## Thursday, 31 July 2014

### By The Numbers

Last night I sat down and realised that the setting I was coming up with wasn't working quite as planned. Basically, travel times between locations (potentially, I've not fleshed them out yet) would just be too short. You jump in your spaceship and even though something is just miles and miles away - you get there fairly quickly. I thought that a smooth 10m/s^2 acceleration (slightly higher than Earth-standard, but makes for easier calculation! Call it "metric gravity" maybe...) as a baseline would mean that it would still take days of travel for adventurers - not because I want things to be boring and tedious, but because I want some semblance of realism.

(I don't want Star Trek style space travel, where the ship moves at the speed of plot)

So what to do? I came to realise that, basically, the local area of space I was considering was just too small. So I scaled up. I started with a square that was about two light minutes across, and have now scaled up to a ten light minute square. For those who don't know: the Earth is approx eight light minutes out from the Sun; the region of space I'm setting this in is approximately 400,000 light minutes out from the Sun.

A ten light minute square might not be big enough, but I have to add the numbers etc to my tables and see what it does to travel times. My basic generation table starts off with a ten-by-ten Grid of single squares; roll two d10s for each square and any 1s indicate that there is a place of interest in the Grid - then refer to tables to generate those. Double 1s mean there is something alien there. Am considering tweaking it very slightly (possibly if any 2s are rolled these indicate something else about the square: a problem? A hazard?)

Enough maths for today! Two good things about progress with prep for all of this: first I have typed up a list of the traits for chargen, along with their effects. Chargen will have the option for three player selected traits or four random ones (should keep things interesting). Second, I've found the notes I had for chargen, so now I can type those up and hopefully streamline the process for players.

Next up, making weapon and armour selection simple!

(if anyone wants to see my maths for any of this, let me know, I'll see what I can do)

## Tuesday, 29 July 2014

### I miss playing Apocalypse World

This trailer has thrown a curveball at me: just abandon all prep for Hard Oort Cloud Adventures aka The Long Night aka I Have Lots Of Names For The Game I Have In Mind That Is Hard SF In The Oort Cloud and find some players for Apocalypse World?

Maaaaaaybe...

## Thursday, 24 July 2014

### Ships in the Oort Cloud, part 3

Previously (add link later!) I've been musing on the idea of generating ships for my Oort Cloud hard-ish sci-fi hack of MotSP, and I had got as far as assigning dice to ship "stats" although really we might think of them as characteristics I guess. Wait, is there a distinction? One for the philisophers.

I have been musing over the last few days about whether or not seven tightly defined stats for ships might be an interesting thing: particularly because MotSP uses seven stats (adding Comeliness to the expected standard six). I like the idea of that, of a ship's basic capabilities mirroring something of the PC's stats. When I thought about it more though, I realised that while I could add a ship stat that would perhaps be about the "look" of a ship, it would feel a bit fake. I also started thinking that the stats/characteristics that I had didn't map to the other six stats neatly.

So I think that seven mirroring stats (treating the ship more explicitly as an NPC or party-PC) is out. For now I'll stick with the six I had previously. I've made a choice for now that the Range stat (which will be the d20 roll) will be multiplied by 10 to give the number of light seconds range that the ship has (assuming normal power usage and travel).

So I now have six stats/characterisitics/qualities(?) that are attached to the six dice, roll them, read them off and you have the basic capabilities of a little NPC-ship.

This has been helpful to me, having this idea and noodling on it, as I now have an idea for PCs and their ship(s) - they can either roll and get a ship's stats which they then spin some idea of what it looks like from, or I could give them an average ship, giving expected values or close to for the six ship stats, and then giving a couple of points for them to invest.

Thinking about being smugglers or traders? Spend a point in Capacity to get more space for hiding stuff!
Want to go really fast but probably get organ damage for constantly being under two gs? Spend a few points on Acceleration!
Expecting to come under heavy fire? Armour up and spend points on Hull Strength!
Want to, shave hours off destination orienting and combat evasion? Improve your gas jets by boosting your Manouverability score!
Expecting to put others under heavy fire? Add more Gauss guns by spending a couple of points on Weapons!
Want to travel further before having to pay for a new fuel rod crystal-mo-tron? Increase your Range!

Did I really just do those six questions and exclamations? Obviously not had enough caffeine this morning...

Onwards and upwards: next steps with MotSP hacking include
1. Typing up the skills/traits lists - particularly helpful as I'm tweaking the former and excluding about 20% of the latter.
2. Habitat generation tables - I have a basic space-grid and know where things are, but need something to fill in the blanks.
3. Character sheets - it makes sense to me to have separate, slightly tweaked sheets for the three classes I'll be using (mostly because the skill lists are different depending on classes)
4. Hangout or offline play - need players!

## Tuesday, 22 July 2014

(no night idea, another peaceful night, but looking through my drafts folder I came across this, which needed one or two sentences to finish, hurrah!)

Rolling on another of Patrick's marvellous creations gave me the following:

"Black Ops Ghosts, possessing as they go, have orders to outflank an apparently empty fort but have no idea they are lead by an incompetent fuckwit."﻿

Fleshed out, there's a damn good hex or encounter in that. Heck, there could be sessions in it depending on how you wanted to run it, develop it or portray it. For now though, how about the following?

## Monday, 21 July 2014

### It's a Puppet!

The baby pretty much slept through the night, hurrah! A victory for sleep, but no night idea. Today, however, is my regular day for childcare while my wife works on her various Masters' assignments. So up in the nursery with the baby and what do we find but PanPan, the red panda puppet that we got at the zoo last week (post about captivity and role-playing games still coming).

And seeing PanPan gets me thinking...

For a special sort of kami, it is not enough that you make offerings and say prayers to them. If you wish to appeal and gain favour you must carry their likeness - and more than this, you must allow them action.

Puppet of PanPan
Can be purchased from any shrine to PanPan with an acolyte. PanPan offers blessings for tracking and foraging, and also offers an awareness of animals of animals in forested areas (very rarely surprised). Simply putting PanPan on for a moment and making him act as a red panda (to the best of the operator's knowledge) will be enough to get a +1 to tracking and bushcraft. For every hour up to three hours, gain an extra +1 to these traits. After one hour, the operator gains the awareness of animals in forests such that they are unsurprised.

PanPan will not confer favour if the operator is wielding any kind of weapon, or any item in a weapon-like manner. If an operator harms an animal while the puppet is in use they will find that PanPan is angry. the puppet will make the operator especially attractive to wild animals for 24 hours.

## Sunday, 20 July 2014

### Sketch of an idea: Magical Thunderstorms

Just a short thought (it is Sunday after all, and that seems to be the day in our house when everything has to get done). It's also possible that there is something similar to this out there in either an LotFP pubication, or possibly in some great blogpost that I saw recently. I don't know - as I was thinking about this earlier I was thinking "there's something very familiar about this..." but I can't place it. If you can, let me know!

Minor heatwave in our neck of the woods - cue dramatic TV reports "HOW WILL PEOPLE COPE???" Thunderstorm was forecast but then didn't happen - whenever there is a heatwave everyone says "What we need is a good storm to clear the air..."

Weather is influenced/driven by heat in the atmosphere; in especially magically-charged regions of the world in games, it seems possible to me that the amount of magic being used would drive extreme magical weather. So in a "disturbed region" every time a spell is cast or an item used, or if passive items (things that are always on etc) are present, this influences the weather. Chaos bleeds.

Perhaps this could be something as simple as: for every spell cast in a 24 hour period (plus items) roll a d4, maybe stacking for spell levels. Re-roll 4s and total then compare with a chart. For 1-10, nothing happens, up to 30 perhaps some weird Fortean phenomena, and then we hit seriously weird and possibly dangerous territory...

That might work or add some weird to the day of an adventuring party.

Now, back to cooking in the Ryder household...

## Friday, 18 July 2014

### Spell: Awake

Today's night idea comes to you courtesy of a little girl who wouldn't go to bed, and a mosquito that then entered the room and wouldn't be killed or caught. At 1am we had to decamp to a different part of the caravan, and I got something like five hours broken sleep on a couch. Which lead to...

Awake (3rd Level Spell) - range of 30 feet - duration caster level+d4 days
Sleep is a natural state - it helps a body heal and a mind recover. Making someone sleep through the use of magic is straight-forward, a Sleep spell provides a gravity that a person falls into. By casting Awake the magic-user is creating a powerful barrier to prevent another from sleeping at all. If the target fails a save versus magic they cannot sleep at all. They feel tired, they feel fatigued, but no matter what they do they can find no means, natural or magical, to fall asleep.

Without sleep, the victim cannot heal, and cannot memorise spells.

After two days without sleep, the target will start to take penalties of -1 on all initiative and attack rolls. This penalty increases by 1 every two days.

After four days, the target will start to feel deep aches in their joints, will move as if encumbered (if already encumbered, this increases their state of encumberance).

After five days, they will lose a point from all of their stats; this penalty increases by 2 every three days.

Every three days the victim can make a save versus magic, and make a purposeful, concentrated effort to "find sleep" through meditation - but must lie in the centre of a circle of at least four sleeping persons to have any chance of this working.

If any stats reach 0 before the spell is broken, the target dies; likewise if they are unable to break the spell within fifteen days they die. When the spell is broken, the target will collapse into sleep immediately and will sleep for half as many days as they have missed sleep. When they wake they will have recovered any stat or encumberance penalties, be incredibly hungry, and will now be able to sleep to recover HP and memorise spells.

(Hope this makes sense, off to bed now)

## Thursday, 17 July 2014

### Concept: Village of the Evil Scarecrows

My post inspired by the zoo is still surfacing (a small tech issue swallowed half of it earller and I didn't have the time then to replace it), but this morning we went for a drive through a village/town in the north of England (north-west coastal) that was having some kind of scarecrow festival.

Which was basically terrifying.

They were just everywhere. Not so much a concentration of them, but you would just suddenly see them. A bridal party grouping on a church lawn. Workmen scarecrows bending over to work on someone's garden. Dorothy and company off to see the Wizard (curiously, the Scarecrow was absent from the group). I kid you not, there was half a child scarecrow which looked like it was climbing out from the centre of a grassy central reservation.

Logfast, Village of the Evil Scarecrows
The large hamlet of Logfast has grown up around much earlier, much older settlements. Settlements steeped in evil magic and dark forces. Long, long ago, a curse was placed on the area: so long as effigies and statues to false gods were not constructed, the village would be held safe. But, if the people ever entered into idolatory again they would pay a heavy price.

Alas, that the Cleric who laid this curse down was not more specific. Time passes, and one day, to celebrate the coming of spring, the town decides to make scarecrows and have a fun competition. Farmers build them to look like their rivals. Children make them to look like how they think of their teacher.

And then the village fool cuts himself spiking his offering into the ground. In the churchyard.

Sigh.

If adventurers pass through Logfast in spring they will find the villagers terrified. It seems that there are active and malicious scarecrows that are looking for townsfolk to hurt or kill, and dormant ones - but as soon as any hostile intent is focused on any scarecrow, they will respond.

Evil Scarecrow
Actually an evil sentience looking to take life out of the world. In and around Logfast there are hundreds of them now, lurking in and amongst the scarecrows. They are invisible, intangible, and need host structures to survive. The scarecrows are easy humanish things to motivate.
Evil Scarecrows have armour as leather, but are resistant to normal weapons: for cutting weapons they take half damage, and for blunt weapons they only take a single point of damage if the attack is successful. Arrows, bolts and slingshot do no damage. Fire, of course, is very damaging, but they are cunning and work together to minimise damage.
They appear in groups of 3d6, have 2HD, typically a d4 swiping attack and a lumbering three-quarters walking speed gait, plus for each Evil Scarecrow, roll d6:
1. Big Scarecrow - an extra HD
2. Mean Scarecrow - has found a sickle and knows how to use it (d6 damage)
3. Laughing Scarecrow - cackles and on first encountering a person, that person must Save vs Magic or be terrified for d3 turns
4. Fast Scarecrow - can run at 50% greater than normal walking speed and gets an extra attack 30% of the time
5. Brainy Scarecrow - can cast Shield, Sleep and one other first level spell as a Level 1 Magic-User
6. Roll for a total of two attributes, witb Big, Fast and Brainy stacking (e.g., two rolls for Big means 2HD extra)

