Wednesday 26 March 2014

Tales of Blood and Glory: Ringworld

Larry Niven's 1970 novel "Ringworld" is a fun, goofy, lighthearted romp of a Space Opera. That said, it's a more thoughtful and creative type of planet-fiction that many of the Burroughs imitators of the time.

A Cyberpunk Connection?

It begins as a heist story, with a mysterious agent gathering a team for a mission he will not reveal the nature of. Once they get there, however, the bulk of the story is spent exploring the Ringworld. The structure reminds me of Neuromancer(1984), another book I recently read, though the tone and language are completely different. There are other similarities however, like the existence of monofilament and the description of Louis Wu reminds me of a more lighthearted Julius Deane. It makes me wonder if Gibson borrowed some of his favorite ideas from Ringworld to expand upon in his own novel...

Supersize Me

Anyway, Ringwold's main theme is that of enormous scale, both in time and in space(without understanding this, the choice of Louis Wu as the Hero seems bizarre). Characters extend their age through a variety of technologies and Niven takes the opportunity now and again to explore how this effects their psychology on both an individual and societal level. This mostly expresses itself in the form of cautiousness vs. impulsiveness and how different societies are build around these characteristics.

Space travel over inconceivably vast distances and the different amounts of time it takes via different technologies is also a recurring topic. Cultures rise and fall in the interstellar transit times(or don't with the faster technologies) and Niven does a really good job getting you to feel the passage of cosmic time.

And then there's the Diskworld itself, with a surface area 3 million times that of earth. Most of their travels along it's surface are at supersonic rates, yet they only cover a tiny portion. That said, while the size is emphasized, but we don't really get a picture of the diversity in different areas.

Can we Gamify It?

The vastness of the Ringworld does make me want to run a Sandbox campaign in a similar setting. A post-apocalyptic world so huge, even with the advanced technology the party finds. You'd get to know one area, then zip over to another, perhaps with completely different creatures/culture/flora/fauna. And lot's of ruins from long-forgotten ages.

Oh, apparently there's a Ringworld RPG. If only it was DnD compatible...

Tuesday 25 March 2014

WFRP Empire Campaign Sessions 18-20: Stuff Happens

Sessions 18-20 are a bit fuzzy in my mind due to bad Google Hangout audio, missing a session, and just being generally sleep-deprived.  That said, here is a summary, parts of which may have only happened in my mind:

Last time, our heroes were seeking the necromancer Italka. We had reason to believe she was tracking a large piece of warpstone that had fallen from the sky 100? years ago and been tracked down and acquired by the world's most evil astronomer(think the Anti-Carl Sagan).

you can find ANYTHING with image search

not just another pretty face
We followed her convoy to the ends of the earth, fought ghosts and Skaven in a chaos fever dream, and eventually caught up to her and her little Evil convoy.  Or rather, we walked into their ambush. But, after a hard fought battle blah blah blah...

Once defeated she revealed her secrets(her chaos spell seems to have wiped it from my memory though) and we were getting along just fine. Then she brought us into a little Faustian pact that neither of us would do harm to the other for a year and a day. And that kids is what we call "Foreshadowing"...

Then we went to some little dirt-hole of a town next to evil Castle Von Wittgenstein.  Everyone there is slowly turning into mutants and the crops are all dead or mutated. We visited the abandoned Temple, and it's gimpy subterranean denizens, and Germanic Jesus Sigmar Himself ordered us to deal the powers of Chaos a good swift kick in the nuts a mortal blow from him. One of the Elves or Dwarves got a holy sword(I couldn't tell due to choppy audio) and our herbalist poisoned this lady's baby just because it was turning into a spider, proving once again that Dwarves will use any excuse to spill Human blood.

Also there were these castle guards patrolling or something...then the town Doctor invited us for dinner and he was clean and had a nice house so it was clear he was, like, SUPER EVIL. Seigwart tried looking for evidence of his evilness while the party was waiting for dinner, but after pocketing anything gold and reading all his private correspondences, it seems like the Doctor really IS trying to help the locals. Though he is buddy-buddy with some Lady in Castle Wittgenstein(and he invited us into his house) so apparently he isn't a very good judge of character...

So the party finally went to eat with the doctor and our herbalist immediately noticed that all the food reeked of sleeping potion. Seigwart excused himself from the table and peeked out the window noticing large numbers of castle guards converging outside. He ducked downstairs to the cellar, hoping to find a subterranean tunnel out of here! And with that, I'll have to leave you in suspense till next time...

...and the map shows there is one. So much for suspense. I swear I didn't actually look at the map until now...

Sunday 23 March 2014

8 Cyberpunk AIs Inpired by Popular RNG Algorithms

Well, I stumbled over this page with all the Random Number Generation algorithms that come standard with R. It occurred to me that they'd make good names for AIs floating around cyberspace in a Cyberpunk setting...


Stanley Morgan Chase owns this AI. It's there to analyze financial markets and make investment decisions no human money manager ever could. The technology is proprietary and kept highly secret, but the rumor is that Wichmann-Hill makes a killing for it's corporate owners.


