Wednesday, November 30, 2011

City Planet

There is something very cool and awe inspiring about a city that spans an entire planet. The concept actually goes way back in Sci Fi literature, so George Lucas’ Coruscant was nothing new. He had actually planned to have Alderaan (a certain brother-loving Princess’ home world) be the setting for much of the action of the first Star Wars film, but budgetary constraints prevented what he envisioned. But he was finally able to include it in his prequel films. Unfortunaly, much of the time it is only visible through an apartment window as we listened to the cringe-worthy dialogue of Anakin and Padme. Outside those windows was bumper to bumper traffic of flying cars filled with yammering muppets (you would think it would be a simple matter to widen those traffic lanes, there being plenty of room in the sky) . We did get some good views of the planet surface during the opening minutes of Revenge of the Sith.

Anyway, tonight we do another session of KOTOR at Andys, and before the night is over the party should have escaped the space station haunted by a Sith Lord Lich and his minions, and be arriving at their next destination, Coruscant, the seat of the Galactic Republic.

On the day of many KOTOR game nights, I have sent little info-blurbs to the group about something in the Star Wars universe related to the nights adventure, so today I put together and sent the Coruscant stuff below. You’ll see that Coruscant has many features that make a city planet cool, especially one that has been such a city planet for over 30,000 years. There are miles and miles of true underground ruins, factor and industrial areas, and lower levels that cater to the lower rungs of society in contrast to the higher levels inhabited by high society (shades of Lang’s Metropolis).

Even though I only plan to have characters there for a couple of sessions, you could do an entire campaign set on this planet, and the only environment you would be missing is that of a wilderness. But with the underground areas being huge enough to have evolved their own ecosystems and unique creatures, I guess you could have that as well.

"Seen from orbit, it is a blaze of light and sparkling colors, reminding some spacers of corusca stones, after which this planet was named long ago."

"An incandescent organ of life, visibly vibrating with the pulses of billions."


Coruscant was a planet located in the Core Worlds. Its hyperspace coordinates were
(0,0,0) which in effect made it the center of the galaxy. The actual galactic center, was located in the Deep Core. As the center of the galaxy, Coruscant was generally agreed to be the most important planet through most of galactic history. It served as the capital for the Galactic Republic, Galactic Empire, New Republic, Yuuzhan Vong Empire, Galactic Alliance, and the New Galactic Empire. Coruscant also served at various times as the home of the Jedi Order and the Jedi Temple. Coruscant was not only the political center of the galaxy. Most of the hyperlanes at some point would travel through Coruscant making the planet one of the richest in the galaxy.

Geologically, the planet was composed of a molten core with a rocky mantle and a silicate rock crust. At its poles were huge ice caps that were popular spots for tourists. The entire surface of Coruscant was covered by sprawling kilometers-high ecumenopolis, and boasted a population of over a hundred billion to several trillion, depending on the era. Following the end of the Clone Wars, an official census noted 1 trillion official permanent residents. The statistics did not include transients, temporary workers, unregistered populace nor residents of orbital facilities. Because of these omissions, the "real" population of Coruscant was estimated to be three times the official amount.

Coruscanti skyscrapers dwarfed all the original natural features, including mountains, as well as floors of oceans which once covered a large portion of Coruscant's surface. Areas of Galactic City were broken up into levels, megablocks, blocks, and subblocks.[14] Coruscant itself was divided into quadrants, which were divided into zones.[7] Below the skyscrapers was Coruscant's undercity, where sunlight never reached. Artificial lighting illuminated these lower levels and advertisement holograms could be seen everywhere. There were numerous establishments for entertainment, catering to a myriad of alien species. The residents were collectively referred to as Twilighters.

Coruscant was once a world mostly covered in oceans.[15] However, all natural bodies of water were drained and stored in vast caverns beneath the city as a result of years of overpopulation. The only body of water visible was the artificial Western Sea, with many artificially-created islands floating on it, used by tourists on holidays.

With no other bodies of water available to feed and water its trillion inhabitants, Coruscant's architects, along with many others from around the galaxy, worked together to build a self-contained eco-system in the massive buildings set all over the planet. Polar cap stations also melted ice and distributed water throughout the planet-wide city through a complex series of pipes.