The people of Logfast are simple folk and have no way to protect themselves really. If they are not helped the Evil Scarecrows will go on to kill them all and then start wandering in groups. There are over a hundred in total - destroying them all will end the curse, as will digging up the now-burned out but still somehow standing scarecrow in the churchyard (no-one has been in to the church grounds since the local priest was pulled apart by a pack of scarecrows).

## Tuesday, 15 July 2014

### Some Notes on Setting

Last night the baby slept quite well; we did get woken, but it didn't seem long enough for my brain to start to process something. It was carrying around half an idea from yesterday about luxuries in the Oort Cloud (what would be really valuable, or what would people treat as really valuable) but it is still only a half-formed thought.

And everything that is coming together related to that idea just reminds of things that Patrick has already said before about moving valuables in the Veins of the Earth.

So instead of writing about that, I thought I would share some of the thoughts and ideas about the more general space that the campaign I'm looking to run will sit in.

It started with the idea of running Dogs in the Vineyard in Space and then as I thought about it more I realised that the kernel of that was that I wanted to run something with humans - not aliens, although they might be in the background somehow - and I wanted to run something that was a harder science-fiction than other things I had seen or heard of. Not grim, but just with some thought about how and why things might work.

Then I got Machinations of the Space Princess, which right on the back cover says that it isn't any of that "hard sci-fi mularkey". That said, reading through I could see that for the most part it had a good OSR feel to it (as much as I can tell something is OSRish) - which at the very least means that it would be familiar and not require too much in the way of explanation to get people playing it (Dogs is great, but it takes some getting used to).

So, having read Machinations I started to think about what a campaign in the Oort Cloud would need. It would need places to go and people to see; it would need some general background hooks for why humans would be there. It would need some means of travel, and to be realistic would need an eye on just how fast people would get around. I thought about the species traits that the book uses for chargen and NPC gen (which then made me realise that I would need some tables for quick NPC gen perhaps!) and I realised that many of these traits would still work as human adaptations or traits - humans either having their natural talents or genetic enhancements.

But I wanted to remove the Psion and psi powers, and also the cybernetics - these didn't feel like a good fit. At the same time, the ships and the way they are handled felt like it needed tweaking (hence my noodling with "popomatic" ships in previous posts). Removing and tweaking these parts meant that the setting started to focus, but it also removed some of the moving parts - if I didn't have to think about these things then I was free to start thinking about the other aspects of the setting and the game.

(Aside: a recent thought has had me think that ships might have just seven stats/attributes, to mirror the seven stats of PCs. Just a thought, not fully thought through)

If I am going to play this Oort Cloud hard sci-fi hack of Machinations with people though, I'm going to have to do some more writing. The book is pretty well written I would say, but it gives people a lot of options: a base weapon doing x damage costs 5gp, but then multiply by this or that for these options like such and such... Which is nice in a sci-fantasy setting, and maybe something that you would really go town with, but in a hard sci-fi setting it feels like too much. I think what customisation options are presented need to be done cleanly, almost as tick-boxes? I was also thinking of creating character sheets that show off the skills-lists (which are extensive actually), rather than have little boxes for people to write in. That way they can see what they can do at a glance.

Anyway! This has been helpful to me to get some ideas out of my head - and to realise connections I didn't know where there previously. I hope at least it has been interesting to you the reader - and if you are interested in playing (maybe that's playtesting?) this in August or early September then drop me a line!

## Monday, 14 July 2014

### Ships in the Oort Cloud, part 2

Last night I actually slept pretty good, and we only got woke by the baby once really. I say baby, but she's ten months old nearly, and looks less and less like a baby every day. Time flies...

