30 September 2018

Modeling United States Navy Officers in Using Traveller: A Variant

This is a sort sequel to a post from when I first started this blog. While enlisted personnel have long been specialists, in the United States Navy, officers are often generalists, expected to go from contact coordinator one day to Engineering Officer of the Watch the next. Since the first edition of High Guard was published, there's been career tracks for officers in the Navy career. However, these place officers in the same narrow fields as enlisted, and just don't seem quite right to me. While Sector Fleet is an interesting book, at times it's very much an attempt to give the game a veneer of plausibility. One item from there, the idea of the Naval Regiment, I like. Reminiscent of the the Royal Naval Division of World War I, or the US Navy's Naval Expeditionary Combat Command and Seabees, it started off as local defense and ad-hoc units from remnants at Navy Bases, as well as security troops supporting the Marines.

Why do this for Traveller?
This provides more 'chrome' and a varied route through the ranks. Some officers are not going to be specialized like enlisted personnel, and this gives a path for defining officers who may have been the Chief Engineer and then went on to command their own ship. Also, I see the Imperial Navy as having four socially distinct groups of officers. First, is the Nobles and other Gentry (SOC A) who enter the Navy as a means for social advancement, and social responsibility. Those who join from both social responsibility and advancement. My own LT Brickley is one of those who joined to gain status. Considering how end of generation Navy promotions give an increasing to Social Standing, this is reasonable. Second, you have professional Navy Officers. The guys who Get Things Done aboard ship, and while not explicitly angling for command, they are ready for the responsibilities should the Navy need to expand. Third, is officers commissioned from the ranks. Long serving professional spacers who have skills and leadership above that of an enlisted man and deserve a different sort of recognition than princes using the Navy as a pathway to success. There's also the appointment of various personnel as officers to give them military authority equal to their professional status. This would be military doctors and the like. Uniformed professionals whose rank is consummate with expertise are also in the service, like doctors, are always going to exist.

22 September 2018

Nigel The Aslan

When I picked up my copy of Alien Module 1: Aslan, I took a picture of my cat, Nigel, with the book open in front of him. Recently, though, I considered to use the known habits of cats in my favor. Namely, they like to push things off of surfaces.

I placed Nigel on a card-table in my office, and placed dice on there close to the edge, and had him push them over the edge to roll the attributes and some of the early generation roles. He then leapt off the table, so I resumed generation with manual rolls. Meet Nigel the Aslan:

He's a former Commandant in his clan's space force, having served five terms before he was a prisoner of war in a small scale war between clans. The second son of a minor landholder in a major Clan, his family is just another productive cog in a larger machine known as the Hierate. A largely uneventful service, he resisted the temptation to run "war to the knife" against another population of Fteirle as a young officer. He saw it as wrong. He spent his time on a courier route to the Imperium later, learning to deal with other cultures, as well as developing an adaptable skill set. While not knowledgeable about ship's systems, he understood well enough what the female engineer staff was doing to respect them. As a Senior Lieutenant , he got into an honor duel with another male, where he easily bested him, despite being a rather small Aslan. Shortly there after, he spend the remainder of his career in a POW camp when in a war with a human state. He met another captured Aslan who was from a rival clan, and they worked together to maintain their honor as captives. Released, and with a small amount of territory, he's wondering if it's time to go home, or wander the stars. Having worked with humans, he's not averse to them, but wonders if the idea of a earning fortune, and landhold is worth something more than his country-house.

