30 Apr 2013

Fun With Traveller - The Imperial Scout

As part of the prep for a potential Traveller story, I will need a crew.  So far, I have Philomena, who can fill in as a pilot and a gunner but is much better as a lawyer.  Philomena also doesn't have a ship.  There are a few careers in the Traveller character generation system that provide ship shares, with some, like the Merchant and the Scholar, granting bonus shares for specific ship types.  Only one career provides a ship - the Scout.

In the Third Imperium setting, the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service handles the Imperium's exploration requirements.  The Scout Service also handles the mail between planets and maintains the census.  Scouts may be discharged from regular service to be placed on detached duty, where they are granted the use of a Type S Scout/Courier, a small (100 displacement tons) ship that can be operated by one man.

Scouts can come from all walks of life, all backgrounds.  The key element they share is a need to explore and the ability to work alone for extended missions.  The Express Boat (X-Boat) pilots spend a week alone in Jump space to deliver mail.  Planetary surveys take weeks.  Independence is a big factor.
Name: Spencer Mills
Species: Human
Homeworld: Trane/Glisten (C639422-B, Non-Industrial)
Trane is a smaller-than-Earth-sized planet near Glisten in the Glisten Subsector with a very thin atmosphere.  The planet has roughly 90% of its surface covered by water.  The population is counted in the tens of thousands, which makes it easy to have a participatory democracy.  The law is lenient, just banning energy weapons of all sorts, easily concealed weapons, and weapons of mass destruction.  Given the huge amount of surface water, the population is likely spread over a few islands capable of supporting agriculture.
  Str 6/+0
  Dex B/+1
  End C/+2
  Int A/+1
  Edu 5/-1
  Soc 3/-1
Spencer comes from the lowest class on the planet.  His education is below Imperial average, but he is bright.  Physically, he is lean and agile.
 Comms 0
 Computer 0
Spencer's lack of education only gets him two initial skills.  Given the type of world he's on, he takes Computer, for the tech level 11, and Comms, for the need to keep in touch with a home port.

Spencer now tries to join the Scout Service, with a +1 on the enrollment roll.  A roll of 9, modified to 10, means becoming a Scout is not a problem.  He gets the service skills at level 0 for basic training.  Spencer decided to join the Survey Branch, to let him see more of the Imperium, or at least the Spinward Marches.  He rolls on the Specialist: Survey table and gets Sensors.  Spencer now checks to see if he survived his first term, needing 6 or better with his Endurance modifier.  He rolls 7, plus 2 from his End for a total 9.  He was born for this.  For the term's event, he rolls an 11; served as a courier for an important message from the Imperium, and has a choice between getting Diplomat 1 or a +4 to his promotion roll; he opts for the skill.  Promotion needs an 8 or better, modified by Int; Spencer gets a 7, modified to 8.  The promotion gets him another roll on a skills table plus, for making rank 1, Vacc Suit 1.  Spencer's career is off to a great start!
Career - Scout/Survey
Term 1: Served as the courier for an important message from the Imperium; promoted
The second term, Spencer remains in the Scout Service, still in Survey.  He rolls on the Specialist table for his term skill and gets Pilot (small craft) 1.  Not as useful as Pilot (spacecraft) would be.  Spencer may need to change branches.  He rolls a 7, modified to 9, easily surviving the term.  For the event, he spends a few years jumping from world to world, running quick surveys, and grabs Astrogation 1 as a result.  Spencer, though, does not get a promotion, though he remains in the service.
Term 2: Spent time jumping world to world in his ship.
Term 3 begins with Spencer working on personal development, improving his Strength by 1.  He easily survives.  For the event, he spends a great deal of time on the fringes of known space and needs to roll either Survival or Pilot, modified by an appropriate stat.  Spencer chooses Survival, modified by End, and gets a total roll of 14.  He gets a contact from an alien race and a boost to any skill he wants {Pilot (Spacecraft)}.  Spencer also gets a promotion, and another skill roll; getting Persuade 1.
Term 3: Spent great deal of time on fringes; met alien contact; promoted.
New term.  Spencer is doing well enough, but it's time for a change.  He switches to the Courier Branch.  Promotions may be harder to come by, but he can get a different set of skills.  He rolls on the Specialist table and gets Comms.  Survival becomes easier, and Spencer has no problem.  This term gets a Life Event, a new Contact.  Could be useful in making a connection later, so the Contact will be left undeveloped for now.  The promotion roll is now based on Education, and Spencer comes no where close to what he needs, though his career can continue.  However, he now has to check for aging.  A roll of 6, minus his 4 terms, leaves him unaffected.
Term 4: Life Event: Made a new contact.
Spencer switches over to the Exploration Branch.  It's a chance to see if he wants to stay or move on.  He rolls on the Specialist table and gets Stealth 1.  Sneaky!  Survival is a little harder this time, but Spencer's End should help; he gets a modified roll of 10, making survival a non-issue.  He rolls another 10 for the term's event, getting the same result as in his third term - spending time on the fringes of space.  He makes the same decision, Survival modified by End, and gets a modifed roll of 12.  Spencer gets an alien Contact and a boost to any skill of his choice; he opts for Astrogation.  As for a promotion, he rolls poorly and is unable to continue in the Scout Service.  Aging effects are irrelevant.
Term 5: Spent great deal of time on fringes; met alien contact; unable to continue service.
Spencer looks back at twenty years of being a Scout.  He got to travel, met people he wouldn't have back on Trane, learned skills that he never expected.  And, now, he musters out.  I am adding a house rule here in that if, by his last roll he hasn't received a Scout Ship as a benefit, he trades the last roll in for the ship.  He'll need it for the story.  Spencer gets six benefit rolls, one from rank, the rest from terms served.  He starts with two roll on the Cash table, 3 and 1, for a total of Cr50 000.  His next two rolls for to Other Benefits; a 2 and a 3, to increase his Int and Edu one each.  He makes one more roll on Other Benefits and gets a 4, a weapon.  The last roll becomes the Scout Ship needed for the story.
Cr 50 000
Medical Expenses:
Ship Shares:
Contacts: Alien, Life Event contact, Alien
Scout Ship
Spencer had a good career, and now the Scout Service has entrusted him with a ship for detached duty, where he can explore but still needs to report in.  He is also subject to recall.  He has three contacts that need to be expanded, possibly by using them for connections with the other characters.  The lack of promotions hurt the most in gaining his skill set.  Spencer will need an engineer to help with the jump drives, but most shipboard duties he can handle on his own.

And the full character sheet:
Name: Spencer Mills
Species: Human
Homeworld: Trane/Glisten (C639422-B, Non-Industrial)
Rank: Scout (Rank 2)
  Str 7/+0
  Dex B/+2
  End C/+1
  Int B/+1
  Edu 6/+0
  Soc 3/-1
 Astrogation 2
 Comms 1
 Computer 0
 Diplomat 1
 Gun Combat 0
 Mechanic 1
 Persuade 1
 Pilot 0
  Small Craft 1
  Spacecraft 1
 Sensors 1
 Survival 0
 Vacc Suit 1

Career - Scout/Survey
Term 1: Served as the courier for an important message from the Imperium; promoted
Term 2: Spent time jumping world to world in his ship.
Term 3: Spent great deal of time on fringes; met alien contact; promoted.
Term 4: Courier Branch.  Life Event: Made a new contact.
Term 5: Exploration Branch.  Spent great deal of time on fringes; met alien contact; unable to continue service.
Cr 50 000
Medical Expenses:
Ship Shares:
Contacts: Alien, Life Event contact, Alien
Scout Ship

26 Apr 2013

Subject 13 #17 - Jessica

[Adult situations.  Reader discretion advised.]

Nasty followed Anne to the women's washroom.  "What did he mean by become the next peregrine?"

"You're not from here, are you?" Anne asked.  "In the past, Eagle has had a partner in his fight against crime."

"You're right into this comic-book thing, aren't you?"

"You don't know the half of it, Jessica.  Anyway, there have been four other Peregrines in the past.  Eagle has a knack of finding partners."

25 Apr 2013

Subject 13 #16 - Commentary

Once again, please read the issue.  It's a good one to jump aboard with.

Issues 1-15 were Nasty's origin, decompressed.  The majority of the writing of those issues was done at work in between and, sometimes, during calls.  Issue 16 wasn't.  It's longer, mainly from me realizing how short the previous issues were getting.  Nasty gets a chance to take some control of her life, despite being an apparent fugitive.

Issue 16 starts with Nasty rummaging through her new stuff.  She jumps for the cash from "Mickey's" wallet and "Soccer Mom's" glove compartment which, sadly, does not have gloves.  Nasty also shows that she really isn't the thief type; she'd probably get good money for the credit cards and the van through the right people.  As for the shoes, Nasty doesn't wear high heels.  She just doesn't like admitting that the problem is with her.

So, here we have Nasty wandering through early morning Rochester, New York, a city with a high crime rate in November.  There should be snow on the ground, but that was a dry year.  At least Nasty has a plan - find a Salvation Army to get clothes and get breakfast.  Foiled because Nasty's first instinct is to be a hero.  Okay, her first instinct was to take cover.  Still, she wasn't thinking ahead when she powered up her fist.  The scene also let me show that there are other altered humans in the S13-verse.  Costumes are garish; heroes and villains are noticeable and their garb give people a chance to react and leave.  There was probably a Supreme Court ruling along the way.

The American Eagle of Rochester makes his first appearance here.  His powers outclass Nasty's - she can't stop bullets with her mind.  Eagle tends to talk like he's from the Golden Age.  Part of his schtick, really.  Helps hide his identity.  Speaking of, yes, I do know the American Eagle's secret identity.  However, since this isn't his title, it remains a secret.  There may or may not be a reveal.

The rest of the issue is Nasty reacting to several hard bits of news.  She has lost a month.  She is obviously in some sort of trouble; young ladies do not walk around Rochester in the middle of November in bare feet.  She has trust issues.  Considering that she was being brainwashed, can you blame her?

A couple of questions I'll answer now.  Why Rochester?  When I chose the city, I had cable with access to the affiliates based in Rochester, New York.  Shortly after I made my choice, Rogers, the evil cable company, decided to make all of Ontario have the same selection as Toronto.  Gone were stations from Montreal, Kingston, and, yes, Rochester, in favour of stations from Toronto and Detroit.  Caused a brouhaha when the PBS station was replaced.  WNPE/WNPI relied on donations from Ottawa and Eastern Ontario.  Losing that audience would have caused the station hardship.  Rogers backed down on making that change.

Why Jessica?  No, Nasty didn't name herself after the famous rabbit.  At the time of writing, Jessica was gaining popularity as a baby name, to the point where there would be at least one Jessica or Jennifer in a class.  Nasty chose a name that was popular and that she liked.

Friday, Issue 17 and Nasty's decision.
Saturday, over at Fan To Pro, I continue my series on adapting games in Lost in Translation.
Coming later here, more Traveller, more NaNoWriMo prep, and more more!

19 Apr 2013

Subject 13 Issue #16 - Eagle

Nasty awoke from a fitful sleep.  She tried to stretch her legs, but could not uncurl.  Shivering, she sat up.  I can't believe this, she thought.  I can't stay here and I can't keep this van.  They're probably looking for it right now.  She looked at her image in the mirror.  I'm a mess.  Okay, let's see what I have.  Nasty emptied her pockets.  Paper, credit cards, Michael Parks, Michael Green - how many names does Mickey have? - Steven Parks . . . that name's familiar.  Ah, cash.  Twenty, forty, fifty, sixty . . . a hundred and five?  Who carries around that much money on them?  At least I can get something to eat.  She opened the glove compartment.  Soccer mom strikes again, I see.  Candy, not touching it.  Bills.  Parking stubs.  Movie stubs, all PG.  Parking tickets - what's a fed doing with parking tickets?  A twenty.  Bet she doesn't know it was there.

18 Apr 2013

Subject 13 #15 - Commentary

Again, read the issue first.  Less spoiler-y.

Issue 15 more or less wraps up Nasty's origin arc.  If you've been saving commentary, now's a good time for it.

The first fifteen issues were written mainly at work between callers.  As I mentioned, Subject 13 was originally started so I could focus frustration into something creative instead of destructive.  I did catch myself once looking up a caller's address because the person needed to be beaten around the head with his DSL modem.  It was a bad call.  Taking out the frustration on fictional people didn't really help, but it distracted me long enough to forget the address.

I hated that job.

Back to the Nasty's issue instead of mine, Nasty has gone on the offense.  "Enough is enough and enough is too much."  Thanks to the Consortium, she has better control over her power punch.  Nasty is also picking up on her new trick learned in the previous issue and is using it to break walls.  Oh, and her swearing gets more intense when she's angry.  There may come a point when she escalates from f-bomb to strategic f-nuke; nothing has been planned for that point, though.

Jackson, meanwhile, just wants to minimize the damage, both to the Consortium's building and to the work that he and his team have put in trying to recruit Nasty.  So far, the teenager has fought off several opponents while out-numbered, resisted being paralysed despite succumbing, and broke out of mental conditioning.  Either the Consortium needs Nasty on its side or she needs to be eliminated.  Nasty isn't the first altered human the Consortium recruited forcibly.

The final fight is Nasty against the agents who grabbed her at school.  This time, the agents don't have time to get closer.  This time, Nasty is ready for a fight.  Very much a one-sided fight.  Nasty also lives up to her nickname, making sure that the agent she put down stays down.  Note, though, Nasty isn't using her power punch once she has the upper hand.

The end report came naturally from the Subject listings in the first thirteen issues.  It wasn't planned, but once I had established the format, I could return to it when the Consortium is involved.  I forgot to mention the two guards from the first paragraph, but I now hand wave it by saying that the Consortium doesn't worry about non-altered assets.

Friday, Nasty in Rochester!
Saturday, over at Fan To Pro, the hows of adapting games to television and movies.
Coming later here, fun with Traveller, NaNoWriMo[http://www.nanowrimo.org], naming characters, and Shadowrun prep.

13 Apr 2013

Subject 13 #15 - Break Out

[Apologies for the delay.  My fault - I messed up the scheduling.]
[Violence and foul language.  Reader discretion advised.]

Nasty stood over two unconscious guards as she finished fastening the belt she took from one of them.  Alarm klaxons shrilled harshly, echoing through the corridor.  Nasty covered her ears, trying to block the noise so that she could think.  There had to be a way out.

11 Apr 2013

Subject 13 #14 - Commentary

As always, please read the issue before continuing.

There's a small problem with mind control - details.  Small ones, ones most people tend to forget about, like the positioning of an alarm clock or the sound of an engine.  Most people notice these things only when they're not right.  As an IT tech, I've fixed PCs using sound as much as the error message.  Then you have memories that you're sure are right, but aren't, like finding house keys in the kitchen instead of beside the door where they're normally kept.  What is a villainous telepathic minion to do, other than gloss over the details as much as possible?

This is what Subject 4 has run into over the past few issues.  He's let his boss know about the problems, such as not being a seventeen year old girl and not expecting Nasty to lack confidence.  There have been times when he has tossed distractions at her to derail her train of thought.  However, he's basically running a non-stop role-playing game as the Gamemaster in real time.  GMs have it rough over four hours as players wreak havoc on carefully created, delicately plotted adventures*.  No GM in his or her right mind will want to run a railroad plot one-on-one with a player who wants to go where the map is labelled "Here Be Dragons"**.

The above is what helps Nasty realize something is wrong.  She finally noticed the little slip ups.  Her motorcycle didn't sound right.  Eric called her "Nasty".  Go back if you need to, but that was a deliberate choice by me to have Eric not call her by the nickname.  Then there's the trigger.  As far as Nasty knows, Eric would never have kissed her.***

And, thus, Nasty acts instead of reacting.  It wasn't that she was passive during the previous issues.  The Consortium held the cards and led Nasty down the path it wanted.  Nasty is also a comic book superhero.  Superheroes, by the nature of the genre, react to villainous plots.  Murder mysteries are similar; the detective may be actively solving the case but until the first victim is killed, there is no case to solve.  Now, though, Nasty knows there is a villainous plot.  She can now do something about it, which she does in her own style.****

Going aside for a moment...  A friend and I have been discussing Stephanie Meyer's writing skill, or lack thereof.  The blog If By Yes compared Meyer's Twilight series with JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.  Round 4 has stuck with me and had me starting to question my own writing.  Fortunately, I avoid one of Meyer's major problems.  I don't state outright that my characters are such-and-such; for example, I have never written anywhere in Subject 13 that Nasty is a hotheaded tomboy.  Sure, if someone asked Tia or the football team, they might use the phrase, but that would be in-character for them, and they might substitute "tomboy" for a less charitable word.  The other part is that Nasty isn't just a hotheaded tomboy; she has quirks, motives, desires, crushes, dislikes, conflicts.  Meyer's characters, for all the reader is told about them, never really reflect what we're told.  We're told Bella is plain, yet she gets a harem a size that would make many anime characters jealous.  She's poor, but she can buy a car.  Meanwhile, with Nasty, I've shown that she has a short fuse.  I've shown that she has interests that normally appeal to boys than girls, like working on her motorcycle.  I've implied that she and her mother are poor.

Overall?  I don't think I'm in Rowling's league.  I can pick out areas I would've done differently; I would've changed the format of the stories during Goblet of Fire to less follow the school year so that Deathly Hallows picked up the pace a bit in the middle.  I would also have Neville Longbottom and the Army of Dumbledore going to the publisher, though I have no doubt that Rowling knows exactly what happened at Hogwarts during Harry's absence during Deathly Hallows.  At the same time, I'm positive I could write rings around Meyer; I just don't work in a genre that's as popular as paranormal romance.  I have tried my hands at one; my lead character was more interested in the paranormal than the romance.

Friday, the great escape!
Saturday, depending on whether my current cold lets me, I start analysing the hows of adapting games to television and movies.
Coming later here, naming characters, more NaNoWriMo prep work, more Traveller fun, and I talk about my PCs.

* Ha!  I kid!
** Why go?  Because there are dragons there!
*** Whether he would or wouldn't have is now up to speculation.  Go speculate!
**** Hitting and swearing profusely.  Nasty knows where her strengths are.

10 Apr 2013

A Writing Exercise and Shadowrun Backgrounder

For NaNoWriMo 2010, I decided to try writing a tie-in novel.  The goal was to have an interesting story in the setting while staying close to the game mechanics as narratively possible.  I went with Shadowrun, a tabletop RPG that crossed cyberpunk with Tolkien-style fantasy.  The setting has been fleshed out to allow players to wreak havoc while still giving GMs room to plot.

Shadowrun is set in the 2070s, long after magic has returned to the world.  Corporations dominate the landscape, and countries have sundered.  The technology has advanced at a believable rate, ignoring cybernetics for now.  Players are human, though there are now human subspecies, such as trolls and elves.  The player characters are freelance deniable expendable assets; think Mission: Impossible, except without the benefits.

To get a firm idea of the characters, I took a small snippet I wrote in the form of a transcript from a 60 Minutes-style news program and let my main characters provide running commentary.  This let me work out the characters' personality, which helped greatly when writing non-stop.  Just imagine that the characters are watching the same piece over the Matrix (Shadowrun's wireless Internet) in different locations.

The piece is a tad longer than the average blog post, so I've added a jump cut.  Enjoy!

A NewsNet Exclusive! Interview With a Shadowrunner!

You've experienced them in simsense! You've heard about them on the news. You might even have seen one on the street or even at your job without realizing it. But who are they, these nebulous shadowrunners? Why do they work outside the law? Where do they come from? NewsNet's own Amanda Pierce goes deep into the world of the shadowrunner to find out what makes them tick. Find out what she discovered after these messages.

Numbers, is this the interview you and Charles did? - Treehugger
Yeah. I don't think the reporter realized we work together. - Numbers
She never mentioned anyone else she was talking to, unless she wanted us to comment. - Charles
Wait. I want a couple of beers for this. - Oswald

8 Apr 2013

The Most Excellent Adventure Ends

Rufus, the most excellent cleric, has finished his adventure, with a most triumphant victory over the heinous forces of evil.  Followers of the Lawgiver, the Old Faith, and the Most Excellent One came together under a righteous rhythm to aid the founder of the village and fight the massed armies of evil about to march upon the village.  Artifacts were destroyed, preventing a most bogus end to the villagers of Hommel Lane.

However, the victory came at a cost.  Two of Rufus's fellow adventurers, Silvo and Belfire, were missing at the end of the battle.  No, most excellent friends, they did not fall.  Rufus fully believes that the Most Excellent One called them, based on their bravery and valour as they strove to be excellent to the villagers, to where they are needed most.  The most sainted ones will do well, no matter where they went.

In appreciation for saving the village, the mayor of Hommel Lane granted land to each of the adventurers who most excellently helped.  Rufus shall be opening a temple/tavern, where he'll perform three nights a week and be avavilable for b'nai and b'not mitzvah when he's not tending to the village's spiritual needs.  A room is always available to the most sainted ones, Silvo and Belfire, if and when they return.

So, fellow adventurers, be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!

[Next season of Encounters moves the setting to the Forgotten Realms town of Neverwinter.  The players Silvo and Belfire will keep playing their PCs next season.  I'm going to create a new character, having missed the previous Neverwinter season.  If there's a sequel to this season, Rufus will return.]

5 Apr 2013

Subject 13 #14 - Final Exam

[Foul language and violence ensue.  Reader discretion advised.]

Nasty leaned against the wall, trying to stifle a yawn.  Her arms ached after her workout.  Not quite a workout.  More like pounding the same punching bag over and over.  Her arms felt like lead.  With effort, Nasty pushed off the wall with her shoulder and trudged back towards the locker room.

4 Apr 2013

Subject 13 #13 - Commentary

Once again, please read the issue before reading the commentary.

This issue was written while I was still doing the seventh level of call centre hell.  The issue might have been written shortly after Marketing decided that techs can upsell since we've got clients on the phone.  So, there may be some wishful thinking in the issue, such as Maria's night out.  I might have wanted to escape work and pretend that nothing else existed once I got home.  Nasty's night, though, is my realistic side coming through and the feeling that, no, the job wasn't worth the stress and that the daily migraines were indeed a warning sign.

In the story, though, Maria's confidence comes through.  She knows what she wants and has no problem getting it.  Maria wanted a good time, she made sure she was in the right place at the right time.  Also, this was written at the beginning of the Dot Bomb of the very early Naughties, so the start up celebrating doesn't reflect the reality that'd hit.  Skeet's company will need to be updated when the storyline returns to Maria.  Amazing what time gaps can do.

Nasty, however, does not have the confidence her mother has in social situations.  The aggression Nasty shows elsewhere flees at the sight of her crush.  Her hesitation, though, is giving Subject 4 fits.  Nasty's perception of reality has a heavy filter.  If Nasty was going to fight someone, from Tia to the football team, she'd be not just confident, but capable.  Socially, Nasty doesn't have the experience Maria had at that age.

The last scene is me just wrapping up the broken coffee table.  It was there, in the living room, going to be a problem for me even if no one else remembered it.  I could use it as a MacGuffin if I want, though.  The new one's there.

The Consortium's file on Nasty is why I started adding the other files in previous issues.  I didn't want the file to be a sudden addition, so I back filled the first four issues with appropriate details, then created new files each issue for the other Subjects.  Turned out to be useful in retrospect.  The Consortium now has a roster of metahuman operatives that I can toss at Nasty or anyone else in the S13-verse.  The file format came in handy with Crossover, the full-length novel featuring, among others, Nasty.  Not bad for an idea where I could tell people what Nasty's powers are through an in-universe means.

Friday, Nasty puts the puzzle pieces together to see the big picture.
Saturday, over at Fan To Pro, I review a legacy.
Coming later here, naming characters, Rufus wrap up, more prep for NaNoWriMo, and more Traveller fun.