Tuesday, November 15, 2022

World Names for the SV Inspired Setting.

I've been pondering what to name the planets in my Space Viking inspired setting.  In his Terro-Human Future History, Piper leaned heavily on world mythology for the names of planets.  So, I figure I can do one of two things.  

I can embrace this and either recycle the names that Piper used or I can dig up my own mythological names.  On the positive side, reusing Piper's names would give an instant familiarity to anyone who has read the book and people who haven't read the books wouldn't know any different.  On the negative side those who have read the books might have preconceived notions about what the planets are like, even if I don't want the planets to emulate the originals.  

Digging up my own mythological names shouldn't be too hard but many of the figures involved could be very obscure.  It's a distinct possibility that the players would miss the references.  Heck, I would probably miss the references.  It shouldn't be that hard though, with the internet and the books available at the library and such.

The second course of action is to invent new names or draw them from a different source.  Now, I find this a bit daunting.  I would like a unified theme like Piper used but I don't know what that it would be and I don't know where I would get the names if I did come up with a theme that I liked and felt fit the game.

Right now I'm leaning towards scavenging Piper's names in conjunction with coming up with new mythological names.

Here is a list of names from Piper's Terro-Human Future History books.  I found it on one of the sites dedicated to Piper's works, Zaranthi.net

WorldsSword Worlds.

Monday, November 14, 2022

The Black Hack

I've had the PDF for the first edition of The Black Hack for quite some time but only recently got around to reading it.  I found that I like it for several reasons.  

First, I can pretty much hold all of the rules in my head.  Since I got back into RPGs about two decades ago I discovered that I prefer rules-lite games.  As a working parent who was perennially tired I just did not have the brain power to expend on complicated games.  Now I'm old and just plain tired and still don't.  And besides, it turns out my favorite games are rules-lite.

Second, it is familiar.  Two of my favorite games are B/X and White Box: FMAGThe Black Hack is based on the Original Edition and so is very close to these games.  Same attributes, same spells, same monsters and similar adventuring style. So you know what you're going to get and what you're supposed to do.

Third, it is pick up and play.  TBH is excellent for one shots.  Characters can be generated quickly and you can be off and running.  You don't have to spend a lot of time prepping if you don't want too.It's my understanding that it can be used for campaigns also but I haven't played more than a couple of sessions so I don't know this personally.

And fourth, support and adventures.  In the years since the first edition was published many adventures and supplements have been published.  Often these are free or very low priced.  This makes it easy to keep playing if you like the game.  The supplements range from new classes and adding in races to full-blown games based on TBH.  What's more, I understand that the modules and adventures from the original games are easily compatible too.  So you can pull out any of the your old TSR modules, or new OSR stuff for that matter, and run it with TBH.

Another thing I like about TBH is what people have done with it.  Not just the adventures and supplements but the full games people have created using it.  TBH has an OGL and is open content, what ever all of that means.  I've never really understood it except that it means people can use it to make other games using the material under certain conditions.  And people have created many, many different variations in many different genres.  Some are a few pages long like TBH's 20 pages to others that are over 200 pages.

For example, I haven't played straight The Black Hack. I have run my son through three or four programmed solo adventures using Bluehack. Bluehack is an expanded (to a whopping 26 pages) version of TBH which fills in some of the gaps in the sparse TBH and is modified to feel more like Holmes Basic, which was the RPG that started it all for me.  In fact is was created by the same person who created Holmes' clone Blueholme.

There are many fantasy hacks that take it in different directions.  There several D&D versions including Red Hack and Heroes & Monsters.  There are at least three sword & sorcery versions.  I have two, Black Sword Hack and Swords Against the Shroud, and will get the third version, By the Axe I Hack, soon.  There is also a Tolkien version that incorporates some features from The One Ring.  

There are also various science fiction versions ranging from spacefaring to post-apocalypse. And this includes serious to full on Gamma World gonzo in the form of Barbarians of the Ruined Earth, which is a big, beautiful full color book that I would like to have some day.

I could go on but suffice it to say that the full range is covered.  Anime, cyberpunk, noir, modern, pirates, supers and even dinosaurs.  You name it, it's probably out there.

Now there is one last thing I like about The Black Hack.  It gives me the urge to create.  Not just that.  It actually makes me feel like I could be successful in those creative endeavors.  None of the variations of TBH that I have read are exactly how I want them to be.  I know what I want to change and clarify, add and subtract.  The thing is, the chassis that this game provides is so simple yet so sturdy and I understand it from a lifetime of gaming that I know I could do it.  I just need to sit down and do it.  Write my perfect version of this game to suit my personal tastes and quirks.

I think I've just set myself a goal.  Dammit.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Space Viking World and Subsector Generation Thoughts

Art by Alan Gutierrez
I mentioned in an earlier post that the standard world generation in Traveller wouldn't meet my needs for my SV inspired setting.  There are a few worlds I would want to handcraft.  Those worlds that had a high enough tech level for interstellar flight, particularly the character's base worlds.  And the world(s) that they controlled/dominated.  Essentially whatever pocket empires I want in the setting.  I don't envision them being larger than three or four worlds in size.  Other than that I would want to be able to randomly generate worlds that meet the tech level and other requirement that produce the feeling of the setting.

