M. Jared Swenson Productions

This blog chronicles my projects, developments, and all things related to tabletop gaming. I will try to avoid rants and reviews. Mostly games I'm developing, and progresses from my campaigns.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Star*Drive Saturday: Austrin-Ontis Unlimited

Last week I gave a brief history and set-up for the Star*Drive universe. Now I will be going through each of the stellar nations that make up old space.

If you love guns in the 26th century, then you are probably an adventurer. If you really really really really love guns in the 26th century. Then you are probably an Austrin.
  • Population: 646 Billion Sentients
  • Founding Year: 2112
  • GW2 Alliance: Profit Confederation
  • Capital World: Powder
  • Dominant Faith: Old Earth Faiths
  • Notable Locations: Galvin, Algremron System (Verge world - currently contested with the Thuldan Empire)
Arms dealers are nothing new to human history. Austrin-Ontis Unlimited is a corporate nation founded on weapon supply. Two independent companies, Austrin Arms (personal firearms and home protection), and Ontis Ordinance (military grade weaponry), merged in 2112 and set off to claim their own worlds. It now stands as a combination of a corporate stellar nation and a confederation of rugged colonies.

The right to bear arms is sacred to an Austrin, and they will all fight to defend it. There is no polite way to say it, Austrins are a little gun-crazy. They believe violence is the crucible of character, and even a somewhat quaint notion of personal honor. The conditioning for a life of action and heroism begins soon after birth. In childhood games of marines and bug-eyed monsters, school vs school battles, and serious adult duels, Austrins learn not to shy away from confrontation or competition. The Austrin psyche requires brave deeds. They recognize the inbred human need for violence and doesn't try to supress it, instead, it provides healthy ways to express their violent urges. In adult years pistol duels are common. As long as both parties consent, murder is legal in Austrin-Ontis law.

Austrins tend to be direct honest folk. Fans and foes alike agree that they as a group lack deceit; they tell it as they see it. This trait and its fame serve them well in their trading throughout the galaxy. Integrity and lack of duplicity are points of pride. Austrins manifest these traits in their trading, too; frequent and willing demonstration of their finest wares is a hallmark of Austrin-Ontis commerce.

Paraphrased from: David Eckleberry, and Richard Baker. Star*Drive Campaign Setting. Wizards of the Coast, Inc. P.O. Box 707 Renton, WA. 98057-0707: Wizards of the Coast / TSR, 1998.

Rogue Space Character Ideas
The bond between and Austrin and his/her trusty sidearm transcend ready understanding. Perhaps centuries of reinforcement have enhanced hand-eye coordination. Or maybe years of coolness under fire. A player may choose to be an Austrin for his/her race (human only) during character creation. Doing so they gain a +1 bonus to any tests in using personal firearms.

The Demonstrative Salesman
Character Background: Traveling Salesman
High Attributes: Fighting and Empathy
Archetype: Rogue
A salesman always looking for trouble. Not for mischief, but for an opportunity to show off the efficacy of Austrin Arms. Quickly and obnoxiously pointing out to enemies and allies alike the superior weapon brand as he uses it with practice precision, and a cheesy smile. Kicking ass and taking orders.
"There, now you see how cleanly I took the head off your comrade? Only that precise of a blast can be accomplished with the Merrick's Personal Security 41A Charge Rifle. Much more effective than your competitor brand, and less inconvenient jamming!"

Drummed Out Soldier
Character Background: Soldier
High Attributes: Fighting and Acquiring
Archetype: Warrior
His story would be considered tragic if it wasn't so prevalent in Austrin-Ontis military. The independent show-off attitude of Austrins are common even in soldiers. Most commanders know how to curb it in line with their strategies and orders, but some take it too far. He proved too unreliable for a military unit, but in a fight you wouldn't want anyone else standing by your side. Some bring knives to gunfights, he brings the bigger guns to gunfights.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wartech Races: The Hezak

In our Wartech setting there are 4 main races. These 4 races dominate known space and are each about equal standing with population and power. Within the races are many factions, many often comprised of several of the major and minor races. The 4 main races are:
  • Fairin
  • Cha'el
  • Quiv
  • and Hezak
Hezak Male
The Hezak come from a metal rich planet named Droug. It is a very harsh and unforgiving world. The surface has low moisture content and an average temperature of 13° Celsius. Heavy metal storms rip across the surface carving wild and erratic formations. Within these crags evolved the primitive Hezak. A people that rapidly evolved from a lizard-like species. They have a thick hardy skin from the harsh environment, a second inferior set of arms that emanate from their midsection, a unique skin tone depending on where they are born, and a strong honor code and tradition.

