Friday, May 18, 2018

Ultra-Tech Frameworks: Step 2 - Choose a Tech Level

The tech levels of the various items in this book should be treated simply as guidelines – a culture may develop some technologies more rapidly than others. --GURPS Ultra-Tech, page 8
The first step most people take when designing a sci-fi setting is to choose an appropriate tech-level. This is fine, but the first thing you must understand is that tech level is only a starting point, at best a loose guideline. You should not treat tech-level as an absolute. The point of tech level is not to define what is available and what isn't, but to describe what is generally available. This, by the way, is true of all TLs. American TL 8 is not really the same as Nigerian TL 8, and Chinese TL 3 is definitely not the same as British TL 3. Even works like Dungeon Fantasy or Action don't precisely hit a single TL: DF is better understood as TL 4 "but without guns," and Action is often "TL 8 but with a sprinkling of select TL 9 super-gadgets." If I say that a setting belongs to a particular TL, it already tells you a lot, but there's a lot it doesn't tell you.

Furthermore, all tech levels assigned to ultra-tech gadgets is ultimately arbitrary. Just because a setting is pegged at a particular TL doesn’t mean it has access to all technology of that TL, or that it has no access to higher TL technology. GURPS explicitly discusses alternate development paths and advocates breaking down TL into categories. Personally, working with split tech-levels is less important than understanding that tech-level is really just setting a baseline of expectations and pointing you in a particular direction. This is especially true of Super-Science technology, as there is no physical basis for them anyway, so you can declare them to be available when and if you want. This is explicitly true of super-science power cells, cosmic power-cells and most psychotronics, but all the tech levels of super-science gadgets in Ultra-Tech are definitely just suggestions.

So, given that all future tech-levels are ultimately arbitrary, the authors of GURPS Ultra-Tech seem to have chosen particular themes around which to wrap the idea of tech levels, guesses at how advanced and strange a society would have to be to gain access to a tech level. If we’re going to use tech levels, it behooves us, then, to understand what the assumptions behind a given TL is. GURPS Ultra-Tech lays this out for us starting on page 6, but allow me to approach them with more explicit themes in mind.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Ultra-Tech Frameworks: Step 1: Your Technological Concept and Core Activity

A useful concept in designing a campaign is to think of the “default adventure.” This is simply what the characters are expected to do...The GM can use default adventures to play up different aspects of the game and the setting. – GURPS Space page 208, the Default Adventure
What sort of setting are you trying to build? This should be your first question, but it often isn’t. Many people start by saying something like “I’m building a TL 10 setting and...” but this doesn’t tell us anything. TL 10 can be anything from advanced cyberpunk spy-thriller to conspiratorial supers to anti-alien warfare ala X-Com to full-on space opera. You need to know, first, what your game is about.

While there’s no such thing as “generic fantasy,” the fantasy genre does benefit from the dominance of Tolkien-esque D&D-inspired knock-offs so you can say “I’m running a fantasy game and...” and most people have a rough idea of what you’re doing, sci-fi absolutely does not have the benefit of this. Even if you refine it to something like “Cyberpunk” or “space opera,” it can still mean any number of things; after all, both Star Wars and Star Trek are in the “space opera” genre, yet are very dissimilar in just about every aspect. Tech level will vary, available technology will vary, and what the players will do will vary.

So the first thing we need to do is to come up with at least a sentence to describe what the game is like. You can borrow from existing tropes, but keep it short; think of it like an elevator pitch. It should, in the very least, invoke some of the technologies one might expect, not explicitly, but implicitly. Additionally, or supplementing this, you should think about what players do, the “Core activity” of the game.

A “core activity” of a role-playing game is anything that the mechanics and gameplay focuses on most intently. When players are “making choices” in gameplay, these tend to circle around core activities, and when people talk about “game balance,” they mean the balance of strategies around the core activity. You can think of it as “what the players generally do.” The most common example of this is Dungeon Fantasy’s “Killing monsters and taking their stuff.” Players will focus most of their character builds on going into dungeons, killing a wide variety of monsters with varied tactics, and then setting about acquiring their loot (while avoiding traps). They do not spend much time, for example, worrying about if their characters will arrange the right marriage necessary to secure a treaty between two factions, or who murdered Old Man Jenkins. These aren’t the core activities of Dungeon Fantasy; you could make them the focus of your game, but arguably you’d be playing in a different genre. Game of Thrones-inspired fantasy games, for example, care very much about arranging marriages and securing treaties between rival factions, while Monster Hunter games or Mystery-Solving games care very much about murder mysteries. These also tend to have far more mechanics focused on them: a princess with high status, very good looks, Empathy, Psychology and high levels of poise but absolutely no combat skills to speak of makes for an absolutely worthless dungeon fantasy character, but an excellent game-of-thrones character.

This matters because your technology should serve your settings’ goals. A cyberpunk game may need cybernetics (or some form transhuman augmentation), information technology and a bad attitude, but additionally, its core activities will shape it too. If the game is mostly about being part of a resistance cell that fights an oppressive government, then combat may be your core focus, and you’ll need to have plenty of interesting guns to choose from. If your core focus is on running a game where hackers can dig into the dark net to ferret out the insidious plots of the evil megacorp, then computers, security and software need far more focus. What they don’t need, you shouldn’t waste much time or effort on; for example, if your cyberpunk game has robots as background characters, then you shouldn’t spend much time on robots, nor draw undo attention to them.

By creating a concept and a core activity, we focus down on just what we need and, critically, no more. It’s our starting point, our spring-board for building the rest of the technological framework.

Some examples might include:

  • Genetically enhanced super-soldiers on an interstellar crusade to clear out alien races and make way for humanity to colonize the stars. Core activity: fighting aliens.

  • A new model of high-intelligence android has been created to work with law enforcement, always an android with a human officer; however, this same technology may lie behind a series of terrorist crimes as the robot revolution may have already begun, and its up to the player characters to stop it (but which side will the androids choose). Core Activities: solving crimes, unraveling conspiracies, fighting criminals/terrorists

  • The space cruiser’s continuing mission is to seek out new worlds and new alien species and investigate them, then bring home the data, while fending off the encroaching Alien Empire who seeks to seize these worlds before the heroic Space Alliance does. Core Activities: exploring new worlds, solving “science” mysteries, and fighting other spaceships.

  • The heroes awake from cryo-sleep to find that the solar system has gone silent, and their ship has been damaged. They must repair their ship, and then navigate back towards Earth, picking up supplies where they can, to find out what’s happened to humanity and, perhaps, to see if they can find any other survivors. Core Activities: Scavenging, survival, the logistics of space travel.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Designing an Ultra-Tech Framework

Given my blog’s focus on GURPS sci-fi, I often find myself fielding a lot of questions, especially about Ultra-Tech. I often see criticisms leveled against it that it is the most flawed GURPS book, apart from (perhaps) Magic. While I do not wish to argue for or against this point, I do understand where and how people can find it frustrating. So what I want to do with this post is get to the heart of what I think Ultra-Tech is and what it isn’t. I want to discuss how I use it, and how I recommend you use it too, if you want to get the most out of it, and if you want to understand how GURPS really works, especially when it comes to sci-fi.

