30 December 2020

Character Creation Challenge Update

On Saturday, I posted that I'm participating in a character creation challenge for January, as in starting Friday. Since then, I've managed to get two other people into it, Craig Oliver at Traveller-CT.blogspot.com, and my dad over at Alesmiter. It's more fund to do this with other people and get some cross-talk. Also, the originatior of this idea is Carl "the Tardis Captain" Stark, with a page on the idea here, and blog as well.

To be honest, I'm kind of looking forward to this whole thing, and getting some good ideas out.

26 December 2020

New Year, New Character Challenge

I saw this idea on a MeWe post from last month I took a while to find, but here's the idea: I'm going to hand generate a roleplaying character each day for the month of January 2021. The person who posted it has a very different idea about it than me, but let's go for a variety of options to enjoy. Here are my rules for it:

  • I can use any physical books I posses for that system
  • No use of website character generators, or programs
  • Using electronic systems for record keeping, is permitted
  • Generation one or two days ahead is acceptable
  • Document all dice rolls
There's also a chance I may be on a business trip at the end of the month, in that case, I've got both Starter Traveller and Traveller 5.10 in PDF available to me, and I can throw 2d6 in my luggage without a problem. I'm looking forward to this, and it should be worth the time.

Also, I'm planning this following schedule, subject to change.

1st, 4th, 6th, 8th, 19th, 21st, 25th, 27th, and 29th Classic Traveller (The Traveller Book or Starter Traveller)

2nd, 3rd, 9thGURPS Traveller

5th,7th, 18th, 20th, 22nd, 26th, 28th Mongoose Traveller

10th, 11th, MechWarrior 1st Edition

12th, 13th, MechWarrior 2nd Edtion

14th, 15th, MechWarrior 3rd Edition/Classic BattleTech RPG

16th, 17th, A Time of War (2009 BattleTech RPG)

23rd, 24th, Traveller 5th

30th, 31st, my choice, could be any of the above, Space: 1889 AD&D 1e, or Pathfinder.

Any concepts for the systems, feel free to offer them now. Good ones will get credit, and others ignored. Anyone else interested, please let me know, and keep in contact

13 December 2020

Terran Gentleman, and Other (Not So Fine) Potables

One of the many technologies brought with to the stars from Terra was distilling of the varied grain
Original Art

crops. While some distillery techniques do produce quality products, such as Scotch whisky or various Caribbean rums, the techniques to produce cheap, unpleasant liquor has, in fact, thrived. Often to the detriment of officers, NCOs, or people trying to get things done in a timely fashion

A brand that has found particular popularity in the Sol subsector is a whiskey known as "Terran Gentleman". Sold in brown bottles in 500 mL, 750 mL, 1 L and 2 L sizes, with the smaller two in glass, and the larger plastic, it has become a near scourge to hear the complaints to the populations that drink it. Averaging approximately 50% alcohol by volume, it retails for excessively low prices, of around .25 credits for a 40 mL drink at the dive bars it can be found at or 2 credits per 750 mL bottle. It is most commonly found in junior enlisted quarters on military bases, Belter settlements, and poor neighborhoods. The taste is described as being "cleaning agent, grain alcohol, and regret" by those who drink it a few times. It is reasonably common among junior spacers, starport vagrants, and oddly enough, fighter pilots.

Other liquors useful as something to get your characters into trouble, here notable for flavor descriptions, and with thanks to friends, include:

Sambuca, described by Brian P., Marine veteran, "like drinking licorice"

 Chartreuse, described by Anja K., world traveler, " I like it but it's probably the most unappealing liquor I've had... and I've had a lot."

 Vermouth, described by Jen L., home day care provider, "tastes like a stale old wardrobe closet from the 1800’s."

Jeppson's Malört, described by Aaron H., Army veteran, "A Chicago thing," also "grapefruit and gasoline."

Krupnik, described by Nick T., Submarine veteran, "supposedly tastes like honey but I remember it more like moth balls and peppermint."

Habu Sake, described by John T., Marine veteran, "Well, I'm not sure if it was legit Habu Sake from Japan. It was a high proof alcohol that had a preserved snake of some sort in it. Tasted earthy with what I can only described as an overcooked steak that's been sitting in a fridge for 3-4 weeks. Also, not smooth by any means with high alcohol taste. So, pretty sure this was a re-bottle."

Jägermeister , according to Jason O, Navy retiree, "which is disgusting and if you talk to most they will agree, although they will happily buy a couple shots which you will gladly take raising a toast to anything. How this became such a favorite shot with a cult following is beyond me."