Before the Visitors, they had a very tribal and family oriented social structure. Then came these Visitors. Strange machines descended from they sky and dwelled on the surface. The Visitors traded with the Hezak, technical marvels known as the mag-repulsor harnesses for ore common on the world. The mag-repulsor harness creates a magnetic field that protects an individual Hezak from the deadly storms of the world, and became prized possessions. From the moment a child is weaned from the mother, it is given a harness. This brought open conflict and expansion on their world. No longer were they limited to their progress based on weather.

Then suddenly one day, the Visitors disappeared. The Hezak had come to rely on them, but they were nowhere to be found. A slow panic broke out. As generations passed, and the harnesses began to breakdown or get destroyed from conflict, they became more and more valuable. Wars were often fought over them, and warlords rose to power merely for possessing a working harness.

However, the Visitors had already taught the Hezak some things, like home building an metallurgy. These were the first steps in their technical evolution. Eventually the Hezak progressed far enough to reverse engineer some of the ancient harnesses, and build there own, as well as several variations. This lead to the Hezak's current mastery of mag-tech, as seen in their starships and weapons.

The Hezak had already established bases on 3 worlds in their home system when they were discovered by Saunos. A Fairin nation.
A Hezak on trial for breaking an honor code.
Today the Hezak are valued mercenaries across the galaxy. The dominant organization being The Hezakian Combine. Taking contracts from various nations, even warring ones. Their chief technology company is InoCo, where most of the galaxy can find their personal firearms being made.

Kitbashed Hezak minis.
Additional Hezak art can be seen on Jarom's first art post.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Star*Drive Saturday: A Brief History

In the 21st century, many tumultuous changes happened on earth. 2032 heralded the new Grid. A better internet. Everything in the world was linked electronically and included a life-like global virtual reality. It became a compete second life for social and business ventures. Also in the late 21st century global companies were beginning to accept independence from their countries, and you begin to see private companies with their own lands, militaries, and even citizenry.

More oddly was the increased awareness and acceptance of human psionics. Over the last century we have been noticing more and more strange cases and tales of supernatural abilities. These were before seen as hoaxes or just unexplainable events, but later as technology advanced more and more cases were documented, skepticism toward psionics started to quiet. Whether this was due to careful observation or a new evolution in humanity is unknown. Regardless, the tide of evidence became undeniable, but still the fraction of population with these talents remained very small.

In 2047 the invention of the fusion generator spawned the Fusion Age of man, and the energy crisis that plagued nations became a thing of the past. With fusion torch propulsion we got our first expansion into our local worlds. Colonies on the moon and mars started popping up around 2064.

Medical science started reaching great strides. Solving the mysteries of the human body caused the average human lifespan to reach 150 years. Cancer followed polio and typhoid into oblivion. Genetic engineering allowed for some of this, and some countries began producing clones en masse.

Then in 2106 the mass reactor is born. Studies in high-energy physics and advances in studying subatomic matter created this wonder. Utilizing dark matter this new generator had higher output than the fusion reactor, could be miniaturized, and never needed refueling. Ironically this invention rushed humanity forward in advancement and lead to our first interplanetary wars as we expanded further out into our system.

Despite all new advancements and strides in technology, anything beyond our system remained out of reach. We were still imprisoned within the confines of our solar system.

First contact negotiations.
In 2124, humanity made first contact with the old and wise alien race, the Fraal. They had been watching humanity for millennia, waiting for them to reach maturity. They had attempted contact before, giving rise to ancient myths of elves, thundering gods, and fiery chariots in the sky. We weren't ready for them.

