Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pulsars and Starship Navigation

In the real world, many astronomers believe that space travel could be navigated by fixing on the beacons of millisecond pulsars... extremely dense, fast rotating objects that give off radiation “pulses”. These objects could act like a light house... accurately timed points of reference in the galaxy which starships could use; cross-referencing hundreds of pulsars to pinpoint their location.

In the galactic troubleshooting roleplaying game X-Plorers (and others), pulsar navigation could be one of the standard methods of assuring safe, accurate space travel. Different reference points in space would make it hard to navigate by the visible star layout, because it changes as one travels. However, pulsars would be the anchoring point for accurate star travel.

Possible causes of navigational error leading to misjumps:
Unknown and uncharted space objects, such as magnetars, wormholes, black holes and other gravitational anomalies may be a mechanic whereby a Referee could induce a misjump upon a space ship or to increase/decrease its travel time. This factor makes charting all findings during exploration of great value to a crew and to others that will follow after them into these previously uncharted sectors of space.

Jeff's Home Brew Jump Rules:
After a jump in space, a ship's computer recalibrates to ascertain precise coordinate location of all known pulsars. If a ship jumps again before the computer has had time to do this a Navigator is at a -2 modifier to their navigation skill roll. This could cause a “misjump” to a location that was not the one intended by the navigator. This takes 10 hours minus one per level of computer skill of the character doing the recalibration. Even if the skill level of a character is 10, a minimum of one hour is needed to jump without this penalty.

If a misjump occurs, roll a d6:
 1 Ship arrives d6x4 hours sooner at plotted destination. It has undergone a random hyper-jump!
2-5 Ship arrives at plotted destination d6 days late. The ship has been affected by a gravitational anomaly.
6 - total misjump! Ship arrives at a random destination.
For galactic troubleshooters, not all of the dangers in space lie at the destination... getting there might be just as much as a hazard!


See these and other sites for more information on pulsars and their types:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More Rockets: Rocket Ads 1947 - 1974 & Missiles for X-Plorers

Click on Pic or text below to see linked article

After my previous post on Weird Retro Spacecraft,  a friend gave me this link to an article about rocket ads.

Since X-Plorers and other space RPGs hail from the 70's or some campaigns have a Retro feel about them, I thought it fitting to share this, also.

Any spacecraft that engages in combat may encounter planetary defense missiles, so these ads might be useful for stirring the imagination.

Here is my take on what this particular missile would be as a weapon in X-Plorers:

Viper Defense Missile

Range: may be used successfully against a moving target at a range of up to 3000 km.
Type: Planetary Defense Missile - Type I
Crew: unmanned
Missile Points: Can take 1 Space Combat Weapon Damage point before being destroyed.
Weapon Damage: A Viper missile causes 1d3 damage
AC 11 (because of size & speed)
Skill Throw for accurate hit (unless destroyed): 12
XP Value: 5
Cost Million Cr: 5


 Cobra Defense Missile
Range: may be used successfully against a moving target at a range of up to 4000 km.
Type: Planetary Defense Missile - Type II
Crew: unmanned
Missile Points: Can take 2 Space Combat Weapon Damage points before being destroyed.
Weapon Damage: A Viper missile causes 1d6 damage
AC 11 (because of size & speed)
Skill Throw for accurate hit (unless destroyed): 12
XP Value: 10
Cost Million Cr: 10


Python Defense Missile
Range: may be used successfully against a moving target at a range of up to 5500 km.
Type: Planetary Defense Missile - Type III
Crew: unmanned
Missile Points: Can take 3 Space Combat Weapon Damage points before being destroyed.
Weapon Damage: A Viper missile causes 2d6 damage
AC 12 (because of size & speed and armor plating)
Skill Throw for accurate hit (unless destroyed): 12
XP Value: 15
Cost Million Cr: 20

Enjoy! ... unless one hits your ship

Monday, October 31, 2011

Weird Retro Spacecraft

Ok, is it just me, or does this spacecraft look backwards? Whoever designed this made it for looks, but is the design functional?Unless it jettisoned a portion of itself after liftoff and it was out of the atmosphere, it must be designed to work on low/no atmosphere worlds like the one pictured.

This standard rocket design, typical of the 40's and 50's especially, sits right with me... but it is also predictable. The picture is enjoyable to look at and I can envision it happening, yet haven't we seen this a zillion times before? It makes sense; perhaps too much sense.

I find old drawings of space ships before the Space Race to be beautiful concept-wise, but they would be an engineers nightmare. I know it is Science FICTION, but some artwork depicting the vessels that would transport humans across the galaxy seems like someone was looking at the plans backwards (points to first picture above) or on some heavy psychedelics, like the person that did the pic below:

I sure hope the heavily drugged pilot of the spacecraft at the bottom of this pic isn't crashing into the futuristic building. I am getting visions of "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure in Space" or "Hippie Trek".

Still, such radical designs could reflect advanced or alien technology we haven't dreamed of yet. Incorporating weird designs into a space game might be a challenge, but it could add to the effect. In the Star Trek universe, there were many culturally influenced designs that each galactic race had. You could tell who was who, generally, by their ship design, much like ships have been spotted and identified on the seas for centuries. Everyone had to do their own thing and we liked it!
I just thought I would share these images because they were out of the ordinary.

It would be interesting to see these on graph paper being designed for Traveller or some other space RPG. I love to design ships, but the balance between all of the factors you want vs mechanical needs can be hard to balance - it is part of the fun of most starship design systems for games. Whatever these designers wanted for the spacecraft depicted here,  functionality wasn't at the top of the list. However, they sure make mind-bending art!

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I downloaded the free PDF version of the X-Plorers from Grey Area Games.
I know there is an updated boxed set being produced by Brave Halfling Publishing, but I don't have access to that, so I will focus on the free PDF.

The free PDF has no artwork or the bonus material of the pay PDF, but that is fine, because the rules are all I wanted.Reading them was a breeze. The basics of X-Plorers is laid out in 39 pp. The feel is much like OD&D in space. Concepts used are familiar to veteran RPG'ers.. A newbie to roleplaying can pick this game up and run with it easily!

There are four Attributes used for character creation (Agility, Intelligence, Physique & Presence) and a standard "Hit Points" for damage that can be taken before a character dies. Like most D&D-style games, you roll 3d6 for your Attributes and like OD&D, you roll a d6 for initial Hit Points. Combat attack rolls and ability Skill Throws are made with a d20. Armor Class is ascending from a base 10 for a normal, unarmored/defended human being.

There are 4 Character classes you can choose from, taking your Attributes into consideration:
  • Scientist
  • Soldier
  • Scout
  • Technician
So, I grabbed some six-sided dice and rolled up a character:

(AGI) Agilility             12
(INT) Intelligence        15
(PHY) Physique            9
(PRE) Presence            15

(I then rolled for Hit Points and luckily got a 6!)
HP 6

Looking over the stats, I figured this guy would do well as a Scientist. Because of his INT score he will get a +1 bonus modifier to certain things that a Scientist does.

Now, this new character needs a name, so I called him: Dr. Ray Gunn
(yeah, cheesy, but so is the feel of this game, which strives to be very Retro, hailing back to the gaming days of 1974 for its inspiration.)

I rolled 3d6x10 for initial Credits (space money!) and have 110 Cr, which cannot buy much on the equipment list of the free PDF that would interest a Scientist. I decided that I would save my Credits in hopes of acquiring enough later to buy the Scientific Kit, which costs 500Cr. I guess I'll just have to use my Intelligence and Presence in the meantime to get me by ;)

Here is the info on what a Scientist is all about, according to the free rules:

Not too shabby for a simple game.

I can see this being a very fun retro game. "Homebrew" just oozes and calls out to me like a strange alien encountered on a forbidden planet! I can see this being awesome on its own or as a resource to for many styles of play - whether Retro Space, Far Future or for creating "Techno" characters brought into Swords & Planets-style game, etc. From the rules, I do not feel constrained to play any style whatsoever.

There is a lot in this free PDF, from Characters to Space Ships to tips on how to create alien creatures... you should check it out!

I will try this out with some friends. It seems cool enough to purchase when Brave Halfling releases the two printed books that comprise Player and Referee rules (I did not get the special boxed set that was being offered... now I wish I had!)

Click on pic for more info!


EDIT: John at Brave Halfling informed me that there were some boxed sets of X-Plorers left, so I ordered one!  w000t!  I cannot wait to try out the module included with the set.

New Blog for Sci-Fi/Sci-Fantasy

I thought I would create a new blog to separate out my love of Sci-Fi/Sci-Fantasy from my other Fantasy RPG. Mythological & Folklore posts. So, this is just an introductory post.

The name is for one of the Trans-Neptunian planetoids or "dwarf planets" that have been discovered in our own solar system. Planetoids are not very large... smaller than our Moon, but they still can provide plenty of terrain and mystery for adventure!

Quaoar (pronounced "kwawar") is named after the creator god of the Tongva Native American tribe. It has a moon called Weywot. They are recently-discovered worlds waiting to be explored!

In my next post, I will take the theme of exploration into the Roleplaying Gaming realm as I create a character using the free PDF version of X-Plorers!