Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cobra Commander... In Space? (For reals, people!)

OK, this one is just too cool for school. The G.I. Joe Field Manual V2 is coming out in a couple of months, (I just got the files to IDW last week!), so to celebrate Bill Forster, my co-author, actually shot Cobra Commander into space. Like, literally. Almost 20 miles up, 40,000 feet above the Armstrong's line, getting into the upper reaches of the troposphere.  Check out our video here, complete with the curvature of the earth and everything. 

Here's what he has to say about it:

After the G.I. Joe Field Manual Volume One was released, I was hard at work with Volume Two when I came across several videos taken of the curvature of the Earth. What was cool about them was it wasn’t done by NASA or the Air Force but rather by regular ol’ Earthlings. After showing one of these videos to my girlfriend Jillian she informed me that her brother had experience with these launches.

Jill’s brother, Jeff Wilschke is an engineer who for fun and research sends video cameras into the atmosphere. Jeff and I spoke about the details and then when the family got together for Thanksgiving he brought along the craft that would carry Cobra Commander over 100,000 feet into the air. It was a hollow Styrofoam cube which contained a GPS for locating the craft after it landed. It also had a video camera facing out a hole in the craft where a fiberglass plank extended from. There Cobra Commander would be glued in place. The craft also contained two tiny computers, one of Jeff’s own design, which would measure temperature, altitude and other sciencey stuff.

Jeff had fitted the craft with two wing-like panels that he had hoped would stabilize the craft and channel wind in an effort to reduce spinning.  The panels served another purpose. The foil lining would be picked up by nearby aircraft sensors and would allow pilots to avoid crashing into our little experiment. Although FAA regulations state that our 4 pound craft was well below the weight required to use such tactics, Jeff felt it was worth the extra work. 

Then one morning we drove four hours north of Los Angeles to a dirt crossroads of some orchard fields. There we set up the weather balloon. Using a huge helium tank we filled the balloon until it was a specific size which was determined by a large Styrofoam caliper Jeff had constructed. At which point the craft was connected to a small parachute which was then connected to the weather balloon. I had the honor of releasing the Commander’s craft and the payload ascended at such a rate that within seconds it was difficult to see and then soon after it disappeared into the blue California sky. 

For the next few hours we followed the craft over miles using the GPS and constant updates from Jeff and Jill’s father Jack who monitored Cobra Commander from his computer at home. Once the balloon exploded from the increasing expansion of the helium it fell back to Earth. The GPS eventually showed no movement and we concluded the craft had landed. Traveling completely through a town and into an industrial park we followed the signal down a dirt road until we saw the craft’s yellow parachute lying in a dirt field. We could immediately see that Cobra Commander was no longer attached to the craft. Could he have fallen off before getting to the apex of the journey? As we walked toward the payload we could see Cobra Commander laying just a foot away. He had been thrown clear as the craft crash landed.  Now he sits on my desk, I am fairly sure, having been the only Cobra figure to travel 102,000 feet into the air. 


Pretty awesome stuff, no?

Cobra Commander, in space. Tell your friends.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cortex Bundles: War of the Worlds (the series)

My Cortex rantings have apparently inspired my good friend Rob to run a Starship Troopers campaign, using the system. Kudos, Rob! Maybe he'll post some campaign reports here and let you know how it turns out.

In keeping with my low-tech sci-fi interests, here is a bundle for the aliens from War of the Worlds (the series). 

Mor-Tax Bundle: D2 Cost


Absorbtion: D12 Mor-Taxians can absorb a human host, merging their cells together. They gain access to all of the human's memories and, as long as the body is inhabited, the host's skill set. The host's ego and will are subsumed and, when the alien departs or is killed, whatever's left of the host dissolves into goo. Mor-Tax can only absorb human hosts after a host has been subdued.

Enhanced Manipulation (third arm): D4

Uncommon Knowledge (alien tech): D6 Mor-Taxians can typically do more with electronics than their skill set may otherwise indicate. Add to tech engineering and science rolls if concocting an alien device.


Vulnerability (common cold): D12 Exposure to the common cold renders Mor-Taxians comatose within days of exposure. Radiation can keep the virus at bay, but that results in the destruction of any human hosts very quickly, or the overheating of an alien body not contained in a cooling suit.

Triune Nature: D4 Mor-Taxians almost always act in threes, and are uncomfortable in smaller groups. Take all attributes down a step when forced to act individually.

Prejudice (humans): D4 Mor-Taxians LOATHE humanity and have a hard time not showing it.

I'm aware that occasionally other powers were demonstrated, but since that was rare I'd assume those aliens took specific assets.  The above traits were pretty much universal except for Quinn, who clearly didn't take the Mor-Tax bundle.

For those interested, the Morthren bundle would have a D2 cost and would consist of Uncommon Knowledge (alien tech): D6 and Prejudice (humans): D4.  They've abandoned their triune nature, extra arm, ability to absorb human hosts, and have inoculated themselves against the common cold.