Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Crew of the Ace of Spades

In WOIN, at the top of each character sheet is a descriptor. This is a short introductory character summary. Each player should read their full descriptor to the rest of the group before beginning play. The descriptor is made up of the following elements, some of which are not always used.
a[n] [age] [trait] [species] [career] who [hook].
Age. The age entry is only used if the character is younger than adult or older than middle-aged. You may choose any synonyms for young and old (adolescent, youthful, aged, mature, etc.); age can give you a free exploit.
Trait. The trait is the name of a special ability or quality defined by a character’s lowest or highest attribute.
Species. There are many races and species in my campaign, so this indicates which species the character belongs to.
Career. The career entry can be one of two choices. It can be the character’s current career, or it can be the character’s longest-serving career. If the longest-serving career is not the current career, it should be prefixed with “ex-” (for example, an ex-cop or an ex-marine).
Hook. The hook is a broad background/skill/interest chosen by the player. It can be anything, but it’s designed to round out the character with personality, interests, or hobbies. For example, a player might choose “...who enjoys hard liquor” or “... has a taste for romance” or even “...who collects insects as a hobby”. The hook is chosen early in the character creation process. It complements career and skill choices as a lifelong background aspect to the character, unconnected to specific vocations and training.
This preamble is just to let you know how and why I shall be describing my player characters and non-player characters in my The Ace of Spades Campaign. Let's meet the crew of the scout ship, The Ace of Spades.
These three characters are the BFFs - Best Friends Forever. They have known each other longer than any of the other crew members and have a very close bond. At the left is Gwendoline Papillion - a brilliant human nurse who has an insatiable curiosity about everything. I love Gwendy so much! She sees the good in everyone and is so full of life. She has a bubbly, extroverted personality and is extremely friendly - some would say, too friendly. Because of her natural desire to know everything not everyone can appreciate her inquisitive nature. She is, by and large, a pacifist, but she will defend herself or friends if need be. Although she carries a Phaser Rifle, it is almost always set to stun. Her figure is from the Denizen sci-fi range - SF25 Female Adventurer with Laser Carbine. 
In the centre is Kimberley Jane Wells, an inspiring human smuggler captain who loves to gamble. Kimberley is the player character I have played the most in my life. She is not at all like me in any respect but I love playing her. She is the captain of The Ace of Spades and the star of this campaign. Everything revolves around her. She has an uncanny knack of getting into trouble, but more importantly, of getting out of trouble. She is very easy going, cool under pressure and has a laid back, carefree attitude to life and is very charismatic as she inspires confidence and loyalty in those who get to know her. She is also incredibly lucky and it is this good fortune this that has seen her survive many a scrape in her short life so far. She is skilled in combat but she prefers to avoid confrontation whenever she can. Her figure was part of the Ral Partha Shadowrun range (see below). Note to the left is the controversial second front cover of  FGU's Space Opera RPG. It was controversial because of the busty red-haired female  showing far too much cleavage and flesh. In the third front cover, she is covered up from the neck down and she is blonde haired. I hated the third cover but I absolutely loved the second cover shown here, simply because of the redhead. As soon as I saw her I knew I wanted to play her as a player character and I thought up her name, Kimberley Wells, and her background in an instant. It was amazing how quickly and easily I connected with her. I even made a 28mm scale figure of her in that exact same pose. It is fair to say that it was love at first sight for me and she is without doubt, my favourite player character of all time.
At the right is Kyran Katherine Calaveri, a brilliant human engineer who loves driving and fixing cars. Kyran is always friendly and amenable. She is definitely a tomboy - she like to get dirty when fixing stuff and she does enjoy wild parties and letting her hair down, but if the occasion calls for it, she scrubs up well and can be very glamorous and sophisticated. Her attitude to combat is the same as Gwendoline's - it is to be avoided wherever possible but she will fight (quite dirty!) if necessary. Her figure is unique, as she was sculpted by me, and I'm really proud of this figure.
Next up are ship's deadliest pair of killers. To the left is Celeste, a deadeye android assassin who wants to protect Kimberley Wells at all costs. Celeste is a mystery. No one knows what her true past is or where she came from or why she is so fixated on protecting Kimberley. She just turned up unexpectedly two years ago and told Kimberley she was her guardian angel and would do all in her power to protect her. She is far more powerful than she lets on and she is a natural born killer without conscience. She is polite and well spoken but she rarely has much to say and the crew have learnt to leave her alone... apart from Kimberley, who trusts her implicitly, and Julia, who sees her as a kindred spirit. Her figure is a former Grenadier Robot and she is now sold by EM4 Miniatures as 0087 Female Cyborg in their Future Skirmish range.
To the right is Julia Frostorm, an alert human bounty hunter who gets angry at anyone who touches her weapons. Julia earned the nickname of "The Ice Lady" due partly to her upbringing on an arctic planet, but mainly because she is a cold-hearted killer who shows her victims no mercy. She is introverted and slow to make friends but once her respect is won, she will prove to be a valuable and trusted ally. She was an assassin before becoming a bounty hunter, whereas Celeste was a bounty hunter before becoming an assassin, so they have much in common and they get on well together. Julia has taught most of the crew various fighting skills. Julia's figure is a conversion of an old Citadel fantasy fighter.
The three humans shown here are the most pacifistic of the crew. At the far right is Fizz, a young daggertooth cat, who was rescued by Judith one year ago, and who is now regarded as the ship's mascot. Daggertooth cats are the result of a genetic experiment to recreate the DNA structure of a sabre-tooth tiger. It was a great success. Daggertooth cats are a more intelligent, miniature version of the sabre-tooth tiger. They are popular pets of the very rich and are often used as security beasts. As pets they are affectionate and well-behaved, but a daggertooth trained to attack is a killer. Fizz, however, is a softy! I sculpted this cute little figure.
Next to Fizz is his owner, Judith Kramer, a brilliant human doctor who loves animals. At 31 years old, Judith is the eldest member of the crew, although no one knows exactly how old Celeste is. As such, she is regarded by the others as the mother figure of the ship. She is very studious and is highly skilled at her job as the ship's chief medical officer. She is loyal, trusting and trustworthy and she gets on well with all of the crew. She is far and away the most pacifistic member of the crew and has thus far, resisted all attempts to learn any combat skills, including self-defence classes. She is another Denizen Miniatures sci-fi figure - SF27 Female Crew Member.
Second from the right is Lynda Pelligrosso, an erudite human research scientist who will claim familiarity with any technical subject. Lynda is highly intelligent but after a bad experience working for a mega-corporation, Lynda now works freelance, and she serves a few roles on The Ace of Spades. In addition to being a research scientist, she often takes on the role of ship's communications officer as well as helping out in the engineering bay. She is charming and well bred, but can often come across as a know-it-all. She learnt martial arts and pistol shooting purely for self-defence purposes as she abhors violence. Like the figure of Kimberley, she is from the Ral Partha Shadowrun range.
At the far right is Sharuna Randall, a young, brilliant human computer hacker who rebels against authority. Sharuna grew up with computers and there is little she doesn't know about them. With her rebellious nature, it was little wonder that Kimberley hired her to control the ship's electronic defence systems and counter measures. At 21, she is by far the youngest member of the crew. Sharuna is shy and introverted, but her personality changes once she goes online. Then she becomes more confident and sassy. She much prefers staying on board the ship than venturing outside, even when in the relative safety of a starport. She only reluctantly learnt martial arts self-defence techniques from Julia but she won't touch guns as she finds them too frightening. Her figure is yet another from the Ral Partha Shadowrun range.
The next two crew members both worked for the UFP Starfleet before joining The Ace of Spades. To the left is Jeanette Grey, a persuasive human gunner who strongly respects authority. Unsurprisingly, she does not get on well with Sharuna and she finds Kimberley's carefree attitude to command worrisome, but because Kimberley is the captain, she keeps her views to herself. Jeanette is a spy working for BRINT and has infiltrated the ship to keep tabs on Celeste. She acts friendly and easy going and so far, no one suspects her true motives for being on board. She is the ship's chief gunnery officer and is highly skilled in many forms of combat. Her figure is an old Citadel Rogue Trader figure, now long out of production.
To the right is Storm Galloway, an ambidextrous human pilot who collects expensive perfumes. Storm is the pilot of The Ace of Spades, with Kimberley being her co-pilot. She is every bit as easy-going and extroverted as Kimberley is. The two share a love of piloting and adventure. Storm left the Star Navy under a cloud after she assaulted a senior officer (he was in civilian clothing and very drunk at the time) and resigned rather than face demotion. Kimberley had no hesitation in hiring her and the two have become very close friends. With her military background, Storm is quite well skilled in combat. The figure of Storm comes from Bombshell Miniatures, where she is called Wanda Whitestar and is still available at the time of this post.
Finally, are the three scouts of the ship; after all, The Ace of Spades is classed as a scout ship. At the left is Danica, a juvenile, tough as nails Venetian scout who likes to read erotic fiction. Although she is 25 years old, that is classed as being very young by Venetian standards, who can live for over five centuries. Danica is not like most Venetians, who are often viewed as being aloof and ascetic. Danica is more impious and has a cheeky sense of humour. She is the best friend of Katja and for the past five years they have been lovers. They have much in common, particularly a love of exploring the great outdoors. Danica is a highly skilled combatant and the ship's only psyker. Her figure is a converted old Citadel Rogue Trader adventurer. I sculpted on her pointed ears.
In the centre of this trio is Katja Sondquist, an ambidextrous human scout who keeps a diary she updates whenever she can. Katja is much more extroverted that her best friend, Danica. She is cool under pressure, very loyal to her friends and incredibly energetic. She is also a keep fit fanatic. She got to know Danica when they served together as scouts prior to joining The Ace of Spades. Due to the shortage of space on their previous ship, they had to share a room and soon they were sharing the same bed. Katja has a lot of combat experience and can be relied on in a fight. Her figure is a converted old Citadel fantasy fighter with her sword and shield being replaced by a rifle and laser sword respectively.
Finally, is Rebecca Faye Ellington, a young, ambidextrous human burglar who likes to make jewellery. Rebecca is a criminal whose life was turned around when she was caught by Kimberley as she broke into her hotel room, thinking Kimberley was away. After hearing Becky's life story, Kimberley took a chance and hired the young orphan as a scout. Whilst she is not technically a scout, she is superb at scouting urban environments and breaking and entering buildings. Becky's personality is friendly, boisterous and mischievous and she has a devil-may-care attitude to life. Being a smuggler herself, Kimberley has a great deal of affection for Becky, as she has also bent the law many times. The figure of Becky is the fourth one from the Ral Partha Shadowrun range.
Before I close, here is a group shot of all 14 members of The Ace of Spades, out on the town, ready for action.

Incredibly, I found this photo to the right, on the Internet that shows the four Ral Partha 28mm scale female Shadowrun figures, in their unpainted forms, that I'm using for Rebecca, Kimberley, Sharuna and Lynda. They were perfect for what I was looking for and required no conversion work at all. I have to admit, Ral Partha made some gorgeous looking females!

Friday, 11 August 2017

The Setting of The Ace of Spades Campaign part 2

In this post I'll give a brief outline of the major races and cultures who will be appearing in my The Ace of Spades Campaign. Some of these originate from the setting for FGU's old Space Opera RPG, whilst others are the main races from the N.E.W. rulebook. Many other races exist but the ones featured here are the main ones who'll appear in my campaign. I'll start with looking at the two minor human star nations.

The Mercantile League
Centred around the planet Augustus 2 in the Antares star system, the Mercantile League was founded in 2140 by colonists from Sol 3 (Terra). They flourished and grew into the large star nation they have now become. Much of the League's success is down to the fact that it believes it is cheaper to get someone else to fight its battles for it. Although a very wealthy star nation it is militarily very weak and without strong allies would surely lose any major war against it. It shares a cordial relationship with the UFP and is neutral to the expansionist policies of the Azuriach Imperium and the GPR. The Mercantile League is committed to commerce and trade. Perhaps one of the truly unusual features of the League is its pre-occupation with the ancient Roman Empire of Terra. League government is modelled along the lines of the Roman Republic. Dress is Roman on most formal occasions and/or when appropriate. Latin is the formal language of the League, but the standard tongue commonly spoken is Basic Anglic - the universal human tongue in the League, the Azuriach Imperium, the GPR and the UFP.

