What I’ve Been Up To…

So what exactly have I been up to of late instead of working on my ConsOps game? I’ve been working on a sci-fi game (using Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition rules) that I’ll be running some time after GenCon with our F2F group.

Started setting up an Obsidian Portals site for it and everything: The Verge.

It’s not going to be using the canon Traveller background, but rather a pre-existing homebrew setting that is mostly the brainchild of one of the players that he’s run before. Though to be far, the home system the PCs will be in is all mine.

Despite not using canon Traveller, I am leaning toward using a version of the Tripwire … adventure path, I suppose? Big difference, though, is that it’ll stay in-system the whole time with the PCs going to moons instead of new star systems. My intent with the game is to be very Expanse-like, so that’ll be “fun.”

“Good” (?) News

I took a look at the landscape for our Friday face-to-face games and realized something – with the loss of one of our players (who had to move out of state for work-related reasons), we no longer have a space-based sci-fi game. Now I’d proposed the Traveller game set in Porozlo a while back, but eventually started leaning more toward resuming Red Sky, my urban fantasy game set in the Dresden Files universe. However, with this lack of a space-based game and at least one player really wanting to play one in mind, I started re-evaluating this decision; also adding to this is the fact another player is going to be running a Night’s Black Agents game in the near future which means it and Red Sky would kind of be pretty close. Thus, I started rethinking about The Verge as an ongoing campaign…

As at least two players had voted against using GURPS – boo! Hiss! – I went ahead and spent the $20 to buy the Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition core rules set and started reading through them. To my surprise, I didn’t hate what I saw so I promptly started leaning toward using that ruleset in lieu of GURPS (although to be fair, I haven’t yet fully grasped the vehicles or space combat rules, both of which will be important down the road), especially when I realized I’d purchase Prison Planet some time back, a Mongoose Traveller 1st edition adventure that is, as the title indicates, set in a prison. And that’s totally how I want to actually start the campaign.

However, I’m not a super big fan of the Traveller campaign setting – there’s a boatload of issues I have with it that I don’t really want to get into here – and at least two of my fellow players (both from the Saturday group) are equally “Meh” about the 3rd Imperium setting, so I wanted to do something else. And then, I recalled something: Steel Ships and Space Marines.

This is a campaign setting that one of my players has created for some games in the past and there are massive swaths that he’s not really touched at all, so at the moment, I’m sort of leaning toward using it … which means, by necessity, there will need to be some adjustments to the standard Traveller rules slightly (e.g. Jump Drives, although that’s turning out to be relatively easy by putting multiplying the Jump rating by 1000 to fit the established route. We (the group) have had several really good runs in that setting and the location I’ve picked – think Space 17th Century England with lots of Russia mixed in there – is perfect.

I’d also like to retrofit as much of Pirates of Drinax into this as I can if possible. Ultimately though, I’m probably going to spin up a proposal thing for the group with a “these are what I’d like to do … which one do you prefer?” with a straight-up Pirates of Drinax in the Traveller-verse as an option. None of this is super urgent, though, since in three to four weeks, I’ll be taking over the Saturday Fantasy Grounds game for a while to run my GURPS: Action! game. So naturally my brain is refusing to disengage from The Verge…

Interesting times.

Lost in Space (2018)

Worked my way through this on Netflix over the weekend and, for the most part, I rather enjoyed it. Was a fairly effective way of re-envisioning the series. When I saw the initial trailer, I sighed – they race-swapped the eldest Robinson, Judy, and gender-bent Dr. Smith, so I was expecting more SJW-type nonsense (e.g., “Hey, let’s make Penny, the middle kid, gay!” or something like that.) Fortunately, the Judy & Smith changes were pretty much where it stopped.

