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Subject:growth of the wiki
Time:01:15 pm
بسمه تعالى


There's been a lot of development on the "Troika cluster" wiki --so named by me in honor of my name for our gaming group, the Troika, which as far as I know nobody else has adopted.

Lots of updates from most of the group: information on the societies of the planets they created, their characters, and stats for ships and gear built from the design rules. I was happy to see all this: Diaspora's supposed to be shared-creativity sort of play, but as the introducer of it to the group, that puts weight on my production time.

In play, it was great to see the wiki had been used: the two crunchiest players knew the characteristics of the Volcanan picket ship in the system: beams, electronic warfare capacity, no torpedoes. One player ship was specifically designed to outrun the picket ship. Which it did, after getting nearly whipped in electronic warfare.
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Subject:Wiki for our cluster & games
Time:06:35 pm

So far we have more detailed material on Gaia and Celebes; ships for most of the systems; some T2 energy weapons (which the rulebook is skimpy on); and actual play notes from both our sessions.

One thing we may change next time is to up the number of Military Grade stunts: "If I'm a pilot trained on MG ships, I still went through basic training, including using a sidearm." So maybe MG training gives a bundle of 3 skills. These are gamers after all... blowing stuff up is de rigueur.
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Subject:The True and Faithful History of the Stuarts, Psionic Kings of Britain
Time:11:37 pm
Iago: She's able to take it more easy on the weekends than me.

Ywns: what is this wee-kend of which you speak?!

Iago: A little Scotsman I sometimes ride for little excursions in Piedmont park. We call them "expeditions in the name of his majesty James VI."

Ywns: Ah,the Psionic King of Angleterre-et-Ecosse, dread of diabolists across the isles! "Think no wicked thought, lest terrible King Jimmy kill ye with his MIND!"
The fortunes of later Stuarts rose and fell with the supplies of the extra-terrene gem, psycholith.

Iago: So Charles the I had the misfortune of ruling during a shortage of the essential gem, while Charles II returned with them in hand... only to have them quickly squandered by his successor.

Ywns: The Jacobites, alas, were always in short supply, having made fatal missteps in the covert trade with the star-folk.

Iago: They didn't appreciate being implicated in the claim of the Divine Right of Kings, which would have made them suzerain to him.
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Subject:Ibn Khaldun and endless turmoil
Time:10:15 am

Talking to anaskyfish about Diaspora cluster generation and porting it to settings other than fusiontorch hard science fiction, I started on the following.

In Ibn Khaldun's introduction to his work on world history, he provides a model for Mediterranean dynastic history from the Romans on up to his own day. On the coasts, in oases, and in fertile valleys between mountains, cities form the basis of the life of kingdoms and principalities. Here you have civilization! Madrassas to train jurists, artisans to make fine homes and trade objects, fertile ground for food, dyes, tobacco. But in the mountains and deserts, life is hard: you have only your herds for wealth, but your toughness gives you an advantage over the softies down in Marrakech or Tlemcen.

A tribe at some point senses weakness in an urban kingdom, swarms down, and violently replaces the current rulers. For a few generations, the new rulers of the kingdom maintain their `asabiyya, their tough tribal cohesiveness and group pride, and the polity is dynamic, expansive, endowing schools and building fortifications. Alas, the luxury of urban life always overcomes the rulers, and they become weak, targets for the next group of hardscrabble barbarians moving across the desert.

Tribes and principalities for a given period are generated using Diaspora rules, rolling 4 fudge dice or a d6 minus another d6 (treating results of 5 as a 0).

Asabiyya is the bond between members of a tribe, who protect their own and deal harshly with outsiders. High asabiyya leads a tribe in the wilderness to act decisively in their own interests, with great confidence and energy. Low asabiyya is the state of a decaying dynasty and their grandees, who will pursue intrigues and go against the interests of the polity.

Trade is the measure of the polity's wealth, whether in mercantile and agricultural goods or in trade routes themselves, the animals and men to pack it over desert and mountain.

Satisfaction with the status quo. If high, the motivation is to keep what one has and preserve relations among neighbors. If low, go get it!

Low Asabiyya and high Trade indicate a settled state. High Asabiyya and low Satisfaction mean a polity in an expansionist frame.

