Monday, April 3, 2017

Review: Psi Wars End of March Patreon

The end of the month has come and gone, and it's been a busy time for Psi Wars. The foundations of the Empire have been laid, with the Imperial Ministries and the Senate making their debut. Imperial Security has dominated the last week, with the organization, its tools, its personnel, and its spaceships all getting their own posts.

It's also been a busy month for Patrons as well, most of which I've covered in my previous post. Today I'm going to cover the results of the Emperor poll, and the new Patreon posts that have come out since then.

Like before, I'm going to break down my review by support level.

Dreamers ($1/month)

There's two new posts at this level, one covering the process of designing vehicles in GURPS 4e and another introducing the Security Agent template.

Modeling Vehicles in 4e comes in two parts. Grav Cars outlines the struggles that Mailanka experienced with trying to reverse engineer GURPS 4e vehicles to build new ones, and is interesting to read if you want to gain an appreciation of the challenges and limitations that GURPS imposes. The second, Guide to Vehicle Design in GURPS 4e, is the more directly useful of the two, since it explains how to actually build new vehicles. While it requires GURPS Classic Vehicles and some judgement on how to use it, this is as good as it's going to get, barring the release of a 4e version of Vehicles.

The Security Agent is a standard 250 point professional template, with three 25 point power-ups to further customize the character. The signature of this character is his power to enforce the laws of their society, with many Security Agents choosing to do so through their combat prowess. The Riot Trooper power-up doubles down on this by improving their hand to hand skills. The Interrogator is more subtle, focusing on manipulating others psychologically. Finally, the Special Agent brings the full institutional weight of his organization to bear, with broad enforcement powers and increased rank.

Fellow Travelers ($3/month)

There's one new offering at this level, a preview of Imperial Personnel, Materiel and Spaceships. The bulk of it is dominated by the technology of the Empire, with sections on weapons, armor, vehicles, and spaceships. These are interesting because they help to characterize the Empire, with its expensive, difficult to maintain, but high quality personal equipment, disposable fighters, and massive dreadnoughts.

Furthermore, the existence of the Overtech Corporation, which makes weapons and armor for the Empire, gives a prime target for adventures, since their R&D division could contain secret projects to improve Imperial technology or to build weapons of terror.

The personnel portion is mostly a collection of minions that have already been released, but the Imperial Pilot, the Black Ops Commando, and the Black Ops Demolitionist are all new. The pilot gives opposition for space battles, while the Black Ops soldiers are scarily competent soldiers that player characters will dread to face.

Imperial Personnel, Materiel, and Spaceships is an excellent addition to Psi Wars, giving a player-facing side to the Empire and many tools for the GM to build scenarios with.

Companions ($5/month)

The polls on the Emperor have closed, and it was just as much fun as I thought it was going to be. Watching the other Patrons post their ideas and then offer new ideas in response is a fascinating process. My personal favorite part was how the Emperor's role as a Mystic Tyrant turned out. Initially, I didn't favor the idea of him following the path of the Mystic Tyrant, but upon seeing how popular it was, I offered the idea of styling him as the Futurist, based on one of the alternate names for the path. The Emperor as a visionary trying to build a better future stuck, especially as it tied in nicely with the Empire's Neo-Rationalist philosophy.

Mailanka hasn't yet had the time to develop the Emperor based on these polls, but he has posted a Results document summarizing the outcome. This is another part I really enjoy, because he is skilled at taking the many ideas people offer and synthesizing them into a whole. This is especially evident in the Emperor's origin, where he neatly takes all of the suggestions people had and weaves a cohesive narrative out of them.

Disciples ($7/month)

Nothing here yet, but later this month, there's going to be a call for the Empire's signature characters! Mailanka has said that he'll be offering prompts similar to the $5 polls, with many options for people to mix and match. I'm certain that this is going to be just as much fun as the rest has been, and I'm looking forward to making iconic characters for Psi Wars. I even have a few ideas in mind already!

Conclusion

March has been a very good month for Patrons of Psi Wars, and April looks to be just as promising. Besides the opportunity to create signature characters, there's also going to be releases on the scale of the Empire, Imperial tactics, and the names used by humanity's sub-groups. There's even going to be polls on the Tactics to determine which parts will be part of the final Psi Wars document. For more information, see this post on Mailanka's Musings.


If you like Psi Wars, consider supporting it on Patreon. It's been great so far, and there's still so much more to come. 

Ravens N' Pennies April Patreon Review

Another month, another couple of specials for Patrons from the ever prolific Christopher R. Rice of Ravens N' Pennies. This time, there’s a trio of items. The first is the Mahotsukai variant of Ritual Path Magic that I’ve already reviewed in my guest post on Christopher's blog. You can find that review here. The two new items are Japanese-themed Ritual Path Magic spells and a fighting style for whip users. Let’s take a closer look.

Melee Academy: Whip Fighting

The whip is a versatile weapon, and in the hands of a cinematically skilled wielder, it’s capable of amazing feats like pulling weapons out of someone’s hands or swinging across large gaps. Whip Fighting caters to those who’d like to pull off stunts that would make Indiana Jones proud, and provides the basic skills, the advanced tricks, and advantages suitable for stylists.

All in all, this seems like a fun style use, and it’s available for $1 and up Patrons.

Boil and Bubble: Shinto Ritual Path Magic Spells

In this offering for $2 and up Patrons, Shinto Ritual Path Magic Spells provides four spells designed for Ritual Path Magic practitioners from Japan, especially in the Edo period. Two of them, Chains of Heaven and Chains of Hell are binding spells, flavored just as their names suggest. A third, Summon Kinzoku Samurai, brings forth a suit of animated armor to do your bidding.

It’s the fourth and last spell that’s most interesting. Summon Greater Kami is a ritual for contacting powerful spirits, and notably, it doesn’t give the caster any control over the spirit. No, these are spirits too powerful to be compelled, and instead the caster must make a Reaction roll, which determines what aid (or punishment!) the kami provides. This is a great idea, and captures the potentially mercurial temperament of such beings nicely. Even if you don’t use Ritual Path Magic, the reaction table can be used on its own.

Conclusion

This is a solid pair of offerings, so if you’re interested, go support Christopher R. Rice over on Patreon before the end of April.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Psi Wars: Environments of Broken Communion: Sensations of Death

Following up on my last post, I have suggestions for imagery, sounds, and other sensations that you can use to describe an environment of Deathly Broken Communion. Enjoy!


Vision


  • Ruins, wrecked starships, other human constructions in a state of disrepair
  • Iconography of death (skulls, bones, decaying flesh)
  • Lack of color, stark whites and stark blacks
  • Broken down machinery (vehicles, computers)
  • Dust, mold, and rot, especially covering artifacts of civilization


Sounds


  • Silence (including natural sounds, like animals and the wind)
  • Howling or moaning winds
  • Calls of carrion beasts, like jackals and vultures
  • Phantom battle sounds, screaming, and other sounds without obvious source
  • Crunching and snapping sounds, like breaking bones


Smells


  • Rot and decaying flesh
  • Formaldehyde and other embalming agents
  • Sulfur, rotting eggs


Touch


  • Dry, crumbling textures, like dust
  • Soft, easily torn textiles
  • Hard, brittle bones
  • Soft and wet slimes, rotted wood
  • Icy chills

Monday, March 27, 2017

Psi Wars: Environments of Broken Communion: Death

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Psi Wars setting is Communion, the gestalt super-consciousness that influences the world in ways both subtle and grand. Of the three major strands of Communion, Broken Communion is particularly interesting to me, since it touches on aspects of the world that humans find disconcerting and alien to their experience.

This naturally leads to the question of what you find when an environment is particularly strong in Broken Communion (High or Very High Sanctity in game terms). Some answers may be gleaned from Mailanka’s posts on Broken Communion and Broken Communion Paths, while others can be found in the relics such places produce. Further insights can be found in the Planetary Environments series.

The limitation to all of these is that places of Broken Communion are more of a sidenote to the main point of the post. This is fine, but it also whets the appetite for more details and a deeper look into what these environments are like. So, in this series of posts, I’m going to delve into Broken Communion environments, and describe how they can be created, what phenomena occur in them, and why you might want to visit them.

First on our tour are environments of Death, places of destruction, mass deaths, and extinction of humanity.

