Thursday, July 30, 2020

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Star Smuggler Silly Sequence - r332, r335 and r339 - Slaves

I've been monkeying with Star Smuggler, again. Right off the bat, I had Duke march into the Slums in the first hour of play. I immediately got the result r332 - Opportunity to Buy Items, Young Slaves. They have a base price of 100 to purchase and can be sold for the same, but only on planets that have a high wealth modifier. You will make money on this transaction, if only you can get them there without being board by the police or customs. 

This one is interesting because they have no stats, therefore can't do anything. So, why would you want these slaves if they can't do work? Under a first time play condition, the player doesn't know that they only have two chances to sell slaves and many, many more chances to get caught and those almost always result in an automatic loss. It's sort of a sucker punch from the author. 

I imagine Duke is Han Solo with the serial numbers filed off. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense for him to be keeping slaves. What are they doing as he jets around the universe? If he buys people, wouldn't prospective hires wonder if doing a bad job will land them in a cage? It just doesn't work in my mind. 

To alter this scenario, a simple change is needed. Give the slaves stats. There are only 6 professions in the book: Pilot/Navigator, Starship Gunner, Bodyguard, Skimmer Driver, Engineer and Medic. Assigning a number to each gives the slave a set of skills and statistics. 

But what good is that? If Duke purchases a slave then sets that person free, they may sign on as crew. I would suggest a Cunning roll for this. It isn't that Duke is tricking the person, Duke is pitching a glamorous life on a starship. Duke is a business man and expects these crewmen and women will work one week for free. At the end of following week, if he doesn't pay them, they will walk off. He doesn't get a second chance with a Cunning roll because they know he is free-wheeling with promises based on the first one. One thing they would NOT get is a death payment. 

Now the flipside. If Duke DOES NOT free them, every time he gets into trouble the slaves will try to make a break for it, either joining the enemy, seizing the ship or taking the hopper to escape. Every time someone isn't guarding the slaves when trouble starts, Duke has to make a Cunning roll to avoid this. Every darn time! 
I kind of like this idea. One other advantage of this change is Duke is not permitted to take a Skimmer Driver off their homeworld. They just won't go. In this case, a freed Skimmer Driver will travel with the crew of the Antelope. 

In this run, Duke has 750 secs to start and a Cunning of 3. He decides to spend about half of his cash on 3 slaves, then sets them free. He makes his Cunning roll twice, but misses the third. It turns out that the two people willing to stay on a crew are a pilot/navigator and a medic. 

I am not sure how to handle their papers. Perhaps they kept them or the slaver gave them to Duke when the purchase was made. Neither one seems right, but that's what I am doing. 

The only other mod to this is ignoring the line about slaves in r335 and r339. Obviously, Duke could be a slaver and sell them, but it seems weird. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Star Smuggler - e005 Expansion Suggestions

In my last post, I looked at a double entry under event e005 and suggested that two of these events could be rewritten to direct the player elsewhere. 

In e005, you discover a 2-7 robot caravan. The robots are carrying stuff. The table gives the following results: life support, fuel or repair units, food, refined ore. Additionally, they have a controller which causes the robots to follow a predesignated path. You can capture it and use it on your own bots. 

The effects of seizing this device are a trap, a police sting, something causes all of your communications devices to breakdown or nothing at all. The police sting and the breakdown appear twice, so you would want to change these two. Both of these events can played through other events: e117 is an entry event on Cubro and e017 is also linked to e003 and an entry event into a scientific area on any planet. 

But how does one come to e005? What were you doing when this happened? This event occurs twice, via the entry and contact table. Once for rural areas and once for mining. Each of these events occur on a flat 1 in 6 every time you are detected entering these areas. This would indicate that you don't want to make the changes too special. 

The first thing that popped into my head would be a robotic orbital shuttle lands to recover the robots. Since it's robotic, you can steal it with no fuss. But what to do with it? 

The orbital shuttle as spelled out in r215 has a capacity of 50 cubic units. As a general rule, the amount of cargo space necessary to carry a vehicle is 1.6 times the vehicle's carrying capacity. So you would need at least 80 CU of storage space bring this ship on board the Antelope. The boat bay is 40 CU and the cargo bay is 60 CU. You'd need to remove the wall between the hopper bay and the cargo bay to make it fit inside the ship. The alternative would be to cache it on the planet. 

