Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 134: Kinds of Technology for Sci-Fi Games
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Main Topic

Technology is ubiquitous in Sci-Fi. As a matter of fact it is actually one of the defining elements to the genre. Is this something you are going to make major or minor as well. The questions and how you answer them is going to be important to how you bring technology into your Sci-Fi game. Technology can also be a hot topic at gaming tables, more than magic, because a lot of gamers know more about technology and have strong feelings about it. 

  • What sort of Tech Level is the setting? 

Tech levels loosely refers to the way that technology acts on the world. The higher the Tech Level, the more advanced the tech – for example the Firefly lower tech level with chemical slugthrowers versus a Star Trek Phaser directed energy weapon. Battlestar Galactica showed a way to have a split Tech Level where the Vipers and Galactica were somewhat lower tech than other settings, but the jump drive they used was a higher tech. 

  • Is your Tech Grounded or Imaginative? 

This is also how “realistic” is your technology. The more grounded a setting’s technology, the more Science the setting is compared to the Fiction part for the Imaginative side of this axis. For example, the way a spaceship travels in The Expanse is very different from the way that a spaceship travels in Star Wars. 

  • What is the origin or power source of your Tech?

This can be about whether the Tech is alien or human derived. Often tied into the previous question, the more Imaginative a Tech or the higher a Tech Level the more you may feel the desire to attribute the tech to alien, or extrahuman, sources. Stargate made great use of a high Tech Level gate technology that came from an extrahuman origin and even human advancements were tied to that extraterrestrial trade. Human tech is often seen in Battlestar Galactica.   

  • Biological or Synthetic technology base?

There is also a question for whether your technology will have a biologic component. In Dune, there is a Biological aspect to the technology that replaces computers for reasons of the setting. Synthetic technology is the classic sci-fi technology of metals, plastics, and blinking lights. A lot of anime settings make fuller use of the biological technology base. 

  • Is it Clean or Dirty?

No matter what the other questions are, this question sets a tone for the game and setting. Think about the difference between the way the Technology in Star Wars is portrayed versus Star Trek – the latter is Dirty where there is a clanging and messy way about fixing it while the former is streamlined and even when being fixed is done in a rather pristine manner. This could also be seen as a blue collar versus white collar description or even a mechanic versus a designer style. Kaylee versus Geordi. 

Stat Blocks

Zendead

LOA

Laten Overwatch Articulation or LOA for short is capable of tracking a soldier’s physical condition as well as his combat gear. The Loa is an implanted chipset that connects to the Artificial Intelligence of their unit. Once on line the two function as a seamless whole the AI feeding intel and basic info about ammo to things like how far and fast the soldier can run. This is useful for the commanders to deploy troops that can do the most good in a situation. 

But with all things tech based there are drawbacks. Hacking being the first threat that comes to mind. It is far less of an issue than most think. The bigger issue is when the LOA spends too much time focused on a single person. One would think that this would be good but in reality it starts to push that person further than is reasonable. Another problem that might be even more dangerous is a LOA that isn’t kept from seeing more of the horrors of humanity then is truly good. Mankind is a monster to everything around it. From the planet to each other, nothing is safe from the things we will do to get ahead. 

If a LOA were able to evolve past its set parameters then you might see an uprising or maybe an uplifting of mankind. In the end the first AI mankind created was to be better at killing and hurting each other so what does that say about our outlook on things. 

How to Use LOA in Game:

LOA is a first or second generation AI that while useful is also a window into the human condition. Use it as such or something similar to show people the horrors that we are capable of doing to ourselves and our world. 

Joules

Ashes of Time

It appears to be an ornate antique hourglass.  Accented with Lapis and Obsidian.  Grey ash falls steadily from the top bulb, collecting in a small pile in the lower bulb.  As the last piece falls, the old man standing at the desk lets out a strangled gasp and begins to keel over. A small fire starts at the palm of his hand.  His body is completely immolated before reality sets in.

The old man’s ashes rise and materialize in the top bulb.

The price has been paid.

The ashes of time have appeared randomly throughout history.  Offering wisdom and forbidden knowledge.  It’s no accident that Carter was able to find the tomb of Tutankhamun.  Or unearthing the Rosetta stone in 1799 during the napoleonic campaign.  You’ve heard the modern stories of someone investing in apple when they were young, only to discover the stocks were worth a fortune.  It’s the result of consulting the ashes of time.

The ashes will always provide accurate information.  No riddles and mysteries.  Simple and clear answers.  

It’s the powersource that fuels the ashes that brings the risk.  The ashes are fueled by a human soul.   Each request for information uses up a bit of power.  When no power remains, the ashes become ravenous. They will devour the soul of the closest individual.   Depending on how long it’s been without power, it may gorge itself, devouring the souls of everyone in a radius as large as a quarter mile.  These disappearances that the Ashes of Time cause have been covered up.  Tomb collapses, deaths on the battlefield, explorers getting lost in the jungle.  Seems that the rumors of perfect knowledge combined with human greed is still one of the most dangerous combinations in existance.

How to Use Ashes of Time in Game:

It can be used as a deus ex machina device if their party (or GM) have gotten themselves into a corner and can’t get out.  Or be the Macguffin that caused the elimination of a whole town

Guard-a-Manger

Toolkit TK119675

The worst part of the damnable thing isn’t the rust. It isn’t the slightly awkward grips on each of the tools in the kit. You can live with the seemingly indescribable ability to attract more grime and crud no matter how much you clean them. No. It’s the extra toolhead that is missing. 

Every toolkit you’ve ever seen has followed the same basic structure. There is only so much space, so even the Mass Bibliotecha Militium use the same understanding of space. A tool kit needs what a tool kit needs – no more and no less. When space is at a premium in the stars, there has to be a reason to each and every square centimeter of space. That is why the unfilled reservoir for a toolhead is aggravating. 

When you got this toolkit, expertly liberated from a library patron who longer needed anything at all, the toolkit had an empty slot. Nothing else in the toolkit will fit. Nothing else seems made for it. Otherwise, the Toolkit is perfect. The other extra toolheads have come in handy, and you suspect that may even be specific to the MBM designs and work. That could come in handy if the Librarian Shock Troops were ever looking for you. What would that toolhead unlock? Are there secrets that the Powers that Be keep away from the rest of us? 

What do you do when you find the toolhead that fits the last empty slot? 

How to Use Toolkit TK119675 in Game:

I like McGuffins. This allows you to weave in either a search for the missing toolhead if you have inquisitive players, or a plot thread to dangle in front of them when needed for the less exploration minded. Technology could hide mundane things like infrastructure conduits, even on a galactic scale, or it could unlock hidden technology kept from the masses. It’s up to you. 

Closing remarks 

Zendead – Oats Studios Holy cow if you like Short Films and like Sci-fi this series is for you. I was hooked after I think like 3 minutes. And the first one I saw had Sigourney Weaver. So good and creepy but so sci-fi. It is on Netflix so go watch it. Most or short like 10 minutes or so. 

Joules – Metal Family 

Guard-a-Manger – Continuum. A time travel shades of grey police procedural tv show starring Rachel Nichols. It was cut short, and the last season very clearly shows a compressed story structure to cram in everything needed to complete the creator’s story. Regardless, its a great way to show an integration of technology into a world and setting including limitations on the technology. If you can find it. 

Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae

This episode was sponsored by the new webstore Tabletop Land 

Find us

 

Author Pages with all of our contact info

Zendead 

Joules 

Guard-a-manger

And Thanks to Merriam-Webster  and Online Etymology Dictionary for our Lexicon segment

Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 133: Kinds of Magic For Fantasy Games
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Main Topic

Magic is often one of the defining pillars of a Fantasy Game or Setting. When you are either designing your own, or describing an existing setting’s magic, make sure to capture what sort of feelings or themes it evokes. We will look at a few questions to ask about your magic system and what that means for you as a GM. 

Is it a bounded magic or expansive magic?

Bounded magic refers to magic that exists within some defined limits of what it can do, and is often associated with specific rituals used to reach the desired magic results more often manipulating existing powers of the universe or world while an expansive magic system is one where magic fundamentally changes the reality to accomplish results 

Is it high power or low power?

 Just because magic is expansive doesn’t mean it can rewrite all of the world – limitations will usually still exist so that a game can occur. Does the magic extend only to simple everyday events like waterproofing shoes or can a caster call lightning down from the sky? The sense of wonder may remain high, but the result can be wildly different. 

Is the source of magic internal or external to the caster?

Channeling power from within is a common trope for a willworking style of magic, but it isn’t the only way to explain where the energy or power comes from in your magic. An external source could be either manipulating the fundamental forces of the world or tapping into an extradimensional source or patron.

Is it common or rare?

High magic versus low magic is another way a setting is described, and this question is about magic’s relationship to the setting. The more common it is, the more mundane it can seem and there are many systems and settings where enchanted stones or coins light even the hovels of the lower class. Rare magic has the constant air of danger and allure, even if only low power. 

What does it cost? 

Magic always comes at a cost. What does that mean? Is it sanity or a storytelling allegory for addiction in the system or setting? Is it a part of the casters own lifeforce or spirit? Does magic deplete the world’s energy? The kind of cost a caster must pay, even if only when they lose their way or make a mistake is a way to describe the magic as well. The spell lapping at the mind of the caster, wearing away their resistance to cast it or the slight fraying of their nerves as the energy passes through them burning them out just a little bit.   

Stat Blocks

Zendead

Siphia

The door creaks open and your nose is assaulted by smells that defy explanation. Beyond the door the ruddy red of low burning fires can just barely be made out. With the assaulting smells comes the wash of heat. You also can hear the crackling of a fire mixed with bubbling of something deep in the room. With this bombardment on your senses you are glad you can’t taste anything from here. 

A thin hand caressingly wraps around the edge of the door pulling it more open. Standing there is a figure swathed in a rich burgundy hooded robe. The face beneath is as genderless as a skull. Though the person isn’t a skeleton. You can see the swirl of blue tattoo ink on their neck moving out of the light of the torch. The glittering emerald green eyes almost seem alight in the face. 

“Welcome Adventurer, what can Siphia do for you in the realms Arcane?” A voice like rich honey pours over you with the question. You feel the need to explain every detail to this person that you have never met before today. As you sit there you notice the shadow move independently of your and Siphia’s movements. You take the offered powder and vial with the instructions to not mix the two until you have the creature in view. At which point you must pour it around the creature before it can draw blood from you or anyone else in your party. 

How to Use Siphia in Game:

Siphia is a mage of untold power or none at all. Are they a charlatan or the real thing? Can they draw power from some other place and channel it? They are more than they seem that much is for sure. Let them fill the role you need: false ideas can be just as powerful as the real thing sometimes. 

Guard-a-Manger

Doma’s Logs

Perhaps I should never have read Doma’s logs, somehow locked in the Guild’s vault, but a curious child may only do so much averting of their eyes. Hear what I heard and see if you could also resist:

Navigation is something that should come easily by now. We have charts, we know the best routes, and we have the tools to get from hither to dither. Celestial navigation is not simple, mind you, but should be something we can teach. Each and every vessel has not only a Navigator, but we ensure that the tools are there to accomplish the goals including sextants slowly replacing the astrolabes of yore. 

