gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
The novel I failed at last year is returning, only this time I'm actually planning things in advance.

For each character I'm writing a short description and synopsis of what their motivation is. I'm also going to be creating an "action grid" of sorts; so I can place each character and the two MacGuffins in each chapter. I'll be color-coding for main plot, background action, and things that happen off-stage but are important. This is going to be sort of a SF Noir thriller, so I'm going to be juggling several threads. I'll probably flowchart the plot as well.

No, here's a question. The plot concerns a plot by a corrupt corporation to turn over several dozen genetic samples to a rather nasty culture that has done bad things with genetic engineering. The bad guys want these samples to gain an edge in the constant internal feuding over who is the best. One faction gaining control and building better monsters means an eventual war. So our heroes need to infiltrate the site of the meeting, play a con game to become part of the bidding, and replace the actual samples with flawed ones. Stealing the payoff is a bonus.

So how big would a container holding say sixty isolated DNA samples be? Assume the need to keep them stable outside a lab for at least four days. Gym bag? Large dufflebag?
gridlore: (Baseball - Believe)
To the tunes of "Do You Hear The People Sing" and (very loosely) "One Day More" from Les Miserables.

Do you hear the Giants sing?
Orange October's come again
It is the music of a baseball team
Marching to victory again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the thunder of the bats
There is a game to be won
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our nation?
Who will be strong and stand behind Bochy?
Filling up the bleachers
For the World Series you long to see?
Then raise up your voices
And cheer for MadBum and Posey!

Do you hear the Giants sing?
Orange October's come again
It is the music of a baseball team
Marching to victory again!
When your heart is in your throat
With every 3-2 pitch
There is a series to be won
When tomorrow comes!

Will you sneak out from work early
So you are home for every pitch?
Rally caps and garlic fries
Will you be there 'till the end?
The Spirit of '51
Will lead us to triumph again!

Do you hear the Giants sing?
Orange October's come again
It is the music of a baseball team
Marching to victory again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the thunder of the bats
There is a pennant to be won
When tomorrow comes!

One game more! Is all that we are asking
One game more! We have to keep on winning
25 men united with one simple goal:
One more game
Win today!
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Quick update on my progress.

I've stopped the Vicodin and gone back to me regular Gabapentin regime. There's still some pain, mostly when I put weight on my foot, but nowhere near what it was last week.

Das Boot is great. Putting it on feels like I'm strapping into some sort of armor, but the air cushion and padding really helps. Being able to take it off when I'm not moving or sleeping is great.

Walking more without the crutches, although I am pacing myself.

See the bone doc on October 13th. Fully expect a clean bill of health.

Wearing jeans for the first time in two weeks. Go me!
gridlore: Detail from (Gaming - EatRads)
Yes, I'm finally going to run a game. Here's the pitch:

C’mon in! Sit down! This will just take a few minutes. First of all, I’m supposed to welcome you to the TransGalaxy family. So welcome. I hate that part, after all, you’ve already signed the contract, right? I mean, the recruiter made sure you did that first thing before sending you to me, right?. You’d be amazed how many potentials walk in here without a signed contract. Anyway, you signed, you’re part of the family. For five years, with an option to extend. Wish my marriages worked like that!

That’s a joke, son. Relax! Let me pull up your file and get you set up with a ship. Hmm. . . Kid, none of my business, and we’re happy to help folks start over, but ‘John Smith’ is hardly a good fake name to go by and. . .

Really? John Smith III is your real name? Hell, you want something better? I can set you up easy enough, I know some people. . . hey, no need to get touchy, just offering! I’m so used to new hires getting creative with their names. You caught me by surprise there. Almost refreshing not to be speaking with another “Jason Starkiller” or “Nebula Jones.”

So what do we have? Hm. Eight years in the Colonial Legion as an Assaultman, qualified on this weapons system and that instrument of destruction. . . son, you are aware we’re a shipping line, right? On-board ship security? We usually use ex-Federation security goons for those roles. Frankly, you’re more “seek and destroy” than “protect and serve,” know what I mean?
Hey, no need to look down, my boy! Know why I fly the Assignments desk? Because I have an eye for talent, for putting the right people in the right job. And you, you fine young fellow, you, are going to be a hit as a Delta Bulldog.

You don’t have a clue what I just said. OK, here’s how it breaks down: TransGalaxy is the biggest name in interstellar transport. We serve over a thousand inhabited star systems belonging to seven intelligent species besides humans, along with sanctioned contacts with the occasional intelligent machine cluster. Shipping is broken down into four basic classes.

Alpha is the top of the line, the big luxury passenger cruisers and high-end bulk transports. Those are the ones you see in the ads. Top of line everything. Crew standards are insanely high. These ships go only to systems that meet the 3S standard: settled, stable, and safe. Ever see that old series Action Aboard!? Shot on the ISCV King Richard, one of our Alpha liners. Yeah, that was a real ship.

Then you have your Beta ships. Almost as good as the Alphas, but smaller and working the areas that are still mostly safe with less-critical cargoes and passengers not needing the red carpet treatment. Crewmen on a Beta are busting their asses to get good enough evaluations to move up to Alphas. Still a good slot.

