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: