Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Autonomous Vehicles and Traveller

We postulate in this game a future in which we have all manner of fantastic technology, including robotics. When it comes to vehicles, we can have humaniform robots sitting in the operator's seat taking our place while driving us to work. Even better, the robot can become part of the vehicle - the self driving vehicle.
A civilian closed-top air/raft at TL8. Note the robotic controls.

A rare TL4 example of the Autonomous Vehicle. Note the robotic controls.

But we rarely see this in Traveller. Why? Is it that we want to be in the 'drivers' seat? That's the most likely explanation. We play these games to have adventures, to test our skills (in-game) and our playing skill (meta-game) against all the oddities and dangers the universe can throw at us. Why play it safe?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Session Report May 2018

In this session, we finally wrapped up the airship race. See this post for how the fight got started.

Blasterson chased one assailant out onto the catwalk and through a porthole. The assailant hit him with a Tranq gas grenade, but Joe shook it off. He dove through the window and chased him into the hallway when . . .
McGee remembered that he had an infrared scope on his laser rifle. He started shooting the invaders through the walls (I added a -DM for aiming at a heat signature instead of a visible target). It is hard to survive a laser rifle shot in CT. He got Joe's quarry in the hallway.

Reaper slashed and parried with the assailant who had stabbed Ca'al, until McGee shot him. Reaper was not pleased that the shot had come so close to his own head, and said so in a colorful tirade. Ca'al grasped feebly at the attacker's legs, and believed (until later) that he had brought his man down. 

Up in the rigging, Jay, fearful of hitting Longfinger with a shotgun blast, used it as a cudgel, but the assailant's body armor stopped it. So Longfinger dug his claws into him and vaulted backwards over the railing, pulling the assailant down with him.

Upon announcement of this move, the entire table stopped dead quiet.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

More Traveller Literary History - Toyman

I have now read the first three books in E.C Tubb's series "Dumarest of Terra". This week I finished Toyman, (#3).  But this is not a book review.

Marc Miller himself named the Dumarest saga as a major influence on Traveller. So how does Traveller reflect Tubb's universe? There are several things. First there's the word Traveler, which the protagonist uses to describe himself.

Although Toyman all takes place on one world, there is discussion of High, Middle and Low passages. Since I've now had a PC die in Low berth, I appreciate more the gritty feel of the desperate who travel Low.

Earl Dumarest wears Mesh armor, and carries a big knife (a Blade). Some NPCs use lasers, alongside clubs and whips. Thus the uneven distribution of technology across space, and the inclusion of primitive weapons in the game.

The planet Toy (not really a joke) is an example of Government Type 1: Company/Corporation. Stockholders run Toy, and whoever has the most shares has the most influence. The guy with the biggest share  is (again, not a joke) the Toymaster.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

PC perspective of a game event

This story was written by Longfinger's player. It is from his perspective, where he refers to himself in the third person as Allistair.

Allistair walked into the club. He had spotted Stephy, and had seen him gambling his money, and his time, away. Allistair mentally rolled his eyes.
I've only been under his employment for a few days now, and I'm already utterly disappointed, he thought.

He walked over to him, noticing that Stephy was winning by more than Allistair cared to count. Looking down on him, he could see a very well executed poker face plastered onto the Baron's face.
"Good evening Captain. I don't mean to intrude, I just wanted to check up on you. The crew and I were a little concerned about you and Miss Tawny leaving the ship," whispered Allistair.

"Oh it's quite alright Longfinger, we're just relaxing a bit before we shove off tomorrow," replied Stephy in a half attentive voice.
Even more quietly, Allistair whispered in the Baron's ear,
"I'd also like to apologize for my earlier behaviour, I meant no harm to you in the slightest."
"Don't worry about it my boy, I understand your motives completely."

Stephy then turned his attention to one of his fellow gamblers, whom he seemed to know, with a confused look upon his face.
"Have you seen Tawny anywhere? She's been absent for twenty minutes," he inquired, although he didn't sound concerned.
The gambler shook his head. Allistair then saw a chance to be of service, for since the age of sixteen he had made a covenant with whom his people referred to as "The Gardener".

"I could fetch her for you if you'd like of me Captain," he offered.
Stephy merely shrugged and casually uttered, "If you wish."

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

More Traveller Literary History

John Eric Holmes, author of the Basic Edition of the World's Most Popular Role-playing game, also wrote another book, Fantasy Role Playing Games: Dungeons, Dragons, and Adventures in Fantasy gaming.  

In it he discusses a number of games that were on the market in 1980, including Traveller. He mentions, on page 46, a number of 'modern authors' from whose works Traveller is derived. The list is:

  • Poul Anderson
  • E.C. Tubb
  • Robert Heinlein
  • Larry Niven
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • E.E. "Doc" Smith
"to mention a few."

I would add to that list for my own TU and games:
  • Andre Norton
  • Leigh Brackett
  • H Beam Piper
  • David Weber
  • Harry Harrison
  • Alfred Coppel
  • and Edgar Rice Burroughs

Who inspires you to adventure in the realm of Traveller ?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Saints of the Corridor

At the beginning of Easter Weekend for those on the Western calendar, and the start of Holy Week for us on the Eastern calendar, I present something I've been working on for a while now.

A hagiography of the Saints who Shined Forth in Holtzmann's Corridor.

To go with this, here is the tale of a miraculous deliverance worked by an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

The Miracle of The Blessed Virgin of Vaasa (Kemasiik)

Vaasa is a subordinate world of Kemasiik. For many years it has been plagued by attacks from pirate & slaver gangs, sometimes carrying away entire villages. In the town of Lojotz, there lived a priest named Fr. Gervais. When Fr. Gervais heard the alarm that meant another attack was coming, he went to the church to pray. He asked God what he could do to protect his people. He was told to take the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the altar, and go out to meet the raiders. He would then know what to do.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Session Report St Patrick's Day 2018

Today the Adequate Seven forged ahead with their 100-hour endurance airship race on Stavanger, while facing many challenges.

Somehow during the break at the Oasis, adversaries smuggled a robot aboard, disguised as a number of fuel canisters. It assembled itself in the engine room and began tearing up the place. Jay, Joe and Landreth managed to destroy it, and Landreth started taking it apart looking for intel on who had put it aboard. They recalled that while at Oasis 'race officials' and porters were going on and off the ship without any close oversight. Won't make that mistake again. 

The robot did not disable the engines, but it did cause damage. Most of the Seven have mechanical and/or engineering skill, so they were able to effect repairs in flight. 

Reaper stayed behind in the Oasis for a while, and managed to acquire some (dubiously legal) cryonic grenades, which came in handy later. He had to <ahem> liberate an air/raft to catch up with the team in flight but was able to rejoin them at a race checkpoint.

Team Trendheim is in the lead, withTeam Namsos and Team Hokksen catching up. Every obstacle that arises seems to chip away at their lead. I'm using the Chase rules from Omer Joel's Quick and Dirty CT Vehicle combat rules to determine place order. McGee's rolling hot so far.

The Seven made it to the next-to-last checkpoint and stopped to refuel, and hand over the robot's remains to the race officials who will start a formal investigation. 

Taking off at sunset for the next to last leg, the crew are all getting tired, but no rest for the weary!  In the depth of the night the airship is attacked by a group of grav-belt wearing assassins!

They're armed with swords and grenades, and attacked the ship from several fronts at once. The Seven are spread out and can't help each other. Jay, Gray (4) raced up the catwalks to the aid of Longfinger, Gray (7) who was on his way down to the gondola when an assassin flew in at him. Sword and claw rang out in the darkness. 
The Adequate Seven are in Grey, attackers in yellow.

Joe (2) and McGee (1) are trapped in the Salon while Reaper fights on the catwalk outside.
In the photo, Landreth is Gray(3). He was guarding the engine room when he heard Tawnee, the patron's mistress screaming. Rushing to the rescue he found one of the attackers in her cabin, and they're at close quarters with sword and pistol. Ca'al is the inverted gray counter outside on the catwalk. He went axe-to-sword with an attacker, but as the attacker was wearing armor and Ca'al wasn't, he's down. Reaper, Gray(6) froze one assassin with a cryonic grenade and now he's fencing cutlass-to-sword with the guy who stabbed Ca'al.

Joe shot down one assassin through a port-hole with his SMG, but the second is keeping under cover and tossing shock grenades through the portholes. Joe managed to return one but it went over the side and discharged below the ship. McGee is defending the bridge and watching Joe's back.

We ended the session in mid-battle. Shots and blows have been exchanged at close range, but everyone's wearing armor so not much damage has been done. Whoever these masked assassins are, it means whoever sent them is serious about taking Team Trendheim out of the race. Can't wait for next month's session!

Thursday, March 8, 2018


Programming in the Far Future

I mentioned in my last post that I spotted a curious thing in the computer software table of the space combat rules. The even more curious thing that I discovered is that there's an aspect of space combat that I've been ignoring for years. Despite the fact that I've played Traveller since 1982, and run this blog since 2014, I still find from time to time little bits of the rules that got lost in the paperwork. Here's one of them.
From TTB, page 74:
"Players can and should seek out new and different programs to improve the performance and enlarge the capabilities of their spacecraft."
Meet Royal Talaveran Navy Ensign Heidi Klune, Computer skill-4, Liaison-3. Yes, Ensign, I'd be happy to spend two months helping you write that program! Obviously.
TTB gives us rules for how to write your own versions of the existing list, as well as writing new ones. A similar procedure is found in JTAS #1, which is noted as the official rules module for Computer Programming.

Either way you go about it, writing your own copy of programs has four requirements: computer skill, a skill associated with the program, time, and a throw for success.

An example:
TARGET program:  Computer-2, Navigation-2, 10+
The programmer has to have skill-2, the programmer or an assisting character has to have Navigation-2, the programmer has to throw 10+ w/ DM for Computer skill after two months of writing for it to work. Computer skill ABOVE the required level is a +DM for the success throw.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Pilot Ace Enrique Salazar

While reading the section in The Traveller Book on computer programming, I spotted something of great interest. One of the requirements to write the program Maneuver/Evade-6 is that someone has to have the skill Pilot-7.

I have never seen this in play before. Yes, there's the Other character in Supp: 1 1001 Characters who has Electronics-8, but that's non-standard creation.Still, it's there in the rules so the possibility is valid and canon.

Is it possible, though, to be this skilled via normal character creation? I decided to find out.

Yes. It is.

Meet Enrique Salazar, The best pilot in the Royal Talaveran Scout Service. 
777587 Age 30 Scouts, 3 terms

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Under the Stethoscope - the Doctors Career

Somebody call a Doctor!

This time out I will examine the Doctors career, introduced in Supplement 4, Citizens of the Imperium. Can a Doctor become an heroic adventurer? Let's find out.

My first impression is that the Doctors career models a University Medical school or Major City Medical system. The first thing that suggests this to me is the fact that the Doctors career is not easy to get into. The enlistment throw is 9+, one of the hardest. Only 28% of applicants get in. Intelligence and Dexterity are the key characteristics; odds of getting in improve to 72% (6+).

Once you're in, on the other hand, Reenlistment is easy, only 4+. Survival is almost automatic at 3+ (97%). With the Intelligence DM, survival IS automatic. This is the second indicator. The low Survival throw points to a safe, stable environment.

This by itself makes the Doctors career a desirable one. Will this encourage players to stay in service longer? Doctors get the automatic 2 skills per term, after all. With no worries about Sudden PC Death Syndrome (SPCDS)tm, players may want to pile on the terms for that sweet pension and loads of skills.

What skills are available?

Medical skill has the most slots. This is no surprise. Four tables with six slots makes twenty-four skill entries. Six of them are Medical. If Medical-3 makes you a doctor, what does Medical-5 or -6 mean? Yes, this could happen.
Actually, the odds are even greater than 1-in-4 that a character will get Medical several times. Table 1 has only characteristic bonuses. Skip Table 1 and Medical becomes 1-in-3.

Note well though, here's another reason to stay on at The Hospital. Starting in term four, if you take one skill slot on Table 1, the aging table throws could be mitigated or neutralized!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

At the Beginning of Lent

To all my fellow Orthodox Christians; to all faithful Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, and all who remember the season of Lent.

May this Lenten season truly be a time of renewed devotion: of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. A time of repentance, a real renewal of minds, hearts and deeds in conformity with Christ and his teachings. Most of all, of return to the great commandments of loving God and neighbors.

As our Father among the Saints Patrick of Ireland has said,
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

God be merciful to me, a sinner.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Mercenary and Traveller World Building

Recently I read a short story called Mercenary by Mack Reynolds. It appeared in Analog science fiction magazine in April 1962. It contains a great deal of political speech-making which may be the authors views on then-current political trends in thought. It presents a future Earth where unemployment is the norm. The masses are kept civil (best way I can put it) by a modern form of 'bread and circuses'. There is a substance never described but identified as 'Trank' which they get for free. As in tranquilizer. There is also the omnipresent 'Telly' to keep the masses entertained. I see definite shades of Brave New World to this setting. 
The main form of entertainment on Telly is watching corporate warfare. Corporations, unions, and governments resolve disputes by contract wars; they hire private armies to duke it out. The battles (the vernacular term is 'fracas') are broadcast live. People speak of armies, but most forces fielded are more Battalion or Brigade sized. Some time in the past there was a world-wide disarmament treaty signed. This keeps things from getting too out of hand and avoids nuclear exchanges. Now no one can use or even produce military weaponry or technology from after the year 1900. This becomes relevant for the resolution of the story.
Even in the future there's nothing good on TV . . .
This limitation means that the mechanized warfare of the 20th century is absent. No machine guns, no rapid-fire artillery, no tanks, no aircraft. Personal weapons are breach-loading rifles, like the type used by the US Army in the Spanish-American War. The story does not describe the available technology in a meaningful way. There are no accounts of a battle, so the reader can fill in for themselves what it looks like in practice.

The story concerns one Joe Mauser, a soldier/officer for hire who wants to sign on for the next corporate fracas. He has a plan which will enable him to rise in society. The society of this setting is very stratified into 'Lowers', 'Middles', and 'Uppers'. The Uppers are the ruling elite, who own the property, the companies, and the armies. They run the factories that are producing everything, especially the Trank and Telly to keep the masses somnolent. Mauser wants to break into the Uppers. Being a Telly hero can give him a status boost.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bringing More Psionics into Cepheus Engine or Classic Traveller

Variant Psionics for the Cepheus Engine – A review

Recently Stellagama Publishing released their Variant Psionics rules supplement, available from DriveThruRPG.com. Full disclosure, I am listed in the credits as a Consultant. I suggested a few ideas for the book, but I earn no royalties. As it says on the tin, this is written for the CE rules set, but with only minor tweaking, these rules will work for Classic Traveller as well. Which is good news for me, still being a CT kind of guy.

What does the VP book offer? Let's have a look, shall we?

The first section explains how to fit psionics into any CE setting. How often do psionics appear? More importantly, referees now have three possible societal responses to the existence of psionics: friendly, neutral and hostile. In CT, the assumption even before the Third Imperium or the Zhodani Consulate, was that psionics would face a negative reaction.

Next we have details on how Psionics are a part of Stellagama's These Stars are Ours! campaign setting. Most psionics end up working for the government, but not necessarily as spies or secret police. Still, Terrans' attitude towards psionics leans toward the negative. Life for a government psion will not be easy.

The middle of the book contains the detailed rules for the available psionic abilities. All the talents from CE (and CT) are here: Awareness, Telepathy, Clairvoyance, Teleportation, Telekinesis. Each talents has several powers associated with it. The Variant part is the new powers that have been introduced for most talents. Clairvoyance still has only the powers listed in the CE rules. Some of the standout new powers are:

Thursday, January 4, 2018

More on Skills - Hunting

Hunting skill

Hunting skill is introduced in Book 6, Scouts, and also appears in the expanded career tables in Citizens of the Imperium in the Hunter career (shocking, I know). The skill is described thus:
Hunting: The individual is skilled in tracking and hunting animals. In animal encounter situations, this skill is used to enhance the chance of any specific type, of achieving surprise on such animals, and of surviving such encounters. DMs based on specific situations should be generated, and hunting skill should be a favorable DM.
The right gear and a faithful friend are worth a +1 DM

Reconnaissance can be used as Hunting minus 1.
Hunting can be used as Survival minus 1, but only for the purpose of finding food. 

Hunting is a major component of Adventure #10, Safari Ship. In that book, the hunting process is given an elaborate treatment, more than I could go into here without leaning on the copyright laws. Plus you may not have access to that adventure. Here, I present my personal ideas on the subject.

My reading of the Hunting skill leads me to conclude that the skill affects four things: