Showing posts with label Star Trek. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Star Trek. Show all posts

Friday, April 3, 2020

Old School meets New Tech and vice versa

A couple of neat things happening here at the Ole' Brannan Family Game Dungeon this week.


My kids are missing their weekly D&D games in this quarantine time so tonight they will be running a D&D game over Roll20.  We took the plunge and bought a Pro account.  We will see how it will go.  If they like it I might even try it myself.

So while they are using new tech to run an "old" game. I just a new copy of an old game.
My friend Greg heard I no longer had my copy of the original FASA Trek game. Lost in one of my moves between college and grad school I am sure.  So here is what he sent me.




So looking forward to this! 

I am thinking I might have to recreate two of my earliest characters, Dr. Scott Elders, CMO and genetics expert, and his "Nurse" Friday who is, in reality, one of his experiments/creations.

They were created after a 1982 double shot of "Wrath of Khan" and the augments and reading "Friday" by Robert A. Heinlein.   I guess this fits in with the "old-new" theme as well.  This is a 1982 book about the 21st Century.  A Balkanized North America doesn't sound as improbable as it did then.


One of my favorite Michael Whelan covers.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

BlackStar: Ghost Ship

A while back I posted this about my "Ghost Ship" adventure:

Ghost Ship.  The PCs find a derelict adrift in space and it is full of the ghosts of the dead crew.  Originally this was going to be the Enterprise B when I ran it as a pure Trek game. (The Haunting of Hill House, Dreams of the Witch House, the Flying Dutchman)

Some of my ideas I had scribbled down for this, WAYYYY in the early 90s at the Corner Diner in Carbondale, IL (it's closed sadly). Back then this was the Enterprise B before there was a Generations movie and when all I knew it was an Excelsior-class ship.

The trouble I am running into is that I am stealing ideas from this for The Ghost Station of Inverness Five.

I would like to keep this as the crew discovers a ship, preferably one that has significance to them, floating adrift and full of ghosts.  So there would be elements of Event Horizon as well.

The big question I have now is this.  Should the "ghosts" on the Ghost Ship be really dead or some sort of weird temporal/dimensional accident?  I think I have my choice made for me really.
This is BlackStar, not just Star Trek.  The crew of the Ghost Ship really are all dead.

Flying Dutchman from the Time-LIFE Water Spirits book.  The genesis of the Ghost Ship Adventure

The Ghost Ship adventure will be a simple haunted house adventure with a twist; the twist is that the "house" is a star ship.

There is a "Star Trek: Ghost Ship" fan film out there from the "Avalon Universe".  What I like about this is that it feels like a nice mix of the TOS style and the Abrams/Kelvin Universe style.
It is a fan film, so don't judge it too harshly, instead, take it in the spirit it was made; the love of Trek.

I will say that Victoria Fox, the Producer, Lt. and then later Commander Amanda Beck, is pretty good. she would later go on to produce, direct, write, and star in Star Trek Demons.  Her Trek-street cred is solid.  I also think that Victoria Archer (Lt. Cmdr Jamie Archer) must be at least 6' tall (ok she is only 5'9", must be the "go-go" boots).

Part 1:



Part 2:




Of course, no Ghost Ship posting is complete without a nod to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.



Or the woman still waiting for him on the shores.


Ghost Ship Adventure Related Postings

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

BlackStar: The Ambassador Class Heavy Cruiser

It's "shelter in place" time here in Illinois.  So I am spending my time playing D&D and CoC with my kids and doing research for my BlackStar game.


To that end, I am pouring over my Trek books, both sourcebooks, and RPGs, to find a nice mix.

Plus I am doing research on my favorite class of starship, The Ambassador Class.

https://memory-beta.fandom.com/wiki/USS_Enterprise_(NCC-1701-C)
https://memory-beta.fandom.com/wiki/Ambassador_class

Up first a few "history of" and "technical specifications of" the Ambassador Class ship










This is a "walk through" but I think they got the size of the bridge wrong.




Star Trek Online takes the same "space" as Starfleet Battles for me.  Similar, but a separate timeline where there is more war.   Here is a player taking his Ambassador class "Support Ship" through some paces.



Enjoy the videos.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

BlackStar: Klingon Time Travel, The Ghost Station of Inverness Five Part 2

I have been thinking about Time Crystals and Klingon Time Travel.
That almost sounds contradictory, but hear me out.

A couple of things about Klingon culture stand out to me.

First, there is Boreth, the Klingon Monastery.   When the First Emporer Kahless was leaving his people he pointed to a star and said: "Look for me there, on that point of light."  That point of light was the star that Boreth orbited.  It has been given as one of the reasons that Klingons expanded into space; to keep their promise with Kahless.


