Thursday, March 23, 2017

Adventure Review: The Kinunir

A snip of the Kinunir from p. 14 of the adventure for review purposes
Adventure 1 The Kinunir was the first official adventure published for Traveller in 1979, two years after the release of Classic Traveller. It's an interesting read, and it has some ideas. But here's what I got from it

For running, it's a very bare bones set up. There's three entry points, and it's largely up to the referee to get the characters from the entry to the adventure itself. It's a more bare bones approach than the current ideas on how to write an adventure. This is less the modern adventure with everything scripted out, more of a frame work to build into your universe.

In a fundamental difference, the Imperium is not as pleasant in this incarnation as it is later on. The Imperium disappears politicians it doesn't like and locks them in prison hulks. They ruthlessly use Ancients technology and Anagathics for the ruling class, and make it difficult for lesser nobles and players to get access to it.

Warships are built with imported components. The scrapped Adda Dubsar lays on its ways on Regina, a TL A world, fitted for a Model 7 computer. At least for its own purposes, the setting is implicitly allowing for equipment on a world to be produced outside of it's stated tech level. It can either be a plot point or something like current era ships built in China but fitted with Western weapons and sensors. I see "Tech Level" as mostly relating to what is commonly available on the world.

Also, we begin to see information about the wider setting. Somewhere in this Imperium is a Vegan Autonomous District-this won't be detailed until 1982 when Solomani Rim is released. For a J-4 ship presumably built in the Spinward Marches, it's a long journey in the Official Traveller Universe. There's also mention of the Fourth Frontier War, and Express Boats. It's starting to merge the small ships of the initial release into the large ships of High Guard and later editions. Also, Strephon and Iolanthe are mentioned, complete with UPP's.

Generally, this is an interesting addition to any Traveller collection, and a fodder for ideas as well. The Kinunir and similar ships can make give your Free Traders a real threat with out a big ship, or be Big Daddy for merc campaigns, especially if the Marines are deployed. It's setting neutral for the most part, and easily adapted. A lost starship is a great adventure hook in any science fiction setting.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Book Review: The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand

A fan build model kit of the INSS MacArthur in the possession of Jerry Pournelle
This winter at the instigation of Ronald Stepp on my prior post, I read both The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand. While The Gripping Hand post dates the publication of Traveller by over a decade, Mote can be considered a forebearer, as it was written shortly before the release of Classic Traveller in 1977. Beowulf Shaeffer from Niven's Known Space stories was profiled in Supplement 1 from 1978, so I think it may be a good influence. The Mote in God's Eye is the first part, and The Gripping Hand is the after the break.

Fundamentally, Mote is a book about events, and not people. The Second Empire has arisen, and in the process of establishing it's rule. A daring action leads the dashing noble officer Roderick Blaine into command of the battle cruiser MacArthur. Heavily damaged in this pacification action, it is sent back home, with two important passengers, Lady Sandra young woman from a prominent family conducting field research, and Horace Bury, a merchant suspected of starting a revolt. It is the only starship on the scene as an unknown solar sail spacecraft appears, and disables the unknown ship. Finding out it's from a non Terrestrial race, and this is the first time chance for a First Contact, the MacArthur and its passengers are reassigned, to the first first contact with an alien intelligence.

And what an alien intelligence the Moties turn out to be. A biologically casted species, who must reproduce or die, they are an excellent foil to humanity. They understand the technology of Alderston Drive for interstellar travel, but do not have the Langston Shield that allows human ships to take more damage and even enter the photosphere of a star. Neither party really understands each other is hiding something, like the Imperial Battleship Lenin at the only Alderson point that leaves the system, or the Motie Warrior Caste. The Humanity is just as alien to the Moties psychologically, especially when the MacArthur's engineer meets them. Humanity's lack of specialization drives some of the Moties mad, as well as our reproductive biology. Locked into their star system, the Moties are in an eternal Malthusian Trap.

The characters are not particularly memorable, as they fill roles in the story, and are archetypes for the most part. The big character development moment is for Bury seeing a dead man's space suit filled with Watchmaker Moties causes him to radically change his position, from resentful of the Empire, to knowing it is the only force that defend humanity from the aliens. The final resolution involves a blockade being established at the request of one of the Motie mediators once the truth of the Moties is known. The book ends with Bury getting blackmailed into becoming an agent of the Empire with an officer, Kevin Renner formerly of the MacArthur, reactivated from getting out as his minder.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Is this Some Vindication?