And speaking of Smith, I have to give props to the writing, directing, and Parker Posey’s acting because I quickly grew to despise this take on Smith. If I was one of the adults in this mess – say, John Robinson, the dad, who is either a marine or a Navy SEAL (because of course he is) – there is no way Smith would show up in season 2. She would have a tragic accident in the airlock that “sadly” claimed her life. If anyone called me on this thin story, I’d probably shrug and admit that I might have helped out but that it was for the best because Smith seemed utterly incapable of interacting with anyone and not stabbing them in the back. She was most definitely the scorpion on the frog’s back and it is stupidity of the highest magnitude to not remove her from the equation to maximize your family’s survival.

The race-swap with Judy was actually surprisingly well done. She is Maureen’s daughter from a previous relationship (unsure whether its by marriage or just an oops) who had already been born when John entered the equation, but she sees him as her dad and vice versa. They even did a nice little quick explanation at one point when Don West gave her when she mentioned ‘her dad.’

Speaking of West, he was definitely one of my favorite characters because he was the Everyman and something of a snarkmaster. He wasn’t anywhere near as snark as Penny, but still, he he managed to be both comedic at times without be comedy relief.

The backdrop of this season is that the Robinsons are part of the 24th mission to the Alpha Centauri colony. We open in media res with their Jupiter crashing on a planet and then get information about how they got her via various flashbacks, which works well enough as a narrative device. The colony ship itself was attacked which led to the crash landing of many Jupiters, and eventually, we learn that the Robot (which show up later on) is what attack and is an alien. Straight away, we learn that Smith isn’t her name – she totally nicks the ID during evacuation from the real Dr. Smith as he lay there wounded; funny bit of stunt casting there as the real Smith was played by Bill Mumy who played Will Robinson in the original show. The bulk of the season is the crew trying to survive as this planet tries to kill them (and the rest of the surviving Jupiter crews), but we end the season on a cliffhanger with the Jupiter 2 crew (including Smith who absolutely needs to get blown out the airlock at this point) truly “Lost in Space…”

So yeah. I’m certainly looking forward to season 2.

Earthfall, Plot Outline

There are twenty planned chapters, five of which are going to be flashbacks. This is actually becoming my standard, I’ve noticed as “Fulcrum,” “Vorticity” and “Aspects of Silver” all have that same technique baked into them. As outlines go, this probably one of my least figured out which honestly fills me with a great deal of trepidation about this.


CH1: Starfall. David wakes, has no memory of how he got where he did or what happened. He is within a “chrysalis” but thinks it is just a coffin or something. His last memory is a brilliant flash. Breaks free from containment, discovers he’s … where? Aboard a bug ship? Should be suitably horrified because giant bugs? Yuck. Fights free, wrecking the vessel as he does. End chapter with him tumbling into hard vacuum with an Eliminator. During this chapter, break up scenes with comm-chatter as the Resistance observe something going on with one of the orbital platforms.

CH2: Earthfall. Fury tumbles earthward, fighting with the eliminator. Manifests the sword-and-board for the first time (due to stress) and thoroughly wrecks the eliminator. Impact occurs … in the ocean? That seems most logical. He climbs into the air, confused, disoriented … and shit. He’s naked too. During this chapter, break up scenes with comm-chatter as the Resistance realize there might be a Cat 5 ultrahuman alive.
CH3: Landfall. Fury reaches the coast, has to evade/elude hostile bug aerial forces. Is horrified to discover how much of Earth is under their absolute control. As American, he heads for D.C. and discovers that it is a hole in the ground. Another fight, this time with multiple eliminator-types. Fury has to retreat but is quickly realizing he’s a lot stronger and faster and tougher than he was before. During this chapter, break up scenes with more comm-chatter as the Resistance continue to monitor him and attempt to determine next course of action. Is he a plant? An ‘infiltrator’?
CH4: Home. Hugging the ground, Fury heads for OKC, finds it to be a shattered wreck. Dons first clothes he can find which aren’t great. Tries to figure out what exactly happened – is this real? A fever dream? Has he travelled to the future? A different reality? Heads to Tinker AFB which is an even bigger wreck than OKC. Finds a radio of some sort, reaches out, identifying himself. And the bugs respond, dammit. More comm-chatter during this chapter with Command making the decision to respond.
CH5: FLASHBACK! As a 15-year old, he gains his ‘codename’ of Valor from Guardian himself. Setup the ‘Golden Age’ that existed in Year 15. Introduce Allison, his girlfriend at the time; she should be an instigator who is aware of his capabilities and keeps encouraging him to do stupid shit. This particular rumble should taking place between [Team Vanguard] and the [Defenders], so David encounters Sofía for the first time – she should be in her teens as well and is way out of her depth; she was recruited into the [Defenders] after her “genesis-event” and thought she was mentally prepared for this sort of thing but has found out that she most definitely is not. David talks her down, then lets her go as he concentrates on the more important matters like rescuing civilians; might be interesting if he actually convinces her to assist by dissolving molecular bonds of something to help him get civilians free – this is what convinces him to let her go? Or perhaps he finds her trying to get people out and that’s what convinces him that she’s okay?

