Sunday, March 10, 2024

Spherical Hex Map

My last post generated two types of responses: 

"How did you wrap the hex map onto a globe?"

"You actually can't. It's been a quest of the computer games industry..."

This is a case of me working forward and backwards with some assistive tech to get a result. I want a globe covered with hexes and I already know that doesn't work so how did I do this? 

"Well, believe me, Mike, I calculated the odds of this succeeding versus the odds I was doing something incredibly stupid... and I went ahead anyway."

"Map" and "hex" have specific mathematical meanings that don't apply to what I intend to do. The final image will be a drawing that might (I hope) look like a hex map on a globe. I am constrained by the paper's dimensions - 13 hexes wide and 9 hexes high (and each hex will be subdivided) to represent a drawing of a hex map on a hemisphere. 

The image on the left was a standard subdivided hex, distorted to look like it was bulging out of the page. It's constructed by a distorted hex, you can see where it literally becomes sketchy. 

The image below is a more refined and localized example of the same idea with some minor changes. 

The computer-generated hex map from Worldogragher is distorted to a hand-drawn globe with hex-like shapes. I used the simple icon set so I get a sense of how shapes distort like this. Virtually none of the points from the Worldographer map match the hand-drawn hex globe points. I am going to "bend" both images to something in between.

I am hoping for a piece of artwork that looks good and is compelling. 

Aside from the initial subdivided hex map that is flat, there is no math or code. It's done by hand to look good. 

You can download a set of normal hex map templates from DriveThruRPG here. 

          The Hex Pack
The Hex Pack
        The Hex Pack

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Another Character Class Idea - The Monomachos

(This is a bonus post, one I wrote back in September of 2022. I found it unposted while cleaning up.) 

Stephen Donaldson is known for using 10-dollar words when a single simple word would suffice. In his Mordant's Need series, the villain's right-hand man is The Monomach. He is one part warrior, one part assassin. 

Now I thought I knew what "monomach" meant, but it turns out I was totally wrong. I had thought it was related to nobility or being a monarch, making this guy "The Assassin King".  


It's Greek. "Monomachos" or "he who fights alone". A gladiator. That is not as cool as "The Assassin King" but makes so much more sense in context. I'd like to introduce one to a campaign. I posted as much a few years ago when I last read the series. I had a couple of ideas that I have refined over time. 

A Monomachos is like a fighter, but nothing like a regular Fighter, Elf, Dwarf, Cleric, Paladin, or Knight. They live for the fight, not for sustained warfare. 

In Donaldson's books, the Monomach is clearly evil because he assassinates people for the joy of it. When I first wrote about the character, I had a limited view of that type of character. If you didn't read that story, think of Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace without all the chattiness. Maul showed lust for fighting, maybe killing, but not for general mayhem.  

As a villain, a Monomachos only has one purpose... to cause death and terror before dying. But do they have to be the villain? 

Well, it certainly makes things easy if they are all villains. But they are not all villains.  

It was relatively easy to come up with superhero examples. Black Widow, Hawkeye, Daredevil, The Hulk, and so on come across as heroes who live for the thrill of the fight. To a lesser extent, you could add Tony Stark and Spider-Man to the list, but then also remove the MCU Black Widow because she was starting to believe the fight was too much of a bother. Hawkeye was also heading that way, only to be replaced by Kate Bishop which allowed him to leave the hero act behind. Baymax would be an interesting and scary addition to that list because he follows his programming as if it were a joy. 

Oddly, the Punisher is not a Monomachos as he has a different purpose for what he is doing. Fighting and aggression are not really his "thing". He is sorting criminal corpses into their proper circle of hell. It's a completely different purpose. He doesn't have to fight, just kill. 

So what about non-superheroes? 

Well, the list is short. Peter Pan, The Three Musketeers, Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, Legolas, and Glimly. And my brain screeches to a halt there. I guess I could name more, but that is good enough. 

The surprising people from those two lists are Spider-Man and Peter Pan because they are characters who are loved by children. It doesn't mean their drives are kid-friendly. Parker is driven to take risks and engage in violence at great personal cost. Peter Pan is slightly more disturbing. He switches sides if the fight is too easy. He kills Hook and then forgets there was a Captain Hook to kill. Both do it for the same reasons, the drive to excel with their given skill set, that are in parallel with their personal goals. 

