Sunday, February 9, 2014

Going Dark for a Bit

The Flying Pincushion's blog pages are going dark for a while, and alas, there will not be any new posts for a while.  However this is not the end of the Flying Pincushion blog, as in the next few weeks the blog will likely be getting a new job.

We at the Flying Pincushion have greatly enjoyed our many months of theme writing, bringing you our readers crunch from classic and modern film and literature.  However all things grow and change, and it is also time that our blog do so as well.

When the blog re-opens for business, it will be most likely a bit different, with a new focus, but still bringing you the quality crunch.  On behalf of the entire Flying Pincushion staff, I would like to just say thank you to everyone who took time out of their busy days to read our work, and we hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed creating it.


Jeffery B. Harris
Flying Pincushion co-creator

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Fine Line: Strength in Differences

By Scott Bingham

                Hey all! This is the Fine Line with yours truly, the newest of the wizards at the Flying Pincushion, and this is Farscape week. Now before this week I had caught perhaps a small snippet of the show and even that wasn’t enough to spark enough of a memory. However I spent quite some time catching up and watching my way through Season 1 and I’ve enjoyed the series thus far. The universe of Farscapeis vast in creativity and endless in opportunity. At some point in time I feel I’ll want to run a campaign wherein I can do just about whatever I please because of the endlessness of my setting but for now a single continent or world will satisfy my needs. For the point of this Fine Line discussion however I would like to bring up an age old conversation that takes place between the players and the DM.

                Player A: “I’d like to play a wizard this time around.”
                Player B: “Alright. I guess I’ll be the meatshield and keep you safe. Fighter for me.”
                DM: “Who wants to play the Dex-based hero?”
                Player C: “I will! I’ve never played a rogue before.”
                Player B: “We still need a healer.”
                Player D: “I’ll be a cleric. Don’t worry.”
                DM: “Perfect! You’ve got just about everything covered.”

No. No. No. No. Stop it.

For many adventuring parties and dungeon masters there seems to be this incessant need to fill roles, to meet a certain status quo when filling out character sheets. Everyone has a job, a predetermined part that “must” be filled. Usually this is centered on combat and overall such a practice it is something that I outright despise. One of the last things any DM should do is encourage limitations on their players. Rather we should encourage our player’s creativity and thrive on the opportunity to stretch our own. Encounters become so much more interesting when each player has a different solution to the problem.

In Farscape season 1 the crew of the Leviathan Moya is as diverse as the come; KaD’Argo the barbarian whose solution to most problems is to smash and break and ask questions never, Aeryn Sun the fighter who comes from the very race responsible for imprisoning the others, Pa’uZhotohZhaan the pacifistic cleric who spends a good measure of her time naked, Rygel the XVI who acts as both diplomat (when he has to) and royal pain with an ego large enough to fill a star system and, my personal favorite, John Crichton the could-be-bard who prefers to find a non-violent resolution to difficulties and yet is not afraid to get his hands dirty.

It is indeed a pleasure when members of the party get along and have a solid synergy about them. Perhaps their alignments match up or they hold some of the same beliefs or practices. Still one of the more powerful motivators for role play is conflict and the crew of Moya is full of it. There are different beliefs, stereotypes, alignments all over the place, and no clear reason as to why the crew stays together at all. It’s not uncommon to find the Moya’s crew nearly at one another’s throats and yet there is a deep, undeniable trust that exists underneath all of the posturing and harsh words. Crichton in particular does his part to bring the conflicting party members closer together with both his actions and his words. That is the sort of thing that gives an adventure depth when the supposed meta is broken and players create characters that can be individualistic and altogether memorable. They don’t have to get along and honestly it is a much deeper connection between players when something more than matching alignments or happy-feel-goods keeps them together.

To draw upon Farscapewe will examine the episode Exodus from Genesis. Whilst traveling through the Uncharted Territories the crew of Moya narrowly dodges being discovered by a Peacekeeper Marauder housing a team of commando specialists. As they pass on and the Moya moves beyond the debris field that hid them something from the cold of space slides undetected into the Leviathan.

The party soon discovers the Draks, small insectoids that are capable of taking DNA samples and replicating it perfectly, creating copies and clones of the existing crew. In order for the Draks to give birth heat is necessary and as such the temperature inside of Moya is steadily increasing causing the cold blooded Aeryn Sun to succumb to heat delirium, a condition that if left untended or unchecked can cause a fate known as living death. At first the crew sees this as an attack but Crichton manages to broker a deal through Zhaan with the Monarch, the mother/queen of the Draks now living inside of the ship. Whereas D’Argo was all for killing every last bug in a one Luxan war Crichton in his brilliance moves in a different direction. The heat will be reduced, good news for Aeryn, and the Draks allowed to complete their birthing cycle before returning to space.

Unfortunately the Peacekeeper commandos find Moya and infiltrate the Leviathan. The five man team begins a sweep and comes across some of the clones gunning them down mercilessly. The Monarch in response cranks up the heat and believes the attack to be a violation of her agreement with Crichton. Now it’s Rygel who acts the diplomat meeting directly with the Monarch and securing an alliance to get the commandoes off of the ship. At the risk of losing Aeryn the heat is turned up even further reducing the commandoes to delirious, incapable sweat-sacks. Crichton, D’Argo, and the Draks work together to Intimidate the commandoes and send them off with their tails between their legs with stories of why you don’t mess with the crew of Moya. The Draks complete their birthing cycle and return to space parting on excellent terms with Rygel and an understanding with the other members (all of which survived) of the crew.

There is a certain sense of pride that comes when our players not only have to role play out a situation or disagreement but want to. Yes they may get in each other’s faces, compare egos, throw some insults, or even fight but in the end that deeper, underlying connection, the one less understood, is far more desirable than the standard “we travel together because we’re a party” reason. As I continue to watch Farscape I am still doing what I can to understand just what that connection is. It’s real. It’s there. It’s attainable. So the next time around you’re organizing a character creation go ahead and add in some conflict. Encourage your players to break the meta and write their own story rather than follow in the footsteps of the status quo.

You’ll be happy you did. Even during the fist fights.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Pairing it Down: Farscape...What's in a name?

    By Kiel Howell
     Welcome back from Super Bowl madness, dear readers! If you watched it...I hope your team won. If you didn't, I hope no one berated you for not watching it (I did not watch). This week's focus here at the Flying Pincushion is Farscape. If you haven't checked out this wonderful show then you should really do yourself a favor and queue it up on's even on Instant Watch!

     I've decided pretty quickly that my topic is something near and dear to my heart: naming. Naming is an art and a science at the same time. A name can conjure up images of a rough and ready tumbler or a thin and wispy know-it-all. You can (usually) determine gender, ethnicity, or even if a character is human by the name. Weapons that have names generally indicate it is legendary or powerful. What's in a name but the first thing a reader sees. It sets the stage for everything to follow. Even as far up the ladder as the name of game, book, movie, or whatever it is you are looking at.

     So what makes Farscape bring up this topic? First, the name of the show. Far and scape mashed together. What do those words mean?  I think we all know what far means. Scape is the far more interesting part of the name. Scape has multiple definitions ranging from zoological, modern, botanical, biological, or archaic. The different types of meanings are interesting in and of themselves but we'll focus on the modern usage, that being "a scene or view". Quite literally, Farscape would be a far scene or a far view. This right here is a great choice of words for a name for this show. An earth astronaut who gets sucked through a wormhole to the far reaches of space. New locales, peoples, and technologies. And we, as the audience, are viewing this from the comfort of our living rooms (or beds or wherever you happen to watch). The various names in the show like Moya, Scorpius, and the Peacekeepers all have great meanings and portents of what they are.

     Let's come up with the name for something then shall we? This may sound like a bit of a no brainer but we need to decide what to name first. When we have something to name that can often give us the first step in naming it. I'd like to name something big...something like a story or campaign or even game system. Alright then, we're starting at the top of the pyramid.

     Which brings up another interesting point when it comes to design. There's 2 main approaches to designing something, whether it is a character, a city, a world, or an entire campaign or story.  There's the top down approach in which you come up with the generalities like name of a country and work down from there until you've built regions, cities, shops, people, and items. Then there's the reverse of that, the bottom up. You start specific—maybe a person—and work out from there until you've built a shop, city, region, or world.

