Dieselpunk Deathstar

This picture is from the Final Fantasy game series. However, the first time I saw it, my instant reaction was Star Wars: an interior shot from a dieselpunk Deathstar. The Tibetan mystic must sneak across the abyss without attracting the attention of its grey-coated sentries.

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Frozen Skies: Arctic Dieselpunk RPG

British game writer Stephen Hughes has been working for a long time on Frozen Skies, a role-playing game in a dieselpunk/science-fantasy setting. The location is Alyeska, a frozen northern land where human settlers struggle against nature and against non-human indigenes. In a few places there are also precious remnants of an ancient civilization waiting to be discovered.

After checking the game’s Kickstarter page, I have made the following observations:

Grim adventurers? Check
Propeller planes? Check
Sky pirates? Check
Outposts in peril? Check
The Thing from Another World? Check(?)
Lost dark secrets? Check
James Bigglesworth? Well, no, but he would certainly feel at home here.
Tracked ice juggernauts? No, not as far as I saw. Stephen, that’s a void worth filling.

My verdict: This bodes well

Take a look yourself — link to Kickstarter >>>

My Ruby Jubilee as a Game Designer

I played a role-playing game for the first time in May 1977 at the first Gothcon (Swedish post about that event — link >>> ), Sweden’s premier game convention. Little did I know … etc.

Purple prose aside, it was a momentous experience but I did not realize that it redirected the course of my life: that day, I discovered a fountain of suspense and of never-ending joyful creativity. My first game was Dungeons & Dragons, the off-white box with three nigh incomprehensible rulebooks. I quickly acquired my own set plus a copy of Jim Ward’s science fiction RPG Metamorphosis Alpha (adventures in the lost starship Warden with mutants and monsters). After all, I preferred SF to fantasy.

In that autumn, I made my first attempt to design an RPG. The rules were based on Dungeons & Dragons and the setting was an SF cosmos inspired by Edmond Hamilton’s Star Wolves novels. And no, the nameless game was a dud. I ran it once and then consigned it to oblivion. In 1978 I instead discovered Traveller, and immediately started creating house rules. (Read more about that here — link>>> )

Forty years have passed and I am still an RPG designer in my spare time, even though these days I prefer to create setting while using already well-established rule engines. But the creative enthusiasm is still there. Jim Ward and Marc Miller opened the gates to Never-Never-Land for me and I rushed past them, and in there I still reside.

Nowadays I am the grizzled veteran, who gets interviewed by young gamers who want to hear what it was like in that legendary First Age of RPGs, but rest assured: I intend to go on writing games and novels as long as I keep my wits about me. My father was a vital chap until he turned 86, so hopefully I will follow in his footsteps and have another 20+ years of creative work ahead.

However, man proposes and God disposes.

Venus Exploration: Thinking Outside the Box

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, one of NASA’s top research facilities, is currently investigating whether it is feasible to design a wind-powered clock-work rover for Venus, tentatively named Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE). The basic concept was conceived by Jonathan Sauder, a mechatronics engineer at JPL.

AREE is designed to function on Venus’s surface without electronics, because the searing (470°C) and crushing (92 bar) atmosphere destroys such components quickly. Fortunately, the planet’s forceful winds can power Savonius wind turbines that provide the required mechanical energy for ground propulsion and on-board devices, for example a mechanical computer. Ergo, AREE is a clock-tech design made of hi-tech materials able to survive in that hellish environment for months.

AREE communicates with a Venus orbiter by a contraption of radar-reflective panels that can be set at various angles. The orbiter broadcasts a radar signal that is reflected back from those panels; the received “image” is then decoded by the orbiter. This simple device is comparable to Morse code or 18th-century semaphore telegraphs. (Also, check the movie The Martian where a stranded astronaut devises a similar method to communicate with Earth.)

Click on the AREE picture for a larger version.

Read more about the AREE studies here — link >>>

XKCD: Rocky Bodies in 2 Dimensions

The eminent site XKCD has published this picture that compares the surface areas of notable rocky celestial bodies in our solar system. The four giant planets are excluded because they lack mappable surfaces. The arrangement would be laid out nicely on the type of Ringworld that Larry Niven proposed in some of his stories — link >>>