Wednesday, September 30, 2015

WNW: Ice Cream

I felt crappy yesterday after getting a flu shot, so I forgot to post something.

Enjoy this back-dated video showing a Turkish ice cream vendor trolling his customer.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Datacasters

Unlike last week's offerings, datacasters are perfectly legal for player characters to own and operate. This is mainly because they're a specialty weapon that takes up valuable turret space.

The original concept of the datacaster comes from Marc Miller's Traveller5 (credit where due). It was initially Mongoose-ized by Dragoner, but I wasn't 100% happy with that version.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Put simply, a datacaster is a means of weaponizing a ship's computer, comms, and sensors.

In the Rules as Written (core rules 1e, p. 150), it is already possible to perform electronic warfare to disable smart missiles, jam communications and break sensor locks. However, this is limited to one action per combat round; the assumption is that the SensComms officer is using the ship's avionics to perform these actions, which prevents them from being used in their traditional manner. 

Datacasters simply make this procedure more efficient by giving SensComm a dedicated, positionable targeting system, allowing them to engage multiple targets at once. While multiple datacasters may be mounted in a turret, this is of limited utility given the distances involved in space combat. It is generally more useful to mount datacasters on separate turrets; those used offensively pair well with long-range weapons, and those used to spoof missiles should be placed in point-defense turrets. 

Datacasters mounted alongside weapons may only target ships that those weapons are engaging. Those mounted in single turrets have no such restrictions.

Each datacaster requires a separate operator. Datacasters may be operated remotely, even those mounted alongside weapons that are controlled by a turret gunner. 

TL:  10
Optimum Range:  Medium
Damage:  Special (see below)
Cost:  1MCr
Note:  Datacasters require Basic Military electronics (or greater) to function.

The options available to datacaster operators are as follows:
  • Sensor Lock. A datacaster mounted alongside weapons may only lock upon those targets that the turret is able to engage; an independent datacaster may paint any available targets.
  • Break Sensor Locks. As above. 
  • Jamming. One target may be jammed per datacaster. The above restrictions about targets apply. 
  • Attack Smart Missiles.  Per core rules. A turret that is attacking a target cannot use the datacaster to disable incoming smart missiles; however, a point defense turret (sandcaster and/or lasers for shooting missiles) may do so. 
  • Sensor Overload. The datacaster operator makes a Comms roll to hit. If successful, damage is rolled as (1d6 + Electronics DM + Effect)-target ship's Electronics TL and applied to the ship's sensors. Sensors cannot be destroyed in this way, only disabled. 
    • Example: Karr Tsonka, SensComm aboard the Big Macintosh, is trying to disable a Zhodani SDB's sensors. The Big Mac has a TL 13 Countermeasure suite which gives it a +4 DM; the Zhodani SDB has similar TL13 electronics. 
    • Karr's total is a 9; the attack hits with an Effect value of 1. 
    • 1d6 is rolled; a 5 results.  
    • 5+4+1=10. 
    • The SDB's TL is 13; no damage results. 
    • The SDB retaliates. The Zhodani SensComm's total is a 12; an Effect value of 4. 
    • 1d6 is rolled; a 6 results. 
    • 6+4+4=14
    • The Big Mac's electronics TL is 13. It suffers one hit to its sensors. 
  • Damage to sensors is not permanent and may be easily repaired out of combat (the equivalent of replacing some fuses), but during combat still requires a damage control roll to repair. 
  • Computer Warfare. A datacaster operator may attempt to hijack or disable a ship's computer by making a Computer roll vs a difficulty of 12 to hit. If successful, roll (1d6 + attacking ship's Computer TL + Effect + Intrusion software rating) - (target ship's Computer TL + Security software rating). The effect of this roll indicates whether or not the hacking attempt succeeded. If successful, the operator now has access to the ship's computer* and may perform the following actions:
    1. Override systems as per Spacecraft Security (core rules 1e, p. 107-108). This will likely be countered by the targeted ship's computer officer or an Intrusion Countermeasure program, which can attempt to kick out the intruder; the difficulty for this is the effect number of the roll. 
      • Example: Doc CJ attempts computer warfare upon the Zhodani SDB. His total is a 15.
      • A 6 is rolled. 
      • 6 + Big Mac's computer TL of 12 + Intrusion/3 software gives a total of  21. 
      • 21 - (SDB's computer TL of 14 + Security/3 software (-6 DM) = 21 - 20 = 1. 
      • The hacking attempt succeeded, but with an effect of 1. The Zhodani computer officer can automatically kick Doc CJ out next turn, so Doc had best be quick about his business.
    2. Insert a computer virus. If the virus has already been created, it is a simple action to upload it; programming one on the fly in the space of one Space Combat Turn is a Formidable action. 
  • Note that Computer Warfare is only possible if the ship's sensors are still functional. Turning off a ship's sensors is therefore an absolute defense against this tactic. 

Making a Virus
A virus must be engineered for a specific tech level of computer, and can only be built on a computer of that TL or higher. 

A virus may be made ahead of time by rolling Education + Computer vs. a difficulty of 10 and an increment of 4 hours. (Viruses designed to perform multiple actions increase their Difficulty one category for each additional task.) The Effect of this roll is known as the virus' Strength. 

Viruses may do any number of things, such as turning off systems, stealing information and transmitting it, or destroying information or equipment (by altering the code running the equipment and causing catastrophic failure).  The success of a virus doing this is measured by having it roll 2d6 + Strength + TL vs. the target computer's Security rating + TL. If successful, the program executes. 

A virus set to damage a ship in combat does damage each turn until the targeted component is destroyed, the virus is removed, or the computer system is shut down. 
  • Damage to a component is rolled as above, then using the Effect on the starship damage table. (Location is not rolled unless the virus is designed to affect multiple systems.) Subsequent hits do NOT count as Hull or Structure hits. 
  • The virus may be removed if the computer operator or ICE beats the effect of its to-hit roll. 
  • A computer may be shut down during the Ship Action phase. However, it remains shut down until the next Ship Action phase. A computer that reboots in such a manner gets a +6 DM to remove viruses. 

Expanded Intrusion, Security and ICE Programs
(extrapolating from Software, p.179, Central Supply Catalog)

Security/1 - TL 10, Cr. 200, Difficulty 8 to hack 
Security/2 - TL 11, Cr. 1,000, Difficulty 12 to hack 
Security/3 - TL 12, Cr. 20,000, Difficulty 14 to hack 
Security/4 - TL 13, Cr. 200,000, Difficulty 16 to hack 
Security/5 - TL 14, Cr. 1,000,000, Difficulty 18 to hack
Security/6 - TL 15, Cr. 20,000,000, Difficulty 20 to hack

Intrusion/1 - TL 10, Cr. 1,000, +1 DM to hack 
Intrusion/2 - TL 11, Cr. 10,000, +2 DM to hack 
Intrusion/3 - TL 12, Cr. 100,000, +3 DM to hack 
Intrusion/4 - TL 13, Cr. 1,000,000, +4 DM to hack 
Intrusion/5 - TL 14, Cr. 10,000,000, +5 DM to hack 
Intrusion/6 - TL 15, Cr. 100,000,000, +6 DM to hack 

Intrusion Counter Measures/1 - TL 11, Cr. 75,000, same as Security/1 but automated response
Intrusion Counter Measures/2 - TL 12, Cr. 150,000, same as Security/2 but automated response
Intrusion Counter Measures/3 - TL 13, Cr. 300,000, same as Security/3 but automated response
Intrusion Counter Measures/4 - TL 14, Cr. 600,000, same as Security/4 but automated response
Intrusion Counter Measures/5 - TL 15, Cr. 1,20,000, same as Security/5 but automated response

ICE programs may make Computer skill rolls at their rating against an intruder. They are essentially specialized Agent programs. 

*  Referees with an interest in computer science may insert additional layers of protection; perhaps the computer running sensors and comms is isolated by a firewall from the rest of the ship, and requires another Computer roll to circumvent. Alas, 57th century computer architecture** is beyond the scope of this article.

**   It is assumed, for purposes of fun, that datacasters can affect alien technology due to familiarity either through trade or warfare along their borders. A custom-built computer with an unknown operating system, or one from an hitherto un-encountered alien race, may present an increased difficulty to hijacking. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Erin FINALLY Assembles an AR

I am proud to announce that, after three years, my journey to assemble an AR-15 is finally complete. This is noteworthy, because it represents a triumph of patience and stinginess over commercialism. 

After being burned twice when trying to purchase a complete upper, I finally gave up and bought an SKS instead, because a gun I could actually shoot was more useful than half a gun I might be able to shoot one day. With that purchase, I completed all of the major gun "food groups"  (.22 pistol and rifle, shotgun, semi-auto pistol, bolt-action rifle and finally semi-auto rifle), which meant that getting an AR-15 went from "must get" to "it would be nice but I don't really need one."

And because I didn't need one, and because I'd had bad experiences with an upper, I set for myself an additional condition:  I wouldn't buy an AR upper unless it was 1) complete (because I didn't want the extra trouble of putting it together) and 2) cost $300 or less (the same price I paid for my SKS).