The Galactic Peoples' Republic
The Galactic Peoples' Republic (GPR) is a human populated  communist state comprising many worlds clustered in and around the NCG 1039 star system. It was formed by colonists from the Soviet Bloc and communist China during the Exodus period of human colonisation of the galaxy (circa 2065 -2190). The GPR was officially founded in the year 2159. It suffered heavy loses in the First Interstellar War (2198-2215) with the Terran Union. However, after a brief period of calm, in 2229, the Second Interstellar War broke out between the newly formed Azuriach Imperium and the GPR. The Terran Union and Mercantile League stayed out of this war, which eventually ended in 2234 with a nominal Azuriach victory. Since then, the GPR has expanded and grown in military might, although it is still weaker than the hated Azuriach Imperium. The GPR is akin to the USSR during the Cold War period of the late 20th Century on Terra. It remains faithful to the true meaning of communism - it is willing to share all that you have. As of 2551, the GPR controls 1,324 planets in 41 star sectors.

THE NON HUMAN RACES

Androids
Androids aren’t technically a species, and can vary greatly in appearance. Frequently, however, they look like humans. While many philosophers will debate whether or not Androids have true consciousness, they have passed every test imaginable and are legally considered to be alive, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. Stronger and tougher than humans, with processors which can outpace the human mind, Androids aren’t always the most popular in the room. Androids make excellent medics, engineers, and scientists.

Blarad Ursoids 
The Blarads are large bear-like creatures noted for their great strength and hardiness. They have a constitutional monarchy for a government and are fairly peaceful by human standards. They are mildly resistant to radiation. They are bipedal and have thick body hair ranging in colour from black, brown, and buff to white. Blarads are action-oriented beings and tend to prefer the military life. Their great strength allows them to carry heavy loads with ease. Blarad armour is so heavy that some humans say they use powered armour without the power assist! In close combat, few species can equal Ursoids for sheer destructive capacity. Despite their warlike natures, Blarads are largely vegetarian, consuming meat on occasion but not as a habit. Life expectancy is about 100 years.


Borian Humanoids
Borians are welcome in most places. Standing at about 4’ in height, with bright red or blue skin (depending on clan) and spiky heads, they have a reputation for good cheer and friendliness. This, coupled with their naturally robust constitution, also makes them renowned drinkers, and it has been said that Borians make the most common bartender race in the universe. Borians are good with their hands, and enjoy tinkering and building. They make excellent engineers and craftsmen. Life expectancy is 210-250 years.

Felan Felines
Felans, unimaginatively named by the first human explorers to encounter them, are a catlike species. Like their four-legged namesake, Felans are often beautiful to the eye, and move with a graceful, acrobatic purpose. Easily able to jump and climb, Felans like to make use of their environment, and tend to sleep in precarious locations high above the ground. Felans have a deserved reputation for being easily distracted, and often flit from career to career, unable to settle. Felans mature at 11 but they are short lived and their life expectancy is 40-50 years.

Hissss'ist Saurians
The Hissss'ist Saurians are descended from warm-blooded hunting dinosaurs and are notable for their considerable strength and size, which rivals that of the Ursoids. Their social structure is very state oriented; the young are hatched from eggs and never know their parents, being brought up by the government. The government is an oligarchy, with advancement to the top based on merit. By human standards they are  a"cold-blooded" race empathically speaking. Loyalty is given to the race and its leaders, who have proven their strength and wisdom, not to "loved ones". Life expectancy is about 100-125 years.



MekPurr Felines
MekPurrs are descended from large cat hunting stock, but they have evolved into a bipedal form. They are fastidious and have a seemingly nervous temperament, that is really a continual readiness to act decisively in an emergency. MekPurrs are the acknowledged masters of cybernetics and robotics in the known galaxy. Due to their low birthrate, androids and robots make up the bulk of their military forces. They are highly individualistic creatures, and respond sullenly to unjust and dictatorial treatment. They rarely forgive and never forget an injury and a resultant tendency to seek personal vengeance, characterises most MekPurrs. Whilst MekPurrs look very similar to the Felans, they are much more advanced and intelligent. MekPurrs have a life expectancy of 100-125 years. (Note that the MekPurrs are my favourite race from any role-playing game!)


Ogron Humanoids
Ogrons stand 7’ tall. Towering masses of muscle, accompanied by green skin and bestial tusks, they so much resemble the ogres of fairytale and lore than humankind named them after the mythical creatures. Ogrons have a reputation for stupidity. While it’s certainly true that most of humankind outstrips the Ogron species in terms of intelligence and education, Ogrons aren’t quite as stupid as many expect – they, as a species, do manage to operate and build starships, after all. Ogron adventurers tend to be mercenaries and soldiers. They have a short lifespan with a life expectancy of 40-50 years.

Rauwoof Canines
Uplifted dogs, Rauwoofs are loyal and friendly. With keen senses of smell and hearing, it’s hard to surprise a Rauwoof. Rauwoofs vary in size from 5’ to nearly 7’. They tend to be leaner and sturdier than humans, and are covered with thick fur which ranges in colour. Rauwoofs have a weakness for alcohol. Even a small amount will intoxicate them, and large amounts can be very dangerous to their health. Even so, they easily become addicted to the substance. Rauwoofs make excellent scouts, trackers and bounty hunters. They are adept at reading the emotions and body language of others, possibly due to their pack-based past. They have a life expectancy of 80-100 years.
 
Spartan Humanoids
Spartans were named after the mythological Human legends because of their warrior-based culture. Aggressive, violent, quick to anger and easy to offend, a group of Spartans can empty a bar in minutes. Add in their love of heavy drinking and the sheer joy they get from combat, it’s easy to see why Spartans are not the most popular of species. However, they do get frequently misunderstood – they are rarely bullies (indeed, they’d see it as cowardly to attack someone weaker). Spartans excel as soldiers and other warriors. They abhor indirect conflict, and will tend to avoid careers which involve subterfuge or deception. Spartans reach maturity at 30 and have a life expectancy of 70-90 years.