Creating a Place of High Sanctity to Death

It takes more than simple death to mark Communion so strongly that it begins to resonate with the path. Even a graveyard that has seen many generations buried there is not going to be high sanctity to Broken Communion, because these are natural deaths. Growing old and dying are simply part of the cycle of life, and the pain of these losses heal in time.

Places sacred to the path of Death are places of unnatural death. The mass graves of a terrible war, the burned out cinder of a world ravaged by nuclear fire, and other places of large scale death are the most common locations for a place sanctified to Death. These events cause so many deaths that each one is meaningless, and it’s this lack of meaning that fuels Broken Communion.

Smaller scale events can also create places sacred to death. The room where a noble hanged herself is a prime example, especially if her servants then shunned it for fear that it was haunted. Over time, this belief would feed on itself, until the room became a place of poltergeist activity and disturbing visions. Left unchecked, it might even spread to the whole building or the surrounding estate.

Sites of particularly gruesome deaths are another candidate. The place where a whole family was slaughtered and torn to pieces would leave its mark on Communion, for one example. For another, you have a ship lost in space, low on supplies, and its crew forced to turned to cannibalism to survive. When the last of them dies, all that remains is a place strong in Broken Communion and Death.

Phenomena of Death

Communion Voids

Nothing sears Communion like death, for Communion of all types comes from the minds of sapient beings. When they die, especially in large numbers or in horrific ways, Communion itself begins to break down. This often takes the form of Low Sanctity to Dark or True Communion, but in severe cases you instead find Communion Voids, which are places of No Sanctity to Dark and True Communion, and even Broken Communion may be at Low or No Sanctity in such a place.

Attempts to use psionics are at -5 or worse in such place, and any failure counts as a critical failure. Instead of the standard critical failure table, use the rules on page 422 of the Basic Set for Duration of Crippling Injury, substituting Will for HT. This represents how long it takes for the power to recover after having its energies drained by the Communion Void.

Some psionic abilities are hazardous to use inside a Void even without a critical failure. Any attempt to use ESP powers within a Void causes a Fright Check as they can only see the empty nothingness of the Void around them. At the GM’s discretion, other psionic abilities that involve sensing the environment may also cause a Fright Check.

Even if you wisely refrain from using psionics within a Void, such places are draining. Every hour, make a Will+5 roll, at -1 for every hour spent within the Void. On a failure, lose 1d of energy, taken first from any Psionic Energy Reserves, then from FP. While inside a Void, you cannot recover either FP or Energy Reserves.

Sensory Deprivation

Places of death are oppressive and can dull the senses.At the low end, they mute colors, dim the light, numb touch, and dampen sound. At the high end, they extinguish even the concept of sensation, making it impossible to recall speech or remember the path you took to reach the place.

This phenomenon encompasses a spectrum of possible Broken Communion miracles, a few of which are listed below:

  • Obscure 1 (Hearing; Stealthy, +100%; Broken Communion, -20%; Requires Concentrate, -15%) [4]
    • At this level, it’s enough to deaden sound in a small room.
    • Cannot be detected outside its area of effect
    • Counts as a Minor Blessing and lasts as long as you Concentrate as a General or Specific Prayer
    • 1 point as a Learned Prayer
  • Obscure 5 (Hearing; Stealthy, +100%; Broken Communion, -20%; Requires Concentrate, -15%) + Obscure 5 (Vision; Stealthy, +100%; Broken Communion, -20%; Requires Concentrate, -15%) + Obscure 5 (Taste and Smell; Stealthy, +100%; Broken Communion, -20%; Requires Concentrate, -15%) + Obscure 5 (Touch; Stealthy, +100%; Broken Communion, -20%; Requires Concentrate, -15%) [68]
    • Applies a -5 to all mundane senses within two yards
    • Cannot be detected outside its area of effect
    • As a general or specific prayer, lasts as long as you Concentrate
    • Requires Broken Communion 10 to learn
    • Costs 14 points as a learned prayer.
  • Obscure 10 (Vision; Cosmic, Affects Memory of Vision, +50%; Area Effect 16 yards, +150%; Stealthy, +100%; Requires Concentrate, -15%; Broken Communion, -20%) [73]
    • All vision within 16 yards fails.
    • Recalling vision-based information requires an IQ-10 roll.
    • Cannot be detected outside its area of effect
    • As a general or specific prayer, lasts as long as you Concentrate
    • Requires Broken Communion 11 to learn
    • Costs 15 points as a learned prayer.

Visions

The lingering trauma of death can easily push itself into the minds of those who enter these places. While this is normally good for a Fright Check, make it more interesting and pull the players into a scene from the place’s past, probably the one that led to it becoming sanctified to Broken Communion. Use this as a way to teach them a little more about the place, and perhaps give them a hint for the quest that brought them here to begin with!

The Restless Dead

This is a broad category, and too big to contain within one post. I’ll revisit this topic later, but for now, you can use creatures from GURPS Zombies, Mailanka’s Space Ghosts, and any of the undead from GURPS Dungeon Fantasy as seeds for what players might find in Deathly areas.

They shouldn’t just be opposition, though. Consider what motivates them, and how it ties into the events that created the area of Broken Communion to begin with.

Deathly Adventures

What would bring a bunch of player characters into an area sanctified to the Path of Death? There’s many possibilities, but here’s a few:

  • Relic hunting: Tombs and battlefields are major places where Broken Communion can arise, and these are prime territory to find artifacts from a bygone area. PCs could be searching on their own or racing rivals, and the artifacts they seek need not be sanctified to Broken Communion…
  • The Gauntlet: There may not be anything in the area that the PCs want, but a haunted battlefield might be the only route of escape they have! Can they elude their pursuers and survive the horrors of the Graveyard of Starships?
  • Rituals: Symbolically, sites with high sanctity to Death are linked with the Underworld, and it’s common for heroes to have to travel through it, emerging in a metaphorical rebirth. Thus, this can be a milestone for characters walking a path of Communion. Alternatively, they may be trying to stop someone who’s trying to use the site to support their own journey on the path.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Impulse Control in Psi Wars

In Pyramid #3/100, Christopher R. Rice of Ravens N' Pennies wrote the excellent Impulse Control article, which expands on the concept of Impulse Buys from Power-Ups 5 and extends it to other narrative-influencing traits like Luck and Serendipity. This is an excellent system to use in a cinematic game, where the power of plot favors the characters except at those dramatic moments where it turns against them.

As a highly cinematic game, Impulse Control is a natural fit for Psi Wars, especially since it already features Destiny points. In fact, you could just rename Destiny to Impulse Points, use Impulse Control as written, and call it a day. But Impulse Control has so much more to offer than that, so let’s run down the options that fit in a Psi Wars game.

Using Impulse Points

Both Impulse Points and Villainous Points fit, since while the former represents the advantage that heroes have, the latter represent bad luck and dramatic twists against the player characters. Enhanced Refresh for both IP and VP are appropriate, as is the optional rule for faster refresh rates on page 5. Game time refresh rates are not, given the genre’s tendency to gloss over travel time, down time, and other intervening gaps.

For Gaining Points, dramatic in-character actions, staying in-character and in-genre, and trading IP for VP are all appropriate, since they encourage players to do cool, in-genre stuff and offer a chance to succeed at something now that they’ll pay for later. Likewise, Losing Points is all valid. Use the table on page 7 to guide IP awards and penalties.

Since Psi Wars uses the Action framework, including BAD, Really Bad Impulses is quite suitable. Better watch out when accumulating karmic debt, or things may get a lot worse for a while!

For Spending Points, use the rules on page 6 as is. Appropriate expenditures of points include:

  • Big Entrance/Exit (Pyr. 3/100 p. 8)
  • Buying Failure (Power-Ups 2 p. 4)
  • Buying Success (Power-Ups 2 p. 4)
  • Cursing Mooks(Power-Ups 2 p. 6)
  • Deflecting Disadvantages (Power-Ups 2 p. 10)
  • Dooming Foes (Power-Ups 2 p. 5)
  • Favors in Play (Power-Ups 2 p. 8)
  • Flesh Wounds (Power-Ups 2 p. 10)
  • Lucky Break (Pyr. 3/100 p. 8)
  • Perking Things Up: Buying Success (Power-Ups 2 p. 6)
  • Player Guidance (Power-Ups 2 p. 7)
  • Power Boosting  (Pyr. 3/100 p. 8)
  • Roll Bonus (Pyr. 3/100 p. 9)
  • Trading Points for Money (10% of starting funds) (Power-Ups 2 p. 8)

Divine Intervention (Power-Ups 2 p. 9) is also appropriate, but it can only be used by player characters with Communion and uses the rules for influencing Communion rolls given in Psi Wars - Heroes.

Modifying Templates

Using The Buck Stops Here (Pyr. 3/100 p. 8), any Destiny, Luck, Serendipity, or similar traits are converted to the appropriate form of Impulse Points. While Daredevil is included in this list, I suggest leaving it unmodified.

All non-psionic templates have Luck, which becomes either IP 3 (Aspected, rerolls only, -20%) [12]. Add 3 points to be spent on optional advantages. The options to upgrade Luck become Remove Aspected for 3 points, Enhanced IP Refresh (Per Session) 2 or 3 [10 or 20], and Enhanced IP Refresh 1 (Per Hour) [20].

For all templates, Serendipity 1-2 becomes IP 1-4 (Aspected, Player Guidance Only, -20%)  [4/level].

In Disadvantages, add Villainous Points 1-3 [-5/level] to the list of options.

For the Con Artist, the prerequisites for Fool’s Luck become IP 3 and Enhanced Refresh 1 (Per Hour). Improve Extreme Luck to Ridiculous Luck becomes Improve IP 3 to IP 5 [25] for 10 points and improve Enhanced IP Refresh 1 (Per Hour) Enhanced IP Refresh 1 (Per 30 minutes) [40] for 20 points. Destiny 1 (“The Price of Fortune”) becomes Villainous Points 1 [-5].

For the Mystic, Psi-Hunter, and Space Knight, Destiny and Luck become IP [5/level] and Enhanced IP Refresh 2 (Per Session) [10].

For the Heroic Lens, Destiny 3 becomes 15 points spent on additional levels of IP [5/level] and Enhanced IP Refresh (Per Session) [10/level]. Alternatively, remove 5 points from the list of advantages and spend 20 points on Enhanced IP Refresh (Per Hour) [20/level].

Psi Wars: Gotta Collect Them All: Relics as Sets

A common convention in fantasy literature and tabletop games is the idea of items that are part of a set, where the individual pieces may have power in their own right, but the full collection is more potent still. But why would you do this?

One answer lies in the way it lends itself toward a meaningful narrative arc. The desire or need to collect all of the lost regalia of the First Emperor means that the story doesn’t stop with the first piece to be recovered. Instead, there’s more to follow, as the heroes and their rivals race each other to be the first to retrieve the next piece. It also lets the heroes fail occasionally without bringing the tale to a grinding halt, since their rivals may beat them to one piece, but next time will be better!

Taken to an extreme, this sort of collection quest can form the basis of an episodic narrative, where the heroes are trying to find the most recently discovered treasure from the Ancient Starfarer’s lost Ship of Wonders, and perhaps piece together the clues to discover the location of the ancient vessel itself.

Another answer is the way that power grows slowly, a consideration important both for dramatic tension in literature and balance in tabletop RPGs. Instead of immediately gaining access to all the power of the Great Usurper, the treacherous councilor who supplanted the dynasty the First Emperor founded, they instead only gain a fragment of it when they take up the tainted blade he wielded, still burning red with the blood of those he betrayed. For the rest, they need to seek out his scepter, cloak, and mask, each with their own powers.

Given this utility, I would like to propose a few guidelines for creating sets of relics in Psi Wars.

When is a Set a Set?

The first question is what defines a set of relics, and the answer is ultimately “Whatever the GM says it is.” But that’s unsatisfying, and so here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering whether relics are standalone or a set.

  1. Do the relics have a shared story?
  2. Are they better known as part of the collection, or do their individual stories stand out?
  3. Could they reasonably be used together at the same time? Alternatively, are they mutually exclusive, where drawing on the powers of one limits your ability to use the others?

The first question is quite natural, since if the relics don’t share an origin, a wielder, or something else to bind them together, they clearly aren’t a set. The second addresses whether people talk about the Regalia of the First Emperor, or if the First Emperor’s Scepter is something of note in its own right.

The third question is more subtle. A force sword and buckler can clearly be a set, since they’re meant to be used together, especially if their bearer favored that style of combat. The Ten Rings of the Dark Reaches, made as gifts for the queen of a depraved, hedonistic society, might also be a set, even if the power each possesses prevents the others from being used.

Ultimately, these are suggestions, and you’re free to decide what qualifies.

Power Divided

Now that you’ve decided what counts as a relic, you need to decide what fraction of the power of the whole they possess. First, consult my previous posts to determine the point value of the set. Then, take 1/2 of that value, and distribute it evenly among the component relics.

This means that relics of a set are much weaker on their own, but if they’re very old and storied, that can still be a significant amount of power. If you have a 200 point relic, divided among four pieces, they can each have 25 points worth of abilities, enough for a single psionic ability or several levels of Destiny.

Combining Powers

What happens when you start to bring relics together? The number of points that you have for abilities grows, with every piece of the set past one unlocking a number of points equal to the value of a single piece.

There’s several possibilities for how you can use this points and how they interact with existing abilities:

  1. New abilities are unlocked
  2. Existing abilities become stronger
  3. Existing abilities become alternate abilities
  4. Identical abilities add their point value to the total

At its simplest, you can add new abilities with the new points. More levels of Destiny or Higher Purpose, new powers, and so on are all appropriate.

Alternatively, you can improve an existing ability, like adding additional levels to a leveled psionic power (Surge, Psychic Hunches, to name a few).

If individual pieces of a relic set have the same ability, and it doesn’t meaningfully add to itself or has a cap on how many levels it can have, then add the value of extra copies of the ability to the point pool.

The most interesting possibility is that the pieces have abilities that can’t be used simultaneous. If you can only use the Aspect power of the First Emperor’s crown or the Suggestion ability of his scepter, but not both at once, then that’s an example of them being alternate abilities.

To decide how many points can be used on alternate abilities, total the number of points in abilities that are mutually exclusive, add in any amount of additional points, and then take 2/3 of that number. Each piece can have alternate abilities worth a maximum of that value.

This is a quick and dirty way to calculate the maximum value for most small sets of relics (2-6 pieces). For a more exact way, determine the total number of points available for alternate abilities. Then, for a set of relics with N pieces, the maximum number of points each relic can have in its abilities is:

(Total points * 5) / (5 + N - 1)

This reflects the fact that the first set of abilities is full cost, while each subsequent one only costs 1/5 of its regular value.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Psi Wars February and Mid-March Patreon

Daniel Dover at Mailanka’s Musings runs a Patreon for those wishing to support the Psi Wars project, and over the past month and a half he’s released quite a bit of material to backers. Like his blog, it shows careful thought and a great deal of skill in roleplaying game design, setting building, and creative writing.

There’s four tiers of support, and since each level gives access to progressively more material, I’m going to cover them in order from lowest to highest.

Dreamers ($1/month)

There’s three posts at this level, covering behind the scenes thoughts on running capital ships, expanding on Communion, and the design of two power-ups for Psi Wars characters.

Rethinking Capital Ships starts with the premise that an Officer should be able to stand on the bridge of a capital ship, and have her abilities make a meaningful difference in the battle. The new rules deliver on this in spades. Building off of his revised system for spaceships, Officers can now use their Leadership and Tactics to bolster the performance of their crews and outmaneuveur and outwit their foes.

You’ll also find rules on how to handle large squadrons of fighters, which is absolutely essential when commanding dreadnoughts, who could easily carry hundreds or even thousands of smallcraft within their cavernous hangars. These rules have yet to make it into a public release, but add quite a bit for these large ships!

Rethinking Communion outlines the design for social engineering campaigns that give bonuses to Legendary reputation, and is interesting as a window into how Mailanka works. The actual rules and the 24 (!) new Communion miracles are included in the Psi Wars Iteration 5 documents as well.

Power-Ups: Conspirator and Magnate introduces two new power-ups, with the first focused on characters who don’t have a direct connection with Communion but are so favored by it that things tend to go along with the story that Communion has for them. With a good reaction roll, this support can take the form of very dramatic Communion Miracles! The second, Magnate, is for those characters who have so much wealth or pull within their organizations that they have access to the biggest and best toys, and influence on a large scale. This is where you’ll find your dreadnought captains and influential senators. Again, what you’re mainly getting here is the design process, since the rules are in Iteration 5.

The discussion of the thought process behind these design choices is quite valuable in and of itself, since it will help understand why they were made and how you can use them in your game.

Fellow Travelers ($3/month)

At this level, you get to see early drafts of Psi Wars material. At the moment, this includes drafts of the Patron-designed Trader alien race, the history of the Psi Wars universe, and an early peek at the Empire!

I’m going to cover the Traders in more detail when I get to the Companion tier, but seeing how Mailanka takes the ideas and votes of his Patrons and weaves them into a cohesive whole is absolutely fascinating. The Traders themselves are pretty neat, walking a line between attractive and unsettling, with an ancient, proud culture that has seen better days.

Psi Wars History 1.1 is an overview of Psi Wars history extending back almost 6000 years. It paints a picture of a deeply cyclic universe, where empires rise, prosper, decline, and then fall either from internal crises or the pressure of external forces. It also gives a glimpse at the major civilizations that now coexist with humanity, which I’m not going to spoil here.

Hot off the presses as I write this is the first draft of the Empire! Here, we have our first look at the force dominating the Psi Wars setting, and while it naturally has echoes of the Star Wars empire, it is very much its own entity. Part 1 provides new options for creating Imperial characters, ranging from simple Citizens to commandos working for the dread Imperial Black Ops.

The history of the Empire is light on details, but this is mostly because the key figure of the Emperor is a current topic for Companions and up to vote on (More on that later!) The structure of the Empire is fascinating, since while there’s a strand of meritocracy and the benefits of technology, the whole system is shot through with corruption, oppression, and fallout from those advances. It’s founded on good ideals, and is actually nice if you’re a member of the privileged classes in the core worlds, but that polish is quickly stripped away once you move out of the public eye.

This is a very long document, and outlines all of the major organizations, capabilities, and philosophies of the Empire. Standard operating procedure for the Imperial war machine, the interplay between the major organizations, and the difference between ideals and reality in the Empire are all laid out in detail. While there’s no way to fully cover an entity as vast as the Empire, this is a very good start and gives you plenty of material to play with.

Companions ($5/month)

This is where the real fun of being a Patron begins, since not only do you get to see Psi Wars as it’s being made, you’re given a voice in the process!

The first round of polls focused on the alien race known as the Traders. Starting from the simple concept of an alien race that used to hold power in the galactic core, but was defeated by humanity and now roams the stars, they quickly evolved through several rounds of polling into a distinct culture and personality. They are now an ancient race, proud of their traditions and valuing honest dealing, with the ability to quickly process information and a talent with robotics that far surpasses the rest of the galaxy.

The reason that this is so fun is that each poll serves as a writing prompt as well, and Patrons (include myself) are enthusiastic about jumping in to offer their own take on the options presented. The fact that Mailanka then takes these ideas and weaves them together with the poll results to create a cohesive whole is impressive, and end results are a delight to read.

For one example, the votes to decide on the social structure of the Traders were fairly evenly split between Family, Trade, and Patchwork. But in the comments, you could see a strong preference for a blend of these ideas, where the Traders were organized into fleets that were nominally familial, each with their own craft, and the occasional meeting to swap ideas and members. Mailanka then took all of that feedback and created the Kin-Fleets, the descendents of old corporate fleets that became refuges for the Traders. Over time, the bonds took on a familial status, with the leader of each fleet being called Grandfather.

It’s just so much fun to watch this process in action, and now we get to do it again, this time with one of the most important figures in the Psi Wars universe: the Emperor himself! Over the next few days, Patrons can vote on his origin, abilities, agenda, and heirs. I’ve already posted some of my own ideas, and I’d love to see what other people want.

Disciples ($7/month)

There’s nothing yet at this tier, but it comes with the right to a place in Mailanka’s game when he runs one, and I’ve been told that there’s plans to let this tier write up signature characters for the setting, which I think will be an absolute blast.

Conclusion

Mailanka has put out a lot of good content on his Patreon, and the opportunities to be a part of the creative process are more fun than I thought they would be. So, if you like Psi Wars and want to support its creation, join in. If you want to add in your own touches to the setting, now’s the time to join in!