Wednesday, December 18, 2013

[Q&A] Ken Spencer (Rocket Age: Blood Red Mars)

<Ken_Spencer>: I am the lead writer and line developer for Cubicle 7's Rocket Age RPG. Our latest supplement is Blood Red Mars, a close look at Mars, Martians, and its role in the overarching setting of Rocket Age

<Ken_Spencer>: I am coming to you from the dedicated RPG room of our FLGS, Legends Family and Hobby Games. We just wrapped up a playtest session for one of the pdf episodes being developed to support Blood Red Mars.

<Abstruse>: (Make sure when you're finished with your into to give me a (Done) so I know when to open the floor.)

<Abstruse>: (or intro rather)

<Ken_Spencer>: (done)

<Abstruse>: Okay, does anyone have any questions to start us off?

<technoshaman>: hi ken, my first question is are there any new professions that geared for the tribes of mars in Blodd Red Mars?

<Ken_Spencer>: The Chanari have several two new occupations, the Chanari Seer and the Yellow -Red Flyer Pilot. There are several other occupational packages given in the organizations section as well.

<Abstruse>: Dan left me with a few questions to ask, and his first one was of course about any new races we might see. "What new character types and/or races are available?"

<Ken_Spencer>: The Chanari Seers are religious leaders, psychic, and considered insane by their fellows. The Yellow-Red Flyer Pilot uses a hang glider like construction to scout in the Western Highlands and attack from above. (done)

<Abstruse>: (Did you see my question from Dan?)

<Ken_Spencer>: No new species in Blood Red Mars, there are some new ones in Heroes of the Solar System (in nid-development). However, the Chanari get a whole chapter.

<Ken_Spencer>: Blood Red Mars does introduce a new concept for Rocket Age, organizations. Each organization (and there are over a dozen in BRM) has a detailed description as well as a sample NPC, plot hooks, character hooks, and an occupational package.

<Ken_Spencer>: (done)

<Abstruse>: So what all are you adding to the game with this book? Just a quick overview and we can ask specific questions to elaborate...

<Ken_Spencer>: First off, we have a gazetteer of Mars that expands on the information in the corebook. We look more closely at the various regions of Mars, the conflicts going on, and sites both mysterious and well known. Each new entry has a set of plot hooks and a sample NPC.

+++ ChanServ has given voice to rayston

<Abstruse>: (Hello rayston, we've got a Q&A going on with Ken Spencer if you have any questions.)

<Ken_Spencer>: Next, we move on to Organizations, which was a lot of un to write. This chapter includes expanded information on the ORder of the Sacred Hamaxe, Deutsche Marskorps, and 31st Seal. It also introduces the 1e Legion Martien, Society of Eternal Bliss, and Cilician Brotherhood, amongst others.

*** Silver-afk is now known as Silverlion

<Ken_Spencer>: Chapter Five is all about the Chanari, their lifeways, diet, religion, and more. Chapter Six is flora and fauna, plenty of new animals and plants to eat PCs, complete with the usual plethora of story hooks. We end with an appendix featuring new traits, equipment, Ancient Martian Artifacts, and other assorted goodies.

<Silverlion>: Abstruse: Are you asking Dan's questions?

<Ken_Spencer>: The book ends in a full length episode, "the Stolen Artifact" that is set in Emancipation. (done)

<Silverlion>: Ken: Why castes?

<Abstruse>: (As they come up in ones of my own.)

<Silverlion>: Cool.

*** Blazing_Phoenix is now known as Lioness

<Abstruse>: Another one from Dan: "Can you give examples of new technology?"

<Silverlion>: Ken: Why so many "axe" happy races? (All of two )<Abstruse>: (Question Pause)

<Ken_Spencer>: The castes on Mars are rigid and set social positons that are inherited. I wanted the Martian culture to be very old, and very set in stone. The coming of the Earthlings disrupts this, and introduces change into a system that knows little change. (done)

<Ken_Spencer>: New tech: Modern or Ancient?

<Abstruse>: Dan didn't specify, but he's probably curious about both.

<Ken_Spencer>: As far as 'axe happy' species, which two? The Maduri are certainly violent, as the Venusians can be at times. (done)

+++ ChanServ has given voice to rayston

<Ken_Spencer>: New modenr tech is largely Chanari based. They have new weapons such as the fire lance (spear 'em and then set them on fire), flyers (the aforementioned gliders), silt raiders (Chanari pirate ships), and others. (done)

<Abstruse>: I'm curious about the ancient Martian artifacts myself...

<Silverlion>: Just thinking of the fact you've got Maduri/Order of the Hameaxe, and the Venusians as Axe wielders...

<technoshaman>: does this books explain more about the color-coded martians and the meaning behind the colors?

<Ken_Spencer>: As far as Ancient tech, one fine example is the auto loader the party was using tonight. It is a hovering cargo carrier with an anti-dust and dirt force field. (done)

<Silverlion>: What are the new details of the Order of the Hameaxe? Does it cover how they do things?

<Ken_Spencer>: Ah, the Maduri, Hamaxe, and Venusians. I happen to like axes, they are a tool and a weapon. This fits well for the Venusians. As far as the Martians, an axe is a shock weapon, and also a terror weapon. (done)

+++ ChanServ has given voice to Guest06

<MonkofLords>: Oi Guest

<Silverlion>: Makes sense.

<Abstruse>: (Hello Guest06, we've got a Q&A going on with Ken Spencer over the new book for Rocket Age, Blood Red Mars. You can set your nick with the /nick command)

<Ken_Spencer>: The color-coding of the Chanari tribes are part of their totemic symbology. BRM goes into detail about the different tribes, how they developed, and what makes them distinctive. (done)

<Silverlion>: Allo Guest06, you can set your name with /nick ala /Nick Bob if you want to be bob

+++ ChanServ has given voice to TwentySix

<Silverlion>: Allo TwentySix

<Guest06>: Hi there, just here to watch the chat!

<Ken_Spencer>: On the Order of the Sacred Hamaxe. We look at their history, the strucutre of a warband, and how they use psychic healing to dirve out demons (their view of mental illness). (done)

*** Guest06 is now known as EPHedge

<Silverlion>: Cool. Are there actual "demons" beyond that?

<Ken_Spencer>: About the axes, I think I had just finished up my work on Frog God Games' viking fantasy Northlands setting when I started Rocket Age. (done)

<Ken_Spencer>: No actual demons (at least in the supernatural sense). However, Martian art depicts demons as large hairless ape men. (done)

<Abstruse>: Another from Dan: How do the Martian troops manage to pose any threat to Earthling troops?

<Ken_Spencer>: Numbers, radium rifles, pure ferocity. Imagine every battle as Rourke's Drift with RAY guns. Also, the Earthlings are more often than not acting in concert with their native allies. Finally, there are no petrochemicals on Mars. (done)

<Silverlion>: What can you tell us about Chanari Seers, and are there new psychic powers?

<Ken_Spencer>: There are two new psychic traits, Lucid Dreaming and PSychic Healing. The former is the ability to project a dream self, similar to astral projection but more powerful and somewhat unreliable.

<Ken_Spencer>: Psychic healing can be used to heal mental Bad traits, though at some risk (and you still have to 'buy off' the trait). (done)

<technoshaman>: will there be maps of the train and trade routes of mars on the sorcebook?

<Silverlion>: Cool stuff.

<Ken_Spencer>: Yes, the maps show some of the Chanari routes and ruined Ustalivs. (done)

<Abstruse>: How much detail do you go into on the various regions on Mars? I'm only vaguely familiar with the game, so I'm not sure how populated it is.

<Silverlion>: Any cool quirks you've written in the book that you'd like to share?

<Ken_Spencer>: Seers commune with the spirits and also speak prophecy. They are supposed to be mentally unstable, and if a Seer is sane, they usually act mad in order to fit in. Seers are attended by the Speechless, mute servants who do all the grunt work.

<Abstruse>: (Question Pause)

<Ken_Spencer>: The Speechless have their tongues cut out so that they may not repeat omens they are not supposed to. (done)

<Silverlion>: Cool.

<Ken_Spencer>: There is a lot of detail on the various nations and city-states spread across the gazetteer and organizations section. One of the quirks of Rocket Age is that each we include a large number of story hooks, just pull them out and you are ready to go!

<Silverlion>: Story hooks are very useful

<Ken_Spencer>: As far as quirks, I had a lot of fun with the sample NPCs. One is based on a fellow who came to our booth at GenCon and was on the fence as far as Rocket Age. As we talked he decided to buy a copy, and another if I would put him in the book. I put him in BRM as a sample NPC (John Arcadian, Space Explorer in a Kilt) (done)

<Silverlion>: What is your favorite part of the book?

<Ken_Spencer>: Just as an aside, EPHedge is our elite playtester Jeremy Hedge. He ran several events for us at GenCon. Hi Hedge (done)

<Silverlion>: (<--is an avid new fan of Rocket )

<Ken_Spencer>: I should also mention that Brian Roe wrote the intro short fiction piece, "Pillars of Death". (done)

<EPHedge>: (<--is the reason for the War Walkers. Mecha FTW!)

<Abstruse>: How much detail do you go into on the various regions on Mars? I'm only vaguely familiar with the game, so I'm not sure how populated the planet is.

+++ ChanServ has given voice to TwentySix

+++ ChanServ has given voice to Songtress

<Silverlion>: We lost him...

<Abstruse>: Looks like...I think he was having a connection issue...

<EPHedge>: Ok, I'm in the same room as Ken and he says he's still up.

<Abstruse>: Must be a netsplit then. Can you have him try disconnecting and reconnecting?

<EPHedge>: Nvrmnd, just realized he froze.

+++ ChanServ has given voice to Ken_Spencer

<Abstruse>: There we go! Welcome back, Ken!

<Ken_Spencer>: I appear to have froze out without realizing it. (done)

<Silverlion>: It happens..welcome back

<Ken_Spencer>: Where were we? (done)

<Abstruse>: From Dan: What can you tell us about the included adventure?

<Ken_Spencer>: "The Stolen Artifact" takes place in Emancipation. Our heros are hired or otherwise enticed to take part in the auction of an Ancient Martian artifact, a teleportation device. The episode starts at a night club, the Rocket Cat, and involves a chase through the city,

<Silverlion>: Does shooting begin quickly? Or yes chases..

<Ken_Spencer>: Five way struggle for the artifact, a firefight with Soviets (including a Venusian Soviet), and an auction in the sewers under the city. (done)

<Abstruse>: Well you brought up the Soviets, so it seems a good time to ask this one from Dan: How much of a Cold War exists between the Axis powers and the other nations on Mars?

<Ken_Spencer>: The shooting starts at the nightclub, right after the comedian warms up the crowd but before the Andrews Sisters take the stage. (done)

+++ ChanServ has given voice to AWOLJoe

<Ken_Spencer>: On Mars it is all hands turned against each other. The Axis powers are united (at least Italy and Germany are), but don't trust each other. The French, Americans, and British work together as needed, but aren't close allies. Even the US State Department is at odds with the MIlitary. Then there are the native factions, freebooters, and the Soviets. (done)

<Abstruse>: So are they balanced on a knife's edge from all-out war?

<Abstruse>: Or have things kind of settled into a situation where no one wants to see the balloon go up?

<Ken_Spencer>: All-out war is a possibility, but no one wants a Solar System wide conflict, so a lot of cloak and dagger as well as proxy conflicts. (done)

<Abstruse>: How much detail do you go into on the planet? Is it fully colonized or are they spread out?

<Ken_Spencer>: Earthlings colonization is largely in the Kalond Canal Valley and G'hascar Triangle. The rest of the planet is in native hands or spotted with Earthling conquests. There is a lot of detail, but there are also areas left blank or glossed over that can be filled in at the table.

<Ken_Spencer>: One of my goals with Rocket Age has been to leave room for whatever style of game you want to use it for. There are areas to explore if that is your thing. You buy the game, I won;t tell you how to play it. (done)

<Abstruse>: So do you go into a lot of detail in any areas or just do an overview of everything?

<Ken_Spencer>: The areas that are driving the overarching story of Mars are given the most detail. Areas covered in the corebook are given less detail, as I want BRM to offer more new information rather than rehashing existing locales.

<Ken_Spencer>: There is a sampling of all the major areas, and all the major Earthling and Native powers in play. The organizations, as large planet wide actors, are given a lot of detail as well, more in comparison to individual city-states.

+++ ChanServ has given voice to rayston

<Ken_Spencer>: Most of all, I wanted BRM to be fun to read, and thought provoking as well. (done)

<Abstruse>: So is there a land grab going on?

<Silverlion>: What do the martians do against Walkers?

<Ken_Spencer>: A big land grab, the Kalond Canal Valley Wars are over, but new wars are heating up. The various powers are trying to gain what they can while a relative peace still holds.

<Ken_Spencer>: Native Martians against war walkers? Run and hide would be a good option. KNowing Maduri, try to pile on until it falls over. (done)

<Abstruse>: How many native Martian tribes are there?

<Silverlion>: Are there any Martian historical "secrets?" the book reveals?

<Ken_Spencer>: There are hundreds of Chanari tribes divided into a handful of cultural groups. (done)

<Ken_Spencer>: No new secrets, though more on Martian ruins and religion is presented. The hypocrisy of the Orthodox Fellowship is underlined. For example, they claim dominion over all of Mars, and even maintain priests that 'serve' in cities that have never been converted. (done)

+++ ChanServ has given owner to Dan

+++ ChanServ has given op to Dan

+++ ChanServ has given admin to egyptian

+++ ChanServ has given op to egyptian

<Abstruse>: Yay Dan!

<Dan>: (Just checking in, folks. All going well?)

<Ken_Spencer>: (A little slow)

<Dan>: (Ah. Well, if someone would be kind enough to email me the log thus far, I'll see what I can do! )

<Abstruse>: (That formatted weird, but it's on its way.)

<Abstruse>: Looks like there's a chapter on Flora and Fauna. How hostile is the environment on Mars?

<Ken_Spencer>: Mars is conflict, and the natural world wants to eat you. its not as bad as Venus, being a desert there are far less animals around. Keep in mind that the most common riding animals is a carnivorous lizard, and that should give you an idea.

<Ken_Spencer>: We have black silt spiders, silt dragons, sand wallowers, and the desert well tree, a nasty plant that will drag you beneath the sands and drown you for fertilizer. That is if the explosive seed pods don't kill you first. (done)

<Abstruse>: Feels odd asking one of Dan's questions now that he's here, but it fits: How large is the bestiary?

<Ken_Spencer>: Eleven entreis form the Black Silt Spider to the Stigia Bird. Each with three story hooks and full stats. (done)

<Dan>: (Okay, caught up! I'll jump in in just a moment.)

<Abstruse>: Any teases you can give us to new stuff we haven't seen before out of them?

<Dan>: To what extent do you feel you were able to cover an entire planet in one sourcebook?

+++ ChanServ has given voice to Killyb

<Dan>: (Howdy, Killyb! Q&A in progress, #rpgnet2 open for general chat! )

<Ken_Spencer>: Teasers: Gaint flightless birds called Roayl Karn pull Silthuri war and processional chariots. (done)

<Ken_Spencer>: It was not easy to cover a whole planet in one sourcebook. The word count was tight, and you have to stay in those bounds. Even so, I managed to wheedle a little more out, Blood Red Mars will be larger than other Rocket Age sourcebooks. (done)

<Dan>: Are there any new races and/or character types in BRM?

<Abstruse>: Do you take into account things like the lessened gravity and thinner atmosphere? Or has the planet been sort of terraformed or glossed over per the genre?

Abstruse feels more comfortable asking stupider questions now that Dan's here ^_^;;

Dan chuckles

<Ken_Spencer>: Mars is pretty much Earth like in gravity and atmosphere, a nod to the sci-fi of yesteryear. (done)

<Silverlion>: Always cool

<Ken_Spencer>: As far as new character types and such, we covered it already. It all comes down to the organizations, each has a new occupational package, even the 31st Seal Terrorists. (done)

<Dan>: Have you introduced any new rules as a result of the focus on Mars?

<Ken_Spencer>: There are some new character traits, such as The Sand Gets Everywhere and Gone Native, as well as new equipment traits such as Brick and Crushing Wheels (done)

<Le_Squide>: What does The Sand Gets Everywhere do?

<Abstruse>: (Make me gag because it reminds me Episode II exists?"

<Ken_Spencer>: The Sand Gets Everywhere allows you to take a penalty to a roll involving equipment in order to get a Story Point after the roll is resolved. There will be a similar one for the Venus book called Sodden. (done)

<Abstruse>: I know this is about Mars, but I was curious what Venus is like in the setting...

<Ken_Spencer>: Several of the desert related traits come from my experiences in archaeology in Colorado and Nevada. (done)

<Dan>: Jungles and dinosaurs!