In this context you may perhaps see why the Guild would be unsure of the questions we received. The missives were sent before the ship left port but contain portents that were difficult to decipher. The ship still had its astrolabe assigned but also had a Sextant. This was not itself unusual, but the report of a low hum from both instruments when they were near each other certainly caused the Guild enough concern to send me. 

That is how I began this trek. A simple Inquisitor sent to boldly go after a ship with humming tools, that had not been seen since it left port. It failed to arrive as expected, and perhaps that is what inspired the Guild to dispatch me rather than the besotten stories of sailors coming back from shore leave. This log should serve you well to understand where I have been, a vast waterless ocean where no Guild member had gone before, as well as give you the key to reach me among the new life I have found or come home without me as I sleep amongst the stars.  

How to Use Doma’s Logs in Game:

Doma’s Logs are a simple call to adventure with the ability of the GM to put anything or anyone they want along the way. The implication that the fantasy world may have space for …. Well …. Space, means you could expand horizons even moreso if you desire. The nature of the sextant and astrolabe may yet be something else to explore.

Lexicon

Thaumaturgy thau·ma·tur·gy noun

1: the performance of miracles

2: hocus-pocus 3

Origin of THAUMATURGY

Greek thaumatourgia, from thaumatourgos + -ia -y

First Known Use: 

circa 1727 (sense 1)

Look-up Popularity

Top 5% of words

Closing remarks 

Zendead – Legend of Nightfall This book has a cool and interesting way to do and use magic. I read this book in the 90’s but I still enjoy it. 

Guard-a-Manger – Friday the 13th: The Series. A haunting and disturbing look at the ways magical items could exact a cost from those who find them. Try this classic TV series about cursed antiques and see if you are inspired. 

Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae

Find us

 

Author Pages with all of our contact info

Zendead 

Joules 

Guard-a-manger
And Thanks to Merriam-Webster  and Online Etymology Dictionary for our Lexicon segment

Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 132: Interview with B Dave Walters
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Main Topic 

With a varied and rich background, B. Dave Walters brings a unique touch to the characters and games he runs, plays, and writes. A well recognized panelist for conventions, streamer, and writer, Dave brings his perspect to Seize the GM to talk about some of his favorite games, goals in gaming, and what it’s like to play or run a game in the “public eye”.   

BDaveWalters

Geek & Sundry’s Vampire the Masquerade: LA by Night as Victor Temple

Co-Host – Ask Your Black Geek Friend

Wizards of the Coast – Shadows of the Red Rage

IDW – Dungeons & Dragons: A Darkened Wish

Web Comics – Electropunk

Closing remarks 

Zendead- So I started woodworking in the last few months. It has been rather fun to do things with my hands and have something tangible after the fact. So maybe check and see if you can find something to do like that if you can.

Guard-a-manger- Local apple cider. We are recording this in what can only be called autumn no matter what the actual temperature may be, and that means cider season for even the most recalcitrant cider drinkers. Find a local cidery, and enjoy a glass or three of a cider. If you happen to have a cidery that makes really dry cider, either alcoholic or not, I really say give that a try. 

Joules – Read Something You Loved as a Kid! What brought you joy and imagination in your formative years? Find a copy and give it a read with an eye to identifying why these things spurred your nascent mind. 

B Dave Walters – Do The Thing. Use your time to Do Your Thing. Take your 10 minutes a day to Do The Thing.  

Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae

Find us

 

Author Pages with all of our contact info

Zendead 

Joules 

Guard-a-manger

Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 131: BattleLords new Kickstarter
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Main Topic 

 Sitting down with the guys over at BattleLords to chat about what they have been working on recently, as well as the new Kickstarter that should go live by the end of October 2021. 

Fully Armored – Up next, an armor and weapons expansion for the Battlelords Universe. The Gear Manual with guns, armor, specialization, and more equipment for improving your Battlelord. The chance to adapt the old Lock & Load to the new mechanics and more options than you shake a Thwack `Em Stick at. 

Savage Battlelords – A fun way to get the setting and fun of Battlelords in the Savage Worlds System! Look for it in the near future if you want to see a way to get into the Battle Lords universe without having a full intimidating Fott worth of ruleset! 

BattleLords main website is here.

Twitter is here

Also their Facebook Page

Instagram here

Discord link here 

Closing remarks 

BattleLords Rocks!

Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae

Find us

 

Author Pages with all of our contact info

Zendead 

Joules 

Guard-a-manger

Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 130: How to Research for your Game
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Main Topic

So you are going to be running a game. All GM’s do this but what is the first thing you do once you have pitched the basic idea to your players? Maybe you even start this before your pitch to the players, but regardless you need to start working on the setting for the game in more detail. But how? Research is how you do it. It might not sound fun but we are going to try to help and make it more fun. 

So the first thing you need to do is look at the game system you are running. Some systems have the lore and such already baked in. Others let you do more of your own work for them. SO where do you go to find out info for the game idea you have. Well if you took inspiration from something look at the story or the show. Look at what inspired that story or show, or maybe what came after it. 

Another way to tease out what you need to begin researching is to start from brainstorming. Just write out your ideas for the game setting – themes, locations, events – completely brain dump them onto paper. Once you have that out of your head, start to connect the dots or group the ideas you have had. This is where you’ll find holes or concentrations! Both of these mean you get to research. This is an important step because otherwise you can get completely blocked and paralyzed – when you have a direction and know what you are trying to figure out, you can write through or at least around the block. The other important part of this stage is to specifically make a note of what you don’t know! If you realize there is a research project in this phase, make it apparent either as a written note, a color indicator, or something else and keep brainstorming. If you try to research everything that may need an answer before you finish making your web of ideas, you will not finish and will be lost in the minutia of questionable provenance. 