So this news came out recently, the U.S. Navy is getting its ratings back. Needless to say, there has been much rejoicing. I feel what I said back in October was accurate
Found Here. I don't own.
Having spent far too much of my life around the U.S. Navy, I project parts of my experiences on to how I see Traveller's Imperial Navy. I think that other people's experiences affect some of how they see their gaming. I read some entries at The Word of Stelios, and his profession comes up in writing about various historical works. His last line in one review was pretty much: don't pay attention to the details if you know about an era; you'll go mad, is important. Bellisario's Maxim: "Don't examine this too closely," from the famous TV producer, is another item to remember. I try to do this as much as possible in settings. I try for a 'just right' amount of detail. There's enough where I think it is important, but not so much I get lost in the details.

The hard part there is, knowing how much is enough!

I'm not sure where I'm going here, but perhaps, for some it's a way to make comments, for some it is to relax, and others, a way to open up and write. Why are you gaming?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Amber Zone: The Unseen Institute

Believed to be an image of the faculty...
Somewhere on the rimward border rumor has a small group of highly skilled, rather mad psionicists who run an effective near open Psionics Institute. The Solomani frequently claim it's in Imperial Space in the Dabei, Magyar, Solomani Rim, Alpha Crucis, and Old Expanses. The Imperials ususally claim it's on the Solomani side of the truce line. Those of a diplomatic bent claim it's on some backwater in the Reaver's Deep or Hinterworlds. What is known about them follows:

In appearance, it is a normal college from the outside, with a staff of Porters running well manicured grounds. Allegedly, there are far too often ongoing events that spill over from the Psionic talents of the staff and students to escape notice. Unusually, it is almost all men who study here with two exceptions.

The Institute is headed by a man referred to as the Archchancellor. A very powerful psion, he is a large fit man, apparently in his mid 60's. His talents include Clairvoyance and Telepathy. By his manor, he suggests the sort of upper class hunter who would have his own Safari Ship. In addition to his Psionic skills, his skill with a hunting crossbow is unnatural. Don't try and talk to him, he won't even pretend to understand you.

The Bursar of the Institute was once quite talented in Awareness and Telepathy, but was mostly interested in numbers. He still can run the books effectively despite having lost his sanity. Highly skilled and powerful telepaths from the staff are able to induce a hallucination of sanity into him, along with substances derived from poisonous Terran Tree Frogs.

The Dean is an even larger man, requiring two chairs to sit on. This powerful Telekentic and Telepath has two major jobs, attending various functions in the city the Institute is hidden in, and amplyifing any sort of crazy psionic affect in the area. He is rather found of trying martial arts, but the local instructors have been terrorized into understanding that you don't tell a rather powerful psion 'No, you don't have a clue' at their gyms.

Curiously, the Librarian is an uplifted orangutan(1), whose sole psionic talent is Awareness. The most pleasant member of the faculty, he enjoys going to starport bars, playing the organ, and is a member of the local police force's reserve. Only speaking in "Ook" and "Eeek", he nevertheless understands Anglic fluently. Rumor is that calling him a 'Monkey' is a surefire way to find the speaker in the hospital the next morning. He is one of the two exceptions to the Insitute's rule that it's adepts are human males, the other was an extremely strong young woman who gave of the aura you would expect of their usual students. Needless to say, that adept died shortly thereafter.

The Head of Inadvisably Applied Psionic Technology is the youngest member of the faculty, having just completed some of his own studies. He is skilled at Telekinesis and Telepathy, but is really an expert at Psionology. He's also the man the Institute ought to be having talking to the outside world, but this maybe intentional, as this young man is actively involved in a variety of projects inside the Institute, including a combination of psionic talents and high tech computers.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Nifty Things You Can Find!

Sometimes, in reading various Traveller groups and forums, you can find cool things like this "Traveller - in Two Pages." If you find yourself trying to get people interested, it lays out a great basis that most OTU players and fans can agree on.

Also, please don't forget your psi-shield when visiting the Zhodani Base. You never know what that psi might be up. (I am joking in this paragraph).

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hell No, We Want to Go! The Draft and the Third Imperium IMTU

The Draft mechanism has been around since Classic Traveller, and is an interesting artifact of the rules at this point. Considering that Marc Miller is a Vietnam War veteran, and the generation who wrote the game, the idea of a military draft seem natural to them. The problem, lies in scale and the gradual end of conscription in most countries since the 1970's.

With the changes in military technology in the past decades, a short term draftee is no longer a good idea for a solider, and considering that most Traveller characters are going to be experienced with technology at least as advanced to us as ours is to Stephenson's Rocket, the end of conscription for many forces makes sense, as the sheer complexity of the equipment most troops will be equipped with.

Then I come to scale. The massive Third Imperium has enough sophonts that mass conscription would destroy an enemy under sheer weight of numbers, yet this would be impossible due to bottlenecks in interstellar transport. Ships that can carry people are reasonably common IMTU, as anyone from most worlds should have seen one, but the idea of moving a million-man ground force is impractical. The requirements to man most military forces could easily be met by volunteers. As an example, the 1980's US military had over 2,000,000 all volunteer personnel out of a population of 224,000,000. The Imperial forces should be easily manned from volunteers in any case.

That leaves us with the 'Draft' mechanic then, and how to square the circle, metaphorically speaking, of a draft yet having an all volunteer force. Rather than the Chinese model of there being a draft board with a quota for an area that always meets it quota from volunteers, here's how I think of it.

"The Draft" is formally known as the Imperial Service Lottery in law. Unlike traditional forms of conscription, where young men are pulled into the armed forces, the Imperial Service Lottery works in reverse. Any citizen of the Imperium can apply to the Navy, Marines, Army, Merchant hiring service, Scouts, or an Imperial intelligence service or Law Enforcement agency to join. If the prospective recruit cannot obtain a volunteer slot in a service, during a set period,  the prospect is entered in to the Draft. This happens usually on a monthly or quarterly basis. The recruiting managers for the world pull the names entered into the Lottery, and thus receive a partial draft of recruits in this fashion. The service, even if they initially rejected the prospect, must take a draftee. Draftees are required to spend their first term in an enlisted status in the Navy, Marines, and Army. Merchant draftees are assigned to lines with mail contracts, or to a Subsidized Merchant. Scout draftees are infamous for their short careers. Law Enforcement draftees are often assigned to Gendarmes or Starport Security, or other manpower intensive, low skilled tasks. This is, of course, a one-time chance for any applicant.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Putting the Crew Together

Imperial Navy Base Terra, Alice Springs, Central Australia
            Ian Brickley had gotten back to Navy HQ at Alice Springs last night, and was checking in at the Personnel Unit at 0800 local time. It had been a rough transition, as he’d been on leave in North America the until the day before. He had first found many world’s day and night cycles difficult to adapt to, as his homeworld of Anacreon is tidally locked. The proceeding eighteen years off his homeworld meant it was normal, but the human body wasn’t meant for a thirteen-hour time zone difference. Still, the time relaxing on a wooded, rocky coastline was a welcome relief from the cramped, aging System Defense Boat he’d been commanding for much of the past six months. He’d taken command of it in late 1118, and the little boat and its crew had done well enough in covering routine inspections, including supporting the still new Terran Commonwealth Navy’s customs inspections. They even had taken part in Exercise RAPID RESPONSE, where the SDB Squadron was loaded onto a dispersed structure bulk carrier to deploy to Fenris, and then ferried back to the Sol sytem.
            Now, he just had his orders to report to the Naval Personnel Unit-Terra and wait. Entering the line marked “JUNIOR OFFICERS”, he thought it could be assignment to the staff pool for a while, or else a transfer to another ship, perhaps as a Department Head, or possibly Executive Officer of a destroyer or escort. As a certainly ambitious officer, there was no limit to what he wanted to next in his career. There were about five of them ahead of him, with three terminals reserved for their use. He patiently made small talk with the engineer sub-lieutenant ahead of him, and the weapons lieutenant behind.
            At the head of the line, he went for the right-hand terminal as it opened. He inserted his ID for a scan, typed in a quick passcode, and the monitor spat up a new set of orders.



He couldn’t believe it. He read through it again, and confirmed it. Command of a starship as a junior officer was one hell of a privilege. The terminal gave him additional instructions, as well. It turned out the Kangaroo was still building, and he would be able to take her out as new construction. Call it the chance of a lifetime, to command and build a ship. Ian knew this would be his best chance to make or break his career. The printer spat out a hard copy with more instructions. His instructions required a meeting with a personnel detailer at 0900, and a meeting at the Ship Planning Building at 1300.

            Following an exhausting series of meetings, Brickley reported to the Flag Officer Commanding, Naval Base Terra’s office. He had mostly been talking to the yeomen and the Lieutenant Commander flag secretary about the whole process. One of the yeomen noted that her cousin was admitted to the Rim Naval Academy at Dingir for the next term.
            The Flag Lieutenant stepped out of the office, and said, “LT Brickley, the Admiral will see you now,” and held the door open.
            “Congratulations, Captain! You’d better get used to that, you know, with your upcoming position,” Rear Admiral Lady Shana Wooten Taulogo greeted him with a smile. She wore the standard office uniform of a Navy officer. White shirt with ribbons rank epaulettes, black trousers, and shoes. Despite never having met her, Brickley had a chance to examine her official biography beforehand.
            “I’m honored, Admiral, to have this opportunity,” he began. “To gain this opportunity…”

            “Well, with your MCUF as an Ensign, and handling of your SDB this year was more like an old veteran of a planetary navy than a young man whose been on larger ships. You are the sort of officer we want in command….” The Admiral continued into her speech, about how he was the kind of officer they wanted for future command positions, and this was the way to find them.
            The unspoken line is that if I mess up I’ll be pushed aside. At best I’ll find myself ashore until I hit retirement, at worst, cashiered. Brickley thought through the extended speech.
            “Bring in Haidan and Hassan!” she directed her Flag Lieutenant, who opened a door and, and a spacer with a camera, and an obviously prior enlisted Sublieutenant came through.
            “Lt Brickley, this is Sub-Lt Hassan. He’s mustang Astrogator who’ll be your XO,” she introduced him.
            “Pleased to meet you, sir, and I’m looking forward to being your XO,” Hassan spoke with a marked corewards accent, shaking Brickley’s hand strongly.
            “Right, you two will have plenty of time to get along,” the Admiral interrupted. She squared him off, with the spacer holding the camera ready to take the picture, “Lieutenant Brickley, for and by direction of His Imperial Majesty, Strephon, by the authority of the Admiralty Board, I do hereby appoint you to command in construction of the Imperial Naval Ship Boxing Kangaroo, to take affect from this 130th day of the 1119th year of the Imperium, 49th of his Reign. Long Live the Emperor!” she said as she pinned a miniature of the Imperial Sunburst wreathed in laurel on the right breast of his uniform, indicating his office as a commander. They smiled together as the spacer took a picture.
            “Long Live the Emperor!” he responded, and the others in the office chorused as well. This formality underlined his new authority.
            “I’ve got an appointment tonight with my husband, so you two officers can consider yourselves dismissed,” the Admiral noted.
            “Thank you, ma’am. I understand my new duties, Brickley responded. He followed Hassan out the door into the reception room. “Sub-lieutenant, do you have plans for this evening?”
            “No, sir, your plan?” Hassan replied formally.
            “Meet me at the officer’s club at 1830, we’ll get to know each other, and figure some stuff out.”
            “It’s been a pleasure to meet you today sir, and I’ll meet you there.”

1200 local, 131-1119
            It had been a productive morning, Brickley had found. He and Hassan had moved into the command office for new ships. An aging, standard issue office building, the space they received was little more than a tiny office off a slightly larger room that had three desks and a work table. Musty, it was obviously unused in several months. Two spacers from the transfer and training division followed a Chief obviously on his twilight tour who opened the rooms up for them. The spacers had stayed with them to turn on the lights and HVAC, wiped down the table and desks, and cleaned the floor in the main room. They would be back for his office while he and Hassan had lunch. A good couple of newbies, he thought, And maybe I can get them for the Kangaroo. We’re going to need a couple of good basic hands.
One of the highly recommended spacers worked out well for their needs. Within her transfer window, Machinist Mate 1st Class Juliana Brand had the skills and scores they wanted. She was currently assigned to a forward base and was scheduled to rotate back to Terra next month.
            For the pilot, he had one man in mind. BM3 Zabiyah, the pilot on his old SDB. A young man, but by god, he could fly a starship like it was a fighter in a precision group. A video conference with him and his current chain of command got their approval. He’d be here once the paperwork was processed.
            The final senior rating was the Gunner, and that was GM2 Chishan. He was actually assigned to the Naval Personnel Unit on Alice Springs, and he would be reporting shortly this afternoon.
            “Well, that settles it for our Navy side, sir,” Hassan spoke up, shutting down his computer on Brickley’s desk. “I’m not sure how we’re going to get our Marines though.”
            “Well, we have some time. I’d like to have them earlier to get them integrated, but to be honest, they aren’t going to be much use in the yard. Besides, we’ll just be getting a Boat from Fleet Stock,” Brickley replied.
            “Right. And we’re getting our first actual member of the crew today..” Hassan trailed off.
            “Make it a long lunch. I’m tired of mostly seeing your old mug around here,” Brickley replied jokingly.
            “But you’re going to see a lot of it! I’ll make myself scare until 1330, anyhow. Give those two kids plenty of time to goldbrick in here. They deserve it though.”

            “Right, I’ll see you about then, and get our first crewmember checked in.”

TNS Message:
Terra/Solomani Rim                  128-1119

Officials at Terra announced today that the freighter Alcibiades is reported overdue at Barnard Highport, and is now officially considered missing. The J-2 capable vessel, leased by Tukera lines to Lambeth Factors, LIC, of Terra, left Terra over a month ago, bound for Barnard en route to Nuskan, and did not exit jump when scheduled. Alcibiades transmitted the normal messages before entering jump, and reported all systems working perfectly upon arrival at the jump point. Analysis of the jump signature on departure indicated nothing unusual.

A search of expected arrival points Barnard system revealed no recent debris, and no distress calls or other messages have been received. All systems within 36 parsecs are on alert for a possible misjump. The official announcement indicated there is no evidence of hijacking or sabotage, but these and other possibilities cannot be discounted until more evidence comes to light.