Need to think about some connections between polities à la the Hollowpoint variations the VSCA guys are currently testing.
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Subject:Great site for travel times & other spacey numbers
Time:01:44 pm
بسمه تعالى


The top calculator will do travel times for a given acceleration for a given distance. It takes input in meters; one astronomical unit (range from earth to sun) is a titch under 150,000,000 km, so put that in as 150000000000. Distance from a planet in an earth-like orbit to the slipstream point above the barycenter of the system is around 5 AUs, so 600000000000. After some playing around, I think of it as my interesting figure with hitting zero in three groups of three afterward.

I'm not clear if this is straight accelerating all the way, or accelerating halfway, flipping over, and decelerating; i suspect the former, meaning work in halves and double transit time.

Next thing is to find some software for rendering distances between orbiting bodies. There are lots of solar system models; I want one I can put in planets at arbitrary orbits and let it run. It's just easier for me to have a visual model that also gives distances in km or AU; how *long* is that trip from Hamadryad IX's moon system to the orbital habs of IV?

One thing the extrasolar planetary search has shown is that our eight planets & assorted junk doesn't look like a common model, so assuming Diaspora systems will have planets in orbits like our system is not satisfying in all cases.
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Subject:covert phone video espionage of our game
Time:04:40 pm
Our Diaspora cluster planning session on youtube!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62dHPzquGy0 Neil explains about Vulcana, paranoid high-control society and only source of new slipstream ships in the cluster.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJnh168S8hw yours truly talks about Celebes. D'ya like weird senescent civilizations much, Yunus?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bj0s-M4XO2w Tony gives a couple of aspects for the corporate contractocracy of System 1.
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Subject:AP: dis/trust cluster
Time:12:33 am
بسمه تعالى

Still more Diaspora! This time.... ACTUAL LIVE GROUP PLAY!

Tony – System 1 (T0, E0, R1)
"Profit is always justified"
"Know your role, shut your mouth"
"Continuous development"

James: The name came about because “the CEO in charge couldn’t think of a better name.” Demonstrating that rising to your level of incompetence doesn’t prevent you from developing intrasystem travel, this system is entirely organized and built around conglomerations of corporations that rule every facet of society for one end: profit. Because there is no other, separate gov’t, the corporations set their own law, and frequently engage in corporate takeovers, some bloody, some not. They run all schools, prison systems, and other services.

Due to the factionalization, the system is currently unstable politically as different corporations try to gain an upper hand in business dealings. This has attracted the attention of the other systems, which typically will try to deal fairly in order to curry favor.

Though not possessing the technology themselves, their system has sufficient natural (?) slipstreams to contact most of the systems in the sector, putting them in a prime trading position. Combined with their amiable relations outside the system, much potential profit is to be had for those few lucky enough to possess a slipstream ship (or patient enough to travel slowly).

Yunus: Power over the planet is maintained by the interlocked boards of directors and mediated through complex contract law. While the contracts for space exploration and defense are in the hands of DemiCorp, for example, space research belongs to another company. Ostensibly this keeps them at odds, but factions of executives strive to move things their own way.

Birth is regulated, genetic manipulation is standard. System 1 people --do they call themselves Systemics?-- have perfect teeth and winning smiles for that perfect resume pic.

Slipstream connections to Vulcana, Gaia, Mantis, and Celebes

Read more...Collapse )
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Subject:Thoughts on slipstreams, pt 1 of X
Time:10:21 am
بسمه تعالى

(Before my actual post, WHY IS THE MAC ARABIC KEYBOARD SO DIFFERENT FROM THE PC's?!?! I just spent 2 minutes trying to find the alif maqsura (ى). Why, Apple, why!)

Diaspora slipstream points connect a few star systems, each featuring up to multiple habitable planets. The VSCA designers made up the slipstream system, and most things in the setting, to be vague enough for interpretation and specific enough to generate interesting setting details. They suggest that slipstreams may be natural features or advanced artifacts of jiggery-pokery with spacetime. It's up to your table to decide: the setting design is in your hot little hands. All well and good.

To me, two things are very noticeable, and interesting to explain or alter. First, that slipstreams connect systems preloaded with nice earthlike or earthish planets. Second, "systems are separated by unknown volumes of space... likely unknown and possibly unknowable (17)." They don't connect arbitrary stars like all the little M-class red dwarves that make up 70% of stars in Sol-local space, and that seem unlikely to have habitable planets. Instead, the connect interesting "habitable worlds for man," as per the great book on colonizable planets I need to dig out my copy of one of these days. Thanks, Aunt Karen!

So with the rules as written, that to me suggests a highly anthropic universe, or a previous era of beings monkeying with spacetime and who liked Earthlike planets. Possibly advanced humans, or the hoary trope of the precursor species seeding the galaxy for its stepchildren and uplifts.

So one implication, and one I did not intend to start this entry writing about, is that a fair number of religious practitioners within a Diaspora setting, who a) have no necessary knowledge of Earth and its history or biology, and b) live in a world where a number of nice planets for human beings are connected in an apparently finite network of slipstream points, will believe that 1) these planets and their slipstream FTL connections are planned like the banana that fits into a human hand, 2) that humanity originated on one, several, or simultaneously all of the planets in the cluster (and probably have pointless controversy over which planet is the homeworld), and 3) the number of planets and the conventional depiction of the cluster will have religious significance.

E.g., using a real world symbol system, the ten planets of the inhabited universe map out the ten spheres of the Sefirot. Despite the shallow civilizations currently heaving their rough bulks across the faces of ten protesting worlds, each of these planets has a frequency, a number, a divine name, a secret name corresponding to that of the Sefirot and its biblical allusions, and so forth. Whatever their world of origin, true kabbalists should proceed to the foundation center on the tenth planet whose secret name is Malchut and begin their pilgrimage through the centers on each of the worlds in sequence.

Some politically oriented groups will work for the control of the Crowning Three systems, or for the Heart System of Tiferet. Or smuggle pilgrims across the blockade between two systems whose unbelieving governments are at war.

The systems as map to the Crown of G-D is an ideology used by pacifists and interstellar imperialists alike, and is commonly invoked as a symbol for the essential unity of humanity in literature and pop culture: "the Tree" means the ten systems, especially on worlds with no actual trees.

A bit of a drift from rules for making Alderson Tramway style links between local stars, which I'll have to return to later.
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Subject:Lonely Pair of Worlds
Time:01:56 am
بسمه تعالى
A small cluster begun by JS and YW.

Tech 3
Environment 2
Resources 1
"Byzantium has nothing on Vosh"
"Inscrutable AIs"
"Strangers from the Sky"

The lush fourth planet of a bright yellow sun, Vosh has had a stable if static and stuffy civilization for some 1200 local years. Everyone is prosperous, but the marks between profession-clans are strong: Food-engineers do not mix with Geothermal-monitors, and Chess-garden-architects are not seen with High-atmospheric-thermal-texturists, though each of these two may mingle and contract marriages with Water-distribution-speculators. Voshians have many intricate hobbies, ritual athletics, form- and rule-governed art forms, and other inward-looking occupations.

Off Vosh itself, society extends to the many ancient habitats occupying LaGrange points around the inner planets. The habitats, and the interface vehicles running between them and the planet, are maintained by AIs created by a previous civilization. The Habitat-brains and ship-brains are inscrutable, difficult to communicate with, and nearly impossible to successfully argue with. By now most Voshites have forgotten about them: they and their bizarre obsessions are merely a set of the things in life one must accept without understanding.

Voshites are neither by disposition inclined toward innovation & basic science, nor are their institutions supportive of such tendencies. The interstellar technology, advanced cosmology, environmental systems, and other features of Vosh tech life are mostly wheedled or gifted from the habitat-brains.

The economy providing supplies to the habitats is mostly automated. The few jump-ships are owned and operated by peculiar, marginal, thrill-seeking Voshites who don't care for the fussy tastes of their homeworld. Spacers are oddballs, loners, show-offs, the peculiar rich and the obsessed idealist. Exploration of the jump-lines have led to many boring red stars with no worlds to speak of... and Icharus IV, the savage, romantic frontier.

Tech -4
Environment +1
Resources -1

"Deadly Wildlife"
"Most Beautiful Women in the Universe"
"Savage, Romantic Frontier"

(to be continued...)

Laurence Derby Rothschild, rich Voshite adventurer

"More Money Than God"
"Ever the Ladies' Man"
"Why Shouldn't I?"
"I Know A Guy"
"I Probably Have One Of Those"
"I Gotta Get Me One Of Those"
"No Beast Can Escape Me"
"My Word Is Better Than A Voshian Legal Contract"
"My Friend Here Could Kill You With His Kidney"
"Yuormer, one of these days I'LL save YOUR life"

Yuormer has "Listen to me, star-friend Laurence! DO NOT... RIDE... THE TIGER LILLIES."

