May 29, 2009

(Sci-Fi) THE HUMANS MUST BE ERADICATED! Or 6 ways to depopulate a planet in a big hurry.

Today, I have decided to engage my infinite improbability drive and write about something near and dear to my heart. Science fiction is full of cool gadgets, gizmos, and tropes. This is about something that encomapsses all three - WORLD KILLING! This post if for all you sci-fi buffs playing Traveller, D20 future, or what-have-you.

So, as a galactic overlord of a conquering armada, you are crushing the upstart hoo-mans fleets as fast as they come. Unfortunately, these rabbit breeding apes have colonies ALL OVER THE @##$$%$ PLACE! In fact, one of your logistical weak points have been underscored by this turn of events - that it is incredibly impractical to have enough disposeable troops in a fleet to pacify more than a single planet with any reasonable expectation of success.

It's simple. People (or their equivalent) take up space. So does their gear. Their weapons, their food, their water. Their siege engines, their ammunition, etc, etc, etc. To "properly" pacify a single planet would likely require at the minumum hundreds of thousands of troops with all of their kit. If the environment is hostile to the invading species, even more gear is required. This makes planetary invasions incredibly cumbersome. As a result, space warfare will likely be comprised of efficient and impersonal methods.

Greetings sir, I am first technical officer M'lorik of the artificer caste. It is my honor to present our findings on the most efficient means of eradicating the Hoo-man menace. As you know sir, the Hoo-man beasts reproduce prodigiously, and have spread to no less than 100 worlds in a roughly 200 light year globe centered on their homeworld.

After several disastrous attempts, we have determined that this species make terrible slaves, and as such, only a small number will be preserved for zoological purposes.


#1 - Cobalt bombs - AKA the Neutron Bomb

Sir. for your pleasure we offer this option as the most optimal to destroy the ape menace. As you can see, they are incredibly easy to make and 100% lethal to any mammalian creature not adequately shielded from the immese amount of ionizing radiation.
As you can see from this chart, the ape's fragile bodies can withstand only small amounts of hard x-ray and gamma radiation. Within 24 of their hours we could saturate the entire planet with enough ionizing radiation to kill every creature not buried beneath or behind several tones of ultradense material. This option is optimal because it leaves their infrastructure intact, and requires no interaction with their filthy species.

#2 - Biological warfare

As the demands for the uncommon element cobalt may tax our reserves unnecessarily, another option on the same scal would be a bacteriophage. Unlike our self sanitizing carapace, the apes' bodies are cesspits of disease and filth.
Our options in this regard are limitless, their frail bodies are susceptible to so many microorganisms, a list would take days to completely read. Suffice it to say, our current plan involves using some of the captive research specimens to distill a phage that would do the trick nicely.
With a little bit of work, we can even make it persistent, so that they may never come back to this world again! Luckily, we (being Boron based) will be completely immune to this plague. This option also allows for the infrastructure to remain largely intact, and requires no actual contact with the filthy creatures - save the researchers, who will be immediately put to death to prevent the spread of the ape's effluvium.

#3 - Nanotechnology

The ape's primitive technologies cannot protect them from our superior nanotech. Using bulk matter converters, we can unleash a gray goo plague. With a few nanosmiths left behind to manage "things" it it entirely reasonable to expect that we would return in 2-3 cycles to mountains of processed materials awaiting pick-up.
The drawback here, sir, is the extreme cost of assembling and maintaining a nanocolony on a planetary scale. While theoretically possible, you of course know that once a nanocolony reaches a critical mass, it tends to experience fits of pre-sentience, and can be difficult to control.

#4 - Orbital nuclear bombardment -

With the low resource expenditure required to assemble and field a large quantity of nuclear fusion weapons, this option seems to be one of the two most optimal fits. The strategy is laughable simple, we simply assume geostationary orbit and saturation bomb a planet wide swath for a full day cycle.
While the local infrastructure will be mostly obliterated, the destruction and widespread radiation will work to passively eradicate any and all survivors. This option will be unavailable on any world identified as creche worlds or breadbaskets for obvious reasons.