I don't need to worry about relativity in the Oort Cloud setting (which, if I had to sum it up neatly I suppose you could call a hard sci-fi hack of Machinations of the Space Princess), as the ships will never reach anything like relativistic speeds. I've definitely made some assumptions about the kinds of ships that are being used, and some of them are kind of arbitrary, but why not?

I am tweaking numbers now really, to make sure that I have something which makes a simple kind of sense. Ships can't just have infinite fuel, so I have to put some bounds on that - and when you put a boundary on something that stacks and knocks over a whole series of other dominoes. How much does fuel cost? Is it available everywhere, or could PCs get essentially stranded when they dock at an asteroid and are told "Next shipment is due in two weeks"?

The more I think about writing my own games/hacks/etc, the more I appreciate just how skilled other people are who have a successful back catalogue. Over on False Machine, Patrick was talking about designing adventures (link to be added here later!) and a few points really stand out. The big one for me is that you have to write and write and write and then edit and pare back: and I think I agree with this broadly, even if what you are doing is writing and re-writing notes to then be combined. The really big point in Patrick's post though is the idea of information being chunked (my word not his) into single or double-page spreads; if things go over pages it disrupts the flow, it makes your ideas less accessible and could actually make things confusing.

Which is why I value this habit that is starting to fall into place; this little place on the internet is a way to just mull ideas over, and then collect them later.

I have my formulae (or formulas, whichever you prefer), so I'm going to get Open Office to spit out a table of travel times; which will then give me some ideas as to whether or not I am on the right track with distances and acceleration in the setting.

This has been a bit of a ramble, but to finish I'm going to flesh out a "popomatic" schema for ships (PCs will have something like this, but with some tweaks to the options; this is for a general ship encountered, not some ultra-fast fighter)

Popomatic Ships
d4 - Capacity - add 3 to get the number of berths on the ship; possibly a cargo rating as well... (needs thought)
d6 - Acceleration - use as indexing for 0.5g, 0.75g, 1g, 1.5g, 2g, 2.5g
d8 - Hull Strength - use in conjunction with MotSP armour tables
d10 - Manouverability - a rating that will have two effects: first in terms of turning ship for long distance travel (will have a positive or negative effect on travel time); second, for evasion in ship to ship combat
d12 - Weapons - after coming up with some options, use this to index them; mostly about strength of railguns etc
d20 - Range - still working this one out! The domino has not toppled yet...

## Sunday, 13 July 2014

### Cough, Sneeze, Poop, Space

Last night's sleep was particularly disturbed. Our daughter is feeling a bit under the weather (nothing too serious, but when you're only ten months old and you can't articulate how you feel to your sleep-deprived and worrying parents it must seem bad), and this got me thinking about illness in the Oort Cloud.

I don't think that disease will be a big portion of the setting, but there is always something particularly "What do we do?!" about a plague or a sickness that is going around. So it's at least fun to think about it.

We know that bacteria and viruses evolve quickly (relative to our own evolution, and even relative to our technological evolution). So it is reasonable to assume that there will be some infectious diseases in the future. Organisms want to propogate (in as much as they might have "motivations") so there are two options for thriving diseases hundreds or thousands of years from this point on (as I see it at the moment for the setting; I'm a doctor, but I'm not  that kind of doctor, just thinking).

Option 1 is that there are diseases which are essentially symbiotic or at least non-problematic for people. Contagious colds that don't really bother people, but which stay around long enough to be passed on. Option 2 are things which we might liken to Hyper-SARS, things that get passed on, have a relatively high lethality and are really infectious. People die, quarantines are imposed - and that is a neat adventure hook perhaps, because there are all kinds of wants and needs that a quarantined population might have - and all kinds of problems that thrillseekers might need to work around to get paid.

There is a third option: I recall reading a few months ago about a bacteria that had been found in a space centre clean room. Shortly after the same (or a very similar) organism was found in another clean room at a different space centre. There was no possibility of any kind of cross contamination. The analysis was that this bacteria had evolved to survive in the aggressively sterile environments of clean rooms - and had evolved twice at two different locations.

Simply put, as I understand it, this bacteria had been trundling along for millenia, just there and then a niche came along when it could thrive. What kind of bacteria, I wonder, will thrive in habitats at the edge of space when they are given the opportunity? And how will they impact the humans in those environments?

## Saturday, 12 July 2014

### In space no-one can hear you drink your own urine

And thankfully people don't pay too much attention.

It must be true, when you really think about it, that atoms in the water that you drink, have been through the digestive systems of other humans - and other living things. They've gone in one end and come out the other. I have an inkling that xkcd has even run a strip or a What If about it... But in space, in the Oort Cloud, needs really must, and out of necessity, people drink their own pee.

Recycling of basic, rather than processed resources, must be an absolute societal basic at the very edge of interstellar space. With the exception (probably) of cometary mining, there's no more water around unless you have alchemical processors - and those things don't run cheap.

I guess most places wouldn't begrudge thrillseekers and travellers some basic water rations (apart from despotic asteroids or criminal waystations); they might not include showers or baths as part of basic accommodation though. Going a step further, a simple bath might be considered a luxury - a spa retreat might be half a day just having a good soak.

If you have the rights or the firepower to defend a cometary ice body - or some other source of water - then you might be on to a winner economically... Or you might have painted a big target on yourself.

## Friday, 11 July 2014

### Where do you go to relax?

So I'm on holiday now, for the next week. This morning was just excruciating - despite all of our best laid plans for getting away handy, we were hampered at the last minute by things not being packed that we thought the other had packed, forgetting things, checking oil and water in the car at the last minute, needing to fill up the car with fuel...  Travelling anywhere on hoilday with a small child takes forever, even when you're just driving 90 minutes to a caravan park.

Still: six days away from the house and whatever normal dramas unfold there (every day I seem to notice one more thing that needs fixing, replacing or decorating) will be nice. I have to work one day, but the rest is all picnics, trips to the zoo, trawling around the English seaside and eating at least twice at the best fish and chip restaurant in the UK (official!).

But when I woke up in the night this got me thinking about adventurers and thrillseekers, the people in whatever kind of party in whatever kind of setting that you might run. How do they relax? What do they do to just get away from it all? That might not be the most exciting thing to roleplay, maybe people want to be murderhoboes and look for monsters, treasure, vaults to break into, crimes to pull off - but what's the use of getting all of that money, fame and awesome stuff if you can't just get away from it all once in a while?

I'm really racking my brains, thinking about all of the different games I've played over the last three years or so, and I'm really struggling to think of any times when the party just went to relax. I remember going to a casino in Cyberpunk, but it was business - (as I recall, Patrick's character died that night...) - and even though some money was made, there was no R&R.

The next occasion was in Pendragons of Mars - but there the jousting and feasting was intrinsic to the setting and the season, we couldn't not be there. It was fun, no doubt. It was no holiday.

Heh, I'm not looking for "Vacations & Vagabonds, the crime-fantasy RPG of going on holiday" - I'm just wondering if anyone ever has an in-game getaway? Do you not do it because it's not interesting? If you do have them, what sort of stuff happens?

And is it more or less exciting than hurtling up the M6 motorway, dodging awful drivers and praying to MANPAC that we get to our destination before the baby wakes up?

## Thursday, 10 July 2014

### Ships in the Oort Cloud, part 1

A night idea. I suppose in reality this is a couple of ideas that have been floating around for a while. On a recent train journey I started thinking about travel time between places in the Oort Cloud. I did some calculations on a series of Post It notes; I assumed that there was no instant travel, that unaltered humans wouldn't want to be subject to more than 1g of acceleration or deceleration. I also assumed that the drive in the ships wouldn't be explained using massive liquid fuel tanks (i.e., it will be totally hand-wavey in game; although some concept of range would be good).
These were in my head, have been for a few days. But at 2am when the baby woke up, the main thing that popped in was dice.
I like Zak S's Popomatic concept: so to come up with a random ship (not necessarily a ship owned/used by a group of PCs) why not roll a d4, d6, d8, d10 and d12 together, with the five numbers signifying different attributes or aspects of the ship.
There are a couple of things which dice could randomly select: weapons, armour, range, style of ship, cargo/berth capacity, maximum acceleration/deceleration. Off the top of my head this morning, I'm thinking:
d4: acceleration/deceleration (1g, 1.5g, 2g, 2.5g)
d6: berths and cargo
d8: armour
d10: weapons
d12: range
I'll have to expand on some of these ideas in the coming days. This is a departure from the way ships are handled in Machinations of the Space Princess, where the concepts/mechanics are much more closely aligned with the stats of PCs. That game as written is more sci-fantasy than I'm thinking for the campaign in the Oort Cloud. So: while I'll continue to do little "night idea" posts, it seems like last night's idea has nudged me in the direction of resolving this little gap that I currently have in my setting schema.
I'll see what the next night idea is, but the next part in this Popomatic Ships series will be saying more about acceleration - which will also, I guess, say more about where I'm coming from in the harder sci-fi setting. More later/tomorrow!