Up next are the Gammas. Gammas do the less profitable regular runs to colony worlds that are close to the fringe. Gammas also do hazardous jobs like refinery tows and the like. Work hard in the Gammas and you can go places! I myself spent almost 12 years pushing a Gamma along the edges of Stork space. Yeah, that’s where I got the artificial arms and eye.

Now you’ve been slumping down in the chair as I’ve told you this and you’re thinking “what the hell does being a Delta mean?” I’ll be honest. It’s not a glory and big tips like an Alpha, but that five year hitch will fly by because as a Bulldog, you’ll be right on the edges of known space, going to places most people have never heard of! Yes, it’s dangerous, but with great risk comes great rewards! Company bonuses aside, the, um, high rate of turnover in most crews means you could quickly find yourself captain of your own ship! Stop laughing. What was that?

Fine. Deltas tend to die a lot. Happier now? But I’m not lying about the opportunities! Now, let’s see who needs a warm body. . . Ah! The Driver Carries No Cash just docked and needs, well, a new crew. Mostly.

Mr. Smith! Pleasing stop shouting, you’ll disturb my coworkers! You signed a contract, sir, and TransGalaxy will enforce all the terms of it to the letter! I can assure you that the ship’s artificial intelligence was purged after the incident you are referring to, and we’ve had no trouble since then. What happened this time? Let me see here. Huh, that’s a new one. Cargo escaped and ate most of the crew. Odd, since it was hauling mineral samples. But you see why this is the job for you, right? Had you been there, your combat skills would have come in handy, yes? We call these ships and their crews Bulldogs because they might be ugly, but they never give up! Docking Bay C-54, Bulldog Smith, your captain is waiting for you. Good luck! Our security team will help you find your way and see you safely aboard.

Oh, on your way out, could you send the next prospect in? It’s a busy day.

Bulldogs is a space opera game of blasters and swashbuckling, as the crew of a tramp freighter tries to make a credit her and there working on the bottom of the food chain. TransGalaxy isn't picky about the crews they hire for their Deltas, so long as you have pulse (or function power plant, or ichor ducts, or whatever) and are not actively being chased by the cops when you sign up, TG will take you. Because odds are you'll be dead before they pay out the end of contract bonus.

Obviously, this will be a game with a humorous bent. Think Quark, Red Dwarf, Buck Godot. We will be using the FATE system which you can find here for free and playing on Roll20. You'll need to be able to log in with a sound device, and a camera would be nice. I may ask for donations to my account to help me buy the cool things to make the Roll20 experience better.

I plan on having session twice a month, 4-6 hours. Days and times are open for negotiation. We will need to meet for a character creation session as it's a cooperative thing in FATE. Looking for 4-5 players, and I'm pretty sure one slot is already filled (Hi Logic!) Hopefully we'll get this rolling in early November.

Questions? Answers? I'd like to keep them in one place, so no matter where you read this if you could leave a comment on my Dreamwidth that's be great. I do allow anonymous commenting, just sign your posts.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
I, and at least one mobility aid, will be at Convolution. Here's my panels:

The Monsters of Doctor Who
Friday 15:00 - 16:30, Boardroom V

From the Cybermen to the Slitheen- we love them all! Join our panel of Whovian experts as they share their scariest Timelord terrors!

Doc of the Bay (M), Doug Berry

Geek Networking
Saturday 15:00 - 16:30, SandPebble B

How to make something of all these geeky folks you know!

Steven Savage (M), Doug Berry, Ms. Jennifer Carson, Nita, M. Todd Gallowglas

RPG Story Structure- Writing for Playing
Sunday 10:00 - 11:30, Parlor 2036

There's a difference between writing a story for it to be read, and writing one for it to be played through. Our panelists will help shed some light on how to best make your roleplay story playable.

R.L. King, Doug Berry (M), Colin Fisk

Given my broken foot and general health, I'm very happy that I only have one panel a day. Expect me to be planted somewhere mellow when I'm not involved in a panel.
gridlore: Gold football helmet with red 49ers logo (Football - 49ers helmet)
San Francisco 49ers: 28
Los Angeles Rams: 0

That wasn't supposed to happen. The conventional wisdom was that the Niners were going to be hopeless this season. We had no offense, no defense, and Chip Kelly's promised shake-up was going to take a long time to implement. A fairly weak preseason seemed to support those arguments.

Until last night. On offense, the Blaine Gabbert era has begun. He was 22 of 35 for 170 yards, with one touchdown pass to Vance McDonald. But that wasn't the whole story, Gabbert had nine carries for 43 yards. These weren't panicked scrambles, but good runs after checking off all the potential passes. Carlos Hyde had 88 yards and 1 TD on 23 carries. The offensive line looked good. We're not great, but playing well as a team and building confidence.

On defense, we shocked the NFL. The Niners were terrible on D last year. Last night? We allowed a total of 185 yards. The Rams had to punt 10 times. We kept pressure on the Rams with an efficient pass rush that used different packages and stunts to keep the Rams' O-line guessing. The secondary looked good, shutting down the longer routes.

