Thursday, September 29, 2016

W is for Warbot

"Kerpow, Kerpow!" - JON-E Warbot

Similar in size and form to the Zhodani Tliazhashal PP04 medium warbot, the Harkuna model S3S by Ikeda Robotics is designed to be quickly reconfigured in the field to serve a wide variety of mission roles. The standard combat package includes two heavy energy weapons, usually heavy lasers, PGMP-13s or FGMP-14s.

The base model includes a basic sensor package but can be upgraded with just about anything desired. For reconnaissance missions, the heavy weapons can be swapped out for a recon mission package which includes densitometers, neural activity sensors, PRIS optics, and other miscellaneous sensors.

Two retractable light arms are located in a 360 degree swivel mount in the lower torso and are capable of handling any standard human tools or weapons. Between combat operations, the heavy weapons can be replaced with heavy work arms to facilitate field base construction and supply relocation.

For spacecraft operations, the S3S is designed to be able to go just about anywhere a soldier in battledress can go. Standard doors, airlocks, vertical hatches, and elevators are all accessible to the warbot.

At TL 15, and with the proper resources, this robot can switch out its own hardware and software to meet just about any mission requirement.

Civilian use
Most worlds view a warbot much like any other weapon, and as such they are restricted by local law level. Warbots used as personal body guards are not unheard of, but such use is rare. Actions taken by a warbot are the responsibility of the owner. Stripped of it's weapons and associated programming, the standard warbot can be reconfigured for a wide variety of non-military uses.

The Adventures of JON-E Warbot
The Adventures of JON-E Warbot, was a wildly popular children's animated tri-vid series produced in the early 1090's. The show followed the exploits of a stern voiced and duty bound E-series combat robot and his skilled, but trouble prone robot technician, Clark "Skippy" Weston. Being a children's show, there was never any overt violence against humans. Many of the adventures focused on rescue and humanitarian missions. When combat operations were presented they either featured stun weapons or were against enemy robots. JON-E's famous catchphrase of "Kerpow, kerpow!" spread to all corners of the Spinward Marches.

Funded by Ikeda Robotics, the show's critics labeled it as pure propaganda and a recruitment tool for the Imperial Navy. The show's antagonists were thinly veiled Zhodani, but never called such. There is speculation that the show stirred anti-Zhodani sentiments and glorified war, at least in the eyes of impressionable children, and possibly helped to expedite the start of the Fifth Frontier War.

Fan favorite episodes include "Skippy and the Brain Pirates", "The Return of Dr. Dredzliar", and the heart-breaking "Flowers for Sargeant Goodfellow".

"I was always very proud of that show", said Galt Trydine, retired public relations executive for Ikeda Robotics. "We had actually produced a combat model very similar to JON-E, and it's capabilities were pretty faithfully represented in the show. The voders at the time were never quite able to capture the smugness of the voice actor, but I heard some fans created vocal patches that do a pretty good job of it."
For additional reading about warbots, check out Classic Traveller Alien Module 4-Zhodani and Book 8 - Robots.

Monday, September 26, 2016

V is for Valkyrie Fighter

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." -  John Quincy Adams

Some of you might recognize this ship from my earlier posted images of a fighter hangar. Well here she is again. It was inspired by the Valkyrie fighter from FASA's I.S.P.M.V. Fenris. I liked the overall shape of the fighter, but after 36 years felt it was time for a facelift.

U is for Ularu

" seek out new life, and new civilizations..." - some 60's TV show
Sketch I did in 1987 and cleaned up in Photoshop

Note: The Ularu (pronounced oo'-lar-oo) are a race I started creating in 1987 but never really fleshed out. I've taken them out recently and dusted them off for my Hu'kura campaign.

The Ularu are a minor race of arthropodal sophonts native to the planet Hu'kura in the Foreven Subsector.

The Ularu are descended from insectoid omnivore hunter stock. Ularu have thirty limbs. The forward-most six limbs may be considered proper arms ending with hands containing three opposable digits, and can be used for fine manipulation work. The remaining limbs are more leg-like and end in a pad-like foot. When running at top speed, an Ularu will lower its entire body to the ground and use its six arms as extra legs. They have a segmented body with a hard dorsal carapace. They are typically physically stronger and have more endurance than humans. They are slower than humans over short runs, but with their greater endurance, need less rest when traveling. While just as intelligent as humans, they do not have the same drive or curiosity. They are omnivorous, but prefer meat.  They are ectothermic and typically regulate their body temperature by changing their environment. In times of great thermal distress, a gland in their body will release a chemical into the blood stream which will stabilize their body temperature. This benefit will keep the Ularu alive for an additional hour or two. The gland takes about a week to fully replenish itself.

Typical adults range from 12 to 15 feet length, with about half of their body in the upright position, giving them a variable height, but usually in the 6 to 7 foot range. Adults usually weight between 180 and 240 kgs. They have large multi-faceted eyes giving them a visual field of about 270 degrees. Their short range vision is comparable to humans, but Ularu have poor long distance eyesight. They have two olefactory antennae atop their head which gives them an excellent sense of smell. The base of the antennae contains a small tympanal organ giving them hearing comparable to humans.

A key element of the Ularu psyche is the need for routine and the ability to stay focused on a task. Each Ularu has a job to do and they do it. It is possible that this is a throwback to an ancestral caste system or hive mind, but it has never been studied. The ability to stay focused makes the average Ularu a great worker, and the Ularans have built many great stone buildings, roads, aqueducts and other structures. However, this single-mindedness also prevents them from being creative. They are achievers, not innovators or problem solvers. Change occurs very slowly within Ularu society. Ularu are not mindless drones, however. They still have individual thoughts and desires, but these come second to the needs of their society.

Ularu have two sexes. Pair bonding is pheromone based and couples mate for life. A typical female will only be impregnated once or twice in her life. After impregnation, the female grows within her an egg sac containing 2 to 4 fertilized eggs. After about six months of gestation the female expels her egg sac in a communal birthing nest, where the eggs are looked after by others until they hatch, usually within another two weeks. Ularu young can walk and eat solid food from birth. The birth parents have very little to do with raising of their young. Child rearing and education are left to a caregiver class until the young reach maturity around the age of ten. Ularu young will most often adopt the class of their birth parents and spend a two year period of instruction specific to that class. They are considered adult at the age of 12. Typical life expectancy is around 52 years.

Very little is known about ancient Ularu history. About the time the ancient Ularu were developing written language, they were enslaved by an off-world race called the Vorga. It is unknown how long the Vorga kept the Ularu as slaves, possibly thousands of years. Approximately 3,000 years ago the Ularu rose up against the Vorga and defeated them and claimed independence. The Vorgan Downfall (as it came to be called) created a leadership vacuum and lead to the Ularan Civil War, the re-emergence of Ramu worship, and the rise of a religious dictatorship.

Once the dust settled, the Ularu embarked on what they considered their “Divine Right of Conquest”. Called the Kakrha' Nin, it is a kind of religious mission of conquest and expansion, a cross between a holy war and Manifest Destiny. It is unclear exactly when humans arrived on Hu'kura, although it is believed they were there at the time of the Vorgan Downfall, but they were the first victims of the Kakrha' Nin. The humans that were not killed or captured fled to other parts of the continent and an intermittent war between the humans and the Ularu has been going on ever since.

Politically and economically, Ularan society is socialist, bordering on communist, but its government is a religious dictatorship. Worship of their god, Ramu, and following ancient scriptures are a part of everyday life and rarely questioned. There is very little private ownership of property and all is given to the temple, which redistributes the wealth.  A common prayer/response heard at the time of giving is "Ul huha ramuga, ka rumuga huha Ularu." (Give all to the temple, as the temple gives all to the people).