So what commonality do these people have if we take away alignment? 

Each person is an improviser. They may use traditional weapons but are fully capable of using a brick, a candlestick, and a doorknob if necessary. They are not subject to outside influences, such as social norms and certain types of magic. Being a bit of a sociopath helps. Oddly, this deviated personality may cause them to be in more control of their feelings and desires, leading them away from wasteful fights. If the fight isn't a challenge, why do it? 

Poor or malformed social skills are a hallmark of every character listed. 

None of these characters are especially good at ordinary, everyday skills. Peter Pan and Kate Bishop can't cook. Hawkeye tends to zone out at key moments and Bruce Banner retreats from the world. Stark is made of neuroses, everything from germaphobia to being a dick even when he means to help. 

In-game, what sort of traits would these characters have? 

They should be able to use any sort of weapon and armor, even if they don't personally like specific armor and weapon types. They can also use improvised weapons. It's not their first, best option but if there is a lot of rubble around, it's better than bruising your knuckles. 

Next, they should have some unique combat skills. 

The Monomachos should rarely be surprised in combat. Perhaps only a 1 in 6 chance and this is separate from the rest of the party's roll. They are itching for a fight in every situation. If the party is surprised and The Monomachos is not surprised, they move with the enemy. This could spoil their surprise round as there is one opposing person moving as they do. The enemy had to waste their surprise round to address the Monomachos. 

Their third combat ability is to refuse contact. If the Monomachos has the initiative and makes a successful attack roll, they may either proceed to the damage roll OR spoil their attacker's next roll. This also allows them to turn and face another opponent. This prevents them from being flanked, it does not permit them an extra attack. 

Fourth, they defy outside influences. They have trait that they can't utilize magic weapons to full effect. No bonuses, but the weapon still counts as magic to inflict damage. This is because they only rely on their own skills, not the assistance of a magic weapon. Of course, if the magic weapon has a secondary power or effect that is magical, like detecting evil or light, they can use that to the fullest. It's the assistive nature that they won't do. 

Armor is different, they do receive bonuses as they can't undo or refuse its basic nature to protect.  

Cursed weapons should fear the Monomachos character. These types of people aren't subject to outside influences, therefore a cursed weapon should be just as ineffective as a positive magic weapon. A cursed weapon should try to escape their clutches because the Momomachos may choose to sacrifice a weapon to win. Intelligent things fear destruction. 

I wanted something like this when I created my Swashbuckler character class but in play testing it was impractical. Based on this new character type, I will rewrite that document. 

To recap the character: 

Surprised only on a 1 in 6. They move and attack during their opponent's surprise round if not surprised themselves. 
Can use all weapons and armor, but receive no magical bonuses for weapons.
They are immune to cursed weapons.
They can also use improvised weapons if only to save their knuckles.  
Foil attacks on a hit and turn to face other opponents instead of dealing damage. 

Let me know what you think in the comments, especially if you have already purchased my Swashbuckler class. 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Taking a Break - 100+ Days

I love to brainstorm ideas and run with it all willy-nilly. In my last few posts, I have mentioned a few projects that are "almost done". And I have at least a dozen other ideas that need to be done. It is time to step back and reflect on my goals and priorities without the distractions of blogging. I think I will take a break for 105 days.

A few months ago, my ancient Power Mac bit the dust. This was my main machine for writing, with my clamshell iBook being the backup. Now I am operating with no backup at all. That is not good. 

I have been gifted two 2010 Mac Pros to get my writing and blog back on track. Yet they sit next to the broken Power Mac unused. What is holding me back is data recovery from the old Mac and recycling equipment that is no longer used.

Second, next to the computers is my gardening shelf, which is covered with crafting supplies. As May 7th is the last frost date in Western New York, I am going to need this space for my gardening supplies in April. It needs to be emptied and supplies bought for gardening. 

This also ties into the Giant Frickin' Bunny that inhabits our home. He needs a nice place to play, both inside and outside. His name is Fiver and maybe he will get his own blog. He certainly is cute and photogenic. 

Anyway, the garden and rabbit are linked topics because one needs the other. He is a cross between a Flemish Giant and a Continental Giant, so we can expect him to grow to be at least 30 pounds and maybe 3 feet long. We'll be using the garden to supplement his store-bought foods. We give him plenty of fresh food and it would be nice to not shop specifically for him.  

Third, my blog, in some form or another has been rolling since January 2010. It has developed a lot of cruft in 14 years. Formatting has gone weird, some posts link to places that no longer exist, and half a dozen things that bother me are begging to be fixed. That doesn't even cover the fact that I have a high-quality camera and microphone that sit unused on my desk. I need to clean up to keep this place nice. I also need to integrate it better into my social media accounts. 

In no particular order: I would like to scrub ads off the blog, fix formatting that is broken, and provide better images for existing posts while creating a standard for future posts. 

All of this takes time. Maybe 105 days.

When it comes to the content, I have a bag of holding worth of books and games waiting to be read, and played, and reviewed. 

I don't expect to go radio silent for the next couple of months. You can expect to see a few posts, probably less than what I have done in the past year. As I tick items off my list, I will definitely post updates. However, I don't plan on spending a lot of time on social media promoting things. While I am working on all this, I want to think about how I present on those other channels and gear my posts to work better in those places. 

Again, I would like to thank all of you for supporting this blog. 

Monday, February 12, 2024

Maker Monday - Project 1 - The Tall House

My wife and I have been dressing up our newly rebuilt house with furniture. That stuff comes in flat-pack boxes with tons of odd bits and foam pieces to protect the item inside. I noticed some great upcycle bits that I will be using for the first couple of projects. 

There is a ton of styrofoam in this packaging and I saved it all. The type I am upcycling is called EPS or expanded polystyrene which doesn't break down over time making it very hard to tip in the trash or recycling bin. 

I noticed that some of these companies are using small cardboard L's to get around using a lot of styrofoam and these bits are going to be the tip-top of these projects. 


Other handy bits found in packing are pieces of wood or particle board cast off the from manufacturing process. While heavy, it does fill space in a shipping box nicely. I have my cutting mat sitting on one, just so you don't think my table is a strange two-grained surface. 

Let's take a look at some of those pieces. 

I have my styrofoam and a couple of cardboard Ls on the cutting mat, plus Sarafina the Cat for scale. 

You will need your tool kit, styrofoam pieces, cardboard, heavyweight paper, and maybe some other items particular for your build, like popsicle sticks or stir sticks. 

What scale am I using? I call it "handy scale". Pieces are bigger than an inch and beyond that, I don't care much. I have both 15mm and 25 mm figures. I want the display pieces to be big enough to look nice but small enough to move around and store easily. I want to be able to use them for both 15 and 25 mm figures. 

I can set these parts to a scale like 1" equals 6 feet. In this case, the cardboard L is two inches wide (12 feet) and one inch high (6 feet). 

As I mentioned, the cardboard Ls are going to be the cherry on top of this project. They will be both the roof and a ready-made item I don't have to cut. 


I do need to make some measurements. The styrofoam (foam from here on out) is about 1 and 1/4 inches wide and much longer. When I match it up to the cardboard L, there is a 3/4 overhang. I can smoosh the cardboard to make this more or less by changing the pitch. This has the nice effect of making two different buildings appear to have completely different rooves with the exact same material. 

Each small L is about 4 to 5 inches long. The foam needs to be cut just a smidgen smaller than that, say 1/2 inch smaller so the overhang is close to the same all the way around. 

In the image, there is a very long piece of cardboard, about 12 inches. I haven't tried to cut it but I already know that I will use it for a different project as it is so tough cutting will be difficult. 

Speaking of size, let me apologize now. It's been a few years since I have posted on modeling. Mistakes have been made. What I need to get in the habit of is using GIMP to make sure every image is the same size. I didn't do that here, simply snapping a picture on my phone and cropping to whatever seemed ok. In retrospect, every crop is very not ok. It's annoying for me and probably distracting for you. 

I have sized up the foam I had in easy reach. The Ls match both, so I picked the skinnier, taller pieces for this model. This will be a Tall House after all. This particular piece is 4 inches tall making it about 30 feet tall plus an extra 1/2 inch under the eaves. This would represent a 3-story building. 