## Wednesday, 9 July 2014

### Aliens are Magic

A night time idea. In the campaign setting I'm preparing for, aliens have been and gone a long, long time ago. Humanity lives and breathes recycled air at the very edge of the solar system; some live in religious seclusion, others mine for rare elements, while some prepare for the eventual journey to the stars.

And then there are the thrillseekers.

Aliens left behind things. There are disc-shaped structures of impervious exotic materials, bigger than any human-made habitat. On an asteroid, while digging for a probable vein of uranium, some miners found a cache of odd, metre-high clear cubes. All floating an inch off the ground, with no clear signs of how they were doing it. (When one was eventually placed in a large enough scanner, then scanner reported that there was nothing there) Then there is the religious order based in an abandoned military communications satellite that teaches true enlightenment can eternal life can only be found through hugging (what one scholar described as) alien skittles.

The order's members have no body hair of any kind, and require no food. They also have horrendous halitosis.

Alien tech is magic: sometimes the effects of objects and items can be guessed, but often the mechanism is completely opaque to even serious researchers. Alien tech has mundane properties as well. A perpetual light source, a sheet of "paper" that negates all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, a bag of sand that organises when poured into one of seven different configurations.

Alien tech is magic in a magic-free universe: resourceful thrillseekers will find uses or buyers for what they find. It's not the aim of the setting to find alien tech, but it is an option; and who doesn't like exploring a perfectly static alien-death-cube in orbit around a comet?

## Tuesday, 8 July 2014

### Baristas in the Oort Cloud

If you listen to A Gaming Podcast About Nothing, you might know that my current pet project is running a campaign set on the various communities in the Oort Cloud of some future time. Probably using Machinations of the Space Princess, although it started off in my head as a Dogs in the Vineyard hack, I've been making notes, creating tables, even a sample grid of space two light-minutes by two light-minutes across.

At 3:30 this morning while I was waiting with my daughter something just popped into my head: Baristas.

At the edge of the solar system, alcohol isn't so much banned as it is severely frowned on. There's a time and a place for a good time, and you can buy beer if you want it - but it's not the done thing. Coffee on the other hand - well, it's a natural stimulant, keeps you alert, and even in the safest of safe places, there's always a chance of a micro-meteor causing a hull breach, or a cometary ice storm to weather. Coffee is good.

And the Exalted Order serve the best coffee. Some people scoff and say that the machines they use are a sham, that the taste and smell from the resulting coffee is all about perception. Others say that the machines came from Earth, have been lovingly restored or preserved over many generations, and that the Baristas are near-alchemists, turning dials, grinding beans just-so and applying water of the correct temperature to two decimal places without computer aid.

You pay a price for this devotion, but it's often rewarded. The movers and the shakers, the high and the low, they all pay at the temple-cafes of the Exalted Order. There are even stories of the Baristas of the Exalted Order, in their simple black shirt and trousers (forearm sleeve tattoo optional) entering trances, uttering things about patron-worshippers that they couldn't possibly know. Who knows?

### Start Over

I don't remember the last time that I slept through the night. I used to, all the time, sleep for six to eight hours at a stretch every night without fail. Now, my rest is piecemeal, two hours, then three, then 45 minutes, then whatever is left until the morning.