While not strictly a caste system, Ularan society is divided among six major classes; Priests, Builders, Caregivers, Warriors, Feeders, and Crafters.
  • Priests are responsible for governing and administration
  • Builders work on large scale construction projects, roads, etc.
  • Caregivers are the doctors, educators, and raise the young.
  • Warriors are the police, military and scouts.
  • Feeders grow crops, raise food animals, and prepare food.
  • Crafters manufacture tools, weapons, and small day to day items.
While the typical Ularu will stay with his class for life, it is not unusual for some cross pollination between classes. For example, a priest may work within the warrior class to provide leadership and organization, builders may work with feeders to develop irrigation systems.

Ularu are generally resistant to change and not very curious. They are at TL1 with some minor advances into TL2, especially in the area of metal smithing and weapon making.

THE NANWI' MIN (or Nanwi for short)
About 1 in every 2,000 Ularu are born with a mental aberration that does not become apparent until late adolescence. The symptoms of this aberration range from mild attention deficit disorder to full blown mania. Very little is known about the condition and ancient Ularu were known to kill their young exhibiting overtly strange behavior. Nanwi'min literally translates to "far dreamer", but does not have a direct Galanglic translation. The term suggests an Ularu who does not have focused thought, one who has their head in the clouds, or is easily distracted. As the ancient Ularu evolved a sense of morality and empathy, they eventually stopped killing the Nanwi. Over the past several centuries, the Ularu have started to recognize that Nanwi may be providing some societal benefits.

GM notes:  In reality, the aberration is really a sense of curiosity and the ability to think outside the box. In some cases it is also indicative of genius intelligence. A secret known only by the highest echelon priests is that all of the major advances in Ularu society have been brought about by Nanwi Ularu with the right combination of leadership, charisma, and social standing. It is these bold thinkers that keep the society from total stagnation.

  • Ularu do not tend to use ranged weapons because of their poor distance vision. They instead prefer close combat and melee weapons, in particular spears, axes, hammers, and swords. Because of the Ularu's superior strength and extra arms, Ularu weapons are often larger than human weapons. An experienced Ularu warrior wielding a six-handed broadsword in close combat is a fearsome thing to see. Humans handling large Ularu weapons do so with a -2 DM.
  • Ularu are naturally well armored. Treat their carapace as ballistic cloth armor and the rest of their body as jack leather.
  • Ularu are very difficult to sneak up on. The combination of their wide angled vision and superior sense of smell is formidable in this matter.
  • The most successful human attacks on Ularu have been made with ranged weapons while being downwind from the Ularu.

The single-minded nature of the Ularu is antithetical to creative role playing. Everyone pretty much just follows orders given from their superiors. Unless you are role-playing the High Priest / Dictator it probably wouldn't be that much fun.

ULARU NPC GENERATION (provided primarily for the purpose of creating warriors)
Roll 1d10 to determine number of terms served. Age = 12 + (4 x terms)
STR: 2d6+2
DEX: 2d6-2
END: 2d6+1
INT: 2d6
EDU: 2d6
SOC: 2d6
Ularu have no nobles, so SOC is really more a measure of how one is respected within society, or their level of authority within their class. Ularu with high SOC are usually given the best of everything available.
  • Priest Class Skills: leadership, admin, liaison, persuasion, legal
  • Builder Class Skills: construction, architecture, civil engineering
  • Caregiver Class Skills: medical, instruction, steward
  • Warrior Class Skills: brawling / blade weapons per Book 1, hunting, intimidation, stealth
  • Feeder Class Skills: agriculture, animal handling, etc.
  • Crafter Class Skills: metalworking, wood working, textiles, etc.
The referee should determine skills based on a character's class and the number of terms served. To reflect a fairly stagnant society, skill levels should generally not exceed 3, and the total number of skill levels should not exceed the number of terms served.

The Hu'Kura system is currently interdicted by the Third Imperium, although it is not part of the Imperium (there is a reason for that, but that's one of the mysteries the PCs must solve). The typical Ularu would not much care for leaving their home anyway. If Ularu ever do make it to the stars, it will be by some adventure seeking Nanwi.

  • As an Ularu ages, their carapace will become thinner and less shiny. In an effort to maintain the status quo, aging Ularu will wax their carapace, sometimes to ridiculous levels of shine. This is considered a vain fad of the wealthy by the young and those of much lower social standing. It is particularly prevalent among the priest class.
  • The Ularu keep a group of captive humans in every one of their towns and cities, regardless of size. The reason for keeping the humans captive is unclear, as they are not forced to do anything. The humans are kept and cared for (not very well, usually, but kept alive anyway). Some people have speculated that the humans are kept as pets or possibly as a kind of zoo exhibit, but there is not enough information to go on.
  • If the need arises, Ularu can handle human TL1 and TL2 tools and melee weapons without a penalty. More sophisticated weapons or delicate equipment is operated at -2.
  • Ularu cannot swim and they have a fear of deep water. They have no wet navy. Because they are ectothermic they become very sluggish in cold weather. Much of their religiously motivated expansion has been deterred by their own limitations.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Traveller Referee Emulator - Part 2

Click here for Traveller Referee Emulator - Part 1

In Part 1, I showed you an overview of my gaming spreadsheet and went into some detail of the NPC generator and  planetary system generator/details. This time I'll focus on the Weather/Event, Animal Encounters/Bestiary, and Reconfigurable List Of Many Things portions of the spreadsheet.


Weather is something I often overlook in gaming. This is a simple temperature and weather generator based on the terrain type, level of development, latitude, season, and atmosphere. It is not very sophisticated, but each portion adds modifiers which affect the outcome. The output is daily high and low temperatures and sky conditions.

Each terrain type also includes four randomized custom events. Terrain events follow the rules per Supplement 2 - Animal Encounters, so an event occurs on a roll of 10 on 2d6. If no terrain event occurs, an optional non-terrain event is picked at random from a growing list - currently about thirty. All events have a description and a brief note on how it affects game play.

Animal Encounters / Bestiary
The Animal Encounters basically duplicates information found in Supplement 2. It checks for encounters twice per day (daytime and nighttime) and determines surprise and initiative. If the animal has surprise it lists what the animals first action would be. The initiative roll is not terribly sophisticated as it does not take into account things like PC party size, PC party vehicle, general PC noise level, animal camouflage or stealth, etc.

The spreadsheet generates an animal whether or not there is an encounter. Animal stats are generated per Supplement 2 and generation is tied to the terrain chosen in the weather generator. A random animal description is provided and includes any special abilities the animal may have, what value if any the animal may have, and rumors about the animal. The arms and legs portion needs to be re-written, as I am almost always disappointed with the results. Finally, the table generates two real world animals to be used as additional inspiration.

Reconfigurable List of Many Things
Probably the biggest workhorse of the entire spreadsheet, this list started out as the List of Many Things, and got it's name from the famous D&D magic item, the Deck of Many Things. I needed a place to generate short, simple answers to short simple questions. It initially started out as a static list of about a dozen items; character names, place names, random words, dice rolls, etc. Over time the list just grew and grew. Pretty soon the list was limited to the height of my monitor display and I had to convert the list from static to a pull-down menu style interface.

This actually worked out well because now the desired information can be grouped together based on most frequently needed information. For example, when solo gaming I need a lot of 2d6 and percentage dice rolls, as well as random answers to Yes/No type questions, so I keep the bottom portion of the list dedicated to those types of answers. For those of you who are gluttons for punishment, I've included a list of all the items in the list, which has now grown to over 240 items (see image below). There are two columns of blue buttons to the right of the list, for doing Google image and information searches. I've found this to be extremely useful.

