Friday, February 27, 2015

Sci Fi Friday: Colonies and a trip to the stars
The future of humanity lies in the stars, but the stars are rather far away. But, maybe not so far as we thought. Recently we discovered that the speed of light can vary in a vacuum, which throws all manner of things into question. The speed limit of the universe... isn't? Fluctuates? Maybe we have wiggle room, if we can only figure out how.
But perhaps we don't have to. The point at which we can conceivably get to the stars is the point that we're building enormous colony ships, harvesting space resources to build artificial habitats, designed just for our use and needs.

Still, no matter what happens, we're going to need a better method than our present option, burning enormous masses of fuel and having our vessels reach low earth orbit running on fumes, compared to what they start their journeys from the surface with
It's nice to see that someone else had the same idea. Make use of that handy dandy atmosphere to get climb to the top the easy, efficient way, and save the space-fuel for space.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Interstellar Warfare Wednesday: Ships, combat therewith

McThag had a post a bit ago on the realities of space combat. Just like the old days of sail, just further away.

Things get even more complicated when you are dealing with a fixed amount of Delta V, as with chemical rockets. Because of the vast distances, lack of cover, enormous speeds, and limited mobility of lower tech spaceships, combat is less like the thrilling dogfights you see in movies and shows, and is closer to a game of chicken crossed with dodgeball with a side of Marco Polo where nobody's speaking up.

At earlier tech levels, missiles are the go-to, high weight per shot for low carried weight of something like a massive gun, with the option of guidance to deal with the sheer distances involved. CIWS type defense systems of any variety will be generally more relied on for defense than mobility and maneuverability in all cases involving ships that aren't specifically built for such things (fightercraft, and even those will be a lot less maneuverable than you'd think. Closer to Torpedo Boats than fighter aircraft. See more here. The key advantage of smaller, purpose built battlecraft is being tailored for a low moment of inertia, to allow the ship to be spun in order to perform maneuvers. Only really viable at tech levels lacking in laser weaponry or similar. The other key benefit of carried battlecraft is having ships who's delta V is all dedicated to combat maneuvering, unrelated to that required to complete the actual travel required for the mission).

Ship to ship actions, the true stomping ground of the marine, will remain necessary. Lacking tractor beams or similar, and given the limited fuel for maneuvering when working with DeltaV limited systems, this is another area where harpoons and grapnels come into play. Boarding ships will have dedicated braces to absorb impacts with the target craft, and heavy armor to withstand abuse taken during the chase leading up to the boarding action.

Dropships are a special case, serving as a small craft to ferry marines and supplies to and from the surface. Given that most celestial bodies of a size that will present substantial gravity to be escaped have atmosphere, dropships will be fitted with folding, adjustable wings. This will allow them to take advantage of the lowered fuel requirements for climbing through the atmosphere space-plane style, before the final boost out clear into space proper. Fuel processors, if available and required, will be fitted to these ships. Finally, for operations smaller than major scale landings, the dropships are likely to be the only non-ortillery (orbital artillery) support available to the ground forces; as such, rocket/missile artillery is likely to be installed, with a small CIWS system, and moderate armor to survive both the landing and serving as a ground base. To make up for the lack of support, a dropship drone boat full of automated mortar systems and recon/attack flyers may be sent along.

Overall, ships intended for combat troops will tend to have even fewer creature comforts than most realistic spaceships, by virtue of nearly everyone on board having space combat armor, as opposed to the simple skinsuit space-undies used by most spacers. Systems for switching out used air with fresh while still suited are dotted around the mostly unpressurized ship. Suits are kept mostly topped up, in case of emergency. The main ship's arsenal will be intended to both serve against other ships, and provide ortillery for those on the ground.

This got long and rambly and I'll probably re-do it later with numbers and things.

Many thanks to various other people who have been referenced in the writing of this post, such as Erin Palette's Traveler Tuesday, Atomic Rockets, McThag (for his various also-traveler-tuesday posts, including the one linked at the start that included mention of Atomic Rockets) in particular.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Motor Monday: Two Wheel Safety, the future is now

Something brought to my attention that motorcycle airbags are starting to become a thing nearly. So I did some looking into it. Boy howdy is it neat, I do believe it may be the final straw that helps me decide whether I want a traditional bike or not.