So, planetary generation would need to be modified in several areas.

  • Tech Level Cap (TL 10)
  • Starport Type
  • Bases
  • Planetary Atmospheres
  • Government
The first thing that would have to be modified is tech level.  The tech level cap will be TL10.  Though I'm thinking that I will allow Type J maneuver drives, jump drives and power plants because that will allow for 2000 ton ships.  Space Viking had some big ships and this will allow for a bit more emulation in that area.  TL 10, however, limits the setting to computer type 4 which means jumps are limited to 4 parsecs.  So even small ships won't be wildly speeding through the galaxy.  I plan to designate which planets have TL9 or TL10 so the planets that I randomly create need to be capped at TL8.  My solution is to roll on the Tech Level Table as usual but ignore the starport type modifier.  Technically, this can still yield a tech level as high as 11 but I think it is unlikely.  And the GM can just cap it at TL8.  Or, if they want another starfaring planet they can just go with it up to the TL10 max.

Starport type needs to be handled differently too.  Anything below TL7 will not have a spaceport.  Unless it is in ruins or it is mothballed or on a moon or is a satellite.  TL7-8 can have interplanetary ships so can have one and may be in the process of colonizing its solar system.  The GM can either choose a starport type or roll on the table I've devised below.

Bases won't be present on TL6 or below planets.  Unless, of course, they are ruins or abandoned bases off planet.  They can be determined as the GM deems appropriate for TL7 and above systems

I wanted to modify atmosphere for a couple of reasons.  The first of which is that 10 out of the 13 types of atmospheres listed in the book are unbreathable by humans without some sort of breathing equipment.  I figured that with the loss of technology after the Federation fell that this would lead to planets being depopulated as their inhabitants lost the ability to manufacture and repair the equipment.  The second reason is that I can remember the only planet in Piper's Terro-Human Future History that did not have a human breathable atmosphere was Niflheim. It was from another of Piper's books, Uller Uprising, set centuries earlier than SV.  The only reason that people had anything to do with Niflheim and its corrosive atmosphere was its wealth in metals.  The planet is so hellish that its name is actually used as a curse.  So, in order to give planets a higher chance of be habitable I am going to dropped the tainted designation.

Several of the planets mentioned in SV weren't unified, both the primitive ones as well as some of the relatively technologically advanced worlds.  I wanted to have this reflected in the world generation.  I figured that before the government type was rolled the GM would roll 1D6.  On a 1-3 the planet would be balkanized, otherwise the GM would roll normally.  If balkanized, roll 1D3+1 to find the number of major countries/political units.  Then the GM can either roll separately for each country or the GM could choose.

Here is what the World Generation Checklist would look like.

  • Determine world occurrence (1D for 4, 5, 6 is standard). 
  • Check system contents table for details of world. 
    •     Check for gas giant. 
  • Name world. 
  • Generate universal planetary profile for world. 
    • Planetary size: 2D-2. 
    • Planetary atmosphere: 2D-7 +size. Ignore Tainted designation (unless GM has special circumstances in mind).  If planetary size is 0, the atmosphere must be 0. 
    • Planetary hydrographics: 2D-7 +size. If planetary size is 0, then hydrographics must be 0; if atmosphere is 0. 1, or A+, then apply a DM of -4. 
    • Population: 2D-2. No population if atmosphere 0-3, A+
    • Government: Roll d6, 1-3 Balkanized. Roll D3+1 for # of major political units.  Governments can be roll for or determined by GM. If not balkanized 2D-7+population as usual.
    • Law level : 2D-7+government. 
    • Technological Level : 1 D+DMs from tech level table. Ignore starport modifiers.  TL8 cap unless referee decides otherwise.
    • Determine starport type. See tables below.
    • Determine naval base as appropriate. 
    • Determine scout base as appropriate.
  • Decide if travel zone coded. 
  • Establish communications routes.
  • Note trade classifications based on universal planetary profile. 
  • Note statistics for reference.
Here is the table to generate starport type for TL 7-8  I also included a table for TL 8-10 just for kicks.  In case the GM wanted a little randomness.

Spaceport TypeSpaceport Type
TL 7-8TL 9-10

These are just my initial thoughts.  I haven't tested these world generation rules yet.  When I do I will let you know how it went and and changes that I think need to be made.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

How Piperesque? Warm Fuzzies Anyone?

Garnett Elliott* asked me a good question.  Am I going to include Fuzzies in my Space Viking inspired setting?  That me made take a close look at what I'm doing.  How close to the fiction do I want to adhere? 

I knew from the start I couldn't do a straight conversion.  To much history, background and differences from Traveller for me to want to do that.  At first I thought I would incorporate some of the planets, names and history into the setting.  But I need to decide how much to steal borrow.  Or do I just go for the vibe.

At this point I'm thinking I will just go for the feeling of Space Viking with a few bits and pieces built in.  Maybe a few key planets.  An alien race or two, like the Fuzzies.  Then again, it might be "inspired by".  I'll have to see how it goes as I work on it.  Because honestly I've been vacillating between the two on an almost daily basis.  And it will probably end up somewhere in between.

So, I guess I don't have an answer to G-Man's question yet. 

*Game/adventure designer extraordinaire and author you should read if you like your fiction hardboiled.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Traveller Setting Ideas and Parameters

I've been thinking about my Space Viking inspired Traveller setting.  Here are some preliminary notes.

  • Space Viking vibe without trying to reproduce it specifically.
  • Classic Traveller,  Books 1-3 (or the Traveller Book) plus Supplement 4 Citizens of the Imperium.
  • TL 10 limit.  However, the old Terran Federation had a higher TL so artifacts might be found.
  • Only a few planets have rediscovered interstellar flight.
  • Terran Federation tore itself apart leading to the Long Night.
  • Humancentric.  There may be aliens but they are low tech levels and have not discovered interstellar flight or spaceflight.
  • The location of Terra has been lost.
  • Few multi-planet polities. 
Other things to ponder:  

  • Do I leave interstellar travel and jumps alone?
  • Special resources for jumps.  In the book 
  • How big should the pocket empires/confederations be?  Two or three planets?  A few more?  There are apparently 12 Sword Worlds though I don't remember all of them being named in the book.  That seems like too many, at least for what I'm shooting for.
  • Ship size.  CT using the first three books is a small ship universe.  However, the ships in Space Viking are huge.  A Space Viking ship (and all ships in the Piperverse) is spherical and could be 2000 feet in diameter and have a crew of 300 and carry 500 ground fighters.  Looking at High Guard and Fighting Ships, a ship with that crew size is something in the 30,000 to 50,000 ton range.  Much larger than I was thinking.  So, what do I do about that?  Ignore it?

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Space Viking for Traveller

Many years ago I wrote a blog post about the novel Space Viking by H. Beam Piper and how I always wanted to play a Traveller game in that setting.  I wrote how complex the background was and how

some of the technology differed from Traveller so I had never done it.  Well, I still haven't done it but that hasn't stopped me from thinking about it.

Since I can't do a direct conversion and I don't want to use the Sword Worlds from the Third Imperium I've decided that I should create a setting has the feel of the book.  Namely, humanity is coming out of a Long Night after the collapse of a large star-spanning empire/federation.  Most planets have not regained spaceflight, let alone interstellar flight.  Those that have have only started to voyage outward and there is still much unknown about the remnants of the empire.  And some of the planets will have regressed pretty far technologically, as far back as preindustrial.

I've thought of this before but I didn't know how to pull this off when randomly creating the couple of subsectors I wanted to start with.  How do I keep the tech levels low enough for most of the worlds?  How do I ensure that there are two or three systems that have a high enough tech level but not too high?  The randomness of the subsector creation project would make it difficult..

So, the answer may seem obvious to you but, to be honest, I'm not very good at modifying game rules or even thinking my way out of the box created by the rulebooks.  I've always been this way for some reason.  I've never wanted to tamper with games because I don't want to mess them up.  I really can't explain why.  It's probably the same reason I have troubles writing in a fresh blank book.  I don't want to besmirch it with my lame thoughts and ideas.

However, I've been reading the blog Den of the Lizard King lately and I've drawn inspiration and practical advice from it.  Den of the Lizard King is the blog of Omer Golan-Joel.  He runs Stellagama games and has done a lot with Traveller and Cepheus.  One of the main things that has inspired me is his posts about low tech settings he has worked on called Hard Space and Harsh beginnings.  These really got me thinking about how I could apply what he was been writing to my desired setting.

Then I ran across one particular post which freed my mind up and gave me a practical method to create the subsectors I need.  The post is called "Hard Space: Thoughts on World Generation".  In it he discusses the population levels, government types and the law levels for each of the worlds.  And then he creates his own random tables customized to get the results to fit his setting.  This was a revelation to me.  I don't know why is was, other than me being slow and not very creative.

Then I re-read this in Book 3: 

Finally, the referee should always feel free to create worlds which have been deliberately (rather than randomly) generated.

Now, I believe I will be able to create the Traveller setting that I've always wanted.  Of course it won't be Space Viking but that's ok.  It will be something I can be happy creating and be close enough for my tastes. All I had to do was see an example of how to do it and  give myself permission to deviate from the book.

Monday, September 5, 2022


 Mr. Raston over at the Lizard Man Diary Blog created an interesting little hex crawl.  What

caught my interest is that he used an online map generator called Hexgen to create the map.  I always like map generators.  I haven't played with it much so I don't really know its capabilites.  The image is a randomly generated map without any modifications.  You can find it here:  Hexgen.