Expecto Patreonum!

Become a patron via my Patreon page and you can help me produce quality nerdy things.

For more information on how this works, please read this post. Thanks!

Friday, February 27, 2015

SHTFriday: Prepping and Magic: the Gathering

In perhaps my geekiest column yet (well -- maybe not here, but definitely over at Blue Collar Prepping), I compare assembling a bug-out bag to building a Magic: the Gathering deck, and it makes a surprising amount of sense.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Morales vs Thor: A Study in Contrast

Pardon me while I plug in my waffle iron once again. This really should be the last time that have to bring up female Thor.

In fixing my poor education on the subject of Peter Parker, I've recently read through the last half of his Ultimate Spider-Man run, into the second volume that culminates in the death of Peter Parker and the rebirth of the character of Spider-Man as Miles Morales. It's something that echoes and contrasts nicely the difference in the handling between Miles Morales and the mystery female Thor.

The main contrast between these two situations is the respect in which the handover from seasoned hero to rookie newcomer is handled. In Spider-Man's case, there was an epic six-issue final battle in which Normon Osborn, as a hulked-out Green Goblin, escapes SHIELD custody, springing some of Spidey's biggest and baddest adversaries in the process and begins a hunt that ends at Aunt May's house. Spidey, Human Torch, and Iceman face off against Goblin, Vulture, Electro, Sandman, and Kraven. Parker is particularly heroic, having just survived being shot through the torso taking a bullet that was meant for Captain America, as he webs himself shut and drags himself to the battle, before crushing Goblin with a truck. Aunt May even gets a shining moment of awesome as she shoots Electro down with her own revolver. And in the end, Parker is given a magnificently noble send-off, in which a young boy is standing in the crowd watching as the life slips away from him, and he finally makes peace with being unable to save his Uncle Ben. A young boy named Miles Morales.

Morales's uncle is the Ultimate universe version of The Prowler, a professional burglar (that bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Deadpool) who does a job on Oscorp labs only to unwittingly provide a ride to an enhanced spider that ends up biting his nephew. The first 10 or so issues, as far as I've read, of Morales has him treating Peter Parker's legacy with awe and reverence, and rightly so. He's a young kid, younger even than Parker was, coming from a different background and a different life experience. His Uncle Ben moment comes when, after discovering his powers, he gets to the scene of the final battle too late, and blames himself for Parker dying. His appearances are initially met with hostility, then slow acceptance, particularly with Jessica Drew, Parker's female clone and Spider-Woman of the Marvel Ultimate universe. Morales has a natural and believable amount of self-doubt for someone of his age. A palpable sense of “Who am I to take Spider-Man's place?”

Pictured: The Absorbing Strawman
Pictured: Character Assassination
on a female villain.
The new Thor... does not take this approach.
Contrasting between
Morales and Thor, one subject is treated with a great deal of respect, where the other is not. Where Parker got a hero's death, and a supporting cast that transfers into the new character's life to both keep him grounded and teach him how to be Spider-Man, Thor gets none of these benefits. Where Morales is both well-established and likeable, the new Thor is flippant (in her own mind) and arrogant (in addressing other characters). Morales's book shows minority characters interacting naturally with one another as well as established characters while Thor's book turns a pair of established villains into a strawman anti-feminist critic and a pushover girl-power cheerleader. We get to know Morales as a human being and as a budding hero, where Thor just plops a stranger in front of us and says “We're not going to tell you who this is, but you're going to like her whether you like it or not!”

And finally, Parker is treated with respect. Given a hero's death and a lasting legacy. Thor is turned into a drunken layabout with a deified case of depression. Ultimate Spider-Man is how you go about replacing a hero. Thor is how you go about disrespecting your own property and alienating fans for clickbait attention.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

WNW: Machine Gun Antics

This video seems to be making the rounds of the gunblogs, and since Wednesday is my "phone it in so I can write for money" day, I figured what the hell:

h/t to Joe Huffman for the link.