15 April 2018

Wasting Away Over Peraspera

The Boxing Kangaroo’s superficial armor damage was repaired in a single shift, but the crew found them question, and giving statements to be sent to the Imperial court at Prometheus. Everyone was thoroughly questioned, and it came through the information was correct. The Ministry of Justice’s freelancer was telling the truth, and the Delights and its’ crew were a Rule of Terra cell intent on running a number of car bombs on Prometheus. It was adding up, and the embarrassed Commander Lord Wood decided to conduct a thorough security review. At least the next courier would take the request off to Counter Intelligence on Terra. It would be up three weeks before the investigators arrived, but the compromised spacer was locked up. A series of statements were recorded, with the command staff’s being the longest. The crew was largely ready to get back to patrols.
            The ship departed the orbital complex early in the morning and went into the three-watch rotation. The first two were largely uneventful, but early in the third watch, GM2 Chishan noticed something off with one of the planetary navigation satellites. Calling for Spacehand Owen, his current messenger, he said, “Look at this, one of the local nav sats is on the fritz. Normally, we’d just report it, and the locals would fix it, but we have to play nice around here. Get the skipper,” taking a second to look at the roster, “Afari, and Brand, we gotta fix the thing.”
            Owen replied, “Tell the CO, Engineer and boat pilot there’s a problem with a local navigation sat, and we’ll need to fix it.”
            Brickley was in his stateroom relaxing, while Brand was supervising the cleanup of the mess deck when Owen found them. Afari, though, was taking a nap in the boat. The last to get to the bridge, he subconsciously adjusted his uniform. Addressing the group, Brickley said “Now we’re all here, what’s your suggestion, OOD?”
            “Sir,” Chishan replied, “I recommend the offgoing section take the boat and repair it. The local nav sat’s error codes, checking in our database, are pretty routine. It looks like it’s a simple computer failure. Nothing unreasonable.”
            “Why the boat?” Afari challenged.
            “It’s more maneuverable in getting to a sat. Also, if there’s a problem, we can recover it back to the Kangaroo and it will fit. It’s a cubic meter, plus arrays. If there’s a problem calling for the Kangaroo, there’s no problem with life support,” Chishan explained. “Should I make the 1MC for the offgoing section to muster in the rec room for briefing?
            “Make the announcement. I’ll give the plan,” Brickley stated.
            A few minutes later, Lieutenant Brickley, MM1 Brand, BM3 Zabiyah, Spacehand Hall, Corporal Afari, and Marines Franke and Fini were in the Kangaroo’s bunkroom. On the monitor set up for movies, there was a watchbill that read: Satellite Repair Operations.
MM1 Brand
CPL Afari
Boat Crew
Mne Franke
EVA Supervisor
BM3 Zabiyah
EVA Tech
Spacehand Hall
EVA Support
Mne Fini
            Brand stood up in front of the group, and explained they were going to repair a malfunctioning navigation satellite, and what each person’s job would be. Afari and Franke would be operating the Ship’s boat. She and Hall would be performing the actual repair. Zabiyah would be ensuring that safe operations occurred. Fini was to be the general assistant. Everyone quickly understood their role, and what malfunction it was. The section mustered at the boat, and performed a quick inventory of equipment. Vacc Suits, tool kit, and some spare parts. Brickley went up to the bridge after the boat was sealed.
            Boxing Kangaroo, this is Joey,” Afari said to Chishan, testing the comms. “We are ready to deploy on your orders. Over.”
            “Understood Joey. Standby for my order to deploy. Over,” was the reply as Chishan noted the captain entering the bridge. “Sir, the boat is ready to deploy.”
            “Understood; I’ll give the area warning, you perform the boat ops,” Brickley replied.
            “Aye-aye sir.”
            “All ships, this is Imperial Naval Ship Boxing Kangaroo. We are conducting boat operations in support of navigational maintenance.” Brickley said to anyone listening on a guard frequency. Not that there was much traffic in the area.
            Joey, this is Boxing Kangaroo. Releasing you on my mark,” Chishan examined his board for status information from the Ship’s Boat. “Mark!” as he entered the command to deploy the small craft.
            Boxing Kangaroo, I am making way under my own power. Over,” came Afari’s reply.
            Joey, understand. Carry out your repairs. Boxing Kangaroo out.” Chishan replied. The boat went off to rendezvous with the damaged satellite. Matching orbits, Afari effortlessly got the boat to a position 50 meters from the damaged satellite. Setting the boat to keep station automatically, he got up from the small flight deck to speak with the party in the main cabin. Franke stayed at his console, monitoring comms.
            “MM1, the show’s yours. We’re about 50 meters off the satellite, so it should be nice and easy,” Afari spoke to her.
            “Good work, but there’s no such thing as an easy spacewalk,” she replied. Her and Hall’s vacc suits were ready to go except for their helmets. “My first deployment, we almost lost a spacer on one. We’ll have 200 meters of recovery line linking us to the boat, so Boats can pull us back in. If that happens, remember we don’t have compensation, so take it easy.”
            “Aye-aye MM1. I’ll be standing by here,” Afari responded. “You ready for this?”
            “One last check here,” Brand responded to Afari’s question. “Boats, go through the checklist one last time, then helmets on,” she ordered as they went down, checking tool inventory, diagnostic computer, and suit status. Satisfied, Zabiayah and Fini placed the helmets on Brand and Hall. Once the seals were good, the two suited figures gave the traditional thumbs up gesture, and carefully entered the airlock. It cycled, and they floated out. Connecting the line to the two spots on the outer hull, Brand and Hall made it to the satellite. Brand hooked the diagnostic computer up to it, and got the readouts for the failure code. A recent event caused its’ simple computer to fail. The work was handed over to Hall, and they reset the program to ensure it operated correctly. The reset worked, and the satellite returned to normal operations. Once they returned to the boat, Afari returned it to the Boxing Kangaroo without incident.

            A few days later an unknown ship entered the system. Zabiayah was on the bridge, when he noticed a jump flare alert. Noticing the sensors, it was a ship coming in system, with the origin system masked, and at 80,000 km away, too far to do anything. He called for Brickley, who was in his office.
            “OOD, report,” was the captain’s command as he came into the small bridge.
            “Bogie detected, bearing 305 range 80k, origin system masked, sir,” was Zabiayh’s practiced response....

08 April 2018

Solomani Security In My Traveller Universe

While the common and popular depiction of Solomani Security is of a Secret Police force with a vast network of informants and a ruthless prosecution of anyone it deems a  threat to the Solomani Cause. As I see it, it's a much more complex organization.

SolSec has two missions in practice; serving as the political police of the Solomani Confederation, and as the primary intelligence agency for the Confederation. The political police role has two functions; keeping the Party and populace aligned with the Solomani Cause, and preventing problems from disrupting the Confederation. At times, these roles come into conflict, but the guidance from the Committee of Consolidation and the Coordinator General generally resolve these on  case by case basis. Also, SolSec agents are often seen as "S-Men" working for the benefit of Solomani society.

The political police work in the general populace is minimal. While hundreds of millions, if not more, Monitors do file reports about what they see and hear, few citizens end up directly in front of a SolSec officer for a criminal issue. Planetary agencies, like the Krypteria of Polyphemus/Capella (SR 1537), are more likely to deal with the Solomani in the street. Local police and security forces will have liaison arraignments with SolSec, where information appropriate to the level of enforcement is exchanged. Also, Old Solomani worlds with independent-minded populaces, like Sequoyah/Capella (SR 1337), require SolSec to have it's own arrest force. However, interstellar travelers of any stripe will have encounters with SolSec. Partially, SolSec wants to know as much as possible about the workings of what actually happens, and every report helps them. It is frequently in the form of a minor functionary that just asks to see the logs at landing, or performs immigration checks.

Active members of the Solomani party are more closely investigated than ordinary citizens, and members of the Secretariat most of all. Generally, a local member of a cell will receive party discipline rather than SolSec attention, but a senior member, usually a delegate to a major party conference, may have issues investigated by a SolSec officer. The factionalism inherent in the Solomani Party means that only the most egregious political crimes are treated harshly; corruption is one of them. The differences between factions are not unlike Cold War era "Kremlinology" for outside observers, but there is more transparency than in a truly closed political environment.

The internal monitoring of the Army and Navy has two major components. First, there are monitors inside military units. Most understand the difference between military duties and typical complaints of them, and actual disagreement with the Cause. Few of these monitors are "Zampolits" in the sense of being an explicit representative of the Solomani Party and SolSec, more often they serve as staff officers, or just have connections. The personnel (S-1) and logistics officers (S-4) are common covers, but some monitors are operational personnel, even up to unit commanders. The additional role as the criminal investigation departments for the military means there are some open SolSec officers at most bases, working with the Military Police. They can either be uniformed personnel, or a plain clothes operation. Generally, the teams assigned to a deployable unit will be uniformed, and one that operates at a base will be plain-clothes.

The monitor program provides much of the small scale information that SolSec uses to work with crude psychohistorical simulations and understand how to operate on a particular world. The general rule for monitors is not to provide salacious gossip that jams the networks, but information directly related to consideration. Current cultural ideas are welcome as well, as it allows SolSec to deeply understand the nature of Solomani society, particularly on different worlds. Given the size of the database, favored researchers are sometimes offered access to older portions. Also, the nature of monitors varies. Some are quiet recorders, others are highly patriotic citizens, and some just have spy fantasies. The ones with spy fantasies tend to get asked to leave the monitor program.

An internal officer may spend a tour assigned to an investigative team, followed by an intervention unit. Senior internal officers end up in the Administration, and they are the leads for many units. It is not unknown for senior investigative officers, while nominally administration, to operate with Field agent teams. Secret agents, of course, do exist, but are far less common than popular media thinks.

The External Directorate is a fairly standard intelligence agency in Charted Space, and it has earned a healthy respect from Imperial Intelligence agencies. Despite a well-earned reputation as a group of fanatical agents sneaking in and destroying Imperial targets, many quickly realize there's no real romance in their sordid business. They employ open agents as attaches to various missions, and under official cover. Secret Agents are more common than in Internal, but many operate under various forms of cover, such as merchants or tourists. On occasion, agents may be lent from one directorate to the other, and transfers do occur. However, to maintain the correct outlook for each role, this is unlikely.

11 February 2018

A Late #GURPSDay Post

On my mostly political Twitter feed on Friday, I saw the link for GURPSDay at Gaming Ballistic from the SJ Games feed. I thought I would send something up here on why the GURPS releases of Traveller are still useful.

The books work well. Every release has an index, and table of contents. It's something that requires a bit more editorial skill and oversight than most gaming producers manage at all. The various sidebars are bon mots or expansions. Many give good 'chrome' ideas to enhance the setting and adventure seeds. Even if you are not operating in the GT setting, there's some good bits. For non-GURPS players, there's enough material there to salvage for your own campaign, like Jump Masking, and a very comprehensive set of Library Data for the Official Traveller Universe. For non-Traveller players, it can be a good introduction to the Third Imperium Setting, or a source for visiting. A malfunctioning time machine could easily place a GURPS Weird War II group of PC's into Regina/Regina for a fish out of water experience. Anybody got Language Talent?

Also, there's a fundamentally good presentation of the material. The mostly colorful front and back grab the buyer's attention. The art is a mixture of the classic 1980's images, and new art makes very pleasant looking books. It's not the full color, glossy books that are D&D 3e and later, but it's a workable publication that I do not mind using and showing people. In a note of personal preference, I like the roughly leonine humanoids GT uses for the Aslan over Mongoose's humanoid lions.

Finally, the products were available to me at that point. My dad still has his copy of the Classic Traveller "Deluxe Traveller" boxed set, and I had generated some characters using Books 1-6, and been bitten by the bug a bit there. The problem was that it all was out of print at that point, but as the back cover of the GT core book says: "Hang in there Beowulf, help is on the way!" Here was a link to the ideas (and deck plans!) that got me interested. I got about half of my collection at various games stores in the Twin Cities, including the long gone Wizards of the Coast store at Roseville Mall, much of the rest through Warehouse 23 when I was on active duty.

31 January 2018

Adapting Fantasy Materials

From GT: Starports
On the OSR Google Plus Community, which has lots of good ideas, I found "20 Port Town Encounters" from Red Dice Diaries. Taking a look at the entries, I found many of them easily translatable to Traveller.

While the Black Ocean of Space is far different from the Blue Oceans of Earth, the workings of both seaports and starports are going to be similar. Cargo moved, and an interface between lands. The crew of a ship after a long journey is going to be looking for something different. Stevedores and longshoremen will move cargo. While some of the encounters are more early modern in origin, like a fortress firing a noon-gun, even a starport may have some sort of daily ceremony, if only to break the workday up. A side-show, as seen in the opening of The Message, is another thing you could have as a random encounter.

One of the themes I find implicit in Traveller is how humanity has not changed much over time. A setting over three thousand years in the future, where wars are still fought, societies divided and fighting among themselves, and yet still curiosity to grow and change. So I feel fine in borrowing from fantasy settings. In this case, a place where societies meet is going to be relatively similar over time. As for it being a D20 table, are you really a role-player if you don't have a collection of polyhedrals?

15 January 2018

A Traveller's Guide to Peraspera/Sol (SR 2028)

From https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/multimedia/images/red-dwarf-planet.html
One of the many minor worlds circling Red Dwarf stars in what is known as the Outback of the Sol Subsector, Peraspera/Sol is a relatively low population backwater with little to recommend it to most visitors. A cold world with an exotic atmosphere and fluid oceans, the center of the system is in orbit of the main world, rather than on it. Despite these setbacks, the population manages to subsist off of a local diet.

Peraspera was first settled during the Interstellar Wars, as a Terran Research station. During the Rule of Man, the system was abandoned with the exception of a skeleton crew supporting a small refueling depot and minor search and rescue during that time. For the Long Night, there was the occasional long term attempt to maintain an operational base there by both the Terran Mercantile Community, and the early Old Earth Union, but it largely was an empty system with an automated beacon for accurate navigation. The wave of prosperity that proceeded the Third Imperium to the Rim allowed the for the construction of the First Orbital Complex and the development of material processing equipment from the Fluid oceans and Exotic atmosphere. As a resource extraction colony in a hostile environment close to major worlds, Peraspera never developed it's own culture, as many families seek to return to Terra or Prometheus rather than live there permanently. During the Solomani Rim War, the Tenth Orbital Complex surrendered rather than fight, as the lack of manpower and dependence on the Orbital Complex made any battle in the system a forgone conclusion. The local government remained in power under a Military Governor until 1063, when civilian rule was reintroduced. An Eleventh Orbital Complex was completed in 1115, replacing the over century old Tenth.

As a small, extraction dependent economy, Peraspera is unusually dependent on its larger neighbors, Terra and Prometheus. Much of the population is on four year work contracts to a few chemical production companies, and thus, it leans younger than average, with fewer families present than expected. The government is largely unresponsive to their needs, as  could be expected from a mining area. The population is about split between the Orbital Complex at 30% and the world itself 55%, while belting operations are present and support 15% of the population. Despite restrictive weapons control laws, society is accepting of those passing through, with conforming to the norms of the work-group is seen as essential for those there on contract.

As mentioned above, the world is largely dependent on resource extraction. There are several specialized chemical companies present on world, with links to Delgado, General Products, and Ling-Standard Products. Sternmetal Horizons is also present with a small office, with a few other independent concerns. GSbAG operates a small craft yard and overhaul facility at the Orbital Complex as well. Approximately 15,000 belters work the two asteroid belts. While some agrarianism is present in the surface habitats, one of the major industries on the Orbital Complex is hydroponics, with imported carniculture as the primary protein supply. The wealthy can obtain high quality food products from Terra and Prometheus.

Law, Government, and Military
At this time, the government is classified as a "Self-perpetuating Oligarchy" by the IISS. It is largely run by the representatives of the resource extraction corporations and leading figures from the various cities on the surface, as well as the Orbital Complex. Theoretically, voting rights for the legislature may be obtained after 10 years 'clean' residence, as in no major criminal record or public dependence, but this rarely occurs, and it keeps the government in the hands of the elite. The nature of the envriroment leads to a moderate law level, with restrictions on firearms on the Orbital Complex and the world itself. In the Belt, however, there is defacto Belter Custom ruling. Planetary Defense Forces consist of the System Patrol and the Guard. The System Patrol has a single Dragon class SDB of 400 dTons, the Adzel, four 50 dTon Customs Cutters, and a squadron of Iramada type fighters. The Guard is a single battalion of local veterans and mercenaries. Present in the system is a small Imperial Navy Station, including a reinforced company of Marines, and usually present is a Patrol Cruiser from either the Imperial Navy's Sol Subsector Fleet or the Duchy of Sol's Patrol Force.