The Open-Source AI. There are thousands of these general-purpose, open-source AI's floating around the matrix, with a variety of standard and non-standard plug-ins installed. They belong to all sorts of concerns who had the dough for the hardware required for their own AI, but still couldn't afford to have one custom made. Some MM's work for universities, others for minor Zaibatsus, other for large hacker-collectives. They generally have a stable personality and if they come-off as a little buggy, well the fix will probably be in the next version...


An AI in the possession of Trillionaire Playboy, Narasimha Krishna Pujara III. Her sole task is to continuously turn out faster, more extravagant designs for supercars and superplanes, and to look good doing it! She is very enthusiastic about her work and is always combing the matrix for new technologies and better ideas to be refined and improved on.


This AI was given to the Math department at École Polytechnique University by an anonymous donor(rumored to be in exchange for academic services rendered to one of the major Zybotsu). Its specializes in Fractal-based analyses. 


The 2002 Updated version of Knuth-TAOCP.


An AI creater by Knuth Cybernetics to perform the complex calibrations necessary for the visual cortex of the cyberbrains of the company's various land-based autonomous drones. Unfortunately for KT, they came out with a better version of him just 5 years later. He's very unhappy about it and hates all of humanity as a result, but especially Knuth Cybernetics and Knuth-TAOCP-2002. The company has mostly managed to keep him confined to the security layer of their corporate network, and many a hacker has been lucky to only have had his cyberdeck fried by this brooding, hostile AI, after passing Knuth Cybernetics' firewall.


A french AI created to understand individuals from their online signature and design marketing strategies for individuals accordingly. He crawls the net, obsessively collecting the most personal and revealing data on the 12.238 billion people on the planet to store away in his dedicated data centers. A hacker who manages to reach that store would have a lot of dirt on a lot of people, but he'll first have to get through one jealously protective AI.


This AI was never completed. The Zaibatsu who commissioned it froze the project halfway through and never re-opened it. It just sat there, isolated to a single disconnected server, thinking it's half-rational thoughts for uncountable cycles in solitude. That was until a novice tekkie noticed the disconnected server machine and plugged it in to the nearest net jack, hoping it would solve the outage he was working on(it didn't, by the way). Now user-supplied roams the net. Who can say what conclusions it draws from from what it sees with it's incomplete intelligence. What plans does it hatch, so incredibly powerful yet so completely inscrutable?

Saturday 8 March 2014

Basque Pirates Booty

There must be some booty here somewhere...

First off, Chief Rolla Dolla was so impressed with the party's successful raid, that he offers each member an apprentice from among the young warriors in the tribe.  Each apprentice has the following stats:

HP: 4
AC: 11
Attack Bonus: +1
Equipment: Water Gourd, 1 day's rations, Spear or Short Bow+8 arrows(pick one)

And now for XP:

So I like to give XP according to the natural goals of the party/setting, so here goes:

Islands Charted: 5x50XP
Islands Explored: 2x100XP
Crewmembers Added: 3x100XP
Boats Added to Fleet: 0
Missions Completed: 1x100XP
Combat Victories: 5 degenerate humansx10XP

Total: 900XP

Thursday 6 March 2014

Basque Pirates: Session 2

Well, tonight we dug out the survivors of Death Frost Doom for a little bit of Saltbox fun with Swashbucklers & Seamonsters. The cast was:

  • Franzisco: this pearl diver kept his wits and survived the horrors in Basque Country but left with a cursed dagger he had picked-up there. He is now level 2.
  • Aroztegi: a ship's carpenter, he carries two pistols and a sabre and is always ready for action!
  • John the Accidental Baptist: a British navigator who gained his nickname when he accidentally capsizing a ship while at the helm

These 3 ne'er do well pirates found themselves on the wrong side of a mutiny while in the Mediterranean. The fought to a stalemate but were still sorely outnumbered. They were allowed to leave on the ship's longboat if they would just vacate the poop deck. Thus, they found themselves in a small skiff outside a small fishing village.

The native villagers proved primitive yet friendly, especially when given a silver candlestick. The party was provided with a guide who showed them around the small sandy islet. They were able to see 4 larger islands in the area:

  • to the East a large hilly, grassy island, inhabited by some large animals(cattle?)
  • to the SE a large grassy island, a bit less steep, with signs of cultivation
  • to the West a volcanic island, that the natives are superstitious about
  • to the North a jungle island they were told to stay away from because of the pirates there. "We don't bother them and they don't bother us" said the natives
The party decided to try and contact the pirates in hope of joining them(and possibly betraying them).

There was also a larger village with a stockade on this island, presided over by Chief Rolla Dolla. The party was welcomed with a celebration around the bonfire. Aroztegi's advances on the local women were met with flirtatious evasiveness. The shaman sensed Franzisco's curse and offered to cure it "in exchange for the heads of the fallen ones" on the island to the West. The party agreed, heading there in their skiff. 

Over there you can find the horrible degenerate ones!

They found a degenerate tribe there, dwelling in the ruins of some ancient stone city. They have stone axes, primitive canoes, and no formal language. They lured a group of 5 tribesman into a trap and attacked them. The tribesmen fought fiercely, injuring all of the party members, but ultimately the party prevailed.

Upon bringing back the heads of the Fallen Ones, Rolla Dolla's people were shocked but joyous. The shaman summoned a shoggoth which took the cursed dagger and disappeared with it back to another plane.

Cursed daggers are the most delicious kind!