So essentially, I resigned myself to the fact that I would only get an AR upper if I got it secondhand, at a gun show, or both. And I was fine with this because it was a target of opportunity, not necessity.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I stumbled upon a complete AR upper that not only cost less than $300, but also had free shipping courtesy of Palmetto State Armory:


  • Barrel Length 16" 
  • 5.56 Nato Chamber
  • 1 in 7" twist 
  • Mid-length Gas 
  • Phosphate Finish
  • .750" Gas Block Diameter 
  • M4 Feedramps 
  • Forged Upper 
  • M-16 Profile Bolt Carrier
  • Carpenter 158 Bolt
  • Charging Handle

Upper is expected to group within the mil-spec.

I will be the first to admit that I know very little about the AR-15 platform. Twist rates and the like mean very little to me; I only knew that I wanted a 16" barrel, a 5.56 chamber, a chromed bore and for the whole thing to be under $300.

Well, I got three out of the four, and the chromed bore wasn't a dealbreaker for me, so I gathered up my "emergency gun money" cobbled together from gifts and savings and bought the sucker.

I am told that the middy length and 1:7 twist is really good, in which case I can only say that I stumbled onto a better deal than I deserve.

So without further ado, meet Frank:

Whoops, sorry. That's my dog investigating the rifle.



Ladies and gentlemen, my dog Heath. He's part Shepherd, part Labrador, and part Pug (no, we don't know how either), and he's very curious and needy and blonde.

All right, here's Frank, short for Frankenstein as well as Francisco Stein -- he's a Florida rifle, after all, so he's part Hispanic and part Jewish.

Spike's Tactical lower, PTAC upper.

And now begins the fun of accessorizing him and finding out what brand and grain weight works best!

Having come off ComBloc ammo (You have one choice of bullet, comrade) and 9mm (115gr for practice, 124gr for self-defense), the sheer variety of choice available to me is rather staggering.

Fortunately for me, I have a Lucky Gunner gift card burning a hole in my pocket, so that takes care of the first hundred or so rounds. I'm leaning towards 55gr .223 in various brands for my first block of testing.

Wish me luck, and don't be afraid to leave suggestions in the comments below!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #58
Adam and Sean struggle with overwhelming fatigue due to lack of sleep, but still manage to bring you another weekly episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast.
  • Erin Palette brings you some timely advice about prepping for wildfires.
  • Nicki Kenyon is infuriated about how our soldiers are being told to ignore sexual abuse of children in Afghanistan.
  • Erin returns for our This One Time segment to tell us a story about a watermelon and a Katana.
  • Barron B notes the... umm... "attractive" Asian woman who turned her body into a weapon and her shoes into secret compartments
  • And Weer'd gives us another Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk©. This time he calls out (VERY) long shot candidate for President, Martin O’Malley, who appeared on NPR touting his extreme anti-gun agenda.
Among other things we talk about, Adam and Sean discuss Sean's new podcast, The WrongFun Podcast. Do you like Science Fiction and Fantasy? Then you might want to subscribe to this one. Episode 1 comes out on Monday the 28th, at 8 p.m.Eastern time.

Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Don't forget to share with a friend. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
  • Listen to the podcast here.
  • Show notes may be found here.
Special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Get state specific training in the laws of self defense, and if you use discount code "Variety" at checkout, receive 10% off.

Doctor Who: Chekhov Was a Dalek

Spoilers are simply chewing up the scenery. 

It's been brought to my attention that I may have been light on discussing Missy last week. Let me make things absolutely clear: between the lines she's given, and her ability to chew scenery better even than Shatner in his prime, Michelle Gomez is the top Master. The juxtaposition of focused lunacy with Mary Poppins-esque prim and proper corset, coat, and boots is brilliant. She's out-menacing Delgado, out-crazying Ainley, and out-camping Roberts. She's every bit as murderous as Simm and dignified as Jacobi, but far more focused and purposeful. In short, I can't take my eyes off her even as I know she's likely to eat me alive. She is, after all, sharpening her stick as we speak.
"If you're going to take my stick, do me the courtesy of using it."
Last week I did mention that the episode, while full of fun and memorable moments, was extremely unfocused. After seeing this week's episode, I stand by that. This episode has just as many memorable moments but is extremely focused. Were I Stephen Moffat, I would have taken the best ten or twenty minutes of the previous episode and edited it into this episode to make one very, very good seventy-or-so minute long series premiere episode. And while the last episode had new memorable moments, this episode has many classic-oriented memorable moments:
  • Seeing Four and One convincingly displayed in Missy's story. 
  • Twelve riding around in Davros's support chair. 
  • Clara climbing inside a Dalek and piloting it around in a scene that not only calls back to, but almost redeems, the Cushing film's comedic scene of a human piloting an empty Dalek casing.
    • Editor's Note: Let's not forget the big reveal of Asylum of the Daleks, either. 
  • The Special Weapons Dalek (which admittedly showed up in the previous episode) from my all-time favourite episode from the classic series, Remembrance of the Daleks
Gomez and Coleman have an amazing amount of chemistry in this episode, too. Clara knows she's working with a murderous sociopath of unprecedented level, but she continues to press on, not trusting her but knowing she has to do so to get back to Twelve. Missy's gleeful compulsion to place Clara in danger, showing only just enough restraint to not let her get killed, or kill her herself -- at least until they're out of immediate danger and she can try to get Twelve to kill her instead. Is it wrong to hope for 14 episodes a year instead of 13, just so we can get an Adventures of The Mistress episode?
The hell did he get that cup of tea, anyway? 
Now, the reason for mentioning Chekhov: We all know Chekhov's gun, yes? If there's a gun on the mantle in act 1, it must be used by act 3. This episode uses all of its guns. From the living Dalek sewers to Missy's explanation of the Dalek translation software and weaponry to the cables going to Davros's chair right down to the damned sunglasses themselves. I only wish more of the guns had been placed in Part 1, as only the literal gun in the cliffhanger is used here. Which brings me to...

...I was not at all expecting to get choked up during a Davros episode. At least not by Davros. I mean I got a little choked up in Journey's End when the TARDIS was being properly piloted and when Davies was taking a WRECKING BALL TO DONNA NOBLE'S CHARACTER (DAVIES!!! *shakes fist*), but the charade played by Davros was so well executed and drawn out for so long that I fell for it. I genuinely believed that Space Hitler had lived long enough to experience regret. When his eyes, which I assumed had long scarred over and sealed shut, started crying and opened, I gave a little gasp. When Twelve said “Look, the sun's coming up. We're on the same side now” I teared up. It wasn't until his hand started glowing that I suspected I'd been had and found myself cheering on Missy when her serious face came on as the Daleks started to glow and she had to wreck shop and save Twelve.

All in all, an excellent episode. Only real complaint is Twelve making his hand glow. Maybe I can handwave (sorry) it as being a little unstable due to being past his original regeneration cycle, but I really wish they'd stop using regeneration energy like that. It wasn't even necessary, just save the light-up hand until after he'd grabbed the life support cabling. Also, the Sonic Sunglasses were cute, but please bring back the screwdriver. I'm not ready for that kind of change. And I'm certainly not buying overpriced novelty generic-looking sunglasses.

See you next week for Victorian ghosts in an undersea base! 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

South Park: Stunning and Brave

Yes, I'm reviewing an episode of South Park. What has my life come to?

South Park has been on the air, (nearly) without hyperbole, simply forever. I remember it being  on TV when I was young, and when the movie Bigger, Longer, and Un-Cut came out I thought the show had ended. That's just the way these things work, right? You get a good run, you come back due to fan demand, you make a movie. But South Park kept on going. And going. 

I'd also be remiss if I didn't recommend playing South Park: The Stick of Truth. Excellent game.

So, with a feat few shows have pulled off (and fewer have remained consistently funny – looking at you, Simpsons), South Park enters its 19th season with “Stunning and Brave.” This episode is going to be related thematically to episodes done by a few other animated series, namely Powerpuff Girls and My Little Pony. The cold open for this episode is perfect, introducing the new character PC Principal -- a muscled-up frat bro quoting directly from a Social Justice handbook -- calling the citizens of South Park out for previous story-lines, and giving not only Butters but Garrison detention for questioning his narrative. 

The crux of the episode revolves around Kyle (I think. I always get Stan and Kyle mixed up) and his dad being called into PC Principal's office for saying he didn't think Caitlyn Jenner was a hero. When Erin wrote about that particular topic, she asked for my input. It was four succinct words: “Not another goddamned Kardashian.” I agree with Kyle in that I'm happy that she's more comfortable in her own skin, but I don't consider her a hero, nor “stunning and brave” like the characters on the show deadpan whenever her name is mentioned. Especially entertaining learning that her personal views are quite the opposite of most people praising her. Oh, and the manslaughter thing.

Three scenes in particular stand out to me. In the first, Randy Marsh, after being conscripted into the PC Bros, is hung over at the kitchen table parroting lines fed to him in almost a cult-like manner. The second has PC Principal physically assaulting Cartman while screaming at him about the verbal violence faced by minorities. And finally, the scene where the PC Bros with Randy “check Kyle's privilege” by waking him in the middle of the night with noisemakers and filling his room with pigs covered in the word “biggit.” The first scene mirrors the cult mentality that a lot of people deep into the Social Justice movement often display, and the second two are analogous activists that attack their own best allies like Bernie Sanders and the Black Lives movement or Stephen Amell (for daring to suggest that maybe stereotyping people from Texas isn't great either) while also doxxing people, harassing them with threatening language, and trying to get people fired from jobs. The fact that the PC Bros are all straight white males who speak over minorities while ostensibly speaking for them isn't lost on me, either. 

