Friday, October 17, 2014

Dust Wight

I am amidst the preparations for what I hope will be a long and interesting fantasy action adventure campaign. It will center largely around dungeon crawling with most Action!-y things done in town (e.g., information gathering, planning, etc.), each of which may turn into a side quest of sorts to help facilitate the overall dungeon crawl. To that end, I'll be posting a variety of enemies I've created for Starfall (and will likely use in this game, as well) until I have more time to write properly for this blog. Neither Dark Horizons or Starfall are being abandoned, but they are somewhat on the back burner right now.

Dust Wight

Gradually, the random movements of the dust dancing in the sunlight grew more ordered.  An outline of a man gradually congealed and extended a diaphanous finger.  Meleena erupted in a fit of coughing, and Broon looked as though he could not breathe.  Then the pain hit.  The agony of having my life force slowly stripped of my body.  The dust wraith was upon us, and only Rob could save us now.

Dust wrights (sometimes called "dust wraiths") are what remains after undead skeletons have been reduced to the earth from which they came in life.  Chaotic energies cling to the particulate left behind, binding them into an everlasting being that can vanish into any dusty area and emerge at will to drain the life from its victims.  Common in ancient cities and tombs, these corrupt creatures lie in wait for unsuspecting intruders to draw near, and then they release a choking miasma that causes fits of coughing, sneezing, and in severe cases, choking.  They then drain the life from their prey in an orgiastic feast that usually leads to the creation of more undead.

ST: 0                              HP: 10                                               Speed: 6.00
DX: 12                           Will: 10                                             Air Move: 12
IQ: 8                              Per: 12                                              
HT: 10                           FP: N/A                                             SM: 0

Dodge: 9                        Parry: N/A                                        DR: 3

Life Drain (14): 1d fatigue. Reach 1. This is a Contact Agent.
Miasma of Dust (HT-2): Everyone within 2 yards of a dust wight who breathes the air must make a HT-2 roll or begin Coughing and Sneezing.  Any failure by 5 or more causes Choking.  Anyone aware of this trait can make a Will roll to avoid breathing when they first enter this area.

Traits: Bestial; Blindness; Body of Dust; Chameleon 5 (Accessibility, Extremely dusty areas); Doesn't Breathe; Doesn't Sleep; Fragile (Unnatural); Hidebound; Immune to All Mind Control; Indomitable; Injury Tolerance has Infiltration; Intolerance (All Living); Mute; No Manipulators; Regeneration (AP; HT/Second); Silence 5; Unaging; Unfazeable; Vibration Sense (Air).
Skills: Brawling-14; Camouflage-12; Stealth-12.
Class: Undead.
Notes: Unwilling to negotiate.

Friday, October 10, 2014

On Writing

With Green Ronin's search for new freelance writing talent, and the reactions of several game designing friends to the specifics of their requirements, I have decided to write a little bit about my experience thus far in the industry. I am a member of an elite club/mentoring group of which I may not speak, but I can say that our aim is to produce publishable gaming material for a certain online periodical. Since joining at its foundation last year, I have written over 19,000 words over four completed articles and have another 6,000 word article in the works. Of these, two have been retained for future use. The journey here has been fascinating and, at times, frustrating. I'm still waiting to see my name in print, but I'm confident it will happen.

I have always been fairly imaginative, and had to write a lot in grade school.  I had a couple of essays even place in writing contests, but I've never attempted to make money at it before. It is a lot different than one might think, especially in the gaming industry. That isn't to say that it is difficult, but it isn't the "make up creative mechanics, slap the rules down, and send it in" that I always pictured it to be. Sure, that's part of it, but it is just as important to use proper syntax, grammar, and always, always, always adhere to the house style. The latter most was the largest obstacle for me. Fortunately, I have had the help and guidance of two very experiences writers who, together, have had 28 articles and a book published by +Steven Jackson Games.

My personal process was and continues to be one that +DouglasCole and +Christopher R. Rice both espouse as crucial: begin with an outline. This serves as a road map and lets you tweak overall structural elements without having to rewrite anything. It also helps to organize your thoughts, demonstrate where you are spending your word count (yes, it is a currency!), and greatly speeds up the actual writing process itself. I can't stress enough how useful outlining truly is. I use it even for setting material and game prep.

Next, I hammer out a first draft, which adheres to the house style from the start. Learning and internalizing the house style takes practice and nothing else. Do it always and often. This first draft contains the basic ideas in a stripped down fashion. It is enough to convey the concepts for what I call an "Is This Anything" check. What it doesn't include are fluffier bits like introductions, boxed texts – these usually just have a short blurb about what will be covered – or fully fleshed out examples. I send this out for an interest check among some people (including my mentors) who tell me if its worth continuing and if I'm focusing on the write things.

After an article passes its Is This Anything check, I make any content adjustments on the outline, then go back and write a proper draft with everything written explicitly. This becomes my first draft. I usually pass around drafts to several reviewers who give their opinions on everything from grammar and syntax to adherence to house style to actual rules and balance issues – nothing is ever off limits. After several rounds of revision and review, I usually take a week or so and don't look at the article at all. This lets me clear my head and approach it with fresh eyes. Then I do one final review, myself, during which I chop, cut, and edit it until it fits in the word count I want (I always aim for a certain number of pages), and then shoot it off for one last review. Barring any glaring omissions or errors, this becomes the final draft and is submitted to the editor for consideration.

I have not progressed beyond receiving an email requesting permission to use the article in a future issue. I've seen and helped review a couple of articles after layout was already complete and only minor grammatical or math changes could be made. I look forward to the first time I receive an article back from the editor with requests for revision or change, though. I want to see exactly what he is looking for. I suspect the first time this happens, I will likely write another blog about just that.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Arms & Armor

Soundtrack: [1]


It didn't take long for warfare to spread into space, and with the first space battles, an arms race began. Early ships used a combination of lasers and projectile weapons, the latter of which were far more devastating. But as technology advanced, lasers grew cheaper, lighter, and more powerful until they all but took over as the weapon of choice. Be that as it may, missile weapons still have a place in attempts to overwhelm ship defenses, since a single hit can tear any ship to pieces.

Directed Energy Weapons

High energy lasers are the weapon of choice in both space and atmospheric combat. Their incredible precision and extreme range make them idea for battles amongst the stars, and even with reduced atmospheric ranges, they are still more than capable of hitting targets miles away.

Civilian lasers are typically mall arms that fire in the far and near infrared, where they pose less of a risk of accidental blinding. As a result, they tend to have lower ranges than military-grade weapons. Military lasers have adjustable wavelengths that span from far infrared through UVC, although the violet and ultraviolet wavelengths are typically only used in vacuum where there isn't any air to absorb the beams. In atmosphere, blue and green lasers are preferred for their long range, but because they are visible, care must be taken to protect the vision of troops.

In space, extremely high powered free electron lasers typically emit lasers in the x-ray wavelengths. These incredible weapons have ranges measured in thousands of miles (and in extreme cases, even more) and are capable of burning clear through unarmored starships. When engaging in orbital bombardment or blockade missions, ships often tune these weapons to UV or blue wavelengths so they can fire into or through the atmosphere.

A new and highly controversial weapon has been developed recently that utilizes a beam of relativistic hydrogen nuclei – or atoms – excited into a plasma to burn through and irradiate targets. These particle weapons are extremely hazardous in atmospheres where the firer often irradiates himself, but in vacuum, their extreme range is often measured in millions of miles, and their armor penetration is unmatched. The controversy, of course, stems from the use of directed radiation against people. Still, with the ever present threat of cosmic radiation, solar storms, planetary radiation belts, and development of treatments for radiation exposure, people have grown more inured to nuclear threats. Currently the only ban on such weapons limits their use within the atmosphere of any inhabited world.

Kinetic Weapons

While kinetic guns have lost their place in combat, missiles still see regular use. Ships often carry multiple launch tubes loaded with homing missiles who usually function by exploding a short distance from the hull, spraying the ship with high velocity projectiles, much like a shotgun. The lower mass, high density projectiles punch through armor, tear through interior structures, and shred anything that isn't made of hardened steel. Other more dangerous – and expensive – missiles use a high density shell casing and delayed charge to punch through armor before detonating inside the ship, where it cannot withstand the overpressures. No less deadly are shells similar to 20th century flak guns that detonate in the proximity of the ship and spray the entire area with high velocity shrapnel that can damage anything in the vicinity.


Every advance in weaponry drives advances in defensive technology. Currently, weapons are outpacing defenses, but defense contractors are working feverishly to bridge the gap.


Modern armor utilizes complex matrixes of hyperdense crystaling structures grown in orbital factories. This exotic armor is often refered to as diamondoid or diamond skin, since it is often compared to diamonds. Its particular structure has proven resilient against both lasers and missiles, but no more effective against particle beams than any other armor of similar mass.

While such hyperdense armor can be fashioned into small enough plates for use by infantry, its weight is prohibitively high in all cases where powered armor is not in use. To that end, custom nanocomposites and special metamaterials are typically used as armor by foot soldiers. These are often optimized for specific wavelength ranges, giving extra protection against certain wavelengths at the expense of protection against others. For instance, military armor is often optimized for blue and green lasers but is particularly vulnerable to the shorter range infrared lasers.

Point Defenses

Most ships who anticipate hostile encounters outfit a number of automated low-power anti-missile lasers slaved to a targeting computer and dedicated sensor suite. These relatively small laser batteries are capable of tracking and destroying hundreds of missiles, small meteoroids, projectiles, or other objects. Currently work is also being done to create smaller scale particle beams that can target hazards even further afield than lasers.