Venetian Humanoids
Venetians are a slim, hairless species, standing at roughly the same height as humans. They tend towards the ascetic, and, indeed, have a society which highly favours the monastic orders to which so many belong. The Venetian style of self-discipline and avoidance of indulgence gives the species a somewhat aloof demeanour which can be off-putting. Many of the Venetian monastic orders, of which there are thousands, focus on the martial arts and self-discipline. For this reason, Venetians – while being pacifistic in nature – are often very skilled combatants. Venetians are very long lived. They do not reach adulthood until they are 190 years old, and have a life expectancy of over 550 years.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Setting of The Ace of Spades Campaign part 1

Here I present part 1 of the background for the setting of my The Ace of Spades campaign for the N.E.W. RPG. It is primarily based on the set up used in the old Fantasy Games Unlimited RPG of Space Opera. The two main protagonists in this universe are the United Federation of Planets (UFP), an organisation similar to today's United Nations and made up of many races. Opposing them is the Azuriach Imperium, a fascistic state which preaches the doctrine of human supremacy. It is these two important star nations that I'll be covering in detail in this post.

THE UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS
Although federations and alliances share many features, they are different in basic philosophy. In an alliance, the individual member worlds dominate the central government. In a federation, the opposite is true - the central government takes precedence over its component worlds. Federations usually take the form of of republican democracies - that is, citizens elect the Federation President and local representatives to a Federation-wide congress. the typical federation is free but bureaucratic.
Origin
Federations often evolve when an alliance is forced to strengthen its central government by some threat. Federations last longer than alliances because their society can quickly meet and deal with external threats and often has the power and authority to deal with internal ones as well. On the 1st of January 2501, the 26th Century began with the formation of the United Federation of Planets, an interstellar nation which incorporated the Terran Union of Planets, the High Republic and a number of non-human star cultures who had been allied with the Terran Union in the century of conflict which had just passed. Representatives of 378 worlds met in the Chamber of Deputies in Nu York Complex on Sol 3 (Terra) to approve the Constitution of the Federation. Nineteen different races comprising almost 14 billion sentient beings were represented in this august gathering.
Government
A federation is composed of administrative areas called sectors. each sector may encompass one or several star systems. There may be differences (if any) in different sectors' laws. The sector governor is chosen by popular election; there is also a sector legislative. The Federation President (or Elector) is selected in a Federation-wide election and serves for several years (usually a five year period). He is responsible for administering the laws enacted by the legislature. He controls foreign relations, with the advice and consent of a Senate. He may sign treaties or declare war. He is the supreme commander of the Federation military - the UFP Starforce - and may use them without prior approval by the Senate - although the Senate may call on him to justify his actions.
The current president is King Tanak'aal Thonaval, a Blarad ursoid from Ankaa 3 in the Terran starsector. He is 45 years old and is in the second year of his presidency. Politically speaking, he is very pro-UFP, generally well-liked and he is fiercely against the Azuriach Imperium. Many political experts believe it is only a matter of time before the Federation and the Imperium become locked in an almighty war. When (not if!) the time comes, Thonaval will not flinch from his duty.
United Federation of Planets King Tanak'aal Thonaval
A typical legislative body is the Federation Congress, elected by individual worlds (delegation size depends on world populations); it is usually responsive to the will of the citizens. There is a separate judicial branch - the Interstellar Police Agency (IPA) - better known as The Patrol. While The Patrol is responsible for enforcing Federation law, any offender will be brought before a Federation court at the appropriate level.
When a world joins the Federation, it agrees to abide by the Federation charter. For this reason, sector government and law are much more homogeneous than those of an alliance's member worlds - divergence is prevented by swift Federation action, including economic blockade and military invasion. Secession is not an option to members of a federation, unless several worlds secede at once, or outside military protection is available. Planetary nationalists favouring secession may become rebels or terrorists (witness the activities of some of the Terran Union's more radical members). In rare cases, politics will allow a peaceful evolution to "special autonomous status" and finally, independence.
There are also frontier sectors. These are similar to normal sectors, except that their populations are new (mainly colonists or newly conquered) or scattered (a blighted region of space). The district government and officials are appointed by the Federation and there is no sector legislative.
The Military
Federation politics recognise that military and political power are linked. The Federation Navy (Starfleet) is the only group authorised to have interstellar warcraft. Member worlds must surrender their navies upon joining the UFP. Harking back to the days of independence, however, vessels may be named after and manned by a particular world - the cruiser Latvik for instance, is crewed largely by native Latvikians. Size of the fleet depends on the political will and wealth of its citizens. For example, the MekPurrs, being a rich and highly advanced race, are renowned for the power of their warships. If the people will tolerate the cost of a major fleet, the federation can be as militant as any less democratic society.
The Space Marines Corps is the Federation's military ground force. Planetary Defence Force troops and draftees supplement the Marines in wartime, but it is the experienced, well trained Marines who handle the dirty work - planetary invasions and defences, commando raids and so on. If there is a continuing threat to the nation, the UFP may institute a draft, requiring young citizens to serve terms in the armed forces.
With UFP permission, individual worlds may establish Planetary Guard units. These include ground troops, and possibly, atmospheric and sub-light warcraft, but no significant armed starships. Mercenary companies are rare except in frontier sectors, as the government distrusts independent military forces in central areas. In times of upheaval, mercs may be called in, but liaison officers will be assigned to ensure that they remain under strict control. The Federation may form its own legion of mercenaries. These troops are useful for prosecuting politically unpopular wars, especially if they are recruited solely from frontier or foreign worlds, which have no representation in Congress and cannot easily complain about combat losses.
The Star Forces are the elite units of the Starfleet (the UFP Navy), Space Marines and Special Forces Commandos. The Commandos are an elite unit within the Space Marines, which train for deep penetration raids and prolonged operations behind enemy lines. Commandos are also dropped onto enemy occupied planets to assist Bureau of Intelligence (BRINT) agents to mobilise resistance units. BRINT is the intelligence gathering agency of the Star Force.
Law and Order
Unlike an alliance, which is concerned with the rights of its member worlds, a federation guards the rights of its citizens. The necessities of re-election help to foster this. Federation laws are designed to protect the individual citizen and to provide security and unity for the society. On the whole, federation citizens get more benefits, services and protection than citizens of an alliance. Police functions may be handled by planetary or sector law enforcement organisations or by the Interstellar Police Agency. The IPA has full authority anywhere in UFP territory but must cooperate with planetary police - it cannot investigate and arrest independently of local authorities, unless they are obstructing justice. Extradition of accused criminals between worlds is mandatory under UFP law, provided the requesting world can guarantee a fair trial. Otherwise, the accused will be tried in a Federation court. UFP authorities (such as the IPA) carry out the extradition process. Terrorists may be present in a federation but bases must be well hidden to survive. Any world known to be harbouring terrorists can expect swift reprisals from the Star Force Marines.
The UFP keeps tabs on interstellar trade within its borders, routinely inspecting cargoes and travellers. Traffic entering or leaving a nation will be more restricted than that of an alliance. Passports will be required, especially seeing as the UFP has many hostile neighbours, but the emphasis will be on the right of the average citizen to travel, limited by the security of the society. The Patrol is on hand to combat pirates or terrorists and to conduct rescue operations when needed. It will also ensure that citizens are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous transport companies.
Interstellar trade involving UFP worlds is regulated by the Interstellar Trade Commission. The Congress may ban some goods - usually harmful drugs, proscribed weapons, dangerous animals and so on. Tariffs and duties may exist to control imports that might harm world economies. This means that there may be a lucrative business for smugglers in some areas, but that is what the IPA is there for. Customs offices are maintained at all starports in Federation space. Starports are considered UFP property and territory and local police do not have jurisdiction there. The Patrol operates these ports, plus any additional posts along trade routes.
Free news services thrive, restricted only in the name of UFP security. Taxes may be collected by the Federation, sector and local governments. There may be personal income tax or taxes on commerce. Merchants and entrepreneurs will do their best to beat any such tax!

THE AZURIACH IMPERIUM
An autocracy is a state in which one person is the final authority, Such states usually clothe themselves in the trappings of religion, feudalism or militarism, or all three. Theoretically, all power comes from an autocrat or Emperor - only by his grace does any lesser authority exist within the domain. Empires are not necessarily evil or even totalitarian, but the Azuriach Imperium is! An imperium results when an autocracy grows too large to be effectively governed by one man using existing technology. The provinces of an imperium are large self-governing areas. Provincial governors owe allegiance to the emperor, or as he is known in the Azuriach Imperium - the First Leader. However, to the average citizen of the province, the provincial governor is the ruler and the First Leader is a vague, far off figure. The First Leader retains control over the military, loaning Imperial forces to the provincial governors and fostering rivalry between his military and political leaders to prevent them from allying and taking the throne.
Origin
An autocratic "empire" may be founded when a society is faced with a crisis from outside or within. This happened to the Azuriach Imperium, which was initially founded in 2066 when a group of white Europeans broke away from Terra to colonise the worlds of the Deneb starsector as a protest against the Pure Earth movement of Sol 3.The Pure Earthians were a detestable inward looking group, comprised mainly of third world representatives. Most of the colonists fled Terra with a deep hatred towards the Pure Earthians who had oppressed Europe and bled away its hard won prosperity. This bitterness was coloured by racism, which would smoulder for a century finding its explosively violent expression in the militarism of the Imperium and the doctrines of racial superiority preached by Richard Ower and his followers. The Azuriach Imperium as it is presently known, was founded on the 1st of January 2210 by Richard Ower, a brilliant tactician, orator and politician.He compelled all members of his government, the judiciary, the military and all civil servants to swear personal allegiance to him under the infamous Leader Oath. The Azuriach Imperial State was declared. Rule by one person, bypassing debate and election can be appealing since the autocrat can act far more swiftly than a democracy.
Government
The Azuriach Imperium has a huge bureaucracy, but all power essentially leads to the First Leader. Some Imperial servitors have more authority than others. Next in power to the First Leader are the Ministers General. They are all officers of the highest rank, corresponding to cabinet ministers without fixed portfolios.They do not have fixed duties and may wear several hats at once. Indeed, a Minister General could hold command over several government departments and bureaus at the same time, the extent of his portfolio reflecting his actual power in the state. The Imperial High Council is the chief governing body of the Azuriach State. It is composed of the First Leader, Ministers General and the Military Governors of the Imperial Provinces and Prefectures. The First Leader is free to ignore them. Corruption is often widespread - the right bribe to the right person can work wonders. The ruler may be selected in many ways. The next First Leader will be the eldest offspring of the closest surviving member of the Imperial family if there is no child. However, he will usually be replaced by a coup d'etat once his skill and judgement are seen to be failing.
The current First Leader is 53 year old Konrad Voerster, a pre-eminently capable and ruthless man, who claimed his way through a host of rivals to command the Imperial State. He has been in power for ten years now.
Azuriach Imperium First Leader Konrad Voerster
The Imperium is divided into Military Provinces, ruled by Governors. They are selected from among trusted military leaders and loyal, weak or elderly citizens. A First Leader unsure of his power (a rarity) would forbid any Governor to rule in one place for long, for fear they became too popular with his citizens.
Individual worlds within the Imperium have whatever autonomy the First Leader is pleased to grant them. Many worlds retain a semblance of their traditional government and some even have limited independence. New territories are more cooperative when Imperial interference is kept to a minimum. But such freedoms are subject to the whim of the First Leader. At the first sign of disobedience, favoured worlds may quickly find their governments deposed, replaced by an Imperial ruler backed by the Imperial Guard. Other planets will quickly take the hint and toe the Imperial line. Either that, or they swiftly find themselves new rulers as well - and a permanent military occupation if they cause too much trouble. Rebel activity is rife, no matter how hard the Imperium tries to stifle it - there is a lot to rebel against! Some rebels want freedom; others will be part of conspiracies to seize the throne.
The Military
A militaristic Empire can use its forces far more rapidly than other societies. Planetary police and security forces will report to Provincial Governors, but these forces will have little or no space combat capability. Conquest is the easiest way to expand an imperium, using its inherent strength - a large military - rather than relying on exploration and colonisation. Besides conquest, the armed might of the Imperium is geared to keeping the populace pacified. In peacetime, much of the Imperial Fleet will be dispersed throughout the Imperium; huge forces will drop in unexpectedly as a reminder of Imperial power.
Even the Imperial Survey Service takes on military overtones. The scouts not only seek out new worlds but also make initial judgements about the potential for hostility or conquest. The Imperial State Police is a paramilitary force charged with internal security of the Imperium. The Azuriach's defence policy can be summed up as "attack first!" The imperium cannot be expanded if it is constantly under attack. Therefore, strike at any enemy, or potential enemy, before he can strike at the Imperium. Besides, war keeps the masses busy, justifies the defence budget and brings in new subjects.
Imperial citizens may be drafted into the armed forces at any time. Criminals and debtors are routinely sentenced to military service. The military-age population of a rebel world may be drafted en masse. Mercenaries may be common. In times of political unrest, Imperial officials may feel that mercenaries are more reliable than their own troops. Mercs maybe hired to do the dirty work that the Imperial Marines consider themselves too good for, and they can be paid in "looting rights".
Law and Order
The word of the First Leader is law. Some First Leaders rule by personal decree, but others are happy to let the huge bureaucracy make all the "boring" decisions. Imperial laws take precedence over all local laws. Empires are restrictive by nature. Personal liberties are kept in check to ensure the security of the Imperium, otherwise, there would be unrest and rebellion. In general, nothing can be done without the proper licences, permits and orders: to use military force, to trade, to prove identity, to travel. Forgers will grow rich... or vanish suddenly.
The Imperial State Police enforces the law. Routine trials are held by local Governors or the State Police for offences in space. But important matters must come before an Imperial Magistrate - an elite group of the First Leader's personal representatives. Punishments include prison, forced labour camps, slavery, torture and draft into military service.
A First Leader may tolerate protest against his policies but never against his rule. At the first hint of any actual threat, dissension is crushed. The dreaded State Security Police of the Azuriach (SSPA) is universally feared and hated for it is the secret police arm of the Imperium and has a sweeping mandate to search out and hunt down all enemies of the Imperial State.
Travel is tightly regulated and requires the right documents. Common citizens find it next to impossible to travel beyond the borders. One of the Imperial State Police's duties is to patrol the borders to search for refugees attempting to escape. Interstellar trade still flourishes, but heavy regulations and duties make it difficult to prosper without buying influence in the Imperial court. Small traders may turn to smuggling to survive. The Imperium will ban commerce it deems a threat, including military supplies - gun-running to rebels carries an automatic death sentence. Traffic in drugs and vices may be prohibited by a puritanical First Leader or encouraged by a decadent one. But the Imperial Trade Commission is notoriously easy to bribe. Taxes are numerous and burdensome. They are collected by the Ministry of Revenue. Citizens pay a tax on everything they do, from travel taxes to restaurant taxes.
News is censored by the Ministry of Information, and history itself may be rewritten in the Imperial chronicles. From a totalitarian viewpoint, control - of travel, news and ideas - is everything.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Review of the N.E.W. RPG

Front cover of the N.E.W. RPG rulebook
N.E.W. is the sci-fi role-playing game produced by EN Publishing and is written by Russ Morrissey, a very amenable chap. In no time at all, it has become my all-time favourite RPG. In this article, I'll explain what I love about it and why as well as giving you a full review of its contents.
The hefty rulebook is split into five chapters - Future Careers, Future Equipment, Future Core, Space and Building a Universe. I'll go over each one in order.

FUTURE CAREERS
This section is devoted to character creation. All characters start with 8 primary attributes - STRENGTH, AGILITY, ENDURANCE, INTUITION, LOGIC, WILLPOWER, CHARISMA and LUCK with a score of 3 in each and 2 secondary attributes, REPUTATION and PSIONICS with a score of 0 in each. A score of 4 is considered average for a human. There is no upper limit to how high an attribute can go but an attribute score of 12 typically represents performances exhibited by record holding human athletes or scientific geniuses. Scores higher than that represent superhuman levels. Attributes change during character creation and gameplay. The actual attribute scores are only used during character creation and advancement. During play, you use your attribute's associated Dice Pool. The higher your dice pool, the more dice you can roll, thus making it easier to succeed in a task. Attributes grant dice to these dice pools in a granular expanding scale, meaning that each new dice is harder to obtain - for example, an AGILITY score of 7 means that your AGILITY dice pool is 3d6, while an AGILITY of 10 lets you roll 4d6. Skills use the same expanding scale, granting more dice to your dice pool. So a skill rank of 3 in Pistols gives you 2d6. You would add that to your 3d6 for your AGILITY score of 7 when taking a shot at a hostile alien, meaning you get to roll 5d6 in total. You can also gain extra dice for high quality equipment. A dice pool is made up of your attribute pool, plus skill pool plus (or minus) the quality pool of your equipment. However, it may not exceed the level of your character's grade. So, starting characters with grade 5 are limited to a basic dice pool of 5d6. However, exploits, luck and situational modifiers can increase this initial score. So if the character took a turn to aim his pistol in the example above, they would get a +1d6 bonus to add to their dice pool, giving them 6d6.
Starting characters generally begin the game at Grade 5, which consists of an origin followed by four career grades. A grade is a tour of duty of either a fixed period or a variable period measured in years depending upon what you choose. Each grade gives you bonuses to certain attributes, a choice of skills and an exploit that allows you to perform certain actions with greater ease. There are 15 origins listed, 45 career choices, 7 species you can choose from (Androids, Borians (dwarves), Felans (cat-like beings), Humans, Ogrons (ogres), Spartans (very similar to Klingons) and Venetians (elves)), over 150 skills, 55 universal exploits which can be acquired by any character, 30 Psionic exploits and nearly 40 traits. With so many variables each character should be unique. At first, character creation looks complicated, but it isn't. There is a handy walk through guide to keep you on track and character creation becomes a lot easier the more you create. Characters advance in power and abilities by earning experience points, which may be used to increase an attribute or a skill, or to buy a new skill or exploit or, most costly of all, to advance to the next grade.
What I particularly love about designing characters for N.E.W. is that they come fully formed with backgrounds and are far more than a set of numbers on the page. They have personalities, they have back stories, they live and breathe. I find that so exhilarating and exciting. As one reviewer correctly said, "I've played several RPGs and this one has my favourite character creation system. As you layer on the various options you get a real feel for the character and its history. I've never played a game that got me that involved and invested with a character even before play begins." That is exactly how I felt about character creation!
FUTURE EQUIPMENT
This chapter is essentially a shopping list of stuff you can buy to arm and equip your character. It includes general gear, melee weapons, ranged weapons and ammo, armour, ground vehicles, drugs and cybernetics. The lists are well thought out and presented and cover the stuff you'd expect to find in a sci-fi game as well as some oddities you probably didn't imagine. However, by necessity, they are limited. It would be so easy just to fill the book with loads of equipment, like GURPS does with its Low-Tech, High Tech, Ultra Tech and Bio-Tech supplements. What really impresses me about this chapter are the full page colour illustrations of the gear from each of the various equipment categories. So if you want to know how a Laser Pistol, for example, differs in looks to a Cortex Radiation Emitter Pistol, you can see at a glance. There's the page showing the basic ranged weapons on to the right of here to show you what I mean. That is so cool. The old adage of a picture being worth a thousand words couldn't be truer.

FUTURE CORE
This chapter covers the rules on how to play the game and consists of the following sub-sections,
The Attribute Check. This is the core mechanic of the game. Almost everything revolves around the attribute check. When you know how to make and adjudicate an attribute check, you know how to play most of the game. This section includes guidelines on assigning difficulty benchmarks, running
opposed or extended tasks, and details some common situations including medicine, chases, scanning, engineering, and more.
Countdowns. Countdowns are a special type of dice pool which depletes as time passes. They are used in any race against time, such as a ticking clock or a disease, when the amount of time available is not known. Countdowns are used to create suspense and tension.
The Role of Luck. LUCK is a special attribute which provides characters with a replenishable dice pool which can be drawn upon at-will to assist in various tasks.
Combat. Combat is a common occurrence in the game, whether it be exchanged gunfire at range or duels with laser swords. This section tells you how to move, attack, and perform other actions in
combat. Combat in W.O.I.N. is a tactical skirmish system where position and cover are very important.
Injury & Death. It’s a dangerous world, and harm can befall any character. Such harm takes three forms: HEALTH damage,status tracks, and diseases. Most damage is inflicted on the HEALTH stat and when that reaches 0, a character is unconscious and in great danger of dying.
Objects. This part of the book explains how objects can be broken or damaged, how to break down a door, or how much damage a computer console can take. It details various materials, from wood to
tritanium.
The Environment. The environment affects many things. Variations in gravity, severe weather, slippery surfaces, and many other environmental traits can be applied to areas both big and small. Fighting in the corridors of a damaged starship as the artificial gravity fluctuates and fire rages all around is very different to fighting on a frozen planet in the midst of a blizzard.
I have to admit that I love the dice pool mechanic. It is both simple and elegant. Having played a few simple skirmishes using these rules I have found that combat is a deadly affair and can be very brutal. The game does allow for critical hits in combat but interestingly enough, not critical misses. I'll go over how combat works in great detail when I post my first batrep.

SPACE
This section covers astronomical information, space phenomena, space travel and starship combat, along with guidelines for starship operations and crew roles. I'll be honest, I find designing planets and star systems boring and I much prefer to use or convert existing material. This is what I'm doing for my upcoming campaign. Also, when I've ran previous sci-fi campaigns with the GURPS Space and FGU's Space Opera RPGs, I've rather neglected starship combat. N.E.W. is the first sci-fi RPG that has made me want to run some starship combats. For the first time in my life I have actually bought some starship miniatures, which I plan to use in my campaign. Starship combat takes place on a hex grid map, and I've even purchased a 3' by 3' hex grid mat from Deep Cut Studios in which to fight my starship battles on. Another thing that I love about these rules is how they give all of the PCs on a starship a role to play in a ship to ship combat. Even though I'll be playing solo, this means no character need be neglected in starship combat.That gets a big thumbs up from me. By the way, rules for designing your own starship are not covered in this rulebook. For that you need the N.E.W. Starship Construction Manual supplement, which is available in printed book and PDF formats.

BUILDING A UNIVERSE
The final chapter of the book presents rules for designing your game world setting. So, in here are the rules for designing star systems, planets, civilisations, species, careers, organisations, monsters and NPCs. It would appear to be a lot of work to do, especially as the game is setting neutral, i.e. it is up to you what the background is. This approach is one I heartily approve of as it means I can easily adapt and convert the background from other systems and integrate them into something that is uniquely mine. My primary source for my background setting will be that of FGU's Space Opera setting. I am very familiar with this setting from the 1980's, having ran a very long running campaign using it back then. Later, when I fell in love with GURPS in the 1990's, I converted my FGU Space Opera PCs and background to GURPS Space. I never imagined that I'd be returning to that setting many years later, but it feels so natural for me. I'll begin to detail my game setting for my The Ace of Spades Campaign in my next post.

SUMMARY
N.E.W. is everything I would hope to find in a sci-fi RPG. Up till now I thought that GURPS 4th Edition was the finest RPG system ever created. I do still love it but it can suffer from being over complex. WOIN appears to have taken the best bits from GURPS and made the rules simpler to understand and easier to play. The sandbox nature of WOIN gives the Games Master so much freedom to create the setting that he wants. I see this as a system with massive potential, that I hope I'll still be playing in 10 years time. What is very gratifying is the amount of additional support the game has from its creators and its fans. EN Publishing has an open licence policy so that fans can print and publish any material for their WOIN games without fear of breaching copyright. As such, there is already a lot of material available for this game, much of it free of charge.
If you are at all interested in buying the N.E.W. rulebook, you can download a PDF version of it from DriveThruRPG for just $10 or £7.76. For that bargain price, you get a beautiful 285 page set of rules that I highly recommend. Here's the link - http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/191271/NEW-The-Roleplaying-Game Alternatively, from the same source, if you want a hard-backed book version of the rules, plus the PDF version thrown in for free, it'll cost you $49.99 or £38.77. I went with the second option and received the book in less than a week and the PDF copy within seconds.
I would say that if any RPG book deserves a 10 out of 10 rating then it is this one.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Introduction

Welcome to my new blog, which is dedicated to the What's Old Is New role-playing systems by EN Publishing. The reason why I have decided to start this new blog instead of adding the new content to my other blog, Vampifan's World of the Undead is twofold. Firstly, the Undead will not be appearing very often, if at all, on this blog. The focus on this blog is firmly on the RPG systems collectively known as What's Old Is New or WOIN for short. Whilst the Undead do feature in their games, I doubt if they'll be appearing enough in my games to justify making this project a part of my other blog. Secondly, because WOIN is such a new system, very few people will have heard of it, but those who have, especially those who play it, speak very favourably of it. For those who are not interested in WOIN (probably most of my other blog's followers) I didn't want to bore them with stuff they most likely have no interest in. So, it's probably best to keep this content separate from my other blog.

WOIN currently consists of three RPG systems - N.E.W. was the first to be published and that deals with sci-fi gaming. This is the game that I will be concentrating the most on. Next up, and only recently published, is O.L.D. and this deals with fantasy gaming. This will most likely get the least coverage here, not because I don't like fantasy gaming (I do) but simply because I prefer the other settings more. Currently in production at the time of writing is N.O.W., which concentrates on gaming in the contemporary period. Once that is published the three core systems for WOIN will be in place. However, there is more. Of all the WOIN products, the one that has me the most excited is the upcoming Judge Dredd and the Worlds of 2000 AD role-playing books. EN Publishing recently acquired the rights to produce RPG books for all of the stories that have appeared in the weekly anthology comic, 2000 AD. Unsurprisingly, the first supplement will be for Judge Dredd, the most famous of all the characters from 2000 AD. I am a massive fan of Dredd and I've been collecting the 2000 AD comic from its first issue over 40 years ago. EN Publishing have big plans for this franchise and once they publish the first supplement I will be featuring it very prominently on this blog.
Seeing the announcement that EN Publishing were going to produce RPGs based on the stories from 2000 AD is the main reason I became interested in WOIN. It was purely out of curiosity that I decided to buy N.E.W. As soon as I read it, I was hooked! No RPG system is perfect, but this one comes as close to perfection as any I have seen and has now surpassed GURPS as my all time favourite RPG, which believe me, is no mean feat.

I'm not expecting many followers for this blog, and, quite honestly, that doesn't bother me in the slightest. But if you are interested in what I post here, then welcome aboard and I hope you stick around and enjoy the ride.
So what can you expect to see on this blog? In short, pretty much the same sort of content as is found on my other blog - so therefore, reviews of figures from my collection, reviews of WOIN related products and of course, batreps... lots of batreps! I am planning on running what will be an epic Space Opera style campaign, featuring the all female crew of the scout ship, The Ace of Spades, captained by Kimberley Jane Wells. Incidentally, the background illustration that I chose for this blog shows Kimberley (you can also see it below). I found it on the Internet and as soon as I saw it, I thought, "hey, that's Kimberley!" However, I had to make a few adjustments to her hair so that it matched Kimberley's hairstyle. I should point out that The Ace of Spades Campaign, as it will be called, will be unlike any other campaign I have ran or published before. I have already produced a huge amount of work for it, making it as highly detailed and as informative as I can. This will be a new approach for me but it is one that I am incredibly enthusiastic about and I hope you enjoy reading it as much I will in writing it.
Initially, I'll mainly be concentrating on the N.E.W. RPG systems, since I most familiar with it.  In addition to my The Ace of Spades Campaign, I have plans for some one off scenarios featuring The Bug Hunters as well as a batrep between the Cybermen and the Daleks, as an alternative to using the official Warlord Games Exterminate! rules. More Doctor Who related batreps may well follow.
Kimberley Jane Wells - captain of The Ace of Spades scout ship.

Here are a few frequently asked questions about the WOIN systems.
  1. What are the inspirations for each game?  N.E.W. is inspired by Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Babylon 5, the Alien franchise, and other science fiction shows and movies, along with the harder science fiction of Asimov, Niven, and Clarke.  N.O.W. is all about movies like the 007 franchise, Rambo, Commando, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Mad Max, Indiana Jones, and TV shows like The A-Team, Knight Rider, Charlie's Angels, Buffy, and The Six-Million Dollar Man, with a healthy sprinkling of John Woo and Bruce Lee.  O.L.D. ranges from gritty medieval fantasy of Glen Cook, the works of David Eddings and David Gemmell, Robert E. Howard, Ursula Le Guin, Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss, and, of course, JRR Tolkien.  The combat system had some inspiration from the 2012 X-COM video game, along with various tactical skirmish tabletop games over the years, and the magic system is inspired by Elements of Magic by Ryan Nock.
  2. What's the feel of the system? WOIN has a fairly flat advancement progression, which means that while characters become more competent and more skilled, they never end up with piles of health and able to survive 200' falls or wade through armies of orcs.  It's a bit grittier than that, with combat tending towards the tactical, magic tending towards the subtle, and magic items being quite uncommon.
  3. Is there a core setting?  No. The WOIN system is very toolkit oriented.  While it will be supported with settings and adventures, the idea is that the core setting is the one you create using the extensive world building guidelines in each book.
All of this was sweet music to my ears and I knew this was the RPG system for me. It covers pretty much everything I love about role-playing and best of all, characters are grounded in reality without becoming combat gods through experience points gained. In my next post I'll do an in-depth review of N.E.W. and explain why I rate it so highly.