The episode ends with an assault on the PC Bros with a baffling 4-pronged attack involving pregnant Mexican women, taco launchers, Syrian refugee children, and Jared from Subway (despite the message, this is still South Park, after all) before it's interrupted by Kyle being shamed into saying that Caitlyn Jenner is, in fact, stunning and brave and a hero simply go make the entire shitstorm stop, as has been seen often on the internet.

PC Principal is sticking around, too, which I'm happy to see. The amount of salt being mined from this episode has reached epic proportions. It's almost as if it was fine when certain people took joy in South Park taking shots at religions, at corporations, at conservatives, etc, but when they skewer people on their own side, it's suddenly “NOT COOL BRO.” I look forward to where they take this PC Principal storyline, and I think I'll be watching the show regularly again for the first time since Satan and Saddam Hussein had a musical number in a plush bed in hell.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Request for Halloween Costume Help

(aka "Help Erin get her drag on")

So, briefly: last year I did a thing where I dressed up as a "sexy" witch (the costume was, I wasn't) and went to a Halloween party. The costume was such a hit that when I shared photos of it on Facebook, people went nuts and said they loved it and wanted more.

And that's how I ended up posing in that costume for Oleg Volk, which is how I ended up in this poster.

As it happens, I've been invited to a Halloween party this year, as well. And since last year's outfit was such a hit, and because I thrive on positive attention, I figured I'd do something similar. If no one likes the costume, I'll have fun at the party anyway. And if lots of folks like it, then it might end up being the subject of another photo session.

(No, I don't understand it either. Oleg says I'm "interesting." I have to wonder why a talented artist who can make models get naked finds anything about my form to be remotely interesting.)

Anyway. Because I'm me, I like to make costumes that are funny in some way -- last year's costume was part "I was casting a beauty spell and it went horribly wrong!" and part set up for the "My magic wand is chambered in 7.62x54R" joke -- and this year is no different. The joke, however, is a little more complex.

First I'm going to get one of those "sexy kitty" costumes that you see every year at Halloween. (Look, Halloween is the one day of the year I can dress in a ridiculous outfit and not only will people not mock, they will actually smile and laugh and applaud, so yes I'm going to dress in fun flirty costumes because it makes me feel good.)

And then I'm going to supplement that with whatever webgear, MOLLE straps, gloves, boonie hat, and other accessories I can find in complimentary colors like coyote tan or desert Marpat. The pashmina is going to be my "shemagh."

I might even sling a toy rifle over my shoulder.

The idea, of course, is to get a military/outdoorsy vibe for the kitty costume. Because then I would be... the Pussy Hunter. 

Oh, come on, laugh. That shit's funny. I've mentioned this to all my girlfriends and they think it's hilarious.

I've put together a wishlist for the costume (don't worry, I've already ordered the boots and I've got a line on a desert camo boonie hat), but between the girlie stuff and the military stuff, it's going to be a bit expensive.

So, if you'd like to see the finished version of this costume, I could sure use some help. In order of preference:
  1. If you have similar gear and are willing to give, loan, or sell it to me for a low price, that would be fantastic!
  2. If you can help me find gear on the internet that is cheaper and/or fits me better (I'm not crazy about that chest rig, but I can't find MOLLE or web gear in 3-color desert or Marpat or Tropentarn, and most of the coyote tan stuff covers up the chest. For costume reasons I need to have le cleavage showing.)
  3. Finally -- and I emphasize that this is not my first choice -- you can help me buy the costume parts. 
I don't like asking for help, but it's all in fun and knowing Oleg, he might be able to turn it into another awesome pro-gun poster. So if the thought of Oleg taking pictures of Erin the Great White Pussy Hunter makes you giggle... help a sister out, will ya?

Thanks!  ;D

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Quad Turrets and Software

Some months ago I talked about old, practically obsolete TL7 starship weapons. While this post doesn't take the opposite approach and talk about TL16+ weapons -- that's a bit too ambitious for my tastes, as I'm afraid I'd get the numbers wrong and make something far too powerful -- there are some weapons that the Imperium keeps for its own use, and for the defense fleets of key worlds (notable subsector capitals like Jewell and Regina, for example). Think of them as having Imperial ITAR restrictions -- player characters can't buy them.

Well, not legally.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Quad Turrets are the natural evolution of the single, double, and triple turrets. Their weapons are stacked 2x2 and, in addition to the increased firepower of having an additional weapon in a turret, they also give versatility: if you are using High Guard rules of only allowing one Particle Beam per triple turret, a quad turret will allow the installation of a secondary weapon. Similarly, extrapolating from Trillion Credit Squadron, a quad turret will support three Plasma Guns.

Possession of a quad turret without Imperial authorization is a felony that will result in confiscation of the turret (weapons mounted will not be returned), a fine of 2d6 x 100,000 credits, and loss of captain's license. Seizure of ship and jail time of 2d6 years is also possible, depending upon the severity of the situation -- a captain with no record of legal trouble and using the quad turret for self-defense will receive more leniency than a pirate.

Quad turrets are TL10, displace one dton, and cost 2 MCr. to governments; illegally obtained ones can cost 2-3 times this.

Ship Software is another area the Navy tightly controls in order to maintain its supremacy. Unlike quad turrets, however, computer programs are not discernible to via casual inspection, and so are more rampant upon the black market. It is, however, rumored that these illicit versions are compromised in some way; perhaps they are riddled with viruses, or contain subroutines that allow certain parties (such as, oh I don't know, perhaps the Imperial Navy) to issue a shutdown sequence using a coded frequency, or are memory hogs that prevent other programs from running. Illegally obtained versions which are both clean and fully functioning cost at least double the legal price.

  • Evade/4: TL15, Rating 30, Cost 5 MCr. 
  • Fire Control/6: TL14, Rating 30, Cost 15 MCr. (This is due to be declassified soon.)
  • Fire Control/7: TL15, Rating 35, Cost 20 MCr.
  • Auto-Repair/3: TL14, Rating 30, Cost 20 MCr.
Possession of restricted programs without Imperial authorization is a felony that will result in confiscation or erasure of the ship's computer and a fine of 2d6 x 10,000 credits per infraction. 

Next week: Datacasters

Late Monday Gunday

Yeah, sorry about yesterday. I know I should have done some blogging, but I had to wake up much earlier than usual and the entire day was crappy, so by the time evening rolled around I was all "At this point I just want to kill things with my Blood Elf Warlock."

However, last night I had a gun-related dream that y'all might find interesting, because I dreamed I had my first negligent discharge.

In my dream, I was in my kitchen, and I was holstering my pistol (no, I don't know why I had the pistol out). I know for a fact that I had my index finger completely off the gun, because 1) I have to do that to holster it and 2) I could feel my hand position in this dream. And then, somehow, I think I missed the holster, and then the gun went off.

I say "the gun went off" because my immediate reaction in the dream was "Bullshit, no way!"

To be more specific, it went like this:
  1. Gun goes off, bullet strikes linoleum floor, fragments of floor hit my calf muscle (I was wearing short) and that stung like an SOB. 
  2. First thought was "Shit, I just had an ND!"
  3. Second thought was "Bullshit, no way! My finger was COMPLETELY OFF the pistol!"
  4. Third thought was "Wait, don't most people who ND immediately think it's not possible and/or it's not their fault? Maybe it IS my fault?"
  5. Then I investigated and literally found no reason whatsoever that could have made my dream-pistol fire. My finger was still off the frame, there was nothing on my clothes for the trigger to catch on, etc. It just literally "went off by itself". 
  6. Regardless, I was still really really embarrassed by this, because I've been carrying since early summer 2013 and I've never had an ND and that's a point of pride for me. I thought "I wonder what my friends will think of me now?"
  7. I was SO RELIEVED when I woke up this morning and my gun hadn't been fired and there wasn't a hole in the kitchen linoleum. 
Prior to this, the only gun dreams I've had have been the occasional "Ah crap someone wants to hurt me, I guess I need to shoot them now" scenarios and then I pull and pull and pull on the trigger and the dude is getting closer and the trigger is apparently miles away from breaking. I attributed this mostly to worries that I wasn't confident in my abilities, and that I needed more practice and more training. 

This dream, though, is a first. I wonder what it's trying to tell me? If I had legit screwed up, I could see it being a cautionary message of "You're getting sloppy, Erin, and you're going to make a mistake if you aren't careful."  But I very very very clearly remember my trigger finger fully extended and not touching my dream pistol at all. 

So what does this mean?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Doctor Who: Let's Really Kill Hitler This Time

Spoilers exist in multiple points in time and space simultaneously.  

In 2015, Stephen Moffat did something I didn't think possible. He told an interesting Davros story.

At this point I've taken in almost every Davros-related story I can think of, from the I, Davros audio dramas to the classic series through a few of the novels. I've seen how he becomes the Davros we know, how he created the Daleks, and how he almost obliterated the entirety of existence (including us, as we never had seen the Weeping Angels either at that point). But The Magician's Apprentice managed to show us an aspect of Davros that we'd never seen until now.

