Category Archives: Metamorphosis Alpha

Registered For UCon

Registration opened yesterday for UCon. It was a crazy busy day at work, so I wasn’t able to finish my registration until later. I was both worried and excited that the games I wanted to play might be sold out.

I am also running one session of Metamorphosis Alpha Saturday morning. I had reviewed my entry and asked for a clarification that it is 1st edition, since someone PM’d me about it. I have run two play tests of it via Roll20 & Google Hangouts. I just need to write up all my notes, and we should be ready for mayhem!

I then noticed that +Tim Snider’s Thundarr scenario for Mutant Future was at the same time as my MA game. (Have you ever felt like Charlie Brown when Lucy pulls the football away? Except this time, Charlie Brown managed to pull it away…. AUGGHH!!)  I messaged Tim since I could not find the time it was set for at Con On The Cob. I realized that I had not yet registered for it, and it’s only a few weeks away. Sad news for me, Tim’s only running it at UCon. My bad for not thinking to check.

Here’s my schedule copied and pasted from my registration email. they have my PayPal payment, so I should be all set. I added a note of who is running which games with their G+ page linked.

I’m looking forward to a good time!

  • FRI 9a – Dungeon Crawl Classics: Skymasters of the Puple Planey (4615, 4615) ($3.00 x1) $3.00 – Jim Wampler (I look forward to meeting Jim.)
  • FRI 1p – Dungeon Crawl Classics: Halls of the Minotaur (4592, 4592) ($3.00 x1) $3.00 – Laura Rose Williams (Her first time to GM at a con! Go Meat Dwarf! Also the first RPG for which I have had a woman GM.)
  • FRI 6p – OSR Discussion Panel: Old School City Scapes Roundtable Panel (4641, 4641) ($0.00 x1) $0.00
  • FRI 8p – Swords & Wizardry : Swords and Wizardry Invades Michigan–The Maze of Eternity (4859, 4859) ($4.50 x1) $4.50 – Bill Webb (My first time to play Swords & Wizardry, but it is so close to the original RPG. I look forward to meeting Bill.)
  • SAT 9a – Metamorphosis Alpha 1st ed. – Red Shirt Metamorphosis (4788) – Yours Truly
  • SAT 2p – Cryptworld: Wasted (4671, 4671) ($3.00 x1) $3.00 – +Tim Snyder (My first time to play Cryptworld.)
  • SAT 8p – Warriors of the Red Planet: Princess Zira & the Jungle Ruins (4469, 4469) ($3.00 x1) $3.00 – Brett Slocum (My first time to play Tekumal. I look forward to meeting  Brett.)
  • SUN 2p – Delving Deeper: In Search of the Unknowable (4445, 4445) ($3.00 x1) $3.00 – Adam Muszkiewicz (My first time to play Delving Deeper, but it is so close to the original OD&D, which I technically never played, the closest was Blue Box Basic.)

They finally sent out surveys about the Epsilon City Kickstarter add-ons. As I read the email explaining it, I take it that they will ship the things already in stock separately. So maybe I will have some of this stuff in time for UCon….

I’m getting the softcover of the MA Collector’s Edition, the poster sized deck plan, and Robots Among Us. Wish I could afford more.


Prepping and Running Games Saves Money

I have found that in the last few weeks as I prepare a Metamorphosis Alpha scenario to run at UCon, play test it online with two different groups, and end up with a weekly Saturday game and bi-weekly Sunday game, I don’t have as much time to read and browse forums and find more goodies to spend my money.

This is good. I’m not broke, and I’m not poor, I just prefer to pay cash for things, and I already have multiple game systems to choose from. Both the books and manuals I have, and many different PDFs. While I like collecting lots of different ideas for tables and how others do things, in the end, if all one does is collect bits and bobs and never runs a game, what’s the point? {I’m also going to attend ConOnTheCob in October, UCon in November, the company holiday party is in Orlando, FL in December – I finally get to go to Disney World!, Marmalade Dog in February, GaryCon in March, etc.]

Other than helping out the creators when I buy things, if I’m not running at least one game of one of the rules I already have, I’m not doing the one thing I have written so often that I want to do.

I struggle with having “enough” prepared to be comfortable. the key for me is determining what is the right “enough” to have. It doesn’t matter the game system.

By jumping in and running Metamorphosis Alpha and having a regular commitment to keep running it, my outlook has changed. The task seems much less daunting, and the myriad of excuses of why I’m not ready yet fade away.

My in person AD&D campaign with my oldest son and his girlfriend faded away when they moved in with me in the months before my granddaughter was born. Preparations for parenthood, and figuring out their new family dynamics have put that on the back burner. Thus the desire to move that campaign online and get it going that way. Starting up with a new group of people do not guarantee they would make the same choices and check out the same things as my face to face players. Once I get a bit more done with my MA online game(s), I will do more to get my AD&D game going online.

This doesn’t mean no preparation, and no ideas for suggestions for players, etc. There needs to be enough of a framework that it holds together. What this looks like will change and adapt, or it should, once players start interacting with the world. I have lots of ideas, but it is what the players do with my descriptions and starting conditions that is interesting. Watching players interact with the world I have presented and seeing them debate and struggle over courses of action, or regret actions taken, just makes the whole thing come alive. This is cooperative play/storytelling at its finest!

So I have dug in and started using all the pads, pens, dice, books, and miscellaneous notes I have gathered. The results are encouraging, and I find that I want more! I have enough ideas to keep things rolling, and the players have their own ideas, so I don’t see burnout with roleplaying as an issue. Burnout is only a threat based on how crazy busy work gets in December and January. [Oh the “joys” of being a support analyst for payroll and accounting software at year end/W-2 time, plus a new set of forms this year for the ACA.]

I don’t plan on participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I still need to write the last few chapters of my novel, so I can start on the second draft/revisions. I know I can do it, since I have over 60,000 words that I wrote last year in November. It’s just a matter of sitting down and doing the work. Like most things in life, the ad slogan, “Just Do It.” fits so well.

I have a lot of different irons in the fire, and without the distraction of all the different TV shows I watched last Fall, Winter, and Spring, I have gotten more done. It’s all about priorities, and making a decision to act on them, and following through.

Well, that’s enough stream of consciousness for now. I think I’ve convinced myself that I can do the running of games online, and that I can handle as much as I want to handle, with all the irons I have elected to have in so many fires. I can save up shows to binge watch on long weekends, or not worry about them at all. I can put as much effort into game preparation as I want, but choose to focus only on preparation that makes the most sense and has the best chance of being used in play. I can also deal with various projects around my 95 year old house, as well as down-sizing a bunch of non-gaming stuff. I like the idea of a simple life and being able to live out of a van. But I’d need most of a semi-trailer right now. My goal is to go through all my stuff and pare it down now, so in X years, when I’m gone, my sons won’t have to deal with it. I like my stuff, but gadgets and things become obsolete or lose their appeal.

NOTE: I wrote this late at night, and made one pass at it, and it shows in all my rambling and additional topics. I’m not going to go back and fix it. My point is in here. Find it if you can. LOL!

P.S. Don’t forget to talk like a pirate today, ye scurvy dogs!

I Ran My First Game Online

Friday night, from 8:00 to Midnight, EDT, I ran my first online game using Roll20 and Google Hangouts.

I have played over 330 hours using Roll20 and Hangouts. I have also run games of AD&D 1st Edition, Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World, and others. As with anything, the first time you encounter all the things you don’t know and try to make sense of it based on what you already know.

I am very much a visual learner. What is easy to pick up on with body language in a face to face game is lost online. While I used a Google Hangout, it was audio only. This was to minimize the number of windows on which I had to focus. This led to my biggest shortcoming as a GM online, missing the visual queues for player involvement. I realized after one player dropped out that I really need a player turn tracker that is implemented fairly and consistently so that each player has an equal share of time.

Two of my players in this session of six players were new to both RPG’s and online play of RPG’s. I was not as sensitive as I should be to their newness to the hobby and this method of play.

This session was a play test of a scenario that I developed for convention play for Metamorphosis Alpha at UCon in November, as I mentioned a few days ago. While I have pre-gens for the scenario, I did not enter them into Roll20. Instead, I let my players generate their characters to give them a sense of ownership. I had a short session with each player to generate their character, and make sure that the technical aspect of using Roll20 and Google Hangouts were worked out before the game. I think this helped with player buy-in, as well as helped us get a head start on building that initial acquaintance ahead of the session.

I learned from play that I crammed too much into the beginning of my scenario, and need to streamline things for the fast style of play that occurs in a convention game. I took a lot of short notes about different things to keep track of what worked or did not and what needs polish, revision, or removal.

At the end of the game, I solicited feedback, and there is interest in continuing the scenario.  In addition to Roll20, I created a private G+ Community for my Metamorphosis Alpha campaign. After the game, I created a poll, based on initial post game comments, to get an idea of when the group would like to play again. Most said that they would love to play next week. That is a great mood booster!

I had a blast! The players had buy-in to the scenario right away, and were engaged. I had a lot of hooks to get everyone involved from the start, with random rolls to mix things up, so that no two players would have the same story. I won’t go into detail, as I am running a second group through the scenario Saturday night. The second group are part of the gang from the Wednesday night AD&D Roll20 game I play in. It will be fun to interact with them in a different way and to see how our DM is as a player.

I was disappointed in myself for letting a couple of players sit quiet for a long time. It is the DM’s job to make sure each player is engaged. With an online game, it is especially important, since it is all too easy for one player to talk over other’s. It is the limit of the technology. I could set up one computer to display the hangout and watch which icons indicate who is speaking, but I find that I focus so much on the rolls, and my notes and maps, that I can’t even keep up with the chat comments players made.

I don’t feel too bad about missing side chats the players had going in chat right in front of me. It is that way in in-person games, but those more easily grab one’s attention. The solution is a system that allows each player a chance to speak. So whether I go by dexterity order, name order, order they show up on the screen, etc. It needs to be done fairly and consistently.

In addition to the poll for when to play again, I also put up a post on the campaign’s G+ community soliciting constructive criticism of my GMing of the session. I pointed out what I knew I needed to do better and what I felt I did well. I invited each player to contact me privately, if they so desired.

One player wrote publicly in response to my solicitation of feedback, “Well said! I can already tell that you are a GM/DM that I would recommend to anyone looking for a good old-school type of game. :)”

That comment alone is wonderful! I have a feeling of accomplishment.  I can’t help but compare myself to other DM.s/GM’s. There are some that I feel are so good that I feel I can never be that good. But when I actually get to play and get into a zone where things are happening in a good way, I know that I am at least a decent DM. I think I will dare to say I am a good one.

I stress too much on needing to be prepared. It does not take much to have enough for four hours of play. Once players are put in the middle of a situation, they go off in directions one could never anticipate.

I think I set the expectations clearly up front. I pointed out that this was my first time running an RPG online, and that this was the first game of Metamorphosis Alpha that I had ran in over 30 years. I did not mean it as an excuse, just to let them know I had a lot of new going on. In the end, other than the time allotment issues for each player, I think I did very well.

I used the theater of the mind style. I had a map of an area and players placed their tokens to indicate who was where. We also used it for marching order. There was another map I had to show them a big picture of the situation, but I did not use all the bells and whistles of working with maps and tokens that Roll20 has to offer. I am a free user, but if I end up with a regular game, I will definitely come up with the money for a subscription.

Some of my players run games on Roll20 and were able to help me get settings right. That was most appreciated!

I learned a lot about the online tools I chose, my scenario and where it needs improvement, myself and my abilities as a GM, and where I need to focus my energies to improve. I can’t wait for next week when the players and I tune in to see what happens next!

Metamorphosis Alpha at UCon

I just submitted an event to run a session of Metamorphosis Alpha at UCon in November.

If you don’t plan to attend UCon, I am trying to get some play testers to make sure my planned content flows and that there is enough to fill four hours. I have a game scheduled for Friday, September 11, from 7:00 PM – Midnight Eastern. I use Roll20 and Google Hangouts. If possible, I would like to set a time to get characters created before then.

If you are interested in playing Friday, let me know, and I will send you an invite to the Hangout and the Roll20 campaign. I have one player lined up for Friday, and others who previously indicated interest. I need 5 more players, and can run it with two or more, but more is better.

With sufficient interest, I can run it again on Saturday. I will have room for six players.

My plan is to make this a regular campaign, but the more immediate need is to play test this scenario. I haven’t ran Metamorphosis Alpha or played it in over 30 years, so I need just a bit of a refresher before attempting this at a con.

Goodies Received

I recently placed orders at Amazon, Lulu and DriveThruRPG, I got the last of the Amazon order on Friday and the others on Saturday.

I’m not doing an in-depth review, just touching on what I got.

From Amazon, I got a good deal on a copy of Manual of the Planes for AD&D 1e. I never had the book, but I have the PDF and wanted a “complete” set of the AD&D manuals. By complete, I mean complete to me. That is, I now have all the AD&D manuals that I want. The only exception is if I find inexpensive Players Handbooks that are good for use at the table. I think that I’m up to three table copies, but would like to boost that a bit.

Manual of the Planes
Manual of the Planes

Earlier in the week, a separate shipment of my Amazon order came, with Playing at the World [Aff link],by Jon Peterson. So far, I’ve gotten through the introduction, acknowledgements, and the fist few sections of chapter one. As I write this on a rainy Saturday, I’m leaning towards more reading, since I can’t do my yard work and don’t feel motivated to do inside chores.

Playing at the World
Playing at the World

I also got two copies of a board book, one for my granddaughter, and one for me: C is for Cthulhu[Aff link]. There was a Kickstarter for this. I didn’t learn of it until well after it. I think it is a neat idea. I also can’t wait to see the look on my son’s face tomorrow* when I give it to them. He has read some H. P. Lovecraft, he got a book several years ago from the local library’s annual sale.

C is for Cthulhu
C is for Cthulhu

Here’s a picture of my granddaughter with her new book. Her parents were geeked out about this book. She was taking a nap when I arrived, and their dog barked and woke her up just a few minutes into it, so she wasn’t as exited. However, I did read it to her several times and she enjoyed it.

Nikola with her new book.
Nikola with her new book.

The Lulu order contained Revised & Expanded Petty Gods and Metamorphosis Alpha. I did not contribute to Petty Gods, but I already have the PDF and with a 30% sale Lulu had, I jumped in.

Petty Gods
Petty Gods

Metamorphosis Alpha is the original rules, but with James Ward’s minor changes on the cover and title page indicating it is his. When I saw it and picked it up and started flipping through the pages, it brought me back to when I had my copy of the game. I can see myself sitting in my parent’s basement way back in high school, reading the rules and running one of the few games we had. This is just like so many of the rule books back then. It reminds me of all those other TSR games in the early 1980’s: Gamma World, Top Secret, Boot Hill, Gang Busters, Star Frontiers, etc. We played them all, but kept coming back to AD&D.

Metamorphosis Alpha
Metamorphosis Alpha

I did not back the Metamorphosis Alpha re-print Kickstarter. I did get the PDF from DriveThruRPG and print it out. I also backed the Epsilon City Kickstarter and plan to add the softcover MA re-print, but I didn’t want to wait for that to arrive in a few months.

I also bought this to help Jame Ward with his recent and ongoing hospital stay. This is on top of my boosted pledge to the Epsilon City Kickstarter and a donation to his GoFundMe. #WardenCrew

From DriveThruRPG I got the Portrait GM Screen, and the OSR Sci Fi GM Screen for White Star. I already had the PDF of the Sci fi GM Screen, but if I bought the Portrait GM Screen, they would just give me a copy of the Sci Fi GM Screen. I used up all of my credits and then some to get this, so if you want to buy something from my affiliate links, please do, so I can get more things to review!

The Portrait GM Screen is actually TWGS – The World’s Greatest Screen, by Hammerdog Games. Hammerdog has free inserts that you can download from their site. This screen has a bit of heft to it. It reminds me of a few executive style notebooks I have. The inset pockets are tight and it might be a challenge to switch things up and use inserts for another game. With binders we have at works with such insert pockets on the cover, the ink gets stuck to the plastic and it is a challenge to get the inserts out. I’m not sure if it is safe to leave fancy inserts in. Home printed inserts, or copy paper inserts, the ink will most likely stick to the pocket sleeve. Unless this plastic/vinyl is a different quality and ink does not stick to it, I wouldn’t leave inserts in there for an extended period of time, unless you planned to play only one game, or get a new screen for each game. The latter would get quite expensive.

I’ll have to look for long-term reviews about the issues of ink sticking to the sleeve pocket, etc. Hammerdog does have a page on caring for the screen. I’m curious to see if anyone who has followed their instructions has had any issues. I found this unboxing video of both the portrait and landscape sceens on YouTube.


The SciFi GM Screen is visually appealing and the card stock is about the same grade as that of the Metamorphosis Alpha GM Screen that I reviewed here. It has a couple pages of tables and a sector map and mini adventure for the GM and another one for the players. This is an interesting idea. I have the PDF of the GM Screen, but I have not thoroughly reviewed it. I’m used to seeing combat tables and other things on GM screens. I know with the Ascending Armor Class, one doesn’t need combat tables. Somehow, I feel a table or two that might be relevant to play is missing. I will have to review my PDF copy of White Star before I stick to a claim one way or the other.

Sci Fi GM Screen
Sci Fi GM Screen
Sci Fi GM Screen
Sci Fi GM Screen – All the Inserts
Sci Fi GM Screen
Sci Fi GM Screen – Sector Map


* I wrote this on Saturday, will give it to them Sunday, and set this article to publish Monday.

Metamorphosis Alpha GM Screen

I picked up a GM screen for Metamorphosis Alpha from +Roy Snyder at MichiCon.

While I like the art from the original cover, and all the tables are just what you need to run a game, the card stock is very light. It is not what I am used to from the first DM screen I ever had for AD&D.

I need to run a game to make sure that all the most used tables are included, but the content and layout appears to be spot on. I just wish the card stock used was a bit heavier. The only benefit to being this thin is that it takes up less space.

I suspect that it would get knocked over easily because it is so light. Due to its light weight, I might use it more as a quick reference. However, I tested it, and while it might get nudged and moved more easily than my AD&D screens, it seems fairly resistant to getting knocked over.

It seems like it would be a challenge to keep this screen from getting bent up. The original AD&D DM screens could double as a clipboard and could take a lot of punishment.

I guess that’s what makes us Grognards. We remember when things were done right. However, I know that not every original product from the beginning was of the most resilient manufacture. Some items were of the thinnest newsprint and did not bear up well. So it is relative. However, my first experience with a DM screen set the bar for what I want.

For $10 I want something sturdier than the material used for a free GM screen, like the one for DCC and FreeRPG Day 2015. My druthers for such light card stock would be to have them as inserts for one of the models that can take inserts, such as those from OBS. I ordered the portrait screen for something else. It should arrive next week or so. I will have a review once it arrives.

OneBookShelf GM Screens:

Michicon Follow Up

Last Saturday I went to Michicon. It starts on Friday, but I was not able to get the day off. Note to self – Alert social secretary to be more on the ball next time. Oh, wait, that’s me….

I had heard of Michicon last year, but this is the first year I attended.

It was held at Oakland University on the NW side of the Detroit metro area. I had a late start and there was road construction that made it a challenge to get there, but I finally made it about 2:30 or so.

I found +Roy Snyder with his booth and spent money on a few items. I got a second pristine Tramp cover AD&D Player’s Handbook, and another Player’s Handbook with the Wizard cover for the table. I went ahead and got Legends and Lore. I realize it is the same content as the Dieties & Demigods – without Cthulhu & Melnibone, but I didn’t have one. I already had the PDF of Legends & Lore.


I also picked up Oriental Adventures. That is one that I keep thinking I have, but don’t. I lost my original with the water leak incident. I have it in PDF. I now have all of my original AD&D manuals from back in the 1980’s re-built. I know I said that before when I wrote about getting two Chulhu/Melnibone mythos Dieties & Demigods on the same day.


I have items I added to my PDF collection of manuals that I did not have back in the day. I have a hard copy of all the ones I have in PDF, except Manual of the Planes. I don’t need it, but want it for “completeness.” While I have Greyhawk Adventures in PDF and hard cover, I am not interested in the book for Forgotten Realms or others they may have.

Now the only D&D item I don’t have from my original collection is the Greyhawk Gazeteer. I was glad to get it in PDF, but I miss those gorgeous maps. Maybe someday.

I also got a GM screen for Metamorphosis Alpha, I finally gave it a through reading and I like what I see. One less excuse to not run a game.

CAM00900 CAM00901

The con was not well marked. The center where it was held was having remodeling and there was no food available on site. There were only vending machines for drinks. I chatted with Roy and bought stuff from him and got directions from Roy to the registration table. It turns out I came in the back entrance. It wrapped around and I came up the stairs that led to the game room, I just went in the door closest to the stairs – on the left. No outside signs and no inside signs. It is $10 for the day. Not a bad amount.

The big open room had maybe a half dozen vendors along two walls. The tables were numbered on the sign up sheet, but there were no numbers on the tables. Thankfully, I was there to play DCC, and +Jared Randal was running an open game 0 level funnel next to Roy’s tables. I dropped in and played all the way until the con closed. Jared ran a great game. The module was Sailors of the Starless Sea. I only lost one of my original five 0-levels. I ended with a full compliment of five, since we divvied up the characters of players who could not play the whole time. I had not played that one before. We used a d200 table of “special” items that each character got, and we had a blast using them in creative ways.

Finally, I won a door prize, a still sealed dice game of Walking Dead. I don’t play a lot of board games, so if I can’t sell it I plan to keep it sealed and see what I can get out of it in a few years.



Jim Ward

As many already know, Jim Ward has been in the hospital for over a month and looks to be there much longer. As a freelance writer/game designer from the original TSR, if he can’t work, he doesn’t make money.

He had a hand in D&D and developed the first science fiction RPG – Metamorphosis Alpha, and others.

I encourage everyone to back the latest Metamorphosis Alpha Kickstarter. It has funded, but is no as well publicized as the rapidly growing Marmoreal Tomb Kickstarter that launched the same day. That would be great moral support.

There is also a GoFundMe drive to help with medical expenses, and was nearly at the initial 8,000 goal last night. This morning it is at $8,600 with a new goal of $15,000. With the costs of today’s hospital stays, this is a drop in the bucket. For some reason, in the days of the Affordable Care Act, his insurance is being unhelpful, so anything you can do will help.

You can also leave him a note of encouragement if you use Facebook. Use the money that you might spend on a stamp and postage to help. If you can’t do both the Kickstarter and the GoFundMe, please give what you can to the GoFundMe campaign.

Several other OSR Bloggers are holding raffles for items of interest to benefit Jim. If you can afford to give and want a chance at some cool stuff consider the following:

Tenkar & Matching Funds

James Spahn – White Star Proofs Raffle

Taylor Frank – The Dungeon Lord – Multiple Raffles [Edited September 20, 2016 to use Web Archive link as blog removed from Blogger.]

Tim at Gothridge Manor and other OSR bloggers with patreons are donating a portion of their proceeds.

Johua De Santo has made an RPG Bundle of his offerings on RPGNow, and has invited other content creators to join or make their own bundles.

As for me, I have backed the Metamorphosis Alpha and Marmoreal Tomb Kickstarters, and when I get paid tomorrow, I will give to the GoFundMe. If 1,000 people could give $5 it would go a long way. So far 180 people have gotten the GoFundMe to $8690. At least 30% of that will need to go towards Social Security, Medicare, Federal, and State taxes, so we need to give a lot to maximize how much actually go to medical bills.

Cell Phones – Handheld Communicator And Computer

I was struggling with a topic for an article, and was about to give up and end my streak of a post a day back to the end of January. Then I had a message indicator on my cellphone, and it hit me.

We have such small devices that handle all forms of communication: two way (calls, texting, email), and one way (received: emailed receipts, bill reminders, entertainment & sent: payments, notes/lists/reminders). Some phones have gone for bigger screens with higher resolutions for better experience, two cameras, motion sensors, GPS, etc.

If one does no have a cell phone in today’s world, good luck finding a pay phone. The only place I see pay phones now are in airports, and they take credit cards.

For a science fiction setting, one can imagine a computer as powerful or more so than today’s desktops, in the palm of your hand. The display will be holographic, so the size of the screen is variable. As dense as memory is getting, what limits will one have on a hand held computer/communicator?

Encyclopedic knowledge will be available, for topics that are in the system. Landing on a backwater or uncharted planet will present a world of unknown factors. Other than being able to check the atmosphere, and scan air, water, and potential food for pathogens/compatibility, how would this device help you?

Is it able to communicate to orbit? Can it make interplanetary calls, or signal ships passing through the system? How does GPS help when there are no GPS sattellites? Is there a star-faring version of GPS and do the general civilian devices have access, or does it require a separate device?

Would a general purpose device be capable of basic first aid, or contain the ability to guide the user in basic first aid, or perhaps something more advanced?

How tough/resilient would such a device be? I dropped a cellphone out of my pocket onto a cast iron floor vent in my house (It was built in 1920.) and it cracked diagonally across the screen. Touch screens don’t work so good, or at all when that happens. How far of a drop would it take to damage it? What water depth can it reach and for how long before it is compromised? What about the vacuum of space? There are also radiation, concussions from explosions, shrapnel from explosions, or projectiles from weapons.

Like today, there would be various levels of such devices, from cheap burners with an older interface. Now, burners tend to have actual buttons, but some small touch screens have appeared. In the future, an old interface might be a touch screen that require physical contact, and not have a holographic screen. They are severely limited in how much you can put on them. These are not as well made and would survive only so many hardships of daily use. How often do you have a player roll to see if their communicator survives a crash or fall, or fight?

Next would be the standard comm-puters that can handle more drops, but have a limit. My youngest son can still manage to crack a cellphone screen in less than a day. I’m glad I’m not responsible for his phone anymore.

Premium devices would be made of sturdier and more expensive stuff. Advertising how long they can stay in vacuum, and how long they can last at 100 meters, or some such.

At the pinnacle would be government/military grade devices that are resistant to a variety of abuses and resistant to cracking, i.e. “black hat hacking”.

How long does the battery last? A day, a week, a month, longer?

Instead of earbuds on a wire, there would be a vibration pad or pads you stick to your head behind your ears. Voice activation and voice recognition would be the norm. Minimal contact with the device would be needed. Placing it in your pocket or a shoulder bag and placing it for use of the holographic display could be the only times one touches such a device.

The device could be so small that the device(s) behind your ear(s) IS the comm-puter. Some societies might advocate implanting the device, especially so the government can keep an eye on you, “to keep you safe”. What if some nefarious organization or person cracks the system and uses it for mind control of the populace?

Take what we know of the current direction of technology and extrapolate it for a futuristic RPG. It gets smaller, more powerful, and more ubiquitous. It could end in nanobots that reside along the optic and auditory nerves and send signals straight to the brain. A display would be limited to the person, but could be shared with others within a certain range.

A fun thought experiment that have given me several more ideas, if I ever get things together for a science fiction campaign, either White Star or Metamorphosis Alpha.

Asteroid Mining

While thinking about a recent article on a company wanting to mine asteroids, I started this article. Then White Star came out and I decided to revise it touch specifically on White Star.

Mining an asteroid changes its mass and therefore it is likely, if not guaranteed, to change its orbit.

A permit system would develop for mining and shipping ore, water, etc. to ensure proper and safe orbits of mined and other asteroids. This would be most true in system with a sentient, space faring race(s). It might also be true of low tech systems watched over by the authorities, to protect the non-space faring natives from destruction, and so they can use the resources of their own system.

Pirate Miners – No permits and perhaps no eye to the safety of orbits.

Remnants of star systems, like a system that went nova, and far between other stars might be a haven for illegal miners, pirates, and other ne’er do wells. What ancient alien artifacts best left untouched might they uncover?


The asteroids that are nearest the Sun are mostly made of carbon while the ones further away are made up of silicate rock. The metallic asteroids are composed of up to 80% iron and 20% a mixture of nickel, iridium, palladium, platinum, gold, and other precious metals. There are those few that are made up of half silicate and half metallic.[1]


They are composed of rock, dust, ice and frozen gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, and ammonia. Sometimes called dirty snowballs, recent studies have shown that the ice of a comet is covered by a crust. Comets also contain a variety of organic compounds as well as the gases already mentioned. Some of these are methanol, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, ethanol, and ethane. More complex molecules such as long-chain hydrocarbons and amino acids may also be in comets. Because of their low mass, comets cannot become spherical under their own gravity, and will thus have irregular shapes. [2]

Since comets eject part of their mass and are “unstable” as they warm up from drawing near the sun, mining would only be practical for “inactive” comets far enough from the sun to not be active. They would still be likely to react to an approaching ship that generated heat. Only places with a severe lack of water would resort to such dangerous mining.

Asteroid mining is dangerous, but comet mining is downright foolhardy! Only the truly desperate, severely in debt, or adrenaline junkies will risk the dangers of comet mining. You can’t spend your money if you’re dead.

Asteroid/Comet mining
  • Water/ice Water ice is theorized to exist on some asteroids.
  • Metals: iron, nickel, iridium, palladium, platinum, gold, and other precious metals.
  • Carbon: What forms of carbon? Coal, graphite, diamonds, graphene, carbon nanotubes, buckminsterfullerene, etc.
  • Exotic metals – Adamantium, Mithril, Unobtanium, etc.

Of course, in science fiction, asteroids can contain anything you want. Unobtanium for powering ships, giant diamonds, other elements, etc.

Asteroids that are big enough might be re-purposed as generation ships, space stations, weapons or fuel depots, etc.

Would any asteroids use mass drivers to bring them nearer the inhabited planet(s)? [3] That is, part of the mass of the asteroid is ejected to provide thrust to position the asteroid in the desired orbit.