Now let's be honest: The Rams aren't a very good team. Last night they looked utterly undisciplined. Stupid penalties, missed assignments, obvious on-field tensions that culminated in Rams defensive tackles Aaron Donald being ejected after making contact with an official. He slammed his helmet into the field, which will earn him a suspension from the league.

But overall, there's hope. Niners head coach Chip Kelly had it right when he made it clear in his post-game press conference that he had identified areas for improvement. Keep working, keep fighting, and play them one week at a time.

Next up: at Carolina Panthers, SEP 18
gridlore: (Burning_Man)
So, how was your summer? Mine was great right up until last Monday. And by “great” I mean I had unnecessary surgery, never really went anywhere, and mostly hid in my apartment. But there was one shining beacon on the horizon: Burning Man! Yes, ten days of glorious art and weirdness and. . . and. . . waiting in line for five hours to get in followed by daily dust storms with 45mph winds.

But even at that, I was at the Burn! Me and 70,000 other weirdos soaking up the goodness and fun. I was kissed by not one but two hot European young ladies (one from Rome, the other London), took part in restocking some of the 1,500 porta-potties in a howling dust storm, and despite an apocalyptic storm on Burn Night the Man Burn was a thing of beauty.

Yes, everything was fine until Monday, when we started tearing down our camp. This is where my troubles began. First of all, we brought far too much water. The suggested 1.5 gallons per person per day is aimed at the younger, more active set. As dancing ‘til dawn to crappy electronic dance music wasn’t on our agenda, we ended up with a lot of water. We gave away two 7-gallon containers - filled - to a campmate who just wanted the extra weight to balance his trailer for the trip home. The other two, which we like better ergonomically, were just loaded onto the truck full. That left our 5-gallon water cooler. It was about a quarter full, and kind of gritty (that dust gets everywhere!). So, being the helpful guy I am, I picked it up to carry it out to our greywater evaporator.

And promptly tripped on my hydration backpack. We had been discussing replacing the camelbacks with insulated bottles earlier, and I think the packs heard us. I go flying, and immediately lose proprioception in my right leg. I was a bit stressed. Left foot comes down fine, I drive my right foot into the densely-packed Playa. Hard.

Funny thing about peripheral neuropathy: when it comes to my legs, everything hurts. All the time. So I just shrugged it off and limped over to where Kirsten was sitting. We peeled my boot off to inspect the damage. No discoloration, no swelling. No way I’m getting my boot back on, so we switch to the shoes I’m supposed to wear in Reno. Hurts like a bitch, but with some help from campmates, we get out of Black Rock City and head for Reno!

Which is where I realize things are getting worse. Wednesday, Kirsten had an appointment for a facial, and then we were off to the local ER! I take her to the best places on vacation. After a set of X-rays, the doctor comes in and says “You really did a number on your foot.” Folks, I didn’t break a bone. I didn’t break two bones. No, friends and neighbors, I broke my 2, 3, & 4 metatarsals! Big time! Which is why I have this giant horking splint and a new silly way of getting around. 50 years old and this is the first time I’ve ever broken a bone.

But when I related this story to people, they seemed kind of let down. “Doug,” they said in one collective voice, “that’s so mundane. We expect more from you.”

Right. Buckle your seatbelts and read the back of your ticket.

Twas the night of the Man Burn, and all were drawn as close as we were allowed around the iconic figure of Man, brightly lit in red neon. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a monster dust storm blew up! The wrath of the Playa was upon us! That’s when I saw her: a little blind Girl Scout carrying a backpack of what I assumed were adulterated cookies, being led astray by her guide dog, who apparently broke the first rule of Burning Man: ask what’s in the food. Disregarding the storm, I lept from the truck, racing across the perimeter as gale force winds battered me.

Blinded by dust, I pressed on! But then, disaster! The static electricity from the storm ignited the fireworks on the Man, and the whole thing burst into flames! Now I wasn’t just fighting the wind and scourge of the dust, but fire tornadoes were now whipping across the desert floor. Clothing burned from (most of) my body, I swept the little girl (who turned out to be just 18, lucky me!) and her stoner dog up into my arms to race back to the now-cheering crowd. . .

That’s when the Paiute attacked. Upset about burners using Pyramid Lake without the proper permits, the entire reservation came at us on SUVs and ATVs and other Three Letter Acronyms. Having only Adventure Cane and an encyclopedic knowledge of Errol Flynn movies to guide me, I fought off the taco-selling tribe while forcing my way to the safety of the L3K line!

Where I tripped over some moron’s abandoned bike and broke my foot.

The End.
Brought to you by Vicodin and my clumsiness.

My video of Burn Night:
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
I really cannot stand NBC's coverage. Worse than watching baseball on ESPN.

But I do keep seeing the medal counts, because at some point it became important to "win" the Olympics for your national team. But it bugs me, because the teams are no equal in size. So I've decided to do a quick thing to see who is winning.

I'm assigning points to each medal. 30 for gold, 20 for silver, and 10 for bronze. As of this writing the current medal board looks like this.

1. United States 28G 30S 28B 1,720 points.
2. Great Britain 19G 19S 12B 1,070 points.
3. China 17G 15S 19B 1,000 points
4. Russia 12G 12S 15B 750 points
5. Germany 11G 8S 9B 580 points.