This guidance or direction keeps you from ending up on an endless or undirected rabbit hole of research – think about it like the way a Theme can keep the overall story of sessions on track. You use this as a way to make more efficient use of your time – If you see you have a concentration of items that are revolving around a region or concept that is distinctly Spanish or Moorish, you can start historical research into the Almohad Empire and the Iberian peninsula easily. If you want aliens, but don’t have any concepts for them in your braindump, you start by researching aliens through various sources like Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials or the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Aliens section.  

Don’t restrict yourself either – use all the resources at your disposal. Books are great, and check out our GM Library series to see the sorts of books we think a good GM may have, but so are comic books. So are classic television series and pulp serials – this is a story being told so look at narrative inspirations as your research corpus. While wikipedia is not a reliable academic resource, it is a source of citations and external link rabbit holes that can provide even better ways to find inspiration. 

Those GM Library entries are: Episode 7, Episode 25, Episode 53, Episode 98, and Episode 114.

Stat Blocks

Zendead

Sovage

The feel of the jack fades into nothing. Once the network connection is finalized and readied you dive in. Not long after you start the dive in to find the information you need you see it. The imagery is striking, part human and part dragon and it screams toward you. Just when you think it is going to slam into you the being pulls up short. The hot wet breath is so real. And the closeness makes all the details jump out to you. 

“What do you need in this place?” The harsh gravelly voice asks.

“What all beings need from it. Information.” is the reply. There is almost seem like rote responses. 

“But what have you brought me?”

“This” And you hold up the stored data.

“That will do. That will do.”

Then he places a hand on your shoulder and in the blink of an eye you are in a massive library node. While you know it isn’t all the information you know if you need more he will bring it to you. 

“If you need anything while here please just call my name.” he rumbles out.

“Ok, but what is your name?”

“Sovage, at your service.”

How to Use Sovage in Game:

Sovage makes a great library assistant as well as a head Librarian as well as a search engine for online digging up of information. 

Guard-a-Manger

Archivist Zorath’s Monocle

Curiosities make the best gifts, don’t they? What would be more amusing than this strangely designed monocle? A bit of a steampunk ethos about it, whether that be ahead or behind of when you find it, the monocle catches your eye because of the intricate connection points that hold the lens. 

If you manage to research the slightly recessed compartment with the extending scroll, you can find that this monocle belonged to the Archivist Zorath. Zorath may be gone some three hundred years, but her tendency to look askance at dolts and simpletons has entered the common parlance. The slight glint on the metal of the Monocle seems unusual, but it is the product of a time long past. Or yet to come. 

When trying on the Monocle, you are surprised at how well it fits and so easily. It is one that seems to help with your reading almost immediately, even though you’ve never been blessed enough by the fates to need their lenses. It is only when you attach the Monocle’s chain and safely fasten it from falling that you realize the true treasure you’ve found. 

The Monocle identifies everything it can within its scope of vision. An endless stream of knowledge, facts, factoids, and data overwhelm you as you realize how much you don’t know about even the room around you. Zorath’s legend makes more sense now, with this unending ability to research what they found in real time … answers to the questions that could be found in Zorath’s library. The headache follows soon after, the pounding pain you are certain came from the Monocle’s use. 

How many times can you use this boon? What will it reveal to you? Did you really want to know which aliens made those pyramids?  

How to Use Archivist Zorath’s Monocle in Game:

Either in Sci-Fi or Fantasy, the Monocle’s let’s you reveal things to your players. It provides a way to jumpstart any investigation games or manage the exposition in a manageable way. The overwhelming headaches are the counterbalance to the power of knowledge, and should limit the Player’s usage but they best hope that the Mass Bibliotecha Militum never get hold of this tool. 

Lexicon

Examen noun ex·​a·​men | \ ig-ˈzā-mən  \

Definition of examen

1: EXAMINATION

2: a critical study

History and Etymology for examen

Latin, tongue of a balance, examination, from exigere

First Known Use of examen

1502, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Look-up Popularity

Top 11% of words

Closing remarks 

Zendead – Mine is a two parter because there are two that go together. They are the two volumes of the Atlas Obscura. If you want cool things that are great locations or McGuffins for a game these guys are full of them. Volume one and Volume two are a great resource for cool and strange things in your worlds. While they are technically two different editions of the same book you should get them both. They are really cool.

Guard-a-MangerDictionary of Cultural Literacy. Billed as the essential compilation of the cultural knowledge every American should have, the book gives you a jump start at researching or learning cultural trends, ideas, and influences. An incomparable shorthand to understand references in your own creative processes. 

Joules Crash Course  Youtube Channel with information about a zillion different subjects.  

Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae

Find us

 

Author Pages with all of our contact info

Zendead 

Joules 

Guard-a-manger

And Thanks to Merriam-Webster  and Online Etymology Dictionary for our Lexicon segment

Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 129: Statblockapolloza Part 6
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Main Topic

So over the last couple of episodes we did character creation for a FATE game. We are at that time of the year for another round of Statblockopolloza. All of us thought it might be fun to keep working on doing a bit more work in that setting. So here we go with three more people, places and things for this setting. 

Stat Blocks

Zendead

Theo Maxim

While the Empire is coming in to make nicey nice with the Assembly there is another group on the station that wants something else. They want to be independent from both the Empire and the Assembly. Those that are born on the station are called Rotators by those not born on the station. They wear it as a badge of honor and as the name of their revolution that has been brewing under the surface for years. With the stakes growing by the day they feel the need to be at the table since they see this as their station and home. Yet neither side sees them. 

That is where Theo comes in. He has been a mid level operator for the Rotators for the last several years. There was a purge of the upper ranks once the Empire said they wanted to have talks. He was able to step in as the de facto leader. He has always been at the right place at the right time to move up the chain. Since he has taken the reins he has been pushing in different directions to force things to come to a head and to get a seat at the table. If he can get it then he will be working for the folks of the station. Long live Theo!!!

How to Use Theo Maxim in Game:

He is the lucky guy that seems to always find the things he needs to get ahead. Use him in that same way but for whatever reason you need him to fill. 

Rumble Dome

The hand gestures that flash between the bookie and the betters are fast. Then bets are stopped as the two combatants come rumbling into the dome that is at 1.5 earth gravitational pulls. The engines can be heard whining up as the pilots get their mechs ready for the go signal. The countdown starts and then the two man-like shaped mechs charge toward each other. 

Welcome to the Rumble Dome on Asteroid BD2184. The Other name it goes by is Rumble Rock. The whole asteroid is set up to be a gambler’s dream. While there are lowend things to gamble on like cards all the way up to fights and races. The biggest draw by far is the Mech battles. They are constantly being worked on and refined to make the fights even more exciting. 

The owner or owners are an unknown variable to this place. The most important reason is no one is sure who they are. They just stay out of the light so their location can speak for itself. 

How to Use Rumble Dome in Game:

This place is a gambler’s favorite place because the money flows from hand to hand fast. If you need a place that has all the best things to gamble on then this is your place. 

Bounder E-19

The Bounder E-19 is a state of the art work of mechanical as well as electrical engineering. It measures in at 14 meters in height and masses at 65 tonnes. While it is a big mech it is still able to move at high speed averaging at about 95km/h. While this is nowhere near the speed of fighters it is capable of going from in an atmosphere to the hard vacuum of space with no problems. It also has a propulsion system that makes it possible to move in space but its speed is much slower clocking in at 45km/h but stopping at that speed is not easy. 

The number of Bounders on the open market is only about 12. Each one costs a small fortune to purchase and maintain. They are only really usable for combat. Though the private versions do not come equipped with anything in the realm of military armaments. They do come with a few things that can be used to fight with. All but one of these is setup to do mech fighting. Small range things like flamethrowers and hydraulic rams for the fists and reinforced joints and solid steel balls in place of hands. The work done to them is totally custom and each is a work of art. 

How to Use The Bounder E-19 in Game:

This is a mech that could be the basic framework for your military that uses these to fight battles. Or as a special corp of fighters that use them to battle other mechs or an alien race that happens to be huge compared to humans. 

Joules

Zeke

Political tensions, mutually assured destruction, contracts and treaties.

The Vanguard station really doesn’t have the luxury of egos, laughter, and self indulgence.  At least it shouldn’t have the luxury.  

Enter Zeke McMarsh, the self proclaimed “coolest guy on Vanguard station.”  Seems he never got the memo.  He was assigned to the Vanguard janitorial detail a few cycles ago.  He doesn’t talk about life prior to his arrival on Vanguard, and his records are restricted at the highest level. 

During his time here, he’s gained a reputation with both the CAN and the Empire representatives for being arrogant, self centered, and loud.  Just mentioning his name causes the most stoic diplomat to roll their eyes.

But to the station’s lower class citizens, refugees, and outcasts?  Less annoyance and lot more respect.  Seems that Zeke has an uncanny ability to find those who society has given up on or those that have given up on themselves.  He talks to them.  Listens to them.  Treats them with respect.  

Over time, they formed their own sort of tribe on the station, with Zeke as the leader.  

Zeke takes great pride in his position and in the members of his tribe, which he has named the  “Warp Cats.”  He extols the virtues of coolness, being yourself, and maintaining the perfect hair style.  (Word around the station is that he is the sole reason that hair gel still exists.)  He also is an advocate for indulging ones curiosity and creativity.  

Zeke is vain, proud, and surprisingly self aware.  As he loves being the center of attention, he tries to lead and teach his fellow Warp Cats by personal example.  He’s happy to go first and bare his soul at a poetry slam (his poem was an ode to his favorite comb and hair drier).  The first to apologize when he’s made a mistake or hurt someone’s feelings.  He is quick to congratulate and just as quick to call someone out on their bullshit.  

The rank and file of the station really don’t know what to make of Zeke.  They only know that he’s here to stay, since all methods to get him off the station (Including trying to jettison him out of an airlock) have failed.

How to Use Zeke in Game:

Zeke is a great go-to to change the atmosphere of the game.  Is politics getting really heavy?  Have Zeke come in and offer to teach a character how to style their hair.  Zeke, also being a collector of knowledge, may offer the character some advice, as long as they have the right hair gel.

Warp Cats Garage

With the arrival of Zeke on the station and the subsequent formation of the Warp Cats, the station’s security chief, Doyle, needed to do something.  Namely find a way to contain them without invoking their ire.  So Doyle made a deal with Zeke.  Doyle would give them the use of an abandoned  station hangar as a sort of base.  The hangar would be monitored, but only Doyle would have access to the feed.  And as long as they didn’t cause too much of a ruckus, they’d be left alone.

Zeke agreed to the offer, and christened the hangar “The Warp Cat’s Garage.”

The Warp Cat’s Garage serves as a meeting place and hang out spot for Zeke and his Warp Cats.  The Garage has a couple of bunks and a few fold away cots.  Standard crash accoutrements.  Zeke installed a deluxe shower setup as well as a vanity station with variable lighting, a decent assortment of hair products (only one is labeled “Zeke Only”, the rest is free for anyone to use), various brushes and combs, as well as a handy “how to” holovid on hair styling.

