Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Encounter Critical: Origin of the Name "Vanth"

Though admittedly a topic of minor importance following the collapse of the sector navigation grid, the origin and applicability of the name "Vanth" has recently become a source of much controversy amongst Vanthian scholars. A search through the remains of the God City memory banks has been able to shed little light on the matter; however, one tantalizing communique from the Medieval Rim Cartographicalogical Instritute does pose this very question to the leader of the first Vulkin expedition to the planet. Commander Spardox succinctly replies, "Who cares?"

Etymologist of dubious credentials Effluvius Vox pontificates:
The peoples of the current Realm of Vanth (the area on the map) claim that Vanth was the name of the dominant culture in ages long agone, which arose in this very area, and its peoples spread their wise and benevolent rule across the planet. The planet was christened "Vanth" in their honor at a ceremony presided over by the Go-Go Goddess of Xan-Adoo and Huron the Oathsome, God of Being a Very Mighty God.

Vanthropologists, however, suspect that the word 'Vanth' is actually a corruption of the word "blurtch", which was the term used by a pre-agricultural culture known as the Kaluba'dung, located 12, 762 kilometers to the west of the current Realm, in the Valley of Gwangi. The term originally applied to the ceremonial dungheaps which were the centers of all tribal life. Though the Kaluba'dung civilization perished from contagion-born diseases after only a few generations, the term was passed along through oral tradition (mostly jokes at the expense of the Kaluba'dung), transformed bit by bit over the millenia, until it assumed its present form and meaning.

Notorious philololologian Fasciitis Necrosis opines:
My colleague (if I may dignify him by the extremely imprecise usage of the term) has once again proven that his grasp of Vanthian topics is weak and trembling, a sign of his advancing senility and/or depravities. True Vanthropologists (unlike the boozy streetcorner reprobates he prefers to consult) know that the term "Vanth", as applied to the planet and the Realm, are recent usages that do not predate the coming of the Vulkins. True, the term did originate in the distant past, and was associated with dungheap fertility rituals, and is known in numerous cultures in numerous variant forms.  Unfortunately, his derivation from the Kaluna'dung term "blurtch" is wholly erroneous, for this word is specifically associated with unheaped dung.

In fact, when the first Vulkin explorers landed on the planet, and made contact with the natives (possibly Hoblings), they were unable to communicate with them, since this predates the days of the Omniversal Translinguatron. Pointing at the nearby village, the Vulkins asked their hosts, over a dinner of roast goatbeast, what the name of the town was.  The hoblings assumed that they Vulkins were interested in their unusually large and pungent dungheap and proudly replied, "Vanth!". The Vulkins erroneously deduced that this was the name of the village itself, but soon encountered it in other cultures, even ones far-removed from the initial site of contact.  The leader of the Expedition, Spardox, thus concluded that the name of the entire planet was "Vanth", and so noted it in his reports.

Later, the natives were greatly puzzled and a bit insulted when the 'Gods' (Vulkins) started referring to the planet and the initial site of contact (now known as the "Realm of Vanth") as a "dungheap". However, when offered nigh-miraculous treasures (such as plastic whistle-rings, surplus Mardi Gras necklaces, and factory-reject Swiss Army knives (with missing toothpicks), for such reasonable prices (enough gold to fill a Type VII Transport), these proto-entrepreneurial folk quickly decided that the Gods could call the place anything they wanted to as long as they kept bringing the goods.Some tribal wag made up the story about the ancient, world-wide civilization of Vanth and the divine christening ceremony in order to impress the tourists. This has resulted in many hastily-contrived native dances, amateur theatricals, and Rotary Club speeches purporting to explain the local community's place in "The Epic of Vanth".

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Tale of Vanth

Old soldiers tell many the tale of their glory days to young pups eager to draw blood for the first time, but one tale they only share with others who have shared their fate. It begins with a crippling wound such as ends the saga of many a would-be hero; an arm or leg is ruined, and the unfortunate one waits in agony until the chirurgeons can remove the maimed appendage. Sleep for such unfortunates is hard to come by, and is tortured by anguished nightmare. But worst dreams of all are the dreams of the tattered black-robed ones, who come and take the pain away. In the morning, when the doctors come with bone-saws and cutting lasers to remove the mangled flesh and bone, their patients are amazed. "I thought you took it off last night!" they quaver when they see their injuries in the light of day. And then the horrors commence in earnest, for where they had whole arms and legs the night before, in the light of dawn... they now have none.

Many are those who have lost an arm or leg and yet feel it still, a phantasm conjured by minds that cannot accept their loss. But the ones whodreamt of the dark bedraggled devils, who took their good whole limbs and left them with their mutilations, know for a fact that their limbs are still whole, still hale. They know, too, that someone else is walking on their stolen feet, caressing soft flesh with their plundered hand... and they damn, in their impotent ways, the fiends from hell they call the Limb Traders.

The Limb Traders themselves dismiss these tales as the delusions of traumatized minds, and offer a generous 10% discount on the purchase or lease of replacement limbs.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Corkboard.me is great for online play!

