They’re Aboard – 2

This is the unofficial story of Reserve Imperial Guardsman Kye Cromp. When the defenders of the massive warship Honorable Action die to the boarding swarms of monsters, Kye’s journey to escape will bring him face-to-face with horror.

Start at the beginning.

The Second Hour

All decks, all soldiery, arm yourselves to repel boarders. Servitors en route to supplement gunnery functions. All decks, all soldiery, do your duty.

As a crewman wretches next to Kye, he somehow restrains himself from doing the same. Duty. They all knew it. The reserve crews who swabs decks in calm and service the vessel’s weapons have their training. They are members of the Imperial Guard, reserves or not. Born to defend humanity, charged with killing its enemies, and destined to die for it. All in the name off the God Emperor of Mankind. Now is their time.

Kye, a menial deliverer of ammunition a moment before, pulls out of his shock. Someone, Urz, is there, offering a hand up. “Let’s do this, Kye. Nothing like the present to earn the Emperor’s blessing!”

“You’ve enough of that for the rest of us.” Rising with what is the rest of his platoon, Kye runs with the corporal down the halls to their assigned armory.

At the crowd outside the unlocked room, Kye loses Urz Dunnley in the jostle. Lasguns, pistols, and heavy bolters pass overhead to equip everyone at speed.

“Discipline,” says the commissar. They must be standing on something to appear above the masses. “Keep your discipline, Guard! The Emperor protects those who believe in His name! Under the light of His Grace from the Holy Throne on Blessed Terra, we will kill His foes this day! You! I! We will prove our wretched selves worthy in His sight! And your discipline and your lasgun will deliver it!”

Kye thinks he hears something else filtering through the commissar’s motivational speech.

Clicking. It is definitely clicking. Kye wonders if his hearing has finally given out and the taps are only his bones and teeth rattling together. A trooper in front of him looks up. The clicking is coming from the ceiling.

A great groan pierces the din over in the busy armory ahead. Rising squeals of metal smother the shouts of crew under the collapsing room’s roof. Millennia-old dust blows back into the hall. Flickering lights bleach white one moment, then plunge into pitch blackness the next.

If only the luminaries would stay off.

In the intermittent brightness, pale monstrosities writhe, saliva-slick teeth shine, bone-things blur in stabbing swipes. All turns crimson from unlucky souls departing under falling beams and sheeting and their killers. The screams keep going. Kye realizes his voice echoes in the shrieking chorus. The commissar fires with reckless abandon into the charnel before they get sliced in two. Helmets, uniforms, limbs, and fluids are tossing in the air outside the armory, into the hall. One shape separates itself distinctly from the melee. It isn’t killing. Kye looks on in awe-struck paralysis and the thing gazes back. It sees him with such eyes…

You.

Kye has to go.

“You! Cromp! There’s nothing we can do!” He gapes at Hara Laye, his messmate for the entirety of the trip, her face nearly pleading. The crowd yanks her away. Back towards the armory there is only carnage. He understands now. Weapons haven’t made it to Kye yet nor would they. He and the other Imperial Guard are worth little more than how fast their legs are carrying them. Kye joins the mob headed in the opposite direction from the approaching murders. Stampeding back down the corridor, boots aren’t the only sound hitting deck plate. Clicking, clomping, splashing, inhuman feet follow behind Kye. The sounds get louder. Closer.

Eyes popping out of his skull in fright, Kye tumbles rounding the corner back the way he came. He corrects himself, up and running hard. It hardly registers that he might have been, could still be, just another body on the floor, like those he is trampling on now.

A sign for the Ammunitorium fleets by overhead. Kye’s in through the monumental archway, racing with guardsmen he knows and does not know. Beasts crawl over walls and tubes to the slaves, shackles secure. They call so desperately then don’t anymore. He keeps going.

The soldier on the filling conveyor Kye was at an hour or so ago slips atop glossy shells. They tumble down, out of sight in the throng. Throbbing machinery keeps going. Xenos are on his level now, leaping into the mass of terrified crewmen. There are so few people to die now. Around a girder, Kye’s legs strain all the harder at the now-visible exit on the chamber’s other end.

Ahead, armed guardsmen shout at him, the group, to hurry, flailing their arms about. They shut up, anguished faces contorting into fright. Red laser beams illuminate airborne dust over Kye’s head, singeing his hair. The soldier in front of Kye – Guardsman Hara – twirls, screaming, grasping at the smoking hole in her chest. Kye shrieks. He crashes into the friendly fire casualty, rolling. On his back, Kye’s terror gets fueled by details more vulgar than his fevered imagination could ever produce. Brown and purple and white flesh consume the Imperials around him. Those persons who aren’t fleeing fast enough explode into pieces from rips stabs slashes bites.

A hand takes hold of his boot. A frantic glance horrifies him. It’s Urz! The roar of gunfire, animal snarls, and human death obscure whatever crying Corporal Dunnley is blubbering. In a spark of recall, Kye accepts that Hara was right. There is nothing he can do. The xenos come at them.

Kye kicks. A second kick loosens the hand holding him back. What happens, Kye doesn’t know. Can’t care for the fright.

Scrabbling on all fours, Kye hurries for the segmented bulkhead. He feels hot, rotting dew breath on the back of his neck. An unseen hand grabs Kye’s uniform, vaulting him over the threshold. The closing bulkhead hits the deck so hard Kye chips a tooth.

He can’t breath fast enough, laying there on the floor, hands shaking. Sweat stings his eyes and soaks his clothes. The butt of a lasrifle knocks the wind into Kye. A stranger among many jabs the gun into Kye’s rib cage again.

“Get up!” She says. “We have to go! Now! Take the thrice-damned flashlight.”

Gripping the rifle, Kye can only nod. Only then does he recognize his rescuer as the energetic corporal of his now ex-refill gang. He gets to his shivering feet while his savior hands gear to the other unequipped guardsmen.

Another soldier shakes her head, saying something about how they can’t believe they… They might have hit other guardsmen. Next to them is a trooper who carries a vox box. It blares garbled messages over whichever station the trooper tries. He hits a channel of only screams. Turning the box off, to the gathering he says, “We’re headed to the starboard muster and docking hangar. The last transmission coming through said they’ve fortified the yard. And non-engaged personnel in our neck of the ship are to report there.”

Members of the group pose many questions to the guardsman who can only shrug. “It’s the best we got.” He gives his name and introduces the corporal. Kye forgets both their names immediately. ‘Boss’ and ‘Vox Boy’ will have to do.

Boss is the highest rank so appoints squad positions to the rag-tag allotment. Kye gets the honor of rearguard of the sorry bunch. The fact that it’s going to be closest to the murder creatures they came from affects his spirits in all the wrong ways.

Kye checks the rifle, the power clip, the safety. The squad is already retreating from the door. Kye looks back at it and can hear scraping, alien howling, hard thuds on the other side. He shies back when a sharp dent pounds into the metal. And the clicking.

To the rhythm of the still firing cannons, Kye trots after his new squad into the deep belly of the massive, echoing Honorable Action.

Continued in the third hour.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

They’re Aboard – 1

This is the unofficial story of Reserve Imperial Guardsman Kye Cromp. When the defenders of the massive warship Honorable Action die to the boarding swarms of monsters, Kye’s journey to escape will bring him face-to-face with horror.

The First Hour

Nothing went right for Reserve Guardsman Kye Cromp, one person among many in the Guard. The decks thrum to the beat of cannon fire, the bass ‘whomp’ of missiles discharging into space. Every time the macro munitions fire, Kye’s teeth rattle no matter how hard he clenches them. The last half-hour has been nonstop emergency.

He hurries past servitor cyborg laborers that click dumbly, goggled storm troopers who wear fear on thin lips, and other sweating reserve crew pulling carts much like his. Under glaring lights, Kye cuts a corner to save a few seconds off of his run. Instead, he almost tips the crate of flak canisters on his way around the edge. His cart bumps into Urz Dunnley’s, delaying them both. Other couriers weave around them with curses.

“Bloody hell! Let’s do it, Cromp!” Urz’s shout barely makes it above the din of the hall.

“Roger that, meatsack.” Kye has hopes to say that, but there is only so much air in the recycler before Urz Dunnley disappears into the mass of uniforms and carts.

Kye ran on with little breath to spare to his gun battery assignment. Three meters tall, a broad “0103” over the door let anyone within 50 meters know this is their destination. The barrier bore grease and oil stains no amount of scrubbing would alleviate. Despite these marks being the product of the ship’s untold millennia of service, the commissars made sure the guardsmen put effort into their removal.

He took the time to catch his wind while pounding feebly on the meter-thick barrier. “Come… On… Lazy…” he says, smacking his gloves a few more times. “If… You…”

Gates twice Kye’s size slam up into holding clamps. Kye winces at the flashing muzzle fire lighting the entire compartment despite the smoke. Before him glowers a member of the crew who’s brow would smack the door frame should he ever have the urge to stand on his toes. Ogryn crossbreed, that one.