Boreth has only one building, a monastery dedicated to Kahless. Here devotees can have visions. One thing not spoken about in Federation circles is that these visions always come true.  Why?  Boreth is also home to naturally occurring Time Crystals.  These warps time around them much like dilithium warps matter and space.   No, the science doesn't make any real sense, but this is Star Trek, not Astrophysics.   So we have a culture that has a planet full of time altering crystals.  We saw the Klingon High Priest Tenavik grow to an adult in a few months here (ST:DISCO) and later Worf sees visions of his future (ST:TNG).

Klingons have also had access to time travel devices in Voyager. In particular, in 2404 (five years from the current Picard series) a Klingon named Korath "sells" Janeway a time travel device.  The implication is this was something only a Klingon could get and he wasn't supposed to be sharing it with any non-Klingon.

Then there is the Klingon homeworld of Qo'noS. Or as we say it, Kronos. Another nod to time.

So why don't Klingons travel in time?  Simple.  Kahless told them not too.

Before Kahless went to Sto'Vo'Kor he passed on some more wisdom to his fellow Klingons.
"nuq 'oH legh ghaH 'Iv legh qa' jIH."

or "He who looks to the past misses the future."

Klingons, while they honor their past, took this as an injunction against meddling with it.
Kahless is not just their Emporer, he is a messianic figure. Remember, according to Lt. Commander Worf, "Our gods are dead. Ancient Klingon warriors slew them a millennia ago. They were more trouble than they were worth."  Kahless is all they have left.

BlackStar


How does this fit into BlackStar?

This is the background I am using to set up "The Ghost Station of Inverness Five."
It would make for a great con game.  I could even run it straight as a pure Star Trek game, to be honest.  Though this makes The Ghost Station the most "Trek" of all the BlackStar adventures.

I am going to have to see if I can find an old copy of the FASA Trek Regula-1 Deck Plans.
After I posted my first post on The Ghost Station I realized I put a Space Station into what should at that time be protected space.  So the Time Crystals simply pulled the science station into the current time.



The station is from the Federation-Klingon war, so lots of old-school Trek fun with it.  I just have to be careful and not steal to many ideas that I was going to use in the "Ghost Ship" adventure.

Friday, February 7, 2020

BlackStar: The Ghost Station of Inverness Five

I am a Trekkie, and I have always preferred "Trekkie" over "Trekker" as well.  No negative connotations for me, I embrace them.

To that end, I am a fan of both "Axanar" and "Discovery" even if they are competing and incompatible with versions of the war with the Klingon Empire. 


In Discovery the war takes place around 2256-2257.
In the Axanar and FASA Trek RPG continuity, this is known as the Four Years War and takes place between 2247 and 2250.
(Note the Enterprise NCC 1701 launches in 2245, so that tracks with Discovery but off a bit for Axanar.)

Once you start digging more and more with Disco, Axanar, and FASA it becomes obvious that the continuities will never line up even by my normal desire to handwave some details in favor of others.

I enjoyed Star Trek Discovery, I also happen to like Star Trek Axanar maybe just a little bit better. Mainly for all the same reasons spelled out here: Star Trek Discovery vs Axanar Choose Your Klingon War.



I do want a universe where Adm. Ramirez gets to say, "For myself I have but one fear: destroying the dream of the Federation. Compared to such a loss I DO NOT FEAR THE KLINGON EMPIRE!

Hey, I said I was a Trekkie.

BUT I also want a universe with Anson Mount's Captain Pike and Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham.

How do I have my cake and eat it too?

So I am going to steal a page from myself.
Back when I was playtesting the Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space RPG I converted a bunch of Angel and Ghosts of Albion characters to DWAITAS characters (easy enough to do) and ran them all through The Ghost Tower of  Inverness. Only I called it the Ghost Tower of Inverness, Illinois.

Why does Inverness, IL need a Lighthouse??
In that adventure, the Soul Gen is replaced by the Time Beacon.  A lighthouse for time travelers.
I can replace the lighthouse and tower with the 23rd Century equivalent; a Starbase.

The Ghost Station of Inverness Five

Inverness Five.  During the Federation-Klingon War, this colony was the site of one of the bloodiest battles and the greatest defeat of the Federation.  Hundreds of thousands of souls were lost and many more were made homeless overnight.   Inverness was a colony of four inhabited worlds rich in dilithium.  To the Klingon Empire, the Inverness system is a sacred, if not holy place.

I'll take a page from Discovery and TNG and make Inverness like the Klingon monastery on Boreth.  Not just holy, but also the home of Time Crystals.   At the time of the war no one knew this.   The humans just knew that there were large deposits of dilithium.  The Klingons knew it was holy to Kahless.  The battle managed to disrupt the crystals, one of which was located in the science lab on the Inverness Station, and now the place is like the Bermuda Triangle in space.

In 2352 the Protector is sent the Inverness system, getting strange readings.  The system is unstable and both the Federation and the Klingon Empire have agreed to stay out of the system.  The Federation considers it too dangerous and the Klingons want everyone to stay out.  Both sides treat it like something akin to a battlefield graveyard.

When the Protector shows up they should send an Away Team over to the station, the source of the readings, but "chronometric interference" makes it impossible to get a good lock.  So they are sent to what is basically the bottom of the station.  The team has to work its way to the science lab.
Here I basically will run a version of the Ghost Tower of Inverness.
In space, the Protector is fired upon by a Klingon D6 from Axanar's time.  Communications are ignored and channels to Federation Space are blocked.  They are then both attacked by a Klingon cruiser from Discovery's time.

Both teams end up having to battle with Klingons from Axanar, Discovery and even smooth ridged Klingons from the time between Enterprise and The Original Series.


So weird time dilations effects.  Battling anywhere from two to four different sorts of Klingons.  Starfleet chatter from nearly 100 years ago about the Klingon war and the Federation is getting it's ass kicked.

I need to figure out how to up the horror elements too.  After all, that is what makes this BlackStar and not just Star Trek.  I do know how it will end though.  Once the Away Team gets the Time Crystal aligned/sealed/destroyed/reversed to the polarity of the neutron flow, the battle will stop and the Protector will be hailed by the current era Klingons asking if they need assistance.  A reminder that at this time (2352) the Klingons and the Federation are allies.

This is my homage to not just Axanar and Discovery, but also Yesterday's Enterprise, the Bermuda Triangle and the chance to do the one thing that all old school Trekkies love, and that is to battle Klingons.

In the end, the players will not know if they had really gone back in time OR if they were battling ghosts of some sort.  Also, they might never find out which version of history, Axanar or Discovery, was the correct one since they all remember it both ways.

This one will be fun too.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

BlackStar: The United Federation of "hold my beer, I got this"

Ok. Not *really* BlackStar related, but this is in the back of my mind the whole time I am thinking about BlackStar.  This is always worth forwarding.   Some of the comments are gold too.



The United Federation of "hold my beer, I got this"




Tuesday, January 28, 2020

BlackStar: Kzinti

One of the races I really enjoyed back in the Pre-TNG days of Trek (Pre 1987) was the Kzinti.  I was very familiar with the race from the Animated series and was aware, vaguely, of the "Man-Kzin Wars" books by Larry Niven.  I also knew of what would now be called fan-fiction in the form of some weird Trek zines I remember from the day.



The Kzinti in the Trek Universe
The Kzinti homeworld is called Kzin and it orbits 61 Ursae Majoris about 31 light-years away.  Humans of the late 21st century, pre-warp Earth headed to towards this system in the great migrations from Earth. On their way, they encountered the Kzinti and the first of three wars between the two races began.  The Kzinti are violent, expansionistic, and convinced of their own superiority.  The Kzinti lost each time to Earth's forces (then mostly sub-light ships) and they never got over that they lost to an "omnivorous" race.
The stellar cartographers of Starfleet named the Kzinti area of space the Kzinti Hegemony. Their own name for their government can be translated as The Patriarchy.

By 2151 Starfleet had pushed the Kzinti back to their homeworld and Archer IV, also orbiting 61 Ursae Majoris, was established as an Earth colony.  By 2371 it was a fully inhabited Federation planet.  The confusion came about because the Kzinti call any world they inhabit as their "homeworld".  The Federation not only defeated the Kzinti, they humiliated them.



So we have a chauvinistic race, that has a government called the Patriarchy, who is convinced they are superior to all other races and yet still got their asses kicked by the Federation. If you think I am not going to have a go at that then you have not been here reading this blog for long!

Besides.  Star Trek was doing Social Justice in the 60s.  This is a perfect subject to do in a Star Trek RPG.

I am planning on making them my "little bads" or at least make them appear to be the big bads.  They are not, they are just a pain in the ass.  Their area of space is close (ish) to other parts of the federation including Memory Alpha. This works out well since the first mission of the USS Protector is a "milk run" to Memory Alpha.  Yes I am making the first adventure a run to the Federation "Library" as an homage to all the library runs I made to read books about space, astronomy and then Lovecraft and Star Trek.



A couple reasons that make the Kzinti great for my BlackStar game is they are superstitious, still believe in magic and ghosts (and why not, they have a high level of psionic individuals in their population) and maybe best of all they allow me to use some ideas I have created for other games that would find fertile ground here.

Rebuilding the Kzinti for BlackStar
I am setting my BlackStar game between the TOS and TNG eras.  A time, calendar wise that also corresponds to the time when I first discovered the Kzinti and a time of evolution of Trek and in particular the Klingons.

In a fairly real sense, the Kzinti represent stepping stone really between the "old" and the "new" Klingons.  The honor, the violence, and even the warrior caste system of the Kzinti can be added to the old, or TOS Klingons to create the newer TNG and movie era Klingons. 
Since this "in-between" time is also covered fairly well by the FASA Trek game I will turn to it for ideas.

FASA Trek, much like Starfleet Battles, can be seen as an alternate evolution of the same core Trek from the Original Series on.  I am already borrowing a lot from FASA Trek, so I might take some of their ideas on Klingons and use them for the Kzinti.

In particular, their philosophy of "That which is not growing is dead." to explain their desire to expand their territory again.

I am not going to make Kzinti available as a playable race. If I want something like that I'll go with Caitians like M'Ress and Srrel.



White Star

Kzinti Warrior
KZINTI WARRIOR
ARMOR CLASS: 7 [12]
HIT DICE: 2
HDE/XP: 2/25
SAVING THROW: 17
TOTAL HIT BONUS:  +2
MOVEMENT: 12 (12 when climbing)
SPECIAL: Dark vision 90 ft, Climb
ATTACK: Claws (1d6) or by weapon

KZINTI PSYCHIC
ARMOR CLASS: 9 [10]
HIT DICE: 1-1
HDE/XP: 1/15
SAVING THROW: 17
TOTAL HIT BONUS:  +1
MOVEMENT: 9 (0 when climbing)
SPECIAL: Dark vision 90 ft, Climb, Psychic Blast,
ATTACK: Psychic Blast (1d6)

Starships & Spacemen

Kzinti Psychic
KZINTI WARRIOR
Encountered: 2d4 (2d10)
Movement: 120' (40')
Intelligence: Average
Psionic Potential: inactive
Hits: 2d8
Armor: 7 (2 with power armor)
Combat Skill: 12
Save: L1
Attacks: 1
Damage: By weapon
Morale: 10
XP: 25

KZINTI PSYCHIC
Encountered: 1 (1d6)
Movement: 90' (30')
Intelligence: Above-Average
Psionic Potential: active
Hits: 1d8
Armor: 9 (5 with power armor)
Combat Skill: 6
Save: L1
Attacks: 1, Psychic Blast
Damage: 1d6
Morale: 7
XP: 15

Kzinti Warriors are 2.1-meter tall  220 kg, barrel-chested felinoids.  They can attack with claws but prefer weapons.   They have long tails and hairless ears.  Their eyesight is good in the dark, but their sense of smell is superior to that of Terrans.  They are voracious carnivores and must consume raw meat. They can survive on replicated food, but they will claim it has "no life" to it.
They are a superstitious race and will not use the weapon of a fallen foe believing that the ghost of that foe still haunts the weapon.
Kzinti Warriors will often add honorifics to their name and title. So a captain of a Kzinti warship that has never been defeated might call himself Vrust-Captain, the Undefeated.

Kzinti Psychics almost apper to be a different race.  They are much smaller, 1.8-meter, and much thinner at 130 kg. They are hunched over and appear to ready to fall over.  They are powerful psychics and know many attack and defense modes.  They are often used to extract knowledge and secrets from other species.  Even though they appear frail they are driven by the same desires that affect the warrior caste.  This has caused many among the psychic class to adopt cruelty to others weaker than themselves which is even marked by Kzinti standards.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

5 x 5: End of the Year Top Fives. Movies

Continuing my Top 5 for the year's end.  Here are my all-time Top 5 Movies.


Lord of the Rings



Raiders of the Lost Ark



Star Wars



Star Trek: Wrath of Khan



Army of Darkness


Saturday, December 28, 2019

My Next Kitbash, Federation Viper

I have some parts left over from my Protector kitbash model, and as it turns out they are exact parts I need for my next kitbash, a "Star Trek" style Viper from Battlestar Galactica.

So I have parts from this:


In particular, the nacelles, which is what I need.

Combine them with this:


Which I still need to buy mind you.

I can add the nacelles to the viper wings, modify the nose with a deflector dish (which I have). Change the red decals to blue, could just paint them on, put on the Protector's registry number NX-3120 and it will look like it is part of the ship. 

I did this mod years ago but I honestly can't recall what happened to it, it was 40 years ago. The one thing I didn't figure out then and still need to figure out now is how to account for those giant-ass thrusters in back.  I might need to 3D print some additional parts or see what I have laying around.  In my first version of this I used the V8 engine out of an 82' Corvette.

My goal is something like these:





At least that is the plan.  Have it ready for my BlackStar game. Imagine this going up against MiGo in space.

Hope to get working on it soon!

Friday, November 22, 2019

BlackStar: Trek Videos

Been pretty busy with work and various projects.  But I am looking forward to doing some Trek gaming sometime soon.
To prep for this, I am watching a LOT of Star Trek videos made by fans for ideas.

Here is one that has a lot of ideas for me.
Since my Mystic Class is an NX or experimental ship, I figure it would be good to see some other failed Trek experiments.




And since the Mystic class also has the potential to be the fastest ship in Trek, but maybe not the deadliest, this one caught my eye.




For years I have been fascinated with the idea of Star Trek Phase II.  I am seriously considering having Xon show up in my game in some way.



I also wanted to learn everything I could about the Ambassador Class starship and the Enterprise-C




Wednesday, August 21, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Vast

Today's topic is Vast.

Vast. Seriously it is like it is too large of a word to tackle all at once.


To any PC in any sort of RPG the setting should feel vast.  For D&D it is can be the world or the known planes.  In sci-fi games, this can be the galaxy or even the universe.

But I don't write vast.  I write local.

Yes, there is a whole world out there, but how much of it are the PCs going to see? What do they really know about it?  Sure, there were people in the 13th century that had a pretty good idea what the world looked like, but did the peasants?

Let's look at Star Trek and by extension my BlackStar game. Because really, what is more vast than space?


That is a map of the Known Space of the Star Trek universe roughly at the end of the 24th Century.  My BlackStar game is likely to be set 50 years prior to this.
This is a LOT of territory.  The Sol system is where the larger yellow line is.  Click to see larger.

This is roughly 1,500 Light Years wide, of the Milky Way that is 105,000 Light Years wide, about 1%.

That's a lot of untold stories. 

I wish I had more time to do more!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

BlackStar: Launch Date 31165.86

It's my birthday! But I am at work today. Thankfully I was so prepared for all my meetings I got done early.  Thought I might share an update.

I have been working, slowly, on my BlackStar game.  This is still not something I am looking to publish mind you, just something to have fun with.  This is likely to be the most Trek-centric post of this series.
For this game I want to establish that the Universe, despite all it's wonders and dangers, is still a sane, ordered place. Yes, there are things we don't know but we are not incapable of knowing them.  So for me a clear starting point for the horror to come is a normal reality.  This is a process similar to what Stephen King uses and I can do worse than emulate him.
Part of my "reality grounding" was trying to determine when the game takes place.  The where is easy, the Star Trek Universe.  If I ever decide to publish in the future it is easy to remove that aspect and focus more on the things that are different, aka the horror, so anyone can add it to their own game.

I debated a lot with my self and with my kids about a good time.  Eventually, I went back to my original idea to set it in the era just before the Next Generation.  I can control the history and the future better from this point AND still have room to do what I want.



What do I know?

The Enterprise-C, commanded by Capt. Rachel Garret was lost in 2344, 20 years before the launch of the Enterprise-D in 2364 (SD 41153.7).  Since my ship is based on the Ambassador Class ship, same as the Ent-C it makes sense to set it closer to then.

We don't see many Ambassador class ships in the TNG time-frame, why?  I am going to say there was a design flaw that was later discovered after Starfleet Corp of Engineers went over why the Ent-C was destroyed.  There is a flaw in the nacelle arrangement that was missed in the R&D phase and only seen in practice.  This lead to newer warp nacelle configuration that gave us the Galaxy and Nebula class ships.  Despite living in the 24th century, human Starfleet personnel can still be somewhat superstitious and the Ambassador class gained the status of a "cursed ship".

This is also why there are 21 decommissioned Ambassador class ships outside of Neptune Station.   Here, Commodore Peter Quincy Taggert, with a signed order from Admiral Nyota Uhura (who had been fond of the Ambassador class and hated to see them go to waste), began work on the Mystic Project.  The NX-3100 (mislabeled on the hull as NX-3000 due to a clerical error) was developed at the Klatuu Nebula Yards in conjunction with the Theremin Science Council and launched to Earth on SD 30007.21. 

The Mystic, however, was lost with all hands en route.  Not destroyed, no one knows where it is.  Capt. Lazarus, XO Tawny Madison, and Chief Engineer Chen who were hand-picked by Taggert have been listed as "Missing in Action".  Yes, this might work for my "Ghost Ship" adventure.


The other ships were built with various levels of failure. The "Ambassador Curse" is in full swing on the Mystic line.

Presently the only ships in "mission ready" status are the NX-3113 USS Necromancer, NX-3119 USS Imbolic Mage and NX-3120 USS Protector.


The Protector was the first one ready for a full test of the new Warp-13 drive.  It is set to launch on June 13, 2352, SD 31165.86. (Exactly 333 years from today, on a Friday the 13th).


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

BlackStar: Old School Black Holes

Today is a big day in astrophysics.  The first-ever image of a black hole has been released.
The black hole is 500 million trillion km away, or 500,000,000,000,000,000,000 km or 52,850,042 Light Years.



When that light left the black hole's event horizon the Earth looked like this:


Just some perspective, plus I love those maps.

Much like magic, black holes have "suffered" due to the expansion of science.  What do I mean by that?

For much of the 20th Century, the black hole of science fiction was monstrous, mysterious, even evil thing.  A star that ate everything that came to close including light and time.  It's not hard to see why there were some sci-fi authors who categorized them as monsters.
In fact, this one is a monster. It is 40 billion km across and has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. For reference, the Earth has a diameter of 12,756 km and the Sun has a diameter of  1.392 million km.  That dwarfs the Sun more than our sun dwarfs the Earth.

In fiction black holes lead to other universes, often evil ones. Or sending people to different parts of the universe in defiance of any laws of relativity.  Indeed they were the ultimate "MacGuffin" to break all sorts of laws of reality.

BlackStar, as a game concept, really owes a lot to these older ideas of black holes in more than just name.

In truth, the ideas for BlackStar got their very first start for me in the 1979 Disney movie The Black Hole.  I remember seeing this at the 67 Drive-In in my old home town.  The movie is full of ideas that characterize what I want BlackStar to do and be even before I add the Lovecraftian bits.  We have a crew exploring space. There is a psychic crew member. We have an evil mad scientist in his old castle spaceship surrounded by mindless servants and evil strongman; it's practically gothic horror.  Even the tag line is horror, "A Journey That Begins Where Everything Ends".



Another black hole sci-fi/horror movie that was a big, if not one of the biggest, influence on BlackStar is 1997's Event Horizon.

In Event Horizon, we have a black hole, in this case, an artificially created one (like what we see in the Romulan Warbirds) that power the ship.  The mystery, and horror, of the Event Horizon, is where was the ship the entire time it's been missing.  We learn that the black hole has taken the crew into a hellscape not dissimilar to what we saw at the end of The Black Hole.  Claire Weir's, Dr. Weir's (Sam Neill) dead wife, tells us "I have such wondrous things to show you" brings to mind Pinhead's "We have such sights to show you" from the Hellraiser movies.  Indeed they can be assumed to be the same sights.



In both cases breaking the laws of physics, in both cases trying to move faster than light, opens you up to the consequences of breaking the Laws of Creation. The black hole becomes the proverbial gate to Hell.  Abandon all Hope Ye Who Enter Here.

This is made even more explicit in the Doctor Who episodes "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit" from 2006.  In this, the scientific portrayal of black holes is contrasted with the classic sci-fi portrayals.  In Doctor Who black holes are a means of travel. Gallifrey and every TARDIS is powered by "The Eye of Harmony" a captured black hole created by the Timelord Stellar Engineer Omega. It has as much horror as the engine in a Tesla sedan. Neat yes, but not horrible.

The Satan Pit turns this on its head.  Here the black hole "just eats" according to the Doctor. The black hole is The Pit, the jail that the devil can't escape from.  It is the Christian Hell or the Abyss.
Consequently, the episodes have been compared to "Event Horizon" and "Alien" by critics.


So that leaves me at today.  What can black holes do to inspire horror?
Much like "anti-matter" gave way to "dark matter" in the minds of the creatives, black holes have been largerly replaced by "Wormholes".   But even a wormhole is still sci-fi shorthand for "short cuts in FTL travel".  Sure they can be like "gates" but the fear is diluted.

I think where I am going to go with all of this is take a page from Event Horizon and make the drive of the new Mystic class ships be the problem.  They were designed to move faster than light, the heralded Warp-13 drives, but the real purpose is to open rifts in space-time to allow these horrors to come through.  Both sci-fi horrors and cosmic horrors.

Black Holes, like the God of the Gaps, has had its mystical notions removed for the more appropriate scientific ones.  As someone that originally studied to be an astrophysicist, this is a great thing.  But as someone who loves horror and sci-fi adventure, I feel like I have lost something.

Maybe Dark Matter and Dark Energy can be my new mysterious thing! In any case it needs to be frightening.  They say "in space, no one can hear you scream", but I also want "in space, no one wants to hear you yawn".

And this song was on my mind while working on this post.



Wednesday, December 12, 2018

BlackStar: The Influence of Clark Ashton Smith

For the past month, I have been reading all the stories of Clark Ashton Smith in roughly chronological order.  In many ways, I like his works more than I do of H.P. Lovecraft's.  I find CAS easier to approach and his protagonists more relatable. '

Recently I just finished Marooned in Andromeda first of what is commonly called "The Captain Volmar Stories". The next one was A Captivity in Serpens and a third, which I have not gotten to yet, The Ocean-World of Alioth.  What struck me was how much they were like Star Trek.  Add in the Lovecraftian like horror of Marooned in Andromeda and you practically have a blue-print for what I want in BlackStar.

Indeed, the Trek connection has not gone unnoticed.  Ronald S. Hilger and Scott Connors the editors of the Night Shade collection in which all three stories appear make not of the similarities between Captains Volmar and Kirk.  Captivity in Serpens presages the Next Generation episode "The Most Toys" with it's crew member in captivity for a personal collection.

While doing some research this morning I came across the beginning of an adventure I had started back in the late 80s / early 90s for the then Next Generation version of FASA's Star Trek RPG.

I mentioned this last month as the adventure "Ghost Ship".  As time went on it was the Enterprise B (lost according to my notes in 2329, the Enterprise C was launched in 2332), but before that, it was the USS Excelsior.  In my document here it predates even that and it was the USS Necromancer.   Astute readers might recall that the NX-3113 USS Necromancer is one of the "Ships of the Line" of the Mystic Class.   The Necromancer seems to be a bit on the nose for this.  Instead given the writings of CAS and the main representative of his work in the OSR world,  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, it seems best to call the ship the NX-3102 USS Sorcerer.

I was thinking that maybe I could use the events of the CAS Capt. Volmar stories to give my Horror Universe a bit more of a backstory. Volmar's ship was called Alcyone.   The Alcyone system is about 445 light years from Earth, so not sure if I could say Volmar is from Alcyone. So I going to say that the Alcyone was his previous command.  His name is Howard Solomon Volmar since he has been compared to Robert E. Howard's creation, Solomon Kane.

There is so much more here too.

Seedling of Mars deals with an alien craft that lands in California in 1947 (the future from CAS' then perspective) that carries a group of scientist to Mars where it's one lifeform is a planet-wide hybrid of plant and animal that is near god like.  While CAS' martian is a benign entity, it does have the look of a Lovecraftian monster.  One could imagine a great Cthulhuoid beast in its place.  The deal that makes with humanity is less for their benefit and more Faustian in return.  Indeed in CAS' tale, the being wipes out much of the Earth's population but it's ok since those are the ones that were not scientifically minded.  The rest of humanity is relocated onto Venus. Still, while this story is more Science-Fantasy it just needs a nudge to push it out of the light and into the dark of Horror.

Clark Ashton Smith in My Games
It is fair to say that CAS has had more influence on my games than Lovecraft has, save for the effect Lovecraft had on CAS himself.
In my regular D&D 5 games (and before that) CAS has had a huge effect on my game universe as detailed here:


For these, I made a special effort to reread or in other cases re-read all the Averoigne stories to get a good feel of Medieval Horror.  It was great.

These days the Atlantis and Hyperborea tales of CAS are well handled by Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.   Actually, I would love to use AS&SH as the system for a Zothique game.  I have already taken ideas from it for BlackStar and plan to have the PCs travel to Yamil Zacra: The Infernal Star.

Depending on how my BlackStar game goes I could conceivably pull another "Where No One Has Gone Before" and send the poor crew of the Protector to Earth, 250-300 Million years in the future.

I could combine this with the "Ghost Ship" idea above. Though that might be too much.
Alternately, I could alter my Starcrash on Hyperborea adventure idea to Starcrash on Zothique.  I kinda like that idea. Shades of "The Time Machine" here too.  It would also give the option of something I wanted to try in some other games.  I have wanted the PCs to run into their future-incarnations; their reincarnated souls as it were in new bodies.  The excuse I would give is that the Earth is so old now that old forms are being reused.

If I wanted to bring in some Atlantis I could just use some of my ideas for Doggerland.

The Black Gate ran a fantastic series on Clark Ashton Smith.  I won't link all of them here, just ones that are germane to this discussion, but they are all good.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Black Star: The Conqueror Worm

"There is no evidence of avifaunal or crawling vermicular lifeforms on Jouret Four."
- Data, Star Trek the Next Generation, Best of Both Worlds, Part 1

I had a Black Star post ready to go today, but this one grabbed my imagination a lot more.  I am currently reading "The Door to Saturn: Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, Book 2" in it is a story, “The Kingdom of the Worm”, about an ancient evil kingdom of the dead and the giant charnel worm that rules there.  This reminded me of another one of my favorite Clark Ashton Smith tales, "The Coming of the White Worm", which I need to re-read soon.

While reading I could not help but think of all sorts of worms and how they have been used to terrify us. Edgar Allen Poe's "The Conqueror Worm" comes to mind, which also leads me to the Stephen R. Donaldson short story (from "Daughter of Regals and Other Tales") of the same name, though that one is about a centipede. Which of course made me think of the Sand Worms of Dune and then the Sand Worms of Saturn from Beetlejuice and of course the Sathar of Star Frontiers.

It is that last one that gave me the idea explosion that this post is.

Black Star is if nothing else, about exploring the horror that is space. Space is dark, I am just adding Eldritch Dark to it.

It got me thinking that a great adventure would be to have our crew check in on a planet, much like TNGs Jouret 4, that the entire population is gone.  They discover that they have all been eaten by worm-like creatures, maybe even the Sathar.  Of course they are nothing compared to the towering monstrosity that is Mordiggian, the Charnel God.  I had used Mordiggian and his ghouls once before in a Buffy/WitchCraft/Willow & Tara game which also gave me the spell "Lend Me Your Fire" (to appear in a witch book someday!)

In this adventure, the colony (shades of  LV-426 to be sure) is wiped out by the millions and Starfleet is sent to investigate.  There is evidence that everyone died pretty close to each other in time and there is a lack of bodies.  The Sathar have been consuming the dead, which is not typical behavior, and they are worshipping Mordiggian as their God of Death.  The real big bad here is Mordiggian.

The horror aspects here are of course the death of millions and the natural squeamishness many people seem to have about worms, maggots, and other eaters of the dead.  "Wormfood" is an evocative image for a reason. Also, there is the notion that Mordiggian is here and maybe he is a god maybe he is not, but did he come to our notice now because of the use of the new Triberyllium Warp-13 drive has opened our dimension to that of the Cthulhoid mythos creatures.

For sci-fi this is my chance to square the circle of merging Star Frontiers' United Planetary Federation and Star Trek's United Federation of Planets.

SATHAR (for WhiteStar)
ARMOR CLASS: 6 [13]
HIT DICE: 2
HDE/XP: 3/75
SAVING THROW: 16
TOTAL HIT BONUS: +1
MOVEMENT: 12
SPECIAL: Keen Senses (vision, smell)
ATTACK: by weapon

Sathars are long, worm-like creatures. Their bodies are divided into segments, like an earthworm's. They do not have a skeleton. Instead, they support their bodies hydrostatically, by pumping liquid into the segments so they become hard. A shiny, clear slime coats their skin. Federation scientists believe they are warm-blooded, but no live specimen has ever been studied. Their eyes are placed near the sides of their heads and contain double pupils giving them extraordinary vision.  They smell through two pits in front of their eyes.

A Sathar moves by slithering across the ground with the first meter of its body raised. They also can coil like a snake, raising 1.5 meters of their bodies from the ground.
The color of Sathar skin varies from yellow to brown. The tentacles are the same as the body, but with a slight greenish tint. The underbelly is pale pink. A pattern of dots, speckles, and stripes decorates the back of the head. These patterns are natural on some Sathar, but are tattooed on others.

Some survivors of Sathar attacks have reported that Sathars are not effected by electrical shocks, phasers set to stun or stun grenades, but these reports have never been confirmed.

Sathars are highly intelligent and have a space-faring culture found on the Frontiers of Federation Space.  They are considered dangerous even if very little else is known about them

Source: http://starfrontiers.wikia.com/wiki/Sathar

So, Black Star: The Conqueror Worm (Star Trek + Star Frontiers + The Kingdom of the Worm + Aliens + Tremors + The Charnel God).

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

At the Planets of Madness

Throughout October and November, I have been rereading everything from H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith.  In particular, I have been focusing my attention on their "Cosmotism" and sci-fi stories.  All the while thinking about how I want to approach my own "Star Trek meets Cthulhu horror is Space" game, something I have been working on under the title of "Black Star".

Of course looking at Lovecraft through the lens of Sci-fi rather than horror gives the stories an extra dimension.  Once I got back to the "Dream of the Witch House" and the equations of Walter Gilman I knew there was something there.  I figured what if we took the Gilman equations and used those to power Warp drive?  It seemed like a great fit! Really, really great.  Too great. I had to go back to my shelves and sure enough, the idea is not my original one.

Eldritch Skies was published by Battlefield Press a few years back does exactly this.  I was a consultant on the original Cinematic Unisystem version, but now you can only get the Savage Worlds version.

Still, I am pressing on to use the Gilman drive in my own games.  The Gilman equations are added to normal warp drive to produce the Gilman-Cochrane drives.  I'll adapt Eldritch Skies as needed with plenty of Lovecraftian beasties to fill my CAS-style planets.  Hey, it makes as much sense as the Spore Drive.

Converting the stories to Sci-Fi/Horror adventures is easy.

After the first adventure which is Star Tre + Galaxy Quest + Alien + Lovecraft + Event Horizon I figure I can do these:

At the Planets of Madness.  The PCs find a planet that is older than the known Universe! To make matters worse there is evidence of an ancient civilization.  (At the Mountains of Madness + the Image of Fendahl)

Ghost Ship.  The PCs find a derelict adrift in space and it is full of the ghosts of the dead crew.  Originally this was going to be the Enterprise B when I ran it as a pure Trek game. (The Haunting of Hill House, Dreams of the Witch House, the Flying Dutchman)

The Color out of Hyperspace.  A slow moving wave is "eating" up parts of space and everything in its wake.  (Color out of Space)

Starcrash on Hyperborea.  A shuttlecraft with the PCs crashes on a primitive frozen planet.   (Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea + The Galileo Seven +  All Our Yesterdays)

At least that is what I have so far.  I want to use more of Clark Ashton Smith's planets, in particular, his planets around Polaris.  It is also giving me a chance to adapt some Tékumel material to White Star.  This page on Wikipedia, Stars and planetary systems in fiction,  has been invaluable for finding planets and star systems I can use.

Much like Lovecraft, I started out in life as an astronomer.  Also, like Lovecraft, I discovered I lack the skills in math to ever get very far.  Though in my defense my wall comes up around Calculus 2.  I did go on to get a degree in Statistics and Measurement.   But the idea of using some long unused parts of my brain are appealing to me.

I have posted a lot in the past about various worlds.  All of these can be used too.


Time to boldly go where no one can hear you scream!

This post is part of my contribution to the RPG Blog Carnival for November 2018.
This month's topic is "All these Worlds..."
Looking forward to what my fellow RPG bloggers are doing this month and how many ideas I can use from them!



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