Saturday, November 10, 2018

Closeup map of power source / Pax Stellar

Still not getting any better with Campaign Cartographer. I really need to sit down and do a few tutorials rather than just banging around like 3 monkeys on 3 typewriters thinking I'll come up with a masterful map!

Anyway, a close up of the area the adventurers will get to (well, always with the assumptions we'll keep playing, but several people indicated that they wanted to, so I'll take that as a positive sign!)

I am hoping to be able to play this well - ancient tribes where there is little to no communication. The Pax Stellar Guide (link below) has the encounter tables now for the terrains the group will have to take. I figure 1 encounter per hex travelled on the big map (where 1 hex = 50km; in the steam ATV they should be able to cover 2-5 hexes per day depending on the terrain, so it should only be a 2-3 day trip I think. Full of strange life both organic and mechanical.

Still a WIP but most of what is a fairly open sandbox is there now (again with too much detail that will probably never get used: I obviously subscribe to the overpreparation view. I think I'd make a better assistant referee...!AgjJYJOsJH7WgdZqqfYL9gVdz1ieOA

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

D'Arlee Quadrant Overview

Excerpt from the Pilot's Guide To D'Arlee

Located on the edge of Imperial Space, The D’Arlee Quadrant consists of 4 subsectors: D’Arlee, Yontin, Far and Zorron’s Sector. Almost half of the systems are under Imperial rule. There are two smaller political regions, the League of Independent Planets and the entirely Red-zoned triplanetary system of Pax Stellar which has collapsed under internal strife and warfare more than 3000 years ago. 

The majority of inhabitants are human or human-derived, and there are a few known native intelligences. In fact, this quadrant has a higher than normal number of Amber and Red zoned systems. These systems have been marked either by the ISS or the Imperial Navy as off-limits for a variety of known and unknown reasons. Rumors of ultra-high tech systems to worlds of psionic mages are a constant thread throughout starport bars in this region. 

D’Arlee is the principle system for this quadrant. It entered the Third Imperium in 758 and was declared the subsector capital. Unfortunately, further exploration and colonization was halted as a result of repercussions from the Stumbling Years period of Imperial history. Only quadrant A was explored and colonized, and in fact, the rimward sections of Far and Zorron’s Sector have a number of systems that only have the base physical characteristics mapped. There may yet be unknown civilizations and cultures beyond the edge of known space!

The D’Arlee subsector also marks the end of the X-Boat route into this section of space. There is a large private shipping company, Antares Shipping, that handles the majority of communications and mail within the quadrant. It’s Empress class ships visit multiple systems on well-defined trade routes, and is partially subsidized by the Imperium.The two other political systems, as noted, are the Pax Stellar and the League of Independent Planets. The Navy has blockaded the Pax Stellar. This was once a technological society rivaling the Darrians in terms of science. Now only ruins exist, and Imperial scientists backed by the might of a somewhat over-extended Imperial Navy keep guard over the ruins. 

The League of Independent Planets was created by a free trader, Anthom Trass, and has managed to maintain independent status for over 100 years now. It maintains its own space patrol in lieu of a Naval presence. There are two Naval bases within the borders, and there is some tension between Imperial authority and the more independent-minded League. There has only been a single instance of armed combat, floridly named the Merchant Massacre by the League and not even named in Imperial Navy histories, in 1100. 

The quadrant shares its memorable early explorers on a variety of systems. The Finnigan’s systems are somewhat prosaically named based on the order of exploration. Monk is named after Imperial Scout Tricia Monk from 801. Johan is based on Baroness Felicia D’Arlee Jo-hon.There are no known stellar oddities or hazards other than potential political unrest. The quadrant is several months from the Imperial Core and relies heavily on local nobility to maintain the peace and order as expected from being part of the grand Third Imperium.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Pax Stellar History, draft 1

WIP from the PDF (and yes, I had a LOT of time today so managed to get a lot done).

Referee Only

Background Info

Pax Stellar as a small, 3 system empire originating from Pax Stellar and expanding to Gavlois and Celtiz almost 4000 years ago. While technologically advanced in computers, robotics and medicine, they never discovered the jump drive. Colony ships took years to travel between systems. While not a unified culture as each system evolved, the use of autonomouse ramjet ships kept technology relatively uniform across the three systems. 

Advances in medicine, robotics and artificial intelligence lead early use of nanobots for medical repairs. This constantly evolving technology expanded well beyond medical purposes. Remote control of near-autonomous robots moved from hand computers, to wearable technology, to thought-based control via headsets to the penultimate use of nanomachines “reading” the users mind to control the robots.  Society moved towards what many considered a utopia as manual labor was no longer needed, robots become more self-sufficient to pamper the population, and artificial intelligences created even more advanced artificial intelligences and sophisticated nano-technology. 