<EPHedge>: And bugs. Stupid bugs...

<Silverlion>: Giant bugs?

<Ken_Spencer>: A little bit about Venus. The planets are themed to some extent, Venus is about attraction and desire, love of land, love of tribe, hunger for gold (done)

<Dan>: Hmm... Whereas the themes of Mars are...?

<Ken_Spencer>: Mars is about conflict, native vs. foreigner, native vs. native, man vs. beast. There are religious and political struggles, battles of ideology, and economic war. The themes are not hard line, just general guides. (done)

<Abstruse>: So Venus is basically Vegas?

Dan chuckles

<Ken_Spencer>: Yes, Vegas with ape men and giant lizards

<Dan>: We've previously discussed the interesting mix of pulp and "real world" concerns in Rocket Age, and that seems particularly noteworthy on Mars. Do you have any thoughts on how that mix plays out?

<Ken_Spencer>: While all the planets have conflict, Mars is more military based. War is a constant factor, and differences between cultures tend to get settled by force. (done)

<Ken_Spencer>: One of the concerns was the 31st Seal. Yes, they make great villains, but giving them an occupational package seemed to promote them to protagonists. As one of my players pointed out, he felt that the 31st Seal had a point, their culture was being destroyed.

<Ken_Spencer>: I had to put a lot of thought into how to use them in the book, and ended up leaving the choice up to the players. If you want the 31st Seal as horrible villains setting of bombs and shooting up markets, go right ahead. If you want to play them, you have the tools you need to run the campaign you want.

Dan nods

<Abstruse>: The way you've been describing Mars, I'm getting a vibe of Colonial North America...back when Spain, France, England, and The Netherlands were trying to settle Native American I right and was that intentional?

<Ken_Spencer>: If this means you play a game about PC terrorists against Earhling troops in an occupied country, that is your call to make. In my mind the 31st Seal are evil, but I have tried to write them somewhere between the clear cut pulp villain and more modern grey scale morality. (done)

<Ken_Spencer>: A better historical analogue would be the colonial conquests of Africa, the Indian Sub-contintet, and China. (done)

<Dan>: Do you see Rocket Age in general and Blood Red Mars in particular as... I dunno... "deconstructionist" pulp sci-fi?

<Abstruse>: I'm American. We have a bit of a tunnel vision when it comes to history

<Ken_Spencer>: To a certain extent I no doubt bring some deconstructionist tendencies, but that is not my goal. I want to create a sci-fi setting in the pulp mode that is new and fresh, even if it is being built off of the foundations of the past. The setting has plenty of fun and action, and more than a little over the top pulp goodness, but in the end I want it to be

<Dan>: (cut off at "want it to be")

<Ken_Spencer>: Rocket Age, not a pastiche or attempt to reinvent the genre. In places I have inverted, subverted, and twisted the tropes of the genre, and in other turned them up to 11. I would like to think I ma starting something that will grow larger than myself. (done)

<Dan>: I can see that happening. The setting feels very organic.

<Dan>: As always, you're welcome to hang out with us as long as you like, but is there anything you'd like to mention that we haven't covered in the "regular" time we have left?

<Ken_Spencer>: Blood Red Mars is available in pdf form from Drivetrhurpg and RPGnow, preorders for pdf and hardcopy can be made through Cubicle 7, and we are hoping to have the hardcopy back from the printer in January. "Lost Cities of the Ancients", a free pdf episode is also available and set on Mars.

<Dan>: Thanks, Ken! And thanks again to Abstruse and Silverlion for filling in tonight!

<Ken_Spencer>: There will be a lot of Rocket Age in the coming year. Heroes of the Solar System is in the middle of the development cycle, the Lure of Venus and Trail of the Scorpion are just beginning, and we have a line of pdf episodes in production. (done)

<Silverlion>: Rocket Age! Rocks

<Ken_Spencer>: Thanks for having me, I look forward to chatting again about Rocket Age!

<Dan>: You're always welcome, Ken!

<Ken_Spencer>: One more thing, we live post our playtests on the Cubicle 7 Rocket Age forum. Look for us Monday and Thrusday from 6ish-9ish (gamers run on gamer time).

<Ken_Spencer>: Good night all, its time for a late supper for me.

<Dan>: Have a good evening, Ken!

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