For D&D games, this would translate to a four-story building because there would likely be a dug-out root cellar or a crawlspace between the structure and the solid ground. This is highly variable as this building could be wood, stone, or block construction with the stone or blocks sitting on a rock base while a wooden structure simply resting on the dirt. 

I am not going deep into the weeds on this because how the building interacts with this ground is not only dependent on the material used but also the climate. If it freezes, you either need to be deep in the ground or right on top and no deeper. Both present construction problems in real life.

This reminds me, if you goof anywhere within this project, you can turn the building into a ruined structure. Ground heave, earthquakes, and fires have destroyed many, many ancient buildings. 

In my last post, I told you 3 lies. In this post, I will apologize 3 times. The second apology is about my 12-item list. I forgot sandpaper. We're almost there. You'll need sandpaper. 



In this picture, I line up the roof on the edge of the foam and push it over about 1/2 inch. This will give me a 1/4 overhang on all four sides. This is a very rude measurement and not entirely true for reasons I will explain later. 

This is a roughly built structure, so I just eyeballed the cutline. I want consistent lines, but not necessarily straight and square. I am shocked that the pencil is visible in the photograph. 

If your line isn't visible, use a ballpoint pen, not a marker. The ink can melt the foam and this is less noticeable with a ballpoint pen. 

This next part requires a bit of care. I'm working with a knife or wire foam cutter or maybe one other item, a hot knife. I forgot about the hot knife method until I opened my wire foam cutter and found one. The idea is that you put the knife in a flame and try not to stab yourself with a flaming hot knife. I am not a fan of this method. 

I used the wire foam cutter, but let me fill you in on a secret to using a foam cutter. 

Make a cardboard or tagboard jig or template. In the photo, you can see I simply aligned 2 cardboard Ls with the line. This was a mistake. The Ls are slightly smaller than the foam and it is only on 3 sides. This leaves a lot of wiggle room for the cutter. 

Well, that will be a problem. 

I selected the half-hoop cutter for this. I have a choice of two different probe-like wires and the half-hoop. I have poked myself with the probe-like wires so I wanted the one that can't poke me. 

These things get raging hot very quickly. They also cool just as quick. DO NOT touch, a couple of seconds can mean the difference between a cool wire and a 3rd-degree burn. Don't play that game. 

The wire is barely under Fahrenheit 451. It shouldn't burn paper, but could brown it. If you don't like burning smells in the house, open a window, go outside, or use your garage or basement.  

The trick is to move swiftly and smoothly as the wire radiates heat which melts the foam some distance from the contact point. This takes practice and the jig or template can help. Assuming you make it correctly, unlike me. 

The cut takes about 2 seconds to complete, maybe faster. Do not force the wire through the foam. Let the heat work for you. 

As you can see from the picture, I didn't move smoothly and my makeshift jig let the wire slide all over. I do have plenty of experience doing this and simply overestimated my skill. I am two or three years out of practice and boy did it show. 

I grabbed a piece of sandpaper, something I always have to run out and buy because I didn't have any around when I made my post about the 12 items you need in your tool kit. It took far longer to buy the stuff than it did to sand the block down. 

When sanding styrofoam, use steady, flat strokes. Resist the urge to go in circles or roll onto the edges, unless you actually want rounded edges. If you do round your edges, do all four vertical corners and leave the top and bottom natural. Rounding the bottom where it touches the ground looks weird unless you are making a sci-fi-themed building where there is the possibility that the "building" is actually a shipping container-like structure. 

As you can see, I quickly sanded this down. I could have covered this side with a skim of plaster, or a sheet of paper or made details that covered the roughness. You could, in theory, skip the sandpaper but I already did it. 

Now for the final apology. I had expected to have the whole building done in a single post. Rooves are fiddly things with a zillion options. Having the Ls shaped piece simplifies the build but doesn't make the roof less time intensive. Whatever you save using the L-pieces, you can burn with other details.   

This will be my very next post. Again, I apologize. 

Through the magic of making several buildings off-camera, we can look at several different styles and methods for the roof. In later posts, I will either link to the roof post or create a series of roofing posts that you can reference.  

This post appears on These Old Games, but please do me a favor and follow me on FacebookMeWeDice.Camp and/or Ko-Fi

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Lights, Camera, Prep - The 65 Dollar Tool Kit

I have so much going on. I need my shelves back to do some gardening, which means cleaning and organizing my D&D and modeling supplies. 

For the past couple of months, I've had some crafting projects on my mind that never went anywhere. I want finished products, not another tote or bin full of unfinished crap. I have supplies on top of tools and that drives me nuts. 

We could do this together. 

Let's pull together a 65.00 dollar tool kit for DIY models. This toolbox is meant more for crafting as opposed to plastic models. You probably have many of these things already and my suggestion is to buy as little as possible.  

The inspiration for this series is this custom Star Smuggler Print and Playbox, which remains at 90% complete. 

This list does not include supplies for projects. Each part of this series will have a separate supply list for each model or project. These projects will range from upcycling junk to throwing together scraps from other projects. You shouldn't have to buy too much for these crafts. 

These are the 12 items you will need to follow along at home. I have included basic prices and only a few lies: 

  • Cutting mat - $9.00 
  • Paper cutter - $10.00
  • 3 in 1 foam cutter - $20.00 to $30.00
  • Razor knives - $5.00
  • Glue - $5.00
  • Paint - $1-2.00 each*
  • Tape - $1.00
  • Rule/Straight Edge - $1.00
  • Pencil - $1.00
  • Pen - $1.00
  • Marker - $1.00*
  • Brushes - $1.00*
  • (I forgot this one until I started working on a project. Sandpaper). 
Items marked with a * are lies. 

This collection of tools is pretty standard. You probably already have markers, pens, pencils, and tape, so we can shave off 4 bucks. 

Cutting mats are wonderful and highly variable in price. The green one above is 17" by 12" and I found a two-pack for $9.00. You can also find one at the Dollar Store, for a surprising $1.25. Of course, I can't find it for a picture, but the black and orange one I did find was $25 with some tools. If you want to save some money, go find a scrap of wood or a piece of cardboard. Tagboard or poster board is a little too thin. If you go with the board, shave off another $9.00. 

The cutting mat serves three functions: a scale or ruler, a nice surface, and safety. The ruled lines allow for nice straight and/or square cuts without resorting to a second tool. It has a soft surface that protects your workspace. Most importantly, the soft, self-healing surface can protect your body and hands as blades have a tendency to lodge into the surface on slips, saving you from a nasty cut or scare. 

I prefer cardboard over wood for catching cutting accidents. If you go with a piece of wood, pick a soft board. 

I will be using a foam cutter for many of these projects. I consider it necessary, but you can get by just fine with a very, very sharp knife or razor. Just be careful. The foam cutter eliminates a lot of messes, but it's a hot tool that takes some practice to use. My first couple of projects only involve straight cuts, so you can get that practice by following along. 

Foam cutters are wonderful, but the pricing is outrageous for no good reason. The item pictured was $20.00. However, I have seen the EXACT SAME ITEM for $200. Don't do that to yourself, shop around. You don't need it that badly. 

The paper cutter is an optional "nice to have, but not necessary" item. I like it but you can do just fine the mat and a razor or use a pair of scissors. This one I found at Target on clearance, otherwise, I would not have one at all. It's a product with a single purpose which may or may not come up that often. 

The paper cutter is nice but...

I feel like I can skip over many items on this list as you probably have them. 

Let's go to the LIES section. There are 3 of them: brushes, paints, and markers. The list claims you can have all three for about $12 assuming you want only 10 paints, a brush, and a marker. That is actually a tiny lie due to the projects we will be doing. 

DO NOT USE your wife's Copic markers on these projects. The same goes for her wonderful Citadel paints or her sable-hair paintbrushes. Murder will result. There is no "may" in that statement. It will happen. 

The projects we will be working on are rather rude. You can glitz them up to your level of comfort, but don't waste nice markers, paints, or brushes on this. Dollar store items will be fine.   

The same can be said of glue. I have three different items from the Dollar Store. We aren't building furniture, so don't waste your money on "nice things". There is one item in this picture that is a "must have", the Tacky Glue. It's a Dollar Store item which is shocking. It has the consistency of Mod Podge and can be used for both gluing and a surface cover. I love it. 

I can't wait for us to get started.

Before I finish up, I wanted to talk about the writing implements: pen, pencil, and markers. Certain materials do not like certain marking implements. Styrofoam melts with some markers, damaging both the craft and the marker itself. Pens are good for dark, soft materials as you can see the color. Pencils are pretty much universal to all products, but sometimes not for foam or dark surfaces. If I notice this happening in this series of projects, I will warn you in advance. 

That is it, here are the 12 items you will need for this project series, complete with three lies. 

(And one omission, sandpaper.) 

This post appears on These Old Games, but please do me a favor and follow me on Facebook, MeWe, Dice.Camp and/or Ko-Fi

Saturday, January 27, 2024

90% Finished - Star Smuggler

I post about Star Smuggler all the time. I had the boxed set when I was a kid and finally lost it in the fire. 

During the rebuilding and replacement year, I noticed that some products like Google Home and phones come in really heavy-duty boxes. I thought they would be perfect for some of my print-on-demand games. 

I started off by printing the rule and event booklets for the game on 20# paper. Then I did the tiles and mounted them on cardboard. Finally, I picked a box I thought was the right size. I use a Google Home box as that would probably never need to be packed up. 

Everything fit nicely. 

Of course, I wanted this to look like the original box, so I downloaded pictures of the box and went to town. The images needed to be scaled to the box as it was much bigger than the original. 

I printed on to photo paper, cut them down, and applied them with Tacky Glue from the Dollar Store. That worked pretty nicely. The one thing that didn't work was the edges. I will trim them down with a razor and use some tape to finish them off. 

Of course, a project isn't complete on one pass. I plan on reprinting the tiles on photo paper and maybe mounting them on thicker cardboard. I'd like to have the books with a heavy stock cover, maybe like a D&D module where the cover serves as a map or reference guide. That is super easy because I already have the booklets done and really don't need to reprint them. 

The counters are the very last item I need. I remember using random counters when I actually had the original set. I love the Star Frontiers counters and maps and I will probably repurpose them from the set I ordered off of DriveThruRPG. I love both the original counters from Alpha Dawn and the ones that come with the Knight Hawks set. 

The back of the box could serve as a map, but really I just loved the artwork enough to make it a part of the box. I recall the original box had a yellow back. I was pretty sure I couldn't reproduce plus the Google Home box is a flip-open box with the lid attached. 

The final image shows the poor job I did with the edges. Trimming will help, but I think I will use a bit of cloth tape to make sure the photo paper stays attached.  

Setting Unknown - The Rules

The other day, I posted about "Setting Unknown". I want this to be a spiritual successor to games like Star Smuggler. Very light rules and can be played as solo endeavor or as a small group. 

Clicking the Star Smuggler link will get you to the review of the game, which at the time was termed as "a programmed adventure". It has over 300 different events stitched together in a series of Choose Your Own Adventure style connectors. Replayability is very high but at this point, it's been nearly 40 years for me. I think I have played this to death. 

Over on the MeWe Sandbox page, John Salway asks what the minimum amount of information and details you need to have a sandbox adventure. 

Personally, I would define a game as a set of rules that describes a challenge to be overcome by a set of known rules by an agent or player.  I offer that the minimum information and detail needed for a sandbox game is a description of the scenario, a game space, and a means of resolution.

Scenario=Knowning the rules
and Challenge=Game space

Let's use the drawing of my ship as a starting point. It is both rules and game space. It presents a surprising amount of information to the player. You are on a spaceship. Unless there is some new information, this game will not involve ghosts, dinosaurs, magic, swimming, cooking, etc. 

I should address the elephant in the room: Doctor Who. I love that show because it changes its default settings with every episode and book. It took 60 years and a host of really creative people. I am not that... so I won't go there. 

I have labeled a few things, engines, lasers, radiators, rail guns, and cargo spaces. 

I guess I should use all of those points to create the challenge and the rules. There are many rules already implied. The ship has engines, so it moves. It has weapons, so there is combat. It has a radiator, so there must be heat. Then comes the storage spaces, something must go there. If you can obtain things to store, then there must be some sort of economy. 

All of those things relate to the challenges met by the players. I haven't worked it all of that out, but I do have some hopes. I would like to have ALL of the rules fit on two sides of a sheet of paper. Every scenario should be on one side of a sheet of paper. 

How many sheets of paper is debatable. Setting Unknown is definitely one of those back-burner tasks, but enjoyable nonetheless, especially as a reason to start drawing again. 

The Plug: I am now back on Facebook which is a big change. I am not using the whole "Link in the comments", so my only way to attract followers is word of mouth. You can also see me on Mastodon.Social and Dice.Camp in addition to MeWe. My last outlet, one that I am going to start working hard on this year is Ko-Fi

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Software Review - Escape Velocity

Title: Escape Velocity
Publisher: Ambrosia
Year: May 1996
OS: Mac OS 7.6 up to OS 9.2.2
Overall Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, good games don't die. Escape Velocity was a gem by a local WNY company called Ambrosia. They attempted to buck the trend by offering all of their software as shareware and this one was my favorite. 

Escape Velocity was unlike anything I had encountered. Some place between an exploration game, a trading game, and asteroids with some inventive challenges. You start off with a tiny shuttle reminiscent of a Star Fleet Shuttle and make your way from there. The game has a steep learning curve as you have very limited funds. Purchase some goods here, and try to sell them there. 

Simple, eh? 

No. You can run out of gas really quick. 

Hit the map key to learn what is in store for you. At first, your map is largely blank. You can fill it in one of two ways: A blind hop will show you that system and all of the jump-ways out or purchase a map. The map is super helpful as it will show you the services and features of each system without having to travel there.  

Once you have that down, you can set up an easy path to sell goods. At first, you will be able to earn enough to refuel and then more to refit your ship. The first thing you should buy is the escape pod. If you get blown out of the sky, it's the only way to ensure your survival. The second thing you need is the fuel scoop. This saves money on refueling. It makes you self-reliant. 

Once you have that sure trade route, grind away until you can purchase a new ship. 

Oh, the grind. It's the meat of this game because every time you think you have the best thing, you'll see something else that strikes your fancy. 

As you explore and trade, the galaxy opens up. There are missions, stories, and adventures everywhere. Sometimes, you need this or that to progress, so don't get too used to the ship you're in. 

It's not so bad. As you upgrade your gameplay, you'll also upgrade your ship to the max. Lasers, blasters, 3 types of armor, and other things will make every ship you own unique. It's a blast as not only can you upgrade your weapons and such, but you can also name your ships. 

That is such a simple thing, but it's great. Like Oregon Trail. 

Anyway, you'll work out the factions and the storylines as you go. Soon you might have a fleet of ships, escorting you around the galaxy. That will unlock new locations and stories while freeing you from a lot of the money chase you experienced in the first few hours of the game. 

Trust me, you will be spending hours on this one. 

This is an interesting game as it contains stories and missions while also being very sandboxy. I will leave you here with a few screenshots I took. You see, I knew which ship was my favorite. Then I remembered my other favorite and then a third favorite... 

Escape Velocity is amazing. If you have the means, give it a try. 

Monday, January 15, 2024

DriveThruRPG Bonus Points!

Look what arrived today, at the tail end of a blizzard! 

I can't wait to review this one. Thank you DriveThruRPG and the USPS for a timely delivery. 

Setting Unknown - A Solo Endeavor

Right now, I am in the planning stages of a new Star Frontiers campaign. I do this to myself every year. I want to play a game exactly at the point where the NFL and NHL heats up. I can ignore hockey for a bit, but this SF Campaign is going nowhere until Feb 12, after the Super Bowl.

I decided to do other things, such as ship design and planets. I mention Typhon, the planet where the PC will start. I'm in the brainstorming mode for the planets, which is handwavium for "the back burner". The fact is, I don't plan on having the players hang out there for very long. 

Ships are another story. The players will have a pair of gigantic shuttles, Hull Size 2. This is just a tad smaller than an assault scout. The shuttle is barely able to make a jump, the primary issue is it's just too small for supplies. For this reason, the two shuttles are paired with Hull Size 5 Electronic Warfare destroyer. 

This variant of Destroyer makes sense in game terms, it would have been helpful in the War but now that the war is over, something has to be done with all of these extra ship hulls and engines. Without the electronic warfare gear, the hulls are basically free. As they have also been stripped of their major weapons, the sale of these ships to civilians is fine. The characters won't be civilians for the most part, but why give them an inordinate amount of guns? 

