Friday, January 29, 2016

Animal Telepathy in Traveller

A discussion thread on Google+ reminded me of a fun concept that really should get more play in Traveller. 

In the double adventure Mission on Mithril, (DA2 & Starter Traveller) the PCs are sent on a cross-country trek to the far side of Mithril in pursuit of some stuff. Along the way, the players may travel across water and if they do, the following encounter can happen:
Whales: Occurs in open sea terrain. The ATV trembles, and then a school of whales can be seen surrounding the vehicle. The whales are friendly and will remain for several hours.
Orcas are neat to watch, at least when you're safe aboard a ship. What about if you're in a 10-ton floating box?
OK, the floating ATV encounters whales. Good local color but that's all, right?  Wrong. The next line reads:

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Product Review - 21 Plots III

21 Plots III
This also came to me as a prize for participating in the 2015 Amber Zone Adventure writing contest. Thanks, GKG!

What is it?
This is the third installment of 21 Plots, a supplement series by Gypsy Knight Games. It presents the referee with 21 situations or adventure seeds. Some but not all are patron-based. The supplement presents only a framework, the referee gets to develop the adventure and fill in the details.

What format?
It's a PDF.

What can I do with it?
There's plenty of material to keep the PC's busy, if not happy. The supplement is weighted towards PCs that have a ship and routinely engage in trade or chartered freight hauling; many of the 21 plots have interstellar transporting as their basis. A number of them are criminal scenarios, usually smuggling. I've stated before my distaste for out-and-out criminal jobs, so I wouldn't put those in front of my players. Other missions are negotiation, investigation and missing persons.

How easy is it to use?
The plots each follow the CT “76 Patrons” format: a situation is outlined, and the referee is given six options or twists to flesh out and add detail. Plots are often stated to begin on a given world, but any of them could be transplanted to another world if that's where the PCs are. Few of them are dependent upon specific characteristics of the world. That's the strength of this brief format – referees have lots of room to make the situation fit the PC's abilities and the player's plans.

Would I have bought this for myself?
If I played in the Clement Sector setting, I might buy this book. As I prefer to play in my own setting, this is not as useful. Besides, I have a lot of fun writing my own Amber Zones and 76 Patrons situations. Putting that aside, this is a useful tool for a referee to have in his kit. It's worth a look. You can find it at DriveThruRPG

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dictatorial Governments

I first shared this essay on my blog Deep in the Stacks before I started AF3 as the home for my Traveller writing.

We in America like to think of democracy as being ‘good’ and autocracy/dictatorship as being ‘bad’. But it is worth noting that in its most basic form democracy is the ability of 51% of the population to rob the other 49%. I could argue that dictatorship, then, is the ability of the 1% to rob the other 99%. The fact that neither of these things happen that blatantly shows the complicated nature of our world.
It is Good to be King.

Robert Kaplan at Stratfor wrote an essay (subscription required) in which he explored the phenomenon of the dictator as head of state, and makes the shocking claim that not all dictators are card-carrying members of the Club of Evil.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Starship Combat!

Today my boys helped me test-drive my extensively house-ruled Bk2-style starship combat rules. I think it turned out rather well. We went from writing up ship descriptions to playing to finishing up the combat in only an hour or so, with some breaks to talk about rules interpretations. Some time after we began,a buddy of mine came by to pick up something and ended up playing one side with one of my sons.
Well, Traveller is from the 70's/80's!

With TTB/Bk2 rules as the foundation, I've added in/on:
  • Starter Traveller's range band system for movement (keeps it simple)
  • Turn order from Space Gamer #40, "New Space Combat System" by Steve Winter*
  • Radiation damage tables from SS3: Missiles (nuclear missiles and particle guns)
  • Structure Points for Hull hits from MgT
  • Particle Accelerators, plasma & fusion guns from High Guard, and bigger versions of standard lasers & missiles 
  • variant defensive weapons I term Countermeasures, one type for missiles and one type for lasers 
  • armor rules (mentioned, but neither side was armored)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Product Review - Startown Liberty

Startown Liberty by Gamelords
Another Traveller goodie I picked up after participating in this year's Amber Zone adventure writing contest was this early 1980's supplement from Gamelords.

What is it?
A collection of encounter tables for urban environs like night clubs, casinos and other recreation spots that Travellers will visit when they are in port. 

What format?
I got it in .pdf, but I'm probably going to print it off, or at least parts of it. 

What can I do with it?
The explanatory text of this supplement gives the referee lots of suggestions for NPC encounters and adventures in the 'startown', which is the area right around the starport. It is compared to the 'waterfront district' at seaports on Earth. Startown is a good place to meet patrons and pick up 'jobs'. PCs can also get pulled into adventures through encounters with the Law, with criminals, or the traditional bar brawl!

How easy is it to use?
The core of the supplement is the encounter tables, which are easy to read and use.  With some imagination and creative use of the explanatory text, the referee can consult the same table five times on five different worlds without re-hashing encounters. There's plenty of detail in the text the referee can use to make each encounter distinct.

Would I have bought this for myself?
Yes! In this case, I did. One of the prizes was 'store credit' at DTRPG. I chose to buy this product and I'm happy that I did. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Product Review - Quick Decks Starter Pack

DSL Ironworks offered prizes for participants in this year's Amber Zone Adventure Writing Contest.  They sent me Quick Decks Starter Pack #1.
We Travellers love our deck plans.
What is it?
A set of starship interior components that can be printed off and cut out to create any ship interior that the scenario calls for. The Ironworks produce supplements for the Mongoose edition of Traveller, but these deck plans will work with any rules set.

What format?
It came to me in .pdf, so printing it out is easy. The usage guide explains how to adjust the print size to make the deck plans fit with 25mm, 20mm and 15mm miniatures. 

How useful is it?
This will be very useful. Now if I have a scenario aboard a ship, I don't have to make up a complete map for the ship, only the parts I'll need to use. Gigantic starships or space stations can now be modeled easily. Think about the Death Star in Star Wars. How much of that station's interior did we really get to see?  A handful of rooms and a few corridors. What the rest of it looked like simply didn't matter because we never saw it.

How easy is it to use?
As long as I have access to a printer, it couldn't be easier.  The component parts are spaced on the page so I can cut out what I need and lay it on the table next to any other component. I can build an interior scene as large as I need.

What's my favorite thing?
The interior drawings of an air/raft, ATV and G-Carrier. 

Would I have bought it myself?
Yes! I would.Designing maps is great fun, but if something has to be done up on the fly or only a portion is needed, this supplement will save the referee a lot of work. This is just the first installment; there are several other Quick Decks products available. Give them a look!