (a “believer”); one can do this without studying the underlying philosophy or theology skill, in the same way that one can be Christian without understanding the deeper arguments that justify the existence of God, or without reading the Bible. Any character may study a philosophy, whether or not they believe in it (a “student”). Consider the philososphy major who makes Buddhism the focus of his study; he may know Buddhist Theology, but likely does not believe in it. Any character who studies the philosophical style must necessarily also study the philosophy, and is probably a believer, but not necessarily (a “practitioner”). Studying the style gives one access to deeper secrets associated with the philosophy: one might know Buddhism, but gaining inner peace via buddhism requires more than just reading some books on the topic or having fervent faith in its power to bring you inner peace. You must actually put those beliefs into practice.

Thus, a philosophical study involves a deep look at not just the core philosophical skill, but everything that goes around it. It might be possible to study without being a believer, especially if one studies multiple philosophies (“An Akashic Rationalist”), in such case a practitioner has enough faith in the philosophy to practice it, but not so much that he ultimately buys all of its metaphysical or ethical arguments. Because of the closely related nature of belief and practice, as an optional rule, consider creating a “Practioner Feature” which is a metatrait that includes a philosophy’s Style Familiarity and the Belief quirk, though allowing the character 5 additional perks.


Take two! I’ve tried to introduce Illumination into the game before, though it didn’t work out and I ended up removing the effort. However, as I worked on philosophical styles, which has been highly informed by Bill Stoddard’s inestimable Powers: the Weird, I realized I needed an intellectual “Trained by a Master,” and there’s nothing better for that than Illumination. So here’s my proposal:

Illuminated characters can instantly recognize one another, you can roll IQ or Philosophy (or the skill in question) to recognize whether a strange occurrence is a coincidence or the result of a conspiracy (and gain some insight into it), and you’re allowed to purchase “cinematic” esoteric skills, techniques, etc. This seems broadly worth 15 points.

Any Philosophy can offer Illumination, but only if the GM deems it “correct.” For example, if the GM decides that the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant and Neo-Rationalism offer genuine insight into the world, while True Communion and the Akashic mysteries mainly blind one with mysticism, then the first two can offer Illumination while the latter two cannot.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Patreon Post: the Results of the Fifth House Poll (Notes)

In August, I introduced you to four houses, and gave my $5+ Patrons the opportunity to vote on the mysterious fifth house, an outsider to the Alliance.  And vote they did, in one of the busiest and most dynamic votes yet!  I have the poll results up here, including my take on them. If you're a $5+ patron, check it out!

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Patreon Post: The House of Alexus: Poll Results

Hello, dear patrons!  A few weeks ago I offered a poll on House Alexus.  I have the results of that poll up now.  It's not a full write-up of the House, that will come later (when I have time!), but it should give you an idea of what the final version will look like.  If you're a $7+ Patron, check it out!

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Friday, September 1, 2017

State of the Patreon: September 2017; Philosophy and Playtests

I look forward to leaving the summer behind!

This was a very good month.  For the first time in the summer, I stopped my view freefall and recovered quite a bit back to a stable 8-9k, though the past few months I haven't had those weird, spammy spikes, and those are back, so I don't know how much I actually fell, and how much I improved.  In July, my Patreon was fairly stagnate, and I lost some Patrons this month but man, did I ever gain some more.  We've officially hit the art stretch goal, and I've already done some homework and had some people help me with sketches.

August marked the end of the Alliance which, along with the Empire, finishes off the core organizations of the main driver of the narrative of Psi-Wars.  We move on to the next deeper level in the coming month: Philosophy.

For my $1+ Patrons, I have an 8000 word treatise on Philosophy.  That comes out next week.  It takes GURPS Religion, and dives into how to create a philosophical movement using those rules, with a deeper look at beliefs, and a very superficial glance at some philosophical ideas you can mix and match to start working on your own philosophy.

For my $3+ Patrons, I have some treats. On the 15th, I discuss Faith in Psi-Wars, and offer a quick sample religion, Shepherdism, inspired by Shepherd Book from Firefly.  On the 22nd, I have Neo-Ratoinal Technology, a look at some sample TL 12 technologies that you can use for prototypes or gadgetry that should fit well enough into Psi-Wars.  Finally, on the 29th, I offer the Devils of Persephone: the Secrets of the Skairos, a look at a mythological element of the Akashic Mysteries, including several ideas on how to handle that mythology in your Psi-Wars game.

For $5+ Patrons, I'll offer a small poll on the 29th regarding the Devils of Persephone, mainly discussing how canonical they should be in the setting.  It's your choice!

For $3+ and $5+, of course, I still need to finish up the Alexian and Fifth House polls. Expect the poll results soon, and the actual write ups when I can get to them.

