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:

If one of the group has telepathy, contact may be attempted: throw 7+ for there to be a response. Then roll on the Reaction table in Traveller.

Wait, what now?  ANIMAL TELEPATHY IS CANON. It is not a 'special' psionic ability, it is possible for any telepath character to do. Wow. Animal encounters just got a whole lot more FUN.

Now, instead of rolling for surprise and the Attack/Flee response, the players now have the option of trying to establish contact with any of God's little furries that they run across. This might give the hunters and gun-toting maniacs some pause. Animals can be "encountered" the same way that sophonts are encountered. They get a referee-directed reaction roll.
You have clearly rolled low on the Reaction table. Poor you.

The referee has to consider the relative level of intelligence of any critter that the PCs run across. The Little Fuzzies of Piper's famous novels would have been recognized as intelligent much more quickly if Jack Holloway had been a telepath.

If the roll is 7 or better, even a semi-intelligent animal may be able to answer some basic questions put to it by the PCs. Higher reaction rolls and a creative player could get the animal to perform tasks. I can picture telepathic PCs crawling through the sewers of a city, trying to make contact with the local rodents, to use them as spies or saboteurs. "Here little guy, let me attach this thing to your back. Now, I want you to go up into that building above us, and make for the third floor . . ."

A low roll on the table could turn even herbivorous grazers violent. A '2' on the reaction table means "Violent. Immediate Attack."  Reach out to make contact and that herd of gazelles may decide to collectively trample you.
Or in the case of sea life, they may decide to EAT you.

A '12' on the table is "Genuinely friendly". The PC may have instantly domesticated a wild animal! Now, depending on the animal's nature, it may want to attach itself to the PC's 'pack' and follow it around. Some time I should write up some simple rules for domesticating animals and having animal companions for PCs. How they function aboard ship, whether animals have to travel in Low Berth, in the cargo hold, or in staterooms. What are a PC's legal responsibilities for this domesticated beastie?  All kinds of new plots may present themselves when a non-human NPC comes along.

For that matter, this also opens up the possibility of animal PCs!  Why shouldn't a Traveller player try taking on the role of a faithful animal companion?

If human telepathy works on animals, why can't there be animals with psionic powers of their own?  This should be a referee decision, but again it opens up lots of intriguing possibilities. A certain fantasy RPG had a monster dog that could teleport; there's no reason why a sci-fi RPG can't have them as well.

There will be follow-up posts on this topic. 

1 comment:

  1. Great find, Bob! Psionics was something rarely used in my sessions and those sessions were poorer for that. I never had a player interested in the skills. I also only used them rarely as a referee and more often than not my players never realized psionics were in use.

    If memory serves, there are psionic animal encounters in one or more of the Classic Adventures. They show up as special events on a Terrain Encounter Table. Also, RSG lists several psionic animals as part of the lab's work. The possibility of psionic lures is part of the Siren description in LBB:3's animal section.