Galactic City was divided into quadrants, "several thousand" in number, with each quadrant further split into sectors.[7] Each sector was numbered on official maps, but sectors often had nicknames, such as Sah'c Town (sector H-46, named for a prominent family that owned a large portion of its land) and The Works, the largest of Coruscant's designated industrial zones. (Coruscant practiced zoning, which is the designation of specific areas of land for particular purposes, such as governmental and senatorial, financial (including banking zones), residential, commercial, industrial, and manufacturing. Manufacturing and industrial zones were typically the largest designated areas of the planet.) The Works was once one of the galaxy's major manufacturing areas, where spacecraft parts, droids, and building materials were heavily produced during centuries, but as construction and industry became more efficient and cheaper away from Coruscant, The Works fell into disrepair.

It gained a reputation as a hub of criminal activity and many locals stayed away from it. A similar, but more dangerous area, was the Factory District, which was once the industrial heart of Coruscant until it too lost out to competition from producers in other Core Worlds. By the time of the Great Jedi Purge it lay in ruins and was almost completely deserted of sentients, because of the feral droids that prowled its streets. It was located on the opposite side of the planet, and was much more dangerous than the Southern Underground, Invisible Sector, which were infamous in their own right.[12] Another area of Coruscant was CoCo Town (short for "collective commerce"). Many diverse species lived there and worked in manufacturing. A partially enclosed open-air plaza near the Senate building, the Column Commons, was so-called because it housed most of the HoloNet and news media corporations.

The planet produced trillions of tons of waste an hour. Though almost everything on the planet, from clothes to packaging and machinery, was recyclable, some waste was too dangerous to recycle. Such items included worn-out hyperdrive cores which were delivered to one of the planet's five thousand garbage pits, where they were put into canisters and fired into a tight orbit around Coruscant. Garbage ships would then collect them and transport them to nearby moons for storage. Some of the more dangerous materials were shot into the nearby sun for complete incineration. Garbage not exported or destroyed was mixed into a slurry of silicone oils and processed by garbage worms which chewed it into pellets while removing any remaining organics, plastic, or recoverable metals. They turned millions of tons of pellets into carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases. Another problem for a world like Coruscant was the unimaginable amount of carbon dioxide and heat energy that its trillion-being population generated each day. Thousands of carbon dioxide-reactive atmospheric dampeners were put into place in the upper atmosphere to prevent atmospheric degeneration. The first set of these planet-wide dampeners, developed by the Galactic Republic, was known as the Coruscant Atmospheric Reclamation Project.[18]
Near the planet's core were a number of massive power relay stations. The lowest levels were abandoned to mutants and scavengers, such as the cannibalistic, mythical Cthons. The foundations of many of the buildings, some of which weighed billions of tons, also extended deep into the planet's crust.


"The recorded history of Coruscant stretches back so far that it becomes indistinguishable from legend…"
―Pollux Hax

The very early history of Coruscant is a bit sketchy and is not well known. Coruscant was considered by many to be the Human homeworld; early in its history, it was referred to as Notron, the "cradle of human civilization". Its name was changed at an unspecified date. At a certain point, the Celestials could have removed Humans from Coruscant to populate Corellia and other human societies on different planets throughout the galaxy.

It is known that at some point in ancient history, the near-Human Taungs attempted to conquer the 13 baseline Human nations of the Battalions of Zhell. A volcano decimated the Zhell, the ash filling the skies for two years, so the Taungs adopted the name Dha Werda Verda (Warriors of Shadow) for themselves. The Human Zhell eventually recovered and drove the Taungs offworld.

One hundred millennia later, Coruscant was surveyed by the Columi, who dismissed the planet as a primitive disappointment, despite the already planet-spanning ecumenopolis of Galactic City. New buildings were built on the old. As a result, there was virtually no exposed land. In the forgotten underlevels of the city, there was darkness, pollution and crime. Higher up, there were government offices and penthouses owned by the elite. The lower fifty levels of the ecumenopolis is said to have last seen sunlight tens of thousands of millennia ago.