Apricot schanpps was provided by nerd-in-paradise Chris T., as just an idea.

Bacardi Rum, from Paul S., National Guard veteran, "ick seems like rubbing alcohol."

I myself, had an odd experience with Drambuie, which I found rather sweet, but didn't feel the whisky notes.

I hope that you can find other, less excruciating ways, to get your characters intoxicated. I know some groups that do drink at the table, but please, be safe.

UPDATE: Thanks to Spinward Scout, there's Jump-distilled Scout Stout!

27 November 2020

Death Station, Part II

 Aboard the Boxing Kangaroo

            Lieutenant Brickley was in a conundrum regarding what was going on aboard the Burwell. He wanted, like every officer, to take control of the situation on the ship, but realized it was not an option. Like every Jump-capable captain, he was a prisoner of his own status. Thinking back to his tour on the Mortal Quench-Fire, he realized how his captain then had been constrained by limitations on his role. Realizing how he wasn’t alone, he started drafting a message for the planetary governor. He needed the doctor from the garrison. The other thought was to tell Brand to leave the bodies in the freezer. The horror had to stay.

 Search One: Hassan, Hall, Appledorn, and Hoedmaker

            Sub-Lieutenant Hassan understood the fracas going on with the other team couldn’t bother his. They had to keep pressing on. They came to the next stateroom after the library, empty, but with cloth stripped. The marked it with “DS”. The next one, though, was different. As he opened the door, and looked into the darnkess, he noted the bunk was torn from the bulkheads, and material thrown around. Reaching for the light switch, he looks up and sees the lights are broken. “This won’t work.” Stepping in, he moves around the barricade, where the mattress covers a hole in the deck.

Marine Appledorn has joined him in the room, and asks, “Sir, do you want me to take a look down there?”

“No, we’ll just leave it. We need to get to engineering.”

“Aye-aye,” as they leave and head for the next staterooms, marking the one the left with tape and “DD”. The next is surprisingly normal and untouched, the apparent harmony at odds with the rest of the ship, earning it a “DS” marking. The following is dark and empty, earning it a “DS” as well. The next, Hassan and Hall open, with the Marines on each side of the door.

Red lights are a tradition when examining darkened areas
As the door opens, the stench comes out, and the hand reaching for the lights find they don’t come on. Two red flashlights move across the floor, but quickly reach the center, where they both see the source of the smell. A male human, missing his left leg. Obviously, he’s been dead for a few days. In shock, they leave, and mark the room “CR”. In the passage, Hassan looks Hall over, noting how she’s still shaking. “That’s the shit we see on these. My first tour, I saw an old spacer loose his lunch when I was on a cruiser out of Savisz. Some jumpnutter was wrecking through a Sub Liner. The crew had managed to contain him when he went crazy during jump, but he’d cut a family open before they’d subdued and froze him. We’ll get through this,” turning to the Marines, they button hook to the next stateroom, which has working lights, but stripped sheets. Finally, they reach the auxiliary control station off engineering. The Marines take up position at each iris valve to the small compartment, as Hassan sits down to examine the computer. Working through, the controls, he notes the ship is in a geostationary orbit, and will not require a change in the forseeable future, and the drives are in good shape. There is mention of an explosion in a lab, and how it was sending chemical fumes through out the ship at the end of the logs. He resolves to sit down and examine them more in depth.

 Search Two: Brand, Castillo, Fini, Binici

            Once the survivor had been carried away, the examined the dark smashed up stateroom, and pick through the pile of filthy blankets and mattresses, ensuring nothing is there. They mark the compartment “DS”, and move on. The next stateroom, is dark, and apparently wrecked as Brand and Castillo look through it. Strangely, the mattress is missing form the bunk, despite the stateroom showing “Stavro, P.” next to the door. Dismissing it, they note it as “DS” and move on. The corridor, though, Brand notices there’s a trail that’s led from the iris valve to the second stateroom in. It’s spotted, and red-brown.

            “Blood. We’ve got more traces of some foul play here. We definitely need a criminal investigator here,” she coolly reports back to the ship. Following it in the stateroom, there’s the remnants of two brown bottles on the deck in the center of the stateroom. Castillo, looking at them, saw the parts of a label holding some pieces together.

            Terran Gentleman? What’s that?” he earnestly asks.

            “Cheap whiskey. When I was your age, I tried some, but I was miserable. Come on, we’ve got more to get through. I’d guess that someone got drunk and did something here, but we don’t know. Mark it as “DS”, and let’s keep going.” Brand replied, trying to keep them going.