I think the biggest problem with GURPS Ultra-Tech stems from the fact that people try to treat it as a catalog when it is better understood as a world-building tool. I see many people try to use Ultra-Tech in a similar manner to how they might use GURPS High-Tech; For example, if you can dig through High-Tech to find that one highly specific gun you want, y ou should be able to do the same in Ultra-Tech, right? Only what they find in Ultra-Tech is, at best, very generic ("Blaster Rifle"), and at worst, potentially profoundly unbalanced. However, GURPS Ultra-Tech dedicates a considerable volume of its pages not to gear that characters could carry around, but to concepts and megastructures, like terraforming projects, cryptography and even playable robots. These certainly impact characters, but they can often be better understood as things that exist in the world with them better than things they carry in their pocket (Incidentally, this is true of High Tech and Low-Tech too, especially when you combine the latter with its companions). Ultra-Tech itself takes this stance, as you can see from the introduction where it discusses how to use the book, including different technological frameworks, different development cycles and gadget control.

My approach with Ultra-Tech has always to take it as a guidebook of inspiration and ideas. Consider, for a moment, if you were to throw up your hands over GURPS, and step over to another system of your choice for your sci-fi epic, such as Fate, World of Darkness or D20. In what sort of book would you look for ideas about your sci-fi game? You might dig through Atomic Rockets or a wiki on a setting you wished to convert, but personally, I'd just pick up Ultra-Tech again, not because I intended to directly use its mechanics, but because those mechanics act like benchmarks, and the discussions in the book offer inspiration. The point of Ultra-Tech, then, is to inform your sci-fi game. The rest, alas, must be done by you.

Just how much work this actually requires can vary from "Just create a list of appropriate technologies" to "How good are you with algebra?"

This will be a short-running series over the next couple of weeks.  Patrons ($1+) gain immediate access to, and in two weeks from this posting date, the full document will be publicly available to everyone.  You can find it (patron and patient reader a like) here.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Iteration 7 Part 1 - Technology

GURPS Vehicles is more than about just vehicles; it’s a technological infrastructure book” -David Pulver
Why start with technology? Because technology is the foundation of all sci-fi settings. While Psi-Wars endeavors to maintain a “feel” of familiar technology, both by extrapolating modern technology and by making use of familiar Star Wars technology, as well as the sort of “standard tropes” that we tend to see in space opera, rather than diving into a deep exploration of an alternate technological concepts. But even with all of that, the technological differences between the real world and Psi-Wars really need to be carefully outlined and discussed.

Psi-Wars is not a book or a film or a tightly bound computer- or board-game, it is an RPG, and in an RPG, players can and will try to do anything, which is often the source of many an amusing story. Players need to know what they can do and what they can’t, as does the GM, which means we need a really good idea of how technology works, and we need to explain it well, so that the players can see how everything works.

Furthermore, Psi-Wars deliberately draws on exotic ideas. While it doesn’t have crazy technologies like domination nano or consciousness uploading, I do make an effort to find some unusual and fascinating imagery. While Star Wars does trade in fairly familiar tropes, it goes out of its way to embrace the exotic on occassion (the salt plains of Crait, the court of Jaba, the ocean cities of the Gungans, the entire world of Geonosis), and I draw regularly from sci-fi that embraces weirdness, like Dune, the Metabarons and Barsoom. For me, the point of space opera is to go to weird places and have familiar adventures there. If you wanted to save the princess, you’d be playing D&D; you’re here because you want to save the space princess. What, exactly, is a space princess and how is she different?

One of the ways we can show that the setting is exotic is through unusual technology. We don’t have cars, we have repulsor cars. We don’t have guns, we have blasters. We don’t have fighters, we have starfighters, and so on. But, again, these need to be explained and, indeed, players will likely want to read about them! After all, the X-Wing and the Star Destroyer are nearly as discussed as the Jedi and the Force!

We spent iteration 6 exploring our setting, which means we already know a lot of technological concepts and we have a picture of how the setting works. All we really need to do is sit down and define things carefully and, more importantly, make them our own a little. I don’t think Psi-Wars players will ever get away from GURPS Ultra-Tech and I’m okay with that (though I think if we can get away from GURPS Spaceships, I’ll be happy with that!). All we really need to do now is put pen to paper and clearly define these.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Psi-Wars Primer

GURPS is a wonderful system, but cannot provide a game without a context, and typically relies on the GM to create that context, the setting and the rules of the sort of game the GM wishes to run. GURPS itself has numerous pre-published settings, such as Reign of Steel or GURPS Cabal, and campaign frameworks, such as Dungeon Fantasy and Monster Hunters, but lacks a solid Space Opera offering.

Psi-Wars fills that niche with a baroque space opera inspired primarily by Star Wars, but also draws additional inspiration from works such as Dune, Warhammer 40k, typical space opera tropes as seen in video games or TV shows, and a smattering of stranger works. Psi-Wars emuates the sort of space opera were space knights rescue space princesses from the clutches of ancient cults, or where smugglers dodge the oppressive laws of a grasping and evil Galactic Empire, or where scavengers uncover the ancient remains of once lost civilizations, discovering some wondrous psionic relic, but also awakening some ancient evil.

Psi-Wars ultimately attempts to serve two roles. First, it seeks to create a ready-to-play setting with character templates, gear catalogs, simplified rules and setting material so you can simply jump in with both feet. It also seeks to show you how to build such a setting on your own. Psi-Wars contains a design diary in the form of a blog, showing how the author came to the conclusions he did, variations he set aside (that you might take up), and how you can do something similar with other settings.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

State of the Patreon: May, and an Iteration 6 retrospective

I am behind, as usual. You'll find this becomes relatively common in the next year or so, because my day has become traveling on a train for 3 hours a day, working 8 hours a day, and then putting my boy to bed and going to bed myself.  Paradoxically, this means I'm writing more than ever, as I purchased the dinkiest laptop ever (a Lenovo Miix 320) and I've been typing away, but having the time to really sit down, do proper research and editing, never mind posting, requires sitting behind my computer, and that's going to be a rare thing.  So, fair warning!

So, what happened last month?  What are we doing this month?  And where do I see the blog going?

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Patreon Post: How Big is Big? Size Modifier Contexts

I've seen some discussion about whether or not the ships I use in Psi-Wars are "too big" or "too small."  I've just used spaceships out of GURPS Spaceships, but that's slated to change, and it got me thinking: I don't really understand size modifiers.  To me, they're just empty numbers with more empty numbers attached to them ("SM +15 is 700 yards long.  Okay.  That's like 7 football fields, but is that unbelievably enormous or are there like naval ships that big?").  So, I wanted to work out things I could visualize, see and compare them to, as well as collate a collection of values to compare them with. If I start building vehicles, I want to have a sense of how big they should be, and how big that means.

What I have for you, then, are two posts.  The first is a collated list of size modifiers and some example vehicles that fit those size modifiers as well as a discussion of what that scale might mean, and I round it out with a discussion of small-scale megastructures and why sci-fi spaceships often seem to be so gigantic.

Second, because I've found it extremely useful when working on additional vehicles, I've included an excel sheet that I collected for size modifiers, their volumes, surface areas, dimensions and GURPS SS masses.

This post is available to all Dreamers ($1+!).  Enjoy and thank you very much for your support.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Dragon Heresy Kickstarter

I've wanted to do a special series on this, but my job situation suddenly turned (in a good way) and I spent a lot of time these past couple of months handling that, traveling all over the country, diving into a lot of interviews and getting acquainted with my new work.  I offer this as an excuse, because I really want this to work.

Those of you in the know are aware of Douglas Cole and his work with GURPS, including some of my favorite Pyramid Articles: the Last Gasp and the Broken Blade.  Now he's got a kickstarter going for Dragon Heresy, a viking-themed D&D Open License game.  As of this writing, it has about 2 days left to get in on the action, and has already kickstarted, but I would be proud if I could help him jump over the $10k mark.