There's really nothing special about this part of the spreadsheet. It is mostly just a bunch of text lists and simple random generators. Much of the information was derived from information or ideas found on random generators all over the web. What I like about my version is that 1) I can customize it, 2) I don't have to keep track of dozens of websites, 3) I don't need to be online, 4) I can continually add to it, and 5) everything is in one location.

I'd be remiss if I didn't tip my hat to all the random generator creators out there from whom I borrowed, stole, or was inspired by. In particular I want to point out the following:
Check these out if you haven't already.

I've been asked by several people if I would be willing to share this spreadsheet. I would really love to as I find it a great resource. Unfortunately, when I started this I never thought it as something others might be interested in. As a result, over the eight or so years I've been putting this together I have been including a lot of copyrighted material, ideas for which the original creators should get credit, and in generally just kept adding to it without any kind of goal in mind. The spreadsheet's "home page" is as cleaned up as I can manage, but the behind the scenes data is a mess. Hopefully someday I will have time to either delete or rewrite the copyright material and clean it up enough to feel comfortable with sharing it.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

S is for System Defense Boat

"Quantity has a quality all its own." - Joseph Stalin

System Defense Boats can serve a wide variety of functions. This one has been outfitted to carry a squad of troops for customs inspections and boarding actions. The classic Traveller books do a pretty good job of describing the System Defense Boat, so I'm not going to write too much about them here. Check out Supplement 7 - Traders and Gunboats and JTAS #9 for more information.

I've got plans to design a jump shuttle for it, but that will have to wait until later.

For a higher resolution PDF, click this link: (Traveller Stardrake System Defense Boat deck plan). The deckplan was created to be printed out on 30"x42". Scale is 1" = 5'-0" so it can be used with 25mm miniatures. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

R is for Robot

"Some nights I wake up and can still hear their screams." - Marden Garroway, Assistant Purser aboard the Tukera Lines passenger liner Lady of Regina, regarding the BuffBot 2000 incident of 1106.

The BuffBot 3000 series is the latest in a long line of successful robots created by Ikeda Robotics. Smaller than it's infamous predecessor, the new model features all the same ship-cleaning features at a markedly lower price. In an attempt to win back the market share from its larger competitor, Ling Standard Products, Ikeda is practically giving away their new janitorial model and even Tukera is considering placing them on their liners again.

Ikeda Robotics' one black mark is, of course, the Lady of Regina incident, which claimed the lives of seven passengers including Sir Ellis Tenhuff of Inthe and noted theoretical jump physicist Serina Drexler of Regina. Investigators were never able to determine the cause of the Buffbot's malfunction, but Ikeda executives maintain the robot had been tampered with. The more creative and less journalistically rigorous members of the press insisted that the whole event was to cover the assassination of the young noble Tenhuff, while others believed it had to do with Drexler's ground-breaking work on Project LongJump. Both Ikeda Robotics and Tukera Lines were cleared of all accusations of negligence due to lack of evidence.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Q is for Quirks and Perks for Starships

"Ship like this, be with you 'til the day you die."
"Because it's a deathtrap."
- Mal and Zoƫ, Firefly

The Millennium Falcon looks like a piece of junk, the Heart of Gold has a computer with Genuine People Personalities, the Enterprise D's bridge looks like a lounge. The best starships in classic science fiction are characters themselves and can have just as much personality as any of the crew. Here's a list of quirks and perks you can add to your starships. Some will be positive, others negative. Some just add a little flavor. Some may have serious gameplay consequences. Some may act as adventure hooks. I mostly use these for random or NPC starships, and usually pick 2 or 3 for each ship. If the quirk is on the PCs ship, the players should be allowed to repair or replace the affected system if they wish.

I typically put all my gaming tables into Excel spreadsheets. It makes it easier to randomize results and other information, and keeps the entirety of the table in the background when all I need is a couple results. Also, you are not limited to a d6 or d66 style table. With that in mind, I've included some information that would normally be randomized in the table:
  • (system) = computer, power plant, jump drive, maneuver drive, fuel tank, or weapon
  • (system 2) = ship's computer, power plant, jump drive, maneuver drive, autodoc, weapon, pilot controls, nav computer, gunnery computer, crew toilets, or autochef
  • (powered system) = life support, shields, maneuver drive, or computer
  • (drive) = jump drive, maneuver drive, or power plant
  • (location) = bridge, fresher, cargo bay, galley, stateroom, engineering, medical, or any other you prefer
  • (fluid) = oil, fuel, fresh water,  or sewage
  • (+1, +2) indicates a 1 or 2 positive DM to a die roll
  • (-1, -2) indicates a 1 or 2 negatitve DM to a die roll

Quirks and Perks for Starships
  1. (system)  (+1,+2) to repairs
  2. (system)  (-1,-2) to repairs
  3. (system) needs repair
  4. (system2) requires 'percussive maintenance' to work
  5. access to coded military channels
  6. adjustable gravity deck plating
  7. advanced ECM: (+1,+2) against missiles
  8. advanced shields (+1)
  9. advanced vehicle: (+1,+2) tech level high than ship
  10. alien alloy hull: (+1,+2) against lasers
  11. alien alloy hull: (-1,-2) against lasers
  12. alien graffiti on hull
  13. alien porn in the ship's computer
  14. all doors are airtight
  15. animal droppings found in galley
  16. annoying, mild gravity fluctuations
  17. atmosphere modifiers in cargo bay
  18. autochef only makes flavorless gruel
  19. autodoc gives (+1,+2) to MED rolls
  20. awesome color scheme
  21. awesome sound system
  22. awkward control interface (-1 to bridge activities)
  23. battle scars draw unwanted attention
  24. bridge consoles rattle in flight
  25. bridge controls are in an alien language
  26. bunks are really comfortable
  27. bunks are very uncomfortable
  28. can bypass interdiction satellites
  29. can make .5 past lightspeed
  30. cargo door sticks 50% of the time
  31. cargo space can be refrigerated
  32. clean engines - difficult to track
  33. comm system is plagued with static
  34. comm system on the fritz
  35. computer data: (+1,+2) to COMP rolls
  36. computer glitch: (+1,+2) to ENG rolls
  37. computer glitch: (+1,+2) to GUNNERY rolls
  38. computer glitch: (+1,+2) to NAV rolls
  39. computer glitch: (+1,+2) to PILOT rolls
  40. computer glitch: (-1,-2) to ENG rolls
  41. computer glitch: (-1,-2) to GUNNERY rolls
  42. computer glitch: (-1,-2) to NAV rolls
  43. computer glitch: (-1,-2) to PILOT rolls
  44. computer has strange accent
  45. computer is becoming self-aware
  46. computer talks fast
  47. computer talks slow
  48. concussive "backfire" on takeoff
  49. constant "new car smell"
  50. contraband found in hidden space
  51. cooking activates fire alarm
  52. cosmetic damage to the exterior
  53. cramped crew staterooms
  54. cramped Engineering: -1 to rolls
  55. cramped passenger staterooms
  56. custom consoles (+1 to bridge rolls)
  57. database adds (+1,+2) to COMP rolls
  58. dead vermin found on occasion
  59. dilapidated interiors
  60. designed for a different species
  61. designed for water landings
  62. difficult to maintain (-1 to ENG)
  63. difficult to pilot (-1 to PILOT)
  64. difficult to start
  65. distinctive nose art
  66. easy to maintain (+1 to ENG)
  67. easy to pilot (+1 to PILOT)
  68. emergency escape bubbles
  69. emissions make it easy to track
  70. energy weapons do double damage
  71. energy weapons do half damage
  72. engineer robot (can't leave ship)
  73. engine room is very hot. Costly to fix.
  74. engines have a distinctive whine
  75. engines hum pleasantly
  76. engines run hot (+100°F at drives)
  77. engines smoke in atmosphere
  78. entirely robotic crew
  79. exhaust gas fills Engineering
  80. experienced crew (crew has min. skill level 3)
  81. exposed live electrical wiring
  82. false registry papers found onboard
  83. faulty acceleration compensators
  84. faulty grav deck plating
  85. firefight damage to interior
  86. flickering internal ship lights
  87. flushing toilets activates hull breach alarm
  88. free HBO
  89. fuel efficient (-10% on fuel costs)
  90. fuel inefficient (+10% on fuel costs)
  91. fuel skimmers smell of fish
  92. gas leak causes hallucination
  93. good galley (+1 to STEWARD)
  94. grinding noises in Engineering
  95. has flood damage
  96. has gourmet food replicator
  97. has ground defense turrets
  98. has smuggling compartments
  99. hidden space contains (drugs, weapons, contraband, valuables)
  100. high performance fuel scoops
  101. high tech weapons locker
  102. highly automated (+1 to all crew rolls)
  103. highly custom (-1 to repairs)
  104. hull spotted with small arms fire
  105. illegal drugs are found on board
  106. illegal weapons system is found
  107. inertial dampener lag (-1,-2) to DEX
  108. inescapable brig
  109. infested with insects
  110. infested with vermin
  111. interior doors hum pleasantly
  112. interior doors work poorly
  113. interior lights blink on startup
  114. interior lights flicker during jump
  115. intermittent black globe cloak
  116. internal comm system on the fritz
  117. jerky turret: (-1,-2) to GUNNERY rolls
  118. jump drive causes mild jump sickness
  119. landing gear won't retract on 9+
  120. leaks (fluid) when docked
  121. lights flicker occasionally
  122. liquid crystal hull w/ many patterns
  123. looks like a piece of junk
  124. loose deck plating prohibits running
  125. lots of battle scars
  126. luxurious interiors
  127. luxury crew staterooms
  128. luxury passenger staterooms
  129. luxury ship's vehicle
  130. main airlock sticks on 9+ (2d6)
  131. main turret: (+1,+2) to GUNNERY rolls
  132. main turret: (-1,-2) to GUNNERY rolls
  133. mass produced (+1 to repairs)
  134. medical robot (can't leave ship)
  135. military grade sensor suite
  136. misjumps on 12+ (each jump)
  137. nav computer locks up on 12+
  138. needs frequent repair
  139. needs new part
  140. needs repair (-1 to all crew rolls)
  141. noisy air system
  142. non-standard airlock connectors
  143. novice crew (crew has max. skill level 1)
  144. on the run from creditors
  145. poor environmental controls
  146. poor galley (+1 to STEWARD)
  147. poorly maintained (-1 to ENG)
  148. potable water tastes bad
  149. previous owner wants ship back
  150. pristine - not a scratch on her
  151. random audible warnings (1/day)
  152. random fire suppression system
  153. random warning lights (1/day)
  154. recently replaced jump drive
  155. refit time is fast (-20% time)
  156. refit time is slow (+20% time)
  157. refuel time is fast (-20% time)
  158. refuel time is slow (+20% time)
  159. reliable (+1 to crew rolls)
  160. requires proprietary parts
  161. rich Corinthian leather
  162. robotic brain gunnery: (+1,+2) to GUNNERY
  163. robotic brain navigator:(+1,+2) to NAV
  164. robotic brain pilot: (+1,+2) to PILOT
  165. robotic cargo handling system
  166. runs illegal Watchdog software
  167. secondary airlock inoperable
  168. sensors work at double their range
  169. sensors work at half their range
  170. several hull patches of questionable integrity
  171. ship is an obvious lemon
  172. ship kept clean by schloobies
  173. ship's computer is very slow
  174. ship's transponder is +1 to modify
  175. sketchy history/repeatedly renamed
  176. sleeper (looks bad, runs great)
  177. smelly air handling system
  178. sonic showers cause comm static
  179. spacious crew staterooms
  180. spacious passenger staterooms
  181. steward robot (can't leave ship)
  182. strange noises in crew quarters
  183. sub-standard crew staterooms
  184. sub-standard passenger staterooms
  185. suffers from Sick Ship Syndrome
  186. superior control interface (+1 to bridge activities)
  187. surface rust on various ship parts
  188. suspicious: -1 to law encounters
  189. temp stays a constant (50, 60, 80, 90) deg. F
  190. terrible smell in (location)
  191. transponder has 1d4 switchable I.D.s
  192. transponder is twitchy
  193. trusted: +1 to law encounters
  194. turrets are hidden (pop-out)
  195. ugly color scheme
  196. uncomfortable bridge seats
  197. undetected gas causes sickness
  198. unpressurized cargo area
  199. unreliable (-1 to crew rolls)
  200. unsightly stains in fresher
  201. untested alien autodoc
  202. untraceable smell of burnt electronics
  203. untraceable ship's history
  204. used to be a military ship
  205. used to be a smuggling ship
  206. used to belong to a nearby noble
  207. valuables found in hidden space
  208. variable environment cargo space
  209. vents smelly steam on landing
  210. vibrates violently when going into/out of jump
  211. viewports fog up during flight
  212. water landing very difficult
  213. water supply tastes funny
  214. weak shields (-1)
  215. weapons drain power from (powered system)
  216. well loved (+1 to ENG)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

P is for Personal Re-entry Pod

"I'm going to regret this." - C-3PO, Star Wars

Personal Re-entry Pods go by many names: jump capsules, drop capsules, drop pods, escape pods, Human Entry Vehicles (HEV) or HEV Pods, Orbital Insertion Pods, or for those of you not into the whole brevity thing; Single Occupant Exo-atmospheric Insertion Vehicles (SOIEV). Regardless of what they are called, they are all designed to do pretty much the same thing; get a single passenger from a ship in orbit safely to the ground.

I first remember reading about jump capsules in Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers. The beginning of the book starts with a description of the "cap" (capsule) troopers making a drop from their ship to the planet below. Exciting stuff, and I was disappointed when the film version was made and it didn't include the capsule.

The basic personal re-entry pod requires no skill to operate. Flights and landing coordinates are pre-programmed allowing the passenger to just enter the pod and activate a single, clearly marked button to launch. Historically, drop pods have a relatively high casualty rate, but improvements are always being made. The pods shown include stabilizer fins to reduce atmospheric turbulence are coated with a ablative ceramic coating to reduce heat. A small grav unit used to achieve a relatively soft landing and makes the pod usable in any atmosphere or any size world. Pods are reusable, but are unable to reach orbit on their own. The must be retrieved and re-outfitted to be used again.

Military Use
In the military, drop pods are used primarily for the insertion of ground combat troops. Drop pods can provide a benefit in combat operations by presenting multiple small targets as opposed to one big one, and also by strategically placing troops in specific locations. Flights are pre-programmed in at a console in the drop bay, and the actual launch is initiated by an officer who remains on the ship. The typical one man pod is a tight fit for a soldier with gear, and special interiors have been created for those wearing battledress. The military also use a non-occupied version of the drop pod, which replaces the passenger compartment with a storage compartment for pinpoint delivery of weapons, food, and supplies.

Non-military Use

A drop pod's primary non-military use is as a spaceship's emergency escape vehicle. Escape vehicles designed for 8, 12, or 16 passengers are more the norm, and much more economical. Still, if you have a small ship, or when you want to get off a ship fast and don't want to wait for other passengers, the single occupant pod is the way to go. The pod's launch sequence is tied directly into the ship's navigation computer, which automatically computes the safest trajectory and landing zone. This information is updated automatically by the ship's computer every five minutes, although the pilot or navigator can select different coordinates if desired. Non-military models typically contain an emergency vacc suit, emergency rations and supplies, and an automated tracking beacon.