For the $7+, I have Tinker Titan Rebel Spy, the first Psi-Wars playtest session/mini-campaign.  It's still a work in progress at this moment, but I feel confident enough to open it up to sign-ups.

For everyone, next month we dive into the basics of philosophy next week, then spend two weeks looking at Neo-Rationalism, and then finish out the month with our first glimpse of the Akashic Mysteries.

I want to thank everyone for helping make this a great month, and I especially want to thank my Patrons for bringing me to my next stretch goal. You guys are wonderful!  Whether you're a patron or not, I hope you stick with Psi-Wars.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Alliance Summary and Retrospective

As usual, when I finish a major setting element, I work out the summary, the bit that would go in a simplified document so players can just jump straight in and play.

The Alliance took much longer than I thought.  In retrospect, I should have realized the additional complexity of what I was taking on.  Star Wars provides us with what amounts to the definitive space empire, the one which all other space empires tend to get measured.  It's fairly detailed, and it's not hard to expand upon the framework they built.  The rebellion, on the other hand, is something of a disaster as a setting element.  It has precious few details, and what details it has don't always make sense.  Like sometimes it seems to have organization (Rebel Intelligence, Rebel Fleet Command), and other times seems to just be a rag-tag collection of small insurgencies.  It has access to huge ships, but no shipyards or territory to call it's own.  It wants to be FARC, a small guerrilla band that loses itself in the jungle, while also being the Allied Forces of WW2!  And this is only what you can piece together on your own.  The various works on Star Wars just don't go that much into the rebellion as an organization, more as a group of heroes.

Thus, I ended up throwing a lot of it away and starting from scratch.  This created two problems.  First, the Alliance amounts to the opposite of the Empire: lots of heterogeneous powers rather than one monolithic one, which means I'm essentially stopping to right up "all the military forces of the Galaxy that aren't the Empire." While the Alliance only occupies a small portion of the Galaxy, its worlds tend to be representative of any generic, non-alien world you might find, whether it's officially affiliated with the Empire or not.  Thus, I ended up creating Planetary Governments and their associated organizations as well.

The Noble Houses, though, proved the most difficult but, I suspect, the richest.  Where a lot of material so far has been fairly generic, this necessarily gets specific.  I tried to write up a generic house, but such posts proved more useful as advice and rules for handling houses.  As with martial arts or philosophies, it's just easier for me to show rather than tell, and that's what I did.  But this means names, and more names, and titles, which means planets, and it means relics (which require names, and personalities, and historical events) and conflicts and politics.  You know, all the great stuff that really make a game come alive

I hope they work well, not just as fodder for politics and NPCs, but also as "splats" for players who want to be aristocratic and have it mean something.  That, more than anything else, has been what this cycle has been about.  This feeds into the Desiree ("Where do I come from? If I'm a princess, who do I want to marry?  What's the context of my house right now?  What am I worried about?") and Bjorn ("What totally sweet powers do I get?  What sets members of my house apart from members of other houses").  I worry a bit about the Bretts ("Like it's a rebellion, what more do you need to know? OMG politics?!") but Willow will love it, I'm sure.  It did prove that working out historical details in advance helped, though it necessarily expanded that history.

I've noticed that the aristocracy has probably had the single greatest response from my players.  Back during the Imperial run, I offered to let my patrons make signature characters, and the response was very tepid, while people were suggesting aristocratic characters to me almost as soon as houses dropped. Why? Context.  Thus fair I've offered fairly generic tools.  You know what a fleet is roughly like, and how they operate, but one officer can sub in for another officer, which is part of the intent of the Empire.  Even so, the players have very little to grasp.  What makes an imperial character interesting?  What sort of roles might they play?  While with the aristocracy, this is clear. You can see the tensions between various houses, the sorts of roles one might play, and what each member might look like specifically.  This partly arises from the heterogeneous nature of the Alliance vs the homogeneous nature of the Empire, but I think if I want to grab players, when I revisit the Empire, I need to find a similar point of tension and context, so GMs and players can see what their imperial character plays out as without necessarily having to draw on Star Wars sources they already know (we don't want every officer to be Thrawn, every imperial Space Knight to be Darth Vader, etc).

We're almost finished with the first half of Iteration 6 (It only took 8 months!  I had a baby, alright?).  Next: Philosophy!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Cross-Post: Libris Ludorum Ruminates on Houses

Nemoricus, who is one of my most supportive Patrons (also the author of the Psi-Wars primer: I just post what he gives me; and the author of the Psi-Wars bibliography, which I'll post soon; and frequent editor of my material) has been following the houses closely and decided to explore them, noodling through them in a series of four posts that I'd like to share with you, and then comment on.