Now, we take those point totals and divide them by the number of athletes.

1. United States 554 athletes. Score 3.1
2. Great Britain 366 athletes. Score 2.9
3. Russia 266 athletes. Score 2.8
4. China 399 athletes. Score 2.5
5. Germany 419 athletes. Score 1.3

Obviously, this doesn't factor in team sports, or events where there is both individual and team scoring. But I find it interesting.

The smallest team in Rio is from the island of Nauru, with just two athletes. If one had earned gold? Team score of 15. Dream big, guys!
gridlore: Photo: Adelie penguin, precariously balanced on one foot. *wobble* is written in the lower right corner (Penguin - Wobble)
Had my surgery. Which ended up being, well. . . weird.

No, not going into more detail. Let's just say there were a few last minute changes to the plan.

Don't remember anything. Although I was evidently at least moderately coherent in a "talking in my sleep" kind of way under the twilight anesthesia.

Now taking it very easy on pain meds.

Going back to bed.
gridlore: White crosshairs on a red background. Text: "Keep Calm and Aim Center Mass" (Keep Calm)
OK, to clear things up.

A while ago I had a PET scan. Normal for me, with my medical history. Around that time we noticed an odd bump on my abdomen that would come and go. We thought it might be a hernia.

However, that was when the annual "State Fucks Up My Health Care" festival was scheduled. This year, they decided to transfer close to a quarter of my doctor's patients from our current program to one no one had ever heard of (and one that never answered phone calls or emails) which made it so he couldn't see us or give referrals.

This didn't affect my specialists. My oncologist, seeing some unusual metabolic activity in my lymph nodes, ordered a CT scan. Which showed some slightly-enlarged lymph nodes, but the accompanying lab work didn't show any signs of my body trying to fight a cancer. So that's something we're going to monitor.

But what the CT did reveal was a subcutaneous mass on my abdominal wall. I was sent for a surgical consult to decide if we just wanted to do a needle biopsy or go full chainsaw. As needle biopsies are literally hit or miss when it comes to getting good results; it was an easy choice to slice me open and pull out more bits.

Odds are this is a mass of fatty tissue or a cyst. But getting it out so the lab geeks can poke it with scientific sticks is important. From what I understand, I'll not be under a general, but rather extremely stoned and numbed. It's outpatient, barring complications, and I'll have a new scar.

Surgery is scheduled for August 9th. Offerings to Kamrusepa welcomed.
gridlore: animated American flag (US Flag)
Over the last couple of months I've been reading the conservative hysteria over Hilary Clinton. According to them, Sec. Clinton has, for at least 35 years, been at the center of a web of conspiracies and illegal acts that propelled her to riches and power. That she manipulated, lied, cheated and stole all through the Arkansas years, was the power behind the throne in the White House, and sold America by the pound as Secretary of State.

And woe to anyone who crosses her! Or anyone who gets too close to the truth, or fails her! According to these very earnest posters, Clinton has left a trail of blood behind her that would make Vlad Tepes green with envy. Cross Madam Clinton and your days are number. If you're lucky, she'll just destroy your career.

And through all off this, she's remained untouched by the law. Decades of corruption and murder, years of investigations that fail, agency after agency standing down in the face of the Clinton mafia. Hilary Clinton is too tough to take on.

At least that's the narrative from the paranoid right. But let's say that every single word is true. The Hilary Clinton is the master of deceit and overwhelming revenge, and can cloak her actions so well no one ever knows it is her.

Isn't this EXACTLY who we want facing down Vladimir Putin? Someone as devious and cold as he is? Hell, elect Hilary Clinton and I expect that one morning Putin will wake up with the head of a Razorback pig in his bed and a note reading "this week, one of your meals is poisoned, on of your vehicles has a bomb in it, and one of your guards works for me. Love, President Clinton."

Just my take.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
And suddenly doctors are interested in me again.

Several weeks ago I went in for a PET scan. This showed some unusual metabolic activity, so a follow up CT scan was ordered. Wednesday I saw my oncologist to discuss the results. No sign of cancer, but there were some slightly enlarged lymph nodes. As always, we're staying vigilant.

I'd also noticed a lump in my abdomen, which came and went. We thought it might be a hernia. Nope, the CT revealed there's a mass of some kind pretty much on the abdominal wall. Referral to a surgeon for a possible biopsy and removal made.

Since I was Dr. Agrawal's last patient for the day, he took the time to give me a guided tour of my insides. So fascinating! Especially when he pointed out internal surgical scarring. What was really amazing was when we got to my lungs. He pulled up a CT of healthy lung tissue for comparison. The lower third of my lungs look like they have thick spiderwebs clogging them. That's cumulative damage from blood clots, multiple cases of pneumonia, and years of exposure to atmospheric pollution. No wonder I have problems breathing!

The final issue was some severe, sudden-onset headaches I've been having. Since I've already had one stroke, I'm always concerned about anything going wrong in my head. I already have an appointment with my neurologist for next week, but wanted to get ground work done. I'm now going in for a head MRI on Monday.

Other than that, I'm doing OK. I was joking last night that I am a complete binary person. I have two states, On and Off. Trouble is I can never tell which state I'm going to be experiencing the next day. Trying to get to the gym and hoping to get more walks in. The new FitBits are great for nagging.
gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
Yesterday I took a nap (not uncommon when you've survived a stroke, you get tired easily) fully intending to get up and write the first part of the Threats to the Imperium article.

I woke up to a coup attempt in Turkey. Since we were just there, I sort of got distracted by the news. But it does serve the point that any society, any government is going to experience instability. And on occasion, that instability will require an active intervention.

Once again, I have to emphasize the huge size and variety of the Third Imperium. There are going to be literally millions of cultures, religions, and old simmering conflicts. We've often wondered why the Imperial Navy doesn't just post a cruiser in every system to deter piracy. The simple answer is they're too busy putting out fires.

So what triggers an Imperial intervention? Any event that could:

1. Disrupt trade over the region. As the Imperium is primarily a trade federation and dedicated to preserving the free flow of trade, anything that threatens that will be stopped as soon as possible. It doesn't even have to be a direct assault on the mechanisms of trade, freighters and the like, but an event that is causing damage to the economic health of a county. Civil war on an important planet might trigger an intervention to lessen the economic impact on the nearby worlds.

2. Weaken the security or integrity of the Imperium. Revolts, rebellions, and crusades against the Evil Empire will crop up constantly. This will be a big problem on the Solomani Rim. Anything that weakens the Imperium will be squashed with overwhelming force. For most of these, a show of force followed by the hunting down of ringleaders will suffice. In other cases, the Unified Armies will be tied down for years hunting partisans. The Ine Givar insurgency on Efate/Regina is a classic example of this.

3. Create mass causalities. This is an unusual one, as it includes natural disasters. Any event that threatens the lives of a significant number of Imperial citizens can trigger an intervention. This is a long-standing exception to the rule of sovereignty for member worlds; oppress them, fine. Genocide? Not cool. In this case the focus will be on both stopping the deaths (if possible) and rendering aid to the affected population.

4. Destroy Imperial property. Attacks on Imperial facilities, ships and vehicles, and sapiants in Imperial Service are grounds for an intervention. Two guys jumping the fence at the Consulate isn't going to be enough, but a mob storming and torching the place is. Attacks on the nobility are seen as attacks on the person of the Emperor, and *will* result in an Imperial response. Starports, military bases, Research Centers, and pretty much anything else with the Imperial Sunburst slapped on it.

So, who can call for an intervention? Normally, it's either a member state asking for aide, or an Imperial official who sees the need for such an act. Every Imperial Navy officer is drilled with the idea that they have to be ready to take action. Usually, the decision for a large scale intervention lies with the Count-Elector and his Fleet Admiral and Marshal. Most nobles are wary of intervening too often, because it builds distrust with the worlds of his county and drains the treasury.

When an intervention is called for, the Unified Armies motto for planning is "Maximum Force, Minimum Time." The Imperium wants to stop problems as quickly as possible. If the commander on scene determines that the best solution is the overthrow the local government, so be it. In most cases, the Imperial Marines embarked on a light cruiser can handle smaller events, at least until reinforcements arrive.

On a wider front, the navy deals with threats that cross space. Piracy, is the most common, of course, and Naval Intelligence has learned that piracy usually means someone backing it. The image of the interstellar freebooter with a cybernetic hand and a flaming eye tattoo is mostly a myth. Most pirates are back by governments or corporations, and set out with a definite target list.

Every so often, there will be an actual interstellar war to handle. Powerful worlds can field their own small navies, and as I said above, you can have grudges that date back centuries. Such wars tend to be fought with full understanding that the Imperial response will be devastating. Such wars tend to start out with cold war tactics, and escalate over time.

This is why the Navy isn't everywhere, it's too busy racing around answering the latest crisis. At least internally. Exterior threats will be covered in the next couple of articles.

I hope y'all are enjoying these. I really want to get feedback on them.
gridlore: (Burning_Man)
Almost all our Burning Man gear is storied in the warehouse at Kirsten's office. Today, we went over to sort it out and build an actual packing list.

This comes from being a solider and a truck driver. I want to know what is in what box, and know what we need to get before we leave. The plan is to have the Playa-only stuff on a pallet and wrapped in industrial plastic wrap. This will increase security if we decide to spend a night in Reno on the way up, and help secure the load. The stuff we'll need access to on the way or immediately on site (the tent box, the 7-day Igloo cooler, and our water and gasoline containers) will be easier to access.

We have four 3.6 cubic foot boxes that are now labeled "Bedroom", "Kitchen", "Consumables", and "Miscellaneous". We'll be taking a roll of pallet wrap with us, so when we pack for home we can put everything in the correct box, put it back on the pallet, and wrap it for home.

Organization is fun.
gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
I swear to Halford the next installment will be about the threats the Imperium faces, but I realized that after the post on Imperial Law, or the lack of same, I needed to address how the Imperium regulates things.

Cleon the Great realized that even with a light hand on the member worlds, some things needed to be defined and controlled to prevent the conditions that brought on the Long Night. To this end, many of the early Imperial Edicts established regulatory agencies with broadly defined powers to established regulations and enforce the same. In the early 12th century, the main ones functioning are:

  • The Imperial Treasury. Responsible for managing the Imperial monetary supply and ensuring the the Credit is the sole currency used in interstellar trade. There will be more on the economics of the 3I in a later post.