The contact with the Fraal spurred many changes. Discovery that we aren't the only sentient life in the galaxy produced much turmoil as well as hope. All the Fraal really wanted is acceptance into our species and a home, and they would share with us their technology and guidance, especially in psionics, as they were a race all naturally gifted with the power.

With the 2 races combining technology, the stardrive is born in 2160. A powerful engine that moves ships into another dimension called drivespace, where physics and space travel are different.

With this technology, humanity expanded into the stars, and several stellar nations are formed, most based on corporations claiming planets. Stardrive also created the means for interstellar communication, as VoidCorp created the first drivespace communication satellite (called a drivesat) in 2193.

Need for expanding further and further out, spawned the first fortress ships. 3 kilometer long star vessels would house thousands of sentients and the galaxy's largest stardrive engines to date.
The great fortress ships ferry forth into the stars.
As expansion grew and prospered, the home nations of earth found their influence dwindling. Earth tried reclaiming its auxiliaries and formed the Terran Empire, but after enough declared independence, the first Galactic War happened in 2299. Many Stellar Nations newly formed and united under tenuous pacts to help end the 13 year long war in 2312, with the Terran Empire eventually losing its hold.

The Galactic War had ended, but the fighting didn't. Small skirmishes and tensions boiled between nations over minor disputes. But despite the conflict and aftermath, expansion continued further and further out.

Expansion continued into the verge, a distant cluster of systems far from the reaches of the rest of the stellar ring. Rich in resources and habitable worlds, this new frontier created a galactic gold rush as nations quickly claimed worlds in this far off region. But the distance was still vast, and linking the stellar ring (the old nations and worlds) to the verge was a single important drivesat relay called the Kendai station.

Back in the stellar ring, national conflicts were like a boiler building pressure waiting to explode with a second war. This explosion started with the Mutant Uprising on Tau Ceti in 2346. It sparked conflicts that escalated and all nations found themselves caught in a full fledged Second Galactic War. Everyone expected to return to the initial conflicts of the first war, but this was longer and deadlier, lasting over 100 years.

Humanity suffered several losses. During a deadly space battle, the Kendai relay station was destroyed, and the Verge found itself completely alone in its corner of the galaxy. Also as the group known as Insight freed itself from the clutches of its parent nation, VoidCorp, it caused the crash of the Grid, which became a great blow to information exchange.

The Galactic Concord
Near the end of the horrible war, a few of the more powerful nations got together to end it all. They created the Treaty of Concord, which would not only end the war, but give birth to the Galactic Concord, which may very well be humanities greatest achievement to date.

The treaty set forth several conditions that the stellar nations agreed to abide by. First, it divided human space into 12 distinct regions made up of the war's 12 surviving nations. The concord was given the responsibility of preserving peace, negotiating differences between the nations, and generally overseeing humanity and its befriended species throughout space.
The Stellar Ring and open space of 2501
The Concord had 3 qualities that placed it above the petty quarrels of even the best stellar nations: a grand purpose, a unity of vision, and a moral compass. It was a mix of individuals from all stellar nations that accepted the Concord as their new citizenship, cast off personal bias, and to maintain neutrality. If humanity was to survive as a collective force in the galaxy, this is what would be needed in the years ahead.

With a tentative peace now established, resources were used once again for repair, and after a 121 year silence, contact is made with the verge in 2496, but  much has changed in the time of silence for the far off worlds, and threats of something terrible and unknown begins to emerge.

The year is now 2501.

Paraphrased from: David Eckleberry, and Richard Baker. Star*Drive Campaign Setting. Wizards of the Coast, Inc. P.O. Box 707 Renton, WA. 98057-0707: Wizards of the Coast / TSR, 1998.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Konomancer: The Lost Pages

While we only started briefly and a long time ago on volume 2, these were the initial pages Jarom submitted. Again I did all the inking for the Konomancer project, and I did get a few of these done, but the the digital inkings are long gone in a program I cant recover and a format I can't read. So I can only bring you the original pencils. They're still good though.

Konomancer: Volume 2

Sorry if they're a little light. There are 9 pages total that continue the story, I will post the rest over the next couple days.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Introducing Rogue Space - Star*Drive

 I have mentioned before in this blog my love for the Alternity game system. There's another aspect of it that I love so much, and that is it's original campaign setting: Star*Drive.

When TSR released the Alternity game system back in 1998, they also released a campaign setting book called Star*Drive. At first glance, Star*Drive would appear to be just a regular space opera that gives Alternity players a default scifi starting point. But upon a deeper look into the setting, you see that it's actually very rich, well thought out, and ripe for much adventure and storytelling.

There are many great scifi space settings that stand out to me, ones that have enough depth to hold on their own and be expansive enough. To me those are Warhammer 40,000, Star Wars EU, Star Trek, Mass Effect, and Star*Drive.

And it is perfect for expanding the Dark Frontier. So I made a small set of pocket-mod booklets
that give you plenty of material for making a Star*Drive campaign. Even if you only borrow some elements for your own Rogue Space game, take a look at them. All are in one download.

The first book is called Races and Stellar Nations. This is the beginning character creation book. It outlines the popular alien races and human stellar nations for PCs, as well as an introduction into the Star*Drive setting.
The second book is called Weapons and Technology. And covers just that. Plenty of character creation and gear options. Star*Drive has hi-tech guns, psionics, mutants, cybertech, starships, its got it all.
The third book is The Verge. The frontier in the Star*Drive setting that is ripe for adventure and danger. This just has many different plot and adventure hooks for referees. A referee only book.

The other document just has an expanded character sheet, and blank starship sheets to match some of the new rules featured in the Weapons and Technology booklet above.

Along with the release of these booklets, I will also conduct a weekly feature here on this site. In the spirit of other sites that do weekly features (Mik, I'm looking at you), I will be doing Star*Drive Saturday.

It will cover one aspect each Saturday of Star*Drive, and provide seeds for your own games. Like sample characters, adventures, and technology. Again they will be featured in Rogue Space rules because it is a system that I believe could handle Star*Drive really well, and there is a decent amount of Rogue Space familiarity in my following.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rogue Space - MECHS: Paper Miniatures

I was asked about what I used for miniatures in my Rogue Space MECHS campaign. I used paper standees. I didn't want Jarom to have to draw everything out on the game because A) that's a lot of work, and B) he is one of the players, revealing possible spoilers.

When making custom simple paper minis, there is one key website that proves to be the greatest resource: Google Image Search

My campaign I did was a near future earth where mechs dominate the battlefield and have changed warfare. The players are part of a United Nations task force (this allows for a mixture of different nationalities for the players, so they don't feel restricted to one country). One of the major influences for this setting is the video game Front Mission. I like their mech designs so i used them as base. This campaign isn't a Front Mission campaign, but it worked for the look and feel.

So a simple search of "front mission wanzer" revealed a host of white-background mechs. Perfect for making minis. When you are thinking of a theme of mechs you wish to use, try not searching the game or title, but searching the actual names of the mechs. In Front Mission they are called wanzers (pronounced 'vanzer' - german for wanderpanzer, or walking tank).

Other great search examples:

All of those provide many excellent workable pictures to slap on standees.

Next I used a couple simple steps in Microsoft Publisher to make the standees. These steps can be duplicated in other programs, like photoshop or even powerpoint. Although they may be called something different, and there may be easier ways to do it, but this is how I did mine.

I made little 1 inch square templates. It consisted of 2 squares stacked on top of each other. 1 inch wide, and 1.5 inch tall. Then 2 smaller squares on the top and bottom. These get glued together to make the bottoms.
Then I imported one of the pictures I got off Google, cropped it, and shrunk it down to fit inside.

Next I copied the shrunken image flipped it horizontally and placed it in the box above. This would make a mirror of the mech when the standee is folded together.

I didn't want both sides to be the exact same, I wanted to be able to easily tell the back from front. So I made the backs of the standees a solid black silhouette.
I did this by setting the transparent color on the 'back image' to be its background (in this case white).

That way when I darkened it to complete black (using the less brightness button), the whole box wouldn't black out, just the mech.
Make as many as you want or copy them as many times you want and print on a card stock. Cut them out, fold them, glue the bottoms together, and you have simple mech standees with silhouetted backsides.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Konomancer: Part 25 - The End

And that's it. Just when we introduce one of the main villains of the series, the brutal general of the Qur'haddan: Cel'arat.

