Thursday, December 20, 2018

Starship Crews and Patron Saints

Saints preserve us!
Christians have had patron saints almost since the beginnings of Christianity. In this Advent season, I take another look at the Ancient Faith as it may be in the Far Future.

In the Church & Empire setting, there are untold thousands of saints. Many are revered on the world of their birth, or where they upheld the Faith. A small number are venerated across the Church, and of these there are several who are significant to those who travel in Space.
  • St Brendan the Navigator - patron of Navigators from the earliest days of space flight.
  • St Mamas the Guide - patron of Pilots, having flown 124 rescue missions into the most dangerous of conditions to the aid of disabled ships. She perished on the 125th mission.
  • St Anicetas the Physician - patron of starship medics, one of the founding doctors of the Mercy Ship fleet. He died at his operating table at the hands of hijackers.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Frightening Animal Encounter - Outriders

Many of you have by this time seen the film Avengers: Infinity War, I'm sure. I've made reference to the Avengers before but today I'm bringing in an opposing force. Some creatures that are more likely to appear in a Traveller game. Although you might hope they don't. 

I'm talking today about these guys:
Hi. I don't like you. I have a LOT of claws. Poor You.
Animal description 

  • 4-armed, sometimes 6-armed
  • Upright bipedal mammals
  • capable of quadrupedal movement
  • skin black to gray, no hair

Genetically altered creatures 

4-Armed Outrider
Carnivore/killer    Natural terrain: Jungle

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.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Scurvy Space Dogs - The Pirate Career

Scurvy Space Dogs – the Pirate career

Now that Piracy & Privateering is out, it's time to have a look at the CT Pirate career, as found in Supp:4 Citizens of the Imperium. Is a pirate's life for you?
Piracy is harder to get into than you might think. At 7+, it's tougher than Bureaucrats, Sailors/Flyers or Scientists. Pirates will take lower-class types than Rogues (+1 DM for SOC 7-, instead of 8- for rogues).

All pirates learn Brawling. Well, maybe that's more on-the-job training than a planned course. I expected Gun combat. When you're raiding a ship, is there more brandishing weapons than actual fighting? Plus the bottom rung of the pirate ladder is likely considered expendable. Why waste time training them?

That could explain the 6+ survival throw. This is tougher than sailors/flyers, the Navy, the Army, and as tough as the Marines. Is this saying that Pirates and Marines (natural enemies) are evenly matched? It's INT that helps the pirate survive. This makes sense, given the chaotic nature of the career. But brains are not the first characteristic many think of when considering pirates.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Are there Soccer Moms in Space?

If there are, then we have a vehicle for them. Designed by my son, using the Mgt 2e Vehicle Handbook. Enjoy, if you can.

Minivan (TL-8)

Chassis: Light Ground Vehicle

Spaces: 10 (5dtns)

Crew/Passengers: 1/7 (8 spaces)

Speed: Medium (Slow)/200kph (100kph)

Range: 400km (600km)

Agility: +1

Hull: 20

Armor: 2/2/2

Traits: None

Armament: None

Equipment: Improved Control Systems (5000Cr), Basic GPS (2000Cr, DM+1 to Navigation checks), Entertainment System (200Cr)

Cargo: 0.5tns (2 spaces) Note: 6 seats can be folded down to provide an additional 1.5tns (6 spaces) of cargo

Cost: 14,700Cr

Roomy and comfortable, the minivan is perfect for adventuring in town. The GPS is capable of linking in to a city's navigation grid for an easy commute to meet a Patron or visit a Startown Bar. If you roll with a smaller crew, there's plenty of cargo space. Simple and efficient design with an optional speed governor so even under manual control you never have to worry about those pesky Legal Encounters - this vehicle just won't break the speed limit!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Product Review Piracy and Privateering

Review of Piracy and Privateering

by Josh Peters
Publisher: Stellagama Publishing
Length: 83 pages

You might have thought that the pirates were supposed to be the NPCs, but surprise! The book begins with a persuasive essay aimed to encourage players to play as pirates!
When you're a Professional Pirate . . .

The book contains five sections:
  1. Setting up the campaign
  2. Space Encounters
  3. How to Make money
  4. Adventure Seeds
  5. Sample NPCs
The book is system-neutral throughout. It leans toward the 2D6 dice rolling mechanic, but it would not be difficult to transition any of the tables into any 'variable degrees of success' dice rolling system. For OGL legal reasons they can't say it works with Classic Traveller, but I can. It does. That makes me happy.

Setting up
Is the campaign going to be in a Star Spanning Empire, or among competing star nations, or the fringes where it's every planet for themselves? This is an important consideration, and the author lays out the good and the bad of each type. My TU is competing star nations, and a lot of Independents. Pirates will use different tactics depending on where they are.

Wherever your piratical PCs set up, there has to be enough potential for profit to make it all worthwhile. The referee/GM has to consider this or it will be a short and unhappy campaign.

For the sake of players and GMs who aren't familiar with the practicalities of piracy, the book lays out a method of doing the deed, labeled “Piracy 101”. This section goes into a helpful amount of detail on things like:

  • Finding a target
  • persuading them to surrender
  • deciding what to take, including whether or not to steal the ship directly
  • escaping pursuit
  • turning the loot into cash (but more on that later)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

More Traveller Literary History? or Not

Traveller literary history – or maybe not.

The Inverted Man

I thoroughly enjoyed Clarke's Hide and Seek short story, so when I brushed up against another one of his from the following year, I stopped to say hello.

It was a dull conversation. I am really disappointed with The Inverted Man
(Thrilling Wonder Stories, V36, #2 June 1950) Perhaps I should have read the cover story instead.
Here, there is Something at Stake. Look at the guy's eye. He's thinking "Get her clear of the line of fire, and this chump is Mine."

The story concerns a power plant engineer named Nelson. He is caught inside his new very modern generator apparatus when a freak set of circumstances throws it into overload. There is a huge thunder-clap, and Nelson goes down, but survives.

In the hospital, the doctors discover that Nelson has been Inverted: he is now a stereo-isomer of himself. His left hand is now his right, his hear is on the other side, etc. He reads and writes backwards.
So far so good, right? Good old H G Wells Invisible Man stuff. But at this point Nelson fades into the background. He has no more dialogue and takes no independent action.

The focus shifts to Dr Hughes, another engineer at the power company. Three science lectures later, Hughes tries to recreate the conditions of the accident to put Nelson 'right' again.

I'm going to ruin the ending now, so if you want to read this story, stop here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

In Defense of Older Adventurers

On occasion, some gamers like to remark on the fact that Traveller characters are mostly middle-aged by the time they begin play (assuming they survive character creation). Is it really necessary for me to point out that the off-screen prior service is simply glossing over the “low level play” of level based systems, or the “few character points” stage of point-buy systems?

Don't harass us middle-aged guys who go off in search of adventure. We're not old, we're experienced. It's at this time of life when you finally know what you want, and go after it. And you're not taking any guff from punks.

Like this guy – he took no guff, and took names.

Samuel Whittemore
57A879 Age 80   
Army (militia) 3 terms, Captain
Brawling-1 Percussion Rifle-1 Survival-2 Badassery-3 Percussion Pistol-2

As another old soldier said "I could do this all day."

With thanks to Jed McClure on G+

Friday, October 12, 2018

Stealing Stuff for Fun and Profit

New from Stellagama Publishing

Piracy and Privateering

The other, less well known reason why Marines carry Cutlasses!

From the official description:

"A system-neutral guide to How To Be a Pirate! With explanations to help gamemasters run complete space pirate campaigns. In it, you will find guidelines for setting up a piracy or privateering sandbox campaign. There are fully developed encounter rules for figuring out which poor unfortunate souls have crossed paths with terrible player character pirates. We have also included system-neutral rules for fleshing out encounters with ships, space stations, and other unexpected sources of adventure. There are rules for selling ill-gotten booty, for splitting up crew shares, and for holding privateer courts."

I'm already using bits of it for my ongoing campaign - playing tomorrow! Once I read through the whole thing, I will post my review here. Check back soon!

Available now at DriveThruRPG

Suitable for/compatible with:
  • Classic Traveller
  • Cepheus Engine
  • Stars Without Number
  • White Star
  • other space opera/space fantasy type games

Monday, September 24, 2018

First Step towards Battle Dress?

Janes' 360 has reported on a Russian design firm which is developing an exoskeleton for infantry. The framework is not an armored suit a la Starship Troopers, but a means for the soldier to carry much more weight than normal.

Photo from

The exoskeleton "enables a soldier to carry a load of about 50 kg." A modification currently in trials will enable a soldier to "easily carry a general purpose machine gun," in addition to his personal weapon. This would turn every squaddie into his own fire support element.

If it is being developed now, at the equivalent of Traveller TL-8, it could be in general production at TL-9. Book 4 doesn't cover anything like this. That means I get to make it up myself!

Friday, August 17, 2018

High Level Play in Traveller

Lucas Trask, Space Viking Extraordinaire

First let me set the framework for my topic. High Level Play (hereinafter HLP) in Traveller is a particular type of play. It is play that goes beyond a random patron hiring PCs to do a random thing. HLP is about PCs with power.

Many game systems will have obvious mechanical cues when the players engage in HLP. Level based and point based systems are the most obvious and telling systems.

In level-based systems, like D&D, HLP is obvious. What level of fighter or magic-user are you playing? Tenth? Fifteenth? Twentieth? As everyone begins the game at 1st level, the differences from low level to high are very plain.

In point-based systems, like GURPS, HLP is also obvious. Look at how many character points your PC has. GURPS suggests starting out “potential heroes” with 100 points. PCs can increase their CP up to 400, 500 or even more points. The differences in skill and power are extensive. GURPS Supers has characters built on 1,000 points and more – into the realms of the gods!

Dice pool systems, like the eponymous D6 system are also plain. Count the number of dice your PC has in attributes and skills. Anyone who understands probability can tell at what #D rank a character can begin to do the impossible with ease. For those who don't: the highest difficulty number is 30. A PC with 8D in an attribute or skill can beat a 30 1 time in 3. At 9D, it's 2 times out of 3.

Traveller does not have dice pools, or character points, or levels. The central mechanic is “roll 2D6, add modifiers and beat a target number from 1 to 15”. The main modifier is skill level, but this is most commonly 1, sometimes 2 or 3, rarely 4 or better.

One can tally up a PC's total skill levels and call that a measure of high level play, but that's not the way to do it. I point out that Fenton Tukachevski has a grand total of 3 skill levels, and yet he could engage in HLP. See below.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Defend the Homeworld!

Next up in the (irregular) series of vehicles for Traveller, a custom design from Striker, for ground defense against space-based threats (invaders, pirates and such):
After some discussion on G+, I realized I could have built this craft much more efficiently. So, the first one is the improved version, the original behemoth is second.

Sentry-class anti-spacecraft vehicle

Anti-space laser vehicle                                                                                                            TL-13
Nationality:                  Lanzhou
Dimensions:                                                                                         Cost(Cr):   9,460,881
Chassis:           length- 6.9 meters; width- 3.2 meters; height- 3.2 meters Wt (loaded): 280.4 tns
Turret:             length- 3.5 meters; width- 3.1 meters; height- 1.7 meters Wt (unloaded): 276.2 tns
Suspension: Grav                                                                               Ground Pressure:            N/A
Power Plant:     297 Mw, Fusion                                                                    Road Speed:            N/A
Fuel Capacity:              4000 litres                                                        Endurance: 8.98 hrs
Crew:               Total: 4; 1-Commander; 1-Driver; 2-Gunner(s);           Volume: 89.101m3
Passengers:                 none                                                                   Ship vol (dT):  6.4dT
Chassis Armor: Front-2mm[8], Sides-2mm[5], Rear-2mm[5], Deck-420mm[65], Belly-2.5mm[7]        
Turret Armor: Front-2mm[5], Sides-2mm[5], Rear-2mm[5], Deck-420mm[65]
1 x TL-13, 250Mw, BL, VM, Stp-2, DF-5.25/10.5/21, Pen-75/67/59, HB:+2, Sig:+16, Trgts-2, Crew-1, (turret mount)
Weapon Notes:             See notes below.
Obscuration Devices & Sensors                                     Location
1 x Prismatic aerosol                                                     chassis
1 x Smoke discharger                                                   chassis
Communicators                                                            Location
1 x 1000-km laser comm                                              chassis
Radar/Ladar     x 1000-pwr targeting radar                  chassis
1 x 1000-pwr radar jammer                                          chassis
1 x 1000-pwr counter battery radar[0/2+[+10]]          chassis
Visual, ECM, & Computers                                             Location
1 x TL9 Image enhancement                                        chassis
Environmental Controls:          
Miscellaneous Equipment:        Cargo:  4m^3              

Combat Statistics:       
Cross-country speed:   N/A            Amphibious speed:       N/A      Size DM's(high/low):            +2/+4
Move rates (road/x-country) in cm: N/A           
Grav Vehicle Thrust:                             0.37 G's                                                                              
Grav Vehicle speed: 420 kph (max)                  315 kph (cruise)                   105 kph (NOE)              
Movement rates (cm):                          350 / 263 / 88 
Turret weapon move eff:                                  move <=1/2 (no eff), move >1/2 (no eff)           
Chassis weapon move eff:                                move <=1/2 (ffp -4/efp-none), move >1/2 (no fire)

The Sentry-class mobile anti-spacecraft platform works in conjunction with Skysweeper-class radar vehicles to detect incoming hostile spacecraft. Once the target is identified, both vehicles go in motion to frustrate counter-battery attacks on the vehicles. (note the high speed) Multiple Sentries can connect to one radar vehicle and so coordinate their firepower.
The Sentry-class is technically larger than a standard space fighter, but significantly less expensive.
 First Try:
Sentry-class Anti-spacecraft laser vehicle                                               TL-13
Nationality:                  Lanzhou                                                                                              
Dimensions:                                                                                         Cost(Cr):            7,831,722
Chassis: length- 10 meters; width- 6.9 meters; height- 3.6 meters       Wt (loaded):      324.8 tns
Turret: length- 3.6 meters; width- 3.1 meters; height- 1.7 meters        Wt (unloaded):   323.5 tns
Suspension: Tracked                                                                Ground Pressure: 9 tns/m^2
Power Plant:     252 Mw, Fusion                                                Road Speed: 895/845 kph
Fuel Capacity:  3600 litres                                                        Endurance: 9.52 hrs
Crew:               Total: 3; 1-Commander; 1-Driver; 1-Gunner(s);           Volume: 267.372m3
Passengers: none                                                                              Ship vol (dT): 19.1dT
Chassis Armor: Front-9mm [25], Sides-4mm [11], Rear-4mm [11], Deck-20mm [29], Belly-2.5mm[7]
Turret Armor:   Front-4mm [11], Sides-2.5mm [7], Rear-2.5mm [7], Deck-20mm [29]
1 TL-13, 250Mw, BL, VM, Stp-2, DF-5.25/10.5/21, Pen-75/67/59, HB:+2, Sig:+16, Trgts-2, Crew-1 (turret mount)                                                                                                                     
Weapon Notes:             See notes below.                                                                                             
Obscuration Devices & Sensors                         Location
1 x Prismatic aerosol                                         chassis                                                            
1 x Smoke discharger                                       chassis                                                            
Communicators                                                Location
1 x 1000-pwr radio                                           chassis
1 x 100-km laser comm                                    chassis
Radar/Ladar                                                     Location
1 x 1000-pwr targeting radar                            chassis
1 x 500-pwr radar jammer                                chassis
1 x 500-pwr counter battery radar [0/2+[+10]]chassis
Visual, ECM, & Computers
1 x TL9 Image enhancement                            chassis
Miscellaneous Equipment:                                                                               
Cargo:  1m^3

Combat Statistics:
Cross-country spd: 448/169 kph                      Amphibious speed: 44.75[37] kph
Size DM's(high/low): +2/+7
Move rates (road/off-road) in cm: 746/704  373/141
Turret weapon move eff:                                  move <=1/2 (no eff), move >1/2 (no eff)
Chassis weapon move eff:                    move <=1/2 (ffp -4/efp-none), move >1/2 (no fire)