  • The Starport Authority. Oversees and administers all legitimate starports in Imperial space. Over the centuries they've also acquired a role in inspecting starships for safety and compliance with regulations.

  • Standards and Measurements Bureau. Originally the Office of Calendar Compliance, this office has grown to enforcing common standards for everything from weights to struggling to keep Galanglic from drifting into different tongues.

  • Colonization and Migration Bureau. Created to repopulated the barren worlds after the end of the Long Night, this bureau now oversees ongoing colonization projects and manages any requests for large-scale movements of populations.

I'm welcome for suggestions for any I may have missed.

This literal Celestial Bureaucracy will have offices on almost every world of the Imperium, even if it's four bored C&M agents who spend the day playing cards. But their main jobs is data. All of these various bureaus produce reports in staggering numbers. Take the Starport Authority. One of the responsibilities of a Port Master is to maintain a log of all ships passing through the port. Name, transponder code, name of the ship's master, and reason for visit. This information is dutifully collected and forwarded to the County capital, where it is collated with reports from the other worlds of the county. Those reports are sent to the Sector capital, and finally, to Capital.

Capital is a temple to data collection. Those port logs from across the Imperium are feed into massive data farms where they can be used to do everything from modeling trade patterns for the coming century to tracking a single ship's travels. Beyond the Imperial Palace and the Moot Spire, the Imperial Capital city is filled with the magnificent offices of these agencies.

From these offices, updated regulations and reports issue forth based on the incoming data stream and the wishes of the Emperor. Dissemination can take years to reach every backwater world, so these new regulations tend to come out every ten years or so, except in cases of vital changes or emergency alerts. I suspect that a large proportion of the traffic on the X-boat network is encrypted Imperial data. Getting a specific report, or changing the data before it reaches its destination could be a fun adventure.

Who enforces these regulations? The SPA has it's own police and security apparatus, as it has physical plants to defend; as does the Treasury when it comes to mints and the branch Imperial Banks in the counties. They others depend on the the threat of an Imperial intervention to force compliance. Or they just hire mercenaries to do the job.

So we have 1100 years of regulations, some of which may be out of date, or ignored, and varying degrees of enforcement depending on the local official. This is why Bribery is a skill.

As always, I'm looking for comments and expansions.
gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
I know, i said last time that this would feature a discussion of the threats facing the Imperium. I lied. Or more accurately, I realized that there was some that needed to follow the discussion of the now-ripped apart nobility. Namely, we need to examine Imperial Law.

There isn't any such thing as Imperial Law. Drive home safely!

You need more detail? OK. One of the big problems in the ongoing development of the Third Imperium is that is was defined by people living in Western democracies for the most part. This grossly affected how we defined a functional government. For those of us living in the US, the idea that we are "A government of laws, and not of men." as put forth by John Adams dominates our views. So we invented civilian ministries and the entire concept that there were three branches to the Imperial government, giving the Moot some sort of shadow legislative ability and assuming a standing court structure relying on published laws.

Which absolutely would not work in something on the scale of the Third Imperium. Imagine the logistical nightmare of a thousand regional courts issuing rulings on the same laws in wildly different ways, all crawling up the chain to the Imperial High Court! Between the backlog of cases, travel times, and the general slowness of high courts, it could be years or decades before the correct interpretations filter down.

No, the Imperium is a nation of men, not laws. One man, actually. The Emperor holds supreme authority over the state, and rules through Edicts that have the effective force of law. Over a thousand years Edicts and how they are enforced has built up into a semblance of a legal code. As an example, Imperial Edict 7 states that "the possession of weapons capable of mass destruction if forbidden unless specifically authorized by the Throne." Well, that's vague. But over the centuries numerous enforcement actions have defined both what constitutes WMD and what the punishments should be.

Most of the early Edicts are like this. Cleon I issued 27 Edicts in the first few years of his reign that defined the Imperium. Edit 4 defines treason as "making war upon the Imperium or a member state of the Imperium, adhering to the enemies of the Imperium, or any attempt to undermine the sovereign rights of the Imperium." Again, a very broad order that has been interpreted over time.

Now we come to enforcement. As I said above, it is insane to think that any court system could function in this setting. So instead you have the Imperial Navy. All naval officers (including Marines) act in the Emperor's name and with his authority. So when there is a violation of law, nine times out of ten the investigation and punishment will be handled by the Navy. Usually this means Naval Intelligence and Admiralty Courts. But out on the frontier it might be the next light cruiser to come by on patrol. A green Commander might find herself sitting in judgment of a group of conspirators against the realm. (Hint: this is a campaign hook.)

So what prevents abuses? Such trials and their results are reported up the chain of command and to the local Consul-General and Count-Elector. Appeals also go to the Count-Elector for review. If that Commander botches the job, she might not only find her career trashed, she might be riding a prison barge into exile himself! (Possibly with a few other interesting fellows, who are suddenly given a chance to escape. This is a Blake's 7 campaign hook.)