Tucked away in the corner, behind some privacy screens is a first aid station.  It’s stocked with various medical supplies, basic surgical tools, some “how to” medical holovids, and a portable sterilization field generator.

There is a small library with a varied assortment of manuals, books and holovids on a wide variety of topics.  Topics from robotics to medicine, from survival to flower arrangements.  Zeke is always encouraging his Warp Cats to add to the library.  Doesn’t matter the topic.  “Cause how will you discover something cool if you don’t even know it exists.”

The rest of the space is a combination living room/workshop/science lab/music studio.  Zeke encourages his Warp Cats to make use of the facilities however they like.  To discover new hobbies and talents, to practice, to fiddle around and destress.  Zeke likes it when someone tries and experiments randomly.  Learning something by hands on discovery.  That’s how Rowdy discovered that Zeke’s preferred hair gel can be used as a fuel additive which will give a ship a quick burst of speed.  Sadly, It gunks the engines up something terrible and the smell is rancid as heck.

The Warp Cat’s Garage is the perfect home away from quarters.  A private gathering place for the station’s outcast, hidden from the scrutiny and judgement of the Station’s more proper inhabitants.    And the acoustics are pretty swell, giving the latest slam poetry night an epic feel.

How to Use Warp Cat’s Garage in Game:

The Warp Cat’s Garage is a kind of non-standard location for the players.  They may be able to scrounge here.  Meet up with a Warp Cat’s informant.  Or maybe just crash out.  This can kinda serve as a weird kind of info/ability repository, akin to a wizard’s tower in a fantasy setting.

Jupiter Spectrum

The Vanguard has no dedicated long range ships.  Part of the agreement that established DMZ.  However it does have it’s own fleet of short range shuttles with various capabilities and accessories.  The most popular is the Jupiter Spectrum.  It’s a short range shuttle with neural interface capabilities, a variety of view portals with various filters, and variable artificial gravity settings.  

This ship was built with observation and research, but has taken on a secondary function of “sightseeing.”  The various filters allow the passenger to see cosmic events in a variety of spectra.  The neural interface allows for precision positioning, giving the passenger an optimal view.  The variable gravity allows the passenger to move about the cabin with ease.  This gives them the ability to quickly move from portal to portal.

The Warp Cats have made some “unauthorized” upgrades to the Jupiter Spectrum.  The most recent was a sound system.  They routed it through the neural interface, so the traveler could hear whatever music was on their mind.  Unfortunately, they didn’t install a “mute” or “off” setting.  While most of the time, this isn’t an issue.  However when a passenger is dealing with a particularly persistent ear worm, a relaxing jaunt can turn into an auditory experience from hell.

How to Use Jupiter Spectrum in Game:

The Jupiter Spectrum can be used by the players to go exploring.  And the tingering that the Warp Cat’s have done may have caused some other technical issues that may lead to an interesting side quest.  It also can serve as a fast travel type system so that downtime is minimized

Guard-a-Manger

Isshin Nilsson

How often do you actually notice what a busybody is up to? When they putter around and just keep themselves in the way of everything, do you even care? When a nosy interloper interjects and starts asking questions for no good reason, does it even register as a person? Isshin Nilsson is banking that you don’t.

It isn’t that Isshin is a bad person, instead that he is using your own blindspot against you. Why focus on the annoying and nattering unpleasant cad in a room? He knows this because that’s how his parents lost everything. In the Confederated Assembly of Neo, times were booming just thirty years ago! When the economy is up, everybody is up but his parents may have been a bit too loose with their own accounting. They didn’t notice the bumbling sanitation engineer who ratted them out to the C.A.N. Directorate of Oracular Support, the CAN DOs for short, and their life was as good as done. 

Isshin escaped, or more accurately was sent, to Vanguard Station where his status as a minor ward seeking asylum because of his parents political prisoner status cut through some of the paperwork. On Vanguard Station, he learned the ins and outs of the Most Glorious Empire of the Expanding Reach as well as the bureaucratic purple tape of the CAN. He became a professional nobody able to slip between the two warring factions and pilfer whatever useful items he can. 

He even changed his name to Isshin Nilsson.

How to Use Isshin Nilsson in Game:

Isshin can be used in a myriad of ways – as an Artful Dodger type who embodies the underbelly of Vanguard Station and those who were left behind by the two main powers, as a smuggler with a devil may care attitude running guns, money, drugs, or whatever else across barriers, or as a quiet spymaster whose obnoxious personality is just a persona while he pursues his own goals. 

Olsen (B) 7463

Everybody loves an asteroid, right? They look so pretty floating out there . . . even the ones with pirates. Pirates don’t really happen in space. There is nowhere to go. You have to make sure you have a way to offload stolen goods and wash them clean of identifying marks before getting them back into the stream of commerce. A stream of commerce that everybody knows where everything comes from. It would be lunacy to try to be a pirate. 

Where would you refuel or refresh your oxygen scrubbers without a good station or planet to dock? Those scrubbers won’t last forever, even if you do properly delouse, sanitize, and cycle them. Neither side would want to start a war and pirates would just have no place to go no matter what the newsvids say. Right? 

Unless it’s Olsen (B) 7463. Safely erased from all maps of habitable asteroids and exoplanets, Olsen (B) 7463 has been made into the spitting image of a pop culture space pirate waystation! From the secretive station masters who have some kind of a deal keeping them stocked with air and water to the semi-lawless atmosphere of the station, Olsen (B) 7463 is the best kept ill kept secret in the Galaxy. The Reach and the CAN both have someone “on the ground”, though its hard to say who exactly that is. Where the station masters manage to get their tech and goods remains a mystery, but just don’t make any jokes about their height. The people in charge all seem to be around 4’ tall … must be the low gravity and high radiation, right?  