The war on Skaro has always fascinated me: a war that starts out with high technology, but is waged for so unfathomably long the attrition has reduced it to almost literally sticks and stones. The depiction as silly, sixties-era sci-fi in the Hartnell era (far after the war, shortly before the Daleks began their expansionist era) stood in stark contrast to the gritty war-torn collapsing civilization in Genesis of the Daleks (the beginning of the worst attrition). And it's beautifully realized here as well: appropriately close Genesis's vision of it, as it's mere decades before. The hand-mines are utterly creepy and appropriate, given the Kaled's experimentation with biological weapons and genetic manipulation, and the biplanes with mounted lasers are morbidly anachronistic as well as a nice callback to the WWII squadron that attacked the Daleks under Churchill's command. And this Davros is subtly different. He's no longer the rage-filled bitter husk of a man, but tired. Tired and wanting closure. Muttering under his breath instead of shouting. Too tired to hold his own head up. 
Oxford English Dictionary entry: Fear-boner
Missy's back, of course. Nobody really expected her to be dead, not after the myriad ways that she'd died when she was several different he's of varying degrees of sinister. And she's a complete force of nature, still. Dramatic and histrionic, but never a wasted gesture or word. (A shame she hasn't managed to cobble her own TARDIS together yet.) Clara's gotten an upgrade as well, as there's considerably more showing than telling about how clever she is, especially the bit about circling the plane; but she should really know that you can't make a hashtag that's not about social justice trend that fast. And that was some of the worst fake-typing I've ever seen.
Have I mentioned how much I adore Peter Capaldi lately? He's channeling his own youth here, and possibly a little bit of Doctor House, entering into an old Celtic arena on the bow (do tanks have bows?) of a tank playing a medley of classic rock including a touch of Van Halen's Eruption and Pretty Woman and cracking terrible jokes. I think twenty-something punk rocker Capaldi who did drugs with Craig Ferguson would be proud of his older self here. If you squint, you can see some of Nine's desperate happiness cracking through the lines of his face; appropriate, as he mentions all of his selves are present in some form or fashion. 
I almost believe old Attack Eyebrows will do it, too. 
As a practice in going from setpice to setpiece, this episode is great, with a few really memorable moments and great lines... but the story is very, very disjointed. It doesn't flow well. A terribly great number of things happen in this episode, which is quite different from a normal “part one.” Most part ones spend a great deal of time setting up for the action in part two, but this one's setup for part two could probably be condensed into five, maybe ten minutes without losing much story. I can't wait for this coming Saturday, so my full opinion can condense completely, but I really would have liked to have seen this episode edited down a little and combined with part two for something like an extended special episode like Tennant's off-season or Day of the Doctor.

Still, the episode's got the huevos to kill off two major characters and destroy the TARDIS -- you can't say that about a lot of episodes. I mean, it'll be undone completely, probably in the first five minutes of episode two. Dalek guns don't vaporize.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #57
This is a special episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast.. so special that it has THREE HOSTS! Not just your usual Sean and Adam, but they were also joined by Weer'd, who happened to be in the Raleigh area and dropped by the luxurious URS Studios to sit in on the main show!
  • Erin Palette tells us how a little hard work and some great friends led to 500 fact-filled, informative posts on her Blue Collar Prepping blog.
  • Is the Russian intervention in Syria going to turn into a proxy war between Russia and the US? Nicki Kenyon tells us what she thinks.
  • We are joined by not one, but TWO SPECIAL GUESTS! Tammy and Jenna of the brand-new podcast Women Carry. If you are a woman, or if you have a woman in your life, you need to listen to this. 
  • Someone stole Barron B's debit card. He'll tell you how he found out immediately, and how he fixed it.
  • And in addition to co-hosting, Weer'd also does his regular segment, this time one of his patented Weer'd Audio Fisks. Moms Demand Illegal Mayors for Everytown, a wholly owned subsidiary of Michael Bloomberg, Inc held a little (very little) rally in DC demanding their usual infringements on that which shall not be infringed. They even put out an emotion filled and logic deficient highlights reel. Weer'd takes it down.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please share this podcast with all your friends.
  • Listen to the podcast here.
  • Show notes may be found here.
A very special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and receive 10% off on books, online and in person law of self defense seminars.

Friday, September 18, 2015

SHTFriday: The Florida Wildfires of 1998

For the second time in as many weeks, I blog about something that I thought I had blogged about already, but it turns out I hadn't, so I did it now.

Again, I don't really have an exciting story; it's just something I lived through. It was terribly exciting to me, of course, because I didn't know if I'd have a house to return to afterwards; but that doesn't make for compelling drama.

Anyway, I hope you find it informative.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Odia Dentata

Have a new Salem.
Still not smiling.
It's 12:23 am on Tuesday evening as I write this. 12 hours from now, I'll be on my way to the dentist's office. It's a new dentist, mainly because I haven't set up with a new dentist since moving to New Mexico. Or since I lived in Texas. 

Dear readers, I must make a confession: While he may be pretty and witty and... outspoken, Salem has a badly jacked-up grill. Like, "I never smile" bad. Which is just as well; I go from looking mournful and vaguely menacing to goofy when I do. Yep, my teeth are all sorts of messed up, like those of a feral dog that smoked meth. 

When I was a child, I had one of those nightmarish horror stories you read about where a dentist completely ignores “That hurts!” coming from a child and continues on blissfully with what he was doing. From the moment I left his office I was stubbornly resolute that I would not go back to the dentist, and so I didn't. My parents, bless them, were otherwise occupied; my dad worked (a LOT. The man's retired three times now, after all) and my mother was busy with my disabled sister and didn't have the energy to force me to go back to the dentist. I brushed, but flossing was a lost cause; the crowding makes it nigh-impossible to get floss between the teeth.

Besides, bad teeth run in my family. I got them from my dad, who is snaggletoothed to boot.

On the top row, my front teeth angle inwards. My incisors are diagonally in front of them, overlapping ever so slightly. My canines are enormous. The molars are mostly normal. (Mostly.) On the bottom, my front teeth are longer than they need to be. The incisors are at 45 degree angle pointing inwards and are quite large. The molars are (again) fairly normal.

I used to grind my teeth a lot as a child, so the grooves in my teeth are quite deep and the edges are quite sharp. Were I to bite you, you would know you had been bitten. After moving out on my own, I went through a few years of pretty much abject poverty, as I worked several jobs, both on- and off-the-books, without insurance. The following few years I had a job that provided insurance, but was in an abusive relationship where I caught holy hell for daring even thinking of something for myself. The following years after that were racked with alcohol first, then depression. I continued to brush for most of that time, except for a period of time during the marriage where I was genuinely afraid to ask if she'd seen my toothbrush.

I suspect I may have two cavities at this point. My right back molar tingles a little, and the top of it isn't the right colour. One of my left molars has a hole in the side. I've lost enamel from my top front teeth and incisors in about a millimeter-sized strip. I figure the best-case scenario is that I need two fillings and four crowns. Worse case, some of them may need extracting and a partial denture.

I'm not looking forward to this. There is a very large, very loud part of my mind that still considers dentistry to be a savage and barbaric practice of torture. But I'm sucking it up and I'm getting this taken care of. It will be painful. I will endure that pain. It will be expensive. I will go into debt. But it must be done.

But... to quote...

I don't want to go.

Update 4 PM Mountain time, Wednesday 16 September: My mouth hurts. So much blood.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: the Sandstone Dossier

Sandstone is the codeword for an incredibly secret Imperial Navy Intelligence briefing. How secret is it?
  • It's so secret that before you can be briefed on it, Imperial Navy Intelligence puts remote-kill devices inside you. (The usual method is about a gram of TL15 thermite-analog encased in medical-grade plastic and placed between the hemispheres of the brain, wired to a meson transmission receiver that uses the entire spine as an antenna. One coded transmission and your brain boils inside your skull.)
  • It's so secret that those briefed on the subject are forbidden to transmit the details using any electronic means -- i.e. everything needs to be done either by hand or via dumb machine, with the machine being destroyed after use. 
  • It's so secret that there is only ONE copy of the information in all of the Imperium, and that information has been laser-etched into paper-thin sheets of bonded superdense armor plates. (This is not so much to prevent forgery as it is to ensure that if you see a copy you will KNOW it is either fake or illegally duplicated, and take appropriate action.)
  • It's so secret that the current bearer of the Sandstone Dossier (which is transported in a Secure Storage Unit keyed only to the bearer) carries an Imperial Warrant -- written by hand and signed by Emperor Strephon himself. 
It's kind of a big deal. 
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
The Sandstone Dossier, for all its secrecy, actually contains a very simple secret:  the Fourth Frontier War was a Zhodani ruse.

Hidden within logistic reports, intelligence analyses, after-action reports and asset debriefings, the truth would be nearly impossible to ascertain if the Dossier's elements were not collected and cross-referenced. However, with everything numbered, scrutinized, and laid plain, the following facts begin to appear with troubling amounts of credibility:
  1. The Fourth Frontier War seems to have started for no reason other than over-aggressive Zhodani admirals  taking insult over the Imperium re-opening a naval base at Quar. "Triggered by a border incident" is the phrase used most often. 
  2. Said Zhodani admirals, initially unprepared for war, attacked Jewell subsector with an eye towards isolating and enveloping it -- but why, then, attack Yres and Menorb in Regina subsector?
  3. The entire operation was sloppy and not indicative of Zhodani strategy. All previous Frontier Wars had been initiated by the Zhodani, and each war had a specific goal in mind -- usually halting Imperial expansion within the region, or creating a demilitarized space between the two polities. However, Zhodani strategy during the Fourth Frontier War was overly ambitious, with no way to reinforce their gains in time to hold against the inevitable Imperial reinforcements. 
  4. The theory that the Zhodani admiralty were hotheaded can be discounted. Aboard every Consulate capital ship is a psionic political officer, whose job is to ensure that the ship's commanding officer is acting for the good of the Consulate and not for the sake of his ambition. 
  5. Therefore, the Fourth Frontier War had to be deliberate. But why?
  6. The reader is referred to the Crisis of 99:
    In the latter half of the 700s, high Imperial figures (including the Office of the Emperor) became convinced that the approximately 60 percent of the psionics institutes within the region spinward of Corridor sector were being financed, at least in part, by Zhodani money. The Zhodani were believed by many at that time to be laying the groundwork for a "fifth column" to operate in Imperial space during a war planned to break out between 810 and 820. The Imperium moved to combat this via the psionic suppressions: Evidence of scandal was uncovered (or perhaps it was merely fabricated) and released with careful attention to public opinion. Simultaneously, high level officials at the sector and subsector levels were apprised of the true situation, and both the Zhodani and theVargr states were informed, through private channels, that the Imperium knew of the upcoming war and was prepared for it. War was averted.
  7. Supposition follows: If the Zhodani attempted to manipulate the Imperium though sabotage or sleeper agents once, they might try it again 300 years later. 
  8. Further supposition: To do so on a scale that would prove effective, and within a useful timeline, would require an influx of agents far greater than could be reliably smuggled past Imperial borders. However, wars destroy records and create refugees. 
  9. Analyses of war damage and refugee numbers indicate that government complexes, data centers, and X-boat routes were targeted just enough to create bureaucratic confusion and lost credentials that refugees without proper identification would not be considered unusual, but not so much that it looked like the Zhodani were specifically targeting civilian information. 
  10. These deep-cover Tozjabr agents (usually posing as married couples or other family units) then insinuated themselves into the fabric of Imperial culture, bearing children (who are now fully-credentialed Imperial Citizens) and indoctrinating them in Zhodani beliefs, politics, and cultural values. 
  11. Most, if not all of these agents and their children, are believed to be psionic. 
  12. It has now been 24 years since the start of the Fourth Frontier War. These children of Tozjabr agents are becoming adults and integrating into all elements of Imperial society. 
In other words, the Sandstone Dossier declares that long-term, deep-cover Zhodani agents could be anywhere. It would take minimal gene therapy to have them look like regular Imperial citizens (the odd DNA sequence could be explained by the many generations of cross-fertilization that occurs along borders), and the goal of these agents is to change the culture of the Third Imperium and, by doing so, alter its way of life.

How? By joining society and moving it in directions that are sympathetic to the Zhodani philosophy. People in power can be manipulated by a variety of means -- blackmail, bribery, outright psionic manipulation -- but such people are always monitored, and if they're found to be compromised, they can be isolated and their damage mitigated. 

But how do you defend against several hundred people who are slowly altering the course of history and culture just by being themselves? A local schoolteacher can begin to teach students that the Zhodani ought to be understood instead of feared. A popular entertainer can come out as "I'm psionic -- and it's not my fault! Don't hate me for an accident of my genetics!" A journalist can question the Imperial line that the Zhodani have started every war by demonstrating that each time, the Imperium was up to something shady. And someone in the military or in politics can slowly shift policy in a direction away from distrust and towards acceptance.

How do you detect an agent when they're indistinguishable from someone who sincerely means well? Who acts not out of greed or fear, but because they truly believe in what they're doing? And if you just jail or shoot someone who disagrees with the party line, you will end up creating more internal dissent -- and this isn't even considering the moral implications of shooting an innocent citizen because you disagree with their politics. How can you even know who the enemy is?

You can't. That's the point. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sometimes I have to laugh at stupid people

You folks know I try to keep my nerd blog as apolitical as possible, but sometimes things intersect with my areas of interest (such as gun rights and transgender acceptance) and that makes me go all preachy for a bit.

And then something like this happens, and... well, it's not particularly nice to laugh at someone who is perhaps brain-damaged, but I really can't help myself.

On Friday, Joe Huffman posted a quote of the day from someone who wasn't burdened by an overabundance of schooling:
I think it’s time to put the 2nd Amendment remedy to work to solve the problem of NRA members and enthusiasts and supporters who still live. Time to turn those guns on their owners. When there is not a single gun or bow owner living in the land, then all human and nonhuman 2nd-Amendment victims will be safe. A weapons-free nation will be a safe nation. An NRA-free nation will be achievable by ridding the nation of NRA members and its cohort. The rest of us — and I include our precious nonhuman Earthlings — will breathe easy and get on with it. Leftie pinko tree-hugging vegan — and proud of it.
Now I don't usually get into debates with folks like this because there's no point -- I'm not going to convince them to change their minds, and to be perfectly honest they aren't going to change mine.

What I do happen to enjoy, though, is messing with people, and if I can cause them some cognitive dissonance, so much the better. (Also, I get a bit miffed whenever someone says I deserve death for being part of an organization or owning a piece of equipment.) So I decided to see if I could get the commenter above to play.

You can read the cached conversation here, on Disqus, but in case it gets deleted like so many comments at Raw Story did, here are screenshots:
Yes, I am wincing over the fact that I typed "they guns" instead of "they use guns".

Anyway, this is a favorite tactic of mine: whenever someone says "kill all gun owners" I like to point out they're not only calling for outright murder of private citizens, but also of the military and the police. That usually gets a "but that's not what I meant!" reply. However, this one is special: 
Aha, the "Exact Words" defense, a la Greg Brady. I could already see where this is going, but what the hell, it was a rainy Saturday afternoon and I was bored.
May I just say how shocked I am that she actually knows the word "obfuscate"?  Yes, she uses it improperly, but that's a given considering the rest of her mental acuity.

As a friend of mine said on Facebook: So, she is a believer in "I didn't use those words so you can't pin them on me, even though they are a logical subset of the categorical statement that I did make." This is like someone asking you to pick a number between 1 and 10, and when you say 10 they reply with "Nooo, I said between 1 and 10!"

No...wait. There's actually a semantic argument that can be made regarding "inclusive between" or "exclusive between'. So her reply is actually dumber than that.

But I wasn't interested in making that argument, like I could have made any other number of arguments ("How do you plan to kill all these people?" and "Because no one ever murdered people before guns were invented" are two of my favorites). Instead, I wanted to mess with the life-adoring vegan:
Sadly, she never replied back. And Raw Story has since closed comments (in the name of "reasoned discourse", no doubt), so she never will. Which is too bad, really; I wanted to get the "all life is precious" person to explain why mass murder was good, and war is good, and police shooting people is good, but me defending myself was bad. I was hoping for cognitive dissonance, but another outburst of hilarious idiocy that further discredited her ability to reason would also have been acceptable. 

As another Facebook friend said:
Poor vegan. Protein is required for proper brain function.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #56
Be honest: You didn't think it would last this long, did you? Well, Adam and Sean recorded their 56th consecutive week of The GunBlog VarietyCast. If you haven't started listening already, this is a good week to start.
  • Erin Palette Clues us in to the really great idea of using eReaders as Survival Tools.
  • Remember how last week Nicki Kenyon told us that we should be very afraid that the European Migrant Crisis might mean thousands of Islamists with automatic visas to visit the US? She was wrong. It's SO MUCH WORSE!
  • This week's Special Guest LawDog tells us the hilarious story of Brigadier-Captain Azikiwe and Phydeaux the Yard Frog.
  • Barron B answers my questions about which SD card I should choose.
  • And Weer'd catches the gun grabbers in another lie.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please leave us a review on iTunes, and Like and Share us on Facebook.
  • Listen to the podcast here.
  • Show notes may be found here.
As always, a very special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" and receive 10% off on books and Law of Self Defense seminars in your state.

Friday, September 11, 2015

SHTFriday: 9/11 and Prepping

Writing a 9/11 post has become a bit of a tradition on this blog.  It's not a tradition I enjoy, mind you, but since it was the defining moment for my generation, I feel bad if I don't at least observe it.

Since the date fell on a Friday, it coincided with the day I write my Blue Collar Prepping article, and I realized I'd never once talked about how 9/11 affected or changed me; just how angry it had made me.

Today's article changes that. Go and have a read.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

I forgot to post something on Wednesday

In 4th grade, I attended a multi-national school run for the children of various NATO service members. My best friend was a Welsh boy named Ian, and one day he came up to me and said the most garbled, mush-mouthed thing ever.

Then he told me it was the name of a village in Wales, Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch. I thought he was pulling my leg and just saying gibberish, but he kept saying it the same again and again.

It properly means "Saint Mary's church in the hollow of the White Hazel near to the rapid whirlpool and the church of Saint Tysilio of the red cave."

Would you like to hear it pronounced?  Of course you would. Here is a weatherman in the UK pronouncing it, smooth as silk:

The TMS Chronicles: A Master-Class in Kafka-Trapping.

In 1986, the first game of the Metroid series was released, in which a sci-fi bounty hunter explored a desolate alien planet and its subterranean tunnels in order to stop a highly dangerous life-form from being used as a weapon. For completing the game quickly, players were rewarded with a reveal that was still in its infancy at the time: Samus Aran, the protagonist, was a woman. Since then, Samus has been long been held up as iconic; one of the early pioneers of capable and badass women to be followed by many others from the famous Chun Li and Lara Croft to the niche Aveline de Granprie and Nilin Cartier-Wells. 

I wonder if anyone's told
Gwendolyne Christie
she can't possibly have
been born a woman?
Now, I've long held that The Mary Sue is a respectable, objective source of news and information (picture me unable to say that with a straight face), but this time they really outdid themselves. Now, we're not specifically going to be looking at the article -- plenty of other people have done that already and dissected it much more closely than I'd care to. As far as its content goes, all I can say is “Sure. So you think Samus is Trans based off of some non-canon works, the word of someone that didn't design the character or write the story, and the fact that no woman anywhere could possibly be six foot three inches tall. Even if you don't want (or don't have the talent) to go about creating new characters you can draw inspiration from, there's already a precedent for trans characters in games. Please don't discard Birdo, Poison, Flea, Guillo, Reni Wassulmaier, the character creator options in the Saints Row games, Kainé, Kaoru, Sya, or Cremisius Aclassi just because you've got a bigger, juicier steak you can claim. Besides which, I find it questionable to co-opt an icon of one group for another."

What we'll be looking at today is why this article was published, the tone of it, the backlash, and the reaction to the backlash. Penned by Ellen McGrody (who I've never heard of) and Brianna Wu (who I've been warned against writing about before – fuck it, I'm naming names going forward), it starts with a very confrontational titles. “Metroid's Samus Aran is aTransgender Woman: Deal With It.” Inflammatory, and backed up with little to no proof. In fact, the entire thing seems to just be a cleaned up Tumblr post. No, really. Here's the original.

So naturally, people -- men, women, and non-traditionally-defined alike -- objected. Samus is pretty much universally beloved. Even I am fond of the character (I have the World of Nintendo figure of her), and I haven't played a Metroid game since Super Metroid back on the SNES.

Sure, like any time anyone says anything (I got death threats once for claiming $25 was a fair price for a quesadilla maker), there were some responses as inflammatory or more so than the original article's title itself, but plenty that were reasonable. And days later, Brianna herself* responded once again on TMS, with a predictable article outlining how the gaming community is transphobic for disagreeing. The other co-author's response was... less tactful.

The tl;dr of this entire episode is that The Mary Sue gives a platform to someone with a well-documented history of baiting trolls and holding up their responses as proof not only what terrible people they are, but also whatever community they can be seen standing closest to, while also overlooking the mere fact that the person making the claim must provide the proof. If there were story-canon sources that Samus wasn't born a woman; if she didn't already hold such a coveted spot as a forerunner of female protagonists; if the argument had been framed as a theory and not as an adolescent attempt at an activist mic-drop, the response wouldn't have been nearly as heated. And she knows it. TMS knows it. Ms McGrody, judging by her responses, may not know it, but that's her personal issue. Brianna wasn't pulling her punches, either, even turning to her own allies as examples of transphobic responses:
A moment of self-awareness happens.

This was a clear case of outrageous symbiosis. Brianna needed a fresh excuse to label people as awful human beings, and The Mary Sue needed a new outrage manufactured. They both clearly stepped into this looking for a heated response, got it, and held it up as proof how they're so much better than people they disagree with. Detestable. 

As it stands, given the events of the manga series and her exposure to Chozo DNA, the otherkin have a stronger claim on Samus anyway.

*yes, herself. It's been posited that Brianna is trans, but I've never witnessed her saying it, so until then she clearly identifies as a woman and I'll respect that.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: NuMong

A new version of Mongoose Traveller came out this weekend for Beta test. So, being a good little grognard, I bought it and studied it to see what was good and what was not.

Please note that this is not an in-depth study; this was mostly me skimming through, looking for differences and reading the parts that caught my eye. I have not gone over everything with a fine-toothed comb, so I have likely missed a few things. Hopefully those things are not terribly important.

I have bolded subjects so that they may be easily found if you are skimming.

For brevity, I will refer to "Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition" as NuMong or 2e. The 2008 1st edition will be oMong (Original Mongoose) or 1e.

Here's What You Get
From the DriveThruRPG page:

The Beta Playtest edition of the new Traveller Core Rulebook allows you to dive in and directly affect one of the world's favourite sci-fi RPGs. This is a complete package that provides you with;
  1. The Beta Playtest Core Rulebook, laid out and ready to go! After many, many moons of writing and internal playtesting, this book is now ready to be seen (and commented upon!) by dedicated Traveller players. All that is missing from this PDF is a few pieces of artwork!
  2. A free copy of the adventure High and Dry, a revised edition of the original Type-S scenario, fully updated to the new Traveller in both rules and format. This will allow you to jump right in and start playing Traveller immediately with a cracking adventure written by fan favourite Martin Dougherty.
  3. Access to draft (Word format) documents of the ‘core set’ of Traveller rule books – High Guard, Central Supply Catalogue, Vehicle Handbook, and the Traveller Companion, plus the chance to comment upon them and thus influence Traveller at a fundamental level.
  4. A $20 voucher to be redeemed against the final Core Rulebook PDF, meaning the Beta Core Rulebook will end up not costing you a penny!
  5. If all goes well, some other goodies will be turning up in your Drivethru folders during the playtest period. We have some projects currently on the go that are set for release with the new addition, but if we can complete them according to schedule, they will be offered for free to all registered playtesters.
My thoughts on each of these:
  1. It's called a Beta, but from my sources I hear that this is essentially 99% of the finished game; this testing is mostly proofreading and looking for game-breaking combos. So if you think you can buy the game and sway the writers away from a course of action you don't like -- well, I wish you the best of luck, but I don't think much of your chances. 
    • Also: a few pieces? I'd say at least half of the interior art is missing. 
  2. Introductory adventures are good, especially since 1e lacked anything of the sort. And Type-S is a good scenario, one I've used myself. I just find its inclusion a bit odd, since the sample campaign setting is Sindal subsector of the Trojan Reach, while High and Dry is still set in District 268 of the Spinward Marches. 
  3. As of this writing, the aforementioned access to High Guard et al. is nonexistant. 
  4. This is a nice touch, as you essentially get to playtest the document for free. However, by a show of hands, who thinks that the PDF of the final 2e version is going to be $20, given that the current PDF of the rules is $23.99? Anyone? Bueller? No, I didn't think so. 
  5. "If."
Pretty Is as Pretty Does
NuMong, at first blush, appears radically different from oMong; whereas 1e is black text on white paper with clean line drawings and the occasional grayscale illustration, 2e is a full-color extravaganza with starfield headers and footers and a faded hexmap background on most pages.

I realize that PDFs don't have pages, and therefore cannot be "glossy", but I'm 99.999% positive that the hardcopy of NuMong is going to be glossy just based on how the images look. If you're old enough to remember, just compare 1st edition AD&D with 3rd edition D&D, and you'll get the idea.

(There's also a printer-friendly version included in the download, which I recommend; the NuMong "gloss" means that if I jump ahead by more than one page, I get a message from my PDF reader that says "Please wait - rendering". I don't get this message with the print-friendly version, which makes it easier and faster to reference.)

Now don't get me wrong; I'm not inherently opposed to color pictures on glossy pages. I just find it a bit odd, since the entire look of oMong was "We look like Classic Traveller. We ARE Classic Traveller, just with some bugs fixed and tech updated for modern sensibilities!" and the new book quite clearly isn't this.

Chapter 1: Character Creation
(Yes, I skipped the introduction. I think all gamers skip the intro of new game editions.)

The first big change from oMong is that Homeworld skills are gone. This isn't a big deal, as those skills have been folded into the Education skills every starting character gets. I am quite pleased that Flyer (needed for Air/Rafts and other grav vehicles) is now a standard starting skill. I am equal parts perplexed and amused that Advocate is missing from the chart.

Then there's a two-page flowchart, for people who thought that the oMong Character Generation Checklist was too difficult. I don't hate this, but I think it's a waste of two pages. There's also a curious flaw, likely a typo, in the chart on p.11: it says "If this is first term of Career, go through Basic Training, Otherwise, choose a skill table and roll." That sounds like you get basic training every single time you change careers, doesn't it?

But that's incorrect; on p.16 it says "For your first career only, you get all the skills listed in the Service Skills table at Level 0 as your basic training." I foresee much consternation if this is not fixed.

A welcome addition to the rules is a section on pre-career education, aka college. There are two versions of this: a 4-year University and a similar 4-year Military Academy. Both of these act as single-term careers, with mustering-out benefits replaced by graduation benefits (+1 Edu, automatic entry into the military or a qualification roll bonus, and a chance to become commissioned at the beginning, not end, of first military term).  I don't know why Medical school from Mercenary 2e wasn't included in this. 

There's also the addition of the Prisoner career. Mishaps within the agent, drifter, merchant and rogue careers will send you there, as well as a life event. 

The rest of the careers portion looks pretty standard; I didn't scrutinize every table. I did however note with extreme pleasure that Flyer is now a MUCH more common skill; it's part of the basic training for Agent and Citizen careers, and is included in the specialty skills for Army, Marine, Noble, and Scout, and no fewer than three times for Navy. 

Less pleasing is the insertion of skill caps within the game. During character generation, a PC cannot exceed level 4; any increases are lost -- sucks to be you if that's what your skill roll for the term turns out to be. Personally, I'd allow the PC to re-roll that out of a sense of fairness, but that's not the Rules As Written.

While I can somewhat understand the desire to prevent a PC from exiting chargen with a maxed-out skill, there's something even worse after that: " In addition, a Traveller may never have a total number of skill levels higher than three times his combined INT and EDU."

Um, excuse me? This is a skill-based game, and it's always been pretty damn inconvenient for Traveller PCs to increase their skills. I don't see why this is an issue, especially since the resident Genius PC in my group (Int and Edu 15) only has 43 skill levels after nearly 3 years of gaming. I don't ever see this becoming an issue, and if it does, I think it's going to be ignored. 

There's also a new and better way to learn skills in this edition (still inconvenient, mind you, but less than in oMong), so maybe this is a correction under the assumption that "OMG the PCs are going to be learning skills all the time" or something. 

Ship shares have been hamstrung; instead of giving you 1% ownership of a ship, it now grants 1MCr. for purposes of buying a ship. This is mitigated by the new rule that the various Ship mustering-out benefits now give you 25% off your mortgage; roll this 4 times (or pool your shares, but there are no rules for what happens if one PC rolls a lab ship, another a yacht and a third a free trader) and your ship is free.

Finally, the only available PC races are Imperial Human (There isn't even an entry on the Zhodani), Aslan, and Vargr. Let me just say how nice it is finally to see, in print, a tacit admission by Mongoose that they don't want people playing Droyne or Hivers or K'kree. This is something I've suspected for many years (kindly note that we haven't had an alien book since 2012) and it's good to see this attitude essentially codified.

The rest of the chapter looks essentially unchanged.

Chapter 2: Skills and Tasks
The biggest change here is that tasks no longer have dice modifiers for ease or difficulty; instead, they now have target numbers, so a Difficult task now has a target of 10+ rather than a -2 DM to a roll.

This is literally the first thing I did when I started playing this game, and frankly I'm surprised it took this long.

Boon and Bane dice are new. Put simply, they're an easy way for the referee to give bonuses or penalties without having to figure out how much of a DM to give. They're both an additional die to be rolled in skill checks; for a Boon, the player takes the higher of the three dice, and lower for a Bane.

On the one hand, I like this as it's fast and easy and doesn't interrupt game play. On the other, I present to you part of a review on DriveThruRPG:
Boon and Bane dice work similarly to advantage/ disadvantage dice in D&D 5E. What works well in a light setting like 5E is the harbinger of doom in Traveller. Billed as a system to simplify the referee's job, Bane and Boon dice actually limit player options without being much better than the traditional DM based system. For example, where before you could take multiple negative DMs to cut the time required for a task by several steps, you are now limited by the B&B system to one step only, since a player can only be affected by one bane dice at a time. I used that particular system just last week in my own game. Had I been playing this edition, I would've been incinerated by a jumpcusser's laser beam. The life of a famous drive engineer and his crew ended because he was magically prevented from speeding up his rolls by more than one step. 
So there's that. I think there's an easy fix to this problem: either allow multiple Bane dice to be rolled and force the PC to take the lowest two, or use the old method of "each increment increases the difficulty", or a combination of the two -- first increment gets a die, the rest crank the difficulty. But I admit I'm not a math person, so there may be something lurking within the penumbra of probability that I haven't noticed.

Speaking of penumbra: the Electronics skill now has Comms, Computers, Remote Ops and Sensors as specialties instead of disparate skills. While I would object to this in a modern game, for a far-future setting this makes sense. Subsequently, the Engineer specialty of Electronics is now gone -- likely subsumed into Mechanic.

From a purely semantic aspect, I would have re-named Electronics as Technology and turned Mechanic into Repair, but that's just me. I also find it a bit strange that they didn't do this with other skills; Navigation seems like a natural fit for Survival or Seafarer.

Then there's a goat-rope that is Gun Combat.  Hey, do you remember how Mercenary 2e changed
Gun Combat to be just Slug and Energy specialties? That's exactly how it is here, with the addition of Archaic for things like blowgun.

Other changes:
  • Trade skills have been renamed Profession.  Big whoop. 
  • Science skills no longer are broken into Physical, Life, Social and Space; there's all just one big messy Science skill, so now your Doctor of Philosphy effectively has Physics-0. I don't like this. 
  • Zero-G skill is gone, and Vacc suits allows battledress operation.

Chapter 3: Combat
Initiative is somewhat different. oMong used to be roll 2d6+ Dex; NuMong has you make either a Dex or Int check, and then the effect is your Initiative score. This means you can have negative initiatives, as a Dex/Int check is Diff 8+ unless otherwise specified.  TL;DR it's a needless complication.

Acting from surprise now gives a Boon die to Initiative, rather than an automatic 12+ Dex mod.

Delay is no longer an approved action.

Dodging is different; instead of giving a -1 penalty to everything trying to hit the character in exchange for a -1 to all actions for that round, it now gives the PC's Dex or Athletics (Dexterity) DM as a penalty for a single attack. Does this mean that a PC with a negative Dex mod gives enemies bonuses to hit? I have no idea!

Diving for Cover is essentially "I dodge all the things and hide behind cover" in exchange for burning an action.

Cover has been greatly simplified, and in some cases (such as when hiding) gives armor instead of a to-hit penalty.

Weapons and ammo have traits now. Armor piercing rules have changed, and apparently all explosives now do full damage up to their max range, instead of falling off. Burst and Full Auto have also changed, and I leave it folks better with math than me to decide if they are improved or not.

Weapon ranges and vehicle combat have been moved to different chapters. The rest of the section seems unchanged.

Chapter 4: Encounters and Dangers
Radiation damage has been moved out of the starship combat section and over here. This seems sensible.

Animal creation is simplified. Is it better?  Not especially. Whereas the old system was time consuming, it actually gave you a feel for how the creature evolved and would therefore act. This version is "give it some hit points based on its size, and assign traits and behavior as desired." In other words, the way most referees do when pressed for time.

Sample Patrons have been removed. Goodbye Abber Koja, Desperate Peasant; you were a nice example but ought to be in a GM screen, and the space is needed elsewhere.

Also gone are the two pages of sample NPCs, replaced with a table that goes from "green non-combatant" to "elite combatant" with average skill levels and characteristics. As you might guess, the table is not very useful, even though 2 pages of NPCs wasn't all that great either.

Chapter 5: Equipment
There's a hard-coded rule about selling equipment back for half its value, which is nice.

Encumbrance has been simplified. "Heavily encumbered" is now gone -- you can only carry 2*(Str+End), and when you do, you suffer a Bane.

Now, up until this point, NuMong has hovered in the "quite all right" range; the sensible organization and addition of welcome rules has balanced some of the more questionable changes.

This chapter is where all of that changes. Right after encumbrance, there's a full page illustration advertising "The Core Collection" -- whatever that may be, as it isn't clarified -- and then a section on armor with a big space-eating font on top.

Many armors have been given degrees of radiation protection. This is most welcome. But weirdly, the armor values for most have been increased -- sometimes significantly so (oMong TL12 Vacc Suit has protection 6, NuMong TL12 Vacc suit has protection 10; TL14 Battledress was protection 18, now 25), and now a TL7 flak jacket provides less protection than TL7 cloth armor.

After this are two pages of art (well, art placeholders) for various items mentioned, which at the moment doesn't do anyone any good.

Battledress is now back to being armor instead of a vehicle, THANK THE GAMING GODS.

Then there's another space-eating font for Augments, and more pages of assigned space for illustrations. Then one for Communications, and you get the idea; there's so much space wasted here trying to make things look pretty that the book will suffer for it later.

By the way, whose idea was it not to put commas in prices? I want that person drawn and quartered, because my eyes have trouble telling the difference between 20000 and 200000 unless I stop and count the zeroes.

Radio transceiver prices are screwy. Everything is given in units of Imperial purchasing power, so why is it that a TL5 continental-rage radio costs 15,000 Cr but a TL12 radio of identical range only costs 1,000 Cr?

Oh, look, the Computer section has lovely difficult hard-to-read orange text in a strange font on a black background. While I'm certain that's an homage to old-school amber computer monitors. it does not belong here and hurts my eyes. The print-friendly version is much easier to read.

The prices for computers is again weirdly variant based on TL with them starting off at 500 Cr at TL7, declining to a low of 100 Cr at TL10, and then climbing steadily to 5,000 Cr at TL14.

The rest of the chapter is more of the same, really. Lots of wasted space, lots of questionable changes, and an ironic bit where the guns are given a range but without being told in what. I'd sure like to assume it's in meters, but given how erratic everything else has been, I have to wonder.

Oh, and many Heavy Weapons now do destructive damage, just like in Mercenary 2e. I'd complain about having to wait for re-stats of all the weapons from Central Supply Catalog, but fortunately Merc2e already did that for me, so thank heaven for small favors.

Finally, there are no entries -- none -- for robots and drones. Did they run out of space?

This entire chapter needs to be ripped out.

Chapter 6: Vehicles
This section has good points and bad points:
  • Combat with vehicles has been clarified, simplified, and cleaned up. I especially like the section on dogfighting. 
  • Vehicles take damage in a different way: they basically have hit points, and once they're chewed up, the craft is destroyed. There's no Structure anymore; it's all Hull.
  • There's a system for critical hits, which deals damage to components in a manner similar to the old system. 
  • Vehicle armor and weapons are now on a separate, intermediate scale between personal and starship.
  • The "spaces" system of construction from the Vehicle Handbook is gone (at least for the moment) and is replaced with.. nothing. There is literally no way to build a vehicle with this book. Of course, oMong didn't have that ability either. 

All of this boils down to "You have to buy the new vehicle book, because this system is not backwards-compatible with the books you have now."

Chapter 7: Spacecraft Operations
What's that, you say? I've skipped some chapters? Isn't there supposed to be a section about designing starships, like in every single Traveller game ever?

Unfortunately, the answer is "Hahaha no screw you." If you want to build a ship in Traveller, you'll have to wait until High Guard comes out, which is sometime after March 2016. Until then, you'll use the sample ships listed in the book and you'll like it, plebe.

You're using a non-standard ship for your PCs? Sucks to be you, then.

Back to the chapter at hand, most of the rules are to be expected, with some minor changes involving Boon and Bane. There's a new chart for resolving poor maintenance (you'll find out why in a moment), and there's a new ship stat called Power which tells you what you can run on your ship at any one time. Sadly, Power is just a theoretical concept at this point, as nowhere in the book can you find the power requirement for a shipboard weapon. Again: buy High Guard, plebe.

Transit Times are still in clunky, unusable units, which is something that I'd hoped would change from 1e. Example: it takes 2,000 seconds for a 1-G ship to reach a typical orbit. That's nice, now how about putting that in terms I can use, like 33.3 minutes?

I do note that "2,000 seconds" and other times actually have commas, unlike the equipment section. I do believe the writers are being sarcastic.

Chapter 8: Space Combat
More Range Bands instead of distances in kilometers.

Initiative is now 2d + pilot skill mod + ship's thrust score.

The addition of the Power stat is pretty obvious: the game designers want engineers to have something to do in combat, and shutting down systems so that the captain can have "More power, Mr. Scott!" fills this role.

There are rules now where if you have different weapons in a turret, you can only use one of them in a turn -- so now you can choose between shooting down an incoming missile or launching sand to prevent lasers from chewing you up. In other words, don't fly a Scout/Courier, as you're now screwed.

On the other hand, it seems as if the designers liked my idea for fire-linking weapons, because if you have 2 or 2 of the same weapon type, you fire them at once with a single roll and each additional weapon adds +1 to all damage dice rolled.

Speaking of damage, spacecraft now take damage just like vehicles. Once again, I will defer to the reviewer over at DriveThruRPG:
Space combat is totally, 100% wrecked. Structure has been removed as a stat. As an example of the changes, the normal Free Trader now has a hull rating of 40. Weapon damage is, on the whole, the same as 1E. System hits are now restricted to critical hits exclusively. Where in 1E, you'd get through the hull and the armor, then start hitting systems and structure before actually destroying the ship, when you remove the hull in 2E, the ship is destroyed and beyond, and I quote, "any repair". That's right-- hull points are now health points. 1E's harrowing, highly-lethal, and most of all satisfying damage model has given way to what is essentially ground combat in space with more hit-points. Not only that, but good luck taking it as a prize. At least after a combat in 1E, you could take hull-less ships as heavily-damaged rewards, or for salvage, or something. Now you're just... out of luck? The fact that system hits are now essentially random means that power is more of an annoyance than anything in the combats I've run. While it could have been a welcome addition to the simulation of 1E, it seems like a pointless extra stat in a system that wants to be this light. Several ships cannot actually run their maneuver drives, jump drives, and basic ship systems in combat at the same time, as well. This is before weapons, you understand. I'd fix this, if there were any actually any ship construction mechanics in the core rulebook. Those are stripped out in favor of a multi-book "core collection" philosophy. The ghost of D&D whispers at our airlock again, friends.
Other fun changes:
  • Bonus reactions from high Initiative are gone. 
  • Pulse lasers are now medium range, meaning there are no short range weapons available. 
  • Particle Beams are very long range. 
  • Missiles now do 4d damage! There's no differentiation between basic, smart, or nuke; they all do 4d damage. I'm not sure if I ought to be impressed or appalled.
    •  I'd like to point out that in oMong, nukes only did 2d. Now, I'm on record as saying that missiles were anemic and needed improvement, but they've now been scaled up to torpedo damage!
  • But I think what bugs me most about missiles is this:
    • In oMong, we had the missile chart where it took 10 turns to hit a distant target and all missiles moved at thrust 5. 
    • Then High Guard said "Whoops, our bad, missiles move at Thrust 10, all turns to impact are halved."
    • But now NuMong is back to the old chart with the old thrust times. WTF?

Chapter 9: Common Spacecraft
Also known as "These are the ships we'll permit you to have until we finish with High Guard."

All deck plans in the color version are isometric; the printer-friendly version has flat 2d plans, as God and Marc Miller intended.

I'm sure that fans of the setting will be happy to note that the iconic Empress Marava class of Far Trader has been replaced by a J-2 Beowulf variant.

I realize it's poor form to bag on layout errors in a Beta, but I find it humorous that there are tables and chairs stuck in the forward bulkhead of the Free Trader. And there's no air/raft garage in this model, either.

There is also NO common room in the Scout/Courier -- it's been replaced with a workshop. Why do I foresee an increase in cabin fever among Scout crews?

The Lab Ship looks awkward in isometric, but looks pretty good in 2d. Funny, that.

The Mercenary Cruiser continues to look ungainly and its decks are a mess. So, SOP, really.

The Patrol Cruiser replaces the Gazelle and has a deck plan that I don't hate, but don't really love, either.

Apparently private toilets are a thing of the past, which makes the Safari Ship, Subsidized Liner and Yacht that much less luxurious.

The Subsidized Merchant finally has a logical deck plan.

Ships missing: Gazelle, Heavy Freighter, Corsair,  Police Cutter.
Ships added: Slow Boat and Slow Pinnace, with stats and deckplans for all small craft.

This brings us to page 204. I wish to inform you that 1e Mongoose Traveller ended on page 192 (including a character sheet and hex paper) and was a complete game that included ship creation.

Chapter 10: Psionics
I'm not sure how I feel about NuMong psionics. They are, overall, far more effective now; some may love this, and others will hate it.

The the psi point prices have been reduced and the ranges increased, sometimes tremendously so (Example: 1e Telepathy had a free range of close, +1 psi point for Medium, +2 for Very Long, +3 for Distant and +4 for Planetary. 2e, most Telepathy powers have an inherent range of Distant, but you can increase that by doubling or quadrupling psi price).

The Mind link talent is back,  and Suggestion has been added to TP. In what I can only hope is a typographical error, Teleportation costs nothing -- so long as you don't mind going places naked. (In which case, cyborg the heck out of yourself and become the Terminator.)

The rest of the chapter looks fairly standard, although I admit that I have likely missed things.

Chapter 11: Trade
There's a new form of passage, called Basic, which is essentially steerage or troop berthing: 4 people to a room, with half a dton for them to sleep in and 10kg baggage. It's like low passage, only with no privacy but less risk of death. I like this.

Hauling freight is much more profitable now, although there is this weird thing going on for J-6 where the prices suddenly increase by an entire decimal point. I mean that literally: J-5 middle passage is 34,000 Cr (commas are gone again, BTW) but J-6 is 350,000 Cr. WTF? I'm puzzled by this.

Rolling for passengers is now less complicated as it doesn't involve planetary characteristics (like Rich, High Population, etc). I admit that this is faster and easier, but it's also less commercially "realistic"from a system that previously sought to simulate a lot. I do not like this.

Available tons, and therefore base prices, of basic trade goods have been doubled. I'm indifferent about this, because although it makes sense, I've yet to see a PC group engage in spec trade with basic goods.

Chapter 12: World and Universe Creation
There are new entries in the Government table:  Religious Autocracy and Totalitarian Oligarchy have been added.

Here's another great example of page wastage: the Cultural Differences table, that took just one page (p.117) of oMong, now take up two in NuMong (p.230-231). So they have room to waste like this, and the book is already over 1e's pagecount, but a starship creation system is too much to add...

In a welcome change, Starport Classes now get a bonus or penalty to their 2d6 rolls based on the population of their planets.

Chapter 13: Sindal Sub-Sector
The book concludes with 10 pages on a subsector within the Trojan Reach. This by itself is not a bad thing; the Pirates of Drinax campaign is within the Reach, and the sector hasn't gotten as much love as the Spinward Marches.

Why, then, did the writers include as their introductory adventure High and Dry, which is set in the Spinward Marches and which has plot hooks designed to keep PCs within the Marches? I think this is a missed opportunity; the adventure should have been re-written to better place it within Sindal subsector.

That said, I like the writeup; it's always nice to see new segments of the Travellerverse opened up, and Dolberg, especially, is an amusing planet.

Is This Worth Buying?
Short answer: No.

Long answer: The new material is worth maybe 10 bucks, and the rules fixes aren't that remarkable. I'm not impressed with most of the changes, and making ship generation part of a separate book is an unpardonable sin for a game called Traveller. This could have been mitigated in a few ways, though:
  1. We could have been given a graph showing how power plants generate Power, and the Power costs of weapons, so that players could make changes to their own ships. 
  2. All ship elements could have been cut from this book altogether, with the disclaimer that "Ships will be addressed when High Guard comes out. Until then, continue using the old system."
I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the reasons ship design was cut from the book was because the rules for it have changed such that it renders all previous ship books (Merchants and Gunboats, Fighting Ships, Merchants and Cruisers, Trillion Credit Squadron) incompatible with the current system. Buy them all again, plebe!

So unless you enjoy nitpicking, arguing on the internet, or fighting what is likely a hopeless battle to change things you don't like, then stay away from this. Your old Traveller books will work just fine, and given how character creation has changed very little, further adventures ought to be easily compatible.

I'm STILL annoyed there isn't a Droyne book, though, and won't be for some time, if ever. After all, the "core" books have to be printed in time for GenCon 2016.

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