Dropping all of his ‘r’s, he drawls, “About very time, crewman Cromp.” The giant-of-a-gunnery sergeant grabs the cart. He hefts it over to the shell hopper, dumping 15-kilo explosives into the hungering bullet sorter. Shoving the platform back to Kye, the bonehead reaches for a lever. “We need more ready!” is his bellow to Kye. Blast doors smash shut in front of Kye’s nose.

Turning, Kye’s replacement, another of the refill gang, another corporal whose name Kye long forgot. Were they making everyone a corporal now? This one has short-cropped hair and too much spring in their step coming up the hall at him through the scrambling drove of personnel. Dozens of other carts clamber along to other painted entryways that snap open and shut like the mouths of a forever consuming beast.

Regardless, back Kye goes, huffing and puffing to the Ammunitorium. Sweat stinks through the uniforms everyone is wearing. The reek mingles with bullet grease and hinge oils and firing smog. His eyes burn from the dripping sourness leaking from his streaming forehead.

Their captain voxes shipwide through Honorable Action, “Hold steady, by the Emperor! Make humanity proud this day!” She has been saying things like that since first contact. Kye doubts it’s anything other than a recorded euphemism on autoplay.

Vaults making up the Ammunitorium carry a din no better than the corridors. Possibly worse, with the slam of shell packers and squeal of conveyor belts working above capacity. Hills of brass casings provide a cornucopia of different gauges and purposes. Boxes of blasting powder and plastic explosive break all safety regulations, laying haphazardly over the canyons of machinery. Fervent menials struggle to keep up the demands of their overseers and the jostling masses of crew. Floating servo-skulls plow furrows in the inky haze, their red eye sockets pretending to be lighthouses for the ship’s conscripted. No one appears in control, the rhythm of production breaks repeatedly, but the war gears continue their regurgitation of needed materiel.

Deck slaves jingle their chains when they mound more flak cans onto Kye’s cart. He sees Urz reloading too, likely having made it to his own gun mounting and again before Kye has had time to. Show off. Kye has no say in how far away his assigned compartment is from the Ammunitorium! He nonetheless calls as if at market to the bullet peasants for his rightful share of shot.

The last canister sliding into place, Kye shoves his cart away and through the throng of reservists. Pipes, gantries, and hammering case-fillers have on them painted white arrows to guide his and the hundreds of other loaders back the way they’d come. Between the massive Ammunitorium entryway, he hardly notices the increased cadence of turret fire. His teeth are looking to break anyway at this rate. Hearing’s already a lost cause.

After passing the hundreds of weapons bay alcoves, exchanging curses with those in his way, he repeats the pounding at the flak cannon door. Kye’s cargo is taken away to the assembly as he works a massage to get the acid out of his legs.

The ship vox says, “Prepare for impact!

That is new. That is new! Kye glances up in astonishment. The enemy, whatever it is, has broken through the vanguard of the fleet? Or maybe a flanking maneuver? As what little he understands of void warfare, the Honorable Action is to be at a secondary screen for the supply ships in the rear! It, along with at least a dozen other spacecraft, were a picket intercepting anything the first, second, or third lines failed to catch. At least, that’s what the scuttlebutt was. It didn’t bode well for –

Kye doubles over the carrier crushing into his belly. The gunnery sergeant yells at him, but he loses his comprehension at the sudden nausea. Kye drops, the act saving him from tumbling as everyone else on the gun deck lose their feet. A huge, toneless boom reminds Kye of a brawl he had with a few other drunken guardsmen not so long ago; a bloody fist striking a slack face is too awfully similar.

More impacts actively shift the gravity, causing unidentified guardsmen and crew to gasp aloud where they’d collapsed, an executable offense for weakness. No one cares. He supposes the slaps against the armor hull carry enough force to push the colossal ship. A wet echoing through the floor like the acid rain of his homeworld hitting a thin piece of ceramite pervades. At first Kye thinks it must be a water leak. He corrects himself, realizing the sound is coming from the outermost direction of the ship where such vital systems were absent.

Over the shouts of distress and agitation of soldiers regaining their feet comes the notice that fills Kye’s aching stomach with ice: “They’re abroad.

Continued in the second hour.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

Short Story – Unblinking Skitarii 4

This is the unofficial story of Skitarii IB-13, a cyborg warrior of the grim dark 41st millennium. She flees through a crashed alien battleship from a failed mission, hoping to regain contact with her tech-priests in orbit. However, IB-13 fights to survive against a new foe that seeks nothing but her destruction.

Start at the beginning.

To the horizon, row after row of silver warriors of nearly uniform shape and size marched in monotonous, geometric formations. Skeletons rode sleds that defied physics while operating huge, curved gun platforms. Hulking, constructed beasts of many-jointed limbs were carried aloft on clouds of the drone-beetles or half-crawled, half-flew over the advancing armies. Ark ships and scything chariot craft glided effortlessly, every spoke and point palpitating with the destructive power universal in their alien weapons. Pyramids absent hours before dotted the landscape as if a pox on the world. A canyon spread over the crust in too straight of a line to be natural, its depths disappearing into an abyss. From the structures, the hole, and from the very air itself opened swirling gates that teleported in more and more alien machines. A virtual sea of emerald death flooded into existence as she watched.

Not one of the multitude paid notice to the figure atop a downed T’au spacecraft. They may have had no need to. IB-13 wore the threadbare remains of her Ranger cape. It then barely hid the seepage of irradiated organic parts and ruptured mechanics. Armor, once lustrous, hung loosely with dents and wear. Reflective goggles, grimed with oil and blood, looked up to see what these armies made war toward, away from the forgotten, ruined vessel.

The warships of the Adeptus Mechanicus hung in the sky by their gravity projectors. Their forms were partly obscured by filthy clouds of ash that geysered from their flanks, from smoldering, blasted heaps far below. Orange and green missiles exchanged up and down between the servants of the Omnissiah and the battlefield underneath. Vehicles from both sides of the war buzzed and burst under blanketed hellstorms of firepower.

IB-13 couldn’t know why the priest magi and their forces had come this close to the planet’s surface. A strategy of global bombardment ought to have been warranted. Then the plasma fires, mega lascannons, and atomic rockets could be brought to full effect. Turning the surface to glass with the protection of hundreds of kilometers would make short work of the world. Shorter work yet by using any one of the dozens of planet-destroying Cyclonic Torpedoes housed within the holds of their warships. So why the application of such irreplaceable resources?

IB-13 caught herself speculating again. Worse, she might have been questioning the divinations of her leaders. If a tech-priest was not available for correction of thought, it fell to her to carry it out.

With a command, a part of her brain plasticized. The treatment would forego that absent-minded luxury in the future.

Factually, she could see the Omnissiah’s forces were making an escape as a capital ship gained altitude. Image enhancement brought the markings of the ship into recognition. It was the Arch Magos’s flagship from where they must have contacted her. Their seat of power was fortress of the Titan god machines of war, barracks to legions of Skitarii, cradle of knowledge that could be found nowhere else in the galaxy, even holy Mars. Now the cyborg understood why so many precious space machines lingered low in the clouds. And she wouldn’t look away from their destruction.

A lance of lime hue struck up from the wasteland. The shot pierced the retreating cruiser like a bullet through an alkaline bubble. In the yellow fireball of its obliteration, the reactors ignited. Fleetingly as bright as any sun, the shipwreck disintegrated in a holocaust of carnage.

Parts of the superstructure the breadth of cities survived to hurtle themselves screaming onto the backs of the inadequate defenders. Having taken brutal amounts of punishment already, the battered shields of the craft underneath the explosion visibly popped under the impacts. Most of the remaining ships became engulfed in the hell that had been the flagship. These unfortunates of holy Mars plummeted from the sky in slow motion, blackened and fiery.

Those captains still alive attempted to save what crew they could. They carried word of the atrocities committed there, crimes and horrors needing revenge. Up and up their vessels surged. Bright beams sprang up like plant stocks to join them.

One after another, the symbols of the Machine God’s might were cut to ribbons. Consumed in detonations that would scar the planet for millennia, they died. Electrical storms spiraled around the cacophony of priceless destruction raining down.

Broken bodies smashed into the planet, wiping out innumerable xeno aberrations. Ships fell with such frequency they bucked the continental plate. The survivors seemed not to care.

The charnel climaxed in a tide of smoke and dust that spread over all. A billowing haze of ash wafted over everything, leaving only the pyres of dead ships as spouting torches in the distance. The wave of soot broke over the T’au ship, the cremations of IB-13’s comrades soiling the cyborg spectator’s armor.

