Monday, May 29, 2017

Orphan of the Stars: Iteration 1 Notes

This week I take a break from Psi-Wars to present: Orphan of the Stars

At the year's end (in the heart of Iteration 5 for Psi-Wars), someone approached me to write up some setting material for them, one inspired by a mixture of Dune, GURPS Biotech and, especially, a deep political gameplay.  That last is the focus of my work on Orphan of the Stars, and today, I present the Iteration 1 notes that I cobbled together based on his request, an outline of where I saw development going.

Like Psi-Wars, Iteration 1 for Orphan of the Stars, which wasn't even called Orphan of the Stars at the time, is a basic outline of how to make it work with as little work as possible, though in this case it was more of a discussion of my thoughts and where my patron could go in his own direction if he chose not to retain my services.  Thus, you can see it as a sort of guiding document.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

State of the Blog: June

This post is a bit early, though I suppose given my preference for posting on Thursdays, it fits.  I wanted to take a second and talk about what's up, what isn't, and what the blog might look like over the next couple of months.

First and foremost, as anyone will children already knew, my ambition for maintaining my writing after the birth of my son was... ambitious.  I have had entire days where all of my hours were working, eating and taking care of him.  He's honestly not so bad, most of the time, but sometimes, I simply have no time to write, and when I do, I'm so exhausted that it's difficult to find focus.  That doesn't mean I've stopped, of course, but the breakneck pace of 4 posts a week, plus a patreon post, is turning out to be a bit much.  That, paired with losing my lead time to Orphan of the Stars, means I need a break to catch up.

So here's the plan.

Orphans of the Stars

If Orphans is going to slow me down then, by god, it's also going to be what gives me a break.  The fellow who commissioned the work also gave me permission to do with it what I pleased: it's my work, he just commissioned it.  What I have, in addition to the document itself, is my personal design journal, and my thoughts on why it worked when other works haven't.  Over the next two weeks, I'm going to share this material with you, culminating in a Patreon exclusive access to the Orphans of the Stars rules for political gameplay, which will be available to all $5 patrons for June only.

This document breaks down Boardroom and Curia and various City Stat works to create an extremely detailed look at playing a "domain management" campaign.  I've designed it for a sort of "cut down" version of running planets, but in principle I think you could use its lessons for more down-to-earth games.

This will come with a change to my Patreon payment policy: currently, when you pledge, you are not charged.  Only at the beginning of the month do you get charged. Technically, that means you can pledge, access my material, and then delete your pledge, and never pay.  I've only had one person do this in the entire time I've run my Patreon, but I'd rather forestall it happening in the future, and I think you get enough material from my patreon to be worth the jump.  I also think most people don't realize that this is the case, and assume they get charged as soon as they join!  Now, this will actually be true.

I'll make the change on the 31st.  If you want to join, I recommend waiting until the 1st of June!

The Houses of the Alliance

As of this moment, I have got between 10 to 20k words on the Houses alone, and I need even more. What I thought might be simple has turned into something larger than the Empire, because I need to discuss an entire government's worth of organizations plus the very distinct character options that noble houses present.  So it's not that I have nothing, it's just that what I have hasn't been polished off yet.  I think you guys will enjoy them, though they represent a distinct shift in tone from Star Wars.  It looks to be about 2 months worth of posts, at this point, but we'll see.

I will hopefully release this after I finish up with my Orphan of the Stars posts.  It should come as a big chunk to all $3+ patrons, and then the rest of you will see it post-by-post on the blog.

The History of Tech

I know I promised it this month, but the outtakes of my work turned into Tech Week, so hopefully that'll mollify everyone.  I'm still hard and work on this, it's just that it turned out to be more work than I expected!  It also turned out to be very useful to my work on the houses, as they're steeped in ancient tradition.  Hopefully, I can finish it and release it as a series on my Patreon (pricing TBD).

And Beyond!

So that's it.  I've been able to maintain some pacing, but not as much as I would like.  I want to thank everyone for their patience, and I hope to see you next month!

Tech Week 4: Explosives Revisted (A Patreon Post)

It's Tech Week! Based on feedback or elements that have come up as I've worked on setting design, I've come up with some additional details on technology that I've been using to refine my material from the third iteration. Eventually, I'd like to separate the tech material off into its own little book, but there's still quite some work before I can do that.

Why is this on Patreon and not on my blog? Well, first, I don't want to interfere with the flow of my setting material and, second, this gets a little rambling and acts as something of a design journal.

Today, I revisit explosives. This may seem an odd choice, but explosives and infrastructure have a symbiotic relationship in the action genre. How many charges do you need to take out a factory? What sort of bombs are at your disposal? When I worked on the insurgency, I realized how important this was, and so I offer a thorough study of appropriate explosives and their impact on the Psi-Wars world, including 5 sample structures you can destroy!

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

Support me on Patreon!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tech Week Part 3: Infotech Revisited (A Patreon Post)


It's Tech Week! Based on feedback or elements that have come up as I've worked on setting design, I've come up with some additional details on technology that I've been using to refine my material from the third iteration. Eventually, I'd like to separate the tech material off into its own little book, but there's still quite some work before I can do that.

Why is this on Patreon and not on my blog? Well, first, I don't want to interfere with the flow of my setting material and, second, this gets a little rambling and acts as something of a design journal.

Today, I revisit infotech. So far, I've just breezed past computers and used default assumptions for sensory technology. With this post, I dive deeper into what I really want out of my sensors, computers and what interstellar commuication infrastructure looks like.

This post is available to all $1+ patrons.  If you're not already a patron, I'd love to have you!


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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tech Week Part 2: Armor Revisited (A Patreon Post)

It's Tech Week! Based on feedback or elements that have come up as I've worked on setting design, I've come up with some additional details on technology that I've been using to refine my material from the third iteration. Eventually, I'd like to separate the tech material off into its own little book, but there's still quite some work before I can do that.

Why is this on Patreon and not on my blog? Well, first, I don't want to interfere with the flow of my setting material and, second, this gets a little rambling and acts as something of a design journal.

Today, I revisit armor. Action stories love fist fights, which make no sense in GURPS when fighting guys with armor, and the realism of this is questionable. Today, I look at some optional house rules to fix that, and then I dive deeper into the armor design systems offered in various Pyramid articles, including rules for using Battleweave and Cerablate Resin with them.

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


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Monday, May 22, 2017

Tech Week part 1: Weapons Revisited (a Patreon Post)

It's Tech Week!  Based on feedback or elements that have come up as I've worked on setting design, I've come up with some additional details on technology that I've been using to refine my material from the third iteration.  Eventually, I'd like to separate the tech material off into its own little book, but there's still quite some work before I can do that.

Why is this on Patreon and not on my blog?  Well, first, I don't want to interfere with the flow of my setting material and, second, this gets a little rambling and acts as something of a design journal.

Today, I revisit weaponry.  Specifically, I look at some house rules suggested by other blogs, take a look at fears regarding accuracy, recoil and rof combining to make supremely lethal weapons, and and then I explore EM disruptors (Utinni!), Stunners (why I haven't really talked abou them), Stingray Rounds, and Psi-Swords


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Friday, May 19, 2017

Patreon Post: The Rebellion of Grist

Junk World by Mark Molnar
For today's Patreon post, I've finished off my series on Insurgents by letting you, my dear Patreons, design the Rebellion of Grist, via a series of polls, including who leads the rebellion, what their great assets are, their great weaknesses, and what sort of rebellion they are.  These polls are available to all Companions ($5+).  If you're a patron, go check it out!  If you're not, I'd love to have you.

For the rest of you, I've included a cultural discussion of Grist below, which is a copy of Grist's culture from Iteration 5, which may have slipped past people unnoticed.


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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Insurgency Summary and Retrospective

When I started writing the Insurgency, I really had no idea where to start.  I had to dig around.  How are rebellions fought?  What are some good examples of rebellion?  What popped out, and I hope this doesn't reflect too badly on my material, were terrorists, from the IRA to the Taliban to the Vietcong, which served as the primary resources for my material, plus general discussions on how guerrillas win wars, and a look at the French Resistance.  I didn't use more classic inspirations, such as the American Minute Men or the various rebellions of the Americas, primarily because the technology, and thus the needs of war, differ so much.

One element that I find fascinating about the whole affair is how few changes I had to make to get these elements to fit into Psi-Wars.  Perhaps I'm not thinking about the technological differences enough, but I happen to think that's the strength of Psi-Wars: as it's essentially modern action thrillers with a thin, space opera veneer, our rebels don't use molotov cocktails and clubs, but plasma cells and neurolash batons, but otherwise everything looks very similar.  I think you have to knock the setting for originality, but at least give it marks for ease of entry.

The hardest part of this exercise was the realization that there's no such thing as a "typical" insurgency.  The Vietcong, French Resistance, Taliban and IRA all fight very differently, so your insurgency should fight very differently from my insurgency.  When I hit upon the design of four arbitrary "types" of insurgency, though, that made it work well in my mind, as well as a "grab bag" of various insurgent characters and tactics that you could grab for designing your own.  When I worked on the Empire, I came up with "Tactics" to help me sort out my thoughts on how the Empire fought.  I had initially dismissed doing the same for insurgencies, as they all fight so differently, but then I realized I could show those differences, use them to contrast.  The result is, perhaps, a bit long, but hopefully useful in giving you, my dear reader, how an insurgency might conduct itself and why it might actually be a serious threat.

So, how are we doing? Is the insurgency useful, appropriate and fitting?  Let's take a look, with a bonus "Insurgency Summary" for those who want to jump right in.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Patreon Post: Dirty Ultra-Tech

As I wrote up the rebel insurgency tactics, especially the hand-made munitions, I realized that many insurgents would be excellent bomb-makers and, in fact, that you might see improvised blasters, bombs and armor as part and parcel of gameplay in Psi-Wars, in the same way that it fits into GURPS Action.

GURPS High Tech has side-bars named "Dirty Tech," and I cribbed some notes from them to create a few ideas for home-made ultra-tech weaponry appropriate to psi-wars, and I offer them up to in Dirty Ultra-Tech!  This post will eventually make it into my final documents, and as such, it is now available to all $3+ patrons (my fellow travelers!).  If you're a patron, go check it out!  If you're not, I'd love to have you.


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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Insurgency Tactics

Unlike the Empire, insurgencies do not have a single, cohesive doctrine. Each has their own strategy, approach and tactics. Thus, the following list of tactics represents suggestions of tactics and agendas that an Insurgency might use to fight the Empire. No insurgency will use all tactics, rather, they are offered so that a GM can pick and choose from among them when designing his insurgency movement.

Each contains common insurgency types associated with the tactics. These are offered only as suggestions, to allow a GM to pick an insurgency type or two and quickly get an idea of how it might operate; GMs who wish to mix and match strategies and ideologies are free to do so! Each tactic also contains a list of suggested contact skills, which represent the sort of training necessary to carry out the tactic. Consider adding some of these to an insurgencies contacts or personnel.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Insurgency Personnel Part 2: Veteran Insurgents

Amateur Insurgents with sufficient experience or training, or Insurgents who come from more violent walks of life pose considerably more risk to security forces than their amateur counterparts, but still don’t represent the full lethality of a completely professional fighting force. Some insurgencies have just a few veterans sprinkled among amateurs, while others are composed entirely of veterans.
Some insurgencies are rumored to have even more elite agents, usually associated with the leader, and have ominous names like “the Black Hand” or “the Twelve Apostles.” These tend to be named NPCs or player characters, but the GM may instead treat them as skill 15 minions instead.
As before, each insurgent comes with a suggested insurgent type.  I provide these as guidelines, to get a perspective on different ways insurgencies might fight, and to emphasize that not all veteran insurgents appear in all insurgencies.  Feel free to mix, match and adjust.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Insurgency Personnel Part 1: Amateur Insurgents

The combatants who make up resistance movements vary as much as the movements themselves. Thus, the following list offers suggestions to help guide a GM who wishes to create his own resistance movement, or as a grab-bag of “generic” rebels he can throw at his PCs.

The characters listed below have no specific weapons. I have chosen generic weapons for GURPS Ultra-Tech or from previous iterations of Psi-Wars. These can be replaced with any similar or appropriate weapons.

Between the Insurgent Type and the suggested traits associated with each Personnel, a group might have a wide variety of disadvantages associated with them. These represent suggestions. Feel free to ignore, mix, or swap as you see fit. In principle, each Insurgency should have a unique character, and some flaws that a clever Imperial can exploit.


Lens: Insurgent Type

Different cells have different philosophies and approaches. Choose one of the following lens to represent the approach of a particular movement. Sometimes, multiple philosophies live within a particular movement, so a GM can mix and match as he sees fit. Furthermore, the lenses below offer a basic guideline on how to handle a particular philosophy, but also options for giving each movement some unique flavor.

Anarchist

Anarchists live for chaos. They rebel for the sake of rebellion and their fight with the Empire ultimately boils down to a disdain for authority. By default, their critical weaknesses are a lack of planning and an unwillingness to listen to others. Many anarchists fight for their own amusement and may have Trickster, while others do it for the sheer pleasure of watching things burn (Pyromania), or just to spite authority figures (Intolerance (Authority Figures)), or just because they’re so angry (Bad Temper). While most such characters do not last long, Anarchists, especially young ones, often have Overconfidence.

Default Traits: Impulsiveness (12), Stubbornness (12)


Freedom Fighter

Freedom Fighters fight for principles. They resemble Ideologues in this way, but they’re less devoted to a specific cause than that they’re just righteously indignant at the crimes of others. By default, they will not harm anyone not directly associated with the conflict, but nor can they just stand aside and do nothing as injustice is inflicted on those they know and love. This devotion to principles might manifest instead as Code of Honor (Rebel), and the drive to help others might become Charitable. Freedom Fighters tend to be derided by other factions as Gullible for their idealism; this may or may not be true.

Code of Honor (Rebel) [-15]: Only attack military targets or collaborators, never unassociated civilians. Never leave a a fellow rebel behind. Die before you betray your cell. If necessary, sacrifice yourself for the rebellion. When the conflict has finished, put aside your weapons and return to civilian life.

Default Traits: Pacifism (Cannot Harm Innocents), Sense of Duty (Community)


Ideologue

Ideologues fight for a purpose. By default, they devote themselves wholeheartedly to this ideal or, at their most generic, to the rebellion itself. What explicit purpose they fight for varies, and often determines the exact nature of their Fanaticism. Patriots devote themselves to the ideal of an independence movement or the safety of their people, and often have Sense of Duty (Nation). Fundamentalists devote themselves to religious ideals, and have some version of a Discipline of Faith. Ideologues who hold to more abstract ideals (like a deep devotion to some particular philosophy or economic model) might have a strict Code of Honor or be Hidebound. Those Ideologues who aren’t fanatics tend to be at least Selfless or have Intolerance (Outsiders or Nonbelievers).

Traits: Fanaticism.


Terrorist

Terrorists do whatever it takes to win; for them, atrocity is just part of the game! By default, Terrorists suffer (benefit?) from an overeagerness to shed blood and a complete disregard for the safety of others. Terrorists often enjoy the violence they inflict, and might have Bully or even Sadism. Most willingly engage in warcrimes for a reason, which might be Greed, Jealousy or Selfishness.

Traits: Bloodlust (12), Callous.


Amateur Resistance Members

Not every member of a resistance organization is a hardened warrior. In fact, most members lack decent training and believe that enthusiasm can make up for a lack of combat experience. In the most idealistic resistance movements, these eager allies assist on the edges of the battle until they’re skilled enough (or old enough!) to join on the front-lines. In more scrupulous resistance movements, they become cannon fodder, used to tire out the enemy before the resistance brings in its veteran fighters.


Child Soldier (Innocent)

Common Insurgent Types: Ideologues and Terrorists

Rebellion is often a family affair! Whether or not resistance members want children involved, children usually find a way to involve themselves. They might admire a big, strong resistance fighter that rescued them and want to be just like him or help him out. They might have lost their homes and only survive under the protection of the rebellion and seek to help however they can.

Innocent child soldiers don’t generally participate in combat, though they can; instead, they usually act as spotters, guides or distractions for the primary combatants. The stats below assume a human child of about 10 years of age.

Few resistance movements go out of their way to use Child Soldiers, but they’ll show up most often with Ideologues, who respect their devotion, and terrorists, who don’t care about the fate of the children. Anarchists tend to be dismissive of children, and Freedom Fighters actively oppose their use (It violates their principles!).

ST 8 HP 8 Speed 5
DX 9 Will 9/7 Move: 4
IQ 9 Per 10

HT 10/8 FP 11 SM -1
Dodge 8
Parry 7
DR: 0




Hold-Out Blaster (9): 2d(5) burn sur (Acc 5, Range 100/300 RoF 3, Bulk -1)

Rock (Thrown) (9): 1d-3 cr (Acc 1, Range 6)


Skills: Area Knowledge (Local)-10, Fast-Talk-10, Observation-10, Running-10, Stealth-10, Urban Survival-10.

Traits: Pitiable; Combat Paralysis; Easy to Kill -2; Pacifism (Reluctant Killer); Social Stigma (Minor);

Notes: Human; Untrained and largely unready for combat. Apply a -4 to shoot any recognizable humans (or other galactic sapients generally considered non-monstrous) with visible faces, or -2 if no face is visible. If they killed someone with a visible face, roll against Will or break down. If faced with imminent bodily harm, roll HT; on a failure, you are mentally stunned. The lower Will value applies to all fright checks. Always count as “innocent” for the purposes of Pacifism (Cannot Harm Innocents).

Child Soldier Tactics

Distract (10): Wave your arms, hurl insults and shout at the target. Roll a quick contest of Fast-Talk (10) vs your target’s will (if you hit the target with an attack in the past few seconds, including a thrown rock, add +1 to your Fast-Talk roll). On a success, the target must either chase you, attack you or suffer a -2 to combat for as long as you continue shouting at him.

Spot (10): If you see something, say something! Shout out advice to an ally and roll Observation (10). On a success, if your ally listens to your advice, he gains +1 to his next attack roll.

Partisan

Common Insurgent Types: Freedom Fighters and Ideologues

The common man and woman serves as the backbone of the rebellion, not trained soldiers. The Partisan represents the civilian who takes up arms (whatever arms he or she can find) against the Empire. They tend to make poor soldiers, with an inability to handle direct confrontation well and, despite their enthusiasm, they falter when they come face to face with an enemy they must directly kill.

Partisans can show up in any resistance movement group, but they tend to be most common among Freedom Fighters, as they represent the every-day person pushed too far, or ideologues, as they represent the relatively common people who have given themselves over to some religious or philosophical cause.

ST 10 HP 10 Speed 5
DX 10 Will 10/8 Move: 5
IQ 10 Per 10

HT 10 FP 10 SM +0
Dodge 8
Parry 8
DR: 0


Blaster Pistol (10): 3d(5) burn sur (Acc 5, Range 300/1000 RoF 3, Bulk -2)

Cheap Assault Blaster (10): 4d(5) burn sur (Acc 8, Range 250/750 RoF 8, Bulk -3)

Cheap Blaster Rifle (10): 6d(5) burn sur (Acc 10, Range 500/1500 RoF 3, Bulk -1)

Blaster Butt (10): 1d+1 (Reach 1)

Skills: Area Knowledge (Local)-10, Observation-10, Professional Skill-12, Stealth-10, Urban Survival-10.

Traits: Combat Paralysis; Pacifism (Reluctant Killer);

Notes: Human; Untrained and largely unready for combat. Apply a -4 to shoot any recognizable humans (or other galactic sapients generally considered non-monstrous) with visible faces, or -2 if no face is visible. If they killed someone with a visible face, roll against Will or break down. If faced with imminent bodily harm, roll HT; on a failure, you are mentally stunned. The lower Will value applies to all fright checks.

Civilian Militia Tactics

Potshot (17, 20 or 22): After taking an Aim action, make a single, sighted, All-Out (Determined) attack against the target (+5 Acc with a pistol, +8 with an assault blaster and +10 with a rifle). If the target has a visible face, apply an additional -4 penalty. A successful hit strikes a random hit location. You may not defend.

Spray Fire (7): With an assault blaster, make a hip-fired All-Out (Suppressive Fire) attack against a one-yard zone. A successful attack strikes a random hit location. You may not defend.

Panicked Strike (10): Make an All-Out Attack (Determined) with your Rifle Butt at the nearest target to pose a risk to you. Because this is close combat and a “non-lethal” attack, it does not suffer from Pacifism. You may not defend.

Punk

Common Insurgent Types: Anarchists and Terrorists

Often, the angriest members of society, too young or too unstable for military service, find their way into resistance movements as an outlet for their rage. Punks serve on the front lines of riots, inciting violence and bringing the fight directly against the Empire. They also act as “strong arms” for less professional insurgency cells. They push for violence, and rarely consider the possibility of defeat at the hands of the Empire, until that inevitably happens. Punks often don’t survive long, or quickly evolve into harder opponents, like Fighters.

Punks are too undisciplined for Ideologues and too violent for Freedom Fighters; they tend to be most often found among Terrorists and Anarchists. Some particularly brutal Punks (especially working with Terrorists) exchange their clubs for vibro-blades or neurolash batons.

ST 11 HP 11 Speed 5.25
DX 10 Will 10 Move: 5
IQ 10 Per 10

HT 11 FP 11 SM +0
Dodge 8
Parry 8
DR: 0




Club (10): 1d+2 cr (Reach 1)

Neurolash Baton (10): 1d+2 cr + linked HT-5 (5) (Reach 1, parry 0)

Vibro Blade (10): 2d+3(5) cut (Reach 1, parry 0)

Weaponized C-Cell (10): 6dx4 burn ex sur (Acc 1, Range 40); Unstable!

Skills: Area Knowledge (Local)-10, Intimidation-10, Forced Entry-10, Running-11

Traits: Bad Temper (12); Overconfidence (12)

Notes: Human; Untrained; Highly likely to use tactics not properly trained for or to make unforced errors; Never resists distraction or “Draw Aggression” attempts. The weaponized C-Cell is a modified power-cell that explodes when thrown. A strike against the cell, or a critical failure could set it off!

Punk Tactics


Shoving Match (14): Make an All-Out (Determined) Shove. Your opponent may defend normally. If you hit, inflict 1d-1 dbk only (no damage!). If the target is pushed at least one yard, they must roll DX, Acrobatics or Judo or fall prone. You may not defend.

Beat Down (10): Against a prone target, make an All-Out (Strong) attack with your club. Your opponent defends at -3 for being Prone. Inflict 1d+4 crushing damage to the torso (or random hit location). You may not defend.

Night Nurse

Common Insurgent Types: Ideologues and Freedom Fighters

If an insurgent movement needs anything, it’s medical personnel who can help deal with wounds, whether those inflicted on the insurgents themselves, or upon poor civilians. Some such nurses amount to little more than local medical personnel with a strong stomach and a little medical training, but who find themselves sympathetic to the insurgents who come through their door and fail to report them to the Empire. They may even find themselves joining in battle, just to keep an eye on their fighters to make sure none of them go down.


Night Nurses tend to be most common among Freedom Fighters or Ideologues, as most medical personnel will only join their local insurgencies if their philosophies align, and both such organizations see a direct need for tending to the wounds of civilians. Terrorists and Anarchists tend to be too violent to attract civilian medical personnel, and generally don’t see the point in assisting wounded civilians or, worse, wounded Imperials.

ST 10 HP 10 Speed 5
DX 10 Will 12/10 Move: 5
IQ 12 Per 10

HT 10 FP 10 SM +0
Dodge 8
Parry 8
DR: 0


Blaster Pistol (10): 3d(5) burn sur (Acc 5, Range 300/1000 RoF 3, Bulk -2)

Pneumohypo (10): HT-3; penetrates up to 1 DR, Reach C, cannot parry.

Skills: Area Knowledge (Local)-10, Diagnosis-12, First-Aid-12, Physician-12, Pharmacy-12, Stealth-10

Traits: Combat Paralysis; Pacifism (Reluctant Killer);

Notes: Human; Untrained and largely unready for combat. Apply a -4 to shoot any recognizable humans (or other galactic sapients generally considered non-monstrous) with visible faces, or -2 if no face is visible. If they killed someone with a visible face, roll against Will or break down. If faced with imminent bodily harm, roll HT; on a failure, you are mentally stunned. The lower Will value applies to all fright checks.

Night Nurse Tactics

I don’t want to shoot you” (17): After taking an Aim action, make a “Wait” maneuver; if your target moves to attack you, you may attack first. If your wait triggers, you may make an All-Out (Determined) sighted attack. Success hits the torso. You may not defend.

Pnuemohypo KO (14): Against an unaware target, make a Telegraphic Attack with Knife or DX-4 (14). Unaware targets may not defend; other targets may defend at +2. A successful attack injects the drug, generally Morphazine or Soothe (both UT205), which can be resisted with an HT-3 roll. Failure generally puts the target out of commission for awhile.

Medic! (12): You attend to someone’s wounds. This takes 10 minutes; at the end, roll IQ-4, First-Aid or Physician (12). Success heals 1d+1 damage. You may use Medic at most once per victim for a given set of injuries.

Amateur Errors

Amateur insurgents don’t present much of a challenge. They largely serve as a back-up for superior forces, or as a story element, allowing the players to train plucky villagers into a decent fighting force, or forcing imperials to question the morality of slaughtering women and children. As such, the GM may wish to emphasize their lack of professionalism. The following represent ideas that the GM can inflict on Amateur forces, if he wishes. A successful use of Leadership instantly snaps an amateur insurgent out of this unprofessional behavior.

Action Hero

Many amateur insurgents only have an idea of what combat feels like from watching the holo-vids, and might have even joined an insurgency so they could feel like a hero. They expect a blaster to be a fire-hose spewing brilliantly colored shards of death at their opponents, who simply fall before they like grass before a mow-bot. Action Heroes will step out from cover, hurl some insult at the enemy, and then open fire. If they have a rapid fire weapon, they will make an All-Out Attack (Suppression Fire) at the nearest group of enemies. If they have two pistols, they will draw both, and make a Dual-Weapon All-Out (Suppression Fire) Attack by combining the ROF of both weapons. This is at -7 and has a maximum value of 7. Those with a single pistol or a single RoF 3 long arm will make a Fast-Firing All-Out (Suppression Fire) Attack. This applies a -4 to the roll, increases recoil to 2, and has a maximum value of 7. In all cases, the character cannot defend and those who target him have no penalty to hit him (he's not behind cover).

Big No

Many insurgents have family ties with one another, but only an amateur allows that bond to override his good sense during battle. When an ally falls (especially a child soldier), the amateur insurgent runs up to the fallen ally, cradles them, touches them, weeps and wails and may only choose Do Nothing for the next 1d6 turns. Thereafter, the amateur either retrieves the body and quits the field, or goes berserk (treat as the Berskerk disadvantage, but only against those who harmed the ally).

Charge!

For many, blasters don’t “feel real.” When their adrenaline pumps, especially in close combat, they react on a primal level and lash out physically with their weapon. They’ll move right up against their opponent and either attack with the rifle butt (1d+1 cr for most insurgents), or turn it around and swing it from its barrel, often while screaming (1d+2 cr for most insurgents, and unbalanced). Treat this as an All-Out (Determined) Attack, giving most amateur insurgents a skill roll of 14 to hit.

Gangsta Shootin’

Some amateur shooters have peculiar notions about how best to fire their blaster pistols. Holding them at odd, dramatic angles to fire applies a -1 to all ranged attacks with the weapon, it reduces the Malf to 16, and the character cannot make All-Out Attack (Determined) sighted attacks or use a two-handed grip with his blaster pistol.

Gape and Point

Unless an untrained combatant has explicit orders to attack, if he sees the enemy, he may simply observe them in a detached way, without realizing the danger he is in. Unless the enemy is immediately violent (for example taking shots at the target), the amateur merely observes them, and makes comments to anyone nearby, saying things like “Hey, is that an Imperial trooper? Woah, I think it is. Gosh, I’ve never seen one this close. What do you think he’s doing?” When violence breaks out, the amateur is immediately mentally stunned for the next 1d seconds, as though totally surprised, not because he didn’t realize the enemy was there, but didn’t truly grasp the danger it implied.

Go Away!

The average person wants to survive, but feels a strong instinct preventing him from killing unnecessarily. When faced with combat, the character shouts at his opponents and makes an Attack, but deliberately misses, aiming over their heads, or even up into the air. Treat this as an Intimidation attempt.

Horrors of War

Most amateur insurgents have never seen the true brutality of war. The first time such an insurgent is the target of an attack or sees an ally hit or killed, they must make a Fright Check without the +5 bonus from combat. Remember to apply a -2 penalty if the amateur has Combat Paralysis! If the amateur passes, he still hunkers down and avoids conflict unless he gets a stern rebuke or hears a sharp command shouted at him.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Organizations of the Alliance: Rebel Insurgencies

Rebel Insurgency and Resistance Movements

"I'm not a terrorist. I'm a patriot. And resistance is not terrorism." ―Saw Gerrera
Star Wars drew a great deal of inspiration from the “heroic patriots” who resisted great and powerful enemies, such as the American Revolutionaries vs the British Empire, the French Resistance against Nazi Germany (I have found no references to equally interesting Eastern European resistance movements), or the Viet Cong resisting the “Imperial” Western powers (America in particular). However, the Rebellion of Star Wars doesn’t really depict an actual resistance movement, but rather hard-pressed soldiers of a power fighting a more powerful army. We see well-supplied starfighters, vast warships run professionally, soldiers fighting in formation, and grand and elegant award ceremonies, led a princess!

In reality, insurgencies rely not on soldiers, but on irregulars. They fill their ranks with old veterans, women, even children; anyone who can or will fight. They lack funding, so they must resort to homemade weaponry, whatever citizen-legal weaponry they already had, or hand-me-downs from a stronger power (or even stolen from their enemy). To make ends meet, they often need to resort to criminality, such as bank robberies or kidnapping rackets. Because they fight a superior opponent while they lack the funds, training or firepower to meet them head on, they must resort to the underhanded tactics of asymmetrical warfare, such as hit-and-run tactics, sabotage, assassination and terrorism. In short, they act like nothing in the Rebellion except the rebels as depicted in Rogue One.

By their very nature, this sort of organization represents a challenge, because there is no one rebel resistance movement. While any organization has variation throughout its ranks (not every Imperial Security Bureau is identical, of course), they still have common protocols, ranks, tactics and equipment. With a rebel insurgency, I lump everyone from minutemen-type patriots laying down their lives for their planet to extremist terrorists willing to blow up anyone who disagrees with them to criminal organizations with pretensions at governmental legitimacy. Not only can one resistance movement be completely differnet from another , several of these might operate at the same time on the same planet! The French Resistance was notoriously fractured, with some cells even coming to blows over resources! While nearly anyone, from a band of pirates to mutinous soldiers to secretive assassins could be an insurgency, I want to focus on a very specific subset: the unskilled, untrained and underfunded “citizen soldier” that tend to be the first thing we think of when we discuss such movements. For me, when people wax poetic about “rebellion,” as they do about Star Wars, they have visions of Red Dawn and the Patriot more than Inglorious Basterds or Anthropoid. They mean these sorts of rebels.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I want to mention it again: I take no moral position as I write these organizations. I think my write-up of the Empire tended towards the “villainous,” but I tried to leave room for a heroic interpretation. I want the reverse for the rebellion, and especially resistance movements like these. While I will happily accept that Rebellion of Star Wars clearly drew inspiration from the American Revolution, I cannot help but draw parallels with ISIS, the IRA or FARC, because all represent the same sort of approach to warfare. This is not to say that I believe all are the same, but that all have a lesson to offer us about how these sorts of soldiers fight. Moreover, a heroic Imperial game needs bad guys to fight against, and perhaps some resistance cells really are terrorists! This is especially important for organizations as fractured and divided as resistance cells can be, as even in a Rebel-focused game, a rogue movement might prove to be an interesting and thought-provoking opponent. If you smell moral relativism in this piece, it’s not because I’m trying to “bust the myth” of Rebel heroism or that I’m an Imperial partisan (I mean, I totally am, but that’s not why I’m doing this). Rather it’s to provide the GM with the tools he needs and, often, organizations in an Action game tend to be complex and full of hypocrisy. I want to give you, dear reader, the room to explore whatever it is you might wish to explore.



Thursday, May 4, 2017

State of the Patreon: May

This month saw more pledges than I expected, and I've reached just over halfway to my next goal of artwork.  Hopefully, we'll hit that milestone before the end of the year.

Last month, I had the most views ever for my blog (over 12k), and I completed the Empire, after two months of blogging on it.  I also have a son!  Hooray!  That likely means my pace of blogging will slow somewhat, an inevitable consequence, but I'd like to at least keep at it.  We'll just have to see how it goes!

This month, I have the Rebel Alliance for you.  I say Alliance, not just because Star Wars uses that term, but because it represents a collection of disparate interests coming together to fight the Empire without a clear leader or a centralized government.  As such, it will have three parts, and this month, I focus on Rebel Insurgencies: the half-trained men and women who form "criminal" conspiracies to disrupt, protest and fight the Empire from within.

My plans for my Patreon might be a tad bit ambitious.  The theme this month is technology, as I'd like to revisit how technology works and how it has developed over the thousands of years in Psi-Wars.  The big ambition is to create a discussion of 5 distinct "eras" of technology and how they differ.  This will be a guide document for myself, for creating appropriate technology, vehicles, etc, as relics, or advanced items, etc.  I don't know what the price of that series will be.  I originally intended $1+, but looking at what I have, I'm not sure how useful it will be without the $3+ material in your hands.  We'll see! 

For the Dreamers ($1+), in the very least, I have a Blaster vs Force Sword playtest, which goes into greater depth into the strengths and weaknesses of both than I had in previous playtests, and I offer up a houserule to fix the problem.  This post, by the way, was brought to you by Patreon Jake Bernstein.

For the Fellow Travellers ($3+), in the very least, I have Dirty Ultra-Tech, a look at what improvised Psi-Wars weapons, armor and explosives might be.  This post was inspired by my work on insurgents, and also by High Tech, which has loads of information on how to do a lot of this stuff, which I've extrapolated to a rather cinematic version of TL 11^.  I also have the full Insurgency documents up right now!  Go check it out!

Finally, for my Companions ($5+), I'd like to make an insurgency with you!  I haven't worked out the poll exactly yet, but my plan is to revisit the junk world of Grist, and work out what sort of anti-Imperial activity that world has; in addition to allowing you to create an insurgency together, I hope to use this to show how one goes about building an insurgency in Psi-Wars.

As always, I want to thank you, my dear Patrons, for making Psi-Wars possible, and for your feedback and involvement.  And for those of you who aren't yet Patrons, I'd love to have you!


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The Rebel Alliance: Overview

We know what the Empire looks like.  Now we need the other half of our war, the heroic resistance that struggles to free the Galaxy from the tyrannical grip of the Empire.  As before, we must look at the Rebellion through the lens of an organization, because what matters to our campaign more than anything is what the Rebellion can do for our players, what it might be like to work for the Rebellion, and what sort of stories the Rebellion might offer us.

As with the Empire, Star Wars doesn't really define the details of the Rebellion except in the broadest outline, which gives me an opportunity to dive in deeper and pull on actual historical details for real-world rebellions.  We do know George Lucas drew on the romantic imagery of the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and that he glamorized the Viet Kong uprising against the "Imperial" Western Powers.  We can also draw parallels from nearly any rebellion or revolution we wish, including the Senatorial side of the Roman Civil War and the Confederate side of the American Civil War.  These were the losing sides of their respective rebellions and they're not nearly as "justified by history" as George Lucas's glamorized revolutions, which is good, as they remind us of the dark side of rebellion, and highlight a key point: that revolutions tend to fail more than the succeed.  If our rebellion is going to succeed, it'll do so against the forces of history and with the help of our plucky, heroic player characters.

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