#5 - KISS (Kinetic Interdiction Strike System) or (Relativistic Kill Vehicle)

Sir, lastly we have your personal favorite - The K.I.S.S. of death. By firing solid slugs massing several tones each, we can effect the equivalent of the strategic yield nuclear bombardment previously mwentioned - without the harmful radiation as a side-effect.
Much like the the battle of Proxima Centauri, where you so wisely hurled our own damaged and wrecked hulks at their orbital forts! While ultradense materials work best, we could conceivably use asteroids from the system belts as ammunition.
Yes, sir. I have it on authority from our weapon keepers that the larger vehicles will actually convert several feet of ground cover into component atoms for hundreds of miles around each impact site. Yes sir, we have perfected the device you requested, and as such will discuss it now.

#6 - The Planet Buster

As you specified, we have manufactured a conical shaped projectile using uranium as the base material, and neutronium as the outer ablative layer. IT measures 300 feet in length, and is 90 feet wide at the base.
At the core of this device is a small magnetic containment field with a reservoir that may store up to 4 pounds of antimatter. The expected yield would be in the order of 4-6 gigatons. At relativistic speeds, the spike will penetrate deeply into the inner mantle of the planet before detonating with enough force to tear the planet apart in mere minutes.
Yes, sir. Destruction is total. We currently have only one prototype, but with the final push into the Sol system coming up, we have taken the liberty of prepping it for deployment. These beast should have accepted servitude to the Donny empire when they had the chance. It will be our pleasure to teach them the error of their ways. ALL HAIL EMPEROR DONNY!


May 18, 2009

More real life creatures that would love to slowly digest - then excrete your players.

Was it the pictures? The swearing? The slash and burn Wikipedia raping? Whatever it was, I find myself unable to ignore the fact that one single article picked up almost 20X more traffic than every other one of my posts COMBINED!
Oddly enough, it was a lot of fun reading and compiling it, so lets do it again! Continuing on, we were mostly about poisonous critters before. Problem with poisons is that they seem to unfairly handicap your players. I know, I know, their "just" players, right?

To balance out the OMG I JUST GOT GANKED BY A BUG THE SIZE OF MY BIG TOE!!! We are going to go in another direction, bigger things that mother nature (or ehlonna, or silvanus, or whomever) built when she was particularly annoyed with the hairless monkeys that everyone agrees may have been a big mistake.

Natural selection in 5...4...3...2...

This bad boy actually makes the list for a couple of reasons. Allow me to work some copy/paste magic:

  • An adult male saltwater crocodile's weight is 880 to 3,000 pounds (400–1,360 kg) and length is normally 4 to 5.1 metres (13–17 ft), though very old males can be 6 metres (20 ft) or more. Translation: HOLY SHIT! RUN AWAY FROM THE 20 FOOT LONG 3000 POUND REPTILE!!!!
  • Saltwater crocodiles can swim 15 to 18 miles per hour in short bursts, but when cruising go 2 to 3 mph. TRANSLATION: MAKE ALL THE SWIM CHECKS YOU WANT MY LITTLE APPETIZERS...I SWIM AS FAST AS YOU RUN!
  • Many crocodiles are capable of explosive charges that can carry them nearly as fast as a running human. TRANSLATION: YOU'RE SCREWED ON LAND TOO!
  • As an ambush predator, it usually waits for its prey to get close to the water's edge before striking, using its great strength to drag the animal back into the water. Most prey animals are killed by the great jaw pressure of the crocodile, although some animals may be incidentally drowned. It is an immensely powerful animal, having the strength to drag a fully grown water buffalo into a river, or crush a full-grown bovid's skull between its jaws. TRANSLATION: I WILL CRUSH YOUR PUNY APE-SKULL BEFORE YOU CAN EVEN CRY FOR HELP!
  • Dr. Adam Britton, a researcher with Big Gecko, has been studying crocodilian intelligence. In so doing, he has compiled a collection of Australian saltwater crocodile calls, and associated them with behaviors. His position is that while crocodilian brains are much smaller than those of mammals (as low as 0.05% of body weight in the saltwater crocodile), they are capable of learning difficult tasks with very little conditioning. He also infers that the crocodile calls hint at a deeper language ability than currently accepted. He suggests that saltwater crocodiles are clever animals that can possibly learn faster than lab rats. They have also learned to track the migratory route of their prey as the climate changes. TRANSLATION: I WILL FOLLOW YOU HOME AND WAIT UNDER YOUR BED YOU PATHETIC MIN-MAXING ONE BITE!

In summation, there is not a whole lot I can think of that is more horrifying than the surprise round starting (and ending) with a lunge from the riverbank, the explosion of blood and brains, and 3 seconds later nothing but ripples in the water to show that the party fighter was just filling his waterskin.

#2 - The Cape Buffalo

No, it is YOU that would taste great on a bun...

If I were to list the most dangerous and terrifying animals on the planet, the last one on my list would be a hamburger in potentia. In fact, mammals would be rather underserved on this list period, which is why to get here you have to be a demonstrated killing machine. The cape buffalo is so dangerous, even lions gotta watch their asses.

  • Other than humans, African buffalo have few predators and are capable of defending themselves against (and sometimes killing) lions. Lions do kill and eat buffalo regularly, but it typically takes multiple lions to bring down a single adult buffalo; only large male lions have been known to take down adult buffalo on their own. TRANSLATION: THE DRUID AND RANGER MAY HAVE THEIR FANCY PETS, THEY ARE ONLY ONE BUFFALO AWAY FROM THE TRUTH.
  • Buffalo will try to rescue a member that has been caught. A calf's distress call will get the attention of not only the mother but also the herd. Buffalo will engage in mobbing behavior when fighting off predators. They have been recorded treeing lions for two hours, after the lions have killed a member of their group. Lion cubs can get trampled and killed. TRANSLATION: WE SO L33T WE INVENTED MOBZ TO SQUISH TEH BABEH KILLAZ!
  • Known as one of the "big five" or "Black Death" in Africa, the African Buffalo is widely regarded as a very dangerous animal, as it gores and kills over 200 people every year. Buffalo are sometimes reported to kill more people in Africa than any other animal, although the same claim is sometimes made of Hippopotamuses, or Crocodiles. Buffalo are notorious among big game hunters as very dangerous animals, with wounded animals reported to ambush and attack pursuers. TRANSLATION: WOUND ME AND YOU WILL NEVER GET YOUR DAILIES OR ENCOUNTERS AGAIN. I WILL FOLLOW YOU HOME AND TRAMPLE YOU IN YOUR DRIVEWAY!

In summation let it be known that anything weighing over 1,000 pounds that's first instinct at the sign of danger is to accelerate to 40mph on a collision course with said danger has earned the no doubt enormous balls it likely sports.

#3 - The Red Devil Squid

In this particular situation, this is likely the last thing you would see before the pain starts.

We are all, undoubtedly, familiar with the giant squid. They make the news occasionally, we never hear about the "other" know, the ones that actually EAT people on a semi-regular basis? Look no further.
  • Humboldt Squid are carnivorous marine invertebrates that move in shoals of up to 1200 individuals. They swim at speeds of up to 24 kilometres per hour (15 mph/13 kn) propelled by water ejected through a hyponome (siphon) and by two diamond shaped fins. TRANSLATION: THERE ARE 1000 OF THEM AND THEY SWIM AT RUNNING SPEED.
  • They may grow to 2 metres (7 ft) and weigh 45 kilograms (100 lb), growing at an astounding rate. They can rapidly change their skin colour from deep purplish red to white using chromatophores (specialized skin cells) in what some researchers believe is a complex communication system. TRANSLATION: THEY ARE AS LARGE AS YOU ARE, AND HAVE ACTIVE FUCKING CAMOUFLAGE.
  • Experts have also stated that the invertebrates hunt for their prey of small fish and krill, in a cooperative fashion, which would be the first observation of such behaviour. TRANSLATION: THEY ARE THE VELOCIRAPTORS OF THE SEA - MOVE TO A MOUNTAIN TOP.
  • Recent footage of shoals of these animals demonstrates a tendency to meet unfamiliar objects aggressively. Having risen to depths of 130–200 metres (430–660 ft) below the surface to feed (up from their typical 700 meter (2,300 ft) diving depth, beyond the range of human diving), they have attacked deep-sea cameras and rendered them inoperable. TRANSLATION: PACK HUNTERS THAT EAT EVERYTHING, AND ATTACK ON SIGHT.

In summation, I would like to add being torn to bloody ribbons by a pack of 7 foot long, 100 pound reddish squid to my official list of things I could die happily knowing I missed.

In the gaming world in general, we tend to overlook the "mundane" by overusing the overpriced manuals and compendiums that are so generously provided. Why a boring young dragon? Why not a pair of 20 foot crocodiles fighting over a swimming PC?

Why not turn a shallow dive for a sunken wreck into a survival horror fest as the party tries to escape a wolf-pack of carnivorous squid?

Hell, a night spent in a tree, hiding from those evil rampaging buffalo would be a story worth telling!

Or best yet, just remind the nature-lovers in your party that just because you can talk to it, it doesn't mean that you are off the menu...or the threat list :)

Runners-up (or coming soon?)

The deep sea frilled shark (half-snake / half shark)

Fucking awful giant nasty water bugs

And whatever in the hell this thing is...a real-life facehugger...anyone surprised it's from the coldest and most irradiated shithole in russia?

Until next time, kill the dungeon crashers...FEED THEM TO THE BUFFALO!

May 15, 2009

An FYI for 3.5 Eberron fans

Per the fine print in the cover of my fourth edition PHB, I must either sacrifice my firstborn, or purge my shelves of all that has come before.

Actually, with all the damned books coming out this year, I find myself contemplating a second job just to pay for them...then again, maybe I'll just sell off some of the books I never got around to using :)

I am liquidating some parts of my gaming collection. One of them is my nearly complete 3.5 Eberron campaign setting. Here is a link to the Ebay listing, please check it out if such a thing would interest you.
And now, some Friday funnies!

May 13, 2009

System neutral inspiration in the small things...OR OMG THESE FRACKING THINGS ARE EATING ME!!!11!!

First off, a shout out to for their "thought provoking" articles :) Seriously, if you don't know of this site, you should be fed to a pack of Gila monsters. They have found a way to mix satire and science to produce what can only be described as Wyatt's Turbulent Thoughts blog in unholy coitus with Bill Nye the science guy.

As to the beef, as a DM sometimes I find myself caught up in a vicious cycle of bigger monsters! More tentacles! More heads! When just poking around our wonderful and completely orc free world, I see the makings of PC death and dismemberment all around :)

"Fuck with this little guy and you will die in a puddle of your own scat, vomit, and urine."
This little critter is less than a foot across, yet it packs one of the most horrific venoms in existence. Enough to kill 26 fully grown men! We arent talking fatality inducing venom per se, we are talking HORRIFIC FATALITY INDUCING VENOM!!!. Almost identical to Tetrodoxin, for the uninformed, that is Pufferfish (or Fugu) poison. From Wikipedia:
"paresthesia in the face and extremities, which may be followed by sensations of lightness or floating. Headache, epigastric pain, nausea, diarrhea, and/or vomiting may occur. Occasionally, some reeling or difficulty in walking may occur. The second stage of the intoxication is increasing paralysis. Many victims are unable to move; even sitting may be difficult. There is increasing respiratory distress. Speech is affected, and the victim usually exhibits dyspnea, cyanosis, and hypotension. Paralysis increases and convulsions, mental impairment, and cardiac arrhythmia may occur. The victim, although completely paralyzed, may be conscious and in some cases completely lucid until shortly before death. Death usually occurs within 4 to 6 hours, with a known range of about 20 minutes to 8 hours."

My suggestion? The party is contacted by a collector of rare zoological specimens, and will pay handsomely for a specimen. After said unkowing dumbass PC is bitten, the party has 4-6 hours to find an antidote (none exists in reality), and must meanwhile keep said poor bastard's body alive long enough to apply it - Skill Challenge anyone?


For a small insect, less than 6" long - this critter is a dynamo! I personally believe that whatever deity put this thing in the arid deserts of Africa and the middle east did it solely to re-enforce the whole "Deserts are for idiot and madmen" thing. As to what it's pushpin sized stinger will do to you, from Wikipedia:

"The deathstalker is regarded as a highly dangerous species because its venom is a powerful cocktail of neurotoxins, with a low LD50 rating. While a sting from this scorpion is extremely painful, it would never kill an otherwise healthy, adult human. However, young children, the elderly, or infirm (such as those with a heart condition or those who are allergic) would be at much greater risk. Any envenomation runs the risk of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction to the venom. If a sting from Leiurus quinquestriatus does prove fatal, the cause of death is usually pulmonary edema."

Neurotoxins in L.quinquestriatus venom include the following:
Chlorotoxin, Charybdotoxin, Scyllatoxin, Agitoxins type 1, 2 and 3

For all the old schoolers out there, next time the party camps out in a desert - did they check their smelly boots before putting them back on? REALLY, did they SAY they checked their boots?

Any of you other poor saps have your teenage years ruined by Arachnophobia? What a wonderful movie :( In fact, the only exaggeration relevant to this article is the "deadly" venom of the original giant spider, because GUESS WHAT! They actually jump and HISS! That's right, nature done made up for the relative lack of deadly venom by letting this 8 legged fucker induce absolute mindless panic by no only being big enough to cover your ENTIRE face, but able to loudly hiss as well! Did I mention it can also fling it's razor sharp hairs like freaking darts!?

My suggestion? Up it two size categories and you have this:

"Spidey want a bird? Spidey want a AAARRGGHGHG


Add a fear inducing hiss, A nasty ranged attack, and instantly memorable encounter :)

#4 - The Corpse Flower

"Is it my cologne, or are you just happy to see me."

So here we see nature's playful side, a flower that reeks like rotting meat, and looks like a 6' long dick. That's...great? Only the devil's in the details. You see, the corpse flower - while harmless itself, is often infested with "flesh flies" and carnivorous beetles...That's right, while the party is screwing around and making jokes about the giant dick flower, they get swarmed by carnivorous flies and beetles. There are times when being a DM is worth all the time, effort, and bullshit. Seeing the looks on their faces when the giant dick belches out a series of carnivorous scarab beetle swarms is one of them.

#5 - The asian giant hornet

I hate bugs. I am not so much terr...Okay, I am freaked right the fuck out by bugs. Spiders in particular, but I think that all things considered, I would soil myself unashamedly if a 4" hornet landed on my face.

"Move, and I'm taking the finger with me."

Now imagine a hundred of them on you...a thousand...Descending on your poor ass like a cloud of flying razor blades...crawling through the joints of your armor...dismantling you one tiny piece at a time...I am going to go and change my pants, I just had a sympathy movement.

Don't fuck with nature, it's everywhere, and it will eat your face!

May 8, 2009

A 4E experiment - and a fatality.

I finally got to go back and continue playing in our ongoing Age or Worms campaign. It was brutal. If you recall, me evil six-and-a-half foot tall lumberjack was killed while raiding the last wing of the "three faces of evil" adventure. I loved playing that toon, but his death allowed me to try something else.

Thus was born Kearnan - Chosen of Bahamut. An Aasimar Paladin / Favored soul and quite incidentally, the 197th third nephew (by marriage) to the great platinum dragon himself. HE managed to annoy the party even better than the homicidal sociopath that he replaced, and died while valiantly defending the party from Kyuss spawn.

Yes, while the party ran away in supernatural terror, He stood firm - protecting their worthless asses :) Even while the worms crawled into his brainpan, and began feasting, his greatsword swung still. Finally, with green foam boiling forth from his ears, he fell. And then the party ran way as HE rose up to consume them! Karma is a bitch eh?

So onto 4E. I have been dinking around with this engine for a little while, and I feel somewhat like old notions of what is right and proper in a fantasy RPG is holding us back. I am going to run a trash game this weekend to see if one can actually strip classes altogether from the game. Over here I commented on a very thought provoking article, by invoking Conan. You know, Conan the Cimmerian. Conan the Barbarian?

I suffer from this horrible GM malady that causes you to stat and class up all kinds of shit you just randomly come across in a day's toils. Conan has always been a weird one. You see, he was born into a "barbarian" tribe. He was raised in their culture, and stolen away by raiders to be toughened up by life as a slave, and then trained for war by master swordsmen. He was a successful gladiator for a portion of that life as well. (I am basing this on the more widely disseminated movies angle).

Throughout the length of this epic, we see him infiltrate a temple complex (Twice!), seduce a dirty priest (shiver!), keep his very roguish (though QUITE handy with a sword) woman away from his jewels (when he feels the need), and is generally able to have a somewhat intelligent conversation (Krom!). In fact, I don't seem to recall a single time when he uses anything that would be considered a "barbarian" ability or power in any form. Now discard notions of class. Does he do anything barbarianish at all? Running around mostly naked doesn't count. No greataxe. No frothing rage giving him the strength of 5 men. No "intimidation is my ONE social skill, and god damn I WILL use it! In fact, were I making a 3E character, I'd say almost straight fighter build.

With 4E though...Human fighter, multiclassed at 1st into barbarian. Emphasis on tactics and swordsmanship above meat shield-ish smash fests. One feat used to purchase stealth. Or would it be Barbarian multiclass fighter? Instantly the flavor and the buold options change. And not little changes, pretty big changes. See for yourself, Barbarian with a half cup of fighter? Or Fighter with a half-cup of Barbarian.

Lets put it another way. Striker with a little defender? Or Defender with a little striker? Wanna still be able to stand your ground, while occasionally taking off an arm or leg? Or would you rather be a walking cuisineart, that can occasionally hinder an enemies maneuvers? Both offer a very different set of option, builds, and RP value.

We can take this a step further with other build options. Striker Controller? (Warlock/ Wizard) or Controlling Striker? (the converse). Ninja? Rogue with a dash of wizard perhaps? Though, mechanically, a dash of warlock works better - it's the flavor that suffers :)

Paladin / Rogue blackguards? Bard / Barbarian Skalds? Invoker / Sorceror mystic Theurges?

What if we could do with 4E what Exhalted TRIES to do. What if you could cherry pick your powers across the spectrum of two power sources. Could you mash together the powers of a fighter and Sorceror and have something unique and interesting? Or will it be a sub-optimal swordmage, hobbled by his lack of an aegis?

This very well may not work at all :) Honestly, thats half of the fun. Being able to truly make classless characters that mesh well within the system they are built would be awesome. A fighter "type" that has been inducted into the rogues guild. Is he a rogue? Is he a fighter? No, he's both! In fact, I would go a step further to say that the current multiclassing doesn't go far enough! As it stands, you really are better off not multiclassing. C'mon! An at-will from the new class becomes an encounter power!? Your paragon path tossed out so you can have an at-will THAT IS 4 LEVELS LOWER!?

Well, we can work on that as it develops. Instead, lets look at the current to do list:

Breaking all the powers down by power source - wait! It's already done :)
Separate all the feats by source, including racial specifics - Wait! It's already done :)
Balance everything out to keep the munchkins at bay - Wait! It's already done :)

All within the confines of the most modular rule system I've had the privilege to work with.
The only thing I haven't decided yet is how to apportion surges and skill points, as they are class specific at this point. It should be relatively simple; Beaters, Blasters, and Doers? I'll figure it out.
In the meantime, I can choose for my martial guy whether I want him to be defender-ish or striker-ish. Do I want to mark or pursue quarry? Do I want to go arcaney and use an aegis? Do I want to gish out with a sorceror / Barbarian type of build? A Dragonblooded Thane? Decisions, decisions...

I'll tinker with this a bit, and let you know if I find any glaring weaknesses. If you already see one, please feel free to ridicule me :)