First, an overview of the tech
They take a look at the various versions available, and a glance at statistics from safety tests. Who knew, motorcycle parts that make safety testing worthwhile!
Another overview, with a bit of video to boot.
Further details on the Honda Goldwing's airbag. Pretty much all motorcycle crashes fall into one of two categories, head on because you either failed to turn enough, lost control in the turn, or someone pulled in front of you. If you were going to slide forward and slam into something, hooray extra jumbo airbag!

I want one. I'm not sure if I want a goldwing, but I want that airbag. I want one that can be mounted just like a tank-bag. The sensors wouldn't be hard to wire in yourself. If nobody will make one (seriously Honda, you're like 90% of the way there. The airbag is the hard part, making one that will go on anything is easy as hell because you can literally just mount it in a tank bag. If you don't or aren't already working on it, I'll do it myself).
And some more details on the wearable airbags from a few makers. Alpinestar also makes some, but I'm a grump and don't like any of the styles they have aesthetically, which is bad because if I buy a motorcycle jacket I'm wearing it all the freaking time.

One final note: Automatic bikes, or those with dual clutch systems. Again, a thing Honda's got a few of. I like it. There should be more of it. I'm sure there's no end of people to claim that it's not REALLY a motorcycle without a manual transmission, because having an old school system that can stall your bike when your life depends on having that power is a sign of MANLINESS. In my humble opinion, these people are welcome to take that glorious manual transmission and cram it up their ass. I've no problem with manual transmissions, and indeed am pondering several cars with them, but I do so fully admitting that they present an additional challenge to the safe operation of the vehicle, and add a potential failure point due to human error under extreme stress that may be the difference between life and death.

You can skip all the safety crap you want, but if your actions lead to someone else choosing not to use it where they otherwise might have? You deserve to pay any bills they wind up with that said safety equipment would have lessened or negated.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Space Combat: 2d demonstration

Despite Luftrausers referring to your vehicle as an airplane, at no point in time does it fly by means of aerodynamic lift. It's all boosters, all the time. With the Zero Gravity engine, it even drifts along in whichever way it was moving when you stop boosting.

In short, it controls much like a maneuvering space combat vehicle would: A lot of little thrusters to turn, with the main booster performing all the work. This can be hard to visualize when it's described to people, and yet here's an action packed, fun little game that approximates it quite wonderfully.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Motor Monday: RPG edition

Most RPG characters start with a theme. I was invited to take part in a Shadowrun campaign not long after completing my motorcycle course, and the capability and low price for performance of a motorcycle just seemed right. Top that off with a real identity that needed hiding (something few shadowrunners have!), and a tendency to be in trouble, and the idea of a motorcycle riding gunslinger wearing heavy biker armor and a helmet was a natural one.

Meet Biker, better known as Norman Schultz, retired Combat Biker, motorcycle racer, and now mechanic, specializing in vehicle modifications for metahumans who have difficulty fitting normal vehicles (He's a dwarf, because they're my preferred standard fantasy race). With color changing and morphing armor to allow him to live his double life, his signature style and blinding speed both on and off his bike have earned him a reputation in his short time taking jobs. But what would a man known as "biker" be without his bike?

The Yamaha Rapier, an affordable street bike, built for performance and handling without breaking the bank. Norman's is a nice bright orange normally, and switches to a blood red when he's out on business as Biker. Let's do some digging, shall we? Just about everything in Shadowrun is extrapolated from current products, such as the Beretta 201T he's wielding, which is simply a Beretta 93R, futurized. No doubt we can find at least some inspiration from one of the various maker's, most likely back in the 80s when Shadowrun was kicked off.

Ding ding ding, I believe we have a winner. Long, angled seat, minimalist sides, and fixed front fairing? Our first contender for "what did they base this on?" is the Yamaha Seca Turbo. To be fair, the body shape wasn't too unusual for 80s bikes in my brief research.

I'll have more details on the character and a picture of his custom bike when I have time to draw it all up.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

GM Resource: Secret High Tech Monster Hunters

In settings with secret supernatural elements, be it mutant heroes, shadowy cults, or an intersection with the hereafter, there is a near certainty that there will be an organization devoted to dealing with them. Often times the party plays the part of members of this organization, Other times, this organization may play the antagonist, whether the party is playing the evil side, or the group has a zero tolerance policy regardless of good or evil.

Be they player or NPC, I'll be providing suggestions for equipment and particular training that such an organization is likely to have for ease of generation. For the purposes of this list, I will be considering tech levels from the invention of functional repeating firearms onwards.


Routine gear carried on a day to day basis, when not specifically hunting:
Sturdy coat/vest, such as a motorcycle or riding vest. May be a standard pattern with lots of different customization available to prevent a group of hunters on or off duty from appearing to be related by an organization. Serves to hide equipment and offers a bit of protection. 
Some manner of pistol, This pistol will be as state of the art as can be tested to be reliable. It is likely to be chambered for magnum or high power rounds in a caliber that will permit the use of payload rounds containing elements supernatural beings respond negatively to. Typically as large of a capacity as can be carried without excessive size. May have a compact suppressor stored separately if available.
Knives. A standard or above average sized, combat usable folding knife (balisong, tactical folder, switchblade, or similar). Likely to have at least one push knife, dagger, or similar with specialty treatments such as Cold Iron or Silvered.
Concealable light body armor. Run into enough mysterious horrors that supposedly don't exist when you're just trying to go for a walk/have a drink/have a picnic, and you'll decide that at least some armor stays on even off duty.
Pocket Medkit. Life's rough, good to have some bandages.
Tiny Supernatural Response Kit. A minor kit with a few miscellaneous monster repellents, things to prevent critters with infectious bites from turning people, things to seal/turn the undead or help them move on, things of that nature.

Hunt Gear, carried when a target has been identified or is known to be in an area. Includes everything from the routine gear except where things may be switched out for larger versions, such as medkits and supernatural response kits.
Sturdy coat/vest/cover garment to give protection and hide gear.
Compact combat arm. A mare's leg with a folding stock, SMG, or rifle carbine pistol or SBR depending on the tech level. Suppressed if available, loaded with tailored rounds if the target's type is known. In remote areas, full sized weapons may be used.
Larger knife (fixed blade), shortsword, tomahawk, etc. Something capable in melee without excessive size. If the target's type is known, it'll be tailored to dealing with them.
Concealable Combat Armor. A heavier vest (steel shirt, concealable plate carrier, etc), greaves/shin guards, and bracers, possibly with heavy bracer designed to serve as a concealed shield. 
Compact medkit. Trouble is expected, more stuff to deal with things going wrong.
Compact Supernatural Response Kit. A larger kit tailored to dealing with the particular target or symptoms reported. 
Traps, compact rappelling kit, and miscellaneous other such equipment.

Vehicles: Low profile vehicles with good performance. Motorcycles provide a substantial amount of performance and ability to get a great many places, but leave the rider exposed. Trucks have surprising amounts of power off the line, and a truck capper can make disposal of monstrous corpses a cinch. Vehicles such as hot hatches can handle a chase or getaway, without drawing the undue attention a sports car might.


Weapon skills for gear carried, unarmed combat skills (wrestling/judo in particular, monsters tend to try to grab)
Observation, to keep an eye on the area around them without being noticed.
Stealth and Shadowing, to track targets or potential targets unobtrusively, plan ambushes, etc.
Acting, to serve as bait or pretend not to know or otherwise .
Occult/thaumatology/similar. Knowledge about creatures, magic (possibly the ability to cast spells if magic is available to this group, at least ability to identify magic-derived effects and potentially break/resist them).
Tactics, Traps. Ability to plan ambushes effectively and respond to evolving situations.
First Aid. Self Explanatory. 
Fast Draw/Quickdraw. Get gear into a fight, either to surprise the target or in response to an attack.

Suggested Stats:
Above average strength and dexterity for/due to combat training.
Above average resistance to afflictions, death, and mental effects (constitution/health and willpower)
Bravery or fear resistance
High speed
Increased Perception

Monday, February 2, 2015

Gear level: RPG Player Character

Mythbusters tested the video game protagonist habit of carrying ALL the guns. When they subjected someone in good physical condition, they found it to work out rather swimmingly, at least in the short term.

Who knew? Those fatigue point costs are going to add up mighty quick though if you have to do any more than a dash through a spacezombie infested facility.