Alright, you say, why should I back this?  If you're a typical reader of my blog, several things are true about you.  First, you like detail, you like GURPS, you like rich settings and you don't mind fantasy.  You're probably not a D&Der, so why should you back a D&D game?

First, D&D is the lingua-franca of the RPG world.  Everyone speaks it, and so if you're with a group that's not super into GURPS, or you're trying to branch out, having access to some flavor of D&D is highly useful.  I have a copy of 13th Age sitting on my shelf, for example.  So if you're not a D&D fan, it should be noted that it's worth learning and worth getting into.

Second, most GURPS fans I know really appreciate the level of detail that GURPS has and tend to dislike the level of abstraction found in D&D.  Well, Douglas let me take a look at his rules and I did my usual thing of trying to tear it apart and to break it.  And I was surprised how well it worked. 

For me, I want several things out of a game, any game.  First, I want it to be able to handle all levels of play simultaneously.  For example, in Cherry Blossom Rain, I wanted our Big Damn Heroes to face off against hordes of minions (while still being threatened by them) or  facing off against equal foes in interesting fights.  I want to be able to play as a warrior or martial artist and have it be more interesting than "I hit him.  I hit him again."  Dragon heresy managed to do all of this. 

While the site might give you the impression that it's "Just D&D themed with vikings," it has in fact bloomed out of Cole's desire to bring more reasonable, "real-world" tactics to D&D.  I don't mean this in the sense that Cole is an actual martial artist who practices HEMA (though he is) and he wants to bring his superior knowledge of those techniques to D&D but rather in the sense that he wants things like shields to feel more like they really would, to give you a better sense of what's actually going on in a fight.  In so many D&D games I've played in, I've done something and it did damage and that was good enough, I suppose, while in GURPS, I can articulate precisely what I'm doing and see it play out in the game.  Dragon Heresy brings D&D much closer to the latter.  For example, he articulates the difference between vitality and "Hit points," with the latter representing Gygaxian "Luck, effort, focus and ability to effectively parry" and the former representing actual, physical integrity.  Thus, if you attack you succeed and do "some damage" to my hitpoints, what's really going on is that you're forcing me on the defensive.  But if you make an attack I cannot reasonably defend against (ambush me from behind, shoot me with a crossbow bolt), I'm forced to either make an extreme defense (losing more HP), or I suffer real damage, damage that can kill me.  Meanwhile, armor reduces actual damage, which creates interesting tactical trade-offs.  Where in classic D&D a well-armored character and a skilled swashbuckler both effectively have the same AC, here, a swashbuckler is harder to hit and thus harder to damage, while the armored character is easier to hit, but cares about it less because he can afford to ignore your light attacks that will glance off of his armor.  Likewise, different forms of defense bring different advantages with them that feel right, like having a shield to block arrows.

What made Douglas Cole famous, though, is his Technical Grappling, and he brings that with him into Dragon Heresy.  Grappling is famously bad in D&D, as lampooned in Darths and Droids here, but Douglas both manages to simplify it and make it tactically satisfying by using the same control points concept he offered in GURPS: success in a grappling roll results in points that can be spent in an effort to force your opponent into particular positions and situations, which makes it both quick and simple, yet enjoyably complex at the same time (Incidentally, if this alone interests you, check out his other work, Dungeon Grappling)

Finally, Douglas dives into deeper detail in your common races and common character tropes, encouraging you to think about your place in the world, and about the world itself.  While I didn't dive as deeply into this part as I did the rest (I was more concerned with combat mechanics and I've had limited time), what I saw looked impressive.

If the combat mechanics interest you as much as they interested me, it's definitely worth backing him for at least $5.  If you want the whole kit and kaboodle, it's a mere $20, which isn't bad at all.  Consider it, please.  Again, that link is here.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Patreon Poll: the Fourth Chapter

Who is this mysterious Templar?  That's up to you!
Patreon Week continues.  If you've enjoyed the Templar Chapters, now it's your chance to make your own!  My patreon now sports no less than 10 polls that, put together, will introduce the 4th Chapter.  Are they a secret cabal waging a shadow war on the Akashic Order?  Perhaps they are an order of librarian knights preserving long-lost lore of ancient dynasties.  Perhaps they are a militant group of zealots on the edge of the galaxy, safeguarding the Keleni royal line and preparing to restore both the Knights of Communion and a new Communion Golden Age, with the last Grand Master preserved in cryostasis below, ready to be awoken.

The final results are up to you!

If you're a patron (this is for my Companions, thus $5+), check it out!  And thank you so much for your continued support.  If you're not, don't worry, I'll unveil the results when we collate all the documents of the new version of Psi-Wars.  Have fun!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Patreon Post: Keleni Art Preview and the next Art Poll

It's Patreon week!  First up, I have the result of the Keleni art, available to all $3+ patrons (my Fellow Travelers!) who can view it here.  For my Companions ($5+ patrons), the next art poll is up.  Do we want to look at the sinister and ancient Eldoth, the exotic and alluring Traders, or are we done with aliens and want to move on to humanity?  Go and vote, my Patreon faithful!

As always, thank you, Patrons, for making all of this possible.  The art, in particular, comes directly out of the funds you donate to this project.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Templar Chapters: the Far Striders

Alternate Names: The Templar Vagabonds

The rim of the Galaxy has more than its fair share of beggars and religious pilgrims. One can find them in a cantina drinking quietly, or sitting in the street with a raised bowl, begging for credits or scraps of food. They seldom stay in one place long, often wending their way to some distant temple, or to richer planets. They make easy pickings for thugs or pirates, but most criminal scum native to the rim tend to leave religious itinerants alone, for they know who travels with pilgrims. Those who violate this taboo may find themselves casually disarmed by a staff-wielding pilgrim or wake up in a gutter with no memory of what happened after they first uttered a threat. The religious itinerants of the Rim enjoy the protection of the Templar Vagabonds of the Far Strider Chapter.

The Templar Vagabonds resemble the pilgrims they protect. Many wear simple brown robes, belted with a sash over a tunic and pants and sturdy, serviceable walking shoes. Others might wear an old, well-worn, patchwork vacc-suit. They often wear hats, to keep the sun off their face, or a scarf over their face to keep out dust. They typically wield either a staff, usually just a very long length of pipe or some rough-hewn wooden walking stick, or a cobbled-together force sword at their belt. Many mistake them for scavengers, beggars or wandering trash; the Templar Vagabonds prefer it that way.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Templar Chapters: Wardens of the Monolith

Alternate Names: The Templar Pariah, The Templar Wardens

Those who fought against the Great Galactic Menace, when away from prying ears, will sometimes whisper of a rumor of assistance from deep in that arm of the Galaxy. The wildest intelligence reports from the Cybernetic Union which discuss looming threats against the Terminus Council, confirm these rumors. Both discuss mysterious, armored space knights seemingly unstuck from time, caricatures of the Knights of Communion from before the fall of the Alexian Empire with devastating force sword skills, powerful psychic abilities and a message for all who came to the world of Sepulcher “Go. This world is forbidden.”

The Wardens of the Monolith are real. Their massive Temple-Fortress guards Sepulcher, the ancient homeworld of the Eldoth. A fully militant order, they cut an imposing figure in their traditional armor. They often fight in perfect silence, operating in squads of two to five, and they move with psychic synchronicity, intuitively knowing one another’s plans. When roused from their quarantine of Sepulcher, they have a military fleet of carriers and fighters at their disposal; they could be powerful military allies against the Cybernetic Union, or against a returning incursion of the Great Galactic Invaders and, indeed, quietly assisted Leto Daijin’s efforts to defeat the first of such incursions.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Templar Chapters: The Dark Vigil

Alternate Names: The Templars Vigilant

In the heart of the Tangled Expanse, on the cusp of the riotous and exotic Dark Arm of the galaxy and the ordered and imperial galactic core, lies the former ocean world of Alhari. Upon a shallow, turquoise blue sea and abutting a the great island mountain of Alhari sprawls the canal city of Maon. Hyperspace travel to and from Alhari is easier than any other world in the Tangled Expanse, and once one reaches Alhari, the restof the Tangled Expanse is easier to reach. As such, Maon is the busiest space port of the Tangled Expanse and serves as its de facto capital. All merchants, treasure hunters and pilgrims who seek to explore and exploit the Temple Worlds of the Tangled Expanse pass through it, and enjoy its rich, colorful and riotous culture. Where money flows, so too does crime, and Maon overflows with vice, with casino barges, floating brothels, and thieves clambering the tall buildings of Maon. Despite all of its crime, however, Maon has a reputation as a safe city, free of slave traders and assassins, because even with the grip the criminal underworld of the Dark Arm has on Maon, they fear one thing in the shadows whose name they mention only in hushed whispers: the Dark Vigil.

The Dark Vigil Chapter, a remnant of the legendary Knights of Communion, are Maon’s guardians. The popular image of them depicts them either in rich, silken black robes, with a force sword belted in their sash, or as extraordinarily fit and athletic men and women bearing tattoos on their backs, shoulders and arms. They perch atop the towering buildings of Maon and watch over their city; they have hidden bases and vaults scattered throughout the city in which they hide untold treasure and the secrets of immortality. They are more than just the boogeymen of the Maon’s criminal underworld, but it secret masters, demanding a cut of all profits and dictating what may and may not happen on Maon: the casinos and brothels get a nod, slavers and assassins disappear into the night. And when those in need, be they escaped slave or orphaned child, call upon the darkness of Maon for help, the Templars Vigilant answer them.

Friday, March 30, 2018

State of the Patreon: April

Happy Easter
Psi-Wars continues to chug along.  I've personally finished Iteration 6 and started on the next iteration, but you guys will have another month before you see that.  Between that and changing jobs, I've been quite busy (as you can see from the lateness of this post), but I'm still here!

This has been a weaker month for viewership, but not an especially bad one.  More people continue to express interest in Psi-Wars, but I think the current structure of it is causing problems, but hopefully the new structure I'm working on in Iteration 7 will fix that.  You won't see that next month, but it is in the works.

What will you see next month?  Three sample Chapters of the Space Templars aka the Knights of Communion, including:

  • The Dark Vigil Chapter: the secret protectors of the Keleni Temple Worlds, the gaurdians of forbidden relics of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, and the secret moral enforcers of a thriving criminal empire.  Their chapter master, a mighty Tarvathim master, is slowly dying, and his successor was murdered in the canals of the bustling city of Maaon on the ocean world of Alhari.
  • The Sentries of the Monolith: A lost chapter founded by the Traitor Revalis White, these Templars guard the Eldoth homeworld of Sepulcher, ensuring that dread race never rises again to terrorize the galaxy.  Their young new chapter master seeks to initiate a crusade against the Cybernetic Union to avenge her fallen master, but factions within the chapter fret about her use of forbidden technologies and her openly heretical brother.
  • The Far Striders: These pilgrim-escorts already lurked on the rim of the Galaxy when the death throes of the Alexian Empire consumed that august order.  Now they lurk among the population, disguised as humble beggars, continuing their good work of protecting the religious from the depredations of bandits and villains, while their missing master has left them with a quest to seek the holy relics of Isa the Exile, while his presumptive heir and ally to Nova Sabine seeks to reunite the Templars and throw their strength against the Empire.
These chapters will be as detailed as the Houses of the Alliance, including major personalities, new relics, unique martial arts or styles, and details on what virtues and styles they make use of.

Last month, the most popular posts, setting aside the Primer, were:
  1. The Heterodox Virtues of True Communion: One of my favorite posts as well: the Orthodox virtues ground True Communion, but these virtues make things interesting, and provide pretty neat bonuses as well!
  2. Templar Martial Arts: You guys have been waiting for this, no doubt.  While I see the Templars as regularly using the same martial arts as the Alliance, they have their own, deeper, more powerful techniques too.  The Serene Form will likely change in the future, though.  I discovered the Reflective modifier for DR, which suggests that bolt deflection should be free, rather than requiring an action.  I'll look into that at a later time, though.
  3. The Knights of Communion and their Chapters: This is really meant more as a means of understanding how to build your own chapters, similar to how my discussion of Alliance houses was meant as a way to build your own houses.  If you liked this, you'll love the three chapters.
  4. Keleni Martial Arts: I'm not surprised that the Keleni aren't as popular as the Templars: after all, True Communion's big draw is that it lets you play not-Jedi.  The Keleni just offer a background explaining the origins of Communion and a natural, go-to group for your master atop a mountain.  Still, it's nice to see some of you exploring their kung fu.
  5. Orthodox Virtues of True Communion: Similar to Keleni martial arts, I'm not surprised that these are less popular than the Heterodox Virtues, as they're less "interesting," but nonetheless still important, and thus I'm pleased to see that you guys like them too.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Patreon Preview: the Eldoth

Three major alien races have defined the history of Psi-Wars; thus far, I've referred to them via placeholder names, but slowly, each has received a preview as I've worked out their details and designs: the "Communion Aliens" became the Keleni, and the "Sexy Space Vampires" became the Ranathim.  Now, the last enormously influential race, the "Monolith" get their preview as the Eldoth.

They built the first galactic empire while waging war to some ancient, galactic menace.  They shattered the Keleni temple worlds and scattered the Keleni people in their first diaspora. The terror of their rule helped coalesce the Ranathim Empire, and the Ranathim stole thanatokinesis from the Eldoth to create the Gaunt race.  Though the Ranathim broke their empire and destroyed their race, they live on, slumbering in their regeneration sarcaophogi.  Their interstellar "Deep Engine" continues to hum in strange, monolithic ruins.  The last house of the Alliance, the Tan-Shai, draw their power from ancient Eldothic secrets, and the Templar Chapter, the Sentries of the Monolith, guard the Eldothic homeworld of Sepulcher to ensure the dread race never rises again.

This preview is available to $3+ (Companion) patrons.  If you're a patron, check it out!  If not, as always, we love to have you.  Happy Patron week, and thanks for your support!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Knights of Communion and their Chapters

Long ago, the Knights of Communion formed the first Knightly Order of the Galaxy. The Maradonian knights that made up its ranks gave up aristocracy and the Akashic Mysteries to pursue a crusade to liberate the Temple Worlds of the Keleni. For an age, they protected those worlds, unmasked the criminal conspiracies of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant and then fell in a war against the Alexian Empire in which they slew the last Alexian Emperor.

The Knights of Communion, or the Templars, may have fallen as an order, but they still existed. In truth, the Order had always been comprised of multiple smaller chapters, each of which served a local temple. The defeat of the Templars did not destroy the order, only scattered it and drove it underground. Many Chapters fell in the ensuing chaos, caught up in reprisals by the Cult or by last Emperor’s pogrom, but many slipped away and vanished in the shadows where they carefully watched and cultivated the growing Federation, offered their assistance secretly to the remaining temples of Communion, guarded the Temple Worlds from the shadows, and protected the lost secrets of the Templar Order.

They remain in the Galaxy to this day. Some have strayed far from their original roots and have fallen into heresy or “innovative” True Communion doctrines. Others have had to sacrifice their more knightly ways in the name of secrecy and the material means necessary to keep their orders alive. All are aware that the rise of the Emperor, the dominion of their traditional enemy, the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, and the threat posed by the Coming Storm. All stand ready to act, stepping forth from the shadows to create a new age of prosperity and harmony, if that is what Communion will.s

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Temples of True Communion

Sci-fi Temple Ruins by Robert Brown
True Communion stands in a strange position, at once one of the most popular philosophies of the Galaxy, but at the same time, reviled by the elites of both Empire and Alliance; it is a closeted philosophy, one that many adhere to, but few willingly admit. Even in its heyday, True Communion had little true hierarchy: only when the Keleni Temple-Worlds had total independence and the Keleni were united as one people, one nation, beneath their royal dynasty, did True Communion begin to look like a truly united philosophy. Instead, when one seeks to find adherents of True Communion, one finds scattered communes and communities, usually of lower class individuals, who gain their spiritual guidance from a nearby temple.

A Temple represents the core of the True Communion faith for a local community; its abbot represents the highest spiritual authority that they know. True Communion builds its temples in naturally occurring “holy places,” which tend to be found in remote, uncivilized regions. There, they seek to condense that spirituality into the heart of the temple, where Eloi Fragments can form. They also gather relics and philosophical lore for any who seek them. Ultimately, the purpose of a temple is to provide a safe haven for sacred things, and a place where those who wish to learn the ways of True Communion can go and discover themselves in peace.

Despite this, most temples end up acting as a central hub of religion for the locals. Though they must travel far (or the temple must come to them, often sending priests to look out for the local faithful), people regularly bid the monks of the temple to give them blessings, knowledge, healing, guidance and to officiate their ceremonies. Thus, temples become the secret hearts of the community of the True Communion faithful.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Templar Martial Arts

New Weapons

The Psionic Force Sword (the Resonance Sword)

When the Templars first came to the Temple Worlds of the Keleni, they brought with them the force-screen based technology of the force sword, which have a sleek, glass-like look to their blades, as they are formed from finely sharp and destructive force screens. This technology worked nothing like the Psi-Blades and Psi-Swords native to the Dark Arm of the Galaxy, with their intense light and diffuse blades. Over time, the Templars learned to combine both technologies, creating their signature blades which with a jewel-like appearance burning with an inner energy.

Treat a Resonance Sword as a Force Sword with half their normal damage, plus one die per 10 points of psionics abilities from the best single power the character has. The character may add his Talent for that power to damage, and may apply the special effect appropriate for the power currently energizing the blade from page 39 of Pyramid #3/51. A Resonance Sword has an armor divisor of 5 or the armor divisor listed in his special effect whichever is better.

A Resonance Sword must be constructed with an Eloi Fragment or a Psuedo Fragment. A Resonance Sword is double the cost of a Force Sword (that is, CF +1). Fine or Very Fine Resonance Blades do not improve damage, but instead improve the character’s Talent for the power currently empowering the blade (which also effectively increases the damage of the blade); +1 for Fine Resonance Blades, +2 for Very Fine Resonance Blades.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Psionic Arts of Communion

Traditional Keleni Healing Arts (Jalteran) 5 points

King Kashekim Nedakh by DrMistyTang
Jalteran refers to a specific guild of healers within the Keleni culture, thus referring to their preferred style of healing would be like calling Western medicine “Doctoring,” but nonetheless the word has stuck around. Jalteran is the unique practice of “folk healing” that the Keleni have been practicing for centuries and has become virtually synonymous with True Communion, to the point that those who practice the art might even call the location of practice a “temple,” and those who regularly attend for treatments might refer to themselves as “Followers of Communion.” Some healers embrace this, and also hold religious services on the side or act as mentors, while genuine Communion temples will also learn Jalteran to fulfill the dual expectations of those who come to their temple.

The Keleni healing arts derive their premise from the core principle that the physical is just a manifestation of the mental; this means that the health of the body is ultimately a reflection of the health of the mind. To purge someone of an illness requires that person to at least calm their mind and find harmony between their conscious mind and the subconscious id that rules their physical manifestation.

The most common forms of treatment are meditative. The healer first diagnosis the illness and what might be causing it; such diagnoses are often abstract, but some Keleni healers are astute psychologists and can find genuine psychological issues that the patient currently suffers from. Next, the healer guides the patient through meditative exercises, teaching them to turn their eye inward and calm whatever inner turmoil they have to better improve their physical state. To facilitate this, some healers learn the art of massage and interior decoration (creating a calm space will help create a calm mind). What effects this has tends to be questionable and ultimately depend on what the GM will allow Esoteric Medicine to do: it will certainly helps heal psychic issues (such as psychic crippling) and curing diseases that are psychic in origin as well as physician would cure the physical equivalent; for physical ailments, it generally does little more than provide a +1 to HT rolls to naturally recover.

While not required to learn the Keleni healing arts, most Keleni who practice them also study the Psychic Healing power, something Keleni naturally excel at. By putting the patient in a meditative state, they have a far easier time practicing their craft and their study of esoteric, psychic principles prevent them from ruining their target’s psyche or body during delicate procedures. Their near miraculous ability to heal nearly any problem via psychic healing contributes to the belief that anyone who engages in the trappings of the Jalteran will be as effective, which has led to a reputation of quackery. Rumors also persist of Jalteran sages who can cure aging and are thus both immortal and capable of granting that immortality to others. At the GM’s discretion, this can be true! But even if it is not, the perception of its truth drives many a wealthy or powerful man to seek out the finest Jalteran physician.

Keleni practitioners of Jalteran often have the honorific suffix -alta added to their name.

Required Skills: Diagnosis, Esoteric Medicine, Meditation, Philosophy (True Communion).

Additional Psionic Skills: Aura Reading, Cure, Disease Shield

Cinematic Skills: Mental Strength, Pressure Points

Secret Psionic Skills: Life Extension

Techniques: Introspective Ceremony

Perks: Auric Squint, Healing Bond, Healing Massage, Healthy Decoration, Meditative Massage, Secret Power (Life Extension, up to level 2), Sacred Healing, Soothing Touch, Stabilizing Skill (Psychic Healing, Esoteric Medicine), Wishful Medicine,

Optional Advantages: Psychic Healing Talent, Sensitive or Empathy

Optional Disadvantages: Charitable, Disciplines of Faith (Asceticism or Mysticism), Delusion (“Holistic medicine can cure anything”), Reputation (Quack)

Optional Skills: Artist (Interior Decorating), Exorcism, Expert Skill (Psionic), Teaching, Professional Skill (Massage), Psychology

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Traditional Keleni Martial Arts

New Weapons

The Resonance Staff

Jarael by Artpox
Ancient Keleni had long ago mastered many of the arts of psionic resonance, which allowed the wielder of a weapon or item to “attune” his psychic powers to the item. This might allow him to power the item or imbue it with an element of his own power. They called this technology “resonance,” and a resonant item has an aura, invisible to mundane senses, flowing around it.

A resonance staff is the most common application of this technology. It seems a standard staff, though it tends to be made either of a nano-tube cellulose that is “grown” for the purpose of forming a resonance staff, or made of a metallic nanocomposite. All forms have an embedded eloi fragment or a pseudo-fragment that can attune the weapon with the user. Once so attuned, the staff acts as an extension of the wielder: what the staff touches (or strikes) counts as “touched” by the user for the purpose of psionic powers. This has numerous combat applications: see the Resonance Charge ability below. Second, the aura around the weapon can be “hardened” to dissipate destructive forces. This means that energy weapons, such as force swords, can be parried without damaging the weapon, similar to the effect a neurolash-field can have on a force sword. See Resonance-Field Parry below.

Treat a Resonance Staff as a Quarterstaff, with a CF of +9 and an additional flat cost of $500 (thus a resonance quarterstaff costs $600). Add bonus damage to all strikes equal to the wielder’s best psionic talent.

The Psi-Blade

Where Keleni resonant weaponry had originally been for self-defense, with the Eldothic invasion of their homeworld, some Keleni repurposed the technology for greater lethality, so that they could murder their enemies. They created the first “psi-blades,” a technology described on page 39 of Pyramid #3/51 “Tech and Toys,” that allowed them to manifest their psychic energy as a purely destructive force.

Treat a Psi-Sword as described in the article above (with the same weight, cost, reach and other traits as a force sword) except that its damage is equal to +1d for every 10 points of appropriate psionic ability, with bonus damage equal the wielder’s talent, and with an armor divisor of 5 or the armor divisor noted in the appropriate psychic ability whichever is better.

Keleni traditionally created smaller weapons, such as the Psi-Blade, which is more comparable to a long knife than a sword. Treat Psi-Blades as using the same rules as Psi-Swords (but with the same weight, cost, reach and other traits as a force blade, from UT page 166), but its damage is +1d for every 12.5 points of appropriate psionic ability (or +2d for every 25 points) and bonus damage equal to the wielder’s talent.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Heterodox Virtues of True Communion

No! My heresy is just beginning!
Comprehending the fullness of True Communion lies beyond the reach of any single individual. While the three orthodox virtues capture perfectly the three paths of True Communion some among the practitioners of True Communion argue that they do not capture the totality of the virtues of True Communion or, perhaps, that they are but lesser virtues or distractions from the true virtues of Communion. The practitioners of Traditional Communion naturally have a low opinion of such attitudes and note that such heresy became rampant in the Knights of Communion shortly before their demise, but those who adhere to these heterodox Virtues seem to achieve genuine connection with True Communion in new and innovative ways!

Treat Heterodox virtues as identical to Orthodox virtues except for social attitudes. They may present a risk to the saint who adheres to them, but orthodox virtues have a similar risk in dogmatic devotion to ancient ideals. Importantly, following a Heterodox Virtue is not a violation of True Communion, nor a one-way ticket to a fallen state and becoming bound by Dark or Broken Communion.

The Knights of Communion have lost much since their fall, and the lingering chapters often only have a fragment of the original truths of Communion, and may have picked up new and innovative (or “heretical”) ideas about what true unity with Communion involves! Most such chapters have access to one or two Heterodox virtues!

Heterodox Virtues are not “invented” but “discovered,” usually through intense philosophical study and deep, meditative introspection. A GM who wishes to allow players to explore new heterodox virtues might use the invention system, with the governing skill being Philosophy; any such virtue is an Amazing “invention.”

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Orthodox Virtues of True Communion

A true master of Communion seems nigh divine in power, but this unstoppable power comes not from their command of Communion, but their unity with it. Its will is their will, and they are a living manifestation of Communion itself.

To achieve this level of oneness requires a deep mastery of the very nature of Communion, called virtues by the True Communion philosophy. After a student has learned to Commune with the infinite cosmic, their master begins to teach them one of the virtues of True Communion. At first, such a virtue seems limiting, requiring the student to strictly control their behavior, but eventually, as their behavior perfectly aligns with a virtue, they find that their facility with Communion grows and expands and they begin to manifest miraculous abilities within themselves. This is the source of the true power of all the great masters of Communion.

The True Communion faith has splintered under the weight of oppression. Without a singular guiding figure or doctrine, most followers of Communion turn to a local temple and a local abbot for spiritual guidance. However, each temple emphasizes its preferred facet of True Communion. Mastery of a virtue is the internal, spiritual equivalent to mastering a martial art or a powerful psionic skill: no living master of Communion has mastered every Virtue, and indeed, temples disagree as to which virtues should be mastered! As such, while all True Communion faithful accept the same basic precepts, the specifics and the depth of their devotion to particular values vary greatly. This can create conflict between temples, thus far little more than hurled accusations of heresy or dogmatic literalism, but on the other hand, some devotees to True Communion believe wisdom comes from a multitude of perspectives. Modern masters often take to wandering from temple to temple, learning the unique principles found in the scattered remnants of the faith and try to weave together a better understanding of the totality of Communion through the experience.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The State of the Patreon: March 2018

I find myself in a weird week, in that it's neither really February nor really March, so I think I'm going to just slink through it in confusion.  I'm also prepping to transition from one job to another, and this new job is quite demanding, so I'll have a little less time than before (I know, I already don't have much time, but we'll make this work!)

In any case, let's talk how the month went, and how I see the next month playing out.

February Retrospective

This month was all about True Communion, and it did very well.  I was on track for the best month in a long time, though readership dropped off quite a bit last week (Patreon week usually has less viewers, because a lot of readers aren't patrons and because quite a few patrons don't bother to hit this site first to log a view, because why would they?).  Still, viewer-wise, it was a very good month.  True Communion itself has been very popular; I doubt it's a surprise to learn it looks to be the most popular philosophy, but it's a not-Jedi philosophy that circles around Communion, which is a very popular concept for Psi-Wars.

The most popular posts (after the Psi-Wars primer, which always wins) were:
  1. The Beliefs of True Communion
  2. The Symbolism of True Communion
  3. True Communion: an Introduction
  4. True Communion as Esoteric Skill
  5. The Cultural Context of True Communion
I find the views very interesting, as the introduction usually tops out the views and the After Action Reports tend to be popular, but people mostly looked at the Beliefs.  What does that say? Are people into the philosophy of True Communion? Are they using it in their games?  Are there Space Templars running around that I don't know about? Interesting to speculate.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Patreon Post: More Transcendent Principles

At the culmination of the Cult of the Mystical Tyrant, I released three "transcendent principles," visions that followers of the path of the Mystical Tyrant could attempt to enforce upon the world to grant themselves unique powers.  Since then, I've had discussions with Patrons and fans alike about additional possible Transcendent Principles, and I wanted to share a preview of two more: Acausality (which allows the manipulation of time) and Inhumanity (which allows the manipulation of the mystic himself).

This post is available to all $3+ patrons. If you're a patron, check it out!  If not, as always, I'd love to have you!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Patreon Post: the Cult of the Emperor

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant has existed for millennia, though its form has changed over time from an imperial cult of a sacred king to a nihilistic philosophy to a deeply personal morality.  With the rise of the Valorian Emperor, the Cult has changed again into a movement of imposed rationality, vision and progress.  As the Valorian Emperor's fist has closed around the Galaxy, so too has he come to dominate the remnants of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, with only a few splinter sects still in defiance of his ideology.

Last month, my Patrons voted on the fourth Schism of the Mystical Tyrant: the Cult of the Emperor; yesterday, I gave you the results.  Today, I give you the actual cult, including how to handle it as a lens on the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant esoteric skill, what oaths it demands, what its symbolism is, and its "mask" conspiracies within the Empire.

This post is available to all Fellow Travelers ($3+, as a preview).  If you're a patron, check it out.  If not, I'd love to have you!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Patreon Post: The Cult of the Emperor - Poll Results

Last month, I had a poll of the last schism of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant: The Cult of the Emperor.  Herein, you guys voted not just on what the substance of the Cult was, but who the Emperor is, who the War Hero was, and who the Emperor's Hand is.

Today, those results are revealed!  Behold the Emperor unveiled.  This Patreon Post is available to all Fellow Travellers ($3+ patrons); If you're a patron, check it out; if not, as always, I'd love to have you!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Patreon Post - the Five Elders of the Shaolin

I base my psi-wars material on numerous sources, from history to real-world philosophies and religions to legends to other sci-fi or fantasy works.  And for me, the stories of the Jedi reminded me strongly of the story of the Shaolin monastery, and this connection only strengthened the more I read up on the Shaolin monastary's history and the legends that surround it.

For psi-wars, I've borrowed numerous elements, but in particular the five shaolin elders.  I thought you, dear patron, might be interested in what I found. While it's no more than what anyone could do with a basic internet search, I find this sort of compilation provides a great deal of context to the uninitiated (like myself).  And if you share anything of my love of kung fu films, I think you'll enjoy this.  But to up the ante a little, I've explicitly discussed the psi-wars connection, and thus this document contains a little more detail on the elders of the Knights of Communion; I've also "broken up" the Shaolin Martial Art from GURPS Martial Arts into (only a few) subsidiary styles to give them greater clarity, and I've discussed how the five elders connect to other styles found in GURPS Martial Arts. Finally, I've included a new martial art, White Eyebrow Boxing.

If you're a patron, check it out! It's available to all $1+ patrons. If you're not a patron, as always, I'd be delighted to have you.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Annara or Traditional Keleni Communion

Keleni traditionalists call Annara the pure form of Communion, the one that Keleni practiced in the past and still practice today. This may or may not be true; evidence suggests that the ancestral form of Communion gave rise to both Annara and True Communion, and that each has a piece of the original.

Annara, the Kelen word for “Communion,” (or more accurately, total unity of all things, or a sense of transcendence gained from feeling connected to all things), focuses more strictly on the natural telepathy of the Keleni people. It cultivates unity through telepathy and connection with one’s ancestors, and trains the Keleni in empathy for all beings, Alien or Keleni, sapient or animal. It also cultivates the ancient tradition of prophecy that traces its lineage back to the dawn of the Keleni faith-philosophy.

Unlike True Communion, Annara retains traditional Communion trappings, such as “folk healer” exorcisms and esoteric medicine. They also often learn Religious Rituals to better serve their community. Dogmatic traditionalists may teach their followers to fight with the resonance staff, and ancient Keleni weapon, but many also teach the force sword.

The intent focus on Keleni matters means that followers often learn a great deal about the language, history and culture of the Keleni. It also means that the religion attracts religious fanatics and xenophobic traditionalists. Many practitioners of True Communion hold Annara in awe, seeing it as the “lost half” of Communion secrets, but non-Keleni often find it difficult to win the trust of a Keleni master well enough to learn the style.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

True Communion as Esoteric Skill

A True Communion disciple first learns to meditate. True Communion teaches that, through introspection, self-knowledge and self-discipline, one can begin to understand the world around him. They learn to listen to their own inner voice, then to their instincts, then to Communion itself. Through obedience to Communion, they can learn who they truly are, how they connect to the world, and what their true purpose is. Once one has mastered this art, the next step is to teach others. Teaching methods vary, but True Communion strongly favors teaching through example, riddles and challenges. It seeks to get the student to discover a principle for himself, rather than to simply be told something that they will soon forget, or learn only superficially. By teaching others, the student masters Communion more deeply and, more importantly, learns to connect with his own students and thus finds himself in an unbroken chain of masters and pupils extending back to the birth of True Communion.

True masters of Communion have deeply powerful meditative techniques that allow them to reach a trance-like, to empower their connection with Communion, and to even regain their psychic energy more quickly. They learn to discard their own selfish needs and, as they become more attuned to Communion, to become more attuned to their community around them and to being to understand the deepest secrets of spirituality. Those who masters the art of teaching, according to legend, have the ability to unlock the psionic potential of anyone, and can even teach those forever locked away from Communion to overcome their limitations and join the greater galactic gestalt.

The galaxy will forever associate True Communion with the Templars, and so many monasteries and temples also teach the force sword as part of True Communion. Most also teach the history of the faith, or give insight into the holy places and relics of the faith. Communion often holds that inner knowledge can come from dreams, and those who believe this teach their students to interpret their dreams.

This form of Communion is the Communion of the Templars and the one most commonly practiced across the galaxy. It is assumed to be the “default” form of True Communion.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Tinker Titan Rebel Spy: After Action Report for Session 3

Another month means another session of Tinker Titan Rebel Spy!  What happened last session?  The players finally found made planet-fall, interacted with a new faction, began to unleash the first salvo in their machinations, finally met Director Thorn and then faced the occult might of the Ash Walkers under the baleful, all-seeing gaze of the Prophet of Grist: Cog Thonis, fighting him in the shadow of the Black Pyramid.

If you want additional details, my players have written detailed summaries.  As usual, I'll be talking about the session from behind the GM's chair and as the designer of Psi-Wars itself.  I also have some advice for people who want to play Action in general.

The detailed summaries are:

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Symbols and Rituals of True Communion


Aniconism

True Communion believes that depictions of the supernatural, be they idols or symbols, tend to unduly distract one from his inner journey in understanding the world. One can hold onto an idol, put his faith in that idol, and forget that the physical thing he holds is an illusion, nothing worth having faith in. Moreover, once the divine is given a face, people begin to forget its cosmic qualities and begin to overly humanize it. Thus, True Communion often, though not universally, chooses to eschew any symbolism at all.

True Communion symbolism tends to focus on things that naturally guide on to right and proper conclusions. They tend to be known by their tools and their words, rather than their great idols or symbols. Thus, the temples of True Communion tend to be remarkable bare of baroque imagery, favoring instead creating a place of profound peace and introspection, a natural place where one can lose himself in his own introspection.

This is not a strict taboo, however. The Keleni traditionalists are more likely to eschew imagery than human/alien traditions, as Traditionalists believe that True Communion and Keleni culture go hand in hand. Alien traditions, especially human traditions, feel the need to differentiate themselves from others and humans especially, caught up in their empires and factions, feel the need to have some symbol of their faith that they can point to. Even more extreme versions, such as the cults inspired by True Communion found within the Divine Masks tradition, absolutely have idols, but arguably have fallen far from what True Communion stands for.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Beliefs of True Communion

  1. Everyone matters, no matter how lowborn
  2. We are defined by our connections with others.
  3. True knowledge can be found within, by listening to one’s intuition and accepting the morality one already knows in their heart.
  4. The “real” world is an illusion; only the “inner world” of thought, dream, perception and connection is “real.”
  5. All people are but facets of an infinite cosmic divinity; through introspection, we can understand the infinite cosmic and understand how it connects all people together.
  6. Virtue is found through aligning one’s self with the will of Communion, and in accepting one’s true purpose in life, one’s destiny.
  7. Time is as much an illusion as the world: there is only the Eternal Now.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Patreon Preview: the Keleni

What the Ranathim were to the Divine Masks and the Cult of the Mystical Tyrant, the Keleni are to True Communion.  This naturally telepathic and compassionate species first discovered their inherent interconnection with one another, but rejected their inherent interconnection with all other species, for the other races of the Galaxy treated them poorly.  Their heretics brought their faith and power to the other races, but the Keleni continue, scattered across the galaxy, struggling to maintain their identity and yearning for a chance to return to their temple worlds.

Today, I have a Patreon Preview of the Keleni race, for all $3+ patrons. It includes their racial template, a few power-ups, a discussion of their culture, language and a few pieces of concept art.  If you're a patron, thank you for your support, and feel free to check it out.  If you're not, I'd love to have you!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Cultural Context of Communion

The Origin of Communion

A race native to the same region of the Galaxy as the Ranathim, the Keleni, first discovered the phenomenon of Communion and, around it, created the philosophy of True Communion. Naturally telepathic, this race has an innate connection to one another and to their own ancestors. The origins of the idea of communion came from studying ways to deepen this connection, allowing communication across vast distances of space and time. Eventually, the Keleni discovered that they could interact with this inherent connection itself, that they could do more than just commune with one another, but that they could commune with the state of communion itself, this great unconscious gestalt that surrounded them and bound them to one another.

The Keleni had a rough history with other races. First, the great and terrifying Monolith Empire conquered them and shattered their temples and scattered them in an attempt to “cleanse” their temple-worlds. The rise of the Ranathim Empire broke the Monolith Empire, and the Ranathim allowed the Keleni to return to their worlds and rebuild their temples, but they introduced their own strange religions that they demanded the Keleni acknowledge, and they demanded slaves of the beautiful and graceful race. Whenever an Empire has arisen, the Keleni have found themselves under the boot of oppression. They became an oddity in the galaxy, an insular race often found in enclaves on alien worlds where they practiced their unique meditations and ceremonies regardless of what the prevailing ideology. Oppression only made martyrs of the Keleni faithful, or drove their faith underground, but it remained, made resilient through adversity and empowered by the legitimate enlightenment that True Communion gave them.

During their diaspora and while interacting with these great empires, the Keleni discovered that most other races lacked their innate psionic abilities and those who had innate psionic abilities, such as the Monolith or the Ranathim, were bound to entirely different, alien and dangerous forms of Communion (Broken Communion and Dark Communion respectively), leading the Keleni to conclude that their access to Communion was unique to them. Even so, other races, especially the dispossessed among the galaxy, watched the miracles worked by the Keleni with awe and wonder. Many began to treat them as sages, begging at their temples for a miracle cure, or to learn at their feet.

The debate over what to do with aliens who petitioned to join the ranks of True Communion sowed the seeds for the first true schism in True Communion. Traditionalists claimed that because only the Keleni could naturally access Communion, only the Keleni should practice it. They argued that despite the tenets of tolerance native to their faith, that all “people” should be brought into “Communion,” only fellow Keleni counted as “people.” They pointed angrily to their mistreatment at the hands of other races, to the unique Keleni bond, and to the need to protect their culture and way of life. On the other side of the debate, Keleni argued that true tolerance required patiently forgiving the sins of others. Some among them had managed to teach other aliens, such as the Ranathim, the means of Communion. They advocated strenuously that if the Keleni were a special and chosen people, then their destiny was to bring Communion to the entire Galaxy.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

State of the Patreon: February

Happy Valentines
January is behind us.  What do I have for you, patron and reader alike, in February?

The State of the Blog

The Cult of the Mystical Tyrant has, unsurprisingly, been popular.  I'm hitting new highs since I reduced the posting schedule to 2 posts a week.  I must say, that this new posting cycle suits me well: I can hit all of my goals and keep my pace up, but the schedule will look like this for the next few months:
  • Post on Tuesday
  • Post on Thursday
  • Last week is "Patreon week"
  • Scattered Patron posts as necessary.
This is a little slower, but it allows me to give Patrons the time they really deserve, rather than treating their posts as an afterthought.

The Popular Posts (other than the Primer) this month were:
  1. The Iteration 1 Bonus Post: Evidently we have some new people digging through the old Psi-Wars material. I hope you guys enjoy it!
  2. Transcendent Paths of the Mystical Tyrant: I honestly expected the Transcendent Principles to be a bigger hit, but you guys do love paths.  I suspect the Prodigal Knight (I was inspired by a very old comment made by Ivalero here; I've noticed people really like playing "the one unique redeemed dark horse character" and the Prodigal Knight is intended to be that) is more popular than the Slave, but there's no way to be sure!
  3. TTRS Session 2: Everything Tinker Titan Rebel Spy is a hit; I suspect a lot of people like to see how Psi-Wars fits together, plus a lot of people just like reading "the story" of a session.
  4. The Martial Arts of the Mystical Tyrant: The popularity of things like this lead me to believe that people are actually using this material for something.
Honorable Mentions: Space Ghosts Revisited is in the top 10 and eclipsed the Sample Space Ghosts, which I intended to direct traffic to the former.  Seems detailed rules for running ghosts is popular!  And the True Communion introduction, after one day is in the top 10.  Introductions tend to do well in general, but you guys really like your Jedi!  I suppose that makes sense, though: True Communion as a philosophy has been with us since Iteration 4.

The State of the Patreon

Last month I gained three new Patrons, and one Patron squeezed in just in time to vote on the Emperor poll!  Thanks to everyone who joined up this month, and to everyone who has been a long-term supporter.

This wasn't the best month for engagement (August beat it; that would be the Alexian poll, I think), but it was definitely one of the best month.

I readjusted my goals this month, and some of them seem really big: the next one is "art" at 205, because based on the previous goals, this is what the current artist I have on hire runs me for pictures, but when you see them, you'll understand why.  By the end of this month, I'll have art to show you, dear patron.

The patreon schedule this month will be:
  • The Keleni: These aliens are to True Communion what the Ranathim were to the Divine Masks and the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant.  Once again, I have a conlang, a template and a cultural discussion.  This will be a preview available for $3+ patrons
  • The Shaolin: I did some homework while working on the Knights of Communion, and while there's plenty of readily gameable information on, say, the Templars, there's surprisingly little on the Shaolin monks, so I compiled my research and turned it into a document that discusses the history, styles and personalities of the Shaolin monastery.  Includes a new martial art: White Eyebrow Boxing.  This will be available for $1+ patrons.
  • (Tentative) The Cult of the Emperor Poll Results: I'm half-way finished with the poll results right now, and I've worked far enough ahead with my main posts that I'm confident I can have this finished by the last week of February (more honestly, I think I'll have it done this week, but let's manage expectations).  This will be available for $3+ patrons.
  • Art Preview: the Ranathim: I should have a male and female portrait available for you by the end of the month, so you can see where your money is going (Yes, I know we haven't hit that goal, but I can tip some of my own money into this too ;) ).  This will be available to all $3+ patrons.
There will be no poll this month.  

I'm also going to pause the previews for a few reasons.  First, right now, I'm working about one month ahead, so it's not much of a preview, and I find my patrons don't really discuss it much, and often end up discussing the topic in greater detail when the post itself drops.  The best part of this was that it forced me to write documents, but I do that as a habit now, so there's little merit in releasing half of True Communion right now.  This is just a pause, though; I think it's highly relevant once I get to revisions of material, as I can see from the playtests that there is much call for revised material.

Well, there you have it guys.  That's what January looked like, and what February will look like.  As always, I want to thank my patrons for supporting me and I hope you will continue to do so.  If you're particularly enamored of the work I've done and you want to support me, just click the link and donate.  I'd be happy to have you.  If you want to join in the discussion, you can check out the Psi-Wars channel over at Discord.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...