            “Wait, you partied?” was his youthful reply, astounded to hear that his LPO didn’t have the quasi monastic existence he’d expected.

            “When we get to Fenris, go to a barracks party, now that you’re less of a boot,” she explained, as the moved out into the passage, marked the room, and moved to the next. Locked, they tried to open it, with some of the small tools in the kit. The simple lock popped open to reveal a neat and undisturbed stateroom. They marked it, and moved on. The final stateroom before the bridge was a mess, but showed no sign of any bodies.

Brand examining the computer
            Entering the bridge, Binici ran to cover the far entrance from the corridor, while Fini stayed to
ensure nobody could sneak up on them. Brand sat down in the left-hand couch, while Castillo moved to sit in the right. She shook her head at him, and he paused, then moved to the ensure she wouldn’t be surprised. She opens the memory for the logs, and starts examining them. There are regular transmissions to the lab down on Loki, but a second set of those same reports going to an anonymized out of the system account every week. The final item of interest in her search was the visitor logs. There are several mercenary officers, some from major units like the New Bavarian Freikorps. “Mercenaries on a lab ship,” she asks aloud, before copying the information to take with. “Let’s get going here.”, as they head to the drive pod, and she notifies the rest.

Search One: Hassan, Hall, Appledorn, and Hoedmaker


           After getting the message the other team had secured the bridge, they move into the drive pod. The iris valve opens, showing a darkened pod, Marine Appledorn flips on the lighting switch next to it as he leads them in. The party walks around, and examines the space, not seeing much. Examining the overhead hatch nearest the door, Hall starts undogging the hatch and moves slowly up there. The oversized battledress is not what they need in this case, with Hassan following her.

            Entering the darkened, confined space, they can’t see much, even with flashlights. “Red filter,” he orders. Passing over the filth, they come to a man lying in the far corner on a pile of mattresses, with blankets poorly pulled over him.

After his push, she goes over to the man, and says, “Sir, sir! We’re from the Navy and here to help!” while tapping on a shoulder. He awakens with a startled expression.

“What? Huh? What about the rest of them!”

“The others? How many other survivors are there?” Hassan answers, taking control of the situation.

“Four, wait three others. There were four of us who survived the explosion,” came the survivor’s response. “We were running low on food, but then, the secondary lab had an explosion.”

“And what about them? The one our comrades met turned out to be feral, and tougher than expected.”

“Something happened to all of them, I don’t know, but they’re all dangerous cannibals!”

“Wait, did you say cannibals? What have you been living off of?”

“Me, I’ve been eating what remains of our supplies. Got a bite?”

Hassan opens a sealed pouch on his vacc suit, and withdraws a survival bar, and gives it to the man. “Your name? We’ll get you back to safety shortly.”

The man takes a very hungry bite, and says, “Pent Stavro, drive hand. They wouldn’t get me in here,” and he gets out of the den he built, and stretches some.

“Come with us, and we’ll get you back.” Hassan replies.

“They’ll get me if I leave, I’m not going anywhere” Pent asks, surly and uncooperative.

“I’ve got two Marines in battle dress. You can come on your own two legs, or else. We’re taking you back one way or another.” Pointing at the open hatch, “You have your choice,” as he reached for his snub pistol.

“Fine, but turn down the lights!” Stavro shouts, stepping over the filth on the deck, and going down the Marines below, with Hassan refastening his holster. Hall goes down immediately following Stavro. Hassan waits, and calls ahead. “All units, Search One. Have one survivor. Give them food, avoid lights, and do not trust them. They’re deranged. We’re returning to the Joey right now. Joey, do you copy?”

“We copy one survivor, do not trust,” came Sergeant Valdez’s response. The awkward five go through the drive pod, and into the corridor, where Valdez and Franke were there to meet them. Seeing more Marines in battle dress, Stavro starts shuffling on his feet some. Grabbing the man abruptly, Valdez, Appledorn, and Hoedmaker force him down, cuff him, and then inject a sedative.

“The other one’s in Yap’s supervision, sir,” explained Valdez as he hefted the unconscious man, and started taking him back to the lift in a fireman’s carry. “Anything else?”

“Keep them separate and strapped down. This is an investigation; we don’t want it ruined,” Hassan replied, in the manner that suggested an order.

“Aye-aye,” as the groups moved apart, with Search One heading for where they left.


Search Two: Brand, Castillo, Fini, Binici

            Leaving the bridge, they check the empty turret control station. Seeing nothing, they enter the drive pod. Looking through, there’s nothing but a thin coat of dust, something Brand is slightly disgusted with. The quick search shows nothing, and they leave, taping both compartments as “DS”.

            The Marines take up position around the iris valve to the air/raft hangar. Castillo opens it, and goes in, finding it dark, he and Brand turn on their helmet lights. Seeing the smashed lights, but a well stowed air/raft, they head back out into the corridor, leaving their tape mark on the iris valve. They move into the cargo bay.

The cargo bay

            Fini runs ahead to the iris valve at the far end to stay in overwatch position, with the other three fanning out into the area. It’s a fairly standard storage area aboard ship, dimly lit with a few crates, mostly for scientific instruments. At the end farthest from the air/raft bay, Castillo finds something different.

            “MM1! I’ve got something here!” he shouts out, “Can you can Binici take a look, it’s interesting.” He stands next to a different crate. This one was marked for live specimens, and there are some smaller cages nearby. “Blood trail as well,” he points out as they get to him. “Looks like they were testing stuff on some critters.”

            “Good work, Castillo,” Brand notes, as she takes down some quick notes on what happened. “Nobody else found, but it looks like there’s something up here. Poke around a little more to make sure nobody else is hiding.”

            As they examine the space, they find the door at one end can be opened to allow cargo to be brought in from the air/raft, but don’t open it. Most of the containers are empty, just retained for future cargo. As they went through, Brand’s radio chirped, receiving Hassan’s message, and called her team together.

            “Right, we’re going through the next space, and there’s still more people unaccounted for. Fini, you take point, then me, Castillo and Binici, bring up the rear. Red lights, if in there the lights are out. Got it?” she laid out the plan for searching the next compartment.

            “Aye-aye,” the trio responded in unison. They got into position around the iris valve. It hissed open, and they could not see in the inky blackness. Their flashlights turned on, red light, revealing two aisles of lab tables. The quartet moved into the lab.


Search One: Hassan, Hall, Appledorn, and Hoedmaker

            As they reached drive pod they’d previously inspected, the crew briefly checks on the hardpoint. Empty, they pass on. Opening the iris valve, they look into the empty air/raft bay. Dark, empty, and featuring no way to turn on the light, like the proceeding space, they mark it “DS”. They move into the secondary laboratory. Smashed lights, and an area wrecked, it looks like an explosion went off in there, as well as they can in the red light. Looking to the left as they enter, Hassan looks and sees a familiar looking heap of waste in front of a stack of lab tables and benches. “Let’s take a look,” he says.

            They move over, and see a person coming out from the stack. Quickly, four red flashlights illuminate the survivor. “HANDS UP!” comes Appledorn’s voice as he takes out his gauss rifle, and levels it at the unknown person.

            In a state of shock, the survivor slowly complies, right arm coming up to clean the mouth. Hoedmaker and Hall hustle over to secure the prisoner. Disdaining the time for interrogation, they start the frog march back to the main spoke. “Joey, Search One, we’ve got another,” Hassan calls.

            “Search One, Joey copies,” Valdez replies. “We’ll sedate this one as well.” The two groups meet in the middle of near the open iris valve sectioning off parts of the lab ship. The sedated survivor gets taken to the boat, until they hear a message from Search Two. Valdez takes off at a run to the main lab with Franke in tow, with Search One taking the survivor back to the boat.


Search Two: Brand, Castillo, Fini, Binici

            Entering the darkened lab, they see nothing of importance as they enter, moving slowly up the aisle. Sensing an opportunity, Binici moves to the right 10m up the lab, and starts looking along the other aisle. Walking through, they come to a computer terminal, still on, with flickering lights. There is a sequence of numbers flashing by, 1103, 1101, 1077, 1079, and 1067, with no apparent meaning. Brand stops the numbers, and sees what they are. Her face lit up by the screen, she scrolls through, and see what happened.

            “Combat drugs, that makes sense.” She pulls out a hand computer, and starts downloading the information. Then they notice something.

            Coming out of the corner by where they entered, but missed, is a man, running at them. Taking them by surprise he clumsily jumps on Castillo, who manages to escape. Fini turns, and moves to hit him with her cutlass. Castillo, avoiding the attack, moves out to dodge the attacker. Brand, taking a second to collect herself, wheels around and takes a punch and the crazed survivor, dropping him to the ground. As he falls, Binici shoots the man with his gauss rifle.

            Gasping, she keys her radio, “All stations, Search Two. We were attacked in the main lab by a survivor. He’s down, and we need help. Over.”

            “Search Two, this is Valdez, Franke and I are on the way. Can you do first aid? Over”

            “Search Two, this is Kangaroo, are any of our people injured? Over.”

            “Valdez, Search Two, yes, I can. Over. Kangaroo, Search Two, wait one.” Brand looks at her team, “You all right?” The trio responds positively.

            “Kangaroo, Search Two, we have no injuries. Out.” She states, and starts performing first aid on the injured man. Not knowing exactly how, but she makes it work enough that by the time Valdez and Franke arrive, they manage to get him patched up enough not to die.

12 October 2020

Death Station, Part I


Loki/Sol (SR 2228)

            The jump from Peraspera to Loki was uneventful and accurate, taking 170 hours, arriving 103 diameters out from Loki. Nothing appeared to the crew at entry, and they relaxed from stations to the N-space watch. Contact and messages from the world indicating nothing out of the ordinary. The local Military Governor, a Lieutenant Colonel of the Unified Army of Sol, and his garrison of 400 ensured the world listed to the dictates of Lagash, Muan Gwi, and Capitol. In truth, the world was little more a small town huddled around a small starport, extracting chemicals from the atmosphere and fluid seas under a couple of domes. A few smaller domes, with tiny populations, were on the continent. The Boxing Kangaroo was just another reminder of that rule, but also of the responsibilities that came with it.

A rotating ring labship
            Two uneventful days after entering the system, only seeing the scheduled courier run to Ember/Sol jump in, a signal came up from the surface. It began, “LYSANI LABS REPORTS R/V BURWELL COMMS FAILURE. RESEARCH PINNACE WAS CONDUCTING SUPPLY RUN, AND NO CONTACT LAST. REQUEST INVESTIGATION OF POSSIBLE ACCIDENT.
WAS IN SYSTEM TO USE LOCAL CHEMICAL PRODCTS. LAST REPORTED POSISTION, GEOSTATIONAIRY ORBIT 180 FROM STARPORT.” Sublieutenant Hassan examined the orbit change required, and began to plot the intercept, as the whole transmission was read by Lieutenant Brickley, who then began to prepare the orders. Once satisfied, the ship changed orbits. Examining his resources, Brickley wrote this watchbill:


SLT Hassan

Ship’s Salvage

MM1 Brand

Salvage Techs

AS Hall, SR Castillio

Boat Crew

Cpl Afari, MNE Franke



Security Lead

Sgt. Valdez


MNE1 Appledorn, MNE1 Fini, MNE Hoedmaeker, MNE Binici

            Per standard procedures, the spacers, boat crew and Yap would be in vacc suits, with the rest of the Marines in Battle Dress. Spacers would carry auto-snub pistols, and the Marines have gauss rifles and cutlasses. The remaining crew, while short, would be able to operate the ship if losses mounted. The info on the Burwell noted her central docking adapter would be empty, so Afari could easily dock with it. They also had the codes to come aboard. The plan was simple. Hassan and Hall would operate with Appledorn and Hoedmaker as one search team, Brand, Castillio, Fini, and Binici the other. Sergeant Valdez would stay at the lift shaft as a relay point to the boat and one-man reaction force if needed, and Yap would stay on the Ship’s Boat, with the crew as his guards/stretcher bearers.

            Launching from 200 km away, the Joey flew to the unresponsive ship. Brickley kept trying to hail the lab ship, but no response. As the boat closed, the crew in the cockpit watched as it resolved into a standard lab ship ring, then, it came clear the lab ship was in a slow rotation. The docking port was a stable, and gravatics made the transfer easy, as the party in the boat barely noticed the alignment with the ship’s systems. Appledorn and Hassan entered the lift, and exited into the reception area. Appledorn ran to the far end of the darkened space, covering the passage, while Hassan button hooked to the right, covering the near side approach to the reception area. Next came Fini and Brand. In his hulking battle dress, Fini replaced Hassan at the entrance, and Brand and Hassan started to examine the space. The biggest thing was the plaque on the bulkhead. It stated the ship’s name, statistics, and owners, the bulletin board beneath noted the chartering party, Lysani Laboratories. The overhead lights were smashed, but the helmet flashlights did allow them to find a panel concealing a locked maintenance hatch. The salvage party assembled, and they moved into the groups. Hassan’s team heading to the engineering control, and Brand’s to the main bridge, and, hopefully, meet in the main lab. Valdez told them he had a good link with the boat. Atmosphere testing showed it was good, so the vacc suits were relaxed, gloves coming off and helmets stowed. The battle dress was not relaxed.

Search One, Hassan, Hall, Appledorn, Hoedmaker

            Hassan’s team crept to through the ship, going room to room. The first stateroom they checked had a puddle of water on the floor, and broken lights again. Nothing in the locker, they closed the door, placed 160 km/h tape on it, with “DS” in a large hand on it, stating no survivors. The next featured a single blinking light, and a pole laying on the deck. Able Spacehand Hall, examining the lockers, saw the largest one was slightly ajar. Opening it, she screamed as a body fell out, landing face up. Hassan jumped to look in reaction.

            “Is that a crewmember? Sir?” she asked, noting his missing arm.

            “Looks like it.” Hassan responded, then called to Marine Appledorn, “Call the boat, tag a crewmember as dead.” They stepped out, and resealed the door, placing tape on the door with “CR”, nearly gagging from the stench. Hall put her helmet back on, to keep from having to smell the

The next stateroom was unremarkable, and marked “DS”. Continuing, the next one was dark. A quick examination showed stripping of the rack and small blood smears, almost like whoever removed the contents bruised their knuckles on something, and stained the area carrying it out. The room was marked “DS”, and the group reviewed the next empty stateroom, but it turned up empty, again marking it “DS”. The following compartment should have been a stateroom, but it turned to be a small library, with reader stations, and an array of scientific documents. Looking at them, Hassan noted the ones spilled on the deck were all about biochemistry, a topic he had no particular background in. The escape pods across the passage were all untouched. Then his radio crackled to life.

Search Two: Brand, Castillo, Fini, Binici

            The other party started looking through the stateroom in the other direction from the first. Fini and Binici provided cover around as the first door was opened, into an unlit stateroom, as Castillo switched on the lights, revealing a few boxes in the corner. He looked into them, and said, “MM1, it’s just someone’s crap. But this looks nice,” holding up a sprig of green leaf encased in a clear solid.

            “Put it back. We aren’t here to loot,” Brand admonished him, as she checked the rest of the empty room, before clearing him out of the room to tape over it with “DS” written on the tape. They moved to the next compartment, a conference room. Looking at the documents on the table, it was notable they were all about combat drug experiments. “Do you know much about combat drugs?” Brand asked the Marines outside.

            Fini answered, “Not much, your ladyship, but I got to use it once in unpowered combat training. Speeds up, reduces pain, but leaves you winded afterwards. We don’t use it much.”

            “Thanks, and how many times to I have to remind you, I’m not her Ladyship on duty!” came her reply, as they marked the space as “DS,” grimacing about the minor dressing-down. The following space, the formal dining room, was set up for a meal, but undisturbed. The quick search found nothing, and again, the space marked “DS”.

            Moving beyond, the group sees the main mess deck, and the galley off it, the area is dark, but
stepping to bulkhead, Castillo turns on the remaining fixtures. In the poorly lit area, they saw the far end tables pushed aside. Across the serving line, they notice the lights are all smashed. Marine Fini stood back to cover them, as Brand led Castillo and Binici into the kitchen. It’s a fairly standard starship galley, with a large freeze box attached. As Binici opens it, Brand, remarks, “Oh god, oh god, oh god.” Binici hurredly slams the door open.

            Inside, they see the horror show of twelve human bodies, hanging on hooks. Some missing limbs, the nearest one Castillo examines, “That looks gnawed on. Is it just me, or are those human bite marks?”

            “I think so,” Binici responds. “MM1, what do you want us to do here?”

            Narrowly keeping her lunch, Brand thinks for a second. Coming up with the right answer, “Close it up, put tape over the door, and market. CR on there.”

            “Aye-aye!” the two respond to the command, happy to do something normal here.

            She thinks for another second, and brings up her radio. “All parties, this is Search Two. We found twelve, that is one-two, bodies in the galley freezer, and they look eaten. We have a crime scene. Over.”

            The Captain back on the Boxing Kangaroo, the boat, and Sgt. Valdez all copied. Sublieutenant Hassan copied, eventually, but noted he already had one dead body found. Waiting, she then heard Fini call out, “HANDS UP!” and the trio at the locker ran over to him, pulling their weapons. They find a typically sized man, looking at the Marine in Battle Dress, who then spins around and tries to attack Fini. His eyes go wide, and his lips curl into a feral grin.

            Fini knocks the man with the butt of her gauss rifle, seeing him as non-compliant, knocking him heavily. Ignoring the hit, the man tries to attack her, but it does not affect her in the heavy armor. Castillo stands back, as Binici charges in with his cutlass. He hits the man, wounding him. Brand, her fear welling up in her, calls for Valdez and Yap to get there, as she looks to the lounge.

            Continuing, Fini drops her rifle, preferring to engage hand-to hand at this point. Making contact, the armored fists knock the crazed man, who responds with another ineffective assault. Binici drops the man with another cutlass blow as Yap and Valdez show up. They quickly respond by cuffing the man, and applying first aid, as they take him back. Looking at each other, they understand they have to continue on, despite the violent situation. Uncertain, was this one of the cannibals who stored the bodies in the freezer?


12 September 2020

Turrets, Gunners, and Fire Control

The players are crewing a Far Trader at the coreward end of the Spinward Marches. As they head for the 100D limit, a Corsair jumps in. The grizzled veteran gunner goes to the turret, and straps himself into one of the turrets, trying to buy you time to get to the limit. His control is local, and primary weapons systems are in his hands.

The players are crewing a Patrol Cruiser at the coreward end of the Spinward Marches. As they are on patrol around a world, a Corsair jumps in. As they man battle stations, the gunners reach their stations. While they have back-up control, primary direction is coming from the bridge.

The players are the officers of a Frontier Cruiser at the coreward end of the Spinward Marches. As they are on patrol, a Corsair jumps in. As the watch section maneuvers the ship as battle stations are manned, the gunnery officer on the bridge engages the corsair with the secondary battery. The gun crews exist 

These three examples show how weapons control can work on starships. First, there is local control, as shown the vast majority civilian ships of any type. Then, there are turret mounts with central fire control, as would occur on Adventure class military and paramilitary ships. Finally, there is the central fire control of Battle class ships, capable of turning smaller ones inside out with a single barrage.

On smaller ships, with individual mounts, I think the default image many of us have for starship weapons mounts are the turrets from the Millenium Falcon  in Star Wars. A gunner, sitting behind a console, moves the weapons across his field of fire, assisted by the computer, to fire at other craft. While this is contemporary to the original versions of Traveller, it is hardly realistic. Even in the cinematic visions you may have, ships will seldom be close enough for optical manual to fire control to hit, and they will have velocities where the Force is the only way to have a prayer of hitting the target! The velocity problem has been known since the 1940's when manually operated 20 mm auto cannon were found to be ineffective for anti-aircraft firepower. However, the the local fire control may exist, especially if the ship does not have  quality sensors. Generally, Scout ships, Free Traders, Far Traders, and Fat Traders will not have centralized fire control.

Next, we can move on to centralized fire control for Adventure class ships. Generally, the Type T and Type C ships are among the smallest to have this kind of fire control arrangement. Basically, the local gunner has been reduced to a secondary purpose here, ensuring sand canisters and missiles load properly, and the lasers are functioning correctly. Their operations on the mount are more ensuring the system works properly, and follows the right cues from the main director. The best parallel I can find is the operation of older 5" mounts, where there is the ability to fire from the mount controls, but the primary location is from fire control.

On the largest ships, weapons fire is essentially automatic from the central fire control post on the bridge or combat information center. Examining Supplement 5, it comes across the bridges on a Lightning-class cruiser have a control location for weapons control, alongside local stations on the various gunnery decks, allowing for the main locations to be incapacitated. while continuing to fight the ship. Some of the limitations may be from the era when the deck plans were written, because I see individual (or area) targets getting manually designated, and then automatically engaged when the computers work out the math. Those heavy duty computers on starships running Fire Control/5 should be blowing up targets with out much help from the gunners. An individual with a good skill will help make the shot, but compared to the systems inputs, won't be of much help. If there are manually triggered weapons, I would expect for there to be a physical interconnection, perhaps in the shape of a pistol grip, physically connected to the overall fire control system.

Well, there's some more crunch for gunnery and fire control on starships. Players can discuss if they want local or central control of weapons, and which fits best with your particular campaign style. Space opera Travellers will opt for local control, so heroes can have their moment of triumph over the forces of evil. Harder Traveller campaigns will have a combat information center, or central fire control direction for their turrets. Of course, the key is to ensure the players are the center of the action. 

23 May 2020

Across the Bright Face, or Gustav’s No-good Very Bad Day

I actually got to play in a Traveller game tonight. Put on by the local Saturday Night Space Opera crew, we played the classic adventure "Across the Bright Face", ably refereed by Matt. Our cast of characters included a senior scout, a medic, a faceman/engineer, and a demolition expert/astrogator with a checkered past. I played the senior scout. Here's my diary format of the whole scenario.

I’ve been working for the past few months as a mercenary. It’s taken me to Dinom/Lanth this time, where I’m bodyguarding a rich guy inspecting holdings. His name’s Arlent Streen. An unpleasant world, with only mines, but I’ve seen worse. So far, we’ve seen the ‘capital’ of Rhylan, and the city of Medianne, where at least he put us up in really nice quarters. I picked up a nice little multifunction radio, while our other guys, Franto and Corben, got a camera and a tarp. Odd choices.

While he’s inspecting a model ore processor, and the boss gets shot, as does his aide and the Major. They demand we surrender and turn over his briefcase, but we don’t want that. Stealing a tracked ATV, we head out of town. Blowing by some cops who don't notice us, we get to an open area outside of the city without a problem.

We get out of town, and find some tracks. We follow the tracks into the mountains. I get beaten up by a landslide, and Delfi, our medic who was a scientist, patches me up. A few hours later, we get ambushed by a group of ATVs. I fumble getting my helmet on, but the other gunner managed to get a shot off. Our ace driver managed to get us away from them really quick. Then there’s a small earthquake. I get injured again. This is not the ticket I thought it would be! Then we head to the hot zone.

After the debacle in the mountain pass, moving into the hot zone. We pass some shacks, an iridescent area. Franto and Corben get the brilliant idea to rig the tarp as temporary shade as we roll across the hot zone. Then find a mineshaft. Out there? I figured it was nuts to head in there. The mineshaft, despite my misgivings, gets us closer to the starport. We keep moving through the hotzone. I get woken up to help fix the stolen ATV, then it’s back, and mountains again. They find another mineshaft, and then find a nice valley that gets us closer to the starport. Once we got to some clear terrain again, we get intercepted by a rebel ATV. One guy pops off a rocket, the wrong way, and they hit our turret. With me in it! Then we got a near miss with a rocket. After that, I went up with the machine gun, and opened fire. Took me a couple of shots, but I managed to get a good hit and depressurized them, allowing us to get to the starport. It turns out the briefcase the boss had was full of bearer shares. Now we can get our own ship, once we get off this rock and somewhere nice.

12 April 2020

More Solo Play? When I Get the Time

I've been pretty quiet on the gaming front, and not had the time to write up adventure results at this point. I was running the crew of the Boxing Kangaroo through "Death Station" when I last had a chance, with one team about to meet one of the survivors...

However, I did see a couple of very interesting gaming blog posts this week. Omer Golan-Joel published library data for his Dark Nebula variant today. I did get to play Dark Nebula once, and it has it's charms. If I ever get a finish the Rim, I may go for his stuff. It's got a lot of space to play with the system, and Traveller is nothing but flexible. The Kangaroo is very much a techno-thriller in space, while there could be a lot more gonzo stuff in the Nebula.

The other is Real-life Hexcrawl Manual over at Alesmiter. There's long been an element to fantasy games to use real statistics as a beginning for things, like long distance travel, but even for science fiction, it's useful. Considering the Schizo Tech nature of the setting, having some player characters take a journey to an area on horseback, or the equivalent,  isn't out of expectation. That could even be a complication for a mercenary ticket. A religious dictatorship has a holy pilgrimage that requires nothing powered by wind or muscle be carried or used by the faithful, but offworld mercs toting high tech weapons are unlikely to care about damnation...

11 March 2020

Mediocre Movies as Adventure Fodder

A few weeks ago, after getting hit by the ad blitz for it on other social media, I watched the rather forgettable "thriller" The Last Thing He Wanted while out of town on business. The plot, once you make sense of it, is a major power runs illicit arms shipments into a politically controversial brushfire war, with a sympathetic bystander drawn in. Except she's not really a bystander, in having previously covered, ostensibly from the side of the rebels, a neighboring civil war.

After I finished the movie, my opinion is that it was something to watch while waiting on the Friday Night pizza delivery to get to me and then eat the pizza. Also, it could have used another draft or better editing.

However, many of the set pieces would be good for Traveller adventures. Having a dying friend or family member offer a big payday they'll split with you is an reward pull. Dirty secrets of the government works a well, even if you're running a Traveller Universe where Norris is as great as the propaganda makes him out to be, and Strephon is the Good King. Powerful governments often make cruel decisions and work with unscrupulous people, and good men will accept doing them as the alternatives are far worse. Or maybe the crew gets hired to take some cargo to an unmarked starport on a backwater, along with a representative or two, and the crew is their ride back, but they don't make it. Do the characters make their scheduled departure, or go after them? People those with sources, like organized crime bosses, spymasters, and successful smugglers, who can easily track down an obvious outsider doing shady things. Just keep the travel times in mind here. Perhaps the new friend is really the agent of a government official you are on the wrong side of. Don't be afraid to steal ideas from forgettable movies and books.