Friday, September 22, 2017
Although they can't exactly be called “villains,” the Union Guard must also concern itself with non-sentient threats, such as robots and alien lifeforms. There are thousands of planets in the universe with a wide variety of alien lifeforms, and quite a number of them are dangerous. Though these lifeforms are rarely the target of an investigation, it is not uncommon for agents to have to traverse the wilds of alien planets and encounter the deadly denizens along the way. Robots are also a common threat to UG agents, especially those used for security by criminal organizations. In some cases, robots could arguably even be considered “sentient,” because rogue or illegal AI programs have sometimes resulted in robotic monsters that must be put down and thoroughly dismantled. Innocent service bots can sometimes malfunction, or even be repurposed and weaponized. It is a dangerous universe out there—are you ready to join the agents of the Union Guard?
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Yet some of the villains that Union Guard agents will face are not even among the seven sentient races. Sightings and encounters at the Edge or beyond known space have shown that the member races in the Interstellar Union are not alone. A powerful, crystalline alien known as the Arunox that lives on worlds uninhabitable by the other races has occasionally encroached upon the territories of others, and their strange technology and resilient nature have shown them to be impervious to the cold vacuum of space, making their attacks on starships with controlled interior environments truly devastating. Worse, however, is an elusive alien foe that has been kidnapping people from all races and has—at least twice—sent in small but extremely powerful probes to test the Union's defensive capabilities. Though information on these aliens is classified, the secretive “Immortals” cult actively seeks the aliens and has repeatedly shown themselves to be extremely dangerous. What other alien threat lies beyond known space? What powerful foes have simply not deigned to concern themselves with us yet?
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Some say that the three major crime organizations in the universe are behind every lawless, nefarious act in known space. Though that is unlikely, it is understandable why the assumption can be made when seeing just how much crime leads back to these three enormous organizations. Some suggest the three are at war with each other, while others assert that their occasional skirmishes and conflicts are merely a show to hide that they are working together to control the entire Interstellar Union. The diverse specialties between each group does have the Union Guard concerned, however, considering that the Blackstars specialize in information acquisition and manipulation, the Quass'eth specialize in illegal finance, and the Blood Reach specializes in assassinations. Not a single government has remained untouched by their influence, nor has the ISU itself completely managed to avoid all entanglements. If not for the efforts of the Union Guard to disrupt their consolidation of power, the three might have merged into a nightmarish and unstoppable criminal power.
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
During the course of their investigations and the various missions they are assigned, Union Guard teams will slowly begin to connect the dots and find that many of the seeming minor criminal groups are actually tied to larger criminal organizations. Instead of what seemed like a few independent small gangs, they'll discover a much larger mafia organization orchestrating the activities of several gangs. Lone-wolf hackers are often part of a larger crime syndicate, operating as a web-like group, attacking from hundreds of different locations at once. Smugglers and pirates are usually in the employ of a mafia or syndicate that wants to extend its influence into space and neighboring regions. Sometimes they only way to find a connective thread is to bust the small-time criminals first. But even when larger groups like mafia crime organizations or corporate syndicates are revealed, there is yet another layer to be unraveled...
Monday, September 18, 2017
Most stories need an antagonist opposite the protagonist, and this is even more important in Solar Echoes—a game where you and your team play as Union Guard special agents on the side of the law. Just who are the villains in Solar Echoes, though? To get to know the major players, we have to start small. In a universe that involves FTL (faster-than-light) speed travel, known space is a very, very large area. The further one gets from civilized, well-traveled areas, however, it becomes more likely that the outer reaches of known space are a haven for criminals hiding out from the law. Small colony worlds far from populated regions and law-enforcement are more likely to be plagued with crime—unless the local population manages to establish their own crime-fighting forces. But it's safe to say the initial threats that UG agents will face involve your basic criminal elements: pirates, smugglers, hackers, gangs, and other fledgling criminal enterprises.
Friday, September 15, 2017
In addition to the mall map icon advice, I also recommended the use of Legos for the various mall robots, and included pictures of some of my creations. Who doesn't love playing with Legos? I bought a few sets that looked like they had the pieces I wanted, then began to build each of the robots in the mission, from the Janitor-cleaning robot to the giant Delivery-bot that carries huge packages around. My daughter actually designed the freakish and hilarious Delivery-bot, with it's gigantic, scary claws to it's funny googly eyes. These models may not be exactly to scale, but there's nothing better than putting a logo-robot monstrosity down on the map and seeing your players' excited and fearful expressions. When preparing this mission, I know I liked the excuse to go buy some legos and then try to construct the robots in the mission. I also bought some small Hotwheels cars for the car chase in the mission. Solar Echoes gives you a great opportunity to tap into your youth and play with toys again!
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Although updating format, colorizing, and adding in the new art borders was the biggest change, I've also added in some new content for the shopping mall. I realized that every time I ran this mission, I unfolded my giant grid map (wet-erase) and drew a few hallways. I then positioned several paper cut-out objects around the grid map for obstacles such as a water fountain or some crates to represent mall sales kiosks. I decided that for this mission update, I wanted to provide the same thing, rather than leave it entirely to the MC to figure out. The problem with making a map for a shopping mall is that it would be huge. Player's should be able to explore wherever they want to, so I've always left the mall as a more open-ended, improvisatory map. Even though malls have a lot of wide open space, characters will need to have options for cover when they battle the rampaging mall robots. I made some color map icons that MC's can print and cut out to use on a large grid map. I also included some instructions and photos detailing how I've done it and what to keep in mind. The sale kiosks were especially fun to design, as each one targets a specific alien race. For example, there is a “Buckles & Baubles” kiosk for Archaeloids, “Hydropontific! Wearable Organic Systems” for Erwani, and “Sweetasties” for the sugar-loving Chiraktis.