The Skitarii knew she remained as the last of her kind on the forsaken world. No more exchanges of cannon fire. Her comms were static. Her unit’s status indicators were black, silent. The network tethering all Skitarii with each other was lifeless. Had she still been able to scan the sky, there were no final vessels there.

Despite their victory and all the loss, the aliens came on ceaselessly.

More canyons cracked open without rumble or tremor. The blacker than black of their gulfs IB-13’s sensors could not penetrate. Eldritch glows hinted at immensities entombed within the fissures.

Out of these chasms poured forth Cyclopean blocks bristling with armaments. They lifted into the heavens, their onyx disappearing into the backdrop of space save for pulsing teal pinpricks. In their departure, legions of vile silver xenos replaced them. From hidden places in the gloom, green light outlined the dauntless hordes caught in the atmospheric dust.

All that the Adeptus Mechanicus had done, all IB-13 had striven for, was for nothing. Witnessing this new data, probability counters drove her chances of survival in the next hour to fourteen-millionths of a percent.

In very un-Skitarii-like behavior, a complete departure from discipline, IB-13 sighed. Her usefulness was not yet exhausted. She’d take as many of the foul mechanical taint with her. The forgotten crypt of the T’au would be her stronghold. She could strike out and maim and kill from the husk. At least until the villains smote her out at a very terrible cost.

Sensors picked up power readings rising in her vicinity. Anything specific washed out in the electrical hyperactivity of the dust storm. IB-13 was given over to the Motive Force. For her, there would be no rest. Let them come.

She spun on her heel. Her momentum suddenly disappeared, she pinned in place.

It was inconceivable. Nothing could subvert the awareness of Martian technology. The cataclysm IB-13 has just recorded was no excuse. Yet, there before her, a set of claws dug into her abdomen.

The owner of these blades cocked its long head. The look almost conveyed it was only killing the Skitarii to see what it was like, not out of maliciousness for her kind. Simple curiosity. It begged a sentience no abominable intelligence could possibly muster. The thing was a mindless murderer. It could not comprehend the cost of the mortality it was harvesting. Had harvested.

Through her goggles, IB-13 took in most every detail of her assailant. The ragged, red Skitarii robe on the thing’s back stood out in particular. A darker patch of crimson and oil-brown had stained the frame of the monster.

They stared at each other.

In a flash, IB-13 lodged the maul under the chin of the monster, jammed deep into the shiny parts. Electricity sizzled up the shaft and into the skeleton while the blue lightning burned IB-13 at close range. Armored glass coverings over the cyborg’s eyes shattered. Warnings flared in her mind as her remaining organs shriveled and mechanical life supports shut off.

As the charred remains fell backwards, the claws jerked and jittered on their way out of her torso. Streams of lubricants and steel coils followed the exit. Holding her ravaged guts, the Skitarii took one step.

She collapsed, IB-13’s leg hydraulics failing. Careful so as to not disembowel herself, she sat on her smoking cloak. Her open eyes stung with the feel of gritty air, a naked exposure they’d not known for a lifetime. She even had the sensation again of tears rolling out, these the salves that had bathed the lenses of her goggles.

The arc maul was depleted of energy and partially molten, welded to a gauntlet. She lay the emaciated arm aside. Diagnostic reports failed to update, either their wires cut or the glucose in her brain being used up. Only the survival counter continued to blink at zero-percent. Lung and circulatory motors were on the backup power of her own body heat, the internal batteries leaking their caustic supply out of her wounds. At the very least, auditory mics remained intact.

IB-13 picked-up the racket of the hatch leading into the ship opening. She heard the tap of slow feet. Sharp talons scrapped the ruined superstructure. And beyond it all, the war machines on the fields below and above marched on.

The final grenade was primed in her other fist. She would not trigger it yet. The explosive’s release was held down by the symbol of the skull and cog cupped in her mitt. She waited atop the results of the conquests of her Machine God, lit by the burning defeats of her kind. She needed not to wait long.

Boney silhouettes cast their stark shadows over the prone warrior.

Looking up at her company through unblinking eyes, IB-13, Skitarii, crusader of holy Mars, grinned underneath the mask. The effort made her regurgitate sick oils in a frothing cough. The enemy advanced. A byte prayer to the bomb’s machine spirit later, the cog fell off the trigger.

Thank you for reading though Unblinking Skitarii! Questions, comments, or wanting to read more? It’ll only be a second to head over to my Contact page.

Read the whole story here.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

Saving Dice in Warhammer 40K

Because I’m a geek for the Warhammer 40000 universe fiction, I sometimes come across the Warhammer 40K tabletop game.

Now, this is a game of dice. Lots of dice. More dice than an Ork Nob can shake a bashin’-stick at.

File:Ork slugga nob.jpg
Ork Nob screenshot from Spacemarine.Fandom.com

And lots of dice-altering stats, too:

Stat sheet from Reddit.com

In the battles that take hours, dozens of dice are brought to bear. Me, a nerd, thought of only one thing:

What can we do to streamline the game?

Here’s what I found:

The Game Right Now

Stats

Warhammer 40K is a game of tiny model soldiers and monsters. A group of models is a “unit”, which is what acts on the battlefield.

A unit has these stats:

  • Name – easily distinguishes what you’re talking about.
  • Power – the level of the unit. Counts towards how large an army comprised of units may be.
  • Movement (M) – how far a unit may move on the board in a normal turn.
  • Weapon Skill (WS) – chance of hitting a target in melee combat. (Really, “Melee Skill”.)
  • Ballistic Skill (BS) – chance of hitting a target by shooting at it.
  • Strength (S) – how hard a unit hits in melee.
  • Toughness (T) – how difficult it is for an attack to do damage to the unit.
  • Wounds (‘W) – health points per model; 0 is the death of the model.
  • Attacks (A) – how many melee attacks the model may make.
  • Leadership (Ld) – how likely a unit is going to keep fighting after taking losses. (Losing models in a unit can cause the rest of the models to ‘flee’, AKA die.)
  • Save (Sv) – what a player must roll to not have their models die when attacked.

Units also have special abilities and weapons. While weapons have Range, Armor Piercing (makes it harder for a target to Save), Strength (in melee, use this or the unit’s Strength, whichever is higher), Damage, and a special effects, these are self-evident in what they might do.

Turns

A single player turn is defined by phases:

  • Movement – if a unit can move, it may do so.
  • Psychic – special to only certain units in the game. Like shooting, but with your mind.
  • Shooting – ranged units fire.
  • Charge – units can move again. If they do, they get shot at.
  • Fight – all units close enough to enemy units use their melee weapons.
  • Morale – for any unit that lost models in the turn, they roll against their Leadership. Failure here can collapse the rest of the unit. (Heard you liked taking losses, so here are some losses for your losses.)

Shooting and Fight are the dice-heavy portions of the game and will be our focus here.

Pile of White Dices on White Surface
Dice from Pexels.com

 

How It Works

Let’s look at the similarities of the Shooting and Fight in how they make models die.

Both phases start by using Ballistic and Weapon Skill (respectively) multiplied by the number of Attacks that can be made in the form of numbers of dice. A success here is when set A of dice roll equal to or greater than the Skill, becoming subset B.

Next, an attacking player must check the Strength of their attacks against the Toughness of the target. What subset B needs to be or greater to changes when Strength is the same or different to the Toughness. Subset B will become subset C.

Finally, the player owning the target units will roll for their Save. The number of dice in subset C is how many dice must be rolled, their face value needing to be equal to or greater than the Save of the target. The number of dice that fall below this value are the number of models to apply the Damage of the attack to the model’s Wound (or “taking a Wound”).

TLDR; An attacker must see if they hit, then see if they harm a target. The target gets a chance to save themselves. If not, models take Wounds.

Clear so far?

My Turn

Looks like we have some formulas to crunch, starting with combining the attacking player’s “did I hit” and “did I harm” rolls.

The Attacker

We’ll ignore the differences between Shooting and Fight phases, instead focusing on only the hit/harm cycle.

For that, the hit roll is determined by the chance of Skill passing a value roll times the number of Attacks.

To Hit = chance Skill * Attack

Easy.

To harm, it gets tricky. We ought to compare the Strength stat of the attacker to the Toughness of the target.

To Harm = (Variable, given Strength compared to Toughness)

This marriage of stats means we can’t have one nice roll for the attacker as it changes every time they pick a different target.

Let’s get a divorce.

If we only consider the Strength of the attacker, the Strength ought to also be considered as a chance roll. Say, for a five Strength, it’s two (five or greater, six) divided by six (six-sided die D6), or 33%.

We’ll need to do something with chance Strength. How about combining it to Skill and Attack?

For that, we can put the passing chance of Skill and Strength together, forming a percentage. This percentage will be low because we’re multiplying percentages, so take 100% minus the low chance we got, thereby betting   Let Attack be the number of dice to roll:

To Hit and Harm = 100% – (chance Skill * chance Strength), per #D6, # from Attack

We’re forgetting the Armor Piercing stat of some weapons. Originally, this would apply to the Save roll of the target. Since we’re trying to divorce the stats of two different units as much as possible, Armor Piercing should apply to the hit-and-harm combination roll:

Single Hit and Harm Roll = ((100% – (chance Skill * chance Strength)) * 6) + Armor Piercing

If a unit can roll dice greater than or equal to the value from the formula above, the attacker has successfully struck.

How does this work? Take an Intercessor Squad, armed with a Bolt Rifle, as example:

IntercessorSquad
Datasheet from BellOfLostSouls.com

One model in the unit is going to fire at a target. Thus, it’s chance of success for a single die (ignoring that it could make multiple attacks) is:

 

Success >= (6/6 – (4/6 * 3/6) * 6) – 1

>= (1 – (.333)) * 6) – 1

>= (.667 * 6) – 1

>= 4 – 1 >= 3

This example shows we have a 67% chance to succeed on any roll. People like succeeding, so this high chance is perfect for an attacker’s immersion when they get to keep dice on the table. No problem there!

We see how what would normally be multiple rolls of dice distills into a single roll per attack for either ranged or melee combat. Time savings, huzzah!

The Target

We have to keep our target from dying. From the previous section, Toughness is on its lonesome. We also took care of the Save vs. Armor Piercing. Thus, pairing Toughness with Save, we get something like:

Get to Live >= (100% – (chance Toughness * chance Save)) * 6, per successful attacker die

 

Any failure here will cost Wounds from the Damage of the attack.

Using the Intercessor Squad above and for a single successful die, we get:

Get to Live >= (6/6 – (3/6 * 4/6)) * 6

= (1 – (.333)) * 6

>= .667 * 6 >= 4

If we don’t get a four on our dice, our own Intercessors will die. Sad day 😥

Still a good day, though, since we can provide a base stat to our unit on what it must roll to survive being attacked!

So we’re looking at a 3+ to attack and a 4+ to live. The numbers boil down to a 33% chance of Wounding a model (66.7% chance of a successful attack roll multiplied by a 50% chance to fail a saving roll).

But again, only two rolls are needed to determine an outcome from end to end, compared to three previously, and with a lot less mental math of comparing attackers to targets.

So Where Do We Go From Here?

I have a confession…

I didn’t playtest this system.

It’s a shame, I know. You know. Playtesting would be the next step. This could be done with Excel simulations, seeing what the typical outcome of this system is compared to the actual game.

There’s a concern already that we aren’t removing enough models, the chance of Wounding being a little low. That, and how can we leverage the Power of a unit? Can it be added to rolls or the difference between attacker and target be applied? I don’t know yet. Merely, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for a tiny bug (yes, these are in the game) to survive being stomped on by a giant robot.

Doing research for this post, I also found fun numbers and percentages when using a D20 (20-sided dice). The result made calculating roll value requirements a lot easier when different weapons were applied to different units. An article here could be forthcoming with a proper investigation.

Finally, consolidating the stats of a few units is in order. That’d allow for a few examples of simpler, streamlined play.

That’s it! What have you done to improve games in your life? I hope this mod is an inspiration to look at things through a lens of “how can this be made into something new, maybe better?” Cheers for now!

Short Story – Unblinking Skitarii 3

This is the unofficial story of Skitarii IB-13, a cyborg warrior of the grim dark 41st millennium. She flees through a crashed alien battleship from a failed mission, hoping to regain contact with her tech-priests in orbit. However, IB-13 fights to survive against a new foe that seeks nothing but her destruction.

Start at the beginning.

Threat analysis shrieked at her. That the room’s position was compromised, had been for an unknown amount of time…

The robot scuttled free on unseen levitation of the other machines. It flew towards the door. Her heightened impulses flexed her radium weapon, aimed, and fired in a fraction of a second. The hem of her disturbed mantle didn’t begin to fall before the scarabaeus shell exploded. Falling detritus flew out of IB-13’s way as she dashed into the hall.

Through empty, ravaged decks she ran. The details were lost to her consciousness – visual systems filtered the input for priority targets exclusively. Everything else did not need to die, thus was discarded. The ship itself continued to rumble at an ever increasing frequency. Certainly unnatural and no longer the testament to singular explosions, IB-13 kept track of the tremors that hinted at tectonic movements under her. Armies outside? Some great machine?

Though unable to sense them at distance, enemies would be on their way inside the ship. How many? That was speculation. It would be a bullet and bomb at a time. That mattered. It was the only thing that did now.

Rounding a corner, IB-13’s processes spiked. At the end of the corridor, a stark skeleton of metal creaked around. Silver glints outlined long limbs and features that could be called a face on its humanoid frame. It looked at her with dead eye holes. No, there was something deep in the sockets that had an evil glow in the faint ambient light. In a cold grip it held a softly-pulsing rod of a meter-and-a-half – the same make of energy projector as had reaped the booby trap survivors of the STC team.

She charged ahead and would not stop. Her carbine blazing, irradiated bullets raked the grayish body. Despite a hail of what ought to have been death, the enemy tried to raise the cannon in its hands. Closing at speed, still firing, the Skitarii leaped. She kicked the plated sole of her boot into the thing’s chest, sending them both crashing to the floor.

The effort landed the duo hard into the next intersection. The cyborg would have been satisfied with the loud crunch of the machine’s collapsing chest cavity, the sightless robot scrutiny, the struggle of its limbs ceasing. A new problem prevented that.

Into the junction stepped another skeletal automaton from the obscured hall. This one swung its rifle, bayoneted with a cruel axe blade. Lightning-quick motion brought the carbine up to block. The sharp impact seized the cylinder joints of the Skitarii’s arms and legs, but held. However, the nuclear radium weapon smashed to pieces in IB-13’s hands, dousing both combatants in skin-peeling waves of contamination. Internal alerts chimed at lethal doses of radiation and the termination of several organic components. IB-13 ignored them while her senses swirled. Logging an apology to the machine spirit of the weapon, she hurled the parts into the face of her attacker.

The monster swung again. She rolled out of the way, letting the blade sail into the wall. It caught there, pausing the vile machine for merely a second, but that was enough. For a warrior attuned to microsecond action, it meant victory.

In mechanical precision, she pulled, thumbed alive, and swung her maul, blue energy arching free. She hit the assailant once in the back, again on the arm. The attack did nothing to loosen the abnormal hold the thing had on its weapon. IB-13, discretion systems burned away in rad fire, squealed binary hate at the affront of the alien’s very existence. She unleashed a final crack of the arc maul to the skull-like cranium staring her down.

Mercury sparks played over the terrain and the crumpling, silver body. In an unnatural angle, the robot bent to rise, a clawed hand snapping out to snatch at the Skitarii’s boot. Pinpricks of evil jade stared at the cyborg despite or because of the punishment wrought.

IB-13 flipped her maul around in her hands, bringing it straight down into the undying thing’s face. She leaned into the blow with a twist and an electronic pop from the maul. The xeno stopped trying to get back up.

Even as the creature sputtered, another green lightning round exploded next to the Skitarii’s head. Bits of shrapnel sliced into her clothing. The hole cut through the deck cleanly, disappearing into the blackness somewhere farther into the ship. Snapping about, she saw sage-colored running lights throughout the shadows down the corridor.

Pressing the capacity of her servos, IB-13 rushed back behind cover as a series of killing bolts rained around her. There were a minimum of seventeen-point-three combatants. Too many. The dirty effects of her deconstructed radium carbine polluted her ability focus externally, so she ran calculations internally. An optimal trajectory for one her two grenades would allow her time to disengage. With a flick, a piece of her ordnance bounced around and far down the bend. The cyborg fell back the way she had come. A resounding boom reverberated through the deck. The shrieking of alien gunfire ceased.

Having bounded dozens of meters away, IB-13 slowed, her head now clear of interference from background radiation. She needed a weapon. Her heightened senses broadened further to take in the environment for any opportunities. Auditory detectors picked up the clank of alien metal feet on alien metal floors. Sonar triangulated that a group was in front of her. Subauditory noise meant her grenade hadn’t ended the firefight behind her. Something crawled below and above her. And all the hostile parties were closing.

She stepped back, scanned the corridor. Only two ends, patternless amid a chaos of broken workmanship, the handiwork of space battles and crashes. The spark of the Omnissiah seemed to have left IB-13’s world. She queued a prayer of strength and steadfastness to the Omnissiah’s Motive Force. Her eyes caught a shape in the dark before the prayer could be dispatched. By chance or divine intervention, she’d spotted a shadow darker than the wreck around it, a divot that broke the inconsistent lines of the wall.

The Skitarii bounded to the hole. Closer inspection revealed it as a recessed service hatch, vacuum sealed between sections of the ship. To IB-13 it represented her a way to regroup, rearm, and re-engage the enemy. Regardless, the T’au had decided not to include a mechanical apparatus such as a handle to the door. Instead, they installed a tiny display that gaped disappointingly, the mirrored face trashed to slivers. If there were no ready means to escape, IB-13 would leverage other tools. Using her arc maul, blow after blow only dented the frame. Then they were on her.

Thunder not from her club cracked violently in the confined space of the corridor. A segment of wall combusted next to her in a puff of eldritch power. She ignored the green flash to maximize the energy output of the maul. In a final, pulverizing blow that rocked the cyborg back on her heels, the seal cracked open with a gust of wind.

IB-13 jumped through and slammed the portal door behind her. A chunk of the door disappeared with another thunderclap.

A metal beam hung above her, itself melted at both ends from spaceship-scale artillery damage. Maul hooked to her belt, she pulled at the support with both hands. The brace shivered but remained stout. Sacrificing further ambulatory functions, IB-13 overloaded her arms and heaved. Muscles burst, murky fluid spilling through her cloak, though her metal bones held. Without warning, debris gave way to blockade the doorway.

She fled, urged on by both an artificial and fledgling organic instinct to survive. Over pipes, under charred bulkheads, across walls melted to black rivers frozen over the hull, the cyborg did not stop. IB-13 vaulted up a ledge, a feat of dexterity her pursuers certainly couldn’t match. From this perch, she had bought herself something desperate: Time.

In the respite, she took in the world around her. The Skitarii found herself still on but outside the vessel proper. An entire portion of the spaceship had torn away apparently upon impact. Her lenses saw glimmering stars through melted, carbonized tips of sundered hull that arched over her. What was left was an expansive view out over the planet’s dismal surface.

She edged to the jagged precipice with respect to the dubious structural integrity, maul raised and ready to bat apart any enemy lying in wait. An full organic being might have hoped for rescue, ships descending to later return to titanic warships in high orbit, for a battle of an unstoppable army crushing the cursed foe under the treads of Martian automatons and the boot heels of cyborg Vanguards and Infiltrator assassins and Rangers like her. IB-13 was more insightful. She had run the calculations. It was no surprise what was just beyond the deck’s lip. Through filmed, dispassionate eyes, her gaze lingered on the field of death before her.

To be concluded in part 4.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

 

Quarterly Goals – September Pivot

Sometimes it’s stronger to pivot onto a new course than to endure a mistake.

Gray Asphalt Road Surrounded by Tall Trees
Dark road at dawn from Pexels.com

After some serious consideration, it’s best that I alter my goals for this quarter early before we continue too long.

A few things have been on my mind: a shoulder injury hampering sleep, work, and working out (it’s a pain to type this); what to do now that I’ve hit certain financial milestones; and, the benefits of small mental exercises.

To that end, I’m going to take more control over my day-to-day and work more in value-add activities for my future.

Here’s how I’ll do that:

The Cuts

  1. RPGs
    1. Close-up Photography of Tarot Cards
      Tarot cards from Pexels.com

      Funny that I write this on Free RPG Day (June 15th). Anyway, I’m backing off on the investigation / design / development of potential solutions to D&D-style Dungeon Master problems. Yes, this could reduce other people’s suffering; no, this is more a fun pastime than ought to be a full-focus goal.

      As for making an RPG? In honor of RPG Day, I’ll take a few minutes to make a whitepaper on the tank commander idea mentioned earlier.

  2. Books and LeetCode
    1. Again, these are pastimes. I’m going to read the books anyway, so they shouldn’t be a goal. Neither LeetCode – I am studying the problems over lunch at the ol’ day-job despite having the sincere thought that tackling programming riddles isn’t what I want to be doing with my spare time.

The Keeps

Black Text on Gray Background
Words on the page from Pexels.com
  1. Outlines
    1. I’m nearly done with this one and might finish it in days. My plan will be to put my outlines aside, work on other things (maybe even add in more outlines!), then revisit these in August.What I have so far (working titles and loglines):
      1. Nightmare Jack – The undying queen of the damned encounters the land of the living and with it, death.
      2. Aladdin – Aladdin, a slave to become eunuch, loves Badour, heir to the empire, but when the power of Jinn overtakes him, Aladdin will battle magical armies and a greater danger to them all: himself.
      3. Gem Heist – Pirates looting treasure don’t expect to meet the former owners.
  2. Edits
    1. It’d be nice to have something that could be sold. That, and editing the fan fiction into my ‘own’ short story will help guide writing future stories inspired by preexisting intellectual properties.
  3. This Blog
    1. Hello there! I’m going to cut back to one dedicated post a week with others coming as the inspiration hits.

The Adds

  1. $$$$$
    1. U.s Dollar Bills Pin Down on the Ground
      Planted money from Pexels.com

      Last month I had a ‘secret’ goal. I’m transforming that goal into a broad topic: Make more money. It’s up to my creative performance to see what I can offer; discipline will then deliver. By saying “no” to more things, I can perhaps pursue two of these every month:

      1. The secret thing from before. I’ll start with this and #2; if they turn out, great! If they don’t, I’ll be dropping them heading into July.
      2. The stock market. I’ve a nice table showing the top percentage gains over time of major technology and entertainment brands. Using that, I’ll drop a few extra dollars on stocks vs. mutual funds to see if my simple system turns a profit.
      3. Real estate. This may not be a thing. Real estate scares me something terrible. Any move will only be done after serious (serious) review of the market. Still, might be quaint to finally purchase a residence-to-be-rental.
        1. Ran the numbers on this for two hours after writing this post. The goal in buying property would be to eventually turn it into a rental. To effectively do that, I ought to follow the 1% [or greater] Rule of rental-to-purchase values. On the West side of my town where I’d want to live right now, the percents on houses/condos is .6-.7%, clearly failing the 1% Rule. Thus, real estate just isn’t for me at this time. Glad to know I won’t need to worry about that!
      4. My voice. I learned what it means to voice act late last year. Throwing myself out there, this could mean a lot more.
      5. Writing. Probably would be writing for others. It’d be writing regardless. I can type quickly (500-600 words / hour) and can quickly research any topic (don’t get me started on knitting; omg).
      6. Fiverr. Fiverr went on IPO the other day to great gains. If I’m going to be part of the “gig economy”, let me perform in its marketplace. An idea here would be to sell my company, my time, my conversation. That, or send physical, handwritten letters (hey, there are romantics out there). I’ll think of something…

Why I’m Doing This

My overall goal is to pursue any goal, any time. To do that, I see financial independence as the gateway, where more money is always better than less money. At some point, investments (whatever those happen to be) will become self-sustaining, thus not requiring myself to work for anything but personal interest all the time.

Thus, today’s pleasures need to be geared towards that end. It’s a race to the professional finish, a race I will win.

Short Story – Unblinking Skitarii 2

This is the unofficial story of Skitarii IB-13, a cyborg warrior of the grim dark 41st millennium. She flees through a crashed alien battleship from a failed mission, hoping to regain contact with her tech-priests in orbit. However, IB-13 fights to survive against a new foe that seeks nothing but her destruction.

Start at the beginning.

Foul booby traps secreted from the Skitarii’s scanners triggered at the first contact with the database. Explosions ripped through both gaunt Infiltrators and armored Vanguards. The Ranger groups fared little better. Worse, the device holding eons of data ruptured in a torrent of shrapnel and flame. IB-13 held the rearguard, thus survived to witness the carnage that came immediately after.

At least the information was no longer in filthy xenos hands. Better forgotten than perverted outside the Omnissiah’s intentions.

IB-13 nearly tripped as static hissed over the Skitarii network band. It immediately settled into an encrypted invitation for silicon communion. Transferring all secondary processing to the receiver, her rush to respond fouled the first attempt at cracking the lock – something that imprecise would have had the commanding Centurion temporarily deactivate her. A partial lobotomy wouldn’t be out of the question, though at least the surgery would bestow additional circuitry to the Ranger. No matter – her Centurion had evaporated under the snaking tendril of some unclassified alien energy weapon.

Her second attempt bridged the connection. IB-13 felt a flood of information pour through her wire-fused organics. Authority she’d taken for granted from decades of indoctrination calmed nerves in welcome, cooling sensation. Out of it all came the glorious figure of an ordained Magos tech-priest of Mars, emissary of the Omnissiah’s unknowable Will. They were garbed in flowing robes of red and white, outlined in ever-churning data exloads. Mechadendrites coiled and unfurled as if to conduct the the orchestra of information. On their head was a cap, tall and high which obscured from view sensors and devices the Ranger could only speculate at. In the pitch dark of the hood whirled the spectacles that poured what they saw into the algorithms crafted by the Omnissiah itself. Though only a mental simulation of a being some unknown distance away, IB-13 had never been more ready and earnest for this connection of the factual, of the Omnissiah’s word-made-digital in the galaxy.

IB-13, report.

The Skitarii began to dump banks of memory into the thought stream. With only a fractional amount beginning to exload, it was still too much for the tentative link. When the digital form of the tech-priest cut out for a moment, the cyborg almost felt the first emotion in half a century: Despair.

The Skitarii darted into a crushed hollow that was once a laboratory. Inside lay cracked workbenches, punctured pressure tanks, and other detritus. No threats. It didn’t matter. Only the connection mattered.

Holding position, she focuses all resources to getting the signal back. Hydraulic limbs froze, the respirator switched to blood-oxygen reserves, and pumps cranked to a halt. To any on the outside she would have appeared as a statue of gears and armor, all shadowed by her tattered crimson cape.

Near-death comatose was far outweighed by the elation of the return of the network and the Magos. This time, the mental image downgraded from its previous glory to a pixelated silhouette of muted hues and indistinct shapes. It shimmered as it sent meaning to her.

IB-13, have you secured the Standard Template Construct?

The STC had been their target. It and other hyper-computers of its type held the secrets of Humankind’s past. Their manufacture came in a time of darkness when Humanity sent its envoys into the void of the galaxy without knowledge of the Omnissiah. A dark age. The Omnissiah nevertheless bestowed sacred knowledge even to those that were ignorant of what they held. Technologies resided within STC databases that could allow crops to grow a hundred times their yield, build vaccines to cure ageless plagues, erect cities kilometers high on worlds made ripe by STC terraforming. Or, the knowledge could unleash terrible weapons of havoc not witnessed for ten thousand years. It was the Adeptus Mechanicus’s duty and privilege to own it all outright.

IB-13 didn’t need to know how to operate an STC. Doing so would be a terrible heresy. Only the priesthood, and even then a small selection of the ordained, could enact the proper rights of access. IB-13 only needed to claim items like the STCs for the glory of Mars.

That was why theft by the T’au was of such a terrible nature. A fleet of warships had stalked the STC and its cowardly burglars across systems. Worlds burned where the T’au’s allies had lain. Finally, the escaping vessel was brought down in this unperturbed planet’s gravity well. IB-13 and a hundred other augmented shocktroopers had infiltrated the craft imprisoning the STC while another thousand scoured the wastelands outside. All the effort only to have the artifact destroyed…

She couldn’t care about how her failures in the mission might be be perceived – there was only truth to offer in the bliss of networking. IB-13 relayed without hesitation the data-beats of the STC’s destruction. Landing on a dusty plain, breaching the ruined hull, stalking through crushed halls, location of and entrance into the STC chamber, the fatal boobytraps. Nothing more, nothing less.

Her virtual audience acknowledged receipt but gave no indication of praise or wrath at IB-13’s efforts. Multiple machine processing cycles passed. Finally, a torrent of sentiment distilled itself into one word.

Disappointing,” said the priest. Thus judgement was passed. That was the sum total of the Skitarii Ranger’s worth. IB-13’s mind twitched. A pang of what might have been mental anguish stilled in the microsecond before her lapse of discipline revealed itself. The Omnissiah’s messenger continued.

Regardless, the ends defer intention. Better the knowledge of our forefathers be forgotten than perverted by xenos… Tinkering.” Had it not been for the opiate haze of communion, IB-13 may have registered a shudder in the envoy. “Why are there no other Skitarii linking with me now? Not all of our warriors were destroyed by the explosion that consumed the STC. By this deduction, you will finish your report.

Before she could begin a second spurt of data, storms of static dropped the communication. IB-13 reinitiated passive sensory input of her surroundings with the impression her physical body was under attack.

About her were the dead robot eyes, the red color of alien glass. Objectively, the place was a sort of mechanics laboratory. To IB-13’s small selection of sensibilities, it was macab. The very walls housed abominable intelligences, horrors forbidden for millennia older than the records which held the warnings of AI. That they also were utilized by the heathen T’au spoke of the irredeemable nature of the blue race. If only there were time, IB-13 might have smashed every circuit and board in the place.

Her senses picked up the sound of a massive, booming roar. The violence had to be huge and close, something titanic, for the vibrations to reach her in the ship through a nearly nonexistent atmosphere. Moments later, a thunderous rumble shook her foundations, vestibular motors keeping the cyborg upright. Most of dust lifted and fell off the unblinking lenses staring back at her. Besides the battle roiling outside, nothing else was amiss.

A full second passed before the Magos reasserted control. Warmth passed over the cyborg’s connection, mind, and attention. Her rude hovel disappeared into oblivion. She was elated but the enthusiasm quickly became blunted. Things weren’t as they had been for the priest and their environment. Instead of screeds of data filling her view, machine slaves and augment-mantled operators dashed to and fro in roiling smoke. Warning lights blazed. And then there was the figure who’d summoned her. Its stead, no longer ordained in electronic grace, was replaced by the hunched amalgamation of worming tubes, choking wires, snapping pistons, and bulbous nodules that served as the thing’s eyes. A robe of crimson as dark as IB-13’s own oil and blood encrusted cloak swaddled the entire collection. This was the servant of the Omnissiah in their truer, more beautiful form.

IB-13 had lost the ability to cry for joy decades prior.

The priest seemed distracted, its attention drawn elsewhere, a thousand thousand places. A packet of data leaked into the stream from the priest’s end. Distress. “We are withdrawing, IB-13. The war on the planet for now goes ill.” Klaxon warnings of a ship under attack crept through the inload. “Final orders: Terminate all –” Static. “The Omnissiah knows of your –

More code feedback interrupted the connection. IB-13 heard banging and sirens. She tensed, prepared in all capacities to receive the divine commands that were coming. Had to be coming.

An audio snippet slipped through: “Lord Omnissiah, those things! How dare they!? What are –” The connection crashed with a screech of overloaded feedback.

She pinged a thousand times to reestablish contact. Nothing.

Independent probabilities arrived at the same conclusion. IB-13 was alone. So alone.

The situation triggered latent plans in the cyborg’s mind. When in the absence of temporary mission, there was the Universal Law: The Soulless sentience is the enemy of all life. What stalked outside, that had killed her kin, certainly counted as such.

IB-13 jump-started all of her combat programs for a price suffered by her non-vital organs and tangential brain functions. Physical nonviolence systems dropped power requests, the excess expense shunted to readiness and targeting operations. She was dying, the flesh withering. In steel and silicon the Skitarii would live a while longer to carry on the Omnissiah’s intention.

Her ocular lenses came into focus on a corner of the hideaway. There was something wrong among the red lenses of the T’au drones. It wasn’t a drone mono-eye. Instead, a cluster of green lenses stared back. They sat bundled atop an insect-like carapace no bigger than the Skitarii’s own torso. The eyes glowed eerily in the dim. Somehow, the ebony beetle-thing knew she was aware. It twitched.

Continued in part 3.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

 

The Orc and the Pie Pt. 1 – A Breakdown of RPGs

Just the other day I was introduced to the role-playing game The Orc and the Pie. Written by Monte Cook of Dungeons & Dragons fame, it’s the world’s most popular and shortest-yet-technically-complete RPG adventure game. The only things a player knows is that:

You see an orc with a pie.

The room is 10 feet by 10 feet.

The rest is up to the imagination of the player with guidance from the Game Master (GM).

Pretty cool, eh? Simple, straight to the point, and offers creative freedom.

Let’s take that freedom and run. (Oh, and look at pie ~)

Baked Pie
Pie from Pexels.com

The World

Looking at The Orc and the Pie, we see the following elements of the game world:

  1. Potential Obstacle: The orc.
  2. Object: The pie.
  3. Context: The 10×10 room.

The Potential Obstacle is an implied conflict. There’s nothing in the scenario that indicates that the orc will do anything. Maybe it’s a coward, maybe it wants to sell the players the pie, maybe it’s minding its own business.

Our Object is also the implied goal. The players should want pie and acquire it in any way they deem fit.

The Context is merely a setting for the space. It could be a moon, the bottom of the ocean, or nowhere specific – everything ‘just is’.

Going Further

Ignoring the players for now, we can boil the game world down.

Silver Kettle over Burner
Boiling kettles from Pexels.com

First, let’s toss out Context. A setting is interchangeable and largely only a consequence of how players might exist and act in relation to other characters / objects.

Next, I thought the RPG might be about the player, a goal (the Object), and some conflict (our orc) of getting that goal. However, the conflict between the player and a goal is merely a chance of failure of attaining the goal. The goal itself is a player want, whatever that ought to be.

Nixing Context and consolidating the Object and Potential, we’re left with:

  1. Want: Whatever the player seeks to objectively say they’ve succeeded.
  2. Chance: However likely the player gets what they want. The fairest chance is 50% to get it, 50% to not.

Gone Too Far

At this high-level view of The Orc and the Pie (and all RPGs for that matter [heck, even just games!]), we have the following synopsis:

Something is wanted.

The chance of getting what is wanted is 50%.

Our distillation of the game has been chopped up to a coin toss. “I want heads, which has a 50% chance of happening.”

Kinda lame.

Coming Back

It seems The Orc and the Pie has hit the formula of world creation pretty precisely. However, ‘world’ as environmental Context is not necessary. We can rely on players to develop their own Context.

But Potential Obstacle and Object? We need these. Chance and Want respectively are their ghosts, such that a chance to succeed in overcoming any Potential Obstacle exists and an Object can be implied to be the Want of the players.

Let’s keep our Potential Obstacle (orc) and Want (pie). How do players engage with these things?

The Players

We’re missing our live-action cast for the role-play. In D&D for which The Orc and the Pie was made for, players sit in front of something like this:

DnD_Character_Sheet.jpg
DnD character sheet from Wizards.com

Click the link above to see the full thing and spend a good 15 minutes just reading the section titles. We have, in no specific nor complete order: Class, Name, Alignment, Strength, Strength (again, but different), Ideals, Flaws, Equipment with “PP” (???), Wisdom, Wisdom again (passive this time), and a whole lot more.

That’s just from the first sheet of 3. And this isn’t the only kind of sheet there is! We have Adventure League, starters, D&D Beyond (not my character), and a metric boat-load of homebrew sheets for the myriad RPGs there are in existence.

But what in the world does all this have to do with pie and an orc?

Getting That Pie

Since simplicity is key, let’s get after as few things that’ll do as much as possible. Back to the burner to boil down the essence of player character…

Any character enacting on the physical world has physical attributes. We could divide this into something like Strength, Speed, and Sustainment (“constitution”, “endurance”, whatever; SSS seems like a cool acronym), but for simplicity’s sake, Brawn will be our trait for a brute-force approach to getting pie.

Since we’re not forgoing clever problem solving or thinking about how to get pie, Brain is our second trait. With book smarts and objective study of the world, Brain affects how a character can come up with a solution, notice things, or out-quiz an orc (or pie!) on trivia.

Lastly, Being. This is our health point / resource / whatever might get the players to care about failure. Maybe it’s ego. When a player character fails an action of Brain or Brawn, or when something succeeds against the player (with negative intention, like an attacking orc), their Being decreases. When a player character has no Being, they stop rolling dice or playing cards. They’re done (at least for awhile).

Three Red Dices
Dice from Pexels.com

Brawn. Brain. Being.

(Can’t say that B3 10x fast…)

A Step Too Far?

Shall we go farther? If we break B3 down, we have a single attribute, Chance, that dictates how likely a player is to accomplish whatever they attempt. The value of Chance would be how many coins need to be flipped to success to guarantee overall success.

Chance could have a spot in a very minimal setting. It serves as a nice tracker of ‘status’ (leveling, character health, etc.). The more a player succeeds, the higher Chance they have to continue to succeed! As they fail, those failures cascade into spectacular foibles great for storytelling.

Is Chance too simple? I’d say that depends. What kind of game is being played? If it’s aiming for a modicum of role-play, the B3 system is the way to go. Are you a fast, strong, dexterous character? Or more of the quick witted, perceptive variety?

Heck, Chance could be renamed to Luck where we’d be left with a handy modifier to B3 traits! A trait that doesn’t do anything on its own, existing only to improve the outcomes of others. (“Improve” because positive reinforcement is generally better received than punishment.)

I digress.

Where Are We Now?

The Orc and the Pie is a splendid basis for finding out what role-playing games are, what games can be on a fundamental level before they become too simplistic.

The game world of an RPG is easily set up. We have a (implied) want, chances to attain that want, character traits to alter those chances, and a clear end state for player and non-player characters, divorced from but ready to serve player goals.

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Bob, not so bad.

 

Pie.jpg
Your dreams and desires incarnate.

Speaking of players, with a D6, we can fill in our own player character:

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Player #1

These numbers could be what a person has to role for success (a D6 roll greater than 8-# [“7” so a number of 6 would at least have a chance of failure with a roll of 1]), the number of dice to role to succeed (#D6), the number we have to roll under, or whatever. Lower numbers are bad.

An example of gameplay could end up being:

  1. Coolcat: “I shove Bob to get to the Pie.”
  2. Coolcat rolls a 1, failing the action for their Brawn, instead falling into Bob.
  3. Bob reacts, rolling a 5, a success for Bob’s Brawn.
  4. Bob pushes Coolcat away.
  5. Coolcat falls over, losing a point in Being.
  6. Bob: “What the heck. You’re getting me pretty angry.”
  7. Coolcat chooses to use their Brain to negotiate with Bob.
  8. Coolcat rolls a 6 off their Brain, a critical success!
  9. Coolcat: “Look, Bob, whose name I know because I read your card, I’m sorry. A tasty-looking Pie is over there. Want to share it?”
  10. Bob: “Ah, apologies accepted! Sorry about shoving you so hard. Why sure, let’s split this delicious Pie!”
  11. Bob and Coolcat both get Pie – Scenario complete!

Players are more difficult to cater to because they are people. People are difficult. However, with Brawn and Brain and Being, Potential Obstacles and implied Wants, playing RPGs doesn’t have to be.

The same goes for designing RPGs. In Part 2 of The Orc and the Pie, I’ll take a look at adding onto and into the game’s systems.

 

Short Story – Unblinking Skitarii 1

This is the unofficial story of Skitarii IB-13, a cyborg warrior of the grim dark 41st millennium. She flees through a crashed alien battleship from a failed mission, hoping to regain contact with her tech-priests in orbit. However, IB-13 fights to survive against a new foe that seeks nothing but her destruction.

Detached from their fleet above, they’d slaughter the aggressors. No default state existed apart from that, this Will of their Machine God, the Omnissiah.

Boots pounded the deck plates as a pair of Skitarii super-soldiers ran through the halls. With the aid of their cybernetic limbs, they rushed through empty corridors of alien design, the charred dust of the former owners billowing in their wake. The external din increased the closer they got to a rip that stretched for over eighty meters in the ship’s hull. Sliding under the tear’s lip, IB-13 and IT-XH blurted a set of binary queries and replies to each other. With a thousand transactions a second, they debated the benefits and detriments of the decision before them: fight or flee.

Their delay only came because of the differences in their make. IB-13 was a Ranger meant for more long-range engagements while IT-XH came optimized for the more moderate reprisals of the Skitarii Vanguard. It didn’t help that the Vanguard’s natural output of radiation and the radium weapon she hefted filled IB-13’s receivers with excess static. After a debate transmitted in seconds that might fill a novel, their numbers aligned: They’d bring the offensive to their new, terrible enemy outside.

IT-XH synced a timer between them. As the milliseconds met their mark, IB-13 stepped up to the ledge in mirror to her companion, last of what had been a century. The radium carbine she’d commandeered from a battle-inoperable Skitarii rose with her augmented sight.

In a moment, she unleashed killing rounds while her targeting systems struggled for a lock. Rules of engagement dictated that she ought to have waited the extra cycle time to fire precisely. To bend her ingrained protocols in the context of a normal fight would have required the override of a Skitarii Centurion, leader of an entire cohort of cyborgs. As there was only IB-13 and IT-XH, their own kill-analyses would have to suffice. Regardless, with a ninety-eight-point-seven-nine percent accuracy calculation using only sight, their foe would suffer.

Her aim held minor concern for her. Those outside felt the same. Arcs of energy blistered and boiled the ship’s torn hull around IB-13. By sheer volume, the barrage of return fire nearly blinded the Ranger’s visual receptors. She ducked faster than her original organics could have ever hoped to as the shots corrected their aim towards her. Fluorescent green rounds tore chunks out of the opposite wall, sizzling through the thin air where she’d been.

Her comrade IT-XH continued to shoot, , taking an extra sixteenth of a second more than their firing solution had provided for. Such was the aggression inherent in Vanguard models. Tragic that so useful a drive served so poorly against the overwhelming odds.

IB-13 caught all of the impact through the hyper fidelity of her unblinking eyes. IT-XH’s helmet, for only a moment, split and peeled away from their face. Metal and plastics and flesh and silicon and bone flayed away. The matter disappeared into the crackling white light. At last, the horrific decimation exploded with the sound of a wet egg. The explosion flung cranial fluid and shards of steel about the hall. Something moist and gooey splattered on IB-13’s cloak.

Slack, IT-XH’s rifle fell to the floor with a clatter covered by the wale of eldritch energies scything overhead. The body collapsed with a heavy whoosh of cloak and armor. If IB-13 had the ability to smell in the traditional human way, a sense lost sometime during her innumerable operations to become a Skitarii, the stench of burnt rubbers and tang of carbonized metal would have been logged as a horror peerless in the cyborg’s experience.

While missiles struck above and around her, the Ranger picked through the smoldering robes of the fresh corpse. That she and IT-XH had logged thousands of hours in operation together, that now the Vanguard was so much a pile of meat and wires gave her no pause. Their mission was still not complete. It was the Will of the Omnissiah, the dual-faceted god of the Skitarii, the warriors but a humble branch of the Adeptus Mechanicus. A report needed to be made of their findings inside the crashed vessel so the magi of Mars could add to the records this new threat. The value of battle data alone dictated that she must survive at all costs.

If the scavenging cyborg had access to the network, she could account for the entire inventory of IT-XH’s kit. Without it, she rummaged through the common storage locations on a Vanguard’s body for whatever could be found. The rifle was for her excessive compared to the radium carbine already carried, though she had capacity for an additional grenade which she kept besides her own. IB-13 found no melee substitute for her arc maul, IT-XH having must lost their hand-to-hand weapon in the brutal room-to-room fighting earlier.

Inside a titanium-corded pocket she discovered radium ammo magazines whose radiation tingled through her gauntlets. IB-13’s calculations for expected lifespan ticked-up another notch. Adding these to a digital inventory, something else gave off a slight magnetic signature. IB-13 pulled out a rust-colored talisman, a symbol of faith in the Machine: a skull haloed by a cog wheel. Functionally useless, it was objectively more important than a dozen of her other pieces of armor or garb. She took off in a crouch, securing the pendant as she weaved from cover to cover.

The next hall held more than the last one. The Ranger slipped her way around blue-skinned bodies splayed haphazardly around doors and consoles. Some clawed at locked doors. Others held their throats. It didn’t take IB-13’s post-human abilities of deduction to conclude that these “T’au” had suffocated. They likely died long before the vessel’s crash, though she couldn’t be precise. The Adeptus Mechanicus fleet had been in pursuit for an unacceptably long time, harrying the T’au’s flight with cannons and bombs.

Data was the most holy property of the Adeptus Mechanicus technopriests of Mars, circuitry the most sacred of study for the cyborg Skitarii warriors. These aliens, these thieves, had taken both and paid for it with thousands of their lives. They were easy to kill. They stayed dead. The new enemy that had surprised the Skitarii were far less obliging.

Regardless, the T’au had received divine judgement. Now IB-13 had to find a vantage to exact a toll on those creatures that stalked after her.

The T’au warship seemed a maze. The behemoth, one of the T’au’s largest, was run through by the guns of the Adeptus Mechanicus in their weeks-long chase. Corridors collapsed into others, doors remain locked while other holes cleared through entire decks. The wreckage acted as a tomb now for human cyborgs and T’au crew alike. That the blue-skins dared pull off a swindle of such proportions…

Now the silver monstrosities outside had the position surrounded and infiltrated. IB-13 had reconnoitered the enemy advance with surviving members of the Skitarii retrieval squads. Like ants, the automatons had spilled into the halls, through the deck plating, and translocated in glittery sheens amid the Skitarii’s formations. The Skitarii, living weapons of the Martian Empire, were caught by surprise. She’d been caught by surprise. Though they’d fought with whirling blades of supersonic titanium and arcing lightning guns, over eighty-percent had dissolved into oil-slick smears within moments of the ambush.

IB-13 chanced to inspect her internal network systems. The communication queue held no new messages. All of her outgoing requests were yet pending responses. No data, no direction, no oversight. On her own for over the last hour. Not even IT-XH functioned to share processing capacity.

A hatch led up and the Ranger took it. She needed to keep moving. Anything with the means of slaughtering her kin like so many herdstock would have devices to track a lone warrior in the bowels of a dead ship. Maybe the interference preventing her signals didn’t discriminate and the ambushers were blind too. IB-13 had to optimize for that possibility. It was the only one that predicted her being alive after more than a few minutes.

When no threat appeared, IB-13 allowed her post processing systems power to review the terribleness of the mission. The first indication of trouble had been when their dropship lost all transmissions with the flotilla in orbit. The airwave interference of the vox spread, knocking out dropship-to-dropship traffic. As the strike team made their way inside the downed alien craft, communications with their lander was lost to them as well. Infrared laser messaging, subvocal vibrations, and gestures were all they had left while they sought out the T’au’s holds of plunder.

Despite a lack of transmission mediums, the cyborgs’ tactical progress couldn’t be hampered over such a meager concern. Despite the massive damage to the vessel’s infrastructure, the Skitarii scouted through the mess. By a semi-navigable route, the ancient database of Adeptus Mechanicus was uncovered. It proved too easy.

To be continued in part 2.

This unofficial work is published under the Intellectual Property Policy of Games Workshop Limited: https://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Intellectual-Property-Policy

Quarterly Goals – September 2019

The last quarter had some drifting in my focus towards game design and software development and away from writing. It was so impactful, I was thinking of taking a quarter off to see what I naturally drew myself to doing. That train of thought was thrown out posthaste – there’s so much exciting stuff to do, why skip out on what should be some easy accomplishments for myself?

We’re going to split this next quarter into three buckets with three criteria each. Check ’em out:

My Goals Due September 2019

  1. All About Writing
    1. I will produce 1 outline a month. Likely more will be generated, though extra time will be given so I don’t get off track like I did on the in-hiatus Shallow Seas novel. Let’s count an outline as at least 5 pages.
      Person Typing On Typewriter
      Typewriter from Pexels.com
    2. I will rewrite a fanfic so it’s not a fanfic, but something I can really own. People are inspired all the time by others. My They’re Aboard is one such case, though with a bit of tweaking and world-building, it ought to stand well on its own.
    3. I will keep up this blog. That’s going to be things such as a larger post exploring the need for gratuitous weaponry in science fiction and shorter updates on works in process.
  2. Game Time
    1. I will investigate the problems faced by Game / Dungeon Masters (DMs). This all spawned from when I heard someone lament that no one in a Role Playing Game (RPG) wanted to have the responsibility of DMing. I hope to provide some solutions to that, like:
    2. A RPG card-based system to ease campaign setup and running. I’m using Magic the Gathering cards at the moment. They’re surprisingly useful, though more work is needed for items, traps, locations, time of day, distances, weather, etc. I’ve high hopes for this one.
      Person Holding Brown Card
      Man holding card about rules from Pexels.com
    3. I will get a tabletop RPG into a prototype state. Between players acting as tank commanders w/ crew, players being the leaders of space fleets and worlds, or a study of this game The Orc and the Pie, someone somewhere should be able to play something (sometime).
      Man's Holding Swords Clip Art
      Role players from Pexels.com
  3. Evolving My Work
    1. I will study coding on LeetCode. It was suggested to hit-up 50 questions each of the easy, medium, and hard categories. I trust this person’s advice, so I gotta get on it!
    2. I will read two work-related books (with notes!) every month. Despite the list possibly changing, I can look forward to:
      1. The Effective Executive
      2. Tribe of Mentors
      3. Changing on the Job
      4. The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader
      5. The Design of Everyday Things
      6. Linchpin: Are you Indispensable?
        Book title from Amazon.com
    3. I’ve another, but it’s private. JimmyChattin.com may take a hit in contributions if this comes to pass.

That’s it for now. Depending on what comes, I’ll flip the table on all of this. As Captain Barbossa would put it, these are “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules”. In the meantime, here’s to a successful quarter!

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Phone lockscreen source image from Pablo Olivera

BONUS

Checking the Toggl (my favorite time tracker) analytics for the last 17 months as it comes to time spent on goals, the numbers are very humbling. (Spoiler: I don’t spend enough time pursuing my goals.)

Last year, I spent an average of 33.6 hours per month on goals (2019 at least is 37.5 hours per month!). In the 17 months I’m referencing, we are at about 35.55 hours a month, or 105 per quarter.

It has taken me about 17 hours to come up with an outline (any draft would be a conservative 500 words per hour). That’s 51 hours out of our 105. 54 left to go.

The blog has, on average, taken 2.5 hours per post. If I keep with 2 posts per week for 12 weeks, that’s 60 hours… Let’s aim more for half that at 30!

Down to 24 hours.

Edits for stories tend to be about 22 hours split between 2 unequal stories. Assuming the They’re Aboard rewrite has more than my typical editing required, let’s assume 22 to be a generous cushion for the changes.

The games will be… problematic. It’s been awhile since I’ve fully designed tabletop games (checkout my mods!). We can say that 8 hours is the most I’ve spent on designs this year in a month, so let’s assume 8 per month, 3 months, for 24 hours total.

Everything else gets wrapped up in my normal studies (LeetCode) or reading.

Ouch. We have -22 hours left over at the end of the quarter if we’re diligent, not counting the quarterly review and next quarter planning. These might be called “stretch goals” 🙂 Whatever the case, time’s ticking!

Round Black Analog Table Alarm Clock
Clock and coffee from Pexels.com