CH6: Fight! The bugs responding to his call, descend upon ruins of Tinker. Fury loses his temper and goes full on ballistic on the hostiles. He obliterates the initial bug vanguard, then, once he realizes the extent of the threat, goes aerial with the rest in pursuit. He’s fast – comm-chatter should be like ‘Damn. He just went supersonic. Jesus, he’s fast! – and more maneuverable. Aerial pursuit, with the bugs blasting away at him. He loses the bugs and ends up on Hawaii. And that’s where the Resistance catches up with him.

CH7: Introduction of the Resistance personnel and bringing him up to speed. He knows some of the ultrahumans, doesn’t know some of the others. Intro: Maj Steele, who is as far as anyone can tell, the highest-ranking member of the U.S. armed forces still alive (which is a horrifying notion.) He learns that his parents are both presumed dead since they were in D.C. when the bugs stomped on it. Re-intro Allison, though now she’s got metal skin! This tickles his brain slightly but he’s too happy to see her again to think too hard about that. Hint that she does something to ensure that the memory doesn’t fully emerge.

CH8: Might be good idea to be a chapter not from Fury’s POV but rather Steele’s. He’s having a tough time believing that Fury just fell out of the sky and everything is as he states it is. Use Steele POV to firmly establish current situation and how tenuous the human hold on Earth is and how desperate they actually need Fury. Steele is afraid this is a new tactic. He should interact with Scott (who fucking creeps him out) and she states all of her tests indicate he is who he says he is … and that there are indications he’s experienced a second Genesis Event, which should be impossible.

CH9: Fury & Steele interact. David is freaking out, both at this strange new world and the fact that everyone he knows/loves is dead … except Allison who is acting weird as shit. David is also having a hard time adjusting to the fact he’s lost 7 full years. None of this really feels real to him yet. Steele informs him that he’s been drafted – all law enforcement personnel across the nation were nationalized during the crisis and that means he’s now military. He’s given the brevet rank of First Lieutenant based on his previous training and skills and informed that Steele is assembling a team. David meets (again) SGT Quesada who he immediately calls ‘Sofie,’ much to Steele’s surprise who did not know they were acquainted; Quesada will visibly react to Fury who is surprised her last name has changed.

CH10: FLASHBACK! Year 17 and high school graduation. At this point, his dad is Senator Fury (R-OK) and he (David) has been operational as “Valor” for almost two years. He’s got the ‘Heartland Hero’ nickname (which he loathes). He has also been ‘drafted’ into the Oklahoma National Guard due to his abilities and to ensure that he’s covered with his Valor(ous) exploits. His dad drops the reveal that Team Vanguard (which now has official U.N. sanction) is eyeing him for recruitment, but David implies he’s thinking about something else. Allison is still with him and we should again get the feeling that something is off about her but no one calls her on it. It’s like they just forget. “Valor” faces down the [Defenders] again – it is a completely different team with the only recognizable face being Sofía Dominguez who David recognizes again. She gets the drop on him, forcing him to abandon the pursuit in order to hold up something really heavy; they have a brief conversation where he tries to talk her out of this life. Although she departs seemingly unconvinced, his words did have an impact on her.

CH11: Assemble! David and SGT Quesada interact with the Team. David is startled and initially upset to see ‘J.J.’ there, then confused as hell at how different the man has become. There is no training, just on-the-job action and now, they’re taking the fight to the damned bugs. This should be a pure action chapter, with David earning everyone’s respect as he vents his anger at his confusing situation by going full-bore ballistic on the bugs. What is the target? Food. The Resistance badly, badly needs food. Should highlight that this Team is a mess – they have no real discipline and are really just present ‘cause they’re all bricks. This should be a purely action chapter.

CH12: Aftermath of the fight. Quesada POV? If so, highlight her thoughts on David, especially as he treats her like a normal person. At same time, need to show David still having trouble adjusting to his current circumstances, especially in regards to his relationship with Doctor Scott. Maybe have Sofía accidentally eavesdrop on a conversation with the two wherein Scott is brutally honest and states that things are different now. Alternately, have members of the Team wondering what’s going on with him, and Sofía realize that it is only just now hitting David that his parents are truly dead, so he’s grieving. He should interact with Sofía in such a way that calls back to some (thus far) unrevealed history that causes her some mild embarrassment.

CH13: David clashes with Resistance goals (to survive) and wants desperately to take the fight to the bugs. In the course of this, he should learn that MAJ Steele and Allison have been concealing things from him, specifically that it appears he has experienced a second Genesis Event. He vents his fury (heh) to Sofía, who manages to calm him down by remaining rational. A slice of life chapter highlighting the difficulty of the Resistance’s existence.

CH14: Something happens that opens David’s eyes to the extent of Allison’s deception and he confronts her, leading him to learn how she has has been manipulating him forever. When he learns the truth about Allison, he goes ballistic and bugs out. Quesada tries to learn what happened and Allison *poofs* her, effectively teleporting her so she’s in front of David … and falling since she can’t fly. He has to save her. This seems familiar somehow…

CH15: Flashback. Year 22. David has already graduated from OU (two years ago) and, to everyone’s surprise, became an Oklahoma State Trooper. He is the first publicly known ultrahuman with a badge. In this sequence, he’s going after an out-of-control “Redneck.” J.J. is reckless and careless and probably high and, as a result, two children died though he was unaware of it at the time. When David catches up to him, he is briefly surprised to discover that the latest group of [Defenders] under Sofía’s direction are already attempting to apprehend J.J., but are all low-level talents and thus, outmatched. It is only Sofía who is a real threat, but somehow, David ends up having to save her before going after his “nemesis” and unloading a can of whoop-ass on Jones that is unprecedented. He comes close to outright killing him but ultimately holds back … just barely thanks to Sofía who talks him down. She gives him the ‘this isn’t you’ speech and it works fairly well.

CH17: David and Sofía respond to ch14 revelations and acknowledge the growing thing between them? Where the hell are they? Wherever they have been teleported, it is close to Genesis’ “lair” and they enter where they learn the extent of Genesis’ activities. David is horrified and tries to seize the ‘war criminal’ but is again teleported away so Genesis may speak to Sofía alone. The two have a conversation that is briefly interrupted by David (who is again ‘ported away, this time to Australia or something) and Genesis finds her to be the more rational and calm of the two, but then, that is to be expected considering her gift. Control is essential. He explains to her the nature of his current time-locked predicament, knowing she will be able to explain to David, and then, just as David reappears, still pissed off, he (Genesis) vanishes in a flare of brilliant light that sends Sofía to her knees (affects both of them, not just her?) This is a gift to her and her alone … a second Genesis event.

CH18: David and Sofía discuss. Big ass super fight somehow – they reach the Resistance base just in time to repulse a major bug offensive and during this, Sofía displays her new capabilities by enhancing the defenses.

CH19: Flashback.David is captured by Inquisition. Flash forward through his capture and the initial A time-travelling Genesis (from CH17 or so) appears inside the Inquisition lab where he assists the before-mentioned scientist in unlocking David’s full potential (SECOND GENESIS EVENT). Once this is done, Genesis kills the scientist (because he cannot be allowed to intervene further) and then summons his younger self to the lab to “rescue” Valor. As a cosmic entity, he merges with his younger self or something. It should be very Dr. Manhattan like. This chapter should make the present Genesis chapters (17?) actually make sense for a change once it is revealed to the reader that he is timelocked. Hint in this chapter that he (Genesis) has also implanted … something within David & Sofía that, should they procreate as he expects them to, could result in Genesis breaking free of the timelock.

CH20: 1 Year Later. The War goes on. David and Sofía are no longer in the same unit but this is due to her having been promoted to the same rank and because they are romantically involved (albeit, moving slowly.) Sofía is now in command charge of what amounts to S4 (Supply) as she’s using her abilities to significantly enhance the durability of armor and the like. J.J. is now David’s #2 in the assault team and David has become The Face of the Resistance. Now, more than ever, he’s the Superman of this world. They aren’t winning against the bugs but, for the first time, they’re not losing either. There is hope again. Work in a scene with Major Steele and the new primary physician who Steele realizes is Scott (who has altered her appearance.) Her objective remains the same: monitor Fury and ensure he stays alive The major is fine with that because now, more than ever, they need him.

Earthfall

So, NaNoWriMo is almost literally right around the corner and I’ve really been struggling what to do this year. Think I’ve finally settled on “Earthfall,” which is intended to basically be a “Starship Troopers” type of story with super-heroes. Some additional (spoilerly) information behind the cut.
Concept: Alien Invasion (bugs, naturally) apocalypse but in a super-hero universe. So it is Starship Troopers … with super-heroes.

  • Ultrahumans: name provided for superhumans. 
  • All ultrahumans are sterile. There will not be a second-generation … except there is. Most people presume that there are 2d generation (due to new ‘Genesis Events’ where people manifest) but Allison Scott, who is the foremost expert on them, knows that is not the case.
  • Power level of ultrahumans utilize the same category system of a hurricane, with a Cat 5 being impossibly powerful and dangerous. As of the beginning of this story, Fury is the only known Cat 5 alive (and when he went to sleep, he was a low-level Cat 4 at best.) During the course of the story, it is revealed that Allison is also a Cat5, but she is removed from the equation by Genesis who is a Category 7 or 8 threat.
  • Humans never refer to the bugs as anything but bugs. They don’t have another name for them.

Main Characters:

  • David Fury (“Valor”): flying brick who is the only second generation ultrahuman. He is the Johnny Rico of this story and, over the course of the story, evolves into the Superman role (which works as he’s a flying brick.) His parents were teammates on Team Vanguard (the JL, Avengers-equiv) – dad (Mark) was “Fury” (and was constantly teased for his unoriginal codename) while mom (Marisol Fernandez) was “Barrier.”
  • SGT (Later 1LT) Sofía Quesada, nee Dominguez: Initially not a love interest, but over the course of the story, this evolves as the two become closer. [[ALCHEMIST]] – She can destabilize molecular bonds. Later, after her second genesis-event, she will become more like Jan Arrah (Element Lad) of LSH in that she will be able to manipulate inorganic matter at a molecular level; can also ‘feed’ off stuff to repair herself. She was once known as ‘Half-Life’ who ran with the Defenders (name to be changed), which was a terrorist ultrahuman supremacy organization. Not emotionally detached but very Rogue-like in that she refuses to touch people or freaks out when touched out of fear that she’ll kill the person (and she has in the past, usually when unconscious or injured.) Everyone but David is terrified of her due to her powerset and he is the only one who treats her like a normal, regular woman (which is probably why she fell for him so very, very long ago.) Quesada is her married name – he’s now dead – and I totally envision her looking like Alice Braga or Cote de Pablo … because of course I do.
  • Major Michael Steele: Fury’s commanding officer and, eventually, his closest friend. The major has no superhuman abilities and knows more about South America than his home country. He’s a former spook pressed back into service as a soldier because of losses incurred. Black guy, former Army Ranger/Special Forces. Sort of envision him as Mike Colter (“Luke Cage”).
  • CPT Allison Scott: She is a Category Five ultrahuman who called herself [Odyssey? Crappy name; need better] when she was (briefly) a member of Team Vanguard and romantically involved with Genesis. After his disappearance following Ragnarok, she allowed her ultrahuman identity to die – everyone presumed she was killed during that ‘event’ – and began once more researching ultrahuman abilities. Eventually (around Year 7), she realized that David Fury is the only 2d Generation ultrahuman and she began monitoring him out of the (correct) presumption that Genesis was ultimately responsible for his origin. After David became ‘Valor’, she used her capabilities to ‘de-age’ herself (an illusion, probably) and inserted herself into his life. She had no intention of becoming romantically involved with him but allowed it to happen when he began to pursue her (although all of his memories of sexy good times are post-hypnotic illusions brought on by her light manipulation.) According to the official story, she ‘manifested’ her ultrahuman abilities when the Inquisition attempted to assassinate him. She serves as the Team’s chief medical officer with her ‘powers’ being what amounts to seeing shatterpoints and experiencing serendipity (in right place at right time … always.) Needless to say, David will be fucking horrified when he realizes how much she’s lied to him and why. Her real powerset is far more impressive. For all intents and purposes, she is effectively a copy of Genesis (at slightly lower power levels.) As one of his many experiments, the inhuman entity placed a tiny piece of himself within Allison just to see what it would do … and it fundamentally altered her. She is now obsessed with understanding his goals and plans while simultaneously sharing them. 
  • CPL (later SGT) Jason ‘J.J.’ Jones: who is in every way (personality-wise) a copy of my cousin, Jason. He is a Cat-2 brick who considered Valor to be his arch-nemesis and faced off against him dozens of times. The final time they faced off was in Y20, just before the Inquisition tried to kill Valor, and at the time, J.J. was out of control (and possibly drunk/high). He was reckless and careless and, as a result, two children died though he was unaware of it at the time. When David caught up with him, Valor beat the living shit out of him, unloading a can of whoop-ass on Jones that was unprecedented. He came close to outright killing him but ultimately held back … just barely. When JJ learned of the two deaths he’d caused, it affected him like nothing else did and he legitimately started working on becoming a better person, going so far as to help stop a riot at the prison he was incarcerated at when word of Valor’s death was announced. By the time of Earthfall, J.J. has also become a Born Again Christian which took place while he was in prison and he’s obsessed with making up for his many, many mistakes. There is no one on this planet that J.J. respects more than David Fury and he will not hesitate to join Valor in a suicide mission.
  • Genesis: Cosmic powered entity, he’s the Dr. Manhattan of the world and erroneously believed to be a human named Jonathan Masters. In truth, he’s wholly extraterrestrial and is behind the birth of superhumans. He is also very much not looking forward to seeing Valor again as he is ‘timelocked.’ As soon as he interacts with Fury, Genesis shifts backwards in time, makes adjustments to the captured Valor, then summons his younger self and merges with him. It is a closed temporal loop which means he is facing his death…

Getting in the right mindset

Finished my reread of “Fulcrum” and am now rereading what I’ve got written of “Vorticity.” Am trying to get my Muse engaged so I can hopefully finish it next month, at which point I can plot out the unnamed part 3 and perhaps look to actually publishing “Fulcrum” somewhere. Would still like to go the traditional book route if possible but may have to self-publish which could be … yeah.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Woes

So, October is almost halfway done and I still don’t know what I want to work on for NaNoWriMo this year. I did manage a reread (and minor revision) of “Fulcrum” and am attempting to make myself reread what I’ve got done for “Vorticity” in the hopes that I can make myself finish that, but … I’m just not feeling the urge or desire to really write, which sucks. I need to figure out what the heck my problem is in that regard and get it fixed.