Wednesday, January 28, 2015

National Memorials in Traveller

The last time my family went on a vacation to Washington, DC we visited a number of national memorials, including Arlington National Cemetery. This was a very moving experience, seeing the rows upon rows of grave markers,demonstrating how many men and women had sacrificially served our country. I was particularly interested in the Tomb of the Unknowns, and as I reflected later upon the dignity and solemnity of the site, particularly the Army honor guard, I began to ponder how such things might show up in RPGs. All societies create memorials, so there should be some in my Traveller Universe.

Standing Guard

     Several thoughts came to me. All players of characters with a military background, including Scouts, should have memorial sites and a memorial tradition for their branch of service. Statues, holograms, arches, or whatever can have a significance for the PC because of personal or family or unit association. Memorial traditions add some color to a PC's personality. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Battle Report - GDW's Striker Part Two

My pal Dan and I had another go at our Striker game last night, and fought the battle to the point where it probably would have come to an end in real life.  The first part of the battle is here. Read that first to get the set-up of the battle. 

I'll wait. 

You're back?  Good. We played rounds 6,7,8 and 9 and learned more about how the rules work together. Really, reading the rules as a book gets you so far, but you have to at some point put counters on the table and roll some dice to understand it all.

At the conclusion of the battle, the Bravoricans had 9 effectives remaining, while the
Alphasians had 21 effectives left. The Bravoricans had gotten only half-way to their objective, the Divisional HQ buildings at the north end of the map. 
Bravorican troops approaching the stream.

Alphasian team 8 finished their rout off the field (losers!), teams 3 & 4, which were in the red box above, failed some morale checks, got forced back, and were shot up once out in the open.  Bravorica maneuvered from one tree stand to another, got pushed back for a turn then surged forward, losing troops every turn, mostly to the Alphasian MG team.

Here's the map table at the conclusion of the game:
Alphasian Divisional HQ. North is left, East is up.
The red boxes are/were Alphasian positions, the blue box is the last location of the Bravorican troops. The Alphasian general is in the box just below the red ruler. The MG team was just south of the General's position. As you can see, the Bravoricans never got close. 

This session seemed to be more about trying to change orders, and dealing with morale. I think we've got the turn order down, as well as the fire combat procedures.  There's a lot to still work out like:
  • Visibility 
  • Spotting
  • Effects on unit morale when it takes casualties
  • Effects of terrain/obstacles on Line of Sight and on attacks
  • Comprehensive orders and contingency planning

Lessons Learned

There were several by the end of this game, which will carry forward into future games.

  • Body armor is worth it - equip your troops with the best you can.
  • Automatic weapons are a firepower multiplier - Alphasia had a few auto-rifles, but Bravorica issued them to all troops. The difference in volume of fire was big.
  • Having both sides be in each other's Effective range gets troops mowed like wheat.
  • Stationing troops in tree stands has many benefits, and few penalties. Get under cover!
  • Weapons with set-up times of 2 or more turns should be set up as quickly as possible. Bravorica never got to use its 10cm Recoilless Rifle, because they tried to move it with the main body. 
  • Include lots of "if this happens, do that" in the initial orders. 
  • Inexperienced troops suck. They have low morale, and fewest attack bonuses.
  • Trees block LOS if you're trying to fire through them, but do not provide cover or concealment unless you're in them. 
  • Alphasian troops barely moved at all, while Bravorica had to move every turn. This was a big advantage for side A, but the lack of orders locked Alphasian troops in a bad position once Bravorica got close. 
  • Having all of your units close together allows the Officer to bump up morale, but also results in more morale and panic checks due to proximity. Spread out your forces.
  • But spread them out too far, and you can't have your officers Rally routed troops. The Alphasian General should have intercepted Team 8, but I didn't think to have him do it. 
Despite mis-steps and rules confusion, we had a good time, and plan to set up another battle some time soon. I'm interested to see what changes if we move up the TL scale to more 'current' or even 'future' tech levels. Adding vehicles to the mix should also be fun. If the Bravoricans had a light tank or APC, the Alphasians would have been in big trouble.

Striker does not give any advice in the basic game about game balance. I still could not say if the scenario I devised here had balanced forces. If we played it again, the results might be very different. I hope that eventually we'll get an intuitive sense of advantage/disadvantage. 

If anyone has suggestions for future scenarios, leave them in the comments below. I hope we'll be able to play them and report back.

As a bonus, here's a link a Striker lecture delivered by Frank Chadwick (the game's author) given at the Celesticon convention in 2011.

85 Reasons why CT rocks

Found on the web: 85 Reasons why Classic Traveller is Great!
From Daryen's Traveller Pages

My top five favorite reasons, in no particular order:

# 1 Shotguns in SPACE!
  From Aliens to Firefly to Honor Harrington, slug throwers belong in the far future. They work, and will continue to work. The Imperial Armed Forces Vehicle Guide, Altair Subsector volume 3 (a third-party Traveller supplement) covering armored vehicles made the point this way - "lasers can be defeated in a number of ways (reflec, aerosols, etc), but the only thing that will stop projectile weapons is armor, and LOTS OF IT." Traveller has never embraced the handwavium of personal 'force fields' or 'shields', so the bullet-firing weapon remains supreme. Also # 75 - lasers that weigh a ton and slugthrowers that don't.

# 84 Andre Norton, Jack Vance, Larry Niven, Issac Asimov, Edgar Rice Burroughs, et al; I can adventure in or steal from their universes as I please and Classic Traveller has the flexibility to adapt their visions to adventures!  Not to mention this: 

All your Sci-Fi Are Belong to Us.

# 35 Characters who start knowing a thing or ten and don't need to 'gain levels'.  I have written before about my appreciation for Traveller not going the route of XP-quests and 'leveling up'. 

# 68 Social Status as a major attribute. And people calling you "Sir" or "Your Grace". It is good to be Noble. 

# 9 Lack of minute details, thus encouraging creative play.
# 10 Two little dice decide everything. 

As compared to the D20/Modern system that has to have tables, modifiers and rules for everything. Too restrictive for me! 

But I came back as an NPC!

 Really, it's not the worst thing that could happen.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Casual Encounter - Vincent Poul

Senior Chief Petty Officer Poul at the start of term seven.
Vincent Poul
Ex-Navy Starman     961797     Age 50   8 Terms   Cr 1300
Admin-1, Computer-1, Dagger-4, JoT-1, Navigation-1, Ship's Boat-1

This character appears in one of CT's Short Adventures, as a pregenerated character in  The Argon Gambit. Everything you read from here is my own creation, to show again that the CT character generation system can, with two lines of text, create an interesting and multifaceted character.

Vincent Poul served over 30 years in the Dothan Alliance Navy. He enlisted as a Starman Recruit, and over his career worked his way up to Senior Chief Petty Officer. His most common assignment was as Bosun (or Boatswain) aboard Heavy Cruisers, but for two years he was attached to an Admiral's staff as his shuttle pilot. As Bosun he also had a wide range of administrative duties, and picked up a knack for lots of tasks (JoT) In other assignments he repaired computers, and served as Navigator's mate. 

 There is almost nothing in his service record about his impressive skill with short blades. If Medical-3 indicates an M.D., Dagger-4 means postdoctoral work in Stab-ology, with a degree from Pokeaholein U. According to the CT combat charts, Vincent gets a whopping +6 DM with his blade, meaning he's at only a slight disadvantage when stabbing someone in Battle Dress. With an Endurance of 1, he's only going to get one full-strength attack, but it will probably be all he needs.

Vincent spent a lot of years at the Naval Base, Sutter's Belt. For many reasons, firearms are not legal or available in the belter's space stations. So everyone fights with knives and clubs. Vincent learned out of self-defense.

Eight years ago, while taking part in a raid on a pirate base in the Kassiran Defense League, Vincent was caught in a trap and gassed with something that burned his lungs. He barely survived, and spent a long time in hospital recovering. He could have mustered out, but decided to stay on, with several officers pulling strings on his behalf. To this day he typically wears a filter/respirator, and even so is very short-winded. He almost never moves faster than a walk. 

He can't stand to be around smokers, doesn't sing, and his voice is raspy at the best of times. When he is on a dense atmo planet, the respirator acts as a decompressor to make the air thin enough for his fragile lungs. He is on a medication regimen which he cannot go more than two days without. The meds are legal and commonly available, so keeping up his prescription is rarely a problem. Any PC with Medical-2 or better will know of the medication, and can help him locate a legal vendor.

After retiring from the Navy with 32 years, Vincent has taken a few jobs with merchant liners and private starships, as bosun and ship's boat pilot. Through long habit, he dresses smartly and prefers jobs where he gets a uniform, which he keeps professionally clean. He gets his jobs based on his record and proven space skills, while he neglects to mention his knife fighting skill. He does not carry knives with him, unless he knows his employer is expecting trouble. 

PCs might encounter Vincent aboard a liner or he might present himself for employment if the PCs need a small craft pilot. He could also be found working ground-to-orbit shuttles for Navy bases or civilian starports. He's very friendly, especially with former Navy personnel, and will be open to taking an adventuring 'job' on the side if it is offered - as long as the 'job' is for his piloting and space skills. He will not work as 'muscle'. He shares the typical Dothan's mistrust of Talaverans, he thinks both the Kassirans and Stedhards are trigger-happy lunatics, and refuses to deal with the Lycosky Trade Protectorate at all. He will never knowingly become involved in piracy or theft, and God help you if he thinks you've gotten him into something like that. He's a crusty old space-hand who isn't scared of much, and wouldn't mind going out with a bang, if he thought the cause was right.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Inspirational Artwork for Sci-Fi

Check out this picture from the CGSociety.  Their site had several pictures which could serve as inspiration for sci-fi world buildling and gaming.
I've got two questions - why are only some of them mushroom shaped, and why are they so high off the ground?  You can see that they are in mountains, but behind the mushroom things it looks like a valley, perhaps a lake. Why are they not instead more conventional buildings on the lake shore?

So, having asked the questions. I will now answer them.Welcome to Shetland, in the Corellian League.

1  The mushroom shaped ones are the residential areas. The sky-scraper building in the background is a business/industrial building which is sealed at least at the lower levels. See question 2.
2 The planet's atmosphere has an odd component that at ground level is harmful/toxic to humans. At altitudes, it is dispersed enough to not be a problem. Maybe that's what the mist over the lake is. By hoisting their habitations up on stilts like this, they avoid having to seal them, thereby saving themselves a lot of bother with environmental control. 

Where is this city?  This is the capital city of Orpha, in the Lycosky Trade Protectorate, an industrialized High-population world.

What makes this place unique?  The planet's atmosphere is 5.2 times standard Earth atmosphere, which among other effects causes the reddish 'sunset' appearance of the system's sun, even at mid-day in clear skies. The high air density makes air travel more difficult; as drag is orders of magnitude worse than on Earth. Despite being TL-15, ground vehicles are very common.

Speaking of which, I really like this high-tech Wheeled Vehicle. Very Traveller.
This is a Sternmetal Horizons Model F-27J 'Super-Reliance' tractor, part of the F-20 series of exploration vehicles. It is capable of hauling 15 C-94 series transport wagons a distance of 2500 km (under 1G gravity) and a maximum hauling weight of 27 metric tons (at 1G). Base TL is 9 (fusion power plant) and is available through TL 13, the model F-27R. The model pictured is currently operating on Cadawala, in Holtzmann's Corridor.

Has this ship landed, or crashed?  Maybe it landed, but remained in place because of a system failure, so it has become overgrown in the local vegetation. What's s Scout Survey crew to do?

Have a look at this page of planetscapes:

 Here's some starship models:

 Have you read my post The Drannixa Gambit, with these huge arcologies?  Here's the illustration I should have used:
Welcome to the future. It is very tall.

All images copyrighted to their creators or the CG Society. No infringement intended.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Path of the LIoness - Campaign Journal #3

FSS Lioness
Captain Josiah Greene

Second Pentagon piece uncovered
Second one found, first one kept. Three more to find.
After several days of work we had dug a tunnel under Mr. Walpole's ranch, down to the chamber where our sensors indicated we would find the next piece of this mysterious pentagon. Zeke and I were the first to enter the chamber, and it was as we expected, circular with a round dome ceiling. A map projector sat on a pedestal and the second pentagon piece was on the wall, just like last time. We took images of all the inscriptions and carefully moved the piece up to the surface. We did not have long to celebrate before the trouble we expected started.

A large paramilitary craft on contra-grav swooped in on the ranch within minutes of our bringing the pentagon piece to the surface.

Four men in combat gear piled out of the g-carrier, covered us with auto-rifles and demanded that we hand over the pentagon piece. Zeke suggested that they soak their heads instead. That’s when the shooting started. The attackers took cover behind one of the dirt piles we made.

From this point, I’m relying on Carter’s report, as I got hit early and lost consciousness.

Zeke rushed them, Diego dove into the excavation hole, and Svetlana pulled me behind some cover on the other big mound of dirt. 
Mr. Walpole grabbed his shotgun and took a swipe at the trespassers, and was shot for his trouble. Dr. Marx says he’ll be ok. 
Carter and Wally lifted the pinnace so that Carter could use the ship’s gun. He killed one, and chased the others behind the dirt pile and blew some craters in the yard. After losing the targets, Wally landed again, and he and Carter ran to help Diego and Zeke. 
Zeke got in close and was brawling with two of the guys before he got knocked down. Diego ran to help him, but the attackers shot him too. He’s in bad shape, but Dr. Marx was able to pull him through.

After Zeke took out another attacker, the last remaining one ran back for the carrier and tried to take off. Zeke started a boarding action, and made it half-way into the hatch as the carrier took off. 
At this point Vince, Big Al, Marcus and John arrived. They had piled into the air/raft and made an emergency drop when they saw the attackers arrive.

Vince steered the air/raft above the carrier to prevent it from taking off, and Carter, with a boost from Wally, succeeded in jumping up and getting aboard, hauling Zeke after him. The two of them overpowered the last attacker and brought the carrier down again.

Vince and Dr. Marx rushed Diego and me back to the ship for surgery, leaving Zeke to clean up the scene at the ranch.

We have the second map projector, and the computer is working on matching it to current star charts. We have a piece of the pentagon now, and the map to the next one. I still have no idea what it's all about.  

All we got out of our captive, before the local constabulary took him away was that his group had been hired on Mavellar by an agent working for someone else. They were to report to the agent when they had what we now have, the agent would take the objects back to his employer. I wonder who this employer is.