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  1. Greetings, Cosmonauts, and welcome to the next part of my look at M-Space by Frostbyte Books. This week, we take a look at two disparate chapters - Circles, and Psionics. Circles Circles are the M-Space equivalent of the factions of Mythras- its Guilds, Orders, Sodalities, Cults, and so on. Circles can take on the form of extended family, political pressure groups, terrorist organisations, political parties, corporations, and so on. Circles are defined here by characteristics - their Ideas (ideologies, etc); their types (Organization, Ideology, Corporation, Location), their Influence (INF), Size (SIZ), and Resources (RES), which are measured on a non-linear scale of 1-20; and Attributes, which determine how the Circles get things done, such as Ahimsa (non-violence), Black Ops, Functional Stupidity, Memes, and so on. Traits for the Circles include Ranks, Benefits )such as tech, psionics etc). The chapter continues with a look at further traits such as the Circle's age, entry and exit conditions, and so on. These few pages, which include a Circle stat sheet, are everything you need to create a Circle as small as a found family of misfit explorers, a ship's crew from a random passing freighter, or a globe-spanning organised crime ring. Circles and Odd Soot The Circles presented here are universally considered to be positive. Membership in those Circles means that the Circle accepts the character, and the character accepts the Circle's ethos and ideologies. Odd Soot, also from Frostbyte Books, looks at the concept of negative Circles - Circles whose presence is a detriment to the character, and which shaped the character's outlook with dark memories and painful events in their past. Circles in Odd Soot are structured differently to those featured here - for one thing, they are rated 1% - 100% just like Skills and Passions - and they influence the character as much as they influence third parties. Example Circle The Polidori Society Ideas: A collective of psychic (energy) vampires, exploring their identity and culture. Type: Organisation (Occult) Characteristics: INF (9, Counterculture, Vampyre Identity, LGBTQIA+), SIZ (6), RES (17) Attributes: Ahimsa, Cellular, Connected, Dedicated Followers, Secrecy, Spread, Welfare. Traits: Shelter, Library, Psionic Training, Healing Psionics Every science fiction roleplating game since Traveller has included rules for psionics in their core rulebooks. M-Space is no exception. From telepaths to telekinetics, clairvoyants to teleporters, science fiction has included the occasional psychic mutant to throw the scientists a curve ball. Psychic powers are frequently held as a thorn in the side of the more rational, logical breed of science fiction writers who prefer their stories to revolve around real science, rather than the "rules" of psionics and what they term "woo." But this is science fiction, and for every Expanse there is a Star Trek; for every rationalist Asimov character, there is a Deanna Troi or Telzey Amberdon. For every Han Solo, there is an Obi-Wan or baby Yoda. And this is the last time I will ever refer to Star Wars in this blog. How do the M-Space rules approach psionics, then? The rules are pretty basic. Your psion has access to three streams of psi - Sense, Mind, and Matter. Sense is your ESP, clairvoyance type strand, with other applications such as Meditation and Battle Meditation. Mind covers empathy, telepathy, mind control, and so on. And Matter covers the interaction of psi with the physical world - telekinesis, but also physical healing, illusions, martial flow, and ultimately Life Giver - which restores the very recently dead to life. For the most part, these abilities require a check against Sense, Mind, or Matter - which are independently rated from 1% - 100% like Skills and Passions - and success draws upon Power Points, which are like Magic Points from Mythras or Prana Points from Luther Arkwright: Roleplaying Across The Parallels. All Power Points are restored with a good night's sleep or, with the use of the Meditation power, one hour. Curiously enough, this iteration of the psionics rules does not include teleportation, translocation (jumping between parallels) or other powers found in the pages of, for instance, Worlds United, After The Vampire Wars or, indeed, Luther Arkwright: Roleplaying Across The Parallels. To give yourself a richer psionic experience, consider poaching some of the powers from those books. Consider how your space-based compaign would be affected if one of your characters could Spacejaunt - teleport over vast distances, even between solar systems thousands of light years apart (as Gully Foyle did in the final chapter of Alfred Bester's The Stars, My Destination) or between universes (such as Luther Arkwright (from The Adventures of Luther Arkwright), Princess Victoria (from Heart of Empire), and Proteus (from The Legend of Luther Arkwright)). Some psions' abilities break the rules listed in M-Space. Break those rules, if you have to. Create a psion character who can use all of the Mind Talents, ignoring the requirements for "first, second, and third arc." Drop the need for power points. Replace them with fatigue points, and only accumulate them the same way one accumulated fatigue in physical combat. Low POW, low-skill psions might be able to send and receive psychic messages over short distances and even touch range only, whereas high-POW, highly-skilled or even alien psions might be able to reach with their minds and senses to connect with other minds in solar systems sectors away. And some wanderers might skip from one M-Class, Terra-Prime garden world to another, not needing a ship to take them anywhere - just teleporting from world to world, as you and I might change channels on the TV. And that's the review of Circles and Psionics in M-Space. Next week, it's the turn of Vehicles and Technology.
  2. This week, we will be looking at the aliens of M-Space. I'm not going to lie; you're going to have to take notes. This chapter deals with the basic biological blueprints for creating real, strange aliens, rather than the bumpy-headed humanoids you know and love from TV and movie science fiction (or fantasy, for that matter). There's a lot to take in. What is your world's biosphere like? How and where did your alien species evolve, and why did they evolve? What makes your designed species unique? And how do these rules translate into being able to use the alien creation rules as chargen rules, the same way as Mythras just presents you with the tweaks for how to chargen an individual from a creature template? Strangeness The first universal factor is Strangeness. This imposes a penalty to interactions with members of that species. The higher the Strangeness, the harder it gets to interact with the aliens meaningfully. Strangeness: 1-100, where 1 represents Earth-like, 50 Alien and 100 Really strange. The Strangeness parameter adds a good overall picture when interpreting the dice rolls in the creation process. A low Strangeness value will indicate small variations on concepts well-known on Ear th (physiology, behaviour, culture). A high value means you should interpret many of the results as differing wildly from what’s common here. A later sidebar points out that it also affects First Aid and Medicine rolls, using alien technology and so on. Biosphere The next part of this chapter can appear daunting to the first time GM or player. Some might wonder whether it is necessary to generate the alien species' homeworld's biosphere, biodiversity, and other details. The greater the Strangeness, however, the weirder the biosphere. "My ancestors spawned in another ocean than yours," and so on. An example of Strangeness acting as a barrier to communication is Ursula K Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, and the Gethen. Another example of high Strangeness was Ted Chiang's "Story Of Your Life" which became the movie Arrival (2016). Strangeness, and the overcoming of it, was the theme of the story. Yet other authors such as N K Jemisin and Octavia Butler have approached alien contact in their own stories. The section details things such as the rough size of mature alien individuals, their Frame (endoskeleton, exoskeleton, or squidgy), their Symmetry, Limbs, Segmentation, and classifications such as Grazer, Pouncer or Trapper. Next are Habitat, Advantages, Disadvantages, Life Span, Communications, Natural Weapons, and then on to Characteristics. There's a section on how the aliens appear, and the difference between low-powered and high-powered aliens. Tech levels can be determined by average species INT. It takes a minimum level of INT to sustain a species' average Tech Level. Next to follow is Cultures, and the range of cultures available to the species; Law Level, Tech Level, cultural values, such as beliefs, taboos and so on; conflicts; population density; and a host of other details. This chapter is, at the very least, exhaustive. Seriously, it covers so much - right down to little things such as the aliens' foreign policy, and individual alien characters' Passions. It doesn't go as far as asking what cutlery they use and whether they pass the port to the left or the right, but the alien creation chapter leaves very little else out. My recommendation is to go to the part which describes the aliens' physical forms first - size, shape, behaviours - then characteristic ranges, INT range, corresponding TL. Leave much of the rest to later episodes, where you can run the equivalent of Amok TIme and Journey To Babel or similar Star Trek episodes. Or something out of Stargate SG-1, Farscape and so on. TL;DR: You don't need all of this if you just want the basics, like creating a psionic species which looks like sea urchins on pointy little legs, or a species of generic bumpy headed humanoids who speak perfect English but who are green skinned or have cybernetics and so on. Worldbuilding Here's where a lot of attention tends to focus, next to the ships and starship combat, and the physical combat between characters. Anyone who played Traveller will know how much fun it is to create solar systems. It's almost as much fun as designing starships, or playing the trade game, or designing alien species, or wait ... Okay, alien species building is a subgame in and of itself. Use the Worldbuilding chapter first to design your systems, and then conjure your biospheres and dominant sentient species. You do need your imagination. A lot of imagination. And perhaps a lot of borrowing from your library of SF books. Do you want a planet of all Odd Johns? A world which was successfully taken over by the species which chose Earth in John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos? Do you want a planet which is tearing itself apart because they have discovered a lichen which yields an immortality serum which only works on one marginalised segment of society, but which kills the affluent? Here's where you come in. If you're familiar with Traveller worldbuilding, you will find the process familiar. You begin with the star or stars in the system, then a number of planets. One of those worlds really should be in the habitable zone if it is to be suitable for native life, and for humanoid characters to be able to live on the surface of the world. Again, you can design your worlds' size, atmosphere, hydrographic percentage, and so on, just as if you were going through this process with Traveller. The next part is mapping out the star systems. You can use the Traveller system of subsector and sector hex grids, or find your own system. Hex grid maps are given in this core rulebook (as well as Odd Soot), and the short chapter ends with blank sheets for hex grids and systems, as well as a filled example. Wow The information in both these chapters is pretty dense. First timers might find it difficult to get through. M-Space really needs some examples of species creation to show the readers how it's all done. Let's start with the Pelacur, who are a humanoid species. Strangeness: Let's make this 20%. They are a little bit weird, but generally they look and act kind of like humans. Biosphere: Their world is a garden world, with a broad range of biomes, as diverse as old Terra. Maybe a little more so. More exotic jungles, not so many deserts. Mountains, rainforests, temperate inhabited regions. A great diversity of different Pelacur physical types. Frame and Symmetry: Endoskeletal, bipedal, bilateral symmetry. Classification: Omnivore Gatherer. Habitat: Like humans, these can be found everywhere. Advantages: Enhanced Senses (smell, taste, touch), Psionic, Poison (see below), Enhanced Charisma (see below) Disadvantages: Eggs, Hibernation Poison: Pelacur secrete a pheromone which befuddles most other species, increasing oxytocin, dopamine, and phenylethylamine levels. It makes most humanoid aliens become dopey in love with them. Enhanced Charisma: As for 95-00, Intelligence or High Intelligence, but for CHA. Appearance: They look roughly like this. These are the clearest pics I could get of Proteus, the Homo eximia antagonist of Bryan Talbot's graphic novel The Legend of Luther Arkwright. The Pelacur looked like this before The Legend of Luther Arkwright ever came to being. Sexes: Pelacur only really have the one gender. Binary genders confuse them, but they have adapted to the binary species from other worlds in the centuries they have been starfaring. Arts: Pelacur appreciation for art is as profound as that of humans. They adopt human styles and art, though they retain their own music and poetry. Behaviour: In Harmony, Social (small groups). Communication: Scent, Body Language, Language, Telepathy. Characteristics: Physically, slightly higher than human average CON; high POW; very high CHA. Appearance: Naturally hairless except for eyebrows, eyelashes. Slightly translucent skin; when irritated, you can see blood in individual capillaries in the face and body. Larger eyes in proportion to the head. Large irises, smaller pupils but more room for expansion (can see better in low light conditions). Tech Level: Actually higher than you would imagine. Pelacur do not have ships of their own. They travel on other species' ships, humans in particular. What is generally not known is that they invented their own FTL drives independently, but abandoned their own FTL in favour of becoming travellers and wanderers in other species' vessels. If pressed, they could resume shipbuilding - and their vessels would exceed the best TL humans could ever offer. Their homeworld is a TL 17 paradise, but no humans have ever been permitted to learn of its location, let alone visit. Technology Areas include Chemistry, Communication, Economics, Medicine, and an Unusual Technology (advanced teleportation capable of operating over thousands of light years). Details of their homeworld remain unknown, but Pelacur colonies are terraformed paradises, with vast green spaces growing between elegant, labyrinthine arcologies. Food: They can eat what humans eat, but once in a while they require a dietary supplement - a pill, taken monthly. Any human who takes that pill dies. Lifespan: Nobody has ever seen a Pelacur die of old age. Nobody even knows if Pelacur age at all. Perhaps it's those damned pills they take ... So that's it for the Alien Creation and Worldbuilding chapters. Next week, we look at Circles and Psionics - oh, and I'll be taking a sneak peek at the Circles rules for Odd Soot, with a promise to give them a much greater, in depth look when I get to that rulebook (hopefully, about the time of the release of the first Odd Soot campaign book, due out soon ...)
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