Risus Monkey has a great post about a website call corkboard.me . It has the appearance of a corkboard and you and your friends can all post notes and pictures on it. There's also a chat feature, so it's great for lots of collaborations. Check it out!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Risus Trek: Starship Combat Again

One of the things I like about Risus is that it plays very fast. In many very crunchy games, combat can stretch out over an entire evening. There's nothing wrong with it if you like it that way. But since I'm going to be using Risus for my Star Trek TOS campaign, I would like to play to its strengths. This is why I will be treating starships (at least, the starship the players are on) as Tools of the Trade. There will be no cliches, no stats for starships. Nada.

"He's gone all Charlie Sheen on us", I hear you say. "Quick, somebody get the 4-siders away from him before he hurts someone."

So how will I be running combat? Pretty much like all combat in Risus, using the three standard resolution methods of the Combat System. Players will roll their Cliche dice to fight against other ships. The other ships will probably be treated as another character ("Menacing Klingon D-7 (6)) or whatever else is appropriate. Despite the numerous references to the Enterprise as being a character, it really doesn't act like one. Think back to the times when any starship has been abandoned, or nearly so ("Court-Martial", "The Paradise Syndrome", "The Omega Glory", etc.). Does the ship initiate any action on its own? Does it call for help, run to the nearest starbase, try and beam the crew up?  No, it doesn't, because it's not self-aware; it needs someone to push buttons and pull levers.  If the engines are shut down, it'll eventually spiral out of orbit.

There's a quote from the second season of the Star Trek (TOS) Writers' Guide, which seems ironic with regard to later series:

Tell your story about people, not about science
and gadgetry. Joe Friday doesn't stop to explain
the mechanics of his .38 before he uses it; Kildare
never did a monologue about the theory of anes-
thetics; Matt Dillon never identifies and dis-
cusses the breed of his horse before he rides
off on it.

(When I remember where I got it, I'll post the link.)

When it comes right down to it, ship-to-ship combat on TOS was really conflicts between characters, not ships; ships were only the tools that the people used.  Since Risus puts the emphasis on characters, not gadgets, I think I'll continue the tradition of both Star Trek and Risus.

Risus Trek: Starship Combat?

I am deep in the throes of prepping a Star Trek (Original Series) campaign, and I am struggling with my approach to starship combat. My gut instinct is that starships, even such beloved ones as the Enterprise, are simply tools of the trade, as per standard Risus rules (plus the nifty commentary on the subject in the Companion). After all, the stories mainly focused on how the badass the crew of the Enterprise was, rather than the ship itself; actual combat itself really came down to the decisions made and carried out by Kirk and the gang, usually as a group. (Most enemy ships, with a couple of exceptions, fought like a single character or grunt squad). I think that, most times, the characters would form a team and describe what they're doing suring the battle.  As characters blow their rolls and the dice start to go down, the different systems would start to fail, which creates challenges for the players.

Some of my players, however, have grown up on Star Fleet Battles, and are used to running ships of vastly different capabilities, all statted out in detail. I'm a little concerned that they will find the standard Risus combat to be too much handwaving; it makes me wonder if I should stat them out and make them characters in their own rights. But still it would come down to running the situation as a team, with the starship as a member of the team. But then I have to make decisions like what cliches does it have, how many dice, should I use Funky Dice, etc.?

Another alternative is allowing the Ship to function as plus dice gear, possibly allowing bonuses in multiple categories as applicable. Actually, I like the idea of making them "questing dice" a little more, since they would have a limited number of uses. The "quest" could be something like "Cutting Edge Explorer", "Pride of the Fleet", "Refurbished Destroyer", etc.

My thought process is rather confused on this matter, so any input would be greatly appreciated.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Beyond the Final Frontier Yet Again

My gaming friends have caught on that I'm a big huge Trekkie. Not that it was a secret; in fact, we all love Star Trek in one form or another. But the last couple of years I have been getting Trek books galore. This year, I was presented with 2 copies of 2 recent Trek books: "Star Trek: The Original Series 365", and the "Stra Trek Haynes Guide to the USS Enterprise". At my birthday party, I kept getting questions like "How old was Captain Kirk when he took command of the Enterprise?" (34.). Finally, last week, one of them asked, "So, can we expect to see any Risus Trek adventures soon?"

He didn't really have to ask. I've been doing research and writing notes ever since they got me the books. What's taken me so long? I've seen every episode of the original series (TOS) probably six to twelve times (with a couple of exceptions like "And The Children Shall Lead").  I haunt Memory Alpha weekly, if not daily. So I should be ready to go. All I need now is something to pull it all together. I need a hook, something to engage their attention, and I haven't found it yet. I want some Kirk-style exploration of strange new worlds, without being a pale copy of the series.

Maybe I should be listening to my players. When the whole Risus Trek thing came up, one of them immediately said that he wanted to play a Tholian. The one who brought the subject up said that he wanted to play a Gorn. Sure fine... one of them is a crystalline life form that lives in a superheated atmosphere, and the other one is a hulking carnivorous reptile-man, and both their species are hostile to the Federation. Let them tell me how they wind up on a Federation starship.

Hailing frequencies open.