Thursday, 21 October 2010

40K v FS

On the FS Yahoo mailing list, someone asked about the difference between 40K and FS. It's an interesting question; I've posted, but I'll stick it up here as well so it doesn't let lost in the noise.

For me, the difference is simple; subtlety and space to ask questions.

40K has EVERYTHING turned up to 11; one hive city holds the worlds' current population, a Super Star Destroyer would only make it as a frigate and everything is nastier than everything else. I mean, just look at the bad guys; zombie robots that serve soul-eating star gods, god-level manifestations of raw human urges, fungal super-soldiers that not only fight but infest so there's a never-ending source and some hive-mind god intelligence eating our galaxy and turning our own biospheres against us.

And all of these are fought by demi-human supersoldiers with guns that fire rounds bigger than your thumb.

The morality is black-on-black; the good guy is a fascist, xenophobic human empire that uses criminals as spare parts and got its fashion tips from the wrong side of WWII.

And the thing is, all of the technophobia is good and necessary after the scrap with the Iron Men. Psykers need to end up as the God-Emperor's lunch because that's what keep space travel going and because until they mature they'll only serve to break reality. You can't stop and ask if it's OK to bomb a planet of civilians because you'd already be eaten by whatever got to them.

And that's awesome (I should point out that I have both DH and RT and I think they're great). Everything is supposed to be epic and more than a little mad and hardcore - the political conceit of being hard men making hard decisions made very real, desperately fighting to survive just one. More. Day. Against things that would make Cthulhu go 'I'm outta here; this stuff is *whacked*'.

Compare with FS; each of the sects has factions ranging from evil bastards to moral paragons and most shades in between; even the symbiots as written are a weird transhuman thing that doesn't quite work out, rather than the 'consume!' thing of the Tyranids.

Yes there's technophobia and space feudalism too, but they're inverted by being painted as a choice. The nobility took their chance when the Second Republic fell down, and remade the Known Worlds as they wanted them - and they had to fight to do it. The Guilds' precursors built the Second Republic and would like to do it again in some form.

In many ways it's classic sci-fi of the type we don't see often enough, questioning the human condition.

Tl:dr: Fading Suns asks 'why' - why did all this change and can we escape it? 40K says 'blessed is the mind too small for doubt. Now reload and let's get that thing or die trying!'

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The End (Of Summer)

Yeah, I know. My time in the last few weeks has been taken up with the student magazine, as a bunch of writers failed to do their part. Not to mention only just having my modules registered despite having put them in before the end of term.


On the upside, I do have a regular gaming group. Bad new is that it's monthly and I'm running Stargate. The weekly gaming group hasn't, for various reasons, although I hope my newly-started Dark Heresy game may flourish (I pimped FS but a player vetoed it).

Another upside is that an old LARPer of mine is moving to Essex. He's been helper to a regional Camarilla guy (and was still there after they split) so I'll have help. He's not quite round the corner, but he has already pledged to help me set up once my degree's over. Next year will involve me doing some writing but I'm shucking my magazine role in favour of being a showrunner on the new radio station.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Downtime (Again!) [Updated xI]

OK, here's another crack at sorting out some kind of supportive downtime system. I've been pondering for a couple of weeks now and I think I've wrapped my head around the basics.

Basic Principles
  • I still want to keep this as abstract as I can, while providing options for players to stiff each other interact during downtime.
  • It needs to be an extension of player actions, not something they rely on.
  • But it also needs to provide a more epic canvas, to give players the feeling of being in charge of something greater than they are.
The Fief

Each player (or group of players) can buy a fief at character development. The advantage of clubbing together is in having more actions per downtime; the downside is that you have to share power.

A Fief has the following basic characteristics:

Owner: Obvious if only a single owner, but groups have to pick one person as leader. This is important, because it defines the fief as owned by one of the factions.

Morale: Goes up and down. Once it hits negative, the rating is applied as a modifier to all the downtime actions. Morale can be attacked by certain actions and is lost when you lose battles.

After that, the character(s) can buy Holdings to increase their abilities.

Holdings are individual buildings that allow the character to project their power. The most obvious holdings are the ones that produce troops and spies, allowing the characters to harass and fight with each other, but they also produce money and equipment. Holdings are bought at Level 1 and can be upgraded, which costs time and money.

Holdings generate a level of whatever they build equal to their level
  • Agency. These generate their level in spies. As a downtime action, spy points can be assigned among four stances - Internal Security, Sabotage and Passive/Active spying.

    Internal Security is the fief's defensive rating and Sabotage destroys Holdings levels, while Passive spying provides info on what holding an enemy owns and Active spying provides info on your opponent's downtime actions.

  • Barracks. These produce trained troops who will die for you. Troops can be assigned to Garrison your fief (providing a defensive rating), or sent out to skirmish. They are better at damaging enemy Holdings than saboteurs, but have to wade through the enemy Garrison first.

  • Counting Houses. No matter what the Church may say, money is too useful to give up. Your fiefs are generally self-sufficient - that's what serfs are for. Instead, Counting Houses provide spending money, needed to pay for building upgrades, additional troops for that downtime period, bought info and equipment - things that may otherwise be unavailable or where you've reached the natural limit.

  • Fabricants. These are used for fabricating equipment, weapons and so on. Not so much in the sense of 'I want a new pistol' (that's what contracts are for), but on the scale of 'my army needs rifles. And tanks'. Of course, you don't have to keep them for yourself - you can always contract out to other players and make some money/cement alliances in doing so...

    Equipment provides bonuses and occasional special rules, but I'll talk about crafting in another post.
Player Actions:

This system isn't supposed to replace player actions, but supplement them. As such, players can spend an additional downtime action to join in the fun. They get to add an appropriate skill to the action - so if they're sending out a warband, they can throw in their tactics skill on top of the army's rating, or contract in an Engineer to add their technical skill to a science project.

The number of downtime actions per downtime come from averaging the lead character's Mind + Bureaucracy. If playing in a multi-player fief, the Mind rating comes from the ruler, while the Bureaucracy skill may be donated by another fief member. If there are more than two members in a fief, each further player adds +1 to the skill rating (unless they choose not to for some reason).

[Update x1]

Combat is something I'm a little uncertain on - not in general, but the specifics of which model to use.

My first choice is to have each Garrison point being ablative - each point must be assigned to defend against specific attacks, rather than simply providing a set defence number. Resolution is simply by who scores the highest, with the difference between scores representing the amount of damage the winner can throw around. The point is to give a small sense of realism in that troops can't be in all places at once and makes players think about what they wan to defend.

The second method is to make the Garrison stat apply to all fights, but resolution isn't 'who scores highest'. Instead, the victor must achieve a multiple of the defender's score, as in Games Workshop's Battle For Armageddon. The higher the multiple scored, the greater the devastation.

Monday, 19 July 2010


I have a Mandarin resit this Friday, hence the lack of much happening beyond writing complicated pictograms and trying to remember the tone and meaning for what is basically the same word.

But there's still something I can update on. When I initially planned my game, it was going to take place on Rampart. I had a bunch of reasons behind this, such as the social conflict, oriental flavour and others, but one thing I needed was player infodumps.

So I made a tourist sheet, distributed by the Guilds and costing only few Crests each.

Obviously it's unfinished, but I think you can see the way I'm trying to provide details though both infodumps and style.

And yes, the Mandarin symbols actually mean stuff. And should be grammatically correct...

Thursday, 8 July 2010

[Clothing] Initial/Random Musings

I've been thinking about costume prep on and off for a long time now and it's still a little confusing.

There are fifteen major factions, split into three groups, in the Fading Suns universe, each of which has their own logo and style. They usually break down into sub-groups as well; for example, the Orthodoxy wear red or white, depending on whether they're Mahayana or Hinayana.

But what's described in the books (in this case, Lords & Priests) isn't always workable for a LARP where you really need to be able to switch and swap around. For example, the Orthodoxy's fashion sense doesn't quite work out - the Whites start off wearing black robes and exchange them for whiter ones as they move up the ranks, while the Reds do the same (the book doesn't say if the Reds and Whites are linked to the Mahayana and Hinayana, but it would make sense to conflate the Reds and Hinayana, given their shared conservatism).

My thought would be to stick with one colour set for the main robes (black to white) using a cassock pattern available from any clothes-making shop and set out a character's sectarian leanings using extras. In this case, I plan to use those pashmina scarfs you can get at two for a fiver on street stalls. Get a white one and a red one, add the holy jumpgate sigil to both of them and then you don't have to worry about catering for both sides.

Another thing I think about is identification. Characters in the Passion Play book tend to have have tattoos marking their faction, which made me think about where they'd go given various cultural leanings.

Here are some thoughts about Scravers I had last night:


The nature of their activities means that most Scravers tend to trust in luck, not expecting the Pancreator to approve of all their actions. They often reach back to their founding myths from ancient Aegypt.

The most common investment is in the Scavers' icon:
In a job where they often need luck and quick reflexes to survive, they often choose to place the icon somewhere appropriate.

Eye: A popular place for permanent markings is over the eye, believed to provide second sight.
Nape of the neck: Because we all need eyes in the backs of our heads sometime.
Forehead: To invoke the perceived wisdom of the third eye.

Friday, 2 July 2010

[Props] More Data Units

Remember back when flash memory hadn't been invented yet and sci-fi shows still used CD-type data storage modules?

I do. That's why I'm also using these micro CDs as props.

I got them from my fiancee actually, who got them from some conference she went to. They had an inside sticker/cover, but I pulled that off, using a damp cloth to coax off any bits that wanted to stick.

I think I'll probably have to put a makers' mark on them.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

[Props] Data Chips

Hermesetas; a nice replacement for sugar in my tea and also a nicely-shaped data module; some kind of plug-in Data Storage Device.

Specifically, they remind me of the Ancient data modules in Stargate: Atlantis.

While I think it might be easier to make the Ancient-style DSDs from thick plastic card, the hermesatas plug-ins work as removable data modules. Problem is, I'm still working on how to give them the crystal look using paintjobs. I figured that I can draw on silver/gold circuitry, but need a glass/crystal effect for the pieces themselves.

Any suggestions?

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Guns, Guns, GUNS!

Let's talk guns.

Typically LARP weapons are fairly easy to get hold of, because they're usually swords and you can buy lots of those. But sometimes what you need is a large piece to go off in your hand (fnar).

So...guns. They're harder to rule for in LARPS, but that's not the point of this piece - it's to show how to bring the pretty from a limited budget. So let's go. I have two words for anyone wanting to physrep guns: Children's Toys. All of the weapons shown below are children's toy weapons. Nerf weapons comes later, i.e. when I've disassembled and painted them.

What makes children's toy gunes awesome? Well, let me show the ways:
  • They don't look like real guns. I swear most of the designers are frustrated sci-fi fans - amongst my collection I have a not-PPG and a not-Robocop gun, as well as other futuristic designs. This is important because no-one wants to get mistaken, not with the police's twitchy trigger fingers. It also brings me to point two:

  • They also look like sci-fi weapons. And that's awesome because it saves you lots of trouble.

  • They're cheap. None of them cost more than £3 each. Not essential, but always a cheeky bonus, especially for a student like me.
So, let's have a look (click through to see larger versions of the images):

I think I got this from the Wilkinsons chain for a couple of quid. One quick paint job later, it looks good.

I love this design. Again, only a couple of quid (plus paints). It has light and sound, but I hate that stuff.

A not-PPG from a remainder store. It was originally suposed to fire pellets (they didn't hurt though, which would be useful if I knew where the pellets went), but I turned the pellet cap into a plasma fuel cell.

There two are a pair of water pistols from Poundland. They have a wonderfully exotic shape. As you can see, the first one has a streaky turquise area to it, similar to the cap for the not-PPG.

This was a deliberate choice on my part to paint all exposed parts of plasma engines in this stylised way. Specifically I decided that plasma should look like a stylised watercolour, streaked with energised particles. Now, everyone who knows anything about plasma knows that it looks like a star within a cloud (see Gizmodo's interesting piece), but Fading Suns has always been stylised and I wanted to keep that style.


I started off by getting some black undercoat, laying out the weapons and spraying them, letting them dry then turning them over.

For actual paints, I decided not to carry on spraypainting and do it by hand. I used a mix of MP, GW and Game Color paints, depending on what I could get.

The plasma effect was achieved by daubing on a thick layer of the ordinary colour. Then, while it was still wet, I daubed on a ligher more of the same colour. Then, while that was still wet, I took a very thin brush and some white paint and swiftly marked out delicate lines, to give the impression of particle trails. That was it.

Where to look:

Obviously these may not apply across national boundries, but I went to:
  • Poundland - a cheapo chain that's sprung up lately. Everything is, as it says, a pound each.
  • Wilkinsons - a home goods chain (everything from house plants to toothpaste).
  • Remainder shops (I think the big UK chain is The Works).
  • Supermarkets.
  • Anywhere with a kids' toy section, basically.
  • The local street market. They're great for toy guns.
Well, that's that. Enjoy.

Back in Black. And Gold. And Purple.

Christ, has it really been a year? Damnit, it really hadn't seemed that long.

Apologies to everyone wondering where I went - uni work caught up with me. I'd still be thinking, but under too much work to actually do anything. It was quite a wacky year too - a bunch of us ended up taking over the SU magazine, giving it a makeover, publishing three issues and nearly killing ourselves with overwork. You can see the results here, if anyone's interested.

Anyhow, summer is here and I intend - even if I can't get a game up - to do some more work, simply because it's a nice creative outlet. And because it would be great if someone else can use what I haven't been able to enjoy.