Check out Twilight of the GM's excellent article "Abandon Ship", for more thoughts about escape pods.

Also take a look at Atomic Rockets well thought article on the folly of escape pods in the article "Emergency Deck".

Below is a Drop Capsule geomorph, with a similar Pod Bay. It includes areas for the cap troops and a control center, from where the capsules are programmed and launched. In this scenario, even the sleeping quarters are pods - kind of like the Japanese capsule hotels. Maybe cap troopers are agoraphobes.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

O is for OneNote

"For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned." - Benjamin Franklin

OneNote as a Campaign Organizer
If you are like me, you have, or at least had, notebooks and binders filled with your Traveller stuff: adventure ideas, NPCs, session notes, sketches, maps, deck plans. If you were organized, you had a different binder for each section. It's not a bad system, but hey - this is the future. Let's use technology to help keep us organized.

My first attempt at creating a consolidated location for my gaming information was using Microsoft Word. I already owned it and knew how to use it. I could easily add graphics, and knew you could create text links to other parts of the document. I played with it for a couple of weeks, and while it did everything I needed it to it was just sort of clumsy, clearly not a tool created for the purpose I needed.

I decided my next attempt should be to use actual wiki software and found TiddlyWiki. It was a kind of generic, multi-purpose wiki and had a lot of features that I liked. It was free, relatively easy to learn, had good linking abilities. Originally I really liked it, but I'm big into using imagery as part of story telling. TiddlyWiki couldn't, or I wouldn't learn how to, import graphics. So I searched for something better.

I didn't have to look far to find Obsidian Portal. I found this to be much more of what I was looking for and it was designed specifically with gamers in mind. I transported all my TiddlyWiki entries over to Obsidian. I really liked that it would easily import graphics and did everything else a decent wiki should. Additionally, your campaign information was right there with hundreds or thousands others - a great source for inspiration and feedback. I eventually left Obsidian Portal, however. While they had a free version, I think there more features in a pay version (I could be wrong about this). The bigger issue for me at the time was that I traveled a great deal and did not always have a dependable internet connection. Since I mostly do solo-gaming, I didn't need a web-based wiki. I decided to look for something that would work on my desktop and laptop. I abandoned Obsidian Portal in 2009. I just checked and my Traveller campaign information is still there. Check it out if you are curious.

I had heard good things from the gaming community about Evernote, Apple's note taking program. Being a PC boy myself, I checked and saw that I had Microsoft's OneNote already installed on my computer, but had never taken the time to learn anything about it. After plunking with it for a couple of hours I realized it had everything I needed, so I transported the data again from Obsidian Portal and put it in OneNote. I've been adding to it ever since.

Writing text is as easy as any word processor and creating a link in text automatically creates a new page for that item. It includes an extremely easy screen clipping tool for capturing online images. I use it to link to favorite websites, and directories on my hard drive. There is no real page size, like in a standard notebook, which is a feature I have mixed feelings about. While you basically have unlimited space to write and add pictures, doing so is not conducive to easily printing on a standard paper size. This is not a huge issue for me, since I do very little printing, but an inconvenience when I want to.

This is not meant to be a review of anything. I didn't do any research or anything to see what might be the best new software to address these needs. I imagine after seven years that Obsidian Portal just got better and that there are more options to choose from. Johnn Four, who runs one of my favorite gaming sites, Role Playing Tips,  went live with Campaign Logger  not too long ago. It looks like it might be promising.

I'd be interested in hearing what other people are using to track their Traveller games with. I've added some images of my OneNote Traveller campaign (splash page/adventure summary, PC, NPC, bestiary, and equipment) so you can get a feel for how I use it. Enjoy!

N is for Non-lethal Weapons

"Who but a puppeteer would go around with a weapon that does good to the enemy?" - Louis Wu, Ringworld

The Traveller universe is a dangerous place. Whether it's claws, blades, modern slugthrowers, or high tech energy weapons, it really doesn't take to much to neutralize the average Traveller character.

Early in my gaming career, when I finally got the grasp of combat and had a character with a decent sub-machine gun skill, I kind of went in "rampage mode" for a while. I'd kill with abandon, often occasionally upsetting the referee's game plan by shooting an enemy NPC rather than sneaking around him or talking to him. The SMG was my hammer and every problem I came across was a nail. Brian, our wise referee and gaming mentor, finally took me aside and told me that combat was a two-way street. If I continued to shoot everything that moved, the enemy might decide to take the same approach to my character. "Don't kill all the guards, and maybe they'll show you the same courtesy if they catch you." In a game where it's easy to die, I was given the advice to take a different approach and live a little longer. It was good advice, and opened the door to much more varied gaming experience. It wasn't long before my characters were using diplomacy, bribery, carousing, and DEX rolls (stealth) to achieve their goals without firing a round.

I think it was Star Frontiers that introduced me to the tangler gun, and about that time my younger brother, who worked for the police department, bought his first taser. The two events got me thinking about non-lethal weaponry and how they could be used in Traveller. Over the years I incorporated a few non-lethal weapons into my games, but never really formalized anything. Aside from a basic "to hit" mechanic, non-lethal weapons are more about effect, and less about damage, with an occasional "saving throw" option to keep it interesting.

There are a wide variety of real world, non-lethal weapons you can incorporate into your games, and they can be found at every tech level. A quick note about nomenclature: I realize that some people prefer the term "less lethal" for weapons of this nature and I understand why. When I hear in the news of those few occasions where a police officer tases a suspect and the suspect dies, I can't help think that either the officer rolled a natural 12  to hit or the suspect rolled a 2 on his END save. Role playing games have, in some ways, given me a very distorted view of the world. Regardless, for the sake of this discussion I am sticking with the term "non-lethal".

Types of Non-lethal Weapons
Non-lethal weapons may have one or more of the following effects:
  • Immobilize/Incapacitate - keeps the target from moving or taking action
  • Render unconscious/sleep - self explanatory
  • Cause pain - acts as a deterrent, but causes little pain, maybe 1 or 2 points of damage
  • Inconvenience - may not actually affect the target, but creates a barrier for him to accomplish his goals

Real world non-lethal weapons and possible gaming effects

  • Blow dart, tranquilizer gun - effect varies on the toxin used, target may get an option to roll END or less on 2d6 to avoid the effects, ineffective against many types of armor
  • Pepper spray, tear gas grenade - temporary blindness, target at -2 on all actions
  • Immobilizing weapons such as a thrown net, bola, lasso, or net gun - immobilizes the target, DEX roll to avoid, STR roll next round to escape
  • Electroshock weapons (Tasers, stun guns, etc.) - deliver an electric charge which causes neuromuscular incapacitation
  • Non-lethal ammunition (rubber bullets, bean bags, rubber shrapnel grenades, etc.) - similar to standard slugthrowers, but with decreased damage
  • Smoke grenades, flashbang (stun) grenade - temporary blindness but no physical damage - good for stealth maneuvers and distractions
  • Attack animals such as police dogs or trained predatory birds - differ from standard animal attacks in that the animal is trained to minimize damage.

Real world weapons in development but not widely used include:
  • Heat Ray (ADS) or Active Denial System - The Active Denial System is a dish that projects electromagnetic radiation just powerful enough to penetrate human skin and make the nervous system think the victim is on fire although no physical damage is done. (from Wikipedia) "Suddenly your whole body has been turned into a giant radio receiver and the only station it gets is PainFM."
  • The Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) is an acoustic hailing device that sends messages and warning tones over longer distances or at higher volume than normal loudspeakers. LRAD systems are used for long range communications in a variety of applications including as a means of non-lethal, non-kinetic crowd control. Though they have been called "sonic weapons", LRADs are not inherently for military use. (from Wikipedia)
  • LED Incapacitator -  It works by emitting bright, rapid pulses of light. It temporarily blinds and disorientates the subject, who will suffer intracranial pressure as a result of being exposed to the LED incapacitator. This can cause cluster headaches, nausea and vomiting.
  • Dazzler - A dazzler is a directed-energy weapon intended to temporarily blind or disorient its target with intense directed radiation. Targets can include sensors or human vision. Dazzlers emit infrared or invisible light against various electronic sensors, and visible light against humans, when they are intended to cause no long-term damage to eyes.
  • The SpeechJammer - while not technically a weapon, it is used against loud targets to shut them up.
  • The PHASR - temporarily blinds the target
  • Chemical malodorants - stink bombs, effectively. Really, really bad stink bombs.
  • Pheromone Weapons - (file this under Truth is Stranger than Fiction) The "halitosis bomb" and "gay bomb" are informal names for two theoretical non-lethal chemical weapons that a United States Air Force research laboratory speculated about producing; the theories involve discharging female sex pheromones over enemy forces in order to make them sexually attracted to each other. (from Wikipedia). Maybe there is a seed of a decent Traveller weapon in there, who knows?
  • The Thunder Generator - designed for crowd dispersal, sends a powerful shock wave at the target, knocking them down.
  • Sticky Foam Gun - emits a stream of expanding, sticky foam, incapacitating the target

Non-lethal Weapons in Science Fiction
  • "Sick Stick" (Minority Report, Kick-Ass 2) - Baton that induces vomiting on contact. "Designed for crowd control but deemed too severe. It emits a pulse that creates spontaneous nausea and diarrhea."
  • Kronos Goo Balls (The Incredibles) - cannons shoot balls of black goo that stick to whatever they hit and expand on contact.
  • Tangler technology (pistol, rifle, grenades) - shoots a physical web or chemical agent that produces strong "threads" upon release), used to immobilize targets.
  • The Tasp (Ringworld) - The tasp, a device that remotely stimulates the pleasure center of the brain; it temporarily incapacitates its target and is extremely addictive. If the subject cannot, for whatever reason, get access to the device, intense depression can result, often to the point of madness or suicide. To use a tasp on someone from hiding, relieving them of their anger or depression, is called "making their day".
  • Electroshock weapons - Electrostaff (Star Wars) or Stun Pike (Tron)
  • Sonic Weapons - Geonosian sonic blaster (Star Wars), sonic shotgun (Minority Report)
  • Gravity grenade - creates a temporary gravity well, pulling anything not nailed down within a twenty foot radius towards it.

Non-lethal  Weapons and Vehicles
There are also weapons that can be used against vehicles that generally will not harm the occupant:
  • Spike strips - do damage to vehicle tires only
  • EMP devices - Electromagnetic pulse shuts down a vehicle's electronics. At higher tech levels this is a directed pulse, so that it only shuts down what it hits.

Non-lethal Weapons and the Law
Not all non-lethal weapons are legal or considered ethical. The use of blinding weapons (permanent eye damage) and many chemical weapons will be deemed unethical, even though they don't kill.

Many of these weapons might have multiple uses. One of my personal favorites, and standard equipment IMTU is the expanding foam grenade. When detonated near a human target it covers the person in a foam that expands to render them immobile. They can be used in starships to block corridors, or tossed in a vehicle cockpit to quickly make the vehicle unusable. As a last ditch effort it can be used to patch small hull breaches.

Enjoy, and let's be careful out there!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

M is for My First Starship Deck Plan

Just for fun, I thought I'd post something showing my humble beginnings; my very first starship deck plan, complete with Ship's Papers, Crew Data, and some highly suspect financial records. This was done in late 1984 or early 1985, evidently before I new how to read or do math. For a "100 ton" trader it's awfully big (actually 274 tons, unless I took a sloped hull into account, which I know I didn't).

It seems in those days the Imperial Scout Service would loan any 34 year old man 9 million credits for a ship down payment and the good banks at Glisten would cover you for the remaining 37 million. Daddy must have had some strong connections. Good thing Captain Kenorist was such a talented trader. He was able to completely pay the ship off in only four weeks, and was 63 million credits in the black after only eight weeks. Trading around Glisten was quite lucrative, apparently.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

L is for Lab

Lab Ship illustration by W.H. Keith
Creating Lab-based Scenarios for Traveller

“Look, I’m just a biochemist. Most of the time, I work in a little glass jar and lead a very uneventful life. I drive a Volvo, a beige one. But what I’m dealing with here is one of the most deadly substances the earth has ever known, so what say you cut me some friggin’ slack!?” - Stanley Goodspeed (The Rock)

Lab adventures tend to be among my favorites, and I love the 400 ton lab ship from classic Traveller. Rather than create a new deck plan for an already perfectly good ship, I’ve decided to offer suggestions for creating your own lab-based game scenarios.

  1. Decide what type of gameplay you want. Who are your adventurers?
  2. Pick a lab type and describe it
  3. Determine the overall plot and character goals
  4. Write up a plot scenario, create some NPCs and determine what end game conditions might be
  5. Add your PCs and stir well

Decide what type of game you want to play. Will this be a one night one-shot, a minor side quest, or the start of a new campaign? Do the players prefer combat heavy games or is exploration and heavy roleplay more their thing? Keep these in mind as you develop the scenario.