What makes these ships very special is their double engines. They have both Atomic drives and Ion drives. The same for the Kon-Tiki shuttles. Why? The Ion engines allow each Destroyer and Shuttle to mask themselves or others. That would have been great during the war, but in the hands of the players, allows a quick ship that doesn't need an engine rebuild every time they jump. I want them to feel like they are on their own, even when they aren't.  

Anyway, back to "Setting Unknown". 

I was thinking of playing Star Smuggler again. I have been playing too much Endless Sky and Escape Velocity, for a theoretical review of each. I have played all three games a zillion times. I want to go beyond rule mods and stuff, hence a new setting. One that is currently unknown. 

I stole some images from Endless Sky and Wikipedia. This ship is a combo of the
nose of the Arrow and the tail of the Hawk from Endless Sky. The shuttle is a headhunter.
The Dreamlifter is for scale.

The main protagonists have a 20-meter ship, or 400+ tonnes*. This is basically on the order of the 747 Dreamliner. Like the characters for my SF campaign, they have a smaller shuttle. The Dreamlifter can carry about as much as its empty weight. (From reading Wikipedia. YMMV.) As you can see, the shuttle won't carry a lot, maybe 20 tonnes. 

(*The future might be metric.) 

I figure in the future, we can do better within limits. I will assume that the ship weighs 100 tonnes and can carry 300 tonnes of stuff. If you are empty, you can go faster. If you are loaded to the maximum weight, you move normally. If you are overloaded, you can't make an FTL jump. All extra equipment beyond what a spaceship comes with is subtracted from cargo space. 

The standard crew for a spaceship is the 5 man band - Pilot, Co-pilot, Navigator, Engineer, and Payload Specialist. If you have weapons, the pilot can fire forward cannons and missiles, and the Co-pilot and payload specialists handle everything else. To move, you must have at least a Pilot. 

FTL in this Setting Unknown is teleportation like Battlestar Galactica. Rule one, it takes a day to pump power into the capacitors to make that jump. Rule two, you can have a lot of extra capacitors. Generally, ships are ready to jump at all times, assuming they aren't doing anything special beforehand because they have more than one capacitor. 

Jumping into a system is generally not dangerous as long as you don't jump to a busy point. Jumping to the surface of a planet is bad because you will likely miss your target by a couple of meters in a random direction. BOOM! 

Jumping FROM the surface of a planet is easy as long as your target is empty space, except the authorities will hunt you down for causing a calamity on populated worlds. 

Bad, but fun.

I have no idea how combat, movement, economics, or anything else will work but I have some ideas I'll share in the coming posts. 

I don't know what to call this class of ship. Help me out in the comments below. 

I am now back on Facebook which is a big change. I am not using the whole "Link in the comments", so my only way to attract followers is word of mouth. You can also see me on Mastodon.Social and Dice.Camp in addition to MeWe. My last outlet, one that I am going to start working hard on this year is Ko-Fi

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Stupid Human Trick for DriveThruRPG

You know, I create a lot of problems for myself. My daily driver is a 1999 iBook and it doesn't like the internet. I had to devise a way around that issue to get my DriveThruRPG library onto it. It turns out it's easy with access to a fairly modern Chromebook, but guess it could also be done with an Android phone if you had to. 

Under Android (and Chromebook) the DriveThruRPG files are hidden. If you can get to them, it's a simple matter of copying and pasting or moving them to a USB drive. You just need to know where to find them on your Chromebook (or phone). 

What you need is a USB drive and an Android File Manager. 

Insert the USB drive and then open your file manager. As far as I can tell, virtually any file manager will do. Here is my main screen in the file manager: 

Tap manage storage. 

Then hit Android. 

Data is next. Tap it. 

In the data fold, you'll see an oddly named folder called: com.drivethrurpg. Click it.

Select files.

And here is your DriveThruRPG folder which contains all of your files. Tap it and Select either copy or move. 

Now navigate to the USB thumb drive and paste or finish the move. 

One thing about this process is, that you need to do this every time you order something new or there is an update of a file. 

I generally write on my iBook and transfer to another machine to post, and having my files available when I am "offline" is necessary. One other trick is I can dump the files to other machines for a consistent experience across several machines.