Friday, March 31, 2017

Wayland's Hammer

The iconic ship of the AD ASTRA setting is the Wayland's Hammer.  A older UX-83 corvette used by the Altairan merchant marine as an armed escort vehicle in the chaos following the end of the Slave Wars, the Wayland's Hammer (or Dub H for short, as its known to its crew) is the ship of Donovon "Dono" Flint.  It's been very heavily modified since its days in official service—it was completely gutted inside and remodeled with a modest cargo hold, enough berths for the 5-man normal crew (and an additional 5 passengers, although to be honest, two of those passenger berths are normally used to stow odds and ends), new bulk drives, hot-rodded local space drives that make the ship faster and more maneuverable, slightly improved armor, shields and new quad lasers.  Although it's a rather fearsome craft for its size in many ways, Flint rarely uses his letter of marque issued by the Monarch's Margrave of the sector and is as likely to simply shuttle rare goods (sometimes illicitly) from system to system hoping to make a buck.

Using the AD ASTRA rules for space-ship construction, I've imagined the Dub H as a slightly more militarized Millennium Falcon in many ways, and is roughly the same size (for that matter, for Star Wars junkies, it's also about the same size as the Ebon Hawk or the various ships used by the different classes in Old Republic.)  I started with the basic Large ship chassis and filled up the slots with what I wanted.  I'd imagine that Old Man Flint, Dono's father, probably bought the Dub H at auction when it was at the end of its term of service for about 100,000 credits, and then spent a good 75,000 remodeling it.  Dono himself has probably put a good 70-80,000 more into it to "hot-rod" it; making it faster, better armored, adding shields, upgrading the weaponry, etc.  Not that he would want to sell it, but assuming that he did and he wasn't under pressure to unload it quickly, he'd try to sell it for 275,000 or so, and wouldn't possibly part with it for under 225,000.  Under extreme duress, he might go as low as just under 200,000, but PC's should never expect to get a comparable ship for anything less than 180,000 at even the very best of circumstances—unless through larceny or piracy, of course.

Wayland's Hammer

Type: Modified privateer corvette
Size: Large
Hit Points: 32
Agility: +5
Sensors: +3
Slots: 20
AC: 21

  • Type: Quad laser (medium range)
  • Attack: +2
  • Damage: 4d6
Extra Engine power (2 slots)
Bulk drive (5 slots)
Quad lasers (3 slots)
Extra armor (3 slots at +2 to AC each slot)
Shields (3 slots for combined Damage Reduction of 6)
Passenger berth (2 slots; up to 10 crew and passengers)
Cargo berth (1 slot—5 tons)
Extra fuel tank (1 slot)

The changes to the stats for the added engines and armor are included in the stats at the top, and the Attacks naturally reflects the quad laser.

UPDATE: As an aside, this is what I want AD ASTRA to look and feel like.  In some respects, it's more Guardians of the Galaxy than Star Wars, really.  Not that Destiny is like that in game but the cinematic trailers are perfect.  And as much as I think some aspects of Destiny are kinda silly (the ghosts, the Light, etc.) visually it's just about perfect.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Possible dino-family tree tear-up


Just saw this new study of Saltopus elginensis which includes a new phylogeny.  Now, granted—new phylogenies come out all the time.  Many of them to not stand the test of time, and fall.  This may be one such too, but until then, it raises an interesting spectre that we've maybe misinterpreted the spread of dinosaurs altogether.

What if the classic division of Saurischia and Ornithischea isn't really correct?  This new study suggests that Therapoda (minus Herrerasauridae) is actually to be allied with Ornithischia instead of Saurischia, and he creates a new clade Ornithoscelida.  Which is actually the revival of a 125 or so year old proposal by none other than Thomas Huxley.

One curious side effect of this is that it means that feathers may not actually be something related to all dinosaurs after all—to the best of my knowledge, feathers have only been found on dinosaurs that would belong to this new Ornithoscelida clade—therapods and ornithischians.  No Sauropodomorph or Herrerasaurid has shown any evidence of feathers.

If true, this would clear up a lot of confusion about the Herrerasaurs.  Nesbitt's huge cladogram, which was kind of the gold standard when it was done in 2011 or so (and which had the other surprising discovery of recovering phytosaurs outside of Archosauria) had them as basal therapods, but other cladograms had recovered them as basal saurischians, or even as basal dinosaurs that predated the saurischian-ornithischian split.  At least phylogenetically, if not necessary temporally (actually the age of herrerasaur bearing rocks is a problem too.)  There have even been more radical suggestions; such as that they were sauropodomorphs, or even dinosauriformes outside of Dinosauria proper.  But in this scenario, they are saurischians that are not closely related to therapods at all, because they're on the other side of the Great Dividing Line in dinosaur systematics from them.

Which is also curious, because it would mean that meat-eaters actually popped up on both sides of the line too—which was not the case previously—and which suggests that the original dinosaurs might have been omnivorous.  It's also curious that this is in many ways the complete opposite proposal as Phytodinosauria of Bob Bakker fame, which proposed that sauropodomorphs and ornithischians were the more closely related ones, and therapods were distinct.  To me, it seems clear that the exact nature of the relationships between these animals is difficult to determine because of their gross similarity, which has led many a researcher astray—regardless of how it all turns out in the end.

As an aside, the data that really changed the analysis were greatly improved descriptions of two primitive and early ornithischians: Heterodontosaurus and Lesothosaurus.  Both are believed to possibly have been omnivorous early ornithischians.

Clone Wars

I made an off-hand reference to the fact that without the military stuff, The Clone Wars TV show (which is up on Netflix) is probably really the best source material for the kind of Star Wars-like action I'd like to see in AD ASTRA.  And even the military stuff can be adapted, much of it, as PC strike teams, or something in gaming; and the stories can be adapted (or mimicked for style and tone, maybe I should say) in fiction.  But... there's 5½ seasons of that show, which is kind of a lot.  I don't hesitate to encourage you to watch the whole run (including the movie that debuted before the show proper started), but if you're on a time budget and want to know which ones I recommend specifically, well... that's what this post is about.

First off, you should watch the movie.  It's also on Netflix (or at least recently was—I haven't checked in a little while) but it's listed separately.  This is kind of a shame; in format, I think that it was originally a three-episode arc that was put together as a "fix-up" as a single thing.

So start there.