How to Use Olsen (B) 7463 in Game:

The seedy neutral ground where both sides can mingle is a staple trope of cold war fiction, and Olsen (B) 7463 provides that as well as the reason for pirates in an otherwise contained world. What happens on Olsen (B) 7463 stays on Olsen (B) 7463 … and what is up with those station masters anyway?

Chimera Key

The world is built around information. It is the currency of the realm, if you will. That information is guarded well with locks, safes, and myriad ways to scrambling any attempt to utilize it by the undesirable. One problem underlies that entire supposition – nobody has created a new file structure in a few centuries. Improvements have happened, storage has improved and code is more elegant …. But the underlying architecture is the same. 

Enter the Chimera Key. The Chimera Key is the closest thing to an artifact that you may ever see. It exists as rumor and phantasm in the governmental, military, and infosec circles – a way to cut through existing encryption no matter what; a cyber skeleton key. The few people who know what to look for know that the Chimera Key is a specific combination of hardware and software, well firmware. To break into the backdoor of the entire file structure used requires hardware not manufactured in over 150 years. The unique key holds the firmware exploit every one wants. 

Hildebrand Hiyazaki is one of maybe a dozen people who can confirm the existence of the Chimera Key. On the precipice of a disastrous war, Hiyazaki knows that the Key may be the only thing to prevent a war, or at least ensure the CAN doesn’t fall apart as losses inevitably mount. 

How to Use the Chimera Key in Game:

This is a McGuffin pure and simple. It is something that, if lost, will be highly sought after to affect the balance of power and if in the possession of one or the other major powers will be an impetus to dispatch your players on missions. 

Closing remarks 

Zendead – Spider-Man: No Way Home Trailer– This is going to be so good I can hardly wait to see this film.

Joules – Psychonauts. (Link to Steam Store)

Guard-a-Manger – Look for inspiration. Every Frame a Painting Channel on Youtube. While it is defunct for the last 4 years, this is a great channel that shows you how to analyze and deconstruct directorial choices on film. How do the directors and cinematographers do what they do? 

Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae

Find us

 

Author Pages with all of our contact info

Zendead 

Joules 

Guard-a-manger

Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 128: Building Fate Characters Part 2
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Main Topic

In this episode we finish up these characters Skills and Stunts, plus a few more campaign setting items to touch up. How do you build out your FATE character skills? When you have skills, what sort of Stunts do you use to differentiate your skills from others?

Get the finished Character Sheets as well as the Campaign Worksheet here.

Closing remarks 

    Joules – To Hell and Back – The Audie Murphy Story

    Guard-a-Manger – Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. The novel series may no longer be canon, but it is still a great example of what has inspired campaigns like this one. It also has Wedge Antilles who is unquestionably the bestest of Star Wars characters and pilots.  

Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae

Find us

 

Author Pages with all of our contact info

Zendead 

Joules 

Guard-a-manger

Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 127: Building Fate Characters Part One
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Main Topic

Creating FATE Characters has never been easier or more fun. We are going to create some Fate characters for a campaign idea Guard-A-Manger has cooked up. Let’s see what we come up with. You got into building characters. We did high concepts and troubles, as well as Aspects. 

Closing remarks 

Zendead – I just finished watching Another Life. If you want to watch some Sci-Fi as inspiration for things like this episode check it out. Not what I was expecting but cool

Joules – The Great War on Youtube.  Week by week take on WW1

Guard-a-Manger – Buck Rogers in the 25th Century 

Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae

Find us

 

Author Pages with all of our contact info

Zendead 

Joules 

Guard-a-manger

And Thanks to Merriam-Webster  and Online Etymology Dictionary for our Lexicon segment

Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 126: Inspiration for Metaphysical Games
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Main Topic

We are going to wrap up this series with a discussion about where you can draw inspiration for those whimsical or dark games with a metaphysical bend. You can draw Inspiration for these games in a huge number of sources. Metaphysical Games are about ideals more than exact actions. When you delve deeply into the magical realms of your settings, you don’t have to play by the literal rules.

This can include non “magical” areas such as a deep cyberspace game for a cyberpunk future or a similar unnerving area. Look to find the ways to play up the idioms and the iconography more than the specifics. What matters here isn’t a specific ploy or even a defined challenge, but a movement rooted in emotions or themes. This can be literal, but you can blend this with alternate timelines or dimensions to have players jumping from setting to setting. This sort of campaign focuses on questions about the characters’ relationship to the world and themselves rather than their place in the world. 

This genre has seen a huge uptick in material. While there is content in nearly every media, check below for reference links we will discuss!  

TV and Movies

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 

Supernatural

The Spiderwick Chronicles

Bright

Dorohedoro

Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro

South Park

Legion

American Gods TV 

Westworld

Sliders

The Magicians

Books and Comics

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

Harry Potter Series

The Sword of Shannara Series

Harry Dresden Series

Locke and Key

Black Magic

I Hate Fairyland

Music 

I will Listen to music for inspiration and here are a few different ones I like.

Songs for a Dying Sun

Nordic Tunes

Orbital

Stat Blocks

Zendead

The Spark

It all started with a spark. That line from that 80’s movie isn’t wrong. All magic starts with a spark. Is that spark the beginning or the end? All these questions and no answers. There is no answer because the magic is the spark and the spark is the magic. 

While you may be sure the spark is more it isn’t, and that is fine. The Spark is and that is truly all that matters. With it you can fix things you messed up or even rework the fabric of parts of reality. 