Despite the informality and vagueness of Imperial Edicts, there are lawyers who specialize in Imperial Law. They study the precedents from across the Imperium to ferret out arguments and loopholes. They are very expensive, and every good Travellers' Aid Society office has a few in the Rolodex right next to the hostage rescue team's contact information.

There you have it. A state where one man rules, but those rulings are carried along by the force of traditional and precedent, and where your fate may in the hands of a Naval officer who slept through his Legal Theory classes at the Academy.

As always, comments wanted.
gridlore: Army Infantry school shield over crossed infantry rifles (Army Infantry)
This my last comment on the shootings at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. As we all know, a gunman with a entire menu of issues, who claimed allegiance to three terrorist groups who hate each other, entered the club and shot over 100 people, killing 49 and wounding 53 others. He uses a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm Glock 17 handgun in the attack. After a stand off lasting several hours, the gunman was killed by SWAT officers.

Much of the debate centers around the weapons used. The MCX was designed for sale to governments for military use. Read the site linked. It's designed for rapid fire even in semi-automatic mode, and built to be quieter than most non-suppressed weapons. A boon for special forces, perhaps, but for civilians?

Rather than repeat the arguments, I'm just going to point out another shooting incident that was remarkably similar in terms of the situation but had a very different outcome.

On December 8th, 2004, Damageplan was playing the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. The place was packed because the band was the post-Pantera project of drummer Vinnie Paul and Darryl "Dimebag" Abbott, legendary guitarist. The two brothers were thrilled to be back on the road and playing to 700 fans. Shortly after the band's set started, a 25-year-old former Marine named Nathan Gale walked onto the stage and started shooting. Dimebag was the first to fall. A massacre was underway.

That night there were four deaths, and seven wounded. Out of over 700 fans, band personnel and club staff. Why so low? Because Gale was using a 9mm Beretta 92FS pistol with a 15 round magazine. The police were able to approach and kill Gale while he was reloading.

The only difference here was the weapons used.
gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
At this point in history, as we approach Traveller’s 40th birthday, it is time to reassess the classic setting, the Third Imperium of Man. From it’s birth in vague references in Mercenary and High Guard, the 3I has grown mightily over the years.

The problem is it was never really designed. Dozens of authors working for different companies added pieces here and there. Oh there was the Moot, and we knew about the Imperial Armed Forces, but it stopped there. It was the broadest brushstroke of a setting. Which suited me when I was 13 years old.

I’m a bit older now.

So, I’m going to rip the Third Imperium to pieces and rebuild it. Comments welcome.

What is the Imperium?

11,000 worlds, the vast majority self ruling is the quick answer. Ruled by an Emperor and his loyal nobles. But most of the nobles seem to have no real power over these independent worlds. So what gives?

My answer is that the Imperium is, in a very real sense, the Imperial Navy. It’s the navy that keeps the peace, polices the “space between the stars” and has the best equipped troops in known space ready for action. The Imperium is a military state with civilian oversight.

But what is the Imperium? Born out of the ashes of the Long Night, Cleon I realized that what doomed interstellar civilization was the end of trade. The new empire was built on three concepts:

1. A universally accepted currency
2. A universally used calendar
3. Near universal freedom of trade

Using these three principles, the state grew quickly. (As an aside, the one thing I hated about 4th edition more than anything else was the Core Sector was filled with inhabited worlds. It should have been one desolate, ruined world after the other.) This would have been the glory days of the Scouts Service, who cemented their role as the more subtle option when compared to the navy’s hammer. Early merchant princes also struck out, using the promise of free trade to sign deals. It was a golden age.

And it established how the Imperium would run for the next thousand years. The Navy everywhere; gaining more power.
The Nobility.

One thing that always bothered me (once I started reading history, that is) was the neat pyramid of Traveller nobles. Everyone in their little slot. The reality is much different. So I’m scraping the nobility for the most part.

In the Imperium the only rank that really matters is Count-Elector. These counts replace subsector dukes, and they are the members of the Moot. They are the meat of the Imperium’s administration, as they control far more manageable areas of space. The local fleet admiral answers to them and the Sector Admiral. They control the local Unified Army, and oversee a vast bureaucracy dedicated to making sure that taxes and levied and apportioned correctly. The Count-Elector is the sophont on the spot. These posts are hereditary, but the Emperor can strip a family of their office if high crimes or gross incompetence are proven. Not all Counts are Counts-Elector, and it’s the Emperor alone who decides who get the title.

As members of the Moot, Counts-Elector are required to “maintain a presence” at Capital. As this is impossible for most Counts, a relative is usually sent as a proxy. The Moot is mostly a debating society, where the assembled member study issues and provide guidance to His Majesty. A year on Capital is a standard stop for a young noble’s Grand Tour.

Sectors are the province of Ducal families, and only rarely would a duke be an Elector. (One example is Grosherzog Norris of Deneb, who used the power of an Imperial Warrant to retain his title as Markgraf Regina.) Archdukes oversee Domains, and like the Emperor, are limited to mostly long range planning.

Barons are mostly life appointments, and are awarded for service. Most come with a manor house somewhere nice that provides a nice income. Knighthood is unchanged.

A note about Social Standing and noble rank. It is entirely possible for someone to be SS F and not be a noble, or not hold a title consummate with his power and influence. A merchant prince who controls the bulk of shipping across three counties might be of low birth, but his money opens many doors. This guy is probably a knight and should have his home estate declared a baronial holding. But still, he’ll be hob-nobbing with the glitterati while the Count-Elector of a poor frontier county will be ignored.

The Member Worlds.

The 11,000 worlds of the Imperium govern themselves, with certain limits. Imperial Worlds are strictly limited in their ability to conduct “foreign affairs” with other systems. In almost all cases, they are denied jump-capable warships (although a blind eye is usually turned to the “armed merchantmen” fielded in frontier regions.) They are forbidden to make war on other systems.

Controlling this is the office of the Governor-General. Appointed by the local Count, Governors-General work out of the Imperial Consulate usually found in the planet’s capital city or close by the starport. Consulates tend to be near fortresses in most places, and are guarded by Imperial Marines. Because the Governor-General has the power to forbid any action taken by the local government if she feels that it threatened the safety of the planet or other systems, it would unduly restrict trade, or violates the few laws the Imperium has. Governors-General tend to be people who've spent years in the Imperial bureaucracy and have shown a talent for diplomacy. The larger and more powerful the world, the lighter the Governor-General has to tread.

Sadly, there have been thousands of instances of Governors-General using their positions to enrich themselves through corruption, theft, and in one notable case, co-running a pirate fleet with the world’s system defense commander.

Less populated worlds tend to have a Colonial Administrator assigned instead, leading a much smaller office. On very low-population planets, the Administrator could also be the Starport Authority Port Master, the Customs Officer, and run the best bar in town (it’s the only bar.) Such assignments are seen either as stepping stones to bigger and better things, or the inglorious end after not making the right moves to further a career.

In all of these levels, from the Count-Elector down to the Governor-General, the key problem is time. Even if you have a courier ready to go, the minimum response time is going to be two weeks. So at every level, you will find leaders taking action. Sometimes the wrong actions, but that’s where we get adventures!

Next up, the threats faces by the Imperium, or how your character got six Starburts for Extrem Heroism.
gridlore: (Burning_Man)
Black Rock Playa
(ttto: "New York Minute" by the Eagles)

Since this was a really quick job, I left a lot of lines intact.

Billy got up
Headed out the door
Went out to the Playa
Was never seen no more
They found his clothing
Scattered outside the Empire Store
And he won't be down at the office in the morning

He had a home
The love of a girl
But men get lost sometimes
As the city unfurls
One day he crossed that line
And he was too much in this world
But I guess it doesn't matter anymore

On the Black Rock Playa
Everything can change
On the Black Rock Playa
Things can get pretty strange
On the Black Rock Playa
Everything can change
On the Black Rock Playa

Lying here in the darkness
I hear the noise camps' beat
Somebody dancing at a rave
Somebody's brittle and weak
You find a camp that partially sane
You better hold it close all week
The wolf is always at the door

On the Black Rock Playa
Everything can change
On the Black Rock Playa
Things can get pretty strange
On the Black Rock Playa
Everything can change
On the Black Rock Playa

And in this time
When darkness falls to fires
And people come home
To this place they love
You better take a fool's advice
And take care of your own
One day they're here
Next day they're gone

I pulled my coat over my shoulders
And took a walk through the Temple gates
Strangers milling around me
The glowing city in the distance waits
A funeral program pinned to a tower
A desperate note from the heart,
"I'm here all alone, please come back"

What the head makes cloudy
The heart makes very clear
Those days were so much brighter
In the time when we were there
I know that someday next year
We'll make these dark clouds disappear
Until that day, I have to believe
I believe, I believe...

On the Black Rock Playa
Everything can change
On the Black Rock Playa
Things can get pretty strange
On the Black Rock Playa
Everything can change
On the Black Rock Playa

On the Black Rock Playa...
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
My schedule for Baycon. Note, as part of the Yak Mil Panel joke, you won't see me listed in the program book for two of my three panels. Trust me, I will be there.

Next Year in New Jeruslaem: Religion and Expansion Into Space
Saturday 13:00 - 14:30, Connect 4 (San Mateo Marriott)

Many religions have specific requirements, such as facing a holy site during prayer, or required pilgramages for the faithful. How do you do that when you are many AU or even light years from Earth? We will discuss both some of the troubles the religious will face, and how religions adapt.

ElizaBeth Gilligan, G. David Nordley, Tom Saidak, Randy Smith, David Gerrold

Domestic Sales Of Yak Milk

Sunday 08:00 - 09:00, Connect 4 (San Mateo Marriott)

Expert in the field Doug Berry presents his current research.

Douglas Berry

The Lost Solar System

Sunday 10:00 - 11:30, Connect 4 (San Mateo Marriott)

Before we started sending probes everywhere, we had a very different view of our solar system. Come discuss Martian canals and the Swamp-Men of Venus!

Jay Reynolds Freeman

And the usual reminder. Due to my stroke, I may not remember you. Even if I've known you for years. If I give you a blank look, please just re-introduce yourself and remind me how we know each other. That usually works.


gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)

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