Let's see... Season 1 episodes.  I've combined multi-episode arcs as a single bullet point.  The ones I recommend have comments following and are bolded.
  • "Ambush"
  • "Rising Malevolence", "Shadow of Malevolence" "Destroy Malevolence"—absolutely watch this three-episode arc.  Great visuals, and a wonderful concept.
  • "Rookies"
  • "Downfall of a Droid", "Duel of the Droids"
  • "Bombad Jedi"
  • "Cloak of Darkness"—I recommend this one.  A prison break by the villains that goes right.  Pretty fun.
  • "Lair of Grevious"—I'm not normally a fan of "space dungeoncrawls" but this one is pretty cool.  It follows immediately on the heels of the last episode.
  • "Dooku Captured", "The Gungan General"
  • "Jedi Crash", "Defenders of the Peace"
  • "Trespass"
  • "The Hidden Enemy"
  • "Blue Shadow Virus", "Mystery of a Thousand Worlds"—an interesting germ warfare concept, with a quest for a McGuffin.  Worth a watch, if nothing else for hearing Michael York's crazy alien Dr. Mengele voice.
  • "Storm over Ryloth", "Innocents of Ryloth", "Liberty on Ryloth"
  • "Hostage Crisis"—the introduction of the bounty hunters (which was the subtitle for the second season) and showcases how competent they can be.
Season 2
  • "Holocron Heist", "Cargo of Doom", "Children of the Force"—this arc actually starts off strong, but kind of peters out before it's done.  I still recommend it, though.
  • "Senate Spy"
  • "Landing at Point Rain", "Weapons Factory", "Legacy of Terror", "Brain Invaders"—following "Senate Spy" and building off of information, this long arc is quite military in nature, for the most part, but showcases how a wide variety of stories can be told in the genre.  The first one is a "space Normandy invasion", followed by a fortress infiltration, followed by an alien zombie outbreak, followed by an Attack of the Body Snatchers type story.
  • "Grievous Intrigue"—a rescue mission is anticipated and turned into a trap.  Not quite sure exactly how they relatively easily sprung the trap, but it's still an interesting story.  Almost any story that features Grievous as the main villain are worth watching. The next episode follows it, but is not integral to the same story arc.
  • "The Deserter"
  • "Lightsaber Lost"
  • "The Mandalore Plot", "Voyage of Temptation", "Duchess of Mandalore"—the "peaceful" Mandaloreans are both hoaky and irritating, but the villains here are, of course, the traditional Mandaloreans.  Anything with them is also a must-watch.
  • "Senate Murders"
  • "Cat and Mouse"
  • "Bounty Hunters"—a retelling of The Seven Samurai.  You already know the story, but seeing the bounty hunters that they used to replace the samurai is good for a laugh.
  • "The Zillo Beast", "The Zillo Beast Strikes Back"—this time, they make a space Godzilla.
  • "Death Trap", "R2 Come Home", "Lethal Trackdown"
Season 3
  • "Clone Cadets"
  • "ARC Troopers"—invasion of Kamino.  Highly recommended.
  • "Supply Lines"
  • "Sphere of Influence"
  • "Corruption"
  • "The Academy"
  • "Assassin"
  • "Evil Plans"
  • "Hunt for Ziro"—notable for the presence of Quinlan Vos, a kind of fan favorite throwaway character.  But it's also a great crime story.
  • "Heroes on Both Sides"
  • "Pursuit of Peace"
  • "Nightsisters", "Monster", "Witches of the Mist"—I'm not sure if this is an arc, or just linked stand-alone episodes, but they're all great.  Plus, they set the stage for Darth Maul to eventually return.
  • "Overlords", "Altar of Mortis", "Ghosts of Mortis"
  • "The Citadel", "Counter Attack", "Citadel Rescue"—military strike force and spy action.  Fun stuff.
  • "Padawn Lost", "Wookie Hunt"—the best season finale arc so far.  Highly recommended.
Season 4
  • "Water War", "Gungan Attack", "Prisoners"—an interesting story arc, mostly because it manages to take place almost entirely underwater.
  • "Shadow Warrior"
  • "Mercy Mission"
  • "Nomad Droids"
  • "Darkness on Umbara", "The General", "Plan of Dissent", "Carnage of Krell"—this lengthy 4-part story arc is pretty cool because it introduces a very different environment, and the Umbarans are a nifty new edition with nifty new technology.  A great example of how individualized various worlds can be; this is even more true in AD ASTRA than in Star Wars, where bulk drives are not nearly as convenient and easy as Star Wars hyperspace travel.  Otherwise, however, the story is probably too military to be of much use as inspiration for anything else not overtly military.
  • "Kidnapped", ""Slaves of the Republic", "Escape from Kadovo"
  • "A Friend in Need"
  • "Deception", "Friends and Enemies", "The Box", "Crisis on Naboo"—another lengthy arc, with Obiwan going undercover with a group of bounty hunters.  I'm not sold on the "space Tomb of Horrors" episode in particular, but otherwise, I quite like this particular story.
  • "Massacre"—the Sith decide to eliminate the Nightsisters.  Brilliant episode.  One of the better ones.  Really showcases the overt magico-fantasy aspect of the Star Wars setting too.
  • "Bounty"—a train heist/kidnapping.  A classic tale recast in the Star Wars milieu, which is really a big part of what Star Wars was always all about.
  • "Brothers", "Revenge"—the return of Darth Maul!  As if that wasn't a good enough reason to watch these two, it's also just a great story.  An even better season finale than season 3's.
Season 5 (Note that original broadcast order is different than DVD and Netflix order)
  • "A War on Two Fronts", "Front Runners", "The Soft War", "Tipping Points"
  • "The Gathering", "A Test of Strength", "Bound for Rescue", "A Necessary Bond"
  • "Secret Weapons", "A Sunny Day in the Void", "Missing in Action", "Point of No Return"
  • "Revival", "Eminence", "Shades of Reason", "The Lawless"—I'm just going to come right out and say it; this story arc of four episodes is the PEAK of this show. They were the best.  This is the best Star Wars we've seen since The Empire Strikes Back and the only thing as good (maybe) that we've seen since is Rogue One.  Watch these episodes.  Absolutely.
  • "Sabotage", "The Jedi Who Knew Too Much", "To Catch a Jedi", "The Wrong Jedi"—Dave Filoni, at least, if not necessarily anyone else, could see through the weaknesses in Star Wars.  He even realizes that the Jedi have lost their way and are not the paragons of virtue that Lucas held them out to be.  In at least some small measure, this story arc redeems much of what went wrong with Star Wars over the years.
The Lost Missions (Season 6)
  • "The Unknown", "Conspiracy", "Fugitive", "Orders"—an interesting spy/intrigue arc in which trooper Fives (known from many episodes throughout the show so far) discovers the trip switch for Order 66.
  • "An Old Friend", "The Rise of Clovis", "Crisis at the Heart"
  • "The Disappeared, Part I", "The Disappeared, Part II"
  • "The Lost One", "Voices", "Destiny", "Sacrifice"—an interesting tale that starts out with a thriller/mystery as Anakin and Obiwan find clues that would expose the Sith plot (which of course have to be suppressed so that Revenge of the Sith can take place as normal) and morphs into Yoda discovering more of the history and nature of the Force.
There are a number of story arcs that never made it into becoming episodes exactly, but they were presented to fans in another format so at least we can see what the episodes might have looked like had they been made.
  • Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir—on the final fate of Darth Maul's Mandalorean army, and its removal as a force by General Grievous under the direction of Darth Sidious.  Terribly unfortunate that these four episodes were never made.
  • "A Death on Utapau", "In Search of the Crystal", "The Big Bang"
  • "The Bad Batch", "A Distant Echo", "On the Wings of Keeradaks", "Unfinished Business"—sadly, you can only watch these are youtube "roughs", but this is a great set of episodes, with a kind of Star Wars version of the Dirty Dozen sneaking around and doing military spy/sabotage and rescue missions.  Highly recommended.
  • Dark Disciple
That last is a novel.  Avoid at all costs.  It turns out that it's a Romance novel.  Absolutely horrible.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How does Ad Astra differ from Star Wars?

Someone asked me the question in the post title just recently, and I thought it a fair question.  What I said earlier is a good place to start, but let me then expand from there.
It's new, yet should feel very familiar to anyone who's familiar with space opera tales of swashbuckling derring-do featuring laconic alpha male space cowboys who shoot first, space Templar-like warrior-monks who get into crazy martial arts sword-fights on space-ships, vast legions of faceless soldiers, and sassy space princess damsels in distress.  It may not feel exactly like such stories that you're already familiar with—and that's on purpose—but it should feel like those stories deconstructed... and then reconstructed all over again.  This time, all of the confusion over good and evil, black and white, what heroism is, who the good guys are, what a good guy is, what the dickens SJW dogma and political correctness has to do with space opera at all, etc. has all been washed away and what had become tired and disappointing is now a blank slate, ready to be made new, fresh and exciting again.
In a nutshell, that's the core of it, of course.  Star Wars from the first movie, pretty much—and maybe The Empire Strikes Back.  Expanded from there in terms of content, but not changed in terms of tone, feel, or themes... unlike the actual subsequent Star Wars content.  Star Wars without Obiwan Kenobi turning out to be a lying schemer.  Star Wars without Yoda who encourages Luke to hide and train like a putz rather than rescue his friends like a hero.  Star Wars without Luke who surrenders to the Emperor and refuses to fight and somehow thinks that that's winning.  Star Wars where the stormtroopers aren't stupid jokes who lose a battle to a handful of stone age Care Bears.  Star Wars where the heroes are heroic, the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and there's none of the murky moral ambiguity brought about by a creator who doesn't understand morality, heroism, or the nature of good.

And most especially, Star Wars where the characters aren't boring and stupid.  Where the demands of decivilizational "social" "justice" haven't completely ruined it all before it even starts.  The problems with Star Wars actually start very, very early—although they don't metastasize until the Prequels and other subsequent content.  If Luke is supposed to be the hero of the story, growing from immature and impulsive young teenager to champion of all that's right in the galaxy, why is he a sad sack loser who can't get the girl? (Don't even start.  Leia wasn't Luke's sister until that was ret-conned during the script development process of Return of the Jedi to close a potential plot hole. Later, Lucas didn't even worry about closing plot holes, so I guess maybe I should be thankful.)  If the Jedi are so wonderful, why do they have this bizarre zen dispassion and why do they feel like it's OK to run rough-shod over everybody they cross paths with ("aggressive negotiations?")  Why is Obiwan Kenobi a lying, manipulative weasel?  Why does Yoda discourage any kind of heroism or goodness in Luke; and then smile as if Luke didn't win in the end by completely defying everything that he told him to do?  For that matter; Yoda himself must be a lying, manipulative weasel himself—why did he tell Luke that his training wasn't complete in Empire and then when Luke came back to finish his training, tell him that he didn't have anything more that he needed to learn?  Why did Luke put up with being yanked around like that by Yoda and Obiwan, for that matter?  How in the world did Luke think that he was winning against the Emperor by not fighting him?  He deserved getting lightning bolted to death at the end there, quite honestly, for being the stupidest excuse for a "hero" that we'd seen in years.  Even as a little kid back in 1983 or whenever exactly it was that Jedi came out, I was both confused and disappointed in Luke's stupid passivity.  The Jedi are always passive exactly when they need to be brave and stand up to real evil, and then suddenly spring into action to enact tyranny when they should sit back and not interfere with the liberty of the people that they're dealing with.

Don't even get me started on how sideways this all went in the prequels.  It became obvious—although I still don't think that this was Lucas' intention; it was just a side-effect of his complete cluelessness about human nature, and the nature of good and evil—that the Jedi were actually the villains of the piece, and seeing them torn down was a blow for freedom.  Which, sadly, was enacted by the Sith who were even worse, but that's kinda how it works sometimes, isn't it?  And especially don't get me started on the ewoks and the Battle of Endor, and Han Solo pussying out at the end, and whatnot.  As much as I liked Return of the Jedi as a kid, I've come to really see it as the real beginning of the end, and it was just coasting on the virtue and cachet of the previous movies in most respects.

