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Monthly archive April, 2006

St. Petersburg subway tunnel == Underplex

Following on from my entry earlier this month about the pictures of an old Soviet submarine base posted on the Russian-language LiveJournal blog of one “Russos,” loyal citizen Oddsod Blok’d (who reviews PARANOIA supplements as “Matthew”) writes once more to report still another incredible, absolutely must-see set of Russian Russos photos. “This particular set is from the subway tubes under Saint Petersburg, I believe. I know I’ve gotten the city right, at least. This time they perfectly fit The Underplex. I’d like to see what Jim Holloway would do if he were given, say, the picture with the huge machine.”

Ask Ken Rolston

This weekend I’m interviewing Ken Rolston, the original PARANOIA line editor in the hmid-1980s at the game’s original publisher, West End Games. Ken brought to Alpha Complex its famous irreverent tone. In addition to editing the first and best bunch of adventures, he wrote the original GM Screen RED-Clearance mini-adventures (reprinted in PARANOIA Flashbacks), HIL Sector Blues (mostly reprinted in Extreme PARANOIA), and Orcbusters (to be reprinted in the forthcoming mission collection Collapsatron).

After masterminding PARANOIA‘s much-loved second edition, Ken left West End. He spent a year or two resurrecting the RuneQuest line at Avalon Hill, then joined Bethesda Softworks, where he was Lead Designer on the bestselling “Elder Scrolls” computer game Morrowind and its new sequel, Oblivion. That’s actually the reason for my interview, which will be published on the popular hardware site HardOCP. I’ll be asking Ken all kinds of questions about Oblivion — ideally even one or two he hasn’t heard a hundred times already. For that, I could use your help.

Please post in the comments one or more questions you’d like Ken to answer. It’s best if they’re about Morrowind or Oblivion, but if you’re burning to know something about the early days of PARANOIA, ask and I’ll try to slip in a question or two. I’ll post pertinently paranoid answers here.

Vote early and often

The leading PARANOIA fan site, Paranoia-Live.net, is running a new poll on its front page: “Which is your favorite non-mission supplement for the current edition of PARANOIA?”

Wow, I kind of lost track of how many have already appeared: the GM Screen with its “mission blender” booklet, The Traitor’s Manual, The Mutant Experience, the STUFF equipment book, Extreme PARANOIA, Service, Service!, Criminal Histories, and — just out! — The Underplex.

After voting, loyal citizens may also wish to check the entertaining poll comment thread on the ever-active forums.

PARANOIA in the real world: Foam hangar

You may have seen (via Boing Boing and elsewhere) this photo series of flame-retardant foam filling an airplane hangar at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.

Last August the Air Force installed “a modern high-expansion foam system” in a hangar for B-1 bombers. The civilian contractor, with military approval, tested the system. “Required coverage occurred within one minute of the system being activated,” says an Air Force press release. “The test was so successful, the foam reached the observation platform where officials were documenting the procedure. The Air Force required a minimum of one meter of foam to be achieved in four minutes or less. For testing purposes, the foam was allowed to disperse for the full four minutes.”

And then — uh — it kept going. And going. Finally they had to open the hangar doors and send a seismic cascade of shaving cream out onto the tarmac among the planes.

All this sounds totally familiar to every PARANOIA player. But the real Alpha Complex angle, for me, is the military’s stony-faced spin control at debriefing. Did something go wrong? Might some official’s job be at risk? Not at all, Friend Computer! This planned and meticulously executed test succeeded beyond all hope! From the press release:

The system worked so well the exterior door of the hangar had to be opened before the test was fully completed. These events account for the photos of the amount of foam inside and outside of the hangar.

So, did someone have a gross miscue? No. On the contrary, a fire suppression system responsible for helping protect vital mission-essential assets and, most importantly, for helping safeguard Airmen’s lives, worked extremely well. The foam system exceeded Air Force standards, Colonel Singh said.

Boy, no kidding. As you might expect, the Air Force takes a stern view of citizens who frivolously send around these photos:

Master Sgt. Dana Rogers, 28th Communications Squadron superintendent of network security, said e-mails such as the one depicting the foam test “misrepresent our capabilities” and can even cause damage to computer networks. “You think it’s so funny, so you send it to 10 people. Then, they send it to 10 more. This takes up an extremely large amount of e-mail space and can lead to the loss of resources,” he said.

Apparently the foam did no damage, and no one was hurt. I presume our nation’s fleet of multi-billion-dollar bombers could have withstood the foam, had it reached them. But the idea that Air Force computer networks can’t handle the latest e-mail joke to make the rounds — now that sounds like Alpha Complex.

Underplex review

The PARANOIA sections of the Mongoose Publishing forums are usually quiet. There’s little overlap, apparently, between the PARANOIA fan base and the fans of Mongoose’s many other product lines. But one “dunderm” has posted a lengthy and glowing review of The Underplex on the forum.

Underplex writer Paul Baldowski has been fighting off illness for some weeks, but hopes he can soon resume posting excerpts and deletions from The Underplex on Omega Complex.

Soviet submarine base photos

Want to see exactly what (parts of) Alpha Complex looks like in my own mind, I mean exactly? Check out this Russian-language LiveJournal blog post of pictures of an old Soviet submarine base built between 1957 and 1961 and operated until 1995. Never mind the first bunch of photos; check the ones toward the end.

RPG.net user and loyal citizen Oddsod Blok’ed, who reviews PARANOIA supplements as “Matthew,” writes, “I believe [the base is] in the Black Sea near Balaclava — I don’t know much Russian and that’s pretty rusty. I think the later pictures on the page could be handy for PARANOIA fans who want to know what Alpha Complex industry, power plants and military bases look like.” Commendation point, Matthew!

It’s been too many decades since my high-school Russian classes, so I’m useless here, and Google doesn’t translate Russian yet. If anyone can read the backstory of this base, please post the translation in the comments.

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