Coruscant was one of many worlds conquered by the Infinite Empire of the Rakata, who used Human slaves to build the Star Forge in 30,000 BBY. Under Rakatan domination, the Humans of Coruscant's colonization attempts were limited to sleeper ships, which ended up on Alderaan, in the Tion Cluster, Seoul 5, Kuat, Alsakan, Axum, Anaxes, Atrisia, Metellos, Corulag, and many other worlds. The Rakata were eventually decimated by a massive plague, leading to slave revolutions on Coruscant and other subjugated worlds.

Over the next two centuries, Coruscant was linked to other Core Worlds, including Corellia, Alderaan, New Plympto and Duro, by hyperspace cannons, via the Herglic Trade Empire. It was during this time that the Coruscant government peacefully absorbed the nearby Azure Imperium. During these pre-Republic years, the languages of Coruscant and its neighbors meshed to become Old Galactic Standard.

Galactic Republic
"That's the seat of Galactic government!'"

The Sacking of Coruscant in 3,653 BBY. In 25,053 BBY, when the Galactic Constitution was signed, the Corellians and Duros invented the hyperdrive proper, allowing Coruscant to become the capital of a democratic union: the Galactic Republic. 53 years later the planet became the galactic center, and remained the Republic's capital for 24,981 more years. Shortly after the formation of the Republic, the Perlemian Trade Route was mapped, linking Coruscant to Ossus and bringing the Jedi Knights into the Republic. Over the next millennium, the Corellian Run was mapped, linking Coruscant to Corellia and beyond. Blasters were also invented on Coruscant around this time, and the famous Galactic Museum was constructed in 12,000 BBY.

From the very beginning, Coruscant, as the Republic's capital, was the primary objective in several wars. The earliest among these was the Tionese War with the Honorable Union of Desevro and Tion in 24,000 BBY, in which Coruscant was bombarded with Tionese pressure bombs. Other early battles included the Alsakan Conflicts, the Duinuogwuin Contention, the Great Hyperspace War, the Third Great Schism, the Great Droid Revolution, and the Great Sith War. At the end of the Great Sith War in 3,996 BBY, the Senate Building was built to replace the old Senate Hall.

Following the devastation of Ossus, the Jedi Council took up residence in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, to which many Jedi relics from Ossus were taken. The Temple was greatly expanded, including the building of the original Jedi Council Chamber. The Temple was repeatedly expanded including in 3,519 BBY, 2,519 BBY (when the Jedi Archives were built) and 1,019 BBY (when the Temple spires were finally fully rebuilt).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Got a good group? Be grateful for what ya got

(pictured above: some gamer dudes trying to look cool and casual in the presence of a purty grrl)

My posting has been a little sporadic the last couple of months, feast and famine, due to being busy with work and other good life stuff. As it has been fun (mostly) having even a tiny voice in the online gaming community, the time I devote to game shit lately has actually been devoted more to actual gaming and less about droning on and on in a blog about the geeky side of my fairly non-geeky life. I have no aspirations to write games or adventures, fanzines, or to share charts and maps from my own games. And hell, there’s just too big a glut of all that anyway, just like gaming blogs. You either make that a big part of your life or you don’t. I don’t read more blogs, join more blogs, or seek to increase my following more because I just don’t have time to do it. Plus it is not as exciting to me as it was when I discovered there was an OSR around three years ago. Honeymoon period over, you know? And in recent months I’ve realized the truth of it; the actual gaming is far more important than talking about it or reading about it. Playing the game is always more fun than hearing about it.

It seems to me that so many blogging GM’s out there aren’t so into playing the game as they are writing about it. Getting more followers on their blogs (usually by joining each and every blog out there), having people read their game material, printing personal fanzines, or just plain having a voice in the OSR. If they get actual gaming going on, it seems just a thing to do so they can continue to do the ancillary things based on it with some amount of gravitas. But shit, if you have a group and it’s good, that should be the focus, right? But it is often not, it seems.

As we approach the holidays, a time when I am never sure how much time I am going to have on my hands to indulge in the secondary and tertiary life things, I wanted to take the opportunity to post about something I probably don’t do enough of; gratitude for the people I have the pleasure of being around a game table rolling dice with, bullshitting with, arguing with, and for the love of Mike getting actual quality gaming in with. This post is for the people at my sessions who put up with me and my wingding style, and keep coming year-in, year-out. This bud’s for you, bitches (who mostly don't even read this blog, so I feel safe calling them "bitches").

The more and more I look at the local gaming scene in So Cal, the more I realize how grateful I should be that I have a regular group that has been going strong for over three years now. And thanking God they are (fairly) normal people who happen to be gamers. But what I think really makes this group special is, despite a couple of “unique” personalities, is that not a one is what you would call a geek, dork, or spaz; At least in my moderately critical and judgmental eyes. Everyone is fairly interesting and fun without being extreme personalities. They are genuinely special without being wanna-be game designers, pretentious “artists,” or "retired" sex workers, edgy or otherwise.

I’m basically speaking of my own selfish joy here. I took around 8 years off from gaming (see my last post for an exception) because I didn’t have enough people around me to play during that time who would have been a right fit for a game group. I spent a bit of time in the 90’s recruiting gamers from non-believers that I knew who I thought would enjoy it. And they usually did. But it came to a point when I got older and didn’t have that kind of crowd around me, at least that lived locally. I’ve never been ashamed of gaming, but I certainly never told everybody I knew I was into it. As if. If I wanted to approach somebody to play in a game, I had to feel secure they would not just smile, look down, shake their head, and go back to talking about The X-Files or Seinfeld or whatever.

And I sure was not going to go hang around game shops or cons to try and sift through the flotsam and jetsom to find people I could stand being around the table for several hours with on a regular basis. I mean, if I did not have this group and was willing to do anything to get some gaming going, I’d have to go to more cons, gimmicky pay-to-play sessions held at stores and comic book shops, or monthly Orange County gamedays full of aging gamer dad’s trying to get their bored kids interested in the hobby they grew up loving by making them sit through sessions, mostly done by eager but strangely subdued DM’s, who run games that consist of reading aloud from the box text of old TSR modules or Pathfinder adventures in monotone voices (yeah, I visited and saw all that)– when they have D&D going on at all. And getting involved with private groups in the area is usually unsatisfactory and often verging on the disturbing.

So while other local groups come and go like the proverbial wind, or consistent groups made up of an open door “temporary players” situation seem to struggle to carry on from one week to the next, here I sit somehow blessed with a great group made up of four of us who have been there the entire three years, and three of us who are now on their (more or less) two year anniversary of play, well, what can I say? Sure, I bitched about some of the power/meta-gaming here and there (mostly because I was not used to being around it, these were mostly seasoned gamers compared to my 90's groups), but now we are used to each other and our particular peccadillo's. We know what we can get away with, and what we probably should not try to get away with unless you are Dan Dan The Power Game Man(tm). And it there is a certain security in the fact that we have to turn down at least one person a month who wants in the group because we are at maximum occupancy.

Do I deserve this good fortune, gamewise? I dunno. I’m basically a decent person who generally focuses his over emphasis on passion and outgoingness in good and positive directions, including into the games he devotes time to. Hey, anybody who has devoted a certain side section of their life since childhood to a hobby of pretend deserves a group like this, and it’s unfortunate not more get to experience that. I’m blessed, I tells ya! How long will it last?

So do you have a strong group you are glad to have? Or are you just happy sporadically playing out there in the gaming jungle?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Oriental Adventures & The Legend of Green Snake

I was going through a box of my older DVD’s last night, and came across my copy of the 1993 Hong Kong film Green Snake. I really love this movie, which I think I originally saw at the WLA revival theater The Nuart in the mid-late 90’s. I don’t know if there is a voice-over English version, but I hope not. The movie is so beautiful to look at (when the sadly terrible special effects are not on screen) and combined with the sing song native language it is almost mesmerizing, and part of the films charm (at least for a Yankee).

Wikipedia describes the film thusly:

Two snake spirits have been training for many centuries to take human form and experience the love, freedom and wisdom that is supposedly only available to humans. White Snake (Joey Wong) is the more experienced one and proceeds to get engaged with local scholar Hsui Xien (Wu Hsing-Kuo), with whom she plans to have a child which would complete her passage into the mortal realm. Green Snake (Maggie Cheung) is the younger and more impulsive of the two sisters and she is not yet quite sure about the benefits of the human world. The two snakes move into their magically created house and start a successful medical practice in the town.

Their enemies are a buffoonish Taoist and an overzealous Buddhist monk Fa Hoi (Vincent Zhao) who make various attempts to banish them from the human world. The monk thinks of himself as a keeper of the natural order of the world and is very prejudiced against spiritual beings seeking to improve themselves. He brings things to a head when he abducts White's husband from the human/spirit mixed marriage into his religious reeducation camp–styled temple.

Anyway, whenever I think of this film I think of Oriental Adventures (applying things that I like to gaming terms was a habit I never managed to fully lose after attaining it in childhood). Around 2003 I was into the second or third year of my gaming semi-retirement when I ran into an old player of mine at a suite party at Loscon in Los Angeles (a very rare sci fi con appearance by me) at around 2am. Lisa was from that period in the mid-90’s when almost all of my players were female and we were mostly doing Call of Cthulhu and Champions. Lisa, pretty high on joy juice, talked about how much she loved the old games, and raved to her fairly new husband about my DM’ing prowess (of course a party at a convention is the perfect place to hear that). It was decided right there that I would be doing up some games for these guys and whoever in the near future. At the husband Jeff’s request I would be doing some Oriental Adventures (something I hadn’t run since around 1990). Current player in my group Terry, who had played with Lisa in most of those 90’s games and was Lisa’s roommate back then, was up for it as well so there we were doing OA on a semi-monthly basis on weekends for awhile.

The movie Green Snake had a heavy influence on many of those games for me. For one thing, Lisa ran a Hengeyokai, and I tweaked that race just a little to match the changelings of Green Snake (animal spirits who spend many years of training and meditation to change into the higher human form). Then there was the super-powered, self-righteous monk of the film who both admires and distrusts the White and Green Snakes, Fa Hoi. I totally ripped-him off to create Tai Seng, a monk who I used as and NPC to guide the players towards various adventures and activities (he was not a prick like the movie version…for the most part).

Anyway, take a look at my favorite scene from the film, where the snakes White and Green make their transformation to beautiful human form on the roof of a tavern during a rainstorm, while a wedding/orgy goes on inside (little nudity so be careful at work). Maybe you’ll get the chance to watch in it’s entirely at some point. If you are going to run OA in the future, I demand you watch it! It might give you some great ideas as well.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Heartbreak of November 1st

Aw, the unhappy ending of a beloved holiday. A Jager hangover in the office is never an enjoyable thing. And all the candy in the mailroom Is leftover crap nobody wants. Sweettarts, lollipops, and some kind of weirdo Mexican candy. There are still some cupcakes leftover in the large kitchen, but they look like somebody smooshed them with the palm of their hand. That’s ok though, because they are a sad reminder of the poor turnout and uninspiring costumes from yesterday’s office Halloween party anyway. The new blonde bookkeeper in the black cat costume was pretty hot though.

Last night I wanted to do the second year of a grand tradition. See, last year I happened to be at home heading towards midnight on Halloween, with the “Sounds of the Season” channel on. At exactly midnight they were playing “Monster Mash” or something, and *bam* suddenly it went right into cheerful holiday music. You know that stuff they play before Thanksgiving that aren’t really Christmas tunes or carols but evoke the Holiday Winter spirit anyway? So the image goes from a grinning pumpkin to a pilgrim handing a Native American a horn-o-plenty (the Native blissfully having not a clue about what would soon be happening to him and his people). Anyway, I was so jarred by that transition that I wanted to be there for it last night. Why not? All my holiday out and about partying was over the weekend (Sat night up till 5am, and there were some great costume concepts out there), so at home on Halloween Monday night it’s me and some Jagermiester at midnight with my new little tradition waiting for the musical transition…but nothing. No change-over. As of this morning, they are still playing goddamn Halloween music on that channel. I wonder how long that will go on? Halloween is over, dude! I’m thinking Time Warner Cable maybe don’t exactly have a crack team of professionals keeping an eye on those music channels.

Aw well, time to take down the cheap Rite-Aid decorations and get back to work. At least on the next holiday in a few weeks I’ll get a long weekend off. Vegas, baby!