Another simple idea is that another Antelope class ship lands, with a crew that mirrors your own. By removing the cargo from the robots, you can attempt to storm this ship and take it over from inside after the bots are recovered. 

The rules are not clear as to what happens when you have two ships. And that option is offered in e036, so this is not entirely out of bounds. You need 120,000 secs to purchase a new ship, so the barrier isn't how many ships you have but how much money you have. 

If you are using this as a guide for another RPG or allowing many people to play this solo game, you could have fun by switching e017 or e117 to e005. Another robot caravan shows up! The characters would be stuck in a case where they have gotten a lot of great loot, but have to pick and choose what they take because of cargo space. 

Other possibilities are that someone comes along to see what is delaying the robots. These people will either be from rural areas or from mining. You could "warp" this event into any of the encounters in those regions. Some of them are very interesting. It's all up to you. 

I shall be looking to see if I can find another "wedge scenario" in the rule and events booklets. I don't think I missed one, but we shall see. 

Star Smuggler - A Not So Random Encounter

Star Smuggler is an old game, from 1982. I have studied the book and aside from minor typos, there are almost no significant mistakes. If you click that link, you can download lovingly crafted PDFs of the original game which have been vetted several times for typos. It is beautiful. 

One of the "features" of an obvious mistake is the ability to use a flaw to add more material. Say for instance, one choice leads you to a missing entry. With 300+ entries, you'd think that might have happened. It did not. I poured through the PDF and the original booklets to find such a mistake and could not. 

As an alternative, you could rewrite a dead end entry with new content. However, the structure of dead end entries usually results in a game ending condition. These make poor places to tack on more material by replacement because they are invariably hard to reach. They will not come up as often as you would think. The would also need an exit to return back to the rest of the game, which is actually easy. 

A second method would be to rewrite an event whole clothe. In cases where additional information is  thematically relevant it is hardly noticeable. There is a good chance that you cannot match the original author's style and this will be jarring. For example, I rewrote e036 to allow for different ships. It really wasn't a great rewrite. It was more like a mangling. 

In the back of the rule booklet are r300 to r327 which account for some special scenarios. If the event you wrote to plug-in to this area was a very common event, this is the place for that. Obviously, it greatly changes the tone of the work. Keep in mind that your new event can't be too different otherwise it will jar the player (you, but still...). 

I charted every event in the
2 booklets. 
Another subsection which is subject to these simple rewrites are e400 to e431. These are more infrequently referenced passing events, but do have thematic styling and reference lower numbered events. You would need to make sure that those are left untouched as you could eliminate those story arcs by accident. 

This game is dogged by the idea that some of the endings are unsatisfying. These could be rewritten to exit in a different way. A couple of "endings" result in a die roll which ends the game right in that very event or perhaps one other event. What is unsatisfying about those endings in the player will read "the end" and back up to a different option if they are enjoying themselves. Then the next time they are in that situation, they'll know the punchline and will cheat again. 

The other day, I came across a new way of doing this. I call it a "wedge" because it occurs in a single event storyline and does not disrupt the structure of the book. In event e005, there are two events that appear twice in a set of six outcomes. When you roll dice, the options are 1-e117, 2-e017, 3-e059, 4-e117, 5-e017 and 6 is no effect. This is in both the original paper book and the PDF. It doesn't look like a typo. 

Now, if there was a mistake in the book I would have expected to find that there were at least two entries which didn't seem to connect from any other place else in the book. I did not find that, and I charted every connection between events. 

I believe the author really meant for there to be a 2 in six chance of getting to e117 or e017. The first event is a communication breakdown and the second is an encounter with the police. The police encounter occurs from several other events while the communication breakdown (and solution) is fairly rare outside of a single system where it happens on a 1 in six chance. Since there are multiple paths in to these events, you could redirect these two duplicates. 

This is the only time that this occurs in the book under the same event or rule. It's odd. Due to the structure of the book, I suspect that these would have lead to two other "story arcs" which were eliminated due to space. For practical reasons, books often have page counts which are divisible by 4. Usually, the last two pages are left blank. 

Judging by the paper book I have, these two planned arcs would have been larger than the space available on page 46 and would have extended on to page 47 and maybe even page 48. Stylistically, ending a book in the middle of the last or second last page looks rough, sloppy. These theoretical paths probably didn't add to the story enough to justify adding more pages or answering questions about them. 

However, in the digital age, you can use this so called "wedge" to put in more events. You would have to be careful to exit to another event or situation so play can continue. 

I am brainstorming a few idea which could be plugged into these duplicate paths. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Tek - June 2020

In June, I hit a wall. I had a couple "technical glitches" that stopped me from doing a lot of things I normally do.

I have this glucometer that I use to regulate my insulin. It took a crap on me. It started throwing out really low numbers at random. The last reading it took for me suggested that I try to re-calibrate it. That did not work.

Good Morning! You're dead!

20 mg/dL is god-awful, really bad. If you are standing up, looking a device, taking pictures and swearing, you don't have a 20 mg/dL. Basically, everything it was telling me was wrong. It turns out, for every low reading it was giving, it was also throwing 3 high readings. Much too high, so I was slowly increasing my insulin which I didn't need. 

I felt like hell and I wouldn't have realized exactly how bad it was if I didn't like statistics so much. Systemically, that old meter was telling me my lowest reading for the day was 80-100 points too low while also over reporting 3 readings a day by the same amount. It was totally baffling.

This was so serious, my doctor sent me to get blood drawn. Since I have at least one risk factor for COVID-19, just getting the test done was something she wanted to avoid. But we didn't get a choice. I am happy to report that my A1C which was well over 13 last year is down to 6.6. I have a ways to go, but I now have a protocol to reduce my insulin. That was unthinkable last year at this time. 

The webstats and sales stats are not so baffling. I am very proud of my stats for the Hex Pack. That was an amazing launch. Thank you again for making it so popular. 

June 2020 Downloads via DriveThruRPG:
AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana - 4
Compass Rose Inn Minisetting - 3
Kobold Folly Minisetting - 3
Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners - 6
The Hex Pack - 19
Swashbucklers Character Class - 2

Google Analytics Pageviews - 779
Google Analytics Sessions - 538
Pageviews per Session - 1.45

Basically, I was down two thirds for the month of June compared to May. Painful, but I survived the month. I expect that July's stats will be equally bad. It will take a long time to recover. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Goblin Clan Miniatures (Formerly 3DMakerWorks)

They came on Friday! 

The amount of detail on these figures is incredible and because they are 3d printed, they don't have a bit of flash like metal figures. I swore one of the skeletons had a bit of something sticking off his neck at an odd angle, but when I looked closer, it was an axe lodged in his armor. That's cool! 

I was expecting some sort of lines as an artifact of printing, and it is there, but it's super fine. It looks like a pattern on the figures. It looks like a pattern on the figures. I don't see any point in trying to remove it. A bit of paint will probably completely cover it. I suspect that a simple wash would make it more evident, but we will see. 

As you can see from the photos, these figures are large. Way bigger than 28 mm. They border on being "model sized". If I was trying to make a 28 mm army, I'd object. But these are for D&D, and monsters are notoriously "not to scale". The bases are almost exactly 1", so for 1"=5 feet on a game surface, these are perfect. In the picture above, the building in the background is an in-between scale, good for 25 mm or 15 mm so I am not exacting in my scale anyway. "Looks good" is better than "in scale". 

I wouldn't call these minis "unbreakable", but they feel tough. The material does feel like you could break it with a tool, so modification would be difficult. However, a random drop off the table probably wouldn't hurt them. Each package of figures came with multiple poses. 

Speaking of "modification", there probably isn't any point. The 6 Archer Skeletons came in 3 poses, while the 7 Melee Skeletons have 7 different poses as did the Lizardmen. And these poses are not your typical mini "poses" with a leg or an arm moved. Each is a different sculpt, but share common details so obviously they are from the same theme or group.  

All and all, I'd give these 5 of 5 stars. I can't wait to start painting.