Monday, November 19, 2018

More Traveller Literary History - Kalin

In E C Tubb's Dumarest of Terra novel Kalin, the titular protagonist finds himself out of cash on Chron, an Industrial planet of huge strip mines and forges, run mostly on slave labor. Dumarest avoids that fate, but if he's not working for the Company, there are very few other options. He gambles a little, but wins too much for the house's comfort, so that's not a source of income.

Along with some other travellers he meets, he goes hunting for creatures called zardles. Zardle meat is not appealing, but it is edible and better than not eating. 

I have extracted some details of the creature from the narrative, to construct a Traveller animal description for it. I have written elsewhere about Frightening Animal Encounters, and these things definitely fall into that category. More than half a dozen of the hunters in Dumarest's party are killed by these foul beasts.

Just add lots of legs. And claws. And bad breath. And don't forget its poison.

The book gives no description of it's hunting habits, but given its ferocity, I will class it as a Carnivore/Killer. Dumarest encounters several of them. The zardles are eight feet long (2m) and two feet high. This makes them about the size of an American alligator. It moves on multiple clawed legs, and has a long sinuous body. The spine is extra flexible, allowing the creature to twist and turn in any direction. Its mouth is full of nasty pointy teeth. It exhales a foul-smelling gas from its stomach that might nauseate/stun its prey. The referee can use the irritant gas grenade I designed here as a model for how to play its effects. 

The back end of the zardle is a spiny tail, which injects a nerve poison. The poison is slow-acting, so it is meant for defense not to help hunt prey. It has tough scales and bony plates across its body.

Size 200 kg 
Hits 25/15
Armor Cloth
Weapons Teeth/Claws 4D Thrasher 5D +poison*
A F S  3+/8+/2

*Zardle poison causes 1 dp a day, until the victim dies or the poison is neutralized. Throw 9+, DM +Medical skill, DM +2 for a local antidote. It causes pain intense enough to prevent any natural healing. Throw END or less on 4D once an hour to be able to act normally.

A more typical Traveller PC group might not be worried by these things. Guns, armor and vehicles would make hunting these easy. Dumarest has none of those things. They've got Jack class armor at best, and some improvised spears, and a number of nets. This makes zardles much more of a challenge.

They come in different sizes!

But wait, it gets worse. During the hunt, Dumarest encounters bigger zardles. One is 30 feet long (9m) and the final one is a massive 50 feet long (15m). They use multiple nets to entrap these big brutes.

Big zardle
400 kg 28/18 Cloth teeth/claws 5D, thrasher 6D

Bigger zardle
800 kg 30/20 Cloth-1 teeth/claws 6D, thrasher 7D

Hunting zardles

Dumarest uses nets to trap the zardles. Nets are rated by their size (L x W) and the strength required to break them. Take the first wounds dice of the animal's size as it's STR dice. Throw that much per round as the animal struggles to escape. 

For example, a 'normal' zardle would have 5D strength. A net rated 5 x 5 x 30 would be big enough and strong enough to trap it (0.01% chance of making 30). It's biggest brother has 7D strength. The site Anydice says it has a 17% chance of breaking the same net.

The Reason you hunt Zardles

Zardles sometimes have a hidden treasure. Their brain cavities collect minerals much like oyster create pearls. After a zardle is dead, its skull can be broken open to find the mineral deposit, called a zerd. These possess several sci-fi qualities, and are very valuable and in demand.

Zerds appear on a 1 in 6 for the smaller sizes, and on 1-4 in 6 for the 30-50 foot models. A zerd will be worth 1D x 1000 credits from a small model, or 1D x 1D X 1000 credits in the bigger ones.

In the novel, two zerds from large beasts buys Dumarest, Kalin and several others High Passages off-planet, as well as medical care.

What's your favorite beast from a sci-fi novel, whether Traveller related or not?


  1. That's an amazingly cool post, thanks for working that out!

  2. Kalin is my next one -- ready 1/-3 earlier this year. Great write up!