     I personally prefer the top down method as once I have the overall established my mind spins stories off from there. Whichever method works for you is OK, as long as it works for you then it is the right way. Right then, so I want to figure out a name for a campaign system. Something that sparks imagination, is broad enough to have countless stories spun inside of it, yet specific enough to give a good idea of what it's about at first glance. I know I need to dial in my first instinct to be clever. There are countless clever people in the world but not everyone is clever in the same ways. I probably won't base this around ancient greek or some obscure language. I want some steampunk involved (because airships that's why) but I still want it to be fantasy. Magic and science side by side. Magitek would be great but that was already used in Final Fantasy VI (U.S. III) as the powers for the walking armor suits. It's got to roll off the tongue too so simply mashing words together doesn't always work like Magivention (magic and invention). You know, maybe I can steal from Magitek. Spelltech. Oooo, I kind of like that. It's got enough in the name to give me an idea of what it's about.

     Spelltech. I already can think of 10 different stories to tell involving spells, technology, and people. There's probably a dictatorship that's kidnapping the top of both scientific research and magic. There's probably a city that's devoted to one and a diametrically opposed forest state. Cyborgs. Airships. I could go on.

     I won't though, I leave it to you the reader to leave ideas in the comments for Spelltech or your own name for something. Until next time in which we explore Homer's The Odyssey.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mythic Monster Monday: Leviathan (a ship, a living ship...)

This massive bio-mechanical ship floats through space with a serene grace and singularly unique features.

LEVIATHAN        CR 10/MR 4
XP 9,600
NG Colossal aberration (mythic)
Init -2; Senses blindsight 100 ft., see in darkness; Perception +19
AC20, touch 0, flat-footed 20 (-2 Dex,+20 natural, -8 size)
hp 182 (12d8+128)
Fort +12, Ref +2, Will +10
Defensive Abilities all-around vision, fortification; DR 10/adamantine and epic; Immune cold; Resist electricity 10
Speed 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (clumsy), swim 60 ft.
Melee slam +17 (2d8+24)
Space 30 ft.; Reach 20 ft.
Special Attacks mythic power (4/day, surge +1d8), trample (2d8+24, DC 32)
Str 42, Dex 6, Con 26, Int 13, Wis 15, Cha 7
Base Atk +9; CMB +33; CMD 31 (cannot be tripped)
Feats Alertness, Combat Expertise, Diehard, EnduranceM, RunM, Skill Focus (Fly)
Skills Fly +11, Knowledge (space) +16, Perception +19, Stealth +5, Survival +17
Languages Common (cannot speak), comprehend languages, telepathy 50 ft. (pilot only)
SQ adjustable anatomy, no breath, pilot dependency, starburst
Environment space
Organization solitary
Treasure none
Adjustable Anatomy (Ex)A leviathan may alter the composition and organization of its interior to suit the needs of its crew. It may change up to a single 10 ft. cube per day.
Pilot Dependency (Ex) Leviathans depend on a pilot to operate them. Though the bond between the pilot and the leviathan takes a cycle to form, it lasts for the rest of their lives. Without a pilot to control the leviathan, the leviathan gains the nauseated condition.
Starburst (Su)Once per day, a leviathan may teleport themselves and their passengers and cargo as if using the interplanetary teleport spell. Activating this ability takes 3 consecutive full-round actions and moves the leviathan in a straight line as if using the run action while flying. The movement provokes attacks of opportunity as normal. Creatures and cargo onboard cannot make a save to resist this affect. While using this effect, the leviathan glows brightly.

Leviathans are massive bio-mechanical ships that fly through the galaxy. Each leviathan is unique with its own personality, desires, and even a sense of humor. They form a special bond with their crew, especially their pilot. Pilots are a specific species with the ability to mentally bond with a leviathan; when bonded, the two share senses and feelings.

The leviathan is able to create DRDs, tiny size robots that service the leviathan and its crew. These machines operate independently, but often share sensory information with the Pilot and the ship. The DRDs main function seems to be the health and wellbeing of the leviathan itself, however they can sometimes be utilized by the crew with the leviathan’s consent.

Rather than “build” these organic ships, the ships themselves have a mammalian life-cycle where they gestate their young and give birth. During gestation, they can involuntarily starburst and often become protective, even against their own crew. During these times, DRDs are known to attack crew-mates who get too close to the gestating fetus.

As the leviathan learns and grows, it usually takes levels in the expert class, which helps it navigate and service its crew. Being naturally peaceful, leviathans will generally reject integrating weapons and try to avoid combat whenever possible.