Friday, March 17, 2017

Frightening Animal Encounters

Animal Encounters should be exciting. And when I say exciting, I also mean terrifying. It is the referee's job to make what happens in the game memorable, so storytelling and descriptiveness are key skills. It also helps to have critters that are imposing in their potential to do harm. Encountering a bunny rabbit is not exciting. Encountering something like this should be.

Take a look at what's on the cover of Planet Stories, Summer 1942. No, not the Amazon. She's fine. I mean, fine. I mean the thing grabbing her and being shot in the non-face for its trouble. Yes. Look at that.

Shoot that thing in it's non-face brave Amazon! Teach it some manners!
Imagine your players' reactions if a half dozen or so of these awfuls came tromping out of the mist or the trees while on some remote and forsaken backwater planet. Either they'll panic or think “thank God we recently restocked the rocket launchers!” In both cases, what ensues should be an epic fight.

800 kg Omnivore Hunters
25/12 Cloth-1, Claws (x2) dmg: 5D A3 F5 S2  # appearing: 3
A three-meter humaniform shape emerges from the undergrowth. It probably masses close on a ton. It's gray-skinned, hairless with a featureless lump atop its shoulders where its face should be. The arms end in 4-fingered frying pans with 10-cm claws. I suggest you run.”

I've been browsing through Supplement 2: Animal Encounters, and there are some doozies in here. I list the world profile and terrain type in case you want to look them up. The extra descriptions and the planets named are mine. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Fighting the White Apes - A Combat Example

I wrote a post a while back about the Great White Apes of Barsoom, and how dangerous they are. But was I right?  I decided to find out. 
Yeah, that guy's probably doomed.
Meet Graham Clark, a PC of mine. Age 30, UPP B98885. He's an ex-army recon specialist (Recon-4). I take Recon to be related to Hunting, so I'll give him Hunting-3. He's hunting White Apes, armed with a Gauss LAG, which I recall finding at Freelance Traveller.  The G-LAG does 6D damage. (Note: I ignore +DMs versus armor on the tables, reading them as 0).



White Apes:
1600kg 8D/3D [28/10]  Claws/teeth  (+4 to hit due to size) Dmg 6D+2 
Armor: Mesh  A2 F8 S3  2 attacks/round   Number appearing: 1D

Encounter 1: Range medium, no surprise. Graham fires, the ape charges. Graham hits, wounds but does not down the ape, the ape closes to short range (speed:3, remember?) and kills him with one blow. Stats down to 001. Graham is unconscious, and the ape will tear him apart in round 2.

Yikes!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

From Stellagama Publishing - These Stars are Ours!

Available now from DriveThruRPG, Stellagama Publishings new campaign setting, These Stars are Ours! This is not the Third Imperium, but a whole new setting with new alien enemies, new alien allies, and dozens of new worlds of adventure. TSAO is available as a .pdf, or in print under a soft or hard cover.

The bulk of the text deals with the new alien races, presented with enough detail for the referee to pick up and run with them as NPCs right away. There is also advice given for players who want to try out a Cicek or Ssesslessian as a PC. The humans get some new career options, and the 'standard six' are re-skinned to fit with the setting background.

While the book describes “Known Space” the setting as presented is smaller than the 3I, and smaller than Clement Sector. It's almost three subsectors worth of worlds, but as Chris Kubasik points out over at Tales to Astound!, small is good. Even so, there is still more than enough room for a player group to spend years of game time rocketing around without anywhere getting stale.

The book is rich with adventure hooks from the history, flavor text, and world descriptions. Find out what 'Nine Talons' is up to. Tangle with the Empress' Own Legion if you dare. PCs can avoid politics and get into a trade war with the Zhuzzh, or go on an archaeological expedition to learn more about the legendary Precursors!

The book goes into a good level of detail about the setting's history. The current situation between the various races/factions is clear, yet complex. At the same time, it is not so detailed that the referee will feel railroaded into running the game 'just so'. The history is set, but there's no grand narrative for the players to follow. The setting is wide open so they can pursue their own goals, whether they may be.

The book includes some new ship designs, with some excellent deckplans to go with them, and some variant rules for ships. There is little in the way of new equipment, and the setting TL is 11-12, with a sprinkling of TL13.

These Stars are Ours is written for the Cepheus Engine OGL rules set. For those who, like me, prefer Classic Traveller, the setting works with only the smallest of adjustments.

I have already seen TSAO up close, as I provided the index at the back of this 200 page book. Since I've already read it, I can say it is worth picking it up. Use the setting, or (like me) borrow bits to add to your own setting. These Stars are Ours is a great setting for Traveller, whatever edition you play with.

I know that nobody buys a book for the index, but it has been mentioned in a review: https://rockymountainnavy.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/tsao-these-stars-are-ours-a-setting-for-cephesusengine-or-travellerrpg/#comment-1114

"The last part of TSAO is an index. This is one of the best indexes I have ever seen in a book."

If you do buy it, take a moment to explore the index. I take this opportunity to say that I'm available to work on your next RPG product as a freelance indexer. You can reach me on G+, here at the blog, or by email if you have a project that I can help you with.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Random Encounters: The Rulers of Worlds

Have you ever noticed that John Carter, no matter where he goes, meets the rulers and leaders? Tars Tarkas, Dejah Thoris, Tal Hadjus, the prince of Zadonga, The chief priest of the White Martians, the Queen of the Black Martians, the displaced king of the Yellow Martians. Everywhere, he's encountering the Nobility. Why does this not happen in my games? Earl Dumarest, interstellar wanderer and Traveller also runs into the high & mighty regularly. Dominic Flandry rubs shoulders with the rich & powerful all the time. 

Working from memory, the adventure anthology 76 Patrons has several Noble patrons. None are world-rulers or Dukes, but still, the concept of a Noble patron is well established.

So why is it that in all the years I've been playing Traveller, my PCs have never once met a Duke or a Count or King?  I can't say that I'm 'doing it wrong' but I surely have been missing out on a lot of adventure possibilities.
There is no reason why this outfit could not appear in Traveller. TL-4, anyone?
"So your Majesty. We hear you've got a little revolution problem. We can fix that for you."

 From the Wikipedia entry on Traveller:
Sociological: Interstellar society is socially stratified (high, mid, and low passage; SOC [Social Status] is a primary character attribute). Affairs are often managed by independent nobility, who make use of classic titles such as Baron, Duke and Archduke. The typical game shows how being a traveller crosses classes and breaks stratification.
Look at the Patron Lists, from The Traveller Book. You've got your criminal types (swindler, smuggler, terrorist, spy) and your ordinary citizens (scholar, courier, police, tourist) but you also have people with real power and authority: Diplomats, Naval Officers, Government Officials, Playboys, Governors, Doctors. Many of these could reasonably be nobility as well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

My Favorite Posts at AF3

It's a new year, and I thought that I'd take a little time to look back at the last three years of AF3. Take stock of what I've presented here, and how it holds up.
These are the posts that I'm most pleased with, in terms of my writing style, or humor, or the point I was trying to make. These are personal choices, rather than ones that were most popular with my readers (but thank you for all the +1's, comments, and shares!) They are in no particular order.

1 Of Robots and Clones
A very philosophical post. Much more concerned with whether there should be robots & clones than with the game mechanics of same. The concepts are regular features of sci-fi, but how often is the ethics of artificial beings considered?  Doctor Who touched on it with the Ood in series 2 & 4, and I touch on it here. 

2 How to Create Striker maps
My most practical instructional post. Striker is a complicated game system to learn and play, which explains why there's so little on the web about it. My hope is that this quick run-down will encourage more folks to try it.

3 Exterminate!
Daleks in Traveller. It might be a great idea, it might be a terrible mistake.

4 The Creatures of Little Fuzzy
Building and describing the fauna of Zarathustra was just fun. Remember, not all animal encounters are dinner, or target practice.

5 Fenton Tukachevski
Fenton was one of my first NPC characters - I'd never intended to play him. He was all about demonstrating the versatility of the CT stat block and of characters that don't have a laundry list of skills. Fenton is a playable character or a worthwhile NPC for the players to encounter. Knowledge is power, and he's got it in spades. 
 
6 Armed Groups 
I like this one because it was the product of actual research. Gaming has long motivated me to learn more about the real world, so I could apply it in my imaginary one.  

7 But I Don't Like That Rule!  
Rules are necessary to have a game, but sometimes they can get in the way. Writing this blog has led me to re-read and examine the rules of Traveller, and try to understand why things were set up that way. Traveller is trying to do one thing, which is model the free-wheeling far future sci-fi of the 40's-60's. That requires certain limitations on the characters and what they can do.

Did you enjoy these posts?  Have you read them?  Please leave a comment with your favorite post from AF3.
 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Planet of Dread! and Traveller World-Building

Last night I read a fun short story from the pulp era: "Planet of Dread" by R.F. Starzl, in Astounding Stories of Super-Science (August 1930), which I got from Project Gutenberg.
Our heroes are attacked by a space-frog while climbing a spider web inside a mountain. Yes, it makes no sense.

I picked it at random from the several issues available. Is the plot original?  No. Are the characters vivid, dynamic and engaging?  No. Does the dialogue crackle and sparkle?  No. It's also a good thing the Martian sidekick was an alien and not a Terrestrial, because his dialogue would be excoriated today for its stereotyped pidgin English. Was the conclusion dramatic and satisfying?  Not really. 


So why was it a fun story?  Because it was a great setting, and just the sort of planet that could and should appear in Traveller.