Maybe one day Jarom and I will pick up Konomancer again. It's a great story with a very rich and expansive background. Even before the invasion of the Qur'haddan, there is much in this world.

We hope you enjoyed following it. It was quite the project indeed.

Friday, July 6, 2012

My 30th Birthday Haul

Just wanted to update with a few things I got on my birthday.

First off, I got some more money. The Makerbot fund thermometer to the right went up a bunch. My mother advised me to open a CD at the bank to deposit the money. That way it's locked in there for a set period and earns higher interest than savings. I tell you guys, mother knows best.

My wife, Beth, got me a really cool portable photo studio. I know I could make something like this, but I was always too lazy and this comes in just a more convenient package. Just look at this new picture I took for my Rogue Space - MECHS promo. It's a much better lighting and quality.

But it may be a little small for my daughter since she is getting bigger.

Bree got me an awesome book called "How to Trap a Zombie and Track a Vampire". It's a fun activity book published by Wizards, and contains all sorts of fun things you can do to train your child to be a monster hunter/wizard/adventurer. This coupled with my Geek Dad book, will mean Bree and I will have a lot of fun growing up.

Now, for the crown jewel: My mother in law is a very crafty person. She works at a university and teaches book-making classes. She does all sorts of creative artsy things like home-made popup books, home-made leather and perfect bound, etc. She was able to get a hold of a 1st edition printing of one of the Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. She knew I was a big fan of the Barsoom series as I read a lot of them in my childhood, so when she found this book at a thrift store, she knew I had to have it.

The great thing is she made a clamshell box. A felt lined box that they make for preserving and protecting really old books. It looks perfect as you will see from the photos below.
Outside of the clamshell box. It's completely felt lined and sturdy.
Showing inside of the box with the original book. My mother in law knew i liked the new John Carter movie so this was sort of a small surprise. The big red half circle on the other side was perfect for it though.
Closeup of the original book with original spine and binding.
It's authentic. Printed 1918

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rogue Space - MECHS Rulebook is here!

Happy 4th of July! It is my 30th birthday and the release of Rogue Space - MECHS. I am really excited to bring this to you, so I will keep it short.

It is a pocketmod style booklet which forces me to keep the rules concise, and it also hits the same fashion as the classic free Rogue Space rulebook. These rules can be played with the level you get from just that booklet.

I am also including blank character/mech sheets, as well as abridged NPC mech sheets. The NPC mech sheets are meant to make the referees job easier in sending baddies at your characters. Some aspects of them are explained in the rulebook.

Rogue Space - MECHS download page

Please feel free to offer feedback and email me with any questions or suggestions. This isn't the end of the Rogue Space - MECHS project. An adventure module and additional rules and components are planned for the future. Jarom and I are brainstorming over that stuff.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rogue Space - MECHS: Playtest 2

I just had the second playtest of the Rogue Space MECHS rules, and it went awesome. My 2 brothers and sister had a fun time playing the 2nd part of the mini campaign. (First playtest here)

What's even better is this pretty much fleshed everything out and the game is ready for release.

One thing I had to realize with this is it works best when you are doing a MECHS game, as in your players can face mechs as long as they are in mechs. Things can scale from infantry scale to mech scale, and i do include rules for that though. Also this time i played on a square grid map during the main battle. Last time we used a hex map like those from Battletech, but they both played the same, so there really is not preference to which type of map you play on.

So everyone had fun, i am more confident in my results, and my younger 12 year old sister watched us play while she was over babysitting and wanted to play herself. So at the end of the adventure, the others enthusiastically helped her make a character and mech. It was a good feeling watching my brothers get excited about building a mech for her.

I was originally planning this mini-campaign to only be the 2 sessions, but now they want to continue and see where it goes. I did leave them on a cliffhanger. After the full campaign is done, i will release the campaign module. Jarom is even doing some illustrations for it. Highlighting moments from the game.

Anyway, tomorrow, July 4th will mark 2 special occasions: