Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Bears Discover Skin-Walking

Way back in middle school or high school I read the short story "Bears Discover Fire" by Terry Bisson, and I thought it had the seed of a fun RPG encounter.

I imagined bears who'd discovered vodka ("is there a bear in the woods?"),  who'd discovered specialization of labor (and wore simple heraldry depicting their profession), and were governed by a Grand High Poo(h)b(e)ah. These Ursuevelts would brew a gummi wine, and bake golems (teddy grahams) in emergencies. The cubs would be as bribable as Ewoks, and the adults as implacable as the Hoth Gnophkeh.

But ultimately that only amounts to background flavor. It doesn't stand on its own. Any adventure where the party just happens across them would play the same with a different wacky village swapped in their place. It needs hooks and conflict.

A decade or two later I'm reading Legacy of the Bieth's Tundra Encounter Table, and I pause at the Neanderthal entry. Why does a fantasy game have Neanderthals? A realistic lense would show little difference between them and modern humans, perhaps less even than between Wood Elves and Drow; a mythologized lense would surely transform them into trolls and ogres. So what are they, here? People whose skin doesn't fit quite right, and who aren't quite as good at being people?

Then I see the entries for the polar owlbear and the orca with legs. Looks like bears wearing the skin of other animals. So: that's the Neanderthal too. The gods taught cave bears how to skin-walk and now there's these bears and they don't know how to get along with all these invasive, johnny-come-lately humanoids.

Yes, I know I'm a little late in realizing this.

Revised Winter Lands Encounters Table
  • Keep the Prey (sabre-tooth rabbits, huge deer, Baluchitherium) and Predator (Wolves, Woolly Lion, Giant Walrus, Remorhaz) entries, with a 1/6 chance that it's the pet, herd or guardian of [roll again]. 
  • Assume all People (Trolls, Nagas, Humans, etc) are nomads and prefix "Frost," "Polar," "Arctic," "Winter," "Ice" or "Snow" to their race, except for a 1/6 chance that they're foreign and lost (abandoned and alone, purposely questing alone, or an organized train of sleighs/sledges). 
  • Add Psychic Warrior (Githyanki/Githzerai Warlocks, if Gith were Predators from the Alien/Predator co-franchise) to the table, with a 1/6 chance of riding invisible flying manta rays. 
  • Condense the spirit entries into a hungry, oversize skeleton of [roll again] which will usually manipulate sound and silence to separate party members in the dark or a blizzard and lead them into deadfalls or ambush, but has a 1/6 chance of conveying a divine vision instead.
  •  Replace all remaining entries with a bear skin-walking as the local People, with one additional skin (owl, orca, mammoth, platypus), and a 1/6 chance of being escorted by [roll again] (if People, they are devoted cultists; if Prey/Predator, they are temporary familiars). 
  • Add a new entry for navigating when lost: that landmark (river, rocky hill, treeline, village) you thought you'd never see again; the wrong landmark; your own trail... I guess with a 1/6 chance of happening on a hidden and useful location the party isn't otherwise aware of.
Who or whatever the party encounters could be migrating; grazing / hunting for [roll again]; fleeing from [roll again]; is a corpse being [action'd] by [roll again]; is drunk and reveling, mourning, or raging; and a low, outside chance of being encased in ice.

The bears would have an additional table for what they're doing, or will try to do.

- Regally aligning large mystic stones.
- Embarking on a poorly-planned expedition against a settlement.
- Wandering around calling for whatever spirits the local People favor or fear.
- Identify something every party member has, and deprive them of it.
- Negotiate the surrender and execution of the party.
- Interrogate the party about the location of another "neanderthal."
- Lure or drive the least robust party member off into the wilderness to die.
- Learn a spell from the party and use that spell against them.
- Charm the party's champion into slaughtering the most hated local People.
- Challenge the party to a death duel in whatever the party is best at.

Though really, any mildly hostile people they encounter could probably use the same table to establish basic motivation; they just wouldn't commit with the same zeal and unsophistication.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

First Look at Sphere-Wide Fighter Production

We know the Free Worlds League is "the preeminent builder of new and reconditioned DropShips and Aerospace Fighters," manufacturing 325 AeroSpace Fighters per year (HM:FWL, p114-115).

Recall that the Inner Sphere builds 2700 'Mechs/yr, with the five Great Houses each taking 7/27ths, 6/27ths, 5/27ths, another 5/27ths, and 4/27ths of that total. We have no reason to think AeroSpace production would be apportioned the same way, but if the FWL's 325 fighters/yr did represent 7/27ths of the Inner Sphere's total production, then that would put the annual total around 1254 fighters/yr.

I don't have a direct way to corroborate that figure, but I think I can check it indirectly by estimating LAM production.

I suggested a few posts ago that the Draconis Combine may produce 270 Stinger LAMs/yr; and we've seen that LAMs are as prominent in the FWL as are assault 'Mechs, of which the FWL builds 34/yr. 270 Stinger LAMs + 34 Phoenix Hawk LAMs makes for an annual total of 9800 tons of LAMs. I imagine LAM turnover would've been figured as an average of 'Mech and AeroSpace Fighter turnover, so, after some algebra...

...and assuming that (like 'Mechs) AeroSpace production averages 49 tons per fighter, we get an annual turnover of 1263.63 Aerospace Fighters. This figure is intriguingly indistinguishable from 1263.89, which is what the total would be if the FWL's 325 fighters/yr represented 9/35ths of the Inner Sphere's production, with the other four Houses taking 8/35ths, 7/35ths, 6/35ths and 5/35ths.

This 9:8:7:6:5 split is enticingly simple, but there may be one or two more LAM manufacturers yet to account for, and I'm not certain that AeroSpace Fighters do average 49 tons like 'Mechs do.

I hate to go to the Availability Chart in the old Mercenary's Handbook - I think I've mentioned before that its biases make extrapolation difficult, and AeroSpace Fighters have the added problem that I don't know what total percentage of fighters are light, medium or heavy.

But unlike the 'Mech availability numbers, the AeroSpace ones actually fall into some kind of order.

Summing (or multiplying) a faction's chances of rolling its light, medium and heavy fighters puts the Houses at fairly regular intervals with Marik reassuringly at the top. The other Houses seem to follow according to how much attrition their average 'Mech regiment suffers each year (ie, annual 'Mech production divided by number of House and mercenary regiments):
Marik = 500 / 60 rgts
Kurita = 600 / 80 rgts
Liao = 400 / 60 rgts
Steiner = 500 / 75 rgts
Davion = 700 / 110 rgts
[Edit, March 16: the JumpShip and DropShip manufacturers on page 15 of DS&JS are also keyed in this order! /Edit]

I'm not surprised that Davion would come out on the bottom. House Davion: The Federated Suns (hereafter HD:FS) seems to list weapons manufacturers from biggest to smallest, and its three AeroSpace manufacturers are all listed after a 60-65/yr 'Mech manufacturer, so a Davion total around 180 fighters/yr is to be expected.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Six Sided Periphery

It's not easy to fit P1e's maps of the Periphery onto the housebooks' map of the Inner Sphere. Some worlds match fine, but others - like in Morgraine's Valkyrate, or the district capitals of the Outworlds Alliance - get twisted around into new positions.

So I overlay the Periphery nations with the geographic territories and I notice that the six territories seem to butt up against the edges of a hexagon. Six territories, six sides - know what else has six sides? A cube! 

Different viewing angles would explain so many things about these P1e maps. There's a few ways a cube could be oriented; based on where the "Draconis Rift" is, though, I think it has to be the first of these:
The "Outer Sphere" is pretty obviously in the top-right corner; I assume the "Hyades Rim" runs along the bottom to the right; and the "Draconis Rift" looks like it runs along the top (but maybe not the very top) toward the top-rear corner. Much harder to guess how exactly the other three territories lie.