+5 Assets
+4 Charm, Brokerage
+3 Survival, Slug Throwers, Bureaucracy,
+2 Resolve, Close Combat, Alertness, Stealth
+1 Agility, Pilot, Culture/Tech (for Icharus) Repair, Vehicle

Health OOO
Composure OOO O
Wealth OOO OOO
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Subject:Alliance/Contestants Cluster
Time:02:35 am
بسمه تعالى

A cluster I rolled up according to the Diaspora rules, except I made it m'self, not collaboratively. The system stats and connections are rolled; the rest is my filling in background behind the numbers. This was a solo effort, which falls short of the intention and capability of the system, but I do love it as a solo game too.

The Alliance is composed of the Eta Berenike and Khartoum Jdeed systems, whose two centuries of economic and social development has made them tightly interlocked. The Alliance is an economic and cultural linkage; each system is a separate polity. The slipstreams to Varanasi, New Terranova and beyond were discovered only 57 years ago; the Contestant systems, by which the Alliance refers specifically to the space-faring but not yet slip-capable New Terranova, Rhodes-Tufts, and Lisutu systems, have just begun to develop.

New Lisutu
Tech +1 Environ -1 Resources +1
"We all chip in"
"Men's work, women's work"
"Hands off New Lisutu!"

A lovely moon of a superjovian, plenty of everything else. A local history of environmental genetic diseases left Lisutu collectivized and regimented. Now collectivization has become militarization in the face of the perceived dangers of Outsiders. Society is highly segregated by sex, with men in military and most off-world jobs, women in business and administration groundside, although how a given field is gendered can be surprising. The specific threat of New Terranova is pushing some Basutu toward relations with Rhodes-Tufts, but anti-Outsider sentiment is a strong barrier.

Slipstream connections to Bolton, New Terranova, and Rhodes-Tufts

Bolton (Patchwork; The Bog)
Tech -2 Environ +1 Resources -2
"Divine right of kings"
"Coilgun empires"
"Bolton welcomes our foreign devil overlords"

A long inhabited world, Bolton has not recovered from a violent collapse. Most of the inhabitable planet is an agricultural patchwork of ethnicities, religions, and languages. Gunpowder empires --Kask, Ambrosaan, Chmau, and other smaller states-- were already spreading prior to the first Alliance traders; now off-world coilguns are the prestige weapon, sold for colonization rights that are making Bolton a face of the Contestants' tensions. Khartoumi adventurers and arms dealers are working with all sides, including playing Lawrence of Arabia with local subalterns.

Connections: New Lisutu, New Terranova, Rhodes-Tufts

New Terranova
Tech +1 Environ -3 Resources -2
"Cowboy techies"
"Expand or die!"
"Dark side of Khartoum"

Violent space-born society. The planet of New Terranova itself is no more, deconstructed by an earlier Collapsing civilization to build a lattice-like superconstruct in the system's oort cloud. 'Novans live in a myriad of planetoid habitats, space stations, and vast ancient ships. While some worldlets are reclusive, most now are linked in an expansionist coalition of warlords and belter strongmen. Generations of scrabbling for resources has left a legacy of destruction and waste. There is little coin to purchase the slipstream ships needed to mine (or invade) other systems, but adventurers from Khartoum find the excitement of brigandry coin enough... Lisutu and Rhodes-Tufts are the 'Novan's clear rivals, the resources of Hamadryad or Lisutu the target.

Connections: New Lisutu, Bolton, Rhodes-Tufts, Hamadryad, Eta Berenike

Tech +1 Environ -2 Resources -1
"All for the collectivity"
"Raised in a creche"
"Promising ally?"

Rhodes is a marginal terraformed world inhabitable at the poles, with near-boiling salt marshes across the equator. The Tufts are planetoids in orbits that swing quite close to the slipstream points. The system's water is processed from the equatorial region, where the local dinoids make exciting hunting; and from the atmosphere of a jovian planet. Rhodian society is intricately organized with an ideology called the Collectivity and with pervasive cybernetics. Children are raised in creches, learning and communicating through implanted information technology that allows an uncanny degree of coordination and shared experience. They may sing and vocalize, but do not typically speak: language is handled through the implants. Rhodians communicate to outsiders only with difficulty; several centuries of this cyber-telepathic development has drastically altered their thought processes. They are interested in trade and development, without the militarism typical of the other Contestants. This makes them a favored market for the saner elements of the Alliance.

Connections: Bolton, New Terranova, Hamadryad

Tech -1 Environ +2 Resources +2
"Dieselpunk chivalry"
"Breakdown of tradition"
"Foreign meddling"

A garden planet with several quiet millennia of rule under near-immortal Lamas and the ritual contests of the Seigneurs, each Seigneurial family with its ancestral transatmospheric fighter planes. The Lamasery state, which keeps meditating adepts in every city and village, is supported by certain legacy technologies. The lower orders have long been kept in line by the promise of adoption into the ruling castes and concomitant gene therapy. Four marginal worlds in the system have recently been opened to colonization by low-castes who want the freedoms of the Alliance traders, without the restrictions of the Lamas and Seigneurs; Alliance traders run regular settlement flights between planets. Many Seigneurs, too, are unhappy with the old order, and are well aware of the more advanced Contestants mining the outer planets.

Connections: New Terranova, Rhodes-Tufts, Varanasi

Tech -2 Environ +2 Resources -4
"Four worlds in one"
"Riddled with mysteries... and caves"
"Full of tourists and scientists"

A deep mystery planet. Varanasi is a large, low-density planet, the solitary body in orbit of an M0 sun. Solitary: there are no other objects larger than molecules in the rest of the system; Varanasi is not tidally locked, and orbits its sun retrograde. The planet has almost no heavy metals and is honeycombed with caverns down to its rocky core. Ribbons of an immensely strong exotic material run through the planet, conducting heat throughout and returning water and nutrients to the surface. The interior spaces are home to a rich ecology whose foundational plant-analogues live off geothermal energy; this ecology appears to include species from at least five entirely separate genetic heritages, and two local species may be sophonts. The surface of Varanasi, 2.5 times that of Earth, is covered with plains, lakes, and forests, with no large bodies of water nor highlands. Mostly uninhabited, one region is home to an urban culture in the midst of a revival of its classical culture. Industry is based on intricate woodworking, textiles, organic chemistry, and ceramics. Varanasi is rich in exoticism and habitat, if little else, and is a de facto Alliance protectorate.

Connections: Hamadryad, Eta Berenike

Eta Berenike (Alliance)
Tech +2 Environ +1 Resources -1
"Safe as houses"
"Let me adjust that for you"
"Making the cluster safe"

Etans built the first slipstream drives in recorded history, following archaeological hints and legendary memories of star travel. Their explorers found the Khartoum Jdeed system, the Khartoumis themselves on the cusp of slipstream travel. The two societies rediscovered their contact with humans across the stars, and an intense cultural, economic, religious, and scientific exchange began: the Alliance is not a political union, as each world has several governments and forms of organization, but a reflection of a high degree of mutual dependence. The Alliance charters and regulates interstellar businesses and development groups across the Contestant developing systems, and sells or leases slipstream ships; there is little in the way of an Alliance military, but the Orbital Guard has a variety of police and rescue activities.
Etans favor a dirigiste society with extensive planning, overview, and review; the stereotypical Etan is orderly, reserved, thrifty, and prefers sitting in a garden listening to windchimes to talking to the neighbors. Contemplative arts, peaceful intricate music, and an active theosophical life are favored Etan pursuits. With the nicer planet by far, Etans have hosted a great deal of Khartoumi immigration, and in many cities the distinction is disappearing.

Connections: New Terranova, Hamadryad, Khartoum Jdeed

Khartoum Jdeed (Alliance)
Tech +3 Environ 0 Resources +3
"Competitive thrill-seekers"
"Made in Khartoum"
"The ugly American"

With their large system's resources (multiple jovian planets, rich dust clouds, a dense planetoid belt full of heavy and rare metals, abundant water, and bright F8 sunlight, most Alliance industry, including nearly all starship manufacture, has migrated to Khartoum Jdeed. A typical Alliance concern will have Khartoumi research and creative staff, mixed management, and Etan finance and legal. A significant portion of the native Etan workforce is active in Khartoumi space, but off the planet.
Khartoum Jdeed is another marginal world, rich in minerals but hot, glaring, in need of constant ecological fiddling, and prone to violent weather. The stereotypical Khartoumi is large, loud, active, intensely individualistic, and highly competitive. Sports and thrill-seeking occupy a major portion of Khartoumi culture: challenge yourself and know you are alive. Not all Khartoumis are satisfied with orbital jumps or gymkhana boxing, nor even running trade routes through the Contestant systems: wherever there is conflict, Khartoumi arms dealers and other shady characters are likely to be found. Quite a few have found their way to New Terranova, aiding and sometimes coming to lead war bands.

Connections: Eta Berenike
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