Speaking of machine guns, here is the cutest little full-auto I've ever seen:

I want one of these so, so much. Even if the ammo expenditure at current .22LR prices makes me weep.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Starship Weapons Revisited

In a Traveller group I frequent, Ian Stead said "MGT missiles are weak, 2d6 is far better damage."  This got me to thinking, and as my players know, bad things happen whenever I think.

My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.

My thought was, quite simply, "How game-breaking it would be for Mongoose if all missile damage increased +1d6?"  This is a question I have to approach carefully, because I'm already experiencing some arms inflation within my game.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, I like having triple particle beams, and don't see the need to fix errors that Mongoose introduced into the system. However, this did have an unforeseen side effect: If a single particle beam does 3d6 damage, then a triple turret does 9d6... and so why would anyone install a 50 ton particle bay that only does 6d6 damage?  

My initial inclination was simply to increase damage, but it was pointed out to me that, due to math, this would result in bays that were ridiculously powerful. The other simple option was to invoke Rules as Written and say "OK, only one particle beam per turret."  I didn't like this option, either, as it resulted in too may ship refits.

I eventually worked out a compromise which came about as a result of me hashing it out with my players. This was fun, because while they benefit immensely from 3 particle beams in a turret, they also know they lose if they make things too powerful. This is because their GM plays by the rule of "If it works for you, then it works for everyone else in the game," and I've already proven I am far more evil than they are.

So here are the rule adjustments we came up with:

Turret Weapons
  • Separate weapons within the same turret may be fired independently, or linked to fire at once. 
  • Linked weapons must be of the same type and have the same upgrades.
  • Linked weapons require only one roll to hit.
    • If that roll succeeds, all linked weapons hit, and in the same location, meaning all damage is delivered at once. 
    • If that roll fails, all linked weapons miss. 
  • Unlinked weapons may fire individually. 
    • Individually fired weapons roll for damage separate from each other. 
    • One unlinked weapon missing still allows other weapons to roll to hit. 

Bay Weapons
  • Due to the focusing components, power supply, and other apparatus within a bay, each 50 tons of bay gives a free upgrade. 
  • This upgrade stacks with others due to technology. 
    • Therefore a 50 ton bay could have Mega High Yield (all 1s, 2s and 3s on damage dice are counted as 4s), and a 100 ton bay could have Ultra High Yield (1234s become 5s). 
    • Or you could stack 2 double upgrades where you normally couldn't, like Accurate and Variable Range. 
  • Bays become more versatile, and while scary hopefully aren't game-breakingly powerful. 

Hero class Trader fires! by Drell-7

So now that I've told you what we've worked out, let me muse out loud about Missiles.

My biggest complaint regarding missiles is that a lot of combat -- or at least the combat I've run -- takes place at such distances that missiles can be quite leisurely intercepted before they reach their targets. Zero time-to-target energy weapons are preferable to me, both for dramatic pacing and because they require less bookkeeping.

But missiles are a part of Traveller, and I can't just stop using them. And since I've already written two different posts about them, it seems a waste not to use them.

The problem here is that missiles are both slow and weak -- a nuke does as much damage as a beam laser (plus some radiation damage) and basic & smart missiles are the same as pulse lasers. It seems like they ought to have a damage boost, but I don't know what the repercussions would be. Torpedoes, aka "heavy missiles", are currently 4d6 damage... with nukes being 3d6, would they require an upgrade? Or are they fine as they are?  I don't know.

Finally, I think that missiles are just too damn easy to shoot down. I have a notion that Smart missiles ought to be able to "evade" point defense via a roll... perhaps rolling 2d6 vs. the point defense gunner, with the higher roll winning? It  would certainly make Smart missiles smarter, and would counteract their vulnerability to ECM spoofing (which is a weakness their Basic brethren lack), but does it make them too smart?  I don't yet know.

I think these notions are worth investigating. But what do YOU think? Leave a comment below. Let's hash this out!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Gunday: Firearms and Fashion

Recently on Der Lederhosen, I was introduced to a new friend (hi Rinnie!) who knew nothing abut shooting, but wanted to learn how . It turns out this new friend is actually shorter than I am -- I know! I was shocked as well! --and at 5'2.5", she had difficulty getting her hands around most pistol grips at her first trip to the range.

She felt bad about this, and then I busted out a peculiar bit of Palette wisdom that I've been saying for years. I thought I'd said it on this blog, but a search doesn't turn it up. So let me lay it on you now:

Erin's Firearm-Wardrobe Analogy (EFWA)
  1. Picking out a gun is like picking out clothing at the store:  You need to try it on before you take it home with you. 
  2. Much like good clothing, the fit of a firearm can be tailored to an individual. The more you pay, the better the fit. Go cheap, and one size will have to fit all. 
  3. Long guns are like coats: Really, you're more worried about the style (caliber/ magazine capacity/ semi or bolt) than you are about whether or not it fits. Yes, shorter people need shorter guns with shorter lengths of pull, but that's the same as finding the right size coat to fit your shoulders. Once you find the right size of the style you like, generally all of those coats will fit you all the time. 
  4. Pistols, however, are like shoes: Intensely personal choices that need to be worn, and what suits your friend with identical measurements might not suit you at all. Walk around with it and see if it's comfortable; it might be the right length but too wide, or slightly too small for comfort, or maybe that one protrusion rubs uncomfortably. Test as many as you can, and be as picky as you want, because ill-fitting shoes and an ill-fitting gun are both terrible things to have to wear. 
  5. To further the analogy: ammunition type/ weight/ pressure compares to heel height, sandals vs. pumps, etc. Sure, you can experiment with different rifle rounds, but the mass of the stock will eliminate the felt difference between most. But change the grain weight or the pressure of a handgun cartridge and you're likely gonna feel it -- just like you'll feel the difference between a two-inch heel and a three-inch. 
  6. Finally, purses = holsters. You're going to acquire a ton of them to go with your various outfits. Some are old favorites you'll return to over and over; some will go with only a few ensembles; and some will be worn once, then tossed into the closet to gather dust. Accept this, embrace it, learn to live it. 
While there will never be any agreement on what constitutes a firearm version of a Little Black Dress, one thing is certain: While individual fashion sense varies, fit and function are fundamental. 

Don't suffer for the sake of firearm beauty!

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #27

Episode 27 is up!
  • Adam and Sean celebrate their new logo:
  • Erin Palette helps out when Sean needs advice on what he should have in his prepper pantry. 
  • Nicki Kenyon reminds us that despite all the talk of 50 Shades of Grey and Gwyneth Paltrow's steaming nether regions, ISIS is still slaughtering people. 
  • Miguel Gonzalez and Sean argue about "Real Guns." Pro-tip: Don't get a Taurus Judge. 
  • Barron B. tells us all the interesting things we can do with the $35 Raspberry Pi computer. 
  • and Weer'd deconstructs the anti-gunner mythologies about so-called "waiting periods." 
Check us out!
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Don't forget to share with a friend!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

This looks really, Really, REALLY COOL

These were brought to my attention and they look super-nifty keen.

Similar in use to the Drama Deck from TORG, but made for D&D/Pathfinder, they allow a player to salvage a run of crappy luck with a one-time use card. And they can be given out as rewards for good roleplaying or being clever without worrying about breaking the game.
It's also similar to 7th Sea's Drama Dice mechanic, whereby whenever a player uses a card to improve a roll, that resource is turned over to the Game Master to be used to make the players' lives more complicated.
Plus there are ways to "power up" by trading in a set number of cards to draw from the Epic Hero Deck.

Everyone who plays D&D or Pathfinder really should consider backing this project -- and it's already fully funded, so you aren't going to get a broken heart by supporting a lost cause! I am looking forward to getting my hands on some and seeing what kind of change it brings to a game.

Go to their Kickstarter page and see what else you can unlock!

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.