The Posts

Patreon Post: The Fifth House (and an offer)

Who are they?  It's such a mystery!
I had originally conceived of several additional houses, but I stopped myself short, in part because I didn't want overwhelm everyone, in part because I have other things I need to write, and in part because I wanted to give you, dear reader, a voice.

I don't want anyone who read the last couple of weeks to think that this is every house in the Alliance, or that has existed throughout the Empire.  Houses and lineages clutter the galaxy, some lost, some hidden, some still quite powerful. I originally conceived of each house as a piece of inspiration for you, dear reader.  Sabine and Grimshaw are powerful houses at political odds (with Grimshaw as a worked example of what a cadet branch might look like); Elegans gives an example of a house that was powerful, but is no more, and Kain gives an example of a late-coming house, a distinct tradition that got folded into the broader Maradon culture.  That should be enough for you to get started, but there are more possibilities.

As such, I have a poll for all $5+ Patrons (My Companions)!  It offers a multitude of options for a new house, a "hidden" house that either isn't part of the Alliance or isn't particularly well known.  I have no doubt that the vote will be contentious because, like with the Traders months ago, there are so many ways we could go and all of them are right.  So if you vote, and your vote ends up not getting picked, don't despair!  And if you can't vote, but you have a totally great idea, then don't despair!  If you write up your own house, blog it, and then send me the link, I will link it on this blog.  I will even help you, if you like, to put your house together.  The point of this blog, more than anything else, is to help you get your creative juices flowing, so if I can help, I will.

If you're a patron, check it out! If you're not, as always, I'd love to have you.

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

House of Kain, Part 2

Not every house is going to use psionic powers, especially if we're looking at houses that joined the Empire later.  Cybernetics seems like a natural evolution in a society that makes regular use of force swords.  It also represents a shout-out to the Metabarons, who always have at least one cybernetic part as part of their initiation rite.  That requires a fairly extensive look at cybernetics, and a new catalog.  I don't envision every member of the House Kain as thoroughly covered in cybernetics, but most should have at least one piece.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The House of Kain, Part 1

I wanted to show that not all houses descend from the most ancient of bloodlines.  Sometimes, a businessman marries into a family, or conquered nobility fold themselves into the aristocracy, or a warlord gains legitimacy by joining the the aristocracy.  House Kain is one such example.

I drew my primary inspiration from both Clan Mitsurugi from my own Cherry Blossom Rain and the Metabarons.  Clan Mitsurugi controlled the main access point between two rivals, and protected it ferociously.  I wanted the same for the Alliance: a reason as to why the Empire hadn't just crushed the Alliance already, and thus Caliban and its ancient orbital fortress.  The Empire might defeat them, but it would cost them a great deal and give the rest of the Alliance a chance to respond.  It might bypass it, but the other routes are less practical and more likely to create a scattered fleet more easily defeated.  With the Empire facing wars on all fronts, they can afford to leave the Alliance for now until they have the firepower to overwhelm Caliban and its defenders.

I was introduced to the Metabarons when someone commented that my Psi-Wars reminded him of Jodorowsky.  I haven't had a chance to read the Incal, generally considered his most iconic comic, but I did manage to land a copy of the Metabarons, which suits the aristocracy of Psi-Wars better.

This combined into a ridiculously masculine, over-the-top house of warriors which make for an excellent contrast with the more elegant nobility. They offer an opportunity for a player to play a knight who disdains the elegance of the other families, or who struggles to restore the Alliance to its fighting roots, or creates delightful scandals when a member of the House tries to marry someone from another family.

I wanted a name that didn't sound like a Maradon name (thus a single syllable), but that fit nicely with the names I had come up with for the family members, thus Kain.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

House Elegans, Part 2

Tools of House Elegans

Elegans Background Options:

Given the difficult situation of Elegans, you may instead take the Outcast or Wanderer background and simply take your title as an optional trait.

If you choose to take the Aristocratic background, you may add the following:

Traits: Ally (Petbot, 150 points, 15 or less) [6].

Optional Disadvantages: Elegans may remove Wealth (Comfortable) if they wish and replace it with Wealth (Struggling) [-10]

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!

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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.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Patreon Post: Kung Fu Double Trouble

Hello my dear Patrons!  I have not one, but two posts for you!  When I worked on the knightly martial arts, I quickly realized that I had two problems.  First, I found it hard to justify taking more than one style given the problems GURPS Martial Arts has.  This resulted in a deep meditation on why it's a problem and how to fix it (and a discussion of that on Discord spawned yet more thoughts on it from Douglas Cole, who offers a further take that might work for Psi-Wars as well, but it would need further study).  I also wanted to look very closely at each style, and make sure they each had a very distinct character and were useful for you even if you didn't use a proposed fix.  This resulted in the first document, which is Martial Arts Notes 1 - Reflections.  This is available to all $1+ Patrons, so please, check it out!

I also realized I needed kung fu secrets.  What's the point of being a master force swordsman if there's no man on the mountain to go talk to?  No ancient kung fu manuscripts to fight over?  The only problem I have with aristocratic martial arts secrets is that the aristocracy are kind of chumps.  They don't have to be, but many of them should be.  Some of them should be irritating ponces that you want to punch in the face, and I find them knowing ancient secrets to be a little too much.  But what about useless techniques, or techniques the exist primarily for show?  This resulted in Martial Arts Notes 2 - Secrets, which discusses a variety of expansions for the aristocratic styles, some much more useful than others.  As a preview, this is available to all $3+ Patrons, a gift to my Fellow Travelers.  I think it needs a little more work, so I'd appreciate feedback.

As usual, if you're a patron, thank you.  If you're not, I'd love to have you.

Support me on Patreon!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Aristocratic Culture

This is a bit of a last-minute addition.  When I wrote the Alliance, I finished it up and released it to my Patrons and then put all the posts up in advance.  Then, as my patrons read it, I got some feedback and one of the things I realized was that I lacked aristocratic culture.  What to aristocrats do with their spare time? How does one woo an aristocratic girl?  What offends and what does obligation demand you do? I've touched on some of these already, but I wanted to expand on those elements.

What I have turns out to be quite a bit of material, perhaps too much material.  I'd love your feedback on what you found useful and what you didn't.  In the meantime, though, enjoy, and I hope this gives you a better vision of how the Alliance feels, at least from the perspective of an aristocrat.

After all, what's the point of playing a space aristocrat if you can't go to a space gala, get your space knickers in a twist because someone said something mean about one of your ancestors, then lose the girl you were trying to woo to some space jock, and then challenge him to a duel and accidentally kill him, right?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Knightly Force Swordsmanship

Duel by rodavlasalvador
Space Knights need force swords!  It's their signature weapon, which also means they need detailed ways to fight with them!  I've already written up a bunch of Force Sword styles back in Iteration 4, but now I want to revise them a little, make them a little more distinct from one another and discuss them in an aristocratic context.  I've chosen 4 styles, the Defensive Form (renamed the Old Way), and the Destructive, Courtly and Swift form as the "three dueling styles" most popular in the modern Alliance.

I understand that for most people, the force sword should be the domain of just the Jedi, but I see the "Jedi" of Psi-Wars as evolving out of an existing knightly tradition and blending it with other traditions.  Thus, they draw (and perfect!) their force swordsmanship from these styles, rather than the other way around.

I could also create a lot more styles, but I feel that one "old" style and three "new" styles should provide sufficient variety while being fairly easy to keep track of.  The three also offer sufficient contrast and focus on one-on-one dueling.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Legacy of the Oracular Order: the Genetic and Psionic Heritage of Aristocracy

The Aristocracy of the Alliance wouldn't be where it is today without the Oracular Order.  Their insights into the future gave them the patience, prescience and precision to breed the nobility into superior stock.  As a result, the aristocracy is better than you: prettier, smarter, more graceful and healthier.  Or, at least, they should be.  In the centuries since the fall of the Alexian Empire, and without the guidance of the Oracular Order, the Houses have drifted genetically.  The rise of the new Empire has made collecting those bloodlines together and restoring the Oracular Order's original vision harder and harder.

The Order did all of this to create reliably psionic bloodlines.  As a result, all Alliance Aristocracy is potentially psionic.  This greatly shapes their military and espionage doctrines!

Finally, the Order did all of that to ensure everyone was in place for some great crisis it foresaw, a crisis that never came, that the Houses don't stand ready to face.  I want to treat this as a Destiny, which represents some interesting choices for how members of a house see themselves and what path they choose to follow in the present, whether they want to adhere to the purpose that gave them life, through it all away for their own power, or set everything aside and try something gloriously new.  However, as I worked on it, it became increasingly clear that it needed a fuller treatment that would have to wait until I dived into the Oracular Order itself, so it's been set on a back burner, but I do have notes, and those notes guided the creation of the four houses I will present, and the "notable members" within each.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Titles of the Alliance Nobility

What does it mean to be "Noble?"  This week, I cover the four legacies of the aristocracy, and today I start with the titles of the nobility.

A question that I'm sure will come up: What is "ascribed status?"  GURPS has two forms of status: imputed and ascribed.  Imputed is status that arises naturally from your wealth (Wealth and Status, B26) and your rank (B29); being the wealthy CEO of major corporation gives you a lot of social pull.  In Psi-Wars, you may not purchase additional Status unless you have a title, which provides Ascribed status, that is, status that people assign you because of your rank.  Thus, one can be poor and belong to no organization, but have Status because of his title.  You must purchase this status independently, using the rules below.

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