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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Traveller Tuesday: Sensors

My murderhobos are currently in a (slightly) de-milled Aegis-class Fleet Scout, and with it comes a truly impressive sensor suite. Of course, this means that the sensor rules in Mongoose Traveller are getting a workout, and naturally I found something I didn't like and that means tinkering was, in fact, inevitable. 

So here's the canonical version of sensors in MongTrav:

My complaints about it can be summarized thus:
  1. Light and Heat are parts of the Electro-Magnetic spectrum. Since they all move at the same speed, the ranges should be identical. 
  2. There isn't enough benefit to using active sensors. 
  3. In space, having the max distance top out at 50,000+ km is pretty pathetic. Just for reference, the distance from the Earth to the Moon is 400,000 km. 
  4. The level of detail given by sensors is pretty pathetic, and again, there's no benefit to going active. 
Unfortunately, I don't know enough about sensors, science and math to fix this problem. 

Fortunately, one of my players is not only a fan of science and amateur astronomer, he's also a former sensor technician. So I presented the problem to him, flailed my arms about in frustration as I tried to describe what I wanted, and he gamely plugged in the numbers and added details.  Therefore, I would like to publicly thank Brook "Tanuki" West, the same fellow who wrote the article on Stellar Classification, for helping me with this project.

And now, I present to you, a Better Sensor chart! (Google docs version found here.)

Some explanations:
  1. So... yeah.  Visual, Thermal and EM are even MORE differentiated. I'm.... not entirely sure why. I think I had it explained to me that while detection is easy, it's the resolution based on the spectrum that differs, and that's what gives sensor detail.

    I think.

    I'm going to tag Brook to answer this in the comments below. 
  2. Level of detail is far more... er... detailed. I like options, they give flavor. 
  3. Active sensors give a benefit! And there's even a difference between using Lidar and Radar! Woo!
  4. If I were being professional, that last range really ought to be labeled "Planetary."  However, I am fond of swearing, and there are two marines (and a fiancee of a marine) in my game, so it just seems apropos.

    PCs: "Can we detect anything more on that distant blip?"

    Me: "At that range?  You can fuck right off."

So, there you have it. Better sensors, expanded range.  The next thing I'm going to do is extend the weapons chart out to those ranges as well  ("Can we hit it?"  "Fuck off.") and then my game will have a nice flavor of We detected it hours ago, but we don't know if it's friend or foe so let's start worrying for however many hours it takes to close the range for better details.

Monday, September 29, 2014

When seconds count, the police are just minutes away

All too often, I am asked why I carry a gun. Have I "bought into the fear being peddled by the NRA and firearm manufacturers"?

While I doubt this explanation will convert the True Believers, an event that occurred in Phoenix, AZ earlier this month really ought to be the final word on the matter for anyone who has eyes to see, ears to hear, and minds to think when it comes to the fallacy of "You don't need a gun, just call 911."

And hey, one of the sources reporting it is HuffPo, so there's no way it can be accused of having a right-wing bias.

To summarize:

A woman -- a widow, presumably living alone -- hears someone trying to break into her house. We don't know how long it took between realizing someone was trying to break in and calling 911, but from the tone of her voice you can tell she's terrified, so I think it's safe to assume it was 30 seconds or less.

If you listen to the actual 911 recording, from start to finish, at the 2:30 mark she says "He's inside!" and there is an audible scuffle as the phone is dropped.

The fight ends when she shoots him.

Later, still listening to the recording, you hear him say that he thought the house was abandoned, and yet, DESPITE THAT CLAIM, when he found her hiding inside her bathroom, he assaulted her.

The police can be heard inside the house at the 6:30 mark.

A transcript of the call can be found here, courtesy of AZ Central 12 News.

So, let's go over the facts:

  1. 6.5 minutes is DAMN FAST for police to respond. I'd go so far as to say it's practically unrealistic. I've called 911 to report that my father was having a stroke and it took the fire department between 10 and 15 minutes to arrive. 
  2. They still didn't arrive in time to protect her. Even if we assume she took 30 leisurely seconds to call police, the burglar was inside her house, INSIDE HER BATHROOM, and assaulting her within 3 minutes.
  3. That last part is important:  if all he wanted to do was rob the house, he could have. But he sought her out inside the bathroom, and instead of fleeing, he assaulted her. 
  4. We're told "Just give them what they want and they'll leave you alone."  Well, what if what they want is to maim, rape or kill you? 
  5. If she hadn't had that gun to protect herself, she would have been at his mercy for 4 minutes until the police arrived. For an idea of how much damage can be done in that amount of time, I'd like to point out that a singe round in a boxing match takes only 3 minutes, and that's done between professional athletes, of similar weights, in protective gear, and who adhere to a code of conduct AND have a referee.

So please realize this: If you still believe no one but police officers should have guns, you are effectively saying "I'm okay with this widow being assaulted for four minutes before the police arrive."

Friday, September 26, 2014

In Memoriam: Psalm-Angel Onstott, 9/24/2014

Let's all take a moment out of our schedules to offer prayers and support to Sabra and Erik Onstott, whose little girl Psalm-Angel was born on Thursday and who died 90 minutes later.

This was Thursday's devotional entry, and it seems appropriate:

Erik posted on Facebook:

Been resting most of the afternoon and spending time with the baby, but...

Psalm-Angel Guadalupe lived about an hour and a half before she went home to the Lord. She got to spend time with Mama and me, as well as her sisters and brother. She knew nothing but love her whole life. It was the absolute best we could have hoped for. I'll be a grown-up and admit I was scared to watch them clean her up and dress her, but even with all the abnormalities she was still the most beautiful and perfect baby that I have ever seen. It was at that moment that I learned down to the fibers of my being what love truly is.

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for being there for us. Going to rest now...

I first wrote about the Onstotts back in June, and I've been impressed by the amount of love and support they've been given.  Thanks to you folks, they were able to get their car fixed and find an afforable place to live.

They aren't out of the woods yet, though.  Between medical bills and funeral expenses, things are awfully tight for them right now. Will you please donate some money to help them make it through the month? I have.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Doctor Who: Ocean's Twelfth

What am I supposed to do with a ringing phone? Avoid spoilers, that's what.

     Clara's apartment is really tiny, isn't it? I mean, mine is really tiny, too, but it's like someone took my apartment and shoved walls into it. And she's nicked Ellen Page's wardrobe.

     Now that we've gotten our feet wet and taken a moment to breathe, can we talk about that new opening? It's so weird. Weird in that terribly fun weird way that Farscape's opening theme was, or the Cantina scene in the first Star Wars film. It seems to be very polarizing amongst Doctor Who fandom, as I've heard it referred to as brilliantly bold, as theremin trash, and everything in between. I think just summing it up as fun and weird is sufficient, and a sign of the confidence the creators have in the show that it can have such a weird theme song, especially right after introducing a new lead actor.

     Time Heist is the fastest-paced episode that we've had this year, suitable for an homage to a heist film. Even when characters are standing still, the lines are delivered with a quick and snappy panache, with Capaldi leading the charge metaphorically, and sometimes literally, breathless in his performance. The major strength of this episode, though, lies in its guest cast. Sabra and Psi are stylish and charismatic, and feel like they were pulled straight out of Shadowrun. I especially liked Psi's insistence that he was a gamer, seeing as how so many gamers are closet codemonkeys in real life, and that sly smile that Sabra gives from just inside the rim of that hood. Both of the actors are to be commended for portraying a stylish energy masking such a deep sadness in their characters, and I would kill for a spinoff mini-series about the two of them. And Keeley Hawes as Ms Delphox. Oh lawdy, Keeley Hawes. She's quite possibly the most English person that's ever Englished, and I've been a fan of hers since way in Spooks (called MI:5 on the US side of the ocean, because of the word having a questionable history in the States and people always ready to cry racism). Hawes is delightfully dignified and politely menacing. 

Queue Kill Bill theme (courtesy BBC)
     Clara's role as “carer” is called into question here with Psi's angry stab at her tendency to 'apologize' for him. And it's true. Twelve is an asshole, and Clara spends a lot of time smoothing things over with the people that he runs roughshod over. I have a feeling that may lead to a falling out between the two later in the series, which might be what causes Clara's rumored departure.

     The Teller. Phew. I really love the Teller. It's such a bizarre, alien-looking creature. In a universe where Terran-normal hominid-form is such a common appearance, seeing something like the Teller, with its reptilian skin, hulking mass, and tentacle eyestalks is so refreshing, calling back to now-classic sci-fi like the original Star Wars films or Farscape, which in turn were inspired by even older Sci-Fi like classic Who. The effect his power has, too, is seat-squirming. The body horror of the inside of your head being liquified and slushed in a manner that leaves your skull caved in is horrifying, and I'm sure the little kids still watching Who were equal parts grossed out and laughing.

     Also, anyone catch all the easter eggs in that list of baddies that Psi pulled up? Abslom Daak? Captain John Hart?

Next Week – Doctor Who: CAN IT WAIT? I MUST CALIBRATE!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Things I can't believe I said out loud #4852

aka Reason #4852 why Erin shouldn't be allowed in public:
[Name redacted to protect the innocent]:
In game publishing, game products are a mix of background material (fluff) and rules (crunch).
I am very very good at crunch.
I'm always looking for people to write fluff, because fluff doesn't interest me as a writer.

I really shouldn't be allowed to talk to other humans without a chaperone present.

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