Anyway; the question posed in the title of the post, then, has to address these problems as I see them—if one of the main purposes of AD ASTRA was to start with Star Wars, deconstruct all of the stupidity and cultural Marxism out of it, and then reconstruct it back into the promise of what it should have been to begin with; what structure have I put into place to accomplish that?  First off:
  • Well, first off—I'm not an SJW.  I have no patience anymore, and I'm certainly not going to propagate anti-white, pro-feminist, anti-Western civilizational nonsense.
  • In fact, Christianity is explicitly the religion of the far future.  Because why wouldn't it be?  It's the only religion that's right today, and it's the only religion that's right for all of eternity.  Because Christianity has a firm, objective, moral core instead of "situational ethics" and crap like that, the only question is whether or not someone is a good Christian, or a bad Christian, or a heathen.  If there's an assumed Christian morality underlying AD ASTRA then frankly, most of the problems with Star Wars would go away.  Even if Christianity was literally never mentioned in the movies, assuming Christian rather than cultural Marxist morality would have fixed almost everything wrong with Star Wars.
  • Along those lines, the biggest problem with the Jedi was their fluid morality and incoherent psychedelia-babble.  Get rid of the pseudo-Buddhist David Carradine Kung Fu BS.  Rather, I see the actual Medieval Knight as the prototype.  Some of them are secular Knights—like Ivanhoe or Gawain, etc. while others belong to politicized monastic orders like the Templars or Hospitallers or Teutonic Knights—the Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Maurice de Bracy or Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, etc. of space.  Others may be somewhere in between—guys like the Knights of the Round Table or Bohemond, etc.
  • In fact, in general, assume a Norman Age medievalism but set in space—with pockets of Noir and Godfather-esque crime stories, the American Old West, and other influences all woven in. Instead of doing, like Lucas did, subverting the Vietnam War by making his (universally attractive, charismatic white American) Rebel Alliance a stand-in for the Viet Cong and the Empire a stand-in for America (seriously; he really did this.  In retrospect, it's no wonder that the franchise went so far off the rails with that kind of bizarre cultural Marxist foundation), assume that AD ASTRA is a kind of Ivanhoe (Sir Walter Scott) and The Knights of the Cross (Henryk Sienkiewicz) and The Walking Drum (Louis L'Amour) and Errol Flynn's Robin Hood set in space and you'll be closer to the mark. 
  • That said, I've got some other influences too.  The Monarchy is deliberately set up to mimic some aspects of Imperial Rome.  The Cilindareans are space Spartans (maybe I should even give them Greek names!) The Seraean Empire is the Soviets, except pseudo-demon-worshipping (like the Sith, really—except instead of a nebulous "dark side" they have to have a cult that seeks power from something else.) They and the Old Ones cults have a kind of Lovecraftian menace to them.  The Revanchist Republic is the worst excesses of SJW-infested, totalitarian Democrat party dystopianism.  Really, none of the Big Three interstellar superpowers are a "good guy" protagonist organization.  I'll probably have the closest thing to "protagonists" be the smaller, more independent and liberty-minded polities here and there.  That said, the Monarchy is clearly the least bad of the three.
  • There's no Chosen Ones.  There's no destiny.  Nobody is special just because they're secretly born to be the Special King who solves interstellar hunger by virtue of his innate specialness.  If you accomplish anything in this galaxy, it's because you've worked hard to develop skills that allow you to accomplish things.  There's a much more American can-do attitude; similar to that which motivated adventurers, conquerors and builders all through Western civilization from the Founding Fathers to the founders of the Crusader states.  There aren't any psionic prodigies like the Emperor or Yoda.  The fiction of AD ASTRA is pretty accurately reflected by the rules for AD ASTRA.  
  • This also means that stories and games set in AD ASTRA are unlikely to be about "save the universe", "bring balance to the (Psionic) Force" or any crap like that.  There's going to be the kinds of stories that were told in those modern Medieval swashbuckling adventure stories—but set in space.  Space cowboys (and space injuns) and space knights and space pirates, running from space Vikings and space Saracens, navigating petty kingdom political intrigue, smuggling runs, searching for lost treasures of knowledge (of heck; just plain old treasure will do) from the incredibly ancient times before the Dark Ages.  Rescuing space damsels in distress, running space blockades, space spy missions, space Mission Impossible, space James Bond, space Clint Eastwood The Man With No Name, space Hawaii 5-O, and space Ivanhoe—none of those stories is about saving the world or bringing balance to the Force.  This forced scaling of the stakes is more important than you'd think to keep AD ASTRA from wandering out onto thin ice.
  • Keep in mind that it's already drifting away from Star Wars in details both superficial and foundational. As it undergoes further development, it will drift further yet. When it's really "done" it won't be Star Wars anymore at all, and just another work that's clearly of a similar genre. For what it's worth, if you remove the overt military stuff from The Clone Wars animated show—the six season CGI one that is, that's probably a better font of source material than the movies anyway.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ad Astra setting overview

The galaxy is emerging from the chaos of a lengthy DARK AGE. The old governments and institutions are gone and new ones struggle to find their place as they rise from the ashes of the old.  Emerging superpowers, many with their own traditions of PSIONIC KNIGHTS who can pull energy directly from hyperspace in which the universe floats, threaten to break the tense quiet of a long-term, brooding cold war, and the looming threat of TOTAL WAR casts its shadow across the stars.  In this tense environment, bands of independent entrepreneurs, smugglers, bounty hunters and mercenaries, including budding psionic talents that belong to no standard Knightly tradition, emerge on the center stage of the galaxy, caught up unawares in political gambits where they find themselves pawns of the nefarious SHADOW KNIGHTS and their allies the OLD ONES to bring the Revanchist Republic and the long-standing Bern Monarchy to war...

Imagine that as an opening crawl, scrolling across a field of stars in angled maize-colored letters as pulse-pounding symphonic music plays (or maybe a synthwave remix of it) and you've got the right idea for AD ASTRA.  It's new, yet should feel very familiar to anyone who's familiar with space opera tales of swashbuckling derring-do featuring laconic alpha male space cowboys who shoot first, space Templar-like warrior-monks who get into crazy martial arts sword-fights on space-ships, vast legions of faceless soldiers, and sassy space princess damsels in distress.  It may not feel exactly like such stories that you're already familiar with—and that's on purpose—but it should feel like those stories deconstructed... and then reconstructed all over again.  This time, all of the confusion over good and evil, black and white, what heroism is, who the good guys are, what a good guy is, how much SJW dogma should be allowed to creep in, etc. has all been washed away and what had become tired and disappointing is now a blank slate, ready to be made new, fresh and exciting again—if I can pull it off.  I'm hardly the only one to attempt something like this (#StarWarsNotStarWars and Faraway Wars (scroll down to the comments) being merely among the most recent attempts to do so.)

Mankind has spread across the stars of a large section of our galaxy utilizing starship bulk drives that pierce the fabric of the universe and traveling the Outer Darkness that separates the various cosmological universal membranes—i.e., spaceships that for a time leave the normal universe and travel through a large extra dimension that allows one to short-cut vast distances in real space and time.  Humanity of extraction from the most technologically competent cultures on Earth left when it became apparent that Earth was degenerating into cultural dystopia and freedom and progress were all going to be stolen from future generations in the name of equality and universalism.  British, German, Scandinavian, American and Australian pioneers left Earth as brave pioneers to seek their fortunes in the stars, and they were joined later by more pioneers of the same extraction, as well as some few Chinese, Japanese and Russians who also had still the technological acumen to join them.  They turned their backs on Mother Earth (with apologies to Sparks) and it became a semi-legendary place; nobody now even knows where it was supposed to be or how to return to it—even should they want to.

As they established their new communities, they found other life among the starts; humans of alien ethnic groups, and non-human (although curiously, rarely non-humanoid) alike.  Interchange happened between them—both peaceful and not.  Many thousands of years later, this section of the galaxy emerges from a Dark Age precipitated by vast nearly galaxy-spanning plague that struck the galaxy in various waves, each time bringing with it societal devastation.  Human (and non-human) society has rebuilt itself across thousands of worlds and extended again its reach.  One curious side effect of the first wave of the plague is that a new genetic matrix has been seeded among the citizens of this brave new world, and some few exceptional individuals have the ability to breach the boundaries of the Outer Darkness—not to travel through it, which still requires a spaceship—but to draw what is effectively zero-point energy from it to exhibit strange abilities.  These are the Psionic Knights—who may belong to Orders of crusaders, or be the shocktroops of various militaries, or in some cases are simply Knights-Errant trained as apprentices from a lone ronin-style master.

Orders of Psionic Knights
  • Praetorian Knights: The personal agents of King Maddav Bern, the praetors are famous for their devotion to the Monarchy. They operate with a great deal of independence in their role, and often can be seen on their own. Only fully trained praetors are allowed in the field, so there's really no good reason for a squire (called apprentice by some other orders) to be out on assignment.  While on duty, and not incognito, praetors are famous for their black flight suits silvery-white energy blades and shields.
  • Sacristans: The goal of the Sacristans is to recreate the old Order of the Zen Cross from before the Dark Ages completely eclipsed galactic civilization and wiped out the Old Order. Seeking out clues and lingering evidence of how the Order used to operate, the Sacristans are too involved in their own concerns to be overtly political, as other orders are. Sacristans usually travel in their errands by twos—a knight and a squire together. Although not required, most Sacristans manifest blue energy blades and shields, whereas Simonians prefer green. But that's merely a preference, not an absolute, and often depends on the specific master that trained the Knight originally.
  • Simonians: Rejecting the rigid dispassion of the original Order of the Zen Cross, the Simonians believe that the compassionate and activist stance of their founder is the way to balance the good and evil yin and yang of psionic power. They take their name as well as their approach from the order founded by Simon following the Battle of Cephei IV. Closely associated with the Revanchist Republic, the Simonians are famous as do-gooders throughout the galaxy. They're infamous for doing so with smugness, self-righteousness and a heavy-hand all too often, however. And a closely guarded secret of the order is the large number of Simonians who fall to the lure of murderous, totalitarian power…
  • The Cyborg Order: Knights who supplement their fighting abilities with cybernetic augmentations, as did Simon the Arch-Knight himself, or so they imagine. although they have proliferated into a variety of strange, trans-human forms in many cases.  They are loosely associated with the Corporate Worlds and their combat bot armies.  Their Order's way of teaching psionics does also not necessarily lead to a yellowish manifestation of psionic energy, but that's usually how it turns out.
  • The Old Ones: This insular and secretive order has grown tremendously since its days of isolation on Phobetor, where Margrave Iovian nearly destroyed them overnight during the Slave Wars. Now, a galaxy-wide cult who settle in isolated enclaves and cells throughout the galaxy, the Old Ones, can be found on many wild and often inhospitable planets. Many are allied with the Seraean Empire, although the Sereans obviously have their own order of knights as well. Their ancient traditions of using psionic energy are among the oldest still in existence; they were contemporaries and rivals in past millennia of the ancient Order of the Zen Cross.  Their esoteric teachings manifest oddly dark and shadowy emanations of psionic energy, and their cults speak of strange and hostile entities that are native to the Outer Dark itself.
  • Shadow Knights: After the disastrous (and possibly apocryphal) super-weapon experiments that would bring planet-busting energy directly to bear in the terrible Warring Empires period are said to have caused the first wave of plague that destroyed civilization at that time, the Shadow Knights—claiming to be direct heirs of the darkest of those warring empires, have focused more on becoming a powerful order of warrior-monks instead of developing strange super-weapons that threaten the very civilization that they want to conquer (although if they could find any details about those super-weapons, they'd probably happily check them out...) The knight/squire dynamic is still important to the Shadow Knights, and many such pairings exist throughout the galaxy, reporting loosely to a Dread Council of Arch Heretics, and the Seraean Emperor himself. The Shadow Knights are infamous for their red psionic blades and shields. However, because they are one of the most ancient of orders, and many independent smaller orders or even just individuals have training from someone who may have belonged to the ancient Shadow Order centuries or even millennia ago have splintered from the order and gone their own way, seeing a red psionic blade is not necessarily a clue that you’re looking at a Shadow Knight anymore.
  • Independents: In addition to these major (and many other minor) Knightly orders, there are a great many individuals who can use psionic powers, and who wield psionic weapons. Some have trained with an Order, but turned their backs to its traditions, while others have sought out solitary masters who follow esoteric codes or traditions, and some very few are even self-taught. Because of this, there is no way to generalize what an independent knight looks like, thinks like, or what his philosophy may be, but they are indeed varied and often strange. 
Political Groups
  • The Bern Monarchy: Following the Battle of Cephei IV the old Marian Empire was dealt what appeared to a be a mortal blow, but things are never, of course, so simple. Much of the Imperial citizenry—especially the military—saw themselves as the heirs of a glorious tradition stretching back thousands of years into the age of the old republics of the original Earth-born settlers and pioneers. If the direction it went at the end of the Empire was a disaster, well that didn't necessarily invalidate generation after generation of tradition—after all, the Last Emperors deliberately rejected tradition for their fever dreams of power and conquest. Surrendering to barbarians, anarchists and malcontents—as they saw the freedom fighters who defeated them—or the traitors who colluded with them in the old Senate and elsewhere, was never going to happen. Seeing themselves as heirs to the old republics through the unfortunate hiccup of the Marian Empire, especially its degenerate Last Emperors dynasty, this ancient tradition evolved into the Monarchy. While not nearly as vast as during the heyday of the original settlements, the Monarchy is still one of the largest and strongest of the superpowers in the galaxy. Protected by the praetors, paramilitary agents capable of standing toe to toe with Shadow Knights or Simonians, the Monarchy is well-provided for with its own Knightly tradition.
    • Capital: Dimidium Secundus
    • Leader: Maddav Bern, King
    • Military: Legionnaires and other lesser soldiers, fleets of thirteenth generation dreadnaughts, praetors, Cohors Barbarica
    • Alliances and Enemies: The Monarchy sees the Seraean Empire as its primary rival for power, and the Republic as its primary ideological rival. It has a relatively friendly relationship with the Cilindan Cartel.
    • Control: Between direct control and allied systems, about 15% of known space owes some degree of allegiance to the Monarchy.
    • Cultural attitude towards Knights: The praetors are an enshrined, official organization. Because of their tradition of strong loyalty to the Monarchy, they are viewed with a great deal of respect throughout the Monarchy's territory. Other knights are viewed with suspicion or outright hostility, especially the Simonians and Shadow Knights. Echoes of the ancient perception that the Order of the Zen Cross that the Sacristans wish to resurrect betrayed the Empire and carried out the Slave War in defiance of the will of the people remain strong.
  • The Revanchist Republic: The Republic is the direct rival to the Monarchy, established after the Battle of Cephei IV saw the Emperor killed and the old Marian Empire overthrown.  However, the architects of the Revolutionary Alliance and their Republic have had many generations of hardship. While many of the revolutionaries were well-meaning idealists who wanted nothing more than a restoration to the way things were before the tyrannical Last Emperors, it was clear that too many in both groups were little more than scoundrels, pirates, and other opportunists who took advantage of the chaos of the Great Civil War to line their pockets with what plunder and pillage they could. Following short periods of relative peace, the Republic was plagued by periods of violence and anarchy, not unlike an extended comparison with France following the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchs. After being reduced to a mere handful of Core worlds, the Republic finally got its act together and started aggressively retaking former territory, "liberating it" from whatever "tyranny" might have been occupying it. This revanchist policy has been adopted officially as its new name, the Revanchist Republic, an emerging, feisty superpower—-not really a rival yet to the Monarchy or the Empire, but a growing power nonetheless.
    • Capital: Capital Publius
    • Leader: Brack Warren, Supreme Chancellor
    • Military:"Freedom" troopers, and Scaevolan built fleet that has few dreadnaughts, but many smaller craft, association with the Simonian Knights.
    • Alliances and Enemies: the truculent and often self-righteous approach of the Republic has won them little in terms of friendships, but they have cool alliances of convenience at times with the Monarchy, the Dhangeti and the Cilindans. The Republic sees the Monarchy as a continuation of the Marian Empire that they claim responsibility for overthrowing many generations ago, and the Seraeans are greatly disliked for obvious reasons.
    • Control: Was down considerably, but as the revanchist movement gains some ground, about 10% of known space owes some degree of allegiance to the Republic, albeit sometimes somewhat grudgingly.
    • Cultural attitude toward Knights: Simonians and Sacristans and some independent Knights keep a low profile, but are usually viewed favorably, if a bit warily. The Republic hates Shadow Knights, with the belief that the Seraeans caused the great Dark Age.
  • The Seraean Empire: Centered on the ancient capital of Phovos Mal, the Seraean Empire may be the most powerful polity in the galaxy—although that often works to its disadvantage when no other group trusts them, and they are often "ganged up on" both diplomatically and militarily by wary other governments who find tenuous alliance in restraining the ambition of the Seraeans. But they are patient in their ambition to rule all of known space, and are seemingly content to hold strongly to their existing territory and advance slowly over their opponents over the course of generations. Black-garbed Seraean soldiers bring a measure of order to the galaxy, or at least so say the Empire's apologists. And drawing from the ranks of both Shadow Knight acolytes as well as their allies the Old Ones, the ranks of psionic knights who serve the Empire's interests is considerable.
    • Capital: Phovos Mal, an ancient Imperial capital prior to the Dark Ages, reclaimed and re-established again.
    • Leader: The Seraean Emperor, name unknown
    • Military: black or chrome garbed troopers, a powerful Armada, sometime alliances with the Old One warriors, and Shadow Knights, the most feared "face" of the Empire.
    • Alliances and Enemies: Occasionally allied with the Cilindans, the Seraeans, as the biggest guys in known space and the most feared, infrequently find common cause with any of the other superpowers.
    • Control: Some 20% of known space either belongs directly to the Seraean Empire, or is part of a somewhat looser protectorate puppet government.
    • Cultural attitude toward Knights: Knights are viewed with fear and great respect. Citizens tend to believe that praetors, Simonians and other knights are not unlike the Shadow knights, except in their politics. In this, they understand little of the differences between the various philosophies of psionic warrior monks.
  • The Corporate Sector: In the chaos of the Dark Age, many large corporations were more stable and less corrupt than most governments. And in a large reach of the inner realm sector, the corporations essentially became the government. Providing a high quality of life to those citizens willing to combine civil service and their careers together, the Corporate Sector has beat back all attempts by traditional governments to integrate them fully. Protected by vast robot armies and loosely allied with the many knights of the Cyborg Order, the Corporate Sector may indeed be mercenary—by definition even—but that doesn't mean that they're more corrupt or heavy-handed than any other government. The watchword of the Corporate citizens is professionalism in all aspects of life.
    • Capital: various regional capitals, but the artificial planet known only as HQ is often seen as the center of Corporate policy.
    • Leader: various CEOs and Presidents, but Lord Alfram Roole is the most important and charismatic face, who frequently speaks for the entire Corporate sector.
    • Military: both militia troops and vast hordes of combat bots, often led by allied Cyborg Order Knights.
    • Alliances and Enemies: Rarely overtly aggressive, the Corporate Sector groups often have a tangle of alliances of various types with all of the powers. They are among the most likely to do business with the Seraeans.
    • Control: Some 10% of known space owes some form of allegiance to the Corporations.
    • Cultural attitude towards Knights: Knights are viewed warily, although some come to be seen as trustworthy and able advisers or consultants, particularly those of the Cyborg Order.
  • Dhangetan Cartel: Infamous as making up the dark tentacles of a seedy underworld throughout much of the rest of the galaxy, there also is a patch of the galaxy where the Dhangetan warlords' rule as undisputed masters continues as it has without change for millennia. Rather than strong traditional military, the Dhangeti have relied on each warlords private militia, often consisting of eclectic and unusual companies of mercenaries. This disunity might be seen as weakness, and certainly seldom have the Dhangeti engaged in overt acts of conquest or military adventurism. In reality, though, the warlords maintain a strong enough presence that their place has not been seriously threatened in generations.
    • Capital: Tars Dhangeta
    • Leader: Various, but the Dhangeti Council of Lords speaks for the entire group.
    • Military: private militias of various Dhangetan warlords, accompanied by combat bots (often bought in bulk from various Corporate Sector ventures) and mercenaries.
    • Alliances and Enemies: a long association with the Cilindans has dwindled somewhat in recent years, but the Dhangeti find their most likely common cause still with them. They occasionally engage in Machiavellian alliances with the Seraeans as well.
    • Control: About 5% of known space owes allegiance to the Dhangeti Concil.
    • Cultural attitude towards Knights: Knights are viewed with respect for their abilities. Knights that are strongly associated with one of the political groups are viewed warily, but not because they are knights, but because they are so strongly associated as agents of their government. A number of independent knights, belonging to minor orders, or even no order at all, operate here as mercenaries, bounty hunters, and other types of fringers.
  • The Cilindan Arm: Following the disastrous collapse of Duchess Caera's well-meaning but foolishly naive pacifist regime, the Cilindans looked more to their glorious and storied warrior past on which to model their society. The most elite unit of warriors and soldiers, the Red Guard which left their pacifist home-worlds in disgust during the Duchess's reign returned in triumph and launched an almost Spartan utopian warrior society reform of Cilindan culture, complete with something not unlike the agoge. Initially allied strongly with the Dhangeti, the Cilindan Arm—so known because its territory is somewhat long and arm-shaped—has grown in power and prestige so that it can treat with the other Great Powers. Although some Cilindans are born with the genetic predisposition to be Knights (as are most groups in the galaxy), there is no real tradition of psionic training among them. Rather, a fully trained and equipped Cilindan supercommando can fairly be considered the equal of any Knight in combat without using the psionics—a point of pride for Cilindan soldiers.
    • Capital: Cilindare
    • Leader: Jerec Berengar, of the ascendant House Berengar.
    • Military: Both regular troops and fleet, as well as the elite supercommandos.
    • Alliances and Enemies: The Cilindans are at open war with no one, but their tendency to deal more with the Dhangeti and Seraeans than anyone else will has made them somewhat untrustworthy in the eyes of the Republic and the Monarchy. Still, supercommando mercenary groups, while not officially part of the governmental military (their first allegiance is to their own clan) can be seen across the galaxy in the employ of many.
    • Control: About 5% of known space recognizes some level of sovereignty of the Cilindans, although in some cases that's a very loose client or vassal arrangement.
    • Cultural attitude towards Knights: Knights are respected for what they can do, but Cilindans take great pride in their ability to match a knight in one-on-one combat without using the psionics at all (replacing psionic abilities with technology in their supercommando battle-armor, usually, as well as intense training.) Cilindans are generally tolerant of knights who are not acting overtly as agents of another super-power, however. Many independent knights make their homes in Cilindan space, where they are less likely to come into unnecessary conflict with others.
  • Independents: The largest plurality of worlds in the galaxy belongs to none of the super-powers at all. Certainly, some smaller multi-system polities exist, like the Altairan Ascendency, or others, but all of them are small enough that they do not control an appreciable percentage of the worlds cataloged in the galaxy. Some of these are able to maintain independence by virtue of their own strength, either diplomatic or militarily, such as Ubrai and the Altairans. In many ways, these independent governments are like smaller versions of the Cilindans or the Dhangeti. Others have managed to eke out a precarious neutrality because their neutrality is valuable to one or more of the super-powers. These systems are living on borrowed time, however if the cold war erupts into a local hot war, in which case the treaties that guarantee them their neutrality will likely be ignored by aggressors. And finally, many worlds manage to hold on to neutrality simply by virtue of the fact that they are small and unimportant enough to fly under the radar of the superpowers. If they lack any significant strategic or tactical benefit, and don't have any resources that are vital, they can manage to stay neutral, and can even hope to do so in the event of a greater war.
    • Control: About 35% of the systems in known space are not allied with any super-power at all.
Brief Gazeteer of Known Space
  • Capital Publius:  Capital Publius currently is the capital of the Revanchist Republic. Like a modern day Jerusalem, its significance to various political groups is huge. To the Bern Monarchy, it rankles that Capital Publius doesn't belong to them, since they see themselves as the unbroken continuation from the old republics through the Marian Empire and into the Monarchy. To them, it is naturally their home planet as well. About 300 years ago, Tiranos Bern, a distant ancestor of today's king, Maddav Bern, declared a Crusade to liberate Capital Publius from the hands of the Republic, which was at that time weak, riddled with corruption, and political infighting. The Monarchy held it for twenty years even, although the insult of losing their capital finally united the Republic into a semi-cohesive whole. With the recapture of their capital, they officially became the Revanchist Republic, and their revanchist agenda took off, putting them at open war with the Monarchy and the Empire both. It's to their credit that they were even able to survive that time at all, much less thrive and grow, until tense and wary peace settled again uneasily over known space.

    Capital Publius—or, the Cap as it's known colloquially—remains a world rife with political division, class and social division, and more. Dissidents, terrorists, activists, and other malcontents lurk under the surface, and the grim and overcrowded underworld of the Cap is still an easy place in which to get lost, either on accident or on purpose. The bright and classy world of the surface is a different world altogether from the dingy and anarchic underworld, which is patrolled insufficiently by law enforcement to be little better than a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Criminals, political malcontents, and spies make up a shocking percentage of the population.

    The Senate still remains in power, and their rebuilt Senate building strongly resembles the former one. The old Order of the Zen Cross temple is now a public park, though. The Simonians operate frequently on the Cap, but have smaller, more modest temples scattered throughout the planet. Sacristans also live here, and some even tend the old temple, although they have been unsuccessful in their attempt to sue for its return to their order.
  • Oerken: Once famous as a semi-lawless place, far from the bright center of the galaxy, and ruled by the Dhangeti and other gangsters, Oerken has undergone quite the transformation in the last 1,000 years. Oh, it's still harsh desert, with the vast fields of dunes covering much of the surface, and the Cragland wastes cover other large areas. And it's still lawless. If anything, it's in fact quite a bit more lawless than it was under the Dhangeti.

    As the home world of Simon the Arch-Knight and the nameless scientist who's superweapon created the plague (and who may have permanently destroyed the ecosystem of what was once a fertile planet), Oerken has become a major pilgrimage site for knights, historians, and more who all want to see what makes this hot wasteland so special. Indeed, some have developed philosophies that the harsh environment is what led to the strength and fortitude Simon and his original Knights of the Zen Cross, and would-be utopian communities of various stripes dot the surface here and there. Some of them thrive, after a fashion, but many more wither and die as their philosophical fervor fades and they move on to other things, or fall prey hostile natives... or worse.

    Many of those who now live on Oerken either serve the needs of the pilgrimage tourist trade, or parasitically feed on it. Oerken is still a dangerous place, and one haunted by mercenaries, bounty hunters, criminals and worse. While the Dhangeti gave up on the planet in disgust rather than fight Sacristan pilgrims and more over such paltry resources as the planet afforded, the only powers to fill in the void left by their departure have been regional and highly unstable. One does not ask which crime lord is ascendant on Oerken one asks which crime lord is ascendant today.
  • Dimidium: Two planets make up this system. Dimidium Secundus was once the Secessionist Confederacy capital during the Slave Wars.  Although abandoned at the end of that conflict, the Monarchy later appropriated and renovated Dimidium Secundus, and the Secessionist government buildings now make up the bulk of the official buildings of the Monarchy's bureaucracy. The Bern palace is even located on Dimidium Secundus, which in spite of being the home of such bureaucracy and the seat of so much power, remains a somewhat rural locale, with rolling plains unspoiled by over-development, by tradition. The Bern monarchs in general have decreed that it be retained as a kind of garden or preserve world, and the current monarch, Maddav Bern, has reiterated that policy.

    Dimidium Prime, on the other hand, remains an industrial wasteland, a dumping ground filled with junk and sludge. However, the remains of ships and robots means that Dimidium Prime is an important source of resources, and salvage crews and robots scour the surface of his planet with regularity. In the past, Dimidium Prime was quite lawless—following the fall of the Secessionist Parliament, the entire Dimidium system fell into disfavor. Now, being so close to the capital of the Monarchy, the Bern's would not tolerate Dimidium Prime as a lawless junk world, however. Security remains fairly tight on Dimidium Prime.

    That said, it is only lightly inhabited and insufficiently patrolled to be completely foolproof. Dimidium Prime remains a beachhead for the seditious, smugglers, and more.
  • Phobetor: Phobetor was the original center of the related cults of the Old Ones. When Mother Silvagis and her assassins meddled in the affairs of the Shadow Lord Margrave Iovian during the Slave Wars, they incurred his wrath. He sent his most powerful agent, General Sept Luud with an invasion force to wipe them out, and nearly succeeded.

    This ended up not being the end of the Old One cults, however.  The remaining cultists decided to establish new cells throughout the galaxy, rather than be grouped together all in one location. Today, the Old One cults are relatively common, and their dark knights can be seen throughout known space. Although often allied with the Seraeans, the Old Ones remain completely separate cults from the way of the Shadow Knights, and in general do not acknowledge the superiority or authority of the Seraean Dread Council or the Emperor, except politically.

    Despite this spread of the Old One cults, Phobetor remains their home planet, and many  make pilgrimages there at some point in their careers. Thriving Old One monasteries remain still on Phobetor. Their allies, the Shadow Knights, are occasionally welcome, as are—on rare occasions—knights of other orders. But the cults have become wary of other knights, and avoid or attack them most often, rather than deal with them.
  • Yuggoth: As a major battlefield of the Last Emperors wars, dark and frozen Yuggoth gained a bit of notoriety many centuries ago, and it's now no longer a world that is greeted with a blank stare or a shrug when mentioned.  That doesn't mean that much in the way of valuable resources have been found here. Yuggoth has a few small communities, that mostly cater to smugglers or other ne'er-do-wells.  But a few hardy gas miners have discovered that chemical reactions deep under the ice have produced stores of sytor gas which can be refined to high quality fuel for bulk drives. There isn't exactly a sytor rush on the planet, but a few solitary, independent types manage to eke out a reasonably comfortable living on Yuggoth even so.

    And occasionally rumors will float about that some independent knight has discovered relics of the Order of the Zen Cross here, which is rumored to have once been a major temple site for their ancient mystery cult. This has never been officially confirmed; if any knights are finding relics, they're keeping that find close. But knights—especially Sacristans—do occasionally arrive here to scout out the planet, and occasionally come into conflict with each other. The locals often look at the arrival of a knight as if it were the arrival of a potentially dangerous and notorious gunfighter in an Old West town. They are respectful, but try to encourage them to move on as much as possible. and prefer to keep them from coming into conflict with each other as much as possible too.
  • Cilindare: The domed, glass-like cities of Cilindare have continued to grow. The ruined ecology of the planet, and the white, sterile powder of areas like the Sundered Wastes, continue to dominate the planet, but slowly... ever so slowly... it has started to make a comeback in small pockets. Plants, imported from nearby forest moons, have started to grow, first as carefully tended private gardens, and finally growing into self-sustaining preserves.  The last vestiges of any relics of the pacifist regime of the past, is finally being swept away, although much too slowly for the likes of its rulers.

    Cilindare today is the capital of Cilindan society, but no longer its single locus. As the power and influence of the Cilindans grew, so too has the area which they claim. Colonists, encouraged by cultural and government induced incentives, have spread rapidly, procreated wildly, and Cilindan culture is now "native" to dozens of nearby systems. Many other systems have sworn vassalage to the Cilindans, and collectively this entire area is known as the Cilindan Arm of the galaxy. The vassal states are not truly considered Cilindan themselves, at least not by ethnic Cilindans, who are very particular about their cultural and ethnic purity. Although there have been some conversions and acceptance of non-Cilindans into Cilindan culture and mixed race marriages, by and large the original Cilindan ethnic group remains as it was during the Slave Wars. Quasi-religious cultural traditionalism has enforced an extraordinary level of cultural stability into the Cilindan way of life in a way not unlike that of the Ashkenazi Jew.

    Many of the Cilindan vassals or clients have taken to imitating many aspects of Cilindan culture, including developing their own traditions of battle-suits and mercenary military service. These clients are careful not to copy the Cilindan template too closely, as the Cilindans are very zealous about the uniqueness of their battle-armor, and dislike too open imitation as disrespectful and gauche.

    A curious fact is that the descendants of many of the slaves that fought in the Slave Wars as janissaries or otherwise, decommissioned after the Empire was defeated at Cephei IV have made their way to this area. Although not per se part of Cilindan society, they see somehow a connection as many of their ancestors from ancient times were ethnically related to the Cilindans. The relationship between the ethnic Cilindans and the ethnic janissary descendants is somewhat strained on occasion, yet remains an interesting dynamic, as they number at least as many as the Cilindans themselves in Cilindan territory, and have their own traditions of martial excellence. While outside of Cilindan society proper, they still retain a somewhat favored position as a largely pluralistic segment of society that cannot be ignored, and who have, by tradition, maintained a military cohesiveness that rivals that of the Cilindans themselves.
  • Tars Dhangeta: This slimy swamp is the home world to the Dhangeti.  They keep it as a kind of preserve, though, and have strict immigration controls.  Much of the planet remains in a state of greenish-yellow swamp, overcast and undeveloped.  A few cities still dot the landscape and it remains the capital of the Dhangetan Cartels.

    However, following the fall of the Dhangeti—albeit not for long—to a former Shadow Knight Kar Tanus, the Dhangeti have diversified to protect themselves.  While many Dhangeti warlords maintain palaces on Tars Dhangeta, few stay there permanently, and many have spread throughout much of Dhangeti space, to make the Dhangetan Cartel as a whole less vulnerable to potential attack.  The Dhangeti, when on Tars Dhangeta, maintain a strong presence of mercenary bodyguards and militia, including—if they can get them—Cilindan supercommandos and fallen or independent knights.

    Other than in the heavily armed warlord palaces, however, Tars Dhangeta remains a relatively lawless place, with little in the way of government oversight.  Because of this, it prospers, but gangsters and organized crime remain a significant deterrent to ever truly expanding its trade and commerce base beyond items that are otherwise illicit or illegal throughout much of the galaxy.  Slave trading cartels, spice trading cartels and more make up much of Tars Dhangeta's import/export business.
  • Tars Bruttium: Tars Bruttium remains much as it ever was; a kind of Monte Carlo, Las Vegas, Bangkok and Tortuga of the galaxy, all rolled up into one and under the control of the Dhangeti.  Tars Bruttium is a hotbed of political intrigue.  While it's in Dhangeti Space and is loyal to that polity, it plays no favorites, and the Dhangeti's famous general trend of neutrality between the three superpowers means that embassies and espionage from all three are commonplace in the dark streets of Tars Bruttium.  It still has the same reputation as a wildly dangerous place that it’s always had, but now one with a particular partisan bent, as shadow wars rage in the streets between proxies.  All parties are careful to keep this activity at least marginally discrete, however, as the Dhangeti are only laid-back hosts to the degree that their own interests are not threatened.
  • Thanatos: While an important planet to the Shadow Knights for historical, archaeological and cultural reasons, in reality there is little on the planet to tempt the Seraean cult today, and they maintain it more as a curiosity than for any other reason. Many Shadow knights make pilgrimages to the planet as part of their training, but few remain.  The ruins that once dominated the Valley of the Alien Kings are mostly stripped clean of any artifacts of interest or note, and many of the ruins toppled or defaced.

    The Seraean tolerate a few unusual features about Thanatos, however.  Several pirate and smuggler operations are here, known to the Empire, but not molested.  The inhabitants of these enclaves are particularly vicious and paranoid, as might be expected, since few of them know of the official tolerance for their activity, and they feel that they may be rooted out by feared Shadow Knights and their black-garbed troopers at any time if discovered.  In truth, it's not clear what the Empire tolerates them for, although it may be as simple as the fact that the harshly competitive meritocracy of this environment has been a good source of potential recruits for them; psionically gifted pirates are trained as apprentice Knights, and those who are not become highly skilled agents-provocateurs for the Empire, often drafted into dangerous yet important missions on behalf of the Empire.

    The Seraeans also tolerate several villages of Old Ones on Thanatos, including some of the most important and centralized points of the cult.  While the Shadow Knight cult and the Old Ones cult have usually enjoyed friendly relations, it is not clear why this particular tolerance is allowed on what is a site important to the Shadow cult's heritage.  It is observable, however, that the Old Ones cult on Thanatos has gradually migrated more and more into being one that resembles the ancient Shadow cult itself.  It is believed by a very few who are aware of this phenomena that this tolerance may actually be part of a long-term conspiracy to draw the Old Ones cult directly into the Shadow cult itself and merge the two.  The whispering of the Alien Kings and the ghosts—rather real or imagined—of past Shadow Lords who still wander the blasted badlands of Thanatos may be instrumental in bringing this to pass.
  • Phovos Mal: The capital of the Empire is the ancient capital of Phovos Mal. In general, Phovos Mal can be seen as a darker and much more militarized mirror of  Capital Publius. The Emperor himself maintains a strict policy of secrecy—nobody sees his face, or knows his name, and only the Dread Council of Arch-Heretics communicate with him directly.  The entire planet has the feel of a mobilized military base with attached hangers-on, and the fear of secret police runs rife through the populace.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Another Non-Star Wars Star Wars

Castalia House has been teasing a Star Lords or The Farthest Star, or whatever they're going to call it—a kind of Star Wars without being technically Star Wars.  My own setting and new rule-set, AD ASTRA is the same—it's not Star Wars, but it should feel just like Star Wars (without the SJWisms) but... of course, a good idea is rarely unique.

Here's Nick Cole's fake Star Wars—which I expect that I'll either subscribe to very shortly, or at least keep a very close eye on the release of the final book.

Check it out!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ad Astra spaceships

Starships are at the heart of most space opera games. The ability to travel from planet to planet, and the need to engage in ship to ship combat defines, in many ways, the genre. Without spaceships, your space opera game will feel significantly less like space opera.

Spaceships in AD ASTRA don't have a price.  GMs should keep in mind that making characters skimp and save to get a ship isn't really the swashbuckling space opera way—when they need one, they have access to one. Whether or not the ship lasts the entire campaign or needs to be replaced at some point is, of course, up to you. Keep in mind that Luke Skywalker told Han Solo, "Ten thousand? We could almost buy our own ship for that!" I take this to mean that small, used, and possibly in poor condition ships can be had for about 15,000. Newer models of the same can go for 20,000. Any ship worth having other than a small fighter is going to be up from there. Something similar to the Millennium Falcon should go for no less than 50,000—and keep in mind that although somewhat hot-rodded, it was still a piece of junk. Characters will rarely be buying anything that large unless you run a game that's more about commerce and stuff things instead of action. But if you need some rough guidelines as to ship prices, that should be close enough.

As with Armor (see Equipment) spaceships start with a "chassis" and then you add extra equipment to them as needed. For the most part, the GM should build these up into various models—it's rare that a character would have the chance to make "a lot of special modifications" yourself unless you've had the ship for a long time, and have the cash to acquire some nifty goods.

Ship to ship combat is important in space opera. Ships usually have, as characters do, a move action, and then another action for every full "slot" that they have. A ship can make a "full run" action, in which eliminates the use of a slot action (such as firing a weapon.) Slots are areas in which equipment can be placed—like guns or torpedo launchers, or something like that. Dogfights are operated more like chases than combats (see Combat for details). Slots with weapons in them can be fired if someone is available to operate the weapons. The pilot can usually operate one weapon in addition to piloting. If he wants to operate equipment in any additional slots per action, then there needs to be a co-pilot, or gunner, or someone else around to do it. Robots, even some that are integrated permanently into the ship can count for this total.

To use a ship, you often make checks against the ship's stats, not the characters', due to the limitations of the equipment on the ship. Ship stats are similarly compressed and simplified; ships have a Hit Points stat, an Agility stat, a Sensor stat, an Armor class (AC) stat, and slots for additional "special modifications." The AC stat is derived from 10 + the Agility stat plus any shields or armor added to the ship (if any—in many cases there won't be any.) The maximum amount of armor that can be added to a ship is equal to half of the Hit Point score. Here is a small list of typical actions you can take in a ship, and how to resolve them:

Action Resolution
Perform a tricky maneuver in a dogfight Pilot's DEX + Ship's Agility
Shoot Gunner's DEX + Weapon bonus
Outrun an enemy Pilot's DEX + Ship's Agility
Scan for ships hiding in an asteroid field User's MND + Ship's Sensor

The following are the basic chassis that can be used to make ships.  They are generalized rather than specific, to reflect the vast diversity of spaceships operating in known space.

Ship Size Hit Points Agility Sensors Slots Comments
Small 16 +7 +1 5 1-man light fighter
Medium 24 +5 +2 10 Heavy fighter or bomber
Large 32 +4 +3 20 Corvette or small private freighter
Huge 40 +3 +4 30 Frigate or commercial freighter
Gargantuan 48 +2 +5 60 Cruiser, battleship or massive freighter
Colossal 55+ +1 22+ 100+ Gigantic carriers or mobile space stations

The following list of equipment can be used in slots.  Ships don't have to fill all of their slots.

Name Slots Used Modifiers Damage Range
Armor 1 +2 AC
Shields 1 Damage Reduction/2*
Engines 1 +1 Agility
Engines (large ship) 2 +1 Agility
Engines (Huge) 5 +1 Agility
Engines (Gargantuan) 7 +1 Agility
Engines (Colossal) 10 +1 Agility
Bulk Drive 5 Allows bulk jumps
Laser cannon 1 +1 1d6 medium
Twin lasers 2 +2 2d6 medium
Quad lasers 3 +2 4d6 medium
EMP cannon 4 +3 special medium
Torpedoes 1 -5 4d8 short
Missiles 3 -3 3d8 long
Heat seeking missiles 3 +5 3d8 short
Radium cannon 3 +1 2d10 long
Heavy radium cannon 4 +1 3d10 long
Twin radium cannons 5 +1 4d10 long
Heavy EMP cannon 6 +1 special long
Gravitic beam 5 +1 special short
Sensors 1 +1 Sensors
Passenger berth 1 5 seats
Passenger berth 3 20 seats
Cargo berth 1 5 tons
Cargo berth 2 20 tons
Cargo berth 3 50 tons

Special: EMP cannons disable one of the target's systems for 1d6+10 rounds; heavy EMP cannons target up to 3 systems. While extremely dangerous, they are also bulky and rare, and don't do any direct damage. Gravitic beams allow the ship to make a grab on another ship. To pull a ship into your docking bay against the will of its pilot, make a successful hit with a gravitic beam, then make an opposed check of the two ship's Hit Points + Agility. As you'll see, the larger the ship, the more difficult it is to escape its gravitic beam, especially for smaller targets. The gravitic on a massive space station is practically inescapable by a normal ship, even a large one.

The Damage reduction of shields is the amount of damage that is ignored from most types of attacks. For example, if you have taken shields in 3 slots for your ship, and have DR/6, then for every attack, you ignore 6 points of damage. If the attack rolls up 10 points of damage, you only take 4. If it rolls up 5 points of damage, you don't take any at all; your shields protect you entirely.

Range is not strictly defined. Use GM judgment to determine what is short, medium or long range.

Smaller vehicles, like grav-racers, grav-bikes, tanks, or whatnot can also be approximated using these same rules. Make them smaller—a standard speeder will have 10 hit points, +7 agility, +0 sensors (which is why having robot cohort can be handy) and 1-3 slots. Small fliers and speeders will have 5 hit points, +8-9 agility, no sensors at all, and only 1 slot. While, naturally, such vehicles can't travel through space, the chase and vehicular combat rules are generic enough that you can still apply them just fine without modification.

Bulk Jumps:  Travel into the bulk, or Outer Darkness, is the method by which spaceships can arrive at destinations that are too far away to be reachable without traveling faster than the speed of light.  GM's are encouraged to map out the immediate stellar neighborhood in brief on a hexagonal graph.  A bulk jump allows a spaceship to leave one hex with its associated star system and arrive in another one.  The maximum distance that can be traveled via bulk jumps is 5 hexes.  To travel farther than that, ships need to jump more than once, refueling in between jumps (bulk drives can only hold enough fuel for a single jump at a time; an extra slot can store enough fuel for one more jump.)  Fuel is usually refined and purified hydrogen, and the energy used is accessed via small fusion reactors.

Farther jumps start to become risky.  Travel through the Outer Darkness is fraught with uncertainty.  For smaller jumps of one to three hexes, the risk is slight enough that nothing need to rolled except the amount of time travel takes (1d6 + 4 days.)  For jumps of 4 hexes, there is a 10% chance that the ship will become "lost" in Outer Darkness and take an additional 3d6 days, and a separate 10% chance that it will end up in a hex not of the pilot's choosing (use the image below to move the ships arrival into normal space one hex off from where it targeted.)  For jumps of 5 hexes, the chances increase to 20%, the amount of days "lost" increases to 6d6 additional days, and the displacement is two hexes rather than one from the target.

Keep in mind that without proper preparation, this risk can be a risk of death for all involved.  If the ship does not have enough food on board for an extra month, but that's how long it takes to arrive out of Outer Darkness, then the crew could starve before arriving again in normal space.  If the ship is displaced into an empty hex and doesn't have enough fuel to make another jump they will drift until the crew starves or otherwise dies, unable to make another jump.

Space is littered with drifting ships that misjumped and their crews perished.  Given the scale of space, most of these will never be found again, barring very unusual circumstances, or another ship jumping to such an empty hex itself and having powerful enough sensors to detect the floating wreckage across the vastness of space.

Refueling with refined hydrogen usually costs about 200 credits per size slot (i.e. 200 credits for a small ship, 400 for a medium, 600 for a large, etc.)  Ships can use unrefined hydrogen by skimming the surface of a gas giant, or other source of hydrogen, but the impurities in the fuel increase the chance that the bulk drives will function improperly and cause a misjump.  Unrefined fuel has a 5% chance of adding 1d6 extra days and a separate 5% chance of missing your hex (as above.)  If also attempting to jump 4 or 5 hexes, this misjump chance is cumulative; i.e. 15% each for a 4 hex jump, 25% for a 5 hex jump.

The presence of a nearby gravity well also causes havoc with bulk jumps. Starships must fly out into space for a number of hours before they can safely make a jump. Rather than force you to do actual physics calculations, assume simply that for every hour that a ship flies away from a planet before jumping, it reduces the chance of a catastrophic misjump by 20%, starting at 100%. It therefore takes five hours to reduce the chance to 0%. That may seem a very long time for a ship under pursuit, but the consequences of a misjump while in a gravity well are much worse than a normal misjump.  To represent this, you must use the scatter template three times instead of just once and instead of scattering only one hex, each time scatter 1d4 times (if you scatter off the edge of the map, just roll the scatter again.) Not only do you have to worry about this big scatter, there is a 60% chance that your bulk drive will be ruined (20% can be repaired, 80% must be completely replaced) and an additional 25% chance that another system on the ship (GM's discretion which) will be fried. If it's life support and you're stranded in an empty hex with a dead bulk drive, chances are that you're in very serious trouble.

GM's are encouraged to create regional star maps that give players sufficient room to move around a bit, and to pack their sectors sufficiently that they can usually find risk averse paths to travel without having to make 4 or 5 hex jumps except very infrequently.  Although this is a completely different setting than AD ASTRA, use the map linked here as a sample of what it should look like.  You can zoom in to get more detail on the map.

Suggestions for mapping AD ASTRA space will be included in an Appendix.

Heroic Fantasy and Barbarian Conquerors

I'll get back to my ongoing AD ASTRA project momentarily—but first a small diversion.

I don't play ACKS, but I'm aware of it as a relatively highly regarded derivation—or completion almost, if you will—of the BECMI progression, with a much better defined endgame.  That's not really what I'm interested in for my own gaming, no matter how much I may look at that theoretically and say that it sounds pretty nice, but I admit that the ACKS folks (Autarch LLC) seems like a decent bunch of guys who really kind of get the whole pulp aesthetic for the most part, even if they look at it through a much more gamist lens than I do.  So, I was pretty intrigued when I saw an announcement on Kickstarter that talks about two new products of theirs coming out that go in an even more overtly pulp direction (as opposed to the overtly D&D direction of ACKS.)  Check out these samples:

On the Heroic Fantasy Handbook:
What do we mean by “heroic fantasy flavor”? It’s the flavor that J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard have in common, once you remove what’s different. Tolkien and Howard are usually considered opposites—high fantasy versus swords & sorcery, British versus American, literary versus pulp, and so on. But if they are opposites, they are opposite faces of the same coin, and that coin is heroic fantasy. Their worlds have more in common with each other, and with those of luminaries such as E.R. Burroughs, Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, and Michael Moorcock, than with any of their contemporary epigones. Heroic fantasy is set in a world like our own world, one that might even be our world, in its distant past or far future. Its heroes, though men and women of extraordinary talent and drive, have none of the “super-powers” now common in contemporary fantasy (especially games). They do not typically teleport, fly, shoot fire, or raise the dead. Magic in heroic fantasy is more subtle and nuanced than in contemporary fantasy. It works with what is, rather than creating what is not. A magician cannot teleport straight to his friend’s distant castle, though his whispered dreams might reach his friend across the black gulfs of space. A magician will not fling magic missiles, but he might call down lightning from a storm, or capsize a boat with a wave. Working magic might require lengthy ceremonies, terrible sacrifices, or the power of primeval places. And those who use magic risk corruption. Even the wisest can lose their mind, body, and soul if they tamper with dark magic. That’s heroic fantasy.   
Cleaving away decades worth of detritus of assumptions and expectations about how characters heal, fight, and adventure—how magic works—what spells do—and more, the Heroic Fantasy Handbook offers a fresh way to play with familiar D20 fantasy mechanics. The Heroic Fantasy Handbook is designed for use with the Adventurer Conqueror King System™ (ACKS™) but is readily compatible with other fantasy role-playing games built on the same core rules. 
Sounds cool?  I think so.  I mean, if I really wanted truly rooted sword & sorcery fantasy, I'd probably go even further and check out Crypts & Things or something—but they're clearly on the right path.  I'm also intrigued by their paragraph above comparing Tolkien and Howard.  Although I hadn't quite made all the neurons connect myself, I was coming around to a proto-version of that same concept myself, so when I read it, it really clicked.  They're right, of course—Tolkien and Howard had more in common than not.  Sure, the immediate source material wasn't exactly the same (Old English and Norse mythology vs. an Orientalist approach similar to Vathek, Yog-Sothothery and swashbuckling historical fiction) but their approach was actually really similar.  The tone wasn't necessarily so—otherwise, I wouldn't have dabbled with MIDDLE-EARTH REMIXED as an overtly sword & sorcery setting, but that's not as much of an obstacle to seeing the comparisons as you'd think.

Anyway, if you're interested in more, check out the link.  Like I said, ACKS isn't quite up my alley; I certainly prefer different rules with my D&D alternatives, but I don't really prefer more rules.  I'm sure that it's still rules-lite relative to Pathfinder, or d20, or even AD&D—but the only D&D game that my preferred style approaches in terms of rules-liteness is White Box OD&D or it's clones.  But this is a very welcome development in the OSR—the ability to look beyond the most immediate inspirations of the game and take it to an even more primal suite of inspirations altogether.  As an aside, the Autarch guys also seem willing to be a bit playful.

Now, if you scroll down past the Heroic Fantasy Handbook, there's another product that they're also selling via the same Kickstarter, the Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu setting book.  Check out what it says about that one:
While the Heroic Fantasy Handbook explores the classic heroic fantasy genre, Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu embraces what might be called “barbarian fantasy” or perhaps “pulp fantasy.” Barbarian fantasy is an amalgam of three distinct but related genres. The first is sword & sorcery literature, exemplified by the likes of Howard's Conan and Moorcock's Elric. This genre counterpoises corrupt, decaying cities and empires with rough-edged barbarian upstarts. It contrasts the decadence of urban life with the vigor of those untainted by it. This might have been inspired by the fall of decadent Rome to the Germanic "barbarians" who set themselves as kings of its ruins, or even by Samson's divine-inspired exploits against the urbanized Philistines.   
The second is sword & planet, exemplified by Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom, a fantastic vision of Mars. This genre explores similar themes to those of sword & sorcery but does accept certain "science fiction" elements such as alien planets, radium pistols, flying craft, and other technological wonders. Sword & planet still follows the vision of a morally-ambiguous 'outsider' protagonist, archetypically an earthling on Mars, using his might to smash the decadent villainy of the local society. 
The third is science fantasy proper. This book, however, presents a "science fiction" milieu closer to a fantastic setting once the outer trappings of starships and rayguns are stripped off it. This genre is exemplified by space princesses, dashing interstellar rogues, space combat which looks suspiciously similar to WWII air combat, and a relative disregard of actual science when it conflicts with the plot. The same tropes of the barbarian fantasy genre also apply here: it is easy to envision the mighty lost-world barbarian smashing through the ranks of raygun-wielding aliens with his massive sword, answering their advanced technology with his brute strength.   
With barbarian fantasy as its inspiration, Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu presents new monsters, magical items, technology, spells, classes, and variant rules, all packaged together in Kanahu, a dangerous world of pulp fantasy. Kanahu draws on the myths of the Ancient Near East and pre-Colombian Mesoamerica and blends them together into a gonzo milieu with dinosaurs, Cthulhoid creatures, giant insects, crazy sorcerers, muscled barbarians, city-states, alien visitors, and super-scientific technology. 
Now, I'll quibble just a bit with the notion that this has "morally ambiguous" characters—most works, especially of sword & planet are not morally ambiguous at all—they're strait up heroic.  That's the problem with thinking that Elric exemplifies that genre, rather than being a deliberate deconstruction of the genre, I suppose.  But all things considered, that's a minor quibble.  Quite honestly, they had me at "space princesses".

I quite like the concept of spending less time worrying about genre barriers and walls within this sphere of genres that really only differ based on a few superficial trappings.  Sword & sorcery and science fantasy, as they point out, are essentially exactly the same except that one has a sword & sandal look to it, and the other has a Star Wars look to it.  Sword & planet is actually slightly different, lacking (in most cases) the overt magic and fantasy, but having instead equally fantastic pseudo-scientific wonders which bridges the aesthetic gap between them.

Anyhoo, while this is hardly rocket science, or even anything particular innovative or new, it is true that it's often hard without specifically agreeing to do so, to blur genre lines and do something that deliberately eschews that hard and fast genre lines traditions.  Even I, who have said for some time that I like that, am often surprised at myself in terms of how much I fall back into genre traditions.  But where have I done it right?  Rightish?  Looking at some of my tags that are homebrew alphabetically, what have I got?
  • AD ASTRA—science fantasy, much like Star Wars with wizards and knights in space.
  • CULT OF UNDEATH—this is D&D + supernatural horror, which is only a minor tweak to D&D to begin with.
  • DARK•HERITAGE—sword & sorcery (perhaps leaning towards more horror than most) + Westerns + pirates.  The latest iteration is more sword & sorcery + some Barsoom + post Roman Great Britain + the Old West.
  • DREAMLANDS REMIXED—sword & sorcery based, a bit, on existing primal sword & sorcery settings.
  • EBERRON REMIXED—a D&D setting with just a twist of my own to be slightly less D&Dish.  Some believe that Eberron is already a pretty genre-bending setting to begin with, but I think that's only really true for people who aren't very familiar with genre bending.  Eberrron is swashbuckling pulp action, with D&D.  My "remix" is more about the rules than the setting, really.
  • FALLEN SONS—sword & sorcery with an emphasis on horror.  I haven't done enough development on it to really say anything meaningful about it though.
  • MAMMOTH LORDSClan of the Cave Bear + Conan's Hyborian Age
  • MIDDLE-EARTH REVISITED—Tolkien modified to be overtly sword & sorcery
  • MYTHS REVISITED—mythology + comic books
  • ODD D&D—It's D&D, but with very different rules and an unusual setting.  Not really genre bending, just unusual.
  • REALMS TRAVELER—This is kitbashed rather than homebrewed, and it's all D&D stuff.  Like ODD D&D, it's highly unusual, but doesn't really blend genres.
  • SOLNOR—And the last homebrew effort, such as it is given that it's just a post or two with some high level discussion, is also just unusual D&D, not anything that's more blended than that.
  • STAR WARS REMIXED—Just Star Wars as is, except with an advanced time-line so I can go my own way setting-wise. And home-brewed rules, of course.
Now—I also happen to like stuff that stays within its "proper" genre chimney.  The point of all this isn't that "breaking genres is automatically good."  Rather, it's that "breaking genres can be good, and shouldn't be shied away from for its own sake."  As always, do what you like—but do so without "worrying" about things that you shouldn't feel obligated to worry about.