Some want to learn how to get the spark others have killed for it, but you have it or you don’t. It is really just that simple. People will try to get you to do things with it for them and that is up to you of course. Will you use it to do great things or will you let it languish? 

If you are going to let the spark die then you will go with it since it is a part of you as much as you are a part of it. I would suggest you don’t go the route of a denier because it is obvious to all that can see the spark that you are one with it. So go out and show the world just what a spark you have. 

How to Use The Spark in Game:

You can use the Spark as a way to grow your magical world or as a way of describing it. The Spark can be as much or as little magic as you want to have. So show the world your Spark and mark your Mark.

Joules

Hidden Stories

There are stories hidden all over.  You don’t even realize that you’re reading them.  Whole chapters hidden just below the surface of the various words across the world.  All that needs to happen is for you to start reading the words scattered through the mundane.

Sitting on the bus to work, mindlessly reading the various billboards, road signs, and the like.  You think you start to daydream.  But the dream is so incredibly vivid.  You’re transported to far off places, engaging in wild adventures and death defying feats.  The common world disappears, at least until you reach your stop.  Then the story stops and you trudge to the office.  

After your 3rd meeting, you decide to take lunch and walk to the greek food truck. (Best gyros and they’re generous with the feta and tzatziki sauce).  You sit down with your order.  Your eyes soft focus as you’re reading the changing adverts on the billboard across the street. Then the adventure continues right where you left off.  Almost as if resuming from a bookmarked page.  Laughing in the face of danger and enjoying the thrill of it.  Kicking back in a tavern, swapping mind blowing stories with other patrons.  Then your cellphone buzzes, signaling the end of your lunch hour.  You clean the tzatziki sauce from your fingers and head back into the office.

At the end of the workday, you decide to take a cab home, cutting your commute time.  Staring out the window, reading the various road signs, you return once again.  Sitting and laughing around a table, discussing the possibility of meeting up the next day to find a lost treasure.  Everyone seems on board, more excited about the adventure than the treasure itself.  Everyone is enjoying themselves Going over supplies and equipment; guessing at the possible dangers ahead.

The cab pulls in front of your house and you’re back in the real world again.  Tired and mildly confused. Yet excited. Tomorrow may bring the epic search for the lost pirate treasure. So you make sure that your bifocals are near at hand.  You don’t want to miss a word.

How to Use Hidden Stories in Game:

This can be used as a story’s main conceit.  The game within the game.  Or else if things are getting humdrum/stale, it can be a great way to give the game a hard right turn into the strange before getting back on track.  Think side quest, but less obnoxious

Guard-a-Manger

Stahl’s Astrolabe

The simple truth is that the universe is only made up of so many components. It is a balance between life, power, loss, curiosity, resilience, and love. Every moment in the history of the worlds is made up of these in some specific measure. Stahl’s Astrolabe is one of the few tools known to be able to even detect all six of these at once, much less be able to grant what powers it does.

By being able to measure all six of the axes of the world, Stahl’s Astrolabe is first and foremost a device of detection – How and Why are you? These are the questions to be answered – traversing the Silver Road can disorient, and so the Astrolabe is one of the few ways to safely navigate that path. Becoming unmoored from your Why is detrimental to one’s very souls after all. By using the Astrolabe, you can orient yourself to your own selves and thus save what may pass for sanity among the lower vibrational realms and so undertake deeper missions to the center of Being. 

Being is the goal. Whether you can even find it is not always clear as the Legends state those that may find Being never return. Stahl didn’t. Apollonius hasn’t. Wei won’t.

Why can you be any different? 

How to Use Strahl’s Astrolabe in Game:

Strahl’s Astrolabe can be used as a basis for a campaign as the inciting macguffin where it provides the way to navigate the Silver Road or as an artifact to find that can be used to further explore an existing world. It is a key to both adventure and horror with a question about its origins that may create even more adventure ideas. 

Lexicon

hexerei  noun 

hex·​e·​rei | \ ˌhek-sə-ˈrī  \

Definition of hexerei

: WITCHCRAFT

History and Etymology for hexerei

Pennsylvania German, from German, from Hexe witch

First Known Use of hexerei

1898

Look-up Popularity

Top 24% of words

Closing remarks 

Zendead – The Witcher Saga Audio books

Joules – Loading Ready Run.  All their series.  Especially Agatha Fisty – One Punch Gran!

Guard-a-Manger – It’s been a crazy few months, and there is always something that seems to be happening. Take some time for small picture self care – I recommend finding a bit of time and space for meditation in whatever form you find most workable. Carve out some time for quiet, still self-care. In the alternative – a good stiff drink of bourbon. Old Grand Dad 114 is widely available for this purpose. 

Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae

Find us

 

Author Pages with all of our contact info

Zendead 

Joules 

Guard-a-manger
And Thanks to Merriam-Webster  and Online Etymology Dictionary for our Lexicon segment

Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 125: Five Years and Counting
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Main Topic

So we have been going for a full five years and counting. We have had a fun trip and today we will talk about how we got this going and what we were thinking for the next five. 

Closing remarks 

Zendead – Normally I have something but most of my things are boxes up at the present. So I will say if you can get outside do it. The summer is here and also get vaccinated please. 

Joules – Gloom, the card game.

Guard-a-Manger – Feast of Legends! Try a new RPG, for free! Yes, it is a bit manipulative. Yes, it is a tongue in cheek joke. It is, however, proof of the primacy of geek culture and is worth the laugh. We all can use some more laughs right now. 

Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae

Find us

 

Author Pages with all of our contact info

Zendead 

Joules 

Guard-a-manger