Determine the type of lab and describe it
I’ve added an extensive list of lab types, and some ideas, mostly movies, to draw inspiration from. Think about what type of lab it is and who works there.
  • Is the lab well-funded, or barely getting by?
  • What resources/equipment is available?
  • Is it a large, high-tech facility or in someone's garage?
  • Is the work being done at the lab legal/illegal, ethical/unethical, controversial/uncontroversial?
  • Who supports the research? Who, if anyone, is opposed to it?
  • Who mostly occupies the lab? What will their reactions toward PCs be?
  • What is unique about the lab, if anything? Does it require zero-G rooms, clean rooms, massive computer processing, special environmental conditions, or live human subjects? Or is it just research done at a computer?
  • Where is the lab and why? (Lab ship in space, above ground/underground/under water, urban or rural setting, on an asteroid?)
  • With whom does the lab collaborate and why?
  • What successes and failures has the lab had? Are there any prototypes of their work?
Types of Labs (with sources of possible inspiration)
  • Aging/Immortality/Anagathics (Cocoon, Highlander, etc.)
  • Ancients Research (studying artifacts left behind by the Ancients, artifact testing, attempts at reverse engineering)
  • Animal Research (12 Monkeys, Planet of the Apes reboot, Jurassic Park, Island of Dr. Moreau, PETA)
  • Astrophysics/Astronomy (black holes, jump space, anti-matter, dark energy, etc.)
  • Biology (Dr. Frankenstein, uplifting animals, Deep Blue Sea, Planet of the Apes reboot, Island of Dr. Moreau, Altered States)
  • Botany (xenobotany, Minority Report)
  • Chemistry – generic, but could be tied to almost any other type of lab
  • Cloning (6th Day, Alien Resurrection, The Island)
  • Communication research (FTL radio, Contact, deciphering alien languages, etc.)
  • Computer Technology (development of new computers, AI, different storage media, The Matrix, A.I., the Paranoia RPG computer, Terminator films, Demon Seed)
  • Cryogenics Technology (low berths, Frozen Watch, Idiocracy, The Eternity Brigade, etc)
  • Cybernetics (Six Million Dollar Man, Robocop, Terminator films, anything cyberpunk)
  • Defensive Systems (force fields, ship shields, ship armor, personal body armor, etc.)
  • Digitization of Mass (Tron)
  • Disease Research/Contagion Containment (Center for Disease Control, Salk Institute, I am Legend, World War Z)
  • Energy Research (fusion, fission, zuchai crystals, dilithium cyrstals, etc.)
  • Food Technology (hydroponics, synth meat, Silent Running, Soylent Green, Norman Borlaug)
  • Forensics/Crime (CSI, NCIS, Minority Report, material and chemical analysis equipment)
  • Genetics (Jurassic Park, The Fly II, GATTACA, metahuman research, mutations)
  • Geology (core samples, trays or other containers of mineral samples, jugs of liquid samples, analysis printouts, etc)
  • Holography/Holodeck Research (ST:TNG and Voyager)
  • Medical (almost anything, any labs using live humans for testing or research, Coma)
  • Miniaturization/Supersizing (Innerspace, Fantastic Voyage, Antman, Dr. Shrinker, The Amazing Colossus, WIlly Wonka's chocolate camera, giant insect movies)
  • Neuroscience (mind control, brain-taping, Total Recall, The Puppet Masters, Portal/Aperture Science, Brainstorm, intelligence enhancement, Charley, Lawnmower Man, Altered States)
  • Other/Misc. (invisibility as seen in Hollow Man, the Genesis device from Star Trek)
  • Pharmacology (development of new medicines, illegal drug manufacturing, Breaking Bad, Limitless)
  • Physics (Hadron Collider, theoretical physics, fusion/fission, jump technology, gravitics, etc.)
  • Psionics - specify which abilities being studied (Scanners, Firestarter, Jumper, Chronicle, parapsychology)
  • Psychology (brainwashing techniques, Manchurian Candidate, Nikita, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
  • Radiation (x-rays, Gamma rays, Watchmen)
  • Robotics (Blade Runner, Westworld, Ex Machina, Short Circuit, Chappie, I Robot, ST:TNG's Dr. Soong, Terminator films, Robocop, etc.)
  • Sleep/Dreams (Dreamscape, The Cell, Brainstorm, Inception)
  • Sociology (psychohistory)
  • Surveillance & Sensor Technology (densitometers, NAS-neural activity sensors, Enemy of the State, Blue Thunder, 1984, Minority Report)
  • Teleportation (Star Trek, The Fly, Portal/Aperture Science, Stargate, etc.)
  • Time Travel (Primer, The Time Machine, A Sound of Thunder, 12 Monkeys, Looper)
  • Weapons Research (traditional and non-traditional, xenoweapons, bioweapons, chemical weapons, psycho-warfare, non-lethal weapons, etc.)
  • Xenobiology (alien autopsy, District 9, Independence Day, Alien Resurrection)
Note: some of these may represent technologies beyond TL15. If so, the experiments should generally fail or have limited success, otherwise the technology would become the new standard. Other type of research may not be appropriate for the "feel" of a typical Traveller game, but that should be at the referees’ discretion.

There may be some cross-over in lab types. A lab doing cloning research may involve animal subjects. Try picking two and see how they mix.

Determine the Plot
Think of a plot based on your gaming preferences. If you are stuck coming up with a plot consider using something like S. John Ross' The Big List of RPG Plots or Georges Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations. I personally like The Big List because it is specifically geared toward RPGs.

Use your imagination to fill in the gaps. Try to anticipate what a player’s reaction might be to your set up and then assume they are not going to react that way and come up with something else. Feel free to change or ignore previous decisions you've made.

Scenario Example
I’ve decided to write a scenario based on random selection from the above information. I’ve come up with: bioweapons lab using live animal subjects, legal, but unethical research, location: asteroid, underground; Plot: Better Late Than Never (from The Big List of RPG Plots)

Ideal conditions (determined after the scenario was developed): PCs have their own ship, TL 10+ world, low traffic system (remote or low population)
NPCs:Kepp Maddix, clerk at Progressive Integrated, who hires the PCs
Kern Hilson, a scientist at the lab facility
Linn Hebron, owner of Progressive Integrated
Additional NPCs as may be needed: various scientists, company employees, and the bad guys.

The Set-Up
The PCs are contacted by Kepp Maddix, a relatively low-level procurement clerk at Progressive Integrated (PI), to do a supply run to one of their remote research facilities. The supplies are nothing out of the ordinary; a few new computers, a couple office chairs, some medical supplies, about four dtons in total. The job will pay slightly more than normal because of the remoteness of the site and because the regular delivery service cancelled at the last minute. Delivery of the medical supplies may be time-sensitive, so the PCs may have some room to negotiate their fee. The delivery site is an asteroid field in-system, about one day away. If needed, the referee can determine the asteroids distance from the main world based on the capabilities of their ship and the Typical Travel Times table from Book 2. If the PCs do not have their own ship, they may be hired to pilot the company's small cargo ship (100 ton, 2-G). If the PCs research the company before accepting the job, they will find it is a smallish, fairly generic research company reaching into a variety of markets, mostly humanitarian (genetic crop enhancement, vaccines, disease research). Maddix will not be able to disclose, or does not know the nature of the research being performed at the facility.

The PCs accept the job, pick up the cargo, and fly out to the asteroid. As they approach the asteroid they see a starship leaving the area. They announce their arrival to the base, but no one responds. They land and soon discover the facility has been recently attacked.

The facility appears to have been ransacked, as if someone was looking for something. The facility’s 23 employees and scientists may be killed, rendered unconscious, and/or locked up, depending upon the referee’s desires, but some of the scientists should be alive. If the PCs think to contact Maddix, he will put them in touch with the head of the company, Linn Hebron. If not, then a scientist will immediately contact Hebron to make her aware that sensitive research and contagious viral samples have been stolen. Regardless of who makes contact, Hebron will offer the PCs a reward for return the stolen goods, since they have the only ship in the area. The reward will be substantially more if the PCs can keep the incident quiet. Kern Hilson, one of the scientists, will offer to accompany the PCs to reclaim the goods. If the PC group is undersized, some additional scientist may offer to come along as well, and some may even have small weapons.

Referee’s Information:
The Lab
The lab is located on a small, remote asteroid. There is a small landing pad and single above ground building. The facility is mostly underground. The lab is doing viral research, which includes animal testing. The lab does not have a security force, but rather uses secrecy and its remote location as protection. There are no other spacecraft at the facility, but it does have a good communication system which will allow instantaneous contact with the planet.

Viral research options (depending upon your faith in humanity):
  • The research is being done to produce vaccines against future outbreaks (humanitarian reasons). The scientists and company are the good guys.
  • The research being done is apparently for humanitarian reasons, but the owner of the company has other plans for it. The scientists are dupes at the mercy of corporate greed.
  • The scientists are intentionally trying to create a weaponized virus. The scientists and the company are the bad guys.
  • Some or all of the scientists are doing the research against their will (under threat to their families or some such), in which case the facility has a small security force to keep them in line. The scientists are the good guys and the company is the really bad guys.
Note: the PCs don’t necessarily need to know this to have a successful adventure, but it might come out in game play and affect how the NPCs react.

The ship departing from the asteroid at the time of the PC's arrival contains the stolen research and virus samples. The bad guys’ ship has the same acceleration as the PCs ship. The idea is that the PCs are basically right behind the bad guys the whole time, whether the bad guys know it or not.

The referee has some options depending upon his gaming style and what the players gaming preference is:
  • The PCs catch up to the bad guys in space. Ship combat ensues. If the PCs destroy the bad guy ship, the PCs will be (quietly) rewarded for stopping a potential major incident. If not, the bad guys get away and the company's in-house security will take over. There is no punishment for the PCs if they fail.*
  • The PCs catch up to the bad guys in space and attempt to retrieve the stolen goods. Ship combat and/or shipboard combat ensues. If the PCs successfully retrieve the stolen goods they will receive a significant reward (or stabbed in the back by the company, depending upon your gaming style)
  • The bad guys jump to another system, which can start an entire adventure of tracking down the bad guys.
  • The bad guys make it to the planet (or starport) ahead of the PCs, but just barely. There can be a possible shoot-out on the landing pad, or maybe the bad guys escape.
  • At any time the PCs can attempt to call the local police forces or nearby ships for help. This may prevent the escape of the bad guys, but the PCs would not get their reward.
*If you want to have consequences for failure, the bad guys can discover they are being pursued in space, and initiate combat.

Bad guy options (coordinate with viral research option above):
  • The bad guys are terrorists, ideologically motivated, out to take good science and use it for bad.
  • The bad guys are financially motivated, looking to sell the virus to the highest bidder.
  • The bad guys are a group of radicals who understand the dangers of the research, for good or bad, and want to keep it out of the wrong hands.
End Game
The scenario end game and conditions of success are up to the referee and players.

Note: The "Better Late Than Never" plot kind of takes the adventure portion of this scenario out of the lab, but I just decided to roll with it. An alternative scenario might involve the PCs being at the lab just before the bad guys attack, or they might arrive during the attack.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

K is for K'kree

Of course K is for K'kree. This is Traveller. It was either this or Kinunir.

Not much to say about this one. K'kree ships are pretty simple, and if you want to keep it at a printable size you are kind of limited to 1,000 tons. I got about half way done with this, and bemoaning how little source material there is for K'kree ships when I realized I had the GURPS alien book with the K'kree. The deck plans are more similar than I'd like, but again - it's a simple layout. I'd never seen a ship detailed with waterfalls and landscaping, so I went with that.

Purist and gearheads should note that while this layout is to scale and is an accurate 1,000 tons, I have no idea if the drive and fuel space meet canon ship generation requirements. Just shootin' from the hip this time, folks.

Now I've just got to figure out the pronunciation. Is it KIK'-ree or kik-REE'?

For a higher resolution PDF, click this link: (Traveller K'kree Starship Courier). The deckplan was created to be printed out on 24"x36". Scale is 1" = 10'-0" so it can be used with 15mm miniatures. Enjoy!

Monday, September 12, 2016

J is for Jobs

"It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man." - Benjamin Franklin

Whether it's a corkboard pinned to a wall at the one-room Class E starport on a low level world, or the bank of employment kiosks at Regina Downport, most starports will have the means to allow contact between people for employment. However, the jobs listed at the starport are not always the best ones around. It's the low hanging fruit, but it's generally easy to get. Many of the jobs posted are with the understanding that the employment period will only be a week or two. Some jobs will require a longer commitment. Frequently these jobs are geared toward only one PC, so referees should decide if they want to break up the group, even if temporarily. A temporary side job for one or two PCs might be a good diversion when you can't get the whole gaming group together.

I put together a quick job generator in Excel that break the jobs down into the following categories:
  • Low-Tech Work
  • Mid/High-Tech Work
  • High-Tech Work
  • Bounty Hunting
  • Mercenary
  • Starship Positions
  • Repo Work
  • Income Opportunities
  • Skill Related
Adventure 6 - Expedition to Zhodane shows a good example of job write-ups and also rates the job as inconsequential, interesting, or essential (essential being required to complete the predetermined adventure). To that list I would also add volunteer, illegal, and scam. I usually don't create an actual write up for the job, but just review them briefly and see which ones look interesting.

Low-Tech Work
    The saddle maker is looking for an assistant.
    The baker is looking for an assistant.
    The town needs a new security guard.
Mid/High-Tech Work
    The city needs a new border protection officer.
    The news reporter seeks short term help.
    The insurance investigator seeks short term help.
High-Tech Work
    The city needs a new dairy farmer. (a high-tech dairy, of course)
    The crime lab analyst seeks short term help.
    The security officer seeks short term help.
Bounty Hunting
    Bounty: Wanted for burglary: Alive Cr4,000
    Bounty: Wanted for use of psionic power: Preferred alive Cr20,000
    Bounty: Wanted for murder: Dead or alive Cr60,000
    A team or individual is needed for a patrolling mission.
    An individual is needed for a rescue mission.
    A team is needed for an escort mission.
Starship Positions
    A starship seeks someone with Ship's Boat-2.
    A starship seeks a temporary communications technician.
    A starship seeks a full-time chief engineer.
Repo Work
    Repo furniture / electronics (non-friendly). Helpful skill: Disguise
    Repo recreational watercraft (non-friendly). Helpful skill: Computer
    Repo merchant starship (non-friendly). Helpful skill: Carousing
Income Opportunities
    Money can be made in illegal gambling (risky crowd).
    Money can be made volunteering for medical experiments.
    Money can be made transporting a small cargo (legal, high risk and pay).
Skill Related
    Person with Blade Combat skill is needed.                                           
    Person with Medical skill is needed.                                               
    Person with Interrogation skill is needed.

These aren't much on the surface, but a little creative thinking can make them an interesting opportunity. This list can provide more than just employment for a PC. Looking through the list might give you ideas for other adventure hooks.

Why does the city need a new border protection officer? What's happening at the border?
Maybe some of the jobs are interrelated. Are the medical experiments related to the bounty on the psion? Is the burglar with the bounty the reason the town needs a new security guard?

PCs can check the job kiosk up to World Pop times per week. While many more actual jobs might be available, this represents the best job they found in that time period.

Example fleshed out: Person with Medical skill is needed.

The Job
The PC makes contact with the HR Director at a Startown hospital, who is looking for someone with experience to help out for about a week at the hospital. The HR director insists the interview be done at their facility. The interview is one sided, as the Director asks about the PCs medical experience, certification, etc. but dodges any questions about what type of work the PC would actually be doing. "We'll go over all that later" or something similar will be a standard response. When the time comes to tour the facility, the PC is led into the Crippled Children With Big Sad Eyes ward. Okay, not literally, but there are dozens of sick and injured children, all in terrible pain, all gut-wrenchingly pathetic. The pay offered should be small, but reasonable. If the PC accepts the job, the HR director should show him around the place and introduce him as "one of the new volunteers", ignoring the PCs corrections, if any. The character will be expected to work very long hours - every time he wants to take a break, get some food, or some sleep, another child should start screaming in pain, or some young cancer patient will ask the PC to give her doll a hug.

If the PC asks about his paycheck at the end of the week, anyone he talks to will mention that volunteers don't get paid. If the PC insists that he is a paid, short-term contractor, anyone he talks to will be genuinely surprise the PC wants payment since "all of the short-term contractors we've worked with have donated their pay to the children's relief fund". If the PC puts his foot down about getting paid, they will be told that payments are processed through corporate, and the payment should be ready in 2 - 3 weeks. If the PC acts like he is about to do something stupid or violent, the HR director will settle with him out of petty cash.

This isn't quite a scam, just a tactic the underfunded hospital uses to get free, experienced help. Players who like to play the White Knight should be given a chance to shine, and get their picture in the news with a sick child, or some other non-monetary reward. Lots of praise - no money. Surprise the player later in the game by throwing in some perk and having an NPC say they recognized the character from the story in the news. The perk might be anything from a round of drinks at a starport lounge to free fuel.

Players who refuse the job can be hounded for the rest of their gaming career about playing a medic who wouldn't even help out a bunch of sick kids.