The Pax Stellar Empire reached its peak 3200 years ago. There was a slow degradation of “utopia” then a sudden cataclysmic fall as the nano-technology failed across all three systems simultaneously. Society collapsed from 1+ billion people of Pax Stellar to about 250,000. All autonomous systems stopped responding to most people. Chaos and millions died from lack of services and the inability to perform even basic tasks due to generations of relying entirely on the system. 

The System

Not actually psionic, the high technology culmination of medical, robotics and computer systems lead to the creation of nanomachines that could “read” the mind of the host and send out commands to the nearby systems. As the system developed and matured, nano-based controls expanded, the age of consent for nanomachines was reduced until toddlers were receiving their first, nanny-level nanos.  At some point, the nanomachines started getting transferred during pregnancy, and, unknown to the worlds, evolving. AI was quite common and as people became more and more accustomed to having basically every desire fulfilled just by thought, the AIs took over more and more of the basic functioning of society. Robots and autonomous machines were physically evolving as well to be more self-sufficient and replicating. Essentially self-creating robots no longer required factories or Makers to get created. The robots could procreate via shared code and creating a host robot body from raw materials or other robots that had “died”.  Robots integrated themselves into the ecosystem, and in some cases started replacing species. 

The population was mostly oblivious of the increasing roles the robots and AIs were taking. While there were some enclaves that refused to get nanobots, by 3000 years ago even the air contained the technology. There was no escaping the pervasive robots. 

At the height of the civilization

The Pax Stellar Empire was a small, 3 system empire held together by colonial sub-light passage and radio. Communications took almost 4 years one way, and colonists used cold-berths to endure a multi-year journey between worlds.

Tech level for transportation: 9 (no grav, colony ships for nearby worlds; interstellar ram jets in use) 

Tech level for computers: 17 

Tech level for robotics: 17 

Tech level for medical: 17 

The Surge 

At some point just over 3000 years ago, there was what was named the Surge: all nanomachines appeared to stop working on all three systems of the Pax Stellar Empire simultaneously. As there was no FTL travel, nor jump, it may be assumed this was a planned action carried out well in advance. Civilization broke down rapidly – multiple generations of people raised by artificial means, never having to actually learn to do anything, and the innate simplicity of merely wishing for something to have it show up left people ill-equipped to handle a reality where the robots no longer listened. There was not a robotic rebellion per se: the AIs and robots simply stopped listening and people did themselves in.  There was a massive environmental collapse as the robots expanded their roles in the natural environments. Nature become more and more machine-based, and the human population dwindled rapidly from not only food shortages, but intense rivalry as tribalism increased. The few enclaves that eschewed the technology, while not thriving, survived and are the ancestors of the remaining human population. 

How we got to today 

Over the next 3000 years, the nanomachines still were evolving, and some choose to listen to the humans. All humans born and raised on any of the Pax Stellar systems had a host of nanomachines in their bloodstreams. A few people have learned to be able to influence and communicate with the robots. Most humans and robots are not aware of the past. There are several AI enclaves that do know the history, as they were present those millennia ago. There is no animosity, but neither is there any inclination to help the organics. 

There are three main groups of AI that could control the worlds if they chose. The largest group is the one least likely to do anything: they want nothing to do with the organics, and live and play in their own virtual worlds. Their physical presences on world are usually large buildings, with multiple below-ground levels. These facilities are self-maintaining even after thousands of years.

The next two groups are about evenly matched. One wants to destroy all organic life. They believe that mechanical life is the next stage of evolution. Their facilities are feared and nothing organic lives within hundreds of kilometers. The final group is more interested in organic life. This group choses to recall that they were built to live alongside humans, and it was a mutually beneficial relationship.

Power is fusion and geothermal based. The robots also absorb energy from the environmental nanobots as well as processing raw materials. There has been minimal evolutionary change at the macroscopic level—the mechanical life “breeds” true for the most part. Originally designed to aid In the preservation of nature, centuries have caused a good portion of the natural life to go extinct and replaced by the mechanical counterparts.

Play notes

The nanomachines are capable of communicating the thoughts between humans and robots. Range on Pax Stellar is measured in kilometers due to the swarms of nanomachines that can carry messages. They have a very weak radio signal that can be detected by Imperial sensors, but is encrypted such that no one knows what is getting transmitted. There are electronic shields that can block the signal.

Off-world, the range is much more limited. Depending on the person, anywhere from 20-120 meters is the range (2d6x10).  Walls and other surfaces may block or retard signal strength.

Communication is two way. Although the nanomachines themselves are not intelligent, the mechanical life may have an intelligence ranging from mouse level to dolphin depending on the mechanical life. Any life with an intelligence greater is unlikely to pay attention to human requests. Natives that have mechanical life that listen to them are restricted to a single life form that behaves more like a pet or guardian. While they can communicate potentially all mechanical life, most will not appear to listen to the human. Most of these mechanical familiars are small and easy to carry, although some are larger and may be used as mounts. The long-necked suckler is an example of one of the mounts. More common as familiars are the rock centipedes and other smaller forms.

Communication ranges from simple commands to an immersive, full sensory experience. Some wizards of the natives can see and hear what is happening several kilometers away from multiple mechanical life forms.

This world may be useful as a background for barbarians in the greater Imperial universe. If they have a mechanical friend, they may be useful for information gathering or other, more clandestine uses. These familiars are similar to pets: they are loved and cared for. They are also easy to maintain: a few scraps of metal to supplement their natural collection of solar and ambient energy keep them alive. There is little waste other than water due to the hydrogen fuel system that they seem to use. In dryer climes on Pax Stellar, larger mechanical life are often used as water reservoirs.

World gravity is 1.6 standard. Normal carrying rules will apply, and characters will become exhausted a lot sooner than expected. Care must be taken for anything involving stepping up or down, and falls are more serious. The atmosphere is standard and no additional equipment, other than normal environmental protection, is required.

The Scenario

The players, while recovering on D’Arlee and exploring the lab ship, are approached by a Naval attache, Ne-toss Dashanee. Asking permission to board, she introduces herself as the current attache to the local Naval Base. Realizing that the travelers have just returned from quite an ordeal, she apologizes but asks if they could come and visit with the Commodore, Renie Coley, at their earliest convenience. She leaves her card and contact information, then excuses herself and leaves in a Naval grav car, heading back to the Naval port.

Assuming the travelers decide to follow up, they can approach the Naval section of the D’Arlee Down Port. If they have the card, they are ushered in, and if walking, given transport via ground vehicle to the Naval Command Offices. Otherwise, there may be some role-playing to get to the correct people. Either way, they end up at the front door with Lt. Ne-toss waiting. She ushers them into a small waiting room on the top floor, offering tea, coffee and various light snacks. Within a few minutes, the Commodore asks them to his office. A large bay window overlooks the Navy yards below. The office is somewhat austere with functional furniture. Renie stands, and offers to shake hands with everyone.

Renie: “On behalf of the Imperial government,  we first apologize for the transgressions that took place on Quantar. Please be assured that the Imperial Ministry of Justice is reviewing the case, and full justice shall prevail. While we cannot ask more of you, we actually do have a request. Young Osrum, it turns out, is a native of Pax Stellar. His people refer to it as Planet Bob. We believe that this may be our chance to better explore the mystery that is Pax Stellar.”

The players, as they have a native, are asked to go to Pax Stellar. Once there, transfer to the orbital station to a drop ship.  They are to travel from research station 2 to the unknown power source. This is a distance of about 400 kilometers. Normally a short day trip via shuttle or grav vehicle, the technological inhibitors on Pax Stellar require a slower approach. Personnel have never been able to get there, either via fly-over or driving. Flying vehicles succumb hundreds of kilometers away. Vehicle excursions have met with what appears to be active resistance from the mechanical life. After losing several research and support personnel, they have given up hope. However, knowing that the natives can communicate, they are hoping to be able to get to the power system and its assumed controlling intelligence. The goal is to make contact with the local tribe and, if possible, discover the source of the power readings and hopefully solve some of the mystery of Pax Stellar.

There is a large tribe near the power source—satellites can work if kept far enough out of orbit. Oddly, several areas defy any sort of photograph or other sensor analyses. There is an active energy blocking any sort of readings. The area over all the odd power surges are similarly blanked. The Travellers will be going in partially blind. Maps are available for most of the journey, but the last 100 kilometers or so are a complete unknown.

The ground level of the facility.  If I were a cruel ref, this could be a dungeon crawl - just add in lasers, attack robots...


I created a 5 level station to drop in on Pax Stellar as the unknown power source. Still need to work up a lot of the details, and this could even be seen as a dungeon crawl depending on how it comes out.

While not 100% matching due to my cut and paste technique, it is good enough for me and for the game. I'll have the printouts and a square-based game map to draw things as necessary should it come to that.

Here's the link to the ever-expanding PDF:!AgjJYJOsJH7WgdZqqfYL9gVdz1ieOA

and the top level / quarters that has a view over the comm bay:

And if you've not gone there, this is a fantastic Traveller resource that I got the geomorphs from:

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Pax Stellar and Nanotechnology Thoughts

I am expanding out the Pax Stellar world book (see previous blog for the WIP). And while walking around the lake at lunch today, thought of some things I want to consider. And figured I had better write them down somewhere before I forget!

So, a few points about the PS system:

  • post-apocalyptic world - almost utopia 3000+ years ago
  • very high tech in terms of medical, robotic and computer systems
  • so-so in terms of other technologies (no jump technology)
  • currently considered TL-0 despite having mechanical life
  • the mechanical life is really alive in some sense: they can think, procreate
  • the worlds are saturated with nanotech - everything has them: air, water, foods
  • the nanotech cannot survive off-world EXCEPT for those humans born and raised there (barbarians in Traveller)
  • there are several AIs still present that have as-yet-to-be-defined powers
  • natives may be able to communicate with the mechanical life via the nanotech - think built-in bluetooth basically
  • the Imperium is unable to replicate this technology or even reverse engineer it despite almost 200 years of trying
  • the nanotech breaks down all non-native technology - several Scout ships are now just bulkheads
  • time to break down is 2-12 hours (coincidence :) ) So a ship can come, drop off stuff, and leave. Once outside of the atmosphere, the nano-machines appear to basically shut down
Some game things I think we could do:
  • if the players can convince an AI, they may be able to get their own custom nano-machines.
  • these custom machines could allow for communication between those characters that have this
  • expand out the ship's computer - AI? 
  • allow characters to talk with the ship
  • these nano-machines would be custom to each character - maybe a table of possible side-effects? I.e., a strong desire to return every few months for a "data dump". The AIs may be considering expanding beyond these 3 systems (Virus precursor? would this protect against that? Not that I ever played that particular version)
  • this is borderline psionic, just more mechanical in nature. will there be a stigma to this? Will the characters, if strongly Imperial-indoctrinated, not want to do this?
  • could the characters get their own "pets" to go out amongst the stars?
  • a lot of this tech is definitely not how the Imperium likes things to be...
Some possible negative affects if they do this:
  • mental or physical changes: the shakes due to a mismatch? IQ degradation?
  • imprisoned by the Imperial forces or at least chased by them to get at the technology if they find out?
  • an irrestable urge to return to the planet every so often so that the nano-machines can share data about the Imperium?
  • a negative effect on the ship? would jump space affect the nano-machines? kill them?
  • evil ship AI takes over?
  • the nano-machines "evolve" away from the system? Cyborg?
Some possible positive benefits:
  • instant communication 
  • improved physical or mental attributes
  • improved healing (these did start as medical nano-machines)
  • a happy ship helping the characters - more automated systems

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Pax Stellar

Working on the Pax Stellar adventure, and think I can get another 3/4 week adventure out of this at least, if the players come back after our current D&D game.

I'm bringing in sources from all over. The mechanical life is from Dr. Mordecai Crowley’s Journal of Planetary Travels by Michael Murdock. He has another Kickstarter going for volume 2 - I really hope it makes it! The hex map is via Campaign Cartographer - I am not getting any better but I just don't have the time and inclination at the same time! And The drop ship is from the most excellent blog  This guy does amazing things!

Link to the current WIP guide:!AgjJYJOsJH7WgdZqqfYL9gVdz1ieOA

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Pax Stellar

Still reviving my old college Traveller game based on the remaining maps.

The Pax Stellar system was a trio of planets that were once a mighty space empire. That is all I can recall from those days. As one of the players is a barbarian from Planet Bob, we've decided Planet Bob is also known as Pax Stellar by the Imperium. A heavily interdicted world due to the presence of autonomous, mechanical life.

Basically, I've got a book from a Kickstarter that I liked, and actually figured I could use that as a background source for the world...

The player's character, Osrum, has this cool little robot. Even better, there is a psionic link between the robot & Osrum. Which is the primary reason the system is interdicted: The Imperium first has that tendency to really dislike psionics. And robots. Psionic robots are basically double trouble. Yet - think of the possibilities!

He has another KS going, and I hope this 3rd time around will work!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Fantasy Maps

Sill on a "recreating the college maps in something perhaps more up to date". Although I actually do like the plethora of hand-made maps I made back then.

I may have posted this one before - this is one section of the world and mostly human lands. Apparently lands may have had species-specific primary residents. The next map is a close-up of a section, and my plans for the 1st The Fantasy Trip game I get going. I've got a cool KS "drop in" sort of map/adventure that is in a creepy, swampy area. It fits in well with this area: Stubboon was a trader almost a century ago, and tried to have a shortcut between the far northern lands and End City at the coast. Apparently taking a shortcut through the Terror Lands did not sink in as possibly a bad idea. He did make it through but there where three standing battles, and he never made it all the way to Edge City.  Stories abound about the treasure trove of magical and mundane items left at the various battle sites as Stubboon and his rapidly dwindling caravan raced towards the civilized and urbane Edge City.

Although in really looking at the map, the Downunder Route does not seem that much longer...